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

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!