Christianity is about love, not shame. It's about forgiveness & mercy, not condemnation. Let's gather together in one mind & one accord to love the broken, help the needy, and learn from each other...
It’s that time of year again when many fellow Christians decide to give something up in the period between Ash Wednesday and Easter. The goal is simple: by making good changes now, they’ll hopefully stick after Easter and become part of life. Even when fasting is involved, when it’s done specifically for Lent, it’s done in penitence.
What is penitence? It’s the action of feeling or showing sorrow and regret for having done wrong. In other words, it’s repentance. The tough question to ask is this: is giving up a luxury item, or not watching CSI, or even not eating meat on Fridays really the best way to ask for God’s forgiveness?
For me, it’s not. That doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be for someone, but it’s not for me. Just because I ignore the sacrifice doesn’t mean the period of Lent is something that I ignore, however. It just means that instead of sacrificing something that is ultimately superficial to me, I focus on improving my faith in some way.
Why do I feel this way? What strikes a chord for me here are the words of Samuel: “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.”
I do a lot of complaining about the house we’re in, especially when it comes to cleaning it, but having a lot of space is also a good thing. We’ve got a spare bedroom for visitors and the kids have enough space for their own rooms. There’s a toy room, a movie room, and I’ve even converted one of the small side closets into a pseudo-studio.
We had a realtor out here today looking at the house because those who have an ownership stake in it are thinking about selling it for the 3rd year in a row. “You’ve got the mansion of the neighborhood,” I was told today. “You and your wife have done an incredible job with this home. I’m extremely impressed!”
That compliment came after 70 man hours of maintenance over the past two weeks. It also meant a lot because last year, this same realtor looked at the house at the height of my MS problems and just about evicted us. Lesson learned: first impressions count a lot and a bad first impression is hard to overcome.
In fact it’s only through hard work, a commitment to the cause, and the ability to follow through that a bad first impression can be overcome. That, my friends, is what I believe we need to come together to do as a group of believers.
Faith isn’t just about making a good first impression on someone. It’s also about fixing a bad first impression that someone got of Christianity because of actions that may not represent what faith in God is really about.
Being a good neighbor is sometimes a difficult thing. In many ways, I’m pretty grateful that the home we have overlooks a pond because that means there is one less neighbor with whom I need to contend! Our primary neighbors are an elderly couple who love birds, gardening, but don’t like loud noises.
If there’s one thing 4 toddlers produce, it’s loud noise!
There’s two ways to approach this situation: ignore our neighbors wishes for more quiet or do our best to implement more quiet within our household so that they are bothered less. Truth be told, I tend to be the one who gets in the most trouble since when I need to really produce some creative material, I tend to play Daft Punk a little too loud or start singing badly with Skillet.
Being a good neighbor is essentially what God was trying to teach humanity as the overarching principle of Exodus 32, at least the way I see it. There’s only one way to really be a good neighbor: to love them, even when they hurl insults about your ability to mimic the synth voices of Daft Punk.
And God repented from the evil He had spoken of doing to His people. Think about how profound that statement in itself is. We Christians teach that evil cannot be of God, yet the Bible says itself, quite literally, that God intended to commit evil against His people because his wrath burned hot against them in Exodus 32.
Did God intend this as a learning lesson for Moses? Did He want to see Moses beg on behalf of the people whom he was leading? Or was God actually repenting of an evil thought, something we today would recognize as sin because “evil” and “sin” are synonymous?
Could Exodus 32 simply be an attempt to humanize God the Father?
This is a key point for consistency, because how someone sees this passage determines the unfailing nature of God’s Word. Seeing actual evil from God either creates imperfection as we define it or it nullifies the teachings of the New Testament. If sin/evil cannot come from God and God repents from sin, then why the big deal about sin at all, right?
Or is there a greater purpose here? For me, this is what I see. It’s God telling Moses this: there’s a problem with the people you’re leading. Fix it or I’m going to fix it for you.
For me, Exodus 32 is one of the most pivotal chapters of the Bible. There are a lot of lessons that can be learned here, especially on a personal level, so for the remainder of this week let’s look together at this passage and maybe think about how we can learn from this passage and grow in our faith together.
To begin, there’s a common movement within the Christian faith to prove that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. There’s a similar counter-movement that works to prove the Bible is nothing more than another book, a testament to what God wanted us to see and hear in the time we’re at. Both sides say they are right, but between you and me, I think the truth is somewhere in the middle.
Why? Because I don’t know whether the Bible is inerrant or not. Frankly I don’t think it matters. That’s because for me, God’s Word is unfailing.
If the Bible is inerrant, then it is incapable of being wrong. Think about what that really means for a moment in the guise of Biblical stories. It means that God killing off most of humanity isn’t wrong. It means that in Exodus 32, when God eased, or changed his mind, or “repented” as some versions say, there is no “wrong” in that change.
Because of that and numerous other examples, I just can’t buy that inerrancy side of the equation. On the other hand, I can’t go to the other extreme because I’ve seen again, through numerous examples, how God’s Word can create a positive life impact. That leaves me in the middle, at a place where God’s Word might speak to you in a way that is “wrong” for me, but in both places it doesn’t fail.
Why is this distinction so important?