Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Leviticus 10 - Twisted Obedience

From time everlasting, man has tried to reconcile the holy with the unholy. We justify the warping of God's word to further our own standing. Adam justified taking the fruit, Abraham justified calling Sarah his sister and using Hagar to forward God's prophesies, David justified taking another woman and killing her husband. 

In this chapter we see Aaron's sons in priestly service adding to the prescribed rituals their own idea of a holy offering. (Lev 10:1).  By today's view of conduct, most would deem this a minor offense, but it is God's view that rules. Offering a substitute is not acceptable. We should never call something holy unless God calls it holy. 

We live in a world that frequently diminishes God's standard for sin and promotes personal desire above holy conduct. I think of all the behaviors that have been redefined to be called acceptable in our culture. Debauchery of all kinds being called acceptable. We live in an era where more than 1/2 of babies born are to unmarried mothers, fathers are frequently disengaged from the raising of their children, sexual promiscuity is flaunted with modest clothing hard to find in retailers racks. We have to teach our children birth control in the place of abstinence. Same sex unions are seen as acceptable in God's eyes. Children are neglected so parents can pursue their passions. Alcohol and drug abuse are rampant. We live in a culture that calls the unholy holy. We have gone down a bad path and called it good. We all have fallen short of God's standard and we are prone to justification to make ourselves feel better. We don't like to admit our offenses before God, but they are there and until we identify them for what they are we live in deception. 

God's view of sin has not changed and our reframing the definition of sin to suit or lifestyles is a deadly game we play with God. Just look how Nadab and Abihu fared (Lev. 10:2). God smote them dead as an example to the nation. No mourning was permitted for them. God had passed judgment and His judgment is right. 

Because God has not passed immediate and final judgment on the conduct of our culture gives us all opportunity to change direction to stop and agree with God regarding our wrong attitudes and sinful acts. We have the obligation to change our ways and to help point others to a right relationship with God. It is not judgment to call sin by its name. It is love that points to sin and offers the way out. God has already given His assessment of sin in His word and by saying what Gid says does not make us judges of sin, but beacons of hope. The judgment will come and soon but not by our hands. Gods judgment will be swift, sure and final. In that day there will be no opportunity to repent. 

Before someone thinks that I am saying that righteous living earns your place in Heaven, let me be clear. We have all sinned. We have the offer of forgiveness if we repent, but that forgiveness comes by means of someone paying the penalty for our sin; the only sinless man, Jesus Christ. Jesus' death and resurrection is our only hope of overcoming the eternal hell we all deserve. He offers this hope freely of we will accept it. Any other way is futile. Money, power, position all fail us at the judgment. At that time it will all come down to this: did you call sin by its rightful name and did you accept the forgiveness of sin made available to you?  

We have all been given abundant opportunities to receive forgiveness and in the end, what you did with them will be what counts. Our measure of success in this life is what we do with Jesus. Will we deny Him, ignore Him, or run to Him?  We cannot continue on twisted obedience and hope to have peace with God. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Leviticus 9 - Standing in the Gap

Aaron and his sons consecrated themselves for service and now they are to begin their ministry in service to the people. There is no higher calling in this life than to stand in the gap for sinners making a way for them to be right with God. Aaron serves offering sacrifices for people's sin. He could not be Messiah since he first had to sacrifice for his own sin and then for the sin of the people. He was a sinner just like everyone else. He was a likeness of Christ that pointed to his coming. 

Our spiritual leaders are much like Aaron. They are sinful men and women who have recognized their need of a Savior and are so humbled that they would serve to point others to the hope of a Savior as well. Our pastors, priests, bishops, and elders all are sinners pointing others to the great news that the gap has been bridged; not by an animal, but by Jesus Christ the only perfect representation of man who could perfectly stand in the gap. In Aaron's time sacrifices were made again and again, but Jesus came to be the perfect sacrifice to die once for all. 

The calling to stand in the gap for others is not limited to church staff. As sinners redeemed by a Savior, we have a story to tell and an obligation to share it. First receiving the offer of salvation and then bringing others into the fold is our highest calling. We share the word that we are sinners hopelessly lost, the penalty of sin is death, but God in His great love gave his only Son to pay that penalty for us and offers fellowship with God not just now but for all eternity. God desires that even the hardest of heart, the meanest and cruelest of all would turn from their sin and receive the forgiveness offered through Christ. 

Moreover, God came to make a way for those who act kindly and are full of good works. No one is saved on their kind disposition or their great achievements. These people need a Savior as much as the criminal. It is easy for the criminal to see his sin, but good works can blind a man to his need of a Savior. 

Beyond sharing the good news of hope, we can also stand in the gap in prayer for the souls of those in our life. For the unsaved yes, but also for the saved that they will be bold witnesses of Christ's redemptive power. Each and every day we have opportunities to share life or to encourage someone in their faith. Each and every day we have opportunity to pray first for our own need of forgiveness but then to ask The Lord to minister to their souls that they might walk in the Light. 

Jesus was the perfect one to stand in the gap for us. Because he was the only man born without sin, he could be the all sufficient sacrifice. He bridged the gap between God's holy standard and our sinful nature. Our hope rests in Him alone. There is no other way to be in fellowship with God. 

Don't let the people in your circle live or die without knowing the have a solution fri their sin. Share Jesus with them and pray that The Lord will soften their hearts and heal their souls. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Leviticus 8 - Self Surrender

In a culture that promotes self and fights for rights, this chapter may be offensive to some. After receiving instructions regarding the sacrifices, Aaron is ordained to serve the remainder of his life offering sacrifices for himself, and for the nation of Israel. Not just himself but all his descendants would be commisioned for service. There was no asking if he might desire this position. I am sure there were a thousand more pleasant assignments, but day after day Aaron would have the constant reminder that sin yields death as he sacrificed animals at the altar. He willing service is a model for all God's people to follow. Aaron would no longer live his life for himself but for God's pleasure. 

We are given glimpses of the self surrendered life when we marry and commit ourselves to honor and serve someone other than ourselves. Christ likens the bond of husband and wife to his relationship to the church, willingly giving himself up for her (Eph. 6:25). The husband laying down his life for his wife and the wife yielding herself to his headship. We don't see that a lot, but it is God's design and one we should strive to follow. 

Other examples of self submission include parenting. Where the parent places self life on hold for the benefit of the children. Servicemen and women offer their lives in service to their country; giving up the joys of family closeness and the pleasures of monetary gain to serve their nation even to the point of death if necessary. 

If we adopted self submission as our model, we would turn our backs on the sins that dominate us and serve not only God but our fellow man. As it says in Philippians 2:4,"each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."  Imagine how different our world would be. I think there would be a lot more fellowship with God, but also with fellow man. Less need for TV, internet, games, alcohol and drugs as we no longer would need to escape the realities of life but could enjoy them. 

Jesus modeled self submission for us when he prayed, "not my will, but thine be done". When our focus is removed from self we are free to live and love more abundantly and we can enjoy the fellowship of God. Self focus keeps us from loving a God and impacting our world. 

In humility and love, Aaron offered his service to God bridging the gap between God and sinners. Who knows what God might do with your life surrendered to Him?

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Leviticus 7 - Guilt and Fellowship

Startling to see guilt and fellowship placed side by side in scripture, but in Leviticus 7 that is exactly what God did. Coming directly after the sin offering (Lev 6:24-30), the guilt offering is to be offered  in the same place. God is Holy and cannot mix with sin, but we are sinners and cannot hope to be Holy. We have a terrible problem that separates us from God. Sin results in death. God said it even as He gave His first directions to Adam in the garden. The animal sacrifices were representations of the spiritual death that is the result of sin and acknowledges that we ourselves are affected by this terrible malidy. The animal could not substitute for us and take our punishment but it pointed to the work of our Savior to come. 

As long as we are in sin fellowship with God is impossible. We can deceive ourselves that our sin is not worthy of death, but we are not the judge and we don't determine the penalty. Without a Savior we have no hope of reconciliation with God. Once the sin problem is addressed and we acknowledge our guilt before God, the fellowship (or peace) offering to God in gratitude for His lovingkindness. 

While we cannot have fellowship with God in our guilty state, we also cannot be reconciled to God without an acknowledgement of our sin. We have all sinned and fallen short of God's Holy standard. When was the last time you confessed your sin to The Lord and acknowledged your guilt before Him?  We must keep a short list by regularly confessing our sin to God and receiving His free gift of forgiveness given to those who are completely undeserving but repentant. 

We cannot expect God's blessing in our lives if we are living a life of sin and not acknowledging our guilt. BUT if we will confess our sins He is faithful to forgive us and we can have peace with God here on earth and for all eternity. The greatest blessing of all is not to win millions in the lottery and have no financial struggle, but it is to experience the joy of fellowship with God receiving the grace He freely offers. 

Our treasure is found in fellowship with God. We can enjoy the same fellowship that Adam had if we will address our sin, acknowledge our need of a Savior and come into God's presence with praise and thanksiving. This is God's story played out in each of our lives. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Leviticus 6 - The Cheaters Chastisement

In this chapter we learn that deceiving your neighbor is a sin against God (Lev 6:2). God lists a number of different ways that one could sin in this way. It may be we were not faithful in caring for something entrusted to us or it could be actual stealing from your neighbor. 

No matter how we have defrauded our neighbor we are to confess it as sin and make restitution with our neighbor by adding to the value of that which was taken another 20%. (Lev 6:5). Additionally the person was to present an offering to God to acknowledge the sin. 

We like to think that sinning against a neighbor is just one relationship affected, but the Bible tells us that God is also offended. Our neighbor is made in God's image as much as we are so the offense to the neighbor also becomes an offense to God. 

The restitution is more than just replacing the item, we are called to make things more than whole. The increase is to establish right standing between us and our neighbor. Placing value not just on the item taken but on the relationship as well. 

In the same way, when we sin against God we have damaged that relationship and betrayed His trust. We must do everything in our power to demonstrate our remorse to God. The sacrifice was a personal acknowledgment of the damage we have done in sinning and recognizing that sin's punishment is death. 

Jesus came to pay that punishment for us but since we still sin, we should come openly confessing before God in prayer asking for the forgiveness we desire. And we can know the benefits of 1 John 1:9 "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."

Let's make a practice of keeping short accounts with our neighbor and with God. Sin asks to be ignored, but God challenges us to look it in the eye and call it by name then walk away. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Leviticus 5 - Standing for Truth

If a person sins because he does not speak up when he hears a public charge to testify regarding something he has seen or learned about he will be held responsible. Lev. 5:1

This chapter continues the theme of being responsible for what you know. The first verse addresses the sin of omission. If we know the truth and do not speak up, we are responsible. We can apply this to our work, our home, among neighbors - wherever we interact with people. We cannot just look the other way; we must speak up. 

Since our nation is a democracy, we must stand for truth as Christians and take a stand against laws that are unjust. We have a freedom here that many nations do not enjoy and not only should we exercise that freedom, we are guilty if we do not. 

Finally, and most importantly, I think of the many people I know who are not people of faith. Coworkers, neighbors, friends, family - will I be able to stand before The Lord and explain away the fact that I knew the future judgment they would face and did nothing to point them to the Hope of salvation from that judgment?  Will I be the one to deny them the joy of fellowship in the Spirit and of life abundant?   I am ashamed of the many times I have not lived my faith and just as importantly the many opportunities I have had to speak of the gospel and did not. I am responsible. 

We are people of the truth and we serve the Way, the Truth and the Life. We must not hold that truth in. Speak it out so the world can know. We also live in a world that has been deceived by Satan and honestly prefers the lie to the truth. We may earn for ourselves some foes in speaking out, once people are exposed to the truth they have an opportunity they never had before to turn from the lie and to enjoy communion with God himself. 

I pray that I will be a bold witness for my Lord and I pray you will be too. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you seve Him. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Leviticus 4 - It's What You Know

One of the great complexities of faith we encounter is what happens when we sin unintentionally?  As sinners we are prone to sin - even after receiving forgiveness for the sins we have committed in the past we continue to sin even if we are unaware. God offers a plan. 

First of all, God's laws were to be kept before the people to contrast their ways with God's and so that they may be aware if their sin. Once the person, priest or community became aware of their sin, they were to bring an offering to God for the remission of sin. The offering became needed once a person became aware. 

While the blood offerings pointed to the Deliverer to come, Jesus being the offering that all mankind must trust on for the salvation of their souls. He died long after the Old Testament population became aware of their sin. The offering of the animals became a marker in time of their confession and humility before God. Jesus came long before I became aware if my sin, but not before God was aware of my need for a blood offering to exchange for my life. The penalty for sin has always been death. Not the kind of death the animals died, but eternal death -separation from God Himself. Hell. 

Unintentional sin is evidence of how deeply sin is rooted in our being. We don't choose it - it is deep within us just looking for a way to manifest itself. We are utterly hopeless and unable to save ourselves from our sinful state. Unless God himself prescribed the remedy, we would all be destined for eternal separation. Intentional sin is outward rebellion against God. We know to choose rightly, but we do not choose the path of righteousness. Intentional sin is shameful and unintentional sin is pervasive; both are deserving of death. 

Someone is out there right now making a case- I feel it. They are saying, but God did not require a sacrifice for sin unless you were made aware if the sin. Isn't it true that Satan has deceived the unbelievers causing them not to see their sin?  Yes, but God has made creation an even greater force than Satan himself. We are not without ability to see the contrast of our need compared with God's glory. Romans 1:20-21 tell us, "for since the creation of the world God's invisible power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God not gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their hearts were darkened". 

So the application for us as stewards is that we are responsible for what we know. We who are aware if God's plan of salvation are responsible for sharing it with those who are unaware that they have a hope if Heaven. We are responsible for applying God's word to our lives and living our life in light of the word. We are responsible for the talents, skills, health and financial provision God has given us to use them wisely and for God's glory. We have been given much and we need to apply ourselves for the glory of God so that we can enjoy the treasure of Heaven. 

Consider all you know today and give God glory. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Leviticus 3 - Making Peace with God

The common condition of all mankind is the natural state of sin which throws us out of fellowship with God. We struggle to do right and to live rightly but so often find ourselves where we started. Man's efforts could never be sufficient to right ourselves before God Almighty. While God's character is love and compassion, He cannot abide sin - and yet, we are all sinners through and through. 

Some people reconcile this dilemma by accentuating God's forgiveness and love while discounting God's holiness. This leads to the thinking that God saves all because he loves everyone. These people have no need to speak against sin or to point people to a Savior because all is well with everyone. All we need to do is see the good at the heart of each person. 

Others elevate themselves by comparing themselves to people who may be executing "worse" sins. They play the odds that if God has to choose among unholy people for salvation that they would be in at least the top half since they haven't murdered or committed some terrible crime. Sins are then reduced to crimes; because if the government doesn't have an issue with the activity, why would God?

God makes it clear in this chapter that man is grossly out of fellowship with God and the solution is not a simple fix. This out of fellowship condition is worthy of eternal damnation and since man cannot save himself, God must prescribe the remedy. In order for us to have fellowship with God the chasm must be bridged. It was not a mere "sorry" offered casually, but the offering for peace with God was costly; an animal without defect. The best you have presented to God for reconciliation. It was a messy business with blood everywhere and innocent life put to death. 

This sacrifice points to the perfect sacrifice to come. Jesus became our hope of reconciliation to God. Romans 5:10 says it best, "for if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!"  Dear friends we have a Savior who could do what no animal could. Our sins are fully paid for by the innocent death of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus was all sufficient - no need for continual sacrifice when it has all been done. And best yet, our Savior overcame death and lives to intercede for us here and to make the way for our eternal salvation when this life is through. What joy should fill our souls to consider that we have what no unbeliever has ever experienced - fellowship with God himself!  Bask in that joy today!  

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Leviticus 2 - Offering in Gratitude

We are in the midst of several different types of offerings to God. The first we reviewed in the last chapter was a sin offering (also known as a bloody offering). Jesus is the offering for sin in the Christians life so shouldn't that be all sufficient?  Why all the other offerings?

This offering of grain ground into fine flour and covered with oil and frankencense is a response of gratitude of God's people. It seems to me to be closely aligned with the actual offering of money we bring to our church when we worship. It is offered in gratitude for God's provision for our lives both in the natural realm (financial, relational, and physical health) and in the spiritual realm (redemption, salvation and promise of Heaven). We recognize the Sovreignty of God in our lives and we offer a token of gratitude. 

A portion of this offering is to provide for the needs of the spiritual leaders. (Lev 2:10). Our offerings should provide for the needs of our pastors. They have given their life in service meeting the spiritual needs of the church and pointing us all to apply scripture to our hearts. Our offering should be a thank you to God for their service. 

I have thought of my offerings being brought to the church with a portion given to God as if the offering was for operations and a portion was reinvested in God's name; but this passage offers just the opposite view. The entire offering belonged to God and the remainder that was not burned was offered to the priests. 

An offering of first fruits is distinguished here from the grain offering. Honey and yeast were not to be included in the grain offering but could be included in offering of first fruits. (Lev. 2:11-12). 

It is right for us to offer portion of what God has provided us in gratitude. We cannot provide for our salvation or make amends for our sin. Only God can make things right and we are wholly reliant on Him for our redemption and for the provision we need here in life. 

When we do not offer a remembrance to God, we show that we do not understand the depths of our sin or the magnitude of His salvation offered to sinners. In addition to our praise, let's remember to offer a portion to God. Let us all remember to give a portion of our bounty to God in Thanksgiving for His blessings in our life. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

Leviticus 1 - No Second Bests

I believe that every chapter of scripture is given to us by Divine inspiration and that each is meant to be applied to our hearts. God has been so good to provide us this revelation of His character, His purposes and His offer of hope to all humanity. 

As we open Leviticus the very first chapter speaks of our need for atonement. We are sinners and are deserving of God's judgment. From Adam on we all have fallen short and all have sin lurking within us. We don't just commit sins - we are sinners through and through and we would have no hope if God had not intervened. 

Even from Adam, God has reached down to man and offered hope of reconciliation. All we have to do is confess our need and accept God's prescribed offering. In the Old Testament we have foreshadows of the offering Christ made of himself for all human kind. 

Even when we recognize and confess sin we want the resolution to be quick and painless. In Leviticus 1 we see the sacrifice made for atonement of sin was costly, deadly, and messy. This was no Sunday ritual, this cut right down to the core. 

The offering was to be a male without defect. There was no option to offer God the second best. It was to be the best if what was there. It was to be without defect - perfect. (Lev 1:3). 

The offerer was to slaughter this perfect animal in the presence of the priest. (Lev 1:5). To take the best of your herd and to slaughter it to pay for your sin. Sin is always associated with death. This image is clear here. 

The offering was a bloody mess. The blood was splayed across and against the altar and the animal was burned in pieces on the altar. This animal had not committed sin but died to take the place if the sinner. The burning of the sacrifice carries with it a foreshadow of the hell that sinners are spared. 

Our Hope
In the same way, when we are adopted by God into His family it is not a casual thing. God offered His perfect son, sinless to spare us from eternity in Hell. 

When we acknowledge our sin before God and accept Jesus as that perfect sacrifice to cover all sin it is no small thing. In redeeming us God has made us His own and we enjoy blessings we did not earn. We have a hope of eternity in Heaven with Him if we will only come to Him and accept the offering made for us. 

God loves you and longs for you to embrace this hope made for you. Free but costly; death brought to life; and filth made clean. We can rejoice in considering all we have been given through our Savior, Christ Jesus. If you have accepted this offer of salvation from the penalty of sin you have also been given His Holy Spirit to live within you and to guide you all the days of your life. 

Our offering unto God should not be a pittance left over after the rest is spent, but should be the life spent in gratitude and thanksgiving for the blessings we have here and the hope of a home in Heaven. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Exodus 40 - Consecration Yields Endorsement

All of us would like to think that we are living purposeful lives and that our work would be recognized by God. We all want to hear, "well done, thou good and faithful servant". But, in the day to day administration of our tasks, the challenge becomes how to keep our connection with the purposes of the Almighty when the tasks are so mundane and the conflicts opposing accomplishment of  purposeful activity are so great. 

I love the story about the woman who has a sign posted at her sink saying, "service to The Lord performed here 3 times daily". When we are in fellowship with The Lord, even the mundane becomes integral to His service. In Exodus 40, even the placement of the articles for the tabernacle had God's attention. Each article and each servant was consecrated to The Lord for service throughout the remainder of their days and even to future generations. 

When we were adopted as God's children we were consecrated for the Lord's service. Too many Christians seek God's favor, but are unwilling to yield themselves to God's direction for their lives. If we belong to a fellowship of believers, we are specially equipped for service in that body. We don't just come to church to receive the Bread of Life but to connect to and function in the body with the gifts God has given you. 

If you are in a family, you have a mission field in your home. There is no better position to learn about real love and grace than among those who know all your failings and still remain in fellowship with you. 

At your workplace there are opportunities to minister to the needs if your customers or coworkers even if you work in a secular environment. But always be ready to give the reason for the hope you have within you!  

As we consecrate ourselves to The Lord, The Lord endorses us with His presence. In Exodus 40:34 the glory of The Lord filled tabernacle. In our own lives God has given us His Spirit to guide and comfort us. We have sweet fellowship with The Lord and He hears our prayers as incense pleasing to Him. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Exodus 39 - Standing up to Inspection

It is one thing to do a job according to our own standards, (we might have very good standards and do a fine job) but it is an entirely different thing to follow God's high standards and then have your work critiqued. 

When we set our own standards there is no room for criticism since the level of excellence was defined by us in the first place. Actually, isn't that our preference? We want to design our own level of excellence so that no one can criticize - then we want to criticize others for not adhering to our standards. But, in this chapter, God sets the standards, the Israelites do the work, then Moses is sent to inspect and judge the work before dedicating it to God. I can think of no higher level of excellence. 

Moses goes through the tabernacle piece by piece to make sure that God's directions were followed. It reminds me that the Bible gives us God's instructions for our own lives. Obedience is the only measure of excellence and one day Christ will judge our work before dedicating it back to God. How will we stand up?  In the case of the Israelites, their work was found to be just as Gid commanded and Moses blessed the work. 

I would like to think that my work would be found excellent in the Lord's judgment, but I know my meager attempts are poor. When I commit my ways to The Lord and ask him for his help and guidance, I find that my obedience combines with His greatness to produce "God moments" in my life; turns of events I could have never predicted and results greater than I ever imagined. 

My friend, as you commit your ways to obedience, I trust and pray that your efforts will bear much fruit for God's glory. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Exodus 38 - God's Worship Center

Come as you are - casual worship - music and fun are messages extended to draw the unchurched into worship in our contemporary culture. We have redefined our standards of conduct based on the times rather than on God's standards. As we move into this chapter we see that the construction of the tabernacle was based on God's design and using the best of what the people had to offer. 

I was particularly struck by the sheer vast volume of materials used. The gold alone being more than one ton would be valued at more than $29 million in today's dollars. There was more than 3 times the weight in silver and twice the weight in bronze. The people brought the best for the construction of the temple. 

Our offerings to God reflect His importance in our lives and the way we enter worship says something about our hearts. I am not making a case for formal wear to worship, but I am suggesting that entering into the presence of God to worship is a momentous occasion and we should treat it with respect and not casually. Our tithes and our offerings should reflect the best we have to offer God and not our remainder. 

There is one thing more we can bring to God is our attention. When we worship are we distracted by the activity of the service, the actions of others or by the lists of things that need to be done as soon as we get out of church?  Are we stirred in our soul by the sheer frustration of getting the family organized and ready or are we allowing God to minister to our minds and our souls in worship and applying scripture to our hearts?  Are we prepared to be still before God so He can speak or are our minds so cluttered that we cannot hear?

God set a high standard for the construction of his tabernacle. While we know God is omnipresent, we also know that He has sent His Spirit to dwell in us. Are our lives a reflection of the holiness that God desires or do we have so much clutter and outright sin that God is minimized in our lives?  

Let's challenge ourselves to give God our best today whether at work or worship so that we can make Him our focus. As others see the change in our focus they will be drawn to it as seekers of the same fellowship we enjoy. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Exodus 37 - Excellence in Work

In Exodus 37, Bezalel is singled out for his work in constructing the Ark of the Covenant. The first few verses go into detail about materials used and the details of how it was constructed. His instructions were received directly from God so the task while the symbolism may not have made sense to him, the project was clear. 

The excellence with which Bezalel made the ark, the table, the lampstand and the altar if incense is a model for our service to The Lord today. We may not have exact specifications for our work, but we have the principles of scripture to guide us in our interactions with others and our right relationship to God. We have God's Spirit within us to guide us along our way. 

Bezalel was a craftsman and he applied himself in his trade as unto The Lord. He would have understood the meaning of the letter Paul wrote to the Colossians when he said, "And whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for The Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from The Lord as a reward. It is The Lord Christ you are serving."  (Col 3:23-24). 

When we understand that we serve The Lord and not some earthly boss in everything we do, our work takes on new meaning and purpose whether it is doing dishes after a meal or meeting a deadline for a report for our employer. We work for The Lord and not for man, so the standard of integrity and excellence should show in every task we do. 

Bezalel likely never saw the ark again after it was constructed and placed in the Holy of Holies, but he contributed to the construction and served The Lord well and I think with a glad heart. One day in Heaven we may meet Bezalel, I think he will have a lot if experience to share about serving The Lord with the talents He has given you. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Exodus 36 - More Than Enough

In our times, I don't think I have ever heard a ministry say, "Stop giving! We have everything we need", but in this chapter we find Moses restraining the people from giving more for the building of the Tabernacle (Ex 36:5-7). God had moved in the people's hearts to give them a desire to give generously. 

God Given Provision
This abundant giving did not originate with the people however. All provision came from God. Likely some of the precious metals were from the Egyptians as they were fleeing in the Exodus (Ex. 12:35-36). In our own lives if we recognize God is the provider of our wealth and well being we hold to possessions more loosely and give thanks to our God more readily. 

God Given Talent
In addition to giving wealth, God also equips His people with the skills they need to serve Him (Ex. 36:2). If we receive our talent from God it seems fitting that we should wholeheartedly yield to Gods call in our life for service. Not everyone is called to serve as a pastor, but we all have skills we can contribute to the body to make it effective in reaching out to the community. Not all of us are missionaries but our service speaks volumes about our faith and we are all called to witness the gospel to the world around us lost and dying. 

Faithful Service
Exodus 36:8-38 details the faithful service of the nation of Israel in constructin the tabernacle according to God's design. When we apply ourselves with our provision and our talents to faithful service, God is honored and we get the blessing of being in fellowship in God's work. We know that all God's plans are good and that He will not let them fail - they always brig glory to our Lord. 

Our propensity in the flesh is to hoard our talents and wealth or spend them on ourselves in fleshly living. God does provide for our needs and we do have food and necessities for the day. If we give to God off the top (first) we will find that there is enough to sustain us and even provide for some of our wants in life as well!  

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Exodus 35 - Offerings of Time, Treasure and Talent

The Lord asks for a demonstration of our love for Him as we live out our lives. In this chapter as the Iraelites are bringing to the Tabernacle the materials they have God lays down some principles of giving that we can and should apply to our lives. 

Time (Ex. 35:1-3)
God asks us to set aside time each week to rest. Our work through the week is God's talents given to us applied to service and usually for material gain. God ordained work in the Garden of Eden, but He also set aside a day of rest to regenerate ourselves in God's presence. Christians frequently observe this rest not on the Sabbath (Saturday) but on Resurrection Day (Sunday). The principle remains the same however, we should break from work and rest in The Lord. 

I think the big danger for us without having this rest is that the fleshly nature that lives within us would start believing that work is our salvation and our sustenance and not recognize the God who gave us our provision and has blessed us with the abilities we have. We would trust in our work and not in The Lord. 

This time commitment to God is different from the tone of the rest of the chapter. It is a command, an order. Phrases like "The Lord has commanded you" and "you shall" are forceful and demanding. Also there is a punishment associated with its violation - death. 

The priests would spend many years helping define work for the Israelites throughout the remainder of the law so that this command would be clear. In doing so they layered their demands on top of God's to the point of making obedience virtually impossible. Jesus confronted these laws when He walked on earth. 

Treasure (Ex. 35:4-9)
Not like the tenth of all our increase that we are accustomed to hearing about; God asks the people to bring from what they have and take an offering to The Lord. He then mentions the items needed: gold, silver, yarn, linen, goat hair, wood, oil and the list goes on. 

Notice that this is only to be offered by those willing (Ex 35:5). In fact through the remainder of the chapter if you will notice the word "willing" is repeated again and again. This is not a mandate, but a request from the lover of our souls as a demonstration of our love returned. 

Talents (Ex. 35:10-35)
God then calls the people with special abilities (which He gave them) to apply their talents in the construction of the variousness pieces of the tabernacle. There was work for all types of people. Making the priestly garments, constructing wood posts, building the altar, fashioning the clasps, the lampstands and all the adornments. Notice again, this is a freewill offering. The people brought as God supplied (Ex. 35:29). 

Finally, God chooses some artisans for the detail work to be done. Ex. 35:31 reminds us that God gives the talents and the passion to use them for His glory.   While Bezalel and Oholiab were called by God for specific work. The rest of the nation however was called by God to be about the work God ordained as well. God has equipped each of us for service in our own way. Together we form the body of Christ moving along directed by God to impact this pagan world for God's glory.

God has equipped you for voluntary service. Will you say "yes" to his call and will you sacrifice what you have? If we who are called by God's name will apply ourselves to willing service as God reveals a need, our purposes will align with God's and our life will be immensely richer for it. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Exodus 34 - God's Presence - Our Raidance

Moses in this chapter visits God on Mt Sinai. God comes down in a cloud and proclaims His Name -The Lord. There is power even in the mention of God's name. I am sure that Moses felt the power surge. 

God then proclaims something I had underlined in my Bible and a promise we can all rest in as children of God. "The Lord is compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love and failthfulness, maintaining to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children of the fathers to the third and fourth generation."  Ex. 33:6-7. God hates sin and it can't be overlooked a price must be paid for sin, but we have a compassionate God who is gracious and loving. 

Moses worships and asks for The Lord to go with the people. The Lord proclaims some of the mighty works He will do if only the people will obey. Obedience- isn't that where we all get stuck?  God's holy standard is beyond us so we give up and return to our own ways. We don't want to be chided by our friends and neighbors so we go along with the flow and turn our backs on holy living. We entangle ourselves in the affairs of the world. 

God calls us to be different and to enjoy His presence. Moses did and his face was radiant. We too have the offer of God's presence and no doubt we too will glow when we obey and trust God with our affairs. The problem is we doubt God and take up our own resolution to the problems we see rather than seeking and obeying God. 

As we speak, I am challenged in my own faith to trust God and to look to Him to guide me. Indications suggest that my position will likely be eliminated. I don't know when for sure, but it does not enjoy the same favor that the prior management bestowed. I know that God prepared me for this position and that He is now preparing me to serve Him where He places me. Yet, I can't help feeling a little uneasy anticipating change without knowing what direction it will take. Yes, I can choose to trust God and intentionally make time for worship, study, prayer, and fellowship. I need God's wisdom and power but I also need Him to go with me. I cannot go alone; if God does not ordain the path and walk with me, it must not be travelled. 

Our financial affairs can so quickly entangle us and keep us from enjoying God's radiance. It is in this area of life that our joy is so quickly stripped from us as we pursue our own direction. Commit today to serve The Lord in obedience and enjoy his fellowship daily. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Exodus 33 - Sin in the Presence of God

People don't like to admit they are sinners. It just doesn't feel good, especially knowing God's punishment for sin. Particularly God's people like to think they are a little farther away from at least the deathly sins that would sentence us to Hell. 

In Exodus 33 we find the Israelites facing the prospect of having offended God so deeply with their pursuit of worldliness and worship of idols that God is prepared to send them to the Promised Land without his presence. God said in Ex 33:3 that if He were to go with them, He might destroy the people along the way. Their sin was as grave as that of the people in Noah's time. God's own people chose to follow the example of the world rather than to follow him. What rejection; what betrayal!  

Before we look down too much upon the Jews, consider how much of the world's influence, philosphies and practices have been adopted in our own lifestyle. How many of us have valued wealth, power, entertainment and pleasures over fellowship with our Lord?  A close examination of our activities and our conversations might betray out proclaimed faith. Even the ways we spend our money are banners to the world proclaiming our true values. They display our faith or lack thereof. 

The thought of going anywhere without the Lord's presence is scary. No protection, no love, no security, no hope. I think this chapter is a Come to Jesus moment for us to consider how our faith and our actions might be different. 

Moses intercedes in behalf of God's people just as the Spirit intercedes for us today pleading with God on our behalf giving us access to much undeserved mercy and compassion. If we are to see God's glory as Moses did we must be prepared to follow The Lord not in a casual way as so many carnal Christians do, but wholeheartedly abandoning our ways and seeking holiness over happiness. When we do this, we will find that we get our hearts desire. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Exodus 32 - Other gods

Have you ever waited on God - for a really long time?  What did you do in the wait?  Do you keep on believing or do you give into peer pressure to abandon God?  In this chapter we find that the Israelites don't do well in their wait for Moses to return from the mountain. They return to old ways of idolatry and deeply offend God. 

I think one of our hardest tasks is to wait. We want to see results immediately, but our activity in the wait reveals our true nature and either brings God glory or condemns us in our faithlessness. We can learn from the Isrealites a few lessons so that we don't repeat their poor choices, but we also learn something of Gods character and how he is offended by and judges sin. 

Lessons from the Israelites
One thing I learn from the Israelites is that I am in my heart so much like them. I am impatient and prone to start looking for other solutions in my wait. I try to affect the results I want in my own power, rationalizing along the way that this is what God would want me to do. I look to advice of others and eagerly seek their suggestions for solution. 

I am prone to giving up on God (while still claiming to be His). My solutions are often as idolatrous as the nation of Israel, because think about it - if God is not the source of my deliverance it is from another source and that is against God. 

Aaron was quick to give into public pressure. It is so hard to stand against the masses when they have turned against God. I think that is why we hesitate to tell people about the love of Jesus Christ and the hope he offers to save us from God's wrath against our sin. 

We need to take the High way and stay on it. We need to look to God in our time of waiting and pray all the more for His intervention. We also need to be guarded about the advice we receive. Does it align with what we know God's direction to be or is it from another source?

God's Character
We see in verse 7 that God is altogether aware of the corruption taking place. He sees it in you and me and He saw it in the Israelite camp. If God ever asks us what we are doing it is not because He doesn't know; it is because He wants us to admit it. 

God calls the people stiff necked (Ex 32:9). They stubbornly resisted God's leadership and were quick to return to their idols if Egypt. To some degree they left their heart in Egypt and wanted to avoid the hard path of Holy living.

God's anger burned in Him against the betrayal if His people. They were His and He had gone to great lengths to deliver, preserve and protect them, yet they demonstrated no loyalty, no gratitude. 

Moses Intervention
Ultimately the penalty for sin is death.  If we do not have a Savior who can stand in the gap and accept the penalty for our sin we have no hope. 

Moses offered to be that person before God, but he couldn't redeem the nation. He was sinful himself. 

The only hope was that God would relent if his wrath to preserve His name among the other nations. No doubt the people deserved judgement, but if God's people were destroyed, what hope would the rest of the world have?  God had given promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and He couldn't allow them to go unfulfilled. 

Moses returned from the mountain and his own anger was so great that he broke the laws given to him by God and called for an oath of allegiance that those who were for God exercise war against those against Him. The war was not started by the Levites as we see in Ex 33:18 that Joshua reported there were sounds of war among the people. But to be sure, when you fight on God's side you are in the winning side. Many fools perished that day for actively opposing God and I am sure with the subsequent plague of judgment in the people many more perished for walking away from God. 

My reader friend, sin is an abomination to God and it's end is death and hell. As Chrisitians we must forgive, but we must also point others away from sin. To be more personal, we must never give excuses or justify sin in our own lives. We must call it by name and put sin to death or it will cast us into death. Don't discount sin but take you sword to it. The word of God us sharper than any sword. Apply it daily and sin cannot stand. 

Finally dear friend, be prepared to stand against the tide. Many seek their own ways and believe they can approach God on their own merit but we must have our feet firmly planted in our faith in God. Do not waiver and don't give up in out waiting. The Lord's return is soon. Be ready. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Exodus 31 - Uniquely Qualified

Work is part of God's plan for his people and part of his provision for our lives is in His gifting of our skills and talents. In Exodus 31, we receive some principles related to work we can all use.

Our abilities are from The Lord
Contrary to the self-made man principle, we do owe a debt of big gratitude and service to The Lord for the skills and talents he has given. As Chrisitans we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit I guide us as we apply our talents. 

We have a Holy calling
Our talents are not our own; they are a gift from God given to us for a purpose. As God's people we should be about applying ourselves in service to The Lord and connecting with the Spirit for direction. 

Too many Christians make excuses for not serving The Lord claiming to have no talents or not to know God's leading.  To say things like that is to reject the notion that God has a plan and you are a part f it. It also discounts the abilities you were given as if your service should not be required because you are still waiting in line for your talent gift and you don't know what that will be. 

I think of Joni Erickson Tada who being a quadriplegic could easily say she has been DISabled. She could easily say that because of her disability that someone else should be doing the work of service. But instead, she has found that her disability had uniquely qualified her to serve in a special way giving voice to the needs if the disabled and encouraging them to not give up and to be engaged with God. At a very minimum we can all praise God and we can hold his leadership high. 

Sabbath Rest
God called each and every one of his people to be at work for him but we need rest and God called us to honor his rest each week. The Sabbath would be the seventh day or Saturday, but many Christians choose to observe a day of consecration and rest on Sunday which is the day The Lord rose from the grave and began an entirely new type of week for us where we as sinners can receive permanent and total forgiveness of sin. It is cause for celebration and should be cause for us to give up the mundane daily tasks to thank him for giving his life for us. 

Regardless of the day of the week, the principle is to observe a rest were work is put aside. This allows us to reflect on the fact that we are not self made people but God has created us and created in us unique abilities that used properly will build the kingdom of heaven. 

How has God equipped you for service and how can you honor him with the talents he has given you today?

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Exodus 30 - Ransom for Your Life

After consecration of the priests The Lord specifies how the priests are to consecrate the place of service to The Lord as separate and holy. In addition to the offerings of grain and animals, the people are to bring a money offering as a ransom for their lives. The people are consecrated to The Lord, but because sin is in our nature we are separated from our Creator. 

The offerings were to be used to maintain the service of the Tent of meeting. Our ransom was paid through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and we as Christians are consecrated to God for his service. But the principal of atonement is just as valid for us as it was for Israel because one thing that has not changed through the evolution of the ages is our sin nature. We are not more holy, more moral, more righteous than these who wandered the desert looking for their promised land. In fact, as I look at the news and consider our culture, we appear less worthy, less holy than the Israelites. We need Jesus' sacrifice more than ever. Our unbelieving friends and neighbors are on a fast track to Satan's dominion and only the atonement of Jesus can save them. We need to give them the message if life and not be content to see them perish, eternally separated from God. 

The Israelites were not saved by the sacrifices offered either. They were just a foreshadow of Christ's perfect sacrifice. The only one who could buy us back from the path of sin. Jesus' sacrifice covers back in history as well as forward. 

There is one more point from this passage I would like to expound for a moment. Please look at the text of verse 15, "the rich are not to give more than one half a shekel and the poor are not to give less when you make offering to the Lord  to atone for your lives."  Rich and poor are equal at the foot of the cross. This is not a percentage, but a flat tax where eveyone's share Is the same. 

We live in an era that believes the rich should pay more and the poor should pay less. We tax according to our provision and make exceptions for those who are less able to provide for the needs of the common good. I think we see in God's economy, everyone can contribute and everyone can serve. We obey God's commands to give Him the respect and honor due. We also serve one another as a bit of sacrifice of our lives following Jesus' example. 

I think of so many of our churches that languish because a few pay a higher price of doing the bulk of the work/service while the majority come to receive the benefits of the fellowship of believers.  It should not be so. There is a sacrifice to make and a service to perform; not because we are under law, but under grace. We serve in gratitude for our ransom paid and in following the example of our Lord. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Exodus 29 - Consecration to God

Every believer is set apart at the time of their conversion to God. Salvation is a marvelous event where we realize that in our sin we cannot come into God's holy presence; but in applying Jesus' sacrifice to ourselves we can have the hope of eternity with Him. For many Christians that is the end of their story, but in Exodus 29 we see a ceremony of consecration for service to The Lord.

Every believer is set apart not just to receive the benefits of Heaven, but also to dedicate our lives to the service of The Lord. Even for those like me who understand their service is to The Lord, often the commitment is casual done as a quick prayer in the morning - "here I am available for your service".  

Exodus 29 makes clear that consecration to The Lord is serious business and should not be done lightly. God outlines specific dress, actions and sacrifices to be presented over a 7 day consecration ceremony as the priests enter their service. 

Servants are to once again recognize their sin and give an offering each day. We as believers should keep short accounts with God. To let sin linger in our lives deadens us as we become insensitive to its presence. Each day we should confess and thank God for the offering of Jesus for our sin. 

The burnt offering (Ex 29:15-18) is presented in obedience and gratitude to God to honor Him for his provision for our lives. Likewise our prayers and thanksgiving rise up to God as a pleasing aroma to Him. 

Offering our service includes all our senses (Ex 29:19-21). We offer our ears as instruments to hear the needs of those around us and to rightly respond. We offer our hands in service to work where we are placed and we offer our feet to God's service to guide us in the way we should go. This combination of awareness, service and location allow us to be effective for The Lord. Without any component we operate in our flesh and are not bringing glory to God. 

The wave offering (Ex 29:22-26) was presented in gratefulness to God and became the provision for the priests. The amazing thing about offering to God us that He offers is so much more in return. We cannot out give Him and every provision we have comes directly from His hand. 

As we consecrate ourselves for His service, our decisions become clearer, our loyalties solidified and our provision is assured. We enter into true fellowship with The Lord as he gets the glory for the efforts we expend in His service. 

May God richly bless you as you seek HIm and as you serve Him.  

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Exodus 28 - Your Wardrobe Speaks

In Exodus 28, we have an outline for the garments of the priest who was to serve as the representative of the people before God. The Ephod, the Breastpiece, the robes and other garments spoke not only to the people but also to the priest wearing them.

Dignity and Honor

The clothing was to give dignity and honor to the wearer and to the position. We bring evoke right treatment of ourselves when we dress in a way that dignifies us. Later we will speak about modesty in dress, but when we dress neatly it shows we care about ourselves and we would like others to treat us with respect as well. 

We make a statement to the world by wearing clothing to dishonor ourselves. Revealing clothing that exposes our undergarments or worse, our areas which should remain covered causes people to think of us in less than flattering ways. We as God's children should dress in ways that do not stir lusts or degrade our image. 

Aaron was a priest. In dressing the part he brings honor also to his position and reflects holiness to God. Likewise when we dress for our work we reflect not only on ourselves but on our employer and our profession. 

The details of the garments added to the honor and care that was given to the dress. The ornamentation was to add to the dignity of the position and the person.

Signs and Remembrances
When we dress, we show something of our character and the things we value.  We like to call it our style.

In this chapter I am struck by the symbolic nature of some of the pieces - the shoulder plate and the breastpiece with the names of the tribe of Israel, the Holy to the Lord gold plate on the turban, even the bells around the hem all spoke about the Holiness of God and his love for the people. Aaron was to be a representative of the people to God but also a reflection of God to the people. He was to hold the nation dear to his heart and bring their sacrifices to The Lord. 

I think of how people wear jewelry that has a cross or other remembrance that keeps God before us as a reminder but also before the people we meet witnessing to them. We show our faith in our dress and we demonstrate to the world that we hold God high in our lives.

Contrary,  when we have symbols of rebellion, death, and hatred reflected in our dress, we publicly speak against God and witness against Him. 

The point of this passage is that God sees and cares about the details. Our adherence to the details is a reflection of our character and obedience to The Lord. Consider what statements you make in your dress today. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Exodus 26 & 27 - Detailed Plans

As a financial planner, I love to see detailed plans of life goals and how they will be accomplished. Likewise in these chapters God lays out detailed plans for the Tabernacle and its furnishings. He outlines a materials list, colors, patterns, size, and even assembly instructions. 

God intended for his place of meeting the people to be sturdy, functional and pleasing to the eye. With cherubim a woven into the fabric and gold and silver decorative touches. Each piece served a purpose with nothing unplanned or unused. 

The plans for the construction were incredibly detailed. God does not leave us to work through projects without guidance. He cares about the details and guides his people. He is also concerned with the details of our service to Him. He doesn't satisfy Himself with what is leftover, but He has a plan and a purpose for each servant. 

There was employment for skilled artisans, weavers, tent makers and builders. I am sure that many gifts from the people provided for the materials and the precious metals used in the construction.  I feel sure there was a role for everyone in this project. Later,  the priests will bring offerings and serve The Lord here. 

When I was a young Christian, I thought that service to The Lord was limited to religious work. The missionaries and the ministers were at work for The Lord, but in this chapter we see that artists and all types of skilled workers have a place of service. 

God has equipped each of us to serve Him in a special way. He has gifted us with special personality traits and skills we can use. He was in the details of our education and even gifting us with mental and physical capacity for service. Each servant is equipped differently and performs differing roles, but as his child he will not call us to a task and leave us without the wisdom, strength and capacity to complete it according to His plan. A measure of our obedience is how closely we obey His plan for us and how willing are we to engage ourselves in service. 

What has God planned for you?  It doesn't have to be the assembly of the tabernacle, it could be mining the ore or cutting the trees. Where God has placed you in service, serve him with all your heart and look to Him for the results. You may be keeping house, raising children, or recovering from an illness, but as long as we have breath, God is concerned with our service and calls is to witness and work for Him.  So whether it is the details of our health, our home, our worship or our work God is in the details. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Exodus 25 - God's Building Campaign

When I think of building campaigns in the church, I almost want to cringe. We have more churches on every street corner that are under-utilized than ever. Often congregations forfeit true ministry (funding Christian discipleship and missions) in order to have a building that is large and updated for every purpose. 

Many churches go deep in debt and risk not being able to support the basics of providing for their pastor or building 
maintenance in order to have a lovely building.  In this chapter we see some principles of God's building campaign. 

Offering of willing hearts
God's building was not a function of fund raisers or product of selling foods or charging for special events. People were to give from their supply. Only willing people should give. No borrowing was required. People gave from the reserves they brought with them from Egypt. 

Specific offering
God outlined exactly what would be needed for this project. It wasn't a matter if giving what you feel like after the bills are paid. God has a materials list and exact plans for what is to be included in the building (ark). 

Extravagant offering
God lists his plan for gold, silver, bronze and special dyed fabric for the project. This was no plain tabernacle but extravagant. God asks for very detailed work - look at verses 18-21 for the descriptions if the gold cherubim and verses 31-36 for the lamp stands. These were works of art. 

Honor to The Lord
The rings for carrying the ark and the table were designed that no man would touch the holy places where God's presence was. We are not to make our own way to God or to discount His holiness; these errors in judgment lead to death. 

If we only understood God's nature and His principles we could avoid so many of the blunders that destroy the testimony of the church. By applying the principles to our own worship we hold God high,demonstrate obedience, and depend only on the willing offerings of the believers. In that way God gets they glory for anything we construct. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Exodus 24 - Our House of Mirrors

In this chapter we find God reaching down to His people and aligning His purposes with theirs. Moses shares Gods plan and reads the Book of the Covenant to the people and twice the people corporately confirm "we will do all that The Lord says". I have no doubt that the people were sincere, but what becomes clear is that they underestimate the holiness of God and overestimate their own ability to reach his standard of righteousness. 

Our view of ourselves
No one likes to think they are working against God or that we are out of fellowship with Him. We like to think of God as loving us and accepting us no matter what. The truth is that God loves us immensely - so much that he will not allow us to wallow in sin. BUT God is also holy and cannot be associated with sin. 

The people responding to God really wanted to believe that they could honor God's commands and meet the terms of the covenant being offered.  They offer their obedience with every intention of following through, but their sin nature they inherited from Adam works against even our best intentions. They thought they were able to meet the requirement, but the laws God gives make it clear that we cannot in ourselves meet the standard. We are hopelessly lost in sin. It is in us and we cannot separate ourselves from our sin nature no matter how much I want to and no matter how hard I try. We console ourselves by comparing our righteousness against the rest of the sinners in our lives, but if we rely on that we still fall woefully short of God's standard for acceptance. 

Our view of God
In our sin nature, we resist deep consideration of God's holiness. It is so starkly contrasted with our sin that it is like a bright light shining on the depravity of our souls. Our response often is to discount God's holiness. It makes us feel better about our condition of sin. God however demonstrates his holiness to the people. Look back at the chapter. 

Moses offers a sacrifice. The animal sacrifice would not be required if the people could meet their side of the covenant between themselves and God. 

The glory of God resided on the mountain as a devouring fire for six days before Moses was allowed to enter into God's presence. We are not able to stand before God apart from God's special accommodation. Even Moses needed to wait for an invitation from God. 

Thank God we have special provision in Jesus Christ - the only perfect bridge between God and man because he was fully God and fully man wholly equipped to be the perfect and lasting sacrifice able to pay the penalty for our sins. Not only did he pay the penalty of sin (death) for our sins but for the sins of all mankind from Adam to all generations after. 

We cannot meet God's holy standard but Jesus can and he makes his life an offering for us so that we can enjoy fellowship with God now and for all eternity. We can know our eternal home; if you have accepted Jesus' substitutionary sacrifice it will show as you make serving Him our life work. The work doesn't save, but it is our response to the gift Jesus gave us. If we continue to live for ourselves we probably have not realized the benefit of Jesus sacrifice on our behalf. 

Check out some of the results of a life lived in fellowship with God in Galatians 5 and Ephesians 5. This is the measure of a saved life. God places His spirit in us and grows fruit evidencing his power. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 


Friday, September 6, 2013

Exodus 23 - Living the High Life

Exodus 23 contains a number of principles we can apply to our lives to experience the fullness of life promised. These principles guide us along the high road of life and keep us from adopting the practices of the world. We cannot be light to the world if we adopt its ways, so God outlines for us His way to follow. 

We are to be people who are known for absolute truth. We should not twist facts to support our own preference or to distort justice for or against another. 

Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life" Jn 14:6. When we make truth our standard we walk in way of Jesus. We are to walk away from falsehood. 

In keeping with our commitment to truth, we should never accept a bribe. When we do we have blinded ourselves to truth and righteousness and allow out testimony to be compromised. 

We were made for work. God gave us our talents and has provided the opportunities we have been given. We should work hard and make sure our families are provided for, but in recognition that our provision is from above we should observe a rest and honor The Lord weekly. Rest is a service to The Lord oft neglected. Do we allow ourselves to believe we are our own Masters of our destiny when we refuse to observe His day of rest?

We are also to provide for the poor. There are those who cannot work for one reason or another and who should be provided for out of our abundance. It is not just the offering to The Lord we are to give but we are to give to those in need. For those who are unable we are to share the bounty from the abilities The Lord has provided us. 

From our labors we are also to honor The Lord with our first fruits. We are to do this in recognition that we serve God alone and that we are grateful for His abundant provision. 

God offers protection for his people as they enter into the land of promise. An angel is sent to guide. This angel gives Gods direction and bears God's name. This angel goes before the people to disturb and strike fear among the people in the lands. 

Notice a principle in verse 30, the inhabitants are not driven out in one year but little by little. The people were not ready to assume control of the land all at once. Likewise The Lord goes before us and prepares us for each new season of life. He does not provide everything all at once but as we need and can manage it. This explains why we must continue to strive, but it is in the striving that our character is refined and we apply God's truth to our lives and find it all sufficient. 

We may not have a visible angel to guide us to our promised land but we do have a living Lord who sees, who cares and who provides for our needs on earth and paves the way for us even now for our eternity with Him.   We can reject the worlds ways and embrace the high life of our Lord. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Exodus 22 - Restoration

This chapter focuses in what the people of God should do if there is an offense committed. The first half of the chapter focuses on property; the second half focuses on people.

If we steal, borrow or are in some way placed in care of someone else's property, we are responsible to the owner of the property. To not restore the owner to their full is to treat them as if they are not worthy and less important than ourselves. We have a duty to honor our friends possessions as we honor our friends. There is a principle involved: honoring of someone extends beyond their person to their stuff. 

As we apply this principle, consider if we have depleted value from another. If we stretch the truth on our income taxes we steal from the government (or the nation as a whole). If we fudge on our expenses to our employer or not fully engage in the corporate work, we are defrauding our employer. There is always a person at the end of the offense. Even filing bankruptcy defrauds not only the creditors to whom money was owed but also the other customers who bear that cost through higher fees charged. 

In the second part of this chapter, the topic turns to direct violations against a person and against God. We see that the vulnerable are not to be mistreated. The alien, the widow, the orphan, the poor all have value in God's eyes and should be treated respectfully. The way we treat others is a reflection of how we value our position before God. We were needy and aliens before God and He showed mercy to us. We demonstrate His character when we show that same mercy to others. 

God also demands respect. Our Creator deserves our worship, our sacrifices, our honor, even the dedication of the first-born in recognition that without Him we have nothing. Our very life is His. God outlines for us what respect for Him should look like and how repulsive it is to rob Him of His place. 

Our choices in our administering money, treatment of others and our worship of God say something about what we value and the character we bear. Will we bear God's character or will we defraud God and others by living only for ourselves?

I pray that as you consider God's word for our lives that you will choose to serve him with all your time, talents, gifts and service!  As He said in Ex 22:31, we are God's holy people. We should live in a way that demonstrates our allegiance. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Exodus 21 - Social Justice

God has laid out for us here in Exodus 20 a standard of justice as we relate to people around us. Let's see if some of the same principles don't apply to us. 

In the text I read they are called servants or slaves. We learn that if the servant is a Hebrew he has some rights to freedom after a term of service. This kind of reminds me of a military enlistment. The servant agrees to remain under authority for a period of time and can choose to re-enlist or go free.  

Bottom line for employers or if you contract labor, you should be fair in your dealings with them. They are working for you for a living and you should pay them what is right and not take advantage of them. You shouldn't skew a labor contract in your favor but do what is right and honest. 

Relationships in Community
Starting in verse 12 we see a series of rules around personal injuries. It is clear that to restore justice we are to evaluate crimes and execute judgments. List after list of judgments for particular crimes are given. I believe that this has become the basis for our justice system today.  The crime must be met with equal judgment but not more than what the crime demands. This is where we get the "eye for an eye" measure of judgment. 

God cares that we treat people fairly and be a good bearer of justice. God established justice and gave us these commands so that we could live together in peace knowing that we will be made right if we should become victimized. 

Hope for Us
We can be assured that our future is secure in God's hands and He established justice and he measures out grace. There will be a judgment day coming where our allegiances and our deeds will be assessed. For those who accept God's provision of a Savior there is grace applied. For those who reject the offer of Salvation by grace alone, justice will come. You can know for sure that you are secure in God's hands and that Heaven is your home; and it isn't based on the laws you kept but on the works if Jesus Christ. He is our only hope of Heaven and his offer if forgiveness of sins is available to each of us. Will you choose to serve him and obey him in love and not out of securing your righteousness before God?  

We need to confess our sins daily before God  and receive his forgiveness.  In exchange he gives us his Spirit to keep us close, to comfort and correct us as we live for Him. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Exodus 20 - God's Direction

I think everyone has at one time prayed for God's wisdom for our lives. We want to hear "Do this; don't do that" from the one who knows all. When God gives the Ten Commandments that is precisely what he is doing. The wisdom of God for living life here on earth. 

The Commandments are so much more than that however. They are the measuring stick of our love for God in that if we love God we would keep His Commandments. They are also the measure of our condemnation as no one measures up to God's Holy standard and we are left acknowledging God's Holiness and our unrighteousness. 

The law points uncovers the naked truth about us - we are without any merit before God. Even if we were able to keep one law, we are guilty of breaking so many more. Our lives are soiled; we have offended God in so many ways. There was only one who met the laws requirement and He is able to save not only Himself, but gives himself for all to have the hope of Heaven and a relationship with God here. He creates the means for us to receive God's wisdom, fellowship, and forgiveness. Jesus Christ was that One!  

The law provides us a way to see ourselves as God sees us - utterly destitute in our sin. The law also is given to keep us from sinning and to reveal to us the Holiness of God. 

Since this Blog is centered in our stewardship, what does this mean as we manage the time, resources and talent God has given us. It means we take the high road. We apply ourselves to obedience. We make righteousness our aim. We don't live the way the world does, but the way God directs. We yield even our own desires to God and wait for his clear direction. When we fall, we come to our Father in Heaven and receive forgiveness and renew our fellowship with him. We live in right relationship to the people around us, never harming but honoring them. 

I think the Commandments have something for us each day. The first four are centered on our relationship to God. Put God in His rightful place in our lives and other things fall into place. The last six are dedicated to our right relationship to our fellow man. If we give honor to God and our fellow man we have joy and our life has purpose. 

The Commandments are not given to steal our joy but to give directions along the pathway to it. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Exodus 19 - Approaching a Holy God

Moses returns to the area he once encountered God. God instructs Moses to speak to the people. God reminds the people how He miraculously brought the nation out if Egypt and offers to make the nation treasured above all nations if they will only obey Him. 

God then has the nation cleanse and consecrate themselves. They are not to approach the mountain but assemble at the base while Moses went up. For three days they prepared themselves to stand before a holy God. Violation of the commands was on threat of death. 

We don't stand very long in the presence of a Holy God before we recognize how base and vile we are and how utterly dependent we are on His mercy toward us. In today's churches, rarely is the Holiness of God the main topic.  I personally think that if God is held high and holy more sinners would see how short they fall and would accept the offer of salvation. 

More and more churches offer a "come as you are" message in order to proclaim a watered down message of the gospel. There is something to be said for preparing ourselves for worship - body, mind and soul. We are coming together to worship almighty God and we should not take that lightly. 

It isn't the clothes that make us acceptable before God. We come as beggars to the Master unworthy to receive any of His grace, but if we will show our devotion through obedience then He will call us His own and we will be His people. 

The whole earth is the Lord's but there is a special relationship He offers to His people. When we out our trust in God for our righteousness and decide in advance we will obey Him we become a treasure I His eyes. 

Let's hold God high as we go about our day today. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Exodus 18 - Delegation Advice

Rarely do in-laws get a good rap, but in this chapter we see Moses' father-in-law, Jethro receives a very warm welcome and offers some advice to Moses. Jethro was a pagan priest and did not worship the God of the Israelites, but the works God did for the Israelites in delivering them from Egypt apparently bring Him to a saving faith in God alone. 

Moses had developed a great admiration for his father-in-law and shared with him the personal concerns Moses had in leading a large group of Israelites. Jethro gives recommendation to Moses to establish judges among the elders of the nation and divide the labor. 

This chapter has a couple of examples we can follow as we live out our faith. We should seek out advisors in our own lives and listen to the wisdom they have to offer. In the midst of trials our emotions can block our clear thinking and having someone trusted to offer wisdom can keep us from succumbing to our temptations to act rashly. When we seek out advisors however, we should look for people who can offer godly wisdom - disciples of The Lord so that you don't get diverted by worldly rationalizations. 

The second principle here is that it is not good to bear all the load when you can train people to assist. I have witnessed parents who will not train their children to assist with home maintenance. Maybe they think they are being kind or maybe they don't want to go through the process of training. Sometimes in church groups there will be a leader who wants to maintain control and does not delegate authority. This person becomes unbalanced and can find his/her team unwilling to serve under them. Delegation does not mean waiving our responsibilities and giving them away, but it prepares the next set of leaders with the skills needed to continue after you have completed your tasks. 

As stewards our ego can get wrapped up in our financial decisions which is all the more reason why we should have good and godly advisors to keep us focused on the eternal and not the temporal. Identifying godly advisors before a crisis of decision allows us to be thoughtful in our choice. Having a partner at work who can look objectively at the challenges that you may face can help you to excel in ways that you never could alone. 

Build a team of godly advisors around you and search God's word together for direction and you have a combination that is sure to succeed. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Exodus 17 - Testing or Trusting

Where is God in the midst of this situation?  I know I have searched for God's hand in the middle of a trial.  The Israelites wandering in the Desert of Sin (interesting name) and found there was no water at their camp for the night. 

Something interesting happens here and I wonder if it has happened in our lives too. To blame God would be sacrilege, but to blame someone present in the midst of turmoil doesn't seem to have the same spiritual emphasis. The Israelites grumble against Moses. I know I am prone to grumble when I am tired and frustrated and things are not going as I planned. My poor husband usually hears the most of that grumbling. In truth, my circumstances whether pleasant or trying are ordered by God for his glory. 

In meeting with me for financial counsel, many people say everything was going well until some unexpected event occurred. They blame doctors, banks, anyone who may be related to the event but in truth God brought the trial for his own glory. We test The Lord when we don't look to Him in our trials or give credit to Him in our abundance. 

Moses, at God's direction, strikes the stone and water comes out. He names the place "testing" and "quarreling" because that was the place where they tested God saying He was not with them.  As if to emphasize His point to the people God allows the Amelekites to threaten the camp. Now they would really see if God was with them. 

Moses however looked to God as the Amelekites attacked the camp and held God's staff high like a banner on a hill overlooking Joshua and His army as the defeated the army. God promised that the Amelekites would be blotted out. Joshua was to see this promise of God and know His help comes from above. Moses modeled faith to the people and they saw how much God was with the nation. 

Notice that Moses in trusting God did not wait passively to see what The Lord might do; he was actively engaged in holding his staff interceding for his people. God honored this act of faith and blessed the people as they overcame the enemy. We too must be about engaging ourselves in the battle even as we look to God for our salvation. 

Our enemy may be a person or it may be the sin that is entrenched in our lives, but we can be sure that God is still at work and he cares for his people. If we will look to Him in trust and do our part in faith, there is no doubt God gets the glory and we are blessed to be a part of it. Whether we are in battle or suffering want, our God is more than sufficient to provide our solution - can we trust Him that much?  

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Exodus 16 - Out of Comfort

Celebrations are done and the new routines of wilderness living are setting in for this million person march to the Promised Land. In the mundaneness of playing follow the leader-cloud, the people of Israel have time to reflect on what has happened.  Their life has changed completely. 

You would think they would be joyous at the deliverance they have experienced and be grateful to no longer serve under the harsh oppression they once endured, but their minds are working out what it means for their future. They are still learning to trust God and aren't sure of his live for them even after massive demonstrations. Would God allow them to suffer and die in the wilderness before they reach the Promised Land?  

Someone begins to think about their hunger. It would be good to eat now. Remember some of the good meals we had in Egypt?  Those were great. Do you think God might let us starve here?  What was the point of stirring up the Egyptians against us if we are just going to die here?  We might as well have died in Egypt and not prolonged the suffering. And so it goes. 

God had brought the people out of everything they had ever known so he could teach them a new way of living. They needed to learn that God was the source of all their provision and that He would care for them. God was teaching them that in the midst of turmoil and need, God sees and sustains His people. 

The people of Israel had a rather impersonal and distant relationship with God. They needed this wilderness experience to bring them out of their comfort so they could know God's love and grace in a tangible way. 

The Israelites' grumbling was more than just a statement of need; it was an expression of their discontentment with the deliverance they had received and a reflection of the distant relationship they had with their Redeemer.  They turned on Moses because he was God's representative to the people. As God's representative he graciously never returned their anger but interceded for the people. 

And so it is with us in our turmoil all too often. We can turn to God in the turmoil and apply our faith to the situation at hand and see that God is all sufficient to sustain us through the difficulty or we can, like the Israelites, turn on God complaining about our conditions; outlining to God how our plans are being thwarted and our expectations are not being met. 

It occurs to me in my own life that had I not encountered strife and conflict, that my relationship to God might still be distant and I might have no first hand knowledge of the grace of God in my life. I might have intellectually accepted my sinful state and my need for a Savior, but I might never have known how truly desperate my condition was or how much it cost God to redeem me. As I see God sustain me through trial I get a taste of sacrifice and the depths of God's love when I experience it personally. I am challenged to show that same love for others who need a dose of grace and mercy. We get to be Moses to the people we encounter, not returning anger but in love interceding.  

Moses was just a picture of Christ's love for us. We too have someone interceding for us. He knows our hearts and he demonstrated his love for us by assuming our place and bearing the penalty for our sin. Jesus, our deliverer still lives and acts to gain glory for God and working in the lives of His people. 

Whether our challenge is physical, emotional or financial, we grow in the grace of God and increase our faith as we see God move in the midst if the turmoil if life. We gain that peace that surpasses what circumstances warrant and we develop a tangible faith that allows us to know God more intimately. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him.