November 24, 2014

Selective Memory

Devotion for the Week...

Have you ever noticed how we tend to remember some things and forget others? I've heard people pine for the days when their kids were toddlers and say "I'd have them back there if I could. They were so easy then." Ummm, do they not remember temper tantrums and potty training accidents? Speaking as someone who has been in toddler-town for 12 years now, between my own kids and the ones I babysit, I can assure you it's not all easy! Those who wish their kids were that age again are remembering only the sweet snuggles and the adorable 'helping' with the chores.

The Isrealites did a little selective remembering too. "The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, 'If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!'" (Numbers 11:4-6). This whining about the food they missed from their time in Egypt would have been understandable had they been vacationing in Egypt, eating an abundance of rich foods while relaxing by the pool. It would have been understandable if they had lived there happily, or even if they had passed through on their way somewhere else and eaten an amazing meal. But none of those scenarios were the case. Not even close. 

The Isrealites had been slaves in Egypt. At one point, Pharoah had commanded that all their baby boys be killed because he thought there were too many slaves in the land and, fearing a rebellion, he wanted to reduce their population. Now they are traveling in the desert, sustained by God who gives them food from heaven every morning, and they remember longingly the variety of foods they used to eat, but they have forgotten the cost. In fact, they have forgotten it so completely they even say, "We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost." 

There are some Christians who have a selective memory too. They read their Bibles or hear sermons preached and they latch onto the promises of God, but they forget quickly that some of those promises come with a cost, or a condition.

There are many who believe that all they have to do is ask and God will give them the desires of their hearts. But the verse they are referring to has a condition attached to it. "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4). Take delight in doesn't just mean be happy because He gives you everything you ask for. It doesn't mean ask for whatever you want and, as long as you go to church on Sunday, He will give it all to you. It means something more along the lines of find all your happiness in Him, which means that you will be desiring things which would be pleasing to Him, which He will give you. Taking delight in God will mean that your desires line up with His desires for you, but many people forget that portion of the verse.

A promise that is often quoted is "If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14). We often fail to remember that God's promise to heal the problems of our land hinges on His people's commitment to prayer and repentance.

Then there are some really tough verses. Jesus said, "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:14,15). We Christians are quick to celebrate God's forgiveness, as we should be, but we are much, much slower to follow through on our obligation to forgive others.

And there are those who think the Christian life is supposed to be easy. God will bless us each and every day with sunshine and roses and nothing will ever go wrong. I'm not sure where they get that idea, because it certainly doesn't come from the Bible. They are forgetting multiple verses that promise exactly the opposite, in fact. Jesus said very plainly, "In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). James even tells us we should "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance" (James 1:2,3). God hasn't promised us an easy life, but Jesus did say, "But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). No matter what trouble we may face, Jesus is stronger.
Weekly devotions on Christian living |

So, how is your memory? Have you edited out the parts of God's promises that you don't want to have to deal with? James wrote, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says" (James 1:22). Which, of course, means doing all of it, not just the parts we like and find easy to obey.

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