The book of Exodus relates much of God's work in the nation of Israel, and one of the great parts is their deliverance from their Egyptian "taskmasters."  The Israelites were slaves to the Egyptians, who took delight in laying heavy burdens upon them, burdens beyond their ability to bear.  They needed a deliverer, and the Father God was that Deliverer.  Using Moses He led them out of Egypt, and eventually into their Promised Land, though it took 40 years to happen.  A great part of the reason for this was that though they were no longer held captive in the land of Egypt, they were still very much in captivity to the mindset and value system of that land.  God used those 40 years of desert to cleanse them of that mindset and those values.  Those old "taskmasters" needed to die.  The question then follows; what taskmasters need to die in your life and mine?  There are surely many, but two of the most common as well as oppressive, would be the taskmasters of "Performance," and "Appearance."  Each can exert terrible bondage upon its victims, and to some degree, reign in all of our lives.  To what extent do they reign in yours?
      I've a good pastor friend whose ministry would surely have been termed "successful."  Yet, he confesses that throughout it, he labored under the lash of performance.  In his preaching, teaching, leading and "building" the church, he was always under the pressure of that taskmaster.  With that being so, his evaluation always came down to how well he did, how well he was received, how much his ministry grew and prospered, and ultimately, what the opinion of those who were watching was.  This is a particular trap for those in ministry for no matter what we say, and no matter what our real intent, in the end, what is "seen" is what we either did or did not accomplish.  If we met certain expectations, expectations not so much stated as unspoken, we are considered "successful," and if not, well, we already know that answer don't we?  This is where the taskmaster of performance brings in its twin brother, appearance.  What we appear to be matters more, especially to us, than anything else.  We don't want to appear a failure, indeed, anything but, but what if God, in His quest to truly free us, allows for that appearance of failure?  
     T. Austin-Sparks said that the Father may well lead us through a journey of faithfulness "even though that faithfulness will involve us in appearances of utter failure."  Few want to believe He would lead in such a way.  Fewer still are willing to follow.  There is only one way we can and that is by way of the cross.  Paul wrote that he was "free to be Christ's slave."  Such a statement makes no sense to the flesh, and can only be understood in the light of the cross.  Because of this, Paul was able to say that not only did he not judge his own life and ministry, he didn't allow them to be judged by others either.  It was not that they wouldn't but that he was free from captivity to those judgements.  All that mattered to Him was what His Lord saw, and what His Lord thought.  That was his only standard of evaluation, and because of that, he was free....to be the slave of Christ.
    Performance and Appearance.  They're relentless in their seeking to take me, us, back to Egypt.  We can only live free from them by dying to them.  That can only happen at the cross.  For me, this sometimes comes to be a moment to moment thing.  I expect it must for you to, and you don't have to be a pastor to suffer from them.  In our jobs, parenting, marriages, really all of life, the taskmasters of Performance and Appearance come to us, carrying their chains.  The only way we will not succumb to their slavery, is to freely give ourselves to be the slaves of Christ.  Only then, will be free.  The taskmasters approach, while Jesus calls.  Who holds sway over you?

Pastor O 
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   May 2019   
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