covenant

I can be a word nerd.

Sometimes it gets uber ridiculous, especially when I am studying God’s word. I have no education in Greek and Hebrew language, but when I am reading the Bible I get stuck on single words and have this crazy desire to know what the original language’s intent was when written.

Micah 6:8 brings us to one of many verses where prophets are calling out the people on how they have broken the covenant with God. They haven’t held up their end of the agreement. Several years ago I discovered something rather unique about Micah 6:8. Here’s the translation we hear most often:

“He has shown you, oh man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” [Micah 6:8 NIV]

For believers who are passionate about justice and seeing God’s Kingdom here on earth, there is a lot to cling to in these loaded words.

Act justly.

Love mercy.

Walk humbly with God.

Who can argue those instructions?

I fell in love with this verse even more when I discovered the original Hebrew intent for the word ‘mercy.’

Unfailing love, loyal love, devotion, kindness, often based on a prior relationship, especially a covenant relationship.

Take a minute to let that soak in…

We are not talking about loving the type of mercy that you have pity for another person. We are talking about a covenant relationship built on loyalty, love…kindness.

As God creates conversations around me about how to engage this world with Gospel intentionally it always comes back to pouring into the relationships around you every day. It’s not a mission trip for a week. It’s not just taking cookies to the new neighbors when they arrive in the neighborhood. It’s not about checking off the Jesus box for the week.

It IS about loyalty to those around you and sticking it out when life is completely shitty.

It IS about the covenant relationship. The loyalty and love that explodes when God creates friendships, family and community. A covenant relationship is not surface, and the sacrifice and commitment it takes for that type of relationship is hard work. It’s hard trusting someone enough to allow them beneath all of our complicated layers…but once we do, the genuine community that develops is Kingdom igniting. All bets are off and God is going to do crazy, insane things.

It IS about unfailing, unconditional love. The type of love that lives in the grit of our lives and doesn’t go running the opposite direction when it gets even dirtier. The type of love that sees redemption and transformation through sin, and doesn’t get stuck in the measurement of sin.

Love mercy.

I live for the day that we take seriously the things God says throughout the entire Bible and the Holy Spirit in this world.

I live for the day the sacred covenant in relationships springs forth a deep genuine love for one another.

I live for the day others look at my life and can visibly see the respect, commitment, loyal love and devotion I have to the relationships God has placed in my life.

I live for the day my life reflects the character of Jesus while choosing to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with my God.

And for all you word nerds out there, check out these verses where ‘mercy’ is translated the same as Micah 6:8…Psalm 5:7, Hosea 6:6, Micah 7:18, Micah 7:20, and Zechariah 7:9. I really, really love the Zechariah verse.

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jesus

‘Who do you say I am?’

Jesus asked his disciples this in Matthew 16:15, and since it came on my radar last weekend I cannot get it to stop playing on a loop in my head. Jesus asked the disciples in Matthew 16:13, ‘Who do people say the son of man is?’ and they go on to list what everyone else is saying about Jesus. Then Jesus turns it back on them and makes it a bit more personal.

‘But what about you?’ Jesus asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’

Peter immediately answers, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’

There is so much in that simple statement. Fulfillment of prophecy, the Trinity…hope…life…

When the disciples were left on their own to propel the stories of Jesus out from that place, there was a moment when they were faced with the decision of being who God has created them to be and fully accept who Jesus is, or turn the opposite direction and forfeit life in God’s Kingdom and the eternal life promised.

When we choose to pursue life in God’s Kingdom, we find ourselves in unique positions to answer Jesus’ question to the disciples.

‘Who do you say I am?’

This question has been annoyingly consistent at running on a loop in my head, I even challenged my community to mull it over…you know, just so I’m not annoyed alone. I hate doing things alone, which is why I love community so much.

Jesus is community. He gathered a group of friends, walked through life with them and drew people in with genuine kindness and never treated someone differently based on the wrongs they had done in their life. He calls us to the same…to gather and walk through life with a group of friends in such an authentic way that others are drawn to what they see in the community God has given us. We gather to be honest, loyal, supportive, faithful and actually, to completely call each other out on our shit when we need it. And for the moments when that happens in a setting of genuine community and relationship under the model Jesus laid out in Matthew 18:15-20, then we are able to work through that together as believers should when their community is built on the perfect Cornerstone, Jesus himself. Life with Jesus is 100% inclusive and 0% exclusive, I realize that is redundant, but more people need to live their life with the 0% exclusive mandate. We do not judge sin. We do not judge the level of belief a person professes. If we are not a visible image of who Jesus is, then how is anyone being drawn to the intimacy of his Kingdom? When we present ourselves as judgmental, exclusive, rule-driven, hateful and disloyal to each other…that is NOT the image of Christ.

Jesus is love. Unstoppable love to be more accurate. Unrelenting. Pursuing. Intimate love. Personal to who you are. His love will never leave, and you could never do anything to make his love separate from you. His love will never force guilt on you in order to be worthy of it. It is never dependent on how much good you do. It flows out of him like a colander. You could never plug all of the holes quick enough to make it stop flowing. Even in your anger and you don’t want Jesus or his love anymore, he doesn’t stop it from pouring over you. His love is perfect, and actually drives out fear. His love covers me constantly, and is at times so tangible that I am overwhelmed at my true unworthiness at receiving it. But I am so grateful for those moments and intimate reminders that I belong to him. He chose me.

Jesus is healer. I think it is hard to recognize Jesus’ healing without having experienced it firsthand. That incredible miracle of healing on body, mind, and soul…healing on every aspect of who we are as humans is so supernatural it is completely incomprehensible. It’s not just the incredible miracles that we read in the Bible, but how individualized it is to us as his daughter or son. Chipping away at protective walls we spent a lot of time fortifying, yet so tender, because he wants to use us through the walls we’ve built.

Jesus is peace. He is the peace. Your peace. My peace. Complete peace. It takes on so many different meanings in scripture. In 2 Chronicles 14 is means to be at rest and free from conflict. In Ephesians 2:14, more like tranquility, harmony and reconciling relationships. The most important part is that Jesus says he left his peace with YOU in John 14:27. Jesus knew he wasn’t bringing physical peace to this world, but he did know his peace would be left with those in this world.

Jesus is Savior. God born in flesh to sacrifice himself for the nasty shit we sink ourselves into on a daily basis. No need to point fingers…unless you are more than ready to have some pointed in your own direction. Jesus was the ONLY perfect human, and the faster we accept and honor that with our lives, the less pressure you put on yourself to be perfect. You are not responsible for 50 conversions this week…you aren’t even responsible for one. And if you happen to be present for a life transformation moment, you most certainly do not get the glory, it all goes to him. The small group that you are part of doesn’t need the perfect image you want to put up as a façade. They want the real you. The one who is just as much of an asshole as the people you are gathering with. Your façade of perfection just makes them feel like more of an asshole, and they don’t need that pressure if they are already admitting faults. You will screw up, and it is ok. Jesus wasn’t selective when he took on the sin of the world. He took it all. Every last bit, but you have to stop trying to keep some of your sin to yourself. When you hold back, that’s on you, not him. He wants your transformation and growth to reflect his sacrifice.

Jesus is present in Spirit. Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit on the disciples in John 20:22, and they were blessed with the physical presence of that moment. However, ALL believers have access to the Holy Spirit. In Romans 5:5 is says that God’s love has been poured on us through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Jesus said he would send a comforter, a guide, helper, counselor, advocate, truth…and Holy Spirit is all of those things. It is not something to be afraid of, and definitely not something to ignore, because it is a piece of how Jesus is still active and present with us now. This piece of Jesus is like home for me. It’s the gift of grace that guides my decision making, sends me out and gives me words for those that Jesus needs to speak into. It is my connection to Jesus that is most substantial at times.

Jesus is sender. Some of his last words to his disciples were that the Holy Spirit would come on them and they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Jude and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Ironically, those church pews that tend to be pretty sticky and very comfortable for most believers were never a part of the sending plan. He was adamant that his people would be scattered and that they were sent out. It wasn’t a byproduct of a plan, it was THE plan. If you have never read the sent language of the Bible, dust off that Bible and get to it…start in John.

Jesus is empowerment. He left his disciples to propel his message forward, and calls every single person who believes in him to do the same to make the kingdom of God attractive to others so people would be drawn to God’s heart and grace. He didn’t tell the disciples, “Guys, hold down the fort and I’ll do it all when I get back.” Instead it was the freedom of, “Friends, you have a lot of work to do. Go out. Tell my stories. Be my love. Always point back to who I am.”

Jesus is a rebel. His presence as a baby incited Herod to kill all of the boys age 2 and under in and around Bethlehem. He pissed off the Pharisees. He said he would cause divisions in families when only part of a family chose to follow him. He tossed the tables in the temple when he saw the blasphemy that was occurring there. He hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers and all of the people that fell into the forgotten and despised part of society. Honestly, how popular would be in our world as that rebel? But it is who he is, friends.

Jesus is a storyteller. He was a master at it, actually, but also, a master at confusing people with parables. But the bottom line is he told stories that pointed to God’s kingdom and made people struggle with what that meant. He didn’t give all the answers, but he pointed in the right direction.

Jesus is victory…and hope. As believers we do not fight, pray or exist in this world for God’s victory. He’s already won. We fight WITH his victory, and that victory has us put our hope in a world that is fully renewed, restored and reconciled to God. At least, that’s the victory I am fighting with in this shitty, sinful world that rips people apart instead of draws them together. The enemy’s goal is to separate us, because we are worthless apart from Jesus and separated from each other. Our true strength is in being unified under the peace of Christ and fighting as one body.

Realistically, who Jesus is could go on for eternity…and really does. But, for where I am and who God has created me to be, this is who Jesus is for me.

It is our responsibility as a body of believers able to answer who Jesus is to a world that is desperately seeking his truth and unconditional love. How is he real? How is he present? How have I been transformed by him? Why did I choose him? How does my life look different? Where does my joy in a hurting world come from? Where does my story merge with his story?

If you cannot readily answer those simple questions, then you are not telling Kingdom stories when the opportunities arise to draw people to God’s heart and you are not pointing to the one who is Truth with your life. Gauntlet thrown.

 

surreal

Surreal moments. Those places in time and space where you can honestly not believe you are where you are and observing what you are observing.

Acts 1:8…come on, quote it with me, you should know by now…

My obsession with this verse is old news. Very old news. I remember a couple years ago when I had the random God thought that the verse got complete turned on its head when you heard it while living in a different area of the world. That thought busted open a new worldview for me. What was my Judea as the United States would be Europe for someone living in Europe, while Europe was actually my ‘ends of the earth.’

Imagine my utter astonishment to find myself sitting in church on Sunday as a Haitian Pastor preached Acts 1:8 to a congregation filled with Americans, Canadians, Haitians, Europeans…all living in Haiti.

It was such a surreal moment for me that I am certain I chuckled under my breath.

As his comments unfolded, it became very apparent that God has worked this verse over on this Pastor in very similar ways that he merged it into my vernacular.

I sat in awe as he asked the congregation, ‘Where is your Jerusalem?’ Your city, he stressed.

‘Where is your Judea? In all the departments of Haiti!’

‘Where is your Samaria? Friends, how do you feel about Dominican Republic? God is calling us to be witnesses even in Dominican Republic.’

His reference to Samaria’s place that makes Haitians uncomfortable should enlighten you on how Haitians feel about Dominicans.

And then…then he spread both hands wide and shared with the congregation that he knows ‘God is calling Haitians to the end of the earth. For hundreds of years, Haiti has been receiving missionaries. It has become normal for us to believe that someone will help us and that people will come. We have become too ready to receive help from others. Who here is God calling out of Haiti and into the world to be a witness for Jesus?’

I got goose bumps at those words. I have said them myself in a post I wrote last summer called ‘dare.’ As the pastor continued, I heard my own words ironically echoing in my head, ‘Americans will not save Haiti. Instead, I firmly believe that Haiti will save America. And if the world chooses to pay attention…God will use Haiti to change the world.’

Friends, God is doing something spectacular in Haiti and he is intentionally placing Haitians where he needs them to be his witness.

I hear Haitian pastors preach on excellent topics quite often. In most recent months it has been a lot of calling people out on their sin, imploring couples to get married after years of living together, confronting voodoo social practices and church planting around Haiti. It was inspiring to hear a Haitian pastor preaching for his people to seek God’s calling on their life, and to be open to the possibilities that it may be beyond Haiti.

Haitians are typically not dreamers. Americans are raised to dream big, the sky is the limit. However, when most Haitians are concerned daily about how to pay for school or where food will come from tomorrow, dreaming is not a reality.

Inspiring Haitians to seek their calling from God is monumental. It’s exciting, and it opens a new Kingdom door to Haitians that has previously been unrealistic. I am honored to join Haitians in prayer to seek their calling. In order to join then, are you willing to set aside any preconceived notions that Haiti is just a country seeped in poverty and dangerous? Are you willing to see differently? Are you willing to see Haiti as a hopeful nation? Are you willing to see how God is working in the lives of Haitians?

I cannot wait to see how God will be speaking to not only individual believers here, but how he will continue to use the Pastors to speak into the lives of the congregations. And a large piece of me breathes a sigh of relief that others are hearing the same thing from God when it comes to scripture.

vivian

‘JESUS!’

What would happen if you screamed the name of our sovereign God at the top of your lungs in your street? Would it be met with equally loud yells to keep it to yourself? Perhaps everyone would just ignore the weird Jesus freak on the street? I know some of us have neighbors who would echo the sentiment of screaming our Savior’s name at the top of our lungs with pure joy. In Haiti, most likely, someone would yell it back, start singing a worship song, pray or yell ‘Amen!’ In Russia, you would get weird looks, but not because someone disagrees, more due to the fact your relationship with Jesus is private and not for everyone to see. However, for many places in the world it would be outright dangerous to yell the name of Jesus in a public place.

Her name was Vivian, and for whatever reason, God brought her to mind this morning in church. We were worshipping and her named popped into my head, soon followed by images of my time sitting in a concrete dorm room in China with her. I had no idea why she was brought to mind, but any confusion about random thoughts was put to rest once the sermon started with 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 where I had written next to it, “Chinese Christian we cannot see…Vivian. 7-29-01”

What are the odds, right? I don’t believe in odds. I believe in a God who serves as a connector among all his people, and for whatever the God reason, I am deep in prayer for her and those like her around the world today.

I met Vivian July 29, 2001 while in China for the summer on a cultural exchange at Ningxia University. I had mistakenly used a toothbrush in the sink water and was down and out for a solid couple of days. [Haiti trip goers will identify this as why I am now hyper crazy about using ‘clean’ water for everything.] I’d gone to cultural classes in the morning and just couldn’t do it quite yet, and had gone back to my dorm room.

Then a knock came on the door.

I’d assumed it was another American checking on me, but instead this beautiful, sweet Chinese face peaked through the door. ‘Can I help you?’ I asked.

‘I am looking for the American Christians,’ she replied softly, almost in a whisper.

My world slowed to a stop in that moment of awe as a Chinese believer stood in front of me. It could have been a trap to get me in trouble for evangelizing or legitimately be a believer looking for another believer. When we’d arrived in China we’d been told any conversation about Jesus that was not invited by a question could get us into trouble with the government. It was drilled into our heads. Live and act out your faith, but don’t use words until you are asked for them. Honestly, I was relieved this was how we were expected to live among the Chinese students. I was a young believer and terrified of saying something wrong or turning someone away from Jesus because I didn’t have the relationship with them to speak into their life.

Factoring all that in a mere split second, I took the leap, and off Vivian and I went into a conversation about Jesus. She had heard there were American believers on campus and wanted to meet them. She wanted to pray with them. She sought encouragement. She wanted to take hope from the freedom we had to believe in Jesus where we came from. She wanted to feel connected in a tangible way to the American church that was not constricted to house churches or by a government that wanted to control beliefs. She wanted to meet those that live in constant security that whatever you chose to believe you would not be punished for by anyone.

God put me in the time and place to be that connection. We prayed together. Broken English, Mandarin and English blended together all in praise and petition of the one who knows. She left with plans to meet at the night market later and I would bring some friends.

I was exuberant…and I was naïve.

I was an American with no clue what repercussions could come on this sweet, young Chinese believer trying to find her place in God’s Kingdom. I had no idea the risks she took simply opening my door to ask for the ‘American believers.’ I had never known a place that believing in the sovereignty of God would put me in danger.

Our university representative heard about what had happened and approached our American staff. It wasn’t safe, for her or us. It could not happen, and we were not allowed to go to the night market that night.

I never saw Vivian again, but as today can attest…it doesn’t take a lot of time for someone to make a mark on your life. Vivian’s bravery, and thirst for the connection to believers who lived in a place where they were free to shout ‘Jesus!’ from the rooftops was contagious and inspiring.

‘All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. You can be sure that the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. So when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your benefit and salvation! For when God comforts us, it is so that we, in turn, can be an encouragement to you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in suffering, you will also share God’s comfort.’ [2 Corinthians 1:3-7]

As you journey through wherever God has placed you today, remember that the Gospel is a gift to you and intended for those around you. It is truth. It is life. It is the hope of restoration of all things new. It carries freedom no matter who you are or where you chose to believe in him. It is not to be kept to yourself, and horded for simply one moment…it is meant for many moments. The beauty of the Gospel and a Savior who loves you enough to sacrifice himself is intended for you to demonstrate daily. As believers, separating ourselves from that truth separates us from the heart of God. Sink into that truth today, and allow yourself to acknowledge the majority of believers in the world are demonstrating that truth in places that will get them thrown into jail or sacrificed. That the majority of believers in the world are sacrificing everything when they chose to claim Jesus as their own.

When we live within an easy, friendly Gospel we are not projecting the truth of that Gospel. When we present God as tame, where is the God who fights against the injustices in the world? Where is the God who died on a cross for the sins of ALL of us? Where is the God that fervently, relentlessly pursues us with unstoppable love? Where is the God that tossed the tables in the temple with every aspect of righteous anger he had?

As a good friend reminded me recently, God is not a tame lion. Here’s to finding the risk in our belief of the God who calls us to love deeper as I am burdened to pray for those that choose to believe in places it will cost them everything.

witness

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” [Acts 1:8]

Beyond the fact that this is one of my absolute favorite verses, and there are plenty of people that are tired of hearing about it, God tends to reveal different focuses through the words at different times. Being a witness and having a witness are two totally different things. One is what Jesus calls us to be. The other is how our actions are perceived by others.

How were Jesus’ actions perceived when he hung out with prostitutes?

How were Jesus’ actions perceived when he went to dinner with a tax collector?

How were Jesus’ actions perceived when he touched lepers?

How were Jesus’ actions perceived when he told a murderer he would see him in Paradise?

This is why the Pharisees had such a problem with Jesus. His actions went against their ‘rules,’ but what they didn’t understand is that the rules were his to break since the Pharisees had morphed them into something that was never intended.

Christians get held to a higher standard, and that frustrates me, simply because we are the ones that know the cost of our sin and live as forgiven believers of the God who reigns over the universe. Just because I choose to be a believer, does not make me less human. It means I am acknowledging who I am as a human, and struggling through the sin that comes so naturally. I cannot stop sinning. That is unrealistic. It also does not make me a hypocrite. It makes me real, and not a believer who feels they have to hide what non-believers would term as questionable behavior for a righteous person. I am not righteous, unless you are saying I respond to injustice…then yes, yes I am. I answer to God alone, which means I rest in his mercy and grace.

Believers should be the most real people living in this world.

We should be the ones that are an outward example of real grace. In our own lives, as well as giving that grace to others in radical ways.

We should be what others look at and say, ‘Maybe there is something to the whole God thing. Maybe he is real. Maybe life could be freeing with God.’ So that God can have that conversation with them, because their salvation is not dependent on us. It is dependent on the truth of the Gospel. I pray you hear that, because we need to get out of the way of God doing what God does. Takes the pressure off, right? Credit for salvation never belongs in the hands of a human. God gets the glory…every time.

I was once heading out with a mission team that was a mix of people who find themselves in a pew on Sunday morning, people who would never set foot in church and others who used to but don’t anymore. I love it when God throws those mixes together, because you never know what God is going to do among those people and what transformation will happen while serving.

As we were preparing to leave, I was carrying a heavy box and dropped it on my toe and said, ‘Ah, shit!’

One of the other team members was right next to me, and looked over startled. I apologized, shrugged and said, ‘Sometimes things fly out of my mouth.’

The team member looked at me and replied, ‘I was nervous about hanging out with church people this weekend. We are going to get along just fine.’

It started a great friendship. It also started a new commitment to church in that team members’ life.

All because I am comfortable in the grace I received from a Savior that paid the ultimate price for me, and God breaks through walls that have been built for years in those moments. As well as using the realness we are comfortable with in our relationship with God.

I saw a physical wall fall down between that team member and the rest of the team that day. This example has come up a lot through story telling in my missional community. So much so that most of us like the idea of an ‘F-Bomb Ministry.’ I know. Scandalous. Take a breath for a second, and realize this is a solid idea to reach out to people who believe that ‘Christians’ are too good to associate with ‘sinners.’ We are ALL sinners, folks. When we all step back and realized this, God’s glory is going to burst through a redeemed people.

I have a filter, and sometimes it is looser than other times. But the reality is there are a plethora of people in this world that hold Christians to a higher standard, because Christians have chosen to fake righteousness. Their righteousness isn’t real. It’s just hiding what they think showing others will tarnish how Jesus is revealed. But consider how Jesus lived. His reputation was awful based on the people he hung out with…but while he was with them the Kingdom of God was evident and a Savior was revealed. The Holy Spirit flowed not only on them, but THROUGH them.

The Pharisees were righteous…and look what their beliefs did to not only the believers at the time in martyring them, but in hanging Jesus to a tree.

I’m not interested in being fake, and I’m certainly not interested in tarnishing Jesus. Some would argue my inability to filter all cuss words out of my vocabulary is an awful habit for a believer. Others would argue that since I have a penchant for vodka I cannot possibly be able to serve as a witness for Jesus.

To that I call bullshit.

I respect what God is saying in the lives of others, and I adapt my behavior to show respect to those believers. We are all on a journey with God, and for all I know what he is telling them is what God could be convicting me of tomorrow. However, my journey with God has led me to be comfortable with who he has created me to be and that comfort manifests in all areas of my life. What defines me is his love for me, my love for him and how he has called me to be a witness to what he has done in my life throughout the world.

I mess up. I make mistakes. I hurt people I don’t intend to hurt. But at the end of the day, I am embraced by the loving God who unconditionally covers me with love and grace. The God who loves my quirks. The God who, I imagine, laughs when I do stupid things. The God who smiles when I am holding a kid who needs to be held. The God who knows I will go where he sends me. The God who knows when my filter will be slammed in place…and when it won’t.

Don’t take this post as reinforcement to sin blatantly and outlandishly, I fully recognize there are boundaries. But do take this post as a reminder to talk with God about the parts of you that are hidden and the parts of you that are not. Jesus has put a calling on your life to be his witness, and he is revealed through all of you, because he has redeemed you wholly…not in pieces. And that is good news for a sinful world that needs a lot more witnesses to what Jesus has done in the lives of his people ‘in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’

placed

As I sit here typing this, the sounds that surround me are the Pathways kids arguing about a foul while they play basketball, which quickly turns into girlish giggles and taunts…from boys. There is Creole floating over the wall from the village next door. A baby crying. A plane coming in for a landing at the airport. The tap tap honking as it passes another car on the road. The breeze fluttering through the trees. Goats yelping. Basketball bouncing. Rooster crowing. The fan whirling above me. The buzz of electricity. A gecko squeals. Someone help that goat, its head is probably caught in a can…it won’t stop ‘meh-ing.’ More roosters. Laughter from the community of kids next door.

Wherever you are reading this, close your eyes for a moment and listen to what surrounds you.

God has put you in that place.

In this unlikeliest of places, he has placed me. He has placed you. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and through the grace of the God over the entire universe…you have been placed and have the opportunity to encounter the one who placed you.

I have had Exodus 33 ringing in my head for almost 2 months. Moses finds himself yet again in the unlikeliest of places while trying to lead a people that have been placed with him…who refuse to actually do what they are supposed to be doing. Moses says to God, this being the ‘Stephanie Abbreviated Version,’ of course…Moses says to God, you have been telling me to lead these people, but clearly they are not all willing to do what I say. So which ones am I supposed to be leading? Which ones will you send with me? Then Moses asks for God to teach him his ways, so that he can know him and continue to please God. And God replies:

‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’

There is the sarcastic, human part of me that would have said, ‘God. Come on. We’ve been hanging out. You are already with me, I just want to know who else you are sending with me.’ But there is the other part of my brain that acknowledges the relationship that Moses had with God, and that God met with him face-to-face. Moses was set apart, and placed where God needed him. It didn’t matter that Moses felt unprepared for this adventure. It didn’t matter that most ignored what he said, and continued to go back to their ‘old’ ways. It didn’t matter that he was an awful speaker. God gave him a voice, and placed him where he was supposed to speak the words and instructions God gave him. We can’t control who listens. We can only be obedient to what God asks of us.

But none of this is what has been reaching into the depths of my soul and speaking to my heart.

Moses says, ‘Now show me your glory.’

Now? After being chosen. After the burning bush. After God gives him all the signs he asks for. After all the plagues. After the exodus. After the parting of the red sea. After the manna falls from the sky that isn’t enough…so then quail comes and covers the camp. After he is given the Ten Commandments. After spending one-on-one time with God, ‘as a man speaks with his friend.’ [Exodus 33:11]

After all that…‘now show me your glory.’

You could make an argument that Moses was a bit greedy with wanting to see more of God’s glory. But aren’t we all like that? Seeing the amazing things that God does around us, then asking for more. As if what he had already done wasn’t proof enough of his love, compassion, rescuing and grace. Granting a job when there is none. Saving the life of a child. Curing someone of cancer. Freedom from the bondage of sin in our lives. Reconciliation across cultural and racial lines. Holy Spirit moments that fill us to the point of giddiness.

When we experience significant moments when it is crystal clear that the hand of God is all over a situation we ache to see more of him. We are expectant for more…and so was Moses.

It is, also, the only place in the entire Bible that someone asks God to show them his glory.

And God’s response? God the creator obliges Moses, and that same creator obliges all of us.

As you listen to the sounds around you, acknowledge that God has placed you to see his glory in all the ways his glory shows up. With your family, friends, coworkers, sports teams, grocery stores, neighbors…in all of the places that you are every single day. God shows up there, and you should be looking not only for his glory, but for the ways he is calling you to be a witness to the glory you have already seen from him. Be willing to hear his voice in however that manifests for you. Be willing to rest in the presence of God. It is where you belong, and you will feel incomplete without it.

God, show us your glory.

basic needs, pt. deux

It is a given that out of the six of us blogging that I am going to have a different view from everyone else simply because I am the one living in Haiti now. I think the Rethink Church question we are posting today is meant to have us reflect on the things that distract us from the needs around us, which is amazing for a lot of Americans to think about since we are broken people who default to sinful choices in however that manifests for us individually. Rethink Church asks, ‘What are those temptations that rule you and make you turn away from those in need? In poverty, disease and hunger?’

I don’t have a lot of barriers between poverty, disease and hunger surrounding me right now. It is pretty much everywhere give or take a concrete block wall. There is no escape, and honestly, I embrace that because this is something God has been pulling me to be a part of for a very long time.

As a broken, sinful person, even though surrounded by those in need, distractions seep in and I’m responsible to notice those and make corrections to be the best I can be while being with those around me. When I am tired and we are going to the third village of the day…it’s not the kids’ fault that I am tired and grouchy. That’s on me and I cannot waste myself in those situations with the very real excuse of ‘I am tired.’

Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. [1 Peter 2:11]

God brought me to 1 Peter this morning…still not sure why, but I found this and I love how it says foreigners and exiles. In New Testament times there was a disconnect between those that followed the God of Moses and those they considered foreigners and unclean through their laws. It was a rebellious life the followers of Jesus led, especially when they embraced foreigners and started proclaiming that Jesus was for everyone.

As Americans, most of the time there is criticism for being passionate about people outside our borders, or foreigners within who don’t speak ‘our’ language. It’s not popular to like Russians right now, people are always complaining about Spanish speakers within our borders and don’t even enter a conversation about the Middle East, right? Recognize the sin in those criticisms and repent, because God didn’t create borders. We did. God created a world that sin crept into, and his desire is for it to be reconciled. But we get in the way.

There are a lot of distractions in the States, especially when the social norm is to be okay with ignoring people in need. How many times have you ignored a homeless person? Or judged them for what they are doing because there are ‘resources’ available? Yes. There are a multitude of resources available, but the bottom line is we do not know their story. God knows their story, and he is the one who calls on us to help those in need. God doesn’t put parameters on who is in need and who isn’t. There isn’t a sliding scale that he uses. He says help them, and a good reference on that is Isaiah 58:6-7.

As believers, we should reflect on this as well:

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. [1 Peter 4:7-11]

In the moments you feel your human body is the excuse to turn away from the need in this world, know that the strength God provides will be filling and enough for those moments. Don’t allow distraction and sin to keep you from doing the work that God has called you to in whatever context that is for you. We are a part of a global church that is most beautiful when it reflects the heart of God. To him be the glory.