CONTEXT!

www.bible.com/1713/exo.14.14.csb

I love it when little verses like this are quoted on the verse of the day, and they are pregnant with meaning; until you actually look them up in Scripture!

This verse sounds like a very peace-inducing text. Oh, the Lord, He will fight life’s battles for you, oh yes. All you need to do is relax, stay calm, just be happy. Wrong!

This is in fact God telling the Israelites to “shut up!” The situation is much more tense. Pharaoh and His army were bearing down on the Israelites after their recent escape from Egypt. The people were clamoring in fear and grumbling against Moses and God in fear of their imminent death. The Israelites seems in imminent danger, and Moses receives this message: “the Lord will fight for you. Be quiet!”

That subtly changes the meaning, doesn’t it? Instead of “be calm, I got this” it’s more like “stop worrying about it, stop complaining about it, I got this.” The Lord knew then as we might today that all of that fear would induce panic, and the Israelites would be much harder to rally and take through the Red Sea. So a short, sharp word from the Lord zipped that right up so God could bring them through to safety.

God does not deal with us as our sins deserve. Praise be to the Lord! When we worry and complain we are speaking against God’s providence and planning. Yes, bad things happen to us. And there are things that God would never wish on his children, but they still happen.

I want you to note what God did here. God stopped the Egyptians, and provided a way of escape for the Israelites. God did not hurt the Egyptian army until they pursued the Israelites into the sea. The same circumstances that saved people of Israel overwhelmed the Egyptians.

I’m not sure if there is a greater lesson here, but in this instance, God did not send His angels to destroy he Egyptian army. They were destroyed by entirely natural means. They pursued Israel into what was obviously an act of God, the holding back of the waters, thinking that they too would benefit from it. But they only survived as long as it took the Israelites to cross the sea. Then the blessing was over, and they perished. They only benefited from God’s blessing as long as God’s people were present. They received the natural consequences of their sin when God’s people were removed.

Our nation receives blessing as long as we are here. If we abandoned our community, then they would suffer the natural consequences of its sin. When Lot and his family left Sodom, it was destroyed, but not until they left. When Noah and his family boarded the ark, the earth was destroyed, but not until they left. See a pattern here? God’s people have a preserving influence. There may be times where our influence is only staving off certain destruction and judgment (“Let those in Judea flee to the mountains”) but we are called salt for a reason. Salt preserves as well as flavors. We are the salt of the earth. As long as we are present, we still have a chance to do some good in this world and make an impact for Christ.

Yes, bad things happen. Yes, they happen to Christians. But we are not made for this world. We have a home waiting for us when our work here is ended. I hate to admit it but all we endure on this earth are growing pains. When our faith grows, it often hurts. But our faith is seeking maturity. And our faith affects those around us. It shows them a different way than the world. The stronger our faith, the more our influence.

So in the end, it comes back to the beginning. Do you trust God to fight for you? Trust His way of escape even when it doesn’t make sense. Do you run to water when you are surrounded by armies? Do you trust Him to wait on His leading in a bad situation? He will offer the path to escape. And sometimes your enemies will try to follow. It happens. But God didn’t make the escape for them.

All of this to say there is a much deeper story than what you can get in a single verse. The verse itself, read in isolation, offers a different flavor than when read in context. Read each verse in context. Please! Don’t run off and start new churches!

I love you all. God bless you and have a happy Monday.

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Comforting

www.bible.com/72/2co.1.3-4.hcsb

As a Chaplain, this is one of my go to verses, especially when I don’t know what to pray for. Any kind of discomfort is an affliction to someone. So this verse says exactly what needs to be said, God is the God of all comfort in the midst of affliction.

But as I’ve heard many times, our job is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

I feel like many take this verse as their life verse because they want to be comfortable all the time. And then they complain when life becomes uncomfortable. I believe some people protest too much when they find their usual comforts not up to par. Their Starbucks isn’t just right. Their server just didn’t smile enough. Their automated car wash missed a spot. They can’t get a decent signal on their cell phone to stream the latest episode. We call these first world problems. I think we’ve become accustomed to having our cake and eating it too. We are the envy of the rest of the world, which is why they are swarming the borders. They see the good life we enjoy and they want it. I’ve never seen an immigrant complain about cell service.

Perhaps we are too comfortable. Perhaps we need the reminders that life is still dangerous, still needs careful attention paid to its boundaries. We can too easily become complacent, because we have become used to comfort.

May I challenge you to probe the edges of your comfort zone? Skip a meal. Walk instead of drive. Go outside. Be thankful for the comforts you have been given. Be aware of the life you have and be grateful for the blessings you have been given today.

God bless you and have thankful day!

Devastated but Hopeful

www.bible.com/72/hab.3.17-18.hcsb

My life is in shambles, like a tornado ripped through and left me with debris. In 2012, a powerful tornado whipped through our sister community of West Liberty and many echoed this statement. A church was completely destroyed, along with several downtown businesses. The town was leveled.

Habakkuk reflects upon the devastation that results from agricultural failure. The olive trees, the crops, even the stalls for livestock are all empty. For someone living in sixth century BC Israel, this was a fate akin to death. When the crops don’t come in and there is nothing on the trees, you are done. Habakkuk knew this well and cried out to God. But in the midst of the cry was a note of hope. That despite all of the physical evidence that as a nation, we are finished, God is still a God of salvation.

It’s hard to praise when there is no blessing. It requires a perspective that acknowledges the now, but anticipates eternity. While we suffer in the present, this isn’t all there is. Though the world around us is destroyed, He is not. It is the ability to see past our circumstances.

The people of West Liberty rebuilt their town, but even today you can see the scars. You too can be rebuilt, but there will be scars. If you are suffering today, know that you are not alone. Perhaps God is using this time to draw you closer to Himself. The rich young ruler was told to sell all of his possessions and follow Jesus. Will your faith be in jeopardy if you lose a few things? I would like to say, “Absolutely Not!” But I can’t tell I wouldn’t be shaken either.

We all need a note from Habakkuk today, both to be grateful for the blessings we have (knowing they can be taken away at any moment) and for praying that we don’t follow Jesus for the blessings themselves. God help us.

And may God bless you today. Thanks for reading.

A Little Bit Goes A Long Way

bible.com/72/eph.4.1-3.hcsb

So it’s been a little bit since I’ve shared something with you. Thank you for your patience. My Dad has been in a bad way here the last few days and life has been a little overwhelming. I got a call Monday afternoon that Dad was going for emergency surgery on his heart and that led to a four hour drive back to Indiana to be with family. Turns out “emergency” actually means “in four days” so there’s that. I go up tomorrow to be with family and deal with the stress and worry.

This verse looked like a good one to share with you all, since all of our interactions with others could use a little humility and gentleness. This is especially true as a patient and his family who are in crisis mode. I saw a lot of ways we could have been shouty and petulant during this whole thing. I’m thankful we weren’t. But I can think of a lot of moments we could have lost our cool and felt justified. Hospitals move at the speed of slow sometimes, and getting the right care can mean a lot of waiting. That’s not compatible with folks who’ve been told that their loved one is critical and could die without immediate surgery by the Doctor at the last hospital, before transferring to this one.

Civility seems like it’s always the first casualty in a crisis. We just don’t have time for it. But being humble and gentle isn’t reserved for times when everything is ok. It’s called for at all times. Ecclesiastes 3 says there is a time for all things under heaven. But when Jesus was subjected to the torturers, He was a like a sheep led to the slaughter, silent before the shearers. We may not all be like Jesus, but we can demonstrate a little humility and kindness when the need arises.

Suffering is not an easy road. And many of us don’t do it well. We maintain a perspective that this life is all that matters. We forget that this is merely the boot camp for the world to come. We are being trained, tested in our mettle and our resolve, for the eternity that waits for us. Oh but that we could just get a glimpse of what awaits us there, then we might not be so anxious about leaving this world. Then we would know that every test and ignominy we suffer will be recompensed, made good in that perfect place.

My friends, let us strive to be humble and gentle. For our Heavenly Father is proving us faithful, even in the midst of trial. Our life is more than food and clothing, shelter and work. God is forging us into His children with whom He plans to spend eternity with. Forging is not a painless process. But we too shall be made beautiful.

God bless you all.

Bad Day?

bible.com/72/2co.12.10.hcsb

I can’t even imagine what kind of life the Apostle Paul led. We read about his exploits in the book of Acts, and are appropriately awed by all the things he said and did. I know I am amazed at his evangelical prowess, his ability to argue from the Old Testament and from his experience as an Apostle proving that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. But then there are verses like this that prove being an Apostle is not an easy job. In fact it is physically and emotionally challenging. Yet He speaks of his physical trials not as detriments but as encouragements. He takes on the attitude that the bad stuff that happens to him is actually working out for good, and is working out for a good end. I just don’t know if I can be that positive. I mean, I had oncall last Sunday.

I was called in three times to deal with patient issues. I was ok with the first and managed the second, but by the time I had my third call-in, I was upset. I had had enough and didn’t want to have to deal with another emotionally and spiritually troubled person that day. Lord forgive me. I went in angry, only to run in to an awful tragedy. And I repented. God needed me in this situation too. Paul would probably have been delighted to have another opportunity to minister the gospel. I wasn’t Paul.

Even though I was tired and done with the day, God still needed me. I was weak and tired, but God strengthened me to do ministry. Are you having a bad day? Are you suffering from circumstances beyond your control? Remember this verse. When I am weak, then am I strong. His power is made perfect in weakness, because it is His glory, not our own, that shines through. It is when we stop depending on our own strength and rely on His, His hope and promises, that we truly shine for Him. I hope you are having a good day, but if not, remember He still loves you.

Why go to Church when the weather is bad?

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The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!”
(Pro 22:13)

This is an unavoidable problem like illness. Weather can be severe enough to keep anyone from attending church, whether it be extreme snow and ice, or severe thunder and lightning. There are times when no one should be outside. If the weather is too serious to even creep out of your door, then don’t come. Something as simple as dark can be a hazard for someone who cannot drive at night.

But like illness, weather can be an excuse. Don’t be like the one who peeks outside, and if the weather is uncomfortable, decides to stay in bed. Bad weather will come  and go, but don’t start telling yourself that I can’t go to church today because it might rain, or, “It sure looks cloudy out there. I better stay home.” Honestly, for those able-bodied this should rarely be a reason to avoid going to church.

Using this as an excuse is actually much more revealing. One who stays home because “it just doesn’t look good outside” is someone looking for a reason. Honestly, there have been days when snow was piled up a foot or two deep, but I went over and unlocked the church. I can’t wait to get to church on Sunday morning. It just feels right to me, and if I have to weather a bit of weather to do it, that just makes it a challenge. The non-Christian is certainly discouraged by unfavorable weather, but a warm and inviting Church can conquer weather.

We Cannot Imagine

The Lord Speaks

I’ve got 99 problems, but the Lord is bigger than all of them. Job could have said that (and did by the end of his book). So can we. Why do we appeal to God when we suffer, because we know, without thinking, that the Lord exceeds the extent of our suffering, He is bigger and more powerful than anything we can ask or imagine. No sooner than we conceive a limit for God, He exceeds it. And yet, in our limitedness, our Gini tide, God does not look down with contempt, but with the love of the vastness of His nature. Doesn’t God deserve your attention and respect today?