By Tom Wiles | For The Times-Post
All the Israelite men and women who were willing brought to the Lord freewill offerings for all the work the Lord through Moses had commanded them to do. — Exodus 35:10 – 36:7
So, there they sat like they had on innumerable occasions before.
Each one was covered with the evidence of a fine meal that had preceded their arrival.
Dishes, lots and lots of dishes.
What to do about is the real question.
Sometimes, I do them and sometimes I don’t.
“Why?” you ask.
The reason is the same regardless of which way I choose — because that’s what I wanted to do.
The command was given to Moses from God.
Build a tabernacle as a place of worship.
This tabernacle’s fundamental purpose was to keep the peoples’ collective heart sensitive and responsive to God.
It required a significant amount of materials and skilled labor to build.
The need was made known and that was it.
None of them had to give. None of them had to help.
They chose to. They wanted to.
The result was overflowing donations and unrelenting service.
Their love for God compelled them to do so.
Out of his love for us, God tells us in the Bible that which is right and that which is wrong.
There is a true and there is a false.
As God, he alone has the right to determine what those are.
He doesn’t force anyone to follow what he says.
He doesn’t make us accept his invitation to enter into a relationship with him.
“Whoever will”, Jesus said.
He makes known the need for us to be forgiven from all our sin and the plan of believing in Jesus for that forgiveness.
And yet, he leaves us to decide whether or not we will be among the willing.
Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? … And the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone. — Mark 5:1-20
Having a family filled with highly competitive individuals can make everything from backyard soccer to Candyland a real test of self-control.
Rules, real or imagined, are strictly enforced.
A perceived lack of effort by a teammate is quickly addressed.
And, all sources of interference, namely pet dogs, small children and older adults (me), must be kept out of the way lest they influence the outcome of the game in any way or more likely get run over by the over-enthusiastic players.
As Jesus and the disciples exited the boat after a stressful and amazingly miraculous trek across the lake, they were met by a legion of demons who had completely taken over and taken residence in a man.
They knew who Jesus was. They knew their time was and is measured. They knew he had the authority and power to do with them, even at that moment, whatever he wanted.
Their initial concern?
The crowd who came, unbelievably, had the exact same concern!
“Go away, Jesus! Leave us alone.”
The personal sting of this story set in after a few moments of reflection.
Rightly, I love Jesus’ forgiveness.
I love his gracious blessings.
I love his faithful presence, peace and promises.
Hmm…What about his interference? You know — The surrender, sacrifice and serve part. The resist temptation and endure hardship for me part.
I love the Bible verses that tell me I matter to God, but not so much the ones that say, “those people” matter to him, too.
Until Jesus’ interference is as welcome in our hearts as his inspiration, life and life to the fullest will remain a concept, not a living reality.
Up and down
Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain to be alone. … As they went back down the mountain, he told them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. — Mark 9:1-29
Recently, my wife and I took a fairly challenging hike up a mountain.
We rode bikes to get there and hiked all the way to the top.
Needless to say, I was glad there was no swimming. I’m in no shape for triathlons.
It truly was a beautiful hike and, of course, getting to the top gave us a satisfying sense of accomplishment.
There’s something special about a mountaintop, isn’t there? The up is invigorating. However, what goes up must come down. The down is tough. With tired legs, we had to get back on the bikes and pedal.
Peter, James and John experienced all that and so much more to an immeasurable degree.
If their Rabbi glowing wasn’t enough, two long-gone guys show up — Moses and Elijah. Wow!
Well, if that wasn’t enough, God the father’s voice resounded in their ears.
“This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.”
This moment was the epitome of a mountaintop experience.
As high up as that was, the trip down was a snap back to reality as they encountered a broken and weary dad whose son was being tormented by a demon.
Six in one hand, half a dozen in the other. It seems, at any given moment, our wonderful moments and our discouraging ones are flowing at approximately the same rate.
Sure, we have seasons of sustained struggle as well as seasons of overwhelming joy.
In these seasons, as well as all the in-between, there is a critical truth and a critical response revealed powerfully in this scene.
The truth? Whether up or down, Jesus is present.
The response? Whether up or down, listen to him.
But God says to the wicked: why bother reciting my decrees and pretending to obey my covenant? For you refuse my discipline and treat my words like trash. — Psalm 50:1-23
My grandson loves to play pretend.
His imagination is spectacular and as real to him as the sunrise.
He climbs onto the trampoline as if he’s entering a great arena. He immediately starts fighting the mean monsters slaying every one of them with ease.
It’s amazing the damage that a pool noodle can do when being brandished by an invincible 3-year-old.
There, in the deep recesses of his imagination, he’s the hero. He’s the protector of all things good.
Asaph, the author of the 50th Psalm, reminds the people of God’s rule and his certain judgment.
He then gives God’s warning, not against childlike pretending, but against adult pretense: the offering up of an image with no soul.
He had enough of the people going through the motions of worship, but without genuine gratitude.
He then proceeds to list all of the ways they’ve deviated from the true and right.
Graciously, he concludes with an offer to reconsider.
One of the most amazing things about God’s story is the opportunity we have to be a part of it.
He invites all to step out from under his righteous wrath into the wonder of life under the blessing of his protection and power.
Asaph noted how the heavens proclaim God’s righteousness, shouldn’t we?
Everything and everyone ultimately belongs to God.
He’s the sovereign Creator and Lord of all.
He has no needs, but mercifully, he wants us to enter into the full wonder of who he created us to be and what he created us to experience.
Tom Wiles is senior minister of Fall Creek Christian Church in Pendleton. He can be reached at 765-778-3166.