Out of Egypt

bigstock-Dramatic-detail-of-the-chained-46646803When I think of Egypt, my first thoughts go to Moses, the Ten Commandments, and the whole “Let my people go!”thing. But guess what? A reference shows up in Matthew’s account of the Christmas story, chapter two, verse fifteen: When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. (NIV)

Of course, calling Jesus out of Egypt required He first go in. So, does Jesus’ escape to Egypt have any other purpose than to get away from bad guy King Herod? Was Matthew simply giving us a cliffhanger? Bringing a little tension to an otherwise humdrum period in Jesus’ childhood? Or is something else at work here?

And why Egypt? Certainly, there were many places Joseph could have taken his family. Back to Nazareth, for instance. But an angel directs Joe to Egypt and tells him to stay put until Herod’s death, which, thankfully, wasn’t long in coming.

Think of it: strange country, different language, different religion, oh, and the whole Moses, plagues, and Red Sea deal.

These things aside, Egypt often represented bondage in Scripture. The original exodus from Egypt marked a new beginning for the fledgling nation. God intervened on Israel’s behalf and engineered their release from slavery. Next—a new home and a new status as God’s chosen ones—witnesses to the world of His goodness.

Yet, the internal bondage of sin remained and it was for this release Jesus came. But He had to walk it first. A personal trip to Egypt.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16 NIV)

Giving up His heavenly glory, He walked in our sandals. He worked, prayed, and sweated like the rest of us.

And He made choices.

Choices not to knock his dim-witted, unbelieving brothers into next week when they mocked him. (Family issues, anyone?)

Choices not to curse when He hit His thumb with a hammer in the carpentry shop. (Wow, those neurons work amazingly well.)

Choices not to heal Himself but to wait on God when He had the flu. (A little germ help, please?)

Choices not to take Satan’s shortcuts when the cross loomed before Him.

Because Jesus came out of Egypt sinless and pure, He makes a way for us.

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:34-36 NIV)

Have you come out of Egypt?

Questions:

Contrast bondage and freedom.

Contrast bondage thinking with freedom thinking.

Is there a sin that has you in bondage?

What would release look like to you?

Commit the issue to God and keep track of the path of freedom He leads you on.

Tweetables:

The internal bondage of sin remained and it was for this release Jesus came. Gayle @gveitenheimer Click to tweet.

Because Jesus came out of Egypt sinless and pure, He makes a way for us. Gayle @gveitenheimer Click to tweet.

What would release from your Egypt look like? God is waiting to unlock your chains. Gayle @gveitenheimer Click to tweet.

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Tip of the Spear

bigstock-Us-Soldier-30905357Selfless.

I can think of no other word to describe the men and women who serve in the U.S. military. Now, I know—not all sign up for love of God and country. Some are adrenaline junkies looking for a challenge in our special operations forces (SOF). Others simply need discipline and direction. Reasons vary with each individual.

However, they have one thing in common. Sacrifice. They leave a lot behind. Friends. Family. This life of service comes with a cost.

Last month, our family attended a special graduation ceremony for our oldest. He joins an elite group of men in the SOF family. It was the first time our kids had seen their brother in nearly a year, a painfully long time for all of us.

And now he moves to the tip of the spear, military personnel serving at the foremost front lines. SOF definitely qualify for this title as their work takes them behind enemy lines as well. Exposing themselves to enemy fire in order to pick up a GPS or communication signal is not unheard of. Neither is risking life and limb to bring a wounded brother out of harm’s way or to retrieve the body of a buddy.

Like I said.

Selfless.

Christlike.

This season, as you watch the Hallmark commercials of military personnel returning home for the holidays, remember this. Many will not have leave and their families are enduring long months of deployment. Support them in any way you can.

Remember, too—our Savior left home to be our tip of the spear. He faced the enemy. He faced sin. He faced death.

We have victory today because of His service and sacrifice.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13 ESV)

Questions:

Spiritual battles are all around us. Whose tip of the spear can you be?

Look at Ephesians 6 and 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. What kind of gear do we have?

Many times the battle is where?

Do you have family members who currently serve in the armed forces? If not, do you know friends or church members who do?

What can you do to make their holidays special?

Tweetables:

Our Savior left home to be our tip of the spear. Gayle @gveitenheimer Click to tweet.

We have victory today because of His service and sacrifice. Gayle @gveitenheimer Click to tweet.

Whose tip of the spear can you be? Gayle @gveitenheimer Click to tweet.

 

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O Little Town

bigstock-Mary-And-Joseph-Nativity-Chris-53139316Bethlehem. Small. Little. Puny, even.

Country cousin to capital city Jerusalem.

A place one might travel through, but not stop and linger.

Yet God plants a clue in the “minor” book of Micah. When His Son steps from heaven to earth, His foot will touch Bethlehem first:

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. (Micah 5:2 ESV)

Bethlehem means house of bread. The house of bread housing the Bread of Life? Pun intended, God? Who would have thought?

Evidently—no one.

When the Magi came looking for the one born King of the Jews, Herod had to look it up. He sent the chief priests and teachers of the law on a Google search without the Google.

When they came back with, ta-da, Bethlehem, neither Herod nor the religious leaders bothered going.

Really? You’d think at least one scribe, dying of curiosity, would tail the Magi—or better yet, show them the way.

Nope.

Not even an intern.

Bethlehem was too little. Not worth the effort.

Have you been a Bethlehem? Put down, written off, or ignored? Too small? Too backward? Too—whatever?

Just remember. The Bread of Life was alive and well—in Bethlehem.

And if you know Him, His Spirit is alive and well in you also. There is no too small or too little in God’s book. God has a special place for the too _________________.(Fill in the blank.)

Just look at the Christmas story:

Bethlehem – too little

Shepherds – too blue collar

Mary – too young

Zechariah and Elizabeth – too old

Wise Men – too foreign

This Christmas, think about Bethlehem and celebrate the too ______________________.

Questions:

Do you wear a label of too something?

If so, who gave it to you?

Have you ever labeled someone else?

Do you think God agrees with the label?

How does God see you?

Is your heart a Bethlehem for the Bread of Life?

Tweetables:

Bethlehem: the house of bread. Pun intended, God? The house of bread hosting the Bread of Life? Gayle @gveitenheimer Click to tweet.

Have you been a Bethlehem? Put down, written off, or ignored? Too ______? Gayle @gveitenheimer Click to tweet.

Do you wear a label of too ________? Gayle @gveitenheimer Click to tweet.

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Blackout

bigstock-Flashlight-In-Dark-4983806Blackouts. They send us scrambling for light. Flashlights with weak batteries, candles from the drawer, or the gas fireplace if it’s wintertime. We gather together and hover around the light. We huddle up, we talk, we muse.

Why?

Fear? No, it’s not like we’re sleeping with the lights on night after night.

Electronic dependency? We draw together when our virtual worlds shut down? Perhaps.

It’s a good thing whatever the cause. Something to reflect on this season.

Light touches everything we do during the holidays. Christmas lights. Advent candles. Bright against the darkness of winter’s early evenings. An eternal contrast. The Christmas story itself glows with light:

  • Angelic appearances
  • God’s glory illuminating grassy fields full of sheep
  • A star

Light. The Light. The Light who came not only to pierce the darkness but also to defeat it—permanently—in a clash of kingdoms.

Why?

Because mankind needed a rescue from its own personal blackout:

. . . giving thanks to the Father, who qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:12-14 NIV)

So huddle up in front of the fireplace. Plug in your Christmas lights and light some scented candles. Turn off the electronics and think. Think about life without light. Life without Him. Think about a permanent blackout versus a time limit for evil and a reckoning day.

Reflect, muse, and wonder.

And pass it on.

Questions:

What is your favorite light at Christmas? Tree décor, yard lights, constellations?

Why is light a bigger deal at Christmas versus summertime?

Contrast light and dark. What things do you think of?

Consider an Advent wreath this year.

Whose holiday can you brighten this season?

Tweetables:

Mankind needed a rescue from its own personal blackout, says Gayle @gveitenheimer. Click to tweet. 

The Light came not only to pierce the darkness, but also to defeat it–permanently. Gayle @gveitenheimer Click to tweet.

Think about a permanent blackout versus a time limit for evil and a day of reckoning. Gayle @gveitenheimer Click to tweet.

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Cut to the Heart and I’m to Blame

bigstock-Bloody-kitchen-knife-isolated--36020614I’ve been stabbed. Again.

Scripture compares God’s Word to a sword and boy, did I get it this week. Check out this verse:

Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn His wrath away from him. (Proverbs 24: 17-18 NIV)

Have you been there?

That smirk, that grin when your not-so-favorite person gets what’s coming? Perhaps it’s an annoying classmate, an over-talkative mom in your book club, or a business associate. It could even be—Gasp!—a sibling.

But check God’s reaction. He is not only concerned with justice for your bad guy, He’s also concerned with your attitude.

Ouch! No gloating? No feelings of revenge or superiority? Even when they deserved it?

Nope.

Aww, man!

I know. Me too, but stay with me. What is God wanting to see instead?

Perhaps a recognition that all sin is ugly and never something to rejoice over.

Maybe an understanding that the next sin could be our own.

Possibly an extension of grace—‘cause that’s what I’d want if I was hurting. James reminds us, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

Allow God to deal with your not-so-favorite someone. Stay vigilant and keep your heart pure lest you, like me, find yourself on the cutting end of God’s sword.

Questions:

Define justice.

Is a desire for justice right or wrong?

How can it get twisted?

Have you been gloated over?

Have you done some gloating?

How does a change in perspective change our attitude?

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Football 101: Holding On

bigstock-Overhead-photo-of-an-American--24720269“Fumble!” My walls shake with the sound waves and I know every neighbor within a half-mile radius can hear my husband. You see, fall means football at our house. As a mother of three boys, receivers and safeties, and wife to a former quarterback, I faced spending the autumn months in solitude—or learning the game. I learned quickly and I can run pass routes like the pros.

So here’s a little Football 101: Fumbles.

When a player drops the ball, it’s called a fumble. The offense (the guys with the ball) tries to advance the ball in hopes of scoring, so dropping the thing is bad. Bad because if you happen to fall on the ball and get it back, you just lost a play and you only get four shots to go ten yards. Bad because if you weren’t lucky enough to get the ball back, you just lost your turn and now the other guys have it. Bummer.

God was prepping for football analogies back in Old Testament times. Check out this verse from 1 Samuel 3:19:

The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he (Samuel) let none of his (God’s) words fall to the ground.

I love this verse. We are talking about Samuel’s growing up years, from preschool to his hairy-legged, smelly teenaged years. And what defined those years?

“ . . . he (Samuel) let none of his (God’s) words fall to the ground.”

No fumbles.

He may have been sacked, tackled, and dog piled, but he never fumbled.

Coach Jimmy Johnson often told his players to “Hold on” instead of “Don’t fumble” because in the noise of the game, the tendency was to hear “…fumble.” Then they would. However, all players know to yell when the ball squirts out because it alerts anyone near the ball to get on it. To this day, when a player drops the ball, my husband screams, “Fumble!” Why?

Because recovering what has been dropped is critical.

So, how’s your ball handling? Are you holding on to God’s Word? Do you clutch it loosely in one hand as you scramble? Does it slip off your fingers for an incomplete pass? If you fumble, do you fall on the ball in an attempt to recover it?

Assistant Coach Samuel yells from the sidelines, “Hold on!”

Questions:

How much contact do you have with God’s Word? How often do you read the playbook?

Rate your practice time (Home life):

Holding Tight     Loosey Goosey     Incomplete Pass     Fumble

How does your practice affect your game time—real world situations requiring you to apply God’s Word?

How do you think Samuel held on?

How can you hold on too? Memorize? Read? Meditate on one verse? Music?

Pick one thing to try this week.

What might a recovery look like?

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Fork in the Road

bigstock-Fork-In-The-Road-11711951

Decisions.

Left or right? Band or drama? Soccer or football? Stocks or CD’s? Move or stay? Promotion with travel or status quo and more family time?

If you’re five or fifty-five, you’re facing decisions. Some minor, others major. How do you know which way is right?

Nike says, “Just do it.”

God says, “Just ask.”

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5 NIV)

Giving without faultfinding.

How gracious he (God) will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you . . . Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:19b, 21 NIV)

Clarity: this is the way.

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. (Jeremiah 33:3 NIV)

He wants you to call. And He has the answers.

One thing though.

You have to be still.

And listen.

Sometimes for days.

Days? Days.

Yikes! You know what this means, don’t you? This means time out of your busy schedule. Or perhaps you use your between times more wisely. Time between school and practice. Time between work and home. Time between dinner and bed.

Time.

God speaks through many things: a verse from His Word or lyrics from a song on the radio. But if your ears and heart aren’t prepped to listen, you’re not tuned in to the signal.

And you’ll miss it.

Because busyness is loud.

And God is quiet.

Oh, He speaks, but don’t expect Him to shout over the noise of a packed schedule.

If you want His guidance, His advice, His two cents, then be still.

Prepare your heart by spending time with Him—without distractions. Put up your spiritual sails and wait. When the breeze of the Holy Spirit begins to blow—you’ll not only catch it, but you’ll also be on course. The right one.

Questions:

When was the last time you were still before God? Quiet, no distractions, just sitting at His feet?

What helps you block out distractions so you can focus on Him?

When did you last ask God for guidance?

How did it go? Keeping track of His answers will keep you pointed towards Him in the future.

Is there anything for which you would not ask God’s help? Why?

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