Unauthorized

One of the strangest and most disturbing stories (to me, at least) in the bible is in Leviticus 10.

Yeah, Leviticus.  Old Testament.  Laws out the wazoo.  Skipped by many.

No, it is not all boring.

At least it wasn’t boring for Nadab and Abihu.  They were the sons of Aaron, the first high priest of Israel.  In line to become high priests themselves after their father dies.  And nothing tells us they were bad guys.  However, they offered “strange” fire at the altar.

This story has been told for, literally, thousands of years to show how we better not mess up or God will “get” you.  Screw up and you are fried.  And I’ve always wondered, what the heck did they do that was so bad?

Understand, Aaron, good old dad, made an idol for the children of Israel to worship.  Didn’t die.  Later on, some other sons of the high priest Eli were drinking on the job and having sex with women that came to the temple.  And they, well ok, they died too but way after the sinning started.  And Caiaphas, don’t even get me started on Caiaphas.

The explanation given needs to be looked at in a couple translations:

NIV – Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke of when he said: “‘Among those who approach me I will be proved holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.’”

ESV – Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” 

So what it sounds like is, if you are approaching or already near God, don’t screw up, cuz then he’ll GET YA!

Wait, that’s not right.  I thought those who were close to God or trying to be close to God got a little grace.  You know, kind of a mulligan, because we’re friends.

And shoot, if we don’t get that mulligan, why get close to God?  I know for a fact I’m going to fail badly.  Probably better if I just keep some distance between me and the big Guy.  That’s what the children of Israel did when Moses got the Law in the first place.

“You go talk to Him.  We’ll do what you say, but you have the relationship.”

After walking with God for a while, I’m starting to see how I’ve looked at God that way.  I’m starting to see what is meant when we say, “God IS love (emphasis mine)!”

So how do you justify frying to guys for unauthorized fire.

The fire in question was intended to light the censers that held the holy incense.  Incense, burning incense, has always been a symbol of prayer, even in other cultures.  And the fire was only supposed to come from the altar of sacrifice.

The fire of my prayers is supposed to come from a heart and life laid down on the altar.

I want to be a better husband, a better father.  I have dreams and hopes that are yet unfulfilled.  I want to see my family, my church, my friends and brothers, my city, state, country following Jesus, living for Him completely.  I pray for healings to take place, miracles to be seen, truth to be revealed, love to triumph over hate in all its forms.

So what fires my prayers?

The warning isn’t that God will kill me.  The warning is that I will lose my place near Him.

I’d rather die.

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Victory

I heard God speak to me this morning.  Well, I didn’t hear an audible voice, though I’m not opposed to the idea.  I just heard Him speak to my heart.

Galatians 3:20 says, “Now to him who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than we can ask or even imagine…”

I have often prayed for victory, victory over addiction, victory over depression, victory over anger.

Today, God spoke to me about how low my sites have been set.

See, He said He could do better than I can even imagine.  And not a little better!  He said He could do A LOT better than I can ever ask for.

I think He would like to have me ask big, dream big, live big in victory.  Then He could do more than I ask, more than I dream.  He could make my life more than what I’ve ever hoped for.

For me I think that looks like not praying to lose weight but praying that God uses me to breathe life into those who are insecure, who see themselves as something less than how God sees them.  It looks like not praying for victory over lust but praying for the freedom of all those in bondage, praying that my life and witness would be used to break the chains of any addiction.  It looks like not praying that my family would be safe and loving but that my family would burn with such a passion for Jesus that the gates of Hell would tremble when we walk into the darkness.

I can say that I’m afraid of what prayers like that would bring.

I’m going to pray anyway.

You’ve Got To Kick A Little

Anger is so often a negative force in our world. Children abused, battered women, humiliated men, gangs fights, murder, war, all because someone loses their temper.

But, it doesn’t have to be bad. Anger can be used in positive ways. Protection against legitimate threats, rescuing from foolishness, a call to live for truth. When Jesus drove the people out of the temple, I don’t think he was pleasant to be around.

Our humanity gets in the way so much. We want our truth, our stuff, we want, we want, we want.

One of my favorite (insert sarcasm) things to hear is, “well, there’s nothing you can do about it.”  Oh, and my other favorite, “it is what it is.”  A passive acceptance of what should be changed, an apathetic outlook that takes what the world gives and rolls over and dies.

I hate when I see it, especially in me.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (‭Romans‬ ‭8‬:‭37-39‬ NIV)”

When the apostle Paul penned these words, they were not idle, religious rhetoric .  He said it so that, as we faced life’s insurmountable problems, we would know that there is more to us than meets the eye.  Because of the love of Jesus inside us, the Holy Spirit inside us, the power of prayer inside us, there is nothing we can’t conquer.

Sometimes, we have to get mad.  We have to say, “enough!”  We have to determine that, even if it kills us (and make no mistake, satan wants you dead), we will not quit, we will take our eyes off of our own pain and fight for those we love, we will believe God and trust Him fully.  We have to raise our hands in worship even when nothing inside us wants to or even feels capable.

We can always kick a little…

He who is faithful…

Probably, you’ve heard the saying, “He who has been faithful with little will be faithful with much.”

The bible says it this way:

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. (‭Luke‬ ‭16‬:‭10‬ NIV)

I’m going to have to rant a bit now.

Faithful does not me just showing up, with your bad attitude, your hateful spirit. Faithful does not me showing up unprepared, no heart, no prayer. Faithful does not mean thinking only of ourselves, only about what I can tolerate.

I’ve seen it. I’ve done it. Coming to lead worship without practicing. Leading a bible study without preparing. Coming to work speaking only about how I hate this place , how much I hate my job. Leading a program, a department without praying for my people, my staff, my customers. I walk in wanting to protect myself, wanting to not overwork myself, wanting to guard against criticism failure.

I have not been faithful.

I want to be. I think you want to be, too. Let’s do it differently this week. Pray differently, prepare, practice, walk differently. Live like God is living in you, in me.

Be faithful.

Do Not Doubt

“This kind can come out only by prayer.” Mark 9:29

The father saw his tortured boy.  He asked for help and none came.  It went on for years.  Then Jesus – how many of you love those words – then Jesus came and healed.

“Why couldn’t we drive this demon out?” The disciples asked.  They had come to see God’s power in their lives and were perplexed, maybe a bit discouraged that this time the regular things hadn’t worked.  The tried and true formulas had failed.  And mind you, these were people functioning under Jesus’ authority.  Consider this too, the demon shrieked as it left the boy.  This is evidence of a hold that perhaps even Jesus had to increase his efforts to break (increasing on the infinite is something I’m not sure about but at least consider the possibility).

In my last post, I talked about walking away from temptation.  I even expressed in terms that may seem angry at those who don’t walk away.  I don’t apologize for that but hear me as I give credence to what I said.

I was introduced to pornography at the age of ten.  I have lived in that addiction for over forty years but now know freedom.  Yes, and I do mean real freedom.  I still am tempted.  I am still a male.  But I am free.

All the formulas and ideas, from praying and accountability, the gimmicks that so many claim to stand on, never worked for me.  Prayer and accountability are important but I can tell you, if you do it to overcome sin, you are putting the cart before the horse, as they say.  They become gimmicks, and often make things worse, because the end goal is not deepening your relationship with Jesus, but making yourself a better person.

Jesus didn’t die to make you better.  I’m sorry if that bursts a preconceived notion, but it is true.  He invites you into His kingdom, not so you will shape up (He loves you just the way you are).  He invites you because you are His child.  And to overcome sin, for you to overcome sin, was never His goal.

“IT IS FINISHED,” He cried on the cross.  He already overcame sin.  In your life, in mine, sin is conquered.

I can hear you (hear myself) at this point.  “Bull  —-!”

“This kind can only come out by prayer.”

Do you seek freedom?  Do you want healing?  Let go of everything.  Give up your dreams, your hopes, your passions and turn to Him.  Don’t tenaciously clutch your life in your hands, all of your life.  Learn thankfulness, gratitude, for what God has done and is doing in and through you.  Then look to Him.

Do not doubt. . . NOTHING ELSE MATTERS!

Heavenly Warfare

There’s a lot that I wouldn’t want people to imitate about my life.  But one thing I do that I wish on others is my prayer in the morning.  It goes something like this.

“OK, time to gear up.  Helmet of salvation, got it.  Belt of truth, ready.  Feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, on.  Breastplate of righteousness, check.  In my left arm, shield of faith and right arm, sword of the Spirit.  Let’s go!”

I’ve never been one who wanted to use formulaic prayers or wrote memory to reach out for God.  But, in case you weren’t aware, we are at war.  Every day lives are lost, friends are wounded, children are held captive.  And we often walk into it with no word of God on our heart, His Spirit quenched within us, no praises on our lips and no thought of standing in this fight.

We go into it with nothing on.

That’s just stupid.

God is good and He has promised great things for us.  We can live in victory, setting captives free, fighting and winning.  But we better gear up for it.  Arm yourself and raise the war-cry of Jesus.

Don’t worry about being smart or strong.  Don’t give a thought to your abilities or power.  He’s enough.

HE IS ENOUGH!!

Try It Again!

fishnet

Mark 5    4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”

How long have you been doing what you do?  How long have you been serving?  Have you seen ANY fruit?  Have you seen any break-through?

If we honestly look at our lives, we see glimpses, we see times where God has moved.  But it can often feel so small, so infrequent.  It may seem that we’ve, “toiled all night and took nothing.”

Have you cried out to God and just don’t hear His voice?  You’ve prayed and prayed and not seen an answer or even been told, “no.”

Galatians 6:9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

This weekend I heard God speaking, not audibly, but deep in my heart.

“Let your nets down again.  Don’t give up.  I’m here.  I’m working.  Trust me.  You’ll see.”

I may not SEE my nets full.  I may not KNOW what God has done.

But HE IS ALIVE!  HE WILL MOVE!