Monday, April 30, 2012

Living in Fear

Have you ever done something and felt guilty about it?  Especially when you were little.  Every time someone would yell for you or say your name you thought for sure - this is it, they caught me.  And you would be so afraid to go and see what they wanted.  A guilty conscience could eat you alive.  I'm fairly sure I ended up telling on myself multiple times when I was young - just so I wouldn't have to live in fear.

Leviticus 26:36 - As for those of you who may be left, I will also bring weakness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies.  And the sound of a driven leaf will chase them, and even when no one is pursuing they will flee as though from the sword and they will fall.

To give some background here - God is threatening terrible judgments to those who may be disobedient.  But, just to clarify, "if under these judgments they confess their sin and return to God, He will remember them in mercy" (Clarke) (Leviticus 26:40-42).  

This weakness brought into their hearts is simply that - weakness.  Some rightfully translate the idea as fear (Strong's, Lexicon) but either way, it can be interpreted as a guilty conscience.  They would feel so guilty that even the sound of a leaf in the wind would send them running in fear, even when no one is pursuing them they would run for their lives.  You see, "those that cast off the fear of God expose themselves to the fear of everything else" (Henry).  We must fear God and nothing else.  Fear God and follow His commands.  

But what does that mean?  What does that look like?  The fear of God for believers, simply put, is reverence and awe.  If we view God with reverence and awe we will obey His commands and surrender to His will out of love.  After searching for awhile, I believe that this site gives a great description of what the fear of God is and what it should look like.

That is the challenge for today - take a good look at your walk with the Lord and jot down at least 2 ways that you are not fearing God.  By the end of the week, take the steps you need to change at least 1 of those areas.  This way you won't have a guilty conscience breathing down the back of your neck!

For more on guilt check out my previous blog here.

Proverbs 1:7 - The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Are You an Accessory to the Crime?

How many times do we see someone doing something wrong and just walk on by?  Because it isn't our place to say something and we definitely wouldn't want to step on someone's toes!  But what if I told you that by doing so, by leaving that sin unmentioned, makes you an accessory to the crime?

Leviticus 19:17 - You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him.

We have already established that hatred of the heart (a grudge) is a bad thing "for malice is murder begun" (Henry).  (If you need a refresher check out my previous blog here).  This verse, I believe, does not just talk about any old grudge, but rather, a grudge against another person's sin.  Instead of harboring a hatred toward this person for the sin they have or are committing we must reprove them: "...endeavor to convince our brother of the injury, reason the case fairly with him, and so put an end to the disgust conceived" (Henry).  

I suppose at this point we must clarify who our neighbor is.  While the first reference to fellow countryman refers to "any other man, united to us only by the tie of the human race" (Lexicon), the next mention of reproving one's neighbor refers to "the man of my fellowship" or "companion" (Lexicon).  I'm not saying that if you see a random man on the street in an act of sin, you should stop and tell him that what he is doing is wrong.  We are to reprove those who are our companions, those whom we are close to.

And we must do so in love!  Adam Clarke points out that when we read "do not hate"  we must see "love" in its place.  The opposite of hate is love, so if we are to NOT hate than we MUST love.  If you are going to reprove your neighbor, do so with an attitude of mildness and affection, mercy and compassion.

Now back to my mention of being an accessory.  Henry states it this way -     "[By leaving him in sin] we are in danger of bearing sin for him...If we reprove not the unfruitful works of darkness, we have fellowship with them, and become accessaries." It is our responsibility to confront our companion if they have fallen into sin - "If thy brother has done wrong, thou shalt neither divulge it to others, nor hate him and smother that hatred by sullen silence; nor flatter him therein, but shalt freely and in love, tell him of his fault" (Wesley).  If we do not do this we become an accessory to the crime!  And in today's world, that means jail time.  

I realize that this isn't an easy task - it is taboo in our society to tell someone else that you think they are doing wrong.  We are stepping on their toes - what an appalling thing to do!  But we are not of this world, we have a much higher calling.  Part of that higher calling means we are responsible for the well being of our companions and it IS our place to let them know that they are sinning, in a mild and loving way.  

I challenge you today, first and foremost, to ask God what YOU are doing the log in your own eye.  Then, if you feel that you need to speak to someone else about their actions or behaviors, first pray.  Seek God's guidance in the matter.  Then approach this person with grace and love - help them see what they are doing and then do what you can to help them!  

Side-note - our couple's devotion was over this same matter last night.  I love the way God works!

Have a blessed Sunday and a fantastic week!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Everyone is Good at Something

Everyone is good at something!  (And if you think you are the exception, think again.  Keep trying until you figure it out, I promise you ARE good at something).  My husband is amazing with plants, he has an eye for design, and he can really cook!  My brother is good at mechanics and shooting targets.  I have friends who are talented musicians, photographers, poets, you name it!  And I'm sure you are the same, everyone is good at something.

Exodus 31:6 - ...and in the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill, that they may make all that I have commanded you.

This verse answers a couple of very important questions.

1. Where does our skill, our talent, our wisdom, come from?

Did you catch the word "all" there?  The first one?  "ALL who are skillful."   Even when we look to the Hebrew word kol (coal), the meaning is "totality, everything" (Strong's).  So in the hearts of everyone "I have put skill."  Just to clarify the "I" here is God.  In everyone who is skillful God has put the skill.  The Hebrew word for put is nathan (nath an) which means "to give, bestow, grant" (Strong's).  In everyone who is skillful, God has given that skill.

2. Why do we have such skills, talents, wisdom?

"...that they make all that I have commanded you" AKA - so that they can do My (God's) work.  We are given skills in order to bring glory to God!  Everything that we do should be for His glory, especially those things that you are skilled at!  Steven Curtis puts it perfectly - "Do everything you do to the glory of the One who made you" - see his full song here.

What are you talented at?  Making clothes?  Taking care of children?  Electric work?  Listening?  Paper work?  Whatever it may be, I challenge you today to use that talent by the end of the week to glorify God.  That could be as simple as picking up the phone and lending an ear to a neighbor who is struggling or running a few wires for the sweet old lady from church or donating some handmade clothing accessories.  I hope you see how amazing the experience can be!

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Place of Affection

The history of the locket is quite interesting, but at the same time, not very surprising.  The traditional heart shape holds the idea of someone else's heart resting on yours.  Since the Victorian era they have been known to contain locks of hair, ashes, pictures - something to represent a loved one (more info here)

Exodus 28:29 - Aaron shall carry the names of the sons of Israel in the breastpiece of judgment over his heart when he enters the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually.

This verse holds such significance for our lives today, but first, let's go over the background.  Scofield reminds us that the heart is "the place of affection" which can be seen when we return to the definition of the Hebrew word (Strong's).  You see, Aaron was to be the first high priest and God was giving Moses directions to prepare Aaron for this service - including what his attire should include.  Therefore, when Aaron went before the Lord he would have the names of the sons of Israel upon his heart (his place of affection).  But the amazing part of all of this?  Christ is our high priest! And He bears our names upon His heart!  I am literally in awe of this idea - every day, every single moment, Christ bears our names very near and dear to His heart, to His place of affection.  As I thought about this, I immediately thought of the modern day locket.  I'm sure each of us knows someone who has lost a loved one and carries their picture (or something similar) in a locket so that that loved one is with them, resting on their heart, every single moment.  That is only a minuscule view of Christ's love for us.  His love truly is awesome and amazing.  I am so thankful.  

Only one question remains: "How near should Christ's name be to our hearts, since He is pleased to lay our names so near to His!?" (Henry, emphasis added).  

I challenge you to be conscience of how near Christ is to your heart today.  Take a moment now to reflect on your actions this morning - was Christ near to your heart?  Do the same before you go to bed tonight.  And make an effort to bring Christ nearer and dearer tomorrow!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Giving from the Heart

As I was studying today, I was thinking about elementary school.  Valentine's Day would come around and we would all be SO excited to hand out our valentine's cards and to get some in return.  A day full of pink and red and tons of glitter, silly crushes and broken hearts by the age of 9.   You waited, rather impatiently, all day until your teacher allowed the class to exchange valentine's.  But you could always tell who was giving you a card because they had to and who was giving you a card because they wanted to.  It was something about their attitude...which stems from the heart.

Exodus 25:2 - Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me; from every man whose heart moves him you shall raise my contribution.

You see, our giving, our tithe, is directly tied to our hearts.  The word for moves in this passage means "to incite, impel, make willing" (Strong's).  So God wanted an offering from those whose heart's made them willing.  An offering, or contribution, to our God shouldn't be something we do begrudgingly - "We should ask, not only 'What must we do?' but, 'What may we do?' Whatever they gave, they must give it cheerfully."  Giving must come from a willing and cheerful heart - we shouldn't view our giving and tithe as something we have to do, but rather, something that we get to do!  

The next time you go to give an offering or tithe I challenge you to examine your heart:  

Are you willing and joyful?  

Or are you sitting there thinking of everything else you could be doing with that money and reluctantly placing it in the offering plate?  

I have been guilty of the latter a few times but I am striving every day to remain joyful and willing to give God all that my heart moves me too!