Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Response to a Hardened Heart

This blog is my place to be brutally honest. Here it is: One of my greatest struggles this last year has been with (generally) men in positions of leadership who have a hard heart, or stopped up ears, to women and their suffering. 

In the past, I have been put off by women whose desire to help (specifically in the area of abuse) comes across as brash, disrespectful, and demanding. I avoid their writing, teaching, and communication because their person and message feel so charged with anger and bitterness.

However, I have to admit that I have struggled with those same feelings and frustrations.

Recently, I have been blessed by the book of Exodus--specifically Pharaoh's hardened heart. Sometimes Pharaoh chose to harden his heart* (חָזַק "to be or grow firm or strong, strengthen"). He determined not to free Israel from his bond.

The majority of the time, the LORD hardened Pharaoh's heart or it was done to him--his heart was hardened.**

Over and over and over Moses repeated the message, to free God's people from bondage and servitude for the purpose of worship. Over and over, Pharaoh said, "No"--after gaslighting, posturing, blame-shifting, intimidating, using tactics we can see and refer to in contemporary terms.

But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, so that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt. (7:3)

“Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, so that I may perform these signs of Mine among them..." (10:1)

And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.” (14:4)

And as for Me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. (14:17)

God does His work, not in spite of hardened hearts, but through them, in them, because of them. The work is not ours. It is His.

Moses experienced rejection after rejection. He was demeaned, belittled, and rebuffed. But, because God had given a command and God enabled him to persevere, Moses went back over and over again regardless of Pharaoh's response. He didn't need Pharaoh's approval. He served God alone. He didn't need Pharaoh's permission. But God did an amazing work and revealed Himself in ways never seen.

The example of God freeing Israel from Egypt was a sign of His might, power, goodness, and provision to this day. Generation after generation recalled the escape from Egypt. It is a picture of Jesus purchasing our freedom from sin and death.

In and through it all, what was Israel's job? First, they cried out and God heard them. Then He sent Moses. And it was theirs to listen. Trust God. And obey. Regardless of desperate circumstances--as slaves, through the plagues, as the firstborn were slain, with their backs against the Red Sea. Cry out. Listen. Trust. Obey.

When God allows people to say, "No" to a good thing, to living out the image of God in worship and freedom, we can be downhearted and disheartened. But I have been encouraged that God uses even this for His glory. In fact, He is behind it all for a greater purpose. God is God. He is working. I can trust Him. I am simply called to obey in the tasks He puts before me. I am not to give in to despair, hatred, or reviling. My words and behavior need only reflect our Lord Jesus Christ whether they are appreciated or not; listened to or not; respected or not. Pharaoh did not listen. And that was God's doing. For His purpose. For His glory. And the deliverance of His people.

As Pharaoh approached, the sons of Israel looked, and behold, the Egyptians were coming after them, and they became very frightened; so the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord.  Then they said to Moses, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt?  Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, ‘Leave us alone so that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness!”

But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will perform for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again, ever. The Lord will fight for you, while you keep silent.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward. As for you, lift up your staff and reach out with your hand over the sea and divide it, and the sons of Israel shall go through the midst of the sea on dry land. And as for Me, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them; and I will be honored through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen. Then the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord, when I am honored through Pharaoh, through his chariots, and through his horsemen.” (Exodus 14:10-18)

*Exodus 8:15, 8:32, 9:34--and in this verse it is referred to as sin

**Exodus 4:21, 7:3, 7:13, 7:22, 8:19, 9:7, 9:12, 9:35, 10:1, 10:20, 10:27, 11:10, 14:4, 14:8, 14:17

Tuesday, September 28, 2021


 "...through Him [Jesus] we...have our access in one Spirit to the Father." (Ephesians 2:18)

From where I sit in my home office in podunk America, I have a hard time imagining myself walking into a high rise office of a powerful CEO. Thoughts of metal detectors, armed men and women in suits, click-clacking shoes on marble floors, elevator banks with escorts, and lots of glass come to mind.

Walking into a corner office for an appointment seems ludicrous. Being invited or welcomed--feeling comfortable in such--beyond comprehension. I don't wear heels or a suit on a special day, let alone a normal one.

But the Bible says that through Jesus, we have access to God the Father. And we don't go alone. We have the Holy Spirit to accompany us. We are in our element--and we are welcomed!

God, the Creator of the Universe, calls us children. He has chosen to be our Father. Our good, perfect, generous, giving, kind, giving of Himself, Father. And He wants us to to come. He wants us to realize our access to His face, His throne, His hand, His kingdom, His eternity. 

What does that mean? It  means I don't have to live life on my own. I don't have to accomplish or prove myself  by myself. I have access to God! I have access to His armory, His banquet table, His hallways, His lap. He wants to be part of my decisions. He wants to meet my needs. He wants to show Himself faithful through my circumstances and responses. He made Himself accessible for a reason. He has given me supernatural, open access that I might live with the resources and gifts only He can give--through Jesus.

So, then, remember that at one time you were Gentiles in the flesh—called “the uncircumcised” by those called “the circumcised,” which is done in the flesh by human hands. At that time you were without Christ, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In his flesh, he made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that he might create in himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace. He did this so that he might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross by which he put the hostility to death. He came and proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So, then, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole building, being put together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you are also being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:11-22 CSB)

Friday, September 10, 2021

True Satisfaction

We are dissatisfied creatures. Of all the things I struggle with regularly, this is probably the most constant, persistent--the gnawing of my soul. The unrest. The striving, chasing, wasting. The sunkenness and flatness of spiritual eyes. The lack of appetite and discernment for what is good, pleasing, and right in exchange for the fatty, sexy morsels that deceive and leave me more hungry than before. Or continuing to shove dry crusts of bread down my throat without living water; choking on every bite, self-righteous but envious of those who refuse to choke beside me.

Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven...." (John 6:32)

This morning as I read my Bible and answered several simple questions, I was reminded of how easy it is to see myself, not God, at the center. How quickly I fall into discontent.

God is a Father who wants to fill and satisfy His children. He is a Father who provides true bread--generously and freely. He is a good Father who feeds His children only the best. But we, like children, turn our nose up in distaste. We would rather go hungry than feed on His Word. We want to choose a diet of our liking instead of His. We are, and always will be, rebellious, defiant children throwing fits or folding our arms in silence in an effort to outwait our good Father. 

By His grace, He outlasts us. Loves us. Provides and cares for us, even in our wicked, destructive stance of refusing His provision. 

The painful truth is that I want to be acceptable on my terms, not His. I want to be holy, perfect, and complete without suffering. Without Jesus. I seek satisfaction and fulfillment in my children, job, home, church, ministry, spouse, an unknown future object or event of my preference. 

God says, "Come to Me. Eat the good bread I offer. Take Jesus. Trust Him instead of yourself. Believe His work is sufficient and yours never will be. Partake of Jesus. He will fill your soul. He will brighten your eyes. The bread of God--Jesus--comes to free you of guilt, effort, striving, and destruction."

Jesus continued, "For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

Then they said to Him, “Lord, give us this bread always.”

And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” And they said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

Jesus therefore answered and said to them, “Do not murmur among yourselves. No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”