Category Archives: Exodus

February 17 – Remember, We Are Blessed to Rest!

It is hard to know exactly, but about 500-650 years have passed since God promised Abraham that he would be blessed and all peoples would be blessed through him.  God’s Story is a long one!  Three months after God led the Israelites from Egypt, He was ready to make a very personal covenant with His people.  Were His people ready to live out their part of the agreement?

At Mount Sinai, with dense smoke coming from the mountain, God spoke what we would later refer to as the Ten Commandments.  Right before the commandment “Honor your mother and father”, God gave this one: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work… For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” 

The Israelites’ leader was God Himself and they learned that loyalty and allegiance is shown through obedience, even when obeying is hard.  Resting is a difficult thing for me.  I think my issue with this command ultimately has to do with trust.  Do I trust that God is really in control and that things will not fall apart if I put my lists aside to rest?  My head knows the right answer, but living out what I know is right is an on-going process.

During the years of raising our family while working in Asia, two of my most cherished rests were vacations only an hour’s drive from home.  Leaving behind the computer and language books and packing lots of snacks and board games we “camped out” at a mountain hotel near a British soccer camp that our kiddos attended.  In the crisp morning air Russ took the kids to training and I took long runs in the countryside and allowed my mind to be refreshed in the beauty of God’s creation.  Afternoons and evenings were intentionally restful as we enjoyed being together as a family.  God has blessed us to rest.  In fact, as part of the Ten Commandments, He has commanded us to do so each week as we set aside time to purposely meet with Him.  Just like the Israelites of the Old Testament, when we obey, we live out our loyalty.

Exodus 20:8-11 NIV

February 16 – Blessed by God Who Delivers

With the multitudes departing, the Exodus began.  The Egyptians even gave the Israelites gold to take with them as they made their exit!  As God guided him by a cloud and by fire, Moses led the people.  The Israelites passed through the parted Red Sea, the Egyptians who pursued them were destroyed, and the liberated sang songs of praise to God.  God provided water, manna, and quail and the Israelites journeyed on.

Moses had a wonderful family reunion when his wife, their two sons and Jethro, his father-in-law, met up with him in the desert.  I love these little personal glimpses into the big Story, for they are like a small puzzle piece put into place and the whole picture is made more complete.  Jethro was thrilled to hear that the Israelites were delivered from the oppression in Egypt and how it was all due to God’s strength and goodness to bless His people. Jethro told Moses, “Blessed be the Lord, who has delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of Pharaoh and has delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians.”

While we lived outside of the US, our family experienced a lighter version of this kind of a reunion during our annual group meetings.  Christian workers would gather together representing extended families and tribes, and celebrate the Father’s blessings from the past year.  Fellow missionaries became uncles and aunts to our children, their own children were like cousins to ours, and to this day our family is blessed with those deep relationships forged from rejoicing in God’s redemption.  Reflecting upon and sharing God’s blessings with others leads us to thank and bless God.  A thankful life is a blessed life, and the goodness course continues.

Exodus 18:10 ESV

 

February 15 – Bless Me as You Leave

Moses was eighty years old and the task before him must have seemed insurmountable. Pharaoh was not budging but God told Moses it would be that way for a reason:  all would know that He is the Lord when the Story of God’s miraculous power would be told.  It took several devastating plagues for Pharaoh’s eyes to be opened to see that God was in charge.

One night, Pharaoh finally summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Get out!  Leave my people—and take the rest of the Israelites with you! Go and worship the Lord as you have requested. Take your flocks and herds, as you said, and be gone. Go, but bless me as you leave.”  Pharaoh ultimately saw God as powerful.  The leader of all of Egypt bowed to ask for God’s blessing.

No matter if we see ourselves as weak or strong, the reality is that God is the most powerful and He is able.  May He bless us today as we choose to connect with Him.  May we then follow Him as we continue to make choices that come before us; the easy ones and the hard ones.  Let’s seek to see from God’s perspective and bless people, even those who have hearts that to us may seem like stone.

Exodus 12:31b-32 NLT

February 14 – God’s Great Love as Lent Begins

Ash Wednesday 2015.  I only know that because my walking partner for Wednesdays texted to say she would need to reschedule our walk.  Intrigued, I looked online for churches within a bike ride that held an Ash Wednesday service. And All Saints Catholic Church on 10th was where I pedaled to at noon. Crisp, bright, air made an invigorating 5-block ride and the parking lot was filling up as I locked my bike to an empty green bike rack.  A little path through a garden-like area lead me to the large front doors where I was handed a paper about Lent and joined people of every age.
Wow!  I could never be bored in this church! Built in the early 1900’s it houses history, art, and years of families have sat in these pews.  There was so much to look at, from the many styles of stain glass windows to paintings covering nearly all the wall space.  And the ceiling!  Way too many golden stars to even count, but I could systematically count them if given enough Sundays especially if I allowed my mind to drift.  I did not want to drift today. My desire is to connect with God, the same God that provides me with sunshine in the day and starts at night and lungs to breathe His air both inside and outside of the space we call sacred. It is He who I want to connect with.
High heels on newly restored wooden floors, hushed children’s questions, kneelers being put down and put back up again.  No church bells, no incense, no organ. Ushers found seats for late-comers and the filling the church became full.  And it was Wednesday, in the middle of the day.
A man with a robe and white hair began by saying this was a time for intentional change and concluded by repeating person-by-person, “remember you were dust and to dust you will return” as a dark smudge of ashes, in the form of a cross, was rubbed into the forehead of each person in line.
When I think about it, and I do, often, life is really short. What am I doing, or not doing, that makes the One that gives me life happy?  In light of cremation becoming a popular after-death choice, ashes on the forehead in a church filled with people makes me think that apart from Jesus, are we not all walking dead people?  I want life.  Full life.  Meaningful life.  Purpose-filled and blessed life.
Familiar readings were read, and nothing added to them, from the prophet Joel, bits from the Psalms were spoken as a congregational response, then more readings: 2 Corinthians and parts of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  We were then encouraged not to take the wide way of the world but to follow Robert Frost, and Jesus before him, to take the path less traveled.  Three areas of helpful change were expounded upon concerning prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I agreed with it all, I think most people that filled the church do too, but there is more to it than agreeing.  In order for a meaningful change in these areas, or in other areas, action needs to come after belief.  What will change me in these 40 days leading up to celebrating Jesus victorious over sin and death is actually praying, actually fasting, actually giving.
I left the empty church a little more full, grateful for the time to think about God’s love for me and increasing my desire to put thought into action. Specifically, really talk to God about the people and situations that fill my days. To give up anxiety, which takes more self-control then giving up chocolate and to choose to really depend on Him, for He cares for me. And as He cares for me, He also cares for others, may He use me to give to others needs too.  Blessed to be a blessing happens when my life is connected to God, day-by-day.
Today is Ash Wednesday 2018. Many churches in my neighborhood will offer a variety of times to meet. One church even offers drive-thru ashes from 7-10 am.  May we be mindful of God the author of life and love on today Valentine’s Day as intentionally many will focus on the life of Jesus at the culmination of His life lived on this earth. Love is so good.

 

 

Back to the Blessing Book….

A Hard Heart toward God’s Blessing

About half a century later Joseph died.  Joseph’s death concludes the Genesis record and the first of many chapters in God’s Story.  Years passed and a new leader emerged in the Story; Moses.  Family heritage is important to God as we will often see in listed genealogies.  It is interesting to know that Moses was a great-grandson of Levi, one of the twelve sons of Jacob.  The youngest of three children, Moses was born in Egypt, rescued from the Nile River as a baby, grew up in the Egyptian palace, spent years in the outback as a shepherd for his father-in-law, and would be used by God to deliver His people from the hand of the Egyptians to be brought into the land of blessing and promise.

This would not be an easy rescue mission but a very fascinating one as God’s provision, protection and blessing continually guided His people.  By this time in history the Egyptians do not remember Joseph and all the good he had done for them.  Even as slaves in the land, the Israelite community grew and because they were seen as a threat, they were mistreated.  Moses, as God’s spokesperson, asked that all the Israelites be given permission to leave to worship Yahweh and this new Pharaoh did not want to lose his workforce.  Pharaoh said, “I’d sooner send you off with God’s blessings than let you go with your children.”  Once again, Moses and Aaron (his brother and ministry partner) were thrown out of Pharaoh’s sight. Pharaoh, with his hard heart, did not get a blessing from God and another plague, this time of locusts, filled his land. God, may our hearts be soft to Your ways in our days.  Amen.

Exodus 10:10a MSG