Why was the blood of animal sacrifice a ‘pleasing aroma to the LORD?’

blood sacrificeI’m reading Leviticus. It’s tough going. There are rules and regulations listed in extreme detail, and a lot of directives involving the blood, fat, meat and regularity of animal sacrifices.

My housemate told me that she loves reading the Old Testament because of what it teaches her about God’s character, so I’ve been really focusing on what I can learn about who God is.

He seems to like blood.

The picture of God as presented in Leviticus appears demanding and somewhat brutal. How can the God I know and love have been so keen on the constant offerings of blood and flesh, to the point where he considers it a ‘pleasing aroma?’ It seems sadistic.

So I’ve been praying and meditating, and last week God gave me something powerful: It shows his abhorrence to sin.

So often I just ignore sin in my life. But God really hates it. He cannot abide it. There is absolutely nothing good or worthwhile in sin.

God doesn’t like death either. He created a world without it. But death has in it one redeeming feature that sin doesn’t have. Justice.

In the disgusting brutality of the shedding of blood, there was something good: The pleasing aroma of justice, which covered the stench of sin.

God was willing to endure the death of animals, and even of His own son, so that the sin of humanity could be washed away. It was not the smell of death that pleased God, but the smell of atonement.

Things I’ve learned from Killing Consumerism #8 – The joy of receiving

I’ve always loved receiving gifts, but I’ve noticed over the last few years that the enjoyment has worn off. I loved the thrill of being surprised with something I really wanted, but, as I got older, I found that people seemed to miss the mark. I slowly, and somewhat cynically, lowered my expectations.

Just this week, I suddenly realized why.

I had lost the art of wanting, and so had lost the joy of receiving. It is dizzying to think of the speed at which I purchased things to meet my every whim. Before anyone had time to think to buy something for me, I had already bought it for myself.CJ3JXUcWoAAZIaE

This year has been different. At first I noticed it slowly: the joy of a beautiful candle as a housewarming gift; two friends who bought me a necklace because they knew I wouldn’t buy it myself. But then, on Friday night, it all hit home with sparkling clarity.

I was out for dinner and got a text from mum saying they’d bought me something. I dropped past their house on the way home.

They’d bought me Harper Lee’s ‘new’ book, Go set a Watchman. I was thrilled, and touched and blessed. And suddenly it hit me. If it weren’t for my resolution this year, I would have pre-ordered the book before it even hit the shelves. In holding back, and depriving myself, I’m creating room for others to bless me. And I’m rediscovering the joy of receiving.

What if God hadn’t told us what happens after death?

corridor-sky--hallway_19-104567My Nanna died last week. She was old, and it was not unexpected, but still the quiet, grey cloud of grief has hung over me.

On the evening after her funeral I sat quietly at home, not sure what to do with myself. I read my Bible and just sat, feeling sad.

After a while I looked at my heater, glowing red and warm and I felt suddenly grateful. I knelt on the floor and thanked God. For the heater and for the many other blessings in my life, including my Nanna: who she was, and how long she was given to me. Not everyone gets their Nanna for 29 years.

I thanked God for looking after her, even now. For cherishing her soul and filling her with joy. I thanked God that I could trust Him with her.

Suddenly I realized something deeper to be thankful for: God’s revelation of the mystery of life after death. If He’d said nothing about life beyond the grave, he could still be trusted. Heaven would be real whether we knew of it or not. God would still be good, even in His silence. But He is not silent, and what comfort that brings us

I don’t blindly trust God with my Nanna, I trust him having been told exactly what will happen to her. Death will have no victory; she will be raised and given a new, imperishable body. This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Things I’ve learned from Killing Consumerism #8 – I bought something, but I can totally justify it

2015-07-06 21.34.33It’s time to confess.

I vowed to be honest at the beginning of the year about anything I did buy this year, so here’s the rundown.

I bought a book. I bought it online while at work. I got it sent to work. It’s to check out to possibly have on the curriculum at work. I’ll claim it on tax. I think that’s ok.

I bought a pot. It is a black flowerpot that I was intending to plant my coriander in. It cost 74c. It’s too big anyway and I’d completely forgot I wasn’t supposed to buy it until I already had. I think I’ll take it back.

I bought a No Junk Mail sign. It cost me $3.95 from Bunnings. I knew it was stretching the rules, but you know what? It’s worth it. Now when I drive past my mailbox in the mornings and see all the junk spilling out of everyone else’s slot, mine is clear. No longer will I be assailed by the tirade of consumeristic, promotional rubbish. No longer will those mountains of paper be wasted on me.

I used to enjoy flicking through the junk mail, but no longer. It’s taken me 6 months of buying nothing to finally make the move, and I had to break the rules to do it, but I’m not looking back.

Things I’ve learned from Killing Consumerism #7 – Consuming makes the world go ’round?

In general, when people have asked me about my non-shopping project this year, they’ve been somewhat impressed. I get lots of questions about how hard it is and what I do and don’t buy and how I’m coping.

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This question, over lunch one Sunday, was a new one:

‘But doesn’t our economy rely on consumerism?’

Now that, I hadn’t thought of.

If westerners, presumably the largest consumer body in the world, ceased to consume to the same excessive extent that we do, would our economies, or even the economies of many poorer countries that support our habits, collapse?

Has the world become reliant on our greed and excess?

I don’t know. But it doesn’t really worry me for two reasons:

  1. I don’t see a large-scale departure from our consumerist ways, and
  2. I think it’s more of a moral issue than an economic one.

Greed and gorging on excess is something that should probably prick the conscience of any moralist. I think we can all afford to depart from excessive consumerism on moral grounds, and leave the economy to God.

After all, when a country sticks to God’s moral law, things tend to go pretty well.

Go figure.

How do I know I’m not a psychopath?

Yes, I have actually asked myself this question. Very occasionally, when I remember the following two things, I have a mini freak out.

  1. We are all likely capable of unspeakable evilindex
  2. It only takes one screw up of epic proportions in the space of a few minutes to completely change your life.

What is it that is restraining me from a momentary epic screw up, and how strong is that thing that’s restraining me?

I was reflecting on this with a very down to earth friend who surprised me with her answer. She said first that we obviously create personal boundaries and make daily choices to adhere to a moral code to reduce the chances of an epic ‘brain fart,’ but that if we accidently screw up, jail isn’t actually the end of the world.

What? I actually thought it was! But she’s right. When you know God and you know grace, screwing up is never the end of the world.

But still, it’s not ideal.

This morning she sent me this quote: “Grace is not simply leniency when we have sinned. Grace is the enabling gift of God not to sin. Grace is power, not just pardon.”

Immediately after, I saw this by Challies: “God’s providence is the single greatest hindrance to the tsunamis of sin that would otherwise gush out of our sinful hearts.”

So, I think I’m safe. But it is a good reminder that when I see people who have epically screwed up, I need to remember that “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

If you talk pretty, you can say almost anything you like

 

photoA print out of this quote hangs in one of my classrooms: Good English, well spoken and well written, will open more doors than a college degree. Bad English will slam doors you didn’t even know existed.

It’s a great quote, but behind it lies something sinister.

When people talk pretty, we lap it up.

I’ve just finished watching Q and A, a live political question and answer show broadcast here in Australia. An African-American man was on tonight who spoke like a poet with a bluesy lilt and flawless rhythm. The audience lapped it up. I loved him… he was on point as my teenagers would say, but did we really know what he was saying? I sure didn’t.

If you can talk pretty people will follow you…

(Russel Brand)

… wherever you go…

(Adolf Hitler)

…Beware the power of the great orator

Stephen Hawking: The tragedy of a wasted life

240px-Stephen_Hawking.StarChildA while back I went to see the movie ‘The Theory of Everything.’

A brilliant physicist, Oxford University and a love story: It was a recipe guaranteed to hook me, and it did.

I am far from the first to be captivated by the genius. To think that such extraordinary intellect can be trapped within such a broken body is both tragic and inspiring.

I am awed by men like Hawking, both past and present, who have walked and conquered the halls of the greatest universities on earth. I wish that ‘A brief history of time’ wasn’t something that would go entirely over my head. I admire Hawking for more than his intellect; for his perseverance, his fighting spirit and his sense of humour.

He is truly a man who will go down in history.

But that is all.

And I found myself wondering if that is enough.

If all we can hope for in this life is to do enough to be remembered, then Hawking represents the epitome of success. But what if it’s true that there is more?

What if it’s true that Hawking spent much of his life arguing against the existence of a God that he will one day face?

Then his brilliance was all for nothing, and his life was a tragic waste.

And suddenly the greatest minds of the halls of Oxford pale in comparison to the common man who sits with his Bible and knows the creator.

Things I’ve learned from killing consumerism #6 – You don’t know it’s enough til it’s enough

shopping--outlet--skirt--skirts_3196466“Miss, I haven’t seen you wear the same thing all year.”

This comment came from one of my year 12 boys last week. Now let’s face it, boys aren’t the most observant, I’m sure I’ve worn several things multiple times, but he does have a point.

I’ve generally aimed to mix and match and not wear the same thing multiple times in the classroom… in a weird sort of way I think it’s respectful to the kids… but who would have thought that four months in to not buying anything I’d still be managing to not double up. In fact, as I think about it, there are multiple items in my wardrobe (I’d take a stab and say 20) that I actually haven’t worn all year.

So, once again I find myself asking how it was that I ever really believed that I ‘needed’ more stuff. Maybe it’s because you don’t know it’s enough till it’s enough. You don’t know you’re being excessive until you realize how easily you can live with less.

I’ve got 99 problems…

IMG_603953887545918Unfortunately this meme is too often reminiscent of my life. In fact lately, I’ve come face-to-face with the fact that when my life feels like it’s spinning out of control, it’s usually mostly in my head.

Now my head is a very real and complex place, so it’s not like that realization suddenly solves all my problems, but it does help to put some things in perspective. It also helps to find my solution.

See I might have 99 problems, but I have one solution.

When I don’t understand myself or I’m anxious about other people or I can’t seem to control my circumstances, there is one place that is my quiet eye in the storm. There is one place where I’m the most real version of me; a place where the crazy woman with her 99 made up problems fades away.

When I’m alone, on my floor, with my Bible.

When I’m reading the words of my Anchor within the veil and remembering that I was not made, primarily, for here.

It’s a comforting thought to know that the wild, heady confusion has a resting place.