Friday, September 25, 2020

FMF: Your

The Lord said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'I am the Lord your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord.' "
(Leviticus 18:1-5, NIV)

I am the Lord your God.

It is a recurring statement made by God while instructing the Israelites in how to live. He says it over and over.  Laws on everything from clothes to hair to farming.  In Leviticus 18, God is beginning a discussion on the laws of sex. (#Awkward.)  More than an introduction to sexual parameters, God is clarifying why any of His laws exist.  Because, I am the Lord your God.

His people should not follow the example they had been given.  They saw the wrong way to do things in Egypt.  They were often tempted to go back, but this was not what God wanted for them. Even when things are wrong, it is easy to fall into old habits because they are comfortable.

His people should not follow the example they would be taught.  They were about to enter a land that would present new ways of doing things.  They were likely to be enticed by ideas they had never considered before. When things are new, the novelty blinds us from seeing the risks.

God tells His people not to follow these examples. Instead they should follow God's way.  He was God.  He was their God. If God is my God, I too must decide to step out of my history. Neither can I be distracted by my future.  I must live God's way because He has said me, "I am the Lord your God."

This post is a prompt from Five Minute Friday and was written in approximately five minutes. For more information, visit

Saturday, September 19, 2020


The voice of the Lord shakes the desert.
The Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh.
(Psalm 29:8, NIRV)

I had just drifted to sleep last night when I awoke to a familiar feeling. We were having an earthquake.

Earthquakes are nothing new to me. I've felt so many in my life that I can't remember a time when they were ever new.  I was born and raised in Southern California.  As children we learned in school what to do when "the big one" hits. I watched movies like Earthquake starring Charlton Heston without shock or horror. I happened to be at camp when the Northridge Earthquake hit January 17, 1994 at 4:30am. I had been asleep that night, too, until a girl in our cabin yelled, "We're all going to die." My friend expressed my sentiments on the experience when she yelled back at her to shut up.  She then rolled over and returned to sleep. The next morning the camp showed the news coverage in the common room and we learned how serious the situation was.  Even so, it was a part of the Southern California experience.

For over two decades the Northridge quake was what we compared all quakes to.  In July 2019 I was watching a Dodger game and noticed the cameras begin to sway.  Then a second later I felt it.  It was not very strong at our home, but the news soon began to report the quake was centered in Ridgecrest. This is quite far from us, and so we knew it must have been strong to travel so far. Since we have friends who live there, we were concerned for their safety.  We texted but got no response.  For a moment, this seemed bad. Terrible, actually.  We eventually learned our friends had been out of town.  They were camping (and totally safe) without cell service.

All the chatter was immediately that it had been "bigger than Northridge." And it was!  We would learn a few weeks later while passing through Las Vegas that they had also felt it.  Imagine an earthquake that could be felt from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. The Ridgecrest earthquake is estimated to have caused $1 Billion in damage.  That sounds like a lot until you compare it to the Northridge earthquake, which caused up to $44 Billion in damage (and, keep in mind, those are 1994 dollars).  Why so much less damage from a larger earthquake?

Ridgecrest is the desert. There is less to destroy because there is less around.

I'm not going to say that yesterday's earthquake was God's doing. I don't think he's punishing a city for turning away from Him or sending down His wrath on Los Angeles.

I do believe that any time we are shaken (literally or figuratively), it is an opportunity to take stock of our lives. Where are we? Are we where we want to be? Are we where God wants us to be? Whether we are in the desert or the city, God's voice is there. He is prepared to meet us if call out to Him.

Friday, September 18, 2020

FMF: Church

I am by far the least important of all the Lord’s holy people. But he gave me the grace to preach to the Gentiles about the unlimited riches that Christ gives. God told me to make clear to everyone how the mystery came about. In times past it was kept hidden in the mind of God, who created all things. He wanted the rulers and authorities in the heavenly world to come to know his great wisdom. The church would make it known to them. That was God’s plan from the beginning. He has fulfilled his plan through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ephesians 3:8-11, NIRV)

I remember once telling someone that I wouldn't want to serve a God I could fully understand. What kind of God would that be? Today, as in the current era of my life, and today, meaning the last 24 hours of my life, that idea has been tested. I stand firm in my statement, but I am amazed by what I cannot fully understand: the church.

In Ephesians 3, Paul writes that the church is an integral part of revealing the wisdom of God, the mystery of God. Specifically, the church would be the vessel that shows how all are welcome into God's family - both Jew and Gentile. Though God's plan was fulfilled through Christ's death (think of the symbolism of the tearing of the veil into the Holy of Holies in Matthew 27:51), it would be made known through the church.

When I think of the church, I think of the old hymn, "'Tis a glorious church without spot or wrinkle." Eek. It sure feels a little wrinkled, like maybe God needs to toss us back in the dryer on high heat or pull out the iron to straighten us out. But, if I'm going to sing that song, I can't stop with that one line because I'd miss the important part, "'Tis a glorious church without spot or wrinkle... washed by the blood of the Lamb." Just like Paul wrote to the Ephesians, this hymn reminds us that we become the church only through Christ.

God, help me to be the church.

This post is a prompt from Five Minute Friday and was written in approximately five minutes. For more information, visit

Friday, September 11, 2020

FMF: Could

The wise men answered the king, saying, “No one on earth can do what the king asks! No great and powerful king has ever asked the fortune-tellers, magicians, or wise men to do this; the king is asking something that is too hard. Only the gods could tell the king this, but the gods do not live among people.” (Daniel 2:10-11, NCV)

Imagine the most powerful man in the world is your boss, he has the power to kill you, and he has just come to you asking you to do the impossible.  The task: interpret his dream.  Oh, did I mention you also have to tell him what he dreamt?

The wise men of Daniel 2 did not believe in God. It appears they make a compelling argument: The king is asking them to do something that is impossible.  Only a god could do what he is asking, but the gods they know are not accessible.  Therefore, they believe the king's request to be impossible.

They are right in saying no man could do what the king asks. This simply isn't something humans can do. But Daniel did. Daniel takes no credit for what he was about to do.  He knew, like the wise men, that he himself could not accomplish the task the king had assigned.  The pivotal difference is that Daniel knew that God could do it. As Jesus said, with man this is impossible, but with god all things are possible (Matthew 19:16).

I feel a little dreamy today, thinking of that thing before me that seems impossible....

It is impossible...

But God could do it.

This post is a prompt from Five Minute Friday and was written in approximately five minutes. For more information, visit

Thursday, September 3, 2020


Each Thursday night as my Bible study group leaves our Zoom meeting, I sneak a peak at Twitter to find the early release of the Five Minute Friday word prompt. In case you aren't familiar with it, FMF is a writing community I have participated in, off and on, for the last five years. In all fairness, I was mostly off until last year when I began participating more regularly.  Each Friday our host gives us one word, and we allow ourselves about five minutes to write. If you'd like to participate, you can read more here: FMF. Over the last few months, the FMF community has been a source of encouragement to me.  Let's be honest - most of us have needed an extra dose of encouragement over the last few months.

Sometimes encouragement falls in your lap when it's least expected. A note from a friend comes in the mail or your husband brings you something to say he's been thinking about you. You thought you were doing well, but then you feel fantastic.

Sometimes encouragement can be hard to find. Today was one of those days for me. My boss was finishing a project at home, and so I sat in my office alone most of the day. I spent my time finding ways to do everything except the one task I had set out to do.  I'd work on something else, and then try to focus on the project I wanted to finish only to be distracted again. It was two steps forward, one step back as I questioned myself all day long. I was haunted by the discouraging criticisms that had been spoken to me yesterday. So, when I read there would be no FMF meet up tomorrow, I was doubly dejected.

I promised myself - this time will not be lost, too.  I will write tonight.  And I know what!

For my birthday, my boss gave me Ravi Zacharias' The Logic of God. Little did he know that I had been wanting to begin reading Zacharias' work, but had not yet gotten around to it. This was a great gift! But then, like most books, it went into the closet. The closet is where I keep my unread books.  I have a small top shelf where I pile them high until I read them. The books I have read and want to keep get moved out to a shelf in the garage.  The others get moved to a box in the garage (and I think you know where that box eventually goes). One night this week, after a few months on that shelf in the closet, I pulled out The Logic of God, ready to plow through it. I had only made it to the second page when I had to stop for his words, “Behind every question is a questioner.” I invite you to think about this with me. As far as I can recall, there was only one recorded incident of a person coming up to Jesus to ask Him a question. It goes like this:
A man came to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to have life forever?”

Jesus answered, “Why do you ask me about what is good? Only God is good. But if you want to have life forever, obey the commands.”

The man asked, “Which commands?”

Jesus answered, “‘You must not murder anyone; you must not be guilty of adultery; you must not steal; you must not tell lies about your neighbor; honor your father and mother; and love your neighbor as you love yourself.’”

The young man said, “I have obeyed all these things. What else do I need to do?”

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, then go and sell your possessions and give the money to the poor. If you do this, you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me.”

But when the young man heard this, he left sorrowfully, because he was rich.
(Matthew 19:16-22, NCV)
Don't read this wrong: there were a lot of questions asked of Jesus.  His disciples often asked Him what He meant and how something was possible. He engaged people, like the woman at the well, who in turn asked Him questions.  Both the Pharisees and the Sadducees were regularly trying to trip Him up with questions. That's not an exaggeration; read Mark 12:13. My point isn't that people didn't ask Jesus questions, but this encounter in Matthew 19 seems to be unique because the man approaches Jesus with a question.  He had a question for Jesus. What was behind his question?  The man, a questioner.

We don't know why the man had this question, but from the question we can do know that (1) he had respect for Jesus as a religious teacher, (2) he believed in eternal life, and (3) he believed one inherited eternal life from doing good. If I can be so bold, I believe we also know that (4) the man recognized that all the good he had done up until that point didn't give him certainty of salvation. There was something in his life that didn't feel complete. The man asked Jesus this question because he wanted something more. Jesus told the man what he wanted to hear, something more. In this case, more meant everything.  Sell everything. Leave everyone. Change everything.

The questioner went away sad, having gotten an answer he could not accept.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Psalm 15

Tell me a building you associate with God.

Did you say church? That's not the answer I was looking for, but you won't lose any points if you did. These days, when Christians talk about God and buildings, we get a little mixed up in the lingo. Most of us call the building where Jesus' followers meet to worship Him a church. More accurately, it should be called the church's building because the church is actually the body of believers.

Two thousand years ago, if I had asked you to tell me a building you associate with God, you very likely would have said temple. The temple was uniquely different than a modern church building. When I teach kids, I sometimes say that the temple was kind of like the modern day church building because that is where believers gathered together, but the temple and church buildings have some significant differences. Before Christ died, God resided in the temple, in a portion called the Holy of Holies. (If you'd like more information, a quick internet search will show you facts, descriptions, and renderings of the Temple, including the Holy of Holies.)  Today, God doesn't live in church buildings because He lives in His believers - the church.  You see what the lingo gets so mixed up.

But even before the Temple, there was a tent, known as the tabernacle. The tabernacle didn’t look like the tents we go camping in, but it could be packed up and moved.  We don't have a better modern word in our fixed-structure society, and so we call it a tent. 

David was interested in where God lived. David wanted to build the temple for God, but God had other plans.  (You can read a recent post on the topic: Solomon's Rise and Fall).  More than just curiosity, a person's home says something about them.  In thinking about God's home and who God is, David wrote:
Lord, who can live in your sacred tent? 
Who can stay on your holy mountain?
Anyone who lives without blame
and does what is right.
They speak the truth from their heart.
They don’t tell lies about other people.
They don’t do wrong to their neighbors.
They don’t say anything bad about them.
They hate evil people.
But they honor those who have respect for the Lord.
They keep their promises even when it hurts.
They do not change their mind.
They lend their money to poor people without charging interest.
They don’t accept money to harm those who aren’t guilty.
Anyone who lives like that
will always be secure.
(Psalm 15, NIRV)
When David asked God who could live in His tent, he wasn’t asking if he could go camping with God. David was making a point that God is holy. There's a reason why God's spirit dwelled in the Holy of Holies.  He is perfect, and so only people who are right with God can be near God.

What kind of things does God want us to do to be right with Him? David lists a few of them: We should always tell the truth, and we should never lie. We should treat our neighbors and friends well. We should always keep our promises, even when it is hard. Actually, all those things can be hard!  When the right thing is hard to do, God will help us do it. In my recent post, PSALM 13, I wrote briefly that Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would come to be with us forever. In John 14:26 Jesus called the Holy Spirit “the Helper.” Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would teach them what they needed to know. The Holy Spirit would help them remember what Jesus said. So, too, the Holy Spirit helps us to do what’s right.  But to limit closeness to God to only those who do what's right would oversimplify the situation. It's what the Pharisees were often chastised by Jesus for. (My recent post MERCY explores this idea further.) Because of the Holy Spirit we don’t have to go to a tent, a temple, a church, or any other building to be close to God. God doesn’t live in a building. God lives in us!

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ 

This series on the Psalms is actually modified from lessons I've been writing as children's curriculum. As I began writing for kids, I realized there was too much good stuff to not write a grown up version as well.  If you have kids, or if you are a kid at heart, you may want to watch my friend deliver this message. And now I must go build a blanket fort...