Romans 16: 1-16…It’s A Community Thing and A Family Tradition.

Sometimes we can wander into a field of abundant fruit, so it is that I see this chapter in Romans to be exactly that. Paul opens the chapter with a letter of commendation for Phoebe, a sister in Christ. Phoebe came to Rome from the city of  Cenchreae which was the port of Corinth. Note here Paul gives instructions to welcome her in the Lord’s way. God’s people are family but we don’t always act the way we should toward each other.Phoebe is an interesting person who sometimes is referred to as a deaconess but at that early stage of the church it is not likely that she held an official position in the church. What we learn about Phoebe brings into focus the value of women in the early days of the church. It was not so within the secular world. In the early church the service of women was invaluable to the function of meeting the needs of the church to visit the sick and the distribution of food to the poor and other various needs of the ministry which were vital to the life and work of the early church. Paul was taking no chances where Phoebe was concerned, when he instructed that she be welcomed as an apostle of Christ. In this day our churches and even church organizations can become a mess of closed societies, not truly welcoming strangers…Paul’s advice to the church which should apply  for us today….Welcome them as God’s dedicated people ought to welcome each other.

These verses in chapter 16: 3-16 present some hidden stories. There are 26 names, if I counted right, that have a story to tell about the early church. These are people Paul considered to be important to the early struggles of the faith, enough so that he took time and space to note before or after every name a commendation. While we might guess at some of these stories, of which few are known, we can be sure that they came to serve the Lord first in all things. Consider that twenty-four are individual names of which six are women. This blows away the stories of Paul belittling the status of women in the Church. Paul’s attitude was one of appreciation of the work that women were doing in the Church. I could go even  further reminding us that the women were present at the cross while many of Jesus’ closest disciples were no where to be found. The morning of the resurrection it was the women who left the safety of the room to go to the tomb. Thirteen of those names had ties to the emperor’s palace in Rome.  Paul said that Tryphaena and Tryphosa were in the habit of doing; and the point is that Tryphaena and Tryphosa mean respectively dainty and delicate! In a way Paul was saying: (‘You two may be called dainty and delicate; but you belie your names by working like Trojans for the sake of Christ.’ …DBS / William Barclay)

There is so much to share in these few verses so I will keep this week’s blog short. Join me in The Pew  next week as we look at some of the facts within the scripture that tells a story about some of these people. Without Paul there might have been no ministry to the Gentiles and without these people Paul’s call to go and tell the story for the risen Christ would have been even more difficult to achieve.

Life is Good

jk 

Back In The Pew… The Elephant

 

I think the last time he was here was March of 2015. The following is an excerpt from that Blog, of 2015:

“Experience has taught me that the act of avoidance is akin to blissful ignorance. Wake up! This elephant is not going to go away. There is a debate that encompasses the whole of the United Methodist Church, is divisive at its very utterance and is quietly destroying the faith. It is particularly disturbing because the leadership of our denomination is itself spinning in the wind in hopes that enough dust will cover a subject that draws lines quicker than a room full of architects with pencils and drawing tables.” Here is the link to that blog if you wish to read it.

https://fromthepewblog.com/2015/03/22/the-elephant-in-the-pew/

The usual path to such issues that impact the doctrine and the Discipline of the United Methodist Church follow a set pattern of procedures that allows opinions from those in the pew, on committees, church councils and others sources of input and hopefully prayer…lots of it. I left the “church” shortly thereafter because I found the issue so compelling that it interfered with good judgement but most of all with a Christian attitude of love and tolerance. Covid a few years later put the issue on hold…or you might say exasperated all sides involved in this. There was one thing that I found odd…the almost total silence from the pew concerning this issue. What was the issue that caused me to leave? From the past blog:

The subject of discussion is Homosexuality, Same Sex Marriage and what the church believes to be the correct path forward. Like the Israelites we too have been wandering in the wilderness, for at least forty years, and having our faith questioned. For us there seems to be no Mosses and the Promised Land is hidden from view behind trees of words.”

So I was gone for awhile but not out of church. First lesson I learned is that my haste to act was wrong and I in a way had abandon my faith just as John Mark abruptly left Paul and Barnabas after they had arrived at Perga on that first mission trip. I also learned that there was a need for fellowship, it is a big part of the christian community, which I have now come to refer to as the community of faith. Denominations and doctrine do not sustain faith and I might add convenience should not be a factor in our response to God’s call in our life. 

After returning to the Methodist Church a few years ago and having time being away from the doctrine, committees and the uncertainty of direction the church would go, I now view this Elephant In The Pew differently. As United Methodists we must not abandon our church that is no longer a valid action. When I look back and reassess, I discover I had as the saying goes “the wrong end of the stick”. The first problem I had to find peace with was my lack of biblical understanding. Notice I said understanding, not knowledge.You see as confusing as this might be I needed wisdom… and that comes only from God. You work hard you can acquire knowledge but lady wisdom is found only in God…it is a divine gift. These next twelve words have encouraged a million words or more.

Leviticus 18:22 – Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination. 

The next thing I have learned is that the lack of leadership from those in positions of influence and power in the Methodist Church were busy pretending that there was no elephant in the Church and it was my opinion that they preferred to keep it out of the “pew”. Most Pastors do not like unhappy folks in the pew…that type of atmosphere tends to encourage divisions among the congregation, upsets the DS and draws the attention of the Conference, not in a good way. I am just a Layman, I have served over the years on various committees, did chair the Church Council at one time and taught Sunday School. I mention this only as a point of reference that I at one time felt I knew the views in the pew of these hot button topics. The other reason being that I was looking in the wrong places…pointing with the wrong end of the stick. This headline caught my attention…. Methodist Leaders say ‘rebellion and dysfunction’ over LGBT issues splitting the denomination. (Jon Brown June 9, 2022 Fox News) Still no news from the “The Pew” the leadership act as if we know nothing. 

Now about that stick… everyone likes to play with numbers so here is what I believe. This is not a numbers game, this is about those who would pervert the scripture to advance their own Ungodly agenda. Gay Rights, LGBT and all the baggage that comes with it is squandering the ability of the faithful to share the word…Jesus Christ is the Son of The Living God…in whom, through whom, there is Forgiveness and Salvation…Life Everlasting. We of the faith are overlooking one important command…

Matthew 22:37-40 

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” 

So my final words to you on this subject would be to understand these points of thought. Consider not leaving the Methodist Church over the “rebellion and dysfunction” that keeps us from being Christ Like in our behavior. The God we serve is a God of Restoration, not Condemnation. Let’s get on telling the good news and never fall back from our responsibility of speaking out about those things and behaviors that separate us from our God, welcoming all to His Table. Would like to hear an AMEN from the Pew.

Life is Good

jk

Hygge….Another Meaning?

The Oxford Dictionaries’ 2016 “word of the year” shortlist was heavy on neologisms that one wishes didn’t have to exist: “alt-right,” “Brexiteer,” and this year’s winning term, “post-truth.” Among the finalists, though, there was one bit of solace: “hygge,” a Danish term defined as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” Pronounced “hoo-guh,” the word is said to have no direct translation in English, though “cozy” comes close. It derives from a sixteenth-century Norwegian term, hugga, meaning “to comfort” or “to console,” which is related to the English word “hug.” Associated with relaxation, indulgence, and gratitude, hygge has long been considered a part of the Danish national character. (New Yorker)

Twenty-one Years ago this Sunday will mark over two decades of remembering that day simply known as 9/11. The enduring legacy of that day is remembered best for those of us over 30 years of age as a day planes struck the towers in New York.  We all can remember where we were on that day and at that time. The immediate reaction was one of uncertainty, confusion, fear, vulnerability and anger, followed soon by that question that was on everyone’s mind…who and how could that happen to us…The United States?  Many of the above results were pretty much universal and the question of how could that happen… Who and how they did it was laid out over the next few years…but the core of the question has never really been answered….how could that happen to us? 

 We could use a little Hygge, interesting word with an even more deeper and contextual meaning. I like that in the Danish language it means to give courage, comfort and joy. The world could use a bit of that…and I know here in the USA we could use a boat load of that. Let’s throw out the politics and look at this a different way…God’s Way. If that makes you uncomfortable we will call it The Good Way. To add a little more I will share with you this from Wikipedia:

The noun hygge includes something nice, cozy, safe and known, referring to a psychological state.

I add this, you won’t need a psychiatrist to understand the importance of something nice, cozy, safe and known being a part of your life. That my friends is where today’s blog is going. The best way to find these things in life is God’s Way. Best way to find the good way Is the Bible, God’s word as spoken to the prophets throughout the life of his creation. Many people today are not comfortable with their lives…they know things could be better. There are many reasons we get into a state of discomfort. Loss of a loved one, overwhelmed by things happening around us, a tendency to feel as if we have lost control. There is a whole list of  ordinary things that can make life difficult. The road along God’s Way is paved with promises that will give you hope. Being honest though…it is not an easy road to travel, there are certain expectations for those who travel this road. While everyone’s troubles are different, all of us at one time or another are overwhelmed and feel no one cares…even to the point that we may come to believe that God has turned from us; why else would this trouble visit us? You must not go down that road. God cares and hears…

Psalm 22:24

For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; and he has not hid his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. 

Psalm 9:9

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,a stronghold in times of trouble.

 I was planning to re-post my blog from some years back, following  9/11. I have done that a number of times over the years.

https://fromthepewblog.com/2016/09/11/looking-back-the-day-we-were-one/

This year I have opted to share and interesting word, we all could use a little of.

After 9/11 Americans were hit with many different emotions and twenty-one years later, I can still see those people jumping from the towers, it remains firmly on my mind. For many of us the darkness of those days so long ago never seem that far away. One other thought…we Americans sometimes forget that other nations also lost people on that day. There were a lot of changes made that to this day effect the way we travel, live and adjust to the fact that the world somehow got a lot smaller on that day.  I came across this word the other day… Hygge… it is an old Norwegian word which meant something like “well-being”. Danish winters are known to be long and dark, and so the Danes fight the darkness with their best weapon: hygge. In both Danish and Norwegian, hygge refers to “a form of everyday togetherness,” “a pleasant and highly valued everyday experience of safety, equality, personal wholeness and a spontaneous social flow”. (Wikipedia)

To a Christian that could be translated to mean…Fellowship. So… you could say I am advocating a Christian Hygge, which is unusual because the Danes are considered more of a secular people except at Christmas. If you take all of the attributes listed so far concerning Hygge you will find them all in a relationship with God. Referring to the earlier statement that in the Danish language it means to give courage, comfort and joy, of which all can be found along the “Good Way.”

The simple definition of courage is to be able to do those things in life that frighten us. It can be as simple as speaking in public or racing into a fire to help someone. The possibilities are endless. What about standing at the foot of the cross as Jesus was crucified and his followers hiding in a room for fear of being recognized as one of HIS. Our God gives courage to those who persevere.

Psalm 27:14 Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the Lord!

Isaiah 40:29 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.

Travel the good way and God will give you the courage to meet the challenges of this earthly world.

I know of no one who would not accept the idea of being comfortable in their life. We all would like to be free of pain the constraints that limit our freedom to be at ease with our life. We all welcome the easing or alleviation of our feelings of grief or distress, in our lives as well as the lives of those we love. God’s way can do that!

Psalm 18:2 The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Psalm 138:7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou dost preserve my life; thou dost stretch out thy hand against the wrath of my enemies, and thy right hand delivers me.

Whatever distress comes into our life there is comfort when we follow the good way.There is joy in the Lord and those whose paths follow God’s Way will find happiness and joy.  “This is a day the Lord hath made, let’s rejoice and be glad”. What gives you joy and brings to you a feeling of pleasure and happiness? The list of attributes of Hygge are many and cover a multitude of things that move a person to this condition, some have even suggested it is no more than a state of mind. In closing out this blog in my opinion it is more than that. It is a matter of the heart. God knows your heart and your heart often rules your mind. I suggest the Christian version  of Hygge. Live life God’s Way, because it is The Good Way…. 

Psalm 89:15-16 Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! They walk, O Lord, in the light of Your countenance. 16 In Your name they rejoice all day long, And in Your righteousness they are exalted. 

 Philippians 4:4-9

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, do; and the God of peace will be with you.

As I was writing this the news came that Queen Elizabeth ll has passed. From the least to the greatest…from the weakest to the strongest…death has the finial say….

Think on that awhile…………

Life is Good

jk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preparation For The Trip…Exodus Chapter Six – Chapter 12

In this case it is not about packing clothes or toiletries or even maps and checking reservations…Moses must take to Pharaoh God’s command to “let my people go”. It will be a dangerous task, filled with frustrations but with Arron at his side Moses sets out to convince the Pharaoh and prepare him for the eventual outcome of this battle of words and signs. To cover chapters six through twelve in full would challenge even the most avid blog reader. I do recommend that you take the time to read these chapters  to gain a thorough understanding of the story. I have listed below a brief scripture guide for each chapter…These are from William Henry’s commentary, Study Light.org. I will also include a short summary of each chapter.

6-God renews his promise. (1-9) Moses and Aaron again sent to Pharaoh. (10-13) The parentage of Moses and Aaron. (14-30)

7-Moses and Aaron encouraged. (1-7) The rods turned into serpents, Pharaoh’s heart is hardened. (8-13) The river is turned into blood, The distress of the Egyptians. (14-25)

8-The plague of frogs. (1-15) The plague of lice. (16-19) The plague of flies. (20-32)

9-The murrain of beasts. (1-7) The plague of boils and blains. (8-12) The plague of hail threatened. (13-21) The plague of hail inflicted. (22-35)

10-The plague of locusts threatened, Pharaoh, moved by his servants, inclines to let the Israelites go. (1-11) The plague of locusts. (12-20) The plague of thick darkness. (21-29)

11-God’s last instructions to Moses respecting Pharaoh and the Egyptians. (1-3) The death of the first-born threatened. (4-10)

12-The beginning of the year changed, The passover instituted. (1-20) The people instructed how to observe the passover. (21-28) The death of the first-born of the Egyptians The Israelites urged to leave the land of Egypt. (29-36) The Israelites’ first journey to Succoth. (37-42) Ordinance respecting the passover. (43-51)

In chapter six God tells Moses and Aaron that he will lead the Israelites out of Egypt to a promised land. Both of these men were from the tribe of Levi. Moses had augured that they would need a sign of some kind to impress the Pharaoh and in chapter 7 they have it in Aaron’s staff which turned into a snake. Impressive…but the Pharaoh’s  folks did the same with their staffs. Here again God wins out…While each of the Pharaoh’s folks staffs did turn into snakes …Aaron’s snake swallowed each of theirs. Still the Pharaoh was unmoved. God then told Moses and Aaron to meet the Pharaoh as he went down to the water in the morning. Pharaoh was told again to let the people go…Arron then struck the water of the Nile with his staff and it turned to blood. Because the Nile was a main tributary all the rivers, creeks and streams do likewise. There were eight plagues yet to come as God had harden the Pharaohs heart. While all of this may seem redundant it is in this manner that I wish to impress upon you the steadfast faith of Moses and Arron, along with the indisputable fact, that God was unrelenting in his desire to free his people. Remember also that the Jews there at that time also suffered with these plagues. Pharaoh continued to be hard hearted and turned a deaf ear to the commands of God as told to him by Moses and Aaron. God was unrelenting and continued those plagues. A plague of frogs was next and Pharaoh begged for relief but then hardened his heart. The LORD sent gnats and then flies. The LORD sent a plague of locusts and this time Pharaoh begged for relief but then his heart was hardened. The LORD sent darkness for three days. The LORD said that he would send one more plague, and then Pharaoh would let the Israelites go: all the firstborn Egyptians would die. 

Of course the book of Exodus doesn’t end at chapter 12, like all road trips it is just the beginning. There are a few points in chapter 12 that are worth noting. When the God becomes involved all things are made new. As God moves to take his people from Pharaoh to a promise of a better place and life, it was on this night the Feast of The Passover would be instituted. God appointed that, on the night wherein they were to go out of Egypt, each family should kill a lamb, or that two or three families, if small, should kill one lamb. This lamb was to be eaten in the manner here directed, and the blood to be sprinkled on the door-posts, to mark the houses of the Israelites from those of the Egyptians. We know that as the Angel passed over the people of Israel were spared from this last act of God. This Passover celebration was to be kept every year, both as a remembrance of Israel’s preservation and deliverance out of Egypt their safety and deliverance were not a reward of their own righteousness, but the gift of mercy. We seem to forget that it is best that we come to God’s terms, for he will never come to ours. It is best we stop here and look forward to another day to revisit this  book of Exodus. It is at this point that Pharaoh tells them to leave and the yoke of the Pharaoh is broken from their necks. They now began their long road trip. It will be a long and perilous journey….but remember this and I wish I had said it first…. It is not so much the journey but rather what happens along the way. This ragged bunch of people who had been demonized, abused and used for the Pharaohs labour needs will become a nation and will with God’s blessings cross over to the promised land. After all these years much of their faith and Jewish customs that defined them as God’s people being suppressed they will learn again as God instructs Moses and Aaron to prepare his people that they might be worthy of the blessings to come. Thus begins their forty year journey.

Thank you and God bless you for staying through this series. 

Life is Good

jk

On The Road Again… Without Willie and His Friends… Exodus Chapter 4&5

The first twelve chapters of Exodus set the up the Road Trip. The Pharaoh was an evil, stubborn man who had no fear of God…Truth was the Pharaoh did not know God. It is through the mercy, grace, and love of our Father that we learn and have mercy, compassion and love for people, the gods of Egypt and the Pharaoh and his people knew none of that.  

Here is a quick review of the first three chapters as God prepared His people for a Great Road Trip.In the first chapter of Exodus we are made aware of the history of these people before they became a nation. Moving on to chapter 2 we read of God preparing for the salvation of his people… God always is in charge and has a plan. “Moses is born, and exposed on the river. (1-4) He is found, and brought up by Pharaoh’s daughter. (5-10) Moses slays an Egyptian, and flees to Midian. (11-15) Moses marries the daughter of Jethro. (16-22) God hears the Israelites. (23-25) In chapter 3 God makes known his presence and plan to Moses. “God appears to Moses in a burning bush. (1-6) God sends Moses to deliver Israel. (7-10) The name Jehovah. (11-15) The deliverance of the Israelites promised. (16-22)

This week we move to chapter 4. We will break it down into four sets of verses, as follows. God gives Moses power to work miracles. (1-9) Moses is reluctant  to go, Aaron is to assist him. (10-17) Moses leaves Midian, God’s message to Pharaoh. (18-23) God’s displeasure against Moses, Aaron meets him, The people believe them. (24-31) In the first nine verses Moses objects that the people will not believe or accept his word alone. As in the NT to come, Moses cited a need for a sign. God gave him power to work miracles. I had a bit of a problem here but further research got me over the hump. I asked myself, but what of us today? What power do we as messengers of God’s word have…what or where is our power? Our Power lies in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Remember that old saying and Hymn… “there’s power in the blood”?  The word of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit can and will cast out the sins of man. When we accept Christ as Lord and savior, our power lies in our faith. Not to be to hard on Moses but to state the situation as it was, In verses 10-17, William Henry leaves little to ponder… “ We must not judge of men by the readiness of their discourse.” Moses wasn’t quick with his tongue, he was not a great orator but God often choses those that seem to be unlikely, so that His Glory and Power may be seen in their actions. We must not blame Moses from shrinking from the task. Moses knew the heart of the Pharaoh and the danger to him and his family as he undertook to do God’s calling. Step back and wonder at the wisdom of God as he gave Arron to assist Moses to take on the mission to free his people. The tongue of Aaron, with the head and heart of Moses, would make one complete team fit for this errand. God’s constant teaching and help along with God’s Divine grace, assured their success. God spoke to Moses often after the burning bush. The Pharaoh had harden his hearts against the cries and moans of despair of the oppressed Israelites and in righteous judgement God hardens His heart to the terror of the plagues and other judgements being put upon the Pharaoh and his people. Will Pharaoh respond? God commands Moses to tell him…   Thus saith the Lord. He must demand a discharge for Israel, Let my son go; not only my servant, whom thou hast no right to detain, but my son. It is my son that serves me, and therefore must be spared, must be pleaded for. In case of refusal I will slay thy son, even thy first-born. As men deal with God’s people, let them expect so to be dealt with.

Over time nations and people over all the world have put aside the teachings of God, Christ and the council of the Holy Spirit, blind to the need of salvation, forging ahead in a rush for power and putting self first. Pharaoh does just that and does not heed God’s command. One interesting thing in these last verses (24-31) that stand out to me is the need to make ourselves right with God. When things are wrong in our lives we would be wise to correct them quickly. These things that are amiss in our lives are calling out to us to return to God and his precepts. God sent Arron to Moses and the elders of Israel met with them and believed. Then Israel welcomed the tidings of their deliverance, and worshipped the Lord, how should we welcome the glad tidings of redemption?…Embrace it in faith, and adore the Redeemer! When through faith, prayer and Divine intervention we too should worship the Lord and stand strong in the faith.

There are always consequences when we follow God…In the NT Jesus on several occasions made it very plain that to follow Him would not be easy, it would be a perilous path not without personal cost. The Israelites here in chapter 5, OT, are about to pay a price for their faith and obedience to God’s call. 

Bricks without straw…Pharaoh treated all he had heard with contempt. He did not know God and he did not fear Him; he refused to obey Him. Can you remember a time in your life that you refused to obey? Did your pride, ambition, covetousness, and lack of knowledge, hardened your heart which in turn led to a bad time? What Moses and Aaron ask is very reasonable, they wished only to go three days’ journey into the desert, where they would sacrifice unto the Lord our God. Pharaoh had no intention of that happening. In our lives today we often experience the rejections of a good thing on the basis of those opposed misrepresenting our intent. This can be read in different ways but the first thing that bothered the Pharaoh was the fact that the people would not be doing his work. This is my other thought and is my opinion. We know that he had no knowledge of God and certainty no understanding of the Jews and their beliefs. When he was told they wanted to go into the wilderness to worship and sacrifice unto the Lord our God, he immediately took that to mean people would die. He said no and used this as a pretense to add to their burdens. This added to the burden of Moses and Arron by causing physical distress and hardship on the very people they were sent to free. The quota of bricks per day was not reduced and to maintain that they would have to get their own straw. To do all this would be a physical strain that would break many of the men. In the closing verses 10-23 we know the task mangers of the Jews were very severe in their treatment of those who failed to meet the quota that had been set for the bricks due per day. The head workman with just cause complained to Pharaoh but received only his destain and taunts. There were many who worked harder to meet the quotas and their previous complaining to Moses and Arron brought home to them their previous sins and left them in shame. Mosses, I am sure was shaken by this turn of events that brought more misery on the people. But being diligent in faith Moses returned to the Lord. He knew that what he had said and done, was by God’s direction; and therefore appeals to him. The key here is Moses returned to the Lord. In life today we are often left disappointed in a task that becomes difficult. We must not let that drive us from the direction God has given us. We may well be confused as to why something has happen but faith in God will overcome when we to go to God, and lay open our case before him by fervent prayer.

Thank you for staying with this series from Exodus. Next week we will close out this series but not the book of Exodus. We will have traveled through the first 12 chapters and there are 38 chapters in the book. That gives us the chance to return to this important book in the future.

Life is Good

jk

 

Exodus…The Road Ahead

As we start this journey in earnest I encourage you to read the Book of Exodus, the first 12 chapters tell of their path to their great journey…God’s Great Road Trip. We note right off that the life of Moses plays out over three 40 year segments.  

The first forty he spent as a prince in Pharaoh’s court, the second as a shepherd in Midian, the third as a king in Jeshurun, which is another word for Israel. Life is always changing and Moses was constantly having to adapt to the changes and from that first day in those bulrushes God was with him. When God first shows himself to Moses, he finds him tending sheep. Moses has two qualities which we all can admire. While Tending sheep…seems like an unlikely position for a man who was raised in a royal household, a well educated man, he is satisfied with it, he has learned meekness and contentment…Many times we are driven to do things because we cannot be happy with what we have. God is pleased when he finds us busy with life and not resting in idle despair. As we move through these first six verses the mission is disclosed as God makes his presence and purpose known to Moses. Tending sheep was a lonely job but sometimes being alone is a good friend when we have the opportunity to communicate with God. One thing about God he shows up in the most unexpected ways. The bush was burning, but yet it did not burn away and that got the attention of Moses. There is a point here, that bush is a symbol of the faith then and of the church today…it reminds us that in every age under the severest of persecution the presence of God has kept the faith and the church from being destroyed and in this case…that bush. Fire itself is an emblem of the church in many ways. In it we see Divine holiness and justice, of the afflictions and trials of the faithful, the purification of his people, the baptism of the Holy Ghost…The presence of God magnified in many ways. Words, we can get lost in words when the simple truth is there before our very eyes. God comes to us in many ways and a receptive heart and mind do us great service. We can assume that Moses was a bit taken back by that bush…but he was a good man, chosen by God and he responded by taking off his shoes as a token of submission and respect. Moses hid his face as if ashamed to look upon the face of God. Fear and Awe.The more we see of God, and his grace, and covenant love, the more cause we shall see to worship him with reverence and godly fear. These next few verses 7-10 inform us of God noticing the afflictions and hearing the cries of his people. The oppressions they have endured at the behest of the Pharaoh and his taskmasters but know that they in all their earthly greatness are not above him, God promises speedy deliverance by the his protective care and spiritual power. We must remember that even in the harshest of times God hears our cries. There is waiting for us a heavenly Canaan, so to speak. 

Verses 11-15 show us a Moses who is held back by of all things his own confidence when he suddenly is confronted with the knowledge of his own weaknesses. We must learn not to move quickly but to seek God’s guidance and learn the patience of and assurance of faith in our God. It is enough to know that he will be with us in our heavenly endeavors. Our God is self-existent: he has his being of himself and That he is eternal and unchangeable, and always the same, yesterday, to-day, and for ever. God says,  “I AM THAT I AM.”  Let Israel know this, I AM hath sent me unto you. I am, and there is none else besides me. All else have their being from God, and are wholly dependent upon him. Also, here is a name that denotes what God is to his people. The Lord God of your fathers sent me unto you. Moses must revive among them the religion of their fathers, which was almost lost; and then they might expect the speedy performance of the promises made unto their fathers.

Wisdom, knowledge and power are the fuel of the burning bush. By God’s grace the elders of Israel would receive the instructions of Moses into their hearts, they would open their ears to him, Moses, and his commands, which God has given him. God makes known to Moses that petitions and persuasions, and humble complaints, would not prevail with the Pharaoh; nor a mighty hand stretched out in signs and wonders. But Pharaoh will certainly be broken by the power of God’s hand, who will not bow to the power of his word. From all this we have a view of the miserable, abject state of sinners. It seems in a way unbelievable but they struggle on till God sends redemption. God sends his message and will through Moses and most importantly the teaching of his Spirit. Thus Satan loses his power to hold them and they are set free with all they have….and more. Giving thanks to the glory of God and to service to his church.

What is your Egypt? Who or what holds you in bondage? Seek the word of our Lord and began your Road Trip. 

Life is Good

jk 

Exodus…God’s Great Road Trip

Lay this world aside for a while and join me in the Pew as we rediscover God’s Great Road Trip. During more than 200 years, while Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived at liberty, the Hebrews increased slowly; only about seventy persons went down into Egypt. The Book of Exodus is the record of how God rescued his people, Israel, from the cruel oppression of slavery in Egypt. The end of the book of Genesis reads that at the invitation of Joseph who was a son of Jacob, Jacob’s family to come to Egypt. Joseph had attained a degree of power there and sought to bring them to Egypt to avoid the famine. Here in Egypt even though they were under cruel bondage, they became a large nation. A quick profile will show us that at the end of Genesis they went down to Egypt as a free people and they prospered and grew in number. They did so well in their new environment that the people of Egypt grew to fear them and sought to control them by enslaving them. The opening chapter of Exodus tells how the Israelites were enslaved by the Egyptians. We often do what I call a surface read.

The words resonate in our minds but we don’t always go beyond the words. What do I mean by that? Consider an old man’s reasoning…The Bible is like good western wear…never goes out of style. The bible relates to places and things even in our day. People are oppressed, enslaved, genocide is still a problem in certain parts of the world and ethnic cleansing still occurs. The story of the Exodus is about a people willing to flee the oppression they live under, to take a dangerous journey on the way to a better place. It doesn’t stop there. In Exodus we are introduced to the God we met in Genesis, the creator of life, he who made humanity in his own image. Here begins the story of a God who has heard his people’s cry…and comes to rescue them from their oppressive circumstances…this life that is threatening the very blessings of the life he has created. This chapter relates to the coming together of the children of Israel into a church and a nation. Exodus, the departure from Egypt and Egyptian bondage as the fulfilling of several promises and prophecies to Abraham respecting his seed, and shadows the state of the church  in the wilderness of this world, until her arrival at the heavenly Canaan, an eternal rest.

I plan to look at a few verses at a time in the hope that I can encourage you to read this wonderful book of a remarkable God, his people and a Road Trip to salvation. We will start in chapter 1, verses 8-14. It is hard to imagine but we must consider the fact that the place where we are so happy could soon become the very place of our affliction. The people did well because Joseph was so well loved but with his death things started to change. It is a fact that after a man dies the best of his services to his fellow man are soon forgotten. So it was with the Egyptians toward Joseph and his people. We have stated that the Egyptians feared the growth of the Israelites and of course there is the sin of envy, they resented the Jews prosperity. The desire to be free escalated as the punishments increased because of the fear the Egyptians had of the growing numbers of the Jews. Funny thing took place here, the more the Egyptians punished the Jews the Egyptians became more annoyed and frustrated with their efforts and the Jews. It is at that point…verses 15-22 that the Egyptians tried to destroy Israel by the murder of their children. They had no pity on the Jews and resented the obvious fact that these people were the recipient’s of an uncommon blessing. The enemy attempted to destroy the church in its infant state, they moved quickly to stifle any hope of  objection to their deed, they moved before it had a chance to become a matter of the heart among other Egyptians. It was a matter of pure and simple genocide. Those who are free of sin should cry out loudly to the Lord for his saving grace that even in this day such things continue to happen.

A quick overview of chapter 2…. Moses is born, (1-4) He is found, by Pharaoh’s daughter who takes him in and raises him. (5-10) Then in his early manhood Moses slays an Egyptian, and flees to Midian. (11-15) There Moses marries the daughter of Jethro. (16-22) It is next followed by the news that God hears the Israelites cries of oppression.(23-25) What can we learn if we go beyond the words? The very first thing is that God is always ahead of the game so to speak. As the Pharaoh’s cruelty increased a deliverer is born…Moses. All through time men have planed ways to destroy the church… our God is always preparing for its salvation. In Hebrews 11:23 God is already preparing a way for the people’s deliverer.

11:23

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

In verses 5-10 we read that our faith in God will lift us above the burden of fear…we can accomplish much with God as our guide.

When the baby Moses lie alone in an ark of bulrushes by the rivers edge God watched over him. When we seem most neglected and forlorn, God is present with us. As he lay there watched by his sister along comes the Pharaoh’s daughter…call it luck if you want but those of faith would call it a divine act. No one else could have the power and wherewithal to have got this done. She even brought his mother in to nurse him. So what do we see here? God rules, God is in charge and in God’s time there will always be a way. In these next verses 11-15 we see a man’s faith in action. In Exodus 2:11 Moses sees for himself the cruelty of the Egyptians to the Hebrews. It puts forth the consideration  that the future actions of Moses were faith driven. He leaves behind   the honors, wealth, and pleasures of his rank among the Egyptians. In these next verses we see that faith in God overcomes the world. By the grace of God he was a partaker of faith in Christ, which overcomes the world. He was willing, not only to risk all, but to suffer for his sake; being assured that Israel were the people of God.

 There are some facts that different commentaries views question the killing of the Egyptian beating a Hebrew as others view it as a special warrant from Heaven. There was also the attempt of Moses to settle a dispute between two Hebrews. Beyond the words here is a lesson for the church today. There are many theological debates a questions of doctrine that divide and weaken the church today. As a church and a Christian community we must be on guard against those who profess faith and are easily angered or frustrated when their ways are challenged. Because he saw an injustice and sought to stop it and reached out to seek a reconciliation between his Hebrew brethren  …Moses was forced to flee to Midian. From this point on verses 23-25 there is an awaking of the people of Israel, the bondage in Egypt continued but the murdering of the infant children stoped. They began to think of God in the mist of their problems which usually leads to a closer relationship with God and strengthens their desire for deliverance. God never forgets his covenants, he looked upon the Jews and considered the merits of their cries of despair. I could write much more but it is sufficient to know that God’s eyes are fixed upon the people of Israel and to simply leave it at this verse….

Mathew 11:28

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

This brings us to the end of the first two chapters of Exodus. Thank you for joining me in the Pew…Join me next week as we return to this amazing Road Trip. 

Life is Good

 jk

God’s Will, Wisdom, The Scorecard Proverbs…8

Welcome back, yes we are back again to Proverbs. Had a note from a reader that Proverbs 8 was one of his favorite chapters in this book; so I went to take a quick look and I couldn’t leave it at that. So this week we will run the chapter, we will break it down into four parts. 

It is Christ as wisdom who calls to the sons of men.The first set of verses from Proverbs 8 will be vv.1-11. Clearly Mosses and the prophets made known the will of God…but we will also find that will in the creation and fortified in the consciences of men. The problem has always been to get us to pay attention to the instruction given to us. As would be said, tis a pity, because the words of Christ will guide us to that saving knowledge of the truth.     When we open our hearts to understanding and are willing be to receive the truth in love, we will find that wisdom to be worth more than silver and gold. 

In the next set of verses vv. 12-21 we are instructed that wisdoms promises the good we have received and given have been laid up…saved not for just days but for eternity. It is in a way like Murphy’s Law…If there is a way to mess up our relationship with God, you can be sure we will find a way. There are some things God finds annoying and we would do well to note those. God hates pride and arrogance, evil ways and contrite conversations. These are some of the things that keep us from humbling ourselves and being awaken to his holy instructions. Even with this line-up, God found a way for our recovery. The true religion, I prefer to call it the true faith, gives us the best advice in difficult times, pointing out the best way to go. Truly happy are those who receive it in the love of Jesus Christ. There is yet more to consider. We must seek him early, seek him earnestly, put him before anything else. The love of Christ will overwhelm the believers and it will fill their hearts. The believer will be happy in this world but even more so in the world to come. Wealth of this world obtained by our own vanity at the expense of others will not last long…That which we do in christian piety and selfless charity will do well and honor our God. It is true…Christ by his spirit will guide all believers in truth and righteousness thus will we be happy in the glory of God hereafter.

Verses 22-31 says a lot in just a few words. Scriptures tell us that Christ was present at the creation of the world . Consider this…the son of God was ordained even before the creation and was destine to do great works. He will take great pleasure in saving sinners and the restoration of God’s’ people to salvation. Like a moth drawn to a flame lets be responsive and not refuse the mercy of Christ. Those who hear the voice of our Savior, pray daily, read and meditate on God’s word, will be blessed. Heed these words…those who refuse the word, find excuses to neglect the path to salvation will never obtain God’s favor or the grace of His salvation. We close out with verses 32-36.Those who offend Christ deceive themselves; sin is a wrong to the soul. Sinners die because they will die, which justifies God when he judges.

 What does wisdom say we should do? We need to listen to Christ as he calls to us, there should be an eagerness liken to that of a child seeing and hearing new things. We would be wise not to refuse such mercy and grace.

 

Proverbs…3:1-35….Trust and Honor God

We have been instructed in the call of wisdom, the evils that would marginalize and keep us from receiving such wisdom, that which is of God. Today we move to trust and honor in Proverbs 3. Let’s break it down into five sections. The first being verses 1-6 concerning exhortations to obedience and faith.

Obedience to God’s commandments, and faith in his instructions to us will provide us with joy and peace, though our days may not be long upon earth, we shall live forever in heaven. Remember there is mercy and truth in God’s word and promises, He will not forsake us! Live up to his instructions, take interest in them…let not your heart be troubled. Seek His guidance in all matters, may our words be pleasant to his ears and our actions pleasing in his sight.In verses 7-12 we are encouraged to be devoted to His will, reverent and righteous in our action toward others. We should never consider ourselves to be greater than others, nor should we seek unto ourselves the wisdom  that comes only from God. The pain and sufferings of this world will be less when He directs our paths; so that our way shall be safe and good, and happy at last.

Moving to Verses 13-20 we are instructed to understand that there is no argument as to the value of wisdom being far greater than any earthly treasures or precious jewels. God’s wisdom must be a part of our every day business, any venture we are willing to be a part of. This type of wisdom can only be obtained through Jesus Christ and can only be found in a strong faith nurtured by prayer. This type of wisdom leads us to the path of peace and makes our walk a pleasant task. Believe in Christ because he will make good on all his promises. What must we do? The answer is found in Verses 21-26… to walk safely in his way we must use discretion and wisdom close at hand, never letting the word depart from us. Our life, here in our earthly being and all that belongs to it, shall be under the protection of God’s providence; the spiritual life, and all its interests, under the protection of his grace, so that we shall be kept from falling into sin or trouble. These last verses  give specific instructions of things to do and certain behavior traits that are signs of the humble believer. Our business is to observe the precepts of Christ, and to copy his example; to do justice, to love mercy, and to beware of covetousness; to be ready for every good work, avoiding needless strife, and bearing evils, if possible, rather than seeking redress by law. The last one here  speaks volumes to the state of a rather growing trend….We have become a Litigious people, unreasonably prone to go to law to settle disputes. Next is a little hard but we must never envy those who prosper even though it might be due to the oppression of others…instead we must as followers of Christ never choose the things they do. There will always be a divine favor shown to the humble believer.

I hope you have enjoyed this short trip into Proverbs and I encourage you visit this very powerful book often for inspiration and wisdom.

Life is Good 

jk

 

Back To Proverbs… The Elusive Treasure… Proverbs 2:1-22

Some things about Proverbs… Teaching by proverbs was an ancient way of teaching. It was the most ancient way among the Greeks. It was a plain and easy way of teaching and did not impair people’s abilities to understand nor challenge their memories.It was a very profitable way of teaching, and served well to inform and inspire. Because times are so uncertain these days we , those of us of The Way…need more than ever the certainty of God’s wisdom and grace. Here in Proverbs 2 we are taught both how to get wisdom and how to use it when we have it. We must not be those who seek and receive, then turn away from what God has provided …knock and the door shall be opened…enter and be strengthened. In that first chapter there were warnings against evil people and wisdom’s crying out to be heard. In this chapter we learn the value of wisdom. 

How might we obtain this wisdom? First we must recognize that the true wisdom of life is of God. Anyone who desires knowledge will today find it through study, experience and in all kinds of various forms in the digital world we now have. So how do we get there, to God’s wisdom? The true wisdom the Christian seeks will be found in the word of God. Proverbs 2:1-2…We must have assurance that the words of God are more than adequate for our wisdom and understanding. We must know that even with all the writings and words that surround us, it is divine revelation, and the true faith built upon it, that will lead us to God’s wisdom in all its fullness.The word of God has always contained commandments and promises and we should welcome them without dispute or murmurings of dissent. The words are like treasures to be stored up…These words must be retained, always on our minds and close to our hearts, keeping them near should we need them to strengthen our faith. We must take every opportunity to hear the word, listening with attention and seriousness. These things we must do to insure we have built our faith on solid ground. Prayer, the unceasing cry for knowledge, knowing that anything less will not prevail. Prayer does not have to be a thing of desperation. Make it a time of simple conversation with God…ask for the knowledge of truth that leads to its sister wisdom. Lift your voices to Heaven where the good and perfect gifts can be found at the foot of the throne. Raise your voice so that it might be heard in Heaven and submit your tongue to the command of Wisdom. Solomon prayed for Wisdom and he obtained it.

There is a practicality in Wisdom. Wisdom protects us from people of corrupt principles, whose profane actions seek to cloud our judgement and instill prejudices against our faith as they seek to strengthen their arguments for sin and Un-Godly behavior. There is the note that Wisdom will protect us from corrupt women…I would rather it read from the sins of bodily lust which pervert God’s will and intent…nuff said. Sin comes in many ways to distract from the path of righteousness. The Wisdom of good men and women can be seen in the way they walk in the faith…See that, emulate it, avoid the walk of a sinful person. We must not only choose our way in general by the good examples of the saints, but must also take directions from them, they are the examples of the road taken  by the Saints of old as well as those of the present. God’s wisdom is not easily found, you must to refer to a former command…seek it with all your heart, mind and being… Let wisdom enter your heart and savor the peace that will keep you from the evils of this world. 

My love of this book grows each time I visit it. In chapter 1 we had an invitation, a warning against evil and read of the call of wisdom. Chapter 2 presented to us the value of wisdom. I am not ready just yet to leave this wonderful book…so next week… Chapter 3…Trusting and Honoring God. Come back and join us in the Pew next week.

Life is Good

jk