You Can’t Do Anything!

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You can’t do anything.

I mean it. You can’t do anything.

I am sure you are quite competent in certain things. You might even be an “expert” in a particular field. Some of you are quite talented in the arts, fixing computers, arguing court cases, plumbing, teaching, etc.

One of the strangest stories in the Bible is Numbers 21:8-9:
The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

The Israelites were wandering the desert. They still had decades to go before they would enter the promised land. Going around and round the desert. I get it. It would be pretty depressing. So, what do people do when they are stuck? They complain. And, the Israelites were really good at complaining! People are really good at complaining. You and I would have complained too.

“Why did God bring us out to the desert to just have us marching around in circles. There’s no water in the desert. There is no food in the desert. Oh those onions! I, so miss those sweet onions of Egypt!” (I added the onions part. I don’t even like onions. Who would ever miss onions?!?!)

God punished the Israelites by sending poisonous snakes. People were dying.

When they repented, God told Moses to make the Bronze Snake and put it on a Pole.

Snakes are always bad in the Bible. It was the serpent who messed everything up in the Garden of Eden. Why a snake? I don’t know.

But the thing that is really astonishing is that the only requirement to be saved from death was one thing: Look at the bronze snake.

  • Ouch! I’ve been bitten! I’m dying – No you’re not! Look at the snake

Check out the people who were saved that day – good people, bad people, sexually impure people, sexually pure people, old, young, smart, not so smart. There could have been rapists and murders. The only requirement to be saved was to look at the snake.

Being saved had nothing to do with people. It had everything to do with believing in God’s remedy for death – looking at the snake.

You can’t do anything.

Salvation was totally dependent on the promise of God that those who looked upon the serpent would be saved.

Now, check this out:
Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:14-16).

You can’t do anything. You can’t do anything to be saved. It’s all grace. It’s all God. The only thing you need to do is to believe in God’s promise and look at crucified one.

Look at the crucified one. His name is Jesus.

Believe in Jesus and be saved.

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Troubling Bible Passages

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Passages like Exodus 32 make me uncomfortable.

While Moses is up on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from God, The Israelites decide Moses is taking too long and they convince Aaron to make the Golden Calf and they begin worshiping it. Only days after experiencing God’s salvation from the Egyptians, Aaron has the audacity to make the Golden Calf and say, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you out of Egypt.”

That’s messed up. That’s wrong in many ways.

I get that. But it’s the rest of the story in Exodus 32 that make me uncomfortable.

First thing that makes me uncomfortable about this passage is what God says. He wants to destroy the Israelites and start all over with Moses. Nothing new. God did this with Noah. And he tells Moses that he wants to do the same thing. It is Moses who has to convince God that this is not a good idea – rescue a people from Egypt just to destroy them when they are free.

Where is grace? Where is the opportunity for repentance?

The second thing that makes me uncomfortable about this passage is what Moses does. After he comes down the mountain, he sees the people worshiping the Golden Calf and loses it.

That much I get. It’s next part that’s hard to swallow. He then asks, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.” Then he commands the Levites to slaughter about 3,000 people!


What do we do with that?

Some reflections on this passage.

First, I have issues with this passage because I value human life. That’s good thing. That’s a Biblical thing. Life is a gift from God and no one ought to destroy the life God has given. The thing is, the Old Testament doesn’t seem to have the same world view regarding human life. I don’t know what to make of that.

Secondly, the reason why passages like this trouble me has to do with me. I don’t take sin nearly seriously enough. It’s not that I underestimate sin, it’s just that I don’t take sin and it’s consequences seriously enough.

God absolutely detests and hates sin. It’s not that God hates sin for sin’s sake. God detests and hates sin because of what sin does. Sin separates us from God. Sinners cannot stand in the presence of a holy and righteous God without being destroyed.

The reason why God hates and detests sin is because of what sin does to sinners. God loves sinners. The proof of God’s love is Jesus on the cross. God loves us so much that God had to make a way to undo sin. God transforms sinners to sons and daughters by the cross of Jesus.

Thank God for that!

Love Them Anyway

Screen Shot 2014-05-25 at 3.36.08 PMPeople are often unreasonable and self centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.

If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.

For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Mother Teresa