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Exodus 25:31 And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work shall the candlestick be made: his shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, shall be of the same.
Ahhh…sweet relief! It’s been much, much too long since I’ve written a blog. I’ve found seasons of life happen and often get in the way of the best of intentions. Some major changes have taken place in my family over the past few months, leaving me now with what seems like a bit more time (at least for the moment…with 5 children and a busy household, that can change in an instant). So, for the current moment, I’ll take advantage of it and write what’s on my heart.
It seems to be such a difficult time for so many right now. The pressures of society and personal stress continue to stack up until it feels like there’s nothing left to give. Every imaginable circumstance seems to have reared its ugly head in the lives of people I know, leaving them bewildered and wondering where God is in the midst of it.
A few months ago, God began to deal with me about the candlestick mentioned in Exodus 25. In this Scripture, we see that God is giving Moses the design for the tabernacle in the wilderness and all of its implements. The candlestick (known to us today as a 7-branch menorah) was to be positioned in the holy place. When we see a menorah today, many times it’s a very small piece, just a few inches tall. These replicas fail to give us a true picture of the size this piece of work actually was. It was tall enough that the priests would need a ladder to fill the oil reservoirs…over 5 feet. It must have been nothing short of impressive.
But, what spoke to me out of this scripture was not necessarily the size of the finished work. It was the process of making it. Imagine trying to fashion a candlestick with 7 branches, over 5 feet tall, into one piece using gold. The Bible says (in KJV) that it was ‘one beaten work’. Other versions use the word ‘hammered’. The time and skill needed to complete this was no small thing. In fact, the Holy Spirit rested upon those that would complete the work especially for this task.
I imagined the many blows that hammer must have made to create such a stunning piece. Over and over, the gold was struck and shaped with skilled hands until something useable and beautiful came into being. But this piece of furniture wasn’t made just
to sit and look pretty…it had a very special purpose. The candlestick was to give light in the holy place so the priests could serve their ministry to God in that otherwise very dark place.
As I began to mull this over in my mind, I began to see an intriguing parallel. So many times, when we’re in the ‘thick’ of hard times, all we can think of is how to get out. What might be the key that releases us from the prison we feel we’re in? We don’t like to be uncomfortable or inconvenienced. But, if we think back over some of the worst times we’ve ever endured, one of two things happened. Either we decided to give up and give in to the situation, letting it overrun us, or we chose to let God help us through those circumstances and make us stronger. Although surely we remember many good times, I personally tend to remember how God brought me through the worst times, and worked some things in me through that pain that would end up being a blessing not just to me, but to the others I would eventually minister to in the same situation.
The continued hammering seems excruciating at times, threatening to destroy us. But there’s one thing we must remember. The heat and hammering are necessary to set a formless hunk of gold on a journey to becoming a vessel that’s not only beautiful, but capable of holding holy oil and giving light in very dark places. Unless the gold is heated and beaten, it can’t be formed. If it can’t be formed, it will never reach its greater destiny…to light the way for others.
Ultimately, God allows us to go through trials. Some are of our own doing, and others seem to be unwarranted. The one thing they have in common is that they do a mighty fine job of ‘hammering’. If we’ll submit to the lessons being taught in those difficult times, we’ll find that the light of Christ will shine through us brilliantly. We never see the beauty in the beating until the light begins to shine. But, when it shines, the true Light will draw others out of their darkness.
I Peter 1:6-7 (ESV) In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith–more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire–may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
© Copyright Notice: Permission is hereby granted to make copies as long as Promised Land Ministries is properly cited and credited as the author. http://www.promisedland-ministries.com
Acts 2:6-8 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. 7 And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? 8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?
The Feast of Weeks (also called Shavuot (Sha-voo-WOAT) in Hebrew, or Pentecost in Greek) was just celebrated by the Jews, and in many Christian churches across the globe this week. It occurs 50 days after the Feast of Firstfruits in the spring, and is a date of great significance to both groups.
Although this passage in Acts is often thought to be the birthday of the church, the Feast of Weeks has a long, rich history which can be traced all the way back to the book of Exodus in the Old Testament. The first Pentecost is recorded in Exodus Chapter 19. After the exodus of the Israelites from bondage in Egypt, which occurred at Passover, they crossed the Red Sea. Fifty days later, we see the Israelites gathered at Mount Sinai, waiting for the instruction the LORD would give them. After well over 400 years in bondage, the recently freed people had no idea what it took to run a nation. They watched in awe as God descended upon the mountain in fire, and smoke billowed from the top as though it was being consumed. It is here that God would give Moses the Torah…His instructions on how they should live and run their new nation. Moses came down from the mountain with stone tablets, in which the finger of God had written what we now know as the 10 commandments. The Feast of Pentecost is a commemoration of Israel’s physical deliverance from their captors.
Fast forward many years to the book of Acts chapter 2. Pentecost is one of the 3 major harvest festivals in the feast cycle, and required all Jewish males to be present in Jerusalem. Jews had come from all over to celebrate the feast. It was exactly 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus. This was an annual event, but this year something would take place that those present would not soon forget. God would once again visibly descend as the Holy Spirit in the form of fire, and set upon the 120 that were waiting in the upper room. This time, his instructions would not be written in stone, but in the hearts of men. As fire sat upon the disciples as described in Acts 2:4, they began to supernaturally speak in languages that were unknown to them. So, Pentecost is a celebration not only of physical deliverance, but spiritual deliverance as well.
This scripture passage in Acts is very well known among many religious groups because of the miraculous account of 120 people speaking in languages unknown to them, but understood by those in their hearing. Often, the focus of this passage is on the speaking. But in my opinion, another miracle occurred that is just as great in comparison…the fact that those in attendance were hearing what was spoken in their own languages. We have no way of knowing for sure, but it seems credible that there could have been more than 120 languages represented there that day. But somehow, they all heard exactly what they needed to hear, exactly how they needed to understand it.
Just before this great event, Jesus told the disciples “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The power He speaks of is not given simply for the purpose of their speaking in other tongues, or to perform miracles. This verse tells us the purpose for the power…to be witnesses of Jesus. When they spoke in other languages, it was the tool God used to spread the gospel of Jesus to all of the Jews in attendance.
There is much theological debate about the practice of speaking in tongues, but that is not the subject of this blog. There is no doubt that the practice is biblically based. I just wish to show the ‘flip side of the coin’ when I speak about the hearing aspect.
Sacrifices were commonplace during the tabernacle and temple periods. Fire, by its very nature, burns unnecessary things away and purifies. It was an important part of their daily physical and spiritual lives. The picture of ‘tongues of fire’ was not by chance. It was a vibrant display of what was actually happening…120 ‘sacrifices’…LIVING sacrifices, were being consumed by the fire upon them. At that point, they could no longer speak their own words…only the words God wanted them to speak, and in the language He wanted them to speak. When the words left their lips, they landed in the ears of those listening, and they accurately understood what was being said.
If you’ve been around many different religious groups, it’s an interesting phenomenon that they all seem to have their own ‘language’…things that are unique only to that group or denomination. When we began attending our current church about 4 years ago, I approached the pastor to find out who ‘Karen and Sharon’ were. These are the names of two ladies I heard in the announcements that were holding an event on a Sunday night. I found my ears had betrayed me when I was told it was ‘Caring and Sharing’, a monthly fellowship event held in our church after a Sunday evening service. (True story!)
The problem with our individual ‘languages’ is that they tend to be barriers rather than bridges. We want to bring other people into our ways of thinking, but rarely want to find out where someone else is, and meet them where they are. The miracle of allowing the fire of the Holy Spirit to set upon you is that as He helps to purify you, your words become His Words. You can speak the same message to a room full of people, but each will hear exactly what God wants them to hear, and in the ‘language’ they need to hear it.
My son, daughter, and I are part of a gospel singing group. We sung at a Memorial Day event for a large church a few days ago. Although my roots are deeply Pentecostal, as is our style of music, we were asked to attend this event at a Moravian church. It was under a large picnic shelter on the grounds, with around 200 in attendance. We ministered, and although much of our music was new to them, the response was wonderful. However, we knew when we were ‘speaking their language’. We would begin a song they knew, their eyes lit up, and they were totally engaged.
After we had ministered for awhile, the people started getting up to leave en masse. We continued to sing while the cleanup was being done. Someone approached us and assured us it was not because they were upset about our singing…in fact, they said the response was great, and we were invited back. She jokingly said, “You’ll be hard pressed to get a Moravian to stay anywhere over an hour”. I returned her joke with, “Well, sometimes Pentecostals just don’t know when to quit!” We shared a laugh, but she looked kindly in my eyes and said, “It just goes to show you that we really need each other, doesn’t it?” I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes as I agreed it was true…yes, we do need each other. During that time of ministry, the LORD had allowed our language barriers to be bridged.
The awesome thing about the Holy Spirit is that when we allow His words to become ours, He knows exactly what to say so that we may minister to one another. We can simply be the channel through which His words flow. When a channel transports water, it doesn’t get to choose which way it points. It points the direction its maker chooses. When we point the direction God leads us and allow the Holy Spirit to come upon us, the right words will fall upon the ears of the receiver and they will accurately hear what He has to say in their own language.
© Copyright Notice: Permission is hereby granted to make copies as long as Promised Land Ministries is properly cited and credited as the author. http://www.promisedland-ministries.com
Christopher Michel [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
2 Corinthians 3:17 “…Where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty”.
‘Relationship…not rules’ has become somewhat of a buzzword among Christians these days. Within the past week or so, I have seen a video posted many times on Facebook. A young man wrote a monologue of sorts on ‘Why I Hate Religion…but love Jesus’. I will be the first to admit that he raises some good points. There are some things in that video I do agree with. As the posting continued to appear time and time again on my news feed, I began to ponder on the message being presented. There was something about that video I wasn’t comfortable with that I just couldn’t put my finger on. As I said, I agreed with parts of it. So, what’s the problem?
I thought on this most of the day. At one point a still, small voice raised a question in my mind that almost literally stunned me…’Is it possible to have a relationship without rules?’ Being the good Facebooker I am, I posted the question to my wall. I got some good responses, and most of them were exactly what I expected. However, I decided to save my responses for this blog, because I think it’s a very important question that cannot be answered quickly.
As in any debate, there are two very different sides to this issue. We have rules vs. relationship. Most comments I see made about these two sides seem to imply that they are diametrically opposed…that they could not be further away from each other in scope, and that relationship is the one to be had, to the exclusion of all rules. After all, Jesus is all about relationship, isn’t He? Well, yes and no…at least the way I see it. Before anybody jumps off the deep end in criticism, let me explain.
On the one hand, there are many that have come out of extreme legalism. They have believed you must ‘do’ things in order to earn salvation. Sometimes, when coming out of that, it’s very easy to go so far the other way that we believe God doesn’t require anything of us. And on the opposite end of the same spectrum, there are people that come out of what they used to term freedom. As that happens, they can become just as apt to enter into extreme legalism because of the problems they encountered. When coming off of one extreme, it’s far too easy to land in the other. The problem is, both are without balance.
In the 2 Corinthians passage above, we’re told that we have liberty in Christ. When looking up that word in a lexicon, the meaning is very telling. It says ‘true liberty is in doing as we should, not as we please’. In no way am I trying to minimize the work of grace….just trying to show that even grace has its conditions.
I am a married woman. In my relationship with my husband, there are some rules I must abide by if I want to have a healthy marriage. I do not go about flirting with other men, or spending personal time with them when my husband isn’t present. I am expected to be faithful to him, and not to do anything to intentionally hurt him. My love for him requires those things of me. If I were to do things detrimental to our marriage relationship, it is quite possible we would no longer have a relationship after awhile.
Another important relationship in my life is that with my children. When they were small, I spent a lot of time saying ‘no’…teaching them that there are rules we live by to be safe, happy, and get along with other people. Rules are used to train so they know how to behave. They are the first building block of relationship. However, as their trust for me grows, ideally I can begin to loose the ‘control ‘ of rules, because the things I have tried to instill in them from infancy will move to their heart. Then, they do what’s right because it’s right, not because I told them so.
Will they mess up? Absolutely! They are children, and I expect them to mess up. But, I also expect them to come to terms with the fact they messed up and ask for forgiveness. This restores the relationship that has been broken by disobedience.
The Bible tells us that when we are saved, we’re no longer our own. I Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV) ‘Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore, honor God with your body. This scripture is given in context of obeying a ‘rule’…no fornication.
Obeying rules does not save us. It never did. Many argue that the Jews were required to keep the law to receive salvation. In reality, a careful reading will reveal that the focus was always on the atoning sacrifice when a commandment was broken. The focus is always the sacrifice that redeems us from sin. We’re told in scripture (Romans 3:20) that without the law, there is no knowledge of when we’ve committed sin. ‘Law’ lets us know that there is no possibility we can ‘do’ things to be saved. It takes the atoning sacrifice of Jesus to give us salvation…no more, no less.
But, we err if we think God requires nothing of us. John 14:15 says ‘If you love me, keep my commandments’. We work on building a relationship with God by finding out what pleases Him, and then doing it. We read His Word to find out what He desires. Sometimes, we may have to do things that seem hard, but do it because His Word says to. Our obedience demonstrates our love for Him, and our desire for a face to face relationship. Disobedience blocks that from happening. This is why it’s important for us to repent of sin when we realize it…to restore the broken relationship.
Are we prone to messing up? Of course we are. Just like our small children who are learning, we will fail at times. But just as we expect our children to eventually learn, He also expects that from us. If we continue to have a flagrant disregard for something He has dealt with us about, there will be consequences. He loves us enough to allow us to face the consequences of our actions. He still loves us, but like a good parent, He metes out appropriate discipline for disobedience in order to teach us the right way to live.
So is the equation truly ‘rules vs. relationship’? I really don’t think so. In my opinion, there is a healthy balance of rules and relationship in a healthy walk with God and others. When everything is about rules, and there is no relationship, a Facebook friend of mine eloquently said there is always rebellion. That is true. But if we try to have a relationship without rules, we are just as destined to fail, because no rules results in a lack of restraint. The way I see it, the two are not diametrically opposed at all. They work together beautifully to create the face to face relationship God desires with all of His children.
© Copyright Notice: Permission is hereby granted to make copies as long as Promised Land Ministries is properly cited and credited as the author. http://www.promisedland-ministries.com
Wikimedia Images / Pixabay
Matt 17:20 ‘…for verily I say unto you, if ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you. ‘
Mustard seed faith…what exactly does that mean? I’ve heard many sermons on the subject, and for some reason I haven’t given too much thought to it outside of that. I’m not sure what brought it to my mind, except that I was thinking about the above scripture a few days ago, and wondering why Jesus would give ‘talk time’ to displacing literal mountains. Thus, my adventure began.
The mustard seed is only mentioned 5 times in scripture, and all 5 of these verses are actually only 2 events. The synoptic gospels share many of the same events, written from the perspective of a different eyewitness. Each of the gospel writers had a different intended audience, which also makes their account significant, especially to the group of people they are presenting to. The events surrounding the mustard seed passages fall like this: Matthew 13:31, Mark 4:31, and Luke 13:19 take place when Jesus is teaching through parables. A parable draws similarities between spiritual truths and natural things that men could understand. Matthew 17:20 and Luke 17:6 take place later, shortly after the transfiguration of Jesus.
The first set of verses speak of the mustard seed, not in conjunction with faith, but as a comparison to show the disciples what the kingdom of heaven is like. Mustard was one of the smallest seeds known to the people of that day. God’s kingdom is like the smallest mustard seed planted in a field, which grows to be one of the largest plants in the field…the size of a tree. The Jews as a whole were looking for a Messiah that would set up an impressive earthly kingdom and deliver them from their military enemies. This is not the kind of kingdom Jesus came to bring. The comparison here is made to show that although His kingdom did not look at all influential here on earth, the actual impact of it is mind-boggling.
The second set of verses, Matthew 17:20 and Luke 17:6 are the ones I really want to focus on here. These describe the mustard seed in relation to faith. I have always heard this subject taught in the context that we only need a tiny bit of faith to move mountains. I’m not saying that’s wrong at all, but my study brought a little different perspective on it for me.
Jesus had just been transfigured before Peter, James, and John. As they came to join the other disciples, they saw an argument going on. A boy possessed of an evil spirit was brought by his father to the disciples for healing. The disciples were unable to cast the spirit out, and Jesus healed the boy.
When considering this account, I always thought of this scripture as a very positive thing…like Jesus was encouraging His disciples that if they could only gather that small amount of faith, nothing would be impossible to them. A closer look actually reveals it was probably more of a reprimand than an exhortation. Matthew 17 tells the version of Jesus reprimanding the disciples for not being able to heal the boy because of the weakness of their faith (translated ‘unbelief’ in KJV). Luke 17 is also very telling…here, Jesus tells the disciples how many times to forgive a brother that has sinned against them. The disciples say ‘Increase our faith’, and Jesus tells them about having faith as a grain of mustard seed. They didn’t actually need an increase in faith, just in application.
We’re told in Romans 12:3 that God has given every man a measure of faith. So, if we all have faith, and the size of a tiny mustard seed is all we need, then why would this be a problem? I think there’s something very important here that we may have missed. Both of these verses say that our faith should be ‘as’ a grain of mustard seed. As I’ve pondered on that, I started doing some research about the ancient mustard plants.
Both sets of verses above reference each other in the Bible, so although they describe different events, their meanings can be connected. The ‘grain of mustard seed’ faith alone is not very impressive looking. But when planted, it will grow into something much greater. The ancient mustard seeds grow best in hot, dry climates. The seed itself was planted at a depth approximately 100 times deeper than the size of the seed itself, so when it germinates, it fights to get above ground.
Ancient mustard grew abundantly in some of the most adverse conditions known to man. Mustard trees grew in the valley near the temple mount in Jerusalem. This valley was the receptacle for all of the blood, waste, etc. from the temple sacrifices, which created conditions where mustard trees could thrive. In biblical days, a shepherd had to be knowledgeable about conditions for his sheep to drink. If bamboo was nearby, the water was safe to drink, because bamboo only grows in fresh water. Mustard however, thrives in filth, so if mustard was around, the wise shepherd knew that this was not a safe place for his sheep to drink.
So if your wilderness seems very hot and dry right now, and your circumstances seem so dark and horrible that you can’t imagine any worse, you’re living in the perfect conditions for faith ‘as a grain of mustard seed’ to thrive. In Matthew 17, Jesus told His disciples about the boy, ‘This kind only goeth out by prayer and fasting’. Mustard seed needs the same things all other plants need to grow…soil (the heart of man where faith must be planted), air (the Holy Spirit), water (The Word of God), and sunlight (the SON Himself). Even though it grows well in adverse conditions, there is one last thing it needs to reach its final destiny…time. That time in prayer, fasting, and communion with God, while going through the wretched circumstances of life are what will bring that grain of mustard seed to its final stage.
It’s also interesting to note that the mustard tree is known to contain antiseptics, abrasives, and detergents. So that mustard tree, which thrives in such filthy conditions, contains elements that can heal wounds, slough the roughness off, and cleanse. Sounds just like a full-grown faith, doesn’t it?
I sit back and think of many elderly people I’ve known…some still living and many passed on. They’ve exhibited such great faith in times of distress, but how did they get that way? They allowed that ‘grain of mustard seed’ to become a tree in their lives…by doing the right things, enduring the wrong conditions, and carefully nurturing the small plant that would eventually grow to a size large enough that they could settle in the shade it provided. I pray I am able to do the same.
Copyright 1998-2015 by John Bell (www.jrbell.com) – Used with permission
Psalm 147:3 He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.
No, this post is not just for women. But, it seemed a thought-provoking title, and maybe one that would make you wonder what in the world must be on my mind, since it so obviously goes against the grain of what you usually see at the end of that phrase.
We often think of being bound as a bad thing, and rightly so. In context, sometimes it does have a bad connotation. After all, don’t we really want to be loosed from what bothers us? But, the topic on my heart tonight is dealing with the hurts that seem to plague us, and why it’s a good thing to be bound…at least for a season.
I’ve been thinking about this subject for the last week or so, and knew I would soon write about it. Tonight I was prodded to do it as I was looking at the news feed on my Facebook page. I read a blog post done by a classmate of mine, who is now the pastor of a church. He spoke of God giving him the ability to forgive a hurt he suffered at the hands of another classmate over 30 years ago. He stated how we often carry those hurts for many years, even if we manage to shut out the memories for a long time. It is this former classmate’s post that confirmed the need for this message to be written.
To be broken-hearted is a terrible thing. The Hebrew word for broken, ‘shabar’, speaks of something so broken that it would be nearly impossible to put it back together again. In the context of this passage, the Bible speaks of one who is wounded, almost beyond repair. It is also used in various places to describe the destruction of idols. When something is broken this badly, it is often not meant to be put back together the way it originally was.
We live in a fallen world, and broken relationships are very common. When I think of broken relationships, usually I think of a divorce or a situation where someone is estranged from another they once loved, whether it be a friend, family member, etc. But, it covers much more than that. A relationship can be broken by death, or even by disease or mental illness. I often speak with people whose lives have been marred by spiritual abuse. This is a very real problem, and causes wounds that usually take many years, and sometimes a lifetime, to recover from. Sometimes we suffer hurts at the hands of others that are so deep, the pain is indescribable. When the pain is so intense, we often feel so far from God, and doubt our ability to reach Him for the help we desperately need to mend our broken heart.
Being heartbroken is also the deep sense of betrayal we sometimes feel when a relationship has gone wrong. We don’t want to feel that way, and we try our best to forgive. But, if we happen to run into that person, that past hurt begins to rise up in us, and we realize maybe we weren’t as ‘over it’ as we originally thought. We may even seek the LORD, and ask to be free from it, even thinking at times we’ve been instantly delivered, only to find out later we still harbor hurt we didn’t realize.
The mentality of our society leads us to believe if we just put a band-aid on top of it, everything will be OK, and we’ll get over it someday. But eventually we find out a band-aid only does what a band-aid does best…serves as a cover so the wound won’t be seen by anyone.
My mother-in-law has been a patient of our local wound care center for quite a few years. I often joke with them that they’ll be able to give me a job one day, because I’ve gained so much experience in wound care. Over time, there’s one thing I’ve learned. If someone has a deep physical wound, it can’t simply be covered and left on its own. A deep wound must heal from the inside out. When a scab forms over a deep wound, they will regularly pull it off, clean out the wound, and cover it again to allow it to heal more. If the scab is not removed regularly, infection begins to build underneath, and will cause all kinds of internal problems if left untreated.
This is exactly how we function when we’re hurt, and how the LORD heals us of our deep sufferings. It’s a daily, often painful and time-consuming process. In order to heal properly, we must heal from the inside out. So often, we put our ‘band aids’ and happy faces on and go about our lives, giving no indication of the deep pain inside. But as we continue to cover it, it simply festers and grows into a greater problem than it was before.
In Luke 10, we see the account of the good Samaritan. He poured in both oil and wine to aid healing, and then bound the wounds of the injured man. Oil and wine…representing the Holy Spirit, going to work inside the deep places to clean and heal.
We become healed when we allow Jesus to apply the Holy Spirit, and ‘bind up’ the wounds that cause us so much pain. Yes, it’s so uncomfortable and even painful to have that ‘top layer’ removed all the time, exposing the raw emotion underneath. But if we allow Him to work in our lives daily cleaning out that wound, over time it will become less and less painful as the healing progresses. Then when the healing is complete, there is nothing left underneath the surface to deal with later.
Why carry hurts around? God knows when it’s taken up residence in our heart, and so do we. Refusing to deal with it only hinders our growth. He knows everything we feel anyway, so why not give it to Him? He is an expert ‘binder’. Maybe it was never meant for your heart to be put back together the same way it was originally. With the trial comes strength and endurance that will outlast the suffering.
There will eventually come a time when the healing is complete, and that painful season will be over. Then and only then can we be loosed to fly again. Being bound is not always a bad thing. Rest in the care of the One who is the expert wound healer.
Luke 8:14 And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked out with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.
Summer…wow, what a busy time! As a homeschooling mom, I always have this vision of a restful, lazy summer where my children are perfectly content being at home 24/7. In reality though, summer usually ends up being as busy, if not more so, than the rest of my year. It was at one of our recent activities that the idea for this blog came to be. It was a message I truly needed to be reminded of.
A few weeks ago, we were invited to the home of a friend. Her family was hosting a gathering with a bonfire, and I attended with several of our children. We had recently cleaned out our attic, where I found several boxes of old paperwork that we no longer needed. Since we‘re unable to burn things on our property, and there was too much to consider shredding, I asked her if I could bring my paperwork to burn there, and she agreed. So I showed up with the most ridiculous looking load of paper they ever saw. We had some good laughs over it as we chatted with everyone around the fire.
After attempting to burn my items a few at a time for quite awhile, they brought me their burning barrel so I could complete my job more quickly. We started a fire in the barrel, and began to feed it with paper. It quickly burned as I added more and more fuel. After awhile, I noticed a phenomenon that interested me. As the wife of a firefighter it wasn’t a new concept, but God used it to remind me of something very important. Occasionally in my zeal to complete the job, I would add too much paper at once. No matter how hot or large the fire had become, it was quickly smothered when too much paper was added. Underneath the pile, the embers would smolder, but the paper was no longer being consumed quickly as it had been before. In my haste to finish burning the entire pile, I had actually brought any progress to a screeching halt.
Using the large stick I had to stir the ashes with, I lifted the piles of paper to create air holes. When fresh air hit the embers, the blaze immediately began again, destroying the piles of paper that had originally snuffed out the flame. It took time and stirring of the fire to destroy the paper to the point it was sufficiently burned, but as long as there were some air holes, the blaze continued to burn brightly.
If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I’m a busy lady. Juggling the schedules of my husband and our 5 children, plus being a full-time caregiver for my mother-in-law puts more on my plate than I feel capable of dealing with sometimes. It’s too easy to let everything else get in the way of that which is most precious…spending time with the LORD. Circumstances of life will continue to pile care after care on top of us until the spiritual fire that should be burning brightly comes to a smoldering halt. Smoldering embers can still burn paper, but with no intensity, causing it to take far too much time and energy.
When we begin to feel smothered by the weight of our circumstances, we must begin to open up some ‘air holes’ in our spiritual life with time and effort in communication with the LORD. Regular time in prayer and study will re-ignite the fire that once burned brightly, breaking the yoke of the cares we’ve been buried under.
The Holy Spirit is often represented in the Bible as fire. Fire has the ability to cleanse and purify those things that are able to withstand the heat. We go through the fiery trials to purify us, not to bring harm. The lyrics of a song that is currently popular on the Christian charts says it well…’He knows this is going to make you stronger’. All too often, we try to push the work of the Holy Spirit aside in our lives, because the pain seems too great, and the trial too hard.
As we allow the Holy Spirit to do His purifying work in us, our spiritual fire will begin to burn more brightly, which in turn makes our trials more bearable. Not easy, but bearable. When the fire of God’s Spirit is cut down to embers by our circumstances, the enemy can keep us from God’s ultimate goal for our lives. It’s just not worth it to be all choked up…
Matt 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on a stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Wow…have I really been gone that long? I was checking on my blog a few days ago, and realized that it’s been well over a month since I posted anything, and much longer than that since I posted regularly. I have found that life seems to happen in seasons, and lately my season has been too busy to put fingers to keyboard.
My children and I just returned from what was supposed to be a family trip to Black Mountain, NC for the Feast of Passover. My husband and two younger children had to stay behind because of the season of life we’re in right now. For the past several months, my mother-in-law’s health has quickly deteriorated. Although we’ve known how drastic the circumstance was, we just recently got the official diagnosis…a moderately severe stage of Alzheimer’s disease. It has seemed for the past several months that everything has been put on hold, including the regular study and writing time that I enjoy so much. My mother-in-law is now to the point of needing almost 24 hour care, so that always comes first, no matter the time of day or night.
During our time away, it was like being in another world. With those daily responsibilities set aside for a few days, it seemed as though I could forge a deeper communication with God, and He could deal with me in a way that was uninterrupted and clear. As I prepared to teach a lesson myself during that retreat, all I could think about was salt. It seemed in every session, the LORD would bring something to my memory about it, and every session was screaming ‘salt!’ to me. I realized this is what God is doing through our circumstances right now…helping me learn to be salt.
I have read this passage in Matthew 5 many times, but never really realized the context of it. This is a chapter most of us are familiar with if we have any kind of biblical background. In chapter 4, we see Jesus calling His disciples, and the multitudes beginning to follow Him. He preaches this sermon near the beginning of His ministry. As He begins to preach the sermon the Christian world has termed ‘the beatitudes’, He shares the qualities that make us blessed in the eyes of the LORD. Immediately following each quality, Jesus tells the crowd what is to be gained by modeling it. To mention just a few, we gain mercy by being merciful, comfort when we mourn, and we become filled when we hunger and thirst after righteousness. All of these qualities are the things that make us salt and light to the world.
Salt has two main uses. It is a seasoning and a preservative. Salt has the unique quality of bringing out the underlying flavors in food. It doesn’t take much of it to accomplish this task, and salt doesn’t take a starring role in a dish. It’s simply there to enhance the natural flavors in the food we prepare, and our enjoyment of those foods. Without it, food can be very bland. But on the other hand, too much salt is simply overwhelming and unpleasant. It was never meant to be the main flavor in food. Too much salt can be worse than no salt at all in many cases.
The second purpose of salt is its use as a preservative. Meat and other foods can be cured with it, and even a small bit of salt in a loaf of bread helps to increase the shelf life of the finished product. Salt has antibacterial qualities, so its use inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria that would cause food to spoil rapidly.
When Jesus says we are the salt of the earth, He presents a very vivid picture of what the child of God should be. He has chosen us to work with Him to spread the gospel throughout the earth. It’s not our job to take the starring role, pointing others to us, but simply to be the seasoning that makes men want to try Him. The picture we present to others may be the only picture they ever see of Jesus. If the picture we paint is harsh, overbearing, and unloving, we may unknowingly bestow a disgusting taste in the mouths of others toward the Savior that longs to walk with them in personal relationship.
Likewise, the children of God preserve this world until Jesus comes back to earth. In Genesis 18, Abraham is having a conversation with God concerning his nephew Lot. Sodom and Gomorrah were to be destroyed. Abraham asked for something that seemed so small and doable. Would God spare the cities if only 10 righteous people could be found? God agreed He would. But, not even 10 were found. Only 10 righteous would have preserved those cities from destruction. It is God’s children that preserve this world from His wrath.
If we lose the ability to be salt, whether through indifference or misguided, unloving zeal, we become of little use. Salt that has lost its ability to season is good for nothing, other than making a roadbed for men to trample on. We allow our lights to shine by becoming transparent and allowing Jesus to shine through us. Then and only then are we able to bring the truly wonderful taste of Jesus to all who know and watch us.
As the LORD began to show me these things, it made me reflect on this season of my life. There are many things I’m sure He is teaching me. I falter so often, and think I must be failing the test. After all, I’m not above being irritable or on edge when the weight of these responsibilities crashes in…which seems to be far more often than I like to admit. My irritation mostly carries over to the people that are the closest to me. But I realize it’s my job to be salt to them as well. I pray the LORD continues to prompt and help me be the subtle seasoning that helps others, including my family, see Him more clearly.
I believe we must examine ourselves. What flavor does your life bring to the table?
Isaiah 64:6 (NIV) All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags…
Sometimes, I get an idea I think would make a good blog, but have to put it away for awhile until an event kindles the fire for the words to come. This blog is one of those. This is an idea that has been in my draft folder for a very long time. It was just a couple of days ago that the event happened that sparked the inspiration for this post. My intention is not necessarily to change anyone’s mind, because this subject is a matter of private personal opinion, but to foster some understanding, and hopefully to cause some productive thought.
There was a time in my life, not so long ago, when I had a complex of sorts. It’s not easy for me to talk about, because frankly, I look back now, and I’m quite ashamed of the thoughts and feelings I had about myself and others. I thought I was quite a bit ‘holier’ than most people, and I believed almost everything was evil. It wasn’t uncommon for me to try to find the evil in things, and almost attempt to seek out a ‘devil around every corner’. If there wasn’t one to be found, I could almost make one up. I was quite proud that I didn’t allow my children to see any movie that had any aspect of what I thought was evil, or listen to stories that had any whisper of fantasy attached to them. When the LORD began to let me see what I was doing, it became immediately apparent that I had very unhappy children that did not understand why nothing was acceptable unless it had to do directly reading the Bible or going to church.
Please don’t get me wrong. My intention is not to undermine the choices that any parent makes for their children, but to tell my story. If the way you’re raising your children is how you feel the LORD would have you do it, I don’t have a gripe with you. I’m talking about folks like me that practically made my children miserable because nothing was OK to see or do.
A couple of days ago, one of my children was walking with our neighbor, an elderly gentleman in our neighborhood at our local YMCA. They were approached by another man my son sees and talks to on occasion. This gentleman began to talk to my son about the movies he’d seen recently, and they carried on a short conversation. In order not to leave our neighbor out of the conversation, my son asked him if he’d seen any movies lately. His reply did something that is very uncommon…it left my son speechless. He indignantly replied, “I haven’t seen any movies since I got saved over 50 years ago! And, anyone who’s caught in one of those h*ll-holes when the rapture takes place will be going straight to h*ll!” OK…maybe a bit extreme for this ultra-conservative man that we had never heard utter a word against anyone? 🙂
This conversation really made me think. First, I was ashamed at how many times I had thought the same thing about things people do, even if I had never uttered it to a soul. Even if it never fell on any human’s ears, it had been in my heart. Another thing I realized a few years ago was solidified by this one event…a judgmental, self-righteous attitude is no better in the sight of God than the things it is used to accuse people of.
A few years ago, I was listening to a teaching CD done by a family friend, who is also a dear spiritual mentor…Dr. Karl Coke. He was making a point about how the world sometimes ‘gets it’ better than we do as Christians. A common theme, in Disney movies for instance, is the story of a princess that has a battle with some kind of evil villain. The princess is born, has a spell cast on her by the villain(ess), and is at some point put to sleep because she is drawn to something put there to harm her. True love’s kiss is the only thing that will wake her from her sleep, and the prince is usually the source of that kiss.
As he explained, it was at that moment my old perspective began to change. There were many Disney movies I had not allowed my children to see for this very reason. He continued that this is an example, set on a child’s level, of God’s love for us. We are easily enticed and trapped into sin…in fact, we’re born into it, and the enemy has us. Evil is not always ugly…often it’s very beautiful, and that’s why we’re so easily taken in by it, just like the princess is taken in by that which will ultimately seek to destroy her. In fact, satan’s name literally means ‘trap setter’. That is how he draws us…by setting traps and baiting us, just like we would catch an animal. Then, when she is ‘dead’, just like we are in sin, the King’s Son comes to awaken her and bring new life back to her lifeless body. As the movie ends, they are married to one another, and live happily ever after.
There is a basic premise that is repeated over and over in these movies and stories. Evil is clearly seen, and good triumphs in the end. This is in direct contrast to movies where evil is pictured as good, and the way to overcome is through using evil. This is in direct opposition to what we should teach our children.
I realized upon hearing this that explanation I had neglected a basic aspect of my children’s training. I’ve always said that one of my objectives in homeschooling my children was not to keep them isolated from the world, but to introduce them to the world on my terms, instead of allowing the world to dictate the terms. We then began to use these opportunities as springboards for discussion, rather than just not allowing them at all.
As we began to do that, I began to see my children spring to life and start to think more about the difficult questions some of these movies and stories open up. Do I let them watch just anything? Absolutely not. But, I also have a teenage son who is now quite the expert at discussing the moral and ethical questions that arise from the movies he’s seen, and can intelligently discuss with you the reasons why things are right and wrong, instead of just spewing that something is wrong, but not knowing the reason. He now has a chance to apply what he’s learned in the Bible to something he experiences in real life. This is often an avenue of discussion with others that might not be able to discuss the Bible directly.
I don’t even begin to think that I’ve done everything right. I’ve made so many mistakes as a parent. There are still many things that I need to correct and work on. At this point, it’s possible our neighbor thinks I’m a failure as a parent, as I’m sure do many others. But, I figure if I was to sit and compare notes with any other parent, you would find many things you think I’m doing wrong. But, I can also guarantee that I could find things I don’t agree with in your methods. But, instead of looking for ‘the devil around every corner’ to see what everyone else is doing wrong, why don’t we focus on the right that is happening in each other’s families? You may not make the same choices I do. But a self-righteous, critical attitude from either of us will not win us any more brownie points with God.
As I said, I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind about how to raise their children. The critical thinking that is happening in my children as a result of this change in our lives, along with their relationship with Jesus is enough to make me think I’m doing something right. I only wanted to give my point of view, because it’s all about your perspective…
Valentine’s Day is almost here, and our thoughts begin to turn toward love. When we talk about love in our society today, it’s a term we use very loosely. We say we ‘love’ things like a food or activity instead of saying it’s something we enjoy. We say we love our spouses, our children, and friends, to describe the wonderful feelings we have toward them. The idea of love also brings us visions of hearts. At this time of year, we see hearts everywhere…in the form of boxes of candy lining the aisles of stores, and cards with beautiful pictures.
All of these things are good. But, the greatest demonstration of love wasn’t a beautiful scene. We get all of these flowery images in our heads about the love of God. Don’t get me wrong…His love is wonderful and great to think about. But the true demonstration of His love was not a beautiful thing to look upon. When we think of love, blood usually doesn’t come to mind, but His love, the greatest love ever demonstrated, was by blood.
How is blood used to demonstrate love? Even back in Genesis, after the first sin ever committed in the garden, a sacrifice was made to cover that sin. Blood was shed for the first time as man’s atonement. There’s a principle in the Old Testament that shows us the importance of blood and why it’s sacred. God gave this command to Noah and his family when they left the ark.
Gen 9:6 (NLT) …you must execute anyone who murders another person, for to kill a person is to kill a living being made in God’s image.
Blood is sacred because humans are made in the image of God, and to murder someone is take the life (blood) of one made in His image. To kill someone (one biblical term is ‘to shed innocent blood’) was such a serious crime that a relative of the victim was able to avenge their family member by killing the murderer. The only way for someone to avoid being killed after committing murder was to flee to a city of refuge. We see this when Moses killed the Egyptian in Exodus 2. When he realized someone saw him kill another, he fled to Midian because Pharoah wanted to kill him.
After the Israelites were delivered from the bondage of Egypt, God began to give them commandments to live by. These commands touched all levels of life, from national law all the way down to personal circumstances. Blood was spoken of often and in great detail, as far as how it was to be handled, and the fact that consuming it was forbidden. The prohibition was so strong that God said He would cut off anyone from the nation who consumed blood in any form.
Leviticus 17:10-12 (NLT) And I will turn against anyone, whether an Israelite or a foreigner living among you, who eats or drinks blood in any form. I will cut off such a person from the community, for the life of any creature is in its blood. I have given you the blood so you can make atonement for your sins. It is the blood, representing life, that brings you atonement. This is why I said to the Israelites: You and the foreigners who live among you must never eat or drink blood.
When a person brought a sacrifice for sin, this was the general procedure. The animal was brought to the entrance of the Tabernacle. The person would lay his hand on the animal’s head, representing the transfer of sin from him to the animal…in other words, the animal would bear his sin. Then the person would slaughter the animal himself. The blood was drained, and offered to God as a substitute…the innocent animal would die in the place of the guilty human.
We see this principle repeated throughout the Bible. Hebrews 9:22 (NLT) says ‘Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.’
Because sin is committed by free will, atonement was also made by free will. It was the personal choice of the one bringing the sacrifice to bring it. He made the choice to shed the blood of the animal to substitute for him. The blood was intended to lead the one who committed sin back to a place of being in communion with God.
In that day, it was believed that the soul of someone was connected with their blood. Blood is the basis of human life, and every process in the body is dependent on healthy blood.
Blood has two basic functions. It carries nutrients to our cells, and carries waste away from the cells. When we breathe, we take oxygen into our lungs. The component of blood called hemoglobin is what grabs that oxygen and carries it through the bloodstream to every part of the body. When blood tests are done for hemoglobin, they are basically testing how effectively your body can get oxygen to the cells. If hemoglobin is low, the body cannot effectively get oxygen to the cells as it should. That’s why low hemoglobin is great cause for concern, and requires a transfusion. As the blood travels, it ‘drops off’ oxygen and ‘picks up’ waste products that are brought back to the lungs and other filtering organs where the body eliminates them, either by breathing them out, or filtering them through another organ. This is a constant exchange. If either process stops (the carrying of nutrients or the removal of toxins), toxins will build up in the body that can’t be eliminated. Without this exchange, you die.
Blood is special…it does a work in our body that no other fluid can do. It literally brings life to our bodies, and cleansing from things we don’t need…things that cause our body to function less than normally. The things that blood does in our physical bodies are exactly the same things that the blood of Jesus does for us spiritually. He brings us life, and He works in us to clear away the things that interfere with a full, abundant life in Him.
Only the blood of Jesus, given by His own free will, could once and for all bring atonement for our sin. Jesus said in John 15:13-14 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.
Lev 17:11 (NLT) It is the blood, representing life, that brings you atonement.
The greatest love ever demonstrated brought us life. The life is in the blood…of Jesus.