What Moses Has To Do With Easter

This Easter feels different, it’s like I’m hyper-aware of what’s actually going on. I’m not sure if it has to do with being a parent, or am just now beginning to be aware again of a world outside myself with just as much hurt and so much more than I’ve experienced over the last two years, or it’s simply the work of the Holy Spirit, but I think it started with the question my daughter asked me in the car on our way to school in a hurry (always) the other morning.

“Mom, did Jesus have a crown?”

“Yes–but it wasn’t a real crown. It was a crown made out of thorns that men put on his head to mock Jesus.”

“What does mock mean?”

“It means making fun of someone.”

And that’s when I broke down, because I thought of these verses:

John 10:14 I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me–just as my father knows me and I know the Father–and I lay down my life for the sheep…vs 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.

There He was, King. A real, live king among wretched depraved servant-souls, much like my own. He had the choice. The choice to lay down his life, the High Priest offering Himself.

My sister and I have been discussing the portion of Exodus 32 where Moses, after he comes back down the mountain from receiving the Ten Commandments to find that the Israelites went directly against what the Lord had commanded by erecting a golden calf and worshipping it. Moses was incensed. He broke the tablets with the Commandments on it, melted the idol, ground it into powder and made the Israelites drink it. But, his heart is torn. In order to advocate for his people Moses went back to the Lord and acknowledged their grievous sins, asking, “ But now, please forgive their sin–but if not then blot me out of the book you have written.” Wow, this isn’t something you enter into lightly with a Holy God. Moses was saying, essentially, Lord, take my salvation from me if it means saving these people. But our just Lord came back to him with “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book.”

My sister mentioned this story twice over the phone this week and it didn’t click until just now. This was just a glimmer of what was to come: a perfect, sinless, holy Lamb who was willing to lay down his life for his people–and a trust in his Father to know that he would take it up again. He knew, that taking on the sin of the world would mean separation from His Father and yet He did it anyway.

Can I say that? “ Lord, I am willing to be separated for eternity from you in order to see the ones I love and don’t love around me come to a knowledge of yourself.” Because Christ did that unfathomable work on the cross we don’t have to. Thank you.

Godliness with Contentment

We see two scenarios in Scripture where God bestows so much, yet appetites get the better, the struggle for power and independence apart from God overpower His perfect plan.

The first is that of Adam and Eve in Garden of Eden. God gave these two an entire paradise of good things pleasant to the touch, taste, smell–new discoveries every day. Weeks could have gone by with Adam teaching Eve the names of all the animals, exploring new corners of their home together. They talked and walked with God as easily as it was to think a thought–and yet they wanted more. Eve wanted something she thought she was missing–something she was told she was missing and Adam wanted the fruit for the same reason. God would have given them everything, in fact, he did. But they wanted more.

And so it was for David and his decision to sleep with Bathsheba. He had years God-given of victory over his enemies up until this point. This was the man who once hid in caves and acted like a crazy man to get himself out of his own sticky wicket–who now had a beautiful palace, nations under his control, wealth and wives to his heart’s content and yet he wanted more too.

It seems like David had his guard down from the beginning: laying low at home instead of joining his armies in the field in the Spring. And while everything on the battlefield seemed to be in order, it was his heart’s defenses that were unprotected. All it took was a lingering look to lead to his affair with Bathsheba, the murder of her husband, Uriah and the subsequent death of their firstborn.

We have two options: 1) Remove ourselves from the world that surrounds us 2) Learn to live in a place where there is so much at our fingertips and rely on the good Shepherd to lead us not into temptation.

God wants to give us our heart’s desire, but it’s up to us to hear the murmurings of His heart first. “And if all of this had been too little, I would have given you more.” we see God say to David through the prophet Nathan after David’s sin had come to light. You see, God loved David. We witness that love from the moment He brings David victory over a living, breathing, seething giant. There is a promise, there is an anointing, but fifteen years go by. Fifteen hard, testing years until David is finally declared king over Israel. And through all this, God’s hand is on David and this is why it grieves God so to see David’s sin with Bathsheba. When our hearts become intertwined with someone else’s, whether it a spouse, a best friend, a family member and we witness a terrible life-altering decision, we grieve. God grieves too.

Things would never be the same after Adam and Eve were banished from the garden after their decision to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They are left to feel pain, experience conflict and know what toil truly means. Things were completely different for David as well: his kingdom would be divided against itself, the authority by which he took Bathsheba “in secret” became distorted in broad daylight when we witness the terrible act of David’s son raping his half-sister.

I want more, but I am prodded, prompted in I Timothy 6:6 , “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” What does that mean?

It means coming to the Bread of Life when I’m hungry.

It means drinking the Living Water when I’m thirsty.

It means resting, hiding in the the crook of The Shepherd’s arm when I am weary.

It means allowing my mind to be renewed when my head games get the better of me.

Yet God LOVED Adam and Eve–they were his creations, his chosen ones and He LOVED David and Psalm 89: 30-33, tells us so “If his sons forsake my law and do not follow my statutes, if they violate my decrees and fail to keep my commands, I will punish their sin with the rod, their iniquity with flogging; but I will not take my love from him [David], nor will I ever betray my faithfulness.”

Photo Licensed under Creative Commons by Reza Vaziri

"Of Gods and Men" Has Me Asking Tough Questions

There is no way to fully describe the tone of this movie, but the opening scene of the monks engrossed in their daily prayers, songs and meditations in their chapel sent chills down my spine.

“Of Gods and Men”, now out in selected theaters, is based on the true story of a small order of Trappist monks in the isolated mountains of Muslim Algeria who were besieged by a group of fundamentalist Islamic terrorists in the mid 90’s. This movie is stirring on so many levels. We see why a group of aging monks are here, first and foremost to help the village that surrounds them, poor farmers and shepherds in desperate need of medical care, (one of the monks is a physician). And we see the beauty of their emotionally symbiotic relationship with the people around them. As they are discussing their possible departure with their Algerian friends in the face of this threat, one of the villagers says, “If you go, we lose our footing.”

They are careful to respect the society that surrounds them, as demonstrated by the scene where the head monk, Brother Christian, picks up his well-worn Koran and consults it during his correspondence work. These men quietly live out their lives, planting and harvesting their own food, selling some it at market and are an integral part of the villager’s lives, celebrating customs right along with them, living each day in calm order until the climactic scene of the terrorists infiltrating the monastery’s walls. There are several scenes, as an audience member, I wanted to cry out, throw popcorn at the screen, weep at just how unfairly this small village and these holy men are being treated.

During the course of this movie, we are taken into these men’s lives, one’s own struggle with his faith as it is severely tested under pressure, the question of brotherhood, putting your own needs behind that of the collective and standing with solidarity, and ultimately the concept of grace and forgiveness staring down the ugly face of murder and rage.

A movie in which I spent the last 20 minutes bawling like a baby had me asking some tough questions:

  1. What what I do in a situation like this, would I stand firm with a band of fellow believers when the going got really tough, or would I tuck my tail and run for greener pastures? (The monks had an opportunity to go on several occasions and we see that they were commanded to leave by the army)
  2. What would be my attitude toward my captors?
  3. What does living out my faith while being respectful and loving towards people around me look like?
  4. And as the head monk reminds one of his brothers of the passage in I Cor. 13 “Love endures everything.” Can I do that?

Some light food for thought…

How Do We Pray?

How do we pray? Are we wimps? Do we ask for his will, or do we ask believing He will accomplish it?

In 2 Kings 4: 8-37, we are privy to a resurrection. The setting? A town called Shunem, where resided a wealthy, Shunammite woman who was good friends of the prophet Elisha, so much so that she and her aging husband had set up nice little room for Elisha on their rooftop for him to stay whenever he was in town. One day when Elisha was trying to find a way to repay her for her kindnesses, he calls her in to him, and offers a good word from him to the king or the commander of the army on her behalf, but she says, “I have a home among my people.” Knowing there’s something she must need, he finds out that she has no children. Elisha calls her back and while she’s standing in his doorway, he declares to her that in one year’s time, she will be holding a son in her arms. She objects, asking that he not mislead her, but sure enough, she becomes pregnant and a year later has the son she is promised.

Several years pass and one day the little boy went out to his father in the field complaining of his head hurting. A servant carried this boy back to his mother and he died in her lap at noon that very day. The Shunammite woman laid her son’s body on Elisha’s bed and shut the door. This mother wasted no time, she took her donkey to find Elisha, she departed from Shunem and as fast as she could made her way to Mount Carmel where she knew this prophet of God would be. She brought the prophet back with her.

When Elisha reached the body of the dead boy he shut the door to the room and he prayed to the Lord. He stretched his entire body out on top of the small body. Prophet mouth to boy’s. Eyes on eyes. Hands on hands. He was staring death in the face. Not the prospect of death, but the cold, hardness of the state of un-being. As he did this, the boy’s body grew warm. Elisha gets up and paces the room once more and once more he stretches full weight out on the boy. Relentless. The boy sneezes seven times and opens his eyes.

What are we stretching our all out on today? What impossible situation are we staring into? What are we believing God for? Can we see glimmers of warmth and in faith go back to the throne and lay our bodies down?

We are sons and daughters of the Most High. Matthew 7: 9-11: Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? I you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Care to share of a time where the Lord granted the impossible?

Book Review Friday: The Art of Listening Prayer

Ever had a huge decision to make and just wished that some kind of sign would appear in the sky–perhaps a lightening bolt or a burning bush? Our desire is to hear from God. We want not only to be assured of His Calling, but we also want to be certain that we are in sync with Him in our thoughts and actions, allowing Him to guide some of the smallest decision in our lives. This book is an amazing guide to accomplishing just that. The key to his book, however, is in the title: listening. It is more about who God is, than what we want.

Today’s book came out in 2005. It is written by Seth Barnes who is the founder of Adventures in Missions, a organization that leads mission trips over the world. With what I have read about his ministry and what he has had to say about it on his blog, I can see that Barnes truly reflects the principles in this book.

Barnes’ book is set up as a month-long devotional, but I went through it in just under two weeks. He begins the book by encouraging the reader to have some essential tools: your bible, a journal, different colored pens and a silent room with at least 45 minutes of uninterrupted time (I understand, that for a parent, this can be extremely challenging but the point is time alone).

He also encourages the reader to have an accountability partner or counselor, someone to run questions by, in other words, if we’re getting a really wacky “answer” it’s best to run it by a fellow Christian before making any life-altering decisions. Barnes ends each chapter with a few simple questions–questions to ask the Lord in your quiet time, to really examine your heart and motivations. Most importantly, he encourages us to begin with Scripture.

The book examines potential barriers of time alone with God, like dealing with distractions, overcoming obstacles like worry, the desire for riches, pleasures, but also highlights the benefits of truly being in tune with His voice–helping others to hear God, learning to pray continuously, allowing the Holy Spirit to work.

As mentioned above, an essential tool is the journal, when we get our prayers out on paper, we can refer back to them. We can tangibly see God’s answers–even His times of silence. I’ve seen myself that when God was particularly silent, it meant that I didn’t need the answer right there and then, or perhaps I wasn’t prepared to hear His answer in that moment. The concepts contained in Barnes’ writing are basic, but it is wonderful to have a guide to really focus you on a potentially rich, fulfilling and challenging prayer life.

Seth Barnes was kind enough to answer a few questions for me regarding his writing and work and I wanted to share that with you readers:

EDB: Your book gives quite a few powerful examples, in both your life and others of the effect of earnest, hear-felt seeking after the One who hears all our utterances, would you mind sharing a more recent, specific instance of a major decision you had to make and after spending time in prayer and meditation you heard audibly from God. Have you been able to see some long-term effects of that major decision?

SB: I haven’t ever heard audibly from God. I’ve heard mostly his voice in a way that seems similar to my own thoughts. Here’s a blog about it that contains an example: http://www.sethbarnes.com/?filename=god-often-sounds-just-like-me-thinking

Here are my more recent writings about listening prayer: http://www.sethbarnes.com/?category=Listening%20Prayer

EDB: How did this book come about? Where there any outside resources (incl. people) that helped you particularly in writing this book?

SB: I had a lot of help. Zihna Gordon and Mark Almand were the most helpful in the writing process. And Clint Bokelman has done more than anyone else to encourage me to pursue my heart to lead from a place of listening to God.

EDB: Can you tell me a little bit about your organization, Adventures in Missions?

SB: http://www.adventures.org/about/about.asp

EDB: How many countries have you been to since it’s founding and are there any you would you prefer to live in aside from the US? If so, why?

SB: AIM is in 39 countries. I’ve been to most of them. I’m happy here in Georgia, but I love being wherever God is moving.

EDB: Do you have any more books in the works?

SB: Yes. I have a book called “Journeys” mostly written. It’s in its fourth draft now.

You can buy this book now: http://www.missionsresources.com/product/381.htm

I’ve got manuscripts for 8 other books that I’ve been working on for a while now. At some point I hope to be satisfied enough to publish them.