Red Sea Crossing, Part 2

The Exodus, and in particular the account of how God rescued the Israelites at the Red Sea is a prime example of how the Old Testament is a foretaste of things to come in the New Testament. As I read chapter 14 of Exodus, I see that this is a truly desperate situation. Facing the people is the sea; Pharoah and his army are pursing them from behind. They are trapped and cannot save themselves. Moses understands that they must rely completely on God. He tells them:

“Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today … The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Exodus 14:13-14

God is in complete control. He not only directs Moses, He hardens the heart of Pharoah and repositions the pillar of fire and the angel. He drives the sea back so that the Israelites can cross on dry land and the returns it to its normal course, destroying the Egyptians.

This is not only an event involving water, it is a watershed event! It is one of those moments when history is changed forever. The Israelites never forgot their rescue, commemorating it every year in the Passover celebration.

As individual Christians, our baptism is a similar watershed event. Through water and the Word of God, we too are rescued. Just as God defeated Pharoah through the water of the Red Sea, in the water of our baptism, God defeats the world, the flesh and the devil. Like the Israelites, we are no longer condemned to a life of slavery; we are new creations, united with Christ and promised eternal life with God. Whether we are baptized as an infant or an adult, it is the grace of God alone that finds us and saves us, the crux of faith as summed up by Paul:

“For by grace you have been saved by faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

More to come tomorrow ….

For more about baptism see these posts:

United with Christ in our Baptism

Baptism, A New Beginning

The Freedom of Baptism

Exodus Chapter 3–What Stands Out

Recently, as part of my daily Bible reading plan (Plan to Read the Bible), I’ve been studying the book of Exodus. Here’s what stood out for me in Chapter 3:

“… I know their sufferings” Exodus 3:7b

I don’t know about you, but if there’s one thing I like even less than suffering, it’s admitting that I’m suffering. That may come in part, from being raised in a family that was pretty stoic. The attitude was, “don’t complain, just get on with what you need to do.” My grandparents survived the depression, and life was pretty hard for them. They didn’t want to hear whining about things or circumstances that weren’t life threatening. Then there’s the part of me that doesn’t like to admit to suffering because it makes me look (and feel) weak. I should be able to handle whatever life throws at me. Sometimes I even tell myself that keeping my suffering to myself is what I’m called to do as a Christian. What kind of example am I if I let life get me down? Christians are supposed to be joyful, aren’t they?

Well, there’s probably some truth in all of these ideas, but I do suffer and so does everyone else. I sometimes suffer from anxiety or feel depressed. I suffer from physical discomforts as I age. I suffer from disappointment when things don’t turn out the way I hoped they would. I suffer when others don’t seem to appreciate me. Most of the time, I try to ignore my suffering because I don’t think anyone else really wants to hear about it. They have problems of their own.

This verse tells me there is someone who cares, and already knows every little ache and pain, whether it involves my body or my heart. God knows my suffering, and the verse goes on to say,

“I have come down to deliver them.” Exodus 3:8

During the time of the Exodus, He sent Moses. For us, He sent His own son, Jesus. We don’t have to suffer alone. So, if you’re suffering, turn to the One who already knows and who has compassion on our weakness. God is always waiting to hear our prayers and ease our suffering.

For another posts about suffering see:

Suffer Strong by Katherine & Jay Wolf–Book Review

Exodus Chapter 1–What Stands Out

I’m continuing my Bible Reading Plan for the year ( Plan to Read the Bible ) by reading the book of Exodus and the book of Romans. It’s important to read the Bible as history, and as theology, but also to see how it applies to our own lives, here and now. The verse that stuck out for me in the first chapter of Exodus is this one:

“Then Joseph died, and all his brothers and all that generation.” Exodus 1:6

A generational change occurred. The chapter goes on to explain that the Pharoah who knew Joseph also died, and the new ruler began oppressing the people of Israel. Times were hard.

I’m at a similar point in my life. My husband and I each lost a sibling this year, as well as a couple of dear friends. We are now the “old folks” of the family, and our cohort is dying off. We see changes in our culture that are disturbing and unsettling. Technology is a boon in some cases, but our privacy is compromised, and we are increasingly dependent upon our machines, and on the products that are necessary to build and maintain them. Conflict seems to be an increasing fact of life. Racial conflict, political conflict, religious conflict. We worry about what will happen in the coming years and how our children and grandchildren will cope. It won’t be the same world we grew up in and lived in.

It’s important when I begin to feel this way to remember the message of Exodus, and the entire Bible for that matter. God is still in control. He led the people of Israel out of their slavery in Egypt and established them in a new land. He had a plan, even when they couldn’t see it.

God still has a plan for His people, the Body of Christ, the Church. Changes may be coming. Persecution may be coming. The Christian view of the world may be rejected by many. But we don’t need to fear because as Jesus promised Peter:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” Matthew 16:17

Take heart. Our generation my pass away, but the Church and the work we have done for God will not. He will make a way–through the sea, through the desert, through our messy world.

For more about the Bible study see:

Interactive Bible Study-Hebrews Chapter 13

What Do You Study?

The CSB Study Bible for Women – Book Review

Martin Luther on the Sabbath

                                                                                                                                            “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”  Exodus 20:8

The spiritual rest which God especially intends in this commandment is that we not only cease from our labor and trade but much more-that we let God alone work in us and that in all our powers do we do nothing of our own”

Martin Luther

For other quotes by Martin Luther see these posts:

Martin Luther on Resting In The Lord

Martin Luther on the Resurrection

A Thought From Martin Luther

Family Faith

I wrote this article for our denomination’s publication, The Lutheran Ambassador.  It appeared in this month’s issue (February 2019) and I thought I would also share it here.  It deals with passing the faith on to our children.

People need structure.  It gives a sense of security and a framework on which to build and base daily life.  God knew this, and so from the very beginning, He  blessed humankind with a rhythm of life that would shape our relationship with Him.

“… God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all his work which he had done in creation.”  Genesis 2:3

A little later, this becomes one of the Ten Commandments:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God.” Exodus 20:8-10a

When our children were young, Sunday Services were simply a fixture of life.  Sometimes we didn’t feel like getting up; sometimes our daughters were cranky, or somebody didn’t feel so well; sometimes the weather was nasty; still we went, week after week, year after year.  What did our children (and now our grandchild) gain from this dogged persistence? The world might say, not much…. a meaningless ritual!  I beg to disagree and here are a few of my observations.

First of all, they came to understand that God is important, and so is His body, the Church.  The things of faith are not kept in a separate compartment, to be brought out on holidays or special occasions.  They are part of the ebb and flow of daily life.

Through the weekly liturgy, our children internalized the basics of the Christian faith.  They memorized the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed, as well as many passages from the Scripture which we recited or sang every Sunday.  They learned that we need to confess, repent, pray and give thanks regularly.  They learned that our monetary offering gives back to God a small part of what He’s already given to us. I remember hearing our daughters and our nephew “play church” as they sang parts of the service together.

Sunday services also walked us together through the seasons of the church year and the life of Christ.  There were joyous times and sad times, times to reflect and times to anticipate.  Each season had its’ own particular music and rituals. Advent meant lighting the advent candles and singing “O Come, O Come, Emanuel”, Lent was the time when flowers on the altar disappeared and songs became somber (“Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”)  Easter brought lilies and “Christ the Lord Has Risen Today” along with flowering the cross (made from the church Christmas tree) which had stood, plain and empty in the sanctuary until Easter morning.

To be continued …..

Good Leaders Accept Help

“O, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and tongue….please send someone else.”  Exodus 4:10 & 13

Moses, probably the greatest leader in the Old Testament recognized his limitations.  He admitted that he was not good at everything.  He asked God to remove the burden of leadership from him.  Instead, God directs him to a helper, someone with the gift he lacks.

“Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite?  I know that he can speak well. … He shall speak for you to the people, and he shall be your mouth …” Exodus 4:14-15

Later on, Moses encounters a different problem — time management.  As leader, he is dealing with so many small problems, he can’t get to the bigger ones.  This time, it is his father-in-law, Jethro who gives the advice to delegate.

“Look for able men from all he people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe;  and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.  And let them judge the people at all times.  Every great matter they shall decide themselves.  So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.”  Exodus 18:21-22

Likewise, in the book of Acts, the twelve apostles found they could not meet all the needs of the growing church.  Some widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food.

“Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

We can’t expect our leaders to go it alone.  Good leaders recognize the spiritual gifts of others and they learn to delegate and train.  Maybe the greatest talent of good leaders is to recognize and cultivate the skills of the people around them.

I can see this in my own life.  Leadership is not my strongest spiritual gift, but I have found myself in situations when I am called to lead.  When this happens I know that I need someone with the gift of administration as a strong #2 — I see the goal, but not always the steps that need to be taken to get there.  I also need people with the gift of service — the ones who can just see a task that needs doing, and jump it to take care of it.  For me, leadership is all about assembling the right team–a group who can work together and accomplish great things.

What about you?  What can you do well, and what do you need to delegate?  I’ll be writing more about this in an upcoming post on spiritual gifts.


What Is It?

“And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground.  When the people of Israel saw it, the said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was.  And Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.'”  Exodus 16:13-15

Did you know that the actual translation of the word manna is “what is it?”  After escaping from slavery the Israelites needed food, which God provided. However,  they weren’t too excited with what they got.  They longed for the familiar food of Egypt —

“Oh that we had meat to eat!  We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.  But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”  Numbers 11:4-6

Aren’t we often the same?  God was not only providing for his children, He was teaching them to depend upon Him in a new and challenging situation.  Often when this happens in our own lives, we also long for the way things used to be, even if they weren’t so great.  Instead of being thankful for what we have and moving forward into the future God planned for us, we whine and try to backtrack.  I did this after I retired.  I didn’t really intend to retire at 62, but my work environment became increasingly stressful.  My husband encouraged me to go ahead and leave;  we would manage.  So I did and then set about finding another job!  After many applications and interviews, I got the job of my dreams — working in a library,  Guess what, almost right away I sensed this wasn’t what God had in mind for the rest of my life.  He wanted me to go off in a new direction, not be satisfied with a different version of the old.

So here I am, a blogger.  Who could have imagined it!  Like the Israelites, I could say, “What is this?”  Really, God?  This is so completely different from anything I ever tried before.  Yet it fills and nourishes me, day after day.  God knows best — we just have to try the food He’s given us, even when we’re not sure what it is.