REDEEMED: Out of Egypt

This week, I want you to think about what your defining story. This would be a story that defines your life journey from where you were to where you are, and are going.

The defining story of the Hebrew people is the Exodus, the escape from Egypt. I invite you to read the passage for this week, Exodus 12.

Now if you had a story like the Hebrew people, you would definitely remember what happened and how your past changed you into the person you are today. This is one of the things we should reflect upon during the season of Lent. When we remember where we have been, we keep in focus who we are being formed into. The question we need to keep thinking about is, “what are we being transformed into?”

The Israelites moved to Egypt as a family of 70 people (see Genesis 47-50) and grew into millions of people in the next 400 or so years (Exodus 1). There came a time when the Pharaoh of Egypt forgot about Joseph, the son of Jacob (Israel), and enslaved the Hebrew people for fear become too numerous and too powerful and they would take over the country of Egypt.

So, the Israelites were praying for deliverance from the oppression they lived in each and every day. There were times, I am sure, the people lost hope at times because their situation had not improved.

But God did not forget the people of Israel, and raised up a man of power to deliver the people of Israel out of the slavery of Egypt. This man was Moses. Moses was not who the Hebrews thought would be their deliverer; but God showed otherwise. God used Moses, who was raised as Egyptian royalty by Pharaoh’s daughter, and knew how to move through the governmental system to get to the right person, Pharaoh himself.

Moses was still not the right person in the Hebrew people’s eyes because he murdered and Egyptian for beating one of the Hebrew people. He had to flee because he was going to get found out. Moses ended up spending the next forty years in the desert as a shepherd.

When the time was right, God called to Moses and had him go back to Egypt. The unlikely person of Moses, now 80 years old, was going to lead millions of Hebrew people out of Egypt.

Whenever the Exodus story is told, they remember the faithfulness and power of the God who delivered them from slavery and lead them into freedom.

Now, what about your defining story? What was it you were enslaved to before you met Jesus Christ and lead into freedom and salvation (the presence of God). Or, what is holding you back from entering into the freedom God gives? What are you enslaved to? Addiction? Porn? Alcohol? Money? Fame? Pride? News? Self?

There are many things that can and do enslave us, especially when we allow ourselves to stay in that state of being. It can get so bad that we can lose hope that everything will not get better.

God constantly showed His people his faithfulness and His power throughout the Exodus redemption story. He does so today to. My friends, God has placed the right people in our lives to help us hear and experience His grace and His presence. He has been right there with you your whole life.

Because of the grace of God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit we have the opportunity to fully experience and embrace love, mercy, grace, God himself. We are different after an encounter with God.

This week, as you take time to reflect on who you were before you met Jesus Christ personally, thank Him for changing your life and bringing your freedom. If you have not yet experienced grace, why not? Why would we allow ourselves, or other people in a state of life that is not joyful?

The story of God is written all through your life. How will you remember it? How will you tell it?

NOTE: This is based upon a sermon series concept posted on www.seedbed.com called “Redemption.”

Putting Out Fires

We are all busy people. There is just too much to do, too much to handle, too much to fix. It never fails that we cannot get ahead in our schedules. Why does this happen?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about having too many “irons in the fire.” Today, let’s focus on why we feel like we constantly have “fires” to put out at work, at home, etc.

First of all, we should realize there is always stuff to do. There are always issues and problems to be taken care of. If we are constantly trying to fix everything around us, or even going behind people to make sure the job or task gets done, think of all the stress that will be on us. We were not designed to handle as much stress as we put upon ourselves. Stress will take a toll on us: physically, emotionally, relationally, and even spiritually.

It is recommended to prioritize what really has to be done. This way, we can constantly see what really matters. So when an issue or problem arises, we can see the tasks we need to work on personally and can find another person to take care of the problem.

There are also issues or problems that just need to “burn out.” By this, I mean these types of issues are not necessarily the ones we need to take care of right away. When you join a team or a committee, we can easily find what needs to be fixed and taken care of. Often times we focus on the minute details that do not matter as much as some people might think they do; but there are some things that just need to wait to be fixed. For example, if there is a policy that really and truly can wait, then create opportunities to examine the issue and find a time to have it set in motion after everyone understands (for the most part) why this policy change needs to happen.

Things take time to be repaired and to be fixed. We should not be in a hurry to try and fix everything. I have heard it said that when we started something, treat it like a marathon not a sprint. In other words, get in the mindset you’ll be there for awhile. Longer term planning and visioning will help to sort out which issues and problems need to be addressed right away and which ones can wait.

Above all, trust that God has equipped you to do the tasks at hand. You and I have been gifted in certain areas and this is where our focus should remain. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul reminds the church in Corinth they are part of the body of Jesus Christ. You and I are part of this same body. We do not need to do everything; but we should take care of the tasks we are truly gifted to do.

Other people have been placed in our lives to help us accomplish, together, all that God desires done in our lifetime. We are not “lone rangers,” nor should we feel like we are. We have this incredible opportunity to join the Holy Spirit’s work in our world to build up and usher in the Kingdom of God.

May we evaluate what is important to take care of now so we do not get consumed with anxiety and stress which helps us forget we are working with God the Father through Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 12

Brothers and sisters, I don’t want you to be ignorant about spiritual gifts. You know that when you were Gentiles you were often misled by false gods that can’t even speak. So I want to make it clear to you that no one says, “Jesus is cursed!” when speaking by God’s Spirit, and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There are different spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; and there are different ministries and the same Lord; and there are different activities but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good. A word of wisdom is given by the Spirit to one person, a word of knowledge to another according to the same Spirit, faith to still another by the same Spirit, gifts of healing to another in the one Spirit, 10 performance of miracles to another, prophecy to another, the ability to tell spirits apart to another, different kinds of tongues to another, and the interpretation of the tongues to another. 11 All these things are produced by the one and same Spirit who gives what he wants to each person.

12 Christ is just like the human body—a body is a unit and has many parts; and all the parts of the body are one body, even though there are many. 13 We were all baptized by one Spirit into one body, whether Jew or Greek, or slave or free, and we all were given one Spirit to drink.14 Certainly the body isn’t one part but many. 15 If the foot says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not a hand,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? 16 If the ear says, “I’m not part of the body because I’m not an eye,” does that mean it’s not part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, what would happen to the hearing? And if the whole body were an ear, what would happen to the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God has placed each one of the parts in the body just like he wanted.19 If all were one and the same body part, what would happen to the body? 20 But as it is, there are many parts but one body. 21 So the eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you,” or in turn, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” 22 Instead, the parts of the body that people think are the weakest are the most necessary. 23 The parts of the body that we think are less honorable are the ones we honor the most. The private parts of our body that aren’t presentable are the ones that are given the most dignity. 24 The parts of our body that are presentable don’t need this. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the part with less honor 25 so that there won’t be division in the body and so the parts might have mutual concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part gets the glory, all the parts celebrate with it. 27 You are the body of Christ and parts of each other.28 In the church, God has appointed first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, the ability to help others, leadership skills, different kinds of tongues. 29 All aren’t apostles, are they? All aren’t prophets, are they? All aren’t teachers, are they? All don’t perform miracles, do they? 30 All don’t have gifts of healing, do they? All don’t speak in different tongues, do they? All don’t interpret, do they? 31 Use your ambition to try to get the greater gifts. And I’m going to show you an even better way.

Unheard Voices 

I am not one to engage in political or any form of attack or criticism via social media because I see too much negativity and very little building up of those who did incredibly horrible, insensitive, and just plain wrong things. It hurts when people get hurt, especially people I know because of what it is done.

I am part of the group that appears to be silent on social media, and is criticized for not “speaking out” and blasting people all over Facebook, Twitter, etc. There is truthfully many people who are getting the point across over what is happening in our communities, our cities, our nation, and the world.

One of the things that is difficult for me to witnesses is the method that others are using to try to bring about change. Changing legislation, rioting, protesting (more specifically non-peaceful), calling people hurtful things and dumping people into a large group and stereotyping. The laws can change to make people more aware of what’s going on; but this is not the way people really change. Change does not happen instantly. Some people, unfortunately never experience the change in society, in our culture, in their lifetime. It is a very noble and important task to bring attention at a national and world level for the injustices that happen each and everyday. People are shot for no reason. Racism still comes out. Blind eyes and non-helping hands are all around us. If we really look at what is wrong, we see this is really a problem of people’s hearts. This is what needs to change first and foremost.

Too often we result to name calling and threatening when a person acts a certain way. Too often we put blame in objects or the situation. Too often we try to change people by making it illegal to act a certain way. Change does not happen in this way. It is pretty much impossible to change someone by demonstrating anger toward them. If anything, I have seen people become numb, angry, stubborn and resistant to change when another person comes back and attacks.

People are murdered, theft happens, kidnappings happen because we as a people do not value human life as much as we say we do. Look at our thought process. We go from thinking that a person said or did something wrong; but then we keep focusing on that and vent to others, becoming so angry that we begin thinking that person IS evil and IS wrong. This is just a step away from hating the person / group which makes it easy to say they do not deserve to live and therefore it makes it easy for a person to come out and kill. All because human life is not valued.

We see this kind of thinking and behavior everyday. Many based their hatred on snap decisions and feelings rather than trying to look a what is going on, what is at the heart of the matter. Again, the actions and the objects get blamed and punished and we forget to see what is going on: that human life is not valued like we think it is. Our media, and social media makes this possible. Because of the 5-30 second sound bites, it makes it easy for our opinions to be sueded, mostly in a negative way. Then we can and do share the short clips and memes that do more harm.

I find it interesting, and disturbing, that the same kind of mindset we are told not to act upon in 6th grade is the same thing we do today. We get hurt, and we try to hurt other people. Hurting others does not really teach why something is wrong, rather it is retaliating for vengeance, for revenge. Revenge has never gotten complete justice; instead it seeks after retribution.

The way that I see people change is one-on-one or in small groups. I have found that most people, though there are ones who won’t and that’s something they have to work through, will listen is they feel listened to. I am not on a national stage so I don’t have a platform many others do. It seems we need to go back and follow Jesus’ example of how He worked to change the world. There were times large groups were around; but he really did it by starting one-on-one and with his small group. He challenged their hearts to experience the Kingdom of Heaven that is already here, if we open our eyes and our hearts to it. People are not changed from trying to change what is going on around them. people are changed from the inside out. Like Jesus does, we have to work with him to change a person starting with the heart. Every life matters. All people have value.

Do I do everything I can to work with Jesus to bring change in my community, which I pray spreads out to the world? I try. I am nowhere near perfect, and I know I still have biases of my own; but I praise God for the transformation he is doing in me and for the transformative work I see happening in this community. When we can build people up, instead of insulting and tearing down, God’s love and grace is able to come in. People are valued. People realize they are loved and need love. People see how they have been gifted to make a change in this world.

I know there are people who would read this and say this is not good enough. I know I could be criticized for this post in some form or fashion. My prayer is that God keeps working here, and in my heart, so we all can experience the Kingdom of Heaven here and now. God’s presence is already here. I believe God is waiting for us to stop thinking only of what is wrong and is waiting for us to join him in the true work which is the heart of the matter: the human heart. Changing this makes all the difference. Real, lasting change happens from the inside of a person first then is shown through their outward words and actions. The task is to allow Jesus Christ to work in and through us for the transformation, not fixing, of the world.

Setting the Stage

Mark 10:32-34 “Jesus and his disciples were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, with Jesus in the lead. The disciples were amazed while the others following behind were afraid. Taking the Twelve aside again, he told them what was about to happen to him. “Look!” he said. “We’re going up to Jerusalem. The Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the legal experts. They will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles. They will ridicule him, spit on him, torture him, and kill him. After three days, he will rise up.”

This week, we are looking at a passage that, once again, may hit home. This week, we’re looking at James and John asking for a place of glory and position alongside Jesus in the Kingdom that will be coming. We should start here to see what was happening before the favor of the two disciples.

Jesus is now giving the third prediction of His death and resurrection. This prediction seems more blunt to me, mostly because it is. Each time Jesus predicted what is going to happen to Him, He started to just come out and say it. After He spoke about divorce and remarriage, blessing the children and encountering a rich man, Jesus tells his disciples what is going to happen to him. This time he goes into more details.

We read the disciples were amazed and the others following were afraid. Why the difference? I think it’s interesting how the terms “disciples” and “the others” is used. It shows a comparison to those following. The disciples were those eager to learn from Jesus, so they went with Him along the way. The others may have been there for selfish reasons or did not trust they would be taken care of or Jesus just scared them after teaching what He did. I bet there are a lot of reasons for the different types of people there.

Which category do you fall in? Eager to learn about everything Christ is teaching? Or, following and becoming nervous or afraid because Jesus seems to be expecting something too difficult or scary?

Jesus doesn’t draw attention to the different people there. He plainly states, to His disciples, “Look!…We’re going up to Jerusalem.” Then He goes on to say what will happen when they get there. Jesus is determined to keep going, and bring His followers with Him so they can see what will happen.

What would you be feeling if you were in this situation?

Word of Grace

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Colossians 1:1-2 “From Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, and Timothy our brother. To the holy and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae. Grace and peace to you from God our Father.”

This is the beginning of April and Easter is just a few days away. Each month, I have been reading one of Paul’s letters in their entirety each day and then journaling about a few verses. This has been an awesome tool for spiritual growth. Not only do I have the opportunity to see the whole letter, but I also have been looking at shorter passages within the letter and seeing how it fits in with the whole context. I have learned, even more, how easy it is to take verses and ideas out of context and fit into what we want them to say instead of viewing them in the light of the entire work and historical context.

Before we jump into Colossians this month, I wanted to follow Paul’s example and offer you a word of grace. We have been on this 40 day journey through the season of Lent. This journey can bring up many feelings or attitudes and we can begin to feel like we are in the desert. When we begin to feel this way, we notice we become more distant from others, our temper has a shorter fuse, our frustration level and pet peeves begin to rise more. We simply forget that we are not alone. Yes, we may feel like we are in the spiritual desert, but Christ is with us as well.

We are not just taking a journey through the desert; we are taking a journey that will lead us to the cross. Most importantly, we are taking a journey that shows us the resurrection. The resurrection shows us the power Jesus has. This is the same power he gives to us. We may feel as though we cannot come back to life after being in the desert and parched for water; but Jesus can and does bring us back to life.

This is the great message in Colossians. Jesus Christ is central. Everything we do we should do for the glory of God. God is granting us the grace and peace to go through this life. We do not journey alone. We journey with The Creator of the universe, The Creator of you and I. This means we can experience peace beyond understanding in the midst of trials and scorching heat from enemies and challenges. God is freely giving grace to us so we are equipped to go through life and reflect the light of Jesus Christ in all we do, all we say, even all we think.

You are the “holy and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ.” This is your calling. I pray God’s grace and peace will be reflected in you and through you in all you do.

Let’s take this journey to explore Paul’s letter to the people of Colossae.

#ToTheGloryOfChrist

Controversy & Confrontation

Galatians 2:11-14 11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was wrong. 12 He had been eating with the Gentiles before certain people came from James. But when they came, he began to back out and separate himself, because he was afraid of the people who promoted circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also joined him in this hypocrisy so that even Barnabas got carried away with them in their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they weren’t acting consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of everyone, “If you, though you’re a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you require the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

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Paul is on the road teaching, preaching and making disciples for Jesus Christ. He teaches the message of grace and the truth about Jesus Christ. One day he notices Peter, Cephas, eating with Gentiles (non-Christians) until people from James, an apostle, showed up. That’s when Peter removed himself, out of fear, and did not associate with the Gentiles again until after the people from James left. Peter was so influential that the other people with him joined in and began to separate themselves from the Gentile believers.

Paul sees this and has the same options we have today. He could either do everything in his power to discredit and shame Peter without talking face to face with him and then have people make up their mind about Peter over this one incident and go around saying what a horrible person he is; or he could go and talk with Peter and remind him the truth of the gospel: that everyone is invited and welcome.

We see this kind of example played out in our world today. When someone is in the wrong, what do we do? Social media has made it an easy escape to avoid talking with the person face to face. If Paul were alive today, would he have posted on Facebook or Twitter what Peter did wrong and why he was wrong? No, he would still go face to face and talk with him.

There is so much hatred in our world today. Imagine what it would be like if we watched what we said online and stopped showing the evil side of people. Sometimes it is really one incident that people are prone to make a decision about a person without ever getting to know the person.

What do we do when a person is in the wrong? Jesus taught that we should go to the person and talk with them first. This is the most loving thing to do since it is far better to praise in public and reprimand in private. Then if they do not change, Paul says to take them to the church. This does not mean the meeting is set to be negative. This is meant to built the believer up so they understand what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Also, this will help the other people in the group understand the situation and their lives can be changed too.

Some people still may not get it. Paul says to let them go, in order for them to know what it’s like to be away from the fellowship and be deserted so they will return and be transformed. During this time of separation, we should be the ones to pray for the person/people because Jesus taught us that we should pray for our enemies.

The way Paul handled it must have worked because we have the evidence from Peter’s letters and the early church leadership. How will you and I respond when (not if) someone or some group goes against what we believe?

#LiveFreeInChrist

New Year

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Grace and Peace to you this year and welcome to 2015!

From Paul, an apostle who is not sent from human authority or commissioned through human agency, but sent through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead; and from all the brothers and sisters with me. To the churches in Galatia. Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. He gave himself for our sins, so he could deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. To God be the glory forever and always! Amen. (‭Galatians‬ ‭1‬:‭1-5‬ CEB)

The promise of a new year is a great reminder of the fresh mercies and new beginnings our God gives us constantly. We have new chances to walk and live in the freedom Christ gives.

The power of the Holy Spirit lives inside you and me and we are sent by the Holy Spirit into the world to show and remind people of the Good News of Jesus Christ.

So as New Year Resolutions are being made now we should remember the plea of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatians: to live into the calling God has given us, to remember what Christ has done for us, to be true representatives of grace and peace and allow our lives to reflect this, to give God glory in all we do forever and ever Amen.

It’s going to be easy to slip back into our normal and usual routines and forget what God has done and what we resolved to do this year. But God continually asks and commands us to be different and reflect His love and glory.

My prayer for each of us is to remember that we are called and sent out by God. You are commissioned to go into the world to spread the news Christ is alive! We have the promise of Christ in Matthew 28 that He will be with us even to the end of the age; and in Acts 1 that we will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon us.

Imagine what will be unleashed this year when we know our calling, trust in Jesus Christ and give God glory in all we do.

Live in Christ’s freedom this year! Love God and love people. Amen

Battling the Giants

As they were heading over the field, they took cover behind some rocks and looked at the land. The land was beautiful. Everything they were promised and dreamed about. It was the perfect place for their tribe to settle down. All of a sudden, one of the lookouts spotted the inhabitants of the land. They became scared because they saw the inhabitants as “giants” and did not feel they had the ability to trust their tribe or the skills to go and win the land. So it was reported to the rest of the tribe, the challenges are too great. All but two of the lookouts were covered in fear. The two courageous ones saw the opportunities ahead and the potential.

Fear and uncertainty usually keeps us from pursing what we know we should do and be who we know we should be. So, how do you see yourself in the story above? I think we see ourselves as the fearful people and as the courageous people. It really depends on the situation.

We all have sat in meetings and have been around people who cannot see past the problem or the issue at hand. When we take this approach to dealing with a problem, we allow the problem to become a giant and appear undefeatable. What are some giants (problems) you might be dealing with at this point in your life? (debt, relational, low attendance, low funds coming in, etc.) Are these really problems? Or can we turn it around to see that most of the situations we face are really challenges that are waiting to be conquered?

The Israelite army only heard the taunts from the Philistine giant, Goliath, and saw his enormous size compared to them. But one teenager, kind of a runt, stepped out and said, “I can defeat him. God will defeat this giant through me.” Imagine what would really be accomplished if we remembered the size, power and sheer awesomeness of our God!

“for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NRSV)

We should not allow our perceived “lack” (lack of resources, lack of education, lack of personality, lack of people, etc) because God has and will provide everything we need. “By his divine power the Lord has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of the one who called us by his own honor and glory.” (2 Peter 1:3 CEB)

There are many “giants” we face in our lives but we serve and worship a God who is bigger than any giant we may face. Just because we cannot see the outcome does not mean there hasn’t been a victory. The Israelite’s just needed to go in and possess the land because God has given it to them. The battle has been won, even before it started for us.

How will you see things in this upcoming year? As problems? As “giants”? As challenges? As victories we just move into?

We do not need to fear or worry because we have everything we need in Jesus Christ. Sometimes we should simply open our eyes and hearts to see the enormous resources at our disposal before we think about quitting and throwing in the towel.


Challenge: Read and journal about each day about what these scriptures say to you about battling and overcoming  “giants” in your life:

  • Day 1: Numbers 13
  • Day 2: 1 Samuel 17
  • Day 3: 2 Chronicles 32
  • Day 4: John 20
  • Day 5: Revelation 19

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Faith vs Fear

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When Jesus got into a boat, his disciples followed him. A huge storm arose on the lake so that waves were sloshing over the boat. But Jesus was asleep. They came and woke him, saying, “Lord, rescue us! We’re going to drown!” He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you people of weak faith?” Then he got up and gave orders to the winds and the lake, and there was a great calm. The people were amazed and said, “What kind of person is this? Even the winds and the lake obey him!” ~Matthew 8:23-27

Look at what’s happening here…Jesus was asleep and at peace during the storm but the disciples were afraid! The disciples were in the middle of a storm and didn’t know what was going to happen. They were afraid and Jesus was right there with them! Jesus is also right here with us in the midst of the storms of our life.

How do we react when things go from bad to worse? Do we trust and realize that Jesus is here with us? Or do we, like the disciples, feel the fear filling our spirit which causes us to diminish our faith in the God who loves us, walks with us and is always working within us to transform us to the people we were created to be? Should we trust that we can call out to Jesus when we do not have the resources or the waves are piling on us, AND that we can trust Jesus is right here with us to help us even before we ask? The awesome thing is that God, in Jesus, is with us always and is guiding us, all that is asked of us is that we simply trust the Living God and do not fear or worry.

“Therefore, I say to you, don’t worry about your life, what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about your body, what you’ll wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds in the sky. They don’t sow seed or harvest grain or gather crops into barns. Yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are?” ~Matthew 6:25-26

So, what are the storms in your life right now?
Do trust Jesus is right there in the boat of life with you?
How can you show yourself and those you’re around your faith and trust in Jesus’ love and protection?