I have been so busy lately, my right hand doesn't always know what my left hand is doing. Literally. This morning it was time to brush my teeth, but my right hand was busy. (Seriously, I don't even know what it was doing because my brain went a different way after that.) So, I picked up my toothbrush with my left hand and mentally said to it, "You can do this. There's no reason you can't. It's not brain surgery." Sure enough, I was successful brushing my teeth with my left hand, although I had to concentrate on it the whole time.
Experts actually say you should occasionally do routine tasks with your non-dominant hand to keep your mind sharp. If this is so, I must have been a genius in 10th grade when I broke my right hand. A frustrated genius, maybe. I don't recommend it.
The genius showed up this morning as I questioned God's purpose. (Okay, questioning God is never genius, is it? But sometimes, He might let you in on something.)
Why did God give us dexterity dominance on one side of our body? (Because normally, if you are right-handed, you are right-foot-dominant as well.) Wouldn't that make us unbalanced? And I would think God would be a God of balance.
I have no idea if there is any basis for this answer, but here are my thoughts.
1. People need to know weakness.
It's more about the non-dominant than the dominant side. When I broke my right hand, it was hard, but I did learn how to do some things with my left hand. I could write, though it was messy. I could shave my legs, though it was spotty. I could brush my hair, though it wasn't perfect.
But there were some things I absolutely could not do. As much as I tried, I could not throw a ball (the right way) with my left hand. Just. Couldn't. Do it. As a softball player (in my prime at the time), that was incredibly frustrating, because I KNEW how to do it. I just couldn't execute it. Neither could I put my hair in a ponytail.
This is not to say that your right side is more Godly than your left (or vice versa for the other 15% of you.)
And while Jesus tells us that all things are possible through faith, Paul reminds us that in OUR WEAKNESS, He is strong. All things ARE possible (possibly even throwing a ball from the opposite side).
We can get pretty arrogant when we are good at something. Imagine if you were fully ambidextrous, and I am sure there are some people who are. There would have to be another way to keep yourself in check. Having half body reliant on the other half is a good, built-in way to assure us .
And how about this? You know how I said God is a God of balance? Nothing about that is scriptural. Despite what Eastern mystics and yin yangs will tell you, good and evil are not equal. Good (a word that is derived from the word "god"), always wins, is always greater, and will always overpower evil.
2. There is just nothing equal to God, and nothing can even compare to Him.
So does that make our right side more God-like than our left (for 85% of us)? No. In I Corinthians , Paul explains how the body of Christ should behave like our mortal body - all parts doing their given jobs in unity. Given that example, we can also understand that God created our bodies to work exactly that way - each part doing its own job. So if one hand is doing the work, the other hand is created to support it.
When you swing a baseball bat, your dominant hand guides and pulls, your left hand pushes and follows through. Both sides have a job to do. I may brush my teeth with my right hand, but I actually eat with my left. I type with both. I do MORE with my right than with my left, and it does not balance out, but I don't even have to think about it. My life works smoothly enough to not concentrate on my fine motor skills.
Praise God for how He created us. And Praise Him that life is not balanced. I am comforted to know that God always wins.
Do you know why God gave us the Law, early in the Old Testament? It might not be why you think.
It was never meant to be followed, step by step. Don't get me wrong - it is most definitely the yardstick by which God measures our righteousness. But there is no counting involved. No checkoff list. There's no need for God to even get that stick out. He can tell just by looking. Just like that little boy who desperately wants to ride the bumper cars at the amusement park before he is tall enough. The attendant doesn't need to get out the measurement stick - she knows there's no way Junior is going to clear it.
But the attendant gets that stick out anyway, doesn't she? Is she doing it just to double check, in case her eyes were wrong? No. This is her job. She has been eyeing the height of children long enough to know. Especially the ones who are nowhere close.
She gets out the stick to show the little boy, so HE knows. So there is no argument. You can't argue with the stick. That's just how it goes, and everyone knows. You don't reach the bottom of the stick's arm, you don't ride. Get out of line. (But come back next year, after you've grown a few inches!)
God doesn't need to look to see we don't measure up. He knew it long before any of us were born. He saw us coming. He's been doing this a while.
But He got the stick out anyway. He even made it pretty simple. At first, all the Israelites had were the 10 Commandments. Just ten. Really, could it be that hard? One of them even says not to murder. I mean, we could almost cut it down to 9, then, right? Because there's at least one that doesn't give us any trouble (until you look at it closely).
But, yes, it IS that hard.
So then, why bother? Why did God give us rules we could never follow?
If there were any one perfect/sinless person - even just one - there would be no need at all for a Savior. We would have no excuse for not being perfect. None. If any one person could do it, then any other person could do it too, and Jesus could just stay in heaven.
But we'd really be doomed. Because following the whole of the Law isn't just really, really hard. It's impossible. Not a single person can do it. And it is GOOD for us that no one can follow it, that we aren't judged on a scale of works. Heaven would be pretty empty.
We need a stick to see that we don't measure up, something to tell us we are too short to ride the bumper cars. Otherwise, we would just keep trying. The little boy could get on his tippy toes and hope that maybe the attendant would think he was tall enough. Once the stick comes out, though, he knows there's no hope. He knows he doesn't reach. No one can argue with the stick.
Without the Law, we might keep trying. We might keep thinking we're close enough and somehow we can fool God to think that we measure up. But there's no fooling God. God knows that, but the Law is the way for all to see.
For many of you, this is not news. But it still makes a good reminder. Go ahead and keep obeying, but when you fail, you can give thanks in knowing that you are not alone. No one else would be riding the bumper cars either.
People will say, "But God isn't that mean. Why would he make a measuring stick that no one can measure up to?"
Because He's perfect and can't abide with anything less than perfection in his Kingdom. To be honest, too, I don't want to serve a God who isn't perfect, who isn't going to be flawless in not letting me down.
Well, okay then. Where does that leave us? Stuck.
So, back to those people who said God isn't that mean. Well, they're right. He's NOT that mean. He is kind and loving (although just too). So He fashioned* a new measuring stick. His Son, Jesus. And while there is still no way to measure up to Him, He knelt down to meet us. So, while God looks at us with Jesus, we appear to meet the standard!
Should we hate the first Law God gave us, since it can't bring us life? No way. We should be thankful for it. Without the impossible standard of the law, we would have no need for Jesus. And following Jesus is SO MUCH more possible than following the law.
So now look at Psalm 119 from this perspective. David goes on and on about how he loves God's law and His commands. David failed at keeping the law as much anyone. He knew that. But maybe he was understanding what the law meant. The law meant he was in need of a Savior. He never got to see the Savior come, but he knew it would happen. And that's why God chose those thoughts to be in the Bible.
Even though I fail everyday, I am thankful for what God has given me. What He gave me through my failure was a free ride with Jesus. And riding with Jesus is better anyway.
*Note- God did not CREATE Jesus. What is meant by this sentence is that He formed a new standard of measurement.
Tragedy has struck our nation again, and so we need to stop and think. All of us. Even if you aren't involved - ESPECIALLY if you are not involved. If you are not a black man or a white police officer, we owe it to those people to consider their situations.
A little while ago, I posted my views on racial issues. You can read that here. I think what I have written still stands, but I have more to add now. I'm 42 years old and I still am learning.
I have a lot to learn.
How do we do that? How do we find a way to understand? Sometimes it helps to take a look from a different perspective. We need to find one we can understand. The one I understand comes from my children.
You may know that my youngest child has Type 1 Diabetes. If you know, I wouldn't doubt that you are sick of hearing about it, if you do not yourself have a connection to diabetes. And that's okay. Because I'm not going to stop talking about it. It's our life. It's what we know. I share so the people I care about can understand our struggle.
What bothers me the most? People who say they understand, when they don't. People who aren't listening, but just going on their own perception of the truth. This happens a lot from people who know someone with Type 2 Diabetes (there are a LOT more of T2s, so just about everyone know someone). You can't put them in the same category with T1s, though. They are totally different diseases.
Do I want my child to be seen as different because of her condition? Yes and no. Yes because she NEEDS to be seen as different. If she were in a line where everyone was being given a Coca Cola, I would want special attention given to her! I would want the Coke-givers to see that she is different and needs to be removed from this situation. Regular soda is one thing the doctor said she should never have, except in an emergency.
But in situations where it doesn't matter? Where dangerous amounts of sugar aren't being given? Sure, I want her to get the same full experience that all the other children are having!
So, is it wrong to want it both ways? To be seen as both different and the same? I guess some people would think it is. Only those in the "T1D family" can really understand why this is so important - for our kids to be seen as the same and different at the same time.
There are others who get it. People who try to understand. They read all the T1D things I post and react with compassion instead of boredom. Some even go beyond and research our condition even more on their own. They post articles for me about T1D, and that makes me happy. Not because I need to learn more about it (sometimes I do, but usually by the time the general public is getting the news, I have already seen it from our inside groups.) But because someone thought about us and felt for our difficulty.
Once I had to deal with someone in authority at school who said she knew what we were going through because she had a loved one with Type 2. Instead of hearing me tell her that it wasn't the same, she kept believing she knew. She enforced her loved one's situation on us and it didn't fit. That made school difficult for us during that time, while we had to abide by the standards of care SHE thought was right.
Now. What on EARTH does this have to do with racial inequality? This:
When I was younger, I didn't understand why we needed Black History Month. Why dwell in the past? I knew African Americans, and they seemed to be getting along just fine without the yearly reminders of where they came from. Did they really want to keep hearing that their great-grandfathers were slaves? Why did I have to keep learning it too? Seemed to me people of color always wanted to talk about the past.
I wasn't connected; I didn't get it.
Now I know - just like our family always talks about diabetes, and tries to educate others about what we go through, black people need for white people to understand what they go through too.*
I must have been so annoying to the black people in college who were trying to get me to understand. Because I thought I knew - and they knew there was no way I could unless I actually listened to them. I wonder if they hated me. I have no doubt they were frustrated.
I saw it like this: everyone standing in a line; everyone being offered a Coca-Cola. I didn't realize there were people in that line who couldn't get the soda. There are times when everyone belongs in the same line, and there are times when it is not safe for that to happen.
I WISH we didn't have to make that distinction. I WISH it were always safe for everyone to be in line together. But, because of mankind, it just isn't. I also wish my daughter didn't have diabetes and could drink a soda without thinking about it. But she just can't.
We have to learn, so that we can understand. We have to learn what the other person is dealing with.
THAT'S why we need Black History Month, and we need it every year. Sometimes we aren't listening. Sometimes we need to hear it 12 times before it sinks in that black people have been treated poorly in this country since the time they came here. Of course, there are some (now) who are doing just fine. Heck, we have a black President! But sadly, that's just not the case everywhere.
Thomas Jefferson told us that all men are created equally, and we blindly slap that on textbooks for school kids to memorize. But the truth is, they aren't. Some are gifted verbally, others are gifted physically. Others still are gifted logically, and there are some - yes, there are some - who have no giftings, really. They were created with numerous deficiencies.
But here it is. Although all men are NOT created equally in all areas, all of mankind has equal value.
So know what the special giftings are of certain people. Yes, the Kenyans are always going to win medals in the marathon at the Olympics. I don't think knowing that, saying that, or admitting that makes us racist. If they are going to be proud of the speed God gave them, then let's be proud with them!
Part of me is totally embarrassed to be even writing this, because I do feel so uneducated about the racial tension going on today. But the science teacher in me knows that the answer to any problem can be found by asking "why?" I think the bottom line for why some people hate other groups of people is because they just don't understand them. That doesn't make it right, but it does make it fixable.
Knowledge isn't not going to solve the hatred in the world. That's a sin issue. But learning more about other people can help us understand them better. The more we understand, the more peace we might begin to see.
*PLEASE don't walk away from this thinking that I consider being black a disease. That is so far from the truth. I am only trying to use a life situation that I understand to help me see that I don't understand another one.
It drives me nuts. She probably knows it, too. But I bet she doesn't even know why she does it. I have some guesses, but I'll get to that.
My daughter says I don't love her.
I don't think she even really believes it, but she never misses the chance to refute me when I say I do. And she's not laughing like it's a joke, either. I will say, "I love you," and she will say, "No. You don't."
I have asked her why she thinks I don't love her. She says it's because I don't "treat" her like I love her. I ask her what that would look like, and she will tell me, not making her cry everyday.
Breaking your heart? It is mine.
I even wrote her a book called, If I Didn't Love You. It explained what kind of things I would do if I really didn't love her, and of course, it contrasted that with what I do instead to show my love.
She wouldn't even read the book until a year after I wrote it. She didn't believe it, of course.
Some of the things I do actually do make her cry. But I'm not going to stop them, because they are what's best for her. She just doesn't realize it.
Part of me is frustrated by this, because I really want her to admit out loud that I love her. When I say, "I love you" to her, I want her to say, "Thank you," instead of "No you don't."
I'm not a liar.
I think she might be afraid, deep down, if she admits I love her, I'll stop trying. I won't do loving things for her, because she thinks now I am just doing them to prove my point. She's afraid I'll change and be different.
So how do I react? Well, there's apparently no way I can get her to see that I do love her, so I will just wait patiently until she figures it out. I will not change who I am or what I do, because at some point, she will come to see that it was love I've been showing. And my parental love is more mature than what a 9-year-old envisions as love.
She may or may not see the little loving things I do for her. If she does, she's not counting them. If she's waiting for a big thing, I would do it in a heart beat. She has type 1 diabetes, and I would never hesitate for even just one second to give her my fully functioning pancreas, if there were a way to make sure her body wouldn't attack that one too.
I've started ignoring her comments of, "You don't love me." If I haven't convinced her by now, I can't force her to see it. That would be ridiculous. So, I wait.
If you follow Christ, you have probably already made the connection.
How many people call themselves Christians but don't think God really loves them? Some are playing the "I'm just a worm" card, thinking God could never love someone like them, even if they are His creation.
Some are mad. God hasn't given them everything they wanted in their human minds, so obviously He doesn't want the best for them. These people might cry every day and think that God doesn't hear them crying because He is not giving in to their hearts' desires.When really, His heart is breaking, wishing they would see that He knows what is best, and it isn't what they think.
He even wrote a book for us. The book tells all about what the world looks like with and without love. More more about the "with love," though. Some people read the book, some people don't. Some people think they know what's inside without even looking, and it just doesn't look like love to them.
But God is not a liar. He never changes. The way He said He was is the way He will always be. And He always wants what is best for us.
So how does God react? He gave us free will, so we can accept His love or not. He's not going to go running after us. Jesus never begged. When the father of the prodigal son let him go, he didn't run after him to beg him not to go. The son had to see for himself.
And God DID sacrifice Himself, His Son, for us, for no single other reason than that He loved us. It is finished. Now, He's just waiting to see what we do with that love. We can either accept it or reject it.
From a parent's perspective, I can tell you that it is hurtful to think your child doesn't love you. You've given her everything you could to make her thrive, and she still rejects you? Why would anyone choose not to see their parent as loving?
God is perfect, but I believe He can feel hurt by our rejection. He won't run after us to change our minds, but He mourns bad decisions.
Because that's what loving parents do.
I don't really like germs. I am also not a fan of messes. Just ask my family. Now, I suppose I could be much worse, but the kids think I am pretty fanatical.
As much as I like "clean," I also like quick and easy. I like things clean, but I don't necessary want to be knee-deep in elbow grease.
One of my favorite cleaning tools (maybe because it is just. so. easy!) is our toothbrush sanitizer. Stick the brushes in, close the door, plug it in, and boom. A minute or so later, that blue light has zapped away all those germs. Yeah!
As much as my house needs to be cleaned, so too does my body, especially the inside. The outside gets sweaty after I work out. I feel it as soon as I start cooling down. So, I'll jump into the shower as soon as possible. Showers are great - quick and easy. All clean.
The inside is a lot harder. Some of the sin in there has been building for a week, or even a month. It gets pretty stuck, as I am so stuck in my ways, and it requires a lot of elbow grease to remove it.
During a recent communion, I once again asked God to clean me out, to remove ALL the dross, even though I know it will come back again. That word was even the one I used in my prayer - dross.
What a great word, dross. You can actually picture something slimy, dripping, disgusting, and messy. Since there is nothing good about sin, I felt that was a perfect term to use.
But one thing about drossy messes - they don't clean very easily. Think about some of the best meals we make. They are often easy to eat, but sticky or messy to make. I hate washing dishes. The pans from those great meals are almost always the worst. Sometimes they take days to clean, because they need to sit an soak for a while and then scrubbed several times before they can be declared clean.
This was the message that hit me during my prayer. Sin is a lot like those dishes. It takes a lot of work to get rid of sin. There isn't a nice, easy "zap" to get rid of it.
We often think that's all there is to it. Say our prayer of confession, and all the sin "magically" goes away, like the tooth brush zapper. That's because it seems so easy to us. Just like how my family can enjoy a yummy meal without ever thinking about the dishes, we can have our sin forgiven without remembering how it was done in the first place. The riddance of sin took a huge amount of effort.
But it was effort we never had to put forth, because we couldn't. The work that was done wasn't ours. Every sin was removed on the cross, and the cross was messy. We can't wash those dishes. We would never be able to scrub hard enough, use enough elbow grease, to be declared clean.
Of course we don't want to send our kids to bed with nightmares about Christ's crucifixion. It's scary enough for adults to really think about. It must be acknowledged, though, so we don't forget that sin is not forgiven because we prayed. Sin is forgiven because Jesus sacrificed Himself.
We rarely see a drop of blood in pictures of the cross. We sing about being washed white as snow, but often forget to talk about how hard Jesus had to scrub to achieve that whiteness for us. When we started, we were black as coal.
Jesus's suffering was painful. I don't mean to dwell there, but I think if we overlook exactly how hard Jesus worked for us, we will take it for granted. He suffered a night of torment, and then in the morning agonized the torture of the cross. His body was a bloody mess - almost as drossy as our insides. But when that torn-up, stabbed, spit-soaked, dehydrated, bloody, broken body was finally at its end, our wretched, despicable, sin-stained souls could be declared clean. His scourging was our scrubbing.
After eating a delicious meal, may you always remember the dross inside you that was scrubbed away, and never look at those dishes the same again.
Numbers are a big deal to me. They represent organization, and I love organization. (Now, of course, I almost didn't use this picture, because the numbers are not in order. But that's not the point.)
There are some people - and I am one of them - who love to search the Bible for patterns and trends and special meanings attached to numbers. Many numbers have a meaning that has been universally accepted, and some of them are included here. (Some other meanings are simply ideas I have noticed.)
While I have followed biblical numerology, I have never before noticed that beyond the meaning of each number, one can see the story of God's relationship with man in the ORDER of the numbers. I love it; check it out:
1 - God (Deuteronomy 6:4)
In the Beginning, God. There was One God. No others. As a matter of fact, there was nothing else at all. Why am I not starting with zero? Because there was never time when there was nothing. God always was.
God is number one. He comes first, as He always should. The first commandment? Have NO OTHER gods before Me. Seek FIRST the kingdom of heaven. If we only could look to God first, without being distracted, our lives would be much less complicated.
*Here, our story begins. It all began with God, in His perfection.
2 - Goodness and Evil
There are only these two polarities. Goodness is a one-point scale - it's all or nothing, no in-between.
All [men] have sinned. None are righteous, no not one. So basically, God is good, and anything that is not of God is evil. What's amazing here is that, even though you could count so much that is not of God, if you measure it against God, the balance is still in God's favor. His goodness far outweighs everything else.
2s that show this:
Darkness and Light
Cain and Abel
Heaven and Hell
Judgement and Mercy
Life and Death
* Part 2 of the story: Once man was created, he was good. Then he sinned, and he was no longer good. It's black and white, with no room for grey. God is good; man is not.
3 - Trinity (the number of Perfection)
Three is very common in the Bible and probably the most important number we see, due to our triune Godhead. I believe the founding fathers of the U.S. had the trinity in mind when they wrote the Constitution and created a government with three branches. (Which has served our country quite well.) Three is never random in the Bible, as God knew even before man was created that Jesus would rise from the dead after three days. The threes we see prior to Jesus's death are usually pointing to the resurrection in some way.
3s that show this:
Three items [entombed] in the Ark of the Covenant
Three sons of Noah [who gave new birth to mankind after the flood]
Three days in the whale (Jonah)
Three years of Jesus's ministry
Three denials from Peter (and then three affirmations to restore him)
Three days in the tomb (Jesus)
Also, have you noticed how often God's salvation message appears in the THIRD CHAPTER of a book of the bible? See:
-Matthew 3 and Luke 3: Jesus's Baptism
-John 3: Nicodemus & re-birth
-Romans 3: God's righteousness vs. our lack thereof
-Galatians 3: Faith over works
-Ephesians 3: The mystery of the Gospel
-Philippians 3: Righteousness through faith
-Colossians 3: Put away death, put on Christ
And that's just a sample from the New Testament!
* Part 3 of the story: Although the Trinity always was, now its necessity is evident. God already knows His Son will be sacrificed for the redemption of mankind, but now the play goes into action.
4 - Four Gospels/Accounts of the life of Christ on earth. (the number of the earth)
Jesus came to earth. God on earth to save mankind. Almost unimaginable. His story is repeated 4 times, from 4 perspectives. (Matthew, the tax collector, showed the story of the common man's relationship with Jesus. Mark, written by Peter, the impetuous disciple, was short and action-oriented. Luke, written by the physician, is full of details, and John, from the disciple whom Jesus loved [his words], a gospel based on love.)
4s that show this:
Four directions (north, south, east, west)
Four seasons (winter, spring, summer, fall)
Other thoughts on the number 4: evangelism!
According to Acts 1:8, the message of the gospel is to be spread to:
4. The ends of the earth.
The 4 corners of the world, perhaps? (Isaiah 11:12)
* Part 4 of the story: Jesus has come to earth. The Good has come for the evil.
5 - The number of grace
The number five is not as prominent as some of the others. But then again, we could easily miss God's grace if we are not looking for it.
5s that show this:
In the Old Testament, God showed his grace through acceptance of offerings, of which there where five types: burnt, sin, grain, trespass, and peace. (Leviticus 1-7)
In the New Testament, Jesus showed us that His grace was more than enough to cover all by using 5 loaves of bread to feed 5,000 men.
Romans 5 explains grace beautifully.
There are a few other instances of the number 5 in the Bible, but I personally did not see how they relate to grace.
* Part 5 of the story: While Jesus was here on earth, He showed man what grace looks like, both as an example of how to treat one another and also as a foreshadow of God's grace post-resurrection.
6 - The number of man
Six is the number of man, not of the devil, as some may think. People give the devil too much credit. It is, in fact, MAN'S SIN that separates us from God. Satan just gets in the way. Man would have sinned eventually, without prodding.
6s that show this:
Man was created on the 6th Day. (Genesis 1:26-31)
6 things, the Lord hates. (from Proverbs 6)
(Note, anytime something is repeated in the Bible, one should especially take notice. I do
not think that finding SIX things in Proverbs SIX is something that should overlooked.)
The 6th commandment, do not murder, is about death. (Man's death is the whole reason for salvation.)
6 pieces of armor man has to protect himself in spiritual battle. (Ephesians 6)
(Again, note the chapter number.)
Jesus died for man's sins after 6 hours on the cross. (Mark 15)
* Part 6 of the story: This is the climax - the spotlight is on man. What will he do? Will he accept Jesus as God? Or will he crucify Him? Man will fail, because man cannot save himself.
7 - The number of perfection, the number of completion, the number of God.
Seven is one of the other most important numbers in the Bible (other than three.) However, while three deals mainly with man's relationship with God in salvation, seven deals more with God's completion of Creation.
7s that show this:
The 7th Day - when Creation was complete (Genesis 2:2)
70 times 7 - when forgiveness is complete (Matthew 18:22)
After 70 weeks - when the earth's time will be complete (Daniel 9)
7 years - when the tribulation will be complete (Rev. 19)
* Part 7 of the story: THIS IS THE MOST EXCITING PART! Notice how the number of God comes AFTER the number of man. Not in importance, but in timing. God had to come after man to fix what he had done. In the number 7, it is finished.
8 - New beginnings. (My favorite number.)
This is a tough one because we don't often see eights, and so it is difficult to make the connection. Eight as a number of new beginnings, though fairly widely accepted, is mostly logical. Once something has been completed (the sevens - 7 days, 7 weeks, etc.), something new can begin.
8s that show this:
Eight people survived the flood. (Genesis 7:13)
Eight days in the Feast of Tabernacles
Eight days after birth for circumcision (Gen. 17)
* Part 8 of the story: After God fixed what man had done, he has new life and can start again.
9 - The number of growth (although I have not seen it called this specifically anywhere.)
As rare as it is to see eights in the Bible, nines are even less frequent. Many other religions use nine as a special number, and conclusions can be drawn, but it doesn't appear that nine is super special in Christianity. Some make the case for instances of three threes, but I think that's pushing it a little. The only very special nine I see is listed below.
9s that show this:
9 fruits of the Spirit. (Galatians 5)
* Part 9 of the story: After man has been saved and can begin again, he can now grow in his life with God and bear fruit.
10 - The number of the law.
Of course, this refers to more to more biblical law than governmental (man's) law. Although man was given God's law shortly after man sinned, it was not a to-do list. Man was given the law to show him that he is inadequate and needs a Savior. So why does man need to follow God's law, even though Christ's sacrifice released us from the need to keep it? Man is still imperfect and needs the law to remind him of how desperately he needs Jesus's gift and God's grace.
10s that show this:
10% of giving in a tithe (Malachi 3)
10 Plagues (upon a reigning Pharaoh who did not listen)
10 Commandments (Exodus 20)
10 Kings under the anti-Christ (Daniel 2, 7)
* Part 10 of the story: God has saved man, and man is growing in faith. Even though the law cannot be kept 100% by any man, man can continue to work at growing and obeying His commands to please Him and give thanks for what He has done.
11 - Number of discord.
Eleven is also not seen often in the Bible, but where it is, it is prominent. Once Judas is removed from the group of Jesus's apostles, the group is seen distraught and disorganized until a replacement is found.
11s that show this:
The "Eleven" (group of Jesus's apostles after the suicide of Judas)
The 11th year of Zedekiah, the prophesy of when Jerusalem would fall
The 11th hour, when the last of the workers are hired in the vineyard (Jesus's parable, Matt. 20)
* Part 11 of the story: Not all will follow Jesus. Even those who show interest in Christ could possibly give up on Him. These are like the seed in the parable that grows quickly, but then withers. Some will fall away, like Judas.
12 - Another number of completeness, as it relates to man.
Whereas seven was God's number of completeness (Creation, forgiveness), twelve is more a number relating to a more earthly completeness.
12s that show this:
12 tribes of Israel, God's nation, unbroken (Genesis 49)
12 disciples, the followers needed to spread the Gospel to the world (Matthew 10)
Many of the dimensions in the New Jerusalem, our heavenly final resting place. (Revelation 21)
* The end of the story: Those who remain in Jesus complete their eternity in His company, in His glory. Don't you love a happy ending?
I hope this post wasn't overwhelming. It is simple when broken down into parts, just like God's grace is meant to be. Simple to obtain, impossible to understand. For those of you who enjoy number searching, maybe you have found something new.
Even if you have not, or you skipped the number part altogether to read the simple Gospel message, we are left with one simple, relief-filled message:
God's will always triumphs.
I just finished watching the end of an incredibly exciting March Madness game between Notre Dame and Stephan F. Austin. In the last few minutes, SFA was up by 3 points and not giving up anything! The Fighting Irish indeed clawed their way back for one 2-point shot, and then, with a little more than one second on the clock, they tipped in a final shot to put them ahead with less than a second to go. SFA missed the buzzer-beater, and Irishmen everywhere jumped out of their seats.
I don't normally watch post-game interviews or coach's pep talks, but I was stranded on the treadmill at the gym, so I kept my eyes open. Head coach Mike Brey had an interesting look on his face as he addressed his Sweet-Sixteen-bound team. It was a look that I could tell his team didn't see all the time, but it was genuine nonetheless. I had seen this look myself from a high school softball coach.
It was a smile.
It took me a while to recognize it, maybe because in the past year, I saw Chip Kelly take the Eagles to a losing 6-9 record, and I saw the Phillies go through 3 managers in 3 years who gave up on the team only shortly after the fans did. As a fan from Philadelphia, I'm not used to seeing a lot of smiling coaches.
After Googling images of Mike Brey, I don't think anyone was used to seeing a lot of smiles from him either.
But that's how it goes in sports. When the game is intense, coaching is extreme. Why do they yell? Because, you know, they all yell.
Part of it is so they can be heard. Games get LOUD. But I have a feeling they would yell anyway. The adrenaline makes them raise their voices. They are focused on nothing but how to win the game. If those coaches could be out there on the field/court/diamond, they would be. They want to keep showing the players what to do. But at game time, they have to just trust that they have taught enough.
Then… the game is over. If the coach's team has pulled through, there is an huge amount of relief. It results in a smile.
Some say that God is your biggest cheerleader. But I think it is more accurate to consider Him like your coach. He has given you everything you need to succeed. (Hello, Holy Spirit!) He has even drafted for you the best player in the league! (Thank you, Jesus!) But He won't go on the field anymore, not since the days He walked with Adam, before sin.
Still, He calls to you from the sidelines. It's loud enough, but you may have trouble hearing it for two reasons:
1. Because the crowd noise drowns it out.
The people in the world are all saying different things, and all at the same time. That makes our world pretty noisy. Some of them might be yelling out advice. But the crowd doesn't know how you have been coached. They could be giving bad advice.
My oldest daughter had a soccer coach once who told the team not to listen to their parents while they were on the field, and instead to concentrate on her voice. She knew soccer, and also knew that we parents didn't. I'm sure it was hard for the girls to ignore their parents (… or maybe not!) but when they listened to the coach, they played better.
2. Because you are too focused on the game of life to listen.
Beyond the crowd noise is the noise in your own head. You try to remember every thing you did during practice. That's a good thing, but you only have a limited perspective. Formations on the field may require you to adjust your game plan. You can't always see the whole picture, but the coach can!
God is calling to you - telling you what to do - and whether you turn to the right or to the left, you will hear the voice behind you saying, "This is the way; walk in it." (Isaiah 30:21)
Are you listening for His coaching? Do you want to hear what He says, or do you want to do it your own way? Who knows more? The coach or the player? Who can see the bigger picture - the coach on the sidelines who has a full view of the defense, or the player on the line of scrimmage who might not be able to see over the guard?
How does He sound? Does He sound angry to you? Does that mean He's mad or even that you've done something wrong? Possibly, but more than likely, it's because He is so invested in what's going on, He's just trying to get you to hear. He wants you to win!
He's coaching you on to the end of the game. At the end of the game, nothing else can be done. Your game will end in one of two ways - you win or you lose - depending on which team you play for. If you have done a good job listening to your coach (this is assuming, of course, you are playing on His team, with Jesus!), you will hear at the end, "Well done."
The Bible doesn't say, but I totally believe you will see a smile on God's face, whatever that might look like. I can't even imagine, but then again, I haven't finished playing the game yet.
Tom Hanks tells us there's no crying I'm baseball, but I don't think we see a lot of smiling either. Not until the game is over. The celebration will be grand, and the rest will be sweet. I'm smiling already.
In Arlington National Cemetery, the "Old Guard" protects the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier every minute of every day, and has done so since 1948. It's a beautiful thought to me.
The tomb is representative of all the service men and women who lost their lives, with no remains to be found (from World Wars I & II, and the Korean War). In their respective battles and wars, their bodies were separated from their names, but not their honor.
The 3rd Infantry has dedicated their service to keeping the honor of those. Every single day, the sentinels guard the tomb because they remember that there were those before them who put their life on the line. Being a part of this regimen, especially during difficult conditions, is considered a terrific honor.
As I write this, we are in the midst of a huge blizzard. Virginia may get up to 3 feet of snow, with gusty winds up to 35 mph. Old Guard will not stop. The soldiers before them, whom they honor, did not stop, so how could they?
The Unknowns are no more important than the soldiers buried with their names, by their own loved ones. But the idea is that none should be forgotten. All heroic deeds are given their due in this country.
Those in the military are expected to do everything in their power to protect the citizens of their country. Service men and women don't know the name of each person for whom they are laying down their lives, but it doesn't matter. That person is just as much a citizen of the U.S. as their own mother.
The life each military member gives to save others is precious also, regardless of the outcome of the battle. We honor them because it's the love and dedication behind the sacrifice that makes a difference. Every single one of them deserves to be recognized.
It's that life that the Sentinels are guarding. It's their way of saying thank you. A bit too late for those who have died, but not for those who still have a life to give. The military wants to show current soldiers that no matter what happens, they will not be forgotten. Their sacrifice will not be in vain.
As current military look at the treatment of the Unknown Soldier, they know they will never be considered insignificant. If they have to make the ultimate sacrifice, even if by doing so, no one is saved, that soldier will know that what was done was important for their country.
It reminds me of another story. Another sacrifice given for all to remember. A baby born into a poor family and all but unknown thereafter. No one knew Him, but He knew every one of them.
He knew the ones who spat at Him as He walked with His cross to Calvary. (I wonder if there are some Vietnam vets who can relate to that?) Jesus knew each one, and He was still determined to save them.
Not to take anything away from our military, but they are only called to protect those in our country. Not many would lay down their lives for someone on the other side of the battle lines. Romans even tells us that while anyone might die for a righteous man, who would die for someone who didn't deserve it?
Jesus laid down His life for everyone. He put His down so that all could live in the freedom of God's grace. He laid it out for his mother, his family, his disciples, AND for the Pharisees who accused Him, the rulers who suppressed Him, and the Roman soldiers that beat Him, spat on Him, and hung Him. He also gave His life for those who had not even betrayed Him yet.
My friends, we are not the righteous ones. No one is. It wasn't our goodness that made Jesus decide to die for us. It was His love.
A soldier never asks who in our country is worth giving his life for. He knows that he will do it for everybody. No questions asked. Jesus never asked any questions either. And His sacrifice is not limited at all. His love goes beyond borders.
The Unknown Soldiers may never have known if or how many American citizens their life-giving sacrifice saved. Jesus gets to know each and every one that He saved.
We honor the Unknown Soldier with a monument. It is watched 24/7. We don't give up on it in a storm. The sacrifice is never forgotten or put aside. Will we honor Jesus's sacrifice in the same way?
… And some of you are critiquing my word usage right now. "Who says 'step off' anymore? Couldn't you say 'Go away' or 'Be nice?'"
That's my point. I said it because I chose to say it. It might not be a big deal with these words, but people are making a big deal about other words right now.
Christmas. That's my holiday. It's special to me, and I have lots of special ways to celebrate it.
Your holiday might be Christmas, or it might be something else. Fine. That's your life; that's your holiday. I would love it for everyone to celebrate Christmas in the traditional sense, but these days, I'm just happy I'm allowed to celebrate it myself with my family, in the way that it is most meaningful to us - at church.
I should probably want more people to celebrate Christmas the way I do, but sometimes it's hard enough to just make sure my kids do. In this day and age, I don't think I am going to win any followers for Jesus by telling other people they are doing their holiday wrong. Everyone's holiday is sacred to them. They don't want to be told they are doing it wrong. My best card to play is to show the joy I get from communion with the Lord during this season, and see who God brings my way to join me.
Your holiday might be Christmas too, but you might celebrate it differently. To you, Christmas could be Santa Claus and reindeer. We don't "do the Santa thing" in our house. That doesn't fit with our holiday celebration. But that doesn't mean I'm going to tell your kids that the reindeer aren't eating the carrots you leave out.
We don't do "elf on the shelf," and to be honest, I nearly have to laugh at those of you scrambling to find a new antic for your little Ernie (or whoever.) But I love to see the faces of your kids when they see your set up.
What we do is lights. Lights first symbolized the Star of Bethlehem that led the Wise Men to see Jesus. And we do music. Because it was a Holy Night. We do the tree, Advent calendars, wreaths, angels, and candy canes. Because they are what makes a special way to remember Christmas, and what it means to us.
I am fully aware that Jesus was NOT born on December 25th, or even in December, or even in the first year A.D. of the Roman calendar. (Are you?) But we still open presents on December 25th.
I know that the wise men weren't at the manger when Jesus was born, and that they didn't reach him for a least a year after with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But there are still camels at the stable in our nativity scene. Also, there are 3 wise men in every representation we own, even though there were most likely many more than three who came to visit.
So I don't get really bent out of shape about how other people celebrate their Christmas. It's none of my business. It's their relationship, not mine.
Starbucks doesn't know how I celebrate Christmas - neither do I expect them to. So that red cup is just fine with me, as long as you get my drink right. I could do without the weird smiley lady on the cup, but since I'm just going to throw it away, who cares?
Now, let's talk about other judgments we are making of each other, shall we?
My kids listen to Christmas music every night (even in months that are not December) to help them go to sleep. Please don't tell them they can't do that. They like that music. It's uplifting, and I don't see anything wrong with that.
I usually do my Christmas cards in September. Because I have more time to do it then, and I have come across some good sales that time of year on pictures. Don't groan. I kinda like thinking about winter when the heat of summer has not fully escaped my porch.
Yes, I put my outside Christmas lights up on November 4th this year. I did it because it was sunny and 70º outside. My fingers work better in that kind of weather than the freezing rain or other harsh conditions I did before. I promise not to turn them on before Thanksgiving, since that is getting into your holiday space as you drive by my house. But allow me to put them up when I can.
I like to shop throughout the year, because I want a present I give to be something I saw and thought of someone. Not, a last minute guess about what a person might like. That's not what gift giving is about! (And trust me, I know about gifts.) To me it should be, "Hey, there's something this person would like. I'm going to get it for them!" Not, "Oh no, it's almost Christmas and I don't have something for this person! What's out there that I can buy for them?"
And, okay, I have the gifts. Why put them away and wrap them all at once? I wrap them as I get them. (When I can!) Then, I have time later to go to the mall, sit with a cup of coffee, and soak in the delights of the season. Stress-free. (Or almost free. I still have to get home to bake some cookies.)
But I know people who like taking a day to wrap their presents (people who LIKE to wrap presents, mind you, and obviously do much better than I do.) And some people (men) like to put up lights when it is so cold they can't feel their fingers.
If that's how they do their holiday, that is their holiday. None of my business. I just hope these people don't yell at me for celebrating mine how (and when) I do.
So tell me Happy Holidays, if that's how you celebrate. Thank you for making me a part of your celebration. I'm going to wish you a Merry Christmas to make you a part of mine.
Holidays aren't a way to pick apart how others are different from us. They really aren't a time to worry about what others are doing at all. They are a time to focus on what is important to us and why we celebrate in the first place.
So, may God bless you this Thanksgiving, and have a Merry Christmas.
Picture yourself at the foot of the cross. You are there as it's happening -- the very moment when all the sin in the world, every last one: past, present, and future is removed from the shoulders of all mankind and placed squarely on the shoulders of the God-in-man's- body of Jesus Christ. The most monumental event in all of spiritual history, and there you are.
You are among many others. Woman are crying; soldiers are laughing; men are yelling. Somehow, what is being done on the other side of heaven is lost on these people. I would venture to say only one person in that picture really knows what is going on. (And it's not you.)
He's tried to explain it, but no one is getting it. (I can only imagine Jesus's frustration.)
Why aren't we awed? Why are the men still laughing?
Because there is a lack of dramatic music. The brilliant light and rainbows are absent. As a matter of fact, the death of Jesus Christ looks amazingly similar to those of the thieves next to whom his is dying.
This is so disappointing.
We have been trained to only really pay attention when we are told to do so. We have lost the skill of discerning what's important on our own. We have become lazy and sometimes only think what others have already thought for us. If we weren't given a direct sign from heaven telling us we are being cleaned, why would we bother to look at the facts ourselves?
Our King entered Jerusalem to take His reign, not just on a donkey instead of a white steed, but on a baby donkey. Jesus's feet were probably brushing against the ground as it struggled to haul its load. Sure it fulfilled Scripture, but what was up with that? A little awkward for the apostles.
Where are the bells and whistles? Where's the red carpet? Where is the fanfare? Where is that doggone horse?
How are we supposed to stand up to Rome on a donkey? How are we supposed to tell our neighbor Jesus is King when He looks like a beggar?
It's too quiet at the base of the cross. The wrath of God could surely conjure up some lightning. He did it for Elijah when he offered a wet sacrifice. No music, but God put on one heck of a pyrotechnic show.
The propitiation of man's sin is a little more important than Elijah's reputation.
Now, had you been standing in the temple, you would have felt the earthquake. You would have seen the curtain tear. You may have even understood that significance.
But still. No music. Some rumbling, yes. But buildings remained intact.
If anyone is to pay attention to anything today, we need to be attracted and compelled to watch. I live near Philadelphia (that is to say within a 40 mile radius), and we just had a visit from the Pope. No one around here wondered when he was coming. We were told about it on the news months ago. I believe a countdown began last summer. Every aspect of Philly was cleaned up - I can't imagine a single detail was overlooked.
Some people flocked to see him; others fled the crowded hysteria. But there was nothing about this visit that was quiet. And granted, I do not know the Pope personally, but he seems to me to be kind of a humble guy. I doubt he wanted any fanfare. But it was an Event to be sure. (Yes, with a capital "E.") One of the most important in recent Philadelphia history. The city wanted it known that the Pope was there.
Back to 33 A.D. Had camera crews been available at the time, would there have been the same kind of coverage? Doubtful. The government was down-playing Jesus's significance as much as they could.
Even without a light show (and God could surely have provided one), the message is out. But how are we supposed to convince our neighbors that their sin is taken away when they can't see it? We can't even feel it. You become a brand new human being and your heart rate doesn't even budge. There was no music when Jesus executed the means of our salvation, and there is likely none when you accept it. (Don't get me started on massive crowds at alter calls.)
Why isn't there fanfare for such a monumental event? Because that, my friends, is what faith is all about. It's easy to run down with all the crowds to see the Pope. If God would have yelled from the sky, "This is it, people!" when Jesus died, if the angels would have gathered his body in plain sight, while the sound of harps filled the air, who would have remained unsaved?
But who would have understood?
And that is why faith is such a big deal. God wants us to think about it. Faith must have purpose. You must decide to be faithful.
2 Corinthians 5:7
"For we live by faith, not by sight."
Passion Under Grace,