The Right Way to Want

There are two philosophies about success.

  1. Take what you want, look out for yourself. Be self motivated, self aware and self-driven. Look deep inside, learn to love and respect yourself and do what it takes to make yourself happy. 
  2. Be utterly self-effacing. This attitude is often touted from the pulpit as the Christian way to behave. Supposedly, by neglecting your own desires and elevating the aspirations of others, you will find supreme fulfillment.

Is either way true? From my experience, no. On Monday, I shared with you what I am learning about want in the foundations of my struggle with anorexia.

It was so sneaky that even I did not recognize my greed. An anorexic appears to be in need. The life of an anorexic is an exercise is asceticism, self denial, ultimate self control. But for me, it was ultimately a ploy to get everyone else to condescend to all my demands. That’s a pretty ugly naked.

Greed can wear two disguises, one flashy, the other demure.

I was reading a rather familiar story in Numbers 32. It is the story of Moses finally leading the Israelites into the Promised Land, or at least very close to it. This is one of those accounts that I have read and assumed it must have a deeper meaning than what I am able to scrape off the surface.

The Reubenites and Gadites, who had very large herds and flocks, saw that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were suitable for livestock. So they came to Moses and Eleazar the priest and to the leaders of the community, and said, ‘Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo and Beon— the land the Lord subdued before the people of Israel—are suitable for livestock, and your servants have livestock. If we have found favor in your eyes,’ they said, ‘let this land be given to your servants as our possession. Do not make us cross the Jordan.’

And then I got it! Do you see it?

I continued reading the chapter. Moses was pretty upset with the three tribes’ brazen request for what they thought was best for them. Instead of following the original plan and accepting what God had planned for them in Canaan; instead of marching into battle for conquest of the Promised Land, these guys were asking for they wanted!

But God said, “OK.” God heard the request of the Reubenites and Gadites, and honored it. I gleaned several things from this about my own needs and wants and how and when to ask for them, as well as how and when to surrender.

  1. The Reubenites and Gadites acknowledged that God had blessed them with abundant cattle and they believed that this portion of land would allow them to practice good stewardship of His blessings.
  2. They were attentive to God’s provision and they asked for God to generously give them this portion of land.
  3. They asked humbly, heard Moses’s response and listened to his criticism.
  4. They did not cower in guilt at Moses’s rebuke, but stood up for what they thought was good.
  5. They continued into battle with their fellow Israelites in order to secure God’s blessing for the other tribes as well.

“Love yourself and make yourself happy,” is a mantra in our society. Adding confusion, is the Christianese admonition to overlook one’s self. The TRUTH is, God wants us to look to Him for blessings. He wants us to expect Him to be good. And He longs for us to be grateful for His generosity. Finally, God wants us to extend that same favor to others.

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. Ps. 145:15-19

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Little Miss Mary, Perhaps not so Saintly?

At Christmas time, second only to fame of baby Jesus, is that of the virgin Mary. In fact, in many instances, she’s not even the runner up, but the main character celebrated in the Nativity. As the story goes, the perfect, serene, pious, humble virgin drew God’s attention. Because of her near perfection, He chose her to bear His one and only begotten son. But where do we get this idea?

As I read through Luke 2 and Matthew 1 this year, a couple things struck me as off kilter from my usual Christmas perceptions. First is Mary. What do we know of her prior to the angel’s visit announcing her conception of Jesus. Absolutely nothing! Imagine what her life must have been like. What if Mary wasn’t gentle? What if Mary hadn’t been fully submissive to her parents? What if Mary once slipped an apple in her pocket as she passed a fruit stand in the market? What if Mary felt guilty about a few little white lies? What if?

Previous people had found favor with God:

Noah, who ended up passed out, drunk and naked in his tent had found favor with God. (Gen. 6:8)

Abraham who lied because he didn’t trust God to care for him, found favor with God. (Gen. 18:3)

Moses, a murderer with a fierce temper found favor in the eyes of God. (Ex. 33:12)

So what of Mary? Perhaps she wasn’t so saintly. I don’t mean to disparage her, but I do think that Christendom must be wary, lest we idolize a mere human, on whom God decided to bestow favor. Did you catch that?

God decided to bestow favor. God’s favor came, not in response to anything Mary had done. I wonder if that’s why God didn’t tell us all about Mary’s life prior to become Jesus’ mother. It wasn’t important to God that Mary be perfect. He was sending Jesus to be the sacrifice for all of Mary’s failures – past, present and future. None of her little white lies, temper tantrums, disobedience or failures would ever be able to count against her.

Mary found favor because Jesus found favor.

Consider this New Year’s resolution: I will cease to work to earn God’s favor. I will stop tallying my good and balancing it against my bad. I will stop groveling before the throne of God. I will instead boldly yet struck by awe, revel in God’s favor because of Jesus.

Holiness is Related the Cleaning Lady

Well, this week was intended to revolve around Moses. However, we were highlighting Moses’ growth in holiness, so this is not an incredibly long rabbit trail to discuss holiness with a more personal anecdote.

I woke early on Monday to get ready for work. I go into work at 9, however, I like to get up have time for my quiet time and breakfast, litter dumping, dog feeding, etc. This morning, as is often Monday’s modus operandi, conspired to delay me at every turn. As soon as I set my oatmeal on the stove, I headed downstairs to care for the cats. Some animal, I’m not sure who, had decided to relieve themselves right in front of the back door. Fortunately, it was the solid kind, but still not what I wanted to spend my morning inhaling and cleaning.

Having no choice, I promptly went to work scrubbing and blotting and forgot all about the bubbling oatmeal. As I headed back up the stairs, the wonderful aroma of slightly seasoned oatmeal greeted me, tinged with a slight burning note. Great. Under the lid, over the side, around the burner and glued to the bottom of the pan. Delightful. So the next 30 minutes was spent trying to scour my stove top and pan without burning my fingers.

I’m a perfectionist, more aptly described as simply compulsive, crazy and easily carried away. Suddenly, I found myself removing the burner covers, mopping the floor on my hands and knees, noticing the shelves in the fridge need a wipe down, it’s time to clean the inside of the dishwasher, drying the inside of the sink…you get the picture.

The best part? The cleaning lady, who occasionally restores my sanity by indulging the belief that she can clean better than I can, was scheduled to come on Monday. In an hour and a half, she would arrive and clean, scrub, polish and deodorize everything that needs it or not. I do believe however, that she would not appreciate it if I left the pet mess on the floor, or burned oatmeal congealed on the stove top.

That’s where the metaphor arrives and dissipates all at once. Cleaning is related to holiness. Making my home or life exceptionally and acceptably spotless. I’ve noticed it’s normal for women to feel the urge to clean their home before the help arrives, so that they do not make a bad impression on the cleaning lady. I mean who wants to be labeled as “that home.”

We do the same with God sometimes. We think that once we tidy, straighten and scrub our lives, THEN, we can justify presenting ourselves to Him, or allowing Him inside. I mean, we wouldn’t want God to think we were “that screwed up life,” right?

Here’s the difference. God asks us to come in all our mess. He wants us to let Him in at the dirtiest moment of our lives. Our wonderful God delights in cleaning, straightening and scrubbing. Honestly, our efforts at “pre-cleaning” often delay and inhibit His ability to work stunning, sparking beauty into our lives.

Insecurity, a GOOD/GOD thing?

One of the biggest obstacles of my growing faith, is an idolatrous worship of exercise. Praise the Lord, that the Holy Spirit consistently, frequently and aggressively, convicts me of this tendency and turns my heart toward Him once again. One of the tools He has used to do this is a book called Pray Fit.  I was in Kansas, and a girl-friend and I had miss-communitcated about what time we planned to get together over coffee. Being car-less and on the opposite side of town from my parents’ house, I meandered across the street to the local Christian Bookstore. 

Bored, cold and feeling sorry for myself, (not to mention feeling cheap since it was just after the Christmas spending season) I found myself in the clearance isle. I gravitate toward all things “fitness,” “skinny,” and “health.” It’s not usually a good thing, but in this case, God worked my sinful bent for His glory. I picked up Jimmy Pena’s book, “Pray Fit,” from the bottom shelf.

I was instantly captured by his thorough and aggressive devotionals. There was no pansy-footing around the God-talk in favor of diet tips and weight loss jargon. Pena is unashamedly about Jesus.  Not to let the diet-starved reader down, at the end of each chapter, Pena includes a progressive, bodyweight workout. I had to have the book. I know that health and exercise is a good thing, but in our culture, frequently perverted into the only thing. I have been searching long for the way to balance my love for fitness with the truth that Jesus is my life.

I have been reading the book slowly, digesting each devo and trying some of the workouts. I joined Pena’s website, Prayfit.com. That is what finally, leads me to my point today (:

A recent entry on Prayfit.com, asks “which Bible character do you identify with?” Since this week we are focusing on Moses, I began to think about him. Do you identify with Moses in any way? Most of this week, we are focusing on Moses’s strengths; the contrast between his growth in holiness and the disobedient Israelites. But Pena points out Moses’s insecurity. I hadn’t thought of that.

I am an insecure person. Most of my life, I have promised God that I would offer myself fully to Him as soon as I got my life straightened out.

As soon as I get over this eating disorder thing, God. Then, I won’t be such an embarrassment to you. Then I can share my testimony and you’ll be proud of me.

As soon as my marriage is a better reflection of Christ and the church, then God, I’ll tell others about the miracles you have worked in our lives.

As soon as I resolve the conflict with my sister, then I’ll tell everyone about your overriding peace.

As soon as I get over this sadness, this loneliness, then I’ll take the mask off and admit my past to others so that they can see and be astonished at the change in me.

Does that sound familiar? As I wrote on Monday, I don’t think Moses held anything back as he scribbled down his complaints, joys, daily duties and God-moments. Obviously, it can’t be denied that God has used all Moses’s miserable, insecure moments just as effectively as all of his successes. Consider.

Want To Read Someone’s Diary?

Most of you may not realize that each time you read this blog, you are flipping through the pages of my journal. Have you ever wondered where Scripture came from? Particularly, the Pentateuch? In the New Testament, on several occasions, God instructs the authors to “write this down.” Peter even refers to Paul’s writing as scripture. It seems clear that most of the New Testament authors knew what they were writing and why.

Outside of the Gospels, the New Testament reads a little like a sermon. It’s full of instruction, admonition, encouragement. It’s the correspondence between itinerant pastors and their churches. But what about the Old Testament? This week we are taking a close look at Moses: the friend of God, the most humble man that ever lived, the stutterer, the shepherd of God’s people, the son of a Hebrew, the son of an Egyptian princess.

I am plodding through the Bible in a year, this time chronologically. As I skip between chapters of the Old Testament, most of the first 5 books are written cohesively, each episode in order. Episode, maybe I mean “entry.” I think the Pentateuch reads like Moses’s journal. Think of it, Moses writes about:

1. What God is doing

2. What his fellow Israelites are doing

3. What he is learning

4. His failures

5. His triumphs

6. His prayers

7. His complaints

8. His travels

9. Illness and miracles

10. His siblings, his in-laws and his wife

I wonder if God told Moses that one day the world would have the opportunity to read his journal?

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

Being a journaler, I submit to you that we are not the only benefactors of Moses’s journal. It’s obvious in Deuteronomy 1, that Moses is beginning to read out loud his journal entries from past decades. “At that time I said to you…” (Duet. 1: 9) Throughout the Old Testament, God instructed His people to erect monuments, altars, tell their children, remember…

Do I learn from my past? Do I consider the mistakes of my predecessors and learn from them? Moses went from being a murderer and a liar, to being called the “most humble man that ever lived.” He talked with God face-to-face. He was a friend of God.  Moses certainly wasn’t perfect, but how was he perfected?

March’s Schedule

Welcome to March, well almost. Here, February will slide right into the year’s third month with a poem. We’ll recognize March beginning in its first full week.

Sadly, today I have been inundated with cultural lies that I’d rather not address. The first one slammed me brutal and early from the morning news on the radio. But its aftershock was even worse. I looked up the headline on the internet which led me to a related lie that took my breath away. I wish I felt there was more of a benefit to making you aware of these lies too. Perhaps there is, if only to help you recognize and avoid them; to help you protect your children and fly to the truth that is Jesus Christ. So, I’ll take the first week of March to mention these:

1. An old, pervasive lie that reinvents itself with every generation: young girls convinced that they are ugly and fat. In their minds, this equates to being worthless, rejected, doomed for the rest of their earthly days.

2. Related to the above, Thinspiration. Heard of it? If not, consider yourself lucky. As I share the crux of this lie, I speak from personal experience. I won’t share links. This is the one that sank like a sharp stone in my gut. Oh how it hurts to know and remember.

3. This last one is a world-wide lie. Lost jobs, failed crops. Rising prices, lost homes. Unforeseen bills, surprise broken plumbing, stalled cars and illness. It’s tempting to wallow in hopelessness. It’s tempting to fudge on taxes or look for loopholes in financial obligations. It’s tempting to keep our tithe in bottom drawer.

The second week in March, I am excited to share a dawning truth in my own life. I am in the process of renewing my certification as personal trainer. I let my certification through IFPA lapse nearly 5 years ago. Though I have entertained the idea of doing it again several times, I always shied away, fearful that anorexia and exercise addiction would rear their ugly heads again. I didn’t believe that God could use my weakness in this area, that He could apply His strength in me and glorify Himself as He conquered the sin where I have fallen so many times before. So, as I’m studying, God has been showing me parallels between our physical bodies, training and our spiritual growth and discipline.

During the third week of March, I want to do a character study on Moses. My sisters and I have been studying holiness in a Precept study called, “Living Like You Belong to God.” The study focuses on the unholy behavior of the Israelites as God drew them away from their bondage in Egypt. God drew defining lines around His people. He called them out to be like Himself – set apart and utterly different from the nations around them. The Israelites faltered over and over, despite their very godly leader Moses. God insisted on using Moses, a stuttering, shy man to lead His people. Moses came to be defined as the most humble man that ever lived, a friend of God, and one with whom God spoke face-to-face.

The truth is that God makes us holy. Regardless of where we come from and how long it takes us to get our feet under us as we follow Him – Jesus is the cause, the means and the effect of our holiness.

Finally, week four. I might be saving the best for last. A continual student of Moody Ministries, I will again be reviewing a book that they published, Counterfeit Gospels. That’s pretty obvious, of course we’ll be discussing lies about the gospel that have invaded the pulpit. We will study to be wary, diligent and effective in our own churches.

Join me!

P. S. This picture was too cute NOT to republish! Click on it to visit a beautiful blog.

Praying With Moses

This morning I prayed with Moses.

If your presence will not go out with me, do not let me leave this house. How else will anyone know that I belong to you? How will they know that Jesus makes life on earth different, better and eternal life possible? You, Oh Lord are my distinction, my definition. You are my hope and all that I live for. But if I go out in my own strength, I dishonor your name.

Read Exodus 33: 17-23, to hear God’s covenant response to His children when they pray this way.

And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, ofor you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Please pshow me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for sman shall not see me and live.” And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a tcleft of the rock, and I will ucover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

I am so fearful of squandering the most precious relationship I have. Father, don’t let me lose the joy of my salvation. Forgive me for being so easily distracted. Oh Father, I hunger for your nearness and your fellowship. I hear you calling me to listen more intently. What you have to say is infinitely more valuable than anything I would say.

Zech. 2:13

“Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.”