Stay Flat!

Some of my least favorite conversations start like this.

“What’s the matter?”

“Nothing.”

“I can tell something is bothering you. What’s wrong?”

Like a ping pong match, this exchange can go for a while until one or the other person breaks down and tells why they are angry/hurt/upset/worried/sad etc.  Most of the time it is pretty easy to “read” the people we are close to and we know when to start this conversation.

But we know how to hide, how to pretend, how to dissemble, and how to divert attention from what is really going on with us to some other meaningless thing.  God knows we do this and that we like to think we are pretty good at it.  When Adam and Eve were hiding in that garden He knew where they were and why they were hiding but He asked, “Where are you?” It was similar to asking them, “What’s the matter?”

We may be able to hide from one another but we cannot hide from God.  In chapter 5 of the book of Numbers God has some interesting instructions about revealing some things that could easily be kept hidden.

Leprosy – cannot be in the camp where God is; a person having leprosy must be put out of the camp.  Leprosy often begins with a  visible sore or white patch on the skin and it would it be easy to keep it hidden for a while.

Wrong another person – the offender must confess their sin and make proper restitution. But what if the wrong is not such a big deal or the person offended cannot be found?   “No one will ever know”  This is not an acceptable excuse, we know we did it and so does God.  No procrastination either, do it right away before you “forget”.

Suspected adultery – a husband suspects his wife may have committed adultery but has no proof. (And yes, sorry ladies, a woman suspecting her husband did not have this same recourse and yes, this does not seem fair.)  The husband must take her to the priest, he is not to nag her with accusations and because there are no witnesses she cannot be stoned to death. (The penalty for adultery Leviticus 20:10).  Now it gets really interesting, the priest prepares bitter water for her to drink (water with dust from the ground mixed in)  and the priest makes this pronouncement,

the Lord make you a curse and an oath among your people by the Lord’s making your thigh waste away and your abdomen swell; and this water that brings a curse shall go into your stomach, and make your abdomen swell and your thigh waste away.” And the woman shall say, “Amen. Amen.”

There was really nothing special or “magical” in the water, the priest and woman were agreeing that God would judge her.  If she had committed adultery, she would become barren – unable to bear children, her sin would be exposed.

This is one of those parts of the Bible that makes me look up to God and say, “Huh?  I don’t think I really get all this, God.”  And I “hear” God say, “That’s ok, I am glad you are working on it, you don’t have to understand every word of my Word but what do you get?”

And here are two things that seem very clear:

  • Sin spreads, like leprosy, it will not go away and must be dealt with or it may “infect” others.  Once I have taken one apple from my neighbors orchard it becomes much easier to take two or three the next time,  “Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.”
  • God expects His people to be holy as He is holy.  To be honest in all our dealings with one another.  To be honest with Him, to confess our sin, apologize to those we have hurt, to make restitution if necessary, to honor our marriage vows with our faithfulness.  To be pure and holy is a process, it begins on the outside with cleaning up the obvious sin in our lives, whatever that is, drinking, bad language, etc.  Then we are to move on the deeper levels, being honest in all of our dealings with each other and finally to honesty in our closest, most intimate relationship – our marriages.

Jon Courson (Jon Courson’s Application Commentary, Old Testament, Volume 1) writing on the woman accused of adultery in this passage says that her swollen belly indicates her inner turmoil and her rotten (wasted) thigh represents an inability to walk spiritually.  A swollen belly and a painful leg make it difficult to walk (ask anyone who is 8 – 9 months pregnant!)  A pure life brings inner peace and a strong walk with the Lord.  How do you get that?  Admit your sin to God, ask Him to forgive you, believe that Jesus died for you, accept Jesus’ gift of salvation.  So, keep your belly flat and your legs strong!

No Little Adults

All kids go through stages of asking the question, “Why?”  On occasion, kids ask because they genuinely want an answer to something they do not understand.  Lots of the time I think kids ask to see their parents give long elaborate answers – a diabolical form of kid entertainment.  Parents, trust me, they are not listening and don’t care!  Once your cuties,  hit the teen years they usually only ask the “why” question in response to some parental ruling they disagree with – they are looking for an argument, they have reached the pinnacle of the puppet-master years and love to make parents tap dance.

In parenting my own kids, I was a big proponent of the 1 2 3 Magic system of parenting taught by Dr. Thomas Phelan, Ph.D.  One thing he teaches is that parents have a faulty assumption about kids; Phelan calls it “The Little Adult” Assumption.   I see parents doing this all the time, especially when little Seymour is having a major melt-down in the candy aisle.  Parents assume kids are just small adults who will respond to logical explanations so parents attempt to talk and reason with their disobedient darlings.  Wrong!  Kids are crazy monsters and no amount of reasonable and logical explanation and discussion will convince them to obey.  You go, Dr. Phelan – preach it!

In the book of Leviticus, God is giving Moses His instructions for life and worship and in chapters 19 and 20 God shares His reasons for these instructions not once or twice but 20 times in some variation:

  • You shall be holy for I the Lord your God am holy.
  • I am the Lord your God.
  • I am the Lord.

God knows that He is giving these instructions to children, the Israelites needed to be taught who God was as well as His expectations for them.  I am just as child-like as the Israelites, I need to be taught how to worship, taught who God is, taught how to be holy.  I am even more inclined to ask, “Why?” than the Israelites since I live in the age where knowledge without wisdom and science is god (small ‘g’, god) and in a democratic world where self-determination, self-motivation, self-satisfaction and Self is idolized.  God, demonstrating His perfect parenting skills and avoiding “The Little Adult Assumption”, is not obligated to explain Himself or His rules and He expects obedience.  Life is not “all about me” but all about God.

God’s answer when I am tempted?  “You shall be holy for I the Lord am holy.”

God’s answer when I want to disobey? “I am the Lord your God.”

God’s answer when I defiantly rebel? “I am the Lord.”

No other answer, no other explanation is needed.  To live a life of holiness and true worship, obey God; simple but not easy.

Heart Work

Done!!  Just finished writing thank you notes for some of the gifts I received this Christmas.  The gifts themselves were small things, inexpensive items but quite unexpected; from residents of the apartment complex where I work.  Actually, I am always surprised when anyone gives me a gift, even on those occasions like Christmas when gift exchange is expected, I am surprised at the thoughtfulness of the people in my life.  Of the Five Love Languages, Gifts is not one of mine so getting a gift, especially from someone I hardly know is very surprising to me.  I enjoy giving gifts if I get an inspiration or see something I know is perfect for the recipient, otherwise giving becomes more of a chore since I am not a big fan of shopping malls or stores.

Recently, I was challenged to think about the gift Jesus would like from me.  What gift do I give to the person who quite literally has everything and already has my heart?  The Book of Leviticus contains verse after verse describing in great detail the who, what, why, where, when and how of God’s commands on sacrifices.  There were times bulls, rams, goats, birds and unleavened bread were to be offered.  Sacrifices must be unblemished and without defect.  Different occasions, sins and situations demanded different sacrifices.  All of this seems so alien and odd in today’s culture and to me; it is difficult to relate to and causes my mind heart and stomach to rebel at the thought of so much blood, work and ritual.

The OT God who demanded this level of sacrifice and dedication has not changed but I am not under the old covenant of law but under the new covenant of grace and since it is the same God some form of sacrifice, of gift, seems appropriate but what?

I found my answer in Romans 12:1.

Therefore I urge you brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies, a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

Myself, God wants me, all of me, my heart and my body, I am to be a living sacrifice.  All the OT sacrifices were dead, killed before being placed on the altar, God wants me to place myself on a symbolic altar and by His strength, to stay there when everything in me is screaming to jump off.  God wants me holy as He is holy, Jesus has covered my sin defects and blemishes, my sacrifice is to remain unblemished but when I do sin (and I will) to quickly confess my sin (blemishes and defects).   All of this process, this life style of sacrifice and awareness that I belong to God and am not my own, is worship.

Worship of God as He is, pure, holy, majestic, awesome, just, righteous, merciful, wise, loving, good, long-suffering, infinite, self-sufficient, omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal.  Worship that no longer follows a ritual or pattern but is from the heart.  Worship is a life lived God’s way, putting God first, others second and myself last.  Worship that only God can inspire and the Holy Spirit enable me to offer.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Jesus.  Here is my gift of worship and here is my open and teachable heart;  I can’t do it without you, so teach me how to be a worshipper, offering my humble and flawed spiritual service to you.

The Better Choice

I am in seated in a room full of people.  Most of the people in the room really do not want to be there, including me.  Most of us are in this room for the first time so we are a bit uneasy, uncertain of what will happen or what is expected of us.  A man walks to the podium in the front of the room and proceeds to welcome, thank and instruct us on what is expected of us.  One simple instruction he gives is to look at the number we have been assigned as we entered.  He tells us to listen for our number to be called and when and if it is, he asks us to respond out loud so he can hear and then see each person whose number has been called.  Pretty simple right?  How many times do you think he had to repeat that simple, specific instruction?  How many times do you think no one responded when their number was called?  Since this was a pretty average group of adults he repeated this instruction no less than 6 times.  I lost count of how many times he asked individuals for an oral response.  Do you people not listen or did you just decide that his instructions did not apply to you? This experience just reinforced what I already knew, people do not follow instructions!

God expects our obedience and His instructions are simple and specific.  Exodus is full of clear instruction given by God directly to Moses.  Moses was responsible for: delivering God’s instructions to the Israelites and, for making sure that the people followed God’s instructions exactly.  In chapters 39 and 40 of the Book of Exodus the people were crafting the garments for the High Priest, anointing the High Priest, assembling the tabernacle and anointing the tabernacle.  There were many, detailed and exacting requirements and each one needed to be completed in a specified order.  The people obeyed  God’s instructions through Moses EXACTLY.

I cannot help but think how many times I fail at obeying God’s exact instructions.  How often I worship something other than God.  I worship my comfort or reputation, I worship stuff, I worship my ease and comfort.  I am shamed by the times I behave, or talk or think unloving thoughts about others.  Those times I put myself, my wants before the needs of someone God has placed in my path, the times it is easier to turn aside from helping because getting involved in others pain is so messy.

These verses also remind me that God notices obedience, the phrase, “just as the Lord is commanded” is repeated 18 times in 76 verses.  Once or twice would have been enough to make the point but multiple repetitions tell me that God highly values and recognizes every act of obedience.

Obeying God is actually simple, just follow the instructions, but it is not easy.  I am grateful for God’s grace; that He repeats instructions and is patient with me as I learn to hear and follow His voice and only His voice.

Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold,to obey is better than sacrifice,  1 Samuel 15:22

Got Rules?

What rules do you have in your head for yourself, for others?  You know you have them because you get upset when one of them gets broken!  I know I have a “mental rulebook” – here are a few of my rules:

  • Don’t interrupt me when I am reading, especially if I am deeply involved in the book!
  • Don’t interrupt me when I am watching a movie, especially if I am deeply involved in the movie!
  • Don’t mix patterns, stripes with plaid for example, this is a rule I apply only to myself.  I see other people do this all the time and it looks great on them, I can never make it work for me and I hate those people who can pull it off!
  • Keep to the right when driving, biking, walking in the mall, airport, park or on the sidewalk – just do it!
  • Stop asking your precious toddlers what they want  – period.  They’re the kids, you’re the adult – decide, they don’t have a clue and you sound ridiculous!
  • I don’t lend books.  I bought it cause I want it and you probably won’t return it anyway, don’t ask to borrow it and if I offer it to you just keep it and don’t try to pretend you forgot to return it.
  • Do not leave dirty dishes in my sink – if you use it, wash it.  Yes, wash it by hand since I don’t have a dishwasher.
  • I do not want to sit at the table with a dirty dish in front of me.  Server, clear the table right away please and if you eat at my house I WILL take your dish away as soon as you are done eating.
  • Stop putting toilet paper on the seat in the public restroom – the seat is cleaner than the faucets and door handles and if you are one of these nuts make sure you flush it away when you are done – yuk!

I could go on but you get the idea.  People see Christianity as a religion with lots of rules; this could not be further from the truth.  Christianity is a relationship that follows two simple rules: Love the Lord your God and Love your neighbor as yourself.  Can you imagine the transformation that would result if we practiced this law of love?

If I truly loved God, I would talk to Him constantly.  I would rush to spend time with Him and spend as much time with Him as possible.  I would start to resemble Him, being forgiving, gracious and merciful, patient and understanding.  I would want to give Him a gift, a gift He really wanted, a gift that would bring Him joy – my heart is what he wants most.

If I could love my neighbor as myself I’d be glad to give all my books away.  Interruptions would be seen as divine appointments.  Your litter and dirty dishes would just be a way I could serve you as I would like to be served.  If I could love my neighbor as myself, I would see you as God sees you.  God sees you as so precious, so worthy, so important that Jesus died for you.  God understands your pain, your sin, your uniqueness, He knows what makes you happy, He knows what you need,  He loves you  – I need to love you the same way.  God also holds us accountable for our actions, He does not protect us or prevent us from experiencing the consequences of our decisions – I also need to love you like that.  I can’t be your doormat, enabler or stumbling block so clean up your litter, control your kids and wash your dishes!

I know I have far to go in obedience to these two rules.  So simple but not easy…

P.S.  This post was inspired by a fellow blogger, you can read the inspiration post here:  Me – Who Am I?

What unspoken rule is in your mental rulebook?  I’d like to read it – add it in the comments…