Tag Archives: reconciliation

The Burning Bush Meets Real Life

I like reading the Old Testament of the Bible. It’s interesting to pictures some of the events from today’s perspective looking back into history. In reading it, we find that the God of history interacts the same with us today.

I read Exodus 2 & 3 about the beginning of Moses’ life and see the complexity of how God cares for his people and is concerned for their suffering. When we face suffering in life, chronic pain, long-term disability, injustice and oppression today, we can rely on the divine interaction of God who is concerned for us and takes joy in our healing, redemption and reconciliation from a sinful world.

Pastor Marty Gale from the Jewish Celebration Congregation in Loveland, Colorado helped reveal to me some further truth about the burning bush event in Exodus 3 recently.

When God came to meet with Moses from the midst of a burning bush, God is concerned for the suffering of His people. He draws Moses closer to Himself by igniting a bush without consuming it on Horeb, the mountain of God. Moses draws closer, but is told that the location is Holy ground and must keep his distance. Pastor Marty enlightened me by saying that the word “bush” is not in the Hebrew text, rather it’s the word sneh, which is thorn. English translations prefer the word bush because of the story it provides, but Acacia-wood thorn bush is the appropriate translation.

Thorns come from Genesis 3:18, where Adam must cary the curse of his sinful action into the rest of his days while harvesting the earth and tilling the ground. Thorns are a representation of sin, for they are introduced into creation as a result of sin. Thorns represent sin and sinful man.

God mentions in Genesis 6:3, that His Spirit will not contend with mankind forever, meaning that God is working out a plan to make His presence dwell with sinful man and combine the relationship as originally intended in creation. When God encounters Moses at the event of the burning “thorns”, His fire from heaven is from within the thorn bush, rather than consuming it. Fire from heaven is God’s present reality all throughout the Old Testament as representation of God’s presence. Elijah calls down fire from heaven a number of times as judgment from God on sinful humanity. The fire by night and pillar of cloud by day are representations of the Holy Spirit of God leading wandering Israelites through the wilderness as a guide. Fire is present in the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle to represent the presence of God. Even James and John the “sons of thunder” in Luke 9 ask Jesus if they should call down fire from heaven to consume the Samaritan town for not believing that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus reassures them that the timing for such things was inappropriate.

How will the Holy fire of God ever come to dwell with the sinful thorn of humanity?

We read that the thorn of Acacia wood is woven to make a crown for Jesus to wear at his crucifixion. He dons the sin of man upon his brow where blood is mingled down upon his face. His willingness to take the sin of humanity upon himself at the cross is the mark of God’s presence dwelling with humanity forever.

In Acts 2, the culmination of the burning “bush” event takes place when, 7 weeks after Passover, at Pentecost, the Spirit of God like a violent rushing wind blows through the room where the disciples were gathered and what appeared to be ‘tongues of fire’ came to separate and rest on each one of them. The fire of God is present and dwelling with the thorn of mankind, but is not consuming them. The fulfillment of the burning bush in Exodus 3 takes place after the power of the resurrection of Jesus, and the church is born with power from God as divine presence and human thorny sin dwell together.

Finally, the Apostle Paul, who suffered a thorn in his flesh in years of ministry, writes words of God’s reconciliation to the church in Corinth about God’s burning mission for His new bride.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21, possibly my favorite collection of missional scripture, tells the church in Corinth, and correspondingly tells us as believers in Christ, that we are reconciled to God. Not by work that we have done, but by the ever generous grace of God who reconciles us to Himself through the blood of Jesus Christ, so that we might have the ministry of reconciliation. We who believe in a God who is concerned for our suffering, are to become reconcilers for those who feel hostile to God.

The old way of life, separation from God – distance from the divine due to our sinful thorn, is gone now. The new way of life has come. New life living is forever inaugurated in the blood, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, so that our thorny sinful lives might be filled with the divine fire presence of God from within and not consumed. God is not distant from us any longer. We have been drawn near to God to dwell with His divine nature in Christ through the Holy Spirit and become missionally reconciling to our neighbor.

Suffering is real. I read today in the Associated Press that “as many as 2.4 million people may be victims of human trafficking worldwide at any given time, calling it “a shameful crime of modern-day slavery.”. Suffering is chronic and crime is a trillion dollar business. It’s an example of the thorn of humanity taking aim at the claims of God and questioning His concern for relief of human suffering.

When reading the text of the Old Testament, the calling of God in the burning “thorn” bush to Moses and fulfilling it’s metaphor in Acts 2’s Pentecost presence of the Holy Spirit from within sinful humanity… we see that God dwells with his people once again, but doesn’t rely on the unstable vow of humanity, rather God relies on His Covenant Promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 that one day “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you [Abraham].”

We suffer & it is not fair. The thorn of sin is a curse we must endure, but thanks be to God who is concerned for our suffering, hears our cries and is quick to rescue, send the Redeemer in Christ Jesus and reconcile us to God. May we come to know that our reconciliation to God, His Holy Spirit fire dwells within us and does not consume us or destroy. He fills us so that, like a burning thorn bush, we become ministers of reconciliation.


Posted by on April 23, 2012 in Sermons


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Thank You Best Buy. Customer Service Wins…

This week was interesting.

I received a phone call from a friend who asked me, “Reid what was one of your latest sins.” Interesting question, if one doesn’t have a close relationship, but for accountability sake… it’s the right question to ask once in a while.

Mine was easy to identify and I honestly fessed up.

“I lost my temper at Best Buy this week and drove home totally unraveled.”

What happened?

I turned my new SLR camera, purchased in Feb ’11, to Best Buy for a general cleaning back in September. We came home from 2 months in Panama and I figured that a general cleaning was in order. They took a month to call back, and their answer was disheartening.

“We can’t return your camera Mr. Olson. And we don’t know what’s wrong with it.”

Excuse me?!!

“We can refund your money in the form of store credit, but you cannot have your SLR camera back.”

Why not?

“We don’t know, but here’s your store credit on this Best Buy card.”

I was disheartened to say the least. I thought this whole thing a scam, so I sulked over to the new cameras and took a discouraged look at the new models and realized that I’d need to spend another $100 just to break even with the camera recently “not returned to me”.

The sales tax in WA state is an exaggerated 9.5%, so dropping an additional $100 on the camera was strike #2. Then, as if things weren’t disappointing enough, the customer service agent asked if I would like to purchase another 3-year warranty service on top of this purchase for another $159.

I couldn’t take it. I exploded (on the inside) and stood there shaking my head. I told the cashier, “Listen, I feel so ripped off. I gave my camera to you guys for a general cleaning and you tell me you can’t clean it. Then you give me some credit for another camera, but just to break even I have to spend over $350 extra… and I’m only walking out of here with something like the camera I walked in with a month ago. Plus, I’ve been without a camera for over a month… I can’t do this.”

I walked out and was so angry I don’t even remember driving home. I don’t recall how that evening went, but I went to bed fuming at Best Buy.

Then, my brilliant wife said, “Didn’t you just bring that thing in for a standard cleaning? You shouldn’t have lost your warranty or have to pay for a new one.”

Something clicked and I felt the immediate relief. She was right, again… and it gave me the resolve I needed to face the Best Buy fiasco.

I drove to the store around noon. Sat in the car for just a few more minutes and took some time to pray. “Lord, you know my heart. You know that I’m not trying to take advantage of anyone. You know how I feel and that it’s just not right for me to get walked on like this… would you make something happen right now, so that you get the glory for this? Do whatever you’d like, but I need some help. Amen.”

I strolled in through the front doors with a calm mood. I took extra slow breaths and held my chin up with confidence. I saw a manager and went right for the heart.

“Excuse me sir, are you a manager here?”

Yes, may I help you? I explained the entire process while another manager stood close by and listened to the entire explanation. The second manager, Fred T. was quick to nod his head and make direct eye contact with me and the first manager. He slowly let me finish my story, displaying all my receipts and asking if my warranty should have been used like this.

Fred came over and said to his manager, “I’ve worked in customer service far too long, and I clearly know what to do here. Mr. Olson, this is totally a simple fix, and if you don’t mind, I’ll take care of things.”

If I don’t mind?!! I thought I would have to explain the entire thing over again, but before I knew what was going on, Fred walked over to the new cameras, unlocked the cabinet with my newly desired model, reached in and grabbed a new box and told me to follow him.

We walked over to the customer service counter and he said to the cashier, “If you’ll just do A, B, C, and D, in that order, we’ll take care of Mr. Olson and he’ll have an entirely new perspective about Best Buy.

Before I knew it, he was discounting the camera in his hand, applying manager discounts, adding a warranty and… he was engaging me in a conversation about HDR photos and how his sister loves photography and asking how I like to frame pictures and what not.

I stood there… just… utterly amazed. What was this guy doing?!!! This was so easy. Where was this customer service yesterday when I was disappointed, bitter and hurt that they confiscated my original camera and wouldn’t return it to me?

Before I knew it, I walked out of Best Buy with a new DSLR camera, a new warranty and a smile on my face that felt more like raised-eyebrow shock and awe. I got into my car and drove home… not really knowing what was going on and why I was feeling so elated.

The answer is customer service, that’s it. Really… just taking care of service personally for each person in a way that you’d like to be treated. THAT’S ALL IT IS.

Question: Why do we in the church so often forget the need to take care of one another in life?

Why do we treat so many people as if we are right and THEY are wrong, winners and losers, us versus them, black and white? What is it about wanting all kinds of power over people?

Where does the church stand in regard to “customer service”?

Let me clarify. The longer I live into God’s calling on my life as a pastor, the more I discover that people are hurt, angry, disheartened, saddened and jaded by the church. It’s like me walking into Best Buy and having someone confiscate their soul property, jack up the price of peace and demand another warranty of legalism.

It’s no wonder most people feel “ripped off” by the church.

So what do we do now? What can the church do to offer love and care and customer service to a hurting and bitter world?

2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

We have become the righteousness of God, through the the reconciliation of Christ, so that we might implore the message of reconciliation to the world. Customer service. Reconciliation. Taking a wrong, a misunderstanding, a jaded customer and making the situation right. That’s our role in the body of Christ.

Manager Fred T., you rocked my world at Best Buy this week. You took me from being totally frustrated at your organization, committing sin in my heart and being ready to chuck the entire experience (like many former church attenders) to believing again.

I saw the reconciliation work of God in you, Fred. You took me from disbelief to belief once again. You took me from division to reconciliation. Your customer service brought me back and it’s something I want believers in Christ to emulate in the church. It’s our role as Christ followers to share the heart of Jesus with others, no matter their painful story, and bring God’s reconciliation into view.

My prayer is that you would receive God’s mercy. That in your hurt, your anger, your pain of the past with the church… that you would experience the customer service of God’s people once again and discover the grace of Jesus in your life and with our community.


Posted by on October 7, 2011 in Leadership


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