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But Moses said to God, “Who am I?”

God had a plan to deliver his chosen people from the Egyptian political machine that held them captive.

God is the same today as he was then, he observes our misery, hears our cries, knows our suffering and comes down to deliver us, bringing us to a good place, a broad place; a place of freedom.

Moses is the man God assigned to implement this deliverance plan. Moses, though, was a man who lived in bondage. Although not enslaved by the Egyptian taskmasters, as was his Jewish brothers and sisters, an even worse oppressor, one that lived within him held him captive. Fear.

Like Moses, “Pharaoh Fear” and his taskmasters hold you and me hostage. Our personal prisons, created by fear, look different in each of our experience. But what is the same for all of us, Moses included, is that God’s promise, realized in Jesus Christ, releases us from every captivity. This includes the prisons that fear and its various taskmasters create.

God had a plan to set his people free and it required Moses to return to the place he’d fled, challenge the most powerful man in the world, and go back to an environment where he felt insecure and inadequate. No wonder he resisted God’s request. “Who am I…?” was his gut reaction. He had come to know himself as his fears had defined him and speaks from this sense of identity. “I’m not enough for this task.”

In setting us free, God begins with the basics. We’ve come to believe lies about our true identity. Our past may have taught us that we are powerless, without a voice, unnecessary and perhaps even the reason for trouble. Such beliefs keep us from experiencing the liberty that God intends. These statements are not what God says about us.

Pause for a moment and consider the beliefs you hold about yourself that keep you captive and living in fear…

The interesting way God has of correcting these wrong beliefs is not through words or cognition. “I will be with you” is the antidote offered for Moses’ fears. The presence of God is the healing and restorative means of addressing our inaccurate self-assessments.

Words or arguments will not convince you of the truth. You do not need to know more correct and proper information. When these lies bully you, and you cringe in fear because of them, it is only in clinging to the presence of the God who promises to be there that will give you the power to act in freedom.

It is not a mind game, it is not positive self-talk that empowers you to operate from a sense of freedom. “I am capable, I am enough…” It is bringing these imprisoning lies before the God of love that causes them to melt away and be replaced with God’s truth spoken over you.

Your heart must be convinced, not just your mind.

This is when freedom is experienced.

god seesHagar got a raw deal. As Sarai’s slave, she was an object to be used however Sarai saw fit; and in the drama playing out between Abram and Sarai, Sarai decided Hagar should be impregnated by her husband and become a surrogate mother. Hagar had no say in the matter, her opinion and desire was of no consequence. She was just another useful container, not unlike the bowl Sarai used to hold her bread dough, Hagar would be the temporary container of Sarai’s child. (Genesis 16)

Hagar, though, was not an inanimate object. She had thoughts and feelings which she expressed when she became pregnant. She resented being used to satisfy Sarai’s plan and dealt contemptuously with her mistress which resulted in harsh treatment. Not willing to put up with the abuse, she escaped into the wilderness.

It was here she was found by God. She ran and the Lord sought. To her mistress she was a possession to be used, to God a prized possession, worthy of God’s searching care. She may have been nothing to her mistress, overlooked unless she was useful, but God had seen her. She named the Lord who found her El-roi, the God who sees.

God sees you. God seeks you out.

This is the only time God is referred to El-roi in all of the scriptures. It was Hagar’s personal name for God, it described her relationship with the Lord. Based on your relationship with God, what name would you give him?

The Lord asked her two questions: “Where have you come from?” and “Where are you going?” She could only answer the first, she had to get away from her abusive mistress. God answered the second one for her. “Return and submit to your mistress.” Accompanying this instruction was a promise, she would be the mother of countless offspring.

When God asks you to remain in an unpleasant situation, what promise will he give you? Check out Romans 5:1-5, James 1:3-4, 1 Peter 1:6-8, Isaiah 43:1,2

Raytracing by Anders Sandberg 2000

Raytracing by Anders Sandberg
2000

Genesis 11:1-9

Do you ever wonder what God is up to in your life? At times, does God’s action (or inaction) make no sense? The whole tower of Babel situation in Genesis seems to fall into this category. What was harmful about building a tower and a creating a city big enough to hold everyone? Isn’t God about community and unity? Why, then, did God confuse their language, so they couldn’t communicate and separate them from one another? It’s confusing.

There are three things in this passage that explain God’s confusing actions.

Their doubt – The bricks they formed to build their tower were made of the same material Noah had used to make his ark waterproof. Even though God had promised that he would never again destroy the earth by a flood, they needed a back up plan, one of their own making to insure their safety – waterproof bricks. They didn’t trust God’s word.

Their disobedience – As Noah and his family left the ark God gave the commandment for them “to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” (Genesis 9:1) But these people did the opposite, they decided to settle down and build a great city so that they could all live together. After all, there is safety in numbers. God said, “fill the earth”, they said, “no we’re going to huddle together.” They trusted in their own devices to determine what was best for themselves, forgetting God’s commandment.

Their ego – They wanted to make a name for themselves by building a tower that reached to the heavens. Weird. Who were they trying to impress? So far, they were the only people on the earth. The only other being around was God. Maybe they were trying to impress God. “See God, our tower enters your heavens, we can reach you through our own efforts.” They were concerned about their own reputation and believed they could manage their relationship with God.

So, when life seems confusing or the situation you are in seems senseless, or when your efforts are confounded, consider this: Are you doubting God’s word? Disobeying God’s word? More concerned about your interests than God’s? Relying on yourself for protection or guidance? If so, confess it (which means admit the truth), repent (which means turn around and go the opposite direction), and thank God for his mercy and promise.

It’s obvious we are not living anywhere near the Garden of Eden and God’s intention for our lives and relationships. What went wrong? Genesis 3 gives us a clue.

After the ‘fall’ Adam and Eve “clothed themselves in fig leaves.”

Previous to the fall, they enjoyed unadulterated fellowship with God, each other and all of creation; they were “naked and not ashamed.” In perfect partnership and according to God’s direction, they tended the garden and cared for the animals. They knew only freedom and joy. After the fall, Adam and Eve were afraid. They hid themselves and made fig leaves to cover their nakedness. Heeding the serpent’s voice and choosing to do the one thing God has asked them not to do changed their outlook; suddenly they became self conscious, for the first time they noticed their own nakedness. Their attention and focus shifted to themselves. Their gaze moved from God, each other and the garden to their own naked bodies. They became aware of their vulnerable state and knew they had disappointed God. Out of this shame, they attempted to hide behind self-made fig leaves.

We’ve inherited this pattern. We are very self-aware, in many ways we cast ourselves as the primary character in the play of life; it’s all about us, we are the center of the universe. And sadly, because we are afraid who we are will disappoint God or others we hide and cover up. Our fear and shame causes us to use emotional/relational styles of fig leaves to cover ourselves and hide our nakedness. Fear and pretense kills the spiritual and ideal community God wants to us experience.

We can no longer enter relationships without fear and shame being present to some degree. You must earn my trust. I must grow to believe that you are a safe person with whom I can be my vulnerable self. Until then, I’ll keep myself protected and guard against the pain of disappointment by hiding behind my own version of a fig leaf.

Does this sound familiar? Visit www.thementoredlife.com/2011/06/13/keeping-the-love see examples of various emotional/relational fig leaves. Take a risk, find a few trusted friends in your spiritual community with whom you can dare to be ‘naked and not ashamed.’ As Gandhi said, “be the change you want to see in the world.”

God desires our communities to be safe places where one can live in intimate relationship with God, with self and with others. Genesis 2:25 describes the quality of such a fellowship beautifully and poetically, “And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.”

A gathering of God’s beloved children should be characterized by people who are “naked and not ashamed.” Wow! Of course I am speaking metaphorically and spiritually, but consider with me the definitions and implications of what it means to be naked and not experience any shame in the context of community.

Although Adam and Eve were literally naked, the Hebrew word translated naked also means a person without pretense or uniform. Police officers wear uniforms so they can easily be identified. A police uniform tells you how to relate to the person wearing it and what you can expect from them. The uniform defines the role they’ll play in your life and how you should interact with them. You don’t know the person behind the uniform, you don’t even care about the person behind the uniform, your relationship with them is defined by the role they play.

When physically naked, there is nothing covering your body, your beauty and your flaws are seen by all. To be naked spiritually and relationally is to be yourself, without pretending to be someone you are not, or hiding within the safety of a role you play. It’s “what you see is what you get”, no pretense, no hiding, just guileless authenticity.

And (here’s the kicker) this person, in their absolute nakedness feels no sense of shame. Shame is the feeling that follows disappointment of opinion, hope or expectation. They are purely themselves and have complete confidence that who they are will not disappoint in any way. There is no shadow of doubt cast on their personhood, they live from a place of sufficiency, value and acceptance.

I think of my grandkids when I think about this type of unashamed nakedness. Eliza and Jack both jump out of the bath and run around in naked exuberance, unaware of their bodies, conscious only of joy and life. This is the experience God desires for us in our communities. To live with one another in the freedom that unselfconscious nakedness would allow. Imagine outposts of Eden where God’s kingdom is realized, where brothers and sisters can live together Naked and Not Ashamed. This is paradise!

What are your thoughts about this concept? Do you have any place where you experience the type of community described in Genesis 2:25?

Paul encourages us to think realistically about ourselves, “I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment.” Rom 12:3 Thinking about ourselves with sober judgement also suggests we are not to consider ourselves worse than we are! The body of Christ, when practicing their unique expression of the Spirit’s gifts, keeps us honest about who we are.

Without even knowing it, we often relate from a false sense of who we truly are. Our false self lives in one of two camps, with an ego either extremely elevated or totally deflated. The first cannot tolerate any blemish or shadow on its bloated sense of self, the other cannot integrate any sense of value or worth. They appear very different from one another but they are two expressions of the same process, an attempt to prove ourselves good, lovable and significant.

Our inflated ego keeps our false self safe by believing, “I’m good, I’m important, God must be pleased with me”; people must be kept at a distance in order to protect our false sense of security. Their displeasure or disapproval of who I am could puncture the fragile membrane that keeps my false self intact.

On the other hand, believing we are worthless and unlovable, causes us to draw people toward us who will be the voice that tells us “You’re good, you’re important, God must be pleased with you.” All in an attempt to strengthen the false self by convincing ourselves that we are okay.

God’s truth spoken through the living Word and through the words of our brothers and sisters in Christ deals a death blow to the false self. You see, God’s word pronounces us guilty even when we do not feel guilty (inflated ego) and it pronounces us not guilty and righteous, even when we do not feel righteous at all (deflated ego). The truth is we are sinners, but we are beloved sinners. We are worse than and better than our false selves would have us believe.

God dissolves the false self by placing God’s word and truth in the gifts of another, be that other a servant, a teacher, an encourager, a giver, or one who shows mercy. Living in a community, that practices her spiritual gifts allows our true selves to be realized. We need each other. We need God’s school of grace called community; it is our tutor in truth.

Into which camp to you fall, the deflated or inflated ego? How do you see it playing out in your relationships with others? Speak with God about what you discover.

How have you been impacted by the spiritual gifts of another? Invite the Holy Spirit to use you and your gifts to build the body of Christ.

Ezra 3:8-13

The Jews didn’t waste any time upon their return to Jerusalem; within two years they had settled into homes, rebuilt the altar for worship, cleared away the rubble and laid the foundation for the new temple. At the foundation’s completion a celebration was in order; Priests dressed in their finest, the band played, the people sang – it was a party.

The rebuilt temple would signify a new expression of God’s faithfulness to the Israelites and announce to the surrounding world the power and reign of King Yahweh. Laying the foundation was just the beginning, years of labor were ahead of them to restore the temple. Yet, a promise was given, provision was made and the work had begun, that was enough to elicit praise and rejoicing from God’s people.

Take some time and recall some of the promises God has made to you. (e.g. forgiveness, peace, new mind) Consider the ways provision has been granted to allow these promises to be realized. (Grace through Christ, a new perspective on your situation or relationships, etc.) Mark the signposts that indicate movement toward the completion of this promise. (Less anger, compassion, patience…)
Throw a party to celebrate all that God is doing! Tell another about God’s faithfulness, let your praise be loud and joyful.

Notice, though, not all of the people were rejoicing, “but many of the priests and Levites and head of families, old people who had seen the first house on its foundations, wept with a loud voice when they saw this house.” (Ez 3:12) This group of people were ones who had been carried into captivity from Jerusalem 70 years ago, they had seen the splendor of Solomon’s temple, they knew its glory and beauty. This new temple would pale in comparison.

Do you ever miss out on the current thing God is doing because your attention is fixed on the old? How do comparisons, regrets, or judgements rob you of joy available in the present moment? God says, “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isa 43:13,14a) Look around and see God’s activity right now.

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