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.

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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)

Snapshots: Day 35

Snapshots: Day 35

The Snapshot: “a Levite woman… gave birth to a son… she hid him for three months.” (Ex 2:1,2) A godly mother from a priestly family, a family with history, but now living in the most terrible of circumstances. She determines not to submit to those circumstances; she will not give in to the powers of evil that surround her. She takes risks, she preserves her son, she takes steps to ensure his future, and so Moses is eased into the world. Little did she know the role this son would play, becoming one of the most famous founders of Israel; little do we know the destiny of the child we carry or bring into this world. Who knows how this life may impact and bless the world as we create shelter and a haven of love, security in which a child of grace may grow, so the world will be changed?

Further Consideration: Exodus records of Moses’ mother, “When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months,” (Ex 2:2) but the writer to the Hebrews declares, “By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child.” (Heb 11:23) Was it just that they were his parents that they protected Moses? The texts suggest not; they imply that when they looked at him, something in them said he was special.

In one sense this is true of every child, unique and made in the image of God. In the argument of nature versus nurture there is the acceptance that the way you bring up a child determines a lot of how they will turn out.  The truth is that the end product when you look back on a life, is a combination of genes, upbringing, chance opportunities, decisions made and, we would say as Christians, no doubt the invisible hand of God upon us.

Powerful ingredients! We may only help the work of God through prayer, genes are set, but we can play a major and thus significant part in the way we love, accept and are there for our children. The random opportunities and their decisions are beyond us so the way we treat them becomes doubly important as far as we are concerned. If only more parents would understand this. How often do we see parents for whom having a child appears to have been an inconvenient mistake which they regret?

Such parents tend to ignore their responsibilities so caring is minimal, discipline is rare and then, under stress, becomes harsh. How sad that we can hinder the potential of our children when we do this. Moses’ parents risked severe retribution from the authorities of Egypt, just because they sensed something of his potential. They risked everything to save him – that’s what loving parents do. They are a challenge and an example to us.

21. Easy Believers?

Short Meditations in John 7:  21.  Easy Believers?

Jn 7:21  Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all amazed.

I said back in v.19 that Jesus is unpredictable. We think we know where he’s going or what he’s saying, but then he suddenly seems to change direction and say something completely different. Back in v.19 he said, “Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?”  And now he turns back to the subject of doing miracles and their response to what he had done, which appears to be exactly opposite. What is going on?

Well, I think there are two things here. The first is a matter of contrast. On one hand the Jews said one thing about themselves but did something different, and on the other hand they say bad things about Jesus and are yet amazed at what he was doing. They said they were followers of Moses – but didn’t follow the law- and then they said Jesus was bad yet had to acknowledge the miracles he did.

The second thing is seeing the flow of what had happened. Yes Jesus had performed healings in Jerusalem, e.g. “while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name,” (2:23, also 4:45) but in fact it was the healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda on a sabbath which had angered the Jews and set them plotting against him: “because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him,” (5:16) but then, “In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” (17,18) That was what had really triggered it off.

So we have this almost funny situation where Jesus asked the question, “why are you trying to kill me,” and of course the answer is, “Because you claim to be God,” and yet they refuse to actually be honest and speak that out because behind it is the truth of the works that Jesus has been doing which surely point to the truth of his identity.  I used the word ingenuous in the previous study about Jesus  and it applies here also. It means appearing completely innocent of guile and yet there is this underlying sense that Jesus is delightfully herding them back towards that truth which they do not want to verbalize. You really don’t want to spar verbally with the Son of God!

Do we find Jesus herding us towards the truth about who we are, about our need of him, of about who he truly is? He is constantly working to get us to face the truth.