Saturday, February 21, 2009

Harsh


Patti and I went to see the movie "Defiance" last night. (Yes, Friday is our date night). It is a gripping true story of a group of Jews who survived World War II by hiding deep in the forest, and defending themselves. Defending themselves from the Nazis who were trying to kill them, Villagers paid to rat on them, Partisans who see them as competition for scarce resources, and from the harsh living conditions. Amazing story. Well done movie.

Harsh living environment. Harsh reality of constantly being hunted down to be killed. Harsh rules they needed to live by.

In today's reading there are some harsh rules as well. One of them is no blaspheming - under penalty of death. Here is the story:

10 -12 "One day the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites. A fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name of God and cursed. They brought him to Moses. His mother's name was Shelomith, daughter of Dibri of the tribe of Dan. They put him in custody waiting for God's will to be revealed to them.

13 -16 Then God spoke to Moses: "Take the blasphemer outside the camp. Have all those who heard him place their hands on his head; then have the entire congregation stone him. Then tell the Israelites, Anyone who curses God will be held accountable; anyone who blasphemes the Name of God must be put to death. The entire congregation must stone him. It makes no difference whether he is a foreigner or a native, if he blasphemes the Name, he will be put to death."

23 Moses then spoke to the People of Israel. They brought the blasphemer outside the camp and stoned him. The People of Israel followed the orders God had given Moses."

Wow!

Harsh!

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Hard Side of God


Nastia Luiden earned the Olympic All Around Champion designation at the 2008 Olympics. Her journey to that point started when she was two and a half. Her parents were both gymnasts but couldn't afford a baby sitter. So they took her along to the gym. She has been training ever since. We are familiar with the hard choices, hard work, constant sacrifices that it takes to be an Olympic athlete.

Yesterday I had lunch with a dear friend. He said, "God must do a work IN you, before He can do a work THROUGH you. So... how far are you willing to go with God? All the way?"

Immediately the "Sunday School answer" jumped into my mind. "All the way. Of course." But as I reflected on the question, I thought to myself, "Really? All the way? Really?"

What if I had God and nothing else? Would I be OK with that? The man Job was taken there. Abraham lived that way. Paul was very clear in his mind. "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

God has been taking my on a journey these last two years. Ultimately it has to do with calling, and significance. I perhaps have 20 or so good years left. How do I want to spend them? Chasing the dollar? Building into people? Changing the world?

But there is a hard side of God that scares me. It shows throughout the Old Testament. It is very evident in today's passage, of Leviticus 22 and 23.

"God spoke to Moses: "Tell Aaron and his sons to treat the holy offerings that the Israelites consecrate to me with reverence so they won't desecrate my holy name. I am God.
"Tell them, From now on, if any of your descendants approaches in a state of ritual uncleanness the holy offerings that the Israelites consecrate to God, he will be cut off from my presence. I am God." (Leviticus 22:1-3)

There is a serious side to all of this. I compare it to the coach talking to the athlete. Your goal must be the center of your life. Everything else fits it around that goal. Your time, your training, your eating your sleeping - all are driven by the goal to be an Olympic athlete.

God also tells His people to take Him VERY seriously. Listen again...

"Do what I tell you; live what I tell you. I am God.
"Don't desecrate my holy name. I insist on being treated with holy reverence among the People of Israel. I am God who makes you holy and brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am God." (Leviticus 22:31-33)

God must do a work IN you, before He can do a work THROUGH you. So... how far are you willing to go with God?

All the way?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Admirable

I found Paul Newman to be admirable. He was married to Joanne Woodward for 50 years. Was devoted to his children. Started a charity as a sideline that eventually gave over 80 million dollars away. I don't agree with everything he promoted, but I believe he lived an admirable life.

Les famous, but more admirable to me, was my dad. Honorable, faithful, self sacrificing, funny, handsome and talented. He poured out his life for others, and the results will be felt for generations.

Todays passage is loaded with meaning. The ideals God has for His people are laid out. He wants them to live good lives. Noble lives. Admirable lives. At the end of His statements He repeats, "I am God, your God." Personal. Alive. Involved. He calls us to holy living. Righteous living. Moral living. Because, "I am God, your God."

Toward the end of the reading, God exhorts them. He wants them to stand out. To be exceptional. To live better.

24 -26 "I've told you, remember, that you will possess their land that I'm giving to you as an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey. I am God, your God, who has distinguished you from the nations. So live like it... Live holy lives before me because I, God, am holy. I have distinguished you from the nations to be my very own."

As I reflect on my own life I feel I have fallen so short. Would others want to live as I?

I too, want to live an admirable life. A good life. A respected life. Why? Because God is real. God is personal. God is alive. "I am God, YOUR God."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Scapegoat


In the early years of our marriage I managed to blame most things on my wife. Eventually I realized the stupidity of doing that. It hurt her. It only showed up my own immaturity. And it never solved the problem. In modern parlance you would say I made her into a scapegoat.

This painting is called "The Scapegoat" by William Holman Hunt, 1854. Hunt had this framed with the quotations "Surely he hath borne our Griefs and carried our Sorrows; Yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of GOD and afflicted." (Isaiah 53:4) and "The Goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a Land not inhabited." (Leviticus 16:22)

In todays reading we see how God made a way for His people to have their sins atoned for so He could have a relationship with them.

One of the ways was to "bring up the live goat, lay both hands on the live goat's head, and confess all the iniquities of the People of Israel, all their acts of rebellion, all their sins. He will put all the sins on the goat's head and send it off into the wilderness, led out by a man standing by and ready. The goat will carry all their iniquities to an empty wasteland; the man will let him loose out there in the wilderness."

After you have read the New Testament you discover that Jesus is God's provision for our sins. Now not just atoned for, but actually forgiven.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mold, Germs and Quarantine


Today's reading is Leviticus 14 and 15. It deals with some very practical issues:

Mold. I have been in the Real Estate Brokerage business for years, and recently the Federal Government of the US passed some strict mold disclosure laws. Surprise! There are very complete mold laws in this passage. It includes discovery, remediation, and if necessary - demolition.

Germs. Around 1860 it was discovered that bacteria causes illnesses. French chemist Louis Pasteur called the bacteria "germs." However, this passage has a very complete treatment for germs. Primary emphasis is on cleanliness.

Quarantine. "In the 14th century the recognition that... plague was introduced by ships... led to the adoption of quarantine in Venice. The Venetian system became the model for other European countries..." - Encyclopaedia Britannica. Quarantine as a means of preventing the spread of infectious diseases is fully laid out in Leviticus.

Interesting! Do you suppose God knew all about these scientific realities before our "advanced" society discovered them?

So God's care for us extends even to the practical areas of health and disease cure and prevention...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Reverence


Check this out...

"Aaron lifted his hands over the people and blessed them. Having completed the rituals of the Absolution-Offering, the Whole-Burnt-Offering, and the Peace-Offering, he came down from the Altar. Moses and Aaron entered the Tent of Meeting. When they came out they blessed the people and the Glory of God appeared to all the people. Fire blazed out from God and consumed the Whole-Burnt-Offering and the fat pieces on the Altar. When all the people saw it happen they cheered loudly and then fell down, bowing in reverence." (Leviticus 8: 22-24)

Whoo Hoo!

They are doing all this bloody, gory stuff with the animals, just like God has told them to. The people are all gathered around, waiting. Then they come out and bless the people - AND THE GLORY OF GOD APPEARS!

Not only that!

Fire comes out of nowhere and burns up the sacrifice that is on the altar! The people cheer loudly, and fall down, bowing in reverence...

This is exciting stuff! God is alive. And powerful.

There is more to the story. Two of Aaron's sons decided to offer up fire to God that He had NOT approved. The text says, "Fire blazed out from God and consumed them—they died in God's presence."

That made everyone pay attention!

So what is reverence?

In Eastern Europe I have seen people stand through an entire Orthodox service, and women had their heads covered with a scarf - out of reverence. Catholics come into the cathedral quietly, cross themselves then sit - out of reverence. Some folks feel you should be quiet and still in service - out of reverence. Yet the modern North American church is a happy, boisterous place, with kids running around and people talking excitedly in groups. What does reverence look like for them?

I write this before dashing off to my own church for Sunday Service. I anticipate joyfully the worship, the fellowship, the message. What does reverence mean for me?

Today?

As I meet God, the Alive, Powerful God. In Church.