Archive for May, 2005

So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you will know that it was the LORD who brought you out of Egypt, and in the morning you will see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we, that you should grumble against us?” Moses also said, “You will know that it was the LORD when he gives you meat to eat in the evening and all the bread you want in the morning, because he has heard your grumbling against him. Who are we? You are not grumbling against us, but against the LORD.” – Exodus 16:6-8

For fourty years the Israelites had an intimate experience of God’s work among them. He provided them special food from heaven they called Manna. He provided them water whenever they were lacking it. Later in the book of Exodus, we find out he made it so their clothes did not wear out during the fourty years they were in the dessert. Essentially, God made sure all of their basic needs were taken care of. This is a good lesson for us to understand and live today. As Christ-followers, we don’t like to have to rely on God to provide for our basic needs. We much prefer to rely on our own abilities. The problem comes in because we are relying on God even if we are receiving a paycheck. God is the one who supplies the work, the food, the house, and on and on and on. We must never forget that God is the creator of everything. Therefore, nothing we have can be something we received because of our own work or efforts.

Dear Heavenly Father,

When I read what you did for the Israelites for 40 years, I am amazed by the personal love and care you showed for your people. I then need to remember this is the same love and care you show us today. Help my eyes to see and my heart to be open to what you are doing in my midst. I love you Lord. Amen.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen�?the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.

But the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. That day the LORD saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the great power the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant. – Exodus 14:26-31

The more I read the Old Testament, the more I am amazed that most of the Arab people of the world are notcommittedd Christ-followers instead of followers of Islam. Christianity actually started in that part of the world and God gave them sign after sign that he was to one and only God. He showed them that there was and is no Allah, Re, Osiris or any other God. He showed them that he was the great I AM. Maybe this just goes to show the evil power of the sword and the pocket book. TheMuslimm faith spread by the sword and rooted out the truth of God’s plan ofredemptionn through his son, Jesus Christ. Today, people are forced into remaining with the false religion because otherwise they will beostracizedd from their family economicc support) and potentially killed. Of course, it is not just the people of the Arab world. In the western world we have also forsaken the worship of God by putting family, possessions and personal desires above God. Is it possible to create a world truly based upon the love of our fellow human beings? I truly believe if we reached toward this goal, false religions would begin fall away because this would only be possible through the love of Christ.

Dear Heavenly Father,

How do we live in harmony with our neighbors and our world and yet still make sure we share the truth of your love (even when it angers them)? How do we express your love both materially and verbally? Teach me to be your servant and to share you in a profoundly powerful way. I love you Lord. Amen.

As you read Exodus 9-11 you can easily see an important facet of Biblical leadership – Godly Persistence. As was discussed in the previous post, Pharoh’s heart was hard. He did not want to let the Israelites go because they were his forced labor for his massive building projects. However, God had others plans. God gave Moses and Aaron the strength and fortitude to keep on with their mission of freeing the people of God. God used them as his messenger to announce plague after plague. Each plague came and Pharaoh did not change his mind. The nation of Egypt suffered greatly because of the stubbornness of Pharaoh. We also don’t know how long Moses and Aaron were at it. There is no indication that they plagues were very close together or months apart. We only know that God did not let Moses and Aaron give up. We need to look at this for our own lives. Often, we do see things happening as we want them to, but we have to practice self leadership and leadership of others with Godly Persistence. We must always remember God’s timing is not our timing.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for teaching me about patience and Godly Persistence. Thank you for showing me that you do not want me to give up. Thank you for promising that in the end what we strive for in your name will happen. Help me to serve you, love you, and always be persistent in your ways. I love you Lord. Amen.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. You are to say everything I command you, and your brother Aaron is to tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites go out of his country. But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites. And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.” � Exodus 7:1-5

Pharaoh was the ruler of one of the greatest nations the world had ever seen. However, he lacked the wisdom to understand he was still just a human. He believed he did not need to listen to the Lord God. He believed he was the ultimate authority. The real amazing part of the story is how God gave him chance after chance to change his way, but his heart was so hard that he would not. Instead he ignored the overt acts of God and went on with his life (as uncomfortable as it must have been with frogs, gnats, flies and blood in the river). Of course, we often do the same thing today. We see how God is working in our world and we choose to ignore it and go on with our live in our own way. I wonder if our hearts are even harder that Pharaohs

Dear Heavenly Father,

Help my eyes to see and my ears to hear what you are doing in my midst. Help me to follow your lead and not ignore your ways. Thank you for the mercy and grace to change from a hard heart to an open heart. I love you Lord. Amen.

The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD ? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”

Then the LORD’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you. You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. But take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it.” – Exodus 4:11-17

Moses did not want to go to help his own people no matter how wonderful the promises God made to him. He was paralyzed by fear. While I hope I would go immediately if I knew God told me to I am sure I could just as easily argue and fight with God (In fact, I did fight with God when he told me to go to seminary. Just like in Moses’ case, God won). Moses is a prime example of how we humans all to often think we need to do it on our own. It is true Moses was not eloquent of speach. He was not the natural born charismatic leader. However, he was God’s choice for the job. He was the only one with the promise from God that he would be able to get the job done and done right. We may not easily understand it, but there are going to be times when God tells us we are his choice for the job and we think the best choice is standing right besides us. Remember, God’s ways are not our ways and God sees things we do not see.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for promising to be with us in every step as we follow your instructions. Thank you for picking us for your Kingdom work, even when we don’t understand why. Help me to serve you. Help me to go when you say go and wait when you say wait. I love you Lord. Amen.

“Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Then everyone deserted him and fled. – Mark 14:48-50

Jesus asks the seemingly simple question, “Am I leading a rebellion that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me?” Of course, the answer in the physically and militaristic sense was no. But, the real answer was yes. Jesus was leading a rebellion of the heart. He was asking people to no longer believe the false teaching of the Pharisees and Saducees, the pagan priest and priestesses, and the governments of the day. Jesus was calling for a radical change of course. People were suppose to truly worship God. People were to live in community with God and each other. People were to look to help others more in need and not just think of themselves. Jesus was definitely leading a rebellion, just not want that required swords and clubs.

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for being a God of rebellion. Thank you for being a God who love, cares and calls us to do the same. Thank you for striking down the rules of the Pharisees and the similar rules the traditional church has established today. Thank you for creating a way home to you. I love you Jesus. Amen.

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.‘ There is no commandment greater than these.”

“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. – Mark 12:28-34

I cannot help but think about what it means to love you neighbor. Often, I think we believe it means to love those who are near us and just like us. We think it means to love those who we can see and touch. However, I see more and more that our neighbor is every citizen of this great earth. Think about what that means. We are to love the occultist in our back yard. We are to love the witch doctor in Africa. We are to love the followers of radical Islam throughout the world. I wonder if we could begin to love like this what would happen. Would more people from all false faith start to become Christ-followers? Would there be peace in the world? Would Christianity be respected even by those who do not accept it tenants? My simple thought is this – If those of us who strive to truly follow Christ, refused to be part of the evil in this world (war, greed, selfishness, etc) would the cause of Christ be quickly and effectively advanced?

Dear Jesus,

I often wonder how much we have been corrupted by our culture and fail to really understand your word. I ask that you help us to understand what you are truly saying to us about how we are to be effectively involved in this world. Thank you for loving us and transforming us. I love you Jesus. Amen.

When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:41-45

Servanthood is desperately needed in this world. We have political leader, leaders of industry and even leaders in the nonprofit world who have forgotten that their real job of leadership is to serve. A true leader does not necessarily lead the charge. A true leader makes sure those they are leading are prepared and equipped to lead the charge. If you look at the ministry of Jesus you find a man who spent his 3 plus years of ministry developing others to expand the Kingdom of God. In fact, if you look at raw number of the number of people who became Christ-followers through the influence of people, Jesus would be no where near the top (of course, him being God means he is actively part of anyone becoming a Christ-follower, but I am pointing out Jesus as fully man vs. Jesus as fully God). Jesus came to prepare us for ministry as a servant. He did not come to do all the work himself.

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for modeling true servanthood to us. Thank you for equipping us to continue the work you started on this earth. Thank you for providing the means to redemption. Help us to serve just as you did…like a humble servant. Thank you for loving us. I love you Jesus. Amen.

And he said to them: “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean.’ “

After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”)

He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him ‘unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean.’ ” – Mark 7:9-23

Our culture is obsessed with external beauty, physique and diet (not that any of it seems to be working). We worry greatly about what we put into our bodies. Some of this is good because our bodies our temples, however we have taken it to the extreme and ingnored Jesus teaching about what comes out of our bodies. No matter how bad or good we eat, no matter how bad or good we look, no matter how physically fit we are God is looking for something else. Jesus has called us to be people who have good things come from our lives such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness (Galatians 5:22). If you look at the truly great people of this world you often find that they lived lives overflowing with these fruits of the spirit and people did not care much about their external looks (i.e. Mother Theresa, Billy Graham and many more). I am not suggesting we ignore what it takes to be physically fit and live a healthy life. I am suggesting that what comes our of our lives is much more important than what we put into our bodies.

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for your teaching on what makes us clean and unclean. Thank you for showing us that what we eat is not nearly as important as what we do in this world. Help me to serve you and serve the world as you direct. I love you Jesus. Amen.

“Listen. What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled among the weeds and nothing came of it. Some fell on good earth and came up with a flourish, producing a harvest exceeding his wildest dreams.

“Are you listening to this? Really listening?”

When they were off by themselves, those who were close to him, along with the Twelve, asked about the stories. He told them, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom–you know how it works. But to those who can’t see it yet, everything comes in stories, creating readiness, nudging them toward receptive insight. These are people –

Whose eyes are open but don’t see a thing,

Whose ears are open but don’t understand a word,

Who avoid making an about-face and getting forgiven.” – Mark 4:3-10

This passage from Mark 4 gives us great insight into the reason Jesus spoke by using parables. Preacher after preacher has used this passage to show that Jesus did not want everyone to understand because they would then come to faith. They have used this passage to support the unbiblical idea that God has only chosen a select few to become Christ-followers. However, the Message, gives a much better translation. The real purpose of parables was to move people at their own pace toward faith. Christ knew is was not possible or even wise to cause people to come to faith through fear, trickery or other manipulative means. He knew that faith was best created through people coming to realize their need for him as Saviour and Lord on their own. Even today parable (story) is one of the most powerful ways for people to see faith in action. It has often been said your best evangelistic tool is your own testimony (story).

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for prodding us into faith without forcing us. Thank you for giving us opportunity after opportunity to come to you. Thank you for not giving up on us. Help me to be a tool for your kingdom – never trying to force people to faith, but instead trying to let it grow naturally. I love you Jesus. Amen.