Saturday, March 31, 2007

All in Sufficiency

An event occurred in the Bible which never fails to amaze and to give me hope. This event reminds me time and time again that everything belongs to God and He will do whatever He wishes to with it, regardless of what our finite minds can wrap around.

When Jesus fed the multitude with five loaves and two fishes, I’m sure his disciples were amazed… I know I would be! The Bible tells us there were about five thousand men in this multitude. Some might argue that this refers to mankind and that the sum total was five thousand persons. I would argue not.

Throughout the Bible, it is a repeatedly observed event to number the adult males, usually between the ages of 20-65, and use that number to record. I think only once were women and children included in the total count. So here, in this situation, if we assign one woman per man and two children per couple, we end up with somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 people!

That’s a LOT! Can you imagine seeing that many people covering the hills as they listened to Jesus preach? Can you imagine what kind of voice Jesus must have had so they all could hear him? What an amazing following and no wonder Jesus had to leave the cities and go into the open spaces… people followed him around in HUGE numbers.

And yet, in the desert, Jesus fed this enormous crowd with five loaves and two fishes. I would have loved to see that event. Additionally, I know that Jesus continues to work in this manner today for those who have faith and believe that he can and will. I have seen things multiply where they shouldn’t have. I have seen and heard tales of money multiplying and income being stretched supernaturally to cover expenditure.

God still works in this way… He is a provider and exists outside the realm of space and time as we know it or even can conceive of. He is God. Everything belongs to Him, He created everything, He can tweak any aspect of His creation He desires… and He loves His people.

This miracle in the desert is a constant reminder to me that I only need believe to receive the bounty residing at His fingertips.

Praise the Lord!

Honorable Feasts and Arbitrary Holidays

The children of Israel had a kind of living history class. Two generations prior, they had literally been slaves, working for a king whose enslavement of the children of Israel had come two generations after a literal child of Israel had ensured that Egypt would survive a famine. Which is an interesting way to thank the God.

So the children of Israel, finally free to take the new world, are given cause to remember the past, through the three feasts.

The first feast is Passover. Set in the month of Abib [as a side note, this has some interesting observations about the original Hebraic calendar and this site observes that there seems to have been a variable leap year, based entirely on crop - in this way they could ensure the year began with that state of ripeness called Abib ... which brings it all full circle], which may have been in April or November ... it will take more than a cursory overview on my part to know WHEN it was, but we know it was near the beginning of the Hebrew calendar. It is the observation of thanksgiving for God's grace in keeping His people safe during a plague, when the Egyptians (in particular the Pharaoh) were not allowing the children of Israel to leave. However, instead of observing the same efforts of survival (whereby the Hebraic slaves were called to wipe blood on their door frames), they share in a Passover feast, in commemoration of God's grace and redemption. In practice, Passover is associated with a seven day "fast" of sorts, where those faithful followers are called to allow no leavened bread to be eaten by said person for seven days (Deuteronomy 16:4) although I am not certain if it is to be before or after the Passover - although, I would say that most of these kinds of associativity in the Bible are predominantly before the feast, so the leavened bread loss is a kind of sacrifice of leavening?

The second feast is mentioned after the first, in Deuteronomy 16:8-12, called the "feast of weeks" - wherein the children of Israel are, again, to bring to mind exactly gracious God is, and how He saved the children of Israel out of Egypt. This is a solemn feast. There doesn't seem to be any particular meal or activity associated with the feast, however a little digging reveals that it was called the feast of weeks in honor of the harvest, which makes sense if the first week was to be set in Abib, which was relatively set based on the crop, and so this second feast was apparently (by God) chosen to coincide with when the crop (again, I believe it was barley) was to be harvested. Thus, this feast would coincide with an amazing abundance of foodstuffs, and everyone could be blessed by it.

The third feast mentioned, in Deuteronomy 16:13-15, called the feast of tabernacles, is again not well described in Deuteronomy, although one can find a few references online readily enough (like this, this, and this) and references the forty year period during which the children of Israel wandered in the desert, living in temporary shelters. The second feast is joyful, which provides a contrast to both the second feast, as well as how joyful the children of Israel were themselves, while traveling those forty years. There are a number of passages in scripture which indicate they were grumbling and generally not being very pleasant. Few (I don't know of any, but please inform me if you know of some) passages indicate that the children of Israel, as a whole, were every happy or appreciative of anything.

So these three feasts are to be observed yearly. And much like before Deuteronomy 16, when it was talking about individual sacrifices (and doesn't directly relate to the feasts, unless we see all three feasts as kinds of sacrifices, the verses following the feasts (Deuteronomy 16:18 - ) seem to drop the subject entirely.

I was interested to learn that the children of Israel mowed their grass (Psalm 72:6). Although I have read the Bible once through, but there is so much content that it is quite simply easy to miss the sheer volume of details. The fact that their gardens were maintained shouldn't be a surprise to me; the first profession of man was that of gardener - you could say it is the noblest profession for that reason. I imagine the mowing itself was done by goats or some other herbivore.

Interesting to me is the comparison between Psalm 72 1 and 2, where the king and prince are compared to the people and their poor. It implies there is a regality to being poor that others don't experience. Also, that Psalm 72 seems to be focused on three things - observation of God's greatness, judgment of everyone, and administration of righteousness. I also get the distinct impression, although I can't quite put my finger where it came about, that the poor will be, and are being judged, with how they address being poor. I have always had the impression that being poor itself is a kind of judgment, but it makes a great deal more sense how you respond to the state, than to suggest someone be judged on the state itself; it is wise to for judgment to follow a decision and not a description. I'm so blessed that God lets me notice when I make mistakes - He helps me learn that much more effectively.

Psalm 12:9 bears dwelling upon. It states its better to be despised and with a servant; than to honour yourself and lack bread. There is clearly some connection between this verse and the one indicating that He would that we were hold or cold rather than lukewarm, where it is implied that owning a servant, much like being despised, implies one is the equivalent of "hot", but honouring - what exactly is that? Is that the feeling one gets when one chooses to be self-righteous about doing the right thing or some other reason? A modern day Pharisee? One could also go another route, noting that of the two, the first has put more thought into what tools he needs to function, whereas the second has no bread. Which reminds me of the passage where we are called to action; it is better to offer food and beverage, than to tell the beggar "Be fed and of good cheer" and then walk away.

Lastly, I wonder about the end of Psalm 72 - where it says "The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended." This is nowhere near the end of Psalms. Are the Psalms in chronological order? Are we to conclude that the remainder of Psalms are NOT David's work?

~ Transition ~
In a few days, some calendars will celebrate the Passover feast. Millions of people, the world over, mostly Jewish, but some others, will observe this feast - some will have done it following a week of unleavened meals, some will observe only the day in question, and some will observe it, as well as prepare for the following two feasts.

Two parts to today's call to action
First: How do you determine spiritual relevance?
One of the most intense discussions you may ever have is one about spiritual relevance. It is a really interesting question, because it assumes that there is a spiritual aspect to things many of us might not associate with the spiritual realm. I certainly don't know myself, and I believe our perceptions are by election, while also believing that the reality is separate. You might believe that what friends you have won't affect you spiritually. This won't change the reality of them affecting you. In the same way other beliefs, about spiritual relevance or anything else, should be as established in reality and facts as possible. Which is why I start asking the question - how do you determine spiritual relevance?
So Part I: take time out to evaluate what guidelines you currently use to determine whether something is edifying, needs to be stopped, or is valid and useful. What tools, what mechanisms, what paradigms do you hold to that help you make decisions such as what is relevant and what is not? Do you respond intuitively? Do you confer with a multitude of counselors? Do you search the scriptures? Do pick at random, use a dartboard, or the like? Do you just agree with whichever group you're with?

Second: What rites, activities, and holidays you observe?
One of the hardest things we can do is to take an earnest look at who we are, and one area where this is intensely true is that of holidays. We, as a group, often celebrate things without considering their relevance to our material lives, or their appropriateness to our spiritual lives. And it may not seem like it, but the decisions you make do change (and thus can strengthen or weaken) your walk with Christ. So earnestly do this today.
Given the completed Part I above, you should now be well equipped to evaluate whether the holidays, rites, and activities you observe are aligned with your personal beliefs, and whether you should practice them at all.

Here are some examples, to help you get started.
I believe holidays should be established to honor God. I therefore don't celebrate Halloween, as it not only has pagan roots (the basis of the holiday was to ward off dark spiritual entities, and in Christ we are given power and authority over devils - so why would I encourage them, or taunt them, by a ward?) but reinforces begging in children.
I believe holidays should be established to honor God. I also think that honoring God is not an excuse to celebrate a holiday. I believe Christmas should be abolished. Christmas was originally established, as I understand it, to tie together two separate events, a pagan holiday, twelve days in length (which is where the carol comes from) honoring the new year and the other the birth of Christ. Given what we know, from scripture, about when the birth of Christ, it was likely NOT in the month of December. You want to honor the birth of Christ, why wait until December? You could probably argue for the event to have happened around September. Even the icons of Christmas are a bit fantastic. We have Santa Claus, a kind of demi-god who can travel the world in a day, who has elves for slaves/servants, and is a kind of spiritual father-figure to those who buy into Christmas as any kind of secular holiday. We also have the nativity scene, which is contrived, in particular the three wise men. I suppose the association might have come from the Christmas song (we three kings) but if you look at scripture, Jesus wasn't vested by three kings, or three wise men, during the time of his birth. He was visited by shepherds. (Luke) It was some time later that the wise men showed up (Matthew). So, if you're going to have a birth (nativity) scene, the visitors should be the shepherds, not the wise men. Plus, we don't know how many there were, although I've always been given the impression there were two.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Sing a Song of Tithe Percent

The part that fascinated me most today was the description of what a tithe was to be used for.

In Deuteronomy, God commands through Moses that the Israelites are to tithe of all their increase; animal, vegetable, and mineral. Of that which was planted and of the animals, the tithe was to be eaten wherever the Lord said to. This included corn, wine, oil, herds and flocks. If it was impossible to take all that stuff where God said to, then this set-aside portion was to be sold and converted into money.

Here’s where the idea of tithing gets interesting…

With the money, everyone was supposed to go to the location where God had told them to go. Once there, they were to spend the money on whatever “their soul lusteth after.” Think that might be a mistake, read further. Again, God specified the money was to be spent on “whatsoever thy soul desireth.”

What a beautiful concept! Out of the blessing God provides, we are to take that tithe (notice this does not include free-will offerings) and enjoy it with gladness. Whether for “oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or strong drink, or for whatsoever thy soul desireth: and thou shalt eat there before the Lord thy God, and thou shalt rejoice, thou, and thine household…”

Certainly puts a new perspective on the whole give-10%-religiously-to-the-church aspect, doesn’t it?

A pygarg, a chamois, a glede, an ossifrage, and a cormorant walk into a bar ...

What are a pygarg, chamois, coney, glede, ossifrage, and cormorant?
What does it mean to seethe (as in, thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk)?

In Deuteronomy 15:4, we have mention of a lack of poor, which upon inspection isn't contrary to Matthew 26:11 (For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always.), as it refers only to the children of Israel.

And I started to seriously consider this.

Can you imagine a society built on this promise? They'd have no poor!
Can you imagine a nation with no poor?
Can you imagine a family, group, fellowship, or brotherhood, truly standing on the Lord's words and promises, claiming all the many wonders that God has clearly set aside for the children of Israel (and by proxy all earnest believers in Christ), and living in accordance with His commandments? No dissension, no strife, only love, and service!
Praise the Lord!

Also - there is an abundance propensity in the modern church, especially those fellowships built around public followings, like charismatic tele-pastors, which focus on the idea that you can lay hands on anything you desire. Abundance and prosperity are blessings, to be sure - but they have a purpose. That purpose is revealed in Deuteronomy 15:10 - Thou shalt surely given him [thy poor brother], and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto.
So abundance is intended to be used in blessing others with.

Another something I mentioned happened in Luke 8:43, with that woman who had an issue of blood twelve years. Of all the publicly known events a man and woman, as individuals, go through, the oddest has to be of which her disease was a magnification. The fact that she experienced it for such a prolonged state suggests a kind of anointed curse for her - to survive that long with that curse must have been unusually hard, experiencing a perpetual internal cleansing as it were - and to suffer for over a decade must have made her, much like so many of the people Jesus healed, a well known example of suffering that people just had to "take for granted".
So we have an archetypal sufferer, approach Jesus by faith (harder than most, probably had to push through more intensely than most to even touch the border of his garment because she was probably publicly shunned), and Jesus notices. Jesus is quite literally THRONGED by people, and he notices a small bleeding woman touching a small corner of his shirt. How much of a miracle is that?

Soon after, Jesus gives His disciples power and authority over devils and to cure diseases.
- What made then the right time to give His disciples that power and authority? Is it related to the fact that they could now enact their own healing, after seeing Jesus heal the woman with the dozen-year blood issue?
- Given its proximity, outside of the pointed mentioned in the last line, is there to be some implicit, or explicit, connection between the woman with a prior issue of blood twelve years and the power and authority over devils and to cure disease.
- What exactly is a disease? Is it defined the same in Greek as it is in English? Are there states or experiences we call diseases that the Greeks wouldn't, and thus aren't under this category?
- As an example - this likely includes leprosy. Does it include myopia? acne? Anything and everything ?
- Can we, as believers and followers of Christ, be deemed modern-day disciples, and thus able to lay claim on those promised premise of the power and authority over devils and the curing of diseases?
- Is the use of the word "cure" with respect to animals (as in to keep them) an intentional cultural misappropriation to reduce the efficacy of the church in the use of the word "cure" with respect to diseases?

Psalm 71:7 "I am as a wonder unto many; but thou art my strong refuge" is, to my knowledge, David pouring out his heart to God. There has been an assumption in my life, that if one were to earnestly proclaim the Word as true in your life, it would be quite literally true. I believe it is one of the devices that God can use to increase your faith. If this assumption is true, I have to wonder if every verse of scripture applies to everyone. In particular this verse: Is every believer a wonder unto many?

Psalm 71:9 "Cast me not off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength faileth" is something I too am assuming is David sharing his thoughts and fears. Are we to assume that in old age, it is standard practice for God to cast us off - as if, because we're then weaker than we have been, we can't worship or praise Him as thoroughly, so it is worth less? What other edifying perspective can one bring to the table that would clarify this? What Holy-Sprit-inspired-paradigm can resolve this?

The end of this list of observations comes from Proverbs 12:5-7 ... which lists a few character associations of the righteous, as well as the wicked. The difference between those in Proverbs 12:5-7 and the earlier ones is that these seem to be retroactively descriptive ... as in, if you seek to have right thoughts, if you deliver those whose blood the wicked like in wait for, if your house stands, then the chances are you are righteous. You certainly can't guarantee, in and of yourself, that your house can stand, but you can certainly focus on right thinking and possibly be proactive when you notice others trying to pick on or do away with others - a kind of defending the weak.

How much of your own understanding of scripture comes from someone you respect, and not from reading the Word yourself?
How much of your appreciation of scripture comes from appreciating how righteous or anointed someone appears, instead of appreciation as administered by the Holy Spirit?
It is common, in these (I believe) end times, to trust in the perception of other learned men. I am not saying there is no place for such things ... but if your understanding and doctrine come from men, their perceptions, their writings, and THEIR walk in Christ, I would seriously consider setting aside some time to pray about having your OWN relationship.
I believe that each of us are called to have a personal connection with Christ - which is why I post. I'm sharing my stumbling meandering through the scripture because I claim it as a blessing to myself as well as anyone who reads it.

So that is today's call to action: Read scripture daily.
You can read the passages I reference above
You can read through one book a month, dwelling on the intricacies inherent in that book.
You can do a character study, pick one major character, and track his or her activities throughout scripture.
You can do a nation or region study, pick one major area, and track their references or uses throughout scripture.
You can do a journey study, and track exactly where various people traveled.
You can do a miracle study, evaluating where miracles happened, to whom, and how long they lasted.
You can do a promise study, evaluating all the various promises that God (or others) promise, whether they come to pass and (especially God) the list of conditions for each promise.
You can do a chronological study, comparing each character/nation/region's activities during certain time or reigns.
You can do a war study, whereby you pick a conflict, observe who was involved, what caused it, what resolved it, and what the winners and losers did.
You can do a base scripture study, which have overlap (like the first four new testament books) and track where they are the same and where they differ.

Whatever you do, my challenge is simple:
Adopt a daily habit of reading scripture. And if you pick one of the above, keep to that method, and likely your faith and relationship with God will grow.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Things to Come

Sometimes, the Lord allows me to catch glimpses of a future event by putting me in a situation where I can experience to a lesser degree what it will be like at some point later in my timeline. Today was such a day.

This week, I am “babysitting” two teenagers while their parents are out of town. Not bad, but part of the responsibilities I undertook when accepting the job was to drop off and pick them up from various extracurricular activities and classes. It’s not a bad life if you view it in the proper manner; there is no room to be self-centered if you are constantly catering to and arranging your schedule and plans to fit that of your charges.

This morning, I drove way out into the country to drop them off at a class. As I was driving there and back, my mind kept flitting to the awareness that one day, I could be doing this for my own children… and it filled me with happiness and joy. No, I don’t enjoy driving way out to the middle of nowhere, but I’m starting to realize all the lessons I’ve learned recently (especially those having to do with simultaneous joy and contentment) are preparing me to be a wife and mother.

The road curved and dipped as my mind continued to think about how blessed I was in so many things. A smile curved across my face as I felt the reality and security just knowing I have been blessed with a man who loves me and would do anything to provide, protect, and cherish me without hesitation. I thought about how his vision has expanded and how fierce his desire is to provide big things and a secure life for me and our children.

I felt so happy and secure. It’s true I miss him terribly while waiting, but the knowledge of his unwavering commitment and dedication wrapped around me like warm, strong arms and comforted softly.

As small houses flashed by, I realized that no longer did I have to think about and expect the miniscule, no longer did I have to think small, no longer did I have to patiently resign myself to the idea that big or good things must wait… God was changing many things, including my perspective. I felt provided for, cared for, and cherished.

With the residue of memories from the person I used to be a couple years ago, I began reading my Bible, only to come across a promise/reminder from God: “For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, it is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs. But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is…” and the descriptions followed. A plentiful, overflowing, big, rich, prosperous land blessed by the Lord; a Promised Land.

And new joy and happiness flooded me as this reconfirmation lodged within me; the way has been rocky and hard, full of tears and aches. God is but preparing and leading me there in fulfillment of His promises.

The crowning touch came when I read from Proverbs that “a virtuous woman is a crown to her husband.” Not only was God working in the life of my soulmate (and indirectly me) and blessing me through it, but He was also working in my life and blessing my future husband through me as attitudes and viewpoints changed for the better.

A glimpse of things to come bolstered by divine encouragement and confirmation… J

Meet me on the water

In the eighth chapter of Luke we find the apostles in a boat. The realm of a boat would have been a comfortable one, as many distances were often traveled by boat, at the very least by Simon, whom they called Peter. The boat was coasting along on a lake, quiet enough, that Jesus went to sleep. Some time after Jesus had been asleep for a little bit, a storm showed up, and the disciples' boat began to rock. The placidity of five minutes ago was forgotten, and they were afraid. They soon woke up Jesus, who calmed the seas. It is pointed to notice both responses here.

The disciples were amazed that Jesus could quell the storm.
Jesus questioned their faith.

How often are we in placed in the same situation? There are many such boats, resting on inland seas, rocking serenely to a tune only the boats can hear, with gentle waves lapping, and we feel blessed to even be in the boat.
  • Your bills are paid.

  • You've food in your fridge.

  • You actually like your job.

  • Your homework makes sense.

  • You keep every appointment you make.

Then, the boat starts to rock.
  • A paycheck bounces.

  • You can't afford groceries.

  • Your boss is breathing down your neck.

  • The homework suddenly doesn't make sense, and its due tonight.

  • You haven't been on time to an appointment in a month, and your customers have stopped calling.

What do you do?

You really only have two options.
You can trust in God.
  • Pray.

  • Believe the events that are happening can truly glorify Him.

  • Recognize what you DO have to be thankful for.

  • Give not yourself over to fear, but be appreciative of what IS going right.

You can trust in fear.
  • Run / Scream / Yell.

  • Believe the events that are happening will ruin you.

  • Recognize that nothing matters.

  • Give yourself over to frustration, suffering, fear, and anguish.

Nobody's life is without waves. Clearly, some lives are utterly fraught with misery while others seem a great deal more even-keeled. Regardless, every life has some stress or other. And it is how we address that stress that caresses the mess. In other words, letting the events dictate your state, dictate your actions, or dictate your perception, will ultimately destroy you.

Choose to pray.
Be the one Jesus gives praise to the Lord for because of your faith.
Be like Peter, in that he trusted Jesus and actually walked on water.

I want to meet someone out on the water.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Promise is a Promise

The beginning of Deuteronomy is Moses telling his side of the story to the children of Israel. Sparing no feelings and mincing no words, he threads his way from when they were in Egypt and details every shortcoming and miserable attitude the Israelites had along the way.

Moses reminds them how they lashed out against him, against Aaron, against God. He reminds them of all the miracles God did for the Israelites, in preserving them time and time again through the most miraculous events: freedom, salvation from pharaoh’s army, manna from heaven, meat when they complained, constant water even if it had to be taken from a rock, clothes and shoes that never wore out…

The most important thing I noticed in my reading today was the countless number of times Moses (and sometimes Moses AND Aaron) had to flatten themselves before the Lord, crying out for Him not to destroy His people. Time and time again, God would have destroyed the Israelites, His chosen people, for their constancy and persistence in rebellion and complaining.

One of the most interesting facts about Moses’ recounting of their journeys up-to-date is what he told the children of Israel… God was not taking them into the Promised Land because of their righteousness. He was not honoring the uprightness of their hearts with this mind-boggling blessing. No. His purpose was simple…

The wickedness of the nations already dwelling in the Promised Land was so great before the Lord, that He brought the Israelites in so that they, by His power, could drive them out. Additionally, this would be the fulfillment of the promise He made so very long ago to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. The land would belong to the Israelites because of His word and not because of anything they had done to deserve it.

And God’s promise was still a promise… His people were chosen regardless.

Sacrifice of Praise, God as muse

In my reading, where the Moses speaks about how the children of Israel have been perpetually contrary, I realized I had turned a bit of a deaf ear to the story. The same thing happened in Luke, when Jesus shared with his disciples how the ground upon which the seeds (of the word of God) were dropped determines how much fruit their presence will bear. I have heard the story many, many times, and it didn't stir me as it had in times past.

What do you do when you have read the same scripture many times, can quote it, and it holds no mystery for you? You pray. For the Lord wants you to appreciate and connect with Him on a personal level, and if you are truly at the point where scripture becomes rote in any way, one predominant characteristic of that stance is generally a lack of fellowship with the Lord.

Put yourself in the place of Moses at this point in his life. He has spent his whole life serving God, directing his ever unfaithful peers to a land that he had only heard about, and because he had let them finally get him so angry he broke something, and thus took the glory away from God, the result was to arrive at the promised land and to miss out on what could have been an amazing experience. Imagine how different that part of history could have turned out if Moses could have led the children of Israel into the promised land, it might have set the stage for the arrival of Jesus that much sooner. I can't even begin to imagine the level of changes such an event would incur, but they would be far reaching.

Likewise, when Jesus speaks about the parable of the seeds, one could easily be distracted by the few details provided and delve no further. But look - the seeds and grounds are metaphors for very real things. If you tie in the fact that God's will is sovereign, it must be that in some way, God wills some souls to be fallow ground, some to be briars, and some to be stone. We have several instances where God has made a heart stone (Pharoah figuratively and Nabal literally are two), and so one might be tempted to wonder - how often is our inability to accept the seeds of the word of God a part of His plan?

God's will is revealed, to some degree, in His word. And we see, over and over again, how events happen, often in seemingly random order, that we would not be able to clearly predict. And we see miracles all throughout, some subtle and some glaring and explicit, and we are told that everything God allows is for His glory. And the thoughts he thinks of us are good.

Therefore - if some hearts he allows to lay fallow, some hearts he turns to stone, and some hearts he surrounds with brambles, we can rest assured that, although circumstances may not suggest any kind of order, we can trust in the reality that God's will is being done, and it will be for His glory. And because God knows the thoughts he thinks of us, and that they are for good and not for evil, we can also be assured that His intent for us is for the good.

So please, if you're feeling the least bit cynical, or distant from God, or separate, not really connecting with His glory, His grace, or His marvelous nature, take time out to pray.
Thank Him for all he has done in your life.

And if you have a problem with coming up with praise reports, here are some guidelines:
If you can read this, be thankful for:
the ability to see
the ability to read
the ability and opportunity to access the internet
the opportunity to choose what you read on the internet
the freedom to think for yourself

If you have eaten anything in the last twenty-four hours, be thankful for:
a source of food
a roof over your head
someone who loves you
someone who prays for you
someone to pray for

There are, quite literally, an endless list of things to be thankful for, and the main reason people aren't thankful is that they take one or more of those things for granted.
So if the above list isn't useful to you, then realize you might be better served focusing on someone other than yourself.

Regardless, may God bless you this day and allow your life to be a ministry to others.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Ageless Children, Silent "Virtue," and a Plea

Something occurred to me this morning as I read Deuteronomy 8:3-4, “…He [God]… fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know… Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years.”

True, the intent and purport of these postings is, in fact, to record details/nuances/epiphanies that emerge as a result of a daily Bible reading. Yet I never cease to be amazed at some of the things which emerge.

From the Old Testament comes this realization: the group of Israelites who went into the Promised Land had grown up in the wilderness. Okay, that’s not real interesting. How about this though? Remember how the Israelites murmured constantly against God and Moses about what they didn’t have? Remember how they longed for what they had had in Egypt and were constantly comparing their current situation to a now-seemingly-desirable slavery? They hated the manna, they wanted meat, they longed for the leeks and garlic, etc.

But what about the Israelites who went into the Promised Land? They would have little or no frame of reference by which to complain. The whole point of the wandering in the wilderness was so that those who had murmured against the Promised Land (and all along the way) would have died out. This new wave of Israelites were only children and most likely didn’t know anything more than their current existence; a dry and dusty trek being fed manna from heaven and the occasional water from the rock.

If any memories of Egypt existed, could it not be argued that they were indistinct enough not to affect the whole comparison mindset? Manna was normal. Water from the rock was normal. What are leeks and garlic anyway? And who needs meat? Interesting, no?

From the New Testament, we see the story of the woman of ill repute who honored and respected Jesus in the most personal and tender ways possible. I think what struck me the most during this reading was the fact that the Pharisee, whom Jesus was eating a meal with, did not bother to tell him what kind of woman was touching him.

This paragon of virtue who had invited this charismatic public figure into his house (for publicity’s sake or not, I have no idea) not only had let this woman into his house, but he KNEW what kind of woman she was. Perhaps it was one of the many games that were played on Jesus, trying to trap him in various awkward situations; it is not for me to say. Regardless of his motive, this man, knowing the unclean status Jesus would fall into just from being touched by the woman, did not say a word but watched, keeping everything inside himself, uttering no warning or word of protest. Again, interesting, huh?

And from Psalms I find passages which, upon reading, caused me to utter them with sincerity, truth, and desperation… “Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God… But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O Lord, in an acceptable time: O God, in the multitude of thy mercy hear me, in the truth of thy salvation. Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered… out of the deep waters.” Psalm 69:1-3,13-14.

Dejudging Servitude, Cloudy Strength

One of the most striking passages in the Bible, to me, has always been something I stumble across rather randomly, and recently I did just that. It is located in the 46th verse of Luke 7. In this verse, a young lady has blessed Jesus by washing his feet. But she does so in a stark manner.

Now, before I get into this, realize that in the culture of the time, water is a valuable commodity. People are often cleaned through the application of ointments and oils. It is a blessing, then, to be anointed with oil, both from a respect point of view, but also for a cleanliness point of view - it is a singular honor to be cleaned up for a meal. An obvious example is the promenade of high school, where kids who normally aren't given to hours of grooming are instead donning the garb of professional debutantes, and to intermingle in a socially accepted pseudo-mating ritual. So it was that Jesus, a respected prophet and healer was invited into the house of a Pharisee. One would expect Jesus to be honored as highly as the pharisee could imagine, to include an anointing with oil and having His feet washed.

Instead, Jesus has graciously not spoken about it, but is engaged in discussion when a woman approaches him and anoints His head with oil.

This woman is quite literally giving everything she has to honor a man who is so awe inspiring to her that she nearly crumbles in reverence to him. She faces abuse, derision, and who knows what else, to serve Jesus. And Jesus' heart is touched. For this is just the type of person who embodies who we are, and who He came to save. And it is through her simple, focused faith that we see what Jesus wants us to do.

Admit we're flawed.
Come to Him.
Ask for repentance through service and prayer.
And wait upon the Lord.

Not one of these tasks is hard in and of itself. Together they CAN be enough to stymy anyone.

Potent stuff.

Every time I read that passage, my own heart goes out to that woman. And I have peace - because Jesus came for that kind of person.
She represents each of us - we are all depraved, sinful creatures, surrounded by unkindred pharisees trying to convince us that we should feel ashamed, bow our heads, and run from the only one who can grant us redemption.

A to complement God's grace, I find God's riddles all over the Bible - passages that don't make sense in the natural, things that don't fit paradigms, and it is soul-challenging and inspiring to give those to God and grow as a result.

The most current conundrum, for me, is located at Psalm 68:34, where it indicates some of God's strength is in the clouds.
This is an interesting metaphor for me, because I have always seen the clouds as more ephemeral than anything else. The idea that they represent strength is a paradigm-changing concept.
What about clouds is enduring?
Well, they float ... they float so high up, in fact, that most things don't even mess with clouds. Add to this that their substance are that of rarefied water droplets, kind of like hanging snow, and we see a picture of something that appears fundamentally ephemeral. And I begin to see how God's strength is comparable to that of the clouds. God's strength is boundless, goes where it will, none are not subject to its presence, and provides surcease from the harsh rays of judgment. Clouds do the same thing with sunlight, for they certainly give cover. There is no place on earth that clouds have not visited. Indeed, clouds can go pretty much where they please. And the range of clouds, although obviously having a much more limited definition, is boundless in expression.

In addition, combinations of types of clouds provide different effects, much like different forms of God's strength, there is a direct link between water and Jesus, and we acknowledge God's presence by saying He is reigning upon us.

I think this can be best summarized by the praise and worship song Days of Elijah, in particular the refrain:

Behold He comes! Riding on the clouds!
Shining like the sun! At the trumpet call
Lift your voice! It’s the year of Jubilee!
And out of Zion’s hill salvation comes!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Sing, Sing a Psalm

This observation will be short, owing to the lack of anything truly inspiring to hit me this morning from the daily reading.

I like the Psalms, though it wasn’t always that way. The older I have gotten and the more trials and tribulations I have gone through, the more I see the efficacy of these cries to the Lord.

One day as I was driving, I was pouring out my heart and soul to the Lord, trying desperately to put words to the agony I was experiencing. Then it came floating up… I began praying the Psalms of old, not perfectly, not in order, but they were Psalms. Bits and pieces strung together began to adequately express what I was trying to communicate to God and it was wonderful.

The result of that little session was a strong desire to know more of the Psalms. From their eloquent beauty and power in exalting and praising God to the poignancy and angst of soul in crying out, these Psalms hit the mark.

I have been blessed in many ways through these recordings of man’s cry to God… I wish to make them my own.

Inherit the Wind

Those old-time Greeks had an interesting paradigm - that everything on the earth was made of some combination of earth, water, wind, fire, and sometimes void. Whole myths and perceptions fell from the minds that fashioned the world thus, and we have some of those same paradigms still around us, dangerous relics from that culture where worship of the human form came nearly above worship of gods, and many ruler’s sole assurance of immortality was either sculpture or public ascension.

If I may broach this subject, one of the more interesting ideas is likely to be untraceably ancient, that of associating human characteristics to those very same four elements. We might say that earth is stable, water is fluid, wind is flighty, and fire is passionate. These are fairly common associations; so common, in fact, that I believe I would be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t intuitively pick up on those associations.

So, another perspective, when evaluating human characteristics, is to ask which of those four attributes (stability, fluidity, flightiness, or passion) would be least desirable as the foundation for a house, for a home, for the basis of one’s centered self. Let us consider each.

Obviously the most desirable is the earth’s namesake: stability. Through stability, one can be assured that a home is a home. We might very well say that the character of a home is its ability to resemble this very quality. Hands down, the favored element, if were forced to pick only one. But no human can live in a vacuum, and stability by itself does not a home make.

Second, I might mention fluidity. Certainly not as desirable as stability, when a home’s foundation is established on water (say a house boat) you still have a fundamentally stable surface. Your home might be mobile (on wheels) or your home might be mobility itself (gypsies) but there is a stability that you carry with you in fluidity.

Third would be passion. Many are the relationship that are established in passion. Some last for years, and either add stability (fire to stone) or fluidity (fire to water); neither of these transitions is easy, but at least one is required for any kind of permanence. And so one must allow for the endurance of fire.

But, ah, to be flighty. The very word conjures up birds flittering about, dancing among burning leaves, spring flowers or summer’s dandelion tufts, and it is in this very winged twittering that I lay focus: there is no rest. And there is no home. So a home which inherits the wind is truly lacking a solid foundation, is truly based on a destructive premise, and is very nearly calling its own demise.

How can one inherit the wind?
The most common way of inheriting the wind is to trouble your own house.

This is bringing the drama of the world inside your bedroom.
This is abusing your own family.
This is stealing from your brother, murdering your sister, laundering goods without telling your family, or any more of dozens of ways in which tumult can be simply and quietly brought into a home.
Its what happens when you sleep on an argument with a spouse.

So how does one choose NOT to inherit the wind?

Don’t bring trouble into your home.
Pray before you enter your house.
Take a moment of silence to honor the dead.
Sit and just calm yourself.

So my challenge to you is this:
Find the one person in your family that causes you the most distress, the most irritation.
Set aside time, five minutes a day, finding a quite space, and, without judgment, find something nice and positive to say about them. You may not have a better relationship with that person (although often it is a fruit of this action) but you will likely be more positive with them AND better able to deal with those idiosyncrasies that were driving you crazy before.

Choose joy.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Edifying Adaptation

One of the greatest strengths of humanity is our ability of adaptation. It has been the subject of countless novels and is implicit in our sin package. It is a double-edged sword. For the same adaptation that allows us to send men to outer space, send women to the deepest reaches of the ocean, and craft any number of variations on a single theme is also one of the easiest ways in which we can simply (and through subtlety) ignore or disregard God.

It comes down to something God has mentioned several times in the Bible, at the very least in Revelation and in Deuteronomy: DO NOT CHANGE MY WORD.

I mention this because one of the most destructive tendencies is for us to take a piece of information we get, put our own spin on it, assume the resulting spin is what the original message meant, and then act on our understanding of that spin. Think telephone game, played over all of creation, with everyone you've ever met.

It is easier to do with God's word than with nearly anything else. Simply put: God made it to be confusing to anyone who wasn't supposed to be reading it. That is why Jesus spoke in parables. He didn't want people getting the right information and abusing it, but instead to learn to trust God with the Holy Spirit, and then start to read the word. See - the Holy Spirit is where the lack of confusion, the unity, the singularity of purpose comes from. Because it's God. Without God, you will inevitably interpret scripture based on your own understanding, and likely without sufficient experience, perspective, or counsel. Which is tempting to do because it is so easy, and works for so many other things.

But it doesn't work that way with God's word.

One of the primary causes of this lack of connectivity with the true meaning of scripture is that people don't set aside enough time for daily prayer. There are some, to be sure, but the gross majority of people don't set aside time during their schedule to honor God with a little reverie, a little discourse, a little connection - and they are NOT blessed by it. Much like the old poem, where the speaker didn't have time to pray, their day was only hustle and bustle, and the result was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Such is how most of our lives are: we are the embodiment of our own decisions. And if we decide that we don't have enough time for prayer, then we're right.

I was told by a wise friend of mine that they thought, a whole lot of the time, that God was actively listening to our words and thoughts, and saying "... amen" the entire time.

Imagine this, if you will:

... You say "Man, I feel sick". God says "... amen". You feel even worse.

... You say "Man, I hate that guy". God says "... amen". You begin to seethe.

... You say "Man, I am cold". God says "... amen". You feel even colder.

I'm not saying those states aren't real. But I'm saying they're temporary, and describing them will often add far more permanence than their states deserve.

My call to action for you this morning is simple:

  • Listen to everyone's words around you today. Find a way to record what you observe, whether as a mental note taker or a physical one, and write down every time you hear someone claim something other than a blessing from God or a description of a goal. Everything else will likely be a description of a temporary state. Examples include the above, as well as 'I feel lousy', 'My back hurts', 'I wish I weren't so lonely', and 'I feel depressed'. There are many, and language is notorious for having some phrases do double duty, so keep alert. Keep your journal for about two weeks, and pay attention to see how the lives of those who spoke those words have changed. Often you'll see them embody those very phrases and not even realize it. If you feel so led, share your list with them, and maybe the awareness of their actions might change their life and even bring them closer to God!

  • Listen to your own words today. Write down every time you start a sentence with "I feel", or "I am" or "I wish I", and listen to what words you describe yourself, your day, and your perspective. Do this for two weeks. In those two weeks, you will likely pay more attention to your own speech patterns than you have ever before. Have you changed your speech patterns a great deal? Have you noticed yourself happier, healthier, or heartier?

  • Choose a state you wish to experience. Pick something positive and constructive. Find about twenty or thirty different ways to express it, using short, three to five word phrases. Then, for the next two weeks, drop one or two of those means of expressing it in your own conversation, either with yourself or with those around you. Do it consistently, daily, and pay attention to your own state. How close to the desired state have you observed yourself?

  • Choose an aspect of God's will that has always confused you, whether it’s a specific passage in the Bible, or an aspect of His character that has never been revealed to you or just your relationship with Him. Pick something specific. Then describe it, in as great a detail as possible, in a few sentences, a paragraph at most. Be as specific and focused as you can. Once you've got your sentences, you should put them somewhere that you'll read, whether it’s on a computer, on a mirror, or in your car, put it somewhere that you can comfortably review the material. Then, daily, for two weeks, read that phrase at least three times a day - before you do anything else, in the middle of your day, and at the end of the day. At the end of the first week, you should notice yourself a little closer to God. At the end of the second week, you should feel blessed to know that God loves you AND that you have some say in how close your relationship with him is.

May God bless you.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

And There Were Giants...

Undoubtedly, the topic which captured me today was that of the giants that lived in the Promised Land. The sons of Anak, the Zamzummims of the Ammonites, Og the king of Bashan in the land of the giants.

From early in Genesis, the Bible mentions how the Sons of God came down to earth and had intercourse with the daughters of men, their offspring being giants which roamed the earth. The Bible mentions that Noah, the selected of God to survive the flood which would destroy the entire earth, was perfect in all his generations.

To me, this has always meant that he had no Nephilim in his bloodline; he was 100% human with absolutely no angel. According to a very interesting website I referred to during some research on this topic, the writer argued that because there were giants after the flood that a Nephilim MUST have survived the flood, possibly even stowing away on the ark.

My counter argument is this: Only Noah is touted to be perfect in all his generations. There is nothing mentioned about Noah’s wife, and therefore his sons, or his sons’ wives. In my mind, any of these other seven people could have carried the seeds/lineage of supernatural beings which surfaced after the flood.

There are a few mentions of giants prior to Deuteronomy, but once the Children of Israel arrive at the Promised Land, out pops the whole story as the many races of giants are mentioned. Based on God’s desire to wipe out a world infested with fallen angels, the women they defiled, and their half-human, half-angel offspring, it is understandable that He would also wish the remainder (living in the Promised Land) to be eradicated as well.

Not only this, but God had already given express instructions on how to eradicate them and every shred of their corrupt and unnatural culture.

In my brief research on this topic, I came across one of the most electrifying pieces of information ever. I am fascinated by the larger-than-life structures erected all around the world, many of which cannot be reconstructed using all of today’s technology and machinery. I speak of the monolithic structures of South America, of the colossal creations of ancient England, of my favorite wonder… the Pyramids at Giza, specifically the Great Pyramid.

Bereft of markings and indications of its creator, seeming to lack a reason for existing, loaded with astronomical and geophysical wonder and positioning, hinting at wonders and intense depth of knowledge of its creators, the Great Pyramid at Giza has baffled mankind from the moment of discovery.

To this day, we cannot figure out how to build such a wonder, much less who built it or why it was created. On the website I discovered, the author posited that the Nephilim were, in fact, the builders of these great structures, possessing the physical size and strength to maneuver those massive blocks into position.

Knowing what I’ve learned about the hidden knowledge within the Great Pyramid and coming from the point of view that it could have been built by these half-human, half-angel beings, is it not possible they may have carried a level of knowledge and information not all humans were privy to?

In some of the books of the Apocrypha and other ancient writings, the Nephilim are referred to as having knowledge which it was never meant for man to have. Because of their fall and subsequent breeding with human women, the knowledge they possessed became shared with mankind… The Book of Enoch tells how knowledge of warfare and all uses of metals was shared, along with the beautifying of the eyelids and costly stones and all coloring tinctures. Also how the people were taught enchantments and root-cutting, astrology, constellations, knowledge of the clouds, signs of the earth, signs of the sun, the course of the moon by the Nephilim.

Man fell in the Garden of Eden by eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Could it not be that some of this knowledge was taught by these fallen angels? Might it not be that the fruit was but the first step in a history of learning that which was never meant for man to learn?

It is sad that the pursuit of knowledge was what separated man from God; that driving curiosity to know more and more…

Conditional Absolute

I start today's post with an observation from Deuteronomy 2:14.

I knew that Aaron died a few verses before, in Numbers, and I thought to observe his passing as signal for a few reasons, one of them being he was the first to die of the generation that would need to pass before the children of Israel were to make it to the promised land.

I believe this was further verified in Deuteronomy 2:14, where it states the people (who I take to mean the children of Israel) took 38 years to travel from Kadesh-barnea the brook Zered, "...until all the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the host..." So Aaron might have been the first, might have been only one of the first (although at 123 years of age, without the active blessing of God, he likely would not have lasted the remaining years.)

Another is that of Moses, in Deuteronomy 3:25, where Moses is pleading with God to let him go over to the promised land. It has always been interesting to me, because Moses had interceded so many times on behalf of the children of Israel, and had asked for very few things for himself, that after years of traveling, when Moses finally got to the promised land, and finally saw what it was they had all been believing for, that Moses still couldn't walk across the threshold. The obvious reference is the waters of Meribah (Numbers 20:8-12) and I am left with the awareness that sometimes intercession works, sometimes it doesn't, and in the end, it’s all for the glory of God!

  • Is there something God has called you to do?

  • Is there a prize to be given at the end?

  • Does it have conditions?

God is really forgiving in any way I can fathom, and in many dimensions I can’t, but one of the enduring consistencies I always walk away from scripture is the realization that, even when he is doling out punishment, or granting requests, or calling to action, he is consistent. God is sometimes sneaky. Not in an underhanded way, but in a specific way.

We know that Jesus will come, as a thief in the night, and so this aspect of God’s character should be no new thing. The reality is that one aspect of God’s will for our lives is that His thoughts are above ours. And I think another way to look at that is to say He thinks differently than anyone you’ll ever meet. And sometimes those thoughts look sneaky. But His character has not changed.

In addition, there are few promises given by God that do not have conditions. This isn’t because He is limited, but because WE are. And so it is of import to be aware what your own obligations are when you wish to honor God, or intercede for someone.

So my call to action for you today is simple:

What promises are you claiming in His word?

What are the conditions attached to those promises?

Learning what they are will bring in you closer union with Him and will likely increase the chance that you’ll honor them.

Conditional Absolute

I start today's post with an observation from Deuteronomy 2:14.

I knew that Aaron died a few verses before, in Numbers, and I thought to observe his passing as signal for a few reasons, one of them being he was the first to die of the generation that would need to pass before the children of Israel were to make it to the promised land.

I believe this was further verified in Deuteronomy 2:14, where it states the people (who I take to mean the children of Israel) took 38 years to travel from Kadesh-barnea the brook Zered, "...until all the generation of the men of war were wasted out from among the host..." So Aaron might have been the first, might have been only one of the first (although at 123 years of age, without the active blessing of God, he likely would not have lasted the remaining years.)

Another is that of Moses, in Deuteronomy 3:25, where Moses is pleading with God to let him go over to the promised land. It has always been interesting to me, because Moses had interceded so many times on behalf of the children of Israel, and had asked for very few things for himself, that after years of traveling, when Moses finally got to the promised land, and finally saw what it was they had all been believing for, that Moses still couldn't walk across the threshold. The obvious reference is the waters of Meribah (Numbers 20:8-12) and I am left with the awareness that sometimes intercession works, sometimes it doesn't, and in the end, it’s all for the glory of God!

  • Is there something God has called you to do?

  • Is there a prize to be given at the end?

  • Does it have conditions?

God is really forgiving in any way I can fathom, and in many dimensions I can’t, but one of the enduring consistencies I always walk away from scripture is the realization that, even when he is doling out punishment, or granting requests, or calling to action, he is consistent. God is sometimes sneaky. Not in an underhanded way, but in a specific way.

We know that Jesus will come, as a thief in the night, and so this aspect of God’s character should be no new thing. The reality is that one aspect of God’s will for our lives is that His thoughts are above ours. And I think another way to look at that is to say He thinks differently than anyone you’ll ever meet. And sometimes those thoughts look sneaky. But His character has not changed.

In addition, there are few promises given by God that do not have conditions. This isn’t because He is limited, but because WE are. And so it is of import to be aware what your own obligation are when you wish to honor God, or intercede for someone.

So my call to action for you today is simple:

What promises are you claiming in His word?

What are the conditions attached to those promises?

Learning what they are will bring in you closer union with Him and will likely increase the chance that you’ll honor them.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Cry from the Soul

Today’s insight is so simple, yet has a depth of emotions.

“For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us, as silver is tried. Thou broughtest us into the net; thou laidst affliction upon our loins. Thou has caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.” Psalm 66:10-12.

Since a late night in February, when the Lord spoke to me clearly about a life situation, it has been a steady trial of faith. How long will I endure? How long will I hold fast? Just how strong is my faith? Do I truly believe, despite circumstances and appearances, that thing He told me?

Silver is tried through fire. The metal is melted down over intense heat, letting the impurities float to the surface where they can be scrapped off. The remaining silver is once again subjected to the intense heat and once again, the revealed impurities are scrapped off the top. Time and time again, the heat is applied so that the final product will be as pure as it possibly can… but it is painful.

I have been through an intense fire for over two years now. I have been tried in the furnace of affliction. Trials have overtaken me and I have borne burdens crafted by my Prover within a milligram of what I can bear. I have been stretched and broken, repaired and rebroken. Every ounce of fight and defiance has been beaten and burned out of me and I no longer have the same stubbornness I used to.

A spirit once broken is never the same. When it is broken by another human, the result is a ruined and downtrodden life. A spirit broken by its Creator is broken gently and is lovingly reformed into a compliant and tender heart.

Through the fire of trials and tribulations I am being pulled. Through the vales and torrents of water I am being floated. Why the pain? Why the tears? Why?

It is not for me to ask why. I am merely to accept He knows what is best for my future and to trust He knows the structure I need for the future He has planned for me. Structure defines destiny and only One knows exactly what I need. No more Why’s, only steadfast faith.

I will stand firm. I will hold on. There isn’t any of me left and I can no longer fight against His hand. Only by His grace am I able to endure. Only by His will I am.

And on the horizon I see His promise to me… a wealthy place.

He will provide. Every sorrow, every tear, every pain will be washed away as this newly-shaped vessel will be brought out of that molding period… to be brought out into a wealthy place.

I am ready.

Scattering as proactive management

Proverbs 11:24 speaks about something interesting
"There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty"

The Bible speaks a great deal about scattering. The verb itself is used, at my count, over 100 times, and a large portion of the usage of scattering is detrimental. My first response to the first half of the sentence was similar: given the assumption that the increase of something is a good thing, and yet it seems to follow the act of being scattered, observably a bad thing, what examples can I think of where such a think has happened?

Well, let's look at the applications of the verb
In Genesis we have 4 references to scattering (11:4, 8, 9, 49:7), most of which focus on the after effects of the tower of Babel. Clearly God could have used any number of tools to cause His effect here, but he chose scattering, which had the benefit of forcing a kind of racial circumcision upon the peoples of the earth, based upon their language, and setting the stage for the Jews to be a stand alone group. Prior to the tower's construction, people were distinct, but predominantly by locality. Now they would be separated by mindset and paradigm.

Of interest also is that one of the stated motivations for constructing the tower (as an anti-scattering mechanism [Gen 11:4]) came to pass anyway.

A bit less clear (to me, at least) is the Gen 49:7 reference, where Jacob has called all his sons together and is revealing to them how their lives will turn out because of who they have chosen to become. The verse in question deals with Simeon and Levi; Levi should be familiar as the great grandfather to both Aaron and Moses. Ultimately it describes how Simeon and Levi will be (divided in Jacob/scattered in Israel) which might have been a foreshadowing of the events of Moses's day.

Regardless, all of the first four uses of the verb 'to scatter' are firmly in the undesirable experiences category.

Thus - Is the intended use of the verb 'to scatter', from Proverbs 11:24, undesirable?

I would have to say yes - because of the 'yet'

And so, God having walked me though those verses, I see what I believe is his message for me in this verse.

Something that He speaks regularly, clearly, and simply throughout all of His word:

"Trust me"

If you're involved in what seems to be a whirlwind of activities, a large portion of that can often be attributed to wanting to control parts of your life. You may not see it as that, but the reality is that each portion of your day/week/month is comprised of moments and activities to which you AGREED. And it may not be the most convenient activity, but you can choose to reduce some of those things - for it is often the case that, the busier you are, the less you are able to focus on what is truly important.
At the very least, you won't consistently trust how your efforts are moving toward fruition.

This is where the trust comes in.

Trust Him to guide your day

  • you might be as busy, but you'll get more done.

  • you'll be able to appreciate your day a great deal more.

  • you'll be less tired, and more satisfied by your own efforts.

  • you'll appreciate those around you more.

To reprise - the scattering of one's resources can often seem destructive, haphazard, and oddly-attractive. The juggling itself can be a powerful draw. Instead, focus on God's plan for your year. For your day. For your hour.

It isn't easy. And it takes practice.

But the rewards are priceless.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Echoes of an Erased Past

It jumped out at me and grabbed my attention. So many times I’ve read this verse, yet now it struck me with a depth and level of profundity I had never before experienced. Numbers 33:52 set forth this mandate from God, “Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places:”

Over the past week or so, I have watched several movies which interconnected on the plane of ancient Egypt, its history and rediscovery. One of the most amazing documentaries I watched was a BBC mini-series on the rediscovery of Egypt through its pharaohs, its architecture, and its writings and paintings.

Carter, financed by Lord Carnarvon, believed in the existence of an unrobed tomb; he searched his entire life to find the actual remains of Tutankhamen. Giovanni Belzoni struggled to understand Egypt from the perspective of architecture, statues, and artifacts, racing against his arch-nemesis, the ruthless trader Drovetti, to preserve them for posterity. Champolion sought to know the ancient Egyptians through their writings, translating the Rosetta Stone and unlocking the key to their world while seeking answers to his own search for the origins of mankind.

It wasn’t until I read this verse in the Bible that I realized the importance of God’s instructions written there. Without the people, the architecture and statuary, the writings and pictures, a civilization will be completely lost and forgotten. If none of these things remain, how will anyone ever piece that civilization back together again years hence?

I suppose it was my immersion in the importance the way a civilization records daily activities and sets them down in such a way as to be understood years down the road that made me to realize the utter horror that verse in Numbers describes.

God knew the importance of these three areas in the preservation of a people and culture. He also knew the inhabitants of the Promised Land were completely corrupt and evil in His sight, referring to this fact earlier in the Bible when He said the wickedness of the people was not yet complete.

God had once destroyed the entire world because man was continually evil and did no good; only one man was righteous enough to be chosen to repopulate the earth after its destruction… he with his wife, three sons and their wives.

Sodom and Gomorrah had been destroyed suddenly and so completely that only powdery ashes remain to this day in the midst of a completely unfertile piece of land. God would have saved the city if ten righteous people had been within it, but all the inhabitants were extremely wicked and had to be destroyed.

Now, here at the Promised Land, the wickedness of the inhabitants had come to full flower and God instructed the Children of Israel how exactly to remove them not just from the land, but from history itself. They were to drive out the people and remove them. They were to destroy all pictures, and I believe this includes any form of writing and engraving. They were to tear down all statuary and idols. They were to “quite pluck down” every shred of architecture.

The people, the culture, the civilization was to be completely obliterated, never to be remembered or reconstructed again. A very intense picture of what happens to a people who forgets their God and goes a whoring after others.

Stop the killing!

Numbers 35:33 is a particularly heady verse, because of something that is implied prior to it, but is explicitly stated here - "for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel". This isn't something particularly remarkable to us - if you're a believer in Christ Jesus, you already know that God is real, and is in every single one of you ... and if you're not, leave a comment on this post. But it must have been a remarkable reminder about one of the primary reasons for all those rules a few chapters ago, the path that the children of Israel were directed to meander about, and the new opportunities for racial growth with their claiming of the land that God had set aside so many generations before - God is with us!

Much like so many other things in the Bible, it is jam packed betwixt other facts. We have the cities of refuge, where murderers are given the option of living there, instead of expressing themselves murderously around everyone else. And it has a really nice ring to it, to me - I've never really had peace about the idea that is embedded in our own court system - that a certain amount of money and time spent can equate to a specific sin. How can you say that murder is worth $5 or $5,000,000? How can you say that someone's "debt to society" is paid for through a lifetime sentence, or public service, or any of those kinds of things? But that is another question for another time. Suffice to say that God's solution is elegant -

"Okay, I'm living with you people. If you murder someone (and here are some examples of what I mean by murder), I want you to move out and go somewhere else. Yes, you get to pick where, but only six cities. And don't come back before the high priest dies, or someone here will greet you in the manner designed by the "revenger of blood". Everyone else: don't kill murderers out of anger - you're just as bad as they are."

It is a really kind thing to do, and we have the space for it - America is huge.

But let us look at this from a different perspective. It is apparent, from Numbers 35, that repentance wasn't a common topic - so much so that the only resolution, prior to these cities of refuge, was to kill the murderer. Likely, this was one of the motivations for these specific instructions (as well as pointing out that killing the murderer out of anger made the people just as bad as who they were passing judgment upon).

Do we do the same thing? Are we claiming the heritage of the children of Israel too much, and responding to a sin we see with a complementary sin?

  • If someone lies to you, and you discover it (or through a word of knowledge from God, are just instantly aware of it), do you let their choice to lie to you cause you to sin?

  • If someone is prideful and arrogant, do you let their irreverence be justification to judge them harshly, and without guidance from the lord, thereby committing the same sin as them?

  • Or to use the literal sin

  • Have you ever been angry at someone for being angry at you?

  • Or impatient at someone for being impatient with you?

Few would answer "no" to all four of these questions.

And so I challenge you to earnestly answer these questions:

- what sin is holding you back? What are you listening to instead of hearkening to God?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Death of Aaron

From Numbers 33:38 we have a signal event - Aaron dies. It is very easy to miss. The children of Israel are wandering from hut to hut, desert to desert, mountain to mountain, and after the listing, like a kind of geographic genealogy, with the children of Israel visiting various places from their past (and I'd really like to map them out to see how the travails of the children of Israel correspond to the events of their shared history prior) and in the midst of the genealogy, Aaron dies. It isn't overly hard to understand why, as in the natural people do die ... but we are told he dies at an age of 123. But he's the first. And for however many years, the children had been walking, clothes not wearing out, manna ever populating, being led by pillar and cloud ... and Aaron dies.

It must have been a shock. As much as Moses was the people's connection with God, Aaron was the less spoken of brother, probably loved as much as Moses was respected, and to see Aaron die - it must have truly put into perspective what God meant by not letting them see the promised land. For, if Moses was a kind of living metaphor for the relationship with God, then Aaron was a metaphor for how holy the children of Israel were.
So, their icon of spiritual sobriety, who certainly wasn't perfect, and was likely far more approachable than Moses, dies, and it sets the tone for the rest of their meandering. Because, if Aaron can die, their high priest, then every single one of them can die.

Something else - they must have seen it coming. In our society, it would be rare to see someone over 120 years of age walking anywhere, let alone with his whole family. So, they would have seen the degradation of his garb, the growing shakiness of his legs, the weakening of his eyesight ... it would have given relevance, validity, and poignancy to what Moses had said ... kind of put it into perspective. And this is something we all should guard against - not trusting God at face value, but looking after some confirmation in the natural. It is extremely tempting to assume that one's perspective is accurate, but the Bible clearly states that there is safety and wisdom in the multitude of counselors, and one aspect of that is trusting God. And because the children of Israel did not trust God, and actively reported that the promised land was something they couldn't claim, it implied God was lying, something else we should always guard against!

So my challenge to you is this:
If you've heard God speak treat it like it is God speaking it!
If you're unsure, ask Him to confirm it! And then, expect that confirmation, and if winds up not being God, don't act on it!
Regardless - We're each called to intercessory prayer, and that includes on behalf of ourselves! So be a part of your own multitude of counselors, and pray on your own behalf for God's wisdom and guidance!

Unusual Tally and Porcine Jewelry

I never cease to be amused at what appears to be one of the most random pieces of information set forth in the Bible.

In Numbers 34:9, the Bible tells us that in the exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt, they eventually came to Elim (listed as the fifth camping place) where there "were twelve fountains of water, and threescore and ten palm trees; and they pitched there." Though I have not investigated the original language, which I suspect may shed further light on why this particular phrasing was used, I find it humorous that they should count the number of water fountains and palm trees before setting up camp.

I always imagine Moses saying something like this to his sidekick, "Oh... this looks like an interesting place. Let me see... mmhmm... We've got, oh, twelve fountains of water and... yeah... seventy palm trees. Pass the word; we'll be staying here." It may not, in fact, be that they chose to camp there based on the water and palm tree count, but the wording of the verse seems to imply that... which I find amusing.

The other metaphor that struck me today was from Proverbs 11:22, "As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion." And again, I have a ludicrous mental image of a melange of the two; morphing between a gorgeous woman wallowing in the mud and an ugly, ugly pig wearing the same breathtaking earring which can be seen in the woman's ear... funny, then again, not so funny.

I have seen this phenomena before. Not the pig wearing the "jewel of gold," but the beautiful woman who lacks discretion. I knew a drop-dead gorgeous girl once... she was so beautiful, it was hard to believe she was human. But all her beauty and appeal to the eye could not cover up her complete lack of propriety or discretion. Each time the beauty would take over and seem to dictate she be treated one way, that indescretion would surface, causing me (and others) to shut down to her and arrange for her not to be a representative of the company we were working for.

It was sad. This verse serves as a reminder for me too... Though not as bad as I used to be, I still find myself at times lacking in discretion - which has led to many embarassing and humiliating situations in my life. The visual used by Solomon as he attempted to put a simile on the awkwardness and incongruity of women of indiscretion was masterfully put.

A jewel of gold is a work of art and worthy to be desired, but when placed in a pig's snout, its beauty is diminished by reason of the loathsome surroundings.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Uniquely Suited to Complement; not Compete

One of the issues I've had to contend with in the Bible is the role of women.

Now, before I am decried as a feminist and alpha female (which I'm not), let me explain where I'm coming from. Throughout the Bible, I have noticed God's penchant to put men in a position of authority and leadership... not the woman. Additionally, there are many verses which apply to firstborns being specially chosen by God, but they tend to be male firstborns... and that's a completely different subject which I may or may not ever get into.

The motif I'm trying to get at here is my initial responses to God's choice of men over women for authority and leadership purposes and the consequent delineation between men and women's roles. To be perfectly clear, I don't believe this elevation of man to his rightful position of authority is unjust or a denigration of women by God; in fact, I believe God has a very high opinion and respect of women throughout the Bible as can be noted from the responsibilities He has placed on the women.

A woman's responsibilities may not seem as important or as demanding or as stressful as a man's responsibilities, but I would argue that the woman often has a harder lot in life then the man if she is to do things according to God's standards.

The argument by women in today's society is that men don't do anything so they must. This has led to a militant force of women sweeping the globe and infiltrating even the most discriminatory fields and areas of life, business, military, etc. Since man is not being a man, woman must fill his place. Women complain about how men lack initiative, drive, focus, responsibility; how they live their lives in complacency, seemingly spineless, lackluster creatures - which drives the woman insane.

Women have a tendency to see something that needs to be done or a problem that needs to be solved and if the man doesn't do it, obviously the woman must. It is here that women make the most terrible mistake of all; the mistake of impatience and usurpation of the man's role in society.

God made men to be leaders and to be the heads of whatever body they are leading. Their rule begins with their family and moves up from there: work groups, companies, governments, states, countries. The man has been uniquely equipped to rule and to be in command. However, their ability to be men seems directly linked to the amount of respect, honor, and deference women show to them.

Men need to be given a chance to be the leaders they were created to be.

And this is where the woman must realize when to step aside. It may take the man longer to realize what the problem is, it may take him longer to take any action. If a woman immediately throws herself into the problem and attempts to solve it herself, she removes the necessity for the man to do anything at all. Because of the intensity that arises from a woman trying to do a man's work, it is often more convenient for the man just to stay out of the way.

Result: a society of women who are frazzled beyond all belief as they try to juggle their responsibilities as mother and homemaker with the man's responsibilities of leadership and provision. On the other side is a society of men whose masculinity has been trampled by a stampede of high heels and a flurry of impatience and disrespect, leading them to a life as a target of disdain and disgust - why bother?

It is my belief that if women would stand down and suppress the frequently overwhelming desire to DO something, men would move forward to fill the gaps. If women would stop despising men and focusing on what they don't do and start showing respect and deference for the laudable things they DO do, men would blossom and begin to reclaim their manhood. If women would expect men to be men and to take charge and not only wait for them to do so, but encourage them as they moved toward that goal, the blood of manhood would once again run through their veins.

I believe women have a much more difficult role in life... we are to be supportive and respectful.

This can be one of the hardest things a woman can ever do; to stand back and wait for the man to fill the gap he was uniquely created to fill. This is not a wimpy role, it does not detract from womanhood to do this. In fact, I believe it will elevate men's opinion of woman and instead of seeing and treating her as a poorly-behaved man, he will begin to see and treat her as a woman - completely different from him, yet uniquely suited to complement, not compete, with him throughout life.

It is time for women to stand down and allow men to stand up... they will if we let them.

Righteousness through Providence, shared headship, Baalam as a near-king experience, and a tesseract in a fig tree

Even the seed of the righteous is delivered (Proverbs 11:21). This, to me, is clearly an aspect of righteousness that is assumed, expounded upon, and written about a great deal - that of applied providence! God provides for His will to be executed, magnified, and glorified, most of the time before we even think to ask to be a part of it!!

Also, let us add this to reasons to be just and to edify. More and more, it is clear that, even from the point of view of moral abstraction, following the Bible just makes good horse sense. And from the Bible-as-the-anointed-word-of-God perspective, it is a huge blessing that the Lord has placed this much clarity and focus, as well as a plethora of examples, which provide us many edifying models. He truly loves us!!

I've never understood why Numbers 30 was in the Bible - mostly because it seems out of place. There is no transition to it, nor from it. It stands out as distinct. It is not for lack of repetition (intensity), for in the chapter itself, the matter is certainly reinforced. But the presence of the contents is much like in the books of the prophets, where the prophets were speaking on something, then change focus in mid sentence.
However, it is of interest, simply because it appear that God places serious responsibility on the man of the house. So here is a question, tying into yesterday's mention of Moses placing some honour upon Joshua. Is an application of this, when the man of the house tells his oldest son that he is in charge, and to protect it, when he must be away for work? I'm certain he's off praying for his family ... but a large aspect of Numbers 30 is the idea that the man must HEAR the promises the woman is making. Yes, there are cell-phones, but the question remains: in such a situation, are the promises of the woman reinforced/negated by the eldest male child ... in that situation, was the child truly able to receive some measure of portion of headship?

Referencing several days ago, when I mentioned Baalam, I had had a discussion about how Baalam could be the likely blame for the Midianites introducing their young women to the Israelities, and if not for Phinehas (Numbers 25:7), the children of Israel might well have been wiped out. Certainly it was a subtle attack by the Midians, kinged by Balak, and because it happened immediately following Balak's focused request of Baalam that Baalam would curse the Midianites, and because it clearly mentions in Numbers 24:14 that Baalam would "advertise thee what this people shall do to thy people in the latter days," one might conclude this MIGHT mean that Baalam was providing advise to Balak, specifically to entice to children of Israel, thereby bringing the curse of the very God that had been protecting them. This, I believe, is further verified in Numbers 31:8, where the five kings of Midian, and Baalam were killed. It rarely mentions individuals being killed unless they were of significance. This significance is revealed in Numbers 31:16, where it clearly states that the children of Israel committed trespass through the counsel of Baalam in the manner of Peor, which I believe references the plague that Phinehas abated, as referenced in Numbers 25:5 (...Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baal-peor). Baalam was a bad dude.

An additional point of interest relates specifically to Jesus. Jesus was tempted in the wilderness - so well and clearly is this true that Luke 4 is the reference for it. And I've read it before. But I have never really noticed some things that were done. Satan seems able to tele-port people - he brought Jesus different places while tempting him. Does this mean that Satan can, without the Holy Spirit to protect us, rearrange us like chess pieces, physically placing us where it will do the most harm? An interesting and scary thought, and I am so blessed (as are you, who read this) that God is greater! Likewise, we see Jesus, after being tempted by Satan in Luke 4:13, where Satan had brought him on a pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem (was this THE temple? A temple?), and in Luke 4:14, Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, a distance of over 35 miles (distance varies, as Galilee seems to be a region, instead of a city, based on a few maps of the region. If it is a city, the distance is likely even longer. If the average person walks 6 miles an hour, Jesus would have had to walk 6 hours, in his dilapidated state. So it is a miracle, after the miracle of surviving the temptations, that Jesus was borne to Galilee by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is so merciful - we truly have a merciful God that gives us an anointed connection to Him through it!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Sacrificial Obedience

It is amazing, the detail the Lord goes into in Number 28 and 29, with respect to the specific sacrifices required by the children of Israel on certain days of the year, in accordence with observing the sabbath, in this case the sabbath of the seventh month (instead of the standards eventh day).

The only thing I've ever taken away from these passages, outside of the fact that it is rather hard to please God through sacrifice, is the idea that He takes sacrifice seriously. This is something I will have to pray about because it is really, really easy to believe I've honored God by tithing monies, time, resources, or energy, to someone I felt God was leading me to honor. And it is quite easy to think I'm honoring God simply because I'm engaged in that giving state, which often lends itself to a giving spirit.

The problem is that, if God truly is blessed by sacrifice (not more-so than obedience, but sacrifice is important), then it behooves us to make no sacrifice run-of-the-mill. There should be no apathetic, arbitrary, or accidental sacrifices. No tenative gifts, hesitantly given, cautiously provided.

If we are of the belief that a sacrifice is something God has placed in our hearts, no less a spirit of giving should follow that administration, but also a spirit of giving should be a part of our preparation TO give! Another way to phrase it is that "we should prepare for the preparation of giving!"

Here is a more physical example: Imagine God calls you to build an ark, like Noah. Yes, it is a huge blessing to be called, and yes God will provide the resources ... but Noah was chosen above his ability to be faithful in construction! Anyone, with the Lord's guidance, could probably have built that ark. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Noah was "a just man and perfect in his generations." I don't really know what "perfect in his generations" (although I have a theory) but I am fairly certain I know what it means to be just.

In Noah's day, there were no kings, and judges weren't about yet - in fact men were doing what was right in their own eyes, so it is pretty amazing, all by itself, that there was ANYONE faithful on the Earth! But I bring up Noah, because Noah wasn't chosen because he was already a carpenter (although he might have been - knowing God's amazing ability to train people for His glory and eventual assignments, far in advance of what He has planned for them), but because he was faithful.

So, while Noah was learning how to be a boatsmith, he wasn't going to classes - he was probably spending a great deal of time in prayer. And this is what I'm focusing on - Noah's whole life, he prepared to do the work of the Lord. We don't know how faithful he was early on, but he was clearly faithful later in life, and willing and able to fulfill the Lord's plan for his life. Noah had spent years learning to be faithful in the desert of his culture, surrounded by founts of evil and overflowing souces of unrepentant peers, he chose to drink only from the well of God's fountain - and it made him strong. Strong enough that, when he was called to sacrifice his time and resources, he did so with fear, trembling, and prayer.

It doesn't reveal exactly how Noah went about his business, but as he was just, and as the adjective just is one of the descriptives of those who are counted as righteous in the Lord's will, I believe that Noah was so faithful that daily he went to the Lord and basically asked "what now?" And this kind of attitude was a blessing to them both!

This is what I'm getting at - in addition to the reality that we each are called to sacrifice specific to how the Lord has blessed us, we are also called to be just - and I believe the best way to live this out with respect to sacrifice isn't simply to sacrifice, and be done with it; but to pray, and allow the sacrifice itself be an act of reverence, to honor God with that sacrifice, and to dwell, if only a little, on what the sacrifice truly means to you.

In this way we can honor God, both in the sacrifice, and through obedient and prayerfully approaching His throne and thanking him allowing us to sacrifice in the first place.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Honour as gift; Grace as defense

what did it mean for the Lord to ask Moses to put "some of thine honour upon" Joshua [Numbers 27:20].

- is honor different than honour? (different spelling)
- how does one put some of our honour on someone else?
- what is this honour? is it general respect, meaning to introduce someone and give them a good send off?
- is it clothing?
- is it the holy spirit?
- is it to delegate one's authority or responsibilities?
- is it an assignment, prescient in nature, meaning to prepare Joshua for the position of honour Moses already had?

We clearly see the justification ("that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient") and it suggests the last (training Joshua as Moses's replacement) and this is further verified by the following passage, where it indicates that, "he (Joshua) shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel" (so Joshua will intercede on behalf of the children of Israel) and that "at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in". So we have the children of Israel respecting Joshua as they respect Moses. This is further validated in the last verse of the chapter, where Moses lays hands on Joshua, and "gave him a charge."

Of interest is the separate use of the word "honor" from Proverbs 11:16. In particular it says that "a gracious woman retaineth honour...."

So we have honour referring to something that can be given freely and from this proverb we see that honor can be lost.

Of interest is that there are 16 different words in the Hebrew and Greek that refer to honour. So the concept isn't simple, nor of simplistic nature.

The 'honour' referred to in Numbers 27:20 is that of "howd" (pronounced hode), meaning splendour, majesty, and vigour; also glory, majesty, beauty, comeliness, glorious, and goodly.

The 'honour' referred to in Proverbs 11:16 is that of "kabowd" (pronounced kaw-bodé) meaning dignity, reputation, reverence, glory, and abundance.

Clearly, there is an overlap, but it is interesting that the same word relates to such fundamentally different things.

From Numbers, I retain the idea that it relates to God asking Moses to prepare Joshua as his replacement. This means the children of Israel likely were given a great deal of time to prepare for Joshua to be Moses' replacement.
And from Proverbs, that if a woman is gracious, she will retain her glory and dignity.

So, if you are a man, keep your eye out for your Joshua, while hearkening to the Lord - for you never know when you'll need to be that strong man of Proverbs 11:17, who keeps his riches, and when you'll, instead, be needing to train you replacement.
And, if you're a woman, focus on grace - for, along with a multitude of counselors, it provides a safety net of God's wisdom.