Gas for the generator

Exodus 27:20-21  20 “Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning. 21 In the tent of meeting, outside the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law, Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the LORD from evening till morning. This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come.

Let’s just be real here. Neither one of us have ever pressed clear oil out of olives so that we could keep our lamps burning. Generally, if I want light, I just make sure to have a good light bulb and to always pay the power bill. That usually does the trick. Probably the closest I’ve come to this whole “oil for the lamp” thing is changing the butane can on my camping lantern. Either that or filling up my generator with gas during a power outage. Now THAT’S important. I wouldn’t want the generator to run out of fuel. I mean, shoot, all the stuff in my freezer would go bad. Not only that, but the 3 lamps I have on in the house would turn off and it would be dark. So ya, I guess I can relate to the Israelites and the oil filling. Sort of.

gascangenerator

But wait. What if this whole oil for the lamp commandment was more than just actual oil for an actual lamp? What if there was a greater purpose than bringing light to the temple? After all, God did say that this would be a lasting ordinance for generations to come. Is it possible that we are still supposed to be filling lamps with oil? Absolutely!

Here’s the picture: The temple isn’t a building – it’s you. The lamp is the light of Christ. The oil is the power of the Holy Spirit. 

The command is still the same. As God’s people, we are to be a temple of the living God. And with our lives, we are to shine the light of Christ. We are to be a lighthouse, a light on a hill, a beacon of light for the world to find life. Yet, the light in our lives fades unless we give it attention. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to fuel us to be that light!

Now some of you might say, “I’ve asked the Holy Spirit to come and empower my life.” Awesome! I mean that. That’s really awesome! But here’s the thing: you don’t just fill the generator with gas one time. You have to check the fuel level and fill up when it is running empty. You might be running empty, too. You might feel burned out, used up, worn, tired, and without oil.

Now what? Well, you simply ask. Ask the Holy Spirit to come and fill you today. Ask again tomorrow. And then ask again the next day. The oil of the Holy Spirit keeps our lamps burning. Don’t walk through life as an unlit lamp. Be filled today!

Memory Lapse

Confession: sometimes I go to do something and then forget what I was going to do. I walk out to the garage to grab something and then just stand there because I have no idea what I went out there to grab. Please tell me this happens to you, too. I think we all have these memory lapses at one point or another. We forget things, even things we were told to do. It was probably an honest mistake; we just need to be reminded.

forgetful

Other times, however, the problem isn’t memory. The problem could be that we just don’t care. Or maybe we weren’t paying full attention. It’s possible that we weren’t listening. And while we don’t like to have to give instructions more than once, sometimes others have to do that for us. God did it for Moses in Exodus 26.

Exodus 26:30 Set up the tabernacle according to the plan shown you on the mountain.

In this chapter, God is giving VERY SPECIFIC instructions regarding the building of the tabernacle. Every detail is mentioned. It’s not like those directions that you get when trying to assemble a piece of furniture. No, these directions were very clear. And then there is this little verse right in the middle of the setup manual… “follow the plan I already gave you on the mountain.” Hmmmmm. God has already given Moses the plan; then here we see Him giving it to him again. God had to give him the instructions twice? That’s weird. He’s never had to do that with me. Oh wait…

Okay, I admit it. God has had to “remind” me of some things. You too? At least I’m in good company.

You see, God gave Moses some plans up on the mountaintop. In the same way, God has spoken to me on the mountaintop. In those times in His presence, He calls out to me and calls me action. In those places, He gets to my heart. In those times, He hands me my marching orders. But when I come down from the mountain, I sometimes have a memory lapse. I end up standing in the garage of life going, “what did I come out here for?” But God in His faithfulness reminds me of my calling. He shows me the steps to take. “Follow the plan I gave you on the mountain, Brad.” Oh, yes, the plan.

He doesn’t shame me, condemn me, or abandon me. He simply lays it out again, lovingly reminding me. So if you’ve had a memory lapse today, return to the Lord and ask Him for a reminder. Ask Him for the blueprints of your life. And when He gives them, don’t hesitate. Start building!

If you build it, He will come

photo posted on www.post-gazette.com

In 1989, Kevin Costner starred in the hit film, Field of Dreams. It’s a movie about a farmer who hears a mysterious voice tell him, “If you build it, they will come.” Even though all his neighbors thought he was nuts, he built a baseball field on his farm. And when he did, the ghosts of baseball’s legends showed up to play – led by Shoeless Joe Jackson. Great movie!

In Exodus 25, God speaks to Moses and says this in verse 8: “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.”

If you build it, I will come. Up to this point, God had been hanging out with Moses at the top of the mountain. His presence was in the clouds and his voice went out to one man. But God was about to come down and dwell among all the people. They just needed to prepare the place for him to dwell.

Today, God is still looking for a sanctuary in which to dwell. It’s not a building, though. It’s you. If you will clear out the clutter and make room for Him, He will come. He will fill every empty space in your life. 1 Peter 2:5 says, “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

You are the tabernacle. You are the sanctuary. You are the field of dreams. And so you must make room for the Lord to come and dwell. Build a place in your life where God can show up. If you build it, He will come.

In the presence

Recently I attended a worship conference that concluded with a time of corporate worship. It was heavenly. I discovered during the time of worship that there were some things within me that were broken. While I was worshiping I was overwhelmed by the presence of the Lord and I sensed Him speaking to me. He spoke simply, but His words repaired my heart. If you’ve ever had a moment like that, you know how precious is the presence of the Lord.  Moses had moments like that. Let’s look at one of those moments in Exodus 24.

Exodus 24:15-16 15 When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, 16 and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud.

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What a moment! Moses was hanging out in the glory of the Lord. Now if you read this fast, what you see is that the glory of the Lord was there and that the Lord spoke to Moses. But if you slow down, you’ll see that Moses hung out in the glory for six days and the Lord said nothing. It wasn’t until the seventh day that the Lord spoke.

This is something I have been learning to do this last year – just hanging out in the presence of the Lord. So often, my relationship with God can become about what I need from Him. So I go to Him in prayer. I ask Him to speak. I wait on Him for vision. I place my hope in all that He can do. He is my lead, my provision, my strength, my song. He is my joy and my peace. All of these things He does for me. So I go to Him with my needs. (There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact there is everything right with that)

At the same time, He is not just to be my personal vending machine. Because that’s not how relationships work. Often in a relationship, you simply spend time together hanging out. And so this past year, I’ve tried to do more of that. I’ve attempted to still my thoughts and my mouth and just spend time in the presence of God. I have spent time in His presence while worshiping. I have spent time with Him out in nature, where trees and rivers and rocks cry out His praise. I have spent time with Him in silence, just enjoying the fact that He is my God.

Moses was at the top of a mountain waiting to hear from God. And for six days, God said nothing. He just was. He was present and Moses got to experience His glory. Today, I challenge you to spend time in the presence of the Lord. Do it with no expectations, no requirements, and no limits. You’ll be amazed at what the glory of the Lord will bring to your life!

Do NOT be a good neighbor!

Exodus 23:31-33  31 “I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you. 32 Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods. 33 Do not let them live in your land or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you.”

bad-neighbor

Well now, that doesn’t seem very neighborly, does it? Yet this was God’s instruction to His people. He was about to give them some serious real estate. When they got there, they were not to move in as friendly neighbors. It was intended to be a takeover. There would be no oaths, no handshakes, no loaning the neighbor their lawnmowers. It would be a purging.

Interesting.

If you’ve ever lived in a neighborhood you can probably relate. Sometimes your neighbors, as nice as they may be, have very different values. And if you aren’t careful, they can have more of an influence on you than you are on them. Now we aren’t called to kick our neighbors out of the neighborhood, but the Israelites were. Why is that? Because God knew those neighbors would cause them to sin.

The same thing rings true for us today. Yet I’m not talking about the people in your neighborhood. I’m talking about the neighbors within us. You see, we’ve asked Jesus to come and take residence in us. We in a sense, invite him into the neighborhood of our lives. So now we are a Christian neighborhood. Our values are holiness, righteousness, kindness, love, and the like. But we do something foolish in this Christian neighborhood. We violate Exodus 23:33 – we let places of sin live in our land. We hang on to unhealthy life choices.

God knew that His people would be easily convinced to give their hearts away. He knew that they would, by default, follow the customs and patterns of this world. It was for this reason that He instructed us to kick out the old residents in our new neighborhood. He desires a holy land. He desires a pure land. He desires the best for you and your neighborhood. He knows that if alcohol is your source of peace, He can’t be. He knows that if you worship image, you won’t ever pursue being made into His image. If you listen to what is common, you won’t be made holy. 

So I encourage you today, do NOT be a good neighbor. Don’t let bitterness live next door. Give an eviction notice to envy. Serve lust with a homeowner’s association violation. Do not let these things reside in your land. Set God as first in your heart. Set God as ONLY in your heart. Jesus doesn’t need neighbors. When it comes to the land of your life, He gets it all.

 

Outsiders

outsiderI recently attended my wife’s 20 year High School Reunion. That sounds odd, doesn’t it? Let me try that again… my wife recently went to her 20 year High School Reunion, and I went with her. That’s better. Because it would be weird for me to just wander on into a reunion for a school I didn’t go to. To be honest, though, it kind of felt like that. Let me tell you how many people I knew: 2. One of those two was my wife. (I’ll take this moment to say thanks a lot to some friends of mine who graduated with my wife yet didn’t attend. You know who you are.)

At this event, I was the outsider. Me and a bunch of other outsider spouses just hanging out and saying “nice to meet you” a lot, even though there were a few people who weren’t actually nice to meet. These kind of settings are awkward for me. I am an introvert. My worst nightmare is attending an event where I don’t know anyone and the sole purpose of the event is socializing. So ya. Good times. I was the outsider.

Now at this event, people were mostly gracious with non-school-attending spouses. But I’ve seen other social gatherings where outsiders aren’t treated so kindly. You know, settings like church. Wait, what? I mean, people are usually friendly, but don’t necessarily make outsiders feel like not-outsiders. It’s the courtesy “hello” then back to catching up with my friends. Not cool, church people. Not cool.

Exodus 22:21 Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt. 

That’s what God told the Israelites while they were wandering around in the desert looking for the promised land. Now I know that’s a specific instruction for a specific application, but what if it still applied to God’s people today? Because I think it does. Here’s the heart behind the instruction: “Hey people, you used to be outsiders, slaves, and oppressed. The insiders weren’t nice to you. They didn’t include you in their social circles. Did you like that? I didn’t think so. So don’t do that to others.”

In God’s church there shouldn’t be insiders and outsiders; there should only be family. I could elaborate on that, explaining what inclusiveness means. But I think I’ll just leave it there. Church = family. If you have attended 1562 services or 1 service, you are family. No outsiders. Church people, let’s see if we can make that happen.

On punching faces and turning cheeks

punch in faceIf you’ve read your Bible, you probably read Matthew 5, where Jesus talks about turning the other cheek. To paraphrase, “You’ve heard it said, ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say if someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer them your left one also.” Turn the other cheek. It’s the way of love. It’s the way of Jesus. It’s the way of two sore cheeks.

I get that I’m supposed to love my enemies. I get that as a Christian, I am called to be a person of love, not of conflict. Jesus wanted us to love. After all, God is love. So why did Jesus have to correct this whole “eye for an eye” thing? Where did that saying come from? Let’s take a look:

Exodus 21:23-25 23 But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

Wow. This is more than just a “you’ve heard it said.” It actually comes straight from God to the Israelite people. So why would God advocate punching your neighbor in the face? And why would Jesus contradict what God had told the Israelites? Good question. I’m glad you asked.

In this passage in Exodus 21, it’s clear to me that God was trying to establish something. No, not face punching. That’s not it at all. He was trying to establish personal accountability. It seems to me that the people were getting away with a bunch of stuff that really offended the heart of God. They were careless in their caring for one another. Some guy’s bull went around goring people to death and he was like “oh well.”  So God needed to give them some basic human principles like, “take responsibility for your actions.”  If you are going to go around being a jerk and knocking people’s teeth out, then I’m gonna make a rule that someone gets to punch you in the face. Sounds fair to me.

Fast forward to the quote by Jesus. Why would He correct God? Well, He didn’t really. He was correcting what people had done with God’s commands. They had taken them into their own hands and used them to justify themselves. For example, “hey man, my cow broke it’s leg on your property, so I went ahead and killed one of your cows… because I can. God said so. Deal with it.” Doesn’t sound very neighborly does it? Definitely not loving. So Jesus came onto the scene and corrected this kind of arrogant brand of justice. That kind of thinking wasn’t what God intended in the first place.

So what’s the takeaway from all of this “eye for an eye” talk? Two things really. 1) Take responsibility for your actions and 2) let the way of love be your way of life. Imagine what the world would be like if everyone lived that way. The way of love would never punch someone in the face, at least not intentionally. The way of personal accountability would own it’s mistakes and offer to make things right when things go wrong.

My goodness, God really knew what He was talking about. We should try to take His advice!