Saturday, February 28, 2009

God's Timing

Few things are more infuriating to us humans than God's sense of timing.

I know. I know. He is infinite. We are finite. He is eternal. We are rooted in the present.

Peter says it well: "With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day." That is our problem. God's sense of timing is different than ours.

A former pastor used to say, "God is seldom early - but never late." That was certainly the case for Abraham. He has his son tied up. He raises the knife to kill his son. Just before the downward plunge, God tells him to stop. There is a ram to sacrifice caught in a thicket. Talk about "never late!"

Sometimes we get it right. We learn to wait. We learn to completely depend on God for everything - including His timing.

In this passage, the people of God had it down. Listen...

15 -16 "The day The Dwelling was set up, the Cloud covered The Dwelling of the Tent of Testimony. From sunset until daybreak it was over The Dwelling. It looked like fire. It was like that all the time, the Cloud over The Dwelling and at night looking like fire.
17 -23 When the Cloud lifted above the Tent, the People of Israel marched out; and when the Cloud descended the people camped. The People of Israel marched at God's command and they camped at his command. As long as the Cloud was over The Dwelling, they camped. Even when the Cloud hovered over The Dwelling for many days, they honored God's command and wouldn't march. They stayed in camp, obedient to God's command, as long as the Cloud was over The Dwelling, but the moment God issued orders they marched. If the Cloud stayed only from sunset to daybreak and then lifted at daybreak, they marched. Night or day, it made no difference—when the Cloud lifted, they marched. It made no difference whether the Cloud hovered over The Dwelling for two days or a month or a year, as long as the Cloud was there, they were there. And when the Cloud went up, they got up and marched. They camped at God's command and they marched at God's command. They lived obediently by God's orders as delivered by Moses." (Numbers 9:15-23)

Instead of giving them kudos for being patient, obedient followers, I am full of recriminations. The cloud shielded them from the blistering sun. The fire warmed them from the freezing desert night. Of course they would wait! And how obvious. No question there what God's will was. Just look up (literally)! Easy to follow when there is a CLOUD telling you what God's will is. What His timing is.

But in this passage they got it right.

"They camped at God's command and they marched at God's command. They lived obediently by God's orders as delivered by Moses."

So, You're the Leader?

Simon Bolivar liberated 5 present day countries in South America from the tyranny of Spain. In this picture he is leading his army over the Andes mountains in the dead of winter to lead the surprise attack that broke the power of Spain.

His men were hungry, cold, and unprepared for the snow and ice. Many died. Many complained. In the end he became an international hero. But there was a high price to being the leader of the revolution.

Today's reading is dramatic. God sending His Spirit on a group of leaders. Bitter complaining. Moses asking God to kill him. Quail 3 feet deep. God burning up with anger. Dissension among the leadership. Miriam struck with leprosy. Spies sent out to reconnoiter. Demonstration of both boldness and fear.

I remember 3 years ago asking myself a question. "How did I get to this place?" I was the owner of a flourishing business involving nearly 100 people, an elder at a church of 3000 in the middle of upheaval, and managing 82 renters in properties I owned. Each of those three areas of leadership had bone crushing problems. I felt incapable of dealing with any one of the sets of difficulties. Certainly not all three at once.

So, I identify with Moses. His experience in today's passage starts with the people complaining about their hard life. God gets mad and starts to burn up the edges of the camp. The people cry out to Moses. Moses cries out to God. The fire goes out.

Then the people complain about the food (manna, given miraculously every day by God himself). They wanted meat. God gets mad. Moses asks God to kill him. It is too much, he says.

God has Moses set aside 70 leaders, and God puts His spirit in them as well. They are to share the load of leadership.

God promises Moses that He will give the people meat. This next interaction is just too good. I have to share it:

21 -22 Moses said, "I'm standing here surrounded by 600,000 men on foot and you say, 'I'll give them meat, meat every day for a month.' So where's it coming from? Even if all the flocks and herds were butchered, would that be enough? Even if all the fish in the sea were caught, would that be enough?"
23 God answered Moses, "So, do you think I can't take care of you? You'll see soon enough whether what I say happens for you or not."

God gives them meat. Quail piled 3 feet deep.

But He is also mad. The people were not rejecting Moses. They were rejecting God. God had provided this miraculous provision. Manna. "Nutritious. Delicious". (That phrase is my daughter - talking to her 3 year old...)

So in the midst of this amazing miracle - Quail so they could eat meat for 30 days, God sends a terrible plague.

They move on. So - problems are over and they all lived happily ever after?

Not exactly. Leadership consists of inspiring others to work toward a common goal. But it also involves continous problem solving. More to come...

Friday, February 27, 2009

Relationship

I am struck again by the simplicity and power of the relationship of God with His people. Take today's passage. It starts out simply, and GRANDLY with the statement, "God spoke to Moses."

No big deal. Nothing unusual. Same as every day. "God spoke to Moses." Does it all the time. Yeah, its Moses chatting with the Creator.

You can tell that's astonishing to me by the title of my blog.

Let's put it in perspective. There are billions of galaxies. Trillions of stars. In our Milky Way Galaxy, there are millions of stars. On the little spinning blue orb that we inhabit, there are 6.3 BILLION people. In all that complexity God - the creator and sustainer of the universe talks to... ME? WOW!

AMAZING!

1 -2 God spoke to Moses: "Tell Aaron, Install the seven lamps so they will throw light in front of the Lampstand. 3 -4 Aaron did just that."

In the great little book, "The Shack" William P Young presents God as a warm and loving Black Momma who wraps her arms around the hero of the book at the point of greatest pain in his life.

At the time I read it, I said to Patti it is either a brilliant presentation of a personal, warm, loving God, or it is heretical. Interestingly enough, the Christian community has come out on both of those alternatives. Upon reflection, I personally believe it is a valuable description of the God who is, and who is "ever present to help in time of need."

So here is God, talking to Moses. And Moses passes on His Word to Aaron. And Aaron obeys in every detail.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Offerings


Do you remember the Y2K scare? I believed something might happen, so I bought some silver. Nothing did happen back then.

We cashed in the silver this week. It has reached historic highs right now, so we did well. It had tripled in value during the time we owned it. Were sad to see it go. Happy to have had the resource when we needed it. Happy that the investment did well.

Today's reading has a lot to do with silver and gold. The leader of each of the 12 tribes of Israel is to present their offering to God. One each day. The offerings weren't random, because they were all the same.

12 -13 "On the first day, Nahshon son of Amminadab, of the tribe of Judah, brought his offering. His offering was:

a silver plate weighing three and a quarter pounds and a silver bowl weighing one and three-quarter pounds (according to the standard Sanctuary weights), each filled with fine flour mixed with oil as a Grain-Offering;

14 a gold vessel weighing four ounces, filled with incense"

So ladies, if you like silver and gold jewelry, take heart. That interest must come from God, because it seems that He likes it too!!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How do you control the uncontrollable?

I suspect every religion from the beginning of time is an attempt to control the uncontrollable. The "fates" if you will.

The pagan religions had incantations and rituals to ward off sickness, or cause the crops to grow, or cause success in battle.

Modern pagan man rejects religion, but looks to science, medicine or ingenuity, for success, and prosperity, and health.

In my experience Christians fall into this as well. Much of the prayer that I have observed, and practiced myself, is a laundry list of requests. Most of it is that life would be easy, and prosperous and healthy. No problems. No sickness. No inconvenience. The American Dream with a religious veneer.

From my viewpoint, a lot of religion looks like Aladdin and his magic lamp. Even Christianity. I have the lamp. I do certain things. My every wish should be granted.

Our experience is otherwise. I will quote pastor Rick Warren:

"People ask me, What is the purpose of life? And I respond: In a nutshell, life is preparation for eternity. We were not made to last forever, and God wants us to be with Him in Heaven.

One day my heart is going to stop, and that will be the end of my body-- but not the end of me...

I may live 60 to 100 years on earth, but I am going to spend trillions of years in eternity. This is the warm-up act - the dress rehearsal. God wants us to practice on earth what we will do forever in eternity.

We were made by God and for God, and until you figure that out, life isn't going to make sense.

Life is a series of problems: Either you are in one now, you're just coming out of one, or you're getting ready to go into an other one.

The reason for this is that God is more interested in your character than your comfort.

God is more interested in making your life holy than He is in making your life happy.

We can be reasonably happy here on earth, but that's not the goal of life. The goal is to grow in character, in Christ likeness.

This past year has been the greatest year of my life but also the toughest, with my wife, Kay, getting cancer...

No matter how good things are in your life, there is always something bad that needs to be worked on.

And no matter how bad things are in your life, there is always something good you can thank God for.

You can focus on your purposes, or you can focus on your problems.

If you focus on your problems, you're going into self-centeredness -'which is my problem, my issues, my pain.' But one of the easiest ways to get rid of pain is to get your focus off yourself and onto God and others.

We discovered quickly that in spite of the prayers of hundreds of thousands of people, God was not going to heal Kay or make it easy for her.

It has been very difficult for her, and yet God has strengthened her character, given her a ministry of helping other people, given her a testimony, drawn her closer to Him and to people.

You have to learn to deal with both the good and the bad of life."

Today's reading ends with these wonderful words:

22 -23 God spoke to Moses: "Tell Aaron and his sons, This is how you are to bless the People of Israel. Say to them,
24 God bless you and keep you,
25 God smile on you and gift you,
26 God look you full in the face and make you prosper.
27 In so doing, they will place my name on the People of Israel—
I will confirm it by blessing them." (Numbers 6:22-27)

Monday, February 23, 2009

God speaks in the Humdrum


Today we march into Numbers. (That is a pun, but you would have to read the passage to get it...

Numbers starts so casually with the words, "God spoke to Moses..." So natural. No big deal. "God spoke to Moses."

Moses was to organize the people according to families (tribes) and number them. The Levites were to be in charge of setting up, taking down, carrying the beautiful tent where God was to be worshipped.

They started out great. "The People of Israel did everything that God commanded Moses. They did it all."

Chapter two has LOTS of numbers. I think I would call this book, the book of Numbers (ha ha). No I didn't read all the text, I just skip over all the verses with lists and numbers. But at the end of chapter two, everyone is lined up, in groups, under their proper flag, feeling quite organized and connected.

The chapter ends: "The People of Israel did everything the way God commanded Moses: They camped under their respective flags; they marched by tribe with their ancestral families."

So a lot of life is just routine. Going to bed. Getting up. Eating. Brushing your teeth. Going to work. Working. Coming home from work.

Yet in the routine, in the humdrum, God can still speak. We can still listen. And we can do "everything the way God commanded..."

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ahh, Sunday...


Ahh, Sunday...

It is God's day...

And MY day. It is supposed to be a day of rest...

So-o-o-o-o today Patti does not play cello in the worship band, so we do not have to leave for church at 7:15 am. That gives some extra liesure all by itself.
And we are going out for lunch with dear friends that we have not seen for a while. That thought is pleasurable also.

Sunday...

God's day...

But later in the afternoon, I really should straighten up the dining room. We moved everything around to install two new light switches. And Patti wants me to haul a 4 drawer file cabinet upstairs, and fill it with the files I brought from the office. And to get a running start on the week, I really should go through all the mail, and pay a few bills... And I really should empty out the desk in my downstairs study, and haul it to the garage to sell on Craigslist...

Ahhh. Sunday. The Lord's day.

"Lord, speak to me from your Word today." And immediately I read the following:

2 "Keep my Sabbaths; treat my Sanctuary with reverence. I am God.

"If You Live by My Decrees..."
3 -5 "If you live by my decrees and obediently keep my commandments, I will send the rains in their seasons, the ground will yield its crops and the trees of the field their fruit. You will thresh until the grape harvest and the grape harvest will continue until planting time; you'll have more than enough to eat and will live safe and secure in your land.

6 -10 "I'll make the country a place of peace—you'll be able to go to sleep at night without fear; I'll get rid of the wild beasts; I'll eliminate war. You'll chase out your enemies and defeat them: Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand and do away with them. I'll give you my full attention: I'll make sure you prosper, make sure you grow in numbers, and keep my covenant with you in good working order. You'll still be eating from last year's harvest when you have to clean out the barns to make room for the new crops.

11 -13 "I'll set up my residence in your neighborhood; I won't avoid or shun you; I'll stroll through your streets. I'll be your God; you'll be my people. I am God, your personal God who rescued you from Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians. I ripped off the harness of your slavery so that you can move about freely."

Oh MY!!!

Do I BELIEVE that? Really? Are they just words on paper? Black ink on white pages? Or are they REAL and POWERFUL? Is God speaking to me? Can He really accomplish this?

And I wondered if God could speak to me through Leviticus...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Harsh


Patti and I went to see the movie "Defiance" last night. (Yes, Friday is our date night). It is a gripping true story of a group of Jews who survived World War II by hiding deep in the forest, and defending themselves. Defending themselves from the Nazis who were trying to kill them, Villagers paid to rat on them, Partisans who see them as competition for scarce resources, and from the harsh living conditions. Amazing story. Well done movie.

Harsh living environment. Harsh reality of constantly being hunted down to be killed. Harsh rules they needed to live by.

In today's reading there are some harsh rules as well. One of them is no blaspheming - under penalty of death. Here is the story:

10 -12 "One day the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites. A fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name of God and cursed. They brought him to Moses. His mother's name was Shelomith, daughter of Dibri of the tribe of Dan. They put him in custody waiting for God's will to be revealed to them.

13 -16 Then God spoke to Moses: "Take the blasphemer outside the camp. Have all those who heard him place their hands on his head; then have the entire congregation stone him. Then tell the Israelites, Anyone who curses God will be held accountable; anyone who blasphemes the Name of God must be put to death. The entire congregation must stone him. It makes no difference whether he is a foreigner or a native, if he blasphemes the Name, he will be put to death."

23 Moses then spoke to the People of Israel. They brought the blasphemer outside the camp and stoned him. The People of Israel followed the orders God had given Moses."

Wow!

Harsh!

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Hard Side of God


Nastia Luiden earned the Olympic All Around Champion designation at the 2008 Olympics. Her journey to that point started when she was two and a half. Her parents were both gymnasts but couldn't afford a baby sitter. So they took her along to the gym. She has been training ever since. We are familiar with the hard choices, hard work, constant sacrifices that it takes to be an Olympic athlete.

Yesterday I had lunch with a dear friend. He said, "God must do a work IN you, before He can do a work THROUGH you. So... how far are you willing to go with God? All the way?"

Immediately the "Sunday School answer" jumped into my mind. "All the way. Of course." But as I reflected on the question, I thought to myself, "Really? All the way? Really?"

What if I had God and nothing else? Would I be OK with that? The man Job was taken there. Abraham lived that way. Paul was very clear in his mind. "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

God has been taking my on a journey these last two years. Ultimately it has to do with calling, and significance. I perhaps have 20 or so good years left. How do I want to spend them? Chasing the dollar? Building into people? Changing the world?

But there is a hard side of God that scares me. It shows throughout the Old Testament. It is very evident in today's passage, of Leviticus 22 and 23.

"God spoke to Moses: "Tell Aaron and his sons to treat the holy offerings that the Israelites consecrate to me with reverence so they won't desecrate my holy name. I am God.
"Tell them, From now on, if any of your descendants approaches in a state of ritual uncleanness the holy offerings that the Israelites consecrate to God, he will be cut off from my presence. I am God." (Leviticus 22:1-3)

There is a serious side to all of this. I compare it to the coach talking to the athlete. Your goal must be the center of your life. Everything else fits it around that goal. Your time, your training, your eating your sleeping - all are driven by the goal to be an Olympic athlete.

God also tells His people to take Him VERY seriously. Listen again...

"Do what I tell you; live what I tell you. I am God.
"Don't desecrate my holy name. I insist on being treated with holy reverence among the People of Israel. I am God who makes you holy and brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am God." (Leviticus 22:31-33)

God must do a work IN you, before He can do a work THROUGH you. So... how far are you willing to go with God?

All the way?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Admirable

I found Paul Newman to be admirable. He was married to Joanne Woodward for 50 years. Was devoted to his children. Started a charity as a sideline that eventually gave over 80 million dollars away. I don't agree with everything he promoted, but I believe he lived an admirable life.

Les famous, but more admirable to me, was my dad. Honorable, faithful, self sacrificing, funny, handsome and talented. He poured out his life for others, and the results will be felt for generations.

Todays passage is loaded with meaning. The ideals God has for His people are laid out. He wants them to live good lives. Noble lives. Admirable lives. At the end of His statements He repeats, "I am God, your God." Personal. Alive. Involved. He calls us to holy living. Righteous living. Moral living. Because, "I am God, your God."

Toward the end of the reading, God exhorts them. He wants them to stand out. To be exceptional. To live better.

24 -26 "I've told you, remember, that you will possess their land that I'm giving to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey. I am God, your God, who has distinguished you from the nations. So live like it... Live holy lives before me because I, God, am holy. I have distinguished you from the nations to be my very own."

As I reflect on my own life I feel I have fallen so short. Would others want to live as I?

I too, want to live an admirable life. A good life. A respected life. Why? Because God is real. God is personal. God is alive. "I am God, YOUR God."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Scapegoat


In the early years of our marriage I managed to blame most things on my wife. Eventually I realized the stupidity of doing that. It hurt her. It only showed up my own immaturity. And it never solved the problem. In modern parlance you would say I made her into a scapegoat.

This painting is called "The Scapegoat" by William Holman Hunt, 1854. Hunt had this framed with the quotations "Surely he hath borne our Griefs and carried our Sorrows; Yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of GOD and afflicted." (Isaiah 53:4) and "The Goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a Land not inhabited." (Leviticus 16:22)

In todays reading we see how God made a way for His people to have their sins atoned for so He could have a relationship with them.

One of the ways was to "bring up the live goat, lay both hands on the live goat's head, and confess all the iniquities of the People of Israel, all their acts of rebellion, all their sins. He will put all the sins on the goat's head and send it off into the wilderness, led out by a man standing by and ready. The goat will carry all their iniquities to an empty wasteland; the man will let him loose out there in the wilderness."

After you have read the New Testament you discover that Jesus is God's provision for our sins. Now not just atoned for, but actually forgiven.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mold, Germs and Quarantine


Today's reading is Leviticus 14 and 15. It deals with some very practical issues:

Mold. I have been in the Real Estate Brokerage business for years, and recently the Federal Government of the US passed some strict mold disclosure laws. Surprise! There are very complete mold laws in this passage. It includes discovery, remediation, and if necessary - demolition.

Germs. Around 1860 it was discovered that bacteria causes illnesses. French chemist Louis Pasteur called the bacteria "germs." However, this passage has a very complete treatment for germs. Primary emphasis is on cleanliness.

Quarantine. "In the 14th century the recognition that... plague was introduced by ships... led to the adoption of quarantine in Venice. The Venetian system became the model for other European countries..." - Encyclopaedia Britannica. Quarantine as a means of preventing the spread of infectious diseases is fully laid out in Leviticus.

Interesting! Do you suppose God knew all about these scientific realities before our "advanced" society discovered them?

So God's care for us extends even to the practical areas of health and disease cure and prevention...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Reverence


Check this out...

"Aaron lifted his hands over the people and blessed them. Having completed the rituals of the Absolution-Offering, the Whole-Burnt-Offering, and the Peace-Offering, he came down from the Altar. Moses and Aaron entered the Tent of Meeting. When they came out they blessed the people and the Glory of God appeared to all the people. Fire blazed out from God and consumed the Whole-Burnt-Offering and the fat pieces on the Altar. When all the people saw it happen they cheered loudly and then fell down, bowing in reverence." (Leviticus 8: 22-24)

Whoo Hoo!

They are doing all this bloody, gory stuff with the animals, just like God has told them to. The people are all gathered around, waiting. Then they come out and bless the people - AND THE GLORY OF GOD APPEARS!

Not only that!

Fire comes out of nowhere and burns up the sacrifice that is on the altar! The people cheer loudly, and fall down, bowing in reverence...

This is exciting stuff! God is alive. And powerful.

There is more to the story. Two of Aaron's sons decided to offer up fire to God that He had NOT approved. The text says, "Fire blazed out from God and consumed them—they died in God's presence."

That made everyone pay attention!

So what is reverence?

In Eastern Europe I have seen people stand through an entire Orthodox service, and women had their heads covered with a scarf - out of reverence. Catholics come into the cathedral quietly, cross themselves then sit - out of reverence. Some folks feel you should be quiet and still in service - out of reverence. Yet the modern North American church is a happy, boisterous place, with kids running around and people talking excitedly in groups. What does reverence look like for them?

I write this before dashing off to my own church for Sunday Service. I anticipate joyfully the worship, the fellowship, the message. What does reverence mean for me?

Today?

As I meet God, the Alive, Powerful God. In Church.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

I know I'm in Trouble, and I Have NO Idea Why!!


Has this ever happened to you?

Something is wrong...

Probably something I did...

She's cold and distant...

What did I do? How do I make it right?

This HAS happened to me. Many times...

I guess this is an approriate question, for Valentine's Day.

Our reading in Leviticus 5-7 talks about the same problem. Except the relationship is with God. We commit sins both known and unknown. And God presents several solutions.

"When you are guilty, immediately confess the sin that you've committed and bring as your penalty to God for the sin you have committed a female lamb or goat from the flock for an Absolution-Offering."(Lev. 5:5&6)

There was a fix for every different relationship problem with God. "These are the instructions for the Whole-Burnt-Offering, the Grain-Offering, the Absolution-Offering, the Compensation-Offering, the Ordination-Offering, and the Peace-Offering which God gave Moses at Mount Sinai on the day he commanded the People of Israel to present their offerings to God in the wilderness of Sinai." Leviticus 7: 37, 38)

Come to think of it, that works for your wife or girlfriend also. Recognize what you did wrong. Confess it. Make it right.

Happy Valentines's Day!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Retort from the Robust

Here is a little gem. You have heard of JOHN 3:16?

Here is LEVITICUS 3:16


"All the fat belongs to God."


HA! All you skinny people out there... Did you see that?


"All the fat belongs to God."

Giving our Best to our gods


In my reading this morning, I am charging into Leviticus. Before I get into it, I should admit that I have always found Leviticus and Numbers boring and repetitious. Like, what is wrong with having Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy. A Triptateuch instead of a Pentateuch?

I know, I know. It is the Holy Book. Inspired by God. I have no right to question what is there and what is not there. But reading through the Psalms has taught me that God is not afraid of our questions, and emotions, and doubts and struggles. We do not have to hold back from God, afraid we will hurt His feelings, or afraid He will hurt our - well our existance! You know - bolt of lightning/ smudge of soot. "Oops. Did I overreact to your question?" sort of relationship with God. So, we are not to be "flip" with Him, but nor do we have to walk on eggshells. It is, after all, a relationship. One that He wants...

Back to Leviticus.

Here we are introduced to the whole offering thing. One little piece of it jumped out at me today. "present a male without a defect at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting that it may be accepted by God." That is repeated several times.

God wants our best. What does that mean?

I guess we always give our gods our best. Watch a man washing and polishing his cherished car. No spots are left dirty, or unwaxed. Think of the tremendous effort that materialistic North Americans give to their job. They sacrifice their sleep, their time, their comfort and many times even their dignity for the money they make. Don't get me wrong. A job is important. Paying your bills is important. But when money is your god, it is clear that you give it your very, very best.

A flashback from my own life. I had been a very high producing real estate salesperson for a large chunk of my life. (I may have to go back to that) I remember HOW much effort, and attention, and time, and energy, and creativity I dedicated to that endeavor. Why? Well, to make good money, of course.

A small experience from a few weeks ago. A dear couple whom we love and have known for years called us. Wanted to get together. Any night of the week would work. When we finally got to the purpose of the visit, it was to present some multi-level marketing thing. My wife said - NO. Cancel the appointment. I called them back. "Would LOVE to get together, I said. But not for THAT. But if you will not mention your multi level thing, come on over." Suddenly they did not have time. Some other time, they said.

Wow!

So we routinely (me included) give money our best. We routinely give our other gods our best.

What does it mean to give GOD our best?

(Maybe Leviticus won't be so bad, AFTER ALL).

Thursday, February 12, 2009

God's Power and Presence


Todays reading in Chapters 39 and 40 of Exodus finishes the book. It involves the completion of the Tent of Meeting, its assemblage and its consecration. What do I learn today?

One thing is that God loves quality, beauty, skill. Listen to these descriptions:

"Using the blue, purple, and scarlet fabrics, they made the woven vestments for ministering in the Sanctuary."

"They hammered out gold leaf and sliced it into threads that were then worked into designs in the blue, purple, and scarlet fabric and fine linen."

"They mounted four rows of precious gemstones on it. First row: carnelian, topaz, emerald. Second row: ruby, sapphire, crystal. Third row: jacinth, agate, amethyst. Fourth row: beryl, onyx, jasper. The stones were mounted in a gold filigree"

"They made the plate, the sacred crown, of pure gold and engraved on it as on a seal: "Holy to God." "

Another is that when you fully obey the Lord, His power and His presence are manifested. Listen to this:

Moses finished the work.

34 -35 The Cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the Glory of God filled The Dwelling. Moses couldn't enter the Tent of Meeting because the Cloud was upon it, and the Glory of God filled The Dwelling.

36 -38 Whenever the Cloud lifted from The Dwelling, the People of Israel set out on their travels, but if the Cloud did not lift, they wouldn't set out until it did lift. The Cloud of God was over The Dwelling during the day and the fire was in it at night, visible to all the Israelites in all their travels.

How cool is that? God power. God's presence. In an environment of lavish beauty.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Talent


We are always amazed and inspired when we experience great talent. Whether it is Michael Jordan with his "air walk", Denzel Washington the actor, or Celine Dion singing her heart out.

Yesterday I was introduced to Akiane, artist, poet, child prodigy. She found God when she was 4. The painting above was done when she was 8 years old. You could buy an awesome print, 36" by 48" for $3100. She is now an experienced professional at the ripe age of 13. Here is her web site: http://www.akiane.com//home.htm

I will let her tell you the story of this painting.

Why did you paint the portrait of Jesus?
It was God's timing; I had been looking for a Jesus model for two years, and I could not find the right face. Then one day I asked my family to pray with me all day. We petitioned God to send the model right through our front door. The next day a tall carpenter came in. He was so humble, and I was surprised that he agreed to model for me. But a week later he called back to say that he was unworthy to represent his master. We all prayed together again, and a few days later he called back to tell us that God wanted him to do it, but he had to cut his hair and beard in three days. So we took a few pictures and I studied his face for a long time. After dozens of sketches, I started painting. It took me 40 hours to finish the first Jesus painting –The Prince of Peace-- and I still remember I lost four teeth in that time!

Today's reading is all about talent. In Exodus 36 to 38 only 2 people are mentioned by name. Bezalel and Oholiab. They are the Akianes of their day. God's people are building a beautiful tent to be the focal point of their worship of God. The most skilled artisans are sought out and entrusted. The resulting creation is spectacular. Gold, burnished wood, embroidered tapistries.

So, I bet you have not named your children Bezalel - or Oholiab. But they are famous. In the Bible record for all time. Because of their talent. Used for the glory of God.

Now we bring it down to a personal level. Me, for instance. I feel very low on talent. I like music, but am not that good. Thought I was a business man, but now I wonder if that was ever true. I NEVER was good at sports. So - a man with very little talent. I would not have been named in the story of the building of the Tabernacle.

Yet - whatever talent I DO have, I offer to God. He gave it. We are designed to derive pleasure when we use our talents. And ultimately, when they are employed for Him, our talents, even if small, give glory to God.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Renewed Relationship


The relationship between God and His people was broken.

No duh!

They complained about dying when Pharoah's army was behind them - God delivered them. They sang, and worshipped and praised (for a day or two). Then they complained bitterly because they were hungry - and God gave them manna. Then God put on a spectacular display of power in preparation for delivering The Law - and they all pledged faithfullness and obedience. Moses is up on the mountain for LESS than 40 days - and they build a hand made god and throw a wild party to worship it.

God is not thrilled with His people at this point. Here is what He says, "Tell the Israelites, 'You're one hard-headed people. I couldn't stand being with you for even a moment—I'd destroy you. So take off all your jewelry until I figure out what to do with you.'" So the Israelites stripped themselves of their jewelry from Mount Horeb on." (Exodus 33:5,6)

So the rest of the reading today deals with the renewing of that broken relationship. God and Moses talk as friend to friend. God has Moses chisel out the 10 commandments on two tablets of stone. There is ANOTHER period of 40 days on the top of the mountain with God. God lays out AGAIN the path for His people to follow and obey Him.

This time the people wholeheartedly enter in. They obey. And when Moses describes the building of the gorgeous portable tent that God specified, EVERYONE joyfully participates.

In fact, one of my favorite passages comes from this text:

"Then they came back, every one whose heart was roused, whose spirit was freely responsive, bringing offerings to God for building the Tent of Meeting, furnishing it for worship and making the holy vestments. They came, both men and women, all the willing spirits among them, offering brooches, earrings, rings, necklaces—anything made of gold—offering up their gold jewelry to God. And anyone who had blue, purple, and scarlet fabrics; fine linen; goats' hair; tanned leather; and dolphin skins brought them. Everyone who wanted to offer up silver or bronze as a gift to God brought it. Everyone who had acacia wood that could be used in the work, brought it. All the women skilled at weaving brought their weavings of blue and purple and scarlet fabrics and their fine linens. And all the women who were gifted in spinning, spun the goats' hair.

27 -29 The leaders brought onyx and other precious stones for setting in the Ephod and the Breastpiece. They also brought spices and olive oil for lamp oil, anointing oil, and incense. Every man and woman in Israel whose heart moved them freely to bring something for the work that God through Moses had commanded them to make, brought it, a voluntary offering for God..." (Exodus 34:21-29)

Community! Excitement! Joyful giving!

When the relationship with God is renewed, there is an outpouring of love and obedience. There was such lavish giving, that Moses had to ask them to stop!

"So Moses sent out orders through the camp: "Men! Women! No more offerings for the building of the Sanctuary!" The people were ordered to stop bringing offerings! There was plenty of material for all the work to be done. Enough and more than enough." (Exodus 35:6,7)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

God is Mad!!


Up at the top of the mountain, God and Moses are in heated discourse. "I'm going to kill them all and start over with you", God says." "Think about it" says Moses. "All the nations will say the you brought your people out here to the desert to kill them."

God recants.

Moses (who had NO idea what the people were doing) grabs the two original stone tablets and comes down the mountain. (I wonder what THOSE would fetch today on Ebay?)

Joshua hears first. "Is it war", he asks? Moses says, "Nope. It is not the song of victory. Not the song of defeat. It is a huge party." So you see, they DID have Rock and Roll in the Old Testament.

When Moses sees, for the first time, what is going on - is he ever mad! Now he understands why God was so mad. He smashes the stone tablets, grinds up the gold idol, puts it in water, and makes them all drink it.

He's not done.

Then he bawls his brother out, and draws a line in the sand. People. Time to choose. Who is on God's side? Come over here. Most people did. A few did not. He asked the Levites to put on swords. And they killed the 3000 people who didn't join the God side of the line.

Then he tells them he is going back up the mountain to ask what God wants to do about their sin.

"Moses went back to God and said, "This is terrible. This people has sinned—it's an enormous sin! They made gods of gold for themselves. And now, if you will only forgive their sin. ...But if not, erase me out of the book you've written."

God said to Moses, "I'll only erase from my book those who sin against me. For right now, you go and lead the people to where I told you. Look, my Angel is going ahead of you. On the day, though, when I settle accounts, their sins will certainly be part of the settlement."

God sent a plague on the people because of the calf they and Aaron had made" (Exodus 32:31-35)

It seems pretty easy for me to put other gods into Gods' place. My motorcyle gives me pleasure. It is easy to put it in Gods' place. My house is beautiful. It is easy to put it in Gods' place. Food is wonderful. It is easy to put it in Gods' place.

No wonder the first commandment (which God has to write over, now that Moses smashed the tablets) is:

"No other gods, only me.
No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. Don't bow down to them and don't serve them because I am God, your God, and I'm a most jealous God" (Exodus 20:3-5)

Fickle


Remember Titanic the movie? It was a huge financial success, netting almost 2 billion dollars worldwide. At the heart of the movie was a love story. Yes, the couple shown on the poster.

What bothered me about the fictional story is that the girl pictured had officially pledged herself in marriage to someone else. So the entire movie, this engaged girl is carrying on with someone else. SO wrong!

We could call her fickle. But she is not the only one.

In todays story the people of Israel get impatient. Less than 40 days ago they had pledged their love and obedience to God almighty. Now they weren't so sure. Maybe Moses died. We pledged our obedience and loyalty to God yesterday, but this is today.

So they do the unthinkable. They build a calf out of their earrings and gold jewelry. And they bowed down and worshipped it. Unbelievable!

They threw a party for this "god" they made and the party got out of control. This was in the days BEFORE cocaine...

God - Almighty God - is so mad He wants to kill them all and start over with Moses!

(We'll finish THIS drama tomorrow...)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Margin


Official documents in Western Washington went from legal size to regular size a few years ago. Since lawmakers have nothing in the world to do but make laws, they made it a law that these smaller sheet sizes had to have strict margins. One inch on the left. One inch on the right. One and a half inch on the top. One and a half inch on the bottom. If you sign, or scribble, or type anywhere in the margin, the document will be rejected and you have to do the papers over again. So you have to have a nice wide margin with no writing on it.

Today God talks about margin. And He sounds as strict as our local lawmakers. Listen, "Tell the Israelites, 'Above all, keep my Sabbaths, the sign between me and you, generation after generation, to keep the knowledge alive that I am the God who makes you holy. Keep the Sabbath; it's holy to you. Whoever profanes it will most certainly be put to death. Whoever works on it will be excommunicated from the people. There are six days for work but the seventh day is Sabbath, pure rest, holy to God. Anyone who works on the Sabbath will most certainly be put to death. The Israelites will keep the Sabbath, observe Sabbath-keeping down through the generations, as a standing covenant. It's a fixed sign between me and the Israelites. Yes, because in six days God made the Heavens and the Earth and on the seventh day he stopped and took a long, deep breath.'" (Exodus 31:12-17)

I know the Sabbath is a little complicated. Do we celebrate Saturday or Sunday? Is it a strict rule or is there freedom? Jesus said "The Sabbath was made for man, not man made for the Sabbath."

However, I see two basic principle laid down here.

First: We can't run flat out all the time. God built us to need some margins around the edges. Some white space. Some free time. There is a day every week set aside that is to be different. A day of rest.

Second: Relationships take time. Our relationship with God needs time. The Sabbath is "holy to God." Going to church is part of it. But our traditions can easily cover over the real meaning. The Sabbath is a time to become closer to God.

The Message - Making Holy Text Dramatic!


This kid from Stanwood, Washington grew up and got a LOT of education. Was a pastor for 39 years in Maryland. He remembers being gripped by the scripture, and its message.* And his people were apathetic. I will let him tell of the experience...

"While I was teaching a class on Galatians, I began to realize that the adults in my class weren't feeling the vitality and directness that I sensed as I read and studied the New Testament in its original Greek. Writing straight from the original text, I began to attempt to bring into English the rhythms and idioms of the original language. I knew that the early readers of the New Testament were captured and engaged by these writings and I wanted my congregation to be impacted in the same way. I hoped to bring the New Testament to life for two different types of people: those who hadn't read the Bible because it seemed too distant and irrelevant and those who had read the Bible so much that it had become 'old hat.'"

As he shared his version of Galatians with them, they quit stirring their coffee and started catching Paul's passion and excitement as he wrote to a group of Christians whom he was guiding in the ways of Jesus Christ. For more than two years, Peterson devoted all his efforts to The Message version of the Bible. His primary goal was to capture the tone of the text and the original conversational feel of the Greek, in contemporary English.

Since I read ahead yesterday, I thought I would share with you why I am reading through the Bible this year in the version called "The Message."



*If you are just joining us, I am reading through the Bible this year off of www.Biblegateway.com using the chronological sequence, and in the version called "The Message."

The Lecture


Patti and I saw the movie "Taken" last night. The movie starts out showing the love of this father for his somewhat estranged daughter, and the sacrifices he is making to renew their relationship.

The Dad is a powerful dude, as we see for the last three quarters of the movie. But at the start, the daughter, who is 17 years old, asks for permission to go alone, with a young girlfriend, to Paris.

The Dad delivers a lecture, which neither daughter nor estranged wife appreciate. However, the lecture is delivered because he loves and cares for his daughter. And Dad is fully prepared to back up his promise to take care of his little girl. I loved the movie, because it is a strong action film with some good values at the core.

Today my reading is from Exodus 25-27, and I read ahead all the way through chapter 31. It would seem like it should be scintillating reading. After all the commotion and display of God's extraordinary power, Moses and God get to talk face to face. For 40 days. Wonderful! Intimate! Exclusive!

Actually, it is kind of boring. (Pardon me, God, for saying it) God delivers a lecture. It doesn't seem like Moses said a peep. I guess he was listening hard, because he didn't write anything down at the time. And later, he recreated it all from memory for us to have.

God gives detailed instructions on making the Tabernacle, where He is to be worshipped. Detailed instructions on how the relationship between God and His people is to be carried out over time.

It reminds me of the movie again. The Dad had a list of instructions, to be carried out carefully and exactly. His daughter's safety depended on it. She didn't care for the lecture, she was just so excited that he gave her his permission. Later, every one of his instructions were critical for her survival.

God's greatest interest is in a living, loving ongoing relationship with us. That is what He spent His time talking to Moses about.

We too, seem to be anxious teenagers. Impatient at the commands. Determined to charge into life. But it pays to listen. God has our best interests at heart...

Friday, February 6, 2009

God and Moses on Mount Sinai




I found this amazing painting done by Jean Leon Gerome around 1895 and wanted to share it with you... You can double click on it if you want to see it bigger.

Justice - And God's Promises



I love to watch CSI. And the FBI Files. And Snapped. And several other programs like them. Why? Well, they are supposed to be true. And they always deal with a person doing something terribly wrong and trying to get away with it. Like murdering somebody. And you always know that if the story made the show, it is going to turn out OK in the end. And I like to see how our justice system works. I think every person, and every culture, has an inbuilt sense of justice, and right and wrong.

The chapters today deal with justice. There are a lot of things that get the death penalty. Like striking your parents, for example. As I reflected on that, it occur ed to me that they could not have a jail as they wandered in tents in the desert, so the folks that were not living up to the code of being a good neighbor got bumped off and were buried in the sand.

There is also great care to not have any stealing. If you stole, you had to pay back twice as much. That would make you think twice. (Ha!Ha! that was a pun and I didn't even mean to do it!!!) So God wanted a society where people took care of each other, were good to each other, and did not take advantage of others.

At the end of the laws, God gives them a great promise...
"Now get yourselves ready. I'm sending my Angel ahead of you to guard you in your travels, to lead you to the place that I've prepared. Pay close attention to him. Obey him. Don't go against him. He won't put up with your rebellions because he's acting on my authority. But if you obey him and do everything I tell you, I'll be an enemy to your enemies, I'll fight those who fight you. When my Angel goes ahead of you and leads you to the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, I'll clear the country of them. So don't worship or serve their gods; don't do anything they do because I'm going to wipe them right off the face of the Earth and smash their sacred phallic pillars to bits.
"But you—you serve your God and he'll bless your food and your water. I'll get rid of the sickness among you; there won't be any miscarriages nor barren women in your land. I'll make sure you live full and complete lives." (Exodus 23:20-26)

What a great relationship! Obey God. Be good to your neighbor. And God will protect you, bless you, keep you healthy, and help you live a full and complete life.

I'll sign up for that!



*If you are just joining us, I am reading through the Bible this year off of www.Biblegateway.com using the chronological sequence, and in the version called "The Message."

God - Active, Powerful, Terrifying


We are now reading in Exodus where God gives the ten commandments.

God has decided to demonstrate His Presence, His Power and His Greatness.

First He has all the people prepare. "God said to Moses, 'Go to the people. For the next two days get these people ready to meet the Holy God. Have them scrub their clothes so that on the third day they'll be fully prepared, because on the third day God will come down on Mount Sinai and make his presence known to all the people. Post boundaries for the people all around, telling them, 'Warning! Don't climb the mountain. Don't even touch its edge. Whoever touches the mountain dies—a certain death.'" (Exodus 19:20-23)

Then He gives the biggest show of His power and awesomeness in the history of His dealing with His people. "On the third day at daybreak, there were loud claps of thunder, flashes of lightning, a thick cloud covering the mountain, and an ear-piercing trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp shuddered in fear. Moses led the people out of the camp to meet God. They stood at attention at the base of the mountain.
Mount Sinai was all smoke because God had come down on it as fire. Smoke poured from it like smoke from a furnace. The whole mountain shuddered in huge spasms. The trumpet blasts grew louder and louder. Moses spoke and God answered in thunder. God descended to the peak of Mount Sinai. God called Moses up to the peak and Moses climbed up." (Exodus 19:16-20)

Has this happened to you in church recently? Or anywhere in your life, for that matter?

Loud noise. Smoke pouring forth. Everything shaking violently. Fire burning hot up at the top. God's voice coming out like thunder.

Would you doubt that God was alive? Or powerful? Or to be revered?

Whoever touched the mountain would immediately die. Do you think anyone was bored?

Would you be on your best behavior at church if the penalty for a mis step was instant death?

Wow!

I wish I was there! I wish it would happen today!

Or do I?

Thursday, February 5, 2009

IF


I remember a powerful poem from my childhood readings. It is entitled simply -

"If"
by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

Little word. Big meaning.
Here is how the word appears in today's reading.*

"If you will listen obediently to what I say and keep my covenant, out of all peoples you'll be my special treasure. The whole Earth is mine to choose from, but you're special: a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.'
This is what I want you to tell the People of Israel." (Exodus 19:5,6)

Had it ever hit you how conditional God's promises are?

If.

IF you listen obediently.
IF you keep my covenant.

The fork in the road between blessing and curses is the little word "IF"






*If you are just joining us, I am reading through the Bible this year off of www.Biblegateway.com using the chronological sequence, and in the version called "The Message."

God's Provision - Our Gratitude



Here is an interesting verse:
"Godliness with contentment is great gain." (I Timothy 6:6)
Our culture generally doesn't like godliness. And it especially doesn't value contentment. We live lavish lives, full of discontent because there is always someone with more...

In this period of my life with an unusual amount of reflection, Patti commented that she thought my problem was with lack of contentment. "God has blessed you again and again," she said. "But you always wanted more. That is why you continually pushed further and harder."

Wow, that made me think! Especially because it was true!

Yesterday I ended up wondering if God would ever come through miraculously for us today. For me, specifically. Yet He has blessed me beyond comprehension, both materially and with wonderful relationships. And my response is to be grateful. And content. We are living on 40% of what we made before. And we need to cut that in half again. Yet we have all we need and more. And if we would compare downwards, instead of upwards, we see that we are still blessed beyond measure.

Check out these facts:
Almost half the world — over 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.
1 billion children live in poverty (1 in 2 children in the world).
640 million live without adequate shelter,
400 million have no access to safe water,
270 million have no access to health services.
10.6 million died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5.

Look at today's Bible story. The Israelites have just experienced one of the greatest miracles of history. They sing and dance and worship. Then, shortly after, they are whining again, about not having any food.

God provides. Miraculously. Here is the story...

"When the layer of dew had lifted, there on the wilderness ground was a fine flaky something, fine as frost on the ground. The Israelites took one look and said to one another, man-hu (What is it?). They had no idea what it was.

15 -16 So Moses told them, "It's the bread God has given you to eat. And these are God's instructions: 'Gather enough for each person, about two quarts per person; gather enough for everyone in your tent.'"

17 -18 The People of Israel went to work and started gathering, some more, some less, but when they measured out what they had gathered, those who gathered more had no extra and those who gathered less weren't short—each person had gathered as much as was needed.

21 -22 They gathered it every morning, each person according to need. Then the sun heated up and it melted. On the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, about four quarts per person."

God provided enough.

But not too much.

It involved diligent effort.

But no one was to be a workaholic. There was margin and balance in their lives.

Each family had enough for the day. It was miraculous provision. And it went on for 40 years.

Contentment in God's provision.

Gratitude for God's provision.

Mmmmmmmmm....

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Night Crossing


So it just hit me the the Israelites crossed through the Red Sea at night.

All night, in fact.

Maybe it was God's mercy, so they followed in blind obedience, and couldn't see very much, so they wouldn't be so afraid.

I've got to wonder? Were there fish swimming in the sea that suddenly came to the edge and flopped onto the dry sand? And if so, did the Israelites (who have the reputation of never passing up a bargain)stop and pick up the fish for dinner the next day?

Does God do this stuff today?

Look at all the miraculous things that happened. The cloud. The wind.The parting of the waters. The dry ground beneath. The Israelites carts did not get stuck, but Pharoah's chariots did. The unparting of the sea at the right time. The drowning of Pharoah's army.

It seems like in my experience, when I get stuck, there are no miracles. I have to face the consequences. All of them.

But they had one miracle after another.

Does God do this stuff today?

Would He ever do it for me?

Maybe for YOU. But for ME?

Between a Rock and a Hard Place


Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.

We have several cultural descriptions of situations where the options available are limited, and they are all bad. Do you want the bad news, or do you want the worse news? Or, on the other hand, do you want the REALLY bad news?

Today's story is interesting.*

Moses is the brand new leader of at least 2.4 million refugees. They are fleeing from the most powerful nation and army on earth. They are unarmed. In a desert. They have their kids and livestock with them. And they didn't bring along their battery powered refrigerators...

Moses gets stuck. He leads this mass of people to the edge of the Red Sea. And Pharoah's army and horsemen and chariots are right behind them. In the clear desert air they can hear the sound of the rumble. All choices are bad. All possible outcomes are horrible.

How was he so stupid? Was it sinfulness? He didn't ask the Lord for direction? He was acting in open rebellion?

That is the most confusing, and ultimately impressive, part of this story. Read this with me...
"They moved on from Succoth and then camped at Etham at the edge of the wilderness. God went ahead of them in a Pillar of Cloud during the day to guide them on the way, and at night in a Pillar of Fire to give them light; thus they could travel both day and night. The Pillar of Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night never left the people.
God spoke to Moses: "Tell the Israelites to turn around and make camp at Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. Camp on the shore of the sea opposite Baal Zephon." Exodus 13:20 - 14:2

These are very specific instructions, which Moses followed exactly. Yet this is what happens next...
"As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up and saw them— Egyptians! Coming at them! They were totally afraid. They cried out in terror to God."

And although Moses was wonderfully confident in public - "Don't be afraid. Stand firm and watch God do his work of salvation for you today. Take a good look at the Egyptians today for you're never going to see them again. God will fight the battle for you. And you? You keep your mouths shut!"

Yet we know he did what many a Christian has done facing terrible trouble. God says to him, "Why cry out to me?"

So in public he is confident. Bold. Declaring God's purposes. But in his tent he falls on his face before God and says "God, if you don't show up, we all die. Please do something. If your purpose is to kill me, and all of us, I accept that. But it seems like an odd end to your plan. And what about all your promises? God, I need you. We need you. PLEASE do something. I am out of ideas. Out of time. Out of ability. God. Please..."

Have you ever been there? I have.

Usually because of my stupidity. Or disobedience. But maybe. Maybe there are times where God puts us there on purpose.

Because he is glorified when we live our lives in total dependance on Him...




*If you are just joining us, I am reading through the Bible this year off of www.Biblegateway.com using the chronological sequence, and in the version called "The Message."

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Whine Factor


I have to admit I am laughing to myself.

Listen to this -
"They were totally afraid. They cried out in terror to God. They told Moses, "Weren't the cemeteries large enough in Egypt so that you had to take us out here in the wilderness to die? What have you done to us, taking us out of Egypt? Back in Egypt didn't we tell you this would happen? Didn't we tell you, 'Leave us alone here in Egypt—we're better off as slaves in Egypt than as corpses in the wilderness.'"

So let me get this straight. When Moses gathered the people together and told them that God was going to deliver them from cruel slavery they said what? "Leave us alone here in Egypt—we're better off as slaves in Egypt than as corpses in the wilderness." ? I don't think so...

OK I admit it. I have an odd sense of humor. But it strikes me as funny.

I call it the "Whine factor."

I ran a business for 18 years. Had as many as 100 people in it. And over the years, no matter what I did, there was always complaining. In the early years it made me nervous. I had to "fix it". Eventually I realized that some people just need to whine.

My adorable 3 year old granddaughter has already caught on to this. Her lovely mother (our daughter) was having her repeat her statement, but without the "whiny voice."

Moses was a very new leader at this stage. But he got introduced early to
"The Whine Factor."

Believing Against All Odds


Here is a little verse that jumped out at me this morning.

"The Israelites had lived in Egypt 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, God's entire army left Egypt." Exodus 12:40

God's chosen people had been in Egypt as slaves for most of that time. Generations of people were born into slavery, lived their entire lives as slaves and died in slavery. They knew of God's promise to Abraham -
"I'll make you a great nation
and bless you.
I'll make you famous;
you'll be a blessing.
I'll bless those who bless you;
those who curse you I'll curse.
All the families of the Earth
will be blessed through you." Genesis 12:2&3

Problem is - the promise seemed hollow. Empty. Definately unfulfilled. How do you pass on this statement from God to your children, born in slavery, and your grandchildren, born in slavery, and have them still believe? Their reality, their world, was up side down from the promises. And it never got better - ever, throughout their entire lives.

As part of my personal celebration of the historical breakthrough this last election gave America, I decided to read a classic - "Uncle Tom's Cabin." It is a remarkably Christian book, written by a fervent and insightful Christian.

She graphically presents the anguish of honorable faithful Christian believers, who live out their faith with dignity. Yet they never experience justice, or deliverance, or mercy. Their only hope is to believe against all odds that there is a just God in heaven, a good God, a God who sees, and EVENTUALLY rewards those who follow him.

Sometimes we too, are called to "Believe Against All Odds".

The Contest


All of human history involves a contest.

It is as old as the earth is. And it is an epic battle. God versus man with his (freely given) free will.

Nowhere do we see the contest more clearly than between Moses and Pharoah. Or should I say, between God and Pharoah.

Here is Pharoah on the one side. The most powerful man on earth. And God on the other side, working through Moses. Moses is a simple man with no status, no position, no army, no money. The proud, unbending will of man, versus God almighty.

And what a battle! Lightning and hail, blood lice flies and frogs. Cattle die. People choke. The whole land stinks!

Moses boldly declares "Let my people GO!"

Pharoah's answer is:
1. No.
2. No.
3. No.
4. Maybe.
5. No.
6. No.
7. Maybe. No.
8. Maybe. No.
9. Maybe. No.
10. I surrender. Go.

He is a lot like us. Our life is a contest between surrender to God's will, and our proud declaration that we CAN do it on our own. We WILL do it on our own.

In the end, we all know God wins.

So why don't we freely, and gladly, surrender to God's will each day, and many times during each day? It seems so logical. Why is it so hard?

God won in the contest with Pharoah. God wins in the final chapter. Let's surrender today to God's will in our lives.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sometimes you do right - and everything gets worse


We expect good moral choices to have good consequences. It seems to be built into our nature.
But what about those times when we decide to do the right thing, and everything gets worse for us?
That is part of the plotline of the terrific movie "Fireproof." A young husband decides to save his marriage - and his relationship seems to spiral downward.
It happened to Moses in yesterday's reading. He obeyed God and confronted Pharoah. Then we read this,
'Moses went back to God and said, "My Master, why are you treating this people so badly? And why did you ever send me? From the moment I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, things have only gotten worse for this people. And rescue? Does this look like rescue to you?" '
Moses did exactly what God asked him to do. The result? Pharoah went apoplectic and made the cruel burden on the Israelites even worse. Talk about confusing!
Four years ago I started a company that was ostensibly to raise lots of money for missions around the world. That company did so badly that I had to shut it down, sell my main business, now my house, and I still owe lots of money after those two are accomplished. Talk about confusing!
As I read about Moses, knowing the rest of the story, I realize that we as people always live inside our story. We don't - we can't see the big picture. God does, though, and He is accomplishing His purposes. In our lives. And in the world.