Friday, May 31, 2013

Don't be like Ashdod...

...or Ekron, or Gath for that matter.
just giving you something pretty to look at
The text is 1 Samuel 5. Here's what's going on. The ark has been captured by the Philistines and they aren't quite sure what to do with it. First they brought it to the town of Ashdod, and set it up in their temple next to Dagon, but clearly, Dagon wasn't up to the task. God afflicted the people with a plague of tumors and "brought devastation on them." In one verse we see both wisdom and folly from the Philistines;

"The ark of the god of Israel must not stay here with us, because his hand is heavy on us and on Dagon our god." (1 Samuel 5:7).

To their wisdom, they rightly understood that it was Yahweh who was wreaking havoc on them. To their folly, however, they simply passed the problem onto another town.

This pattern was repeated in the city of Gath, who passed the ark on to Ekron. The people of Ekron, were at least wise enough to not even let the ark they sent it back to the Israelites.

Here's what struck me about the Philistines and these three cities. Here they are, confronted with the God of their enemies, Yahweh. Clearly they have wisdom enough to see that Yahweh is destroying them. They must have been able to conclude that Yahweh was more powerful then Dagon. One would think their response might have been to repent, and worship this new powerful God. But no, they simply want to rid themselves of Him and go back to worshipping Dagon.

Now obviously there are bigger issues here...we know that the Israelites were God's chosen people, not the Philistines. However, it did strike me how often I do things similar to how these three cities responded.

When confronted with my own sin, or wrongful behaviours, or things I need to change, or bad habits, what do I do? I'd like to say I immediately repent, humbly, and run to God. However, all too often I shift the blame, or ignore the problem, or pretend I didn't hear, or perhaps worst of all I do nothing. These responses essentially accomplish the same thing that the Philistines were trying to accomplish; pushing God away.

After reading this passage, I was left with a question which I leave with you today. Is there something God is trying to get your attention about? If so, are you responding to Him, or pushing Him away? Let's not make the same mistake the Philistines made...but instead, embrace our Father. After all, He did demonstrate His love for you on the cross...I think we can trust Him.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Background Matters

If you read this blog at all, you know that I'm a passionate amateur photographer. I love getting out with my camera and finding beauty. One thing I've learned in photography is that "background matters." Take a look at these two pictures of a Heron;

They're both ok pictures...however, the first one them "pops" quite a bit more. Why? Simply because of the background. The water background is a dark color, and is smooth, which contrasts the color of the Heron and causes it to draw our focus. In the second picture the bird has moved a little, and the background has gotten a lot busier, and lighter in color, diluting our focus leading to a less striking picture. Quite often photographers, myself included, pay too little attention to the "background." We focus on the subject but ignore how the background of our photo can add to or take away from the subject.

It's the same in life. Too often I pay little or no attention to the "background" of my life...and yet the background affects so much of who I am. Very rarely do any of us stop what we're doing, put on a cd or song, and sit still and listen to the song. However, we often have music playing "in the background." That music has an effect in you. It can lift your spirit, or take you back in time, or give you energy (like my "running" playlist), or make you feel blue or depressed. And yet music is kind of a "background thing."

There are other "background" things that effect us. The shows/movies we watch, the news we choose to read, the radio stations we listen to, food we eat and drink, and more. These things may seem trivial, and yet they affect us.

"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is,seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth."
What is in the background of your life, perhaps diluting the striking subject that God has made you to be? Is your background stuff helping you or hurting you? Is it drawing you closer to God or pushing Him away? Maybe it's time to move a little, and change that background.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Getting Dressed

Something we all do, every day, is get dressed, and I'm guessing most of us put some thought into it before we just throw on some clothes. I usually consider, (briefly), a number of things such as the weather, my activities, any meetings I may be having, whether I'm riding my scooter or driving my car, etc. Maybe my favorite time of day, clothing wise, is after I've put my son to bed and I slip into my "loungey" clothes - cotton sweats and a favorite hooded sweatshirt. Recently I was reading in Romans and this verse got me pondering...

"So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh." (Romans 8:13-14).

I love how verse 14 reads in The Message; "Get out of bed and get dressed! Don’t loiter and linger, waiting until the very last minute. Dress yourselves in Christ, and be up and about!"

What would it look like if I started each day "putting on Jesus" like I put on clothes? Immediately I think of two things;

1) Putting on my proper identity, and
2) Putting on Christ's character and attributes.

The most important thing about any of us what we believe about God and Jesus, our "theology," but perhaps the second most thing about us is what we believe about ourselves. Part of that answer can be found in the book of Ephesians. In the first 14 verses of chapter one alone, we learn a number of things about ourselves. We learn that those who are "in Christ" are Saints, are Blessed, are Chosen, are Adopted, are Sealed, are Redeemed, have an Inheritance, have Salvation, have the Holy Spirit, and more. And that's just what the first few verses of Ephesians say about our identity. I wonder how many of us live with a proper identity? I know I don't...

Clothing ourselves with Christ also means wearing his character and attributes. Of course I immediately think of the "fruit of the Spirit" - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Some of those fruit come natural to me; others I have to work at. But all of them should be part of my outfit. In addition I think of one huge quality of Jesus that God loves to see in all of his...his humility. 

"And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesusevery knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:8-10).

So tomorrow morning, when you get dressed, remember to not only put on your physical clothes, but put on your spiritual clothes as well. Choose your outfit carefully, and make sure you wear your proper identity, accompanied with the character and attributes of Christ. Clothe yourself in Him.