Tag Archives: Israel

Exodus 24:1-18 Alone with God 9-29-15

pyramids copy

Fellowship at Cross Creek
Life of Moses
Alone with God…
Ex 24:1-18
10/5/3; ed. 9/20/15

Introduction…What does a good relationship truly cost? Are good relationships expensive? If so, why?


What about the costs associated with a royal wedding? Ever seen one? Why do nations and royals go to such lengths to get married? Do such weddings always work? Why or why not?


What about you? Do you have a costly, but deeply meaningful relationship? What did this relationship cost both parties? How has it been maintained over time?

As you study and observe this passage that for all intent purposes is a royal wedding of sorts, why do you think God goes to so much trouble, time and expense to not only bring his bride, Israel, to himself but to enter into a covenant with her? Why the big deal?

What about you and God? Has this been a costly relationship? If so, how so?

Your servant,

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Exodus 20:1-7 Divine Wedding Part III: The Vows

Exodus Studies Pic

Fellowship@Cross Creek
Life of Moses
A Most Divine Wedding: Part III: The Vows…
Ex 20:1-7
7/20/3; ed. 6.21.15

General Introduction:  Moses, led by God, is leading the children of Israel, perhaps as many as 2-3 million strong, away from Egypt and closer to the land promised to their forefathers seven centuries before. Their journey has not been without its problems. Having overcome food and water issues, a threatening military foe and leadership issues, God’s people have now reached his mountain, the place where Moses was called by God to lead them out of Egypt in the first place.

The Bride, Israel, having ritually purified herself and refrained from having sexual relations with each other, via her leadership, approaches her Groom’s mountain and prepares to take her vows—the covenant.

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Exodus 18:1ff Sustainable Shepherding 5-17-15

Exodus Studies Pic


Fellowship at Cross Creek
Life of Moses
Lesson 31
Sustainable Shepherding…
Ex 18:1ff

Introduction…At first glance this study do-over from 2003 didn’t seem to connect with me much until the application at the end, and then it was like being hit with a bullet right between the eyes—deadly convicting. Why the sudden impact? Because we all have lots to do, or it seems that way at times. Well, so did Moses as he was leading the Children of Israel from their former Egyptian bondage and persecution through the wilderness to their Promise Land destiny. Can you imagine all the logistical nightmares and conflicts between three million people attempting to migrate from one corner of the world to just around the block? The task had to be daunting, and there was NO current leadership or management structure in place. No doubt there were tribes and families, and enough organizational structure to fight battles with, which they had just done with the Amalekites, but apparently, something more was needed—a system of administrative courts or judges or leaders where tasks could be meted out and problems resolved.

Is this not our lives, perhaps not so much with younger children, but certainly as they get older and have assignments to finish, chores to get done, problems and conflicts to solve, desires to fulfill and goals and dreams to ponder? And how does one manage all this? I am a perpetual list maker. I have lists on my marker board at church, on my marker board at home, in my little notebook that I carry with me and in my larger notebook that I carry in my backpack. I can make a list of fifty to hundred things to do in minutes. Sometimes, my lists overwhelm me and I want to run away from them because they seem never to get done. Some of the things on my list are overwhelming. I write them down like they are no big deal, and then over time come to realize that these desires or tasks may take years, even decades, to accomplish, as some have taken, and still others are still waiting to be checked off my list. Thus, I am not always so discerning about my lists. And my lists are not just about accomplishing impersonal things. In fact, many of them have to do with people, which may include difficult questions or conversations—some of these conversational approaches I must prayerfully incubate for days, weeks, months, even years.

smile overwhelmed

So why do I think in endless lists and conversations with people that may take years to accomplish, if ever? Because I live. In fact, we all live… in what is now an imperfect world. Things break. People are broken. Relationships are broken. And as God’s redeemed and maturing ministering spirits or sons, this IS our task in a post-Eden fallen culture. It was once to manage a perfect garden with a helpmate, which I am not sure how all this looked or took shape, but that has now all changed.

Now we fight; now we work, and then rebel, sneak, lie, cheat, as well as, attempt to build productive coalitions that hopefully attack the never-ending, viral and devastating effects of evil or sin unleashed on a foolishly, naïve culture. In fact, I had a public defender, a very good one, tell me recently that if he could take away alcohol and drugs, there would be no need for public defenders. Almost all crime can be traced back to this slippery pursuit of immediate. short-term pleasure. Well, we tried taking away the alcohol for the very same reason several generations ago, and well, that was certainly an experiment in rearranging life’s moral clutter.

Bottom line: we all can have a lot to do because the world and people need managing and attending to, and if we are to do it well or with passion, we will have a lot to do, and if we have any hope of enduring, as we do it, we will need help.

And as his children, we have been given the basis for that help in our Spiritual Nanny or Tutor of sorts, His Spirit, but no doubt both within Israel’s vast journey within the Old Testament and the Church’s within the New Testament and beyond, the Holy Trinity of Relationship, the Godhead, Three in One, has determined that its children will perform their task of subduing or managing a fallen creation and culture—as brothers and sisters, learning to die to our sin an and selfishness, and, with the help of the Spirit, learning to work together as a team for a common Spiritual good in Christ.

A part of this study is about learning how to manage that Spiritual team of energy, vision, mercy, hope, love and passion effectively. Thus, whatever purpose God’s Spirit is leading you to shepherd, serve or grow with, don’t discount the purpose or value of Jethro’s wisdom to his son-in-law because whether you realize it or not, you are Moses in a fall world…with a whole lot to do, and if you think about it, probably more than you could ever imagine.

Your servant,


General Introduction: Moses, led by God, is leading the children of Israel, perhaps as many as 2-3 million strong, away from Egypt and closer to the land promised to the forefathers many centuries before. But their journey is not without its problems. Last week God via Moses’ staff delivered the Israelites from two enemies: a lack of water and the fierce Amalekites.

This week Moses while attempting to solve all the Israelites problems is given a great piece of wisdom from his father-in-law who has brought out Moses’ wife and children to meet him.

Recent Studies…

Israel sing out its praise to Yahweh of Yahweh God’s delivering Israel from utter annihilation at the hands of Pharaoh’s massive army. Ex. 15:1ff.

After healing Marah’s bitter waters, Yahweh tests Israel with a lasting ordinance—if you keep my laws, I will keep you safe from all the things that the Egyptians feared. Ex. 15:22ff.

Now, with their backs seemingly up against another wall–the wall of daily sustenance in the desert, the whole community rises up to turn its collective fear and complaint towards God’s servants. Ex. 16:1ff.

In turn, along with the introduction of the Sabbath, a weekly day of rest, Yahweh meets his complaining children’s desperate needs with the remarkable daily provision of manna. Ex. 16:19-36.

Via the staff Yahweh had provided Moses with, God delivers Israel from two fierce enemies; a scarcity of water and the Amalekites. Ex. 17:1ff.

Israel has her first ally on her way from Egypt to her Promise Land, Moses’ father-in-law, apparently an important Midianite priest. Ex. 18:1ff.

Pray for Insight…

Read Passage several times…

Ask Questions…

18:13 The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening.   

Why was Moses judging the people by himself? Isn’t it strange? Why we would not think that 2-3 million people living and traveling together in the desert would not have a myriad of problems? After all they were people just like any other people. What kind of problems were they bringing him? Note: they had no law at this moment in time. They also had no organizational structure outside the tribal leadership.

14 When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”  

This could not have been fun to sit in this line all day—about like waiting in line at an amusement park on or West Highway 76.

15 Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will.   

At least this is God, if they want to know God’s will. Why would Moses know the answer to every situation? Did he pray? Did God answer? Why didn’t God tell him that there was a better way or was God doing that through Moses’ father-in-law?

16 Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and laws.”   

How did Moses know God’s decrees and laws? After all just a short while before, he was just a nomadic shepherd tending his sheep in the desert when he saw the burning bush.

17 Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good.   

18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.   

19 Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him.   

20 Teach them the decrees and laws, and show them the way to live and the duties they are to perform.   

A huge principle…teach them the decrees. Don’t keep them dependent upon you. Teach them how to think spiritually.

21 But select capable men from all the people –men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain –and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.   

Just like in the army—brigades, regiments, companies and platoons. Why both the hundreds and fifties? This sounds a little redundant.

22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you.   

Just like our court system today with its smaller courts and it supreme courts, both state and federal. I like the concept of sharing the load.

23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”  

You won’t crash and they will go home satisfied. For one reason they won’t have to wait all day for a small decision. 

24 Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said.   

Why? Why had he not thought of this before? Or had the courage to implement it?

25 He chose capable men from all Israel and made them leaders of the people, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.   

26 They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves.   

27 Then Moses sent his father-in-law on his way, and Jethro returned to his own country.


Who? Moses, judge, the people, father-in-law, God, the parties, representative, capable men, men who fear God, trustworthy men, officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens, judges, capable men, all Israel, leaders of the people, Jethro.

Where?  Around him, to me, home, from all Israel, on his way, to his own country.

When? The next day, morning till evening, whenever, now, at all times, at all times, then Moses sent his father-in-law.


• Moses takes his seat to judge the people who waited the entire day.

• When Moses’ father-in-law sees this very inefficient and staggering load he asks Moses why?

• Moses responds that the people come to him seeking God’s will in their disputes, and he informs them of God’s decrees.

• Moses’ father-in-law challenges Moses that what he is doing is not good. They will both wear out.

• Moses’ father-in-law suggests to him to teach the people’s God’s laws and show them how to live.

• But first he must select capable, trustworthy men who are not corruptible from the power that they are about to receive.

• Men from all over the nation and appoint leaders of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.

• Let them decide the simpler cases and those they can’t, then have them bring them to you.

• You will be able to stand the strain and they will not grow frustrated and tired for having to wait so long.

• Moses implanted his father-in-law’s advice and then sent his father-in-law back on his way home.

Summary…When have one of our first great leadership lessons in the Scriptures: the selection of capable, honest leadership and administration of God’s kingdom. Teach people the law and how to apply it; then select very capable, godly, non-corruptible men to manage the decision making among the Israelites.

Why? (What truths do I learn about God, man, people, myself, life?)

• People are imperfect and not objective and therefore need leaders, rulers, judges, etc. to arbitrate their differences. In other words, as much as we hate to admit it, we need the referees.

• Sometimes we and even good leaders will try to do way too much, rather than delegate or ask for help, perhaps fearing people will turn us down or will not do as good a job as we would.

• There are more problems than we can imagine in the world. People are sinners.

• Jethro affirmed Moses’ ultimate responsibility to represent the people to God. He just gave him a better way to do it.

• Jethro advised and Moses followed through with the selection of capable, godly, non-corruptible men.

• This also has to be built on the foundation of Godly teaching, or a teaching of the underlying principles and foundations. The truth + capable leadership.

• Jethro and Moses also built a pyramidal appellate system for the more difficult cases.

• Jethro stayed long enough to see the system working fine.

• God had a purpose in bringing Jethro to his son-in-law. God uses people to give good counsel to other people.

So What?

2003 Application…

Struggle? Getting all the new Bermuda grass planted, watered and established properly, rocks and all.

Truth? God’s word teaches that via a combination of the theory and delegation, I should be able to accomplish a difficult task.

Application? I have used this system with respect to Sunday mornings, worship, home churches, the Learning Center and constructing our church. Now I am trying to make it work with respect to our Youth, Outreach, Visitor follow-up and assimilation into our Body, Facilities and Grounds, teaching and writing.

Show me how, Lord. Show me how. Show me the way. Give me my Jethro. Show me the light. Send me the help as well as the capable men to help me accomplish your goals for our church. I ask this mercifully in your son’s name.

2014 Update and Application…This is good to reflect back because so often we don’t. We just ignore or forget, but this forces me to ask and answer what did I learn in the intervening twelve years? Are things different? Did things change? How have I changed? Did I change or am I, as I have been noted of saying from time to time, just rearranging the same old furniture or clutter, or did things because of my faith, study and attempt to apply what I was learning change me or my life?

With respect to the grass, it did get planted, and it has been maintained over the years. Without water, the cool season has struggled mightily, and I mean mightily. And actually the warm season Bermuda appears like a motley mess right now. It’s been fertilized, but I am experimenting with NOT killing all the clover, henbit and chickweed, among other intruders. My assumption is that as things heat up, those varieties will die out, and the Bermuda may have more of a chance. But there does seem to be a threaded theme in much of what I do and that is without enough of the resources to get the job done, we get by. It’s not the best, and it’s not the worst. It could be much better, but it ain’t bad. So we continue on, in hopes of one day, who knows? And if not, then it was a great run, and by process of elimination, we learned a lot…a whole lot. Perhaps those behind us will do a better job.

As far as applying all this to my administering the church’s many tasks, I would say it is about the same as my managing the grounds. It could be much better, but it ain’t bad. At least it’s real. There are so many good people taking the initiative to do so many good things, within the body, the community and within their own families, and yet we still have our ministry holes, but at least what we do and who we are is for the most part NOT FAKE. It is the Real McCoy, and as far as heaven is concerned, I think that is far far more important. Our Father knows our maturity and immaturity, and he is present through his Spirit. We are dynamic, meaning NOT static, and what God wants to do with us, is his business and for his glory and purposes. Our responsibility is to seek Him and be obedient to his Spirit’s leadership as best we can. We leave the results and the bigger picture up to God. Amen.

So have I or we changed? Yes. Still making mistakes? Yes. Still learning the fine art of growing healthy sod or sheep? Absolutely. And thank God for his grace, blood, mercy and forgiveness because without it, we would be one self-condemned mess, but with it, we persevere…we grow…we learn…we love…we hope…we strive…we trust…we cry, laugh, grieve, believe, confront, teach, challenge, listen, serve, inspire, forgive, seek to understand and Spiritually influence and our certainly disciplined…we are. We are his beloved children, not based on our own righteousness, but his, and still growing up…


Thanksgiving…Seemingly a wonderfully productive day yesterday. Lots of variety… writing in the morning, pastoral visitation, listening to and loving on older people, finding and figuring out, with some prayerful help, believe it or not, how to get a new mowing belt on the church’s lawnmower, which was not easy due to the belt’s tension, then finishing up mowing the church’s grounds, then coming in late, and after taking a much-needed shower, watching an old tear-jerker WWII propaganda movie, the White Cliffs of Dover, with my wife, and then just having some special time with my wife as we ended our day, as well as, getting to read a chapter of the Washington biography that I am currently reading on…very slowly, which is so incredible, both in research, composition and subject matter. Last night, among other things, I was reading about Washington’s siege of Boston in 1775, with little to zero ammunition and countless obstacles to overcome, including short-term enlistments and a poorly trained New England-militia-based Continental Army. It was good just to read about how even Washington whined privately and how Martha overcame harsh traveling conditions to be with her husband every winter he was away from home commanding a very stretched military, which was every winter. They were two very special individuals. Thanks, Lord, for our day yesterday, and by the way, there have been many special ones here lately. And by the way, I need a lot more of them. There seems to be no end in sight of all that needs constantly attending to. Not only continue to multiply me, make me and those whom you do multiply into your Spiritual workforce better than me…for your kingdom and glory, NOT mine. Heaven forbid!

Struggle…At first, I was wondering how I might reapply the core of this study’s truth? How stupid! This is my life, and I am NOT shepherding three million people through a hostile desert with little tangible provisions in order to reclaim lands from hostile tribes that are NOT going to want to give up what they are currently occupying, and doing all this with very imperfect, stubborn people. Wait, a second! THIS IS MY LIFE!

Truth… It seems nothing has changed. If you want to do something good, you will encounter obstacles, whether by the sheer number as Moses was dealing with or the overwhelming task assigned George Washington in 1775-76 or my life today. You can’t do it alone. But finding, inspiring, recruiting, empowering, shepherding, training, teaching, forgiving, being forgiven, caring for this leadership is still an incredible Spiritual balancing act. Jethro’s main point to Moses here—you can’t do it alone, so organize it, and then and only then, play your much more necessary final appeals role, much like our Supreme Court seems to be the final arbiter legal matters with respect to our own country. Secondly, in a fallen world, mixed with Evil, there will be no shortage or problems or complaints, therefore it can’t be about solving all those completely, but simply managing them fairly and in a timely manner. But as far as problems go, they will never ever completely go away, so therefore, one might as well accept them and seek the Lord’s leadership in dealing with them appropriately, and this includes bringing others along with you in this fight, in this management, in this struggle, and this is how they too grow up and realize their purpose.

Application…As I sit here for just one moment and prayerfully analyze my own leadership style, I find both the good and the bad in it. I think for the long term, I am probably not to bad. In fact, I think I have nurtured, revealed, taught a bit, encourage and empowered lots of potential leader types over the years. And in fact, I would speculate that this really is the church or the shepherds of the flock’s final responsibility…to raise up leaders…people who will make a difference in this world. I know this is how I have felt about my kids, even my wife, and much of my flock. Having a purpose; growing up; making a Spiritually healthy difference in a culture that is quickly and vastly retreating from much of an allegiance to or dependency upon its Maker.

So in the long run, not so bad. But I fear, in the short-run I give too much latitude…that I need to be checking on my undershepherds and leader types more. Why don’t I? Laziness? Fear of finding out things are worse than I thought? Or that someone is done or burned out and I have to go and find their replacement? Not wanting to bother people? Trying to do it by myself? All the typical avoidances and excuses. On the one hand this works out good because it allows people to struggle through challenges without being rescued too quickly. It also exposes people and especially servant-leader types rather quickly. On the other hand, I have got to wonder if some of my sheep or undershepherds are wondering where is this guy? Why is he NOT checking on me? Is he going to check on me? What do I do, if he doesn’t? Do I like this freedom or do I want more accountability, encouragement or help?

God, you know my many pastoral shepherding weaknesses and flaws. I stand open to your correction…your teaching. Lead me to those who need what you want to give them through your servant, including a little extra time and attention.

Your servant,

Joseph M. Cross

Your struggle?



Your struggles?



Scripture quotations, unless noted otherwise, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version‚ NIV‚ Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.

Exodus 11:1-10 About Midnight… 1-25-15

Exodus Studies Pic

Life of Moses
Lesson 19
About Midnight…
Ex 11:1-10
Orig. 4.16.3; Updated: 1.25.15

Looking Back So Far…

Moses Makes 12 Appearances Before Pharaoh.

From Exodus 3-14, at the divine command of Yahweh (I AM), the children of Israel’s God, Moses, not once or twice or even three times, but an exhausting 12 times, will stand before Egypt’s mighty ruler, the pharaoh, whom the Egyptians consider to be divine as well, warning him to release the enslaved children of Israel, including their women, children and livestock, in order that they might travel three days into the desert so that they may hold a pilgrim festival to the God of their forefathers, Yahweh God.

39 Occurrences of “Release” or “Deliverance” are Mentioned.

In addition, in these 12 critical chapters, the writer of Exodus, presumably Moses, will make mention of Egypt’s “release” of Israel a whopping 24 times. Add this to another 15 mentions of Israel being “delivered out of Egypt,” and the reader is told 39 times why Israel’s God, Yahweh, is using these series of divine plagues or curses, to cause the mighty Egypt to “release” its grip of God’s now-enslaved people, Israel.

10 Consecutive, Pervasive and Devastating Curses are Unleashed upon Egypt.

At the same time, in one of the great plot twists of all-time, Yahweh God seems to have little interest in a direct approach that would cause Egypt to release its crushing grip on her enslaved serfs. Instead, using something akin to a modern-day top ten count down, Yahweh, while sparing his enslaved child, Israel, any pain, will inflict ten consecutively, pervasively and devastating curses upon Egypt, with the last being a curse that crushes the once-mighty collective psyche of the nation that had once constructed the great Pyramids.

10x the text clearly says that Yahweh distinguishes between Israel and Egypt with respect to the plagues’ devastating affects.

Neither Pharaoh’s Diviners nor gods are any Match for Yahweh’s Mighty Hand.

And for a brief moment, as society often seems to be able to do, but only for a brief moment, Egypt will appear to keep up with Yahweh’s divine power. Pharaoh’s wise men, astrologers and magicians, along with their pre-curse turning of their own staffs turning into snakes, as Moses’ staff had become (although Moses’ staff/snake was able to devour the magician’s many staffs/snakes), will somehow manage to replicate the appearance of the first two curses. But after that, as far as the magicians’ abilities are concerned, they are done for, and by the 6th plague, when they are woefully inflicted by the plague’s festering boils, they refuse to even make an appearance before Pharaoh due to their hideous condition.

In Delivering Israel from Egypt. Yahweh God Defeats as Many as 118 Egyptian gods and goddesses.

It is also interesting to note that Yahweh’s last and greatest curse against Egypt, the curse of Egypt’s firstborn, is not just directed against the firstborn of man and beast, but also “against all the gods of Egypt” (Ex. 12:12).

In Moses’ Song of Deliverance after the salvific crossing of the Red Sea, he will ask, “Who is like you among the gods, O Yahweh?” (Ex. 15:11). Later, when Moses is met by his father-in-law, Jethro, in the wilderness, where Moses first received his commission by Yahweh to administer Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, Jethro will bless Moses with these words: “Now I know that Yahweh is greater than all the gods” (Ex. 18:11). And beginning with Ex. 20:2ff when Yahweh and Israel ratify their covenant together as God and nation, Yahweh makes it perfectly clear to Israel 9 more times just in the book of Exodus, your worship of me is exclusionary: I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of slavery in Egypt. Unlike, Egypt, you shall have no other gods before me; nor shall you make any idols for yourselves, and you shall certainly not worship them for I am a jealous God, and you have just seen how easily I was able to humble and humiliate the greatest nation. Believe you me, I will not spare your discipline for at least four generations.”

It is interesting to note that in defeating Egypt, Yahweh, not only defeated her seemingly-divine pharaoh and his diviners, but in doing so, he also invalidated the power and strength of her many gods and goddesses, which Wikipedia numbers as many as 118, including Ra, the sun god; Isis, the mother god, also linked with motherhood, protection and magic; Amun, the creator god and preeminent deity during the New Kingdom (c. 1550 BC – c. 1077 BC), Astarte or Ishtar, the warrior goddess; Baal, the sky and storm god (also worshiped during the New Kingdom); Hapi, the personification of the Nile’s annual flooding; Heka, the personification of magic; Heket, the frog goddess said to protect women in childbirth and Hesat and Mehet-Weret, maternal cow goddesses, just to name of few.


Under Intense National Pain and Pressure, Pharaoh Expresses a Momentary Remorse and Contrition on 3 Occasions.

Pharaoh is momentarily contrite (3x) while admitting sin (2x) and asking Moses to prayerfully intercede on behalf of Pharaoh’s disobedience to Y. for not releasing the Israelite as commanded by Y. in order that they may fully serve Y. God in the desert with sacrifices (4x), once even asking for forgiveness.

7x Pharaoh, you can go and sacrifice (2, 4, 7, 8, 9 [2x]; 10); 4x, because of the hardening of his heart, he will change his mind and recant his promise; 4x Pharaoh unsuccessfully attempts to bargain with God or Moses.

At the Same Time, there are 17 References to the “Hardening” of Pharaoh’s Heart.

Yahweh goes about his indirect and dynamic plot build up via the on again off again “hardening” of Pharaoh and his ministers’ hearts—in other words, although Egypt will be humbled by each plague, after the plague or curse ceases, once again, her heart will be “hardened” towards the “releasing” of Israel in order to celebrate a pilgrim feast to her God, Yahweh.

Moses makes mention of this “hardening” a total of 17 times, with 9 references being attributed directly to Yahweh’s divine intervention, 6 neutral occurrences, which could be inferred to as being attributed to Yahweh and 3 more occurrences in which Pharaoh and his servants are given the credit of “hardening” their hearts.”

7 Times Yahweh Predicts that Pharaoh Will Not Listen.

On 7 more occasions, the Scripture will say that Pharaoh “refused to listen” as God also predicted 7 times.

What’s the Point to all this Protracted Drama? Undisputed Truth…about both a Mighty Creator and his Fickle Creature.

What’s the point to all of this back and forth “repenting” for not releasing Israel and then changing her mind again not to “release” Israel? Perhaps there are several reasons, two of which are: 1) whether influenced by God or not, the obvious fickleness and stubbornness of man’s fallen, sinful will. To one degree or another, don’t we all go back and forth in our thinking, feeling and behaving? We believe pain as taught us, but once the pain has subsided, seemingly, we must make sure that the pain we suffered was a really a consequence of our behavior, and so, we have to repeatedly learn our painful lesson, until we are finally crushed and left with no other conclusions and no other means of escape or rationalization. As fallen, deceitful creatures, we can be very obstinate in our willingness to truly learn who is really in charge and who is really our salvation. So it was with Pharaoh, who, probably blinded by centuries of handed wealth and power, never seemed to get who really was in charge.

2) And secondly, Yahweh tells Moses, before and during the unleashing of the plagues, that “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, and when Pharaoh refuses to listen, I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring out…my people the sons of Israel” (7:2-3; 11:9-10). “The Egyptians shall know that I am I AM (Yahweh) and that there is no one like me in all the earth. For if by now I had put forth my hand…, you would have been cut off from the earth, but for this reason I have allowed you to remain—to show you my power and in order to proclaim my name through all the earth” (9:14-15). In other words, the greater Egypt’s resistance, the greater her defeat and the greater her overcomer, Yahweh God. Finally, when Pharaoh’s pursuing cavalry is about to be utterly annihilated, Yahweh declares, “I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am I AM..that God, not many gods, exists (14:3, 17).

So with this one protracted drama, God reveals not only the smallness and immaturity of fickle, human man, including one of the world’s great powers and its seemingly divine leader, but God’s true greatness, wisdom, power and his desire to deliver those who truly trust in him.

Your servant,

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Exodus 9:1-12 Hard and Growing Harder 11-23-14

Exodus Studies Pic

Life of Moses
Lesson 16 
Hard and Growing Harder…
Ex 9:1-12
(Orig. 3/16/3; Ed. 11/23/14)

Introduction…How hard or soft is your heart? If hard, why is it hard? Has something happened to you to make your heart hard? Do you know of someone you would consider as having a hard heart? Why might there heart be hard? What does it take to soften or break a human heart?

Why do you think that Pharaoh’s heart was so hard? Why would God need to additionally hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that he would not release the children of Israel to go and celebrate a feast to Yahweh God? Continue reading

Exodus 1:15-22 Undaunted Courage 8-10-14

Exodus Studies Pic

©2002-20014 Fellowship
Life of Moses Lesson 2
Undaunted Courage Ex 1:15-22
Orig. 11/17/02 Updated 8.10.14

Introduction… Ever had a moment that seemed to require extraordinary courage…to do what you absolutely feared to do…perhaps it was even something that later, after you had faced it, it seemed rather benign, such as something to do with the dark or riding a scary ride? Ever felt your heart beating so fast that you thought it might explode? Fear, anxiety, fight or flight response can really be a scary expereince?

So in the story we are about to explore, would you have courage to obey God rather than the king? Even to lie to cover up a greater truth? Even at the risk of your own life? Ever faced anything even remotely close to standing up for something that could cost you your life? Talk about the fear….Thank God, these courageous women choose to revere God over the king…

Exodus Infant Art

Read the Passage three times…

Ask questions…

1:15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives,
whose names were Shiphrah and Puah,   

Just two midwives for the entire nation? What do midwives do? Do they help deliver the baby? How? Tell the father to calm down? Check the umbilical cord to see if it wrapped around the baby’s neck? Why do we have doctors today? Why do some still use midwives? Why do they call them midwives? Does mid- mean part way here? How many babies did they deliver a day? A week? A year? How did they get into this service? Did they learn it from their mothers? Did they do it together or on their own? Were they paid?

How great a palace where they called into at this time? Were they in awe? Did they know what was up? Were they afraid?

16 “When you help the Hebrew women in childbirth
and observe them on the delivery stool,
if it is a boy, kill him;
but if it is a girl, let her live.”   

This must have been a shock to them. How did they feel about this? Did they respond at all? Or were they just quiet in receiving their command? I am sure had they said anything they would have been put to death. Why does he want boys put to death and not girls? Boys could do work? Women are the ones who would have children. Would the men have just sought out Egyptians wives after a time? What was going on here?

17 The midwives, however, feared God
and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do;
they let the boys live. 

This took great courage; obviously it was based on their reverence for God. Now what is interesting here is that 300 plus years have past since Joseph, his father Jacob and his eleven brothers lived. Yet, we still see a monotheistic faith in God. How many or how strongly had all of Jacob’s descendents chosen to worship God? And how were they doing this? There was no Mosaic Law at this time? That happens in about 80 years, after Moses turns eighty. How did they know what was right and wrong? How had Job known? Or Abraham or Isaac or Jacob or Joseph? How did people worship God before the Law and the tabernacle?

I imagine there were a lot of thankful parents for what these midwives were doing.

18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them,
“Why have you done this?
Why have you let the boys live?” 

Ought oh! Were they afraid? Was the king furious?

19 The midwives answered Pharaoh,
“Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women;
they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”   

What does vigorous mean? Strong? Push their kids quicker and harder? Was this true? Or had this happened on occasion and so they knew it was a good way to get around the king? Did they fear their lives? Why did the king just want it done when the baby was being born? Would they have been able to murder the babies without the parents knowledge? But eventually wouldn’t have someone figured out that only girls were being born? Was the king asking the midwives to murder the baby boys and lie to their parents? Interesting thought. Similar to what the “Pro-choice” movement does today. It is only years later when women realize what they have really done—taken a life—does the horror of their choice become evident.

20 So God was kind to the midwives
and the people increased
and became even more numerous.  

How was God kind to the midwives? How did Moses the writer of this book know? Was it because they had children too? So the king’s attempt to control the population backfired on him. It is not working. How many years did this go on?

21 And because the midwives feared God,
he gave them families of their own.   

Was this one of the reasons they helped others have children—they did not have families of their own? God honored their obedience.

22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people:
“Every boy that is born you must throw into the Nile,
but let every girl live.”

Who were Pharaoh’s people? Egyptians? Who did this awful deed? Was this to the Hebrews? Did they comply if it was said to them? What if they didn’t—would they die? What an awful choice to have to make. Why the river Nile? Why drowning? How far did they live from the Nile? How many baby boys were actually killed? What affect did this have on this have on the Hebrew people? This must have been devasting? A horrible tragedy!

Exodus Nile

Note: The river that has given so much life to Egypt will now become an instrument of death.


Whos?  king of Egypt, Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah, Hebrew women, boy, girl, God, Egyptian women, the people, families of their own, every boy, every girl

Wheres?  On the delivery stool, into the Nile

Whens?  When you help the Hebrew women, then the king summoned, before the midwives arrive, then Pharaoh gave this order


• Pharaoh orders the Hebrew midwives to kill the baby boys as they are being delivered; let the girls live.

• But because of their fear in God, the Hebrew midwives do not obey the king’s orders and allow the boys to live.

• The king summons the midwives back in and questions them as to why they are allowing the boys to live?

• The midwives answer by saying that the children are already born by the time they get there.

• God prospers both the midwives and the nation: the nation grows in people and the midwives are given families of their own.

• Pharaoh ups the ante when he commands that all baby boys are to be thrown into the Nile.

Summary: In an attempt to put a chokehold on the growing Hebrew populace, Pharaoh resorts to infanticide.

Whys? What do I learn about God? Life? People? Myself?


• People can be really evil and cruel, especially rulers.

• It is interesting to note that despite four hundred years since Joseph’s passing, there are those that still believe in Joseph’s God…i.e. the Hebrew midwives were courageously obedient and protective of the male Hebrew infant born because of their fear of God. Apparently, they believed God existed and revered him. This in turn turn affected their actions. God had promised Abraham a nation. By killing the Hebrew baby boys born, in turn, they would have been going against that promise. Remember, the official Law, did not exist yet. Mt. Sinai is still on the horizon.

• In this case, to save life, as the rabbis would later teach, their lying was justified. It was accomplishing a greater good.

• In turn, God honored courageous obedience.

• And yet, evil does not give up without a fight.

So What? (Prayerfully connect a specific personal struggle to one of the above truths or principles and be willing to share it with the group.)

My struggles (2002): I have a lot to do today: several hours of premarital counseling this morning, check on a few people, make a few pastoral visits, find out the estimate on Jordan’s car and when it can get fixed; try to pick up some rocks and plant some more grass around the church; start getting ready for my talk with the youth on dating Wednesday and a few other things that are on my mind.

Principles:  1) The Hebrew midwives were obedient because they feared God; 2) Because they were courageously obedient and defied Pharaoh’s unconscionable command, God honors them; 3) and yet, Evil does not give up without a fight.

Prayerful application: My hope and prayer is that no matter what comes up today or this week, I want to be courageously obedient because I fear or revere God. The watch word of the day is “courageous obedience” or more simply put, “courage.”

“Well is there anything you are particularly facing Joe, that might require courage?”

“Oh a thousand things it seems like.”

“Well pick one.”

“One, huh?”

“Yeah, one.”

“Well, as much as I hate to admit it, to pick up some stupid rocks out front.”

“Ouch, that is a tough one. Why is that so tough?

“Because there are so many. And I have nothing really to haul them off in because I loaned Jordan my truck to get back to school.”

(Note: In 2002, Jordan was in his freshman year at community college, had just had wreck on Haloween and the church had just been completed that summer. Apparently, we were still working on the grounds.)

“Well, remember, God honors courage.”

“Great, just what I wanted to hear.”

“Well, let us know how it turns out, Mr. Midwife.”

“Thanks (sarcastically). I will.”

2014 Application…

Thanks…Good Sunday, as we said good-bye to our CRU students and as we attempted to make the comparison of local Bass Pro and Big Cedar billionare  Johnny Morrison’s use of rocks out at his acclaimed Top of the Rock Wilderness resort to the true King’s use of living rocks or stones…us… that are not only attracted to the stone the builders rejected, but has become the corner stone, that is Christ himself, but, through his Spirit, he is transforming these stones into a dynasty of royal priests offering Spiritually acceptable sacrifices that in the end declare the virtues of God himself (1 Peter 2:4ff). Pretty special…huh? More special than even billionare Johnny Morris’ rocks that attempt, in a way, to declare Johnny’s virtues as a dreamer, builder, designer, etc. I think over the last two weeks, we anchored this truth in their lives…hopefully for a lifetime.

In addition, it has just been a good overall week, especially catching up on some pastoral counseling, visits and ministry. I am very blessed, including, after eight years of gradual searching, and two and half years of having only one vehicle and no truck, Rhonda and I have found and are purchasing a used 2003 four-wheel drive, five-speed, six cylinder Toyota Tacoma pickup with camper shell and only 112,000 miles. After passing a mechanical inspection yesterday, we go to pick it up on Sunday in Washington, MO. Thank you, God, for your grace in this journey. Bring us home safe.

Truth…Courageous obedience in the face of unrelenting evil.

Application…I am not sure I have ever had to face an unrelenting evil of the magnitude that the Hebrew midwives faced, but at times, it probably has felt like this. Perhaps those occasions were training for later moments or even moments to come in the future. Certainly, contemporary culture’s rapidly changing anti-God, anti-Christ or anti-Bible attitude appears to have its in-the-future unavoidable implications. For the most part now, courage seems to be of a more midler variety, such as being willing to share my difficult truth, including painfully challening, or willing to risk the rejection of those I dearly love. But it would seem true love…sustainable love, genuine love, Christ-like love… demands it. Or the courage of knitting together into an engaging and thoughtful presentation all the many tools or threads of SLove. Perhaps not the pious and shrewd courage of the midwives, but courage no less. And, if the most severest of times does come upon us, hopefully, all these smaller lessons in courage will lead to moments of extraordinary Spiritual courage.

Your struggle?




Prayerful application?


What about your students? What are some of their current struggles?

Which principles seem to relate?


How could God prayerfully apply these truths to their lives? (Just try a few in your preparation…then try leading the application in that direction. It may go another direction. Be sensitive to God’s leading among the group.)


Scripture quotations, unless noted otherwise, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Versio‚ NIV‚ Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.

Exodus 1:1-14 400 Years Later & a New Season 8-3-14

Exodus Studies Pic

Life of Moses Excerpted Lessons…
Lesson 1: 400 Years Later and a New Season…
Ex 1:1-14

8/3/14 (orginal lesson date: 11/10/02)

Introduction…Anyone ever had an experience where, despite pain, suffering, injustice and oppression, you still prospered? Talk about it. Why would God do or allow such blessing in the midst of injustice?

After listing the names of the sons of Israel and telling how many of them that made the sojurn to Egypt, the book of Israel’s Exodus (or way out…of Egypt) opens with these words… “Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, but the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly and became exceedingly numerous, so that the land was filled with them.” Ex. 1:6-7. Four hundred years after both Jacob and Joseph pass away, Moses, the author of both Genesis and Exodus, tells us that a new pharaoh sits on the throne, one who did not know about Joseph or his salvific exploits on behalf of Egypt and Egypt’s throne, and thus begins our drama. We move from the lives of Israel’s early partriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph to the lives of a nation—a nation led by one man, Moses. We move from Genesis, where we learn how Israel came to be in Egypt, to Exodus, where Israel will miraculously leave Egypt to take possession of her previously promised lands back in Canaan. The sins of the Amorites have reached the full measure. It is time for a change.

As you read, notice Moses’ simple beginning structure, which stylistically ties nicely with his previous book…the Beginnings or Genesis:

1) Moses list Jacob or Israel’s sons, vv. 1-5;
2) eventually, they all pass away v. 6;
3) but many more, a potential nation in fact, takes their place, v. 7;
4) which threatens Egypts’s reigning king or pharaoh, vv. 8-10;
5) who then comes up with a harsh plan to suppress, contain and enslave their vast growing numbers, vv. 12-14.

I wonder will it work.

Read the Passage three times…

 Exodus 1 

1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob,
each with his family:

2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah;

3 Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin;

4 Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher.

5 The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy in all;

Joseph was already in Egypt.

6 Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died,

7 but the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly
and became exceedingly numerous,
so that the land was filled with them.

8 Then a new king,
who did not know about Joseph,
came to power in Egypt.

9 “Look,” he said to his people,
“the Israelites have become much too numerous for us.

10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them
or they will become even more numerous and,
if war breaks out, will join our enemies,
fight against us and leave the country.”

11So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh.

12 But the more they were oppressed,
the more they multiplied and spread;
so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites

13 and worked them ruthlessly.

14 They made their lives bitter with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields;
in all their hard labor the Egyptians used them ruthlessly.

Ask questions…

Exod. 1

1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, 
each with his family:   

2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah;   

3 Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin;   

4 Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher.  

Are Jacob and Israel the same person? Why are both names used here? Did God not change Jacob’s name? Did he still use both names?

5 The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy in all; 
Joseph was already in Egypt.   

Did this include wives and children or just children? So 12 sons had 70 children? Did this include Joseph’s sons because Joseph is mentioned after the mention of the seventy descendents?

6 Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died,   

How long did it take them to die? Did they live long like their ancestors did? Didn’t they live to be like over a hundred? How old was Joseph when he died? His brothers? Did everything go well with them until his death? How about their children? Did they all get along? All the cousins? Then second and third and fourth cousins?

7 but the Israelites were fruitful and multiplied greatly 
and became exceedingly numerous, 
so that the land was filled with them.   

Sounds like they flourished to me. Is this why God took them to Egypt in the first place, to give them a place to prosper? To prosper off of Egypt’s great wealth? And to give the Amorites—the peoples living in the Promised Land—to build up more sins and therefore more judgment, because God was not unjust in taking their land away? (See Gen 15:12-15).  How many? Some say, several million. Where do they come up with that figure?

So because they were multiplying so rapidly, does this mean economic times were very good for them? Were they wealthy or just prosperous—ate well, flocks multiplied?

8 Then a new king, 
who did not know about Joseph, 
came to power in Egypt.   

I could see where after four centuries, everyone would forget about the past? That is twice as long as the history of our country, or it would be like going back to the Pilgrims? And we have certainly after almost 400 years thrown away most of their values. It’s illegal to talk about God in school. Pray to him. Post the Ten Commandments. Adultery is acceptable. We are working on homosexuality. So I could see where in 400 years, people might have forgotten where these people had come from in the first place. After all there were only about 80 in all to begin with. Nothing in Egypt.

This all leads to another question: how did they maintain their ethninticity all this time, that is their nationality? Did they all intermarry cousins, etc.? Did they ever marry Egyptians?

9 “Look,” he said to his people, 
“the Israelites have become much too numerous for us. 

Were they becoming more than the Egyptians?

10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them 
or they will become even more numerous and, 
if war breaks out, will join our enemies, 
fight against us and leave the country.”   

So he seems to be using intimidation? Will this work out? Is this the best strategy? Is this smart? Who were their enemies? Usually it was kingdoms from the other side of the Fertile Crescent. In later centuries it will be the Assyrians, the Babylonians and the Persians. After that the Romans? Who cares if they leave? How would they leave? There are so many?

11So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh.   

12 But the more they were oppressed, 
the more they multiplied and spread; 
so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites  

13 and worked them ruthlessly.   

How long a period of time was all this? Ten years? Twenty years? Fifty years? How did they work them ruthlessly? Did they not let them tend their flocks? Did they work long hours? No time with their families?

14 They made their lives bitter with hard labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; 
in all their hard labor 
the Egyptians used them ruthlessly.

They were slaves?


Whos?  the sons of Israel, who,  Jacob, his family, 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah;   Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher, descendants of Jacob, seventy in all, Joseph, all his brothers, all that generation, Israelites, them, new king, who, his people, Israelites, we, us, they, them, our enemies, slave masters, Egyptians.

Wheres? went to Egypt, in Egypt, the land, in Egypt, leave the country, over them, Pithom and Rameses, store cities, in the fields

Whens? Now Joseph, then a new king


• Jacobs’s sons all die off. vv. 1-6.
• But as their descendants replace them, and they become numerous. v. 7.
• Their sheer numbers threaten a new pharaoh who seeks to harshly repress them to keep them under control via work as slaves. vv. 8-14

Summary… A new pharaoh, having no knowledge of Joseph and what he did to save Egypt and prosper the royal dynasty, is threatened by the growing numbers of the descendants of Joseph’s father, Israel, and so in an attempt to keep them subdued, via forced labor, he enslaves the children of Israel.

Bottom line…a new day, a new king, and a new set of circumstances result in the sons of Israel being oppressed as opposed to protected as their forefathers were.

Whys? What do I learn about God? Life? People? Myself?

• Most big things started out small, such as a savings or retirement account, a business, a country, an illness, such as cancer or even addiction. Everything has a beginning somewhere. The children of Israel started out with one couple, Abraham and Sarah. From there was added one son, Isaac. Then Isaac had two sons, only one of which, Jacob, did God extend the same promises of a people, land and blessing to that he had extended to Jacob’s father and grandfather. Then, via 12 sons, Jacob’s family, four hundred years later, as grown into a subdued people group suffering under the harsh hand of Egyptian rule. The church also started out small. One shoot from the stump of Jesse, Jesus, calls out 12 to follow, trust him and build his church. Surrounding those 12 is another hundred plus. At Pentecost, God’s Spirit liberally pours himself onto thousands who repent of not having trusted the Savior’s sacrifical atonement for their imperfection, and from there, over the next almost two thousand years, millions and billions come to trust, follow and obey the name of Jesus. Most big things started out small.

• Despite, persecution, repression and injustice, God’s blessing prospered.  Persecution will not stop the will of God. God’s will always trumps man’s misguided plans to thwart his plans and will. Nothing was going to stop the Children of Israel from growing into a people group, not even harsh, repressive slavery. God wins this one. He always does.

• God allowed the king of Egypt to make his natural choices. Pharaoh saw numbers and naturally saw threat. In his own way, he attempted a solution. Little did he know his flawed, insecure solution would be used by God to bring about the very thing he feared. His lack of knowledge or trust in Yahweh or I AM God resulted in his and his nation’s own downfall. One pharaoh trusted many years before and is richly blessed; another does not, and is cursed by the God he refuses to bow down to. He chose the wrong god and wrong methodology. This is the story of man. Again and again, foolishly kings, man, rulers attempt to disprove the Creator of the Universe, and again and again, they are brought to their broken knees. Litle does man realize that all will bow; those who do so because by faith and trust, they see or believe in an invisible Creator find the salvation they so desperately were seeking; those that refuse choose their own required destruction. To submit or not to submit, that is the question. It makes all the differene in the world. In fact, you could say, it’s the only difference that really counts when ALL is said and done.

• Despite God having chosen and blessed the children of Israel, in the shorter term, just as he had with Jacob and Joseph, he allowed his beloved to suffer at the hands of an unfair earthly judge and ruler. We tend to think that if we suffer, something is wrong, and perhaps it is, but not in the way we think. Things have been wrong since the beginning of Creation, or at least the man and the woman’s choice to not trust God and instead believe the half-truth of the Deceiver. So definitely things are wrong. Yes, there is sin, injustice, crime, poverty, suffering and misery but, due to sin and man’s flawed choices. And as a part of this, God’s people, from time to time and in different seasons, will suffer in the midst of man’s chaotic unrighteousness. And sometimes, God’s people will even suffer because they are God’s people. The Scriptures have foretold us this, and we know even from the onset, as the righteous Job learned, there is a spiritual war that is being waged within the eternal heavens and that has spilled over into time and space, including earth itself. And yes, God does allow his people…those that do believe in him…to suffer injustice in the midst of this. Sometimes, we even suffer, due to our own sins and the sins of the righteous. No one is perfect. And yet, God will use the cries of the suffering to demonstrate the contrast between good and evil, salvation and destruction. So yes, for a time, God’s people are allowed to suffer in the midst of evil, but justice delayed will never be justice denied. And we have a Savior.

• Threat is natural element of a fallen, imperfect world, and thus Pharaoh felt threatened by what he perceived he might not be able to control. His security was not in God, but in what he could do. Well, what he does turns into a royal failure.

So What? (Prayerfully connect a specific personal struggle to one of the above truths or principles and be willing to share it with the group.)

Note: While I may not include 2002’s application every time, perhaps for the sake of truth in time or a longer-distance Spiritual perspective, from time to time, I may mix it in with 2014’s application.

Struggles (2002): I have been really dragging lately–got my nights mixed up with my days and would rather work and study through the night and sleep in the mornings. Things are pretty quiet around the house (without Jordan home and gone off to college) and the church (since, we have finally completed constructing our new church home). I find myself struggling to prepare or study ahead. Not sure if its burnout or PBS… post-building syndrome or what? There is still a lot to do—much of which I can’t do or don’t want to do by myself. So I am kind of in the middle—unfinished. It is something I am very uncomfortable with, but am trying to accept on a daily basis.

2014 Update…We had begun planning to build with the purchase of 26 acres back in the early to mid-90s. After several church fractures in sucession where one church became three, we were forced to put our building plans on hold for quite a few years. Finally in 2000, after some healing and Spiritual rebuilding, we raised up a mortgage buffer fund of $50,000. In 2001, we began building a church of our own. We moved in during the summer of 2002. So in some ways, 2002 represented the completion of an almost decade long dream.

Thanksgiving (2014)…We are still alive, and at times, in ways perhaps not measured by man, we are thriving. Over the years, what many within the church growth world thought was God’s blessing at the time, now, many years later, appear more like cheap man-made imitations. Numbes, expansion, buildings, monies given, even evangelism and outreach can all appear like signs of God’s growth, and they may well indeed be at times, but NOT always. True growth begins from the inside out…a mind reborn, a love sustained, a flesh slain, a flawed human instinct crucified, Spirit-driven counter-intuitive obedience and discomfort, truth courageously spoken and confessed, Spiritual stones becoming a Spiritual one, working through conflict and differences to accomplish a Spirit-inspired greater good. What a broken, dysfunctional and flawed family of believers failed to accomplish in the way of outward, artificial and superficial numbers it has more than made up in attempting to create a real, bibical and Spiritual enviromentf for growth, one characterized by more than your average or typical Spiritual depth, truth and honesty.

This week. It has been a good-time, another good month. June was focus, and a lot had to get done and was done. July was about balancing ministry with some time off with my family. We did pretty good. I think we experienced a happy medium, and now the pedal has once again begun to be pressed ever more aggressively. Thank you, God. Now please, bless all my Spiritual endeavors, including writing and ministry.

Principles: 1) Big things start out small and can grow very large. Sometimes, the growth can even be exponential as it was in the case of Israel and later the church, which means in the beginning, there is slow growth over a long period of time, but then suddenly there comes an explosion of growth over a very short period of time. We typically refer to this as overcoming the learning curve, and in many ways, with respect to humanity, it would seem that in the last few centuries, and especially with respect to technology, we have become the beneficiaries of previous generations’ long, slow climb up the learning curve’s more horizontal section. Thus, we are now screaming up the vertical section of the learning curve with explosions of knowledge. Perhaps, we only think we are on the vertical section? Perhaps we are still in the midst of a long slow climb? But with the ability to destroy ourselves many times over via nuclear annihiliation, it would seem we are peaking with respect to knowledge and technology. And in fact, what does come next on the learning curve because afterall, you can’t grow at this rate forever? Eventually comes a recession or bust, with the learning curve morphing downward again and thus becoming a bell curve.

2) Only God can defeat bell curve.  What does that look like? Heaven, I suppose. Unlimited growth. Unlimited blessing? I am not sure how it all works. I do know that despite suppression and ruthless oppression, both God’s old covenant people and later on God’s new covenant people experienced exponential growth and blessing. Therefore, don’t discount both God’s provision and blessing even in times of great sinful hardship. God can and will bless and reward his people for their faith-based obedience, hope, love, trust and service.

Prayerful application: I don’t have all the answers. I know that there seems to be seasons in my life. “For every time there is a season.”

Eccl. 3:1   There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

9 What does the worker gain from his toil?

10 I have seen the burden God has laid on men.

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time.
He has also set eternity in the hearts of men;
yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

12 I know that there is nothing better for men
than to be happy and do good while they live.

13 That everyone may eat and drink,
and find satisfaction in all his toil –this is the gift of God.

14 I know that everything God does will endure forever;
nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.

God does it so that men will revere him.

15 Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before;
and God will call the past to account.

When I read Solomon’s thoughts on time, I realize that I have only begun to skim the surface concerning the manifold seasons of life. I would venture to say that just about nothing about life or ministry has ever been predictable. It’s never been the same. I would even venture to say that while yes, the earth’s hemispheres move from cold to hot back to cold, even within the designated seasons, while there is some similiarities, even these similarities seem to vary from year to year. Some summers are cooler than normal; others hotter and dryer; some wetter. So what is Solomon actually saying? What is he trying to tell us and why? That life is not static; it’s always in a constant state of flux or change. That you can’t hitch life’s wagon to any one thing, time or season because things will change. A baby will be born, someone dies; someone is healed, another dies; there are moments of both joy and tears. But in the midst of life’s seemingly constantly unpredictable chaos, one thing stands for certain…God exists. God is in charge; God is in control, so Solomon concludes, we all might as well take a chill pill and, within divinely-guided moral boundaries, enjoy this life because it’s all going to happen, whether we want it to or not, anyway.

So whether I or we are at the small of something that could become very large, recapturing the Bible’s essence of just what Christ’s body, the church, was really supposed to look and act like, in the first place, or if we are done with our large with the church in general and things are about to become increasingly worse as they have just become for the children of Israel within our story, or we are somewhere in between, it just doesn’t make any difference. Our hope is in God regardless of the outward circumstances and he can still bless his church in the midst of great oppresion.  Thank you, God for the imperfect ministry you have allowed and are allowing me to attempt today,

Your servant,


Your struggle?


Prayerful application?

What about your students? What are some of their current struggles?

Which principles seem to relate?

How could God prayerfully apply these truths to their lives? (Just try a few in your preparation…then try leading the application in that direction. It may go another direction. Be sensitive to God’s leading among the group.)

Scripture quotations, unless noted otherwise, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Versio‚ NIV‚ Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.