Friday, February 24, 2006
Thursday, February 23, 2006
[Friends, I will be offline until sometime in early March because I am relocating my family from a mobile home into a house--we may be bringing my mom up to live with us in the summer, so we are making changes with that in mind. Prayers are appreciated. If I am at all able, I will try to make one more post before the end of the month--a little something I have planned to tide you over until I return. In the meantime, here is something to think about this time of year . . .]
By Daryl Wingerd
Fat Tuesday is another name for Mardis Gras, the raucous annual parade and party held in the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana. The tradition is many centuries old and was originally known as Carnival. It is held in various places around the world under different names. Mardis Gras (or Fat Tuesday) is the American version.
Carnival comes from a combination of Latin words meaning "farewell to the flesh." There is a great deal of irony in that name because Fat Tuesday is by no means a time when the desires of the flesh are denied or bid farewell. Instead they are lavishly indulged. Anything goes—gluttonous eating, massive consumption of alcohol, even public displays of sexual immorality (to say nothing of what goes on behind closed doors). The streets, sidewalks, shops, and hotels on Bourbon Street in New Orleans are indeed X-rated during this festival of debauchery.
So why the name "farewell to the flesh"? Why not name it for what it really is? Fat Tuesday is known as the farewell to the flesh because Fat Tuesday precedes Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Lent is a 40-day period of self-denial and repentance, instituted by some in the early church as a way of preparing Christians for Easter.
Those who are sinfully self-indulgent during Mardis Gras in preparation for the self-denial during Lent may be likened to a camel preparing to cross a long stretch of waterless desert. The camel drinks deeply of that which will satisfy its thirst, not only for the moment, but also for the next days and weeks. Likewise, Fat Tuesday revelers drink deeply of that for which they truly thirst—the lusts of the flesh—in preparation for lean times when sinful behavior will not be as socially acceptable.
The real tragedy of Fat Tuesday is the way "the church" has historically responded to it. Fat Tuesday has also been called Shrove Tuesday. The word "shrove" is derived from the Latin scribere, meaning, "to prescribe penance." During the middle ages, religious leaders would ensure that "shriveners" (priests) were available to hear the confessions of the multitudes of presumptuous sinners who had committed all types of iniquity during Carnival.
The job of the priest was not to call these people to a deep and true repentance, but rather to prepare them ceremonially for Lent. In other words: Have your fun! Drink as deeply as you need of the lusts of the flesh! Just be sure to confess your sins to the priest before Lent. The priest who hears your confession will prescribe fasting and the right sort of penance (self-inflicted penalty) for you to make amends with God. This was (and still is) the view of many within the Roman Catholic system regarding presumptuous sin, confession, and penance. But what is the true Christian view of a day like Fat Tuesday?
The Apostle Paul tells us as Christians that "we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest of mankind" (Ephesians 2:3). But notice the past tense in Paul's reminder—"we all once lived in the passions of our flesh." In another place, describing the current mindset of a true Christian, Paul asks, "How can we who died to sin still live in it?" (Romans 6:2). To the Corinthians Paul wrote about the way they were before becoming Christians, saying,
"Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
True Christians are not perfect. They can and do sin. But they no longer thirst after sin. Sin is no longer where they find satisfaction. A true believer would never consider intentionally storing up the pleasures of sinful indulgence on Fat Tuesday in order to prepare for a "drought" of religiously imposed self-righteousness—fasting and penance during Lent. True Christians always "hunger and thirst for righteousness" (Matthew 5:6), "hating even the garment stained by the flesh" (Jude 23).
The one who says he knows Christ yet thirsts after and willfully engages in sin, whether daily in private or annually in the great public orgy known as Fat Tuesday, "is a liar and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:4). And the priest or religious leader who affirms a person in such behavior by assuring him that external acts of confession and penance will make him right with God, is participating in one of the devil's most clever schemes.
The Christian who really is a Christian prays to God from the heart, "Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me." (Psalm 19:13)
Copyright © 2006 Daryl Wingerd. Permission granted for reproduction in exact form. All other uses require written permission.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
It just slipped out. I did not really intend to say it; nevertheless, I said it. I really don't know it was on my mind until after I said it. And when I said it I could'nt believe I had actually said it. What I said was, "oh how cute!" The words just . . . fell out! Honest!
What drew me was the open door when all the others were closed, locked perhaps. Nothing was pink or fuzzy nor did it have frills or any sort of dainty intricate design. It was just small. Perhaps no more than 10 people could have fit in at any one time. Light spilled in through three panels of color on one end of the room, a small padded bench underneath. The lectern stood sentinel in the corner. The piano waited patiently on the opposite wall. It was quiet, the lights low.
All I could think of was ''cute." This bothered me because that was really not what I wanted to say. I really wanted to say, “Woe is me, I am undone.” But it did not come out that way. Here was a place set apart for worship of Almighty God and I squeeze out a ''cute!" I hate the flesh.
When God created, He did not say, ''cute!"
When Moses built the tabernacle and the glory of the Lord descended in a cloud, He did not confirm completion of the heavenly pattern as ''cute!" The temple was not ''cute!"
What is “chapel” anyway?
a. A place of worship that is smaller than and subordinate to a church;
b. A place of worship in an institution, such as a prison, college, or hospital;
c. A recess or room in a church set apart for special or small services;
d. A place of worship for those not belonging to an established church;
e. The services held at a chapel: Students attend chapel each morning.
A Chapel is a special place--a place sanctified for the purpose of worship and the effective ministry of the word of God.
The University in which I work has no campus church. We have a Chapel. We have no campus church because each person associated with the University needs to be plugged into the community through the local church [and since I’m heading this direction, I might as well complete the journey—it’s my blog world, after all]. This is fine and I have no problem with that . . . but I am just a bit disturbed when I attend chapel on campus.
Quite reverence is hard to find, a sense of worship needs to be “drummed up”. Most often our times in chapel begin with things more akin to a riot: loud conversation, screaming and applauding, entertainment with this or that skit or film clip, many of which toe the line on all things worldly. I like to get there early so I can get prayed up and read the scripture for a while and pray that God’s Word will be effectual to the hearers.
The music is fine, but expositional preaching is rarely heard from our pulpit—the President’s messages are good, but exposition? Hardly. Our future pulpiteers have very few examples here. Issues and trends are addressed and the occasional guest speaker. Now we have small groups that meet regularly in which (it is suggested) that the chapel message or messages of the previous weeks be discussed.
Do we need to go on a tour of the number of universities started here in America as Christian institutions that are now secular? I need not give one, but I will say this: each one lost its chapel emphasis first. Check out the history of the University of Illinois at Urbana! Urbana in our circles is synonymous with “Missions Conference” and all things pertaining thereunto. But look closely at their history and note how distinctly their step worldly has been marked by the decline and ultimate absence of chapel!
Check out the chapels at some of our Southern Baptist Seminaries—if you’ve been paying attention, you know the denomination went through a liberal slump. I just dare you to Google on up and listen to the messages now. Those chapel services once sparsely attended are now packed to the gills and the Word of God is being preached!
I have a confession (yes, Baptists can be a confessional people—that’s a joke, by the way): when I was a student here in the Seminary, I hated chapel. Know why? Because I was here to LEARN . . . in the CLASSROOM! I felt I was being robbed because I paid all that good tuition money to sit under influential professors to be trained! I was being robbed because I had to take about an hour of every day (except Mondays) to go to CHAPEL. I could hear preaching at church, for crying out loud—who goes to school to hear preaching? And then to suspend classes for one week in the Spring and another in the Fall to participate in week-long all-day chapel activities . . . Robbery, I tell you! I was in a shin-kickin’ mood then.
But that was when 1) the Word was preached; and, 2) I needed to hear it. Boy, how God has changed me.
Chapel is not “cute”. Fundamentally, all Chapels are the same—a place set apart. For what? For Worship. For Teaching. For Rebuke. For Correction. For Training in righteousness toward the completeness for every good work. If these things are not being done, the Bible is not being opened. God Himself is represented in Chapel. Not agenda, not methodology, not technique, not a platform or forum for dialogue.
Chapel is the place of open Bible. Prayer. Worship. I will fight for chapel because it is a place of spiritual formation. A place of preparation for those who will be going out into the world to preach the gospel to those who need to hear it and tell people there is a Jesus to believe in! If they don’t get used to hearing about it in Chapel, my confidence is not so high they will be effective “out there.” But then, I have seen God do other miracles . . .
If people in the hospital go there expecting to find God, why should it be different any where else?
Monday, February 20, 2006
“While Israel remained at Shittim, the people began to play the harlot with the daughters of Moab. For they invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel joined themselves to Baal of Peor, and the Lord was angry against Israel.” (Numbers 25:1-3)
Satan through the world has two ways to attack the godly: up front and with great stealth. Moab had tried already to come against Israel with arms, even with a professional cursor, but he enemy of Israel failed both fights. But they had another weapon that, in effect, exploded in the lap of Israel. While Moab could not stand against Israel in the open, they attacked in worship.
Worship, of all places! Who ever thought of that tactic? Whoda thunk warfare could occur in worship . . .
I’ve been hung up on this one set of verses all day because of the quiet way God is teaching me through His Holy Spirit. I just can’t get over the fact that the people have the presence of God in their midst, He gives them victory after victory, yet they still disbelieve and bring the anger of the LORD against themselves. On the one hand, I find myself examining how it must have been the Moabite’s fault for deceiving the Israelites, but God’s anger is not toward them but toward His own people. Do the Moabites get off so easily? On the other hand, I find myself shaking my head at the Israelites wondering where their discernment went. Then I feel God’s hand gently on my shoulder . . . for the life of me, I can’t figure out what the Israelites saw in the Moabites, the very people they had already worked so hard against any more than I can see what I see what this world has to offer that Christ has saved me from.
Satan does not play “up front” warfare. He plays a quiet game as well and we so easily fall for it. And if God is the same yesterday, today and forever, His wrath is certainly unchanging—but where is it going? Who is receiving it?
I keep thinking about contentment again and how that is hooked up with obedience. Israel has not been content with God because they have been complaining, yet He still preserves His promise toward them. The problem is the very place where Satan attacks: worship and obedience requires submission to God.
Lack of contentment is a lack of worship; therefore, grumbling and complaining is telling God He does not measure up. Then something soft pushes in on the rebellious fist . . .
If God’s people were content, they would not covet. If God’s people loved who and what they have, they would not have played the harlot with the Moabites.
If God’s people were content, there would be humility. We get the idea that somebody owes us something, when we really deserve nothing. I have yet to learn from a dear friend how to fully accept the answer to my, “how do you do?” with his “better than I deserve.” Pride lifts the fist into a high-handed sin, not being satisfied with God. William Plumer wrote in 1864, “If a wise man cannot bring his condition to his desires—he will honestly endeavor to bring his desires to his condition . . . and so he is tossed from vanity to vanity—a stranger to solid peace.” How the Israelites must have tormented themselves as they were already a stranger, wandering from place to place!
If God’s people were content, they would not grumble and complain against Him, His servants or their own brothers and sisters.
If God’s people were content, they would not disbelieve Him and open to the door to the enemy.
Someone said once that most often we do our own fighting for Satan.
We need to learn the lesson from this passage:
Find our joy in naught else but God.
Give our thanks to naught else but God.
Do our work for naught else but God.
Commit our needs to naught else but God.
Or incur His anger against ourselves.
And help the enemy win.
Bishop J.C.Ryle (1816 - 1900) could perhaps be received as an anomaly to Baptistic life and thought. Though he was an ordained clergy in the Church of England, or Anglican Church, J.C. Ryle is one who many would love to claim, and it is good for Baptists to take notice. His work, "Warnings to the Churches: Pharisees and Sadducees" is not a work out of date and should not to be ignored or minimized. The foundation of Ryle's urgent exposition is simply "Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees" (Matthew 16:6) of which we are quickly reminded that "every word spoken by the Lord Jesus is full of deep instruction for Christians" and "is of the greatest value." People of the Book, pay attention!
The book is a sermon divided into four major points, each admonishing the believer first to observe whom the warning of the text was addressed; second, to understand the dangers the Lord warned the apostles concerning; third, "to call attention [to] the peculiar name by which our Lord Jesus Christ speaks of the doctrines of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees;" and finally, to draw applications through "safeguards and antidotes against the dangers of the present day."
First, the audience. To whom did Jesus address these words? Clearly, He spoke to His apostles the words, "Take heed and beware." Ryle quickly instructs the reader that not only are the Servants of Christ able to receive warnings, but nobody needs them more than ministers of the gospel who are to be on guard by walking humbly with God and to watch and pray. This will deter temptation. He writes, "let us take heed that our zeal for Protestantism does not puff us up. . . Let us take heed that we are spiritual men as well as Protestants, and real friends of Christ as well as enemies of anti-Christ."
Second, the dangers. Generally speaking, the warning encompasses all false doctrine subdivided into two categories: the doctrines of the Pharisees and Sadducees, each described in three words a-piece. Of the Pharisees Ryle calls them, "formalists, tradition-worshippers, and self-righteous." The Sadducees are similarly identified as freethinkers, skeptics, and rationalists. One cannot help but remember those two scoundrels, of Bunyan, namely, Formalist and Hypocrisy who sought to climb oxen the narrow wall of salvation, breaking in as thieves instead of entering through the narrow gate of the cross.
Ryle helps us remember how the first group, "did not formally deny any part of the Old Testament Scripture. But they brought in, over and above it, so much of human invention, that they virtually put Scripture aside, and buried it under their own traditions." While we may be tempted to point fingers at the cults such as the Mormons (with good cause, too) we must not turn a blind eye to the wolves in our own pen of whom Christ warns.
The second group likewise was identified as dangerous as, "the practical effect of their teaching was to shake men's faith in any revelation, and to throw a cloud of doubt over men's minds, which was only one degree better than infidelity." Due to this kind of doctrine Jesus warns His servants, "Take heed and beware."
But why? Why did Jesus give these warnings when in just a few short years Jerusalem would be destroyed and Jewish culture and religion would scatter with its people? He gave the warnings for the church and what better time could use the warnings than now? "He knew that these would be the upper and nether mill stones, between which His truth would be perpetually crushed and bruised until He came the second time. He knew that there always would be Pharisees in spirit and Sadducees in spirit, among professing Christians. He knew that their succession would never fail, and their generation never becomes extinct, and that though the names of Pharisees and Sadducees were no more, yet their principles would always exist."
One has only to skim the line of history to see what Jesus already knew, thus the necessity of the warning: there would be two parties, one holding truth, the other inclined to error. Do we need these warnings today? "I ask anybody who can see beyond his own door, or his own fireside, whether we do not live in the midst of dangers from false doctrine?"
Ryle describes further two Schools of thought concerning those who fall into constant error: the Ritualists and the Socianists. The Ritualist "professes to draw its principles from primitive tradition, the writings of the Fathers, and the voice of the Church, - a school that talks and writes so much about the Church, the ministry, and the Sacraments, that it makes them like Aaron's rod, swallow up everything else in Christianity." These are concerned with the outward appearances and the maintenance of religion in the eyes of in men. To these Ryle assigns the title of Pharisee. The Socianists Ryle quickly identifies as Roman Catholics, to whom he obviously bestows the mantle of Sadducee. In all, Ryle demonstrates deep dissatisfaction and should not be ignored so as to follow their false doctrine.
"But I will ask any honest-minded, unprejudiced Bible reader to turn to the New Testament and see what he will find there. He will find many plain warnings against false doctrine: 'Beware of false prophets,' - 'Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit,' - 'Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines,' - 'Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God.' (Matthew 7:15; Colossians 2:8; Hebrews 13:9; 1 John 4:1). He will find a large part of several inspired epistles taken up with elaborate explanations of true doctrine and warnings against false teaching. I ask whether it is possible for a minister who takes the Bible for his rule of faith to avoid giving warnings against doctrinal error?"
How can we respond when, "in the face of these notorious facts, men cry out, 'Hold your peace about false doctrine. Let false doctrine alone!' I cannot hold my peace. Faith in the Word of God, love to the souls of men, the vows I took when I was ordained, alike constrain me to bear witness against the errors of the day. And I believe that the saying of our Lord is eminently a truth for the times: 'Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.'"
The third area Ryle addresses concerns, "the peculiar name by which our Lord Jesus Christ speaks of the doctrines of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees."
Succinctly Ryle reminds his readers not only of the effects of leaven but the nature of it, working quietly, out of sight, secretly. "False doctrine does not meet men face to face, and proclaim that it is false. It does not blow a trumpet before it, and endeavor openly to turn us away from the truth as it is in Jesus. It does not come before men in broad day, and summon them to surrender. It approaches us secretly, quietly, insidiously, plausibly, and in such a way as to disarm man's suspicion, and throw him off his guard. It is the wolf in sheep's clothing, and Satan in the garb of an angel of light, who have always proved the most dangerous foes of the Church of Christ."
If all Ryle has said thus far is a field of diamonds, what he describes next is the golden nugget. Ryle goes into the minds of the Pharisees and Sadducees and in so-doing gives us a grasp of the workings of so many cults and "-isms' 'of our own day. He states, "I believe the most powerful champion of the Pharisees . . . is the man who says that he agrees on all points with you in doctrine. He would not take anything away from those evangelical views that you hold; he would not have you make any change at all; all he asks you to do is to add a little more to your belief, in order to make your Christianity perfect." Such a statement is not at all enhanced by comment. The same is true of the champion of the Sadducees who, "is not the man who tells you openly that he wants you to lay aside any part of the truth, and to become a free-thinker and a skeptic. It is the man who begins with quietly insinuating doubts as to the position that we ought to take up about religion, - doubts whether we ought to be so positive in saying 'this is truth, and that falsehood,' doubts whether we ought to think men wrong who differ from us on religious opinions, since they may after all be as much right as we are."
The Bishop’s fourth point is one of application in merely a paragraph, providing safeguards and antidotes against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The point is concise: “We all need to watch more, and to pray to be held up, and preserved from falling away.” The reasons for such a bibline point is the biblical theology of presuppositional apologetics: first, human nature is corrupt with sin; second, doctrine is rooted in the authority of inspired scripture. We agree with Ryle, believing the inspired Word of God as our only rule of faith and practice; therefore, our sinful minds must be so-informed. Third, the death of Christ was not common, but one of atonement and priestly in function. Jesus intercedes for all those who come to Him in faith and our doctrine is not one that is hid but has visible work on the heart through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The concluding points fit in thusly: Man receives no benefit by intellectual faith. His heart must be changed. Man must take the study of the Bible seriously and thoroughly, so as to have his thoughts saturated in it and by it, for when “teachings” come, the poisonous leaven may be averted and avoided.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
Well on their way in their wandering,
Korah and sons all rebel;
God judges the men of those houses
to be an example for Israel.
The next day those people's own grumble
'gainst Moses and Aaron was heard;
God judged all that loud congregation
who lifted a contrary word.
The priesthood received confirmation
"Every devoted thing yours;"
Then purified through the Red Heifer,
The unclean and clean are made sure.
Miriam dies in the desert,
the people assemble, complain;
Moses in anger strikes rock-ward,
Instead of just speaking again.
Edom refuses their passage,
And Aaron, he dies in his place;
Then tension with Canaan's king Arad
caused Israel to search for God's face.
The people again gripe and grumble,
God judges that lot with those snakes;
But looking to Moses' Bronze Serpent
Brings life in those poisonous stakes.
The journey continues with battles,
the Lord giving great victory;
And Balaam says backwardly curses
Despite all he says or can see.
Friday, February 17, 2006
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
I didn’t know who he was, but he came highly recommended and was received with great flare and panache. He came to guide our church through a Sunday School Revival one Spring. I remember distinctly the first message he preached on Isaiah 54:2, “Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, spare not; lengthen your cords and strengthen your pegs.” That message really impacted me back in 1988. And I remember telling him so. His response, “stick with me this week and you will learn more than you will ever learn in Bible College or Seminary.” And He was right.
One of the great things he said that week concerned the life of the local church that I have personalized and applied to my own life; after all, as Spurgeon says, it begins with me. He said, “there are three ways to look at the church [my life]: it grows, maintains, or dies. And there is only one positive.”
The second great thing he said was a quote that may be similarly applied, Pogo 3:16, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
Growth is everything. Maintenance leads to death. Death is sure, certain in the ultimate sense. But spiritually speaking, growth is confident hope. Maintenance is NOT perseverance. We trip ourselves up.
I don’t know about you, but I am a great starter and a poor finisher. I am my own enemy while I yet live in this flesh. Left to myself, I will not finish the race nor fight the good fight. But since the Christian life is God’s to live in Christ through me, there is this certainty—He will finish what He has started. Be certain of that.
It is tempting to walk away from this nebulous thought, knowing that somehow God is personalizing that good work, and in one sense He certainly is; but there are a few not-so-nebulous facts we need to grasp in this good work He is completing in us.
First, Paul’s words are part of a thought already in process. Paul has offered a joyful prayer for the Philippians because of their participation in the gospel—the good work God began in them is salvation through the good news of Jesus Christ! They were changed by it and do not keep it to themselves!
Second, Paul is in writing from prison! If anyone should be depressed, it is Paul; but his confidence soars not in his release, but in the fact that God’s good work of salvation in Christ Jesus continues through the Philippians work in the gospel! He started it, He does it, He continues it through those changed by it!
Third, the good work is perfected until the day of Christ Jesus! This means that through the growing love for Christ knowledge grows, discernment sharpens, sincerity deepens, the fruit of righteousness fills and through Christ Jesus, God receives the glory and praise!
Bunyan gave us a picture of what this must look like at the Hill of Difficulty. Pilgrim (whose name was once “Graceless”) has been met in the Narrow Way of Salvation by two thieves named Formalist and Hypocrisy. These climbed over the wall instead of entering by the narrow gate and the cross, seeking their own glory from God at Mount Zion. Traveling along the way, the three come to the Hill of Difficulty where the path diverts three ways: one goes straight up the hill, while the other two go along the bottom of the hill to the left and to the right. These are the ways of Danger and Destruction. Pilgrim takes a refreshing drink from the pool at the bottom of the hill (the picture of the grace of God, even His working to finish what He has started) and climbs up the hill. Along the way, he rests in an arbor and takes his scroll and begins to read and is refreshed. Formalist and Hypocrisy choose not to climb the hill and go along the paths thinking they will meet again on the other side of the hill, but they meet their doom instead.
Had it not been for the pool and the arbor and the roll, all provided by God, Pilgrim would not have climbed up the Hill of Difficulty. As a matter of fact, Pilgrim forgets the scroll in the arbor and almost turns back after a point to abandon his quest—but he only goes back to where he dropped the encouragement for his faith and resumes his journey.
Trite, but true: “Please be patient. God isn’t finished with me yet.” As I hinted in a previous post, my mom is an artist. I am not an artist, so I see things differently. When I paint, I can only see a finished product and get frustrated because I cannot see the steps along the way to make something beautiful. My mom paints, it looks ugly and patchy and swathy—but she layers and brushes and washes and blends . . . if you’ve ever been to my office or to my home, you’ve seen her work . . . breath-taking.
The fact of the matter is that once we by faith come to know Christ Jesus, we are not what we used to be but neither are we yet what we are to become. There is so much to do and so little time. The world thinks reverse: there is little to do and too much time. This is Sloth, Presumption and Arrogance.
God’s work in us is guaranteed to completion, which is His glory at the day of Christ Jesus. This is the completion point. Concentrating on what is wrong right now in life is depressing. Focusing on the completion day is exciting. The point is: don’t get hung up in the “now”—Paul didn’t. Look ahead to what is coming that He will complete.
We have an active roll in the process. We don’t just lay back and let life wash over us. We get to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). We must be Holy s God is Holy, pray, read the Bible, obey, be accountable—use the resources God puts at our disposal as if it were a pool, an arbor, a scroll.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Scripture quoting is now being equated with plagiarism, being non-original, and close-mindedness to new and continuing revelation;
I hear more on universalism, less on eternal punishment;
More on the mercy of God, less on His wrath;
More on free will, less on responsibility;
More on destiny, less on Sovereignty;
More on maintaining "the walk," less on growing in faith or warnings against backsliding;
More on getting through our stuff, less on divine healing and deliverance;
More on convention, less on conviction;
More on time management, less on Sabbath and Sabbath-breaking;
More on leaving the past behind, less on the Second Coming;
More on managing your money, less on the stewardship of all God has entrusted;
More on "the cutting edge", less from the cutting edge;
More pointing to the Bible, less pointing from the Bible;
More on method, less on message.
“Know this also, that in the last days grievous times will be at hand. For men will be self-lovers, money-lovers, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, unyielding, false accusers, without self-control, savage, despisers of good, traitors, reckless, puffed up, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness, but denying the power of it; even turn away from these.” 2Ti 3:1-5
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
God sees everything. Proof of this is found in Numbers 7, where it is recorded the leaders of Israel all gave their offerings, one person representing each tribe. The detail is astounding—each offering is identical—and God noticed and inspired that each offering be recorded in each detail.
Another wonderful sequence of events is in the following chapters. The Levites are brought before the people and are consecrated before the LORD then Israel celebrates the first Passover since the Exodus, not to forget an explanation of how the cloud directed the movements of the Israelites.
While this is on my mind: we are getting ready to move again. Seems like we move a lot. But not as much as these people! Notice the text says that when the glory of the LORD went up, they moved! Sometimes they would be in one place for a few days, a couple of weeks, months or years! That last statement ought to make one think . . . does the writer know something everyone else does not, or is he writing in retrospect? Hmmmmmmm. I’m inclined to the latter. But we get ahead of ourselves.
One feature God installs into the life of His people is the use of the silver trumpets, to be used as alarms for different kinds of movement.
Chapter 11 is strange. Here is a record of the people complaining about food. Why? It is free. God is providing it. It is always there. They are complaining because there is only one kind of food—manna. Translated, “manna” means, “what is it.” In response to the complaining, God sends quail for meat, followed by a plague. What strikes me about this is I don’t think the people were worshipping God. If they were, there would be plenty to eat—remember how many of those sacrifices were to be eaten and shared? Go back to Leviticus and read about the Peace and Thanskgiving offerings if you don’t remember. Bottom line: if you wanted to eat, you would be in fellowship and at peace with God! AND He gave them grace-food besides! I venture it was not God’s fault they had something to complain about. Talk about “food for thought.” One more thing about complaining: Miriam and Aaron rebel by complaining and God punishes Miriam, but not without restoring her after Moses intercedes on her behalf.
What do you think God is trying to say about complaining? I notice that when Israel wants water, the Bible says they complain, not ask. When they don’t have food, they don’t ask, they complain. God records these people are not satisfied with HIM. This is important for what happens next: God tells Moses to choose spies to send into the land. Response? COMPLAINING—but the problem is not with the land. It is what they see in their own eyes. God wants to severely punishes (wipe out) the people, but Moses again intercedes and the people are to wander until the unbelieving generation dies off.
Can you see some travelers passing by and seeing a group of children playing in the wilderness?
“What are you doing out here?”
“Waiting for my parents to die.”
God speaks to Moses concerning giving an offering of Thanksgiving and another to deal with Unintentional sin, instructing the people to put a tassle on the their garment in order to remember the commandments of God. You mean people forget?! Well, yes! And they complain! This is why God wanted them to participate in THANKSGIVING!
But, as history records the change of world powers by marking those barbarians who come sweeping down from the north, someone complains. This time it is Korah who rebels against both God and Moses, so God destroys him along with Dathan and Abiram.
Dathan: poster-boy of complaining
Did they get the message? Not quite. The very next day, more Israelites rebel and God judges them too.
Spurgeon writes, "There are mumurers amongst Christians now, as there were in the camp of Israel of old. . . . A word with thee, O murmurer! Why shouldst thou murmer against the dispensations of thy heavenly father? Can He treat thee more hardly than thou deservest? Consider what a rebel thou wast once, but He has pardoned thee! Surely if He in His wisdom sees fit now to chasten thee, thou shouldst not complain. After all, art thou smitten as hardly as they sins deserve?"
Look at what God does to get this grumbling under control: he confirms the call of the priesthood and causes Aaron’s rod to bud! Then He reconfirms the sanctification and duties of the priests.
Oh, if you were looking for some words of wisdom about the best way to complain against God, or the biblical theology of complaining, here it is in a nutshell: “don’t”.
Give Thanks instead.
So let it be written, so let it be done. [Thanks, Dr. Beyer!]
“Joy to the world.“
“Come thou long Expected Jesus.“
“O little town.”
“Thou didst leave thy throne.”
Text: John 2:1-17; Isa. 6:3
All divine repetition is essential to emphasize the purity and perfection of our Triune God.
God is seen 6:1,5. And we pray “Open the eyes of our hearts that we may see you.” Are we ready to see what Isaiah saw? [I've been saying that for a long time!] The God Isaiah saw and the God John wrote of are the same—they both record their experience with the joy-giver and temple-cleanser.
Who did Isaiah see? God the Son, a Theophany. A physical manifestation of God, also seen in the Angel of the LORD in other passages.
John 12:37-41 Unbelief in Jesus as God Incarnate is a fulfillment of prophecy. Isaiah saw Jesus and he was afraid. This is who the seraphim saw and covered themselves.
Is there a significant difference between the God of the OT and the God of the NT? Deut 4:24, 31. The same God! Heb 4:16
I AM the Lord and I change not!
Is there a significant difference between Father and Son? All God is, the Father and Son is. God the Son is in the OT, and to see Him is to see one's sinfulness. Just ask Isaiah. Just ask John (Rev 1:17 ).
When was the last time you had this experience with Jesus? Who do you plan to meet in prayer and Bible study? Go back and renew those Christmas songs and notice how many of their talk about being prepared?
"Into my heart;
Into my heart;
Come into my heart, LORD Jesus;
Come in today, Come in to stay;
Come in to my heart, LORD Jesus."
John 2 contains two different stories about Jesus. Someone summarized this chapter with no more than 3 words: "Drinking and Driving."
Why do both accounts appear so close together? We find both joy and anger here, showing Jesus As He really is! 20:30-31
Jesus used footwashing water to bring Joy through the first demonstration of deity. Wine is symbol of joy, thus using it to symbolize His blood, not because it was red. Jesus is no joy killer, but a giver of 150 gallons of joy!
The person at the wedding is the same who walked into the temple. Greed had supplanted convenient provision. Jesus cast out as He would demons! He was consumed with passion. He is passionate for the purity of His temple.
When we sins those Christmas Songs, are you aware He is the one who makes whips to drive out what does not belong and is displeasing?
How do we bridge our texts and these concepts? Like this: Jesus wants us to be filled with joy and free from sin.
Ask yourself: What's the one thing that can destroy joy in the life of the believer?
Monday, February 13, 2006
Every Sunday night I take my daughter to her AWANA club that begins each meeting upstairs in our family Life Center at church (our Family Life Center has three floors).
Every once and-a-while I will take the elevator up and if I time it right am able to catch a couple of children less willing to take the stairs. As everyone Knows (it must be one of the unwritten laws of the universe) one or more child or Children must punch the buttons. I remember as a small child (between 8 and 11) how I often drifted from shopping mall to shopping mall with my mom who made her living as a starving artist selling her paintings at art shows--many of which would be held in the halls of a shopping mall somewhere. I learned how to keep myself busy in most locations during those long weekends by doing such things as commandeering the local elevator. I hated sidewalk shows, for obvious reasons.
Yes, I was once King button-boy. Everybody who got into my box went nowhere unless I poked the button. Occasionally one of my
subjects patrons fellow shoppers offered tribute or gave a tip and that was truly the icing on my cake of button-pushing. Besides, my mom rarely worried--she knew right where I was, safe and out of trouble. And security had nothing to worry about because I never went into the stores (not to imply they should have been worried if I did).
You know the term "elevator music?" I had a theme-song that went something like this:
[soft solo guitar plays a simple mystical arpeggio ending on three lower notes, repeating the phrase twice--a soft tenor solo voice joins the guitar]
"there's a guy who knows
That he needs new clothes,
So he's taking the elevator to Men's wear.
[guitar for a few notes]
In the back on the right,
There's some pants way too tight;
Far away from the elevator in Men's wear."
You get the idea. But the song was stolen by some guy who said he flew a steel derigible or a lead blimp (I could never figure that out)--some Kind of Zeppelin--and he changed the words about some girl and a lame stairway. . .
Where was I? . . . Oh, yeah. I hated having to abandon my post for potty-breaks or to eat because those poor souls really did not know where they were headed without a seasoned pilot at the helm. I think I had to forcibly regain my position on a rare occasion or two . . .
Did I mention my grandfather's name was Otis?
Anyway, on occasion I will find myself in the elevator with children eager to do their duty of button-pushing, so I look them in the eye and with a voice full of Empathy and understanding, say, "'4' please." all eyes and fingers quickly fly to the panel where anyone elevated to this position will find All he or she needs to move us from "point A" to "point B"; or, in our local content, from floor 1 to floor 3 . . . but no 4.
Imagine the great consternation that comes sweeping in, or the sheer state of panic an 11 year old feels when he or she or they realize that 1) an adult hath spoken; 2) a child must obey; 3) this elevator only has buttons for 3 floors! I've seen a child or two wish very deeply that a "4" would appear. I've witnessed small herds of fingers fight for a button that never existed here. Rarely, I will see a set of eyes turn back fo me as if to say, "gee, Mister, your elevator doesnt go all the way up, does It?"
But I know well that feeling of impending humiliation of not being able to deliver. I, too, have received insults from unfeeling passengers who demand the impossible. But instead of allowing one of our future church leaders of America feel as if they are not worthy of the great office of lift-steerage, I help them out . . . a little.
I tell the lad or lassie, "well, you can push '2' Twice, or give it A '3' and '1' Combination."
Most get the joke real fast, but tonight one boy pushed '2' Twice, never smiling, never taking his eyes off me.
By the way, the answer is, "'yes', my elevator does go all the way to the top."
And did I mention my grandfather's name was Otis?
Sunday, February 12, 2006
“Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.”
Spurgeon was right . . . we are just too busy. We would really like to spend time thinking about it, perhaps weeping over it, but business calls, duty demands, a promise we made to someone somewhere must be fulfilled—just can’t think about it NOW. We’ll come back to it later, maybe tonight. If not then, then later for certain or perhaps another day.
“Believer in Jesus,” Spurgeon writes, “can you gaze upon Him without tears, as He stands before you the mirror of agonizing love?”
Spurgeon even tells himself, “My soul, stand here and weep over His poor stricken body.”
Yes. Stand here and gaze. Sit there and weep.
I won’t write any more so you don’t read any more. So we can go back and gaze . . .
There is time.
Saturday, February 11, 2006
You are very sure that the so-called “wine” in the Bible was unfermented grape juice. (It was unfermented, wasn’t it?)
You call dancing “creative movement” or call a dance a “function.”
You think those Northern Baptists (American Baptists) are a bunch of liberals.
Your parents or your grandparents used to be Methodist.
You have to stand behind a wooden lectern to teach a class, any class.
You’ve ever made a pilgrimage to Glorieta or Ridgecrest–or you at least know where those places are.
Your pastor attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary at some time in his academic career.
Your pastor doesn’t wear a robe, but the choir does wear robes and people who are getting baptized wear white robes.
Someone in your church says “amen” a couple of times during the sermon when the preacher makes a good point, but no one ever shouts.
You don’t raise your hands to praise God during the music, but you tolerate those who do.
You call any kind of Bible study on Sunday night “Training Union” or (older still) “BYPU.”
You call the pastor and the music director “Brother,” as in Brother Dunn or Brother Bob; you call the youth minister by his first name only, as in Joe or Steve, and you don’t call anyone “Sister.”
You attend an adult Sunday School class.
You’ve ever been involved in a discussion about what color carpet to buy for the church auditorium, and you call it an auditorium, not a sanctuary.
The deacons think they run the church, but the WMU (Women’s Missionary Union) really decides all the important stuff, such as what color the carpet in the suditorium will be.
You have at least one specialty dessert recipe that you can make and transport to church socials and be sure of getting at least five requests for the recipe.
You received an assortment of casserole dishes as wedding presents.
Your church has a fellowship (fellowship=food) hall where the church socials are held.
You’ve ever sung all five verses of Just As I Am ten times through during the invitation.
You expect to go to prayer meeting on Wednesday night and spend five minutes in prayer preceded by at least thirty minutes of prayer requests, which are really a discussion of all the ailments and medical conditions of all the people in the church.
You attended at least one Vacation Bible School in which the children lined up outside at the beginning and marched in behind the US flag, the Christian flag, and the big Holy Bible.
You know the words to the pledge to the Christian flag and the pledge to the Bible.
You’ve ever participated in Bible drill or a Sword Drill.
You know all the words to Love Lifted Me and There’s Within My Heart a Melody and At Calvary. among other hymns.
You associate foreign missions with Christmas and missions in the USA with Easter, and you know that January is the month for January Bible Study.
You’re fairly sure that Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong have a more secure place in heaven than any of those Catholic saints.
You think Presbyterians are way too intellectual, Charismatics are too emotional, and Catholics trust in ritual. But the Baptist “porridge” is Just Right.
Friday, February 10, 2006
If I could summarize Number 4-6 in one word it would be “separation.” The words of the LORD from the tabernacle in their midst are directed to God’s people as it relates to the ministry of service; cleanliness, sin and infidelity; and, voluntary separation.
Earlier, we understood how the Levites were separated out from the rest of the people of God. Now there yet another subdivision of the Levitical families: the Kohathites (4:1-15), the Gershonites (4:21-18) and the Merarites (4:29-33). Aaron and his son Elieazar are the general supervisors of the entire tabernacle (4:16-20). I imagine that being a Levite was fearful experience, especially one who was responsible to move the tabernacle furniture. I noticed the Kohathites of all the Levites were forbidden access to these things.
“The term used for their active “service” is a very interesting one. It is used in other passages for other pursuits, e.g. military service (Num. 1:3; it is the word in modern Hebrew for army service too); hard labour (Job 7:1); severe hardship under foreign domination (Isa. 40:2). In short, it was hard work with terrible responsibility. Being a Levite or a priest was not seen as an easy option in life by God. Indeed, he expects more from his chosen servants than from others. The books of Amos and Hosea and early Isaiah are particularly harsh in condemnation of priests (and prophets) who neglect their holy calling and pander either to their own selfish interests or to the easy way of telling people only what they want to hear. It is a difficult and often lonely calling to be a servant of God.”[i]
There is no room for selfish interest or methodology in God’s service. I tell my kids, "look, if you get a job makin' fries, that's what you do--make fries. You don't do anything else unless the boss says so. You do your job and you do it completely." Same way with God--it’s either His way or not at all. Ask Nadab and Abihu. Like they say: “there are only two things in the middle of the road: stripes and dead possum.” There is no middle ground in obedience.
Chapter 6 completes the set moving from the cleansing and separating of the camp to a discussion concerning those who voluntarily set themselves aside for special service. The choice is to separate for a limited period of time and is marked by intentional abstention from grapevine products, physical pleasure and from certain human adornments, by the special keeping of the hair.
The point of these passages is this: though only Aaron and his sons could be priests, the people could be priestly. This is why they must be clean; or, as has been noted several times already, be Holy because He is holy.
The marvelous overriding principle is that each person is a priest before God. The foundation for this goes back to the garden when man walked with God. Later, God would say of His people “you shall be to Me aa kingdom of priests and ba holy nation.” (Ex 19:6).
God is in the middle—the tabernacle is the center of the encampment and each and every person has access to God. If not, a way is provided.
God delivers His people.
God exalts His people.
God takes care of His people.
God provides for His people.
God honors His people.
God forgives His people.
God heals His people.
God lives in His people.
This is what saved people look like: priests, separate, dedicated, holy because He is the LORD.
a 1 Pet 2:5, 9; Rev 1:6; 5:10
b Deut 7:6; 14:21; 26:19; Is 62:12
[i]Riggans, Walter. Numbers. The Daily study Bible series. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001, c1983.
Thursday, February 09, 2006
It’s time for a crash course in “How to say all those really hard names in the Bible.” Ready? Pencil and paper out? Here you go: “with confidence.”
Pop quiz: Read Numbers 1-3.
Finding a point of reflection and application in these chapters can be challenging, but not impossible. There is some great stuff here! And it all centers on the fact that there is only one LORD; that is God.
- God organizes His People. He is the center and everyone has a place.
- God prepares His People. He promised them their own land and they are being moved into position to claim it.
- God commissions His people. He is the basis on which obedience is expected.
- God provides for His People. Worship and community exist because of Him.
The first chapter is a census—boring stuff, right? I think part of the reason for this is that God is giving Israel an opportunity to see how big they have become as a nation, but how small they really are in comparison with other nations. The beauty is that God spoke to Moses directly from the tent of meeting, the tabernacle. The word came from the LORD to count, arrange, organize and this is what Moses did. God was directing Israel . . . directly. They got a chance to respond to His Lordship through listening to and obeying His Word. They already found that God had to provide the perfect sacrifice because they could not (and note, we are nowhere near the NT!). Now that God has made the way open through shed blood, at great expense to both Him and man, fellowship can be enjoyable!
The thing is, the nation had to get used to this idea. The day would come when God Himself would become flesh and dwell among us in Christ Jesus in order that all who accept Him and His completed work through His death on the cross and glorious resurrection are by faith forgiven their sin, set free from the power of sin and are able to look forward to the day when there will be ultimate deliverance from the presence of sin. The sad thing is that it is the sin of Adam passed down through all mankind that called for this to happen. Remember Genesis 3:15?
I love the last verse of Numbers 1: “Thus the sons of Israel did; according to all which the Lord had commanded Moses, so they did.” Do you know why? Because these people were not always so orderly. Remember Exodus 32:7-8? “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go down at once, for your people, whom you brought up from the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’” There were once impure and out of order. Now they are organizing themselves around God. They had once made a god for their own understanding, but now came to understand that He is so unlike any other—and it was this God they built their houses around.
Build your life around God in Christ Jesus our LORD.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Instructions: usually printed in three or four languages on multi-folded pieces of thin paper. The instructions you need most is the one written in the worst English. You know what I mean. Ladies, do you know why men find that slip of paper when we buy a new gadget, toy, tool, or whatever, and toss it out? Because nobody can read it, that's why! [That's for free, by the way.]
Lev 22-27: God is very clear in giving instructions. Make no mistake about it. God tells Moses how to instruct Aaron and his sons in the things prohibited of the priesthood, including which sacrifices are not to be made (in case Aaron or his sons had any questions). Once this is assured, instructions are given concerning the feasts of Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Pentecost, Trumpets, Booths and the Day of Atonement. After Moses receives special direction concerning oil to be used for the lamps and how to arrange the showbread, an incident breaks out resulting in a law concerning the Sanctified Name of God. The book of Leviticus concludes with laws concerning the Sabbath year and the year of Jubilee, how God expects obedience and promises restoration and sanctification through vows—and most importantly, what God will and will not accept.
All instructions from God are based on a relationship. God is Holy. The priest of God is to be holy. The gifts given to God are to be holy. Everything about the society of the people of God is to be holy—and when the holiness of God is denied, there is severe punishment.
Ever heard someone curse? Of course you have. We’ve all heard God’s name being used inappropriately. We are also very familiar with the Christian retort, “Don’t take the LORD’s name in vain.” That’s actually partly correct. Check out Leviticus 24:10-16 and find out what God says should be done to the one who uses His name inappropriately. Why? Because HE is the LORD, that’s why!
Notice a couple of things: the man who got in trouble was only a half-Israelite. We would expect the most severe punishment if a Jew blasphemed The Name and cursed, but this person was half-Egyptian. God’s response was this: stone him as if he were an Israelite. The point: God has one law for any person living in covenant relationship with Him.
The other thing to notice is the persons who do the stoning are the ones who heard the man blaspheme and curse The Name. This does one of two things: prevents any false accusations—everyone must be sure they heard correctly; and, to serve as a lesson for the ones who cast the stones—don’t ever be heard doing the same thing.
Can you imagine a small child standing near her daddy.
“Daddy, why are they throwing rocks at that man?”
“Because he blasphemed The Name and cursed.”
“If I blaspheme The Name and curse will you throw rocks at me?”
Maybe instead of wide-eyed gasping and putting our hands over our mouths when we hear it, would should pick up a rock . . . Oh, that’s right, people get mad when you chuck things at them or at movie screens. It must be ok then to let it slide . . . or put the hand over the mouth that really needs it.
BE Holy BECAUSE HE is Holy. Holiness is to permeate being, enveloping all that means existence.
Be Holy Because He is Holy.
I’ll stop repeating it when I get it through my own thick skull and I don’t anticipate stopping any time soon. What about you?
This is perhaps the most recognizable set of numbers in the world. Everyone seems to know to what they refer--that passage in the New Testament book of John which says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." What an awesome message!
But these numbers are not a magic formula. They are a reference point to easily locate and refer to a specific text. Why do I bring this up? Because some people think there is great power in these numbers and this is not correct. Just write them on a piece of cardboard and hold them in front of a TV camera . . .
I overheard a recent conversation in which a young Bible college student was being mentored. They were laying out a strategy in which the student could teach a series. "Hey, why not the 3:16's of the Bible! John 3:16 is such a great text and the numbers can drive students to other great truths in the Bible," the student reasoned to his mentor. So together they started in Genesis and made their way through all the 3:16's of the Bible--rejecting passage after passage after passage because in most cases, there was just "nothing to teach" in the 3:16's.
My heart sank for two reasons: first, they expected something great and saw nothing of value. They were disappointed in the 3:16's of the Bible. They had determined most to be "not teachable"; second, they had no clue they approached and filtered the text from a man- centered perspective.
All the 3:16's are great as are the 5:22's and 12:34's. 2 Tim 3:16 (and 17) attests to that.
I was sad for yet another two more reasons: first, this is the direction Biblical training is headed (?); and second, the student and mentor both abandoned the project in 15 minutes.
Somebody needs to explain all the 3:16's. All of them.
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Someone once said that the Bible was a book of “do’s”, not a book of “don’ts” and if you do all the “do’s” you don’t have time to do the “don’ts”—and if you could, you wouldn’t, since you can’t, so you don’t, so it’s cool!
Leviticus 19-21 reminds me of that axiom. If more time is devoted to doing the deeds of holiness, the deeds of sinfulness are not done. But when one considers all the civil, moral and ceremonial laws given, how many did Israel actually carry out? Take it a step further—how are we doing obeying the words of Christ? How are we doing with putting off the old and putting on the new and walking in the Spirit not carrying out the desire of the flesh (Colossians 3, Ephesians 4, Galatians 5)?
We like to pick and choose because we are a people of convenience and comfort. We like to fence and cushion and couch the rules so we are best accommodated. We like Misnah!
God delivers His people from bondage. There is no partial deliverance just as there is no partial bondage. There is not anything He cannot deliver from—we saw that in the Exodus. But this is exactly the blessed fullness of the good news of salvation in Christ Jesus our LORD. As it was true in the Exodus, so it is now. The best part is that as Israel got to dwell with God in their midst, so it is now, God dwells in our midst—exactly right inside our very person.
When God expects His people to live in obedience to His commands, He expects full obedience, not partial. Look at Leviticus 19 and notice the reason God gives for carrying out His command—it is the same reason God acted against the Egyptians and judged their gods—that they would know that He is the LORD!
Children are not obey their parents because they are parents. Children are to obey because He is the LORD.
Don't stop stealing because it is a cultural no-no and causes inconvenience for everyone. You stop stealing because He is the LORD. You give because He is the LORD.
Don't stop lying because it is bad manners. You stop lying because He is the LORD. You tell the truth because He is the LORD.
Don't love your neighbor because everyone likes to be happy. You love your neighbor because He is the LORD.
You do not sleep around because it is "bad". You practice righteousness because He is the LORD.
Be Holy because He is Holy.
Imagine being told that if you had any of the following you could not come to church: leprosy, scabs, pimples, boils, burned flesh, eczema, infection, scales or pox, or infectious spots on a bald head (baldness itself is permissible). In some cases we are like, “no brainer”, but I will venture a bet (yes, a good Christian bet) that someone reading this right now is disqualified according to the list.
Leviticus 13-18: God cannot have “unclean” in His presence because He is holy. The unclean must be removed. Any person with any of these symptoms is unclean and must publicly declare himself so and live outside the camp. We think that people have a reason now to be out of church—well how about these?
Got pimples? UNCLEAN!
What about mold? If a garment is leprous, another word for mold in this sense, it is unclean and is to be destroyed if it cannot be cleaned. People can be healed and restored to the fellowship of God and community, but they cannot have moldy clothes. Garments must be washed. And inspected. A house can be declared unclean and quarantined. God just cannot have uncleanliness in His presence. Ever wonder where the term, “cleanliness is next to Godliness” comes from? This is it!
Guess what else God can’t have in His presence—bodily discharge. If you have any of the following by accident or on purpose, you are unclean: have a seminal emission, feminine discharge, or go to the bathroom at all. This is why a saddle is declared “unclean.” Can you imagine trying to keep clean before the LORD knowing that going to the bathroom would make you unclean? What does one do—run outside the camp? The population of my city was just over 4 million in 2000. Scholars estimate the number of people that left Egypt was upwards around 6 million. What are you going to do (pardon the pun)? What about this: if we were still living under ceremonial law, bathrooms would not be allowed in church!
Got potty? UNCLEAN!
Imagine: bodily functions require sacrifice to maintain right standing before God. Let that sink in for a minute. How long will it take until one runs out of herds or flocks (assuming one owns any to begin with that are acceptable to give in the first place)?
It is impossible to dwell in the presence of God. And God demands His people be holy because He is holy.
Got grace? CLEAN!
Let us not forget the priest. He is the one who gets to be inspector-general. The priest is the one who gets to examine all the sores, scabs, hairs, garments, houses, etc. The priest get to declare according to God’s standard what is clean and unclean. He must know what God thinks and see how God sees. His ministry is not one of lofty exclusion, but of intimate inclusion. He is to restore, not segregate. And because he must come into contact with it all, is the most unclean person in the camp.
Notice (if you are reading in your Bible) that right after all these descriptions of what is clean and unclean, God lays out the plan on how everyone is to be made clean in the Day of Atonement. The Annual Default setting. One sacrifice covers all people.
Clearly, God’s demand for holiness reaches every nook and cranny of one’s life. In every aspect God expects His people to be like Him—and it is impossible unless He provides for it. This takes us back to the concept I introduced previously that Leviticus is the book of unrecorded miracles.
The whole system is in place to demonstrate that 1) all are sinners; 2) a sacrifice must be made; 3) what was unclean and sinful can be declared to be clean and holy.
The one who accepts this by faith is the one who is made holy, set apart to God from the world. Bottom Line: God takes us as we are.
"For let our debts be what they may, however great or small,
As soon as we have nought to pay, or LORD forgives us all.
'Tis perfect poverty alone that sets the soul at large;
While we can call one mite our own, we have no full discharge."
Monday, February 06, 2006
nateNotes: "So this Christian walks into a bar and says, 'I'm a Christian.' The bartender says, 'Oh, yeah? Here's a movie I filmed about famous missionaries. It's a gospel film, except the gospel's never explained, and the hero of the movie is played by a major gay activist. Basically, the message I'm sending is that details about Jesus' sacrifice aren't important, but God's definitely down with homosexuality.' The Christian says, 'Wow, that's bad reasoning and an adulteration of the gospel. I'll pray for you.' The bartender calls the police, and they freeze the Christian's finances because he's so exclusive and divisive.
So this Muslim walks into the same bar and says, 'I'm a Muslim.' The bartender says, 'Oh, yeah? Here's an unflattering picture I drew of Mohammed. Basically, I'm sending the message that Mohammed was a radical extremist hatemonger.' The Muslim pulls out a gun, takes over the bar, and threatens to kill anyone who dares blaspheme the Islamic faith. The police arrive, and assure the Muslim that the bartender won't do it again.
Well, that was the punch line. Yeah, I didn't think it was that funny, either."
Well, that was concise, wasn't it?
Yep, it happened tonight folks. I watched the Superbowl.
I don't watch sports but my kids had a big "to do" at church tonight, so I hung out and watched the big game with them.
I tried to watch the Superbowl once, but it turned out to be quite a fiasco. My family gathered around as we prepared to join the game already in progress (we had just gotten home from church). I think they were more curious to watch me watch the game. So we came in, found a place, I grabbed the remote, turned it on and right there before my eyes was instant wardrobe malfunction. ***click*** and off it went.
That was the last time I tried to watch.
This time I was at church and there found that good Baptists, the people of the book, are easily transformed into the people of the play-book. I watched millions of dollars vaporize in 15 to 30 second mini-blockbusters and a few re-runs of old commercial classics. I thought I would be safe from any debauchery I had experienced last time--and was for the most part, until a few selected commercials accosted my senses right there in front of middle and high school students who felt the scenes were good for a laugh as opposed to conviction. A time or two I noticed our Youth Pastor turn his back so he could avoid temptation . . .
But what can happen at church, for crying out loud? Geriatric former drug addicts playing bad rock music swiveled there way through hip-breaking gyrations--I think I saw a walker or two being waved in the crowd and a few false teeth being tossed on stage. My daughter turns and says to me, "aren't those guys dead? Is this CGI?"
I can't believe people spend so much time, money and energy performing the science (that's what it is--just look at the depth of analysis that goes into every play!) of delivering a 13 psi bag of old leather from one end of the field to another at the expense of pulled hamstrings, maybe some broken bones, a lot of pulled hair (I thought flowing locks would be against the rules on the grid-iron) at the expense of what? The levels of analysis are staggering, but nobody has tried to figure the impact any of this has on eternity.
Years ago I worked for a major nationally known retail store that annually enjoyed the sales of two Christmases per year: one was December 25 and the other was the week before the Superbowl, where more TVs were sold than at any other time of year. I went into another store on Saturday and my wife showed me this really nice $9700.00 TV . . . I didn't see any gold on it anywhere, so I figured someone was getting gypped.
It's all illogical to me.
I see no logic in all that money wasted.
I see no logic in the gluttony "the game" brings.
I see no logic in teaching my kids what God thinks of immorality while they laugh at it in a place of worship through some $100,000 commercial. That's good Missions money! Think of all the people that died without Jesus in those 30 seconds because that money was sitting in someone else's bank account. . .
Congratulations Steelers on your victory. Woo-hoo.
Maybe I just don't understand . . .
Sunday, February 05, 2006
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor 6:19-20)
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is a letter that addresses the problems Christians have living in a world that does not know Christ. Like the Corinthians, we who have placed our faith and trust in Christ Jesus our LORD to save us from sin must live in this world and be not of it. But this is difficult, living delivered from the power of sin but not from it’s presence. Our verses could be thought of as the heart of the letter, the key because the lines of demarcation are obvious and the help and hope we need for the normal Christian life is found here.
Paul is writing to a church that is plagued with division, disorder and difficulty. The Christians are divided because of a misunderstanding of the gospel and there are reports of sexual immorality and litigation of believers. Before Paul goes on to talk about marriage, idols and public worship, we find sandwiched right in the middle this seam of gold. Amazingly, this verse applies to every situation Paul is dealing with.
We ask the question, “why would people act like this?” The Sunday School answer is “sin”—and it’s the right answer. “But,” someone may protest, “I don’t have a problem with the gospel. I lead a life of sexual purity and don’t sue my brother. My marriage is great, I don’t worship idols and go to church—how is it this could apply to me?”
Right there Paul would help us realize that, as he wrote in another place, “there is none righteous, not even one.” Principally, we are reminded that self-righteousness, self-seeking, self-pleasing and self-living are addressed here. We cannot find ourselves or give ourselves or direct ourselves because the Christian is not free to do what he wants but what he should. We are not our own, but bought with a price.
Fame, wealth, health, pleasure, society, entertainment are not what we live for. When someone points this out, we complain, get offended, because coveteousness is irritated, ambitions are challenged, pride is insulted and we feel abandoned, bored. This is not becoming for one in whom the Spirit of God dwells. John Angell James calls the self, “the most subtle, stubborn and tenacious foe.”
Joseph Philpot reminds us of the blessing in the words, “you are not your own.” He says, “Remember, you must be someone’s. If God is not your master, the devil will be; if grace does not rule, sin will reign; if Christ is not your all in all, the world will be.”
A.B. Simpson rejoices, “What a privilege that we may consecrate ourselves! What a mercy that God will take such worthless creatures! What rest and comfort lie hidden in those words, ‘Not your own.’ We are not responsible for our salvation, not burdened by our cares, not obliged to live for our interests, but altogether His.”
Friday, February 03, 2006
‘For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth. For I am the Lord who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God; thus you shall be holy, for I am holy.’” This is the law regarding the animal and the bird, and every living thing that moves in the waters and everything that swarms on the earth, to make a distinction between the unclean and the clean, and between the edible creature and the creature which is not to be eaten.” (Lev. 11:44-47)
This is it. This is the heart of the book of Leviticus, the book of Consumption: the distinction between the holy and unholy, the clean and the unclean. This is not the dividing line between the sacred and the secular—the more I think about it, the more I am convinced there is no such thing as “sacred” and “secular”, only the holy and the unholy. The Hittites used the word šaklāi (translated, “rite” from which we get our word “sacred”) to refer to that which was dedicated or set apart for the deity worship. The problem with šaklāi or “sacred” is that which is set apart is man-determined. I personally do not like the word “sacred”. Also, the word “secular” is from the Latin saeculum, referring to the present world. Both terms are bound up in man, very subjective.
“Holy” is an objective term. The Hebrew word is qadowš and everything set apart is based on the person of God. We get the word from the Old English hal, meaning “whole.” The line of distinction is not to determine what is permissible in worship and allow everything else to be permissible in the world that is no good for deity. The line of distinction is what is God-centered and what is not, or what is holy and what is unholy—what is sinful and what is not sinful. “Sacred” and “secular” blur the lines.
G.K. Chesterton helped us understand the distinction when he wrote, “You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”
I believe he grasped well what the apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31) If you would like another example of the deep implications of this, read John Piper’s “How To Drink Orange Juice to the Glory of God”
Nadab and Abihu were two sons of Aaron, designated priests of the tabernacle. I can’t rightly say they learned a lesson concerning the holiness of God because that would imply they got a do-over; however, they certainly serve as examples. After receiving all these instructions about what God expects from His people and how He made it possible for everyone to enjoy tolerate His presence, after being consecrated and set apart and dwelling in the tabernacle for days, after seeing fire come from the LORD and consume the sacrifices, these boys got it in their heads they could do things their own way and God would be pleased (10:1).
These men were priests, not Amorites, Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites or Mosquito-bites. There were not strangers from Egypt, nor were they Philistines. They were not atheists or philosophers or from a race of people who did not know there was a God to believe in. They were ordained men of God, serving in office—and God struck them.
- What they did right: they picked up the right tools and put fire where it supposed go.
- What they did wrong: they placed incense on it and offered strange fire to the LORD, “which He had not commanded them.”
There are just some things God will not permit. Fire has a place in the worship system, incense did too. But not in the new way they sought to use it.
Fire is interesting because it has parameters for relationship. In the right relationship, it warms, cooks, even supplies light and power. But if the parameters are overstepped and the relationship is altered, fire consumes. If you know how to deal with fire, there is blessing. If fire is mishandled, there are consequences.
And they saw once more fire come out from the presence of the LORD . . . and that was the last thing they saw.
“It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)
“God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:29).
This is the difference between “sacred”, “secular” and “holy”, “unholy.” The Christian life is not found in traditions or trends—I think many would be surprised to find out that even denominational tradition is not what they think it has been (did you know that Baptists did not always immerse (**gasp**)?!). The point God is making is that the people of God are to imitators of Him.
Jesus said, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven in perfect.” (Mat. 5:48).
Peter echoes that highest standard, “But just as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’”. (2 Pe. 1:14-15)
The more we know God, to more we will understand who He is, the more we understand who He wants us to be. The primary pursuit of any believer is to apprehend God!
If God were merely an idea, or an ideal for that matter, a synonym for “goodness” or “beauty” or “truth”[i], then we may certainly be bound up in dividing the sacred from the secular. God is not a notion—this is what got Nadab and Abihu killed. Aaron was told not to grieve because of the seriousness of their actions. Ironically, Nadab and Abihu knew God by experience, but their reckoning overreached their reality. They got careless. They had directions, but they got careless. Ignorance? I don’t think so. Negligence? More than likely.
There are times when we don't know what to do. Is this the time to guess and assume? Is it the time to do nothing? Aaron's sons did know what to do AND they made an assumption. As trite as it may sound (forgive me Mr. Murphree), notice the one thing they did not do was to pray about it. When in doubt, pray.
Why does God demand Holiness? That we may be like Him.
He wants us to be consistent, distinguished in living for consecration over comfort, in spirit over self, in devotion over divulgence, in action over apathy, in righteousness over rhetoric, in sinlessness over sinfulness.
Aaron knew the difference. This is why after the bodies were removed and Moses gave instructions for an offering why Aaron could not participate—he knew he could not override God’s expectations . . . and taught Moses a lesson to be careful with details.
[i] Tozer, A.W. The Pursuit of God. Camp Hill: Christian Publications, 1982.
Thursday, February 02, 2006
Friday, January 6th, 2006
by R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
Over the past thirty years, the homosexual movement has coalesced into a powerful force for cultural change. In fact, momentum for the normalization of homosexual behavior and relationships is now recognized in large segments of the society as a legitimate interest group. Though the identification of homosexuals as an organized political group was born in 1969 with the Stonewall riots in New York City, it really did not gain any kind of cultural momentum until the 1990s.
As evidence of this, look at the acceptance and promotion of homosexuality and homoeroticism in the mainstream media. Magazines, television programming, and Hollywood movies now feature positive representations of homosexuality and homosexual relationships. Without doubt, homosexual behavior did not begin in 1969. Nevertheless, until recent years, there has been no celebration of homosexuality and no attempt to bring it into the cultural mainstream. Even in the 1990s, it was only in the last years of that decade that the acceleration really arrived in force.
Read the rest here.
"And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and burned up the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. And all the people saw and shouted and fell on their faces." Lev 9:24
The action and adventure has been rather scarce. Leviticus drags a plodding pace as all the instructions are finalized pertaining to personal holiness before the Lord. Suddenly, the final act is done, every one and every thing necessary is sanctified. Aaron with his sons are installed and worship begins--but not without a little excitement.
Some commentators think the response of the people was joyful and I suppose to a degree this may have been possible but then there were the fireworks. I don't think the shouting was jubilant but were screams of shock and fear. Note how they fell on their faces.
Look again at the flow of sudden action here:
"And Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people, and blessed them, and came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and peace offerings. And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out and blessed the people. And the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and burned up the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. And all the people saw and shouted and fell on their faces." Lev. 9:22-24
Make no mistake about it--the Lord is in the midst of them. The creator God, who judges false gods and delivers His people, speaker of the quaking mountain, is in the middle of them.
Christian, this same God is dwelling in you. While we may think of the book of Leviticus as the book of rules blood and fire, remember, He does not change. What an outpouring of His grace that He dwells in us! What an outpouring of mercy that we can enjoy Him! But none of this is possible without the shedding of the blood of His Son, Jesus. And a God of Fire! On our face is where we should be.
What kind of worker are you? We work hard in our studies and work hard for a living, sometimes doing both simultaneously. How well are we accomplishing what is expected? What is the Christian work ethic?
I. What is work: Obedience to the ones we are obligated to serve.
The master is the term of the contract or the person who tells what is expected that should be done. There is no democracy when this kind of relationship is underway. Rationalizing is not obedience. Questioning assumptions can be dangerous because short-cuts will catch up to you. If you agree to do the work, all you can do is obey.
II. How to work:
A. Not for eye-service when you are not being watched. What is the basis of your sense of dedication and motivation? Must someone stand over you or can you do it alone?
B. Work with a sincere heart as to the Lord.
III. Why work
A. Heavenly reason
1. God will reward your work. Above and beyond what you receive as monetary wages.
2. To give a testimony to what Christ is doing.
B. Earthly reason I Tim 6:1-2
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
I’m inclined to think that not many people have read through Leviticus. What do you think? Ever read it? Ever looked at it—on purpose? Right away the reader is faced with a decision that God was already prepared for. This is hard, legal, ceremonial stuff that we have little or no use for today. So to us, the first six chapters of Leviticus are quite (yawn) dry.[i]
If you have a hard time with it, think with me for a moment: an entire nation of people has just been delivered from Egypt and God Himself, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the Covenant making God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has just moved into the neighborhood—right smack dab in the middle of the cul-de-sac, mind you. An entire nation of people gets to worship . . . at this . . . little . . . tent. The courtyard is small. I mean, real small.
The outer court alone was 300 cubits, or 450 feet around the perimeter or 11, 250 square feet. How was a nation of people (around 6 million) to fit in that? That’s like my entire city (or yours) all trying to meet at the same Burger King for lunch.
How many people are able to worship God at any one time and still leave room enough for the priests to work? About as many are reading the book of Leviticus right now in my city and/or in yours.
God knew that.
The first six chapters are instructions about what it takes for the people of God to realize what holiness is: sacrifice. Something must be given out of pocket. The first six chapters are instructions for the giver of the sacrifice. There are different kinds for different purposes to be given different ways. There are:
- Burnt Offerings from the herd, flock and birds;
- Grain Offerings of fine flour, unleavened cakes and early ripe things;
- Peace Offerings from the herd or flock;
- Sin Offerings, given for the unintentional sin of the priest, leader, congregation and common person;
- Guilt Offerings of the herd, birds or grain;
Why do all this? Because God is dwelling in the middle of people He came to save. There is no casual acquaintance here—nobody enters God’s presence with sin. Since Israel’s King is Holy (unlike any other, simply put), the nation must be holy in order to
enjoy tolerate his presence. The closer to the king, the higher the standard. They understood this when they built the tabernacle. This was all done to show each and every person how sinful they are and how sensitive one must be to conscience.
Honestly, Leviticus is a frustration. It shows why God’s people must be holy and why they can never be holy on their own. That’s why the theme of Leviticus is: “you can’t”, as in, “you can’t read through Leviticus.” (I dare you, by the way—and like it, too).
For these chapters, we will call the theme, “grace” as in, “you can’t, so God will do it for you.”
Here is what I mean, think through with me here: If you were an Israelite, what do you own? Just put together a mental inventory of things you might own having just been given liberty from slavery, just walked with a few million other people into the desert with no food or water—what do you own?
Look around you and see what others have. There are people, stuff, animals and dust.
Imagine for a moment you wanted to be right with God and had to give any one of the above offerings . . . where would you get it? Let’s imagine you own a small flock—how long will it take you to exhaust your flock or herd? Remember, you could not just offer anything—it had to be pure. Let’s say you were giving a burnt offering and exhausted your herd options, you had better make a choice from the flock (assuming you had one). No flock? Grab some grain, then and other ingredients, provided you have them.
Sacrifice is costly. Where does it come from? God had to supply it. You got to give it and claim it as your own. God counted toward you the sacrifice that He provided. This is why I think of Leviticus as a Chronicle of unrecorded miracles. Would it be unusual for God to provide something for His people unexpectedly? They were eating manna and drinking rock-water. Why not?
Are you seeing a familiar picture here?
Is it any wonder that the book begins with the Burnt Offerings, where it is stated, “And he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering. And it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him. (Lev 1:4 )”
Oh, and by the way, there is more to the offerings than just giving them. Notice how they are to be eaten before the LORD.
- People ate what they gave to the LORD. In some cases, they were to invite friends and family. So barbeque is biblical! But if you want to eat it, you had to eat in the presence of God! God gets the best portions.
- Saying “the blessing” before the LORD was to the Israelites more than just “God is Great, God and good” and etc. It is part of BEING the people of God.
On Leviticus 6:13 Spurgeon wrote, “God loves to see the hearts of his people glowing towards himself. Let us give to God our hearts, all blazing with love, and seek his grace, that the fire may never be quenched; for it will not burn if the Lord does not keep it burning. Many foes will attempt to extinguish it; but if the unseen hand behind the wall pour thereon the sacred oil, it will blaze higher and higher. Let us use texts of Scripture as fuel for our heart's fire, they are live coals; let us attend sermons, but above all, let us be much alone with Jesus.”
[i] And if you think reading it is hard, trying to blog it! But since Leviticus is God’s Word, the challenge is worth it because, “All Scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfected, thoroughly furnished to every good work.” (2 Tim 3:16-17)
"Amen!" [Thank you brother.]