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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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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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How’s It Growing?

bigstock-Growing-green-plant-22764032How’s it growing? Your faith, that is.

Hebrews 11:1 says,

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

I’ve also heard faith explained as believing God will do what He says and acting on it.

So, how’s it growing?

Is God fighting for time in your thoughts? Or do they go to Him automatically? Does prayer come easily? Or as an afterthought when something goes wrong?

Paul tells us in Romans, our faith is linked to hearing the word of God:

“Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17 NIV)

So, how’s your hearing?

For those of you with non-readers, the responsibility of making God’s word heard falls on you. But don’t despair. These principles apply to all of us:

  • Read the Bible at the table. Even one verse before school starts the day with Scripture on the brain.
  • Music: Play praise music. Often. At home. In the car. Change it up to meet everyone’s tastes.
  • Memorize Scripture. Tape a verse in the middle of the table or on the bathroom mirror. GT and the Halo Express is great series for the younger ones. For you older folk, there is plenty of Scripture set to music. Win-win!

Hear the Word, out loud or through your favorite headphones, and watch your faith grow.

Questions:

How many times each week are your ears exposed to the Bible?

In Isaiah 55: 10-11, God promises that time in His word is never wasted. What is competing for your attention?

What verse has helped you in your faith? Have everyone share a favorite.

Would these verses be a great start for memorization? Pick one. Give a prize at the end of the week for successful memory work.

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Welcome to AA: Attitude Adjustments

bigstock-Cinderella-Talking-To-Mice-36603259Disney princess movies stump me. Snow White and Cindy happily cleaning away with a song in their heart knowing full well the wicked women in their lives will make them do it again tomorrow. Really?

My children and I are challenged—not to do the simple things—cooking, cleaning, etc.—but to have a good attitude in the process. For my kids, ESPN and So You Think You Can Dance are calling. Me? I have a whole list of things more fun than loading the dishwasher. No, I was not raised in a home where service was a joy and we couldn’t wait to do this stuff.

So I struggle to have a proper spirit, until Paul reminds me:

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”(Colossians 3:23-24 NIV)

To picture Jesus standing there and asking me to do it for Him—that’s not the problem. The doing for Jesus isn’t hard. I’m happy to do it for Him. The challenge is to shift my mind into a new gear, because it’s the remembering that everything I do is done for Him that gets me.

Turning the day’s schedule over to God when the day begins has been helpful. Any interruptions or game changers—sick kid, flat tires—come through His hands first. I deal with them more graciously when I’ve released control first thing in the morning.

Thanksgiving is another help. Not the turkey and dressing kind. The thankfulness kind. God’s been encouraging me to exercise this muscle for years.

Initially, I thought I was due. Due a smooth schedule and no problems, because, hey, I toe the line pretty well. I’m a Type A, high achiever. My attitude was “But I’ve been so good. Now I have to stop and deal with _______? Really?” It left me frustrated.

Today, I’m learning to look at dirty dishes and be thankful we have food on the table. As I vacuum tumbleweeds of dog hair, I’m grateful for the silly dog following me through the house. (He likes to distribute the shedding evenly.) As I step over dirty clothes left on the floor—again—well, I’m still working on that one.

Check in with the Boss before the day begins. Allow Him to guide you from class to class, task to task, or appointment to appointment, whatever your day holds. And whatever you do, do it with Him in mind and thank Him for the privilege.

Questions:

What does a typical day look like in your world?

What things do you look forward to?

What things are you dreading?

If the dread list disappeared, what blessings would disappear too?

What character muscles may God be developing through the dread list?

Pick one thing on the dread list and find something to be thankful about.

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