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Matzah, Maror, Kharoset and a Lazy-Boy

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In the midst of the sights, sounds and smells of Pesach (Passover) a young child stands to recite the Ma Nishtanah:

Why is this night different from all other nights?

  • On all other nights we can eat bread or matzoh. On this night why do we eat only matzoh?
  • On all other nights we can eat all kinds of vegetables. On this night why do we eat only bitter herbs?
  • On all other nights we do not dip our vegetables even once. On this night why do we dip them twice?
  • On all other nights we  eat our meals sitting or reclining. On this night why do we eat only reclining?

Four questions that really serve to answer the bigger question, “Why is this night so different from all other nights?”

As the questions are explained, a growing sense of thankfulness to God is ignited.

The four questions also serve as four paths to connect with God.

Humility is the first step on the path towards God.

Matzoh is not an elaborate or fancy bread. It is thin, looks somewhat strange and has no leaven in it. In haste the Children of Israel made their bread and were ready for God’s escape plan. The larger image here ,though, is of purity. In the Bible, leaven is a metaphor for sin. If we want to journey deeper with God, we start by admitting who we are and seek to become who we are meant to be. This is a humbling journey that reveals the darkness that resides within us. The good news is  that God longs to heal and restore and remove all the effects of sin in our lives.

Most of our energies are spent trying to gather attention, move up in the ranks, get noticed and find success. We want to be on the New York Times best seller list and have a video that goes viral. We want the biggest house, the nicest cars, the most lavish vacations and designer clothes. But the God-hungry long for holiness.

As leaven works through an entire batch of dough, sin affects the totality of our spirituality. When we begin to remove all the leavened (sinful) areas of our life, humility is a natural by-product.. Now we know that we are not “all that” ask God to do His cleansing work in us.

What things are you still trying to control?

What secret sin is robbing you of peace?

What hurt, habit or hang-up is tripping up your efforts to live a godly life?

In humility, we acknowledge our desperate need for God and seek to remove anything in our life that gets between us. This leads to the hard part of the path.

 

Brokenness is the hardest part of the path.

Maror. The bitter herbs are a reminder that the path is often hard, even as life was hard for the Children of Israel. Forced into slavery making bricks to build treasure cities for Pharoah. We make our horseradish sauce from this root, and when you eat a glob of it, you will cry some real tears!

What do you do when life goes sideways on you? How do you handle the sudden loss of a spouse, friend or job?

No one is exempt from pain and struggle. In fact, those fraternal twins are part of God’s process to expand your joy. That probably seems like a strange statement, but it is true. Without resistance muscles cannot grow. Without adversity your virtues are only theories. Without pain you will never know joy. Tears flow in life as a way for your heart to speak about the reality of life, love and loss. If you never cry, you have probably never loved.

Most of the people I know try to avoid pain at all cost…and that is why few people know God. The entrance to His presence is found in humility and brokenness. When you live in a culture that leans towards narcissism over humility and pretending to be someone you are not instead of brokenness, it is hard to know God.

God already knows all your secrets…and He loves you anyway.

God already knows how you will handle that stressful situation at work next week…and He loves you anyway.

God knows you just blew it with your daughter today…and He loves you anyway.

When you allow God to love you as you are, raw, naked and broken, you will begin to understand grace and know what real love is.

 

Presence is the surprise viewpoint along the path.

Kharoset. we have already dipped the Karpas into saltwater once. This reminds us that life (greens) is mixed with tears (saltwater). next we dip a second time  by taking some matzoh with maror and kharoset. The kharoset is a sweet mixture of apples, honey, nuts and wine. The sweet taste mixed with the bitter herb and the matzoh is surprisingly good.

Have you noticed that the good times seem to come with the bad times?

Beauty and pain ride twin rails of reality.

In the same day you might lose a father and welcome a new son.

All of these emotions are present in you at the same time. I think of a long, steep hike. Your muscles are tired, You are thirsty and out of breath, You might even be feeling the burn! Then, out of nowhere, you come upon a stunning view.

Even though your body is screaming your eyes are feeding your soul as you take in the beauty. It is in this moment that you realize that you are always surrounded by beauty, but sometimes it is obscured by the path we travel.

The most bitter of circumstances can be sweetened when we have the presence of God.

Humility and brokenness remove the veil that keeps you from seeing God.

He is always with you.

You are never alone.

This awareness transforms the brokenness in your life and infuses it with His living presence. There is still pain, but it is made sweeter, and you experience the goodness of God even in a dark time.

Humility, Brokenness and Presence reveal the path that you are on, and it is called freedom.

 

Freedom is not a destination, it’s a lifestyle.

Why do we recline tonight? The child asks. In the Exodus story, they ate standing up, ready to go because they were slaves. Slaves stand, free men and women recline in comfort. When you have experienced deliverance from slavery, a Lazy-boy is what you need!

Humility is the movement when we choose to actually leave Egypt (slavery, bondage).

Brokenness is the parting of the Red Sea. Only God can bring you through it.

Presence is God’s  sustaining power as you travel through the wilderness…but freedom…freedom is when you enter the Land of Promise.

Practicing His presence means that anyplace where you are is a promised land because God is there with you…freedom.

Practicing His presence sets you free to experience His grace and mercy in every moment…freedom.

Practicing His presence is a lifestyle of humility, brokenness…freedom.

Wherever God’s presence is…His power is there as well…freedom.

The power that created the universe is right there with you.

The power that rose Christ from the dead is right there with you.

The power that holds the universe together is right there with you.

The power to forgive and give you a fresh start is right there with you.

The power to free you from anything that disrupts the shalom of God in your life is right there with you.

So, why is this night so different?

This night reminds me that God is with me…For me…and leading me into greater expressions and experiences of His presence.

 

 

Experiencing Advent

I have always loved the season of Advent. Advent is a time of preparation, anticipation and reflection in the weeks leading up to the celebration of Jesus’ incarnation which we celebrate as Christmas.

Prophecies spoken and uniquely fulfilled in Jesus…

Light in the darkest days of the year…

Hope that night will end and something new will begin.

Advent not only looks backwards to the coming of the Messiah, Jesus…it also looks forward to His promised return.

Hope that love will end all war, division and hatred.

Belief that poverty, injustice and evil will be eliminated.

Courage to continue to do the next right thing until he comes, and the understanding that how I live today matters and makes a difference in how I will experience life when God re-invades earth to put all things right, and the universe experiences healing.

The season of Advent calls us to reflect, repent and realign our lives with the rhythm of God, and that is a good thing.

Here is an incredible day by dave journey through Advent created by Biola University…check it out and go back each day, it is well done and will be a great aid in your realigning this season,

Grace and peace
Monty

http://ccca.biola.edu/advent/#

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Sayin’ It Like It Is

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“God if you are real, speak to me!” Have you ever spoken those words? Have you ever been in a place where your throat was dry from crying out, and the requested thing just wasn’t materializing?

I know many people who have shouted out that prayer. I also know many people who are afraid to speak those words. Fear that God won’t love them anymore if they revealed their struggle. Fear that once the words are spoken, they may not like the God on the receiving end. Fear that they will be “found out” and are not as spiritual as their friends think.

Ironically, when we admit our struggles to God, He pours out an over-abundance of grace, showing us that His loves for us is constant, even on our bad days.

When we tell God what we honestly feel about His leadership in our life, we find a loving father who responds differently than the image we created in our minds…when we allow God to reveal Himself He is not furrow-browed and steaming mad. He is the prodigal’s father, arms held wide, eyes that are tired from prayer but full of compassion, and a heart that has enough grace for the entire universe.

When we have the courage to speak honestly, we no longer fear being “found out” because a truly spiritual person does not live a duplicitous life…he lives honestly, “warts and all.”

King David from the Hebrew Bible has always been one of my favorite people to study. He is so complex. He loves God so much, yet makes choices that are anything but holy. He lived his spiritual life out loud.

David unashamedly danced before the LORD…

David longed to build a house for God…

David repeatedly showed grace to a man hell-bent on killing him (King Saul)…

David also allowed his sexual desire to cloud his thinking, the result was adultery and murder…

David also trusted in the size of his army at times rather than the size of his God…

But through all the events of David’s life, God was an internal humming in his soul, calling him back again and again to a relationship. In Psalm 69, when David is obviously overwhelmed, he said:

“Save me O’ God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me. I am worn out calling for help; my throat is parched. My eyes fail, looking for my God.”

Life is hard…

Life is an assault of joy and pain…a medley of highs and lows…a symphony of dissonance and resolution.

If David’s thoughts and story ended there…it would be pretty sad, bleak, and depressing. But David choses to make a mind-shift in the midst of his honest reality. This shift is powerful. This shift is a game-changer. This shift can move you from the darkness to the light.

In verse 13 he says, “But I will pray to you.” David knows that he needs a hope bigger than himself, and God is that hope.

Eyes lifted up…

Circumstances bleak…

A heart drowning in pain…

BUT…I -will- pray to you. David commands his soul. He doesn’t allow his circumstances to command his destiny, God alone has the sovereignty to do that.

So he prays to God for help, believing that he will be heard…and he was.

David’s prayer moves his soul to worship…

Worship is a thin space between our reality and the presence of God…

Worship realigns our thoughts, motives and begins to expand our faith because we are immersing our mind with truth, God’s inspiration and perspective.

When we finally get God’s perspective, our circumstances have far less power to dominate us, and we are unleashed to believe and trust that God is at work…even in this.

In verses 30-36 David lets loose:

30 I will praise God’s name in song
and glorify him with thanksgiving.
31 This will please the Lord more than an ox,
more than a bull with its horns and hooves.
32 The poor will see and be glad—
you who seek God, may your hearts live!
33 The Lord hears the needy
and does not despise his captive people.

34 Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and all that move in them,
35 for God will save Zion
and rebuild the cities of Judah.
Then people will settle there and possess it;
36 and those who love his name will dwell there.

David is experiencing a different soul-ular reality by the end of this Psalm.

He moves from: “Say it like it is” to prayer which allows him to again “Say it like it is” from a different perspective that is life-giving instead of life-depleting.

So if you need some rescue from the miry depths today, say it like it is…pray…and then say it like it is.

God loves your honesty and He smiles when you exhibit faith in the midst of the storm…remember, you matter to Him.