Doing Church: Exodus (Chapter 3 and 4)

So we are moving forward in our study of Exodus at The Well. Todd taught this week on Exodus 3 and 4. I have heard Todd speak on this subject before when he spoke at J.R.’s church so I was kind of prepared for what he might discuss. I am thankful that it was not just a regurgitation of what he had already said. He had refreshed his understanding of this passage and brought some new ideas from it that truly made me think about how we approach God and how we respond to His calling for us. That is, in part, the bulk of what this passage is all about.

As I read the first part of chapter 3 of Exodus, I am confronted with Moses who has run away from Pharaoh to heard sheep for his father-in-law. I guess I would have been scared as well. I have never killed someone so I do not know what goes on within the psyche of an individual when they are confronted with such an event. As he herds sheep around the wilderness, Moses is confronted with a burning bush. I find it interesting that Moses saw the burning bush in the wilderness and responded by saying basically, “Here, there is a burning bush over there. I should go check it out.”

In the desert, there is really nothing that grips your attention away from seeing a burning bush. In our context here in the US, we busy ourselves so much that we would never notice a burning bush unless it was placed right in front of our faces. I think there is something that we can get from all of that to say that we need to lessen the busyness of our lives in order to see the burning bushes we often miss.

God told Moses to take off his shoes because he was standing on Holy Ground. I do not know if I have a place in my life where I take off my shoes because I know God’s presence is there. When I take off my shoes, it is usually because I want to be lazy and relax. I am not looking to be in the presence of God when I take off my shoes. Perhaps I could step that up a little.

Moses then gives God a whole bunch of excuses why he cannot be a leader for the people that have cried out to God in their captivity. Each of the five excuses, perhaps honest in his thought, were exactly that – excuses. Though, I cannot blame Moses for his excuses. Oftentimes, I make excuses in my own life. I rarely believe God really wants to use me to do what He has really called me to do. And, there are even more times in my life, where I have probably in some way said, “Oh my Lord, please send someone else.”

When I look at Moses and his last statement, I wonder how many missed opportunities I would have had, had I listened and obeyed God. I wish I could always be like Isaiah who was so excited to join the call, he jumped in front of the angels it seems to go and do the Lord’s work. Sometimes, I feel like Jonah though. Jonah did not just simply say to send someone else in his place. He just ran the opposite direction from where God was calling him to go. No matter what our response is though, God’s will is always accomplished. Even Jesus recognized that the Father’s will is even important for Him to follow through. That amazes me.

I am glad we are going through Exodus throughout the summer. And, even though I will miss this upcoming Sunday’s service, I will listen to it when it becomes available online through our website. The reason I will not be there is because I am going to a wedding in NY and then to Camp-Of-The-Woods for a week vacation and conference with Ewin Lutzer. I am looking forward to some r-and-r. When I return, I will post my notes from the week I was gone and correspond them with the dates in which they were taken. Just thought I would put that out there for you all to know. Thanks for reading. God bless

[Re] thinking Evangelism

I was apart of a conversation the other day with two other people.  We were talking about Evangelism.  There is no doubt that Jesus Himself called His disciples to proclaim that He was Lord.  They were called to “go out into all the Word and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).  One of the most ‘overused’ passages I constantly remind people of is the divine prayer of Jesus.  As He prays to His Father, Jesus states, “Father, as you have sent me into the world, so I send them into the world” (John 17:18).  So far so good right?

So I watched this show on sharing the Gospel.  I was very confused.  As this gentleman walked up to an individual he did not know (with cameras and microphones no less), this man who hosted this show asked his first contact if he could ask him a question.  Probably thinking that he was on some game show or about to win some cash, this individual accepted the man’s invitation.  With a direct stare, the host asked, “If you were to die, do you know where you would be going?”  The man was shocked.

Why is it that we focus so much on death and the afterlife when we are alive and well?  We are not ancient Egypt you know.  Do not get me wrong; I believe there is a time and place to ask that question.  But to start off an encounter with someone with the thought of death is kind of spooky if you ask me.  What about now?  What about how we live our lives now?  Does none of that matter?  I believe it does.  Again, I am not dismissing the importance of our post-death residence.  We cannot just dismiss our actions though.  I think we definitely need to rethink the way we evangelize.  Any thoughts?

Where Have All The Lovers Gone?

I saw two young people this week at work.  Their ages were four and six.  The little girl, with pigtails neatly done said to this young man that she loved him.  It was cute to say the least.  Young love.

I think it is ridiculous how often we throw around the word ‘love.’  We use it so often; it seems to go out of style.  We say we love our parents (which we should), we love our coffee (some really do) and we love life (not a bad thing at all).  We even sometimes say that we love God.  Love.  It is a dangerous word we use everyday to express a variety of thoughts towards something or towards someone.  Do we really love coffee or do we really just enjoy the flavor or the taste?  Are we fond of our coffee selection because it wakes us up in the morning?  I even ask the same question about our love for God.  Do we really love God or are we solely happy that He exists?  Are we in love with the person of God or the idea?  Do we love God like we love ice cream or could our love for Him be so much greater that it exceeds true words of expression?

A guy I have not seen in many years was in the bank this past Monday.  Five years ago, his son, my friend Jim committed suicide.  I asked him how he was doing, taking some time to catch up and all.  The long and short is that his wife had left him about a year ago.  His home church was not helpful in providing encouragement through this family’s grieving process.  Another church they went to told them that they only serve members of the church.  If he and his family would like help, they would have to become members of the church – a year process.  Another church told them that they were too busy to help him out for at least four months.  Three different churches provided three different responses which all ended up being ridiculously pathetic.  In tears, this man in the parking lot of a bank asked me a question I cannot answer:  “Why, when our family was in such need of support and help, did the Church not love us?”  I hate his question because it shows me that we are so far from where we are called to be as the Church.  I had no answer for this man.  The only response I had was, “I’m Sorry Mr. G.”

There is no excuse not to love others.  There is no excuse.  Why is it so hard to love others?  Have we run so far from our moral and ethical standards of living, allow those in need to go at it alone?  I believe with my heart of hearts that the only thing worth living for is love.  Not your ice cream love.  I am talking about real love.  I even believe love is greater than the Gospel of Jesus itself.  My reasoning is simple.  The Gospel is:  The announcement that Jesus is Lord.  If we believe that God is love (1 Corinthians 13) and that Jesus was and is God, then Jesus is love.  If I say that I am a follower of Jesus, and I do not love others greater than myself, what message does that send others?  I believe the greatest testimony and litmus test to the Gospel is found in our actions to love others.  If we desire to show Jesus to others, love others.  Through our love, they will see Jesus and desire to know the greatest example of love.  When we truly consider the truth, it is a simple equation.

My question is simple:  Where have all the lovers gone?  Where is the Church?  Not the four-walled building with a roof on top but the body of Christ?  Are we alive and ready to function as we were made to function?  My hope is that love will continually show through us.  As our love for others grow, so does our understanding of God grow.  Let us love one another.  For love is of God and anyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God because God is love (1 John 4: 7-8).  Let us love one another

Doing Church: Exodus (Chapter 1 and 2)

The book of Exodus is a great narrative. It is a story about a people who God has called His own and their freedom from the oppression from a great nation. Their leader was a man who was one of them. Adopted by one of the most powerful women in the world, this man grew up realizing that His life was more than just He could truly understand. His name was Moses. Placed in the water by his mother, she would not allow his life to end at birth. Through the amazing fate of God, this Hebrew mother was able to nurse her own son. She watched him grow. When he was old enough to understand who God had made him to be, Moses stood up against those who spared his life and trained him. He held a powerful position within one of the greatest nations in the world. He did not understand how God was going to use him to free a great nation from Pharaoh’s captivity.

As I study through the book of Exodus, many of the stories I read there are so familiar, they no longer read as fresh stories in my mind. I have allowed them to be ‘normal’ stories without wonder and awe. What a shame.

In Exodus 1 and 2, God does not show up until the last three verses. As I said, I already know the story of Exodus. It is too easy to say that God works everything out. The people who were calling out did not know that God would answer their cries. They were in bondage. They were in slavery. For most of Exodus 1 and 2, God does not show up until the last three verses.

Where was God? Was God there while Exodus 1 and 2 occurred? I believe He was. I do not know why God decides to show up only in the last three verses but perhaps that is not a question we are called to ask. Maybe we could or perhaps we should. I do not have the answer to that question. All I know is that God shows up. To me, I have come to a place where I have to believe that God shows up when His perfect timing can best be displayed.

As we continue to study the book of Exodus, we will see God work in some amazing ways. Let us not get ahead of ourselves though.

A Breath of Fresh Air

I had a few friends who used to smoke.  They were pretty cool.  Tom could blow these smoke rings and do some weird stuff.  There were some other guys who were with us as well though I do not remember them all.  But I do remember sitting around with these guys down by the railroad tracks watching them smoke.  I always wondered what the fascination of smoking was.  They would always say that it would loosen me up.  Life was stressful and we needed a way to release the stress in our sixteen-year-old lives.  This was one of the most intense times in my life.  I figured though that I could run my stress off or do sports.  If I could release stress by beating some guy in a wrestling match or hitting some dude out on the football field, why not?

My uncle smoked for years.  A year or so after he had married my aunt, my uncle was faced with cancer.  The only way to stop the cancer from doing anymore harm, would be to remove his voice box.  To speak, he would need the assistance of a special buzzer-like microphone to enhance his voice.  Perhaps you have seen them.  For the rest of his life, the only way we can communicate is through this little microphone.  When my aunt gets mad at him, she will hide it somewhere so that he is unable to argue with him.  She says she does it jokingly and all.

I just met a girl this evening that has been struggling with smoking ever since she was sixteen.  I do not know why the age of sixteen seems to be the age when people start smoking.  I do not understand how anyone can consider the smell or the look of smoking attractive.  To be honest, when I meet a girl who smokes, it turns me off.  How can sounding like Marge Simpson be remotely attractive to anyone but Homer?  Seriously though, this girl has ‘attempted’ to stop smoking several times over.  Several times, she has failed.  I am not going to say that smoking is addictive.  Apparently there is no ‘valid and professional’ data to support that.  I guess this girl is just different.  Perhaps she is just not trying hard enough.

On average, there are 20 cigarettes in a pack.  Let us suppose an individual smokes half a pack of cigarettes a day or 10 cigarettes.  Let us then suppose that one started smoking cigarettes at the age of sixteen and is now thirty years of age.  Since the price of cigarettes has risen over the past several years, let us suppose as well that the average cost of cigarettes over these fourteen years is approximately 3.00 a pack.  Using these conservative numbers as an example, this individual smokes approximately 3,650 cigarettes per year, which equals about 183 packs.  Within a fourteen-year period, this individual has smoke somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,562 packs of cigarettes and has spent approximately 7,686.00.

I have met people in churches who have looked down on those who smoke.  They make comments.  “Christians should not smoke.”  Perhaps that is true.  Christians also should not lie, cheat, gossip, or seek personal gain.  It is so easy to make comments about someone when one does not have to deal with that issue.  When are we going to realize that we are dividing the body of Christ when we open our big mouths and say things that are hurtful?  When are we going to love people even though one’s clothing and breath smells like a late night bar or a bowling alley?  We all are all in need of a reality check.  None of us have our lives fully in control.  Let us not judge.  Let us love our neighbor as ourselves even if we are not in agreement with it.

To quite smoking, it takes an active choice each and everyday, before one’s feet hit the floor to not smoke.  One has to make a choice to kick the habit of smoking each morning.  Take that 7,686.00 and invest that money in a CD at the bank or place it into in IRA where it can continually grow and mature with interest.  It is a decision in which one has to make.  They have to believe that this decision is the best decision they can make for themselves before they can really quite.  Like a cripple men who was healed and picked up his bed, so individuals who has made the choice to not smoke anymore must not place themselves in a position to relapse.  No one else can make the decision for you.

Life is a short period of time.  It is valuable and worth living to the fullest.  Though we will make mistakes along the way, the challenges we face end up making us stronger, able to face life’s toughest trials.  Though it all, we can live as God has called us to live.  Free from the things of this world that desires to hold us captive.  It is that freedom that is worth living for in the first place.  That truly is a breath of fresh air.

The Way I See It # 273

Well I am back again at my Starbucks haven.  The sounds of smooth jazz and acoustic guitar play through the speakers.  As I sip my chi latte and look out the window, I am in a place of joy.  There is no one to bother me here.  I can sit and reflect on life, love, and God.  It is an oasis away from the struggles of making ends meet.  We all need an opportunity to contemplate life.  We all need a place we can run to when we just cannot go on.  For some, it is a lake watching the sunrise or the sunset.  For others, it is taking a long drive or taking a long walk.  For me, it is Starbucks.

I am not very original with what I order.  A chi latte, a marshmallow square and Ethos water do me just fine.  Why change what you know?  There is nothing better than a great cup of chi latte.  Sometimes I just look out the window and watch people.  This is the same Starbucks with a Panera Bread right next door so there are always people outside eating or people walking around in general.  As the world runs it’s coarse, I sit and watch and drink my chi latte.  On the back of the cup, I read a new quote from someone famous or perhaps a random Starbucks drinker.  Today’s quote is no different.  It makes me think.  It provokes me to write.  I guess that is their purpose.

All children need a laptop.  Not a computer, but a human laptop.  Moms, dads, grannies and grandpas, aunts, uncles – someone to hold them, read to them, teach them.  Loved ones who will embrace them and pass on the experience, rituals and knowledge of a hundred previous generations.  Loved ones who will pass to the next generation their expectations of them, their hopes, and their dreams. – General Colin L. Powell.  This is the quote printed on the back of my Starbucks cup this week.

I have never been a big fan of Colin Powell.  I guess because his job; his line of work seems so boring.  Does anyone really know what he does?  It seems to me that one of Colin Powell’s main responsibilities is to parade around the TV telling us that we, as Americans, are hated by most of the world in general.  It does not take a cashier at Wall-Mart to realize that for the most part, the US has generated a lot of negative vibes around the world.  For whatever reason, Collin Powell is always available to tell us what the majority of US citizens know already.  I guess it is an important job though.

Can we even argue though with his quote?  I think not.  Considering most fathers end up abandoning their children for selfish reasons, Colin Powell says what most others are either too afraid to share or will not share because they do not want to offend anyone.  This is an offensive quote.  It is a slap in the face.

My parents have been married for almost 44 years.  Considering 58 percent of marriages this year will end up in divorce within three years, my parents have gone beyond the ‘normal’ marriage life span.  Marriage takes work.  It takes compromise and a decision to make things work.  If one in the marriage cares only about themselves, the likelihood of their marriage lasting is far and in between.

I have met kids in the public schools who do not have a father in their life.  Their heart is calloused to love.  They hold back any emotion.  To be vulnerable means the possibility of opening oneself to disappointment.  No wonder.

I did not know my grandparents very well.  What I have learned though has shaped me in ways I could have never imagined.  My grandfather always said, “Make your relationship with the Lord personal.”  It always impressed me when he would read the Bible.  I could not understand why someone as old as he would spend so much time reading a book.  I remember asking him once when he was going to finish the book.  Looking at me from behind the black leather binding, he smiled and said, “One day.”  My grandfather was a wise man.  If white hair really was a crown of honor obtained by righteous living, my grandfather was one righteous dude.  Even now, I sit back and think about how he invested in his grandchildren, as well as his own children his faith.  Even when we did not understand what he understood, he never got impatient.  He was really good at living what he shared.  I have a long way to go.

The only addition I would make to Colin Powell’s quote is the need for mentors and positive leaders.  We are lacking in this area.  It is hard for a young kid to understand their parents.  They are old.  To a child, their parents just do not understand what they are going through.  Mentors seem to understand though.  Mentors open the doors of communication between a child and their parents.  A Gilmore Girls relationship is not very natural in our current society, though it would be nice I guess if it were.  When mentors and positive leaders work together with parents, a manifestation of communication begins to evolve.  We all have something great to share with a younger generation.  We all have time we can give.  All we need to do is shut off the TV and reach out.  Taking time to mentor or disciple a young kid is not going to win you a Nobel Peace Prize or a million dollars.  The chances of ending up on Oprah or J Leno are not very likely either.  Then again, why do we always have to do something that betters ourselves?  Can we not just love children because they are in desperate need of love?  Can we not just spend time with children because they are the future of civilization?  The reward for being there for a young child has never resulted in a material gain but the satisfaction and joy that comes from it is priceless.

With all of that said, Colin Powell, despite my limited knowledge of his positional responsibilities has hit a chord with my heart.  To some, the quote might be a last resorted attempt to gain favor with the general Starbucks public.  To others, perhaps they never take the time to read the back of their Starbucks cup.  Whatever one’s thoughts may be, I have, once again, been challenged and provoked by the back of my Starbucks cup.  As I said before, I guess that is their purpose.  So what is our response?  For me, I guess it is a continued effort to mentor children who are without parental guidance.  As Colin Powell writes, “All children need a laptop.  Not a computer, but a human laptop.”  Good job Colin Powell.  Good job.

For more quotes, either check out the back of your Starbucks cup or go here to read other thought provoking quotes from other people.  Be provoked.  Be encouraged.  Be challenged.  Thanks.

A Toast to Singleness

Singleness seems to be a dirty word in today’s culture.  Being single means, at some levels that you are a loser incapable of finding true love.  If you are single, you are not trying hard enough to find that special one God has for you.  For much of my college career, I have allowed others to share these ‘words of wisdom’ with me.  And, by trusting their ‘advice,’ I began to consider myself as they saw me as a single man.  I considered myself a loser; I thought I was ugly.  At one point, I actually stripped naked and stood in front of a mirror and examined myself.  I was not happy with what I saw.  I was too fat.  I had pimples in my face and I was way too white (I was called ‘Casper, the pasty ghost’ in HS).  I am too short as well.  Girls like taller guys with bigger muscles than I could get.  The ‘tall, dark and handsome’ characteristics were not apart of this specimen.  I thought for a long time, that these ‘friends’ were right.  Perhaps they meant well.  Though, as I look back now, I have come to see all the relationships I missed out on simply because I believed something about myself that is not true.

Do not get me wrong.  I am no Brad Pitt or Leonardo DiCaprio.  I will never be on the cover of G.Q. or any of those ‘model’ magazines ladies pick up and read.  I am just your average guy.  A guy who is learning to be as Jesus was.  Singleness to me is not a curse placed upon people who are losers or morons.  Singleness is so much more than we would expect.   There are great blessings.

As a single guy, I have had more free time to do the things I want to do.  I am not ‘attached’ to someone.  I only have to worry about my own needs in respects to my time and where my efforts are given.  My dad works at Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission.  If I ever want to go there on a whim and serve the men, I can go and not worry about it.  If I want to go to South Street and sit by the water and pray, I can do that as well.  I also maintain a positive bank account because I am able to save money and not spend it on some girl I am dating.  I can give my money to those who are in need and share my resources with others.  As a single, I am not stuck talking to someone on the phone for hours at a time.  In general, I am not a big talker on the phone anyway.  I would rather spend that time with people than putting an electronic cancer device to my ear and falling asleep while someone rambles on about something I am just not interested in.

On a more serious note though, being single has allowed me to grow in my relationship with the Lord.  1 Corinthians 7 says that we should not be seeking a wife if we are single.  Those who are single are able to serve the Lord alone while those who are married are divided in whom they serve because they are connected to a wife or a husband.  I used to hate those verses.  At a young age I wanted to be married.  I had dreams of having a family and growing old with my best friend.

I have a friend who writes in a journal to his ‘future wife.’  I find the whole ordeal strange because he does not know who she is at this point of his life.  He writes her though and shares with her (in this journal) that he is praying for her, whoever she is.  It is a nice thought I guess.

I used to meet people who said that it was cool to be single.  They even wore these blue shirts with white writing that said something like, “I am no fool.  Singleness is cool.”  That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen.  These people would go around advocating singleness.  I stopped one and asked them to share their thoughts and feelings about all of this because I was so confused.  This dude said something like, “I no longer struggle with the issue of singleness.  If I am meant to marry – that is great.  If not – that is great as well.”  I wish I could be like that guy.

I have dreams one day of being married.  Taking walks with my future wife.  We would talk and listen to one another.  We would learn how to love one another and love others.  I do not think my dream is wrong.  It is not foolish to consider these things and to pray that God will bring these things to pass.  It is foolish to believe however that the time spent in singleness is unimportant or uneventful.  It is wrong to think one is a loser or ugly solely based on looks.

There is a season for everything.

My season right now is being single.  For however long that might be I will continue to walk and grow in Christ.  God will prepare me for the next season in my life.  He will provide all my needs and prepare my heart to love whoever He has for me.  I am not always content but I know above all that God is in control of all things.  My hope lies in Him.  He has never let me down thus far and I know He never will.  With that in mind, I raise my glass and toast the season of singleness.