Don’t Be Caught With Your Pants Down!

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“But grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory now and to the day of eternity.  Amen.”  2 Peter 3:18

There is a day approaching and it will come on us like a thief breaking in a house.  Some of us will be prepared, and some of us…well…this will be a day like no other.  Oh, there are terrible natural disasters.  We’ve seen them.  Some of us have lived through them.  But on this day, it’s been promised that “the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”  (2 Peter 3:10) 

It’s not like Peter was pulling some crazy idea out of nowhere.  This is sound Biblical truth.  Take it as a promise from God.  We can find it shared by John in Revelation. Jesus told us in Matthew, Luke, and Mark.  Paul warns us.  Isaiah, Nahum, Malachi, Amos, Joel, and Micah warned us.  The Psalmist warns us and Jude warns us.  With all those warnings, what will I do about it?  How will I prepare?  How am I to prepare?

Hasn’t Peter already been preparing us?  But just in case we missed it, Peter asks, “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God…”  (2 Peter 3:11,12a)   Actually, he’s not asking a question.  He’s telling us the kind of people we ought to be busy being.  In other words, the sort of being you ought to be in your life is holy and godly, like one looking forward to and awaiting His coming. 

How can I look forward to a coming like that with so much utter destruction?  Because I know the truth.  According to God’s promise, it doesn’t end with destruction for those who believe, for the child of God.  We are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells 24-7.  That’s God’s promise.  That is what He is bringing in after He cleanses away the brokenness and sin.

It’s not like waiting for a dentist or doctor appointment or punishment from Dad, where you wait and cringe and don’t look forward to it at all.  Of course we don’t look forward to the destruction, but then we look beyond the destruction, don’t we.  Isn’t that hope?  Isn’t that trust?   Isn’t that faith?  We wait for the final promise, the new heavens, the new earth, righteousness everywhere because God is the light of everything and Jesus is the heart of everything.  And if I know this, then don’t I want to live so that I’m ready for the presence of God?  Don’t I want to live diligently in You?  Don’t I want to be faithful at allowing You, Your way in my life, of surrendering all to You now so that I’ll be ready to be whatever You want me to be in You throughout eternity?  Don’t I want to live my life preparing for that?

When You come back, because You are, it’s a promise, how will I be found?  What will I be doing?  Will I be ready?  Or will I be “caught with my pants down”?  That would be embarrassing, wouldn’t it?  How am I preparing now?  Am I diligent?  Am I quick to obey You?  Do I make every effort to know Your will more and more every day and to do it?  Am I prompt with what I learn?  Am I earnest?  Do I follow through with action and life change or do I just store it up in my brain?  Is it a labour of love to seek Your will through Your word and time spent meditating upon it and in prayer with You?  Do I labour to obey, to walk it out in my life, to let You have Your way in me?  Do I really study to show myself “approved unto God, a workman not needing to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”?

Lord, help me to be diligent to grow in grace and in knowing, really knowing Jesus as my Lord and Saviour, knowing His will, so that I know Your will, and do it, because it has become my joy to glorify You now and forever.  My goodness, if I can’t find joy in glorifying You now in my body and life, how do I expect to find joy in You in eternity?  My joy can’t wait; it has to start now, because now is when I know You.  To not have joy is to not know You, and one can’t have hope in someone they don’t know, can they?  May I bring You glory now and into eternity. 

Drawn in to the Excellence of You

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“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence…” 2 Peter 1:3

When I was a baby, I couldn’t walk on my own.  I needed the help of parents to get me started walking, to even help my legs to get strengthened, to start learning balance, and everything else.  I needed people who taught me how to write and read and do math.  I needed someone to teach me about God, real truth, not just my ideas. 

As an adult, I still need help in areas of my life.  Sometimes I’m not physically strong enough for a task.  Sometimes I have to learn a new skill I didn’t know before.  Sometimes my body’s metabolism changes and I have to relearn how to handle my feelings or the new changes in me.  I’m not always enough for me.  I need outside help.

I mean, I could struggle through it all on my own, but it’s not going to come out as well.  But God didn’t design me to struggle through life on my own.  He didn’t bring me into this world to live on my own without the help of others and without the help of Him.  That’s the good news in 2nd Peter.  As a matter of fact, I wasn’t brought in to this world just for the sake of me either.  I was brought into this world to glorify God.

For the person who has put their trust in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desires.” (1 Peter 1:3,4)  Listen to that truth again, part by part. 

This is better than the help of my mom and dad.  This is better than the help of my spouse.  This is better than the help of a teacher or all my friends and family put together.  Why?  Their help is not divine.  Their help does not naturally come with divine power.  But You, Lord, give Your divine power to help me and enable me to do not just some things, but all things that pertain to life and godliness.  All things!  You’re the One that enables me to be able to glorify You, to fulfil my purpose in life!

Now, if it doesn’t pertain to life that leads to You, to real and eternal life, You won’t help me with those things.  I get that.  And sometimes I might not like that or agree with You on that, but if I’m on target with my thinking and lined up with You, I know that’s the way it should be and I’m wanting the wrong thing for me.  Why should You, who love me, give me what would harm me, right?  But if I set my heart and mind on those things, whatever they are that are all about life, eternal life, real-now-living-life-in-and-with-You stuff, and godliness, walking-talking-living-thinking-breathing-feeling-like-and-with-and-in-You stuff, that’s exactly what You want to enable me to do more.  And You do.

But I have a responsibility.  If this is what I want, I only get there through really knowing You.  The good news about that is that is exactly where You have called us to be, in the middle of knowing You by being in Your Word and getting to experience Your own glory and excellence in my life and around mr as I walk and live according to Your promises and what I learn about You.  You become more real, more alive, more involved, more of everything every day I spend getting to know You more.  It doesn’t mean that I know all the answers.  That’s never going to happen!  Why?  Because, God, You are so much more than I can contain, but even knowing the part of You I can, is overwhelming and wonderful!

And when You call us to Your own glory, it’s not just about seeing Your glory and excellence.  It includes having that glory and excellence rub off on us.  How do I know that?  Look at Moses.  He asked to see Your glory.  Since he couldn’t handle the fullness of Your glory, You hid him in a cleft of the rock, shaded his face with Your hand, and as You walked by, You allowed him to see some of the glory of just Your back.  When he walked back down to the people, they couldn’t handle seeing him because he shone with Your glory.  They made him wear a veil to tone it down.  If people don’t see Your glory and excellence in us, Your people, how can they know that You are God of our lives?  You are a God of transformation, it has to show in me.  Knowing You isn’t just an affiliation, it’s transformation; Your person must shine through me.

You call us and enable us to live a life of excellence.  What is this excellence? (Like we don’t know what excellence is?)  Isaiah 35:2 says, “They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.”  Some translations use excellence for that idea of majesty.  But I see that it is equated with Your glory, Lord.  Isaiah 12:5 says, “Sing praises to the Lord, for He has done gloriously [excellently]; let this be made known in all the earth.”  So, You ARE excellent and You DO excellence!  Moses sang of the greatness of Your excellence, that by that excellence You overthrow your adversaries, and by Your excellence You care for Your children. (Exodus 15)  Your excellence is everything You are and do.  It’s Your holiness and glory.  So what?

Well, as a believer, I am called to that holiness and glory, that excellence that You are and display.  At least four times in Leviticus God says, “be holy, for I am holy.”  Peter reiterated that In 1 Peter 1:15,16 when he reminded us, “but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’”  I don’t get to just conduct myself any way I want.  I don’t get to let my feelings rule me.  Look at Cain.  That’s not the way I want to go.  I was created by an excellent, holy God who created me to represent Him.  I was created to be excellent and holy as well.  How am I conducting my life?

So I’m called to God’s glory and excellence in my life as well.  What does that translate into?  What does that look like?  A lot of grandeur?  Actually, it starts with the little things.  If I can’t be excellent in the little things, how can I be excellent in the big things?  I mean, look at Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords, who left heaven and came to earth as a baby and lived the life of a mere man, a mere human even though He was God.  And what did He do to show His excellence?  Sometimes He performed miracles only God could do and demonstrated that kind of excellent, glorious power.  But what about most of the time during Your 30 years of life?

He obeyed his mom and dad.  He learned his trade.  He noticed people other people didn’t notice.  He cared for the little things.  He did the stuff of everyday life even though He was God.  He did His chores.  He studied in school.  He obeyed His authorities.  He spent time with his friends.  He picked things up.  He straightened things up.  He ate and made sure others were fed.  God did the little stuff of day to day life.  And how did He do it?  With glory and excellence, as God does what God does because God is who God is.

So who am I?  You have given me thousands of promises in Your Word and by Your Word.  Do I walk in them?  Do I listen to Your still small voice as I walk through each day, because You are with me?  Am I excellent in every step?  Do I even think about reflecting Your excellence in every step?  Joyce Meyer talks about being in a store and dropping an item on the floor and hearing that still, small voice say, “Pick it up and put it back.”  Excellence is picking it up, listening to the Holy Spirit’s gentle prompt.  Excellence actually goes beyond that and picks up other people’s messes too.  Am I listening to You as You prompt me to excellence or am I ignoring Your promptings?  Am I too busy shooting for grandeur and glory and missing it because I don’t know how to humbly be excellent in my “real” life?

Do I want to attain to Your glory without partaking of Your divine nature?  I can’t.  I have to deal with excellence in the little, daily things of life first, just like Jesus did.  Thirty years You dealt with humility, exhibiting self-control and discipline in that kind of stuff.  Thirty years of humility by choice before God’s time for You to show Yourself for who You are.  So, why would my route to You be any different?  I’m just human.  I would think, in comparison, I need to learn self-control and discipline even more.  I need Your divine nature even more, because I struggle with sinful desires.  But I don’t have to.  If only I would learn to be excellent in the little things, every day, for all of my life.  Then I would be resting and living in Your divine power all the time. 

I don’t have to live big for my life to be divine.  You can take little things, little excellence, and build it up into something great and glorious.  That’s Your prerogative.  I just get to exhibit Your excellence, Your way, in everything, and then that opens the door for You to take me where You will in that excellence of You.  My goal and desire is to live in that excellence, with self-control and discipline, and allow You to do the rest with what You bring out of me.  I want to love You like that, like Jesus did, not just with the bigness of my heart, but with the littleness of the things around me.  I will trust in Your promise of Your divine power to lead me in Your way of excellence that others will see the excellence of You and be drawn into that excellence to know You.

Wholly Devoted, Stepping Up

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“There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” Job 1:1

God is perfect. What man is perfect? Even Job said, “If I justify myself, my own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, ‘I am perfect,’ it shall also prove me perverse.”( Job 9:20) If Paul said he wasn’t even perfect, how do we be perfect as he tells us in Philippians 3:15, “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded…”? Why doesn’t the definition of “perfect” help me? In Greek, it’s “teleios”, complete, completeness (in labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc.). How can I be completely complete? Unless you have a really lofty image of yourself, this ought to stop us in our tracks. I’m so incomplete. I’m so imperfect. I’m so not everything I was created to be. See, that’s the problem. And even if I go back to the Hebrew for perfect, “tam,” it’s the same idea. If we’re told to be holy as God is holy (Leviticus 19:2), how do I ever attain to that?

I can’t attain by what I do. Remember, to break even one law is to have broken all the law. Yet, that doesn’t exempt me from obeying the law. It just tells me that the law is not where I find completeness. So where is completeness found? Where did Job find it? And was it that he found it or that someone, a supreme Someone, gave it to him?

I want to look at Job. How did he get there. What does it mean that he “was perfect and upright”? “Hayah” is the Hebrew word translated as “was” here. It means existed, came about, accompanied, it happened. Isn’t it interesting that part of the definition has to do with accompanying with. It brings me to Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” This Ever Existent One brings us into existence and into being in Him. What is faith but a relationship with and in Him? How can one please Him if one is not of Him? Nothing less would satisfy. That’s how Job could be perfect and upright. That’s how he could eschew evil because of how he related to and in God.

It’s not that Job was such a great guy in himself. What made him a great guy, a perfect guy in God’s eyes, a complete guy, was that he was wholly devoted to God. Skip Moen shares how another author, Matthew Wilson moves the meaning of holiness away from “set apart.” He directs the meaning to being “devoted.” “We are to be devoted to God in the same way that He is devoted to us, to Israel and to His creation. ‘Therefore you are to be devoted, as your heavenly Father is devoted.’ “ I can’t be perfect, but can I be devoted to God like that. I can. I can choose to respond in devotion to God through all my circumstances, no matter what happens. Whether I’m successful or I fail, whether I do well, or make a mistake, I can devote everything in me to Him. In being devoted, I can continually move toward Him, continually seek His presence, His way, His delight even in the hardest times of my life. Job, David, Elijah, Mary, Priscilla, they all were devoted to God, and they were all just people, like you and me.

Listen to this verse, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) Jesus can sympathize with us. He has that kind of relationship with us. He earned that. How did he earn it? He devoted himself wholly to God! Was this easier for him than it is for me? No! He didn’t draw on his divinity to keep from sin. In his humanity, he remained devoted to God first. He did this just as a man, just like you and me. He wasn’t without sin because of some divine power that kept him sin-free. He was without sin because he chose to remain devoted to His heavenly father. What about me? What’s my excuse? What is keeping me from being wholly devoted to You, Lord? What is barring me from having a complete relationship with You? Maybe it all boils down to me. Maybe it’s just a matter of my devotion, and I’m the only one who can control that. And I suppose, if Job could control his own devotion to You, so can I. So, what excuse do I have?

The Measure of All Things

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Photo credit to internet search.  Not sure of original source.

 

“And so shall you do on the seventh day of the month for every one that errs, and for him that is simple; so shall you make atonement for the house.” Ezekiel 45:20

 
Who needs a sin offering offered up on their behalf? God says the one who errs and the simple ones do. In this future temple, is it just any prince who offers up this sin-offering? No. This is the Prince of Peace who has already become our atonement for sin through his life and sacrifice upon the cross and resurrection. So why will there be a day of future sacrifices? The sad thing is, that even when Jesus abides on earth before the final judgment, there will be those who err and those who are too simple to trust and see and follow. It’s the same story as today. It’s the same story as always.

 
In 2 Peter we hear Peter’s admonition to us. He’s telling us to be careful of erring and being “simple-minded.” Listen. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness; but is long-suffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy living and godliness, looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? But, according to His promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that you look for these things, give diligence that you may be found in peace, without spot and blameless in His sight. And account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation…”

 
God is giving us every chance He can and I’d say more than He ever has to because He isn’t even obligated to give us a second chance. And yet He does exert the most divine patience to warn and warn and prompt and prompt and remind and remind just to try to jar us out of our erring ways and out of the simplicity of our own foolish thinking. He takes the time to list things out for us with the uttermost of preciseness so we can understand if we want to. Of course, if I have no interest in understanding, it won’t matter how simple something is, I just won’t get it, will I? Over and over He gives us the measures and specifications to the minutest detail. Why? So we can understand righteousness, so we can understand and know Him. Actually, it goes beyond understanding. It’s totally wrapped up in knowing.

 
Measures matter. Measures make it right. Measures make the house strong and firm enough to stand. Take away the measures and regulations and you have squatters areas that are washed away in the floods. Measures make things just and balanced. We know what to expect. We know what to give. God calls for “just balances, and a just ephah, and a just bath.” That’s a right measure and it’s not just that God was interested only in these three right measures. All of our lives and what we do with it ought to flow with right measuring.

 
Now that word for just comes from tsedeq. And that’s related to the word tsedeqa which has to do with the righteousness of God and all that flows from Him because of it. It’s all the goodness and loving-kindness and judgment and works and being that flow from Him. I have a box following the Hebrew example called a tsedekah which is a box that I put free will offerings in with the intent of it flowing out to do goodness in other’s lives. That’s tsedekah. But we are also called to be tsedeq because God is tsedeq. Righteousness isn’t just a cleanness; it’s the way of God from His life flowing through ours. It’s His measure being measured out through us.

 
We have right balances, and measure out grains and liquids fairly because God is all about doing the right thing not only for Himself but on the behalf of others. So our lives are to reflect that same level of caring and commitment. And part of understanding this righteousness or justness is to accept and be glad that God is the Standard Setter and not me.

 
Now, I won’t pretend to say that I understand all the stuff going on in the rituals in the Bible or why You do what You do all the time, Lord. I don’t know why You sometimes take people from this life and why You sometimes choose to leave others. I don’t know why You permit me to make some of the decisions I do and still be left standing on this earth. I don’t know why You choose to use sacrifices and the things of the temple one day with Your people again as Christ stands as High Priest for them, except that it fulfills all Your purposes. It teaches us. It shows us. It demonstrates to us all righteousness in action. And just because I don’t understand something doesn’t mean it’s not good for me.
There are things that You have told Your people will be perpetually celebrated. I’m pretty sure when You said perpetual, that You meant perpetual, that what was meant for our benefit in understanding and trusting in the beginning shall always be useful for our understanding and trusting. And I want to be the first to admit that sometimes I am in error and sometimes I am simple. I don’t mean to be rebellious, it’s not like I’m trying to fight against You. That’s a different story with a different outcome. But sometimes, my thinking and reasoning become faulty and I err and sin against You. And it’s not that I wanted to but somehow I just got too caught up in what wasn’t right and wasn’t just until I realized where I was. And I am so glad that You are there for me to bring me back to Your thinking and back to You.

 
And sometimes, I’m just simple. Sometimes I’m just easily seduced, foolish, and make silly choices. And I’m so glad that You don’t give up on me or count me as less. I’m so glad that through all of this, there is a way for me not only to be forgiven but to be reconciled to You and to be commissioned in You. I’m so glad that I have a High Priest who can do for me what I need done to be accepted by You. I’m glad for His measures and that I need to measure up. And I’m even more glad that You make me measure-up-able in Christ.
Some day, I want to be able to experience all these feasts and festivals and worship in the temple with You as the full-head. I want to understand it and You in Your fullness. I don’t want to miss a beat. I want to see and know the significance of You in all that You’ve given us. And I firmly believe that one day, You will open our eyes and hearts and minds to understand all of Your word fully because Your word isn’t just words in a book, it’s all about You, the Living God who is the measure of all things.

A Peculiar People, Most Uncommon!

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Photo credit to everydayfamily.com

 

“He measured it by the four sides: it had a wall round about, five hundred reeds long, and five hundred broad, to make a separation between the sanctuary and the profane place.” Ezekiel 42:20

 
So here You are, Lord, continuing to give us detailed information about Your future sanctuary. And then at the end of this chapter You tell us You are making a separation between the sanctuary and the profane place. And I wonder if most of the time we just read over that like the reading itself is beneficial for us. Now I’m not saying the reading isn’t beneficial, but reading without thinking or understanding, where is the benefit? Reading and thinking this was only important then but not now, how beneficial is that? What if You want me to grasp some of this now? What if You do want it to be beneficial to me? What if it does matter today as well as then?

 
Maybe it would do me good to take time to see what You mean by this separation. Maybe I should try to understand Your meaning of sanctuary and what You mean by the profane place. Maybe all this would help me as I live out my life in You today.
The sanctuary in Hebrew is from the word qodesh. On the other hand, the profane place is from the Hebrew word chol. In one sense we can think of it as a separation (Hebrew badal) between the holy and the secular. But I think this requires a deeper investigation to understand. This word chol actually means profaneness or commonness. Qodesh, on the other hand, is sacred and holy. So right away we can see that there is a contrast between these two words, these to concepts.

 
If we jump back to Leviticus 10:8-11 we can see these words in play. “And the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying, ‘Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest you die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generation: and that you may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord has spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.” Is separating between holy and unholy and unclean and clean that important? It appears so. But what does that mean to us today?

 
Here were Aaron and his sons set apart by God to represent His holiness and to be the ones to come before Him in the Holy of Holies on behalf of the people of Israel. Not only were they to live and act separated unto Him, but they were to teach the people to be separated unto Him. But separated from what? Separated from the common, separated from the world, separated from the secular. But here’s the deal. Hey, we are secular, we live in the secular, so how can we be separate from what we are? After all, secular is just the stuff of the world without regard to the spiritual. It’s the mundane part of living without attaching the spiritual aspects. It’s the common stuff of life.

 
But maybe here’s the other part of the deal. We’re not just secular. Or at least we weren’t created to only be secular and common. We were created with a spiritual aspect in the image of God our creator. And the spiritual acts differently than the wholly common or secular. The spiritual knows there is something greater and far more valuable to life.
I can just stop and think about God’s words to Aaron and his sons. Wine and strong drink are common things, secular if you will. They are not inherently bad. But if Aaron and his sons have been chosen and set aside to point people to God and to act as intermediaries, then their focus and energy and hearts ought to be focussed on God and bringing people back into right relationship with God and each other. God is not common. God is holy and above all. God should be in control of our every thought, not alcohol. We are called to make a separation. What is important? No, what is beyond important for my life? What does holiness look like in my life? What needs to be separated out so that my focus truly is in God?

 
It’s important that I understand this. There are things that are not harmful but neither are they beneficial. There are things that are common but will only lead me to the common. And then there is the holy. And then there is the holy which can use some common things and make them holy. But be careful because some common things can make the holy, unholy, like strong drink that led Aaron’s sons to not be able to separate between holy and common. And they took a holy censor and offered common worship and were killed in their commonness. That’s a tragedy because they were set apart to be holy and to know holiness. They were called out of the common to lead others to holiness. But they didn’t understand and they didn’t let go of their commonness.

 
Yochanan Zaqantov explains that qodesh (holy) has nothing to do with being untouchable or more righteous or greater than we. Qodesh has everything to do with being set apart and made “not ordinary.” We can see that in Exodus 3:5 when Moses was told to approach the burning bush and told to take off his sandals because “the place on which you stand- it is holy ground.” What made that ground holy? Before the bush was burning, wasn’t it ordinary ground that Moses may have walked over many times before? But now, God had set this ground apart for a purpose and because God had set it apart, it was to be treated and responded to differently.

 
In Exodus 16:23 God reminded again that the Sabbath, that particular day of the week was to be set aside. It was set apart to be different from the others. Prepare for the Sabbath so that the Sabbath can be what it was set apart to be. We can treat it like any other day, but God has set it apart as no longer common. It has been set apart and made holy. Do I treat it as common? Am I guilty of the sin of Aaron’s sons?

 
In Exodus 28:36-38 God instructs a pure plate of gold to be made with “Holines for Adonai” engraved upon it. This gold plate was to be threaded onto Aaron, the high priest’s turban, over his brow so that “Aaron is to bear the iniquity of the holy-offerings that the Children of Israel offer, all their gifts of holiness; it is to be on his brow regularly, for (receiving) favour for them before the presence of Adonai (God).” So stop and think about that. Who was Aaron? Aaron was just a common man. In himself he had no ability to bear the sin of the people. But God called Him and separated Him unto Himself and equipped Him by Himself to be holy. God separated Aaron onto Himself and imparted His holiness upon him. But Aaron, like his sons, and like us, must choose to differ between the common and the holy and walk in the holy where and as told to walk.
So now I’ve seen where You, God, take the common and make it holy and You teach us the difference between holy and common. I saw Aaron’s sons die because they would not live by the difference. Are they the only ones?

 
Hear what God tells to his people through Ezekiel in Ezekiel 22:24-26. “Son of man, say unto her, ‘You are the land that is not cleansed, nor rained upon in the day of indignation. There is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things; they have made her many widows in the midst thereof. Her priests have violated My law, and have profaned My holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and the profane, neither have they showed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from My Sabbaths, and I am profaned among them…’” Do I get that? When I take what is holy and make it everyday and disrespect what God has set apart, I not only make it common or chol, I make God appear as common, as profane.
The priests themselves were guilty of doing this, were guilty of taking what they knew God had set apart for Himself, had set apart as holy, and they irreverently used it or displayed or misused it in common ways for their own purposes. And it destroyed the people because it marred the image of God before them. Do I want to be guilty of that? Do I want to profane what You have set apart, God? Do I want to take what is sacred and make it irreverent?  Do I want to be one that abuses Your sacred things and treats them and You with irreverence? Would I rather be filled with contempt than reverence for You? It’s what will happen if I don’t keep separated what You have already separated in my life and the life of others.

 
Let’s go one more place in the Old Testament. Here we are in Ezekiel 44 hearing about the sons of Zadok again. Ezekiel 44:15-24, “‘But the levitical priests descended from Zadok, who maintained the service of My Sanctuary when the people of Israel went astray from Me- they shall approach Me to minister to Me; they shall stand before Me to offer Me fat and blood-‘ declares Adonai. ‘They alone may enter My Sanctuary and they alone shall approach My table to minister to Me; and they shall keep My charge.’” Notice that in contrast to the previous priests who had profaned God’s separations, the sons of Zadok had been faithful when everyone else bailed out on God. Now, not all of Aarons descendants will be priests but only those of the line of Zadok.

 
If we keep reading further on, God separates the clothing they must wear, linen and not wool. He separates how they are to dress. He separates them from the people in the outer court and has them remove their clothing from the inner court so as not to “consecrate” the people by touching the clothing. Get that? God’s set apart clothing could set a person apart? Wow! He sets apart their hair style and their consumption of alcohol while on duty. He sets apart their future wives. He sets them apart as judges. Why? Because they know how to set things apart. They already know how to divide the holy from the common, the clean from the unclean. They understand the difference and they already chose to live by it in a time when everyone else abandoned it.

 
These sons of Zadok are set apart to instruct others in understanding and choosing what is sacred and what is profane, what is clean and unclean. They have been set apart to live in accord with God’s rules and to teach others to do so. They are set apart to preserve God’s teachings and laws and fixed occasions and Sabbaths. Why the sons of Zadok? Because they were set apart and accepted their set-apartedness when others rejected it. They lived as they were created to be by God. I have that same choice.

 
David got it. He was a common kid. Even his dad and his brothers didn’t think anything special of him. But God set him apart for purpose in Him. In Psalm 4:3 David says, “But know that the Lord has set apart him that is godly for Himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto Him.” The funny thing is that David wasn’t born godly, and neither was I. I think we’re born, all of us, with this godly potential. And God wants to set each of us apart into that godliness of Him. But not all of us accept His invitation when He sets us apart. Why? Because being set apart for God and in God means being separated from many other common things we are used to. Being set apart for and in God means we don’t use the common as common any more. We follow His lead on when to use and how to use and if to use it because He takes the common and makes it uncommon and holy in Him.

 
One of my favorite verses in the New Testament is in Revelation 17:14. It says, “These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful.” God is still setting people apart for Him. He calls, He appoints, He separates and it’s up to us to be faithful to His calling, His appointing, and His separating.

 
Have I allowed God to separate me for His service? Am I allowing Him to separate me every day and every moment of my life? Am I living according to His separation? 1 Peter 2:8 tells me, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that you should show forth the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light…” See, peculiar is not strange. Peculiar means I’ve been acquired and set apart by God. And if that makes me peculiar by this world’s standards, it’s because I’m not just common and secular any more. I belong to a God who is changing me into His image instead of the image of the world. The common is being folded into something uncommon and holy. I am God’s masterpiece, learning to imitate Him as I conform to His separation. May I continually learn and live the difference between the common and the holy.

No Better Cake

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“…and I will save them by the LORD their God…” Hosea 1:7

 
Hosea was a prophet of God over a pretty long period of time, like maybe 70 years. That’s a whole average life span today! He shared the words of God over the reign of four or more kings, both influencing Judah and Israel. As I spend time going through Hosea, chapter by chapter, I really want to think about it. I want to think about what was going on and why. I want to think about what life was like for Hosea as Your representative during those times. I want to think about the things You required of Hosea and his attitude to Your requirements. I want to look at Your heart and Hosea’s heart and the people’s hearts and my heart.

 
Right at the beginning of Your words to Hosea, Lord, You help us to see his wife and children. You tell Hosea to go out and marry a whore. Wow, that’s strong language! What a requirement! What does Hosea do? He does it! You told him “Marry a prostitute, and have children with that prostitute. The people in this land have acted like prostitutes and abandoned the LORD.” (Hosea 1:2) So Hosea marries Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim. Do you know what Diblaim means? It means “two cakes.” I can’t help but think of that expression, “have your cake and eat it too.” So I guess his daughter, Gomer, liked multiple cakes at the same time too.

 
Why would Hosea do that? Why would he marry a known prostitute? Why would he choose someone who was already unfaithful? Was it just obedience to You, God? Or was it more? Was it just fear of You? Or was it more? Could Hosea have truly understood Your heart for people and could it have been the heart that filled him for them also?

 
Hosea took Gomer as his own despite her background. Don’t You do the same with each of us? Didn’t we all start out as sinners; men, women, and children who prostitute Your ways and run after others more than You? Are we that far off from Gomer and Israel? All I can think of is how much love and mercy and patience this prophet Hosea must have had. He could have despised Gomer just as You could despise Israel or us. But Hosea took Gomer unto himself. And isn’t that what You do for us? You take us unto Yourself to make us Yours and make us holy in You.

 
Hosea doesn’t despise her but is intimate with her. From the fruit of that intimacy comes a son. God names him Jezreel, “God will sow.” All along, God is using this family as a picture to the people. It’s a picture of the reality of who Israel is, running after other gods, other “loves,” other pleasures. It’s a picture of our own hearts. It’s a picture of Your faithfulness, God, in the midst of when we don’t deserve it because of our lack of faithfulness. It’s a picture of unconditional love and love beyond imagination. It’s a picture of warning and long-suffering. You reap what you sow. But God is the Final Sower. And in the midst of all the junk we throw around in our lives and at God, You’re busy sowing love and patience and seeds for repentance and a return to relationship and forgiveness and restoration.

 
But there’s a price to pay. We can’t stay the way we are. Our strength in ourselves and our pleasures has to be broken. So that’s not so bad to be named Jezreel, and to be a warning to Israel, is it? But then Gomer conceives again and bares a daughter. Hopefully this is from Hosea’s loins. But wherever she was from , God named her Loruhamah. Now that’s a sad name. It means, “not pitied.” Why? Because this is how God would act toward Israel; no more mercy. He’ll take them “utterly” away. Can you imagine having a name like that? Ow!

 
But again, You will have mercy on Judah, and here’s the great part I got excited over- You will save them by the LORD their God, not by bow or by sword or by battle or by horses or horsemen. It’s so easy to look towards things to save us. “Oh, God, send Your angels to watch over me!” “Oh, God, do this or do that…” But You don’t need bows or swords or armies or horses or horsemen. Maybe we look for salvation in all the wrong ways and all the wrong places. Maybe salvation is in You and You alone. Maybe salvation is in our relationship with God who gave Jesus so He could take us unto Himself and make us His very own.

 
What if life isn’t about my mission or my job or my ministry or my family or my wealth or my whatever? What if life is all about who I am in God? What if everything else is effected by that relationship? What if true living is getting that relationship right? What if Hosea was successful despite the “crazy” things he had to do because he understood the One He was listening to? What if Hosea is a great man not because He was a great prophet but because he walked with God in relationship step by step no matter what? What if that is why God chose to speak to him? What if that is why we’re still reading about him today? And what if that walk and that relationship is what makes the stories of Gomer and her children a beautiful story of love and redemption by a man who got it because he understood the God who gives it and is it?

 
And if this family doesn’t seem sad enough, another son is born and God names him Loammi- not my people. And not being God’s people implies that neither is God your God. But this is not without hope! God says that in the same place where they were called Loammi- not my people, one day it would be said again there that “You are the sons of the living God.” And in that day there will be a great gathering together of Judah and Israel and they’ll appoint themselves one head. I think that head is more than a ruler but that head is One Source. That these sons of the living God will understand together that they have become sons because of Jesus, the Son of God who sacrificed His life to restore them to His Father. There is coming a time when those who ran from the Creator will run to Him in awe.

 
That word for head in Hebrew is rosh. It’s the same word used in Rosh Hashanah which is the Hebrew new year. And it’s all about recognizing and acknowledging the Source of everything. As a matter of fact, Rosh Hashanah begins the time period on the Hebrew calendar known as the Days of Awe. And I think, Lord, that’s pretty much where You were trying to lead the people during Hosea’s time, back to the reality of awe in You, not because it was ritual but because You are so worthy of awe. We are nothing without You. The problem is that we are so prone to forget the truth.

 
Here You are, King of the Universe, Creator of everything, and yet we won’t even give You the time of day. Sometimes You just have to blow Your shofar loudly enough for us to hear it and be startled out of our self-induced slumber. And sometimes a shofar isn’t loud enough so it takes hard things in life to wake us up. We need to remember who we really are and we can’t remember that until we remember who You really are and that we wouldn’t exist without You. According to rabbinic teaching, “the sound of the shofar, then, is meant to stir the heart to fear and to inspire teshuvah (repentance).” Here in Hosea, Your story through the words and through Isaiah’s family was like a shofar. It was sounded to turn people back to You, to draw Gomer to Hosea and to You, to give his children a hope and a heritage, to give the people a way to return.

 
But it’s not just for Hosea, and Gomer, and Jezebel, and Loruhamah, Loammi, and Judah, and Israel. This is for us too. This is for me and this is for you. I’m just as much in need of redemption as Gomer; we all are. Jezreel isn’t the only one who will reap what he sows. And I’d rather reap what You sow, Lord. I can choose to live my own way and not accept Your pity. But I don’t want to. I want to be a Loruhamah who runs to You to receive the pity that You want to show me. Once I was not Yours, just like Loammi. But that was then. Now, I am Yours and You are mine. And if there is hope for me, then there is hope for anyone. I guess what happens is determined by how we respond when You blow the shofar. I just know that I want to wake up and listen. I want to wake up and hear. And I want to go even farther. I want to do what the shofar is signaling. I want to run to You for safety and salvation and belonging and purity and love and security and power.

 
Salvation is getting back to the relationship in the garden before the fall. It’s getting over me and never getting over You. You are the wonder of salvation. Jesus personified You for us but You are so much more. You are so much more that Jesus can change us and fill us with Your Spirit. You are so much more that You can be there in the midst of a prison or country where we are stripped of everything, yet we are not stripped of You. Our hope is not in any thing. Our hope, our reality, is in You. It is You. Oh, Lord, why do my eyes look at lesser things when You are every thing? You are It. That’s all I know. And maybe that’s all I need to know to think rightly.  You can choose your cake and eat it too.  But as for me, there is no better cake than Jesus.

A Sign to the People

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“And the LORD said, ‘Do you do well to be angry?’” Jonah 4:4

What kind of person do You use God?  What kind of person do You choose?  Somehow, I think we get hung up on this idea of what a saint is and I don’t think our idea is right.  It’s like You choose people to be saints who are above other people because there’s something so good about them.  But the more I dig into Your word, that’s not what I see.  It’s not that these people were such great people by nature.  They weren’t.  They were just people like everyone else.  The difference is that when You called them in the middle of the world system where they were, they listened.  Well, some listened more intently then others, but nevertheless, there was some level of listening and turning to You.

I mean, try to tell me that Sampson was a perfect guy.  Excuse me?  I don’t think so.  It wasn’t that he absolutely obeyed all that God said.  He was supposed to be qadosh, holy, set apart from the world for God, and in some ways he was, but in other ways, like his treatment of women and his lack of respect for what God said was holy, i.e.. eating the honey out of a dead lion carcass, he was not set apart from the world.  So why would You still use him, Lord?  Why not toss him off and choose another?

That makes me think about King Saul who valued booty more than obeying God.  God had chosen him and set him apart for something more than being king.  He was set apart to lead the people in what it was like to live out a relationship with You, Lord.  But his main focus wasn’t on that relationship even though Yours was.  And when David came along with the praises of all those women, Scripture says, “And Saul was very angry…” ( 1 Samuel 18:8)  His son, the heir to the throne, was so pleased with David’s heart for You, Lord, that he actually acknowledged David as the next heir by the gift of his robe and armor, but not so Saul.  Saul wanted the kingdom more than a relationship with You.  Saul still had his eyes on the booty.  It’s how he lost the kingdom in the first place.  Seeing David probably brought up those memories of Samuel’s words, “The Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.”  Now, I wonder if Saul worried about being cast away from God?  Or was his only worry about being cast off the throne?

But the fact of the matter is that God already knew Saul’s heart just as much as he knows mine.  And God chose Saul for a time and a reason.  God chose Saul to save the people from the hand of the Philistines.  Samuel’s words to him are interesting.  In one part he tells Saul how he will meet some prophets on the way to his “swearing in.”  And when he comes to them, “Then the Spirit of the LORD will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.”( 1 Samuel 10:6)  Imagine that!  And after Samuel finished sharing these things along his way and about their meeting in Gilgal, Scripture says, “When he turned his back to leave Samuel, God gave him another heart.”  Wow, again!  And everyone saw what was going on in Saul.  Only, I’m not so sure Saul saw.  Because he gets back and won’t tell his uncle what had happened.  And I wonder how he can have a changed heart by God and not declare those things that God has shared and done.  But Samuel gathers the people to share.  But Saul hid.  Maybe what this meant to what his life ought to look like started to hit home.  Maybe he was afraid of what people would think. 

And maybe Saul should have payed attention better to Samuel when he said to the people, (who included Saul), “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil.  Yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart.  And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty [like kings and cattle and booty and people].  For the LORD will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for Himself.  Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and right way.  Only fear the LORD and serve Him faithfully with all your heart.  For consider what great things He has done for you.  But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.” ( 1 Samuel 12:20-25)

Here’s what I’m thinking about.  Jonah and Sampson and Saul were each chosen and set apart for You by You.  That makes them examples for us, albeit not the best examples, but definitely honest examples.  And we can choose to follow their lead or we can recognize the dangers in ourselves and refuse to let disobedience and selfish desire creep in and take control.  We can refuse our own self-righteous anger.  It’s the same story as in the garden of Eden and it’ll destroy our testimony if we let it.  And our testimony isn’t about us, though we’d like it to be.  Our testimony is about all the wonderful things You are doing in and through and for us, God.  Because the truth is, we have nothing without You.   

When Saul held back Agag and the spoil, disobeying God, Samuel asked, “What have you done?”  That’s reminiscent of God’s words in the garden, isn’t it?  And it wasn’t that God didn’t know.  He did.  But it’s important for us to understand what we’ve really done, isn’t it?  But sometimes we don’t really listen to our own thinking.  I mean, really Saul was saying, “I was afraid so I hid myself in my own good works.”  That’s not so far from Adam and Eve is it, who hid in their own fig leaves because of their fear, or Jonah who hid in the bottom of the boat or hid in his anger out of fear that You wouldn’t respond His way.

But Samuel had it spot on for each of them and each of us.  “You have done foolishly.  You have not kept the command of the LORD your God, with which He commanded you.  For then the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.  But now your kingdom shall not continue.  The LORD has sought out a man after His own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be prince over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.”  (1 Samuel 13:13-14)  Jonah, Sampson, and Saul invited sorrow into their lives by their choices.  Time and time again, You were trying to show them what they were missing so they could find their way back in You.  Saul lost his kingdom because his kingdom was earthly when it was supposed to be heavenly.  But he didn’t lose you.  And Jonah didn’t lose you.  And Sampson didn’t lose you.  They lost their way, and You allowed some really rough stuff in their lives, but You are always faithful, and You don’t leave, even when we fall so hard.

So back to Jonah, the prophet sent to Ninevah, this gentile city.  And Jonah new about how merciful You were God because he knew that You would “let Ninevah off the hook” and forgive them if they repented.  That’s why he tried to run and hide on the boat.  He knew all these true things about You, but he didn’t like it when that goodness was turned to those he hated and was angry at. 

I think about when he told the sailors who he was, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” (Jonah 1:9)  That’s great, really.  But somewhere along the line there were other prophesies of Jonah, but this is the only book remembered.  But I discovered something in 2 Kings 14:25, that God had shared some other things with Jonah that’s not in this book we have of him.  During Jeroboam’s reign, Jeroboam “restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which He spoke by His servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher.”  So was he still used and set apart, but just not as effectively as if he had agreed to set himself apart according to God’s will and not his own?  Or had he prophesied other things before this event and then wallowed in self-pity afterward instead of rejoicing with the Lord?

I wonder that because there are lots of things we can say, like Peter when he said, “Even if I must die with You, I will not deny you!”  Or like Jonah saying how he feared God yet didn’t fear You enough to want what You wanted or to think Your way more right than his.  And then he says, “But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to You; what I have vowed I will pay.  Salvation belongs to the Lord!” (Jonah 2:9)  But maybe our point of view changes from the time we are inside the belly of the fish to the time we’re back on the outside with more room to choose.  Because something happened in Jonah’s heart and mind after that, and he didn’t seem to be willing to sacrifice his ideas with thanksgiving and he certainly didn’t seem to want to pay his “vow” to You.

Now, I’m not holding these “saints” to a higher standard than me.  Every one of us is held to Your standard.  Thank God that Jesus knows our humanity!  The point is, when I make choices against You, I always lose out.  And what I lose out on most of all is that relationship with You.  And the truth is that I can be rejected as a prophet or as a king or as a witness, like Saul was rejected from being king (1 Samuel 15:22)  Because the problem with rebellion is that it’s as evil as practicing witchcraft.  It’s worshipping another power, even if it is our own power to decide.  Rebellion and stubbornness aren’t little sins.  Rejecting the word of the Lord doesn’t just mean you’re an atheist.  It means that God has said that something is right and we just won’t agree with Him. 

What does that look like?  Well, when God establishes one man and one woman in the garden to be one, not only in flesh but in spirit and worship, and Sampson doesn’t give a hoot if his woman loves God or not, that’s sin.  Or when God loves and wants to show mercy to a repentant gentile people, and Jonah will have none of it, that’s sin.  Or like Peter, when Jesus tells him he’s going to deny him, and he basically answers, “You’re a liar Jesus, I would never deny you.”  Or like when we pick and choose what we want to obey in Your word, like maybe everything about salvation but then we talk with disrespect and meanness to others created in the image of God.  Or we choose bitterness over anger because our rights trump Your word to forgive.  Or I want so much to be loved and valued that I would disobey You just to find that feeling. 

But Samuel reminded Saul that obeying the voice of the LORD, that listening to You and doing Your will, was better than any vow we could pay or any sacrifice we could give.  It’s one thing, after that, to say that I’ve sinned and to say that I am agreeing with You, but it’s only true if I act in accord with what You want.  It’s not enough to go through the motions even though that is a start.  I have to change my mindset and heartset and want to obey, and want to feel Your way.  I can go to Ninevah and witness and walk away and still hate, but then I haven’t fully obeyed, because obeying is letting God work and feel through me.  I’m a living vessel because He lives in me.  I’m not just some lifeless pottery that pours out His words. 

I just don’t have the right to pick and choose where I want to be set apart in my life and where I don’t.  I either am, or I’m not.  Psalm 16:3 says, “As for the saints who are in the earth, they are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.” Am I really willing to be put aside for God’s use and not my own.  The majesty is that You choose to use me and make me more than I could ever be.  You choose to use me as Your living vessel in this world.  Do I want to be Your vessel or remain my own?  Whose will shall I adopt?  But those who choose to remain set apart by You and for You, You delight in and make them majestic.  Why?  Because You are majestic in them.  And the truth is, we’re never alone and never on our own, because there are always other set aside ones. 

And even if all the set aside ones, lose sight of their set asideness, we have the greatest example of God and human to follow, Jesus Himself who for our sake, for the sake of the set aside ones, consecrated Himself, that we also might be sanctified in truth. (John 17:19)  It’s not easy being set apart.  It takes violence, “violent separation from worldly ways,” like dying to them.  Jesus payed the price to death and beyond.  What price will I pay to remain truly set apart for You, Lord?  You have set me apart, but I must choose to remain set apart in and for You.  Many are called, but few are chosen. (Matthew 22;14)  Maybe that’s all because many refuse to choose being set apart as their way of life. 

In reality, our minds, that think we have a right to be angry when we don’t, are a dangerous thing.  So are our hearts which are deceitful and desperately wicked to the point we don’t even realize it.  Now here’s the interesting thing.  Jonah, that saint and sinner, became a sign to the people of Nineveh. (Luke 11:30)  How?  I think they heard of his being tossed off the boat, and swallowed by a fish, and spit back out, because Jonah’s God does real things, real miracles like that because He cares that Jonah gets His message to the people of Nineveh because He cares about them.  See, Jonah was set apart to show that You care.  And You did that with him despite himself.  And Jesus, the Son of Man, was also a sign, only a perfect miracle sign by being swallowed by death and rising alive three days later.  Why?  To show how much You care for us and how far You would go to set us apart again for You.  Something and someone greater than Jonah came to rescue us from sin and from ourselves.  Isaiah warns us to seek Him “while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD.” ( Isaiah 55:6-8)  God is calling and setting us apart.  Am I choosing for me what You are choosing?  Because only when I choose what You choose for me will I ever learn to be faithful.  And the truth is, You determine what is considered faithful and it is that which honors and reflects You alone.  (Revelation 17:14)  Keep me ever learning.