This week our pastor encouraged us to realize committing our live to God was not a one time event. Neither was it a “get out of hell” card. Rather that commitment to God was only the beginning of what God wanted for us. She shared with us this verse:
And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7
One of her suggestions was to “turn off the noise and be silent.” How can we hear from God when we have such noise all around us?
I thought a lot about that yesterday. We get in the car and turn on the radio; we spend too much time on social media, the news. None of that is bad – but sometimes it can become overload. So today while cleaning my kitchen I turned off all the “noise” and just let my heart and mind pray as I polished the dining table, underloaded the dishwasher and swept the kitchen floor. How peaceful I felt.
Then I put on an old CD to hear a song I have not listened to in years. It is a song that used to be sung in church and played on Christian radios every Easter. But we seem to only want to hear songs that have been written in the last two years 🙂 and some powerful songs are forgotten.
Today, I am reminded of the wonderful story that Jesus died not only so I could look forward to eternal life after this life, but could have joy and peace today – joy and peace that come to me when I take time to worship Him.
If you have not heard this song before, I hope it speaks to your heart. And if you have, I hope it reminds you that we serve a God who is able to help us no matter what our circumstances. And I think we need to celebrate this more than just one Sunday in spring.
Recently I begin studying the Tabernacle in the Old Testament.
Many who study the Bible never really look at the Old Testament and the truths of the Tabernacle found there. But much of the Bible is revealed in a study of the Tabernacle.
More than 50 chapters are devoted to the details of the Tabernacle.
In Exodus chapters 25-40 give guidance on the construction of the Tabernacle.
Leviticus contains 18 chapters on the function of the Tabernacle.
Deuteronomy has 2 chapters on the Tabernacle.
Hebrews shares a New Testament commentary on the Tabernacle in 4 chapters.
Revelation gives images of the Tabernacle (Temple) in heaven.
The people were told that the purpose of the Tabernacle in the Old Testament was so God could dwell with them.
“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” Exodus 25:8
We see in Revelation that God’s desire is still to dwell among us.
“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.” Revelation 21:3
We know that was the point of the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus – to make us able to have a relationship with God.
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16
As we look at the Tabernacle, we notice that there was only one gate – only one way to enter.
This clearly points to Jesus:
“Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.” John 10:9
“I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father by through me.” John 14:6
I AM– Jesus used these words several times in the Gospels. In Matthew 22:32 He basically quotes Exodus 3:6.
‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. So he is the God of the living, not the dead.” Matthew 22:32
“‘I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.” Exodus 3:6
Later Jesus made it plan that he was calling Himself God. The people recognized His claim because they tried to stone Him for blasphemy.
“The people said, “You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I am! At that point they picked up stones to throw at him. But Jesus was hidden from them and left the Temple.” John 8:57-59
THE WAY– Jesus did not say I am “a” way. He said He was “the” way. In today’s culture, I know it is not politically correct to say there is only one way. A person can reject Christianity, but if they accept the Bible, they have to accept the claims of Jesus.
THE TRUTH – Again Jesus used the definite article to that He is the only truth. Jesus demonstrated this on HIs Sermon on the Mount. He pointed out different commandments they had and then said “but I say unto you” placing His truth above what the culture of the day said.
THE LIFE – Strange in a way that as Jesus is talking about his death, He claims to be “the” source of life. He claimed because He lived, we would too.
“Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” John 14:19
He claimed He was giving us abundant life.
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10
As a follower of Jesus I believe He was promising eternal life after this life. But more than that, I believe He was promising a real life of freedom from condemnation, of joy even in difficult times. Abundant life consists of abundance of love, joy, peace, and the rest of the fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5.
In following Jesus I have found true joy. I love this picture of Jesus! To me, this is how I picture Him.
In our daily devotions my husband and I have been reading the book of Exodus. It was interesting to me to see that when the Israelites were delivered from bondage in Egypt God chose to not lead them directly to the land He had promised them. Rather, he led them into the wilderness.
When Pharoah finlly let the people go, God did ot lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine terriroty, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land….God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Exodus 13:17-18.
There, in the wilderness, God gave them two things they needed to become the nation He desired.
The Tabernacle – unifying symbol of God’s presence with principles of worship
The Tablet (Ten Commandments) – principles of God for personal practices of a godly life reflected in our behavior
Since much of the Old Testament is devoted to the Tabernacle I have decided to take a closer look at this structure and what it meant to the Israelites, what it might mean to us in our understanding of the importance of worship of God.
First thing that caught my attention was the preparation to build the Tabernacle.
Materials required: gold, silver, bronze, blue, purple and scarlet thread, fine linen, gemstones and more. Exodus 25:3-7
Voluntary offering: it was not demanded but rather was to be given by those “whose hearts are moved to offer them.” Exodus 25:1-2
Both men and women were involved in the giving and preparation. Exodus 35:22; 35:25-26
The leaders set the example in giving. Exodus 35:27-28
The Holy Spirit was present and filled the workmen. Exodus 35:31-35
Looking at what was involved in the preparation to build the Tabernacle, I thought how that applied to our attempts to be involved in the church today.
As the materials required were things of great value, so should be our efforts for God. We should bring Him our best. Sadly, I fear we do not. Too often we spend our days working, playing, filling our time with our own needs/wants/desires. Then at the end of the day we fall into bed and quickly murmur a prayer to God. We often neglect gathering with the family of God to worship Him and encourage and be encouraged by others. We often give Him what is left of our time/talent/money after we have met all our wants/needs.
Yet our worship, our efforts for Him should never be done because it is demanded. It must come from a love of God.
Sadly, for years many have restricted women from fulfilling their God-given call. Yet we see Jesus often ministering to the women. It was a woman who carried the message of the Messiah to the Samarian village. It was a woman who Jesus first appeared to after His resurrection.
I am thankful that in my church our pastor sets an example of selfless service to others. But sadly we have often see ministers who have set themselves above the rest of God’s family.
The Holy Spirit was present in these men to make furniture, to build the Tabernacle. Again, we have often made the work of the Spirit to mean something “supernatural.” God often uses us in “natural” gifts like baking a meal for a family suffering illness, fixing a car for a single mother, babysitting to give a couple a night out. God’s Spirit is given for more everyday, ordinary people and we need to recognize this.
Why did God tell them to build the Tabernacle? What was His purpose?
Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them. Exodus 25:8
What a wonderful thought! God desired to live among them. Later when Jesus came John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus came to dwell among us. The Greek word used for dwell in John 1:14 is skenoo and literally means “to pitch a tent. This word is the very word used in the New Testament to refer to the tabernacle of God used by Israel in their early worship of God. Jesus came because God still desires to live among us.
Jesus told us that wherever two or three gathered in His name, He would be there. So when we come into church on Sunday, He is there. Do we realize that? How often we come in late, grabbing our coffee, looking around to see who is there, talking to the one next to us? Do we not realize we are entering the presence of God? He is there. Let our worship show we acknowledge that.
I will be writing more as I study this Old Testament Tabernacle. Hope you will follow me on this journey.
Our pastor has been doing a series on Psalm 23 – taking one verse at a time. Today she spoke on one verse that has been such a blessing to me throughout the past almost 20 years. It is the verse that says:
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou are with me.
That is the verse that came to my mind the day of my first visit to the oncologist following surgery for breast cancer. His first words to me were “The odds are not in your favor.” Immediately the above verse came to my mind.
I did not know if the Lord was assuring me I would walk through this valley to health and life on the other side or if I would walk through this valley into death.
What was comforting to me was the assurance that He was going to be with me through this time.
Looking back on my life as I near the last years of life I am so thankful to see all the times He has been there for me.
What comfort I find in knowing He will continue to walk with me through the rest of my life – both on the mountain times and the deep valley experiences life may bring.
At this point in my life I would say I’m mostly experiencing those “mountain” times. Last week my husband and I celebrated 37 years of marriage. What a blessing it is to be able to say that he is my bff and our love for one another is deeper and stronger than the day we married. We are blessed with good health for our age and we have a beautiful home to enjoy.
Yet I have been facing some “valley” moments these last few weeks. When I had surgery for cancer the surgeon apologized and said that he had done quite a bit of nerve damage as the lymph nodes were full of cancerous cells and he wanted to make sure he removed all the cancer. That plus the extensive radiation I had has left me with pain ever since. The damage done to my side has, with age, also led to a damaged rotator cuff. Surgeons now do not want to do surgery to repair the cuff because there has been so much nerve damage already done.
For whatever reason – old age I guess – the chronic pain that I have learned to live with has recently become much worse. It is especially difficult when I try to lay down and I have come to dread bedtime.
This morning my church family gathered around me and prayed for me. What an encouragement that was. One young man put some legs on his prayers and offered to come help me with my housework, even to vacuum my floors. My husband is able to help me and I refuse to just sit and give in – got to keep moving. But it was so kind of him to offer. That’s what real love is all about.
How blessed I am – how good to know not only that God is with me – but He has given me friends to love and support me.
Whatever situation dear reader you may be in – let me encourage you to lean on God. He is our Good Shepherd and His promises to be with us in “all” seasons I have found to be true.
Recently I saw a church sign that invited people to come because their church was “simple and fun.”
That sounded great! Who would not want to go to a church that was “fun” and keeping things “simple” in the chaotic times we have been experiencing sounds like a good idea.
But is it? Is that the purpose of the church – to keep things fun and simple?
I grew up in a very legalistic church. The furthest thought then was for church to be fun. Often I joke when I wondered if some activity would be sin I just had to ask myself, “Would I have fun doing it?” If the answer was “yes” then clearly it would be sin.
Of course I am exaggerating a bit, but church was never simple. There were many man-made rules to follow. Those of us who questioned were considered in danger of losing our salvation.
So, believe me – I never want to go to a church that is not fun or that makes the message of the love of Jesus Christ complicated.
But seeing this sign that seemed to be attempting to appeal to people as a place that would be fun and simple, I could not help but wonder if we are moving too far away. Have we thrown the baby out with the bath water?
It seems churches, like political parties, social norms and fashion all move like a pendulum.
Webster defines pendulum as:
a body suspended from a fixed point so as to swing freely to and fro under the action of gravity and commonly used to regulate movements (as of clockwork); something (such as a state of affairs) that alternates between opposites.
As I have watched my church it seems like it started swinging away from the legalism that was so wrong toward a practice and teaching that was based more on the Word of God rather than man-made laws. That is good.
I cannot help but wonder if the pendulum is swinging too far in the opposite direction. In the desire to free us from the rules of man and to make the gospel of Jesus Christ appealing to others, are we moving too far once again from the Word of God – in a different direction – but still away?
On the one hand, the message of salvation through Christ is simple. Acts 16:31 sums it up very simply.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.
However, any reading of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount would tell us that following Jesus Christ is anything but simple. Jesus called his followers to a much higher standard than any they had heard before. To be a true believer requires much more than a simple “I believe.” It calls for a change of heart. That is not easy or simple. On the one hand following Jesus can be fun. There is no greater joy than having a heart filled with God’s joy.
However, again I do not think the death of Jesus was meant for me to have fun. Listen to His words:
Matthew 16:24 – Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Luke 14:28-30 – Don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’
Perhaps I am being too hard on this church sign, reading more into it than was meant. Still, I wonder – are we swinging too far away – are we more interested in what is “new” forgetting that while much of what was “old” should be discarded, there was much there of great value.
A son honors his father, And a servant his master. If then I am the Father, Where is My honor? And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence? Says the Lord of hosts To you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’
“You offer defiled food on My altar, But say, ‘In what way have we defiled You?’ By saying, ‘The table of the Lord is contemptible.’ And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?” Says the Lord of hosts.
Reading in the Old Testament book of Malachi this week I found a verse that made me stop and take a look at my own relationship with God.
The prophet Malachi was speaking to the priests (the religious leaders) of the nation of Israel. The Law of Moses had clearly stated that the animals used in the sacrificial worship were to be perfect specimens. They were to have no blemishes, to be healthy animals (Leviticus 22:17-33). It appears that instead of bringing the best of their flock or herd, they were bringing animals that were sick or lame and keeping the better animals for their own use.
God sees this action as “despising His name.” He suggests they invite the governor and serve him a meal with a sick or blemished animal for the main course. Certainly they would not do that. They would want to serve the governor the very best they had.
Malachi tells them that their very attitude toward their worship of God is apathetic and worse than no worship at all.
You also say, ‘Oh, what a weariness!’ And you sneer at it,” Says the Lord of hosts. “And you bring the stolen, the lame, and the sick; Thus you bring an offering! Should I accept this from your hand?” Says the Lord.
Today our worship does not consist of bringing an animal sacrifice. Still, I wonder, how my worship can sometimes be just like theirs. Bringing God my “leftovers.”
Giving him a few minutes of devotion after hours spent watching TV, shopping, posting on FB.
Giving a few dollars to support the work of my church or a charity after spending much on my own entertainment.
Giving a few minutes to write a card to someone after spending hours doing my own thing.
Walking into church for worship five or ten minutes late, coming in and distracting those who are trying to praise God. Casually entering into the song without any real thought of what worship really means.
Coming to worship now and then when I don’t have other events scheduled that are more important than being in God’s house.
I am reminded of a poem by Frederick Ohler that says it so well:
Great and holy God awe and reverence fear and trembling do not come easily to us
for we are not Old Testament Jews or Moses or mystics or sensitive enough.
Forgive us for slouching into Your presence with little expectation and less awe
than we would eagerly give a visiting dignitary.
We need neither Jehovah nor a buddy—neither “the Great and powerful Oz” nor “the man upstairs.”
Help us to want what we need…You God
and may the altar of our hearts tremble with delight at Your visitation
We are Christ’s ambassadors. God is using us to speak to you: we beg you, as though Christ himself were here pleading with you, receive the love he offers you—be reconciled to God.
As I look at our chaotic world today with all the divisions as we try to cope with the problems the coronavirus and the recent election season has caused, I am saddened at the response of the church world.
It has astounded me how many in the church have taken to FB, Twitter accounts and other media to call those who disagree with them names, questioning their Christianity if they did not agree on a particular issue. While the fear, the anger, the questions we all have in this time of uncertainty is understandable, our response as Christians call us to a higher standard than those who are not followers of Christ. When the church begins to call our government leaders unkind names and suggest even violence to them, what does the world think of our message?
Have we not always said that Christ loves the whole world, that He came to save any who would call on Him? How then can we let our own emotions, our own political beliefs, our own understanding of the coronavirus bring us to this point? How can we then ask the world to believe in our message of love if our actions are anything but loving?
So what is an ambassador?
The dictionary tells us that an ambassador is an official representative of his/her government or sovereign appointed for a special and often temporary assignment. That person is chosen to act or speak for another, to represent the interests of another person.
So – as a Christian ambassador, I need to realize I am an official representive of Christ. When I call myself a Christian, I am taking on the role of acting/speaking for the interests, not of myself, but of Christ. My words, my actions will reflect on Christ and His church.
The first step in becoming an ambassador is to set aside one’s personal agenda. It is important to remember that God does not come into our lives to help us achieve our goals. That kind of human-centered teaching may be popular, but it is not biblical We are meant to spend ourselves in seeking God’s glory (not our own – or anther person’s or a particular group of people), achieving His eternal purposes (not our own temporal goals) and bearing witness to His truth (not our opinions.) …Cole Richards
When I look at the Early Church, I find a people who lived under the domination of a foreign power. People who did not have to struggle with being told to wear a mask or not to gather in large groups, but people who were told they would be imprisoned or even killed if they shared the message of Jesus. People who were beaten, thrown in an arena with lions. History tells us that all but one of Jesus’ disciples were martyred. Yet they responded with love and their only task was to continue to share the message of John 3:16 – “God so loved the world….”
If we cannot remain a people of love and whose main focus is to share Jesus in this time and situation, how will we survive if, God forbid, we ever face real persecution as the Early Church did?
Will we remain good ambassadors of Christ – or will we be too concerned for our own freedoms, rights to care about our leader’s whole purpose and goals who, hanging on a cross, said “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”?
What a year 2020 was! Coronavirus – and all the uncertainty and problems that has created. Loss of jobs/income, loss of ability to travel freely to name just a few. Division over wearing a mask or not wearing one.
The election also brought such division and unrest.
The arguments over BLM.
We were looking forward to 2021 – but now that it is here – I am not sure this year is shaping up to be much different than 2020.
So as Christians, how are we supposed to respond?
I turn to the writer of James and see that he started off his letter with the words “Greetings.” The word James used is “chariein” and it means basically “to rejoice exceedingly” or “to be well.” Used as a greeting James was essentially saying “joy to you.” “Joy to you” seems a great way to start a letter to friends. Hey, I’m wishing you joy, happiness, that you do well. We do this for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas.
However just after he says “joy to you” he begins speaking of anything but joyful times or situations. On continuing to read this letter it is clear that James is not just being friendly in wishing his readers joy. After saying “joy to you” he immediately speaks of times of difficulty, trials, tests.
Difficulties. Tough times. Kind of like we have been experiencing. Situations that do not naturally led to joy.
The word he uses for testings is not referring to something like our tests in schools that are designed to reveal what the student knows. Rather, James is referring to something that reveals the genuiness of one’s faith, but he also implies this test is designed to develop something that is not yet fully developed in a person.
trials/testings = perservance/endurance = mature character
James was writing to fellow Jews who were facing difficult times. He is encouraging them to let these times help them grow in the Lord and not be an interruption in their relationship as a servant to the Lord.
Questions he raises and which I submit to you:
Is any trial a reason not to rely on God and allow His joy to fill your heart?
Even in trials, is there ever a reason a Christian should curse another or call them names?
Even in difficult times, is there ever a reason a Christian should engage in grumbling about others?
James says “Don’t let difficult times stop you from obeying and following the Lord. In the middle of trials, that is the time to put into practice what you say you believe.”
In my words I would say “put your money where your mouth is.” Growing up in church we heard all about the Sermon on the Mount and all Jesus said about turning the other cheek, loving your enemies and praying for them, being peacemakers. Sadly it seems many have either forgotten those words – or have tried to make them mean something else.
I ask you: Did Jesus “really” mean it when He said:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
A parable Jesus told about the importance of prayer has often made me wonder.
He tells of a widow who went to the local judge to ask him to intervene in her behalf. Apparently there was someone who was treating her unfairly and she wanted help in resolving this dispute. According to the Mosaic Law judges were never to show partiality.
And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s.
Jesus tells us that this judge just ignores her. Whether he did it because he was trying to protect a friend, to gain favor with someone, or was just indifferent without any compassion we do not know. Clearly he was an incompetent judge and should not have been allowed to remain in that position.
The woman is persistent and will not stop coming to the judge and asking for help. Finally, Jesus tells us, that the judge hears her case simply because she was driving him crazy. “She is wearing me out with her constant requests.”
Jesus then ends the parable by telling us that if this unjust judge would do what was right in the face of someone who would not give up, how much more would God answer His children’s cries for help.
In the past as I read this parable I wondered why God would compare Himself to an unjust judge and thereby imply we needed to keep asking Him for our needs. Did that mean if I keep asking for something – even though it might not be the right thing or me or in line with God’s Word – God will give it to me? That is actually a frightening thought to me. I can think of some prayers I have asked that later I was so glad God did not give me what I asked for.
As I study the Bible more I am learning to take Scripture in the total context. So I noticed that Jesus ended this with a question.
When the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on earth who have faith?
Some Bible scholars have said Jesus was simply pointing out the need for His followers to trust Him regardless of whether it seemed their prayers were being answered. I get that. When I pray I need to trust that God is faithful and leave the “when” “where” and “how” to Him.
But as I looked at that today thinking of my own prayer life, I saw something else. Persistent prayer and my faith in God are fundamentally connected. As in any relationship, honest and consistent communication are necessary if that relationship is to grow and remain strong.
When I first met my husband I knew only a few facts about him. Slowly as we dated and shared our fears, hopes, dreams I came to know him. I felt I knew him enough to marry him and pledge my love until death we do part. But today after almost 37 years of communicating I realize how little I really knew him on my wedding day. My knowledge of him today is very deep – I think it is safe to say I know him better than anyone else.
So I think Jesus was telling us that if we want our faith to grow and be strong until the very end of our life, we need to be persistent in our prayer time. In contrast to the unjust judge, Jesus is telling us that God’s character is just the opposite. Of course, He will hear the cries of his children. Trusting in His character and His goodness, we must never give up hope as we pray.