Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Just a Bunch of Sticks?

In my reading through the Bible this morning I came to Numbers 15:32–36 which says:
While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation. They put him in custody, because it had not been made clear what should be done to him. And the Lord said to Moses, "The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp." And all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, as the Lord commanded Moses. ESV
I read something like this and there is this reaction in me that says, "Wow! He was just picking up sticks! It wasn't even something bad!" And . . . that reaction tells me more about my view of God than I like to admit.

As much as I can teach about God's holiness, and how He breathes out stars, and how amazing and worthy of our awe and worship He is, etc., a reaction like that reveals to me how much of that knowledge of God is in my head and hasn't captivated my heart.

Why not, instead, would I have had the reaction, "Oh, man! This man has such a wicked heart to rebel against God! To do things His way and not God's!" A failure to react that way gives me insight into the heart of why I can, at times, be so casual with the "little" sins. I am seeing it as an issue of degrees and about the action, and not about the rebellion—not about the incredible pride and arrogance of thinking I can do what I want when God—the holy Creator of all—has said something different about it. In reality, I think I can judge what is truly OK and what isn't. I may not say that is my reality, but my actions reveal it is.

It is similar to Adam and Eve—"so you're telling me that they and all mankind to follow got a death sentence and cut off from God for eating fruit!?" No. That isn't the reason. It is for the pride and rebellion of the heart that thinks it can do things its own way and that it is OK to do so. It is for the heart that thinks it, better then God, can define what is OK and what isn't. It is about a trust—a faith!—that is greater in myself then it is in Him.

We must never forget, God loves our faith and without it Hebrews tells us it is impossible to please Him. When the Israelites came to the promised land it was GOD that told them to send in the spies! He didn't sucker them into the land and then have them realize what they were surrounded by so they had no choice to rely on Him. He had them spy it out and see exactly what they were up against so then they could choose—sight (what they saw in front of them), or faith in God who had promised them both the land and His presence. They didn't trust Him and He says of them (in different places throughout the Bible) that they were in unbelief, not following Him, disobedient, stiff-necked, hardened hearts, not mindful of the works He had performed among them, faithless. And, though they would have been the first to say they believed in God's existence, HE said of them that they didn't believe in Him.

God is looking for so much more than simply our acknowledgement that He exists (even the demons believe, and tremble the Bible says). He is looking for us to believe in Him in the way that commits our life to Him, to trust in Him, to follow Him.

Eve's sin is similar. Before she ever saw the tree as good for food, pleasing to the eye, or desirable to make one wise she first had doubt about God and His love and His Word and His trustworthiness. Then, after entertaining those doubts about God, she came to the place where she believed she could better take care of her needs, pleasure, and wisdom apart from God and His ways then doing it God's way. She walked out of trust of God, and trusted more in herself. She walked out of faith in God.

When we assess sin by the action ("he was just picking up sticks!), instead of realize it is a heart of rebellion and disobedience to God, we can tend to water down what sin really is and lose the reverence of the the holiness of God. I am reminded of when David was bringing the ark back to Jerusalem. It is found in 2 Sam 6:5–7
And David and all the house of Israel were making merry before the Lord, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God. ESV
Did Uzzah die because he steadied himself or the ark when the oxen stumbled. Is that really worthy of a death sentence? No. Uzzah died because, first and foremost, David decided to do something his way and blew off a holy God's commands about how the ark would be handled (even "religious" things can be sin). Then Uzzah died because a holy God said the ark would not be touched and he touched it. As long as we say he died simply for touching the ark we have missed the point. He died for the rebellion and haughtiness that said, "Even though God said one thing I can do it my way" (sorry Frank Sinatra).

It is an important lesson for us to learn (and relearn, and relearn . . .). Whenever we assess sin by the action instead of seeing it as rebellion we have lost our grip on God's holiness and who He is. We do things "our way" because we are looking left and right, instead of up. Left and right we can always find some reason, or someone else's life, that will justify us. Looking up into His holiness, and across the gap to the blood-stained cross, will remind us of what sin really is. It is not an action, it is a heart.

May I never lose sight of the fact that my sin, my "casual choices," are rebellion against God no matter how insignificant they seem. May I fear my heart, and may I embrace faith—a complete trusting of my life to Him and His ways because I have complete trust of Him and His Word and His love and His faithfulness.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Free Book

Hi Again. A minute after I posted my other post tonight I got a message from Rosemary Hines. She is an author I've blogged about multiple times (see below) whose novels have really blessed me. She is giving away, between now and Monday, the first book in her series in e-book from. It is called Out of a Dream.

The link is: http://www.amazon.com/Dream-Sandy-Cove-Series-Book-ebook/dp/B00JJR28M8

If you haven't read it, I really recommend that you do. She writes fiction based on life she's experienced and this first novel deals with the seductiveness of the New Age—a huge issue among adults and youth in our area, and I am sure in yours!

The two posts I've done on her books are:



Blessings.   —Erick

Just a Relative?

I just read a line in a blog by a man named Samuel Clough that really struck me. It says, "We are called to be the bride and I am afraid that most of us are more content with being relatives of God rather than a bride."

I had to stop and think about that. And I realize I can approach it in two ways, both valid and both powerful, and each having their time and place.

Approach One: This approach uses the quote to evaluate my walk and relationship with Him from my position, and toward Him. It includes questions like:
Is that me? Do I prefer the relationship with Him where I can invite Him over (or go visit) when it is convenient, with the boundaries I want to set, etc.? Am I content to know I have a more special relationship with Him then non-relatives do, but to not really be joined to Him inseparably as one flesh? Am I OK with being aware of burdens of His heart and kind of picking which ones I should address, or am I bound to Him as one flesh with His burdens as my own? Do I feel like I have an option of stepping back when I need to take care of my "own stuff," or do I feel like I have nothing that is not His stuff as well?

In this context the quote is a powerful line that brings forth powerful questions and introspection!

Approach Two: This one uses the quote to evaluate my walk and relationship with Him from His position, toward me. It includes questions like:
Do I realize He doesn't just get "related" to me (which could mean many different levels of attachment, not all very deep)—He chooses me as a bride?! Am I living like He is "just" a relative, interested in much of my stuff but with His own stuff too—or do I realize He has joined Himself to me in a relationship without separate compartments . . . a relationship He describes in earthly terms as two becoming "one flesh"?! Am I living like He wants to see me now and then when it works out, or do I realize He wants to be (and is) with me always, no matter what, with no created thing able to separate me from His love?
Mary Ann and I recently celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary. I love her so much! She is my best friend! There is no one I'd rather be with, and even when we go to visit others our heart is to be joined in the same conversation rather then "guy talk" outside and "girl talk" inside (not to say there isn't a time and place for that, but too often it seems the norm or even preference). If I experience something wonderful and Mary Ann isn't there to share it with then something feels missing to me. She is my bride. My one flesh. My best friend. My pal.

Do I realize, and live like, God feels that way about me? The question goes two ways. 1) Have I believed a lie that He feels otherwise? 2) Am I content with something otherwise?

God uses two very powerful relationship in the Bible to describe our intended relationship with Him as born again believers—a Father/child, and this one, a Bridegroom/Bride. Both are relationships where, if lived correctly, there is a union far deeper than simply being "related." They are both unions that transcend that to a tie that is stunning in its depth. I can use the model of those two relationships to evaluate my relationship with Him to help me see areas I am not walking with Him as I should. And . . . I can use them to remind myself of just how much He loves me and I am joined with Him and how vested and interested He is in my life!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

I am the Lord

In my current reading through the Bible I am in Leviticus 22, and this morning I made a note in the margin about how many times God ends a command, statement of His Holiness, etc., with the words, "I am the Lord." Then, I looked across the page to the facing page and saw where I had made an almost identical comment my last time through Leviticus, probably two years ago.

I am struck by the utter simplicity of it. He speaks. He commands (usually something related to being separate, holy, set apart, etc.) and He simply ends with, "I am the Lord." And, really, what more needs to be said?

So many of those commands are things which a violation of results in death, being cut off, etc. They are serious. God is holy—separate, set apart. Holy. Lord. Have those words lost anything to us? Only four letters each, but they define man's condition and eternity.

God is holy. By the very definition of it He is separate from us. It is in His holiness that we find the very reason we are cut off, separated from God, by our sin. He is holy. A consuming fire. A star breather. The One who holds and decides all of eternity. God.

God. There's a three letter word. The shortest of all and yet the most powerful. God. How often do we use these words so casually: God, holy, Lord?

Sometimes I'll simply slowly repeat the word "God" multiple times softly out loud to myself. And each time it grows in power until the word I can so flippantly throw out in conversation and advice starts to have a reverence and awe return around it. God. Holy. Lord.

"Be still and know that I am God." He says that in His Psalms. Slow down. Know I am GOD! That word is supposed to mean everything, just like, "I am the Lord" is supposed to. Everything! And, what more is needed?

And the most stunning thing of all? As born again Christians we are holy unto God. Set apart by God. His own special people and nation (not America, but the Kingdom of God). That is how complete Christ's work on our behalf is. That God could take us—sinful, self-centered, lustful, faithless, proud people—and do something to or for us that is so complete that He can bring us into His holiness! That the HOLY Spirit could in fact live in us!

But . . . saved, forgiven, reconciled to God, united with God, indwelt by God, eternally alive to God . . . does the word "Lord" really mean to me what it should? "I am the Lord." That is all. And it should be enough. Because if it isn't enough for me to give Him my everything (from obedience, to resources, to love and to trust), what more, possibly, could I be waiting for?


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