Monday, February 28, 2011

Future Grace

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Leviticus 22:17 - 23:44

"Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, 'When you come into the land....'"  Leviticus 23:10a (NKJV)

We live in such an impatient world.  We want it all NOW.  We have difficulty waiting for anything.  The pace of life seems to be relentless, and it is driven by a desire to live life to the fullest every moment of every day. 

Then, we run into God.  He is eternal and seems to be lacking in time-consciousness.  One of the consistent calls of Scripture is "Wait upon the Lord."  He seems to be in no hurry as He continues toward fulfillment of His purposes.  I must be reminded of this often!

It is of note that many of the instructions of Leviticus really are PREPARATIONAL.  They are aimed at future obedience -- future service -- future worship.  He says, "When you come into the land..."  Why does God tell the children of Israel about what is going to happen in the Land of Canaan LONG BEFORE IT HAPPENS?  A more immediate outlook would say, "Talk to me about NOW; not what might happen years from now!" 

But God does that!  He is constantly preparing us for our future.  He wants us to live in hope, even if it seems to be a wilderness in which we now live.  He says, "A better day is coming!"  He says, "Hear my instructions to you today, because the day will come soon when you will put all of this into practice."  That's the way God operates.  Even today, He is talking to you about your promised land.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

God's Part - My Part

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Leviticus 19:1-20:21

"Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for the I am the Lord your God.  And you shall keep My statutes, and perform them: I am the Lord who sanctifies you."  Leviticus 20:7-8 (NKJV)

Our walk with God is a wonderful cooperation between us and God.  It is a partnership, a collaboration, an agreement.  Or is it?  Is it ALL OF GOD.  Or is it OUR EFFORTS to keep up with Him?  A "God-centered" view would say that I can do nothing.  "It all must be God and God alone.  I am unable to add one iota to Him.  All I can do is allow Him to live His life out in me as I surrender to Him."  This is the SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD view.

Another view would say that God expects us to keep our walk ordered and correct.  He will not do it for us.  We are responsible.  This is the RESPONSIBILITY OF MAN view.

Which is correct?  We find in these verses today BOTH.

In verse 7, God commands us to CONSECRATE YOURSELVES.  We are called to make decisions and follow through with actions that are in compliance with God's law -- His revealed will.  Then, in verse 8, we are told that God says of Himself, "I am the Lord who sanctifies you."  HE DOES IT!  It is His work.  It does not fall totally on us to slavishly struggle to keep the high demands of a perfect law.

I am thankful that we serve a God who calls us to change and yet who also works in us to bring about that which He demands.  This is what it means to walk with God

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Bloody Religion

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Leviticus 16:29-18:30

"For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul."  Leviticus 17:11 (NKJV)

Leviticus is a very bloody book.  Today we have read about the Day of Atonement.  This important holy day took place once a year (Lev. 16:34).  But other sacrifices took place more often -- the burnt offerings and sin offerings were made as often as need should demand.  With a population of a few million people, it is not hard to imagine how often bulls, goats, and sheep were begin offering on the altars of the children of Israel.  Judaism was a very bloody religion. 

There is an inate violence about the worship of God.  We should ask, "Why is this?"  The answer is very fundamental.  Our God is holy and He cannot countenance sin.  He is of such purity and magnificence that all impurity is a serious violation of His presence.  Because of sin, a huge divide, a chasm, has opened between God and His creation.  There can be no breaching of this chasm.  It requires the DEATH of the impure. 

Sacrifice always involves REPRESENTATION.  In Old Testament ritual, the priest would lay hands on the sacrificial animal.  In so doing there was IMPUTATION -- imputation of sin to the innocent animal.  The wrath of punishment was then released against the animal thus atoning for sin.  The spilling of the blood of the animal showed clearly its DEATH.  The presentation of large quantities of the blood of the sacrifice could mean nothing more than that the animal was DEAD.  Judaism was a violent, bloody religion.

Correspondingly, Christianity is also a violent, blood-filled religion.  We do not today offer animal sacrifices.  We do not today witness the on-going slaughter of representatives of our sin.  But we MUST REMEMBER.  An incredibly violent, grossly bloody sacrifice has taken place ONCE FOR ALL!!!  I speak, of course, of the CROSS -- the wonderful, wonderful Cross!  A totally innocent sacrificial Lamb bore our sins.  They were IMPUTED to Him.  He felt the brunt of divine wrath -- thus atoning for our sin.  And because of Him, we are set free -- the are the bird "set free in an open field."  We are alive because He bore our penalty of death.  Therefore, we lay our whole life down for Him.  It is the least we can do.  Today, let the violence of Christianity ignite a passion, a violence in your heart of love and gratitude for the One who spilled His blood for you.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Fearful Presence of God

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Leviticus 15:1-16:28

"And the Lord said to Moses:  "Tell Aaron your brother not come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die, for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat."  Leviticus 16:2 (NKJV)

Wow!  This is a surprising warning.  It is a warning to NOT get too close to God.  This is quite a change from the admonition we usually hear -- which is "Draw near!  Come closer!  Press into God's presence!" 

We New Testament believers are encouraged to come into the Holy Place boldly and with confidence (Heb. 10:19-22).  But, we need to remember a little history here.  We can only come boldly because of what Jesus has done for us.  In the Old Testament, such casual and perhaps frivolous entry into the Holy Place could result in your death!

The context of Lev. 16 is the deaths of Nabad and Abihu in chapter 10.  Elsewhere in the Bible, we find stories of individuals who were zapped dead because of some violation of the awesome presence of God.  One time God spoke to Israel saying, "I will not go up in your midst, let I consume you on the way" (Ex. 33:3).  Only Moses' intense intercession persuaded God to not withdraw His presence.

What would happen to our worship services today if there was the possibility of being knocked dead by the awesome presence of God.  Please don't get me wrong.  I am truly thankful for the mercy and grace of God that has allowed us direct access to the Holy Place.  However, perhaps we've lost something here.  We've lost the respect, the awe, the heart-stopping magnificence of being allowed direct access to the presence of a dangerous God.  We are to LOVE Him intensely.  But we are also to FEAR Him for His incredibly majesty.

He says to us, "I will appear to you in the cloud above the mercy seat."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Free to Fly

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Leviticus 14:1-57

"Then the priest shall command to take for him who is to be cleansed two living and clean birds, cedar wood, scarlet, and hyssop.  And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water.  As for the living bird, he shall take it, the cedar wood and the scarlet and the hyssop, and dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water.  And he shall sprinkle it seven times on him who is to be cleansed for the leprosy, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose in the open field."  Leviticus 14:4-7 (NKJV)

The beauty of Old Testament symbolism is never more clear and poignant that in the verses we read here.  This is a vivid picture of redemption.  The Old Testament disease called leprosy was a bitter reality, but it speaks to the deeper condition of man.  While the physical disease is certainly bad, the spiritual disease of sin and death is far worse.  Lepers in Bible times were outcasts who lived in hopelessness.  So, sinners today may seem outwardly full of life, but inwardly they are deeply diseased.  Only the power of God can set them free.

The two birds here are Jesus and you.  The cedar wood is the cross.  The scarlet symbolizes the blood of the sacrifice.  The hyssop, a bitter herb, symbolizes the pain endured by Christ for you.  The running water is the sovereign, life-giving will of God!

Jesus, represented by the first bird, was killed according to sovereign, life-giving will of the Father.  When the second bird was dipped into the blood, it was along with those other items that symbolize the entire story of what Jesus did for us.  This represents you and me accepting in full all that Jesus did!

The result is amazing.  The Bible says that the second bird is then set free in the open field.  This is a picture of jusfication.  This is a picture of freedom.  This is a picture of triumph in Christ. 

Today, as a person who has received the sacrifice of Jesus, you are like a bird "set free in a field."  We are free to live our lives to the glory of God.  Free to escape our leprosy.  Free to fly into the open skies of God's goodness.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Leviticus 13:1-59

"Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes shall be torn and his head bare, and he shall cover his mustache, and cry, 'Unclean! Unclean!'"  Leviticus 13:45 (NKJV)

Can you imagine the devastation upon a man or woman who found that they had leprosy in the Old Testament?  It is beyond my ability to conceive the pain and misery they must have felt.

There are two perspectives from which we must view the plight of such a person in the Old Testament.  Why would God relegate such an individual to such rejection and alone-ness on top of the physical pain they were enduring?  Also, what does this obviously dire and desparate situation point toward?

First, the quarantine of the leper in the Old Testament was necessary for the good of the whole nation.  Advances in medical science had not yet unfolded and the only answer to avoid a spreading plague was that the person be shut off from the crowds.  Frankly, this was a practical necessity, unfortunate though it seemed -- perhaps even unfair.

Second, all human misery should be seen in the light of that which God wants to bring as the ANSWER.  This Old Testament man or woman was commanded to cry out daily, "Unclean. Unclean."  It is wonderful to consider that the New Testament counter-part is that that very same person IN CHRIST may cry out "Clean!! Clean!!" 

Only our God could do such a thing.  He heals the sick, He cares for the orphans, He gathers the outcasts, He saves the sinner.  All of the pain of the Old Testament was but the dark backdrop against which the bright light of the Son of God, Jesus, could shine. 

One last word -- why are we so blessed today that we should be able to enjoy the fullness of the Son of God, while those long ago could only but hope?  We cannot answer that easily.  We can only say that we will TODAY rejoice in what God HAS done.  And receive it in full.

Don't Eat the Gecko

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Leviticus 11:1-12:8

These also shall be unclean to you among the creeping things that creep on the earth: the mole, the mouse, and the large lizard after its kind; the gecko, the monitor lizard, and the chameleon."  Leviticus 11:29-30 (NKJV)

The above verses are but two in a long list of various animals that were NOT TO BE EATEN in ancient Israel.  The real question should be, "Who wants to eat them anyway?!"

The larger question concerns all these dietary laws in the book of Leviticus.  Why are they there, and what was their purpose?  Are they to be followed legalistically or do they have a broader meaning and context?

Here's the quick answer:  All laws in the Old Testament fall into four categories -- the moral law, the spiritual law, the practical law, and the ceremonial law.  Without getting too technical, the first two of these must still be followed in terms of a godly life (sanctification).  Example:  don't steal, don't commit adultery, don't worship idols.

The second two have varying degrees of application today.  The ceremonial law is still in effect, but it is FULFILLED IN JESUS.  He is our Passover Lamb!  We do not need to go through various ceremonial procedures to come into relationship to God!  Jesus paid the price and we enter by faith.  All those ceremonies were shadows pointing toward Jesus.  The ceremonial law is only still in effect IN JESUS.

The practical law is another story.  It is wonderful that our God reached down into history and cared deeply about the daily condition of His people.  He knew that the fallen world was full of diseases and dangers.  Therefore, He made provision because of the development at that time of the ability to care for human needs (example: leprosy, sanitation, etc.).  This is the case for many of the practical laws of the Old Testament.  They are simply good advice given concerning those animals that were good for you and those that were not so good for you. 

For example:  the most common dietary prohibition in the Old Testament is concerning pork.  The reason is that there was serious concern about the spread of disease through pork.  It is a historic fact.  Such things as trichinosis and other diseases have been real health hazards.  Today, advances in food care have practically eliminated such concerns.

The real issue is this:  were dietary prohibitions in the Old Testament ceremonial or practical.  The answer is clear:  They were practical and in no way made a person more acceptable to God.  In the New Testament only one thing makes us acceptable:  THE BLOOD OF JESUS. 

Dietary considerations today are a matter of health concern, not holiness before God.  With that in mind, what do you think you should do about your diet today?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fire Came Out From God

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Leviticus 9:7-10:20

"And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar.  When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces."  Leviticus 9:24 (NKJV)

Who ever said Leviticus was a boring book?  We have some incredibly dramatic events taking place here.  Two times in this passage, "fire came out from the Lord."  How would you like to see that? 

In the two incidents of this passage, very different results took place.  In the first -- 9:18-24 -- a proper and correct sacrifice was made for sin.  It was done according to God's directions.  The result was a shouting good time!

In the second, incorrect fire was offered.  An incorrect sacrifice was prepared -- done in contradiction to God's instructions.  The result was death.  A fire sure enough did come out from God, but it did not consume the offering, it consumed the priests, Nadab and Abihu. 

When we call for God to send His fire, we need to be sure we are surrendered to His ways.  We can not expect His fire to fall on our fleshly, self-willed ambitions and bless them.  He will burn them up!  When His fire comes, it purifies that which is His, but it destroys that which is not His.  Actually, that is great news.  Better to lose the useless things today, than to invest years in them only to see them gone in eternity. 

Our God is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29).  That is really good news to us.  But it is bad news to the flesh.

Further Words on Priesthood

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage (for Feb. 19 -- sorry, I'm a day late)
Leviticus 7:28-9:6

"...for today the Lord will appear to you."  Leviticus 9:4b (NKJV)

Wow!  What if you heard that in your early morning devotions?  What if God gave you certain instructions and said, "Here, do this...because when you've done them, I'm going to appear to you."  What would be your response?  Probably, you wouldn't mind anything asked of you at that moment.  You would just do it with great joy and anticipation.

EVERYTHING in Leviticus aims at this idea -- God "appearing" to Israel.  EVERYTHING in Leviticus points symbolically and typologically toward the same thing happening for us as New Testament Christians. 

Priesthood is preparational for the presence of God.  That's what it does.  Priestly ministry prepares us for presence.  In today's passage, four things had to happen for every priest to function:

1.  Washed (8:6)
2.  Clothed (8:7)
3.  Anointed (8:12)
4.  Consecrated (8:22-23)

One last word:  there are two "directions" in all of Scripture -- God toward man and man toward God.  The Good News is that God has thoroughly, finally, and completely come to us in Christ.  He has come down to where we are.  But that is not the end of the story.  He now draws us up to where He is!  This is "man toward God."  You don't have to do a thing for God to come to you.  He comes to you just as you are!  But for you to go to where He is, you must change.  You must allow Him to straighten you up. 

You must be WASHED.  You need an entirely new set of CLOTHES.  You need the ANOINTING  of the Holy Spirit.  And you must allow Him to touch all areas of your life with the blood of His sacrifice -- that is CONSECRATION.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fire on the Altar

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Leviticus 6:1-7:27

12 And the fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not be put out. And the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order on it; and he shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. 13 A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out.  Levticus 6:12-13 (NKJV)

As Moses instructed the priests to conduct the ministries of the tabernacle, occasionally he added important special instructions.  This is one such instruction. 

All these Old Testament rituals point toward our relationship with God today.  Romans 12:1 states that we are to present our bodies as a "living sacrifice" to God -- this is WORSHIP.  In this Old Testament passage, the altar of sacrifice is described.  Here's the instruction:  KEEP FIRE ON THE ALTAR.

The New Testament altar is our own hearts.  God says to us today: "KEEP FIRE ON THE ALTAR OF YOUR HEART.  Don't let it go out."  Satan's strategy against all of us is to douse the flames of passion and power that should always be glowing in the center of our being.

This instruction applies to all of our life in God.  Don't let the fire go out in your relationship with God.  Don't let the fire go out in your relationship with your spouse.  Don't let the fire go out in your relationship with friends in the Body of Christ. 

DON'T LET THE FIRE GO OUT.  Stoke it.  Nourish it.  This was one of the most important responsibilities of the priesthood.

Paul echoes this in his words to Timothy many years later:  For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. II Timothy 1:7 (NIV)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Perfect Priest

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Leviticus 4:1-5:19

"if the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, then let him offer to the Lord for his sins which he has sinned..."  Leviticus 4:2.

There are four different types of sin offerings in this passage:  1) for the anointed priest (4:3-12), 2) for the whole congregation (4:13-21), 3) for the ruler or leader (4:22-26), and 4) for the common man -- anyone (4:27-35).

Of note is the fact that the priest himself must begin by offering sacrifice for his own sin.  Hebrews 7:26-27 directly refers to this. 

For such a High Priest [Jesus Christ] was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for His own sins and then for the people's, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. (NKJV)

A key word in the New Testament Book of Hebrews is BETTER.  As we read through these sacrifices and offerings -- these rituals and rites -- we can see Jesus.  He is our Lamb of Atonement.  And His sacrifice is ONCE FOR ALL.  It is BETTER.  It gets the job done.  That is reason for us to be thankful.  That is ground for worship!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Place to Meet with God

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage:
Leviticus 1:1-3:17

"Now the Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the tabernacle of meeting, saying,"  Leviticus 1:1 (NKJV)

Leviticus is probably not one of the favorite books of the Bible for most folks.  It is filled with seemingly endless details of priestly practices and procedures.  It is written for the Levites (priests), therefore the name "Leviticus."  There are, however, some real gems hidden in those details. 

Leviticus 1:1 says that God called to Moses "from the tabernacle of meeting."  God had a PARTICULAR PLACE that He met with Moses.  It was a place of communion, fellowship, and instruction.  Here's a question:  Do you have a particular place to which you go to meet with God? 

Someone might react to this question by saying that God is everywhere and we don't have to have any particular places that we go to meet with Him.  In a theological sense, that is very true.  However, in a practical way, I think we need particular times and places set aside to we meet with God.  If you don't plan it, it probably will no happen consistently.  So, I'll ask the question again another way.

Do you have a particular time and place that that you consistently meet with God?

For Moses, it was the tabernacle out there at the edge of the camp (later it would be moved to the center of ther camp).  Different people have different times and places that they meet with God.  For some, it is in their car as they drive to work every morning.  For others, it might be their lunch hour when they sneak off to an out-of-the-way place to read their Bible and pray.  For me personally, it is in the early morning.  I come to our church building and take time in the Worship Center.  For others, it might be late at night, after everyone else has gone to bed.

I believe Jesus had places like this, too.  In fact, the Garden of Gethsemane was probably such a place to which He went regularly to pray. 

There is a promise here!  If you come to meet with God, He will speak to you!  He will give you instructions.  He will encourage you.  That place, wherever it is, will be your "tabernacle of meeting."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Principles and Presence

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Exodus 39:1-40:38

The word "exodus" means "the way out" (ex + odos -- ex = "out of" and odos = "the way").  This great book takes us from Egypt to Sinai.  It is the story of the journey from slavery under Pharoah to service under the Law of God.  It covers the span of only a couple of years.  Little did Israel know that their journey had really only just begun.  There was forty years yet ahead before they would cross Jordan into the land of promise. 

Exodus is a story of God's provision in terms of PRINCIPLES and PRESENCE.  In Chapter 20, they were given the Ten Commandments -- the guiding principles by which life was to be lived.  Now at the end of Exodus, the Tabernacle is built and God can now dwell continually in their midst.  They can now live in His PRESENCE. 

All the details of the construction of the Tabernacle with its furnishings and priestly vestments may seem tedious and boring to a casual reader.  But, don't lose the real objective.  This is all aimed at PRESENCE.  The last verses of Exodus 40 state that "the glory of God filled the Tabernacle."  God came down to dwell there.  That is the objective.  Not just religious and ceremonial details. 

In all our activities, how much are we aiming at the presence of God -- His glory?  Or do we settle for mere religious activity.  The Tabernacle is about LIFE, not just ceremony.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Wood and Gold

Exodus 37:1-38:31

Much of the book of Exodus is devoted to a description of the Tabernacle and of its furnishings and framework.  This passage today lists several items. 
     1. the Ark of the Covenant,
     2. the Table of Showbread,
     3. the Golden Lampstand,
     4. the Altar of Incense,
     5. the Altar for Burnt Offering, and
     6. the Bronze Laver. 

All of these Old Testament pieces of furniture have tremendous symbolic significance to New Testament Christians.  Their very location in the Tabernacle has significance -- Outer Court, Inner Court, Holy of Holies, etc.  It is well worth the time to study how each has application to us today.

One of the interesting characteristics of many of these furnishings is the mixture in them of wood and gold.  The Ark, for example was made of wood that then was overlaid with pure gold.  This is a pattern for much that takes place in the Tabernacle.

The symbolism is wonderful.  The wood speaks of our humanity.  The gold speaks of God's divinity.  Such is the mixture that characterizes our life in God.  We remain real, flesh-and-blood human being with all the natural characteristics of man.  We hope, we dream, we hunger, we suffer disappointment, we live life in a very practical, real world.  At the same time, there is gold that overlays our lives.  God finds us as fallen, fragile human beings (the wood), but He redeems us -- as it were, He overlays us with His own life and divinity (gold). 

We must never forget this.  We must not so embrace the wood that we forget the gold.  We must not become so engrossed with the gold that we lose touch with the world -- to use a familiar phrase, "We become so heavenly minded, we are of no earthly use."  The converse is also true.  We, far too often, are so worldy minded that we become useless for the Kingdom of God. 

We are a blending of wood and gold.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The First Spirit-Filled Man

Exodus 35:10-36:38

You've probably never heard of Bezalel before.  He was, however, the first individual about which the Scripture records that God "filled him with the Spirit of God" (35:30).  One might think that the first Spirit-filled man of Scripture would be a prophet, or a priest, or some special ministerial position.  Bezalel was an ARTISAN, a CRAFTSMAN.  God filled Him with the Spirit not to prophecy or preach or even pray.  He filled him with the Spirit to do beautiful artistry.  He made the Tabernacle a beautiful place by designing and fashioning gold, silver, bronze, and all the other materials that were available. 

Bezalel did two things: he did beatiful work and he taught others how to do it, too (35:30-35).  This is an example of God in the marketplace.  Spirit-filled work is not just the things done by the "on stage" ministers on Sunday morning.  It is the work done by individuals empowered by God working in their particular places every day of the week.

May God send a whole host of Bezalels into the world this week!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Face to Face with God

Exodus 34:1-35:9

Moses was an amazing individual.  He found a special place before God.  Scripture says that "the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend" (Ex. 33:11).  In this passage today, this "face to face" relationship is explained a bit further.  Here are some interesting points:

1.  Moses WENT UP to God (34:2).  I believe God has COME DOWN to us in the person of Jesus.  He came to us.  Now, we are to respond by COMING TO Him.  This is not for salvation (we got that in Jesus).  This is for communion and fellowship.  Moses had to GO TO God.  That means that you can't stay the way you are and where we are -- you must change.

2.  God showed Moses some of His ATTRIBUTES (34:6-7).  God showed Moses that He is MERCIFUL, GRACIOUS, PATIENT, GOOD, TRUTHFUL.  In a "face to face" relationship with God, we are not just telling Him about our situation, we are learning what God is like.  We get to know Him!

3.  God SPEAKS to us.  He communicates.  He tells us about our future.  He tells us things He wants us to do.  He gives us His perspective on things.  Someone might think this is wierd -- like hearing voices.  It's not that way.  It is a "still, small voice" that whispers the will of God to our heart and our conscience. 

4.  You GLOW from God's presence.  Moses face literally shone (34:29-35).  It had a glow on it as he walked out of the presence of God.  II Co. 3:12-18 in the New Testament states that we have a similar glow on us as we enter God's presence today by the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  His light shines on us and then through us.  Amazing.

Some might think this "face to face" relationship is peculiar to only the holiest of individuals -- people like Moses or the apostle John.  The Bible clearly states that every follower of Jesus is granted access into the very presence of God by the blood of Jesus.  This is our true home.  It is before the face of God Himself.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Three Requests

Exodus 32:1-33:23

This is one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture.  I have returned to it often.  It is a very dramatic and pivotal moment in the history of Israel and of the man Moses.  Here's the setting:

God has informed Moses that He will no longer travel with the children of Israel because of their rebellion and idolatry (the golden calf).  Moses is in a very tight spot.  He makes three requests of God.

1.  Show me your way (33:13).

2.  Go with me (33:15)

3.  Show me your glory (33:18)

These are life lessons for us.  When we ask God to show us His way, we are not just asking for the path ahead.  We are asking for His WAYS.  "Show me your way" means that we want to find the way God wants us to handle the current situation.  We are often prone to be REACTIVE rather than PROACTIVE.  We should not demand our way, but ask for His way.

Moses then tells God, "if You don't go with us, don't lead us up from here."  His PRESENCE must guide us, not just some guide book.  We should not do as the children of Israel did.  In their impatience, they produced their own plan and direction.  This brought the judgment of God.  Instead, we will wait upon the Lord.

When we ask to see the glory of God, we are on the highest ground.  The chief end of man is to enjoy His glory forever.  This is more than service, it is relationship.  There is an unfolding story throughout the Bible and it is the revealing of the glory of God.  Our best and highest moments are when we stand before His glory.  That is when we are most alive and most fulfilled.  We need the glory of God.

These three requests can be the "North Star" of our lives.  I pray that today all three will be a reality in my life and yours.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Real Thing

Exodus 30:11-31:18

Many years ago, a song came out entitled "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing."  Recently, Coca Cola took this idea up in an advertising campaign.  Both are examples of a desire all men have for the REAL over the FAKE.  We hear the phrase, "Get real!" which means "Stop faking it." 

When we come to God, we come to absolute REALITY.  In Him there is "no variableness or shadow of turning" (James 1:17).  This is reflected in the passage we read today.  We read about how the various parts to the Tabernacle are built and laid out. 

One of the common items we find used throughout the construction is the "holy anointing oil" (30:22-33).  This is like a perfume that is to adorn all of what takes place in the Inner Court and the Outer Court.  There are a few of characteristics of this anointing oil that I would like to point out:

1.  It is symbolic of the HOLY SPIRIT.  This anointing oil equates to being filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit today!  We are to walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16).

2.  This oil is not to be poured out on man's FLESH (31:22).  This means that we can't USE this anointing for our selfish, fleshly exploits. 

3.  We are forbidden from MANUFACTURING our own FAKE oil (31:32-33).  Religion, by definition, is when man tries to manufacture his own anointing oil.  Relationship is when we stay close to the Real One and get His Real Presence.

This is a call to GET REAL with God.  It is an invitation to receive the REAL THING.  When we do this, we lay down all the false, fake things that have tried to lure us away from REAL LIFE.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

All of Me

Exodus 29:1-30:10

Yesterday we looked at priesthood as it applies to us today.  If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, born of His Spirit, you are in the position of a priest who can come directly into the presence of God.  You do not need to come through some other person. 

Because of this truth, the passages such as the one we are looking at today apply to us.  Here are some thoughts from this passage:

1.  Priests minister TO GOD (Ex. 29:1), not just to the people.  They have a VERTICAL dimension of ministry. 

2.  Just as anyone ministering to people needs to PREPARE THEMSELVES for that ministry, so we should PREPARE OURSELVES to minister to/toward God.

3.  SURRENDER and CONSECRATION are the preparations mandated in the New Testament.

4.  Every priest needs to be ANOINTED (Ex. 29:7).

These are a practical disciplines each of can do every morning.  Ex. 29:20 gives us an outline.  There are three areas that should be consecrated:  1) ear, 2) hand, and 3) foot.

The ear refers to what you are hearing -- what you are listening to.  A good priest dedicates his ears to hear FROM GOD.

The hand refers to what you do -- your actions -- what you set your hand to.  A good priest dedicates the WORKS of his/her hands to the Lord.

The foot refers to where we go -- not just physically, but also mentally.  We commit our PATHS to the Lord.

Lastly, this priest has been touched and filled with the Holy Spirit.  We each need to pray every morning, "Lord, fill me afresh with the Holy Spirit."

This is really powerful living.  Filled with God's power, hearing Him speak, doing His work, and going where He leads.  May this be your day today!!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dressed for the Job

Exodus 28:1-43

This chapter deals with priesthood in ancient Israel.  We're looking not at priestly FUNCTION but at priestly ATTIRE.  How was a priest in the Old Testament to dress for his job?  It is a wonderful study to explore the layers of symbolism and meaning behind each piece of clothing and adornment.  Here are a couple of theoughts:

1.  PRIESTHOOD IS FOR EVERY ONE OF US TODAY.  The Old Testament model certainly points toward a select group of leaders within Israel who performed priestly duties.  But there is no such limited designation in the New Testament.  One of the hallmark beliefs surrounding the Protestant Reformation in the 1500's was "the priesthood of ALL believers."  Everyone can approach the throne of God -- not just a select few "holy ones!"  So, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, you are a PRIEST unto Him!

2.  PRIESTHOOD INVOLVES PARTICULAR ATTIRE.  In the Old Testament, it was an elaborate set of robes, ephods, shawls, etc.  In the New Testament it is THE BLOOD OF JESUS!  All of these Old Testament garments have symbolic meaning for us today, but there is no approved New Testament vestments other than righteousness in Jesus' Name.

3.  PRIESTHOOD IS ALWAYS REPRESENTATIVE.  This may seem confusing to you.  Unfortunately, most believers have a full time job just keeping themselves taken care of (and prayed up).  But, priests never just take care of themselves.  They always carry other people to the throne.  Exodus 28:12 says that the priests had precious jewels on their breatplates that represented the people of God so that they could "bear their names before the Lord."  This is what we would call intercessory ministry, in which we pray for particular people who God lays on our hearts.

So, in conclusion, here are a few questions:
1.  Are you fulfilling your calling as a priest?
2.  Are you today adequately dressed for your job?
3.  Who are you carrying to the throne?

Monday, February 7, 2011

According to the Pattern

Exodus 26:1-27:21

Isn't it amazing how particular God can be at times?  He goes into great detail as He prescribes how the Tabernacle and every part of it is to be built.  God cared deeply about the details of His house, and He cares deeply today about the details of your life!

There is an interesting little phrase dropped in at Ex. 26:30: "according to its pattern."  When Moses was on Mt. Sinai getting the Ten Commandments and hearing directly from God, the Bible says that God showed him the pattern for the Tabernacle.  Wow!  That's a lot of details.  Actually, I believe it was a vision.  In a moment's time, God deposited into Moses' spirit a picture of an elaborately beautiful place of worship and service.  God then told Moses, in essence, "Go out now and build what I just showed you."  The pattern was not a literal blueprint laid out on a piece of parchment.  It was a spiritual vision -- a picture of what God wanted.

I think this happens to us at times.  In a moment of worship or prayer, God deposits a picture or an idea of what CAN BE.  It is really good -- it is exciting.  He then sends us to walk out that which we have seen from Him.  He says to us, "Go now and build your life according the pattern that I have shown you."  This is not some super-spiritual mystical experience -- it is a life-giving relatinship with the God of the universe who cares about the details of our lives.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Into and Out of God's Presence

Hello!  My apologies for the absence of one week.  I, along with Terry Howard, have been in Jamaica for the annual leadership conference we conduct there this time each year.  I had expected that the guest house at which we stayed would have internet, but alas the internet was down for our entire stay.  Therefore, I could not write here.  But, I home now and we're back at it. 

Exodus 23:14-25:40

When Israel came out of Egypt, God led them by a straight path down into the wilderness to a mountain.  It was the mountain on which God had met Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3).  This is Mt. Sinai (also called Mt. Horeb).  It is in this place that some of the most intense personal encounters between God and man take place, as recorded in the Old Testament.  On this mountain, God gives Moses the Ten Commandments.  He begins to unfold the law with all the inifinite details.  Amazing! 

The pattern is as follows: 
1.  Moses and some others enter God's presence.  The come into an amazing encounter.
2.  In this close proximity to God, He speaks to them.  He gives instructions.  He tells them about their future.  He warns them.  He encourages them.  HE SPEAKS.
3.  They are sent out of this presence to PERFORM.  They are sent to fulfill God's instructions.

This is a formula for us today.  First, get connected to God.  Get into a personal relationship with God -- face to face.  Next, let Him speak to you.  Then, go out into the world to LIVE OUT this relationship with God.

One verse in this passage strikes me most in this respect.  It is Exodus 24:11.  The context is an incredible "theophany."  A theophany is a physical manifestation of God.  He SHOWS UP!  Ex. 24:9-10 describes this.

Many people besides Moses saw God that day.  All the leadership of Israel "saw God."  And it says, "they ate and drank."  Wow!  They were at home in God's presence.  This is a picture of heaven.  This is also a picture of people LIVING OUT THEIR LIVES in God's presence.

I really like this.  It is supernaturally natural.  It is the highest levels of spiritual experience and relationship in the context of supper.  For this, we should all daily aspire!