The Real Hands of God

Exodus 3:7-10 is an insightful, informative, and instructive passage, it reads:

“Then the LORD said, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharoah that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” (ESV)

Notice all that the LORD said he had seen, heard, and had come to do: The LORD said: “I have surely seen the afflictions of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry. . .I know their sufferings.” The LORD said: “I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey. . .” The LORD said: “The cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.”

But if we merged the beginning of verse 7 with verses 8 and 10, it would read something like this: “Then the LORD said, I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land. . .Come, I will send you to Pharoah that ‘you’ may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.”

Do you see that? The LORD did all that talk about what he had come to do, only to send Moses to do it! That’s the lesson! Whatever the LORD does on earth, the LORD always uses human hands to do it! Why? Because God is a spirit and in a material world, an immaterial spirit can only work through a material human vessel. Two reasons for that: One, it’s just the way things work in the intersection of the spiritual and the material, and two, the earth is humanity’s domain, therefore only humanity has authority to operate on earth. (That is why, to fully redeem humanity, God had to become human in Jesus).

One of the reasons the world is in the shape it is in is because most ‘Christians’ don’t know or don’t understand what I just explained! This is why they pray prayers that God cannot and will not answer! God cannot and will not go by the hospitals, the nursing homes, or go behind prison walls to see about the sick, the lonely, and the imprisoned! Why? Because God is spirit AND those are the things God commands us to do! That’s the problem! Instead of being inspired by faith that God will empower us to do what we should be doing, too many of us are waiting for God to magically do it himself!

Another point and I’m through! After Moses led the people out of Egypt, they found themselves in a predicament with the sea in front of them and Pharoah’s army closing in fast behind them! Moses decided it was time to have a prayer meeting, but the LORD said to him: “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry land.” (Exodus 14:15-16)

We waste too much time praying for answers the LORD has already given and too much time waiting on the LORD to do what the LORD has already instructed, empowered, equipped, and authorized us to do!

It’s past time for us (redeemed humanity) to put on our spiritual ‘big boy’ pants and do what we were created and placed on earth to do; to exercise dominion on God’s behalf. Because of rebellion, Adam lost access to that dominion. But praise God, we can regain access to that dominion through Jesus the Christ! Traditional Christianity teaches Jesus came just to ‘rescue’ us from sin and to provide us a way to escape earth to go to Heaven. But Jesus came to fix up what Adam messed up! Jesus came to restore access to the dominion that Adam lost! Jesus came to provide the way for humanity to fulfill God’s original intent for creating humanity; to image, reflect, and represent God on earth!

The Difference Between David and Saul

Have you ever wondered what was the difference between David and Saul? Saul was the first king of Israel, but God rejected him from being king and selected David to replace him.

But what did Saul do that was so bad to cause him to be rejected as king by God? When you look at all that David did, and then you look at what Saul did, it seems incredible that Saul was rejected, and David was called a man after God’s own heart!

I mean, think about it! David took another man’s wife, got her pregnant, and then had her husband killed in an attempt to cover-up his sin! And what did Saul do? All Saul did was spare the life of an enemy king and save some livestock that God had told him to kill and destroy!

The ultimate difference between David and Saul was their response when confronted with their sins. When the prophet Samuel confronted Saul about his disobedience, Saul insisted that he had indeed obeyed the Lord, even though Samuel could hear the sound of the livestock, which was evidence of Saul’s disobedience! However, when the prophet Nathan confronted David, David acknowledged his sin and repented!

Therein was the difference; Saul denied his wrong and tried to justify his disobedience, but David admitted his wrong and repented of his sin! The Bible says in Proverbs 28:13, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”

My friends, none of us are perfect and no matter how we try to do right, from time to time, we will do wrong! The key to forgiveness and God’s grace is not to double-down, doggedly denying our transgressions, but rather to admit our mistakes and make the needed adjustments. That was the difference between David and Saul, and that is the difference between forgiveness and condemnation.

Autopilot Adjustment Needed?

I truly believe, with every fiber of my being, that the most important factor in life IS NOT what happens to us, but rather it is HOW WE RESPOND to what happens to us! And for the most part, how we respond to what happens to us is habitual. In other words, when something happens, we don’t think about how to respond, we just automatically respond the way we’ve always responded to similar occurrences.

These learned habitual responses are formed during our childhood and if they are not modified or adjusted, they will continue throughout our adulthood. This is what I believe is the problem in many situations in our country today!

A child is naturally selfish, self-centered, and insists on having its own way. When that is denied, the child responds with a temper tantrum, which involves aggressive behaviors. As part of the child’s social development, a good parent teaches the child how to share, how to respect the property of others, how to accept disappointment, how to accept ’No’ for an answer. All of this is part of the child’s maturing process.

I believe what we are witnessing in our culture today are the actions, responses, attitudes of people who have reached the age of maturity, but have yet to mature! At the same time, we are also witnessing the actions of children who have been allowed access to ‘grown-up toys’ too soon!

The Apostle Paul said: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways.” (1 Corinthians 13:11 NET) But it’s hard to put away childish ways when they have been allowed to grow uninhibited to the point where they have been habitually ingrained into the subconscious.

The answer? Be conscious! Nearly 95% of what we do every day is done as a subconscious habit! In other words, we live most of our life on autopilot! For instance, if I were to ask you: “What shoe did you put on first this morning?” More than likely, you couldn’t tell me! But I can tell you that it was the same one you put on first every morning!

So, here’s your homework. Tomorrow morning BEFORE you put on your shoes STOP! Take note of which one you reach for, and then put on the other one first! Try this every day for at least 21 days! It will be hard at first, but if you are consistent and don’t cheat, by the end of the 21 days, you will be putting on the opposite shoe with the same ease as you were putting on the other shoe!

Now, after you’ve mastered that, stop and think about the non-productive or negative responses to situations you always find yourself engaging in. Then, the next time a ‘trigger’ situation occurs, BEFORE, you respond STOP AND THINK: Is my response appropriate or proportional to the situation? Am I trying to kill a roach with a hammer?

You see, you respond that way because you have always (habitually) responded that way! It just might be that your response is inappropriate and non-productive. If that is the case, then you need to change your response!

Don’t settle for the false belief that that’s just the way you are and you can’t change because you can! You can change any response the same way you can change what shoe you put on first every morning!

Change your thinking; change your habits! Change your habits; change your responses! Change your responses; change your life!

Remember, it’s not the problem that’s the problem! It’s how you respond to the problem, that’s the problem! And often times, if you would just stop and think instead of just automatically responding the way you’ve always responded, you just might discover that the problem is not a problem at all!

Numbers, Dollars, and Sense

As I am writing this, our country; the United States of America and the world is in the midst of the Coronavirus COVID – 19 pandemic. However, the thing that is troubling me, even more than the pandemic itself is the diverse reactions and responses to it!

Even after all this time and the untold numbers of those who have fallen ill and died, there are many who are still claiming that it’s not that bad and that it is more important to get back to work to save the economy! In the state of Georgia, where I live, the governor has lifted restrictions and allowed businesses, such as hair salons, tattoo parlors, barber shops and other business where it is impossible to maintain social distancing to re-open! This is being done at a time when the rates of infection and deaths are still going up and the state is nowhere near bringing testing up to point to adequately gauge the virus spread! (One of the suggested federal guidelines stipulated that no state should attempt to reopen until there has been at least a 14-day decline in the infection rate!) The governor states that he has been listening to the medical and scientific experts, but one wonders who they are when the data suggest otherwise.

But at any rate, the thing that is so disturbing to me is that our country; the United States, is any and everything but ‘united!’ In the midst of this pandemic, which is the greatest crises this nation has faced since 911, many members of Congress and the President are obsessed with petty politics and political power! Instead of working together for the good of the country, many of our government leaders are focused on what’s good for their own political party and power base!

For the last several years, even before this present crisis, the American public and even the world has been subjected to an unbelievable display of petty, immature, and narcissistic behavior that is unmatched in the history of American politics! If someone had suggested twenty years ago that this would have been the ‘norm’ of American politics, they would have been deemed as crazy, because such levels of incompetence and the absence of human decency were beyond anyone’s imagination!

Who would have thought back then, that there ever would come a day in America when there would be a debate about which is really more valuable; the economy or human lives? Who would have thought that there would come a day in our country when people would have to actually decide, on a personal level, whether to go to work to pay their bills or stay home to save their lives?

The government leaders are saying that the economy should open when there are acceptable rates of infections and deaths. But what about the people who are actually being infected and the people who are actually dying? Is the sacrifice really worth it to them? In a country where there is already systemic discrimination in health care and benefits, is it reasonable to sacrifice the health and lives of people who were already being sacrificed and think there is some moral justification in it?

There is an effort by some to show appreciation for the health-care workers and other people who are hourly and daily sacrificing their health and lives for the sake of others, and that is good. But, would those who advocate opening up the country for the sake of the economy in spite of the overwhelming good-sense recommendations that it is too soon, be willing to make sure those and the families of those who get sick and die as a result of this premature action be compensated in some way? I think not! For those who are pushing such actions have already, by their actions, prove they value dollars over human lives!

I am not an economist, neither am I a business owner, but I do have bills to pay! Therefore, I have enough sense to know that we cannot indefinitely pause the economy! I know we cannot keep our present course indefinitely! But in the meantime, we should be willing to be patient and make some sacrifices if that means we are saving human lives! For we must all remember, the numbers we see and hear about in the discussions about infections and deaths, are not just numbers; they are people! They are husbands, wives, daughters, sons, grandparents and grandchildren! Their sickness and their deaths have an immediate impact upon the lives of countless other people!

And so, I appeal to you, no matter where you stand on the issue, this is much bigger than petty politics! It’s more important than the label of Democrat or Republican, liberal or moderate, right-wing or left-wing! When a person is sick or dead, none of that matters! This virus does not care about ethnicity, race, political persuasion, or social status! The real issue is not about numbers, because even just one is one too many! It’s not about dollars because how can anyone put a dollar-value on a human life? No! It’s not about the numbers or the dollars, it’s about sense! A sense of decency! A sense of mutual respect! A sense of what is right and what is wrong! As far as the dollars are concern, I hear a carpenter from Nazareth of Galilee, asking questions that have echoed down throughout the centuries: “What good will it do someone if he gains the whole world but forfeits his life? Or, what can a person give in exchange for his life?” (Matt. 16:26 CJB) My modern-day Miller Translation is this: “What good is it to restart the economy at the expense of human life? What profit is it to the economy if people are too sick or too dead to benefit from it?” Some one might say that it will benefit those who are left! But how cold and callous can you be to sacrifice the life of someone else for your own? Such an attitude of one of privilege and superiority, which just might be the root-cause of this debate in the first place!

Coronavirus: Revelations and Lessons

Unless you have been living under the proverbial rock or on some remote island in the middle of sea, you have been, in some way or another, impacted by the spread of the Coronavirus. The economy and social structure of the entire world has been impacted. In the annuals of history, the Coronavirus Pandemic will rate on the scale of such catastrophic events as the World Wars, the assassination of JFK, the Space Shuttle catastrophe, and 911! And, just as it was in the aftermath of those red-letter-calendar events, things will not return to the way they were before the event occurred!

But, there are some lessons we can learn from this recent world-wide event that will be beneficial to all, if we would just learn them and adapt. First of all, Corona reminds us that we are indeed a global community and that our commonalities really are more than our differences. It didn’t matter what ideology, religion, political persuasion, ethnic or racial identity; all were and are impacted by the virus! The lesson to be learned? Since all are equally impacted, then it seems to reason that all are equally human! Therefore, the Coronavirus is just another, of a long, unending list of proofs that the artificial barriers and claims of ethnic and racial superiority that some promote are just plain nonsense! All are equally susceptible, but the proof of our humanity or the lack thereof, will be shown in how all are treated in response!

Although, I use email, social media, and other means of technology to communicate, I am somewhat of a ‘dinosaur’ in some other things. The lesson that this crisis is teaching me is the importance of being flexible and willing to adapt new ways of doing old things! Because of restrictions put in place in an effort to curb the spread of the virus, the congregation I lead is temporarily unable to meet as we normally would on Sunday mornings, Wednesday evenings, or on various other days for ministry activities. Consequently, I am being forced to experiment with making Facebook Live presentations and conducting virtual Bible Class and preaching to a camera instead of a live audience! Funny thing about it is that I am discovering that I am more nervous talking to a camera than I am addressing a live audience! Now, all of this is not necessarily a bad thing! The church has always been traditionally lagging behind in adapting new technology. But the adaption of new technology is needed in order to reach the current culture. I just pray that when this is over, people don’t prefer to remain socially distant!

And speaking of ‘social distance,’ the practice of maintaining social distance has forced us to re-establish the practice of family togetherness, which is really a good thing! Hopefully, being forced to remain in close proximity to the wife, the husband, the children, and the pets will force families to get reacquainted with one another and strengthen the family bond!

I realize we are in the midst of stressful times! We are having to do and endure some things that are unpleasant and undesirable, but as the Bible says in KJV English, “It shall come to pass!” I have talked with pastors and other church leaders who insist closing the church doors for this crises is giving in to fear and/or government control. But the bottom line is this: This is not a matter of faith, this is a matter of public safety and concern for one’s fellowman! Along that same line of reasoning, I just read of a beach in Florida, packed with people, in blatant disregard for the restrictive measures the CDC and the government are suggesting. Yes! People may have the freedom and the right to do something, but that doesn’t mean it’s right to do it!

We are all in this together! We should all do what we can to get through this with a minimum amount of sickness and death. So, if that means giving up some of my rights for the sake of the health and benefit of all, in my mind, that is the only loving and humane thing to do!

In the meantime, stay safe: Wash your hands, take care of yourself and your neighbor!