The Way God Works

2/23/09 10:00am

Exodus 31-35

Pericope: Exodus 31:3

As I grew up in the church, I often wondered how God would use me in ministry. I remember hearing weird terms like “spiritual gifts”. What is a spiritual gift and how does God accomplish his work through them? How does God choose people to do different things for Him?

Today’s trek through Exodus walked me through the buidling of the Tabernacle. It was the exciting point in time when God began to establish a physical¬† place on earth where his glory would dwell among his people. In today’s first chapter I read, I discovered that when God chose people to use for his work, it was not because they were amazing people. Rather, each person was uniquely equipped for a special task. No person necessarily was greater than the other or more useful. God used Bezalel for artistic design, setting stones and cutting wood. Why Bezalel? It really does not matter “why”. I think, however, that the general observation can be made that Bezalel was uniquely equipped by God to do this work.

Since the fall of creation, God has been working to bring restoration and redemption of His people so that they may experience the blessing of being in community with Him. The buidling of the tabernacle was part of a bigger epic story. One day, evil will be destroyed forever and there will be rest for God’s people where we will enjoy His presence! However, until that point, God is at work through the hands and feet of His people. Every person on the earth has been uniquely outfitted to serve God with special gifts. The separating difference is that some people have been redeemed and sanctified by God’s work through faith in Him. That simply means that God’s people are those who recognize their inadequacy and understand the sufficiency of Christ and have placed Him as Lord of their life. The focal point for the believer is on Christ and no longer on self. The gifts that the believer have are now being used to bring glory to God instead of to man. Such gifts have been redirected from use for common purposes to use for God’s purposes: that is what holy/sanctified means.

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Bailout Blues

February 18, 2009 8:45am

Exodus 6-10

Pericope: Exodus 6:6

Well, it is final. The bill has been signed. We are now possibly living in the midst of the greatest financial meltdown in history, next to the Great Depression. We have witnessed a historical effort by our government to try to valiantly rescue its people from the consequences of their choices.

Now passed is the largest spending bill in US history, and it is not guaranteed to work! I pray for those who are puting any confidence whatsoever in this irresponsible legislative act. The new congress and President has mortgaged our generation and generations to come because of the irresponsibility of many on Wall Street and certain consumers who spend more than they have…I guess that is most of us! But do not give props to the President or congress if you are a fan of this legislation. Give yourself a pat on the back! Your tax dollars are going to be paying for it until the day you die. This ‘Bailout’ is no bailout at all. It is a act of slavery.

Yesterday’s history is a great picture which portrays the idea of redemption. Redemption is what our country needs. Redemption simply means deliverance. We need to be delivered from our spending mistakes and the bondage it has caused us to be in. One of the greatest pictures of redemption is found in Exodus 6:6. God promises to deliver his people from the enslavement of the Egyptians.

In order to grant freedom a price has to be paid. The term used to describe this price is “ransom.” There is always a cost to freedom. (Many of us have been given things all our lives so we do not know much about what it means to pay a cost. But we will learn in due time if we haven’t already.)

For redemption of Israel, there was not a fiscal value associated with the cost. The idea is the activity of God and his power to set his people free. In simpler terms, I guess one could say the cost was the effort of God. This is God’s grace. But that does not seem like a big deal. And truly, it wasn’t a bid deal for God. But with such great deliverance comes great responsibility. Freedom is not a green light to be precarious. It is a yellow light to be careful so that one’s choices do not place him back into the bondage where he came from.

Verse 7 explains God’s purpose in redemption. Why did God do it for Israel? It ultimately was to reestablish the love relationship God has with his people. In today’s economy, redemption would look like someone handing the US government a check for 14 trillion dollars and taking responsibility and care for the US citizens. Of course that will never happen today, but it is essentially what happened with Israel. God’s power set his people free so that they could live under His provisions and blessings in the Covenant.

Ultimately, God has been faithful to his people through the work of Christ on the cross. Through Christ, God is redeeming himself a people who would live in Covenant with Him. When we are freed from our bondage, it is not so that we would be free to go back to that bondage again, but some do. The freedom that God provides in Christ is to give us an atmosphere where we can experience the blessings of the promises of God.

Did God Forget?

2/16/2009 5:00pm

Exodus 1-5

Pericope: Exodus 2:23-25.

My wife and I attend Watermark Community Church in Dallas, Tx. A few months ago, our pastors returned from Congo, Africa, the most impoverished area on the globe. We have a justice ministry in different regions of Congo and in other parts of Africa which fight for the rights of the underserved- orphans, widows and impoverished. Our church helps bring food aid and other supplies, but what was amazing from this trip is the people’s response when they knew there was a Church thousands of miles away who was praying for them and loves them. Tears of joy were shed because they knew they were remembered.

One of the most devastating circumstances in life is hopelessness. There are several reasons why one would feel hopeless. Unrelenting stress at a job, poverty, victimization, and general aimlessness are just a few. In Exodus, the story begins with God’s people lost in the misery of slavery. The text shows how God is protecting his people, yet they are enslaved. God is making them multiply, yet only to be whipped. Israel was in slavery for over 400 years! What happened to God? Did God forget?

On face value, it seems that God does not care about his people. But the writer of Exodus (probably Moses) records, “God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob…” As the writer looks back in history, he attributes whatever happens next to God. God remembered not only his people, but the covenants he had established. In other words, there was never a time when God fell asleep and was AWOL. The writer is acknowledging that God knew his covenants and was sovereignly working not only to deliver his people, but to be faithful to the covenant. As the rest of Exodus unpacks, we will see that is exactly what happens!

Some of us may be in a bind. Sometimes we know God asks us to do something or has put us in a circumstance. Yet, we are caught up in a bind that we cannot be free of. It is in these moments we must remember that God is faithful! He never leaves us hanging. He is always knowledgeable, able and active in history. No one’s situation is unique. God was faithful to deliver his people in a mighty way. Ultimately he brought redemption to a people who were undeserving. We can look back on God’s past work and find hope for our present situation. God did not forget. God has not forgotten you!

Roots

Genesis Chapters 6-11. 1/20/2008 4:00pm

Origin is something that affects everyone in some way. Family roots and heritage will vastly shape everyone’s future. Familial background is something that cannot be overcome. It is what it is. However, that is not to say that it must determine everything about one’s destiny. In studying God’s people, family roots are essential in one’s role in community and relation to others. Sometimes it seems that you have to be some sort of religious nut who exhausts his life with certain religious nut ball exercises in order to be accepted by God, but that it actually rarely the case.

For example, in the biblical account of Adam and Eve, we can see that all of mankind’s role in community and relationship with God and people have been significantly marked through the choices of Adam and Eve. Everyone struggles with the effects of sin: hurts, habits and hangups. Yet scripture also records how God graciously intervened in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:16) and his presence was in the midst of people who were sinful.

Back in the early days of humanity, people existed in the midst of brokenness. Scripture provides some insight into the wickedness that prevailed (See Genesis 6). The earth was in a state of decay. With the exception of one man, Noah, Scripture indicates mankind lived in the absence of community with God. Consequently, evil spread to the point where God’s creation was ruined and God regretted that he made humankind. Eventually, with the exception of Noah and his family, God passed judgment on the earth and destroyed it by flood. Through the ark, God’s grace miraculously provides for the salvation of people.

But even after such salvation, the descendants of Noah rejected community with God and tried to build a name for themselves at the tower of Babel. God’s confuses the languages and scatters the people, thus forcing the world to return to the original plan of “be fruitful and multiply”. Nations were formed and people lived and died without community with God.¬†

And then in Genesis 11, we see a biblical icon, Abram, who was later renamed Abraham. Abram was from Ur, a city of the Chaldeans (Ancient Babylon). Abraham, like Noah, was surrounded by wickedness and people who knew nothing of Community with God. There is nothing significant that is mentioned in Scripture that would picture Abram as a man God would choose because of Abram’s skill or religiosity. Yet we know that God calls Abram away from Ur and eventually to the land of Canaan. Yet, one of the most significant things about this story is that Abram receives the Covenant with God before he left Ur. Abram did not have to do anything to earn this Covenant. God graciously injects His presence (community) into the life of Abram.

The point of all this is that community is God’s plan. It is a plan that was broken by man and affects everyone. Yet, God, even in spite of a spiritually diseased people, immediately began a work of healing and redemption to cure the ailments of sin. The reality is that we all have roots that are historically embedded in unhealthy soil. Our ability to thrive is found in God who is the giver of life. Many of us, like Noah and Abram, live among people who know nothing about relationship with God, and we wonder how we can have the freedom and life that is found in the midst of God’s presence. It is not found by the performance of religious activity! Religious activity does not make us holier. It only makes us religious nuts. Our acceptance into the community of God only comes because of His gracious provision through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the spiritual stimulus package of all time. He is the plan that God has provided from the beginning! So if we come from roots that are planted in the soils of religiosity, sin, or even blatant rejection of God, we still have hope. God has provided a way for such roots to be cut and pruned and for us to be transplanted into the vine of Christ!