Monday, October 8, 2012

Beach Front Property

 by Lindsey

Several years ago, as I was preparing to teach a popular Bible story to a group of preschoolers, I decided to open my Bible and see what was actually written—probably nothing too surprising or new, after all, how many times had I taught the story of Noah’s Ark?!?!  I skimmed through the pages starting in Genesis 7and of course, I had all my facts correct.  For some reason, I had decided to back up to chapter 6 and something there really caught my eye.   “Yahweh was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.”   Because the people in the world had become so evil, so corrupt, so plain old nasty it broke God’s heart.   Then I began to think, “Can that still happen today?   Can my actions make the Creator grieve?”  The thought was unsettling to me and from that moment on, I wanted to make sure I didn’t cause Him grief.  

Years later, while writing VBS songs, my lyrics reflected that same sentiment as I sang about wanting to “make You smile” and “make You really proud.”   Also, I had lyrics about how “I can’t wait to hear You say, ‘Well done, faithful one’”– something we talk about often in Godwor.   The content of the lyrics I had written years ago were completely in line with the way I think now, so why did these lyrics get under my skin and make my stomach churn? 

I spent some time thinking about it and I realized that I’d been living all those years thinking about how cool it would be to know  you have made God smile, or to  hear God say those 6 words “well done good and faithful slave”… but that’s it.   I thought about it, I wondered about it, I wished for it… and that’s where it stopped.   I was just stating my goal, with no intentions to even take time to evaluate if I was in fact making God smile or causing Him grief.   It never crossed my mind to do a little research and learn what He likes and dislikes.

How weird—and wasteful, really—to set a goal and never actually take steps to achieve it.   How weird and wasteful to say that I want to make God smile and hear those 6 words, but take absolutely no action.  
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”  - Matthew 7.24-27
I spent a large chunk of my life building a house on the sand: setting my goals, wasting great materials building a beautiful structure on a beach front property.   The difference between the two builders in Matthew 7 is the fact that one of the builders is actually applying what he learned from Jesus, the other isn’t doing anything with the lessons he learned from Jesus.   I understood that I wanted to hear the 6 words and make God smile and be a delight to Him… but I failed to apply it; to act on it.

Don’t waste your time and energy building on your beach front property: learning the Bible inside and out, but failing to apply it.  Instead, make it a goal to DO what Jesus asks of us:  Seek and save the lost.  Go, make disciples, baptize them, and teach them to obey.   Love the Lord your God and love others.   All of those have an action implied:  seek, go, make, baptize, teach, love, DO SOMETHING!

“Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”  --Jesus.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Sukkoth 2012

Time now for another of the 3 major festivals of the physical Israel.  When Israel was camped-out at Mt. Sinai, God commanded this feast in the Torah:

“You shall thus celebrate it as a feast to Yahweh for seven days in the year. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month. You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt.”  Leviticus 23:41-43

And although God specifically tells them the reason for this festival (so that future generations will remember), their descendants augmented the feast over the years with their own stuff, as religious people do.  The article below is from our brother in Israel, who still celebrates it today, and it’s his explanation of it.  Interestingly, the added bits were probably mostly already taking place when Jesus was walking the earth, so that the mention of this feast in John 7 is enlightening.  So read on and enjoy this, but remember above all that although we may live in nice houses, they are not our homes, and they are not permanent.  We are only aliens in this world, waiting for our own promised land with God. 

We are in the middle of the Feast of Booths or the way that some people call it, The Feast of Tabernacles.   In Hebrew this Feast is called “Sukkoth” and it is one of the three major Feasts of the Bible.  It is called also the Feast of the Ingathering.  The reason that it is called Ingathering is because it is the last feast before the full winter comes in and after the spring and summer where the crops from the fields and the vineyards are already gathered into the storerooms and the silos and the wine vats are also full.  Precisely in this rich time the command is to leave your nice permanent home with a good roof that does not leak water when it rains and with windows that block the winds, and go out to build a shabby temporary structure that if it rains you will get wet and if the wind blows it will blow inside the Sukkah.  Well there are some very important aspects in this Feast of Sukkoth – Booths – Tabernacles.

First, Sukkoth is the celebration of our equality and unity.  All year long we live in homes.  Some are rich homes, villas, castles, and some are poor homes, crowded and in ill repair.  When you build a Sukkah and you eat in the Sukkah – you are all equal and all are going to get when it rains.

Second, dwelling in the Sukkah is a reminded that in this life we are all tourists, pilgrims, nomads, wondering through this barren land.  We have no permanent home in this world.  We don’t have any thing to lean on in this world other than the Lord our God.  This idea that we are strangers in this world and just passing through is something of such a great importance.  We can’t really learn to trust God and relay on His promises if we don’t first learn to disconnect and stop relaying on our things and homes and bank accounts.  Sukkoth is the ultimate holiday reminder that we are all like fiddlers on the roof, nothing is stable and nothing is permanent in this world.  The Apostle Paul says the same thing in a very modern sounding way: “while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2Cor. 4:18)

The Third point in Sukkoth that is very important is the use of the “Four Species”.  It is based on the text in Leviticus 23:40, “And you shall take for yourselves on the first day the fruit of beautiful trees (citron) , branches of palm trees, the boughs of leafy trees, and willows of the brook; and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God for seven days.” These four plants, according to Jewish Tradition, are to be held in one hand and shaken in every direction.  There are two reasons why this act is done. 

The first is to show that we are all together, one has both smell and good taste, the Citron or as it is translated in the King James Version “fruit of beautiful trees.”  The second element or species is the river willow that has no smell or taste at all.  The third species is the Palm – palm dates have no smell but good sweet taste.  The fourth species is the Myrtle branch that has good smell but no taste.  Humanity according to Judaism is divided into four not into two.
The Greeks had a two part division – black and white, good and bad, and nothing else.   The Hebrews divid humanity into four – one that is good – it has both good smell and good taste – the Citron.  The other has nothing no smell and no taste – the river willow.  The third is actually in the gray zone – it is not good or bad but – it has taste and not smell, the Date Palm.  The forth species is the Myrtle that is also gray – it has good smell and no taste.  When a person holds all four species in his hand he demonstrates that we are all united and one and one fulfills what is lacking in the other and when we are all together we all have good smell and good taste.  This is also a very important lesson that we all have to learn over and over again.

The second meaning of the four species is the unification of the name of God.  As you know that God’s name in Hebrew has four letters, in Greek it is called “Tetragrammaton”  this greek word actually means “four letters.”  So, when a Jew holds these four species in his hand and shakes them in all direction he actually is in his mind uniting the name of God and being united with the identity of God’s Unity.  It is something that is so special and meaningful to participate in presenting God’s unity and demonstrating that unity with these four species that fulfill each other.

The last thing in the Feast of Sukkoth is also on the last day of the feast, like in John’s Gospel chapter 7 – the last day is the celebration of the Torah (the Law of Moses) and also the feast of water.  There is a celebration of God’s Torah and also of the change of wording in the prayer. From this day – the last day of Sukkoth we start praying daily for rain.   It is on that day and in this celebration that Yeshua said to His disciples: “On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” John 7:37-38

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Lead Me To Some Soul Today

Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Luke 10.2)

Do you understand what our Lord was saying?  He is suggesting that we (like the cat in the cartoon) sit around wondering what we should do, when all that is necessary is for us to look up.  If we’ll just pay attention, and get out to where the harvest is … we will find a lot of fruit – HIS fruit (not ours). 

What holds us back? 

Again, Jesus said it was three things:
  • Worries of the world
  • Deceitfulness of wealth
  • Desires for other things

These are the “weeds” that choke us and make us unfruitful (Mark 4).  We are big, healthy, fat cats … strong and ready to go … but too distracted by other “good” things to actually get out there and produce fruit.  Of course the problem is that "the laborers are few."  

We have committed to be God’s harvesters.  If we don’t do it, who will get God’s harvest?  It will rot and become food for the birds and bugs. 

The poem below is from an old song, but I believe it makes an excellent prayer for us all.  Will you join me in praying this prayer regularly?  If there is work to be done, let’s join with Isaiah and say to our Father, “Here am I, send me.” 

Lead me to some soul today
O teach me, Lord just what to say
Friends of mine are lost in sin,
And cannot find their way

Few there are who seem to care,
And few there are who pray
Melt my heart and fill my life
Give me one soul today 

  This is our prayer - in the name of Jesus

Monday, October 1, 2012

Relationships & YOU

Paul wrote this in Romans 12:
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 

And in Philippians 2 he wrote:
Do nothing from selfishness or for personal glory, but in humility consider one another as more important than yourself.  Don’t look out for your own interests, but for the interests of others. Your mind should be the same as that of Christ Jesus

With those two passages in mind, I’d like to share with you something written by Landon Saunders, which I’ve slightly modified here.  I hope this will bless you and help you to serve and pray and love as Jesus did. 

Any relationship can change because of you.    I believe that is undeniably true.
But it is not true that you can get the other person to change!     You can’t.
The only person you can do something about is you.
You can change, and when you change, the relationship changes. 

A man and a woman had been married for twenty-five years.  At that point, the relationship was virtually bankrupt.  Tensions had peaked.  Children were suffering. 
In search of help, the man attended a workshop on relationships, where he heard an idea that sounded radical.  Having nothing to lose, he decided to try it.  The idea was that he could simply choose to love no matter what, without any conditions or expectations.
He decided to love, again, the woman he had once loved.  He acted on the idea and stuck with it.  As the weeks passed, he sometimes felt he could not go on.  But he did.  She was skeptical at first, then attacked, trying to shake him from whatever game he was playing.  But he was unshakable.  After several months, the relationship began to take on a bit of new life.  At the time he told me his story, he said they had just had the most joyous month of their entire marriage.
Easy?               No  
Does it always work out this way?         No 
The point is simply that change can occur when you change.  And even if nothing improves in the relationship, you will be the stronger for having increased your own capacity for patience and understanding.
 You will also be better equipped for having a life that loves to happen - no matter what happens.