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Friday, April 30, 2010

Leaving Egypt Behind

Scripture: Exodus 6:9, So Moses spoke thus to the sons of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses on account of their despondency and cruel bondage.

Moses spoke to Israel dependable hope. Listen to what God declares. Beaten, defeated, Israel remained deaf. Their suffering had so engulfed them, they couldn’t hear that help was near.

There are times when we struggle to keep afloat, then suddenly, weariness and discouragement overwhelm us. Messengers bring comfort, but we still begin to sink under the waves. The sustainers are bewildered. How can we support when our word are deflected by a wall of pain? How do we relay that deliverance is at hand?

Many years ago my mother weathered her initial bout with cancer against enormous odds. In comparison, her second battle was a minor skirmish, a preventive measure, but she spiraled emotionally out of control descending into a depression, which was more of a threat than the cancer. Nothing helped. Family, friends, doctors were immobilized in their efforts. We prayed. Her medical staff discovered a chemical imbalance, a side effect from her treatments. Supported, sustained, strengthened, she returned to a place where words gave her the courage she needed. To live, to enjoy ten more abundant years.

Thank you Lord, for Your continual comfort. When we cannot even lift our eyes to You-You give us prayers to hold us up. Create in me the compassion and commitment to pray always.

Psalm of Worship: Psalm 124:1,4

Had it not been the Lord who was on our side,

Let Israel now say,

Then the waters would have engulfed us,

The stream would have swept over our soul;

Monday, April 26, 2010

Leaving Egypt Behind

Scripture: Exodus 6:5, ..; and I have remembered My covenant.

6:6-8, I will…(repeated seven times)

“Sorry, I forgot.” How many times have we spoken those words or had them spoken to us? Whether the forgetting is accidental, or intentional, it hurts. In our packed days we attempt to meet everyone’s needs, but, somehow, sometimes, that one seemingly unimportant request is forgotten, and a piece of trust gets chipped away. When it happens repeatedly we lose confidence in that individual, or others lose confidence in us.

No longer dependable.

God tells Moses “I have remembered My covenant.” Then He details seven distinct actions He will take to fulfill His promise. Dr. J. Vernon McGee calls these the “I Will’s of redemption.” Clearly God commits to Moses that His hand will save, His power will bring forth new life, His grace will establish relationship to Himself.

We can depend on God’s pledge too, even when it seems we’ve been forgotten. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.”

Keep the grains of mistrust from rubbing across my mind, Lord, on the days when You seem absent. Help me remember that You will not forget us or forsake us. Just as the sun follows its course above the storm clouds, so do You keep me on Your path during the darkness.

Psalm of Worship: Psalm 105:42

For He remembered His holy word

With Abraham His servant;

Friday, April 23, 2010

Leaving Egypt Behind

Scripture: Exodus 6:2-3, God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am the Lord; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, Lord, I did not make Myself known to them.”

Names are important. They encompass our identity. We belong to the family of; are daughter, son, husband, wife, parent, and sibling of. Numerous times we are known only through that specific designation. “Sandi’s son grows taller every time I see him.”

Throughout history arguments, battles and wars have been fought for the honor of name, both personal and national. Comic characters repeatedly use feuding family clans as material. Some parents agonize, debate, quarrel over newborn’s names. Others fling out a nickname that hounds their child their entire life. Names stick. Some we grow into, some we run away from, some we give as a fragile gift of trust.

God’s statement to Moses jolts me. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob knew Him as God Almighty-Elohim, but to them He had not revealed His name. He had given them His authority, His status. To Moses and enslaved Israel He gave Himself: present, accessible, powerful. “I AM”-Eternal-Jehovah.

His gift of Himself extended to a stable in Bethlehem, to a child named Immanuel, “God with us.” “You shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.”

Bondage to slavery broken by “I AM”.

Adopted into God’s family we are welcomed as children of God, fellow heirs with Christ. And now we can call Him “Abba”, Father. The Spirit Himself bears witness.

And the gift continues. Not just the chains of sin broken, but our characters transformed into Christ’s likeness. Jesus promises, “I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.”

Thank you Lord for revealing your name.

Psalm of Worship: Psalm 111:9

He has sent redemption to His people;

He has ordained His covenant forever;

Holy and awesome is His name.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Leaving Egypt Behind

Scripture: Exodus 5:22-23, Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why hast Thou brought harm to this people? Why didst Thou ever send me? Ever since I came to Pharaoh to speak in Thy name, he hast done harm to this people;”

Moses obeyed. Moses stepped out in faith. Moses stood before Pharaoh. His activities brought severe consequences, not to himself, but to his people-Israel. Things became worse, not better.

Before, when Moses murdered, he ran. He bore the results of his deeds. Now Moses must watch Israel suffer. Was he tempted to flee into the desert again? Except it was there God commissioned him.

Moses returned to the Lord. With his grief, with his questions, with his doubts. He brought his failure to God. Moses didn’t understand, but he knew God alone could explain this defeat.

Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

We shrink from this statement. The mental image of Jesus standing sword in hand seems remote from nail-scarred hands reaching out in love.

Many of Jesus’ parables speak of soil. Furrowed-seeded-watered. Before the planting is upheaval. Before the harvest is manure.

I am so easily persuaded to quit Lord. I see the obstacles or the distress and I retreat. Help me bring the pain and the conflicts to You. Make me willing to accept the plough as ‘Grace filled’ as I enjoy the fruit.

Psalm of Worship: Psalm 80:9

Thou didst clear the ground before it,

And it took deep root and filled the land.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Leaving Egypt Behind

Scripture: Exodus 5:21, And they said to them, “May the Lord look upon you and judge you, for you have made us odious in Pharaoh’s sight and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us.”

Once I heard a speaker say that eagles built their nests with the sticks pointing inward. As the eaglets grew, the nest became more uncomfortable and their reluctance to leave it decreased.

Moses’ request to Pharaoh resulted in stripped illusions. Pharaoh’s intentions, attitude, toward the Israelites were soon revealed. The Israelites were forced to recognize their menial standing. As they faced their reality, fury attacked Moses. First he had raised their hopes and now their situation was worse than ever.

Odious in Pharaoh’s sight, the circumstances became intolerable. Israel was now forced to leave Egypt. Later in history the Israelites were driven to Babylon. Christians compelled to leave Jerusalem. Martyrs pressed from Rome. Sharp sticks prodded within the nest.

Maybe my anger is like a stick from my nest. Is it time for me to move into new truths? Am I so busy clinging to my lifestyle, You need to ruffle my circumstances so I’ll look up and out, Lord? Cool my frustration. Clear my thoughts. Choose my course.

Psalm of Worship: Psalm 31:15

My times are in Thy hand;

Deliver me from the hand of my enemies, and those who persecute me.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Leaving Egypt Behind

Scripture: Exodus 5:13, And the taskmasters presses them, saying, “Complete your work quota, your daily amount, just as when you had straw.”

Waves of helplessness flood us when we face circumstances we can neither control or change. Fear grips our minds. Outrage engulfs our hearts. We stand bewildered.

The foremen of the sons of Israel faced an impossible situation not of their own choosing. They attempted reason. Rejected. They reviewed the possibilities. Pruned. They requested clemency. Caned. No hope for negotiation. No exit.

How do we cope? Where do we flee when the pain becomes unbearable? God promises us “that you may be able to endure it.”

That doesn’t sound like the rescue I’m seeking Lord. It sounds more like I have to stay awhile in this place. Why? I came to You like You said I should. Remove me, please. Give me distance to reflect on this trial. What’s keeping me? My own chains! But I have a right to be angry. Don’t You see how uncooperative and hateful they’re being? I’m here by accident, remember.

“but He, on the other hand, because He abides forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Hence, also, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

Psalm of Worship: Psalm 71:2

In Thy righteousness deliver me, and rescue me;

Incline Thine ear to me, and save me.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Leaving Egypt Behind

Scripture: Exodus 5:9, Let the labor be heavier on the men, and let them work at it that they may pay no attention to false words.

Pharaoh knew psychology. Pile on the labor until they stagger. Weigh them down until words no longer infiltrate their thinking. Fatigue settles. Dullness of mind descends. Our vision narrows when our burdens increase. Our sight is limited to the tasks at hand. Our purpose is to make it through the day. We brush away alternative goals like flies at a picnic. Automatically like machines, set, programmed, we work.

Jesus calls, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

Words of life, words of meaning.

Can I hear them or am I so overburdened with busyness they fall unnoticed as leaves in a forest. Am I so absorbed in ceaseless activities I am blind to the weight friends carry? Vain pursuits contribute to emptiness, too. Some days fill with meaningless clatter and still I am deaf to Jesus’ invitation to rest my soul. His words sound so foreign that I think them false, like Pharaoh thought Moses’.

Open my ears and eyes, Lord, to perceive Your words. Keep me from substituting false pursuits for truth. Balance my labor under Your yoke.

Psalm of Worship: Psalm 68:19

Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden,

The God who is our salvation.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Leaving Egypt Behind

Scripture: Exodus 5:5, Again Pharaoh said, “Look, the people of the land are now many, and you would have them cease from their labors!”

New technological concepts root out traditional business practices like a farmer prepares his field for a new crop. Passerbys see a churned plot of land upside down, inside out, and no idea what the produce will be. From elementary school on, students speak a math language foreign even to older siblings. Speed and accuracy are said to increase production. Now people are expected to yield results at a quicker pace.

Pharaoh would have appreciated these developments. His goals were to fill quotas. Production-cost-money. Personal lives were of no consequence. They were slaves-produce output.

What about my own agenda? Is there room for people, for fellowship, or do I give all my time to completing my daily lists? How willing am I to stop the busy flow and become a participant in living? Perhaps I have become so caught up in fulfilling expectations that I am even doing those not mine to meet. I need Your discernment, Lord, to separate the urgent from the necessary, to make my life more than a production line.

Fix my tasks on Your choices. Keep my work within the boundaries You have set. Only there, will I truly feel satisfaction in completed goals.

Psalm of Worship: Psalm 90:17

And let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us;

And do confirm for us the work of our hands;

Yes, confirm the work of our hands.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Leaving Egypt Behind

Scripture: Exodus 5:2, But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice..”

Different viewpoints, divergent ideologies clash. Witness world history. Adam and Eve presumed they could handle the Tree of Knowledge. Cain assumed his offering equaled Abel’s. In addition to common difficulties, Jesus prepared His disciples to expect conflict, “I have given them Thy word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”

Following a standard that flows against the current invites ridicule, contempt and rejection. The pain pierces deeper when family and friends refuse to take us seriously.

Were Pharaoh’s words filled with contempt or confusion? “I do not know the Lord,” he continued, “and besides, I will not let Israel go.” The chasm between Pharaoh and Moses widened.

Teach me, Lord, how to build bridges of communication. Please take our same words with differing meanings and cover them with Your words. Prepare me to answer “in season and out of season” any who ask, “Who is the Lord?”

Don’t allow our preconceived ideas to keep Your truths at bay like oil on water. Direct Your words to penetrate our pores and become obedience.

Psalm of Worship: Psalm 24:9-10

Lift up your heads, O gates, and lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in!

Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory.

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