Building Altars While Waiting on God

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“When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.””

Exodus 32:1 (ESV)

Waiting is one of the hardest things to do in life. It doesn’t matter if it’s something small, like waiting for your food when you’re out at dinner, or waiting to save up enough money to buy that special something. Or maybe something really big like waiting for healing, or for your loved one to come back home after being gone for a really long time. Waiting is just tough. No one likes to do it. If someone said they did, they’re not being honest. That’s why rush hour and Department of Motor Vehicles make people shudder.

It’s no different when it comes to waiting for God. Since God is invisible, we often don’t see Him at work. That doesn’t mean that He’s not at work. We just don’t see it. Because of that, we can fall into the very same trap that the Israelites did in the Exodus out of Egypt. Many days had gone by, and the people started to grow restless. Out of impatience, and selfishness, they called on Aaron (Moses’ brother) to craft gods for them. They wanted something they could see, touch, and experience.

Before we jump to any kind of judgement, we better do some introspection. Life is speeding up. Each new decade brings a faster pace of life with more ‘on demand’ qualities. We live in a universe that consists of Instant messaging, high speed wireless connections, and touch screen everything. Waiting is not a part of the game. To wait, is counter cultural. To wait is being impractical and inefficient. To wait is a societal sin. Am I right? I’ve had the advantage of growing up in a pre-internet world, and watching the transition in society unfold before my very eyes. And it has not been pretty.

I would be a hypocrite if I just took shots at the internet, smartphones, and the high speed life. I’m even typing this on my iPhone. The reason I say it hasn’t been pretty is because it feed the beast inside me. I am a doer. I love getting things done. Yes even multiple things done at once. I love fast connections and high efficiency. So much so, that when I don’t get a lot done, I feel as though my day was not as useful. And that, my dear friends, is the problem. We are taking major steps backwards in human development as we embrace the tech-filled life.

A life absent if waiting, is a life full of altars. It’s a life that has demanded that gods be made to go before them. Sound a bit extreme? How about this. I’ll list a few human constructed altars that I’ve had in my life and I’ll leave the rest to you.

Altar #1-human self sufficiency

Why wait I’m God to provide for us when we can make our own way? That’s the attitude of a me first, now not later mentality. We hear people say ‘create yourself’ or ‘be the master of your own soul’. That’s a harsh accusation against the One who actually created us and breathed the very soul into us. But think about it. We spend so much of our life trying to create situations where we don’t actually need God.

Altar #2-Refusing to rest

The principal of rest is interwoven into the human story. God designed it that way since creation. To always be doing is to deny God’s instruction. Rest can actually be one of the most efficient and useful things we can do with our lives. A lack of rest destroys our health and greatly limits our brain function. Where’s the efficiency in that? It also makes our life to full to actually spend with God (even when doing things for God).

Altar #3-Digital reinforcement

God made us relational beings with a need to be connected to others. The digital social media universe has created artificial relationships with little depth and a breeding ground for hostility and depression like has never existed before. We live in a world where people would rather have their faces in a phone texting people, or scrolling to read about other’s lives, rather than have a good rich conversation with those in the room with them. But we love to rack up the ‘likes’, ‘re-posts’, and hundreds of ‘friends’ and ‘followers’.

Altar #4-Fillers

We constantly try to fill our own needs. We do this with Sports, money, careers, hobbies, video games etc…we even teach this to our children at a young age when we have them involved in everything under the sun or allow them to park in front of a screen for hours on end. I’m not talking about doing something you love and brings enjoyment. But moderation seems to be an after thought for many. You’ll know if it’s an altar if it is used as an escape from reality or is a part of your identity.

All four of the altars above, keep us from doing one thing: waiting on God. Our lives are so full, we forgot to carve out space for Him. To even phrase it like that seems wrong. We can’t be digitally connected to Him. If we could, I’m sure most people would rather text Him then spend quality time with Him. But God wants far more than a surface level relationship with His creation.

God made us to enjoy Him. And we cannot do that if our lives are full of gods we’ve made for ourselves. Sometimes enjoying God means waiting for Him to say “go” or “stay”. God wants to be the filler of our needs and not replaced with lesser things. God wants to be our rest because that’s often where He meets with us. God wants to be our sufficiency. And let’s face it, any notion of being a self made man or women is just lie anyways. We’ve never taken a breath that wasn’t given to us and have no talent that wasn’t ingrained in us from God himself.

We have to get past the altar-filled life and relearn the art of waiting. Even if He stays silent on the mountain for 40 days like He did with the Israelites, they were still free. That freedom had been bought for them. We may not be hearing the answers from Him right now, or seeing Him move in huge ways, but we too are free. We need to stop filling up our lives and hoping God moves in the meantime. We need to smash our idols and make room for Him to move.

It’s in the waiting that we experience real peace. It’s in the waiting that we can step back and see life through the big picture. It’s in the waiting that we can hear God more clearly. And it’s in the waiting that we are changed. Join me brothers and sisters, in slowing down. Join me in the waiting.

Peace to all of you in Christ Jesus!

 

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Punished NOT Abandoned 


I’ve had to punished my girls and I can tell you that it is one of my least favorite things to do in life. It may be necessary and right to do, but it is so hard sometimes. And even when I punish them, I have no intentions of ever leaving them. When correction is needed in their lives, and they have to face the realities of consequences, I want them to know that my love for them will never diminish. I imagine God looks at us in the same way only with greater intensity.

In the middle of pain, especially the self induced kind, it’s easy to assume God is nowhere to be found. After all, it’s my own fault i’m in this mess so why would He be here? I sinned and disobeyed Him so why would He want to be with me? I’ve committed this same old offense once more so now He really must have given up on me. How could I blame Him if He was absent in my consequences? 

The life of Moses is a captivating one to say the least. He narrowly escaped being murdered by Egyptians when he was a baby, he was raised by both his mother and pharaoh’s household, he killed an Egyptian while standing up for a fellow Hebrew, he fled into exile for 40 years, then he’s called by God (out of a burning bush!) to tell the most powerful nation in the world to release its slave labor force, he’s put in charge of a nation of people while on an exodus over hundreds of miles, and constantly has to mediate between a Holy God and an ungrateful people. No doubt that he must have been an amazing man. But even as incredible as Moses was, he still suffered from the same ailment as all of humanity: sin. One such sin caused a major consequence. In the book of Numbers, chapter 20, Moses and Aaron have to deal with a bit of a water shortage. To sum it up, Moses and Aaron don’t follow God’s instructions and end up taking the glory for bringing water from a rock rather than giving God the glory for it. The effect from that would be denied entry into the promised land. Ouch! But that’s not the point of this story. Moses screwed up and so do we. No need to remind everyone of that. What I want to point out came at the end of all this, when Moses is facing up to the consequences, at what would be the end of his life.

“Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land…And the Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord, and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day.”

‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭34:1,4-6‬ ‭

Moses had to miss out on walking in the promise land but he got something so much better. The Lord went up the mountain with him. The Lord showed him a glimpse out of grace. The Lord buried him where only He knows. Despite Moses’ disobedience the Lord never left him. Once chosen by God, Moses was His forever. That didn’t exclude Moses from the consequences of his sin but it did keep him in grace. And that is no consolation prize.

I heard a story once of a little boy who was placed in timeout by his mom. He begged and begged to be let out but his mom stayed firm. Along came grandpa and the little boy pleaded with him to take him out even though his mom had said no. Instead of taking the boy out, the grandpa sat with the boy in time out until his time had been served. God is much like the grandpa. He may not excuse us from the hurt and pain that our actions create, but He’ll be right there with us. Keep in mind that God is no stranger to punishment. He chose the most excruciating crucifixion for our sake and He didn’t deserve it. If He’ll hang on a cross out of love for us and you can be sure He’ll be with us in our time outs, our pain, our breakups, our divorces, our failing health, and all our sufferings. 

Believer, our sin will reap consequences in this life, for us and others. There may be no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1), but that does not exclude us from pain. On the other hand it also does not forfeit us from God’s grace. Where we have to be concerned is if there is no desire to repent of sin. Moses repented and continued to pursue God all the way to the end. If God has chosen you then He’ll be right there with you even as you battle your way through the wake of your sin. 

Our mistakes are not the end of our story just like it wasn’t for Moses. After all, Moses did enter the promise land one day. And who took him there? It was the Lord.

“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭17:1-3‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The desperate heart has only one place to look, and that’s up. Think God has left you? Not a chance. Screwed up royally? God is still at the door knocking. Whether you’re a Believer or not, God is in pursuit of you. Our ugliness doesn’t drive Him away. If it did, He never would’ve gone to the cross for us in the first place. 

Pharaoh or Sheep?

“Afterward Moses and Aaron went and said to Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.'” But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.” 

Exodus‬ ‭5:1-2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

There are so many ways that people challenge the authority of the Lord. No one is immune from it. Every human in existence has rejected the sovereign rule of God. Pharaoh shunned God’s commands because he did not know Him, nor did he want to. Those of us who put off reading the Bible, make things up as we go, try to conform God to our image, follow false religions, or outright refuse to live how Jesus called us to live are doing the very same thing. We do all of those things because we don’t know God nor do we want to.

Pharaoh is a picture of the human condition. We don’t like to be told what to do, even by the One who made us. It’s dirty stinking pride that rots the soul. It’s the same sickness that plagued the Pharisees and Saducees who fought so hard to dispel Christ. To accept the Messiah meant to give up their control of religion and of the people who they manipulated. It’s the same reason why the Catholic Church refused to allow bibles to be printed and distributed to the masses for so long. They wanted to be on the throne of people’s lives. The throne is never a place for us to occupy. Not in our own life and especially not in the lives of others. 

God answered Pharaoh’s question with ten devastating plagues that shattered their false gods. And every time we ask that question, whether by word or action, we are stating that we too have false gods whom have our heart’s allegiance. But we don’t have to play Pharaoh any longer. In John 10 Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”‭‭ It’s simply a matter of choosing who you’ll be: pharaoh or a sheep. One gets life while the other…well, just read Exodus 7-12 to see for yourself. 

Be encouraged by brothers and sisters because He is calling and He has made Himself known. 

God bless!

What Fear Says About us

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What we fear reveals what we value the most and where we trust God the least.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”
Isaiah 26:3-4 ESV

There is no fear in those who have Jesus because they already know how great and loving God is.

Made and Chosen


For many months now I have gone back and forth about writing a post on the issue of gender. Since the Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage, legalizing it nation wide, the issue of transgendered rights has taken center stage. For anyone who has read my posts or know anything about me, probably already knows my thoughts on the matter. I also don’t want to join the rants about it that are coming from both sides of the issue. 

Since I am a school teacher, President Obama’s recent directive given to public schools to allow all transgendered students to use whatever bathroom of their choice, did entice me to want to shout to the world in opposition. But I will refrain. I don’t know as though this argument can be won by either side because both sides are using the same topic…people’s rights. The problem is when rights conflict, who’s rights are more important? 

While I pray dearly that this battle for ‘open choice’ restrooms will come quickly to an end with no matter of success, I would like to speak directly to my brothers and sisters engaged in this fight. So this is my letter in hopes that it will somehow reach those for whom and is meant:

You were all beautifully and wonderfully made. Not at birth, not even at conception. Jeremiah chapter one tells us that before we were in our mother’s womb, God knew us and loved us. Ephesians 2:10 says that we are God’s workmanship. Every child, no matter how they appear in the world’s eyes, is a masterpiece of God. God made each of us with care and with purpose. He designed us out of love to be the people who would love and serve Him and others with our whole hearts. Somewhere along the way, some in societies across the world, and spanning many centuries (this is by no means a new topic) have lost sight of this. Some, from even a young age have felt this emptiness deep down and a lack of love for how they were born. My heartfelt message to you, my dear brother or sister, would be that you were fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of almighty God. He loves the way you were born because He made you so. The word for workmanship is that of a beautifully written poem. You are God’s poem, which He wrote word by word, singing over you with great joy and affection. I am not saying to you to stop fighting for your rights, but to come home. Come to a place where you are accepted and loved for that which you were made and don’t long to be something other than how your loving Father in heaven made you.

To me, this is not an issue of rights, this is an issue of identity, and there is no greater authority on someone’s identity than the one who made us all. Be encouraged brothers and sisters and remember to reach for love and grace and to point others to the greatest source of them both…Jesus Christ.