How does God test us?

Sunday morning in Wilmington

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”

Exodus 16:4-6
Rev. Dan Lewis (from website)

I am going to take a moment this morning to comment on Sunday morning’s sermon from our visit to Wilmington. Pastor Dan Lewis preached from the familiar Exodus story of mana in the wilderness, but he explored the theme employing unfamiliar insight. He turned the story on its head – or at least the rote processing of it – and I always love it when that happens.

First, though, a reminder that what it means to be a Reformed theologian is to engage the scriptures as God’s living word. God speaks, and continues to speak, in ways that challenge us – especially our tendency to see our own interpretations, commentaries, and doctrines as inerrant and immutable.

Too often we like to read the Bible to confirm what we have already decided is true. God invites us to read prayerfully, thoroughly, and intelligently, viewing the text through the lens of Jesus and in the context of and in dialogue with faithful community. God, through the work of the Holy Spirit, wants to teach us and transform us.

God’s Test…

That said, pastor Dan’s particular word Sunday morning was straightforward and concise.

Essentially – and I’m not even paraphrasing here, I’m re-writing while using Sunday’s message as my primary source/reference – pastor Dan pointed out that we tend to routinely misread the idea of God saying, “I will test them.”

It is a profound and repetitive theological error to suggest that God intentionally inflicts pain and tragedy on people (us) in order to test them (us) and to see how faithful we all really are.

Instead, and this is the simple beauty of how I received Sunday morning’s message, God “rains down bread from heaven.” The test is found in the blessing, not the pain (misery, starvation, illness, loss, disaster… you name it…).

How, then, do I respond?

Let’s keep this brief for the following reasons. 1) It’s pastor Dan’s message, go listen to it on the First Presbyterian Wilmington website. 2) I know y’all don’t read my posts when they get too long! 3) A tree fell on my parent’s AC unit – I have to deal with it!

How has God blessed me? How is God blessing me? What future blessings does God have in store?

And – to pastor Dan’s point – what am I going to do in response to these gifts? What resources do I have that God is challenging me to use for The Kingdom? What gifts of grace and mercy has God given me that I can share with those who need a little grace or mercy now?

– author Derek Maul at First Presbyterian in Wilmington

More importantly, how open is my spirit to the leading of Jesus today, and tomorrow, and all the tomorrows to come?

So thanks, pastor Dan Lewis, for a good word and for the grace of gentle instruction.

May we all go in peace and serve the Lord. In love, and because of love – DEREK

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