Thursday, February 28, 2013

Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Thursday, February 28, 2013:  Leviticus 22:17-23:44

19 you shall offer of your own free will a male without blemish from the cattle, from the sheep, or from the goats. 20 Whatever has a defect, you shall not offer, for it shall not be acceptable on your behalf. 21 And whoever offers a sacrifice of a peace offering to the Lord, to fulfill his vow, or a freewill offering from the cattle or the sheep, it must be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no defect in it. Leviticus 22:19-21 (NKJV)

In the Old Testament, men were required to bring a perfect offering when they came to the altar.  If there was any defect in the sheep, goat, or cow, it was considered an UNACCEPTABLE offering.  Man was required to give his very best.  

Herein is a major difference between the Old Testament and the New.  Under the Old, man's best efforts are the basis of acceptability.  Under the New, God Himself provides the perfect offering.  Under the Old, man seeks to rise to the perfections of God and measure up to God's requirements.  Under the New, God comes to us giving us a righteousness not our own thus lifting us to Himself.

The Old says to us, "Do your best."  The New says, "God has given you the Best."  The Old points to man's obedience and says, "Measure up!"  The New points to Jesus and says, "He is enough."  

And that brings us to the real message of the entire Bible.  The center of biblical truth is not a code, not a law, not a doctrine, but it is a Person.  If we would correctly understand the entirety if the Bible, Old Testament and New, we must see Jesus.  

There is an age-old argument between law and grace.  The law people criticise the grace people saying they are lawless.  The grace people criticise the law folks saying they are trying to save themselves.  In both cases, we err if we do not see the absolute centrality of JESUS.  We are not right because we keep all the rules, nor are we right because we hold all the right doctrines.  We are right because we are in love with the PERFECT SACRIFICE.  

In His light, we will understand the way to live.  So, in closing, always ask the question, "Who is being glorified?"  Is it man's best or God's best?  Does it point to Christ's gift to us, or to our efforts to rise to His standards.  The difference is bigger than you know.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Shift from Old to New

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Friday, February 22, 2013:  Leviticus 13:1-59

45 “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!’ 46 He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean, and he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.  Leviticus 13:45-46 (NKJV)

Much has been said and written of the transition from the Old Testament to the New Testament.  The discussion continues about Law and Grace, about the means of righteousness, about ritual and relationship. 

There is, however, another aspect of this transition that we often miss.  It is the change in the WAY HOLINESS OPERATES.  That may sound a bit imposing, but please let me explain.

The Old Testament in many ways takes a defensive posture in terms of HOLINESS.  The New Testament takes a positive posture.  In the Old Testament, when a man became UNCLEAN, he was quaranteened.  No one could come near him.  He was forced to cry out "Unclean! Unclean!" when he went out in public.  His uncleanness (defilement) was considered contagious.  Elsewhere in the Old Testament, we read that if anyone TOUCHES anything unclean, that person automatically becomes unclean too and needed to go through ceremonial and practical cleansing (see Lev. 5:2-3 and many other passages).  If anyone engaged in any activity that was considered UNCLEAN, there was an automatic defilement that required cleansing.

Fast-forward to the New Testament.  Jesus encounters a leper.  This is an individual who in the Old Testament would have been quaranteened and who had to cry out "Unclean!" so that no one would touch him and thereby become unclean, too.  What does Jesus do?  HE TOUCHES THE LEPER!  Matthew 8:1-4 seen through an Old Testament lens would have produced an unclean Jesus.  Of course, the opposite happened.  Instead of the uncleanness in the leper infecting Jesus, the HOLINESS in Jesus cleansed the leper!  A total shift has happened.  Instead of holiness being defensive (touch not, taste not), it now becomes aggressive.  The holiness in Jesus SANCTIFIES that which He touches!

In Christ, we have such a redemptive holiness.  He are on a redemptive mission to spread His sanctity.  Therefore, when I walk into a place of business or go about my life, I am a carrier of the Kingdom of God.  I am not defensive, but instead positive in sanctifying that which I touch -- no matter how unclean it has been (e.g. a leper).  I can go into the dark places and bring the light of Christ!

I think this is what Paul wrote about when he said in I Corinthians 7:14, "For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise you children would be unclean, but now they are holy."  The New Testament sanctity of a family member can infect the rest of their family.  Instead of one bad apple ruining the barrell, one good apple sanctifies the others!  That's amazing.  That's the power of New Testament holiness.

Paul carries this further when he refers to dietary matters in I Timothy 4.  In the Old Testament, certain foods would defile and produce uncleaness.  In the New Testament, "every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is SANCTIFIED by the word of God and prayer." 

It is a wonderful thing to realize the power of what God has done in Christ.  An entire shift has taken place through the Cross.  By the resurrection the Jesus, the power of darkness has been broken and the force of righteousness and holiness has been released.  We are agents of Christ's Kingdom spreading His virture and glory in the earth.  I am to touch an unclean, leperous world bringing His cleanness.  I can do that in my home, my neighborhood, my city, my world.  We are ambassadors of Christ!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

What About These Dietary Laws?

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Thursday, February 21, 2013:  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 -- lizards, mice, moles, etc.  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 sanitary practices and eating certain animals. 

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 and sanitary 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.  Jesus was crystal clear about this.  Such passages as Matthew 15:1-11 directly address ceremonial washing of hands and concludes with a powerful declaration that what you EAT does not defile you (affect your spiritual holiness).  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?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Leadership Problems! Nadab and Abihu

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Wednesday, February 20, 2013:  Leviticus 9:7-10:20

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord.  Leviticus 10:1-2 (NASB)

Nadab and Abihu are an interesting case.  It is a tragic story with lessons for us today. We live in a day in which high-profile leaders have fallen causing hurt to not only themselves but the entire Body of Christ.  It seems that since the horrendous Jim Bakker/Jimmy Swaggart fiasco of the 1980's, we have had a steady stream of leadership tragedies. The Catholic Church is now suffering through a seemingly unending abuse scandal that brings a black mark on the work of God.  Every year or so, another "Nadab and Abihu story" shows up in the media.  Like dominoes falling, the ill effect seems to continue and grow.

Nadab and Abihu were the two eldest sons of Aaron, Moses' brother.  They were at the top of the leadership scene among the children of Israel.  They had strong family pedigree and powerful spiritual experience.  Earlier in Exodus 24:9-11, they had been among the few privileged to see God and live to tell about it.  They had been through the greatest mountain top experiences imaginable.  They had learned the priesthood from the best school on earth -- God Himself speaking through Moses.  Their future was secure in that they had been installed as priests by a "perpetual statute" (Ex. 29:9).  They could live respected and highly fruitful lives.  They were set.

No sooner had the first great inaugural sacrifice been made than these two ruined the party.  In Leviticus 9:22-24, fire had come out from God to consume the correctly ordered offering.  The blessing of God was obvious.  Then, Nadab and Abihu manufactured their own offering.  Once again, fire came out from God, but instead of consuming the offering, it consumed the priests!

So, what did these two actually do wrong?  What was their fatal error?  Some have compared Nadab and Abihu to Adam and Eve.  They had everything going for them, but one small act brought destruction. 

Some have said that the error of Nadab and Abihu was that they had tried to do priestly work while drunk!  After all, the very next passage in Leviticus gives the instruction, "Do not drink wine or intoxicating drink...when you go into the tabernacle of meeting, lest you die."  (Lev. 10:9)

Most commentators feel that their error was THE SIN OF PRESUMPTION.  They refused to follow the prescribed way of serving God, and as a result, offered a strange mixture of man's ways mingled with God's ways. 

Here's the lesson, we meet God ON HIS TERMS not ours.  Anything less than God's way is ultimately dishonoring to Him.  He does not come to bargain with us.  He, in His grace, lays out the path of relationship.  He then even empowers it and supports it.  All He asks is that we simply come to Him HIS WAY -- and we will receive His blessing.

Why was God so severe in dealing with Nadab and Abihu?  I believe the answer is found in Luke 12:48 where it says, "For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more."

Along with great blessing also comes great responsibility.  We are not only objects of His affection, we are also instruments of His righteousness.  Remember, whoever would represent God, must always WALK WITH HIM.  That's the only way to live.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Kingdom of Priests

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Tuesday, February 19, 2013:  Leviticus 7:28-9:6

He poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him to consecrate him.  Leviticus 8:12 (NIV)

Three things happened to Aaron and his sons to consecrate them as priests:

1.  They were WASHED (Lev. 8:6).

2.  They were CLOTHED (Lev. 8:7).

3.  They were ANOINTED (Lev. 8:12).

The Bible says that God has made us today to be a KINGDOM OF PRIESTS!  (see Rev. 1:6 and I Peter 2:9)  That may sound strange to someone of the Catholic or Episcopal faith since their local LEADERS are called priests.  The truth, however, is that every Christian is a priest.  We all have direct access to the presence of God.  We have priestly duties we are to perform.

The New Testament priests no longer offer sacrifices like their Old Testament counterparts.  A ONCE AND FOR ALL SACRIFICE has been offered in the Cross of Christ.  So what then are our duties?  Hebrews 10:10-25 speaks of drawing near to God with "a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water."  That's a direct reference to Leviticus 8.

In order for you to function as a priest, you need to be WASHED.  In New Testament terms that refers to the cleansing of the Blood of Jesus.  It refers to the "washing of the water of the Word" (Eph. 5:26). There is nothing like the cleansing that comes from the grace of God washing over our lives!

Second, we need to be CLOTHED.  Throughout the New Testament the Bible speaks of laying off the old man and putting on the new.  We need to PUT ON CHRIST.  We do this by faith, but it is like changing clothes.  We deliberately put on the righteousness of Christ.

Lastly, we need the ANOINTING of the Holy Spirit.  There is an interesting passage in Psalm 133 that speaks about this.  It says:

It Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Running down on the beard,
The beard of Aaron,
Running down on the edge of his garments.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
Descending upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the Lord commanded the blessing—
Life forevermore.

There is a fellowship in Christ that brings down the presence of God!  When New Testament believers walk in unity with one another, God is so pleased that He comes down and meets with us (Matt. 18:19-20).  There is nothing like the power of brotherhood walking in unity in advancing Christ's Kingdom. 

There, the Lord COMMANDS the blessing. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Spiritual Gifts and Natural Abilities

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Thursday, February 14, 2013:  Exodus 37:1-38:31

He also made the holy anointing oil [symbol of the Holy Spirit] and the pure, fragrant incense, after the perfumer’s art.  Exodus 37:29 (Amplified)

What is the difference between spiritual gifts and natural abilities?  This has been and continues to be an important discussion in the Church.  The reason it is important is because we need to excel in both.  We need to discover and develop our spiritual gifts.  We also need to know what natural abilities we have so that those abilities can used in God's service.

There is an old argument that says that no natural ability can be used for God.  Only the things that come directly from God are worthwhile.  In the flush of fresh spiritual outpouring, we become excited about the great things God does purely by the operation of His Spirit.  In so doing, we can at times learn to distrust "our flesh."  We only want that which is purely God and don't want anything tainted by man.

This is an extreme (and erroneous) position.  God CAN USE our natural abilities in accomplishing His supernatural purposes!  Take, for example, the anointing oil we read about today.  What does the secular skill of making perfume have to do with the worship of Almighty God!?  In the New Living Translation, that last part of Exodus 37:29 goes like this:  "...using the techniques of a skilled incense maker."

This is a picture of the wonderful mixture that God wants in each of our lives.  He is producing something supernaturally powerful -- the anointing oil (which symbolized the Holy Spirit).  He is using our natural abilities to make it -- "the perfumer's art."

We need to discover our supernatural gifts from the Holy Spirit.  Most people are either completely ignorant of these things or afraid to investigate.  Paul goads us on by saying that he does not want us to come up short concerning this supernatural realm (I Co. 12:1).  It is important.  In addition, we need to use all our natural abilities to the max.  We don't need to gloat over them and become proud, but we do need to recognize that God wants us to use those natural gifts for supernatural ends.

I grew up hearing preachers pray, "Lord, now hide me behind the Cross.  I don't want anyone to see me, but just to see You."  That sounds very God-honoring and humble.  I understand that they meant for all they did to bring praise to God.  But, it really misses the mark.  GOD WANTS TO USE REAL HUMAN BEINGS TO BRING GLORY TO HIMSELF.  I appreciate the skill of a master communicator that has been honed through years of practice.  I also appreciate the special anointing that comes on a man that carries us all to a higher place.  Should be choose between these?  We do not have to choose.  We should strive for BOTH!

I once was in a mission situation in New York City and an individual came forward declaring that God had given her "the gift of piano playing."  She sat at the piano and butchered some song the melody of which neither I nor anyone else could discern.  I guess we needed another gift -- the gift of interpretation.  In short, there is no such thing as a "gift of piano playing."  There is only a skill that can be learned and then yielded to God for His glory.

May each of us plow ahead in the great adventure of learning and using the supernatural spiritual gifts God has given us.  May we also never fail to hone our natural talents to the highest level -- not so we can be proud, but so that a beautiful aroma may surround the true worship of God.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Staying Alive While I Live

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Wednesday, February 13, 2013:  Exodus 35:10-36:38

Then everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and they brought the Lord’s offering for the work of the tabernacle of meeting, for all its service, and for the holy garments. Exodus 35:21 (NKJV)

The children of Israel brought a freewill offering to the Lord, all the men and women whose hearts were willing to bring material for all kinds of work which the Lord, by the hand of Moses, had commanded to be done.  Exodus 35:29 (NKJV)

Motivation is a huge thing.  Why do you do what you do?  What are the keys to staying excited about life?  I believe one of the keys to living life to the fullest is to keep the right motivation -- to keep an inspired willing heart.  Life to too short to waste it in dull, aimless existence.  It might seem too idealistic, but I believe we all ought to daily operate with a heart stirred by the Holy Spirit and a will set on fulfilling God's great plans. 

Here are some keys to keeping the right motivation:

1.  KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TO DO.  The children of Israel had a clear plan.  Moses gave detailed instructions concerning the building of God's house.  They did not have to wonder what the next step was.  They were inspired because they could see what God wanted. 

In Lewis Carroll's classic story, Alice in Wonderland, Alice finds herself lost in an unfamiliar forest.  She arrives at a crossroads and is halted because she did not know which way to take.  Up in a nearby tree is the Cheshire cat, and she asks him which way she should go.  He answers her back, "Well, that depends of where you want to go." 

In indecision, she replies, "Oh, it doesn't really matter, so long as...."

"Well, then", interrupts the Cheshire cat, "it really doesn't matter which road you take,"

I know many folks who have been halted at the crossroads for years.  One of the reasons for this is that they simply do not know where they want to go.  They do not know what God has laid out for them to do.  They don't have a plan.

2.  SEE THE BIG PICTURE.  There is a familiar story told about Sir Christopher Wren, perhaps the greatest architect in British history, who virtually rebuilt the City of London after the Great Fire in 1666.  Among his masterpieces was St. Paul's Cathedral.  It is said that one day he disquised himself and walked down among the workers asking them what they were doing.  The first answered gruffly, "Laying bricks."  The second was more courteous and said, "Building a wall."  The third worker paused and looked directly at Sir Christopher and with a gleam in his eye said, "Sir, I'm building a cathedral."

St. Paul's Cathedral, London

Which one of these workers do you want to be?  It is awfully hard to get excited about menial tasks.  But that's because we still see them as menial.  It is inspiring to back up for a moment and realize that the goat hair you are weaving into yarn is becoming a part of perhaps the greatest structure humans have ever built -- a house for God!

3.  FIGHT OFF THE FATIGUE.  Scripture says that the children of Israel had two things working in them: stirred emotions and a willing heart.  One of Satan's primary tactics is to put out the fire inside of you.  He is the Discourager.  He wants to wear down the saints.  Therefore, every morning I take time to stoke the fires in my heart.  I must be emotionally engaged.  I must be willing.  Weariness and discouragement can kill a great vision. 

C.S. Lewis once said, "You are never too old to set a new goal or dream a new dream."  Many years ago, there was a popular song entitled I Want to Live Until I Die.  Jesus said it this way, "I am come that they might have life, and have it abundantly."  May that be your epitaph.  HE REALLY LIVED.

With a stirred heart and a willing spirit, we will see great things done in our day!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

When God Shows Up

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Tuesday, February 12, 2013:  Exodus 34:1-35:9

The Lord said to Moses, “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones, and I will write on them the words that were on the first tablets, which you broke.  Exodus 34:1 (NIV)

Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”  Exodus 34:5-7 (NIV)

Moses had literally broken the law.  When he had come down from the mountain and seen the sin of God's people and their golden calf, he had burst into anger.  In rage, he had hurled that which is holy down to the ground breaking the two tablets into pieces (Ex. 32:19).  That's what our anger does.  It never corrects what went wrong.  It only makes a bad situation worse.

When we think about Moses on Mount Sinai we usually think about how God gave him the Ten Commandments.  But there is far more to this event.  In fact, no sooner are the Ten Commandments given that they are broken -- literally.  God's law meets man's sinful nature at the foot of the mountain.

Rules never transform us.  No doubt, we need the rules because there must be a standard.  There must be a high aspiration toward which we grow.  But, what do you do when you keep breaking the rules?  Most of the time, we just try harder.  That, in essence, is the nature of RELIGION.  Man working hard to keep the rules.

Now once again, the rules aren't bad.  They just reveal our badness.  When God's standards collide with our flesh, the result is always shattered tablets of stone.

Far more than just the giving of the law took place at Sinai.  The bigger event was God Himself coming down.  GOD SHOWED UP!  He not only gave the law, He came Himself.  In so doing, He proclaimed His name.  He declared His nature.  He revealed Himself to Moses face-to-face.

Paul explains this in Romans 8 when he says, "What the law could not do in that it was weak according to flesh, God did by sending His own Son" (Rom. 8:3).  We were not built for rule-keeping.  We were built for relationship.  One moment in God's presence can transform us forever.  One glimpse of His glory will melt our hard hearts and break our stubbern wills.

Note the transformation in Moses.  One minute he is raging in anger and hurling the law at wicked people.  The next, after an encounter with God, HIS FACE IS SHINING!  Here's the lesson:  look at man and you will get angry; look at God and you will shine.

Consider again the words of Paul.  He wrote about this very passage in Exodus.  He says there are two ministries:  one of condemnation and the other of righteousness (II Co. 3:9).  Here's the invitation:  Just as Moses looked into the glory of our great God, we are to do the same.  And "we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being TRANSFORMED into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord." (II Co. 3:18)

As each of us run into the brick wall of our own depravity and sinful flesh, may we turn our eyes away from who we are and fix them on WHO HE IS.  He is our great and gracious God, full of compassion, abounding in love and faithfulness.  When I look at Him, I am changed.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Show Me Your Glory

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Monday, February 11, 2013: Exodus 32:1-33:23

17 The Lord said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.” 18 Then Moses said, “I pray You, show me Your glory!”   Exodus 33:17-18 (NASB)

There are two parallel stories unfolding in the Book of Exodus.  One is, of course, the story of God's deliverance of the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage.  The other is the making of the man Moses.  The big picture is Israel.  The particular picture is Moses.  Both stories are important.

In fact, at one point, God says He will get rid of Israel and keep Moses!  He tells Moses, "Let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them (Israel) and I may consume them.  And I will make of you (Moses) a great nation" (Ex. 32:10).  God says that He will start all over again and make a better nation for Moses. 

There are few stronger places in the Bible when it comes to prayer and intercession.  Moses actually forestalls God's wrath and tell Him, "Hey, You can't do that!"

The story of the life of Moses is a study in and of itself.  It is about a friendship with God.  It is also about how God built a flawed man into one of the greatests leaders in history.

We catch a glimpse of this in the interchange between Moses and God in Exodus 33.  Such bold praying!  Such direct communication!  Moses wants God to show Him all His glory.  Wow!  That's a prayer we each should be praying today.  Moses wanted to have an unmitigated view of the grandeur of God.

In short, God answers by telling Moses that he can't take it just yet.  God places Moses in a "cleft of the rock" so that he would only see the afterglow of such brilliance. 

What was God after in Moses?  What did God want to accomplish in this man?  I think the story of Moses speaks to us today.  God set up an IMPOSSIBLE SITUATION.  He told Moses to go forward, but He told Him that His presence would no longer accompany the journey.  Moses was between the proverbial "rock and hard place."

In desparation, Moses cried out for more of God.  Such was the crucible that made Moses into a man who changed history. 

Does your history need changing?  Has God brought you to a place of desparation?  His desire is to give you more of Himself -- to show you His glory.  In order to do that, He is asking for more of you.  If you will call, He will answer.  And He will show you things beyond anything you could imagine.

TRUE WEALTH: "Making Friends with Money"

Here are the notes from yesterday's message at New Life Community Church.  The message is entitled "Making Friends with Money" and is the second in the series TRUE WEALTH.  If you would like to listen to this message, you may do so by going to our website at  God bless.

True Wealth, Part 2                                                                            Sunday, February 10, 2013
 “Making Friends with Money”

The blessing of the Lord—it makes [truly] rich, and He adds no sorrow with it   Proverbs 10:22 (Amplified)

Money can be your best friend or it can be your worst enemy.

“And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, Luke 16:9 (NKJV)

10 He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?  13 “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”  Luke 16:10-13 (NKJV)

Why this message is so important:
1.     It is where we LIVE.
2.     It is a TEST from God.
3.     We need to PREPARE.

Mammon promises much but delivers little.

Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.  I Timothy 6:9-10 (NIV)
How to Make Friends with Money

1.     RETURN the first.

Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; 10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.  Proverbs 3:9-10 (NIV)

Ten is a test.
Ten plagues over Egypt
Ten Commandments
Ten times God tested Israel in the wilderness
Ten times Laban changed Jacob’s wages
Ten times God tested Israel in the wilderness

Illustration:  Woman who won the lottery
You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. 11 Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the Lord of hosts. 12 “All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,” says the Lord of hosts.  Malachi 3:9-12 (NASB)

22 Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. 23  … so that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always.  Deuteronomy 14:22-23 (NIV)

2.     STEWARD the rest.
10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?  Luke 16:10-12 (NIV)
Illustration using three men.
22 “Now consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you in pieces, and there will be none to deliver.  23 “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me; and to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God.”  Psalm 50:22-23 (NASB)

3.     FOCUS on true riches.

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV)

26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” 27 Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.  28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. Hebrews 12:26-28 (NKJV)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Positive Power of the Holy Spirit

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Sunday, February 10, 2013:  Exodus 30:11-31:18

30 And you shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister to Me as priests.  31 “And you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘This shall be a holy anointing oil to Me throughout your generations. 32 It shall not be poured on man’s flesh; nor shall you make any other like it, according to its composition. It is holy, and it shall be holy to you.  Exodus 30:30-32 (NKJV)

No effective work for God can take place without the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus spoke much of our need for the anointing of God's Spirit.  In fact, His commission for us to reach the world in His Name is couched in the requirement that we have a profound and powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit.

This is typified in the anointing oil whereby Aaron and his sons were CONSECRATED.  That is an important word - "consecrated."  It means "to set aside as holy or dedicated."  It is a powerful word, but it can be intimidating.  When we think about a consecrated life, too often we think in terms of austere deprivation, self-denial, and a whole list of "thou shalt nots".  Too often, we think in terms of separation FROM sin or carnality.  But that is only half of the picture.

Consecration is not just FROM, it is also UNTO!  We are ushered into a realm of power and effectiveness.  It is a life empowered by the Holy Spirit.  Ministry CANNOT be done in the power of our flesh.  Consecration cannot be done in the power of our flesh.  The only effective way to win against sin is not to fight the sin, but to PRESS INTO GOD.  The only way to be truly qualified to serve God is not to hone fleshly skills, but rather to be FILLED WITH GOD.

By faith, we receive the anointing of the Holy Spirit.  He does not need our help.  The anointing oil is not poured on man's flesh.  There is nothing like it.  It is holy and it makes us holy.  This is not rule-keeping or moral self-improvement.  It is the positive life and power in the Holy Spirit.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Dangerous Presence of God

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Friday, February 8, 2013:  Exodus 28:1-43

Aaron must wear it when he ministers. The sound of the bells will be heard when he enters the Holy Place before the Lord and when he comes out, so that he will not die.  Exodus 28:35 (NIV)

Right in the middle of a rather boring wardrobe list, we find the words, "so that he will not die!" Priesthood suddenly becomes a high risk occupation -- somewhat like lion trainer or test pilot. That will wake you up!  How is it possible that one of the good guys (a priest) could actually die while serving God?

In our New Testament emphasis on the love and gentleness of God, we have at times forgotten that this is a God who can be dangerous.  Too often we see only the domesticated, politically correct side of God and don’t look at Him as He truly is in all His glory throughout Scripture.

Why would a priest die in the course of fulfilling his duties?  Who killed him and why?  The answer is clear.  God’s love can care for us, but His holiness can kill us!  God is not only a God of love and grace, He is also full of justice and holiness. The God who comes down at Sinai is also the God that is continually warning Israel not to get too close, because if they do they could be incinerated in the heat of His presence (see Exodus 19:20-24).

Paul beckons us to “consider the goodness and severity of God” (Romans 11:22).  He is a God who loves us dearly yet cannot allow us to remain in our sin.  That sin MUST be judged – incinerated.  That’s why His presence is so dangerous.

It is in this light that words of Hebrews become so precious to us.  Because of Jesus, our Mediator, we no longer need to be afraid of dying by God’s presence.  Instead, we have “boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus!” (Heb. 10:19)  A new and living way has been opened for us so that we have direct access to the most Holy Place in the universe.

But, in our “boldness” we have often forgotten the price paid for our access.  We have forgotten the dangerous presence of God.  In so doing, we have become casual before the Almighty.  Perhaps we need a dose of the reverent fear of God.  In our intimacy and love for God, we must remember that He is dangerous.  We ought to dress properly when we come before Him.  Of course, I am not speaking of your physical garb.  I am referring to the robes of Christ’s righteousness that we put on by faith.

In the wonderful allegory by C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, the children ask Mr. Beaver about the Lion named Aslan.  Aslan, in this story, represents God.  “Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”   Consider the GOODNESS and SEVERITY of God.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

It Matters How You Build

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Thursday, February 7, 2013:  Exodus 26:1-27:21

"And you shall raise up the tabernacle according to its pattern which you were shown on the mountain."  Exodus 26:30 (NKJV)

20 “And you shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually. 21 In the tabernacle of meeting, outside the veil which is before the Testimony, Aaron and his sons shall tend it from evening until morning before the Lord. It shall be a statute forever to their generations on behalf of the children of Israel.  Exodus 27:20-21 (NKJV)

The entire Tabernacle structure is a message to us.  It is symbolic of our relationship with Jesus.  It can be really hard to read through all the details about boards and bars, pillars and sockets.  Seems like a lot of technical information that we have to wade through.  But, it is there for a reason.  Exodus 26:30 tells us God's evaluation of all this detail.  "And you shall raise up the tabernacle according to its pattern which you were shown on the mountain."  God says for Israel to build it EXACTLY as He tells them. 

No sloppy construction here!  God wanted the Tabernacle to be built exactly according to specs.  And He wants your life to be built right too.  No sloppy construction of your life either.  BUILD ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN.

Compare this to a post I saw on Facebook a few weeks ago.  A good friend of mine was building a chicken coop and wrote, Got a little more to do on my chicken coop expansion today. I like this type of "construction"...the kind that does not necessarily require precise measurements and cuts. I love needing a 24" board, picking up a piece and seeing that it's only 23 1/2" and saying, "close'll do".  I laughed when I read that.  And it's true.  There are some kinds of construction that "close" is "good enough." 

That might work for a chicken coop, but it won't work for your life!  Paul echoes this in I Corinthians 3 when he says that our lives are "God's building" -- God's temple or tabernacle.  He goes on to say, "Let each one take care how he builds." (I Co. 3:10)  You can build your life with gold, silver, and stones or with wood, hay, and straw.  When the fire comes, which do you think will be burned up?  IT IS IMPORTANT HOW YOU BUILD!

Each part of the Tabernacle has powerful symbolic importance.  It is well worth further study to see how it directly applies to your life today.  In fact, in the New Testament this is opened up in Hebrews 9.  The Tabernacle is a physical symbol of our relationship with God!

One last detail for today is the Lampstand.  It was placed in the Holy Place to give light to the priests as they came to do their ceremonial activities.  This Lampstand was beautiful.  It shed a golden-hewed light on all around.  The priests were instructed to keep it fueled up with olive oil and to NEVER LET IT GO OUT. 

The Lampstand is symbolic of your PRAYER LIFE.  In the New Testament we read, "Pray without ceasing." (I Thess. 5:17).  Keep the candles of prayer continually glowing in your heart.  This will give light and revelation to your life.  Even during difficult, dark times, God will give you the light of life.  Don't let your prayer life die.  Keep it fueled up with the oil of the Holy Spirit.  This is part of what it means to "pray in the Spirit" (Eph. 6:18).

God has given you a lampstand.  As you nourish it and let it burn in your heart today, it will be a source of light not only on your path today, it will be a guiding lamp into your future.  It will shine into generations to come.  God says that this is to be a statute forever.  Generations from now will be glad you kept your lampstand burning -- and that you did it according to the pattern.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Grow into Your Future

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Wednesday, February 6, 2013:  Exodus 23:14-25:40

29 I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. 30 Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased, and you inherit the land.  Exodus 23:29-30 (NKJV)

God has a wonderful future in store for you.  The children of Israel are an example for us.  They were set free from bondage in Egypt so that they could go to a land of promise.  The goal was not just to escape slavery, but to enter destiny.  

The amazing thing is that deliverance from Egypt was the quick and easy part.  It was certainly dramatic with major fireworks at every step.  It was done in a matter of days.  It was the "entering in" phase however took a lifetime.
We need to remember that Jesus saved us not just to transport us to heaven and live in an eternal retirement home.  He saved us to bring us to full stature as sons and daughters of God.  He brought you out so that you could grow into ORIGINAL PURPOSE (see Dt. 6:23).

Justification is the process whereby we are made RIGHTEOUS.  It takes place instantly when we put our faith in Jesus.  Then begins the lifelong process called SANCTIFICATION, which means we are remade in the image of Jesus.  We become like Him in all aspects of our being.  And that takes time!

We are like millionaires that are learning to handle our fortune.  If we got it all in one gigantic deposit, we would probably squander it away in a short while.  So, the Lord tells us that He will give us our inheritance "little by little."  If He gave it all at once, we would not know how to handle it.  So, as a good Father, He calls us to GROW INTO OUR INHERITANCE. 

It is exciting when we begin to discover the land God has promised us.  It is wonderful.  This is why it is so important for every follower of Jesus to grow in the Lord.  Peter echoes this when he writes to us, "but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory both now and forever."  (I Peter 3:18)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

An Eye for an Eye -- the Lex Talionis

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Tuesday, February 5, 2013:  Exodus 21:22-23:13

23 But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.  Exodus 21:23-25 (NKJV)

Have you ever wanted to get even?  You were hurt and you wanted the person who hurt you to feel your pain.  The essence of the law is found in the principle of justice we call "an eye for an eye."  It has also been called the Lex Talionis -- the law of retaliation. 

This is the guiding principle that determines the punishment for breaking the rules.  It is both positive and negative.  It is positive in that the punishment must match (measure up) to the degree of the sin.  It is negative in that it curtails over-reaction.  You can't use a sledge hammer to swat a fly.

That's where we always get it wrong.  We either let people get away with murder, or, on the other extreme, we nail them for just looking at us wrong.  But, God's law gets it right.  The penalty must match the crime.  The human element can "pervert justice" (see Dt. 16:19 and many other passages).  We either "go soft" in denial, or we get carried away in emotional over-reaction.

This requires a solid relationship with Jesus for us to live in the beauty and security of His justice.  It requires the ability to face to truth and live in the truth.  We should accept the just consequences of our actions.  It requires the ability to keep our heart under the control of the Holy Spirit so we do not enact our own justice.  But, that leads us to the most important lesson of all.

The principle of Lex Talionis drives us to Jesus.  Every action demands a reaction.  Every sin must be paid for.  "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe."  This is the basis for a just society.

But, who can survive such a rule.  It was the great missionary statesman David DuPlessis who said, "If we live by an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, soon the whole world with be blind and toothless."  Lex Talionis drives us to Jesus.  If justice must be served, then how can we find it? 

Charles Spurgeon, one of the greatest preachers of all time, speaks to us in his wonderful devotional book Morning and Evening

The Lord Jesus had goings forth for His people as their representative before the throne, long before they appeared upon the stage of time. It was ‘from everlasting’ that He signed the compact with his Father, that He would pay blood for blood, suffering for suffering, agony for agony, and death for death in the behalf of his people…He gave himself up without a murmuring word that from the crown of His head to the sole of His foot He might sweat great drops of blood, that He might be spit upon, pierced, mocked, rent asunder and crushed beneath the pains of death.
You see, Exodus 21:23-25 is not just about how we should regulate human conduct -- the law of equity.  It is about JESUS.  When we read these words, we should not think first of how we can get even with our enemies.  Instead, we should think of how a Savior gave His life that I might have mine spared.  In Him, forgiveness flows.  Mercy has triumphed over justice.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Is the Law for Today?

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Monday, February 4, 2013:  Exodus 19:16-21:21

Then the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. And the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.  Exodus 19:20 (NKJV)

And God spoke all these words, saying:  “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  “You shall have no other gods before Me.  Exodus 20:1-3 (NKJV)

God Himself came down on Mount Sinai and inscribed on tablets the laws which we call the Ten Commandments.  From these original ten spring seemingly endless chapters of details and applications.  The law speaks to every area of life.  It also brings up some very important questions.

Every Christian in some way struggles with question of how the law applies to our lives today.  The first response to this question is usually that we are to KEEP THEM!  But then we read portions of the law that don't seem to apply to us today.  On one end of the spectrum, we find lawlessness that teaches that we are no longer in any way "under the law" and may do as we please.  At the other extreme is the teaching that the law is the mearuring rod of righteousness -- the means by which we become right with God. 

What is the place of the law in the life of the Christian?  This is a very important question.  The great Reformation teacher John Calvin addressed it in his Institutes of the Christian Religion.  There we find that there are three purposes for the law of God.

1.  The first use of the law is as a MIRROR.  The law shows us what God is like.  The law also reveals the nature of man.  Quite a contrast.  The result of this is to DRIVE US TO THE SAVIOR.

2.  Second, the law RESTRAINS EVIL.  The law cannot change our hearts, but it can direct our conduct.  If man were left to his own devises, the evil man would constantly triumph over the innocent.  In this sense, the law is very practical. 

3.  Lastly, the law shows us the WILL OF GOD.  It teaches us the best way to live. In the law, we learn how we can bring glory to God. 

David wrote, "Oh, how I love Your law.  It is my meditation all day long" (Ps. 119:97).  The law cannot save.  But the law is holy.  It shows us what God is like.  It teaches us how to live.  It shows us our need for a Savior.  When we view the law through the eyes of the Gospel, it is a lamp unto our feet.  Let's walk in that light today.