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May 30, 2008

Brush With Greatness - Cubs' Style

JenkinsDave Letterman used to do a feature called "Brush With Greatness." You never know when or where you're going to run into a celebrity. I've had a few brushes with greatness through the years. Most of them have been in airports, where the famous and jet-set are always coming and going. Even in our small, Iowa town you occasionally see a celebrity or two. It was just a couple of years ago I ran into CBS News Anchor Harry Smith up on the town square.

So, perhaps it shouldn't have surprised me when I walked into the local sport's bar to catch the Cubs' game (because Mediacom refuses to carry CSN and I can't get Dish - thank you very little), and sitting there is Cubs' Hall-of-Fame pitcher, Fergie Jenkins. I just saw that he was in town for an appearance with the Iowa Cubs. I just didn't expect him to be sitting there in our little town's watering hole.

No, I didn't ask for his autograph. It's not my style. But, it was cool seeing him. When he left the Cubs were down 9-1 to the Rockies. Too bad he didn't stick around. The Cubs rallied and are now winning 10-9 in the top of the 9th.

Captivated by Juno

JunoSpeaking of being captivated. Taylor has been pursuing Wendy and me to watch the movie Juno, and she caught us at just the right time last night. We sat down for a family film night to watch the movie together (it was Taylor's 5th time watching it). Wendy and I were certainly captivated by this wonderful movie and lay in bed late into the night talking about it and along with various tangential life conversations it prompted (which, in turn, made the tornado siren at 5 a.m. seem awfully early!).

Wendy put it best when she said that it was one of the most life affirming movies we've seen. Not because it presents life in an ideal, Hollywood dreamworld - but because it affirms the beauty of life in the midst of a messy world of blessedly imperfect people and relationships.

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 29

CaptivatedI'll make Aaron and his sons holy in order to serve me as priests. I'll move in and live with the Israelites. I'll be their God. They'll realize that I am their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt so that I could live with them. I am God, your God. Exodus 29:45-46 (TM)

Its interesting for me to watch as boys pursue my daughters attention. It's the natural order of things that God, the master artist, put into place when He created the universe as expression of Himself. John Eldridge and his wife have done a wonderful job of chronicling it in their books Wild at Heart and Captivating. The male pursues and the female seeks to be captivated. The man initiates and the woman receives him. God makes it clear throughout scripture this natural dance between man and woman is a metaphor, a word picture, of His relationship with us. He is the groom, we are the bride. He initiates, we receive Him.

That's why I found it interesting, after chapters of God laying out the detailed sacrificial system in the book of Exodus, that God doesn't say "the sacrifice will make Aaron and his sons holy" or "adherence to my rules will make Aaron and his sons holy." It is God Himself who makes them holy. God is the pursuer. God is initiating the relationship. God approached Moses. God instigated the Exodus. God is leading them to the promised land. God is moving in to live with the Israelites.

I still remember the cold February night in 1981 when I chose to receive Christ into my life. But before I received Him, He had spent years working to get my attention - slowly, methodically drawing me towards Him. I can look back and see the events, relationships and conversations that God sprinkled into my path to draw me in. God pursued me.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Captivated by Him Photography

May 29, 2008

You Say You Don't Believe in Miracles?

Cubs_winIt's almost June and the Chicago Cubs are tied for the best record in baseball.

And people still say there is no God.

:)

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 28

Priestly_clothingAaron and his sons must wear it whenever they enter the Tent of Meeting or approach the Altar to minister in the Holy Place so that they won't incur guilt and die. This is a permanent rule for Aaron and all his priest-descendants. Exodus 28:42b-43 (TM)

It's human nature to take for granted what we have, and forget what we should appreciate. On this side of Jesus' resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, God's presence is a given. Jesus is "with us always," and He is ever-present in each believer through the indwelling Holy Spirit.

As we read through these chapters of Exodus, it's amazing what great lengths the Israelites were required to go just for one man to enter God's presence on their behalf once a year. Not only that, for any willfully disobedient person to enter the presence of a Holy God was a death sentence.

It was that death sentence that Jesus incurred on our behalf when He died on the cross. No longer do we have to put on ornate metaphorical vestments and have some priest go to God on our behalf. God is available to any who will believe and receive Him into their life. We can be in Holy God's presence each and every moment - now and forever.

As we are conscious of God's presence in our lives today, let's be thankful that we don't have to go through all the ceremonial sacrifices and trapping of Exodus!

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and dtchristner

May 28, 2008

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 27

LampNow, order the Israelites to bring you pure, clear olive oil for light so that the lamps can be kept burning. Exodus 27:20a (TM)

Don't lose heart. Don't wander off. Keep the faith.

Keep the flame burning.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and BertRudestein

May 27, 2008

Big Graduation Weekend!

Taylor_graduatesWe're still recovering from a long weekend of celebration as Taylor graduated from high school. The folks were down on Friday for the commencement ceremony. The ceremony was actually pretty good as these things go. One of the student speakers was Taylor's old boyfriend (now her good friend), Andrew, who did an admirable job. Taylor was all smiles as she crossed the stage to accept her diploma.

We didn't see much of Taylor on Saturday as she made the Taylor_dadround of graduation open houses for her friends. Her open house was on Sunday afternoon and we shared the Open House with her friends Emily and Sophie (Emily and Sophie are joining Taylor on her mission to Romania and Sophie will be her roommate at college in the fall). There was a steady stream of family and friends who came to congratulate the girls and enjoy some of the ten chocolate cheesecakes Wendy made last week. Taylor felt really honored by everyone's presence.

Suzanna_wendyYesterday was a holiday. After all the weekend festivities, we needed a little rest and relaxation. With Wendy's little sister, Suzanna, visiting this week (that's Suzanna getting a kiss from Wendy in the lower picture) we decided to enjoy the Memorial Day weather to take in an Iowa Cubs game (Cubs Win!) followed by a cookout with our friends, the Vande Lune's.

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 26

TabernacleThe curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Holy-of-Holies. Exodus 26:33b (TM)

A portable worship center. Those are the instructions in these chapters. A sanctuary-tent for God's presence that the Hebrews can carry on their sojourn from Egypt to the promised land. Notice, within these instructions, that God commands a clear separation between His presence and the people. He gives a very clear word picture to the Hebrews: "There's a separation between you and me. I'm in here and you can't come in." Why?

There's this problem called sin. The separation began in Genesis 3 when Adam's and Eve's willful disobedience banishes them from God's presence in the Garden. The question then was the same one that faces each of us today. The things I should do I don't and the things I know I shouldn't do I do. What do I do about this willful disobedience called sin?

As history proceeds, God sets about to set up a systematic provide a blueprint for worship, and within that blueprint is the Message in metaphor. Sin separates us, but there is a curtain, a Gateway into my presence and through that sacrifice this curtain shall be torn and I will make a way for you to come in and be with me and me with you.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and MidnightComm

May 23, 2008

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 25

ArkLet them construct a Sanctuary for me so that I can live among them. You are to construct it following the plans I've given you, the design for The Dwelling and the design for all its furnishings. Exodus 25:8-9 (TM)

When most casual readers get to this part of of Exodus, it's easy to lose interest. What's with all this Sanctuary stuff and all the instructions for making furniture? What does that have to do with anything?

A lot.

God is an artist. He expresses Himself in metaphors. For worship, He gives the nation of Israel three word pictures that foreshadow the climactic moment of history (his-story, if you prefer):

  • A chest (better known as "the ark of the covenant", ala Indiana Jones!) which contained the Word, just as the world would discover that Jesus is the living Word.
  • A table for the bread of Presence (manna), just as Jesus would be the table on which would be set the bread (his body) and the wine (his blood) through which we are allowed to be in God's presence.
  • A lampstand, just as Jesus is the Light of the World and sets us as a lampstand to light the way for others to see Him.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and gnmcauley

May 22, 2008

Chapter-a-Day Exodus 24

BloodMoses took the rest of the blood and threw it out over the people, saying, "This is the blood of the covenant which God has made with you out of all these words I have spoken." Exodus 24:8 (TM)

Blood is an important theme throughout God's Message. God is an artist and He expresses Himself in metaphors and word pictures. Blood is a metaphor for life and the shedding of blood is a metaphor for death. All the way back in Genesis 3 God told us that the result of our willing disobedience was death. We are appointed to die and be justly judged.

Unless...

A sacrifice is made, blood is shed, another dies on our behalf. Ultimately, God would send His own Son to be the ultimate sacrifice - his body broken, his blood shed - to pay the price for our disobedience and redeem us from our guilt. Until that day, a system of animal sacrifice, instituted through Moses, was used as a metaphor for the ultimate sacrifice to come.

Down payment was made on the debt of sin. Blood was shed. It covered the people and their sin...and pointed them towards the ultimate sacrifice to come. Jesus would someday pay our debt of sin in full.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Stitch