I was reading a rather entertaining blog, today – Stuff Christian Culture Likes.
Having been involved with Christianity and the Christian culture growing up, I could read a lot of the entries with a knowing smirk and a slight chuckle, but perhaps the most standout entry that I found, was the ‘Not Smoking’ entry.
The opening line: “There are no ashtrays outside of churches.”
It got me thinking about the whole thing. Smoking and Christians – how do the two mix?
When I was younger in a Hobart church and enquiring about getting more involved in service and leadership roles in the congregation, the pastor actually pulled me aside, sat me down and said that I’d never be given a prominent role in their ‘church’ while I was standing out the front after the service smoking a cigarette.
I mean, seriously, how dare I try to proclaim Christianity with a cigarette hanging out of my mouth!
Funnily enough, back at the time I raised it with a fellow-smoker at the same Church (who, ironically, was already in a leadership role in the congregation – go figure!) and her words were, “I can commit my ‘sin’ outside the front door of the church, can you?”
Is smoking a sin? I don’t think so. I don’t smoke full time any more, but I tend to go through periods now. A few weeks of smoking, then ‘give up’ again. I keep suffering that terrible backslide.
What I really thought when I read this phrase about there not being ashtrays outside of churches was to do with the culture, though. I’m not interested, right now, in the discussion of whether smoking is or is not a sin. What I am interested in is what this whole idea says about Christian Culture?
Who, can I ask, is the Church for?
Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against His disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” ~ Luke 5:29-32
Why aren’t there ashtrays outside churches?
I made the statement that they should be on my Facebook, and the very first comment in response was: “To encourage vice?”
To me, this basically sums it up – to be in a church there’s a certain standard that needs to be upheld. This is why I wasn’t allowed to enquire about leadership roles while I was smoking – I was breaching the standard of ‘proper’ Christianity. According to many churchgoers, church isn’t a place for the broken; it’s a place for the fixed.
You know what I’d love to see? A church with ashtrays where, after the service, there’s a congregation of a dozen or more people sending up a plume of smoke while they talk about sermon. Forget the tea and biscuits, give them a coffee and a smoke and they’ll be fine.
I’d love to see a church where the music’s played a little quieter on the Sunday morning, because half the congregation’s got a hangover.
How many songs, messages and the like get thrown out there saying that the church is God’s house? Don’t answer, it’s rhetorical.
“For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” ~ Isaiah 56:7
Famous words, but usually quoted from the New Testament right ahead of the more famous line about the temple having become a den of thieves, remember?
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. ~ John 3:16
In my perspective, the House of God should be the most welcoming place on Earth. No judgment. No shame. No condemnation.
And yes, to me that means having ashtrays, and catering to those who need it most. Jesus didn’t say to Zacchaeus, “Come on, come with me to the temple and we’ll have a meal.” He took off to Zacchaeus’ house, just like he sat down with Levi and the other tax collectors. Jesus met these people where they were at rather than pull them in to where he was at.
The House of God should be a place where the world’s worst can come and feel embraced by love. It isn’t up to us as Christians to then pressure them to change, it’s our job to introduce them to God – and once that’s done, He’ll do the work in them, not us.
A bit of timelessness in this passage, I feel. In the sense of this being a collection of small anecdotes that just remind us of a few things that happened.
First, the Angel of the LORD turns up at a place called Bokim, and tells the Israelites that they weren’t supposed to make covenants with the people who already lived in Canaan; and now, because they have, things aren’t going to be as good as they could have been.
Then Joshua dies – again – just running through the tale in case we forgot it in the past month since I finished Joshua.
Then finally another generation grows up, and forgets God – and it gives a broad introduction about the Judges who had God on their side, and led the people of Israel through times of difficulty.
This is, though, just the reason why there was all the talk about cleaning things out.
“Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.” ~ Judges 2:3
And it’s exactly what happened.
Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. They forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They provoked the LORD to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. ~ Judges 2:11-13
I think, sometimes, we tend to take God for granted. It’s so easy to think that we don’t need to worry too much, that we just need to do the minimal effort to keep him happy, that as long as we go to church on Sunday, maybe a bible study through the week, we’re all good – the rest of our lives aren’t really that much of a big deal, right? I can imagine this being a justification as the Israelites went through their lives, as those who had witnessed the events in the wilderness and conquering the promised land died out, others took over and for them, things were different.
It’s so easy to be committed to God when you first come to him. It’s a passionate, enthusiastic, exciting time. However, as time goes on, that passion wanes, the excitement wears off and the enthusiasm fades. That ‘honeymoon phase’ wears off…
And it’s like anything – once the ‘newness’ factor starts to wear off, then other things become shiny whilst that thing, no matter how much we loved it to begin with, starts to become something we take for granted.
And it’s a lot easier to walk away from the things that don’t excite us, and that we take for granted, than it is to walk away from something new, shiny and exciting.
When there’s other things around – Baals and Ashteroths, if you will – then it’s harder to maintain that close connection with God. We can’t afford to take God for granted – and I say that from real life experience of my own – we need to ensure that he’s always number one, because if he’s not, then he can tumble down that priority list pretty quickly, and soon he stops being even a blip on our radar… Is that really a risk worth taking?
I’ve never really been one for the organisation of the church. When it comes to building up what appear to be corporate entities with boards and directors and things like that, well, I’ve usually tended to switch off.
And the thing that tends to come with this is the importance that’s placed on local congregations. This is something I’ve often disagreed with, the concept of ‘our church’ as an individual entity. Alongside this is the membership calling, that as an individual child of God I should be committing myself to one congregation and one family – it all just seems like membership drives. In the world of pastors, it’s not the one with the most toys, but the one with the most sheep wins.
That is, at least, the way I’ve seen it in the past, and I think the way that many people see things, too.
However, towards the end of last year, I started feeling God directing me to move congregations. I choose to use this term because, in my perspective, the Church is the Body of Christ, and each individual congregation is only one part of that Body. Now this was interesting, because I actually had to finally sit down and recognise that not only was I genuinely committed to the congregation that I was a part of; but that I was actually going to be moving that committment somewhere else.
This shouldn’t have been a problem when it comes down to a mentality of not wanting to commit to one location, right?
Well, it was. During the time, God also showed me that even though there is only one body, I can’t be a part of it everywhere. There needs to be one place where I plant my spiritual roots and ensure that I’m connected, included and accountable.
In Deuteronomy 12, Moses tells the Israelites that they aren’t to just worship God anywhere they feel like it, that there are specific places and specific things to do, especially when it comes to sacrifices. He tells them not to worship like the people they’re about to drive out worship, and he tells them not to worship him wherever they are, but rather, to come to these particular locations.
There’s a lot of strength to actually committing to the one place when it comes to worshiping God, and it’s not so that there can be lots of numbers to that congregation, so it can be seen as important. The fact is, that what God pointed out to me was that the important bits are the connections – both the connection between He and I, and the connections between me and others in that particular part of the family.
The thing is that when you’re committed to a central place, when you’re building your relationship with God and there is consistency in certain aspects, like the location of worship, then its easier to set your focus onto the important things.
Yes, we can worship God anywhere. I’m not disputing that, but there is more to our relationship with God. Consistency aids growth.
Coming to you tonight, and for the next week from Wellington, New Zealand!
So, I arrived here yesterday, around 2:30 in the afternoon. The trip over was fairly smooth, and whilst the Captain warned us about a bumpy landing into Wellington because of some fairly hefty crosswinds, it really wasn’t that bad. I’ve certainly experienced worse landings, anyway.
So far, Wellington’s been treating me wonderfully, too. I went to church last night – eventually, anyway. Before I came here I did a Google search and found two churches that interested me, and made the decision to go to one on Sunday evening. I walked down there, got there around 5:45 and it was empty, so I left, figuring something was up since I couldn’t see a church still having the doors locked 15 minutes before the service starts.
So I looked up the other one, and it started at 5PM, so I was already running really late, but it was at a theatre that I’d already walked past, with people standing out the front in bright red t-shirts saying “ASK ME” – well, I almost asked on the way but had been determined to get to where I was going. Maybe I should have just asked then. I wasn’t that late, though, I missed praise and worship but caught the start of the sermon. An hour of praise and worship is good, so I’m slightly disappointed at missing it.
Still, I met a bunch of people, played pool for a few hours, made some plans for the week and things like that. So far, it was good.
My limit on these intro posts, I’ve decided, will be around 250 words, and I’m past that, so Monday’s adventures will have to wait.
This chapter was quite interesting. It’s entitled “The Water of Cleansing” and is all about a heifer that was sacrificed in a particular way, and then the ashes stored at a clean location away from the camp.
Dear England: Read this – the ashes should be stored at a clean location away from the camp. Move them from Lords to the MCG.!
So we’re going back to the laws about ceremonial cleanliness from dead bodies. There’s a bit of an element within some of these books that suggests the historical oral telling meant that things sometimes got a bit jumbled up. However, at the same time, I wonder what else is going on here.
These laws that we’re learning now came after the adventure into Canaan. God gave Moses and the Israelites the law at Mt Sinai, and then sent them on their way. Now, they’ve been – well, basically unbelieving cowards – and they’ve been told they’ll have to wander in the desert until this entire generation passes away. From there, they’ve gone through the leadership challenge, and now we’re at a point where there are now some additional offerings that need to take place.
I remember, one of the most profound insights that God gave me whilst I’ve been doing this journey through the bible, was about Abrahan, Ishmael and Isaac. God showed me about how, even when we stuff up, he maintains his ultimate plan for our lives.
This is the case here, too. The Israelites have messed up royally, and God would have, from a human perspective, every right at this point to basically decide that it’s not worth his effort, and just leave them to their own devices.
He doesn’t, though.
God still remembers his promise to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jacob. He still remembers that there’s a covenant in play here.
There are, though, also consequences for the way the Israelites have acted.
When we stuff up, God doesn’t forget us. He doesn’t turn his back on us. He doesn’t abandon us. What God does, is begins to guide us back towards the path we’re meant to be on. The trouble is, though, that it’s not an instant fix. When we turn our back on him, if we decide we’re going to walk in our own plan rather than God’s plan, well that’s our choice – we have free will. However, if we then realise that God had a better plan all along, and we’d be better off following him, then he’ll guide us back – but it’s not going to be easy. There’s consequences, there are things we’re going to need to go through to get back to where we should have been if we’d followed God’s direction in the first place.
But remember, he doesn’t abandon us. He doesn’t forget us. He keeps his promise and if we stick by him, then he will bring us back to the promised land.
So, I’ve just been letting a thought run around in my head.
Dangerous, I know. You never know where thinking might get you!
What I’ve been pondering, though, has been more of what’s been on my mind and heart for quite some time. Once again, bringing a relationship with God back to what Jesus commanded us in the Great Commission. To go and make disciples of all nations.
I’d like to indulge in an exceptionally hypothetical situation for a moment.
Imagine a church pastor shows up at the church one Sunday, and the building’s empty. Fair enough, he thinks, he must just be early or the ushers and creative team and others are just running a bit late. So he waits.
It hits regular service time and there’s still no one around. He’s tried a few phone calls on his mobile but no one’s been answering. Finally, though, he discovers what’s happened. During the week the entire congregation has gotten ahold of the great commission, and they’ve done just what Jesus said to do.
I wonder how many church pastors would get excited about this prospect. Suddenly their entire flock is gone, out doing exactly what Jesus said to do, and there’s no one left to minister to.
They’re all following Jesus, rather than following the church.
I’m not making claims on anyone here, I’m just pondering the thought.
Two main sections to this chapter.
First of all is the main thing that stood out to me in light of the previous two chapters, it’s the element of the leadership role that most challengers to the position don’t actually consider at the time that they’re challenging. They consider the leadership, the power, the benefits, but there’s something that usually isn’t considered.
Aaron and the Levites have it pretty heavy when it comes down to it.
“You are to be responsible for the care of the sanctuary and the altar, so that wrath will not fall on the Israelites again.” ~ Numbers 18:5
So repercussions of abuse or mistreatment, or just not caring for the sanctuary and the altar are pretty heavy situations. Any consequences should be poured out over all of the nation of Israel, but instead, God says that Aaron and the Levites will shoulder that responsibility.
And this is the thing about leadership, it involves responsibility, responsibility for all of those that a person holds leadership over.
Secondly, comes the gifts of the Levites. It’s interesting here, too – the Levites don’t really come out with as great a deal as it would necessarily seem. They’re going to get around about the same amount of food and goods for themselves as the rest. God says that they can have the tithe. With the tithe being ten percent, and the figures of the tribe of Levi being around about the 10 percent mark of the rest of the population of Israel, as was noted back in chapters 2 and 3.
So they weren’t about to go getting ridiculously rich. On top of this, they also gave up any inheritance to the promised land when God finally brought them into it. They weren’t about to get houses, tracts of land, farms, vineyards, only the product of it as it was brought to God as an offering.
Serving in the physical dwelling place on Earth was meant to be a full-time thing, and they were given recompense for their work.
Back in September last year, I met two amazingly awesome guys.
Some friends and I took a trip up Mount Wellington one night, and while we were up there we saw these guys, one of whom was running around in shorts, while there was snow up the mountain. He fell into the snow, it was rather entertaining to watch.
We ended up chatting a while, though, and for the next week we all developed a really close friendship. It was really good.
The reason I bring it up tonight, though, is that a prayer just came to mind tonight. I’m off to New Zealand for work this weekend, and am really excited. I’ve never been to New Zealand before, and now I’m blessed with the opportunity to go for a week with work.
I fly out Sunday morning, though, and arrive in Wellington Sunday afternoon, and am there until the following Sunday afternoon. Now one thing that came to mind last night was the fact that I actually get to go to church while I’m over there. Some might find it funny that I’d get excited about that, but hey, I am. I just had this prayer come to mind, though. The guys we met up Mt Wellington in September were also in the state for work. So I found myself praying that I’d go to church and meet some of the youth there, and there would be an opportunity just to build relationships and friendships with people. I’m just really hoping and praying that I’ll get to go over there and meet some good Christian people who I can get to know and spend as much of my spare time with during that week.
This is another one of those chapters with a lot in it. From starting with more sacrifices, we’ve got another little story like back in Leviticus, when the young son of an Egyptian father and Israelite mother blasphemed against God, and therefore was put to death. Now, this time, we have a guy who’s found collecting firewood on the sabbath. Then after that, it’s like a little lightening of the air with telling the Israelites to put tassels on their garments to remind themselves of the word of God.
Interesting choice… Remin me to one day ask God, “Why tassels?”
What I brought out of this chapter, though, had nothing to do with tassels or being stoned to death for finding wood on the sabbath. Rather, it was in the very first passage.
God’s talking once again about offerings that are to be brought – this time it’s offerings, though, that are to be brought to him once they’ve moved into the promised land. It would seem that they’re expected to bring a little more once they actually settle. Which kind of makes sense, after all, once they settle they’ll probably have more to give.
What I notice, though, is again God makes this a requirement for everyone in the land.
“The community is to have the same rules for you and for the alien living among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the alien shall be the same before the LORD: The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the alien living among you.” ~ Numbers 15:15-16
If we were to put this into terminology of around about 1000 years or so later, then perhaps it would read gentile, rather than alien.
It makes me think, it doesn’t matter where you’re from, who you are, what you might be, any of that. In the promised land of God, we’re all equal before God. Our promised land is spiritual, and in that, we’re all equal before God.
A friend of mine posted the following quote on Facebook today:
“Jesus never asked me to give to an organization the kind of exclusive devotion he demands from his disciples.”
It’s a quote from Michael Spencer’s book, Mere Churchianity, and after I googled the quote and read some of the other things that he says in the book, I made my way to Koorong on my lunch break to buy a copy; and so far, it’s quite an interesting and very entertaining read.
The basic concept behind the book is addressing the causes for disillusionment and rejection of the church by so many people these days. Spencer actually refers to census information which shows that the largest growing group of religious affiliation in recent years, is actually those who are not affiliated with any religion. He points out that this is separate from atheism and agnosticism, and therefore it would seem that these people are at least in some way open to God, but maybe just not the God of the church.
The fact is that I agree with much he has to say. I was speaking with a friend on Monday about churches, and what level of obligation we should have to our local church. I don’t consider, as I think I’ve said before, the local church to be ‘the church’. The Church, as Jesus meant it to be, is the body of Christ. No matter what race, colour, doctrine, status, class or any other category you can think of that we might be in, it doesn’t matter because The Church is the body, all those who are in God’s kingdom.
So far, it’s definitely a great read.
Two of them. Made of pure silver, hammered out and to be used to call the assembly together.
I can’t help thinking of The Sound of Music and the whistle that Captain von Trapp uses to call the children together.
Slightly different context in the bible, but it just amused me.
Then, they do move. It’s time – the twentieth day of the second month – they’re finally underway and moving away from Sinai.
You know, it’s interesting that the Israelites were on the move. They were camped, always ready to go. The previous chapter talked about sometimes God would leave them in a place for a long time, and other times they’d only stay for a short time. Here they are, ready to go, and they move out.
I love that the Tent goes first. After the tribes of Judah, Issachar and Zebulun up and leave to lead the path to where they’re going next, then the Gershonites and Merarites from Levi gather together their carts filled with all the cloth and the tents from the Tabernacle. Then out comes Reuben, Simeon and Gad.
Then the Kohathites set out, carrying the holy things. The tabernacle was to be set up before they arrived. ~ Numbers 10:21
So they split the tent up from the Altar and Ark and Lampstand and other things, so that the Gershonites and Merarites would have time to build the temple before they arrived.
But back to going. The Israelites were nomadic, even God was living in a tent, ready to go whenever was necessary or whenever he called the best time. Living in tents, think about it, the Israelites wouldn’t have ever had a chance to relax. There would have always been the knowledge in the back of their minds that they could be up and moving again at any moment.
Until they reached the promised land, they could never really put their feet up.
What is our promised land? I know for me, it’s heaven, and in the presence of my Dad and King. I don’t want to put my feet up and rest until I’m in that promised land. I want to be ready to go, whenever and wherever God commands and sends.
Well, good morning Boxing Day.
Christmas is still going for me. I’m on the road this morning to Launceston for a family barbecue this afternoon.
Yesterday was great. Lunch with some extended family – was good to catch up with Steve, whose blog inspired me to actually undertake this epic journey through the bible as well. I owe Steve and his wife Donna thanks; too, they’ve been a very important and special part of my life over the past four or five months that I’ve been on this journey, not only through the bible but with my relationship with God, too. We’ve been in touch via Facebook and email, so it was really great to actually see them in person.
Then came dinner with my sister and her family and in-laws. Also a great night. Relationships with the in-laws aren’t always as easy to form as other friendships, perhaps because you’re sort of forced into a relationship with people you don’t really know, and in some cases might not even consider associating with if you’d just met one another on the street. Last night was the most comfortable I’ve felt with my brother-in-law’s family. It’s nice when those relationships start actually tightening and getting stronger.
I hope that everyone else had a wonderful Christmas.
And today: Day 1 of the Boxing Day test. Come on Australia!
Numbers 3 & 4:
Here we have the census of the Levite clan; who weren’t included in the previous census because their responsibility was to God.
A couple of things that I find interesting:
1. Why are there so few Levites in comparison to all the other tribes?
2. The Levites are taken in place of the Israelite firstborns.
What I really brought out of this, though, wasn’t to do with those two points. As the title of this entry suggests, what I really took from here was the idea of service in the House of God.
The Tabernacle was God’s meeting place with the Israelites. It was the place where He could come and dwell amongst them; speak with them – via Moses or the Priests; associate with them; relate with them. It still comes back to the relationship. He wanted to be with them.
The Tabernacle, though, needed to be maintained. Not only did it need to be maintained, but it needed to be taken care of; stored and packed away properly and transported properly when the Israelites were on the move. At this point, it seems, they were still camped around Mt Sinai; but they were just that – camped. They were always going to be on the move again.
The House of God, today, is not a building. Sure, we refer to it as one, and the buildings have their place, but ultimately the House of God is in our hearts.
However, the ‘local church’ is our place of fellowship, accountability, friendship, relationship, family, all those sorts of thing.
I find myself wondering how the Levites felt about their part in things at this point. They weren’t to be part of the army; their role was to look after the Tabernacle.
I think sometimes we get caught up with an image of what we consider to be a ‘good job’ or a ‘bad job’. Going back to my involvement with local churches in my youth, I remember that one of my regular duties was to man the overhead projector. In the days before computers and TV projectors, we had to use them for putting the words up on the walls. I was actually good at it – and when I say I was good at it, I mean that there were people who weren’t. I never understood how people would get confused as to which way around to put the words on the screen.
But that wasn’t an exciting job. I also would play guitar, sing, and look after the sound desk at different times too. Singing and guitar were great, overhead projector and manning the sound desk, not so great.
So I wonder if there were Levites going, “Man… Are you serious? I have to fold the curtains?!” When their job was assigned to them in service. I wonder if any of them questioned why God would have them born in to the tribe of Levi, while their friends were all, say, from Judah and got to train with swords to be part of the army. Or even narrower, I wonder if there were Gershonites wishing they could be from Kohath, so at least then they’d get to look after the holy stuff instead of just carrying the curtains.
Service really needs to be done out of a heart of love; but it also comes down to where you are, as well. Sometimes, yes, you have to start at what you consider to be ‘the bottom’ in order to work your way up, demonstrate trustworthiness and reliability before you can be released into other things. Ultimately, it comes down to if you love God, then it doesn’t necessarily matter what you’re doing – because like everything else, it comes back to Him.
Slowly starting to feel like I’m recovering. Slowly.
Today wasn’t as hard to get through, although I still woke up this morning feeling like a train wreck; and I’m feeling very tired still tonight so I think it’s going to be another early one here.
I was thinking on the way home tonight, how good it feels to have assuredness. To be living life with peace and assuredness about where you’re going, and that it’s all under control gives such a good platform to live life from. I may not necessarily be exactly sure of every detail of my future, but I know one thing. God’s plan for me is not to harm, but to give me a hope and a future. It’s a fairly cliche verse, but it’s so true, too.
And I can trust in that.
I was talking to a friend tonight about Church, and part of the topic was about whether or not they really feel the need to go or not.
It’s a question that I’ve seen raised – and raised myself – several times in the past, about whether a relationship with God is dependent on involvement in a particular ‘church’.
- I put ‘church’ in quotations, because The Church is the Body of Christ, we are all The Church; regardless of what ‘church’ we might attend or what denomination we might be a part of, or what doctrine we might believe in.
God doesn’t need a ‘church’ to work in people’s lives, but I think, to an extent, we do. It’s strange, because I’ve really started to feel the need to be involved in a ‘church’ on a regular basis since coming back to God, moreso than I ever did before. The difference is that now it’s about being planted, rather than feeling an obligation to go, or just going to socialise. There’s definitely a social aspect involved in fellowship, but being planted is more than that.
I think as humans, we do need to be planted, we need a regular source of sustenance. Yes, that is God, and yes, we can relate and involve ourselves with God wherever we are, but I think that we actually grow more effectively and stronger when we are in the environment where we are surrounded by others of like mind and like spirit. When we are directly involved in The Body.
That’s what I think part of God’s reasoning was here in chapter 17. It wasn’t necessarily that He was restricted to accepting only those sacrifices that were offered in front of the tabernacle; but it was about the people.
This is so that the Israelites will bring to the LORD the sacrifices they are now making in the open fields. They must bring them to the priest, that is, to the LORD, at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and sacrifice them as fellowship offerings. ~ Leviticus 17:5
They must no longer offer any of their sacrifices to the goat idols to whom they prostitute themselves. This is to be a lasting ordinance for them and for the generations to come. ~ Leviticus 17:7
By bringing their sacrifices to the Tent of Meeting, the Israelites were, themselves, ensuring that their hearts were focussed on God. There were distractions when offering sacrifices out in the open field, and it was easy to maybe consider the offering a sacrifice to another god also. They weren’t focussed. When sacrificing in front of the Tabernacle, they were confronted and had to focus themselves on God.
And this, perhaps, is something worth remembering on the question of whether a ‘church’ is needed in our walk with God today. Perhaps it’s not necessarily, but it certainly aids us in our focus on God. We have people around us with whom we can build relationship; there are people to keep us accountable, to help us, to pray with and for us. We should, certainly, have our focus primarily on God, definitely. It’s not always easy to keep our focus on God, though, when we’re out in the field rather than in front of the Tabernacle.
I’m quite terrified about the week ahead.
Work’s been giving me more and more responsibility, basically by the day almost over the past month or two. Which is great, don’t get me wrong about that – but this week is the first conference that I’ve basically done the organisation for by myself; which means, anything that goes wrong is going to be my responsibility to deal with – and my ear that gets chewed by angry people down the phone line.
I mean, I’m reasonably confident that I have everything sorted, and probably just being overly cautious, but I’m worrying about all the things that could go wrong. The whole company is basically relying on me to have got everything set up and organised properly so that their conference is a success. Well, all I can do is hope.
Any prayers that people can offer would be great in the meantime, that all goes smoothly and is successful. Thanks very much.
You know, the introduction to this chapter intrigues me.
The Israelites, day after day after day, kept bringing more and more offerings to help build the tabernacle. They’ve brought so much that the people working on building it have to put down their tools, go up to Moses and tell him that they have too much. Moses then has to go to the Israelites and tell them to stop giving! Stop!
Imagine the impact that there would be on the world, if people gave so much that they had to be asked to stop giving. I’m not just talking about to God and the church, but just in general.
I haven’t ever seen the whole movie Pay It Forward, but I know – and absolutely love – the concept. It’s so brilliant. Just imagine a world where people stopped and thought about someone else. They stopped and just gave something to another person.
Today at church, there was quite a theme that I brought out of it, of generosity, of love, of giving – of having the mindset that I come second, and others come first.
We live in a world that is ruled by “ME”. We’re taught, we encourage each other, we live life with the attitude that we need to look after ourselves first. We can’t give to others, unless we have enough to spare – and enough to spare is enough not only after our necessities, but after all the other bonuses and good things that we want to get for ourselves as well.
Imagine what would happen if we flipped that around. Imagine what would happen if we suddenly decided that we were going to give to others, out of what we don’t have?
Once the Israelites have stopped giving, though, then the workers can get on with building the tabernacle.
Are these the same Israelites? Only a few days or weeks (months maybe?) before, they were whining and complaining. Moses had taken too long on the mountain, so they gave their earrings to Aaron and he popped the gold into a fire, and out came a golden calf. Now, suddenly, they’re all on board with God and the tabernacle.
It’s quite amazing. God doesn’t want us to have idols, or even images that we worship. What he does want, though, is for there to be a place of worship.
Now that doesn’t have to be a tabernacle, or a church – it can be a lounge room with some friends, or a park, or even a car. Wherever is convenient.
However he does emphasise there being a place of worship. A place where humans can come together and be in relationship, not only with God but with each other.
Relationships are good. I have some wonderful friends who just light up my days. It doesn’t take away from my relationship with God, in fact, those people strengthen it, because we can exhort and encourage, as well as pull each other into line if need be.
We’re not meant to walk this life alone. We’re meant to have people around us, and this is one of the purposes God had in ensuring a place of worship was built – to bring us together so that we can build relationships with each other. Our relationships with each other also bring us closer to God.