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25 Questions God Asked
Discover the Answers that Will Change Your Life
By Mary K. Selzer
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Selzer
All rights reserved.
The priests did not ask, "Where is the LORD?" Jeremiah 2:8
Asked by Nobody
St. Patrick's Church in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, has a sign in the front yard that reads St. Patrick's Church Museum. The church has been out of commission since the 1960s. Tourists are regaled with stories about the good old days. Visitors ooh and aah over its unique, rustic decor and the glass cases exhibiting relics of the past. Except for a young tour guide and a native guitarist who belts out the island's national anthem, the building is cold and lifeless. From the outside, it still looks like a church. Even the name "St. Patrick's" speaks of a religious heritage. But standing inside the building, one can't help but ask, "Where is the Lord in this place?"
The Bible contains more than three thousand questions asked by nearly two hundred individuals. However, scripture records eight questions that nobody asked. The fact that they are specifically recorded in the Bible as questions that were never asked indicates they are significant and merit our attention. One of those unasked queries is found in Jeremiah 2:8. Sadly, it was directed toward the priests — the spiritual leaders of the people.
The Lord was extremely concerned with how His people had forgotten the One who released them from Egyptian bondage and brought them to their Promised Land. The spiritual leaders weren't any better than the people they led. God corrected them because they didn't even know God. In fact, some of the priests had defected from their holy calling to follow Baal (Jeremiah 2:8). The Lord called it appalling and horrific (Jeremiah 2:12). They had lost their spiritual curiosity and nobody asked, "Where is the Lord?"
Generations before, Moses, the leader of the Israelites, instructed them to "be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them" (Deuteronomy 4:9). Later he cautioned, "If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed" (Deuteronomy 8:19). The people were to simply recall and retell. The leaders were to set the example.
Why would God give such a directive? I believe there are two reasons. First, when we see the Lord in every aspect of our lives, we will remain curious about where He will show up next. When we lose our spiritual curiosity, we will most likely lose our way. However, taking notice of God's whereabouts will boost our faith and give us something to bookmark and share.
The Old Testament records several times when something significant happened and the leaders commemorated the experience by building an altar. For example, when Jacob was reunited with Esau, he set up an altar and named it Mighty is the God of Israel (Genesis 33:20). Later he returned to Bethel and built another altar, calling it God of Bethel (Genesis 35:7), because God had revealed Himself to Jacob. After the Israelites experienced victory over the Amalekites as Moses' hands were held up by Aaron and Hur, Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my Banner (Exodus 17:15). Gideon received such a flood of assurance from the Lord that he established an altar and named it The Lord Is Peace (Judges 6:24). The prophet Samuel set up a stone to mark the miraculous victory God gave the Israelites over the Philistines. He called the stone Ebenezer — thus far the Lord has helped us (1 Samuel 7:10–13). These were all significant experiences enjoyed for the moment and passed on for generations to come.
The second reason I believe God gave the instructions in Deuteronomy was for the leaders and the people to be accountable to each other. The leaders (priests, parents, teachers, etc.) should have accepted the responsibility to "be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live" (Deuteronomy 4:9). Then they would have had to be fully aware of who they followed and who followed them.
Many leaders have taught that every person should have a Paul, a Barnabas, and a Timothy in his or her life. "Paul" would serve as our mentor, someone we follow. "Barnabas" would be a colaborer who sharpens our iron (Proverbs 27:17). "Timothy" would be a mentee who follows our example. When we are conscious of whom we follow, who follows us, and the responsibility we have to those individuals, we will remain aware of the Lord. It's perfect relational accountability designed by God.
The prophet Elisha knew the importance of acknowledging God and remaining spiritually curious, thanks to Elijah, his mentor. After Elijah was taken to heaven, Elisha picked up his dropped mantle. Standing at the bank of the Jordan, he struck the water with his mentor's cloak and asked the all-important question, "Where now is the LORD, the God of Elijah?" The river divided and he crossed over to the other side (see 2 Kings 2:13–14).
Elisha's question was both a statement and an act of faith. He had witnessed God's power at work in and through the life of Elijah, and he knew the same power was available for him to carry on the work started by his mentor. Notice that Elisha's first miracle was the same as the very last one performed by Elijah (see 2 Kings 2:8). The work of the Lord flowed seamlessly from one prophet to another because Elisha acknowledged what God had done and would continue to do.
The Lord doesn't want our lives to become museums of collected relics seen from a distance under protective glass. He wants our testimonies to be living stones that can be touched and felt and handled. When others see our Ebenezer stones, they will be encouraged to erect their own. Then the answer to "Where is the Lord?" will remain obvious — He is right here where He has always been.
Questions That Grow
How do you bookmark significant events in your life? If you could give a name to your experiences, what would you call them? Do your children/grandchildren know your story?
What stories are you keeping at a distance from others? How can you turn your relics into testimonies? Are you willing to open the glass case and let others have a closer look?
If you are a leader and your followers ask, "Where is the Lord?" where would they find Him in your life? How can you bring your Ebenezer stones back to life?
Who is your Paul, your Barnabas, your Timothy?CHAPTER 2
INVESTING IN INTEGRIT
"Have you considered my servant Job?" Job 1:8
Asked by God of Satan
The book of Job contains 288 questions, and more than a third of them were asked by God. His first two queries were directed to Satan at a time when the angels presented themselves before the Lord. "Where have you come from?" (Job 1:7); and "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil" (Job 1:8). Notice that God brought up Job's name first. Apparently He knew something about Job the devil did not.
God never gambles. He invests. Satan, however, enjoys an occasional wager, and this time was no different. "You have blessed the work of his hands. ... But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face" (Job 1:10–11). God gave Satan the green light to attack Job, but within limits, so Job himself would not be touched. Satan couldn't wait to go to work. Within twenty-four hours, Job lost it all — his children, his servants, and his numerous sheep, camels, oxen, and donkeys. The only thing he didn't lose was his trust in God. "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised" (Job 1:21).
A second time Satan appeared before God. The same dialogue ensued, only this time the Lord added, "[Job] is ... a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason" (Job 2:3). Satan challenged God again, and the Lord allowed him to touch Job physically, with the stipulation that his life be spared. Job's body became inflamed with painful sores from head to foot. And yet, scripture states, Job never sinned in what he said (see Job 2:10).
How did the Lord know Job would pass this horrific test? Apparently sometime in Job's life God had taken him for a few trial runs, and Job had succeeded. God doesn't test us to break us. He tests us to determine the strength of our character and the depth of our integrity, because He puts a high value on both. Job's wife, on the other hand, devalued Job's character when she challenged him, "Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!" (Job 2:9). What wife doesn't want a husband of integrity? Apparently not Job's.
Simply put, integrity is an unbroken condition or "wholeness." When integrity is true, a person's private life will be in exact alignment with his public life. One man compared integrity to a person's shadow that is a perfect match to his body. Anything less is called duplicity or hypocrisy.
The story is told of a salesman who sat in the purchasing agent's office, hoping to submit his company's bid. While he waited for the purchasing agent to return, he noticed a competitor's bid sitting on the desk. Unfortunately, the bid amount was covered by a Coke can. The salesman figured if he could see that number, he could underbid his competitor and win the sale. He gingerly picked up the Coke can and, to his dismay, hundreds of tiny pellets poured out from the bottomless can and scattered across the desk. Needless to say, he did not win the bid. The purchasing agent was looking for integrity, not an enticing offer.
God intends for us to be people of uncompromising character, and He tests us to achieve that goal. In Romans 5:3–4 Paul states, "We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." It is through serious testing that we develop character. In the process, God continually keeps His hand on us to evaluate the depth of our morality and how much pressure we can withstand. He carefully monitors everything we experience.
The Department of Natural Resources has published principles for determining the "integrity" or depth of ice. For instance, when ice is only two inches thick, people are warned to stay off. Four-inch-thick ice can accommodate ice fishing and foot activities. When the depth reaches twelve to fifteen inches, a medium-sized truck can drive over it without danger. The greater the depth, the more pressure the ice can withstand.
The same idea applies to our character — the greater the depth, the more pressure we can withstand. How does God gauge our breaking point? Through trials. James said, "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. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2–4). Mature people can endure tremendous amounts of tension, emerging from trials unscathed. Others require a warning sign — Danger: Thin Ice — cautioning people to tread carefully due to fragile character.
God confidently allowed Satan to "drive his truck" over every part of Job's life because He was fully convinced of Job's ability to withstand a massive amount of pressure. The man never cracked, even under the most extenuating circumstances.
Satan had wagered and lost. As a result of Job's resolve, God restored to him twice as much as he had before. Although his net worth doubled, the true value was in the refinement process that caused him to emerge as gold (see Job 23:10). And the inheritance was passed on to his great-great-grandchildren — a legacy of integrity.
Questions That Grow
Scripture indicates that Satan is still allowed to appear before the Lord (see Revelation 12:7–9). Does God have enough confidence in your level of integrity to mention your name to the devil? If not, what is missing in your life that God needs to see?
How can you shift your focus to remember that when challenges come your way, the Lord is only testing you for a higher purpose? What do you need to do to consider your trials "pure joy"?
When do you think our "trials of many kinds" will come to an end? At what point is a person considered "mature and complete, not lacking anything"? How does your response change your outlook on life?
Think of trying times you have experienced in your life. What impurities did God remove so you emerged as "gold"? How can this realization change your attitude regarding trials yet to come?CHAPTER 3
"If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?" Genesis 4:7
Asked by God of Cain
In his book The Winner Within, basketball coach Pat Riley tells about the 1980–81 basketball season, when the Los Angeles Lakers were considered likely to win back-to-back championships. However, shortly after the season began, their star player, Magic Johnson, suffered a knee injury and was out of the game for three months. In spite of losing their best player, the rest of the team stepped up and played as hard as they could, winning 70 percent of the games.
As Magic's three-month recuperation period came to a close, the publicity became more focused on his return than on the winning team that had played successfully without him. During time-outs at the games, announcers would say, "Mark your calendars for February 27 when Magic Johnson returns to the lineup of your World Champion Los Angeles Lakers!" The other players would look up and curse. "We're winning now. What's so great about February 27?"
On February 27, all of the media attention focused on Magic Johnson's return. Ticket sales were through the roof, and press photographers vied for key spots on the floor to snap the first photo of Magic as he was announced. Someone said it was like a god returning to the crowd.
Meanwhile, the other team players were ignored. They seethed with jealousy, anger, and envy. The players became so resentful, they barely won the game that night, even though they played against the worst team in the league. Eventually, the morale of the entire team collapsed, the players turned on each other, and the coach was fired. The Lakers ended up with one of the most disastrous records ever. Coach Pat Riley said, "Because of greed, pettiness, and resentment, we executed one of the fastest falls from grace in NBA history. It was the Disease of Me." Uncontrolled emotions cost the championship.
Our teenage daughters had the habit of taking their unbridled emotions out on their bedroom doors by slamming them as hard as they could. As parents, we countered by simply removing the doors for several days at a time. It wasn't long before our girls learned they needed to keep their frustrations in check or they would suffer the consequences.
When God created man, He included a healthy dose of emotions. No doubt Adam and Eve enjoyed peace, love, and joy in their picture-perfect garden. However, Adam may have shown a bit of loneliness before Eve was created, and the Lord took note. "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him" (Genesis 2:18). Imagine Adam's feelings of delight when he woke to discover the companion created exclusively for him.
Prior to the fall, the Bible gives no indication Adam and Eve felt any negative emotions. However, immediately after they sinned, they experienced a self-awareness that awakened feelings God did not intend, including shame and fear (see Genesis 2:25; 3:10). Their sin created a groundswell of negative emotions that affected generations to come with the "Disease of Me." Their firstborn son tasted jealousy, depression, and anger, causing him to lose control and make a regrettable choice.
Emotions are an important part of our makeup. Imagine living without the ability to laugh, convey joy, feel sadness, be annoyed, or express anger. However, we are to practice self-control, especially over negative emotions like fear, jealousy, and anger. For example, the Bible gives us permission to express anger, as long as we don't commit sin in the process. "In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent" (Psalm 4:4 NIV 1984). Uncontrolled anger often leads to long-regretted decisions. For Cain, it started with sibling rivalry that turned deadly.
Bible scholars are not fully certain why God accepted Abel's offering and not Cain's (see Genesis 4:3–5). Some say the Lord was pleased with Abel's sacrifice because it involved the shedding of blood, pointing to Jesus' sacrifice. Others say Cain should not have brought the Lord a gift from the ground God had just cursed.
Excerpted from 25 Questions God Asked by Mary K. Selzer. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Selzer. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1. Spiritual Curiosity,
2. Investing in Integrity,
3. Emotional Choices,
4. God's Gestation Period,
5. The Greatest Testimony,
6. Learning to Endure,
7. Locked in Love,
8. The Name Changer,
9. Spiritual Affluenza,
10. Reconciling Debt,
11. Releasing Grudges,
12. Asking the Right Question,
13. Throwing It All Down,
14. Anticipating Death,
15. Where Is God?,
16. The Paradox of Humility,
17. Heeding the Warning,
18. Reality Check,
19. The Blame Game,
20. What's Bigger Than God?,
21. Leaving a Legacy,
22. Taking a Stand,
23. The Freedom of Boundaries,
24. Shifting Gears,
25. Letting God Be God,
Index: A Complete List of All the Questions God Asked,