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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Not in Part but the Whole

I love the way hymns and worship songs put things. One of the lines in "It is Well with my Soul" says, "My sin, not in part but the whole, was nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more.". Today in my reading i was reminded of this line as i thought about how if the entirety of our sin was paid for, the entirety of our lives must reflect this.

This morning I was reading in numbers and I reached the story of Balaam in numbers 22-24. Most people probably remember the part where Balaam's donkey speaks since thats definitely bizarre, but the second part of the story is what I'm going to write about today.

The original reason for the donkey journey at all was because the king of Moab, Balak, had summoned Balaam to come and curse the Israelites. There's a lot of interesting things about this, but I'm going to restrain myself from the inclination to go off and wonder about other things in the story for the sake of brevity. If anyone is interested in anything else let me know and I'd love to check it out together.

Initially Balaam had refused the invitation after consulting the Lord, but after the king insisted, the Lord told Balaam to go under the condition that he say nothing aside from what the Lord told him.

The king brought Balaam to a point where he could see a portion of the Israelite camp and asked Balaam to curse them out of fear. Balaam consulted the Lord and instead blessed the Israelites. Balak's response to this was to take him to a different place where he would see a different fraction of Israel. He did this twice, but still Balaam blessed the Israelites.

Whats interesting about this is how Balak took Balaam to three different places, each overlooking a smaller portion of the Israelite camp. Each time prompting Balaam to curse this smaller part of the camp. Yet each time Gods blessing comes forth rather than a curse.

This story bears striking similarities to the temptations we face. We as Christians are pressured to make negotiations with sin. Draw lines in the sand and rather than flee, keep drawing lines further and further down the shore until we ultimately find ourselves engulfed in the waves.

Worse yet we can compartmentalize our lives and play a foolish game of keeping God in his boxes and our desires and goals in the others. We face these sorts of temptations everyday. "It's not that important", "this is such a small thing", "I'll start doing better tomorrow". We have to realize that God's commands aren't segmented, and our response to the "small" and "big" things needs to be the same, just as God's response was the same regardless of the portion of the camp.

Jeremy Peggins, Building Bookcases Writer

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Gods Priesthood

Honestly enough, I'm excited. I missed my reading time this morning, and I was determined to have one tonight before I went to bed. After putting the kids I was babysitting to bed I picked up my bible and started into numbers 17, as that's where I am on my way through the old testament (for those of you keeping track, yes I did make it through Leviticus). At first it seemed like another historical record of God giving order to the Israelites in the desert, and in many ways it is, but what has me excited is how through his passage I'm freshly reminded of how gracious God is to give signs that assure us of his presence and plans. I had been feeling a bit rough lately and had been praying today that god would really meet me.

The story of numbers 17 isn't as widely known as most, but I do clearly remember it in my picture bible when I was a child. The story is of how God had the twelve princes of the tribes of Israel bring rods to the tabernacle and overnight God caused Aaron's rod to sprout, thus signifying the tribe of Levi as the priesthood designated by God.

In terms of background, God had already set the tribe of Levi as his priests and although it's not written here, one could presume that there must have been some dissension or challenge for this position among the tribes. This presumption comes from two observations. The first is that this sort of test was performed at all, and the second is the lack of questions from the princes of the tribes. We have no record of anyone saying "wait, I thought Levi was the priesthood, why are we bringing rods?". Apparently each one thought themselves at least worthy of the contention.

Before we pass judgement on the other princes though, lets remember what had just happened in the past few years. First we had two priests of Levi sacrifice using an unclean fire of some sort, and then, in chapter 16 (remember we're in 17 so current news), we have Korah lead a rebellion of 250 Israelites whom God then opens up the earth to swallow. Korah was from what tribe? You guessed it, Levi. All in all, it's been a rough time for Levi and it's understandable that the other princes are questioning whether God's original proclamation stands.

Understandable, yes, but still wrong. God causes Aaron's rod to bud, blossom, and bear fruit, thus reaffirming that the tribe of Levi will be his priests. Here's the first part that excited me. So often I read a passage like this and completely miss something extremely significant, and it happened today. Note that the rod buds, blossoms, AND bears fruit. This is happening at the same time! You've got buds, flowers, and fruit on the same staff, which was supposed to be dead anyway. That doesn't happen even with live branches! Talk about reassuring! God makes sure his miracle is obvious. There is no question of anyone swapping out a live branch for the dead rod, or of some sort of weird horticultural trick to give a certain tribe preference, this was definitely God.

The second thing that excites me about this passage was the sign used, a dead rod given life again and bearing fruit. A foreshadowing of the death and resurrection to be experienced by the final priest who would make atonement for all our sins by the final sacrifice. Christ's death and resurrection symbolically foretold thousands of years before their occurrence. And what's even greater? It's the symbol by which the Israelites were to have confidence that this was the priesthood God had established and their sacrifices were acceptable. The rod was kept in the tabernacle, as a sign to people that the priesthood stood established by God to provide sacrifices for atonement. In the same way, Christ was resurrected and stands glorified as our assurance that his sacrifice was accepted by God as our ransom, and that his priesthood stands forevermore. Praise God!

Jeremy Peggins, Building Bookcases Writer

Monday, November 1, 2010

Why do I breathe?

There are empty bottles all around the kitchen. The house has its own smell of weed, beer, and sweat. The thumping of the bass reverberates in your chest and you’re taking it all in. This is why I breathe.

Your friend is groping someone’s sister while another lies strung-out on the couch. As awkward interactions with some of the girls convince you that you can get some, you over hear a funny sexual joke….mental note: remember that one for later. Relax. You’re adored and you know it.

I wanted this once myself. To be honest sometimes I still do. So why my friend would I not just jump in?

It’s not because I’m a good person….No! I’m not a good person.

It’s because I’m loved.

Seriously, it’s because Jesus loves me. It can be easy to think being a Christian is following rules and avoiding the “bad” (aka. Fun) things. But that isn’t true. See God tells me not to get wasted, be arrogant, seek others approval and affection, get high, and screw because he loves me. Before I was a Christian I chased some of those things but they never satisfied. I wanted people’s affection and approval but it never filled. I wanted to be looked up to and adored but I could never get enough. It left me worn out, depressed, and lonely. I was thirsty and dying.

I write this to you friends not to condemn but to reach out in love. I was enticed by these same things and they felt good….for a while. Have you ever asked yourself “was I created for this?” Is this really why you breathe? We have rebelled against God demanding the “right” to decide for ourselves what is good and evil. We have royally screwed up. God condemns this rebellion and is just to do so. But in his mercy he looked at our messed up state and reached out with his Son Jesus. Through Jesus God is restoring his people to himself. This wasn’t free for God to do but he paid for you and me with his Son’s life. Now I can proclaim Come to Jesus all you who are thirsty and drink. That aching hole inside is healed with the one who doesn’t just put up with our failures….but he bears them. He took our sin like a cloak and wore it on the cross. He was punished for our rebellion! Why? Why would he do that? Because He loves you. Because of Jesus we don’t have to try and impress others because were loved by the one who matters (even though we could never deserve it). We don’t have to be lonely because he promised to never leave us. We don’t have to drink and party to feel alive because he gives us life and joy. Jesus is why I breathe! He is my life and He is so good. So please know that this is someone who has received so much that he feels obligated to tell others. I love you friends and it breaks my heart to see you chasing after things that won’t give you life. Please ask me about Jesus.