If This, Then That...

Alternate title:  Two Way Promises.

Did you realize that despite God's grace, mercy and love for us, that He is also very demanding when it comes to handing out blessings?  I know this may be hard to hear, but I believe the bible says it is so.  Starting with the salvation of our souls, if we don't personally accept Jesus into our hearts as Lord, we won't inherit eternal life in heaven with God and consequently will be sentenced to an eternal life of torment in hell without God.  Simple as that.   God is a God of consequences, both good and bad.  He can't help it because He is perfectly just.

Success to us doesn't come to us rightly unless we put God first, as stated in the book of Joshua:

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.  For then you will make you way prosperous, and then you will have good success.  (Joshua 1:8 NKJV)

In Leviticus chapter 26, God promises to His people both blessings (Lev 26:3-13) and retribution (Lev 26:14-39).  Blessings if they obey, curses if they don't.  I find it interesting that the chapter starts out with a command against idol worship.  Kinda makes ya think we all might have a problem with our idols in one way or another, doesn't it?

You shall not make idols for yourselves; neither a carved image nor a sacred pillar shall you rear up for yourselves; nor shall you set up an engraved stone in your land, to bow down to it; for I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 26:1 NKJV)

Those idols just get in the way.  Hobbies, TV, our children, our friends, our possessions and our jobs, to name a few, when prioritized before God, all take away from the blessings of peace and prosperity that He wants to give us.  Because they are distractions, they can render us powerless because we have spent too much time with them and not enough time getting to know God.    After all, without spending time in God's word, how can we really know what He wants from us?  How can we really obey?  How can we really rest in His promises if we don't know what they are?

As always, God does give us a way back to Him no matter how far off His path we have strayed.  As we see in Leviticus 26:40-46, if we confess our sins and unfaithfulness and humble our hearts before Him, He will remember His covenant with us.  God is with us and will always be.  He has promised it. 

Questions to consider:

1) What is my "idol" of the day, week, year?  Is there anything that I consistently put before my time with Him?

2) Are you scheduling uninterrupted time into your life for God, like you would schedule your other activities?

3) When was the last time you humbled your heart before God, accepting His total Lordship over your life?

Approaching God

How would you feel about approaching God if your sons were killed by God for approaching Him irreverantly?  I bet you would make sure that you came with the right attitude.  I sure would.  This was the situation back in Moses day.  They were really just learning about God and there were so many rules!!!!  Remember that Aaron and his family were charged from here on out (the tribe of Levi, the Levitical priesthood) to be the ones who interceded on the people's behalf by offering sacrifices at the temple.  I know I'm oversimplifying this, but there were many, many rules.   

Now the Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they offered profane fire before the Lord, and died; and the Lord said to moses:  "Tell Aaron your brother not to come at just any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud above the mercy seat." (Lev 16:1-2 NKJV)

Like the priests back in biblical times, we must take our time with God seriously.  Now, we won't die physically as Aaron's sons did (Lev 10:1) if we come to God carelessly or with sin in our lives.   Jesus in His death was the sacrifice that allows us to come to God.  However, we will never be able to be close to God without cleaning ourselves up a bit and taking our relationship with Him seriously.  (Psalm 66:18, Isaiah 59:1-2).  Just like a relationship with our earthly friends and loved ones, to make sure we have good conversation and fellowship we must make sure there is nothing between us to hinder that relationship.  It is the same with God. 

It is a sweet time with God when we can enter into His "inner courts".  Because of time constraints (no excuses, here - just the facts) I don't always feel that I approach God that intimately every time that I pray and spend time with Him.  Regarding prayer, I've heard one of my favorite preachers say before that we need to "pray until we've prayed".   Think about that one.  We need to take the time to put away all of life's distractions and come clean before God.  Then we will get to His "inner courts".    I'll leave you with an acronymn that has really helped me in my prayer life.  It is a way to pray that will get us in the right frame of mind so that we can really get to praying.  The next time you pray, pray in this order and see if you notice a difference in your prayer time.

P - Praise.   Start off your prayer time by thanking God for all that He is.  This gets our minds off of ourselves and our current circumstances and into a state of worship.

R - Repent.  Ask God to forgive you for the sins you have committed, both those you can and can't remember.  We don't have to be perfect to come to God, but we need to recognize where we have strayed, confess these things to God, and turn from our old ways.

A - Ask.  This is where we can ask our heart's desire.  Now that we've got ourselves into a worshipful, clean state of mind, we can come before God with our requests.

Y - Yield.  Thy will be done.  Commit your requests to God's sovereign will in this closing of your prayer.

Happy praying!!  If you tried this and noticed a difference, please comment and let us know how it worked for you!!

Don't Ask Why

There are times when we will never fully understand what some of the passages in the bible really mean.   I was reading through Leviticus 10-12 tonight and couldn't resist posting on the following regarding God's instruction for some rituals regarding women after childbirth:

  • If a woman has conceived and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean 7 days.  Purification = 33 days.
  • If a woman has conceived and borne a female child, then she shall be unclean 14 days. Purification = 66 days.

Huh?  Could someone please tell me what difference it could possibly make to anyone whether or not she had a baby boy or baby girl?  I bet you can't.  If you can, we should come up with a prize for you.   However, on this one, I bet the Vegas odds would favor ignorance.  Matthew Henry of "Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible, Complete and Unabridged", can't tell us either.  To quote:

Why the time of both those was double for a female to what it was for a male I can assign no reason but the will of the Law-maker; in Christ Jesus no difference is made of male and female, Gal 3:28; Col 3:11.

Well, Matthew Henry did not know the answer, so how could I?  I like the principles here though:

1) When studying the bible, don't allow an obscure passage (one that is hard to understand, and may not be possible to understand given the information we are given) to confuse you on doctrine where there are numerous clear verses to support the doctrine. 

2) Sometimes, we just have to trust God for what He says and does rather than always trying to understand everything.  Remember, that God's ways and thoughts are higher than ours.

Lord, help me to always remember that  you have the best for me in mind no matter if I can't always understand your processes.  Give me wisdom to understand your will for my life and the patience to trust your love through any circumstance.  Amen.

Fire from God

Sometimes I just have to keep reading and reading until something pops out at me. Can anyone else relate?  One of these days I'm going to be "spiritual" enough to have patience through the books of Leviticus, Deuteronomy and some of the other chapters of monotonous laws and sacrifice.  I'm better than I used to be - at least I can find something good out of it most of the time now - but nowhere where I want to be.   

Leviticus 7-9 tells about some more rules for the various sacrifices needed for the people of Israel & the priest to be able to come near to God.  God never leaves them in the dark as to how to have fellowship with them, nor does He leave us in the dark.  They were given the laws of blood sacrifices; we were given the blood of God's son, Jesus.   The passage ends with Moses' brother Aaron, donning all of the priestly garb spelled out by God - who else could come up with all of the details - in previous chapters of the law.    After all of the offerings were made for the first time EVER, the glory of the Lord appeared in a fire..

Leviticus 9:22-24 Then Aaron lifted his hand toward the people, blessed them, and came down from offering the sin offering, the burnt offering, and peace offerings.  And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of meeting , and came out and blessed all the people.  Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people, and fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar.  When all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.  (NKJV)

That must have been some sight to behold.  Pile of dead animals on the altar one minute.  Pile of burning in flames dead animals the next.  I wonder if they saw a huge flame coming down to the sky arriving at the altar or if it was just a big "poof" into flames.   At any rate, I probably would have fallen on my face too.

Because of the people's diligence in obeying God's commandments (mainly Moses & Aaron, the priests), God accepted their sacrifices.  His glory came down among the people, and the people went face down.  I ask myself "Am I obeying God so well that my sacrifices to Him are accepted?" Are my motives pure for the good that I do so that they are a sweet smelling savour on the "altar"? 

Father in heaven, show me how I can daily be an acceptable sacrifice to You.   I want to see Your glory and know You more and more each day that I live.  Amen.

Sweet Sacrifice

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.  Romans 12:1

Have you ever thought about how much brainpower it must have taken to devise all of the different types and means of sacrifice that are mentioned in the Old Testament?  The specifications for the construction of the tabernacle were amazing, but still weren't good enough to reconcile the children of Israel to a holy God.  Sacrifices must be made.

Sacrifices.  That is of which the first 3 Chapters of Leviticus teaches.  Okay, I think there is more later, but I stopped today at chapter 3.  God loves a barbeque!  How fitting for today, Memorial Day, with its tradition of grilling out (along with remembering our deceased loved ones), that I would read about this.  :)  Where was I?  Sacrifices.  They are of a sweet smelling savour unto God.  Take a deep breath and imagine the smell of the cooking meat on the altar.   Six times in Leviticus 1-3 does God mention that the offerings were a sweet savour unto Him (Lev 1:9, 13, 17; Lev 2:2, 9; Lev 3:5).  Do you think He is trying to tell us something?

We are to be sacrifices to God as well.  Our lives and thoughts should and can be sweet smelling to Him if we keep our focus on Him and do His will day by day.  As we are tried and purified by the fire of God in our attempts to set our lives apart to God, our "offerings" will be a sweet smelling aroma to God.

Looking at Romans 12:1 above, it is our reasonable service to live our lives as a living sacrifice to God.  Reasonable service.  That term always smacked me.  But Lord, I want to be outstanding to You, and not just average "reasonable"!  Maybe that is why we need to live by the mercies of God, asking Him to help us in becoming good servants of Him over and above the reasonable.   

Questions to think about:

1) Am I giving God "reasonable" service?  Am I truly offering up my first-fruits, my best, as an offering to Him?

2) What can I sacrifice to God that I'm hanging on to that would give even more back to Him?

LORD, help me to see where I am weak.  Help me to see where I have failed You in my "sacrifices" to You.  Give me the desire to seek Your ways over my ways and live my life wholly, not partially, sold out to You.  Amen.