Exodus 3:1-6

A burning bush

One day, Moses was looking after Jethro’s sheep far out in the desert. While he was near a mountain called Sinai, he saw a bush burning. “This is strange,” he thought. “The bush isn’t burning up!” So he went closer to have a look.

As Moses got closer, the Lord called to him, “Moses! Moses!”

“Yes, here I am,” Moses replied.

“Do not come any closer,” God said.” Take off your sandals because the ground you are standing on is holy.”

Moses was afraid to look at God, so he covered his face.

What does holy mean?

When Moses heard the voice in the desert, he knew that it was God speaking to him. God does not often speak directly to people, and Moses was very afraid because his heart was sinful.

Only God is holy. That is why it is difficult for us as sinful people to understand the full meaning of holiness.

To be holy means to be without sin, completely pure and good. But holiness is much more than just being without sin. Holiness is also having a love so great that it cannot be measured (Romans 8:39), mercy that never ends (Luke 1:50), and faithfulness that never fails (Psalm 36:5). Yet, holiness is even more than that! Holiness is all that God is.

God wants us to be like Him, and even though we will never be perfect here on earth, we can follow the example of Jesus by living like He did.

Verse for today

“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do…”
1 Peter 1:15.

Joseph the Dreamer

Joseph the Dreamer

(Genesis 37)

That’s what Joseph’s big brothers thought.

They were sure their father liked Joseph best.

In some ways they were right. Joseph was the baby of the family. And new babies aren’t much good at hunting, or watching sheep. Mostly they just roll around and cry a lot, and you have to do everything for them. So, when baby Joseph came along, of course Jacob spent a lot of time with him. Well, that, and babies are just so cute!

But, Joseph’s brothers didn’t like it.

And they didn’t like Joseph.

They were jealous. They wanted Dad to spend time with THEM. And so as Joseph got older, they picked on him. It was easy to do because they were bigger and stronger. When Dad wasn’t looking, they bossed little Joseph around. They put beetles in his bed. They were always making him do stuff for them – like he was their slave or something.

Well, one day they were all going to be in for a BIG surprise!

Of course, being mean to someone their father loved probably wasn’t the best idea. Did they think hurting Joseph would make their father love them more? That wasn’t too smart.

When Joseph was old enough, he went to work out in the fields with his brothers, watching over the sheep. Joseph was 17 now, and his brothers still didn’t like him much.

It probably didn’t help things that when Joseph went home at night, he told his father when his brothers were goofing around instead of working.

It really didn’t help things much when one day, Jacob gave his son Joseph a new coat.

It was a wondrous coat!

It had long sleeves and was made of many colors. Joseph was so proud! He wore his new coat everywhere he went.

Well, that did it!

Now Joseph’s brothers were SURE their father liked Joseph best. And maybe he did. But Jacob loved each of his sons, and would have given his life for any one of them.

Then one night, Joseph had a dream.

The next morning, they were all sitting down for breakfast (you can be sure it wasn’t Cheerios or Cap’n Crunch! – more like goat’s milk and cheese. Yum!). And Joseph said, “You should have seen this dream I had! I dreamed that we were all out in the field, bundling our wheat together into sheaves. All of a sudden, my sheaf stood up all on its own – and then all of your sheaves made a circle around mine and bowed down to it!”

“Yeah, right!” said Reuben, as he reached over and finished Joseph’s cup of goat’s milk.

“Hey! Cut that out!”

“Make me, you dreamer! You think you are going to be the boss of us?!!” And all the other brothers laughed and poked at Joseph.

That night Joseph had another dream. The next morning at breakfast he told his brothers his new dream. “Last night I dreamed the sun, the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me!”

“Oh Great and Mighty Joseph!” his big brother Levi said, and bowed down to Joseph – and then he swiped his cheese. All his other brothers laughed and teased Joseph all the more. “Dreamer! Dreamer!”

Poor Joseph didn’t know what to do. He told his dream to his father, and even his father had enough of his nonsense, “You think your mother, your brothers and I are going to bow down and worship you?!”

But, it wasn’t nonsense.

It was from God.

Don’t Light the Fire

Do not light a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.—Exodus 35:3

The Torah portion for this week is Vayakhel, which means “assembled,” from Exodus 35:1—38:20, and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 7:13–26.

The Sabbath is widely known as a day of rest. So does this mean that we spend the entire day sleeping or relaxing? Hardly! We pray, study, serve a luxurious meal, join with friends, and do things that connect us with God, the people around us, and our values.

What we don’t do is create anything. Just as God stopped creating on the seventh day, we refrain from creativity on the Sabbath. The laws regarding what is and is not permitted on the Sabbath are gleaned from the creation of the Tabernacle. In this week’s Torah reading, the commandment to keep the Sabbath is placed immediately before the building of the Tabernacle. From this juxtaposition, the rabbis derived the laws governing the Sabbath.

There are no specific laws regarding how to observe the Sabbath in the Bible. Except for one. In this week’s reading we learn, “Do not light a fire in any of your dwellings on the Sabbath day.” The Sages teach that there is a special message in this one commandment that goes above and beyond what actions are permitted on the Sabbath.

The “fire” in the verse not only refers to physical fire, but also the “fire” of arguments. This commandment directs us: “Do not light the fire of arguments in your homes on the Sabbath.” The Sabbath is also known as “Shabbat Shalom,” “Sabbath of Peace.” For at least one day a week, we do not allow any arguing in our homes. We have a day of rest – a day of peace.

The Talmud shares the following story: There was once a couple who got into an argument every Friday afternoon, just before the Sabbath began. Rabbi Meir, the miracle worker, paid them a visit and stayed with them for three weeks until he was able to restore peace to their home. When his work was completed, he heard the voice of Satan sadly cry out: “Woe is to me, for Rabbi Meir has removed me from my home.”

The Sages explain that a home of quarrelling is the domain of Satan. He works his hardest to create fighting in the home just before the Sabbath when we are trying to focus on creating a day of rest and peace. However, we need to work even harder at creating and maintaining a peaceful environment, even if for just one day a week.

This week, why not resolve to observe one day where arguing is not permitted? Use that day to focus on what we appreciate about our loved ones, with whom we share our home and our lives.

Don’t Light the Fire

Taking Off the Old Self and Putting On the New Self: What This Means in Practice by Mark D. Roberts

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

My last few reflections focused on Ephesians 4:22-24. The main point of this passage is that we were taught in Christ to take off our old self like a rotten old garment, to be renewed on the inside, and to put on our new self as if it were a brand new set of clothes. I examined what this means and suggested a few down-to-earth illustrations.

As it turns out, Paul himself adds lots of examples that demonstrate what it means in practice to put off the old self and put on the new. These examples begin in verse 25: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” Notice the phrase “put off falsehood.” It uses the Greek verb apotithemi, the exact same verb that appears in verse 22: “You were taught . . . to put off [apotithemi] your old self.” So, verse 25 provides a specific example of the general putting off commended in verse 22. One way we take off the old self is by taking off falsehood. We no longer lie. We no longer affirm that which is contrary to the “truth that is in Jesus” (4:21).

But, as we saw earlier, taking off the old self isn’t the whole point, or even the main point. Christianity isn’t just a matter of “the don’ts.” It is also and profoundly a matter of “the dos.” So, in verse 25, after saying we are to take off falsehood, Paul adds, “and speak truthfully to your neighbor.” More literally, we are to “speak the truth [aletheia] to our neighbor.” Paul could have said we are to take off falsehood as one piece of our decaying old self and put on truth speaking as a piece of our new self in Christ.

How interesting that Paul begins here, with truth speaking. We might say that truthfulness isn’t just one insignificant garment of the Christian life, something rather like one of your socks, important but mostly functional and unnoticed. Rather, truth is like a new shirt, essential, yes, but also obvious to all. So, if you’re going to continue to take off the old self and put on the new, you might well begin by looking at the truth-quotient of your speech.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Have you put off falsehood? Have you put on truth-speaking? When people think of you, do they associate you with truthfulness? What helps you to speak the truth? What makes it hard for you to speak the truth?

PRAYER: Gracious God, help me, I pray, to put off falsehood and to put on truthfulness. When I’m tempted to lie, even if it’s a “little white lie,” help me to see clearly what I’m doing so that I might “take it off.” When I believe that which is not true, help me to learn what is right so that I might reject falsehood.

But, dear Lord, my life in you isn’t just a matter avoiding untruth. It’s also and mainly a matter of truthfulness, of knowing, believing, speaking, and even doing the truth. So help me, I pray, to be a person full of truth in all that I am and all that I do. Amen.

When the Spirit Is Overwhelmed

“My spirit is overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is desolate.” Psa 143:4

There are some natures more prone than others to this overwhelming of the spirit, but it wouldn’t be true to say that the peril is limited to temperament. Some of the last persons one would ever dream of are prone to this hopeless sinking of the heart. I would expect it in Jeremiah, that most tremulous of all the prophets; but in Elijah–that man of iron will–I would scarcely anticipate finding it. Yet in the life of Elijah came an hour when, plunged into the deeps, his prayer was that God would let him die. There are few things that men hide so well as this inner desolation.

Sometimes such an overwhelming feeling comes for reasons that are purely physical. This is the body of our humiliation, and we are fearfully and wonderfully made. I asked a friend only the other evening if she ever experienced an overwhelmed spirit, and she answered, “When I am very, very tired.” Nothing is more delicate and subtle than the interaction of the body and the soul. Lack of faith is sometimes related to lack of health which should make us very tenderhearted and forbearing in judgment towards those who are never really well.

Sometimes we become overwhelmed through simple failure to do our duty. To shirk our God-appointed task is to court the presence of despair. When Christian and Hopeful were on the King’s Highway, Giant Despair was never encountered. But when they got into By-path Meadow, then they fell into the giant’s clutches. And whenever anybody leaves the King’s Highway, sooner or later, but inexorably, “melancholy marks him for her own.” To omit the task we know we ought to do, to shirk the duty of the hour and shun the cross, to refuse to lift the burden and put selfishness in place of service–all this, in this strange life of ours, is to head straight for the overwhelmed spirit.

Times of Darkness Are Not Times for Judgment

I should like, too, to add here that we should never pass judgment in overwhelming hours. Let a man accept the verdict of his Lord, but never the verdict of his melancholy. Hours come when everything seems wrong and when all the lights of heaven are blotted out, and how often, in such desolate hours, do we fall to judging the universe and God! It is part of the conduct of the instructed soul to resist that as a temptation of the devil. Such hours are always unreliable. The things that frighten us in the night are the things we smile at in the morning. We are like that traveler who in the fog thought he saw a ghost; when it came nearer, he found it was a man; and when it came up to him, it was his brother. Overwhelming times are times for leaning; God does not mean them to be times for judging. They are given to us for trusting; they are not given to us for summing up. Leave that till the darkness has departed and the dawn is on the hills, and in His light we see light again.

Indeed, the great need in overwhelming hours is the old, old need of trust in God. It is to feel, as the hymn has it, that we are “safe in the arms of Jesus.” To be assured that God is love and that He will never leave us nor forsake us; to be assured that He knows the way we take and that His wings are folded over us all the time, that is the way to keeping a brave heart when everything is dark and desolate. Plunged into such depths, there is something even deeper. There is the love of God commended in the cross. Underneath are the everlasting arms. So we endure as seeing the invisible, and then (and often sooner than we expect) the day breaks and the shadows flee away.

Shew me wherefore thou contendest with me. Job 10:2

Perhaps, O tried soul, the Lord is doing this to develop thy graces. There are some of thy graces which would never be discovered if it were not for thy trials. Dost thou not know that thy faith never looks so grand in summer weather as it does in winter? Love is too often like a glow-worm, showing but little light except it be in the midst of surrounding darkness. Hope itself is like a star-not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity. Afflictions are often the black foils in which God doth set the jewels of His children’s graces, to make them shine the better. It was but a little while ago that on thy knees thou wast saying, “Lord, I fear I have no faith: let me know that I have faith.” Was not this really, though perhaps unconsciously, praying for trials?-for how canst thou know that thou hast faith until thy faith is exercised? Depend upon it, God often sends us trials that our graces may be discovered, and that we may be certified of their existence. Besides, it is not merely discovery, real growth in grace is the result of sanctified trials. God often takes away our comforts and our privileges in order to make us better Christians. He trains His soldiers, not in tents of ease and luxury, but by turning them out and using them to forced marches and hard service. He makes them ford through streams, and swim through rivers, and climb mountains, and walk many a long mile with heavy knapsacks of sorrow on their backs. Well, Christian, may not this account for the troubles through which thou art passing? Is not the Lord bringing out your graces, and making them grow? Is not this the reason why He is contending with you?
“Trials make the promise sweet;
Trials give new life to prayer;
Trials bring me to His feet,
Lay me low, and keep me there.”

President’s Day of Repentance

When thinking of President’s Day, two focal figures come to mind, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. There are other good presidents; but most Americans tend to think of Washington’s integrity, honesty, and the role he played in forming this great nation. Some people think of Lincoln’s push for liberty and how he transformed this nation; yet others might include Ronald Reagan among this list of greats – a president focused on diminishing the power of the federal government while encouraging patriotism once more.

A few of the  things which have made great presidents is their looking to the Hand of Providence in the founding and building of this nation, having a high regard for God’s word with a desire to point others toward it, and a love for liberty.  Although many presidents have done these things, reflect with me upon the words of just these past three.

Listen to George Washington, our first president and father of this nation as he acknowledged the Sovereignty of God:  “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor.”

Hear him recognize the important role God and His Word play in successful government:  “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable.”

Oh, that our heart’s plea would echo his:  “Oh, eternal and everlasting God, direct my thoughts, words and work. Wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the Lamb and purge my heart by Thy Holy Spirit. Daily, frame me more and more in the likeness of Thy son, Jesus Christ, that living in Thy fear, and dying in Thy favor, I may in thy appointed time obtain the resurrection of the justified unto eternal life. Bless, O Lord, the whole race of mankind and let the world be filled with the knowledge of Thee and Thy son, Jesus Christ.”

In thanksgiving Washington would call upon God for a national repentance and forgiveness: “We beseech [God] to pardon our national and other transgressions…” (Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1789)

Our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, echoed our first as he acknowledged the Creator’s Hand of Providence:  “And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God … and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.”

Here his great regard for God’s Word:  “In regards to this great Book (the Bible), I have but to say it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this Book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are found portrayed in it.”

He, like Washington, brought this nation to prayer and repentance:  “Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation…”

Even our 40th president, Ronald Reagan, would point us to the Sovereignty of God:  “Can we doubt that only a Divine Providence placed this land, this island of freedom, here as a refuge for all those people in the world who yearn to breathe freely.”

Reagan held God’s Word in high regard and encouraged the nation as a whole to read AND STUDY it:  “Inside the Bible’s pages lie the answers to all the problems that mankind has ever known. I hope Americans will read and study the Bible.”

This same president pushed for prayer to be allowed back in schools during his Radio Address to the Nation on February 25, 1984.  If you take the time to read that transcript you won’t be sorry. He encouraged us to continually push for liberty because, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

Were any of these men perfect? No, of course not, but they desired freedom and liberty for the American people and acknowledged God as the Giver of these freedoms.

Our current president denies our Creator and the Hand of Providence as he misquotes the Declaration of Independence, omitting our “Creator.”  Why not, since his party would like to remove “God” from their platform? He not only ignores our Creator but has called the United States “no longer a Christian nation.”

As Senator Obama, he made demeaning remarks about both the Bible and Christians who would follow the word of God.

He has been labeled “America’s Most Biblically-Hostile U.S. President” by Wall Builders, an organization dedicated to presenting America’s forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on the moral, religious, and constitutional foundation on which America was built.  To read their article and proofs click here.

He has done his best to ignore, re-interpret and replace the highest law of the land at every turn, the Constitution of the United States of America.  Perhaps it is time that we follow Lincoln’s words which are found on the Lincoln Memorial: “We the people are the rightful masters of both Congress and the courts, not to overthrow the Constitution but to overthrow the men who pervert the Constitution.”

There are many who would like to see Psalm 109:8  come to fruition, “Let his days be few; and let another take his office;” but that is not the real problem.  The heart of America is what is at stake here.

I fear by the time this president is out of office so much damage will be done and America will have become so infiltrated with Islamism, socialism, secularism, and anything goes “sexualism,” that we will be in too much trouble to regain our senses, our freedoms, or our country. It will only be by the grace of God that we would ever find our moral compass or the “truth north” of liberty.  As we kill our own children, embrace homosexuality, and embrace the oppression of the poor, as we deny the Creator and cling to the thought that NOTHING could bring about what the God of all the universe has designed and created, as we call good ‘evil’ and evil ‘good’ and continue to poke a stick in God’s eye with our political stances and platforms, I fear we shall be the recipients of His judgment rather than His grace. True revival is our only hope.

Unless we (God’s people) will humble ourselves, we shall be humbled by Him.  Unless we pray (seeking His will and His holiness, not asking for a rubber stamp of approval upon our own) we shall be the prey of the holy Lion of Judah.  Unless we truly seek His face instead of seeking our own desires, we will be lost in the dark only to find that He has turned His back instead of His face on us.  Unless we turn from our wicked ways (REPENT) there will be no salvation for us nor the United States.

It’s only in doing these four things that we shall find the blessed three-fold promise that GOD will hear our prayers, forgive our sin, and HEAL OUR LAND!

It is God that tries the reins of man’s heart and gives to us what we truly desire.  Unless we as a nation turn away from our sin we shall indeed reap the whirlwind.