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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Brace Yourself?

Hebrews 12: 12-13

"Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees..."


This passage in Hebrews is the counsel given to us when facing discipline at the hands of the Lord.  It reminded me of a passage in Exodus (17:8-13).  Joshua and Israel are fighting a battle.  Moses, Aaron, and Hur are watching from a hill top vantage point.  When Moses holds his hands up, Israel prevails.  When his hands go down, the enemy prevails.  Moses‘s "hands grew weary".  Aaron and Hur put a rock under him and with one on each side held up Moses's hands.  Israel prevails and overwhelms the enemy. It is an interesting picture of community at work and the value of that community and trust relationship within the community that make it successful.  The Apostle Paul teaches in every letter attributed to him in the New Testament about the importance of community and unity among the believers. 


When I look at the Exodus passage, I see the community in action.  Can we extend the principle to the context of Godly discipline?  Is there a role for community in the discipline of the individual disciple?  As an example of the role of community, the Exodus passage stands out.  There are some similarities and lessons that can be shared between them.  At first, I was tempted to view these passages as completely different contexts.  I was defining "discipline" as correcting some behavior.  It wasn't until several days later that I was able to see that sometimes discipline is reinforcing a lesson.  It is in the context of reinforcing a lesson that I perceive the Exodus passage... Israel's complete and utter dependence upon God, our need to obey, the role and importance of leadership, the value of and dependence upon others.  In this sense, I was able to relate the two passages.  Discipline, to be sure, is never pleasant (Hebrews 12:11).  There isn't a single aspect of war that is pleasant. There was nothing about Moses's role in that battle that was pleasant.  I must conclude that whether correcting behavior or reinforcing lessons, that discipline is discipline and it must be endured.  So what can I learn from these two passages (Exodus 17 and Hebrews 12) and the value of community?


1.  Moses's role was personal.  As long as his hands were lifted, Israel carried the day in battle.  The same is true of the disciple in Godly discipline.  It is personal.  God is taking a specific and personal interest in you, in me when we are being disciplined regardless of whether it is reinforcing a lesson or correcting a behavior.


2.  Being personal doesn't mean being isolated.  Had Moses been alone, Israel would have lost the day.  Godly discipline is the same.  Isolation can lead to failure.  Look at Galatians 6:1-2.  Brothers look out for each other.  Also read Paul's letters to the Corinthians.  The discipline of the erring brother in the believers at Corinth was a community topic and exercise.


3.  Discipline pushes to and past the point of our endurance or at a minimum our "want" to endure it.  If we are not careful, we can lose our focus at the "short end" of our endurance and allow ourselves to "lose our form" as we strain.  This is the point of Injury.  We will strain.  But is we strain without the proper form and support, injury can be done.   The Hebrews passage speaks to this.  My personal experience with exercise speaks to this.  I read in Aaron's and Hur's support of Moses, a regard for his physical wellbeing while enabling him to do the personal thing he had to do.  They gave him a rock to sit on so he didn't get weary and fall.  They held his arms so he didn't hurt his back or shoulders straining to keep them up.  Moses's ability to endure was directly related to his brothers' role in helping him endure and keep to the form prescribed.


4.  Not everything is always, only, about us.  Moses's role was personal but it impacted the army of Israel, the community of Israel, and Aaron and Hur.  My behavior, thoughts, and words may be personal and the discipline God visits on me (and you) may be personal but count on the fact that others are affected by it.  Maybe in the witnessing your submitting to God... maybe in your sharing your experiences... maybe for the good of those who are called or who volunteer to support you... maybe for those who play the role of antagonist... maybe for generations to follow... there are others who are ordained by God to be impacted by our very personal experiences.


5.  God's purposes matter most.  What God asks of us may not always make sense to us.  But God has a purpose.  Why did Moses lifting up of his hands have anything to do with winning a battle?  Why is some of God's discipline of me necessary?  I can't explain.  What I do believe is that if God asks for it, requires it, commands it, then it is in my (and other's) best interests to do it regardless of whether I (or we) understand it.



The conclusion of the matter for me is that I need the support of others.  Even in the most personal of matters.  There are things God may ask me to do that depend on others supporting me in order for me to do what God asks.  Don't live in isolation and don't believe it is always only about you.  Culturally we have believed a lie that we need to hide our faults (or weaknesses) from one another.  Scripture teaches the opposite.  It teaches us to confess our faults to one another (James 5:16).  Life is a team sport.  Live it as such.

7:21 am edt 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Self Aware

"This one at last is bone from my bones, flesh from my flesh!  She shall be called woman, for from man was she taken."  - Genesis 2:23


"I heard the sound of you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid."  - Genesis 3:10


What are you aware of?  Where does your awareness begin?  What is its core?  What is your default?  When and in what priority are you aware of others?  When and in what priority are you aware of yourself?  Does this reveal anything about you? 


I have been struggling lately.  Things have lost their "color" for me.  I am not as passionate about the things that are the sources of my passions... music, faith, people.  I have begun to question myself, my calling, my purpose, my commitment, my life.  I am afraid and disinterested at the same time.  I am afraid of failing, afraid of change, afraid I have missed something. I have worked at the same job for 27 years, lived in the same city my whole life, played the trumpet for 45+ years, been in ministry for 34 years.  I feel Solomon's words in Ecclesiastes... "Futility, utter futility, says the Speaker, everything is futile... All things are wearisome...It is a worthless task that God has given to mortals to keep them occupied.  I have seen everything that has been done here under the sun; it is all futility..."  (Ecclesiastes 1:2-14).


Yesterday I attended a seminar.  The seminar was conducted by a friend and I went to support him.  I had low expectations since I was really there for him.


But God showed up.  He showed up for me.


I never noticed the orientation of Adam's first recorded words...  "At last...".  It was in regard to someone else, woman and more importantly God's love for Adam represented in the gift of woman.   In that moment (and I think all the moments preceding) Adam was more aware of God, others, and what was around him than he was about himself.  He saw others first.  His priority was God, God's gifts to him, and God's plan for him.  That appears to be true until Adam broke the one and only rule he was given.  After that, his orientation completely changes.  It becomes about him.  Look at the very next thing he is recorded as saying... "I... I... I... I...".  His orientation changed.  He became self-aware.  He moved to the top of the priority list.  Everyone and everything, including God moved down the list.


I indicted myself.


In my self-awareness I revealed that God was no longer my top priority...  I was.  I revealed to myself that sin still reigns in this body and in my thinking.  I revealed that I have not "concluded" that Jesus died for me therefore I should die to myself (2 Corinthians 5:14).  My fear is because I don't know Love (1 John 4:19).    In Adam, I saw myself.  I observed that self-awareness is a consequence of disobedience or, at best, distance from God. 


When I look at Jesus, the One whom I want to follow and emulate as a disciple, the One whom I will be measured by (Ephesians 4:13), Jesus was only aware of God, God's words, God's wishes, God's timing, and the needs of others.  How he was perceived, what was done to him was secondary to God and the needs of others.  He was intimate with God.  He didn't run from God.  He didn't hide in fear at the sound of God.  He saw, spoke, acted from the reservoir of God's purpose for him, of God's words to him, of God's actions before him, of God's intentions for those around him.


The seminar... actually God's confronting me through those in that seminar and in that time... helped me see I had wandered off.  I was "doing" the right things but inside I had wandered off.  In my relationship with Jesus I had wandered off.  I wasn't paying close attention to him.  I wasn't pursuing him.  I was doing, in theory, for him, but really I had fallen asleep.  I am thankful for Brian, Joel, Pete, Pat, and Connie and the way in which God used them to give me a wakeup call.  I am thankful for the access to God's Word that He has given me and that he has used to instruct me.  I am thankful I haven't missed it yet.  I am thankful there is a call, a purpose, a time, and that there are others.  When I seek God first, He orders things, provides, and gives more than I could hope for (Matthew 6:33).


Father, I love you.  Teach me to love you.  Forgive me.  Teach me to see you, myself, and others as you see... as you want to be seen.  Help me to conclude.  Help me to will and want you first, not in spite of me but with me because it is what I want.  I seek to be ready and awake.  Make me aware of what you are doing and where, when, and for whom you want to use me.

6:30 am edt 

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