Thursday, June 30, 2016

Jul 1 - TABERNACLE - Exodus 26:1

Make the tabernacle with ten

curtains of finely twisted linen and

blue, purple and scarlet yarn,

with cherubim woven into

them by a skilled worker.

Exodus 26:1


God is holy.


We are not.


Nothing in Scripture (or really in life) makes sense until we understand this first principle.


Here, though, is the second key principle:


God is holy and we are not.

Nevertheless, God wants to be with us!


And that’s basically what the rest of the book of Exodus is about! (The journey to the Promised Land will still take three more books – Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – but much of the rest of the book of Exodus is God describing his dwelling place when he comes to dwell among the Israelites.)


Indeed, in Exodus 25 God starts talking to Moses about what that dwelling place – the Tabernacle – should look like. Now, the Tabernacle was, in simplest terms, a big tent. And God described – in explicit detail – its size, shape, fabrics, and furnishings. He described who could enter into which portions of the tabernacle, and he described what they (especially the priests) should be wearing when they did.  In great detail, God described what should occur within the tabernacle over the course days and weeks and months and seasons; most especially the Lord detailed the specific sacrifices that should happen … and on what schedule.


Reading much of the second half of Exodus, it’s easy to get lost in all of the details – height vs. width, clean vs. unclean, gold vs. bronze, Aaronic priests vs. Levites. If you want to get caught up in the glorious details (including the love and prefiguring) of the Tabernacle, I urge you to study Beth Moore’s A Woman’s Heart: God’s Dwelling Place. (Hint: It’s not just for women!)


Today, however, we’re not going to get caught up in the details. We’re going to focus on the big picture: God wants to be with us, to dwell with us. And since he’s holy (and we’re not), he sets the conditions for His holiness dwelling with our imperfection. But … God wants to be with us. He wants to dwell with us.


Say that again and again (about fifty times) and then read the greatest fulfillment of God’s heart and God’s intent. At the beginning of the Gospel – John 1:1,14 – we are told that … “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word (Jesus) was with God, and the Word was God. … and the Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt (literally “made his tabernacle”) among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”


Now, apply the truth of those first two key principles – the ones that explain all of Scripture (and really all of life) -- to the purpose of Jesus’ coming to earth …


God is holy and we are not.

Nevertheless, God wants to be with us!


Jesus is “God with us” (that’s the literal meaning of “Emmanuel.”) And why did he come to “tabernacle among us”? Since God is holy and we’re not, he came so that he could take the penalty of our unholiness (sin) upon himself and thus make us “holy and blameless” (Eph 5:27) so that we might enter eternally into his presence.


(I’ll be you didn’t know that a bunch of chapters about fabrics and furnishing, tents and tabernacles, were part of the key to understanding the whole Bible! But that’s God for you. It all ties together!)


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who went

pop-up-tabernacling recently

(Mary Louise and I went camping

in our pop-up camper)




Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Jun 30 - ESCALATION - Exodus 20:28

28 If an ox gores

a man or woman to death,

the ox is to be stoned to death, 

and its meat must not be eaten.

But the owner of the bull

will not be held responsible.

Exodus 20


How many commandments are there? 10?


No. 613! (Some as big and small as the one that is our verse for today.)


613! That’s a lot. Why so many? It’s because we keep looking for clarification … and loopholes. For example, it’s apparently not enough for God to say, “Thou shalt not kill.” Rather, he has to further define it. So just a few verses before today’s verse, God commands:


23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”


Now, some people look at “an eye for an eye”  as barbaric, harsh, and utterly antiquated. (It is. After all, Jesus said, Matthew 5:38 You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[h]39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.) Nevertheless, at the time, this was a wise, compassionate, and limiting law. Limiting is the key word. Why? Because sinful people escalate things. For example, if you killed my ox, might I get so angry that I’d fight and kill you? (Read the headlines over the weekend. How many fights escalated to: “A man was killed in North Charlotte after a fight at the So-and-so Apartment Complex.”) Sinful people need limits. If a person kills your ox, they should pay you back, and let’s have it stop there, alright?!


Now, if our theme is freedom, here’s the point: We are slaves to sin. We sin all the time. We hurt others … and they hurt us. Life is messy. Like two year olds, we push at boundaries, we look for loopholes, we excuse questionable behavior. Other people’s sin harms us. And our own sin, if it doesn’t outright harm us, continually cheapens us.


We are slaves to sin … and we are its victims. Freedom comes when we quit doing things our way, and trust God enough to do things his way. Breaking a bad habit or addiction is freeing. Forgiving a trespasser is healing – usually to us even more than them. God gave us laws so we could be free – free from the harm others do to us, and free from the cheapening and the harm that we do to others.


Are you free enough to obey?


Indeed, what do you need to stop … in order to discover more freedom?


In Christ’s Name,

a guy who used to play

a chocolate chip cookie

for a chocolate chip cookie

whenever his little brothers

nabbed what I decided was mine!

(And do you think I ever

escalated it from there?)



Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Jun 29 - DELIGHT IN LAW - Exodus 20:13-17

13 Thou shalt not kill.

14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.

15 Thou shalt not steal.

16 Thou shalt not bear false witness

against thy neighbour.

17 Thou shalt not covet

thy neighbour's house,

thou shalt not covet

thy neighbour's wife,

nor his manservant,

nor his maidservant,

nor his ox, nor his ass, nor

any thing that is thy neighbour's.

Exodus 20


We’re on an Exodus journey from bondage in our own Egypts to freedom in God’s Promised Land for each of us. Our theme, therefore, is freedom.


And the question is … How do commandments six through ten set us free?


It happens in two ways. First, I’m more free when people aren’t trying to kill me or steal my stuff or seduce my wife. When the world obeys the commandments, we’re all more peace, happy, and free!


But what is the freedom that comes when you and I personally follow the commandments. What, indeed, is the freedom that obedience brings?


When God gives a commandment, he’s showing us a path of life. My life isn’t better only when no one is killing me, it’s better when I live in a way that killing (or hatred, anger, bitterness, and revenge) are not in my heart.


·         Hatred robs me of love.

·         Anger robs of me peace.

·         Bitterness robs me of hope.

·         Covetousness robs me of gratitude.

·         False witness chains me to lies and the father of lies.

·         Adultery robs me of a future filled with unity, trust, love, and family blessings.


Yes, my life is better when I live in a way that sin is not ruling my heart. Indeed, my life is better when I choose God’s path to freedom!


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who loves the

second verse in the Psalms:

“Happy are those who …

delight in the law of the Lord”

Psalm 1:2






Monday, June 27, 2016

June 28 - HONOR - Exodus 20:12

12 Honor your father and your mother,

so that your days may be long in the land

that the Lord your God is giving you.

Exodus 20


Have you ever seen a painting of Moses carrying the Ten Commandments down the mountain? How many tablets does he have? Two, right? Why (besides “it tells us so”)? It’s because there’s two kinds of commandments.


·         The first set of commandments deal with our relationship with God – no other gods, no false idols, don’t take God’s name in vain, and remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.

·         The second set of commandments deal with our relationship with humans – no murdering, stealing, coveting, or bearing false witness, etc.


Part of that “etc.” is today’s commandment. Most commands deal with people generically – don’t murder anybody or steal from anyone – but today’s command deals with two specific people: our parents!


“Honor your father and mother” is the first of these human-to-human relational commands. It’s also the only command with a promise or a blessing attached to it – “so that your days may be long in the land.”


Why do you think that this commandment comes with this promise? I think it’s because honoring our parents trains us to be respectful to proper authority.


Our parents are in a positon of authority over us. When we’re little and they can scoop us up in one arm, their authority comes from their relative power (over our tiny little selves). As we grow older, their authority comes more and more from influence. But here’s God’s point in this command: Will you respect the authority that you can see?


This is important! If we are rebellious and willfully choose not to follow the authorities that we can see (like our parents), how will we ever trust, follow, respect, and obey an authority that we cannot see (like God).


Wait, I know that some parents aren’t totally respectable. We all sin and fall short. Therefore, we must respect what is respectable and honor what is honorable. But God is always and eternally respectable! And the point remains: If we are rebellious and willfully choose not to follow the authorities that we can see (like our parents), how will we ever trust, follow, respect, and obey an authority that we cannot see (like God).


I believe the reason that God gave this command – and the promise attached to it – is because if we learn to respect the authorities that we can see, then we will learn to trust and follow God. And if we honor and obey God, then we will live long in the land.


God is promising his provision to those who choose to be his children.


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who keeps learning

how to be a better son


July Prayer Time - How can we pray?

How can we pray for you

and your family this month?

Saturday is prayer time.

Come anytime Saturday morning

and find a place to pray … around

an 11am wedding!


Saturday, June 25, 2016

June 25-26 - SABBATH - Exodus 20:7-11

You shall not make

wrongful use of the name

of the Lord your God …

Remember the sabbath day,

and keep it holy. 

Six days you shall labor

and do all your work. 

10 But the seventh day is a

sabbath to the Lord your God … 

11 For in six days the Lord 

made heaven and earth …

but rested the seventh day

Exodus 20


What do the third and fourth commandments tell us about freedom?


Well, it starts with a perspective: God creates! Our Lord is the creator. He is the provider. He is the author of life. And the first question is: Do you trust in him?


The second question is: Do you trust in him enough to quit working for a day each week? Do you trust that six days work is enough? Do you believe that you’ll still be fed if you take a Sabbath? That’s what the Israelites had to decide when God would feed them with manna.


Can I trust God enough to take just enough for today? Can I trust that the Lord will provide a double portion on the day before the Sabbath? Can I trust? Do I trust? Will I stake my absolute life on it?


Those who embrace the Sabbath find that it is freeing. God does provide … and in the meantime they rest, they enjoy family, and … they deepen their trust.


Have you ever done a trust fall? You close your eyes fall backward into the arms of some friends. It’s a little freaky to let yourself go that fully. There’s a point at which the body wants to catch itself. But something powerful happens as you let yourself go and finally make contact with the waiting arms: Trust Blossoms.


That’s the Sabbath principle. For most Americans, it’s a little freaky to cease doing, to let yourself go that fully. There’s a point at which the do-er in you wants to grab control back. But something powerful happens as you let yourself go and depend on God’s provision rather than your machinations: Trust Blossoms!


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who remembers

the Nestea Plunge

(It’s time to do a Nestea impression

and fall freely into God’s Sabbath)








Thursday, June 23, 2016

June 24 - ANSWERS - Exodus 20:4

You shall not make

for yourself an idol

Exodus 20


Yesterday, we talked about idolatry. And that includes mental idolatry – creating images in our minds about what we think God ought to be.


With that in mind, I googled the phrase, “I can’t believe in a God who …”


Let me list a few – in fact, the first three I found -- and then let me tell you how to understand them from a Christian point of view!


·         I Can’t Believe in a God Who Lets Innocent People Die.

·         I Can’t Believe in a God Who Lets People Suffer.

·         I can't believe in a God who would Send People to Hell.


First, God doesn’t send people to hell!!! That statement is trump card that people often try to play – How could a loving God let people rot in hell?! This leads people to several alternative conclusions, like “I reject God and the Bible because he’s obviously mean and cruel” or “Since I believe in the loving passages about God, I, therefore, reject the existence of hell.”


Here’s the answer: God doesn’t send people to hell! He invites people to heaven! God is light and life. He is love and forgiveness. He is grace and peace, power and hope. It is by his gift and pleasure that we live. And without him, our natural trajectory is death. And death is, by definition, hell. It is a separation from light, life, love, peace, and power.


From the beginning of time, God warned people that if they separated from him (sin), they would die. It’s the natural and inevitable consequence of sin. Indeed, if God is the creator, then pushing the animating force of all creation away from us (sin) is us robbing ourselves of life. It separates us from God. It creates hell.


That’s not God’s plan!


In fact, he loves us so much that he risked everything – including his own Son – to get us to choose life rather than death, heaven rather than hell. He’s a gentleman. He won’t force this decision. But God doesn’t send anyone to hell! He invites us to heaven.


Suffering, especially the suffering of the innocent, is a next objection. First, let’s admit that suffering is real. It is painful, horrible, and often grotesque. And if our hope is in earth, if this world is all there is, then I can understand why people would say, “I reject God and the Bible because a good god could never create so much pain.” Many, therefore, reject God. And indeed, it’s often those who have suffered who are angriest at God.


But here’s the mental shift … What if earth – especially an earth ruled by brokenness, sin, betrayal, greed, and death – is not God’s plan?! If we say that this is all there is, then it is sad and hopeless … and God may indeed be cruel. But what happens when we change lanes, shift mindsets, look up, and think more eternally? What happens when we realize that God has come to redeem this world? Do you believe that sin breaks things and causes suffering? And do you believe that God instead promises us a future with no more mourning or crying or pain and with death being no more (see Rev 21)?


Jesus said, “In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Did you see the lane change? Will you adopt the mind shift? God is good. He does not desire suffering! Indeed, he chose to suffer so that we could be eternally free of suffering. And therefore he stretched out (and continually stretches out) his arms. “Come to me all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.”


In Christ’s Love,

a guy whose testimony

involves a mind-shift

(I always told God who God

Had to be based on my priorities,

my philosophies, my politics,

my worldview, my selfish desires,

and when I finally let God be God,

I was suddenly joyful and free)


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

June 23 - IDOLATRY - Exodus 20:4-5

You shall not make for yourself

an idol, whether in the form of

anything that is in heaven above,

or that is on the earth beneath,

or that is in the water under the earth. 

You shall not bow down to them

or worship them

Exodus 20


When times are tough, I’ll bet you don’t have a golden calf on your mantle that you turn to in prayer. I’ll bet you don’t bow down to trees. And if you were talented enough to carve a beautiful statue of Jesus, I’ll bet you wouldn’t worship the wooden statue (instead of the living Lord)!


Therefore, most of us would say, “The second commandment really doesn’t apply to me.”


Well, if you’d ever thought that, you’d be wrong!


For one, I grew up in an age when people were all the time saying, “Well, the God I worship would never do ________.” And then they fill in that blank that something that sounds so wise and humanistic … yet contradicts a basic Biblical truth (that they didn’t like). Have you ever done that? See a list of examples of these statements – with answers – tomorrow.


Well, what is that doing? This person is painting a mental picture of God in their brain and choosing to worship an image of “god” that contradicts the revelation of scripture.




That’s one form of idolatry.


There’s another … The most basic form of idolatry is any false priority that battles with God for influence in our hearts and minds. And being human, we fall victim to this all of the time.


My wife led a Bible Study once on idols. The group was full of moms. I don’t know about your house, but my home would fall apart without mom’s attention to detail! That’s a mom trait. It’s a helpful blessing in most families. Yet that good trait puts moms at risk. Indeed, most of the women in that group concluded that “control” was their biggest idol. This phenomenally faithful group of women absolutely believed in their minds that God was in control … but they acted constantly as if it all depended on them!


How about you? Which modern idols do you (accidentally) bow to? Money? Possessions? Bigger, better, newer? Entertainment? Distraction? Religion? (You can worship the practice of a “good religion” rather than worshiping God himself.) False religions and superstitions? Job and salary? Rules and legalism? Worry and fear? Self? Pride? Insecurity? Reliance on politics? Living vicariously through our kids?


Idolatry – false worship – is very important to understand. It is one of the root enslavements that expresses itself in hundreds of enslaving symptoms. Indeed, most of the things listed above are symptoms! The root enslavement is trusting ______ (self, the world, human answers, and possessions) more than God.


That’s the wake-up call behind the second commandment. And what’s the method of healing? The first commandment! God first! Trust him. (It’s very simple, and yet very hard for us humans.)


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who’s occasionally

an idle idolator

(but wants to be a

glorious glorifier instead)









Tuesday, June 21, 2016

June 22 - MENTAL SHIFT - Exodus 20:3

19:20 When the Lord 

descended upon Mount Sinai,

to the top of the mountain,

the Lord summoned Moses

to the top of the mountain,

and Moses went up.

20:1  Then God spoke all these words:

you shall have no other gods

before me.

Exodus 19 & 20


For weeks I’ve talked about the pattern of freedom: 1) realize that we’re in freedom, 2) cry out to God, and 3) follow the deliverer. Wait! Most of us would like to stop there. “Shouldn’t it be like waving a magic wand? I’ve got Jesus. I’m instantaneously free from all bondage.”


Now, some freedoms do happen as quick as that! “Because Jesus forgiveness my sin, my heart is absolutely free! I’m no longer enslaved to guilt and shame!” It’s a mental shift. (And we’ll talk more about that in a minute.)


But to reach freedom – most of the time – we have to walk it out!


With God’s help, the journey could last as little as eleven days. (That’s how long it was from Mt. Sinai/Horeb to the edge of the Promised Land – see Deuteronomy 1:2.) But we still have to walk! We have to do our part! We have to stop certain behaviors. We have to adopt God’s principles and follow his laws. We have to forgive. Yes, we have to walk it out! Thus, step four at the end of the list above is “4) Journey with God.”


So what does that journey look like?

On other days, we’ll talk about other signposts and steps to freedom. Today’s verse – the first commandment – invites us, however, to talk about Step 3. This third step is “changing lanes.” It is the mental shift that I mentioned above.

The Apostle Paul talks about this transformation shift like this: And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes] (Amplified Translation of Romans 12:2).

In the first commandment – today’s verse – God calls us to make a mental shift! We are commanded to have no other gods or priorities before him. Freedom does not come from the world’s way of doing things … it has nothing to do with what you or I want to do … and it’s certainly not about our thought and opinions (especially when we compare how limited they are compared to the mind of God). No! Freedom comes when we shift our thinking and follow God instead of human ways.


That indeed is why God gives this first commandment! He doesn’t need your love or your praise! (Yes, he deserves it and delights in it. But, he doesn’t need it.) Therefore, this commandment isn’t about him. Rather, the first commandment is about you.


Without God, we are “dead, doomed forever because of your many sins” (Eph 2:1). Without the forgiveness, light, and grace of Jesus our Deliverer, we are in bondage to doubt and despair. Therefore God says, “Prioritize me first. Put nothing else before me, and you’ll discover provision, truth, and hope. Trust in my character, and you’ll experience peace, love, and joy. Follow my ways, and you’ll find the path to freedom.”


It takes a mental shift. We’re bent in such a way that we want what we want. But with God’s help, we can untangle our hearts and straighten the journey to joy. And the quickest way to accelerate this blessing is to trust God’s ways (including his commandments), because when we put nothing between us and him, then blessings begin to flow.


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who accelerated

when he changed lanes

Monday, June 20, 2016

June 20/21 - ENSLAVEMENTS - Exodus 20:2

I am the Lord your God,

who brought you

out of the land of Egypt,

out of the house of slavery

Exodus 20:2


Yesterday I announced our theme for fall: Freedom!


Look at the list above. I wrote down the first 125 things that I could think of that average people are in bondage to. And then as soon as I printed it, 50 more enslaving events and attitudes leapt to mind!


I heard a few people say: “Wow, when I look at that list, I get really depressed.”


But I loved the woman who came out and said instead, “Wow, when I look at that list, I see how many things God has set me free from!”


Do you see the mental shift? (And I will continue to make this point …) Yes, we are easily enslaved, but God’s greatest desire is to set us free!


Wait … notice the verb: “God desires.” Spiritual freedom, emotional health, and transforming joy is God’s absolute desire for each of us.


And yet if that’s the case, why aren’t we all free?


It’s because God is a gentleman. He allows us to choose our own paths! Freewill means that we can choose God’s way (which leads to freedom) … or worldly, selfish, human ways (which foolishly, willfully, stubbornly, sinfully keep leading to mess in us and around us). God’s way brings freedom, hope, light, and joy. Indeed, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor 3:17). But how many of us haven’t yielded our full hearts to the Spirit. We do things our own way, and we keep getting worldly results.


Deuteronomy 1:2 tells us that it could have been an 11 day journey from Mt. Sinai to edge to the Jordan and the Promised Land. It took them forty years! The point? How many of us wander aimlessly for years and years too – whining, complaining, and playing the victim.


·         When we choose unforgiveness, we’re choosing a life of bitterness and despair.

·         When we choose worldly priorities (idolatry), we’re refusing to be blessed by kingdom principles.

·         When we place our own personal logic on the throne of our heart (another form of idolatry – self-idolatry), we’re actively choosing to not be blessed by God’s wisdom.

·         When we choose not to follow God’s commands, we’re choosing the negative consequences that we reap.

·         When we pridefully choose to do things our own way, we consistently get human results rather than experiencing the power of God.  

·         And then we blame God for discouragement, guilt, meaninglessness, consequences, and despair that we kept choosing.


Dear friends in Christ, God desires to set you free!


Indeed, God desires for you to say like my friend, “Wow, when I look at that list, I see how many things God has set me free from!”


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who is the anti-Santa

(Instead of making a list

and checking it twice,

I’m checking things off my list

by the power of God!)