Good Grief (Leviticus: 8-10)

Grief is such a personal experience, isn’t it? Two people in the same home can’t even go through the process in exactly the same way. Psychologists tell us there are healthy ways to grieve, and there are unhealthy ways. But they will also tell you that, even though there seems to be a common progression,  grief is different for every individual, including the period of time a person takes to grieve.

So, is there an acceptable duration of grief? Should a person grieve for a day? A week? A year? A lifetime?

Two of Aaron’s sons died violently on the same day. Yes, they’d sinned. Yes, they’d disobeyed God. Yes, they deserved to die. But these were Aaron’s baby boys.

If you’ve lost anyone suddenly like that you probably relate to Aaron. He had things to do, responsibilities, duties to perform, and Aaron went ahead and did them. But I imagine he was on auto-pilot that day. I imagine his arms felt heavy and his feet were like lead. I imagine he had to force himself to breathe. At least that’s how I felt on June 24, 2012. But Aaron had things that needed to be done, and he did what he had to do.

He just couldn’t force himself to eat. I wonder how long before Aaron could even look at food, how long before he got his appetite back. We don’t know. We just know that the day his sons died, the food sat before him untouched.

And that made Moses really mad. But Moses did something I think is important for us to consider. Moses went to Aaron and listened to him. Moses was angry until he stopped to understand Aaron was grieving. Moses may have misjudged the depth of Aaron’s grief because Aaron was able to get through his duties that day. I mean, Aaron looked like he was handling things. Why wouldn’t he eat? When Moses took the time to talk to his brother, he realized that behind the stoic front, there was a hurting man inside.

Maybe that’s what we should do when someone is grieving. Instead of going to them with answers, we should understand that they won’t grieve the same way we think we would in the same situation. They may be paralyzed by grief a day longer than makes us comfortable. But their grief isn’t about you or me.

Moses listened to Aaron’s heart, and it appears that he understood that Aaron’s grief was real, and deep, and personal. At that point, Moses stopped trying to force his own agenda on his hurting brother.

When someone in our lives is grieving, let’s determine to just listen, to try to understand or at least accept their pain as their pain. Let’s support them and love them, and pray that in God’s timing they will be able to dance again, to laugh and feel real joy again. And let’s pray that some day, they will be blessed by the memories of the one they have lost.

And if you are grieving, grieve. If you are hurting, hurt. But I pray you won’t go through this alone. Find someone willing to let you grieve, someone who will listen to you rant if you need to rant, or cry if you need to cry, or be silent if even the effort of speaking is too great. Grief is a natural thing when we lose someone. Don’t deny yourself those feelings. (I’m talking to you men, too, you know).

But let me encourage you to get out there again when you are able. I think for most of us there is an element of sadness, or grief that stays with us when we experience a loss like that. But eventually that grief doesn’t have to paralyze us. Eventually we find ourselves laughing at silliness again, rejoicing in good times (and there will be good times). We wake up one morning with joy in our hearts, believe it or not. And we get our appetites back, we actually smell the aroma of baking bread, and taste the pizza once again.

Most importantly, let me encourage to you pray. This grief is very personal, and we have a very personal God. I believe He weeps when we weep, that He gives His strength when we have none of our own, and that His joy is available in every and all circumstances.

Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

 

Call It What It Is (Leviticus5)

Sometimes we can rationalize our sin. We call it a mistake, or an accident, a momentary weakness, or lack of will-power. We might feel better about our transgressions – but God is not looking at our sin for anything other than what it is:

Sin.

That truth occurred to me this morning as I read what God said to the people who could not afford to bring an animal sacrifice. He told them they could bring a handful of fine flour and give it to the priest. BUT… they were to bring the flour without adding oil or incense to it. Just the flour.

They were not to try to dress it up, or to make it smell better. They were to offer the flour in its natural form. It was their sin offering – not a mistake offering.

Let’s stop trying to camouflage our sin. Because unless we confess our SIN, I’m not sure God forgives us. I don’t read anywhere that Jesus died for my momentary weakness or for your lack of will-power.

Jesus died for sin. We need to confess our sin. Let’s call it what it is.

The Presence (Exodus 39-40)

The book of Exodus ends with a description of the Presence of the Lord. Moses and the people had done everything God told them to do to make a beautiful dwelling place, fit for the King of Kings. And when it was done, God showed Himself to the people in all His power and glory.

May we do everything God has told us to do to build His Church, the place where He dwells on earth today. And may his Church, you and I, be fit for the Presence of the King of Kings in all His power and glory.

The More You Know (Exodus 33-35)

One of the verses Mom underlined in her Bible is Exodus 33:13. I love this so much about her, and want this to be my prayer, too:

If I have found favor in your eyes, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you.

So many times my prayers sound more like, “If I have found favor in your eyes, heal me, or pay my rent, or make me happy.” Moses (and Mom) prayed, “If I have found favor draw me closer to You, let me know You better, Lord.”

Reading that verse makes me ask myself about the focus of my life and my relationship with my Savior. Is it health? Wealth? Happiness? Or is it God Himself, knowing Him, growing in Him, loving Him rather than always focusing on His love for me? I want my focus to be on God alone, about obeying Him and fellowshipping with Him. But sometimes what I want doesn’t translate into what I really do every day. Sometimes I’m more about me.

Mom also underlined 34:6, about what God said about Himself. Moses asked God for the privilege of knowing Him better, and in response God said this about Himself:

The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…

God always answers the prayer, “teach me about you.” He has everything we need to know about Him in the pages of Scripture. Do you know the compassionate God He IS? Have you experienced His grace? Do you know that, although God is a righteous judge who hates sin, He is slow to anger, that He gives chance after chance after chance for us to repent BEFORE he drops the hammer?

The more you know these things about God, the more you want to know, and experience. And God never disappoints.

I go back to 33:14, God’s reply to Moses’ prayer about getting to know Him better:

My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.

I want to know more about that!

If You Build It… (Exodus 25-27)

Sometimes when I read the intricate details of God’s plan for the sanctuary, my eyes glaze over. That happened today, and I was finding it hard to hear what God would say to me about these chapters. As I was praying, I felt God nudge me to take a look at what Warren Wiersbe had to say (With The Word; Oliver Nelson Books; 1991). Here’s what struck me this morning page 61:

“God could have made the whole tabernacle in an instant of creative power, but instead He asked the people to bring Him their offerings. They were privileged to make a sanctuary for God.”

I hadn’t thought about that. If God was so insistent on having the tabernacle done in such specific details, why didn’t He just do it Himself? He certainly had the power. Well, maybe He wanted His children to obey Him, to be a part of the process, to take ownership of God’s House.

The same is true today. God could build His Church today by miraculously changing the hearts of men, by using His power to force people into believing. But instead, He has asked us to go and make disciples. We have the privilege to make a Church for God, to obey Him, to be a part of the process, to take ownership of God’s Church.

Now, I’m not saying we have any power on our own. But God is asking us to be a conduit for His power to change lives, to save souls. That’s His plan. Yes, it takes time, effort, inconvenience at times. But God’s plan for building His Church includes you!

And sometimes the building of God’s church (small “c”) includes you, too. For instance, our church is in the middle of a building project. We have the land, we have readied the land, but we are a few hundred thousand dollars short of being able to break ground. Now, some of us are praying that God would move in the heart of a rich benefactor, that by some miracle the money will come so He can build His church on this island. We would absolutely give God all the glory! That’s not a bad prayer. And God is certainly able to answer that prayer today.

But God is asking us to build that church. It might require sacrificial giving, effort, inconvenience in the lives of we who are part of this fellowship of believers. But we have the privilege of building a church for God.

I think God’s plan is a good one, not that He’s looking for my approval. And I love the example the Jewish people lived, as they gave, and worked, and obeyed God in the making of what must have been a beautiful sanctuary there in the desert. Their obedience must have spoken to the pagan people around them, it certainly speaks to me today.

May I buy into God’s plan, and be a faithful worker in the building of His beautiful Church in 2020. As I think about it, I want to be faithful in contributing to the building of His spiritual Church, AND the church building that will house Frederica Baptist Church on the north end of Saint Simons Island.

Because I believe if we are faithful, obedient workers in God’s Kingdom, if we build what He has asked us to build, people will notice. If we build it… they will come.

 

But we had food… (Exodus 16-18)

The problem with the Jews was, they had left Egypt physically – but not emotionally. Look how often they told Moses they wished they were back in Egypt where life was good.

“We had food in Egypt. We had water. We were protected.”

This following God stuff was hard. But the Jews seem to have forgotten that in Egypt, they had been slaves. They had no power, no free will. They were in bondage…

but they had food.

Didn’t they remember that the food they ate was produced by the sweat of their own brows, and the lashes on their own backs if they didn’t work fast enough or produce what was demanded? They were mistreated…

but they had food.

I am going to chase a rabbit trail here.  We are at a crossroad in our country. Socialism is attractive to many who want “food.” They hear the word “free” and they jump on board. But hear me when I say nothing is free. The Jews paid for their food with hard labor. You will pay for yours with taxes from sparse earnings from companies where you work; government controlled companies struggling because of heavy taxes, and lack of autonomy. Those who are in favor of socialism are listening to a millionaire hypocrite, and although fiscal equality sounds good I doubt even you would work eight hours a day to support someone who would rather get what you earn for free.

But what we read in Exodus isn’t just about free stuff. There is an eternal lesson here. That manna that was given from God was Israel’s salvation. That water that came out of a rock came because God provided. Their victory in war wasn’t because they were superior soldiers. That victory was God’s.

The lesson here is that God IS salvation, and there is no other. There may be easier ways to live here on this earth. But there is no other way to the Father, no other door to Heaven. You can take what God offers, or leave it. Just beware. if you reject what God offers, you might have “food” for a while…

but that “food” won’t last for eternity.

 

I AM and Me (Exodus 6)

This year I am reading my mother’s Bible. After she went to live with Jesus in 1996, I took her Bible home with me, and it’s sat on my shelf all these years. So this year, I decided to read through God’s Word and see the things Mom marked, the verses she underlined. Today I read the first of her underlined verses.

Mom underlined the things in chapter 6 that God said about Himself: “I am the Lord,” “I’ve heard your groanings,” “I remember my promises to you,” “I will free you,” “I will take you as my own,” “I am the Lord your God.”

I wish I knew what those verses meant to Mom, what was happening in her life when she underlined them. I wish I could talk to her. I can’t. So I asked God to speak to me about what He wants me to know about these verses that were special to my mother.

God is.

People have tried to deny that fact, but the truth is  – God exists. He is exactly who He says He is. Fighting against that truth is as futile as arguing that the sun doesn’t produce light and warmth, that trees that lose their leaves in fall, don’t bud again every spring. You simply can’t argue against what is.

God is.

He tells us His name is I AM. He is what He is. Period.

When Mom read this passage in Exodus, she seems to have been touched by the personal involvement the Great I AM has with His children, the fact that He is our Lord who hears, who delivers, who calls us His own. He is not a god. He is The God. And He wants to be involved in my life, like a Father, or a Shepherd, or a Friend, and a Savior.

I am humbled at the very thought that the God of the Universe, the Creator God, the eternal, powerful, majestic, and holy God wants a relationship with me. I think I know my mom enough to believe she was blown away by the same thing.

Please take a minute to bask in the precious truth. God, who IS, was, and is to come, loves you, wants to fellowship with you, loves you more than you can imagine, and died so that a relationship can happen. The Great I AM loves me.

And loves you, too.