Saturday, June 14, 2014

More Golf Cart Thoughts . . .

In my last post (Food for Thought . . . ) I used the example of a child driving a golf cart ten feet when told not to as a way to illustrate to ourselves our own heart toward God. I'm not going to repeat it here, but I'll assume you've read it (or you can read it by clicking on its link above).

I had another thought about it that was helpful to me. In that thought I could picture the same kid who disobeyed. But this time, instead of just being told not to drive the cart, he is told something like, "Don't drive the cart because it is out of oil and the engine will burn up (if it was a gas engine)." Or, "Don't move the cart because I discovered a sink hole under the dirt in front of it."

In any of these type of examples, what if the child, who would have otherwise driven the cart when told not to, now says, "Oh! OK," and doesn't drive the cart because they now understand the reason why not to (and, implicit in this, they agree with the reason why not to)? This further reinforces the pride and arrogance and rebellion of the child, even though they obeyed! Why? Because they obeyed because THEY understood and agreed. If they hadn't, they wouldn't have.

In the golf cart example I gave in the previous post it was clear to me that a reaction of, "Wow! He punished you like that for only driving it ten feet! That's harsh!" was a reaction that puts the person being given instruction in the place of "god" and judge. The true heart that understands authority would say, "Wow! I can't believe you drove the cart when he told you not to!"

In this example of obedience because of agreement there is nothing different. If we say, "Good boy. He didn't drive the cart," we are again focusing on the action and not the heart because he would have if he didn't agree with the reasons! He is still rebellious and proud and arrogant!

Again taking this back to us and God, it is a fair question to ask, "Do I obey when I understand why God is telling/asking something, but I don't if it doesn't make sense to me?" This is something we actually often cultivate when we say things like, "God says not to XX, and it makes sense because if we do there is a risk of YY or ZZ." This isn't to say that it is bad to explain how wise God is as a witness to His greatness, but it is dangerous if understanding is made a portion of obedience.

God is holy. He is set apart. He is the Creator. Far be it from the Creation to have the arrogance and pride and foolishness and rebelliousness to demand more before we obey than to simply know God said it.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Food for Thought . . .

In my last post (Just a Bunch of Sticks?) I shared some thoughts I'd had about an Old Testament account of a man being killed for collecting wood on the Sabbath. I shared how my first reaction had been to assess the severity of the crime in terms of the action of the man, and not the heart. I first thought of it as a severe punishment for simply collecting sticks, until I believe God showed me that the true sin wasn't picking up sticks, it was the rebellion against God that was at the heart of the man who would pick up sticks when God expressly told them in the Ten Commandments not to work on the Sabbath, on the day He'd set apart as holy.

Last night at Men's Group we were talking about this and how casual we can become with God and our understanding of His holiness, and I felt like God gave me an example that spoke to all of our hearts there, and helped a lot. I wanted to share it in case it helps you as well:
Some people we know have a golf cart that grandchildren and visiting kids are taught safety points about and how to drive. They are then given a driving test for it, and if they pass they are approved to drive around the property. It is pretty slow and safe, but the people take it seriously and the kids are taught to as well. The example that I felt God gave me was of the man telling a child not to drive the golf cart. The child goes out and drives it ten feet. The man then punishes the child in some hypothetical way—say takes his license for a month and maybe something else.
In this situation someone might easily say, "He did all that to you for driving the cart ten feet?!" The proper answer is, "No, he did all that because I disobeyed." That is the heart of it. Five feet. Ten feet. A mile. The distance doesn't matter. What matters is that he was told not to do something and he did it anyway. It is revealing of a much deeper sin than driving ten feet. It is revealing of a heart of pride and rebellion and self-focus.

We can learn a lot about ourselves by putting ourselves in the position of someone the child comes and complains to. Would we feel like, "That is harsh! I can't believe he did that to you for driving it ten feet!"? Or, would we feel like, "I can't believe you went out and drove it when he told you not to!"?

Once we answer which one of those responses would be ours we then can ask ourselves if we are consistent in that application. When God says something, do we weigh the action (putting ourselves in the place of god and judge), or do we say, "My God said it and that is enough for me."

The question is not if the action seems big or small to us. The true measure of our heart is whether the fact that God said it is big or small to us. That reveals it all.

Collecting wood. Eating fruit. Driving a cart ten slow feet. Murdering someone. Adultery. In our minds, when we look at them, we can easily rate them as small or big. But rebelling against God? That should always be huge to us, and if it isn't I think it should be a warning sign. And that is truly what is at the core of it all.

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Another Morsel: Tonight we wanted to surprise our girls and borrow a DVD from someone that they'd been wanting to watch, but after some emails and phone calls it didn't work out and we didn't tell them. I wonder how many times in our life it seems to us like God isn't moving, but in reality He is doing all sorts of things on our behalf. Can we trust His love and heart for us when we can't see His hand at work?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Just a Bunch of Sticks?

In my reading through the Bible this morning I came to Numbers 15:32–36 which says:
While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation. They put him in custody, because it had not been made clear what should be done to him. And the Lord said to Moses, "The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp." And all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, as the Lord commanded Moses. ESV
I read something like this and there is this reaction in me that says, "Wow! He was just picking up sticks! It wasn't even something bad!" And . . . that reaction tells me more about my view of God than I like to admit.

As much as I can teach about God's holiness, and how He breathes out stars, and how amazing and worthy of our awe and worship He is, etc., a reaction like that reveals to me how much of that knowledge of God is in my head and hasn't captivated my heart.

Why not, instead, would I have had the reaction, "Oh, man! This man has such a wicked heart to rebel against God! To do things His way and not God's!" A failure to react that way gives me insight into the heart of why I can, at times, be so casual with the "little" sins. I am seeing it as an issue of degrees and about the action, and not about the rebellion—not about the incredible pride and arrogance of thinking I can do what I want when God—the holy Creator of all—has said something different about it. In reality, I think I can judge what is truly OK and what isn't. I may not say that is my reality, but my actions reveal it is.

It is similar to Adam and Eve—"so you're telling me that they and all mankind to follow got a death sentence and cut off from God for eating fruit!?" No. That isn't the reason. It is for the pride and rebellion of the heart that thinks it can do things its own way and that it is OK to do so. It is for the heart that thinks it, better then God, can define what is OK and what isn't. It is about a trust—a faith!—that is greater in myself then it is in Him.

We must never forget, God loves our faith and without it Hebrews tells us it is impossible to please Him. When the Israelites came to the promised land it was GOD that told them to send in the spies! He didn't sucker them into the land and then have them realize what they were surrounded by so they had no choice to rely on Him. He had them spy it out and see exactly what they were up against so then they could choose—sight (what they saw in front of them), or faith in God who had promised them both the land and His presence. They didn't trust Him and He says of them (in different places throughout the Bible) that they were in unbelief, not following Him, disobedient, stiff-necked, hardened hearts, not mindful of the works He had performed among them, faithless. And, though they would have been the first to say they believed in God's existence, HE said of them that they didn't believe in Him.

God is looking for so much more than simply our acknowledgement that He exists (even the demons believe, and tremble the Bible says). He is looking for us to believe in Him in the way that commits our life to Him, to trust in Him, to follow Him.

Eve's sin is similar. Before she ever saw the tree as good for food, pleasing to the eye, or desirable to make one wise she first had doubt about God and His love and His Word and His trustworthiness. Then, after entertaining those doubts about God, she came to the place where she believed she could better take care of her needs, pleasure, and wisdom apart from God and His ways then doing it God's way. She walked out of trust of God, and trusted more in herself. She walked out of faith in God.

When we assess sin by the action ("he was just picking up sticks!), instead of realize it is a heart of rebellion and disobedience to God, we can tend to water down what sin really is and lose the reverence of the the holiness of God. I am reminded of when David was bringing the ark back to Jerusalem. It is found in 2 Sam 6:5–7
And David and all the house of Israel were making merry before the Lord, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God. ESV
Did Uzzah die because he steadied himself or the ark when the oxen stumbled. Is that really worthy of a death sentence? No. Uzzah died because, first and foremost, David decided to do something his way and blew off a holy God's commands about how the ark would be handled (even "religious" things can be sin). Then Uzzah died because a holy God said the ark would not be touched and he touched it. As long as we say he died simply for touching the ark we have missed the point. He died for the rebellion and haughtiness that said, "Even though God said one thing I can do it my way" (sorry Frank Sinatra).


It is an important lesson for us to learn (and relearn, and relearn . . .). Whenever we assess sin by the action instead of seeing it as rebellion we have lost our grip on God's holiness and who He is. We do things "our way" because we are looking left and right, instead of up. Left and right we can always find some reason, or someone else's life, that will justify us. Looking up into His holiness, and across the gap to the blood-stained cross, will remind us of what sin really is. It is not an action, it is a heart.

May I never lose sight of the fact that my sin, my "casual choices," are rebellion against God no matter how insignificant they seem. May I fear my heart, and may I embrace faith—a complete trusting of my life to Him and His ways because I have complete trust of Him and His Word and His love and His faithfulness.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Free Book

Hi Again. A minute after I posted my other post tonight I got a message from Rosemary Hines. She is an author I've blogged about multiple times (see below) whose novels have really blessed me. She is giving away, between now and Monday, the first book in her series in e-book from. It is called Out of a Dream.

The link is: http://www.amazon.com/Dream-Sandy-Cove-Series-Book-ebook/dp/B00JJR28M8

If you haven't read it, I really recommend that you do. She writes fiction based on life she's experienced and this first novel deals with the seductiveness of the New Age—a huge issue among adults and youth in our area, and I am sure in yours!

The two posts I've done on her books are:

http://erickreinstedt.blogspot.com/2012/04/new-age-lure-and-good-novel.html

http://erickreinstedt.blogspot.com/2014/04/great-reads-great-deals.html

Blessings.   —Erick

Just a Relative?

I just read a line in a blog by a man named Samuel Clough that really struck me. It says, "We are called to be the bride and I am afraid that most of us are more content with being relatives of God rather than a bride."

I had to stop and think about that. And I realize I can approach it in two ways, both valid and both powerful, and each having their time and place.

Approach One: This approach uses the quote to evaluate my walk and relationship with Him from my position, and toward Him. It includes questions like:
Is that me? Do I prefer the relationship with Him where I can invite Him over (or go visit) when it is convenient, with the boundaries I want to set, etc.? Am I content to know I have a more special relationship with Him then non-relatives do, but to not really be joined to Him inseparably as one flesh? Am I OK with being aware of burdens of His heart and kind of picking which ones I should address, or am I bound to Him as one flesh with His burdens as my own? Do I feel like I have an option of stepping back when I need to take care of my "own stuff," or do I feel like I have nothing that is not His stuff as well?

In this context the quote is a powerful line that brings forth powerful questions and introspection!

Approach Two: This one uses the quote to evaluate my walk and relationship with Him from His position, toward me. It includes questions like:
Do I realize He doesn't just get "related" to me (which could mean many different levels of attachment, not all very deep)—He chooses me as a bride?! Am I living like He is "just" a relative, interested in much of my stuff but with His own stuff too—or do I realize He has joined Himself to me in a relationship without separate compartments . . . a relationship He describes in earthly terms as two becoming "one flesh"?! Am I living like He wants to see me now and then when it works out, or do I realize He wants to be (and is) with me always, no matter what, with no created thing able to separate me from His love?
Mary Ann and I recently celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary. I love her so much! She is my best friend! There is no one I'd rather be with, and even when we go to visit others our heart is to be joined in the same conversation rather then "guy talk" outside and "girl talk" inside (not to say there isn't a time and place for that, but too often it seems the norm or even preference). If I experience something wonderful and Mary Ann isn't there to share it with then something feels missing to me. She is my bride. My one flesh. My best friend. My pal.

Do I realize, and live like, God feels that way about me? The question goes two ways. 1) Have I believed a lie that He feels otherwise? 2) Am I content with something otherwise?

God uses two very powerful relationship in the Bible to describe our intended relationship with Him as born again believers—a Father/child, and this one, a Bridegroom/Bride. Both are relationships where, if lived correctly, there is a union far deeper than simply being "related." They are both unions that transcend that to a tie that is stunning in its depth. I can use the model of those two relationships to evaluate my relationship with Him to help me see areas I am not walking with Him as I should. And . . . I can use them to remind myself of just how much He loves me and I am joined with Him and how vested and interested He is in my life!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

I am the Lord

In my current reading through the Bible I am in Leviticus 22, and this morning I made a note in the margin about how many times God ends a command, statement of His Holiness, etc., with the words, "I am the Lord." Then, I looked across the page to the facing page and saw where I had made an almost identical comment my last time through Leviticus, probably two years ago.

I am struck by the utter simplicity of it. He speaks. He commands (usually something related to being separate, holy, set apart, etc.) and He simply ends with, "I am the Lord." And, really, what more needs to be said?

So many of those commands are things which a violation of results in death, being cut off, etc. They are serious. God is holy—separate, set apart. Holy. Lord. Have those words lost anything to us? Only four letters each, but they define man's condition and eternity.

God is holy. By the very definition of it He is separate from us. It is in His holiness that we find the very reason we are cut off, separated from God, by our sin. He is holy. A consuming fire. A star breather. The One who holds and decides all of eternity. God.

God. There's a three letter word. The shortest of all and yet the most powerful. God. How often do we use these words so casually: God, holy, Lord?

Sometimes I'll simply slowly repeat the word "God" multiple times softly out loud to myself. And each time it grows in power until the word I can so flippantly throw out in conversation and advice starts to have a reverence and awe return around it. God. Holy. Lord.

"Be still and know that I am God." He says that in His Psalms. Slow down. Know I am GOD! That word is supposed to mean everything, just like, "I am the Lord" is supposed to. Everything! And, what more is needed?

And the most stunning thing of all? As born again Christians we are holy unto God. Set apart by God. His own special people and nation (not America, but the Kingdom of God). That is how complete Christ's work on our behalf is. That God could take us—sinful, self-centered, lustful, faithless, proud people—and do something to or for us that is so complete that He can bring us into His holiness! That the HOLY Spirit could in fact live in us!

But . . . saved, forgiven, reconciled to God, united with God, indwelt by God, eternally alive to God . . . does the word "Lord" really mean to me what it should? "I am the Lord." That is all. And it should be enough. Because if it isn't enough for me to give Him my everything (from obedience, to resources, to love and to trust), what more, possibly, could I be waiting for?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I Am in Awe . . .

Jon nailed this one! A rose.
We have been having fun photographing for, and managing our family's new Facebook page, "Just a Closer Look" (www.facebook.com/justacloserlook). We'd love to say hundreds of people are having a blast trying to guess what the images are, but that isn't the case and it is probably good! (See my note under "Remember" below.) Jon Guenther, one of this blog's readers and one of the two authors I blogged about on April 10th in Great Reads, Great Deals, actually guessed the first one correctly down to the type of flower! Wow! No wonder he is such a good author if he notices detail like that!
Abigail "on assignment."

Our great hope with this Facebook page is that people would (besides having fun!), find themselves starting to slow down and notice things in God's Creation that they maybe would have walked past before. Ultimately that will point us to God and remind us that He is interested in the tiniest of details in Creation—which to me means He must be interested in the tiniest details of our lives. Jesus used Creation to illustrate this incredible and reassuring truth:
And he said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. (Luke 12:22-31, ESV—underlines mine)
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29–31, ESV—underline mine)
Genesis 1 makes it clear that God made everything, and Hebrews 11:3 makes it clear that a primary component of faith is believing that He made it all from nothing. Therefore, what we see is the result of God's creative hand and word. Imagine! If it is this stunning in the tiniest details of earth what it will be like for us in Heaven free of sin's corruption!

Bethany examining a picture.
I can tell you that after spending fifteen to twenty minutes in a garden looking for things that I normally walk past but that are stunning in macro detail, I am in awe each time. There are even times that, after we put the pictures on a big screen, we see things we hadn't even noticed. God is so absolutely incredible!

Romans 1:18-20 says: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

The more I study Creation and the more I take time to stand under the stars, or stare into a flower's center, the more I realize how it should be impossible for us to be in Creation and deny a Creator. God says it is impossible—that we know the truth but suppress it. He says that because of Creation we are without excuse before Him for denying Him. I am in awe, and I feel the fool, to think I spent so many years of my life arrogantly denying Him in my intellect when His evidence is all around me. May this homeschool project of our family help someone who once walked where I walk recognize God sooner, and may it encourage those who do know God to worship Him more, to be encouraged that He knows their details and cares, and to slow down.
Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" (Psalm 46:10, ESV—underline mine)
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This one currently has people stumped! We'll put the
answer on Facebook later today or tomorrow.
Remember: You don't have to have a Facebook account to see the page, only to guess and comment on it. If you do have a Facebook page and "Like" the "Just a Closer Look" page I'd encourage you to share it with anyone you know who you think:

1. Might be encouraged to slow down and notice God's Creation, and to realize how God is interested in the tiniest of details. I believe it might be just what someone needs right now who is feeling overwhelmed or forgotten.

2. Can handle being drawn into Facebook (online media, etc.). Not everyone should be encouraged to plug into something like this as Facebook and other online media can easily, if not guarded, suck us into hours we never intended. I see youth in our youth group who can't be away from their online stuff for any length of time, and I know adults who've had to make the hard decisions to step back because they were getting drawn into their online world at the cost of their world around them. Everything has a time and place and I know people for whom Facebook is a true ministry, but it needs to be something someone can handle in God's leading and balance. So, for you or someone else, if you can't participate without wisdom then please stay away from the page. Go out in the garden and see the real things instead!
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