Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lessons From Leviticus (and Life!)


I am a serious rules follower. I hate to get in trouble. I despise the idea of being caught not doing the right thing. I was a child who literally told on myself to avoid being caught....and twelve years after high school, I'm still having that nightmare about having signed up for a class I never showed up to, rendering me unable to graduate. Oh, the anxiety it gives me! I tell you this so that you can understand the incredible irony that I would get a traffic citation. (My husband might beg to differ on grounds that I'm easily distracted, which makes me a bit of a careless driver...but I stay within five miles an hour of the speed limit and I never intentionally break rules.)

Yet, being the obedient driver that I claim to be, I nonetheless found myself this morning with the bright flashing lights in my rear view mirror. My stomach was in knots. 'What did I do?' I began to take inventory...I wasn't speeding...following too closely, no...there were no lights or signs to disregard, I was on the highway. What was it?

The officer came to my window and curtly informed me that I was in an HOV lane which I had mistaken for a toll road. I'm a fairly new Texas driver, and these toll roads are a completely overwhelming thing to learn. After two years, I still use my GPS to get to work. It was a totally innocent mistake. I knew enough about my ignorance with these highways that he was probably right. I just didn't know that what I was doing was wrong.

Emotions swelled inside me. 'Why can't I ever get away with anything?' being the first indignant question I asked myself. 'I didn't do it on purpose. I wasn't deviously trying to get away with anything. Why should I be considered guilty? Shouldn't he just let it pass with a warning? I am such an obedient driver all the time!'

As I drove away with my ticket in hand, I felt worse and worse. I was guilty. An offender. And now I had to pay. How can something we do be counted against us if we aren't even aware that what we're doing is wrong? I wanted to be angry at somebody. I wanted to be angry at the officer, or at my husband who...let's just say isn't as much of a stickler for the rules of the road...but never gets caught. It wasn't fair!

Almost immediately I heard a voice say, "And this is what I mean by weeping and gnashing of teeth."

So I had to go and look that up once I got to my office. This phrase is found several times in the New Testament, and always refers to those people who come to terms with their guilt and need for the Savior only when it's too late. And they find themselves forever separated from God.

Ignorance Does Not Equal Innocence

As I spent the morning ministering to my wounded ego, the Lord brought my thoughts back to the chapters I've been studying in Leviticus in my personal study. The opening chapters are all about the Burnt Offering (or 'olah' in Hebrew), the Grain Offering (or 'minchah') and the Peace Offering (or 'zebah') and the sin offerings (the 'hatt-at'). They were all about how to approach a Holy God, to come near, and how to be cleansed and forgiven when one has unknowingly become unclean due to some infraction or contact with impurity and then is later are made aware of it.

We Christians often talk about 'the curse of the Law' and how the law could not atone for our sin, which is why Christ's sacrifice was needed. That is true. But I don't think we often grasp the full gravity of that or understand what this curse actually is. So let me clarify: the curse of the law is not  the Law itself; it is that there was never a remedy given for intentional sin (sin on purpose). So once you made one error where you had already been taught that it was sinful, you were condemned to eternal separation from God.

Numbers 15:30 says it best:

"But the person who does anything defiantly, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt will be on him."

And let's be honest, most of the sins we commit today, we don't commit in ignorance. We know we're making a selfish choice, but we do it anyway because that sin feels gratifying at the moment. And we have the luxury (which, in my opinion, we abuse) of asking for forgiveness of those sins because Christ became the atonement for unintentional and intentional sin. The people before Christ's death and resurrection did not have this privilege. They didn't have to live perfect lives, but they couldn't commit sins knowing that they were sins and ever expect forgiveness. It just wasn't yet possible. Talk about pressure! (This helps you to understand King David's pleading in Psalm 51)

Furthermore, just like my traffic violation, ignorance does not equal innocence. Read it for yourself.

Leviticus 5:17 
Now if a person sins and does any of the things which the Lord has commanded not to be done, though he was unaware, still he is guilty and shall bear his punishment."

Just because you don't know what you're doing is a sin doesn't make you guilt-free. And just because someone doesn't recognize that they are a sinner in general doesn't mean they don't bear any guilt. There is still a separation with God. There is still impurity that must be healed, forgiven and atoned for. And when we do become aware of it - through the Holy Spirit, through God's intervention in our lives, through a sermon, or through reading the Bible - then praise the Lord! We've been granted a great mercy. We can confess it and be forgiven before it's too late!


The Purpose of 'The Law'

What I feel I need to say is that the purpose of God's Law was never to show us salvation. The purpose was - and remains - to show our guilt versus God's standard of holiness, revealing our need for a Savior and salvation. Literally, without Christ's sacrifice, there was no hope. One mistake on purpose, one error after having been made aware, one weak moment, and one was removed from fellowship with God forever. The beauty of the Law is that we can read it to discover what sin is, as God defines it, become aware of our guilt now...and we are suddenly aware of how far He came and how much grace He extended to bring us back to Him. It is an overwhelming feeling to see all that has been forgiven you. Through Christ's sacrifice and the Holy Spirit's work of cleaning us up, we can enter into peace and fellowship with the Father. So we never have to experience that moment of 'weeping and gnashing of teeth.'


Have we spent time reading the Father's definition of holiness and sinfulness? Do we understand His expectations? Reading about it will give you a profound new appreciation for what Christ has done for you, which, in this particular season of remembrance of His great sacrifice, would be most honoring to Him. Don't be caught off guard with regard to what the Father expects of us. Don't wait until it's too late. Let's declare "I'm guilty!" And begin to find peace with our Heavenly Father.

Thank you, YHVH, for teachable moments! (Even through unfortunate, expensive and inconvenient circumstances, You show yourself to be so good and so faithful!)


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Food For Thought: Preparing For The Feast of Unleavened Bread

In case you just joined in...

Just as a quick recap (in case this is the first of my posts that you've read), throughout last year I was challenged by the Lord to observe His biblical feasts (outlined in Leviticus 23), to deepen my relationship with the Him. I studied how they relate to us now and examined the results of this obedience to His word. This series of posts on 'the moedim'-the appointed times - is to share my journey with you and to (hopefully) inspire you to walk in awareness and obedience to His word on a deeper level.

So...with that in our journey through the biblical feasts, number two is already fast approaching! In fact, the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins just the day after Passover. Since there is a bit of preparation involved leading up to it, I thought I better post a few days in advance. 

Let's look at God's outline of this second feast: 

Exodus 12
Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance. Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses; for whoever eats anything leavened from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel.

Seven days there shall be no leaven found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is an alien or a native of the land. You shall not eat anything leavened; in all your dwellings you shall eat unleavened bread.

So, you probably gathered that the main focus of this seven-day festival is removing all of the leaven from one's home. Why in the world would this matter to God? 

What Does It All Mean?

You'll remember that on the surface, these festivals have a historical significance, they memorialize significant events in Israel's history. Here with Unleavened Bread, the idea was to remember the hurried flight of the Israelites on the night they escaped from the bondage of Egypt. They did not have time to let the bread ferment and rise before they left for their journey to the unknown, they had leave in a hurry.

We also learned that there is not only a focus on a memorial event in God's redemption of Israel, but that there is also an outline of God's redemptive work in mankind. In a spiritual sense, the principle being alluded to is our sanctification process, the leaven representative of sin. 'A hurried flight from bondage' is what should describe how we feel about our old selves after the intervention of the Lord in our lives. We should seek to flee from our dead-end sinful ways, from our selfishness, impurity, from our addictions to things that are not holy. We do not have time to mourn the loss of those things or to binge on them before we decide to get right with God. Instead, we should seek escape from all the things that do not glorify Him. And we can flee from the sins that entangle and keep us in bondage only because of what the Father did for us through His Messiah.

After His death, Jesus was buried in Jerusalem. And upon that death and our belief in him, our sins are buried with him as far as God is concerned. He places within us a new nature, acceptable to God. And now, as a new creation, Christ’s work of removing every 'spot and wrinkle' within us begins. 

Romans 6:4: 
Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

Paul references Unleavened Bread and the general season of Passover in the following passage in the New Testament, tying together the physical, earthly practice with its spiritual implications:

1 Corinthians 5:8:
Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old  leaven, nor  with the leaven of malice  and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity  and truth.

Connecting the Dots

It is very easy to make the connection between the process of removing the leaven from our homes. Typically folks that observe these festivals begin the process of cleaning out the leaven up to a week before it actually begins. This is because, as I found, it's a more intensive process than you anticipate! Why is this a valuable exercise, you ask? Well, if leaven is symbolic of sin, then how we approach this process can be equated with our attitude toward removing sin in our lives, our sanctification process. It can really open our minds to how 'set in our ways'  we are and how comfortable and emotionally connected we can become to our sin.

So when we place our faith in Jesus, we are a new creation, with a new nature and a brand new lease on life. Yet anyone who is a believer knows that the process of becoming holy takes a lifetime and we usually encounter struggles and failure along the way. The point of conversion is only the beginning. From there we (and the Holy Spirit) begin to search our lives and our hearts, identifying the areas that there is any ‘leaven’ or sin lurking that we need to confess and remove.

I had this in my mind and on my heart this week as I searched my cabinets and pantry, as I wiped down countertops and my big Kitchen Aid mixer (I love baking). Cleaning up on the surface was easy enough....But then I had to get under the surface area and focus on what products were in my refrigerator and freezer and pantry that might need removing. It was like a scavenger hunt. 

I'm sure it would have been hilarious to see me in my pj’s standing in front of my pantry with a confused look on my face reading labels and trying to discern what has been leavened and what has not. Isn't that how we start out as believers? We read passages in the Bible and scratch our heads, we're not quite sure how to begin but we know we have a lot to learn. After I started to understand some of the key words, to 'define the leaven,' I immediately became a petulant child and inwardly thought, “Man, I JUST bought these things. I sure am throwing out alot of hard-earned money!” And, “I wonder if this counts.” I immediately tried to justify away all the leavened items, my mind told me “Just ignore the leavened things and then come back to them when the feast is over. What does Bible actually say, anyway?” I wanted to keep my leaven around! I began resisting it almost as soon as I got inside the cupboards and away from the surface.

Isn’t that how we tend to be with our sin? We clean up the outside so easily, but then when we get to the inner areas of our hearts and minds, we discover it is not so easy to change and remove the ‘leaven.’ That we've made an investment in some of these things that it's harder to release than we'd like to admit. Once we realize it’s going to cost us something, that we might miss out on something, that it requires change and that we suddenly can’t have things that we think we might want around, we resist the process. “How much is this gonna cost me, Lord? How much do I haveto give up for you to be obedient?” 

This was certainly where I found myself, and I quickly became aware of my attitude and the Lord really spoke to my heart. It was as if He said, “See, this is why you need reminding, Beloved. All My children are like this. They like to hold on to their old sins because it’s secure and comfortable.” Needless to say, this morning when the trash went out, so did the neopolitan ice cream sandwiches that I just bought and the other items I was reluctant to give up.

There was a freedom and a new resolve in my heart when I threw those things away. I declared to God, “Just like these things that I don’t really need, I am committed to removing the sinful behavior that I like to cling to. It is hard, God, and it requires sacrifice, but I joyfully cling to you and proclaim that you are more important than my carnal appetites. You are worthy of my obedience.  I want You to be pleased with me.” It totally encouraged me to examine my life and search my ‘inner cabinets’ for the things God might find displeasing in my life and heart.

So it’s already paying off to participate in these biblical feasts before the actual festivities have even begun. This is exactly why the Lord wanted us to memorialize these things. We have the whole year to reflect upon what He has done and to rehearse what it will be like when He returns. I am so excited about how God is going to challenge and teach my family next week during Pesach (Passover) which begins at sundown Tuesday evening, and for the remainder of the week as we commit to keep leavened foods out of our home and out of our bellies. 


Don't Come Empty-Handed: When we celebrate this feast, we should recommit to removing the ‘leaven’ from our own lives. As redeemed children of God, our lives now should be in a continual process of purging that sin from our lives. We should prayerfully recall the sins that have been plaguing us in this season, and commit them to God as we continue our own sanctification processes. What can we offer to Him today that has been a struggle? Our work ethic? Our marriage? Our attitude? Our language? Let’s remove our leaven during this season of remembrance. Let's bury our sins, once and for all. He can give us the victory!

Until next week-blessings!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Passover: What's Jesus Got To Do With It?

Since Passover (or Pesach, as it's called in Hebrew) is soon approaching, I thought I would take some time to share some insights on the meaningfulness of this important feast for disciples of Jesus. As I have said in other posts, this is one of seven annual 'dates with God,' or moedim, which are physical examples commemorating both earthly and spiritual events. Remember, God uses the natural, the physical, to convey spiritual truths. When we study the feasts, we must keep in mind that there are a few levels to them. On the surface, they marked annual agricultural celebrations in the days of the Hebrews. Then there is a historical aspect, as they came to commemorate events where God intervened in Israel's history. And finally, there is the prophetic shadow of the redemptive past and future of mankind; each feast represents an act on behalf of God to reconcile man to Himself- from Jesus' death, to His resurrection, to the Holy Spirit being given, and even the Second Coming. I know that was a lot to swallow, but bear with me, and you'll see what I mean.

Why is it important to observe these? When a bride and groom are preparing for their wedding, there is a rehearsal, right? Well, we are, all throughout the Bible, referred to as the Bride of Christ. Each year, these feasts provide a kind of rehearsal for us to remember, to refocus, and to reinforce our faith the God has a plan, He is in control, and He's still working. It reminds us that we are part of something bigger and helps prepare us for the day He returns and establishes His kingdom on earth. Through them we can know what He is doing and what is to come next, because we will have been rehearsing these things all along. And above that, when we celebrate these feasts in knowledge of what they symbolize, weare celebrating Him and His plan. And that pleases Him very much.

So with that in mind, let's dig in to Pesach!

Read Exodus 12:1-32 The First Passover
I went to a messianic Passover service with a friend of minelast year. I wanted to learn and was curious about how to celebrate it, if one is undertaking to do so. It was such a powerful experience. The Rabbi spoke aboutthe homes of the Israelites in that time period, explaining the procedure for how the blood would havebeen applied. Oftentimes, he said, the only part of the home that was made ofwood was the door frame. Think about that-right there, in Exodus, there we see an image of blood on wood. Soundfamiliar? (Think Jesus and the cross) It seems as though God repeated this pattern over and over in theBible: 

1. Everything inside the door frame with the blood on it was safe from the angel of death during the exodus; everything that was outside was subject to death.

2. Hundreds of years before that, everything that was insidea wooden ark was safe from the flood (a symbol of God’s judgment). Everythingoutside of it died.

3. Centuries past that and today, everyone that reaches out to the cross, proclaims Jesus asLord, and enters covenant with God through our Messiah, is safe from judgmentand death. Everyone outside of that will perish.

Pretty amazing, huh? Even asfar back as Genesis, God is telling us exactly what he’s doing. And we live inthe time in God’s overall plan that we get to understand nearly the full picture of all ofthe things that He instituted. What a joy that is to me!

What Passover Commemorates:

An Agricultural Event: I mentioned before that each feast was part of an event on the agricultural calendar. Passover took place during the beginning of that agricultural year, the spring planting season. Now just looking at the spiritual implication of that alone is very interesting. Spring brings thoughts of new life blooming and brimming. Was Jesus's life and death not the beginning of what would become a great harvest? He was the seed, planed in the ground (in death), that would sprout up and be the firstfruits of a people of God. The beginning of a new life, of eternal life, begins with Him!
A God Intervention-Israel's Deliverance: In the passage I listed, you read about the circumstances of the very first Passover meal. The Lamb was to be selected, prepared, divided. It was to be eaten hurriedly, with shoes on (prepared to leave at any moment). Later on in Israel's history, after the first passover had taken place, God instructed Israel again to continue to observe it to commemorate the experience of their deliverance of their firstborn from death. (By the way, why the firstborn? Because Israel-that's you and me, too, according to Romans-is God's firstborn. It's another shadow. I'll elaborate in another post sometime). Back to Pesach, they were instructed to eat three foods that evening: the young lamb, signifying innocence, which was roasted by fire, reminding them that through the sacrifice, judgement was withheld from their firstborn. They were to eat matzah, unleavened bread, which was to signify the innocense of the animal that died (leaven is symbolic of sin, unleavened bread symbolizing purity). And finally, they were to eat it with bitter herbs, a symbol of lamb’s suffering. In the first passover experience, the obedience of the Israelites to oberve these instructions allowed their firstborn to be spared from the death that was to pass over Egypt that night. This meal celebrates the opportunity to be exempted from sin and judgement, it is the memorial of their redemption.

A Heavenly Principle-God's Redemptive Plan for Mankind
It is easy to make the connection between Israel's redemption and our own. The connections are uncanny between Israel's passover and Jesus' death. Because of the sacrifice of an innocent lamb, they were saved from death. Just like them, when we proclaim Jesus as our Passover Lamb, His blood covers the doorposts of our hearts, it atones our sinful nature, it brings us into peace with God, and allows us to be exempt from spiritual death. Jesus was crucified at the time of Passover, at the same hour that the Passover lambs were being slaughtered. This is not an accident. God is connecting the ideas here. He literally fulfilled the meaning of that feast on that night He gave His life.
 1 Cor 5:7 “For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.”
Let's  talk about the ritual observance of Passover for a moment. Allow yourself to ponder what God was asking these people to do – and what they continued to do until the true Lamb was sacrificed and this feast was fulfilled. In observing the feast, you would choose the best from among all your lambs to represent you. You would have raised that lamb, seen it born,watched it grow up. If you're like me, you would have developed a bond with it and you would undoubtedly love it. It would have been your favorite, the one that wouldprovide the best meal for you and your family. It would ultimately hurt the flock to have to sacrifice it, because those good and perfect genes would be removed from the population of the herd. This idea of sacrificing a lamb helps us understand that it hurts the flock entirely when we sin. Our sin isn't just about us-It has a negative effect on the whole body of believers.

1 Peter 1:17-19 Conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stayon earth, knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but withprecious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.”
When Jesus sat own and enjoyed His last passover meal with His disciples, He said "As often as you do this, think of me." Jesus wasassociating himself with Passover in that moment. And as often as we do thisshould be once a year, as commanded by God, as He modeled it for us. And weshould think of Him, the Lamb, who broke Himself and laid down His life that wemight have access to God. That we might put His blood on our door posts, and besaved from death. And we should rejoice, for nothing is impossible with Him…not even redeeming lost, sinful, hopeless me. Amen, Amen!

Things to Ponder

Don't come empty-handed: The Passover was celebrated in whatever place God chose to dwell. In the wilderness, it was in their tabernacle. In the days of the glorious temple, it was in Jerusalem. Now, our bodies are the temple, and He has established our hearts as His holy of holies. So we can approach Him inwardly to observe this festival very easily. When we celebrate Passover, when we come before Holy God, it should be a time of remembrance. It should be a time of praise, adoration, and thanksgiving. Passover was and remains a time of sacrifice. What are we sacrificing to Him, what is the best work of our hands, that we can offer Him to thank Him? Our attitude? Our time? Our talents? Our resources? What do we need to put away to live in a manner that reflects gratitude for our freedom? This season should remind us to give Him the best of what we have, and not our leftovers, as He gave it ALL for us. Reflect. Remember. Rejoice!
Curious about seeing how a passover seder should be done? Here's a guide for Christians.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Date with the Lord: Musings on the Moedim

 Okay, let me preface this newest post by sharing something personal with you: I am one of those stubborn people who googles everything, who needs confirmation about what I believe to be true and likes to know why I do what I do. I never say “I was just brought up that way.” And with religious activity in particular, I fiercely measure things against God’s Word, because I know that Jesus warned people about observing traditions over His actual Laws. My husband teases me because I'm such a precise words person, such a rule follower. So, with that in mind, I'd like to share with you my experience over the last year with the biblical feasts and festivals, in Hebrew called the moedim (appointed times). 

The Word says that these moedim are a permanent ordinance. That means that they are forever commands. I may have a lot to learn about God, but I know that all I believe and rest in hinges on one particular idea: God does not change. If He did, how could we ever rest securely in our salvation? How would we know that He would not change His mind about saving us? No, when God makes a covenant or a command, He means it, and He means it forever. So if these are 'forever commands,' I have always wondered why all believers don't observe them, or even know anything about them, why they seem to have been replaced with other traditions and holidays. And this initial epiphany is what began my journey. 

What I have learned is that these appointed times were (and are) a specific time to come and convene with the Lord-call it a 'date with the Lord' if you want. Many were pilgimage feasts during which people would travel from all over the world to the Temple to stand before the Lord. We read about this taking place a lot in the New Testament, actually. We just don't recognize it. Now, because of Christ's sacrifice, we can approach God's throne in prayer from the comfort of our home, office, car, wherever we happen to be. Our body is the temple, our heart the holy of holies, the place where He dwells with us. And through learning how these feasts apply to us today, we too can come before God at these designated times and reflect on the matters to which He is drawing our attention.

There are seven feasts, and they take place throughout the year to commemorate agricultural events in the year. At first glance, I saw that they also served as a memorial to remember events in the history of a people, a nation that belonged to God. But as I dug deeper, I began to realize that the complete redemptive plan of God was reflected in these annual feasts and festivals - a physical example to help us understand spiritual truths. In fact, the Messiah's death and resurrection, the giving of the Holy Spirit, the Messiah's return, and the Millenial Kingdom-they are all represented in these annually celebrated events!

God taught the Israelites physical practices to help them understand spiritual concepts. (Jesus actually does that too - think about all the parables He used to describe the Kingdom of Heaven.) And Paul indicates that Israel's history is the physical example teaching us spiritual truths now too (1 Corinthians 10). These times are appointed that we might be in the know regarding God's plan, that we might be able to stay focused on the big picture, with reminders all year long. God is so gracious to help us remember, to be such a patient Teacher. Year after year serves as a reminder and an opportunity for us to literally get with the program. We are going in so many directions during our days, weeks, and years, are we not? These feasts are a gracious gift, designed to help us recenter, to remember what it's all about, and to prepare us for what is to come. It's like our roadmap, in a way. Why would we not want to invest time in knowing something like that?

So can it be meaningful for us to celebrate these things now? The answer is yes, and I am becoming more and more sure that God uses them as a vehicle to move us into a deeper level of understanding of Him. He doesn't just want us to 'cross over,' to just be saved from hell. He wants us to move into intimacy with Him and bear fruit of righteousness, to become holy. And by remembering and observing these feasts, we make great strides in becoming kingdom-focused people. As we focus on Him all year long, on His plan, and on what He has already done, we can only naturally draw more close to Him in gratitude and familiarity. 

Skepticism Addressed

Some of you reading this say, "Well we already have things set in place that honor the death and resurrection of Christ. Why should we do it this way? God knows my heart." But I ask you this: if we truly love Him, shouldn't we be obedient by honoring Him in the way He has asked us to? The Israelites made the mistake of trying to honor God in other ways too. They saw the way others around them worshiped their gods and liked those methods, so they incorporated those into their religious practice. They loved Him and were trying to do the right thing, but He rebukes them and instructs them not to worship Him in this way. So why would it be any different for us now?

Let me add this. Do obligatory acts with no personal touch make our spouses, children and friends feel special? No, of course not! We try to understand their love languages, we get to know who they are and what they like, and we modify our behavior to please them. We read books on how to improve our relationships and how to create intimacy. We go to seminars. We spend time on our relationships. We seek to make our significant others feel thought of and cared for in a unique way, tailored to who they are. I love words of affirmation and quality time-so my husband can vacuum all he wants, but if he isn’t around and telling me how he feels, I feel deflated and misunderstood-unfulfilled, in short.

The same sort of behavior ought to follow in our relationship with the Creator of the universe. A big part of who He is can be found in the Old Testament Scriptures, and in the moedim (appointed times). The Torah, the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, whatever you choose to call them, are all the Father sharing His heart and basically writing a manual of His likes and dislikes. Can you imagine if our loved ones would do us such a favor? He is not expecting us to do anything that He hasn’t made clear-or that He didn’t do when He walked the earth, for that matter. He took the time to reveal a lot of who He is to us, so if we really love Him, shouldn’t we learn and obey the Scriptures, do things His way?

Some of you will say, "Now that sounds like legalism to me. We're free from the Law." Let me say something about this. We need to be very careful that we do not mislabel obedience as legalism. It is not legalism to seek God through His prescribed methods, with the heart to please Him. If you are simply trying to arbitrarily check boxes and earn your way to righteousness without your heart involved, that's legalism. When, out of an outpouring of gratitude for your salvation which you recognize you could never earn, you endeavor to please God in the way that He has asked you to through your life choices, it is not legalism. One does not observe biblical guidelines in order to obtain salvation. Let that be very clear. But we are called to be holy as He is holy...and last time I checked, the all of those guidelines were thoroughly detailed in the Old testament, then expounded upon in the New Testament.

Again, some of you will say, "But I thought Jesus said we were to love God and our neighbor, and those were the only two commandments now?" And I say to you, Jesus did say that. And then he followed up that statement in Matthew 22 by saying all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commands. That is the Old Testament He's referring to there. He's giving the overarching principle here, expecting that they will delve into those Scriptures for a thorough description of God's expectation. By the way, Jesus obeyed the law, which is what He meant when He taught that He was the fulfillment, not the end, of it. And the Bible tells us, "He who says He abides in Him (Jesus) ought to walk as He walked." If the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commands, how will you go about loving God and your neighbor correctly with no point of reference? These Old Testament scriptures are your reference book, if you will only learn the spiritual principles behind each commandment.

Much of the message of the Father and of Jesus in the scriptures speaks not only about having faith, but bearing fruit. And the fruit they are talking about is righteousness, obedience to God’s will, purity, emulating Christ in all that we do, making disciples. I don't know about you, but I want to become more and more like my Savior, and for me, that means observing the things that He observed and being holy as He defines it.

The Challenge

Throughout last year I was challenged by the Lord to observe these feasts, to deepen my relationship with the Him. I studied how they relate to us now, examined the results of this obedience to His word and explored how these appointed times serve the purpose of helping us recall what God has done, remind us of how we are to live in the present, and show us how to rehearse for what is to come. I wanted to see if there are timely applications to them. I was so incredibly blessed by this experience, that I have to share it with you. So as we come to these events in the year, I will post messages about the appointed times to serve as a point of reference, an encouragement to you, a reminder, and hopefully a help to those of you who are seeking truth on these things.

What is God trying to tell us through the moedim? My next post will be about just that. I'll start with Passover, since it is the first of the feasts and actually takes place next Tuesday. I hope you'll check that out!


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Art of Worship: Spiritual Pathways Through Talents and Interests

Isn't it wonderful that God has gifted each of us uniquely, and that there are so many different ways to honor and worship Him? One of my favorite pathways to God is through painting-like life, it's messy, and we don't always know the outcome, but in the process a canvas can become something beautiful in the master's hands. I am by no means a master, but here is a piece that I did some time ago. When I painted it, I had no intentional plan. But as I cleared my mind and prayed to the Lord, He began to inspire me to paint this. Below are the scriptures that I think best reflect its meaning to me. Enjoy!

Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43:19
Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
Psalm 1
In days to come Jacob will take root,
    Israel will bud and blossom
    and fill all the world with fruit.
Isaiah 27:6
...if the root is holy, the branches are too.
Romans 11:16
I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, will bear much fruit. For apart from me, you can do nothing.
John 15:5
Are you curious about finding new ways to worship? Here is a book I'd recommend:

Monday, March 11, 2013

Lessons From 1 Timothy 2: What's Gender Got To Do With It? (Continued)

In the first part of our study of 1 Timothy 2, we discussed the first eight verses. We learned that what we were reading is a letter written to a leader of the Ephesian church, who had appealed to Paul for help with some problematic false teachers within the congregation. His letter is an attempt to restore and reunite the Ephesian church, which was suddenly in an uproar over these individuals.

After instructing Timothy to first of all (meaning most importantly) pray, he then gets to work in how to address those causing the problem. Many have interpreted these verses we will study as a biblical basis for asserting that women should not teach or have authority in the church. I, respectfully, disagree.

Women According to Paul

Paul, in case there is any confusion, was a Jewish Rabbi. (Philippians 3:5) So his outlook on women would have been in line with the Old Testament scriptures and the Jewish culture. And Jews, make no mistake, regard women highly. In the Talmud, a collection of ancient rabbinic writings, appears this statement: "No matter how short your wife is, lean down and take her advice." They recognized that since the beginning of time, God had created in woman a very capable helpmate for man. God speaks to husbands through their wives. God equips wives to be able to meet every challenge that cannot be met by her husband. In many ways she is like a Swiss Army Knife, a capable and necessary survival tool for the man to whom God gives her. 

Some things to note about what Paul's Bible (and ours, by the way) tells us about women:

• She could be a prophetess, as was Miriam, the sister of Moses
• She could be a judge, as was Deborah
• She could be a queen, as was Esther
• She could be an advisor to a king, as was Hulda to King Josiah
• She could be a teacher, as was Priscilla
• She could be the leader of a congregation, as was Phoebe of a Colossian church
• She could be a wealthy business owner, the funding for a church, as was Lydia

But her highest calling, and the one that most Jewish women preferred, was that of wife and mother. Why? Because, as pastor whom I respect greatly says, "A mother's love is the closest thing to God's love we encounter-it is a complete sacrificing of oneself." There was great honor in that role. For many, it was more important to them to raise up the future than to have an administrative role in a church. But make no mistake-there were women in the synagogue, and there were women who devoted their lives to the study and teaching of the Holy Scriptures.

These women took great pride in their prudence, in their modesty. It set them apart.

Conversely, in the Hellenistic societies (of which Ephesus was one), women were decorated, used as priestesses to appease the varying whims of their gods. Below is a picture of a statue of a priestess of Artemis. Look at her adornment. It's very ornate, right?

Here is a statue of the goddess Artemis:

Notice her hair and how it appears to have braids in it, and how decorated she is. 

Now with that in mind, let's read on in 1 Timothy 2, beginning in verses 9-10:

Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.

Based on these pictures that depict the culture of the day, you can get a pretty good idea of what the women were walking around wearing. He was simply educating them that the outward appearance, as well as the inward heart, must reflect Christ. And Artemis-wear was no longer necessary or appropriate. The fashions of the day would have to take a back seat to glorifying God. The same idea applies today.

That's not so hard to grasp, right? Well, here comes the part that requires some explanation, in verses 11-12:

A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 

Remember when I said in our last lesson that this word 'quiet' would surface again? Well here it is. So now I want to show you the actual meaning of this word. 

It's from the Greek root ἡσυχία 
And it means tranquil, not silent. Otherwise, Paul is instructing us all in verse 2 to live a silent life. And that is completely in contradiction to Christ's command to go and make disciples, to proclaim, to pray, to prophesy. 

So in other words, she should remain peaceable in the assembly when instruction is being given. Sounds like there were a group of women causing a stir. So no worries, ladies. You're free to 'amen,' to quiet your children, to ask a question, and to speak. You must, however, do it in a peaceable, respectful way. 

What about this word authority? We can't have authority over a man in the church?

The word is αὐθεντέω
This is the only time this word is used in the scriptures. And Paul talks a lot about authority, so that's strange, right? This word has a very specific meaning. And it's not referencing God-ordained, biblical authority. It means "to kill, to usurp, one who acts on his own authority." That's right, what is being spoken against is pushing your own agenda in the congregation and literally killing the work being done by the authority God has in place in a specific body of believers. Now you see the problem. There's no arguing that that's wrong.

It's not that women could not teach or have authority, but either one or a group of these ladies, possibly new to the faith, had other ideas about what should be taught there and were causing division in the congregations. If women were not to teach, where is Priscilla's reprimand? Why doesn't he tell Phoebe to stop? No, he praises these women for their work in his letters. There is something else at work with these Ephesian women. Maybe they were whispering their opinions into the ears of other members of the church secretly. Slandering. Gossiping. Criticizing. Creating doubt. Perhaps they were so bold as to stand openly while the leaders were giving their messages and directly challenge them. Either way, God had not authorized them to do it, and how they were handling it was inappropriate and they were wrong on the matters on which they spoke. And Paul wanted that stopped immediately.

Remember I told you at the beginning of our study that he did not require that they be removed from the assembly? That's what he means when he says she should receive instruction quietly, peaceably. He wanted them to understand the truth, so that they could be adequately equipped to teach others. Right now, they simply weren't ready for that. 

Let's look at verses 13-14:

For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 

Whoa there. What does this mean? Before you let all your feathers get ruffled, ladies, let's take a minute to ponder what Paul is saying, and ask why he would choose this illustration. Here, with Adam and Eve, you have a woman who was taught the truth, she was given one instruction: don't eat of that tree over there. But she took that truth and then was deceived by the enemy. And what did she do with that false message? She went and taught it to a man, who then also fell into the deception and sinned. Now think about how that relates to the group of Ephesian women who were doing that. These women had come into the faith, received the truth, had misunderstood that truth/were deceived, and were now attempting to teach that non-truth to others in the Ephesian church, and very disruptively. It's a parallel example. Again, it's not about gender roles. He had already covered that in his letter to them years earlier. 

Now for the last verse:

But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.

At face value, this appears to say that women find salvation in having babies. It kind of supports that whole "women should be bare-foot and pregnant and in the kitchen" philosophy. If that's your view, I'm sorry to tell you, that is not the message of this verse. Rather, childbirth is the means by which our Savior came into the world, and so really, it is through Christ's birth that we all are saved. What Paul is advising is that if these women have truly come to faith in Jesus, if they would just continue on in hearing and controlling their tongues, that all will be right. The congregation will be praying for them, ministering to them, educating them. They will be hearing and learning the truth. And ultimately, they will become strong members of the church. 

Paul, in the opening of the chapter, talked about God's appropriate timing. Here he asserts that in the appropriate time, after these misguided, would-be leaders have had their hearts changed and their minds educated, would grow and lead. But for now, it was important that they listen and receive that instruction. 

I asked my classes 3 questions to think through as they meditated on this chapter, so I'll share them with you:

1. How are you using your lips? Are you using them as a means to unite the body, or a means of tearing down the work the Lord is doing in others?

2. Are we as a body addressing false teaching in the appropriate way? With prayer, confrontation, and mercy? With hope for the individual?

3. Do we really know the Bible well enough to know for sure that we are not those false prophets, misusing and misguiding people? Before we make generalizations and bold statements, we better be sure that God's word backs up what we say. And it can't be loosely based off of a scripture pulled out of context. 

In another letter, Paul writes,

There  is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all  one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

AMEN TO THAT! Blessings!

Lessons From 1 Timothy 2: What's Gender Got To Do With It?

I was asked to teach this past weekend in Bible study at my church, and the text I was to cover was 1 Timothy chapter 2. Ever excited for an opportunity to share God's Word, I scanned the passage immediately after being asked, with a giddiness in my heart about what the Lord would teach me and these classes I would visit. As I read the words the excitement quickly wilted to an uneasy feeling. At face value, the passage seems to say that women should not teach. What? Why would the Lord - not to mention a pastoral staff - allow me to come to before a class to teach His word, just to tell the class that I have no right to be there? Is that really what it means?

A multitude of women of the Bible came to my thoughts, women I knew had been ordained by God to lead and praised by apostles. Then I recalled the comments I'd heard which confidently asserted that based on the Bible, women have no place in teaching God's word...and I realized that there is a disconnect somewhere. If there is only one truth, and I believe there is, I wanted to find it, because I certainly don't want to operate outside of God's will, and I think we all better know for sure that we know what that is!

So, below is the journey on which the Lord took me to discover what in the world this passage is really about, and how I, as a woman, yes, but also as a child of God with a call and passion to teach, fit in to that. Maybe you will find yourself here too.

Occasional Documents

What we must remember about these letters from Paul is that, well, they are letters. Just like the emails that we write today, and the text messages, Paul was responding to a prompted question, probably another letter, asking a question about how to handle what was going on in a certain place.

In this case, that certain place was Ephesus.

Though we may never get to know what specific questions were posed or situations were described to him that caused him to respond in this way, we do have a pretty thorough amount of information about Paul's ministry, missions and interactions with the believers there, as they are really well documented in the Bible. Just to put things into historical perspective, let's look at a brief timeline of Paul's dealings with that particular city:

Approximately 33AD • Paul is converted (Acts 9) (this was about 3 years after Christ's crucifixion)

Approximately 55AD • Paul has by now become a seasoned missionary and a church planter in the areas where Gentiles (non Jews) reside. In his travels, he comes to Ephesus, where he encounters about twelve men and begins to build up the body of believers there. He stays for a little over 2 years. (Acts 19)

Approximately 62AD • Not a pastor who would create a church and then disappear, Paul writes a letter to continue discipling this growing congregation. You will notice as you read the book of Ephesians that much of the content focuses on the basics of godly living and how to set up a godly home. They understood now the basics of the Gospel and could move on to putting it into action in their daily lives.

Approximately 67AD • Paul writes this first letter to Timothy, who he had appointed as a  shepherd/pastor/teachers there in his absence, to continue the development of the Ephesian church. His letter was, we will gather from scripture, most likely in response to problems reported.

So you can see, Paul had a long-term, ongoing communication with these people. He knew their city, he had lived there for two years. He knew their people, as he was receiving updates, to which he was now responding.

Think about the weight of that responsibility for a moment. Paul plants this church and then, in the midst of his own turmoil and the business of beginning other ministries, he takes time to invest in this congregation. What a challenge it must have been to begin to teach these folks God's way of doing life, since their entire culture - politics, home, military, etc - was overrun by their civic cult - the cult of the hellenistic goddess Artemis. Why is that significant? Because this culture had a much different view of family roles, code of ethics, acceptable behaviors, etc. And it's all they had ever known. It was a hard set of habits to break for sure. (Not unlike Israel coming out of bondage of Egypt in the book of Exodus.)

The people who converted to faith in Messiah, then thought of as a new cult of Judaism (called The Way), knew nothing of the Holy Scriptures, where God sets up a family to be a reflection of Himself. They had not fully grasped the application of their new faith, that they could not worship both Artemis and Yahweh, and they probably didn't know how to show through their lives who they served. As the church grew (they say to over 100,000 people), Gentiles came in whose only church experience was pagan. And so, in this set of circumstances, new converts, full of excitement and zeal to teach, who didn't quite have their theology mastered, and who (either intentionally or accidentally) began to infuse false teaching into the congregation, caused mass confusion and arguments in Ephesus. And this is why Paul wrote his letter to Timothy.

Let's look at 1 Timothy 1:6 for a little proof:

For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.

What we are going to find is that Paul's letter consists of specifically prescribed methods for reuniting a divided congregation damaged by the ignorance of inexperienced new believers or possibly even intentional acts of deceit by ill-intentioned enemies of the Gospel. It's not a message on gender roles.

I want to draw your attention to verses 12-13

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief..."

You will find that Paul's remedy involves mercy upon those who are causing the problem. He doesn't say "Let's cast those hellions out of there!" His response will be to confront them, instruct them by allowing them to remain inside the congregation to learn, to love them, and to equip them to become true disciples of the True Gospel message. And that should be our response to misguided teaching as well.

So, with that very lengthy background, let's get to the controversial part!

Read 1 Timothy 2:1-2
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

Knowing these four elements of prayer is important:

Entreaties • Asking for provision, for comfort, for physical needs
Prayers • Asking for qualities or virtues that God would want us to have, such as patience or an open heart
Petitions • Complaints we bring to God, intercessions; asking for protection would be an example
Thanksgiving • A reminder to thank God for mercies received as well as for challenges encountered

Notice, he says this should be for all men. That's right. We are called to pray for everyone. Not just people we like, but people who are a pain in our necks as well. People in authority over us, and our subordinates. In context, the Ephesians are being asked to pray for a King who is literally executing believers and using them as torches outside his castle, Nero. It's not an easy thing he's asking of them, or for us. But it is important to God that we do this.

Why? Read on:(verses 3-5)

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus...

So first we read that we pray for others, asking for provision for their physical and spiritual needs as well as our own, not only that we would lead a quiet life (this word means peaceful by the way, and we will see it again in the very near future); but also because it's Christ-like behavior. If we are declaring that we are followers of the Messiah, then this is an expected behavior. And what is a mediator if not someone who brings people together. Are you seeing the message here? There are people dividing up their congregation, he is telling them to be prayerful to solve that problem, to use their lips to be means of unity rather than discord.

...who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

Do you know that God is working even in the lives of the people that you think are difficult? Maybe you know someone who is straying from the truth, who is living a sinful lifestyle, who is teaching or supporting things that are not biblical. Maybe you've been tempted to diagnose them or call them out or talk about them behind their back. But Paul is noting here that God has a plan, and He will do His work in others at the appointed time, just as He did in Paul's life, and in my life, and in your life.

He is also making a point to mention that He is a truly God-appointed teacher, since there is a problem with that in the congregation to whom he is speaking.

So now we get to the prescription: (verse 8)

Therefore, I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.

Paul's prescription for a church in chaos is...surprise! Prayer. Notice he says in every place. The 'church' at this time consisted of small groups in homes. And "lifting up holy hands?" What about that? Did you know that God gives us prayer protocol, even in the Old Testament? I want to take a side journey into that briefly, because I want to show you how it is that prayer can bring unity.

A Sidebar on Prayer

The Bible tells us that we are the temple, right? (1 Corinthians 6:19). Well, if we don't really know anything about the temple, we can't possibly understand what that means. So let's think about that for a moment. The temple was God's dwelling place, and there were measures that had to be taken in order to approach Him there and then. Well, we now know that if we have come into relationship with God through the Messiah
that the Holy Spirit resides in us, that our very heart becomes His mercy seat, and we can go to Him, speak with Him, any time. But the way in which we go about it is important.

If you wanted to come into God's presence when He dwelled in the temple, you would have to come into the outer court first. The first thing you would see is the brazen altar, upon which sacrifices must be offered. You would offer your innocent, perfect animal and the blood of that animal would atone for your sin, would cover you, allowing you to approach His holy presence. In the same way, we never get past the gate, never get to truly enjoy the privilege of prayer until we have accepted Jesus the Messiah as our perfect, innocent sacrifice, our sins having become imputed onto Him. Only through His sacrifice can we approach God.

Next you would come to the lavar, which in my mind I always see as a beautiful bird bath-type shape. You would wash off the dirt from your hands and feet. In the same way, when we come in to the presence of God, we must make confessions. We must let the Living Water wash off the sin of the world, the actions, the places we've gone that we should not have been, from our lives. We look into the reflection of that water and observe whether or not we look like He does. If not, we must keep confessing until we are clean. Only the clean and pure can stand before a Holy God. (Holy hands, remember?)

Next we can enter through the curtain and we come in to a room that has a soft, warm, amber glow. It smells good, everything in it is beautiful. When we come in to God's presence, it is a warm, beautiful feeling, isnt' it? To our left we would see a menorah, a large, hammered work, made from one piece of gold. This 'lampstand' is representative of the body of believers. We are all one, united. Together we hold up the light of the world, Jesus. If one part is broken, we cannot do our job. We need each other. We should acknowledge who He is in prayer, and praise Him for it, and remember our role in His plan.

To our right we would see a table holding loaves of bread. Why? Because prayer, breaking bread with almighty God, is an intimate experience. He doesn't want us to enter into it haphazardly. He wants our true selves, opened up before Him. He wants us to share with Him like friends over a meal. Every time.

Then, after all of these steps, we can make our way to the altar of incense, which is figurative of our intercessory prayer on behalf of ourselves and others. Asking for what we want is the last step, you'll notice.

When you leave a prayer experience like that, how could you not walk away changed? How could you be concerned with silly arguments, or bothered with pointing out the faults of others? You realize when you stand in His presence, that He is all that matters. And that is why this is Paul's suggestion. Praise the Lord, we are not responsible for solving the sin issues and perfecting the imperfections of everyone around us. All we have to do is pray for them and leave the issues in God's very capable hands and trust in His perfect timing.

When we leave a true prayer experience, we remember our mission is to unite, to bring in, not to exclude. It is to teach, to guide, and to love; not to diagnose, to slander, or to hurt.

I think that's all for this entry, join me again for part two of What's Gender Got To Do With It?, and we'll talk about just that. Blessings!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Time Management as an Act of Worship

I recently spoke to a small group of young singles at my church about time management. As I planned what I would say, my mind raced to all the apps and calendars and organizational tools I use in my own life. In planning to speak to others, God spoke to my heart and revealed some really great truths to me. Here are a few:

In any given week, if we allow...

-8 hours a day for sleep (very generous!)

-3 hours a day for meals and talking

-10 hours a day for full time school or work and travel on fivedays (8 hrs + 2 hr commute)

...then from the 168 hours we began with, we have thirty-something hours left for the living of life. That's less than two full days! What that tells me is that time is a precious and limited resource. Think about it: It's not renewable, and we can't get it back, and we can't hoard it. All we can do is spend it. And just like how we spend our money, how we spend our time is very telling of our priorities, of what we value and what we truly think about God.

So is there a biblical precedent for how we spend our time? Actually, yes. The Word has much to say about how we spend time. As I began to search the scriptures, here is what I found: 

Psalm 24:1 The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it...
As a believer, we should acknowledge that our time really belongs to God. He doesn't owe it to you. Every day that we wake up and breathe in the fresh morning air, we should be praising Him, asking Him how, as His steward, we should be using it. We should be aware of how we spend it, cognizant of who gave it to us, and aware that it is not limitless. We should also be aware that God has a plan for our time, as is referenced in Galatians 4:4.

Proverbs 3:9 Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce.
As a believer, we are to bring God the first part of all we are blessed with. If time is given as a resource, then if falls within this realm. Do we bring Him the firstfruits of it? Or does He only get 'fit in' around all the things we have to do first? 

Colossians 4:5 Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.
As a believer, we should make the most of every opportunity to do kingdom work. At my job, which is in marketing, I always have a lot on my plate. But I never turn a person away, I never miss a chance to invest in someone personally, to take the opportunity to be a light, an encouragement, a confidante. Those meetings are God-ordained moments of ministry, and we'd better be ready when they arise.

Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men...
James 4:13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.”
As a believer, we should work hard at every task, and we should not procrastinate. This is a particularly convicting point for me. Sometimes I forget that just because it's not ministry-related doesn't mean that I can't make a ministry out of it. I used to work in a restaurant, which I found to be one of the least rewarding jobs I've done. I had to constantly remind myself of the value of learning to live in 'servant mode.' It makes me think, though, of that beautiful Charles Spurgeon quote, "Had any other condition been better for you than the one in which you find yourself, divine Love would have placed you there." Sometimes we must remind ourselves of that and just be the best little server, account rep, mom, farmer, or whatever God has called you to do, that you can possibly be. Sometimes your pulpit is your consistent, godly standard of doing all things.  

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (and following) There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven
A time to work, yes. And a time to play, absolutely. And then there's the whole rest thing. That one is a commandment of God! He really emphasizes rest in His Word. As a believer, we should understand that our time should be balanced – fun, downtime, hard work, is all important. For those of us overachievers who guilt ourselves over every moment lost-fret not. God has built in time for you to have fun. You need it. He wants you to experience joy. Or maybe you find yourself on the other side of that-if you're all play and no work, that's not godly either. Balance in all things, Beloved.  

And here's the one above all the rest: Matthew 6:33: But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
As a believer, our first priority should be seeking God. No excuses. If we begin our day by giving him the first part of it, everything else is much easier to get prioritized in to the 'must do' category and the 'should do' category and the 'can do later' category. If we begin each day with the prayer "Lord, what do you want me to do today," and forget about tomorrow and five years from now and your own agenda, you can begin to dwell in the freedom of living a Holy Spirit-led life. And you will finally be able to take a breath!  Try as you might, there is NO app, no free printable calendar, that can organize and arrange your life like God Almighty.

Questions for Thought:

Is how your spend your time an act of worship?

Is how you spend your time biblical, based on what you've just read?

What does your time say about you? your values?

What does it say about your faith? Your view of God?

Who do you need to start spending more time with?

The Love Does Challenge

A friend of mine gave me a great book by Bob Goff called Love Does. In it are lots of short stories  about how through actively doing things, he began to become acquanited with who God is. Great book. In one chapter, he shares how he quits something every Thursday. What a novel idea, to quit one thing every week that gets in the way of Matthew 6:33. This gives the Holy Spirit the freedom to reorder your life on a regular basis. We can quit things that are bad for us, addictions, things that are not becoming of a godly person. For example, after much prodding from my husband, I finally gave up watching a television show that, while it wasn't particularly inappropriate or explicit, it just wasn't very glorifying or uplifting. It wasn't the best use of my time, and it dealt with supernatural content that was not holy in nature. I was innocently just trying to take my mind off of all things real, but in the end, I realized it was interfering with my thoughts and it wasn't conforming to my life standard of Philippains 4:8. We can even quit things that are good, just not where we need to have our focus at the moment. As an example, I recently had to make a conscious effort to step back from a ministry in which I had been a very active member. Nothing was wrong, it's just that I find myself these days in a new season of life, with new opportunities to mentor and teach new audiences, like you. And so, I stepped away, leaving it in God's very capable hands.
As God leads, I ask you to take this challenge. Evaluate your life and quit something as an act of worship, to honor Him, to give Him control.

Blessings, friends!

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