The Census That Really Mattered


I confess – when reading the first chapter of the Book of Numbers, I skipped over most of it.

Come on! A lot of names and numbers (no pun intended). But there are two things in the first 50 verses that just jump off the pages at me! And they are the following:

“The Lord spoke to Moses” (v. 1)

“For the Lord said” (v. 47)

What do you think that felt like for him? Have you ever thought about it? I have. Mostly because it made me feel like less of a freak in today’s world. When you tell people that God speaks to you – in His own voice sometimes – they look at you like you just stepped off the non-denominational crazy train into their presence. That’s no slur against non-doms. They are what they are and that’s their business. But in a good ‘ole Southern Baptist church, that’s not what folks are expecting to hear.

So I posed four questions to God about it this morning. Am I just super-lucky and blessed? Or do I just pay attention? Or is it part of Your plan that I don’t know yet? Or all three?

In case you’re wondering, He did not speak an answer to that. Guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

However, in this first chapter, something else interesting happens – God commands Moses to make a census. And he gets nothing like the information gleaned from one our country does periodically. As someone who has analyzed the data, I can tell you that for sure!

What God seems to want to know is how many men are of fighting age. Why? Well, keep reading the Old Testament, my friends, and you’ll figure out real quick. But then…something important is decided.

There are 12 tribes of Israel, but only the Levites (who become Levitical priests) are called not to fight. The reason is that He wants them to take care of the Tabernacle (the Temple tent that God dwelt in before a stone-and-mortar  building was erected much, much later).

See in Numbers 1: 50-51 “But appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings, and over all that belongs to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings, and they shall take care of it and shall camp around the tabernacle. When the tabernacle is to set out, the Levites shall take it down, and when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up. And if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death.“

So then, it begs the question – am I a fighter or a priest? Or – am I both?

You see, war is necessary. I don’t think all – or even most – of the wars fought throughout history were needed. But some of them were. And I do not have the character or moral fiber to fight in a war. At least, not a war between humans.

The answer, friends, is both. I am both a fighter and a “priest” – in the sense of someone who is responsible for taking care of my church, and the Christian Church as a whole. And what war do I fight? Why, the Battle Between Good and Evil. Otherwise known as the war between God and satan.

That war, y’all, has been going on since the beginning of time, practically. It rages every moment of every day. And you and I are a part of it. Check out Priscilla Shirer’s Bible study called The Armor of God and you will see what I mean. She can explain WAY better than I.

Today, the Church has a battle to fight – for our souls and the souls of others. But we also have a Church to take care of. Blessed God! He gave us multiple ways of doing so, using our gifts and talents He bestowed through the Holy Spirit.  I think this Bible.org post lists them in a clear and concise way.

Go forth, my brothers and sisters, and use your gifts to bless, serve, and protect each other – and those people who need Christ. We are called to do it! It is part of the commission we have been given. Blessings to you!

The Pitfall of Social Media & Humility


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Currently, I’m reading Children of the Day, a Beth Moore Bible study that has been fairly enlightening. And today, she hit me with the following quote:

“The heart of man has been a nest for narcissism since the day Adam and Eve decided to be in it for themselves. We may not be bigger glory-hounds than our great-grandparents, but inarguably we have more opportunities. Every social network can be a stage on which we bow for applause. We often strut our humility for approbation. Without God’s grace, where would we be?”

Ouch. Right?

During a family argument, it was brought to my attention that certain members of the extended family I married into feel that I post too much on social media. Hmm. I would have to concur!

Over the last year, I decided to quit my witchin and start posting encouraging sayings, Bible verses, or humorous photographs. I am fully aware that what I post is of no consequence to 99% of the world’s population. But it was important that I do it for myself. Because, you see, I have a very negative view of the world and myself in particular. And I was just as tired of posting argumentative questions, participating in post fights, and just in general being a whiny complainer.

Well, as anyone who knows me can attest, I am an open book. And my Mama would add that I have no filter. So put those two together and what comes out? Blog posts about my mistakes and the lessons I’ve learned through them.

All intended to help others. Right?

I thought so. And then Mrs. Moore hit me straight between the eyes. And I have to think about that.

Do I share personal information because I want to help someone avoid the trials I suffered from them? Or because I don’t like secrets and want everyone to know what they’re getting into when they become a friend? Because I don’t like surprises? Because I want to show that although a (very) weak vessel, God can still use me?

Maybe – all of the above? Are my motives always 100% pure? I’d have to conclude that they aren’t. Mostly because deep down, I want a little applause. Ok. Maybe not so deep down. Sure, I want to be valued as a Christian woman. As a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. And it’s true that people won’t trust you with their feelings and needs if they think you’re perfect.

Lucky for me, that’s never been an issue. But I think it might be time to pray more. For wisdom, for “should I say that, Lord?” and for “help me not to say that, Lord!”

The need for applause is human. I think prayer will cleave the pride from the humble.

Social media provides all kinds of platforms – political, familial, religious – and while we all know we shouldn’t air our dirty laundry (especially that involving our “friends” on FB), it’s hard to know how much to share about our personal failings.

I think it will always make private people, or those who aren’t entirely open about their sins, uncomfortable when in the presence of true humility when it comes to sin. I believe it makes them totally twitchy. Maybe even offended.

But if we saved our social media postings for good, rather than gossip and backbiting and veiled barbs at others (oh please, just “guess” who I’m talking about, will you?), the world would be a happier place.

And if we were humbly honest when it was needed, I think that would be a big step in the right direction too. Blessings y’all!

Forgiveness Isn’t a Hallmark Card


Well, it’s not. It sounds that way when other people do it. They look so beatific and peaceful. But when it’s my turn – your turn perhaps? – it’s hard and my stomach is tied in knots. I’m angry and hurt, frustrated, heartbroken even – and forgiveness is just too much work.

I was given a reprieve from work about, oh, 14 years ago. I headed to a park nearby because it was such a beautiful day. And even though God and I weren’t on the same speaking terms we are now, I still talked to Him and prayed – and even read my Bible. But we didn’t have the intimate, restorative relationship we have now. Which totally debunks the whole “miracles don’t happen anymore” theory I have heard lately and the idea that if you aren’t as close to God as you should be, He won’t help you.

Y’all, that is a bald-faced lieGod knows your heart more thoroughly than anyone on the face of the planet – even if you don’t know His. And sometimes, He comes through for you in a big big way just to show you Who’s boss. Like He did for me that day.

I didn’t come to the park thinking about a significant person in my life. I didn’t even talk about him to God that day. I just thanked God for the beauty around me, and asked that He provide the money to make up the hours I wasn’t getting paid at work that day. Somehow.

Well, He didn’t. He gave me a much bigger gift – the present of forgiveness For some reason, He laid miraculous, supernatural forgiveness of this significant person on my heart that day. The truly amazing thing was that on that day 14 years ago, or so, I didn’t even realize how fully I had forgiven this person!

I just knew my hatred of him was gone. In the years to come, in his presence, I would no longer cower, or grow angry. I would usually laugh at the stupid, inane lies he told me about myself. Sometimes I would even laugh out loud. Oh y’all, I still do! It’s been more than a decade and that forgiveness is still a daily part of my life about this person!

However, here’s the thing people: this isn’t how forgiveness is supposed to work! This was truly, really, believe me – a miracle. God doesn’t make forgiveness this easy on us 99.99999% of the time.

Makes you mad, doesn’t it? Here’s someone who has hurt you and maybe even done unspeakable things to you – and not only are you supposed to forgive this person, but also you’re supposed to do it gracefully, effortlessly, despite the very real repercussions that you may have to suffer through – for the rest of your life.

You think I don’t have those? I sure do. Those things done to me – those things I did to myself – I have to live with that awful nasty terrible ugly crap too! Consequences aren’t just born of what we do; they’re born of what others do to us.

Forgive, huh God? Oh yes – you’ve maybe even heard it said that forgiveness isn’t just about the other person – it’s really for you. So you can go on without a stained conscience and with peace in your heart.

Well, let me tell you something – I don’t think that’s the whole point of forgiveness, and if you disagree, let me turn your attention to Mark 11: 25 And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. (KJV)

Did you get that last part? If you do not forgive, you will not be forgiven. Now that’s a pretty big problem huh?

Forgiveness isn’t usually a miracle and it’s rarely easy. It’s a choice you may have to make every day for an indeterminate amount of time! I’ve spent years forgiving people. YEARS.

And yet – how many years has someone – or some people – spent forgiving me?

What is Endurance?


Sometimes, I get so tired of studying and pondering the Word that my brain hurts. Today is one of those days. And guess what I stumbled upon in my journal? Yep. Endurance. Awesome Lord. I get it.

The subject I’m addressing today is joy despite a trial, and endurance plays a huge part of that process. Here are a few words that I love, love, love – that are synonymous with endurance:

ability   capacity   courage   fortitude   grit    mettle   persistence   tenacity   

                                      vitality   cool   moxie   pluck   starch

So. God is pretty clear on how our perspective should change when under the fire of suffering. And that’s the courage, the fortitude, the moxie – to endure. To endure without quitting and to endure in a lasting way, because if we quit – if we don’t last – what was the point of the whole thing?

Our pastor, Thomas Hammond, preached about all this, and it resonated because it’s human nature to quit when things get hard – a job, a marriage, a friend, a dream – and that’s when satan sneaks in, I think, to taunt us as to how huge a miserable failure we are.

But we’re not, y’all. We’re just people. And so who or what can you reach for when you’re tempted to quit? God, of course – and the Word. But find people you admire who have thrived despite adversity. Call on them for guidance and encouragement. They won’t mind – someone did the same for them when they were about to chuck it all and lose their pluck.

Do I Only Surrender Once?


For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of strength and of love and of temperance. ~~~2 Timothy 7:1

Control.

Manipulation of others/situations.

Trying harder.

No. None of the above! TRUST. That’s it. That’s what surrender is mostly made up of. That and expecting God to show up while being patient about what you (or someone else in trouble) needs.

That’s surrender, my friends, according to Pastor Rick Warren.

Why do I mention this? Well, in trying to work through some anger issues in a godly manner, I ran across a book called What’s Good About Anger? and found that false assumptions, unbelief, and lack of surrender all contribute (in part) to rage and anger.

But…I surrendered my life to Christ 28 years ago, so…why do I have to do it again?

Folks, there’s that initial giving over of yourself, no doubt. It’s the  most important decision. The most important time to surrender. But it doesn’t end there. Dying to self, I suppose, is a much longer process! It can get overwhelming if you have a lot of ground to cover in regards to sin or mistakes (with long-lasting consequences). It can get real stressful.

The thing is, that stress only increases when you add manipulation and control. Because instead of forcing everything and everyone to be and do my way, I have to deal with disappointment, loss, grief, and hurt feelings. I have to feel all of it, give it over to the Lord, and forgive. And that’s work. Work I don’t usually want to do because I feel entitled to not have to.

That’s just plain wrong and a bad way to live because you simply cannot control and manipulate people and things 100% of the time. People in your life will resent you, and there you are left all alone. No way to live.

Trust. Wait. Expect. Three little words that pack a big punch of work and faith.

Are You a “Rules” Girl?


.Currently, I’m studying Beth Moore’s Children of the Day. I’m finding it a bit hard going; the way she writes doesn’t flow naturally to me. However, she’s a fine Christian woman and I enjoy learning from her, so what I read today struck me so much I wanted to share it with you.

Remember “the rules” of being a young, single woman? Protect yourself (yeah, sorry, but it was one of them); don’t call him first; don’t respond before twenty-four hours have passed; meet him somewhere on your first date instead of letting him pick you up – etc. There were many and I don’t remember them much because I didn’t follow them.

I don’t like rules. I’d rather blaze my own path. Ask for forgiveness later. This isn’t true in all aspects, though – because if I care about the person making the rules, or the rules that apply to being in relationship to that person, I don’t want to break them. Or worse, I want them to always defend and forgive when I do. Because hey – I’m just me! I’m awesome! So I make huge mistakes. I’m worth the risk.

Arrogance. Pride. Two things I absolutely detest in others and am sometimes blind to seeing in myself. But these awful attributes are there and they refuse to go quietly. So when I’m exhausted, stressed to the max, anxious, sick – I tend to rely on rules to feel better!

  1. You have to be gentle and kind to me because I’m a woman. Who cares how shrewish I’ve been? I’m a girl! A mother…a wife…a Christian….
  2. I’m sick (tired, stressed, whatever) so you must cater to me
  3. I’m more experienced/wise in this area so I must be right

What a waste of time! Beth Moore puts it this way: “When spiritual people are down to the dregs, we often grip tighter to what we have left: our legalism. We fill up the loss with the law. Don’t go there. Keep believing, hoping, and loving. All else is just existing.”

Girl, it sure is. What ways to do you resort to legalism (whether spiritual or cultural) when you’re low on love, health, sleep, fun? How can we stop ourselves?

Prevention isn’t the only cure here, but of course it helps. If you don’t know what triggers your legalistic responses, figure it out ASAP and when you feel it, do what you have to do to get through your day and then go home. Unplug the phone. Turn off the tv. Put down the electronic device almost permanently attached to your ear. And rest. Rest in His love.

When you’ve got it together, think this through. That’s what I’m doing right now and will be in this season I’m currently in – of figuring out what sets off my legalistic, angry, irritated tendencies. And then working through it with God to stop. Because she is so right – everything else is just existing!

Why Conscience isn’t a Consistent Indicator of God’s Will


Whilst studying my Priscilla Shirer this morning, I came across this explanation of what a conscience is. I have left out some words in the following excerpt. They do not change the meaning of her words; they just shortened it so that I could write the passage in my journal more quickly:

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“[E]very person’s conscience is…based on…environment and specific life circumstances…shaped by…tradition and the truth or lies to which it has been exposed.”

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She’s telling us our conscience isn’t an appropriate indicator of God’s will in our lives; that they are not always pleasing to the LORD.

I immediately struck on a tendency I have towards violence, in that in some situations I believe it is perfectly acceptable. God will forgive, right? So why is it that I lean towards aggression while others shy away from it, and why is it that I feel people (especially men) who are peaceable, are weak?

Hmm. I come from a rather violent place. Rural, poor areas tend to lean more towards aggression to settle disputes and maintain order. It was a natural part of life for the families around ours. When something wrong was done to another, it was often settled by violence.

Shirer is so right. I do not respect people who’s first inclination is to be a peacemaker (as God tells us to do!) because it is weak to back down. Let’s be honest – it’s also because I think people like that are cowards.

I have grown a bit in this area – theoretically. It’s much easier for me to mindfully follow peace instead of pursuing brutality. But in practice, violent words escape from my mouth in an all-too frequent procession. And there are many who would celebrate that!

The lesson here is that while my conscience may be perfectly clear with handling an annoyance or grievance with aggressive words, my Bible is perfectly clear that God does not want that. I must learn to yield to the Word, not my conscience, when they are at odds.

Doesn’t mean I won’t have those sinful feelings – it just means I mustn’t act on them. Let’s pray for each other that we don’t!