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

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!