Which Mountain?

These days it seems that a lot of the people around me are living their lives “in pursuit of God” and they want to be “nearer” to him. They do all these things and they donate all of their time and the read their Bible every day as if God really says to do all these things. By the way, he does.

I had mentioned the church I go to around a coworker one day, unknowingly, so I was a bit surprised when he came over to my desk one day and asked for information about my church. Certainly, I gave it to him but that’s just not a question I get asked very often while I’m at work. Speaking of one’s faith is entirely taboo in the corporate world. I gladly gave it to him and thought he might leave since his shift was over. But he said something to me that just made me cringe instinctively. At the time I didn’t know why it bothered me but this is what he said: “I’m a Catholic. I volunteer at a Methodist [something] and a Lutheran [something else]. And you know, it has made me a better…” I was fine up to this point. I like to see brothers and sisters and Christ being the church and doing things. But the last word almost gave me fits.

“… Catholic.”

Serving like that makes him a better Catholic? Not Christian, not Christ-follower, not servant but Catholic?

There are then those people who have all sorts of funny ideas about how you can reach God. Some of them believe in a god but not the God of the Bible.  Then again, some of them just have a very mangled sense of who God is. They live their lives in according to these beliefs as best they can to the point where God is something they can’t approach or he is just something that they keep at arm’s length. The idea of God is either too abstract or too painful for them to want to come close enough to him to be in relationship with him.

I have some friends that happen to be sisters-in-law and somehow, in a discussion, the topic of God or church came up. One of these on this occasion as well as many others said that she just doesn’t do anything with church. Very rigidly would she say something to the effect that she and church-related things just don’t work. It seems as if she and church are just mutually exclusive. Admittedly, I have not worked up the courage to ask her why she feels that way. But  her sister-in-law told me in the same conversation that she believes in a God but not the one that her mother would throw at her as a quick remedy to her problems, seemingly without practical advice. She also believed that when she dies she’s coming back in some sort of reincarnated fashion and her beliefs are an amalgamation of a multitude of religions.

Reincarnation. The belief that one will come back to life as something else.

Is there truth in there somewhere?

What I’ve begun to see is that people want something tangible no matter how practical or implausible. They want a mountain to climb. Some use their idea of faith to do things. When they begin the journey up the mountain they’ve chosen they use their faith like a pick to help them feel like they’re making progress and they have to look back to see how far they’ve come. Others have to use their faith as ropes that keep them from falling, constantly looking down to see where they’ve stopped. The journey of faith is a mountain but it’s nothing like these scenarios describe.

To show us this, the writer of Hebrews describes two mountains.

First, he speaks of the idea of faith as a mountain. He introduces the idea by saying, “For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest,” (Hebrews 12:18 ESV). This introduction is strange. The writer says that what has been approached or arrived at is a place that can be touched. Earlier in our discussion we talked about people who want this faith, this hope to have some sort of tangible or tactile quality. But the writer of Hebrews quickly negates this idea. The idea is pushed even further by describing “what may be touched”.

A blazing fire.

darkness

gloom

a tempest.

All of these, to me, seem like things you wouldn’t want to lay your hands on. But the author continues to describe this mountain that is free to touch: “…and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them,(Hebrews 12:19 ESV)”. It is at this point we should begin to wonder if the writer is referencing just any mountain. If you’ve read the book of Hebrews then you know that almost certainly is not the case. The writer continues, “For they could not endure the order that was given, ‘If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.’ Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I tremble with fear.'” (Hebrews 12:20-21 ESV). Indeed, the writer has a specific mountain in mind and the mention of Moses is a nice tip off as to what he’s referencing.

Mt. Sinai.

Moses.

It is interesting that the writer of Hebrews would tell us “you have not come to what may be touched”. From that we are then able to logically assume that what the writer is describing afterwards is an example of something that can be touched. In reading the story he’s referencing in Exodus 19 & 20, which is what the writer is quoting in Hebrews 12:20-21. Moses has lead the Hebrew people near Mt. Sinai where YHWH speaks to Moses and gives him strict instructions to make themselves clean and YHWH will speak to Moses on the top of the mountain. The people are instructed by God, through Moses, “Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.” (Exodus 19:12-13 ESV). Notice something interesting in the first sentence? The instructions were not to go up into the mountain because only Moses was instructed to do so. But he gives strict instructions.

Hands off.

Do you see the disconnect here? The writer of Hebrews is setting up the first half of his comparison and says, essentially, that Mt. Sinai in the time of Moses where YHWH spoke to him was something that could be touched. Yet it has been made abundantly clear that if you were to climb this mountain or if you were to touch it while YHWH was at the top, you died. What is it that the people would be doing if they touched the mountain? They would be disobeying a command of YHWH. Disobedience brings instant and physical death to whoever dared to test it. Interesting only because of the content of what Moses brings back with him from the top of the mountain in Exodus 24.

The 10 commandments.

Law.

Something tangible. How do we know? Because the people become idolatrous in the time Moses is on Sinai. In a rage he smashes the tablets on which the commandments were written against the ground. The implication being that Moses had to touch them first.

The mountain that could be touched but was not to be touched brought a law that made YHWH’s commands physical.

But the writer of Hebrews doesn’t stop there.

The idea turns into the driving point of this section of scripture with the use of the conjunction. He summarizes a very long section in the book of exodus with its gloom, fire and death. It is amazing, the power of a conjunction in writing like this. The author describes what can be touched which any Jew would have know could not be touched at that time and he illustrates the Sinai treaty which is surrounded by all of this wrath and doom which would scare anyone, Greek or Jew…

But

“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,” (Hebrews 12:22 ESV).

Mount Zion is representative of a few things:
1. The presence of YHWH
2. The Old Treaty being overtaken by the new Treaty in Christ
3. Christ’s ministry as mediator and final revelation (Son 41-42)

In the verse we just brought up in Hebrews, we see two of these three things mentioned right away because the writer is saying you have come to Zion. And Zion isn’t just a mountain, it’s a city. And it’s not just a city, it’s a city of the living God and the heavenly Jerusalem. And this isn’t just a city you’ve come entered with other people. It’s a city where innumerable angels are in festal gathering. That word “festal” can also be translated as “celebration.

It’s a party.

And it gets better.

Because the writers says that you have come to where the church of the firstborn are registered or enrolled into heaven. That is, it’s a place where those who now believe have been written somewhere, they have been invited to this party that is going to happen in heaven. They have given their RSVP where they will get to be with you and with God, the perfect judge. And those who have already died, you’ve come to the same place of faith and they’re waiting with Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. The writer calls him “the mediator of the new covenant” (Hebrews 12:24a ESV) which means that the treaty that bought you he brought to its final agreement with “the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel,” (Hebrews 12:24b ESV).

Wait.

When Cain killed his brother Abel, God asks him where his brother is. Snidely, I think, he tells God he is not his brother’s keeper. And God says to him, 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 4:10-11 ESV). The blood of Abel cried out to God because it was a result of the sin that Cain committed against his brother. That just begs the question:

How much louder, then, does Jesus’ blood cry out to point out the sin of his people that killed him?

Breathe.

The covenant at Mt. Sinai was that the people would follow the law given by YHWH so they could understand him. What they learned very quickly is that the law brings death. Disobedience to YHWH was a fast track to immediate death. Of all the laws written that would expand into the Levitical and Deutronomic codes, the violation of one would mean death for the transgressor. Mt. Sinai is a beautiful symbol of God’s love and a great sign of what was in the hearts of his people.

Which is why he gave us Mt. Zion: Where the law is fulfilled and a great party lies ahead.

But we’re not there.

Not completely.

Because Mt. Zion is the final resting place, the new Jerusalem for those who would believe in the saving Grace of YHWH atone for by the blood of his only Son. The mention of the firstborn enrolled in heaven would seem to say that there is a list here and you may be on it but you have not reached the top of the mountain

Yet.

But there are things that we have been equipped with that are part of Mt. Zion. We have Jesus and we have God. We have the Holy Spirit to guide us up the mountain. We have approached the mountain with both the pick and the rope and we are constantly being prayed for by others on the mountain with us. That just begs the question then, something that you and I should think about constantly. Which mountain have we come to? The mountain where we have the fear of death through one simple violation? Or are we approaching Zion? The place where God dwells and will dwell for eternity is begging for us to dig in our spikes and climb with everything we have and everything we have been given. The weight of sin is lifted and our past has been forgiven. Which means one thing for certain.

We don’t

need

took look

down.

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The Journey: The People

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My morning broke wide open at 6:30 AM to the alarm clock blasting an assault on the ears. “Caution, Dangerous Curves Ahead” by Maylene & the Sons of Disaster became the rooster crowing and I rolled lethargically to a sitting position at the foot of my bed. I don’t know about the routines of other people but this is usually how my morning starts when I have to get up early. I wake up to my alarm and then I sit at the foot of my bed hating my life for about 10 minutes while simultaneously trying to muster the will to get off my bed and into the day’s activities. This morning was particularly important because I was to get in a van by 8 AM to leave for a week long missions trip in Rapid City, SD. In my head I was telling myself to stand up and start getting myself put together for the week that was to come. I didn’t even have to put forth that much effort, I told myself. I was already packed and everything was sitting there waiting for me to load it into the car and leave. But at 6:30 AM my brain hasn’t acquired enough strength and momentum to instantly override my body’s many protests.

I took a deep breath, let out a deep sigh and finally stood up.

My things all packed, assembled and loaded, I took off for the college campus where the team would be meeting and loading into a van. Load time was 7:30 AM and, thankfully, I wasn’t the only one who was on time. Slowly, the students started congregating near the van and loading their luggage in. I had managed to get all my things into one bag/suitcase and my trusty grey messenger bag. I was in awe in the amount of stuff other people brought with them and not just the girls who were on the trip. I guess not everyone likes to travel light like me. More of the team began to show up as we got closer to 8 AM, their things being loaded as they appeared. The sponsors started to get nervous when the clock started reaching for 8 AM and two people hadn’t shown up yet. One of them we were able to get in touch with. He had gotten the times confused and didn’t think we were leaving until 8 PM. We got him straightened out and he came down with his luggage and got in the van. The last one pulled into the parking lot minutes later.

This would be a recurring theme for the rest of the trip.

A test for those of us, myself included, who like to be punctual.

Not a whole lot occurred on the trip there. We took I-29 North which took me past all the towns where my former youth group kids live when I was a sponsor in Whiting and Sloan, IA. It was far too early for reminiscing. I had picked the most comfortable spot in the van which was the way back with all the luggage. There was enough room for about 1.5 people so I got a little room to stretch out and I didn’t have to worry about bumping into someone else. So, I did what I always did on long trips: I put in my headphones and cranked up some music that fit my mood.

On the road I can live in my own little world if I so choose. My music is loud enough to drown out jabber and whatever else and it creates a whole other atmosphere in which my mind is free to explore ideas, worlds and memories that were currently pressing themselves into the crevices of my brain. It’s really helpful when I’m feeling my introversion because I can temporarily shut out everyone on the trip. That’s not to say that I wanted to ignore the team but we’ll get to them. The drive there was boring the whole way north and most of the way West on I-90. I saw some strange billboards heading west and I got some good pictures of random stuff I saw outside my window. I hadn’t been this way for quite some time but do you want to know what my biggest question was?

How does Wall Drug market to someone with oppositional defiance disorder?

Answer: They can’t.

They’ve got billboards everywhere telling people to go to Wall Drug which I was told by quite a few native South Dakotans is not all it hypes itself up to be.

Good thing we didn’t stop there then.

The drive in was beautiful but I won’t try and describe it. You can look at the pictures that I took and draw your own inclusions. What matters is that 8 hours later we made it. The house we pulled up to was in a new development but this was nothing like the ones we have here where the houses are all based off one or two different floor plans. No, this development was full of some very nice houses with all sorts of insane accoutrements like basketball hoops, batting cages and just insane architecture.

But as with so many other things this is not about buildings and houses. Well, maybe a little about houses.

I think the house we stopped at was far superior. I say that because when I walked from the van to the front door I saw the street light ignited cityscape of Rapid City. By day it’s alright but by night it’s breath taking. I wish I could walk out my front door to that kind of view. We got inside and got to meet one of the two host families that would be putting our team up for the week. The owners of the house, Mary and Larry, were just the first set of people who would prove to be such a huge blessing to us. Their house was big and open with a lot of artwork. They were fond of Terry Redlin which always reminds me of my mom. She’s always been a big fan of his work and, while I would never buy his artwork for myself, I always feel like I’m being warmed by a campfire when I see his paintings. They were very into family and, through the duration of the trip, we’d get to know Mary & Larry’s kids and grandkids.

Mary decided they would house the girls. The guys were taken to the other host family’s house.

All we were told about them was that he was a state senator and that they had a hot tub at their house. We rolled up to their house long after the sun had gone down so we didn’t get to see much of the house from the outside. We did get a view of the inside and it was amazing. The best part was, of course, was that we each got our own bed. That was just nuts to me that they had beds for 6 people outside of their own bedroom. But I soon realized that it was so they would have room for their now grown children and grandchildren when they came over and stayed there. The whole place gave me the feeling of being at home even though I’d never been there before which, I’m certain, can only be created by people who have spent their lives devoted to a loving and giving family environment. There was a lifetime of love in that house which was flooring to think about. And that was just their house.

I don’t know if I’m strange or if I was just raised differently. But I think there’s a lot of wisdom and knowledge to be taken from people who have lived a life devoted to serving and glorifying God. And so, on the first night we were there, we were able to sit and listen to Bruce and Sandee talk about their lives and what they do and stories about their kids I was all ears. They asked us all what we were studying and they gave their full attention which is something I feel like doesn’t happen often with such a generational distance like that. But they were gracious enough to get to know us while we were in their home and to share everything of theirs with us.

I must pause here and issue a verbal medal of bravery to Cari. She’s probably one of the nicest and sweetest people I’ve ever met. She got the pleasure of getting to chaperone the guys on this trip and keeping the rest of them in line while I tried to do my best to stay calm and patient. She put up with a lot and with much grace.

However, I would be remiss if I failed to mention Leslie who did a great job of laying out everything for the trip. I don’t know much about her personally since she deals primarily with the girls on campus too but I do know she’s very schedule and detail oriented. She kept us all on track no matter the conditions without being dictatorial or overly neurotic.

Our team was a bunch of college students. The team was interesting to say the least. The team was completely even as far as men and women goes. There were 5 guys and 5 girls which, for you math-challenged folk like me, makes a team of 10 with two female sponsors. The age range went from college freshman to a dude in his 30’s who had a wife and kids of his own. The girls were all roommates back at the college which means we were subject to every loud and obnoxious inside joke and favorite movie quote they were able to dish out. I can’t fault people for being friends and I can’t say anything bad about the women who were on the trip in the end. They did their share and sometimes more. I got to know them as more than just a face I passed in the hallways and in the cafeteria which was pretty cool.

The men did what men do and that’s make jokes at each others’ expense in good fun and have conversations about sports or video games. It was interesting to watch from the outside because I don’t do a lot of any of that. I tried my best to lead by example when we were working and try to keep things from getting out of hand when it came to the poking fun. I sound like a kill joy and maybe I am but that’s what I felt like I needed to do. It’s not like we didn’t all have fun but I tried to make sure we were representatives of our school and of Christ because that’s what was most important to me on that trip since we did mostly manual labor. Our actions said a lot about us. I was happy to work with those guys and get to know them despite our differences. The men stuck together well and worked hard like I had hoped we would, in the end.

Our first task was a basement but I don’t want to talk about the basement right now. We were brought to a house the Monday of that week but I don’t really want to talk about the house either. First, we met Jared who is a Chaplain in the Army National Guard and owner of the construction company we were partnering with to work on this house. He was a youth minister before working in construction which was more than apparent. He was really extroverted, loved to crack jokes and had an infinite amount of patience (as did his crew) with those of us who had little to no experience in working with drywall. He unfolded what I thought to be an extraordinary vision for his company. By and large their purpose was to make money off construction jobs but he told us he wanted to be like Paul in regards to his trade. That the Apostle Paul was a tentmaker while he was doing his work for the kingdom. Jared wanted to give back in some way and so he would devote some time and money to giving back to people who need it.

Jared introduced us to the wife and mother of the family we were helping.

Her name was Jess.

Jess’ personality just radiated off her. She was wrangling 3 young children while her husband was serving his country overseas. While she was always smiling and constantly expressing her gratitude to us in one way or another you could tell she was tired. Understandably so. She had the face of a saint who had been running the race and it was wearing her out but that didn’t matter so much. In fact, she dove in to help us when she had a chance despite what Jared told her. She’d carry the sheetrock with us and whatever else when she could. But what really stood out to all of us was something we were not expecting and, actually, it would be better to bring it all together to show you what I saw from the trip.

Words cannot begin to express the amount of gratitude I felt that week. Included in the cost of the trip was food money because we were expecting to have to buy food and cook for ourselves. You can imagine my surprise when we got up in the morning and there was breakfast food already laid out for us that we didn’t buy for ourselves. The girls had the same experience at the house they were staying at. Then when we got to Jess’ she said she’d have lunch ready for us around noon. Then to get back to Mary & Larry’s, our rendezvous point for the trip, and they’d have dinner all cooked and ready for us. Then when we, the guys and Cari, got back to our lodging there would be Soda in the fridge and a hot tub out back for us to chill in for a while. This became the rhythm of the trip.

It was a rhythm of grace.

My experience with grace is that it is often contagious or even addicting. I can only speak from my own personal experience, but from the grace our sponsors showed us as we tried to be punctual, to the grace that was poured out in our hard work, to being served awesome food day after day there was almost

this cycle

this repetition

this unexpected cadence of God’s grace

as it flowed and moved in the lives of everyone involved.

So, when the day came where we were done working we were able to use some of the money we had saved to get gifts for everyone who had provided us meals or places to stay and of course, the most popular response was, “You didn’t have to do that!”

No we didn’t.

That leaves me. I have a love/hate relationship with personal application because of its bent towards subjectivity. Because I think it will close this out nicely. I wrote in an earlier post that I am addicted to grace. The more I see it, feel it, taste it or otherwise experience it the more I want it. For me, the amount of grace I saw on this trip was what allowed me to have the patience I did with the people I was with. That is not to say that they were all intentionally difficult or constantly making me angry because it wasn’t like that. A lot of it was me and my slightly tilted way of looking at things and my introversion. Grace and a lot of good people got me through this trip even if those people don’t see it or may never realize it. I just hope they saw the grace that I did.

Grace is a free place to stay.

Grace is having the patience to teach those totally unskilled.

Grace is cooking food for 12 extra people every night.

Grace is almost a week of working with all your strength and asking for nothing.

Grace is a gift that someone didn’t have to get you

but they did. Not for notoriety or for praise.

It is because of grace that we glorify God in all those seemingly nonsensical ways. The world asks the question “Why?” every time and the most rational of people will tell you they don’t deserve it. How confusing it must be to the world to answer them by saying,

“I do this because no one deserves grace

and I want to show you what that looks like.”

My Doxology: Addicted to Grace

A few years ago I decided to help a friend out. I can’t explain the situation without sounding judgmental so I’m just going to explain the situation and hope you’ll grant me some grace. I had spent a lot of time hanging out with this guy and I even told him to get a job where I was working at the time because I thought it would be cool to have a friend working there with me. Well, he worked there for a while and moved into an apartment with his brother as well. He eventually quit that job and got fired from his next one. Instead of saving his money he bought an Xbox 360. So, when rent time rolled around that month, needless to say, he was going to come up short.

Being the good friend that I was, I almost drained my savings account and loaned him $300 so that his brother wouldn’t kick him out of the apartment and to give him time to find a new job. After a few months we were no longer friends. I’ll spare you the details of the how and why because I don’t think it’s pertinent to this particular conversation. I will say I was extremely angry with him over the whole ordeal. So, I would continually harass him any way I could to get him to pay me the money he owed me. I would spam his Myspace blog whenever he’d post some new detail about his wonderful life as he actually got engaged, married and had a kid in the time this all was going on. I was relentless and I even had friends that would chime in from time to time because they felt that I was right in my pursuit of that $300 even a couple of years after I loaned it to him.

I had to ask myself the question recently as to whether or not that was really the right thing to do. But wait.

I know a guy who made a huge mistake after he got married and didn’t want to tell his wife. He and I had a conversation about it and I tried to get him to see that regardless of her reaction he would have to tell her. I knew in my heart the damage would likely be irreparable to his soul if he didn’t tell her and even more to so if he told her. We still discussed it and I don’t know that I got anywhere with him. So, I prayed. And thankfully my schedule kept me away from the situation. That sounds horrible but you have no idea how bad I wanted to help in a situation where there was no way I was going to help. Did I do the right thing?

Well, fast forward to a couple of weeks ago and I’m talking to this guy again. I raised the topic of whether he had confessed to his wife and to my shock he had told her and she made the most insanely stupid decision of her life.

She forgave him. Not only that but he told me she was getting him help.

Wow.

But I’m not done.

I live with five other dudes in a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom house in a suburb of Omaha. We all pitch in on cost of rent, utilities, etc. and we try and hold each other accountable to those responsibilities because we’re all trying to be men of God. One roommate fell into hard times and lost his job and has actually been unemployed for 3 months. He had enough to cover the month where he hit this patch of unemployment and then the fun began.
Out of my pride and being the caring brother that I am I just covered his rent and utilities the next two months. I thought I could handle all of it by myself and could just live with it. I would get the money out of him because surely he would get a job soon. Well, that has proven to be difficult thus far because he’s leaving to go help with a missions trip to Romania in June. Telling someone during a job interview that you’re only intending to work there for a few months and then quitting tends to get your application put in File 13 pretty quickly. And I understand that issue now. But for those two months, I didn’t realize, but knowing that he owed me money made me so angry and I felt like a door mat.

That kind of anger only festers and grows. It doesn’t go away. Pride tells you you’re right and justified in being angry and so does everyone else.

But it’s toxic.

I realized the moment I approached him with this issue was that I was not really angry. I mean, I was, but even more so I was grieved. The thought that perhaps one of my best friends was taking advantage of me was fueling a sadness in me so great my instinct was to react to in anger because how dare anyone evoke such feeling out of me and by all things that I had been taught that money was mine to spend and not his.</p>

Says who?

Did you know that the message of the prophets in the Bible is born out of grief? And in their message you will often see a fluctuation between critique and messages of hope (Brueggeman 10)?

That is how I decided to approach my friend. I actually learned about this in a week-long class on the prophetic books and it was one of the most intense weeks of my collegiate life so don’t think for a second I was smart enough to come up with this stuff on my own. I have Professor ESmith and the 4 other people in that class for such a beautiful experience.

But that is, perhaps, a story for another time.

So, if you’ve made it this far I’m sure you’re wondering how the story ended. Did my emotions get the best of me? Did I threaten to kick him out and tell him he couldn’t go to Romania? No. I did something infinitely more stupid and ridiculous. A decision of such monumental stupidity and idiocy that I thought it best to share it with the entire internet and whoever would choose to stumble upon what I’ve written here. Do you really want to know what I did?

I told him to forget about the money he owed me.

In that instant It didn’t matter. In fact, I decided if he didn’t get a job before he left for Romania I would forgive everything he owed before he left. And not only that, I would get our roommates in on the deal. This would become our way of supporting him in his mission because I believe that is what God has called him to and there was no way in the literal hell that I would do that. And in that moment I felt as if I had vomited out all the negativity that I had been carrying for at least the last two months. I was cleansed.

So what is my point?

There is an underlying theme to the stories I told above. But to get to the point I feel like I should return to a comment I made earlier. The prophet’s message begins in grief. This is made clear in the paradigm given by Moses in the story of the Exodus.

During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew. (Exodus 2:23-25 ESV, emphasis mine)

Out of the grief of God’s people comes the well known story of Moses prophesying to Pharaoh to liberate his people, to liberate them from a life of oppression into a life of freedom with YHWH. You can read the story for yourself to see the parallels. What I want you to know and see is in all of these stories God put me in a role of grief and out of that grief I reacted in critiquing the situation and trying to give hope. In a sense, i see the story of the prophets in my life and perhaps rightfully so. As you can see I handle them with varying degrees of one common ideal. But there’s one part of the message that finishes out the story. And it’s beautiful because what begins in grief ends with something incredible.

The final part of the message is a doxology.

dox·ol·o·gy –noun, plural -gies.
1. a hymn or form of words containing an ascription of praise to God.

Let’s go back to the Exodus. What was the response to their miraculous deliverance from their oppressors?

Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD, saying,

“I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously;
the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea.
The LORD is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation;
this is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
The LORD is a man of war;
the LORD is his name.

“Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast into the sea,
and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea.
The floods covered them;
they went down into the depths like a stone.
Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power,
your right hand, O LORD, shatters the enemy.
In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries;
you send out your fury; it consumes them like stubble.
At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up;
the floods stood up in a heap;
the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.
The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake,
I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.
I will draw my sword; my hand shall destroy them.’
You blew with your wind; the sea covered them;
they sank like lead in the mighty waters.

“Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods?
Who is like you, majestic in holiness,
awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?
You stretched out your right hand;
the earth swallowed them.

“You have led in your steadfast love the people whom you have redeemed;
you have guided them by your strength to your holy abode.
The peoples have heard; they tremble;
pangs have seized the inhabitants of Philistia.
Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed;
trembling seizes the leaders of Moab;
all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.
Terror and dread fall upon them;
because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone,
till your people, O LORD, pass by,
till the people pass by whom you have purchased.
(Exodus 15:1-16; Exodus 15:17-18 ESV) You will bring them in and plant them on your own mountain,
the place, O LORD, which you have made for your abode,
the sanctuary, O Lord, which your hands have established.
The LORD will reign forever and ever.”
(Exodus 15:1-16; Exodus 15:17-18 ESV)

Incredible.

A song of praise. You’re probably thinking, “Of course, you’re supposed to praise God when he does something huge in your life. And the Exodus is a huge deal. They probably couldn’t help themselves.” Probably. But the story after the Exodus is a sad one considering the story they had just left. But that’s not the point. Where am I going with this? I’ve been thinking about this narrative and all the stuff I have learned from the above experiences and I’m here to tell you. This. This conversation right here.

I guess this is my doxology.

This is my song of praise after watching one thing. A single theme has pervaded my days for quite some time and I just want to tell you what I’ve discovered is that I have an addiction. Addiction. That word has a lot of negative connotations and with a lot of great reasons. There’s a lot of programs and such out there to help one recover and clean up, stay sober. They want you to give up this terrible thing that has taken hold to your life.

This has taken hold and I don’t want to give it up.

The concept and the theme, the question that I’ve been asking thus far and that permeates the stories I’ve told you should be somewhat obvious.

I’m addicted to grace.

But like I’ve already mentioned, addiction is such a negative term with negative vibes. I say addiction and you think rehab. But this is an addiction that I can’t shake. My initial thought when I came to this conclusion was that perhaps it was bad to ascribe something so detrimental to a person’s life to something so fantastic. A free gift that covers all the horrible things, all the sins, all the evil if we choose to accept it.

Jesus paid for that.

And it’s evident in the scriptures, I think. In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians he tells the story of a thorn in his side that refused to leave him even though he asked the Lord to take it away. He couldn’t stand its effects but the response he received was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

“My grace is sufficient”

He was told that, more than anything, he was weak and he had to rely on the grace of God to get through it. What’s another way of saying that we rely on something. In his first letter to the Corinthians he says:

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10 ESV)

Just let that work in your brain. A man dependent on grace and it makes him work harder but that it really wasn’t him but the grace that is in him. I’m hesitant to draw the parallel but don’t we see people with addictions say that they function better with their substance of choice? Is it possible that, while grace is not detrimental it is definitely something we can lean on, hold on to and let course through our entire being? After my experience, my answer is decidedly, “yes”.

We’re dependent on it. Paul was told to be dependent on the grace of God in his weakness. Grace was the prescription to the pain that Paul was feeling. Dependence. It’s been my personal experience over these past few weeks that grace is something you give as well as receive. Maybe I had forgotten that or never really learned it or understood it which is why I hassled the person in my first story for years for money I had recouped by then.

But in the second story I really learned what grace was and that it could be given freely to many of those who don’t deserve it and it wasn’t by my actions. In fact, I stepped away so God could work in their lives. And He did in a way I never thought possible. Grace is poured out in peoples’ lives and it’s like an extension of the grace we have been given. I thought that I understood grace. It’s one thing to think that you have completely comprehended the work of grace.

It’s a completely different thing to see it worked out in the lives of people around you.

And in my third story I was given the opportunity to pour grace out myself. I can tell you that there was, in fact, an incredible rush from it. And Paul’s words earlier were true. My decision to pour out grace on my friend was an extension of the grace that was given to me and I can definitely say that the decision was not mine but it was put into my mind when I was exorcising my grief. And now I don’t think I can do without it.

So, what’ the point? Perhaps there isn’t one main point that I wanted to hit on. Maybe I just wanted you to see the story that I’ve been living out lately. Maybe I just wanted you to understand that my life has been affected both by a story of grief but by the beauty of grace. Grief is a common theme in my life and I’m not really ashamed or worried about telling people that. There are a lot of things that have happened that have made me skeptical of people and make me wary of extending grace to others.

You do, of course, know that when you pour out grace or love you give a part of yourself.

And sometimes that’s too close. How do I know this? Because it’s been my story for too long. And that was my grief when I started writing this. I critique myself freely that I’ve failed at grace multiple times. The hope, the energy is that I’ve discovered that grace is addictive and now I am in love with it.

And all of this is just the beginning. This week I admitted to myself and am trying to realize that I don’t have to live life like I was. That also gives me hope.

This is only the beginning but I want you to know that this…

This is my doxology.