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Archive for January, 2017

bible-time

“It’s MY turn!  It’s MY seat!  Get up!!  I want to sit there!  It’s MY turn!  My stomach hurts!  I have a headache!  I need to sit there!!!”

Even the baby mocks the crying and yelling of my passionately entitled seven year-old.  You know, the one who sits next to me each and every day while I read the Bible.  Every day she has that, as she sees it, privilege.  Every day she sits in, as she perceives it, the place of honor.  But any time one of my other daughters decides it is their turn to sit by me, she loses her mind.

I mean really loses her mind.

Somehow, because she has been given the privilege too often and been allowed by her sisters to not be challenged or rivaled for that place very much, she mistakenly believes that she owns the space.  She mistakenly believes that she is truly being offended when her sisters take the seat she covets.

That’s the point at which she makes certain that everyone on our block knows just whose place they are trying to take; just whose seat they’re trying to steal; just whose turn it really is – today, tomorrow, and for all eternity.

This is not a frequent occurrence, but, the only reason it is not frequent is because her sisters do not often want the space next to me.  Which, of course, is another existential question of the universe.  I mean, how could they not want to sit next to the coolest mom on earth?  Nevertheless, anytime they do recognize the awesomeness of this girl, this tantrum inevitably happens and I have to give a whole sermon on putting others first, self-control, and obedience before I even begin Bible class.

“I can’t even read God’s Word until you obey, child.  Please, can we get started?  Do you really want punished?  I know you feel better when you are next to me, but God is not happy when we only think about what we want and need.”

“But what am I doing wrong?!  I want to sit by you!!!”

“You are lying by making up excuses about being sick to get what you want.  You are being very selfish.  You are using your feelings and your tears to control and manipulate.  These are not good things, babe.  You have to stop doing this.  Then we can all read the Bible and see what God wants us to do, too.”

She obeys.  We begin to read.  The girls pick Revelation for our next book.  We read what the disciple that Jesus loved wrote to the churches.  One common theme becomes evident.  He, in the wording of the International Children’s Bible, says in opening to all of them individually, “I know what you do.”

I know what you do.  I know what you are doing.  The first thing the Lord Jesus himself tells his church from the very beginning to be remembered until the present age and beyond is, “I know what you do.”  I see you.  I know the good, the bad, and everything in between.  And I am warning you.  Doing good things does not keep judgement from coming upon you if you refuse to stop doing wrong.  God knows.  Mommy knows.  Be warned.

Little wonder why God chose to use the parenting relationship to relate to us.  We are so much like little kids.  We can only see ourselves, our needs, our wants, and our desires.  We care far too little for our brothers and sisters.  The truth is, being a kid is hard.  Adults say it’s easy but I remember being little.  I remember feeling scared.  I remember feeling small.  I remember feeling powerless, helpless, and frightened many times.  Being a kid is fun, but it is hard.  And this God’s child thing is harder than I ever thought it could be.

Do you ever just get tired?  Tired of trying.  Tired of failing.  Tired of believing the best.  Tired of experiencing the worst.  Tired of ignoring the plain truth.  Tired of being ignored.  Tired of trusting and waiting and praying and being rejected anyway.

Little kids get tired a lot.  They need naps and blankies and bottles lest the fury of the unrested fly out in same manner as the seat-robbed.

I recently became a cheerleader.  Well, a cheerleader leader, as my husband calls me.  This is the effect the blankie and bottle babies have as they get bigger and bolder.  I am more tom-boy than hair-bow.  I am more football than pom-pom.  I am more fighter fists than flippy spirit fingers.  I am more grit-teeth game-face than cheer-up smiley-pants.  We will do things for our kids we wouldn’t normally entertain simply for their benefit.

The first thing I had to learn about being a “cheerleader leader” is that you have to cheer even when you are broken.  You have to encourage your team even when you don’t feel like it.  You have to learn a new dance when you would rather sit in the corner, cover your face, make up excuses, and cry instead.  You’ve got a half an hour to pull yourself together because the game is about to start.  The kids are counting on you to lead.

My own words repeat in my subconscious.  Surely it is the Holy Spirit.

“I can’t even read God’s Word until you obey, child.  Please, can we get started?  Do you really want punished?  I know you feel better when you are next to me, but God is not happy when we only think about what we want and need.”

I hold out my pom-pom prepared hand and I tell the Lord, “I trust you.”  I go and sit with the team and I give the instructions on how to smile, cheer, encourage, and lift the spirits of everyone around us.

He sees.  He sees the good you do.  He sees the fear, the pain, the injustice, and the helplessness you feel.  He knows exactly what you do.  Trust your Father.  Encourage your brothers and sisters.  Cheer for team Jesus.  We could all use some spirit power right now.  Holy Spirit power, that is.

Go!  Fight!  Win!  Amen.

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jehovah

God’s people had been blessed over and over and over again.  It seemed that the more they were given, the more they cried, quarreled, and complained. These are all the tell-tale signs of being spoiled, rotten children.

Daddy gives and forgives; they cry and complain.  The pattern was very clear.  Wah! Wah! Wah! We want more!  We want different!  We want it now and if you don’t give us what we want right now we will scream, Daddy!  We don’t even remember the good you do!  We forget!  Give us more or we will say bad things about you, Daddy!  Waaaaaahh!  You hate us!

No, kids.  I think it might be you who hates me.  Because you love yourself so much, you have no room for me.  Everything I try to do to prove my love for you just leads to more unbelief, complaining, and rejection.  I have never rejected you.  You have rejected me.

So, you want to cry and complain?  You want to quarrel?  I’ll give you something to cry about.  I’ll give you someone your own size to quarrel with.

Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. ~Exodus 17:8

The Amalekites were descendants of Esau.  Esau – the one whom God hated.  Esau – the one who valued temporary comfort over his very own future.  Esau – the rejected one; the hot-tempered antagonist; the one who thought more about a mere bowl of soup than the extravagant blessing of his very own father.  What a fool!

The Amalekites were the descendants of an utter fool.  They were the children of selfishness, impulsiveness, and impatience.  This is who God sends to quarrel with his quarrelsome, spoiled rotten children.  God, through this battle with the rejected ones, teaches his children how to trust him.

Well played, God, well played.

Moses sends Joshua out to choose an army and fight.  Moses, Aaron (his brother), and Hur (his brother-in-law), go up to the top of the hill overlooking the battle.  Moses holds up his wonder-working staff to signify God’s presence and encourage the soldiers.  Joshua is called to fight and Moses is called to pray.  Both are called to minister, help, rescue, defend, and deliver God’s people.  Simply recognizing differences in personality and calling go a long way in the fight against favoritism, superiority, and inferiority structures among God’s people.

These guys only have one problem.  It isn’t that they have an enemy.  It is that their leader is tired.  Moses’ arms are heavy.  He’s been holding the staff up all day.  Every time Moses gets tired, the staff drops and the enemy begins to win the battle.  When the staff is lifted, God’s people win.

“The strongest arm will fail with being long extended; it is God only whose hand is stretched out still.  We do not find that Joshua’s hands were heavy in fighting, but Moses’s hands were heavy in praying.  The more spiritual any service is the more apt we are to fail and flag in it.  Praying work, if done with due intenseness of mind and vigor of affection, will be found hard work, and though the spirit be willing, the flesh will be weak.  ~Matthew Henry

God doesn’t leave Moses in this weary state of trying and failing; working and wearying.  Instead, God uses Moses’ brothers to hold up his very arms; to give him rest on a rock.

But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword. ~Exodus 17:12-13

God held Moses up for the benefit of his people.  God loves his children no matter how bad their behavior becomes.  He often uses the sin and selfishness of those who are not his own in order to discipline and instruct his children on what it really means to trust him.  God doesn’t allow his children to be spoiled, rotten brats.  Sometimes he sends brats who are even more spoiled and even more rotten to confront them; to show them; to draw them back to their desperate need for him.

When there is quarreling and complaining among God’s people, we ought not be surprised when God sends outsiders to come in and quarrel with us.  Though we may, in our flesh, grow weary in well-doing, if we are seeking to serve God and encourage our brothers and sisters, God will send ample support.  He will give us rest.

God longs to be our Jevohah-nissi, “The Lord is my banner.” His very presence is our strength and he wants us to look to Him and trust in Him alone.  He is our warrior who fights for us.  He is our intercessor who prays for us.  No matter how poor and petty our behavior becomes, it never defines us in Our Father’s eyes.  Our identity is found in our citizenship within his family.  He is faithful to send discipline when we are bratty and rest when we are weary.  He is our Jehovah-nissi.  He fights for us and his very presence is our banner, our sword, our wonder-working staff, and our very strength.

“Let ages come to know that God fights for his people and he that touches them touches the apple of his eye.” Matthew Henry

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water

God had been so faithful to his people.  He did many miracles, signs, and wonders.  He delivered them from their enemies.  He gave them a cloud and a fire.  He gave them an oasis.  He perpetually gave them daily bread to eat.  He gave them rest.  They fought and failed to trust him the whole way but God just keeps on blessing them anyway.

When they come to a place in the wilderness where there is no water once again, you would think they would be inclined to consider all of that goodness.  Matthew Henry reminds that, “Eaten bread must not be forgotten.”  But they do forget.  They were not inclined in the least to consider all the blessings they had been given and were continuing to receive on behalf of God himself.  Once again, the selfish desires and distrust of God and his prophet leads them into severe and serious sin.

When their need becomes great, their quarrels become evident once again.  They indict the prophet (Moses) God had given for their good.  They not only demand that he meet their needs, they malign and accuse him of ill-motives, they actually say, again – this is twice now that this crazy story is spewed from their mouths – that when he delivered them by the mighty hand of God that he did so with the singular intention of murdering them.  How absolutely absurd!

The truth is that that was precisely what they were doing to him.  Because he did not produce and provide what only God could for them, they falsely accused Moses as a result of their ill-motives.  They sought a trial and they wanted to kill him.  Essentially, they accused Moses (twice now) of doing the very (evil) things that they themselves were actually doing to him.

Isn’t it funny how that works?  The guilty turn the tables to make the innocent appear to be what they actually are.

“Many that have not only designed well, but done well, for their generation, have had their best services thus misconstrued, and their patience thereby tried, by unthinking unthankful people…Ungoverned passions, provoked by the crossing of unbridled appetites, sometimes make men guilty of the greatest absurdities, and act like madmen, that cast firebrands, arrows, and death, among their best friends.” Matthew Henry

These people question and accuse God’s prophet and that, in itself, proves that they are actually questioning and accusing God himself.  This was the man he’d given to them for blessing and intercession and deliverance and provision.  In questioning him, they question God, God’s providence, God’s provision, God’s presence, and God’s promises all at the same time.

The most amazing part of this story is not only what God does, but what the falsely accused prophet does.  Moses, who, by the way was a former murderer himself, does not argue with his accusers about their outrageous claims and charges.  Moses goes directly to God.  He cried to the Lord in his desperation and grief.  Moses seeks their good.  He does exactly what God commands and God shows up.  God puts himself on trial.  Instead of making the guilty murmurers stand before him, he stands before Moses!  He tells Moses to strike the rock.  In doing so, he is essentially taking the blow for their gross disobedience.  Not only does God put himself in the place of the guilty, he gives a blessing as he is struck.

 He is the rock.  The rock is Christ.  Christ is the rock upon whom God builds his church.  God builds his church on Christ and those who are willing to forgive when falsely accused, seek God on behalf of the guilty, absorb pain that they do not deserve, and bring a blessing afterward to the very people who sin against God and they.

 That is what God did here.  That is what Jesus did on the cross.  That is what we are called to do in his church.

Kyrie eleison

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addie

Her pom-poms are perfectly placed.  Her bow is beautiful in her brand new beauty salon hair.  Her uniform turns her into a magazine-ready midget model and she smiles sweetly every time the camera captures her.

About mid-game, she moves from formation to the bench.  “What’s wrong?” Coach-mom asks.  “You’re doing so good!  You are so cute out there!”

“I’m cute…but…I’m not…satisfied.”

The words come with conviction.  I know it’s the truth.

My nine year-old is the most expressive and unique child.  We call her quirk.  She loves putting on her sunglasses and pretending she’s a rock star named James Q. Jackson – Michael’s brother of course.  She has whole conversations with her clothing, her stuffed animals, her altar egos, and her feet.  She actually has a foot phone wherein she puts her foot to her ear and talks, generally about her other foot and his bad behavior.  There is no one quite like Addie.

I’m cute but I’m not satisfied.  Now that’s profound.  She has somehow managed to put into words the way beautiful women feel most of their lives.  She has successfully described the end result of an appearance-driven culture as felt in the hearts of its objects.

There’s a lot I could say about that statement and how young girls and young women are viewed.  I think we all know what I’m talking about.  But I want to examine another issue – an issue related to what I believe my bow-bearing brought to life Barbie was really feeling.

Addie was tired.  She stays up reading when everyone else goes to bed.  She is my hardcore sleeper-inner.  She is a gamer who knows more about how to fix my computer and phone issues than the employees at the apple store.  She gets so excited about fishing that she begins to babble in her own language when she catches one.  She doesn’t like to get up on Saturday morning to go practice cheer-leading.  This particular day, we had practice followed by the game.  She’d simply had enough.

  Enough what?

Enough fake smiling when she wasn’t happy.  Enough cheer-leading when she needed resting.  Enough skirt when all she wanted was sweats.  Enough jumping and shouting when she needed quiet and peace.  Enough pretty pretend when she wanted not so pretty real.  Enough real game time when she needed more practice.  Enough encouraging a team she did not know when she needed a family she did.  Enough place she felt uncomfortable when all she wanted was to sit in her favorite spot and be Addie…or James…or Hazel…or whichever personality made her happy at that moment.  All she knew was that bow-bearing Barbie wasn’t working.  Not today.  Maybe not ever.

The truth is that Addie is young.  She doesn’t know who she is yet.  She doesn’t even know who she wants to be.  All she knows is how she feels when she does that which she is not particularly predisposed for.  And that is ok!  Nothing makes me madder than when I see parents obligating children to do that which they are not geared for.

From beautiful women to tired teeny-boppers, no one wants to feel like the sun total of their existence is what is on the outside. Not one of us can live our lives as though how we are feeling on the inside does not matter.  Oh, we can ignore it for a long, lost, and losing time, but eventually we will sit down.  It will likely happen mid-game.  We will sit down, lay down, fall down, or just be down because we were not made to prioritize pretend personalities.

Addie has pretend personalities because some of her real ones feel pretend to her.  She is uncomfortable, like a fish out of water, and she doesn’t know how to make herself “satisfied” when she is asked to be what she is not.

I try to give a variety of opportunities for my daughters to become well-rounded individuals.  I try to introduce them to as many things as I can so that they can find their niche and truly be satisfied in their own skin.  I want nothing more than for them to be exactly who they are.

I want to be exactly who I am.  We all do.  Who wants to be who they’re not?  By all appearances, we can pull off the pretend and be as cute as the day is long but if we settle for superficial, we will never, ever be deeply and wholly satisfied.  Little wonder why so many people are unhappy in life when the majority do not seek to do that which affords them the time and the space to be and do what they were made for.

God created us to be unique, inwardly satisfied individuals.  Don’t ever let outward achievement and admirable appearances take the place of inner peace.  Take the job you enjoy for less money.  Have children before you have the extra room for them.  Get married before you can pay for a wedding.  Don’t get married even if you already ordered the invitations.  Volunteer.  Work less hours to invest in other things.  Work more hours to get to where you want to go.  Get up early so you can pray.  Ask God who He created you to be.  Go back to school.  Quit school.  Join a team.  Quit the team.  Do not settle for being anyone other than you.  Be exactly who you are and be unashamed of it.

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” ~John Piper

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rest

After all the grumbling and disobedience of God’s people, God gives another important word to Moses.  He commands them to rest, and, not only to rest, but to remember.

God’s people were called to a Sabbath rest on the 7th day of the week.  They did not listen at first (Exodus 16:25-26) and their leader, Moses, was indicted for it.  God gives the command again and they rested. (Exodus 16:30)

God tells them that they must keep a portion of the manna itself in order to have even their children know and remember for all generations what God did and how he did it.

God saved.  God rescued.  God delivered.  God provided.  Do not forget, kids.  Tell your kids and their kids and their kids’ kids…tell the kids in the 21st century.  God brought you out of slavery.  He did signs and wonders.  He led you to a barren wilderness and he provided everything you needed.  Forty years he provided and forty years you ate.  It was forty years until they came to the border of the promised land. (Exodus 16: 35)

In order to rightly remember God’s tender care and provision, this portion is to be placed before the testimony to be kept.  Eventually it goes into the ark of the covenant which goes into the holy of holies in God’s temple – where the presence of God was – along with two other items: the tablets with the 10 commandments and Aaron’s rod that budded.  It is in the holiest holy place – the very presence of God – that we are provided for when we remember his care and love for us.

In God’s holy presence we have the law, the provision, and the intercessor.

The stone tablets with the law represented God’s holy standards.  It serves to remind his people of what we are called to, that we are guilty, and how much we need a savior – Jesus.

The manna represented God’s provision and his call to rest.  It serves to remind God’s people of his tender mercies and great care for us.  It points us to our daily bread from heaven – Jesus Christ.

Aaron’s rod represented his miraculous power in Egypt and God’s choosing in the priests (Numbers 16-17) – namely Our High Priest, Jesus.  The story of the budding of Aaron’s rod reminds us of God’s sovereign choice and power.  When men came leading a revolt against Moses and Aaron seeking to cast doubt upon their calling and discredit them, God showed up angry to defend them, chose those whom He willed, and Moses and Aaron made atonement for their accusers.  The budding rod reminds us of Our Chosen High Priest who lives to intercede for us – Our Lord Jesus.

So who will you find in the secret place of God’s holy presence when you seek him with all your heart?

Jesus.  Jesus Christ.  Our Lord, Jesus.  He is the true bread from heaven.

“The people of Israel ate the manna forty years, till they came to a habitable land.  They ate the manna till they came to the border of the land of Canaan.” ~Exodus 16:35

The wilderness won’t last forever, friend.  God promises a new land, flowing with milk and honey.  He provides everything we need until we get there.  Therefore, rest.  Rest and remember.

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“1 But on the next day all the congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and against Aaron, saying, “You have killed the people of the Lord.” 42 And when the congregation had assembled against Moses and against Aaron, they turned toward the tent of meeting. And behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord appeared. 43 And Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting, 44 and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 45 “Get away from the midst of this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.” And they fell on their faces. 46 And Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer, and put fire on it from off the altar and lay incense on it and carry it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them, for wrath has gone out from the Lord; the plague has begun.” 47 So Aaron took it as Moses said and ran into the midst of the assembly. And behold, the plague had already begun among the people. And he put on the incense and made atonement for the people. 48 And he stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was stopped.” -Numbers 16:41-48

Here, God deals with false accusation against his chosen vessels. He does so by telling those who are accused to get away from the accusers so he might destroy them. 

Any right thinking individual would probably have done that by now anyway. Not these guys. Instead, the accused bow down before him and plead for mercy for those who are seeking to malign and discredit them.  When God says, “Get away from the midst of this congregation that I may consume them in a moment,” these guys know God means business. God is more angry than they are about the damage these haters have done. But when God says go, they stay. They fall on their faces and pray. They run into the very assembly that God has just dismissed them from and they make atonement for their accusers. 

What grace! God hears their prayer and stops the just judgement he had already begun to pour out. 

WOW! 

Even when God himself justly excuses us from a desperate situation, love can overcome and mercy can save if we are but willing to humble ourselves, forgive our accusers, and pray for the guilty. 

Don’t run away. Pray. 

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responsibility

Five days of provision had gone by.  The manna fell faithfully as God’s people continued to rebel.  Moses was mad over their stubbornness, disobedience, and unbelief.

When the sixth day came, they gathered twice as much manna.  Apparently, they had some knowledge at this time about a Sabbath rest – even before the law was given or Moses had specifically instructed them.  It wasn’t until after they had gathered twice as much bread on the sixth day that Moses gave the formal instructions on what to do on the sixth and seventh days.

“This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord; bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over lay aside to be kept till the morning.’” ~Exodus 16:23

Do you think these people listened?  Do these people ever listen?  No.  They wanted more.  More, more, more, more, more!  God was literally raining food down upon them every single day.  Are they happy?  No.  They are faithless.  They disobey in an effort to control.  They want more than God is giving.  In their pride, they usurp God in their efforts to store up and provide for themselves.  It is outrageous.

Do you want to know what is even more outrageous?  What is even more outrageous is who God blames for it.

 And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws?…” ~Exodus 16:28

The Lord indicts Moses.  MOSES!!!

Moses was not disobeying.  Moses wasn’t rebelling or failing to believe and trust God.  Moses was doing everything he could to minister to these rebels.  Moses was speaking the very words of God and praying in faith that they would believe and obey.  How in the world does Moses get the blame?!

“Why did he say this to Moses?  He was not disobedient.  No, but he was the ruler of a disobedient people, and God charges it upon him that he might the more warmly charge it upon them, and might take care that their disobedience should not be through any neglect or default of his.” ~Matthew Henry

Moses was the leader of a disobedient people.  The responsibility is great when you are a leader in any capacity.  When you are a leader of an expressly disobedient and rebellious clan, the responsibility is greater still.  God is not in the business of overlooking sin without first having that thing examined carefully.  He brings correction and calls the guilty to account.  Judgement begins at the house of the Lord and God’s discipline works from the top, down, always.  The reason is because God is just and he will not have the unjust ruling in his stead.  If you want to lead God’s people, you best be prepared, not only to examine yourself, but to be thoroughly examined yourself.

It is interesting that we never see Moses arguing with God in this passage.  There is no mention of Moses’ innocence.  Moses never says, “Wait a minute, Lord, didn’t you see me resting?  Didn’t you see me trusting?  Didn’t you see me angry at the disobedience taking place in front of me?  Aren’t we homies?  Haven’t I obeyed?  What’s the deal?”

Perhaps the reason Moses never states his case is because he understands that a lack of clear and fitting correction when those closest to as well as underneath his jurisdiction were blatantly disobedient to God, that it was just as much his fault and responsibility to act; to speak; to correct; to admonish and he had not done so.

I don’t know.  What I do know is that if I were Moses and I felt completely and altogether innocent, I would have at least said so.  Moses never does.  Maybe that’s why he is often remembered as such an angry man.  Just sayin’.

Moses was, by all appearances, innocent in this instance, but God indicted him.  The seriousness of sin in those directly related to and in close communion with a leader of God’s people is very great.  For this reason, judgement falls first on the leader – despite his innocence – for a matter of principle established by God.  God did as much to his own son.  If a man would seek to bring salvation to a disobedient and rebellious people on behalf of God, he must both understand and accept the principle of owning blame that belongs not to himself.  This is the example we see here in Exodus 16:28.  This is the example of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Would you take the place of the guilty?  Your Savior did.  While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

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