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.