Monthly Archives: December 2018

“You Might As Well Be A Park!”

It all took place in Moses’ day. GOD said to Pharaoh, “Turn My son loose I want them to worship (serve) Me in the wilderness!” (Exodus 5:1-2)
Pharaoh: “I don’t know you and I won’t turn them loose.”
“I’m the GOD of Israel and I’m going to ask you ten times to do what I want.”
Pharaoh, the god Re, said: “I’ll say it again; I don’t know you and they’re not leaving.”
“You’ll know who I AM when I have shredded your empire!”
And so it began, like the thud of a battering ram against a strong gate, GOD against the gods with wide-eyed Israel watching it all happening, up close and personal. The gods of Egypt exposed as nothing by the GOD of Abraham.
“Leave!” Pharaoh finally hurried GOD’s son Israel out of Egypt’s land (Exodus 12:33) and toward Nun, the ancient god, obstructing their march toward home.
GOD to the Red Sea, “My People wish to cross.”
Nun, “Let them go around.”
“That doesn’t work for me! Move; we’re coming through!” And so it was that Israel crossed water on dry ground and Pharaoh didn’t. (See texts like Revelation 16:12; Isaiah 11:15-16; 2 Kings 2:8, 14; Joshua 3:1-17—only God’s people cross water on dry ground.)
GOD’s newly baptized son came up out of the water (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-2; Luke 3:21-22 and 4:1-2) and turned to face a brooding wilderness that stared stonily at Israel before whispering, “And what are you doing here in my land—for this is my land?”
Israel said, “We have just experienced freedom from Egyptian slavery and we’re on our way to our new home in Canaan. So we won’t want to stay long in your land.”
“Longer than you think,” the wilderness hoarsely whispered. “I am Sekhmet, goddess of Egypt, goddess of wilderness, destruction, death and many other things. Now that you’re here this will be your tomb until I end you, until I bury you and destroy even the remembrance of you. But of course if you were to worship me…a return to Egypt is always open to you.”
And an intimidated, frightened nation stood in stunned silence for a while as Sekhmet whispered of her power and success. In silence, that is, until a teenage girl began to sing the song of Moses and Miriam (Exodus 15:1-21; Jeremiah 2:1-3), then others joined her and before long an entire nation in the name of GOD sang defiance of Sekhmet drowning out her whispered threats carried on the wind and then they took GOD’s hand and prepared to continue home with Him.
And GOD said to Sekhmet, “There’s My response to you. My sons and daughters have met your like before this day. My name is Yahweh and I am the GOD of gods and the LORD of lords. (Exodus 12:12; 14:11; Numbers 33:4; Psalm 126) And I keep My promises!”

And the wilderness said, “I will have no part in feeding them or keeping them alive. It was a sad day for them when they wandered into my world.”

“Yes, but I will feed them.” said GOD. You keep no one alive! It is in Me that all who live live and move and have their being. (Acts 17:24-29)
And this people, they didn’t enter your world,” said GOD. “Even this desolate place is Mine.
Nor did they wander into this strange land of Mine, I brought them here so that they would know Me and know that I am GOD and that they don’t live because there’s food; they live because I promise them life. (Deuteronomy 8:1-4)
Here in this land I will spread a table for them and feed them. You? For all the ultimate damage you can do you might as well be a park.”

(I’ve borrowed the heart of this piece from my book on Exodus: Heading Home With God.)

 

 

Jesus Kissed Me When We Met

One good deed, one genuinely good deed done with honor, especially if it is done at great personal cost defies a world of evil!
It claims our attention and we look at one another and believe—if we’re blessed with a heart still sensitive—we believe and we realize that God has not abandoned us to evil and gloom.
We believe that evil is not invincible, we believe it should not be thought invincible, we believe it should be defied and in every way available to us to we’ll oppose it and live with brave, even gallant, hearts in a war against it.
The gallant Lord Jesus having joined us in the war and took the lead in it went to the cross believing that this was where His Father led Him and though it troubled His soul He gladly raced to it knowing that what He had been doing and was about to do was to destroy an alien world and its alien tyrant to glorify His Holy Father and liberate prisoners of war.
And more than that, astonishing as it is, He believed that there were thousands and more thousands that would follow Him into that war when they saw what He was doing. “And, I, if I am lifted up I will win the hearts of men and women from everywhere and in every age.” He said that and believed it! 

We talk much, we who speak, about the evil in the world. We tell no lie when we say with John that the whole “world” lies in the evil one but we’re not to over-read John’s statement. God has ceaselessly been at work in the hearts of the human family and has kept goodness alive even in the hearts of those who don’t know to credit their health, their friends, kindness, gallantry, patience and self-giving to Him, the one true God who is the source of all and anything that is good in this world. Christ knew well the nature and extent of the evil and heartless spirit that has usurped God’s place in the hearts of humans 

And yet He will walk up to people busy with their own affairs in life and tell them that if they really want to live they should get up and follow Him and they’d never regret it. This He said believing that they would—and they did! “Crucify me,” He said, and that won’t be the end of Me, people will see and hear of it and they will come flocking to Me in their millions”—and they have done that and they do it and given half a chance millions of others will do it!

To His first disciples Jesus said, “You didn’t choose me; I chose you.” There’s something about that call, that being “chosen” and the sense that “this is my destiny to which I have been called.” “He asked me to join Him and numberless other people just like me in this assault against a tyranny that enslaves and humiliates and finally destroys.

We’ve been told of many, during the war,  who were picked for a very dangerous mission. Before setting out, they tell us, the chosen would scribble notes or whisper some message to be sent to a mother or someone beloved in case the worst should happen. Usually there was a certain strain and nervousness showing on their face and yet, they say, there was something of a light and sparkle in their eyes, their heads were held high, sometimes there was laughter and a dismissal of the danger ahead. Chosen! And willing to be chosen and with it a thrill, edged with some sense of pride that they were chosen! We hear such stories and think them wonderful. We believe then that there is more in the world than crass selfishness and heartlessness.

Paul in Ephesians 1 says, ”He chose us…” Never that He coerced us, bullied us, forced us or shanghaied us! God comes seeking and finding and believing that if only His call is made known that people would lift their heads, tear up their document of service to what dishonors themselves and sign into His service. “if you are against the evil in this world and promise to end it and bring justice for all,” they say, “then count us in.”
And they do it, men and women, girls and boys, entire families, sometimes entire villages. But they flock to God only when it is the call of God they hear. They’re called out of their fear, their boredom, their daily grind and life without adventure into His presence, chosen for a peculiar mission. They’re asked to make a commitment to a God whose heart is saddened by the anguish of His human family and He wants them to be assured that He sees all and that He will right all wrongs. “Tell them that,” He says, “tell them I’m coming, tell them I want them to join Me in spreading the word to their friends and enemies that I am coming.” 
Chosen to engage in “war”at its finest (2 Corinthians 10:3-5); chosen to proclaim freedom from Sin and guilt and lifeless life, chosen to proclaim a Message from God to all the nations, a warning to all the unrepentant servants of the prince of this world and a message to all the abused and plundered that One is coming and He is coming with love and fairness. There’s a new world coming! And those currently “chosen” by the Gospel bear witness to that—they are the visible expression of “the righteousness of God.”
Today we look at some honorable businesses and we’re thrilled. Sometimes we picture ourselves as doing some brave thing against tough opposition and we can’t help feeling good—shouldn’t regret feeling good. Now and then we engage with a group in a lovely enterprise, we toil at it long, patiently, returning to it when we for a while were too weary to stay with it—we return to it, determined not to leave it until it’s finished.

It’s done! There are happy smiles all around, there’s a sense of fulfillment, other things we failed at, failures that left us a bit ashamed because we now think we ended it too soon, didn’t give it enough. But that is now pushed into the background. This well was dug, this house was built, this project was completed! The muscles ache, the body is weary, the days have slipped by but the vision became a finished reality. Such lovely things happen in countless lives and they will happen in yours.

But there’s a day coming when you will finish the race of your entire life, they will take you to a hospital ward or a home where people go to be treated well when they can no longer help themselves and you will remember (perhaps with difficulty sometimes) the day you were seized by a dream and, look! you’re just about to finish living it. And you for all your pain or your awareness that you can no longer contribute to life and living in the way you once could you will know you finished your journey and adventure with Jesus Christ. You’ll remember the day when He walked up to you and called your name, asking you to join Him in a lifelong war against all that was anti-God, anti-life and anti-human and you stuck out your hand, took His and said “count me in.”

You’ll remember days when you were bone weary and found the commitment demanding or frustrating or for a while beyond your strength, and even when you were being helped, it felt that way. But still, aware of all the bumps and gullies, all the clinging undergrowth on the way, in your own fashion and in your own life’s circumstances you were there at the end and you’ll smile and repeat Paul’s words. “I fought a good fight, a ran a good race and I finished the course.”
You’ll finish this adventure and you’ll finish it on your feet! By God’s sustaining grace you’ll do it for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and for the world!

You’ll sit
there in that waiting room and maybe think of Leigh Hunt’s lovely poem when a now old man reminisces about a day many years earlier when someone called Jenny kissed him and you’ll apply the imagery to a day when Someone came and kissed you and your life was never the same: Jesus Christ. Some might hear you whisper every now and then as you make your way toward Home where He waits for you:
 Jesus kissed me when we met
Jumped up from the chair He sat in
Time, you thief you love to get
Sweets for your list, put that in.
Say I’m lonely, say I’m sad
Say that health and wealth have missed me
Say I’m growing old but add
Jesus kissed me! 

Sometimes Humility Is Wrong!

Christ’s words from the cross are these: “Do I look like I want you to grovel and crawl for forgiveness and find Me merciful? With this spit and sweat and blood streaking My face do I look like My right to be honored matters to Me more that all else?”
Do we think our sins are a special case that needs something more than this? Is the person and work of the Lord Jesus not grand enough? I do understand the emotional wrestle many people engage in with sins that are “ever before me”; I do! But John says, “If our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.”
1 John 3:16-23.
Are we afraid of being arrogant if we feel assured that all is well with us if indeed we are in the Lord Jesus? It’s clear we need to be humble and not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think (Romans 12) but should we be timid about the person and work of Jesus the Lord? Timid about the truth of the central truths of the gospel of God that is about His Holy Son (Romans 1:1-4)? Humility about HIM and about the GOSPEL about HIM should have no place in us.
Martin Luther, a man on fire (though no stranger to depression over his own inner world) and rarely cautious, had plenty to say about Sin and sins. His war against Roman Catholic doctrine and the worst face of that Church’s moral corruption helped to shape the unbridled expression of his sincerely held convictions. Not many can receive all Luther said but one can’t help but be stunned by the chasm that exists between his kind of preaching/teaching and what one hears today from the clamored-after speakers on the media. Here’s a section from his commentary on Galatians 1:4.

“But be it far from us that we should here humble ourselves, since they would take from us our glory, even God himself, that hath created us, and given us all things, and Jesus Christ, who hath redeemed us with his blood. Let this be then the conclusion of all together , that we will suffer our goods to vanish, be taken away, our name, our life, and all that we have; but the gospel, our faith, Jesus Christ, we will never suffer to be wrested from us. And cursed be that humility which here abases and submits itself: nay, rather, let every Christian man here be proud and spare not, except he will deny Christ. Wherefore, God assists me, my forehead shall be harder than all men’s foreheads… Yea, I am glad even with all my heart, in this point to seem rebellious and obstinate. And here I confess that I am and ever will be stout and stern and will not one inch give place to any creature.”

(I  borrowed that from my book Behold Your God. Doesn’t Luther there just demand to be quoted?!)