Archive for March, 2010

Me – Old?

I try not to be too self-indulgent in these blogs, but it seems appropriate today. I am fifty-four years old today. I’ve been wondering which makes the lesser impact – fifty-four or 54? It seems like suddenly it’s a big number. Forty-eight didn’t seem like such a big number. Occasionally it occurs to me that I may not live another twenty years! And that seems so short. I can remember when twenty years seemed an eternity.

Believe it or not, this isn’t maudlin in my mind, but I realize that it may come across as maudlin in the reading of it. I’m just sort of amazed that so many years have gone by. Let me encourage you to stick with this blog…we’ll get to some amazing Scripture that is not only true of me, but also for you. And not only on your birthday, but every day of your life.

Anyway, I soften the blow that number (54) sometimes brings by telling my husband that we are accomplishing one of our life-long goals – to grow old together! Can’t accomplish that goal without growing old. Not that I put the “old” label on myself yet, but I am very aware that thirty years ago I applied that label to people my age.

The foolishness of the young!

When I am with a group of people who are younger than me (which happens more and more often these days), I am frequently amazed to realize that I am older than they are. When I’m with people that are LOTS younger than me, it often comes to me as a bit of a shock to my system – “Oh, I’m not their age!” I suppose that’s a good thing. That shock is immediately followed by the shock of realizing that they are probably very much aware that I’m older than they are. At least when I was 25-35, I remember being around people who were 45-55 (of which I’m now at the upper end of the range) and thinking how much older they were than me.

Age brings quite a different perspective on many things. Phil and I regularly lead church services at nursing homes. Being around such aged saints brings another perspective. To most of them, I am still quite young. But whether we’re 25 or 55 or 75, God’s Word is still true and His Word has some amazing things to meditate on when we’re tempted to be pulled down by the passing of time.

My Age Doesn’t Impact God’s Plans

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11

To be honest, there are times when I wonder if God will ever fulfill the plans He has for me. Well, I guess to be more honest, what I wonder is if God will ever fulfill the plans I have for me! J That’s when I bow my head and remind myself and God that it’s His plans I want fulfilled, not mine. The flesh wants mine. My spirit wants God’s. I’m confident that the two overlap in the most important areas. At least most of the time I’m confident of that! J I’m guessing you have similar doubts sometimes. What I am always confident about is that I serve a forever-faithful God. When I doubt, it’s me who is unfaithful or insecure, not God. He is always faithful.

I Am God-Created – for My God-Created Purpose

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:13-16

4The word of the LORD came to me, saying,

5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

Jeremiah 1:4-5

What great passages of Scripture! I love knowing that God knit me together – that I am His handiwork. I’m not just a bunch of cells thrown together by happenstance. I was woven together and His eyes were upon me the whole time. I was formed by the Master Potter. The word translated “woven together” is a term that relates to the creation of beautiful tapestry of variegated colors. In the Jeremiah passage, the word translated “formed” is a pottery term that describes molding the clay into shape. God is communicating His personal involvement, as if His very hands were in my mother’s womb as I was growing from zygote to fetus to newborn baby girl on March 28, 1956.

After forming me, or perhaps while forming me, He set me apart and appointed me to the destiny He prepared in advanced for me. Jeremiah was appointed as a prophet to the nations. I don’t think that’s my calling (there’s been no indication of that yet, anyway, and I am 54 years old)! Yet God created me perfectly to accomplish what He has planned for me to do:

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:10

Having a purpose gives my life meaning. Knowing I am perfectly prepared to accomplish that purpose gives me confidence and brings peace in stressful situations. I love knowing that I am God’s workmanship! He does good work! I might not always feel like it, but I choose not to rely on feelings. I choose to rely on the Truth of God’s Word.

He Rejoices! He Sings! He Dances! And It’s All for Me!

For Christmas, Phil bought me a plaque that says “On the day you were born, God danced.” I love it! It sits on my dresser where I see it every morning. I’ve been thinking about that plaque a lot today. God danced on this day 54 years ago. Such a thought brings joy to my heart.

I can understand how God would dance over me – it’s not that I’m so good – I’m not – I fall way short of my goals, and I’m sure my goals are way, way lower than His goals for me – yet He still sees me as the precious daughter He formed so many years ago. He also sees me as the woman I am becoming as I continue to pursue Christ. And He sees me as the woman I am in Christ – righteous and forgiven. Those women are worth being excited about – those women are worth dancing for. So when I think of God dancing when I was born, I get excited about how precious I am to Him and how much pleasure I bring Him.

Having said that, I can’t find any Scripture that specifically says God dances over us. But I can come close!

As a young man marries a maiden,
so will your sons marry you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
so will your God rejoice over you.

Isaiah 62:5

The word “rejoice” means be exceedingly glad, greatly joyful, make mirth, or rejoice.

The LORD your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Zephaniah 3:17

In this case, the word translated “rejoice” means literally to spin around. The word translated “singing” – rinnaw – is interesting. It means a shout of joy (or grief), joy, proclamation, rejoicing, shouting, singing, triumph.

Those words carry such emotion that they “feel” like rejoicing that can’t be contained without dancing. When put together with the Scriptural analogy that Christ is the Bridegroom and we are His bride the picture that comes to my mind is that of the groom who lifts his bride on the dance floor and swings her around with great joy. I can see the huge smile and joy on the face of my Bridegroom.

Jesus, right now, is looking forward to the day when we will be face to face. And since there is no such thing as time where He is (something well beyond my comprehension), He is already rejoicing in that day even while He watches over me in my day! Wow!

So those are my birthday musings. Phil had to work 3-11 today, and it’s a rainy, cold day. Some might think that would make for a dreary birthday. It wasn’t. God is too good for that.

*All definitions came from Strong’s Hebrew & Greek Dictionaries, Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 1998, Parsons Technology, Inc.

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Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2010-2011

Census, Sermons, the Holy Spirit & Doctrine – All in One Month!

It’s Census Time
Have you ever done any research into your family history? If so, you probably looked at old census records to learn about your great grandparents or great-great grandparents. It’s that time again. Have you received and completed your US Census form yet?

It’s also census time in our Resting at the River’s Edge reading. The book of Numbers records many census that God instructed the Israelites to make. God instructions the Israelites to take several census, and we have the privilege of looking at the records. What always surprises me the most is how many Israelites there really were! This was no small community that God had Moses leading!

Deuteronomy – Moses’ Final Messages
After reading through Numbers, we’ll begin Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy is a great book! It’s made up of a series of sermons that Moses preached as he prepared to leave the Israelites. It represents his last advice to those he has led before dying.

Acts & Romans
We’ve already read the first half of Acts and I am thoroughly enjoying it this year. It’s a book chock full of the Holy Spirit moving in people’s lives, and shows how people who were just coming to know the Lord established His Church, which is alive today.

When we finish the book of Acts, we move on to Paul’s letter to the Romans. The book of Romans was instrumental in me coming to Christ. It just made so much sense, portraying God as the just God that He is. You’ll find my favorite verse in chapter 5 of Romans –

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

When I read that verse, my heart was pierced through – Christ died for me when I was so very far from Him – when I was metaphorically kicking His shins and running the other way. It was the point in time in which I quit running from Christ and began sincerely seeking to understand Him.

I pray that as you read God’s Word this month, that He speaks to you and inspires you to pursue Him more diligently. Because He is worth it all.

The recommended reading schedule is below.

To download a PDF of April’s recommended reading plan, click here.

2010 April Resting at the River's Edge Reading Paln

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As I studied church history in grad school, I learned something that I hadn’t realized before. I suppose it’s pretty obvious, but it had escaped me – the early Church really were learning what God had in mind for the Church as they went along! Now I suppose that continues to be true for us today, but they were really just figuring it out – everything we take for granted today was birthday in that first century (well, at least everything that’s of God). It’s obvious as we read through the book of Acts.

Peter, the White Sheet & Cornelius
Yesterday, while Resting at the River’s Edge, we read about how Peter took the Gospel to the Gentiles for the first time. God gave him a vision of unclean animals being lowered from the sky on a sheet. When told to “Kill and eat,” Peter objected because the animals were those considered unclean by the Jews – they’re the very same animals we’ve read about as we’ve read through Leviticus this month. God’s response would surely have shocked Peter: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (Acts 10:15) Peter had learned all his life that these animals were unclean and now God was telling him they were clean!

As he considered what it might mean, three men came to the door asking for Peter to go to the home of a Gentile, something also against the Jewish laws. Peter made the connection between his dream and these visitors and goes to the home of Cornelius. Once there, he began to share the Gospel. Scripture records the result:

44While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. 46For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.
Acts 10:44-46

Praise God! As was His plan from the beginning of time, He has now opened the door to Gentiles coming to faith in Christ. Let’s celebrate, right?

Peter & the Jewish Believers
Well, not quite. As we read in Acts 11, Jewish believers who had not been with Peter when the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit became critical of Peter:

1The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
Acts 11:1-3

Although it is clear from the beginning of Scripture that it was God’s plan to save the world through Abraham (“and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:3b), the Jews had gone off course a bit and believed that God only intended to be their Messiah, their Savior. God spoke to Peter and then demonstrated His expansion plan through Cornelius’ family…but those who were not present were skeptical. After hearing Peter’s discussion, the responded appropriately:

17So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?”

18When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”
Acts 11:17-18

Peter & You and Me
If you’re reading along with us, why am I telling you the story? Because I find a couple of things interesting about it.

  1. It is fascinating to see how the Church came into being – it didn’t just spring up fully formed. The early believers were discovering what God intended as they went along. The Scriptural record we have demonstrates that. It’s easy for me to fall into the trap of reading Scripture – both the Old and the New Testaments – from a historical perspective instead of thinking about how it documents what was being lived out. When Acts chapter 10 occurred, Peter was doing a new thing, changing the way forever that the Gospel would be viewed – God had granted even the Gentiles repentance unto eternal life!
  2. These chapters demonstrate that obeying God brings criticism, even from fellow believers. The believers in Jerusalem criticized Peter for associating with Gentiles. We should never fall into the trap of believing that following God’s will brings peace. We forget how radical a God we serve. His desire is that all should come to a knowledge of repentance, and sometimes that requires radical obedience when God lays out a radical game plan. As believers, at least as believers living in the United States, I think it’s often our tendency to talk people out of radical obedience. Lord, forgive us and give us a radical faith!
  3. I love the way that Peter didn’t seem to get defensive when he was criticized by other believers. He simply “began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened” (Acts 11:4). It is difficult for me not to get defensive when I am criticized. I’m often not successful at it, but I think there are three primary components that help us not to become defensive: Being absolutely confident in God, walking in humility and loving those who are accusing you. Peter was absolutely confident that God had sent him to Cornelius’ home and he simply explained it to the other believers. He didn’t respond in an authoritarian way, although by rights he could have. After all, he was the apostle, they were not. But he chose to explain all that had happened so that they could also see the hand of God moving and shaping the new Church.
  4. Look how quickly the criticizing believers were willing to change their minds. After hearing Peter’s story, they immediately rejoiced. They didn’t feel a need to be right, didn’t raise objection after objection, didn’t seek even the smallest concession to save their own dignity. They celebrated that they were wrong! They celebrated that God had opened the door to the Gentiles.

There are probably other lessons in the story, but these four strike me.

How about you?
Did you get the same things out of reading the two chapters? Which of the above four points is most significant for you?

Points two and three hit me the hardest. I want to obey God radically and I don’t want to ever discourage someone else from doing the same. And I’m still working on losing all my defensiveness when people criticize me.

How about you?

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Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5:17

1And Saul was there, giving approval to his death….3But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.
Acts 7:1, 3

20At once [Saul] began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.
Acts 9:20-22

In searching for a headline, I originally had “God Changes People.” I decided that the word “changes” isn’t nearly strong enough. We are not simply changed, we are transformed by the overwhelming power and presence of God in our lives.

God transformed Saul from Christian-hater to lover-of-God.

He’s done the same for me.

He’d love to do the same for you!

They key? Humility & obedience. Sure, Saul didn’t have much humility at the beginning – God had to knock him off his horse and blind him to teach him humility. Don’t resist God as Saul did. Seek Him humbly, be obedient to what He reveals to you, and He will transform your life. You can count on it! No. You can count on Him.

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Anyone who is married struggles with expectations for their spouses. “I thought you were going to do that!” “Well, I thought you were going to do it!” “When are you going to…” “Isn’t it time to…” “Will you finish…..before friends come tomorrow?”

I work really hard at not having a Honey-Do list. I don’t want to be that whining, nagging wife. I don’t want to be the one who sets “standards” for our life and home that someone else must meet. I don’t want to define his life, I want to let him define it as he hears from God. Of course my wants and my actions don’t always match up.

Scripture says that “a nagging wife annoys like a constant dripping” (Proverbs 19:13 and 27:15). Ouch! And that it’s “better to live on the corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife” (Proverbs 21:9 and 25:24). Again, I don’t want to be that wife.

I friend gave me an expression many years ago that has been helpful to me: In the light of eternity, how important is it? I think a friend of hers gave it to her when she was angry because her husband had bought the wrong color door for their garage!

Here’s a blog by a woman whose deck furniture mocked her – both before and after she nagged her husband to finish the refinishing he had started!

What mocks you? Will you let it get away with the mocking or will you focus your attention on what really matters? (And be sure to give your husband/wife a kiss today. Not a peck, a kiss like you mean it!)

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By Guest blogger Phil Hovatter

Today is Saint Patty’s Day, a day where people adorn themselves with hideous shades of green not found in nature, municipalities dye waterways green, parades are held, and buttons are worn proclaiming “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” by people you wouldn’t kiss on a bet.

At least that’s how Saint Patrick’s Day is observed in the United States. Sandy and I had the pleasure of making friends with a couple of women from Ireland while we were on a cruise a few years ago. When we asked them how Saint Patrick’s Day was celebrated in Ireland, they said, “Why, people go to church, of course!”

Imagine that! Instead of going to parades or lining up for green beer at the local tavern, the Irish observe the day honoring their patron saint by going to church.

I think they could be on to something. I think Patrick would like their way better than ours.

Patrick is one of the most interesting characters in history. Surprisingly, he himself wasn’t Irish. He was born in England around the year 387 to a Christian family. His father was deacon and his grandfather had been a priest. When he was 16 years old, he was captured by Irish raiders, taken to Ireland, and sold into slavery. It is believed he lived on the far western shore of Ireland where he served his master as a shepherd. Not unlike some shepherds from biblical times, Patrick used the opportunity afforded him by his shepherd duties to pray and grow closer to God.

After six years of slavery, Patrick seized the chance to escape from his slavery and walk 200 miles to the east coast where he boarded a ship to take him back home to his family in England.

Only two documents written by Patrick have survived. In one of them, he tells about the circumstances leading to his return to Ireland. Much like the vision Paul had when he received his Macedonian call, Patrick tells about the vision that he had:

“I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: ‘The Voice of the Irish.’ As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: ‘We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.’”

Of his own free will, Patrick returned to the land and the people who had captured him and bound him into slavery only a few years earlier. Instead of holding a grudge against them, he held a burden for them and for their salvation.

The Ireland of Patrick’s time was a wild and dangerous place ruled by regional warlords. Patrick brought peace to the nation by winning the warlords to Christ. He founded a series of monasteries as outposts and training centers for the spread of the gospel. While the medieval civilization around them was crumbling as the Roman Empire was being dismantled by rampaging hoards of barbarians, Patrick was preserving every scrap of literature and art that he could in his monasteries, to be passed on to subsequent generations.

You can read more about this in the book by Thomas Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe.

So today is Saint Patty’s Day. How will you celebrate?

God bless the Irish.

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Under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, Peter gave his first sermon on the day of Pentecost. As often happens when I listen to sermons on Sunday mornings, one sentence arrested me:

“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Acts 2:36

“Both Lord and Christ”
Not just Lord, and not just Christ, but both Lord and Christ. What’s the difference? I turned to my trusted Greek dictionaries. The word translated “Lord” means “he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power of deciding; master.”* God has made Jesus Lord – the One to whom all things belong; the One to whom all people belong, whether they accept His ownership of them or not.

Fact: The Sovereign God of the Universe had made Jesus the Owner of all created things.

Paul picked up Peter’s theme in Philippians:

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:9-11

The truth is we belong to Jesus. He is our Master, our Owner, the One to whom we will one day bow our knee. The choice we face is – will we accept His ownership and bow our knee today? Will that bowed knee represent our will – that is, will it mean that we have bowed our will to His will? Hmmm. I think bowing the knee is much easier than bowing the will, but they ought to be one and the same. Brian Doerksen sings a song “Today” that captures this theme: “Today I choose to follow You. Today I choose to give my ‘Yes’ to You.”

God has already made Jesus Lord; let’s not wait until some other day to accept that ownership. God made Jesus your Lord. Will you accept His Lordship?

God made Jesus both “Lord and Christ.” The word “Christ” literally means “anointed” and is the name given to the Messiah, the Son of God.* We see this in John 1:

[Andrew] found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ).
John 1:41

The word “Messiah” comes from the Hebrew word (the language of the Old Testament); the word “Christ” is the Greek word (the language of the New Testament). Both refer to Jesus. Who was the Messiah? He was the long awaited Savior. One of the values of reading the Old Testament is that it lays the foundation that the Israelites were looking and longing for the promised Savior to come. Christ, the Messiah, is the fulfillment of that promise and that great anticipation. He is the One who would save them and will save us from ourselves – our sinful nature – and throw open the doors to a vibrant relationship and intimacy with God.

God has made Jesus to be our Owner and our Savior. Both Lord and Christ. Not just our Owner. Not just our Savior. Both. As Owner, He can do with us as He pleases. As Savior, He is compassionate and strong. As an Owner, He could determine us to be worthless and throw us away. As Savior, He doesn’t have that option – we are of tremendous worth to Him and He desires the very best for each of us.

“Whom You Crucified”
I wasn’t there, but yes, I crucified Christ. It was my sin that required the death of a perfect sacrifice. If you all had lived perfect lives, Christ would have been crucified for my sin. It is Christ’s perfect sacrifice that pays the debt required by my wrongdoing. He is my Savior. His sacrifice saves me from eternal damnation and opens the doors to eternal life. Wow.

Sin is messy business, as I blogged about several days ago. As the Israelites were required to slaughter a lamb or bull to pay for their sins, Christ was the lamb slaughtered as payment for my sins. His sacrifice wipes my slate clean. His blood cleanses my soul. Again I say: Wow.

“God has made…”
It was God who elevated Jesus to the position of Lord and Christ. It wasn’t me, you, my pastor or your pastor, or even the Pope who made Jesus Lord and Christ. It wasn’t anyone who has ever lived on this earth who made Jesus Lord and Christ. It was the One who created the earth and all things in and on it. It was God, the Most High God, the Creator of heaven and earth, who made Jesus both Lord and Christ.

“Brothers, what shall we do?”

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Acts 2:37

After Peter’s declaration that God had made Jesus, whom they had crucified, both Lord and Christ, the crowd had one response: “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter’s response was one we need to be reminded of from time to time:

38Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
Acts 2:38-39

Repent! Literally, “think differently!”** Bring your thinking into line with God’s Word. Come into agreement with Him that you have sinned, that sin requires a price and that Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, paid that price.

Be baptized – be cleansed of your sins. It’s interesting that the word “baptized” also means to be “overwhelmed.”** Be overwhelmed with the goodness of God. Be overwhelmed with His presence. Be overwhelmed to the point of giving Him complete control.

Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit – the One who comforts, reveals God and empowers believers to live the life God wants us to live.

This promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off – don’t believe it’s not for you. It is. If there is even the tiniest thing in you that whispers “yeah, but this isn’t for you, you’re not good enough” – that thing has a name – satan and he is a liar. He is the father of lies and there is no good in him. Choose to believe God. Repent, be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

What will you do?

When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Acts 2:37

I pray that your heart has been quickened as well. God has made Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ. What will you do about it? Will you make Him Lord – Owner – of your life? Will you recognize Him as your Savior? Will you repent and be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. I pray that today you are overwhelmed with God’s grace, the Savior’s cleansing power and the revelation and peace of the Holy Spirit.

*From Thayer’s Greek Definitions from Brown-Driver-Briggs’ Hebrew Definitions, Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 1999,, Inc.

**From Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries by James Strong, Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 1998, Parsons Technology, Inc.

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21Aaron waved the breasts and the right thigh [of the sacrificed animals] before the LORD as a wave offering, as Moses commanded.

22Then Aaron lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them. And having sacrificed the sin offering, the burnt offering and the fellowship offering, he stepped down.

23Moses and Aaron then went into the Tent of Meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people; and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. 24Fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown.
Leviticus 9:21-24

Wave offerings – I think we charismatics sometimes think that when we are waving our arms over our heads, we’re giving the Lord a wave offering. Do we realize that what constituted a wave offering in the Old Testament was the waving of the slaughtered animal sacrifice. In this case, the wave offering was immediately followed by the Lord bringing down fire and consuming the offering. When we wave our arms, are we willing to identify with the slaughtered animals and are we ready for the Lord to consume us with His purifying fire? (In other words, are we willing to change those things that are displeasing to the Lord? The first question is much easier to answer “yes” to than the second.)

I did a quick check of all the references to wave offerings in the Bible. Looking at all the references to wave offerings, I found that they were used in the following instances:

  • Wave offerings of gold and bronze that were given to the Lord was then hammered into pieces to be used in the Tabernacle
  • Wave offerings of sacrificed animals were burned on the altar
  • Wave offerings of pieces of the sacrificed animals were given to the Levites as food to be consumed
  • Wave offerings of bread, cake and wafer were burned on the altar

It seems that if the offering was not consumed by fire that it was totally consumed – used in its entirety as food or to make elements of the Tabernacle. In no case was any of the wave offering given back to the one making the offering.

So, the next time you wave your arms in worship, think about the wave offerings in the Old Testament – how they were totally consumed by the Lord. Perhaps you might think about the one in this passage of Leviticus – how Aaron offered it to the Lord and then the fire of the Lord came down and consumed the offering. Then shout for joy and fall on your face down in worship. Hallelujah!

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1The LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting. He said, 2“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When any of you brings an offering to the LORD, bring as your offering an animal from either the herd or the flock.

3“‘If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he is to offer a male without defect. He must present it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting so that it will be acceptable to the LORD. 4He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. 5He is to slaughter the young bull before the LORD, and then Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and sprinkle it against the altar on all sides at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 6He is to skin the burnt offering and cut it into pieces. 7The sons of Aaron the priest are to put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. 8Then Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, including the head and the fat, on the burning wood that is on the altar. 9He is to wash the inner parts and the legs with water, and the priest is to burn all of it on the altar. It is a burnt offering, an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the LORD.
Leviticus 1:1-9

Atoning for sin was a messy business in the Old Testament. The sinner is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering” – fully identifying himself with the animal, essentially transferring his sin to the animal. He must then slaughter the animal. There is no reason for the animal to be killed other than to atone for his sin. In the New Testament we read that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22b). In the Old Testament they lived that Truth. We live in the grace of that Truth – that is, that Christ has died for us, but in the Old Testament, the Israelites lived with the death that sin caused.

I am thankful that I don’t have to actually kill an animal to atone for my sin, but I think it is oh, so easy for the seriousness of sin to lose its impact when we are removed from the reality of what it takes for sin to be forgiven. The perfect, sinless Son of God had to die a horrible death so that I could be forever forgiven – and not just me, but you and everyone else in the world, too.

I used to wonder why “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). At first I simply accepted that God is God and He can set the price of sin at whatever He wanted and who was I to argue? I accepted that simply because it’s what Scripture teaches and I had come to believe that Scripture was the Word of God. Yet it always felt like a weak argument to me. An acceptable one if it was the only one God was giving, but not a fully satisfying one. That’s OK because God’s ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts are higher than my thoughts (Isaiah 55:9). Faith trusts without full understanding.

In His graciousness, however, God helped me to understand this issue. In what seemed like a flash of understanding, I realized that all sin – ALL sin – involves a death – something pure and unblemished dies. Truth dies. Relationships die. Trust dies. Something inside us and/or another dies. In light of that understanding, requiring a death for the forgiveness of sin is God’s justice. That makes sense to me. I wrote earlier that it is very easy for us to forget the seriousness of sin. In that place, it is easy to overlook the death that our sin causes.

I encourage you to meditate on this statement: All sin involves death. Think about what would die the next time you are tempted to speak in anger, or lie, or gossip, or commit adultery, or cheat someone or any other sinful act you might be tempted to participate in. What death is your sin going to cause? Perhaps this new understanding of the reality of the situation will open a door for the Holy Spirit to work in your lives and bring transformation. Christ has already died for your sin and you can experience forgiveness. Why cause more death? Let’s choose life.

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I’m in Southern California this week with my husband. It’s the place I spent the first four years of my adult life. It’s the place where I spent the first four years of my marriage. It’s the place of my birth – my rebirth, that is – I came to know Christ and was baptized here. It’s the place where I stopped being an atheist.

This week, Phil and I have visited with friends from the first church I attended as a believer, the first small group I was a part of, the first friends I had after becoming a Christian. We’ve also visited with Phil’s aunt and uncle who “parented” us when we were 2400 miles from anything and anyone familiar. We’ve eaten at restaurants we ate at thirty years ago. On Sunday we’re visiting the church in which I was baptized. Well, it’s not quite the same church, but it has some of the same people in it and it meets in the same building. We’ve marveled at how different the world is now than it was thirty years ago. (When we left CA, no one had a PC or a VCR or a cell phone. WalMart and Starbucks didn’t exist. We drank Tab instead of Diet Coke.)

As Phil and I sat at dinner last night – El Torito’s on Redondo Beach Pier – I was overcome with emotions. Phil saw me struggling to hold back the tears and asked what I was thinking. When I told him it was hard to put into words, his response was “You’re a professional writer. Give it a try.” So this is me trying.

  • God is so very good and I have been so very blessed. He has been so faithful during the past thirty years.
  • As we live our lives, every difficult situation or challenge seems so urgent, so immediate, and so serious. And, of course, they are. Yet in hindsight, they really aren’t. As I looked back on all the situations that caused me grief over the years, I can’t help but see the hand of God in so many of them and the perfect timing of God resolving them. So today I hear God whispering in my ear, “Trust Me. You could have trusted Me at the very beginning of each situation and missed so much of the stress and heartache you experienced. So trust Me now.”
  • I was so young thirty years ago! Yet I’m sure I didn’t think I was. What 23-year-old doesn’t think they know everything?
  • Being a part of a local church is so very important. It grounds us. It provides a community of many generations that gives perspective and wisdom, if we’re willing to listen. I remember one example of this quite clearly. My husband’s vacation had been canceled unexpectedly, squelching the plans we had made to go to San Francisco for a couple of days. I was depressed. (Yes, it was one of those little challenges that grew out of proportion.) I remember an elderly member of the congregation listening to my tale of woe and saying simply, “You’re young. You’ll have many more opportunities to go to San Francisco.” My perspective was immediately changed. And I eventually made it to San Francisco.
  • The only thing that lasts is the impact we’ve made in people’s lives. As introverts, Phil and I have to force ourselves to be social. We’re happy living our lives alone with one another. It’s not God’s best for us, though. God’s best is interacting with His children and those who are not yet His children, allowing them to help us become more like Christ and allowing God to use us to help them become more like Christ.
  • God has changed me a lot in the past thirty years. I bet you’re like me: Sometimes it feels like we haven’t changed much and we carry around the same old problems and issues and insecurities and doubts. It seems that way because we’re always with ourselves – but when we have the opportunity to take the long view, we can see more clearly that God is, in fact, shaping and transforming us into the man or woman He wants us to be.
  • If God can do this much in the first thirty years I’ve known Him, how much more can he do with the next thirty?

I’m a blessed woman.

But all of these things, with just a few of the details changed (all right, maybe lots of the details, but none of the principles) are true of you, too. God is so very good and you are so very blessed. I don’t know your current life situation, but I know that you are blessed by God. I know that Christ died for you and that God wants to bless you with eternal life and an intimate relationship with Him. Beyond that, He wants to walk beside you, helping you make right decisions, helping you get through wrong decisions, and helping you become the man or woman He created you to be. That’s the kind of God He is. And He is unchanging – that means He doesn’t change over time and He doesn’t change how He responds to different people. What He’s done for me, He will do for you.

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