“Now it was told the king of Egypt that the people had fled, and the heart of Pharaoh and his servants was turned against the people; and they said, “Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?” So he made ready his chariot and took his people with him. Also, he took six hundred choice chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt with captains over every one of them.... So the Egyptians pursued them.” Exodus 14: 5–9
Today, we are continuing our Summer Book Club-Style Bible Study based on the book The Red Sea Rules: 10 God-Given Strategies for Difficult Times by Robert Morgan. I like this little book because it provides us with a biblical, and intensely practical, picture of what faith actually looks like.
We're so glad you've joined us! We will meet here each Tuesday morning at 9:00, through August 6. If you can’t join us on Tuesday mornings, no worries. Anytime during the week, when it’s convenient for you, read that week’s chapter in the book and the corresponding blog post. Then join the conversation down in the comments section.
Still need to get the book? Click here to order or download your copy (less than $10 for the hardcover and less than $2 for the Kindle version).
Need to catch up? Read Week 1 here and Week 2 here.
Over the years, I’ve observed that we Christians often make two mistakes when it comes to trusting God. The first mistake comes about when we allow our circumstances to overwhelm us. We get so wrapped up in all the bad things that are happening around us that we forget to look to the living God and place our problems into His hands. That’s the first mistake that we often make, and it is the obvious one.
But there is a second mistake, and I am convinced that this second mistake is just as serious, but much more devious. It is the exact opposite of the first mistake.
Do you know what I’m referring to? We're about to take a look at it.
"Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He dismissed the crowds. And after He had dismissed the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
Red Sea Rule #3: Acknowledge your enemy, but keep your eyes on the Lord.
Let’s think about what Robert Morgan calls Red Sea Rule #3. He puts it this way: Acknowledge your enemy, but keep your eyes on the Lord. If I had written this book, I would have reworded this rule just a little. That is not a criticism of the book. After all, it’s not the precise wording of these rules that counts. It’s the principle behind them. So here is how I would put it: Face your problem, but fix your eyes on the Lord.
That is a principle of faith that we find not just in the experience of the Israelites as they wait on the shores of the Red Sea, we also find it all throughout God’s Word. The best example I know of comes from the life of Abraham.
Face Your Problem
What's the first thing that Abraham does as he exercises his faith? First, he faces his problem. “He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb” (Romans 4:19). What does Abraham do? He faces the problems head on. Abraham takes a good hard look at the problems that he faces.
In Genesis chapter 17, God promises Abraham that he is going to be the father of many nations. He will be the revered ancestor of not just one little Middle Eastern tribe. No, he's going to be the father of many nations. God even goes so far as to change his name. He had been called Abram which means "exalted father," but now God calls him Abraham, "father of many." It is a more prestigious title. "You're not just Abram. Now you are Abraham!" This is a great promise from God.
But there's a problem. In fact, there are three of them. Paul mentions two of those problems here in verse 19. The first problem is that Abraham is a hundred years old! That's not exactly a minor difficulty. How many one hundred year old men do you see walking around with the baby-wipes in one hand and the diaper bag in the other? It strains the imagination a little, doesn't it? That's the first problem.
The second one concerns Abraham's bride. Sarah is a mere ninety years old, but she has never borne any children. Add those two factors together. It's hard to believe that this couple is now going to start a family.
There's one other problem. God has been taking His own sweet time in fulfilling His promise to Abraham. It is in Genesis 17 that God promises Abraham that he will become the father of many nations, but it's in Genesis 15 that God first tells him that he will have a child. Between Genesis 15 and Genesis 17 fourteen years elapse. If God makes this promise of a child, why doesn't He do something to fulfill it? What's taking God so long?
When Hope Seemed Hopeless
All those things must have been running through Abraham's mind. Verse 18 begins with the words "In hope he believed against hope." The New English Bible translates it "when hope seemed hopeless." That's the idea. Humanly speaking there's no chance that Abraham and Sarah are going to have a child! So what does Abraham do in that situation? First, he honestly faces the facts. He recognizes the difficulty. He faces the problem.
That's the first part of Red Sea Rule #3. Acknowledge your enemy, or, as I prefer to put it, face your problem. Take a good hard look at it. Faith does not mean shutting your eyes to reality. It doesn't mean pretending that the problems aren't there or that they are just going to magically disappear somehow. That's not the kind of faith that God's Word is talking about. Faith means that you and I face the problem.
I want to emphasize that. Have you ever sensed that some Christian friend of yours is using the idea of faith as an excuse for not dealing with a problem? Maybe that friend confides in you about some kind of health problem. You know that he or she should go and see a doctor to find out what the problem is, but your friend says to you that he or she is going to just trust God with it. “I’m leaving this up to God. After all, God is greater than any human doctor!”
Is That Faith?
All the right words are there. So what do you say in response? Most of us would stumble over our words at that point. We don't want to give the impression that trusting God is wrong, do we? The thought goes through our brains that maybe this friend is more godly than we are. We would just rush off to the clinic. But we don't want to reveal our lack of spirituality. So we just smile and kind of nod in half-hearted agreement and don't say anything. But in the back of our minds there lingers that suspicion that something isn't quite right here.
That’s why I wrote earlier that this mistake is so devious. It disguises itself as faith. But it’s not! Faith must not be confused with denial.
Abraham doesn't try to deny the problem. Abraham faces the problem. No wild flights of fantasy here. Abraham takes a good hard look at what he's up against.
That’s what we need to do also. When we are faced with a problem, we take a good hard look at it. We study it. We evaluate how serious it is. Maybe it is something that can be handled fairly quickly. On the other hand, maybe this is a chronic problem that we are facing—an illness. Maybe it is a marriage problem, or perhaps you’ve gotten into some kind of serious, financial trouble. To solve it God is going to want you to take a lot of different steps. It will require a lot of hard work. We’d rather avoid all those steps and work and just say, “Oh, I’ll just trust God with it.” But that’s not what faith is. Faith is not a pious excuse for irresponsibility. Please don’t confuse faith with denial.
That’s the first part of Red Sea Rule #3. Acknowledge your enemy, or face your problem.
Fix Your Eyes on the Lord
Denial is a serious and devious mistake. But there is that more obvious mistake, and we do need to think about it too. It’s not denial; it’s distraction. The second half of Red Sea Rule #3 addresses it. Acknowledge your enemy, but keep your eyes on the Lord. Face your problem. Take responsibility for what you can do. But remember to fix your eyes on the Lord. Don’t get so wrapped up in what your responsibility is that you forget about God. And we are so prone to doing that, aren’t we?
Psalm 141:8 is our memory verse this week.
“But my eyes are toward You, O God, my Lord; in You I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!” Psalm 141:8
There’s the idea, “my eyes are toward You” fixed on God. Don’t let God out of your sight!
Look again at Abraham’s example. “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what He had promised” (Romans 4:20-21). Abraham faces the problem, but he focuses on the promise that God had made to him. Once Abraham has come to grips with the problem, he doesn't stop and allow himself to sink into depression (as Peter sank into the sea). Abraham concentrates on the promises of God and views his problems in light of those promises.
When I compare Abraham’s example to the way that I so often live, I see how far short of genuine faith I fall. "No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God” (Romans 4:20). He did not waver. That standard of faith seems so far beyond my ability. In fact, Abraham’s example seems impossible to emulate. Does it seem that way to you too? I want to say, “Why even try? This is beyond my ability! I will never be able to trust God the way Abraham did!”
Think again about what we read in verses 20-21. Those verses describe the overall direction of Abraham’s life, not his moment-by-moment existence. If you take the time to go back to Genesis and read about Abraham there, you find that Abraham does waver. He does get distracted. Sometimes he does take his eyes off of the Lord. For example, Abraham has a hard time believing that he and Sarah will ever have a child. He doubts whether God can really pull that one off. So he tries to help God. He has a baby with Hagar, Sarah’s servant (Genesis 16:1-4a). Then he asks God and even pleads with God to accept Hagar’s son as the fulfillment of the promise that God had made to him (Genesis 17:18).
Aren’t We So Often Just Like Abraham?
So often, we have a hard time really trusting God, so we try to help Him. We try to find some shortcut to what God wants for us. Abraham makes a big mistake with Hagar. He does get distracted. But then he learns from that mistake. When the New Testament looks at the overall direction of his life, it says that “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God” (Romans 4:20).
You and I may make a lot of mistakes like Abraham did, but just like Abraham we can come back to God. We may have been distracted for a while. We may have tried to take some shortcuts in order to help God, but there comes a time when we recognize our mistake.
What should we do then? We should do the same thing that Abraham does. Go back and remember the promises of God again. Fix your eyes once again on God and His promises to you as a believer in Christ.
“The same God who led you in will lead you out.” Don’t forget that! If you have been distracted for a while, God will let you start over. Come back to God and His promises.
Making a Fresh Start
How can we avoid that tendency of ours to get distracted? How do we make a fresh start?
Here's a few things we can do:
"But my eyes are toward You, O God, my Lord; in You I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!" Psalm 141:8
This week's discussion questions:
Can I challenge you to memorize Psalm 141:8 with me this week?
"But my eyes are toward You, O God, my Lord;
in You I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!" Psalm 141:8
portions of this post are quoted from www.efcbemidji.org
Why Have a Family Time with God?
I once thought we didn’t have time for family devotions. But one day I read a report that said the average family watches over 20 hours of television a week! I wondered if TV time was eating up hours my family could be using to become more like Christ. So, I did a quick check of our TV habits and realized we were watching at least 15 hours of television a week. I was shocked!
I led the way for better family time. I quit watching one of my favorite shows. That gave us time to relax at dinner and talk about how our day went. As we began sharing our joys and concerns, we were soon praying together and reading the Bible together. Now, that family time has become one of the most important things we do together.
Changing habits is difficult, it takes time, but it can be done. Here’s how we did it in our home:
God has really blessed that time of sharing, praying, and Bible reading. Our family devotions have become the foundation of our relationships with each other and with God.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8
Reprinted with permission | Pastor Jeremy Sweatt | Farmington Avenue Baptist Church, West Hartford, CT
Come and Gather: Family Time with God
Introducing Come and Gather: Family Time with God, or what we lovingly refer to as Gather.
Gather is a lovely, 35-page, daily devotional centered around families enjoying time together with God and each other.
This 27-day devotional is divided into 3 parts:
Part One: Days 1-5, is written specifically with husbands and wives in mind. In this part of Gather, husbands and wives will explore 5 Signs of a Functional Family.
5 Signs of a Functional Family includes:
Part Two: Days 6-20, is written with the whole family in mind. It's A Walk Through God’s Word. From Genesis to Revelation we will discuss subjects like God's mercy and protection, being humble, dealing with difficulties, having a teachable spirit, dependence on God, and much more.
Part Three: Days 21-27, is a Men of God Character Study. We'll learn character traits that every Christin should strive to demonstrate in their life straight from characters in God's Word.
At the end of Gather you'll find a place for your family to record specific prayer requests. I love being specific with my prayer request and seeing God answer in specific ways. Recording the answers, as well as the requests, is a great way to help your children see God working in your lives.
Join the movement today and download Gather for free toady!
How are you intentional about family time with God in your home?
"How, then, did God take an impossible situation, flip it around, and use it for His honor? The story of parted waters shows us that God gains glory when His enemies are defeated, when His children are delivered, when His name is exalted, when His exploits are remembered and when His praises are sounded." —Robert Morgan, The Red Sea Rules
“If we could only look upon a difficult crisis as an occasion of bringing out, on our behalf, the sufficiency of divine grace, it would enable us to preserve the balance of our souls and to glorify God, even in the deepest waters.” —C. H. Mackintosh
Glorifying God, even in the deepest waters.
Today, we continue our Summer Book Club-Style Bible Study we began last week based on the book The Red Sea Rules by Robert Morgan. We are so glad you've joined us! We will meet here each Tuesday morning at 9:00, through August 6. If you can’t join us on Tuesday mornings, no worries. Anytime during the week, when it’s convenient for you, read that week’s chapter in the book and the corresponding blog post. Then join the conversation down in the comments section.
Still need to get the book? Click here to order or download your copy (less than $10 for the hardcover and less than $2 for the Kindle version).
"The next time you’re overwhelmed, instead of asking, 'How can I get out of this mess?” try asking, “How can God be glorified in this situation?'" —Robert Morgan, The Red Sea Rules
Red Sea Rule #2: Be more concerned for God's glory than for your relief.
“Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness. Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider Your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of Your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.
In other words, they think God wants people to be nice, but most of all He wants them to feel good about themselves. And you can rest assured that God does not want to bother you. He will leave you alone and let you do what you want. But if you really need Him, then He’s glad to step in and help out.
That's a brutally honest, and pretty sad, description of the way a lot of people, even some of those who call themselves Christians, picture God today.
Red Sea Rule #2 strikes right at the heart of that entire mentality! Be more concerned for God’s glory than for your relief!
What does the Bible say?
Let’s just take a few minutes and think about that rule. Be more concerned for God’s glory than for your relief. That instruction is not an invention of Robert Morgan, the author of The Red Sea Rules. It’s a principle that we find all through God’s Word. Look at what Jesus says as He contemplates His own death on the cross.
“Now is My soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.' Then a voice came from heaven: 'I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.'" John 12:27-28
That’s an incredible statement. Jesus knows that He is going to be crucified. His hands and feet are going to be pierced by nails, and He is going to be left hanging from a wooden cross until His death. He knows all this, and what does He say? “Father, glorify Your name!”
"God doesn’t waste suffering. If He leads us into impossible spots, He will deliver us in His own time, in His own way, and for His name’s sake. Our job amid the difficulty is to learn our Lord’s simple but submissive prayer: What shall I say? Save me from this hour? No, Father, glorify Your name." —Robert Morgan, The Red Sea Rules
Think about how Jesus teaches us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer. What is the first request that we are to make of God? “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9). Most of us have recited those words so often that we don’t give them much thought. But let's think about them today. What is Jesus teaching us to say in that prayer? “God, may You be glorified and honored as You alone deserve. That’s the thing that I am asking of You first. That’s what I want most of all. Hallowed be Thy name.”
Let's look at an Old Testament passage that teaches the same concept. God speaks through His prophet Ezekiel in stark and startling terms. God is making a promise that He is going to rescue His people from Babylon, and He explains why He is going to rescue them. The reason He gives is not what we would expect.
"Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate My holiness before their eyes.... It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord God; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel." Ezekiel 36:22-23, 32
What is God’s top priority? It is not the good of His people. It is His own honor and glory.
Is God selfish in wanting to be glorified and honored and praised?
The reason we struggle with this question is that we make what is called a category mistake. We put God in the same category that we find ourselves in, and then we apply our human standards to God.
Let's look at an example: One of the keys to mental health is a good night’s sleep. Every person needs a good night’s sleep. Would you agree with that statement? I would hope so. Therefore, it logically follows that God needs a good night’s sleep too, right? But none of us would say that because we know that God is not like us when it comes to sleep and rest. God is not in the same category. That applies to God’s honor and glory as well.
Think about it this way. Who is the most important person in the universe? If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you will say that God is the most important person in the universe. Do you think that God knows that He is the most important person in the universe? If we know it, then certainly He knows it. Suppose that He decides that He is not going to act as if He is the most important person in the universe. What would that mean? That would mean that God is going to act in a way that He knows is not true. Therefore, God would be acting in a false and deceptive manner. But wait a minute! God does not act that way. He operates according to what He knows is true. Therefore, it follows that to be true and righteous God cannot deny His own worth.
"Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever... To Him who alone does great wonders, For His mercy endures forever... To Him who divided the Red Sea in two, For His mercy endures forever... But overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea, For His mercy endures forever." Psalm 136
Here’s what it all comes down to. For you and me to act as if we are the center of the universe is wrong because the world does not revolve us. But for God to act as if He is the ultimate value in the universe is good, because He is truly the ultimate value in the universe.
I know that is heavy theology, but it is worth considering. Let’s think about how that applies to our lives. Would you agree that life is better when you live according to the truth? Living a lie is counterproductive. It will backfire on you.
We’ve seen examples of that in the news. Do you recall the story about the man who called himself Clark Rockefeller? For years he passed himself off as a member of the Rockefeller clan. He even fooled his wife into thinking that he was a part of the rich and elite Rockefellers. But his lie finally caught up with him, and he was exposed as a total fraud.
You can only live a lie for so long. Sooner or later you are going to get into a lot of trouble. Living according to the truth is always better in the long run.
Since it is true that God is the most important person in the universe, you and I are going to find our greatest joy when we live according to that truth. Be more concerned about God’s glory than for your relief. Make the glory and honor of God your primary goal, and the result will be that you will be far more content and happy in life than if you focus only on yourself.
Psalm 115:1 (our memory verse for this week) summarizes the idea:
"Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory, for the sake of Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness!" Psalm 115:1
Be more concerned for God’s glory than for your relief. That’s Red Sea Rule #2. Note how carefully worded that statement is. It does not say that you should have no concern for your own relief. It is not saying that it's wrong to do anything for yourself. That would be an overreaction to the self-absorption that characterizes our society. It’s just that we are to be more concerned for God’s glory than for our own relief.
The Teaching of Psalm 57
Look at how David communicates what we are calling Red Sea Rule #2. In Psalm 57 David is in trouble. The title that is printed in our Bibles in small print says that David wrote this Psalm “when he had fled from Saul into the cave.” King Saul is out to kill David. David hides out in a cave in order to escape. That’s when he writes this Psalm. He starts by telling God exactly what is on his mind.
"Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in You my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by." Psalm 57:1
David does pray for relief. “God, save me from Saul!” He is concerned about his own relief—and for good reason! Look at how he describes the trouble that he is in:
"My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts— the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords." Psalm 57:4
David prays for his own relief. There’s nothing wrong with that. But David doesn’t stop with that request. There is something more on his mind than just his own safety.
"Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let Your glory be over all the earth!" Psalm 57:5
David continues in the following verses and writes about his own situation again. Then the Psalm ends with verse 11 repeating what David has already stated in verse 5.
"Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let Your glory be over all the earth!" Psalm 57:11
There is Red Sea Rule #2 in the life of David. Be more concerned about God’s glory than your relief.
Living Red Sea Rule #2
Living according to that principle really does make a difference. When you are facing a huge trial, instead of looking for someone to blame or instead of asking, “How can I get out of this mess?” ask instead “How can I honor God in this situation?” By asking that one question, your whole perspective on life can be dramatically transformed.
For a modern day version of someone living Red Sea Rule #2 read Heather's Story. It's a 4-part blog post series that is raw and gripping yet filled with the hope of glorifying God through the circumstances of life.
God doesn’t waste suffering
In The Red Sea Rules, Robert Morgan offers a profound insight with just four words. “God doesn’t waste suffering.” Those four words are really worth thinking about. In our trials we grow and develop into the people that God wants us to be. And it is in our suffering that we are often given the best opportunities to glorify God and bring Him honor.
Suffering Is Never for Nothing
Find out how, in Elisabeth Elliot's bran new book Suffering is Never For Nothing, our suffering does have purpose and can be the gateway to gratitude and joy. "Hard times come for all in life, with no real explanation. When we walk through suffering, it has the potential to devastate and destroy, or to be the gateway to gratitude and joy.
He has walked the ultimate path of suffering, and He has won victory on our behalf.
This truth led Elisabeth to say, “Whatever is in the cup that God is offering to me, whether it be pain and sorrow and suffering and grief along with the many more joys, I’m willing to take it because I trust Him.”
Because suffering is never for nothing." —goodreads
The year was 1976. It was America's Bicentennial year and I was in junior high. A young woman came to speak in one of our chapel services. She was in a wheelchair. Her name was Joni, "Pronounced Johnny" she said. We know her today as Joni Eareckson Tada, but on that day, she was just Joni.
On July 30, 1967, Joni dove into the Chesapeake Bay. Misjudging the depth of the water, she suffered a fracture between the fourth and fifth cervical levels and instantly became a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the shoulders down.
"I know He tries me only to increase my faith, and that is all in love. Well, if He is glorified, I am content." —J. Hudson Taylor
That quote pretty much sums up Joni's life.
During her two years of rehabilitation, according to her autobiography Joni, she experienced anger, depression, suicidal thoughts, and doubts about her faith. However, while undergoing occupational therapy, she learned to paint with a brush between her teeth and began selling her artwork.
Seeing her affliction in the proper light has been key to Joni's life. She is a shining example of someone who has been more concerned with God's glory than her own relief, and that friends is what Red Sea Rule #2 is all about. Be more concerned for God’s glory than your own relief.
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to Your name be the glory!” Psalm 115:1
Please join the conversation down in the comments section.
This week's discussion questions:
Can I challenge you to memorize Psalm 115:1 with me this week?
"Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory,
for the sake of Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness!" Psalm 115:1
portions of this post are quoted from www.efcbemidji.org
Thanks for following our blog. We hope it's an encouragement to you, and that it will make you an encourager!
We're building a worldwide online community of encouragers encouraging others in the faith of Jesus Christ. So, grab a cup of coffee and join the movement!
Be intentional about displaying God's Word on the walls of your home or office. Click here to see more.
Blogs We Heart
Find Us Here