Moses stood before a shrub that was consumed with fire yet it was not destroyed. He had turned aside to see this amazing sight and now stood barefoot on holy ground. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was now speaking to him. Moses had been raised a prince of Egypt. He had once worshipped the gods of Egypt, marveled at their power, and feared them. Yet here was a God he couldn’t see. He only heard the voice that seemed to proceed from the midst of the burning bush and Moses felt the awesome power contained within it. Power he had never experienced before. God was telling him to do something he had never even dreamed of doing. Go back to Egypt? Inconceivable! Go before Pharaoh? Impossible! He had been exiled for his alleged betrayal of Pharaoh. God was now calling him to be an instrument for God’s glory and to be a witness for Him. God was calling Moses to go back to the place he had been thrown out from to convince Pharaoh to throw the rest of his people out too! God was promising to deliver the Israelites from their bondage and give them their own land to boot! Moses could hardly believe it. Yet, he set out towards Egypt.
You see God had called Moses to do something about the injustice the Israelites were suffering under. But couldn’t God do something about that Himself? After all He’s Yahweh, He can do anything! Although God wanted to reconcile with the Israelites, they couldn’t come to Him as they were. They had essentially forgotten Him even as they waited for their promise of deliverance. Some had even acclimated to their lifestyle and the pagan people around them. The Lord needed some time to teach them how to worship Him and how to follow His laws. God chose one man, Moses, to be His missionary to them.
Moses was an exile, in other words he was separated from the life he once knew. He was set apart and then God chose him. If Egypt is the world, then we as Christians are supposed to be the set apart, chosen ones of God called to fulfill His mission in the world. God could’ve chosen anyone else. Why Moses? After all, Moses had a speech impediment so bad that he needed his brother Aaron to speak for him. He had lived in Egypt as a prince for most of his life and probably participated in all the pagan, sinful practices that engulfed that land. He was a murderer, he had killed an Egyptian overseer. He was an imperfect vessel called to do the perfect God’s will. We’re imperfect, yet God has called us to do His will. We owe it to God to do what He called us to do to the best of our abilities without worrying about how to do it. What has God called you to do that you’re hesitant about?
“Return to Me,” says the Lord, “and I will return to you.” – Zechariah 1:3
I’m reading a book entitled “Return to Me” by Lynn Austin. It recounts the story of the prophet Zechariah returning to Jerusalem after the Persian king Cyrus releases the Jewish exiles from Babylonian captivity with express instructions to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. Zechariah leaves Babylon as a boy and it is not until he reaches adulthood in Jerusalem that the Temple begins to be rebuilt in haste. The story tells of the setbacks the returning Jewish exiles face from the surrounding villages of Samaritans and the governing body of the Judean region. Yet despite the threats of violence and the influence of their pagan neighbors, God’s people are determined to rebuild God’s Temple so that God can once again live amongst His chosen people and so the people can try to reclaim the fellowship they had with God before sin banished them from Eden.
The present world we live in is full of sin. In fact sin has taken over every major influencing force in the United States. Movies, television, music, government…they’re making sin the norm, making sin LEGAL. We’re putting sin on a pedestal, elevating it above righteousness and holiness in the name of equality. True equality comes from loving each other fully without prejudice. We’ve let sexual immorality pervade our children, teaching them to believe promiscuity is expected of them. We Christians have compromised our beliefs in order to live at peace with others. We don’t want to seem bigoted and self-righteous so we go along with those crude jokes and petty jealousies in the workplace. We join in at happy hour and justify our actions saying this drink has less alcohol than Nyquil.
I’ve had enough of it! We weren’t meant to blend in. We weren’t meant to accommodate. We are a people set apart by God. We are meant to shine God’s light throughout the world. We aren’t meant to please other people. Is pleasing people more important than pleasing Almighty God who holds our life in His hands? God is not demanding that we return to Him out of fear or because of the promise of a blessing. God is asking us to turn back to Him for the love of Him. Full stop. He doesn’t want anything from us but our love. Our attitude needs to be one of mournful contrition. We have all failed God, many of us more than once. But of course, God’s love, mercy, and grace never fails. Return to Him, and He will return to you.
Think theology is boring?
Theology is defined as the study of the nature of God and religious belief. Sounds dry and monotonous yes? I mean theologians are those crusty above middle age men and women you see on National Geographic documentaries right? Why should we study theology? I am a nerd by trade and a bookworm to boot; it just comes naturally to me. I love learning about God and the Bible. I’m currently taking a class entitled Systematic Theology. As if theology itself wasn’t hard enough, we have to get all systematic about it?? But I’ve been reading some interesting things in one of my textbooks recently. One traditional definition of theology is “faith seeking understanding.” Studying theology leads to questions. We aren’t questioning our faith, rather we ask questions in order to understand God better. Augustine, and later Anselm, both theologians, agreed that believers inquire not to attain faith but rather to increase their joy by gaining a better understanding of who their God is. True faith keeps on seeking and asking after God. True faith leads a believer to want to know more about their glorious God since they have already experienced the grace of God through His Son Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us in Matthew 6:33 to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. True theology is not just about reading a bunch of books, writing a couple of academic papers, and getting a PhD. Rather it is about seeking after God, getting to know Him, and trying to understand Him just because we love Him. Of course we can never fully understand God, which is not the goal. But the more we learn about Him, the more we grow in Him!
Today’s reading from the HopeNYC daily devotional contained some admonishments regarding the path to success:
Some sacrifices are simply not worth it: (1) In your attempt to build a reputation, don’t lose your character. Reputation is what people think you are; character is what God and those closest to you know you are. (2) Don’t sacrifice your family for your career. If you do you’ll end up winning the admiration of those who don’t matter, while losing the love of those who do. (3) Don’t sacrifice your relationship with God for material things. God told His people, “You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth” (Dt 8:17-18NIV). Then he drops the other shoe: “If you ever forget the Lord…you will surely be destroyed” (v.19NIV).
I want to focus just a minute on “Don’t sacrifice your relationship with God for material things.” It’s easy to get caught up in our own success, to pat ourselves on the back and say “well done.” We throw parties for ourselves celebrating our achievements. But are we giving God thanks at the same time? Are we so busy pushing toward a goal that we don’t make time to talk to God? I’m guilty of that at times. We forget that we are made of dust, and the only reason that we walk and talk and work and dance is because God breathed life into us (Gen 2:7). The word inspiration translates to “God-breathed” so in fact since we are God-breathed, we are his inspiration!
God crafted us with his hands, but before he did that he created the heavens, the earth, and everything in them. The psalmist David said “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4). Who indeed are we that God should spend an iota of his time concerning himself with us??? Who are we, sinful creatures as we are, that God should give us anything? But God is a loving Father to his children. The Bible says “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” (James 1:17). It says every gift! That new car? It’s got a gift tag on it that says “From God with love!” The $54 skirt you got for $2.57? Praise God for it right in the store! (True story by the way, I’ll show you the receipt!) The seat you got on the jam-packed train last night? God saw you were tired and made someone get up for you. Friends, the list goes on and on but the point is we need to remember that our focus should be on God. Don’t get distracted by the new and shiny. Give God the praise he so richly deserves for every single thing he does in your life.
I woke up this morning with a rather morbid thought. I was thinking about parents who give their lives for their children. I don’t know what triggered it, I can’t remember if I had any particular dream relating to this. It could be because I just got back from visiting my precious newborn niece Hailey (she is too sweet by the way!). But I was thinking about how parents love their children so much that they would literally die for them. I thought about parents in war zones, the ones who shield their children with their bodies. I thought about parents of sick children who beg God to remove that disease from their child and give it to them instead. I don’t know any parent who wouldn’t do everything they could to spare their kids from pain, anguish, and hurt.
It’s easy to think about a parent in that way. But what about a friend? How many friends have you had that pledged to be your BFFL (Best Friend For Life)? How many people do you know have said they would be your “ride or die” friend? How many of those same people are still your friend today? I found my high school yearbook the other day and I read all the notes my friends had written for me. One particular girl wrote me a full page letter; she’d known me since we were 11 so surely we would be best friends for the rest of our lives. All I can say is if it hadn’t been for Facebook, I wouldn’t have known she’d had a second baby. It’s natural, people grow up, they grow apart, and they go their separate ways. There aren’t many people who will stick with you always. There aren’t many who will go through a fire with you. Oh they’ll come to a party at your house, but they won’t come to church with you. As for me, I remembered what Jesus told his disciples in John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” I remembered that Jesus is a friend who sticks closer to you than a brother. I thought about how much he must love us that he would bear the shame and torture of the cross. I thought about how he laid down his life, and took it back up again so that we could have salvation. I thought about how God is not wishing that any should perish, but all should reach repentance. Now that is a friend to have!