Grateful For My Current Assignment!

In Numbers chapters 3 and 4, the Lord assigns various clans of the Levites to do different tasks related to the care and moving of the Tabernacle. The Kohathites seem to get the more favorable jobs—caring for the sacred items like the Ark of the Covenant, the altars, lampstand, etc. Whereas other clans like the Gershonites are tasked with caring for frames, crossbars, posts, curtains, etc.In a sense, the Gershonites were blessed! Rather than having to do the other hard labor of the camp like the other tribes, they got to work on God’s holy tabernacle, be close to his presence, and witness some of the ministry going on there. But I’ll bet there were a few Gershonites who felt ripped off that the Kohathites got to carry the Ark of the Covenant. (Of course, the Kohathites had the additional problem of if they made a mistake, they would drop dead!).

Isn’t there something in us that always feels that way? We put our eyes on what others “get” to do, and feel like we are being treated unfairly. Yet we fail to notice the additional responsibilities and burdens that come with that “better” position, and we ignore the blessings of our current assignment compared with other alternatives.

There are times that I ask myself, “What is God going to do in my life after teaching?” I dream about pastoring a church, or being a university professor, or running a cutting-edge ministry. And maybe God actually has some of those things in mind for me in the future. But when I start to get envious of people in those roles, God has been faithful to remind me of the blessings of being a high school teacher, and of my original calling into it.

This Thanksgiving, I resolve to be thankful for where God has me right now. Lord, help me keep my eyes on You and Your blessings in my current assignment. I want to have a heart of gratitude that pours out to others. Fill me to overflowing with your Spirit. In Jesus’ name.

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Willing to change

“When my pain was greater than my shame, I was willing to change.”

On my bike home today, I was listening to Jack Frost from Shiloh Place ministries (yes, that’s his real name, though he died a few years ago).  I’ve been listening to his series called “Confronting the Taskmasters,” which is about how the Lord brings us out of slavery to fear, shame, etc. to move into God’s calling on our lives.  The quote above struck me.

Real change in our lives requires help from God and usually help from others.  It’s the old cliche that the first step is admitting we have a problem.  If we are too ashamed to admit to God and to others that it’s not working, we will probably never change.  But God won’t leave us there.  He allows the pain from our choices to increase and increase, until we no longer care what other people think.  We cry out for help.  Then the partnership toward healing begins.

Conviction of the Spirit vs. Condemnation of the enemy

One of the most common struggles we face as Christians is to discern the difference between conviction of sin and condemnation for sin.  The Holy Spirit brings conviction of sin (John 16:8) which leads to repentance, but the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10) brings condemnation that leads to various manifestations of death in our lives.  So how can we tell the difference? I had an experience this morning that I think illustrates this well.

In prayer, I was having a conversation with the Lord.  In my journal, I often ask God a question, then prayerfully listen for an answer.  Hearing God in this way is a learned skill, and I don’t do it perfectly, but I’ve written a little more about it here.

I asked the Lord about whether there was any sin in my life that I needed to confess.  This can be a dangerous question, because we are often so tuned into what the enemy is saying, that all we can hear at that point is accusation.  But the Lord gave me one word:  passivity.  When I received that word, it did not come with shame attached.  I did not feel judged or condemned.  But I was still open to the possibility that this was the enemy speaking to me, so I waited and kept listening.

The Lord then helped me define passivity.  His next word to me confirmed in my heart that it was the Lord.  He pointed out an action I took this weekend that was intentional and active, rather than passive.  He affirmed me in that, and encouraged me to do more of that.

This is the heart of our loving Father.  When he brings correction, he brings it to draw us in and encourage us, not to shame or condemn us.  If you are constantly feeling under the weight of your sin, especially if you identify yourself with your sin (e.g. “I am a liar,” rather than “I told a lie.”), then it’s very possible that you are listening to the enemy more than the Lord.  In Christ we have His righteousness.  The old has gone, the new has come.  Yes we still sin, but it is no longer our identity. When the Spirit convicts, rather than feeling like a heavy judgment, for me it usually feels like an invitation to something better.  What are your experiences with this?  I would love to hear.

Father, I pray for your church, that we would throw off the sin that so easily entangles us, and run with perseverance the race that has been marked out for us.  Free us from the accusations of the enemy that are often based in truth, but ultimately are false because they lie about our identity and about how You see us.  Jesus, you yourself said that you came to save us, not to judge us.  We can approach the Father with confidence because of the cross and the empty tomb.  Your word says that you delight in us.  So may we run to you in our brokenness, not away from you in shame.  You will not turn us away, those of us who are in Christ.  Your desires for us are better than anything we can imagine ourselves.  Give us the strength to embrace our calling in You.  Holy Spirit, fill us with Your courage and boldness to face our issues and and to risk to reach out to others with Your love, confident of our position in Christ and the love and acceptance of our loving Father.  In Jesus’ name. 

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