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Leaving it all on the altar

This summer, our worship pastor, Matthew, explained how, as worship leaders, we prepare, plan, and practice for Sunday mornings, but we often take our sacrifice of praise back off the altar and drag it around with us the next week. For YEARS I have taken my value and worth in how I’d “performed” during worship services.

“I totally nailed it this week! God must be so proud of me!” = pride and self-righteousness

“Oh man, I completely forgot my part. I’m such a failure.” = depression and self-loathing

What would it be like if the priests of old had dragged the charred, spent carcass of their offering off the altar and carried it around the rest of the time saying “look at my great sacrifice!”? It’s absurd and disgusting, right? In the same way, making myself the center of the praise offering is absurd and disgusting…praise and worship should be centered, focused, and wholly about God…His goodness and grace and inexplicable mercy on prideful, sin-filled people.

I am so thankful that Matthew taught me this lesson. This weekend’s worship band was…wild. People were sick, fighting sickness, we had technically complicated difficulties…you name it, it was happening. But then we had this awesome time of baptism at the end of each service. God’s Grace and Glory was on powerful display as people spoke of how the Gospel has transformed their lives. During the first set, I had been self-absorbed with my fading voice and all the technical details of the music, but hearing these people testify to the Grace they had received reminded me that it didn’t matter one bit if I sounded great or awful…it’s all about Jesus anyways. As a lead worshipper, my job is to prepare, plan, and practice in order to bring honor to Jesus and create a place where others can come and worship and adore Him.

After that first baptism and the Holy Spirit reminding me of the truth, I just worshipped. I happened to have a microphone and keyboard in front of me, but that didn’t make me any more than just another sinner, saved by the amazing Grace of our Loving God.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name. Bring an offering and come before Him! Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness. ~ I Chronicles 16:29 ~



Staying on target

You know what the absolute most difficult part of parenting is? Being consistent. Not wavering on the rules. Because, quite honestly, it is MUCH easier to just say “yes, please, just sit on the couch and watch Nick Jr. all day. I’ll actually be able to clean the house, read and write to my heart’s content. There’s juice in the fridge and crackers on the counter. Knock yourself out”. It’s hard to constantly remind my littles that they have to have their beds made and room cleaned before they can have breakfast, and no, they can’t just eat peanut butter and jelly for every meal of the day, and we are not having Golden Spoon (frozen yogurt) for dinner, and share your toys and sit still and do your school work…

Because the reason why this is so hard is that I have to be in control of my self in order to train up these little ones. It requires my own self discipline to be the example of what I want them to be. I want them to be functional people, not couch potatoes. But it is exhausting. I feel so drained by nap time, that I wonder if it’s worth it sometimes.

But it is. It will be. It has been. This week, the child care workers at our new gym commented on how well-behaved my kids were, that Jonathan was helping Hannah and Joshua and being kind, that Hannah says “excuse me, please” and “thank you!”. And even though Joshua hasn’t been feeling well the last few days and I wanted to cry last night when he woke up for his 10th feeding of the night… he latched on and then reached up and patted my face, as if to say “Thanks for loving me this much, mamma”.

So I keep training; them and myself, to not take the easy, lazy route, but to stay on target and aim for the goal: functional human beings. It’s an exercise in self-discipline, and that’s healthy for me, and it’s good for them.

This revelation has been brought to you by a really good child training book: No Greater Joy Volume 2.

And perhaps, someday, I’ll get back to my book. I dreamed about it last night (after watching American Loggers… some inspiration), and I can’t wait to get the words out of my brain. Maybe tonight………

Washed clean

The sun came up this morning! I know it comes up every morning, but I haven’t seen the sun all week, and watching the sun rise over the rain-sodden trees was especially beautiful this morning. Sun rises make me think of this scripture-song:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
His mercies never come to an end!
They are new every morning! New every morning!
Great is Thy faithfulness, oh Lord! Great is Thy faithfulness!

Because each morning comes with it’s own set of challenges for the day, it so reassuring to know that God has fresh mercies for THIS day, blessings I didn’t need yesterday. He has mercy for me, even when I lose my patience with the kids, or selfishly ignore my housework. TODAY, He has given me a new portion of love and mercy. I am so thankful!

Quiet-time musings

Leviticus is a book of the Bible that most people (including me) tend to skip. But I’m trying to read through the Bible this year and not just jump around to my favorite parts, and this morning I read through Leviticus 5-7. Yesterday morning, my eyes were glazing as I took in words that had little to no meaning for me, and seemed boring and repetitious. All the offerings and procedures and scripted motions. Today I was determined to get something out of my reading, and tried really hard to pay attention to what was happening.  Here’s what struck me:

If I had lived back then, I would be broke because all of my animals and grain would have to be sacrificed. Everything, intended sins and unintentional sins, required a sacrifice. Lev. 5:4 says that if you even swear rashly (something I frequently do), a female goat of lamb must be sacrificed for atonement. Wow.

I would not want to be one of the sons of Aaron. They were butcher-priests. All day long, they had to kill animals, clean them, sprinkle blood on everything, and burn them. I hate the smell of meat cooking (at least ground beef… it makes me want to puke). The Tabernacle didn’t have smoke alarms built in for a good reason: they burned fat and entrails and blood and flour all day long. Can you imagine how disgusting that would have smelled? They weren’t cooking steak medium-rare. They were burning it. Mixed in with the awful smells would be the frankincense, which would be mixed in with the flour of some of the grain offerings. Frankincense is a fabulous aroma, kind of a mix between Christmas pines and cayenne pepper, but I would think that something that pungent, mixed with all the other smells of death would just be overwhelming. But this aroma was a pleasing fragrance to Jehovah?

I used to say that I couldn’t believe how the Israelites could stray to false gods when they had the presence of God in the Cloud and the Fire during their desert wanderings. Now I can’t believe that they would sin when it would cost them so much… and I bet the sounds and smells of the sacrifices could be heard throughout the camp.  But they did sin, and stray. Is there any hope for me?

A Person, Jesus, died. Sacrificed Himself because of the horrible things I have done and will do. Yet I CONTINUE in my sin! Every day! He is so much greater than a pet lamb or goat, and yet I spit on His sacrifice everysingletime I choose to be selfish, I choose to have a bad attitude. No wonder the sacrifices were sin offerings. They were disgusting because our sin is disgusting.

I understand the theology: it is impossible for us to be perfect. Restitution must be made for the wrongs we have done, and that price has been paid by Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. Because he defeated death, we can walk the path of victory over sin that He paved. I can never earn it, I don’t deserve it, but I am so loved. So amazingly, incredibly, infinitely loved by this supernatural being (and He’s way better than sparkly Edward).

I’m glad I read Leviticus today. My sin is real. It has a real price. I am so grateful that I don’t have to pay the price. I am so overwhelmed by grace.

The Wondrous Cross
Isaac Watts 1707 (ancient Gregorian chant)

When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it Lord, that I should boast, save in the death of Christ, my Lord;
All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.

See, from His head, His hands, His feet, sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet? Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all

Version by Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin

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