Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Consequences and Community

I'm reading Deutoronomy. I actually started in Matthew, but I got to Jesus being tempted in the desert, and something occurred to me. The devil is throwing these temptations at Jesus, and he responds all three times with passages from Deutoronomy. I had never noticed that before. I mean, I would have thought he'd whip out a Psalm or Proverb, but no. Deutoronomy.

The thing is, I've never read Deutoronomy. I'm not totally sure I knew how to spell it before I cracked it open. So crack I did.

At this point I'm near the end -- I just finished chapter 31, out of 34 chapters. I'll be honest, its pretty dry, and kind of frustrating. For example, if your kid is rebellious, stone him to death? That's a smidge past spanking, you know? Hard to reconcile that with the loving Christ in the New Testament. And yet, clearly Christ was fully behind Deutoronomy.

As I'm nearing the end, though, there are a couple of strong themes I'm finding. One of them is that there are consequences for our actions. Much of the book gives specific laws, and even punishments for lawbreakers. But you get to chapters 28 - 30, and Mo basically takes it all a step further. If the folks obey the law, there will be blessings. If they disobey, curses. Consequences.

Another theme I'm seeing is about community. There are various occasions when we are told to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And we also see God promising to be with us.

What's really fascinating to me is that Mo explains more than once that God knows the Israelites are going to screw it all up. God already knew! And yet, he went through with his promises, gave all the great gifts, etc -- and outlined how he would punish the folks when (not if, but when) they screw up their part. Consequences. But in that vein, he also promises that when they turn back to him, he'll bring them home. Consequences, but also community.

So I find myself looking at my life and considering the consequences, good and bad, of my decisions. And I'm also looking at the community I have with Jesus, considering how to stop stiff-arming him in certain areas of my life.

I'm glad he already knows what I'll do. That takes some of the pressure off. Not because it gives me any kind of get-out-of-jail-free card, but because he has a plan.

And his plans are GOOD.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Success in Spite of Our Past

So the other day I wrote about Ahaz, among the bottom rung of the kings of Judah. Ahaz's son, however, is probably the best king of Judah. From Ahaz to his son Hezekiah, we go from worst to first.

Have you ever noticed that Ahaz is described as having 'passed his sons through the fire'? Researching that practice, it would appear to be a ritual where the sons are passed through a flame or between two flames in order to dedicate them to a pagan god, perhaps one named Molech. I wonder if Hezekiah was subjected to this as a boy? Did he have burns on his skin, on his arm or leg for example, from being 'passed through the fire' by his father Ahaz?

Even if Hezekiah didn't have a physical mark to remind him of his childhood, he had to have vivid recollections of his father's unGodly life. His father had 'worshipped' at the sex-and-religion shrines -- basically his father had had sex with prostitutes under the theme of a pagan religion, and everyone knew it. His father had looked to the neighboring nation of Assyria -- instead of to God -- for help. Eventually, his father had ransacked the temple of God, then boarded it up, putting it out of business for good (or so it probably seemed).

Truly, Hezekiah had witnessed his father trying everything under the son -- except following God -- to be successful. And in the end, Ahaz was a dramatic failure, called one of the worst kings of Judah.

Looking at the line of kings before Ahaz, it would probably have been easy for Hezekiah to try his own way, too. You can imagine that much of the common culture in Judah was in line with Ahaz's beliefs. Ahaz wasn't the only one visiting the sex-and-religion shrines, or worshipping pagan Gods -- the people of Judah (and Israel) were all guilty of this. The culture was so infected that even the priests of God's temple had become lazy in following the commands of God about purification and worship. So Hezekiah could have simply gone along, living for himself, hoping to create his own success.

But that's not what happened. Hezekiah chose a different path. In the face of a culture that said 'live for today', and 'serve whatever god pleases you the most', Hezekiah turned to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

How hard do you suppose that was? How many childhood friends and close relatives -- many of whom most likely worshipped other gods -- did he risk offending? Judah had just begun worshipping Assyrian gods under Ahaz's reign; if Judah now rejected those gods, did Judah risk the wrath of Assyria, or the nations who worshipped the various other 'gods' at the shrines and high places in Judah?

Honestly, I sometimes find myself fretting over using the word 'God' at the office, for fear of coming across as 'holier than thou' or whatever.

And yet Hezekiah made a hard choice to do what would please God, and let the chips fall where they may. He overcame a childhood and a culture. And God smiled on him. Check this out:

Hezekiah carried out this work and kept it up everywhere in Judah. He was the very best—good, right, and true before his God. Everything he took up, whether it had to do with worship in God's Temple or the carrying out of God's Law and Commandments, he did well in a spirit of prayerful worship. He was a great success. 2 Chr 31:20ff

What are we willing to overcome, what are we willing to do, to be a success in the eyes of God?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Anything but God

So along comes Ahaz, the next king of Judah. A real star.

Ignoring the lessons God tried to teach his fathers, Ahaz does not turn to God. Instead, he makes figurines of the Baal to worship. He burns incense to other gods. He participates in neighborhood sex-and-religion shrines. Basically he tries his best to do everything apart from God.

So God finally has enough of this, and he hands Ahaz over to king of Aram, who beats Ahaz severely, and then takes prisoners from Judah. Next, an army from Israel attacks and massacres many of Judah's best fighting men. Then the Edomites attack and take captives. Then the Philistines raid Judah, and take over some cities.

You would think that Ahaz would catch these ever-so-subtle signals from God, right? But what does Ahaz do?

Ahaz asks king of Assyria for help.

And the king of Assyria responds by ... attacking Judah, and seizing Damascus in the process.

Ok, now Ahaz will wise up, right? Surely he'll turn to God now.

Actually, Ahaz ransacks God's temple and the royal palace, pulling together everything he can find of any value, and sends a gift to the king of Assyria, hoping to buy his favor.

And the king of Assyria responds by ... ignoring Ahaz.

So what now? What does Ahaz do? Well, on a trip to Damascus to meet with the king of Assyria, he saw the altars they used to worship their gods. So he thinks to himself, 'Hmmm ... the Assyrians' gods beat my army and took Damascus, so if I worship their gods too, maybe their gods will help me as well.'

You'll be shocked to learn that this doesn't help. And so Ahaz tries the shotgun approach to worship -- he sets up shrines all over Judah, to worship every 'god' he can find -- and along the way he literally boards up the temple of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Maybe he figured that if he boarded it up, it wouldn't be such a temptation to him.

Ahaz tried everything -- everything -- except submitting himself to God. God made Ahaz face the consequences of his decisions, and Ahaz still refused to turn from all the things that so obviously weren't working, weren't helping.

So today I ask you: Are you doing things your own way? How's that workin' out for ya? Ever wonder if God might be trying to tell you something? Do you know that sometimes he'll go as far as to try what I call the '2x4 to the head' approach to get your attention? As Ahaz demonstrated, we don't have to listen to God, even when he speaks so plainly through our circumstances ... but wouldn't we be more content if we'd just submit ourselves to Him?

I should point out that I don't believe that all negative circumstances are cases of God trying to show his displeasure. Sometimes it just rains, or even floods, or even tsunamis, you know? Moreover, as my brother Mike Datson pointed out recently, not all negative circumstances are necessarily even negative.

But sometimes ... sometimes...

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Personals

Ever heard of Jotham? No, not Gotham, that's where Batman lives. I'm talking about Jotham, son of Uzziah. Jotham, King of Judah.

Scripture says that Jotham 'did what was right in the eyes of the Lord' (2 Kings 15), and that 'in God's eyes he lived a good life' (2 Chronicles 27). But at the same time, scripture points out that during his reign, the shrines to other gods in Judah were still very much in use by the people, and Jotham didn't interfere with that.

Which makes me say, so which is it? Did he do what was right, or did he slip up by not taking action against these shrines to other gods? I don't think it's reasonable to say that both could be true -- that even in leaving the shrines to other gods, he was doing what was right. So what's the deal?

Could it be that when viewed 'personally', Jotham may have been a good guy, obedient to God in his day to day life, avoiding sin, etc; and yet he didn't accomplish some things that God would have wanted him to do?

This word, 'personal', is one we hear from time to time in evangelical churches, as in, 'Is Jesus your personal Savior?' This phrasology has come under fire from a few folks lately, I'll suggest not because it represents invalid thinking so much as incomplete thinking. When we give our individual lives to Christ, he is personally saving us; that's very relational language, and not inappropriate.

But if we think about things that are 'personal' -- a personal assistant, a personal ad in the newspaper, personal development, etc -- they are often things that are all about 'me'. They are 'mine'. And if we think of Jesus first and foremost as our 'personal' Savior, we may also run the risk of thinking less of the church as a whole, or what Jesus intends to do through the whole church, or what Jesus did/does for others in general.

So look back at Jotham. Scripture says he was obedient to God, but it very explicitly states that he doesn't put an end to shrines to other gods throughout Judah. The only way I can seem to fit these two statements together is to say that Jotham 'personally' was obedient to God, etc -- but when it comes to what God could have done through Jotham more actively to benefit others, Jotham didn't really go there. And as a result, something, or more probably some things (plural) were left undone that would have been within the control of the Jotham as king of Judah -- things that would have pleased God.

So the questions seem to be:

  1. As I stumble along in my walk with Christ, do I think of the walk as just Him and me, to the exclusion of others who should or could be alongside us both together?
  2. (and this may be a restatement of the previous question) Is it possible that I'm focused on Christ in my daily life, but still missing some assignments that are within my control because I'm not paying attention to others the way I should?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Mentors and Friends

Still in 2 Chronicles, just read the story of Uzziah. Still struck by the extremes in the lives of these kings of Judah.

Something occurred to me as I read about Uzziah. Scripture says Uzziah 'was well trained by his pastor and teacher Zechariah to live in reverent obedience before God, and for as long as Zechariah lived, Uzziah lived a godly life.'

It struck me that this description is similar to a description of Uzziah's grandfather Joash: 'Taught and trained by Jehoiada the priest, Joash did what pleased God throughout Jehoiada's lifetime.'

It seems that as long as these Godly men, Zechariah and Jehoiada, lived, the kings of their respective lifetimes were Godly men. But when Z and J kicked the bucket, their students Uzziah and Joash pulled a Jeckyl and Hyde, leaving their faith behind.

I wonder what kept these kings in line during the lifetimes of their Godly mentors?

Perhaps their mentors had sufficient power over the kings to keep them in check, like a parent keeping a tight rein on a child. We've all seen that, I think -- someone whose parents kept such control over their lives that when they finally were on their own, they went nuts, doing things their parents would never let them do, having little or no self control because they never needed it as a child.

Or perhaps Zech and Jehoiada didn't exert control so much as Godly influence, and when they took the last train out there was no one with a close enough relationship to the kings to stoke their consciences. In other words, perhaps Uzziah and Joash never sought out other Godly men to help hold them accountable -- something we all need.

But I'll suggest that one thing must be true: Uzziah and Joash didn't really pull a Jeckyl and Hyde. I mean, they didn't change overnight. That's not how it works. Rather, their hearts were moving away from God long before they rebelled so extremely, later in their lives.

May God's leaders today develop self-control; may they find mentors who can stoke their consciences; may they maintain humble spirits before their Creator God; may they have close friends - true Brothers - who hold them accountable for their actions and decisions; and may they be sensitive to the Spirit convicting them of sin early on, rather than allowing sin to build to the point of out-and-out rebellion. May God's will be done.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Transformation

So I'm reading 2 Chronicles. The stories there of the kings of Judah are fascinating despite their redundancy -- so often the kings start off ok, but end badly.

Repeatedly, many of the kings of Judah do good things, Godly things, initially, but later in life they choose to go off on their own, ignoring God, ignoring prophets he sends to warn them, ignoring the lessons of their fathers'. Its like whatever faith they had initially, sort of petered out. It didn't have a long term impact on the way they lived their lives.

And so I find myself wondering about my own faith.

I do ok sometimes. Right now I'm in the Word most days, if only for a few minutes, and I'm trying to pray a few times a day. I pray over my kids at night. But I don't feel like I have a rock-solid faith, one that changes my actions very much. Except when I'm actively worshipping God in song, I typically feel like my faith is less in my heart, and more in my head.

I've also just started reading Bob Roberts' Transformation. Here's hoping that Roberts has some tips for me that will help drive my faith from my head to my heart.

Interesting quote from the introduction to the book:
I believe the basis of this transformation is a combination of the early church's example in Acts with what is emerging in the Eastern church. It is in startk contrast to the Western approach to discipleship, namely, the transfer of information through curricula. This approach results in educated converts who may grow churches, not necessarily radically transformed disciples who will change the world. --Bob Roberts, Transformation

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Shape of Anger

Celeste and I had an interesting conversation last night about anger.

You see, we have two small children. Both work to test us on a regular basis, pushing the boundaries, seeing how far they can go. Intentionally disobeying, throwing fits, you know the drill. And Piper, at her present age, is particularly good at this, in that she can actually articulate her rebellion. "NO!!!"

So I was praying about this on my way to work this morning, praying for Celeste and me to have peace as we respond to our kids in those times. It occurred to me as I was praying for peace that the anger itself is not really the problem, its just the shape of the anger.

Did you know that anger comes in many shapes? It comes in the shape of an enraged face. It comes in the shape of harsh words or shouting at the top of our lungs. Sometimes it comes in the shape of something leaning toward violence -- spanking a child in anger, when the parent out of control, is not healthy, nor is breaking something, or punching the wall. (I had a friend in high school that punched a brick wall in anger; he broke several bones in his hand! Not healthy.)

But anger itself isn't a sin, and it's not unhealthy. Jesus got angry sometimes. God gets angry -- I seem to recall seeing the word 'wrath' in the Bible, attributed to God. Look it up!

But as we strive to be like the Father and the Son, I think we have to figure out ways to ensure that our anger is shaped by love. After all, the scriptures say that God is love -- as my friend Stephen points out, love isn't something he does, or something that describes him, it's what he IS.

So what in the world does love-shaped anger look like?

*********************************************
On a side note, if you don't read the blog entries of Patrick Meade ... you should. He had a great line the other day: "Jesus did not go to Calvary so I don't have to go to the movies by myself." Want the context? Read his blog! :-)

B

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Faith

If you missed it, guest speaker Toby Slough had a great lesson last night on Faith. He explained that Faith isn't simple belief, and -- pointing to the Faith chapters in Hebrews and particularly the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac -- he defined faith as tenacious obedience to God, even when we don't know how things will turn out.

Its a lesson I needed to hear.

I've found myself thinking today of the impact this definition of faith might have on some other scriptures. I've replaced the word faith or faithful with tenacious obedience. (I know, there's more to it than this, but it might help to apply what Toby was saying.)
  • Matthew 13, Jesus '... did not do many miracles there because of their lack of tenacious obedience.'
  • Matthew 25, 'Well done, good and tenaciously obedient servant! You have been tenaciously obedient with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'
  • Matthew 17, Jesus explains: I tell you the truth, if you have tenacious obedience as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.
  • Matthew 25, 'Well done, good and tenaciously obedient servant! You have been tenaciously obedient with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'
  • Luke 18, when the Son of Man comes, will he find tenacious obedience on the earth?
Thoughts, anyone?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Odds and Ends

Two things:
First, it's pronounced 'mic - CAIN'. Not 'mic KEEN', and not 'mic KEE un'. 'mic-CAIN'. Long 'A'. Rhymes with McBrain ... or it would, if McBrain were a word. Normally I don't really worry about how it's pronounced, but someone at my office with an unfortunate, nasal voice (her natural voice, unfortunately for her) just called me 'brahn mic KEE un' and something inside me ... just ... snapped.

Second, I've waited long enough. Well, sort of. I've decided that I have another option in the old 'wait and see' game that I think God's playing with me. While I'm waiting, I think I'm going to get my MBA. Along those lines, it looks like I have to take the GMAT. Any tips, suggestions, comments?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Band of Brothers

I don't make it to the movies much these days. That's a big deal for me -- there was a time when I was at the movies several times a week -- but now I have 2 small children and other things that make the movie theater a once-in-a-while thing instead of a staple of life.

Having said that, I think that my interest in movies may also be declining. Celeste and I went to the video store the other day and I only found a few movies that I could muster up any interest in ... despite the fact that I had hardly seen a single movie on the 'New Release' wall. Either I'm getting pickier (is that a word?), or Hollywood is getting ... er, suckier (could that even BE a word?).

Anyway, a friend recommended Band of Brothers a while back. Not a movie, but an HBO mini-series. We rented the first DVD over the weekend. I am totally hooked.

I've always enjoyed a good war flick -- exciting, powerful battle scenes, etc -- but in addition to that, I'm very impressed by how real the characters come across.

As a matter of fact, the reality of the characters, and the 'true story' being told, really sets me to thinking about how cushy my life is. Watching those guys in the plane, waiting to jump into France on D-Day, I had an uneasy feeling in my gut. Could I handle that kind of terrible anticipation?

And then last night, episode 3 or 4, watching another soldier totally panic in the midst of battle, cowering and even screaming in fear. Eventually, an officer helps him get it together enough just to stand and shoot his rifle at the enemy. Would I be brave enough to stand and fight to defend myself and others? I mean, really?

Who knows. I sure don't. I struggle just to live by faith in a land where there's a church on every suburban streetcorner. I'm very thankful to have a 'Band of Brothers' of my own, who challenge and support me even in my weakness.

But I am so glad that the previous generations were so brave, and that others in my own generation are willing to defend themselves, and me, today.

May the Prince of Peace come soon.
B

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

As Much A Gift

Philippians 1:29, The Message
There's far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There's also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting.

One of my current struggles is differentiating between trusting in Christ and taking action on my own. I sort of feel like the last thing I heard was to stay put in my current job, more than three years ago, and I'm trying to be obedient to the last thing I (thought I) heard rather than acting on my own to make a change. I'm basically being told to do something that I just don't want to do: wait.

So I read that verse and I find myself thinking that perhaps, just maybe, this waiting is a form of 'suffering' for Christ, in addition to a time of expanding my trust in him. I hesitate to say that, since I'm not really 'suffering' in a physical sense. I mean, Paul was incarcerated, not to speak of what Jesus went through; I've got nothing on them. Honestly, this is probably about the nicest 'waiting room' anyone could ask for.

But my Strengths (as in 'Now Discover Your Strengths') start off with 'Strategic' and 'Achiever', and I'm really struggling to not make a big-picture plan, set some goals, and get after it. That's what I do. Its who I am.

And yet. Who I WANT to be is an obedient servant of the King.

So I'm going to trust, and wait. I'll grit my teeth if I have to. Pound my head against the wall from time to time as necessary. And I'll keep asking God to give me a clue.

There's far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There's also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

From Defense to Offense

It occurred to me today that I spend most of my time playing spiritual defense.

I struggle to take lustful thoughts captive instead of giving them control. I struggle against tailgating the guy that just cut me off on the freeway. I struggle not to be so selfish. And on and on.

I spend most of my energy battling the path of 'what I don't want to do, I do'.

And it seems like when I try to move beyond that, I stall out. I tried early this year to have more discipline regarding daily time with God. That lasted a few weeks, and trailed off. Today I'm back to forcing myself to be in the word for at least a few minutes, every few days. (On a side note, I think I am frustrated that God doesn't seem to want to talk about what I want to talk about. Foolish of me, but true nonetheless.)

I have done decent 'work' at praying in the truck, or spending that time in real, heartfelt prayer -- but honestly, there are few alternatives behind the wheel. When I really have an alternative, I find myself either working through my ever-lengthening 'to do' list at the office, or hoping to just vegetate at home.

It occurred to me today that I really am not strong enough to make the shift from D to O. I have tried more times than I can tell you, to no avail.

So here's what I'm starting to pray: that God would turn the game around by his strength, by his power. Mine obviously is not enough, and I'm sure it was never supposed to be.

B

Monday, April 17, 2006

Decisions Decisions

I heard someone say recently that the decision to give your life to Christ is the most important decision you'll ever make. And I would agree with that.

However (you saw this coming, didn't you?), its not the hardest decision you'll ever make. The hardest decision is not to GIVE your life to Christ, but to LIVE your life for Christ.

After all, giving your life to Christ is usually the climax of a process of some kind, where the Spirit is working on your heart, and you are listening, engaged and focused on what God is doing in your life. And for some time following that decision, you can thrive on the energy of that decision, the power and joy that God gives. A sort of Christian 'honeymoon period'.

But sooner or later, the decision begins to seem like a long time ago, and the daily grind (aka 'this present darkness') can begin to push, pull, and draw you. It can draw you back toward the life from which you were saved, or it can push you off the path God has called you to, onto a side path that somehow seems easier, smoother, better.

Or perhaps more likely, you begin to look at your day and think 'sure, I could study/pray/do something else Christ-like, but there will be time for that tomorrow/this weekend/during spring break/this summer/later; I've really got to catch up on my sleep/reading/favorite show I've been recording/email/favorite book series I'm behind on/blogging. I've got eternity to spend with God anyway, right?'

Truly, the hardest decision we make for Christ is the one that comes along when we'd rather be doing something else.

So...whatcha doin today?

B

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Dance

Regarding evangelism, from Brian McLaren's A New Kind of Christian:

Instead of conquest, instead of a coercive rational argument or an emotionally intimidating sales pitch or an imposing crusade or an aggressive debating contest where we hope to 'win' them to Christ, I think of it like a dance. You know, in a dance, nobody wins and nobody loses. Both parties listen to the music and try to move with it. In this case, I hear the music of the gospel, and my friend doesn't, so I try to help him hear it and move with it. And like a dance, I have to ask if the other person wants to participate. There's a term for pulling someone who doesn't want to dance into a dance: assault. But if you pull someone in who wants to learn, and if you're good with the music yourself, it can be a lot of fun!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Your Mission, should you choose to accept it...

John 17:4, Jesus' prayer to God, shortly before his crucifixion:
I glorified you on earth by completing down to the last detail what you assigned me to do.

How did Jesus glorify God? By completing the tasks God assigned him, down to the last detail.

How do we glorify God? At least in part, the same way.

I don't know about you, but I need to do better at listening for my assignments...

B

Monday, April 10, 2006

A Word from Haggai

People who know me really well know that I have an odd quirk when it comes to movies. Regardless of how ridiculous the plot or how irritating the characters, for some reason I just can't stand to stop in the middle ... if I start it I have to finish it, no matter how painful.

Perhaps similarly, if I flip open my Bible without a particularly specific destination in mind, and if my Bible happens to open to the beginning of a book, I tend to settle in. Yesterday -- after a very timely lesson from both the sermon and class reminding me that if I want to hear from God I've got to be in the word -- yesterday I flipped it open and landed on Haggai.

Now, you don't get much Haggai these days. Lots of New Testament, some Genesis, Exodus, of course the Samuels/Chronicles/Kings, Psalms, and a few other books from time to time, but Haggai ... not so much.

But I found myself at the very first verse of the very first chapter, and was fished in.

For those of me who have never read Haggai before, it turns out that Haggai was a prophet, sent by God to tell the peeps that they need to get off their lazy tushkas and rebuild the temple. Apparently God had previously told them to do it, and they had begun the task, but eventually decided that the timing wasn't right and (conveniently) each went home and instead spent the time and money they would have used on the temple to redecorate their own homes, and more generally to build their own kingdoms (so to speak).

So God sends Haggai to tell Israel that 'you're all Trading Spaces, and meanwhile My House is a wreck'. Worse, he points out that they obviously have ignored some warnings he's already been giving them about this: he hasn't been blessing their income, their savings, their harvest, etc etc.
I get to the end of Haggai (all two chapters), and I find myself realizing that in January God was calling me to rebuild my relationship with Him; to dedicate time each day to being in his word, to prayer; to making my life more about him and less about me. And that motivation lasted for a whopping few weeks, before I found myself far too busy for such things. After all, I've got a job that keeps me very busy, a wife and 2 small kids who deserve my attention, and ... um ... other important things that oddly slip my mind right now.

But about that point in my thoughts, I'm kind of vaguely paging through Zechariah (the next book east of Haggai), and I notice that God highlighted through Zechariah the blessings that would come to the people when they finished rebuilding the temple.

So I'm praying about all of this, and I'm considering what God might be saying to me in particular. And part of me is retreading the doubts I've had lately, wondering how many messages I find in scripture that are from God, and how many are just my over-analysis of the text, looking for something about or for me.

And as I'm kind of skimming back through, reading some study notes in my Bible relating to a few particular verses, I'm surprised to note that the people responded and began to rebuild the temple on the '24th day of the 9th month', which the footnotes in my Bible equate to September 21.

And see, September 21 is my birthday.

Now, maybe it is pure coincidence. Maybe so. It seems unlikely that God timed my birthday to be the same day that they restarted rebuilding the temple. But I'll tell you this: it made the hair stand up on my arms, and I got this weird feeling when I saw it.

So here are my working conclusions: God has a plan for me, but I can mess it up (or at least push 'pause') by not cooperating with him along the way. He'll bless me if I'll fully rebuild our relationship, and stop putting off spending time with him. He may even bless others through me. But if I'm too busy either rearranging my life on my own, building my own kingdom, or whatever, he'll most likely let me suffer the consequences of that until I cut it out. And there will be consequences, Haggai was clear about that (consistent with others of course).

Anyone have a comment? Do you suppose I'm on the right track?

B

P.S. this morning, got up at 6am, went through some of Jesus' words in John. He sure tells us often to ask in his name and expect results. Makes me uncomfortable. But that's for another day.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Chocolate for Two

Did you ever see that episode of Friends where Phoebe is talking to Rachael about Joey breaking up with his girlfriend, and Rachael says 'what happened?', and Phoebe explains that the girl apparently ate off of Joey's plate during what became their final date? Rachael responds, knowingly, 'Oh, right ... Joey doesn't share food.'

Call me Joey, I guess. I've never been terribly good at sharing food. I can do it if I set my expectations ahead of time -- after all, now and then Celeste and I even order a single plate at a restaurant (we should really do that more often!) -- but much of the time I stiffen up at the thought of sharing my food. No, seriously.

And especially chocolate. I hoard chocolate. I hide it from the kids, on a high shelf in the pantry, and I literally cringe when they happen to find it. When I actually eat chocolate around the kids, I do whatever is necessary -- WHATEVER is necessary -- to ensure that they don't see me eating it, lest they ask for a bite. To be sure, some of that is just because I don't want to clean up chocolatey hands and faces when they're done ... but much of that is because I DON'T WANT TO SHARE.

So. We're on our way home from our 'round the world' trip yesterday, and Celeste passes Piper an individual bag of M&M's. (She also passed me a Snickers bar, which I eat all by myself, carefully keeping Piper from seeing it.) And Piper is munching her little chocolate pleasures while watching a pre-recorded episode of Dora.

And as we drive along, somewhere in southern Oklahoma, I hear Piper say, "Daddy, want some chocolate?"

I look over my shoulder from the driver's seat. I blink, confused. "What, sweetheart?"

"Daddy want some chocolate?"

Aside to Celeste, I comment, "How could I refuse?" And then, to Piper, "Sure honey."

She gives me an M&M and I eat it. A few minutes later she offers me another, and I take it. (Curiously, she never offers any to Mommy... I'm sure she just forgot.)

So.

Right.

Well.

I thought that we were still having to teach Piper the concept of sharing. ("No, Christian, that's MINE!!"). Apparently my daughter can teach me a thing or two about the subject.

Happy New Year!
B