Posted in Faith Nuggets

A Blown Mind

I enjoy a good, fictional story. Whether it’s a movie or a book, I like the experience of working through the tale from start to finish and enjoying the nice, neatly wrapped package of an introduction, a crisis, a climax, and a resolution.

Yes, I know life is not like that. Life never presents us a concluded story. From birth to death, life is one long, complex, interwoven series of stories that never truly find solid conclusion. They are ever evolving, ever changing, and ever intermingling with one another. When we watch movies, read novels, or even dive into biographies, we are essentially pulling a single thread – maybe even two or three – from a much more complex piece of fabric. We focus on this relationship or that experience, but the remaining realities such as work or extended family or history that, in real life, strongly impact those threads are only side thoughts and setting for our compact story.

And you know what? That’s okay! It is not wrong to enjoy the narrative of a few threads, even learning powerful truths from that narrative if we choose our entertainment well.

The problem comes, though, when we apply the same reading style to Scripture.

Too often, I read God’s Word with a desire for a nicely wrapped package. I enjoy meditating on a passage for days on end, but if I have my preference, each day will bring a thought that I can wrap my head around. Even if the learning grows each day, I want something tangible and solid every time I meditate.

But, it doesn’t always work that way. Some days, what I end up with is the birth of a realization. The first tricklings of learning that completely evade understanding. In a nutshell, my mind is just blown, and it feels like the millions of scattered pieces will never come back together.

Sometimes, the light bulb begins to come on within a day or two, and increased depth of learning follows understanding. But other times it’s a slower development. I’ve hashed through certain mind blowing concepts for years on end, pulling in a piece here and an edge there, assembling the most challenging puzzle I have ever encountered in an attempt to get even the smallest glimpse of what the final picture looks like.

As overwhelmed as I feel when my mind is blown by Scripture – as much as I prefer the nice, neat, storybook package of study, learning, and growth – I am learning to crave this type of open-ended learning more and more. I’m learning to hunger for questions that take weeks, months, or even years of study and exploration to answer.

The written Word that we hold in our hands, creation all around us, and even God’s active work in our daily lives and throughout history are all just a tiny glimpse of the essence of the Almighty King of all existence. He is so much greater. So much more profound than anything we can imagine. His gifts of revelation represent a depth that our hearts and minds will never fully reach, no matter how many years we are given on this earth. But that should never prevent us from diving!

If our minds are not blown at least every now and then, it is not evidence of the vastness of what we know. Instead, it is an indictment against us, showing our failure to even try to plumb the depths of the revelation our amazing, loving Father has so graciously given us.

Oh, may I hunger more and more for a glimpse of just how much I have left to learn.

May I never fear a blown mind.

Posted in Faith Nuggets, Thoughts from Scripture

Thus Far & Beyond

In my personal writing files, I have all sorts of little notes with topics I’d love to write about. I include memory triggers and thoughts, but none of them are fleshed out. Yet, so many times as I sit down to write, I read through the old thoughts intending to utilize them, only to end up writing something new. The new might be inspired by the old, but it’s never quite a fleshing out of those old thoughts.

Eventually, I want to go back and flesh out those old thoughts. But as I sit down today and start from scratch yet again, I’m reminded why it’s so important for me to jot down those thoughts, even if I never use them to create a blog post, article, or even a book chapter (maybe someday!).

Those thoughts are my Ebenezers.

The Bible is replete with remembrances. The Israelites are continually pointed back to their origins and the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Even in the New Testament, the majority of Stephen’s sermon as he is on trial before the Jewish leaders recalls the history of Israel (Acts 7). Remembrance of the work of God in this world is critical to our growth. We cannot go forward if we do not build on what brought us here in the first place.

And that is why, in 1 Samuel 7, the prophet Samuel set up a stone and named it Ebenezer. He knew the people needed a tangible reminder of God’s work among them, not only His historical work of their exodus from Egypt and early settlement in the land of promise, but also of His recent work in redeeming them after they had turned from Him yet again.

Scripture is my solid foundation. It is the history that I must know and constantly learn more about in order to grow. But, my Ebenezers are my personal experiences. They are my “thus far the Lord has helped ME” reminders. They are personal.

But I cannot stop there.

“Thus far” indicates that this is not the end. God wants to take me further. Where I have been is critical, for all of my past experiences are critical building blocks of my faith. And I need to remember and revisit those lessons. I need to keep them in my heart and mind and even go back and dust them off and clean them up now and then to make sure those lower blocks are not decaying as I try to build on top of them.

But, if I only reminisce on and flesh out my Ebenezers, then I am effectively preventing any new growth. I’m keeping the lower blocks clean and fresh, but never adding to them. That causes me to transfer my focus to the Ebenezers themselves and away from the Lord who has brought me to each and every point.

So, today, I am enjoying going back and reading through some of those Ebenezers. And, at some point, I’ll probably flesh them out and share them, little by little. But for today, I’m building a new block. I’m setting a new stone. I’m thanking the Lord for His faithfulness to bring me even further, past my last Ebenezer and to my current one.

Thus far the Lord has helped me. And, oh how beautiful to know that He will not stop here!

Posted in Faith Nuggets, Thoughts, Thoughts from Scripture

Leading the Leaders

The reign of Hezekiah has always thrilled me. If I had to pick a favorite king of Judah, he would be the one. After generations of sinfulness and disobedience, Hezekiah decides to do it right.

He wastes no time beginning reforms.

In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them. He brought in the priests and the Levites and gathered them into the square on the east. Then he said to them, “Listen to me, O Levites. Consecrate yourselves now, and consecrate the house of the Lord, the God of your fathers, and carry the uncleanness out from the holy place. 2 Chronicles 29:3-5

Who’s in Charge?

There is something I find interesting in this story. Hezekiah instructs the priests and Levites right here in the very beginning. Yet all through the reforms, a certain theme is repeated:

But the priests were too few, so that they were unable to skin all the burnt offerings; therefore their brothers the Levites helped them until the work was completed and until the other priests had consecrated themselves. For the Levites were more conscientious to consecrate themselves than the priests. 2 Chronicles 29:34

For the king and his princes and all the assembly in Jerusalem had decided to celebrate the Passover in the second month, 3 since they could not celebrate it at that time, because the priests had not consecrated themselves in sufficient numbers, nor had the people been gathered to Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 30:3-4

Then they slaughtered the Passover lambs on the fourteenth of the second month. And the priests and Levites were ashamed of themselves, and consecrated themselves and brought burnt offerings to the house of the Lord. 2 Chronicles 30:15

For Hezekiah king of Judah had contributed to the assembly 1,000 bulls and 7,000 sheep, and the princes had contributed to the assembly 1,000 bulls and 10,000 sheep; and a large number of priests consecrated themselves. 2 Chronicles 30:24

Do you see the progression here?

– Hezekiah initiated.
– Some of the religious leaders responded, but not all.
– The people responded in greater numbers.
– The religious leaders slowly came around, feeling convicted because of the response of the people.

There are a couple of lessons to learn from this.

First, our positions mean something! Hezekiah should not have been the initiator. The people should not have been ahead of the priests and Levites. It was their job to instruct the king and be spiritual leaders for the people. They failed and then had to play catch-up when they should have been leading.

Fortunately, others stepped up! This leads directly to the second lesson.

Don’t wait for the “right” person to act! Leaders do not always lead as they should. Sometimes they get complacent. That does not give followers an excuse. Sometimes people must be willing to motivate their leaders to action.

You might not see yourself as a leader, but you still have no excuse. If you are choosing to sit around and do nothing simply because your leaders are not acting, then you are living in sin. You are jointly responsible. And you are capable of instigating a change!

The priests should have been the ones to direct the king and mobilize the Levites. The Levites should have been the ones to teach the people, stirring them to action. Instead, Hezekiah pushed the priests and Levites. Then he stirred the people to action. The Levites got a more decent start than the priests, but it was only the amazing responsiveness of the people that truly lit a fire under the sluggish priests. The ones who should have started everything were the last to respond.

Where will you and I fall? May we be the first!