“And Moses said to Korah, ‘Hear now, you sons of Levi: is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the Lord and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, and that he has brought you near him, and all your brothers the sons of Levi with you? And would you seek the priesthood also?'” Numbers 16:8-10
Too small a thing . . . a group of people among the now-freed slaves of Egypt, the Israelites, had become discontented with their lot in life: it was no longer enough to be singled out among the hundreds of thousands to serve God in the daily work of worship in the tabernacle: they wanted more, and they were going after it.
What do you do when you are discontent and want more from life than you have? Continue reading “Too small”
“. . . always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.” 2 Timothy 3:7
Remember the last day of school when you were growing up?
Etched in my mind are wonderful memories of textbooks stacked on tables, empty spaces on classroom walls where posters and signs from the year had been removed and stored for the next group of young minds, and taking a paper sack to school in which to carry home the broken pencils and wrinkled contents of my desk. The spirit in the school was light and forward-looking. (The teachers seemed especially happy, for some reason.)
My elementary school was in the middle of rolling farms bounded by thick stands of woods, so the months of May and June were rich with bright sunshine and the sounds of surrounding meadows returning to life. Through open windows everywhere came the humid scent of blooming trees, honeysuckle and newly mown grass. Our three-room school was steeped in it.
These were the signs that said the time of learning was ending: the time of trying was beginning. Ready or not, we were free.
But free for what? Continue reading “School’s out”
“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” John 16:16
These are the words of Jesus to His closest friends, hours before His betrayal, arrest, trial, beating and crucifixion. They were having supper together. The mood of the room was serious. Passover was underway. As if with a riddle, He prepares them for what is to come.
Soon, He would be gone, but then He would be back.
Their eyes locked on His, the disciples fill with silent questions. Continue reading “In between”
“Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.” Psalm 66:5
I read this and thought, “Do I really think that God is awesome?”
Do you really believe that the One on Whom all time and existence now relies upon to be sustained is the same One who orders the steps of your day? Continue reading “Awesome”
And there shall be with you a man from each tribe, each man being the head of the house of his fathers. And these are the names of the men who shall assist you. . . Numbers 1:4-5
I like to know what’s going on in my life. . . what the days mean, how events fit together, where I am going next, what will happen there. It helps my peace of mind to look across the hours and know their content. I like to think that when I am in charge of time, then I can make good things happen and keep the bad things out.
How about you? Continue reading “Known”
“Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.’ But others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?’ And there was a division among them.” John 9:16
Jesus and his disciples are in Jerusalem, and as they walk in the streets, they stop near a man who has never been able to see. It is the Sabbath. Lots of questions…Jesus spits in the dirt and smears mud on the man’s eyes . . . tells him to wash it off in the Pool of Siloam. The blind man does so, and he receives the gift of eyesight.
This story is steeped in disbelief, doubt and misunderstanding, and the people in it are riddled with it. They are confused and doubtful, and their actions betray the disorienting fear that episodes like this can create. Their expectations of how life “ought to be” challenge their acceptance of real life before them.
But really, among the people in this story, who are the ones who can’t see? Continue reading “Great expectations”
At the command of the Lord the people of Israel set out, and at the command of the Lord they camped. As long as the cloud rested over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. Even when the cloud continued over the tabernacle many days, the people of Israel kept the charge of the Lord and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was a few days over the tabernacle, and according to the command of the Lord they remained in camp; then according to the command of the Lord they set out. And sometimes the cloud remained from evening until morning. And when the cloud lifted in the morning, they set out, or if it continued for a day and a night, when the cloud lifted they set out. Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in camp and did not set out, but when it lifted they set out. At the command of the Lord they camped, and at the command of the Lord they set out. They kept the charge of the Lord, at the command of the Lord by Moses. Numbers 9:18-23
In our culture today, the epitome of success is the driven person who is the “go-getter” who dreams big dreams and sets out to climb every mountain to make them real. We are taught from a young age that we can do anything we put our minds to.
“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
“We need a plan for work and we need to work the plan.”
“Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.”
Whole industries of motivation and coaching are built around telling us that we are the powerful, self-motivated centers of the universe. It is aspirational, captivating and sells lots of books and self-help programs, but there is (at least) one problem with this teaching:
It. Isn’t. True. Continue reading “The great sequence”
“The Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had valiant men who carried shield and sword, and drew the bow, expert in war, 44,760, able to go to war. They waged war against the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish, and Nodab. And when they prevailed over them, the Hagrites and all who were with them were given into their hands, for they cried out to God in the battle, and he granted their urgent plea because they trusted in him.” 1 Chronicles 5:18-20
This passage is full of crazy names: crazy names of real people long, long dead. Their homes are gone. Their families and farms, livestock are gone. All that we have of their walk on earth are a few historical records that speak to a people’s experience with ancient tools of battle: shield, sword and bow.
They were men of valor, experts in the ability to wage war. Quite an epitaph, don’t you think?
But there’s more.
Continue reading “Urgent pleas”
“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.'” Revelation 21:5-6
There is something about the start of a new year that is transforming. New day, new month, new year, (new budget-ha!) And for me, it helps when it is sunny on New Year’s Day. We’re at the top of the calendar with 364 days to come. It’s an adventure.
But what if it isn’t sunny that day, or on January 2nd the budget still doesn’t pay the bills, or the 364 days to come are known to be already brimming with likely pain, overwhelming challenge or stinging regret? What do we do when the coming year is merely new, but not . . . happy? Continue reading “All things new”
“And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12
When I was a young boy, Christmas was, in every sense of the word, magical. The sparkling snow (when we had it), the soul-lifting music, the pine-scented decorations, amazing food, the anticipation, laughter and love of my family were lights in the night getting us ready to hear again the deep message in God’s greatest announcement: Emanuel has come.
But this year, the whole story is brand new. This year among these familiar events, I found something new, and it has changed me. Continue reading “A sign for you”