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familyworship
In Exodus 25, we find the three furnishings that the tabernacle was to house.  Here, we find what the contributions the people of God had been called to make were designated for.

It is somewhat unusual to build furniture before building the house, but perhaps the Lord intended here to show us an order of importance of sorts.  What goes into God’s house, namely the law, the mercy, the place designated for the bread, and the lampstand, is more noteworthy than the building itself.  These items represent what actually constitutes a true Christian and a true church today.

If we have not law and grace, a special place for the presence of God, and a light-bearing witness, we have not an individual nor a place prepared and fit to worship Almighty God.  We can place all kinds of other things into our hearts and inside church buildings but nothing other than these particular furnishings will suit.  Nothing other than these particular things will make either us or that building a place fitting, pleasing, and suitable for the Lord to dwell.  I imagine the reason why so much unnecessary and spiritually unrelated “stuff” goes on in the church is because the real elements and foundation necessary for true worship to take place are not even present.

 

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family

2:49 a.m. – He sends a text that tells his wife he’s almost home and can’t wait to put his arms around her.  He’s been drag racing again.  Normally, she would be there cheer leading from the eardrum breaking bleachers, but the the race track is no comfortable place for a woman with child.

His friends may think that having a supernaturally fast street car, an even faster race car, and a bread-winning business to prove it is what makes him most respectable.  But we both know better now.

Don’t get me wrong, his gifting is found in gears and gadgets.  He has given his life and livelihood for building things to go.  Fast cars bring home the bacon – bacon, by the way, whose “better eat me and broadcast it if you’re a big man” blasphemy has created a sincere aversion for him.  No.  Tim has not bought in.  Bacon hasn’t the slightest thing to do with being a man.  Neither do beards or how much of it (bacon) you bring home.   Being a man, brothers, is found in something a little bit bigger and badder than that.

 Here is a day in the (new) life of a recovering bacon braggart’s wife…

8 a. m.  – He gets up early on Sunday morning after his 3:30 a. m. return from drag racing to go over the Bible lesson he’s about to teach the children at church.  He takes the dogs out, brushes little girls’ hair, and eats a breakfast void of bacon.

9:30 a.m. – He turns the car around when his wife remembers something she forgot.  He laughs instead of yelling.  Upon returning, he gets out and kindly get the said item for her.

10 a. m. – He teaches Sunday school, complete with funny faces, friend-making foolishness, and all the same fervor he has when fueling up his fast cars.

1 p. m. – He buys lunch for extended family.  He takes them to the river to picnic and play.  He picks his wife a wildflower.  He buys his daughter a heavily overpriced elk skin purse, his other daughters a wooden trinket and his wife a handmade flower for her hair.  He teaches them about nature and geography with enthusiasm.  He sneaks away and buys them ice cream.  He baits their fishing poles with slimy worms they can’t bear to touch repeatedly.  When the pregnant wife wants to wade in the water, he holds both her hands and leads her carefully.  He carries everything back to the truck.  He always drives.

7 p. m. – He sits down on the couch and watches a kids movie.  He rubs his wife’s feet and doses off unintentionally.

10 p. m. – He tells the kids a story, prays with them, and puts them to bed.  He lays down with a sore back.  He talks with his wife for a while and then prays with her about the trials of the upcoming week.  He remembers those in need, in pain, in leadership, in darkness.  He thanks God repeatedly.  He asks the Lord to bless his wife and children.  He plans to get up early for a walk with his wife before working all day on a holiday.

He wins.  Not with his race cars or his worldly wealth.  He knows that can be taken away.  He wins the hearts of those around him because he has put away self-indulgence.  He has refused the lies of worldly gain and it has been revealed to him what is worthwhile.

The measure of a man is never about his net worth, his appetite, his appearance, or his material possessions.  The measure of a man is most evidenced by his love for God demonstrated by his love for others.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. ~John 15:13

Big beard wearers, bacon eaters, big car builders, take note of Mr. Rodeheaver.  He has taken note of Christ.

~Mrs. Rodeheaver

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work

Paul continues the Lord’s instructions for human relationships in teaching on how to be a good servant.  The application is for anyone who is a subordinate of another in the context of labor or service.  Any employment given to men by men stands to benefit in regards to these commands.

The Biblical prescription for employees, servants, and subordinates in the work place?

“…obey in everything those who are your earthly masters…”

“…work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…”

Paul teaches that all requests of earthly bosses and masters are to be taken seriously.  We are to serve men in a genuine and whole-hearted way, not in a for show, pretend, lazy behind their backs way.  The reason Christians are to work in this way is because of our fear and respect for the Lord.  That way, the attitude and advocacy of the boss makes no difference regarding our job performance.  We are not working to appease unruly bosses, we are working to please the Lord.  Even when we are treated unjustly and harshly, we remember that the Lord will give us our due.

Paul reminds us that God is impartial to men and that he favors no one based on status, position, race, or ethnicity.  God is completely just and will repay each of us for the work we have done as well as the way we have done it.

Paul also tells masters, aka, leaders, bosses, CEOs, etc., that God is watching.  He warns those in authority over others that they must treat their subordinates well lest they be judged by the true Master in heaven.

If you are a servant, employee, or subordinate of someone else, work hard and obey them as if they Lord were the one commanding you.  If you are a boss, leader, master, or person with any authority over others, be fair and just dealing with your subordinates as you would have the Lord deal with you.

If the instructions on work ethics found here in Colossians were taken seriously, the vast majority of the problems seen in the work place would be eliminated.

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lj

This is me!  🙂

Faithfully, they stretch wide before me.  It is the second week of June.  It is time to gather the harvest.  Black raspberries, and after, blackberries, sprawl over the outermost portion of my backyard.

I carefully begin to cut away the weeds and reposition the unwelcoming briar bushes – also known as “jaggars.”

“Daddy would be proud,” I think.  He who took me every year in somber search would want me not to waste these.  Of course he set them here for me to find.  Soon after he was gone, they found their way into my backyard and beckoned of blessing.  Little wonder why they grow so close to Father’s Day.

Daddy gave the gifts.  How can I not go out and harvest them?  Still, I feel like Christian in “Pilgrim’s Progress.”  Poison, snakes, thorns, heat, and my personal favorite, ticks likely await as I begin my journey into the blessed brush.

Cut the thorns away.  Cut too many and the shade-less berries will dry up.  Leave some thorns.  Be gentle.  I must, must, must remember gentleness when picking my treasures lest I squish them, drop them, or get impaled by an intrusive thorn.  Move the vine, just a little, and a whole new load of berries are unveiled.  Shake the vine too hard and they will fall to the ground lost.    Dropping even just one into the place of no return is tragic to me.  The utmost care must be taken with each new find.

Now begin again.  Think of Christian.  Think of Christ.  Is this not how we are to make disciples?  I reckon it surely seems familiar.  I liken these blessed berries to those to whom we must preach the gospel; those to whom Our Father has given us; those whom he has placed in our own yard, ripe for the picking, no, choosing, perhaps.  Only he is the one who has done the choosing beforehand.  We have simply come to reap the harvest.

I feel like the lumberjack the little girl Lori always wanted so very much to be.  To my surprise, just the other day I discovered that my very name – my married name, that is – literally means, “to clear away, area of forest designed for clearing, to chop or cut down.”  I can hardly contain my excitement knowing that I have veritably been a lumberjack of sorts for the past fifteen years.

The Lord gives the desires of the heart.  He gives the gifts.  He makes them ripe and ready.  He asks us to harvest – carefully, gently, painstakingly.  And when we do, he shows up every time.  He changes our name,  fifteen years go by, and we fail to even realize who we have become.

His.  We are his.  That is, Our Father’s.  We love what he loved.  We do what he did.  We are the remnant of who he is.  We are not of him because we are like him, we are like him precisely because we are of him.

And he is always with us in the garden that he made especially for us – even after the thorns have come.

 And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
    and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
    ‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
    and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.” ~Genesis 3:17-19

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idol

Ok.  So maybe this isn’t a topic most people think about.  Maybe it isn’t something that’s an issue for anyone besides me.  Or maybe most just don’t recognize idolatry when it rears its ugly head.  In any case, placing my security, hope, joy, faith, and trust in my abilities, my spouse, my appearance, etc., etc. has been a struggle for me for the better part of nearly two decades now.  Well, as long as I’ve been a Christian.  Let me try to explain.

Every single person who has ever come to Christ has come out of need.  We need many, many things in this life that we are not capable of obtaining on our own.  We try.  And we try.  And we try.  But we always seem to come up short no matter how much money, entertainment, material possessions, relationships, or busyness we can possibly fill our lives with.  Idol after idol after soul-starving idol.  Continuously our gods fail.  We simply cannot climb out of the hamster wheel of wants because it is always the next one which promises what the last lacked.

For men, jobs and accomplishments are usually at the top of the idolatrous list.  For women, though, idolatry is often even more close to the place God seeks to occupy: the heart.  Yes, our idols also include material things and status symbols and I suppose I could write for days on the effects of our greed in those areas.  Instead I would like to focus on the idolatry of relationships for a moment.

What happens when Christ meets our need for a marriage relationship or a child…and we trade intimacy with Him for that blessing?  What are we to do when we are called by God to please and to serve another human being but it feels almost like we do so in place of serving Him?  Is that even possible?  What you do to the least of these…right?

We’ve all learned that it’s easy to do the right things in the wrong way.  How can we know whether our service to another is bona fide service to God or whether it is idolatry?

I’m asking, by the way.

I try to recognize the facets of idolatry, but it often still leaves me second guessing myself.  For example, there is no peace when your idol does not produce joy.  On the contrary, there is perfect peace when God is in the right place even when others are difficult to deal with.  Still, when sensitivity is your most dominant character trait, it is hard to know when you are practicing idolatry in a relationship or simply being both human and female.  Is sensitivity a sinner’s excuse for idolatry?  Or is love simply an emotion that is difficult to override?  Where is the peace that passes all understanding?  Surely it applies here as well as anywhere else.  But sometimes we pray and pray and fast and study scripture and pray some more…and that peace still eludes us.  Why?

I’m asking.

What if sacrificing for another person comes at the expense of sacrificing for God?  Or vise versa?  How do we know which is best?  Or are they one in the same?  What did Jesus really mean when he said  “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” or “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” ?  Why would God give us good things only to use them as a test to see whether we love him more?  I.  Don’t.  Understand.  Am I reading it all wrong?  Perhaps.

Conversations on the drive to church bits of pop culture trivia borrowed from the radio and pieces of our own motley collection of philosophies.

“Janet Jackson turned down the role for Trinity in the Matrix?  She doesn’t seem athletic enough for that role.”

“What?!  Janet was my role model!  She went through phases.  Sometimes she was extremely fit but other times not so much.”

“Well I’m sure it’s hard when you’re rich and famous.  Confusing, really.  You probably have to try everything to be happy.”

“When you have everything you want there’s really no hope at all for happiness outside of Christ.  Because when you have it all, you know nothing satisfies.  At least when you’re striving for things you ‘think’ things will make you happy.”

How does Jesus satisfy us, though?  And if he satisfies us, why do we so often seek satisfaction elsewhere?  Do we not allow him to satisfy us or do we want things he never intended to give us?  Health and wealth preachers will falsify the gospel and contend that he gives us what we want.  We sure would like to believe that, too, but it simply isn’t true.  Because it isn’t true, at least on this earth, we often seek fulfillment and happiness elsewhere – keeping Jesus in our pocket in case something goes wrong with our self-sufficient climb.

The pastor warned us of seeking Christ for what we want instead of who he is.  To be very honest, it concerns me.  I evaluate myself over and over and over again.  Do I love Jesus?  Do I love him?  Do I love him?  Do I trust him?  Do I believe him?  Do I live like it?  Do I?  I imagine scenarios of loss and consider what I would really do.  I know the right answers.  I study them diligently.  But do I have the faith it takes to carry them out if I’m called to?  These are the thoughts that trouble and terrify me day after day.  Am I accused by the Enemy or am I convicted by the Spirit?  How can I not know?  Why can I not tell?

Answers too often escape me.  Still, I know him.  I hear him.  I seek him.  Therefore, I choose faith.  As Piper calls it, faith in future grace.  I do not understand right now.  I do not know what I would do if x, y, or z happened to me.  But I know that I desperately want God.  Therefore, I will fear no evil.  Father, keep me from the sin of idolatry.

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In Ephesians chapter 4, Paul speaks of unity in the church.  He goes on to describe the differences between converted and unconverted Gentiles.  Christian Gentiles are to be different, he says.  They should no longer be following greedy desires, worshipping idols, coveting worldly possessions, or practicing impurity.  The problem is that all those around them are doing just that, and, it’s just what they had been doing before.  Doubtless these people were their long time friends, family, and close neighbors.  Living among those who do the very things they are tempted to do, converted Gentiles were instructed here for good reason.  They were not to live like these others or their former selves.  Paul tells them why it was so dangerous to do so.

-They were “darkened in their understanding.”  These men had no light.  Everything they thought, said, and did was wicked and deceitful.  They had no knowledge or desire for God.

-They were “alienated from the life of God.”  Not only did they not practice godliness, they estranged themselves from anything or anyone who did.  They stayed as far from God as they could.  This condition was a result of their willful ignorance about the things of God.

-Their ignorance, in turn, was a result of their hardness of heart.  These were those who had rejected all the truth and light God had given them.  As they continued to do so, they continued to give themselves over to sin, greed, and every kind of filthiness without shame.

But that is not the way you learned Christ! ~Ephesians 4:20

Paul is saying, “But not you!”  You do not live this way anymore.  This should not be true of you.  You Gentiles – you converted Gentiles – “learned Christ.”  Christ is your teacher.  You are no longer without knowledge or understanding.  You are no longer ignorant or hardened.  You are no longer deceived.  You are saved.  Act like it.  Heres’s how…

Paul tells them to “put off” their old self and “put on” the new one.  He describes this “new self” as being like God, truly righteous, and truly holy.  He gives six specific examples of changes that ought to be taking place in these (and all) believers.

-Stop lying.  Tell the truth to others always and  in all circumstances.

-Control your anger.  Let it not turn to wrath, bitterness, or revenge.

-Stop stealing and work honestly.

-Let your speech be always edifying and clean.  Put away gossip, slander, boasting, corruption, and filthy language.  Build up with your talk and do not tear down.

-Do not grieve the Holy Spirit.  If He convicts you of your sin, repent.  Do not continue in sin and dismiss your conscience like the heathens do.

-Get rid of all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice.  Instead, be kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving.  This is how God has treated you.

Paul’s exhortations are clear.  We ought to be changed if we are his.  We ought to look 180 degrees different from those around us who are not his.  We ought to look completely opposite of how we did before we met Jesus.  We ought to look like Christ.  We are saved!  May God help us act like it.

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Image

Paul has warned and exhorted the Galatians extensively concerning legalism, liberty, and in-fighting.  He goes on to make himself even clearer.  He calls out specifically what they are to do and how they are to do it.  Notice, as a gracious good leader, Paul starts by telling his people not just what to do, but how to do it.  

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. ~Galatians 5:16-18

Paul has just finished telling these guys not to fight with one another.  He gives them a specific alternative: fight sin.  If these guys would just put half the effort they had invested in disputing with one another into disputing with their own hearts, they would be on to something.  He tells them specifically how to fight sin: walk in the Spirit – the Holy Spirit that is.

At first glance, Galatians 5:19-23 may seem like a simple list of do’s and don’ts.  Look carefully and it is obvious that this is not the case.  Notice Paul does not say, “do this list of things” or “don’t do this list of things.”  Surely, that is his hope and prayer, but it is not his instruction.  Rather, his instruction is only this: walk in the Spirit.  Walk in the Spirit.  

Walking involves action; movement; forward motion.  Christians cannot sit around passively waiting for God to make them holy any more than obese people can sit around the gym passively waiting for God to make them fit.  Instead, we are called to move forward through his power by actively obeying his Spirit.  And, yes, that takes effort and willingness on our part.  It takes blood, sweat, and tears just like physical fitness does.  No, that is not a works mentality; it is a Biblical exhortation given and demonstrated by both Jesus and Paul repeatedly.

If we do this, Paul says we, consequently, will not do what is contradictory to it.  It is not, “Do this, don’t do that.”  No.  It is, “If you do this, you won’t do that.”  Ceasing to sin is a natural outflow of submitting to the Holy Spirit.  Because sin is antithetical to the Spirit’s every prompting, our submission to Him trumps our inclination to sin.  It is simply more desirable; more powerful; more influential; more able to lead us than the empty, fleeting desires we used to obey.  Considering the magnetic force and draw of sin, I’d say this should give us great encouragement and comfort.  We are in able hands.  “It is our duty and interest in this struggle to side with the better part, to side with our convictions against our corruptions and with our graces against our lusts.” ~Matthew Henry

Because the Spirit’s works and sin’s works are in diabolic opposition, doing one automatically cancels the other.  The best part, Paul adds after his painstaking discourse on “legal” troubles within the church, is that when we are led by the Spirit, we are altogether free from the law!  We do not need it to be hammered at us over and over and over again because we are walking in the very light of its author!  Not because we don’t have to obey it!  God forbid!  On the contrary!  Of course we want to do right and follow God’s laws; we love him!  It is natural to obey when your heart’s desire is to follow your ferociously fascinating Father!  Who needs a scolding law enforcer to make them obey?  Not God’s kids!

“If you act under the guidance and government of the Holy Spirit and of that spiritual nature and disposition he has wrought in you, if you make the word of God your rule and the grace of God your principle, it will hence appear that you are not under the law, not under the condemning, though you are still under the commanding, power of it.” ~Matthew Henry

It is only after Paul describes how Christians are to avoid sin that he tells them what sin generally looks like.  He tells the Galatians that sin is very obviously recognizable.  The works of the flesh are not mysterious.  Know what they are and, if you are practicing them or the like, know that you are not currently walking in the Spirit – or headed for heaven for that matter, because, as Matthew Henry says, “Christ will never own those who yield themselves servants of sin.”

Therefore, he urges, consider the fruits of the Spirit and examine yourself.  If you do these things, you need not worry about the law.  There is no law against doing right!  Fleshly works have been crucified in those who belong to Christ!  Let’s act like it, guys!  This isn’t rocket science!  We needn’t go from one extreme to the other!  It is not, “Oh, no law?  I guess I’ll sin and prove it.”  NO!  It’s “Oh!  The law is not the boss!  Jesus is!  Hallelujah!  I want to please him every minute because of his amazing grace!!!”

Paul concludes with another warning against pride, disputing, and envy.  These, also, are in direct opposition to our spiritual jaunt.  Doubtless, these are the very things that foster most feuds and divisions in the church.  If it hadn’t been for the presence of these attitudes, Paul wouldn’t even be having this conversation.

Hear him.  Christianity is not complicated.  It is not do this; don’t do that.  It is walk this way.  If we walk in the Spirit, we will be following Jesus and supernaturally avoiding lawlessness and sin.  

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