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Have you ever been mad at God? I know I have.
Perhaps there is someone reading these words who, beneath their prayers and praises, is nevertheless somewhat "ticked" at God for the crummy hand you've been dealt‚Ä¶.the stuff you've had to live through!
"If there is a God, why does he make it so hard for me to know him? Why doesn't he come out and show himself? And why is this world so full of tragedy: sickness, death, war, hatred, hunger, greed! And they say that God is love! Where is he?"
Of course, as long as you're mad at God, it's hard to hear his voice. As long as God is on trial, and you're the judge, it's difficult to get through to him.
Meanwhile, God keeps watching over you, doing things to help and protect you that you know nothing about.
Think of Moses. Moses was watched over by God from the time he was a baby in a basket. While God, for reasons of his own, allowed hundreds of Hebrew baby boys to be slaughtered by Pharaoh, little Moses was lying in a crib in the palace of a princess. During the years when Moses was growing up in an Egyptian palace, he was unaware that God was watching over him.
Then as a young man, Moses began to realize that he was not an Egyptian, but a Hebrew. He saw his fellow Hebrews suffering at the hands of their Egyptian masters and wondered about this Hebrew God. Where is he? Why doesn't he do something!
One day Moses is riding his horse in the country and sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew without mercy. Moses looks both ways, sees no one around, dismounts his horse and kills the Egyptian, burying him in the sand.
No doubt Moses figured God would be pleased. And the Hebrews would certainly appreciate what he did! But no such luck. God was silent. And the Hebrews "squealed" on him‚Ä¶."We didn't do it! Moses did!" And Moses had to flee for his life into the wilderness of Midian.
No more fancy palace food. No more fine horse to ride. No more beautiful clothes. Now Moses is nothing but a scraggly shepherd. It's enough to make anyone mad at God!
Then came the awakening‚Ä¶..
Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian; and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of the bush; and he looked, and lo, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. And Moses said, "I will turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt." When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here am I." Then he said, "Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." And he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Moses took off his shoes, for he was standing on holy ground.
Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
With his shoes off, and his face averted, Moses enters into his first conversation with the God of the universe. For the first time in his life---at age 80---Moses comes to know the God who has been watching over him since he was a baby in a basket.
God is speaking. And Moses, awed by what he hears, is changed into a different man. Now God commands, and Moses obeys.
But what would have happened if, when God told Moses to take off his shoes, Moses had refused, as many people do today. What if Moses had said,
"What do you mean, holy ground? I refuse to acknowledge such a thing! I believe in the dignity of man. I bow before no one!"
Suppose Moses started to vent the complaints which had been eating at his soul for forty years‚Ä¶.
"If you are the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, you sure haven't done much for their descendents! First you bring us down into Egypt. Then you abandon us to slavery under Pharaoh. Forty years ago, when I tried to bring some justice to my people, you abandoned me to this godforsaken wilderness!"
That's the exact mental state of many of us, all too often. "God owes me an explanation for the life he dished out to me!" "God let me down!" "He stuck me in this Valley of Frustration, and forgot about me!" "I pray, and nothing happens. I cry for help, and I don't see any angels coming to my aid. They say that Jesus opens doors. I don't see any doors opening for me!"
Moses could have said that too. "Forty years in this barren wilderness, and I'm supposed to believe in God?" Had Moses taken that approach at the burning bush, the flame would have died, and Moses would have continued his life as a shepherd in the wilderness ... and there forgotten.
But when God said, "Take off your shoes," Moses took off his shoes. And as he humbled himself before God, whatever grudges he had, whatever self-pity had been eating at his soul, was drained out of him, and Moses became a different man.
Moses became a different man as he acted on what God told him to do. God opened the door; Moses walked through it. God said, "Here's the next step;" Moses took it. "Go to Pharaoh," said the Lord, and Moses went to Pharaoh. As Moses went, he became a changed man.
Supernatural change took place in Moses‚Ä¶.and takes place in us, the moment we find ourselves on holy ground, humble ourselves before God's glory, and walk through the door God opens for us.
But it always begins when we realize that we're on holy ground.
Until we know what it means to be standing on holy ground, until we understand what it means to take off our shoes, and fall on our face in repentance before God, all we have is dead religion---void of life.
Because nobody‚Ä¶.nobody!‚Ä¶.comes into God's presence, until they learn to take off their shoes and start walking in the light.
Jesus is hanging on the cross. He is flanked on each side by a cross bearing a dying criminal. One of the criminals turns his eyes toward Jesus and sneers,
"Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself---and us!"
The other criminal rebukes him, saying, "Do you not fear God, since you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds. But this man has done nothing wrong."
Then, turning his eyes toward Jesus, this man says, "Jeshua, remember me when you come in your kingdom."
Suddenly, this dying man is on holy ground, where everything changes; and he hears these words: "Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."
Maybe you think the thief got by the easy way. He didn't have to do anything. He stepped right through the door of death into Paradise, while Moses had to struggle forty more years as a servant of God on this troubled earth. But the principle is the same. You take off your shoes, start walking in the light, and you become a New Creation. If God chooses to take you immediately into Paradise, good. If he decides to keep you here with work to do, that's good too.
Today as you read these words the spotlight is not on Moses or on the Thief. It's on you and me. It's our turn to hear the voice that spoke out of the flame, the voice that opened the door to Paradise for the Thief.
As you read these words, and as I write them, God looks into our hearts as if each of us were the only one on earth. The Lord Jesus is closer to us than our own breath. He is present to touch us with healing, to convict us where we may be off the track, to deliver us from our obsession with ourselves---and set us free.
The place where you and I are at this moment is as holy as the ground Moses was standing on, as holy as Calvary itself. But whether anything happens to us as I write these words, and as you read them, depends, not on God, but on us‚Ä¶
He is waiting for us to take off our shoes and start walking in the light.
To take off our shoes and start walking in the light is both the easiest thing in the world and the hardest thing in the world. Easy, because the minute we take the first step in obedience, we get help from heaven. The Spirit visits us, lifts us, strengthens us.
To take off our shoes and start walking in the light is the hardest thing in the world, because it involves relinquishing control to God. Turning ourselves over to him, giving up our right to ourselves‚Ä¶.so that he calls the shots, and we yield to him. Something within us finds that quite scary!
But here's where the miracle begins: You open your heart and say, "Lord, here I am. Show me the step you want me to take, and, by your grace I will take it."
It may be a change of attitude.
It may be that we need to ask someone we have wronged for forgiveness.
Maybe it's time for us to take off our mask and confess that underneath our piety is an ungrateful heart.
Maybe we're basically stingy. Time to loosen up and become generous, before it's too late. What a frightening thing to die a miser!
Perhaps we've been holding out on someone who's been begging for our forgiveness, and we've refused.
It's amazing how, when we find ourselves on holy ground everything looks different. We begin to see things from God's point-of-view instead of our own. Then all we have to do is say, "Okay, Lord, I give up! Before your glory, I yield my heart to your command. I will do whatever it is that you want me to do, by the help of your Spirit."
Now you're beginning to walk in the light.
You did not read this far for amusement. You took the trouble to read these words, hoping for some refreshment, some cleansing from the Spirit of God.
And you will be refreshed. You will be cleansed, if, like Moses and like the Thief, you take off your shoes, listen for the step God would have you take, and start walking in the light.
You may already know what it is that God wants from you (for your good).
Perhaps you'll wake up in the middle of the night and suddenly see what it is.
It may be a casual word, spoken by a friend, that "turns on the light."
If you take off your shoes, God will make it clear.
And as you walk in the light, you will know the God who transforms us into his likeness as he indwells us by the Spirit of his Son.