Archive for November, 2011

Hope Is A Wonderful Word

November 30, 2011

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,” Hebrews 6:19.

This morning, I found myself engaged in a subject matter that often is a source of confusion for many people.  The subject is “Hope.”  The word hope is defined as, “A confident expectation of the future.”  This confidence comes as a result of someone or something we place great trust in.

For example, “Many people place the hope of their retirement benefits in the hands of the government.”  But for those of us who are 40 and younger, there is little hope that this Social Security System will still be in place when we reach retirement.  So our hope must be placed somewhere else.

Still others place their hope in the stock market.  But as the stock market is certainly suspect today, many find themselves stressed about losing hope.

The list could go on and on.  Our’s is a world filled with people and ideals that boast of hope.  However, little hope can be found in things that will not last.

However there is a place where true hope resides.  This hope is found in Jesus Christ.  The writer of Hebrews illustrates this hope as being “A steadfast anchor.”  In the storms of life, it is Christ that anchors us to safety as well as calmness.

R.C. Sproul writes, “Though the Christian life is marked more by suffering than by triumph (Acts 14:22) our hope is sure and our mood should be free from despair (I John 4:18).  

This very day, I have a blessed hope that causes me to have perfect peace in all I face.  This blessed hope gives me perfect perspective in all I face.  This blessed hope gives me perfected praise of my Lord in the midst of a world that has no hope.

This very day, I realize when I find myself with anxiety that I have moved away from my blessed hope. In these moments I have chosen to allow my mind to be pulled away from the truth and now I believe a lie that says, “You do not have an anchor.”

So during this Christmas season, celebrate the hope that has come.  Proclaim His message with all you meet.  Throw the anchor out and see what the Lord will do.  Finally confess your failure to trust in His hope and today perfect your mind in believing in hope (I John 4:18).

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Where Did That Come From?

November 29, 2011

“You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you.  You shall not walk in their statutes.” Leviticus 18:3

Recently I was talking with a brother in our church about a particular instance in one of my children’s lives. It was a small thing, but as we talked I asked my friend, “I wonder where this child got this concept from?”  Quickly my friend responded, “Pastor, they got it from you.”

Daily our lives reflect connections with many different things and many different relationships.  Consider God’s word to Israel in Leviticus 18.  Here is a nation of people who had been chosen by God to be His people for His glory.  They had been redeemed from Egypt and they were going to be given a land flowing with milk and honey.

Along the way, God intended for His people to walk in a different way.  This really is the why of all of Moses instructions in Leviticus 17-20 and following.  In these chapters we discover how Israel was to honor God in their sacrifices, chapter 17.  We discover how Israel was to honor God in their stand against the depravity of their neighbors, chapter 18.  We discover how Israel was to honor God in their relationships with their neighbors, chapter 19.  Finally we discover how Israel was to honor God in their family and before men, chapter 20.

I must confess, as I read these chapters, I felt the enormous weight of all they were required to do.  Here was my conclusion, “Even the best of men are flawed.” The writer of the book of Hebrews comments concerning the priest, “He himself is beset with weakness.” 5:2

This very day I realize God has given us an assignment to no longer live like we did (In Egypt) before being redeemed by the blood of Christ.  This day I realize God has given us an assignment to never live like the world we are in.  And finally the greatest realization is that in Christ we can accomplish this task.  “He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,” 5:9.

The key for our lives as followers of Christ is to obey him.  This is impossible without a daily diet of feasting in his word.  Unless we are daily feasting in his word we will find ourselves living in our former way or we will find ourselves slipping into the trap of this present world that is filled with depravity.

May we heed God’s direction to Israel and to the church by both feasting in and obeying His word.  “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil,” Hebrews 5:14.  

Who’s going to clean me up?

November 28, 2011

“He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease.  He is unclean.  He shall live alone.  He dwelling shall be outside the gate.” Leviticus 13:46

Late one evening, this past week, I stepped out onto our back porch.  This is something that I seldom get to do these days.  I was going to sit down and just take in a few minutes of peace and quite. But there before me was something that needed attention, our grill.  Sherry, had graciously cooked on the grill and had forgotten to put the cover back on the grill.  So being a kind, gracious, and loving (Well maybe not always) husband, I started to put the cover on the grill.  But as I started, I suddenly noticed how dirty the grill was.  I said to myself, “Wow, this grill need’s to be cleaned.”  Then sadness came, because I am the one who is responsible to clean the grill.  Oh how I wished there was someone else who would take this assignment.

I assume this must have been the way the lepers must have felt in the time of the writing of Leviticus.  Because of their disease, they had to remain away from other people.  Their lives were lived in seclusion outside the camp.  Unless healing came (cleaned up) they were destined to finish their life in their darkened state.  However there was hope!!!

Leviticus 14 gives us the laws concerning the cleansing of lepers.  “This shall be the law of the leprous person for the day of his cleansing,” 14:2.  In one chapter we move from his or her leprosy to his or her restoration inside the camp.  For me, the question arose “Who does the healing?”  The fact is, only God could heal the leper.

This morning, what some would call, a boring part of scripture leaped to life as I saw the true picture that was pointing to the coming of Christ.  Here is how the writer of Hebrews clarifies the picture, “So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood,” Hebrews 13:12.

This morning I realize I cannot clean myself up in order to be pure before God.  There must be one who does this for me.  His name is Jesus Christ.  This truth is so amazing because just like that grill, I cannot be cleaned on my own.  And just like the grill, no human being can clean me up to what I was before I was tainted by sin.  Certainly I will try my best to clean up our grill, but there will still be dirty spots.

However, consider Jesus.  His work in our life is a perfect work.  When we come to Christ in repentance, Christ blood is applied to our sin.  Our Great High Priest declares us clean, not by our merit but by His own precious blood.

Brethren this is good news for people who cannot get beyond their past.  This is good news for people who cannot see themselves forgiven.  This is good news for people who daily fail.  Praise God for His cleansing!!!

Black Friday

November 25, 2011

“Because of this he is obligated to offer sacrifice for his own sins just as he does for those of the people,” Hebrews 5:3.

This morning, I am sure that many people arose along while before daylight to stand in endless lines to get the perfect gift at the discount price.  Some will return home feeling like a champion who has returned home from battle with the prize they fought to win.  Others will return home dejected that what they wanted was won by some one else or they discover what they wanted was not what was offered.  So goes the life of Americans who buy into the craze of Black Friday shopping.

This morning, after daylight, I arose to a black Friday passage of scripture, Leviticus 8-10.  These chapters tell the story of Moses inauguration of the priesthood for Israel.  Chapter 8 reminds us that the High-priest would represent Israel before God.  However there is something very black about this.  The priest would have to first make sacrifice for his own sin before he could offer sacrifice for the sins of others, 8:14.  As I read this chapter, I thought, “What kind of mediator do we need?”  In chapter 9 we see the High Priest making sacrifice for both his sins and for the sins of the people.  In chapter 10 we discover what happens when the sons of the priest offer sacrifices in their own way.  God strikes them with fire and they are consumed in the fire.  Oh what a black day for Israel and oh what a black day it would be for us, if we trusted in men to be our mediators.

However this is not a black day because we as followers of Christ do not trust in ourselves nor do we trust in any man.  We trust in the God/man Jesus Christ who made atonement for our sin.  This is a blessed day because we can rest and rejoice in this truth.

For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.”  Hebrews 7:26.

I encourage each who read this blog to consider, in whom you place your trust.  If you are trusting in your efforts or the prayers of men, it is a black Friday.  However, if you are trusting in Christ alone, it is a blessed Friday.

Now I want to challenge those who trust in other things to turn to Christ alone.  For those who trust in Christ alone, engage those who are in the blackness of sin with the blessed Gospel.

Thanksgiving Pt. 4

November 24, 2011

“Who can discern his errors?  Declare me innocent from hidden faults.  Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!  Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.” Psalm 19:12-13

On this Thanksgiving morning, followers of Christ arise with the blessed assurance that we have been forgiven of our sins. This truth was so clear in my readings in Leviticus 4-7 and Hebrews 2.  In these readings I found great reason to be thankful that in all of the sacrifices we find a picture of Christ sacrifice for our sins.  This day you and I have much to be thankful for.

One of those things, we have to be thankful for, is the blessing of being an American.

Today, is a day that is set aside for every American to be reflect upon the blessing of our heritage.  The Puritan’s certainly came to The America’s to gain a ray of religious freedom, (For this we are thankful), but a deeper study of our history reveal that these people also came with economic overtures as well. The people who came believed they could make a new way of life that included economic prosperity.

Here is what one Historian wrote about the day of Puritanism in America, “The Puritan Revolution in England made little impact on other parts of the country.  By now settlers were more interested in growing tobacco and opening new lands for cultivation than in the religious strife in England.  Their former Puritanism had lost vigor in the midst of economic prosperity.” (The Story Of Christianity, Gonzalez, Pg 221)

Today, on this day of thanksgiving our nation stands at the cross roads of her future.  She has already started down the wrong path and has been on this wrong path for many years.  The question I have is this, “How do we turn it around and get on the right road?”  Some would respond by saying, “We have to go back to our heritage.”

In one sense I would agree, “We need to go back to the days when our nation acknowledged God as the sole source of our success.”  However I would also suggest that we go even father back to the day when Christ came.  I would suggest that this nation needs to come to a place of repentance before God.  We need to come to a place where we submit to Jesus lordship in our lives.

Chapters 4-7 in the book of Leviticus reminds us that at best we are sinners.  At best we can offer sacrifices that could never remedy our sin problem.  However, I have good news,  2000 years ago, Jesus Christ gave us a remedy for our sin problem, “He made propitiation for the sins of the people,” Heb 2:18.

Jesus accomplished in one sacrifice what all the Old Testament sacrifices could not, “Complete forgiveness of sins.”  On this Thanksgiving day, I both pray for repentance and awakening in our nation.  On this Thanksgiving day, I offer thanksgiving to my Lord:

Lord, I thank you that I find total forgiveness in you.  I praise you for the power to overcome sin.  I worship you for winning the victory over death so that I can have eternal life.  You alone are worthy of praise this day.  

Thanksgiving Pt. 2

November 22, 2011

“The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do.” Exodus 36:5

Today, I arose to a new day that according to the word of God is filled with new mercy for this day.  I can honestly say, “I asked the Lord before getting out of bed, ‘What things can I praise you in this day?”

I remind you that we are spending this week in thanksgiving to our Lord. Each day we are choosing a particular thing or things that we can give thanks to the Lord. This morning as I worked my way through Exodus 36-40 I discovered two particular things we need to give thanks for, “A right heart and His presence.”

As Moses gave the command for the people to give for the building of the tabernacle we discover the people’s overwhelming response.  The people gave more than enough.  As I thought about this amazing event, I discovered that on two other occasion’s people gave in this same manner, II Chronicles 31:10; II Cor. 8:2-3.  In each case the people gave because their hearts were given totally to the Lord.  Now here is where the thanksgiving comes in.  I would never be a giver had God not created a new heart within me.  As I read the word, I am reminded of the selfishness in my heart.  I am so thankful that God has given me a giving heart.  He who have everything puts within our hearts the love for giving to others.

The second thing I discovered was the blessing of God’s presence coming down to reside in the tabernacle when it was completed. Chapter 40 ends with God’s presence coming down in the form of a cloud.  There is a line in chapter 40 that amazes me, “Throughout all their journeys…”  God was with Israel and Israel was blessed even in the midst of her often failure of heart.  This morning I want to give thanks to our Great God who dwells in our midst.  I am so thankful that Jesus Christ removed the veil between man and God so that we could worship in His presence.

This very day I want to challenge you to have a spirit of thankfulness for a new heart and for His presence in your life.  By the way, living with a giving heart is an indicator that His presence is in your life.  The opposite is also true.  If you are living with a cold and greedy heart, it is an indicator that God’s presence is not in charge of your life.

Maybe this day should also be about searching your heart and finding a place for repentance in your heart?  If you arose this day without anything to give thanks for, then surely you need self-examination and you need Christ exaltation.

By the way, soon and very soon we will see Him face to face.  “They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.  And night will be no more.  They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”  Revelation 22:4-5.  

A Week Of Thanksgiving Pt 1

November 21, 2011

Behold I will raise up a prophet like you from among their brothers, and I will put my words in his moth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him,” Deut. 18:18.

Recently Sherry and I went through our storage closet looking for things that we could put in a yard sale.  I must say, “I was very thankful to discover that our lives, because of grace, are not filled with hoarding.”  But there is always room for growth in this area.  We also went through our bookshelves to find books that would be good to bless others with.  As I was looking through my library, the Lord reminded me through an old bulletin how I often fail to thank the Lord for all I have been blessed with.

So, I thought it wise and honorable to our Lord if we would spend this week of Thanksgiving doing the very thing we should be doing every week, which is “praising God for all of his blessings.”  So each day this week, we will discuss different things we can be thankful for.

This morning, we want to focus on being thankful for an audience with God the Father.  Brothers and sisters, what an awesome privilege we have in being able to come before the Lord in prayer, but also to live and fellowship with the Lord.

We see this fact in the life of Moses in Exodus 33-36.  Chapter 33 begins with God instruction to Moses in regard to leaving Mount Sina. Here we read heartbreaking words, “I will send and angel before you and drive out your enemy, but I will not go up among you lest I consume you along the way, for you are a stiff-necked people,” Ex. 33:3.  The fact is, Israel sin kept her from walking and talking in fellowship with God.

But thankfully there was one in their midst, Moses, in whom God was pleased.  Moses became this mediator between God and man.  Here is what the bible says about Moses relationship with God, “Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” 33:11

In chapter 34 we find the people watching as Moses would enter the tent of meeting.  The glory of the Lord would come down in the cloud.  God would meet with Moses and the people would worship from afar.  Oh how sad it must have been that these people could not worship face to face before the Lord.  This is the pain of sin in our lives.

However, I have good news.  Because of Jesus, Hebrews 3, 9:16-22, we have access to the Father.  We have an audience with the Father because of the Son. This very day, I praise my Father for the work of His Son so that every believer might pray and talk with the Father.

In a world of loneliness that is very dark, you and I have a friendship with God that is filled with light.  We worship this day in anticipation for the day when we will see Him face to face.  The writer of Revelation describes this as follows, “Behold the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people,” 21:3.

This day I encourage you to spend time:  Praising Him for the honor of an audience.  Praising Him for the honor of answered prayer.  Praising Him for the honor of an unending relationship with Him.

I Cannot Believe It

November 18, 2011

They have deeply corrupted themselves as in the days of Gibeah; he will remember their iniquity; he will punish their sins,” Hosea 9:9.

Even though I have read it many times, I still yet cannot believe it.  I can go as far as to say, “I am almost in a state of shock.”  I mean at best, I could kind of expect it from the followers.  But in no way can I even fathom imaging that leaders could be involved.

At this point, one would have to be asking, “Preacher, what are you referring to?”  Great question, the what I am referring to is the scene in Exodus 32.  Moses had been on the mountain with God for almost 40 days.  At the end of this time, God speaks to Moses about what was going on in the camp of Israel.

“They have turned aside quickly out-of-the-way that I commanded them.  They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshipped it and sacrificed to it,” 32:8.

Brothers and sisters, I cannot believe it.  Here God’s people, only 9 months removed from one of the greatest displays of God’s power in the history of the world and these people have “corrupted themselves.”  Certainly there are many story lines in this chapter and I encourage you to read them all in Exodus 32.  But for our time this morning I challenge you with three-story lines:

The story of God’s indictment:

These people corrupted themselves and God called them on it.  The scriptures are clear, you and I have corrupted ourselves and God has called us on it, Romans 3:23.  This story proves, without a new nature we cannot do anything but live a corrupted life.

The story of Man’s intervention:

Moses knows what God is about to do and he intervenes.  Moses speaks to God about God’s own glory.  What would the world say if God wiped out his own people. In this moment God relents (Human term), but in fact this was Gods plan all along to prove to us: Man’s inability to be different on his own and also God’s ability to create a new man.  

The story of the God/man intervention:

In this chapter Moses offers to give his own life as mediator hoping to make atonement for the people’s sins.  However God says, “They must bear their own sin.”  However there would be one who would come, “The god/man,” who would become the mediator between man and God, I Timothy 2:5.

Jesus would be so different from Moses.  Moses would break the stone tablets in anger and Jesus would himself be broken for our sin.  Moses would make the people drink the bitter cup that contained the melted parts of the golden calf.  Jesus himself would drink the bitter cup of the wrath of God for our sins.

With all of this content before me, I realized what I really cannot believe is how I often have idols other than Christ.  I cannot believe how I sometimes worship the very things that have no value in my life, while the magnificent Christ goes unnoticed in my life.

May this be a day that we will never forget.  May this be a day where we lay down all of our golden calf’s and place Jesus in the place where He belongs in our lives.

 

Do We Have To?

November 17, 2011

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners and purify your hearts, you double-minded,” James 4:8.

Through the years our children have often approached certain types of events with the question, “Do we have to?”  At other times our children do not even hesitate in saying, “yes, yes, oh yes.”

This morning, as I consider Exodus 24-21, I was reminded of how God’s children often overlook the importance of daily time with Him.  Exodus 24 picks up the narrative in chapter 20 with God’s people standing before Mount Sina.  The magnificent display of God coming down was more than the people could understand.  In fear they asked for Moses alone to speak with God.

Chapter 24 begins with God’s call for Moses to, “Come up to the Lord.”  These words have special meaning to those who understand the value of drawing near to God.  Certainly we know that we cannot draw near to God by our own merit.  The Apostle John wrote, “No one has seen God at any time,” I John 4:12.  The only way anyone can draw near to God is if he or she has been according to Paul, “Brought near by the blood of Christ,” Ephesians 2:14.  Moses went before God as their representative, but even he could not earn the right for Israel to stand before God.  Only Christ could do this!!!

This Old Testament chapter is a great picture of what we have in Christ.  Follow the progression of chapter 24.  Moses receives from the Lord the commandments.  He reads these commandments before the people.  The people affirm their loyalty to the commandments.

Imagine what would have happened to God’s people if they had not received direction from the Lord?  They would live daily been confused and eventually they would be consumed on their journeys.

Brothers and sisters, how often do we talk with fellow believers who seem to be confused and often times consumed by the things they are facing?  Could it be that our brethren are missing out on something very important?  And could it be that you and I also find ourselves in these same predicaments?

This morning I want to challenge you to never underestimate the value of your quiet time with the Lord.  There are days when I am sure that we are like my kids in saying, “Do we have to?”  The answer to the question is, “Yes, we have to.”  If we fail to show up for the meeting, we are on own for that particular day.

Brethren I shutter to think of how tragic my day would be if I (Old Nature) were in charge!  From this day forward begin every day with time with the Lord.  By the way, each day is simply a dress rehersal for the day when we will meet the Lord.

“Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the lamb,” Rev. 19:9

Rules, Rules, And More Rules

November 16, 2011

“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law,” Gal. 5:18.

This morning, I spent much time in Exodus 21-23.  To be transparent, I even prayed before getting out of bed, “Lord help me to not just look at these chapters as just rules. At first glance Exodus 21-23 could look like, “Rules, Rules, and more rules.”  However, nothing could be farther from the truth.  Question, “When you read God’s word, do you consider it to be a rule book or do you consider it to be God’s love letter to you?”

It was very important, as God’s people were being prepared to live a new live in covenant with God, that they know the rules of how to love life. Chapters 21-23 are rich in teaching us how to live in community with others.  These chapters are also rich in teaching us how to live in covenant with God.

Here is how Moses describes these rules 40 years later, “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the rules the Lord your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the Lord your God, you and your son and you son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days will be long,” Deut. 6:1-2.

These rules would be daily reminders to God’s people of their need to love their God.  Their love is evidenced by their obedience to the rules set before them.  Imagine how differently our world would be if everyone followed God’s rules? However we do not have to imagine how life is when people try to live by their own rules.

When this happens there is no respect for human life and there is not reverence for the one true God.  This past week, I asked myself, “What rules do people live by?”  For example, the scandal at Penn State University, has left many asking, “What rules governed the decision of the football coaching staff to do nothing about sexual abuse?”

Here is one preachers take, “I think the number one rule that governed the coverup was self-preservation by all parties involved.”  I believe this was at the core of Israel sin problem.  When you find Israel under God’s judgment, she would cry out for mercy. God would give mercy and for a while she would follow the rules, but then she would wonder and once again face judgment.

People, who look at their history often ask, “Why did they not just keep the rules?”  Well, the same reason you and I do not keep the rules.  We cannot keep them on our own.  This is why we trust in the power of the cross.  At the cross Christ purchased our redemption and at the cross we find victory over sin.  At the cross we gain the honor of becoming a new creation in Christ.  We are indwelled by the Spirit so that we can live by the rules for a different reason.  We live by the rules because we are being ruled by Christ whom we love and adore.

Brothers and sisters, God’s word is not just a rule book.  God’s word is a relationship book that gives direction to those who are in relationship with Him.