December 30, 2010
Today while trudging through Leviticus, I had a moment which made me feel like a cartoon character. If someone decided to sketch the moment, I believe fully that they would see me, rocking a baby to sleep with my Bible in hand. Then, suddenly, an angel would appear just over my right shoulder to whisper God’s message in my ear. My eyes would widen and a light bulb would appear above my head. That’s how it felt, anyway.
In chapter 4, Leviticus begins to detail the proper sacrifices for unintentional sins. At first, it seems very redundant. The rules are all the same (which I will come back to), and to be frank, it’s boring. We don’t do this anymore. The Jews don’t even do this anymore, so it’s very hard to feign interest.
But, don’t forget…Lightbulb.
Five times in chapter 5 it says if a person commits some sin “even though he is unaware of it, he has become unclean and is guilty.” When I first started reading this, back in chapter 4, I felt that compulsion that you feel as a child: to offer some blanket prayer of forgiveness for all the sins I didn’t know I committed that day, but I felt strongly that there was something more.
Here was what was whispered to me that caused the light bulb: “Maybe the intent isn’t to make you pray about something you don’t know you’ve done. Maybe the intent is to make you be aware of how you are living.”
Let me see if I can be more clear.
Clearly the passage says that we are held accountable for even the sins we didn’t know we committed, but maybe just maybe it is also implying that we should always be aware of the sins we commit. Eventually they will be revealed to us, anyway. I have this nagging feeling that we would know instantly we were sinning–no matter how small the sin–if we were really in tune with God.
There was so much more. In my Bible, chapter 5 is titled ‘What to Give if One is Poor’, and what interested me was that rich or poor the price was ultimately the same: the death of an animal in place of the person. “For the wages of sin is death…” It has always been the price. And it couldn’t be just any animal. It had to be “one without defect and of proper value.”
So, either I got another whisper or just another layer of the same whisper was revealed.
Some people say that the old system of sacrifices was inefficient. Some say it simply became outdated, and this is why we needed Jesus. I disagree. It’s not that the sacrifices were inefficient, it’s just that we stopped getting it. It wasn’t enough to watch perfect animals slaughtered to take our place. We had to have something more powerful. Enter Jesus.
December 28, 2010
1: one that causes wonder or astonishment
2: intense surprise or interest : astonishment
There are words in praise and worship songs, in the psalms and in general conversation which we use in reference to God but are immensely difficult to comprehend. Awe, infinite, forgiving…
In the past, ‘marvel’ has been a word that I would place in that category as well. Astonished amazement isn’t the easiest thing to wrap your mind around, but this week, as I really looked at my sons and reveled in the joy of being a mother, I connected with the word.
My oldest boy is almost 5, and while he continuously amazes me and surpasses my every want, hope and expectation, I often take him for granted unintentionally. But, with the birth of my newbie, I was re-introduced to the art of marveling. From the first moment of meeting, to the early days of bonding, there was intense love. Now, however, 5 weeks later, there is simply a lot of marveling.
I spend countless hours simply holding him, looking at him, smelling his hair, listening to his coos and touching his skin. I hoard every hour, every memory, every look and sound and move to store up and cherish. I look back on those first weeks with my oldest and I have a new, overwhelming appreciation of that time with him.
In short, marveling comes more naturally than I assumed.
When I apply that word to my life of faith, I come to a new understanding of just how I should view God and His works in my life and in the world. His beauty, His divine planning, His providence and provision should hold me captive.
I should be able to easily linger in His presence, eager to soak up just one more detail of His essence that is almost beyond comprehension. I should recognize that each moment in His presence is a gift and I should never, never become disenchanted with His glory.
That is to marvel.
To be wonderfully surprised and intensely interested in who He is at all times, not just when He is fulfilling some obvious need, but when He simply is. That should be enough. Like yearning to hold a sleeping baby, I should yearn simply to be with Him. To touch Him, and to feel Him breathe.
Now that I understand, I think that word says it all.
December 16, 2010
The title is pretty self explanatory.
It’s not that I don’t like to pray. I’m just not very good at it.
I’ve never gotten into the habit of praying regularly. I get bogged down under the pressure to say what I want in some beautiful way. My mind wanders horribly. I don’t fall asleep but I do end up making checklists of things I need to get done when I’m done praying. I try to recite to Lord’s Prayer when I’m desperate, but I know this gorgeous song-version of it, so then I just end up singing. I sometimes feel like I’m a crazy person. (I’m very sorry if you are really good at praying and this offends you. I genuinely want to be better at it). In most circumstances, talking to someone no one else can see isn’t regarded highly in today’s society. I then get distracted trying to remind myself that I’m not crazy–you see the trouble?
I want to be good at praying.
I want to be a selfless pray-er. I don’t want to come at God like He’s a magic genie sent to fulfill my wishes, but I usually don’t know what else to say.
Sometimes, though, there are amazing passages in the Bible that say all I’ve ever wanted to say. David’s prayer/Psalm of forgiveness is one great example. Here’s another.
First, I’d like to establish for you the relationship God and Moses had.
“The Lord would speak to Moses face-to-face, as a man speaks with his friend.”--Exodus 33:11
I long for that.
It is from this place that Moses is able to pray this prayer.
“If You are pleased with me, teach me Your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with You.”–Exodus 33:13
It is a prayer I borrow when I don’t know what else to say. This is all I want: to know God and truly find favor in His eyes.
Here’s another great thing: “The Lord replied, ‘My presence will go with you and I will give you all the rest.’”–Exodus 33:14
The Lord replied and made a promise to provide. I hang onto that.
December 11, 2010
I realized something tonight as I began my Christmas Cookie Extravaganza:
There are quite a few people in the world who approach faith like I approach baking. These people gather a few recipes from what they consider reliable sources and try it out.
Let me assure you, this is a very good approach to baking. I can quickly discern if I like particular flavor combinations or if the family hates the experiment.
It is not such a brilliant approach to faith.
For one, when you botch a baking experiment, you can look at the outcome and clearly see what you did wrong. ‘Ah. That I cooked too long,’ or ‘Less flour next time,’ are quick and easy assessments. This is not so with faith.
With religions, a person is not able to clearly say why one religion does not work for them. Very often in America, people will come up with some PC excuse as to why it did not fit their particular needs, but in fact, it’s usually a very superficial and muddled reason.
Secondly, in baking, you can usually still tell if the recipe COULD BE good. Sure you baked it too long, but had the bottoms not been burnt, the cookies would have been perfect. Maybe the cookies didn’t stick together so well because of all the flour, but they were delicious! When you experiment with different faiths, there is no leeway to make such small tweaks to the overall structure. You must accept the faith as-is, or you must leave it behind. (Claiming only a watered-down version of faith is, in fact, leaving the true faith behind).
Maybe the world would be a better place if we all looked at religion, faith, like I look at cooking.
Yes, I love to try new recipes, but I’m not going to put the effort into a lasagna from scratch if I’ve never tasted lasagna. It’s a lot of work for a ‘maybe’. And I’m never going to serve my guests blowfish because I don’t want to accidently poison them.
Just a thought…
December 2, 2010
I have never felt the bonds of slavery. Not even metaphorically. I am a thoroughly Midwestern, American woman. I have parents who allowed me a fair amount of leeway when I was a minor and a gracious amount of forgiveness when I was old enough (and dumb enough) to need it. I had a liberal curfew, fairly flexible work schedules in my work and the right to vote since the age of 18. I don’t really know what it is like to be in captivity, to be truly afraid for my life, or to be bought and sold like property. Slavery is the one thing in the Bible that I simply cannot relate to, even though it is discussed often and in detail.
Sometimes, that makes it difficult to really appreciate the writings about being set free.
In recent years, though, I have come to face my enslavement to sin more fully. Instead of looking at the sins I commit as an inherited disease, I have begun to see the snares and trappings of slavery that sin carries with it.
This is significant for two reasons: One, it removes my ability to make excuses. Sin is not inescapable. It, like slavery, is a temporary condition because I have been offered freedom. Two, It helps me realize that my situation is not hopeless. Sin is not a disease I was born with; it is a condition of this world, and I will one day be released from it for good.
Now, when I feel myself slipping, falling back into old patterns, I don’t feel a sense of rebellious “freedom,” I feel the chains tightening. I feel my true self slipping, silencing and the handcuffs of old ways binding me.
Sin now feels like what it has always been—slavery. And when I find verses dealing with slavery in the Bible, I’m able to at least comprehend my personal slavery and my personal, God-given freedom.
The Old Testament contains list after list, chapter after chapter of laws that were dictated to the Israelites during their time in the desert. Usually, these lists are ignored in modern society or irrelevant because we do not have an ark to carry around, a tabernacle to construct or sacrifices to offer. Once in a while, though, a word or phrase reaches out from the past to shout something relevant about the future, about the present. One such passage on slavery struck me recently.
Exodus 21:7-9 discusses the proper handling of slave girls who are given to the sons of the masters. She becomes entitled to full inheritance. How interesting.
Proof that God really doesn’t change.
Simply by being married to the master’s son, the bride is redeemed and set free from slavery, entitled to full rights as a daughter. Likewise, we the church, the bride, are redeemed by our relationship with Christ. We are freed from the slavery of sin and entitled to full inheritance in His name.