The Hope


The Hope

Exodus 12:1–14

The First Passover Instituted1

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the Lord. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.”

Matthew 18:15–20

Reproving Another Who Sins

“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

There is plenty of bad news for anyone who wants it. We could list problems in the world 24 hours a day 365 days a year and we still could never keep up with all of them. We must never forget that it is our job to bring good news into the world. We are witnesses of the God who works all things together for the good of those who love Him. Tweet: We are witnesses of the God who works all things together for the good of those who love Him.

We are the light-bearers. We did not make the light, but we can see it and we can reflect it and carry it into the darkness. The light does not simply outweigh the darkness, nor does it erase the effects of it. Instead, it is as if time stops for a moment, and the author of our lives decides to end one story and begin the next. There will be tie-ins to be sure, but as the light enters into the darkness, the first words heard are “It is finished.”

These are not the last words of our God, they are the first words – for only in Him can [the first be last and the last be first(

The next words are, “Come and see.”

Our hope is an end of this way and the beginning of a new one, an end of this life and a means to be born again.

Where do you see hope?

How are you being a witness and sharing that hope?

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  1. (Num 9:1–14; Deut 16:1–8; Ezek 45:21–25)

The Horrible


The Horrible

Exodus 11:1–10

Warning of the Final Plague1

The Lord said to Moses, “I will bring one more plague upon Pharaoh and upon Egypt; afterwards he will let you go from here; indeed, when he lets you go, he will drive you away. Tell the people that every man is to ask his neighbor and every woman is to ask her neighbor for objects of silver and gold.” The Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians. Moreover, Moses himself was a man of great importance in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s officials and in the sight of the people.

Moses said, “Thus says the Lord: About midnight I will go out through Egypt. Every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne to the firstborn of the female slave who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the livestock. Then there will be a loud cry throughout the whole land of Egypt, such as has never been or will ever be again. But not a dog shall growl at any of the Israelites—not at people, not at animals—so that you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel. Then all these officials of yours shall come down to me, and bow low to me, saying, ‘Leave us, you and all the people who follow you.’ After that I will leave.” And in hot anger he left Pharaoh.

The Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, in order that my wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.” Moses and Aaron performed all these wonders before Pharaoh; but the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land.

Matthew 23:29–36

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets, sages, and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that upon you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come upon this generation.”

God has always been in the business of separating the good from the bad. Our original sin was trying to take that job from Him.Tweet: God has always been in the business of separating the good from the bad. Our original sin was trying to take that job from Him.

“God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” – Genesis 3:5

There has been more blood and ink spilled over the practice of judging others. Some adamantly claim that we are not to judge, as if judging others were the one unforgivable sin… and there is scripture they use to justify their belief. Then there are those who would use the same scripture to justify their belief that we have been created and chosen for the purpose of judging between right and wrong. Each side glares judgmentally at one another and draw their lines in the sand while Christ looks on shaking His head at us.

It cannot be denied that God judges between right and wrong, or more precisely, He separates them. We see it as His first act, separating light from dark, His calling out Noah, Abraham, the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt, all the way up to and through Jesus Christ on Judgment Day. God judges. He killed every firstborn person and livestock in Egypt to show them that He distinguished between the Egyptians and Hebrews.

While we are certainly called to be holy people – separated out ourselves, there is a difference between standing apart as a witness, and taking the action of separating into our own hands. We cannot separate light from dark. We do not have that power. We cannot separate good from evil, either within individual people, or within groups of people. When we do, we get it all wrong, and it simply becomes prejudice, bigotry, and hatred. We, like the Pharisees may call ourselves holy, but when our holiness only vilifies the world around us, instead of bringing it closer to God, we only fool ourselves. As Jesus pointed out, {anyone can love their friends…]( It is our love, not our judgment that truly separates us out, and it is love, not judgment that truly brings people out with us.Tweet: It is our love, not our judgment that truly separates us out, and it is love, not judgment that truly brings people out with us.

What has God separated you from?

When are you tempted to become a separator yourself?

How does Jesus speak about your place and purpose in this world?

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  1. (Ex 3:21–22; 12:35–36)

The Ugly


The Ugly

Exodus 10:21–29

The Ninth Plague: Darkness

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand toward heaven so that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness that can be felt.” So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was dense darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. People could not see one another, and for three days they could not move from where they were; but all the Israelites had light where they lived. Then Pharaoh summoned Moses, and said, “Go, worship the Lord. Only your flocks and your herds shall remain behind. Even your children may go with you.” But Moses said, “You must also let us have sacrifices and burnt offerings to sacrifice to the Lord our God. Our livestock also must go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we must choose some of them for the worship of the Lord our God, and we will not know what to use to worship the Lord until we arrive there.” But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he was unwilling to let them go. Then Pharaoh said to him, “Get away from me! Take care that you do not see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die.” Moses said, “Just as you say! I will never see your face again.”

Romans 10:15b–21

As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.

But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have; for

“Their voice has gone out to all the earth,

and their words to the ends of the world.”

Again I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,

“I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;

with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”

Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,

“I have been found by those who did not seek me;

I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”

But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”

Did you know there is such thing as the study of divine beauty? There is a field called Theological Aesthetics. There have been many famous church leaders all the way back to the second century A.D. who have written and taught on the subject, particularly the question of how we represent God. It became a huge subject during the Reformation and caused major divisions between different branches of the Church. Now, some 500 years later, we have begun to have honest discussions about our perspectives and have placed this field in its rightful place among the studies of God.

This study has an enormously subversive impact on worship planning and design. How? Consider that the subject of beauty involves more than just the eyes. It involves the ears. Does it matter to you whether music played for worship services sound beautiful? Do the smells of a church matter? Do the physical feeling of the experience draw you closer to God? Aesthetics matter. Indeed many of the points of division in worship, and often in church in general (ex. Arguments over the color of the carpet) come down to theological aesthetics.

If you had unlimited financial resources, and the approval of your church leaders, what would you change about your church? Tweet: If you had unlimited financial resources, and the approval of your church leaders, what would you change about your church?How long would your list of changes be? That is one way you begin to answer the question of what do you believe about the beauty of God.

One of the most important aspects of divine beauty is that we have to have access to sensing it. The most beautiful painting of Jesus does very little good locked away in a dark closet. The most beautiful hymn can be drowned out by the blare of car horns in a traffic jam. The Egyptians and the Hebrew people in the day of Moses found out that even the glory of the sunrise and sunset could be taken away and covered under the ugly shroud of darkness. That, in one sense, is the true understanding of ugliness. Ugliness is that which covers up or otherwise prevents the divulging of beauty. It is in the unveiling that beauty is witnessed.

Those who intentionally cover up God’s beauty therefore find themselves at odds with God’s purpose. Our reasons for covering up beauty may vary slightly, but they almost always come down to jealousy and selfishness, for we most often attempt to hide the beauty of others, not ourselves. So the opposite of beauty may not be ugliness… it may be jealousy. One gives. The other takes.

Where do you experience the Beauty of God?

Where have you experienced ugliness, covering up God’s beauty?

Do your personal experiences of God’s beauty prevent others from experiencing God with you?

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The Bad


The Bad

Exodus 9:1–7

The Fifth Plague: Livestock Diseased

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews: Let my people go, so that they may worship me. For if you refuse to let them go and still hold them, the hand of the Lord will strike with a deadly pestilence your livestock in the field: the horses, the donkeys, the camels, the herds, and the flocks. But the Lord will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing shall die of all that belongs to the Israelites.’ ” The Lord set a time, saying, “Tomorrow the Lord will do this thing in the land.” And on the next day the Lord did so; all the livestock of the Egyptians died, but of the livestock of the Israelites not one died. Pharaoh inquired and found that not one of the livestock of the Israelites was dead. But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he would not let the people go.”

2 Corinthians 12:11–21

Paul’s Concern for the Corinthian Church

I have been a fool! You forced me to it. Indeed you should have been the ones commending me, for I am not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, signs and wonders and mighty works. How have you been worse off than the other churches, except that I myself did not burden you? Forgive me this wrong!

Here I am, ready to come to you this third time. And I will not be a burden, because I do not want what is yours but you; for children ought not to lay up for their parents, but parents for their children. I will most gladly spend and be spent for you. If I love you more, am I to be loved less? Let it be assumed that I did not burden you. Nevertheless (you say) since I was crafty, I took you in by deceit. Did I take advantage of you through any of those whom I sent to you? I urged Titus to go, and sent the brother with him. Titus did not take advantage of you, did he? Did we not conduct ourselves with the same spirit? Did we not take the same steps?

Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves before you? We are speaking in Christ before God. Everything we do, beloved, is for the sake of building you up. For I fear that when I come, I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish; I fear that there may perhaps be quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. I fear that when I come again, my God may humble me before you, and that I may have to mourn over many who previously sinned and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and licentiousness that they have practiced.”

Do you ever feel like the world is against you? Like God is picking on you in particular? We know that bad things happen to everyone but there are some days it seems like there is more to it than that. Some days it seems personal.

The Plagues in Egypt moved from the general to more specific across their span. It was not perfect, but over time it became more and more noticeable that the punishments were affecting the Egyptians and not the Hebrew people. Now, I can imagine how some of the types of livestock between the two groups would be kept in separate fields, and therefore one group could get sick while another stayed healthy… but all of them? Cattle, sheep, goats, horses, camels…? Some of these livestock were not just used for meat or milk, they were used to travel, and would have been exposed to the whole area. Even more than that, what kind of sickness affects every type of livestock all at once and is powerful enough to kill them in one day? The Egyptians would have had to buy or take livestock from the Hebrews, if they were confident enough that the sickness was gone. The Egyptian farmers would have found themselves at the economic mercy of the slaves as the price of meat and milk would have skyrocketed.

We don’t get information about what happened in Egypt after the Hebrew slaves left, but I would be surprised if they did not suffer famine, economic upheaval, and probably political uprisings as well. After all, Pharaoh’s claim to authority was tied to the idea that he was divine. Yet here this God of slaves made a fool of him before all his people, and Pharaoh could not protect them or their livelihood. God was getting personal with them and He was picking on them, specifically regarding their beliefs about who and what was in charge of the world. With each plague, God was breaking down their beliefs and lifting up evidence of His own power over the entire world.

Like Moses, Paul was a messenger of this God to a people who were not his own. No matter where he went, Paul was not home and never among true family except where Christ’s Spirit created new family through the Church. There they found a glorious new identity as planters, even perhaps as “fathers” of these new families. Yet when they left, the grumbling and complaining began. In every case (so far as I have read) it began and ended the same. Someone sinned or had sinned and would not let go of it. God had other plans, and they came into conflict with those in the Church, those outside the Church, and ultimately with God, Who wanted nothing more than to pull them out of that sin they were clinging to so dearly. We cannot fight an immortal, invisible God so sometimes we go after the messenger instead. Tweet: We cannot fight an immortal, invisible God so sometimes we go after the messenger instead.

When you feel persecuted, who do you find yourself blaming?

Are there any places in your life you fight to maintain control over?

How would your life be different if you allowed God to rule over those areas in your life?

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The Good


The Good

Exodus 7:14–25

The First Plague: Water Turned to Blood

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pharaoh’s heart is hardened; he refuses to let the people go. Go to Pharaoh in the morning, as he is going out to the water; stand by at the river bank to meet him, and take in your hand the staff that was turned into a snake. Say to him, ‘The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you to say, “Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness.” But until now you have not listened. Thus says the Lord, “By this you shall know that I am the Lord.” See, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall be turned to blood. The fish in the river shall die, the river itself shall stink, and the Egyptians shall be unable to drink water from the Nile.’ ” The Lord said to Moses, “Say to Aaron, ‘Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt—over its rivers, its canals, and its ponds, and all its pools of water—so that they may become blood; and there shall be blood throughout the whole land of Egypt, even in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’ ”

Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord commanded. In the sight of Pharaoh and of his officials he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the river, and all the water in the river was turned into blood, and the fish in the river died. The river stank so that the Egyptians could not drink its water, and there was blood throughout the whole land of Egypt. But the magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts; so Pharaoh’s heart remained hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said. Pharaoh turned and went into his house, and he did not take even this to heart. And all the Egyptians had to dig along the Nile for water to drink, for they could not drink the water of the river.

Seven days passed after the Lord had struck the Nile.”

Matthew 12:22–32

Jesus and Beelzebul1

Then they brought to him a demoniac who was blind and mute; and he cured him, so that the one who had been mute could speak and see. All the crowds were amazed and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons, that this fellow casts out the demons.” He knew what they were thinking and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? If I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your own exorcists cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you. Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property, without first tying up the strong man? Then indeed the house can be plundered. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

The Gospel message has been sometimes reduced to Good News -> Bad News -> Good News [(although some leave out the initial Good News)( The initial Good News is that God created us to be good. The Bad News is that we chose to reject God and our place in the world. The second Good News is that God sent Jesus into the world to forgive and redeem us, giving us a second chance and the grace to do better through the Holy Spirit.

That is the forest view, oversimplified, a bit rough, and a bit crude. It cuts through sweeping landscapes of fields and forests, river valleys and barren canyons, mountains and minefields. God’s grace is not a line graph or a V-shape, it is a continent whose physical features tell a story, not a formula and we cheapen our worship and witness of God when we reduce Him to what He does rather than who He is. (The way we often confuse human beings with human doings)Tweet: God's grace is not a line graph or a V-shape, it is a continent whose physical features tell a story, not a formula and we cheapen our worship and witness of God when we reduce Him to what He does rather than who He is.

There are more than two instances of Good News. Even in God’s judgment, sometimes even in punishment, there is Good News to be found. Consider the first of the plagues against Egypt. All their water turned to blood. God started off small, but very visible. Everyone would have noticed their water had gone bad. However, it was only the fish who were killed, and the livelihoods of the fishermen disrupted.

The imagery was strong and undeniable though. Just as you killed the Hebrew children in the previous generation, so now you will literally bathe in and drink blood. For the Egyptians, who had similar values of cleanliness, this would have been one of the worst kinds of uncleanliness they could face. In one day, God showed the entire nation to be unclean because of the sins of their past.

The Good news of this judgment is that God gives us warnings. He does not leave us without conscience or concept of law and order and often times He spells out our wrongdoings plain as day. When trying to discern God’s will I have found that while God may be slow to say yes, His “no’s” are very quick and clear. A cruel god would leave us to fend for ourselves. One aspect of the Good News is that God does not expect us to figure it out all on our own.

But there is an even greater Good News. God does does not let wrongs go on forever. He rights them. Jesus Himself had no second thoughts about casting evil spirits out of people. Unlike His contemporaries, Jesus saw these people who often did horrible things as a result of their spiritual oppression, not as criminals, but as sick persons in need of a doctor. This may have inspired the notion that the Church is a hospital for sinners. I’m not completely in favor of that metaphor, but if it is the one we are working with, we need to follow Jesus’ own example and make sure it is a place that people actually get well. Jesus never intended the Church to just be a waiting room. Cures often involve drastic, even traumatic measures. Hospitals do more than hand out little pills. They surgically remove tumors, administer injections, and in extreme cases even amputate limbs and transplant body organs. Hospitals get the bad out and put the good in. So does God.

What good news is God sharing with you today?

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  1. (Mk 3:19b—30; Lk 11:14–23)

The Taskmasters


The Taskmasters

Exodus 5:1–6:13

Bricks without Straw

Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go, so that they may celebrate a festival to me in the wilderness.’ ” But Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should heed him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, and I will not let Israel go.” Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has revealed himself to us; let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness to sacrifice to the Lord our God, or he will fall upon us with pestilence or sword.” But the king of Egypt said to them, “Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their work? Get to your labors!” Pharaoh continued, “Now they are more numerous than the people of the land and yet you want them to stop working!” That same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people, as well as their supervisors, “You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as before; let them go and gather straw for themselves. But you shall require of them the same quantity of bricks as they have made previously; do not diminish it, for they are lazy; that is why they cry, ‘Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.’ Let heavier work be laid on them; then they will labor at it and pay no attention to deceptive words.”

So the taskmasters and the supervisors of the people went out and said to the people, “Thus says Pharaoh, ‘I will not give you straw. Go and get straw yourselves, wherever you can find it; but your work will not be lessened in the least.’ ” So the people scattered throughout the land of Egypt, to gather stubble for straw. The taskmasters were urgent, saying, “Complete your work, the same daily assignment as when you were given straw.” And the supervisors of the Israelites, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, and were asked, “Why did you not finish the required quantity of bricks yesterday and today, as you did before?”

Then the Israelite supervisors came to Pharaoh and cried, “Why do you treat your servants like this? No straw is given to your servants, yet they say to us, ‘Make bricks!’ Look how your servants are beaten! You are unjust to your own people.” He said, “You are lazy, lazy; that is why you say, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.’ Go now, and work; for no straw shall be given you, but you shall still deliver the same number of bricks.” The Israelite supervisors saw that they were in trouble when they were told, “You shall not lessen your daily number of bricks.” As they left Pharaoh, they came upon Moses and Aaron who were waiting to meet them. They said to them, “The Lord look upon you and judge! You have brought us into bad odor with Pharaoh and his officials, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”

Then Moses turned again to the Lord and said, “O Lord, why have you mistreated this people? Why did you ever send me? Since I first came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has mistreated this people, and you have done nothing at all to deliver your people.”

Israel’s Deliverance Assured1

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh: Indeed, by a mighty hand he will let them go; by a mighty hand he will drive them out of his land.”

God also spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name ‘The Lord’ I did not make myself known to them. I also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they resided as aliens. I have also heard the groaning of the Israelites whom the Egyptians are holding as slaves, and I have remembered my covenant. Say therefore to the Israelites, ‘I am the Lord, and I will free you from the burdens of the Egyptians and deliver you from slavery to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my people, and I will be your God. You shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has freed you from the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’ ” Moses told this to the Israelites; but they would not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and their cruel slavery.

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go and tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites go out of his land.” But Moses spoke to the Lord, “The Israelites have not listened to me; how then shall Pharaoh listen to me, poor speaker that I am?” Thus the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, and gave them orders regarding the Israelites and Pharaoh king of Egypt, charging them to free the Israelites from the land of Egypt. “

Revelation 3:7–13

The Message to Philadelphia

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:

These are the words of the holy one, the true one,

who has the key of David,

who opens and no one will shut,

who shuts and no one opens:

“I know your works. Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but are lying—I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word of patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. I am coming soon; hold fast to what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. If you conquer, I will make you a pillar in the temple of my God; you will never go out of it. I will write on you the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem that comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”

Do you ever wonder where your taxes go? Here is one assessment I found based on the 2015 fiscal year.

One of the big differences of opinion in the US, as well as many other nations is the function of taxes. Some perceive taxes as being contracted payments for services rendered, such as military defense, infrastructure, and other services shown above. One question about this perspective has to do with percentage based taxes. If Bill Gates has payed 100 times more taxes than me, should he receive 100 times more service? This may seem a bit of an abstract an impractical way of looking at it when it comes to defending the nation from foreign threats, but what about local ones? Should the rich receive preferential treatment from the local police because it is the rich that pay most of their wages? What about the poor who cannot afford to pay them much, if anything? Should they be protected by the police as well?

Others perceive taxes as a particular duty required to be part of society, sort of like dues owed a union or or subscription to a network. Amazon Prime is a good example of this. For $100/year you get access to movies, music, and free 2-day shipping – an assortment of somewhat unrelated services outside of the connection they have through Amazon.

Still others believe you pay taxes not for present or future services, but out of gratitude for past services and loyalty to leadership. It is also an investment in the future to be sure that leadership can continue. This comes as support for political parties and/or political leaders.

What do these perspectives on taxes have to do with Moses? The fact that in Egypt, during the events of the Exodus, there were multiple perspectives on their slavery and the work they were doing. Remember Moses, who was one of their own, but raised in the palace instead of in the work fields, did not oppose slavery on principle. His initial act of defiance was against the mistreatment of slaves. The Egyptian royalty certainly were in favor of and dependent upon slave labor to varying degrees. But the people we often forget in this story are the middle management… the taskmasters.

One day they’re told to let the slaves go, the next day they’re told to get them back. Then Pharaoh changes his mind and tells them to let the slaves go again… Until the next day… And so on, and so on. With the slaves off work, guess who takes their place? The taskmasters and their families. It is Labor Day in Egypt, and business owners are left doing all the work themselves. The owners are trying to seat people, take orders, cook the food, and collect the bills themselves. You can imagine the chaos this would cause happening across an entire nation over the course of several weeks. This chaos is probably part of how the Hebrews got out so easily and managed to take so many of their positions on the way. Those taskmasters and their families, many of whom were probably guilty of mistreating the Hebrews, suffered through the 10 plagues because of decisions made by their bosses. In the end, they lost their firstborn children because of Pharaoh’s stubbornness, and their unquestioning loyalty following his orders to kill all the Hebrew children decades before.

The message to the Church in Philadelphia was a reminder that, like the Hebrew slaves, God had chosen them to be honored in His kingdom and had noticed their patient perseverance in waiting on Him. God’s favor was not something that could be bought like services through taxes. Nor is it favor earned through loyalty. It is a gift. We cannot earn it, we can only choose if we want to keep it or reject it. We have the choice to go through the doors that God opens for us. God is making all things new, and if we get hung up on the past we will miss out on the great gift He has for us today.Tweet: God is making all things new, and if we get hung up on the past we will miss out on the great gift He has for us today.

Those Egyptian taskmasters were so ingrained into Egyptian society that they could not pull away, repent, turn to God, and be saved. They, like Pharaoh himself, felt they had too much to lose because they did not know what they stood to gain. In the end, they lost it all.

What do you stand to lose by following God?

What do you stand to gain?

Are you trying to manage your life with God or are you trusting him enough to follow where He leads?

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  1. (Ex 3:1–4:17)

The Messenger is the Message


The Messenger is the Message

Exodus 4:10–31

But Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor even now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” Then the Lord said to him, “Who gives speech to mortals? Who makes them mute or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you are to speak.” But he said, “O my Lord, please send someone else.” Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “What of your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he can speak fluently; even now he is coming out to meet you, and when he sees you his heart will be glad. You shall speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I will be with your mouth and with his mouth, and will teach you what you shall do. He indeed shall speak for you to the people; he shall serve as a mouth for you, and you shall serve as God for him. Take in your hand this staff, with which you shall perform the signs.”

Moses Returns to Egypt

Moses went back to his father-in-law Jethro and said to him, “Please let me go back to my kindred in Egypt and see whether they are still living.” And Jethro said to Moses, “Go in peace.” The Lord said to Moses in Midian, “Go back to Egypt; for all those who were seeking your life are dead.” So Moses took his wife and his sons, put them on a donkey, and went back to the land of Egypt; and Moses carried the staff of God in his hand.

And the Lord said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders that I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go. Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord: Israel is my firstborn son. I said to you, “Let my son go that he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; now I will kill your firstborn son.’ ”

On the way, at a place where they spent the night, the Lord met him and tried to kill him. But Zipporah took a flint and cut off her son’s foreskin, and touched Moses’ feet with it, and said, “Truly you are a bridegroom of blood to me!” So he let him alone. It was then she said, “A bridegroom of blood by circumcision.”

The Lord said to Aaron, “Go into the wilderness to meet Moses.” So he went; and he met him at the mountain of God and kissed him. Moses told Aaron all the words of the Lord with which he had sent him, and all the signs with which he had charged him. Then Moses and Aaron went and assembled all the elders of the Israelites. Aaron spoke all the words that the Lord had spoken to Moses, and performed the signs in the sight of the people. The people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had given heed to the Israelites and that he had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.

Revelation 3:1–6

The Message to Sardis

And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars:

“I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God. Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. Yet you have still a few persons in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes; they will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. If you conquer, you will be clothed like them in white robes, and I will not blot your name out of the book of life; I will confess your name before my Father and before his angels. Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”

Marshall McLuhan a genius in the field of media and communicatiotn introduced the phrase “The Medium is the Message” in the 1960’s. Half a century ago, he was already considering the fact that we gather far more info from the context of verbal and written messages than from the messages themselves. This means, by today’s standard we will watch the movie before we read the book, and in some cases we may even judge the book based on the movie.

Another current example is the popularity of audiobooks (for those of us who like to read/listen on the go – see audiobook services here and some sources of free audiobooks here The most popular audiobooks are not necessarily the best written ones. They are the ones who have the best reader by performance and/or fame. Given the choice between Sir Patrick Stewart reading “One Fish, Two Fish” and the Holy Bible read by me, Dr. Seuss would likely win.

God knows we have always been this way… it is not just a new phenomenon. We can trace the gimmicks of persuasion back to Aristotle around 350 B.C., and God has known it. That is why God has always sent his message through other people who knew Him, instead of just writing out his messages in the clouds. It is also why God took such interest in the lives of those messengers. God was not going to let Moses go off to represent the Hebrew people if he and his family were not living according to those standards themselves. It was no different for the first Christians, as John wrote (passing the message along from Jesus) to the Christians in Sardis. It’s hard to share the message of being born again and enjoying new life if you are actually dead inside.

What kind of message are you sending? Is your character clouding your message?Tweet: Is your character clouding your message?

Or maybe you need to ask yourself first:

What is the message that God made you the messenger of?

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