Moving From The Roller Coaster To The Merry-Go-Round

If your life was an amusement park, which ride would it resemble? My hunch is, most of you would answer, “a roller coaster.”

The Kingda Ka roller coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, N.J. has been dubbed the scariest roller coaster in the world. Taller and faster than any roller coaster on Earth, this gut-wrenching ride offers 50 seconds of sheer terror as it soars to heights of 456 feet, only to plunge straight down like an inverted firecracker in a 270-degree spiral.

While roller coasters are fun to ride at amusement parks, I wouldn’t want to live on one.

Yet many people do. One day their life is good, with smooth coasting. The next day gives them a sudden incline followed by a death-defying drop. The next day gives takes them on a hairpin turn followed by an abrupt stop. And then the next day gives them a little breather…hopefully. Unfortunately, the tumultuous ride never ends.

So how do you step off the roller coaster so you can take a ride on something that won’t make sick to your stomach, like a slow moving merry-go-round?

Join me.

TODAY’S READING

Numbers 19:1-20:29
Luke 1:1-25
Psalm 56:1-13
Proverbs 11:8

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Numbers 20. After dealing with Israel’s complaining for years, Moses finally broke. This was likely the second generation of people who were preparing themselves for entering the Promised Land. But they watched their parents closely. God told Moses to speak to the rock, but he struck it instead. Twice. As a result, God forbid Moses from entering the Promised Land.

This is a sobering story for any leader, much less spiritual leader. Moses was understandably upset—but he abused his authority as a leader, forfeiting his opportunity to enter the Promised Land.

I’ll let you in on a little secret about pastors: the temptation is great among us to equate our authority with God’s. When we intermingle the two, we take on God’s offense, and speak and act on behalf of God when he hasn’t given us permission. When we abuse our God-given, we pay the consequences. Believe me. I’ve seen it happen.

Luke 1:1-25. The gospel of Luke is really the first part of a two-part series. According to Colossians 4:14, Luke, it’s author, was a doctor.

You’ll notice that verse 3 refers to a “most excellent Theophilus.” Acts 1:1 begins with “In my former book, Theophilus.” So, Luke and Acts are really a two-part series. In fact, some Bible classes are titled Luke-Acts.

Different theories exist as to the identity of Theophilus. Some scholars believe he was a patron of Luke, the author. If so, he may have paid to have the book written. Interestingly enough, both Luke and Acts are nearly identical in length—within 3% of one another.

Others believe he was a new convert of whom Luke was a mentor.

Although dependent upon Mark for some of his material, Luke also share some common material with Matthew which doesn’t appear in Mark. He also contributes material as well that doesn’t appear in the other gospels.

As we traverse through this book, watch for continuous references to the Holy Spirit and angels.

Luke begins with an angel appearing to Zechariah, the high priest. If you’re curious about the duties of the high priest, just glance through our readings in Numbers over the last few days.

In verse 17, the angel of the Lord appears to Zechariah to announce his wife Elizabeth’s impending pregnancy. Notice that Zechariah’s new son “will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children.” That’s a reference to the very end of Malachi 4:5-6, “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.”

Proverbs 11:8. “The righteous man is rescued from trouble, and it comes on the wicked instead.” In this context and throughout Proverbs, the righteous person lives in honesty, justice, sympathy and truth. The wicked exhibit traits of rebelliousness, offensiveness, devising evil, treachery, unfaithfulness, godlessness, profanity, and deliberately abandoning their faith.

The book of Proverbs isn’t a book of formulas as much as it is a book of generalizations. In the grand scheme of things, the righteous are rescued from trouble and the wicked somehow find it. Obviously, every rule has an exception, but this proverb bears out over time.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

David was forced to leave everything back in Bethlehem to escape King Saul and his men. Although his life was never safe, the safest place for him to live was with Israel’s arch-enemy in Gath, the land of the Philistines. In order to avoid being perceived as a spy, he pretended like he had lost his mind (you can read more about it in 1 Samuel 21:10–15).

During this difficult chapter in his life, David vented his feelings by writing Psalm 56 (as well as Psalm 34).

Samuel had already anointed David as Israel’s next king. Yet here he was fleeing his pursuers, living with the enemy while Saul and his men were spreading rumors about him back in Israel. Being Israel’s next king must have seemed like a distant impossibility. At that point, David had nothing. He was basically starting over with his life.

How would God honor his promise? In the moment, it seemed as if his life was over. But from our perspective, we know the ending to his story.

Most people define their lives by the chapter they live in—especially if the chapter is sad or tragic. Because they don’t have the benefit of knowing the ending of their story, their lives look like a roller coaster. One day up and the next day down. Yet David offers us a perspective that can give us strength and hope:

David acknowledged his life from his perspective. Rather than live in denial, David expressed to God the reality of his situation and the feelings attached to it. He acknowledged that men were trying to kill him and that he felt afraid. He also vented his anger toward his enemies saying, “On no account let them escape.”

David acknowledged his life from God’s perspective. While admitting his fear, David also wrote, “In God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Israel’s next king firmly believed that God’s promises were true and he refused to believe that his life was finished.

None of us can avoid the ups and downs of daily life, but we can live from a perspective that won’t cause our stomachs to turn.

Live in the moment but remember that God doesn’t. He sees your whole life—and it will end good.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. Describe a time when you experienced a painful or frustrating chapter in your life. Where did you see God at work? Looking back, what advice would you give yourself? Write it down and keep it somewhere so you can read it again when you experience another painful or frustrating chapter.
  3. If you’re experiencing one of those painful or frustrating chapters, what can you learn from David’s experience? What might God be whispering to you right now?

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www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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