Next to the last Sunday in the United States

It’s hard to believe but in a few days, we will be on a jet heading to China.  August 31st is the deadline.  We have today and next Sunday to worship in a United States, English speaking church.  What we will do when we are in China, we will have to wait and see.

The packing is almost done.  The storage unit is half full.  We have our visas and plane tickets.  Monday will be my last day as an employee at Black River Imaging.  They have been so good to me for the past 17 years.

I really feel like Abraham in Genesis 12:1.  “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you.'”

God promised Abraham a blessing in this passage.  I pray that He will bless us also and that His Name will be glorified in our activities.

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The Aurora Murders and Demonic Possession

Jesus casting out demons

Jesus casting out demons (Photo credit: Nick in exsilio)

This is a fascinating article written from a Roman Catholic viewpoint.  The author relates a reasoned, calm thought on the various stages of involvement in evil and demons.  I do think the ending is weak, particularly in leaving out any Scripture and mention of Jesus Christ.  This is somewhat implied.  However the article gives everyone who is willing to think about good and evil something to think about.

The Aurora Murders and Demonic Possession.

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Lectionary thoughts for July 29 – 2 Samuel 11:1-15

This is probably one of the most relevant passages in the Bible – at least as far as the news and the United States is concerned.  It is a story of betrayal, it is a story of abuse, it is a story of loss of faith.

Recently, the news has been about Penn State University and the trial of an assistant coach who was convicted on over 40 counts of abuse of young males.  This person used his position of power to take from these young men their innocence forever.

It’s not been that many years ago that this passage would have applied to the President of the United States – Bill Clinton.

And yet, this is not to level charges against any individual or to blame any political party.  This is a danger for ALL people.  Our US constitution was developed based upon the idea that people are inherently flawed -original sin, natural inclination, total depravity – call it what you want, but it doesn’t take much time watching the news to realize that ANYBODY is capable of falling into the most evil and horrendous of sins.

Let’s look at the passage now.

English: Statue of King David by Nicolas Cordi...

English: Statue of King David by Nicolas Cordier in the Borghese Chapel of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. Français : Statue du roi David par Nicolas Cordier, dans la chapelle Borghèse de la basilique Sainte-Marie Majeure. Italiano: Statua del re Davide di Nicolas Cordier, nella Capella Borghese della Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Roma. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.

One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (She had purified herself from her uncleanness.) Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”

So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.

When David was told, “Uriah did not go home,” he asked him, “Haven’t you just come from a distance? Why didn’t you go home?”

Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”

Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home.

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote, “Put Uriah in the front line where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die. ”

English: King David Handing the Letter to Uria...

English: King David Handing the Letter to Uriah (1611) by Pieter Lastman, oil on panel, 51.1 x 61.3 cm, Detroit Institute of Arts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let’s look first at the opening statement for here it is that we see the beginning of the problem.

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.

At the time when David’s responsibility was to lead the army, David decided that he didn’t need to do that anymore.  “But David remained in Jerusalem.”  In ancient Israel, it was the kings job to join with the troops when they went to war.

Was David gravely ill?  Nope.  Was he injured? Nope.  Where their pressing needs at the palace which only he could handle? Nope.

We don’t know why David stayed at Jerusalem – but we can infer that David was having heart troubles.  No, he wasn’t sick.  Rather he had stopped being a man after God’s own heart.

Maybe he thought he had done enough.  Maybe he believed that he was too important to do the work being a king required.  Maybe he thought that it was now time to enjoy the fruits of kingship.  Whatever the reason – David was someplace that he should not have been and he was missing from someplace he should have been!

What might the history of the Bible have been if David had chosen differently?  This is jumping ahead of the passage, but look at some of the consequences.  David commit’s adultery.  He betrays one of most trusted men.  He has a man murdered.  His baby dies.  He changes the royal line to choose Solomon, the son of his sinful action.  One of his sons rapes his half-sister.  Absalom avenges his sister later by murdering his half brother.  Absalom leads a rebellion against his father and is later killed.  Absalom sleeps in public with his fathers wives.  Solomon becomes king and kills one of his brothers.  Solomon’s son makes such a mess of things that the kingdom is divided into two parts.

Sometimes people think, I don’t care what happens, just as long as we

Path

Path (Photo credit: Guerito)

have this one night together.  SIN has dire consequences.  And it started when David abandoned his post.

Andy Stanley preached a series of messages on the principle of the path.  The basic idea of this series of messages is that every path leads somewhere and if you want to arrive at a certain destination, you must get on the right path.

Good intentions do not matter to a path.  The path still leads to the same destination – regardless of your intentions.

Mistaken ideas do not matter to a path.  The path still leads to the same destination.

The number of people taking a path thinking it goes someplace it doesn’t does not matter to a path.  The path still leads to the same destination.

Jesus said in Matthew 7:13 and 14 “wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction…small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life.”

There is a path that leads to destruction.  Apparently it is easy to find and easy to walk on.  There is another path that leads to life and it is more difficult.

Not that he doesn’t say that if you have good intentions, the broad path will lead somewhere else.  The path ALWAYS leads to where the path is going – death or life, peace or conflict, joy or sorrow.

In the opening verses of our passage, David decided to take a different path than the one he had been on.

Larry Norman, the 1970’s Christian rocker composed a song with words I have never forgotten.  “Two roads converged in the middle of my life, I heard the poet say.  I took the one less traveled and that’s made the difference – every night and every day.”

Our neighbor has a sign in his yard with a Bible reference listed on it.  When my wife and I saw it, I misread the reference and we looked it up.  I thought it said Galatians 6:17.  The first part of that very I really like: “Finally, let no one cause me trouble.”  That’s a great quote – but that’s not what the reference was.  It was Galatians 6:7, a verse I’ve memorized in the Kjv – “Be not deceived. God is not mocked.  Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

“But David remained in Jerusalem.”  Because of that, David fell.  Ephesians 4:27 says “Give the devil no opportunity.” NASB.

Galatians 6:9 says “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

When we are tempted to think it is all just too much trouble, that maybe it’s time for a break, or “just this once” – think of David, think of Bill Clinton, think of Penn State abuse trials, think of the Catholic priest sexual abuse scandal, think, think, think, think, think – there go I but for the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.

13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13.

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Partial Christianity

So many people have abandoned the idea of REAL TRUTH. You hear this – it true for you but it is not true for me. If it is real truth – it is true for everyone and we have an obligation to either follow it wholeheartedly or admit that we aren’t interested in truth – just our feelings.

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No one can offend you without your permission

“No one can offend you without your permission.”

English: Neal Boortz at a FairTax Rally

English: Neal Boortz at a FairTax Rally (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I heard that today on the radio listening to Neil Boortz.

We live in a world today that seems to think that there is a God-given, constitutional, moral RIGHT to never hear or see anything that offends them.  It’s as if everyone has developed a case of overly sensitive ears!

I’ve read the Bible –

I’ve read the constitution –

You have NO right not to hear things you don’t like.  You have no right to silence people you disagree with.  And the only way you can be offended is if you decide to give your permission by taking offense.

Jesus said offensive things to people.  Moses said offensive things to people.  God said offensive things to people.  And if you listen to enough people, you will find people today who say things that are offensive.

So what should you do?

1) You can become an offensive jerk like everyone else. – I do not recommend this but chances are someone already thinks that about you anyway.

2) You can engage in debate with the person about what they are saying. – Sometimes not possible and sometimes you don’t have the time.

3) You can ignore it. – One of my favorite methods.

4) You can listen to it and consider that what is being said might be true. – Often a good idea.

5) You can go to God and pray blessings for the person.  Excellent!

6) You can go to God and ask God to show your own flaws and ask for his guidance.  Again, excellent!

The Fruit of the Tree

The Fruit of the Tree (Photo credit: Josh Kenzer)

Remember that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy,  peace, patience (long suffering – kjv), kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control.

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A god of no judgment

The best place to find criteria for talking about ethics and interpretation will be in Christian discourse itself… I take my stand with a quotation from an impeccably traditional witness, Augustine, who wrote, “Whoever, therefore, thinks that he understands the divine Scriptures or any part of them so that it does not build the double love of God and of neighbor does not understand it at all” (Christian Doctrine 1.35.40).

c. 1480

c. 1480 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By this light, any interpretation of Scripture that hurts people, oppresses people, or destroys people cannot be the right interpretation, no matter how traditional, historical, or exegetically respectable.

I came across this quote recently from another blog.  While it may sound “nice” and “good” – I believe that it is fundamentally flawed.

The book of Jeremiah tells us that “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (17:9)

Now that may hurt some people.  Most of us like to think that we are honest, that we have good intentions, that our hearts are pure.  I usually think I am a pretty good guy.  I try to be honest and obey the law and do good things.  I like to feel good about myself.

BUT – when I am really honest, when I truly examine my soul, I find that Jeremiah is right.  I am not really that honest.  I even lie to God on a regular basis (how dumb is that?) with prayers like, “God, the thing I want most is to follow you.”  I’m terrified that God will say one day, “Fine, if that is what you want the most, I want you to give up coffee, fast for 40 days, sell all your possessions and give them all away to the poor and follow me.”

We are not honest people.  If you have ever been pulled over by police for speeding, you know that they ask you a question like, “Do you know why I pulled you over?”  How many of you have answered that honestly?  “Yes office, you caught me on your radar gun.  If you have shot it at me last night though, you would have gotten me for 20 miles an hour over – not just 10.  And by the way, I didn’t use a turn signal as required by law and I tailgated the person in front of me.”

How about good intentions?  Do you have good intentions in everything you do?  At best, you might honestly say, “Sometimes” or “Well, they are not intentionally bad.”  Usually our intentions are neither good nor bad, they just are.  We are not thinking about glorifying God or helping others – we just want to get our own way.

Let jump to another thought. “ any interpretation of Scripture that hurts people” – Jesus made all kinds of hurtful statements.  John the baptizer called people a bunch of snakes.  Wow!  I guess we better cut those things out of the Bible.  It hurts people to be called out for sin and evil.  We can’t say anything that might make Hitler or Stalin feel bad.

Mussolini (left) and Hitler sent their armies ...

Mussolini (left) and Hitler sent their armies to North Africa and into Egypt against the British (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you take out all of the commands to REPENT and TURN FROM YOUR WICKED WAYS from the Bible, you are basically left with a bunch of stories and a message like, “I’m OK, you’re OK”.

Jesus Christ Crucifix

Jesus Christ Crucifix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Bible is clear – I’m not OK before God and you are not OK before God without God’s work and intervention.  In fact, we are so bad and so guilty – the only thing that would make it right is the death of Jesus Christ, the lamb slain before the foundations of the world.

Will God ever pass judgment?  Will God ever hold a person to account for their sins?  Will God be the one to decide right and wrong – will we continue to swallow the lie that was first told in the Garden of Eden, “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5).

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Lectionary thoughts for July 22 – 2 Samuel 7:1-15

What is intrinsically good, and what is viewed as being for God’s glory, is not necessarily God’s will

English: Nathan advises King David

English: Nathan advises King David (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This statement is one of the harder ones for us to believe and appreciate in our lives.  That is intrinsically good – how could that NOT be God’s will.  Doesn’t He want all things that are good?  And how could it be that something that is being done for God’s glory AND which is good –  how could that not be God’s will.

That is one of the messages we find as we look at the passage from 2 Samuel 7.  David started out as a shepherd boy.  Then Samuel the prophet chose David to be the replacement for Saul.  David was both small and young. He wasn’t the obvious choice, but he was God’s choice.

Eventually David was placed on the throne in Jerusalem and God gave David victory over all of his enemies.  Second Samuel 8, shows all the nations that surrounded Israel were defeated by David. God gave him victory, God established his kingdom, and now in chapter 7, verse 1 David was sitting in his house, in peace after all the battles and labors and he’s thinking about what he’ll do next.

In this passage, David is sitting in his palace, thinking with zeal in his heart for God about how to glorify God. He has glorified God through his victories on the battlefield and now he wants to glorify God in a different way so he turns to the prophet Nathan and says: ‘I’ve a desire in my heart to glorify God. I live in a palace made with cedar, but the ark of God is sitting outside in a tent, uncovered by a ceiling of cedar. Why should I live in my house and the ark God be out in the open?‘. Nathan tells him: ‘You do whatever is in your heart. The desire that you find within your soul, you carry it out‘, and then Nathan goes away and God’s still small voice speaks to him and tells him, ‘No! David is not to build the temple. Go back to David and tell him that he is not to build the temple‘. You can just imagine how David felt when Nathan told him: ‘You’re not the man, you’re not to do it and it’s not to happen now in your day‘. But then God tells David: ‘I’m going to do something greater. You think you are going to build my house – no, I’m going to build you a house‘.

Let’s look at what we can learn from this passage.  First, look at the heart of David in verses 1 and 2.  David has a zealous heart. And even though what he wants to do is intrinsically good, (protecting the ark, building a temple for God, etc.) and he is planning on this for God’s glory, this is not necessarily God’s will. David has a zealous heart.  He’s finished all his labors, he’s sitting in his palace, and he” and his battles, and he’s thinking about God and how he can glorify God. How often do you spend your leisure time thinking about God and how often do you spend your time thinking about yourself.  Someone once said you can tell if you are in love when you spend more time thinking about the one you love than yourself.  David loved God.

Notice also the company David kept when he was relaxing, God’s prophet, Nathan.  We are molded by our friends and the company we keep. David was molded by Nathan. David’s ambition wasn’t selfish, it was righteous. David’s desire was good and holy.  He wanted to protect the ark of the covenant which signified the presence of God and glorify God.  David, at the age of 40, wanted to bring a great name to his God.

He had his palace and now he wanted a temple for God. Many folks go into the Christian life or work and build a palace for  themselves but nothing for God. We all face the temptation to build empires for our name and reputation and the worship and praise and respect and reverence of God is missing.  This wasn’t the case for David. David had been blessed.  He was sitting in a palace, his enemies had been defeated,  and he’s rich. But this success didn’t spoil his his walk with God. While we don’t like to believe it, blessings more often then adversity, make us forget God.

So how did David make a wrong decision? There are several rules to help us know the will of God in our life: First is the word of God, second the counsel of wise believers, third the witness of the Holy Spirit, fourth circumstances and fifth, reason. That being said, we still cannot put God in a box and say this is proof of what God’s will is.  David had all of these, but he still made a wrong decision.

In Deuteronomy 12:10-11 it says, ‘ But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and he will give you rest from all your enemies around you so that you will live in safety.  Then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name —there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the Lord.‘ This may well have been what David had in mind as he rested and meditated on the word of God.  God had said, once in the promised land, after all the enemies were defeated, He would make a place for His name to dwell’.  This is the word of God.

In 1 Chronicles 16 shows that David had appointed certain people to minister before the ark of God.  This temple service, until the destruction of Herod’s temple in 70AD, was established by David. Now he was waiting for a place where the name of God would be, and he was actively creating the circumstances around him to facilitate that goal.

In 1 Chronicles 23:2-5, you find 24,000 Levites, 6000 officials and judges, 4000 gatekeepers, and 4000 musicians.  All of these would have needed housing and many of them a building to work in and to carry out their sacrifices.  David probably looked at the word of God, looked at the circumstances around him of the need that there was, and said to himself: ‘It must be time for God to create a house for Himself!’.  Scripture, circumstances, the witness in his own heart, reason and even Godly counsel all said he was going the right direction.  He had desire to see God dwell in a permanent house and not in a tent.  He thought, “God doesn’t have a house but I do!” A. W. Pink notes in his book, “The Life of David” that ‘Thousands of professing Christians think more about the welfare of their pet dogs than they do in seeing the need, and spend more time in the upkeep of their motor cars than they do in support of the work of the Lord‘.  But not David.

There is nothing here to criticize David for in this passage.  But even though the Word of God, godly counsel, the witness of the Spirit, circumstances and reason told him that he was right –  he was wrong. Nathan, who was meant to guide him in the right direction failed him in one way. Nathan said to the king: ‘Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you‘. You can find an account of this situation also in 2 Chronicles 6:8 and here you find that God said this to David: ‘Because it was in your heart to build a temple for my Name, you did well to have this in your heart.’ David wanted to build a temple, Nathan told him go ahead, and  God, later on said ‘You did well to have this in your heart’. So what was wrong? Jeremiah says that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked – who can know it? What David wanted was good, it was to the glory of God, it seemed to be a needed, but at that moment in time it was not the will of God. David had a heart after good at that moment, but he didn’t have a heart after God.

Neither Nathan nor David consulted God. How many good, sincere Christians are busy doing good for God without consulting God about He wants? At that moment in time, for David to build the temple was not God’s will. Get godly guidance, check the Scriptures, use your reason – but make sure you go to God as well!

In verses 4-7, God redirects David.  In these verses, God asked him two questions. First he asked the question,  ‘David, are you the one to build that house?’ and then He asked, ‘Why have I never asked another leader in Israel to build a house, if I wanted a house?’. What God was saying to David was ‘Not you!’ and ‘Not now!’. This is a hard thing to hear from God when you want to do something for the glory of God: ‘No! It’s not you and it’s not now!’.  ‘Not you!’ is the message that John the Baptist had to agree to when he said these words: ‘He must increase and I must decrease’.

What would you do if God spoke to you that you worth in the eyes of men would decrease and that someone else was going to come along and take your place.  If that was God’s will for you, could you accept it? It’s hard to turn from ‘I am the one‘ to ‘I am not the one‘.

How do we react when God says ‘No’ to us in illness, or sorrow, or singleness, or wealth, or ministry.  It’s hard to take ‘No’ and ‘Not now’ – for are impatient. We want everything now and the hardest thing to do is to wait on God when He says ‘Wait’ because it means we can’t do anything. We can’t pray, we can’t work, because God told us to wait on Him, to be still and to know that He is God.

But David’s disappointment was God’s great appointment. David wanted to build a temple for God, and God said to David, ‘No! You’re not going to build Me a house, I’m going to build you a house!’. What do you do when God says ‘No’? Sulk? Doubt? Turn your back on God? Run back into the world? Everything depends on your reaction to God when God says ‘No’.   Look at how David reacted in verse 18.  He went in and sat before the LORD in the tent.  It was there he remembered all that God had done for him.  And God would also remind us: ‘Do you remember where you came from? Do you remember your sin? Do you remember where I brought you from and where I’ve taken you? Do you remember all the blessings that I have blessed you with? Even though I am saying ‘No’ to you today, I want to reassure you that I’ve something greater for you!’.  Maybe what David was thinking was this: ‘I’m going to die and I’ll never see the temple!’. Maybe you’re thinking, ‘Will I die and never see my son saved, my daughter come to Christ?’ – what does it matter, if God does save them?

Look at David’s 1 Chronicles 29:2-3.  From that moment on he began with all his might to gather together materials for the temple. God told him, ‘No, you can’t do it’. So he said, ‘Who’s going to do it?’, and God said, ‘Your son’, so David thinks, ‘Then I’ll help him with all my might’. That’s some spirit. David didn’t know why God said ‘No’ – and maybe you don’t! – but several years later God brought David in and told him why. ‘You were to fight for Me David, but your son will build for Me. You have blood on your hands but this temple is to be a place of peace and rest, so you can’t build it’. And David believed the word of God.   There will come a day, whether you’re here on earth at the time or whether you’re gone, when it’ll all be made plain.

There is a story of E. M. Bounds, author of ‘Power Through Prayer’. E.M. Bounds had two sons, one of his sons was a believer and the other was not. E. M. Bounds died at the age of 90 – and his son that was not saved, lived to the age of 90 and didn’t get saved until he was 90! But Bounds had prayed, God had promised and God provided. Trust God with the desires of your heart and believe!

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Tickets bought

English: An Air China Boeing 747 taking off fr...

English: An Air China Boeing 747 taking off from Beijing Capital Airport (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Until money has exchanged hands, most things are still up in the air.

I guess it’s official then.  We’ve bought tickets and put down money.  We will be leaving LAX on Air China on August 31 around 1:30 in the afternoon.  We will arrive in Wunan about 17 hours later at 9 pm local time or 8 am Missouri time.

There will be someone at the airport holding a sign with our name.  It will take about 1.4 hours to get to our apartment.

There is so much to do but regardless, we will be in China 42 days from today.

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James 1:9 Does God love me if I’m poor?

But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; and the rich man  is to glory  in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away. (James 1:9-11 NASB)

The Poor Lazarus at the Rich Man's Door

The Poor Lazarus at the Rich Man’s Door (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How do you respond to your circumstances?  Are you looking at the outside of the cup to determine if what is inside is any good?  In this passage, James speaks to two groups of believers on the need to keep the right perspective on lfe and life’s circumstances.1.  Woe is me – God doesn’t love me because I’m poor!Are their “true”, “faithful”, “spiritual” believers who are living in poverty? Yes.  Both in the New Testament times and today there were true believers who were “in humble circumstances”, that is, were poor people. They were godly. They loved the Lord Jesus Christ. They obeyed God, but they were poor

Why were they poor?  Maybe it was famine which had destroyed all their crops and all their reserves. Some had lost everything because of their walk with the Lord Jesus. Some were Jewish Christians who were the casualties of cruel persecution. They had become homeless refugees. They had lost everything for the sake of the Messiah, and were uncertain where their next meal was coming from. Some had incurable diseases and were in the last years of their lives, while others had weak personalities, the victims of abuse, cripplingly withdrawn.

Jesus spoke of a Christian called Lazarus. All he had was a little begging corner at which he asked people for money. Too ill to work, with no-one to support him, he was covered in sores which dogs licked.There are today, brothers and sisters in Kenya whose families have been destroyed by AIDS and with very little but a patch of land they are trying to educate, clothe and feed a dozen children. Visit a Christian orphanage in Uganda, or watch some of the redeemed street children of Manila and you are confronted with a Christian poverty of staggering dimensions.

There are many potential dangers facing poor people. Poverty is not a safe place to be. There are no automatic benefits from being poor. Poverty can embitter. It can make a Christian discontented, complaining, and self-pitying. Fear, worry, envy, and self-righteousness can spoil a poor Christian. Children of poor Christian parents can bring special pains in the heart.  “All the other kids are going on the field trip. Why can’t I go?” “I can’t wear that,” a teenager will say, about perfectly good clothes, because those colours, that design is out of date. Those athletic shoes are good enough to last another couple of years, and were very expensive last year, but this year they are out of style. They are the wrong make, and the wrong design. It is not easy for Christians in humble circumstances.

What does the Bible say to a Christian who is broke and suffering? Listen to the two things James says:

1. BE AWARE OF YOUR HIGH POSITION.

Think of Lazarus’s position: his home was a pavement: he was in constant pain. But what was his true position? Do you measure it by his possessions, and his outward circumstances, and his bodily comforts alone?

He was loved by God from the foundation of the earth. In eternity he was given by God the Father to the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved and kept by him. God then called Lazarus into fellowship with Christ. He had given Lazarus a new heart, made him a new creature, gave him the gift of faith, pardoned all his sins. Lazarus was a forgiven man. God had adopted Lazarus into his family and made him a son of God, a joint heir with Christ. He had ended sin’s reign over Lazarus and liberated him. Though he were a beggar he was free. The rich man in his house was a slave to his sins – with all his millions. Lazarus was joined to Jesus Christ. The Son of God lived in him, and he in the Son of God

This poor man was actually a glorified man. Paul put it this way in Romans 8:30, “and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”(Romans 8:30 NASB).

The hope of glory has actually become a present reality because glorification is as certain as anything else that God does. So the Scripture does not say “will glorify” but “the Christian IS glorified” – it’s done. In Christ, Lazarus is seated at the right hand of God. That is his high position. This phrase, “high position” is used in the New Testament to describe the heavenly realms to which Christ has ascended. It describes the place from which the Holy Spirit descends. It is the place from which we await the appearing of the Lord Jesus who will then transform a sore-covered body licked by dogs into a body of glory. This place of glory was Lazarus’s home. Think of the elite addresses in the world.  What high position does Lazarus live in? The right hand of God! The heavenly places in Christ Jesus! That is really where he lives.

Think of the knowledge that Lazarus has.  He knew who God is and knew who man is. He knew that this is a God-designed and a God-created and a God-sustained world.  It was made as part of the beauty of the world to show the grandeur of its Creator.  Lazarus could see the flowers that grew in the dust around him and the stars in their loveliness. “I can understand why they are made,” he could say. Jesus tells us that it’s God who clothes the grass of the field. The heavens declare the glories of my Lord and Saviour. In the biggest things of life the poor man in Christ has a greater knowledge that Einstein.

There are biologists who know much about a flower but they don’t know why it is.  Because they don’t know God, they don’t know themselves and they don’t know the flower. But a humble believer in her garden actually knows the Creator of those living things and can talk to him and thank him for all he has made. That is something to rejoice in.

The poor man also knew the God of providence. He knew that God is working all things together for his good, that this God so loved him that every hair of his head was numbered. There were things that had happened to Lazarus that had brought him to the dreadful poverty in which he found himself. Maybe his parents had died when he was child. Things had been tough for him and he did not know all the reasons why, but he knew that one day God would make it plain.Lazarus could trust the Lord. This Shepherd would supply all his needs. Nothing would separate him from God’s love. Whatever forces came into his life he wouldn’t just conquer them, he’d be more than conqueror. This poor man could talk to the Lord, and he would hear and answer.That is the high position which every Christian of humble circumstances enjoys?

James goes on to the second thing. He says

2. BOAST IN THIS!”

Take pride in your high position.” “Glory in his high position.”

James tells the poor man, “you are in a high position and when you’ve realised this you’ll show it by delighting in it. “You ought to take pride in it,” he says. “You ought to feel so good about it.” All these truths about our status in Christ build up our morale, they make us encouraged. James is thinking of the poor believers and he wants them to be renewed daily. He wants what they know to make them happy. Barnabas was not a great preacher or evangelist or theologian, but he had this reputation of being a son of encouragement. He lifted people up wherever he went. People felt strong whenever he visited their church. They felt they could cope with their trials; they could stand in an evil day; they could overcome. James was acting like Barnabas here.James says, “Take pride in your high position.” Boast about it. Glory in God’s love for you, Christ dying for you, the Holy Spirit indwelling you. God wants that.

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, in the opening verses, spoke to his disciples, and he said to them, “YOU are the light of the world. YOU are the salt of the earth.” Those 11 men were deeply flawed. They had no qualifications. They had not proved themselves. They had not preached any sermons. They had not suffered much for Christ. Yet he says to them, “You are the salt of the earth.” That was their high position.

Wasn’t there the danger of their pride in their position becoming pride in themselves? Yes but, it exists in all of biblical Christianity. Because salvation is by grace alone there is the danger of us saying, “Let’s sin more and more to give grace plenty of scope.”  There are dangers, but the Lord still said to them, “You are the light of the world.” And James says very carefully to this poor man, “Take pride in your high position.” God doesn’t mind us taking pride about what Christ has done for us. He doesn’t mind us glorying in the cross. Jesus said to these men, “I call you my friends. You really matter to me” Paul praises the congregations he writes to for their labor and love and patience and hope. They are Christian graces. They are created by the Holy Spirit. And he tells them how much he’s thrilled by their steadfastness. “We are being steadfast? That’s the first we heard of it.” Now that is not going to fill them with arrogance because it’s only because of God they produce steadfastness.

James is writing to this man who is nothing in the eyes of the world – they believe he is a crank,  but he matters to God and he matters to the people of God. And James wants all these people to take pride in God’s love for them and all he has done.This is not the teaching of the self-esteem movement. James is not saying, “Poor man you are great in yourself. Love yourself. Feel good about yourself.” He is lifting this man up to the heavenlies. He is reminding Lazarus of his status in Christ. This man can only boast in the Lord, and take pride in what God has done for him. “I the chief of sinners am but Jesus died for me.”

The poet Shelley’s wrote about a traveller who had been to an antique land and there in its vast sands he had come across the ruins of a huge monument – “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone stand in the desert.” That’s all that’s left of what was once a huge imposing statue. The legs of someone. It’s a ruin. Then the traveller looked and saw there was an inscription. It said these words, “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings. Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.” Even the man’s name has been forgotten. “Ozymandias”? “King of kings “? He’s nothing. He’s nobody. He is utterly insignificant, forgotten by history. That’s the real message of the statue. This man once boasted in himself, and was proud of himself and everything he had done. He actually esteemed himself so highly that he had this statue erected. Now what remains of this man? Shelley says, “Nothing beside remains. Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away.”

Don’t merely accept yourself as a man. That’s the message of humanism. That’s what Ozymandias did. God says, “Let not the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches. But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD” (Jer.9:23). Accept yourself in Christ, James says, and take pride in this. “He loved me and gave himself for me.” Boast in that. Look at verse 5 in the next chapter. James says, “Listen my dear brothers. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him” (James 2:5)

Only one life, ’twill soon be past;

Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Original message by GEOFF THOMAS August 2 1998http://www.alfredplacechurch.org.uk/Sermons/james4.htm

Edited by standrewscumberland

Categories: Bible Study, James | 1 Comment

Coming to God on God’s Terms – Leviticus 1

English: High priest offering a sacrifice of a...

English: High priest offering a sacrifice of a goat, as on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur; from Henry Davenport Northrop, “Treasures of the Bible,” published 1894 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Leviticus is a book that is seldom studied – yet it contains the second greatest command according to Jesus.  “Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Leviticus 19:18.  This is going to be an attempt to put up some reasonable commentary about a book that truly is difficult to understand.  Original material from Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III and edited by standrewscumberland – link to original at bottom.

Leviticus and the second half of Exodus are linked together.  The second half of Exodus deals with the tabernacle.  Then, at the end of the book (the tabernacle, sitting right in the middle of the camp) is filled with the glory of God.  Exodus 40:34-35 says, “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.  And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” This tabernacle was sitting right in the middle of Irael and the. Awesome glory of the Lord was filling it.  It was so great that even Moses was unable to enter it.  And if Moses was unable to enter the tabernacle, the the questin that needed to be answered is this: “How is ny other person supposed to relate to this God in the middle of the camp.  That is what the book of Leviticus is all about.

The book of Leviticus can be divided into 2 sections.

  • Chapters 1-16: Teaching on 4 subjects:
  • Chapters 17-27: The holiness code for Israel.

Chapters 1-16

  • Chapters 1-7 discusses regulations about the five great sacrifices.  These are gone over twice; first in chapters 1-5 and a second time in chapters 6-7.The first time, they are described based upon what’s needed for the one who wants to offer a sacrifice (the one who needs to be atoned for, the one who wants to come into fellowship with God, or the one who wants to thank God.)The second time, it describes what are the requirements of the priest who is handling the offering or sacrifice.  This way you not only get a different perspective, but also a fuller understanding of what’s going on.These sacrifices are individual and they were voluntary.  “When any man of you brings a sacrifice….”  This is a personal sacrifice that takes place when a person feels the need.
  • In chapters 8-10, there is the formal initiation of the Aaronic priesthood.
  • In chapters 11-15 there is teaching on what is clean and unclean.
  • In chapter 16, there are the rituals of the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur.
6 functions of the ceremonial system.  
  • 1) Help people experience the presence of God.  Three times in chapter 1, it says that God was pleased with the soothing aroma of the sacrifice, and that the believer was found acceptable and was able to draw near to Him. The sacrificial system was designed to allow people to draw near and experience the presence of the Lord.  The purpose of the tabernacle being in the middle of camp was so that the people of Israel would always remember that God was present.

When God was about to destroy the people after the golden calf incident and then relented after Moses’ prayer, he said, “OK, I won’t destroy them, but I won’t go up with them—I’ll clear the way before them, but I won’t go up with them.”  Moses then prayed, “Lord, if You’re not going to go up with us, if You’re not going to be right in our midst, then just kill us here.” (paraphrase).  The tabernacle was the visible proof that God was there and the ceremonial system was the way people could experience that presence.  By doing sacrifices, you got to draw near to the tabernacle, which was near the Holy of Holies, the focal point of the presence of God.

  • 2) Provide a way to give thanks to God.  A thankful heart is a contented heart, and a thankful heart helps people endure times in which things are not going our way.  The people of Israel would need this to endure the many difficult times ahead. One of the quickest ways to ruin your experience of blessing is to not thank God in a tangible way.  The ceremonial system in  one of the five sacrifices, was designed to cultivate thankfulness.
  • 3) Renew fellowship with God.  There was a sacrifice in the first five sacrifices that was specifically designed to allow the believer to renew fellowship with God.
  • 4) Deepen the believer’s prayer life. 
  • 5) Show the need for forgiveness.  As Christians, we see that the ceremonial system also pointed to the way that those sins would be forgiven.
  • 6) Bring the whole congregation into contact with the tabernacle.  This would happen not only during  during the festivals but also at different times during the ordinary course of life. It was an invitation from God: “Draw near to Me, my people, and bring to Me these sacrifices.”
The Tabernacle, Camp, & c.

The Tabernacle, Camp, & c. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now to Chapter 1.

1 The Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting. He said, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When anyone among you brings an offering to the Lord, bring as your offering an animal from either the herd or the flock.

“‘If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you are to offer a male without defect. You must present it at the entrance to the tent of meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord. You are to lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on your behalf to make atonement for you. You are to slaughter the young bullbefore the Lord, and then Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and splash it against the sides of the altar at the entrance to the tent of meeting. You are to skin the burnt offering and cut it into pieces. The sons of Aaron the priest are to put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. Then Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, including the head and the fat, on the wood that is burning on the altar. You are to wash the internal organs and the legs with water, and the priest is to burn all of it on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.

10 “‘If the offering is a burnt offering from the flock, from either the sheep or the goats, you are to offer a male without defect. 11 You are to slaughter it at the north side of the altar before the Lord, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall splash its blood against the sides of the altar. 12 You are to cut it into pieces, and the priest shall arrange them, including the head and the fat, on the wood that is burning on the altar. 13 You are to wash the internal organs and the legs with water, and the priest is to bring all of them and burn them on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.

14 “‘If the offering to the Lord is a burnt offering of birds, you are to offer a dove or a young pigeon. 15 The priest shall bring it to the altar, wring off the head and burn it on the altar; its blood shall be drained out on the side of the altar.16 He is to remove the crop and the feathers and throw them down east of the altar where the ashes are. 17 He shall tear it open by the wings, not dividing it completely, and then the priest shall burn it on the wood that is burning on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.

Verses 1 and 2 is an introduction to the whole book and especially chapters 1-7.  The people of God are still at Sinai having previously worshiped another god but now having experienced God coming into the tabernacle. God is now speaking to Moses and giving him instructions for how the people and priests are to draw near to Him.

Verses 3-9 are the start of instructions about burnt offerings.  The burnt offerings are also called the holocaust offering because the whole thing goes up in smoke before the Lord.

We have four sections:

  • The introduction (1 and 2).
  • Instruction about the burnt offering of the herd (verses 3-9);
  • Instructions about the burnt offering that comes from the flock (verses 10-13);
  • Instructions about the burnt offering of birds (verses 14-17).

These are all the same offering.  There are different types of burnt offerings which are acceptable from the people of God because of economic status.  Some were rich and could offer a burnt offering from the herd and some were poor and all they could offer is the burnt offering of birds. So God made provision so that everyone in Israel, from richest to poorest, was able to make a burnt offering if they desired.

Now notice again, in verse 1 we read:

“Then the Lord called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting, saying,  “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When any man of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or the flock.”

Verses 10-17: 2 lessons

God cares how we worship Him.

The voluntary, personal, and spontaneous nature of these sacrifices speaks of heart motivation to worship God.  This book, just like in the second half of the book of Exodus—was concerned to teach that God cares how we worship Him.  Notice the detail in this first chapter.  God told them where to slaughter the animal; where to put its blood; how to divide it or not to divide it; He went into minute detail because He cares how we worship Him.

The book of Hebrews says that this ceremonial ritual has now been transcended in Jesus Christ, but the principle is still there.  David Peterson, the Anglican Bible scholar defines worship from his study of Hebrews this way:  “Worship is engaging with God on the terms that He proposes, and by the means which only He can provide.”

You could use that definition for Leviticus.  The principle is the same: we come near to God on his terms.  We don’t come in any way we choose.  We come on the basis of the term that He proposes, and through the means which He alone makes possible.  ‘Come to me and I will receive you,” He says, ‘if you come with this burnt offering, with this atoning sacrifice which is to be lifted up to Me.’

We learn here that God cares about how we worship.  That’s not just an Old Testament principle, that’s a New Testament principle.  You can’t say,  “I want to be a friend of God, but you know, I’m just a little iffy about Jesus.  Jesus is a wonderful man, great moral prophet, but I can’t believe that He’s the sinless Son of God and Savior of sinners.  I’ll come to God some other way.”  Worship is engaging with God on the terms that He proposes, and by the means which He alone makes possible.  No man comes to the Father but by the Son, and it is Jesus’ very fulfillment of this sacrificial system that establishes that truth beyond all question of recall.

So there’s the first thing:  God cares about how we worship Him.

The Lord accepts and communes with those who come into His presence through the death of an atoning sacrifice.

Let’s look in some detail at verses 3-9.  Notice three or four things about this passage.

First of all, this burnt offering is sometimes called the holocaust, coming from the Hebrew olah, to refer to this burning, and the smoke going up to the Lord of this sacrifice.  It all goes up in smoke.

This is the only one of the five great sacrifices that is wholly given over to the Lord.  The other sacrifices have parts of those sacrifices that are held back for the priests, or even shared in by the one offering the sacrifice. This sacrifice is wholly given to the Lord.  It is wholly consumed before the Lord, and it is clear that this sacrifice indicates that no one can approach  or be  acceptable to the Lord, without a substitutionary sacrifice.

“If his offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he shall offer it a male without defect; he shall offer it at the doorway of the tent of meeting, that he may be accepted before the Lord.  He shall lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, that it may be accepted for him to make atonement on his behalf.” (verse 3)

The main function of this sacrifice was to render atonement or render propitiation or to quit the righteous wrath of God. Yahweh is a God that you cannot commune with in your sin and defilement.  But He made provision through this  sacrifice so one who desired to come into the presence of the Lord and commune with Him could.

 What about the blood of the sacrifice?  The blood is the life force of us and it is the life force of the animal.  Draining the blood assured the death of the animal.

It is significant that there was always two parts to every sacrifice of an animal, the blood and the body.

Jesus on the night in which He was given up said: “This is My body, which is given for you.  This is My blood of the covenant, which was poured out for you.”  Jesus was speaking of Himself and about His death in the terms of the two parts of the Old Testament levitical sacrifice of the burnt offering.  Jesus was explaining His death and the significance of it to His disciples in terms which were unmistakable.  We lay our hands upon that sacrifice as we enter into the tent of meeting, and when we do so, we own that that animal is our property, and that that animal symbolizes us.  It is our symbolic substitute. And that we are offering ourselves symbolically through that animal.

Paul’s wrote in Romans 12:1-2:  “Render yourself as a living sacrifice, acceptable to God….”  Paul is drawing on this very language, out of the book of Leviticus and the Old Covenant sacrificial system.

One final question: Why were there different kinds of offerings?  We have them from the herd, from the flock, and from birds. Two reasons:  one, so that everyone in Israel, rich or poor, could offer; secondly, and just as importantly, because the principle is established in the sacrificial system that no one should come to God with a sacrifice that costs him nothing.  And so, the beginning of the teaching of God of the costliness of the ultimate sacrifice begins here.

May we always be willing to offer God that which cost us!

You can read the original, unedited versin of ths sermon here:

http://www.fpcjackson.org/resources/sermons/Leviticus/Leviticus%20V.1/01a_leviticus_1117.ht

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