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A Poem

A Man and His Friend

Once I saw a man

I saw a man try

He tried to be wise

He tried to oblige

He tried to get the speck

right out of his eye

The man tried and he failed

The man could not fly

The man got so tired

That he started to cry

I saw a man learn

I saw him regret

I saw a man try again

to pay back his debt

Working and wearing

his body so hard

He barely had time

to look at his heart

Apologies seemed

too great a task

So penance he paid

When his accuser did ask

I got mad at the man

I hated his art

I wanted to see

Him make a new start

I hid from the man

I wished him no more

I covered my eyes

and I closed up the door

Day after day

I wondered again

Just where had he come from

and who was that man

He passed through my thoughts

Like a storm raging high

I wished he had never

wanted to fly

No more would I trust him

No more would I cry

No more would I wonder

why ever he tried

But I saw a man pray

I saw him alive

I saw a man live

When he learned how to dive

I saw and I hid and I wondered so long

I stopped trusting a moment

and proved myself wrong

I got to my senses

I laced up my boots

I prayed and I prayed

And I asked to bear fruit

I saw a man change

I saw him made new

I saw a man die

For me and for you

There is that man!

There is his friend!

I can see they met up

somewhere towards the end!

How much I do love them!

Both the man and his friend

I know my own heart

they surely can mend

I’ll wait and I’ll watch

I’ll lace up my boots

I’ll trust and I’ll seek

believing the truth

I want to remember

That man and his friend

For they are my fortress,

my Savior, my end

~Lori Rodeheaver

1/1/14

2command

The second command God gave is related to the first.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. ~Exodus 20:4-6

Not only are God’s people not to have any other gods, we are not to worship or serve anything in addition to Him.  Our love, affection, and devotion is to be directed exclusively at Him.  Our worship is for him alone.

The text here tells us the reasons.

  1. God is jealous.  God hates false worship – worship directed at anything or anyone other than Him is false because He alone is worthy of it.  This is called spiritual adultery.  When we worship and serve created things or people, we are guilty of literally cheating on God.

There is, however, a way to serve and worship God by serving other people and things.  The difference is made in the heart. The heart – not the hands.

Just as I do not have to fold my hands and pray to my house or my car or my job or my fitness or my ministry to be guilty of worshiping and serving it – or the honor, respect, praise, and fulfillment I get from it – neither do I have to sell or quit them in order to obey God in regards to those things.  What I must do is consider my heart; my attitude; my disposition; my expectation towards it.

How can I know I am serving God in these things and not serving the things themselves?

-Do I ask God first what He would like in these areas of my life?

-Is He allowed to say no?

-Is the time I spend with them instead of Him or because of Him?

-Is the money I spend on them instead of Him or because of Him?

-What is my attitude like when there is not peace or things do not go right in these areas?  Do I trust God and have peace despite what happens with these other things/people?

-Is my ultimate joy derived from God or other things/people?

All of us have served idols.  We must constantly check ourselves and our lives for these heart attitudes and affections.  Often we must re-evaluate the things we are doing and how we are doing them.  

The second reason we must do our honest best to cast down our idols and worship God alone is that the text tells us that:

2. God punishes idolaters.  If we do not obey God in our worship, it will be evident in our children and grandchildren.  Our sin in not loving God well and not loving God singularly will bring judgment upon our most precious blessings.  

It is a pretty simple concept.  It’s found in Genesis.  You reap what you sow.  If we don’t honor God, our children will not honor God.  As we suffer for our sin in idolatry, they will suffer for it as well and that will be part of our suffering.  Because idolatry makes our Father suffer with jealousy and makes us a snare to him, he warns that the same will happen to us with our own children if we don’t listen.  If we cheat on God, our children will suffer in much the same way that they suffer if we cheat on our spouses.  Adultery always breeds suffering children.

On the contrary, in his grace, God promises love and blessing to thousands who obey.  God’s promises are much bigger than his punishments.  He is worthy of our worship.  Let us consider how we might honor him in all things by worshiping and serving him alone.

numberone

Finally, I made it.  Exactly halfway between slavery (Exodus 1) and glory (Exodus 40),  right smack dab in the middle, we find Exodus chapter 20.  Herein lies the ten commandments.  Halfway between slavery and glory, we find the law.

God begins his face to face meeting (well, more like face to finger…isn’t that just like a father?  Pointing his all-knowing finger and writing down the very important instructions we children need to obey?)  with Moses, by telling him two things.

The first thing God does is remind Moses exactly who He is and what good He has done.

And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. ~Exodus 20:1-2

He then proceeds to give a huge, all encompassing law beginning with the ten commandments and extending to every aspect of Jewish life for the next eleven chapters and for the better part of the following book of Leviticus as well.

So, just so we are clear, God literally spoke all of these words.  They were His ideas and it is His authority that both establishes and upholds them – not mine.

Command number one:

“You shall have no other gods before me. ~Exodus 20:3

I have to be honest.  I had to stop right there, close the book, and spend a few days just thinking on what it would look like for me to have no other gods.  What if, truly, God was my only God.

In other words, what do I need to put away?  What have I elevated above or equal to Him?  How would my life change if He truly were my one, my only, and my greatest above all else, God?

I do not want to assume He is just because I want Him to be or because I wish he was.  I do not want to pay lip service to this commandment because it is the right Sunday School answer.  I want to know what it really means to cast down my idols.  I want to investigate what those idols might be and find real, practical, tangible ways to tear them down and remove them from my life.

The hardest part is when idols are good and necessary things, people, or places – gifts, even – from God Himself.  It is balance, affection, and attitude that generally makes the difference between whether something is becoming an idol that is being used for my glory or whether it is being being used rightly for God’s glory.

Consider those things and people and places and talents and gifts that you most enjoy.  Consider whether they have an appropriate place in your life or if God has reason to be jealous of the affections you are offering to them.  Because it is not a matter of saying, “I only believe in the One and Only True God.  Of course, I have always believed that.”  No.  It is a matter of living our entire lives in worship and sacrifice to Him alone in all things at all times.

That is what it means to have no other gods.  It truly is a daily battle of balance and being-ware.  That process starts with remembering exactly who He is and what he has done.

 He is the Great I Am, Creator of the Universe!  He has delivered us!  Let us love and serve Him accordingly.

moses-on-the-mountain-01w-10x7

It was the third day.  The people had prepared themselves for the coming of God.  They had been given very strict instructions – lines not to cross lest they die.  In Exodus 19:16, we find the people of God awaiting his coming.

Come he did, along with thunder, lightning, a thick cloud, and very loud trumpet blasts.  Can you even imagine standing there?

There have been times in my life when the Lord has called me to do things that were very intimidating; uncomfortable; even scary.  As I went full of fear, in that moment before I saw him, I remember how I felt.  Although afraid, every second guess of why I should just forget it was silenced by two things: 1. knowing with absolute certainty his voice and 2. knowing I was prepared.

Knowing we have spiritually prepared ourselves before facing a spiritual event gives us confidence when we are afraid and do not understand what God is doing.

Have I prayed?  Have I heard from God beforehand?  Have I fasted?  Have I waited for his instructions?  Have I obeyed in as much as I already know?  Am I continuously listening for Him?

If these answers are yes, that go time moment is far less dreadful.

Here, even the mountain was trembling.  The trumpet was becoming increasingly loud.  It was then that Moses spoke and God answered.  He answered in thunder.  The Lord came down onto the mountain and Moses alone went up to him.

Matthew Henry notes, “Now, at length, comes that memorable day, that terrible day of the Lord, that day of judgment, in which Israel heard the voice of the Lord God speaking to them out of the midst of the fire, and lived…Now it was that the earth trembled at the presence of the Lord, and the mountains skipped like rams, that Sinai itself, though rough and rocky, melted from before the Lord God of Israel.  Now it was that the mountains saw him, and trembled, and were witnesses against a hard-hearted unmoved people, whom nothing would influence.” 

All this preparation, all this warning, all this waiting, all this fearful pre-meeting, and what does God tell Moses when he finally gets to the top of the mountain?

Hey, Moses!  How are you old buddy?  Let’s do lunch?!

No!  God tells Moses to go back down and tell the people the very same things he has already thoroughly told them and warned them about.

“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to look and may of them perish.’ “ ~Exodus 19:21

Moses is still huffing and puffing from climbing the mountain.  He has to be like, um, God.  You already told them that stuff.  You made me draw lines and limits around the mountain before I came up, remember?  We prepared our garments.  We did not go near our wives.  Remember, God?  We already did that.

Now.  We can infer a couple things here.  One, God was very serious about his instructions.  Two, God doesn’t mind sending us back to do the same things over and over if they are imperative.  And three, God cares a whole lot about people.  He does not want to see them needlessly die because they are disobedient.  God is willing to run his messengers up and down mountains in order to save His people from sin.

“And the Lord said to him, ‘Go down, and come up bringing Aaron with you.  But do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the Lord, lest he break out against them.’ “ ~Exodus 19:24

God does not even answer when Moses makes the point that what he is instructing has already been done.  In fact, he says it a third time.  God tells Moses to go get Aaron and bring him up, and, oh, by the way, Moses, don’t let the people near here or I will kill them.

God is pretty serious.  God has a way of doing things.  He has an order.  He has specific methods and he expects obedience.  If there is anything we learn from this passage, it is that God wants things done His way and he wants us to be involved.

God could have told Moses to bring Aaron with him before Moses got to the top of the mountain.  That is not the way God wanted this thing done.  This is God’s way.  If I were Moses, I would probably be thinking, “Wow.  I just climbed up this mountain in obedience and now I have to go right back down and get Aaron and say what I already said and come right back up…why didn’t God just tell me in the first place.  I don’t understand this.”

Sounds just like something a Dad would do, doesn’t it?  God’s ways are not our ways.  But isn’t it just like him to test us; to test our obedience and our faith; to meet us only to send us away to get others who need to come to Him as well?  These are the kinds of things God does while we are standing around scratching our heads trying to understand why he chose to do them in the unusual ways he so often does.

“So Moses went down to the people and told them.” ~Exodus 19:25

Moses obeyed.  Moses did not argue with God.  He told God he had obeyed and God said, obey again.  So he did, and this, for the sake of everyone else and their extremely important adherence to God’s very particular instructions here.

God’s methods are often hard to understand.  His ways are not our ways.  He uses these kind of things to test our faith, to test our obedience, to see if we’re listening, to know if we’re faithful.

And he already knows those answers.  It is we who need to know for ourselves how faithful or faithless we really are.

Do not be discouraged if you spend a considerable amount of time preparing to do exactly what God commands and when you get there he sends you back down the mountain to do the same things you just got done doing.  He may want someone else to come meet him along with you.  He wants everyone to obey.  It is in these times that he is using you, just like he was using Moses.  Moses is about to see the glory of God.  He would not have seen it apart from his amazing obedience to God’s specific instructions.

“Note, in divine things we must not covet to know more than God would have us know; and he has allowed us as much as is good for us.  A desire of forbidden knowledge was the ruin of our first parents.  Those that would be wise above what is written, and intrude into those things which they have not seen, need this admonition, that they break not through to gaze.” ~Matthew Henry

A Song 

perfection

God has just sent his people into a brand new wilderness.  He has told them two very important instructions: to remember his extreme grace and mercy toward them, and to obey Him.  He has promised that if they would but listen to Him, that he is ready and waiting to make them a kingdom of priests; a holy nation; his very own treasured possession.  Talk about making a deal they can’t refuse!  Of course, they agreed.

The next step in this “process of becoming” as we will call it, it for the prophet to instruct the people on how to prepare themselves for the coming of God Himself.

 And the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with you, and may also believe you forever.”

When Moses told the words of the people to the Lord, 10 the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments 11 and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. 13 No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot;[a] whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” 14 So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people; and they washed their garments. 15 And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.” ~Exodus 19:9-15

God said that these people were to be consecrated.  The way in which God instructs this to be accomplished is that they:

1. Wash their garments.  Matthew Henry notes, “When we are to attend upon God in solemn ordinances it concerns us to sanctify ourselves, and to get ready beforehand.  Wandering thoughts must be gathered in, impure affections abandoned, disquieting passions suppressed, nay, and all cares about secular business, for the present, dismissed and laid by, that our hearts may be engaged to approach unto God…It becomes us to appear in clean clothes when we wait upon great men; so clean hearts are required in our attendance on the great God, who sees them as plainly as men see our clothes.  This is absolutely necessary to our acceptably worshiping God.”

2. Have established limits set.  They must be told with an extreme amount of clarity that these are the lines we do not cross lest we receive the severest of consequences.  No compromises will be made past these lines.  No blind eyes will be turned when any person – even any animal!!!- crosses.  No grace whatsoever will be given if there is injustice done to these unbreakable rules.  The message God was conveying here through the work of his prophet’s line drawing?  YOU DO NOT PRESUME UPON GOD’S MERCY – EVER. You want stoned?  Shot?  If you cross these lines that’s exactly what is going to happen.  Try me.

3.  Do not go near a woman.  This was a matter of purity of mind and heart.  Henry says, “In token of their devoting themselves entirely to religious exercises, upon this occasion, they must abstain even from lawful enjoyments during these three days, and not come at their wives.”

This was how they were to prepare for the coming of God.  These were the things necessary to truly “be ready” to meet him.  Here, before the law was given, God came down on the third day.  In the future, before grace was given, God was raised on the third day.  In the former, God came down to tell us what he expects of us – absolute perfection.  In the latter, God is raised up to tell us what we can expect from Him – unmitigated grace.

You simply cannot get the magnitude of that without falling down to worship Him.  WOW!!!  There are no words to aptly describe what a beautiful God we serve!

Hey world!!!  Look at HIM!!!  How awesome!  How amazing!  How merciful!  How good and great and strong and wise!  That’s MY Dad!!!

unhappy-valentine-s-day-t-shirts

We’re having a party!  You’re invited!  Come!  It’s all about love.  Bring your empty box!  Decorate it pretty so we can share love notes with you!

Valentine’s Day never seemed so exciting.  We shopped and we crafted.  We wrote out love notes and we waited in happy expectation.  But somehow, somewhere between Mommy’s phone ringing, baby’s fall breaking, and passing out our love notes to one another, something went terribly wrong.

My 3 older kids were alone in the party room.  I was standing just outside talking about my own desperate need for prayer.  Something happened that I did not witness personally.

Enter: Irate mom.  Irate mom interrupted my tears brimming, baby rocking, broken heart on my sleeve conversation by yelling at me about how terrible my children are and how her precious snowflake was crying because of my monsters.

So I did what any reasonable person would do.  I apologized.  I asked what had happened.  I made them apologize.  I explained to both mom and daughter that it seems my girls may have just wanted to be her friend and didn’t know how to introduce themselves appropriately. My girls sat crying for a long time while their accuser showed no evidence of any personal pain.

When we came home we talked about the love gone wrong party.  I do not presume to know exactly what actually happened.  What I do know very well is my own children.  I know exactly who they are and who they are not.  They sin just like me.  They hurt just like me.  They love just like me.  And they tell me the truth when it really matters.

So what happens when a bully calls you a bully and cries fake tears to get you in trouble?  What happens when that bully has an authority (bully mom) who does the same?  When bully mom singles you out and yells in your pint size face in full view of all your friends?  When bully mom goes on a tirade among all the other authorities yelling about how despicable you and best friend (sister) really are?  What happens then?

Well.  You stand by your apology.  Perhaps you did cause some small injury unintentionally.  Perhaps you did.  And then you sit back and you realize that sincere apologies do not matter to bullies.  You realize that forgiveness will never be extended no matter what you say or do because the animosity is not coming from a place of honest offense.  It is coming from a place of hatred and jealousy; malice and deceit; pride and envy.

 Then you cry.  You sit at the party you so looked forward to and you cry about how you’ve been treated.  You take quite some time to listen to the one who loves you most when she says it is going to be OK because her love never depended on your behavior.  You finally get the courage to wipe your tears and go back to playing with the other kids but when the day is done you go home and you appeal to the one who loves you again.  You realize that there is no place for the likes of you at the next love party because you have learned that there is no love at those kind of parties after all.  You wait, hoping love comes back and loves you, apologizes to you, sits next to you, embraces you, and rights the wrongs it did, or, at the very least, shows you how you have wronged it.

You realize that the truth is, love does.  Love will.  Love reconciles.  Love forgives.  Love lives on after our preferences, our pettiness, and all our imperfections.  Love does and will do all of those things and so, so much more if it is, indeed, love after all.  If not, well, then I need to be more wise and discerning the next time I’m invited to a party labeled “love” to that fact that it may have nothing whatsoever to do with what I know love actually is all about.  I have no interest in fake love parties.  Those aren’t for me and they certainly aren’t for my children.

Love is not something we can celebrate if we are looking for a self-centered pity party over our every whim and want.  Love is messy, painful, sacrificial, and other-serving.  You cannot accuse, fail to forgive, hold in contempt, and wait with binoculars and your detective hat for the next offense just hold onto the upper hand; the control; the selfish benefits of being the boss without the selfless service of being the leader.

Everyone likes to be invited.  Everyone wants to celebrate love because love is the greatest of all things we have been given on the entire earth.  But we cannot invite others to love parties that do not both display and convey true love accurately and appropriately.  If we do, we should not wonder why they won’t ever come back once they figure out how this thing works.  You can’t bait and switch and expect the bait to keep fooling the fish.  Our Lord only gave us two commands.  Two.

1. Love ME (God)

2.Love each other

If we cannot do that, we have nothing to celebrate, nothing to share, and nothing worth inviting anyone to come and be a part of.

And you know, God has his ways.  He always shows up just when we need Him most.  It just so happened that we were invited to anther love party.  It was last minute and unexpected.  It was hosted by one who had nothing prepared save her heart.  She wanted to love.  She sought to serve.  She gave the little she had to me and my daughters freely without even knowing how hurt we’d been by the last party labeled “love.”  What grace He gives in our time of need.  What a good, good God we serve.

With that, I leave you the words of a wild thing and a king:

” Judith: Psst. Psst. (signals for Max to come over)  What were you doing with Carol just now?

Max: Just talking.

Judith: Oh, a secret, huh?  Let me ask you something.  How does it work around here?  Are we all the same or are some of us better than others or – ?  You like to play favorites, huh, king?

Max: No, I like all you guys equally.

Judith: Don’t give me that.  I can see how it is.  The king has favorites.  That’s really cute.  Do you have a favorite color?  Hey, can I be your favorite color? (laughs)

Max: (imitates her laugh)

Judith: (does it back)

Max: (does it again, with more effort)

Judith: Ahahahaha

Max: Har har har!

Judith: Ahahahahahaha

Max: HAR HAR HAR

Judith: You know what? You can’t do that back to me.  If we’re upset, your job is not to get upset back at us.  Our job is to be upset.  If I get mad and want eat you, then you have to say, “Oh, okay, you can eat me.  I love you.  Whatever makes you happy, Judith.”  That’s what you’re supposed to do!”

~Where the Wild Things Are, 2009, Jonze and Dave Eggers