David Pounds • February 19, 2020
Moses was a man who knew the wilderness. Movies have been made about certain portions of his life, but most of his 120 years were very difficult. He lived in a place of privilege and plenty until age 40, but all that changed in a moment. He killed a man. Suddenly, he had no place to turn and no one to belong to. So he fled to the wilderness and lived as a fugitive.
As we recall the story, we shouldn’t rush too quickly to the famous burning bush. God would call Moses to do the unthinkable; and Moses would experience the power and presence of God in extraordinary ways—in ways like no one else. He would even talk with God face to face, as one talks with a friend. But none of that would happen until Moses was 80 years old. Do you ever wonder what it was like for Moses in the wilderness those 40 years before all the extraordinary things began?
The word “wilderness” describes much of what we experience in life. We feel dry, discouraged, defeated. Doubts come, temptation is unrelenting, and we are dogged by that inner voice that repeats our failures. We feel tired, alone, unloved, and powerless. But does that mean that God is done with us, that he is not with us, or that he has run out of grace?
Looking back on the life of Moses, we can see that 40 years of wilderness living was not a lapse in God’s guidance or grace; it was preparation for the next history-making 40 years of wilderness leadership. Someday, you will be able to look back on your own wilderness times and see that God never left you, his love and grace and faithfulness never wavered, and he caused it all to work for good in the end.
If today is a wilderness for you, don’t let it convince you that God is distant or done with you. Even Jesus had to endure the wilderness—and the cross. Turn your eyes there. It’s only in looking back at his darkest of hours that we can see hope and a future unthinkable. The longer you gaze at the cross, the more I think you’ll see a burning bush for your own wilderness.
David Pounds • February 04, 2020
What burden are you carrying today? It may not be anything anyone else knows about, but it is weighing on you. Maybe you’re a little more irritable than usual. Maybe you’re having a hard time focusing. Maybe you just feel miserable because of a health issue; heartbroken because of a broken relationship or tragic loss; worried; afraid; tired. You aren’t alone.
It’s embarrassing how often I need reminded that the people I encounter and interact with daily are all carrying unseen burdens. The distracted driver could be on his cell phone; or, it could be that he’s got a huge worry on his mind. Another person’s snappy voice and short answers might be plain old rudeness, but perhaps it’s the voice of someone who is overwhelmed with a hardship at home. Years ago, I concluded that a certain lady who worked the check-out line at a grocery store I frequented was just plain rude. I avoided her line whenever possible. Then I noticed that she lost her hair—the tell-tale sign of cancer. I felt terrible. It’s easier to give grace when we can see the burden, but we don’t always see.
In the letter of Galatians, Paul writes: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:2). God gives us church family to lean on during difficult times. None of us need to be ashamed when we feel overwhelmed. He intends for us to help each other, and it would do us good to open up more often with trusted brothers and sisters about our burdens. At the same time, we are called to be gracious and considerate with the difficult people who are showing symptoms of an unseen burden. Such grace helps more than we realize.
So, let’s strive to be more merciful, loving, patient, and gracious to everyone we encounter—especially those who test our patience. If we’re going to make assumptions about people, it’s better to err on the side of mercy. Assume people are carrying a burden, and then give grace.
David Pounds • February 03, 2020
What did we do before Google and YouTube? Most of us have a hard time remembering. The internet has become our go-to source of quick information and help. It seems that there is a how-to video out there for just about any project you might undertake.
This is especially true for young people. I’ve been reading a well-researched book called Faith for Exiles that makes the point that, for young people, their devices are the primary place they go to make sense of the world around them. These curious and developing young men and women have instant access to information on any question they have on any imaginable topic, and a whole world of foolishness with it. They have no lack of information. But, as authors Kinnaman and Matlock put it: “Instantaneous access to information does not equal wisdom.”
“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7 NIV).
Wisdom is about understanding what life is about and having the practical skills to live it well. And wisdom is anything but instant and easy. It comes through decisive and prayerful seeking, through study of the past and serious thinking about the future, through hardship and experience, through obedience and submission, and through relationships with the wise people God gives to raise, teach, and guide. Siri and Alexa are not such guides.
We are increasingly conditioned to be “dazzled and distracted” by what we can have or access in this instant, this moment. But if our concern is to meet every moment with the understanding and skill to live it well, then we need to do the “uphill” work of getting wisdom. Swap your screen-time for quality-time with God and his people; carve out time to think about God’s word and life’s big questions; and, when the weather’s nice, go for a walk—and marvel.