OUR GOD GOES BEFORE US

September 5, 2016

Uncertainty enveloped us like the cold, thick fog. The school bus would stop; the driver would turn off the motor before crossing the train tracks. Silence. Then a brave volunteer – often one of my “big” brothers – would jump off the bus and walk across the tracks through the fog. Crossing before us, he assured our safe crossing. This scene repeated itself often on foggy mornings.

God’s people wandered in the wilderness for 40 long years, led by God’s appointed leader, Moses. Now, with the Promised Land in sight and Moses nearing death, uncertainty and fear reined. To dispel the fog of uncertainty, Moses assured his successor Joshua that “…the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8) They would safely cross to the other side because the Lord was going before them.

Maybe you are trying to cut through the fog of uncertainty in some area of your life. As often as the scene repeats itself, stop. Turn off the motor. Listen! Be assured that God promised to never leave you. His presence will dispel the fog and lead you safely to the other side. Remember, our God goes before us!

(Join me every Monday of 2016 in my quest to know God better.)


CHRISTMAS ACRONYM – I

December 9, 2013

Considering the names of Jesus for our Christmas acronym (See December 1 post), at first I found it hard to decide on the “I” name of Jesus. Should we focus on “I AM”? Or should it be “IMMANUEL”? Then I discovered that if we dig deeper, they are very much related! So we’ll look at both of them.

I AM” goes back to God’s conversation with Moses at the burning bush in Exodus chapter 3. After God reassured Moses of His presence, He told Moses that “I AM WHO I AM” was His name, describing Himself as “The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob…this is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.” I AM is the one personal name of God in the Old Testament, (YAHWEH) and describing Himself in that manner, He revealed Himself as the One who is always present with His people throughout generations and millenniums.

IMMANUEL” means “God with us”, and the prophet Isaiah said that Jesus would be called Immanuel hundreds of years before His birth. (Isaiah 7:14) Are you getting the connection?

Fast forward several centuries. We find Jesus declaring Himself to be “I AM” (John 8:58), and as He left this earth, the last promise recorded in Matthew 28:20 is “I AM with you always, even to the end of the earth.” Here the relationship between I AM and IMMANUEL is obvious.

Just when we think it can’t get any better, it does! In Revelation 21, the description of the new heaven and the new earth includes the assurance that God “will dwell with them (us!) and they (we!) shall be His people. God Himself will be with them (us!) and be their (our!) God.” (verse 3)

I AM and IMMANUEL… what a reason to celebrate Jesus! He is God with us…FOREVER!


The Beauty That the Camera on My New Tablet Can’t Capture

August 24, 2013

There we sat at the breakfast table, Jorge and I with my new tablet.  We were trying out the camera, and after taking pictures of ourselves, we hooted with laughter. “Is that what you see across the breakfast table every morning?” I asked him, horrified at my image. With my coffee mug in hand, a severe case of bed-head, a saggy old discolored nightgown (or was the saggy part under the worn-out nightgown?…) more wrinkles than I realized I had, my horror was justified.

Jorge was just as shocked at himself when he saw the picture he took of the top of his once-full-of hair-but-now-balding head. “Am I that bald???” After all, it was the first time he got a view from the top.

We each saw ourselves within the parameters of reality, and there was nothing handsome or physically beautiful about either of us.  (You’ll notice I’m not publishing those pictures.) We just don’t look the same as we were when we met and married a few decades ago, and that’s OK. Our goal is to wear our beauty on the inside.

The Apostle Paul expressed it this way: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day… while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16, 18)

During our years of walking together with the Lord, Jorge and I have learned to appreciate each others’ inner beauty: love for God and others, obedience to His word, kindness and compassion. Those are qualities that we value and want to cultivate more of, even as our “outward man” gets more saggy and balder. They are the eternal things that really matter, that the Lord is renewing in us day by day.  We echo the prayer of Moses in Psalm 90:17: “And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us”. That beauty is something that the camera on my new tablet can’t capture!


Wrinkly Hands and the Brevity of Life

August 21, 2013

It was child evaluation day in the three year old class where I was the lead teacher. The little ones were being tested on their ability to count to ten. I asked little Abby, who was sitting across the table from me, to count all her fingers, and then spread out my hands on the table and had her count my fingers. After successfully completing her counts, I congratulated her and added, “You have ten fingers just like I have!” to which she bluntly responded, “Yeah, but mine aren’t all wrinkly like yours are.”  I didn’t even notice how wrinkly mine were, until she pointed it out.

That incident with Abby was a vivid reminder of the brevity of life. What she didn’t know then, is that her smooth, plump, flawless hands would probably look a lot like mine some 45 years later. That’s the life cycle that we all experience. What does God’s Word say about that?

MOSES reminded us of how brief life is in Psalm 90:10-13, and prayed that God would “teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

JOB, in his pain, expressed that his “days are swifter than a runner; they flee away, they see no good.” (Job 9:25)

JAMES expressed that our life is “a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14) To emphasize the uncertainty of the future, he instructed us to say “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” (4:15)

PETER assured that even though we are transient in this world, “The Word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Peter 1:24,25)

SOLOMON wrote of the brevity of our days and encouraged us to enjoy life, along with a solemn reminder: “Walk in the ways of your heart and in the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these God will bring you into judgment.” (Ecclesiastes 11:9)

Yes, smooth hands get wrinkly; we cycle through life. We wither as a flower and disappear as a vapor. Let’s seek God’s wisdom to enjoy the time He’s given us and to live each day in a way that honors Him, the Giver of Life!


FAMOUS LAST WORDS

March 9, 2013

A few days ago, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez died after a long struggle with cancer.  According to Gen. Jose Ornella, the Chief of the Presidential guard, the President’s last words were: “I don’t want to die. Please don’t let me die…” words of despair and helplessness.

That detail about Mr. Chavez’s caught my attention, because a few days earlier I was thinking about “Famous Last Words”. Researching internet, I found some were interesting, some were cynical, and others very straightforward. Here’s a sample of what we can read on www.mapping.com:

Lady Nancy Astor (1879-1964) “Jakie, is it my birthday or am I dying?” (Seeing all her children assembled at her bedside in her last illness.)

Louis XIV (1638-1715) “Why are you weeping? Did you imagine that I was immortal?” (Noticing as he lay on his deathbed that his attendants were crying.)

Elvis Presley (1935-1977) “I hope I haven’t bored you.” (Concluding what would be his last press conference.)

George Washington (1732-1799) “It is well, I die hard, but I am not afraid to go.”

We can also find the last words of men of faith in the Bible. Let’s look at three of them: Joseph, Moses and Joshua.

Joseph proclaimed the certainty of God’s faithfulness in the future. Joseph knew that God was always with him, and he never stopped believing in the promise that God made generations earlier to his forefathers. In Genesis 50:24 we read: And Joseph said to his brethren, “I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”

Moses gave words of blessing and assurance. Moses personally experienced God’s eternal arms holding him up throughout his lifetime, and often saw God fight the enemy for His people.  In Deuteronomy 33:27, after Moses blessed the children of Israel on his deathbed, he assured them that “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will thrust out the enemy from before you.”

Joshua reminded the people of God’s faithfulness in the past. Joshua experienced it all: the miracles, the journey across the wilderness, the giants, victories in battle, and the Promised Land. Knowing his time was short, he reminded his people of God’s faithfulness in the past. In Joshua 23:14 we read: “Behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth. And you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spoke concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one word of them has failed.”

We’ll all have last words one day. Will they be words of despair and helplessness? Expressions of regret?  Will they be words of blessing and assurance? How we live our lives now determines what our very last thoughts and words will be. The last verse of “Bless the Lord” (10,000 Reasons) by Matt Redman  reflects my desire to praise God, even to my last breath!   Please take time to listen to it and make it your prayer, too!


LOVE JESUS FIRST, THEN SERVE HIM

February 19, 2013

Children need to learn to prioritize, and the parents’ job is to guide them in that learning process. When we were growing up, Mom had a rule that she strictly enforced. W e had to clean the house every Friday after school before we could read “the funnies” that she hid somewhere. Because this was the pre-computer era and we didn’t have a TV, the most exciting entertainment we six siblings had (besides going next door to play with our cousins) was the comic section of the Akron Beacon Journal. So we scurried to get the house clean!

Our own children knew that homework had to be done before hitting the soccer field or reading a book; and our grandsons hurry to pick up their Legos before being allowed to play a computer game at our house. Here and in their own home, they are learning what comes first.

As God’s children, we need to learn what to do first, too. Thankfully, He teaches us. Thousands of years ago God reminded His people that loving Him must precede serving Him. In Deuteronomy 10:12,13 we read: “…what does the Lord your God require of you, but to …love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul…?” That same requirement is reinforced in Deuteronomy 11:13: “…love the Lord your God, and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul…”

Fast forwarding to Christ’s ministry on earth, we join a dinner party at Martha and Mary’s. Isn’t that account in Luke 10:38-42 all about priorities? Isn’t the underlying message “Love Jesus first, then serve Him”? Isn’t that the same message God gave His people a few millenniums earlier? In fact, isn’t that what He’s still trying to teach us today?

Loving Jesus first, in His own words, is “that good part, which will not be taken away…” (Luke 10:42). Loving Him first shapes our behavior, freeing us to love and serve Him and others the way He loved and served. Let’s follow God’s plan that He laid out thousands of years ago, and love Him first. Service will follow…love Jesus, then serve Him!


GOD’S FAITHFULNESS IN THE PAST – REASSURANCE FOR THE FUTURE!

July 14, 2012

“Your eyes have seen all that the Lord your God has done…so will the Lord do…” Deuteronomy 3:21

By looking back, we can be certain that our God (who NEVER changes!) will work in the same way in the future. Moses experienced that, and we can, too! When I have questions, doubts, concerns, I simply look at what God has done for me in the past. The monologue goes something like this:

Will God take care of me in the future?”
*   I’ve seen God lavish His goodness on me too often in the past…why would I ever doubt His care for me in the future?
“Will God ever let me down?”
*   I’ve experienced God’s faithfulness too many times up till now, to think He would ever fail me!
“Will God maybe give up on me?”
*   I’ve witnessed God’s work in my own life throughout the years in such a way that I cannot believe that He won’t finish the good work He started in me.
“Does God really hear my prayers? Will He answer me?”
*   I’ve received too many answers to even wonder if he hears and answers me!
“Will God lead me when I don’t know what to do?”
*   I’ve been led by Him to many times to think He would expect me to forge my own path!
“Will God carry me through this valley?”
*   I’ve been carried in His everlasting arms too often to think He’ll not uphold me now!
“Will God comfort my heavy heart?”
*   I’ve rejoiced in the comfort of God’s Word too many times to sulk in any situation.
“Will God always provide for my needs?”
*   I’ve marveled at God’s provision on so many occasions that I can’t even imagine Him expecting me to try to cover my own needs.
“Will God fulfill His promises?”
*   I’ve seen so many of God’s promises become reality, that I cannot doubt even one of them!

Praise God! He does NOT change, and that is why we can have reassurance for the future.


MOSES ON THE WAY TO MOUNT NEBO

May 3, 2012

Moses. Old. Experienced. He had heard God’s voice on numerous occasions…but he also heard – more often than he wanted to – the complaints, the murmuring, the grumbling of the rebellious, stiff-necked people he was chosen to lead. Moses had seen God’s glory! He knew the Lord face to face (Deut. 34:10)…but he also saw the spiritual corruption in the people’s hearts when he saw them worshiping the golden calf. Moses was a godly leader…but first he learned to follow his God who said “I will send you.” (Ex. 3:10). Moses was an encourager….but only because he trusted in the words of his faithful God: “I will certainly be with you” (Ex. 3:12). As a young man, Moses was overly enthusiastic and took justice into his own hands…as an older, experienced leader, we see a mellowed Moses, who learned to wait and trust God’s plan; but it took years.

However, in one foolish act of impulsive disobedience, Moses was denied entrance into the Promised Land. After striking the rock to get water when God instructed him to speak to it, Moses heard God’s sentence: “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” (Numbers 20:12) Moses was told that instead of entering the Promised Land, he would die on Mount Nebo.

Moses. Old. Experienced. He knew he messed up; he didn’t blame anyone. He didn’t pout, whine or wallow in self-pity. Moses understood that he would view the Promised Land from afar, but not enjoy it. Before he went up Mount Nebo, where God, in His mercy, allowed Moses to see the land of Canaan from afar off, he called one last assembly of God’s people. There he shared with them a song he had in his heart; a song of praise to God, who was faithful every step of the way. His song, in part, went like this:

“…for I proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He.” (Deut.32:3,4)

Moses. Old Experienced. He couldn’t enter the Promised Land, yet his last words were words of praise. Then he went up Mount Nebo.


LEARNING FROM A PAGAN PRIEST

January 18, 2012

Everyone can teach us something. Everyone…even a pagan priest!

When Jethro, a pagan priest who was Moses’ father-in-law, “heard of all that God had done”, he ventured out to the wilderness to meet Moses and hear about it first-hand. There, we read that Moses “told his father-in-law all that the Lord had done to Pharaoh and to the Egyptians for Israel’s sake, all the hardships that had come upon them on the way, and how the Lord had delivered them. Then Jethro rejoiced for all the good which the Lord had done…and said ‘Blessed be the Lord…now I know that the Lord is greater than all the gods…” (Exodus 18:1-11)

Let’s break down “all the good which the Lord had done” for his people up until that time and compare it to all the good which the Lord has done and is doing in our lives as Christ followers:

God sent the plagues and delivered His people from Egypt. (Exodus 3-13)
God “delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13)

God protected them as they crossed the Red Sea, and destroyed their enemy. (Exodus 14)
God protects us and destroyed the enemy!  Jesus came “that He might destroy the works of the devil.” (1st John 3:8)

God made their bitter waters sweet. (Exodus 15:22-27)
God took our bitter lives and made us new in Christ. “Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2nd Corinthians 5;17)

God sent them bread from heaven. (Exodus 16)
God gave us Jesus, “the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6:32,33)

God provided water from the rock. (Exodus 17:1-7)
God gives us living water. Jesus said: “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:13,14)

God gave them victory over the Amalakites. (Exodus 17:8-16)
God gives us His victory! “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

When Jethro heard about “all the good which the Lord had done, he burst out into praise, convinced of the one tru God’s greatness. And THAT is the lesson the pagan priest teaches us by example. We, who have experienced all of God’s goodness, should do nothing less than Jethro! Let’s learn from his example, letting the awe of who God is motivate us to spontaneous praise to our Lord who Jethro discovered is “greater than all the gods”!


GOD’S GLORY WAS AT STAKE

October 7, 2011

“I am the Lord…and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the children of Israel from among them.” (Exodus 6:29 and 7:5)

God’s plan was to deliver His people from slavery in Egypt. HOW?…By hardening King Pharaoh’s heart.  Sounds like an impossibility, doesn’t it? God would multiply His signs and wonders, yet Moses and Aaron were warned that “Pharaoh will not heed you.” (Exodus 7:4) As a result, the horrific conditions the Hebrew people were living in were made worse. Worse?… WHY?…So that God would get the glory! He said “So that I may lay My hand on Egypt and bring My armies and My people out of the land of Egypt by great judgments. And the Egyptians shall know that I AM THE LORD when I stretch out My hand…” (Ex.7:4,5)

Let’s allow our minds to wander; let’s think “what if…” What if God had allowed a different twist in this situation? What if Moses and Aaron walked into the King’s court, presented God’s plan of deliverance, and Pharaoh immediately got on board? What if he would have amicably said “Great! You can leave as soon as you get your stuff together. Go with my blessing. Thanks for all the help.” ? Think a minute. Who would have gotten the glory for their deliverance? Pharaoh. Who would the children of Israel celebrate? Pharaoh. Who would they be thanking and praising as they marched out of the land of bondage? Pharaoh. Would they have known that God was behind their freedom? No. Would the Egyptians have known that God is Lord? No! Pharaoh would have made front page headlines, and God might have been referenced in a snippet somewhere towards the back of the Daily Egyptian News Journal!

But that’s not what happened. God allowed adversity, cruelty, anguish, sorrow and yes, even an evil King  to be part of Moses, Aaron and the Israelite’s story so that HE would get the glory in the end. His glory was at stake, and HE made the front page. In fact, the story was so important that we’re still marveling at it thousands of years later!

My life…there are situations I can’t understand and would rather not have to experience. Yet those are the very situations that put God’s glory at stake, so I don’t want to forget the “WHY”. As with Moses, God reminds me: “I am the Lord. You will have adversity. You will face your own “Pharaoh”. I’m allowing this, and I’m in complete control. My glory is at stake. I’m doing this so in the end, I GET THE GLORY. Remember the “WHY”.


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