Archive for November, 2007

22Then the Israelites said to Gideon, “Be our ruler! You and your son and your grandson will be our rulers, for you have rescued us from Midian.” 23But Gideon replied, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son. The LORD will rule over you! 24However, I have one request. Each of you can give me an earring out of the treasures you collected from your fallen enemies.” (The enemies, being Ishmaelites, all wore gold earrings.) 25″Gladly!” they replied. They spread out a cloak, and each one threw in a gold earring he had gathered. 26The weight of the gold earrings was forty-three pounds, not including the crescents and pendants, the royal clothing of the kings, or the chains around the necks of their camels. 27Gideon made a sacred ephod from the gold and put it in Ophrah, his hometown. But soon all the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping it, and it became a trap for Gideon and his family. Judges 8:22-27

Gideon made a “sacred ephod” in good faith from the spoils of the victory the Lord gave him. He meant it as a memorial, a reminder of the faithfulness of God…but “soon all the Israelites prostituted themselves by worshiping it.” How easy it is for us to worship the thing we’ve created instead of the One who made it possible for us to create it! How easy it is for us to worship the thing we can see instead of the One who is unseen! How easy it is for us to worship the past instead of the One who gives us a future!

Wow! each of those last three sentences could be a sermon or sermon series! No sermons or sermon series here, but how about a few thoughts to touch your spirit.

What might you or I have created that we are tempted to worship instead of worshipping the One who made it possible? We can make an idol out of anything. Has your career or position in society (or the church) become your idol? How about your marriage (or pursuit of marriage) or your children? Maybe you’ve made an idol out of your leisure time or hobby? Then, there’s always the house and/or car. Perhaps you’ve made pain and/or suffering your idol.

Are you more concerned about any of these things than you are about pursuing God wholeheartedly? Do you make sacrifices for these things that should really be made to God (or not be made at all)? Everything we’ve received in our life has NOT been received by our own efforts alone. It has all come from the hands of a loving and merciful God.

SacramentOfTheMomentHow is one to worship the unseen? I don’t know about you, but it’s WAY easier to worship the thing that is seen, than the One who is unseen! The Message Bible describes Jesus as “this invisible but clearly present God” (Romans 8:9). Worshipping the Invisible begins with acknowledging that He is present. He is everywhere all the time (omnipresent), but unless I seek His presence, I miss it. In the winter 2007 issue of “Christian History and Biography” Richard Foster writes of a book by Jean-Pierre de Caussade called The Sacrament of the Present Moment saying that it “changed forever the way I look at ‘ordinary’ life” (page 50).

Caussade urges us to experience each moment “as a holy sacrament, a visible sign of invisible grace.” Is this perhaps the connection…the link that allows us to worship the One who is unseen by seeing Him in what is seen? That’s whag Caussade is suggesting. What an adventure it would be to embark on such a journey, because it would be an adventure of constantly seeking God (the Invisible). And God’s Word tells me that this seeking will result in finding: “If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me. I will be found by you,” says the LORD.” (Jeremiah 29:13-14a, NLT)

Letting go of the past to worship the God of our future: David Seamands has a book called Putting Away Childish Things. It’s an excellent book about identifying and dealing with past hurts, attitudes and wrong thinking that yield responses in our lives today that limit what God wants to do with our future. You migth be more familiar with the book by Joyce Meyer, The Battlefield of the Mind. The premises for both books are similar, but I found Seamonds’ book to be the more insightful/thoughtful. In reading his book, I was able to identify incidents and patterns from childhood that shaped how I responded to situations today. Identifying them was the first step toward “putting them away” (1 Corinthians 13:11).

Sacred ephods…things created in good faith that have become objects of worship, idols. “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” (Jonah 2:8 NIV) Let’s not settle for worshipping the ephod. Let’s worship the One who gives perfect gifts.

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The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully, but they cannot compare with the pinions and feathers of the stork. She [the ostrich] lays her eggs on the ground and lets them warm in the sand, unmindful that a foot may crush them, that some wild animal may trample them. She treats her young harshly, as if they were not hers; she cares not that her labor was in vain, for God did not endow her with wisdom or give her a share of good sense. Yet when she spreads her feathers to run, she laughs at horse and rider. Job 39:13-18, emphasis mine

When I read this scripture I am amazed at God’s joyfulness at each unique thing He has created – each bringing Him joy in their own way. He doesn’t judge the ostrich for her lack of sense and wisdom or her inability to fly like the stork. He simply acknowledges it as part of how she was created. But then He points out the joy that is her own. He says, “But, Oh, when she spreads her wings to run, she laughs at the horse and rider.” That brings to my mind the picture of a woman riding a horse as fast as it will gallop, her hair flying behind her while she’s laughing in the wind at the fun she’s having. The laughter of sheer freedom, joy and even victory. That’s how the ostrich feels when she runs. And God, in writing about it, takes great joy in the ostrich for what He has given her, without finding fault in her for what she may lack.

I think God sees all of us similarly. We each bring our own unique joy to Him. He is not critical of our human frailties because He knows how we were made. We beat ourselves up for our failures before God, not really expecting ourselves to be perfect all the time – just this time. But God knows how we were made and He expects more failure from us than we expect from ourselves. And He has made a provision for it through His grace.

I’m not excusing sin. Sin is serious and we need to repent and return to God. But not all failure is sin. Sometimes, failure (or perceived failure) comes just from doing something God has not endowed us with the wisdom or good sense to do. Instead, he’s created us to shine in other areas, and when we find those areas, our service brings us and God great joy.

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Bittersweet
Saturday morning at Niagara Falls was a bit bittersweet for me. As I sat in the observation lounge and watched the Falls I realized that the first time I had been to the Falls my dad had taken me there. I am thankful that my grieving has progressed and I can call the morning bittersweet. It took awhile for me to be able to experience the sweetness. But I remember how we had to get up in the middle of the night, because Dad was a truck driver and truck drivers NEVER start trips when it’s daylight. They want to be at their destination by daylight. At least that’s how my dad was. So we three kids put on warm clothes and piled into the back seat of the car. I don’t remember much about the Falls themselves. Just the trip.

I’ll Have to Tell Dad
Lately I frequently seem to have the thought “I’ll have to tell Dad that.” And then I realize that I can’t. I don’t remember thinking that I should tell Dad something very often when he was alive. I guess it’s reached the point where I miss talking to him. When he was alive I visited regularly, but we didn’t talk much. He wasn’t a talker and we didn’t have much in common. Early in my adult life I didn’t tell him things about my life because I knew he’d let me know that he thought whatever I was saying or doing was foolishness. Later in my adult life I’d tell him those things just to enjoy him telling me what foolishness it was. Maybe that’s part of growing up. I’d learned that what was foolishness to him was often right for me. I reached a point of knowing that’s just how Dad was and that we were very different. Him telling me it was foolishness was his way of trying to protect me from doing things he would never do. I miss it.

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