Tag Archives: walk with God

FREEDOM OR SAFETY?

April 28, 2010

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

My kindergarten age daughter paid scant attention to the TV as the reporter and a safety expert gleefully searched several playgrounds for implements of childhood torture. It was National Playground Safety Day and the reporter rattled off alarming statistics about playground injuries. At each playground, however, much to their chagrin, the safety team found no violations.

Standing in the kitchen devouring my unsafe sugary cereal, I chortled and made derogatory comments about the news media manufacturing news. My wife, an elementary school teacher, disagreed and chastised me for being so cynical.

Meanwhile the reporter finally found a safety violation.

“Eureka!” I shouted.

Horrors, they had found the ground at the bottom of the slide too hard.

I laughed out loud. My wife gave me “the look” and I stifled further commentary, bundled up my daughter, and delivered her to school.

By 10A.M. I had forgotten all about National Playground Safety Day. Until my phone rang.

“Mr. Scott?”

“Yes.”

“This is the nurse from your daughter’s school,” said the kind woman. “Don’t worry. She’s not hurt. We are just required to tell you that she fell off the swing on the playground and hit her head.”

TODAY’S READING

Judges 8:18-9:21

Luke 23:44-24:12

Psalm 99:1-9

Proverbs 14:9-10

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Judges 8:18-9:21. Notice how easily Gideon and the people fall back into fear and false worship practices. How we live out our ideas and theology makes a difference in what our lives look like. They are following the practices of the nations around them in raising up the sons of the previous leader/king despite that God does not approve nor is the person always worthy.

Luke 23:44-24:12 . Luke’s recounting of the crucifixion is very spare but each detail counts. Luke is now considered one of the finest ancient historians because of his historical accuracy and detail.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

If you had to choose between freedom and safety, which direction would you lean? In my corner of the world it seems we’re listing toward safety and away from freedom. Just watch the news, as I mention above. Rules to keep us safe are all the rage.

But this heedless pursuit of safety is downright dangerous. It has driven us seek lives that brook no upsets and to form families, churches, and governments whose primary calling is protect us rather than challenge us and give us a scary freedom that may help us grow and become–not safe–but holy.

Further this so-called protected lifestyle has left us more vulnerable to the dangers we fear. For example, studies show using too much antibacterial soap is actually making us weaker and bacteria stronger.

Seeking too much safety may also subtly lead us to seek a safe (and unreal) God. God is anything but safe, says Mark Buchanan in his book Your God is Too Safe.  “God isn’t nice. God isn’t safe. God is a consuming fire,” he writes.

Before us seeking safety led the Israelites to a fatal misunderstanding of God. In an obvious bid for safety they beg Gideon, “Rule over us.” On the surface this is understandable. They live in a dangerous, war-torn world and, as we see later in the story, will do almost anything to have someone, anyone, other than the uncontrollable, fiery, invisible God of Moses and Joshua, walk with them in it.

Instead they choose corruptible human leadership and return to worshiping their safe, self-made, wooden god’s that exact no real demands nor deliver any real help. But they feel safe.

No matter whether we would choose safety over freedom, God often seems to choose freedom for us. It seems to me this is because, though dangerous, freedom births life while safety puts us to sleep, at best.

  1. When do you feel most safe?
  2. Are there any links between these four readings?
  3. When do you feel most free?
  4. When have you grown most in your faith?

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Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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The Secret of the Ooze

Have you ever met someone who exuded a strong resemblance to God? Kind of like something that oozed through their pores? You weren’t concerned about being struck dead if you looked the person in the face, but you did sense a strong attraction to be with them and to be like them.

Today, we’re going to look at that ever-evasive quality…and hopefully discuss it!

Today’s reading

Genesis 5:1-7:24
Matthew 3:7-4:11
Psalm 3:1-8
Proverbs 1:10-19

Notes

Genesis 5. The ages of the people in this genealogy seem awfully exaggerated. Do I believe people really lived this long? I’m not sure. Some scholars believe the ages refer to the length of the clan that the person founded. But other scholars suggest the long lifespan of people millennia ago compared to today are evidence of the effect sin has placed on us over time. One other aside: When I was a kid, I calculated that Methuselah died the same year as Noah’s flood. Either his death was an odd coincidence or he was destroyed in the flood.

Genesis 6:1,4. Different theories exist in theological circles about the identity of the Nephilim. Some believe it refers to angels who intermarried with women, but the argument seems hardly plausible. The two prevailing theories suggest that the Nephilim were either heroic warriors or descendents of Cain (who were banished from the descendents of Seth). My best guess is the latter is true—note the difference in the lineages of Cain (Genesis 4) and Seth (Genesis 5).

Genesis 6-8. Many ancient peoples around the world tell the story of a great flood from which one man and his family escaped by building a boat. But looking deeper, in many ways, the flood was God’s act of re-creation. He returned the earth to a state where waters covered the earth. Then, when God remembered Noah, he sent a wind over the earth (Genesis 8:1—this part of your reading comes tomorrow), much like the hovering Spirit of God blowing across the waters in Genesis 1:2. After the dry land and waters were separated, Noah became the new head of the human race, and, like Adam, was told to “Be fruitful and increase in number” (Genesis 9:1).

Psalm 3. The setting for this psalm is 2 Samuel 15:13–17:24.

Matthew 4:1. This passage tells us that Jesus was “led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” From the initial appearance, it seems wrong, almost cruel. And besides, James 1:13 says, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.” So how can this be? In the Greek language, “temptation” and “test” share the same words. This was Jesus’ testing. So why do the translations use the word “temptation”? I don’t know. However, Craig Blomberg in the New American Commentary explains this dilemma this way:

An important interplay between the work of the Spirit and that of the devil appears here. The same Spirit who has anointed Jesus in [Matthew 3:16] now leads him to the place of temptation but does not himself cause the temptation, which is attributed instead to the devil. By this phrasing, Matthew warns against two common errors—blaming God for temptation and crediting the devil with power to act independently of God. In the New Testament, God is always so dissociated from evil that he is never directly responsible for tempting humans (James 1:13). Yet the devil is never portrayed as an enemy equal with but opposite to God; he always remains bound by what God permits.

Matthew 4:1-11. Here’s an explanation that the New Bible Commentary gives about the three “temptations” that Jesus faced:

The three tests examine aspects of that relationship, and the ways in which a misuse of that status could ruin Jesus’ ministry. He must be ready to accept privation in fulfilling his God-given task without ‘pulling rank’ (2–4); to trust his Father’s care without the need to test it by forcing God’s hand (5–7); and to reject the ‘short cut’ to the fulfilment of his mission which would be achieved at the cost of compromising his loyalty to his Father (8–10).

My response

Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

-Genesis 5:24

I get easily mesmerized reading the genealogy in Genesis 5, but Enoch’s story takes a sudden and unexpected departure from the norm because we’re told that he didn’t die. That fact catches my attention, but the reason behind it—Enoch walking with God—really challenges me. More than the desire for people to say, “Wow, look at Michael. He walks with God,”—I really want to walk with God. The appearance of walking with God is much different than actually walking with God.

Author Donald Miller wrote a tribute last week on his blog to his youth pastor, David Gentiles, who recently died. Gentiles impacted Miller so deeply that he dedicated his best-selling book Blue Like Jazz to him.

Reading Miller’s tribute, I realized that I performed a wedding with David Gentiles several years ago. At the time we met, he was unassuming, un-flashy…in fact, he forgot to ask the couple to recite their wedding vows, so I gently interrupted the ceremony to remind him.

In the same way, Donald Miller could only recount one youth sermon he remembered Gentile preaching. Yet he commented,

If it’s true a person’s life is a sermon, David Gentiles preached the best sermon I’ve ever heard. I’ll never forget him, or what he did with his life. David was a rock of a man and his sermon was love…It’s hard to imagine a sermon on love has ever been said better. I learned more about Jesus from David than any other person I know.

People like David Gentiles ooze Jesus from their pores. We want to hang out with them in the hopes that some of it will rub off. But there’s only one way to ooze Jesus—and that’s to walk with Jesus.

Walking with Jesus (or God, take your pick) comes with a price. It means inviting him into every aspect of my day, allowing him to shape it, forgetting about myself (which is really hard for me to do), and inviting him to love through me. It’s more than that, to be sure, so I welcome your insights into this.

By the way, if you have time, here are a few other passages that refer to walking with God:

Genesis 6:9 (Noah walked with God, too!)

Genesis 17:1

Deuteronomy 5:33

Deuteronomy 10:12

2 Chronicles 27:6

Nehemiah 5:9

Micah 6:8

You can also learn more about Enoch in Hebrews 11:5 and Jude 1:14-15.

Let me conclude with this: Anyone can ooze Jesus. It requires no education (Jesus didn’t have one), special ability, or charisma.

Conversation starters

What jumped out at you in today’s reading?

Why would God allow his human race to get so messed up so early on, prompting him to destroy them?

What parallels do you see between Jesus’ temptation and the temptation of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3? How does it parallel your experience?

What does “walking with God” look like in your life?

Describe someone you’ve met who oozed Jesus. What did it look like and what did they do to get it?

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