Tag Archives: cross

Is God Safe?

By Michael Gallup

Every Sunday night I meet with a bunch of losers and rejects and it is beautiful. Each week I hear stories of alcoholic fathers, failed marriages, premature family deaths, depression, suicide, abandonment, and so on. Each of us has deep wounds and have grown tired of easy answers to our tough questions. But in our woundedness we have found a safe place to land, to crash together and in this safety a desire to let others find safety amongst us has taken seed. So we wonder together what it means to be a “safe” place.

At the heart of this question lies a hunger inside everyone of us for safety and security. Yet this hunger is often malnourished by the fast food of safety. We run from our problems, insulating ourselves from the world’s brokenness and especially our own. We take control into our own hands and believe ourselves capable of protecting ourselves. We move to the suburbs, get life insurance, and create a systemized theology that tames our God and puts him into a nice, neat box that we can control. Yet even when we have mastered our lives, we still deep-down lack a true feeling of safety.

But what does it really mean to be safe? If we are to be safe, mustn’t we be safe like God is safe? The bible speaks of God as our fortress, our shepherd. Jesus promised his follows peace and joy, telling them his burden was light. But the scriptures also teach us that the fear of God is the first step in wisdom, that we should be terrified at the thought of falling into his hands. Jesus teaches his followers that if they want to be his disciples they must pick up their cross, in other words, they will die if they follow him. And God tells Moses, his friend, that no one can see Him and live. Can we truly find refuge, safety in the presence of a God who will kill us? I think so.

The safety of God is something all together different from what our American Dream teach us. If we truly seek refuge in him, than we will find safety from our greatest foe: ourselves. It is only in the death of ourselves that we can truly be safe and truly live. It is only when God defeats us that we can have any victory. Safety is not the avoidance of trouble, pain, and death but the facing of it. Safety is the facing of it with the God who is scarier than all our fears. It is in the dying that we come to life. In C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, the kids are asking about Aslan, the Christ-like lion who rules the land of Narnia. Rightfully so, they are a bit worried about fraternizing with a lion and ask if he is safe. To which Mr. Beaver replies, “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

And so we find ourselves seeking safety in a very unsafe God. If we fall into his hands, we will surely die but by God, that’s the very thing we need. Following God, truly embracing His Kingdom call to walk in his resurrection life, means that success, happiness, and confidence will no longer nurse our infantile understandings of life. It is only in God’s defeat of us that we realize that blessing is not something we can grasp or win by talent, force or will but is only available through a gift. It is only in helplessness, when we let go of control, that we will find ourselves in the secure arms of the Father and know that they are good. He is the King, I tell you.

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He Likes It! Hey Mikey!

If you’re from my generation (boy, I’m sounding old!), you probably remember the Life Cereal commercial. In it, two boys don’t want to eat the bowl of Life Cereal sitting in front of them because it’s supposed to be good for them. So, they pass the bowl of cereal to little Mikey, who really likes it.
How often do we perceive something as bad when it’s really good?

Today, we’re going to take a closer look at a very significant example of this.

If you don’t have plans for celebrating Easter this Sunday and you live in the Denver, Colorado area, please join me at The Neighborhood Church. We meet at 10:00 a.m.

TODAY’S READING
Deuteronomy 21:1-22:30
Luke 9:51-10:12
Psalm 74:1-23
Proverbs 12:11

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Deuteronomy 21. Verses 10-14 concern taking a captive woman and marrying her. The Bible Background Commentary explains why she was required to shave her head, among other things:

The shaving of hair, trimming of nails and changing of clothes are symbols of mourning for her father and mother. This may mean only that she mourns her removal from family and homeland. The rituals, therefore, represent a leaving behind of the former homeland, a kind of transition to becoming an Israelite.

The law does seem to give the husband an easy out if he decides he doesn’t like her, which bothers me.
The rights of the firstborn in verses 15-17 recall the story of Jacob and his two wives. If you remember, he loved Rachel but didn’t love Leah. However, the law ensured that the sons of the favorite wife wouldn’t receive preferential treatment regarding inheritance.

Deuteronomy 22. At this point in his address (remember, this is a transcribed sermon), Moses is giving the Israelites a list of miscellaneous laws. Verses 6-7 seem a little out of place: “If you come across a bird’s nest beside the road, either in a tree or on the ground, and the mother is sitting on the young or on the eggs, do not take the mother with the young. You may take the young, but be sure to let the mother go.”

Moses’ words remind us that God is concerned about more than us—he cares about the birds of the air and the grass in the field (Matthew 6:26,30).

At the same time, another principle is at work. In Deuteronomy 20:19, Moses told the people to avoid destroying fruit trees in time of war. The thinking behind these two commands concerns ongoing fruitfulness in the land. Trees need to be free to continue bearing fruit. The mother bird needs to continue giving birth to baby birds.

When we concern ourselves only in the moment, we may be destroying our future resources for provision. And we may destroy our environment as well.

Moses’ instructions about sexual violations in verses 13-30 may seem a little strange, especially the laws regarding rape. The New Bible Commentary explains:

The law makes a distinction between a woman who is engaged and one who is not, in a way that is strange to the modern reader (verses 28–29). This is because marriage laws in Israel were closely related to family and property laws. A man paid the father of his bride a substantial sum for his daughter’s hand (Exodus 22:16–17). When a man rapes or seduces a woman who is not yet engaged, however, there is a simple remedy: he must make her his wife, and pay for the privilege (verse 29).

Luke 9:51-62. The words in verse 51, “Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem,” is a stylistic device Luke used to make the reader aware that the plot is picking up speed as it moves toward the climax—Jesus’ death and resurrection.

A great deal of animosity existed between the Jews and Samaritans. So much so, that the Samaritans wouldn’t accommodate Jesus if he was on his way to Jerusalem. This section, however, made me laugh. Seemly intoxicated with their newly given authority, Jesus chastised the his disciples. They just didn’t seem to get it.

Next, Jesus clarified to his disciples and other “groupies” that he wanted total commitment. Our family relationships shouldn’t come between us and our commitment to Jesus. Then he tells his listeners, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” When plowing a field, you must look forward in order plow in straight lines. Looking back implies living or yearning for your life “before Jesus.”

Luke 10. In chapter 9, Jesus sent his 12 disciples to further his ministry. Now, in chapter 10, he sends out 72. He sent them out saying, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” I still believe the harvest is plentiful. Unfortunately, too many followers of Jesus have put their hands to the plow but get distracted by looking back.

Proverbs 12:11. For what it’s worth, this proverb actually fits in well with one of today’s themes: “He who works his land will have abundant food, but he who chases fantasies lacks judgment.”

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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Today is Good Friday.

All my life I’ve wondered why we don’t call it Bad Friday. How can the crucifixion of Jesus be good? But it is.

Not so coincidentally, today we read an interesting passage in Deuteronomy 21:22-23 that points to Jesus sacrifice on the cross:

If a man guilty of a capital offense is put to death and his body is hung on a tree, you must not leave his body on the tree overnight. Be sure to bury him that same day, because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse.

Being hung or impaled on a cross was considered the worst way to die because it combined both unbearable pain and shame. The nature of this public death is probably the reason why it was considered a curse.

Later, the apostle Paul quoted this passage when explaining Jesus’ death on a cross:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” Galatians 3:14

On Good Friday, two thousand years ago, Jesus bore our pain and shame on the cross. The only person in human history undeserving of this kind of death, he willingly chose to die on our behalf.

If you have a moment, I recommend you take a little time today to remember the price Jesus paid to give you something extremely costly but entirely free.

Himself.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. What does putting your hand to the plow and looking back look like in your life? What prevents you from looking back?
  3. How can we apply Proverbs 12:11 to Luke 9:62 and Luke 10:2?
  4. How have you experienced a Bad Friday turned into a Good Friday?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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