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Live it! Blog

Tuesday, 18 May 2021 00:00

Bridging the Gap

Written by

Exodus 19:9-25

     The gap between the two mountains had a chasm that Troublesome Creek ran through. You could ford the creek when it was running low or you could build a bridge. The solution to the problem was to build a swinging bridge, suspended over the creek; that shuddered with every step. Those first steps of trust, stepping onto that swaying structure were the most difficult, yet this was THE WAY to reach the other side. Sin has created a chasm that has separated us from a Holy God. There is a gap that begins at my sin-filled heart that needs a “solution” to be able to draw near to God. 

    My white knuckles gripped the swinging sides of the bridge, with my heart jumping, at what seemed to be the perilous steps that were needed to cross the bridge. My fear was nothing compared to the Israelites fears and their encounter with God. They shuddered in their fear of the omnipotent God. God’s appearance at Mount Sinai emphasized God’s Holiness and separation from His chosen people. The combination of washing themselves and changing clothes (Exodus 19:10-11, 14-15), witnessing the storm (Exodus 19:16-19), and keeping their distance from Sinai, couldn’t help but impress the people with their own sinfulness and God’s majestic holiness. The gap between God and the Israelites was clear. They weren’t clean enough, they weren’t holy enough. Their sins separated them from a Holy God and they had to keep their distance. When have you felt like God was distant? How have you tried to bridge the gap between you and God?

    The structure of the Old Testament worship emphasized man’s sinfulness and God’s “otherness”. The emphasis was always to keep your distance. The Israelites experience at Mount Sinai underscored their separation and their sin. Attempts have been made to try and bridge this gap between God and man.  Physical structures have been built. People have tried to build the bridge of “good enough”. People have tried to develop their own methods to reach God, but without success. How have you seen man try to bridge the gap between God and man?

    Like the tenuous steps of the fearful on that swinging bridge, we have the opportunity to step into faith and draw near to God. James 4: 8 tells us, “Come near to God and he will come near to you…” God has bridged the distance between God and man, and sinner’s only need to put their faith in God’s bridge over the chasm between God and man. In the New Testament, the emphasis is on the nearness of God. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…” (John 1:14) In Hebrews we read, (“for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.” (Hebrews 7:19) 

    We can draw near to God through Jesus' sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection, unlike the Israelites who lived in a cloud, (Exodus 19:9), of separation. What steps will you take to draw near to the God of the Universe today? God’s bridge is secure and your footsteps can be confident, no white knuckles required.

lkb

Monday, 17 May 2021 00:00

You Are Chosen!

Written by

Exodus 19:1-8; 1 Peter 2:1-12

Whether it’s being picked for the kickball team or selected from an orphanage, we all long to belong. We have been created for relationships—especially in a family. And there's perhaps no greater personal sorrow than to be left out, of not belonging. In today's world, where we're being forced into groups by others who think they know where we belong, it has become more and more difficult to feel that you belong. Somehow, we don't belong anywhere. 

Remember how special it made you feel to be chosen for the team? If you have been adopted, how often have your parents told you how special you are because you were chosen to belong to their family?  How special! But, even then, the knowledge that you were abandoned by your birth parents can be very hard to live with. 

Imagine how the people of Israel must have felt. Suddenly free from the bondage of slavery in Egypt, they are wondering where they belong. There's a strange security even in being a slave—at least you belong somewhere and to someone. But God!

Two months after their dramatic exit from Egypt, the Israelite travelers set up camp in the Sinai desert and their leader is called up the mountain for a face-to-face with Yahweh! And what does God tell Moses? “Tell the people, ‘You are chosen’!” The Exodus account says, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (vss. 5-6). 

In First Peter the apostle echoes this promise in a more personal way when he writes to us, God's New Testament family, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession” (2:9) What a reassuring statement! We belong to God! 

The question for us today is "Chosen for what?" Peter's answer is in the rest of verse 9 “. . . that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (NIV). The New Living Translation says, “As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God's people.” Now, you belong! Praise the Lord! 

You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name” (John 15:16).

If you have been chosen, how are you showing the world God's glory?

jbd & gmd

Wednesday, 12 May 2021 00:00

A Gift and a Test

Written by

Exodus 16

Have you ever been offered something and wondered, “Is this a gift from God or a test from God?”  

Believe it or not, I once had a relative offer to give me his cherry red Mercedes convertible.   No kidding!  I’ve accepted any number of hand-me-down vehicles in my life; however, I decided this one was a test from God, not a gift.  I politely refused.  

Some things can be both a gift and a test.  Such was the case with manna.

Manna was a gift—a gift that kept on giving for 40 years!  God provided food for his people.  In doing so, he revealed his glory.  

Manna was also a test of the people.  God told Moses, “I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.”

The first test was this: take only what you need for today.  God was saying, “Trust me.  Trust that I will provide for you tomorrow, too.”  How did the people do?  We read: “However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.”  

The second test had to do with the Sabbath.  God had told them there would be no manna on the Sabbath.  The seventh day was set apart to rest and focus on God.  Nonetheless, “some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none.”

The obedience of the people isn’t impressive.  God patiently teaches them that he is worthy of their trust.  Sadly, the people's focus was often on the manna and not on the One who miraculously provided it.  

Much later, this all repeated itself when Jesus arrived.  One evening Jesus miraculously multiplied bread and fishes, feeding over 5,000 people.  The next morning the crowd sought out Jesus again, hoping for breakfast.  The ensuing conversation turned to manna: “Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat’” (John 6:31).  In other words, ”What are you going to give us, Jesus?”

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 

“Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (John 6:32-35).

Jesus offered them something better than manna.  He offered them never ending life through faith in him.  This was a real gift.  But it was also a test.  Would they believe?  

“But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe” (John 6:36).

Jesus still makes us this offer.  It is both a gift and a test.  Will we receive the gift by putting our faith in Jesus and trusting him with our lives?

Friday, 14 May 2021 08:58

Independent Pride or Humility in Action?

Written by

Exodus 18:1-26

Moses was commissioned by God to lead Israel out of Egypt and into the land of promise. In preparation, he was trained in Egypt for 40 years as Pharaoh’s heir, and for the next 40 years, he was trained in the wilderness by the God of the universe. Wow! What great training - more than required for a Doctor of Ministry degree today. Clearly not a novice!

Yet Moses was being overworked, as observed by Jethro, his father-in-law: “The work is too heavy for you. You cannot handle it alone” (Ex 18:18). Jethro thought Moses needed relief, or assistants, or something.

Moses had good reason to take his father-in-law’s advice seriously. (Of course, taking his mother-in-law’s advice might have been a different story, but we won’t go there!) Jethro would have been Moses’ senior, since his daughter, Zipporah, was Moses’ wife. Furthermore, Moses had lived in the land of Midian for many years and had likely developed a trusted relationship with Jethro. Most of all, Jethro was a Midianite priest, named Reuel – “friend of God” (Ex 2:16-18). Apparently, he was not a priest of a god of Midian, but rather of the Most High God. So Moses recognized Jethro as a wise counselor.

Here we see two leaders, well trained in their perspective roles, and Jethro felt comfortable voicing his concern to Moses about the long hours he was spending providing counsel to the Israelites. Moses’ daily life appeared burdensome. We don’t see him complaining, only Jethro observing – late hours and long lines of needy Israelites. 

At this point, Moses could have been an “independent snot” and said, “I’ve got this, thanks anyway.” His pride could have stood in the way. But what actually transpired was Moses’ humility in action. He accepted Jethro’s advice and benefitted. And Israel benefitted by getting more efficient counsel.

Now let’s step into today. Our church has many older people who are well-versed in the Word of God – and are friends of God. We also have many people who are well trained in their life’s calling.  Wouldn’t people in our church benefit from the Moses and Jethros in our church family sharing their wisdom and counsel?

The mentoring relationship concept has been introduced as a goal for our body by Pastor Bruce. Rhonda Raber has specifically suggested it for the women. The Discipleship Counseling ministry also exists to provide discipling, mentoring, and counsel. 

 

Life Application Questions

  • What challenges have we faced in our lives, and how have we found wisdom to deal with those challenges?
  • Might God be commissioning some of us to take on a ministry of encouragement and counsel to others in our church family?

~ jlh

Thursday, 13 May 2021 08:56

Massah and Meribah

Written by

Exodus 17:1–16

Scripture never defends God. Occasionally there is an explanation—but not this time. At a first-time reading, no easy solution appears; but there is at least a firm hint which looks deeply into the grumbling souls of the people.

Documented in Exodus 17 a troubling event appears to focus on drinking water. However, more than water is involved. A Mt. Sinai-sized clue was obvious to the first hearers and readers of the story. As realtors sometimes say, “Location, location, and location.”

The named-clue-locations serve as spiritual interpretations, providing disciples in our day with more than map references. The names also provide clarifying insight into the events, as they were recorded by Moses. Our translation resources provide a precise picture beyond water. 

First to be identified is Massah, which in the language of Moses means testing. Then he names a second location Meribah, which means quarreling. Moses names the sites as more than merely un-watered places; they are times and locations carrying spiritual significance. 

There is a lack of water: life’s sustenance. At most times focusing on the water is completely legitimate. Water is essential for life. Don’t forget the hint. There is more going on here than a mere lack of water.

Life Applications

Has God used physical, mental or emotional obstacles as times when you suspect your faith was being tested?

If you are currently in a time of apparent spiritual testing, what is helping or hindering your faith? 

Do the New Testament words of 1 Peter 1:7-9 help you understand the Exodus passage?

Bible dictionaries/encyclopedias are tools that support our studies. Publishing companies including Baker Book House, Zondervan, InterVarsity Press, and Eerdmans provide solid selections. Members of the pastoral staff, ABF, and other small group leaders may have additional suggestions.

~ajs

Tuesday, 11 May 2021 08:55

Bitter or Better

Written by

Exodus 15:1-27

    It’s possible to win the battle and yet lose the victory; this can happen to us just as it did to the Israelites, fresh out of the “Walls of Water” experience. They left the Sea and began to march toward Mount Sinai. When have you left a momentous experience and begun to march toward your next destination and been overcome with questions and fear?  Fear can still your praise and steal your spiritual victories. Moving from bitter to better requires faith in Yahweh. “A dauntless faith, in God, brushes fear aside, like the cobwebs in a giant’s path.” (Charles Spurgeon) 

    The praise songs of the Israelites rose from the far side of the Sea. They sang, “The Lord is my strength and defense…” (Exodus 15:2) Their voices rang out, “The Lord is a warrior, the Lord is his name.” (Exodus 15:3)  “Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you-majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Exodus 15:11) As you read these words of praise, how do they resonate with you? What would your worship song say?

The Israelites celebrated God and then went right back to their lives of fear and discontent. The Israelites forgetting muscle was much bigger than their remembering muscle. They forgot that life is a pilgrimage, during which we much learn new lessons and fight new battles. Which muscle in your life is flabby? Is it the forgetting muscle or the remembering muscle? Muscles gain strength and definition when they are used. 

    The notes of the Israelites praise song still hung in the air as the Israelite contingent began to cross the desert of Shur. Their tongues began to dry, their children began to cry, and the thirsty bawling of the livestock began to drown out their notes of joy. Fear of “not enough” began to consume their minds. The Israelites began to lift the weights of forgetfulness and exercise that muscle fueled by fear. Uppermost on the minds of the Israelites was not how to please God, but “…What are we to drink?” (Exodus 15:24) When has fear stilled your praise and stolen your spiritual victories? 

    The thirst of the Israelites could not be slaked in the bitter waters of Marah. Our thirst for a relationship with the Creator God cannot be slaked in the distractions of today and the bitter taste of life’s disappointments. I have stood on the banks of bitterness, anger, disappointment, and eagerness to pin the blame for “not enough” on someone. I have asked God to fix the “bitter” never realizing that God had something better. God was testing his people “…There the Lord issued a ruling and instruction for them and put them to the test.” (Exodus 15:25) He tested them, not because He didn't know their hearts, but because they didn’t know their own hearts. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Despite the Israelites fickle hearts, God cleared the bitter waters and then still brought them to sweet rest in Elim. The attitude that we take toward our difficulties determines which direction life will go, bitter or better. How will you exercise your “remembering muscle of who God is” to move you back to your heart of praise? Trust God and obey Him, knowing that “the will of God will never lead us where the grace of God cannot sustain us. “ (Billy Graham)

lkb

Monday, 10 May 2021 08:51

STAND STILL...I've got this!

Written by

Exodus 14

MondayMay10StandStillThe Israelites had escaped Egypt en masse with thousands of people, a lot of animals, and the parting gifts that their neighbors had given them. It wasn’t long before they faced a dilemma with frightening prospects. Ahead was the Red Sea whose crossing posed a host of problems. Behind was the onrushing horde of the Egyptian army with innumerable chariots and troops. 

Can you imagine their fear at this double whammy?

There likely were many among the refugees who feared the massive wall of water before them, as I would. I don't know about you, but I think the worst way to die would be drowning. Oceans frighten me. The Great Lakes are too big. Winona Lake is as big a body of water as I want to swim in—or even be on in a boat. I can see across the lake, and that's a comfort. But could the Israelites see the other side?

The Red Sea where God was to rescue his people is just below Lake Tanis so, wherever the crossing is to take place, there is a huge amount of water above that site. The wall of water that was piled up to make the roadway across the sea would have been extremely high, no doubt. Even at the narrowest finger between Egypt and the land on the other side, crossing was the most fearful venture imaginable. 

As if that weren’t enough, the Israelites also feared the rapidly approaching army. The Scriptures tell us they acted like we probably would have, had we been there.

As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the Lord, and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’” (14:10-12)

How would you - or have you - responded when God asked you to do something way beyond your comfort zone? When the going got tough, did you think, "It's better to go back where I know what to expect, rather than stay here in a great unknown?”

In the midst of a struggle without an easy answer, most of us don’t understand God’s purpose, and we may fret and lose hope like the Israelites. We know that God’s plan was to move his chosen people to the “Promised Land.” Why, then, this impossible hurdle? The purpose was repeated several times during the plagues and is made very clear in today’s text. 

I have planned this in order to display my glory …  After this, the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord! … My great glory will be displayed through Pharaoh and his troops, his chariots, and his charioteers. When my glory is displayed through them, all Egypt will see my glory and know that I am the Lord! (vv. 5, 18)

How has knowing “the rest of the story” sustained you in difficult times?

It’s good to know God’s long-range plan, but that doesn’t necessarily solve my immediate problem. How can I get through today’s pain, loneliness, or grief? It might be helpful to remember what Joni Erickson Tada wrote, “God will permit some things that He hates, but He’ll allow those things so that something He loves can be accomplished.” 

The direction for us today is exactly the same as what Moses told the people at the Red Sea, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today” (v. 13).  Or to put it another way, “Stand still and let God work his plan.” He would say to you, “I’ve got this!”

jbd & gmd

Thursday, 06 May 2021 16:17

Acts of Remembrance

Written by

Exodus 13:1-22

Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt,

out of the land of slavery,

because the Lord brought you out of it with a mighty hand.” (Ex 13:3)

It’s common to commemorate key people and events in history; in Washington, DC:                    

the Washington Monument                the Thomas Jefferson Memorial

the Lincoln Memorial                          the Frederick Douglass Memorial

the Civil War Unknowns Memorial     the Titanic Memorial

the World War II Memorial                 the Vietnam War Memorial

the Martin Luther King Memorial        the Space Shuttle Challenger Memorial

in NYC, the 9/11 Memorial                 and the list goes on . . .

More importantly, God instituted commemorations:

            a rainbow, promising never again a global flood (Gen 9:8-17)

            two quarts of manna for future generations (Ex 16:33-34)

            lamps burning for generations to come (Ex 27:21)

            the stone tablets with the 10 commandments placed in the ark (Deut 10:5)

            twelve large stones from the Jordan River erected on shore (Josh 4:1-9)

            the Passover Celebration (Ex 12:1-28; 13:3-16)

            the Lord’s Supper (Matt 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:17-20)

            

Architects, composers, artists, sculptors continue to recreate biblical themes:

            Painted ceilings, stained glass windows, sculptures, portraits, music

            Michelangelo’s “Moses” statue, Rio de Janeiro’s “Christ the Redeemer”

            Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” Handel’s “Messiah”

This observance will be for you like a sign on your hand

and a reminder on your forehead

that this law of the Lord is to be on your lips.

For the Lord brought you out of Egypt with his mighty hand.

(Ex 13:8)

Life Application Questions

  • Are we prepared for the present and ready for the future if we fail to remember what God has done for us in the past? 
  • If we don’t remember, revisit, commemorate, do we truly believe?
  • What are ways that we can celebrate God’s gracious acts on our behalf? Maybe a special meal, a song, a story. Maybe a piece of art in our homes or in our church. Certainly participating in worship, especially breaking bread in honor of the Lord’s broken body and drinking his cup of suffering.

~ dbs

Thursday, 06 May 2021 16:16

Not Everyone is Invited

Written by

Exodus 12:43-50         

Four prohibitions identify unacceptable individuals. They are to receive no invitation. If they show up, well, it will be embarrassing for they are unwelcome guests. At the specific direction of the LORD, you are to adhere to these dis-invitations to The Dinner. (Exodus 12:43-50). 

Additional nonnegotiable instructions involve The Dinner’s preparation. Remember to also pay attention to all provisions for consuming it. These regulations are not for your family alone but for the entire community—no exceptions. The LORD’s directions are precise.

For our insight as well (all disciples of Jesus), the regulations arrived as heavenly edicts, a historically blazing light shaping Passover’s first night. The LORD did not qualify everyone to attend Passover. 

We, the disciples of Jesus typically emphasize, “Open doors! Whosoever will come.” We love the thought and proclamation of open access to God’s grace, Christ’s redemption, and the Spirit’s filling (Revelation 22:17b). 

Moreover, we treasure the image of a repentant Prodigal-child. He wasted the family’s wealth, awakening in the waste of snoring pigs. The odor was atrocious yet it matched his behavior toward the family and God. 

We celebrate the Prodigal coming to his senses, returning to family and Father. Even as he is sighted on the pathway home, a celebration takes place. It is a reunion unrivaled in family history. The lost comes home (Luke 15:11-32).

Disciples of Jesus celebrate such stories. We emphasize Scripture’s welcoming, grace-laden announcements, and parables. We mistakenly deceive ourselves in thinking a few selective and individualized stories are the sum total of God’s resolution for always and universally welcoming everyone. 

There is a problem with our ignorance for it marks a greater problem. Reading Scripture selectively, ignoring and excluding passages like Exodus 12:43-50, is to miss spiritual truth in action.

Truthfully and accurately Scripture reports that in the days of Moses some individuals were excluded from The Dinner-relationship with God. Kept away from Passover, their lack of access brought tragic consequences. The Passover event, with all its life-saving and deadly outcomes, happened one night in the long ago.

Life Application

In what ways does the account of the first Passover’s regulations shape your spiritual awareness?

Are there parallels between Passover’s meal to The Dinner described in Revelation 16:9?

~ajs

Thursday, 06 May 2021 16:15

A “Surprise” Journey

Written by

Exodus 12:29-42

Have you been called away on an unexpected trip with little time to prepare? What do you find yourself doing (apart from wishing you’d printed that generic packing list)? You rush from closet to suitcase to dresser to bathroom and back to your suitcase to make sure you have all the essentials. What’s the weather like at your destination? Are there enough clothes for the time you’ll be gone? Did you remember your toothbrush? Did you forget anything?

Imagine the Israelites, who have had more than 400 years toiling in slavery when it seemed God was far away. All of a sudden, the word comes: “We’re leaving!” It certainly was a surprise!

Their “hosts” for the previous 400 plus years, the Egyptians, were just as anxious to have their “guests” gone as the “guests” were to leave. In fact, the Egyptians willingly shared with the Israelites their silver and gold jewelry and clothing, a fulfillment of God’s promise from many years earlier (Gen. 15:14). (It would be like your big sister voluntarily allowing you to take her favorite sweater on your trip without any expectation that it would be returned. You take other items from her wardrobe, too!)

Envision the hubbub as more than 2 million men, women, and children (estimated by most commentators) scurried to leave. There wasn’t even time for their bread to rise, so they wrapped the dough and their bowls in their clothes and carried them on their shoulders. Were they excited or scared? Did they anticipate their arrival in the Promised Land with enthusiasm or did they consider what they had left behind?

The Israelites might have been surprised by the announcement of their travel plans for the promised land, but God was not. He had prepared Pharaoh’s heart, promised that they would come out of slavery with great possessions, and provided them with one of the greatest leaders in history, Moses. As they traveled, a cloud (or pillar of fire) guided them, and each morning they woke to find manna to nourish their bodies.

God is not surprised by our individual journeys either. “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalms 139:16 NIV).

Where he gave the Israelites a cloud or a pillar of fire to guide them, He has given us His Word.

Where he gave them a leader in the person of Moses, he has provided His Holy Spirit, who often speaks in a still, small voice to help us navigate life.

Have you ever been caught off guard about an upcoming trip?

How has God specifically guided your life journey?

Is there a verse or a promise that has helped guide your journey?

lcg

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"Your word is truth," said Jesus to his Father (John 17:17). We want to build our lives on this truth. The Bible is God's self-revelation, given to us so that we can know him and his Son Jesus.