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 Some say it simply became outdated, and this is why we needed Jesus.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.
November 10, 2010
I watch a very popular teen drama. It’s not something I’m terribly proud of, but it’s true. Occasionally, it’s poignant; more often, it’s ridiculous. Last night was a rare glimpse of writing genius, and I came away with two nuggets worth repeating.
1.) “Happiness is a mood—not a destination.”
In church, we are taught to distinguish between happiness and joy, but this simple explanation of the fleeting nature of an emotion and the significance we place on it really hit home for me.
2.) We need to start viewing Jesus as a life-saving organ donor instead of a patch or even a bridge to some mysterious “other side.”
On the show, a character I grew to love last season survived a gunshot wound because another young man died and was the needed match.
Here’s why this shift in perception is necessary:
Firstly, viewing the sacrifice of Jesus as an organ donation requires us recipients to recognize the severity of our situation. Organs are not taken from one person and placed in another to improve function, extend a healthy life or brighten someone’s outlook. No. Organs are given when a person’s life is on the line. When there is no other way; no option; no treatment available.
Viewing the reality of our sin in this light, we see that God had tried every other treatment. There was the law, the sacrifices, the rituals…these treatments did not work. It was only when our situation was deadly, and all other options had been exhausted that this drastic procedure was offered as an option.
Secondly, it is important for us to realize that we have no choice.
On the show, the character was in a coma when the other man died and the decision was made to give him the organ that allowed him to live. Similarly, we have no say in who gave for us, nor whether or not it was for us. The sacrifice of Christ was for all men whether they want it or not. We all have a new life available to us, we need only take it.
Thirdly, and possibly most importantly, we should view Christ as an organ donor because it demonstrates the attitude we should carry about life going forward.
Again, my nighttime soap opera shed some light on this.
The character who had been saved was struggling with rehab. He was frustrated by the length of time that his recovery was taking, and he was getting discouraged. When he saw the obituary of the young donor, and seriously contemplated the immense sacrifice that it had taken to give him life, he changed his attitude. Suddenly, the struggle of rehab seemed like a welcome fight and the annoyance with his slow recovery was put in proper perspective.
To view Christ as a man who gave His life, who willingly traded our lives for His grave, puts all the struggles of Christian life in perspective.
Ok, we might take longer to “arrive” than we’d like. It’s frustrating that we aren’t instantaneously transformed into new, sinless beings, but so what. We have been given life.
Our family and friends may label us cooky, zealous, or insincere and the world might question our sanity or stability, but so what. A man died to give us the chance to live this zealous, odd, blessed life.
Who are we to scoff at such a sacrifice?
Just like in organ donation, there was only one match. Our family and friends, our ideals and hopes, the systems of the world and our own attempts to right our wrongs…no matter how well intentioned…cannot fit the need within us. They simply are not a match, and Christ was.
October 20, 2010
There is one aspect of Moses’ life story that has always bothered me. It always made me extremely uncomfortable that in some verses it says “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart.” I just could not logically explain why the God of heaven, this loving God who forgives and reaches out to nations would specifically harden a man’s heart. It causes Pharaoh to sin and costs lives. What purpose could this serve?
Well, I think God let me in on the secret today.
As I sat down to read, I was drawn back to this question and here is an excerpt of my personal journal. God opened my eyes: “I have always wondered why God would harden Pharaoh’s heart. The idea just occurred to me that maybe it was to prove to as many people as possible (advisors, etc.) that Moses’ God was the only REAL, true God.”
Through the 2 1/2 chapters I covered today, the Holy Spirit revealed the truth of this insight to me.
It’s important to remember that the plagues started off as, basically, annoyances. Yes, the waters were turned to blood, but people were able to dig near the waters to get clean water (Exodus 7:24). It was just inconvenient. Then there were frogs, then gnats, then flies. The plagues slowly increased in severity.
1.) Time and again, the magicians of Egypt were able to mimic the works of God which led to Moses’ claims being dismissed. BUT God uses the progressively more complex plagues to turn the magicians first.
“18 But when the magicians tried to produce gnats by their secret arts, they could not. And the gnats were on men and animals. 19 The magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” But Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the LORD had said.” –Exodus 8:18-19
It took 3 plagues, but they got it.
2.) Then God shows that the God of Moses and the Israelites is in control of it all by excluding the Israelites from the plague of the flies.
I’m sure that this was done to show the people of Egypt that something special was going on.
Then I reached Exodus 9:16. I don’t know why I’ve never paid any attention to this before, but I wish I had because it answers my question completely.
“16 But I have spared you for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”
And, God’s effort produce results. Some of Pharaoh’s officials believe as well.
“19 Give an order now to bring your livestock and everything you have in the field to a place of shelter, because the hail will fall on every man and animal that has not been brought in and is still out in the field, and they will die.’ “ 20 Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the LORD hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside.”–Exodus 9:19-20
So, maybe, when we completely do NOT understand the plan that God is working out in our lives, maybe God is just trying to be the God we all envision Him as. Maybe he is being loving; maybe He is reaching out. Maybe His hand will be MORE evident when there is oppression or strife.
If that’s the case, and even more can be saved, who am I to complain?
October 1, 2010
Last Sunday, I heard a practical piece of advice that I would like to pass onto you: “If you want to know how to ‘live like a Christian,’ memorize Romans 12.” I’m not very good at memorizing anything. I can retain a lot of information in song form, but otherwise, I only hold it temporarily. This, however, is kind of what I have been looking for.
The task of being a Christian can seem daunting. Once people know you are a Christian, they begin to scrutinize every move you make—and rightly so, you are claiming to be an ambassador of God. It’s a big deal, and one I fail at marvelously.
So, I read the passage. And, being the person I am, I went to work to first really break it down and understand it before I endeavored to memorize it. That is what I would like to share with you now. I went through and found all the words that I could explain—kind of—but couldn’t truly DEFINE in the context, and I defined them. First is the traditional NKJ version with the words highlighted that I looked up. What follows will be “my version” with the words replaced and some brief commentary.
Romans 12:9-13 (New King James Version)
9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
“My” version (I also changed some punctuation for clarity)
Let love be without pretense, or do not profess to love if it is not sincere. Regard what is evil as repugnant. Hold together what is good, hold onto it tenaciously. Be kindly affectionate to one another (the way you would expect brothers to be) in honor, choosing to give advantages to others above yourself. Do not delay in showing persistent, personal affection. Exhibit great intensity of feeling in spirit, serving the Lord. [Be always] rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing to be firmly fixed, immovable in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints; given to generous and cordial reception of guests offering a pleasant or sustaining environment.
I will not comment on every definition but there were a few things I noticed, that I believe are worth sharing.
1. We are not asked to just hate what is evil. That is simple. We are asked to regard what is evil as repugnant or distasteful, objectionable, and offensive. In American society today, to hate what God considers evil is very often considered bigotry, closed-mindedness and even dangerous.
Where does that leave the people of God?
2. I also noticed that the word “cling” in the original is an active word. It is something WE DO, not something that happens. We are asked to hold together that which is good. It takes effort. Good has to be protected and worked at.
3. Note briefly that it does not say be kind to each other as brothers ARE, but rather, how you expect them to be. We all know brothers who are not kindly nor affectionate to one another. But that really isn’t the point.
4. Preference, like clinging, becomes an action. It is a choice to give others advantages above ourselves.
5. Lastly, I love that the verse says we are to rejoice in HOPE. God is really great at challenging us to do the one thing that does not come naturally. We naturally rejoice in fulfilled prayers. We naturally rejoice when trials are over. Here, however, we are instructed to rejoice in HOPE. In just the thought that things will get better, in the promises of God and not necessarily the FULFILLMENT of those promises.
There’s really nothing more I can say. God is good, and He really has given us a guide to know how to live and where to stand, and what to do. Sometimes, we just need to know where to look.