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My Jubilee Birthday

The couple was growing old together. Routines were settled long ago. They knew each other like their favorite movie. One night she asked him to get her a piece of toast from the kitchen. He went to the kitchen, and brought her back a plate of bacon. She looked at him like he’d lost his mind and said, “you’re getting so old and forgetful, don’t you remember I asked you for a dish of ice cream?”

The old person jokes are getting more frequent at my expense. My students, I guess because of my ‘distinguished’ graying hair frequently think I’m in my 60’s, or even 70’s or 80’s! A friend today commented my age has caught up with my hair!

After an enjoyable day of reflection, old man jokes, just a youngun comments from my older friends, not to mention my free birthday sundae at Culvers, phone calls from family, and letting my family cater to my every need (Janice says this happens every day), I finally am sitting down to ponder a little bit of what turning 50 means to me.

I don’t take it for granted. Like everyone, I’ve known people who’ve died well before their normal lifespan would allow them to live. One of the realities of where I work is that I have more conversations than I’d like with students whose parent, or sometimes even parents are no longer living. The news is filled with stories of death worldwide from all sorts of causes. Why hasn’t this been a reality for me? I’d like to say it’s God’s love, or grace, or mercy, but his love, grace and mercy have been dispensed in equal amounts to dear brothers and sisters who had heartbreaking losses in their own lives or families. And yet it is very true that I am here today, my fiftieth birthday because of His love, and grace and mercy.

Israel used to have a law that was supposed to be practiced. It was called the jubilee. You’ve probably heard about it, and like me, never given it much thought. We have a different economy and culture than what the Jews practiced 4000 years ago. Yet, as part of scripture, we can’t brush it off as some sort of old law that Christ fulfilled (which He did by the way!). We have to apply this living and active word to our lives today.

So in my knowledge the jubilee is the only mention of 50 years in scripture. On my 50th birthday, I’m looking at it as a jubilee of sorts. The jubilee was a law of justice in Israel. You can read all about it in Leviticus 25. The key part of jubilee law was the return of property to people who had lost their property in settlements of debts. Since land was inherited and passed down, the ownership of this land was important to the Jews. The jubilee was designed to prohibit the accumulation of much wealth and also prevent the fall into intergenerational poverty that plagues our world today.

A second aspect of the jubilee was the freeing of servants, sometimes referred to as slaves. This was in no way an American style slavery system. God would never permit such an atrocity to happen. Instead, sometimes people, when becoming poor, would become servants, or slaves to pay off debts. At the jubilee, the slaves were to be freed.

When Jesus died on the cross, he performed the work that the jubilee accomplished. People in debt to sin, enslaved to sin, were set free by that singular act. Praise God for that!

So on my 50th, my jubilee birthday if you will, how do I make this a year of jubilee? Well, to start with, my debt has been paid. My eternal inheritance is secure (I Peter 1:4). So how can I be the one doing acts of jubilee for others?

I imagine, when/if the jubilee law was followed (and there’s some evidence it never really was practiced in Israel) that those receiving their land back, their property, their freedom must have had quite the celebration with their restoration. It must have been an emotional time as people realized what was rightfully there’s being returned. Slaves coming back freely to their families and friends had great reason to celebrate, much more than I celebrated today!

So in my 50th year, I can help bring about the thrill of debts settled by being a witness of Jesus to others. It’s a thrill to be with someone who is making a decision to accept the jubilee that Jesus represents and enter a new life as a eternally secure person. Note to self, pray for others who need Christ. Pray for spiritual sensitivity to the strangers I also meet along the way

In many ways the recipients of the jubilee were given fresh starts. Maybe some who were in poverty were there because of foolish decisions being made. How can I, as a school teacher, be in position to give others a fresh start? Forgiving others is one way. Encouraging others who have been burdened by some sort of struggle is another way. It’s going to mean being more intentional in the way I live.

Thanks to all of you who read this and have made the first 50 years of my life truly wonderful!

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See Him in the Storm

August 27, 2011 Leave a comment

I am intentionally reading through the Bible this year. There are parts of the Bible I’d rather not read, to be honest, and right now I’m in one of those places, Job.

I know the book of Job. Satan challenged God to let him mess over Job and see if he’d remain faithful to God. Of course Job loses almost everything and ultimately remains faithful. I don’t really need to read it again right? After all, I’m a concrete thinker and all of this poetic language doesn’t resonate in my recently damaged brain.

So I found myself last night reading Job. I actually told Janice I don’t like reading Job, but faithfully plowed through a bunch of chapters relying more on the headings provided by Mr. Schofield to determine the gist of the chapter. The sooner I can get out of this book the better I’m thinking so I’ll read a whole bunch.

And then the words stopped me. Stopped me in my tracks. Job 36. He’s writing words about a storm. I start making the connection. There’s a big storm out there, Irene, which is threatening many here and has already devastated many in Caribbean countries that most of us don’t pay any attention to.

:27 “For He draws up the drops of water, They distill rain from the mist, which the clouds pour down, They drip upon man abundantly”

I’m no scientist but apparently his friend Elihu who wrote these words was.  The science of rain formation!  In what is the oldest book in the Bible!  Cool!

:30  “Behold, He spreads His lightning about Him, and He covers the depths of the sea.  For by these He judges peoples.”

The storms are part of God’s plan.  That’s a tough pill to swallow.  Some people apparently are being judged by God in what is unfolding in front of us on TV.

:32  “He covers His hands with the lightning, and commands it to strike the mark.  It’s noise declares His presence.”

The noise of a storm indeed declares His presence.  We shouldn’t need to be reminded of it.  Where can I hide from His presence?  That’s what David asked.  There’s many seeing God’s presence right now in this storm.  And did you catch the lightning line there?  He commands it to strike the mark.  Is this where we get the God will strike you with lightning idea?  Could be.  I never thought about it.

In chapter 37 now, more science, :9  “Out of the south comes the storm and out of the north the cold”  No need for explanation there.  Hurricane season has us all looking south, and the coming winter season has us looking north.

:13  “Whether for correction, or for His world, or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen. (dear microsoft, lovingkindness should not be underlined as a misspelled word, it’s a word that has been around for millenia, a word meaning God’s faithful love for unfaithful people)    These storms have a divine purpose.  Jesus talked about this in Luke 13.  “Or do you suppose that those 18 on whom the tower fell in Siloam and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

The storms of today, spoken of in ancient times serve a divine purpose.  These storms are correcting people.  Some will perish.  And this is the message.  What we do in this life, if the literal storms hit or not, has to lead to a time, a moment, in which we repent.  And when we do that, then we can agree with Elihu’s awesome conclusion.

:21-24.  Now men do not see the light which is bright in the skies; But the wind has passed and cleared them.  Out of the north comes golden splendor;  Around God is awesome majesty.  The Almighty-we cannot Him;  He is exalted in power and He will not do violence to justice and abundant righteousness.  Therefore men fear Him.  He does not regard any who are wise of heart.”