Jesus’ disciples were not graduates of the Jerusalem Bible School. They were not sons from influential families from good neighborhoods. In fact, some were smelly fishermen; other rebels, in open rebellion against the Roman/Jewish establishment. One was a hated tax collector, who served the Roman government by taking money from the poor. All but one was from Galilee- the backcountry of Israel- where the “hicks”, “rednecks”, and other low life resided. In fact, the only “respectable” disciple was Judas, who later betrayed him.
What does this say about God’s criteria when He chooses His followers, especially those in whom He has entrusted this mission of reaching the world for Him? Pretty risky on His part if you ask me!
A few years ago we were with Dr Randy Smith down in the Negev Desert of southern Israel.
Photo: Our study group around the ancient altar at Arad.
We were on a study tour, trying to fit some cultural & historical context around God’s Word that would allow us to understand the principles behind His commandments. This “context” helps us understand God’s value system when it comes to morality, relationships, and what we do with our resources, and our lives.
During this time (1500 B.C.) God was attempting to connect with a desert culture that had no graphics, no printing presses, and no video screens. He chose the “show and tell” method to communicate to the Hebrews. God gave many seemingly strange commands to His people that were really object lessons that have a principle of truth behind them. Understanding the principle allows us to apply the truth to our lives in the 21st Century just as the Hebrews did in the 2nd Millennium B.C.!
For example, one of the important context passages from the books of Moses is found in chapter 18 of Leviticus.
Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. I am the Lord your God. 3 So do not act like the people in Egypt, where you used to live, or like the people of Canaan, where I am taking you. You must not imitate their way of life. 4 You must obey all my regulations and be careful to obey my decrees, for I am the Lord your God. 5 If you obey my decrees and my regulations, you will find life through them. I am the Lord.
Here is a clear directive from the Lord. “You are to live differently from the people around you! Don’t mix my morality and values with theirs! My ways are better than theirs. After all, I am your Creator. You will find true life by following my directions.”
With this statement made, now we have an object lesson given in Deuteronomy 22:
9 “You must not plant any other crop between the rows of your vineyard. If you do, you are forbidden to use either the grapes from the vineyard or the other crop.
10 “You must not plow with an ox and a donkey harnessed together.
11 “You must not wear clothing made of wool and linen woven together.
Does this mean that I am to take off the cotton/polyester shirt I am wearing?
I have flowers planted around the base of my lemon trees. I often mix different coffees for our It’s Morning, Java Jake, Papa Jack, and other blends.
Am I in violation of God’s laws? Am I on the highway to hell? No, of course not.
I am God’s chosen child and a part of His eternal family. He says Jesus has covered my sins once and for all, and that He will never leave me. So, what do I make of these three seemingly random commands?
What God seems to be saying to His people is don’t mix His culture with the culture of the Egyptians and Canaanites. Keep these things separate. This is the logical meaning of this object lesson. That principle still works for me in my present cultural surroundings. When I start living by cultural values that come from opinions of man instead of opinions of God, then my life will ultimately suffer.
One of the many moments of clarity and understanding God’s Word that has become very real to me in these days was at the ancient city of Arad, where an ancient altar was found intact. As we stood next to it, Randy pointed out the rough stones, and quoted Deuteronomy 27:5;
“There you should build an altar to be Lord your God, an altar of stones. You shall wield no iron to on them; you shall build an altar to the Lord your God of uncut stones.”
It was then that I asked Randy: “Why uncut stones?”
Randy replied: “Apparently God wants an altar made out of stones just the way He made them.”
What a visual object lesson! God wants His altar made from stones just as He shaped them. So I don’t have to be perfect with no rough edges to become part of what God is building. He accepts me as I am, actually with the personality & giftings that He has created in me. This was me in 1981 when I became a follower of Jesus- a rough stone.
Once I become part of God’s altar/building/kingdom, I’ve noticed that He has been reshaping me. Often it is through my life experiences where I decide to be more obedient and follow His ways rather than mine. Consequences are a great teacher! Other times God has used those around me to make me aware of my rough edges that He wants to smooth out. We all need our brothers and sisters who speak into our lives.
Perhaps the greatest influence in this transformation process has been my lover & the mother of my children- Laura Uyeda, the Japanese girl from Honolulu. She is the most “others centered” person that I have ever met, while I have had a reputation of being task oriented. Her emotional sensitivity is enormous, where mine is quite dull. These opposite personalities have often clashed, but I know this is a big part of my process of transformation. Thanks Lord for the nice packaging.
Jesus’ disciples started off as very rough stones. In their walking out of life, they were transformed. Rough edges were smoothed out. Anger issues resolved. Hurts healed. Attitudes changed. Identities altered. This is what this life is all about.
With this principle in mind, my encounters with God’s people has been much more pleasant. When I notice their rough edges, I think of my own, and as a result, I find theirs don’t bother me very much. I am aware of that God has chosen many such “rough edges” to lead ministries, Bible studies, and pastor churches. It’s His calling.– His altar. Now I can focus on enjoying my brothers and sister for who they are. I can even laugh with them as we share our “rough edge moments”. This is because I have no responsibility to be their “agent of change”. It’s only the Holy Spirit that can do that!
Oh why has it taken me so long to learn such important lessons of life?! Michael
The Precious gift of Life, movement and Loved ones.
Photo: Laura's Birthday dinner with her family & father Ronald.
The value of who I am surrounded by grows as the years go by. My dad is with us, the only grandparent left for our children. The relationships we have had with Michael’s parents, Forrest and Mabel Bagby and my mom, Jean Uyeda have left an indelible mark upon us all and the memories we are now making with my father are priceless and ever worthy to be treasured .... no matter what the circumstances good, bad, ugly.
Our perspective and attitude changes everything.
I determined a long time ago that I would enjoy my moments with the people I value here on Earth. It is often a moment by moment choice because our humanity and tendency to serve Self can overpower the value of serving and giving to the lives we value around us. My dad’s capacities have shifted greatly over the years. His dialysis three times a week tires him. He has never been a quitter, but rather one who couldn’t wait for the sun to come up so he could start his day full of things he loved doing. He loved working his garden to working the stock market to reading and learning everyday. In my little girl’s mind and heart, he could do everything and anything he set out to do. Such a hero to me. With a great deal of his capacity gone he continues to be an inspiration to me in the way that he approaches life and his limitations .... the way he is so real about what he feels and admits to his wrong so easily without hesitation. He is in constant struggle just to feel good about anything much less just being in his very broken body.
We are learning together how to make the most and do our best with what we have and do not have. We are depending on God for the simplest of details in life and learning to practice thanksgiving in the toughest of circumstances. God is near to the broken-hearted. I feel God’s nearness to us as we go through this phase together. Praying often and trusting that God is in charge always... no matter what. The value that rises to the top at this time of life is the one that says “enjoy one another deeply”. Look at all you have to be grateful for and don’t try and change a thing about the people you value”.
Now I came to this value with some amount of ease with Michael’s parents, my mom, and my dad but somehow in my marital relationship with the man of my dreams and highest choosing I seemed to struggle much harder in my practice of this value.
We went to a bonsai garden here in Florida celebrating our 31st wedding anniversary .
As we looked at the variety of bonsai and learned how they did such beautiful creations, we realized that they used copper wire to form the patterns in the trees they were shaping.
Michael said to me that he feels like my Japanese culture has a way of trying to bend things the way they want it to look. Instead of me accepting him in his rough-cut unfinished stone that he was I would try to copper wire him in another position or so. Well, I have felt like he has needed a copper wire or two to bend in the right direction or at least the way I saw in order for him to change in the “right” direction.
I guess I thought I was the Bonsai Master or something and had these unfulfilled expectations of my husband who maybe I thought should have come to me more perfect .... not sure but the revelation of my sin and tendency to take out my copper wire for Michael has to come to an end because like everyone else I value .... I need to mostly value and respect my Life partner above all.
There is a verse in Deuteronomy 27:4-7
“There you should build an altar to be Lord your God, an altar of stones. You shall wield no iron to on them; you shall build an altar to the Lord your God of UNCUT stones. And you shall offer burnt offerings to the Lord your God , and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and shall eat there , and you shall rejoice before he Lord your God .”
Like me, my husband is an uncut stone and needs to be loved, appreciated, enjoyed, and accepted just as he is .... I decided to put my Copper Wire away and just let the joy between us be our strength and leave the Lord to do all the wiring, changing and chipping away. Laura
This month, all of our Honduran Blue Mountain Coffees (Light & Dark Roast, 12 oz, 2.5 lb, and 5 lb bags) are on sale for 25% off!
Simply go to www.riococobeans.com and enter OCTOBERSALE at checkout.
Remember that the profits from these sales help us fund the school project in Nicaragua! Drink Up!
Project Ezra Nicaragua
Good news for our Project Ezra school superintendent Augusto!
He lost his leg due to an infection a few months ago, and now he has his passport and papers to travel to the clinic in Costa Rica where he will be fitted with a new articulating leg!
This is a miraculous event that has been made possible by our former Rio Coco Beans coffee Roaster Luke Broadhurst who now is a prothesis technician in California and has been volunteering at this clinic in Costa Rica.
Luke has provided all the parts for Augusto’s leg!
Photo: Luke and Michael back in the Roasting Room once again this past May.
Please pray that all goes smoothly in this important event!
Let’s Give Thanks
1) For the opportunity to get a new leg for Augusto!
2) That we could pay our teachers this month!
3) That our Utila team has opened the café and people are coming.
If you want to help out this month, donate online at seekthelamb.com/collections/give
Fire Your Spiritual Arrows
Please pray that God would:
1) Send many people to the Rio Coco Cafes this month and make many new friends.
2) Provide for all the financial needs of our missionaries in Nicaragua, Florida & Utila.
3) Safe travels for Michael & Laura this month to Ohio, New Jersey & Virginia & open doors.
Thanks for your prayers