Friday, February 10, 2012

We Love and Hate Salt

I enjoy putting salt on my food for flavor.  When it gets icy out, I'm glad I have some salt to put down so it melts the ice and makes a safe environment.  Those are good things.  In a week and a half we will get into the Dead Sea (8 times more salty than the ocean) and I will find out if I have any open cuts.  That won't be as pleasant.  I love salt and sometimes I hate what salt does to me.  Both are real.
   Jesus said some things in the Scripture I read today that enlightened my thinking and imagination about salt:

49 Everyone will be salted with fire.
   50 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”  (Mark 9:49-50)

 The context of these statements is that of being disciples of Jesus, not leading others to sin but taking extreme measures to rid ourselves of those things which lead to our sinning. The first statement is a picture of sacrifice as found in the book of Leviticus 2:13 where it says that they were not to leave the salt of the covenant of their God out of their grain offerings.  So salt was used as a purifier, a means of holiness in what we offer to God.  So everyone of us will be "salted with fire", purified by God when we offer ourselves to Him.  Like the salt poured into wounds, it won't be pleasant but it will bring healing and wholeness.  
The last part is what drew my attention.  He said to have salt in ourselves and be at peace.  The "salt in yourselves" part is in the plural.  It seems that Jesus is telling us that the corporate atmosphere of His church will be a place where the process of being made holy, being salted and purified from our sin, will be happening regularly.  But it won't be done in a vacuum but flow from us individually to us as a group.  In other words, rather than causing each other to sin as we did in the past, we are working together to be acceptable offerings to the Lord, salted with fire.  But there must be a proper balance in the seasoning of the salt so that our desire to see that process happening leads to an atmosphere of peace rather than conflict with one another.  The Spirit of unity will be the sign of a balanced approach.

Lord, help me never to lose my saltiness personally and help us as a church to be balanced in having saltiness among ourselves.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I Almost Missed God Because of My Religion

Ever miss seeing God because you were too busy being religious?  Its easy to do.  Manoah, the father of Samson did.  You can read Judges 13.  His sterile wife receives a Heavenly visitor who declares that she is going to have a son.  He will be set apart for God's service from birth.  She has some special directives to follow so the boy is consecrated out of the womb.  Manoah missed everything but feels the weight of the responsibility. He asks God for a redo on the visit so they know how to raise the boy.  God honors the request.  Manoah asks his questions, God answers and then Manoah goes into religious mode.  Its not bad.  He wants to be hospitable to the guest and so offers to slaughter a young goat.  He then asks for the name of the guest so he and his wife can honor him when their son is born.  All the time he misses the fact that this is the angel of the Lord.  This is God Himself.

   Notice the graciousness of God.  He repeats His directions for the task.  We are slow and He is patient.  We offer Him cultural rituals.  He declines the meal but directs Manoah to do a "fellowship offering."  He clearly wants to have relational interactions with us.  The issue is that Manoah was thinking on a peer to peer basis (a meal) and God requires that we still acknowledge Him as God.  He opened the way for the holy interaction.  Like Moses taking off his shoes because God made the ground holy, Manoah has to come with a proper offering to sit down with God.  We come to Him boldly through Christ today.  But our boldness is not an excuse for brashness.  He is still God and we are not.  God then does something marvelous during the interaction.  In the midst of the offering He leaves no doubt who He is.  He ascends back to Heaven in the flames of the offering.  What a marvelous God.  Religious Manoah becomes afraid because they have seen God and no one does that and lives.  As Manoah's wife observes, if He intended to harm us He wouldn't have given us a task to do or allow us to fellowship with Him.  No reason to fear, just love and serve Him.

I pray that He will help me not miss intimate relationship with Him because I am busy being religious before Him.  Religion breeds fear.  Walking by faith breeds life.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Feeling It

"I'm feeling you."  First time I heard that, I wondered what it meant.  New way of saying I understand how you feel.  I'm connected with what you are saying.  Amazing to me how often we talk about what we feel.  We allow our emotions to dictate so much of our lives.
   Moses went up on the mountain to meet with God.  Its been forty days and the people get restless.  They asked Aaron to "make us gods" to go before us.  He does.  They then claim that the idols he made brought them out of Egypt.  All because they did not know what happened to Moses.  And they had to have something to worship that their emotions could feel.
   Jesus resurrects from the dead and meets with His disciples.  He teaches them over a forty day period.  You would think they would be in awe and know that God's plan is different than they think.  Then they ask this question:  So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”  (Acts 1:6)  They jump back to their own take on God's plans.  They are anxious for Him to fulfill their desired outcome rather than seeking Him.  Emotions.  Were they wanting to "feel Him" or for Him to "feel them?"
   When moved by our emotions we seem to always look for the next big thing, the next adrenaline rush, the next experience.  I'm not down-playing our experience but the thing that will sustain us, the thing that will keep us on track, is where we stay in the Word of God, meditate and pray through it, and then do what the Spirit of God leads us to do.  God has done great things prior to this and He is going to demonstrate His power in the future for all to see.  But He wants to meet us right now, right here today.  Not to carry out what we outline for Him but to provide all He has for us to fulfill His purposes in our generation.  I must push my emotions toward a passionate pursuit of Him rather than a passion to have Him fulfill my desires.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Where Did That Come From?

"But things were going so well. . . ."  I often hear or have said that statement in amazement when I hear of an unexpected report of a sinful choice made by someone who is seemingly moving forward powerfully on the journey of faith.  They did what?  Why would they do such a thing? 
   Before we travel too far down the road of indignation, we must all confess that we are just as capable or vulnerable to do evil if we do not guard our hearts.  David dropped his guard, was not where he should have been, was in coast mode, and eventually arrived where he did not want to go by a series of bad choices. 
But I want to focus on what God said to him.  Listen carefully to the build up before the question:

This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 9 Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes?

Like the Israelites coming out of Egypt, David had experienced the power of God, the blessing of God, the protection of God.  He acknowledged and proclaimed it to others.  And God says here He would have given David even more, but now he was going to miss out.  I wonder what the "more" could have been?  The consequences of David's choices were a family in strife and tension; public humiliation for his private sin; and the heartache of the death of an innocent child because of his sin. 

This motivates me to guard my own heart.  I take time frequently (and I invite you to do so) to sit and meditate on the blessings of God in my life and the myriads of ways He has guided my path in my life.  I don't want to forget so that I can keep the perspective that except for the grace of God, my path could be the same as David's.  I don't mean the same sins.  I just know that all of us are capable of making one seemingly "not so wrong" choice that leads to another, then another, then we wonder how we got to where we are.  And we miss out on the "even more" God had planned for us.