Monday, July 31, 2006

Subjectivity vs. Objectivity - Part 5

A personal perspective

It has been almost thirty years since I first encountered the truth about the Messiah. On that day in September 1976 my world was turned upside down. Up until then I didn't give much thought to the existence of God. I was raised Jewish in a non-religious home just like many in my community. I knew next to nothing about the Bible. Actually I knew next to nothing about life at all as I bungled about in my adolescent foolishness and selfishness.

But when another Jewish young person showed me the prophecies about Yeshua (Jesus) in the Jewish Bible (Old Testament), I knew that I was encountering something that, if true, would have great implications for my life. I knew enough about these things to know that if I would accept them, it would cause great friction between me and my family and friends. At the same time I also knew that if they were true, any difficulties would be worth the risk.

I took a small, but significant step that afternoon. As soon as I prayed acknowledging Yeshua as the Messiah I knew something of utmost importance had happened to me. I won't take the time here to describe the wonderful difference Yeshua has made in my life, or of the road I have had to walk. A road – though difficult – has been worth ever step.

What I would like to try to describe is one aspect of the transformation I experienced. It is this aspect that relates to my discussion of objectivity and subjectivity.

For me to receive the Messiah into my life, I had to admit that I was wrong and that the Bible was right. This was perhaps the most significant thing that happened to me that day. The biblical term that describes this is "repentance" – which is "shuv" in Hebrew. Shuv means "to turn". It describes our going in one direction, but then upon realizing it is the wrong direction, we turn around and go in the right direction. It is not just a feeling of regret over past mistakes. It is not just feeling sorry for wrongs done. It is a perspective and lifestyle change.

At that time my life was about me – my desires and my pleasures. I was very selfish. Believing in God brought me into a place of submission to an authority other than myself. This meant a complete lifestyle change. No more would I just do things because I felt like it. I was committed to do things because they were of God and they were right.

This next thing might be difficult for some people to understand, but even though I wasn't religious, I had inherited a Jewish life perspective and lifestyle, of which that though I was not living according to it, in the roots of my being it was a part of me. Even though I hadn't given much thought to God, once I did, it was natural to think of God and how to relate to him from a Jewish frame of reference.

This is not to say that because my perspective was a Jewish one, it was wrong. In fact there are countless things that stem from my background that have helped me in my understanding of God and the Bible. But they are not helpful because they are Jewish, but rather because they are things that God has made part of us. How we know which things those are is part of the process that I will try to explain in a moment.

In my case, since faith in Yeshua so naturally clashes with the culture of my upbringing, the differences between biblical truth and the perspective of my people group tends to be clearer than for those who have been brought up with a semblance of biblical values, especially if those values included some sort of faith in Jesus.

Due to my cultural upbringing and the acceptance of my own waywardness, I am to some extent used to the fact that the truth of God in the Scriptures is so very different from my own perspective. I know that in order submit to its truth, I must be willing to release my own presuppositions and perspectives.

I am also aware that this is an ongoing process. Even though I have spent years since that September day thirty years ago studying the Scriptures and grappling with the Truth, I know that I must continue to submit my views to that Truth. In order for me to be transformed into what God desires for me, I must cooperate with this lifelong process. While I must hold on tightly to what God teaches me, I must also allow him to continue to correct me, since I myself am not able to fully comprehend his Truth in its fullness.

Therefore as I seek to personalize (make subjective) God's (objective) reality, I continue to submit what I have learned to him. For what I am learning to be real, I must again personalize it, but always with on ongoing attitude of submission to the Author of Truth.

To be continued…

Sunday, July 30, 2006

TorahBytes: Listen! (Va-ethannan)

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. (Devarim / Deuteronomy 6:4)

Two weeks ago, in the TorahBytes message entitled, "Ask the Question", I explained that when God seems distant, we should ask where he is. To honestly ask such a question means that we must be prepared for his answer, whatever that might be.

One reader sent me an email wanting to know what the answer to that question is. My reply was that each one of us needs to ask the question for ourselves.

This week's parsha (Torah portion) includes what is the closest thing to what might be called the Jewish creed: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one" (Devarim / Deuteronomy 6:4). For many Jewish people, these words, commonly called the Shema (shema being the first word in this statement), are what set our people apart from other peoples and religions.

The normally understood emphasis of the Shema is the oneness of God as if it is to this aspect of God's nature that these words are referring. I think it is more correct to see that we are being reminded that the God of Israel is the only God (for a further discussion on this, see "
The Shema").

Whatever the emphasis, there is more to this statement than what it says and what it means. The actual command to the nation of Israel in this verse is "shema": hear! In order for these words to have any meaning at all, we need to listen to what God wants to say to us. In this case, the Shema draws our attention to a section in the Torah where we are reminded to earnestly love God, take his commandments to heart, and to make sure that we teach them to the next generation.

God is still calling to us to hear what he is saying. It is not good enough to just read the Torah and the rest of the Bible and think that we are truly engaging the Master of the Universe. It is not good enough to pray and perform religious rituals. We can be busy with spiritual endeavors, but never take the time to listen.

Some people put all the onus on God, thinking that if he really wanted to speak to them, he would do so. That's only partly true. His speaking to us is indeed something of his own initiative. We cannot make God speak. Yet, he is speaking. Now it is up to us to listen.

How many of us are like the person who wanted me to give him the answer to the question, "Where is God?" as if I could speak to him on God's behalf. While God uses people to help other people get to know him, he wants to engage each one of us personally. He wants each one of us to hear what he is saying.

Much of what God is saying to us is recorded in the Scriptures, but as I mentioned earlier simply reading the words is not the same as hearing them. In order to hear, we need to listen- and listen intently. We need to allow God's words to confront our hearts and lives. We need to allow what he says to mold us and to shape us.

In these past few weeks, the Jewish community, not only in the Land of Israel, but the world over, is facing another crisis. As it has turned out, these events have coincided with the most distressful time in the Jewish calendar, as we remember the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem that happened twice at this time of year. The Bible provides us with much commentary as to the spiritual and moral issues that surrounded these horrific tragedies. In a nutshell the reason for the destruction of the temples was our failure to listen to God.

In the midst of the current crisis it is not too late to hear what God is saying. In order for history to not repeat itself, we must learn the lessons that our ancestors failed to learn. It's time to listen!

Friday, July 28, 2006

Subjectivity vs. Objectivity - Part 4

Objectivity Gone Bad

We live in a day when its popular for people to be overly subjective. Many value making their own reality. They ignore objective reality to the point of denying it, claiming that even if there is such a thing, there is no way for us to be certain as to its reality. These people believe that reality is known only in how we perceive it – a reality that is different for each person. This is called relativism.

We will come back to this some other time, but for now I want to look at another extreme. Regardless of the popularity of relativism, there are still great numbers of people all over the world who claim to possess objective truth. Their view of the world, according to these people, is the correct one. They would not admit that their view is based on their perspective, but rather that their perspective is based on objective reality. According to them, they see the world as it really is. They claim to be absolutely objective. But are they?

Logically we know that all these people cannot be right. They may be sincere, but since their viewpoints in some cases are diametrically opposed to each other, how can they all possess objective truth?

It is this lack of logic that has led others to come to the conclusion that objective truth cannot be known. Others resolve this dilemma in a different way by claiming that all these viewpoints are actually all the same. Both of these conclusion are forms or relativism, but I don't want to get sidetracked by getting into that now.

Back to the extreme objective view. This viewpoint is very comfortable for those who are convinced of it. There is something in each of us that takes comfort in having a sense that we do, in fact, see the world as it really is. This helps gives sense to the world. It gives meaning both to the past and to the future, which in turn helps us to understand what is expected of us in the here and now.

Millions of people fall into this category as they have been born into a community that embraces a particular way of looking at the world. This is actually true for all of us, whether we are born into a religion, a strong political ideology, or western consumerism. Every culture has its way of looking at life and few people take the time to question the culture into which they are born.

What is interesting about how most of think about life is that while we claim to see the world as it really is, our perspective is actually based upon someone else's subjectivity. Most of us, whether we realize it or not, possess viewpoints and values that someone else has worked out. While most of us might believe that we see life as it really is, we are actually seeing life through the eyes of a religious, political, or philosophical leader.

At some point reality had to be experienced subjectively by someone. As these people communicated their subjective version of reality, they influenced others, most of whom never took the time to make this reality their own. Instead they blindly followed this viewpoint.

This unwillingness to personally engage these various viewpoints is perhaps then main reason why many of these viewpoints have endured.

In order for us to discover objective reality we need to be willing to engage it. We need to be willing to make what we think is objective reality subjective. Otherwise in the name of objectivity, we may eventually discover that we have been believing nonsense all along.

To be continued (following the next TorahBytes message)...

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Subjectivity vs. Objectivity - Part 3

The need to be subjective

When we discuss the relationship of subjectivity to objectivity, we don't want to give the impression that the subjective aspect of life and faith is necessarily bad. In discussing the issue of integration, we run into problems with one aspect or the other when it is overemphasized or out of place. To fasten two pieces of wood, we need both a hammer and a nail. One is not more important than the other – they are both essential, but we wouldn't use the nail to hit the hammer.

There are problems with misplaced or overemphasized objectivity as there is with misplaced or overemphasized subjectivity. Both are needed as long as they function in their intended way.

Having faith in God is not of much worth without the subjective aspect of faith. That God exists and that he loves us are objective realities. They are true no matter what we think. They are true whether or not you and I exist. But that objective reality will not benefit us adequately if we do not engage it personally. Even without personal faith we still all benefit from God's existence and love to some extent, since he is good to all his creatures. However it takes a personal and interactive faith to have the kind of relationship with God that we were designed for.

Truly knowing God includes mental, emotional, and physical components. God is not just a fact to which we attest. Knowing God will affect our attitudes and out actions. This means that at some point faith becomes very personal. Whatever are the objective truths about God, it is only when we subjectively accepted those truths in our minds and hearts that we will act upon them. To claim we hold truths of God that have no personal impact on our lives is to be a hypocrite.

Some people have learned to simply spout objective truths about God and the Scriptures without also being challenged to live out those truths. How many of us claim to believe the Bible, but don't really read it or read it thoroughly? And if we read it, do we act upon what God says? Some read the Bible, but do so through the filter of their traditions or their favorite preachers.

Some claim to believe in prayer, but do they pray? We claim faith (which is another word for trust), but do we really trust God?

At some point to know God in his objectivity, which is another way to say knowing him for who he really is, the objective truth must become subjective or it will have no actual impact on our lives.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Subjectivity vs. Objectivity - Part 2

I would like to look a little closer at how we make objective truth subjective. It is as we understand this that we will be better equipped to keep objective truth objective.

I mentioned last time that objective truth does exist. Things exist apart from ourselves and our perceptions of them. At the same time I think we must accept that as soon as we encounter something, we immediately do so from our perspective. We don't have the ability to perceive something in its absolute objective sense. We will always perceive the things of life as they are filtered through our senses and understanding.

When we fail to accept this, we may begin to think that we do actually see things as they really are. At that point we will begin to confuse our interpretations with their objective reality. This may result in our being threatened by other people's understanding of things. Worse than that, we may also fail to submit our interpretations to God.

Only God see things for what they really are. We don't have that ability. But, thankfully, he has provided the Scriptures to which we can regularly refer. It is only as we regularly submit our perceptions of things to God and his Word that our own interpretations can be kept in check.

To be continued…

Sunday, July 23, 2006

TorahBytes: Let's Be Reasonable (Devarim)

"Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool." (Isaiah 1:18)

Statistics tend to show that a great number of people say they believe in God. It wouldn't surprise me if a majority of those people would also say that their belief in God is a significant part of their lives. For many, their understanding of God provides them a measure of hope - both in this life and the age to come. God is a comfort to the hurting, an inspiration to the struggling, and an ideal for the hard working. Having a concept of God gives reason to many of life's unanswered questions and a point of reference in a confused world.

But I wonder how many of these same people have personally interacted with God. To many God might be an ideal, a hope, and an inspiration, but is he a living and dynamic being who desires to engage us?

Through the prophet Isaiah, God offered ancient Israel an opportunity to engage him: "Come now, let us reason together." That the Creator and Master of the universe would give such an invitation is incredible, but this is his heart for his beloved creatures. He longs to engage us, to communicate with us, to hear our cries for help, as well as our heartfelt gratitude in response to his ongoing goodness to us.

We live in troubled times. Whether or not these times are more troubled than any other time in history is debatable. The fact is human history is a story of trouble. At times life's difficulties are easier to deny than at other times, but the reality is from the beginning the human family has continually suffered. Hatred, betrayal, injustice, sickness, disasters, and war are ongoing experiences in all cultures, at all times, and in all parts of the globe.

Those who have taken the fact of human hardship seriously have offered many solutions to these problems. They, like God, have tried to get our attention, trying to engage us, so that we might accept their particular solution. If only we would embrace their ideology, take up their cause, or consume their supplement, we would find that which will make us the kind of people we were meant to be.

But it is only the God of Israel - the One who made us all - who truly understands our deepest need and knows what it will take to resolve the human dilemma. He still says to us today, "Come now, let us reason together."

If we would stop and listen to what he has to say to us, we, at first, may not like what we hear, for what he has to say goes deep down into the depths of our beings. He offers no quick and easy fix, but if we would allow him to reason with us, the end result will be more wonderful than anything we have ever dreamed of.

God knows that the real problem we all have is that we come into this world alienated from him. Whatever great notions we might have of ourselves, of life, and of God, we are born separated from him. God originally designed us to be his representatives on earth, but due to our first parents' rebellion against God, we have inherited a rebellious nature.
The biblical word that describes our rebellious nature is sin. Because of the presence of sin in us, we commit sins, which are the misdeeds and bad attitudes that we are all quite familiar with. It is because of sin that life is not what it should be. And it is our sin that God wants to address.

God wants more than to just address it, he wants to resolve it once and for all. God's great desire for us is that we would be set free from the control of sin in our lives. Every other attempt to resolve the great problems of the human family is like a cheap band-aid compared to the effective and permanent solution offered to us by God: "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool."

Through the Messiah, God has made a way for us to be free from the effects of sin. Until we are willing to sit down with him and allow him to speak to us, we will remain in our dismal condition. A dismal, yet unnecessary, condition. Let's be reasonable and hear what God wants to say to us.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Subjectivity vs. Objectivity

When I first started looking at the issue of Integration, I referred to my first encounter with the so-called conflict between Word and Spirit. The person I was speaking with had explained to me how certain communities of believers would be classified as Word congregations, while others would be classified as Sprit ones.

Related to this is the similar conflict between the subjective and the objective. By subjective I mean that which derives from within ourselves, including our thoughts, feelings, and other senses. These things are highly affected by our perceptions. The objective are those things that exist apart from our own existence and perceptions.

There are those who believe that the objective doesn't really exist, since we can only experience life through our perceptions. That is where questions such as "If a tree falls in the woods and there is no one there, does it make a sound?" arise. Our struggle over this sort of thing is an overemphasis on one aspect of this issue. While each of us can only experience life through our perceptions, things actually do exist apart from ourselves.

While it is true that we all filter the Scriptures through our own understanding, its truth exists apart from our existence. Instead of redefining reality to make it absolutely subjective, what we need to do is submit our subjectivity to the objectivity of truth as revealed by God in Scripture.

To be continued next time (with a TorahBytes message in between).

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Unity and Diversity (Continued)

An orchestra is a wonderful illustration of "Unity and Diversity". A good orchestra is one in which each member is distinct, but cooperates in such a way to create a unified musical expression.

I believe God desires his people to be unified, but not uniform. Like an orchestra we are each distinct individuals with distinct rolls, who need to work together in harmony (pun intended).

There are some specific ways in which the members of an orchestra operate that can help us to discover how we as believers are called to work together.

First, each musician must accept and be aware of their particular role. Obviously each member knows that they play a certain instrument and that instrument requires certain unique skills. A violin is different from a trumpet which is different from a snare drum. Along with accepting the role of one's own instrument is an acknowledgement of its value to the entire enterprise. It is not helpful to think that one's instrument is more or less important than another.

It's the same with life. The more we understand our God-given roles and abilities the better the contribution we can make.

However, a good orchestra is not solely dependent on great musicians. They also need to play together. This is accomplished through the following three things:

First, each musician must follow the conductor. It is the conductor is the only one who is aware of the whole orchestra and what needs to be accomplished. The conductor sets the tempo and the tone. The conductor is the only leader. It at any time musician forgets this and takes over, disaster will ensue.

It is the same with us. We need to remember that only God is our leader. While we are all members of Yeshua's body, he alone is the head. He alone sees the big picture. It is only as we follow his direction that we can ever truly fulfill both our individual roles and effective take our places in God's community.

Second, while the musician keep their eye on the conductor, they also carefully follow the score. No matter how well a musician knows a particular piece, they must make sure that they are keeping in line with the music as it is written. While the conductor has the final say, he too is committed to follow the written music. If the music is not consistently followed, the piece eventually will no longer be played according to the author's intent.

As we follow the Lord, we must know the Scriptures. In our case, the conductor is also the author of the score. If we don't know the Bible, we will misinterpret God's leading in our lives, begin to believe foreign concepts and adapt ungodly customs. No matter how well we think we know the Bible, it is only as we keep studying it that we will be able to know and follow in God's ways.

Third, a good orchestra is made of up musicians who don't just play well, but listen to what is going on around them. This is essential so as not to clash with the overall playing of the orchestra. Hearing what others also encourages each musician to keep to the score and watch the conductor.

We too need to be aware of the other members of God's community. God does not call us to focus on him alone with no regard to our fellow believers. It is essential to stay in right relationship with our spiritual brothers and sisters. While they don't provide us with the direction that can only come from God and the Scriptures, they can help stay directed. And it is our love for one another that enables God to fulfill his purposes through his community.

Finally, an orchestra needs to remember that it does not exist for itself. No matter how enjoyable or fulfilling it might be to make beautiful music together, the purpose of making music is to be a blessing to those who listen.

It is the same for God's people. There are few more wonderful things than to live and work in harmony with fellow believers. Yet we do not exist for ourselves, but rather to make a difference in the world around us. We live on this planet in order to bring God's goodness to others. To loose this perspective is to no longer follow our conductor or the score he has given us to play.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The Current Middle East Crisis

I was going to continue my thoughts on "Unity and Diversity", but felt rather that I needed to address the current Middle East crisis.

Those who love the God of Israel need to be in prayer. Please remember that God is impartial and loves all people. We need to pray for his mercy on all not matter what side of the conflict they are on. At the same time we need to pray that the Truth comes to light and that righteousness is upheld.

As for Israel in particular, while praying for a speedy and peaceful resolution, we also need to pray that the Jewish people will finally see that we need to rely upon God for our security and not upon our might. May God use this time to reveal Yeshua, the Prince of Peace to us as a people.

We also need to be praying for the believers in the region that they would be aware of God's presence and that they would be shining lights during this dark and dangerous time.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

TorahBytes: Ask the Question (Mattot & Masei)

They did not ask, "Where is the LORD, who brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the barren wilderness, through a land of deserts and rifts, a land of drought and darkness, a land where no one travels and no one lives." (Jeremiah 2:6)

The Jewish people have endured many hard times during our long history. While the Holocaust and the present troubles in modern-day Israel are much closer in memory and experience, these events are only two examples of one of our nation's ongoing themes.

The prophet Jeremiah lived during one of our more difficult periods of history. He stood as a lone voice among the people as he was given the sad task of foretelling the end of an era. Under the dynasty of King David the nation of Israel became an established kingdom in what we now call the Middle East. Under David's son and successor, Solomon, the kingdom and influence of Israel extended significantly. The symbol of Israel's grandeur was the Temple in Jerusalem, a magnificent structure that was Israel's center of worship. The Temple became a sign to the people of God's presence and favor. Even though the Kingdom of Israel did not continue in the same glory it knew during Solomon's reign, the Temple remained an assuring symbol of God's relationship to his people.

That God would ever allow his house to be destroyed was unthinkable to the point that to do so was seen as being disloyal to both God and the nation. Yet this was the message entrusted to Jeremiah. After centuries of warning through many other prophets before him, God's judgment was at hand. The Temple was to be destroyed and the people exiled to Babylon, the world power of that day.

With a broken heart and in tears Jeremiah faithfully delivered this most difficult message. Reading his words today provide us with insight on how we can truly know and serve God as well as avoid the destructive path Israel found itself on so long ago.

One of the things that Jeremiah said the people had failed to do was ask a certain question. That question was "Where is God?" Through Jeremiah, God was calling his people to ask this most important question. I believe he is telling us this again today.

You may be thinking that as a people that this is a question we have asked more times than we can count. Have we not asked - especially with regard to the Holocaust - "Where was God?"

But this is not the same question to which Jeremiah refers. The "Where was God" that we commonly hear is not actually a question. It is a statement: a statement of grief, of disappointment, and bitterness. It is used as a criticism against God for not doing what we hoped he would do. It is rhetorical question. Its expected answer is that either there is no God or if there is he was either uncaring or unable to do anything about our suffering.

The question that God invites us to ask is totally different. Instead of a rhetorical question it a true question of inquiry: "God, where are you?". When everything around us gives us the impression that God is absent, we need to cry out, "Where are you?" What the answer to this question might be we cannot predict, but when it comes we must be eager to accept it.

When God seems absent, it is usually for one of two reasons. Either he is not absent and we have lost sight of him. Or he is absent, but not because he has taken off without us, but because we have failed to keep up with him.

Whatever the reason, the only way to get the answer is to ask the question. But if you intend to ask the question, you must also be willing to accept the answer.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Unity and Diversity

People love to talk about "Unity and Diversity". We live in a day where in most cities peoples of diverse cultures engage each other like no other time in history. As believers we know that God through Yeshua has created an international family. I think most of us would say that we accept we are all different, and that while we are called to be united, our differences are designed to enrich the whole group.

Yet while we may claim to value unity and diversity, living it out is another thing altogether. When it comes right down to it, we have tended to emphasize one over the other. Most of the time, unity has been the greater value, not that it has been attained, but more effort has been put into striving for unity than has been put into living out our diversity.

This is another case of our problem with integration. Deep down it seems that we believe that allowing people the freedom to be who the really are in God threatens the cohesiveness of a group. We don't believe that these two things can coexist.

Part of the problem is how we picture unity. While we may say that we don't equate it with uniformity, we have a hard time picturing unity any other way.

One of my favorite illustrations of biblical unity and diversity is an orchestra. There are so many instruments, all which make significant contributions to the whole. There may be more of some kinds of instruments and less of others. Some play almost all of the time, others once in a while. Some are in the front, some in the back, some in between. Some are naturally loud, some are not. But together, being true to each one's role, beautiful music is made.

Next time I will continue this illustration, and look at some of the things involved in making a good orchestra and how that can help us to discover true unity and diversity.

Monday, July 03, 2006

TorahBytes: Helping God (Hukkat & Balak)

Anouncement: TorahBytes will be not be published next week.

Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. (Bemidbar / Numbers 20:11)

There's a story about a man who needed transportation to another town. A kind stranger with a horse and cart stopped to give him a ride. The man climbed up with his heavy bag, took the empty seat next to the stranger, and placed his bag upon his lap. When the stranger invited him to put his bag in the cart, the man replied, "Oh no, you have already been so kind to me. I cannot expect you to carry my bag also."

The man's convoluted logic illustrates how we often relate to God. Many of us have the tendency to take upon ourselves burdens that God wants to carry for us. Not only does he want to carry them, he is already carrying them for us - like the stranger and the man's bag - while we insist on unnecessarily bearing the load ourselves.

One of Yeshua's most radical teachings is that of God's provision (Matthew 6:25-33). You may not think of this as radical in the common use of the word, but when you compare what he said to the common thinking of that day as well as our own, it is about as radical as one can get. Yeshua taught his followers that those who have a right relationship with God need not be concerned about their provision. He claimed (and rightly so!) that we have a Father in heaven who not only cares for our every need, but will make sure that those needs are taken care of. He contrasts this with non-believers, who have no concept of such a God, and therefore need to take care of their physical needs themselves. But believers, having such a loving God, can give themselves to heavenly matters, leaving the physical concerns to him.

I have experienced this truth in my own life countless times. I have seen God come through for me and my family in the hour of need over and over again. In between the more dramatic times, I am aware that it is God and not myself who provides for us. Yet, like the man in the story, I have illogically burdened myself with concern over our physical needs.

You may be wondering what this has to do with the verse quoted at the beginning of this message. The people of Israel were in desperate need of water. God told Moses to speak to a particular rock, resulting in an outflow of water. Moses had been angry with the people for their bad attitude. In the pressure of the moment and in his anger, he struck the rock instead of speaking to it. He may have also spoken to it, but that is not recorded. The water did appear, but Moses' misdeed prevented him from entering the Promised Land.

I think most of us would hesitate to be critical of Moses. Besides the great pressure he was under, the previous time God brought forth water from a rock, he was supposed to hit it (Shemot / Exodus 17:5-7). Yet God dealt with him most severely this second time. Why?

Unbelief has many forms. It's most common form is found in our turning our backs on him - whether we completely deny his existence, or, when we do acknowledge him, still refuse to submit to him. Another aspect of unbelief is in what Moses did. It is similar to the man who thought he was lessening the stranger's burden by keeping his heavy bag on his lap. It is also unbelief to add our own efforts to what God has done for us. For Moses to add his own efforts to God's miracle is to put himself in God's place, which is a very serious thing.

When we grunt and groan under burdens that God is committed to carrying on our behalf, we are contradicting his promises and denying his love. When we deny his love, we demonstrate that we don't know him as he really is.

This form of unbelief is not as serious as outright rejecting or neglecting him - both of which place us outside of fellowship with him. This kind of unbelief - adding our own efforts to what God has done for us - may result in our, like Moses, failing to enter into all God has for us.