Forty Days of Jesus: Day 3 Sacrifice

The book of Leviticus can be tiresome to some of us Evangelical Christians. It’s bloody, and incredibly detailed.

The first six chapters are about laws for various offerings–burnt offerings, grain offerings, peace offerings and sin offerings.

Do I really have to read this?

Certain phrases began to sound familiar…like things I’d read in more interesting books in the New Testament:

[Do this] to be accepted before the LORD.

[Done correctly] it will be a pleasing aroma to the LORD.

No leaven in the grain offering.

When it came to the laws for sin offerings, the words came alive even more:

The priest shall make atonement for him/them.

He shall bring to the LORD as compensation for his sin.

If this person sins, he should sacrifice this; if that person sins, he should sacrifice that. Then the priest will do this and that and blah blah blah. I begin to lose focus again.

And then John’s declaration rings in my ears:

“Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

Jesus was the sacrifice who made me acceptable to God, who was the atonement for my sin, who had no leaven, who was unblemished, who made compensation for my sin.

So yes, I do have to read Leviticus because it shows me about sacrifices, and it shows me more of Jesus.

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Forty Days of Jesus: Day 2 Servant

Matthew 19 ends with it, Matthew 20 repeats it in no uncertain terms:

The last will be first, and the first last.

A vineyard owner asked some disgruntled workers a couple of  pointed rhetorical questions:

“Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?”

It was just as well that he didn’t expect an answer—nobody wanted to answer that question and admit they had no right to question the owner. And worse still, nobody wanted to admit that they did not, in fact, want him to be generous to the eleventh hour workers. It was unfair, unreasonable and unnecessary. And what’s more, the owner could have saved a lot of money by pro-rating the wages.

If the kingdom of heaven is like this, what about Jesus? Is he like this vineyard owner? Do we have our ideas about God’s kingdom all wrong?

The disciples may have needed some time to think about this, but the Mother of the sons of Zebedee did not. She grabbed her two sons and got right to the point. She wanted to be sure that her boys would get the highest positions in the kingdom.

Jesus challenged her understanding of what it would mean to be first in the kingdom. There is a cup of suffering to drink from. And besides, these were not positions granted based on good recommendations or a highly regarded Jewish resumé. These positions were special appointments by the Father Himself.

The disgruntled vineyard workers disciples did not hide their indignation.

Jesus had to explain: I’m not like other leaders you’ve known. And you are not to be like them, either.

I came not to be served but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many.

And so He says to me:

Do you really want to be first?

Be a servant.

Do you really want to sit at my right or at my left?

Drink my cup.

What is left for a prideful would-be follower of Jesus to do but to beg for mercy as the two blind men did? To ask for healing. And then to follow the healer.

References
Matthew 19-20 ESV

Forty days of Jesus: Day 1 Immanuel

I am spending these forty days in fasting because it is good for my soul. It is a fast to eliminate in order to refill. It is a chance to return to obedience–to the exhortations of John the Baptist: Repent. Prepare the way for the Lord. Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.

Refill. Return. Repent. Reproduce.

Because I do not hope to turn again.

Because I do not hope

Because I do not hope to turn

Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope

I no longer strive to strive towards such things

I’m choosing this fast as an act of free will, but it is not about me or my ability to keep the fast. I know my place the way John the Baptist knew his place. He told the clamouring crowds clearly: I’m not the one. I only have water with which to baptise you. He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

This season is about creating space for simplifying, purifying habits. Preparing the way.

What am I doing for Lent?

Keeping my desk clear. Writing. Reading. Looking less at the likes; looking more at the Light of the World. Reducing reliance on recognition; increasing intimacy with Immanuel.

The Word who became flesh and dwelled among us.

And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled

• • •

Where shall the word be found, where will the word

Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence

Not on the sea or on the islands, not

On the mainland, in the desert or the rain land,

For those who walk in darkness

Both in the day time and in the night time

The right time and the right place are not here

No place of grace for those who avoid the face

No time to rejoice for those who walk among noise and deny the voice

These forty days are for walking out of the noise and toward Immanuel, God with us.

References:
https://www.esv.org/Matthew+3/
https://m.poemhunter.com/poem/ash-wednesday/

6 reasons why you are reading this post

How many numbered lists have you read this week on digital media sites? Do you ever wonder how those lists are put together? Do you ever question the research that goes into putting these lists together and ranking the information in them? How do these writers decide the optimal number for their lists? And why do people love to read and re-post these lists?

In attempting to understand this list-writing phenomenon, I think I have come up with the perfect list. 

So here it is, folks, the 6 reasons why you are reading this post: 

1. 6. You are reading this post because I put a number at the beginning. I have defined some limits and you know reading a list of 6 things will not overly tax your brain or cause you to miss out on the other 26 posts on your reading list for the week.

2. Reasons. I am giving you reasons, which you like. Reasons help you understand things, even mysterious things like why you are reading this post.

3. Why. see point 2.

4. You. I used the 2nd person pronoun. I am writing directly to you– how could you NOT read this now that I have written to you personally?

5. Are Reading. You are now on point #5. (This is a verb in the present progressive tense, which indicates an ongoing activity in the present–you are doing this NOW.)

6.This Post. There you have it. I’ve gone and convinced you that I know what I’m talking about. I’ve put numbers and reasons and personal pronouns…and you read THIS POST, didn’t you?

*Disclaimer: If any grain of truth may be found in this, I am happy for the reader. This is just a writing activity to help spark some creative juices. Nevertheless, I hope Distractify  picks this up.
#feelinghopeful #tiredofreadinglists #alittlesarcasmcanbeagoodoutlet

What it takes to continue homeschooling

There are just so many things in this house that don’t work exactly right.

Today as I pulled back the half-ripped shower curtain and later turned on the stove light, which now has only one dim bulb working, I decided:  It’s time to make a list.

bathroom tap

electrical outlets (kitchen)

walls (dirty and with patches of paint missing in a few spots)

balcony blinds

bathroom light (it only needs a new bulb)

I could go on.

It seems most days our homeschool isn’t working right either. I could make a list for this as well, but it would be too embarrassing. It would include too many mom-faults and too many son-criticisms.

In the last couple of years, I have often said, “Oh, I don’t read homeschooling books anymore” and “I don’t look for curriculum anymore.” I mean it has to stop somewhere, right? Someone will always be writing another book or presenting another curriculum. And I have so many books and guides and projects that I haven’t even used yet. I just keep telling myself to find something I already have and use it.  And those thoughts come on the good days. On the not-so-good days, I just want to get through the checklists and see some completed workbook pages.

This year has probably been the worst for me. This year, #1 son has to take a national exam (at age 12), which he has to pass or retake again next year. So out of necessity I have too often found myself telling the boys (and myself) to just “get the work done.”  I have had to switch off creativity for the most part (just give them the answer that they want), I have had to drop all the really interesting subjects (sorry son, history and geography are not on the exam), and I have had to focus almost solely on exam preparation (real learning will have be put on hold until October). With this mentality, I had reached a point of no longer caring about good materials or even about why we were homeschooling. We are under siege, bombarded with requirements of the law of the land, who has time to read about how kids learn or how to how help this dyslexic boy with his spelling?

And then that Brave Writer lady had to get inside my head and write this blog post.  Just because I have been homeschooling in one form or another for the past 7 years (or 11, if you look at as starting from birth), doesn’t mean I can now switch off my brain and switch on veteran homeschooler auto-pilot. I still need to read blogs and homeschooling books. I still need to look up ideas for fostering a good environment for learning. I had proudly assumed that I didn’t need those forums or email subscriptions, but I do. I have started reading again. I have been looking at blogs and forums. And I have actually purchased an item or two based on what my son is interested in studying after this exam is over. 

Recently, we have come close to a decision that we will continue to homeschool #1 son for secondary school. So again, I find myself back to researching methods and curricula, reading about the experiences of other homeschoolers and looking for things this boy-becoming-a-man is interested in studying. While I must admit that I find homeschooling a teen a daunting prospect in some ways, in other ways I find it rather exciting.

And in order to rise above all the things that don’t seem to be going right, I have *tried* to start writing again. This is critical for me as it is what keeps my brain alive and my vision fresh and my soul cleansed. I can wax philosophical about the undone housework–or at least put it into proper perspective.   And the insane length of the to-do list need not be the focus of my life. These things are the sandbag-weights for my hot air balloon. It’s time to do them, drop them, and fly. 

Giving Thanks

Is it really that simple? 

I hesitated to dole out such a simplistic solution…

…to her–a former addict weighed down by years of hurt and groping in darkness

…to him–a young man striving to make the Good News known in a place that is filled with hardship and disappointments. p>

I stuck my neck out, ready to be rejected, ready for this piece of advice to put up on the shelf with other advice-that-doesn’t-see-my-situation.

But then, the replies came after a few days of trying it. It was, in fact, the antidote to negative thoughts and bitterness.
Ann Voskamp has already written the book. And she certainly wouldn’t want us to be preaching it as her message, but THE message–from THE BOOK. Do the search yourself. See how many times you find people, especially the God-Man Jesus, giving thanks. Start writing down what you are thankful for. Every. Single.Day. Try to get to 1,000 things. See what happens to your eyesight. You will be seeing things you overlook every day. See what happens to your prayers. See what happens to your heart.

The Ends of the Earth

Our missionary friend was telling all of us sitting there on Sunday morning about a survey trip he took to a border area that was rather treacherous. They were on motorbikes looking for some hidden people, some people who didn’t yet have the Word in their dialect, some people that were hard to get to, even in 2013, even for two single guys on motorbikes.

Then he told us they found some of these people…and they were NOT welcoming. They certainly did not look happy in the photo he flashed up for us. But then, he told us,  they saw it.

“Iphone!”

All of us in the congregation laughed at that. I mean here are these missionaries, who had to CARRY their motorbikes to get to this village, doing their best to mark out the GPS coordinates for future missionaries to this location, and the people they encounter recognize the iphone. That is too funny. An incident sure to get laughs on a Missions Month Sunday.

Later that afternoon, however, as I recalled my laughter and the laughter of those around me, I had another thought.

That isn’t funny.

These young me know what an iphone is, but they don’t know who Jesus is.

And I asked myself, “Why?”

Why has the knowledge of this piece of technology reached that place but the knowledge of the true God has not?

This isn’t the first time that some gadget brought into a remote area by a missionary has attracted the attention of the people living there. Nor is it the first time that such a gadget has softened the response of otherwise hostile people. But they recognised this gadget, they knew its name, and I daresay they had some idea of its use.

I will not launch into a comparison of the Apple corporation vs the global Church. People have looked at this concept before–how Coca Cola managed to ‘reach the world’ or how the Golden Arches went global.

And I do not think we necessarily need to adopt a large corporation mentality in Christian missions. Our goals are simply not the same.

Yet the question remains, “Why?” Is it a lack of funding? Lack of leadership? Lack of concern for the unreached?

Not half an hour before the missionary told us this story, the pastor had exhorted us, ever so gently, not to fix our eyes on the ‘difficulties’ of going out as missionaries. And perhaps behind this exhortation lay part of the reason why world evangelism is not complete yet.

He reminded us that missions is not just an intellectual understanding, a matter of study  or even sending off short-term teams and then ticking “missions” off our list of things a Christian is supposed to do.

We sang,
“In Your Presence all our fears are washed away… hosanna..You are the God who saves us…come have your way among us…”

I can only pray now that He WILL have his way among us–even if He sends us to the ends of the earth!