Monday, August 18, 2014

We are the Altar // The Week of August 18

Monday: Readings
“He knows and he’ll let Israel know if this is a rebellious betrayal of God. And if it is, don’t bother saving us. If we built ourselves an altar in rebellion against God, if we did it to present on it Whole-Burnt-Offerings or Grain-Offerings or to enact there sacrificial Peace-Offerings, let God decide.

 “But that’s not it. We did it because we cared. We were anxious lest someday your children should say to our children, ‘You’re not connected with God, the God of Israel! God made the Jordan a boundary between us and you. You Reubenites and Gadites have no part in God.’ And then your children might cause our children to quit worshiping God.

“So we said to ourselves, ‘Let’s do something. Let’s build an altar—but not for Whole-Burnt-Offerings, not for sacrifices.’ “We built this altar as a witness between us and you and our children coming after us, a witness to the Altar where we worship God in his Sacred Dwelling with our Whole-Burnt-Offerings and our sacrifices and our Peace-Offerings.

“This way, your children won’t be able to say to our children in the future, ‘You have no part in God.’ “We said to ourselves, ‘If anyone speaks disparagingly to us or to our children in the future, we’ll say: Look at this model of God’s Altar which our ancestors made. It’s not for Whole-Burnt-Offerings, not for sacrifices. It’s a witness connecting us with you.’

“Rebelling against or turning our backs on God is the last thing on our minds right now. We never dreamed of building an altar for Whole-Burnt-Offerings or Grain-Offerings to rival the Altar of our God in front of his Sacred Dwelling.”



Tuesday: We are the Altar
The Israelites built an altar--a model--after the Altar of God. It was not to replace the Altar of God, but to serve as a witness to it: a reminder of who God is and what he has done. A reminder of his salvation. We're not talking idols here, we're talking about a bridge. A means to get from point A to point B, from us to God. These particular Israelites were separated from the Promised Land, set across the Jordan and away from the boundaries marked out by God. They were aliens in a foreign world and they feared forgetting who God was or being excluded from the rest of the community.

This bridge allowed these Israelites to reach God, to worship and honor their Lord even being so distant from the Altar of God. It was not an act of rebellion, but of desire. God desires relationship with us, and in that time, relationship with God was symbolic in nature. The Altar was the place of atonement, of cleansing, of offering, of sacrifice, of redemption. It was the place to purify oneself through blood and fire, so that we could be presented to the Lord having fully expressed our desire for him. But it became legalism--a standard of motions and rules meant to bind the people and legislate spirituality. Not God's intent, but man's.

Instead, God rolls out the next part of his plan in response to our shortcomings: his son, Jesus. Sent to Earth, separate from God and his promised land, yet fully connected in Spirit. And Jesus became that bridge--that witness--to whom God is. He became that reminder and that means to reach God even when our lives seem so far away from righteousness. Christ's death, then, did not serve to replace the original Covenant, or requirement for blood and fire, but to fulfill that Covenant. To stand in the gap for us. This story is a preface to what God was doing: bridging the gap between himself and mankind through his son, expressed in love and delivered through the Spirit. The old ways are not negated, rather they set the stage for a beautiful understanding of the scope of God's grace.
Wednesday: Challenge Yourself
God's plans are far beyond our vision, understanding or even dreams. We cannot fathom the work God is doing because we are finite. It's like standing at the foot of a tower and trying to guess what lies on the other side. Until we go through it, we have only supposition. And until we have fully experienced the tower, we cannot imagine what lies beyond. Then, even if we could imagine or dream or guess, we have no foresight as to how the adventure will change us, thus altering our perspective of what lies beyond. God never hurries. And he knows the plans he has for us. Just as he painted little bits of his story for the Israelites, so he paints little bits for us. He hinted at the coming redemptive power of Jesus, and he hints at what he has for us. It doesn't matter, however, if we even see all of the hints. Until we walk the road and experience the story, we cannot understand how it will look because our perspective will continue to change.

Furthermore, through the work of the Spirit, we become the Altar of God, filled with his have and love and redemption. Full of his righteousness to bring his Kingdom to our communities. It is not by or hands that we serve our Lord but by his Spirit working in us.


What does it mean to be an ALTAR OF GOD?

Does God feel accessible to you? Why?

What in you compels you to do good? Would those traits exist without Jesus? How does God refine those?

HOW DOES YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS DRIVE YOUR DREAMS? HOW DOES IT DRIVE YOU TO BE PART OF GOD'S DREAM?

Thursday: Reflect
What feelings do these photographs draw?


Friday: Think & Pray
THINK
Have I ever come to a place in my experience where I can say – "I indeed – but He"? Until that moment does come, I will never know what the baptism of the Holy Ghost means. I indeed am at an end, I cannot do a thing: but He begins just there – He does the things no one else can ever do. Am I prepared for His coming? Jesus cannot come as long as there is anything in the way either of goodness or badness. When He comes am I prepared for Him to drag into the light every wrong thing I have done? It is just there that He comes. Wherever I know I am unclean, He will put His feet; wherever I think I am clean, He will withdraw them.

Repentance does not bring a sense of sin, but a sense of unutterable unworthiness. When I repent, I realize that I am utterly helpless; I know all through me that I am not worthy even to bear His shoes. Have I repented like that? Or is there a lingering suggestion of standing up for myself? The reason God cannot come into my life is because I am not through into repentance.

Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for his Highest
August 22

PRAY
Father, thank you for the gift of your son, Jesus, who has bridged the gap between our brokenness and your righteousness. Thank you for the life lessons you teach us that remind us you are here. Father, teach us to be patient for you, to learn that you never hurry and we are the servants of your master plan, which is always bigger than our own. We thank you for redemption and grace, for transforming us into your Altar through Jesus.

amen

Friday, August 15, 2014

Pray

Wisdom, Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (Aug 4)
The bravery of God in trusting us! You say – "But He has been unwise to choose me, because there is nothing in me; I am not of any value." That is why He chose you. As long as you think there is something in you, He cannot choose you because you have ends of your own to serve; but if you have let Him bring you to the end of your self-sufficiency then He can choose you to go with Him to Jerusalem, and that will mean the fulfillment of purposes which He does not discuss with you.

Pray
Father, teach us to fill ourselves with your embrace, that we might find rest even amid chaos. We recognize that we cannot, nor should we, expect to be carefree—that does not exist in your Kingdom, because YOU always care. Someone always has a need, and your cares ought to be our own. Teach us to walk the road of rest—the unstable, frightening, beautiful narrow path that reminds us of your story and our place in it. Teach us to settle down into your embrace and see your world through your eyes, not our own.


Amen.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Challenge

Think
Are we inclined to choose the road of rest—the one that may not be as popular or easy? When we’re presented with this choice, we know the “right” answer, and will often choose it because someone is watching. But what of those days when the choice is more vague and less transparent? The minute decisions throughout the day to go here, go there, eat this, drink that? The decisions to say this or do that, those times when the choice is less than clear and no one is really watching in that moment? What do we choose then?

Do we fill our time with busyness to avoid idleness? Have we convinced ourselves that productivity is equivalent to quality? The road of rest is not easy, and our definition of rest must be changed if we are to truly see rest as God does. It’s not easy, but it’s good.

Ask Yourself
Are we embracing the rest of Jesus?

What does that even mean? What does Jesus’ rest look like?

Are we filling ourselves with pursuits, even good pursuits, to appear more full? To feel more full?

How can we be full of Jesus if we’re full of the rest of the world? How do we empty the world? How do we fill ourselves with Jesus?


How do you define rest?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Road of Rest

Rest is a precarious thought. Somewhere between laziness and exhaustion we find this interesting concept of rest. After God finished giving Israel their land, he gave them rest. But notice, the scripture says, “not a single one of their enemies was able to stand up to them—God handed over all their enemies to them.” We don’t learn laziness of rest. We learn neither boredom nor ease. Rather, Israel’s enemies tried to stand against them, but God delivered Israel and gave them victory. The road marked by rest is not necessarily smooth. This road is often more scenic, full of story and ruts and stumbles and falls. Rest is the peace that comes from sitting with our Lord—from embracing Jesus and striving to know him better.


The trials and battles and sorrows still wander down the road of rest, they push us off and make us lose our step. But when we are embracing our God, we will not lose our way. Paul writes of salvation to the Church in Rome, “You’re not ‘doing’ anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you.” Our rest as followers of Jesus is evident in our lives through our embracing of Jesus and his word. We are not guaranteed carefree days, rather we are promised stress and frustration and sorrow and brokenness. We can’t do anything on our own. We may deceive ourselves into believing we are capable of anything, but the very breath in our chest belongs to God. We must learn to embrace Jesus with our entirety. Only then do we find the scenic road, which may take longer and be a bit ruffled, but in time is found far more beautiful.