Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Obama Presidency: Only Now Can I Enjoy History

Picture By Pete Souza, The Obama-Biden Transition Project [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

I just couldn’t do it. In 2008, faced with the opportunity to join in making history, I could not bring myself to
vote on the basis of race. Instead I did what I would in any other presidential election. I took the time to read and study, voting for the candidate I thought would do the best job. Not that I was oblivious to the opportunity to change the face of the nation but I saw a lot more than history at stake. And so I could not vote based on the candidate’s race nor could I enjoy eight years of history while the White House was occupied by its first black first family.

Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to see a minority in the White House. At the same time I feared what might happen if the first black was the wrong black. The president lives under a very intense microscope with his every move examined and documented. I figured a black president would find the optics focused to a much higher intensity, facing scrutiny like none other before. A misstep here or an embarrassing gesture there and the entire race would have been labeled by those who believe  minorities lack what is needed to run the free world. And so in 2008 I looked for the right person for the job knowing that the first black, if he were not fit, would close the door on the possibility of another holding the office in the future.

With his two terms in office now behind us I can say that President Obama and his family exhibited a very high regard for the office, conducting themselves in a manner that serves as an example to anyone of any race. Did I agree with all of his actions? No, but I have yet to agree 100% with anyone. Even while disagreeing with the president I was able to respect the man. So now, in 2017, I can finally enjoy the historical aspects of having had our first black president. Only now can I celebrate knowing the Obamas have left us with a historical record for which the entire race...the entire country...can be proud.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Should Moses’ Experience at the Burning Bush be Called Prayer? Part III

Prayer changes lives. And yet by definition, perhaps even by practice, prayer is reduced to us simply asking God for things. Moses experienced so much more than a question and answer session when he turned to investigate the burning bush. His prayer session became an opportunity to be changed by God. As he was changed Moses would have the opportunity to get to know the God of his childhood. Should this be an expectation when we pray today?



Handshake picture By Rufino (hermandad - friendship) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Part III: God Introduces Himself
Exodus 3:6

Though adopted by an Egyptian, Moses was raised by his Hebrew mom (Exodus 2:1-10). While serving as his nurse, Moses' mother most likely taught him about God. We are not told what Moses believed before the burning bush but clearly he shows reverence as God introduces Himself.

This introduction was an important start to Moses' lifelong conversation. It was an opportunity for Moses to get to know the God of his childhood, an opportunity that continued as he learned of God's desire to end the suffering of the people of Israel. As He did with Moses, God uses prayer to introduce Himself to us today. We need only to show the same reverence and desire to listen as shown by Moses as he hid his face.

"And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son." John 14:13

According to Jesus prayer is an opportunity to see God glorified in our lives. I believe His intent was to encourage a conversation where we desire more than just receiving answers to our requests. In fact the context of chapter 14 is how we can see the Father today and can go to a place prepared for us in the kingdom where we will be with Him forever. In answering Phillips' question about revealing the Father, Jesus talks about answering prayer. In this context prayer is about God revealing (being glorified) to us.

The Bible encourages to make our requests known to God. But if all you expect is to receive things or to have your own way, you are missing out. Prayer is about seeing the glory of the Father.You should come into prayer with the expectation that, "The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob," will reveal Himself to you.



Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Should Moses' Experience at the Burning Bush be Called Prayer?

How do you define prayer? The dictionary definition says that prayer is, “Making requests known to God.” And while there is a biblical basis for this definition, what we see at the burning bush turns the definition around completely. Moses did not make his requests known. Instead it was God who made the first move, getting Moses’ attention so that he would turn away from his daily routine (Part I). And then it is God who makes His request known, calling Moses to humble himself in preparation for something much bigger than his chosen life as a shepherd.
Sarbel [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

Part II: Take Off Your Shoes - Exodus 3:1-5

"Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground."

God is holy and by nature fallen man cannot enter into God's presence without first being properly prepared. I suspect that had Moses moved any closer to the burning bush with his shoes on, his story would have come to an end right then and there. We likely would never have known a thing about the Hebrew-Egyptian shepherd. If the Bible mentioned him at all it would have told of how, in his pride, he forfeited his opportunity to become a great leader of the nation of Israel.

What did the sandals represent?

Moses’ sandals were likely covered in whatever he walked on (or in) while he worked as a shepherd. They carried the dirt of ground which was not “holy” representing what we would now call the things of this earth. They were a physical manifestation of the fallen state of man which would have tracked the stain of sin upon the holy ground of God.

By taking off his sandals Moses left the stain of sin behind him. His bare feet allowed a direct connection with ground that was holy, working much like the promise Jesus made to Peter while washing his feet (John 13:6-10). With his sandals on I suspect Moses would have remained separated from God, like Peter would have had he refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet. With sandals removed Moses was ready for a conversation with God, one that involved him being “cleaned” in preparation for walking on holy ground.

In order to come before God Moses had to be changed, a change represented by his taking off his sandals. He could not come before God with an expectation of God being changed. Likewise when we come before God we should do so with the expectation that we will be changed, not that God will change to bend to our will. If we expect our petitions to change God we are still wearing our sandals. Real prayer involves God changing us that our list might be made in alignment with His will. Only then will our prayers be accompanied by the power that comes with asking in His name.

Making our requests known is not the end all of prayer. In fact it is not even the first step. The first step involves having our hearts, our minds, our very beings bending and being molded according to the will of God. Prayer begins when we “take off our sandals.”

So, what’s on your feet when you approach God in prayer?