Stay Here

When I was a teen, I took part in an outreach group at my church. We learned extremely important evangelism skills such as balloon animals and street dramas.  We might have talked about how to lead someone to Jesus; I don’t remember. I will say that the balloon animals has come in very handy as a dad. Kids are apparently impressed by a balloon sword or giraffe. That’s right, I’ve got skills.

stay-hereNow as for the drama part, they actually were a great outreach tool. But if you’ve ever been on outreach, you know that the outreach is also an in-reach. It reaches into you. There was one drama in particular that has always stuck with me. It was called “Stay Here.” The premise was that some girl wanted to go out to a party and Jesus tried to tag along. After all, she had asked Jesus to be with her wherever she goes. But she wasn’t having it when it came to him following her to the party. So she tells him to stay here, stay put, don’t follow me. It ends with her nailing him back to the cross to “hang out” until she gets back. Ouch.

This picture has stuck with me throughout my life. Are there places where I go that I intentionally leave Jesus behind? Do I dare continue on my journey without God by my side? Well, in the book of Exodus, God told Moses he wasn’t coming along for the next part of the trip. Moses didn’t think that was such a good idea.

Exodus 33:3, 14  3 “Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”  14 Then Moses said to him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” 

Now I spliced a couple of verses together there, but only for the sake of brevity. Please read the whole chapter so you can see the whole picture. Essentially, Moses asks God to reconsider because he really needs God to be with Him for this to work out. Good call, Moses. Good call.  It was a bold move, because God thought he might kill these terrible people along the way. They might argue loudly in the back seat and God might have to ask them if “they need him to come back there.” Even so, Moses knew that no matter what, having God with them was better than the alternative.


The good news for us is that God doesn’t think He will destroy us along the way. Instead, He redeems us along the way. Because of the work of Jesus, God doesn’t want to kill us. I know that sounds weird, but the truth is that if I had to stand alone on my own merits, I would be condemned. But because I stand under the sacrifice of Jesus, I am made right with God. I am made holy. I am, essentially, perfect in His sight – even though I am far from perfect in my own sight.

The question I have for us today is this: Do we want God with us? I mean, do we really? All the time? Do we desire His presence to be with us in the midst of trial? You bet. But do we desire His presence to be with us when we are about to do something that we know is sin? I hope so. After all, He is the only one who can deliver us from it.


When right things don’t fix wrong things

Genesis 28:8-9 Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac; so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to the wives he already had.

backspaceEveryone messes up.  Sometimes we mess up on accident and sometimes on purpose.  There are those times when we didn’t know any better, but we were still wrong. For example, getting caught going 50mph in a 35 when you never saw the speed limit sign would be a mess up that was on accident.  If you are going 100mph, you are going to have a hard time convincing the officer it was a mistake.  You blew it, just admit it.

Sometimes we think can do something right to fix what was wrong.  And we can fix some of the damage. Other times, however, no amount of fixing will do the job.  You’ve heard the expression that 3 wrongs don’t make a right (which is odd because 3 lefts certainly do).  I would say that in the same way, 3 rights don’t fix a wrong.  A week’s worth of being a good person doesn’t repair a lifetime of poor choices.

Esau had a startling realization: he had married the wrong women.  The word on the street was that his dad didn’t approve of Canaanite women, which apparently he had married.  So in order to remedy the situation, he went out and found an additional wife.  She was a good wife, a good choice, the right kind apparently.  This will make dad proud.  Now I have the right kind of wife.  Just one question, Esau… what about your other wives?  How does marrying one right wife change the fact that you are married to a handful of wrong ones?  Short answer – it doesn’t.

Placing a drop of clean water in contaminated water doesn’t make it drinkable.  Doing one right thing doesn’t negate the 3 previous wrong things.  But many people approach God in this way.  They try to clean up their act before going to Him.  They make a point to be good the day before church.  Maybe He won’t notice all the other days.  We try to so hard, but we need to realize that all these right things don’t fix the wrong things.  There’s just one solution: Jesus. Jesus fixed all the wrong things.  He did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves.   He made right what we had made wrong. He is our saviour, our fixer; He is all that is right.

*Are you trying to fix all your wrong things on your own?  Turn it over to Jesus and let Him make it right.

Can I get a dressing room?

Zechariah 3:3-4  Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”

dressing roomRemember when you were a kid at the department store with your mom?  She found some new clothes that she wanted to try on you.  You were sure you liked them but she wanted to make sure that they fit.  And right there in the middle of JC Penney’s, she starts taking your clothes off.  Mom!!!  Can’t we find a dressing room?  This is embarrassing.  “Just hush. Nobody’s looking.”  Yes, being stripped down in public isn’t the most dignifying of things.

So here in Zechariah 3, he sees a vision of the priest Joshua (Yeshua) being stripped down.  Let me back up a bit.  The scene starts with Satan standing beside Joshua accusing him before God.  Josh is standing there in filthy garments, representing his sin.  And even though the Lord can look right at him and see the filth, he chooses not to condemn.  Rather he chooses to restore.  Right there, in the presence of God, the angel of the Lord strips old Josh down.  No dressing room, no modesty screen, nothing.  There he is, laid bare before the Lord, awaiting the clean garments he is about to receive.  It’s a beautiful picture of God’s grace and redemptive work.

As I read this today, I am struck with the process of God’s restorative work.  We would like to think that God holds a wand that magically swaps our clothes out.  It’s like we stand before Him and “poof” – filthy clothes gone and clean ones on.  It doesn’t work that way, does it?  Removing the filth in our life requires that we take it off.  It’s a choice we must make.  It’s a choice that leads us to standing naked before God.  But if we will make that choice, we will find clean clothes waiting for us.

*Do you have some dirty clothes you need to remove?  Hand them over to God and get dressed in something new.


Full of crap

2 Kings 10:26-27   26 They dragged out the sacred pillar used in the worship of Baal and burned it. 27 They smashed the sacred pillar and wrecked the temple of Baal, converting it into a public toilet, as it remains to this day. 

This is pure awesomeness!  You’ve got to give credit to Jehu.  He was one hardcore dude.  He annihilated the leadership of Israel that was leading them away from God.  Then he tricked all the followers of Baal into attending a massive fake worship service for their fake god.   Once they started to worship, he had them all killed. But he didn’t stop there.  He destroyed the temple.  Now he could have burned it all to the ground, turning it into ashes.  Instead he did something totally creative and unexpected – he turned it into a public restroom.  Now for years and years to come, it would be known that Baal was full of crap.

You know what I like about this?  It’s that he took something horrible, sinful, and wicked… and did something useful with it.  That takes some serious guts.  It takes recognizing that God can redeem just about anything.  Now I know that a public toilet isn’t really all that spiritual, but it is necessary and highly practical. It served the needs of the people.  He took something useless and with God, made it useful.

My whole point in this is that with God, there is nothing and no one unredeemable.  God can take the things of this world and turn them for His glory.  He will take the resources of the wicked and use them to build His kingdom.  He will take people like Saul (Paul) and radically transform his life, his calling, his mission.  And he can transform me, too.  He can take my garbage, my wickedness, my foolishness, and make me into a man who advances His kingdom.  I have this hope today, that neither you nor I are beyond God’s reach.  We are not too far gone to be redeemed.  Have hope today and turn your heart toward the One who redeems.

He never gives up

2 Samuel 14:14 All of us must die eventually. Our lives are like water spilled out on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. But God does not just sweep life away; instead, he devises ways to bring us back when we have been separated from him. (NLT)

Have you ever noticed this about God?  If you read the Old Testament, you will see that God is always finding creative new ways to bring His people back to Him.  It seems as though He won’t give up on humanity.  He continues to pursue us.  He desires to bring us back to Him when we have been separated.

There’s this R & B song that declares, “whatever I said, whatever I did, I didn’t mean it.  I want you back, I want you back for good.”  God’s like that with us, except we are the ones who said and did something wrong.  But He keeps loving us.  He keeps chasing us.   He wants us to know Him and be in relationship with Him.  He doesn’t want to see us cut off, stuck with death as our only option.

That’s why He sent His Son.  It was the ultimate plan to bring us back.  And it is His last and final plan.  Life is found through Jesus; relationship with God comes by Him.  Today, I rejoice in the heart of our God.  He made a way that I could be with Him.  So I will take Him up on that offer today.  I will choose to live my life to the fullest knowing Him and dwelling in all that Christ has offered me.

The fruit of redemption

Ruth 4:13-18   13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. Then he went to her, and the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. 14 The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! 15He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”

16 Then Naomi took the child, laid him in her lap and cared for him. 17 The women living there said, “Naomi has a son.” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.  18 This, then, is the family line of Perez…

Wow. As I read this last chapter this morning, I must admit that I got a little emotional. Here we have the story of two widowed women whose family lines are on the brink of extinction – the ultimate blow to the people of Israel.  God said “be fruitful and multiply” and this is exactly what they did.  There was great pride in a family line, even greater than our pride today.  This picture then is more than just redemption; it is a picture of the fruit of redemption.

This section starts off beautifully: so Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife.  As we have seen the last few days, it is the story of a foreigner who was taken in and treated as family.  It is a picture of us and Christ.  Here in Ruth 4 we have the wedding.  It is the picture of Christ and His bride.  Man, I love redemption stories!  But the part that really got me wasn’t poetic or profound.  Rather it was the last little section where the genealogy is listed.  It starts with these words: This, then, is the family line of Perez.

This is the family line!  Do you get that?  Redemption happened for Ruth, but it carried on for generations to come.  In fact, she became the great-grandmother of David.  David, people.  This is the same David who became the king of Israel, the same David whose lineage eventually led to Jesus, Himself.  And God used Ruth.  He used a foreigner to spark the ancestry of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ.  Her redemption had great fruit!

I marvel at the character and plans of God today.  I am in amazement that he would use a foreigner as part of His plan to redeem all who were far away.  The fruit of her redemption was Jesus.  I know I am getting repetitive here, but this is such an incredible thing. And it leads me to think about the fruit of my redemption.  God has embraced me, too.  He has forgiven me and accepted me and calls me His son.  I want to have fruit to my redemption too.  (I don’t want to get pregnant, however.)  I want His mighty work in me to bear something.  I want it to mean something not just to me, but to those who come after me.

So God, I pray, let the fruit of Your redemption work in me be sweet.  Let it be lasting and let it be pleasing to You.  Thank you for redeeming my life.  Now I give it back to You.  Here I am, Lord, all of me.  I am wholly yours to bear the fruit that will be life to world.