Thursday, March 25, 2010

Journal, 3/25/10

Reading: Joshua 21-22, Psalm 47, 1 Corinthians 10

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Joshua 22:26-29: “Therefore we said, ‘Let us build an altar, not for burnt offering or for sacrifice; rather it shall be a witness between us and you and between our generations after us, that we are to perform the service of the LORD before Him with our burnt offerings, and with our sacrifices and with our peace offerings, so that your sons will not say to our sons in time to come, “You have no portion in the Lord”’ Therefore we said, ‘It shall also come about if they say this to us or to our generations in time to come, then we shall say, “See the copy of the altar of the LORD which our fathers made, not for burnt offering or for sacrifice; rather it is a witness between us and you.”’ Far be it from us that we should rebel against the LORD and turn away from following the LORD this day, by building an altar for burnt offering, for grain offering or for sacrifice, besides the altar of the LORD our God which is before His tabernacle.”

Psalm 47:7-8: For God is the King of all the earth;

Sing praises with a skillful psalm.

God reigns over the nations,

God sits on His holy throne.

This explanation by the Transjordan tribes really strikes me. They feared that, because of their separation from the other tribes, they would lose their roots in the truth. They feared that their children, who had not been through the wandering and the conquest would not know the great things that the LORD had done, and would not continue in devotion to him. So, in order to prevent this drifting away, they made a copy of the altar as a reminder.

I was also struck by Psalm 47:7-8 because it seems to reflect the very thing that the Transjordan tribes wanted to remember. God is the King of all the earth. He reigns over the nations and he sits on his holy throne. The LORD is the God of gods, the Lord of lords, the King of kings. Despite what might take place with the surrounding nations, the Transjordan tribes wanted to remember who the true King of all was.

The Old Testament is filled with powerful reminders of what the LORD had done for the people. The Passover meal, the feasts and festivals, the sacrifices, the laws, the blessings, the standing stones, this altar. Remember was a big deal. This makes even more sense out of the Lord’s Supper, when Jesus said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” Similarly to the Transjordan tribes, we don’t worship the bread and wine, or the cross in the church, or the pictures that represent biblical themes, but they are powerful symbolic reminders of who is King. How tragic if we were to forget the risen Lord of all the earth, and all that he has done for us.

What am I doing now in order to put reminders into my life? I am taking some steps to do this right now in my office. What about my home? What about my computer? What about my car? It seems powerful to me that it was not enough for the Transjordan tribes that there was an altar in Jerusalem. They wanted a reminder altar in their own space. They could not get away from it. It was there was a reminder whether they went out of their way to see it or not.

Father, what are you guiding me to do in order to remember? Please guide me as I think through my home, my room, my car, my computer, and my kids’ space. How can we prevent ourselves from forgetting who you are and the great things you have done? Please open my eyes to this. You are the great God who sent your Son to be our sacrifice, and who raised him up from the dead in the greatest victory! Prevent me from forgetting this. And prevent me from forgetting the amazing and profound forgiveness that has come to me. And prevent me from forgetting the ways that you have guided me all of my life. The ways you have cared for my family. The way you called me into ministry. The way that you brought Karina into my life. The way that you have purged a great deal of bitterness from my heart. The way that you have provided for us during seminary and during all of our difficult times. Keep my mind and heart from wandering.

I pray for my sons, that you would keep them from drifting from you. Solidify their hearts and keep them committed to you. Open their eyes to see who you are, and to own you as their Lord. Draw them to you, open their hearts to you, give them soft and responsive hearts, and seal them for you. Show them the life that is real life!

I pray for our church, that you would prevent us from drifting from you and forgetting all that you have done for us as individuals and also as a church. Bring us back by way of powerful reminder. Guide Alan, the elders, and all of us as we look to set up the church in such a way that we have these constant reminders before us.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Journal, 3/22/10

Reading: Joshua 12-14, 1 Corinthians 7.


Joshua 14:12: Now then, give me this hill country about which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that Anakim were there, with great fortified cities; perhaps the LORD will be with me, and I will drive them out as the LORD has spoken.

Numbers 13:22: “When they had gone up into the Negev, they came to Hebron where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak were.

Numbers 13:28: “Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there.”

Numbers 13:30-31: “Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, ‘We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.’ But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.’”


Here is the conclusion of the story of Caleb. He was courageous when he and Joshua and the ten others went to spy out the land. Only he and Joshua were willing to go and take the land, and Caleb was the strongest spokesman for this action. Now, at the end of the conquest of the land, Caleb wants to take care of some unfinished business.

It seems that the Anakim were the main reason why the other ten spies did not want to take the land. Now, while most of the conquest has been completed, Caleb notices that they still have not taken care of the Anakim. So he goes to Joshua to ask if he can go and take them on.

At this point, Caleb is 85 years old. When he was 40, he was brave enough to go and face them. His words were, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.” Now his words are, “Perhaps the LORD will be with me, and I will drive them out as the LORD has spoken.”

This is not simply Caleb deciding to follow an impulse. This is not simply about him getting an inheritance for his family. This is about the LORD’s honor, but it is also about something else. Back in Numbers 13 Caleb said that there would be no problem with conquering the territory of the Anakim. After all, the LORD had told them that they would succeed in this quest. If God said that they would conquer, surely they would. Caleb showed simple, courageous faith. Fear did not enter into the picture because he believed God. What other option was there than to believe him and do what he said?

Now Caleb still believes! When he says, “Perhaps the LORD will be with me, and I will drive them out,” it sounds like he is uncertain. It sounds like he is saying that it is worth trying because it might be God’s will. It just doesn’t seem like this can be the case, though, because of what he says next. He ends the sentence by saying, “as the LORD has spoken.” The LORD said that he was going to drive these people out, and that they would not be able to stand against Israel, so why not go up and take care of it.


Simple faith allowed Caleb to act courageously. He was brave back in Numbers 13, and, although the cowardice of the others led to the wandering in the wilderness, God preserved Caleb as a reward. Now, 45 years later it is very simple: Caleb still believes God. So, why not go and take care of that unfinished business of the Anakim?

I want to live by this simple faith. I want to speak the truth in love and in courage. Caleb had no fear of the bigger, younger, and more powerful Anakim because he believed God. In all of the different meetings and interactions I have this week, I want to speak the truth without fear. Fear keeps me from the best thing that God has for me, and it also keeps me from being his servant to others, truly to benefit them.


Father, empower me to live courageously because I fear you and believe you. When I am afraid, I will trust in you. You are the creator and redeemer of the world. Death could not contain the Lord Jesus Christ, and now I serve the Lord of lords. What can man do to me? Empower me to speak truth with conviction and with compassion. Caleb never made it about exalting himself. He had a simple faith in you. I want to trust you in that way. When I am afraid or arrogant or despondent, remind me of who you are. Come to me and guide me when fear and unbelief take over. Empower me to live by simple faith in a profoundly good and powerful God.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Journal, 3/19/10

So, as many Good Shepherd people have been, I have been doing the Divine Mentor reading plan. I have really enjoyed it and I have enjoyed the journalling too. I thought I would start using my blog to enter some of my journal entries.

Reading: Joshua 3-6, 1 Corinthians 4
Joshua 4:10-11: For the priests who carried the ark were standing in the middle of the Jordan until everything was completed that the LORD had commanded Joshua to speak to the people, according to all that Moses had commanded Joshua. And the people hurried and crossed; and when all the people had finished crossing, the ark of the LORD and the priests crossed before the people.
There is so much richness in Joshua 3-6 that it was really hard to choose only one passage on which to focus. This one really struck me, though. I have read this story many tiems, but I think I have missed this. I remembered that the priests crossed the Jordan first, but I had not noticed that they stood in the middle of the dried-up Jordan while the rest of Israel crossed. There were the priests, standing in the middle of a dried-up river, waiting for the rest of the people to cross before them. Then, when everyone was safe from the waters, they themselves crossed.
What an amazing picture of the priesthood! In one sense this certainly was not the normal task of the priests, but in another sense it was. The priests were mediators. They connected the people of God. And, in a way, they stood in the gap and kept the people from God's wrath through the sacrifices and offerings. And here they were, literally standing between the people and danger. The people could cross, thinking, "Well, the priests are there. I guess they wouldn't be standing there if it wasn't safe for us. And, anyway, if it becomes unsafe, they will be the first to be hit by the waters."
The priests lived this way. They put themselves in danger for the sake of the people. They courageously stepped into the gap and mediated for the people. This is such a vivid picture of this.
And then there is the great high priest, Jesus Christ. He stands in themiddle of the dried-up Jordan while the righteous wrath of God, the fallout for all our sins and brokenness, is stopped short. And while he stands in the middle of the river, we all cross over, gaining safety form the punishment of our sins, gaining adoption from the God of all things, and gaining life.
But I don't think that analogy is quite right. The priests stodd in the gap, but God spared them from the waters. God did not spare his only Son. Jesus stodd in teh gap, but the floodgates were let go and he was weapt away by the burrent. He was overcome by the river. He died violently as we watched in horror. And then three days later he rose from the waters and stood victoriously and strong in the middle of them. And the HE stopped the waters with no more than a look. And as they stopped, bowing to the Lord of lords, we were all invited to cross. And they did not simply stop once. They still are stopped up, bowing before the risen Lord of all.
What am I to do with this? Well, in the passage it seems clear that the people were called to cross over. And crossing over was the symbol of their trust and obedience. God continually called them to trust him and to do difficult things. I am called to cross over each and every day and to trust God as I do so. I am called to cross over by laying down my life for the sake of Karina and Matt and Jack. I cross over when I sacrifice for them, trusting that I am taken care of by God. I cross over when I reach out to my neighbors in the name of Jesus Christ, bearing his shame and risking that they will think I am strange or pushy or fanatical. I cross over when I say no to lust and bitterness and apathy, and when I say yes to purity and forgiveness and passion.
Father, save me from apathy. I feel it creeping over me. I feel the tides of indifference and there is a part of me that wants to let them just take me away. I want to stop hoping because I don't want to continue to be disappointed. Please free me from this deadness. I want to cross over and to follow you into compassion and love and hope. Empower me to hope in you and not to lose heart. Show me what it looks like to have hope and yet to live in reality. Your reality. Teach me what it looks like to pray in faith, and not to lose heart.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Quick Notes on Heroes vs. Villians, Episode 1

And I mean it, quick notes.
This was the best Survivor premiere ever!
As ridiculous as he is, Coach is the star so far.
Coach + Jerri = Unholy Alliance.
Neithe Rupert nor Colby are impressive so far. Come on!
Russell is working his magic again. Is it wrong to root for him?
Glad Cirie wasn't voted out. My heart skipped a beat when Tom started talking about that.
Tom is very impressive to me so far. JT too. I thought the winners would be in over their heads.
Boston Rob is a blast.
Tyson and Courtney are on the show purely for their one-liners.
Sugar: Glad she went first, but she had her best moment ever when she won that challenge for them.
I am constantly amazed at the sheer size of James.
Can't wait til the Villians tribe goes to tribal council.
Anyone else interested in Rob vs. Russell?
Go Cirie! Go Colby! Go Russell! Go Rob! Go Steph! In that order.

Friday, February 12, 2010

What I Have Been Taking In

While it has been said many times, I am still struck with the importance of what we allow into our minds. What I watch, read, listen to, all has a huge impact on my thoughts, attitudes, etc.
So, that said, here are some things that I have been taking in.
Deep Church by Jim Belcher. I finished this a few weeks ago, and Karina is reading through it now. I love reading books on the church, and this book probably best summed up where I have been heading in my thoughts about the church. Really great book for anyone thinking about the purpose and mission of the church, and also a great book if you are wrestling through issues related to the emerging church. So worth it. Highly recommended.
Exploring Ecclesiology by Brad Harper and Paul Metzger. Another excellent book on the church. Many of you know that Paul Metzger was one of my professors at Multnomah, and he has had a big impact on me. I was especially challenged, in this book, by the idea of the church being an "eschatological community." The idea is that we reveal what will be to come. One day Christ will take back rule of this earth, and, God-willing, the church now reveals to people what that rule will look like. As a brief disclaimer, I don't agree with Harper and Metzger on their egalitarian position, but I still agree with their overall thrust and message.
So Brave, Young and Handsome by Leif Enger. I read this book near Christmas time, and I loved it. Rich, relatable characters, and a great story about redemption. I loved it so much that I am now reading back through Enger's first book, Peace Like a River, which is even better.
Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer. I read through this book again about a month ago. It is so good (and nice and short). If you have not read it, it is a brief book on the attributes of God. Check it out. Short chapters (4-5 pages each). Very deep and rich.
Timothy Keller Podcast. This was just put up on Itunes a couple of weeks ago. If you don't know Tim Keller, his stuff is fantastic. The two things that I appreciate most about him are
(1) His emphasis on preaching Christ in every passage of Scripture,
(2) His excellent job of dealing head-on with the tough questions that challenge the Christian faith.
The podcast is WAY worth it. If you are into podcast, check it out for sure. And if you like what you hear, go to ItunesU and get the tracks for a class he did at Reformed Theological Seminary with Ed Clowny called Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World. This is also great stuff.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Thus They Plundered the Egyptians

Now the sons of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, for they had requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; and the LORD had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.
---Exodus 12:35-36

The Plundering of Egypt
The final statement in that passage makes me smile. I love it. It fulfills God's promise to Moses back in Exodus 3:20-20: "So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he will let you go. I will grant this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be that when you go, you will not go empty-handed. But every woman shall ask of her neighbor and the women who lives in her house, articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; and you will put them on your sons and daughters. Thus you will plunder the Egyptians."
When do you plunder someone else? Isn't it when you win a victory over them. You are triumphant, they are utterly defeated, and so you plunder them, walking away with their stuff. The thought of a bunch of ragged slaves plundering the greatest kingdom on earth is a comical thought. But that is what happened. After Pharaoh told the Israelites that they could leave, they turned to their neighbors and asked for some of their stuff. And the Egyptians scurried away to grab their earrings and silverware and cloaks. They handed them over quickly, saying, "You can have it. Just leave!" The people of Israel were not only set free, but they walked away as victors over Egypt.

To the Victors Go the Spoils
When the Israelites plundered the Egyptians, they reaped the benefits of a victory with which they had nothing to do. God had won the victory, humbling Egypt, and the Israelites got the spoil. They were invited to partake of the spoils of victory, even though they had not lifted a finger to achieve this victory.
Later on Israel had a greater level of participation in the victories that God brought to them. When this took place, though, they would have done well to remember their initial victory. This would keep them from pride, and would help them to remember that it was God who fought for them.

"This is my body, take and eat."
I cannot get over the parallel of this story and the larger gospel story. We reap the benefits of a victory that we did not win. We are triumphant because Christ has triumphed! He conquers sin and death, and we enjoy the spoils! This is the beauty of the gospel.

And we would do well to remember that it was not our doing when this victory was won.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Sanctity of Human Life and . . . No Country for Old Men

Some of you may have seen the movie No Country for Old Men. It is based on a book by Cormac McCarthy, which I just finished reading. I want to share an interesting passage from the book.
If you have seen the movie, you know that it is a haunting (and violent) story of an aging sheriff growing more and more disillusioned because of the violence of humanity against one another. Here is a brief section from the sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones in the movie). It is interesting to see McCarthy's observation here (emphasis is all mine):

I read in the papers here a while back some teachers come across a survey that was sent out back in the thirties to a number of schools around the country. Had this questionnaire about what was the problems with teachin in the schools. And they come across these forms, they’d been filled out and sent in from around the country answerin these questions. And the biggest problems they could name was things like talkin in class and runnin in the hallways. Chewin gum. Copyin homework. Things of that nature. S they got one of them forms that was blank and printed up a bunch of em and sent em back out to the same schools. Forty years later. Well, here come the answers back. Rape, arson, murder. Drugs. Suicide. So I think about that. Because a lot of the time ever when I say anything about how the world is goin to hell in a handbasket people will just sort of smile and tell me I’m gettin old. That it’s one of the symptoms. But my feelin about that is that anybody that can’t tell the difference between rapin and murderin people and chewin gum has got a whole lot bigger of a problem than what I’ve got. Forty years is not a long time neither. Maybe the next forty of it will bring some of em out from under the ether. If it ain’t too late.

Here a year or two back me and Loretta went to a conference in Corpus Christi and I got set next to this woman, she was the wife of somebody or other. And she kept talkin about the right wing this and the right wing that. I ain’t even sure what she meant by it. The people I know are mostly just common people. Common as dirt, as the sayin goes. I told her that and she looked at me funny. She thought I was sayin somethin bad about em, but of course that’s a high compliment in my part of the world. She kept on, kept on. Finally told me, said: I don’t like the way this country is headed. I want my granddaughter to be able to have an abortion. And I said well mam I don’t think you got any worries about the way the country is headed. The way I see it goin I don’t have much doubt but what she’ll be able to have an abortion. I’m goin to say that not only will be able to have an abortion, she’ll be able to have you put to sleep. Which pretty much ended the conversation.