Posts Tagged ‘knowing God’

Deuteronomy 30:11-20

The Choice of Life or Death

You have often heard that a child from a background where the parents are not up to the task of parenting, or from a fatherless or motherless home, doesn’t know any better when they misbehave or doing something that is socially unacceptable. “Poor child, he doesn’t know any better. Just look who his parents are!” On the opposite end of the scale, there is the “You should know better. I didn’t raise you like that!” or in my family which is very proud of the high levels of education that several generation living now have obtained and know of the educational history of our immediate ancestors. There is a pretty ingrained expectation within our family that you will pursue education of some sort after high school. So, there is a certain amount of family pride in how we act and how we carry ourselves. My dad would always chastise me when I was acting poorly or making a poor choice. He would say, “You’re a Bowling! Act like it!”

 

Add to that, I was raised a Methodist preacher’s kid and there were just certain standards of behavior that were expected of me. As a preacher’s kid growing up in small, rural South Carolina communities in the 60’s through 1980 when I left home and got married, everything the preacher’s kid did was watched and reported. We were expected, in my impression of things, to have learned the Bible frontwards and backwards and spout Bible verses on command. We were thought, in how I viewed things, to sit around in our acolyte robes during the week sitting around praising the Lord. There were high expectations of who we as the preacher’s kids should be. We were supposed to miniaturized versions of my dad, the preacher. However, the idea of what small town South Carolina in the 1960s and 1970s parishioners had of what we were supposed to be, supposed to act was different from the reality that we were just kids, normal red-blooded Southern male boys. We did not think of life any differently than other kids. As boys, we wanted to ride bikes all over town. We wanted to go exploring in the woods. We wanted to shoot bee-bee guns at bottles on the fence and watch them break and fall to pieces. We wanted act like we didn’t like the cute girl in elementary school but was secretly smitten with her in that weird dance that boys and girls do with each other in elementary school. We wanted to play football or basketball on Saturday morning. We would get in fights over perceived wrongs on the football field (whatever form that took) or on the basketball court. We would fight each other, my brother and I, over whatever silly thing there would be in establishing the hegemony of our relationship, that battle to be the victor or the best at whatever we did where the other was involved. Sometimes, we would have very public fights. With the church educational building and sanctuary as part of our playground, we would sometimes get into fights during the week in the church sanctuary like it was being on the playground. It was different growing up as preacher’s kids. As we grew up and were teenagers at home, my brother became more of the brainiac nerdy type.  Expectations of being a 24-7 choir boy contrasted by the desires, urges, and natures of two normal little Southern boys.

 

But you know, maybe, there was something to that expectation when it comes to knowing who God is, and what He has done for us through Jesus Christ and what being a Christ follower is all about. It is true that I grew up in the church and was there every time the door was open. It is true that I sat every Sunday of the very effective preaching of my dad – a great pulpit preacher with well crafted and well thought out sermons. It is true that I participated in more VBS’s and more youth fellowship meetings and more youth retreats than I care to count. It is true that I knew who God was. I knew the redemptive plan of God through Jesus Christ. I knew it. Yet, I rebelled against it all. Church became that background to a play to me. You know its there but it does not affect you. Church was the operating system to our lives. It was there always running in the background. Church was the family business. It was there always. Even after I married the first time as kid of 18 years of age, I attended the family church of my spouse regularly. But this church was no church. It was a family oriented social gathering place once a week and that was pretty much it. So, there was never a point in my life that I did not know about God, the trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, and all the basics of the Christian faith. I knew this stuff. I was not unaware of the existence of God, the need for salvation and all that stuff. Knowing God and experiencing God are two different things. I rebelled against the church even though I attended church. I acted like He did not exist even though I knew He did. I had no excuse. I knew.

 

However, it was not until I had been out of church for a while after my first marriage ended and I married my second wife that I yearned to be in church again. I was not until several months of going to church regularly again that I actually experienced God at the soul level where I recognized my desperate sin nature and begged Christ to come cover me in His righteousness so that I could make Him my Lord and my Savior. It was not until I was 39 years old that I accepted Jesus as my Savior and Lord. It was a long time coming and it was not like I did not know how all this worked. I knew but rejected it! That seems to be the greatest travesty of all is that I knew who God was. I knew what it took for salvation. I just didn’t care for it. It was not like I was a second generation kid, like many today, whose parents nor they have ever darkened the doors of a church. I knew…

 

That was the thing I thought about this morning when I read about God’s admonition to the Israelites about their choice between obedience and disobedience in Deuteronomy 30:11-20:

 

11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

 

15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

 

17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

 

19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

 

In this passage, we see that God has called the Israelites to keep His commands, while reminding them that His laws have not been hidden from them or beyond our reach. God does not hide Himself from us either. He has made Himself known through nature (general revelation) and through His Word (specific revelation). But there is a special burden on those who know who Christ is and/or have accepted Christ as our Savior. When we know of who He is, and blatantly reject Him, there is a special sorrow for that. The Israelites knew God intimately. The ancient Israelites probably knew more about the literal existence of God than any people group of any time in history. They were given special revelation of who God is but yet they rebelled against the very God that they knew intimately. How sick is that? It reminds me of myself and reminds me of what Jesus us charged us to do.

First, I was a wandering Israelite. It was not like I did not know who God was. I grew up in it. There has only been short periods in my life where I have not been a part of the church. However, it’s not how much you know. It’s about knowing. It’s about knowing God intimately on your own. It’s about encountering God in your heart and soul. It’s about encountering God through His Word regularly. It’s about being in a fellowship of believers that challenge you to deepen your faith in the Lord. It’s about being a part of a fellowship that will encourage you to be accountable to God’s Word. It is about a relationship. It’s not how much you know about the Bible or about how to be churchy. It’s about a relationship with God through our Savior Jesus Christ. We can’t just know about Him. We have to know Him.

 

The second thing is that, even though there was no excuse for why I did not come to the Lord until age 39, there are those who are indeed second and third generations of people (even in the South) that have never darkened the door of a church. Although they may know of God through general revelations of the intricacies of the universe and specifically this planet, they do not even know who God really is. Never heard about Him. Never heard about Jesus in any real way. It is our responsibility as those who know the saving grace of Jesus Christ and those of us who know He is the only way to let people know who Jesus is. It is our responsibility and our charge. We must let them know. We must let them know so they can make a choice. God does not force Himself on us whether we have danced around faith like I did most of my life or we have never known who He is. We must tell them. With being God’s children with the cure the eternal condition, we have a great liability to get out in the world and share the gospel so that people will have been informed and know that they have a single eternal choice. Accept or reject.

 

It saddens me that it took me so long to come to Christ – especially knowing what I knew. It saddens me that there are so many who are like I was. Knowing but rejecting. It also saddens me that there are people who do not know Jesus at all. I feel angry at myself for knowing but rejecting for so long but I feel sadness that there are people who do know that they don’t know. Oblivious to the real truth of God. May the Lord spur me on to be better sharer of the gospel to those who don’t know that they don’t know!

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 5:1-10 (Part 1)

Purity in Israel’s Camp

Being a preacher’s kid ain’t easy. You are expected to behave at a higher standard than kids who dad is not a minister. It was especially true when I was growing up as a small child in the 1960’s and as a tweener and a teenager in the 1970’s when Southern culture was more centered around church life than it is now, particularly in small towns. Back when I was growing up in the parsonages in which we lived, we were typically living in a small, rural Southern town. Many were farming communities. Others were mill villages. Church was a big deal in those times and in those places. In all those places and in each of those times, being a preacher’s kid was a unique job. You were supposed to be like the others kids but not like them. You were supposed to be one of the boys but not.

 

There seemed to be an expectation that we were little ministers. We were to be miniature versions of our dad. We were never supposed to misbehave. We, I guess, were supposed to never have normal feelings of childhood. However, we were kids. We wanted to play football. We wanted to ride bikes all over town on Saturdays. To us, the church building and the Sunday school building was a playground that we got to play in every day. To play cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians in the church sanctuary was a normal day for us. Shooting my imaginary guns or toy guns at my brother from behind the pulpit was just the order of afternoon play after school or all-day play during the summer. Jumping out of a dark classroom to scare my brother in a hallway was just part of the deal of being a preacher’s kid. We were just normal kids using whatever was available in our environment for play. To us the church buildings were a treasure trove of props for our imagination. We were just kids. However, so many adults did not see us as regular kids and held us to a higher standard than other kids. We were supposed to monks, or friars or something. I always rebelled against that attitude. All preacher’s kids back in those days were measured by this standard. Old sayings like “preacher’s kids are the worst!” or “you better watch out for those preacher’s kids!” or “if you hang around with those preacher’s kids, you’ll get in trouble”. I don’t think that preacher’s kids were any worse than anybody else’s kids. It was just that we were held to a higher standard of behavior because we were the kids of the pastor. There were above-normal expectations of our behavior and when we turned out just to be normal kids, there was a larger gap between expectations and reality.

 

Expectations of holiness was a heavy burden for a child to bear when just by the sheer nature of being a child, you are going to do things that require discipline as you learn the boundaries of life growing up. We were expected to be born holy. There was an expectation that we were to be a cut above everyone. We were expected to understand high moral standards at a young age. We were expected to be little grown-ups, extensions of our preacher fathers. Preacher’s kids may rebel against it. We may think it unfair (and it may well be). We may say why couldn’t we have been born to someone who was not a preacher. At some point, you have realized that these are the cards that were dealt. You live in a preacher’s home and you have to deal with the expectations that come with it. Some preacher’s kids learn it early while still living at home, some later while still living at home, and still others never learn it and live their whole lives rebelling against being born a preacher’s kid.

 

It was that idea of different sets of expectations that I thought of this morning when I read our new passage for today, Numbers 5:1-10. We will review this passage in three parts this weekend. First, today, we will look at this expectations thing. Second, we will look Numbers 5:1-4 about the issue of segregating the sick and diseased from the camp. Finally, on the third blog on this passage, we will look at Numbers 5:5-10 about restitution for crimes/sins committed. But for today, let’s focus on expectations, when we read Numbers 5:1-10:

 

5 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Command the Israelites to send away from the camp anyone who has a defiling skin disease[a] or a discharge of any kind, or who is ceremonially unclean because of a dead body. 3 Send away male and female alike; send them outside the camp so they will not defile their camp, where I dwell among them.” 4 The Israelites did so; they sent them outside the camp. They did just as the Lord had instructed Moses.

 

5 The Lord said to Moses, 6 “Say to the Israelites: ‘Any man or woman who wrongs another in any way[b] and so is unfaithful to the Lord is guilty 7 and must confess the sin they have committed. They must make full restitution for the wrong they have done, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the person they have wronged. 8 But if that person has no close relative to whom restitution can be made for the wrong, the restitution belongs to the Lord and must be given to the priest, along with the ram with which atonement is made for the wrongdoer. 9 All the sacred contributions the Israelites bring to a priest will belong to him. 10 Sacred things belong to their owners, but what they give to the priest will belong to the priest.’”

 

The one thing that rattled through my brain as I read this passage as a whole this morning was that the closer that you operate to God the more holy that you need to be. God is a holy God. He is perfect. He is Perfection. Holiness and purity make up perfection and God is holy and pure. In this passage, the expectations of holiness by God of his people were greater and greater as you approached the Tabernacle to the point that only a certain few could come in the presence of God. There were rituals that the priests had to go through just to go into the Holy of Holies. Only Moses was granted the ability to talk with God. And according to the Bible, Moses was one of, if not, the holiest of men not named Jesus. The closer we operate to God, the holier we must be. What an interesting concept that is.

 

Before we meet Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are comparable to the diseased persons who are outside the camp. We are diseased by our sin in a figurative sense. Our souls are leperous. We have scales of sin all over our souls. These scales prevent us from being able to hear God in our souls. We are disfigured by our sin. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are admitted into the camp. We are a member of God’s people proper as a result of our decision to accept Christ as our Savior and Lord. We are still scarred and imperfect though and must exist on the edge of camp. We are safely members of the tribe of God through our membership achieved through Jesus. We are made clean by Jesus and are acceptable as a member of God’s chosen family. We are safe and secure. When we accept Christ as our Savior, no one can undo our membership in His family. Our eternity as a member of the clan of God’s chosen ones is secure. However, as baby Christians, we are still on the edge of the camp. It is only through the action of the Holy Spirit over time that we grow closer and more intimate with God. As we grow in Christ, we become more and more holy. It sometimes a painful experience as the scales of sin are lopped off our souls through the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Think of the person you are as a Christ follower now compared to the one that accepted Christ six months ago, six years ago, sixty years ago. You are certainly more holy now than you were then. It is through the Holy Spirit that we are more holy day by day. Day by day we edge closer to the Tabernacle. Day by day we grow more holy and can operate with more and more intimacy with a holy God. It is only when we die that we are perfected and most holy and can exist in the presence of God in heaven. Then we can enter the Holy of Holies. This is not about earning salvation. This about sanctification. Once we are members of the camp, we can never be expelled from it. Through Jesus we are made perfect in God’s sight. However, once we become Christians, we begin the lifetime process of becoming more holy and edging closer and closer to the Tabernacle. Like I said earlier, a sixty year Christ follower is more mature in Christ, hopefully, than a six month Christ follower. Through the pruning of the Holy Spirit, we are made more holy each day and we grow closer and closer to God.

 

As a preacher’s kid, there were unrealistic expectations of my behavior simply because I existed in the preacher’s house. However, there is a certain truth to the fact that as we mature in Christ, we can operate closer to God. We can know Him more deeply. Through the Holy Spirit, we understand God more deeply and know Him more intimately. We can rebel against the action of the Holy Spirit that prunes our souls and makes us more and more holy. When we rebel against this action and want to keep our pet sins, we will remain spiritual babies on the outer edges of camp. In camp but on the outer edges. Through submitting to the Holy Spirit’s actions in our souls, we become more holy as we progress in our walk with Jesus. We can come closer and closer to the Tabernacle. We can know God more intimately.

 

Amen and Amen.