Christian

The Fabric of a Person and God’s Promises

I like to think I can begin a fresh, new day with several good hours of peace and calm, and I can be a great example of serenity to my family for a while—that I only seem to fall apart after the pressure cooker has been heating for a while. Truth is, I can’t say that too often, and definitely not every day. If I’m gut-level honest, I have a deep-seated tendency toward wanting things just the way I want them. And it can cause me to behave impatiently, unkindly, or be filled with ugly greed. Some of the threads of my “fabric” can be a little undesirable. Am I the only one? Probably not.

Bear with me as I move to today’s passage. They are connected—I promise.

The journey into more fully appreciating God’s incredible grace led me to explore more of the “pleasing aroma” we read about in Scripture. Yesterday I spent time with the lambs sacrificed at the temple in Jerusalem, morning and evening, every day. But there are earlier references. Leviticus 4 spells out the offerings in the Law, the covenant with Israel through Moses.

Here is what I’d like to explore today:

Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.
“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” Genesis 8:20-22

Noah’s story is often familiar, so I won’t retell it here (Genesis 6-8). I’m taking a close look at the verses above because they speak of grace to me. Let me know if they speak similarly to you (or even if they don’t at all); I welcome the dialogue.

Noah’s first order of business after releasing the animals in 8:19 (I can only wish my household moved in so orderly a fashion!) is to build an altar to the LORD and sacrifice burnt offerings (8:20). Then we see the expected response “The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma” (8:21a).

What follows is the very thing that loudly cries out, GRACE! The LORD “said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of this heart is evil from childhood'”(21b).

Get the flow. Noah, remembering the LORD spared him and his family alone and gifted the whole earth to them, offers burnt sacrifices. He humbly responds to this beautiful, significant event and marks the moment in time with an appropriately honoring sacrifice to the LORD.

The LORD smells the pleasing aroma. (Admittedly, I can’t grasp the scent part, the “pleasing aroma.” I’d love to understand this.)

A promise follows! The LORD’s response to Noah’s sacrifice on the altar is a promise, a covenant that’s often called the “Noahic Covenant.” Some want to boil it down to a promise not to flood the earth, but I have a little trouble with oversimplifying things. Verses 21 and 22 are magnified to me as I read them.

“Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood…As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (21,22)

Promises are wrapped up in “‘Never again will I'” and “‘As long as the earth endures,'” but not without calling man’s condition like it is: evil.

When I think I will have several hours of serenity in my days, I have an explanation for why that might not happen. Not only is life’s pressure cooker not like that, my heart isn’t like that, really. The “inclination” is not toward godly choices in my “natural fabric.” One thing is certain, God doesn’t wink at our unholy moments. He calls them “evil from childhood.” Our general tendency doesn’t lean toward goodness and holiness.

So, why explore this? As believers today we live under the New Covenant with Christ. My undesirable “pressure cooker moments” will not lead me to buy a farm to raise lambs, goats, and bulls. Honestly, studying these Old Testament sacrifice passages may not make any sense to some. What makes sense to me is taking a look at the foundation upon which God was building. He established the practice of sacrifice in Israel for a purpose. May I humbly suggest that the regular practice satisfied the requirements of the relationship between the people and their God, and that it laid the perfect foundation for what was to come?

In any case, I see something new to me. God’s response to the “fragrant aroma” wafting from Noah’s altar was a faithful promise, in spite of what he knew about man’s fabric, that evil inclination.

I’d love to read what your thoughts are.

Thanks for reading!

~Jennifer

Advertisements

The Pleasing Aroma

Choosing to share an oldie, but a goodie one more time!

 

The other lamb you are to offer at dusk; do with it as with the morning grain and drink offerings – it will be a pleasing aroma, an offering made to ADONAI by fire. Exodus 29:41 CJB

As I begin my journey in this place, I’m starting with the beginning. It appears in the Torah, an instruction to Israel. I choose to begin with this verse because of its significance as a command, the framework it gives for the fragrant offering that is pleasing to the LORD, and its probable connection to Good Friday. You’ll see what I mean.

What I did not know until this weekend’s teaching at my church was that Israel, particularly in Jerusalem at the Temple, sacrificed two lambs each day, every day (Exodus 29:38). Can you imagine that?

Daily. Morning and evening. A trumpet would sound. A bleating lamb. A bleeding lamb.

Silence.

Crackling flames consuming the sacrifice.

A pleasing aroma is confusing for me in this moment. Maybe it is to you, too. I want to say, “But, LORD, the smell of the sacrifice—how can that be pleasing to you?” I live so many generations and ages and cultures away from this; I have no understanding of the sacrifice, the scents and sounds, or why an innocent lamb had to die. So many innocent lambs, God…

The simplified answer is that sin against a holy God must be paid for, atoned for (Leviticus 4). In God’s grace, during every generation, he provided a way to satisfy the requirement for the offense. For many generations young, perfect animals were slaughtered for the altar of sacrifice. It was the Covenant of the Law made in Moses’ day. I’ve come to understand only so much. Hebrews 9:22 says,

In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. NIV

God has chosen the payment for offenses. The offender does not choose his penalty. A holy, perfectly just God set the penalty (Romans 6:23). Death is what we deserve for our myriad of sins against him. Through the shedding of blood every offensive thing is reconciled.

I could sit with that, but I mentioned there is a connection between the introductory verse and Good Friday. I’d hate to leave that part out!

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “”Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? “”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark 15:34 NIV

Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:28-30 NIV

Jesus died at the ninth hour, which would be 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Sources indicate priests sacrificed second lamb at that time each day, every day.

The trumpet sounded. A bleating lamb. The bleeding Lamb. Death.

Fragrant grace, pleasing to God.

*In all fairness, this information was new to me, and was shared through teaching I received. Click here for the link. My own “leg work” was required for this post to a limited extent.

The Round Table Discussion: The Whys Behind Advocacy (Family)

Hideous Planned Parenthood news hit the media spotlight and inspired me to write this Round Table series. So far we’ve looked at two opposing views, Pro-life and Pro-choice, and the foundation of worldview which establishes the scope and drives the passion behind them. (See Life and the Verbal Volley.) Some of the points translate to any topic simply because our worldview affects everything we process to understand.

The conversation now focuses on advocacy voices seated at the table. If you’re following, you know there are two groups in abortion advocacy: those who have been directly affected by the decision to abort a pre-born life, and those who have not. The haves deserve special attention. I’m focusing on the have nots for now.

Four Whys That Motivate
Not an exhaustive list, my conversations with others indicated a few general, deeply-held beliefs and core values galvanize an advocate’s position.

Faith

Family

Freedom

Financial

The whys are rooted in answers to key questions advocates answer for themselves. (See the post on faith to read how this conversation started.) Depending on how our worldview was formed and informed, the four whys above play out differently.

Now, about the passionate voice at the table advocating with a family focus.

Family
Some of us grew up in grace-filled, Christian families, and some did not. These people were the first and greatest influences in our lives. We inherit more than genetic material from our parents. Spending a lot of time with them, or anyone else for that matter, formed our worldview perspectives early. Our understanding of life and lifestyle, acceptance and rejection, selfishness and selflessness, abortion and adoption—our ideas on all these things and more formed, even if we didn’t know what they were at the time.

The decision to terminate a pregnancy can be made for lots of reasons. Within family relationships, shame can be a powerful force. Confessing how an unexpected child came to be can be difficult, uncomfortable, or disruptive to the family. Sex outside of marriage, while our culture becomes more liberal by the day, still carries with it complicated shame issues for many. Infidelity that results in a pregnancy can be explosive and destructive to the family. What may be worst is the psychological and emotional damage done in the case of sexual abuse (rape or incest). We could walk this road a little farther, but the personal reasons typically stack up and amount to shame, tough real-life consequences, or devastating abuse. Often the choice to abort is damage control, and under those circumstances, it’s very sad. The have nots seem to characterize the family ideas in the following ways, and my tears begin to flow when I hear—

It’s another mouth to feed, and they don’t have enough to make ends meet as it is.
If these girls and women are going to run around….
She already gave up how many children for adoption?
She had no intent to be a parent. No one should be forced to do that!
She should never be forced have a child “out there” who will find her someday!
Rape and incest cases should always be terminated. Can you imagine bearing that man’s child?
This is such an ugly world. Who wants to bring a child into it?
The (fill in any collective adjective) population is out of control!

It’s an attempt to solve a significant, complex situational dilemma in the “best” way possible. People line up to support abortion as a means to control so many things. Can you see how lifestyle might outweigh the tiny, unseen life in the majority of the above? Am I the only one who thinks aborting the pregnancy does nothing to address the underlying needs? Does it even begin to genuinely or effectively address the social, emotional, physical, or sexual realms? (I’m aware PP is a provider of products suggesting education, prevention, etc., so that little point can remain. I’d like to know what the actual abortion procedure addresses effectively.)

I assume you have friends like mine. A couple hoped to build a family, but there were difficulties. Out of a painful struggle, their beautiful hearts became open to adoption. They had no idea that was God’s plan for their family at the start, but they became soft and open to it. Sometimes there were no fertility problems at all. A family chose to increase their size through adoption. Either way, children who had no value to anyone else in their part of the world were given infinite value! Bless them! Homes were opened to “the least of these,” and lives were completely transformed. These advocates saw the intrinsic value in the the pre-born partly because families and adoption were core values.

Adoption is a beautiful motivator. Christians often see the correlation between God’s adoption shown in Scripture and the adoption process for available children. Not everyone can adopt; I’m so thankful for those who do! Check out what God says—

Concerning the Gentiles, God says in the prophecy of Hosea, “Those who were not my people, I will now call my people. And I will love those whom I did not love before.” Romans 9:25

The prophecy is in the context of Israel’s election, but do you see the beauty of God choosing to love and adopt the Gentiles into his people? It’s a beautiful thing! When families welcome orphans or surrendered children, it reflects the very thing God does on behalf of anyone who was previously out of relationship with Him. He places children in families. He places us in his family, in his precious and loved people. What do you think about that?

If we are honest, plenty of families adopt for various reasons, and they aren’t all about God. That’s understandable and commendable. I love adoptive families who provide loving homes for children who would otherwise have a very different life, maybe with terrible hardships. Adoptive families, I just want to say thank you! You stand in the gap for these children in place of me and others who cannot.

My little sidebar conversation to the Jesus-lovers might go a little like this:

Many of you are doing whatever you can to support adoption in your city, state, country, or the world. Thank you! You are able to be in the trenches by increasing your family through adoption, buy someone’s cheesecakes at a bake sale for their family adoption, or serve with and support an orphan ministry—you are beautiful hearts! Thank you! If you are beginning to wonder how you can support orphaned or adoptable children, there is no shortage of avenues. (Let’s create a resource list below!)

If we are searching for a cultural solution to abortion, we will never find a single, magic solution. Let’s consider that placing children in families is a wonderful option, and one of many possible supportive approaches. How can we make that a reality?

~Jennifer

Questions to Think About?

Do you already support families or single women and girls trying to navigate the crisis of an unexpected pregnancy? How do you do that?

If you were open to using your voice (or other resources and means) to support a family-focus, what might you be able to do? Where would you look to connect? How might you connect to trusted, quality organizations?

Can you think of other means to support a family focus under these circumstances if a woman were hesitant to investigate or commit to adoption?

What programs do you think needs to be in place to support both individuals who are parents to the little one? Who should initiate and organize those? Have you ever felt called to serve in some capacity?

How would you enter into a conversation with someone who has not been impacted directly by abortion who has a differing view from yours? Can you bring truth, love, gentleness and respect to the dialogue?


Note: It’s been brought to my attention I have been “loose” on my definitions of both Pro-life and Pro-choice. I would love to discuss that on the Verbal Volley thread or at the Fragrant Grace Facebook page. Friends also noticed I didn’t clearly mention medically necessary procedures. I hope to get there. That feels like a more sensitive area to discuss. I want to have a special conversation about that soon.

Credits:
Images sourced at http://www.morguefile.com.
Scripture sourced from http://www.biblestudytools.com