The Laws of Moses

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Leviticus.  Sigh.  Leviticus is usually the point at which my Read Through The Bible plan comes to a screeching halt.law

Then I skip over most of Deuteronomy and start again in Joshua.  Let’s go conquer Jericho!

Offerings, feasts, clean and unclean animals and other things, sacrifices, altars, washing bowls, incense, and blood poured out and sprinkled on all kinds of things.  Really?  Who wants to read the Laws of Moses?  The whole system certainly seems confusing.  Complicated.  And extremely exact.  There is only one right way to keep the Law, and if you screwed it up you were guilty of trespass – ignorance was no excuse.

Well, by golly, it’s been at least five years since I read the Laws of Moses.  How about you?  I am determined to get through them… and not only that, but to make some sense of them.  As I read along, I would like to share with you the big pieces of the puzzle – the broader framework that the Laws of Moses hang on.  I hope you’ll find the Big Picture helpful.

The explicit purpose for each law or statute is rarely given.  However, most of the laws are designed with fundamental principles in mind:

The Laws of Moses were designed to teach the Israelites:

1. To honor and respect God above all else,

2.  To honor and respect people and their property, and

3. How to be holy and aware of their separateness (from the nations around them) as a God’s specially chosen people.

The Laws of Moses provided a national framework for what was right and wrong.  As Moses told the people, “You shall not do at all what we are doing here today, every man doing what is right in his own eyes!” – Deut. 12:8

The laws must also be viewed in the context of the life and times in which the Israelites were living.  They were surrounded by death, wicked kings, and nations that practiced child sacrifice.  Keeping that in mind, we realize that the Laws of Moses impose an incredibly high standard of ethical conduct on the nation.  We also find that the laws are unique (for that era) in teaching the value of a human life, the importance of due process, and the necessity of judicial fairness/equal justice.

Indeed, the laws were established for the good of the people.  (Why do laws not always feel like they are for our own good?!)

As Moses said, “Now, Israel, what does the Lord require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statues which I am commanding you today for your good.” – Deut. 10:12-13

We also know from reading Romans that it is the Law that makes people aware of what is sin (3:20), even though our conscience often makes this clear to us anyway (2:14-15).  We also know that no one was ever justified before God by keeping the Law (3:20, 3:28, 4:13) and only Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Law.  And we know that the blood of bulls and goats could never take away the guilt and sins of the people (Hebrews 9:9-10 and 10:1-4,11) and that we are cleansed only in the blood of Jesus Christ, the perfect sacrifice.

So just remember that the Laws of Moses were a framework of right and wrong, were designed to teach important principles, and were for the good of the people.  I am so glad that Jesus Christ came as our perfect high priest and instituted a time of reformation (Hebrews 9:10-11) so that we are not bound by the Laws of Moses!

However, we’re still going to read them – because we can learn from them!

Here is an excellent commentary on the purpose of the law:  http://agapegeek.com/2010/05/14/understanding-the-bible-definition-and-purpose-of-the-law-of-moses-pt-1/

The Question That Made Them Laugh

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A powerful truth about love emerges from grammer questions during a Hdi Bible translation session. – by Cathy Drobnick

NTMAfricanMen“The verbs for a particular African language consistently end in one of three vowels,” Dennis Farthing writes from the NTM Missionary Training Center. He shares a translation story that a missionary recently shared with him.

“Almost every verb ends in i, a, and u. But the word for ‘love’ was only found with i and a. Why no u?” this missionary wondered.

Dennis says the Bible translation team included the most influential leaders in the local community.

In an effort to truly understand the concept of “love” in this African language, the missionary began to question them.

“Could you dvi your wife?”

“Yes,” they answered, “that would mean that the wife had been loved, but the love was gone.”

“Could you dva your wife?”

“Yes,” they responded, “that kind of love depends on the wife’s actions. She would be loved as long as she remained faithful and cared for her husband well.”

“Could you dvu your wife?”

Everyone in the room laughed.

“Of course not!” they replied. “If you said that, you would have to keep loving your wife no matter what she did, even if she never got you water and never made you meals. Even if she committed adultery, you would have to just keep on loving her. No, we would never say dvu. It just doesn’t exist.”

The missionary sat quietly for a while, thinking about John 3:16, and then he asked, “Could God dvu people?”

Dennis writes that there was complete silence for three or four minutes; then tears started to trickle down the weathered faces of the elderly men of the tribe.

Finally they responded, “Do you know what this would mean? This would mean that God kept loving us over and over, while all that time we rejected His great love. He would be compelled to love us, even though we have sinned more than any people.”

The missionary noted that changing one simple vowel changed the meaning from “I love you based on what you do and who you are,” to “I love you, based on who I am. I love you because of me and not because of you.”

“God encoded the story of His unconditional love right into this African language. For centuries, the little word was there—unused but available, grammatically correct and quite understandable,” Dennis writes.

“This is why we minister here at the Missionary Training Center. This is why we teach grammar to the missionary candidates,” Dennis adds.

God is powerfully at work for His eternal glory in many distant parts of the world through Bible translators.

Read the original article here – http://usa.ntm.org/mission-news/52145/the-question-that-made-them-laugh

Thinking About Hell

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DamnedIfYouDoI heard a great sermon on  hell last Sunday.

“Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?  I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” – Luke 13:2-5

I’ve been thinking about hell all week – and rereading C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce.  Here are a few quotes that have stuck with me,

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened. ”

“The choice of every lost soul can be expressed in the words “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.”

“I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road.  A sum can be put right: but only by going back til you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound, bit by bit, ‘with backward mutters of dissevering power’ –or else not.”

Did you get that?  “All that are in Hell, choose it.”  The reoccurring theme here is choices… Little choices, big choices, choices every day and every hour.  Choices to love, to obey, to surrender, to seek truth, to reach out, to engage, to labor…. Or choices to disobey, to turn away, to be independent, to seek our own good, to hide behind falsehood, to ignore, to not love, to be lazy…

Over time our choices will define us and the path that we walk on.

One day we shall come to the end and discover that we have chosen our own destiny.  God, in His grace and mercy, desires that we choose to follow Him… to take the narrow path, the path of surrender and obedience… And if we do He will do everything in His power to help us along, making us stronger, sustaining and encouraging us, and using us to bring about His kingdom on earth.

If we chose not to follow Christ He does not give up on us but continually pursues us… Yet, like a warm coal that is separated from the fire, as it draws farther and farther away it becomes harder and harder to breathe life and flame into it… It cools and eventually there is no possibility of a fire left in it.

God is calling – You choose.  Hell is a reminder that the choices we make matter, right now.

Here’s the sermon: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/fusion-sermons/id554555824 under the title “Hell And Who Goes There”.  He covers what Jesus meant when He spoke of gehenna, God’s love and justice, universalism, exclusivism, and inclusivism, and more.  It’s well worth 30 minutes of your time.

On Brain Surgery and Other Dramas

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12 years old.  Kinda young for brain surgery, really.  One of my best friend’s daughters is having brain surgery tomorrow, December 4th.  Here she is – with her surgeon Dr. Ben Carson at Johns Hopkins today as they get ready for tomorrow… (Rare case of pediatric trigimenal neuralgia, if you must know.)

It’s exhausting to think about.  Overwhelming.  Actually, for them, I think it’s been all that and a whole lot more for the last 4-5 months of trying to figure out what is wrong with KT Rose and how to go about fixing it.  I really cannot relate.  It’s hard to have empathy for a situation that is so far from what most of us ever have to endure.

As I thought about KT Rose and her brave-by-necessity parents… I am not sure what to say.

Yet I do have one story to tell.  This incident was one of the biggest dramas I have faced as a Mom… but it pales in comparison to brain surgery.

Yet the truths remain.

My son Mark had his tonsills out when he was 6 years old.  We were living in Germany and the German hospital sent us home on the 7th day.  In the middle of that night, our first night home, he ruptured something deep in his throat.  There was blood was everywhere – it was like a scene from a horror movie that I couldn’t make stop. I had to call a German ambulance and send him back to the hospital, the one we’d left only 12 hours ago, with my husband for emergency surgery to stop the bleeding.

The adrenalin rush of the crisis was absolutely exhausting, and we’d already had a week in the hospital… I didn’t know at the time that it would be two more weeks until we would finally be free, sent home to rest and heal and make new blood on our own time.

The ambulance left our house with Mark and my husband around 2 AM and then suddenly it was just eerie and silent.

I paced the hallways.

There was no way I could sleep, so I cleaned up all the messes in the house.  I prayed.  And prayed.  And prayed.

Ross called around 5 AM to say the surgery was over and Mark had been moved into the recovery room.

I watched the sunrise around 6 AM and drifted off to sleep finally.

I had a dream, but really it was more like a vision as the details were so clear and it was just a picture… not moving pieces.  I saw myself, curled up in the fetal position, in the palm of God’s hand.  Of course.  The meaning was so clear.  I was in His hand… just curled up, exhausted.  Resting.  He had it all under control.  I could relax.  Sleep.  Let go.  So I slept finally.

(It was another two years before something odd occurred to me.  Why was it me in His hand, and not Mark?  Shouldn’t He have been confirming that Mark was in His hand?  But no, what God really wanted to say was that I was in His hand.  Apparently that’s what I needed most, was to know that He was cradling me.  Comforting.  Protecting.  Controlling.)

I slept the sleep of the dead, the exhausted.

For one hour.

At 7 AM my phone rang.  It was Christa, one of my closest friends in Stuttgart.  She was the one had been picking up my daughter from school all week, feeding her dinner, and keeping her busy until my husband and I changed shifts at the hospital every night.

“What in the world is going on?!” she asked.  “I have been awake since 2 AM – praying for you.  Now tell me what’s happening.”

God woke her up to pray for Mark and our family.

When I most needed help, I couldn’t do anything about it, but God could.

I still don’t understand how prayer works in the economy of God but I do know this – He is in control.  Of everything.  Including waking up your friends to pray for you.

How awesome it is to serve a God like that!

Love, hugs, and prayers to KT Rose.  Mom and Dad, rest in peace.  You are in the palm of His hand.

Sleep as best you can.  Some of us may be up praying for you.

Are You Ready?

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Every morning I holler and wait on my daughter, who is never ready when it’s time to go.  Regardless of whether she got out of bed 5 minutes ago or an hour ago, she’s just not ready.  She brushes her hair, puts on her earrings, ties her shoes, and eats breakfast in the car…  She comes when I call, but she’s not ready.  It feels like I spend half the day waiting on that girl to get ready.

When God called to Moses in Exodus 3:4 Moses said “Here I am” and he was ready.  Even after 40 years of tending sheep in the wilderness, Moses had not lost his readiness.

Oswald Chambers wrote about this last week (4/18).  “When God speaks, many of us are like people in a fog, and we give no answer. Moses’ reply to God revealed that he knew where he was and that he was ready. Readiness means having a right relationship to God and having the knowledge of where we are. We are so busy telling God where we would like to go.”

That’s me, always telling God where I’d like to go, what I’d like to do.  It’s hard to listen to Him when I’m always talking!

“Yet the man or woman who is ready for God and His work is the one who receives the prize when the summons comes. We wait with the idea that some great opportunity or something sensational will be coming our way, and when it does come we are quick to cry out, “Here I am.”

That’s me again, I’m looking to do something big, important for God.  Let’s go storm the castle!

“Whenever we sense that Jesus Christ is rising up to take authority over some great task, we are there, but we are not ready for some obscure duty.  Readiness for God means that we are prepared to do the smallest thing or the largest thing— it makes no difference.”

Obscure duty, small things.  Hmm.  Not so glamorous.  Be he who is faithful in the small things, will be given even greater responsibility.  The small things do matter, I just don’t like the fact that they are obscure.  Not noticed.  But still important.

“It means we have no choice in what we want to do, but that whatever God’s plans may be, we are there and ready. Be ready for the sudden surprise visits of God. A ready person never needs to get ready— he is ready. Think of the time we waste trying to get ready once God has called!”

Oh Lord Jesus, help me to BE ready to do WHATEVER you call me to do.

* My Utmost for His Highest, free online at http://utmost.org

 

The Restless on Sabbatical

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I can’t sit still. I have always been that way. I am busy, I am Tigger, I am always working on something, I am the original hyperactive child. Fidget, fidget, fidget.

Restless – I am restless. The heading in my commentary for James 5:7-12 is “Reminders to the Restless”. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient, strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.”

I do well under pressure, when I am busy. I have been reflecting on coming out of a busy season of ministry – when so much was required of me, when I met the Lord at 5 am every morning because there were so many things to pray about and seek guidance on, when it was “game on” all the time.

When I left Stuttgart, the Lord impressed upon me that the next thing was a Sabbatical Season. Sabbatical meaning rest, quietness, study. I needed it, but I didn’t like it. The Lord gave me four clear priorities for my sabbatical season:

1. NO new projects (oh, how hard that would be!),
2. Support and encourage my husband in this time of transition,
3. Support and encourage my kids in this time of transition, and
4. Work hard at getting back into good physical shape.

So here I am – I’m dying for a project like some people are dying for a drink… But I am on sabbatical. I am trying to be appreciative of my period of resting, but I just find it difficult. (But I do like having time for sports!) I am still meeting with the Lord, and He still speaks to me (usually it’s “Be patient, child.”), and I am loving reading and playing with my kids.

I like the farmer image in James 5:8 – he is waiting for precious produce, something valuable, that will only come in due time. I cannot, and should not, hurry it along. (This is much better than the “Moses tending sheep” image I have stuck in my head – Moses was out there 40 years! Plus, thanks to West Africa, I know a lot about sheep and there’s nothing good that comes out of that…)

Pray for me and my sabbatical – that I wouldn’t run ahead of God, nor waste my free time.

Also, when I started this blog I promised myself that I would only write when God laid something on my heart… that I wouldn’t post every week just to hear myself talk. (There’s plenty of that around!) So don’t worry if I don’t write… I am resting.

What Defines You?

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Today’s guest blog is written by Jimmie Davis, girls’ minister and author.  She’s also one of the most humble women of God you’ll ever meet. http://blogs.lifeway.com/blog/girlsministry/

While I was at LifeWay for a conference two years ago, Pam Gibbs handed me the book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership by Ruth Haley Barton, and told me it was a “must read” for anyone in ministry. I read a few chapters and it was extremely convicting, so I politely put it away not to pick it up again until a few months ago. Since that time, the Lord has used this book to remind me that who I am personally is intricately interwoven into my ministry with teenage girls, but my ministry does not define me.

In the book, Ruth uses the life of Moses as a prime example. She points out that growing up Moses didn’t really know if he was an Egyptian or a Hebrew. He didn’t really know who his mama was and certainly was confused at the deep compassion he felt for the injustices shown to the Hebrew people even though he was raised as an Egyptian, the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. Moses’ built-up anger over his life’s circumstances came out when he saw an Egyptian being cruel to a Hebrew and his rage turned into murder. Moses fled to the desert and had to spend forty years in solitude with God to let the dust settle so he could clearly see and settle his identity crisis. Finally when Moses had spent enough time in silence, God called and he was ready to listen. Moses’ personality, his handicap, his upbringing, his heritage, and his very own story equipped him to go and face Pharaoh, lead the Hebrew children out of bondage, survive in the dessert for forty more years, and fulfill God’s plan for his life.

I’m not saying you have to spend forty years in silence; what person can do that, really? However, I have learned that spending time in solitude before God will allow the dust to settle and you will be able to see who you are and hear God’s call of leadership. In times of solitude, God will remind you that you are not defined by your ministry, but you are defined by His presence in your life. Solitude in the presence of God on your leadership journey will keep you close to Him and that is completely satisfying.

The book also points out that God led Moses to the top of Mount Nebo and showed him the Promised Land. God told him that he could see it, but he would never go there. No argument, no response; Moses was completely satisfied. Barton says, “He no longer needed a role, a task, or responsibility to define him. For him, the presence of God was his promised land.”

This is a painful reality in ministry. We might have a great vision for girls’ ministry and serve long and hard, but for some reason God removes us from our place of service. Like Moses, maybe someone else will come in and take your vision to a new and different level. When the presence of God defines you, there will be no argument, no response; you will be completely at peace with whatever circumstance comes your way. I encourage you to seek Him in solitude today—for that is the place where the peace comes.