Called to what?

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Many times we in Scripture that God often calls his children “out” of places. We see Abraham called out of the land of the Chaldeans, we see that Moses and the Israelites were called out of Egypt. During the rebuilding of Jerusalem, the scattered Israelites were called out of Babylon.

The word for “holy” could be interpreted “set apart” or “consecrated.” You are called to holiness. And yes, sometimes that sounds intimidating when we realize that means we need to get rid of our selfish ambitions and motives. But I take comfort that God promises to help us accomplish his commands. (Phil 1:3-6) In the New Testament, Peter tells us we are called “out of darkness”.

In some Christian circles – some Amish communities and some conservative or fundamentalist groups – this idea of being separated from the whole of society is still ruling their behavior. They believe one of our primary goals is to avoid worldliness. “Don’t be contaminated by the world’s influence.” I’ve met Christians who think our job is to “hold on till Jesus comes”. They understand that we are called away from something, but should this be the goal of Christ’s followers? I must ask myself:

What are disciples called to?

There are many Scriptures in the New Testament that tell us exactly what our calling is. We, the body of Christ, are called to:

Lets not define ourselves merely what we refuse to do. Let’s define ourselves by who we love- which should be Jesus and every human being. And let’s define ourselves by what we seek – faith, peace, freedom, light, and truth, to name a few.

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A Prayer for You

I want you to know how deep and high and wide and broad the love of Christ is!

If we can grasp His love our lives are changed. Forever!

I want you to be filled with all the fullness of God.

Blessed are you who are empty. God’s will is to fill you with light and life and love.

I want you to pray big prayers. God is able to do unimaginably wonderful things.

Ephesians 3

Restoration through… Leviticus?

I love the book of Exodus, but I’ll admit to skimming when I get to Leviticus. It hasn’t been my favorite, although I don’t quite put the “cus” in Leviticus.

About a month ago, I was complaining to God saying, “Why has my Bible study time been so dry? Why am I not receiving fresh truth from Your Word, even though I’m faithfully reading? I desperately need some ‘daily’ bread.” That day my scheduled reading was from Psalm 19, and when I arrived at verse 7, I received my answer. ”

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul… Psalm 19:7a

Since the psalmist was referring to “The Law” (also known as Genesis through Deuteronomy, or “The Pentateuch” or “The Torah”) I decided to him at his word and start reading the law. I skipped Genesis because I’d read it fairly recently, and plus I just happen to love Exodus. And it was beautifully restorative. I began to find fresh truth daily in that book, many wonderful truths about who God is, and how great he is, and how perfect his plan is.

But then, a week ago I opened to Leviticus, with a slight sense of dread. Sure, Exodus has been restorative but… Levitical law? The Spirit seemed to remind me that I am part of the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:5) , and I felt encouraged to use this read-through of Leviticus to help develop a priestly mindset. And to my surprise, Leviticus has been restorative.

I especially enjoyed reading about the consecration of the priests (Leviticus 9), since I could see myself as one of them. When Aaron and his sons became the first priests to God’s tabernacle, the were washed with water, dressed in new priestly robes, anointed with oil, sprinkled with blood during the sin offering, and then a whole burnt offering and a fellowship offering were given. Then the priests all shared a meal and stayed in the tabernacle of the Lord for seven days. Here is truth this chapter reminds me of:

I am cleansed. I have a new identity (shown by a new spiritual robe, or uniform). I have been anointed with the oil of healing, and the oil of God’s Spirit. I have been sprinkled with Jesus’ blood that gives me not only forgiveness, but access to God’s holy presence. I am a living sacrifice. I’m not on this journey alone, but with my fellow-priests. We celebrate God’s goodness together. We share His feast together, remembering Him, often. And one day we will live in His house forever.

He who has ears…

Let him hear!

This phrase is said by Jesus himself on several occasions. What is the heart of this statement? Obviously most people have ears, but the question is, are we putting our ears to the best possible use?

How is it that some people open their hearts to truth? How is it that some are stubborn and refuse truth? How is it that some are humble enough to admit they need help, and some are too proud to listen? How is it that some are able to reflect on their own shortcomings and ask for help, while others can’t admit they are wrong?

Do I have ears?

Am I using my ears to hear truth?

Lord, give all of us on earth the gift of humility. Let us see our weakness and more importantly, your strength. Help us to let go of our pride and be honest with ourselves. Give us ears to hear. Let us hear truth.

My Inheritance

“…Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?’
‘Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,’ Elisha replied.”

I was very blessed as a child to have four adults who were very close to me. As I examine my memories of those adults, certain traits stand out:

Dad – He is great at communicating his love in my language. He is always looking for ways to spend time with us. It can be an old cannoe, a fire pit, or a flea market – Daddy knows it’s an opportunity to hang out with his kids. Any time I ask Dad what present he would like for his birthday, he says “I just want to spend time with the family.” He loves nothing better than having everyone together — which makes me feel very loved.

Mom – She gives great advice. When I was in high school she told me, “Hold onto God with all your strength.” She told me to read Proverbs and embrace those teachings. She’s even made some prophetic statements such as: “You may be fighting now, but you will be dear friends when you grow up.” At the time I didn’t believe that one, but she was right again. I think God must have given her the spiritual gift of discernment. To this day I can trust Mom to tell me what I need to hear.

Papa – He loved studying Scripture. I remember sitting at his kitchen table, with milkshakes and popcorn, while he explained Jesus’ High Priestly prayer to me. He would tackle all my end times questions flipping form Revelation to Matthew 24 to Daniel. He would get out his Greek New Testament and explain the meanings of the words. One of my most treasured possesions is a Bible he used and gave to me.

Nanny – She has a heart for “the least of these”. I loved Nanny’s missionary services on Wednesday nights. She would tell stories about modern day miracles. She would read letters from the mission field. She would reccomend excellent biographies. Sometimes her heart for others would lead her to find odd jobs for college girls who needed money, or make cookies for Papa’s college class.

All of these people are loving and wise, I don’t want to label them with one characteristic only. I mention those traits because of their impact on me.

If it’s not greedy, I want a double portion of what they have. I want Daddy’s ability to communicate love. I want Mom’s gift of wisdom and discernment. I want Papa’s love of Scripture. I want Nanny’s love for the least of these. I realize that the only reason they had these gifts was the Spirit in them. I feel challenged to stay connected to their Source. I want to be Jesus to others the way they were Jesus to me.

Why does God allow evil?

The question of evil has bothered me since I was 15 or 16 years old. It is the subject of the oldest book of the Bible, the book of Job. I was just reading The Word Came with Power, the story of a Joanne Shetler, a Bible translator who lived in the Philippines with the Balangao Bontoc tribe. While she was sharing her faith to people who knew nothing of Christian teachings, the people often asked, “If God is so powerful, why doesn’t he destroy the evil spirits?” or “If God is so powerful, why does he allow evil?”

Many times I’ve been told “Evil is the natural result of free will.” But not only do we have the natural evil of someone who is selfish, we also have a tempter who leads people further down those paths of evil, to things like genocide and human trafficking. Couldn’t God have just allowed us to go down our own paths of free will to good or evil, without encouragement from the devil? Why does God allow Satan to be the god of this world, blinding people’s minds (2 Cor4:4)?

In Genesis 4:7 Cain is angry at his brother. Before he murders Abel, God comes to Cain and warns him — “But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

God offers no explanation for why there is evil, but he does warn that it is seeking to have us, but we must rule over it. This goes along with Genesis 2:9, where we see the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil sitting near one another in the Garden of Eden. God doesn’t explain Evil’s existance, but it’s clear that man was to choose eternal life (the tree of life) over death (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil).

In the book of Job, God allows Satan to try his best to get Job to turn from God. Is it disrespectful to wonder if God has a very high-stake cosmic wager going on over the human race?

Perhaps God allows Satan because of he wants fair play. He is the advocate for eternal life and righteousness through his son. Does he allow Satan to advocate selfishness and sin out of a sense of fairness?

Lamentation 3 – Hope in Darkness

The prophet Jeremiah penned the book named for him before he wrote Lamentation. He had given warning after warning to repent, or Judah would be overrun. And of course no one listened.

He starts the 3rd Lamentation in his book by grieving the tragedies he had experienced. He saw the end of Judah — which meant his world fell apart. And amidst that he saw great evil, lived through a seige (which led to a horrific famine) and then saw a war in which all his neighbors were killed or captured.

And it strikes me as ironic that “the weeping prophet” penned some of the most encouraging words in Scripture:

Lamentation 3:21-26 (KJV)
This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.
It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.

Following this passage (from which numerous songs have been written) Jeremiah’s lamentation begins a repentant strain. He uses the pronouns “We, us and our” to describe the sins of Judah, even though he had no part in their sin, and was the one voice calling for repentence. Jeremiah is often melencholy, dark or tragic, but in reading his books, I find out more about God’s beautiful nature, and see displayed an attitude of humility.

Lamentations
Author: Jeremiah
Date: 586 B.C.
Category: Poetry
Version: NIV, KJV, NASB
Characteristics of God: Merciful, loving, compassionate, faithful, good, just

Lamentation – What Makes God Angry

The first chapter painted a picture of Judah’s tragic state. The second chapter paints a pictue of God’s wrath, and ends with Jeremiah advising Judah to call out to God.

God has allowed Judah to be cut off, dishonored, burned with fire. In the temple a shout of victory arose – but not because of a feast – it was the Babylonians taking over. The temple was torn down as if it were one of the booths used in the Festival of booths. God’s anger is described as fierce.

I became curious about what God is so angry about. In II Kings 23:26 I read that “…the Lord did not turn from the fierceness of His great wrath with which His anger burned against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked Him.” (NASB)

Manasseh was one of the last kings of Judah. I went back a couple chapters and read his history (II Kings 21). He “did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before Israel”. It lists his sins: he rebuilt alters to gods other than the God of Israel, some in the very temple of God. He sacrificed his son in fire. He used divination and sought out “mediums”. He led the rest of Israel to sin. He also shed much innocent blood. When reading about the temple reforms that Josiah (Manasseh’s grandson) instituted, it becomes clear that Manasseh also allowed prostituion in the temple of God. All these actions are forbidden by God in Exodus and Deuteronomy, so it becomes obvious why God was so angry with Judah.

In Lamentations 2:17 we read that
The Lord has done what he purposed;
He has accomplished His word
Which He commanded from days of old…

The prophet Jeremiah then encourages the people of Judah to lift up their hands to God, for the sake of their children. He tells them to pour out their hearts to the Lord.

At times, I think many people are tempted to think God (especially in the Old Testament) as being the God with the Big Hammer — the scary God who is big on smiting. God did punish Judah, but when you read the description of their wrongs is it any wonder? Shedding innocent blood and child sacrifices. And also, breaking their word to a God who had proven himself infinitly powerful many times over.

Pearls: God always keeps His word. Which is very comforting when I remember His promises.

What displeases God is idol-worship (of any variety I’m sure), and the slaughter of the innocent. Also, He was provoked by Manasseh breaking his covenant. On the flip-side, He is pleased if I put Him first, seek justice for the innocent and keep my word to Him.

Lamentations
Author: Jeremiah
Date: 586 B.C.
Category: Poetry
Version: NIV, NASB
Charicteristics of God: Word-keeper, Angry at evil

Lamentation – Song of Sorrow

I’m starting a study in the book of Lamentation -at the recommendation of a friend. I have read through this book a few times, but (due to it’s tragic nature) I haven’t visited this book recently.

In the first chapter I read a poem of intense sorrow. Judah, and therefore Jerusalem was overthrown. Jeremiah expresses their grief in this poem or lament.

The imagery in this passage is of a beloved princess, one who has had her own way without “considering her future.” Now she is a an opressed servant, a restless exile, a bitter widow. Her friends have deserted her and her lovers (probably idols or false gods) do not comfort her.
This is the story of Judah, who because of her evil doings, was allowed to be overthrown. This passage doesn’t list Judah’s crimes against God. In Jeremiah it lists some areas were Judah violated the covenant they made with God in Deuteronomy.

Pearl of wisdom (or gold nuggets):
Even in his misery, the author says that the Lord is righteous. It clearly says that God fashioned the chains of their captivity — but that he made them out of Judah’s own transgressions. The Lord is seen as being within his rights when he allowed this to happen — in fact he is acting on of promises he made in Dueteronomy 28-

“Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and a glad heart… you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you..”

When I see corruption, sorrow, people hurting people, it’s a great comfort to remember that God is righteous.

Lamentations
Author: Jeremiah
Date: 586 B.C.
Category: Poetry
Version: NIV, NASB
Characteristics of God: Righteousness