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Posts Tagged ‘Israelites’

Main-Street-Baptist-Church-image-1-129656914499250000This year, the church my hubby grew up attending celebrates it’s 250th anniversary. The building, itself is well over one hundred years (and hubby says there may still be a few original members 😉 ). It was a place of great learning, of inspiration and of feeling loved and accepted by hubby from birth to adulthood.

This anniversary makes me think of other ‘old’ churches.

I am not sure of the age of my grandmother’s little county church, but there are tombstones in the cemetery behind which date back to the late 1800’s. I remember, as a little girl, staring at the beautiful stained glass window image of Jesus cradling a lamb in His arms (while the pastor preached of the need of salvation, living ‘rightly’, and loving your neighbor … and probably a bit of fire and brimstone). . The window stories solidified my flannel-graph Sunday School lessons.161

I remember visiting the beautiful St. Dunstan’s Basilica in Charlottetown, PEI, a number of years ago with our young children. It was build in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s (a fire of the original structure delayed it’s completed construction). There is something about a place so old, so ornate in it’s use of dark wood, and colorful window story-telling that ‘oos and awes’ emanated from even the youngest among us.

114982872_e311f849e7One of my favorite churches, because of it’s setting, is the Saint Thomas de Memramcook Church (in New Brunswick). With it’s tall center spire, and perfectly balanced stained windows below. It sits atop a hill, overlooking flat lands that the Bay of Fundy flow into. It always takes my breath away when I look at where it sits … like a beacon, a lighthouse, for weary travelers.

When I was younger I scoffed at the wasted money that went into the maintaining of these aging structures. That money could be used to meet the needs of people today, rather than to do upkeep on history.

I am starting to see, now, the benefits of these still-standing, brick and mortar, structures.

You see, these physical structures are evidence of God’s faithfulness, evidence of hundreds and thousands of people who put their trust in God to see them through to the completion. Not just of a church building, but of living a very real, skin on, life. Life with illness, and death, and abandonment, and struggle, and heartache … and joy, and celebration, and redemption, and saving, and love.

These buildings are memorials to faith.

After the Israelites followed the art of the covenant through to the center of the Jordan River, Joshua was told told (by God) to have one man of each of the twelve tribes, to pick up a rock from the middle of the Jordan and bring it to the other side. Later on God explained the significance of these rocks:

“He (God) said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” (Joshua 4:21-24)

When I look at, and think of, old churches (and there are certainly more in the world that are much older) now, I find myself paraphrasing the words from the book of Joshua:

In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stone and wood buildings mean?’ tell them, 

“People …

simple, hard-working, fallible, messed up, people …

they lived, they loved, they gave, they ached, they got sick, they suffered …

they didn’t have all the answers, couldn’t see the big picture …

they didn’t have the strength to go on, didn’t have the funds to go on, didn’t have the support to go on …

but, they had God.

The one, true, living God …

and they trusted Him …

with EVERYTHING!

And, He carried them through to dry land (carried means that He never left them … ever).

He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.

And another stone of faith that was written in 1837 …

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imagesAs I sat down to write this post, I was tempted to title it ‘nothing’ because that is what I felt I had to offer … nothing.

Nothing is a place of emptiness, overwhelming, and discouragement. It is a place that each of us finds ourselves in from time to time. It can be a sense or feeling of lack of energy, lack of desire, lack of ability … it is a lacking.

When I think of nothing, I think of Moses.

When God called Moses to be the tool in freeing the Israelite people, “Moses said to God, “I am nobody (the personification of nothing). How can I go to the king and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?

Moses felt the task was far too overwhelming for someone like himself to accomplish. He did not feel that he had anything to give, to offer … that he had nothing to give.

Then “God answered, “I will be with you, and when you bring the people out of Egypt, you will worship me on this mountain. That will be the proof that I have sent you.” Exodus 3:11-12

Basically, I think God was pointing out the obvious to Moses … that this task was not one that God asked of him because Moses was the only way, but because Moses needed to learn to offer himself, no matter how small or how pathetic his offering was … his job was to offer, God would take that offering and multiply it, as only he could do.

That is all any of us is called to … to offer ourselves, our gifts, our hearts … the rest is in the hands of our God who knows the pain that is in the offering.

The following is a post by Brian McConaghy, Founding Director of Ratanak International (Ratanak), whose goal is “to help the Cambodian people rebuild their country and in so doing show them the love of Jesus Christ in a tangible way.” I love what this organization is striving to do, to honor our Creator and His creation … an impossible task, guided by a God of possibilities!

Being Broken
Phnom Penh, 2:45AM, I’m up and wide-awake with my mind racing. So many issues, so many problems, so much hurt in this country it is completely overwhelming. I am once again confronted that I just don’t have the resources to deal with this place. How on earth can anyone cope with being called to serve and love such a country?
It is easier to love Cambodia from afar. Being here the issues, the trauma, the brokenness is personal, up close and overwhelming. The magnitude and complexity of the task is so far beyond any skills I bring to the table.
I get up and kneel to pray for all that is before me – how can I possibly keep loving this place? Tears come quickly as I think on the 23 years of hard work through civil war, poverty and trauma, as I contemplate the magnitude of all that remains to be done. I see the faces of individual lives so in need of hope. Have we even made a dent? Shouldn’t we be farther along after so many years …of struggle? Shouldn’t at least some of the issues be solved?

In prayer my mind stops racing, calm returns as I once again confront the fact that this is not about me or my skills or even my expectations. I am called to serve this place and embedded in this process is the call to be broken for it even as Christ is broken for it. How could I possibly love Cambodia and not know grief? So re focusing on the tasks at hand I bring the issues before God and hand them to Him for it is His skill, His determination, His love for these people that is relevant not my pathetic offering. Yet in this context Christ reveals that He will do more than I could ask or imaging even with my pathetic efforts. Irrespective of how I feel, He counts my efforts as gold and honors even my frail attempts to serve. How I ‘feel’ about my service to Cambodia has absolutely no bearing, whatsoever, on the value God places on it. He is in the business of doing great things with our little. And so, as I re focus, there is a strange comfort in grieving for this place – a strange beauty in the thought that I may just be privileged to share in a tiny portion of the brokenness of Christ for Cambodia. The tears turn from those of grief and hopelessness to those of a strange joy – of being in the fight for this nation – of being counted a warrior by God while being but a child. What a privilege.

I should get back to bed for an hours sleep before getting up to tackle the challenges of a new day. But I’m calm once again, content in my brokenness for this place and resolved to keep going. For Cambodia is not my burden – it is Christ’s.
Brian.

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7ee97921ff712da3685331b1bc56d6a1One day a verse was read and the words ‘freewill offering’ stood out to me like neon lights in the black of a night.

What is a freewill offering?

According to my research, it is what it says; a gift of money, time or resources that is given without being forced, without the receiver even knowing that it would be given.

So, if you stay late after work to help a customer, a student, a patient … you have given a freewill offering.

If you put cash in your ‘offering’ envelope, above and beyond your normal ‘tithe’ … you have given a freewill offering.

If you make your dinner, and double the recipe, and take it to the house of a neighbor … you have given a freewill offering.

But, the concept of there being a freewill offering also indicates that we are expected to give, without choice (free will), a certain amount first.

That means we are expected to give of our time, our money, our resources.

Expected giving …

That means that some part of our whole (our whole bank account, our whole waking hours, our whole life) is not, nor has ever been our own.

It is expected that we give to our governments (“So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” Matthew 22:21), and for those of us who are followers of Christ, we give to His work, in both (not one or the other) our time and our physical resources.

And after all that ‘expected’ giving, then we give from our own free will.

To do so as a group would mean that, like the Israelites whose “hearts were stirred” to give to the tabernacle (Exodus 35), we might need to be told to stop giving.

They received from Moses all the offerings the Israelites had brought to carry out the work of constructing the sanctuary. And the people continued to bring freewill offerings morning after morning. So all the skilled workers who were doing all the work on the sanctuary left what they were doing and said to Moses, “The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done.” Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” And so the people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work.” Exodus 36:3-7

Imagine if we lived in such a way that our freewill giving exceeded the needs!

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