Tag Archives: set apart

Unrecognizable (2 Kings 16)

I am shocked at the nerve King Ahaz had in regard to the Temple of the Lord. He had been to Damascus, and liked their place of worship (which, by the way, was a pagan temple). So he went home to Jerusalem and had an exact copy of the Damascus altar built, put it right next to the altar of God, and proceeded to offer the “right” sacrifices upon it. He ordered the priests to use both altars.

The king didn’t stop there. Do you remember how carefully God had given the blueprints for His Temple? No detail was too insignificant in His design, and the Temple had been built according to God’s specifications.

Ahaz decided to make changes. He redecorated the Temple and removed much of what God had placed there. Read about it. It’s appalling.

And here is what has my blood boiling today. Ahaz did all this, “in deference to the king of Assyria.” (verse 18)

I haven’t stood on my soapbox much lately, but my blood is boiling. As shocking as what Ahaz did, we’ve done the same.

Now, I know God didn’t ordain order-of-worship, or worship styles. But let’s look at what we’ve done in our own remodeling of the Church. We removed hymns, taken crosses off the walls. We no longer have altars, we have stages. We’ve thrown organs into the trash, and removed the word “sin” from our vocabulary. We’ve taken steeples off our buildings, and given our fellowships cutsie names to hide our denominational affiliation. We’ve removed “Reverend” in front of our pastors’ names and encouraged them to come to church in ripped jeans and dirty sneakers. We no longer have Sunday evening or Wednesday worship services, and many churches have removed the choir loft.

I had a teenager tell me that her peers did not come to services on Sunday because they didn’t like the name “Sunday School.” Her parents agreed with her. Let’s change that hour to “Life Groups.” That’ll bring in the kids! Really?

Why all these changes? Were they done in deference to God? Hardly! The God who told us we have to be set apart, cannot be honored when we try to fit in. The God who is serious about sin cannot be honored when we refuse to talk about it.

These changes were done in deference to unsaved and unchurched people, like Ahaz making changes in deference to a pagan king. And none of the changes made in the last thirty years has done anything to strengthen the Church.

Growing up, church was the single most important activity in my life. We arranged our weekly schedules around our church’s schedule, not the other way around. Our priorities were: Sunday School, Sunday morning worship, Youth Group an hour before Sunday evening worship, Bible quiz practice an hour before Wednesday evening Bible study and prayer time. Does any young person devote half that time to God these days? Do any adults?

No. Church, for many, is nothing more than another social gathering, no more than an hour or two a week, and only if there isn’t something better to do like baseball games and fishing trips. The Church that once was is unrecognizable today.

That makes me angry, and sad. I can only imagine how God views the redecorating of His Church.

 

Nehemiah 1-3; It Starts At Home

The conditions of Jerusalem grieved Nehemiah. His reactions to the news of that great city, reduced to rubble, was to fast and pray. His sorrow was a “sadness of the heart,” as observed by King Artaxerxes.

Nehemiah left the comforts of living in the palace of the Persian king, and went to Jerusalem to see what could be done to rectify the situation there. There are so many spiritual truths tucked into this precious book: How to go about beginning a project, how to handle opposition, what a healthy church looks like. This book is rich.

Here’s what came to mind this morning as I thought about these three chapters: So often I hear people lament the condition of the world, the corruption in our government, the immorality, the blatant sin, the disrespect for God in our society. I hear people grieved at the condition of the Church, bemoaning the fact the Church is losing its influence. I believe some are as grieved about the state of things today, as Nehemiah was at the state of Jerusalem.

Nehemiah went to Jerusalem, rallied the people to action, and the job got done. And here’s how:

People took care of the conditions in their own back yards.

Yes, the wall was rubble all around Jerusalem, an overwhelming task for any individual. But each person picked up a shovel and cleaned up the part of the wall closest to them.

Yes, the world is in sad repair. Yes, the task of cleaning it up seems too monumental. But I believe God would have us understand if we want our world repaired, it has to start at home.

You aren’t responsible for the world’s condition. But you are responsible for the condition of your home, which occupies a portion in the world.

Parents, do you hold your children to a Biblical standard of behavior? Kids, do you read the Bible and long to be right before God? Are you obedient? Adults, do you participate in drunkenness, pornography, vulgar language? Are you a watered-down version of what God demands?

Let’s not just shake our heads at the depraved condition of our world. We can change this world, one back yard at a time.

Feb 8 – Seriously

Exodus 28-29

God is serious about His priests being holy, consecrated, pure, set apart. This is quite a ceremony described in the verses we read today. Every inch of their clothes had to be just so, every bit of a sacrificed animal had to be accounted for, the blood, the oil, the gemstones, the bread, every detail had to be followed exactly as God commanded.

I am convicted. As a Christian I have the privilege of being a member of God’s holy priesthood, my body a temple of God, set apart to represent Him. But I don’t always take my position in Christ as seriously as what I read today.

Maybe it’s true that we don’t tend to appreciate those things that come easily as much as we do that which involves effort, struggle, intention. My position in Christ was given to me through grace when I repented of my sins and asked Jesus to be my Savior. I don’t walk around with that heavy uniform Aaron wore. I am clothed with Jesus’ righteousness.

But I needed to read this portion of Scripture today to remind me that my salvation came at a very high price. What I read in such detail here is exactly what Jesus’ death on the cross fulfilled in my life.

I owe it to my Savior to be just as serious, as respectful, and worshipful as were Aaron and his sons when they were consecrated for service. I never want to take for granted that which cost Jesus His life.

Dearest Savior, I am  humbled today as I read what steps Aaron, as Your priest, took in order to be consecrated for service, and what details were required for the sacrifices. You did that for me when I was still a sinner. Let me serve You today as You deserve. I want to be an effective priest in Your kingdom.

A Lesson From “Space Jam”

The Apostle Paul got me thinking about what it means to be innocent. A child is innocent of a lot of things because he hasn’t been exposed to the ugly side of life. Disney knows this. So they throw “adult” humor in their cartoons and films, believing children won’t get it, so won’t be effected by it. Or maybe they just don’t care if children get it or not.

Years ago I had my five year old nephew for a weekend visit. That’s a story in itself. I love that kid! Anyway, after a day of playing in the yard and eating pizza, we settled down for the evening in front of the TV and watched a video of “Space Jam”. Reed and I laughed out loud at the silly characters and cheered for Michael Jordan like we were in the stadium.

The next day was a rainy Saturday. So Reed asked if we could watch the movie again. He was an easy kid to babysit. We laughed as hard the second time. In fact, as I recall, we watched it for a third time before he went to bed that night. (I might not get the “Babysitter of the Year” award any time soon.)

I took him home on Sunday afternoon. His parents weren’t home yet so Reed took me to the basement to show me a video game he liked to play. He snuggled up next to me on the couch, and proceeded to push buttons on the controller to get the character to the next level. But the character kept “dying” at a certain point in the game. Over and over Reed would get it to that point, then fail.

All of a sudden, he exclaimed, “What the hell is going on here?”

I was shocked! “What did you say?” I asked.

“Why, is that bad?” he replied innocently, thumbs still frantically pushing buttons.

Reed lives in a home where neither parent swears. I am sure he never heard those words come out of either of their mouths. Why he would say that was a mystery to us all.

About a year or so later, Reed and his family were visiting me, and Reed asked if we could watch “Space Jam”. So, we sat down to enjoy the movie together.

Half way through the movie the coach, at a frustrating point in a basketball game shouts, “What the hell is going on here?”

We all looked at each other in disbelief. Mystery solved.

Romans 16:19 tells us to “…be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.” Is that even possible in today’s society? I wonder.

Do you know the names of the Real Housewives? Do you laugh at the characters on Modern Family? Did you cry when Luke left Port Charles?

You have to admit that TV has destroyed our innocence. Have you considered what information and ideas it has put into your minds and hearts? Are you tolerant of sin, or worse, at a point where you don’t recognize sin as sin? Have you thought about what kinds of things your children are ingesting?

I’m not necessarily advocating putting your TV on the curb for the trash guy. That’s between you and God. I do, however, advocate that you and I be careful about what we watch.

We worship a holy God who demands holiness of us. Maybe it’s not such a bad thing not knowing what your coworkers are talking about around the water cooler when they are rehashing the events on last night’s episode of Dating Naked. In fact, your not knowing might speak to someone about their own heart’s condition before God.

Don’t ever apologize for being simple concerning evil. It’s far more important to honor God with our lives. It’s his approval we should be seeking. Isn’t it?

Father, I know that some people will think saying the word, hell, in frustration is no big deal. I know some people will insist that what they watch on TV doesn’t translate into sin in their own lives. But I read what Paul says about being simple concerning evil, and I am convicted. I know too much to be simple concerning evil. I’ve seen too much. But, I don’t have to continue to dump evil into my brain. Give me wisdom about my choices of TV shows, about what I read, about what music I listen to. I can’t unlearn what I’ve allowed to penetrate me to this point. But I can prevent more garbage from coming in in the future. Give me an innocence from today on as I choose to be wise in what is good.

A Tattoo On My Life

Tattoos are the rage these days. I have a friend who got her first tat when she turned 60. I recently saw a boy of about eight with a cross tattooed to his leg. Both his parents were covered in colorful ink.

Tattoos are no longer “Mom” written on a sailor’s arm. Flowers and skulls and dragons and butterflies, even faces and catchy phrases are worn from the scalp to the toes and everywhere in between by a growing number of people.

In Ezekiel’s vision, an angel was given the task of putting a mark on the forehead of the people who were grieved over sin. (Ez 9) Only those few, with the angel’s tat, were saved. Everyone else lost their lives as a result of God’s judgement.

So I ask myself: is there a visible sign in me that identifies me with the Savior? Is it possible to be a closet Christian? Or, like in Ezekiel’s vision, are we to live as though we had “JESUS” tattooed on our foreheads? The Bible tells us there is no other name under heaven that can save us.

I have no plans to ever have a tattoo. I’ve only ever seen one worth having, and that’s my niece’s personal tribute to her brother, who was tragically killed in an auto accident two years ago. It’s the Hebrew word for “brother” that Jesus used when he spoke to his disciples, and it’s on her right wrist.

I don’t want a tattoo. But I want to live my life in such a way that Jesus is as visible as if his name was tattooed to my forehead. May Christ be seen in me by the words I say, the places I go, the things I do, by the very look on my face.

Dear Jesus, I love you. What you did on the cross so that I can be with you is everything to me. Help me live my life so that others know that about me. May they recognize your love, your grace, your peace, your Presence when they look at my life. Convict me when I begin to get off track and may I be quick to confess. I would be honored to represent you today according to your Word. You have tattooed your Name on my heart. May I wear it proudly and truly so that someone will recognize you and want you in their life, too.

How Do I Look?

I’ve heard the account of Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego many times and for many years. But when I recently read about Daniel’s desire to abstain from the kings food, I found myself wondering what it is I am ingesting myself. Not the chips I ate yesterday, or the big piece of angel food cake I had for dinner last night. I’m wondering what it is I’m feeding my soul.

What do I read, watch on TV? What is it a pastor or teacher or friend or blogger has said? The Bible tells me to guard my heart. How am I doing?

If I’m watching acts of sin played out on TV, what is that doing to my heart’s condition before God? If I go to a church with a “God is Love” theology without preaching the truth about his holiness, is that effecting my relationship with God? Is the music I listen to slowly separating me from God’s Presence? Relationships, thoughts, what I do in secret, are feeding my soul.

The difference in Daniel and his friends was noticeable They looked better than everyone else because of the food they rejected, the pure food they ingested. 

I wonder if people, when they look at my life, can tell I’ve feasted on God’s Word and abstained from what was offered to me by the world. I want to look different: better, more joyful, kinder, more honest. I want to BE a person others identify with my Savior.

 

 

My Sacred Medallion

The New Testament tells us that one of the things Jesus did when he went to the cross is make us a kingdom of priests (or kingdom and priests). He is absolutely our High Priest, but we who know him have the privileges and responsibilities much like Aaron and his sons had in the Old Testament.

I don’t claim to understand all of what that entails. There is so much symbolism in the account we read in Exodus 39. But one thing is clear to me, Aaron and his sons took a great deal of care in following every detail before they went before the Lord. Including what they wore.

As I read about the robe, the ephod, the breastplate, and the rest of the required clothing, I was convicted when I read about the sacred medallion Aaron wore on his turban. It was engraved with the words: HOLY UNTO THE LORD. It was placed in such a way no one could miss it.

I wonder if my spiritual sacred medallion is as visible to the people around me. Does my lifestyle scream that I worship God, that I make choices based on his Word, that I am a sinner saved by grace? Do people see Jesus in me, Holy Unto the Lord?

I pray that the days of my keeping my faith between God and myself are behind me. I pray that I will stand out in every circumstance of life as someone who wears Christ’s name honorably and proudly. I pray that the choices I make today will point others to the Savior.

I pray the same for you. May we be a kingdom of priests, set apart, faithful to God, HOLY UNTO THE LORD.

December 19

I Peter 2:13-5:14; Jude 1:1-16

In the 80’s, the school district where I worked was in financial trouble. For two years they closed schools and laid-off dozens of staff. As a music teacher with less than ten years experience, I was expendable. I found out in April my contract wasn’t going to be renewed. All of us who received that news reacted differently. Some were angry and filed grievances with the union. Some took all their sick days and stayed home. Others plunged into deep depression. Me? I kept going. We had our spring production at the elementary where I taught music, and my bands put on their regular spring concerts. I didn’t get caught up in the complaining about the administration or obsessing about what I was going to do.

I was single, had rent to pay, and the bills kept coming in. But I didn’t have a sense of doom. As it turned out, after only one year, I was called back to that same district. And I stayed there for the next 30 years. One day I was sitting around the table in the teacher’s lounge and one of the teachers commented about my lay-off. She said she had watched me during that time and was amazed at how losing my job had not changed me. I told her I knew that the school board wasn’t in charge of my life, that God was in control and I trusted him. She said- I wish I had that same confidence. To which I replied – you can! I asked if she wanted me to tell her how and she said, maybe later. We never revisited that conversation but I pray a seed was planted that day that produced fruit.

Peter reminds us to live lives in such a way that when people ask us to give a reason for the hope we have, we will be ready. Because people are watching. They are judging God by what they see in us. They are wondering if having Jesus in their lives would be better than what they have without him and they are watching us to see if what we have is real.

If you have been on this ‘reading the Bible through in a year’ journey with me, you know that we lost my 22 year old nephew Geoffrey in an auto accident in June of 2012. I am not going to tell you that Geoff was a saint, or that he always did the right thing. But I would like to tell you the verse we put on his tombstone. It’s I Peter 3:8:

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.

You see, Geoff lived his life like that. He was a peace-maker, he was kind to everyone and went out of his way to befriend the down-and-outers. He had a sweet spirit and a tender heart. And he had no idea how incredible he was. And people noticed. People still comment on Facebook or call his mom to say how much Geoff still means to them.

Friend, what do people see when they observe your life? Because they are watching, they are taking notes, and they are judging Christianity by what they see in you. For myself, I want them to see I Peter 3:8 in me. And I pray they will want Jesus in their lives because they see how amazing he is in me. 

I believe if the things we read in I Peter 3:8 are evident in our lives, people will ask us to give a reason for the hope we have. Let’s pray that we’ll be ready to give them the answer and introduce them to their Savior. God bless you as you represent him today.

December 18

Titus; I Peter 1:1-2:12

The older I get the more I feel like I don’t “fit in” to my world. I don’t find funny the things many people seem to laugh at. Like commercials where grown men act like little girls or play “Jingle Bells” in their boxers.

I don’t watch most sit-coms because I just don’t see the humor in sexual overtones or portraying fathers as idiots. My definition of “having a good time” doesn’t involve alcohol. I get angry when I see pictures of sad, abused puppies plastered on TV with the attempt to get me to contribute to the ASPCA when there are thousands of babies – human beings- who are being murdered every day and I don’t see their pictures on TV telling me how unfair that is. I believe legalizing homosexual marriages is a slap in the face of God. And I am sad to think what kind of world we are fashioning for my great nieces and nephews.

I don’t appreciate the trend of churches to entertain on Sunday mornings, emphasizing a “worship experience”, or pastors who jump around and tell jokes. I crave meat when there is just too much puff pastry.

No, I don’t fit in. But Peter says that’s ok. In fact, he encourages us to live as aliens and strangers in the world. He reminds us that God tells us to be holy as he is holy. And that involves abstaining from sinful desires, living such a good life that people will notice and want what I have in Jesus.

I don’t want to pout about not fitting in. Who wants to be around a Debbie-Downer? I want to express my love, my joy, my Savior to everyone I meet. I hope they see me as different. I pray they see me as better.

Dear God, thank you for saving me. I pray that my life will stand out, that I won’t compromise what I know is true in order to fit in to a world that is running from you. Give me strength. And may someone be drawn to you today because they see a difference in me and want what I have in you.

August 3

Jeremiah 46:1-28; Daniel 1:3-21, 2:1-49; 2 Kings 24:7

Lately I have been considering what a life ‘set apart’ means. It seems God has been nudging me toward this idea often as I read his Word. 

People I hold dear have differing opinions. Some drink alcohol, some don’t. Some watch sit-coms on TV, some don’t. Some go to R rated movies, others don’t. 

Is ‘set apart’ an attitude? Is it a life-style?

Daniel is certainly an example of a life set apart. He refused an order of the king so as not to compromise on his commitment to the Lord. And we read that Daniel was blessed by God because of his decision.

Once again I am reminded that as a Christian, my life needs to look different than that of a non-Christian. The choices I make every day need to reflect my association with Jesus Christ. If I abstain from certain things in Jesus’ name I also need to do so with joy, in love.

Daniel’s eyes shown. He thought more clearly and was wiser as a result of his abstinence. And the king noticed the difference.

May others notice a difference in me and want what I have. May they see Christ in me and be drawn to him because of the life I lead.