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.