Saturday, March 12, 2011


We've been blessed to have the same pastor for almost ten years.  One of the things I appreciate about the way he works with the Body is his attitude toward new ministries.  Shortly after he came, a friend complained that we didn't have a specific ministry for her perceived need.  When I mentioned it to our pastor, he said, "When someone has a vision and burden for that ministry, it is God's provision for the need."  His philosophy of ministry didn't include running around the congregation and tapping individuals because of a complaint or a great idea.

I found the same principle in Leviticus chapters nine and ten this week.

Passage:  Leviticus 9-10:14

Specific Verses:  9:1, 7: Now it came about on the eighth day that Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel.... Moses then said to Aaron, “Come near to the altar and offer your sin offering and your burnt offering, that you may make atonement for yourself and for the people; then make the offering for the people, that you may make atonement for them just as the LORD has commanded.”

There was a process, a time period, and set of procedures for Aaron and his sons to follow before they were able and ready to intercede on behalf of the people. It didn’t just happen.  God had a specific set of instructions and an intentional process.  Moses modeled it "just as the LORD commanded."  They weren't given an instruction manual and told to show up first thing in the morning.  They were given instructions that would take them through the very same process as the people they would minister to. They could not provide sanctification for the people until they themselves had been cleansed.  This is the same principle Jesus taught when he instructed us to remove the log from our own eye before attending to the speck of another (Matthew 5).

Interestingly, the two oldest sons were so impressed with God's display of power that they tried to manipulate God.  God's work in our lives can be humbly accepted and acknowledged for what it is, or twisted to fit our prideful perception.  In the hands of God it is awesome to behold, in the hands of man it is fatal.  God struck them dead—He will not be played with.

Perhaps you have had that same experience.  God has prepared and walked you through difficulty and shown Himself mighty.  Don't be surprised then when He asks you to extend that same service as a ministry to others.  God prepares and uses His people in their own circumstances before using them.  He sanctifies them, walks them through, and sets the expectations before allowing them to take positions of leadership that influence others.  If you have outstanding areas of sin or rebellion in your own life, don't expect God to use you to in meeting the needs of others.  He must have access to your heart before He gives you access to the hearts of others.

What's the take-away?  If I look critically at the circumstances in my life and respond with humility and obedience, I will be prepared for God to use my experience at a later time.  With eyes on Him and a heart stayed with fear of His power and confidence in His unwavering love, I can walk through the valley with purpose.  No ministry or outreach is necessary apart from the work of God.  But God is faithful.  He provides for the needs of His people--and always at just the right time. 

Monday, February 28, 2011

Back Snap

Although this is generally a blog about Christian service, I am writing about yesterday's rather revealing life experience to encourage my own humility, compassion, and empathy for future reference.  As I was getting ready for church, putting on pantyhose no less, my hands seized and I felt a pop just below my right shoulder blade.  I couldn't move, couldn't breathe, couldn't call for help.  There I sat, immobilized, in excruciating pain.  When the worst had passed I managed, with effort, to get to my feet and make my way downstairs, sending the family off to church. 

Most of my day was spent enduring spasms while lying on heat and ice. The rest of my body was pain-free, but I couldn't get my focus off the sporadic schisms that stabbed from my back through to my sternum, creating some kind of muscular knot.  I did wonder if the Body of Christ should respond to a wounded member with this kind of extreme focus, but more than that, I wanted relief.

Later, much later, I remembered last week's Bible lesson on suffering and was mindful that in discomfort I really didn't care--or want to care--what God had in mind for that moment.   Hadn't we read Scripture and discussed how God allows suffering for His glory and our good?  That we are to endure and bear up under it, dependent on His grace, exhibiting the character of Christ (Hebrews 12:1-3, 1 Peter 2)?  Quite honestly, that was the last thing on my mind.

The take-away?  No matter how much we know or how much God has taught us to rely on Him, each of us is one hundred percent human.  There are periods and circumstances when all we can do it hold onto some form of life and sanity, praying for light at the end of the tunnel.  My pain became bearable within a short period of time, but there are others--many others--who suffer chronic illness, pain, family situations, and life circumstances that cloud all but the most immediate.  It was a brief lesson in empathy...and I'm chronicling it here in hopes it will not soon be forgotten.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Keep Something Behind the Counter

I hadn't planned on it.  I just happened.  When I opened my Bible to read the next chapter of Leviticus, my eyes caught on the previous chapter and something clicked.  There are times that a verse taken by itself is exposed.  Don't get me wrong, context is vital to Biblical interpretation, but to see a verse alone sometimes reveals detail that might otherwise be overlooked.

I have often wondered about  term "leaven" as used in the Bible: the leaven of the Pharisees, leaven in the dough, how dangerous a small amount of leaven can be. I have had no satisfying answer until today as I sat down to read chapter 3 and my eyes reread verse 11 from chapter 2.

"No grain offering, which you bring to the LORD, shall be made with leaven, for you shall not offer up in smoke any leaven or any honey as an offering by fire to the LORD."

It suddenly struck me.  Leaven gives a false appearance. It puffs up and expands the essence of what is there, making it look larger. It adds an airy texture when eaten. And, in the same way yeast, or leaven, would mislead honey adds sweetness making grain more appealing, more tasty, more indulgent.  It's not that God doesn't like things big or sweet or good.  He made all things.  He IS big and sweet and good.  But when it comes from me, a person, a created being, the focus is due God, not myself.  How easy it is for me to puff myself up, to try to appear bigger and sweeter and more attractive to others (sacrifices were offered in public, remember) and to God.

The leaven of life is pride. A little goes a long way. I apply it when I seek to draw attention to my actions or appearance or worth, puffing up what little I have, expanding the essence of what is actually there. I present myself as having greater importance and substance than what an honest appraisal would reveal. The honey is much the same, although it makes me think more of flattery, of sweetening the deal. I may be sour as a lemon, bitter as lye, but present myself to God and others in a falsely appealing way.

So for now, today?  The offering of my everyday life, the grain that comes in and goes out, must first be finely ground, well masticated, used fully. It is what it is. I am what I am. There is nothing special, better than, or exceptional other than the fact that God has sovereignly ordained each part. Humility, a lack of leaven, is practiced as I present what He has given with gratitude and honesty.

Chuck Swindoll's grandfather taught him to "always keep something behind the counter."  This doesn't mean  we should hold back what is due; rather, we should be honest about what is in the back room.  If I don't have any for sale, I shouldn't put it out for display.  May I say the same is true of our Christian lives.  Speaking to myself: If I don't have any in the backroom, it has no place on the counter.