“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Friday, December 29, 2006

Cheerful Giver Part II

STEWARDSHIP – OLD TESTAMENT-STYLE

In the Old Testament, we find that Abraham was tithing before the Law required him to do so. In Genesis 14, Abraham tithes Melchizedek – why? Was it because he was forced to? No, it was out of gratitude to God. Then we find Jacob, as he flees from his angry brother, having a vision in Beit-El [Genesis 28], and making a vow that everything the Lord gives to him, he will give back a tenth. Again, this is before the requirements found in the Law! These men understood that everything is the Lord’s and by their tithe they were recognizing God's sovereignty. Could you see Abraham saying – “Should I give out of my gross or my net?”

In Deuteronomy 14 we find the Israelites commanded to bring their tithe to the place where God chooses to make His name dwell, (Jerusalem), and they are to eat the tithe of their grain in the presence of the Lord – learning to fear Him. And if they lived too far away, they were to convert their tithe into money and bring it to Jerusalem and then buy whatever they desire and eat it before the Lord and rejoice!

Some may be thinking – “Now, that is more like it, buy what I want and enjoy it, why give to the Church?” If you feel this way, you have missed the point of Deuteronomy 14 – they did this in order that they might be reminded of their total dependence upon the Lord, and in this knowledge of His goodness, they celebrated the tithe with joy and thanksgiving.

Throughout the Law we also find that the tithe was used to support the Priesthood and the upkeep of the Temple, AND to support the downtrodden, poor, orphans and widows. These are the works of ministry! We are not giving our money because God is cash-strapped; He does not need our money -- we are giving to MINISTRIES in order to glorify our God for what HE HAS DONE!

STEWARDSHIP – NEW TESTAMENT-STYLE

There are many who say that tithing is not a New Testament command; that we are not under law, but under grace. They are right – we are under grace, but it is a sad fact that many are so poorly versed in God’s Holy Word that they do not know the fact that under grace, we who could not fulfill the Law, now have it written on our heart. Therefore, tithing as a burden imposed upon the people of God as an act of works is gone, but now, with the Law written on our hearts, we now give out of joy to our God! Remember Romans 12 – we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, which is reasonable service compared to the great gift of our Lord and Savior!

The early church sold what they had and gave to all who had need, this is a little more than the 10% -- as a matter of fact, in many instances in the New Testament, there is no discussion of a tithe, rather there is the example of giving away what you have.

Jesus tells the Pharisees in His great woe to them [Matthew 23], that they tithe mint, cumin and dill, but have neglected the weightier matters of the law. In this passage, He does not say – “No need to tithe”, rather He says, these things you ought to have done, WITHOUT neglecting the other things. For the Pharisees tithing had become a mark of their ‘spirituality'; you see it again in the parable of the Tax Collector and Pharisee who went down to the Temple to pray [Luke 18]. The Pharisee is bragging about his tithing – but is not justified by it! We, who are Christ’s, should know this – we are not justified by our acts, but by faith alone, in Christ alone, through grace alone.

Giving for the New Testament believer is not about fulfilling the law in order to be justified, rather for us, as it was for Abraham, Jacob, David and all of the saints of the Old Testament, it is about recognizing the sovereignty of God over ALL of our resources, and out of gratitude to Him for what He HAS ALREADY DONE, we give to the work in His kingdom!

So many miss that important point – giving in the context of the New Testament is not with an eye to getting something in return, nor is it to do something to chalk up points on our holiness scale, it is because of the continuing grace of God working in our lives, made possible by the finished work of Christ on the Cross!

One should never give out of a compulsion that is man-centered, but only out of a spirit that is God-centered. 2nd Corinthians 9:6 is one of the most abused passages regarding giving – televangelists will tell you that you are to give to get, and they will tell you that it is verified in 2nd Corinthians. This is obviously one of those proof-texts that people love to extract from its setting and use as a tool to manipulate the base attitude of greed in the heart of man. Yet, when put in its context, this passage says that we give out of a cheerful heart, through the grace of God, not under compulsion; and ultimately for the glory of God, NOT to increase our coffers. We will have benefits, absolutely, but they are benefits in line with the Kingdom of God. That does not mean that one might not be blessed financially, but if you are giving for that reason, you may well be sorely disappointed.

Our true treasure is found in Christ, and God has ALREADY blessed us beyond our understanding, on a hill called Calvary, 2000 years ago. It is the finished work of Christ that is the ground of all our blessings, NOT THINGS. As Paul says in 1st Corinthians 2:9 -- "...no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him"…

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Cheerful Giver

As David came to Ornan, Ornan looked and saw David and went out from the threshing floor and paid homage to David with his face to the ground. And David said to Ornan, "Give me the site of the threshing floor that I may build on it an altar to the LORD--give it to me at its full price--that the plague may be averted from the people." Then Ornan said to David, "Take it, and let my lord the king do what seems good to him. See, I give the oxen for burnt offerings and the threshing sledges for the wood and the wheat for a grain offering; I give it all." But King David said to Ornan, "No, but I will buy them for the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing."

~ 1st Chronicles 21:21 – 24 ~

The earth is the LORD's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, for he has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers. Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah. Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates! And lift them up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory! Selah.

~ Psalm 24 ~

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

~ Romans 12:1 ~

I recently posted on the servant's heart and I thought I would complete the short series with a couple of posts on giving. There are a few more thoughts running around in my head, and may post them at a later date.

True servants of God are ones whose hearts have been transformed by the Spirit of God. We cannot ‘work’ our way into a servant’s heart – oh, we can put on a façade that LOOKS like a servant’s role, but the Lord examines the heart, not the outward actions – ask Saul who thought he could placate God by sacrificing the best animals of Amalek – it cost him the kingdom; maybe you could ask Ananias and Sapphira – they thought that their outwardly magnanimous gift would elevate them in the eyes of the embryonic Church; instead, they were truly slain by the Spirit of God! (giving 'slain in the spirit' a whole new meaning!)

We cannot ‘become’ servants by reading a book on our purpose, nor can a pastor enforce servant’s hearts on the congregation by pounding the pulpit hard enough – no, servant’s hearts are the result of a heart transplant by God -- from a heart of stone into a heart of flesh, followed by the sanctifying work of the Spirit in our lives, driven by a life of prayer. We are called, as we read in Romans 12, to be living sacrifices, which is our reasonable worship. Our prayer should be, as David’s in Psalm 51“Create in me a clean heart, and restore a right spirit in me”.

We are called to be HUPERETAS – fellow under-rowers on the great ship of faith. We are people who are not our own, but bought with a price [1st Corinthians 6:19, 20], no longer living to ourselves, but rather living to the Lord [Romans 14:7, 8].

With that backdrop, this post will touch upon a subject that many are uncomfortable with – as I was when I began in ministry. It will discuss our Christian service as stewards of the things that God has given us.

As I have been studying this, I went through many passages regarding tithing, and money, but at the end of it all, I discovered something quite remarkable – that giving to the Lord’s work has ALWAYS been an act of worship, not an act of reluctant servitude.

It is said that if you want to know a person’s god or idol, you need only follow the path of their time, talent and wallet. This will ultimately lead you to what they love or desire more than anything else. It is truly sad to say that in our society we might find that the god/idol of some is a Sony Playstation, an iPod, a nice car with 22’ wheels and spinners, a motorcycle, or even a career. Even sadder, the Body of Christ finds that the trail of their time, effort and money often leads to similar or identical idols!

As a Pastor I have often heard the following questions: “Do I tithe on the gross or the net of my income?” or “Is tithing actually a New Testament principle, I mean, now we are under grace, right?” As if giving to the Lord’s work was as cumbersome and forced as giving to the IRS, or paying a traffic ticket!

Of course, I understand that many so-called preachers have abused the concept and have extorted or downright swindled money out of good, God-fearing people, all the while they drive luxury cars, have two or three mansions, and a suite of private aircraft and bodyguards. Oh, of course they will distribute a pittance of the gifts to ‘doing the work of the kingdom’. Sadly, these selfsame people ‘rob’ from the local church, as they coerce people to give to THEIR ministries, so that the giver will get! Money gets sent in, oftentimes being deducted from the work of the local church’s ministry, with the promise that somehow this ‘seed’ will blossom into a ten-fold blessing for the giver.

This is not the spirit of giving that is discussed in God’s Word – God is not our lottery ticket – He MAY bless our giving, but if our motive is to give to the Kingdom in order to get financially rewarded, we will be sadly disappointed most times. Our Messiah says that we are not to lay up treasures on the Earth, but to store them in Heaven where moth, rust and robbers cannot get to them!

So the local church and its pastors have been painted with the same brush as these abusive ministries, and therefore many unbelievers, (and sadly, believers), adhere to the fact that preachers (i.e. me) are always standing with their hand out. Well, truth be told, I have spoken on giving once in five years.

God is no beggar! I am not standing with my hand out – as I hope to point out in these posts, it is not our BURDEN, but our PRIVILEDGE to put our resources into the work of the Kingdom!

God owns the cattle on a thousand hills -- [Psalm 50:10 – 15] -- For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. "If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me."

Does that sound like He is begging? No, He is calling His people to offer a sacrifice of Thanksgiving – give out of a Thankful and cheerful heart. God is not strapped for cash; He needs nothing from His creation, but offers to us the indescribable privilege of participating with Him in the work of the Kingdom!

I will complete my thoughts in a second post.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Thank You

Thanks for the prayers -- I was greatly encouraged this week, and had we had a great weekend. We were able to deliver ~120 boxes of Angel Food to the community, and our motorcycle ministry was able to reach out to several folks this weekend during a large Toy Run.

Last night we invited some local churches to our place to have a gathering. It was wonderful! We had everything from contemporary Worship, to Spirituals, and even had some young men from a local juvenile facility perform a few songs.

This is what I love -- joining with the Body to celebrate our common heritage and faith! We should do this much more often -- we had teens, older folks, black, white, asian, hispanic, Jewish -- it was truly a picture of heaven!

Thank you all for your prayers, emails, calls, and thoughts -- the Lord is incredibly faithful, and sadly, while my head knowledge of this is there, oftentimes my deceitful heart pulls me into a self-pity mode. I apologize for the tenor of my last post.

May all of you have a blessed time during this Christmas season.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Prayer

I wanted to post briefly and request prayer from the folks who periodically visit this place.

As a small-church pastor, it is always difficult to lose families; this weekend we had a family announce that they are leaving our church to go to a nearby Mega-church.

I love these folks dearly, and their announcement out of the blue somewhat blindsided me. I must admit that I struggle with the reality that folks (not only this family) leave our church where they are involved, loved and needed, and go to a church numbering in the thousands. These are wonderful folks, and dear friends, and they will get plugged in at their new church, but, oh, how we could have used them here.

I love this congregation -- their heart and commitment always amazes me. I am privileged and honored to be the shepherd of such a wonderful group. And when things such as this recent event occur, I call into question my leadership, and skills. The gospel is preached at our church; we believe in, and practice discipleship; and have church discipline. We may not have all of Mark Dever's 9 Marks down, but we certainly are moving towards that. I believe that I have been called to preach at this church, and we have seen some wonderful moves of God sweep through the church. Yet, when folks move on with a vague "The Lord told me to", I wonder....

It is hard to argue with the subjective aspect of 'The Lord said so', I believe that this is why the reason is often used -- you can't disprove it, and should you even question the fact that this might actually be their own feelings driven to the surface, people look at you like you have blasphemed; so strong is the therapeutic, and feelings-driven gospel entrenched in the evangelical community! The Proverbs state that there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors, however, so often people will say nothing and just make a jump.

When I see people who are being used in a mighty way in the smaller, local church, leave for a church that has an abundance of people and material resources, I know how the local 5 & 10 feels when Wal*Mart comes to town. We, as a small church, cannot compete with ALL of the junk that a mega-church throws at people, and when you combine that with a message that really focuses on the felt-needs, you have a strong one-two punch. And quite frankly, what is so sad is that many of these larger churches are acrimonious to the smaller church, believing that it is 'stuck' in the past because it still preaches out of the Scriptures, and actually has church discipline etc. I have had one 'leader' in a Mega-Church actually laugh about the plight of smaller churches, saying that we had failed in our ministry because we have never grown above 100. I guess that would make most of the New Testament Church a failure?

Enough about that -- I will continue to preach the Gospel, and love this congregation, but these types of events rattle my cage. The good news is that we have brought in several families this year who are regulars. God is sovereign, and that is a great comfort to me!

Second -- today is my daughter's birthday. She would have been 26 today. I lost her when she was 18 months old, and while I always feel that I have healed -- this date hits me in the head every year. I do not sit around and mourn for days anymore, but it is still like a painful scar that hurts when bumped too hard.

So -- keep me in prayer, many thanks...

Ray

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Soon

Sorry I have not posted in a bit -- I have been very busy, but hope to put something up tomorrow -- regarding stewardship... This is part of the servant series that I am working on.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Suffering Servant

THE SERVANT - Who has believed what they heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. - Isaiah 53:1-7 -

In my last post I addressed some of the self-centeredness that seems to have prevaded the church; in this post I want to examine the life of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

While we are often consumed with the relative importance of our role in the local church, we should look to our Savior, the Lord of all creation, and listen to His words:

Mark 10:45 – “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Imagine, if you will, the Lord of all, the one described in Colossians 1:15–20 as “… the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross... humbling Himself, bowing to wash the feet of His disciples! The one who created their feet now stooped to wash them! This is the Savior who came to serve and not be served!!! And I, in my arrogance, often think I am deserving of more 'respect', or I am not 'appreciated'!

The Messiah Himself asks if we think we will be greater than the Master (Him)! What arrogance that we could have a Savior who gave up everything to serve, and we be so self-centered that our whole world revolves around us without a thought to our brothers and sisters!

When I reflect on the cross of Christ, and the fact that He came to SERVE by giving His life for me, I am ashamed of my attitude! 2nd Corinthians 8:9 - For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor so that you by his poverty might become rich. This verse says that He became a ptōcheuo; aka a beggar. For us, He emptied Himself and became a beggar.

In John 13, that amazing passage where Jesus Christ washes the disciples feet, we find Him saying this; “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him…”

The task of washing another’s feet in Messiah’s day was consigned to a servant – it was a lowly task. They did not have paved streets and well-shod shoes; rather they walked about in sandals on unpaved, dirt streets that were frequented by animals as well. The feet of one would be filthy upon entering a home, and it was customary that a servant would ensure that the guest’s feet were attended to. Interestingly, we do not see the disciples jumping up and offering to do this task: we are more like the disciples than we would sometimes like to admit!

How often do we think that many of the more mundane tasks around the church are too low for our station in life? Many of us come to church and never give a second thought to serving others. As a matter of fact, we have been conditioned to expect service, not provide it! Service SHOULD NOT BE consigned to the ‘pros’ in the church, but should be a watchword for every person who attends!

I looked through God’s Word and I cannot find anywhere in the Bible where people are instructed to be pew-warmers, or simply attendees. Everywhere we are instructed to be involved in ministry of some type. Maybe you don’t feel ready to jump into the deep end of ministry, but I will tell you, that, as a child of God, you are called to be in ministry at some level. Just as the Messiah instructed in John 13 – we are called to wash one another’s feet; now that does not necessarily mean literally, but in the many ways in which we can help one another, care for one another, lift one another up. My friends, we are on the mission field, and on the mission field we are to be holding one another up, and being an example to a lost and dying world, just as our Lord and Savior was!

No one pays much attention to the people who haul the garbage from our curbs, but when they go on strike, they suddenly become the most important people in the world! It is the same in our congregation – those who often go unnoticed are some of the ones who are most essential. Look around, begin noticing the workers at your church, and come alongside one of them, lifting them up in prayer and assisting them.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Service -- A Dead Idea?

In the U.S., we live in a society that is completely self-absorbed – everything is built around us, and if it isn’t, we are upset (I suffer from this as much as anyone). We can get on the web and create entire environments that focus on us (witness the success of MySpace, YouTube and FaceBook). We can write anything we want on our Weblog, thinking that it is important, and calling ourselves ‘published’ authors, We can put a camera on our every action and broadcast ourselves on YouTube. Our young folks are feted by marketeers from the time they can walk and talk; telling them that they 'deserve' whatever product is being hawked; that, at the end of the day, its all about them.

All of these things have created an environment where service to others (much less thought about others) has been relegated to nothing more than a quaint old-fashioned concept. If you doubt this, go to a restaurant and see what the service is like – I recently went to a restaurant, and one of my friends had to practically beg to get a cup of water, all the while the wait staff stood behind the counter yakking. When was the last time that you saw someone give up their seat to an older person, or a pregnant woman? When boarding a plane, how many times do you see a so-called professional running over small children, older people, or anyone else foolish enough to get in their way; and all the while they are talking on their cell-phone, checking their PDA, some other self-absorbed activity; completely OBLIVIOUS to everyone else!

Watch a professional football player – when he scores a touchdown, he goes into some elaborate dance as if he had done something really special, but in reality, these people are paid quite well to score touchdowns, in other words, he celebrates when he does his job! Could you imagine a bagger at Wal*Mart going into a touchdown dance once they had successfully bagged your purchases; we would consider them a little touched, but yet we cheer these overpaid, self-absorbed men playing a child's game!

The football analogy is a good one for us to look at. When a ‘superstar’ scores a touchdown, it is the result of many men doing their job – no one, not even T.O., (I live in the Dallas area), can walk onto a football field and take on the entire opposing team by himself. Without the unsung service of the offensive line, he, or the QB gets squashed every time! It is the same in a church – yes, the pastor may deliver a powerful message but first and foremost; the message is God’s Word, not the pastor’s! Secondly, in our case, there are people who pray for me before every service, and there are people who ensure that I am able to come up here and do what the Lord has called me to do. There is no Lone Ranger in ministry – we need each and every person to do what the Lord has called them to do.

Sadly, the pervasive and insidious narcissism of the world has snuck into the church. Instead of God’s people gathering to worship and serve a Sovereign King, we have become a people who gather together to get be entertained, coddled and amused.

We, in the modern church, have created an entire generation of people who think that church is all about them and their needs, rather than about God and His Glory. And it shows: church-hopping is very common in today’s world; people will attend a church as long as it fills their needs, but the minute another church offers something more ‘interesting', or caters more to their needs, they will bail on their church where they may be needed, in order 'be served' as opposed to 'serve'.

Membership is something that people do not understand very well, even those who may belong to a church. Some may even belong to a different church every year or multiple churches at the same time, all the while chasing a feeling.

Tithing has always been a struggle, but even more so nowadays when we have far more things to spend our money on. Some even withhold it as a sort of ransom to get the pastor to preach on their favorite subjects. Lest you think I am immune to any of this, I just want to ensure that I am not. I struggle with self-centeredness as much as anyone else.

What I found as I studied the Word is that Christian service is not a nice idea, or a suggestion, rather it is something that the Lord Himself commands those called by His name. Those called by His Name are to be a peculiar, caring, service-oriented people. Sadly, we are not very peculiar – we are as self-absorbed, as worrisome, as caught up in consumerism as the next person.

As I work through this series of posts I am going to examine whether or not we are servants in our hearts, or if the church is simply consumed with itself. Are we peculiar, or do we look just like the world around us? How do we get back to the ideals of Christian Service? I am under no allusion that this series of posts in a far corner of the blogosphere will change anyone, except, hopefully me. As a pastor, I am ashamed of my own self-centered attitude, so maybe this series of posts is a catharsis for me, who knows?

Hello

No, I have not fallen off the face of the Earth -- just extremely busy: in addition to Sunday services, I am also teaching a Matthew study at work, going through a study on the Trinity with a small group on Wednesday, preparing a study on Deacons for Sunday morning and wrapping up a 1 year study of Church History with the Youth at church.

The next series I plan on doing here is a series of posts on servanthood. And maybe I will even update blog site!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Post-Election Blues

Well, it is the morning-after blues for the Republicans. I am not really a politico, or a political commentator, simply a layman observer, but I do have a few observations, and then I will not mention politics again (until next time).

While the GOP licks its wounds, and the blame begins to seep out, the truth of the matter is that they made a real dog’s breakfast of their time in leadership. Now, lest you believe I am a died-in-the-wool Dem, I assure you, I am not. However, given the current state of the Union, I certainly am not a died-in-the-wool Republican either.

The truth of the matter is that this country is in desperate need of a leader – someone with a vision and the courage to carry it out. Now, some may say that George W. Bush is/has been that person, however, many feel that he has been less than honest in his leadership and the goals of his administration, others simply feel that he has been stumbling along trying to determine direction depending on the way the reports from Iraq come in.

I am not a Bush-basher by trade; I think it is far easier to sit in a chair and judge the leadership of these people than to actually do it, but I must admit that I have been disillusioned by Bush’s apparent lack of direction – all rhetoric aside; there has been little of substance to hang my hopes on.

What I would love to see is some real leadership by the elected officials; however I fear that Pelosi and others are simply going to continue status-quo; oh, there may be a hot button issue or two that they will change direction on, but the overall drift of our country will be relatively unchanged. This is due to the fact that these are professional Washington types – people who want power, and their goal once in D.C. is to retain that power. Regardless of their political stripe, there is a true bi-partisan attitude – maintain power at the expense of the people.

The Christian’s are simply another constituency that the politicians woo, and many are naïve enough to be used as a voting block. The farce that somehow the Christians have made SIGNIFICANT changes in this country through their political power is easy to refute. Ask yourself a couple of questions: is this country morally more on track now than two years ago, four years ago, twelve years ago? Is it more ‘Christian’ in its approach to the world than it was six years ago? Maybe you can justify that it is, but I certainly cannot; as I said, I am not a political expert, but as a citizen, I can honestly say that I have noticed no difference.

Truth be told, if you are a Christian and you feel that political power is the way to change this country, then you are be sadly mistaken. I think it is imperative to vote, and yes, I want to see Christians elected, but to believe that a PARTY is the Christian answer to the problems is wrong-headed. Psalm 33:13-17 -- The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue.

And even though I provided links to John Piper’s thoughts about elections, and I know that he is much more intelligent than I am in so many areas, I disagree on one thing. It is no longer simply whether or not one is Pro-Life or not that is a decision-maker. I will provide an example: Let’s say someone was Pro-Life, but also a member of NAMBLA, and they were running against someone who was Pro-Choice, but a solid family person – which way do I vote on this?

The recent events within the Republican ranks highlight that it is not a simple Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice situation – I believe that many people may have run on Republican tickets because that was the party in power – sort of like flies being attracted to a dung heap – but did not share the supposed values of the party (except externally).

At the end of it all – we, the American people again are searching for leadership; let us pray that the Lord brings us that!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Time

UPDATE -- Found these links over at Justin Taylor's blog. Some good thoughts from Piper regarding elections.

For those of us in the USA, it is election time. I cringe a lot during these times as I hear pastors preaching sermons about the elections. For example -- today I was listening to someone who said -- "Jesus died so we could live free lives in pursuit of happiness".

Well, ummmm no; the Declaration of Independence says that, but in reality, Jesus Christ died so that we would not have to spend eternity in Hell, separated from God. To frame the Gospel in a nationalistic mindset is wrong; what is the message to the persecuted Church? "well, Jesus died so WE could live free lives in pursuit of happiness, but y'all, well, good luck!"

These same pastors will speak on IDOP (International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church) about their hearts for the ones in others countries and then make these nationalistic statements regarding the Gospel the next week, or a few weeks prior , in this case.

I am not saying that these are bad people, but I believe that they have a serious misunderstanding of the Gospel if they believe that Christ was crucified so that we could live in the land of fast-food and malls, whereas the rest of the world struggles along...

I am also discouraged when these pastors select a party and deem it "God's Party", i.e. GOP "God's Ordained Party". Neither party (we actually do have more than two, but they are rarely given the time of day) is GOD'S party -- look at their actions, they are simply men, and we know what the Bible says about that.

So, for those inside the USA, I have a voting idea for you. Get familiar with the real issues that are facing our elected officials, you will probably be ahead of them at that point, and then vote for the person that you believe can best fulfill the role required for those issues. Do not be lemmings, voting the way your pastor directs you to vote, nor should you NOT vote, that is equally wrong; you have a responsibility. Get educated, use your noggin, and PRAY for wisdom!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Final Thought on Missions

I found this quote from Henry Martyn -- missionary to India, and was very convicted by this:

"The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become."

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Thoughts on Missions Part Deux

I recently met with my good friend Mike to discuss missions. He is an inspiration to me, a man who followed his convictions and left a secular job to work full-time in the mission field.

He will be speaking at my church next week, and I am looking forward to hearing from him. He works in Sudan and Ethiopia, and other places, but we spoke about the mission field. I reiterated my concern that people were looking for safe missions, and Mike confirmed that this is often true.

So, with that in my mind, I wanted to post a few more thoughts -- these may not sit well with all, but I have given them serious thought and wanted to put them to paper (so to speak).

I have many well-meaning friends who send their youth to Mexico every year on a 'missions' trip. Generally it is to the same exact area, and they end up erecting another building and maybe sharing their faith for a brief time. Now, many may say -- "Well, what could be wrong with this?"

Well, I have a few questions:

1. Why do these groups need to go to the same location every year? Is their mission work so ineffective that they must return year after year? Or, could it be that this is a well-known area, (i.e. safe) and therefore the parents will let their kids go to get their 'ticket punched'?

2. I have heard several of the stories shared by the people on these trips, and I have noticed that they dwell a lot on the fact that the kids really 'roughed' it, sleeping in sleeping bags on hard dirt floors. They have a ton of pictures of cute little kids, and they dwell a lot on that as well, but it seems to me that they are very light on actual sharing of the gospel in a meaninghful way. OK, so they built a lean-to for the community, but did they do any actual evangelism?

Now, some may feel that I am being overly harsh, but my concern is that we are teaching our young people that missions are about them to a degree ("wow, we really had it rough, we had to sleep on a dirt floor, but it was all worth it to see those cute kids")

And we are re-evamgelizing the same areas year after year -- it has become a Jack Tar type of mission field for many -- but I fear that we are not telling our youth (or adults for that matter) the real PURPOSE of missions -- that is to proclaim the Glory of God through the proclamation of the Gospel. While it is important to dig wells, and build houses, it pales in comparison to seeing someone come to a saving knowledge of Christ. A house may shelter a person for a number of years, but without Christ, they are bound for a Christless eternity in Hell! We need to get our priorities straightened out.

Bottom line -- Build houses, dig wells, but don't do these to the neglect of sharing the Good News!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Thoughts on Missions (Part One)

I am currently doing a multi-week sermon series on the importance and necessity of missions. This, along with some recent articles over at Bugs' Place, has caused me to do a lot of soul-searching.

The reality of our outreach to the Muslim community is bleak. We have something on the order of 6% of our missions work focused around the Islamic world, and yet, one in three non-Christians are Muslim. What does this say about us?

I think of the recent events in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, where an Amish community came together to help the widow of a man who had massacred 5 young Amish girls. This community showed Christ to an unbelieving world in a way that many in the 'correct denominations' never did. While I may disagree with the Amish on many points, there is no denying that they reached out to one whom they could have easily considered an enemy and embraced them.

Now, what does that have to do with Islam and Missions? Well, I hear much more rhetoric from the 'Christian' community on what we 'ought to do' to the Muslim community (not much of it outreach, unless you call military action outreach), than I do true Christian compassion. While our hearts ought to be breaking because of the reality that hundreds of Muslims in Iraq alone are DAILY being sent to a Christless eternity, we seem to be filled much more with hatred than compassion.

It seems to me, and I am as guilty as anyone so please forgive me as well, that when it comes to missions, we in the US are more interested in 'interesting' locales and a more tourism-oriented mission, than true outreach.

I understand that this is not true across the board, but I have had many people tell me that they were called to go into the mission field, either short-term, or long-term, yet when I point out areas where missionaries are needed, often the first response is: "But, is that area safe?" As if, they really only are 'called' if it is 'safe' (whatever that might mean to them).

We do not touch the truly lost because we often are looking for accolades -- "Oh, Ray is so spiritual, he did a three-week mission trip to Puerta Vallarta"... If we were truly broken-hearted and desirous that God's glory be proclaimed, I don't know that we would be as concerned about toilets that flush, and 'safe' trips.

I want to leave you with some quotes from missionaries who gave their all -- Studd left a promising Cricket career to spend his life in China and Africa, Keith-Falconer in Yemen:

"Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell." - C.T. Studd

"I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light" - Ion Keith Falconer

I will continue these thoughts later in the week...

Friday, October 13, 2006

Where I am Now

I know, I know, that has been used -- but I couldn't think of a catchy title...

I have finished the series on the Tabernacle, and am now contemplating what I will be posting in the future... But for now, I am off to a B&B with my wife to celebrate our 21st Anniversary!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Ark

THE ARK

Now that we have entered the holy of holies, we see that this room contains a single piece of furniture: the Ark of the Covenant. The ark is filled with three items (Hebrews 9:4), all of which point to our Messiah, and reflect man's rebellion against God.

Interestingly enough, the rebellion is covered by a Mercy Seat -- This Mercy Seat is called a kapporeth. This word has as its root the word kaphar, which means covering, atoning (i.e. Yom Kippur - Day of Atonement).

The first thing we examine is the pot of manna. During Israel's sojourn in the wilderness, the Lord provided manna to sustain the nation (Exodus 16). How does this represent rebellion -- well, if you read the entire event of the manna then you will find that the people finally tired of God's provision of manna (Numbers 11) and demanded Moses produce meat; which God did until it came out of their noses!

However, God had mercy, and made provision with the quail and manna for the entire forty year sojourn in the wilderness. We can take from this an example of how God provides for His people; sad to say, we are often quite like the Israelites in our complaints of His provision. We often grumble because things are not going exactly the way we think they should, completely forgetting the wonderful provision found in Christ alone.

We, like the Israelites in the wilderness, are not from here, we are aliens and foreigners, and as we wander through this wilderness that is called the world, we need to feed on something that will sustain us spiritually during our journey. This we find in the Messiah! It is interesting that the Lord fed Israel on manna until the day they entered the Promised Land (Joshua 5:12), much like our lives; we will be sustained by the Bread of Life until we enter into the Promised Land, and then we will be with Him forever! John 6:30–35 -- So they said to him, "Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"Jesus then said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always." Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

It is important that we NEVER forget that the Bread of Life, that which we partake of, is the sustenance that we need. The Lord is what we need in our lives, the physical food and physical needs will be meaningless without the Bread of Life to sustain us. Just as the Israelites would have never made it through the wilderness without the manna that the Lord provided, we too would never make it through the wilderness of the world without the DAILY portion of the Bread of Life that we need. Sometimes I begin to feel faint in this world, it begins to wear me down, and so often I find it is because I have not feasted on the Word of Life on a daily basis. We should be as dependent on the Lord as the people of Israel were on manna. The Lord had them put that pot of manna in the Ark to remind them forever of His provision. We too are reminded of His provision when we think of the Bread from heaven!

The next thing we find in the ark is the Tablets of the Law. This signifies our rebellion against God's Holy and Perfect Law. What did the Messiah say about the Law? In Matthew 5:17 He states that He did not come to destroy the Law or the prophets, but to fulfill. He also states in Luke 24 that everything written in the Law and the Prophets were to be fulfilled. We see Messiah as the fulfillment of the Law, NOT the abrogation of the Law! In Him we find the Law in its perfected form. In John 1 we find that Messiah is the Word, and therefore, He is the EMBODIMENT of the law. The law is also kept in the ark to remind the people not only of the requirements of God, but our inability to keep these laws. The law is covered by the Mercy Seat, which is sprinkled with blood! And without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. Therefore, we have in the law the reminder of our inability and God’s ability!

And finally we find the budded rod of Aaron. This represents our rebellion against God-given leadership. Now, you may wonder how this can represent the Messiah? Well, first we find in this a very clear picture of resurrection. The rod that Aaron carried was a dead branch, used as a walking stick and as a weapon and many other things. Yet, in Numbers 16, 17 we read that the people challenged God and His selection of Aaron and Moses. So, God had the leaders of the twelve tribes bring rods to the Tabernacle, and when they were checked the next day, Aaron’s rod had not only budded, but had produced RIPE almonds. What a vivid picture of the Messiah. He was slain on a tree, dead, and buried, but in three days He arose! Life from death! That is the good news of the gospel! John 5:24, 25 -- "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live."

The Messiah was killed and buried; yet the grave could not hold Him! Like Aaron’s rod, He arose from the dead, and not only that, but like the rod that produced RIPE almonds, our Messiah also produces fruit.

James 1:16–18 -- Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

We see in the budded rod the truth of the Messiah’s resurrection, and with the production of fruit we also see the truth of the Church, the fruit of the Messiah.

THE MERCY SEAT

Finally we come to the Mercy Seat. That which covered all of the things we have previously mentioned. It is obvious that the Messiah is represented here. The Mercy Seat, which was covered with the blood of the sacrifice, covered the Law, and the manna and the budded rod. The blood of the lamb, is able to make atonement for all things. The seat is made of pure gold, representing the absolute divinity of the Messiah! There was nothing mixed with the gold to make it less pure, just as our Savior is through and through pure and undefiled.

Much like the angels who appeared at the tomb after the resurrection of Christ, the two cherubim covered the Mercy Seat with their wings. Can you imagine the incredible scene of the blood-covered seat covered by the wings of the cherubim! We see throughout the Bible that the angels are constantly ministering to the Lord, and here in the Mercy Seat we find them covering the seat with their wings, watching over the blood of the sacrifice! What an incredible scene!

It is at this seat, the seat of mercy that we find the blood of the Lamb covering our sins, just as the blood of the bullock and goat covered the sins of Israel long ago in the wilderness. Hebrews 4:14–16 -- Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

We can come to the throne of grace through the blood of Messiah!

Romans 3:21–26 -- But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it -- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

We all have fallen short, yet our sins, like the sins of Israel, are covered by a Mercy Seat, covered in blood! We too have rebelled against God's leadership, provision and law -- we too need a High Priest who can properly make atonement for us before a Just and Holy God. And in Messiah we find the answer for all these things!

Israel, once a year, had the High Priest come in and make atonement for them, covering the Mercy Seat in the blood of an innocent. How much more should we, as believers in Messiah, be full of joy, knowing that our Great High Priest made the perfect sacrifice of Himself, once forever, never to be repeated (Hebrews 7)!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Holy of Holies

Exodus 25:10-22 -- "They shall make an ark of acacia wood. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, a cubit and a half its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it, and you shall make on it a molding of gold around it. You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side of it. You shall make poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark to carry the ark by them. The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. And you shall put into the ark the testimony that I shall give you. "You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold. Two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its breadth. And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end. Of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings, their faces one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be. And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.

Our long path to the Holy of Holies has come to fruition, we now enter into that most sacred of places! We have come by way of the outer court and Holy Place and now we draw back the curtain that separates us from God!

What a time of expectation for the High Priest in the days of the Tabernacle! He only entered this place once a year on the Day of Atonement. This is the place where the Lord dwells!

Exodus 25:22 -- "There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel..."

What a staggering thought, that the Lord of the Universe, the God who created everything would deign to come and dwell in the midst of His people in the middle of the wilderness, above a golden ark!

I think it is important as we stand in this, the Holiest Place, that we remember that HE chose to meet with Israel, it was nothing they did that caused this. Deuteronomy 7:7, 8 -- It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

What a thought -- God chose this people, and delivered them from bondage, and then chose to 'dwell' with them! Is there any question as to why Paul breaks out in doxological joy as he reflects on God's goodness?

Yet, in the days of the Priesthood, God's people were still separated rom Him, and required the mediation of a High Priest, today we have something that the Priests in the days of the Tabernacle did not have; we have the ability to go into the Holiest Place, by the blood of the Lamb! What an incredible blessing!

The Priest could only enter into the Holy of Holies once a year, bearing with him a basin of blood to sprinkle the Mercy Seat, hoping that He had properly prepared for this service, so that the Lord would accept the sacrifice. We are able to draw near to the Throne of Grace through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. What an awesome privilege; the ability to enter into the Holiest Place at any time!

THE ROOM

The Holiest Place is a representation of Heaven! We see this in all the details, from the perfect cube to the light that illuminated the room! The Holy of Holies was a perfect cube, 15’ X 15’ X 15’, and we find this to be a model of the Heavenly Jerusalem -- Revelation 21:12–16 -- It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed -- on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. The city lies foursquare; its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal.

The Menorah illuminated the Holy Place, but within the Holy of Holies we are separated from the Holy Place by a thick veil. How did the Priest see to minister in this place? In Moses day, the presence of the Lord illuminated the Holiest Place, and again we return to The Revelation to see what the Tabernacle was modeled on -- Revelation 21:22, 23 -- And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

We have moved from the outside world, through a linen barrier into the outer court, which was the place of the atoning sacrifice, to the Holy Place, a place much like the church in which we eat from the table of shewbread which is Christ’s body, and we are illuminated by Him, And our prayers go up together to heaven, and now, we are standing within the final place, the Holy of Holies, the place where we will spend our eternity in the presence of the Lord!

In the wilderness there was a small model of Heaven right within the midst of the people! Oh, what a day when we will stand before our Lord and Savior in the Holy of Holies, the new heaven, and His light will be shed abroard on His people!

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Torn Veil

Exodus 26:31–33 -- "And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. It shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it. And you shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, with hooks of gold, on four bases of silver. And you shall hang the veil from the clasps, and bring the ark of the testimony in there within the veil. And the veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy."

THE INTERCESSOR AND THE VEIL

In the days of the High Priest, we know that the Priests were separated from the presence of God by a curtain. This had to strike awe into the priests; imagine if you will, you stand before a curtain, and you know that behind this curtain is manifested the Shekinah glory of God. the Shekinah was so intense, the Israelites could actually see it rising high above the Tabernacle. Only a single curtain between the Priest and Yahweh's Glory!

Then, when the Messiah died, we read about something happening; it is so important that the three synoptic gospels all record it. I will quote out of Matthew 27:46–51 -- And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, "This man is calling Elijah." And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him." And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split.

To understand the magnitude of this event, one should understand that the veil was not a curtain you would pick up from J. C. Penney’s. Because the Priests in Herod’s Temple didn’t know if the veil was to be hung inside the doorframe of the Holy of Holies or outside the doorframe, they hung two veils. Each veil was about 60 feet long, and 30 feet wide, and four inches thick. It took three hundred priests to hang these curtains. So, these are the veils that were tore from top to bottom. These curtains were made of 72 squares of material. I am providing detail on all of this so that one may understand that these curtains did not simply rip because a breeze wafted through the Temple!

With the death of the Messiah, there was no longer the necessity of having a separation (veil) between God and man, the Messiah had crossed that chasm on Calvary! The Lamb without blemish had died, and provided righteouesness for those who were called by the Master Shepherd's voice. The Father tore the veil to illustrate that the entrance to the Holy of Holies was now found through the Messiah!

Hebrews 10:19–22 -- Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Because of our Messiah we can now enter into God's Throneroom!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Altar Of Incense, Christ and Prayer

Exodus 30:1–10; 34-38 -- "You shall make an altar on which to burn incense; you shall make it of acacia wood. A cubit shall be its length, and a cubit its breadth. It shall be square, and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it. You shall overlay it with pure gold, its top and around its sides and its horns. And you shall make a molding of gold around it. And you shall make two golden rings for it. Under its molding on two opposite sides of it you shall make them, and they shall be holders for poles with which to carry it. You shall make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. And you shall put it in front of the veil that is above the ark of the testimony, in front of the mercy seat that is above the testimony, where I will meet with you. And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the LORD throughout your generations. You shall not offer unauthorized incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering, and you shall not pour a drink offering on it. Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD."...The LORD said to Moses, "Take sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, sweet spices with pure frankincense (of each shall there be an equal part), and make an incense blended as by the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy. You shall beat some of it very small, and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I shall meet with you. It shall be most holy for you. And the incense that you shall make according to its composition, you shall not make for yourselves. It shall be for you holy to the LORD. Whoever makes any like it to use as perfume shall be cut off from his people."

MESSIAH

We now find ourselves standing before the last piece of furniture in the Holy Place, the one implement before the curtain of the Holy of Holies. We have come into this place of awe and respect, and now we stand just before the curtain, behind which the Presence of the Lord, the Shekinah, awaits. What an awesome place to be! The Altar of Incense!

This altar, while being different from the brazen altar outside of the Tabernacle, is similar in some respects; again we find the Messiah.

Exodus 30:1–3 -- "You shall make an altar on which to burn incense; you shall make it of acacia wood. A cubit shall be its length, and a cubit its breadth. It shall be square, and two cubits shall be its height. Its horns shall be of one piece with it. You shall overlay it with pure gold, its top and around its sides and its horns. And you shall make a molding of gold around it.

Notice that this altar also has horns, and these horns are to be covered in the blood as well; Exodus 30:10 -- "...Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD."

We see in this altar a clear image of the Messiah, like we do in the brazen altar. However, in this one, we see gold covered wood. This image shows the nature of the Messiah; fully God, fully man, no longer is He upon the brazen altar, the place of judgment, but now He has ascended to the throne of the Father. The gold of this altar shows His divinity! While He was once reviled and spit upon and nailed to a tree for us, He now reigns in heaven above!

The blood upon the horns of this golden altar illustrate that the approach to the Father is mediated by the Messiah's blood. The ability to speak to the Father is provided by the blood of the Lamb of God; prayer is directly linked to our belief in the one whom God has sent! Many in the world, (and more and more, in the church), would have us believe that prayer is prayer, there is no difference between praying to Allah and praying to God through Christ, or any other 'deity', but God’s Word clearly tells us that without the atonement of the Messiah, we pray in vain!

John 16:23–28 -- In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. "I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father."

We find in 2nd Corinthians 2:14–16 this statement -- But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.

The incense only releases its fragrance when it was finely beaten. The Messiah was beaten, and sacrificed -- His fragrance is one of life to those who are being saved, but one of death to those who are not.

THE SAINT AND SACRIFICE

I will periodically burn frankincense, and I have found that it only burns properly and evenly if it is crushed very fine. We too, like incense must be submitted to the mortar and pestle of God’s will. Too often we want to be incense, but we do not want to be broken and crushed into a powder, we want to do it in our strength. What happens when you burn incense like that is that it doesn’t burn long, and creates nasty black goo that is useless for incense.

Like Peter, we often are eager, and willing, but we have not allowed the Lord to work in our lives. We are still chunks of incense, not ready for burning in the altar of incense. Matthew 16:25, 26 -- "For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?

Many may preach that once you receive Christ as Savior and Lord, then it is easy street from here on out, but that is simply not biblical. The Messiah states in very clear terms that the walk of a disciple is one of sacrifice, and through our sacrifice, the world will be blessed with the fragrance of Christ.

I am reminded of those in the Persecuted Church who suffer for the Lord; truly this world is not worthy of them. They allow themselves to be beaten into the fine incense that permeates their society and people are exposed to the reality and fragrance of Christ through their sufferings..

THE SAINT AND PRAYER

Finally we come to the fact that the incense represents our prayers.

Revelation 5:8 --And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

Revelation 8:3 – 5 -- And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, and an earthquake.

I love the imagery of lightening and rumblings happening when the incense and prayers are cast down! Why does a Sovereign God use our prayers as a means to work in His Will? I don't know -- but I know that our prayers, as James says, are effective. There are several postings right now in the blogsphere regarding prayer --I am hoping that this is because prayer is central on the hearts of the Christian blogging community. Prayer is a powerful tool/weapon which the Lord has graciously placed at our disposal -- sadly, it is also one of the more neglected of the Christian disciplines.

Prayer is not to be approached casually, or flippantly. Yet, so often the last thing we do is pray. Church prayer services are poorly attended, while the aerobics class if full. We do not spend near enough time in prayer. If we did, our church would look different, as would all churches.

Nadab and Abihu found that strange incense and profane fire is not to be submitted to the Lord. (Read Leviticus 10). What kind of prayer may be considered strange incense to the Lord? Well, prayer offered when you are out of fellowship with a brother or sister, Matthew 5:23, 24 -- "So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift." Or maybe it is self-centered prayer (a current epidemic in the church), James 4:3 -- You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

When we are in a proper relationship with God, then we find our prayers to be effective. And notice in Exodus 30:8 that the incense burned continuously; we find this same instruction regarding prayer. Paul in 1st Thessalonians 5:17 says that we are to pray without ceasing.

Is that reflective of your prayer life? Unfortunately, I too often find that I panic, or get angry, or overreact and prayer is not what I am doing. What we will find is that if we pray and maintain that contact with the Lord, we are much better prepared to face the things that this world throws at us. The Messiah told the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane that they should watch and pray, lest they enter into temptation. Too often we are knocked of track because we have simply stopped praying.

Let me close this post with a song that may be familiar to some of you; Sweet Hour of Prayer. This was written by a blind preacher who never looked upon the outward beauty of God’s creation, but spent a lot of time in the inward beauty of the Holy Place in prayer:

Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer,
That calls me from a world of care,
And bids me at my Father’s throne,
Make all my wants and wishes known.

In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief,
And oft escaped the tempters snare,
By thy return, sweet hour of prayer.

Monday, September 18, 2006

California Cell Phones

Finally, another state realizes the danger of driving and cell phone usage.

This motorcyclist is pleased, and awaiting a Texas law that does the same thing.

Of course the dumbest part is that it does not go into effect into July 2008 to give them time to 'educate' the public. What in the world does that mean? It actually takes two years to teach people not to use their cell phones while driving? Why don't they do that with other laws? I don't remember a two year grace period for seat belts, and helmet laws are instantaneous (before anyone says something, I wear all the gear)

All of you blog readers out there -- pick yourself up a hands-free, ear bud, or headset -- save the life of a motorcyclist!

Checkin' In

I have not fallen off the face of the earth -- I am overwhelmed between work and church, and personal items.

I am working on my next post -- Altar of Incense, and hope to have it up this week... Too many things, too few hours... We are having a prayer night this Friday as well!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Light of the World

Exodus 25:31-40 -- "You shall make a lampstand of pure gold. The lampstand shall be made of hammered work: its base, its stem, its cups, its calyxes, and its flowers shall be of one piece with it. And there shall be six branches going out of its sides, three branches of the lampstand out of one side of it and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side of it; three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on one branch, and three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on the other branch--so for the six branches going out of the lampstand. And on the lampstand itself there shall be four cups made like almond blossoms, with their calyxes and flowers, and a calyx of one piece with it under each pair of the six branches going out from the lampstand. Their calyxes and their branches shall be of one piece with it, the whole of it a single piece of hammered work of pure gold. You shall make seven lamps for it. And the lamps shall be set up so as to give light on the space in front of it. Its tongs and their trays shall be of pure gold. It shall be made, with all these utensils, out of a talent of pure gold. And see that you make them after the pattern for them, which is being shown you on the mountain.

Again, we find ourselves in the Holy Place, and again, I want to set the stage; we would have just walked in from the wind and dust and dirt of the outside court, with its smell of burning flesh and smoke. It was have been a place of frenetic activity and noise, and we would have had our eyes focused on getting into the Tabernacle proper. So, we pull back the curtain and enter in… And what do our senses tell us? Well, first they tell us that we have entered into a place totally different than the outside world from which we had just come. Second, the heavy outside curtain would block the wind and noise out, so we would notice a stillness, a peace. John 14:27 - "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid…”

What is the next thing we notice? There is a smell that is vastly different than the outside world, the wonderful aroma of the incense burning inside the Holy Place. We will talk more about that in a later post, but needless to say, the incense creates a very special part of the environment, and we will look at how the incense of our prayers also creates this environment. But then as our eyes adjust, you notice that there is but ONE light source in an otherwise sealed tent. It would have been pitch-black in the Tabernacle without the light of the Menorah. There were several coverings that kept out all outside light, and required that the light of the Menorah be used. This light was burning continually.

As we draw closer to the Messiah, the light of this world dims, and He becomes our sole source of light. Many Christians try to balance the light of this world and the light of Messiah. They are constantly holding the Bible up to scrutiny using methods and tools of men. We see this in groups, such as the Jesus Seminar, who ‘judged’ the LIGHT of the Messiah by the light of man’s wisdom! This is like checking the light of the sun by using a 60-watt bulb.

We stand before the lamp stand, not only admiring its beauty, but also recognizing it as the light that God has provided for His priests. This light, which we will explore in greater detail, shines from one source, and that is the Messiah Himself!

As we examine the lampstand, we find that it is made entirely out of gold. This shows the divinity of the Messiah, the inestimable worth of His Person. In Paul’s introduction of himself in Ephesians 3:8 we find this -- To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ... And again in Philippians 4:19 -- And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

THE LIGHT

The Menorah was THE light in the Tabernacle. John 1:1–13 -- In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

During the Messiah’s discussion with Nicodemus in John 3, we hear Him speak some well-known words, but let us put them in context today; John 3:16–21 -- "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God."

We see this very clearly in today’s world; the world opts for the darkness then is confused as to why it struggles. Even some in the church choose darkness, allowing for the ‘natural light’ of this world to illuminate their view. When walking into many churches today, one notices a lack of true light, and instead an overabundance of 'artifical'light. If you removed the light in the tabernacle you were in complete darkness, and we find those today who claim to want to be in the Tabernacle, but insist that they be able to bring in their own light!

Ephesians 5:1–13 -- Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not associate with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.

I must admit that I am guilty of bringing in my own light at times, and I am often convicted of things in my own life that need the light of Messiah to shine on them. Just as you rid a home of mold and musty smells, in the same way our lives should be exposed to combination of light (Messiah) and fresh air (Holy Spirit) to draw the musty smell out of our lives. Do you have musty closets in your heart that could use some light and a good airing out!

THE CHURCH

The lampstand is also indicative of the church. We find the Messiah in the midst of seven churches in Revelation 1:12, 13. We observed the great worth of Messiah, but what of the bride? Ephesians 5:25–27 -- Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

If you read how the Menorah, or lampstand was constructed, this is what you find; the word translated ‘stem’ in Exodus 25:31 is yarek. This word means loins, and is used elsewhere in the Scriptures to describe descendents, i.e. Genesis 46:26 -- All the persons who went with Jacob to Egypt, who came from his body [yarek], besides Jacob's sons' wives, were sixty-six persons in all.

So there is a central yarek, and off of that six other branches shoot. Interestingly, six is the number of man, and seven the number of God. Here we see that with Messiah we number seven, and without Him as the central part of our life, we number six. So, not only is the lampstand symbolic of the Messiah, but also of those who live IN the Messiah as well.

1st John 1:5–7 -- This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Again in 1st John 2:8–11 -- At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

We are not only to be in His light, but be reflectors of it as well. The lost and dying world is so desperate for a glimpse of the light of God, and yet sometimes we are guilty of hiding the light [Matthew 5:14–16]. Let us not only bask in the light of our Messiah, but also reflect it through our lives and actions!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Now for something completely different

Two statements that have nothing to do with one another, or for that matter, with anything else.

1. I want to apologize to my readership (if I have one) for the length of some of my recent posts -- as is readily evident, I tend to go too long on posts -- I have not quite gotten the blog etiquette down yet. I will try to break my streams of thought into readable and succinct posts going forward (maybe).

2. OK, so how do I know I am getting older? David Lee Roth has a BLUEGRASS (yes, that is what I said, Bluegrass) album out, and I (gulp) kind of like it... (face reddening now). I found myself waxing nostalgic as I watched David perform some of the songs on CMT.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Our Provision

Exodus 25:23–30 - “You shall make a table of acacia wood. Two cubits shall be its length, a cubit its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. You shall overlay it with pure gold and make a molding of gold around it. And you shall make a rim around it a handbreadth wide, and a molding of gold around the rim. And you shall make for it four rings of gold, and fasten the rings to the four corners at its four legs. Close to the frame the rings shall lie, as holders for the poles to carry the table. You shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold, and the table shall be carried with these. And you shall make its plates and dishes for incense, and its flagons and bowls with which to pour drink offerings; you shall make them of pure gold. And you shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before me regularly.

Leviticus 24:5-9 - “You shall take fine flour and bake twelve loaves from it; two tenths of an ephah shall be in each loaf. And you shall set them in two piles, six in a pile, on the table of pure gold before the Lord. And you shall put pure frankincense on each pile, that it may go with the bread as a memorial portion as a food offering to the Lord. Every Sabbath day Aaron shall arrange it before the Lord regularly; it is from the people of Israel as a covenant forever. And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place, since it is for him a most holy portion out of the Lord's food offerings, a perpetual due.”

We are now in the Tabernacle, we have come in from the stench and heat of the outer court, as as the last post discussed -- we are able to begin to take in the beauty of the Holy Place. And now we stand before the Table of the Bread of the Presence. This has been a progressive journey, from outside the gate to inside the Tabernacle... This is the walk of the believer. in this post we will look at God’s provision, and the fellowship of the believers. We will see how in the Table of the Bread of Presence, our Messiah is perfectly represented to us.

THE BREAD OF THE PRESENCE

This bread is most interesting… It is called Lechem Paniym in Hebrew. That means the bread that is before the face of God, or before the presence of God. These loaves sat on the table all week, representing the tribes of Israel in the presence of the Lord. Isn’t that interesting? In the showbread we see the shadow of Messiah. As we read in Romans 8:33-39 - Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died — more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. And again in Hebrews 7:24, 25 - but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

This bread was before the Lord continually... His face looked upon this bread, which represented the Chosen People of God. Is this any different than the ministry of the Messiah for us? Does He not stand before the Father representing us? Psalm 32:1, 2 - Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

This bread was an offering before the Lord, covered in Frankincense. Leviticus 24:5–7 - "And you shall take fine flour and bake twelve cakes with it. Two-tenths of an ephah shall be in each cake. "You shall set them in two rows, six in a row, on the pure gold table before the LORD. "And you shall put pure frankincense on each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, an offering made by fire to the LORD. Isn’t it interesting that when the wise men came to the house to honor the Lord, that they brought frankincense? I find these small things to be so interesting, I mean, even in the smallest things we find the Lord at work.

Our Messiah stands before the Father, making intercession for us. He represents each believer, who has been covered in his blood, just like the showbread represented the twelve tribes. That is such an incredible and awesome thought to me that He would do that, that He HAS done that and He will continue to do that. What a God we serve! In Numbers 4:5–8 - "When the camp prepares to journey, Aaron and his sons shall come, and they shall take down the covering veil and cover the ark of the Testimony with it. "Then they shall put on it a covering of badger skins, and spread over that a cloth entirely of blue; and they shall insert its poles. "On the table of showbread they shall spread a blue cloth, and put on it the dishes, the pans, the bowls, and the pitchers for pouring; and the showbread shall be on it. "They shall spread over them a scarlet cloth, and cover the same with a covering of badger skins; and they shall insert its poles…” They did not remove the bread when transporting the table!

The BREAD OF PROVISION

This bread also represented that God was to be the people’s provision. As a matter of fact, as they wandered in the wilderness, we find that He is the one that kept Israel alive by providing manna (Exodus 16). these loaves were representative of our daily provision from the Lord, as the priests partook of these loaves in representing the tribes.

John 6:31-40 - "Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. "For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." Then they said to Him, "Lord, give us this bread always." And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. "But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. "This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. "And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day."

Micah 5:2-4 contains a prophecy about Messiah. It is most interesting. Many are familiar with Micah 5:2, but the rest of the verses are interesting. In verse 3 it prophesies regarding the diaspora and the return of the remnant and then in verse 4 we see what the rule of Messiah will be like. Micah 5:2–4 - "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting." Therefore He shall give them up, Until the time that she who is in labor has given birth; Then the remnant of His brethren Shall return to the children of Israel. And He shall stand and feed His flock In the strength of the LORD, In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God; And they shall abide, For now He shall be great To the ends of the earth…” Truly we have provision in the Lord!

To finish up with John 6, we go to the final verses, John 6:53-58 - Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. "Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. "For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. "As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. "This is the bread which came down from heaven; not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever."

THE BREAD OF THE PRIESTS

Finally we see that the bread was to be consumed by the priests. Leviticus 24:5–9 - "And you shall take fine flour and bake twelve cakes with it. Two-tenths of an ephah shall be in each cake. "You shall set them in two rows, six in a row, on the pure gold table before the LORD. "And you shall put pure frankincense on each row, that it may be on the bread for a memorial, an offering made by fire to the LORD. "Every Sabbath he shall set it in order before the LORD continually, being taken from the children of Israel by an everlasting covenant. "And it shall be for Aaron and his sons, and they shall eat it in a holy place; for it is most holy to him from the offerings of the LORD made by fire, by a perpetual statute."

Exodus 19:6 the Lord says this to His Chosen People - 'And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel." And in 1st Peter 2:4, 5 - Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Finally in John’s introduction to the book of the Revelation we find this: Revelation 1:4–6 - John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

The priests ate the bread of the presence in the Holy Place. Much like our time of communion, when we are in the Holy Place, the place where the priests meet their God. We too are to partake of the Lord together as priests in this place. The priests were the ones who ministered in the Holy Place, and their fellowship was with one another. This does not mean that they did not interact with the other peoples, but it means that when they were in the Holy Place ministering and breaking bread, it was a time of fellowship with them and God. Can you imagine, standing (as there are no chairs) in the Tabernacle, no one else was allowed to come in, and you are sharing bread with your fellow priests? Imagine the awesome feeling of being in the presence of God. We should think about that as we partake of communion on Sunday. Communion is so much more than we realize.

Notice that the bread was MOST HOLY to the Lord. As it represented the Messiah, it was to be treated with great respect and honor due it. Not in the way that some people have taken the bread and raised it to the level of veneration itself. It is what the bread symbolizes that makes it Holy, not the physical bread itself.

May we all enjoy a time of feeding upon the Messiah this Lord's day!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

O Sacred Head, Now Wounded

What a hymn! Written by Bernard of Clairvaux

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
How pale Thou art with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn! How does that visage languish, which once was bright as morn!

What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain. Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.

Men mock and taunt and jeer Thee, Thou noble countenance,
Though mighty worlds shall fear Thee and flee before Thy glance.
How art thou pale with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn! How doth Thy visage languish that once was bright as morn!

Now from Thy cheeks has vanished their color once so fair;
From Thy red lips is banished the splendor that was there.
Grim death, with cruel rigor, hath robbed Thee of Thy life; Thus Thou hast lost Thy vigor, Thy strength in this sad strife.

My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me,
For it was my transgression which brought this woe on Thee. I cast me down before Thee, wrath were my rightful lot;
Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!

What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.

My shepherd, now receive me; my guardian, own me Thine. Great blessings Thou didst give me, O source of gifts divine.
Thy lips have often fed me with words of truth and love;
Thy Spirit oft hath led me to heavenly joys above.

Here I will stand beside Thee, from Thee I will not part;
O Savior, do not chide me! When breaks Thy loving heart, When soul and body languish in death’s cold, cruel grasp, Then, in Thy deepest anguish, Thee in mine arms I’ll clasp.

The joy can never be spoken, above all joys beside,
When in Thy body broken I thus with safety hide.
O Lord of Life, desiring Thy glory now to see,
Beside Thy cross expiring, I’d breathe my soul to Thee.

My Savior, be Thou near me when death is at my door;
Then let Thy presence cheer me, forsake me nevermore!
When soul and body languish, oh, leave me not alone,
But take away mine anguish by virtue of Thine own!