That evening vast numbers of quail flew in and covered the camp. And the next morning the area around the camp was wet with dew. When the dew evaporated, a flaky substance as fine as frost blanketed the ground. The Israelites were puzzled when they saw it. “What is it?” they asked each other. They had no idea what it was.
And Moses told them, “It is the food the LORD has given you to eat. These are the LORD’s instructions: Each household should gather as much as it needs. Pick up two quarts for each person in your tent.” Exodus 16:13-16
I have read this account for years, but there are various aspects that the people of Israel faced as they journeyed by faith that somehow escaped me. The truth that we see in Exodus 16 as the people faced a crisis of faith when their menu or diet was changing was significant. We can change a lot of things, but don’t mess with our menu! Many of us like what we like and it has taken years to find that comfort zone. Israel had become accustomed to pots full of meat and unlimited breadsticks! Ok, maybe I’ve been eating at Olive Garden too much, but the concept is similar. They actually feared starvation!
Have you ever been there? Has God called you to live by faith leading you into a wilderness that you never anticipated? Maybe you fear starvation even now or wonder where you will soon be living. As much as we like to quote obscure passages about God’s children never “begging bread,” many of us have faced seasons of scarce resources even as we remain steadfast in the calling that we have embraced. Does such negate God’s great promises or calling upon our lives?
I would suggest that there is a greater concept at work here. Perhaps living by faith means that we don’t always know what is for dinner. Embracing the unpredictable nature of faith stretches us further than many of us find comfortable. Could God actually have a plan that would literally require me to be uncomfortable? That flies in the face of our American cultural theology or belief system. So many of our programs and ministry plans revolve around our comfort and the limitations of volunteers.
What impact would it have if we resolved to live by faith in such a way that our comfort no longer determined our decisions? What if we ask ourselves hard questions such as the ones we heard at our state evangelism conference recently. Who am I sharing the Good News with? Who am I discipling? Am I inwardly focused on the growth of one church, or could God use our church (no matter the size) to be a catalyst for the Kingdom of God toward multiplication and planting?
When we resolve to ask these hard questions on a regular basis, we realize that there are mid-course corrections that need to be made lest we find ourselves and our churches off course, drifting in the waters of people-pleasing and ear tickling. Maybe those pots of meat and unlimited breadsticks will change to quail and manna. You may have never even seen manna before and need someone to explain God’s provision to you, but this willingness to change when God tells us to can make all the difference when we live by faith.
Many opportunities are opening for PMBA churches to be uncomfortable for the sake of the gospel. We have some exciting events scheduled soon that will advocate for churches to deliver meals to people in need at Easter, challenge their members to consider how God might use them to foster or adopt children, and even explore what it would mean for them to multiply by planting a Hispanic church within their church or another new work that is needed in our region.
We are here to take these steps of faith with you and to connect the dots as much as possible as God opens and closes doors of ministry. Contact us today to collaborate in the harvest that God has for us across the region!
Until He comes…Go!
A Word from Walker
As we enter the chilly month of February we are reminded that, with the exception of Eskimos, most of us don’t like the cold and, at the very least, try to avoid extended exposure to the frigid elements as much as possible. Similarly, unless you are a combative and cynical person, you probably avoid conflict. No one likes being disliked. Who in their right mind asks themselves on a weekly basis, “Hey, I haven’t gotten into a good argument in a while. Let me see what I can stir up.” There are several kinds of psychological diagnoses that can be linked to personalities of people who seek to offend or stir up strife. None of them are good.
But, beyond the fringe of disturbed souls represented in these designations, the vast majority of people try to get along with others. Still, occasionally, we run into folks who just seem dead set on creating stress and even division. How do you deal with them?
First, I think we always need to ask ourselves, “Am I at fault in any way?” This is not an automatic admission of guilt. Occasionally, we struggle with a hypersensitive desire to be liked by everyone. Jesus warned of this tendency by saying, “Be careful when all men speak well of you.” I think, among other things, he was telling us to be careful of the tendency to water down our convictions in order to be popular or garner affection. Sometimes you will say things and live in such a way that will cause division because your approach to life runs contrary to others’ priorities. This is not what I am talking about. I am referring to your owning the actual fault in a situation. When we are guilty of causing or contributing to a misunderstanding, we need to confess that fault and ask for forgiveness.
The second thing we need to recognize is that beyond humbling ourselves and seeking forgiveness where warranted, there is an element of this that has nothing to do with us. This is true when either we, clearly, are not at fault, or when we have sincerely confessed our wrongdoing and asked for forgiveness. If either of these things are true and a person persists in creating relational havoc, it is really about them. Understandably, when people blame or even attack us, it can cause hurt or anger. But in reality, there is some kind of blindness or brokenness in them that is triggering their reaction. This doesn’t excuse their behavior but it does lessen the frustration on our part. At this point, we should pray for God to reveal both the impact and cause of their actions to them. While we are not responsible for understanding why they are doing what they are doing, we should explain to them how what they said has affected us. When we de-personalize an offence, it boosts our ability to communicate in a non-combative and clear manner.
Third, if they continue the behavior, if it is at all possible, we should distance ourselves from them and ask God to deal with them. The refusal on their part to hear and adapt their actions based on our respectful, plainspoken and reasonable appeal means that there is a “hardness of heart” that you can do nothing about. You can and should pour out your heart to God about this, but seeking to reason with someone who is unreasonable is a waste of time. Oftentimes, respectful withdrawal can not only create the space for God to work but also stimulate the desire for reconnection such that the surly, bombastic, insensitive person seeks you out. Then, your words have the potential to weigh more as they seek to understand the reason you created space.
No one likes being “left out in the cold,” relationally speaking. But, by putting on more protective layers, we can better navigate difficult relationships in a manner that is both wise and potentially redemptive. At least this is what I have been learning over the last twenty years. I hope my input helps a little. Keep safe and warm my friends!
Your fellow servant in Christ,