Veil the radiance!

“When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant and they were afraid to come near him. When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face.” Exodus 34:30, 33

“Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.” Acts 17:22

Moses would go be in the presence of God, and he would come out with his face radiant from being with God. His friends first reaction was to run from him. Do we ever have this affect on people we meet after spending time with God? I think that we do. As we in Young Life share our faith with adolescents, we have to use wisdom as we approach teens with friendship. This is hard work winning the right to be heard. Just as Moses had to put on a veil, followers of Christ have to put on a bit of a veil to allow people to come close to us. There is no better veil than love and acceptance. People run from judgment and the critical spirit. Paul had to dumb down his intelligence and passion a wee bit in Athens as he spoke to the leaders while waiting for his friends to show up. He was all alone, but got busy with the King’s work. He compliments them on worshiping idols! That made headlines in the Jerusalem tabloids. Paul points them to Jesus eventually, but only after he had won a hearing. Jesus is really all that we have to offer, but getting into a position where the message is hearable takes some veiling of our passions and our natural criticalness of people’s frivolous lifestyles.

Jesus is our example. Do you see how the incarnation was the perfect veiling? If Jesus had come down in His full glory, it would have been ugly. You can’t learn that much when you drop dead in His presence. But God made himself approachable. Jesus slowed himself down for 33 years to be safe. CS Lewis says that God is not safe, but he is good. For a short span, God was both safe and good in the person of Jesus.

How have you learned to veil the radiance in order to eventually share his message?

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Retirement: Is it Scriptural?

Numbers 8:23-26 “The Lord said to Moses, This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the Tent of Meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the Tent of Meeting, but they themselves must not do the work.”

I have heard lots of people saying that retirement is not Scriptural, but this direct quote from God answers that for me. Now, the quote is directed at the Levites, and some would say that it doesn’t apply to other groups. Jesus said lots of things to the disciples that we apply to ourselves, so I think it is right and fair to take this command directed at the Levites and apply it to our lives.

Let’s look a little deeper. Why would God not allow the priests to work past 50? I see a hint at succession planning here. If the old guy kept doing the work, and their life was long and prosperous as the Lord promised, then it would not open any places for the new young guns to take on their duties. Leadership would not pass down, and prepare the Jewish nation for the future. As a family, company and mission, we must always be looking to allow the younger ones to take ownership of the family name, the company’s business, and the mission’s dictates. Ownership comes by doing and contributing, not by watching someone else provide leadership. In your family, are you providing “spaces in leadership” where your children can take on the mantel of the family name. This can be done in little ways like having family meetings to decide where to go on vacation rather than the parents always making all the decisions. “People tend to support those things that they help create.”

Finally, the last part of the Scripture caught my attention. “They may assist their brothers in their duties, but they themselves must not do the work.” After we start to slow down, our jobs, more and more is to become consultants and advisors and coaches, and mentors to the young. We don’t do the work, but assist others. We can still be relevant and helpful in building the Kingdom of God, but we take on a different and important role. Change is hard, and we tend to cling to what we have known. There is a whole new future out there for older folks, and we need to embrace it with all our hearts.

The Universal Switch

You will reap whatever you sow. Gal. 6:7

Flesh gives birth to flesh, and the spirit gives birth to spirit. John 3:6

What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. I Cor. 15:36

He must become greater and greater, and I become less and less. John 3:30

Robin and I planted a small snowball bush in front of some ugly telephone boxes in our side yard. Mary Stephens promised us that within a year this bush would cover these boxes from sight. Correct, she was. They became so overgrown after 3 years that I couldn’t rake the leaves out from under them. So today, I got out my pruners and went to work and cut all the low branches away, exposing the bare ground to sun where grass use to be. I then furrowed the ground and planted some shade grass under the bush.

In April, I do not expect to find barley, hay, or alfalfa, but grass to be growing. The Bible says that you will reap what you sow. Flesh gives birth to flesh, and spirit gives birth to spirit. What does this really mean? I call this the universal switch. We throw the switch from death to life simple by planting the seeds of belief in the life giver. The children of God are born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. We make a switch from living our own agenda to living for God. We allow God to have His way with us. John the Baptist summed this up with the words, “He must become greater and greater, and I become less and less.” As long as we allow our flesh (our desires to live for self) to give birth to more flesh, then we lose the universal switch. When we allow our spirit (our desires to live for the Spirit) to give birth to more spirit, then we have died to self. It seems to me that you are either growing closer to God each day, or further away. You cannot stay in the same place.

What are you planting in your spiritual garden? Is it time to do some spiritual pruning in order for the sonshine to allow those spiritual seeds to grow? What are you fasting from, that allows the Spirit to give birth to the Spirit?

 

 

Give God 60 Percent

This passage so blessed me this morning, that I wanted to share it with you. It is written word for word from Michael Yaconelli’s book Messy Spirituality page 101.

Nonprinciple 3: Give God 60 percent

For years I believed it when people told me, “You either love God or you don’t. You are either committed or you aren’t. Give God 100 percent.” Sounds very spiritual, but the truth is there is no such thing as 100 percent commitment. I am a morning person, so I wake up with a fairly high commitment level, say 73 percent. Then I go to work, and my commitment level drops to 45 percent. I get a raise and my commitment level shoots up to 92 percent. My wife and I get in a fight, and it drops to 9 percent. And then Baywatch comes on television, and I’m up to 80 percent again (just kidding). Every day my commitment level moves up and down like a boat in rough seas, and my overall commitment might average out to 57 percent for the entire day. We strive for 100 percent, we want to give 100 percent (sometimes), and we wish we could give 100 percent, but life isn’t quite so simple.

Dr. Lorraine Monroe taught high school students in Harlem for many years. In her advanced English class one year sat a very bright student who, until this particular year, had shown great promise. This year his grades suddenly nosedived, and he was obviously underperforming. Dr. Monroe met with the boy, challenged him, threatened him, pleaded with him, and counseled him. She tried everything, but he continued to float just above the fail line at about 70 percent. At the end of the school year, the young man barely passed, another casualty of the urban jungle.

Ten years later, Dr. Monroe was walking to work one morning when a well-dressed young man approached her. “Do you remember me?” he asked.

“Of course I do, “Dr. Monroe replied. “You were in my advanced English class many years ago. I remember you because you had so much talent and you wasted it in my class.”

“I know, Dr. Monroe. I knew you believed in me, even though you were disappointed in my performance. I’ve always hoped I’d run into you again so I could thank you for believing in me, because I am one of the editorial writers for Time magazine now, and I owe much of my success to you. You see, Dr. Monroe, my senior year was a difficult year for my family. My father was in prison, my mother was a prostitute, my older brother was selling drugs in the projects, and I was left to care for my younger sister and brother. Dr. Monroe, 70% was 100 percent of all I could give you.”

Sometimes a 70% commitment is 100 percent of all we have to give. And God is there, in the middle of our “meager” 70 percent, recognizing the seeds of growth in what we’re giving him. God will show up in whatever percentage we give him, which motivates us to give even more.

Does this seem like heresy to you or does it smack with your reality?

Lies and Damn Lies

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics. http://www.york.ac.uk/depts/maths/histstat/lies.htm

“I delight in you more than you can imagine. I approve of you continuously, for I see you cloaked in My Light, arrayed in My righteousness.” Jesus Calling, page 262.

A.W. Tozer wrote that the source of all heresies is an incorrect view of God. If I asked you what God thinks of you, what would be your answer? What I hear most often is that God is disappointed with me; God wishes that I would be more zealous for Him, or that God wants me to do more. This is one of those damn lies.

God is the Father of all Truth. He cannot lie. (Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18) So when I reference the quote about lies, and damn lies (I will leave statistics out of this until another blog), I am saying there are lies that come from the enemy. These are damn lies that do spiritual harm to your soul. Let’s look at three of these.

God is angry. There is plenty of material for this in the Old Testament, but something happened at the cross. The anger of God turned into mercy and grace. Atonement happened at the cross. Jesus paid the price. We are living under a new covenant where God has done the work and we get to enjoy union with the Father. I was taught early on that atonement means AT ONE MENT. A position with the Father where we are one. Union with God means we are ONE not two. Nothing good that I do will bring me any closer to God and nothing bad that I do will take me further away from God. We are one. A person can understand why the devotional book Jesus Calling has become so popular because almost on every page it emphasizes that God is delighted with us because Jesus filters out the nasties. To believe that God is disappointed with us after we accept the Cross is a lie straight from hell.

Jesus + _____ = salvation. The blank is filled with phrases like works, or my faith, or repentance. However, in the word Jesus there is an accepted order where you don’t receive Jesus without repentance, without faith, and the future holds works that naturally come because of the Holy Spirit is within us. To believe that we have to repeat the atonement that happened on the cross is a damn lie. Jesus has done the finished work, and we don’t need to help Him out by being good. We make choices that honor Him, but that has nothing to do with our salvation. The correct equation here is only: Jesus= salvation.

God is not good. This argument usually takes on this weathered sequence: There are bad things happening in the world. Therefore, either God is not good or God is not powerful enough to make a difference. If He was good and powerful, He would obviously take action and prevent bad things from happening to innocent people. Books have been written about this. All that I really want to say here is that anytime that you start to doubt that God is good then know that this is a damn lie, that sneaks into your thinking from the enemy. Don’t go there. You would have to know as much as God knows to unravel this mystery, and that is not going to happen on this side of death. For now, hammer into the bedrock of your life and faith a sign that says: “God is good.”  

 

“Don’t let what you can’t do keep you from doing what you can do.” Anonymous

“Small is a long shot.

Small is fearless.

Small works harder.

Small wins our hearts.

Win Small.

Dream Big No Matter What Your Size.”

These are the words of a commercial during the Olympic coverage by the Mini-Cooper. It is based on the David and Goliath underdog throbbing that we each have in our hearts. We like to see the little guy win. We tend to root against the Yankees because they have won more World Series than the next 3 teams combined. This is a favorite theme of Jesus, and the antithesis of what most followers of Jesus believe. We believe that making the biggest splash, and finding the biggest spotlight is the way to make a difference in the world. But Jesus avoided the spotlight, and cautioned the healed to keep a secret about their miracle. Jesus rejected the grand scheme to change the world “with armies, swords, legions of angels, and lightning bolts” (Mike Yaconelli) Spiritual people are about the small. God does the BIG if we do the small. The primary work of God is through the yeast in the dough small. We must influence those right around us with everyday faithfulness. Jesus said to leave the 99 (large) and go seek out the 1 (small). So often we think that if we can’t be Billy Graham then there is no use in playing. Wrong. Thank God for Billy Graham, but God’s plan for me and you is to make a small difference where you are. Jesus points to the woman who gives two coins in the collection box. She gave little but she gave all she had. Small wins our hearts.

The value of solitude

“Solitude is the place of conversion, the place where the old self dies and the new self is born, and the place where the emergence of the new man and new woman occurs.” Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart.

 You just can’t know the benefits of a silent prayer day unless you have tried it.

 Does God speak to us more deeply and clearly if we take a prayer day away? Yes and no.

 No, in the sense that at any second He is nearer to us than our own breath. He does live within. Christ in you the hope of glory. His presence is the goal of each day. I love the translation of Romans 13:14 that says “Clothe yourself with the presence of Christ.” He is with us and within us. We don’t have to perform in order to have him at our side. It is an end product of the work of Christ on the cross.

 Yes, in the sense that when you go spend time in the desert, you become more sensitive to the stirrings of the Spirit. I did not say the voice of God, because I can’t say that I have ever heard the voice of God. But I have heard His stirrings, and deep impressions of Him speaking to me. We so want God to speak on command! We want a God on a leash. He continues to be mystery, but that curtain of mystery rolls away a bit when we go into solitude. “The lover of silence draws close to God. He talks to him in secret and God enlightens him.” St. John Climacus, Ladder of Divine Ascent.

 Call to me and I will answer you and show you great and unsearchable things that you do not know. Jeremiah 33:3 The Old Testament was the visitation culture. The New Testament is the inhabitation culture.

 What keeps you from taking some solitude for an hour, a half day, or a full prayer day? Please leave your comments.