Everything You Need

Exodus 3 and 4 contains one of the most familiar stories of the Bible. No doubt thousands of authors and writers, preachers and poets, painters and priests have tried to capture the amazing story contained in these chapters.  Anyone my age or younger cannot help but picture this in terms of Charlton Heston hearing an eery voice of God coming from the burning bush. As an aside, there is an unsolvable mystery about who supplied the voice of God in The Ten Commandments. Many have claimed to be the voice, including director DeMille and actor Heston. It has been concluded that “only DeMille and his sound editor, Loren L. Ryder, who died in 1985, knew the truth-because the voice used in the film was run through mixers, changers and echo chambers.” (link

Dramatic as it is, the mystery of the voice of God in a 1956 film is not nearly so intriguing as the account of God and Moses found in Exodus. It’s hard to read the story without pre-conceived pictures and pretending we do not know the end of the story. 

It seems that Moses is the perfect person to go and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. He was raised in Egypt, a survivor of an attempted genocide of the Hebrew people. He knew the Egyptian ways from the inside, in a way no other Hebrew could. When he walked into Pharaoh’s court, he was walking into familiar territory.  And he knew what to expect and could prepare to respond when he encountered resistance. We know all of these things, but Moses didn’t seem to.

Because in some ways, Moses is exactly the wrong person to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt.  He rejected the ones who rescued him from the river and raised him as a son. He turned away from those who gave him everything he could have wanted to live a life of luxury and power.  He was a murderer who was running from Egyptian justice.  It had been forty years since he had been in Egypt and one wonders if he had forgotten much of what he had known while he chased sheep around the desert. In addition, he had a long list of reasons why he was not a capable leader that he was willing to present to the Creator! If we didn’t know the rest of the story we might think that Moses wasn’t very smart, and not a great choice for this job. The negatives far outweigh the positives.

That might be exactly the point. 

Who am I to do this job? I’ll be with you.

Who am I to say sent me to do this job? I Am.

But I’m not a good speaker. I am the maker of speech.

Send someone else. I’ll send YOU, and I’ll send Aaron with you.

I don’t know. Take the staff, you’ll be surprised what you can do with it.

Moses … the ungrateful to his benefactors, the murderer, the one who adopted an undercover life to survive, the one who would even excuse himself from

Painting by FETTI, Domenico
(b. ca. 1589, Roma, d. 1623, Venezia).

service while facing God at a burning bush that didn’t burn … was right. He couldn’t do it. There’s too much baggage, too little talent, and no desire. And if it weren’t for a Divine encounter, he would have spent another 40 years dodging sheep poop. Instead, we are shown clearly that while Moses couldn’t, God could. In God’s presence and blessing, Moses had everything he needed to accomplish the task. 

We all know Moses is going to go, and do a bang up job as a deliverer. He’s going to perform his duties so well that eventually he thinks he’s not just being empowered by God he thinks he’s a partner with God. It’s a stumble that will keep him out of the Promised Land. But still the Prince became a Shepherd so he could lead God’s flock out of enslavement and into promise.

Moses reminds us that without God, we don’t have much of a mission. With God, however, we have everything we need to be arbiters of deliverance for the enslaved. Honestly, I feel a lot like Moses… inadequate, unequipped, overwhelmed. Jesus recognized that as a truth for all of us, but also reminds us that the power is not in us. The ability to throw light into the darkest places is not our brilliance, but His. 

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” – John 15:5-8

When you wonder if you can make a difference, pay less attention to your own self-objections and more attention to the presence of God that goes with you. When you bear fruit for the Lord, never look in the mirror and congratulation yourself. Look inside and thank God for what He has done through a broken vessel. When you think that the work of the kingdom is about you, remember it is about I AM.

So while Moses is bigger than life, he seems to me like an ordinary guy who was successful in crazy circumstances in such a way that only God could get the credit. Only in God did he have everything he needed. Maybe we could all be so ‘ordinary’. 

Thanks for reading, JD.

Sheep Photo Credit  Martin Bisof

Faith: The Engine of God’s Creative Redemption

Faith: The Engine of God’s Creative Redemption

By Steven Hovater

Incarnation and Imitation

The incarnation revealed what is possible when a human moves in God’s will, and by God’s power. In Jesus, God acted, but also demonstrated what human action in the name of God looks like. “For I have set you an example, “Jesus says, “that you also should do as I have done to you”. Yes, this line’s context (John 13:15) is somewhat particular to his servant gesture of foot-washing, but the following discourse makes clear that this practice is barely the tip of the iceberg. Everything Jesus does and says is a demonstration of God’s work and will in the world, and the disciples are being invited to share in that way of being in the world. The point of the incarnation is to say, “This is what happens when divine action/being meets human action/being.”

Moments later, Jesus expresses to his disciples that they have perceived God’s will as revealed through Jesus’s words and actions, and have even had their status before God changed because of it: “The servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father” (John 15:15). Jesus is revealing God’s will and work, and then inviting them to join into that same will and work, becoming fruitful by honoring his command to “love one another as I have loved you.” God is at work among humanity in the human form of Jesus, so that humanity might be able to learn how to work on behalf of God in the world. 

What’s Faith Got to Do with It?

This is all well and good as a bunch of theological talk, but is still missing a critical piece: faith. This all occurs in its context in a crisis moment, and the disciples will forget their loyalty to Jesus before we can scarcely turn the page on the conversation. However, before their abandonment, we get a preview of what will come to pass after the resurrection. It is yet to be tested by the crucible, but we get a taste of the faith that will be solidified when the disciples witness his defeat of death. In John 16:30 we read the climatic confession, “we believe that you came from God”. That curiously-worded affirmation of faith is more central to John’s gospel than is easily recognized. 

“We believe that you came from God” sounds like a basic thing to affirm about Jesus, but for John’s gospel it is the critical point. Everything up until chapter 12 has been constructed to demonstrate that Jesus is in fact the one sent from God. It’s a theme hiding in plain sight, captured in language like being “from God” or “from heaven”, or in Jesus’s talk about being “sent”. The fascinating turn of the fourth gospel is that it takes this basic affirmation of Jesus’s origin and uses it to launch the mission of the disciples. Just as the father sent Jesus, so Jesus sends his disciples (20:21), and when they are doing the will of God, they have access to the same divine power that Jesus put on display. What’s the connection between what Jesus did and what the sent disciples will do? Their faith

In coming to believe that Jesus is from God, the disciples also come to believe his invitation to share in his divinely originating power and mission. They too become “from God” because now they are “from Jesus”. John tipped his hand early on that this was God’s work in Jesus: “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13) In the wake of the resurrection, the disciples can truly become brothers of Jesus, sharing the same Father and God (20:17).

The Victory of Faith

There’s an old church song, “Faith is the Victory” which draws its language from 1 John 5:4-5, “…this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” The song implies that the victory is one that we, Christ’s disciples win over our enemies. However, the greater truth is that it is Jesus who becomes victorious over his enemies because of our faith. See, we may not have noticed the connection between this text (1 John 5) and John 16:33, where Jesus says to his disciples: “Take courage; I have conquered the world!”. Notice how the announcement is peculiarly located—Jesus proclaims his victory before the events of either the cross or the empty tomb. What has happened at this point that evokes this claim? It is the confession of faith from the disciples—this constitutes Jesus’s victory over the world!

Now that they believe—or perhaps better, now that they are coming to believe—Jesus has won a foothold in the world. God’s work will continue. The gospel embodied in him will be embodied in his disciples who now participate in his mission. Jesus, the Sent One, will become the sender, and the faith of his disciples will become a gateway for the power of God to work goodness in the world. 

Our faith is much more powerful than we know. It is not just a vehicle for our comfort or empowerment. It is a vehicle for divine action. It is the connection point at which God’s people become partners by God’s Spirit, agents of God’s creative agenda in the world. Faith is the engine translating God’s will into human action and the restoration of God’s creation. 

It is easy to underestimate our faith. I often perceive mine to be quite a weak thing—apparently much smaller than even a mustard seed. But in the hands of Jesus, even our broken faith creates enormous possibilities, and becomes a tool in God’s mission. 

(If you would like to walk through a study of the “Sent” theme in John, consider the following texts in their context: 1:12-13, 3:2, 3:13, 3:17, 3:31-34, 4:34, 5:23-24, 5:36-38, 6:33, 6:46, 6:57, 7:27-29, 8:14-16, 8:23-26, 8:42, 9:4, 9:29-33, 10:36, 11:27, 12:44-45, 13:3, 14:24, 15:21, 16:27-30, 17:8, 18:36-37, 19:9, 20:21. This list is not exhaustive, and perhaps the better approach is to simply take a highlighter to a fresh copy of the gospel and mark each time the theme shows up. I assure you, you will not have to travel long between occurrences! I would love to say that the theme is plainly stated in literally every chapter of John, but alas, chapter 2 only yields 2:9, which I hold to be playful language on the theme—but I’ll let you decide for yourself.) 

Steven Hovater: Four kids. One wife. Seventeen hobbies. A coach’s whistle. Lots of thoughts about God and food. The spiritual gift of volume. Blogs at stevenhovater.com, and preaches in Tullahoma, Tennessee.

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A Case Study: The Rivers Church

A Case Study: The Rivers Church by Ginger Moore

My husband, Mike walked down Maiden Alley toward the Ohio River with his young friend. As he walked with his arm around twelve-year old DeShawn he asked, “DeShawn, when Jesus was on trial, Pilate kept asking if he was a King? Jesus told him, ‘My kingdom is not of this world’, but finally admitted he is the King. That’s what I’m going to ask you. Do you believe Jesus is the King?” DeShawn answered, “Yes, Mr. Mike. I do.” They continued to walk down to the bank of the Ohio River. About 40 people from The Rivers Church followed them.

Mike and DeShawn stood right at the edge of the river and Mike asked the young man if he was ready for Jesus to be King of his life? This is a kid that only a year and a half before was so rude and disrespectful that he would often be sent home from our Tuesday night outreach ministry and here he stood in the Ohio River ready to put on Christ. DeShawn came up out of that water to applause and tears from a church family that is a glimpse of what heaven is going to look like.

The Rivers Church began on Sunday, December 18th at 10:02 a.m. at Maiden Alley Cinema in Paducah, Kentucky, a half block from where the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers converge. From its outset, it has been our goal to be racially integrated, ethnically diverse, and outreach focused. Nones, Dones, and the next generation are our targets. Our ministry team spent time praying, talking, studying, and then praying some more about the vision for a church that could open doors for all people to hear the gospel in a post Christian culture.

Why 10:02 a.m.? Our gathering time is based on Luke 10:2- “…The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers.” At The Rivers Church, we’ve based our lives on the truth of the gospel — we know that the gospel is the best message in town that everyone needs to hear but Christians have made it harder and harder for people to hear the message because we’ve often lost our focus. We are convinced that if we go to where the people are, like Jesus said, and if we love them and love each other, then the gospel will do the rest.

Only God could have assembled the ministry team at The Rivers Church. This is what we’ve got- My husband Mike Moore is a trial attorney and was an elder for 5 years at an old established wealthy church. He also is a fantastic preacher. (I know I’m a little biased.)

Rivers Church Ministry Team

Tyrell Grant is a former rap producer drug dealer who became a Christian and quickly decided he wanted to be an evangelist. He went to school and got a preaching degree. His wife, Marquita is a preacher’s kid with an early childhood degree who leads our children’s ministry.

Cornelius Edwards is a wonderfully gifted worship minister. Before he joined our work he traveled from his home base in Atlanta all over the country to lead worship at special events. Check out his music on iTunes and YouTube. His wife Soyini has an awesome voice as well and was willing to leave her job at CNN because she believed in this vision of what church could be. She has an innate sense as to what people need and ministers to many already!

Lyle Sinkey is a former meth addict who is an outdoorsman and preacher. He just finished up a contract with Duck Commander where he was a videographer. He and his wife Kelly joined our team to minister in the areas of addiction recovery and marriage.

Finally, there’s me. I’m a former homeschooling mom and wife who was raised going to church. I lead our women’s ministry and make some pretty delicious communion bread.

The Rivers Church is a group of believers that are trying to live with our faith unshackled. Only Cornelius is a paid staff member. Soyini recently started her own business. Lyle and Kelly are raising their support like U.S. missionaries. Mike maintains a full law practice and I’m his office manager. Tyrell and Marquita run a daycare and Tyrell is also a blogger/tech guy.

We don’t have a building and it is our intention to never have one. Our rent at the theatre annually is the equivalent of one month’s utility bills at our former church. We’re trying to keep it simple. We use Mike’s Law office for small group Bible studies offered to the community. Tyrell and Marquita lead a small group in their home weekly. We have an outreach ministry that ministers to low income at risk children that meets at a shelter at the park. All of our gatherings are intergenerational. Families serve together. We’ve worshipped at the Farmer’s Market pavilion and will have worship this fall right at the river.

Martin Luther King Jr. said this in Letter From Birmingham Jail, “If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust.”

Mr. King spoke truth in 1963 and it is even more true in 2017. Young people don’t care what you know about Jesus until they see how you love like Jesus. My teenaged daughters invited their seventeen year old friend to worship with us. When worship was over, I asked her what she thought. Her answer let me know that we are headed in the right direction. She said with lots of excitement, “I love this! At the end, I just felt like I needed to go around the room and hug everyone. You can feel the love.”

I think we’re on the right path.

Follow us on Social Media Contacts at:  
Facebook: The Rivers Church @TheRiversPaducah 
Instagram: theriverschurch 
Website: www.theriverschurch.org

Ginger Moore is a 47 year old reluctant church planter, who just celebrated her 25th wedding anniversary.  She’s the mom of a 17 year old daughter and an 18 year old daughter who are so proud and excited to be a part of the work.  Her theme verse for the year has been 2 Timothy 2:13- “When we are faithless, he is faithful for he can not deny himself.”  God has been so very good and faithful as we have planted this church and he has brought the increase. 

The Lost Art of Rest

The Lost Art of Rest

You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy. Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. — Exodus 31:13b, 14a

Rest is medically, mentally, and spiritually vital for human health. But it is also rejected by an overbooked, overscheduled, and overconnected culture. In both the modern workforce and entertainment/sports pursuits there is seldom a quiet moment for reflection. When is the last time you were quiet and in a quiet room? To illustrate how completely we reject rest, just think about your first reaction when someone calls and wakes you up from sleep. The first thing out of our mouth is a denial that we were sleeping, as if that were some kind of drug addiction we were trying to hide from all our family and friend.

Moses, the great lawgiver, was instructed by God about Sabbaths. In some churches it is common to talk about Sabbaths. In Churches of Christ, not so much. It is often regarded as a component of the Old Law that Jesus never commanded for New Covenant believers. In addition, the Hebrew writer suggests that our Sabbath will be fulfilled when we enter into eternity. So, I grew up basically hearing about the Sabbath only as it related to the Jews and more often than not, the Pharisees.

In college, however, I preached for a small country church. I still have fond memories of the fine folks there, but in my young and sometimes arrogant perspective I scoffed at their Sabbath keeping. Now, granted, it was a kind of personalized Sabbath practice. Playing cards, going fishing, or working on your car were all frowned upon. Sitting back in a recliner after eating too much at a Southern country dinner table and watching wrestling on the television, however, was perfectly acceptable. Anyhow, I did encounter a kind of Sabbath keeping in my younger preaching years. I seldom see that any more.

Sabbath observance was a command of the Lord and one of great consequence. Before Moses was born, the Sabbath was established on the seventh day of creation when God rested. So it predates the Law and it is connected to the identity and reality of God.

The Sabbath was a sign. God tells Moses in our text that the Sabbath was a sign for the generations to come, so it was to last a long time. The Sabbath is a signal that we understand that God is the most important person in our lives and we dedicate time to growing closer to Him… not by working harder or studying deeper or praying better. Just by being with Him.

The Sabbath was so that the Israelites would know that God is God. He gets to make the rules about how we live our life. But more than just rule keeping…

The Sabbath was to remind us that God makes us holy. So it’s not Sabbath keeping that makes us holy, it is our identity with a God who rested. It is our trust that He will provide even if we do not exhaust ourselves in work and play on the Sabbath.

The Sabbath was not to be ignored, at the penalty of death. Ok, we might just say at this point that God takes rejection of his word and will seriously. This might be a good place to revert to the idea that the LAW of Sabbath is an Old Covenant law, but the practice of Sabbath is an eternal principle. I know, that’s convenient. 

The Sabbath was to be regarded as holy. It’s all about holiness. More on that later.

The Sabbath command was written by the finger of God. It wasn’t Moses’ invention, but a Divine principle from our Creator. 

I think it is fair to say that if we fail to keep the Sabbath we do not expect to be stoned or for God to strike us down. In the Covenant of Grace in which we live we are not going to rely on precision obedience as a savior. But there is a deeper lesson beyond the law. God’s command to observe the Sabbath was not capricious. It had depth and significance… and I think we can see the result of the loss of Sabbath in our world.

It would be a sad rejection of grace to try to do what the Pharisees did – to establish what movements constitute ‘work’ and then try to do everything but those items. But to celebrate the Sabbath, there might be some ways…

*Reserve a day to rest or at least half a day once a week. I know, trying to schedule rest seems like an oxymoron but if we do not do it intentionally, then the cries of a thousand things that “have to be done” will drown out our purposeful Sabbath.

*Talk to God about your inability to sit still in His presence without making mental lists of the things you’re going to do once this forced Sabbath has come to an end.

*Holiness is the theme of Sabbath. God’s holiness is to become our holiness. What are we doing to become a more holy people? Trusting in our Abba is important. Do you think that He would ‘rest’ on the seventh day, declare that day holy, require all of Israel to stop working on that day, if it were not beneficial? Do you think if we just worked harder at it we could be a holier people … or is it that by putting down our tasks we can focus instead on renewal and faith? Charles Swindoll wrote, “To enter our Sabbath rest, we must put an end to self-reliance – trusting in our own abilities to overcome difficulties, rise above challenges, escape tragedies, or achieve personal greatness.”

*Talk about Sabbath. It’s a weird message. No one is talking about taking a weekly respite from the flurry of the world’s call. It will bless others to know there is a practice that can bring them peace and holiness, even just for a short time.

*Be kind to others. If you will embark upon the Sabbath practice, you can be assured that others will not. Even devoted Christians will often fail to heed the call to purposeful rest. It’s not our job to look down upon them or to judge them. No one obeys any command or practice perfectly.

*Don’t say “I can’t”. I know there are some reading this who are saying to themselves that the commitments and obligations of life make Sabbath keeping impossible. I can relate. Again, no one does it perfectly. But let’s be honest. Many of the things that are filling up our frantic days are put there by ourselves.

*A word to parents and families. Our inability to say ‘no’ to our children and the many activities available to them, and the fear that we/they might miss out on something great if we withdraw for a bit, is killing our families. How many of us are teaching our children to forget Sabbath because we allow them to fill up almost impossible to keep schedules? Has family time disappeared? What are the greatest values of our lives? If we value holiness, closeness to God, mental clarity, and bodily strength then we should value Sabbath.

*Be kind to yourself. That might mean not beating yourself up on not being a very good Sabbath observer. Remember, we’re not trying to perfectly keep a law, we are trying to live in rhythm with a principle. It might take some practice. Your Sabbath practice might start with an hour and grow from there. It might not be on the ‘seventh day’ but might be another time when you can devote yourself to quiet and peace. I know I continue to struggle with this.

Sabbath is out of fashion, a relic of a time and pace of life that can’t compete with our connected and conflicted world. Our calling is not to live up to the call of the world, but the call of God. Rest, friend. Unashamedly and in connection with God, seek Sabbath.

“Be faithful to your secret place, and it will become your closest friend and bring you much comfort. In silence and stillness a devout person grows spiritually and learns the hidden things of the Bible. Tears shed there bring cleansing. God draws near to the one who withdraws for a while. It is better for you to look after yourself this way in private than to perform wonders in public while neglecting your soul.” ― Thomas à Kempis

Thanks for reading. JD

Photo Credit:
Aaron Burden

A Promise and a Procedure

This week’s text in the International Sunday School Lesson is Genesis 17:1-14.  Ninety year old Abram received from God a promise and a procedure. The promise was first expressed from the time of his calling in Genesis 12.

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great,  and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:2-3)

Over and over God affirmed that he was going to keep his promise, no matter how unpromising the situation became. All of this was to come through a son. Not the son of the Egyptian slave Hagar, though Abram loved Ishmael and God blessed him in his own way. No, he was not the son of promise. Through it all Abram believed God. Even though his own devices and plans to try to help God failed miserably. Perhaps that’s at the core of the procedure.

God reminded Abram that he would the “the father of many nations”. He changed his name to Abraham (a footnote in the NIV says this “probably means father of many nations”). After affirming the land promise and the peoples promise, God gave Abraham a sign of the covenant he made with him.  It was a sign that would be a national symbol, every male would carry with him.

“As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant.”

I will admit that most Bible class teachers are going to squirm a bit to be talking about such a personal procedure. It is one that would affect Abraham in a personal way also. He’s trying to procreate, and this is going to take some time to heal. It’s one more delay in producing a son with Sarah. This is quite a request for an almost-100-year-old-man and for all the males in his nomadic tribe. So Abraham and his son Ishmael were circumcised on the same day. 

The term ‘circumcise’ means ‘cutting around’. In the last verse of our text, God uses that terminology to demonstrate his intention.

“Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

So a refusal to be circumcised was equal to being cut off from the promises of the covenant. We all know Abraham was the father of the faithful and he did act in faithful response to this command from God. In Israel’s history they kept this command, mostly.

During the journey through the wilderness, the practice of circumcision fell into disuse, probably because the Israelites were under God’s judgment during that time, but was resumed by Joshua’s command before they entered the Promised Land (Joshua 5:2–9). It was observed always afterwards among the tribes of Israel, although it’s not expressly mentioned from the time of the settlement in Canaan until the time of Christ, about 1,450 years later. (Freeman, J. M., & Chadwick, H. J. (1998). Manners & Customs of the Bible (pp. 23–24). North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers.)

By the New Testament times a question arose among the Apostles. The Gentiles were flooding into the church … they were an uncircumcised people … what is supposed to be done about this? At the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) it was decided that they could be allowed into the church without this procedure.

Later Apostle Paul would use the idea of circumcision in a spiritual way.

For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh… (Philippians 3:3)

 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ,  having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11-12)

Paul also played down the role of circumcision for today when he concluded, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6).

Circumcision  has been released from faith practices today except among Jews and Muslims. It remains a common practice among the general population. Neonatal circumcision has been the most common surgery in America for over a century. Nearly six out of ten newborns are released from hospitals foreskin-free in the United States, but it is rare everywhere else in the world. (LINK)

So how to apply this passage without demanding circumcision of all Christian males today? Some questions to ponder…

Are We Willing to do Difficult Things for God?

Observe the faithfulness of Abraham when he was asked to do a difficult thing. To institute this painful procedure he would have to put off for a while the desire of his heart, procreation with Sarah as promised by God. He could cut off the foreskin in obedient faith, or he could be cut off from the people of God. Being a disciple of Jesus Christ also calls us to demonstrate obedience, sometimes in difficult situations. A read-through of the beatitudes or the Sermon on the Mount can demonstrate this.

Are We Willing to Obey God When the Path Ahead is Unclear?

Abraham’s obedience was not only difficult, it seemed arbitrary. Abraham demonstrates an obedience that is stunning in it’s borderless following. Even later when Abraham is willing to sacrifice Isaac, we are amazed at his faith demonstrated in obedience. Do we have enough faith to obey when we can’t see the significance of our actions? When we are obedient to God’s Word without having to understand all the details we are walking in fields of faith.

Do We Really Believe God?

We’re all given a choice in whether or not we choose to follow God, or take the path of being cut off from Him forever. But I think there’s a deeper issue at work here. Do we believe God when everything we see and experience is opposite of what He has promised? Who hasn’t looked up at the sky and with all we have within us shouted, “WHY?” Ultimately when we choose to follow God there are things that we do that may or may not make a lot of sense to us. Who can explain why baptism washes away sin? The Bible clearly states that it does, and I believe it. But the mechanics of that escape me. How does prayer ‘work’? Can we sense the Holy Spirit as He lives within us?  Do we need to know the answers to those questions before we can believe Him?

At first the circumcision of Abraham, and the nation, seems like an ancient ritual with nothing to do with our modern times. But in actuality it teaches us a lot about faith. That’s a discipline in which I always need to grow.

Thanks for reading, JD.

 

Photo by Colin Carey on Unsplash

Introduction to God

There are lots of ways that people try to use Genesis chapters 1 and 2 to prove one theory or another about any manner of scientific or doctrinal inquiries, which is fine. But it’s not the introduction to where life began or creation or day/age theories that really catches my attention. I just think it’s the introduction to God.

Of course it doesn’t explain everything about God or try to answer every question we can come up with. St. Augustine wrote, “We are talking about God. What wonder is it that you do not understand? If you do understand, then it is not God.” I think we would all be willing to admit that we have a lot more questions about God and for God than we do answers.

To me, that’s what makes the things revealed about God all the more crucial for us to ponder. Not just the factual data, but the revelation of the God who is our Father. And it’s not done in an orderly way. OCD people cannot enjoy Genesis 1, after all it begins with chaos! Oh, I’m sure they see the pattern … of the ways that God speaks, creates, sees, affirms.. but it’s messy.

It introduces us to our God who creates order out of chaos.

The earth was formless and void or a waste and emptiness, and darkness was upon the face of the deep [primeval ocean that covered the unformed earth]. The Spirit of God was moving (hovering, brooding) over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. (Genesis 1:2-3, AMP)

I don’t know what that chaos was like, even with the pretty vivid description. God spoke, and it was so. I was born into a world of order. Seasons change pretty much on time. Weather patterns are somewhat predictable. Gravity keeps us well grounded. But I do know what chaos looks like when the orderly life falls apart. I’ve tried to speak into my own chaos and found it just got more chaotic. But somehow in the roughest of times when we feel like we are free falling through life, there is a peace that is beyond our understanding. It comes from God who creates order out of chaos and is always powerful enough to do it. In the opening words of the introduction to God, calm comes from the void.

It introduces us to our God who takes His time to accomplish His will.

And God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good (pleasing, useful) and He affirmed and sustained it; and God separated the light [distinguishing it] from the darkness. 5 And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was [f]evening and there was morning, one day. (Genesis 1:3-5, AMP)

It’s my working theory that God who can create order in the chaos and light separated from darkness in one day could have actually created it all in one day. One word. But like an artist who has a vision for what they desire to paint, and who enjoy so much the painting of it, God took his time. Six days of speaking, seeing, proclaiming that it’s good. I know when we think about God and His power we assume not only that he can make things right but that he ought to do it … now. When we’re broken hearted and we’ve prayed and cried our eyes out we just can’t see through our own chaos what God is doing. Or Why.

I’m not going to affirm that your heartaches are God’s brushstrokes on a celestial canvas. But like Ravi Zacharias teaches, life can be like an embroidery … on the underside it is a mess. You can’t imagine that there is anything of value there. But when you turn it over you can see what was not revealed previously. I wonder if the angels thought to themselves that this creation of the world didn’t look like it was going to turn out that great. Then suddenly verse 20 bursts into color: “Then God said, ‘Let the waters swarm and abundantly produce living creatures, and let birds soar above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.’” That’s a wow moment. God doesn’t make prodigals come home and he doesn’t clean up addicts and he doesn’t afflict tyrant world leaders … on our time table. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t at work. Patiently. Creating. Beauty.

Genesis  introduces us to our God who loves in community.

In verse 2 we’ve already read about His Spirit. But there’s more.

Then God said, “Let Us (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) make man in Our image, according to Our likeness [not physical, but a spiritual personality and moral likeness]… So God created man in His own image, in the image and likeness of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:26a, 27, AMP)

OK, so the Amplified Bible added “Father, Son, Holy Spirit”, but I think rightly so. God didn’t make humans because he was lonesome. He lives in community. We call it a Trinity. The Bible doesn’t use that word but it’s a good descriptive word. It is striking that of all the beautiful things God made, he only made one thing in his image. And that was us. There’s something about every human being that when God sees them it’s like looking in the mirror. Humanity can be pretty crummy sometimes but God made each one in His image. He made humans to live in community. Even though they were different in some ways, they were able to live together as one. And even make more humans.

This text introduces us to our God who rested.

So the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts (inhabitants). 2 And by the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested (ceased) on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3 So God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it [as His own, that is, set it apart as holy from other days], because in it He rested from all His work which He had created and done. (Genesis 2:1-3, AMP)

Now if you ask me, that’s weird. God … rested. I know resting implies tiredness, but I don’t think God gets tired. He was done, and he stopped working. For a day. And he wants us to rest on a day. There are those who remind us that the command to observe the Sabbath is the only one of the ten commands Jesus never repeated. And I know there is a sabbath rest awaiting us in heaven. But I’ve heard that idea abused…as if to say if we rest we are somehow letting God down. Quite the opposite. Before Moses ever walked down Sinai with the tablets of stone … way before… God blessed and sanctified that day. So rest with God. Do we ever need that message today…in our nonstop world.

So if some want to sift through this text with a fine tooth comb looking for jewels of truth, I have no complaint. We should caution, as did Chrysostom, “Let us accept what is said with much gratitude, not overstepping the proper limit nor busying ourselves with matters beyond us”. With gratitude I accept Genesis 1 and 2 as an introduction to God. God 101, if you will. He creates order out of chaos. He takes his time to accomplish his will. He lives and loves in community. He rests because we need to rest.