Resistance is Futile

Redeeming the Plagues: Part 21

(Aka: Why saying, “But God –” to God – is like the Borg in Star Trek)

My apologies for bringing Star Trek and the Bible together. Especially with the Borg. The Borg are an alien species in the fictional Star Trek universe which assimilate everything and use it to their advantage. Resisting them is pointless… although is has happened in several Star Trek adventures.

In some ways, God dangles our destiny before us like this. He knows we’re afraid of the challenges, don’t know how to get the job done, or even where to begin. Yet, we get caught up in it and find out – Resistance towards God’s plan is futile.

Take Moses for example…. In Exodus chapters 3-4 God has pretty much outlined the game plan and the tools to bust Israel out of captivity and slavery from their Egyptian oppressors. Moses is handed – in every sense of the word – supernatural abilities. Yet when his staff turns into a snake, he runs away.

God could have dropped an entire military next to Moses and said, “Go get ’em, tiger,” and Moses may not have understood. He would have seen the military might, had confidence in it and told them… “Uh… yeah. You… yeah… You. You’re the leader… go… do…. something….”

But God wanted Moses to rely on His power – not conventional military force. Logic would say raise a resistance from inside, using a confident and skilled leader. Instead, God is sending one man who’s protesting that he’s even qualified.

In Exodus 4:13, “But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.””

Folks… its time for a Jesus face palm…

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I used to be really jealous of Moses. He gets his destiny told to him in chronological order, is given the tools to get the job done, has the backing of God and he goes off and rescues a whole bunch of people. Yay! And then the people are stupid, don’t obey God and end up marching around the desert for 40 years like my experience getting lost in New Jersey, and West Virginia…. and on my way to orthodontists’ office 20 minutes from my house. (In my defense with the orthodontist experience, I didn’t want to go and the directions on the postcard were wrong.)

And again… Sunday school simplification failed me.

In my naivety I told God that if he confronted me like Moses and told me what to do to reach my destiny, that I’d be willing to go after it. I was a young teenager at the time.

Then I lived a Burning Bush style incident – years later – and deserve a whole spam box full of Jesus face palms for my reaction.

For over a decade I have had a topic on my heart which I’ve wanted to write about. Its important to Christianity and our impact as individuals on the planet before we die or get beamed up into Heaven during the Rapture.

I tried a few times, gave up and moved on. I always sounded angry and a bit like General George Patton. “All right you stinkin’ measly, whiny-butt Christians – here’s what’s gonna happen and here’s how its gonna go down. Shape it up for Christ! On the double! LEFT! RIGHT! LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT!”

That really wasn’t that attitude I wanted to have. In fact, I was rather intimidated because the vast majority of Christian writing is so…. nice.

“Dear one, I want to gather you to my heart, because there is something stirring deep in my soul which I feel I must share with you, and God has pressed it upon me to speak to you, dear one so that God may work in each of us… sparkle, sparkle, rainbow lolly-pops, sheep and unicorns, Jesus saves! AWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!”

Then God brought it back and plopped it in my face like Indy confronting the cobra. My expression was pretty much the same too. (Minus the stubble – my nose is cuter as well.)

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And my words… “Someone else should do this. Someone more qualified.”

God clears throat and cracks his knuckles – and whaps me with the issue again. Its like seeing a phone book come out of nowhere and land right in front of you. You’re not sure who threw it – but dang! Projectile phone book scared you and made the paperclips fall out of your desk and scattered the papers of your current project.

“But Lord – I can’t write a book.”

(The spiritual reaction was to point to my short story collection and the soon to be released World War II and Cold War spy novel Red Trouble.)

“Ok. But Lord – that was FICTION!”

I get whapped with the issue a third time. And I start complaining to one of my female friends.

She’s an author too. She got interested in the topic and said, “Write the book!”

I stare heavenward and let out a groan. It was not a heavenly Holy Spirit groan, but more like, “I don’t need more freakin’ things to do – my life is whacky enough! And I’m not even in a relationship with any other human being! Life isn’t supposed to be this complicated until you get married and spawn! I read it on the back of every Christian relationship book I ever picked up and threw away! It must be true!!!!!”

(Oops. Did I say that out loud?)

“But Lord – I’ve never been to a Christian college. I can’t write this!”

Pause. And God reminds me of the experiences I’ve had with people who have been to a Christian college.

Me: Oh. Yeah. Thaaaat. Them. Ugh. Uh… yeah… no. There’s no way they could even begin to think about writing the book you’ve put on my brain. It would scare them.

A few months later – Its starting to become clear, I do need to write the book. Yet, God and I had to have a few more conversations of prayer and whining before I committed to the project.

My final response… “Ok. Fine, Lord. Since I can’t sleep. Grrrr.”

As the evidence starts mounting that I should write the book which God placed on my brain, its like watching phone books be dumped on your desk – while you’re trying to work.

You don’t really know who decided that your desk was the place to send unwanted phone books, and you’d really just like to move on with your life – but people keep coming by and giving you phone books. That giant whumpping noise and the inability to see over the phone book pile as each person drops them off is slowly hemming you in… until you can’t even reach over the top of all the phone books and you can’t begin to get to the other work you want to do.

It took about six times of whapping, the threat of projectile phone books and confrontational prayer – but I’m writing the book.

And I have a great viewpoint – because I’m sitting on top of this giant, crazy, nearly sky-high pile of phone books.

I suppose its a little like a burning bush. I mean, phone books are made out of paper… and paper is made from trees….

Be careful. God answers prayers. Even from whiners….

I have to go write another book now.

And I’ll be continuing with my blog – on top of all this.

 

 

Bible verses from Bible Gateway.

 

 

 

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Scandal!

Big sigh. Or a deep breath.

I am going to ruin the Christmas story.

Completely.

I should apologize. But I don’t feel like it.

The truth is…

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We’ve sanitized the Christmas story. And we’ve grown utterly immune to the scandal within it.

 

Between the Old and New Testament there was a 400 year gap. Think about it. 400 years.

A four hundred year gap would take us back to the 1600s…

A few highlights from that era…

The telescope had just been invented.

Guns were new technology as well… firing about one round… every two minutes.

Jamestown, America’s first permanent settlement was founded. The rest of the continent was wilderness.

Travel was dependent on the speed of the wind or the endurance of your horses.

And in the 1600s… I’d be very, very, very, old at 28. I’d also probably have at least three living children, and possibly nine more who’d died in infancy.

Also at this time, the Reformation was going on… various religious powers were jockeying for supremacy. They were all Christian, except in South and Central America, where the native populations were being forced to convert or die.

God was viewed as wrathful, angry and the Almighty judge. He was distant and aloof. Puritanism was in full swing as well… along with witchcraft trials.

We can’t imagine a life like that. The Israelites also couldn’t remember life where they’d been connected with God. In fact, they sort of had settled on the conclusion that God had as much interest in their lives as most kids have in homework.

 

Then Mary gets pregnant. She says that an angel showed up and told her that she would have a special son. That has as much credibility as…

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Joseph, her fiancée, is worried too. Until he has a dream… It’s a strange one. He could have told it to someone and they would have asked, “Dude! What are you eating? Cut the cold pizza jalapeño burritos and pierogies with hot sauce, man!”

 

Marriage counseling would have gone something like this…

Counselor: Mary, Joseph, I think its best that you tell us… what happened… (gestures to Mary’s pregnant belly)

Mary: An angel showed up…

Counselor: Dear… I think you need to get drug tested. Joseph… are you the father?

Joseph: I… No.

Counselor: Your parents have suggested strongly that I speak to you both about other options. And not being delusional.

Mary: I’m not delusional!

Joeseph: She’s not delusional! I had a dream – from God.

Counselor starts rubbing forehead, considering the potential that both parties of the couple need to be on medication and tested for illegal drug use.

If that’s not awkward enough… it’s tax season.

Joseph gets to see his entire extended family and show off his not-yet-but-very-pregnant-bride.

If you can imagine…

Joseph’s hubby tubby sympathy weight enters the family room along with Mary’s very pregnant belly… only to be greeted by stunned faces of family members. The relatives are horrified. This is a major scandal. And tempers are flaring like April 15th was yesterday. The Roman version of the IRS is in town and they can not only seize your home, boat, property, and business but sell you, your family and your children into slavery… where you will most likely die within two years.

Joseph’s mother comes up and lets him have it… “Joseph Jacob Matthan Eleazer Elihud Akim Zadok Azor!”

Joseph winces thinking, “Man – down to the seventh generation – Mom’s really upset. The last time she used all these names was when I was late for my Bar Mitzvah….”

Mary’s explanation doesn’t help matters. Neither does Joseph’s pizza dream.

People just don’t have the courage to believe in faith… especially when it looks like a case of blatant disrespect of Jewish marriage and law.

Mary and Joseph are sent to the family stable.

In modern terms, they put the pregnant lady in the garage.

The traditional rendering of the story’s ‘no room at the inn’ – is actually more like, “There’s no room in our extra room.” No respectable man would take a pregnant woman (wife or not) to an inn. Inns were not reputable places. And it shows in the Old Testament where scholars and linguists can’t figure out through the language context if Rahab is an innkeeper or a brothel owner. (Joshua 2)

The stable was most likely a cave.

So Mary and Joseph are in a cold cave with a farting donkey and a belching cow… along with all the other animal scents that make city slickers gag. In frank terms – Poop. Dirt. Snot. Hayfever. Cave mold. Lots of pollen. No sanitation. There might have been goats there too. Goats tend to smell like a wet dishrag that’s sat in the sink too long. Donkeys smell like dogs. Cows also have four stomachs, so when they belch, which is often, its putrefied grass mixed with ethanol in a radius of three feet.

And pregnant women don’t always handle smells well…

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Mary goes into labor. The cow’s been through this, so she starts mooing too. Great rafter rattling bellowing moos. The type that will wake up the entire neighborhood. Forget “The cattle are lowing…” – Nope. The cattle are bellowing. (Listen here.)

Joseph is standing there, kind of overwhelmed and helpless – “Um…. Blood…. I think I need to leave before I faint…”

We don’t know if the relatives came in to help or if they were shunned completely. Or if Mary had a labor horror story – besides the accommodations.

But after everything calms down the shepherds show up.

Shepherds, who smell like the homeless man on the street with a hint of grandma’s musty wool sweater and her out-of-date perfume. They also have fleas and are talking like they ate magic mushrooms in their mutton stew.

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They descend on this family scandal and proceed to… Go. Tell. Everyone.

That’s the last thing any respectable family caught in scandal wants.

Eight days later, Mary and Joseph present Jesus in the temple. They are met by two elderly people.

“Finally! Someone who’s sane!” Joseph is probably thinking.

Mary, like most mothers is focused on the baby and totally in love – not caring what anyone else thinks.

Until Simeon shows interest. He picks up baby Jesus, adores the little guy – who’s biggest accomplishment so far in the history of the world – has been – breakfast.

(Babies don’t do much in the birth process… that’s all on the mommas. Sorry, theologians – Jesus’s first accomplishment was NOT plopping onto the earth.)

Simeon turns, gleaming with joy to the new parents – and gives them a doom, gloom, boom prophecy. But he’s thrilled because he’s seen the Messiah. And probably appears just as crazy as the shepherds.

Anna comes along and being an elderly woman, at first appears like a regular grandma with a case of baby oooooh and awwww. She leaves spreading news of the scandal, claiming the child in the Messiah – the one Israel has been waiting for to get them out from under the dominant powers of the land.

Then Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus become fugitives – because a paranoid king hears of the scandal. He decides, just in case the peons of Israel might be right – he’d better kill at the male babies and toddlers under two years old.

His paranoia is enhanced by visitors from the east… which would have been anywhere from China, Central Asia, India, Iran, and Iraq… who come looking for a king. So great is the investment of these three visitors and so certain are they, that they braved the long journey on dangerous trade routes to reach Jerusalem, bringing gifts for the boy king.

These magi – who are the scientists and astronomers of their time – stop in the palace and ask, “Where is the king?”

The ‘king’ the magi want to meet, at that moment, is packing it down the road with his parents to Egypt. They’re taking the same road Moses used when he fled Egypt.

 

Finally the magi track down Mary, Joseph and child Jesus. (Estimates on Jesus’ age at this moment from from 2-4 years old.)

They bring gold, frankincense and myrrh. The gold is great, Mary and Joseph could use the money. But the other two gifts… well…. They’re very expensive funerary spices. The main purpose was to keep the stink of the dead body in check.

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As an added aside – due to female anatomy and the birth process – without getting into too much detail and grossing anyone out – the birth of Jesus would have prevented a solid answer to the virginity test as mentioned in Deuteronomy 22:13-21.

Joseph would never know – beyond the dream he had – if Mary had cheated on him or not. He would have to trust her – just like she trusted God.

And he did.

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If we are to look at the young man that Jesus became – he is a secure, confident knowledgeable young man, responsible, loving and miraculous.

Despite the circumstances of his birth – he was not raised in shame.

He was born outside a human covenant and crucified outside the city of Jerusalem – a life and death in absolute scandal as proof of how far God is willing to go in order to bring us home.

Merry Christmas.

Or translated from the Latin – Have a Mighty Encounter with Christ!

 

 

Road Trip!

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Yes. Three months later I have returned. It appears my ability to gauge my deadlines and timelines is in need of a reality check.

For what I’ve been doing in life and writing – check out my other blog: damselflyonabookshelf

I also added a new page on this blog, “About the Author.”

I want to return to Redeeming the Plagues after the first of the New Year. I hope to be posting at least once a month. I’d like to go back to weekly… or I’ll be 45 by the time I finish Redeeming the Plagues. (I’m 28, now.)

Since I’ve been in progress for the past several months and found myself fumbling through a transition period in my life – (no details, because I don’t know them, but its not a crisis) – I’ve felt like God at certain times has me as the distractible small cat, chasing after the red dot laser.

 

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Yet, looking at the Bible – it is full of road trips and transition. Everyone we find in the Bible is dealing with some sort of process. Even Jesus with his disciples spent a lot of time on the road…. which is odd when you realize the modern state of Israel, which encompasses much the same area as Israel during Jesus’ time… is only about the size of the modern state of New Jersey.

However… one can get lost in an area that small. Trust me. On my way home from a military history research weekend at Sandy Hook, NJ Fort Hancock, my GPS decided that the best way to get home was not a horizontal drive across the state, (3 hours) long… but a vertical drive along the New Jersey/Pennsylvania border. I attempted to correct this malice, but still ended up circling Trenton, New Jersey for an hour and a half. My trip home was five hours long. The trip was supposed to be three and a half hours.

Moses and the Israelites took similar detours and circles. I can imagine the conversation.

“I’ve seen this bush before. I know it!”

“Moses, I know we’ve been here before… I recognize that rock.”

“Moses, are you sure you’re not leading us in circles?”

“Hey! I know we’ve been here before! Levi just found the marble that he lost last time we were here!”

And I can imagine Moses going before God. “Hi Lord… I really don’t like that there’s no set path here. I know you’re taking care of us and all that… but do I have to keep following you like a kitten chasing a red dot laser? And never catch the red dot!!!!?????? You do realize that’s more frustrating than circling Trenton, New Jersey six times, right?”

Yet, when we feel like we’re lost, God knows exactly where we are. Sometimes that’s not helpful to us though.

Between praying and cursing in the jeep while circling Trenton, New Jersey I hollered out to God, “Where the bleep-bitty-bleep am I?”

The response: “Next to the Wendy’s.”

I looked to my right. There was a Wendy’s fast food restaurant. “Thanks, Lord. That was real helpful. Where the bleep-bitty-bleep-bleep-bleeeeeeeeep am I? And how the bleep-bitty-bleep-bleep do I get home?”

“I’m sorry. My responses are limited. You must ask the right questions.”

Yes. Its a line from the movie, IRobot. God quotes movie lines sometimes.

So I snorted in disgust and repented… in traffic. Moving six inches forward I saw a sign for the New Jersey Turnpike. Thirty minutes later, I escaped Trenton, and promptly made the same turn again and found myself traveling the same route, back through Trenton.

God also brings us back to the barren places where we felt hopeless, in order to deliver hope. However, that process involves tripping over blocks buried in the sands of our memories, finding the lost marbles and marching around things five to seven times in preparation for what we’re going to face in the Promised Land.

And it sucks. Much like getting lost… in the same area… three times….

But if we marched into the Promised Land without the desert commando training of endurance and process we’d never have the fortitude to get the job done.

—-

Oh… by the way…

New Jersey has salvation bridges.

If you have a relative who needs to meet Jesus this Christmas and you want to speak to them… take them for a drive on the bridge of Route 36 in New Jersey just outside of Highlands, New Jersey. For the full effect, do it at high tide and ask them, “Do you know where you’d go if you died right now?”

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Its even more ominous when you see the exit only lane.

You’re welcome.

Actually… don’t do that. It may not be productive in your relationship with the other person, or their salvation. (Just a disclaimer.)

 

Medic!

When I first began this blog I had no idea where it would lead, or the attention to detail I would be giving the Exodus account.

I had envisioned a quick little weekly blurb – but I have been known to underestimate the Holy Spirit, and he has often grinned at me from underneath his World War II helmet.

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A World War II medic feeding baby birds.

Yes. I often find myself picturing the Holy Spirit as a medic. Traditionally the symbol of a dove has been used, because that is how the Holy Spirit manifested upon Jesus during his baptism.

But that’s not the only manifestation of the Holy Spirit… there is the storm Elijah faced and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

It is simply a choice of how we relate to God, and how God chooses to relate to us.

God has always related to me in the context of history. And I have always enjoyed writing for him… but I do recognize and must respect the signs of burnout. And the Holy Spirit medic has had to step in on various occasions, pulling me back and delightfully ordering me into a spiritual medical tent.

I’ve also got some other projects under my hat which need attention to…

First, (of course) I must attend to some spiritual matters…

…specifically, discerning what the next steps in life are for me. And these must always line up with what God as my spiritual commander has planned.

Second, I’ve got a book to finish.

I am a writer. (In case, you hadn’t guessed already.) I have had a short story collection out for a year, and have been in progress of writing a post World War II/early Cold War novel. There are more details on that project on my other blog.

(Yes. I have run two blogs, posting for the most part weekly.) These blogs are secondary to my larger writing projects.

 

You are welcome to check out my other projects…

I’m on…

Amazon: A. R. Mitchell

Wattpad (a free digital platform for stories): A_R_Mitchell

WordPress: damselflyonabookshelf

 

I will return at the end of August!

Stay tuned!

A Battle of the Wills

Redeeming the Plagues: Part 20

Moses’ D-Day: Part 2

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.” – Exodus 3:11-12

Listen to that…

You will worship God on this mountain.

Its not… you might, its a solid promise of ‘You will.’

God is consistently making, ‘You will’ promises to us. His covenant is consistently, ‘You will’ – not as a command – but as a blessing.

Look at what he said to Abraham, even though the man had no normal hope of having descendants…

Then the Lord said to him [Abraham], “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back hereGenesis 15:13-16

Even when it looks like all is lost – there is still a coming victory –

Genesis 3:14-15…. (Immediately after God confronts Adam and Eve about their sin.)

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock
    and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
    and you will eat dust
    all the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

 

Genesis 3:15 is the first prophecy of Jesus Christ’s victory. It is only a curse or an ultimatum for the evil serpent.

Just like Moses when he he fled Egypt, all seemed lost, but that is not true. It only appears like that to our limited human vision. God lives outside of our history, present and future – so he can step in anytime he pleases.

And step in, God did – just like in the Garden, and just like in the lives of Abraham and Moses –

Jesus recognized it as he prayed in Gethsemane.

“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36)

I used to think this was a passive aggressive prayer. But its not…

This is the reaction Moses had as well. “Who am I that you would send me?”

But Jesus knew who he was. And because he knew identity as a much loved son – and Moses knew his identity as a displaced person – Jesus responded with confidence in his father, while Moses could not.

But we’ll see Moses quietly gain confidence through the rest of his journey. He will learn of his value, and as he learns about the God of his forefathers, he will settle into the role of leader of God’s people and partner with God… fulfilling the promise God gave to Abraham.

 

All Bible verses are from Bible Gateway.

Moses’ Mission Impossible

Redeeming the Plagues: Part 19

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 

And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’

“This is my name forever,
    the name you shall call me
    from generation to generation.

 

“Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’

“The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt Exodus 3:11-18

AKA: Moses tries to weasel out.

Exodus 3:11 is the beginning of an interesting conversation. It lasts through Exodus 4:23. Its one we all have with ourselves when we’re confronted with some divine interference that swings out of nowhere, tweaks our nose, or crashes into our life.

The difference is how we approach it. There are two ways:

The Fear

The Go

The Fear looks at the impossible and improbable logistics starting with the questioning of the Creator.

The Go looks at the impossible logistics, their training, who they are and asks, respectfully but excited at the challenge, “What’s your plan?”

To place this in a different context – think about the Mission Impossible series.

The original series is from the 1960s, featuring a team of highly skilled secret agents who were always given missions of critical importance with the caveat that if they were caught and captured, their superiors would deny all knowledge of their existence. This would mean death, torture and imprisonment, if the team couldn’t escape.

The Tom Cruise remake has a similar plot line.

In the original, the team leader, most famously played by Peter Graves, would go to a location and receive a tape recorder, along with an envelope. The recorded message would explain the mission, and inside the envelope would be photographs or documents needed to complete the mission.

It went something like this…

“Your mission, should you choose to accept it… (outlines mission)…”

“As always, should any of your team be caught or captured, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This tape will self-destruct in five seconds.”

Fizzle. Smoke. Boom.

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Imagine:

“Moses, your mission is to go back into the land of your youth and rescue my people. I will be with you the entire way. You and your people will worship me, on this mountain. This bush will not self-destruct any time soon because I Am God. If you are caught or captured I will not disavow you or any of your team. Go do what I’ve called you to do!”

And’s Moses’ reaction is, ‘Why me? Who am I? They’re not gonna believe me, and they’re not gonna believe you.’

Notice… he doesn’t even have to do the super scary stuff yet. He has to travel back to Egypt, then find the elders and have a chat with them. Its none of the booming voice of Charleston Heston, ‘Let my people go!’ Nothing like that.

This is the fear. This is looking at the ‘I’ – and not into the eyes of God.

Worse, this is total lack of faith – saying to God, ‘They’re not going to believe me – not even if you send me.”

Which is pretty brazen. Its almost like saying to God, “Hi, I know you’re out there, God, ’cause you’re right in front of me, but I can’t believe in myself, so I can’t believe in you, or what you tell me.”

And its absolutely backward of the later prophets. By then, as Moses will learn too, they will say, “I trust you God, even though I don’t know how we’re gonna do this. And I don’t think I can. But with you as my backup, and shield – let’s go.”

 

We all have faith crises. There is nothing wrong with those. We are not weak because we have moments where we question things. These crises often draw us up to new levels of trust and expectation with God.

How should we respond in times when we are given assignments?

The Go

The Go is to take action even though you’re scared and have no idea what’s next or how you’re going to pull through.

Abraham lived in the go.

He packed up and left, wandering all over the promised land, down into Egypt and back. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did a massive prayer walk with God all over the territory that Israel was supposed to occupy. And that three generation prayer walk lasted about 400 years.

Now, its not always that dramatic. We tend to look at the Old Testament and beg not to be sent through times like that.

But God does love a challenge. And He is looking for people to train up as leaders and shepherd warriors like Moses, David, Esther and Zipporah.

And we, as Christians, need to have enough guts and courage to respond.

 

Sources:

All Bible verse are from Bible Gateway. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+3&version=NIV

Photograph of Tape from Mission Impossible: http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/tape-recorder-featured-at-the-beginning-of-mission-news-photo/472971396?#tape-recorder-featured-at-the-beginning-of-mission-impossible-episode-picture-id472971396

“So now, Go!” Moses’ D-Day

 

Redeeming the Plagues: Part 18

D-Day Series: Part 1

[God said to Moses] “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.Exodus 3:10

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This week is the seventy-third anniversary of D-Day.

In the photograph above, Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower addresses the paratroopers in the hours before the Allied invasion of Europe through Normandy, France.

His orders of the day speech always find me in tears because of its application toward spiritual warfare and the Christian life.

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For too long we have been meek and mild, choosing to ignore those around us who need to see God in a tangible rescuing way.

That was the intent of the Exodus. God was going to interfere in human history, liberating his people. He hadn’t forgotten them.

And Moses reaction is, “Why me?”

He still sees himself as a displaced, adopted kid stuck between two cultures.

God saw a warrior. A shepherd who was built for leadership and justice.

We’ve discussed the purpose of the Angel of the Lord and the identity of this particular angel is thought to be Jesus Christ.

Jesus said the same thing to his disciples, and by extension us:

“So now, Go!”*

 

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It’s not about who we think we are…

It’s about who God KNOWS we are.

 

Eisenhower said in detail what the writers of the Bible presumed we already knew…

“You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven the many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.

Your task will not be an easy one. You enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.

The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle! We will accept nothing less than full Victory!”

 

 

 

*Matthew 28:16-20 (The Great Commission)

Sources:

All Bible verse references are from Bible Gateway.

Photograph of Eisenhower Addressing the Troops: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3a26521/

Photograph of Eisenhower’s speech: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/dwighteisenhowerorderofdday.htm

Text of Eisenhower’s speech: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/dwighteisenhowerorderofdday.htm

Photograph of D-Day Battle from Troop Carrier aka Higgins Boat: http://www.travelthruhistory.tv/visit-national-wwii-museum-new-orleans-la/

The God of Living History

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Redeeming the Plagues: Part 17

Memorial Day Edition

Then he said [to Moses], “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.”

“I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them –” Exodus 3:6-8

As I said last week, God exists outside of history. That means He is in our past, our present, and our future. He is the word which holds everything together (Hebrews 1:3).

God introduces himself to Moses by mentioning Moses’ ancestors. Its like a man holding out his hand and saying, “I worked for your father.”

God is saying, “I worked with your father, your grandfather and your great grandfather. We have a covenant, and I have not forgotten it. Moses, its time to saddle up –”

Until that point, the Hebrew people had been enslaved for probably 300-500 years. In our time that would be like honoring a promise left over from the Middle Ages.

How much do we remember about the Middle Ages?

Nothing.

When I speak the spectators at living history events for World War II – which ended seventy-two years ago – most of them have no idea what the Second World War was about. There is no grasp of history. They don’t even understand why the villains of the war were so evil.

Now – imagine Moses.

There’s no direct memory to any of the events God is discussing. Moses was adopted by the Egyptians. He may have restarted a relationship with the Hebrew God (vs. the Egyptian gods) after meeting Jethro, his future father-in-law.

Moses is a complete newbie when it comes to a relationship with this strange Hebrew God who doesn’t come in statue form, likes to hide in bushes and then light them on fire.

There are no history books, no photographs, and barely any written record of events for the Hebrew people for Moses to reference. The Hebrews are enslaved. They are not allowed to learn of their history or culture. They are not even allowed to have a culture.

I was recently in New Orleans, Louisiana and met a local Creole, (a person from Louisiana of mixed heritage – usually Caucasian and African-American who speaks French). He said, “I’ve always been jealous of the Jewish people, they had a written alphabet. They knew who they were. Me, I don’t even know what language my grandparents spoke, or what country in Africa my great-grandparents were from!”

That is the legacy of slavery.

Moses had the same background. His family heritage was the blank slate of slavery’s trauma and genocide, then mixed adoption into a completely different culture… Egypt.  Finally he fled, running into the God of Living History.

Imagine the Hebrew people who knew the histories. I know they wondered. I know they asked, pounding their fists and crying out in agony, “Where are you God? Where is the fulfillment of our promises? What happened to the covenant of our own land, which you, God, promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? What are we doing in slavery? Has God abandoned us? Did those men die in vain?”

Did those men die in vain?

Bring this back to Memorial Day 2017.

We still grapple with those questions. But I will tell you this –

No. Those we honor from our armed forces did not die in vain.

God has a covenant with each of us. He has made covenant with each of us.

And just as God stepped up to defend his covenant at the cost of his own son’s life – he felt the pain of loss.

God wanted to serve and rescue – bringing freedom to the oppressed. We see God’s heart here with the burning bush, and we’ll see it later with Jesus in the New Testament.

We see a continuation of God’s covenant of fulfillment and freedom, as America was founded with the ideals of religious freedom. The founding documents of our nation are covenants between the government and the people.

Covenants like God had with Abraham.

Kings were often considered divine… unreachable. To make a covenant with them for personal or governmental purposes was unheard of! To have God himself come to Abraham, a nomadic shepherd and make a covenant was even more miraculous!

And the burden of proof for this covenant’s fulfillment didn’t rest on the Abraham or his descendants – it rested on God.

Its Memorial Day.

Memorial Day started with local women wanting to honor the sons and fathers they lost during the Civil War. The country was recovering from a decisive time in history when it was nearly torn apart. But the covenant held strong.

Memorial Day was a way to bring people together – not only in their sorrows, but in their loss.

And that covenant held strong, as we went to war against aggression throughout the globe and throughout our nation’s short history – we have been a world-shaping voice, bringing the promise of covenant, not dominion over the earth.

The warriors we’ve lost did not die in vain. God has not forgotten their sacrifice. They honored a covenant in way that few ever realize. They did what Christ did. They sacrificed their lives for the sake of a covenant and a rescue.

During World War II – the soldiers went into battle to fight what they thought was a simple case of a global schoolyard bully – but they found death camps.

Death camps full of people who had disagreed or fought against the prevailing force of Nazi Germany – often in the same manner of the American patriots during the Revolutionary War. (They were writers, resistance fighters, rabbis, teachers, pastors, average people and citizen soldiers.)

But these death camps were also full of Jews.

During World War II – the covenant came full circle. Abraham’s children were rescued by those who recognized Christ Jesus as Messiah, and had accepted the covenant of salvation. It was America who pushed for a Jewish state of Israel… fulfilling the covenant that God promised to Abraham.

They did not die in vain.

And if you notice, God says, ‘I am the God of…’

He exists outside of time.

Those men, women, children – who throughout history have given their lives and are to be honored this Memorial Day –

– They’re still alive.

 

(Next week is the anniversary of the invasion of Europe through France – D-Day. We’ll look at Moses’ D-Day.)

In honor of Memorial Day – here is a link to my other blog, featuring a short story: Ghost Unit

 

All Bible references are taken from Bible Gateway.

Photograph is mine.

The God of Your Fathers

Redeeming the Plagues: Part 16

When the Lord saw that he [Moses] had gone over to look [at the burning bush], God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.Exodus 3:4-6

History is a living thing to God. He existed outside of it, so each person’s past, present and future, and their individual impact on the world are part of a God-breathed event – just like the Genesis account of Creation. Now, it doesn’t always turn out in a godly manner, free will and the capacity to choose evil over good are prominent throughout our past and current age, however God still stands over it all… and intervenes.

Moses however, doesn’t want to interfere. Sticking up for the little guy back home in Egypt made him a fugitive and now that he’s finally got his life back together, he’s not going to be drawn back into another mess. Yet, Moses responds…

“Here I am.”

This is as good as saying, “Here – Lord.”

I AM is God’s name in the Hebrew. That’s the name he gave Moses permission to address him by.

“Here I am,” is an amazing response to God. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Samuel, and Isaiah all responded to God like this.

Most powerfully, Christ responds to us like this…

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock…Revelation 3:20

Moses was afraid to look at God. Now, we have the option of inviting him into our home, the home is where our heart is – not the physical building.

Its worth noting that Jesus didn’t kick down the door into Moses life. He drew him in. Jesus, the Holy Spirit and Father God are only SWAT teams against evil. They do not strike the good.* We have options. We are not locked into breech, ready to be fired, forced out a barrel, with a flaming end, on target toward a set bullseye.

God is not a marksman or an assassin. Nor is he a passive watcher. No, he is a hunter. For awhile he watches, then draws us in – like a fisherman with a fish on the line.

The lure for Moses was a bush that didn’t match his surroundings. The lure for others to come to Christ is the compassion and actions you take as a faithful believer.

You don’t need to shove tracts in their faces when kindness will do much more.

 

*With regard to striking the good. Yes, rotten things do happen. Terrible and horrific things are part of our world. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be the change. That doesn’t mean we are helpless against evil. God stepping out to rescue the Israelites in the book of Exodus should be a blueprint to watch how God and a few good kingdom citizens change history for the better.

 

All Bible verses are quoted from Bible Gateway. New International Version (NIV)

List of ‘here I am’ in the Bible: https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?qs_version=NIV&quicksearch=here+I+am&startnumber=1 (Note: Not all of them are conversations between God and prophets or other major historical figures.)

The Passion of the Lord

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Redeeming the Plagues: Part 15

Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” Exodus 3:2-3

Did you notice that? The bush burned but was not consumed.

That’s what passion is.

That’s what a healthy passion does to a person. It defies the laws of science and energy by feeding itself, and growing larger, and larger.

As Christians we overlook passion. We tend to associate it with erotic love and consider it dangerous.

Yet, here – Christ embodies raw fire and untapped passion, which drives him to recruit a rescuer.

Passion isn’t a dirty word. It’s Jesus Christ himself.

By replacing the passion with the platonic we water down ourselves, our message, our relationships and our lives.

Textbook Christianity and tracts don’t save lives – relationships do.

That burning passion – the burning bush was what made Moses curious. And it will bring others to you. Others who are curious… curious to find the burning bush within you… the passion that lights your eyes and stems from the redeemed heart.

Jesus commanded us.  “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

Moses is proof that light attracts those who are curious and willing to search.

 

“Lord, Christ Jesus, God of Angel Armies, forgive us of our stupidity and fear. Teach us to not fear the darkness, or shirk the responsibility you’ve given us. Teach us your bold passion, so that we may walk fearlessly into the darkness and send us forth against our own apathy… for we know where you stand, and we want to be there with you. In the powerful, awesome name of the Messiah – may we never hide again. Amen and HOO-YAH!”

 

*I tend to end prayers with the military cry of Hoo-Yah!, because we’ve lost the meaning of Amen. Amen is actually a command, ‘So be it.’ However, due to modern language usage, that doesn’t sound like a command. So be it, and amen have developed into wishy, washy letter closings. Hoo-Yah – is a ‘yes sir! We mean it! We understand! Will do! Yes, sir!’ Its also similar to the karate ki-yai. A ki-yai is a shout which releases tension and energy. Its usually given before an attack. Think of actor Brendan Fraser in The Mummy, and how he always screams before attempting to strike down an enemy. That is a ki-yai. That is the intent of Amen.

Sources:

All Bible verses quoted are from Bible Gateway, the NIV version.

The photo is from an internet search. No known copyright.