Unclean

Leviticus 11-14: This is one of those passages that makes you wonder why in the world did God put this in the Bible? It was instructive to the ancient people of how to stay healthy and clean, but what possible application could it have to me today?

I struggle with that same thought. Here are some things I thought about.
With the clean and unclean animals it is reminding us that God wants the best for our physical bodies. The animals that were unclean were animals, birds and even crustacean that clean up other dead animals, birds, and sea life. They fed on the refuse of other lifeforms and to eat them would be to take in things that would make them very sick. God wants us to be careful about what we take in as well. Eat in such a way that our bodies can be the most effective for Him. Our body is a temple where His Spirit takes up residence. As much as we can we need to keep it healthy and in good shape to go and do what we are sent to do.

The diseased flesh instructions were again to prevent the spread of diseases that could spread easily. In our lifetime these diseases are pretty much contained, but we still have people who feel as though they are outcasts. God’s desire for us is to follow Jesus’ example and reach out to those who need healing and encouragement. Befriend them and allow them to know there is a place for them in the family of faith. God has declared by the blood of His Son that we all can be clean before Him no matter what the disease of our past may be. Receive forgiveness and be made clean.

Then we the church are to reach out to those who have been unclean and those that may make bad choices even after they are believers and restore them back into the family of faith. Being made clean and allowed back into the fellowship is huge in making disciples and teaching to observe all that Jesus has taught us.

Praise the Lamb, our Sacrifice

Leviticus 1-4: This is the book that is filled with the dried up bones of many who started reading the Bible through but got in the middle and just gave up. It is filled with laws and commands. It is hard sometimes to get “a word” in the midst of thinking what in the world could this possibly have to do with my life.

Let me try to bring some fresh tissue and flesh to the valley of these dry bones by reminding us that by God’s grace we no longer need to physically sacrifice animals for our sin or even to find favor with God. Jesus was the complete payment for our sin, but reading through these passages definitely give us a much better picture of what our sin cost. As each family would raise a perfect animal for the sacrifice they raised it knowing that it would be slaughtered to pay for their wrong doing. I wonder if they named these animals and were they favored pets by their children? Did they children cray where they placed the rope around the neck of the animal to lead it to the temple. I wonder how parents explained it to their children.

When the owner got the animal to the temple they would place their hand upon the head of the animal and confess their sin. Do you think they whispered their words? Did they say them loud enough for others to hear. The laying their hands on the head of the animal did not absolve them, but it was a place where confession and repentance took place as the person realized and turned from their sin. We don’t physically put our hands on the head of an animal, but God still bids us to speak out a confirmation of our sin and wrongdoing and repent or turn from it.

I am so grateful that I don’t have to worry about what parts went on the altar and the fat of which parts were to be burned. I don’t have to worry about what side of the altar North or East that the blood from the sacrifice is placed on. I don’t have to worry about adding salt to the meat for the best aroma to the Father. My only concerns are to come before Him with praise and thanksgiving, with a humble heart broken for my sin, and a repentant spirit promising to turn away and do right. Reading Leviticus is a great reminder for me of all that God had done so that I might live in freedom.

Now that is not just flesh on the old bones, but blood and muscle as well. Praise the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Blaze Again

Exodus 29-32: My heart breaks for Moses and for God in this passage. Moses was on the mountain for a little over a month. The people had heard God’s voice and did not want to be physically close to Him. They feared God, but not enough. They assumed that because Moses and Joshua had not returned that they were probably dead and they began to slip back into their old way of life. They began by questioning. Then they turned back to the gods of their old culture. Aaron was a part of the chaos because he fashioned the calf out of their gold jewelry.

I wonder sometimes if that is not exactly how we act as well. We get away from hearing God and His word. Maybe we stop going to church consistently. We stop hanging out with godly friends and influences. Then slowly we fade back into our old way of life. It doesn’t happen all at once or we would never go back. It is just a cooling of our spiritual fire. Eventually there are warm coals underneath where a fire once burned, but we are far from the source of our heat.

It doesn’t have to be this way. For Israel, there was severe punishment that ensued after this to remind the people of who God really is. Thousands lost their lives as a result. His power was made clear again. God takes His position seriously.

In our lives it may look differently, but God will go as far as He needs to draw you back to Himself. Some call this Holy Discipline. Others call it true love. As a parent we know how this is when you have to take things from your children that are not good for them or can cause harm to them or others. (hide the Tide pods). But we know for them to live and do well they need discipline. We too need the love of our Father to gently yet strongly move us back into a right relationship with Him where the fires of our soul burn brightly again. He longs for close relationship with us.

If you find yourself cooling with the Father, spend some time talking to Him about it. He knows your circumstance. Tell Him you are sorry and ask Him to help you burn brightly again. Ask Him to forgive you for slipping back into your old way of life. Then do the things you once did to experience a reviving of your spirit. Prayer and Bible study are a great place to begin. Make plans now to attend church Sunday and call a Christian friend to have a meal with. Your fire will soon blaze again and your joy will be restored. The choice is yours.

We Were Made to Worship

Exodus 25-28: We were made to worship. God put it in our very DNA. He wanted us to give honor and glory to Him. Israel had just come from captivity in a culture that understood worship. They had many gods and their leader, Pharaoh, himself was a god to them. They had learned from the culture around them to pay honor, glory and respect to these gods and idols. Therefore when God said to worship Him alone He followed it with giving them the exact dimensions to build a place for them to meet with Him and worship.

He even provided the materials to build the tent of meeting when the Egyptians gave the people gold, silver, jewelry and gem stones. The had been slaves so these beautiful things would have never been a part of their lives before. God had the Egyptians give them the items because God was preparing them to get to give.

25:1″The Lord said to Moses, 2″Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me. ”

God had given the materials to them to give through them as an act of worship to Him. In the New Testament we are reminded “Where your treasure is so is your heart also.” Those who gave were showing their worship, love and appreciation to God.

So how does this apply to us? God has given to us as well in order to give through us. He gives us jobs to be able to make money and from those proceeds He has asked for a tithe. 10% is asked to be given not in a begrudging way, but with a cheerful heart. Just as with Israel, it was an act of worship to their God. They had been made to worship and giving was a part of that worship. So are we. As we give our money to the church, our place of worship we aren’t giving it to the brick and mortar or even to the pastor or priest. We are giving it to the Lord and with it we are giving our hearts in praise and thanksgiving for all God has done for us.

God’s plan from the beginning was for Israel to come away from slavery to worship God. He longs for the same for us. He longs for us to come away from the slavery of sin and self worship to realize He alone is God and we need Him more than we need our money. He is our provider, protector, redeemer, Savior and friend. May we prepare our gifts for him as we worship him today.

Caring for the Widow, Orphan and Foreigner

Exodus 22-24: God has such a deep love for the widow, the orphan, the foreigner and the poor. When He gave the laws to His people many of them dealt with leaving a small portion of their harvest as salvage for those who had no land or crop.

The book of Ruth is a beautiful picture of how Boaz shared the salvage of his crop with the widows Ruth and Naomi. Ruth was allowed to pick up the left over and the fringe grain to feed she and Naomi. Ruth was both a wide and an outsider, but God’s love was so great for her that she became a part of His family. I love how she tells Naomi, “Your people shall become my people and your God my God.”

Moses instructed the people to share with those less fortunate. By caring for those who are less fortunate God would bless them as a nation.

The New Testament tells us that pure and undefiled religion is to take care of widows and orphans in their distress. In our passage today I was reminded it wasn’t the big things that they were to do. They were just to be conscious of them and leave a small portion for them to pick up. They were to see those in need and help meet their needs.

If God blessed that in the days of the Bible, don’t you know He blesses us today as we do the same. You don’t have to give them handouts, but why not include them when you have guests in your home. Watch to see the children around you that just need a word of encouragement. I think about children whose parents are deployed. They are not orphaned, but they sure miss their parent. I think about some young widows in my community who sometimes just need a call, a text, or a word of encouragement. An invitation to hang out would probably be appreciated as well. Most of the time it is not the big things, but the small that mean so much. Just see them and keep them in your thoughts and prayers as well.

One True God

Exodus 19-21: If you have never read the Bible in Chronological order I highly recommend doing that one year. It puts things into context and you are able to see why God sometimes did what He did or said what He said at that time. Today’s reading is a prime example. The Hebrew Children had just come from slavery in Egypt. They had been there for a few generations. All this generation of people knew was the Egyptian way of life. In that culture they worshiped many gods. Pharaoh was the greatest, but there were many smaller ones. That is what the plagues were all about is defeating one after the other. So when God gives the 10 Commandments and starts with He is the ONLY God and you should have no other gods before Him, it made total sense. That is all they had known was other gods. When He tells them not to fashion any gods out of clay, stone, wood or any other thing, it is because they had seen that so often and it made sense to them to pray to a god of their making. Even not taking His name in vain was a reminder that He was not like their other gods that sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. He was sovereign and cold be trusted. He reminded them to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy because they were not a god and they needed physical rest. They also needed a day to focus on Him and His goodness and His provision. They needed to know God not turn to other things.

We too need to remember that He alone is God. We don’t need to lean on other worldly things. Those things like their gods will let you down because they have no power. They may suffice at the time, but they do not care about you like your loving Heavenly Father. He cares for you! Revere His Name. Don’t curse using it. Choose to honor Him as God. It is the foundation of life that will not allow you to fall apart with the storms of life come.

The Hebrew Children were in for some big storms. Some would really rock their world. Some chose not to trust Him. BUT others did, and today we read of their faithfulness as an example for us to follow.

God Declared Himself

Exodus 14-18: As I read the scripture today what jumped out at me was that God was introducing Himself not just to Egypt, but to His own people. To Egypt we know He was reminding them that He was God alone and He had overpowered any gods they held on to. Eventually defeating Pharaoh himself.

But to Israel this bunch of Hebrew people who had their identity in being slaves He was reminding them who He was and who they were as a result. He told them, He was God and He would fight for them. All they had to do was stand still and watch Him. As He parted the Red Sea and kept the Egyptian army at bay He was declaring His power to take care of them! The Hebrew nation walked through on dry ground while the Egyptians sank to their demise.

He declared He would be their Healer if only they would obey. He would not put on them any of the plagues that they had seen in Egypt.

He declared Himself their Banner as they faced yet another enemy in Amalek. As long as Moses held his arms up the Hebrew nation would win. When he put his arms down they would struggle in battle and lose. Aaron and Hur held his arms up and eventually the enemy was defeated. God declared Himself their Banner and He gave them victory.

All of these names describe the character of who God is. It is in His DNA and that hasn’t changed. To those who call on His Name He is our defender, provider, healer, banner and so much more. Just as God was presenting Himself to this nation of people, He longs to present Himself to you and me as well and to remind us that He is the Great I Am. He is everything we need!

God’s Most Likely To Succeed

Exodus 1-4: Have you ever looked at someone and thought, “Well I would have never thought they would be a leader.” Maybe it was someone in your graduating class that just did not seem to be the most likely to succeed and yet God chose them to rise to the occasion. I wonder if people did not feel this way about Moses.

He was a boy Israelite baby born in a day when the Pharaoh was trying to kill all males his age. Yet he was saved and rescued by the daughter of Pharaoh. He was raised until he was 40 in Pharaoh’s palace and educated as an Egyptian. At 40 he killed and Egyptian who was beating an Israelite. He thought no-one saw what had happened. He fled to Midian to get away from punishment. He stayed in Midian for 40 years. At the age of 80 he was called by God to lead Israel back to the Promised land.

You just read that correctly. He was 80 before he was ready to step into the leadership role God had for him. Even then he had all kind of reasons why he could not lead. And yet God chose him with all of his imperfections.

How about you? Have you been telling God all of the reasons you can’t or won’t lead? Has your age, your history, or even your ability been reasons you gave?

Maybe the reason God put Moses’ story in the Bible is to remind us that God can and will use anyone He chooses. He is the one who says who is qualified. He is the one who allows us to go through hard times to prepare us for the trek ahead. He alone knows what we truly are capable of.

No matter whether you were chosen The Most Likely to Succeed by your classmates or not, when God says you are His man or woman for a specific job, listen and obey! It may take a burning bush to convince you, but God knows the best plans for you!

Light at the End of Darkness

Job 40:6-42:17; Psalm 29: When reading the story of Job we focus on the years of his distress, but did you know that he lived 140 years after that? Yes during those years I am certain that the lessons he had learned in the dark days changed his path.

God began to build back Job’s life. He began to build back relationships. Don’t you know it would be tempting after people had turned their backs on you to just turn your back on them when things got better. What a lonely life he would have had and probably much shorter had he held on to bitterness. Instead he forgave and renewed those relationships.

His wealth returned. He received back double from God all that he had lost. When finances are tight it is easy to get down on yourself and feel like you are a failure. Job remembered who he was dependent on. God had given and God had taken yet Job still blessed His name. God was showing satan and those around Job what true faith in God looks like.

God had taken Job’s children. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lose all of your children all at once. The temptation would be to be angry with God. Not Job. He trusted God. God gave him 10 more children. Some ask why God did not double the number of children. Maybe it is because the other 10 who had died would meet him in heaven and he would have all 20 there thus it was a doubling.

What should all of this mean to me? That God is sovereign and days may look dark today, but if we trust the Father, brighter days are ahead. We can’t allow the sin of bitterness, anger, or even lack of trust to keep us from where God ultimately wants to take us. The best really is yet to come. Hold on. It is not hopeless. Don’t give up or give in. Life is worth living. You can and will make it. Look up. Look around you. God’s testimony of His faithfulness is all around you. Trust Him!

Hanging On By A Thread

Job 37-40:5, Ps.19: Our culture has a new word picture when someone has spoken definitively about something they “drop the mic.” In these passages God definitely speaks with a definitive voice and in the end all are left speechless. In total God asks Job 70 rhetorical questions through chapters 38-41. Job’s only response is to put his hand over his mouth.

Job’s pain was great but God’s power was greater. Job’s questions were valid, but God’s authority and wisdom made them seem meaningless. In the end I love how the text book The Essence of The Old Testament: A Survey by Ed Hindson and Gary Yates puts in, “God does not explain the rationale or the reason behind Job’s suffering and He reveals no compulsion to justify His actions before Job. God reminds us, as He did Job that He is God and we are not.”

Later in the commentary they write, “Job remains a powerful example for all of us who struggle with the seemingly insurmountable questions of life, only to fall in faith, exasperated, into the arms of God.”

Wow, what a grand picture that sums up the book of Job. Exasperated, faithfully falling into our Master’s arms. Oh how He longs for us to stop asking all of the questions, look at who He is and what He has done through creation, the world around us, the history presented to us in the word and to realize This Same God loves us and is for us. We may never know the whys but we can know The Who. He is faithful and can be trusted even when we are hanging on by a thread.