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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Porn and Abortion

Natural design, intended design have been on my mind lately.  Looking at a thing, an animal, a person’s design tells you many things.

The recent, overwhelming availability and use of pornography and abortion have been weighing on me too.  And I’m seeing some similarities that are warning me.

I hate when I sound like a lecturer in college.  Intellectual, no heart, discussing, objectively, the facts regarding the tools used to destroy marriages, families, children, babies.

The original, intended design for love, for sex, for marriage, was to touch, to relate, to bring life.  The act of falling in love was surrounded with connection, with intimacy, with bonds that could not, should not be broken.

These two, the great sins of the twent-first century, go against that design.

In times past, we had adultery, we had the, “ripping open of pregnant women,” lust and murder were fully developed.  But all of them require touch.  A simple thing called touch.

Now we can have sex with someone without ever coming into contact with them.  There is no possibility of disease, or pregnancy, or life.  We can take the act of Alex and remove the possibility of ever holding a child, teaching them, protecting them.  We can have what we want without any of the responsibilities, the repercussions, the relationship.

And we are worse for this.

We walk through our neighborhoods disconnected, our jobs and our churches with no friendships, no connection, no touch.

And we are worse for it.

We were never designed for this.  We were never intended for this.

Put down the remote, put down the magazine, the technology, the knife that is destroying us all.  Hold her hand, hold the child, hold the life God gave you.

Make your life count.

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!

He Held My Hand

My friend.

We had walked together for what seemed like so short a time, and now he was dying.  Cancer had come back with a vengence and he was hurting so bad.

I had an accident the day before and my hand was broken.  I was in pain myself but nothing compared to what he was going through.

So, as he was dying, he asked to take my hand, to hold on to his friend for a little while and ease the pain a bit.  With each wave of agony he faced, he would squeeze so hard.  Then he would release as the fury of that silent monster would abate.

And I took the pain.  Not because I’m a hero, not brave, not strong.  I took it because he was my friend.

I look at my hand from time to time, seeing the flaws in the healing, knowing my hand was never the same again.  And I realize that’s why God put us together, all of us.  When we hurt, we often cause pain to others, we create deformities, broken places.  But it is our honor, our priviledge to share in these sufferings.  It is not the time to isolate, to reject, to protect yourself – barring the abusive relationship to be sure.  As we are hurting, we share in the pain, allowing ourselves to be hurt.  Yes, laying down our lives.

It is how we see Jesus.

Time Away

“It’s like a marriage.”  She looked at me and said, “sometimes you just need to get away from each other.”

At the time I was neither married nor given in marriage and my prospects looked dim but somehow what she said sounded so wrong.  For me, the idea of once getting a wife seemed so amazing that I thought I’d never let her out of my sight.  Why would you willingly choose to spend time away from your hearts desire, the love of your life?  It was akin to saying, “I just need some time away from my brain.”  Now after 23 years of marriage, I think I’m right.

But, of course, she was talking about time away from God.  Her attempt was to logically explain why sin is so important to the believers continued relationship with God.  The idea being that as we take time away from God to do our own thing, to “live a little,” it makes the disciplines and rigors of Christianity more bearable, more attainable.  It makes me shudder to think of what married life turned out to be for this person (she wasn’t married at the time either). 

But we all fall into this mentality from time to time.  If I just do this one sin, this one, “going my own way,” then I’ll feel better, calm down enough to stand for Jesus.  “I just can’t take anymore of this temptation.  If I give in this one time, that will get Satan and my flesh off my back and they won’t bother me anymore.” 

I know you’ve never put it in those terms.  I haven’t either but my actions reveal the truth.

But there was a nugget in what she said.  Our relationship with Jesus is like a marriage.  And just like a marriage we don’t need time away FROM our spouse, we need time away WITH our spouse.  We need daily time to talk over what is happening, to plan for what is coming, to pay the bills and talk about the kids.  We need time to tell them how beautiful they still are and how much we still care.  They need to know that we would give up everything for them, lay down our lives for them.  And we need to hear what they have to say, to know their heart, their mind, get reconnected.

Doesn’t happen by chance.  Doesn’t happen easily or naturally for most of us.  We have to make it happen.  Want it bad enough that we make it happen.  Everyday.

The Power of Love

What is happening with the family today?  I’ve seen so many children that are chewed up in grinder of divorce.  I see them go from happy, silly, wonderful kids to depressed, angry, addicted young men and women.  Life happens, and everything isn’t the parents fault but I can tell you what makes a difference – love.  Simple, cliched, churchy answer that somehow gets lost in the struggle to know what love is, what it looks like but the truth is, love changes the rules for everything.  So many of us have made choices throughout our lives that should leave us hopeless, despairing, giving up on what is precious to us.  But then love enters and we find a reason to go on.  The children are left with holes in them, parts of their psyche that are simply missing without a father to fill those gaps, a mother to help them grow.  But love enters and we see that our lives do hold value, we have a purpose and a destiny.

“So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss…”

The lines to a song that show so poingnantly how God shows Himself to His children.  God does not love us as a distant, aloof creator that seeks merely to draw those worthy enough to His side.  In the act of Jesus’ sacrifice we see His willingness to give all to win us.  But, in one sense, it didn’t end there.  He meets us today with touches of His love.  A song, a scripture, a word from a friend…the sunrise, a rain shower, a hand holding mine, all show that God is present and active.  But do you see that we are an active part in so much of how God chooses to demonstrate His love.  We can not solve all the world’s problems – I’m not sure we’re supposed to.  I think we start by looking for Him and believing that He is there.  Then we move to seeing the needs of those hurting around us – even though we are hurting.  As we try to find our way in this maze, we guide people along the way.  The blind leading the blind but we can feel His warmth on our face.  We speak His truth.  We tell of His love.  We demonstrate it through kindness and touching those God brings into our path.  We see His love as we show love.  Then we are joined to His heart, caught up in the whirlwind of His presence.  Then we have and give LIFE!

HEY! I’m married!

In October of 1987 I observed the prettiest smile I had ever seen.  It came attached to a girl.

It was at my sister’s wedding and this particular girl happened to be the sister to the groom.  Couple this with the fact that I was in the military and she was a staunch Mennonite left little doubt that I had no shot at this one.  It didn’t stop me from trying to talk with her and find out more about her.  But, in finding out more, I realized all the more how far out of reach she was.  The reality that she is now my wife doesn’t negate the miracle that she said yes.

The story of how she came to be mine, or I came to be hers, is not the critical issue for this discussion.  And please don’t take this as an intellectual exercise.  How I am shown to be a bitter worshipper is largely seen through the lens of my marriage.  It is essential for us to see our relationship with God mirrored in the relationships we have with all His gifts and none more so than the relationship with our spouse.

Do I trust Him?  Do I trust her?  Am I willing to lay my life down for Him?  Her?  Do I see Him as the enemy, always out to get me?  It is easy and “churchy” to say no.  But how do I treat my wife?  I guarantee you that if you think of your wife as a foe, you are looking at God the same way.  Is she the only resource you look to for your needs and desires?  Is she the passion of your heart?  It is by the provision of our Savior that we have our spouse and she is the answer to our needs, desires and prayers.  We trust Him as we trust in what He has provided.

I’m not equating God with my wife.  And I am saying the same thing to women as I am to men.  And I do understand that abuse happens, infidelity and neglect.  But if I am jaded and bitter because of what humanity has done to me, then I have made my God too small.  “Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world (John 16:33).”

He remains victorious, despite what I see, what I feel, what I hope for.  He is King in every area.  God, look deep into my heart.  Show me where I know the truth but live according to lies.  Lead me to lay down my life, take up my cross and live through Your resurrection.  And with all my heart I pray, let me live this way with her.