Monday, May 29, 2017

Worship in Freedom

Worship in Freedom
May 29, 2017
Exodus 5:3 ". . . Now let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God. . . "

When the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, the Lord sent Moses to free them from the oppression of Pharaoh. The Lord told Moses to tell the Pharaoh that the Israelites were to go free so they may travel to the wilderness and hold a Festival to the Lord. Another verse later the Bible records it as a three-day journey outside of Egypt so they may offer sacrifices to the Lord there. Another translation of the Scripture records it as going into the desert to worship the Lord freely. Either way it is communicated, the Lord wanted them to be free to worship Him uninhibited and with all out freedom. Some say it was important to travel that far away from the epicenter of Egypt so it would be a clean place. In Egypt they offered sacrifices to pagan gods and the Lord didn't appreciate such a defiled place for them to worship Him. The Lord wanted them to be able to honor Him with cleanliness, worship Him in a far more hollowed fashion.

While the story of the Israelites needs little re-telling, the Pharaoh never let them go, at least not so quickly and easily. In fact, it is many, many verses later, after significant drama, that the Israelites made it out to the place of freedom so they could worship the Lord uninhibited. When we read their story, do we remember the sole purpose was so they could honor the Lord in the manner He requested? We always think the story of the Israelites was so they could escape slavery, but it was really so they could worship the Lord freely, honoring Him as the Lord desired, so He could be there God.

I don't know where you live right now, what nation or part of the country you reside and I don't know if you have the freedom to worship the Lord uninhibited, but I challenge you to remind yourself of the greatest benefit of anyones freedom. The greatest luxury on the face of this planet is to be able to worship the Lord your God in freedom, without adulteration, without oppression, in cleanliness, and with complete devotion. If you've ever experienced oppression, you understand the pressures to align yourself with your oppressor so it would go well with you, conforming to their desires for you. But if you've ever escaped from that oppression, you understand what it means to do anything you want in the fashion you want to do it. The Lord understood this for the Israelites. He knew they couldn't worship the Lord in complete freedom unless they no longer lived under the oppression of the Pharaoh.

I challenge you to take advantage of your freedoms and make sure you worship the Lord your God uninhibited. If you don't, you're throwing away your freedom, making void someone else's sacrifice on your behalf to be free and worship the Lord without that oppression. Take a moment right now, an appreciative moment to honor the Lord with the freedom that you do possess. That freedom is the greatest physical gift you can have on this earth, that a man can give you. Enjoy that freedom and protect it for others. Savor it and don't let it go to waste; there are others around the world who don't have the same freedom as you.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Exodus 5:1-3, 2 Sam 6

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Old Faithful

Old Faithful
May 22, 2017
2 Timothy 2:13 "In we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself."

Old Faithful is the name of a geyser, a natural phenomenon, that spurts boiling hot water and steam into the air. It has the name Old Faithful because of the reliability in its behavior. Since the geyser was named as part of the first US National Park system in 1872, it has recorded more than a million eruptions. It bursts forth with boiling water and steam, on average every 72 minutes, with a 90 percent confidence rate, within a 10 minute window. It's name meets up to its behavior of reliability. You can bet, if it has worked the last 130 years, it will most likely work tomorrow. Something even more faithful is the Sun, or rather the Earth's orbit around the Sun. The earth was put in motion however long ago and because of it's reliability you can predict what time the Sun will appear in the eastern sky every morning and what time it will set in the western sky in the evening. This is just how the Lord set it up, with reliability in motion.

You and I are no where near as constant as the Earth's rotation around the Sun, and cannot compare with Old Faithful and the 10 minute window of predictability. We are fickle and as random as a unicorn some days. For many of us, as Christians, we attempt to remain true to him with our behavior, but probably fail on a constant basis, very rarely able to remain faithful to the Lord every minute of the day. We are more faithful at failing Him than remaining true to Him, at least it seems that way for many seasons of our lives. Yet for some reason, for thousands of years, the Lord is still our God, still on His throne, and still not shocked at our behavior. The Lord still loves us, still forgives us, and still searches after us. The Bible says that He remains true even when we don't. The Bible says that of all the things the Lord is capable of, breaking His faithfulness to us is not possible for His character. He is more faithful than Old Faithful, even more perfect in reliability than the Sun, and stills loves you and me when we fall short on a daily basis.

The verbiage is that the Lord cannot deny Himself, meaning He cannot change His behavior. Liken it to a relationship, if someone breaks covenant with you in your relationship, sometimes the grievance is so large the damage to the relationship is not able to be repaired. You've lost friends, even loved ones before, when the trust was broken and faith could not be restored in the safety of the relationship. This is not so with the Lord. No matter how bad you harm the relationship, because He cannot deny Himself, He is not able to walk away from His behavior of still loving you and still wanting to have you in His life. When the Bible says He cannot deny Himself, it is referencing the Lord's character and ability to forgive no matter what and desire reconciliation.. The Lord cannot remove His ability to forgive, or love, or restore. He is always faithful.

The benefit of this, no matter what you do, you cannot force the Lord to stop extending His forgiveness to you. If you screw up, even intentionally, and desire forgiveness, the Lord's character will not stop Him from forgiving you. Try reading it like this: even if you fail Him, the Lord's character is so permanent that He will keep on forgiving you. It's comforting to know that the Lord can't actually give up on you. It's one of the things he cannot do. He can't quit on His creation.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Mal 3:6, Eph 4, James 1

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother God

Mother God
May 15, 2017
Isaiah 66:13 "As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you; and you will be comforted over Israel."

Imagining the Lord as a female is not natural. While God does not have a gender, He is likened as a Father. He is called our Father on purpose, to deliberately relate to those in the Bible who only understood a patriarchal society.  For many, the God in the Old Testament could not have been likened to a female in any sense of the word. An all powerful God had to be the epitome of masculinity. The Lord perpetuates this analogy, telling us He is our Heavenly Father. Only a Father could take a child as his own and give him or her the rights of an heir. The analogy of the Lord as a father was so we could understand, at lease those during Biblical times, that the Lord had the authority to give us an inheritance, something a female could not do. But the Lord is not just masculine, He is feminine as well. He has both male and female qualities, as we understand traditional gender roles.

When He created Adam and Eve, He made them both in His image. He could not have made a female in His image if He did not have female qualities. Don't think of the Lord as a woman, but understand He was the one who made a woman, giving her all the attributes that make her essentially a woman. This translates into a mother's normal qualities, too. A mother cannot be a mother unless she is demonstrating the feminine qualities the Lord instilled in her, from His own characteristics. The Lord as our mother is very Scriptural, as He relates to us.

The Bible says the Lord will comfort us like a mother comforts a child. This is a very tender and diminutive thing, far from a traditionally masculine role. But the Bible doesn't stop there. The Bible says the Lord will nurse us, carry us on His hip, hold us on His lap, and even bounce us on His knee like a child.  Again, this is not very masculine, far from the traditional understanding of God the Father. While this mindset is not intended to treat you like a baby, the Bible is making clear the tenderness of the Lord, as likened to the tenderness of a mother caring for her baby. When you consider your own relationship with the Lord is it ever with the tenderness of a mother carrying around her baby, or is it only the authoritarian and disciplinarian roles of a Father? Chances are, when you hear the Lord speak to you, you probably receive it as you would from a stern father figure. But the Lord wants to show you His tenderness, too.

When the Lord said He would comfort us like a mother comforts a baby, it was in direction response to the harshness the children of Israel were experiencing during a time when the Lord had to be stern and discipline them. Many had rebelled and He scattered them across the nations, but those who repented, the Lord was going to comfort.  He was going to comfort them like a mother holds her baby. He was going to comfort and forgive and allow them to rebuild. He was going to keep them as His children and from them continue to birth the nation of Israel, out of whom a Savior was eventually born. The Lord does not always want to be harsh with you; He doesn't ever desire to be harsh with you lest your actions require it. But the harshness of the Lord doesn't last forever. He wants to comfort you, too. He wants to show you the tenderness of a mother's care.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 1:26-27, Is 66

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Broken Records

Broken Records
May 8, 2017
1 Corinthians 13:5 "It does not dishonor other, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs."

Imagine how different your relationships would be if no one that you loved or cared about ever hurt you. I would venture to guess your love and appreciation for them would be so much more deep and wide. It hurts getting hurt. People are insensitive, uncaring, and even mean spirited at times. They deliberately hurt us on occasion, sometimes the ones who say they love us the most. Those closest to us have caused us pain. But imagine if they've never caused us pain, never ever in the history of time. The Lord tell us that if we truly loved THEM, then we'd have no record of them hurting us; we wouldn't remember it even if they did. 

When the Lord removes our sin, the Bible says he removes it from us as far as the east is from the west. This is akin to Him forgetting it. Once it has been forgiven, its gone, never to be held against us again. The Lord is perfect, able to realize those things happened in the past but never factoring them against us. You and me, we aren't so perfect, not factoring in the pain someone has caused us. It takes a lot to get over the hurt of someone you love, even more time and effort if they've not asked forgiveness for the wrongdoing. But the Bible says we shouldn't hold it against them, if we say we truly love them. Forgiven offenses or not, we are not supposed to factor our pain into our relationship with them, with those we love, if they've wronged us. The Lord is asking you to break the record.

In the Bible there were two ways to record something, either you wrote it on a scroll or you had to chisel it in stone. Stone is permanent, but what about a scroll? If it was written on a scroll, it would often have to be re-written, again and again, as the inks they had back then were seldom permanent. If you wanted to keep a record on a scroll, you'd check the scroll often, and then re-write it if the ink was beginning to fade. That is how you would have kept a record. The Bible says we are not suppose to keep the record of the wrong. We are not to etch it in stone and we are not to write it on a scroll, checking it often for fading ink or ever re-writing it. But you and me, we don't follow those instructions. We like to keep the ink fresh. Even the best of Christians have at least a small list of offenses recalled into memory when it is convenient. If you have those offenses etched on a stone tablet, the Lord is asking you to break that record. If you've written it on a scroll, checking it often for fading ink, He is asking you to burn the papyrus. You are not to keep that record.

Think of those you love and care about the most, now recall the seven times they have offended you. Recall the terse words, unkind acts, and selfish behavior. Now, imagine yourself etching it into stone, then smashing the stone. Imagine yourself inking it on paper and then burning the paper. You are not to keep that record. Get rid of it. It needs to be gone forever, if you truly are to love them. You cannot love, the way the Lord says you are to love, if you have a record of any offense against you.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Ps 103, Matt 18:21-22, Cor 13