If Only He Knew

Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, “Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.”’ But Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.’ Then they said, ‘The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God, lest he fall upon us with pestilence or with the sword.’ But the king of Egypt said to them, ‘Moses and Aaron, why do you take the people away from their work? Get back to your burdens. Behold, the people of the land are now many, and you make them rest from their burdens!’ The same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people and their foremen, ‘You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as in the past; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But the number of bricks that they made in the past you shall impose on them, you shall by no means reduce it, for they are idle. Therefore they cry, “Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.” Let heavier work be laid on the men that they may labor at it and pay no regard to lying words.’

Then Moses turned to the LORD and said, ‘O LORD,.. why did you ever send me?  For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.’” Exodus 5:1-9,22-23

“Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’” John 4:10

All of life- how we see it and live it- hinges on whether we know the God who orchestrates it. Pharaoh knew only himself as god, so hearing the request attributed to the LORD, the God of Israel, was both a threat to his authority and a bother to his plans. Why on earth would he stop his building industry to allow his slaves to go perform some religious rite with a deity in which he did not believe? His perspective was as temporal as his domain. If only he knew… that this God was eternal, a God of His word and all power, that this God was LORD of kingdoms and history, that He would bring destructive plagues and great ruin on Pharaoh and Egypt, and indeed deliver His people.

6135747A-62E0-49ED-9717-8A6717C0EA97

Moses knew this God, so when Pharaoh turned cruel and unreasonable, Moses cried out to his LORD with his desperate complaint. He knew the One who issued the warning was the One who would fulfill His promise.

Do we really know God? If so, what evidence is there in the way we react to His promises, His commands, and life’s hardships?

LORD of all, tie my will, emotion, obedience, even complaint, securely to You, to Your greatness, authority, and glory. May the way I live prove I know You.

For and Through

For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’—  yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?  And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.  Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.” 1 Corinthians 8:5-12

The Corinthians were tangled up in how to exercise their freedom in Christ, wanting to enjoy eating meat that had been offered to idols because they no longer held to idolatrous practices and superstitions. But Paul turns their yen for justifying pleasures and satisfying wants to their higher purpose: They existed for God, and through Jesus Christ. If all of life is filtered through this divine framework, their first love for Him, and ensuing love for others, would filter their decisions about indulgences.

D4FB7FA9-B657-4AC5-A65D-946B739A9746_1_201_a

Who is the real God of my life? How does my behavior prove what I believe? There are many little-g gods vying for my allegiance, and when I give them lip-service, I dally in their worldly wares and ways of thinking. When I serve little-l lords, my fealty is for self and life revolves around my desires, because that’s what lower-case divinities do. They invert rightful reverence and elevate man and his feelings above holy God and truth. But to love God first, I turn from the meat market, from selecting my tasty treats, to considering how I can best honor and build up others. I am happily willing to forego my preference for another’s good.

The most important is, ‘You shall 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: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31

In truth, there is but one big-G God. Does my life give such evidence? I exist through His life and power, and for His glory. Are my daily choices so aligned and yielded? In what areas do I need reminding that I am not my own, but belong to Him? Would I do others the grace of reminding them too? (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Colossians 1:16)

Good Father, by whom and for whom I was made, may I use my freedom never to indulge self, but always and only to honor You, and to serve and encourage others for Your sake. (Galatians 5:16)

 

When God Owns a Heart

“Then Joseph fell on his father’s face and wept over him and kissed him… When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.’ So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, ‘Your father gave this command before he died: “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.” And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.’ Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, ‘Behold, we are your servants.’ But Joseph said to them, ‘Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.’ Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. 

So Joseph remained in Egypt, he and his father’s house. Joseph lived 110 years. And Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.’” Genesis 50:1,15-22,24

When God owns a heart, it knows no guile. Joseph had every earthly reason to be bitter, to get even, to take revenge on his brothers for their mistreatment, but his heart was fixed with his God, who had full residence there. Even had his brothers not sought his forgiveness, he had already settled in his mind that he was God’s and God was Lord and always worked good. He wept at their thinking he held a grudge because he had long ago forgiven them and accepted God’s providential plan. (Romans 8:28; Ephesians 4:32)

DAEB2485-8D2B-47C9-895B-E5834A31861D

Trusting God’s sovereignty leaves no room for self-pity or bitterness. When the heart is bound up securely with the King, the rude, strong winds of circumstance, unfair treatment, injustice, and cruelty may whip and lash, but they hold no sway. A heart wholly surrendered to God yields authentic kindness and selfless service to those who have done it wrong, because those wrongs have been borne and carried away by the Savior.

When God owns a heart, there is no time for petty, or large, grievances. There is no room for resentment, no space to tuck away and stack up wrongs, or hoard rights. When God owns a heart, He fills every recess with holy passion and hope for restoration, with pure and overflowing love and compassion. He takes over our feelings of being put upon, and merit. He transforms our disappointments into thankfulness. He is all in all, He in us and we in Him, and we are freed to live and love as He does.

What crannies of my heart need cleaning? Would I let go of nagging sins that muddy my view of God’s overarching goodness in every circumstance?

Father God, take up residence in my heart and claim ownership of my every affection, emotion, attitude. Fill me to overflow with Your loving grace to others.

Part with Blessing

Then Jacob called his sons and said, ‘Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come. Assemble and listen, O sons..Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples…’

“’Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a spring; his branches run over the wall. The archers bitterly attacked him, shot at him, and harassed him severely, yet his bow remained unmoved; his arms were made agile by the hands of the Mighty One of Jacob, by the God of your father who will help you, by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that crouches beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of my parents, up to the bounties of the everlasting hills. May they be on the head of Joseph, and on the brow of him who was set apart from his brothers.’ When Jacob finished commanding his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed and breathed his last and was gathered to his people.” Genesis 49:1-2,8,10,22-26,33

This is a touching scene, the elderly and flawed father at his last. Trickery, favoritism, tenacity, a lifetime of lessons through struggle, injustice, and the grace of God, were bound in this patriarch on his deathbed. He called his sons, representing the twelve tribes of God’s Israel, to hear his parting words, and spoke over them truth and blessing. His words conveyed vision for the future and understanding of who they were and what they had endured. He reminded them who their God was and how He helped and loved them, and he bathed them in the sweet benevolence of their Lord as a final goodbye. His pronouncement in the cold chill of imminent death covered them with the grace of warm light .

Snow field w rocks in sun, Patagonia (IRS)

With those we love, there are many ways to leave an impression, a variety of messages we convey with goodbye. This passage reminds us to be thoughtful and immerse our minds in the Almighty as we offer parting gifts– for they can be true gifts that lift the sights, bolster with security, arm with truth, and adorn with love and grace. Are we choosing words that reinforce our worry and doubt (and are really about us), or the greatness and security of God’s care and promises (and exalt Him)? How different are “Drive carefully,” and “Be safe” from “Go in grace, you are loved, God is able” and “The Lord bless and keep you”? (Numbers 6:24-26; Ephesians 6:23-24; 2 Timothy 4:22; 2 Peter 3:18; Jude 24-25)

Will we take every opportunity to anoint others with genuine blessings of divine truth that build godly hope and confidence, Bible promises that reinforce the soul, reminders of God’s delight and singing that feed happiness? We must know Christ and His word to pass Him on. What are we doing to store us blessings we can impart? (Zephaniah 3:17)

Father, make me a conduit of Your blessing, to point others to You.

 

My Life, My Sojourning

“So Joseph went in and told Pharaoh, ‘My father and my brothers, with their flocks and herds and all that they possess, have come from the land of Canaan. They are now in the land of Goshen.’ Then Joseph brought in Jacob his father and stood him before Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Jacob, ‘How many are the days of the years of your life?’ And Jacob said to Pharaoh, ‘The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning.’ And Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from the presence of Pharaoh.” Genesis 47:1,7-10

“We are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding.” 1 Chronicles 29:15

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” Hebrews 11:13

The patriarch Jacob, third generation nomad in Canaan, had borne 12 sons who would lead the tribes of the nation Israel. When he traveled during a famine to Egypt, and Pharaoh asked his age, he described his years as a sojourning… a wandering, a temporary stay without settling on the land of earth. The measure of his days was one of faith that they would last forever. His was a heavenly home, and every day here was a step toward that place of eternal promise.

307CB6D7-B2F9-4701-97A9-F79E853839C8

What is the measure of a life? It can be counted in the steps we walk in faith, the days we live by faith, the graces we extend and the love we share because of the saving faith we have received from God. Our living here is a sojourning, a series of temporary stops to sweeten relationships, provide meaningful industry, serve the needy, nourish the hungry with truth that satisfies. We are led and fed so we can lead and feed, making a difference for life now and life to come.

As the Lord Jesus both leads and follows, hemming me in behind and before with His powerful presence, what am I doing and giving for His sake? How is my faith in forever evidenced in the here and now of His kingdom? How well does the joy set before me inspire present joy within and spilling over? (Psalm 139:5; Hebrews 12:3)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.” Psalm 23:1,3,6

My Shepherd, as I sojourn with You here on earth, may I never forget I am merely a guest, preparing to dwell in Your house forever. Teach me here the manners of heaven, and may I so live them out that those I encounter come to greet Your promises with my same certain hope. (Psalm 39:12)

Merely a Planter

“It has been reported to me that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. Each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. We preach Christ crucified,.. to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’  

“I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God… What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth… For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” Corinthians 1:11-13,21,23-24,30-31; 2:2-5; 3:5-7,9

There are some people who seem to be covered with glue, and others who like to stick. Followers cling to the ‘famous’ like barnacles, in devoted allegiance, proud of their belonging and dependent on their identity as fans. ‘I go to X’s bible study,’ ‘I read X every morning and he/she says..,’ ‘We go to X’s church,’ and ‘Do you follow X?’ Paul here calls the Corinthian church to set aside aligning with names and individuals, and unify in the mission and Person of the gospel. Those who preach are all merely planters and waterers, servants of the Most High who has charge over the work and results.

50699E2A-C34C-4DEC-9732-0E9E60CD573C

In God’s kingdom, everything is about Him. He chooses instruments who are willing and available, not necessarily with outstanding natural wisdom or talent, so that He is the One seen and heard and receiving the glory. Paul reminds us to look to Jesus Christ, listen to Him, follow His wisdom, fix our devotion and allegiance with Him, not His servants. Paul and Apollos were merely planters and waterers, each investing at his appointed time in their lives, each giving out the truth when called to preach or teach or encourage.

It is the same with you and me. From either vantage point, we must beware. Are we wanting any limelight or credit for God’s work done through us? It is His Spirit’s wisdom and power that brings growth. Are we prone to suck like leaches onto certain denominational tag-lines, teachers, or authors as ultimate authorities? It is the Lord Who is supreme.

Father, may I so plant and water and know Christ among others, that they see and believe and glorify You.

 

Opinion, Judging, and Loving One Another

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions… Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him… One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord… Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God… Each of us will give an account of himself to God. 

Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother… If your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit… So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” Romans 14:1,3,5,7-8,10,12-13,15-17,19

There are so many things that divide people. It happened in the early church, and it happens today. Paul knew it, God knows it. Opinions, food and drink choices, celebrations of certain days and events- gifts from God to be enjoyed for His glory, yet ramrods of stubborn self-righteousness into many occasions that result in factions, dissension, a miserable and broken picture of the church to the watching world. Today we have politics, diets, differing opinions on science, and church music, and what is acceptable entertainment, and more.

D62770BE-7EC4-4B7A-A32A-8F9A7215CE1E

Paul’s words put hands on our shoulders, look us in the eye, and say, love Jesus first, and most. Live for Him, and these irritations and disagreements and clashes of opinion will melt in the warmth of a higher allegiance. Instead of facing off, or spouting off, cast off your obstinance and align your conscience with the Holy Spirit’s convictions. Remember you will be called to account, before the only true Judge, for every word spoken and determination made. Choose to love instead of condemn, sacrifice instead of assert your rights, and actively, intentionally, wholeheartedly, pursue peace and mutual edification. (Matthew 12:36; Romans 12: 10; 2 Corinthians 5:10)

Where do we get so tangled up in our opinions and preferences that we disregard, or diss, others with differing outlooks? When did we slip into thinking ourselves superior, our viewpoints over negotiables more enlightened, our freedoms gifts to be used for selfish gain and pleasure instead of serving those weaker? What difference would it make if we saw and welcomed others in love as God does? Would we ask Him to expose and transform our self-righteous, selfish ways? (Galatians 5:13)

Father, may I live fully to You, and for others’ sake. Help me in every particular to promote the righteousness, peace, and joy of Your kingdom.