Thursday, August 9, 2018

August 9, 2018

The Law of Freedom

“But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it – he will be blessed in what he does.”  James 1:25

Perhaps some words jump off the page at us as we read this verse of Scripture: there is a law that gives freedom.  Interesting, isn’t it?  We usually think of law giving punishment or consequence.  But the law that was fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah is first, a perfect law.  It is everything the law in the Old Testament pointed to and tried to reach, but could not attain.  Second, this perfect law gives freedom.

This helps us to understand things like the Sermon on the Mount and especially the Beatitudes in Matthew’s gospel.  Those chapters are an invitation to live under the law of liberty and freedom.  We are not to trample on it, cheapening God’s grace, but are called to live up to it – live up to freedom.

What areas of your life feel trapped?  Friends, there is a law of freedom available to you – a law that liberates rather than enslaves.  It is a law of love, compassion and filled with God’s great grace.  Let us search out the deeper meaning of the “royal law” as James later calls it.  Let us act in accordance with this law, walking in love, forgiveness, kindness and gentleness.  James writes that we will be blessed in what we do.

The women I have met in prisons around the country would tend to think of the law as the punishment for their actions.  Jesus came so that we may know a different law that sets us free, even for those are confined to a six by nine cell.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

August 8, 2018

Still Waters

“You lead me beside still waters.”  Ps. 23:2

In Psalm 23 we read about the Lord “leading us beside still waters.”  It is a beautiful verse in a beautiful Psalm, and speaks of the peace we can find in the stillness.  Animals drink from still waters.   The Bible also describes how we can hear His “still, small voice” as the Lord speaks to us.  Often times we need to quiet ourselves, our congregations, in order to prepare to hear from God. 

The problem with still waters is that after a period of time, if there is no movement, such waters become stagnant.  We have all seen stagnant water – with a film over the top – undrinkable.  It often carries an unpleasant odor, driving us away from the water, rather than leading us to it.  Since water symbolizes the Holy Spirit, being near water is a good thing.

So it was with the church at Sardis, and serves as a warning sign for local churches today.  Constant stillness will lead to stagnation.  In this we learn a valuable lesson:  while it is easy to pull out a convenient Scripture to meet our needs; we are always better off asking God what spiritual season we are in, to know how best to apply the word of God for that season.  Let’s take a moment to ask the Lord right now, in our own lives, what spiritual season He has us in.  Consider the following seasons:

  1. Lord, is it the season of still water in my life?
  2. God, am I in the season of gently stirring waters?
  3. Father, is this the season of waters with a rippling effect?
  4. Lord, is it a season of waves coming in my life?
  5. God, is the current flowing in the water?
  6. Father, am I in a stream season, lake season, river season, or sea season?
  7. Have the waters grown stagnant in my life?  If so, please forgive me, Father.  Change me and stir the waters in my life according to the season I am in.  Amen.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

August 7, 2018

Choose the Greater

“For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother, and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God) - then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”  Mk. 7:10-13

In the Old Testament, a person would bring a “korban “– a sacrifice or offering to the Tabernacle.  Korban comes from the Hebrew root word, karav, meaning to draw near, come near, or approach.  So we have a picture of worshippers coming near to the presence of God by arriving at the Tabernacle with their sacrifice.  Once offered and accepted, the korban allowed for restoring man’s relationship with God and about rehabilitating man for right relationship with people.

Jesus refers to the abuse of the korban in Mark 7 in an exchange with the Pharisees.  The focus of the Pharisees was on the disciples’ practice of eating with unwashed hands.  Jesus takes the Pharisees to task by telling them they are hypocrites and focus on the things that are of secondary importance (clean hands), at the expense of ignoring things that are of primary importance to God.  He then makes His case in Mk. 7:10-13:

“For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother, and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God) - then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

Jesus is making it clear that the Pharisees are violating the commandment of honoring one’s parents by upholding the practice of korban – a gift given to God.  In practical terms, an Israelite’s parents who may be in need would not be provided for if the adult children give their money to God as a korban, an offering.  No money would be left for the care of the parents.  By the time of Jesus, a korban had come to mean withdrawing something from its intended use in order to offer it to God.

May our focus be on the greater, or primary matters in accordance with God’s laws written on our heart.

August 6, 2018

The Firstfruits

“And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest.  He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it.  And you shall offer on that day, when you wave the sheaf, a male lamb of the first year, without blemish, as a burnt offering to the LORD.  Its grain offering shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering made by fire to the LORD, for a sweet aroma; and its drink offering shall be of wine, one fourth of a hin.  You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.  And you shall count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering: seven Sabbaths shall be completed.  Count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath; then you shall offer a new grain offering to the LORD.”  Lev. 23:9-16

 As we read the passage in Lev. 23, we noticed the Lord was giving a future instruction – this feast would occur when the Israelites were settled in Canaan and could produce a harvest.  At this one-day feast, the firstfruits of the barley harvest were reaped and enough grain to produce a sheaf, or omer (thought to be about 2 quarts), was brought to the priest who would then wave the sheaf before the Lord to be accepted.  This was called a tenufah, or wave offering.  We also determined from the passage that the Israelites could not eat of this first harvest until the offering had been made – and accepted – by the Lord.  The firstfruits had to be offered to the Lord.  In this we see a beautiful picture of Jesus Christ, now resurrected.  1 Cor. 15:20 reads: “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”  We can consider the significance of these passages in the following way:

  • The priest presented the barley offering;
  • Jesus, as High Priest (cohen hagadol), presented Himself as the firstfruits offering.
  • The Lord accepted the barley offering;
  • Father accepted His Son’s offering.
  • Once accepted, God’s chosen people could partake of the harvest;
  • Once accepted, believers can partake of the resurrection.
  • The barley harvest pointed to a summer harvest of wheat;
  • Our experience now points to the consummate experience later.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

August 5, 2018

The Blood of Christ

“But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation.  He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.  The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean.  How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”  Heb.  9:11-14

The author of Hebrews states the truth that Jesus Christ came as our high priest and to serve in the capacity of a better priesthood, in the order of Melchizedek.  Melchizedek was not only a priest, but also a king – pointing the way to Jesus.    

As our high priest, Christ went through the better tabernacle; the heavenly tabernacle that was foreshadowed in the Tabernacle of Moses.  Jesus entered by His own blood, as both the sacrifice and the one bringing the sacrifice.  He entered once, doing so on the cross, and shed His blood, the blood better than that of sacrificed animals.  The blood of animals provided for temporary atonement and according to Heb. 9:13 that blood provided for an outward cleaning.  The blood of Jesus however, provides for permanent atonement (it only had to be done once) and His blood cleanses the conscience of the followers.

Friends, this is a major difference.  We are inwardly cleansed by the blood of Jesus, when we give Him permission to enter every area of our lives.  He goes to the hurting places, wounded places, broken places, and the essence of who we are as people.  That is what it means to have our conscience cleansed.  In each one of those places our Savior applies His blood to clear away hurts, heal brokenness and woundedness, and restore us to rightness in our relationship with God and our relationships with others.

Our conscience is the part of us that knows the difference between right and wrong, especially as we grow in our relationship with God.  It is a connection point between the Holy Spirit and our spirit and is the part of us that reproves sin and approves the righteousness of God in Christ.   Because of the blood of Christ that cleanses our conscience, though we will be brought under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, we do not have to allow ourselves to become stuck in condemnation.  Such conviction of sin in our lives is temporary if we keep a short record of accounts.  Condemnation can be indefinite and very damaging to our soul, affecting our thoughts, words, and behaviors.

Heb. 10:19-22 reinforce these key points.  We have confidence in Christ and so can enter the heavenly Most Holy Place (anytime), as the body of Jesus was the veil and His blood was the new path for His followers to take to access the presence of God.  Christ is the high priest over the whole house of God, far greater than the high priests in the tabernacle of Moses.  So we can draw near to God, because the way has been made for us by Jesus’ body and blood.  We come to the very presence of God with full faith, in order to have our conscience cleansed and our bodies washed. 

Saturday, August 4, 2018

August 4, 2018

Following God’s Order

“The David and all Israel played music before God with all their might, with singing, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on cymbals, and with trumpets.  And when they came to Chidon’s threshing floor, Uzza put out his hand to hold the Ark, for the oxen stumbled.  Then the anger of the LORD was aroused against Uzza, and He struck him because he put his hand to the Ark; and he died there before God.  And David became angry because of the LORD’s outbreak against Uzza; therefore that place is called Perez Uzza to this day.”  1 Chronicles 13:8-11

Unaware of the disobedience, David led Israel in praise and rejoicing as the Ark of the Covenant was being brought back to Jerusalem.  Suddenly, the oxen stumbled and because the Ark was in a cart and not being carried by the priests, it appeared as if the Ark might fall.  Uzza took hold if it, thereby touching what was sacred, and further violating God’s commands and order.  Angry, God struck Uzza on the spot and he died.  It is interesting to note that David responded to God’s anger with anger of his own, and named the place where Uzza died “outburst against Uzza, or “breach of Uzza.”   

What spiritual truths can we learn from this text?  Let’s consider a few below.

Spiritual Truth:  we must follow God’s order.  God has an order to everything He does.  As we study His Word and engage in conversation with Him, we discern His order for our lives.   God instructed Moses how the Ark of the Covenant was to be carried.  Nothing had changed about that aspect of God’s order in the days of David.  Whether David neglected the word, jumped ahead of God’s order, or just plain forgot,

disobedience had consequences.  The same is true for us today.  “My people perish for lack of knowledge” according to Hosea 4:6.  When we study God’s Word, we receive insight as to His order.  As we draw close to the Lord in relationship and prayer, we receive revelation of His order.  Such revelation should always be measured against the Word of God, to insure we are moving in full accord with God’s purpose and plan.

Spiritual Truth:  new carts do not work

The new carts didn’t work for the Philistines; neither did they work for David.  What are spiritual “new carts” we encounter?  Simply put, such carts are man-made devices, programs, strategies, techniques, and formulas which run contrary to God’s Word.  They are invented and implemented as a way to invite God’s presence back into a congregation.  Religion can mistakenly fall into this snare of Satan, whereas God’s Word is clear that relationship is the key:  “If my people who are called by My Name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”  2 Chronicles 7:14

Spiritual Truth:  we cannot touch God’s presence and glory

Our God alone is worthy to receive all glory.  When we put our hands to His presence, we are putting our hands on His glory.  Such a move cost Uzza his life, and such a move can cost us as severely.  When people step in line to receive acknowledgment, praise, and recognition for what God has done, they are in the way of glory.  Should an assembly try to manipulate or manufacture God’s presence or glory, it does so at great expense.  Such episodes have cost many their spiritual lives.  Peter could not get any further than expressing his human desire at the transfiguration before he was stopped by the word of the Lord.  To put our hands to His presence and glory defies His Word.  When we get a glimpse of God’s glory, it can be staggering, weighty, and beyond description.  His presence can leave us breathless.  When He acts, give Him the accolades and honor.  To Him all glory is due!

Friday, August 3, 2018

August 3, 2018

Free in Christ

“Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink…” Col. 2:16

Verse 16 begins with the word “Therefore,” directly inferring the result of everything Paul presented in the preceding verses.  After all Christ had done, “so let no one judge you” and again in verse 18, “let no one cheat you.”  Paul instructs the church to let no one judge them in the things, which are but a shadow, and not the substance.  The apostle states that the substance of all things is Christ.

He then writes to not be cheated out of our reward, through certain deceits:

  • Delighting in false humility;
  • Worship of angels;
  • Entering into discussion (or agreement) with things we have not experienced or witnessed;
  • Vanity of our earthly thoughts; and,
  • Letting go of the Head, who is Christ.

Beloved, so much of this has to do with our mindset and our thoughts.  Paul is stating that the above list is not Kingdom thinking, but thinking that will cheat us of our reward.  He continues to instruct the church that if they truly died with Christ, then they should not be subject to regulations that are no eternal value.  The church is to be subject to Christ, for Christ is eternal.  His commandments are of eternal value.  Paul opposes the commandments and doctrines of men, for those things will perish.