Posted in Exodus

Experiencing the I Am

“God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ And He said ‘Say this to the people of Israel, I am has sent me to you.’ “ Exodus 3:14

To experience God’s presence we have to live in the present. He is not the “I was,” so if we live in the past, dwelling on yesterday’s regrets, we will not find Him there. He is not the “I will be,” so if we live in the future worrying about how things are going to turn out, we will not find Him there. He has given us promises for the past and for the future, so we can give both to Him.  Then we can experience His embrace in the present. He shed His blood so that our past could be clean of sin, shame, and guilt. He has assured us of the Father’s love and care for even the details of our lives, so we don’t have to worry about our future. Will we trust Him and enter into His presence right now?

God has revealed Himself as the great “I am.” He is right now. His embrace is for right now. His acceptance is for right now. His peace is for right now. Jesus wants to have His life revealed in us, not at some future time, but right now.

In the words of the late Henri Nouwen, “The real enemies of our life are the ‘oughts’ and the ‘ifs.’ They pull us backward into the unalterable past and forward into the unpredictable future. But real life takes place in the here and the now. God is a God of the present. God is always in the moment, be that moment hard or easy, joyful or painful… Jesus came to wipe away the burden of the past and the worries for the future. He wants us to discover God right where we are, here and now.”

Posted in 1Peter, Exodus, Psalms

Trusting God in the Storm

“Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:13-14

The Israelites were being squeezed between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea and there didn’t seem to be any way out. In their humanness they began to speak out of their fear instead of their faith. “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt?” (Exodus 14:11) They had seen God’s power in the past, but they hadn’t really learned to trust His heart so when the storm came they operated in fear instead of faith. Have you been there? Are you tempted to go there right now? Moses gives them three instructions of how to trust God in the storm that are as applicable today as they were back then.

  1. “Do not be afraid.” You and I don’t have to be afraid. God knows what’s going on and He has everything under control. He loves us and He won’t abandon us when we need Him the most.
  2. “Stand firm.” This is the time to hold on to God. Peter says the devil goes about like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour so Christians need to “resist him, standing firm in the faith.” (1Peter 5:8-9) Our enemy makes a lot of noise and preys on our fears.  It’s time to recognize who is behind the voice of fear and stand against him in Jesus Name.
  3. “Be still.” When you’re afraid it is easy to speak wrong things and do wrong things that only make the situation worse. “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations.” (Psalm 46:10) Stop the train of anxious thoughts; quiet your heart, and let Him fill you with a fresh sense of His Presence. He is exalted in our storms when we trust Him.

If the Israelites hadn’t been squeezed they never would have seen the miracle of the Red Sea opening. I believe God has a miracle for whatever seemingly impossible situation you’re facing right now. Don’t be afraid; stand firm, and be still. You are not alone. God is fighting for you!

Posted in Exodus, James

Gems Around Us

“Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!” James 5:7-9

God is patient with His people. Just because a corn crop isn’t ready to be harvested doesn’t mean the farmer isn’t pleased with its progress and growth. God is pleased with our process even though we’re not finished, so we need to be patient with ourselves and with those around us.

During worship one Sunday when I was about to preach on the above verses, a man in our congregation had a vision and gave permission to share it: “I saw beautiful gems. Many, many beautiful gems. They represented the beauty of God’s Kingdom. They were all around us. Then I saw the significance of when we complain and grumble. When we do this, we cover and slather our eyes with mud and we stick our faces in the mud, both of which cause us to have an inability to see the beauty of God’s kingdom around us.”

Everything God creates is beautiful, but I think we are His gems. The breast piece the high priest had to wear in the Old Covenant had twelve precious gems on it representing the twelve tribes of Israel. (Exodus 28:21)  God wanted the priest to know that His people are His gems.

Maybe you have been hurt by people or by the church, so how you see others is tainted by your wound. Why not forgive? Why not consider how you have hurt others and have needed their forgiveness? We all need a new beginning so we have to be willing to give others a new beginning too.

The truth is that, even though you’re flawed, you are God’s gem, but the only way you’ll believe it is to grant that all those around you are also His gems. Father, remove the mud of accusation from our eyes, so we can see one another the way You do.

Posted in 1Peter, 2Corinthians, Exodus, Psalms

Diamonds in the Rough

“As for the saints of the earth, they are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.” Psalm 16:3

David didn’t just forgive God’s people, and he didn’t just tolerate the saints; he delighted in them. How can we do the same? I think the key is seeing them the way God sees them: Diamonds in the rough.

In Exodus 28:17 God commanded Moses to make an ephod with four rows of three precious stones each. The stones represented the twelve tribes of Israel and the priest was to remember that this was how God felt about His people by wearing this ephod over his heart whenever he came into God’s presence. Four rows – three in each row – ruby, topaz, emerald; turquoise, sapphire, diamond; jacinth, agate, amethyst; beryl, onyx, jasper – the saints are God’s jewels.

A frequent accusation against believers and an argument against the truth of Christianity is hypocrisy. When an unbeliever sees a so-called Christian fall short of their expectation, they say out loud or think to themselves, “I thought you were supposed to be a Christian! Hypocrite!”

But the authentic Christian doesn’t claim to be a perfect diamond, but a diamond in the rough. “We have this treasure in earthen vessels,” says the apostle Paul, “so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” (2Corinthians 4:7) We have a sin nature; we have a struggle going on inside of us, but we also have a new nature and are part of a new creation.

Our responsibility toward one another is to look past the rough and start seeing and speaking to the diamond. Christians often focus on the wrong thing and get paralyzed by sin and shame, their own, and that of their brothers and sisters. Can we look past the rough? Peter exhorts us, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another because love covers a multitude of sins.” (1Peter 4:8) Don’t you want others to love you like that? We can’t excuse sin but after confession, we dare not dwell on it, or we will miss what God is seeing.  

His delight is in the saints; let’s learn to delight in them too.

Posted in 2Corinthians, Acts, Exodus, John, Revelation

Thinking Right

“But the Jews who refused to believe stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers.” Acts 14:2

Belize and Mexico are two places I regularly go for missions trips and in both places you can’t drink the tap water. It looks fine but is contaminated, so you can’t drink it or you become sick. A few years ago our whole team got sick and it was traced back to a restaurant where they had cooked the chicken we ate in contaminated water. You only have to get sick once to become very careful about what you drink!

Are we as careful about our thoughts? In our text we have a group of Jews who “refused to believe” the good news of God’s love and redemption through Christ and then poisoned others with their judgments. When we stop seeing ourselves and others as loved and worth redeeming, we tend to take up the enemy’s accusations instead. (Revelation 12:10) This is poison. Satan sows suspicion and bitterness toward others in our minds if we let him, and he can even use us to divide homes, friends and churches. He knows that a kingdom divided will not stand and is the master at using poisonous thoughts to bring offense, isolation, envy, and jealousy.

The judgments we make appear to be “the truth,” so we justify ourselves in thinking them and even speaking them, but judgment isn’t the whole truth. God loves people and sent His Son into the world to save us, not to condemn us. (John 3:17) We overcome the accuser by testifying about the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 12:11) which was shed for us and for everyone we know. The whole truth, therefore, is not just what is wrong with people, but must include what God has done through His Son to make them right. (2Corinthians 5:19)

When the children of Israel came out of Egypt, they drank from a water source that was poisonous. Moses cried out to God, and God showed him a tree. (Exodus 15:25) He cut it down, threw it in the water, and it became sweet. God didn’t show him a different place to drink that had pure water; He redeemed that which was bitter and made it sweet. He wants to do the same thing with our thinking. Why don’t we identify our poison, bring it to the cross, and allow God to sweeten our thoughts toward even the most difficult sinners in our lives.

Posted in Exodus, Genesis

Patterns of Evidence

“Know this for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they will serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions . . . In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not reached its full measure.” Genesis 15:13-16

Filmmaker Timothy Mahoney went on a journey to discover whether the exodus the Bible describes is actual history or only a myth. What he found after more than a decade of traveling all over the world interviewing top scholars and Egyptologists is patterns of evidence affirming the Biblical account.

But the evidence was not in the time period archeologists were looking in and this led to much skepticism toward the Biblical account. Because of Exodus 1:11, “They built Pithom and Ramses as store cities for Pharaoh,” scholars assumed that Ramses was the Pharaoh of the exodus, so that was the city they were excavating. Many problems became evident: No sign of a Semite (Israelites are called Semites) population, no signs of distress in Egypt, and nothing that indicated any people group who were there, up and left.

Yet other Egyptologists call the text of Exodus 1:11 an “anachronism,” something added to the text by a later editor to help their readers understand where they were referring to. What the later editor was actually saying was something like this: “This is the place where the Israelites built the store city and we know it today as Ramses.” Evidence of a similar anachronism is found in Genesis 47:11 where Joseph settles his family in Goshen and the text refers to it as “the best part of the land, the district of Ramses.” This was hundreds of years earlier than the Exodus 2:11 text, long before any Ramses could possibly have been Pharaoh, or named a city after himself.

For the last thirty years, archeologists have been digging in another city, also in the area of Goshen, but at a lower level than Ramses, called “Avaris.” This city existed hundreds of years earlier than Ramses, in what Egyptologists call “The Middle Kingdom,” and in it is found every evidence Ramses was lacking. (Mahoney’s movie is called: Patterns of Evidence)

Posted in Exodus, Jeremiah, John, Revelation

Drinking the Spirit

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” John 7:37-39

We will never have rivers flowing out of us into this needy world until we learn how to regularly drink of God’s precious Spirit. It is not enough to believe in the Spirit, or even acknowledge our need for the Spirit; we must drink. Why don’t we regularly drink of the Spirit?

  1. We don’t drink because we are often trying to get a drink of something this world offers. “My people have committed two evils; they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13) Sports, TV, hunting, fishing, video games, work, and education are all neutral things unless we are looking to them for the renewal that only God can give, then they become leaky cisterns. Alcohol, pornography, gambling, smoking, and drugs are often the doorways to addiction for desperate people that started out only knowing that there was a thirst in their souls. God said that He alone is a fountain; an unending supply of renewal and refreshing for those who truly bring their thirst to Him.
  2. We don’t drink because we presume we already have drunk because we go to church, pray, and read the Bible. One of the saddest pictures in the Bible is Jesus outside the door of His own church knocking in Revelation 3:20. He has everything they need but He’s unable to give it to them because they have adjusted their lives and expectations to what they already have so they aren’t even asking for more. “I have need of nothing,” is what they say. 
  3. We don’t drink because we aren’t confident of God’s heart toward us. Exodus 34:14 in the New Living Translation says, “The Lord your God is passionate about His relationship with you.” God doesn’t just love you and me, He likes us. He wants to be with us. Jesus didn’t just die so that we could be forgiven and go to heaven some day. He died so that we could come into God’s presence now, and regularly drink of His Spirit.
Posted in 1Corinthians, Exodus, Matthew

Foreshadows of His Sacrifice

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians’” Exodus 6:6-7 

God’s plan from the beginning was to call out a people who would walk with Him in time and for all eternity. He knew before He made us about sin, so His plan all along was redemption – our walk with Him would only be on the terms of His first delivering us. The exodus from Egypt and the journey to the promised land foreshadow our redemption from sin and journey into the promised life we have in Christ. Today I want to reflect on the way Israel was delivered.

There were ten plagues that visited Egypt, but only the tenth set God’s people free.  The final plague was the death of the first-born male in every house throughout the land unless each home did what God commanded the Israelites to do. Every family was to find a male lamb a year old that had no blemish (Exodus 12:5) and sacrifice it on the 14th day of the month (Exodus 12:6) which was to be their first month from now on. (The Israelites call the month: “Nisan.”) Then they were to apply the blood of the lamb to the top and sides of their doors and were to eat the lamb so they would have strength for their journey. That night the final plague would come, but every home that was covered by the blood of the lamb would be passed over. (Exodus 12:13)

On the Friday before Passover in 33 AD, Jesus of Nazareth was inspected early in the morning by Pilate’s court. He was found to be innocent and without blemish. Even his accuser declared him innocent when he gave back the money he received from betraying him. (Matthew 27:4)

That afternoon, just as the Passover lambs were being sacrificed in the temple, Jesus died on the cross. John the Baptist had said: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) Paul says that “Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed.” (1Corinthians 5:7)