Kick Off The Dust of Egypt

Most of are familiar with the story of the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years Picture1before reaching the Promised Land. I often wondered how they felt during that time. Was it difficult to believe the promises of God? Did they struggle to hold onto hope that life would ever change?  All they knew of life was oppression, slavery and bondage. They had been born into that life in Egypt. Stories had been passed down through their ancestors of a life of freedom in a land that was truly their own. But their life was so far removed from those stories that they probably thought they were the ramblings and dreams of old people.

 And this God who was to save them? Where was He? Why was He taking so long to show up? And now that He had spoken to them through Moses, why was it taking so long to enter the Promised Land? Day after day, their life in the desert did not seem much different from their life in Egypt. So they waited.  They were in a holding pattern; out of Egypt but not yet home.

Finally in the book of Joshua, Moses dies and God allows the Israelites to enter the land He first promised to Abraham. The Israelites cross the Jordan River which God parted for them and into the Promised Land. God then instructs them to set up a memorial to remember the day that God parted the waters of the Jordan for them and brought them safely to Gilgal.

There at Gilgal, (a place of grace) God consecrates his people; sets them apart for His purpose. They are to keep themselves holy and be fully devoted followers of the one and only true God. The men are circumcised as a sign of being set apart and Joshua 5:9 says, “And the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.’ “

I love this picture of God “rolling away the reproach of Egypt.” It is as if God is saying to His people; “You are no longer slaves and outcasts. You are now free men and women. I have rescued you. I have gone before you to prepare this land for you. Now kick off the dust of Egypt and live like sons and daughters of the Most High God.”

 Beloved, too many of us have been freed by the blood of Jesus yet we are still living with the dust of Egypt on our feet. We allow our past experiences to shape and color our        present.  We have allowed the dust of Egypt to cake around our feet and clog our journey. We may believe in our head that we are new creations but we don’t live like it.

 God has taken away your reproach now kick off the dust of Egypt! Jesus has washed that dust away with His blood. No matter what your past is Jesus has redeemed it and He will use it for his glory. We are NEW creations; forgiven, redeemed, blameless before God, adopted, chosen, holy, have received an inheritance, sealed by the Spirit, alive in Christ, God’s workmanship, created to do good works,  and a citizen of Heaven. Believe it all and live like it for it is all true. Do not believe what your emotions may tell you, your friends or family may tell you. Believe the One who created you and loved you before the foundations of the world were formed. Believe the One who sacrificed His son for you. Believe the One who bled and died for you.  Believe the Spirit that lives within you and you will live with joy and purpose every day.

 I remember when my burdens rolled away;I had carried them for years, night and day.When I sought the blessed Lord, And I took Him at His word,Then at once all my burdens rolled away.

 

Grace In A Desolate Place

flower_dryearthIf you ask most Christians to define grace, they will say “God’s unmerited favor.” Ask them how that impacts their daily walk with Jesus and you are liable to get a blank stare. We know what God’s grace is but how does that flesh out in our daily lives?  One of the most profound examples of God’s grace is told in 2 Samuel 9. It is the story of David and Mephibosheth. David has just been crowned King over all of Israel after 25 years of running from Saul and fighting his enemies. He and his family have moved into the palace at Jerusalem and there is peace in the land, albeit temporary. David is pondering his life and he asks a servant “Is anyone in Saul’s family still alive that I may show them kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” The servant replies yes and David bids the servant to go and bring him to the palace.

The servant travels to Lo-debar, “land of the dry pasture”. He finds Saul’s grandson, Mephibosheth, “the shameful one”, living with a distant relative as he is crippled and cannot provide for his family. Mephibosheth obeys the call of the king and goes to the palace. Most likely he was frightened and uncertain as to his fate. I’m sure he thought, “Oh no. This is it. David has found me and now I will be killed.” It was common practice to kill off the family of your enemies so that they would not try to overthrow the throne.

David, however, extends grace to Mephibosheth. He tells Mephibosheth in front of all at the palace that he will return to him all the lands and wealth of his grandfather Saul. He then instructs the servant, Ziba and his family to farm the land for Mephibosheth and give all the food to Mephibosheth’s family. “But,” David adds, “Mephibosheth will dine at my table.” “From then on Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem and ate regularly at the king’s table.” 2 Sam. 9:13

What an incredible picture this is of God’s grace towards us. David sought out Mephibosheth, his enemy (the shameful one), and showed him grace because of his lovingkindness. There is nothing neither lovely nor righteous in Mephibosheth that makes him worthy of David’s love, yet David seeks him out for the sake of another (Jonathan). Mephibosheth is given a room in the palace and a place at the king’s table. David adopts Mephibosheth and makes him part of the royal family. He receives all the benefits that one born into royalty would receive.

In the same way God seeks us out, we do not seek Him nor can we as we are shameful and crippled in our sin. Before we are redeemed we are enemies of God residing in a desert. There is nothing neither lovely nor righteous in us, yet God plucks us out of our sinful, desolate place for the sake of His son Jesus Christ. God gives us a room in His palace and a place at His table. He adopts us and we become part of His royal family

God our Savior showed us how good and kind he is. He saved us because of his mercy, and not because of any good things that we have done. Titus 3:4

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. Ephesians 1: 5

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! 1 John 3:1

This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 1 John 4:10

God cannot love us any more than he does now, and He will not love us any less no matter what we do. Nothing we do can increase or decrease God’s love for us. This is grace.


But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Why would God treat us this way, ill-deserving as we are? 2 Samuel 22 says that God “…reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. He led me to a place of safety; because he delights in me.”The Creator of the Universe, the Most High King, delights in us. He wants to spend time with us. What does that mean for you and me in our daily lives? It should mean that we want to spend time with our Father who is loving, kind, generous, and merciful. Mark Driscoll, Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle says this about grace;

“God’s grace and love transforms holiness. We are not trying to be presentable so that we will get picked for adoption. We are the kids that are so well loved that we want to obey our Dad because he’s the best. We want to follow our Dad because we trust him. We want to honor our Dad because he’s been so kind, and since he has already given us his last name, we want to live in such a way as to bring honor to his name. God adopts into his family that is the church. He gives us the name of Christian. He chooses to do us good. It is his kindness that leads us to repentance, and it changes us into different kids.”

God’s grace changes us into kids who obey their Father because they want to not because they have to. Grace transforms our daily walk from one where we check off a to-do-list to a life that freely loves, serves, and gives.

What was Mephibosheth’s reaction to David’s grace? Later on in 2 Samuel, David is forced to flee Jerusalem. Mephibosheth does not come with him and David is told by Ziba the servant that Mephibosheth has betrayed him. Believing this to be true, David gives Ziba, all of Mephibosheth’s wealth. When David finally returns to the palace sometime later, Mephibosheth greets him with dirty, torn clothes and an unkempt appearance, a sign of mourning. David asks him why he did not come with him. Mephibosheth says that Ziba deceived him and that he was unable to leave as he was crippled. David does not know who to believe so he splits the wealth between the two of them. Mephibosheth, however, is as a man who understands grace. “Give him all of it” he says, “it is enough that I get to dine at your table.”

God’s grace allows me to be free from the comparison trap. It does not matter what I have or don’t have. It does not matter if He chooses to gift others with wealth and not me. It is enough that I get to live in the palace with the King and dine at his table.

This is Grace.

A Community of Grace

Jesus came to give us new life; new families, but to also give us a new way of doing community. As Americans, we have a different way of doing community than most of the world. Our country was founded on principles of individuality, and we as Americans are fiercely independent. We do not like other people telling us what to do and when to do it. Although we all live in a society that has rules and morals which are for the greater good; still we value and pride ourselves in our right to be independent free thinkers, as individuals and as a nation. Independence runs deep in our culture and our blood as Americans.

In some ways though our culture of autonomy runs counter-culture to the Bible. Jesus came to give us life and told us to live in relationship with Him and one another. In the book of Acts we see new believers and the church coming together to care for one another, to teach, learn and grow from one another, and to hold one another accountable to walking in the way of the Lord. Believers are called to live grace-filled lives within their families, their church and their community. We often struggle as believers to know what grace looks like, what is it and what it isn’t.

I like Mark Driscoll’s definition of grace: Grace is God the Father, in love doing good for ill deserving sinners through God the Son by God the Spirit. Grace is God showing His love to us, his enemies. The very nature of grace is that it works in the midst of conflict. As ill-deserving sinners we are in conflict with God. God’s grace then becomes a model for us on how to live in a grace-filled community with our family and others. Just as God in his grace does not overlook our sin, so we cannot and should not overlook our own nor the sins of others. We like to think that our sinful behavior has no effect on anyone but ourselves. But that is a lie that the world has fed us. Sin breaks relationships; first the individual’s relationship with God, and then their relationship with others.

Because we are all sinners saved by grace, we should not shy away from calling sin what it is: sin. It is not an accident, or a mistake. It is sin in the face of a loving God, sin that breaks His heart.

When my children were young they little they loved to play the “run away from mom” game. You know that game. You tell your child to come here and they run the other way. Living on a busy street, I could not afford to let my young children loose for a second. It was my job to make sure at all costs that my kids did not run out into the street and get possibly hit by a car. Living in community with a body of believers, it is our responsibly at times to warn our family not to run out in street; to warn them of the danger and sometimes to go after them.

Tim Keller said in his book The Prodigal God, “Real grace intercepts destructive behavior. Real grace brings you in freely and then holds your feet to the fire until you become somebody great.”

When the people we care about sin like the prodigal son and decide to go their own way, Jesus expects us to do something about it. Galatians 6:1 says “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.” The Prodigal son came home after he “came to his senses” and God uses us the lives of others to help bring others “to their senses” and turn from their sin.

And so grace is gentle but it is also interrupts. “Grace is free in that it is not earned (indeed it is the very opposite of what is deserved), but it is costly as it is given with sacrifice because of love. That is the scandal of what God did for me by the cross and it is His calling for me to do to others to bring glory to His name.”

I like what Wendy Alsup wrote in her blog Practical Theology for Women about Grace in conflict from 2 Tim. 2:22-24.

2 Timothy 2:24-26 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, 25 correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

1–Grace understands the truth of someone’s condition—they are ensnared by Satan and DECEIVED. They really don’t see things the way you do.

2–Grace is in it for the long haul—it patiently endures evil.

3–Grace corrects (so the truth is not subverted or glossed over) but it corrects gently (with strength well under God’s control).

4–Grace’s goal is not self-acquittal or vindication or that people would come to see things your way. Grace’s goal is repentance with God that leads to knowledge of the truth.

Grace is meaningless without truth. But truth will kill you without grace. The worst thing we can do in conflict is engage in it when we don’t understand grace for ourselves. But once we really understand God’s undeserved favor to ourselves, then we can minister grace to others who have sinned against us in whatever way we can with the prayer that God would draw them to repentance and the knowledge of the truth.

Just as Jesus came in grace and truth, so we are called to represent grace and truth to our families, and one another, and to be willing to hear it from others. We are sinners saved by grace living in a community of grace with other sinners saved by grace.

“Love doesn’t sweep sin under the carpet, but it keeps others out of the room until it can be cleaned up.”

When The Season is Dry

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The dry season has arrived on the Central Coast.  Temperatures are high, the hills are dry-ground18brown and dry, and water is scarce. The deer are out at all times of the day looking to quench their thirst. The lush green hills are a distant memory and will be for several more months.

Dry seasons can happen to us as well. It is not uncommon for us to experience a season of dryness in our relationship with God. Most Christians will go through a spiritual desert experience some time in their life, but few will talk about it. Our spiritual desert can leave us confused, bewildered, frustrated, and wondering what we have done wrong.

Sometimes we do go through a dry season because of sin as David did in Psalm 3.  However the Psalmist shows us in Psalm 42 that often a dry season will come upon us for no reason.

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? Psalm 42:1-3

The Psalmist paints a picture of a deer that is so thirsty that he is panting, yet there is no water to relieve its thirst. He compares this deer’s unquenchable thirst to his own desire to see God, to meet with God. He is going through a spiritual drought which has left him wondering where God is. This can happen and will happen to most of us. We can be doing everything right and suddenly a drought will come upon us and take us by surprise. We might find ourselves alone in the desert with no place to go and no idea how we got there. Lonely, depressed, fighting the darkness, we may flounder there for some time if we do not turn to the very God whom we feel has deserted us.

We must first take heart in the knowledge that we are not alone in that desert experience. Many a dear saint has been there before, and many will come after us. The writer of Psalm 42 (where is some debate whether it was David or someone else) was there and God thought it was important to chronicle his experience for future generations. God wanted to use the turmoil of this writer to minister to us and take away any guilt or shame we may carry.

I had my own a spiritual desert some years ago. I remember being stunned to find myself in that place. I knew no one who had ever gone through the drought and the darkness I was experiencing. The God I loved and served for so many years, was now silent. I questioned everything I knew and had been taught about Him.   Fortunately, I picked up a book from my husband’s library written by Sinclair Ferguson titled, “Deserted by God.”  The book opened up Psalm 42 for me and many other Psalms of lament, and I knew that I was not alone. I was also assured that somehow I would get through it.

Second we need to be honest with ourselves in our emotions and honest with God. We must pour out our soul as the Psalmist did. All of Psalm 42 and 43 is a confession of all that the writer is feeling and experiencing. Expressing our emotions both privately to God in prayer and with a trusted friend can help us process what we are facing. Be open in this process to what the Holy Spirit may expose in you as idols of the heart. God used my desert time to expose some false beliefs I had about Him and myself. I came out of that experience knowing  God more intimately and trusting Him more fully.

Third, we need to continue to do in the dark what we learned to do in the light. In other words, we must continue to pray, read our Bible, attend our small groups, go to church and worship corporately.  We will not feel like doing these things. We may think they are a waste of time. Even if we do not “feel” like doing the things that God has commanded of us, we need to be more disciplined than ever. Talk to the absent God about His absence. Read the songs of lament that other saints have written in His Word. Attend weekly church services not only for the preaching but to be around other believers. We tend to isolate ourselves from other believers when we are discouraged.

When I went through a desert experience the last thing I wanted to do was go to church. My husband was between ministries at the time and I had been deeply wounded by leaders and people in our previous church. My husband insisted that we get back into church right away. We attended a friend’s church during that time and though my body was obedient, my heart was not.  Still as the weeks went by I felt myself warming up to this church and the people who loved me so well.

Fourth, we need to remember the grace of God. The Psalmist says

My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.

He remembers the goodness of God and His abundant grace towards him.

Fifth, we need to hang onto hope and preach the Word of God to ourselves.

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

What we know to be true in the scripture often stays in our head instead of trickling down into our hearts. So we preach to ourselves the truth of God’s word over and over again until that trickling becomes a river of life to our soul. And we remember that there is One who was abandoned by God so that we would not be. We remember there is one who experienced utter separation from God so that God could say to us, “I am with you always.”  We remember there is One who died that we might live.

Just as the deer waits and hopes for Spring when the grass is lush and water is abundant, so we wait and hope for our own season to change, and Spring to arrive.

Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God

Amazed by His Grace

Grace. We sing about it on Sunday but have a difficult time living it on Monday. Sometimes it is hard to believe that The Almighty God would have grace on puny little us. Many of us have experienced God’s saving grace; the grace that frees us from our chains of sin. But we still live like shackled people. How can we break the bondage of our own list of do’s and don’ts; our own set of rules that keep us drowning in shame? We need to anchor our self image to the Word of God.

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! 1 John 3:1

2 Samuel 22 says that God “…reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. He led me to a place of safety; because he delights in me.”

How amazing, how astounding that the creator of the universe delights in me. God cannot love us any more than he does now, and He will not love us any less no matter what we do. Nothing we do can increase or decrease God’s love for us. This is grace. It is astounding that God should love us so. Knowing this helps us have a more accurate view of who we are in Jesus Christ and helps us be more compassionate and patient with others. God in His mercy has shown his abundant grace towards us; how dare we not extend a small measure of that grace to others who are image-bearers of God?

. God delights in me: ME. That is astounding to me. Sometimes I don’t even like myself. This helps me to have a more accurate view of who I am in Jesus Christ which helps me to continually conquer my worst sin, pride. It also makes me more compassionate and patient with others. God in His mercy has shown his abundant grace towards me. How dare I not extend a small measure of that grace to others who are image-bearers of God?

Tim Keller in The Reason for God said this,

“The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.”

I will be honest. This has not been easy to do. But in focusing on who I am in Christ, I have seen progress in my life. I hang on less to past and present hurts. I forgive quicker, both others and myself. I am more compassionate toward others. I focus more on who I am in Jesus Christ instead of what I do for Jesus. I serve him out of love and not out of obligation because I am following a list of do’s and don’ts. This is freedom. This is love. This is grace.

2008 In The Rear View Mirror

As I write this Christmas is over and 2009 is less than 48 hours away. I am not sure I am ready for 2009.

2008 was a great year for me.  I spent more time with my husband and my family. My husband and I celebrated 30 years of marriage and our relationship is better than ever. I saw my son graduate from college with honors. I watched my daughters navigate some difficult things in their lives with courage, grace, and tenacity.  I delight to see all my children walk with the Lord. They are by far more spiritually mature than I was at their age.

I have enjoyed teaching and ministering to people this year. I have had delightful times with the Lord this year in which He has taught me some lifelong lessons.

My husband and I reconnected with some dear friends, Gus and Karen Bess, which has led to us being involved in a new ministry; which is always energizing and exciting.

It has been one of those years that I am reluctant to see end because it has been so good.  The five years previous to 2008 were hard years for me. The 2003 Paso Robles earthquake set off a 4-5 year period that was fraught with difficulties and trials in both my personal life and ministry; personal physical problems, family illnesses, and the loss of some family members.  Sometimes just getting through the day, week, or month was the best I could do.

But about the spring of 2008, the clouds began to lift and life became enjoyable again. The journey became a little easier, the burdens a little lighter. I was able to concentrate on coming alongside others who were struggling and help carry their burdens. What made the difference? I got drenched in God’s grace.

Though I knew that through all the hardships and struggles God was working on me, still I fought Him on many things. I wanted life to be fair. I wanted people who had hurt me to repent; I wanted the people I loved to not hurt; I wanted God’s people to thirst and hunger after God; I wanted to be in control. I realized that I wanted God to run my life according to my plan not His. But fighting God’s sovereign control of my life left me exhausted and exasperated.

Finally, in the fall of 2007, God used the life of David and an odd character in the Bible named Mephibosheth (read about him in 2 Samuel 9) to show me the wide-screen, high-definition version of His amazing, limitless, compassionate, all encompassing grace. The result was that my view changed. Instead of focusing in on what God has not done for me or what I thought I deserved; I focused in on what God had done for me, which was far more than I deserved.

God cannot love us any more than he does now, and He will not love us any less no matter what we do. Nothing we do can increase or decrease God’s love for us. This is grace.

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! 1 John 3:1

2 Samuel 22 says that God “…reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. He led me to a place of safety; because he delights in me.”

God delights in me: ME. That is astounding to me. Sometimes I don’t even like myself. This helps me to have a more accurate view of who I am in Jesus Christ which helps me to continually conquer my worst sin, pride. It also makes me more compassionate and patient with others. God in His mercy has shown his abundant grace towards me. How dare I not extend a small measure of that grace to others who are image-bearers of God?

I will be honest. This has not been easy to do. I did not by any means turn into Mother Theresa (which my family will attest to) overnight. But I have seen progress in my life. I hang on less to past and present hurts. I forgive quicker, both others and myself.  I am more compassionate toward others.  I focus more on who I am in Jesus Christ instead of what I do for Jesus. I serve him out of love and not out of obligation because I am following a list of do’s and don’ts.  This is freedom. This is love. This is grace.

I hope 2009 is a year where I continue to be overwhelmed by His grace on a daily basis.  May it be that for you as well.