Monday, November 15, 2010

The Stench of a Sweet Aroma

It seems like I've been cutting up a lot of onions lately. Fajitas. Chili. Homemade soups. People have been cooking with onions since the days of Israel's captivity in Egypt (Numbers 11:5), and probably even earlier than that. You've really got to wonder about the first person to pick up an onion, slice into it, be overwhelmed by noxious fumes, and say, "Oh yeah. We've got to put that thing in the stew. That's just what it needs!"

But, lately, my walk with the Lord has been a lot like an onion. He keeps peeling back layer after layer of my heart. And the more he does that, the more my sin stinks. And the more I realize I stink, the more it stings me. And the more it stings me, the more I weep.

But God has promised that, when I give Him those sins, He will take them away and "cast {them} into the depths of the sea" (Micah 7:19), and the sting will be gone. Just like when I drop those onions into my pot of soup. No more tears, no more stink. I wash my hands thoroughly, and I'm clean (Psalm 51:2). It's over.

Or is it?

Why did I cut up that onion in the first place? After all, I could have just left it sitting in the fridge. There wouldn't have been any pain or tears.

But my soup would have been weak and lacking the robust flavor it could have had.

No good comes from an onion that's been left in the refrigerator. It's only when I cut up the onion and put it into the soup that anything good can come out of it. As it cooks, the onion's awful fumes are transformed into a full and savory flavor that completes the taste of the soup.

And that's why I keep coming back to God and asking Him to reveal my sin to me. It's a painful and teary experience, but when He takes my sin, forgives me, and deals with me, only good can come of it. What "cooks out" of my sin might be a lesson learned, compassion for others strugging with the same sin, and the wisdom to help them, humility, or more dependence on God.

Dealing with my sin with the Lord makes me stronger in Him, and that's mmm, mmm, good.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. II Corinthians 2:14

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Order in His Courts

Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it. Deuteronomy 12:32

Remember long division? Some of us probably remember it fondly. For others, it was a nightmare of ghoulish proportions. Likely, most of us can still remember how to do it.

Ever tried to teach it to an eight year old?

That was my life last week.

If you think about it, it's really not that any of the steps in long division are that hard. You have to know your times tables and you have to know how to subtract. That's pretty much it as far as mathematical operations go. The tough part is working step by step and getting all the steps in the right order. One number out of place, one step out of order, and the whole thing falls apart.

And then, so does your eight year old.

The Old Testament is the story of long division. God told His people what to do, how to do it, and in what order to do it...

Bring Me the firstfruits, then you can use what is left.

Marriage first, then sex.

Work six days, then rest.

Put Me first in everything.

He spelled it all out for them, even carved it in stone, and still, they couldn't get it. Many times, the majority of them gave up even trying and openly rebelled. For others, initially desiring to be obedient, striving became the order of the day. They added layers and layers of rules on top of the ones God had given to protect themselves from even coming close to breaking God's original commands. And somewhere along the way, they lost the heart of God, and began to worship rule-keeping. Their steps were out of order at the deepest and most basic level, and things fell apart for them. Often. And badly.

But don't judge the Israelites harshly. We do exactly the same thing. Some of us rebel. Some of us strive. And both ways are equally displeasing to God.

Because the first step in coming to God is to realize and admit that we can't get it right. God never intended that we should be saved and in right standing with Him by keeping His Law and doing good deeds. Galatians 3:24 tells us that the whole purpose of the Law was to show us that we can't keep it, and to lead us to throw ourselves upon the mercy of God for forgiveness and salvation.

Does God desire our obedience? Of course. But not as a way to garner His favor or to outweigh the bad things we've done. Because it's not our outward behavior itself that pleases Him, it's a heart that's wholly His (II Chronicles 16:9). He desires that we obey out of a heart of love and gratitude to Him for saving us.

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. John 14:15

Love Him first, then obedience will be a natural outflow.

Just take it one step at a time.