Archive for March, 2010

Learning God’s Attributes in the Midst of Life’s Struggles

 

*** This is a paper presented at the 2010 Southeast Regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society held at North Greenville University.

Our battle from and against suffering and sin is first and foremost a battle towards and for God.  This is what it means to be created to know and enjoy a redemptive God-that all of our actions, emotions, struggles, and failures should deepen our understanding of, trust in, reliance upon, and imitation of God’s character.  This study is designed to assist you in identifying the connections between your current life struggles and sins and the attributes of God you need to learn, clarify, trust, enjoy, or emulate more.

The premise of the exercise is: if in our struggle to conquer sin and alleviate suffering we fail to learn and treasure God more, we have missed the most important thing God is doing in the midst of these experiences.  We would be more rule-following, comfort-seeking Pharisees than heart-focused, God-treasuring disciples of Christ.

 

 

After God’s Deliverance – Exodus 16

Such a Short Time (15:22; 16:1)

You pull out of the drive way on a family vacation and the kids ask, “Are we there yet?  How much longer? I’d rather play with the neighbor.  I forgot my favorite hat (crying).”  That is a small taste of what Moses experienced. Three days into their journey of freedom and Israel was grumbling.  45 days into the journey and they were saying they’d have rather died in Egypt.

It is not just gravity that makes it a short trip from mountain top to valley.  Depravity and frail humanity also contribute.  After Israel’s first grumbling, God revealed himself as “the Lord, your healer (Exodus 15:26).”  Yet hunger shriveled their trust almost as quickly as thirst (not that I am writing with “stone-casting” tone).

Reflection:  It is passages like these that make I Corinthians 10:12 come to light (“Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”) and approach I Corinthians 10:13 with humility (“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”).  Knowing our nature (sinful flesh and frail, finite humanity) let us give thanks for the God who patiently walked with Israel after the Exodus.

That I May Test Them (16:4)

[Side Note: Is it a sign of the times that I initially typed, “That I may text them”?]

This phrase of God testing Israel shows up several times in the book of Exodus (15:25; 16:4; 20:20).  We know that God does not tempt (James 1:13).  So what are we to make of this and how/when might God relate to us in a similar way?

It is worth noting that each of these “testings” has to do with the expression of faith not the committing of sin (i.e., would they only gather a days portion of manna vs. would they steal food from their neighbor).  God was putting Israel in a position to reveal their level of trust and commitment to the Lord.  We must take omitted righteousness and missed opportunities to share/express faith as seriously as we do moral violations.

Reflection:  Another question is, “Who was the test for? Who needed to see the results?”  With a bit of reflection we can easily see it was not the omniscient God who needed to see the results.  It was Israel.  After each deliverance they surely thought, “We won’t doubt God again.”  As you begin to take opportunities for faith as seriously as sin, do not regard them as a pass fail test, but as a thermometer to gain an accurate self-assessment of your current temperature with God.

The Manna Lesson

What was the most challenging part of gathering manna?  It wasn’t rare like truffles; it didn’t have briars like blackberries; it wasn’t heavy like a watermelon, it wasn’t fragile like a tomato, and there were look-alike poisonous varieties like mushrooms.  Gathering manna was hard because it required daily faith in God’s provision.

God provided manna not merely to address hunger, but also grumbling that emerged from a lack of trust in God to provide.  Manna not only fed Israel physically, it was intended to grow them spiritually.  The spiritual growth was not an effect of being heaven’s bread, but because it required daily dependence without an alternative.

We still live by manna today – God’s daily provision.  We just don’t see it as clearly.  As you read the manna narrative, consider your greatest fear or insecurity.  Is it a matter of survival or fulfillment?  If it is only a matter of fulfillment, give thanks… but also learn to apply the manna lesson.

  • How has God worked to supply this need or alleviate this fear?
  • How do you try to brace against “God not coming through next time”?
  • What “gathering manna” responsibilities do you have with this issue?
  • Who are you surrounded by with similar needs (Israel was a community)?
  • Do your conversations encourage faith or feed doubt and pessimism?
  • When are you tempted to complain about God’s method of providing?
  • What tangible reminders of God’s faithfulness can you keep before you (Exodus 16:31-34)?

Faith is scary because it is by definition out of our control.  As you reflect on the lesson God was teaching Israel with manna in light of your own situation, rest in the fact that “out of your control” is not the same thing as “out of control.”

Bob Kellemen Responds to Brian McLaren’s Book “A New Kind of Christianity”

There are many books written and a few of them become popular.  But popularity is not necessarily a good measure of the biblical faithfulness of a given piece of literature, even in Christian circles.  Brian McLaren’s book A New Kind of Christianity is a book that has begun to catch a significant amount of attention, positive and negative.  In his book he asks for Christians to engage with him in a conversation about their faith.

Bob Kellemen engaged in this converation through his blog.  He states his purpose in doing so:

My focus has been on pastoral theology or practical theology response. As a pastor, counselor, and professor who equips the church for biblical counseling and spiritual formation, I was asking: “What difference does our response to each question make for how we care like Christ (biblical counseling) and for how we live like Christ (spiritual formation)?”

Over the course of 13 blog posts (see below), Dr Kellemen examines the implications of Brian McLaren’s self-attested redefinition of the Christian faith for pastoral ministry, and for counseling ministry in particular.

I hope the readers of my blog get three things from these links.  First, and most obviously, I hope you get a thorough assessment of a book with rising popularity and influence.  Second, I hope you grow in your ability to read Christian literature critically (not “negatively” or “suspiciously” but considering the assumptions behind and implications of what an author says).  Third, I hope you hear a tone of Christian engagement that seeks to balance both grace and truth.  Our disagreements should always clearly reveal a desire to edify the church more than to disparage the one with whom we disagree.  I found that to be the heart and intention of Dr. Kellemen and pray you benefit from his reflections.

When We Believe Suffering’s Lies

Suffering is simply the difficulty in life that we experience which is not the result of our personal sin.  It is the fall out of living in a broken world with fallen people.

One problem (among many) with suffering is that it is such an intense experience. It is the epitome of “UNFAIR!”  While we are wrestling with what to say and do in the midst of what should not be, we miss the messages that we are learning.  We miss the messages, because most often those messages are being taught implicitly (like a child learns whether a stranger is safe by monitoring the mood of his/her parents) not explicitly (like recognizing the letters of the alphabet or multiplication tables).

In some way we begin to assume that “what is” is “what will always be.”  From this we adapt our expectations (both of self and others), our level of hope or pessimism, our accepted social practices, and even God.

We don’t really assess these beliefs, because in the midst of suffering one is more concerned with surviving than evaluating.  The few times we did dare to speak up we were likely “put in our place” and the few times we girded up the hope to think about what should be it only made the suffering more difficult.

Yet this becomes its own trap.  Once we quit assessing life and merely accept suffering, we begin to accept lies (i.e., you deserve this, there is no need to try, no one can be trusted, if you ever show weakness you will be taken advantage of, it is always better to be quiet, fairness is a fairy tale, etc…) as truth.

After we accept these lies as truth, we (by default) surrender to their influence on our life.  The only responses left are cynicism, anxiety, depression, or bitterness.  These dispositions are so entrapping that we miss the significance of changing life events (moving out of a home with abusive parents) or new life opportunities (going back to school, the perspective of a new friend).

Eventually we even begin to fear that our lies might be proven false, because then we would have to learn a whole new way of life.  All of the ways we have made sense of things would be taken from us.  That almost seems worse than the suffering.

These thoughts are not meant to multiply despair, but I hope they do make the following points of application make more sense.

  1. The road out of suffering can be as scary as the road into suffering for the person walking it.
  2. It is hard to put the lies of suffering into words because they were not taught that way.
  3. Great faith is required to denounce the lies of suffering because they have often been a means of survival.
  4. Patience is required for those who will help people coming out of suffering.  The freedom of being able to walk at their own pace is part of getting their voice back and learning to trust their new found freedom.
  5. Resistance is not always rebellion in the aftermath of great suffering.  Often it is merely the mustering of courage to step out into this “new” truth.

These five points will not fit every situation, but I think they are worth considering for Christians who are befriending, pastoring, or counseling those who are experiencing or coming out of significant suffering.  As you reflect on these points it might be good to read Exodus, Job, the grief/depression Psalms, and I Peter – books that address the subject of suffering, oppression, change, and endurance.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Suffering” post which address other facets of this subject.

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Suffering” post which address other facets of this subject.

Believers Meet the Risen Lord – Luke 24

Faithful Until Faith Remembers (24:1-8)

It might be tempting to look down upon these women.  Their actions reveal that they doubted, disregarded, or forgot the words of Jesus about His death.  Yet the angels did not reprimand these women, but rather gave them the admonition to remember (a command given over 150 times in the Bible).

The journey of these women often mirrors our own journey of faith.  We hear and then forget, doubt, disregard or misunderstand God’s Word.  Because of this we take steps of perceived (and very sincere) obedience.  God honors our misguided faith with patience and graciously orchestrates His purpose through our mishaps.

Reflection: Notice how the women do not feel condemned or embarrassed in this situation; neither do they put others down (“At least we went the tomb. Nobody else did.”).  They recognize that the moment is not about them.  This is proof of the genuineness of their faith and worship.  Place yourself in a moment of correction in which you were immediately asked to report something significant that revealed your error.  What would your typical response be?

Disbelieved For Joy (24:41)

You have to love the descriptive honesty of Scripture.  The initial response of joy by the disciples did not reveal faith, but mere pleasure at the introduction of hope.  For three days they had lost hope and saw no way to regain it.  Jesus’ appearing gave them hope even if they did not believe it was real.  “At least Jesus cares enough to come back as a Spirit and we get to say some final words, ask a question, or hear His plan for us.”

We again see the tender patience of our infinite God stepping into our finite world and the limits of our finite understanding.  Jesus knew He was contradicting every law of logic and nature they knew.  Knowing this He offered them proof, which is much more than he did for other doubters (Luke 11:29), because their disbelief was rooted in joy (“too good to be true”) not greed, rivalry, or jealousy.

Reflection: Think of moments when you experienced the “disbelief of joy” (i.e., birth of a child, proposing to your spouse, completion of a major project/dream).  What was going on in that moment?  How were you relating to the events/people around you?  What did that reveal about your heart?  Using that reflection contrast this response of Jesus to unbelief as compared to other instances.

Reading Scripture with Open Minds

Too often we read passages of Scripture as disjointed stories, concepts, moral lessons, or principles.  Chapter and verse divisions don’t help with that.  The great variety in authors, time period, genre, and audience also contribute to this tendency.  Luke 24:44-49 makes it clear that the Bible is one Grand Story.

Evidently the disciples were a lot like us, they needed to see the unity of the Bible and that the unifying person was Jesus and the unifying event was His death and resurrection.  Yet, if we are honest, this is not always easy to see.  When reading Old Testament narrative, Proverbs, or the practical instruction of James, how do we tie it to Jesus?

The following questions are meant to help you read Scripture with Jesus as the interpretive center.  Not all questions will work well with all passages, but hopefully one or more of these questions will be relevant to the passage you are studying.

  • What virtue is this passage holding up that I could never fulfill in my own strength?
  • What theme of hope or redemption would be incomplete without Christ’s death and resurrection?
  • (Old Testament) Where does this passage occur in redemptive history and how does it set the stage for understanding Christ’s death and resurrection?
  • What is the pastoral objective of the author for his audience and how does this reveal the character and activity of Christ?
  • How does the life of Jesus make it easier to understand this passage?
  • How would the original recipient have been caused to look forward to the coming Messiah or respond in praise to the life of Christ?
  • How does the perspective of this passage challenge me to be like Christ?

An open mind does not mean a willingness to accept any interpretation of a passage. It means that we always remember to look for Christ and the Gospel message in every passage.  Hopefully these questions equip you for that treasure hunt.

Introduction to the “Living Our Faith” series.

Reflections on Broken Hearts and Closed Ears

Exodus 6:9
Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.

We might ask ourselves why this note of commentary is included in the Exodus narrative.  By this point in the book of Exodus it has already been mentioned several times that Israel was suffering immensely at the harsh hand of Pharaoh.

To answer our question, we would have to consider when the book of Exodus was written.  Most likely it was written well after the actual events along with the other books of the Torah (Genesis, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) either during the 40 years of wilderness wandering or close to the time when Israel was going to enter the Promise Land (finally).

In order to understand this particular verse, we need to understand the purpose of the Torah as a whole.  Moses was writing to re-establish a national identity as God’s chosen people for a nation that had been in slavery for 400 years.  They were trying to learn who they were and what it meant to be a free people under God’s reign.

Just before verse 9, God had appealed to His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (verse 8).  Israel needed to be reminded of their heritage and (more importantly) of God’s faithfulness.  However, that is the whole point of verse 9; they needed to hear these things, but their hearts were too broken to embrace the message their ears received.

This passage is revelation of the understanding of God and the pastoral heart of Moses.  Israel received this text long after the actual events transpired.  Their current need was not to have hope in the midst of Pharaoh’s oppression (that season of their life was over), but, rather, to be prepared to trust God the next time their spirit was broken (and that would be many more times).

How you remember your story is important.  Taking time to see God’s faithfulness is encouraging.  However, it can be equally edifying to reflect on the times when (because of our frailty or doubt) we were unable to rest in God’s faithfulness.  When we see (retrospectively) God’s faithfulness in the moments of our greatest fear and hurt, we come to realize that God will truly never leave us or forsake us (despite what our heart may say in the present or about the future).

End Note:  When you read the Torah remember that it is not just a narrative with lots of laws and sermons at the end; it is also a pastoral work.  Moses is writing the history of a people learning to be free after generations of oppression.  Moses is walking Israel through the process of remembering who they have always been and the implications of trusting God during this monumental transition.  I believe this will help you in making application of books that we too often view as “just history.”

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Suffering” post which address other facets of this subject.

Approaching the Red Sea – Exodus 13-14

 

God’s Misdirection Play (13:17-18)

The people were equipped for battle (v. 18), revealing that they were expecting resistance.  Yet God knew their hearts were still fickle (v. 17), so God directs them through the “long-cut.”  Not only do they take the longer route, it is the long route with a dead end at the Red Sea.

The people still did not know what the Exodus was about.  They viewed Moses as their leader (14:11) instead of merely as God’s servant (14:31).  The longer route was intended to teach a final lesson to Egypt (14:4, 18) and to continue to shape the thinking of Israel.  They were used to one slave master—Pharaoh—and would grumble against Moses as if he was their new master.  They had much to learn about living free under God.

Reflection: How much of our suffering is because we are not ready to fully follow God and he must, therefore, take us on the long route to protect us from ourselves?  How often do we place God and God’s servants into the character molds of previous oppressors?  Notice how God continually reveals Himself by name and character in the book of Exodus to break through this strong tendency.

Doubt and Sarcasm (14:11)

The progression seems to miss a beat.  Israel is afraid so they cry out to God (v. 10).  Then they get sarcastic and accusatory with God’s leaders. Where did that come from?  They just witnessed 10 amazing acts of God through Moses on their behalf.  Yet they talk to Moses as if this whole Exodus thing was his idea.  They do not yet get that Moses is merely God’s servant (14:31).

Moses to his great credit does not personalize their venomous words (14:13).  Later in his ministry Moses will struggle to exhibit this kind of faith (Numbers 20).  At this time in his life, Moses knows he can’t take the criticism personally, because he has not been the one calling the shots or doing the miracles.  He is merely the messenger and Aaron does most of the talking anyway.

Reflection:  Who do you turn on when you are afraid?  What form/tone do your words take?  What responsibility, expectation, or motive do you put on them that is unfair?  How do you personalize the fear or anger of others?  How does this personalizing serve to further distract the conversation from the main issue(s)?

Fear and Belief

It was because of fear that God led Israel on the long route (Exodus 13:17-18).  Similar fear was the root of Israel’s rebellion against Moses (Exodus 14:11).  Now it is fear that corrects their hearts causing Israel to believe God and view Moses as God’s servant (Exodus 14:31).

 “Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians,
so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.”

 Fear is central to belief.  Without an element of fear belief would be merely academic and factual rather than practical and devotional.  Prior to seeing the action of God at the Red Sea Israel could have said the words, “Yahweh is God and Moses is His servant.”  Afterwards those words resonated deep in their soul and were reverently precious.

It is important to examine the link between your own beliefs and fears.

  • What are the great events of your life which serve as markers?
  • Where was God in the midst of those events and how did they change your view of God?
  • When you grumble, doubt, or rebel who/what are you fearing?
  • As you examine those fears what do they reveal is most valuable to you?
  • Based on those values, what is your life really all about?

Use these questions to help you identify with the struggle and journey that Israel is on in the book of Exodus.  They are continually wrestling with what it means to live free under God when their history and experience makes that hard.  Let the interaction of your fears and beliefs allow you to draw greater encouragement and instruction from the activity of God in Exodus.

The Passover & Modern Families – Exodus 12

Remembering God’s Activity

It can hardly be said too often, one of the great struggles of the Christian life is to remember what God has done.  If we would accurately remember what God has done much of our fear, despair, and folly would be eliminated (or at least significantly reduced).

One way God called Israel to do this through feasts.  Passover was one of these feasts.  What, when, and how they ate was to remind them of God’s activity and to assist them pass these lesson on to future generations (Exodus 12:26).

Ceremony can give way to legalism and become sterile, but it can also be incredibly valuable.  Might I suggest that families find ways to celebrate great acts of God with special family holidays?  You might celebrate the answer to a significant prayer, the day of one’s salvation, a major event in the life of your church, or other significant events.

The goal of the celebration is to remember God’s activity, praise God for His goodness or faithfulness, and be encouraged in your on-going walk with God.  The following lessons drawn from the Passover could build on the effectiveness of such a practice.

  • Reserve this practice for major life changing events.
  • Build the celebration around retelling the story of God’s activity.
  • Decide on practices of celebration that are as much active/visual as verbal.
  • Keep the focus on remembering God’s activity.
  • Encourage questions as younger members participate and try to understand.

Unfortunately, our cultural calendar is built much more around national holidays, sports seasons, and gift-giving occasions than God’s involvement.  As you create family celebrations of this nature, you will teaching your children (and learning yourself) to build your life story (and calendar year) around the significant acts of God in your life.

Exodus 12:7 In Light of Deuteronomy 6

Deuteronomy 6:4-9
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

The instruction to put something on the “doorposts of your house” would have caught the ear of a Jewish audience.  When they heard Moses’ instruction in Deuteronomy 6 they would have thought of the Passover from Exodus 12.  When they were told to put something on their doorpost by the prophet Moses it was a matter of life and death.

Because we do not share the same heritage related to Exodus 12, we can take the instruction of Deuteronomy 6 much too lightly.  We must also realize the message we are to place on the doorpost of our homes is not just the morality of the 10 Commandments, but the message of The Passover Lamb.  We must seek to find ways to communicate to our children the same importance of knowing/responding to this story/message.  This is part  of the objective behind the celebration idea above.
Great & Awful Miracle

It might be that we reflect too little upon what it would have been like to have experienced the Passover.  There was deliverance on a massive, historic scale.  But there was also death on a massive scale.

Redeeming great sin and oppression comes at a great price.  That can be a very difficult truth to swallow.

This need not merely be a reflection on the many “innocent” Egyptians affected by God’s judgment on a national sin, but also a reflection on the hard deliverance ahead of Israel. Their trip to freedom under God’s rule would be rocky and hard.

It is important for us to pause and reflect on this reality at this point in the Exodus narrative.  If we miss this aspect of God’s work, we may question or doubt God’s goodness in our life or the life of those we love as God is redeeming great wrongs in our lives.

Introduction to the “Living Our Faith” series.

Do You Have A Week That Works?

Ephesians 5:15-16
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,
making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”

We usually think more clearly about our money than we do our time (even if we do not manage our money better than our time).  Money is nice because it comes with receipts (whether we chose to keep up with those receipts or not).  We could not balance our time checkbook even if we wanted to, because time does not lend itself to such a device.

One trap that many of us fall into is thinking about what “should be done” or “would be good to do.”  Without sounding over the top, the problem both of these phrases have is that they are completely detached from reality.  They do not exist within 168 hours weeks (4, 24 hour days) or 672 hour months (4, 168 hour weeks).

Most of us can easily come up with 200+ hours worth of things that would be good to do each week – even without wasting time or sinning (knowing that we will do both).  The problem with that is that we are 32+ hours behind before the week begins.

From there it is fairly easy to predict what will happen – those relationships closest to us will be neglected.  Those are the relationships that “will understand” or are “the most flexible.”  Marriage and family get lost in our business.

In light of this you can see why it is so important to have a “week that works.”  Just like your financial budget – no week will actually look like this.  But also just like your financial budget – if you do not have a clear plan you are firmly committed to, you are going to be in a real mess.

The “Assessing My Priorities” worksheet was originally developed by James Petty in his book Step by Step: Divine Guidance for Ordinary Christians and has been slightly updated for this blog.  I would highly recommend his book.

As you begin the process of creating your time budget, be prepared to let go of some good things for more important things.  This may at first feel like guilt, but that is probably just a grief response to good things that you do not have time for.  Remember you are now prayerfully considering what God would have you spend your time on instead of just tending the pressing crisis of the moment.

After working on your personal priorities and time management, you will have to coordinate these with the other members of your household.  In order to have “marriage time” your spouses schedule must agree with yours (both in the number of allotted hours and when those hours occur).  In order to have “family time” each of the members of your family will have to have harmonious schedules.

Remember the benefit of this exercise is that you can devote time to those aspects of your life that are most important and you can actually enjoy that time when you have it.  It is hard work and will involve regular refining.  Life in a broken world does not naturally cooperate with godly priorities, but the fruit of honoring godly priorities are worth it.

God Opposes Oppression – Exodus 5-7

Marriage Covenant Language (6:7)

Exodus 6:7
“I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”

In Exodus God was doing more than righting a wrong or standing up against a human rights violation.  God was establishing a covenant with a people who would be uniquely “His people.”  They would bear his name in the same way that a wife takes the name of her husband.  God would protect and provide for them in the same way a husband is to protect and provide for his wife.

As you read and study the Exodus narrative, reflect on the extent of God’s faithfulness to the covenant promise He made with His people (Exodus 6:8).  Recognize that God’s faithfulness is not linked to the faithfulness of His people.  It is merely who He is.  Notice the freedom this gives from a guilt-laden, performance-based Christian faith. Observe how foolish God’s faithfulness makes Israel’s sin appear.  Then reflect back upon your own sin and let the foolishness of that sin be revealed – not for the purpose of shame, but for conviction and freedom.

Listening With a Broken Spirit

Exodus 6:9
“Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.”

Pain makes it hard to hear.  God was about to enact the second greatest deliverance in human history (second to Calvary) and His prophet was alerting them to the good news, but their spirit was broken so their ears were closed.

A broken spirit tends to make our world small.  As we hurt and see no hope for change our world shrinks to the size of our suffering.  In that type of small world there is no room for God.  God becomes either irrelevant or too painful to consider (as “hope deferred makes the heart sick” – Proverbs 13:12).

The question becomes, “How do we maintain ears that are open when our spirit is broken?”    The following points are meant to provide guidance for this difficult question.

  • Recognize it will be hard and do not beat yourself up for the struggle.
  • Continue to pray (Exodus 2:23).
  • Pray specifically for the courage and strength to maintain hope.
  • Rest so that physical fatigue does not fuel spiritual doubt.
  • Consider studying Exodus, Job, Psalms, or I Peter in your personal Bible study.  These books have a significant focus on suffering, deliverance, and God’s comfort.
  • Do not isolate yourself.  This will only allow your negative thoughts to echo uninterrupted in your mind throughout the day and night.

If you are in a season of suffering, be aware of the spiritual side-effects.  If you are aware of them, you will be more prepared to combat and compensate for them.  Once Satan has you down, there is nothing he would like more than to make you blind and deaf (i.e., cynical) to God’s help.

Age and God’ Service (7:7)

Isn’t this an interesting footnote to the text?  There doesn’t seem to be any clear reason why the author would break from the flow of the story to detail that age of Moses (80) and Aaron (83).  Except, maybe, to remind us who the main character of the Exodus is.  It would be easy to get wrapped up in the life of Moses and Aaron as the dynamic heroes of Exodus (like Batman and Robin).

Yet the story makes much less sense (without God, that is) when leading the charge.  Oppressed octogenarians don’t make the most imposing superheroes.  Throughout Exodus (and the whole Old Testament, for that matter) God is having to continually remind Israel who He is and Who delivered them.

Reflection:  When/how do you tend to make yourself the “main character” of your own story?  How does this promote pride or insecurity?  As you reflect over the life of Moses, how did his tendency to make himself the main character promote both pride and insecurity in his life?  As you read through the Bible (not just Exodus), remember to always read it with God as the main character.  As you live each day, remember the only character more present and active in your story than you is God (He never sleeps, never forgets, and is working every detail for His purpose).

Introduction to the “Living Our Faith” series.