Walking in the Way

Today’s reading: Leviticus 24; Psalm 31; Ecclesiastes 7; 2 Timothy 3

April 20th, 2016

We feel very fortunate to live near the Constitution Trail in Normal, IL. We endeavor to use it as a spiritual tool for our family. As we walk along the path we reflect on the thoughts, words and deeds of the day and measure them against God’s word. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 comes to life for our family as we walk along the way.

walk in the path

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. – 2 Timothy 3:16–17

Setting out with doctrine. As we look ahead we can see the path and where it leads. We equate this to doctrine. God’s word lights our way and allows us to see into the distance. (Genesis 1:3, Psalms 119:130, Proverbs 6:23, Proverbs 4:2, Isaiah 28:9)

Stepping off with reproof. As we look down at our feet and notice they are off the path we Praise God for reproof. God’s word is light and it exposes our missteps. (Psalms 119:105, John 8:12, Ecclesiastes 2:13, Ephesians 5:15, John 3:19-20)

Setting back with correction. As we seek out the path again we trust God to correct us with a straight path back. His rod it comforts us. God’s word brings us right home. (Deuteronomy 32:2, Psalms 5:8, Psalms 107:7)

Staying on with instruction. As we find ourselves back on the path we praise God for His gentleness, grace and tender mercy. We have been instructed on the application of God’s doctrine to our specific experiences. God’s word strengthens us to do His good work. (Isaiah 29:24, Job 5:19, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:7, 2 John 9)

May we all walk in the way and do the good work God has purchased us for. Amen.

Good Soldiers, Athletes, Farmers

Today’s Reading: Leviticus 23; Psalm 30; Ecclesiastes 6; 2 Timothy 2

One significant and meaningful spiritual transformation occurred last year during a time when I was blessed to go through, A Little Manual for Servant Leaders by J.K. Jones & Jim Probst.  J.K, Jim, and six other brothers in Christ, John, Josh, Chad, Eric, Shawn, and Scott, along with myself, shared eleven weeks together studying scripture and testimonies on servant leadership.  This is definitely a great manual that provides all servant leaders, like you and I, with bible based tools to continue to “fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith.”  Thank you God for divine appointments to be among wonderful people who share their knowledge of You and help others build an eternal relationship.

Today when I read 2 Timothy 2 I was reminded of this chapter we discussed in the Servant Leaders Manual.  After reading the following verses I was asked what metaphor would you most relate to the soldier, athlete, or farmer.  Which one would you pick? Are you all of them?

2 Timothy 2: 3-6 says, 3 Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. 5 An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6 It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.

The good soldier modeled a disciplined life. The Greek word for “good” is kalos which means noble or excellent. A disciplined life involves training all the time in order to always be battle ready.  This includes making sacrifices and showing courage, commitment, and willingness to discipline yourself.  Jesus followers give up worldly security to focus on our God that enlisted us. Ephesians 6:10-18 provides us with the whole armor of God to protect us in the battle.

The honest athlete trains hard and follows the rules to the game.  This training will help you to compete in the race and includes no short-cuts or cheating.   1 Corinthians 9:24-27 affirms that athletes needs to exercise self-control in all things and must discipline their body. 1 Timothy 4:7 says to train in Godliness.

The hard-working farmer works tirelessly all day long, with no glamour or crowds, and in hopes of a bountiful harvest.  The farmer receives a share of his own crops after spending much time preparing for the harvest. 1 Corinthians 9:7 talks about person who plants a vineyard and eats some of the fruit. There is also the Parable of the Sower in Luke 8:5-8.  Likewise, the Christian life and sharing His word requires a lot of hard work and patience. We face adversities during every season, but if we remain consistent in our own faith and steadfast in our sharing with others, we will reap a bountiful spiritual harvest.

Does one person connect with you more?  No matter the metaphor we keep fighting for victory, focus on victories, and patiently toiling for a bountiful harvest.

What does a soldier, an athlete, and a farmer all have in common? They are all occupations that require perseverance! Soldiers, athletes, and farmers all face adversities which require tremendous patience and steadfast endurance to achieve their respective goals, whether it is prevailing in battle, winning a competition, or reaping a bountiful harvest. All of our hard work will be worth it when we realize it is to glorify our God.  When we share this love with others and spend eternity with Him. What kind of soldier, athlete, or farmer will you be?

Are you enduring in your faith right now? Are you enduring with Christ in the midst of your current adversities and sufferings? Remember it’s not if we face trials its when. Are we willing to suffer in our efforts to please the Lord? Are we willing to discipline ourselves to receive an imperishable crown? Are we willing to work diligently that we might benefit from our first fruits of our labors?

Dear God,

Please provide us with the endurance we need to persevere through the adversities we face. You alone are what we need to recognize your blessing through it all. We thank you for providing us with a focus and ambition to look to you and make you the center of our hearts and lives.  God help us always to think over what you say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. 2 Timothy 2:7.

Dead Weight

stretcher gurney for patient in hospital (blur background and wooden table for displaying your product)

Leviticus 22, Psalms 28-29, Ecclesiastes 5, 2 Timothy 1

I was really looking forward to sharing this new book of the Bible I found called Ecclesiastes. Well, it was new to me anyway. I’ve been working for a few days in a row at the hospital. Now that I’m sitting down to write and catching up on my reading I see that this short book has been the subject of a few reflections this week. I’ve been drawing out a little “blueprint” of Ecclesiastes all week. Of course, we already know that it was written by King David’s son, Solomon almost 3,000 years ago. It seems to me that nearly nothing could be the same then as it is now. But, with a closer look, there are 5 key themes that are very relatable.

  • Searching
    • Without God there will be no true pleasure or happiness, searching for wisdom, knowledge or joy is futile outside of Him.
  • Emptiness
    • Fill your life with God. The cure for emptiness is Him.
  • Work
    • God gives you the ability and opportunity to work so that you can use your time to glorify Him.
  • Death
    • God gives us hope that goes beyond death
  • Wisdom
    • We must get to know God and honor him in order to have wisdom

See NIV, ESV and HCSB study bibles for more on these themes, I did NOT come up with them myself

When you place Solomon’s words in those 5 categories, it brings us back to what I think is the most important theme: without God life is empty. I spent the weekend thinking that the lessons presented to us in Ecclesiastes are darker and more serious than Proverbs. Tonight as I sit and reflect on how to really bring them alive in my life, I realized that God had given me an example through death.

My Saturday started in the basement of the hospital. I’m a physical therapist there and I cover a weekend or two a month. I had my clipboard in hand with a long list of patients to be seen for the day. As I punched the up button on the elevator, a security guard rolled up with a metal gurney. A few years of experience told me that she was on a transport mission. A patient had died, the family had come and gone and now it was time for the body to be moved. We rode up together with few words passing between us. We exited on the same floor and I went about my business checking charts. Next to me the security guard was focused on her task, checking boxes on a list and packing personal items into a box. It’s important to take care of sensitive matters at the hospital before visiting hours begin. I asked the guard which room she was going to, so that I could avoid bringing patients into that hallway. Before she could answer, a nurse turned and said, “We could really use some help lifting the patient, it’s kinda like dead weight.”

A life. Transformed in an instant from a vibrant presence to dead weight. For the record, this nurse is a patient, compassionate and kind person. This ill-timed pun wasn’t meant to diminish the life lost. It did get me thinking though about my own dead weight on this earth. The HCSB Study Bible opens the book of Ecclesiastes with this introduction:

“The Bible is never shy about confronting painful truths or hard questions. The book of Ecclesiastes faces the issue of how we can find meaning on life in light of the seemingly futile nature of everything. It will not allow the reader to retreat into superficial answers. It does not answer the problem by comforting us with hollow slogans. To the contrary, its motto is “Everything Is Futile.” But by forcing us to face the futility of human existence, it guides us to a life free of empty purpose and deceitful vindication.”

I got to thinking about the patient that I didn’t know. He or she did not take wealth or poverty with them. The struggles he or she faced in illness and death are now gone. I wonder, was it a life well lived? What truly held weight at the end and what simply didn’t matter anymore? My favorite verse in today’s scripture is this:

“For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.” Ecclesiastes 5:7

 Am I so full of words, and dreams and aspirations that there is no room left for obedience to God? The foundation of this teaching is our eventual mortality. We can try and try to impress God with our gifts and promises but in the end we cannot deceive Him. He calls us to be humble and obedient. He is asking us to depend on him and his grace. Without Him, life is meaningless. Back in the hospital room as the clean white sheet was drawn up and the wheels began to turn toward the door, I saw an end as well as a beginning. I asked God to lead me into fulfillment in Him. I asked for more reminders to broaden my vision from the context of today into his plan of eternity. As I heard the elevator ding and the heavy doors slide open, I realized that there is no timeline. There is no promise of tomorrow, only the promise of right now. Lord, help us to seize this moment, this Monday, this week. Help us to delight in you here until we are there…

Chasing the Wind

Leviticus 21; Psalms 26–27; Ecclesiastes 4; 1 Timothy 6

And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. -Ecclesiastes 4:4

Eccleiastes has been proclaimed to be one of the greatest literary masterpieces of all time. King Solomon, the author (and son of King David) was considered to be one of the wisest and richest men who ever lived. He knew very well what he was writing about. I on the other hand am neither wise or wealthy, but I have been familiar with both through most of my life.

Please forgive me if this sounds boastful, but in my extended family I have seen or been made aware of fortunes that have come and gone. At times I have experienced the effects of both the windfalls and fallout from wealth; witnessing pride from accomplishments of innovation and industry.

Not surprisingly a sense entitlement had grown through the generations, it moved past sustaining yesterday’s achievements to the decadence of wealth without work. Like the withering vine of yesterday’s will to create enterprise, the generations grew into a future where they placed more value upon the worldly gains that had come before, than on the faith of the past. One by one they fell into despair and confusion. Their trust funds couldn’t save them from the emptiness that crept into their souls.

Despite the growing darkness, there was always a flickering light of truth in the distance. The family’s acts of philanthropy had brought hope and opportunity to the underprivileged and outcasts, and inspiration to the generations. Schools, colleges, centers and clubs were funded along with research to enhance life through science and service. In their acts of kindness and sacrifices of time and treasure, the light grew stronger.

I have witnessed the powerful reach of wealth beyond the grave, trying to control the destiny of future generations. Personally I was invited to live a life devoted to the power of self and the wisdom of the world, but I have also seen the power of a different legacy in the lives of those who pursued the true light of the world — Jesus Christ. Their lives reflected the light of personal transformation, one that was only possible in the surrender to the will of God. This offered a different life and a legacy for future generations.

Everyone I have known, including myself who have chased after the wind, to the best of my knowledge, have never found what they were looking for, only vanity.

Life’s Journey

Concept of time with funny businessman running in a hurry

Leviticus 20; Psalm 25; Ecclesiastes 3; 1 Timothy 5

Did you know Apple released the first iPhone on June 29, 2007? Over the last two quarters of that year, about 1.4 million iPhones (units not dollars) were sold.  By the end of 2015, only 8.5 years later, Apple had annual iPhone unit sales of more than 230 million.  Isn’t it absolutely crazy to think sales went from 0 to 230 million, and the iPhone went from a luxury to a mainstream device, in less than a decade?  Ten years ago, would you have ever dreamt you would be carrying ONE device that provides access to a wealth of information, can take and store pictures, can translate your speech into text messages, can track your heart rate, can pay for your groceries, and so much more…in your pocket?

This storyline isn’t unique to the 21st century.  Between 1908 and 1927, the development and adoption of Ford’s Model T car illustrated the same point – this world changes at a rapid pace.  It can, at times, be a little overwhelming.  (Just ask those connected to Kodak and Blockbuster, two great companies who couldn’t change fast enough to stay in business.)

I contrast the story of frenzied technological change, which we experience every day, to the words of truth recorded in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. This passage naturally stirs my heart. Maybe because I hear it most often at funerals.  Read it aloud, do you feel a sense of calm and comfort?  The rhythm, “a time to… and a time to… a time to… and a time to…” is soothing as Solomon takes the reader on a poetic journey through a range of life’s activities.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

1For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.

The sense of comfort, however, comes from something more impactful than poetic patterns or meters. It comes from the foundational truth that God is sovereign, meaning he has supreme power or authority.  Solomon begins chapter 3 by reminding us that there is a season or time for EVERYTHING.  Notice verses 2-8 don’t just list good things.  They talk about death, weeping, mourning and hatred as well as life, laughing, dancing and love.  All these things, both good and bad, exist in this world.  God uses his supreme power and authority to work ALL of them together to accomplish his purpose.  Ecclesiastes 3:11 – He has made everything beautiful in its time.

The first verse and chorus of Colton Dixon’s song Through All of It provide a comforting reminder that He is our God through all life’s seasons, both good and bad.

There are days I’ve taken more than I can give.  And there are choices that I made, that I wouldn’t make again.  I’ve had my share of laughter, of tears and troubled times.  This is has been the story of my life.

I have won, and I have lost.  I got it right sometimes, but sometimes I did not. Life’s been a journey, I’ve seen joy, I’ve seen regret.  Oh and You have been my God through all of it.

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/coltondixon/throughallofit.html

Training Plan

Leviticus 19; Psalms 23–24; Ecclesiastes 2; 1 Timothy 4

Last Wednesday around 3:30 AM I was lying in bed wide awake. The alarm was set for 4:30 AM and I wanted to go back to sleep, but thoughts of the new day were creeping in. The thoughts started with my excitement for that day’s workout; first a spin class (indoor cycling as part of a classroom format) then Tabata (high intensity interval training), then finish with 10-15 minutes of deep, intensive stretching. While this for some might sound like pure torture, for me it has become exhilarating and extremely rewarding to push my body to its limits – I love it! I hadn’t had an intense workout in four days and was really missing it; my body was rested and ready to go.

Except it wasn’t time to go yet, so I started praying. Since I was thinking about exercise, I started by thanking God for making the human body with purpose. I was thanking him for giving me the strength to exercise, for the joy that it brings to me, for what the human body is capable of, and for the health benefits that come with exercise.

My medical understanding of exercise is that it benefits us in many ways such as controlling blood pressure, helps keep cholesterol at proper levels, strengthens the heart, and helps us maintain a healthy weight (and much more). From my own experience, when I think of exercise I enjoy “sweating out my problems”, where I’ll go for a long run and really process a situation; it helps me think positive and oftentimes brings clarity through the fog. I also love the after-effects of exercise; increased energy, the feeling of accomplishment, and the post-workout shower is a great reward.

There is a problem though. Exercise involves physically training a human body, and human bodies are not built to last forever. Physical training is a temporary investment in something that will eventually fail and die. Just like Ecclesiastes 2 where we read about the futility or vanity of pleasure, work, or even living wisely; while enjoyment of these things is a blessing from God, they all will fade in this life.

There is a solution to this problem. It is called Godly training. Godly training is a spiritual investment in something that will last for an eternity.

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8)

Godliness is of value in every way. What a great promise! I’m reflecting on the post God Speaking to Us where David LaFrance mentioned that Godly training has strengthened his soul and state of mind. He also uses words like revived and restored, and shared that God’s word breathes “new life” into him.

Training in Godliness trains us how we should live so that we can live abundantly. Today’s scripture reading has numerous, valuable training instructions as an explanation of the ten commandments including:

  • Revere (honor) your mother and father and observe God’s Sabbaths (days of rest). Leviticus 19:3
  • Do not turn to idols; Leviticus 19:3.
  • Give to the poor; Leviticus 19:10
  • Don’t steal, don’t lie; Leviticus 19:11
  • Don’t swear falsely using God’s name. Leviticus 19:12
  • Don’t oppress or rob your neighbor. Leviticus 19:13
  • Treat people with disabilities fairly. Leviticus 19:14
  • Judge in righteousness; not out of partiality. Leviticus 19:15
  • Don’t gossip. Stick up for your neighbor. Leviticus 19:16
  • Don’t hate. Leviticus 19:17
  • Love your neighbor. Leviticus 19:18

Spending time thinking through that list reminds me of much room for improvement and some necessary repentance. How about you?

God, thank you for the instruction you give through your word as it guides us, corrects us, and points us toward you. Thank you for allowing us to experience pleasure and joy here on Earth. May we experience these gifts in a way that honors you. Please show us where we may be idolizing earthly pleasures and experiences so that we may put you in the rightful place in our lives as our first and foremost. We recognize this life on Earth is temporary, but your kingdom is forever; thank you for the grace and mercy that we receive through your son Jesus Christ. Amen.

Forsaken

Young stray dog sleeping on pavement in india

Leviticus 18; Psalm 22; Ecclesiastes 1; 1 Timothy 3

Psalm 22 is known as a prayer of lament.  What does that mean?  Lament, according to dictionary.com is “a formal expression of sorrow, or mourning.”  You hear these clearly in David’s words, right?  At the time he is writing this, his very life is in danger.  His own son has taken over the kingdom and now wants David permanently eliminated.  Knowing this, David cries out in anguish for God to help him, saying “why have you forsaken me?” Yet, God’s help doesn’t show up.  Have you ever had a similar experience?  Maybe your circumstance was not as extreme as David’s, but we all have times that we simply need help.  There are two things about David’s plea that capture me.  First, he is brutally honest and second, even in desperation, he acknowledges that only God can provide what he needs.

To some, David’s honesty might seem disrespectful.  Can we ask God why he has forsaken us?  I actually catch myself thinking that this is a selfish prayer.  Aren’t I suppose to shut up and endure?  Isn’t that what faith is?  Who am I to question God?  Additionally, when I come to him that way, don’t I sound like a selfish and spoiled child?

The answer to those questions come from David in verse 3 as he formally acknowledges God’s position of authority and deity.  He says, you are enthroned as the Holy One, you are the one Israel praises.  Don’t you see David’s true heart here?  Yes, he is crying out to God for relief, and, at the same time his heart is submissive.  How could God accept this as anything but absolute worship?  Furthermore, by acknowledging God and identifying with who He is, David effectively removes any selfish motives from his heart.  Basically saying, since you are who you are, I am willing to endure whatever you have me endure.  Do you hear the echo of Jesus in this?  Remember Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane?  He is under intense stress because of the burden upon him asking God for the same relief.  Luke 22:44 suggests that Jesus’ stress was so great, he was sweating blood!  Despite the agony, Jesus embraces his lot saying, “yet not my will be done, but  yours.”  At that moment, Jesus gave God his greatest possession.  His very life.  Pure Worship.

Virtuous Woman: Man’s Call to Action

Originally published on BibleJournal.net

Today’s reading: Leviticus 17; Psalms 20–21; Proverbs 31; 1 Timothy 2

April 13th, 2016.

ParentingTable-Talk-825x510

The Virtuous Woman is a passage that I am afraid may often be misunderstood. If you read this passage and hear a to do list, you are not alone. It was a year or so back that Jamie and I got a bit of advice from a good friend in reference to this scripture. Jamie had felt a need to ‘check the boxes’ when reading it, but it seemed impossible. The advice came in the form of a simple story that revealed a new perspective on the purpose of this passage. It begins with a woman feeling like she is not measuring up to the Virtuous Woman. As she bears her heart to her friend, her friend tells her that she had never read the Virtuous Woman in that way. Her friend went on to explain that each Friday night at the dinner table her father would read this passage aloud to her mother, not as a measure but as a blessing. In this way the passage is not inserted into the home as an impossible to do list for the wife but a picture of the future full of encouragement and support. We have since learned this is a Jewish tradition called Eshet Chayil. It is an interesting observation that this passage was not written to a woman but to a man. I wonder then, what is a man to do with it?

God Speaking To Us

Today’s Reading : Leviticus 16; Psalm 19; Proverbs 30; 1 Timothy 1

Last Sunday Cal Jernigan talked about our times of darkness, dryness, despair, doubt, and discipline and reminded us about the Lord being our True Vine. Eleven times in John 15 Jesus tells us to, “abide in me.”  In order for us to abide, we need to submit and be patient.  Reading this passage about “abiding in me” helped me to reflect  on parts of Psalm 19.

 

Psalm 19: 7-9 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. 

 

As I reflect on these few verses often I would  think of “the law” and look at it as something that kept me from doing something or handcuffing us from fun. Except, in the case of His law that actually converts us, makes us wise, rejoices our hearts, enlightens our eyes, warns us, and rewards us.  This is our law provided by Him, for us, and a way we should live.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple: 

This Law of the Lord, is perfect, it provides us with the direction we need to move from our fallen state to a fulfilled eternity with Him. If our last sunrise or sunset is today, His perfect Word can revive your soul, giving you the hope you need to make it through anything.  Since I have created a habit of being in the scripture daily I can not begin to explain the difference it has made in my life. It has truly strengthen my soul and state of mind.  I would encourage spending time in the word throughout your day. Currently, my best time is in the morning before everyone is up with a nice cup of coffee. This time revives my soul and reminds me of His will for my day. Being revived or restored allows one to give his or her soul back to God and not try to use one’s own moral compass that often can point the wrong way. For myself when my soul is struggling during moments of the day where I try to do it all myself, I can turn to His Word and the right verse helps me in that situation. It truly breathes new life into me.The definition of sure is: confident in what one thinks or knows; having no doubt that one is right. For believers having this confidence in the Lord is different then when we didn’t have this faith.  Our physical, fleeting lives have been filled with instability and change. When we are without understanding of the scripture, it can leave you unsure of everything.  As my earthly, carefree, young, adult superman years fly lower; I realize it is less about me and more about Him. Life is different when you have faith in His Word. The promise He has made to us in Christian confidence is to be ready for our next life no matter when our time may be.  I’m thankful for the simple and perfect example of Grace and Love our Lord poured out for all of us.  At times I have and still let the world get the best of me and control my attitude and thoughts to the point where I’m trying to please everyone. This verse reminds me I need to focus on the Lord and  be humble and teachable through his Word. Always continue to be a disciple. Jeremiah 17:7 says But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,whose confidence is in him.

The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; The Bible gives us an example of what is right and has always has been pure.   Knowing the law is perfect reminds us that his precepts and decrees are founded on righteousness. Free Grace given to us sets our hearts free. His Word converts our hearts and pours out joy into everyone and everything. Our eyes that were once blind, can now see. Psalm 33:4 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. This fear of the Lord is what washes us away from sin and sanctifies our heart.  God has provided us with His Word, and His commandments. He reminds us there will be a judgment for us all. The fear of the Lord is internal and lies in our heart, mind, and soul. God is never changed or shaken. He has gone before us and will never leave us. Deuteronomy 31:8.

In today’s reading we also read;  Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Followed by multiple verses in 1 Timothy 1 not to teach any other doctrine and that this law was not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient.  This law is good and the aim of our charge is love. Abide in the Word

Dear God,

Thank you for your law you have provided for us. Help us to use the Bible as a guideline for our life. Thank you for giving us your Word that we can go to at any moment and be in the presence of you. Thank you for giving us the light for our path that warns us of danger, and points us to the path that will lead to eternal life with God. We ask to keep us attached to the living Word throughout all our times of need.

 

Parousia

“Parousia (greek): presence or coming. Referring to physical proximity…occurs most often in relation to the coming of the Lord Jesus as human history moves to closure.” (HCSB 2 Thessalonians)

Today’s Readings: Leviticus 15, Psalm 18, Proverbs 29, 2 Thessalonians 3

 Were you hoping I’d write about Leviticus 15 this morning? In my mind I see thin sheets of bible pages flapping furiously as folks rush to that page…not quite sure they remember what that chapter was all about! It was definitely the first read for me and after some research I was able to put a few of the pieces together in terms of the historical context. My take away from Leviticus 15 is really that fundamentally, God wants us to go through the process in order to achieve salvation. Once I got my snickers out (it helps if you actually eat a Snickers bar while reading) I really gained an appreciation for what the Israelites were going through. I learned that the frequent mention of “discharge” isn’t sexual in nature but rather refers to a chronic infection that affected much of the community. There are so many references to both men and women being considered unclean. Then there are so many steps in order to get clean. Of course the Israelites were human just like us, so surely a few short days after getting “clean” they made the same mistakes and were right back to square one of uncleanliness.

All of this ritual cleansing got me thinking about my own attempts at getting “clean.” My most recent trials have been related to clean eating. Inevitably, I last about a week scrupulously monitoring what I put into my body and making sure that I am following all the laws of clean eating. Then, when my time is up I go nuts. Sugar and carbs and high fructose corn syrup, oh my! As I think through this very real pattern that we all indulge in one way or another, I’m reminded again that I’m nothing but an Israelite in jeans and a t-shirt. I’m as unclean as it gets, stained by the chronic infection of sin. It’s all pretty overwhelming when I think it through, realizing that I’m going to continue to fall day after day. How can we change this pattern, this very human tendency that we have to fall into uncleanliness.

Then I arrived at second Thessalonians. Early on in the book this word parousia [pah roo SEE ah] appears. Paul uses it first to describe the glorious coming of Jesus Christ and the destruction of all his enemies. In today’s reading, chapter 3, he is warning the Thessalonians about irresponsible behavior. He reminds Christ’s followers to

“…keep away from any brother that is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6)

He goes on to say that we should not grow weary in doing good. He closes his letter to the Thessalonians by assuring them of his genuineness and that Christ is indeed near. When I think of this word parousia, I think of how I need some of it right now.

I need to feel that in the darkness of my jeans and t-shirt days that there is a feeling of parousia. We all need to feel that this process of building and testing our faith through our struggle is drawing us closer to Jesus. Sometimes, he just doesn’t feel so near. The truth is that he wants us to work and strive and fall down now and again in our attempts to be with him. This letter from Paul to Thessalonians is tangible piece of evidence to which we can hold fast. He is near. And so, friends, on this Monday morning we must not grow weary of doing good. Instead, let us continue in His work whether it be 7 acts of kindness for 7 precious lives lost here in Bloomington/Normal or just showing grace one more time when you just don’t think you have it in you. Yes, there is darkness but He is near, He is a presence in our lives and He is coming.