Friday, February 25, 2011

February 24 Jubilee Freedom!

Leviticus 25:10 Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan.

Smith refers to Pentecost and the crowd who asked, "What must we do?" when they were told they had crucified the Messiah. The answer was simple and rings true throughout the centuries to us today, "Repent and be baptized ...for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

Luke was not writing of the forgiveness or confession of daily sins, the kind of confession that restores fellowship with the Father. He is here referring to the repentance or turning away from a sinful way of life and toward a holy one, and forgiveness here is the satisfaction of our sin debt - all of our sin, including those not yet committed.

But the point in this meditation that caught my eye today was "the gift of the Holy Spirit." I wonder if this person of the Trinity ever feels taken for granted. We talk about the fruit of the Holy Spirit, but not the person who gives those gifts: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, and you know the rest.

I have heard people say they were going to work on the gifts of the Spirit, trying harder to produce them. I fear they have missed the point completely. You cannot get the fruit of love in your life by trying to be more loving. If so, it is like putting on a cheap mask. However, the more intimate you become with the Holy Spirit, the more you draw near to God, the more you practice their presence, the persons of the Trinity, the greater will be your love because you will grow more like them. We do become like those we hang with.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

February 23 Communal Responsibility

Deuteronomy 212:6-8 Then all the elders of the town nearest the body shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley, and they shall declare: "Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it done. Accept this atonement for your people Israel, whom you have redeemed, O LORD, and do not hold your people guilty of the blood of an innocent man."

These people are atoning for the death of someone they did not know and a death they were directly responsible for. God's and Smith's points are the same: "None of us live to ourselves. God set us in communities with spiritual responsibilities toward all who live within the community.

I remember when Hillary Clinton wrote her book It Takes a Village to Raise a Child, and I think largely because she was a Democrat, a lot of Christians dismissed her and her book. But I do think it is a biblical premise - God sets us in community. He gives us some 34 commands of what we are to do with or to one another and another batch of commands of things we are not to do to one another.

Our western culture, however, has put the emphasis on living independently, of elevating the strong and rugged individualist -the cowboy mentality. Even in the last fifty years, our culture has changed, and not, I think, for the better. I grew up playing outdoors, and by the hour. Most of my growing up years we lived in the country, but even when we lived "in town," it was assumed that all the moms looked after all the neighborhood kids. In those days, you didn't worry all that much about locking your doors even.

Today, too often, your neighbor lives in the next house, and you see them coming and going You might know their name, but that's a might. .No one can just send a child out to play unsupervised because the village no longer exists. It takes a concerted effort to build relationships, to build a village, with other busy people.

And, concerted efforts to build relationships start one at a time. We can not wait for someone else to take the first step. It begins at home, building relationships with people in our church and then building relationships with our neighbors. Even our individuality, our “minding our own business” policy speaks loudly to the world…perhaps about whether our faith is real or not.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

February 22 Unintentional Sin

If a member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD's commands, he is guilty. When he is made aware of the sin he committed, he must bring as his offering for the sin he committed a female goat without defect.

Wouldn't it be great if it were that easy? Just go find a goat, or whatever a goat is worth, and take it to church, and the air is clear. But it is not that easy.

We can rejoice that our sin debt was paid on the cross, but our sin today often times breaks fellowship, not just with God, but with others. That's the purpose and importance of confession, mending that broken fellowship. We say to God, "I am so sorry that I violated our relationship, that I went my own way and offended you. I see it now from your perspective, and what I did was wrong. I am so sorry for dishonoring you, and I thank you for what you did to redeem me."

Then there is the matter of making it right with the human that we offended...and this is where the whole goat purchasing thing is often times easier. Making it right with another human is harder because it requires a meek and humble spirit, a placing ourselves and our feelings at their mercy. As long as our offence exists unattended, our fellowship is broken or damaged. Oh the other person may say the right things or some of the right things, but the bridge of offence remains until we cross it with our confession.

It is true also that our confession may not always bring restoration. Sometimes the other person chooses to hold on to that offence. But when we have done our part in repairing the broken bridge, we must find rest in God's love, regardless of how painful the loss of fellowship with the other person is.

And I must say that sometimes when we lose a relationship, it is as painful as losing a person to death. There is that empty space where laughing used to live, where meaningful conversations and hope hung sunlight in the air.

Smith ends his meditation with these words, "Maybe it was God's instill a pervasive awareness that every thought and action has spiritual consequences." I would add, especially the way we respond to the Holy Spirit's nudging us across the bridge toward reconciliation, whether we feel like it or not.

Monday, February 21, 2011

February 21 Keeping Faith Alive

Leviticus 6:13 The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.

Smith says, “Anyone who had ever built a fire knows that it is a lot easier to add fuel periodically and stir the embers than to let the fire go out and have to start all over again.” He goes on to talk about this as a metaphor for our spiritual walk and God’s desire for us to engage in daily devotion, for his own glory, but also for our good.

As I thought about this, it made me think of how much God asks of us or puts into our lives that we misunderstand…because of sin. Sin so flaws even our thinking and reasoning that we assume God is all about God – exercising his power and authority and making us suffer, taking the fun out of our lives.

The reality is that God so loves us that he designs our lives and all that comes into each life for our good. Even the for his glory part is for our good because God blesses us as we glorify him. The problem is that we assume God behaves as we do, motivated by our own desires, achieving our own goals and glory, and that is just not how it works.

So to keep our heads straight, to keep from being influenced by the world’s messages and values, God tells us to pay attention to the company we keep, to meditate, to memorize his word (store it in our hearts), and to pray without ceasing, among other things. The more we immerse ourselves in things of the Lord, the more easily we will be able to tell the genuine from the fake, God’s love from the world’s seductions.

Another thought came to my mind as I read this: a conversation I had with someone I was interviewing today. We were talking about marriage and the importance of nurturing it. Too often, couples get married and stop courting. I know that’s an old-fashioned word, but I like it. It has the sense of seeking the affections of another (usually with the hope of marriage). Note the seeking the affections part of that definition.

Each member of the couple does what he or she can to show his or her love and earn the love of the other. In other words, they are on their best behavior – looking good and doing good. Then there is the exchange of rings and months of flaming passion…very often anyway. Then each partner begins to take the spouse for granted, slipping back into sloppy sweats, as it were. Boredom sets in, and the fire goes out.

Just as God called the Israelites to keep the fire on the altar going, as he calls us to daily communion with himself, I think he also is honored by our nurturing our marriages, keeping those fires burning, by continuing to pay loving attention to each other.

Well, I’ve rambled today, but I still think God wants us to nurture both our relationship with him and our relationship with our mates… and our friends for that matter.

Friday, February 18, 2011

February 18 Marked for Holiness

Leviticus 19:28 Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the LORD.

Hmmm, I grew up admiring the tattoos on my father's forearms; though I cannot tell you now what it looked like - something with a heart on it on one arm and a navy emblem on the other think. It was normal to me. He was a World War II vet, married during his years of service, and I think for so many of that generation, the tattoo was a way of carrying love letters everywhere.

My father-in-law had a discreet tattoo and my big brother did, all carry-overs from their military years. My son joined the tradition during his military years - though by that time, the theme of tattoos had changed.

Today, you see tattoos running down the shoulders and even on to the hands of young men. More and more people of both genders sport tattoos all over their bodies. A fad perhaps, and certainly none of them would say their tattoos have anything to do with "ownership" by a false God. But I wonder.

Why would someone so value an image that he would mark his or her beautiful skin forever with that image? I wonder if these people even think about their future - what the tattoo might look like or say to those who would see it in the years to come. I am NOT saying that tattoos are evil here, or that a discreet tattoo on someone's ring finger or shoulder is evil, but I do wonder about what is going on in those who have carpeted their bodies with colored ink.

Smith says this: "God has set his own mark on us in a different kind of way-also for life and for all to see. As Christ's disciples we bear his indelible imprint, displaying love, devotion and loyalty as surely as any tattoo..." This makes me wonder whether we who profess to be Christ's disciples walk around showing off this mark or whether we keep it concealed by the long sleeves of competing values, of worldly distractions, of busyness?..Well, I think you know what I mean.

Do we blend in? Do I blend in with my unsaved neighbors, or does the mark of God in my life speak of love and concern, of caring for someone other than myself. Pure religion and undefiled is to love the fatherless and widows. Love your neighbor as yourself - God's desire, God's mark on our lives is a display of this kind of love.

This kind of tattoo speaks truth and love into the world. It attracts rather than repels. It generates peace rather than fear. All of this makes me wonder if I am truly tattoo free, whether I have the right kind of marks in my life, or whether there are other marks in my life that do not speak of a relationship with a loving and merciful God.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

February 17 Treating Cause and Effect with Caution

Deuteronomy 9:6 Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.

A couple of thoughts here: the first is that if it was because of our own righteousness, we would have nothing. We don't even know how to define righteousness personally. Oh, we may be able to come up with some theological definition, but to personally define it accurately is impossible. We start out with a flawed body and mind, flawed by sin. Our very decision making apparatus is so flawed that we, I think, many times cannot separate righteousness from sin. We think we are making right decisions, but we cannot even see all the implications of that choice, from our human perspective.

Christ made us righteous by assuming our sin debt. From a spiritual and eternal perspective, we are clothed with Christ's righteousness. However, in this life, we wrestle with right living, with making godly choices, with learning how to live as though dead to sin's power in our lives. I don't know about you, but I fail in that battle too often. Sometimes I am quickly aware of my sinful choice; other times, I confess, I have been so deceived by the evil one that I don't even recognize early on the mess I have made by my choices. So, I don't know about you, but there is not way that my righteous living is sufficient to deserve the blessings of God.

THEN, I think about Smith's words as he paraphrases Moses' warning to the Israelites: The more they prosper, the better they eat, and the finer their houses, he warns, the more danger there is that they will forget God....they will arrogantly make the wrong connection (between success and their own efforts.)

Boy, is that ever true in this country generally; the more we have, the more we need. I guess that's why in Matthew 19: 24 we find these words, And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, because the rich man does not believe he needs anything. It occurred to me as I typed those words that we neither realize how rich we are in this country, nor how blessed we are that God allows challenges into our lives.

It is when we are challenged, when we hurt or are tried in some way that we recognize our need for God. He loves us that much! He wants us to know the blessings that are ours in him - eternal blessings at that -that we would miss completely trusting in our own success and material welfare.

We call out to God when we hurt, we beg him for relief, to take away the pain, never realizing that maybe we need the effect of that pain...For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten that must have hurt!! both the Father and the Son, but the effect was salvation made available for us. Oh God, help me to remember that when it hurts, you are lovingly at work.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

February 16 Godly Parenting

Deuteronomy 6:6-7 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children, Talk about then when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, where you lie down and when you get up.

Smith asks, " children grow into teenagers, most of the God-talk seems to fade away. Are we surprised then, that so few grownups talk about God?"

I was thinking about all of the factors that make this true and wondered what we could do about it. We commonly talk to little people about their Sunday School lessons; we read them Bible stories and sing Sunday School songs with them. As they grow older we send them to youth group and camp and continue to talk to them. But when they grow into teenagers, something happens.

I remember watching as children change their heroes from their parents to teachers to older kids and finally to the media darlings. What is the common denominator that creates this path? Is it as simple as that the new and novel generally are more appealing? Or is it the amount of time an individual gives to the influence or influencers? Or a combination of both? And what do we do about it?

First, I think regardless of their age or ours, we must be good listeners. We must create time to really listen. And we must not be quick to give them an answer, but quicker to help them discover the answer by asking right questions. Note this is based on the axiom that you have been teaching them as you lie down, sit along side of, walk and hang out with them - not in formal speeches, but as God's Word is relevant to every situation.

Third, we cannot give up...ceding our influence to the louder influences in their lives. I think we must be present to them, assuring them - not only with words, but with our actions, that we care about everything that matters to them.

Finally, because we have been genuine with them, we must not fear gently injecting truth into their lives, whether by written (or typed into a facebook or email or text) message or by words whispered into their ears.

My grandchildren are growing up, and I have been challenged by how I can matter to I can be used of God in their lives. Timothy's grandmother made a huge difference in his life; I wonder what that should look like in mine.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

February 15 In Proper Retrospect

Deuteronomy 4:9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live.

Funny how God works; yesterday I wrote an article, really more of an essay about how our past influences both our present and who we are in our present. As I thought about what influenced me from my childhood, it was easy to remember what I will call the good results from childhood influences.

I grew up in the country - a reader because after I had outgrown the joy of exploring, what else is there to do. A dozen library books a week in the summer was about the quota. And I learned to see the mountains, the wilder the better, as a place of restoration from the busyness and noise of life.

God ordered my life so that Independent Baptist Church of Towanda became my spiritual home as a child, and it only occurred to me as I typed that line, that God did that. My parents didn't go there. In fact, after my older sister moved away, I had to persuade my dad to take me, and he thought Sunday morning was plenty of church for anyone. God's Spirit evidenced his presence in my life in the form of an appetite for spiritual things - to read and memorize the Word and to connect as much to church and the things of faith as an outsider kid can.

We moved to State College in Pennsylvania for my husband to go to the University there, and Calvary Baptist Church sent us an invitation to their services. I filed it away in a desk drawer because right then, finding a church was not high on our to-do list. But my sister, who never missed church, came for a visit, and we had to find a place...and we went to Calvary. We never missed a service after that Sunday morning becoming invested in the ministry, so much so that my husband finally consented to preach at a tiny church plant in a nearby town.

He preached on Matthew 16:26, what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lost his own soul, and the course of our life changed - from engineering to education, Bible education, from having it all to having enough, from security in what we could do to security in what God could do.

Have there been regrets along the way? Oh yes. And lots of pain. Smith says "A healthy heart knows what to remember and what to let slip away." As I reflect on the regrets, I know those regrets could be paralyzing, plunging me into immobility. But I ask God today to help me remember which memories to rehearse and which ones to learn from and move on.

Monday, February 14, 2011

February 14 The Importance of Education

Numbers 33:55 But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you will allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live.

Smith says this: As long as you are fascinated, drawn, and envious, it is hard to wipe out your enemies. Though his challenge is to consider whether one can rid his life of most major sin and still live comfortably alongside the few "insignificant sins" allowed to remain, I think there is another issue to consider here - the inhabitants we allow to remain in our land.

As I thought about this passage, I could not help but think about all the influences we are surrounded with and how difficult it is to first, actually notice what it is that influences and secondly, how difficult it is not be changed by them. Again Psalm 1 comes to mind, the progress from walking to standing to sitting with the ungodly as it illustrates the subtle progression of influences in our life. We see something, we begin to watch it and perhaps listen to it; then we give it our attention and consideration.

And finally we are little-by-little shaped by it. I think about the news this morning, full of commentary on the music awards, especially about what people wore. Earlier this week a young starlet appeared in court, and the stores sold out of the dress she wore. Tomorrow the designers will have racks full of copycat dresses to satisfy the needs of those who watched and had their own tastes, if they had any, influenced.

In the land where you live, Moses wrote. So what about the land where we live? The Amish are very careful about what they allow into the land where they live because they want to live in a way that is characterized by humility, peace, and conformity with Christ. So they live literally as 'separate from the world' as they can.

It appears in contrast that we live as in the middle of and influenced by the world as we can. Somehow there has to be a place where we can be light and salt, yet be different, not cookie cutters, slightly cleaned up, of those around us. And I think the effort to do that has to do with Smith's title for the day: The Importance of Education.

We must start early helping our children to learn a godly value system. I guess our ability to teach that means that it must first belong to us. And I guess we must have a passion to live Christ before them, and show them that living godly, making choices that please him bring us joy, that the Christ-like life is one to be desired, not labored under.

My children are grown, and I know, as I reflect on the past, that there have been many failures on my part, many regrets. However, I find some measure of comfort in my son's words, "I know you were doing the best you could with what parenting you had." But that is only a small comfort.

So now, I try to use the opportunities I have to influence others to help them learn from my mistakes. Today, let us be aware of how much and who we allow to trouble us or influence us in our land.

Friday, February 11, 2011

February 11 Foolishly Testing God's Word

Numbers 23:12 He answered, "Must I not speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?"

Not only in this context, but in today's world, these are powerful and challenging words, a powerful question. I think, as believers we want to speak words that please God, but how do we get his words into our mouths?

II Timothy 2:15 - 16 immediately comes to mind, "Study to show they self approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the world of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings, for they will increase unto more ungodliness."

The word study has the sense of to hasten, make haste; 2) to exert one's self, endeavour, give diligence to. The word approved has the sense of being accepted, particularly of coins and money or also of being accepted, pleasing, acceptable.

This is Paul's challenge to believers to "Hurry up, be quick about and work hard to do those things which would make you accepted, pleasing to God." I love that idea of an endeavor, a project where you work hard to achieve some desired end. Paul wants them to exert energy in an effort to be able to understand and share the Word of God.

Not only does he tell Timothy to work hard doing one thing, he warns him to avoid those who spend their time in unconstructive or ungodly speech. This makes me think of sick humor or gossip, or those people who just like to argue for the sake of argument. And those who waste their time on unprofitable activities - but that's a whole other topic. Anyway....

Later in the letter, Paul wrote these words (II Tim. 3:15-17). And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness That the man of God may be throughly furnished unto all good works.

If we want to speak the Lord's words, we must put them in our minds so that the Holy Spirit has something to work with. The younger you are when you memorize Scripture the easier it comes. And the more you read the Word, the more familiar you become with the mind of God.

There's that old adage - "You are what you eat!" and "What goes in will come out." Well, it's also true of the Word. Let me end today with beautiful words from Psalms 19:8-11

The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned; and in keeping them there is great reward.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

February 10 Records That Reflect

Numbers 33:2 At the Lord's command Moses recorded the stages in their journey.

Smith asks this, "Looking back through journals past, might we be surprised at where we have spiritually camped along the way?"

Spiritually camped - those words give me pause. As I reflect over the many years of my life's journey with God, I think of places where I have spiritually camped, and sometimes with regret. I think the problem has been more with the who I have been spiritually camped with than the encampment.

The problem for me has been the people to whom I have give place to influence me, and the degree of influence I have given them - even to interpret the Word for me. Part of it was due to my own spiritual immaturity, sometimes but not always tied to my own physical immaturity. I think there is something in us that seeks a leader, and sometimes we choose our leaders with less care than we might.

We choose the person we allow great influence in our life who is a great public speaker, who already has a following, perhaps who has written lots of books, or as simple as the man who is our pastor. And we give total allegiance to that person, relieved that we don't have to make any decisions on our own.

I think back to times in my life when I did something like that. I wanted so to do right that I allowed those in spiritual leadership in my life to make decisions God would hold me responsible for. I failed to hold their pronouncements up to the mirror of God's Word. I exchanged the approval of God for the approval of men....not that I think that is a completely moot issue now. I think we will always be subject to that temptation. We must be careful with whom we spiritual camp.

Then, I think of how God gave Israel festivals and memorials to remind them of momentous events in their history, to remind them of what has happened, and I admit to wishing we had more of them in our lives. Or maybe it is a matter that we do need to create them in our own lives - visible reminders of the grace of God in our lives: personal journals, pictures, collages of those moments when God spoke and we really did hear.

Mine would have a picture of a living room where I accepted Christ, of a Sunday School room at Independent Baptist Church in Towanda where I learned I could read and understand the Word of God, a tabernacle at Camp Lamoka where I gave my life to Christ for whatever he wanted to do with it, a picture of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Ohio where I knew God was calling us to Chad, to a guesthouse in Koumra where God reminded me he was listening, to a lonely bed in the US when Jim was still in the middle of a civil war in Africa,  to a church in Newark Valley where God helped me to see he had called me to women, not just Chadians, and I could go on and on...records that reflect the faithfulness of God - a good exercise especially when it seems the lights are dim.

February 9 Nothing but the Finest for God

Numbers 18:29 You must present the Lord's portion the best and holiest part of everything given to you..

Smith says, "If we look closely enough, we can see that what God commands by way of moral law, or doctrine, or worship ritual usually has some purpose other than his being simply arbitrary or capricious."

As I read this it came to me again how much it all boils down to the battle between the flesh and God, the evil one and God. I think of a conversation I had with a student last semester about chapel. He said that he loved chapel and the idea of going to chapel, but since we required it, he didn't want to go. How bizarre is that? How human is that?

God loves us and has only good in mind for us; he can't be other than that because it violates his holy character. But we, mere humans confined in space and time, believe we know better. We think God makes mistakes when he asks something of us. In reality, he sees far ahead of us and knows exactly what we need, what is best for us in the long term.  His commands and requests of us only serve to move us on to peace and joy - his desire for us.

And this subject takes me back to the passage in Matthew where Christ says the first and most important thing is to love God, and the second is to love our neighbor. It really does boil down to that kind of simplicity; everything God asks of us is either an opportunity to love him or love another.

So, he asks us to love one another . Generally loving others results in at least some of them loving us back. It results in relationships with some who will support us and encourage us. Loving others affords us an opportunity to exercise our giftedness, and generally that results in a sense of satisfaction that we have value to others, affirming purpose in our life.

God asks us to study to show ourselves approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed - what a recipe for peace and joy and hope.  When we consider or study how to live in a way that wins his approval, and then live in that way, we will live a life full of peace and without regret.

So, back to the verse, when we sacrifice (and it is no sacrifice to give up the pleasures of the world which lead us eventually to personal destruction) anything to obey God, to love him back, to give him our best - whether it is time or effort or possessions, we will always come out the blessed one.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

February 8 Crowned with Humility

Numbers 12:3 Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.

The first thing that came into my mind after reading this entry was that we are not humble because we take God for granted.

Then I remember years ago, a family member got very depressed because she felt like she was taken for granted. She felt as though people knew she would always do what was needed or expected, would always be giving, but she also felt as though no one appreciated or recognized her as doing anything special. She felt it was assumed she would be there serving others, and no one really cared about how she felt, about anything. She felt that she, as a person, did not really matter anymore.

Then I wondered how we make God feel. Not only do we take him for granted, I think, but we also are not all that grateful. My life is completely enveloped with Bible College. I come to work knowing that daily worship is going to be part of my routine. I know that prayer will be offered many times during the day - by me and by countless students and colleagues throughout the day. We talk about God here, about all the 'theologies" as a part of normal conversation, and as I have said many times, God is so familiar here, he can almost become part of the landscape.

We take him for granted; we lose perspective of who he is, and who we are in relationship to him. We can practice his presence, cultivating an awareness of him as someone who loves us, but we may than grow accustomed to that relationship, not astonished at that relationship.

Perhaps we need more "awe" in our lives. I think that is why I respond the way I do in beautiful church buildings, like Catholic Churches; the lines that draw the eye upward, and the beautiful scenes in the stained glass, the gold images all serve to create a vivid reminder of the majesty of God. I do know that people who go there all the time can become blind and used to them, but this environment settles me. Oh, I can't tell you the last time I was in a Catholic Church, just that even thinking of that environment as a place for worship settles me.

So, to the concept of humility...I think we must be aware of our propensity to take God for granted, and our giftedness and blessings. We must find ways to keep him in perspective - his love for us and his reality as God, the Supreme One by whom all things consist.

My mother would never let us sing one part of the song, "Do Lord or do Lord, oh do remember me....somewhere in it , is a line that calls or says the word "Lordy." She felt that was an offence, a disrespect to God. Similarly, we would never be allowed to say "Oh my God." as an exclamation. She felt we must respect God.

I wonder what OMG, letters written in facebook, in an email, a text, said out loud, do to the heart of God. I wonder how he feels about the way we take him for granted, leaving humility in the laundry room like a dirty old shirt.

Monday, February 7, 2011

February 7 Running Out of Cope

Numbers 11:11 He asked the LORD, " Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me?"

Our family lost a beloved son, grandson, brother, cousin and nephew this week - he was 13. It is interesting to read this entry right now...I am sure that similar thoughts have been much on the minds of many in our family as they tried to make sense of such an early death. Why God? He was a good boy, and we all have tried to do what you wanted, so help us to understand.

The why question was not a "How dare you God?" kind of a why, but we want to do this right, walk these painful steps in the way that accomplishes your purpose for all of this pain.

Jonathan was a good boy, a great friend to his peers and especially to his father. His Bible and Sunday School teachers spoke well of him; the parents of his friends were grateful to have him in the lives of their children, so it would be normal to ask that question.

I can remember, as a child, being convinced that when bad or hard things came into my life, it was somehow a judgment for my sin - God balancing the books. I have come to understand that Christ balanced the books at Calvary, and though somehow tragedy is the result of our bad choices - don't drink and drive, for example, that is not always the case.

The idea that God punishes us through personal tragedy does not reflect the character of a holy and good God, but it does reflect the sin which has contaminated the world. Remember, death was not God's plan for his children

Smith asks in this way: Was Moses cursed with the leadership of Israel because God found him displeasing, or had God greatly honored him as a man with broad shoulders?

Jonathan's family honored God through this last week in ways that evidenced their strong faith in the goodness of God, in the plan of God. His dad, Jim, found comfort in the knowledge, the confidence that Jonathan is now in the presence of God, forever shed of all the pain of this world. Jim reminded us of both his and our blessed hope, and he bore the pain of losing a son to the glory of God.

Smith asks, "Could it be that we are the very ones God is setting in place to help another cope?" Perhaps! But the answer to that questions is whether we want to turn their attention to God or to ourselves.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Feb 4 A loss

Sometimes there are not words to express exactly what you are thinking or the energy to put them on paper - or into cyberspace.  Our family lost a loved one, and .....

Yesterday the last line of Smith's entry stuck with me all day: Compassionate exceptions to obedience are not to be compared with calculated deviations from obedience.  Somehow it reminded me that God knows the heart, and sometimes we cannot fulfill our intentions or commitments, but God knows our heart.  I am so glad that God knows our heart, that when people don't understand or misunderstand, he does....and sometimes that has to be enough.

Today's passage dealt with Dealing With Discrepancy from Numbers 8:23-25, but what stuck with me is derived from these lines: "They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the Tent of the Meeting, but they themselves must not do the work."

In the margin, I wrote: Doing, Teaching, Discipling, Coaching - God's plan.  I know that was not the emphasis in this passage, but it seemed to be illustrating this principle.  As young men, the Levites learned and then exercised their responsibilities.  As older men, they were to help the younger men learn - not by doing it, but by telling them how and coaching them as the younger men did it.

God's design:  I think we call it mentoring....and as simple as it is on paper, it is a challenge to exercise it.  We find it difficult to ask the questions, to ask for help....and the older people find it difficult to get involved, to offer their help....and what a mess we make of things when we fail to do it God's way.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

February 2 Anointed for Holiness

Exodus 40:9 Take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and everything in it; consecrate it and all its furnishings, and it will be holy.”

Before I had finished reading this passage, God brought several New Testament passages to mind, all, in my mind, related to this topic. And relevant for today!

 Eph. 1: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

 Eph. 1:11-12: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

To me, these verses speak of the same topic, being separated from the world to good works. Moses wrote about the cultural practice of anointing, a public ceremony that announced a separation to a work. We use baptism in a similar way; it is a public declaration of one’s faith in God and should be a declaration that the individual sees and understands him or herself as set apart from the world to God.

Paul writes to the Ephesians, and the message is just as appropriate for us, reminding them that God chose us to be holy and without blame, and in love. It is as we live out a holy, set apart life characterized by love that we fulfill his purpose – being to the praise of his glory. Our life can bring glory to God.

 I Cor. 1:2 Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called [to be] saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:

 Hebrews 10:10 By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once [for all].

• Sanctified - Hagiazo: to render or acknowledge, or to be venerable or hallow; 2) to separate from profane things and dedicate to God; a) consecrate things to God; b) dedicate people to God; 3) to purify; a) to cleanse externally; b) to purify by expiation: free from the guilt of sin; c) to purify internally by renewing of the soul

Sometimes, I wonder if perhaps it would be better if we had a public and physical anointing with oil some time after the baptism to demonstrate our awareness of our sanctification, our having been set apart by God. We don’t, and I know that come ceremony doesn’t make us any more set apart. But I wonder if it might help us to take it more seriously.

Just thinking, you know….

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

February 1 Excessive Generosity

Exodus 36:4-5 So all the skilled craftsmen who were doing all the work on the sanctuary left their work and said to Moses, “The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done.”

Thoughts as I reread Chapter 35:
• People will give when then can catch a vision
• People give abundantly when they can be part of a vision – maybe not all, but many are more likely to give when they catch a vision
• God values, and so do we, a willing heart and wise hearts – more to speak about that later
• People give readily when it is out of their own giftedness – what they have or can do, when they feel or are made to understand their giftedness is valued

o They gave beautiful things they owned or could make – note 35:25-26, “And all the women that were wise hearted did spin with their hands and brought that which they had spun, both of blue and of purple and scarlet. And all the women whose heart stirred them up in wisdom spun goats’ hair.”

o Can you see this picture – the beauty of the fabric, brilliant in color and the yarn of goat’ hair – soft, not bristly?

• People want a leader; maybe people will naturally find a leader – whether of good character or not.
• These people had such a vision that they gave more than was needed, generously, over what perhaps was to be expected – they wanted so much to be a part of it all – those who could not actually participate in the construction wanted to help make it possible and beautiful….were willing to be backstage

Then I think of missionary friends who just resigned from their mission because, although they had ministered faithfully and fruitfully for nearly twenty years, they could not raise the required funds to return to the field. OK, granted that God might just have another work for them now, but could that be an easy out? Our blaming God?

Or could it be that somehow people did not catch the vision of the difference they could make if they helped support this family? Could it be that though they had no money, after all this is a tough economy, they did not have any idea that other ways they could help would be valued?
Another thought: God really wanted this sanctuary to be beautiful! Breathtaking with the colors and textures surrounding the worshippers, and filled with visible reminders of the giftedness of the people – the fabrics and metals and woods – all given and crafted by the people.

I can imagine a Miriam looking up and seeing the fabric she wove and dyed and feeling such a sense of “at homeness” and grateful that she could be a part of this worshipful environment, be moved and reminded by her handiwork of the love and commitment she had to the work….perhaps even when other things in her life would discourage her.

I wonder what lies the evil one whispers into our ears to keep us quiet, guarding our gifts – waiting for someone to give us a vision or telling us we don’t really matter. I wonder what might happen if we were, both corporately and individually, listening for the voice of God to tell us what we might bring to the sanctuary, apart from money. And maybe the sanctuary is God’s larger presence, the Church universal.