… because it was bitter

As we read through God’s Word, we sometimes come to stories that seem a bit odd, and here is one of them from Exodus 15 –

22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?”

25 Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became fit to drink.

There the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test. 26 He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.” (Exodus 15:22-26)

Though I believe absolutely that this is a true story, I must admit it’s rather unusual. Three days after God delivered the children of Israel from the Egyptian army by allowing them to pass safely through the Red Sea, this mass of people found themselves thirsty as they traveled through the wilderness. They came to a spring in the wilderness of Shur, but the water was bitter. They couldn’t drink it. What look liked it held great promise turned out to be a huge disappointment.

They were thirsty. There was water. But the water at Marah (meaning “bitter”) was unable to quench their thirst. So they turned their complaints to the guy who (in their opinion) had gotten them into this mess. They grumbled against Moses. “This man is obviously in over his head. Sure he got us through the Red Sea, but his leadership skills are woefully lacking. He leads us to a spring, but it’s worthless! You got us into this mess, Moses. You get us out!”

They were correct to assume that Moses didn’t have an answer to their problem. God hadn’t given him a map showing the location of the nearest fresh water supply. So, he did the only thing he could do. He turned his eyes and heart heavenward and asked the Lord to intervene. It was an impossible situation, so Moses turned to the Lord who had already shown He could make the impossible possible.

The Lord directs Moses to a piece of wood. (The word could also be interpreted as”tree” or “log.”) The Lord instructs Moses to throw the piece of wood into the bitter spring. Having done so, the water became drinkable, and the people quenched their thirst and were refreshed.

There are lots of lessons we can gain from this odd story. We could learn that no problem is too hard for God. We could learn that when we have no answers, we can go to God who has all the answers. We could learn those who lead on behalf of God will often face complaints. All that is true, but in light of our current national situation, perhaps there is another lesson for us.

Moses listened to God’s instructions and acted. He may have wondered why God would ask him to do such a strange thing. Who ever heard of a piece of wood turning bitter water sweet?! But Moses did what God told him to do, and God met the need of that grumbling group. So, what might that mean for us?

We live in a time of deep bitterness. The hurt and anger and violence we see in the streets of our major cities is just a symptom of a deeper problem. This world is broken. People are broken. It began with the rebellion of Adam and Eve in the Garden. It’s still alive in the world today. It may hide in the shadows for a while, but it reemerges with a vengeance at every opportune moment.

Moses was instructed to do something that seemed ridiculous, but it turned bitterness into sweetness. You and I, fellow believers, are called to do something that may also seem ridiculous. We are called to love everybody. We are called to serve everybody. We are called to be set apart from the ways of the world and to live a different lifestyle. We are called to be salt and light, to make a difference wherever we are. Jesus said, “They’ll know you belong to me because of how you love one another.”

In the face of the violence and hatred and division we are witnessing daily, intentionally expressing love to others may seem like such a small thing. What good is this little stick tossed into the bitter spring? But never underestimate the power of God’s calling on your life to change hearts and minds and circumstances. When we do what the Lord calls us to do, it unleashes a power beyond our imagining. And there is no power greater than letting God’s love flow through us.

Dominican Republic Mission Trip – Day 7

Today was a shorter day, but still full. We are all pretty tired, so a little less strenuous effort was welcome. After some real spiritual oppression and demonic dreams had by some of our team members, we spent a good part of the evening praying and planning for today. When we arrived, we met wtih Pastor Alberto (on whose home we are working) to find out the best way to approach the situation without causing undue distress on him and his familiy or church members. Basiclally this is how it went …

We march from the church to his house carrying a wooden cross. Our interpreter (who just appeared out of no where on Friday) led the way by singing songs in Spanish. When we arrived, we planted the cross in a sand pile and sang “Nothing But the Blood” and “Holy Ground.” Pastor Alberto then sang a song in Spanish. We shared Scriptures in both English and Spanish, then entered a time of concerted prayer for the believers in the Batey and against the spiritual forces there. Alberto then prayed in Creole a powerful prayer that captured the attention of the entire Batey! It surely carried down to the voodoo temple. After several embraces, we began our work completing replacing half the tin on his roof. The next team will complete that chore, but Alberto and his family will stay out of the elements … and his home will be much larger. We also had teams prayer walk the area near the witch doctor’s place.

I have left so much out of this blog. I did not mention the joy of the children or the tears of our team members or the graciousness of John and Donna Bearden or the truck/van rides to and from the site … or the dust!!!! I’ll leave it to other team members to fill in the details upon their return.

We will leave the hotel at 7 tomorrow for the 5 hour bus ride to the airport. We fly out of Santo Domingo early afternoon and land in Atlanta around 6:30 … God willing! Pray for our safety as we travel. Just as important, if not more so, pray for the believers we will leave behind that they will be strong in the faith and stand against the wiles of the devil.

Dominican Republic Mission Trip – Day Six

Last night we got some rain, so I did not have the chance to log on and blog … so this will of necessity be brief.

The work went along very well. We can come to a stopping point on Pastor Alberto’s house that will not disrupt his family life for the next two weeks as he waits on the next team to finish the work that we began. He (and perhaps more importantly his wife) are quite happy!

Bible school went quite well yesterday. There were perhaps 125 kids who showed up. The story that they heard was of Noah (Jim Moore playing that part). We then made a bee line to the gospel so that each child could hear the good news of salvation. It was a moving time!

Let me update you on the spiritual warfare front. Members of our team have been under assault by the forces of Satan. This came to a head last night, and we came together to stand against it. Sleep last night was far more peaceful as we are determined to come against the spiritual stronghold of evil in Batey 7. We will seek Pastor Alberto’s wisdom as to how to do this, but we are determined to do it. Pray that we will have have discernment and that God will remove all fear. There are so many people in spiritual bondage to voodoo, and even believers who still feel those chains though they have been set free by Jesus. Pray also that the believers in that area will be able to stand up against the subtle pressures brought to bear and the overt threats made. Long after we are gone, spiritual skirmishes will be fought. Praise God the victory is found in Jesus!

More later today, God willing …

Dominican Mission Trip – Day 5

I begin with a confession. I have been misspelling “Batey” all week. For those who didn’t notice, “Batey” is not spelled “Batay.” Oh, well, if that’s the worst I do, I shouldn’t complain.

This will be short since I am tired. We finished the trusses today for the church roof. The ladies are almost finished sealing the roof at the clinic. And we are closing in on finishing our part of Pastor Alberto’s house. Waynesboro First Methodist will come next week to wrap up both projects.

Aside from a few cuts and scraps, we’re all doing well. The Lord has blessed us with health all week. Okay, Mallory did have a hammer fly by his head, but I promise it slipped!!!!!

Coming up tomorrow is more work in Pastor Alberto’s house followed by a one-afternoon Bible school. We’re focusing on the story of Noah (Jim Moore is starring in that role). I get to be narrator. We have animal masks (for the animals, of course), water bottles for the rain, and a rainbow parachute for … we’ll you’re smart enough to figure that one out.

Thank you for your prayers. We need them. I want to ask you to pray for salvations in the Bible school and in all of Batey 7. I ask you to fervently pray against the work of the community witch doctor. The tentative plan is to hold a prayer walk/session at his house/temple. May God do whatever it takes to set the captives free.

Finally, we’ve had morning and

Continue reading “Dominican Mission Trip – Day 5”

Dominican Republic Mission Trip – Day Four

It was a beautiful day in the DR. Mostly sunny skies with highs in the upper 80s and a good breeze off the water.

We started with a simple breakfast featuring strong coffee and fresh fruit, then we headed to La Hoya to worship in a church building that was partially built by a previous DR team with some GF members. There was no preached message (hey, don’t get any ideas!), instead the youth led the service with song and dance. They had just completed youth week and they were flying high. The excitement was evident the moment we entered the door.

The pastor, Connie, took some heat for her unique approach to reaching the teens in the area. She gave the believing teens responsibility in leading worship. In fact, there are only a handful of adults in the church. You’d think that it would devolve into chaos, but God has used these on-fire kids to reach their friends for Christ. Eight or more youth made commitments to Christ during the camp and were welcomed as brothers and sisters in the service.

Our host John Bearden shared in our evening devotional that his father’s Bible is sealed in one of the concrete columns of the church building. His father passed away shortly before John came to help build the church. In lieu of flowers, donations were made to help Dominicans. As a way to signify this, John’s dad’s Bible was lovingly placed in the structure of the building itself! What a powerful testimony.

The afternoon found part of our group traveling to see the sites … and there are some incredible sites to see. As I have said before, the DR is a beautiful place. The rest of us hung out at the hotel to relax a bit. A little time in the pool, a short nap, and a way along the ocean is always refreshing.

Tomorrow, we are back at it full force. The half-day Bible school will be Tuesday. We’ll spend Monday working on the clinic/church site and continuing the work on Pastor Alberto’s house. In the mean time, Jim Moore will lead a group to witness in the Batay.

More later…

Dominican Republic Mission – Day Three

It was a good and tiring day. After a hearty breakfast we headed out to Batay 7 to continue the previous day’s work. Good progress was made on the addition onto Pastor Alberto’s house. That means a lot of block was laid by both skilled and unskilled workers! We also had lots of willing little hands to assist.

Worked continued on building the trusses for Alberto’s church … and these are not small things. The cutting took place in the roofless worship center and the construction took place on the roof of the adjoining temporary worship center. Yes, on the roof in the sun. On the other roof some of the dedicated ladies put sealer on the roof of the clinic … also in the direct sun.

We all returned tired and dirty. Showers, supper, and a devotional were a welcome end to a productive day. Tomorrow we’ll head into Barahona to worship at a church that some on the team helped to build. The youth there have prepared something special for us. After lunch we’ll do a bit of sightseeing by bus.

This is a beautiful place with lots of beautiful people. Every one of us is so blessed to be here.

Dominican Republic Trip – Day 2

We got off to an easy start today. Because of the long travel day yesterday, we took our time getting going. It was not time wasted. We fellowshiped over a good breakfast (the pineapple and papaya are great!) After our devotion and some discussion of the day, we loaded on the bus for a 45 minute drive from PlayAzul (the hotel) and Batay 7. The change of scenery from start to finish was stark!

The Batay is populated primarily by poverty-stricken Haitians. Our tasks were seemingly simple – begin construction of trusses to be used to reroof Pastor Alberto’s church. It currently has no roof at all! In addition, around the church-clinic combination, there were lots of other tasks to be done – painting, helping in the clinic, etc.

We were also to increase the size of Pastor Alberto’s house. Before you think this is some extravagance, Alberto’s house is very small by American standards. It is concrete block with a rusty, leaky tin roof. He has 10 children plus some grandchildren living there!! “Packed like sardines” comes to mind. More details on the construction later in the week.

All this work was begun with dozens of Haitian children trying to help or just trying to get attention. All the team members took time out to play with the children and show them a little love.

It was good to spend some time with Haley Garrett whom our church helped to support (along with other individuals) so that she could serve here for a year. She’s healthy, a little wiser, and still a ray of sunshine.

Okay – more later. Keep praying.

What It’s All About

Image

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.  The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!  And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.  The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them. Luke 2:1-20, NLT

Seeing Jesus … at Walmart

I hesitate to be overly critical of the spiritual insights or encounters that others have.  I realize that God has spoken through a burning bush and a donkey, so who am I to limit His options? Yet when I read about the engaged couple in Anderson, South Carolina who found an image of Jesus on their Walmart receipt, well, pardon me for having an ounce or two of skepticism.

It’s not that Jesus can’t be found at Walmart.  He’s there in every believer who works there, shops there, or just goes there to hang out on a Friday night.  It’s just that I’m not sure what Jesus’ supposed image on a Walmart receipt communicates.  Was He trying to say He’s blessing their marriage? Was He telling them they got a great deal? Or perhaps that they spent too much? Was He trying to say something about materialism in South Carolina? Or was Jesus giving them a way to pay for their wedding by selling the receipt on eBay?  Who knows?

So here we are with an image that could have some resemblance to Jesus, Santa, or Charles Manson for that matter.  We see something we want to see and make it mean what we want it to mean.  And that’s just the point! Jesus spoke so clearly about who He was and why He came.  He said things like, “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).  And “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies…” (John 11:25).  That is crystal clear.  He doesn’t leave us guessing.

If the Walmart receipt can be used to draw that soon-to-be-married couple into a deeper relationship with Jesus, then I’m glad for it.  But instead of looking at Walmart receipts, pieces of toast, or sweat stains on baseball caps, perhaps we would do better to open God’s Word and ask Jesus to speak to us clearly.