The willing ones

It can be fun to give. There’s been times I have given to someone or something and really enjoyed it. There’s also been times where I have given and it didn’t feel fun at all. In fact, I wasn’t even remotely happy about it. I’m sure some of that had to do with whether or not it felt like an obligation. But it also probably had something to do with my willingness. And maybe my attitude. Maybe.

Exodus 35:29 All the Israelite men and women who were willing brought to the Lord freewill offerings for all the work the Lord through Moses had commended them to do.

Apparently, only the willing people gave. The ones who were hesitant, stingy, and greedy didn’t give. Nope. Only the willing ones. Now look closely here, it doesn’t say, only the rich ones. It doesn’t say, only the ones who had excess. It says the willing ones. And in this case, the offerings brought by the willing ones was enough to get the work done.

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Doesn’t that seem to be the way God works? He works with the willing ones. When there is a great work to be done, He doesn’t drag people into it. He doesn’t spend His time trying to convince the most talented and wealthy people to get involved. He simply uses the willing ones. The question I have for you today is this: are you a willing one? Will you be counted among those who did something great for God? Not because you had to. Not because you had all the resources in the world. Not because you had all the skills necessary. But simply because you were willing.

Be a willing one!

Rogue One is going to be awesome!

rogue-one-rebels-banner

Rogue One, the new Star Wars movie, is coming out in just a few weeks and it is going to be awesome! How do I know this? Because it’s a Star Wars movie. It’s that simple. When Episode 7 came out, there was much anticipation also. It didn’t disappoint. It was full of great storytelling, awesome characters, amazing CGI, wonderful special effects… and no Jar-Jar.  What more could you ask for? Rogue One is going to be awesome, too. You just wait; you will see how awesome it is.

I’m not the first person to utter that sentiment, “you will see how awesome it is.” Many a people have said it before me.  People who had eager expectation. People who were waiting with anticipation. But before all of us said it, God said it.

Exodus 34:10 Then the Lord said: “I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you.

On December 16th, people all over the country are going to be sitting in movie theaters waiting for the wonder to begin. Their eyes will be wide open and smiles will be on their faces. Children will have fist fulls of popcorn going into their gaping mouths, ready to be awed. The genius of Lucasfilm won’t let us down.

I think about the people of God and wonder if they had that same sense of awe and anticipation that Star Wars fans have. I hope that their sense of wonder was even greater. In Exodus 34:10 God makes a bold promise. He says that he will do wonders never before done. His wonders were better than any CGI and any special effects. These wonders would be so wonderful that anyone within range would see how awesome the work of the Lord was.

God has made a covenant with me, too. He sent Jesus to die for my sins and to purchase my freedom. He promised wonderful wonders for me. My inheritance is that same work of awesomeness. The question is, am I living in the wonder of my God? When I think about how amazing he is, does my heart leap like a new Star Wars movie is about to come out? Or does it flip through the channels of life looking for old reruns of Gilligan’s Island?

I want to truly experience the awesome work of the Lord in my life. I want to live a life of wonder before Him. So I invite him to do wonders in my life. And hopefully I live my life in such a way, that the people I live among will see that awesomeness. Yes, I hope that my life will be a display of how awesome he is. And I hope yours will be, too. Break out the popcorn, people. This is going to be good!

Stay Here

When I was a teen, I took part in an outreach group at my church. We learned extremely important evangelism skills such as balloon animals and street dramas.  We might have talked about how to lead someone to Jesus; I don’t remember. I will say that the balloon animals has come in very handy as a dad. Kids are apparently impressed by a balloon sword or giraffe. That’s right, I’ve got skills.

stay-hereNow as for the drama part, they actually were a great outreach tool. But if you’ve ever been on outreach, you know that the outreach is also an in-reach. It reaches into you. There was one drama in particular that has always stuck with me. It was called “Stay Here.” The premise was that some girl wanted to go out to a party and Jesus tried to tag along. After all, she had asked Jesus to be with her wherever she goes. But she wasn’t having it when it came to him following her to the party. So she tells him to stay here, stay put, don’t follow me. It ends with her nailing him back to the cross to “hang out” until she gets back. Ouch.

This picture has stuck with me throughout my life. Are there places where I go that I intentionally leave Jesus behind? Do I dare continue on my journey without God by my side? Well, in the book of Exodus, God told Moses he wasn’t coming along for the next part of the trip. Moses didn’t think that was such a good idea.

Exodus 33:3, 14  3 “Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”  14 Then Moses said to him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.” 

Now I spliced a couple of verses together there, but only for the sake of brevity. Please read the whole chapter so you can see the whole picture. Essentially, Moses asks God to reconsider because he really needs God to be with Him for this to work out. Good call, Moses. Good call.  It was a bold move, because God thought he might kill these terrible people along the way. They might argue loudly in the back seat and God might have to ask them if “they need him to come back there.” Even so, Moses knew that no matter what, having God with them was better than the alternative.

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The good news for us is that God doesn’t think He will destroy us along the way. Instead, He redeems us along the way. Because of the work of Jesus, God doesn’t want to kill us. I know that sounds weird, but the truth is that if I had to stand alone on my own merits, I would be condemned. But because I stand under the sacrifice of Jesus, I am made right with God. I am made holy. I am, essentially, perfect in His sight – even though I am far from perfect in my own sight.

The question I have for us today is this: Do we want God with us? I mean, do we really? All the time? Do we desire His presence to be with us in the midst of trial? You bet. But do we desire His presence to be with us when we are about to do something that we know is sin? I hope so. After all, He is the only one who can deliver us from it.

 

In too deep

I’ve never been a big fan of swimming in the ocean. A key reason for that is probably because I live in Washington and the ocean here is cold. If I lived in Hawaii, I may have a different opinion on that. When I was a kid, I remember going to the ocean with my family and swimming through the waves. It started with a little wave jumping then turned in to swimming with the waves, through the waves, under the waves.  It was fun at first. That is, until I went in too deep. It was then I discovered how powerful the waves really were. I caught a big one… well, it caught me, actually. Under the water I went, unable to come up, as wave after wave pounded on me. It felt like I was in a wash machine. It was a scary moment, being held underwater, unable to come up for a breath. Fortunately, my dad grabbed a hold of me and pulled me up.

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The problem wasn’t the ocean. It was that I had gone in too deep. I had not treated it with respect. I had allowed the waves to tempt me, calling me into the power of their pull. In life, we can have the same kind of problems. Problems like allowing ourselves to be pulled into the power of temptation. We can get in over our heads, and we can get in too deep. In the book of Exodus, Aaron had the same problem. And instead of swimming for the shore, he went in deeper.

Exodus 32:22-24 22 “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. 23 They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ 24 So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”

Before you read on, I’d encourage you to open your Bible and read all of Exodus 32 so that you can see what is really going on here. Because Aaron isn’t so innocent. The truth is, the people did come to him and ask him to make them a god. They did get impatient and wonder where in the world Moses had wandered off to. But he did absolutely nothing to be a leader in the situation. And I think that in the midst of this conversation, he knew he had blown it. He was busted. He made a stinkin’ calf out of gold for the people to worship!

Yes, Aaron was in deep. Instead of swimming for shore, though, he went in deeper. This was his moment to confess, to come clean. It was his opportunity to say “I blew it, Moses. I’m sorry. I was afraid and so I gave in.” But that’s not what he said. He told Moses that he threw the gold in the fire and a calf magically came out. There’s no way that Moses bought this lame story, but nonetheless, this is what Aaron’s brain told his mouth to say.

When we get in too deep, we have a choice to make. We can go in even deeper like Aaron and try to cover it up, or we can swim to shore and come clean. Don’t be lame like Aaron. Don’t start sputtering nonsense about a golden calf magically appearing. The people in your life aren’t buying it. Just come clean. Own it, deal with the consequences, and move forward. Everyone will be glad you did.

Made for this

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My oldest son is just wrapping up his first ever cross country season. Now cross country is a unique sport. You run… like a long way. It’s not something I was made for. Okay, I’ll admit it; I’m out of shape. It’s not just that, though. I played sports, but the running part wasn’t the part I was good at. My son, however, he’s good at it. Like really good.

I find it awesome that God made us each so uniquely that we have different things we are good at. It’s like He had a purpose in diversity. It’s almost as though He created us differently for a reason.

Exodus 31:1-5 Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts.

Bezalel was chosen by God and filled by the Holy Spirit. He was given wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. Pretty awesome, huh? Here’s the plot twist: he wasn’t chosen and filled so that he could prophesy or perform miracles. He was chosen and filled to be an amazing artist! God gave him the skills and the creativity to do crafts. I’ve never heard someone say, “paper-mache’ – I was made for this!” Yet Bezalel was not only made for it, he was anointed for it! I wonder if a young Bezalel felt like his gifts weren’t useful. I wonder if he thought about how he could contribute to the Lord.

Maybe you have sold yourself short on what YOU can do for God. You might think that you don’t have the right gifts or the right skill set. Let Bezalel encourage you today:

You have have been chosen. You have been filled. And you have been made for __________.  I don’t know what that is for you, but God can help you fill in the blank. We have all been made unique in His image for His glory and His great purposes.

What have you been made for?

Wash your hands

Hand washing is important. We go through our days touching doors, handrails, and shopping carts. We shake hands and high five. We flush toilets and read waiting room magazines. Do you know what could be on all that stuff? Just wash your hands, people! Not like every five minutes or anything, but maybe before you put your grubby little fingers all over those McDonald’s french fries. Because if you don’t, you will die! Too far?

hand-washingExodus 30:17-21 17 Then the Lord said to Moses, 18 “Make a bronze basin, with its bronze stand, for washing. Place it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it. 19 Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and feet with water from it. 20 Whenever they enter the tent of meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die. Also, when they approach the altar to minister by presenting a food offering to the Lord, 21 they shall wash their hands and feet so that they will not die. This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants for the generations to come.”

These guys seriously had to wash or die. It wasn’t just a passing comment; the Lord said it twice. “Wash your hands and feet so that you will not die.” Not catch a cold. Not get the flu. No… die.  I guess God really wanted the priests to be clean when they entered His presence. It makes sense, right? God is clean and so if we are to be in His presence, we are to be clean, too.

The good news is that elaborate hand and foot washing isn’t necessary for us to be in God’s presence. We don’t need a gold basin filled with water. We don’t need washcloths and towels. We just need repentance and we just need Jesus. Jesus is the wash basin through which we are cleaned and repentance is our response to the wash basin. We recognize that we have dirty hands that need to be cleaned. Jesus cleans. And because of his love for us poured out on the cross, we are made clean.

If you don’t wash your hands you might catch a cold. But unlike Aaron, you won’t die. Jesus has already done the washing. Receive in it. Bathe in it. Thank Him for it. Be clean!

The Red Jersey Team

I like a good pickup game. Basketball, soccer, football… doesn’t matter. It’s just fun to compete. It gets the heart rate going, the blood flowing, the body sore. All that good stuff. The problem with a pickup game is trying to remember who is on your team. It’s fairly simple if there’s only a few players, but it takes me a while to get the hang of it if there’s several people. That’s why when I’m coaching youth soccer, I have the kids wear practice jerseys when we scrimmage. Otherwise, they start passing the ball to a kid on the other team. Well that do that regardless, but you get the point.

red-practice-jerseySo on go the practice jerseys. This side gets to wear the red ones. That way you will know who is on each team. If you came to practice in a red shirt, then you are on the red team. That’s just how it works. You’ve now been marked. You are a red. Ready, set, play!

In the Bible, Aaron was marked, too. In fact, he even wore the red jersey. Sort of. He was actually marked with blood. Check it out.

Exodus 29:19-21 19 “Take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head. 20 Slaughter it, take some of its blood and put it on the lobes of the right ears of Aaron and his sons, on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the big toes of their right feet. Then splash blood against the sides of the altar. 21 And take some blood from the altar and some of the anointing oil and sprinkle it on Aaron and his garments and on his sons and their garments. Then he and his sons and their garments will be consecrated.

They were marked for a team – God’s team. They were consecrated because of the red jersey blood. To consecrate means: to make or declare sacred, to set apart or dedicate. This is what they were. They were marked, dedicated, declared sacred. This moment in their lives was the moment that defined their service to God. They had been chosen, they had been set apart, and they had been declared sacred by the blood.

You have, too. Jesus Christ died on the cross for you. For every single magnificent part of you… also for the not so magnificent parts of you. You are covered, in a figurative sense, by the blood of Jesus. You have been marked as holy by His sacrifice! You too have been chosen. You have been set apart. And you have been declared sacred. Receive that today. Embrace it. Let it determine your worth and your thoughts and your steps.

You are wearing the red jersey. You are on His team. Now go get in the game!