Prequel: Exodus

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Prequel: Exodus

So it's been a little bit, sorry about that. I just got married in December which is crazy awesome, and I get to serve in the Hampton Roads church Campus Ministry which is amazing! But all that doesn't always allow time for blogging. (There is a mission to make disciples after all) Anyway, we're back now, so break out your Prince of Egypt DVDs.....it's time for Exodus y’all!

The Exodus Narrative is the single most influential historical event for the Jewish people, and probably even for Christians until the Resurrection. It gets mentioned over 100 times in the Old Testament alone. It is like God's proof of how much he loves his people and how committed he is to his covenant with Abraham and by extension, the nation of Israel.  Today we're going to read about how God introduces himself to his chosen-deliverer, Moses. If this was a movie, this would be the moment that the hero of the story is introduced. No, not Moses, at this point we look at Moses as a spoiled, impulsive, murderer-coward, princeling turned smelly shepherd. Not exactly the guy I would pick to free my people from a 400 year captivity, but like I said, God is the hero of this story not Moses. 

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I know their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” Exodus 3.1-10

As always, there is way too much in this to unpack everything, but the thing I wanted to underscore here are the words SEEN, HEARD, and KNOW. God sees, hears, and knows the suffering of his people.

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Prequel Day 4: Genesis 11-13 Babel v. Abraham "No Such Thing As A Self Made Man"

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Prequel Day 4: Genesis 11-13 Babel v. Abraham "No Such Thing As A Self Made Man"

A few days ago, a friend of mine, Zach Anton, shared something at his wedding reception. He was thanking the room of friends and family that had gathered to celebrate his marriage and to acknowledge all these people he quoted his grandfather:

"There is no such thing as a self made man."

Other than being extremely eloquent, I thought it was really poignant. In fact I've been thinking about it over the past few days. The Prequel text for the day really underscored that thought with bright red lines.

What I realized today is that, while there is no such thing as a self-made man, but there certainly is the illusion of being self-made. And when you are under that delusion, things can get dangerous.

The two passages I read today were the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 and The calling of Abram in Genesis 12. The Tower of Babel describes people who decide to come together and build a tower to the heavens in order to "make a name for [themselves]" (Gen 11.4) and God comes to confuse their speech to stop them from accomplishing this. God's reason for this? If he doesn't, "nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them" (Gen 11.6). Which at first seems like God is just messing with them, but Babel is actually a precursor of Babylon who later became one of the most violently brutal nations on Earth, so God stops them. 

Then There's Abram who is the exact opposite. He doesn't seek His own glory. God chooses him and says, "I will bless you and make your name great" (Gen 12.2). And then the great story of Abram/Abraham begins. So it's a comparison of self-made v. God-made people. Here are some interesting intersecting points. 

Babel v. Abram
We'll make ourselves v. God will make you a great nation
Many United to make Themselves great name v. One man obeying a call
God confuses and scatters v. God strengthens and multiplies

Babel = Babylon = Wiped from the Earth
Abram = Israel/Judah = Still exists

 

Where is Jesus in the Old Testament?

This is why Jesus is so amazing. Again we don't see Jesus lurking in the shadows here, or that he is the one calling to Abram. What we see here is why we love Jesus so much, or really why we love Abram so much and are inspired by him, it's because he resembles Jesus in this small way. Jesus had so many opportunities to seize power and make his name great rather than follow God's plan. When he was tempted by Satan in Matthew 4, Satan says he will give him all the nations if he bows down. In John 6 the people tried to make him King by force. But Jesus says no. He refuses to make himself great, or even letting people make him great. He only allows God to make him great. 

My question for myself is do I trust God to make me, the way Jesus did, or do I try to make my own name great? Do I quietly wait on God while I obey his word to lift me up when he desires? Or do I try to toot my own horn, put my accomplishments on social media and count my likes as my ego slowly inflates? 

God confuses those out to make themselves great. And he establishes forever those who wait on him. Because there is no such thing as a self made man.  

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Prequel Day 3: Genesis 6-9 Noah and Jesus

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Prequel Day 3: Genesis 6-9 Noah and Jesus

Do you ever have one of those days where you feel like everyone around you is...how do I put this delicately?...Intellectually challenged? Like you're the only one who gets it? And all you can do is throw back your head and yell...I FEEL LIKE I'M TAKING CRAZY PILLS!!!

As a disciple, do you ever have one of those days when everyone around you is morally challenged? Where you feel like the second you put your feet on the floor in the morning, that you're trying to avoid stepping in the black sludgey puddles left behind by everyone walking around you? Ok, maybe a little extreme but you get the idea. Most of us have days where we feel alone and isolated in our world. And honestly it's difficult to continue to do what's right when it feels like no one around cares. 

Most of those feelings are slightly dramatic, but for Noah it was FACT. Literally the Bible says he was the only one who was righteous. THE ONLY ONE ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH. That's slightly overwhelming, for anyone. Here's what it says about what was going on on the Earth around Noah. 

"The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Genesis 6.5 ESV 

That's rough. People's hearts were evil, all the time. And we find out in v.11 that they were also, violent and corrupt. Not a pretty picture. So God is "grieved" (v.6) that he made people. The sad part is, remember back to Genesis 1 and how all of God's creation was GOOD? In just five short chapters his noble creation, created in his own image has fallen to this. You can hear God's heart breaking as he tells Noah that he will "destroy them with the Earth" (v.13). And yet the one bit of shining hope in this masterpiece of catastrophe is, "[the] righteous man, blameless in his generation, [who] walked with God," (v.9), Noah. And here, we see the foreshadowing of another man who was the only one blameless, righteous, and walked with God--Jesus.  

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Prequel Day 2: Genesis 4-5 Cain, Abel, and Blood

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Prequel Day 2: Genesis 4-5 Cain, Abel, and Blood

I have two younger brothers whom I love deeply. They were my best men at my wedding. So this story always managed to freak me out a little. I'm four years older than my younger brother and sometimes, like every once in a while, I might have employed mental warfare on him in order to get him to get me a cookie...but nothing that bad. Which is why this story always freaked me out a little bit. 

Cain and Abel. The first set of brothers. Cain the farmer and Abel the shepherd (Gen 4.2). And then they both make offerings to God, and something not great happens

"In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell" Genesis 4.3-5 ESV

And Cain gets mad, but not normal mad, but mad like even The Incredible Hulk would say,"Bro..." He ends up killing his brother over his own jealousy. Humanity doesn't even make it two generations before there is murder. Dark. Just dark. So where is Jesus in all of this? Well, sometimes there is a shadow of what Jesus will do. Sometimes, like here, it is a shadow of what Jesus WILL REVERSE. I see him in this verse, which is God's follow-up talk with Cain after he murdered his brother. 

"Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand." Genesis 4.9-11 ESV

So where is Jesus? Abel's blood cries to God to CONVICT sinners. Jesus' blood will later cry to God to REDEEM sinners. 

Still curious?

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Prequel Day 1: Genesis 1-3 Creation

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Prequel Day 1: Genesis 1-3 Creation

Happy New Year everyone!

This is not the Full Blog Post CLICK HERE TO READ THE WHOLE POST

There is something awesome about new beginnings. It doesn't matter if its a new school year, new car smell, or a new pair of socks new is usually pretty sweet. 

And so, with a new year beginning it's fitting for us to look at THE BEGINNING in Genesis. 

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good.

Genesis 1.1-4 ESV

Everyone knows this verse. I think I read this and there is already so much Jesus in this verse, even from the very beginning. The obvious parallel comes in John 1.1-5 which was clearly written to show how Jesus has been there from the beginning.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 
John 1.1-5 ESV

How does this work? Well, in Genesis 1 the word used for God in Hebrew is "Elohim" which is by far the most common term used for God in the OT. "Elohim" can also be translated as "Gods" meaning gods in plurality. Now, this doesn't mean there are many Gods, but even here in the opening verses of the Bible we see hints and shadows of Jesus. Sure, it doesn't get cleared up fully until John 1, but that is the nature of Jesus fulfilling the OT. He's always there but we don't always see him right away...kinda like a spiritual Where's Waldo. 

Three things I will look at in more depth 

1. Jesus Creates 2. Jesus DESIRES to create something from nothing 3. Jesus brings Light

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Prequel: Day -1, The Explanation

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Prequel: Day -1, The Explanation

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I love Star Wars. I remember using our couch as a trampoline when my dad brought home the original Star Wars in VHS form, and being glued to our TV until the credits rolled. But as much as I loved the original Star Wars movies, I didn't like the prequels as much. Not bad, but not great. Every time I watched a prequel, I just wanted to go back and watch the originals again. 

It's kinda the same with the Old Testament and New Testament for me. I love the NT. Like LOVE it. I learned greek so I could read the original manuscripts. I love Jesus, I love the stories, I love the Epistles...it just feels like home to me. The OT, not so much. I'm inspired by the heroes, I'm uplifted by the Psalms, and I'm grateful for the Proverbs. But it's always seemed like foreign territory for me.  

 Jesus schooling some of his followers on why they should know the Old Testament better on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24. 

Jesus schooling some of his followers on why they should know the Old Testament better on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24. 

But then, as our church finished our Two and a half year study of the book of Luke, something hit me. Jesus himself, after he had resurrected, said this to some of his followers:

"How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” Luke 24.25-26 NIV

and then Luke explains

"And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself." Luke 24.27 NIV

Woah. Jesus gets upset with some of his followers for not knowing or appreciating what was about him in the Old Testament AND he shows how he, The Messiah, has been in the plan from the beginning. It seems as though the OT was really a PREQUEL for Jesus, and the story is only completed when you can appreciate both Prequel and main story.

So that is what I'm going to do this year. I am going to search through the OT looking for Jesus. It may not be direct in each verse. It may be that the heroes from the OT are only heroes because the in some small way they resemble Jesus before he came. It may be that Jesus reverses thinking from the OT or demolishes a bad example from someone in the OT. It could be that I won't appreciate what Jesus has opened for me until I see what the OT people went through. I don't really know. But that is what this blog will be about. We are answering the question:

Where is Jesus in the Old Testament?

So sit back, enjoy the ride with me. Tell me what parallels you see or if you disagree, or whatever. But welcome to the PREQUEL Blog. 

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4 R's of Campus Ministry

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Real. Relevant. Radical. Relationships. 

There's no formula for ministry success. But there are helpful building blocks (costly stones if you will) that help build environments that help people want to keep coming back. 

Real (2 Cor 12.7-10)--College students hate fake. Anything contrived, cheesy, or inauthentic is worse than a paper cut. Too often, campus disciples are afraid to be honest about their real problems and substitute religious sounding euphemisms for their sin. Not that sin should be normalized or God forbid glorified, but real problems need to be discussed openly and when real problems are addressed, then real repentance is that much more powerful. "Struggling with purity" needs to be replaced with whatever is really going on. 

Relevant (Heb 4.12)--Most millennials don't believe the Bible isn't relevant and it's the church's fault. Campus Ministry's must deal with real struggles, real problems. Problems that are relevant to college life. Not "religious generalities." If our BTs consists mostly of people struggling with "improving my walk" or "wrestling with putting God first in my Quiet Times" there creates distance and vagueness and strips the word of God of its power. Students need help with dealing with sex, overcoming alcohol and drugs, and why God over academics. People need help with their real life. Make the Bible relevant. 

Radical (Romans 12.1-2)-- If you're not different, then you don't make a difference. College students have been bombarded with clichés and they hate them. The great thing is the Bible isn't cliché. It is radically different than anything else going today. But the message and the members aren't always that way. We have to avoid telling the popular easy-to-get-behind message and preach the power of the Bible. And members must be different, in holiness, in discipleship, in love, in everything. Otherwise we just become a social group.  

Relationships (John 13.34-35)--"Connection is the bridge through which values flow." I heard this recently in a parenting class and it has deeply impacted me. Relationships within ministries must be real, deep, and Christ-like in loving. There is nothing, NOTHING, like relationships in the body of Jesus. People need to see it and experience it. Especially those who don't like church. They may not like church, but there is something spectacular about the body loving each other. 

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Why there is no such thing as a "Cool Christian"

If you're a Christian, you will never be cool, and you need to accept that. 

Right now, Churches worldwide are in Black Tuesday like panic-driven hysteria because Millenials (people born from the mid 1980s to the early 2000s) are leaving the church in epidemic numbers. And because of that, Churches are taking their cue from Madison Avenue and trying to give the people what they want. 

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Hipster churches, with t-shirt wearing new age preachers are tailoring their message to make Church easily digestible to younger people. Now there's nothing wrong with wearing T-shirts or scarves or having a faux-hawked preacher. The issue becomes the message. Christians don't blend in, we are literally the exact opposite of cool. Look at Luke 13. 

 "Then Jesus asked, “What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.” Luke 13:18-19

You know this one, right? Something small grows into something big, just like the Kingdom of God. I get it. Hold on though, what do you know about mustard trees? The tree Jesus was describing was not an inspiring piece of flora. It was the Ryan Seacrest of trees--annoying and suddenly everywhere.  It grew fast and furious and it was viewed as gross and repulsive. No one would ever, EVER, plant a mustard tree in their garden. 

Bit adding further insult, Jesus is poking a finger in the eye of Jewish expectations of the kingdom of God. He's referencing Ezekiel 17.22-22 where God says,

"On the mountain height of Israel will I plant it on a high and lofty mountain will I plant it that it...may become a NOBLE CEDAR. And under it will dwell every kind of bird; in the shade of its branches bird of every sort will nest."  

The cedar was the most noble of trees (yes Jews had noble trees) and Jesus replaces this noble tree with the a repulsive substitute. 

Christians will be viewed as repulsive to the world. You cannot be a cool Christian. 

If you think you can swoop under the radar with cool Christianity, then you're probably doing something other than following Jesus.  

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