Monthly Archives: January 2022

Exodus [The Road Out] – An Odd Obedience

Exodus 2 RSV
1 a man from the house of Levi
took to wife a daughter of Levi.

2 The woman conceived and bore a son
she hid him three months
3 she took for him a basket made of bulrushes
she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds at the river’s brink
4 his sister stood at a distance, to know what would be done to him
5 the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river,
6 she saw the child; and lo, the babe was crying.
She took pity on him
7 his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter,
“Shall I go and call you a nurse from the Hebrew women
to nurse the child for you?”

8 the girl went and called the child’s mother
9 Pharaoh’s daughter said to her,
Take this child away, and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.
10 And the child grew, and she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son;

God provided a plan for these parents of faith that would save their son by their very odd obedience to Pharaoh’s death decree for all baby boys in Exodus 1:22: “Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile.”  This particular baby boy’s life preserver was the pity of Pharaoh’s own daughter.  This is an odd story of an odd obedience with an odd cast of characters that has become a lasting part of history.  His-story that all who would read and believe it might be able to recognize the odd, but effective, provision of God for those wages to finally deliver the reward of our eternity.

The sacrifice would be a son
The basket would be an ark
Salvation would be the reward

Wednesday with John – 4 Words of Identity

John 1:19-34 [RSV] Here is a compilation of verbatim phrases and sentences copied from these verses.  This is a personal study method of identifying an important part of each verse and then letting them guide what I write. 

19 the testimony of John
Who are you?
20 He confessed, he did not deny
I am not the Christ.
21Are you Eli′jah?”
He said, “I am not.”
“Are you the prophet?”
he answered, “No.”
22 What do you say about yourself?
23 I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness,
24 they [priests and Levites] had been sent from the Pharisees
25 why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Eli′jah, nor the prophet?”
26 among you stands one whom you do not know,
27 he who comes after me
28 This took place in Bethany
29 Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
31 I myself did not know him
32 And John bore witness,
“I saw the Spirit descend and it remained on him
33 I myself did not know him
He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain
this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.
34 I have seen and have borne witness
this is the Son of God.”

This is the kickoff week of the ”public” ministry of Jesus.  It must have been like drawing the short straw for the priests and Levites that were sent to that wild place to question John.  He could read between the lines; he knew their question “who are you?” was code for “do you claim to be yet another messiah?”  It’s interesting to think about John’s courage implied by this phrase, “he confessed, he did not deny.”  There were many false messianic claims and that phrase was a critical part of his answer, “I am not the Christ.” Perhaps the most dangerous part of his ministry was the act of baptism itself. John had just identified himself as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness” telling God’s chosen people they weren’t clean enough.  There was something more they needed to do: to be cleansed by baptism in preparation for the coming of the Messiah,  just as if they were the same as an impure Gentile.

John resisted identifying his own activity with anything [or anyone] other that what he’d just seen with his own eyes: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Twice John uses the odd phrase “I myself did not know him” but we know he did know WHO Jesus was. His confession was that now he recognized WHAT Jesus was, and that confirmed his own identity. “For this I came baptizing with water, that he [Jesus] might be revealed to Israel.”

He had become a disciple!  “And John bore witness, I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him…He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”  What he’d witnessed with his own eyes was the work of the Holy Spirit.  He could personally confess to the reality of  that work as the  truth of  his own testimony: “this is the Son of God.”

Disciple: a personal follower
Witness: personal observation
Confession: personal knowledge
Testimony: the confession of a follower from personal knowledge

Exodus – The Road Out

Exodus 1:1 These are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob, each with his household: 2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah, 3 Is′sachar, Zeb′ulun, and Benjamin, 4 Dan and Naph′tali, Gad and Asher. 5 All the offspring of Jacob were seventy persons; Joseph was already in Egypt. 6 Then Joseph died, and all his brothers, and all that generation.  7 But the descendants of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong; so that the land was filled with them. 8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. 9 And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. 10 Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and, if war befall us, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land”…12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. RSV

Exodus literally means “the road out.” The word itself was adopted into English (via Latin) combining the Greek prefix ex- (meaning “out of”) and hodos, “road” or “way.”  This book is the way Moses’s story unfolds.  The facts of the story are yet another episode of the struggle of men [the generic pronoun] determined to control their circumstances.  History has erased the Egyptians memory.  They’ve forgotten, over time, that their salvation came through a family of blue-collar farming and shepherding immigrants and a man who’s wisdom saved their nation and their people from starvation and ruin: Joseph, who???

The Egyptians are now consumed by their “dread of the people of Israel” and their need to maintain control even if it means enslavement and genocide of those same people.  God has made sure that family will be remembered by name as the foundation of Moses’s story continues to unfold.  The title of the Book, Exodus, is more than the history of the promises for God’s people, then. Exodus is going to be like a contemporary mystery story where “in the beginning” we know the “who done it” and now It’s going to ask us to remember what has been forgotten in between – the circumstances, people, choices and time – and watch how the “exodus” then, has become the “way” to our deliverance, now.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life;
no one comes to the Father, but by me.“
John 14:6

Wednesday with John – The Beginning

This week I begin two new group studies, one that includes the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy and a second less formal one using the book of John. “Cherry picking” taught me more than I’d anticipated. It was hard to pick fruit based on a word search without forcing the issue. The Message passage from Matthew is still going to be my guide.  Instead of a word, these four questions will be my jumpstarters to read and ponder for Wednesday posts from John and Sunday posts from those Old Testament books.

  1. What’s the general theme of the passage?
  2. What does it say about God [or Jesus or the Holy Spirit]?
  3. What does it say about people?
  4. Is there truth here for me?

Excerpts from John 1:1-18 RSV
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God; 3 all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. 4 In him was life [Or was not anything made. That which has been made was life in him], and the life was the light of men…14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father…17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.

This is the beginning of the relationship between God, Jesus and us. “In the beginning was [God], and the Word [Jesus] was with God.  God was first!  God did not create Himself and Jesus was not a product of God’s creation.  “And the Word [Jesus] was God.” God offered Himself as God-man so we might see “In him was life, and the life [of His own perfect image, Jesus] was the light of men” that darkness could not overcome. 

John’s witness is to show us we are like those people he speaks of; often content to NOT know more, because we think we already know.  That’s the darkness Jesus has come to shed His light on. The good news is “but to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.”

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.”  The truth is the “light” we beheld is now the light held within usa because Jesus has become part of our flesh.

“No one has ever seen God;
the only Son, who is in the bosom [heart] of the Father.”
“He has made him known” to us.

a Matthew 5:14

Today’s Word – Temple “Walk”

1 Kings 6:11 Now the word of the Lord came to Solomon, 12 “Concerning this house which you are building, if you will walk in my statutes and obey my ordinances and keep all my commandments and walk in them, then I will establish my word with you, which I spoke to David your father. 13 And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel.” RSV

Let me tell you how I’ve chosen to cherry pick this verse lest you imagine something far deeper.  1 Kings in the BibleGateway word search returned the most hits in the Old Testament for “walk:” 23 from this one book.  This passage was one that used the word “walk” more than once.  I am like a tourist, if you will, I’ve found one attraction to look at in this new place but I’ve got the whole chapter to walk me though what to see.  

Solomon is exercising his heart, his creativity and his wallet to build this structure.  The central part of this historic house, built for the Lord, was essentially a stand-alone sanctuary surrounded by many other rooms. I am thankful to have been compelled by my cherry picking to walk through this chapter and notice two things. The construction is unique in that the supporting beams of those external rooms were not directly tied into the structure of the sanctuary. Instead those beams rested on a ledger board much like we’d construct a deck against a house today, tied together but not an integrated part of each other.  That’s interesting. The chapter is filled with explicit details of the construction and grandeur of the structure EXCEPT for these 3 verses, and that’s interesting too.

The word of the Lord came to Solomon
concerning this house
you will walk in my statutes
and obey my ordinances and
keep all my commandments
and walk in them,

I will establish my word with you,
I will dwell and will not forsake my people.

Amid all the verses filled with mind-blowing details of how luxurious this structure was, then, there was still not an integrated connection between the sanctuary and those outer rooms of the temple.  God has used my cherry picking to help me see how IF has become the reality of THEN, now.

IF Jesus, THEN the statutes, ordinances and commandments are established as the permanent, integrated connection between the sanctuary and those outer rooms and this is the fruit of reality now “concerning this house.”

“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?”
1 Corinthians 6:19

Todays Word – Watch

Watch: look at or observe attentively over a period of time.

On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. Luke 5:1-11 ESV

There is a qualifying phrase from my inspiration passage in Matthewa for the word watch:“Watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” 

On one occasion,
while the crowd was pressing in on him
to hear the word of God,
by the lake of Gennesaret,
[Jesus] saw two boats by the lake
and he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

There’s a unique twist to this story that goes beyond a crowd of people that want to hear what Jesus has to say. They’ve come on this scene of tired fishermen wrapping up an unsuccessful day’s work. Jesus choosing to get into an empty boat seems like an intrusive move. The scripture indicates Simon and his crew end up in the boat with Jesus. I’m guessing they wanted to protect their property.  I am an observer watching to see how the end result of this story will show me the “unforced rhythms of grace” for a few tired men.  

I wish the story had told me what Jesus taught from the boat.  What did those fishermen know about Jesus and his ministry?  From their perspective they saw a crowd pressing in.  They saw Jesus climb into their boat.  For whatever reason, they came running and did what He asked and pushed out into the lake.  They heard the words Jesus spoke. It was probably those words and the two boatloads of fish that got their attention. Jesus often seems to work using circumstances and the powerful words  to accomplish the impossible.  “Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”  The unforced rhythms of grace happen when we watch what Jesus does.  That’s what makes us aware of our sin so we begin to feel the fear of how it separates us from Him.  We don’t need a boatload of blessings or the special words we may hear to turn our circumstances into a testimony.  We need Jesus in our presence.  Jesus says “Watch what I do.a

aMatthew 11:28-30 MSG

Today’s Word – Work

There’s an important qualifying phrase Jesus spoke in that last passage I used from Matthew 11:28-29, The Message, that made the words “walk, work and watch” important: [with me].  OK, I admit this whole theme is going to be cherry picking Scripture and versions too.  I had some anxiety about that until I remembered this is THE Word of God.  It’s the baseline of truth and the reality of guidance for every day of life and it’s all fruit! That’s what I want you to trust.  I trust that the Holy Spirit is going to personally administer the application of His Word to each of us as needed.  

Colossians 3:23-25
Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work.  MSG

We understand the definition of work.  It’s our individual activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to produce, to provide and to preserve our position.  Work is a job, but Jesus promises you confidence that your individual activity involving mental or physical effort [with me] is the work that will produce, provide and preserve your position and inheritance with HIm.

Work [with me] from the heart
for your real Master, for God.
The sullen servant who does shoddy work [with me]
will be held responsible.

Being a follower of Jesus
doesn’t cover up bad work [with me].
The ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ.

Today’s Word – WALK

2022 begins with a transition that took it’s place in my mind just as 2021 was closing.  Three words from Matthew 11 in The Message Bible version of that Scripture were the catalyst: Walk, Work and Watch.  Those words are what I choose to begin looking for God’s Word to fill in the blanks of my own faith for 2022.  

Genesis 3:7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons. 8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”  RSV


“They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden.”  “The eyes of both were opened.”  “The man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God.”  “The Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”

Where am I walking?  Are my eyes opened?  Have I found a way to cover up because I’m aware that God can see my nakedness? These are my questions as I read these verses. It’s so tempting to pretend I don’t have any questions.  I have faith!  I am a believer!  I am standing before friends, neighbors and the world wide web, for Heaven’s sake!  How could I have questions?  

The questions aren’t the problem, the cover-up is!  I couldn’t help but notice the phrase “among the trees of the garden” and think about the common saying “to not see the forest for the trees.”  This whole walk is BIG!  I can look at Adam and Eve and clearly see their sin and forget how easy it is to cover my own with faith. If I had only one question that could meaningfully direct my personal devotions, and this blog, over the next 360 days it would be the one the Lord Himself is asking me to read and ponder at the end of verse 9.

“Where are you?”

“New” Year’s Revolution

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”  Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

These words of Jesus are meant to be very personal but personal is different than private.  This is the year in which my husband of nearly 63 years was killed in a tragic accident, and life continues despite the confusion of learning all the things I must now do alone, AND, life is still impacted by a relentless pandemic.  The temptation has been to let grief lure me into believing that isolation must be like rest, right?  Not so!  Over this last year I have learned a “new” thing about the reality of grace.  The less private I’ve allowed my awareness of grace at work in my life to become, the more personal it has become to me.  

In this “New” Year of my life I am not relying on a New Year’s resolution, but on the revolution of recovery that Jesus offers me keeping company with Him and other people of faith.  We can learn to live the “unforced rhythms of grace,” together, walking and working with Jesus, watching how He does life so we can make living “freely and lightly” both personal and possible.  I hope you will join me in this New Year’s Revolution to “recover your life” and to “take a real rest.” Love, Shirle