Day Five: Seek First

This, then, is how you should pray:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.”…

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:9-13, 31-33)

Jesus’ “teaching grew out of his own experience.  When he told his followers not to worry about tomorrow, we must assume he led them by example.  He wasn’t always looking ahead anxiously… No: he seems to have had the skill of living totally in the present, giving attention totally to the present task, celebrating the goodness of God here and now…

And he wanted his followers to be the same. When he urged them to make God their priority, it’s important to realize which God he’s talking about.  He’s not talking bout a god who is distant from the world, who doesn’t care about beauty and life and food and clothes.  He talking about the creator himself, who has filled the world with wonderful and mysterious things, full of beauty and energy and excitement, and who wants his human creatures above all to trust him and love him and receive their own beauty, energy and excitement from him.

Of course, because we live in a world filled with anxiety, it’s easy to let it rub off on us.  But the underlying principles of the whole Sermon on the Mount come together at this point in a huge but exhilarating challenge.  God’s kingdom, and the way of life that goes with it; the ‘righteousness,’ or covenant behavior, the way of life, that marks out God’s people; these are the things you should aim at.  Then you’ll find that food, drink and clothing look after themselves.” [Wright, Nicholas Thomas.  Matthew for Everyone, Part One. p. 66-67]

Let’s pray as Jesus taught us to pray (v 9-13). As we do so, let’s be filled with His Spirit, and empowered to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness – here, now, today, each day. And let’s live today trusting in our heavenly Father, who knows and gives all that we need.

Song – “Seek First – Housefires III

– BR

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Day Four: Shine Brightly

Dear friends… Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. (Philippians 2:12-16 NLT)

“The term…translated ‘complaining’ occurs only rarely in the New Testament, and this is its only appearance in Paul’s letters. It occurs frequently, however, in the narratives of the Greek Bible that describe Israel’s desert wanderings, where the Israelites ‘complained’ against Moses and Moses made clear to them that their complaining was not as much against him as against God.

“…the peculiarity of the word probably means that Paul intended to echo the biblical narratives of Israel’s desert wanderings. If so, his point is… that the Philippians, …as God’s people… should learn from the mistakes of their spiritual ancestors. The Philippians should, in fear and trembling, not presume upon their salvation but instead take measures to quell the dissension in their midst.” [Thielman, Frank. The NIV Application Commentary:  Philippians.]

What “measures” can we take to quell the complaining, arguing, and quarreling in our midst?  Perhaps a better place to start, although likely more daunting – What about the complaining and arguing we see in ourselves?

Our hope lies in this – we are not the Israelites, seeing God’s glory in the cloud from afar. Rather, we are the redeemed people of God, and He Himself is working in us, living in us by His Spirit, giving us the desire and power to do what pleases Him. We are the children of God, and we are to shine brightly and hold firmly to the word of life, the salvation we have in Jesus Christ.

Let’s respond to this passage, declaring who we are as His people in the world today.  Let’s also pray for one another, particularly those in our missional group or campus, thanking God for being at work in us, and asking Him to cause us to shine brightly as we hold to Him.

– BR

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Day Three: Remember

Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of Egypt.’”
So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the LORD to be kept for the generations to come.”
As the Lord commanded Moses, Aaron put the manna with the tablets of the covenant law, so that it might be preserved. The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan. (Exodus 16:32-34)

In the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle that God would have His people build (Exodus 25-27) was “the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff the had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant.” (Hebrews 9:4)

God’s loving, daily, always sufficient, sweet-tasting, miraculous, like-nothing-ever-seen-before provision of manna was to be remembered for the generations to come.  It was to be kept in the Most Holy Place, before the Lord.  When the people turned for forgiveness and to worship, they were to remember Who the Lord their God is – rescuer, provider, and the One to be obeyed and followed.

As we worship and pray to the Lord today, let us remember His rescue, provision, and calling in our own lives.  Let us remember Jesus, the Bread of Life, broken for us, providing life –  eternal life!  And let us remember and give thanks for all that we have received because of Him – all that we need, and so much more.

– BR

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Day Two: The Bread of Life

“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”
Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
“Sir,” they said, “always give us this bread.”
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:27-35)

“The bread and the fish that Jesus had distributed to the crowds were there to lead the eye, the mind and the heart to the true gift of God to his people, then and there.  They were there to open up their understanding to the fact that the new Passover, the new Exodus, was taking place right in front of them, and that Jesus was leading it…

… the ‘sign’ of the feeding is meant to lead you to the true food: the food the Son of Man will give (verse 27), the food which is Jesus himself (verse 35).  What matters is not just what Jesus can do for you; what matters is who Jesus is.  Only if you’re prepared to be confronted by that in a new way can you being to understand what he can really do for you, what he really wants to do for you.

The question of who Jesus really is now comes to the fore…

First, he is the one upon whom the father has set his seal (verse 27)…

Second… this means that God is making a demand on them, and it is this: that they believe in Jesus.”  [Wright, Nicholas Thomas.  John for Everyone, Part One. p. 79-80]

Let’s respond in obedience to the truth of John 6 –

“The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (v. 29)

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (v. 35)

Jesus, we believe in You!  Jesus, we come to You.  May we live by You, by believing in You, by your broken body and blood shed for us.

– BR

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Day One: Come before the Lord…

In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”
Then the LORD said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day…”
Then Moses told Aaron, “Say to the entire Israelite community, ‘Come before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.”
While Aaron was speaking to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, and there was the glory of the LORD appearing in the cloud.
The LORD said to Moses, “I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites. Tell them, ‘At twilight you will eat meat, and in the morning you will be filled with bread. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God.’” (Exodus 16:9-11)

God’s response to the grumbling of the Israelites may not be what we would expect:
He tells them that He has heard their grumbling.
He calls them to come before Him.
And He graciously provides for them.

He does this that they may “know that I am the LORD your God.” God wanted His people to not just have ideas about Who He is (and lacking, incomplete, outright wrong ideas at that), but to truly know that He is the LORD their God.

The Lord our God is the One who rescues His people, and the Lord our God is the One who provides for His rescued ones.

In our need, in our desert times, what is our response? Today, let us hear the fearful yet comforting truth that the Lord hears us (even when we think that we are not “talking to Him”). Let us turn away from grumbling and complaining and instead come before the Lord in trust and obedience. May His provision in our lives bear testimony to us and to others that He is the Lord our God.

Worship Him in song – “You Never Let Go by Matt Redman

– BR

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Day Five: NTB (No Turning Back)

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind… The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left. The Egyptians pursued them, and followed them into the sea. The LORD looked down…at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion…And the Egyptians said, “Let’s get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them…” Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea…” The Egyptians were fleeing… and the LORD swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.” (Exodus 14:21-28, abridged)

The people of God are now looking “over” the sea, back toward their old life, where they were once slaves. Ajead of them is the promise of the Promised Land, yet a lot of unknowns… They are on this threshold where they can no longer go back to their old life… because there is an ocean between them and the old life [the point of no return]. Actually, what would it take for them to be able to go back to the old life? For God to re-part the Red Sea, resurrect their old oppressors, so they could scramble back to their old lives of slavery??? Impossible!

In Christ, our salvation is so sure, definitive, so life-changing that we can never go back! It would take a “miracle” — God does not re-open the Red Sea so that people can return to a life of slavery! It’s never going to happen. Once you are saved, you are saved. That’s why God tells them through Moses, “Move on/forward” (14.15). There is nowhere to go if you turn back… Once saved, we are definitively saved, once and for all, the best thing to do is move forward. Becoming a Christian is miraculous, a work of God, undeniable, definitive, complete, sure… God’s salvation through Jesus Christ is definitive, life-changing once and for all… never to be a slave again, never to have those old oppressors again. Best thing to do… move forward… go get your inheritance… live the abundant life in Christ, calling, mission, purpose. [Adapted from Pastor Jason’s message at ALC]

Listen to the recording of Exodus 14.21-28 and let’s celebrate our deliverance in Christ with the song “We Have Overcome.”

– JP

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Day Four: Forward! Forward! Forward!

And the Lord said unto Moses, “Why cry you unto Me? Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward.” (Exodus 14:15)

“[W]e may view the great company who came out of Egypt as AN ARMY UNDER COMMAND; therefore, they must obey. The command given to them is, ‘Forward!’

‘Forward? Forward?’ Might the wise men have said in the host of Israel, ‘How can we go forward? That narrow beach leads down to the foaming billow. Forward? What do you mean? We are altogether as dead men if we go forward! Would you have us swim? Do you know where you are? There are miles and miles of deep water, and who knows the bottom of the sea? Forward? Absurd!—We shall lose the camels, and the sheep, and the baggage, and our wealth, and our children, and our little ones—yes, and our own lives also.’ But thus says the Lord, ‘Forward!’ You came out of Egypt under Moses’ command, will you play the rebel’s part? If the Lord is your Captain, you must do absolutely what He bids you at any loss, and at any cost. If He says, ‘Forward,’ and it is into the Red Sea or into a gulf of fire, forward you must go! Now, beloved, this presents us a picture of those who are savingly converted, who, on a sudden, meet with difficulties in following Christ, and run to their minister or to their friend, and say, ‘What are we to do?’ The Lord’s message by me, tonight, to your anxious inquiry is this— ‘Forward!’ It is a simple one—‘Forward!’ ‘Sir, I have just begun to be a Christian, but if I continue in it, I shall lose my business! My calling is such that I cannot be honest in it, and serve my God faithfully without sinking all my capital and bringing myself and family to beggary. What ought I to do? Ought I not to give up my religion?’ Forward! Forward! No matter what is before you. Forward! You are not fit to be a soldier of Christ unless you can count all costs, and still hold fast to the cross of Christ.” [C.H. Spurgeon, Sermon #548: “Forward! Forward! Forward!”]

Let’s pray: Lord, may we move forward with You! Why linger in unbelief, or uncertainty, or fear, when we can move forward with You into newness of life, assurance, and faith! Lord, I want to move forward with You!

– JP

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Day Three: Salvation Belongs to the Lord

And they were shouting with a great roar, “Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:10)

“The Red Sea story is not just about what the Israelites get out of (bondage with layers) but also about how they get out (crossing over by grace). Here’s how Moses replied to the fearful, complaining Israelites: ‘Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still”’ (Exodus 14:13–14).

“On the one hand, the principle of grace could not be clearer: ‘Stand still. God’s going to do your fighting. Watch. You can’t do it. You can’t contribute to it. You can’t do a thing. God’s going to do the whole thing.’ When Moses says, ‘The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still’… he sounds like Paul: ‘to the one who does not work [cf. ‘be still’] but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness’ (Rom. 4:5). ‘Be still.’ Don’t look at your works. Receive a complete salvation or deliverance, based not on your works but solely on Christ’s works.” [T. Keller, “Getting Out,” in The Scriptures Testify About Me]

Let’s pray and worship the Lord. Jesus is the only one who can rescue, who can save, and who can lift us from the grave!  You Alone Can Rescue by Matt Redman.

– JP

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Day Two: The Lord Is Fighting for Them

“The Egyptians pursued them, and all Pharaoh’s horses and chariots and horsemen followed them into the sea. During the last watch of the night the LORD looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. He jammed the wheels of their chariots so that they had difficulty driving. And the Egyptians said, ‘Let’s get away from the Israelites! The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.’

Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.’ Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the LORD swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea.  Not one of them survived.” (Exodus 14:23-28)

“How are we to respond to the Lord and to life’s issues in times of fear and feeling like our backs are against the wall? In Exodus 14:15 the Lord says to Moses ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on… Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.’ As the Israelites are told to move on (go forth), because the Lord finishes the fight, we are to move on in faith to where the Lord leads—a life of faith and transformation.

He who began a good work in you will bring it to full completion!  For those of us that are insecure or unsure, the Lord’s promise is that He will finish the fight, hence may we move on from where we are into a place of worship, surrender, and obedience.” [Pastor Gus Kim]

Let’s pray: Lord, help me to move on, move forward toward a life of greater worship, surrender, and obedience. I trust that you will bring the good work you started in my life to full completion! Lord, I will move on with You!

– JP

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Day One: The Lord Will Fight for You

“Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.’

Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” (Exodus 14:13-14,19-22)

“God finishes the fight to set the people free.  The Lord’s work of rescue does not stop short of full completion until the people are completely free.  In this fight, the Israelites are not tasked to aid nor supplement in the fighting in order to finish the work that the Lord has begun.  Perhaps that is why the Lord doesn’t instruct nor train the people to fight for themselves, nor does the He choose a servant (Moses) with military training.  Rather, the Lord shows His power in the midst of the people’s weakness, thus becoming a true demonstration of God’s work of salvation alone. The Lord who started this fight fully finishes it.” [Pastor Gus Kim]

“In these chapters in Exodus, the Israelites have their backs against a wall—on one side the Egyptians who are fully armed and ready to destroy and re-capture them, and on the other side the vastness of the Red Sea.  However, there are other players in this fight as “The Israelites need not fear for they have a lot of special company.  They have God’s angel/messenger (Ex. 14:1).  They have a cloud-encased fire (Ex. 14:19-20)…Best of all, they have Yahweh’s own presence, of which the first three are observable representatives of the Divine One in their midst, at both the front and rear of the camp.” [V. Hamilton, Exodus Commentary, p. 217]

“Therefore, though the Israelites were complaining and panicking at the sight of the Egyptian chariots, it is clear that the Lord’s very literal presence was with them as seen in the cloud/pillar of fire that was protecting them. Perhaps the Israelite’s fear led them to become blind and oblivious to the reality of God’s presence that was clearly with them.” [Pastor Gus Kim]

Let’s pray: Lord, we want to be more aware of Your presence with us. Instead of being overwhelmed by fear or panic, may we be more aware of how You are working in our midst.

– JP

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