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February 2011 Archives

February 2, 2011

The Wide Place

Psalm 31:8 (NKJV)
...You have set my feet in a wide place.
...
(The Message)
I'm leaping and singing in the circle of your love;
you saw my pain,
you disarmed my tormentors,
You didn't leave me in their clutches
but gave me room to breathe.

OBSERVATION
I don't know what the circumstance were that prompted the writing of this Psalm. Commentators say that this could have been written by David or by the prophet Jeremiah. Sometimes a phrase just catches your attention, and that is what happened to me here.

APPLICATION
I love the way Eugene Peterson expresses the last part of v8: that God "gave me room to breathe." Sometimes life presses in in such a way that it's hard to catch your breath, like a prisoner to my circumstances, trapped and feeling claustrophobic. Not only will God deliver me, but as the NKJV says it, He "sets my feet in a wide place." One of the things I like to do is to find an open spot overlooking the beach, or a big park filled with trees. I sit and think, and breathe; its one of the ways that I clear my head. It's in the "wide place" that I can sort through my thoughts, address my anxieties, confront my fears, gain perspective, and get "a Word." Whenever life presses in, pressing back doesn't help. I call to Him to set me in a wide place, a safe place, where I can see and hear clearly.

PRAYER
Thank you Lord for the wide places.

February 4, 2011

Hand-Me-Downs

Exodus 29:29 (NKJV)
And the holy garments of Aaron shall be his sons’ after him, to be anointed in them and to be consecrated in them.

OBSERVATION
God dedicated the Aaronic line to be ministers before him. All of Aaron's descendants will now be priests. In fact, Aaron and his sons were dedicated to the Lord (Exodus 29:20). But Aaron's "uniform," the symbol of his position and responsibility, was to be passed down to his sons who come after him.

APPLICATION
This week in Men's Fraternity we defined authentic Godly manhood as "rejecting passivity, taking responsibility, leading courageously, and expect the greater reward." In the mentioned passage I see that the legacy that God was entrusting to Aaron required authentic manhood. It requires that he "hands down" to his sons something more than just his name.

Aaron and his sons (and the generations that followed) were dedicated for service to God. But there came a time when Aaron passed on his assignment to his sons. Aaron job wasn't only to minister before God as a priest, but to train his sons in what being a priest means, what it requires. For one day, they would wear the uniform and with it the responsibility for God's people and the generation that would follow them. There would come a day that Aaron's sons would be recognized by the community ("anointed") and charged with the full responsibility ("consecrated"). This means that the time of training and the time when they lived for themselves was over, and now gave themselves to a lifetime of service. And also took on the added responsibility of preparing the generation that would follow them.

I wonder what my son will feel when he puts on the uniform of "manhood." Will he know what it looks like? Will he know how to put it on? Will he understand what comes with the job? He was dedicated to God's service as an infant, but when the time comes to be anointed and consecrated into the ministry that God has for him, will he be ready? Will he know what to do. Doing my job with him is every bit as important as doing my job for others. When that day comes and he puts on the uniform; cap & gown (graduation) / tuxedo (wedding) / burp rag (fatherhood) - I want him to stand proud knowing he's ready and willing to embrace the ministry God has for him.

PRAYER
Father, I wear the uniform you've given to me with pride. Let me care for it in such a way that what is passed down to my son is not a mess of filthy rags, torn and worn out because I didn't care for it. Let me take pride in the manhood/ministry you've anointed and consecrated me to, so that I pass down to my lineage something of worth that is cherished and taken pride in...so that it can be passed down again.

February 7, 2011

"...despising its shame..."

Matthew 27:36-46 (NKJV)
36 Sitting down, they kept watch over Him there. 37 And they put up over His head the accusation written against Him:
THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
38 Then two robbers were crucified with Him, one on the right and another on the left.
39 And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”
41 Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, 42 “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. 43 He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”
44 Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.
Jesus Dies on the Cross

45 Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. 46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?

OBSERVATION
This scene gives us just a taste of what was said in Hebrews 12:2 - Jesus...endured the cross, despising its shame..." The shame placed about above his head in the ridicule of the sign. The mocking of the priests, scribes and elders. The soldiers left him completely exposed as the took his garments (as I think of Adam exposed in his shame after the fall). V44 says even the robber on the crosses next to him joined in with the ridicule. Most of all, the shame reflected in the separation Jesus endured during his separation from the Father, not only because of the sin, but because to identify with Jesus in that moment would have brought shame to God.

APPLICATION
The crucifixion scene is so powerful not only for the fact of Jesus bearing the sin of mankind as our sacrifice, but also because of the shame he bore. Sin kept us from God. Shame kept God from us. God could not reach to us or it would have brought dishonor to Him. And if God was shamed, then His word meant nothing, his faithfulness and integrity could be questioned. So all the shame of mankind that we brought upon God was borne by Jesus. And as spoken in Isaiah 53:5 & 54:11 says, "He was wounded for our transgressions (sin), He was bruised for our iniquities (shame)...My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities."

The cross not only settled the payment for sin, but satisfied the the redemption of of our shame.

PRAYER
Lord, thank you for enduring the cross, the full weight of our redemption. Because you bore our shame, I now have honor restored, and You are glorified.

February 9, 2011

Spirits in the Synagogue

Mark 1:21,23-26,32-34 (NKJV)
21 Then they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and taught.
23 Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”
25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet, and come out of him!” 26 And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of him.
...
32 At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 Then He healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He did not allow the demons to speak, because they knew Him.

OBSERVATION
I included all the verses so that the whole story could be seen, but what caught my attention was v23 - the comment that a man with an unclean spirit was in the synagogue.

APPLICATION
I wonder how many people are the congregation that I serve look clean on the outside, but are unclean on the inside. I'm not just talking about dealing with sin and overcoming the flesh. I'm talking about an oppression that requires the person to be delivered and the demon(s) to be cast out.

Thanks to the movies, it would seem like it would be easy to identify the people who are demon possessed (e.g. The Exorcist). When in fact, the entity of spiritual oppression wants to remain hidden. The minute it is identified, then it can be dealt with. I wonder if everyone in the synagogue knew about the problem in this person, or if they were completely caught off guard when Jesus took authority and set the man free from this oppression. I wonder how many people could be sitting in my congregation dealing with significant spiritual oppression and nobody knows. I would not be surprised to discover that people could be struggling (having unwittingly opened the doors of their life to this kind of influence) and no one would never know. What I hope is that as the truth is proclaimed and Jesus is glorified, the darkness would be exposed and people will be set free.

PRAYER
Lord, You came to set the captives free, for the unclean to be purified and whole. Don't let me be someone who averts his eyes from seeing, who avoids spiritual conflict. In the authority that has been given to me as a believer, help me to join you in delivering people into freedom.

February 17, 2011

New Routine

Leviticus 18:2-3 (NKJV)
According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances. 4 You shall observe My judgments and keep My ordinances, to walk in them: I am the LORD your God.

OBSERVATION
Leviticus lays out all of the rules and regulations for navigation life as Jew - clean and unclean, relationships, sacrifices, etc. These rules defined a people who other than for maybe a style of dress wouldn't be identified as unique for the other peoples of the region. It describes the way that the Lord wanted them to live because as He said, "I am the LORD your God."

APPLICATION
There are so many things I do everyday that I dont even really think about. My routine of getting up, reading the word, having a cup of coffee, watching the morning news as the family starts moving, heading to the gym, coming home and having a 2 egg omlette...everyday stuff. I remember when my breakfast was a bagel. But since I wanted to lose weight I needed to cut some carbs and add protein. So I changed my routine, but only because I had a reason to.

All these regulations presented in Leviticus required a change in routine, and change in lifestyle. I would have been so easy to "love God" and still live with the old routine. But often we don't know why we have the routine we have. It's default living. And as long as Egypt lives in me, I won't make the Lord mine. If I get swayed by the way they do it here in Canaan, I placed myself outside of His covering.

I find that I add the Lord to my regular routine other than changing it. There's the tendency to modify my life's patterns, conforming in little ways as I'm influenced by what I see going on around me and not making intentional choices about why I am or not doing a particular thing because I don't hold it against the Lord's judgments or ordinances. Just because "we've always done it this way" isn't reason enough to hold on to what the Lord requires me to do differently. Nor is the excuse that "everyone else is doing it" reason enough to compromise the standards that God has established for me. This seems like BasicLife101. But I think it's more subtle than that. The Lord's requirements for living are often "other than" what has been my old routine. There's another way to do life. I need to pay attention, not living as an Egyptian or a Canaanite, but as God's.

PRAYER
Lord, continue to point out to me where I still carry habits and routines that are other than the ordinances and directives you've laid out of me. Let my life's choice and habits be a witness, if only even to myself, that I belong to You.

February 23, 2011

Taking Prisoners

Leviticus 24:12 (NKJV)
They put him in custody until the will of the LORD should be made clear to them.

OBSERVATION
In the middle of a conflict, an Israelite "blasphemed the name of the Lord and cursed..." So he was brought to Moses to determine what the man's punishment should be.

APPLICATION
How many times have I rushed to judgment? There are many situations that I have a tendency to make immediate decisions based on the emotion of the situation, or my own intuition, or assumptions that prove to be underdeveloped at best. What caught me in this passage is that Moses and the elders found a way not only to buy time, but determined to to take any action until the will of the Lord was clear.

This brings to mind many scriptures...
* We can discover and "prove" the will of God: Romans 12:2 - Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
* We need to place our thoughts in "custody": 2 Corinthians 10:5
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

* There's even the precedent set by the apostles when determining the biggest issue they faced addressing the inclusion of the Gentiles: Acts 15:28
It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us...

I've said in the past that I've never made a mistake by moving to slowly, but I have made big ones by moving too quickly. I need to place the pressing issues in my life in custody, not to forget about them, but to give me the necessary time to process with the Lord (and my counselors) and determine the will of God.

About February 2011

This page contains all entries posted to JustJeff | Life Journal in February 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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