Friday, March 30, 2012

A Startling Tithe

"Thou shalt surely tithe all the increase of thy seed, 
that which cometh forth from the field year by year. 
And thou shalt eat before Jehovah thy God, 
in the place which he shall choose, to cause his name to dwell there, 
the tithe of thy grain, of thy new wine, and of thine oil, 
and the firstlings of thy herd and of thy flock; 
that thou mayest learn to fear Jehovah thy God always. 
And if the way be too long for thee, so that thou art not able to carry it, 
because the place is too far from thee, 
which Jehovah thy God shall choose, to set his name there, 
when Jehovah thy God shall bless thee; 
then shalt thou turn it into money, 
and bind up the money in thy hand, 
and shalt go unto the place which Jehovah thy God shall choose: 
and thou shalt bestow the money for whatsoever thy soul desireth, 
for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, 
or for whatsoever thy soul asketh of thee; 
and thou shalt eat there before Jehovah thy God, 
and thou shalt rejoice, thou and thy household."
Deuteronomy 14:22-26

This passage startles me. There is more to be startled by than even this, if you read the chapters around this one.

A tithe is a tenth. The Lord said the tithe was His -- and then told them to eat it. Told them to celebrate. To rejoice. To honor Him in this feasting and abundance and luxuriousness of food. 'And if the journey to where I want to fellowship with you is too long to haul all that cargo, sell it and buy whatever you want to eat with Me.' He said this would teach them to always revere Him.

I have always thought of a tithe as the first tenth of our increase, given completely out of our control, and of which we receive no part. It startles me that the Lord says, 'This is Mine -- come eat it in front of Me.' And the Sabbath is like it. 'This is My day. Rest. Stop your working and your striving and your hoarding, and worship.'

And the incredible freedom He gave in choosing the ingredients. Dare I even notice it? Nothing unclean, but whatever your soul craves. Eat it before the Lord -- in His presence, with His blessing.

Friday, March 23, 2012

How He Fasted

"And Jesus called unto him his disciples, 
and said, I have compassion on the multitude, 
because they continue with me now three days and have nothing to eat: 
and I would not send them away fasting, lest haply they faint on the way. 
And the disciples say unto him, 
Whence should we have so many loaves in a desert place 
as to fill so great a multitude? 
And Jesus said unto them, How many loaves have ye? 
And they said, Seven, and a few small fishes. 
And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground; 
and he took the seven loaves and the fishes; 
and he gave thanks and brake, and gave to the disciples, 
and the disciples to the multitudes. 
And they all ate, and were filled: 
and they took up that which remained over of the broken pieces, 
seven baskets full."
Matthew 15:32-37

"In the meanwhile the disciples prayed him, saying, Rabbi, eat. 
But he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not. 
The disciples therefore said one to another, 
Hath any man brought him aught to eat? 
Jesus saith unto them, 
My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, 
and to accomplish his work."
John 4:31-34
 He went on to describe the harvesting of food
(for which men spend all their labor).
He had already compared the work He had been about as food for Himself.
I think He was letting them know there was plenty to go around.

"Is such the fast that I have chosen? The day for a man to afflict his soul? 
Is it to bow down his head as a rush, 
and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? 
Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to Jehovah? 
Is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, 
to undo the bands of the yoke, 
and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? 
Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, 
and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? 
When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; 
and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?"
Isaiah 58:5-7

Jesus, God's beloved Son, in Whom He is well-pleased:
loosing the bonds of our wickedness,
undoing the bands of our yokes,
letting the oppressed go free,
dealing His bread to the hungry,
bringing the poor and cast out to His house,
covering our nakedness in His righteousness,
and not hiding Himself from His fellow men.
He looked for hurting people --
damaged demon-possessed wretches
and used-up women in rejected towns
and men with withered hands hidden in their sleeves --
and He found them,
having gone out of His way to do it,
and He made them whole.
He took His riches, His abundance, His prosperity,
and He made it ours at His expense.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How He Prayed

"And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. 
For they love to pray standing in the synagogues 
and in the corners of the streets, 
so that they may be seen by men. 
Truly I say to you, They have their reward. 
But you, when you pray, enter into your room. 
And shutting your door, pray to your Father in secret; 
and your Father who sees in secret shall reward you openly."
Matthew 6:5,6

After sending the people away, he went up a hill by himself to pray. 
When evening came, Jesus was there alone... 
Matthew 14:23

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, 
and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." 
He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee. 
Grief and anguish came over him, and he said to them, 
"The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me. 
Stay here and keep watch with me." 
He went a little farther on, 
threw himself face downward on the ground, and prayed, 
"My Father, if it is possible, take this cup of suffering from me! 
Yet not what I want, but what you want."
Matthew 26:36-39

Jesus had no door to shut.
And because of it, we have the benefit of what the disciples saw and heard.
Through their eyes, we see Him on His face,
in dread of what He would walk through,
choosing to honor His Father though it cost Him dearly.
We see His secret communion, His private devotion.
His tender intercession for us.
Thank You, Jesus.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Secret Worship

The Sermon on the Mount.
What is it?
I think for many years, I saw it as a list of impossible standards.
A mish-mash of unrelated things I am doing wrong.
Somehow it never seemed connected
to the other things Jesus said and did in the gospels.
I have sometimes avoided reading it,
because it seemed so hard for me to understand.
But a week ago, as I read through it,
themes grew clear I had not seen before.

In chapter 6:
Show mercy secretly.
God sees you.
Pray secretly.
God sees you.
Fast secretly.
God sees you.

Store up treasure in heaven.
Our Father, who art in heaven.
"Your Father who is in the secret place; 
and Your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly."

He continually warns us not to be pretenders.
You might wonder where He said that.
He used a word we immediately distance from ourselves.
My Bible had 'pretenders' in the margin notes.
You know -- public worshipers. 

About that treasure.
You know: those gold coins you invest in
and then hide somewhere where no one can find them but you.
The sure thing that can withstand the economic crash when it comes.
The secret hoard.
The private resource.
The place your heart worships,
because it's where your heart stays always.
So have a secret trust.
Have a secret worship.
Let it be in Him. 

I flipped back into chapter 5.
He spoke about murder, the public display of the secret hatred.
Adultery, the public display of secret lust. 
Going to present your (public) gift to God
while your brother has something (secret) against you.
Drop the gift: go be reconciled.
Let your gift be given from a secret worship.

About honest words which need no oath.
Loving and praying for an enemy.
This is how our Father is: honest; pure in heart; secretly loving.
Forgiving from the heart.

Worship of the Father is not a display.
It's a secret adoration that calls forth love.
That compels me to forgive when I am wronged.
To have a true heart toward my husband.
To reconcile with my brother.
To withhold judgment and let it rest with Him.
To love those who definitively do not love me.

And I found myself mentally standing in the place of the Samaritan woman.
"The woman said to Him, 'Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.
Our fathers worshiped in this mountain,
and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.'
Jesus said to her, 'Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming
when you shall neither worship the Father in this mountain
nor yet at Jerusalem. ...The hour is coming, and now is,
when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth,
for the Father seeks such to worship Him.
God is a spirit, and they who worship Him
must worship in spirit and in truth.'"

In spirit and in truth.
In secret in my heart.
Not from a prominent place for the observation of men,
but from a secret devotion for the eyes of the Lord.

Is it possible that when He says in chapter 7,
"Do not give what is holy to the dogs;
nor cast your pearls before swine,"
He is referring to all these things
which the love of God ought to inspire in us
being done as a display for the praise of men?
It's a prostitution of worship --
a leaving of our first love.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Breathe and Worship to This

I'm satisfied by Your love so completely.
How can I thirst for the praises of men?
There's nothing I need that You haven't provided,
and no one can offer me peace like You can.

Jesus, You're more than enough,
sufficient for me:
all I have needed You've given for free.
Your love is enough,
don't need man's applause,
I know what I'm worth: I remember the cross.

I'm sustained, O Lord:
when Your Light surrounds me the world fades away.
I'm sustained, O Lord:
my heart knows Your love like it flows through my veins.
Such peace and contentment I've found in Your grace:
I can't think why I ever complained.
You love me: what more could I want?
I am sustained.

My husband was playing this song tonight,
and as it always does, it soothed my soul.
Unfortunately, a Google search didn't enlighten me on its authorship.
If you know who wrote it, please let me know.

You can listen to it here.