Snapshots: Day 70

Snapshots: Day 70

The Snapshot: “Now Jethro…. heard of everything God had done for Moses” (Ex 18:1) Testimony is a powerful thing. It appears in so many ways in the Bible. What had been going on with Israel had echoed across the nearby nations, so even Jethro back in Midian had heard what his son-in-law had been doing.  In verse 9 after he came, we read, “Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the Lord had done for Israel.” The priest of Midian had become a believer in Jehovah: “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.” The Church today is called to bear testimony, not only by words, but by good deeds and by the miraculous, just as Israel were. Result? Belief changes, lives change. May it be so!

Further Consideration: Again and again the records show that others heard what was happening with Israel, what God was doing with them and through them. When Israel eventually came to Jericho, Rahab testified how they had heard what was happening and that created a fear in them.

Now I wonder what sort of responses there can be when the works of God are heard about. In Jesus’ day they heard about what he was doing and then saw for themselves some of the things he was doing, but they rejected them. Those were the religious leaders, people who had agendas of their own. People with their own agendas, their own prejudices, and their own fears, so often reject the good news, for it seems too good or it threatens their word-view, their stance in life. Having read some of the crusading atheists of the early twenty-first century, their prejudices and maybe some of their origins are very obvious.

You can tell a lot about a person by the way their respond to good news. Seeing people amazingly healed should have created at least a measure of joy and thankfulness, but when those enemies of Jesus rejected him, they rejected the wonder of these things and revealed their own blindness. Tell an atheist how a person has been wonderfully saved, delivered and transformed and if they respond with negative derision, it is their heart that has just been revealed for its terrible poverty of spirit.

Jethro heard, came, heard more and believed. The evidence was so overwhelming – but then it still is today! The evidence of lives changed, testimonies of healing and deliverance, of life transformation, the evidence of the Scriptures themselves, they are all there if there was a hungry person looking. The person who, at the end, says, “I wasn’t told,” will be told, “You didn’t look, you didn’t ask!”

Snapshots: Day 63

Snapshots: Day 63

The Snapshot: “Do not be afraid. Stand firm.” (Ex 14:13) Israel are in a mess. The sea is before them and an angry and vengeful Pharaoh is coming behind them – and it’s all God’s fault! And Moses says, “Do not be afraid”? You’ve got to be joking! This is a scary situation. Just like being in a small boat on a capricious lake in a vicious storm, when God seems asleep (Lk 8:23). Why do we have crisis moments like this?   Why is it that sometimes the guidance of God appears to be going pear-shaped? Just so that we can learn that He is still with us, is still in control, is still working out His purposes which will succeed. Father wants His kids to learn to trust Him for all these things, but it is a process, often a slow process. Grumble or grow, are the two choices. Choose well.

Further Consideration: I feel almost in despair at times over the Christian world. A member of the church rings me up to ask me to pray for members of their family who are in a mess. Not wanting to be discouraging I say I will pray but deep down I know the only meaningful prayer for these people who have been living godless and unrighteous lives is, “Lord, please save them.” Then and then only will they start putting their lives straight and peace, order and blessing will start to flow. Until then, we may ask God to bless them – and He might well do that – but all that means is He will stick on a plaster and they will carry on living godless and unrighteous lives and getting in a mess.

This is very different from the mess that Israel are in at the present point of our meandering through the Scriptures. They have just received an amazing deliverance and are on their way out of Egypt but the cause of their past slavery threatens them yet again. In fact the present threat is worse than they knew before because Pharaoh is now determined to kill them. I say it is different and yet in both cases the past needs putting to death.

The New Testament is quite clear: when we turn to Christ we are to die to the old life, described by the apostle Paul as, “gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts,” (Eph 2:3) and in Rom 6 he uses the language of death and resurrection to describe what has happened to us. In Israel’s case Pharaoh is about to be put to death, that is the only way to completely free Israel from their past in Egypt. When Paul says, “count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus,” (Rom 6:11) he means, consider yourself dead to that old life – of godlessness and unrighteousness – but now tuned in to living with God. There can be no half and half. Be transformed, live it, experience it and stand firm in it for it is what Christ has earned for you on the Cross. Hallelujah!

Snapshots: Day 62

Snapshots: Day 62

The Snapshot: “Moses took the bones of Joseph with him.” (Ex 13:19) Wow! Weird! No, because Joseph had made his people promise to take his bones back to Canaan when they returned. Yet that had been some four hundred years earlier, but time did not worry Joseph. God had warned Abraham it would take that long (Gen 15:13) and Joseph believed God. Moreover he realized something of the significance of being back in the Land, the Land of Promise, the land of future hope, the land of identity, so much so that he had to be there – even if it was just his bones!  Wow, that is faith, that is understanding!  That is a challenge to us. Do I see God’s big picture, do I see my part in it, do I see how important it is that I be where He wants the action to be?

Further Consideration: ‘The Land’ played a most significant part in the life and experience of Israel; it was the place of encounter with God, the place where God would bless His people. Today we, the vast majority of the Church – the Gentiles – do not have a physical land, (yes, Jewish Christians may still look to Israel as their homeland) and so for us the Bible speaks of our ‘land’ as ‘the kingdom of God’, a place, a location, an experience wherever God is manifest in and through us.

Perhaps ‘the kingdom’ is another of those doctrines that needs emphasizing across the Church today. If instead of majoring on our different expressions of ‘church’ we instead majored on the kingdom of God, we would stop being inward looking as we focus on ‘our’ denomination. group or stream, and instead focus on working out the will of God that He desires for us today.

Abraham clearly heard God’s word about the future of what would become a nation, and their taking possession of this land of Canaan in the centuries to come, and obviously passed that word on to Isaac who passed it on to Jacob who told his twelve sons about it. Joseph, through all his trials, became a man of God who understood the ways of God (some of which were clearly passed on by his elderly father, Jacob – remember the responsibility of parents we saw in the last study) and part of that understanding involved the significance of ‘the Land’.

When Joseph had others promise to take his bones back to the Land, he was allying himself with the declared will of God. What was amazing was that that promise was conveyed down the generations so that when they did eventually leave Egypt, they took Joseph’s remains with them. Amazing! So the questions that must follow. Do we see the same significance in ‘the kingdom of God’? Do we put that kingdom – the will of God – at the head of our agenda? Do we work at this for the long-term goal of creating something real for future generations? Well?

Snapshots: Day 49

Snapshots: Day 49

The Snapshot: “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people?” (Ex 5:22) Why, Moses, when God said it would be hard, do you complain? So often we complain because we fail to take hold of the truth that has been put before us. God is not hard, but the fallen world often is. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Mt 5:4) I don’t like mourning. I know but death does come. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.” (Mt 5:10) I like being liked.  Yes, but the unrighteous don’t like being shown up.  But I thought being a Christian would be easy?  I’m sorry you listened to a lie. But why, and how will I cope? It’s all right, I am with you (Heb 13:5) and I am working all things for your good, even the bad things! (Rom 8:28)

Further Consideration: I believe it is one of the most important things that Christians understand the big picture of being a Christian, for only in so doing will they manage to maintain a right attitude towards the things that happen to them.

Moses lost sight of the big picture; the Lord had warned him that this would be hard going that would necessitate Him coming again and again to deal with Pharaoh, yet Moses cries out to the Lord, “Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” (|Ex 5:23) Moses wanted it to happen instantly, he wanted God to wave a magic wand over the situation and transform it straight away, but this situation involves people and changing people takes time.

Point One: we live in a Fallen World where, because of sin, things go wrong and people say and do nasty things because they have free will.

Point Two: God does not override our free will and so permits the world to proceed as it does with things going wrong and people acting badly BUT He does expect us, His children, to act as His representatives and to be salt and light in it.

Point Three: He a) expects us to change the circumstances and b) be changed by the circumstances. We are to be one of His means of bringing change in this world while being changed into Jesus’ likeness as we do it.

So, when bad circumstances come, turn to the Lord, look for His grace and His wisdom to deal with it. When we find it difficult to cope with people around us who are not being the epitome of a good person, look to Him for His grace to love them, pray for them, and bless them. Not the easiest of tasks but possible with His enabling. Let’s not moan and groan under the pressures of this Fallen World but use such times to demonstrate the goodness of God.

Snapshots: Day 41

Snapshots: Day 41

The Snapshot: “The Lord said, “I have indeed seen…” (Ex 3:7) Foolish people say, “God doesn’t see.” Yes He does! Foolish people say, “God is powerless otherwise He would act.” No He’s not, He’s just waiting for the right time, for the circumstances to be right for action. Don’t worry about Moses, it’s not him, he’s just a plane caught in a holding pattern over the airport, waiting for the right time to land – only he doesn’t know it yet.  We get so caught up in our own little self-concerned worlds that we fail to realise that sometimes God is waiting for bigger things to come into line. Check out Eccles 3:1-8.  Easter came at ‘just the right time’ (Rom 5:6). The trouble is we probably don’t realise these things. That means we are just left with trust, and you can trust Him.

Further Consideration: Theologian, evangelist and writer, Michael Green in his well-known book, ‘Evangelism in the Early Church’, suggested that the Roman peace (pax Romana) meant that “the spread of Christianity would have been inconceivable had Jesus been born a half a century earlier.”  Not only that, the use of the Greek language “was so widely disseminated through the Mediterranean basin that it acted as an almost universal common tongue.” Add to this the existence of the Jewish religion that had spread so far afield, so that “The Christian faith grew best and fastest on Jewish soil, or at least, soil that had been prepared by Judaism,” and you have all the natural ingredients for the rapid spread of the Faith.

We so often, rightly, attribute the spread of the Gospel to the work of the Holy Spirit but that does not say that He doesn’t use the affairs of man in which to work. We would do well to observe that the narratives of the Bible do very clearly move on one from another in clear chronological or historical order with references made again and again to things that happened earlier, and on which current events depend. Unlike a fairy story or so-called ‘myths’ the ‘story line’ within the Bible is not a series of random events, but clearly interlinked events, bound together by common geographical history – and a divinely declared purpose, and it is within this that God moves.

So when the Lord says to Moses, “I have seen….”  that is but the prologue to Him explaining that all this was part of the covenant He had made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Ex 6:2-8). It is clear that God holds back judgment but knows how long it will take foolish mankind to build up their sin to the point of no return, at which point He steps in. God’s times are not accidental. He sees and He knows how long He can hold back – and then He acts.  Never ever think that we can do things that we can hide from God. We can’t

Snapshots: Day 40

Snapshots: Day 40

The Snapshot: “Moses saw ….  the bush was on fire.”  (Ex 3:2) Curiosity is often the key to opening the door to the future. How often, I sometimes wonder, does God bring about something in our lives that we fail to see came from Him, was Him trying to catch our attention. It wasn’t just that this bush was on fire, it was that it ‘did not burn up’ that caught Moses attention. There will always be something slightly out of the ordinary with God, but so often we allow the thoughts and worries and cares of our lives to blot out awareness. This isn’t to say we should spend our lives looking for the unusual, but that when it does come along, we need to be alert enough to spot it. It may be in the Bible (if we read it), it may be in the day’s circumstances, it may be people.  Are we alert to God’s activity for us?

Further Consideration: I wonder how many of us potter through life without ever having a sense of communication with God? Ok, perhaps we pray but it is probably a one-way communication. We aren’t told how the Lord actually spoke to Moses but it seems like it was an audible voice. Now I remember a teacher saying in my hearing many years back, if you hear the audible voice of God it is serious business because He doesn’t often speak like that. Well I can go along with that because a calling to go and confront the world’s leading megalomaniac is pretty serious stuff!

But, of course, most of us don’t get such a high calling. For most of us it is just to be a witness to the world around us and most of the time we don’t need lots of additional input to do that. There is that need of wisdom, of course, that is often needed, how to go about it, and James was quite clear that if we ask without doubting, God will give it generously (Jas 1:5,6). I find, so often, that simply comes through thoughts in my mind as I am waiting on Him.

For much of this witnessing thing though, the apostle Peter simply suggests that the sort of lives we live will be sufficient to provoke people to ask about our faith (1 Pet 3:15) and when we do, we are to do it with gentleness and respect. There may even be times when we come across Ethiopian-eunuch-type-people who are searching and just need a bit of help understanding before they tumble into the kingdom (see Acts 8). So much of the time it would surprisingly seem we don’t need a daily input of God’s encouragement – except we will get it every time we open His word with an open heart. Indeed, the more open-hearted we are, the more likely we are to hear the so often still small voice of God (1 Kings 19:12). It is always possible that the Lord wants to speak to us more than we want to listen. If that is so, we perhaps miss out much in our faith.

Snapshots: Day 39

Snapshots: Day 39

The Snapshot: “but Moses fled.”  (Ex 2:15) When we fail, when we flee, the enemy would have us believe that is the end, as we’ve seen. If we do find ourselves living in the desert, our natural tendency is to look back with regret, our self wants to wallow in the failure and the little voice whispers, ‘You blew it, that’s the end’, but it isn’t.  Sometimes this moment is the defining act that determines the future but often it is just simply another day in the many days it will take to change us. We wish change could happen instantly but sometimes it takes years and years, because God is not impatient, God is more concerned with a changed and good outcome that is your life and mine, so these are not wasted years but just the path to the amazing things yet to come!  Watch out, God’s in the desert!

Further Consideration: When I look back on my life, yes, as a Christian, I want to be honest and acknowledge three things. The first is that although I can look back and see very big and distinct times of change, of career and direction, when I look back, I am absolutely sure that God’s hand was in them. For the vast majority of time I could not say, “I was aware of God’s guidance in that change.” Yes, we prayed, yes we responded to what we felt was the right thing to do in the circumstances, but rarely did I sense the clear voice of God guiding and directing – but He was!

The second thing I note as I look back is a sense of failure. Yes, I am aware that looking back God did open up lots of areas of opportunity and blessed, and yet I feel with the saints of Heb 11:10 I am ‘looking forward’ and that means a sense of not having got there in the past. Yes, I would like to live my life again from say age 30 – but with the knowledge I have now! I believe we live in a day when we, the Church, fall far short of what is on God’s heart for us, and that saddens me as I am sure it does Him.

The third thing of which I am aware is a sense of inadequacy. As I confess so often to the people in my Prayer Workshop, the greatest thing I fear is coming to them without having heard the Lord and that we, collectively, by the end, fail to know His Presence. But the truth is that I cannot do it. All I can do is present this empty vessel to him, this chipped and imperfect earthenware vessel (2 Cor 4:7) and plead, “Lord, please fill this vessel with your glory so that you will be glorified.” (Jn 17:1b)

These are the dynamics of this present life. Failure is not the end of the day, but its acknowledgement is the entry door into the wonder of the kingdom of God.  It is a life of ongoing change and we when fail and He sees a repentant heart, He picks us up and we continue on with Him.

Snapshots: Day 38

Snapshots: Day 38

The Snapshot: “but Moses fled.”  (Ex 2:15) Possibly this is one of The classic examples in the Bible of someone ‘taking affairs into their own hands’. It implies human effort, human endeavour, human wisdom and, as so often is the case, human upset. The temptation to remedy a bad situation by human means, by human endeavour, by human wisdom, is great when God doesn’t seem to be turning up, and you feel He should! Invariably the result is worse. Activity born of impatience is indeed lack of trust in God’s wisdom, God’s timing and God’s power. Because we walk by faith and not by sight, it means that often we cannot ‘see’ God’s plans, God’s intention, even God’s preparations. Pray we must, trust we must. The alternatives are not worth thinking about.

Further Consideration: We’ve just considered the horror of a life coming to an end, a life of innocence, a life of righteousness, and all that stretches before me is this life of guilt and shame, a life where others look at me differently. Come on, I just ran out of grace, it was a bad day, we all have these … don’t we? You wait until it is your turn!

I want to justify myself. It wasn’t just me; it was partly them, in fact the more I think about it, the more I realise it was mostly them! If they hadn’t been like they were, if they hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have fallen. Yes, it was them. I was just trying to do what was best in the moment, they needed my comfort, they needed my correction, they needed to hear the truth. I just acted in the moment to do what it seemed needed doing, and now the slave-master is dead!

I pause and I realise I’m just making excuses, it was my fault, I was weak, I didn’t look to God for help, I blew it! I confess it and say sorry to God and as I sit there in silence various verses rise up in my consciousness, and I realise I am not on my own.

First, there are those pillars of faith, Abram and Sarah who have been told by God again and again they would have a son, but he doesn’t appear, so on the end she badgers Abram to take her servant and have a child through her – and Jew and Arab have been at war ever since. Then there was Judas Iscariot. What went on in his mind as he sold out Jesus? Was he seeking to provoke Jesus into action as the leader of an insurrection? He never saw he was a foreseen pawn in the big plan and so went and killed himself. Fortunately for Israel, neither Abram nor Sarai did that and so God’s plan was fulfilled through them and Isaac was born who had Jacob who became Israel. And, of course, there was Moses who was just trying to help his people. What a people we are sometimes, just trying to help out the Lord of the Universe! Oh when will we ever learn? Perhaps the greatest lesson we can ever learn is that God knows best!

Snapshots: Day 37

Snapshots: Day 37

The Snapshot: “but Moses fled.”  (Ex 2:15)   We didn’t see that coming. The circumstances of life had moved on and Moses was a Prince of Egypt, but then suddenly it is all gone. Put aside the causes for the moment because often the causes are not clear, but his life as a Prince is gone. If this was a big-screen picture it would be accompanied by the setting sun.  A ball of fire at the end of the day, descending to the horizon until eventually just a few glimmers of its flames and its afterglow, and its gone. Dusk. Light fails. Night. Sleep. If you didn’t know better you would say, ‘The End’ but with God there is yet resurrection, a new day. The anguish remains for the night, but there is joy in the morning. There is more to come for Moses – and us.

Further Consideration: Times of personal catastrophe feel like the end. That is it, we’ve blown it, there is no future. We’ve just seen how a decision made in a moment can be a decision that devastates the past and utterly destroys the possibilities of the future. All the good credit we had built up over the years gets squandered in a moment and our past counts for nothing now.

We have stepped over the line we thought we would never cross. We had looked at other people whose moral failures revealed what they were really like on the inside and we thought, “How could they have done that? I could never do that,” but then we did, and we realised we were just like everyone else, a sinner who will be looked down on by the Pharisees who still deny they have ever crossed the line.

Suddenly we feel like Peter after his threefold denial of Jesus, except this hadn’t been about Jesus – or if it had, only loosely, at a distance so to speak. No, this was about our own standing, about what others will think if I get found out. What will be family think? What will friends think? What will those who look to me, who rely on me, think?

The trouble is that there is no way back. You cannot undo this, you cannot withdraw the words, the actions, the giving way to the temptation, it has happened and there is no way of pretending otherwise. And then I realise that I have joined the company of the guilty. Before this I had just accepted a truth taught at church that we’re all guilty, but there had been no big blot on my character – until now! Now there is this black cloud just lurking there, and behind it people will soon be gossiping. Before I know it, it will be on social media and everyone will know. Some will laugh, some will sneer, some will think like I used to think. Now I am different from them; they are the innocents, while I am part of the company of the guilty. We are two different sets of people and never again will I be able to be part of their group. It is the end…. isn’t it?

Snapshots: Day 36

Snapshots: Day 36

The Snapshot: “he went out to where his own people were.” (Ex 2:11) There are times when we sense we are made for more than we see at the moment, there comes an awakening in us. And there we find the potential for disaster. Am I alone so I will have to make my own destiny, or do I have a divine destiny? (Jer 1:5, Eph 1:4, 2:10) If I am on my own working out my destiny alone, I may end up killing an Egyptian. If I can take hold of the concept of divine destiny, my future must be one where I learn to listen to Him, learn to cooperate with Him, learn to enter into the life He desires for me, in the way He wants for me. It will be a life that rejects the hasty decision but becomes one where patience and perseverance brings the reward of a more secure path and glorious destiny.

Further Consideration: I wonder how many people can testify to having had an ‘epiphany moment’, a time of sudden insight. It seems that is what happened here. Moses surely knew about the Hebrew shepherds-become-slaves in the north, and it is probable he had found out that they were where he had come from.  So one day he goes out to see what they are like and he watches them being driven by slave-drivers.

Now he could have just watched, turned around and returned to the comfort of the palace untouched, but he didn’t. Somehow he had this ‘moment’ of ‘these are my people’ and he steps in and kills a harsh slave-master to save those workers being beaten.

Now interestingly there is a modern writer who has compiled a book of such epiphanies and in it she says there are four elements to an epiphany: listening, belief, action and serendipity. Serendipity, according to a dictionary means, “the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.” Synonyms include ‘chance, providence, fate and destiny’. Now have a look at all this in the case of Moses. He arrives, watches and listens, and believes, ‘these are my people,’ and so he acts. The outworking of the events is what follows – he flees, lives in the desert for forty years, until God calls him back.  The final product – yes forty years on – is good.

Now I guess that Moses did not think his forty years in the desert were a “happy or beneficial” outworking but I suspect that in that forty-year period he lost all the confidence of the previous forty years of being a Prince of Egypt. Only then was he in a fit state to serve God in one of the most horrendous tasks ever given to man. We must think on and on about this for it is a momentous moment and there are some amazing lessons to be learned in it. Perhaps here we might simply say, beware hasty actions! (Look up Prov 21:5 & 29:20)