Seeking the Face of Christ

David is called “a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14).

It’s a wonderful title. What earned him it in the first place?

I love David’s sentiment in Psalm 27. More than anything else in all creation, he would love to see the face of the LORD.

We talked yesterday about looking the temple. Again and again, David kept his desire on the court of God.

When his eyes wavered, that’s when he got in trouble.

God, keep our eyes fixed on you. May we see You always as we go about our day.

Solomon Christens the Temple

In 2 Chronicles 6, Solomon christens the temple. After all the hard work, the generations that have passed, finally the temple is built. Solomon takes the moment to pray, and what a prayer at that!

When we are strangers in a strange land, when we are defeated, when we are sick or starving, when we are riddled with guilt and shame Solomon asks God that we might be able to turn to the temple and be healed. When we lay ourselves at His feet, Solomon asks that mercy and grace be poured down upon us. No matter who we are. No matter where we are. Look to the throne room of God and be healed.

Like Moses and the snake (Numbers 21:8). Like Christ on the cross. We look to God, recognize what He has done for us, and God meets us in that place. What a blessing to receive!

God, hear us now, this silly and wandering bunch. Receive us into Your open arms. We are ever loved and ever cherished by You. We’re coming home. Get the welcome mat ready!

David’s Trusty Slingshot

When David goes to slay Goliath (1 Samuel 17), King Saul offers him all this cool swag to get the deed done. Nowadays, imagine drones and infrared night goggles and heat seeking missiles. David wants none of that. Instead, he sticks with his handy dandy slingshot.

This is the slingshot that has slain bears and lions in order to protect his sheep. David trusts the slingshot and he trusts his God, who has empowered him to do all things. David would need God many more times after this as well, as he went on not only to slay the giant, but also to be king of Israel.

Life is full of ‘quick’ fixes and ‘convenient’ solutions. David was constantly tempted by them. Still, when he chose God’s way over the easy way, he was blessed. May we all be bold enough to do the same when we too are called to step out and face our giants.

 

Vanity Mirror

Ecclesiastes is an interesting book. Some consider it a bit of a downer and it kind of is, but the context of what is being said is truly transformative.

The book is credited to Solomon, the man with everything. One of the those people you kinda dread going Christmas shopping for.

But that everything is not enough. In fact, it becomes more of a burden than a blessing, distracting him from the God who gave it to him and ultimately bringing about his ruin.

Now, with everything gone, he thinks back upon his life and cries, “vanity!”

It’s an important reminder: without God, we’ve got nothing, because one day everything else (including our own bodies), will be worm food. So, when we look into that vanity mirror, may all of see Christ, for He alone is our future and our hope.

You Are Known By What You Do

Nowhere else in the Bible as works-based as the book of James is. For him, it is by our works that our redemption is validated. And James is not alone in this. If you look at the Old Testament, we see a very external relationship with the spiritual experience. Atonement is shown by the sacrifice of livestock. Grieving is shown by the tearing of fabric. Deals are brokered by the passing of sandals (true story). James just picks up where the Old Testament left off, for the Bible is a very Hebrew-centric manuscript and reflects their cultural experience.

Where people get confused is they come to the conclusion that it is fact our works that saved us, that it is by a series of merit badges or brownie points that we are saved. This creates a sense of guilt for those who feel they have not done enough and a sense of pride in those who feel they have checked all the appropriate boxes. In the Gospels, Christ is quick to dispel both feelings. He goes to the outcast, even the criminal moments from death, and says, I am enough. To the self-righteous, He urges to drop the charade and come follow Him. We are not the authors of our salvation, even our own faith. All of it is a gift.

If it is a gift, then what is works? Works are the fruits of our salvation. Out of our love for  Christ and for others, we do good works. Out of the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we venture out of our comfort zone to perform miracles. You can “like” and “love” as many posts as you want, but still there comes a time when we are called to show our love in a real sense, to give of ourselves either in time or treasure or ability, as a physical manifestation of our spoken claims.

Always be listening for these opportunities, for they are often small and pass quickly, but partaking in them makes a world of difference. So today, keep your eyes, heart, body, and soul open. You may just have the opportunity to change a life and let them know they truly matter and that your affections are real.

Bless and be a blessing. Amen.

Odd Moments in the Bible

I don’t know what your experience is with the Scriptures, but as holy and wonderful they are you gotta admit there are some pretty chuckle-y bits in there. Here are some of my favs. Enjoy!

1) Gideon’s on a Roll!

Judges 7

So Gideon the coward has been appointed to command an army against their rivals, Midianites. In classical Gideon fashion, he is less than eager to go. God responds by sending him a sign. Go spy on their camp, says the Almighty, you’ll like what you hear. Gideon, as shy as he is, obeys. He sneaks into the Midianite camp and finds himself beside a tent of two soldiers. One soldier relates to the other that he has had a dream. That dream? That a giant loaf of barley bread tumbles into their camp and destroys it. Not a boulder, not a fireball. A loaf of barley bread. I don’t know, maybe they all have a gluten intolerance or just finished watched that scene of Ghostbusters with the Stay-puff Marshmallow Man. I don’t know. But it gets better! The second soldier says, well the meaning is clear. The Israelites will destroy us. Not just any Israelites, but Gideon specifically. I mean, this is a serious Star Wars “these are not the droids you’re looking for” moment. I can only imagine what the other person is saying.

I don’t know about you, but I have times where words come out that I don’t even anticipate. In this case, this is some serious Holy Spirit action right there. #fearthebarleyloaf lol

2) Ba’al in the Bathroom

1 Kings 18

So things in Israel had gotten pretty bad for the followers of God under the reign of King Ahah. He and his wife, Jezebel, were going around, worshipping idols and killing believers. God sends the prophet Elijah to call them out on their misdeeds. They spend chapters butting heads until finally Elijah decides to draw a line in the sand. He arranges all the priests of Ba’al to come out to the top of Mount Carmel to meet him for a duel. Ahab, sick of the prophet’s annoyances, takes him up on the offer. All the priests come out and there they are, facing off against Elijah in a Western-style showdown.

The terms are simple. First god to set fire to the altar wins. Elijah, like the good sport he is, lets the Ba’al guys go first. They start calling and calling and calling to their god. When nothing happens, they start dancing around. Then, they start cutting themselves. These are some very devoted people here, but Elijah is having none of it. He starts throwing shade. Where’s your god at? says the priest. Maybe he’s asleep or away on a vacation or on the toilet. This trolling only makes the Ba’al guys angrier. They really get into it, but nothing happens.

Then it’s Elijah’s turn. He steps forward, prays ‘ok God, do your thing,’ and a giant plume of fire reigns down the altar, burning it to pieces. So the priests of Ba’al are embarrassed, exhausted, and beaten, but Elijah is not done yet. He calls all the closeted believers of God Jehovah to come out from hiding. They do and lay waste to the priests of Ba’al. We all gotta chose sides sometimes. Choose wisely.

3) Jonah’s Meltdown

Jonah 4

Contrary to popular belief, God is not so much into the smiting business, as He is in the saving business. The Ninevites have gone off the deep end and God Jehovah calls on Jonah to urge them to repent. Jonah isn’t having any of it. He takes the first ship out of town, which hits choppy water, so choppy Jonah has to abandon ship. While he’s in the water, he gets eaten by a great sea creature. In the belly, he realizes that this is not a good place to be and that it’s his own stupid fault that he’s there. So, he tells God he’s sorry. Just then, the fish spits him out and he goes back to Ninevah and tells them to repent, just like he did, and they do. Only Jonah is not happy by this. He wanted them to burn. So he spends a solid chapter wishing he was dead and that God would smite them. All the while he is burning up under the heat of the Sun. So, God sends him a plant to cover his head, but the plant dies and Jonah launches into another burst of hysterics because his cover is gone. God is not amused. He asks Jonah why he would carry so much about a plant and so little about the thousands of people that would die if God had done his bidding. Jonah has no response. God doesn’t put up with that shit. Obey God, y’all. Don’t get eaten by a fish.

4) No Duh Proverbs 

There is some pretty sage-like advice to be found in the Word, stuff that is profound and life-changing. Then, there is stuff that seems so obvious you don’t know why it’s there. It’s like the warning label on chainsaws that says, don’t stop with limbs or genitals. It seems so clear, but of course people must be doing it or else it wouldn’t be in there. So, here are some of my favorite warning labels from the Bible.

“If you find honey, eat just the right amount;
    otherwise, you’ll get full and vomit it up.”

-Proverbs 25:16

Honey is great. We should all do what we can to keep our bee population alive so that we can have more of it. But too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Doesn’t matter what it is. So, the Bible reminds us, check yourself before you wreck yourself, else you get a massive tummy ache.

“You must not insult a deaf person or put some obstacle in front of a blind person that would cause them to trip. Instead, fear your God; I am the Lord.”

-Leviticus 19:14

Leviticus teaches us a lot about proper sanitation and living a holy life. Then, there is this gem. I’m sorry, but if you’re going around tripping blind people, you should fear the Lord, cuz nobody should be doing that. Use your heads people. Be kind.

Honorable Mention: Bears and Bullies

2 Kings 2

After Elijah has served his term as resident prophet of the LORD, he gives Elisha the wheel. God takes Elijah away in a flaming chariot and leaves Elisha to his own devices. He starts off kinda simple, parts some water, makes other water drinkable. You know, the usual stuff. Then, some kids are off insulting Elisha for being bald. Elisha is not amused. So, he summons and she-bear to maul the kids. Apparently, he just finished playing Far Cry 5 and thought Cheeseburger the bear would make a great protégé.

Does the punishment seem a bit excessive? You bet. But Elisha is not one to be messed with. Respect your elders, y’all, or else… bears.

5) I Can Has Swordz

Luke 22

This passage is one that just is proof-positive that God has a sense of humor. Jesus is with His disciples. They have spent all this time together and Jesus is about to go away. He tells the twelve, ‘you know, I know you’ve never needed anything while you were with me, right?’ And they’re like, right. And he’s like, ‘well, things are gonna get a little rough soon as I go away, so I’m gonna let you have a couple swords for self-defense, just in case.’ And they immediately rip out a sword. Where has it been all this time? Who knows, but they’ve got one. He’s like fine, and they go out to the Garden of Gethsemane and run into some bad guys. Without hesitation, they whip out the sword and whap off a guy’s ear. You can hear Jesus face-palming in the background. What part of “my grace is sufficient for you did you not understand?”

Boys and their toys, man. Boys and their toys.

 

Hello! My Name is Aaron

Hi,

My name is Aaron Ybarra, named after Aaron the brother of Moses,

sent by God to help the prophet when he doubted himself.

He acted as Moses’ mouthpiece before Pharaoh.

As soon as they were out of Egypt however,

Aaron kinda went crazy.

Under pressure from his peers,

he built a golden idol while Moses was away

and claimed that it just kinda happened

when caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

He and Miriam also talked smack on Moses while

he was in the tent with the presence of God.

And died in the wilderness.

My name means “lofty, high, exalted, mountain.”

Fitting now that I am in the Blue Ridge of North Carolina.

In the Bible, there is a lot in a name.

Nothing is lost.

So,

What can we learn from this?

What is my legacy?

I am a helper. I am a spokesperson.

I am also suggestible and can fly off the handle

when not under careful supervision.

I am a leader but also a born follower.

I need a mentor and a guide

to help me be a fully realized me.

So, Jesus empower me to speak,

to evangelize, to help, and come beside.

Guard my tongue and my heart.

Rid my heart of deception.

Let me own my issues.

Cleanse me of all pride.

Keep me pure of influences that would

have me make an ass out of myself.

As the song says,

“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart, oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above.”

Amen.