James 3:1-12 The Steering of Our Lives

Daniel Burton
by Daniel Burton

It is fascinating how something so small can have such a tremendous effect.  The tongue and the words we speak are an incredible guide for how we put on the full display of the Gospel in our lives.  The way we address people, things, and discuss our situations can guide and steer our whole outlook and worldview.  Even worse, it can reveal the treasonous nature inside of ourselves.  The same mouth that produces praise for God also produces the same foul hatred and despair for others and the world around us.  Clearly, the tongue, with its great potential to speak life also carries with it an undeniable temptation to tear down.

 

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‘Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.  Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.  Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind,  but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.  Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?  My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

James 3:1-12, NIV

The Potential for Language

As James begins discussing how to live out our faith with out works, he delves into the specifics of what we say.  For some, he idea behind language is relatively innocuous.  “It’s only words!” the skeptic would proclaim while simultaneously forgetting the tears and the pain caused by the insults of our youth.  James, however, paints a different picture.  Words, however small they may appear, have great impact.  In using the metaphors of the bit in the horses mouth and the rudder on the large ship, we get a feel for the sheer unreserved power of words.  They reserve for themselves an unrelenting power and force to direct and guide even the strongest of animals and the greatest of transportive achievements of the day. It was by words that existence was brought into existence and this same authority has been given to each of us.  We have, within our words, the ability to speak life into a person, or whole heartedly remove it.

The Problem of Inconsistencies

The inconsistencies of our speech reveal a much deeper issue.  At no point in Jame’s discussion of language is he referring to anything external.  While the effect that our words have on others is undeniable, the deeper issue, as with most things, stems from the heart.  The relationship between heart and words is an odd symbiosis of each one effecting the other.  Whatever is in our hearts will be expressed and whatever is expressed is reinforced in our hearts.  Thus, when we see inconsistencies in our speech, we can easily pinpoint the turmoil deep within our soul.  Something is deeply out of place and misguided.  A heart fully surrendered to God will produce the speech of God.  Ultimately, just as fresh water and salt water cannot peacefully coexist, our speech must give way to the language of God.  In doing so, our hearts will be shaped and renewed through the desire God invigorates inside of us to speak whatever is pleasing and good.

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And He Shall Be Called: Prince of Peace

Daniel Burton
by Daniel Burton

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6, NIV

People often mistake peace for concession.  There is this mistake idea that peace means just not fighting with one another that if the actions are somehow stifled but the bitterness and anger that resides in a persons hearts will deteriorate.  Or that by being “nice” the spiritual forces that plague this world will be satiated and unable to make any attack.  This is not peace but rather complacency.  Isaiah describes the coming of the Prince of Peace, a figure who would usher in the true and everlasting peace.  While the people of Israel went from exile to oppressive rule, there would be the coming of one who would establish peace throughout the world.  This Prince of Peace would be the Messiah.

Prince of Peace

Jesus is the Messiah that the prophet Isaiah spoke of long before His arrival and fulfills the role as the Prince of Peace.  Within Jesus is this dual identity of both being a full reigning sovereign and an approachable man.  While King’s rule over their land, one of their main tasks is to protect the citizens and maintain peace throughout the land. Jesus, being a reigning sovereign, is no stranger to this task.  Peace guided God to take the form of man in order to restore the right relationship between them.  When man allowed sin and chaos to enter into perfection, Christ came to restore the peace between the people.  The King had come and fought hard for the peace that is without end.

Representing the King

As Isaiah depicts the coming Messiah as the Prince, there are a couple connotations that come with the wording that Isaiah uses.  Isaiah’s use of Prince reveals the royal nature that the Messiah possesses.  He is in the line of royal lineage.   There is honor due to a King and this honor would extend to all who are in the King’s family.  Furthermore, the use of “Prince” also carries the understanding that this person is sent as an envoy or representative of the throne.  While away from the throne room, the same rights, dignity, and power would be due to this King.

Jesus, as our Prince of Peace, does not scoff at the people but greets them on their level for their safety and protection. Click To Tweet

Jesus is representing the throne room of heaven.  He has descended to the lower regions of our world in order to bring the power and authority that comes from God.  He is God in the flesh and He speaks with the authority of the King of Kings.  Yet, He is not unapproachable as with most common monarchs throughout history.  Jesus, as our Prince of Peace, does not scoff at the people but greets them on their level for their safety and protection.  When enemies attack, they do not attack the common man but the ruler of all dominions.  Jesus greets us warmly bringing with Him the grace to know God in a personal relationship and protects us from all attacks of the enemy.

Peace Coming to The World

Make no mistake, we are in the midst of war.  There are spiritual forces of good and evil that are earnestly vying for control of our lives on a daily basis.  Satan, along with the demons on dark spiritual forces will stop at nothing to see the world tear itself apart in war, disease, and destruction until everything has been obliterated.   The Messiah, though, is profoundly different.  Peace is the goal and this peace would be achieved by any means.  Where the enemy sought to destroy and kill, the Messiah seeks to restore the right standing relationship between God and man.

Where the enemy sought to destroy and kill, the Messiah seeks to restore the right standing relationship between God and man. Click To Tweet

Jesus is bringing peace to the world and this peace, while hard fought, will last through out all eternity. At the beginning of creation, God and man walked in harmony and peace with one another in the garden of Eden.  As sin was introduced, that connection was severed between the two.  When Christ came and when he returns, Jesus will bring that peace with Him.  The assault on our eternal security will be vanquished and we will receive peace.  It is the hand of God that gives us peace and it is the hand of God that returns us to our right standing with Him.

This is His Advent.  He is our Prince of Peace.

 

Nobody Special 024: Christmas Claymations and Star Wars The Last Jedi

The boys of Nobody Special give their fan theories on Star Wars the Last Jedi. And things get a little wild. And gross. Also, we look at the Christmas traditions and movies we all know and love. That is, unless you have to watch them over and over. We can all admit that Christmas Claymations were weird but they were beloved childhood memories.

Also, we look at the origin of who Saint Nicholaus was and how he morphed into the version he is now. We ask the question everyone wants to know, “Can we punch a heretic?”

Recommend this show to your friends. Spoiler free Star Wars… can’t beat that.

The Gospel Outpost Presents Nobody Special.

 

 



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Exodus Week 4: God Redeems His People

Daniel Burton
by Daniel Burton

A great deal has happened since Exodus 6.  During that time, the tension between Moses and Pharaoh had grown exponentially.  As we pick up the story in chapter 11, the people of Egypt have endured nine different plagues sent by God. For some of these plagues, Pharaoh’s sorcerers were able to somewhat approximate their effects.  Yet, much like the staff turning into a snake, their works never produced the same strength and power as the plagues brought down by the one, true God.  Yet, for all of these plagues, the Israelites had been spared.  The plagues had wreaked havoc over Egypt, punishing their source of water, their food, and their livelihood.  The Israelites, however, prospered and were protected during this time.  Pharaoh noticed.

Eventually, even Pharaoh’s sorcerers were unable to reproduce the acts of a Great and Mighty God and with the plague of the boils, they were unable to stand before Moses in an attempt to counteract what was happening (Exodus 9:11).  At every step, God had shown Himself to be the True God who reigns over inferior man-made gods and egotistical monarchs keeping people in suppression.  The people of Egypt were hurting and dying and Pharaoh had brought this hurt upon them.

A few times, Pharaoh did consider letting the people of Israel go.  They were given permission to leave so that the plagues would end.  Yet, each time, at the last minute, Pharaoh had rescinded the offer.  Each time Pharaoh’s heart had hardened, being unwilling to yield his power or submit to any authority.  For a King who thinks himself to be a god, submitting to authority would only be seen as weakness.  After nine plagues and multiple offers for the Israelites to leave freely, Pharaoh’s heard was still hard.  This was nothing short of war and Pharaoh sought to destroy the people of God and show that Pharaoh reigns supreme.  It would take a large act of God to gain the attention of Pharaoh.

Which brings us to the final plague.  This one was different.  As the time of the plague of the death of the first born drew near, the instructions to Israel were different than before.  They were told to prepare and pack their bags. This night would be different than the others as the Israelites would be making a swift departure from their Egyptian slave owners.  No longer would they bow under the oppressive regime and in their preparation, there was not even time to properly allow bread the time to rise.  This would be a hasty move.  God had spoken to Moses to prepare the Israelites for what was coming next.  They were going to leave.

The final plague would be one that would run its course throughout Egypt.  The Angel of Death would go through and take the firstborn child of every household.  The only way this punishment could be remitted was through a sacrifice of a perfect lamb.  The people were given strict criteria for selecting the lamb and how to properly consume the animal who had given its life for theirs.  Then, when it was complete, the Israelites were to smear the blood on their doorpost as a sign that blood had already been spilled at that house and death had already taken a life for the sins of the people.  Redemption would come to the Israelites in the form of an innocent lamb slaughtered for their salvation.

Saved By The Blood of the Lamb

At the core of punishment for sin is the idea of blood.  The aspect of blood is often overlooked by many circles of Christianity.  Not because we don’t believe the importance of the spilling of blood, but because it puts the consequences of our sin on full display.  Sin requires that blood must be spilled and a life must be taken.  For a Holy God, no imperfection can bear to stand before God.  Thus, any imperfection cannot stand before the Lord of Life and must be dealt with severely.  Sins have deathly consequences for all who indulge them.

With the sacrifices of the Old Testament, especially here in Exodus 12, the idea of the impartation of sins to something or someone else is crucial to our understanding the work of Jesus Christ.  The lamb that was selected by the Israelites was to be flawless.  It would then be invited into the home and become part of the family.  They would get attached to the animal.  Then, they would have to slaughter the animal and consume it in its entirety.  The life of the lamb would not go in vain.  By placing the hands on the lamb, the sins of the people were imparted to the lamb as a propitiation of sins.  Further, by the spilling of its blood, the consequences of the sins were paid.

This is the basis for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.  In Hebrews, it is clear that “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4, NIV). For however obedient the people were to the commands of God, the idea of a lamb, being part of a fallen world, could be pure of its own volition simply does not stand.  There would need to be a perfect sacrifice that would settle the matter of sin once and for all.  Only Jesus, our true Passover lamb, could suffice for the remission of sins.

This is why the Israelites were not immune from the requirements of spreading the blood of the lamb over their doorpost.  The final plague was fundamentally different.  This was the enactment of punishment for the sins of the people.  The Israelites were as guilty of sin as the Egyptians. They had doubted the words of God, ignored the words and heeds of His prophet Moses and, in general, could not claim they had been 100% pure in all their doings.  The consequence for sins, regardless of who the commits the sin, is death.  However, by the grace of God, the Israelites were able to be redeemed by the blood of the lamb.  God had provided a way for their salvation and safety.

Leaving The Old Behind

As the Israelites were instructed, they were to remove all of the yeast from their homes.  During that day, yeast did not come prepackaged as we understand it to now.  To put leaven in bread was accomplished by taking a portion of the previous dough that had been saved and mixing it with the new dough.  This would allow the fermentation process to begin in the new dough, highly influenced by the previous days baking. The old influence carried over to the new bread.

Within the Israelite’s instructions for the Feast of Unleavened Bread were the instructions that no yeast could even be found in the house.  For the Israelites, this meant that they would be taking no Egyptian influence with them.  They were a free people who were being released from their slavery and bondage to depart in faith where God was sending them.  Not allow the bread the time to rise was symbolic of the Israelite’s swift departure by the hand of God, but also of their new start.  They were removing the influence of Egyptian and the yoke of slavery they heavily bore and were turning to the redemption that comes from God.

When a person turns TO something, it simultaneously involves turning FROM something else.  Thus, for those who follow Jesus Christ, you can turn TO Jesus but it will come at the expense of turning from your old life.  The lifestyle of sin and seeking personal pleasure and fulfillment is incompatible with following God.  Yet, as most people are able to attest, leaving behind the sins we so dearly crave is difficult.  The familiar can feel more comfortable than the unknown.  Even if the familiar is painful, people have a tendency to hold to it until God provides guarantees.  This stands in contrast to faith.

While I am sure this is relatable to most people, this idea of clinging to our sins and desires, it must be seen in the context of what is happening.  For the Israelites, the unleavened bread was a reminder that the left Egypt because they were oppressed as slaves and that they should not wish to return under that yoke of slavery (a foreshadowing of Exodus 16:3).  For us, it is a reminder to not return to our lifestyle of sin which held us captive and slaves, leading only to our destruction.  Sin works like leaven, it seeps into the more hidden corners until it grows and spreads throughout.  It is the old influence of our former lives.  In being born again and redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, we remove the influence of sin in our lives and deal with it wherever it may show up in our culture.  Just as the Israelites swept their houses of any leaven, we too search our hearts and sweep out the influence of sin.

The redemption of God is comprehensive.  God seeks to save His people from the rightful punishment by placing their sins upon the lamb and sets His people up on the foundation of righteousness and holiness.  He removes us from our old life and sets us on the path of our future.  Furthermore, God does these things faithfully.  The desire is not that we should perish but that we would have the opportunity to come to the fullness of life that He has set apart for us.  God seeks our redemption out of the great and immense love for His people.

Discussion Questions

Read Exodus 12

  1. What do the various reactions of Pharaoh reveal about his character and intentions towards the Israelites? Why would he continue to allow the plagues to reign down on Egypt?
  2. What does the blood of the lambs on the doorpost symbolize? What are the consequences of the blood of the lamb?  Why does this portion of the plagues apply to the Israelites as well?
  3. What parallels do you see between the Passover lamb and what Jesus Christ did on the cross?
  4. Why did the Israelites have to be included in the “plague” of the Passover of the first born?
  5. How does not including the yeast from other bread demonstrate the redemption of the Israelites from Egypt? What does the leaven symbolize?
  6. What are some of the sins that we as a culture hold tight to? Why can it be difficult to let go of the things that once held us captive?
  7. Describe the new life that Jesus is guiding us towards. What are the promises of God?  How does this compare with the things we try to hold tightly?

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This article original appeared here for Redeemer Church in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. 

Redeemer Church is located in Ponte Vedra, FL where you can come as you are to be amongst family and learn about Jesus. Redeemer is constantly learning together and we’re passionate about the spiritual journey God is guiding us through. Redeemer lives and breathes to reach people in our community and see the promise of God’s redemptive love fulfilled in their lives. Check out their website at http://www.redeemerpv.com

James 2:14-26 A Faith Expressed

Daniel Burton
by Daniel Burton

This passage in the book of James is one of the main thrusts of this particular epistles and contains one of the most hotly contested views and interpretations in scripture.  It looks at the relationship between the things we say we believe and the actions we do as a result of it that has led some to believe that James espouses a “works righteousness.”  Our relationship with Chirst is transformative in that it seeps into every creavase of our being. While the bible does contain many commandments for the Christian to follow, this is not the point.  The point of the Gospel is that we are saved and transformed by the power of God and guided towards a new way of living. If we believe that Jesus Christ came and died for our sins then we understand that He is offering us a new and transformed life.  Our faith goes beyond mere knowledge and straight to expressing that same belief.

Download The Discussion Guide: James 2:14-26

‘What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.  You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless ?  Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?  You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.  And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”  and he was called God’s friend.  You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction?  As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.’

James 2:14-26, NIV

More Than Knowledge

James makes it abundantly clear that knowledge or belief is not what saves a person.  We can believe all the right things and still not necessarily be saved. James cites that demons know the identity of God but that their fate is sealed.  We are saved by faith, that much is clear throughout the whole of the bible and not disputed.  James adds the idea that faith must be expressed.  Similarly, knowing the plan of a diet will not produce weight loss, however, living out what you have learned will.  We can understand the intricacies of our faith, but if we truly believe that Christ is transformative to our very core, we will be changed by our relationship with Him.

More Than Not Sinning

The reductionist takes the concept of right living and reduces it to simply “not sinning.”  Yet, it is of note here that James is not referring to sin here.  James is referring to helping the poor and those in need.  Morally speaking, a person is under no obligation to provide grace to another.  Obligation would make it not grace but law.  Yet, these opportunities reveal what has occurred in our heart.  When the transformative grace of Jesus Christ takes over, we become renewed by that same grace.  Things we were under no obligation to do, like help those in need, are things we cannot help but do.  All of this is not to earn our salvation but is a response of our salvation.  We have been changed by grace and show that grace to those around us.

Download The Discussion Guide: James 2:14-26

Check out the rest of the Series on James by Clicking Here and post pictures of your bible study on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

And He Shall Be Called: Everlasting Father

Daniel Burton
by Daniel Burton

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6, NIV

Conceptually, the idea that Jesus Christ is an Eternal Father is difficult to grasp.  Myself, I am limited by the confines of time and exist in the moments that God permits me to exist.  Jesus, however, was not created on that night in a manager, He has always been. This idea of God being beyond time can be difficult to understand which only speaks to the fullness of God.  While coming in the form of an infant, Jesus is our Everlasting Father.  He is the source of life for all eternity and has guided us as a father does His children.

Everlasting Father

Isaiah strives to ensure the reign of God is not only established by the Might of God but also depicts the length of His reign.  There is a temporal and eternal aspect of God in describing Him as both everlasting and Father.  With these two words alone, there is no question as to what Isaiah is saying.  Jesus reigns has been inaugurated from the beginning of time and will continue into eternity.  Christ is the progenitor of all life and by Him all things have come into being.  He is the order and the guide for all creation and He rules His people with the love and care that would spring forth from a father.  He is our Everlasting Father.

Long Live The King

As the prophet Isaiah lists the names of the coming Messiah (whom we now know to be Jesus) Isaiah describes Him as Everlasting. The idea of Jesus being everlasting sets into effect the reign of the King.  He will continue to reign throughout the course of human history.  Furthermore, the word choice implies a span that exceeds the very nature of time itself.  At no point was there a time when Jesus was not.  He is ever lasting extending out in both directions of time.  Nothing is able, has ever been able, or will ever be able to overthrow and exterminate our King.  Jesus is the ageless one who reigns forever more.

There is no gamble with Christ, only an eternal guarantee of relationship with our divine Father. Click To Tweet

While this may be conceptually difficult for our limited minds to understand, it should serve as a source of hope.  We put our hope in Jesus Christ in faith.  The future, for us, is not yet and thus we believe in faith.  With every issue of faith, there is the fear that we do not have all the information.  From the perspective of God, spoken through the prophets, this faith in God is no gamble.  Faith in the work of Jesus Christ is a guarantee. He will continue to exert His reign over all of time and His victory is secured. We can put our hope in Him simply because He has already achieved every victory that needs to be achieved.  There is no gamble with Christ, only an eternal guarantee of relationship with our divine Father.

The Progenitor of Creator

As the Hebrew uses the word for Father, there are a couple of contexts in which Father is understood. First is the one we all go to, someone’s immediate male parent.  This is the person who guides, protects, and provides for their child.  Yet, there is also this connotation where Father means origin.  Our life stems from our father but on a broader scale, all life stems from the one true Father.  It is likely that Isaiah intended a mix of both meanings. Christ cares for us as one would members of their own family. He was willing to lay down His life for our sake. Yet, He is also the source of all life. From Him all creation sprang forth and through Him, all things will find their rebirth and restoration.

Christ is our divine caretaker looking out for our own good. A father protects, loves, and provides at all times. Jesus Christ is the same. Click To Tweet

We understand that God is our perfect Father. Christ is our divine caretaker looking out for our own good. A father protects, loves, and provides at all times. Jesus Christ is the same. Where the world sought our own destruction, Jesus came to our salvation. Furthermore, He has been doing so since before time began. Jesus came as our eternal father to provide us with the life and salvation. By grace, we all have the ability to receive salvation. Through Him, through the ageless provided, we have our hope and provision.

This is His Advent.  He is our Everlasting Father.

Exodus Week 3: God Glorifies Himself

Daniel Burton
by Daniel Burton

You would expect that by this time, Moses would not revert back to the excuses he had already given to God.

Sadly, you would be wrong.

Having heard from God directly, having encountered Him miraculously, Moses reverted to the same excuses that he had given before.  His fear of speaking before Pharaoh and even the Israelites was rooted in deep seeded insecurity based on his speech deficiencies.  Scholars have argued that it was either some form of speech impediment or, rather, just an inability or nervousness in speaking in front of people.  Whatever the reason, Moses feared that the people would not listen to him and, in fact, that they were already not listening to him.   But God and Moses were passed this and had dealt with it during their encounter previously.  Events were beginning to unfold quickly and now was the time for decisive action, not insecurity and doubt.

Before God dealt with Pharaoh, God would have to first deal with Moses. God had selected Moses to be His representation to Pharaoh and to His people.  There was no changing this.  But in this moment, despite reassurance after reassurance, Moses still had a doubt as to whether he was able to accomplish the task before him.  Viewing his physical and temporary limitations, he forgot that the very hand of God had guided him from place to place and forgot who had called him to begin with.  He lost faith in the one who called and equipped Him.  God could have been harsh with Moses but instead chose to gently restore Moses.  The harshness was reserved for Pharaoh, who would stand against Him.  God shared the plan of what would occur from the details of what to say and do, to the larger plan and promise that the people who were once slaves would be free.  This would not be their end or their demise but was instead the first step in their redemption.  God would be glorified and His people would be saved by that same means.

Yet, the irony of all of this was plainly stated to Moses.  “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet.” (Exodus 7:1, NIV).  God was not in the process of making Moses like a God to Pharaoh, but had already done so as God is speaking in the present not in the future.  Pharaoh took the meetings with Moses and Aaron because he viewed their threat to his power as legitimate.  If Moses had been no one, he probably would not have made it through the front door.  While Pharaoh may not have bowed to God’s authority, he did, at a minimum, understand that Moses represented a true threat to Pharaoh’s power.  God even sought to prep Moses for the inevitable show down with Pharaoh, giving Aaron to Moses to speak on his behalf, as Moses spoke on God’s behalf.  This was the moment that Pharaoh would resist the Lord and this was the moment that God would be glorified in His might and power.

God is Greater Than All Others

After a bit of nudging from God, the show down between Moses and Pharaoh had come to a head.  This would be the moment where the conflict between the two entities would become clear.  Both sides would be unwilling to relent until they had been fully gloried.  For God, the issue was one of ensuring the safety of His people while putting the fullness of His glory on display.  There was only one, true God.  All others were imposters and imitators who were unable to stand fully.  Thus, the first task was a display of the power of God.  Per God’s instructions, Moses commanded Aaron to throw down his staff and in doing so, the staff turned into a snake before their very eyes.

Pharaoh, never one to be outdone, summoned his wise men and sorcerers to perform the miracle that Aaron had done.  While reading this the first time, you almost get the expectation that their staff would clamber to the ground in an anticlimactic let down.  This preconceived notion is that they would attempt and fail.  Yet, it is important to note, they didn’t.  They were able to summon snakes from their staff.  Whether it was sorcery or trickery, the snakes did appear and they were actually there.  In number, they were more numerous than the ones that Aaron was able to summon.  Yet, for all of the number advantage they held, the sorcerers were defeated as Aaron’s snake devoured the others whole.  The display of spiritual reign and sovereignty was clear.  God had been victorious over the whims of sorcerers and the hand of God was stronger.

When squared off with the greatest the world can offer, our God will reign victorious. Always.  While we do not discount the spiritual realm as a real factor, we must never forget that our God reigns supreme.  There is no power greater than God and no threat that can stand up to the supreme power of the one true King.  Just as the snakes the sorcerers were able to summon were swallowed by Aaron’s snake, any spiritual attack, when compared to the strength and might of God will be swallowed up immediately.  There is no withstanding a God who is a conqueror over all.  The dark spiritual forces at work in this world should never be ignored or denied but they should not be feared either. As the attacks come, we rush into the arms of our glorified King.  When we put our faith and hope in the salvation that comes from God, we have the protection of a God who glorifies Himself for the sake of His people.

Our Role As Representatives of God

Moses was not qualified for the job, a thought that Moses does not allow to go unstated for long.  He was not the person you would immediately think of when looking for someone to speak before royalty and those who viewed themselves as the incarnation of Egyptian Gods, as Pharaoh did.  Moses was sheepish, slow to speak, brash, and tainted by his past.  Yet, this is the person God called.  At this point, God describes Moses as “[having been made] like a God to Pharaoh and [his] brother Aaron will be [his] prophet.” (Exodus 7:1). For all his flaws, Moses was called by God to display His glory.

It was the lack of qualifications that put the fullness of the glory of God on display.  Through the weakness of Moses, God was able to move and show His strength and might to an obstinate monarch.  Weakness is not deterrent for an omnipotent God.  Thus, as God commands Moses to do things, Moses could stand in full confidence that they would be done.  After all, God would be the one doing them, not Moses.

In the same way, we all have our weakness.  We all have limitations and hindrances that we feel make us unqualified for the ministry of God to the world.  We all at times, feel unqualified for the calling we have received.  Furthermore, this feeling is entirely accurate.  We cannot for a moment begin to think that we have earned our good status with God or that we deserve to be a part of His mission.  It is a honor and a privledge to be called by God but the mission is bigger than us all.  A God sized calling can only be completed by a God sized entity.  If we attempt to complete the work given to us on our own, we will fail.  It is only when we rely on the strength of God to do what he says to do and say what he says to say that our calling is completed.  God is glorified in the world through our incessant reliance upon Him.  When the world sees us operating, even out of our own weakness, the testimony of the power and might of God will bring Him all the glory.  After all, God would be the one doing the works, not ourselves.

In that sense, we will become like God to the world and the hand of God reaches through ours.  As people made in the image of God, we bear the honor and the responsibility of representing our Creator.  In taking on the mission that God has set before us, we all represent God to the world which desperately needs to hear the Gospel.  When we speak the words God has given us to speak, we speak with God’s authority.  It is no longer us speaking, but Christ who speaks through us.  Whatever limitations we fear we have are irrelevant as it is God who selects and empowers the ones He calls.  God has called us to engage in His mission.  Our calling is to put on full display the God whose glory shines through us, even in our imperfections.

Discussion Questions

Read Exodus 6:28-7:24

  1. Throughout chapter 7, how did God reveal his full glory? What signs did God show to display his sovereignty and Kingship over all forces, both spiritual and physical?
  2. What hindrances did Moses believe he had in regard to what God had called him to do? How did God respond to these hindrances?
  3. Explains the phrase “I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet.” What is the significance of this verse? Immediately following this, what instruction does God give to Moses?
  4. When have you needed the reminder that God is sovereign over every aspect of your life? What issues were challenging your faith?  How did God respond to you in that moment?
  5. Part of representing God to the world means we give an accurate representation. Where have you found it to be the most challenging to represent God?  Why is this difficult? How can we support one another in displaying the image of God?
  6. What limitations do you think you have with your calling? How can the glory of God be shown through these limitations?
  7. What encouragement do you see in the fact that there is no qualification to serve or even approach God? How does this strengthen our faith in God’s saving grace and in His Gospel being told throughout human history?

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This article original appeared here for Redeemer Church in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. 

Redeemer Church is located in Ponte Vedra, FL where you can come as you are to be amongst family and learn about Jesus. Redeemer is constantly learning together and we’re passionate about the spiritual journey God is guiding us through. Redeemer lives and breathes to reach people in our community and see the promise of God’s redemptive love fulfilled in their lives. Check out their website at http://www.redeemerpv.com

When The World Hurts Around Us

Daniel Burton
by Daniel Burton

We live in a fallen and broken world.  That much, I think we can all agree.  If you pay attention long enough to those around you (something you should definitely do), you will encounter a person who is hurting.  For some, it will be the sting of disappointment over lost dreams and ideals.  For other, broken friendships and strained relationships with family will send a person spiraling down into pain.  The one we will all face at one point or another is death.  Everyone will lose someone or know someone who has died and this time remains a trying time for all involved.  This is a time of mourning, certainly, but Jesus does not depart in these moments.

‘Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. Nevertheless, the one who receives instruction in the word should share all good things with their instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:1-10, NIV

Paul, as he writes to the church in Galatia, quickly describes the nitty gritty of what living out the faith looks like.  When someone is caught in a sin, or burdened by the weight of this fallen world, the christian should uphold each other.  For those of the faith, we should be willing to stand with our brother and sister.  For those who have not yet found Christ, we should be willing to show them the hope and restoration that comes from Jesus Christ.  Think for a moment the last time that you sincerely needed another person.  Often times we know what is needed because we have needed it at some time.

The Need to Stand With One Another

When those around us hurt and seem to be broken, it is our faith lived out that immediately moves to stand with that person.  Pastor Tim Keller spoke on Galatians 6 at The Gospel Coalition conference in April of 2017 and summed up this ideal perfectly, “You can never help somebody with some of that person’s burden falling on you.”  The truth of this is that helping others will cost you.  Whether it be money, time, or talents, bearing someone’s burden means picking up the burden but to a lesser extent than the full burden.  It is spread out over multiple people.  This is why the body of Christ acting in unity with one another is so crucial to the spiritual and emotional health of the body of each other.

 “‘There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. “For whom am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?” This too is meaningless— a miserable business! Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:8-12, NIV

Every one of us will endure a time when we need someone to stand with us.  Furthermore, every one of us will be in a time when we can stand with one another.  Jesus Christ, before we were able to even approach Him due to our sin and sickness, made the first step. Likewise, when we see the hurting of other people, regardless of whether they supported us in the past or whether they have earned it, we should reach out to the hurting and broken of mankind.  This is how we show the love that God has for us in how we display that love to others.

How Should We Respond

In a practical sense, however, while this is sublimely easy to talk about, can be exceedingly difficult to practically do.  The issue in this, and in a great deal of many issues of faith, is we are striving to make the intangible tangible and the other worldly something that can be experienced.  The goal is to show the hope that comes from Jesus Christ alone to the person who is in need and to display the love that God has for them.  Love is the supreme salve for the hurts of mankind and Jesus Christ is our ultimate healer.  To bear the burdens with one another, means that we would show them the love of God in their most trying and difficult time.

We serve a God who through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross satisfied the demands of justice while making a way for the salvation of those who needed it the most. Click To Tweet

One of the biggest things that a person can give is their time.  Sometimes the act of simply being willing to walk with a person through a trying and difficult time is enough.  Furthermore, we are walking them through a difficult time. We may wish that it was a sprint but the truth is that we are walking.  Sometimes slowly.  Healing take times and must be endured through with a delicate strength and softness.  But neither should we cease to move.  We are still walking.  The encouragement we can give to someone is to keep moving.  Times will be difficult but we will not wallow in our pain but walk through it until we reach the other side.  We walk with them and share the strength with one another all while pushing closer and closer to Jesus Christ in the process.

Talk It Out

Read Galatians 6:1-10, NIV and Ecclesiastes 4:8-12, NIV

  1. What does it mean to be burdened?  What are the kind of burdens you and others like you face?
  2. How does Paul connect our faith with supporting someone who is burdened?
  3. Why do we resist the idea of bearing someone else’s burdens?  How come this tends to be a particular scary notion?
  4. What things will you have to give up in order to stand with someone who is hurting?
  5. Name a few practical things that you can do to support someone who is walking through a particularly difficult season.  When you were hurting, what were you looking for the most?  What reassurances did you need?
  6. What effect can supporting someone through their burdens have on that person and on you?  How does this display the fullness of God and reveal our faith?

And He Shall Be Called: Mighty God

Daniel Burton
by Daniel Burton

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6, NIV

With the current popularity of superhero movies and stories, now is one of the best times gain a grasp on the principle of our God being a Mighty God.  Our God is a wonderful counselor, that much is certain.  However, the Prophet Isaiah also describes the coming Messiah as being a mighty God.  Throughout the stories are men and women stumbling into god-like abilities and attempting to live with their newfound skills.  They wrestle with their own desires and flaws while simultaneously experiencing power all while attempting to grasp the concept of being mighty and being gods.  This, however, is not something that God wrestles with.  The incarnation was not an act of weakness to become man, but instead is an act of strength and might.

He Will Be Called Mighty God

Strength and might are not something to be scoffed at.  Nor at they things that need to be displayed in a braggadocios manner.  True strength does not need to prove itself and nothing is truly beneath it.  Strength is not “too good” for a certain place or activity but neither does it feel the need to reassure its presence through multiple and numerous loud assertions.  For Jesus Christ and His coming, Jesus displayed His might.  While being fully God, He lowered himself and became man, a concept many other religious scoff at.  Yet the reason for this is clear.  He was coming to save His people and declaring war against the forces of darkness and evil.

Fighting For His People

As the prophet Isaiah is describing the coming Messiah as “mighty,” Isaiah does so understanding the full weight of His words.  This might is not might in the abstract or as a construct.  Instead, the might of God is displayed by His ability to fight for His people.  The word that Isaiah uses describes the Might of a Warrior, not simply just a man of strong internal fortitude.  We can easily glaze over this quality in our understanding of Jesus Christ being born as an infant and get the understanding that the babe Jesus was helpless.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Jesus had come to fight.  Yet, he was not fighting people or governments, but spiritual forces of darkness that had continually oppressed the people of God.

Jesus came to fight for the people of God and to win the battle that mankind could not. This is the scene of the birth of Jesus Christ. God had become man and sought the friendship of mankind. Click To Tweet

The Mighty God that Isaiah talked about so long ago had invaded well behind enemy lines.  The objective, and the core of the Gospel, is simple; save humanity from their sins.  Make a way for sinners to be freed from their sins and defeat the forces of darkness, Satan, and evil.  In the immediate sense, Mary gave birth to a baby Jesus in the confines of a manger.  Yet, even though this scene is tender, is the birth of a warrior.  Jesus came to fight for the people of God and to win the battle that mankind could not.  This is the scene of the birth of Jesus Christ.  God had become man and sought the friendship of mankind.

A Divine Friend

God desires our friendship.  Yet, this must always be understood in the context of the full person of God.  The idea of the “buddy Jesus” misses the point of God.  It leans heavily into the understanding that God calls us His friends but elevates us to the point of equality with Him and reduces God to the level of drinking buddy.  The relationship is merely two pals hanging out.  While not inherently wrong, the divinity of God suffers at this point.  We are friends of God, but our God is the Highest ruler and supreme King.  For however close we may get to God, we cannot forget the person we are standing before.  God is seated in the throne room of heaven and is bidding us to come be in relationship with Him.

The God who is seated in heaven is the same God who fights vigorously for His people and welcomes them into relationship with Him. Click To Tweet

The God who is seated in heaven is the same God who fights vigorously for His people and welcomes them into relationship with Him.  We bow before Him, worshipping Him in adoration.  In our worship, God welcomes us as His friend.  It is the love of a Savior that desires to be in relationship with those He rules.  This is the heart of Christ’s coming.  Punishing mankind would have been a part of Jesus’ Divine right.  Yet, rather than allow the people to perish, Jesus became God incarnate in flesh to bridge the gap that mankind had made.  Through the coming of Jesus, God began approachable for those who sought Him, not by their own works, but by the Mighty God who accomplishes all things and fights for His people.

This is His Advent.  He is our Mighty God.

Nobody Special 023: Manhood By Two Men Who Love Musicals

This week the boys of Nobody Special recall what they are thankful for since they horrible missed it during the actual Thanksgiving week.  Then things get a little crazy as they try everything they can to not talk about the increasing accounts of sexual harassment.  With the revelations about Al Franken, Matt Later, and many others, Caleb and Danny look into what it means to be a man of God.

In a world where people pursue power and influence over integrity, it is time for the men of God to rise up, hold each other accountable, and be men of God.  We look at the common struggles, temptations, and solutions to walking in integrity.

The Gospel Outpost Presents, Nobody Special

 

 

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