Choosing Our Altars

This is the altar Jeroboam built in Northern Israel.

Most of my sins are spontaneous, not premeditated. I don’t typically craft a plan for sinning. Sometimes, but not usually. But Jeroboam did, at least on one occasion. He was the newly crowned king of the newly founded nation of Israel, of the divided kingdom, and he was greatly troubled. What troubled him was the idea of his people going to Jerusalem, in Judah, to worship at the temple. His concern was that they might not come back. So he thought about it and came up with the plan to build two altars: one in the North and one in the South. Having built them, he then needed priests to serve at the altars since all the Levites remained in Jerusalem. So he appointed anyone who volunteered. That was the only qualification for serving. He must have felt confident that he could keep his loyal subjects loyal by making worship convenient. His actions violated the Law of Moses, dishonored the Aaronic Priesthood, and ushered Israel into deeper idolatry, but none of this seemed to bother Jeroboam.

It’s when our hearts are laid bare and our intentions uncovered that the premeditation is evident. It’s the justification for trading what is right for what is popular, pleasurable, or politically savvy. Premeditated sin almost always ends in chaos, conflict, and pain, it happens all the time. I’ve done it and it’s never worked out well for me. I end up broken, seeking forgiveness, and so very grateful for grace.

God told Solomon:

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

Jeroboam wasn’t humble, praying, or turning away from wickedness. Whatever face he was seeking, it sure wasn’t the Lord’s. His plan ultimately failed because his intentions and actions were wrong. It destroyed him and his family, and plunged Israel into ruin. 

It’s never too late to do right. Never too late to turn our hearts back to God. If we are considering how to sin and get away with it, then we need to wake up and turn from our wicked ways. We choose humility and we seek His face. We seek Him still.

Sad About The Tree

olive-tree-potted-williams-sonoma-agrarianSome of you will recall that I was given a potted olive tree. I loved that tree. Seven days later I declared it dead. But it rallied, seemed to improve, but no, it finally succumbed. No olives, just littering leaves and brittle branches. Towards the end I cared more about my ability to revive the tree, than the tree reviving. It bothered me that I couldn’t care for it. I felt inadequate and frustrated. “Dumb tree,” I thought.

There are moments when I am self-centered and selfish. I don’t mean to be, but then BAM, there I go, obsessing about myself. I’m not the only one, it’s an epidemic, a global outbreak of the Me-First virus. Actually, it’s just sinfulness. Do you remember Jonah? He was the prophet who reluctantly preached to the Assyrians, in Nineveh. Turned out the whole place just up and repented, and God forgave them, which was the last thing Jonah wanted. He wasn’t happy about it. In fact, he was quite angry. They were Israel’s enemies: vicious and cruel. So Jonah got mad at God, left Nineveh, and found a good spot on a hillside overlooking the city. “Perhaps God will change His mind and nuke the whole place,” was Jonah’s attitude. When it got hot, God provided a shade tree to comfort Jonah. But overnight the tree died and he was miserable. Must have been brutal sitting in the hot sun, waiting for God to rain down fire on Nineveh. But He didn’t.

That’s an example of the Me-First virus. It’s the sin of obsessing over my wants without seeing the needs of others. It’s not Jesus-like.

It’s easy to be selfish and obsess over things. Some of us do it every day. I wonder, could we pick a day to be unselfish. Just one day? Call it a “Me-Last” day. Go for it!

Quiet Moment to Connect

2015-09-08-14.21Have you ever been singing a well-known song when, wham – out of nowhere, the lyrics just knock you over? That happened to me last Sunday while singing a much loved classic, “How Great Thou Art.” Here are the words that reached out and gripped my heart.

When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

Stuart Hine, an English missionary to Poland, wrote these lyrics. He was moved to do so by a poem by Swedish preacher, Carl Boberg entitled, “O, Great God.” Hine added the lyrics and made a new arrangement of the melody that Boberg gave to the poem, making it into the song we know as, “How Great Thou Art.”

Turns out that Hine had some unforgettable experiences in the Carpathian mountains which inspired him to write the song. The mountains were special to him and from these mountain experiences he completed the song. I find that looking down from lofty mountain grandeur inspires me also. I treasure the brooks and streams and gentle mountain breezes, all of which remind me of the Spirit of God.

Our Father is also in the urban centers with their crowds of people, cars, and buildings. He may be harder to find in the city, or maybe city life makes it harder for me to look for him?

Be encouraged to find a quiet moment to reconnect with your Creator. It takes faith and our heart’s desire to find Him when surrounded by so much that discourages closeness with the Father. But, try anyway. He is there and wants to be found. And, He’s worth it. Thank you Mr. Boberg and Mr. Hine for “How Great Thou Art.”