Grumblers and Complainers?

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Come let us sign for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
(Psalm 95.1-2)

Psalm 95 is what is considered a Sovereign Psalm. It is focused on the fact that God has created the world (us included) and as such, is worthy of the praise we (should) give him. It also recognizes that he is the creator and we are the created, or as this psalmist has written: the people of his pasture.

Knowing that God is the one whom we need to worship would be enough to be considered a complete psalm. (We could use more admonition to worship, truthfully.) Unfortunately, we tend to live our lives in such a way that celebrates our accomplishments more than they give glory to God for the ways he is working in those lives. We forget the significance of God as an important part of why our lives are “blessed” in the first place.

But the psalmist goes on and says, in essence, BECAUSE God created you and is your shepherd and BECAUSE you are the flock under his care, you now have a choice. You may choose between recognizing God as you creator, or you can harden your hearts and ignore him.

The psalmist did not just make up the idea of “hardening your heart.” It was an example previously lived out by the people of Israel. In Exodus 17, we are told that the people of Israel are camped at Rephidim, but find themselves without water. Up to this point in their story, God had rescued them from slavery in Egypt, shown himself strong in the process by bringing plagues upon the Pharaoh, and God had provided the people’s needs every step along the way. Yet at this point, the people grumble and complain against God, asking: “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Think about this moment in Israelite history for just a second. God had done what you and I would probably consider more than enough to provide for his people. There was never a time in their journey through the desert—and yes, I can imagine a journey through the desert might not be considered plush accommodations—when God did not take care of his people. They were indeed the “flock under his care.” In spite of all of this, they quarreled and grumbled, testing their God.

So fast-forward past the time of the Psalmist’s writings to now. How do you live? First do you recognize all of the things God has done for you? And if you do, do you still grumble and complain, asking: “Is the Lord among us or not?”

 

Questions:

•In what ways have you seen God provide for you, taking care of all your needs? In what ways have you failed to recognize his provision and perhaps even grumbled about what you thought he was not providing you? How can you do a better job of recognizing God as your Sovereign Lord?

•How do you think you would have reacted to the lack of water that the Israelite’s faced? How does your reaction compare to theirs? Why is it so easy for us to forget the sovereignty of God and grumble about what we do not have?

•What is the greatest sacrifice someone has ever made for you? How would you say that compares to the sacrifice Jesus made for those who were ungodly (that includes you, by the way)? How does Jesus’ sacrifice for you change the way you feel about making sacrifices for others?

•How does Jesus’ treatment of the Samaritan woman at the well help you understand God’s mission to find those who are lost in the world? Who would be a person you know that might be considered “the woman at the well” today? How can you encourage her to know and understand the truth of God?

 

You’re An All-Star

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I want to know Christ, yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining the resurrection from the dead.
(Philippians 3.10-11)

What is the most valuable thing you own?

You can measure value is several different ways. You might answer that the thing you value the most is the relationship you have with your spouse or perhaps your children. You might think of something that has sentimental value to you: something owned by a parent or grandparent. One could also think purely monetarily and identify the thing that would cost the most money to replace. Whatever the case, we all have something we would say is “valuable.”

How valuable is your relationship with Jesus?

Most of us would probably say very valuable, but at times, that dedication can be tested, can it not? We live in a culture that encourages the very things that are contrary to a life of faith. What your friends and co-workers define as valuable often runs head-on into the attitudes and behaviors Jesus instructs his followers to have.

Paul understands that tension. In the verses just prior to the section we are reading today, he lists the things the people around him would find as valuable (Philippians 3.4-6). Think of it as a Who’s Who list of being a good Jew. By all accounts and standards, Paul should be an All-Star.

Notice his reaction to these things, however. He considers them garbage. Everything the world, society, the people around him thinks is valuable … Paul rejects in no uncertain terms. Speaking of uncertain terms, the word Paul uses that the NIV translates “garbage,” is describing the sewer that is thrown outside the city gates. Paul is not holding back here.

Paul instead claims the righteousness that he has and that Jesus demonstrates, is the thing he finds most valuable. What is most valuable to Paul? It is knowing Christ and being like him, even if it means suffering.

It is a process. It does not come naturally—how can it when the world is screaming for you to value just the opposite—nor does it happen instantly. But we consistently move forward, seeking that which Christ gave us.

What is the thing you consider most valuable?

 

Questions:

•If we are people who exalt God and worship him, we need to also be people who value justice. In what ways can you demonstrate God’s justice to others around you this week?

•What do you think it would have been like to go up on the mountain to receive God’s law? How do you think you would have felt coming into the presence of God’s glory and how do you think that would have changed how you lived your life from that point forward?

•What things do you have in your life that make it difficult for you to value Christ above everything else? How can you find ways to steadily move forward to Christ, instead of being caught up in the apparent value of these things?

•If you had been Peter on the mountain when Jesus was transfigured, how do you think you would have reacted to what was happening around you? In what ways are we casual or flippant about the glory of God?

•How can our lives better demonstrate God’s glory and our desire to place him above all other things?

You Won’t Believe This!

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When they had seen Jesus, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
(Luke 2.17-18)

You are not going to believe what I just saw!

Have you ever heard this phrase before? And if so, what had that person seen that made him or her so intent on sharing this news with others? What news is such good news that we cannot help be share it with anyone and everyone we meet?

Too often the news we most want to share with others isn’t good news at all.

Our world is discovering the impact of “fake news.” Our most recent presidential election has been tainted by scores of web sites containing information that is not factual, intended to sway the emotions of people and influence their actions. While we may never know the full extent in which people’s voting patterns were influenced, there is no doubt people’s emotions and perceptions were affected. There is no need to present the facts when playing on people’s fears and emotions will work just as well.

In many respects, this makes the good news the shepherds shared with everyone they saw (at least this would appear to be the case in Luke 2) even that much more important. This was not made up events attempting to persuade people one way or the other. This was the news of the coming king, the One God exalted to the highest place. This is the One whose name is majestic above all the earth. This really is good news that would change the world.

Good news, really good news that changes the world, stands on its own. It does not need a gimmick or have to play on people’s perceptions to “sell” itself. No, good news creates an atmosphere that leaves people yearning for more, longing to know the power contained within that news. Good news is simple—a baby is born—and yet profoundly powerful—this baby will redeem the world.

Glorify and praise God today for the things you have seen and heard from him!

Questions:

•When you think of the Lord’s name being majestic throughout all the earth, what sort of things do you attribute to him? How does his majesty affect the way you follow Jesus?

•God is described in Exodus as being “compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness.” Describe a time when you have experienced these attributes of God in your own life. What other attributes would you use to describe him?

•In what ways have you found God’s good purpose working in your life?

•Why do you think people were so amazed to hear the message given by the shepherds in Luke 2? How do you think you would have responded to their story? How do you think their story would have changed you, even without seeing Jesus? How can you share a similar story to others today?

•In what ways do you live your life in full understanding of the majesty of God? In what ways do you often try to place other things before God? How can you change this during this upcoming week?