OT: Joshua 3:1-4:24
Wow--I am so glad that we are in Joshua. I forgot how pleasant the OT can be to read:).
You know how sometimes when you read the Bible, certain scripture speaks to you? Well, today, I could hardly get past 3:5, which says, "Joshua told the people, 'Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.'" I have always loved that verse, and I mentally paused to explore why I loved it so much. And then I went down a wormhole.
I wrote an entry on my family blog recently about longing for what I called "the amazing thing." The thought that I was trying to convey is essentially the same thought that I kind of explored when discussing Proverbs a few days ago. It was the idea that finding the "amazing thing" is not always a matter of going "wider" (i.e. having more and different experiences), but of going "deeper" (i.e. living your current life in a deeper, more purposeful manner). The reason that the topic of finding the "amazing thing" is so fascinating to me is that in the depths of my soul, I have a continual longing to go deeper. I have the idea that there is something more than I am currently experiencing. And I don't mean that in a negative way. I think it comes from the fact that I was created to commune with a God who has infinite depth. As satiated as I feel sometimes spiritually, as much as my mind is sometimes blown with vision and insight that is new to my walk with God, I still know that there is more. And I want that "more." And I think that the reason that the idea that "tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you" resounds in my soul with such force and conviction is that I put so much daily hope in that idea. I have the idea that there is always more depth around the corner, more knowledge, more God in every tomorrow. And my thirst for Him gets to the point that even as I am drinking deeply from His word and enjoying every minute of it, I still want more. Perhaps it is ultimately a longing for heaven, for complete communion with God.
And so, when I read Joshua 3:5, it excites me, even though I know that it doesn't really relate to me directly. It is a statement that Joshua tells the Israelites regarding a specific historical event. And yet, when I read it, I feel like the Holy Spirit starts beating around in my rib cage like a butterfly, like He is so excited and He wants to tell me something (geez, I sound like a moron writing this. Just know that I know that.) It makes me wonder, if God did this to the Israelites, what can He do in my life? If He taught them these amazing lessons, what can He teach me?
And when God does do amazing things (yes, I am actually trying to get back to, you know, the text), I love how the Israelites set up memorial stones to remember the event. The speaker at our Ladies' Retreat this year talked about the need for a family to have their own "memorial stones," and that inspired me to conceive of a project. I thought it would be cool to find objects that represent our "memorial stones" and to put them in this nice wooden box that I have that is shaped like a book. It would remind us to talk to our children about the things that God has done in our lives--and it would always keep them in our own minds as well. Now, I just have to do it...
NT: Luke 14:7-35
It's funny how Jesus' parables sometimes sound...well, a little unlike Him. Today's parable, for instance, seems to instruct His listeners on how not to get embarrassed at a dinner party (7-11). But really, Jesus is just using the current situations of His listeners to illustrate the principle that "everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." That principle is the point He wants them to understand, not so much the part about shrewd dinner etiquette.
Moving on. So, this morning when I read, I was about to give a baby shower for my best friend. I must say, I was doing it out of love and all, but I also kind of felt like it was a good thing I was doing, you know? I mean it took a lot of planning and preparation, and I had spent the last two days cleaning my house and trying to keep it so while Greg was out of town. Reading Jesus' words today about the banquet (12-24), however, showed me that throwing a shower for my best friend was not exactly an act of Christian service. See, people throw showers for their friends. Even pagans do that! It is not an act of self-sacrifice. I mean, I am repaid every day by her friendship. My throwing her a shower wasn't this huge act of Christ-like love; it was just the decent thing to do. And that line of thinking gave me a little epiphany about the whole "hate your father and mother" thing...
...which, conveniently, was in our passage today (26)! It all comes back to what I call "practical morality." There is a level of morality, of self-sacrifice, that, while noble, is ultimately a practical endeavor. I think of that "Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage" seminar we watched this summer in Sunday school. That seminar was a perfect example of "practical morality." While it was useful to a better marriage, I don't think that Jesus' ultimate goal was for us to sacrifice to gain "points" with our spouses. And things like taking care of your spouse, loving your children, being kind to your friends and family...those are good things, really good. But even totally godless people engage in those practices with the understanding that they will better their lives by doing so. Taking care of your family, in and of itself, isn't Christian behavior. It's just part of living well.
Christian morality, on the other hand, is when you love beyond the point of ever being able to be repaid. It's when you throw a banquet (or a baby shower) for someone who could never in a million years do anything close to returning the favor. It's when you give to people in ways that will never "come back" to you. And I honestly do think you can engage in Christian morality with your family, but it involves loving them more deeply and investing more time in them than you think is really necessary to just produce a healthy, well-adjusted human being. I feel, for example, that my mom loved me passionately, with a depth that went far beyond the instinctive drive for a mother to take care of her kids. I know a lot of "good" mothers who do right by their kids, but who could also be investing so much more into them. I believe that you can die to yourself in a Christ-like manner as a spouse and parent, and that you can serve them out of love for God.
At the same time, I kind of see more what Jesus is saying when He talks about putting Him first. We have these instinctive drives to take care of our own at all costs. That's not a "Christian" thing; that's a human thing. Our depravity can get in the way of those drives and can make us completely selfish, which is why we sometimes see being a "good" spouse or parent as a "Christian" thing. So many people are horrible spouses and parents, so we figure that if we are decent, that must be saying something. But really, all that means is that we have more refined survival instincts, that we haven't degenerated into our basest selfish drives. True Christianity is a whole other beast than just being a "good" spouse and parent. Christ-like love and restraint is more than mere self-discipline.
This is not the place to stop, but this is where my thoughts turn into a dribble. I will have to dwell on this some more (and believe me, I will:)).
Asaph is still not happy. I really liked the vine imagery in 8-16.
I liked both these verses. Speaking of practical morality, Proverbs is the quintessence of practical morality, which is interesting to me, considering the fact that Jesus takes things so much deeper. Verse 27 says that "the lazy man does not roast his game, but the diligent man prizes his possessions." Apparently, the translators were a little fuzzy on what the word meant that they translated "roast," but that guess makes sense to me. I can totally picture someone too lazy to make good food out of the meat he has. And on the contrary, I see why a responsible man would "prize his possessions"...which would make it all the more difficult, I guess, when Jesus tells him to sell them all:).
Verse 28 says, "In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality." That is another one of those really exciting verses to me. I love the imagery of paths leading to great things!