Can we just cancel this week?

Owl Sheets

I wanted to just cancel last week altogether.  Ice storms.  Problems for my husband at work with a business trip to ice the cake.  Behind on the housework.  Again.  The dogs chewed on the back cushion of the love seat I practically mortgaged the house to pay to re-cover because everyone loves it and I have to live with them.  It was Thursday and I woke up at 5:48 that morning and felt confused.  Why was I where I was?  For some reason my brain expected to wake up in a luxurious suite and that I had won that $1.6 billion (yes, billion with a “b”) lotto jackpot.  Instead I woke up in my own bed with the flannel sheets that have goofy looking owls on them which I bought because they were the least obnoxious pattern available from the selection on sale at Walmart.  So, as I stared at the alarm clock on my dusty night stand with the door that won’t stay closed because the air in my house is dry beyond words because the furnace humidifier died last year and won’t be replace for another month, I had to have a discussion with my brain about reality vs. unreality.  Unfortunately, I won the argument.

Let’s talk about what that argument is really about.  It’s really about happiness.  Would I prefer to wake up in a California king-sized bed with matching bedding or my goofy owl sheets with an old cotton sheet thrown over the duvet because our cat, Demon-Spawn, insists on jumping up on the bed to throw up where it’s comfortable?  I don’t think I have to answer that question, especially if the king-sized bed scenario includes room service.

We all want to be happy, but I think we confuse happiness with two greater attributes which will bring us happiness.  I am referring to contentment and trust.  Some of you may have read my 4-part blog on free will and predestination.  I did not realize what a watershed moment in my life that it described.  I had finally figured out things that had been niggling at the back of my mind for literally decades.  I am still seeing new concepts open up to me because those ideas congealed.  Even though I woke up confused this morning (and not particularly content or happy as a result), there are things which I know and once those begin to settle in, life improves.

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The New and Improved Covenant

new-improved

I was raised with the teaching that God made man as a perfect being, placed him in a perfect world and then had to come up with a way to deal with man’s fall into sin.  I was taught that God thought up a plan to rescue man – the death of Yeshua on the cross – so that man could return to the relationship he had with God in the Garden of Eden.  A suspicion that this teaching is incorrect has been growing on me and now I no longer believe it.  No, I have not lost my faith.  I simply believe that those who taught and believe these things missed the point.  God is bigger than this and his priorities are bigger too.

God did not create the world and mankind because he was bored one day in heaven.  He did not create everything because he needed something to do and a world full of trouble would help him pass the time.  Everything God does is for his glory.  HIS glory.  Not ours.  Everything he does reflects back on who he is.  Not because he is an ego maniac.  In simplest terms, it is for his glory because it is an accurate statement of what existence is.  Nothing increases his glory, and nothing can diminish it.  God’s creation of everything that exists is a demonstration of his glory.  Creation states a fact by its existence and demonstrates the attributes of God in a way which words alone cannot do.

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Why God Hates a Smartass

eggshell

I am reading “A Compleat Body of Divinity”.  It is a collection of 250 lectures on the Shorter Westminster Catechism written by Samuel Willard and published posthumously in the early 1700’s.  At the time I started writing this, I was on lecture 13, page 42.

Why am I reading this?  I mean really, Puritan theology from 300 years ago.  First, he’s a relative and you know how relatives are about inflicting their pursuits on you.  How can I say no?  What will I say at Christmas when he asks me how I like it?  Secondly, it’s really good stuff.  A little slow in places but don’t tell him I said that.

Speaking of page 42.  I realized as I read it why it is that God is so deadset in his opposition to the proud.  Pride was the sin of Satan.  That’s enough of a reason.  But you begin to ask yourself what is it about that particular sin that is such an affront to God?  What makes it so terrible?  Terrible enough for God to single it out?

Everyone with a proud heart is detestable to the Lord;

be assured, he will not go unpunished.

Proverbs 16:5 HCSB

Pride is the basis for all sin.  Why?  Pride consists of us putting ourselves above God or at least equal to God.

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Whistling Past the Graveyard

old-graveyard

Did you ever hear of this?  That people walking past a graveyard at night would whistle as they walked?  The dictionary defines this as remaining cheerful or confident in a difficult situation.  How difficult a situation is this?  The residents are all dead.  And not just dead, but underneath 6 feet of dirt.  How many of us really think they’re coming up anytime soon?

The answer to why people whistle as they walk past a graveyard is found in walking past a graveyard in the “dead” of night.  The hair rises on the back of your neck and you start at every sound or noise.  It’s creepy and unnerving, even though you know, yes-you KNOW, there’s nothing to be afraid of.  No one is there, at least not in any sense you need to worry about.  The whistling is comforting on a number of levels.  First of all, it gives you something to do other than think about walking past a graveyard full of dead people in the dark of night.  Secondly, you are hopefully whistling something cheerful which not only makes you feel happier but covers any of the odd little sounds that have made you so nervous in the first place.  Thirdly, and most importantly, it disarms the air of the supernatural and brings it back to the realm of the human.  Ghosts and creepy crawlies don’t whistle.  People whistle and there is nothing more lacking in the air of the supernatural than a whistling, flesh and blood, mortal man.

Most of us spend our lives walking past the graveyard.  And we whistle loudly while we do it.  We are determined not to see anything further than our simple, flesh and blood lives.  The whistle blocks out the sense that the world is bigger than the things we touch and see.  You see, what we’re really afraid of is that when we stare into the dark, that someone will be looking back.

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Arise! Shine! For your light has come!

sunrise

One thing I love about the Bible is the odd things you suddenly notice.  You’ve read the same passage time and again.  You can practically quote it verbatim and then suddenly you’re scratching your head and wondering how THAT got in there.  Something stands out to you like a searchlight in the dark and you can’t figure out how you never noticed it before.

Yeshua rose from the dead at dawn.  Now ask yourself which part of that sentence you just didn’t really notice.  Dawn.  He rose at dawn.  Yeah, so???  Why dawn?  We take it for granted that he rose first thing on the Sunday following his death on the cross on Friday.  That would work if God viewed the day as we view the day.

We start our days at dawn.  Sometimes before dawn.  I wake up at 5:50 AM on Monday through Friday.  This time of year that is definitely before dawn.  I can understand Yeshua rising at dawn.  I see no point in getting up before the sun can be troubled to burst over the horizon.  But that’s not the way God views the day.  To understand that we have to go back to Genesis.  Each and every day of creation, it says the same thing.  “Evening came and then morning: the first day.”  [Genesis 1:5 HCSB]  This is why Jewish holidays begin at sundown.  For God, the day begins at sundown.

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What’s Coming is Better Than What Could Have Been

Walking in the Light

I was listening to someone talk about Adam in the Garden of Eden.  He talked about how the death and resurrection of Yeshua meant that we would be restored to the relationship Adam had in the Garden of Eden.  This is when my Jewishness kicks in.  I thought, “Well, yes…..and no.”  What do I mean by that?

The relationship we will have with God based on Yeshua’s death and resurrection has its feet in the Garden of Eden.  The relationship we will have towers above that relationship and explains why it is worth it for us to go through the fall of mankind to reach it.  It is breathtaking that God would offer us so much.  And the cost of a fallen world crippled by sin will make it all the more precious.

What was Adam’s relationship to God in the Garden?  God created man to be perfect.  He could walk with God face to face.  He ruled a creation put under his care by God and it all worked.  There were no broken relationships.  No natural disasters.  No famine, no drought.  Death was unknown and it was all created to continue on in that way for all of eternity.  Except that it wasn’t.  God put everything into place knowing exactly what was going to happen.  This relationship was not enough.

So what was missing from Adam’s relationship that made the fall of man necessary.  Yes, necessary.

 It wasn’t close enough.

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Yom Kippur and the Azazel

two-goats

God institutes the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16.  He describes what is to happen and why in some detail.  Here’s what I noticed in this section this year.

First of all, cleanliness is directed time and again. Aaron must bathe before dressing to enter the Holy of Holies.  After removing the holy garments, he must bathe again and re-dress in his regular clothing.  The person who releases the Azazel (scapegoat) must bathe before re-entering the camp.  The person who burns up the remains of the bull offering and the goat offering for sin must bathe before returning to the camp.  Wash.  Bathe.  Cleanse yourself. Remember the purity of God.  Be pure and present yourselves to God.

Next is an emphasis on God’s holiness.  Aaron is instructed not to enter the Holy of Holies anytime he pleases.  He must only enter once a year and then he must bathe and dress in holy garments after he has sacrificed to remove his sins.  He must carry a pan of embers on which to place incense.  The smoke must billow up so the mercy seat is obscured or the sight of God will kill him where he stands.

Next I remembered something my pastor said.

 Atonement will be made for you on this day to cleanse you, and you will be clean from all your sins before the Lord.   Leviticus 16:30

Atonement will be made for you.  This is not something a person could do for himself.  It required no action on the part of the Jewish citizenry.  They were commanded to sit still and remember who they were before a holy and just God.  No convocations.  No assemblies.  Stay home.  Sit still and humble yourselves.  Be thankful for the forgiveness you did not deserve.

But this time reading through the section something else struck me.  The goats.  Yup, you have 2 goats.  Aaron is to cast lots between the goats.  One will be for God and the other goat will be the scapegoat.  The goat which God chooses will be sacrificed for sin.  But whose sin?

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