Archive | January, 2012

Reality Check

28 Jan

We prayed for one of our own.  For anointing, power, and fortitude.  Because he was ordained a few days before.

My call to ministry came with an onslaught of emotion – “Really?  God you want me?”  “There is NO way I can do this!”  “I know you are with me – You and me… we’re gonna change the world!”  “How can this be????”

From excitement to sheer terror in tenths of a second!  But gradually, an under-current of adventure and a thrill of rising to the challenge took over, and I was off.  Off to take on this thing called Ministry, called and empowered by the Ruler of the Universe.

Days later, Reality grabbed my feet and pulled me back to earth with arms clothed in petty misunderstanding.  And it wasn’t long before character assassination and my own sin tripped me up and threw me down the stairs into discouragement and frustration.

This week, as we prayed for our friend, my mind ping-ponged between my call to those of Mary and Paul (Saul).  Before Reality had a chance to strike at them, God called him out.

An angel told Mary that she would be the mother of Messiah.  She was afraid (Luke 1:29-30), confused (v34), willing (v38), excited (v39), humbled, enraptured with her God (vs46-56), introspective (Lk 2:19), and filled with wonder (v33).   As she and Joseph dedicated their firstborn son at the temple in Jerusalem, God added Simeon’s prophecy to all that was in her heart: “This Child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.  And a sword will pierce your own soul, too.” (vs34-35)  Up front Mary knows this call she has received is both glorious and grim.

Paul, too, looked into his future and quickly saw the dual aspect of God’s call (Acts 9:1-19).  Struck blind and led to the home of the disciple Ananias, to whom God had spoken and arranged to restore his sight, Paul knew right away he would have the privilege of being used mightily by God and of suffering for Jesus’ name (v16).  In fact, his preaching, just days after God called him, at the same time astonished the Christians and caused the Jews to conspire to kill him (vs20-23).

Then my imagination pictured Jesus– the ultimate example.  The most important and history-changing Call in the universe could not be fulfilled without the most horrific Suffering of all time.

And so we prayed for our compatriot, knowing that God will never leave him (or us) (Mt 28:20; Heb 13:5); that his and our adversity proves we are co-heirs with Christ (Rom 8:17); and that, although we will have trouble, Jesus has overcome the world and all its sufferings (Jn 16:33).

God does not call us for warm fuzzy feelings of significance; the more intense the call, the more intense the hardship and suffering.  So why run into it?  Why push into hurt, abuse, slander, back-stabbing, threats, and even the possibility of physical violence?  Why trade away a life focused on my comfort and 40-hour work weeks?

Simply, to hear two words: “Well done.”

Tomorrow is Sunday (again).  We may walk into a glorious day full of praise for God and what He is doing among the people we serve.  There may be hurt and pain in every conversation and around every turn in the halls.  Or a confusing combination of the two.  Neither changes God’s call.

God, help me to serve, sure of your call and in the power of Your Spirit.  And please use me to inspire those I lead to do the same.  For Your glory.

Chocolate Delight

20 Jan
Delight yourself in the Lord,
and He will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

What do you enjoy?  What do you enjoy so much, that you think about, yearn for, and smile when you remember your interest even when you’re otherwise occupied?  Is it a music group?  A TV show?  Fine Art?  A hobby, like writing, or painting, or scrapbooking, or model railroad building?

For me it’s chocolate.  I’m not obsessed, but I do enjoy smooth dark gold!  As a girl, I saved my pennies until I could buy a 5-cent Hershey’s candy bar at my grandfather’s drugstore.  My little hand passed by the Necco wafers meticulously lined up in their colorful legions and continued over a double row of Wrigley’s gum in search of the dark brown packaging with silver foil peeking out at both ends.  Slowly, savoring each bite as it melted in my mouth, I ate my treasure on the front step.

The purchase price gives away that many years have passed; I have learned much about chocolate since then.  Most importantly, Hershey’s is not fine chocolate.  In fact, I turned down Hershey’s Kisses this past Christmas.  My cultured chocolate sensibilities now easily discriminate between chocolate for the masses and smooth, rich European treats.  I am hopeless in a Confectionery – so many wonderful scents and flavors!  My favorite chocolates fall into two groups – expensive and Aldi.  I let others buy me the expensive varieties, while I purchase a bar a week at Aldi.  I tell everyone who loves chocolate as much as I of my source, and when I meet a fellow Aldi-chocolate fan, our words flow fast and deliciously as we share our love.

The word delight is from the Hebrew root ana(1).  The Hebrew derivative of this root is anag.  The first definition in Strong’s for anag  is “delicate, or dainty”, while the root signifies a response – “to speak, to give an answer,” or to “testify as in a trial” (1).  Combined, these definitions picture someone familiar with a subject examining its intricate and complex details.  Upon finding yet another wonderful attribute or layer of meaning, she then shares her findings with anyone – especially those with the same interest.

As worship leaders we are called to be the most dedicated pursuers of our Lord and Savior.  His being is delicately intricate.  His character is layered– an inexhaustible Source of newness and nuance that calls us to come to Him.  He calls everyone to this level of intimacy, to be sure, but without diligently seeking a deep relationship with Him, how can we lead others there?  Without hungering for His presence where we discover more of who He is, how can we have fresh excitement and energy to give an informed, true, and passionate declaration of Him?

Formulas and how-to directives don’t impress me, and yet I know that chocolatiers follow very precise procedures to create their sweet treasures.  Similarly, the study of anag suggests a recipe for worship: discovery+declaration=delight.

May we never tire of seeking our Lord and declaring His praises.  And in this, He will give us the desire of our hearts.

1 – Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, #1648

2- Strong’s Enhanced Lexicon H#6026

Post script

Delight is mentioned three times in Psalm 37 (vs. 4, 11,and 23) and is contrasted with fret not, also used three times in the psalm (vs. 1, 7, and 8).  The beginning of delighting in the Lord is to trust him (v. 3) and to fret not.  This week I will be taking note of fretting and replacing it with delighting.  And shopping at Aldi.

The life is in the bones

14 Jan
All my bones shall say:
    O Lord, who is like you…     Psalm 35:10
 

Stopping short on this verse, folded inside David’s cry for deliverance, I wondered aloud, “How do bones sound when they praise God?”

My question prompted a 2-day archaeological dig through Scripture searching for bone references.  Carefully, I brushed the dust of familiarity away from well-known verses–

  • Adam said that Eve was “bone of my bones” after God created her from one of his ribs (Gen 2:23).
  • Ezekiel spoke the Word of the Lord over the dry bones in the valley, and they came back to life as a vast army (Ezek 37:1-14).
  • None of the bones of a Passover Lamb could be broken (Ex 12:46) which foreshadowed the prophecy about Jesus on the cross (Ps 34:20; Jn 19:36).

But my question remained – what do bones sound like when they praise their Maker?

I dug further into the layers of the Word.

Relationship

While we say, “flesh and blood” to describe close family ties, the Hebrew phrase throughout the Old Testament is “flesh and bone” (2Sam 5:1, among many others).  This is the absolutely strongest relational tie.  My bones praise God because I am His– He created me (Ps 139:13-14); He has adopted me (Rom 8:15); I am a co-heir with Christ (Rom 8:17).  Already, I feel praise and thanksgiving to Him rising up in my bones!

Strength

From a purely organic perspective, bones are the strongest part of our bodies.  When my dad’s remains were scattered beside his favorite wilderness lake, we were told to keep our distance because his ashes included bone fragments the crematory fire could not burn up.  (The pastor didn’t want us to freak out if we caught a glimpse of pieces that used to make up his body.)  The Bible speaks of the blessing of strong bones.   Strength is paired in Proverbs 3:7-8, and elsewhere in Scripture, with wisdom (most notably – Rev 5:12).   My physical strength praises Him (I have a sudden urge to run around the room and do push-ups!); as does the foundation of strong character based on Godly wisdom.

Any wisdom I possess is from God and for His praise.  Relying on my own wisdom always gets me in trouble – it saps the Godly strength available to me.  David had the same problem.  In his anguish when confronted with his sin, he felt as if God had crushed his bones (Ps 51:8).  Oh that I would rely solely on God’s wisdom and my bones would rejoice!

Life

Over the last few months we watched our neighbor across the street fight against the deadly assault of leukemia.  His doctors used all the weapons in their medical arsenal, but remission remained elusive – too elusive for the bone marrow transplant he desperately needed.  New, healthy blood cells grow in the marrow, continuously replenishing life.  Ironically, he was not healthy enough to withstand the procedure that would restore his blood and give him new life.

In several places the Bible says that the life is in the blood.  The metaphor of sacrificial blood being shed to pay for sin and bring new life is unmistakable.  But the actual physicality is just as compelling – the life is in the blood, and the blood comes to life in the center of the bones.  Therefore, the source of life is, literally, in the bones.  (Excuse me while I go get a drink of milk!)

Our Western culture elevates the heart as the source of life.  While it is true that life ceases when the heart stops beating, this muscle is simply a delivery pump for the life-giving blood.  Bones are the life-source for the source of life.   This gives loving the Lord with all my “heart, soul, mind, and strength” deeper shades of meaning (Deut 6:5; Luk 10:27).  I love Him with the deepest and newest fibers of my being, with my very life as it is continually renewed at the cellular level without my conscious involvement or awareness.  New blood cells even now are flowing from my marrow into the tiny capillaries that infuse my bones, and I hear humming emanating from my bones like chant flowing from a stolid cathedral at Matins.

Another question

My understanding of the three verses at the top of this post also expands in light of these other passages.  Eve was bone of Adam’s bone – she was as close to him relationally as it was possible to be and still exist as a separate person.  She was created out of the strongest part of his being and from the source of his life.  Ezekiel’s dry-bone army was rebuilt as strength and life flowed into them from the Spirit of God– a prophecy of hope when Israel had none.

None of Jesus’ bones were broken when He was on the cross so that the Old Testament prophecy mentioned above would be fulfilled.  But why was the prophecy given at all?  Why would it be important in the glorious story of redemption that Jesus’ bones remain intact?  His blood, shed for me, was produced and protected in His human bones, bones His Father protected from being broken during His Crucifixion.  Could it be that God created this system– the strongest living tissue producing and protecting the source of life– to be ready for the most precious substance in all His creation: the blood of His only Son?

I am in utter awe.

What bones sound like

I still can’t describe the sound, but as long as I have breath, the rocks will not cry out– all of my bones will say: WHO IS LIKE YOU, O LORD!

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