August 29, 2018

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Day Sixty: Preoccupation

READ:  Read the passage aloud slowly.  Haman is upset because the king ordered all those at the King’s Gate to bow to him, and Mordecai the Jew does not (see Esther 3:3-6).

ESTHER 5:9-13

(9-13)  Haman left the palace that day happy, beaming.  And then he saw Mordecai sitting at the King’s Gate ignoring him, oblivious to him.  Haman was curious with Mordecai.  But he held himself in and went on home.  He got his friends together with his wife Zeresh and started bragging about how much money he had, his many sons, all the times the king had honored him, and his promotions to the highest position in the government.  “On top of all that,” Haman continued, “Queen Esther invited me to a private dinner she gave for the king, just the three of us.  And she’s invited me to another one tomorrow.  But I can’t enjoy any of it when I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the King’s Gate.”

THINK:  Read the passage again slowly.

How did Haman’s preoccupations affect him?  What did those preoccupations reveal about the kind of person he was inside?

Haman was filled with hatred for the Jews.  Any time Mordecai did something that drew attention to the fact that he cared less about Haman (or the government) than he did about God, Haman became livid.  It’s no wonder that he was having a hard time enjoying the fact that he was about to go have dinner TWICE with the king, at the queen’s request.  Of course, had he known the reason why he was going, he would’ve realized that he had need to be preoccupied with more pressing matters, seeing how his plans to annihilate the Jews was about to outed to the king by the queen.

What preoccupations have filled your mind for the past 24 hours?  What do these preoccupations reveal about who you are inside?

Wow…this is a question.  Considering I am typing this up about 2 weeks late, I think it’s safe to say that my mind has been extremely preoccupied lately.  But, for the past 24 hours, I have found myself thinking about the classes I am about to start (the last 2 of my 4 intensives), missing my husband, needing a job, a few impending deadlines, the precarious state of my life come the first of the year, my sometimes overwhelming desire to FIX my life even though I am where I am because I trusted God in the first place.  So….yeah….I’ve been a little preoccupied.  What do these preoccupations say about me?  Well….that I wonder (and sometimes worry) A LOT about what tomorrow is going to look like rather than  trusting that the God who delivered me into my current set of circumstances will also deliver me to where I am supposed to be in the future.  My preoccupations say that I miss my husband.  They say that I have a hard time trusting God when life doesn’t make sense.  They say that I have an even harder time trusting God when I don’t get my way.  But…most of all, I think they say that I have a hard time trusting God because I have a hard time believing in His Love for me.

Now…don’t get me wrong.  I don’t think that if I really believed He loved me that I wouldn’t worry at all.  What I think is that I would not think twice about bringing all my cares to him and leaving them at the cross.  One of the thoughts I had this past 24 hours had to do with the amount of things that I do not ever bring to God.  I was driving to my intensives, a 4-hour drive, in the drizzly rain, on somewhat slick roads, and about half-way here, I thought:  Maybe I should’ve stopped to ask God to keep me safe while I was driving.  I did, right then.  But my very next thought was: “Well, He’s either going to do it or He isn’t.  But…what if I pray that he keeps me safe, and then something happens?  I’m not unsafe now.  Maybe I shouldn’t jinx it.

The conclusion I came to (or that I am coming to as I keep typing) is:  my relationship with God looks like I spend a whole lot of time hoping that He is not as indifferent to me as I feel He is.  As a result, every pray I pray is hesitant, like a baby learning how to walk, whose every step is halted and shaky.  I think the major difference between me and the baby is that the baby doesn’t wonder if his feet are going to hold him up when he puts them back down on the floor.

But…the encouraging thing is:  I know that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).  So what that means is that each step I take toward God, hesitant though it may be, is an act of faith.  It has to be because I have to believe that He is a reward of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).  If I didn’t believe in the power of God and in the power of prayer, why would I go to Him at all?

I wouldn’t.  And before all this “garbage” happened in my life, I wasn’t really going to him.  I was not trusting God as if my very existence depended upon him.  I wasn’t really having to trust him for much at all.  As such, I never really came to a point of having a crisis of faith.  I never had to.  Of course, what that really means is that I really only had a picture of what faith should look like, rather than having faith itself.

What things would you like to be preoccupied with?

Hhhhmmmmm.  At this present moment….NOTHING.  I’ve had so much on my mind for so long, it’d be nice to have nothing to think about for a while.  I guess, though, more to the point, I’d like to not have so much to obsess or worry about.    I guess that brings me to the next portion of this devotional, as well as where I leave you for the day.  Take the rest of the time to do what the rest of the devotional says.  See where it takes you…….

PRAY:  Pray this verse in your own words:  “Set your mind on things above” (Col. 3:2, NIV).  Ask God for guidance in what kind of person you want to be and what to focus on.

LIVE:  Dream about the kind of person whose mind is preoccupied with God.  Contemplation is a time for receiving from God.  Receive an image of yourself from him.  Embrace the future you.

Day Ten: What is Holiness?

READ:  Today’s reading is Leviticus 22:1-8, but the extended passage is chapters 19-22.

 

In this passage, God informs Moses that he needs to tell Aaron that he and his sons need to remember to treat the holy offerings the Israelites consecrated to Him with reverence so they won’t desecrate God’s holy name, because He is God.  Then, He proceeds to lay out a series of rules that tell what all could make them unclean and what they must to do avoid becoming unclean, as well as what they will need to do to become clean again.

 

THINK:  In this section we are asked to read the passage again, noticing our reactions toward God about what we’ve read.  It asks if we feel drawn closer to God or repelled from Him, and then, we are encouraged to talk with Him about it, exploring what could be the possible causes for our response.  Then, the challenge comes to ask God to show us more of ourselves — “the memories, opinions, and feelings you bring to him on this day.”

 

This is where I began to wonder just what holy actually meant.  So, I looked it up.  I had what I thought was a rudimentary idea, but I wanted to make sure I knew for sure.  It means consecrated, set apart, separated.  Another definition is “set apart for a special purpose.”  That definition I could grasp.  But then:  why the urge to be holy as God is holy? 

 

I know how to set apart a thing or a person for a special purpose.  But how does that apply to God?  How does one define God as holy, when He is the one who does the defining?  If he is above all things, and has created all things, and therefore, has dominion over all things…is that what makes Him HOLY?  Is He holy because He is unchangeable?  Because He is omniscient?  Omnipresent?  Omnipotent?    I think I’ve discovered that the answer to all of these questions is: YES. 

 

But what really struck me about that passage is just how unattainable true holiness really is apart from Christ.  With all the rules the Levites had for being able to approach the Holy of Holies, it was no wonder they had to enter with a rope tied around their wastes.  If they forgot even one thing, the Holy and Just God would have to punish their sin.  Therefore, the only way that person was going to get out was by being dragged out.  But, because of Christ, the veil to the Holy of Holies has been rent from top to bottom and, now, we are all free to enter in, to have a personal relationship with God, because Christ’s death and the shedding of the blood of the perfectly pure, sinless sacrifice paid the price for every sin for the rest of eternity.  So long as we accept it.  We no longer have to worry about whether or not we have asked forgiveness for every single one of our sins before we can go to God.  We can come to Him with those sins, known and unknown, and ask Him to show us where we need to ask forgiveness and He will tell us, and then we can ask forgiveness for all of them and repent. 

 

That is the only way that we can be holy as God is holy.  Because, without Christ, we can never be seen as sinless.  Without Christ, the best we could do is hope we hadn’t forgotten any of the rules, and had covered all of our bases, before we approached God. 

 

You see with the God of the Bible and Christianity, there is no such thing as “good enough” or a balanced scale.  You can never attain a state where the scales tip heavier on the side of your good works because as long as there is even a speck of dirt on the other side, you are all bad and deserving of an eternity in Hell, because a Holy and Righteous and Just God cannot and will not wink at sin.  The wages of sin is death.  Plain and simple.  That is the holiness of God.  And that is why we need Christ.  Because of His sacrifice on the cross at Calvary, the debt of our sins has been paid.  If we accept Christ, God will look at us and only see His Son standing in our place, saying: “His sins are paid for.  I took care of that bill.  He can come in.”  Without Christ as our vouchsafe, we would all be doomed to Hell. 

 

But as harsh as that sounds, it was God who provided that way out.  God, who cared so deeply about His creation that He said, “He is not willing that any should perish” and that “whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  God must punish sin because He is Holy, but He doesn’t want to because He loves His creation. 

 

PRAY:  This section challenges us to (maybe) ask God to help us increase our belief that He is holy, and then to ask Him to show us how this truth interacts with our first reaction. 

 

LIVE:  “Use this silent time to rest in the presence of the holy God, who has just made himself known to you.  Let go of your own words and let yourself enjoy the experience.”

 

And with that, I will leave you.  Take some time and let the weight of what the word HOLY means to you.  See what God wants to show you.  Then, if you’d like, drop on back by and share, if you’d like.  I’d love to hear from you.

 

Good night,

Patty