Showing Wisdom

Obey them completely, and you will display your wisdom and intelligence among the surrounding nations. When they hear all these decrees, they will exclaim, ‘How wise and prudent are the people of this great nation!’” Deuteronomy 4:6

How nice would it be to have other countries talk about the United States and say “how wise and prudent are the Americans. They completely obey all of God’s laws and display their intelligence to all of us.” Sadly, I do not think this is the first thought that comes to other nations’ minds.

I saved this verse as a draft for my blog a little bit ago and was planning on writing about it, but Saturday Julia shared this quote in her comment. I think his quote discusses Deuteronomy 4:6 better than I can. Thanks, Julia, for sharing it.

Suppos a nation in some distant Region, should take the Bible for their only law Book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited. Every member would be obliged in Concience to temperance and frugality and industry, to justice and kindness and Charity towards his fellow men, and to Piety and Love, and reverence towards almighty God. In this Commonwealth, no man would impair his health by Gluttony, drunkenness, or Lust—no man would sacrifice his most precious time to cards, or any other trifling and mean amusement—no man would steal or lie or any way defraud his neighbour, but would live in peace and good will with all men—no man would blaspheme his maker or prophane his Worship, but a rational and manly, a sincere and unaffected Piety and devotion, would reign in all hearts. What a Eutopa, what a Paradise would this region be.” John Adams Autobiography, February 2, 1756

Happy birthday, America.
Happy Independence Day, everyone.

Whose Ears Are Hearing

“‘Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.'” Jonah 3:9

This sounds very similar to Joel 2:14:

“‘Who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve, sending you a blessing instead of this curse. Perhaps you will be able to offer grain and wine to the Lord your God as before.'” Joel 2:14

Joel spoke these words to Judah and, as God’s people, they should have gotten this message. The Israelites were the ones who were supposed to have the background, the covenant, the understanding of God and His holiness. Yet, when Joel spoke to Judah, the people’s hearts were not torn and they did not repent. Joel was just one of the many prophets speaking thousands of words to God’s own people and yet they would not hear Him.

Jonah, in contrast, speaks only a few words to a pagan city: “‘Forty days from now Ninevah will be destroyed!'” Jonah 3:4b. With only eight words, these people got it! From the king down, all of the Ninevites understood, repented, and were saved.

I wonder how many us, who call ourselves Christians, are not really hearing what God is telling us. How many times does God speak to me and His words simply fall on deaf ears. I wonder what God continues to try to get me to repent from and I continue on the same path as before, possibly sending myself toward destruction. How is God being patient with me right now, waiting for me to respond.

I also wonder how many people around the world, who do not know Jesus, are receptive to hearing the bad news, only to ask themselves “who knows??” then make themselves ready to hear the Good News.

Who can tell? Probably not me, I have some listening I need to take care of.

Marriage Vows

I have been listening to a lecture series on iTunes U about the Old Testament. One of the thoughts that the professor, Tim Laniak, discusses is how God took the Israelites out into the wilderness to propose to them. What an interesting concept. If that is the case then that would make the Ten Commandments our wedding vows to God.

My problem is that I have always seen the Ten Commandments as a set of restrictive rules God gave his people to govern them. When I see them in only that way, then I think, “okay God, I am not really big on rule five. I think I will ignore that one for a while.”

Conversely, I have never thought it is okay to fudge on the marriage vows I took with Michele. Why? First, because I love her. Second, because in the midst of our love, we both made a commitment (a.k.a. covenant) with each other. I take that commitment very serious:

I, Leo, take you, Michele, to be my wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life. I, Leo, take you, Michele, for my lawful wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. Marriage Vows

Cue the warm fuzzies. But also see the rules that Michele and I have given each other. There are quite a few in there, but I never once said to myself before we got married, “number five is just not important so I am not going to commit to that one.” I took them all on and was happy to do it.

So, now in the light of marriage vows, let’s re-read the Ten Commandments:

I, Leo, take you, Lord, to be my God and my only god. I promise not to make any idols for myself that will cause me to worship anything but You. I vow not to misuse your name and only to speak in worship and honor towards you. I will enjoy the gift you have given me by setting apart the Sabbath as a holy day. I, Leo, take you, Lord, to be my God and to honor those things you hold dear. I vow to honor my father and mother, not murder, not commit adultery on my wife, not steal, not lie, and not covet my neighbor’s wife and his things. Exodus 20:1-17

Seeing the Ten Commandments in this light makes me better see the covenant I signed on to in my love affair with God. And while I am not perfect and will struggle with sin at times, seeing the commandments in a different manner does make me want to hold true to these marriage vows (I made yeas ago) a little bit more each day.

I just wish I had gotten a better photographer to remember my big day.

Where My Trust Lies

‘They sweep past like the wind and are gone. But they are deeply guilty, for their strength is their god.'” Habakkuk 1:11

Money, work, success, sex, and positions of power. These are a few of the things Christians associate with as being chief rivals to God. They definitely are, but what about a person’s strength? This aspect of idolatry kind of gets swept under the rug. We never really talk about how our sole reliance upon our on own strength creates an additional god in our lives.

The problem with relying solely on our own strength is that we lose our sense of dependence upon God. We forget the fact that God gives us our power to be successful. We begin to see ourselves as powerful enough, smart, enough, or creative enough. The result is that we become proud and forget the Lord. Once we forget about God then our efforts in life become all about self glory. As Christians, though, our goal is the complete opposite.

Our lives are supposed to act as salt and light drawing people to God. We are supposed to show people the Lord by bringing glory to Him and Him alone. And the biggest way we bring glory to God is by living in faith and trusting the one true God.

So, we all have a hard decision to make each day: choose pride and our own strength or choose dependence and faithfulness. Personally, I hope that with each additional day I learn to lean more on dependence and faithfulness to God as I choke out pride and self-glory.

‘Look at the proud! They trust in themselves, and their lives are crooked. But the righteous will live by their faithfulness to God.'” Habakkuk 2:4

Names

Michele and I love the meanings of names. In fact, the meanings of our children’s names were at the top of the priorities list when choosing them. Asher means “happy; blessed.” Bechan means “solemn vow to God.”

So it does not come as a surprise to me when I check out names in the Bible and want to know their meanings. Some have awesome meanings, such as Asher. Some do not. That’s right, Leah, I am calling you out “weary eyes.” Then things really gets interesting when God instructs a prophet to name his child with a specific name to illustrate a point He is making. That is what I recently came across in Hosea 1.

Jezreel: God plants. son. (this one is a pretty good name)
Lo-ruhamah: Not loved. daughter. (that name is not exactly a morale booster)
Lo-ammi: Not my people. son. (this one falls somewhere between the older siblings’ names)

Although, it was one of the highest callings possible, being a prophet must have been a very difficult job. I think being a prophet’s child was not easy either.

Regardless of the meaning of the individual person’s name, though, the most important thing to remember is being told “you are children of the living God,” Hosea 1:10b. That is where the Lord was moving with such strong illustrations and I am glad to be reminded of his reconciliatory love in these verses. Without Him loving me first, I would still be lost.

Happy Easter

Happy Easter to all of you. Death was beaten, for the Son was resurrected from the dead. And this same ever-lasting life is available for all of us.

The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.” Luke 24:5-7

And as we reflect on the mystery of Jesus Christ and the Good News, always remember why the Gospels were written:

The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name. John 20:30-31

Giants the Size of Cords

The other day Asher and I were dusting and vacuuming the house. About halfway through, we stopped for lunch and to feed Becs. While we breaked I left the vacuum cord laying across the hallway. It stayed there for about an hour. A few times I walked in one of the bedrooms and saw LC laying next to the cord. I thought “she must be relaxing on the cool wood floors.”

After about thirty minutes of her laying there I realized it was something entirely different. This was not relaxing, this was LC stopping because she was afraid of the cord. She was too afraid to step over the 1/2″ cord and walk to refreshing water in her bowl or go outside so she could relieve herself or come in the kitchen to hang out with us while we ate lunch. She would not cross the line.


I was sad for LC and freed her of the self-imposed jail. Seeing this reminded me how seemingly large and significant giants also stand in my way… and like my dog, I am too afraid to proceed. It reminds me of the Israelite spies who were sent into Canaan. Ten were too afraid to proceed while two knew God was more powerful than any obstacle put in front of them.

I hope I am more often like Caleb and Joshua who saw the promise God gave them, saw “the helpless prey” (Numbers 14:9; a.k.a. the giants), and saw their God with them… and were unafraid. Otherwise, I will just have to lie down next to LC the next time the cord is on the floor.

This was their report to Moses: “We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country-a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces. But the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak! The Amalekites live in the Negev, and the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the hill country. The Canaanites live along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and along the Jordan Valley.”

But Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. “Let’s go at once to take the land,” he said. “We can certainly conquer it!”

But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!” So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: “The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!” – Numbers 13:27-33

Showing Mercy, Kindness, & Love

I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings,” Hosea 6:6

Showing mercy, kindness, and love to others should be the second goal for any mature Christian. (Loving our Lord with all we are is our first goal.) I think Christians, as a whole, create a bad name for ourselves because we oftentimes forget this aspect of God’s desire. We spend time in Bible study, we spend time in worship, we spend time fellowshipping with other Christians, and then we forget to care for our neighbor, whomever they might be.

The verses in this post serve as great reminders for me that God wants me to show love to others, not just study my Bible. He wants me to obey Him, not just apologize when I sin. He wants me to focus on my relationship with Him and others, and not just lay up worship. As I keep these facts in mind and put them into practice, hopefully people will see Christ in me and develop a desire to have the same type of relationship with the Lord of creation.

“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another,” Zechariah 7:9

As an added bonus for today, Jesus quoted Hosea’s verse (at the top) when confronted about eating with sinners.

Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Matthew 9:13

Enjoying the Garden

I always love this account of God in Genesis 3. Granted, there is a lot going on in the rest of Genesis 3, what with the Fall, Adam and Eve chowing down on the apple, the introduction of death and separation from God, and Adam and Eve being kicked out of the Garden of Eden forever. But right in between all of that, you get an incredible picture of the Lord just enjoying His creation.

As I read it, my mind wanders to God taking a leisurely, relaxing stroll through the garden as the wind gently blows through Eden while the sun continues its afternoon descent in preparation for evening.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Genesis 3:8, emphasis mine

Bringing Nothing

Some nations boast of their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the Lord our God,” Psalm 20:7

This verse in Psalms is a good reminder that I do not need to take pride (or boast) in anything except God. Simply being a part of God’s family and having Him on my side is more powerful than having a thousand armies team up with me.

There is a huge comfort in realizing this fact. God is more powerful than every human (including me), and He is far greater than anything we can create, think, build, and make. And God does not need anything from us. Therefore, God is not expecting us to bring anything to the table aside from our faith in Him, worship of Him, and trust in Him as we live our days. It reminds me of Deuteronomy 7:7-8.

The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than the other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! Rather it was simply that the Lord loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors. That is why the Lord rescued you with such a strong hand from your slavery and from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt”

Here Moses sets the Israelites straight. He tells them that they were not chosen because of their size (and might), but simply because God loved them and that the Lord was keeping a promise. I need to remember the same thing.

God did not choose me because of my power, leadership ability, money, dashing good looks, height, etc. He simply wanted me because He loves me and was keeping a promise He made a long time ago. When I was saved, I brought absolutely nothing to the table that God needed, only a willingness to trust in Him.

And so today, as in the beginning of my Christian walk, I am to continue living my days in the same way: in my constant weakness, I bring only faith and worship of my almighty God and I am all the better for it.