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Sunday, March 25, 2007

even when the kids are bad...

On Numbers 20...

"Here she comes again... I always cringe inside when I see her. She is so..."

"He is so arrogant... if I ever get the chance, I'm going to take him down a notch."
Have you ever thought such things?
"I can't believe I lost control again. I hate my temper, but I just can't seem to hold my anger in check."

"I wish I could take those words back... once they landed, I could see how much they hurt... but how can I undo them?"
Do the same things... things you know are wrong... things you want to stop... do they keep happening over and over? Jesus one time talked about having a fountain inside of us - one full of eternal life. But honestly, more often I feel like I have a fountain of muddy, slimy water inside me. As good as I try to be and as much as I'd like to be a good Christian, these slimy, dark, impure words and thoughts and actions keep flowing out of me.
"Not you, surely... you're a pastor."
No really... me, too.

Sometimes, when we hear or read these stories about the Israelites doing sinful, disobedient things over and over, even when God is right there doing amazing things in front of them, it's easy to think, "They are just fools; why don't they ever get it?" But you know what? When I'm honest, I totally understand them... I'm just like them.

Again, there is part of me that says, "Forty years of wandering, being thirsty, and God providing… including this EXACT situation. And surely you have seen the results of your parents not trusting God and Moses' leadership!" But then, when I'm honest, I think of my almost 40 years of life and how often God has answered my prayers and shown Himself to be true and real and present in my life, and how often I have repeated the same mistakes... the same acts of disobedience... the same sin.

And yet, we have also been reminded of God's faithfulness - that though His people fail and fight against Him, He continues to provide a way forward and an invitation to come home to Him. Today's text is a wonderful reminder of this. It is easy to focus on Moses in this story, and we will look at that. But, the real treasure in this story is God's generous faithfulness in providing AGAIN for His contentious, quarreling children. In a sentence, that is the amazing Good News for us today - that God graciously provides, even for sinful, quarreling children like you and me.

Do you understand the huge news that is? The Bible isn't the story of God rewarding good people with greater and greater honors until they rise into Heaven. It is the story of God having mercy and showing love to sinful, bickering, quarreling, fighting, contentious children. It is the story of God showing mercy to you and me, and inviting us to respond to Him.

Those waters were called "Meribah" because there the people struggled again against God, and Meribah means struggle or striving. Those are the waters that seem to continue to swirl around in our lives in this in-between time between slavery to sin and being with God in Heaven. As believers in Jesus Christ, we have been brought out of slavery - we can obey God and follow Him because God's Spirit lives in us. Yet, the waters and memory of the old life still swirls in and around us.

God graciously provides forgiveness and lovingly invites us to turn to Him again and again, choosing faithfulness and obedience. That is Good News! And that is an amazing grace God!

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