Monthly Archives: January 2014

Exodus 25-25; Matthew 21:1-22

It amazes me that the infinite, holy, wild, untamable God longs, craves to live within and among us.

Then have them make a sanctuary for me,

and I will dwell among them.

Exodus 25: 8

He doesn’t burst on the scene with fireworks, sounding horns and choreographed dancers. He comes gently, quietly on the back of a donkey.  The crowds know who they want him to be. They gather in numbers to give him a reception worthy of king. When Jesus enters Jerusalem, the city wonders and asks who this man is. The crowd answers with partial understanding,  “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”  Matthew 21:11

But Jesus is so much more. He is the Messiah sent by God, yet he is not the world’s idea of a messiah.   Instead of working from the outside in, he works from the inside out. He is on his own terms.  He is not impressed with our wealth, power, importance or our schemes to control the future. Jesus rejects all of that and literally turns the tables over.

He has come to claim what has been stolen from the God…broken hearts crying out for meaning, needing healing and looking for a love that will stay and never let go.  For that,  Jesus is hung on a cross.  His love for us, his desire to claim the sanctuary of hearts is so strong that he breaks the power of sin and death. All we have to do is call out to Him and invite Him in.

Lord,  forgive me when I try to make you into the messiah I want, not who you are. I surrender this heart to you. I give you the things I have tried to replace you with. Come live within and take hold of this heart. Make it beautiful for you. Amen.

Klueh

Let me live that I may praise you. Psalm 119:175

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Exodus 22-24; Matthew 20:17-34

A friend of mine has been posting lately about loneliness. This stays with me.

https://twitter.com/John_Dukes/status/423625237192654849

***

Jesus is leaving Jericho with his disciples. And a big crowd follows behind. With moderate exposure to the Gospels, you get the impression that Jesus could do some pretty amazing things: feed thousands of people, turn water into wine, quiet a storm, drive out demons, bring people back to life. And maybe you reach a point in reading that the miracles become commonplace–Oh. Jesus does another healing.

Or you read on in anticipation: what’s he going to do next?

***

I step into the scene. Dusty road. Hot sun. Jesus is moving on, and people are following. There are two blind guys. I wondered for quite a while what it was like to be blind: was it a legal blindness? Was it always black? Did they feel like the world was going on around them, without them? Did they feel like, because they couldn’t see, they also couldn’t be seen? Is blindness a metaphor? Were they lonely?

The rush of the crowd approaches and hope rises. These two blind men call out for mercy.

And I don’t know if the crowd was a bunch of Jesus lovers or gawkers, but I do know this: they told the blind men to shut up.

If these blind men could hear the crowd yelling at them to shut up, I’m sure Jesus heard it too. But he also heard the blind men crying out. The scene becomes very small. That crowd is anonymous and blurred out, because now it is just Jesus and two blind men.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.

“Lord,” they said. “We want to see!” Matthew 20:32-33 NLT.

And when I think of what blindness is, I fill in this restoration with color. To see, and to be seen. To engage in a world around them. To be part of the world around them. To live in community and not isolation. To stop feeling alone. Or lonely. When all these people are yelling SHUT UP, does anyone care?

34 Jesus felt sorry for them and touched their eyes. Instantly they could see! Then they followed him. Matthew 20:34 NLT.

Jesus gets personal with two people the world would overlook. He feels for them, and touches them. Reaches right out. Who wouldn’t want to follow this man who hears their cries, who notices them, who stopped his journey that day to reach out to them?

Sam’s depiction of a disciple really stuck with me: someone who imitates the teacher.

Jesus, thank you for keeping me in this scene–to have compassion. To reach right out and touch someone. To hear a cry–and acknowledge it! To stop and help. I want to walk with you and learn from you. Thank you that you don’t pass us by when we call out to you, like we’re invisible or don’t matter.

Courtney (66books365)

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Exodus 19-21, Matt. 15:1-16

Allegiance to adultery in 60 seconds.

God tells Moses to deliver the message:

You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 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.

The Israelites respond:

We will do everything the Lord has said.

God gives Moses the pinnacle of the Law, His opus of legislation in the Ten Commandments.

Summed up: Love God (1-4), Love People (5-10)

In the terrifying drama and mortifying glory of God’s presence, the people stand at a distance from the mountain and say to Moses:

Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.

In essence, the Israelites are communicating that say what they need to say to get good things–God’s provision and protection as a holy nation. But they stay at a distance with Moses as a proxy to avoid God’s wrath. Favors dictate their good behavior and terror compels their abstinence.

God reiterates His first point in the Ten:

Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.

Spoiler alert: Flip to the end of the book and the people have constructed a golden calf in Moses’ absence. It’s like they’ve committed adultery before the honeymoon could even end.

Empty lip service and hollow resolutions fall short when any real temptation or doubt creeps on the scene revealing the Israelites true outward motivation: seek pleasure, avoid pain.

The story of Exodus challenges me to examine my own heart for my motivation to obey God. Do I obey because I get something from people around me? Because I’m offered benefits? So that I can avoid God’s wrath? Or do I obey because I truly love God and am concerned with bringing Him glory in everything?

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Exodus 16-18; Matt.19:16-30

I sat down with a heavy heart to have lunch with a friend. She listened and told me that we all have things we wish were not a part of our story. It felt like a weight was lifted . There are times when I wish my life would read like one of those mystery novels I read as a kid. The ones where I could change the ending. Instead of giving the control over to God and trusting that He will weave beauty into it…I hold on to it, I complain and gripe. But, I have come to realize that is a part of my story too, the wrestling with God in an honest and authentic way. It’s OK, He hears my complaints, like He heard the Israelites. He wanted the Israelites to know, like He wants me to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that…

It is God who brought you out of Egypt; and in the morning you will see the Glory of God. Yes, he’s listened to your complaints against him. You haven’t been complaining against us, you know, but against God.” Exodus 16:6&7 MSG.

Because the thing is, if the bad/ugly parts were not in my story…than redemption, restoration and the freedom that only Jesus can bring, wouldn’t be a part of my story either. These are the times when I really meet with Him, where my relationship with Him is so tight because I know that I can’t do it on my own…as many times as I try.

He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go…Jesus looked hard at them and said, “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.” Matt. 19:22&26 MSG

What am I really giving up if I get to know the one who made me intimately? Am I afraid I will miss out or miss the boat?…“God knows how everything will turn out. And, for every single person who belongs to Him,it turns out well. We are not the exceptions” (Beth Moore, James).

Jesus replied, “Yes, you have followed me. In the re-creation of the world, when the Son of Man will rule gloriously, you who have followed me will also rule, starting with the twelve tribes of Israel. And not only you, but anyone who sacrifices home, family, fields-whatever-because of me will get it all back a hundred times over, not to mention the considerable bonus of eternal life. This is the Great Reversal: many of the first ending up last, and the last first.” Matthew 19:28-30 MSG

Dear Jesus, Thank you for Your faithfulness, Your unfailing love. I am thankful for how I have seen Your hand throughout my life. I want to know You. Amen.

Amy(amyctanner)

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Exodus 13-15; Matthew 19:1-15

Exodus 13:14-16 

“In the future, when your son asks you ‘What is this?’ You are to tell him, ‘With a mighty hand the Lord brought us out from Egypt, from the land of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to release us, the Lord killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of people to the firstborn of animals. That is why I am sacrificing to the Lord the first male offspring of every womb, but all my firstborn sons I redeem.’ It will be for a sign on your hand and for frontlets on your forehead, for with a mighty hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt.”

————— 

There’s a great many things that make me wish I was Jewish. The history, the culture, the deep roots in the scriptures, and the dedication to the Lord, to name a few.

And as I read through the story of the exodus, I’m reminded again of one of the major things that we as Christians have access to, which we tend to miss out on (or at least I do).

The signs and symbols that draw his people to remembrance are something that God instituted for a purpose. God knows exactly what will happen if we don’t remember the things that he has done.

In Judges 2 it says this:

After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done for Israel.

——————- 

And you know, or can tell, where the story goes after that happens.

The people fail to listen the Lord, because they do not remember.

If someone were to sit and ask me right now, to tell them of the things that the Lord has done in my life, how many could I even remember?

The Jewish people celebrate festival after festival, their whole calendar was laid out so that they would never forget what the Lord their God had done for them.

——

The problem, for me at least, is that I don’t have to celebrate the festivals

I don’t have to redeem my firstborn, as God teaches the Israelites after the exodus

I don’t have to make burnt offering to the Lord

I don’t have to do pretty much any of those rituals that are so important to our Jewish brothers and sisters

I don’t have to take a Sabbath day either.

Here’s what I’m realizing:

I get to take a Sabbath

Jesus tells us that we were not made for the Sabbath, it was made for us

And I tend to mistake that for Jesus saying ‘You don’t have to bother with that old thing anymore’

Which isn’t at all what he was saying!

 —

Of course I don’t have to do any of those things,

But I get to

So I ask myself, what will I do so that I never forget all that the Lord has done for me?

What times and days will I set to help me remember his faithfulness?

What will I put in place so that my children never stop asking me why?

So that I can tell of all the mighty works the Lord has done, and bring them up to know and fear God.

So I don’t forget his Loving-kindness,

that I might not sin against him.

I’ll seek to make that part of my daily routine, to remember, to write down, to change the way that I live, because of what he has done. So neither I nor my children turn aside to the left or to the right. May we always remember what he’s done for us.

sam.

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Exodus 11, 12; Matthew 18:21-35

In Matthew, we read a parable by Jesus Christ in which a king decided to settle his accounts with those who owed him money. An unworthy servant was brought before him, and the king forgave him of an enormous debt.  In Exodus, we are told that after 200 plus years of servitude, Israel cried out to God who heard and took pity on them.  He destroys a nation while protecting His chosen people.

One event is figurative and one literal.  The theme of Matthew’s text is God’s forgiveness. The theme in Exodus is God’s protection. Are the two topics related? Perhaps.When asking for forgiveness, are we not asking for protection, as well?  If I am in need of forgiveness, I will have to submit to the grace and mercy of another. Perhaps this is why it is so hard to ask for forgiveness.

It is actually quite easy to ask for forgiveness when we are fairly sure that the one we have harmed is kind, caring, or fair.  In fact, we will more than likely need forgiveness from someone who can easily be wronged – a mother, a passive spouse, a co-dependent friend – for they may unwittingly be feeding our ego and selfishness. We can, therefore, easily take advantage of them when the opportunity arises.  Then when we ask for forgiveness, we are most likely motivated by a desire to be freed from our uncomfortable feelings of guilt or shame (especially if someone else points out our fault in the matter).  The smiling face of forgiveness removes the nagging burden of a little wrongdoing, right?

In the larger scheme of committing transgressions or omitting righteous behaviors, the need for forgiveness can become overwhelming. I propose that “hitting bottom” has a lot to do with shocking the brain into thinking about transgressions, but the loss of control in any situation throws me into a panic. And for me, that is the bridge from forgiveness to protection.  Being in control means not being in need of anyone’s forgiveness.  Israel lived in an unrighteous environment for over 200 years before crying up to God for relief.  Did they know they were in sin and needed to seek forgiveness?  The servant who had cheated his master continued in his sin until the day of accountability.  Did he bathe in his master’s protection without considering that he should ask for forgiveness?

Not until they needed protection did they seek forgiveness. Am I the same?  Don’t I seek forgiveness only when I am exposed, facing material losses or humiliation? Protect my reputation, protect my integrity, protect my Christian witness; yes, I am looking for protection as well as relief from guilt and shame.  That is what brings my stubborn soul to ask for forgiveness from man and God.

Maybe that is why it is so hard to ask for forgiveness; it is a form of submission and a confession of lost control.  It is, however, at this precise vantage point that God is moved to forgive and protect His people.

Janet

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Exodus 9-13; Matthew 18:1-20

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.” Exodus 10:1-2

In the Exodus story, Moses repeatedly shares that God purposely hardened the heart of Pharaoh and his servants. Pharaoh would not listen to the decree of God to ‘Let My people go’. God didn’t want the liberation of the Israelites to become an event that was quickly forgotten. He wanted to demonstrate His glory and His power in a memorable way so that all would ‘know that I am Lord’. God dealt with the Egyptians harshly and without mercy; forgiveness did not enter into the picture.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17

In Matthew, Jesus describes how to maneuver in situations of offense and sin. If I go to the offender and he listens, than I have gained a brother. But if his heart is hardened, Jesus said to let the wrongdoer be to me as a gentile and a tax collector.

What does that really mean in the context of New Covenant?

I have observed that a very common Christian assessment of that verse is that when someone doesn’t listen to the church, that they should be excommunicated, cut off and shunned by that group.

I’ve been in the situation where I was treated this way by a community that I had grown very close to. The situation was complicated, and though I know that my heart was right before God, I was still cast aside. I felt rejected by trusted friends, abandoned by people I had shown my vulnerabilities. Being discarded hurt then, and the wounds it left still hurt now at times; it began my search to better understand what Jesus intended.

…If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love. Matthew 18:17 (MSG)

I love the way The Message describes the way I should treat someone who isn’t ready to own up to their failings. The version doesn’t say reject, cast-off, snub. It says to start over, to confront and offer God’s forgiving love. The Bible exhorts me to forgive, nearly 500 times if necessary, and in the same way I would hope to be forgiven. God’s Word encourages me to love my enemies, to bless and pray for my persecutors. His Word reminds me of the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross for me while I was still a sinner and His constant mercy when I inevitably make mistakes as a believer.

For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. Matthew 18:11 (NKJV)

Though many versions omit this verse, it still holds true that Christ’s goal is to save the lost. He yearns for redemption, reconciliation, and restoration. He wants to rebuild honor, reestablish relationship, and reinstate original positioning, with Him and with others. He does that daily by offering His body and His blood. He seeks out the lost, whether they have never seen the Good Shepherd or have simply strayed away from the flock and offers forgiveness, ushering them into the fold.

While walking the earth, Jesus treated gentiles (unclean, polytheistic ‘heathens’), tax collectors, prostitutes and every other kind of sinner with mercy and grace. Though He didn’t condone their behaviors, He spent time with them. He demonstrated love and acceptance; and that witness was what opened eyes to sin and lead to change of heart, to repentance.

I can only believe that God asks me to do the same – to offer love, compassion, mercy, and forbearance – as He extends to me.

Yesappa, Thank You for Your forgiveness, Your grace, and Your mercy. Thank You for seeking me out when I am lost. Thank You for accepting me no matter what. Keep my heart soft, repentant before You at all times. Help me be a pipeline for Your love forever. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Blessings – Julie (written in Sholavandan)

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

The Message, Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.

The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

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