Monday, January 31, 2011

leviticus 12-14

tough stuff in Leviticus, but be encouraged, God spoke it as a gift to Israel and as a gift to us.  What did you see in today's readings?  Here are a few meandering thoughts that I had:

While the birth of a baby is a wonderful thing.....a time of great joy and blessing.....God reminds us that despite the blessing of the wonderful as this new child is, another sinner has been born.  The purefication rites were an acknowledgement that sin was all around us and even as perfect as the new baby is, he/she will grow into the skin of a sinner, just as Adam and Eve became the authors of what we know as original sin.

Note that even the poor are called to offer a thanksgiving offering at the birth of a child.  We remember that in Luke 2, Joseph & Mary offered two turtledoves as their Thanksgiving offering.....a sign that Jesus was born into a poor home.  God's greatest gift to the world (Jesus) came out of the birth of the perfect lamb to a poor peasant woman.

Chapter 13 is about how the Priests often served as a public health officer where infectious disease was concerned and while we know so much more today about infectious disease, these rules were intended to protect the people.  Isn't it interesting to think of leprosy as a parable of sin; it starts with just a small blemish, grows slowly, but will eventually lead to numbness, decay and deformity.  Sin is a serious thing and needs to be put out of the camp until it is eradicated.  Leprosy, measles, smallpox and scarlet fever; along with other diseases that began with a skin rash were treated in this way.....isolation until health returns.  Today, many of these diseases have nearly been eradicated in the US, but there are still 15 million people who suffer from leprosy around the world.

Hyssop is mentioned in the purification ritual.  I am reminded that David said in the Psalms, "purge me with hyssop and I will be whiter than snow."  And that Jesus was offered a drink while on the cross from a branch of hyssop.  Hyssop is often mentioned in the Bible as a useful instrument in worship.

Hope the winter weather is only an inconvenience to you.  We are hoping for a good flight home on Wednesday evening and that we will be able to get up our hill and into the driveway without significant trouble.  See you Sunday.  Don't forget the all-church conference scheduled for 10 a.m. on Sunday during the Sunday school hour.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

leviticus 7-9

Leviticus is a difficult book.  don't give up!!  The reward for completing this Bible reading discipline will be greater than you can imagine.  Hang in there.

Today's readings are about God's command to the ancient Israelites regarding sacrifice in the Temple/Tabernacle.  These forms of sacrifice are no longer practiced, but they do remind is that we serve a Holy, Righteous and Jealous God and that we are abundant in our sinful ways.

Among the levitical sacrifices demanded were sacrifices for guilt offerings, fellowship offerings, burnt offerings, ordination offerings, sin offerings (did I leave any out?).

Some are turned off by the bloody nature of some of the sacrifices.  Remember that the covenant agreement between God and Israel began with Abraham and the sacrifice of the heifer, goat, ram, pigeon and dove (Genesis 15).  In the sacrifice of animals, God reserved the blood (representing life) and fat (representing abundance) for himself.  Other parts were allotted to Aaron and the priestly line.  Remember too that this goes back to the division of the promised land when the tribe of Levi received no promise of land, but were to care for the Tabernacle and would be provided for by God.  A share of the offerings to God was God's way of accomplishing this.

The appearance of the Urim and Thummin will occur other times as we read the Old Testament.   We are not exactly sure what these were, but they were used from time to time to determine God's will and to determine guilt or innocence.  We will see them in a few chapters as the High Priest determines which of two goats will be sacrificed and which will be released.

I particularly like Chapter 9 as God appears to the people after all has been done according to his will in preparing the tabernacle, ordination and dressing of the Priests.  I do look forward every Sunday to God's appearance with us as we worship faithfully at Faith.  I do believe that God is palpably present with us and that he is moving, in the power of the Holy Spirit, upon the assembled hearts, when we are worshiping in Spirit and Truth.

The lesson of Nadab and Abihu in chapter 10 is that we are not to take worship or God's commands and ordinances lightly.  To mock God is to walk on extraordinarily thin ice and to invite his wrath upon us.  We should worship God in a right spirit with a contrite heart and while we do not offer blood sacrifices, we should come in an attitude of gratitude for the work that Jesus did for us that frees us from the Levitical sacrificial system and sets us free to worship freely.

Unrelated to our Bible reading, we are told that another heavy winter storm is moving into Kansas City.  Several of you have contacted us and advised us to delay our return.  We are heeding your advice since our friends here in Palm Desert have been kind enough to offer us their hospitality for a few more days.  We currently expect to be home late Wednesday night and back in the office Thursday.  Thanks to all of you who worshipped and welcomed my daughter, Angela, to the pulpit today.  She felt blessed by your presence and your kindness.  God Bless You All!!!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Leviticus 4-6

Another beautiful morning in Palm Desert California!!  Reading the weather for Grain Valley tells me that you are experiencing a warm day as well, but it looks like we will be flying home to another round of winter weather with snow and cold by Tuesday a.m.  I will be driving to Columbia Tuesday morning to do a couple of days work with the Board of Ordained Ministry, interviewing some very bright and capable young people as they prepare for ordination into the ministry of Jesus Christ and the United Methodist Church....praise God for his goodness in providing such gifted and capable young people to our church.

Mike has sent me a great looking bible site for those who would like to read and/or listen to the bible on line: 

Leviticus 4-6 is a section of the bible that reminds us how easy it is to sin.  All of these sin offerings are for sins that we commit that we are unaware of.  How easy it is for us to fall to the deceiver without even knowing it.  The world is filled with the failings of Adam and Eve and the encouragement of Satan.  God wants us to be aware that the Devil is like a roaring lion seeking (always) someone who has drifted away from the fold, waiting patiently to see whom he might devour.  Praying for forgiveness of sins of commission (things that we do) and sins of omission (things that we do not do that we should have) are part of this lesson.  Failing to speak up when we see evil or sin or failing to speak the truth (not becoming involved) are all listed as sins.  And sinning against our neighbor (who is our neighbor?) by not doing the right thing calls for us to restore our neighbor and then going to God to ask forgiveness.  When we sin against our neighbor there is two things we must do: make it right with neighbor and with God.

Short post, Patty & I are playing golf again today.  Talk to you tomorrow.  Have a great Sabbath!!!!   Enjoy the good words that my favorite daughter, Angela has for you: "a perfect savior for an imperfect world."

Friday, January 28, 2011

Leviticus 1-3

Two confessions: It is 75 degrees in Palm Desert California, we visited a date farm and a truck farm (strawberries are in season here) and Leviticus is one of my least favorite books, but God gave it to us for a reason, so I'm reading it and I hope you are too.

Our first 3 chapters are about 3 different offerings that God commanded the Israelites to bring.  The first is a burnt offering.  A burnt offering is an offering of substitution.  When the hand was placed upon the head of the animal being sacrificed the sins of the person were being placed upon the innocent animal; it was saying "Dear God, please accept this innocent animal as a substitute for me.  I know that I am a sinner and cannot pay the price for my own sin.  I offer this innocent (lamb, goat, bull, pigeon) in my place.  Also remember that the animals used in this offering where named in Genesis when God entered into covenant with Abraham.  God used a bull, goat, turtledove and pigeon in that sacrament.  The different animal sacrifices recognized that not all people could afford a bull to sacrifice; bring your best but the poor could bring a pigeon or turtledove if they could not afford a lamb, goat or bull.  Remember the story of the widow's mites in the New Testament, God receives and recognizes when you give the best that you have.

In the 2nd chapter we are introduced to a Thank Offering which could be bread or grain, etc.  Notice that it is always offered with salt which was considered to be purifying.  Isn't it interesting to remember that God calls us to be the "salt of the earth" purifying by the power of the love of God which is in us and calls us to love in the name of Jesus.

I forgot, the burnt offering was an all consuming offering (offering every part of the animal).  The prayer was that the aroma of the burnt offering would be a "sweet" smelling aroma to God....acceptable in his sight.

The 3rd offering (chapter 3) is a peace offering; given to reconcile the sinner with God and to make peace again between the Creator and the created.

Talk to you tomorrow.  Hope you have a blessed day.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Exodus 38-40

We come to the end of our reading in the Book of Exodus.  God has delivered Israel from the hands of Pharaoh.  He has delivered them as a nation (not yet mighty) of as many as 2,000,000 souls.  He has shown them miracles the like that has never been seen before.  He has spoken to them from the mountain and made his presence known in the cloud of smoke and the pillar of fire that leads and protects them.  He has given them the law (10 commandments) and now he instructs them in building him a place in which he will reside in their midst and they can worship.

It is estimated by biblical historians that the work on the tabernacle began about 6 months into their wilderness journey and took about 6 months to complete.  This passage is written about the activities that occurred about 1 year into their sojourn.  Building the tabernacle and the altar and the lamp stands and the priestly garments and all of the ornaments would have been a time consuming job, but God was with them and they were eager to do his work and it was accomplished in a remarkably short time.

It is further estimated that the amount of gold used in this production was nearly 1 ton and that nearly 3 3/4 tons of silver was used.  You do the math.....this might have been the most generous offering in the history of the church!!!  And all of it was given them by the nation that had once enslaved them.....don't you think this was an offering given with great joy?  Certainly we should give joyfully that which God has provided for his work and his glory!

The consecration of Aaron as the high Priest reminds us that the priestly line was appointed to the tribe of Levi (one of Jacob's 12 sons).  They would not receive land in the place that they were going.  The Priesthood was their inheritance.  The office of high priest would exist throughout the history of Israel right down to the days of Jesus crucifixion.  For the Christian, Jesus became our High Priest and that office had no purpose once Jesus had made the perfect sacrifice.

The tabernacle was placed near the center of the camp and the 12 tribes camped around it.  When the cloud of God's presence descended upon the tabernacle it was a sign of God's presence and approval.  The Glory of God was with them.  We, too, seek God's presence and approval and long for the times when we will see God's Glory made manifest in us and around us and through us.

Tomorrow we begin Leviticus.  These are some of the more difficult readings.  Stay with us....I am convinced that God will bless you and the church because of you faithfulness.

It is supposed to be 75 degrees here in Palm Desert California today.  I think Patty and I will try to lose a few more golf balls today.  Thank you for the blessing of being with me in this reading and this blog.  See you soon.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Exodus 35-37

First, I must confess that it is 70 degrees and sunny here in Palm Desert California.  Patty and I have been out for a 2 1/2 mile walk this morning and plan to ride the Tram to the top of the nearby mountains later this afternoon.  This weather could be addictive, so I promise to come home to the snow and cold in a few more days.  But, if you could get it to warm up in Missouri to 40 before we return, we would be very grateful.  We do pray that you are experiencing God's presence as we read the scriptures together.

These chapters will seem a little repetitive.  Earlier in our reading we received God's instruction for the building of the tabernacle and all that was within. Now we read as Moses calls on the people to bring their offering in order to do that which God has called them to.

To my knowledge, this is the only time in the Bible when God's people responded in so generous a way that their leader, in this case Moses, had to tell them, "whoa down, we have more than enough to do what God has called us to do."  Perhaps you have heard me pray that prayer after we have taken our Sunday offering, that God would multiply the tithes and gifts that we could do all that God has called us to do as children of Faith.  Isn't it interesting that all of the gold, silver, leather and clothe were given to Israel by Egypt as they left the land.  Isn't it symbolic that we earn a living in the world (Egypt) and then give our gifts earned in the world, asking God to make them holy in order that we might do a work that would affect eternity.  Isn't there some similarity there for us?

There are several numbers that are used repetitively in the Bible.  I do not propose that I understand the numerology involved, but some of the numbers have particular meaning.  One of those numbers is 7.  God called for seven lampstands to be made of pure gold.  In the book of Revelation, later we will read of how the seven churches are referred to as lampstands, symbolically God's light in the world.  These seven lamp stands in the tabernacle are pure gold.....75 pounds, 1200 ounces.  At today's price of $1328 per ounce, those lamp stands were worth almost $1.7 million dollars.  The people gave that and much more out of the grateful knowledge That Jehovah-Jireh was indeed providing them with all that they needed to survive the wilderness that they were in.  My prayer today is that we could also trust as much, that God, who is our provider, will also keep us until we are able to exit this wilderness and enter into his promised land.  Amen

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Exodus 32-34

Every time I read the story of Aaron and the Golden Calf I scream in my heart, "don't do it....don't do it", but he always does.  It is like the movie "Ground Hog Dog", it just continues to repeat itself.  How much like that we are.  We see the error in Aaron's ways but we struggle to cure our own sin.....we cling to our own Golden Calves rather than giving ourselves completely to the God who wants to bless us and use us as a sign to the nations of his presence and power.  What is the thing (the golden calf) that you are unwilling to give up from your life in the world, the thing that separates you from God's purpose?

Moses asks God to allow him to see his face and God tells him that he would die, no one can see his face, is an illustration of God's perfection and our imperfection.  Nothing unholy can stand before our Holy God.  We must be perfected to be in his presence.  I am reminded of #178 in the United Methodist Hymnal, a great hymn written by Fannie Crosby titled "A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord".  The refrain is a reference to this passage.  If my memory serves me it goes, "He hideth my soul in the cleft of the Rock and covers me there with his hand."  The Rock for us is Jesus Christ who perfects us in the power of his sacrificial love and allows us to stand and be received by Almighty God.  We do have an awesome intercessor in Jesus!!!

34: 6-7 is a marvelous song of grace and encouragement: "The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin."  How fortunate were the Israelites; how fortunate are we to serve a God so gracious and so merciful.

There is a lesson in God's continuing instructions to the Israelites regarding the people that they are going to drive out of the promised land.  No compromise with the world, such compromise will pollute that which God has intended.  It will diminish the power of the city on the hill.  It will dim the light unto the nations.  Israel (and the church) is intended to be a blessing to the world and a revelation of the awesomeness of God.   Compromise (intermarriage, worship of false gods (golden calves) will diminish God's presence.  We are to force evil out of the land by the power of God's great love in us.

And then God reminds Moses and the people (again) of the importance of Sabbath.  Could it be that our failure to honor this command diminishes our presence and our power in the land that God has given us?  Is it possible that we have walked away from blessing by walking away from Sabbath keeping?

Certainly, Moses was changed by being in the presence of God (he shone).  Folks were a little frightened by his change.  We, too, are changed when we have been in God's presence and perhaps we are a little scary to the world because they see the difference in us.  No doubt the world (which is fallen) does fear the change.  This world is the dominion of the fallen and to be in the presence of God is to be reminded of our sin.  Won't you hide yourself from us, the world says to the Christian.  Won't you keep your Faith to yourself, it asks.  For us to give in to their demands is to compromise our God and to risk another 40 years in the wilderness.  I don't want to pay that you?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Exodus 29-31

I am writing this to you from beautiful (and warm) Palm Desert California.  It is shirt sleeve weather here and Patty and I have a tee time tomorrow.  But I will not neglect my reading and I hope to keep up on my blog as well.....I hope you are keeping up to.   Even if you are not, do your best.  I know how busy some of you are and you might miss a day, now and again.   You'll catch up!!  These next couple of chapters and books will be some of the most difficult.  Stay with us and you will be rewarded.

My thoughts regarding our current reading:  You can see where some of our modern practices have their formation in God's directions to the Israelites as they built the Tent of Meeting (Tabernacle), adorned the church and consecrated their priests.  Ordination of our clergy, which happens at annual Conference for the United Methodist Church (ask Ken Howard about it), has its roots in these instructions to Moses as they related to Aaron and his sons.  Later, when we get to the story of Elijah and Elisha, you will see where the idea of the stole ( I where a stole when I robe) came from.  Also, note that the laying on of hands, sprinkling and anointing with oil all come from these passages.  All of these are still practiced and our use of sprinkling in Baptism is supported by this and other Old Testament passages.  The practice of anointing with oil is used to consecrate, bless and make holy and is still used in the Methodist Church.

When the text speaks of God's glory it is speaking of something called the Shekinah.  The Shekinah glory was God's presence with the people.  It was in the cloud and the column of fire that led the Israelites in the wilderness.  It was in the fire when God spoke to Moses.  When you hear me pray for the palpable presence of God, I am asking that God appear to us and my prayer is always that God will show up in a way that someone in our congregation will know, without a doubt, that God was here in our worship.....the Shekinah Glory.....God's presence.

The blood sacrifice for atonement of sins to be offered each year is the price of our sin in the Old Testament....for Christians that blood sacrifice is no longer necessary because of the blood sacrifice made by Jesus on the Cross.  The perfect lamb is the final blood sacrifice for the sins of the world!!

The 1/2 shekel tax on the people who cross the Jordan was maintained later as the Temple tax.  You can read about it in the New Testament in the miracle of the coin in the fishes mouth which Peter caught and used to pay the temple tax for the Apostles.

Finally, the notion of being Spirit Filled as talked about in 31:3 is proof that the Holy Spirit is not just something that was given to the New Testament Christian at Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit is mentioned on multiple occasions in the Old Testament and this is one of them.

Blessings on each of you as you persist faithfully in your reading.

Exodus 23-28

This passage is largely about the instructions for the building of the Ark of the Covenant, the Tabernacle and the garments for the Priests.  What do you think we should take away from these passages?  I think one thing is that God cares about the details.  What is being done in the construction of these items is being done as unto God.  We are not to be lackadaisical about how we approach God or that which has been consecrated to him.  You can also see in these passages where many of the traditions of the church have their beginning and why churches for thousands of years have been highly ornamented with the finest etchings, paintings, stain glass, altars and such.  These are our modern tabernacles, places where we expect to find God.  The Holy of Holies which is still found in many Orthodox churches created a separation between God and his Holiness and the people.  We know that that separation has been destroyed by Christ's work on the cross, but it has its origins in Israel's response to God on the mountain at Sinai when they feared God's presence and sent Moses to represent them.  God responds with this model for separation.  The robes that Priests and Pastor (and me occasionally) have their origin in this passage as God instructs the people in manufacturing the garments that the priest will wear.

I guess one of my impressions is this, God is Holy and is to be revered.  We can do that with our attitude.  I know that God is everywhere, but some places (church) are consecrated to him and are set apart in a special way.....they are Holy Ground and we reserve a special reverence for those places which call us to care for them in special ways.  We should bring our best to honor God, that is what his instructions were to Israel as he instructed them in the building of the tabernacle; as he called for the finest of leather, gold & silver, wood and other materials.  I think of those people at Faith who care for the grounds and the flowers and the altar and I am reminded that they serve God in their tending.  We don't want our church to be a place of fear, but we do want it to be a place that makes it easy to enter into the presence, where our eyes, our hearts and our thoughts are drawn to our Creator and our God who is the author of our salvation, our deliverance from the law of sin and death.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Exodus 20-22

We are about to get to the Old Testament parts that sometimes causes people to lay their Bibles down.  I hope you won't give up....if God caused it to be written, there must be something of value in it for us.

Here are some of my ramblings, I hope there is something coherent in them that will be of value to you.
Chapter 20 is, of course, God telling his people how to be holy as he dictates the 10 commandments.  Remember that the New Testament reveals to us that the purpose of the Law was to reveal to us that we cannot be Holy in and of ourselves.  The law is too hard, we need a savior, one who is gracious and merciful.....thank God one has been provided.

In Chapter 21 the theory of restoration is introduced with the idea of Jubilee.  Every 7 years we will put things back like we found them.  The earth will rest, the slave will be set free.  21:5 speaks of a bond servant, one who freely gives himself up to his Master.  The apostle Paul speaks of himself as a bond servant in the New Testament and says that every Christian must become a Bond Servant to Jesus, freely giving ourselves up to his use.

Many of these laws are about restorative justice and also to put a limit to punishment.  The concept of an eye for an eye is about punishing in a fashion that does not exceed the offense; limiting retribution so the punishment fits the crime.  Jesus substitutes the law of love for this law of restorative justice.

21:32 speaks of the price of a slave as 30 pieces of silver.  Jesus is sold for 30 pieces of silver by Judas.  Jesus gave himself up for that price to free us from the slavery of sin.

Chapter 22 has many important concepts as God reminds the Jews not to become like Egypt.  Do not mistreat the alien.  Care for widows and orphans.  Do not mistreat the poor.  Even in the 2nd book of the Bible we see the outline of Matthew 25, caring for the least and the lost in the world...being food to the hungry, water to the parched, clothing to the naked, etc.

Exodus 17-19

I'm a day late one this entry, but I hope that it is still true, "better late than sorry".  For what it is worth, here is my latest ramblings:

The cry is of the Israelite is a common one for us as well as for those ancients that we are reading about, "is the Lord among us or not?"  This will be a common rumbling among these people that God is trying to form into a nation.  From our perspective, we wonder how could they constantly be whining when God does such might miracles for them, but generations from now there may well be others who look back upon the nation that we call America and wonder how we could question God's goodness and our call to be a "city on a hill".  It is easier to question in the moment when your are up to you neck in alligators than when you are resting comfortably on the bank; well fed, all powdered up and rested.  These folks were experiencing something totally new and different.  This desert experience would try them and test them until 40 years later they are finally ready to be the people of God called Israel.

In the battle against the Amalekites we see one of God's principles for the people of God.  Moses encourages those in the battle with upraised arms, but he needs trustworthy companions to assist him lest his strength fail.  Every pastor, every leader needs others to walk with them, encourage them, pray for them.  The enemy is great and no leader, no matter how gifted or talented, will stand against the fray forever unless the feel the presence of the body of Christ walking with them.

Jethro's wise advice to delegate tasks and authority is echoed in the New Testament in the Acts of the Apostles when the Disciples appoint Deacons to carry out some of the work of the new church.  We try to accomplish the same thing with the naming of Trustees and other officers in the church.  We are each gifted and called to be a part of the working body of Christ that encourages, lifts, feeds and nourishes others within and without the Body.

Lastly, I think it a foretelling when God speaks to Moses about making Israel a Kingdom of Priest (19th chapter).  That is exactly what Jesus repeats when he says that every believer is a member of the Priesthood and he serves as our High Priest.  Each of us has authority to enter into the Holy of Holies and intercede with God for one another.  We need no other to help us gain access to the Heavenly places except Jesus Christ.

The people are frightened by God's appearance on the mountain.  Would we also cower in God's presence or would we trust in Jesus to make us worthy to stand before our God and our maker?  This whole Christian thing is about trust (another word for faith).  Do we trust?  Do our lives exhibit that trust?  or do we ask someone else to stand in the presence and intercede for us?

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Pharaoh is destroyed!!  When we get to the end of the book next December, we will read again that God promises his people that Pharaoh and all that Pharaoh represents will not stand, but will be cast into a great lake of fire and will no longer afflict the people of God.

Lots of folks much smarter than me try to explain the Miracle of the Red Sea by talking about winds that dry up the shallows and how Moses crossed over a portion of the Red Sea that was quite shallow....I am content to know that God can do anything that God desires and I am content to believe in miracles.  Having said that, it is hard for me to get the image of Charlton Heston out of my mind when I read this story.

The Song of Moses and Miriam found in the 15th chapter is very much like a psalm.  Wouldn't it be fun if we could be so confident of our faith that we could break out in song every time we see God at work around us.  The Hebrew scripture names Yaweh as God in this poem of deliverance.  "who is like you, O Lord...majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?"  The answer, of course, for Jew and Gentile is no one is like our God.  In this Hymn of celebration, Moses foretells of their conquest of the wilderness that lies before them and of the people who occupy that land that has been promised to them since the time of Abraham.

How interesting that within 72 hours of this awesome display of God's power, Israel is already grumbling in the desert....but God is even able to make bitter water sweet.  How like the Israelites are we when things don't go our way all the time.....we grumble and complain....."where is he with me or not?" 

The story of the Manna and quail introduces us to the law of the Sabbath which will be formally handed down in the 10 commandments.  It also tells us that Manna will not always be available.  When we have the capacity to earn our own way, we are to do so.....God does not intend that we would be lazy, we were created to practice dominion over the creation and that means we are to work.  Manna was for a special time.  Manna was one of the objects that was placed in the Ark of the Covenant later in the story as a reminder for this special time in the life of Israel.

One of the lessons of the Exodus is that God does provide.....not always as we want, but always in a way that accomplishes his purpose.  Are we among those who grumble or are we among those who sing his praise and await his continued movement upon the face of the earth and in the hearts of his people.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Exodus 11-13

The Exodus story is filled with inferences of the Christ and the Christian life.  The death of the firstborn is a precursor of the death of Christ.  The blood on the doorposts represents Christ's shed blood for us that we who are born into new life in the moment that we accept Christ Jesus as our Savior and Lord are marked by his sacrifice, the perfect lamb.  Death holds no power over us.  We must be careful not to allow the world and the culture around us to harden our hearts......we must be ready with bowed knee and confessing tongue to acknowledge that we are the people of God.

Egypt is a foreign land, an alien culture.  Either we belong to the world or we belong to God.  Deciding who we belong to us eternal consequences.  But having chosen we must live the choice.  the music we listen to, the movies we watch, our choices in terms of lifestyle and pocketbook speak about whose we are.  Egypt chose death, Israel chose life.....what do you choose each day by the way you live?

God's chosen people were commanded to remember the day of their deliverance (passover) and celebrate it and tell the story from generation to generation.  What has God done for you?  How do you celebrate it?  Do you tell the story (witness) to God's goodness in you life.  Let those who have eyes to see and ears to hear tell the awesome stories of God's presence in and among us and of his good works.

70 entered into the land of Goshen at Pharaoh's welcome.  430 years later 600,000 men plus women and children left.  (some estimate as many as 2 million Israelites)  God kept his promise to Abraham, he had become a mighty nation. 

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Exodus 8-10

Just some random thoughts as I read today's scriptures:  This idea of a hardened heart is something that we should consider.  Does it happen because we refuse to acknowledge God's word and wisdom?  Does it happen gradually like a callous building on a finger or toe?  Is it irreversible or can the love of God as evidenced in the testimony and encouragement of a Godly friend soften and destroy the hardness?  Our prayer should always be that we have eyes to see and ears to hear and the courage to act on God's purposes that we might guard our hearts from the effects of hardening that can lead to a sure distruction.

Don't you find it interesting in the reading that whenever Pharaoh's magicians are called into action that the best that they can do is to replicate the evil....i.e. bloody water, frog infestation....but they cannot restore God's original intent.  Evil cannot produce good......only God and that which is good can do so.

In Chapter 9:16 God says to Moses that he has raised Pharaoh up for a purpose.  That reminds me of Queen Esther in the book by her name when she considers if God has raised her up for the particular purpose of saving the Jews from eradication.  What has God raised you up for?  Certainly, the scriptures tell us that God has a plan and a purpose for each of us.  To have that knowledge of purpose and to act upon that purpose provides a great sense of peace and security.

Pharaoh seeks to compromise with Moses and with God in Chapter 10.  God does not seek nor will he accept the compromises of man.  God wants us fully recieve all of our hearts....only then can we worship in spirit and in truth and recieve the blessing that he has stored in heaven for us. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Exodus 5-7

Moses and Aaron speak to Pharaoh about God's will for Israel and Pharaoh responds by increasing their work load.  Have you ever felt like Israel......that you are being punished for doing God's will?  Never assume that the suffering that you are enduring is from God.  Remember that the world that we live in suffers from the curse of Adam.  Evil and the King of Evil reigns in this world.  Sometimes we suffer for doing good in this world because the there is evil in the world.

The Moses story is a parallel to the Christian story.  Israel is delivered out of slavery, accepts God and God's covenant relationship, God becomes their God and Israel his people and God leads them to new life.  We sinners accept God's offer of deliverance from the wages of our sin, he accepts us as his people, we accept him as our God, he leads us to new live in Christ with all of its privileges including the promise of eternal life.

The Israelites don't want to hear anymore of what Moses has to say after Pharaoh says, "bricks without straw".  Moses doesn't want to face Pharaoh again after what seems to be failure.  The question for them and for us is "who do you trust when times are really hard?"  Do we trust in El Shaddai, the God of Sufficiency or do we cow to the forces of this world that do not have our best interests at heart?

My final thought of this reading and day is this:  Moses lived 40 years in the palace of the Pharaoh, learning all of the lessons of a Prince.  These were important lessons that would serve him as he organized a new nation and kept them together on their wilderness journey.  He spent 40 years in the desert learning to be humble before God and what it meant to lead a life of solitude.  This sensitized his heart and his ear to God's voice and God's calling.  40 years of palace training + 40 years of desert training was preparing him for 40 years of leadership with God's people.  What is God training you for in the experience that you are in?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Genesis 50-Exodus 4

As the Genesis story ends with the death of Jacob, Joseph reminds us that God's ways are higher than our ways.  His brothers fear that he harbors ill will toward them, but he speaks God's truth, "what you meant for evil, God used for good."  We are reminded that while evil exists in and around us, it cannot divert God from his eternal plan.....he loves us relentlessly and the day will come when evil will be vanquished and we will all reside in the land of milk and honey, eternally.

Exodus is the story of Moses and God's deliverance for the nation of Israel.  Just a couple of observations: little is said about Shiprah and Puah, the Hebrew midwives, but many sermons could be preached about their courage in the face of powerful, evil forces.  In the shadow of Pharaoh, they refused to obey commands to kill baby boys in peril of their very lives.  We should be so brave and so resolute in our obedience to what we know to be God's will.

Moses deliverance and preservation from the waters of the Nile are reminescent of God's deliverence of Mankind from the flood.  Delivered from destruction in an ark.  Delivered to preserve God's preferred future for mankind.  Out of destruction, saved from the flood, preserving our future.

God speaks out of the whirlwind, in a still small voice and for Moses out of a bush that was on fire but was not consumed by the fire.  It was "Holy Ground".  Any place where God is found is holy ground.  Have you noticed on the 1st Sunday of the month how some of our congregation come to the communion table without their Moses before them, they have recognized a sacred place.... "Holy Ground".  Watch for it....maybe you too will find a place where God speaks to you.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Is anybody out there?

I am having a great time reading these chapters and writing a little each day about my thoughts.  I hope they are of value to you.  I very much appreciate your remarks and the opportunity to exchange thoughts.  This week there hasn't been much activity.  I hope that is because you are busy and not because you aren't doing your reading and interacting with God's Holy Spirit who inspired the writing.  Please give me a "hey" once in a while so I know that you are with me as we journey through this, the world's most read book and the letter that instructs us in God's wisdom.

One of the things that strikes me in this reading is how God promised to establish a mighty nation out of Abraham and within 3 generations names that new nation Israel (name given to Jacob).  As Jacob (Israel) blesses his sons we hear the names of the 12 tribes that will make up the new nation in another 400 years.  It also strikes me that Israel was first named 400 years before its establishment and still exists 4000+years later.  Can you think of another nation that has influenced the world for so long?

The 12 tribes that will one day make up the provinces of Israel: Rueben, Simeon, Judah,Zebulon, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Napthali, (Joseph's two sons) Ephraim, Manassah and, finally, Benjamin.

See you in church.  Have a God blessed Sabbath

Friday, January 14, 2011

Joseph, part 2

The story of Joseph reminds that God "can use all things for good, for those who love the Lord."  What the brothers had meant for evil, God has used in his plan to preserve a nation and keep a promise made by covenant with Abraham and passed down to Isaac and to Jacob.  How can we know in our limited capability, what God is doing in and through us if we release ourselves to his will and his way.  We are in a long line of folks that have been blessed because God is a covenant keeper.

I was struck by litany of names in the 46th chapter of Isaac's family that came to Egypt to be protected from the famine.  Including Joseph and his children there were 70 in number.  Why was this important for us to know.  I flipped over to Exodus as the children of Israel were about to leave the bondage that they had been put in.  The scriptures record that there 600,000 men plus women and children.  How many would that be?  Not more numerous than the stars in the night sky or the sands in the sea, but certainly the beginning of a mighty nation.  God is at work in these stories and he is at work around and in us.  Our prayer is that he would give us eyes to see and ears to hear that we might be able to speak a testimony of his presence and his goodness.  Amen!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

the Joseph saga

What does the life of Joseph teach us?  One thing, I think, is that we must always be ready.  We cannot know what God is preparing us for.   How could Joseph know that his years in slavery, in prison were preparing him to render a most valuable service to the Pharaoh and thus be in exactly the position that God wanted to preserve Israel from the famine that was coming.  And how could Israel know that their time in Egypt would prepare them to be a mighty nation?  Being ready is an important part of the call of Christianity.....always ready to serve, always ready to love, always ready to render and account and to speak the good news of Jesus Christ.

The there is the importance of planning......of course we do not know the number of days in our lives, but the story of Joseph and his preparation for the days of famine tells us that we should not live as though we will not be responsible if tomorrow comes.  One of the best ways to plan for the future is to seek God's will and to acquire all of the wisdom that you can.  One of the ways that you can do that is to do just what you are in God's word and learn the lessons that God is ready to teach us when we invest ourselves in the scriptures.

One more thing......the dry times, the time of testing and preparation can be a long one.  Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers at the age of 17.  According to our reading, he was elevated to a position of power by Pharaoh at the age of 30.  13 years of slavery and service before God asks him to stand before men and do this mighty thing.  We should always be preparing....always be ready.....always be confident that God is at work in our circumstance.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


What can you say about Judah and Tamar.  Can you see the correlation between some of these stories and God's rules for the people called Israel?  Every time these guys who are supposed to be a blessing to the world get mixed up with folks who worship other gods, there is trouble.  And certainly the story of Judah and Tamar, found in the 38th chapter of Genesis is full of trouble.  It is a veritable soap opera....don't you agree?  I think in the New Testament it is the admonishment of Paul for Christians to be "in the world but not of the world".  Certainly, sleeping with temple prostitutes would lead to trouble in every circumstance.  And thus God tells the Israelites when they emerge from bondage not to marry the Cannanite women lest there be trouble as there was in the days of Dinah and Judah.

The story of Joseph and his days with Potiphar remind me of God's command to Adam and Eve only with a twist.  In the Garden, Adam and Eve were given dominion over all of creation but told not to partake of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden.  Joseph rises to a position of great authority in Potiphar's household.  He is in control of everything, but knows he must not partake of the "forbidden" fruit that Potiphar's wife offers.  The twist......Adam and Eve eat of the fruit and are banished.  Joseph resists the tempter and is banished as well. 

the result of Adam and Eve's banishment has rested upon us since there fall from grace.  Joseph's obedience to God's call to live righteously led to a nation (Israel) that has blessed all generations.  In the moment we may be unable to see God's plan, but God is always seeking redemption for mankind.  Can we be a part of his redemptive plan.....Yes!, but only out of our obedience can he use us fully.  The dungeon may be God's proving ground.....certainly Paul and Silas were blessed even though they were beaten and put into a dungeon, but God used that circumstance to save the jailer and his entire family(Acts 16).

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

and the beat goes on

From Abraham to Isaac to Jacob and now here comes Joseph; scoundrel, scalawag, scamp and blessed by God.  I don't know how it works, but God is faithful.  How much these stories should inspire us to walk humbly before our God.  He can turn a whimpering conniver into the father of many nations.  He can take a braggart and a dreamer and make them his chosen vessel to deliver a nation to be a blessing to the world.  How much more can he do with us if we yield ourselves and seek his face.

Then I come to a chapter like Genesis 36 and I wonder what we are to do with it.  I really don't know, maybe God will reveal a purpose one day to me, but until them, my advice to you is to keep reading....something good is about to happen and here come Joseph and his many colored coat.

Joseph, son of Jacob by Rachel.....full of dreams and a constant pain in the (?) to his older brothers.  How could God make a leader of this one.....perhaps send him to a foreign land for a time of seasoning and maturation.  Did you notice was sold for 20 pieces of silver......did that remind you of another time in the Bible when evil tried to overcome God's will be selling a life? And there is Abraham's 1st son being used to preserve God's purpose as the Ishmaelite's carry Joseph away.  Since we just finished the Christmas that just like he used a Roman Caesar to get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem so that an ancient prophecy could be fulfilled..."out of Egypt" and here we are again on a great journey of discovery.

It seems one of the great lessons of these stories is simply to trust in the one who has claimed in Jehovah....El Shaddai...Almighty God....he alone is able to see beyond the difficulties of this moment to the great glory that he intends.

Monday, January 10, 2011

the unvarnished account

One of the things that I believe points to the truth of what the bible represents is its unvarnished depiction of the men and women that God used to create Israel and the church.  These stories that we are reading in Genesis are filled with the failure of people to be obedient to God and yet he continues to love them and use them in supernatural kinds of ways.  If we were writing a book to convince folks to follow us and be obedient to us, we would use much more heroic figures.....folks who were easier to like, but not the writer of the Holy Bible.....all of the warts are there for us to see as well.  I think that makes the Bible difficult reading for some, but it encourages me.  If God could work salvation in the lives of these folks, there is a chance that he can do a miracle in me as well.

The story of Jacob wrestling with God should tell us that it is all right to have questions, to even wrestle with doubt.....the key is not to give up in our wrestling.....don't let go until understanding comes and with it will come the blessing.  God has a blessing for each one of us....let's not quit until we have secured it.

The story of Dinah and the slaughter that accompanies it is a most difficult passage.  I have heard only one Pastor preach from that 24th chapter.  What do you say?  Do you speak of the rape, the massacre, the violation of a sacred symbol of Judaism (circumcision) or how Jacob's biggest concern is how the surrounding neighbors will respond and put him in harm's way.  It is a story of the failure of society when God is not in the center of it.  It is the story of man's inability to control his own behaviors.  We are inhabited by a blood lust that seeks revenge.  We want what we want and we will take it if we can.  Nothing can save us from Adam's sin unless God intervenes and perhaps that is the lesson of these stories filled with evil.  When we have failed again and again and again.....God is still faithful. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Abraham, Isaac, Jacob; stories that are full of humanity.  There is romance, betrayal, mystery, sibling rivalry, faithfulness and wonderment.  It is the story of God at work in the life of people.  It could be our story.  Abraham was chosen to be a blessing to the nations.  Is that not true of us as well?  We hear and we obey.  We ignore God's preferred future.  We confess and are forgiven.  God Blesses and we rejoice.  We fall and we get back up.  God offers renewal....sometimes we accept and sometimes we reject.  It is two steps forward and one step back and still there is God; encouraging, wooing, blessing, forgiving.  We wonder how these men could be such mess-ups and then we consider our own faltering, halting, staggering witness; our successes and our failures.  This is our story....a story still being written of God's unfailing love as he seeks to perfect us by the power of his sacrifice and his unrelenting grace.

Friday, January 7, 2011

substitutionary atonement?

The story of Abram/Abraham is so much like our own stories.  God asks us to trust him and to follow him even though we do not know where he might lead us.  He says that he will bless us, but how do we know and what if he asks us to give up something that is really important to us?  God asked Abraham if he was willing to give up Isaac.....the fulfillment of the promise that his seed would be as the stars in the skies and the sands by the sea.  How could a God who is good even consider such a thing?  The loss of a child is the unspeakable tragedy, the thing that we can never understand, the thing that leaves a hole in our hearts and God would ask such a thing?  Abraham, who had hid behind his wife's skirts so often, who had played with the truth, finally walks in faith and trusts that God will keep his covenant and a ram is provided.  Finally Abraham begins to understand the height and the width and depth of God's love for him and we see it as well.  God did not demand Isaac as a sacrifice, but he sets the stage to illustrate his love for all of us as one day he sends the son to be our substitute; he gives his son that we might understand the depth of his love for us and how far he will go to help us gain access again to the father and the the blessings that he has reserved for us since before the beginning of time.

Many struggle with the Old Testament.  I am glad you are walking with me in it.  There will be much that we don't understand, but there will be enough that we do understand that it will illustrate to us again and again that God is pursuing us, loving us, seeking to make us his covenant people that he might bless us out of the abundance of his love and prepare us to be a blessing to the world.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Is anything too great for God?

Chapter 19 is so full of great stuff!!  What do you make of the 3 men with the Lord?  Are they angels of the Lord?  Do they represent the trinity?  But they leave and the Lord remains in conversation with Abraham.......just great stuff to ponder.

Hospitality was such an important thing in the nomadic culture of Abraham and Sarah, but did you catch the extravagance as Abraham tells Sarah to prepare 3 seahs of fine flour into bread.  Three seahs would be about 20 quarts of that is a lot of bread!  And the finest calf in the herd.....and extravagantly generous piece of hospitality.  How important it is for us to receive strangers with the same warm welcome, the same kindness and appreciation for the gift of their presence.

Is anything to great for the Lord?  Our resounding answer should always be no, No. NO; our God can do anything that he choses; he can part the waters of a great sea, cause a fish to swallow and then spit a man up onto the seashore, he can use broken people to heal a nation and he can work great signs and wonders through a heart that is yielded to him.

Abraham argues with God about the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.  The result should give you great courage in your prayers as God gives evidence of his great desire to save those who were created in his image.  As evil as the culture had become, he would withhold his hand of justice for the sake of 10 good folk.  We can still save our culture if we continue to be obedient to God's desire to bless the nations through us.  It is an awesome task, but I do not laugh as Sarah did.  I know that God can do this through us because nothing is too hard for our God.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

God is faithful

God's promises are always true even if we aren't.  The life of Abraham is clear testimony!  What trouble we could avoid if we could wait patiently for God to do what God always wants to do.  A promise of a son and of a mighty nation that would come as a blessing to all the world should be enough, but it wasn't for Abram and Sarai and as a result Hagar and Ismael and the world became victims of impatience. 

I have a great deal of sympathy for Hagar because of the culture in which she lived.  To have refused her Mistress and/or her Master could have meant death, but the result of her offspring with Abram was a nation that has always been at war with God's preferred future.  How many of us also produce unintended consequences because we do not wait on God's perfect timing.

Despite Abram's lack of patience God was faithful and the result was Isaac.  From Isaac will come the 12 tribes of Egypt.  Now all that remains is for Abram/Abraham to keep his side of the bargain; to walk faithfully with the God who desires to make his descendants as numerous as the sands of the sea and the stars in the skies.  The result will be a mighty nation, a city on a hill, a blessing to the world.  Is that not the same promise that God makes to us, that we will be blessed to be a blessing.  Can we walk more faithfully than Abraham and Sarah or do we suffer from the same sense of impatience?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


The story of Abram/Abraham is fascinating.  How could God take a jerk (based upon his willingness to hide behind his wife in Egypt) and bless the entire world through him?  But there is a piece of him that you have to admire. ( letting Lot chose the better ground rather than quarreling)  Throughout the Bible, we Christians are reminded of our responsibility to take the "high road" in our relationships with others and the world.  We are to be a people who seek after unity in the body even if it means sacrificial behavior (goodness, doesn't that sound like Jesus) on our part.

Just because it is so soon after Christmas, I am again reminded of a theme in the Bible of how many times God uses a pagan world to protect his plan.  Abram goes down into Egypt as a protection against famine.  Joseph is sold into slavery and goes down into Egypt to emerge as a nation.  The baby Jesus goes down into Egypt and is protected from Herod.

Notice in Chapter 14 how Abram gave 1/10 of the spoils of war to Melchizedek.  I think this is the 1st mention of the tithe.  A lot of folks believe that Melchizedek is the introduction of Christ as a person into the biblical narrative.  I don't know what to think about it.  Do you have any thoughts on the person of Melchizedek?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Peleg and Babel

Genesis 10:25  refers to Peleg and a time when the earth was divided.  What do you think that means....could it be a time when the continents began to shift as referred to in our world geography texts?  Just wondering....what do you think.

And then this Babel that the same sin that caused Lucifer to be cast down from heaven?  Is it the same sin that Lucifer used to tempt Adam and Eve.....the thought that we, the created, can become as the Creator.  Does that same sin visit each of us in a variety of ways as we seek to be bigger, faster, stronger and to acquire all that we can possible have.  Is that what keeps us from sharing the blessings that we possess as gifts from God with those who need so desperately to be blessed?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Am I my brother's keeper?

There it is, the question that has been asked generation after generation almost since the beginning of time.  And the answer is still....yes!  It was true in the days of Cain and Abel, It was true in the time of Christ when he instructed those who listened and followed to love thy neighbor as thyself and it is true today.  I wonder why it is that we struggle so much with the most simple of concepts.  Perhaps it is still the second sin or perhaps it is as it was with Cain, that we simply to lackadaisical in our approach to God and to life in general.

I always think that it is interesting when we read the Bible that something new appears to us as though it were hidden from us in our earlier readings.  In Chapter 6 when God limits the days of man to 120 that an extension of the earlier curse?  Or is God trying by more subtle means than the flood to bring us back within the fold?

Also the answer to how long Noah was on the ark, he entered on the 17th day of the 2nd month and they left on the 27th day of the 2nd month in the following year.  That is a lot of compost to be dealt with!

I enjoyed your postings.  I hope that we will be able to instruct one another out of the insights that God reveals to each of and thus participate in a kind of theological study that God can use to build up his people.

I am humbled to know that there are folks who are reading my ramblings.  Proof again that God is gracious and kind; beyond that which we deserve.

Hope you have a wonderful God-blessed 1st week of the New Year