May 31, 2012
Just as in the Old Testament when God had His assigned priests stand before Him to worship Him, so does He expect all those now under the New Covenant to do so as well. We don’t do it in the same way in regards to outward ceremony, but there are many similarities. One is that just as the Levites were to do, we are to consecrate ourselves. (2 Chron. 29:5) We do this by washing our hands of sin (turning our backs on it), and purifying our hearts (James 4:8) through deep repentance (v. 9) and humility before the Lord. (v. 10) We are able to do this by having faith in what He accomplished for us on the cross –that is, that He paid our sins’ debt and and canceled our slavery to it. (1 John 2:2 // Rom. 6:18)
If we truly love the Lord, we will want to serve, worship, and minister to Him. We will want to fellowship with Him and be instructed by Him. Therefore, we will keep ourselves far from all that could defile His holy tabernacle –which is now Christ’s corporate Body, the church, as well as our own individual spirit. We will be careful not to wrong each other in any way –especially through impurity– not in word, deed, or thought. (1 Thes. 4:3-9)
If we are pure before the Lord as we’re commanded to be, we will have the desire to remain in purity at all times –constantly. This is the kind of person God seeks (2 Chron. 16:9), reveals Himself to (Heb. 12:14), and chooses to be His own –making that person to be a holy, royal priest who has the privilege of ministering unto Him, the awesome Most High God. (Rev. 1:5,6)
The priests under the Old Covenant were to burn incense before the Lord. (2 Chron. 29:11) What is the incense we, His New Covenant priests, are to burn? It is praise. (1 Peter 2:9) We are to declare how wonderful He is, what He’s done for us, how marvelous and compassionate and mighty He is, how full of splendor and beauty and majesty, how worthy of glory, honor, reverence, thanks, and adoration…! This is our incense! And we should be sending it up continually, just as incense rises continually. Have we not been lit with the fire of His Holy Spirit? Then how can we refrain? How can we stifle the praise? Those in Heaven serve and praise Him day and night. Are we not serving whole-heartedly in His Kingdom already (John 17:16 // Luke 9:62) as it indwells us? (Luke 17:21)
Therefore, let us say, “May my meditation be pleasing to Him.” (Ps. 104:34) For we rejoice to send up to our God our most grateful and adoring praise.
May 30, 2012
It’s been such a lovely, beautiful morning. Such peace wafts gently through my soul as I hear the soft rain on the roof’s skylights. It brings me a sweet reminder of the tenderness and mercies of God. Oh, how He loves us! Oh, how gracious are His blessings! I so hope and pray that you are opening up your spirit to His compassions. Truly, they are new every morning… because He is faithful (Lam. 3:22,23)… even if we are not. (2 Tim. 2:13)
The gentle rain is like His forgiveness. It flows into our hardened hearts, hardened from too much sin and hurt, hardened because we’ve built brick after brick around ourselves… to keep out risk. But He is the living water and able to do the impossible… able to melt the most impenetrable spots, able to wash clean the most filthy caverns. This brings Life, friend. We are set free. Free to live joyfully, no matter what thrashes about us. Because the storms are no longer in us. They remain outside of us. Our spirits are kept shielded by His love, His might, and His forgiveness.
As the rain falls I try to think of words… words to describe it… words that are comforting and healing like God’s forgiveness is. And I pray these words into your day, into your life. Words like… soothing… calm… caring… gentle… hope-filled… restful… Even here by the window, I feel a small brush of cooling breeze as it sends a tiny spray of moisture in across my face. Thunder rolls in the distance, but I like it. It’s not frightening. It’s just another reminder to me of God’s power and that I am safe in His everlasting arms (Dt. 33:27), even as He rides there upon the clouds in His majesty. (v. 26)
Precious, aren’t you finished eating the pods in low places? (Luke 15:16) Aren’t you through trying to accumulate friends who care nothing about you unless you’re throwing money or pleasures their way? Look to your Father, your God, the One who wants to make you His friend. Humble your heart and go back home. Do you think He will despise you… make you grovel… make you labor in some horrible job to pay off your sins? He won’t. Even now He stands at the bend in the road, watching for you. His heart has been torn… His Spirit has grieved for you… for your sake… and for His, because He wants fellowship with you. But when He sees you coming, He will run! He will run to you, throw His arms around you, kiss you, and accept you back as the cherished and honored son He’s always planned for you to be. (v. 20-24)
Meditate about the rain with me. Reflect on its ability to heal, to cleanse, to bring life to wilting plants, paradise to a weary land. Consider how much more potent is the love and the mercies of God. For He will always forgive… abundantly… the one who comes to Him with a hurting, broken, contrite heart. (Ps. 51:17)
Do you hear that? Listen… In the raindrops, He whispers. He whispers, “I love you… son.”
In His love too,
P.S. Here is one of the most beautiful songs ever sung… one that I clung to in hope and faith as I, many years ago, considered the fork in the road. May it wash through your soul as it did mine, and cause you to never want to leave His side. It’s called, “When God Ran”.
May 29, 2012
Below is what I wrote my brother yesterday when I said I’d be praying for his Monday night Bible study. He is their church’s full-time pastor to international university students (and others), and many whom he ministers to are “inquirers” of the Christian faith. Here’s part of my email:
~~~~ May the Lord open up the hearts and minds of all those who you exhort to follow Jesus and may He pour in His Spirit’s love, comfort, Truth, revelation, etc. On the back side of my flip calendar for today’s date is 2 Cor. 5:20 –one of my favorite verses, and probably one of yours too: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” We know this verse well, but let each word sink in anew, pondering that our words and conduct are to be just as if it is God Himself who is appealing to them with His mouth and character. Pretty heavy. As we know, 1 Peter 4:11 confirms this Truth. As it says, “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.” Truly, we must “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18) to walk in such an expectation!
On the front side of my flip calendar today, it has Josh. 24:15: “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” We’ve both chosen this for our homes, but may we point, lovingly and wisely, others in how to also choose this –and how to continue to choose it daily. ~~~~
Friends, we must make the effort and take action to grow spiritually so that we can, in fact, serve Christ as if we were Christ Himself. It doesn’t come by sitting in front of the T.V., chasing pleasures, or indulging Self in thoughts and behavior that is lazy, worldly, or immature. It comes by spending time ingesting the Spirit through the Word and putting to practice what we learn there.
On that Last Day, we will be held accountable for every single thing we did, thought, and said. (John 5:29 // 2 Cor. 5:10 // James 3:13-16 // Matt. 12:36,37 & 15:17-20) When the verdict is given, will we be rejoicing or grief-stricken?
May 28, 2012
Memorial Day, though its main theme is to remember soldiers who gave their lives for their country, is also a good day to think about all those we consider having lived their lives as heroes. These people are often those we loved, such as a kind grandmother who prayed diligently for all her extended family, a grandfather who taught his children to revere God’s Word, or a dad who was gentle, fun-loving, honest, and hard-working. Or maybe we ponder how admirable a certain teacher was who encouraged us and brought out our talents when we thought we had none. Maybe we cherish thoughts of a godly pastor who fed his flock faithfully with the Truth and taught them to firmly trust in God’s promises. Maybe we talk about the courageous firefighter we knew who, though disfigured from burns, still went cheerfully and bravely on in his career year after year.
But another life this day should give us the opportunity to soberly meditate on is our own. How heroic could it be viewed in the minds and memories of those who have known us? Even being known to have loved –loved gently, loved sacrificially, loved by always believing the best about others, loved by consistently extending forgiveness… this would be commendable enough. And it’s something we all can rise to, all can be remembered for. That is, if we decide in time that it’s important and start living accordingly.
We shouldn’t think that we have to do something big and gigantically noble in one fell swoop. All we have to do is rise to the small things, even the tiny things. Did we smile and keep our eyes and tone soft? Did we encourage and compliment whenever we possibly could? Did we work hard to bring success to a co-worker who needed help getting a promotion, even as we remained in the background? Did we give up a comfortable home to live in another land or another neighborhood so that we could teach (and exemplify) the Gospel to the poor, the sorrowing, or the weary? Did we graciously perform our household duties without any complaints? Did we stay after hours, and without extra pay, to tutor a struggling student? Any of these “small” things may have added up to be huge for the one who was helped.
So, as we think on the main theme of Memorial Day, let’s consider how significant each one of our acts become as they add up –making us, in the end, someone no one cares much to remember, or… a person someone, or many, considered to be next to heroic.
May 27, 2012
There are many idols that our modern society bows to, even while they deny doing so. Nevertheless, the fruit, the consequences, the results… it all proves the idolatry exists, even escalates.
We know that God’s Word says that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Tim. 6:10) and that those who rush after it end up piercing themselves with much grief. (same verse) There are other roots of evil –the love of Self, of pleasure, of power, of cruelty, of knowledge, of fame, etc., and they are all closely linked. Likely, though, money is the most popular. Why is this? Because with money the rest can usually be attained.
What instigates this deep lust for more and more money? I venture to say that the culprit is jealousy. Wow… when people have a jealous spirit about them, it’s best to run from them! Even fury cannot demolish like jealousy can! (Prov. 27:4)
How does jealousy latch onto a person, push its way into the heart, and then grow? Of course it happens by feeding that dog. But first the idea is presented –simply stated, “Here is what others have. So wouldn’t you like to have it too?” What the others have may be fancy homes, cars, clothes, beauty, health, popularity, control, ease, etc. Many people can walk away from this initial temptation, especially if they know they don’t need more, or that the way to get it would be wrong. So, before an actual “Idol of Jealousy” is erected, there is only the heart at which to dine at that lust. And if the heart loves family, practices contentment, and appreciates one’s life, and especially if that heart reveres God, the jealousy dog is rejected and it thus evaporates.
But, try as one might, it has become extremely difficult in our modern times to keep away from this evil dog. It just keep coming back, trying to wedge into hearts through its whispers about discontent, restlessness, and lust. And even though everyone knows where the dog is fed, almost everyone on the face of the earth continues to take it to its kennel where it eats so that it has opportunity to grow larger and larger right inside everyone’s heart!
Where is the kennel, the idol, to which everyone is going? Where is the dog of jealousy being fed? Is it not fed in one’s own living room, in one’s own bedroom, in waiting rooms, in the restaurants, at the malls, on the magazine racks, along the freeways, even in the churches? And because the dog is greedy for more and more possessions, vacations, or ways to be recognized as important or beautiful, then more and more money has to be sought –even by those who claim to have Christ as their Lord– in order to purchase what is being flaunted. But they don’t seem to stop and realize that such pursuits do crowd out love and service toward God. (Matt. 6:24)
“Look,” says the Spirit of God. (Ezek. 8:5) “So I looked, and in the entrance north of the gate of the altar I saw this idol of jealousy.” (same verse) “And He said to me, ‘Son of man, do you see what they are doing –the utterly detestable things the house of Israel is doing there, things that will drive Me far from My sanctuary?'” (v. 6) God had lifted Ezekiel up and carried him to the temple, and before him was the glory of God. (v. 3,4) God’s presence was there –still. But, sadly, the LORD was about to slay the majority (9:7), as well as depart from His temple (10:18 // 2 Chron. 7:19,20), and He was explaining to His prophet why.
The LORD says the same to many now –to people in whom He graciously came to dwell, but who have continued to defile themselves (His temple), provoking Him to righteous jealousy by their covetous hearts. (Ezek. 6:9 & 8:3 // Ex. 34:14) These hearts long after all sorts of things besides their Maker, their Husband (Isa. 54:5), and being that God considers it hatred toward Him (Jam. 4:4), He will spend His wrath upon them (Ezek. 6:13), beginning at His sanctuary (9:6) –that which is the church body (1 Peter 4:17) as well as each individual temple (person) who has defiled himself (1 Cor. 3:16,17) with “setting up idols in his heart by putting a wicked stumbling block before his face.” (See Ezek. 14:4)
So, what is the main wicked stumbling block that causes people to set up in their hearts the Idol of Jealousy? We know it’s what they watch, read, and listen to on those screens they set before their faces –whether it be the T.V. or the internet– sitting “in the darkness, each at the shrine of his own idol” (Ezek. 8:12), pretending that God doesn’t see or care anymore. (same verse) Whatever particular way they do it, these people feed the dog of jealousy within their hearts as they lust after all sorts of things flaunted before them.
People know this idol is making them feel inferior to others, making them feel unsuccessful, making them feel discontented, making them crave more and more things as well as a certain appearance for themselves or their spouses, making them lust after people they’ve never met, etc., yet these people say, “It’s no use. I must set this thing before my face daily. I have a dog inside of me that must be fed.” It’s so sad. It’s bondage. It’s a rejection of the One who wants first place in all hearts… because He wants our best… because He knows that He is our only true fulfillment, our only lasting contentment and salvation. Instead, though, even those who house God’s Spirit (Ezek. 8:16) turn their backs on Him (same verse) but their faces toward the teachings of false gods. (same verse) God then asks, “Are these detestable practices a trivial matter to Me?” (See v. 17) He answers that they are not! (v. 18)
What does Jesus say in Matt. 18:7? He says, “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!” Those who are responsible for creating the idols are cursed (if they do not quickly repent), but everyone else has a responsibility as well: “And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.” (v. 9) But before someone actually goes to this extreme, he’d do well to impose upon himself a training of strict discipline and a love for God’s Word and righteousness. But if this doesn’t work, then throwing out the sources of idolatry is a necessity. For if someone is the temple of the living God (1 Cor. 6:16) and expects God to abide there (same verse), then he must obey verse 17: “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.”
In other words, “Keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21)
May 26, 2012
It is good of you to admit to me that you have been committing adultery. At least it’s a start at breaking the deception in your heart. However, I’ve already known about it. Someone saw you. And told me. He saw you when you went home with her, climbed into bed with her, and cheated on your wife. He saw you when you texted the lie that said you were in a business meeting. He saw you when you got home and gave your wife the red rose, the note attached which read, “You’re the best, Sweetie. I love you.” He saw you when you insisted that she take a long relaxing bath while you finished cleaning up the kitchen, which you hurriedly did so that you could secretly return another text.
And you… you are no better than this man. For someone saw you too that time when you took the other waitress’s tip –that $20 bill you casually swept up and slipped into your jean’s pocket.
And you… Someone heard your accusation against the innocent boy next door… saw you and him and your families in the courtroom… later watched the prison doors close on him… knowing it was all due to your revenge –simply because he had asked another girl to the prom!
Okay, I’m making these stories up. But how similar to what God has to continually watch! In fact, He sees much worse! Lying, cheating, slander, cruelties, ruining another person’s reputation, devastating another person’s life… No wonder God’s wrath must be enacted!
But how would most of these wicked people respond if we said, “Your sin has not been a secret. In fact, someone saw you in the very act.” –? They would likely get white as a sheet and squeak out, “Who?” But sadly, once we answer, “God”, they would reply with obvious relief, “Oh, Him. Well, He sees everything. I’m not doing anything worse than most people.” And off they’d go to continue their perverse and evil ways.
However, in the end, God will say to all who have not repented (quit their sin), “Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (Matt. 25:41) “For what you did to one of the least of these people I love, you did to Me.” (See v. 40) “Yes, you were doing it to God.”
May 25, 2012
Over the last few weeks I have been rescuing many critters that keep making their way into our long screened-in porch or even all the way into the house. One was a little frog. He was just about to hop through the doorway of the porch (which we have open so that our dogs can come in there), and I had to keep directing him away with my foot. He finally got the idea, but it took much patience on my part because he was determined about the direction he’d made up his mind to go in.
There have been butterflies, moths, and other various insects, many which I catch with my hand or a plastic glass, so that they don’t have to die a slow death while merely looking out through the screen at unattainable freedom. A few birds have also made their way in. The poor things fly back and forth and often, for quite some time, can’t seem to see the doorway where they came in at. If I go out to help them, they get frantic and exhausted. So usually the best thing to do is to just let them be until they realize that calm thinking is going to benefit them more than their frenzied zipping around.
About a week ago when the weather was cool I had the sliding glass door open. I came in from the yard to get something in the living room (I forget what) and I heard a fluttering at the living room window. It was a humming bird! Oh, the poor frightened thing! But try as I might, I couldn’t catch him until he’d wearied himself so much that he flopped to the windowsill, and I just picked him up. His little head tilted up at me as if he was wondering if I was his enemy or if I was actually his savior. I took him right outside, opened my hand, and he flew away.
Why do I tell all this? Because I’ve beesn thinking lately about how people wander carelessly into traps, how they drift into situations they get lost in, and how sad this is –sad that they didn’t initially take precautions by reading Life’s Instruction Manual, sad that they refuse to heed those who warn them of the dangers of the road they’re walking, and sad when they get so lost or tangled that they are too weary to find their way out. My heart grieves intensely for many of these individuals. Because I deeply love many of them. And I love because God’s Spirit in me loves them… and grieves.
“‘It’s no use,’ these captured ones say. ‘We will continue with our own plans; each of us will follow the stubbornness of his evil heart.'” (See Jer. 18:12) Giving up their addictions, giving up what has become familiar to them, giving up their way of life… –it’s too hard to break the pattern… so they’d rather continue on down their road to Destruction –even as they admit, “We have made a lie our refuge and falsehood our hiding place.” (Isa. 28:15)
What can we do to help such prisoners? We can pray. And if we really care, we will pray by the Spirit. We will take steps to free ourselves from all known sin by walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16) so that God will use us to free them.
God’s heart is indeed to see people set free. It’s why He came to earth. He paid the price, He set the example, and He sent His Spirit to give us the power to copy Him. Therefore, if we are abiding in Him, we will absolutely have His heart. Our spirit will groan under His anointing (Rom. 8:23-27) as our Advocate, Intercessor, and Friend agonizes through us for others. And we will understand Job 16:19-21 in a new way. “… My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend.” Then, because the fervent prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective (James 5:16), God will, though it may be after many years, deliver even a wicked person through the cleanness of our hands. (Job 22:30 // Isa. 49:9)
So if we can’t rescue the captive through persuasion or even through love, then we must still continue to get on our knees and weep, “giving ourselves and the Lord no rest until He ransoms them.” (See Isa. 62:6,7) For God will not allow us the excuse, “But we knew nothing about this.” (Prov. 24:12) We do know about it. And we have been given the command to “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.” (v. 11) We do this in every way the Spirit leads –going, warning, persuading, loving, praying, weeping, interceding.
And because we cared enough, then some, like the hummingbird, will be released –to fly forever-after in joyful freedom.