If you look closely at the image you can see stamped in each bar of gold the number 999.9. This number represents the measure of purity of the gold which can also be read as 99.9%. When I consider its weight, it’s value and the process of refining to get to that high measure of purity I have to ask these questions: “Why not 100%”? “What is it that binds to this natural element that holds is back from perfection?” A quick search online will tell you that the 0.1% is comprised of other metals that give the gold strength and uniformity in shape.
The book of James carries a lot of weight when it comes to practical instructions for holy living. We read about facing trials and temptations, listening and doing, faith and deeds, submitting to God and many other valuable lessons. When we consider the holiness of God and living a life that reflects that holiness we have to have a measure to stand against, James 3:17 helps put that into perspective: “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” The degree of purity that James refers to is that of 100%, a purity of wisdom that is unmatched on this side of heaven. In the previous verses James use some very strong words to describe any wisdom that does not come from heaven. In the light of this pure and holy wisdom flows the instruction to us today to live as James describes, peace loving, considerate etc.
You can’t add anything to 100%, it is the fullness of itself. As hard as it might be because of who we are and because we live in a fallen world, there will always be a percentage of vulnerable space in how we live and act in this life. Instead of mercy we may offer up revenge or harshness, in place of being considerate we may be disrespectful or impatient. James tells us to “get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” (1:21). The beautiful part about this challenge is we don’t have to do it alone, we have a God who leads and guides us. We, like the gold need more than just our own strength to live a holy life, we need a God who is full of mercy and grace. As His church and His people we need each other, and to me that is worth more than gold.
How much thought have you given to the concept of gravity? To be honest I don’t think about it a whole lot, for the most part I just take it for granted. When I do the things I do, I stay in contact with the ground beneath my feet, as do the objects around me. We can’t see gravity, we can’t turn it off, it is always active. We have all heard the common phrase “what goes up, must come down.” It seems like a simple concept but there is a lot of depth to understanding the how and why of gravity. I will leave the mind-numbing details on the topic to the great scientific minds of the past such as Newton and Galileo.
When we reflect on the extensive description and character of our God and His holiness, we must consider that He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present. All throughout scripture we are reminded of His great power, plan and presence and the book of Esther is no exception. It is interesting to note that throughout the story God’s name is never mentioned. When I read through the story of Esther and her rise to become queen, I can’t help but see the works of an all-powerful God. This story isn’t just about a beautiful woman who catches the eye of a King, it is about God using one of His servants to set in motion a plan to save his people from complete destruction. In an earlier entry I talked about the faith that Esther had and how she was the “superhero” of the story when really all along it was God working through His servants to accomplish His mission and fulfill His promise.
The book of Esther has all the elements to stand alone story, a good plot, action, tragic events, suspense, passion and ultimately leads to a happy ending. When we consider the “gravity” of the story, when we read it through knowing that God had orchestrated each and every moment from the beginning to the end for His purpose, it helps me reflect on how He continues to work today. Some would say that we live in a “Godless society” today, and for many this is true. I know that I live in a world where God is alive and active, and yes, sometimes I take that for granted, just as I do the principles of gravity. Just as God worked through the life story of Esther, He continues to work in all of our lives with a purpose. Sometimes we may not see God working in the day to day of our lives but He has a plan (all-knowing), He walks beside each and every one of us (all-present) and has the power to change and use us for His purpose (all-powerful).
Not that long ago I was trying to figure out an electrical problem with my tent trailer. Usually I am pretty handy at fixing things but when it comes to electrical issues and wiring connections, I get lost easily. As I opened the access panel to the electrical system there were blue, green, black, red and yellow wires stretching in every direction. It was a mess and I didn’t stand a chance. Each wire, each connection had a purpose in the function of the working of the trailer, it is through this lens that I read through the book of Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy is one of those books in the Bible that have an array of connections and references that “cross borders” within the other Old Testament books and continue right into a number of books in the New Testament. The book of Deuteronomy is quoted over 80 times in the new testament and 365 times in the later Old Testament books, that is a lot of connections. The next generation of believers in Israel at that time were perched at the doorstep to the promise land. Through Moses, God calls the people back to the commitment of living within the guidelines of the law. It was a call to listen and obey his commands so that they may live to see the fulfillment of His promise. God’s promises never fail.
The law God set before his people then and the way we are called today reflect His desire to be in relationship with us. Our God pours out His love into our lives and in return wants us to love Him back. Through God’s divine plan, He uses the life and times of the Israelites to connect us with an example of how to live in a relationship with Him. Like the Israelites, our faith comes with highs and lows and that inevitably puts distance in our relationship with Him. I would challenge anyone who reads the first five books of the Bible and can’t see that God desires a relationship with his people. From the very minute God created Adam till this moment in time and beyond, God will continue to pursue a loving personal relationship with all His people, for this I am thankful.
“Comparing apples to oranges” or “Comparing apples to apples”. These are two common phrases that we use or hear when we compare things that are either impossible to match or we have two things that can be reasonably compared. A great example would be comparing a Mac computer to a PC, there really is no comparison, the Mac is the superior product. An apple and an orange may both be a fruit like a Mac and a PC are both computers, but you can’t put them in the same basket.
I love the fact that I have been created in the image of God, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Gen 1:27. Each one of us was created unique and with special purpose, God has shaped us and given us each a set of characteristics that set us apart from others. In the book of Leviticus, we read much about God being Holy, His perfect holiness is one of many characteristics that set Him apart from us today. When I think about the commands he gives us to be Holy like He is, are we comparing apples to apples or apples to oranges? The fact that He is perfect in every way and we live in a fallen and sinful (imperfect) world, I would lean towards apples and oranges. What I do believe is that he sets for us a standard to measure against, that is the life of Christ.
How is this standard attainable? Leviticus 8:23 describes a part of the instructions that Moses had to perform in the ordination of the priests (Aaron and his sons) “Then Moses took some of its blood (the ram) and applied it to the lobe of Aaron’s right ear, the thumb of his right hand and the big toe of his right foot.” You might wonder why this helped me, at first I didn’t see it then as I did a little exploring I understood the significance of this Old Testament tradition. The blood on the ear was a reminder to listen and pay attention to the Word of God, the blood on the thumb represents the duty we have to perform God’s work and the blood on the big toe signifies that we are to follow in God’s ways.
God’s holiness, which is deeply rooted in His character is a part of who we are, it was given to us as He created us in His image. When we read His word, do His work and follow in His ways we live a life that gives Him glory and His holiness will shine through us so that others can see it.
What do you see when you look in the mirror? The most obvious answer would be that you see your reflection. When we look into a mirror we see an exact image that represents our physical appearance at that particular moment in time. I want to take a moment to gaze into the mirror and reflect (no pun intended) on the image that we can’t see; a part of us that was fearfully and wonderfully made by a creator who, in the beginning, shaped us in His image.
One of the foundational characteristics of who our God is can be found all throughout scripture, among many others it is the attribute of holiness. When we read through the book of Leviticus we are continually reminded of His perfect holiness and how we are to reflect it in our lives as a people set apart from the world. Leviticus 11:44+45 and 19:2 clearly state to the people of Israel that it was His desire for them to be holy, “be holy, because I am holy”. In the Old testament the particulars of the law were laid out for the people so that they could live in the presence of God and enjoy His blessings. Through Christ and his sacrifice on the cross we no longer have to follow the laws of sacrifice as the Israelites did, but we are still called to be holy. Peter in his first letter to God’s people remind them to remain faithful, conforming not to the evils of the world. They were called to be obedient children, to be holy because He (God) is Holy.
Our being holy does not reflect in our physical appearance as to be seen in a mirror. The reflection of His holiness in our lives is found in our obedience to his word. Holiness is seen in how we live out our daily lives. It is the “putting aside” of the evil desires of the world. It is living to cause the name of Jesus to be exalted, to glorify God and to be His messengers of love everyone. The next time you look into the mirror, think about how you reflect God’s holiness in who you are and what you do.