Have you ever wondered about your purpose in life? Maybe you look at your job, your kids, or your living situation and think, “Is there anything extraordinary about me? Or am I just ordinary?”
We’ve all had questions like those. We know God has a specific purpose for us, but sometimes it’s hard to see how God can use our ordinary lives to make a difference.
I bet that’s how some of the Levites felt too. We’re going to take a look through Numbers 3. I know what you’re thinking…Numbers? Really? But yes, even Numbers can teach us something about our purpose when we feel ‘ordinary.’
Numbers 3 lists the duties of the Levites. You might think this would be a coveted clan to be born into. But not all Levities were priests.
“Assign Levites to Aaron and his sons. They have been given from among all the people of Israel to serve as their assistants.”
They were ‘assistants.’ Plain, ordinary, assistants. They served in caring for the Tabernacle (vs. 25), the care of the sanctuary (vs. 28), the ark/table/lamp stand (vs. 31) and all the frames supporting the Tabernacle (vs. 36).
You might think they had a big job. Which is true, but I wonder if every one of them saw it that way. Think about the people in your church who vacuum the floors, clean the toilets, and take out the trash. They might feel as if they are doing ‘ordinary’ work. They might even feel more like ‘assistants’ to the pastor or other staff.
And the truth is, you might feel that way in your own life. But we are called to ‘step out of the ordinary.’ 1st Peter 2:9 says,
“…for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”
We are all called to be a part of this Levitical tribe. And the best thing about being a part of this family is that God clearly states in Numbers 3:12, “The Levites belong to Me.” And that is nothing but extraordinary!
So when you feel ‘ordinary,’ remember that you are called with the purpose of showing God’s goodness to others. And that is no ordinary task!
There are so many things we should pray for each day. There are even more things we should be thankful for each day. However, each of us has our own problems and personal struggles. I want to submit to you today that there are areas that affect each of our lives, as Christians, that are under attack in our own communities. This is by no means a comprehensive or exclusive list. But it’s a good start. Here are 7 things we, as the Church, should pray for everyday.
Marriages in America have a divorce rate of 40-50%. This is an alarming rate considering the divorce rate among Christians is statistically about the same. They say the divorce rate is actually dropping, however, that is is not because marriages are getting better, it’s because more people are choosing cohabitation instead of marriage.
Marriages are under attack. As Christians, we have standards as husbands and wives laid down by God. Marriage is also hard. Pray for your own marriage as well as those of your friends an family members. Most of us know all to well the effects of a painful divorce, either by experience or by knowing someone it has influenced.
Families are falling apart all around us. If you don’t believe me, head to your local grocery store and simply people watch for a day. Kids are screaming at their parents, parents are screaming at the their kids, and families are simply broken.
We work with kids who come from broken families. We have seen first hand the effects of abuse and neglect in our own children, both adopted and foster. Just because we have opened our home to a child in need doesn’t mean the consequences of their past just disappear. Pray for the families of your local church and within your community.
We recently had the anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision. It is estimated that 3,000 abortions happen daily. As a church, we need to respond with love – not judgement. We don’t simply need to preach against abortion, but we need to help those involved in a crisis pregnancy.
4. Singles within the Church and their purity
I don’t want to under estimate the challenges our singles community faces. Some people choose to be single. Some people want to find a husband or wife. Either way, we should pray for our single friends. For their purity. For their heart’s desire to find someone. For their faith to be strengthened as they face their everyday battles.
5. Leadership within the Church and the absence of Spiritual Abuse
Pray for the leaders in the church to remain humble to God’s heart, strengthened by God’s grace, and abundant in God’s mercies. When leaders fall, they fall heard. Even Moses, after everything he accomplished, was not able to enter the promise land for failing to follow God’s instructions. The people had conditionally disobeyed God and they were allowed to enter.
Being a leader is hard. Pray for your leaders.
6. Volunteers and workers that make the church run, but may go unseen
It takes a lot for a church to function. Pray for those who volunteer their time – teaching our children, giving rides to their neighbors, taking out the trash, cleaning up the empty coffee cups people didn’t throw away from Sunday’s service (or worst, the Kleenexes left on the seats!)
Make sure to recognize and pray for those whose jobs are not from the pulpit or paid staff.
Last, but certainty not least, pray for those who have left their homes, their extended families, and even their country to take the Gospel to every nation. We need these dedicated people to be strengthened in order to carry out the task God has laid on their lives. It’s not necessarily a glorious tasks. Many missionaries choose to live in poverty ridden countries and in unknown cultures just for the hopes of saving at least one person. Some missionaries might never see the impact of their work this side of heaven.
Pray for our missionaries.
Of course there are many other things we can pray for daily. The church is constantly under attack. But, if we come together to pray for these things daily, then think about the difference we can make in our homes, in our communities, and in our world.
I remember when fall was just beginning last year. The leaves were turning colors and the air was crisp. We were just transitioning from September to October. Halloween items began creeping into store and in the back, the Christmas items had been set out too. I always found it a bit odd to bring out Christmas decorations so early. (And I, for one, love Christmas time.)
Now that the holidays are over, it’s barely January and the stores are decked out with Valentine’s Day gifts and some spring items as well. Why is it that we are always looking for the ‘next big thing?’ We have 8 people living in our home – my husband and our six children. None of us share a birthday month. That means, 8 months out of the year we are celebrating someone who made it through another year of life. And as soon as one celebration ends, we begin to look forward to the next.
But are we spending too much time looking at what’s ahead and forgetting to live in ‘today?’ Instead of living in the moment, why do we work and plan for the next big event or big adventure? Are we missing out on the day to day blessings because we’re too focused on the future?
I’m guilty of this. I also know there is nothing bad about planning and preparing for the future. But when our minds become so focused on what’s ahead instead of what’s right now, we can easily miss out on our own lives.
Let’s be mindful of today. How can you make the most out of your ‘now?’ Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer. All I can do is my best to try and stay in the moment, be thankful for the ‘now,’ while trusting God with my future.
What about you? How do you live for each day? Or, what holds you back from experiencing life as it’s happening instead of life as it will be? It’s the difference between ‘living’ and being ‘alive.’ Because I do believe there is a difference.
In my last post, 5 Signs that Your Ministry Needs a Facelift, I addressed the signs which indicate that your ministry might need some fine tuning. But before you throw in the towel and simply ‘quit,’ here are a few things you might do to help revive your ministry and your passion for your ministry. We will consider 5 simple things: WHY, WHAT, WHO, ADVERTISING, and SMALL VICTORIES.
1. WHY – Your Mission Statement
Think back to when you first had the vision for your ministry. Why was this something you wanted to do? What drove you? I would encourage you to create a mission statement that reveals your heart behind why you believe this is what God is calling you to do.
Maybe you already have a mission statement, but’s filed away somewhere with dust all over it. Grab it! Dust it off. Does it need rewording or fine tuning? Think about your WHY, create a mission statement and hang it somewhere you will be able to see it. That way, on the days that aren’t so fun, you can easily be reminded of why you do what you do.
Your ‘what’ may be defined in your mission statement, but think about what need you are meeting. Every ministry will have a primary function – Bible study, fellowship, counseling, etc. What need is being met by YOUR ministry. Be specific. Don’t think that you have to meet ALL needs ALL the time. Focus on the ONE thing your ministry provides.
For example, an outreach ministry will focus on meeting new people. Yes, you will naturally grow into deeper relationships with the people within your ministry. But if growing the relationships become more primary than the outreach, the people you want to ‘reach’ may feel left out because they haven’t built that relationship yet.
Who is your intended audience? Is there a specific people group you want to reach with your ministry. We see this in church all the time – children’s ministry, youth ministry, women’s ministry, etc. Who is your target audience? Is it the single moms, divorcees, people who just lost a loved one?
You don’t have to be so exclusive within your ministry. I attend some of our ‘singles ministry’ events because they are fun. And I’m NOT single. But think about who you would ideally like to be a part of your ministry. This will help you decide how to approach the next phase – advertising.
When you know your target audience, you will be able to advertise to that specific group. For example, millennials and teenagers will more than likely notice social media ads. There are also a lot of different apps you could use to communicate within your group. If your audience is on their phones all of the time, then it might be time for a change.
The people who have been coming to your church for a while MIGHT read the events calendar or message board, but don’t rely solely on a piece of paper to do your advertising for you. However, if you are advertising to women, I’ve found one of the best places is on the bathroom stalls!
In my opinion, word of mouth is the best way to get people to show up to your events. But don’t rely solely on an announcement from the pulpit. You can say the same announcement every Sunday to the same person and sometimes they still won’t have a clue.
5. CELEBTRAT THE SMALL VICTORIES
When I first started my workout ministry at our church, we had 40 people show up the first night! That was more than I could have ever imagined. Of course, most of them wanted to come check it out since it was a brand new concept. After the first few weeks, our numbers dwindled.
We’ve had our numbers spike at different times of the year and others we’ve had no one show up. We can expect anywhere between 4 and 12 on a given Monday. Recently, our numbers have been 1-2, and sometimes zero. It was pretty discouraging. We took a break over the holidays and decided we were going to revamp. We advertised on different social media platforms.
We did have 3 new people this past week. It wasn’t the grand number I expected at the start of the new year, but I’ll take it. Sometimes, it’s not about numbers. I’ve grown close to the those few people who have been consistent over the past year. And while new people bring a level of excitement, I’m still thankful for the growing relationships I have with my ‘regular’ attenders.
But, if you really believe God is calling you in a different direction, then I encourage you to pray about it. God calls us out of many things to bring us into new exciting adventures. Always have an open conversation with him. He won’t lead you down the wrong path. After all, the ministry is for Him, right?
What ministries are you a part of? Are they working well? What tips do you have to keep the fire alive within a ministry? Let me know in the comments below!
Beginning a new ministry is so exciting! There are a flood of emotions and you dream of how many lives will be impacted through your program of Bible study. But eventually, those feelings wear off and it might seem more like “work” than ministry.
Are you tired and weary? Do you wonder if your ministry is making a difference or have you lost the passion and drive you once had when it began? Don’t worry. You’re normal! Overtime the excitement of something new fades away. It doesn’t always mean you throw in the towel. Sometimes, it just means you need a change. As a previous pastor of mine once said, “The barn needs a new coat of paint every once in a while.” Here are 5 signs that your ministry might need a facelift.
1. Low Attendance
We all dream of impacting hundreds of lives, maybe even thousands. But what happens when only 1 or 2 people show up? Low numbers aren’t always a bad thing. Remember, Jesus spent most his time and ministry with 12 men, and the argument can be made that he had 3 close disciples.
Sometimes low numbers, and even one-on-one discipleship is important. But if your ministry is designed to be a larger group setting, or if your numbers have increasingly dropped over the months or years – you might need to rethink your strategy.
2. It’s a Burden or Obligations for those who do Attend
You may have a steady group of people attending, but are they there because they want to be, or because they are your friends and feel the need to be? Yes, sometimes it’s good to be pushed and do things we don’t feel like doing. It’s like going to the gym. We may not always want to go, but we feel better afterwards and we know it’s good for us.
But if the people who come aren’t being filled spiritually or motivated to be a better person, then you might have to ask yourself, “What’s the point?” Are you doing the same thing because it’s what has always been done? Is the ministry more about you than them? These are tough questions to ask ourselves, but self assessment is good for all of us. (Although the honesty of it can be painful. We can either sulk about it, or make a change.)
3. The Ministry Aspect has Diminished or is Gone
It happens to the best of us. We begin a new ministry and we become very close to those who attend. After a while, we continue in order to see our friends and we forget to do things like pray beforehand or talk about God at all. The ‘ministry’ becomes more of a social club.
This isn’t always bad. It’s great to develop good relationships with close friends. Doing life together is what this is all about. But to an outsider looking in, your ‘ministry’ may seem more like a ‘clique.’ Be able to be honest with yourself and make the distinction.
4. Your Ministry is Your Master
Yes, ministry is good. But if you spend more time focusing on your ‘ministry’ than your family or other relationships in your life, it might be time to give it up, or back it off. Jesus never asks us to sacrifice our family. It may be tempting to allow your ‘ministry’ to become your master or your ‘god.’ But we must resist this temptation.
Yes, all ministry takes sacrifice. But if you’re at meetings 4 nights a week and missing your child’s soccer games – you might be sacrificing more than you need to. Time with the people you love is precious and something you can’t give back. My husband is a pastor. He schedules ‘family time’ on his calendar 4 times a week and blocks those hours or days off specifically to spend with me and our children.
5. Your Heart is Just Not in it
If you’ve found yourself in the position where your ministry is your burden, it might be time to revamp. Maybe you need a break, or maybe you just need to redefine your purpose. People are smart. If you don’t buy into what you’re saying, they won’t either.
God gives us the gift of ministry to participate in His plan for saving the world. He gives us each passions and desires. Pray and ask Him what He wants you do do. After all, isn’t all of this for Him anyway? He’ll guide you if you just ask.
One Final Note:
Don’t be discouraged if you think your ministry needs a facelift. This is an exciting opportunity. It’s permission to begin again or start something brand new.
Did you like this post? Be sure to subscribe and follow to be notified when I publish my next post – How to Revamp a Ministry.
Questions? Comments? Contact Me or leave them in the comment section below! And as always, Live Life on Purpose.
As 2019 comes to a close, many of us will take the time to reflect on the past and prepare for the future. The New Year can bear an array of emotional feelings – excitement, joy, accomplishment, but also regret, remorse, or mournful. Whether you accomplished all your 2019 New Year’s Resolutions or none of them, how do we prepare our hearts, our homes, and our ministries for 2020? May I suggest, that we begin with a 2020 vision.
It doesn’t matter what your goals are for 2020. They may be personal, spiritual, physical – they may be within your home, your church, or another ministry; whatever the case, if you want to accomplish them – and I mean REALLY accomplish them, you need a ‘game plan.’ There are many websites and articles about how to accomplish specific goals, but this post isn’t about that.
How we do have a TRUE 2020 vision and accomplish almost any goal you set out to achieve? Might I suggest a 2020 vision, a path, dedicated entirely to the Lord? You will wake up tomorrow with (God willing) 365 days ahead of you in this New Year. That’s 365 chances to wake up and say, “Good Morning, Lord.” That’s 365 chances to make a difference – to finally make the change.
It doesn’t matter what your goals are for 2020. Invite the Lord into ALL of them. And make Him a priority. Do you want Joy in the 2020 season? The Bible says,
Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.
In my last post, Legalism and Lies, I outlined specific lies we tend to believe about ourselves. How do we break free from those lies? We use the Bible. Let’s search for the truth behind the Gospel and stop believing what ‘culture’ tells us. Let’s break free from legalism.
The Lies We Believe
1. I don’t read my Bible everyday. I’m not good enough.
But the Bible doesn’t say that the ‘readers of the word’ will be redeemed. James 1:21-22 says receive the word with meekness – or gentleness – and be doers of the word. Yes, it’s good read our Bibles. But that doesn’t earn our way into Heaven. If we go through a season and find ourselves struggling… I’m not good enough. But the Jesus inside me is.
2. I watched an R rated movie…I’m not worthy of the Gospel…
But if I decide in my heart to put on the robe of righteousness, Revelation 3:4 “they shall walk with him in white for they are worthy” then we become worthy – not because of anything I have or haven’t done. But because of what Jesus has already on the cross for me.
3. I said a bad word when I got angry. I’m not strong enough.
Psalm 34:18 “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” — He can’t be near to the brokenhearted if our hearts aren’t broken
6. I can’t memorize these verses! I’m just not smart enough…
But I can do my best. And God sees and acknowledges that. That’s why Jesus simplified even the 10 commandments by breaking it down into: Love the Lord. Love your neighbors. I can remember that.
7. This is too hard …
2 Corinthians 12:9 God says, “I like it when you are weak. Because my power is made perfect in weakness.”
His power is made perfect in your weakness. What is holding you back? Have you been living as a Pharisee? – putting all these conditions and locks on your heart because of your own thoughts about yourself or what you have to do?
We don’t need all these ‘rules’ and ‘extra’ stuff for God to love us. He already does. It’s time to stop believing the lies and start searching for the truth in His Word.
In my last post, The Rise of the Pharisees and Legalism in the Church, I discussed how the Pharisees became so legalist in their viewpoint of the Old Testament Law that they actually pushed people away from following God. They simply made it too hard. But don’t we do the same thing today? What are the common lies we believe about the Gospel? About ourselves?
Extra Rules and Cultural Influences
What kind of cultural influences or ‘extra rules’ have we added which make following Christ seem more like a burden? Are we turning people away from the Gospel because we make it too hard? Are we shaming ourselves into believing we’re not good enough because we make it too hard?
I grew up with a legalistic view of the church. Here are some ‘rules’ that were given to me as a kid:
You can’t eat lucky charms…because as Christians, we don’t believe in luck.
We don’t watch 100 Dalmatians…because Cruella Devil’s name is spelled like devil.
We don’t go to the movie theater…because we don’t want people to think we’re seeing something inappropriate.
I grew up in a small town. When the movie, The Passion of Christ came out in 2004, the pastors in our church drove 30 minutes to a nearby bigger city just to see it – so no one from our congregation would see them and think they were seeing another film. They did not want to have the ‘appearance of evil.’
Just think for a moment about your own holiday traditions. How many family arguments begin over how we’re going to celebrate Christmas, or Easter? Times that are supposed to be celebrated as ‘Christian tradition’ quickly turn into disputes over trivial details. Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, A Christmas tree – wisemen on the manger scene…
Do you see how easy it is to lock God away and presume a cultural view of Christianity? Think about other cultures for a moment. America is known as a ‘Christian’ nation. When people in Asia, or Africa, or India, think about America, what do they see? If they were to Google ‘America’ – pictures related to Hollywood, Taylor Swift, Brittany Spears, Michael Jackson…think about the cultural movements happening today that would show up.
From an outsider’s perspective, how is the culture of Christianity reflected in our nation? If you live in Asia and think ‘American = Christian’, would that bring your closer to the Gospel or push you further away? Let’s reverse it.
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear ‘Iran? Iraq? Saudie Arabia? North Korea?’ Do their cultural norms reflect places and a people you would want to be associated with? Probably not. But here’s an interesting fact – Some of the countries, which send out the most missionaries per capita – meaning compared to the population – to spread a ‘Jesus following’ or a Christian message are South Korea, Mongolia, Palestine, and even China…in fact a 2012 study cited that America actually receives more missionaries than many other countries.
People are coming TO America to try and make us Christian.
The word ‘Christian’ is used 3 times in the Bible. And one of those uses was an insult.
Paul is speaking with King Agrippa, pleading his case and the King said, “Do you think you can persuade ME to be a Christian?” It’s a challenge.
But let’s take this down to a personal level. What happens when we push God away and presume a cultural and personal view of the Gospel? What keeps us from getting inside? We don’t want God to see our shame, or our guilt. If God is far from us, he can’t be touched by our own uncleanliness. You may have good intentions…so did the Pharisees. But what’s holding you back?
Let’s think about the common viewpoints of Christian Culture.
In order to be a good Christian, I must…
Read my Bible everyday …but what happens when we don’t? We’re shamed into thinking “I’m not good enough.”
…Never watch an R rated movie…maybe not even PG-13…..So what happens when I do? “I’m not worthy enough – I don’t deserve God”
…Never say a cuss word….so what happens the next time I bump my toe, or lose my temper, or just slip up?… “I’m not strong enough.”
…Always volunteer to pray….. In fact, if I were to say “let’s pray” – what’s the first thing you would do? Even this is cultural. If I look around the room and say, “let’s pray” most of you would bow your head and close your eyes. I went to China in 2010 and when someone said ‘Let’s Pray’ there, everyone’s hands went up in the air. Is one way right, or wrong? No. But our culture might say so – Growing up, every time it was time to pray in Sunday School our teacher would shout ‘heads bowed, eyes closed, hands folded and in your lap.’ Then you would laugh at the kid who would tell on someone for having their eyes open during prayer – “Miss Morgan, Jaimie had her eyes open.”… how do you know? Did you see her?…If you don’t volunteer to pray you think… “I’m not spiritual enough.”
..Memorize the the Bible…yes, the whole thing! “I’m just not smart enough.”
…Listen to Christian Music – ONLY – dress a certain way, walk a certain way, talk a certain way – Do this, don’t do that… “It’s too hard.”
…I must always be happy – Christians don’t get sad, or upset, or depressed…so when we do we think, “What’s wrong with me? God can’t see me like this? I am not enough”
What lies do you believe about yourself? About God? About the Bible?
We will always put our culture on the Bible. It’s how we relate to the stories and make it personal to us. It’s human nature. When we do this, or, at least when I do, I tend to reframe scripture to make it fit into a way that makes sense to me.
Or, perhaps you tend to shy away from the Bible because it’s hard to understand. “I just don’t get it.” So, we just skip the parts that are too complicated.
We forget that we live in a different culture and therefore, we don’t have the same understanding of the Gospel – unless we begin to put ourselves in the cultural mindset of Jesus. That’s how we get down to the truth – and stop believing the lies.
In my post Women’s Ministry: Planning the Upcoming Year, I talked about the vision I had for our 2019 Women’s Ministry Year. I also outlined steps for planning the upcoming year with a 20/20 vision. While planning our previous year I had the opportunity to study and create teachings surrounding our topic.
Legalism has effected my view of the church since early childhood. I grew up in a very legalistic church. But it came to my attention that the Pharisees, often the ‘villains’ of the new testament, began just like the rest of us. They wanted to love God and follow his laws. So what happened? Here was my first teaching at our Women’s renewal.
Imagine with me…
The year is 971 B.C. (before Christ was even born) This was the year of King Solomon. Imagine living as an Israelite under the rule of the richest, most prosperous country the world had ever seen. God was in control – and the people knew it. The law of Moses had been handed down. The people meditated on it day and night. People came to the temple to offer sacrifices and high priest would offer them up to God so the people’s sins would be covered. Everyone looked to your nation – Kings and Queens came from far and wide, not only to see the King you served, but to find out about the God you worshiped. The God you honored. Your God was the one true God and now the nations knew it.
Sure, your ancestors screwed up and wandered the desert for 40 years because of their disobedience…but you really don’t talk about that. Saul became the King…but you really don’t talk about that either. You heard stories of David, Solomon’s daddy. Now David was as brave as they come. He faced the giant – Goliath. He fought wars and battles, and the Lord was with him. All the blood shed, so that you could live in a time of peace. The temple was finally being built. A permanent place for God to dwell among the people. This is the life!
But near the end of Solomon’s reign, things began to change. Solomon brought in foreign wives and with those foreign wives came foreign gods. Sometime after Solomon, this nation that was so united, suddenly splits. No longer agreeing on a king…or a god.
The Years Pass…
Now, the year is 571 B.C. You only hear stories about the powerful reign of a king named Solomon that happened so long ago. You are living in Babylon. In exile. You are struggling to survive. A kingdom so prosperous, so powerful – seems like a legend more than a history.
Your father honors the God of David. The God of Father Abraham, of Isaac, and Jacob. Your father, just like his father before him, still believes in the one true God of Israel. He reads to you from the Torah every night. Your family is dedicated to keeping the law of Moses.Your mamma tells you stories of Moses crossing the Red Sea and Joshua and entering the promised land.
However, you try and comforter her when she begins to cry. You see, the temple that once held a permanent dwelling place for God had been destroyed a few short years ago. Where was God now? In the middle of Babalyonian exile where everyday is a struggle to stay alive?
The year is now 165 B.C. You’ve heard the stories of your people. From their exile in Babylon where all hope seemed lost, to the fall of the Babaloyian Empire to the Persians. A glimmer of hope was raised when King Cyrus allowed some of your people to begin to return home. The Temple had been rebuilt and the people were turning back to God. Your heart leaps as the thought of a possible return to a nation that is united back to its former glory – of that when King Solomon reigned.
But that never happened. Yes, the temple had been rebuilt; however, it was smaller and was never restored to its former glory. The Jews had returned to Palestine; but they never ruled as their own. There was no king of Israel. It was simply a puppet nation to be used by the Persians for their benefit.
Possibly, the only glimmer of hope was that the Aaronic priests were still worshiping and carrying on the sacred rites as they had been ordered to do by the law of Moses. At least some of the Jews were honoring the God of their ancestors. You are one of them. Even when God had seemed distant and silent, you still obeyed the law. And now it was time to do something about it.
You are tired of seeing king after king come in and conquer your nation. Each brings a different god or gods with them everytime and you see your people slipping from the faith they once held. From the Persians, to Alexander the Great, from being conquered by the Greeks, and now Syria – it is time to retake your temple. Your people. Your God.
The Maccabean Revolt
So, you gather with fellow Israelits who are on fire for God and want to keep his law pure and you revolt. You’ve seen the foreign gods and religious practices that have been intermingling with your Bible and you are sick of it! You want to preserve the law of Moses and turn the hearts of the people back to the one true God.
This is your Bible, you want to protect it! You want to ensure your people’s salvation. Nothing can make it unclean – you’ve witnessed false prophets, corrupt priests, and people claiming to be the one Messiah…all of who have turned out to be liars.
So, you separate the truth from the lies. You go even further – you add more rules and regulations to show how much your are devoted to Allah. And in order to protect the laws of God – you lock them away. Nothing will be able to make God’s word unclean. You would even kill to keep it pure.
My friends, that was the rise of the Pharisees. With all good intentions. They wanted to turn the hearts of the people back towards God.
So What Happened?
By the time Jesus came onto the scene, the Pharisees became so legalistic in their view of the law of Moses that it became almost like a competition. Not only to preserve it, but who could do it the best. “I can keep this law better than you and this is how.”
Because they wanted to set themselves apart for God – to not get caught up in all the other religious groups and other gods that foreign countries brought in every time they were conquered by someone else – they kept adding more ‘laws’ to keep themselves pure.
Here is just one example. Moses wrote in
“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places.”
The problem…what constitutes as ‘work?’ There was debate, so they had to make a law. According to the Pharisees, ‘work’ meant that you are not to lift anything that is burdensome. Great!
But, what was burdensome? Another law had to be established to explain this. ‘Burdensome’ was defined as food in weight equal to a dry fig; wine enough for a mixing goblet; milk enough for one swallow; or ink enough to write 2 letters of the alphabet.
Okay. But how big of a mixing goblet? Who determines how much a ‘swallow is?’
These rules, beget more rules, that beget more rules; suddenly people would be shamed for carrying 2 glasses of milk or lifting up their children; you were cut off from God for lifting up a handful of dried figs.
The law of Moses had 613 laws. The Pharisees had added over 5000 oral traditions, or rules, that they expected people to follow to show they believed in the one true God. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time remembering the 10 commandments. Imagine how hard it would be to follow God if you had to observe and obey over 5000 rules. And breaking just one – caring for the sick on the sabbath, picking up your child -would shame you and ostracized you from the temple…from God.
You see, the Pharisees wanted to live for God so badly that they put their own rules and regulations on top of the law.
Sometimes, I, as Christian living in American in 2019, can relate to the Pharisees. They are often vilified, when the only thing that set out to do was keep the word of God pure.
Don’t we do the same thing today? Haven’t we ‘Personalized the Bible’ to fit our own cultural or personal beliefs?
We learn about God in 3 ways.
1) We Read what the Bible says about Him.
2) We hear what other people believe about Him.
3) We experience Him through our own lives in prayer and worship.
And sometimes, we can put more weight onto what other people say about God, or what we think about him, rather than what the Bible has to say.
How do we overcome legalism? I’ll give you some examples in my next blog post! Subscribe to make sure you get notified for each new posting!
Can’t wait to read what’s next? You can watch the entire teaching in the video below. This post covers the first part of it!
Questions? Comments? Leave me a note in the comment section below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
In my last post, The Dangers of Child Centered Parenting, I mentioned that children who always get what they want will not be prepared for the real world. But what happens to us, as parents, when our child is the center of our universe?
Let’s look at the story of Isaac and Rebekah and how they raised Jacob and Esau. If children remain the center of our lives, calamity always follows.
Isaac and Rebekah. It’s recorded for us in Genesis 24:67 that Isaac loved Rebekah deeply. This is unique because we have no other written account that couples loved each other in scripture. We can assume as much, but it’s not specifically written.
After they were married, they had 2 sons. As they grew, each son became the center of the other’s world.
“As the boys grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter. He was an outdoorsman, but Jacob had a quiet temperament, preferring to stay at home. Isaac loved Esau because he enjoyed eating the wild game Esau brought home, but Rebekah loved Jacob.”
This would have naturally led to a rivalry between the two brothers. They most likely competed for their parents love.
Eventually, it became time for Isaac to pass down the birthright to Esau. It’s hard for us to understand this concept because we don’t practice this in our culture. We usually divide our things up evenly between all our children in our wills. But this was more than just inheriting the family estate; it was actually the right to be in what would become Jesus’ lineage. The right to receive the promise that God had bestowed on Abraham.
Before their birth, they had been told by God that the younger would serve the older. Even though Jacob was younger than Esau (only by a few seconds because they were twins) he was to receive the family blessing and rule over his older brother.
So when Isaac wanted to bless Esau (because he loved him) – Rebekah came up with a plan to steal the blessing for Jacob (because she loved him). Esau became the center of Isaac’s world – so much so that he either forgot or didn’t believe God’s promise that Jacob would rule over Esau. And Jacob became the center of Rebekah’s world so much that she thought God had either forgotten or thought God wasn’t capable of fulfilling his promise on his own – so she took matters into her own hands.
When our kids are the center of our world – we dismiss all other relationships – our friends, our spouse, and sometimes even God.
The story goes on. Jacob tricks Isaac into giving him the blessing. Esau is rightfully upset and seeks to kill Jacob. Rebekah has to send Jacob away in order to save his life – and she never sees him again. She dies while he is away.
And no doubt, when Jacob left, she was upset. He was her world. Think about the tension it would have created in the family dynamic – both between Isaac and Rebekah and between Rebekah and Esau.
Develop good relationships with all of your children. Even when it’s hard. Even when they annoy you – because, yes, it will happen. Sometimes our personalities don’t mesh – but try that much harder. Try not to show favoritism.
One way to do that is by making sure you are saving room for other relationships, other hobbies – taking care of yourself, and making sure you equip yourself spiritually every single day to take on the responsibility of being a parent. Because one day, hopefully, your child will leave and you need to still have a life when they are gone.
When God it the center of your world – and not your children – everyone benefits. Rebekah gave up everything – the opportunity to be a good wife, a good mother to Esau, and her ability to trust that God would do what he had promised. It proved devastatingly painful in her later years. Don’t lose sight of what is important.
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