Before I went to the Holy Land, the kosher laws of Leviticus seemed mere words on a page. For example, Exodus 34:26 says not to boil a goat in its mother’s milk. When have you last applied that?
The verse has been misunderstood to mean people shouldn’t eat meat and milk during the same meal. Yet, even if that meaning was true, the truth isn’t timeless. Abraham himself had no qualms in serving both together—even to God (take a peek at Gen. 18:8)!
Although all of the Bible’s commands for dietary laws aren’t represented in modern Israel, the fact that any are observed serves as a powerful illustration of what God first intended the diet code to accomplish.
Even in the Garden of Eden, with the first dietary law given to eat from any tree except one (Gen. 2:16-17), God’s command centered around one question.
Would they obey?
But food also had another purpose.
Everybody uses a calendar. Some hang it on the wall with pictures of puppies, landscapes, or old cars. Others use Google Calendar or carry their schedules on their smartphones. Some do all of these.
In fact, most of us operate with several calendar systems at the same time. My calendar year begins in January, but I also march to a fiscal year, a school year, and occasionally, a leap year.
But as God’s people—just like the Hebrews of old—a calendar does much more than keep us on schedule. Especially on a New Year.
The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, begins this evening and reminds us of essentials we mustn’t forget.
Sometimes our blessings get piled so high, it’s difficult to see around them. Blessings are ours in abundance—and tempt us to forget God. Of course, this is nothing new.
As the redeemed Hebrew nation anticipated entering Canaan, the Lord issued them an important warning:
When the Lord your God brings you into . . . great and splendid cities which you did not build, and houses full of all good things which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant, and you shall eat and be satisfied. Then watch yourself, lest you forget the Lord who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. —Deuteronomy 6:10-12
Notice God’s emphasis by the repeated phrase: “which you did not.” The blessings His people would receive would come from God’s hand—not from their own wits or wisdom.
Moses warned his people of the greatest danger from God’s blessings: to forget God.
We have that same vulnerability, don’t we?
I smiled when I heard about a mother who taught her son the difference between the words conscious and conscience. After her explanation, she asked him if he understood the difference.
“Yeah,” he answered. “Conscious is when you’re aware of something, and conscience is when you wish you weren’t.”
That’s better than Jiminy Cricket’s catchy tune that reminded Pinocchio: “Always let your conscience be your guide.” Sounds great, but unfortunately, it’s sloppy theology.
God never intended your conscience as your guide.
It has another purpose.
An interest in my stepdad’s guitar at age 15 sparked an interest God has used to guide my life. I’m sure God works in a similar way with you. In fact, I know He does.
(Photo: By Pisethinfo. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
More than 30 years ago, I started playing songs on the guitar by John Denver, Jim Croce, Don Francisco, Gordon Lightfoot, and Dan Fogelberg.
I was hooked. I lived and breathed with the instrument. In a few years, I had written more than 100 of my own songs. It seemed this is what God wanted me to do with my life. I decided to pursue the dream of becoming a Christian artist.
- I majored in music (classical guitar) from North Texas State University (now UNT).
- I attended Dallas Theological Seminary so that I could learn to write theologically sound songs.
- I had an influential person with connections in Nashville who promised to introduce me to the right people.
I was ready. Cue the lights. Then God uplugged my guitar.
Playing guitar for all these years has taught me more than music. It has taught me these 3 lessons.
If you think about it, King Solomon never started out to build pagan shrines. It was his failure to deal with the tiny spiritual cracks in his heart that produced a life of compromise and dissatisfaction.
(Photo: Design Pics, via Vivozoom)
The backwash from Solomon’s life reminds us how we only kid ourselves when we think we can have a healthy walk with God and still keep our hidden life of compromise on the side.
The good news? We don’t have to.
One morning when I was in Jerusalem, I chose to have my devotions on the Mount of Olives at sunrise. Making my way through the Old City’s dark and narrow streets, I passed beside the Temple Mount and exited the city on its east side.
(Photo: Overlooking Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Photo: צולם ע, via Wikimedia Commons)
After climbing the steep ascent of the Mount of Olives, I sat near its summit as the sun began to warm my back. Turning to Matthew’s Gospel, I read about Jesus leaving the Temple, predicting its destruction, and sitting on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24:1–5).
Looking across the Kidron Valley at the Temple Mount—now crowned with a Muslim shrine—I thought about how Jesus’ prediction proved true. Because Israel rejected Him, they ultimately lost the very objects they hoped to secure through His death—their Temple and their nation (John 11:48).
Suddenly I heard a sound that jerked my mind in another direction.
I always get a kick out of the road tests automakers perform on one another. As objective as the tests claim to be, the goals remain clear. GM tests Ford to show Ford’s weaknesses. GM tests GM to show its strengths.
When Ford does the testing, however, the purpose completely reverses. (Funny how that works, you know?)
Actually, this type of testing is biblical. Both God and Satan perform tests on you and me. These road tests reveal how the rubber meets the road in our Christian lives.
But the two tests have two completely different goals. Can you tell the difference?
I recently upgraded my iPhone and had a problem transferring the data from my old backup to the new iPhone. So I called Apple.
As I talked to the tech during the data transfer, he really wanted to screen-share so he could see what was happening on my computer, but the connection wouldn’t work.
Because he couldn’t see my screen, he continued to ask me every minute or so what the status was on the progress bar. Finally, I said something like, “Look, asking me about it isn’t going to speed up the process. Feel free to work on something else, and I’ll let you know when it’s done.”
Did he think when it was done I would say nothing?
Then it struck me. We do the same with God.
After my grandfather died years ago, I planted an oak tree in his memory in our front yard. The skinny stem stood only 8 feet tall (like Granddad did). I planted it on a windy day.
(By Almonroth. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
A few hours later, my neighbor hollered: “Hey, Wayne, your tree was really leaning over in the wind!” I grabbed the trunk and slightly bent the tree over. The whole base moved, because it had no root system yet. So I staked it down.
Two years later when I bent the tree, the base didn’t move. But you know what? The tree looked the same. No visible change. Its goal for its first two years was its roots, not its limbs and leaves.
That little sprig offers a contrast (and a lesson) to you and me.