Friday, February 20, 2009


In Leviticus 11, God is giving instructions for clean and unclean food. In verse 44, God sums everything up..."consecrate yourselves and be holy, for I am holy."
As Christians, we like to-do lists. It makes everything clear and easy to define. What God says is slightly different than what we want it to say. After giving a big list of what is and isn't clean, the next part doesn't say that this will make you holy. In essence, it is telling his people how to consecrate themselves so that they can be on their way to holiness. God gives two different commands, not different versions of the same command. The first step is to be consecrated, to set ourselves apart, to remove the things that keep us from him. Only then can we begin to become holy. Holy isn't something to do, it's something to be. It's much easier to do something that to be something. To do something just means I have to put forth some effort. To be something requires that I change who I am.
That doesn't mean that our Christian walk should be marked by inactivity since we're so busy "being" holy. There are two separate things here and we need to be careful to tend to both. Just as inactive holiness is useless, so is activity that isn't marked by holiness. Our activities do not make us holy, or else God would have told the Israelites to do those things and they would have achieved holiness. At the same time, God gave them instructions anyway. If holiness isn't something that can be "done", then what's with the list? He was showing them the necessary steps to prepare themselves.
Just as holiness isn't something that we can do, we can never reach that place without a cost. I keep hearing this idea over and over in different places and different formats. In a very real sense, my salvation is a free gift. But that doesn't mean that it is without cost. To be holy demands that a price be paid. If I am not becoming holy, I am ignoring God's explicit instruction. If I am one of his children, then verse 44 applies directly to me. I am mandated to consecrate myself so that I can become holy. Why should I consecrate myself? Because it is the path to holiness, a necessary path to take. Why should I become holy? Because my Father is and he wants me to be more like him.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Who is the Prodigal?

This past week, I was asked to sing in a church service. The song that I ended up singing was called "Come As You Are". In it, the song refers to "prodigal daughters and sons". This isn't a revolutionary idea to put into a song, and it's a pretty familiar passage of Scripture so it wasn't a groundbreaking song. I spent the longest time misunderstanding something, though. I always thought that prodigal meant lost or wayward. It turns out that prodigal means something completely different. It actually means wasteful. I know that the Bible never actually uses the word prodigal, but it's worth noting because this word is tied closely to the parable of the lost son.
I've known what that word meant for quite some time, but as I was singing this song one morning to get ready God connected the dots in my brain in a way that I never had before. The fact is I had all of the information and was either unwilling or unable to put it all together. I always viewed this song as a call for sinners to come to repentance. I never applied this song to me. That's because I missed an important element of the lost son parable. I tend to focus on the aspect of the son being lost so much that I fail to apply it to my own life on a regular basis. At some level I understand and accept that my sin put me in a far country and that only the grace of God has allowed me to come home. But that's history - I mean, God had redeemed me and called me his own. I'm clearly not the prodigal son that this parable speaks about. Because of that, I quit listening to what the story (and the song) was speaking to me.
As I was driving in the car, God broke me. I understood what was being said to me. The son wasn't called prodigal because he went to a far country. He was prodigal simply for leaving the Father's house. The far country wasn't the problem. The problem was the son's reckless use of what was given to him by his father. I like to say things like "I haven't been a very good steward" because it minimizes and softens what I'm really doing. The plain truth is that I have been wasteful. God has poured into me and I have, in many cases, let it spill onto the floor. How many wasted blessings litter my life? Blessings God intended for my good, for my deliverance. There are too many to count. It's an embarrassment just to consider it.
Still, I serve a faithful God. In spite of my prodigal status, my Father still runs to me when I return home. Not for a moment have I deserved to be called his son. But that doesn't matter one bit. My standing in his family is unmerited. Because I didn't earn it, nobody can point out to the Father why I shouldn't have it. My membership in the family is based entirely on my Father's decision to adopt me. I'm in his family simply because he says I am. There is no depth I will find that will disqualify me. "How great is the love the father has lavished upon us, that we should be called sons of God" I love that word "lavished". In spite of all I've done, my Father's arms are open wide to me. His love for me is unmeasurable. It defies description or understanding.
And I love it.
This prodigal son has a prodigal father.

Monday, February 2, 2009

What It's All About

      For the last several weeks, I have kept coming back to the same thing over and over again.  Two things have really spurred me to keep looking at it.  The first is that I have been studying the Sermon on the Mount for the last several weeks.  Nothing fancy, just reading it over and over and soaking it up.  I'll say this up front - it's a tough word to hear sometimes.  Matthew 5 has affected me in a range of ways these past two months.  Sometimes it has been a slap in the face, sometimes a kick in the tail, sometimes a breath of fresh air.  The other thing is this blog entry. 
     Here's the thing.  God didn't send his Son for me to sleepwalk through life and go through the motions, claiming a faith that I don't demonstrate.  To me (not that I'm equating a blog to the Bible) they both spoke different aspects of the same thing.  Jesus speaks so plainly about what I need to do.  It's my attitude of self-preservation that makes it difficult.  Here's where the rubber meets the road.  You can't read Matthew 5 and walk away without making a decision.  Either Jesus meant what he said, or he didn't.  There's not really any other choice.  We (I) try to avoid the fact that it's that black and white, but what's the use?  Either his words are meant to apply to me, or they aren't.  It's tempting to pick and choose and feed on an ala carte Gospel - one that I feel satisfies my needs.  But who am I to tell Jesus what I need? 
     Does Jesus really mean that my anger looks the same in God's eyes as an actual homicide?  I must not think that, because I sure don't act like it.  But I can't say I believe the Bible and then conveniently ignore that part.  Or take verses 29 and 30.  It's the part where Jesus talks about poking out eyes and cutting off hands.  Our first impulse is to back away from this.  Clearly Jesus couldn't have meant it like that.  Does Jesus really want me to disfigure myself?  I think that's the wrong question.  The underlying question, the question implied by this offensive passage is this - How far am I willing to go?  What sacrifice would I make?  What price would I pay?  The first thing is that Jesus is speaking to every one of us.  The measuring stick is only "will I obey the call?"  Everything else is window dressing.  Either I accept the call of Jesus and follow him or I reject it and walk away.  This is an all or nothing proposition.
     The second thing, Steven Furtick's blog, challenged me to a different aspect of this same truth.  Why did Jesus climb a mountainside before he spoke a word?  Why did he give such a stark call once they all got there?  I think this hits it on the head.  Jesus doesn't have time for or interest in pretenders.  I know that grace covers all of our sins and his blood was shed for everyone, so I'm not trying to minimize what the power of God can do.  We are called to be more like Jesus every day.  Jesus was on this earth to lauch his Father's kingdom.  Not a program or an agenda.  He was establishing a kingdom.  He needs me to be genuine.  Not do I appear to be following, but am I really following?  Not do people around me see my obedience, but am I actually obeying?  Am I the genuine article or a cheap imitation?  It's the same question - how far am I willing to go?  What sacrifice would I make?  What price would I pay?  What do I sacrifice by trying to have my own way?
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