Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Redeeming the Mundane

I talked to an old friend yesterday. And as she shared long, drawn out, incredible answers to prayer in her life over the past many months.

She mentioned it here and there, in passing, and yesterday we were able to see God's provision. He works so many intricate pieces, people, circumstances, and timings we don't see in the midst of our situation. But looking back, we marvel at how he sent one person after another, moved one circumstance, ended and began others. 

As she spoke, the thought came, "Had I prayed? Did I love and care for her enough?" Just as quickly, I thought of raising and lowering our bedroom blinds. That is/has been my prayer time for her. Perhaps it's the result of reading, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, but prayer for others is more tied to events than time. The repetitive actions of life are tied to prayer for specific people. In this way, it's possible to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). 

It doesn't happen all at once, but a coffee mug represents one person. Walking to and from the mailbox brings prayer and praise for another. Mowing the yard brings thoughts of many, back and forth. And so it goes, the mundane becomes a sanctuary, a hallowed place. It is not simply a task to be done, but a vehicle for prayer, a place of love, sacrificial giving, and connecting with God Himself.

Having a time and place set aside for prayer is an important routine in the Christian life, but living a life of prayer is to draw on His presence and power in the ordinary moments of life here on earth. It is unseen communion with the Holy One; with Life itself.

Monday, August 15, 2022

Wisdom and Growth

 A young woman in a difficult situation cried, "But I asked God for wisdom and He didn't answer me!" 

"Yes, He did. This is it. Now you know what not to do next time."

God's wisdom doesn't magically or immediately prevent hardship, trials, or discomfort. Instead, He desires to help us learn and grow through it. God shows Himself greater than the difficulty. He is with us through the difficulty. He allows difficulty to create dependence, humility, patience, steadfastness, and spiritual growth. The goal is not avoidance of difficulty--though that is often what we want. 

Asking God for wisdom does not negate or repel trouble. Asking God for wisdom and expecting it to dissipate is like the individual who ended up in the Emergency Room because he applied bear repellant--to himself--instead of the bear. We must use God's Word according to the instructions. And God says it's a life-long process of learning, growing, and depending. 

The question isn't, "Did I avoid trouble?" Instead, the questions are, "What did I learn?" "Was I dependent on God, myself or others?"  Did I worry and fret, seek to manipulate or coerce others into doing what I wanted, or did I pray and wait?

The word for "trouble" in James 1 is something we can't avoid--like Mr. Magoo we fall into the manhole of difficulty not necessarily because of sinful choices, just because. That's normal. It's how we grow. 

Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that person ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:2-8)

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Moving On

As an individual that builds deep relationships with people and walks through deep waters with them, it is tempting to think change and growth is a result of my efforts. 

That happened to Moses and the people of Israel. Their freedom, exodus, and survival were all tied in with Moses' life and efforts. He was used in personal, mighty, and incredible ways those 40 years. But he also made mistakes. 

Moses' most costly sin was to strike the rock when God commanded him to speak to it. Why would that make a difference? God sent the water. The people were cared for. But in that moment what the people saw was Moses strike the rock. And water was provided. If Moses had spoken to the rock, there would have been no evidence of Moses efforts--only God's provision. And that is how it must be with us. God is not glorified by my efforts. His glory does not change regardless of what I do or do not do. But how others see Him, how others interact with Him, can be clouded or misguided when/if I deceive others, giving the impression that I am the source of blessing, not God Himself.

It is so easy to do! Numbers 12:3 says, Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any person who was on the face of the earth.

At the end of their journey, we see Moses repentance. And he said to them, “I am 120 years old today; I am no longer able to go out and come in, and the Lord has told me, ‘You shall not cross this Jordan.’ 3 It is the Lord your God who is going to cross ahead of you; He Himself will destroy these nations before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua is the one who is going to cross ahead of you, just as the Lord has spoken. 4 And the Lord will do to them just as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land, when He destroyed them. 5 The Lord will turn them over to you, and you will do to them in accordance with all the commandments which I have commanded you. 6 Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or in dread of them, for the Lord your God is the One who is going with you. He will not desert you or abandon you.” (Deuteronomy 31:2-5)

As he prepares to leave Israel, he reminds them of God's faithfulness, God's promises, and God's provision. He will not, cannot, continue. But he is not their safety. He is not the one who makes water come from the rock. He is not the one who sees and provides for their needs. God is. And God will continue His good work without Moses.

In the same way, I must be reminded that all good things come from the hand of God--including the good things that result from my involvement. As people move out of my sphere of influence, they never leave God's...and neither do I. I need Him every hour. every moment, day after day. He will not fail.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Light

Perhaps I'm the only one who gets irritated with conflict, angry when there is a lack of justice and righteousness, overcome with uncontrollable outcomes of evil? 

Our world continues to experience global, national, and personal conflict, giving rise to anxiety, depression, anger, sleepless nights, heated discussions. But I must remind myself this is normal. This is our world. Sin does that--it works death in relationships, countries, nations. 

The remedy--the only remedy--is Light. Light does not hammer darkness. It cannot be squelched or captured. Light dispels darkness. Light is. By its nature, light exposes and overcomes darkness.

Jesus is the Light of the world. He has given us Truth to dispel rumors, evil, wickedness, and danger. But I cannot drag others into the light. I cannot force them to open their eyes, nor can I make them see what they refuse to acknowledge. I can only live in the light and welcome those who wish to join me there. 

My greatest struggle, then, is not the darkness of others; it is the darkness in my own heart. The sin that crouches at the door of my heart, ready to engage in battle; ready to kill, steal, and destroy. My only hope is the full armor of God. I have no ability to withstand my own sinful self. I have no desire to turn away from being god in my life and others. I have no hope of turning aside from personal autonomy in and of myself. I, myself, must surrender to the holy, righteous, convicting work of the Spirit and open the door to my heart, welcoming the exposure of thought, motive, and deed, resting in His grace. Confident in mercy. 

And as His gentle, cleansing hand cleanses my heart and life, I can stand in His armor, ready to stand against evil--not charging in--but standing, armed with truth, righteousness, salvation, peace, and the Word of God. Arrayed with light. Dispelling darkness. Loving in the midst of the greatest battle ever fought, dependent in prayer. Trusting my Commander in Chief. Minding my own business and leading a quiet life. Failing. Falling. And standing. Every. Time. Because of God's faithfulness.

And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,  and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26)

Friday, February 11, 2022

Wow. Just. Wow

I'm on another round through the Bible, which, honestly, is about the only time I spend in books like Leviticus and Numbers.

Curiosity got the best of me, so I made a list of what God required for each festival. If you don't receive our Christmas letter (!), you may not know that our family had a funeral and two weddings this year. Based on the forethought, cleaning, planning and preparation, my mind was spinning as I considered God's idea of a festival.

My takeaways? Sin is always there. The goat was a regular, daily reminder of our need for forgiveness. The price is great. There is no easy way out. There are no excuses. God sees and knows all. Death is the price. 

But God is greater. The celebration of God, His goodness, His holiness, His righteousness, His grace and mercy is to be celebrated, honored, revered. We are far too flippant, too easily satisfied, with our worship.

The idea of everyone ceasing from labor, gathering for a sacred assembly and presenting offerings--the priests, the labor, the cost--all point to the God they serve-!

And Jesus is our sacrifice. One sacrifice for all time. One sacrifice for all. The sufficient one. I stand amazed in the presence... of Jesus the Nazarene. And wonder how He could love me, a sinner, condemned, unclean.

How marvelous! How wonderful! And my song shall ever be: How marvelous! How wonderful is my Savior's love for me.

Daily

-        2 lambs, male, unblemished, a year old

o   1 in the morning

§  2 quarts of fine flour mixed with

§  1 quart of olive oil

o   1 at twilight

§  2 quarts of fine flour mixed with

§  1 quart of olive oil

Sabbath

-        2 male lambs a year old, unblemished

o   4 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil

-        In addition to the regular burnt offering and its drink offering

Monthly, at the beginning of your month

-        2 young bulls

o   6 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for each bull

o   2 quarts of wine for each bull

-        1 ram

o   4 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil

o   1 1/3 quarts of wine

-        7 male lambs a year old

o   2 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil with each lamb

o   1 quart of wine for each lamb

-        1 male goat

-        In addition to the regular burnt offering with its drink offering

1st month, 14th day= Passover

-        Festival on the 15th day

-        Unleavened bread for 7 days

-        1st day= sacred assembly, no daily work

-        Offering in addition to the daily burnt offering for 7 days:

o   2 young bulls

§  6 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for each bull

o   1 ram

§  4 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil

o   7 male lambs a year old

§  2 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil

o   1 male goat for a sin offering

-        7th day, hold a sacred assembly, do no work

Festival of Weeks= sacred assembly

o   2 young bulls

§  6 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for each bull

o   1 ram

§  4 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil

o   7 male lambs a year old

§  2 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil

o   1 male goat for a sin offering

-        In addition to regular burnt offerings and grain offerings

7th month, 1st day= Festival of trumpet blasts, offering:  do not do any daily work

-        1 young bull,

o   6 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil

-        1 ram

o   4 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil

-        7 male lambs a year old

o   2 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil with each lamb

-        1 male goat

7th month, 10th day= Day of Atonement: do not do any work

-        1 young bull,

o   6 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil

-        1 ram

o   4 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil

-        7 male lambs a year old

o   2 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil with each lamb

-        1 male goat

7th month, 15th day= Festival of Shelters: do not do any daily work, 7-day festival

-        Day 1

o   13 young bulls

§  6 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for each bull

o   2 rams

§  4 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for each ram

o   14 male lambs a year old

§  2 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for each lamb

o   1 male goat as a sin offering

o   In addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain and drink offerings

-        Day 2

o   12 young bulls

§  6 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for each bull

o   2 rams

§  4 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for each ram

o   14 male lambs a year old

§  2 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for each lamb

o   1 male goat as a sin offering

o   In addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain and drink offerings

-        Day 3

o   11 young bulls

§  6 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for each bull

o   2 rams

§  4 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for each ram

o   14 male lambs a year old

§  2 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for each lamb

o   1 male goat as a sin offering

o   In addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain and drink offerings

-        Day 4

o   10 young bulls

§  6 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for each bull

o   2 rams

§  4 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for each ram

o   14 male lambs a year old

§  2 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for each lamb

o   1 male goat as a sin offering

o   In addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain and drink offerings

-        Day 5

o   9 young bulls

§  6 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for each bull

o   2 rams

§  4 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for each ram

o   14 male lambs a year old

§  2 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for each lamb

o   1 male goat as a sin offering

o   In addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain and drink offerings

-        Day 6

o   8 young bulls

§  6 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for each bull

o   2 rams

§  4 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for each ram

o   14 male lambs a year old

§  2 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for each lamb

o   1 male goat as a sin offering

o   In addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain and drink offerings

-        Day 7

o   7 young bulls

§  6 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for each bull

o   2 rams

§  4 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for each ram

o   14 male lambs a year old

§  2 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil for each lamb

o   1 male goat as a sin offering

o   In addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain and drink offerings

-        Day 8: solemn assembly; do no daily work

o   1 bull

§  6 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil

o   1 ram

§  4 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil

o   7 male lambs a year old

§  2 quarts of fine flour mixed with oil

o   1 male goat as a sin offering

o   In addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain and drink offerings