As I listened to the sounds around me in my home, I was suddenly struck by how many of them were water noises. I noticed the turbulent whirring of the dishwasher, the trickle drip from the coffeemaker, and the gushing from the pipe as the washing machine filled. It was very peaceful, and it made me think of other water-noises, including this great app that I started using called Calm. They have several background options, and one of them is rain falling – very calming, lol. So, as I contemplated these things, it occurred to me that although the initial sound (stick with me, no, I’m not trying to make you feel like you have to pee!) of falling water in my home was similar, it does not compare to the fullness of the experience of hiking to a waterfall and looking out over the nature that surrounds you.
I tend to generalize things that I read in the bible – Moses went up “a mountain”, Jesus prayed in “a garden”, David was king of “somewhere”, and so on. In doing this, sometimes I am missing out on the fullness of the beautiful over-arching picture that God has presented as a love story to us. Just as a pizza shop in Uptown is nice (or at least usefully convenient if you are hungry), it means something much more as you look into the window with your husband and reminisce of his proposal to you on the dance floor when it used to go by a different name. Sometimes living in the same place for a while is like that, you have all these amazing memories of incredible meaning that are important to your story. I have heard from people who have journeyed to the “Holy Land” that it is a huge experience for their faith to visit and walk on the same spots that our Lord and Savior walked with his feet. Now for some of us, probably most of us, we will never physically make that journey. But there is another way.
Remember the Yellow Pages? If you are of a certain age, then yes. But for the others, let me try to elaborate. The Yellow Pages was a phone book – I know this is hard to imagine, but try – for the purpose of, well, letting everyone know your information. Funny enough, there was a time in which if somehow you were overlooked in the Yellow Pages, it was kind of embarrassing. It was a huge ordeal to get an “unlisted number” so if you weren’t in there on purpose it was an accomplishment. There were white pages for the residential-giving your name, number, and address, and yellow pages for the business providing the same info. Now on the front of this book was their logo – two “walking” fingers which sufficiently represented their tag line of “let your fingers do the walking”. Instead of walking around town, your fingers could walk down the page and find what you were looking for. Take this concept straight to God’s Word. Now don’t just meander, but go with purpose. There is such a reward in getting the fullness of the picture of history that the Living Word paints when you see that the same mountain on which God gave the ten commandments to Moses (Ex. 20:1-17) was also the mountain on which Jesus gave his first sermon (Mt. 5:1- 7:29) – “sermon on the mount” – yes that mount! The one where Jesus says that he did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Mt. 5:17-19)! Or, that the same river God had the Israelites stack stones of remembrance after parting the waters to take them to the “land of promise”(Jos. 4:1-9), was also the same river that John used to baptizepeople (including Jesus!) (Mt. 3:13-17), the symbolic act representing the repentance and rebirth with a new “land of promise” in mind.
These moments of recognition are transforming, faith-forming. The kind of thing you can read about in a love story… oh wait, that’s the point.
Do you ever look around and wonder, “where am I”? Not so much a question of physically… maybe you are in your living room… but mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Where are you?
There is no coincidence that God asks this question in the garden of Eden. It’s not as if He doesn’t know where Adam and Eve are physically located. It’s not like He was keeping tabs on them from His phone, then… arghhhh, lost connection. SO what’s with the question? And if God does “know all” above our perspective (Is 55:8-9), and “sees all” from a timeline not our own (Is 46:10), why does He ask something that is in complete opposition of what could be described as “calling them out”? Momentary pause, if I caught my kids in heartbreaking disobedience, I would be very soap-box style, “Oh, Oh, you know where you are…. What’s up with that?! Whatcha dointhere? I SEE YOU!” -in my defense I did just watch Men in Black 3… feeling a bit riled up. But the point being, my hurt would cloud my reaction to the disobedience. And the God-perspective is, His view is NEVER clouded. He is never caught off-guard, never surprised by a sudden turn of events, and incapable of losing command of the heavens and earth, held in place by His Word.
(BSB) Surely My own hand founded the earth, and My right hand spread out the heavens; when I summon them, they stand up together.
(NLT) It was my hand that laid the foundations of the earth, my right hand that spread out the heavens above. When I call out the stars, they all appear in order.”
He summons; they stand up. Calls out? They order themselves. So again with the question. The hurt is the human perspective. The Godly view is ordered, secured, and substantiated by His good will, His character, and His purpose. Just before this inIsaiah he specifies, our redemption is for His own namesake. It is not tied to our “messing things up”, but tied to who we are inHim. He will not be made a fool of. Harsh and scary? Yes. But freeing truth? Absolutely. HOWEVER: do not confuse this with God owing us. We are not the child of a CEO, behaving badly, and yet our name is somehow kept out of the press because it would taint the “family name”. God gave us free choice to go it on our own. It is not a game, no wagering here. When we stray, we hear our Master’s call. We know our Shepherd’s voice.
So today, don’t look around and think, “where am I”, instead, listen for God’s call, and stand up.
School is out, the weather is warm, and the Chick-fil-as are even busier than before. We must be nearing Summer. And as we do, I sat to ponder what my days should look like in this new season. I have several commitments that are just beginning, but also many that are wrapping up. In the next few weeks of transition, I started thinking of some of the bigger occasions that are quickly approaching. Maybe you or your family have some upcoming events as well- graduations, vacations, birthday parties, camps, relatives visiting, and so on. I have one particular annual work commitment that is weighing on me, same as it does every year. In reflection, at least since this will be the 5th year of dealing with it, I now know what to expect. In that 1st year however, I was a wreck. There was lots of paperwork involved, spreadsheets and all the fun business records, and I had no idea what was needed and what wasn’t. I was terrified of lacking the expected documentation, and yet also nervous that perhaps I was providing too much, and subsequently would irritate the person whose charge it was to examine it all.
Thankfully, in our faith, this is a non-issue. We cannot prepare enough, nor would it do any good if we got all of our stuff in order, for the inspection of righteousness. Paul gives his own perspective on this in Philippians 3. Allow me to paraphrase… He was the most Jewishly awesome of any Jew out there. He was born into the right family, received the proper education, he taught others how to be awesome Jews, told off un-awesome Jews, gave the traitor Christians the what-for, and looked awesome doing it. Mic drop. Oh, but wait, then he met Jesus and realized what Isaiah was talking about in Isaiah 64:6.
“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”
Paul continues his letter to the church at Phillipi saying this:
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.” (Phil 3:7-9)
The beginning of Matthew 22 talks about a parable of a wedding banquet. The king was throwing the banquet for his son, and long story short, none of the invited guests were coming. In fact, they were out and out evil in their response (read it for yourself... their whole villages get burned down), and so the king gave word to find anyone who would come and invite them, both evil and good. And so, the servants filled the halls of the banquet with the next batch of invitees (us), those who missed the first cut (although the king later declares that the first string didn’t deserve to come). Yay! We have been invited into salvation through the righteousness of Christ! Let’s get our wedding party on! But before we throw down to the Christian version of Cupid’s Shuffle, there is one more thing to this story.
Matt. 22:11-14 “But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. He asked, ‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’ The man was speechless. “Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
So, yes, we are invited to the party. But so were the others. And we are each responsible for accepting that invitation, regardless of what we have or have not done. But we cannot forget to give the proper respect to the King, dressing appropriately for that which we were called. Christ found us in our filthy rags… but he has given us his Robes of Righteousness. Why would we ever wear anything else?
what is "spark"?
Its a small thing - like the flash on a spark plug that hopefully ignites something bigger to propel you forward.