04/29 – Numbers 25, 27, 32, 33, 34, Deuteronomy 4

Numbers 27:15-17, 32, Deuteronomy 4:41-43, Numbers 33:50-56, 25:17-19, 34, 35:1-8
The further I get into my chronological Bible, the more the days readings can jump around a bit. Today is especially scattered.
Num. 27:18 – If only it were this easy today to tell what leader is God’s. I’m partly kidding as we have the scriptures to test our leaders against. But some like to compare leadership positions today to these Old Testament times. I don’t think it’s wise to do that.
Deut. 4:41-43 – God’s heart for those caught in an unfortunate situation. Cities of refuge – a place to flee to. God knew that a death at the hand of another, even accidental, brings great anguish and emotions that may lead to further sin and violence. God provided a place for the man to go to escape while the emotions calmed and the truth was discerned. Protection for both the perpetrator and the victim’s family.
Num. 33:50-56 – Think about having to carry out this order, to destroy them all or become a target yourself. Surely, there would be times that you’d get to know those people. Could you still carry it out? Rahab the prostitute in Jericho would be an exception that God would approve of (even tracing the line of Jesus through her), but later the people would grow weary and loose their conviction about carrying this out.
Num. 25:17-19 – Interesting that God puts the carrying out of His judgment in the hands of the people.
Num. 35:1-8 – God’s heart – “Make sure you tae care of the Levites, their special position gives them no tribal inheritance. Take care of and provide for them.”

Celebacy, Obviously

I found this great post over at a new blog I’ve been visiting called Radical Congruency. The two authors are from a similar (Church of Christ) background which I find encouraging.
The post was all about how Christians tend to treat those who are gay differently that folks that struggle with other sins. Why is it that this one sin is more difficult to separate for the person that others? Somehow I think that Jesus wouldn’t do that. He’d chastise and rebuke them for their sin, but not discard them for their weaknesses. I know of more than one brother who have an ongoing temptation for lust and pornography. How is homosexual temptation any different? They are a part of a close knit support group to help them overcome, why shouldn’t we do them same for those who identify themselves as ‘gay’?
We all have our weaknesses and we all have looked at others and not understood why some other sin tempts them so much. Let’s stand firm on sin but love the sinner.

04/26 – Numbers 25, 31 and 26

Numbers 25, Numbers 31, Numbers 26
Num. 25:10-13 – Here’s an example of what it means to be zealous for God’s honor. He was not concerned for his own safety – he walked in on a leader in the midst of adultry! He did not let the fact that this man’s sin was between him and God stop him from stnading up for the Lord. It wasn’t really just between him and God, he in open defiance, paraded her through the campo in front of the people who were trying to tunr away rom this sin. He may not have even notived thier weeping (Num. 25:6) as he brought her to his tent. He certainly did not have God or the people on his mind.
Num. 31 – It seems I should write something about this, but what? What does it say about the heart of God to see such seeming brutality? Moses is angry that they haven’t killed the women and children. He even orders it done. Only the virgins survive. I can understand the anger the Isrealites felt toward them for leading them astray, especially the women. (Of course, it does seem that the Isrealites did not put up much of a fight.) BUt des that justify this? My chronilogical Bible’smnotes hint at ‘cultural’ things to be taken into account. It says:

In raising the moral consciencesness of first a nation, and then the world, God must take his people as he finds them and introduce principles of righteousness within a moral framework with which the people can identify.

That moral framework for the Isrealites, it says, is a culture where revenge includes complete destruction of your enemies. Still hard to accept, but it’s the rest of the scriptures, the examples of God’s love, patience and forgiveness that make it possible to suspend my disbelief and trust that there is an explanation.
Num. 26:1-50 – More names and numbers.
Num. 26:61 – It seems that throughout this time of wanderings and the beginings of battles against other nations, God is making a statement about holiness and His honor. Phinehas is lifted up for being zealous for God’s honor and here we see mention of men who died for not having enogh respect for the Lord, using unauthorized fire. God’s anger is stirred when the people are not holy,set apart for him and they are about to go to battle in the name of a pure nation of God’s people in Canaan.

A night of introspection

Note: This was originally written last Wednesday night (4/21/04) after church. I’ve put off posting it so I could reflect on it a bit and get some input from a friend on it before posting it.
Wow, tonight has turned into something unexpected. This was men’s midweek, but we were locked out of our meeting place, so we met at a nearby park. It was cold and damp, so it was difficult to concentrate at times. The theme scripture was Nehemiah 9 and the subject was confession of sin. He spoke about how the Israelites treated their sin and responded to it. They took full responsibility. It wasn’t their circumstances or environment or how others treated them. No, they did it and God’s punishment was just. This is perhaps the most important step in change, admitting our sin. How can we change, if we don’t see the need to? But how easily we are deceived! I’ve spoken about the desire to believe a certain thing, intellectual inertia I called it. We want to believe that we see our sin completely and we’re dealing with it. But do we actually see it or is that belief a convenient fiction to make us feel good?
Also tonight, one of the Deacons of the church stepped down from his position both as Deacon and as family group leader. I spoke to him afterwards about it. There were several things encompassing his concern for his physical and spiritual family that went into his decision. It was not a one issue decision. It was a shock to my system that I was not prepared for. He and I have had several deep conversations about God, discipleship and our church. We have grown close and I have grown to respect him greatly as a result. It was his concerns for his ‘spiritual’ family (our church) that impacted me the most.
So it’s no surprise that I left the park feeling all out of sorts, fumbling for a foot hold. I spent the 30 minute ride home in prayer to God, pouring out my heart, waving my hand in the air as I drove (what a sight I bet I was). It was his leaving leadership that disturbed me the most. You see, it’s been a challenging year for our church. I’ve mentioned it here before but never really explained it. We’ve seen a lot of who we really are revealed over this past year, both in my local congregation and through our family of ICOC churches. Several strong, spiritual men I respect greatly here spoke up about how we had grown distant in our relationships, that our love had grown cold. I could feel it myself; my friendships weren’t what they once were. Frankly, my eyes were opened to a great deal in how we had been operating. We had taken liberties with God’s word, going too far in our authority, calling people to obey more than we ought. What’s worse, we hadn’t loved like Jesus. Our love was superficial and easy, not the dirty, difficult, in the trenches love that Jesus showed us. Over a period of months I watched these men, all in some sort leadership position, plead for change in these areas. One by one, they stepped down from their positions and eventually left our fellowship for another. I was disturbed as I watched my mentors, my heroes of the faith, leave, and now one more has stepped from leadership. Time will tell what that means.
Change has come to our church through all this. There’s a new emphasis on grace and less accountability. The old, harmful practices are mostly gone. I had become pleased with where we were going, the preaching was (and is) deep, moving and powerful. However, the truth I was ignoring, the elephant in the room, was that our relationships weren’t changing. I had gotten closer to some, but many of those had left. What disturbed me the most as I drove home tonight was how little I had recognized it. The heart of the church was the same as it had been, and I was asleep at the switch. The outside of the cup was clean, but the inside was just as dirty (Matthew 23:25-28).
I’ve learned much over these months. I’ve reorganized my priorities and realized what’s really important. But, to be brutally honest it’s been mostly an intellectual exercise. I came to realize that I fell into the ‘intellectual inertia’ trap. I wanted to believe that it was all good, so it all became good. I wanted to believe that we were making changes, so it felt like we were making changes.
Last fall as I realized what was lacking in our church, I had made a commitment, along with my wife, to spending some time each week with another family or just other folks. It would be our goal to have someone in our home each Friday. Some weeks wouldn’t work out, but it would be our goal to do it each week. I wanted to rebuild those relationships, to get into people’s lives. I had hoped to gain some mentors and be a mentor, to really know people and help them. It went well for a few weeks, then the holidays and then nothing.
I am a wretch and a hypocrite. What’s worse is that my writing this smacks of self congratulations for seeing it and more of the same. Frankly, I am afraid that I don’t have the strength of commitment to change. Not the strength to change, mind you, I know that I don’t have that. If I did there would be no need for Jesus to die on a cross. No, what I’m afraid of is weakness of commitment. Do I have the will to buckle down and do what I committed to do? Do I have the guts and courage to honor God in that way? Am I willing to lay myself on the line and really love people?
Frankly, my church is floundering because of such a lack of conviction. Worse than that, its people, God’s people, are dying for lack of love and solid, deep relationships. I’ve seen it in myself. If I were truly honest, one of the reasons I started this blog is to hopefully get some of those relationships that I miss. Frankly, that’s not going to work. Not because you aren’t good people or don’t care, but because you can’t really know me over the internet. What I need are real people in my real life to really know me, people who see me at my best and worst and aren’t impressed by the former or frightened by the latter. That’s what the folks in my church are longing for too. Do I have the conviction, the courage and the willingness to give it to them like Jesus did? Will I get down into the filth of their lives (don’t kid yourself, we’ve all got filth) with them and help them navigate it? That’s what Jesus did.

Relationships

Bird at the Thinklings had a great post about the importance of relationships the other day. It really hit home for me for reasons I’ll make clear in a post that’s brewing.
More on that later, but I wanted to comment a bit on the importance of relationships. I think that relationships aren’t just nice to have or even invaluable, they are one of the fundamentals that I’ve begun to write about. Not who we have but who we are to others.
Jesus’ ministry was all about relationships, giving to others. The things we tend think church is about – Sunday services, a building – weren’t even a part of Jesus’ ministry. He came here to give to us, to mentor us, to disciple us and we ought to follow his example of selflessness and outward focus.
So to me, to put it bluntly, I think any life as a Christian that isn’t relationship driven is a lie. That’s part of the definition of Christianity. You can’t say “I follow Jesus.” but not be relationship driven because that is what Jesus was.
Jared in the comments at Thinklings laments on what Christians that live an isolated Christian life are missing. Yes, they are missing the benefits of such relationships to their own life as well as the joy of being able to make a difference in someone else’s life. I think that they’ve actually missed the whole point and found something else, not Christianity.

04/22 – Numbers 22 – 24

Numbers 22 -24
Num. 22:28-30 – I somehow doubt that I coul still be angry with the animal after it spoke to me! I would be too shocked, amazed and frightened to rebuke it. I love what the donkey says, “Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?” Think about it, is this like me? Perhaps there’s something else to consider.
Num. 22:31-33 – After he stopped to consider the facts, the Lord opens his eyes. Or perhaps it wasn’t his consideration at all that made the Lord do it. Perhaps he just wanted to figuratively slap Balaam in the face with a reality that he hadn’t considered prior to revealing the angel. And now he also learns that the donkey he’s been to angry at has spared his life. How often are we angry at someone only to realize later that their infuiating actions were meant for our good?
Num. 24:1-9 – I’ve read of the many times Israel has forgotten God and disobeyed Him, to the point that He wanted to destroy them. Yet here, after all that, is this.

“How beautiful are your tents , O Jacob,
your dwelling places O Israel!”

After I sin, it is comforting to see how God still looks over Isreal after the stories of sin and anger. He still loves them greatly, in spite of it all.

‘Googling’ yourself

In response to Virusdoc’s question today about whether a blog is public or private, I decided to Google myself. You know, go to Google and type in your name and see what you get. Much to my surprise, a check on ‘salguod‘ and ‘Doug Schaefer‘ brought up this very web site as item #1. That’s both pretty cool and a little scary. I, like my friend at Virusdoc, like to think of this blog as a sort of private journal of my own thoughts and musings. Yes, people I know come here and read my ramblings, but if you don’t know about it you won’t likely find it. Well, it seems much more public now.
So it may seem private as I type away, alone in my home office or at my desk on lunch break, but the whole world has access to my words. Better choose them carefully.

04/17 – Numbers 20, 21, 33:1-49

Boy, it’s been too long (10 days!) since I got into my Bible.
Numbers 20, Numbers 21, Numbers 33:1-49
Num. 20:10-13 – I have heard it taught from this passage the importance of complete obedience. Certainly, when it comes to God that is important, but is that the main point here? Moses was clearly angry with the people, calling them ‘rebels’. Did he strike the rock in anger? And why did he strike it when God clearly said to speak to it? Is it because of Ex. 17 where in a very similar situation, God said to strike the rock? Maybe Moses was just not paying attention closely to God’s instructions. Any scenario I come up with finds Moses being disrespectful to God and not loving toward the people. Also, God points out that his actions, his disrespect, was done ‘in the sight of the people.’ He was God’s appointed leader and would be looked to as an example of how to live and how to act towards God.
What ever the reason, it costs Moses hie right to enter the promised land.

Oops!

You may have noticed that my left side menu is gone. I changed two characters in my main index last night and the file got corrupted. And this is the one time I didn’t back it up first. Argh! I’ll work on it this weekend.

Book Meme.

This is either kinda cool or really goofy, I’ll let you decide which. I have no idea what ‘Book Meme’ is, but I saw it at the Thinklings and thought I’d play along. Here’s mine:

After being asked to speak on the subject of grace recenttly, I was told that people would enjoy my talks because grace was ‘in’ in Texas churches.
Milton Jones, Grace the Heart of the Fire

Frankly, I was hoping for a better quote from such a great book. In the spirit of fairness, my wife’s Heal you Headache book by David Buchholz, M.D. was just as close, Here’s what it says:

Somatosensory symptoms of migraine include numbness, tingling, pins and needles and falling-asleep feelings on one or both sides of the head, face, neck or body.

Hey, you can play along too:
1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.
Oh, I followed the links from the Thinklings back through someting like 6 or 7 websites. We all need hobbies. 🙂

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