Tonight was the last Sunday night service at Energizer – at least for the foreseeable future.
It was a good night though. We had “our” One50 Dancers come and perform at church tonight, and they were great again!
There was one little piece of message that one of the girls from One50 shared, that I was really struck by in particular. She talked about being on the bus, travelling through Tasmania and looking out at our mountains.
For those who don’t know, Tasmania’s beautiful, and has some amazing mountains.
But anyway, she said that as she looked at the mountains, she could see them as the problems that we face. We face all sorts of problems every day, and sometimes we stare up at them like we’re at the foot of a mountain, and just shake our head thinking that there’s no way that we can climb it. As we look at the mountains, though, we can remember that someone has already climbed it before us; they’ve proven that it can be done. We can be assured that as we stand at the foot of that mountain, that someone’s gone before us and already reached the top, they’ve shown that the mountain can be scaled.
She also pointed out that it’s just a single step at a time. We don’t have to run up the mountain, we can just take it one small step at a time. It may take us a while to get to the top, but if we just concentrate on each little step, then eventually we’ll make it.
I was really touched and encouraged by this.
So as I read about Bezalel and Oholiab I came back to thinking about gifts and talents that God gives us. God says to Moses that he has filled Bezalel:
“And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts – “ ~ Exodus 31:2
We’ve all been given gifts, skills, abilities and knowledge – and Bezalel was given these gifts, specifically so that he could build God’s meeting place. You’ve got to think, the stuff that this guy had to make was pretty intense and detailed; he was making items to actually present directly to God himself! That, I would think, would be pretty intimidating.
Wow, interesting interruption – God’s just interrupted my thougth process to point out that he doesn’t care about what quality of work we think we can offer him. He only cares that we do.
I’m getting this picture of a parent, whose daughter comes home with a finger painting telling dad that the painting’s a portrait of him. Of course it doesn’t look anything like him, it’s just a massive swirl of blues, reds, yellows, greens, oranges, pinks, all mixed together to make a myriad of other shades and colours. That’s not what the Dad sees, though. He looks down at his daughter, holding up the painting and all that he feels is warmth, admiration and love, it fills his heart and swells in his chest, because his daughter painted this picture of him.
And that’s the way God looks at it. He’s given us gifts, and even though we might feel that what comes out when we use them is nothing more than a messy swirl of colours, God doesn’t see that. He sees us using that gift for him; he sees the painting as a testimony of our love and adoration for him, and he returns that adoration and love straight back to us.
He is a father, adoring of his children, every one.
Today’s been good.
Okay, not great. I’m not 100% well, and I hate feeling unwell; especially on a weekend! We should be able to claim sick leave even if it’s during a holiday/weekend period.
But this morning I spent some time on my own with God, it was good. Really good in fact.
Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m not really well, but this is another chapter I’m struggling to get much out of.
I had a bit of a chuckle at the details that were required for the incense, and that the Incense Altar was right in front of the curtain that guarded the Testimony. I mean, I love my steak – but the amount of cooking and burning meat that these guys were offering up? I’d want to have incense burning right under my nose, too.
I had to think about the process of the Atonement Money though, for quite some time. During a census, each of the Israelites were to give a half shekel for atonement, or a ransom for his life. The NIV translation talks about the people crossing over, though.
My first thought of people ‘crossing over’ comes down to actually dying – crossing from life into death. So I wasn’t sure exactly how to take this passage. Is a half shekel payable at the census? Or when someone dies?
Turns out as I re-read the passage, it’s like a line in the sand sort of thing. Have all the Israelites stand on one side of the line, and then someone standing there with a tablet to tally the numbers. Every person crosses the line and is counted at that point, and pays their ransom as they do.
Censuses must have taken a long time.
I do like something that God deliberately points out in this passage, though. He says clearly that the rich are not to give more than half a shekel and the poor are not to give less. In other words wealth matters nothing to God, when it comes to the value of our lives.
I’ve spoken about my thoughts on prosperity before, there’s an article just to the left (still, at present, the only one) about it. I think particularly in today’s society, it’s very easy to determine a person’s value – as an actual person – by the value of their possessions.
God doesn’t determine the value of a person by their possessions, though – and he actually makes this very clear by stating that every single person is to make the same payment, regardless of their financial stature.
It doesn’t matter what we think of ourselves. It definitely doesn’t matter what others might think of us. Before God, we are all equal, and all worth exactly the same.
Wow, I’m exhausted – and the logical thing would be for me to go to sleep, but once again I’m committing myself to actually doing this study of the word.
To some people it might sound like I’m not doing much – only reading a chapter a day, it’ll take three and a half years to get through the bible, all that kind of stuff. However, for my perspective, I’m actually absorbing what I’m reading because I’m actually doing these little commentaries on it. I know that it’s bringing me closer to God, and I actually feel the connection through really absorbing what he’s said, moreso than I ever did in my previous life of just reading – usually late at night – and then falling asleep.
Tonight was great. Helped out with Energizer Youth who brought the One50 Dance Team from Adelaide to perform at YouthArc in Hobart. They were fantastic.
I’m not a dancer, so to be honest, perhaps that’s why I’m so amazed whenever I watch it – because it’s just not something that I can do! I do really enjoy watching it though, even if I can’t necessarily interpret what it actually means, and can only dream of actually being able to do it. We all have our own gifts, and I had the realisation last night, that that’s a good thing. We admire the gifts in others, but at the same time, we need to recognise that we have our own gifts too.
And if it wasn’t for the variety of gifts and talents that God created us with, well, how would we actually be able to appreciate other people? I’m a writer, and therefore I find that I’m a lot more critical of other writers, and to be honest, sometimes find it difficult to enjoy books that other people really love! However, I could watch someone who is a below average dancer, and all I see is “Wow, I can’t move like that – that’s awesome.”
One50 were far from below average, so I was just even more impressed!
Quite often, it seems, God points two main things out to me as I read a chapter in this Bible Journey. Tonight, again, is two things.
The main thing that I just found as I was reading this chapter, was how arduous and long and detailed the process of atonement was! I mean, seriously, it was a week of sacrificing a variety of different animals. You really wouldn’t want to be a vegetarian Israelite, that’s for sure.
What really stands out to me though is the difference between then and now. I mentioned not too long ago (maybe last night?) about the fact that we can now come into God’s presence without fear. Through Jesus’ sacrifice, God opened up the door back to us, so that we could enter his throne room as the children that he created us to be. We’re not snivelling peasants crawling on hands and knees in terror that if we say the wrong thing, or bow the wrong way, or look at the wrong person then the king will have our heads removed. No, we’re sons and daughters of God, the King of Kings, and we can enter his presence just like that, as children approaching a loving father.
It wasn’t the case for Aaron. Without the perfect sacrifice that was Jesus, they had to do what they could with the blood of bulls and rams and other animals to be atoned and cleansed enough to enter God’s presence.
Which brings me to the next point. The meal.
“At the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, Aaron and his sons are to eat the meat of the ram and the bread that is in the basket. They are to eat these offerings by which atonement was made for their ordination and consecration. But no one else may eat them, because they are sacred.” ~ Exodus 29:32-33
Parallel much? Perhaps with the Last Supper, or communion that we now celebrate.
There are – in this second point – two things that stand out to me again!
First, the power of blood. Aaron and his sons had to be sprinkled with blood to be consecrated and able to present themselves to God. Jesus’ blood, the perfect sacrifice, is enough to consecrate us to present ourselves to God. Blood, the very essence of life – giving up life is the only way to cover the price of sin; which is death.
Second, consumption. This sounds a little weird, but Aaron and his sons ate the sacrifice of the ram and the bread for their ordination and consecration. In consuming the symbols of our redemption and consecration, we are accepting them into our very being. We allow them to become part of us, so that we then can be filled with that consecration and atonement.
The parallel of Jesus and communion alongside this meal that was eaten by the priests really stands out to me.
Perhaps a little heavy on the theology tonight, I apologise. Not bad given that an hour ago I was ready to pass out!
Today was slightly better.
A poem that has always been a favourite of mine has been the “Footprints” poem, it’s fairly well known, but I’m going to post it here anyway:
One night I dreamed that I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints int he sand.
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints,
other times there were one set of footprints.
This bothered me, because I noticed
That during the low periods of my life,
When I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat,
I could only see one set of footprints.
So I said to the Lord,
“You promised me, Lord,
That if I followed you, You would walk with me always.
But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
There have only been one set of footprints in the sand.
Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied,
“The times when you have seen only one set of footprints,
That is when I carried you.”
Well, what to say – only one thing really. I really have felt the Lord carrying me through the past few days. I have had things just coming at me from all angles, but instead of being overwhelmed, I’ve managed to come through most of it fairly unscathed. Which is a lot better than I can say I would have done in past years.
Still, it’s not easy, but then, neither is life. God does carry us though, I’ve felt it so much over the past two days especially. He cares, even if we don’t necessarily want him to.
You know, one thing that struck me as I was reading this – was clothing.
How we dress for an event does, to some extent, portray also how we actually perceive that event. When attending a wedding, most people will at least dress up to some extent. Suit, shirt and tie, or at least the pair of jeans that doesn’t have holes in the knees. I’ve never really given consideration to the “Sunday Best” attitude of dressing up, in the sense of, back in the day at least, people would get suited up and make themselves highly presentable for church on Sunday.
I’m guilty of perhaps not putting as much effort in to go to church as maybe should be warranted. I don’t know – a topic to discuss: How much respect is shown through how we present ourselves?
Anyway, look at Aaron’s outfit. The guy had all sorts of things to put on. They spared no expense or detail when it came to the outfits they should wear when coming into the presence of God.
And how different was it at the time? Now we can come boldly into the presence of God! Aaron’s garment, though, had to have bells woven into it, so that everyone else could hear him moving while in God’s presence, because if they stopped ringing, he was dead.
Not much to say tonight. Good day, bad day, just want to sleep.
This place is big.
God tells them to make a courtyard – which I find kind of funny, because really, they’re making the boundaries that form the courtyard, the courtyard itself is just the space inside them.
Still, almost fifty metres long and half that wide. It’s movable, so each time they actually stop, they have to set it up so that the East end faces East, and so on.
So much went into this. Tonight I heard a leader in our church speak about the reason we needed a Saviour. Why did Jesus actually need to come? And one of the things he spoke about was all the ritual and requirements to relate back to God under the law. To actually come into God’s presence was not possible for someone of my standing in the world, it just wasn’t going to happen.
I’m just reminded of that as I think about how big and ornate the Tabernacle actually was: a great big bronze altar which, like the other things, was to be carried around on poles; these curtains to form the courtyard around the tabernacle were huge linen cloths; pure clear olive oil for the lamps… It wasn’t a simple process even just to maintain the place, let alone get to the point of accessing God.
Short, sweet tonight…
Doing it tough.
I don’t know why, but today, and particularly this afternoon I got hit with the exhaustion and sense of being totally drained, probably that comes from a rather big long weekend. I just sank totally into apathy, not caring about anything or anyone, I just wanted to curl up in bed and forget I even existed.
Which I did for a while, and still feel like doing, but I’m up, reading the bible, writing this blog because I want to, and I choose to, and I choose not to give in to the negativity.
Something that I’ve learned over the course of life has been that how I feel is all controlled by me. Other people don’t make me feel any particular way. I can choose to let their actions towards me influence how I feel, but ultimately, how I feel comes down to me. Today, I’ve just let myself go into a funk and sulk for a few hours, and it’s not completely over, but I can choose to let it take over, and I can choose when and how to get out of a sulk and go back to being happy. Which, you know, I think I’m going to do now.
But I will admit, I don’t think we’re designed or meant to be happy, bouncy and bubbly all the time. I think we’re meant to break down occasionally.
There’s power in the blood.
To confirm the covenant that God’s making with the people of Israel, there are burn offerings of bulls, and then Moses sprinkles the blood over the people.
Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.” ~ Exodus 24:8
The old covenant was sealed with blood – sacrificial blood of a bull. The new covenant, of course, with the blood of God himself, through Jesus Christ.
There is power in the blood. It really is the essence of our life.
As I read further on in this chapter, though, we come to this scene where Moses and a group of the leaders of Israel go up and they actually see the God of Israel, not only that, but the bible actually says that they ate and drank.
I read this and picture God sitting at the head of a table, inviting these seventy four people to come and sit down and eat and drink at the table of heaven. What an amazing honour – words don’t even begin to describe just what I imagine that would be like, to dine at the table of God himself.
But we’ll get to one day. This chapter is like a parallel of Jesus’ sacrifice. The blood is the symbol of the covenant, and we can come into God’s presence, because Jesus’ blood has been sprinkled over us. Because we have been confirmed and sanctified throught he blood, we can come and sit at the table of God, and eat and drink with him.
A friend of mine gave me a word today, and I really want to remember it so I’m just going to repeat what I recall of him saying, here.
He talked to me about Kazakhstan, and said straight out, “You’re going brother.” But at the same time, he told me about some images he saw, of me kicking a soccer ball around with young kids over there, kids who come from broken homes, whose parents have addictions, and talked about just building such close relationships with them, and that they’d start to call me “Uncle Josh.”
It was so encouraging, and so heartwarming. It really rejuvenates the excitement I have to go over there. I just look forward to it so much. It’s so exciting, not only that God’s actually trusting me and willing to use me to touch the lives of others, but it’s so exciting for the growth and life lessons that he actually has for me as well. Wow.
This chapter has a real lot in it: Laws of Justice and Mercy; Sabbath Laws; The Three Annual Festivals and God’s Angel to Prepare the Way. There’s a lot to go through; but I have a tendency to skip over bits and focus on what stands out to me with each chapter.
Just a quick note as I read through the sabbath laws. I’ve discussed the topic of the sabbath with a friend a couple of times over the past month or two, and we each have differing thoughts on the topic as to whether the sabbath is specifically Saturday, or whether it is more generic, and simply means that we should always at least have a day of rest, and a day dedicated to God.
I read verses 10 to 13 in this chapter, though, and each time it talks about a sabbath (and it implies a sabbath ‘year’ as well as the sabbath as a day), the reference here doesn’t specifically mention a particular day.
Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed. ~ Exodus 23:12
Now, I’m not reading into this any claim of being right, I think there’s a lot of validity to the perspective that says Saturday, specifically, is the holy day and should be our day of rest and dedication to God. Personally, I intend on making this a higher priority in my life, partially through the discussions that have been held, and moreso through God laying it on my heart as well.
Jesus healed on the Sabbath, and had people grumble about him. His disciples gathered food on the sabbath, and again, there was a bit of a stir created by it.
The Ten Commandments tell us to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy; now I guess it comes down to what God meant by remembering it and keeping it holy. Does that mean, no work? Does that mean that we should have church on a Saturday? Or is it something a little less stringent? I don’t know, but the question’s out there.
The second part of this chapter that stuck out to me was the end: verses 31 to 33.
God lays out a massively expansive region that will be the borders of the nation of Israel, should they follow God and follow the directions of the Angel that God’s sending in front of them. As far as I know (and I’m happy to be corrected on this) Israel’s borders never actually covered the entire expanse that God promised them here.
This is interesting, I think. I read this and I think that yes, God gave the Israelites their own nation, he helped them defeat the Canaanites and everyone else in the area, but they didn’t walk into the complete fullness of his promise.
That, I think, is a part of God’s character too. Even if we don’t walk completely with him, we may not necessarily follow his plans completely, but he still maintains his destiny for us and still encourages us, still blesses us. He still loves us enough, that even when we don’t follow him all the time, he’ll do what he can to guide us back onto the path that he has for us.
I see it like a series of steps, lessons and even skill developments. Basically, the image I’m getting is like playing a computer game. Starting as a novice, to reach the end of the game, we have to go through, say, ten steps – or cross ten different checkpoints. Now if we miss a checkpoint or two, we’ll still be able to get to the final destination, but it won’t be with the same level of fulfillment or success as we could have done.
I hope that makes sense, because it does to me. God still blesses us, even if we don’t completely walk in his will, but through our own actions, inaction, disobedience or just distraction, we might sometimes miss out on the whole destiny that he had planned for us. He’s not going to harm us, so why not follow his guidance completely?
You know, having four days off actually doesn’t do well for productivity. I did do some housework and stuff this morning, which was productive, but as a whole I’ve been just really relaxed these past two days, which to be honest, is actually good. I’m enjoying just the relaxation and lack of pressure that’s going on.
Had a great night tonight, hung out with friends, kicked the soccer ball, football and rugby balls around on the oval near my house, which was a lot of fun. I actually haven’t really played with a soccer ball for a while, but I realised that I felt quite familiar with it. Perhaps I should try and get involved with a soccer team at some point. It’s fun, but I’ve always been a bit adverse to it because it’s too slow paced for me – in the sense of the teams don’t score enough! That’s just me, but playing is always different to watching.
It’s fun, though, I did a few laps of the oval just dribbling the ball as well, I always forget how much I love exercise, and it’s actually annoying, because I really do love it, I just find other things to do instead.
Still, I’ve got five weeks now until I go to Perth, and that’s my first segment in a longer-term plan to get healthy, lose weight and get fit. My sister did the Burnie 10 this year, and I’m so proud of her for it too – I’m hoping to do it next year as well.
Once again, we’re in the law – the sacrificial law, or the communal law – as in the laws of the community of Israel. We have references to judges and courts and things like that coming into place. Which makes sense, I mean, it was only a few chapters ago that we saw Moses start to delegate roles to people so that he wasn’t trying to be all things to all men, because you never can.
What strikes me in this chapter though, is the second part, which in my NIV translation comes under the heading of Social Responsibility. We see a lot of laws, once again, about how to treat people. At first God goes through just, I guess, looking after yourselves. So in chapter 21 it was about how to look after your servants and slaves, and treat them right and responsibly, it was about the person’s right of retaliation for wrongs committed against them; and in the first half of chapter 22, it’s the same thing, the entitlements of a person whose property has been stolen or killed by another person, and a variety of similar situations.
It really starts of with a ego-focus. This makes sense, we’re egotistical beings, so of course the best place to start is with us, and what we can do or get when wronged.
But now we get into how we should be treating others. I mean there are a few bits and peices at the beginning, don’t allow a sorceress to live and so on, but it very quickly moves into the way to actually treat others.
I love that it starts with aliens in their land, though. Don’t mistreat people who are foreign to the country – why not? Well, remember what it was like for you when you were foreigners in Egypt? Not good, so why should you treat strangers to your land the same?
I’ll admit, I struggle to find a pattern in the laying down of the law in some of these chapters. This is certainly one that, as I read it, seems a bit all-over-the-place. It just seems to be random laws laid out without any real pattern. At least until we start getting down to the bottom part. Strangers, Widows and orphans should be taken care of and respected, and so should the poor – God says that if a cloak is all a man’s got, then don’t hold it from him overnight. God hears the cries of the poor and those who have been taken advantage of, or mistreated – and he says that he will hear their cries and be compassionate.
Even in the age of the law, so to speak, God was still compassionate. Even through all of these laws, God still actually listened to the cries of those people he loves. It wasn’t all about the law – the law, in fact, was what was there to ensure that these people could live harmoniously amongst one another. They were family, people living together and caring for one another. Ultimately, the law still came down to God’s love.