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"The God of the Damned —Do You Need a Beating?" by Brad Jersak: People often interpret their experience of being judged, discriminated against and excluded…as synonymous with punishment and rejection by God. The Bible, then, is viewed as the law by which God and his law-enforcement agents judge the world. The Scriptures are often feared and avoided for the "Bad News" they are expected to contain, rather than welcomed as words of comfort.

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Silenced! —Religious discrimination against women. by Sheila Graham: My childhood was a happy one, with loving parents and an egalitarian father who was proud of his daughters... So I grew up fearless, believing I could do about anything I chose to do in life... As it turned out, I learned not all was open to me as a woman.

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"The War to End All Wars" (1914-1918)—Was It for This the Clay Grew Tall? by Brad Jersak: As we reflect on this "war to end all wars," a familiar cycle emerges: optimism, tragedy, disillusionment and decline. We might clue into the important role of disillusionment… toppling our idolatrous illusions and calling us to a greater, more blessed hope.

Front Page Article

God is After You

by Greg Albrecht

Moses was born into slavery. Freedom was a foreign concept to his people, the children of Israel who lived in bondage in Egypt. The Hebrews had no idea what it would be like to be free.

Like many oppressed minorities throughout history, the Hebrews started to out-populate the majority power. The population explosion of the Israelite slaves was becoming such a problem that the Egyptian king, called the Pharaoh, decided that all male babies had to be killed at birth so that the Hebrews would not eventually out-number the Egyptians.

In one of those unexpected turn of events in which God seems to delight, God used the very family of Pharaoh, who was killing all the Israelite boy babies, to preserve the life of Moses. God was taking care of Moses from the very beginning—he had something in mind for him. God was after Moses.

Moses grew up as a prince of Egypt, but he had a secret. Instead of enduring slavery with his people, Moses grew up in privilege. We don't know when Moses first became aware that he was a Hebrew rather than an Egyptian, but as he matured, there was a point at which he became aware that his own people were living as slaves.

One day he saw an Egyptian abusing a Hebrew slave. Moses intervened, and while he saved the Hebrew slave, he killed the Egyptian. He hid the Egyptians' body by burying it in the sand, and thought no one would know. The very next day, Moses tried to intervene in a fight between two Hebrew slaves. As he tried to referee the altercation, one of the slaves said, "What are you going to do, kill us the way you killed the Egyptian yesterday?"

Moses knew then that it was only a matter of time before his killing of the Egyptian would become widely known, and he decided that his best, and perhaps only option, was to become a fugitive from justice.

The Pharaoh did find out what Moses had done, but before Moses could be captured, he eluded the Egyptians and ran for his life. The prince of Egypt became a fugitive and, by comparison with his life in Egypt, a pauper. When

Moses left Egypt he ran away from the riches and fame many people spend a lifetime trying to attain. Hebrews says that Moses, in leaving Egypt, gave up pleasures and treasures (Hebrews 11: 25-26).

Moses went to a place called Midian, a place where run- away slaves had been known to hide. It was not a place where anyone really preferred to live—it was a place where nomadic tribes carved out a frugal existence in the midst of a difficult environment and climate.

As Moses arrived in Midian, he found himself once again being thrust into the role of a rescuer—a savior. This time it was seven young women who were trying to water their flocks of sheep at a well—other shepherds were preventing them, until Moses interceded on behalf of the women.

Once again, Moses laid his life on the line for someone else. Moses seemed to be the proverbial knight in shining armor saving these shepherd girls. Perhaps that's how one of the young ladies saw him, for the Bible tells us that Moses married her and settled down to a life in the wilderness of Midian. Moses went to work for his father-in-law as a shepherd.

The years passed, and Moses' life in Egypt became a distant memory. The last thing he would have considered at this point was returning to the scene of his crime in order to be used by God to deliver his people from slavery.

Moses lived in Midian about 40 years. According to the Bible, he lived his first 40 years in Egypt—this first stage of his life was the time when he went from the slavery of his birth to being a prince of Egypt.

The second stage of Moses' life, the second period of 40 years, was when he lived in Midian. During this time the Pharaoh who wanted to bring Moses to justice died, and during this time life became even worse for the Hebrew slaves in Egypt.

During this time (Moses was between the ages of 40 and 80), the bondage of his own people in Egypt was far from Moses' mind. Moses was married, raising his family, getting older and undoubtedly involved in all of the issues that confront families as they grow.

Moses was approximately two-thirds of the way through his life, the Bible says he died at 120 years of age.

Let's imagine that you and I will live until we are 75. Moses was the equivalent of age 52-53. Today, when we reach our early 50s we're reluctantly realizing that our bodies are not what they once were. Today, when people are 50, they are thinking of slowing down. They start thinking about retiring. Today, people in their 50s are not usually thinking of a new career.

On the other hand, when we get older, the human tendency is to listen when God speaks to us. We are beginning to realize we are not immortal—you know, like we were when we were 21! Remember when we were that age? We thought we would live forever, didn't we?

Many times, when we are younger, we are often not paying much attention to God—we don't seem to need him. We're in good health. We have a job. The future is ours for the taking…or so it seems anyway.

But a little later, when we have lived two-thirds or more of our life, we begin to realize that it might be a good idea to start connecting with God, if we haven't already done so. Our children are grown, they're adults, and perhaps parents themselves now. We might be grandparents, or at least that possibility is on the horizon. It's time to think about the next stage.

So one day, Moses was shepherding his sheep. He was far from the glitz and glamour of Egyptian society—he was just another nomadic shepherd. There was a time when he had been a young and handsome prince, now he was an old and forgotten shepherd. He was moving his sheep, trying to find a better pasture—when this strange encounter with God changed his life (Exodus 3:1-10). We call it the burning bush—the bush that burned and burned and burned without being consumed.

Moses was not looking for God. The Bible doesn't say that Moses got up that morning determined to find God. It may have been that God was the last thing on Moses' mind that day, as he was shepherding his sheep. Moses didn't get up that morning and decide to go to church. Moses was not all primed and ready to meet God, dressed up in his "Sunday-go-to-meeting" best. Moses was not looking for God— Moses was not expecting God. But God was after Moses.

As Exodus 3:3 says, when Moses saw this extraordinary spectacle he said, I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up. Moses was not seeking God. He was simply leading his quiet, obscure, out-of-the-limelight, peaceful life. He wasn't going out of his way looking for God, and that's when God called to him out of the bush that was burning, without ever burning up.

Our relationship with God is not based on anything we do in an attempt to go out and look for God. God finds us, not the other way around.

God took the initiative in Moses' life at this particular time. Moses had not just finished a special religious retreat or purpose filled program. He had not just finished intensive Bible study, he hadn't just finished special Christian leadership seminars, he hadn't just completed a long period of what some Christians call spiritual disciplines of fasting, prayer, meditation, solitude—none of that.

Moses was just being Moses. He knew something about God, but this new intimacy, this directness, this conversation with God, this closeness had to be frightening for Moses. This was more than knowing about God, this was about knowing God, about getting up close and personal.

Moses did not go to some place regarded as holy to find God. He was out in what seemed to be the God-forsaken wilderness, when God showed up and told him to take off his shoes because he was standing on holy ground. The ground didn't look holy to Moses. It looked just like the rest of the parched desert landscape. Nothing looked holy—no big parking lot filled with cars, no stained glass windows, no altars, no baptisteries, no religious authorities with funny-looking costumes walking around. No sermon, no music, no prayers, no offerings. Just the hot sun, the desert, sand, rocks, a bush that never burned up—and the presence of God. That's all.

Here, at the burning bush, God takes the first step in the relationship. God reaches out. God pursues the love relationship. God is after Moses.

God is not a God we can stick in a religious place, inside a religious building, and go visit him whenever we want to, maybe an hour or so a week. We can't domesticate God. He doesn't dance to our tune. He doesn't promise to perform for us once we perform for him. That's not the way he works.

What had Moses done for God? Nothing really. Was there any reason for God to honor Moses with the personal meeting they had at the burning bush? No. Nothing.

God does not work in our lives according to religious timetables. God does not take time at the end of every day to sit down in heaven and plan out his next day based on the good religious deeds of humans.

Let me set up a fictional scene in heaven, a caricature of God and his heaven that many religious people seem to believe. The following, what I have God saying and thinking, is as far, based on the gospel of Jesus Christ, from the reality of God as east is from west and north is from south. So here it is—what doesn't happen in heaven:

"Let's see now," God says—"maybe I will bless old John down there in Pittsburg. He's been going to church faithfully, he's been giving his offerings, he's been praying to me all the time—even if those prayers are complaints about why I haven't blessed him yet."

God continues to consider John's case, "John never drinks, never goes to movies, never eats chocolate, doesn't laugh much—and he condemns other people who seem to be enjoying life. All of that condemnation of others, all that suffering and self-denial makes me happy.

"When his pastor says 'jump' John starts jumping through all kinds of hoops. That makes me happy, because I think people should obey religious authorities without question.

Moreover, God thinks, "John lights candles, does all the rituals, activities, programs, seminars, small groups, Bible studies—you name it. I am very impressed with John and all his religious stuff. In fact, the angels just brought me John's point total on the heavenly religious score card, and it's pretty good. I guess he's about due for some blessings—he's earned them. I might put John down for some blessings tomorrow. He's about due. He's earned it."

I'm not trying to say that God doesn't care about what we do and how we behave. Of course he does. Of course he is pleased when we do good things. But, he doesn't make up his "blessing list" on the basis of what we do.

I'm not saying that God doesn't answer prayers either. Of course he answers prayers. He loves to hear from you and me, whether it's a formal prayer on our knees, or whether we're just talking with him in our mind as we walk, as we're stuck in traffic, or as we're playing with our children/grandchildren in the park.

Yet God is not obligated to do what you ask him to do, ever. God does not jump through our hoops. God is not humanly predictable. We do not know all there is to know about God. We do not know exactly when and why God acts, or why he does what he does—and does not do what we want or expect him to do.

But, we do know that he loves us, absolutely, unwaveringly, unconditionally, with a no-matter-what love. We know that. That's the basis of our relationship with him. That was the basis of his relationship with Moses.

If God were to make up his "blessing list" on the basis of what we do, he would be defeating his own mission, he would be running contrary to his own message. More than anything, God wants us to know that he loves us. He wants us to know that he loves us because of who he is, not because of who we are.

Because of God's goodness, how God works and when he works in our lives defies our human ability to forecast and foresee. If God responded to us on some mechanical basis, then our relationship with him would be highly predictable. God is not a heavenly vending machine into which we drop the necessary amount of good deeds, and then, after we push his button, he dispenses the gift/answer we have purchased.

God met Moses, and gave him a message—"Moses, I'm sending you back to Egypt."

The last place on earth Moses wanted to go was Egypt. Why would he want to go back to the scene of the crime, where "wanted" posters featuring a depiction of his face were hanging in the Egyptian equivalent of a post office? Or, wherever they stuck "wanted" posters in that day, maybe on the side of a pyramid. I don't know. We can be sure that Egypt was the last place Moses wanted to go. But it was the precise place God wanted him to go.

God was working in Moses' life from the very beginning. He saved him from death as a baby. He made sure that he received valuable training in the Egyptian royal family. So, by the time God called Moses and let him know he had a specific goal for him, the plan was well under way.

God works behind the scenes in ways that are invisible and unknown to us, so that when he directly moves in our lives the stage is set. Everything is ready for his purposes.

The extent of God's love for us can be seen in the intricate planning and preparation he goes to in our lives, much of which is usually understood by us after the fact.

There are also times when the full extent of God's love for us is never fully revealed in our lifetime. I suspect that the revelation of God's hand in our lives, how he loved us without us ever fully knowing it, will be the subject of endless discussions in the future kingdom of heaven.

Don't ever forget that God Is After You. Don't ever forget that God works in your life by his grace, not by your will or your works. He will often appear in your life when you least expect him. Don't ever forget that God is active in your life right now, even though you don't have a clue as to what he might be doing, or what he might have in mind. And most of all, don't ever forget that God will stop at nothing in his love for you.


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