Why my Dad is my hero

A pic of US 35N on my way in to work this morning

This morning I woke up to 4 inches of snow that blanketed frozen rain on the ground. I started the truck first thing and then took a shower and got ready for the day. It was a long drive to work. I planned on taking double the time to make my normal drive here in Dallas. As a Michigan native, I am familiar with these kinds of conditions, yet when I drive here in this city, my fear mainly comes because of other drivers who only see these conditions one or two days a year and try to be a cowboy and brave the elements.

So, there was plently of time to think on the way in. I listened to the radio- mostly- but there were times when my heart raced as a pickup in front of me went sideways, or when I saw an 18 wheeler in the ditch. I kept saying to myself, my goal is to get there safely, not to get there quickly.

(This helped me to be patient as I thought of my wife and kids back at home. 2 of my children currenlty are battling the flu. I know that more than getting to a destination expediently, they eventually need me back home. So I was extra careful on my way in.)

As my tires rumbled over the chunky and icy ground, there were also times when my mind warped back decades in time. I recalled as a kid seeing my dad leave out the door every morning in the winter so that he could provide for us. I remembered one time when he was in a car accident on his way to work. He was driving a car that had recenlty been given to us by a family member. It was a total loss. But God provided another vehicle for us.

I also remember the many times my dad went under our trailer and took a heater, or heat tape or a hair dryer to thaw or water lines in the subzero weather. While I didn’t understand the signifance of that back then, as I look back now, I can have a greater appreciation of the amazing things my dad did to take care of our family.

At one point of time, I would have never thought of calling my dad a hero. As a child I did not understand our poverty. I was often bitter because we couldn’t afford the name brand clothing or food. I despised that we lived on government subsidies. I was humiliated by our living conditions. I was hurt often by the fighting and anger I saw in or home. Those memories will never leave. But they don’t have the same bite that they once had.

I kept driving. My mind kept wandering. My instincts were heightened as that pickup truck in front of me turned sideways. I was far back enough where I could slow down and go around and avoided the vehicle. Moments like these can be defining. I became more eager to make it to my destination safely, looking forward to working hard today and getting back to my family who needs me.

After I got to another point, the vehicles around me disappeared. There was a long stretch of road before I saw another vehicle. My mind went back to where it left off. I remember at an early age how my dad, even though he struggled with anger that I despised, always took care of us spiritually.

We were always in church- Sunday morning and evening and Wednesday. There were times he attempted doing devotions with us as a family. I remember those moments. My most vivid spiritual memory with my father was when he led my brother Tim to Jesus. I too knew that I was a sinner and wanted to be saved. So that day, as a 5 year old boy, I knelt at my bedside with my dad and confessed my sin to my Father in heaven and asked Jesus to come into my heart.

It was the best I knew how then to commit my life to Christ. That moment was a defining moment in my life. It has shaped how I view every aspect of my life. It has kept me from numbing my pain with sexual sins, alcohol, drugs, social life, technology, and whatever other idols I could have made. That decision has helped me to constantly return to Jesus when I have tried to find life in other places. That decision ultimately is what has helped me to forgive my dad and others who have harmed me over the years.

(I can still remember my dad weeping at my bedside, running his fingers through my brown childish hair one night because his heart was torn from the way that he constantly struggled with losing his temper. He hated his sin that he had difficulty controlling.)

As I pressed on toward my destination, I thought about heroes. I certainly did not want to be driving to work so early in the morning, especially as I was up several times last night helping my own son manage his symptoms of the flu, and knowing my wife would be home caring for both he and my oldest daughter who is sick with the same.

But I remembered how my dad was always faithful to do what it took to care for his family. I also thought of all the people who I may be serving today, how God would use me, like he used my own father, to be a light to others. So I kept driving. And I thought about all my dad did for me, and all he has done for others. And it dawned on me like never before what a hero my dad has always been.

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Saved: to Spare

This morning I made my first search on the term “saved.” I found over 231 verses with some form of the verb(s) used that mean something to the effect of “to save.”

painting1The earliest reference to saved that I can find is in Genesis 19:19 & 20. This surprised me since I would expect to find this term in Genesis 3 after Adam and Eve sinned or especially in Genesis 6 when God saved Noah. I would also expect to find this term in Genesis 12 when God spared Abraham from Pharaoh’s hands after Abraham lied about his relationship with Sarah his wife.

In Genesis 19, there are two messengers sent to Lot. The messengers warned lot about the impending destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah for its wickedness. I am not sure how righteous Lot was in the land he lived that was filled with such wickedness. But we know his wife was more attracted to her lifestyle in Sodom than her life of rescue to the mountains. For that reason, she turned back and was turned into a pillar of salt.

Lot’s decisions in this passage, however, are dumbfounding. When the townsmen came after the messengers in Lot’s home, Lot offers his virgin daughters to them to appease their barbarism. I am not sure if there is any cultural information that we are missing that would explain this in any satisfying kind of way, but I am better satisfied just assuming that Lot’s mind was nearly as warped as the culture he lived.

At the last job I worked there was a sign that read, “If you witness an offense but do not report it, you are just as guilty as the offender.” We never want to be in a place were we live complacently with sin. We know that Lot and his wife were comfortable enough in the culture they lived, that they did not try to escape its sin. Lot’s wife gazed back at her lifestyle she was expected to leave behind. Consequently, she died in it.

But Lot was different. He ultimately went where the messengers instructed without gazing back. So, we have in vs. 19, “You have shown me lovingkindness by sparing my life.” And then in vs. 20, Lot petitions the messengers that he should flee to the small town of Zoar that as he states, “my life may be saved.”

In a word, this use of the term salvation connotes the idea of being spared. Lot wasn’t necessarily rescued. Though he was. This passage is emphasizing life that had been spared to Lot. Or, Lot’s life was spared. Also, Lot’s salvation was brought about by two messengers (Angels). God’s gratuitous gift (lovingkindness) was brought about by means of two people who warned Lot of the judgment to come. The messengers also gave the means of escape and Lot listened. The result of Lot’s decision was that his life was spared.

Notes about how this relates to salvation today:

  • When we speak of salvation today, we normally refer to our eternal state and deliverance from judgment and damnation for living in rebellion to God. While this is not directly what this current passage refers to, we know that the eternal life of those who trust in Christ will be spared because God’s justice was served on the cross, His wrath was satisfied and our sin was expiated (atoned for) allowing for the opportunity for God’s righteousness to justly live in those who walk with Him.
  • Second, there may be times in our life when God sends us people who warn us to leave the circumstance we are in so that we do not live under the judgment and experience the ultimate consequences that our decisions are rendering, which ultimately could be our death. For example, God continually warns the addict to flee from his destructive behavior. This is accomplished through messengers such as Christians who minister or even secular institutions who have common sense about choices and consequence. When one flees from his addiction in time, his life is spared.
  • Third, the Christ follower can say his life is spared because of the ministry of a disciple of Jesus who told him about the coming wrath and day of judgment, and that deliverance from the said wrath was possible by walking the path of faith and life in Christ. King Jesus will spare the one whose heart is loyal to him.
  • I picture it like living in a city that is in the land of the King. While the King has been away, I have at times lived in a way that is contrary to his law. But someone brought to my attention, “Hey dummy, the King is coming back. You might want to think about what you are doing or it will not go well with you.” Well, the King knows of my rebellion, and he has executed his judgment (I’m guilty). But because my heart and life turned back to His laws, His Kingdom, His people, His plans and His ways once I heard about the return of the King and was faced with the reality of my rebellion, God showed mercy on me and poured out His wrath on Christ instead of me (substitution) and was satisfied (expiation) and graciously has allowed me to serve Him and be in right relationship with Him again (salvation).
  • And when that happens with any of us who rebel against the King and turn back to Him, Scripture says that heaven rejoices. Our life is spared in this life (We might avoid sins that can lead to our destruction) and the one to come (We will enjoy life with Christ forever).

Wow! That’s not bad for day number one. I was highly encouraged by God’s word. Praise the Lord!

The Greatest Thrill

I’m not sure how many of you are thrill seekers, but one of the greatest places to get that sudden jolt of adrenaline that will make your neck veins distend and your heart pump out of your chest is at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.

While I haven’t been there in years, I will never forget the Dragster. It has to be the most ridiculous ride ever!

From a standing start you’re launched forward, then straight up, then straight down and back to the finish line. Zero to 120 MPH in less than 4 seconds. 420 feet in the air.

The ride may be over in 17 seconds, but it’ll stay with you forever.

After the Harness Clicks

I think the scariest part is when you are seated in the ride with the harness clicking over your shoulders and locking in place. While it may only be seconds, that “pause” between the final click of the harness and the hiss of the hydraulic brakes releasing to jolt you forward seems like an eternity.

In those seconds, you think:

  • It is too late for me to change my mind.
  • Was this all a big mistake?
  • Is this what death feels like?
  • How much will it hurt?
  • I’m not sure I should have done this

But the problem is that it IS too late.

On the dragster you realize this all within 17 seconds. Tears have streamed across the side of your head and into your hair. Your lips are still wrapped around the back of your head. Your heart has stopped and restarted again. The harness has released and you hear that voice over the loudspeaker, “Please exit to your left. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride.”

And guess what? You are amazed. You lived. And then you immediately text your closest friends and put status updates on Facebook and Twitter, knowing that you have secured bragging rights for the immediate future.

Do you know what?

In my journey of faith, I have discovered that following Christ is a lot like getting on a ride at the theme park.

There are times when God leads you to new seasons and places. It is scary. The harness of life clicks in place over your shoulders, and there is no way to escape. God may put you in situations where you are completely incapable of breaking free until after the experience is over. Here are a few situations that I think of:

  1. God asking Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.
  2. The anxiety that Nathan must have felt when he confronted David.
  3. God asking Hosea to marry a prostitute wife and to forgive her when she was unfaithful.
  4. Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, knowing that the Cross would stand on Calvary.
  5. Stephen who was stoned after he testified before the Sanhedrin.

The list goes on. Scripture testifies to situation after situation where God’s people must experience the “thrill” of trusting Him.

What about me?

Recently, Samantha and I have been experiencing the amazing adventure of following Christ. It has not been easy. Right now I am in the middle of a career change. I have been a registered nurse for almost 10 years now. It has brought a sense of financial security. Great benefits. Flexibility. The opportunity to minister to people who are sick.

Yet, we both sense that nursing is not likely our future. While we are absolutely willing to continue in nursing, it seems that this door in my life is closing after these years. It is difficult to explain, but we have experienced affirmation from individuals and situations outside of ourselves.

  • Family and friends who have watched me struggle in a worthy career affirm that I am not best gifted or shaped for nursing.
  • Even after intense study and internships, coworkers can see a “gap” in my abilities at work as a nurse.
  • My Myers-Briggs personality profile is an ENFJ. Look it up and you will see that this is not a great fit for a job that is demanding and filled with colleagues who tend to carry dominant personalities.
  • I have had positive affirmation that nursing is not the best suit for me- from my pastor and other leaders in my life who see my gifting and potential for full time vocational ministry.
So now what?

Even some of my closest friends have asked,

  • So do you have anything up the pipeline?
  • What is your backup plan?
  • How much do you have in savings?
  • What if you cannot find a ministry job?
  • Don’t you know that you are supposed to provide for your family?

And the list goes on…

Frankly, it makes me want to vomit. I know they mean well. And trust me, as someone who has a wife and three kids and a house payment and bills to pay, I know as well as anyone….

So, my answer is “I don’t know.”

Right now, if there is anything that seems clear it is that nursing is not working. That’s it. It has been a struggle professionally. It has taken a toll on me physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Right now I liken myself to that person whose harness just clicked. They are about to go from zero to 120 mph in less than 4 seconds.

Do you know what is going through my head right now?

  • Wow, is this the right decision?
  • How am I going to pay bills and put food on the table?
  • Will the Lord really come through?
  • Is this what he really wants?
  • Is this going to hurt?
  • I’m not sure I should have done this.

There is nothing scarier than clicking in securely to God’s grace and trusting him through the ride.

Right now, I am praying for God’s grace. I don’t know all the answers. I don’t know the future. I don’t know how this ride is going to feel when the lips of my life are wrapped around my neck at the end.

What I do know is that when the ride is over, when my heart stops pounding and God says over the loud speaker, “The ride is over. Please exit to your left,” the first thing that I am going to do after this struggle is to secure my bragging rights of God’s grace and get on Twitter and Facebook and the blogosphere and let everyone know what God does in our life.

In the mean time, will you please pray for me and Samantha and our family?

God is giving us our greatest thrill. Trusting him.

Thank you,

Jeremiah

Spiritual DNA

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Acts 28:23 When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.

A couple posts ago, I blogged about tradition. My proposition ultimately was that if your Church is biblical it must be traditional. That does not mean they must avoid contemporary music and read KJV bible only. My point was that there are traditional core beliefs that must be the foundation of your faith and teaching. These teachings and doctrines can be repackaged, while maintaining the same truth, so that it communicates well to the current generation.

Today, I will restate what I mean by using a different metaphor. In Acts 28:23 Paul argues for his faith in Jesus Christ using Scripture. Specifically, he engages with the writings in the Law and in the Prophets. Can you do that?

Up until the past couple years, I would have had a real difficult time demonstrating my faith in Christ using the Old Testament. I would say things like, “The Old Testament is no longer relevant to the Christian faith.” But that is entirely untrue. What we see in the New Testament is merely a continuation of the story of redemption of Israel and mankind in the Old Testament. A good metaphor to picture this is DNA.

Physically, we all have code/ DNA that composes us. So when we have children, our children will resemble us. The same is true with Christianity. It was birthed from Judaism. We should have some resemblance to our relatives of faith. Yet we are distinctly different. The difference that separates Christianity from Judaism primarily wraps around what each camps says about who Christ is. In Acts it records that Paul was trying to persuade his Jewish brothers from the Law of Moses and the Prophets.

Today, we continue the same beliefs that are deeply rooted in the faith. Biblical faith does not proclaim anything new today than what Paul preached then. I would highly question anyone who thinks they have a “new” idea or secret truth that is not already available to everyone through God’s word. One professor once said, “If it’s new it ain’t true, and if it’s true it ain’t new!” True that!

How are you doing in your study of Scripture? Do you have a good basis of understanding of your faith using both the Old Testament and New? Do you see your spiritual DNA resembled throughout all Scripture? If you need any resources, feel free to ask and I will be happy to share….

Reflections of Being “On Call” in the Cath Lab

Recently I accepted a position as an RN at one of the leading heart hospitals in the world. Tonight was my third night “on call.” What I do is such an incredible privilege…and there are nurses and physicians everywhere who do what I do.

Tonight I was part of a team that helped to save the life of a 40 something year old man who had 3 teenage sons and a wife. There is nothing to describe the face of someone who is staring death in the eyes, and then he looks to you for mercy. It is a look that says, “I might die and I don’t want to. Help me. I have children and a wife. I’m not ready to die.” My heart was compassionate, and we worked quickly.

When the man wept as we assumed his care and I led his sons away down to a waiting room corridor, I was thinking of my own wife and children. Within minutes we worked to stabilize this man and deployed a stent to his heart. He survived and is now on the road to recovery. It was one of the most rewarding experiences in my life, and I get to do this every day!

During this experience I was reminded of my own mortality. I cannot help but have gratitude. I am ever so thankful for every breath I take. We never know when it will be our last. God has truly given me infinitely more than I deserve.

I am reminded of two needs:

1) the need to always live like it is your last moment: What would you do if you knew you could not fail? I mean, what are the truest God given passions (not lusts) of your heart? Go after them as hard as you can while you still have time. And give God the glory when you are able to enjoy what he gives you.

2) the need for redemption: we all die. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted…blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the land…Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:4-6). On this side of life, we will know death. That should grieve us. It grieves me. I am sad to think of the death of those I love. I am sad to think that one day I will no longer enjoy the joys of this earth. We need to be healed. This world needs to be redeemed.

Paul wrote in Romans 8 that even creation longs for redemption. The Christian life brings hope to our despair. Evil in this world can discourage us, but Scripture says that, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11). God will bring life to our dead rotted corpse. He will again make us live! And that is the Gospel- the Good News- in a nutshell.

One day Jesus Christ will clothe us in an imperishable body and we who have grieved the sorrows of this earth will be blessed. We will inherit the land, the Kingdom of God as it was intended to be since creation. Satan will be vanquished and Jesus will reign on his throne forever. We will enjoy life infinitely more than our best day here on this earth!

I’m reminded of 1 Corinthians 15:55:

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

Praise God. For now, I will get some rest. More lives are waiting to be saved. The pager may go off again. Please pray for me as I serve Christ on the front lines in Dallas!

God’s Recovery Program

Daniel 1-6

Focus: Daniel 2:44-45, “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will raise up an everlasting kingdom that will not be destroyed and a kingdom that will not be left to another people. It will break in pieces and bring about the demise of all these kingdoms. But it will stand forever. You saw that a stone was cut from a mountain, but not by human hands; it smashed the iron, bronze, clay, silver, and gold into pieces. The great God has made known to the king what will occur in the future. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is reliable.”

Recently, my wife and I started going to Celebrate Recovery, a Christian 12-step reconciliation program for those who want to work through their hurts, habits, and hang-ups that have come as coping mechanisms to life’s pains. The problem of evil and the problem of pain are unfortunate realities in our broken world, but it has been encouraging to watch others find recovery and healing.

Daniel was a prophet who certainly had to deal with hurts and hang-ups. He was taken into captivity into Babylon. His family may have been killed or taken as slaves. He was displaced from his home. In Babylon, he was assigned to the royal service where he would enjoy the best foods and the luxury of palace living. That part sounds nice, but the trade-off to living in the palace meant becoming a eunuch in an era where there was no anesthesia. (They did this to protect the women living in the palace from foreigners.)

God used Daniel, a man who had been through a lot of pain- spiritually, emotionally, and physically- to foretell of one of life’s greatest events. Dreams carried huge weight in the day of Daniel, and it just so happens that King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream and needed someone to interpret. God chose Daniel to be the man. Daniel 2:44-45 is the interpretation that God gave to Daniel and it tells of a kingdom that will overcome every earthly power. It is a kingdom not ruled by the broken leadership of people and one that will last forever. It was the prophecy of the Kingdom of Christ.

God is in the process of building His Kingdom. It is one that will last forever, a Kingdom where the pain of sin and death will not be. In this Kingdom, all of Christ’s faithful followers will find complete reconciliation and healing from their hurts, habits and hang-ups. This is the Christian hope. This is what our faith in Christ is about. While we may claim to have the faith to trust that He died on the Cross and rose again to save us from our sins, will we have the faith to trust His promises that He is preparing a place for those who follow Him? The faith rooted in the events at the Cross is foundational, but faith that trusts Christ’s promise of the everlasting Kingdom is functional. It is what moves us from this life to the next and is what proves our very faith in Christ on the Cross. Do we really trust that God will bring complete healing and restoration?

What does God’s future grace have to do with now?

1 Peter 1:13, “Therefore, get your minds ready for action by being fully sober, and set your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

Recently my wife and I started studying the book of 1 Peter together. It has been a rich time of encouragement for both of us. Specifically, I have been encouraged about the role that God’s future grace plays in my life now. To illustrate how this works, consider how summer vacations and Christmas breaks played a role in your life as a child.

When I was a young boy it seemed like the school days took forever, and weeks would linger. Depending on the time of year, my heart would yearn for Christmas break or Summer vacation. It is what drove me to get through the semester. I knew that there would be rewards of play and rest waiting at the end of weeks of hard work. My grades on papers and tests did not stir my heart to go on. Instead, I pressed on by looking forward to spending days playing outside, going on a trip, or enjoying some other rewarding experience that was in the future.

The same concept is what God’s future grace does for our life in the here and now. While we can appreciate the effects of present and past Grace that help us in the moment, such moments of the present and past are only intended to be a platform of trust for our faith to stand on. God’s past grace helps us to know we are not crazy to trust Him for what He has promised for our future. Past grace is not the only means of encouraging us and stirring us on through life- just like papers and quizzes in school substantiated our studies for the moment but failed to drive us through the semester or year.

Looking forward to greater rewards has enormous value for our faith. Knowing God’s promises helps us to know what we are working toward. There will be a day when Jesus Christ is fully revealed in the lives of believers. In that day, there will be no more death, sickness or pain. Injustice and unrighteousness will no longer exist. Our hearts will be fully and permanently repaired, and we will forever enjoy the fullness of God’s grace on our lives as He originally intended. This is greater than any summer vacation or Christmas break, and it should spur us on towards love and good deeds as we that day coming near.

Knowing what our future holds should empower us for our decisions that we will make today. Living for the future is not about being spiritually AWOL and oblivious to present needs. Instead, we ought to see our present struggles and experiences in light of God’s grace. From that, our faith should rest secure for the glory that is yet to come, and we can be moved to overcome anything that stands in our way or tempts us to go astray. How has God’s past grace on your life helped you to trust Him? Do you know all that he has in store for you? How does that empower you for the present moment?

Stories

storiesPsalm 78

Focus: 78:7, “Then they will place their confidence in God. They will not forget the works of God, and they will obey his commands.”

I have not thought about it before, but stories are one of the most powerful ways to influence the lives of others. Throughout my life some of the most significant changes have happened because of the stories shared with me. My campus pastor told me that the only thing that will determine who I am in five years from now are the books I read and the people I meet.

In this Psalm, the Psalmist writes in verses 3-4, “What we have heard and learned 5 –that which our ancestors 6 have told us – we will not hide from their 7 descendants. We will tell the next generation about the Lord’s praiseworthy acts, 8about his strength and the amazing things he has done.

Sharing the stories of God’s works were the keys to preserving faith. I cannot count the number of people who have deserted their faith because they have forgotten the Lord’s work in their life. Students who enter college drop like flies when their faith is challenged. They forget the heritage that was given to them. They forget the stories in their own life where God has done amazing things.

Not only that, but parents will shape a child’s life forever by how they tell stories and how often they tell stories to their children. In the Christian community, stories are the bricks that build the pathway of faith. A parent’s failure to share about the goodness of God will have devastating effects on their children.

Another interesting thought is that parents are always telling stories through their life. What I mean by this is that parents are always telling stories to their kids through verbal or non-verbal communication. The stories parents tell will make or break the child’s faith. Parents are the literature children read having the single greatest impact on their direction in life. (We can expand this idea further and see that the reality is that we are all books being read by others. Our life speaks volumes to those we interact with.)

We can all look back at our childhood and remember the stories that were read to us. We can also remember the stories we read. They had an intricate way of shaping our personality. Because of this amazing truth, we can see all the more why it is important for Christians to know of God’s goodness, experience His goodness, and to share it with others!

Throughout the stories of Scripture we can see that God has a desire to bless His people. He has a patient love for His people. He is continually working in their lives. Yet, we will forget all this if we are not reminded. If we have children, or if there is a person that we wish to spiritually impact then we ought to share our story of God’s grace though both the media of our lifestyle and our life story. This is how our faith is passed on from one generation to the next.

Clean and Unclean

3/20/09 8:45am

Leviticus 11-15

Pericope: Leviticus 5:31-33

Have you ever wondered about those weird passages in Scripture where it talks about bodily infections and discharges? What relevance does that have for today? Leviticus 11-15 discusses how Israel is to distinguish between what is considered “clean” versus “unclean.” I believe that Leviticus 5:13 spells out the reason for these awkward laws: “Thus you are to set the Israelites apart from their impurity so that they do not die in their impurity by defiling my tabernacle which is in their midst.” These laws were about protecting the dwelling place of God. Certain physical conditions God considers “unclean.” This does not mean God loves one any less when they have such conditions. One does not become devalued or worth less because they may have a discharge or emission from their body or because the have a disease or illness. However, all of these conditions are effects of the broken world produced by sin. They exist because of unwholeness or incompleteness that will one day cease to exist. These conditions do not exist in the absolute presence of God. So, when God wants his people to distinguish themselves from their uncleanness, he wants them to understand the seriousness of the consequences of His glory in contrast to the presence of their condition. The closer one comes in proximity to God’s presence the more “set apart” one must be- that is, the more “different” or “wholly different” one must be. Failure to comply means that one would die. God was protecting his people in their earthly physical state which is effected by the conditions of sin that cannot exist where He physically dwells. God’s glory overcomes death and disease. It destroys death and produces life. In him there is light and no darkness at all. His holiness cannot be profaned or defiled or tainted by what he considers to be uncleaned or imperfect. So what does this mean for today? I am thankful because the blood of Christ purifies me in my unclean state (2 Cor 5:21). Because of the finished work on the Cross, I have access to the Father by faith in Christ. One day I will be able to dwell in the physical presence of God and to know Him with all His glory. For those in ancient Israel, they were able to experience a taste of God’s glory as His dwelling place was in the Tabernacle. They had to become physically set apart/different in order to enjoy God’s presence. Today our access to the Father comes by the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in our life as a guarantee of the things that are yet to come!

Strong Faith

2/12/2009

Genesis 47-50

Pericope: Genesis 50

Recently I was speaking with some African American friends about the horrors of slavery in the early days of our nation as it was forming. The issue of forgiveness came up as well as the sovereignty of God. How can forgiveness be extended and where in the world was God in the midst of it all?

In the final chapter of Genesis, Joseph is approached by his brothers when their father dies. They beg Joseph for their lives. Joseph’s brothers feared him because he could have easily slain them to get revenge for selling him into slavery and staging his death. But that was not his response. He  forgave his brothers and provided for them! Joseph was a man of strong faith and did what was right even when it was hard. What does it take to have strong faith in the midst of injustice?

Strong faith comes from a fundamental alignment of the heart trusting in the goodness and sovereignty of God. Joseph said to his brothers, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose, so he could preserve the lives of many people, as you can see this day.” As finite beings with such limited perspective, we do not have the capacity to understand much of the big picture of injustice. But if we are going to have strong faith we must know that God is working to deliver us from injustice, even though the injustices that are immediately affecting us.

In Genesis 49 we can see God’s ultimate plan. In his blessing on his son Judah, Jacob pronounced, “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs; the nations will obey him.” When Jacob mentions “the ruler’s staff from between his feet,” it is a euphemism referring to the genitals. In this case the phrase refers by metonymy to those who come forth from his genitals, i.e., his descendants. Immediately, this is a promise that Judah’s sons would be rulers and Kings. Ultimately, this is speaking of the reign of Christ.

Strong faith is built on the trust that God is working all things according to his purpose. We live in a world which offers hurts, habits and hangups. We all will experience injustice and harm. We have a choice in how to respond. The strongest will extend forgiveness because they trust that one day evil will be finally destroyed. Injustice will be recompensed. Christ is on the throne and he will be back to judge those who do evil!