Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Glory of the Lord

So, after many chapters of details about the Tent of Meeting, the Ark of the Testimony, the altar, the courtyard, and the garments of the priests, the Israelites have finally completed their work. Moses carefully examined every item to ensure it met the requirements of God, and they set up the structures.

I can't imagine the trepidation they must have felt as they put things together. I imagine they were very proud of the amazing things they had made (many of the workers weren't craftsmen in Egypt; God gave them the abilities needed to create his masterpiece), yet they were probably uncertain about God's reaction.

Did they do everything correctly? Had they missed one small detail that was vital to God? Would he smite them down with fire for their mistakes?

Whether or not it was perfect, "the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle." I can just hear the sigh of relief and awe. This cloud, which became full of fire by night, was their constant reminder that God was with them. When He wanted them to move on to another location, the cloud (or the fire) lifted, and they would set out. The cloud by day and fire by night was "in the sight of all the house of Israel during all their travels." (Exodus 40:34-38, NIV).

Sometimes I long for such a visible sign to tell me what God wants me to do. I imagine the signs are probably there if I know where to look, but frequently I desire the answer in MY heart, not God's, so I most likely look the other way. Even if we don't see His glory, we can know that God is always with us and will never leave or forsake us. Our faith in Him will help us through the toughest deserts we will ever travel.

Monday, January 29, 2007

How's Your Reading Going?

Well, it's confession time. Remember how I said I read ahead last year? Good thing...I didn't do very well in my reading this week. I am no longer ahead.

The portion I am reading right now is hard for me to get into. It is the instructions for building the tabernacle and all it's furniture. It gets so detailed and is full of cubits. It is really easy for me to get distracted. Then, just when I made it through, then Exodus repeats itself by explaining how the tabernacle was build exactly to specifications. What is a sea cow, anyway?

If I'm going to be able to stick with this, I think I'm going to have to switch to Steve Lata's approach -- read a book from the Old Testament and then switch to the New Testament for a different picture. As long as I read each day, right? Worst case I can stop in the middle of a really tough text to read a chapter from Psalms or Proverbs; that should help.

I do have to say that I am incredible impressed with God's involvement in the details. I'm not sure why he had Moses write all this down twice, but it does give us a picture of His level of concern for seemingly mundane details. If He is so concerned about what is embroidered on the curtains and how many poles there are in the tent, it helps me to know that He is also concerned about the details in our lives.

So...let me know how YOU are doing!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

New Approach and Grace in Action

Ok -- I keep putting off writing in this blog because for some reason I think I have to have something spiritual and fabulous to say. Almost daily I have things I want to write about (whether anyone reads them or not), and I'm not getting a good outlet for that.

SO... from now on I'll use this to write both Biblical insights and daily events.

Today the boys played their regular Saturday Upwards Basketball game. This is SUCH a cool program. When someone travels, double dribbles, or even fouls, the referees stop play and explain (kindly) to the child what was wrong. The boys have been playing for four weeks now, and it's amazing how much they have improved. Today Kevin fell down and hurt his elbow. It is so hard to sit still while referees and coaches take care of your child. All I wanted to do was run over there and hug him, but that would be VERY uncool. You'd think with all the injuries Sammi has gotten over the years in soccer and cheerleading that I would be better able to deal with this (her nose is a ball magnet!), but I'm not. Guess it's that mama instinct.

So to add a little spirituality to this blog, Upwards is a great example of grace in action. Some of the kids are naturally better than others, and the referees quickly figure that out. The grant those kids who aren't as good a little more grace than they grant the ones who appear to know the game better. I imagine God does that for us too, especially when we are new Christians.

A good verse for that is John 1:16 - From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Be Still and Watch God Work

Exodus 14:14. the Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.

Why is it so hard for us and our human nature to trust God? The Israelites have witnessed the greatest display of God's power since creation, and still they do not trust. God has brought them safely out of bondage and is leading them visibly through the desert with a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night. He is in near constant communication with Moses.

God has led more than a million Israelites (his entire favored nation) to a campsite next to the Red Sea. The people turn and they see more than 600 chariots and all the Egyptian officers/soldiers bearing down on them quickly. Immediately their thoughts turn back to the recent days of captivity and slave labor...surely those days weren't as bad as they remembered. Anything would be better than the thought of impending slaughter.

I imagine the men were arming up to try to protect their families as best they could when Moses told them to be still and watch the Lord fight for them. Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to fight back, but were unable to do anything? I think of situations where a loved one is gravely ill -- there is nothing that you can do but sit and watch. You feel so helpless.

Yet God is carrying on the fight for us. He may be using doctors and experts, or He may be in the process of bringing a loved one home to ease their suffering. Hard as it is, we just have to trust Him to know what is best and to fight the battle for us.

God, help us to be still and know that you are in control!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Bible in a Year - Week 2

So, are you still keeping up with your reading? I missed a day on Saturday and I only read part of my assignment on Sunday (shame on me), so I'm glad I started early. Knowing that I am committed to send these notes keeps me on track, though, and helps me process what I read more, so thanks for letting me send them to you.

This week was one full of blood, sweat, and tears (sorry for the 60's reference). Overall I was reminded that lots of things happen that don't make much sense until years later. In the midst of trials it is easy to think that God has forgotten you, but Genesis shows us clearly that God has a bigger plan. Our daily trials help prepare us for the real jobs he's created us for. Some examples:

1) Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac. God had to know that Abraham trusted His promise and that he would obey regardless of what he was told to do.
2) Isaac was living in the midst of a great famine. He wanted to go to Egypt, where there was food and water. God told him to stay put and trust Him to provide. I'm sure Isaac was remembering the time God provided a ram for sacrifice and spared his life!
3) Jacob stole his brothers birthright, then fled for his life. His anguish brought him closer to God. He spent 14 years working for the worst father-in-law in history, but he saw God.
4) Joseph was sold into slavery, spent years in jail, and then was given almost complete power over the country of Egypt. His suffering put him in the right place at the right time to save his family - God's chosen people.

Friday, January 12, 2007

God Wants Me To Do WHAT???

As I complete Genesis, I am awed by the things God asks His people to do that seem crazy at the time. Yet they turn out to be logical and even life-saving in the long run.

There was Noah, who was told at age 500 to build an ark in preparation for a flood, when rain had never fallen on the earth.

Abram was told to do a lot of things that didn't make sense...leave his homeland for an unknown destination, circumcise all the males in his household (I'd love to see their faces when he brought home that news!), sire a child at the age of 100, and offer that child as a sacrifice. And Joseph was sold by his brothers, spent years in jail, and then was able to keep the line of Jacob alive during a famine.

If we listen closely to God, I imagine He tells us things that seem as crazy now as His instructions did back then. The difficulty is screening out all the rest of the world and our own wills/subconscious to hear His voice clearly.

Lord, I pray that I will always listen to that still small voice and obey it instead of arguing with You.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Lowly Shepherds

It's been a long time since I read Genesis from beginning to end. I love the historical stories that it shares. Today I read Gen 44-46, about Joseph revealing himself to his brothers during the famine. A couple of items caught my attention.

When Joseph sent his brothers back to Canaan to get his father and all his relatives, the last thing he told them was "Don't quarrel on the way!" We have five children, two of them boys, and some of their quarrels are pretty spectacular. I can only imagine what it would be like to have 12 boys (well, actually grown men) travelling together for a long period of time. Just the quarrels over directions must have been rowdy!

The other item that I found interesting was near the end of chapter 46 -- verses 31-34. Joseph told his family to tell Pharaoh that they are shepherds. Since they were shepherds, I wonder why Joseph had to explain this. The last verse states that "all shepherds are detestable to the Egyptians." Shepherds were almost always looked down upon regardless of the culture they were in. They were smelly, sunburnt loners who didn't seem to fit in with the rest of the world. Many of God's favorite people were shepherds -- Jacob, Joseph and his brothers, David, and those he chose to tell first of His son's birth.

It would do us well to remember that God has a special place in His heart for those who seem to be outcasts...as should we!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Touch of God

Our boys are in a basketball program called Upwards -- it is really neat! They learn the basics of the sport while learning sportsmanship and Christian living. They had their first game today. It was fun to watch a group of first and second graders trying to get the ball and shoot -- regardless of who had the ball to start with (they even took it away from their teammates!). At halftime one of the officials gave a devotional. While I read the beginning of Genesis just a week or so ago, he taught me something new.

I had never paid attention to the fact that God spoke the world and it's inhabitants into being...all except for man. Man was so important to Him that he formed Him lovingly with His own hands. Then he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. All the animals came to life without this personal touch.

God's glory never fails to amaze me. He put Himself in to our creation -- literally. And He wants the best for us no matter what we do.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Bible In A Year

Ok, I've found a plan for reading the Bible through in a year and I've decided to take on the challenge! I know I'll have some days when I miss my assignment, so I actually started reading ahead last year (is it cheating to read the Bible????). I also know that I'll have some trouble when I get to Leviticus...I've already decided that I'll switch to "The Message" version and hopefully that will help.

Maybe using this blog to record insights will also help me blog more often! Let me know if you want to join along in the reading. I'm using the plan that can be found at http://www.purposedrivenlife.com/freetools/brp1year.aspx

I hope this year is one of joy, peace, and growth for all.

16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19 (NIV)