Blessed to be a blessing

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Sometimes when a thing is over used it becomes less significant.
Sometimes when a saying is repeated too often it becomes pithy.

I have thought the latter about the saying above.  There was a time when it was reiterated so often that it lost its punch.  ”you are blessed to be a blessing.”  I didn’t resent it, but it did become diluted to the point of it meaning less.

The reality of it is still true.  When each of us walks in the blessing of the Lord, that blessing is not supposed to be bottled up and kept.  Instead, that blessing is to be shared with others.  And, not sparingly, but generously.  If we glory in our blessing and don’t share it, then it becomes an idol.  It can become a golden calf. We do things to worship the blessing and think it has everything to do with us and leave Father out of it.  This is not kingdom-thinking.

Instead, we need to recognize that EVERYTHING under the sun, including the sun, is a gift from Father.  All our strength, health, jobs, finances, gifts, talents, time, family, outpouring of love, prayers– everything emanates from the heart of Father.  Our kindness towards others is a reflection and seed in our hearts is from Him.  We have the choice to listen and obey or not.

I’d rather obey.  I’d rather not build a golden calf.  I’d rather have true riches.  Jesus said, “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches” (Luke 16:11).

 

Two criminals with Jesus

In our travels through the book of Luke, we have made it to the Easter season 2014 at the same time we read and preach the last moments of Jesus life on the cross.

This past Sunday was Luke Part 123 in a series of sermons taking us all the way through the book of Luke.  This has taken five years, yet has been met with interludes along the way like Christmas, Easter, B90X, and other short book or series studies.

I don’t think this is by accident that we meet right now with a intersection of these ideas.

The thought I had this morning related both to the sermon last Sunday and the group of men I have the privilege of meeting with every Wednesday morning.  I don’t even begin to think that I have the all-inclusive, final answer to every section of scripture which I preach.  For this past Sunday, the Holy Spirit lead me to share some particular ideas relating to the four verses surrounding the two thieves crucified at the same time as Jesus.

The cool thing which happened this morning at coffee was how much more there is to the story than meets the eye.  Nearly all six of us which spoke up about it, had a little different take, inflection, or depth to the story than the others.  Granted we all had the same foundational view.  However, each of us brought a different light, perspective, or world-view to the passageScreen Shot 2014-04-09 at 9.05.26 AM.  It was mighty.

One of the things our time together this morning reminded me was how alive and living the Word of God is.  Taking the time to meditate on it can bring to light all sorts of things.  Rather than me thinking I have to have all the answers for everyone each and every Sunday, some ideas are spread around like the sower and his seed in Matt. 13, and those seeds fall on different kinds of hearts and lives and grow (or don’t grow) in all sorts of ways.

This was a really rich time for me.  Thank you Jim, Chris, Rick, Vince, Nathan, and Bill for sharing your hearts and thoughts on the Living Word of God.

B90X- Alter fire in Leviticus

I can remember the last thing the best man said at my wedding to Christie and I in his toast.  His name was Jeff.  He was a pretty lanky and thin fellow, as we all were back then.  And in typical Wildwood fashion, why do something once when you can do it twice as aggressive and with gusto, he raise not one, but two glasses of champagne.  Then said, “Keep the faith.”

That was approaching 32 years ago.  Little did I know how poignant his concluding words would be.

Faith must be kindled, stoked, maintained, perpetuated, supported, watered, fertilized, sustained, conserved, preserved, protected, upheld, and prolonged.

And most of all it must be kept.  It cannot be ignored, neglected, disregarded, abandoned, shirked, deserted, disclaimed, disowned, or disavowed.

I love reading the Bible.  I love reading the Bible in 90 days.  I love how the discipline of reading cover to cover forces me to read through material I normally would not.  I love how some ideas, words, or scenes of what may be happening in the text, come to life.

Last night I was reading through Leviticus.  First, I want to say that folks who disparage Leviticus and call it a sleeping aid, should stop that.  It is one of God’s words and needs to be treated thoughtfully and with care.

Three verses or ideas popped out at me:

brazen alter fireLeviticus 6:9 “Give Aaron and his sons this command: ‘These are the regulations for the burnt offering: The burnt offering is to remain on the altar hearth throughout the night, till morning, and the fire must be kept burning on the altar.”

Leviticus 6:12 “The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it.”

Leviticus 6:13 “The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.”

If I understand this correctly, for nearly 40 years or more, the fire of the brazen alter was never extinguished or went out naturally.  Wow.  That required vigilance.  That required much help and attention.

Where did all that wood come from in the desert?  Did that mean someone had to carry ashes on their head from one camp location to another?  Who was responsible to find, fell, chop, split, haul, and maintain a wood pile for the alter?  What kind of wood was it typically? Did it burn hot and clean like scrub oak or messy like pine?  I digress.

The point Father was trying to make to me last night was that this fire could not be ignored.  It had to be kept and maintained.  Much like out faith, it can’t just go on cruise control, one will eventually run out of gas.

As my friend Jeff said, “Keep the faith.”  And not just with one glass, but with two, both hands raised, with gusto, with emphasis, and forever.

B90X – Aaron the High Priest

“Increase our Faith” (Luke 17:5).  As we travel through the scriptures this year, we are looking at how faith, belief, and trust are present in the stories and incidents of Bible characters.  The faith or lack of faith of a person ought to spur us on toward faith.  Let’s use the fruit and results of their lives to help us increase our faith.

Today, as I was reading the last half of Exodus, I was struck by the storyaaron the high priest of Aaron, Moses’ brother and first high priest of the Hebrew religious system.  Particularly chapter 32 when the people became impatient when the man of God spent more time in the presence of the Lord than they wanted him to.  In their impatient state they asked Aaron to make a god for them rather than faith in Yahwah, the invisible.  Interestingly, they even named the golden calf they fashioned Yahweh.

The questions I had of the text pertained to Aaron and how he failed in his faith.  He was the appointed and anointed High Priest.  He could speak for the Lord.  He saw miracles.  He was in the presence of Moses as He heard from God.  He knew all the spiritual and material articles of the tabernacle and vestments of the priests.  He had access to the urim and the thummim.

So what happened?  His faith failed.  His trust in the Lord wavered.  His memory of all that had happened waned.  Why?  What was the state of his soul that he could so easily be bent towards bowing the the request of the people?  What words or actions were so convincing that he agreed to go along with their crazy idea?  What part of “you will have no other gods before me,” did they not understand?  Where the voices so loud and obnoxious that he relented out of shear overwhelming?  What did Aaron think he would gain from the decision?  He built the alter, he planned the festival, he agreed to the revelry, he participated in the eating and drinking.

I am going to pray about this today.  I don’t want something like this to happen to me.

B90X Genesis

When one reads through the Bible in 90 days, it only takes four days to get through all 50 chapters of Genesis.

Genesis is easy reading.  It is also full of crazy stories that seem like they just are made up, almost unbelievable.  It is the collection of the beginning of earthly existence for the heavens and the earth from the macro to the micro.  One sees the hand of God present and active in the lives of some very unlikely characters hosting the power, life, and legacy of the Lord.

Today at CRBC, to kick of the weekly series of sermons as we walk through the Bible, was my preaching professor, Scott Wenig.

Interestingly, as I read through Genesis this go-round, Joseph made a heightened impression on me.  His integrity, his wisdom, his patience, and his faith seemed to all speak voluminously to faithful believers for millennia to come.

Joseph and potipers wifeJoseph and his life was the subject-du-jour for us today.  The big idea was this, “Do you believe that God is always good and that He is always at work in your life?”  That question needs be be answered with a resounding, “yes.”   If not, that is a good goal to reach for.  It is good to make that connection.  To see God as bad, absent, or an antagonist to your life is no way to live and think.

For the next few days, as you read through some of the more challenging portions of scripture, ask your self this question and see what kinds of ideas you have.  Hopefully you will answer in the affirmative time and time again.

“Increase our faith!”