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Posts Tagged ‘God’

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Home at last.  I just had a few favorite memories to share from our vacation week.  We started out at the beach and had to leave because of the impending storm, also known as Hurricane Florence.  We took the kids to Washington, D.C. for a couple days, and then went up to Lake Erie for a couple days.  I’d say we made the most of it despite the detours.  Here’s the good stuff…

…Sitting on the seemingly safe sand ledge and getting blasted by unexpected waves…Addie cooking sausage and eggs…Mia with her Ukulele…the holding hands silhouette in a warm bed after my knight, just as tired as the rest of us, drove six hours through rain and traffic…the soft, mumbled, early morning singing of a two year-old…Maylee’s big goggles and even bigger giggles…a lesson on clear communication asking if anyone wanted to go to the beach and Sonny yelling, “I want to go!  I want to go!”…the silence of my family’s restful sleep…the daddy playing with his giggle-squealing daughter…the pastor who loved me…the towering golden steeple…hearing someone literally use the expression, “Battin’ down the hatches”…an eleven year-old who got up to do schoolwork before vacationing for the day…the mechanic at rest…the consideration of all that those who have wronged me did right…the sounds of crickets and bird-songs on an otherwise silent lakefront…Mason Jar desserts and mixed drink slushies…plentiful overhead grapevines…an elderly couple taking a walk together…reading uninterrupted…Meatloaf and Johnny Cash…trees…the lost and found lifeguard…acorns and buttercups…Sonny’s declaration at seeing the ghost crabs, “He’s my little friend!”…his hand on my back and gentleman’s kiss on the forehead…catching the big fish…peace and quiet…Emmanuel…Emmanuel…Emmanuel…

…God with us…

Surely He was here with us.  Surely He always is.

Victory.

Where can I go from His Spirit? Where can I flee from His presence?  If I go up to the heavens, He is there; if I make my bed in the depths, He is there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there His right hand will hold me fast.

I can fail miserably.  I can be lazy about spiritual disciplines.  I can even try to run away from Him and admittedly deserve absolutely nothing.  But I still cannot escape his love.  Amen.

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kyrie

Two days ago I had an appointment.  I had been transiently thinking for over a year on the beauty and meaning of the two words I was going to get tattooed on my wrists: Kyrie, eleison.

Kyrie eleison is pronounced “keer-ee-ay  ee-lay-uh-son.”  It is from Greek and means, “Lord, have mercy.”  Growing up in the Lutheran church, the words could be found in the liturgy as an invocation.  It is a way of calling upon God – namely his mercy – before imploring him to help, to hear, or to be praised.

The words kyrie eleison are deep, rich, and special to me personally.  The Lord always seems to bring them up when I need to remember his mercy most.

Anyway, I made a mistake when I scheduled my tattoo appointment.  My husband and I had been talking about getting new tattoos over the past few months, but we hadn’t settled on anything.  It has been about 15 years since my last tattoo and maybe 10 since his.  So I made an appointment without asking him what he thought.

Later, I told him about my plan and he wasn’t quite as excited about it as I was.  He didn’t tell me not to go, he just didn’t like the idea.  I had a few weeks until the date.  I thought surely he would change his mind before then.

We spoke about it a couple times and his answer was the same.  Two days before the appointment I understood that he really did not want me to get this done.  So, I cancelled my appointment.  My wrists are pristine.

I’m not going to lie, I was a little bit bummed.  I actually want a whole sleeve of tattoos on my right arm.  I’ve had the art picked out for a number of years.  I do not have them but what I do have is a really awesome husband who works hard, loves me well, and protects me daily.

That husband also encouraged me strongly to quit coaching cheerleading this year.  I spent three seasons building a competitive cheer program from the ground up – and, by God’s grace, succeeded.  I was never a cheerleader in school, but because my daughters wanted to cheer, I learned what I could as fast as I could and I finally feel like I understand the sport.  I love coaching and I love the program because it is character-building as well as competitive.  There’s only one problem.  I already have a full time job.  I am Tim’s helper.  I am Mia, Addie, Maylee, and Sonny’s mom.  I am Linda’s daughter.  I can do a whole lot of things and succeed, but if they are interfering with how well I can accomplish my main goals in life – raising and caring for my family – then they aren’t conducive to true success.

It’s been a hard pill for me to swallow, really, because I like independence.  We all love our autonomy, don’t we?  I’m sharing these things because I believe there is a great, big, huge, gigantic LIE in our culture that many people believe.  That lie is that autonomy is supreme and if commitment gets in the way of our autonomy, commitment must be sacrificed on the altar of our personal freedom at all costs.  This, friends, is a giant lie.

We see this tragedy every day in small and big ways.  Everything from not returning text messages to how many children we should have is sacrificed on the altar of autonomy.  I’m here to tell you that commitment to other people is far superior to commitment to yourself.  I know it “sounds” crazy!  It’s because the world’s rhetoric and false narrative on the subject is so ubiquitous and goes right along with our own selfish human desires.  But, the truth is, though we are supposed to love and care for ourselves, our main goal and purpose in life is not to please ourselves.  Our main goal and purpose in life is to put God and others first – says the Creator of the Universe.

Others first, not self.

I literally have to preach this to my desperately selfish self every single day multiple times.  And I still make selfish choices.  I preach it to my kids.  I pray that God helps me put away selfish desires.  He answers by giving me others to deal with who interfere with the carrying out of my selfish plans.

Listen, do not buy the lie that says you are ultimately the most important human on earth.  I am here to tell you that, according to the Bible, you are not.  I am not.  And while we’re on the subject, you and I are most certainly NOT enough.  Please, please stop with that terrible mantra.  If you and I were enough, we wouldn’t need a Savior.  We do.  You do.  I do.  Everyone does.  You are NOT enough.  Kyrie, eleison!

When others are first, everyone wins.  When others are first, people communicate instead of ignoring one another when its inconvenient or difficult to answer or dialogue.  When others are first, people consider how others will feel if they act on selfish desires.  When others are first, life is hard, but it is good.

Commitment is sacrificial.  Autonomy is self-fulfilling.  One builds character.  The other builds walls.  Choose wisely.

 

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weary

Her rest is overdue.  She fights.  She’s well past the point of being tired.  Still, she runs.  With every once of fire she has left, she tries to hide from me.

I find her.

She cries.

I pick her up.  She squirms.  She screams.  She fights.

I put her down in the very place she does not want to stay.  I speak softly.  She grimaces.  I play her favorite song.  She frowns.  I put my hand on her face.  She quiets.  I sing to her.  She closes her eyes.

I hold her hand.  Soon, her countenance lifts.  She reaches up.  She fears I will leave.  She tries to pull me down into her space.  “I can’t come down there.  I’m too big.  I won’t fit.”

I sing a few minutes more and then we pray.

“Goodnight, little one.  See you in the morning,” I whisper as I walk out.

I begin again.  Page number one.  My new notebook begs to be briefed.

She is me.

My rest is overdue.  I fight.  I am well past the point of being tired.  Still, I run.  With every once of fire I have left, I try to hide from Him.

He finds me.

I cry.

He picks me up.  I squirm.  I scream.  I fight.

He puts me down in the very place I do not want to stay.  He speaks softly.  I grimace.  He plays my favorite song.  I frown.  He puts my hand on His face.  I quiet.  He sings to me.  I close my eyes.

He holds my hand.  Soon, my countenance lifts.  I reach up.  I fear He will leave.  I try to pull Him down into my space.  “I can’t come down there.  I’m too big.  I won’t fit,”  He says.

He sings a few minutes more and then we pray.

“Goodnight, little one.  See you in the morning,” He whispers as He walks out.

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob,
    all the remnant of the house of Israel,
who have been borne by me from before your birth,
    carried from the womb;
even to your old age I am he,
    and to gray hairs I will carry you. 
I have made, and I will bear;
    I will carry and will save. ~Isaiah 46:3-4

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true_repentance

After God’s people had spent a considerable amount of time hearing his law and glorifying him through praise, worship, and feasting as they were commanded, they begin  a time of confession and repentance in Nehemiah chapter 9.  This is the function of God’s law.  It is meant show us our sin and lead us to Christ through our recognition of guilt and need.  Psalm 19:7 says, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.”

Previously, they had been instructed not to weep or mourn, rather to celebrate.  Now they are commanded to mourn their sin.  First, they change their clothes.  The people put on sackcloth and mark their heads with dirt and ashes to show that they are mourning.  They begin to fast as a sacrificial proof that they are sorry and reliant upon forgiveness and provision from God.

Most times we would mourn first and later celebrate forgiveness and favor.  They celebrated first and then mourned.  God had it that way that they might be all the more aware of his goodness and mercy to them, as well as obedience to his order and command about how to carry out all things in his time and in his way.

The people of God were also commanded to separate from all foreigners during this time of confession and repentance.  Likely, this was because they had previously been commanded to be separate, not intermarry with those who follow foreign gods, etc., and had disobeyed, but such is a wise practice for other practical reasons as well.  Any of us who seek to genuinely bare all, bore our rightful blame, and confess intimately to God must always be wise about who is among us when we do so.  Let us not forget that there are those who seek only to gossip, destroy, and bring dishonor upon God himself when they hear about the failings of his people.

After God’s people had separated from those who weren’t of him, they began to confess their own sins as well as the sins of their fathers.  They read the law for a quarter of the day and offered confession and worship a quarter of the day.  Half the day would amount to six hours.  Six hours time they spent in the presence of God seeking forgiveness and favor knowing they did not deserve it, yet relying upon his great mercy.  When is the last time your church did that?

The people cried out to God in prayer and praise offering adoration and thanksgiving for the many great wonders God had done for them and their people.  They made it a point to remember who God really was and talk about his goodness to them in the past.  They spoke of his promises kept, his deliverance, his signs and wonders, his law, his providence, his forgiveness, his slowness to anger, his mercy, his leading, and his faithfulness even despite their own great sin.

Then, they made it a point to remember who they really were and they confessed all their sins, faults, and failings.  They spoke of their presumptuousness, their stiff-necks, their disobedience, their ignorance of his miracles and goodness toward them, their idolatry, their blaspheme, and their broken promises.

Matthew Henry says this, “They abused God’s prophets, slew them because they testified against them to turn them to God, so returning the greatest injury for the greatest kindness.  They abused his favors.  After they had rest, they did evil again.  They were not wrought upon either by their troubles or their deliverances out of trouble.  Neither fear not love would hold them to their duty.”  

At the end of the day, the bottom line was clear.  God had been altogether faithful to them and they had been altogether unfaithful to him.  They knew it and they admitted it.  They confessed it and they repented of their sin.  They made a covenant stating their desire and intention from that day forward to obey God and not turn away again.

Notice that it was not just the leaders who did this.  It was the whole assembly and all the people who belonged to God.

Christians, these this is a true picture of what a heart full of godly sorrow looks like.  These are the things one will do when he is serious about repentance and getting his heart and life right with God after sin.  He will carry out plans God’s way and in God’s time.  He will change his disposition to a somber, sober seriousness.  He will separate from all that would entangle him.  He will spend a considerable amount of time looking at God’s expectations; his law; his Word in order to recognize his own responsibilities.  He will duly confess his sin and repent.  He will make every effort to right his wrongs and promise to not sin in the same ways again.  He will surround himself with accountability and have others join together with him in his efforts to change.  He will leave spoken and written proof in the presence of God and many witnesses of his future intentions.  These are the things a man does when he is serious about correcting his failure against God and man and avoiding sin.

 

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tent

As the remnant moved on from Mt. Sinai in the aftermath of their sin, God’s mercy finds them once again.  What an amazing God we serve!

Wherever they settled Moses would pitch a tent outside the camp and meet with God.  Moses called it the “Tent of Meeting.”  Not only Moses, but any one of the people could go out to this place and seek the Lord.  This is quite amazing because God had just told them how his presence among them, even for a moment, would rouse his anger and consume them because of their sin.  (Exodus 33:5) Yet God is full of mercy and bent on reconciliation if his people only humble themselves, repent, and seek him in prayer.

We, too, must be ready and willing to extend mercy and be bent on nothing less than reconciliation with one another after offense and injury.  This is truly how we live the gospel and glorify God among fellow sinners.  This is how we look like God; imago dei.

When Moses went to inquire of God and intercede for the people, the people would get up, stand at the doors of their tents and watch.  (Exodus 33:8) This demonstrated their willingness and interest in being made right with God after their sin.  They didn’t sleep in and let Moses worry about their standing with God.  No.  Anxiously and intently, they watched and waited for God to show up and their leader interceded on their behalf.

Likewise, we ought to learn to watch and wait on God with great respect and diligence at all times, but especially after we have fallen into sin.

Once Moses entered the Tent of Meeting, a cloud would descent and stay at the entrance of the tent.  When the cloud was present, God was speaking with Moses.  During this time, all the people would worship at their own tent doors.

When we see God moving in the life of our leaders, we, too, ought to stand, wait, and worship.

Amazingly, here, God spoke to this man, Moses, face to face.  Moses is the only person we know of that had this kind of experience with the Almighty.  Yet, today, God speaks to each and every one of his people through His Word and His Spirit if we only listen.

Moses was so concerned with listening to God that he left his apprentice at the Tent of Meeting to live just in case God spoke when he was away from the tent.

Lord, let me listen like that!  God is always speaking.  The Mighty One, God, the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to the place where it sets. ~Psalm 50:1  Lord, help me listen.

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yoda

Do you ever go somewhere and think, “This sure feels like a waste of time…” On the way you may be thinking, “Maybe I shouldn’t even go…I don’t think I’ll enjoy this…but everyone else is going…I don’t want to miss out….but usually when I go to this place I am miserably bored, wishing I was home, and wondering what on earth could possibly be wrong with everyone around me because they are over the top excited to be here…”

Ok.  Do you have your place?  Mine is the movies.  Once in a great while I will actually enjoy a movie, but nine out of ten cause me to kick myself for not staying home and reading a more entertaining and exciting story.

Last night was one of those nights.  We went to see the new Star Wars movie and all I could think the entire time was how the Bible – the living, active, real in your life today story – is infinitely more exciting to experience than this movie – or any other entertainment the world has to offer for that matter.

But the theater was completely full.  I mean filled to the brim.  I had my normal I-wish-I-would-have-stayed-home-guess-I’ll-take-a-nap-in-this-uncomfortable-overused-chair experience while everyone else held lightsabers and wore fangirl t-shirts with edge of their seat excitement.  There was only one problem for me.  Every few minutes the sound of clapping, cheering, sobering sighs, and otherwise giddy excitement coming from row beside us would wake me after I’d dozed off.

These people must have been the only kind of Star Wars fans there are – fanatics.

A funny thing happened to me during my transient nap at the movie theater, though.  I felt, as I often do in this context, a certain sadness come over me – not because I felt like I was wasting time and money simply by being present – but, this time, because I realized that they were.

I had to ask myself when the last time I’d seen any young people – no – any people of any age at all – get that excited about the Word of God.  When was the last time I’d seen any passion in anyone – other than my husband when he preaches  – about what God was showing them in his Word – anyone cheering, clapping, sighing, and sobering over what they were seeing, hearing, and learning from the Scriptures?  I have been in church my entirelife.  That kind of genuine passion for the Lord is rare, and, for the most part, here in America, altogether obsolete.

At that moment my heart felt so sad for my generation and those younger because I know the absolute amazement the Word of God offers; the unmitigated adventure knowing and serving the Lord Jesus Christ in earnest really gives.  And I know that it is the very thing that many of these empty entertainment junkies of today are so desperately desiring.  Humans want adventure and excitement.  But in our day, they think it comes from watching fantasy movies like the Avengers and the Jedi rather than living a real life that follows the Living God.

Friends, real adventure and excitement come from following Christ!  Every single page of the Bible is like a new journey.  It is not always rainbows and butterflies, but it is good and it is real.  My generation is missing out on the real life living experience of knowing the God of the Universe because they have never taken the time to read, study, and know His Word.

Not long ago I was considering past events and asking the Lord why I had to go through some hard things.  At that very moment my husband said, “You raised your hand.”  It was in response to something else in a different context.  He had no idea that I had just asked the Lord these things.  God used him to remind me how when I was young I had written about wanting to be used of God and using the analogy that I was raising my hand hoping with all my heart to simply be called on.

To that end I say, if you go to church or begin reading your Bible and think, ““This sure feels like a waste of time…” Or if on the way you are thinking, “Maybe I shouldn’t even go…I don’t think I’ll enjoy this…but everyone else is going…I don’t want to miss out….but usually when I go to this place I am miserably bored, wishing I was home, and wondering what on earth could possibly be wrong with everyone around me because they are over the top excited to be here…,” you are not investing and engaging in true Christianity.  Get to know God.  Get to know His Word – front to back, inside and out.  Become a light-bearing, card-carrying, scripture t-shirt wearing fanatic about Jesus Christ and then you will be the only kind of Christian there is – a true one – and you’ll have no need to be endlessly entertained by false wars in the stars.  In fact, those things will become incredibly boring compared to the real cosmic star wars you are fighting in the Name of the Lord.  Amen!

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anionting

The very last item God instructed Moses to have made for the Tent of Meeting was anointing oil.  In Exodus 30:22-38, we find the instructions and specifications for its use.

The anointing oil that was to be used in God’s house was to be composed of the finest spices known to man.  Some of these included myrrh, cinnamon, cane cassia, and olive oil.  The tent, the Ark of the Covenant, the table, the lampstand, all the utensils, and the basin and stand were all to be anointed with this oil.  The priests were to be anointed with it as well and that was to be part of their consecration to God.  Anything that touched these items would become holy.

No one else was permitted to use or apply this particular blend of oil to themselves or use it in their own houses.  Only the tabernacle and the priests were to apply and use this oil.  It was to be holy and set apart for God alone and his own glory.  Anyone who duplicated or misused this blend of oil was to be cut off from the people of God.

God is serious about that which he sets apart for holiness.  Reverence and respect are to be used when handling and approaching the sacred things of God, and they are never to be used for the personal pleasures of men.

God was to be honored with this anointing oil.  The fragrant smell within his house was to set it apart as holy.  The different ingredients can be likened to the different gifts of the Holy Spirit in our gospel days.  The sacred spiritual gifts we are given by the Spirit are to be blended together in his house and used as a fragrant offering to the Lord by we, his people.  We must give our gifts back to him rather than serving ourselves by them.  If God has given us a gift in order to make himself known, we must regard that gift as holy unto the Lord and use it for his glory rather than our own.  When the people of God use their gifts and talents to serve themselves or build their own kingdoms, the result is disunity – or being cut off – from his true people.  When the people of God come together and bringing and blending the gifts we have been given together in unity, the result is a fragrant offering that honors the Lord.

Let us remember the words of Matthew Henry when offering the sweet and sacred gifts we have been given back to the Lord:

“…the like should not be made for any common use.  Thus God would preserve in the people’s minds a reverence for his own institutions, and teach us not to profane nor abuse any thing whereby God makes himself known…It is a great affront to God to jest with sacred things, particularly to make sport with the word and ordinances of God, or to treat them with lightness. (Matthew 22:5) That which is God’s peculiar must not be used as a common thing.”  

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