## Math is from the devil

I was always pretty good at math. That is, until my freshman year of High School. It was a tough year for me when it came to math. I had always got A’s in math, but this year would be different. I stayed after school almost every day to get help with the homework and I barely squeaked out a B-.  My confidence was shot and I started to question my ability to succeed in this area.

The subject was geometry. No longer could I relish in the concrete solutions for the letter x. Now I had to memorize theorems and postulates. I had to figure out areas and angles. It was like math mixed with art… and I was pretty sure it was from the devil. Math is supposed to be black and white. Math is a fact, not a theory. What is this geometry? Get behind me, Satan!

1 Chronicles 21:1 Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.

See! I told you math was from the devil! Do you know what a census is? It is counting people by groups and then adding them together. And here in 1 Chronicles 21, Satan made David do math. Okay, I’ll admit it – that’s a bit of a stretch. Maybe math isn’t really from the devil. So why was this census such a bad idea? Why did God explicitly instruct David NOT to take a census?

The problem with the census was that it would cause David to put his confidence in his resources rather than in his God. David wanted to know how many fighting men he had in case he was attacked. He wanted to calculate his odds at winning a battle. Even though God had consistently fought his battles for him, David still had this need to discover if what he had was enough. Unfortunately, this math experiment turned into a giant disaster for him. Math did him in.

Don’t we do the same thing that David did? We let anxiety and worry lead us to our calculators. We fret over all the possible alternatives and the inevitable outcomes. We lose sleep over the fact that no matter how hard we have thought about it, 2+2 simply does not equal 8.  We are short on resources and it looks like we are gonna lose this one.

God isn’t intimidated by math. He doesn’t worry about geometry. Not enough resources? No problem. Having a hard time getting all that you can gather to add up to 8? He doesn’t need 4+4. He can make W+S=8 if He wants to. You just bring the W and He will bring the S and it will all work out. What is the W you ask? It’s your weakness. The S is HIS strength.

Your God has all the resources you will ever need. You don’t need to put your trust in math. You can simply put your trust in Him. He has always been the one to fight the battles. He has always been the God who provides. He will not let you down. In the words of Proverbs 3:5-6,

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

## Empty threats

Ever made an empty threat? Now be honest… you know you have. We’ve told our kids they will be grounded for the the rest of their lives. And did we follow through? No, we didn’t. Some of you have made some bigger empty threats than that. You’ve written verbal checks with insufficient funds. You knew it when you said it;  you weren’t really going to do it. But to the person threatened, it feels much more real. That’s why we do it, right? We hope our kids take us seriously. It’s an unrealistic motivational tool. Nevertheless, it is used every day.

Being threatened isn’t fun. In fact, it can be downright scary. In the book of Nehemiah, the Jews who were rebuilding the wall faced these kinds of threats. Mean threats, scary threats, death threats.  Oh, and it’s important to mention… empty threats.

Nehemiah 4:11-14 11 Also our enemies said, “Before they know it or see us, we will be right there among them and will kill them and put an end to the work.” 12 Then the Jews who lived near them came and told us ten times over, “Wherever you turn, they will attack us.” 13 Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. 14 After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”

These threats were meant to intimidate and discourage. They were meant to keep the work of God from stopping. Yet all throughout history, threats have never stopped the work of God. Never have they caused God to tremble and wonder if He could pull it off. Not once has God second guessed Himself  because someone took Him to task.

Yet so many of God’s people listen to the voice of the enemy. They listen to his empty threats and it causes them to be paralyzed in fear. “I’ll destroy your family. You’ll never succeed, I’ll make sure of it. You won’t ever amount to anything. God couldn’t possibly use a failure like you. You will fail again just like you always do.” Threats. EMPTY THREATS.

To those threats of the enemy on your life, I repeat the words of Nehemiah today. “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” Call out the empty threats of the enemy today. Fight for what God has promised you and put your faith in Him!

## Haters gonna hate

I don’t like being mocked and ridiculed. Who does? Nobody that I know. It doesn’t feel very good. Over the Christmas season, I watched the movie Elf with my family. One of my favorite scenes is the snowball fight. The poor kid is a joke because he is hanging around with a guy dressed like an elf. But when kids start throwing snowballs at them, Buddy gets even. Take that! I will not be mocked.

Today’s reading is a little longer, but bear with me. This is good stuff.  Nehemiah 2:17-20

17 Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” 18 I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me.

They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.

19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?”

20 I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.”

Right off the bat, Nehemiah faced opposition to the very thing God had called him to. He would later receive threats, but he set the tone early as to how he would respond. He basically said, “haters gonna hate” and left it at that. It didn’t seem to phase him. There was no worry, anxiety, fear, or trepidation. He wasn’t phased. Instead, he simply didn’t listen to those that set themselves up against his calling.

When we step out in obedience to the things that God calls us to, we will often hear the voices of those who tell us we can’t do it. They will give us all the reasons why it won’t work. They will tell us we aren’t qualified, that we don’t have the resources. The problem is that they are trying to focus us on what we don’t have. We need to focus on what we do have: God! And a calling from Him.

There are places that God is calling you to. He has a mission for you. Are you listening to His voice? Or are you listening to the voices that tell you it will never happen?

## The proof comes later

I am a fan of guaranteed things. Are you with me on this? I’m talking about no risk, all reward stuff. I would jump out of an airplane if there was a 100% guarantee that the parachute will open. I know the percentage is high, but it’s not 100. Maybe I’d step out more in faith if I knew it was going to work out. But that’s not really faith at all, is it? That’s just doing something that you know will produce the desired results. The truth is: most often, the proof comes later.

Moses was placed in a situation I find myself in often. It’s a situation in which he was hoping God would give him an up-front guarantee. Here’s how it went down…

Moses sees a bush on fire, yet the bush isn’t burning up, it’s just burning. He checks it out and it starts talking to him. Except it isn’t the bush talking, it is God speaking from within the bush. And God in the bush tells him that he is being sent to get His people out of slavery in Egypt. That seems intimidating to Moses, because the last time he tried to rescue an Israelite slave, it didn’t go well.  Moses wavers and questions God’s good judgement in choosing him. Here’s God’s response:

Exodus 3:12  And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

Wait a minute! What kind of a guarantee is that? “After it’s all done, you will worship right here with the people.” Yes Moses, after you have stepped out of your comfort zone, put your life on the line, and lead ungrateful people through a sea with soldiers chasing you – then God will confirm that it was really Him who sent you.

I wonder if I would take God up on that offer. I wonder if I would be willing to take the step of faith and receive the confirmation later. The truth is, faith requires… um, faith. It requires trust. And it means that sometimes (often) you won’t be confident of the outcome. But you CAN be confident in the God who sent you.

The proof usually does come later. And even though I’d like some proof up front, I have found that the actual outcome is often far greater than I could have ever expected. That’s the beauty of living for God and taking Him at His word!

*What is God calling you today? Where are the scary places He is sending you that require faith?

## I have no idea

Genesis 41:16  “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”

Many years ago, I was working for a company in which I was climbing the ladder.  I was being promoted and was moving up quickly.  I recall many days in which I was being stretched beyond my ability. My boss or even district manager would ask me to do things that I didn’t know how to do.  At first, I was not very confident and would tell them I was unsure if I could do it: “Um… I have no idea!” But I had a manager one time tell me that the answer should simply be, “No problem. I’ll get it done.”  So this became my answer.  When I was given something I didn’t know how to do, I figured it out. I found people who knew and they helped me.  Because of that, I became trusted.  There didn’t seem to be anything I couldn’t do.  That wasn’t remotely true, but it seemed that way since I always said, “I’ll get it done.”   Kind of risky, don’t you think?  But God gave me favor and it worked. If only I had given Him some of the credit.

In Genesis 41, Joseph didn’t have a problem giving God the credit right up front. He was asked to do a job by the highest authority in the land and his response was, “I can’t do it.”  But before the Pharaoh sent him back to the prison, he followed up with, “but God can and will.”  To answer like that requires both faith and absence of fear. You can’t care what others will think about you. You can’t question whether or not God will pull it off.  You just have to trust that He will.

I wonder sometimes how well we do at giving God the glory for something He deserves glory for. I see people operate in their gifting and take for granted that God is the one who gave it to them. A word of prophecy shouldn’t glorify the giver, but should glorify God. A song of worship should draw attention to Jesus, not the singer.  Yet we go along taking all the credit for things that God pulled off.  Not Joseph – He was clear about who was really doing the work. I think it would be a good idea if we did the same.

*In what places in your life do you take the glory for things that God is doing? In what places are you afraid to speak up where God is working?

## Dragging our feet

Genesis 19:15-16 At dawn the next morning the angels became insistent. “Hurry,” they said to Lot. “Take your wife and your two daughters who are here. Get out right now, or you will be swept away in the destruction of the city!” When Lot still hesitated, the angels seized his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and rushed them to safety outside the city, for the Lord was merciful.

I’ll admit it: sometimes I have a hard time making a decision.  The little decisions aren’t so hard, but the big ones are another story.  It’s likely that I am a perfectionist and don’t want to make the wrong decision.  But that often leads me to make no decision at all.  This has caused me to miss out on great deals and great adventures.  I just over think it sometimes; I drag my feet.  By the time I make up my mind, it’s too late.  Can anyone relate?

There are certain times, however, when dragging your feet is an even bigger deal: when God has told you to do something.  He calls us out to a great purpose, but we aren’t sure if the water is safe.  He calls us out of places of danger, but we refuse to leave the burning house.  Why is that?  Do we fear the unknown more than we fear the danger of the present? Because if God is IN the unknown, that’s actually a pretty safe place to be.

There’s some good news for all of us in this feet dragging conundrum: God is gracious.  Lot was in a dangerous situation and hesitated leaving it.  But the angels of the Lord grabbed his hand and brought him to safety.  The Lord does the same with us today.  When we are dragging our feet, He grabs our hand and leads us to safe places.  Hesitation happens, but when you feel Him nudging you on to safety, that’s when the feet need to stop dragging and start moving.  Trust that where He is leading you is far better than where you are.

## He wasn’t joking

Genesis 18:14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.

Sarah laughed.  I laughed too when I read this today.  As she stood outside the tent, she heard the Lord say that she would give birth to a son.  She was an old lady by now, so naturally this struck her funny bone.  “That’s a good one, God!”  But then she got caught laughing like a 1st grader getting caught passing gas: “it wasn’t me!”  Have you ever tried telling God you didn’t do something that you did?  “I didn’t laugh, God.  Really, I didn’t.”  Uh… yes you did.  Don’t try to pull one over on God, okay?

I can understand why she thought this whole idea was humorous.  God had promised her and Abraham long ago that they would have a child.  However, that ship had sailed, time was up, game over.  At least that is what it looked like in the natural.  Yes, when God shows up in your nineties and tells you to start building your family, you might think he is joking.  After all, why would God say something impossible like that?  Why would He be crazy enough to utter the ridiculous?  Doesn’t He know how things work?

Is anything too hard for the LORD?  That’s what He asks Abraham.  Now it seems God likes to operate in the rhetorical.  He asks questions that aren’t really questions.  In other words, He was saying this: nothing is too hard for me.  Who made your body, Abraham? God.  Who creates life, Abe? God.  Who supernaturally appeared before you in your tent?  That’s right – God.  Listen: when the supernatural God speaks to you, assume He is able to do something supernatural!  If the creator of the heavens and the earth wants to create, He can and He will create. If He says He is going to provide your every need, believe that He is able to do so.  If He says that Has this situation under control, take Him at His word.  He’s God… and nothing is too hard for Him.

*Do you have something in your life that you think is too hard for God?

## Don’t let fear crash the party

Genesis 15:1 After this, the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision: “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”

There was a movie that came out in 2005, called Wedding Crashers.  I didn’t see it, but the premise was that these two guys crashed weddings of total strangers in order to meet women.  Party crashers can ruin a party.  They aren’t invited, they don’t really know anyone, and they mess things up.  Let’s pretend you are throwing a party and there is someone you intentionally don’t invite.  You don’t invite them because you have a history with them that is less than pleasant.  They hurt you, they slandered you, they are mean.  Whatever the reason, they aren’t invited.  But somehow they hear about your little shindig and show up.  How do you feel about that?

Abram had someone crash his party.  In the previous chapter, he had just made a bold stand against the king of Sodom.  He turned down a big gift and put his faith in God.  It’s a big thing to say no to a king and a bigger thing to trust that what you can’t see will come to pass.  And right in the middle of this party of faith, fear tried to crash the party.  Maybe he made a mistake.  Maybe he should have taken the money from the king.  What if he made the king mad? What if God didn’t come through?  Yes, fear crashed his party.

That’s when God showed up like a bouncer and kicked fear out:  “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.”  He spoke directly into that fear and addressed the places it was messing with Abram.  Fear told him that he would be harmed, but God told him that HE was his shield.  Fear told him that he just made a huge mistake by passing up on the money, but God reminded him that HE was his reward.  It’s like God said, “Excuse me fear, I need to see your invitation to this party.”  Fear didn’t have one so God kicked him out.

*Is fear crashing your party?  What will you do when it comes knocking at your door?

Genesis 12:1 The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country,  your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”

Some people are more adventurous than others.  I think of those that love to get on their motorcycle, hit the open road, and take it wherever it leads them.  I’m not one of those people.  I like GPS.  I like to know where I am going.  In fact, when I have an upcoming road trip to an unfamiliar place, I like to get on google maps and take a look at the street view of where I am going.  That way I will be familiar with my surroundings once I get there.  That may seem over the top to you, but I don’t enjoy getting lost.

So what if God were to say to me, “go to the place I will show you?”  Not the place I HAVE shown you.  No, the place I WILL show you.  That makes me a bit uneasy.  It leaves me searching for my GPS.  But I don’t know the coordinates to plug in.  What’s the ending address, God?  “I will show you,” He says.

It seems to me that God’s instructions to Abram were lacking destination.  Maybe it was because the emphasis wasn’t the arrival but rather the leaving.  Maybe it was more about the drive than pulling into the driveway.

God asks us all to leave our starting place.  He asks us to leave the places of sin that remain within us.  He asks us to walk away from the world as we know it and enter the journey toward the heavenly destination He has for us.  I find the biggest challenge to be leaving when I don’t know the exact destination.  And that is what faith is for.  Faith challenges me to trust when I don’t know what turns lie ahead.  Faith urges me to get in the car and leave.  Will I leave those old places today?  Will I set out on the open road and engage in the journey God has for me?

*Abraham was called a man of faith.  Like Abraham, will you have the faith to leave old places without knowing your destination address?

## I just can’t help it!

Acts 4:18-20  18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. 20 For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

I just can’t help it!  There’s certain things you can’t help – loving your kids, kissing a baby’s cheek, eating a piece of chocolate cake set in front of you.  The good things of life draw us in and we can’t help but participate in them. They are so exciting or so cute or so delicious that we feel compelled to be a part of them.  It’s not that we literally can’t help ourselves, it’s just so hard to contain.  It feels impossible!  What is it that you can’t help but doing?

Peter and John, couldn’t help talking about Jesus.  They were so filled up, so overflowing, and so excited about the work of Christ, that they couldn’t contain it.  Even when ordered by the court to zip their lips, they couldn’t… no wouldn’t, do it.  It’s not that they couldn’t, is it?  It’s more that they wouldn’t.  They technically had a choice, but having weighed out all the risks, they made the decision to overflow.  They made the decision to keep talking about Jesus.

It’s a decision that we don’t often make as Christians today.  I think it happens for two reasons.  First, it’s because we aren’t overflowing.  We aren’t so connected and so filled up that it just has to make it’s way out.  We live our lives on empty and when we do grab a hold of Jesus, it’s to consume Him, not share Him.  Second, we are afraid – afraid of what people might think, afraid of getting in trouble, afraid of sounding foolish, afraid of losing friends.  What happened to a faith that we couldn’t help sharing?  What happened to our excitement about a God who has radically changed our lives?  We should start talking about Him to others.  We should return to, “I just can’t help it!”