Grunt before glory

Read: Exodus 39-40, Matthew 24:1-22

Who doesn’t want to see God’s glory? You’d have to be crazy not to. For many in the church, it is (or maybe should be) our primary pursuit.

Exodus 40-34

We all want the cloud to descend so we can bask in the presence of God. But, for as many of us who pursue the glory, nearly as many never see the fullness of it. Why?

Moses did everything just as the Lord commanded him.

Exodus 40:16 (NIV)

This verse is followed by seven more that state, as the Lord commanded him. Seven. the number of completion and perfection.

And so Moses finished the work.

Exodus 40:33b (NIV)

He did everything the Lord commanded him. Then he finished the work. And only then did the glory of the Lord fill the tabernacle.

Well, I’m just waiting on the Lord. It is to our detriment that we use the word wait. To wait on the Lord has absolutely nothing to do with sitting in silence and everything to do with getting off our blessed assurance and working toward the high calling that God has set before us.

WAIT: To attend to; to perform. To be ready to serve; to obey.

Moses waited on the Lord by doing exactly as he had been commanded. Not only did God give a long list of very specific instructions, but He also sent His Spirit to empower the craftsman to do their work.

We all want the glory, but very few want to do the grunt work required to prepare ourselves and the place for the Lord’s presence. Christianity is not the easy way out, but the narrow road in. We are called to live a life set apart and that life requires work. Lots of work. Hard work.

We have a whole book of commands that we carry around to make us feel good about ourselves, but carrying the book is the most work many are willing to do. If we would only put into practice all the instruction we’ve been given, perhaps we’d see a lot more of that glory we’ve been looking for. A little grunt may go a long way toward the glory.

Heart not head

Read: Exodus 25-26, Matthew 21:1-22

Once Israel had been set free from the Egyptians, it was time for them to seek God in earnest. All other gods and worship had to be cast aside. God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, was to be worshiped. Set apart because He had set Israel apart. A place, a tabernacle, needed to be assembled as a place for the presence of God to rest.

This wasn’t to be any old tent. God had given Moses a lot of very specific instructions that needed to be met exactly. Materials were required. Israel didn’t have a building fund. They didn’t have time to set up a donation campaign. No fundraising events were held.

Exodus 25:2

A freewill offering was taken up and work began to fulfill the specifications for the tabernacle. Nowhere in the text do we find a scenario where the supplies were not enough and a second offering had to be received. The people gave according to the prompting of their hearts.

What does it mean to be prompted by ones heart? Does it mean that we give when we feel like it? Are we generous only when we have the means to do so? Or is it simply a gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit?

I believe it is the latter. Webster’s 1828 dictionary says that the heart is the seat of affections and passions. Israel had just been freed from centuries of slavery. It’s probably safe to say that they were passionate about their freedom and the One who had brought it about. Their generous offerings were a part of their worship.

Giving is worship. Worship should be inspired not by how we feel or what we have, but by whom we worship.

The only way [we can] worship in spirit and in truth [is] to know the One whom [we are] seeking to worship.

Kevin J. Navarro, The Complete Worship Leader

The more we know God, the more we will be in tune with His Spirit and the more we will be prompted to give generously. Giving is the only area in which God actually asks us to test him.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”

Malachi 3:10 (NIV)

In any sort of worship—from song to giving—we must be dependent on our hearts, the seat of our affections, for direction. We must listen closely to that part of us which is joined with God. Our heads will always lead us away from generous worship, but our hearts will always lead us toward it.

Commemorate

Read: Exodus 13-15, Matthew 19:1-15

Both in Canada and the United States our mints—the place where physical currency is made—like to commemorate things. Watch television late at night and you’ll probably see a commercial offer for a commemorative coin. These coins serve to honour or celebrate a particular person, place, event, or institution.

Roughrider Loonie

Of all Canadian commemorative coins, this loonie (one dollar coin) celebrating 100 years of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, is my favourite.

Our governments do a good job of helping us to remember certain things. These memories live in our purses, our pockets, our nightstands, our change jars. We need money to make it in our world and, what better way to immortalize something than to put it in the hand of every person in the country?

When something spectacular happened to God’s people, Moses asked Israel to do something similar.

Exodus 13:13

The Israelites were serious about their commemoration. Even today, phylacteries (small, black, cube-shaped leather boxes) are often worn by Orthodox and other conservative Jewish males aged thirteen and older. The purpose of these objects are to remind the Jewish people of God’s deliverance and of their duty to remain faithful to His commands. Thousands of years after the fact, these people are still commemorating their deliverance.

The Israelites celebrated their deliverance every year at the same time with the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As their children grew, they would tell the story of how God brought them out of slavery and into the Promised Land. And then their children would tell their children who would tell their children. You get the picture. Stories of God’s greatness were passed down from generation to generation along with an object and traditions that would be a perpetual reminder.

Most of us have never been enslaved. We’ve never had to be delivered to the extent that Israel required. But God has done something for every one of us. He has delivered us all from something and brought us into His promise. So what do we do to remember that?

Several years ago, my pastor preached a message series called All In. Every person in attendance was given a poker chip with the words All In printed on it. Ask anyone who was in the congregation that day about their chip and most everyone could tell you where theirs is. Mine is in my work belt. I know that my pastor keeps one in his pocket. Our youth leader keeps it in his wallet. Like a commemorative coin, we all have a reminder to give our all when it comes to our relationship with God.

What do you keep to remind yourself of God’s grace and goodness in your life? Whether it be a phylactery, a coin, or a poker chip, it is worth keeping a memento so that you can keep in mind—even in the hard times—God’s faithfulness. Believe it or not, I even have a tissue (unused) tucked in a particular Bible that reminds me that I have the mind of Christ (Jesus in no way relates to a Kleenex, but the illustration worked and the reminder is there).

How can you commemorate the mighty hand of God in your life?

More than enough

Read: Exodus 4-6, Matthew 16

My great-grandfather was a gentle man. He loved his wife and his family. He worked hard to provide for them. He loved God. He stuttered. His speech impediment often prevented him from sharing what God had done in his life. That is, until he died. At the age of 80—when most would say he’d already lived a full life—he had a heart attack and was pronounced dead. But that wasn’t the end. In that moment of death, he had an experience with God that would shape the rest of his life. Yes, the rest of his life. After his death experience, God brought him back to his family to live another 13 years. His mission: share his story. No stutter would stop him from telling anyone who would listen the story of what God had done for him.

Gramps reminded me of Moses—not that he lead a great people out of slavery or that he held out his staff and split a river, but God knew what He was doing when He created both men, speech impediments and all.

Moses said to the Lord, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.

Exodus 4:10 (NIV)

If I were to tell you that you’ve insulted God, you may be insulted by my statement. But if we were to be honest with ourselves, we’ve probably all made that same grave mistake. Moses did it and angered the Lord and all he did was make a truthful statement. God wasn’t impressed with Moses’ excuse of not being eloquent.

Exodus 4:11

Let’s say that you’ve been asked to work out a solution for a particular problem. You work hard and come up with a design that you know is absolutely perfect for the situation at hand. Then someone comes along and tells you that it isn’t good enough.

How do you think God feels when we tell Him that we aren’t enough for what He wants us to do? He made you. He made me. He knows exactly who we are and what we are capable of. Don’t you think He’s already taken into account what we can and cannot do? Do you really think He would ask someone to do something if He didn’t already know that person could do it?

As far as we know, Moses never got over his lack of eloquence. His brother, Aaron, was his mouthpiece. Yet Moses was still able to lead his people out of Egyptian servitude. He led them across the river and right to the border of the Promised Land.

How ignorant we can be in thinking that God left us lacking in any way. Where we are not enough, He is more than enough. Where there are gaps, He fills them.

“Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

Exodus 4:12 (NIV)

Finish the race

When I was a kid, I wasn’t much of an athlete. I’m still not an athlete. It’s not that I don’t enjoy exercise, but it’s never been one of those things that comes naturally to me. I had a hard time finishing a race. But it wasn’t so bad. So long as I participated, I still got a ribbon.

Many of us approach our faith the same way we might have approached an elementary school track meet. Show up. Good enough. Get a ribbon no matter what. We care not whether we finish or, if we do, what place we take. It doesn’t matter.

But it does matter. We are not the only ones affected by how we run our race. Hebrews 11 is often referred to as the Hall of Faith. It gives a brief list of many who have gone before us and run their race to the best of their ability. And they ran it with fewer benefits than we have now.

All of these people we have mentioned received God’s approval because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had far better things in mind for us that would also benefit them, for they can’t receive the prize at the end of the race until we finish the race.

Hebrews 11:39-40 (NLT)

The promise, the benefit that we have that our fathers and mothers in the faith did not have, is Jesus Christ. We have the fulfillment of the promise they never had. When Abraham laid Isaac on the altar and raise a sharpened blade above his head, he had no guarantee of what would come of his sacrifice. When Moses’ mother sent him down the river in a basket, she had no promise to hold on to. Through the entire chapter, the list goes on. One faithful person after another waiting for a promise they would never see in their lifetime.

But we have seen that promise. We partake of that promise with every breath we breathe. Even knowing that we have received what these great men and women never did, we’re content to settle for the participation ribbon.

Even if we don’t want to run the race for ourselves (but why wouldn’t we?), we should be running it for our Bible heroes. Because we’re all in this race together. Either we all win or we all lose. Jesus’ blood ties us all together as one family. One body. A foot cannot win a race without the leg and the leg cannot win without the hips. The hips cannot win without the torso, and so on. When Jesus comes back in all his glory, we will all cross the finish line together.

Because Isaac, Jacob, Noah, Rahab, Gideon, and all the others ran their race without the promise, we should run even harder because we have the promise and we’re not just running for ourselves. We’re running for the whole body. Finish the race.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 13-15, Hebrews 11:20-40

Home

Home. It is more than simply a place. It is not just a house or a home town. It may not be with family or anyone at all, for that matter. Home, more than anything is a sense. A sense of belonging. A sense of safety and refuge. Without exception—whether we would admit it or not—we all desire a home.

Maybe you’ve always had a home. Maybe you’ve never had a home. Maybe you lost your home. Maybe you left home and never looked back. No matter what state you find yourself in, you can always find home right where you are.

Lord, through all the generations
you have been our home!

Psalm 90:1 (NLT)

It was Moses who said those words. If you know anything about Moses, you would know that he never had a real home. As a baby, his mother gave him up and sent him down the river in a reed boat. He was raised as a prince in a palace and ended up exiled to the wilderness before returning to rescue his people from slavery only to end up wandering the wilderness once more. He never had a home in the practical sense, yet he called the Lord his home.

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
Will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Psalm 91:1 (NLT)

If you make the Lord your refuge,
If you make the Most High your shelter,
no evil will conquer you;
no plague will come near your dwelling.

Psalm 91:9-10 (NLT)

Home doesn’t have to be a place. It doesn’t have to be the house you grew up in. It doesn’t have to be the city you were born in. It can be the Lord. And He will be with you no matter where in the world you go (even if you make it to the moon or Mars, He’ll be there, too).

For he orders his angels
to protect you wherever you go.

Psalm 91:11 (NLT)

Home will follow you. And God offers an open invitation to anyone who will accept His offer.

You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You welcome me as a guest,
anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love
will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

Psalm 23:5-6 (NLT)

God is calling you home. He is inviting you in. He has already prepared a place for you—even in the middle of whatever situation you may find yourself in. It doesn’t matter if you have a home, you left home, or never had a home, God wants to be your home.

If you make your home in Him, He will make His home in you.

Home truly is where your heart is.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 90-92, Romans 11:1-21

Shadows and light

All through Bible school, I heard the term type and shadow in reference to comparing the Old Testament against the New. It’s all type and shadow. After you hear something over and over again, it can either become a great revelation or it can cease to carry meaning altogether. I claim the latter on this particular term. Until today, that is.

I’ve always known that the New Testament is a brighter reflection of the Old Testament. There are many parallels to be found between the two. But it wasn’t until reading Stephen’s last message to the high council that the light finally came on. He is telling the tale of Jewish history. (This is moderately amusing because, who would know Jewish history better than their high council?) Stephen starts with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel), and goes on to Moses.

And so God sent back the same man his people had previously rejected.

Acts 7:35a (NLT)

That sounds familiar.

Come to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by the people, but he is precious to God who chose him.

1 Peter 2:4 (NLT)

Moses was a man rejected by his own people. Jesus was a man rejected by his own people.

He was the mediator between the people of Israel and the angel who gave him life-giving words on Mount Sinai to pass on to us.

Acts 7:38b (NLT)

Israel needed a mediator between themselves and God so that they could receive the inheritance God promised to them. Hey, I know someone else who needs a mediator to receive an inheritance.

The is why he [Jesus] is the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, so that all who are invited can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them.

Hebrews 9:15a (NLT)

Could it be that God had already proven it possible that a man rejected by his own people could still be their saviour? The Jews, knowing the account of Moses, should have been well-prepared to receive Jesus. Yet history repeated itself, the Old Testament becoming a shadow in the light of the New Covenant.

The great difference is this: where Moses was unable to reach the Promised Land, Jesus has already gone ahead of us. Our way is paved and ready to go. We have two choices—we can be like the ten scouts who saw only giants and impossibility or we can be like Caleb and Joshua, ready, willing, able, and full of confidence.

You can live in the shadow of the Old Covenant or bask in the light of the New.

Daily Bible reading: Job 4-6, Acts 7:20-43