The Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed: The Lord—the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth,
When God chose this moment in the Biblical narrative to describe Himself to humanity through this interaction with Moses, He could have used a lot of different descriptive words. He could have said, “I am the Lord God harsh and demanding.” He could have been like the wizard in the “Wizard of Oz” movie, by declaring Himself as “I am the great and powerful God!” He could have used many different descriptions, but God chose to reveal Himself like He did in Ex 34:6. Why?
When we talk about God, some people talk about the Old Testament God and the New Testament God. The God of the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament can seem to be a God of harshness and judgement. There are sometimes where after the people stray from God and the consequences come. That is true. But here when God declares who He is he uses some amazing words. He says, “the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God” So let’s process that for a minute. How about this phrase, God “abounds in faithful love.” Now as we dive into this phrase, we will see an amazing truth about God that will help us as we navigate our relationship with Him.
The word that is translated to “faithful love” is the Hebrew word “Hesed”. This is a word that can easily lose the full meaning through translation. This word is translated other places “kindness,” “faithfulness,” “mercy,” “goodness,” “loyalty,” and “steadfast love.” All these are great translations, and they are not wrong. The full meaning of this word has to do with a love that is not dependent on the object of the love, but it is more descriptive of the one who is doing the loving. This word carries the idea of a loyal love that is always available whether the recipient is worthy or receptive to the one giving the love. This word also carries the idea that the one who is loving is bound by their own nature to love. The story of the children of Israel is a prime example of the loyal or faithful love of God. As the Bible story unfolds, the children of Israel are constantly in a state of straying away from God and returning to God. Hmm, sound personally familiar? The amazing thing is that God is always there to receive them back when they return to Him. This happens over and over in the Old Testament. You see, God’s loyal love gave them the ability to return. God’s faithful and loyal love allows us to return to Him too. If God’s love for us was not loyal we could never find our way back to Him. God never gives up on us because He cannot give up on us. It is not in the nature of who He is. His “Hesed” or loyal love always provides a road for any prodigal to come home, any person who gets caught up in this crazy world, any person who just forgot to acknowledge God this week or any person that has just lost their way. The road back to God is paved by His loyal love. God’s loyal love is the reason Jesus came.
But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Jesus is the word “Hesed” in the flesh. He is the one who loved us first, because it’s God’s nature to have steadfast love. While we were away from God doing our own thing and living our own way, Jesus died for us. You see, God loves you and pursues you whether you return His love or not.
Are you struggling? God’s is not waiting for you to become perfect His attitude toward you is loyal love. Do you need to return to God? Turn back to God and you can rest assured that Gods loyal love is waiting for you.
Here in Georgia, the pine tree is king. Take a hike in almost any park and you find yourself surrounded by pine trees. More specifically you will be surrounded by the Loblolly pine. These pine trees found in Georgia grow to about 80 feet tall. While that is a tall tree, the California Redwood dwarfs the Loblolly pine. One Redwood in particular measured in at 380 feet. Now that is a huge tree. The most amazing part is the size of the seed that it grows from. The seed of Reedwood is about the size of a tomato seed. That’s incredible. The potential for that giant tree is in that tiny seed. That little seed has the roadmap for making that tree. Pretty impressive.
Just like that tree, God’s special DNA is in you. The hard truth is that what you do with that potential is up to you. Just like a seed that is not planted will never become a Redwood, unless we do something with what God has given us we will not become what He intended. This is a tough pill to swallow sometimes. However, the good news is that just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean that the potential is not there. Listen to what the apostle Paul says about this subject.
Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.
1 Timothy 4:14&15
Paul tells us Timothy received some kind of gifting. He also tells him not to neglect it. He then goes further and says to be diligent and give yourself wholly to it. If you do, Timothy, everyone will see your progress. It will be evident that you have that gifting. Along with this comes the idea that if you are not giving yourself to it, no one will ever know it is there. Ouch! So just because the potential is there doesn’t mean it will automatically be experienced.
So this year what are the things that you need to be diligent about? What things do you need to give yourself wholly to? What things do you need not to neglect? Maybe you want to be a better parent this year. Give yourself to it. Make it a priority. Find a podcast or watch a video or even read a book on parenting. Ask yourself what you can do to be a better parent. Maybe there is someone you admire the way they parent, reach out to them and have conversations with them. Let it be something you think about. When there is an area I want to grow in, I feed myself information about that. Periodically I will listen to something or read something on being a better husband. I do this so I can become better. Not perfect, but better. Most of the New Years’ resolutions fail because we stop giving ourselves to them. The scriptural principle is that whatever you sow to you will reap.
It comes down to the currency of our day. It is not money. The real currency of the day is time. So what are we “spending” our time on? Ok, time for true confessions, I love anything StarWars related. I watch anything Star Wars related. So guess what? If you have any Star Wars questions, I can answer them. If you want opinions about anything Star Wars related, I have way too many of them. You could say that I, embarrassingly, have given my time to it. Because I have given myself to it I know way too much about it. What you give yourself to WILL grow whether good or bad.
We can’t change what has happened already, so we are putting the past in our rearview mirror. The past is the past. We are going to do some proper seed planting. We are going to be careful about what we plant. We are going to give ourselves to the thing that we want to grow in. This year we are going to see the potential of the seed in us grow. This year we are going to be purposeful and see some changes. Let us commit to growing so that everyone around us will see the change that is happening. We may not all become perfect but we will grow when we give ourselves to growing the seed of greatness given by God to everyone. Now is your moment and it is time to GROW!
“In silence and in meditation on the eternal truths, I hear the voice of God which excites our hearts to greater love.”
C. S. Lewis
1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, 2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night. 3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.
True confessions. Silence is naturally hard for me. I am not usually a quiet person. I love to have music playing while I work. I love to be entertained. The truth is I am probably like most people in the modern age. So when we talk about meditation, I used to get nervous. I think it was because I had a misunderstanding of what Biblical meditation is. But as I gain understanding it has opened up a new world when I choose to engage in Biblical meditation. In this article, I want to help break misconceptions and inspire you to incorporate this practice in your life. If I can learn it anyone can.
Meditation once was thought to be an important discipline for Christians. Contemplative thought was celebrated and encouraged. Christians were people who thought deeply about how life and the scriptures related. However deep thinking has gone to more modern thinking, which is given to us in short doses. Social media has not helped us in our ability to think deeply. Information now comes so fast that our minds can only handle the headline thoughts. Think about the last time you actually read an entire article from a headline you read. Notice that you may just be skimming this magazine article. If so, I caught you! Don’t be embarrassed, our culture is teaching us to think shallow. It is teaching us to think an inch deep and a mile long. We rarely go deep into a subject.
Another enemy of meditation is distraction. As I write this I am constantly reminded of the temptation to be distracted. My phone is the worst. When my text alert goes off I have to muster up all the self-discipline I have to remind myself that I am not bound by any law regarding the timely reading of someone’s text. Even when I am preparing for my Sunday morning sermons I am constantly reeling myself in. How is it when I was researching early Jewish customs on my computer, I ended up watching a video on the new vaccines for Covid? Many of us tell ourselves, “I’ll just be a second”. Then after I have wasted time on that, it will take about 20 minutes to fully reorient myself to what I was doing. It is truly amazing that with all the information out there deep learning and meditation are being left in the dust. I desperately want off that train.
Scripture is clear. We need meditation. Even the secular world sees the value of meditation. God created us for contemplative thinking. There are so many scriptures on this that I would take up all the space here to quote them. Just do a google search and you will find it to be true. God made us to meditate on Him and who He is. As believers, we don’t just center ourselves or think about our inward selves. Our meditation is on our Creator and more specifically His word. Notice the scripture above. Our meditation is on the word of God. You will find that when the Bible talks about meditation it is talking about meditating on God through His word. Much of the time our shallow thinking has taken over and robbed us of deeper thoughts on God. We must stop, take a pause and think about the truths of God. A ministry that I love introduced me to the idea of the 1-minute pause. I have learned to do that periodically. Just take 1 minute to stop and refocus my attention back on my God. I may think about Jesus’ great love for me. I may stop and just thank Him for giving His life for me. I may think about the things that I am facing and remember how big our God is. I may say out of my mouth. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” Or “God I thank you that you will never leave me or forsake me” “Thank you that you will not leave me alone” but I won’t stop there. I will begin to meditate on what that truth means for me. I have to resist the temptation to think, “Oh, I know this already.” You see that is the trap. I will think about it for a solid minute. You may say, “that couldn’t help” But many times it is just what I need in the middle of the day to reset my mind back on the Lord.
There are many things you can do that will help you on your meditation journey. Just a few bellow
Find a quiet place. I know, I know, “you don’t know my house.” Which is true. But find something. I used to go out on my lunch break and find a park and that was it for me. Just somewhere the world can’t get to you.
Take a walk in nature. There are some great parks with trails.
In the car. Turn off that radio. Yes, even the Christian stuff. Take a moment just you and God. Podcasts and worship music are great but sometimes it can make us lazy. Sometimes we need our own thoughts, not just thoughts created by someone else.
Memorize some Scriptures that you would like to think about. Write them down and put them where you go regularly. The bathroom vanity is my favorite. Brush your teeth and brush your heart at the same time.
Stop reading your Bible on your phone. It can be wave after wave of alert interruptions. Also, the google and youtube temptations are way too much for most of us
Start journaling. Journaling is a great way to meditate and think deeply. Make your journaling part of your prayer. Writing out prayers is a wonderful discipline. Who knows you might go back later and see how God has answered them.
The biggest thing is to begin with something. Even if it is small. Believe me, you will grow in it.
If we have ever needed the practice of meditation, it is now. There is so much instability in our world. In a world that pushes the immediate stimulation of our minds, let’s push back against that. It will take some effort to push back but I promise you the rewards are life-changing. Remember that God is an ever-present help in time of need. Let us make a decision to be people that invite Him in. Let’s become people that meditate on our amazing God! Let us commit to reclaim the lost art of meditation.
“Well, in Whoville they say that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day. And then the true meaning of Christmas came though, and the Grinch found the strength of ten Grinches plus two.”
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss
So it’s here again. Christmas time is here. So let’s crank up that Bing Crosby or the Micheal Buble version of “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”. Like it or not, it’s here. Even with all the online shopping and the Covid problem, the stores will still be bustling with masked people this year searching for that one gift that their loved one can’t live without.
This time of year is so different from all the others. There is just something about Christmas. All the stores and city streets are decorated with Christmas cheer. You see it everywhere you go. Driving in the neighborhoods you see it as well. The neighborhoods turn into a competition for the unspoken champion of the light displays. From the simple blow up Santa and reindeer to the full fledged computer generated, syncopated light and music extravaganza. The cars driving down the road with the Christmas trees securely tied to the roof. The conversation in the car goes something like this, “Oh I’m sure this huge tree is not too big for our living room.” The families get home and try not to fight over how to properly decorate the newly purchased tree. Ah…. Christmas.
But wait, what about Jesus? Did we forget about Jesus? My conclusion in the past was to get angry about the “commercialization” of Christmas. Santa, the reindeer, the lights, decorations, the trees, and the gifts, what does all this have to do with the birth of the Savior of the world? I used to get so mad about it, but much like the Grinch I have had a change of heart. Now I look at it quite differently. Do I wish there would be a greater demonstration of the birth of Jesus? Of course I do. That would be nice for sure, but maybe I could look at it all in a different way. My realization came while shopping in a store one Christmas. I was looking for a gift for my wife when I realized I was hearing “Silent Night” playing on the speakers throughout the store. I stopped and listened to the words and was reminded in the middle of that store decorated with Santa and the elves, Christmas trees and twinkling lights, the reason why everything was decorated was to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Maybe no one in that store had that realization, but I did. In that moment I made up my mind to look at all the decorations differently. I could get mad or I could use all of the fanfare of the Christmas season to remind me of why Christmas is important to me.
And there were shepherds residing in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks by night. Just then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid! For behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the city of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord! And this will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Now I enjoy the season in a new and profound way. Whenever I see all the twinkling lights I think about Jesus being the light of the world and how He shines His light into my own darkness. When I see the Christmas tree, I think of the life of God that I have in me because of what happened in that little town of Bethlehem. When I receive that gift from a loved one I think of the ultimate gift from the One who loves me the most. When I hear “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” I think of the joy that is in my heart because of God’s great love for me. I know this could sound a bit sappy, but couldn’t 2020 use a little bit of sappiness? It is all in the way we look at it. We have to be careful that we don’t just develop that critical heart about everything. We can use what we see around us to make us mad or we can use it to bring joy to our hearts. I choose joy. What about you? The challenge as we approach this Christmas season is to choose to let the decorations remind you of the real “reason for the season.” I choose to think about it like this. All these people decorated their houses, stores, and city streets, so I could be reminded of the most important event in human history. God loved me so much that He sent Jesus to provide salvation to me for all of my wrong I have done. I didn’t deserve it but God did it anyway. That is what Christmas means to me and through that lens I choose to see everything else. Let this Christmas season be different. Let’s be reminded in all that we see that God still loves us. I challenge you the next time you hear a faith filled Christmas song this year, stop and take note. Maybe God is trying to get your attention to help you remember. Maybe like God did for my Grinch heart that day, your heart will grow three sizes too.
Ahh.. Christmas, It is truly the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year”.