Tuesday, June 30, 2015

siege day

In the ninth year, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, write down the name of this day, this very day. The king of Babylon has laid siege to Jerusalem this very day."
Ezekiel 24:1-2

God said it would come
a day when the holy city would fall
Nothing could stop it from
happening... God decreed destruction for all
as the armies surrounded
God's judgment horn sounded

A rebellious house would pay
for leaving faith with her Lord
all the justice the prophets did say
would be fulfilled by God's Word
the sword would swing on that day
and judgment came without delay

Babylon was the refining fire
Jerusalem a cooking pot
God set His people on the pyre
as His judgment burned fiery hot
a broken covenant avenged to show
that God was always Who they should know

Siege Day came at God's appointment
so that His people His power would see
and  Babylon's sword in  murderous judgment
purged away the sin, and then in mercy
some escaped death led captive
so that in Babylon they would repent and live

Monday, June 29, 2015


The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.
Pride and arrogance and the way of evil
and perverted speech I hate.
Proverbs 8:13

Wisdom calls for a distinct commitment to the LORD Who gives it. True wisdom is a holy life. It cannot tolerate evil. It hates what is wrong. Notice that the language is quite clear. It hates evil. It hates what is bad that causes people to do what is wrong in the sight of God. Several attitudes and actions are mentioned to define this.

It starts with pride. Pride was Satan's original sin. Pride is a selfish attitude that disregards God and does not heed His wisdom. Pride led Adam and Eve to eat what was forbidden because they believed the lie that they should be like God. And these days in particular, pride is viewed as a "celebration" of what a person is, sins and all, even if what that person does is a deviation from surrendering the will in love to God. Pride now celebrates sin. That is a celebration of evil... the opposite of the fear of the Lord.

A second attitude is arrogance. This is pride that believes itself to be above God altogether. Arrogance is self-indulgence and self-inflation. It will drive rich and successful sinners as well as the poorest people on earth. Arrogance is behind racism and holier-than-thou Pharisee-ism. Arrogance steps on others to get what I want. Arrogance is the result of pride running unchecked. And arrogance will refuse to acknowledge God.

The third thing mentioned that is opposed to the fear of the LORD is labeled generically as "the way of evil". Sin has a path it takes every one of us. It is familiar. Jesus called it the "broad road that leads to destruction" and said there were many people on it. Those who fear God should not go this way of the world. But this is very difficult, because our default settings want us to be in with the comfortable crowd who seem to be fine walking the way of evil.

But those who are in the way of evil will show it most by their words. They will speak against God or His Wisdom. There is perverse speech both inside and outside the church that does this. What God says sets the standard to evaluate the words of others. Those whose speech defies God will be known and should never be emulated by those who fear God. They can be church leaders or politicians. They can claim to be Christian. But if their words do not square with God's Words, they are giving us perverted (twisted) speech. Words will show allegiances.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

God of exodus and exile

Then he led out his people like sheep
and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.
He led them in safety, so that they were not afraid,
but the sea overwhelmed their enemies.
Psalm 78:52-53

Psalm 78 recounts the history of Israel from its very beginnings right up to the Babylonian Exile. It is a song of worship, recounting the history of God's people from the perspective of worshipping God for what He has done. It is a worship celebration of sovereignty. It recounts both the Exodus and the Exile as sovereign works of God that brought Him glory as He showed Himself strong among Israel.

The God of the Exodus is Israel's Deliverer. He fought back Pharoah's armies. He led the nation like a flock of sheep through the wilderness. He provided for their every need as He led them eventually to the Promised Land. No one could oppose them, and indeed, the only harm they suffered during this time, they brought on themselves through idolatry and disobedience to God.

The God of the Exile was Israel's Discipliner. He graciously warned them by prophets to return in covenant with Him. They would not. And so the curses of the covenant led to their Exile. The land that God gave to them was taken away and overrun by Gentiles. God's people were marched away as captives in Babylon. There they wept and returned to God, and just as in the Exodus and wilderness, a generation suffered until God brought them back to His Land, to Jerusalem again by His sovereign hand.

God is as sovereign, gracious, and loving in Exile as He is in Exodus. He is a Deliverer who will discipline those whom He loves. And in Christ we know Him the same way. He delivers us in Jesus from the slavery of sin, but will also lovingly chastise us if we are not true to following Him. His sovereign hand will lead, love, and discipline the children that He loves.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

according to the Word

But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred men?” So he repeated, “Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and have some left.’” So he set it before them. And they ate and had some left, according to the word of the Lord.
2 Kings 4:43-44

A prophet's servant
sent to feed
one hundred hungry men
who came in need
to the prophet's den

had twenty small loaves
of barley bread
some roasted grain
all he had on hand
could never feed all of them

But Elisha said
the men would eat
to the fill
and there would be
an excess still

God's Word decreed
the food was more
portions than one hundred men
and it was so
as God said

Doubt sees circumstances
insists there is no way
a prayer could be heard
or trust what God would say
yet He saves us according to His Word

Faith believes God
Who does so much
for His servant's faith
His providing touch
will keep them in His way

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

lighting a strange fire

You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the Lord has spoken to them by Moses.
Leviticus 10:10-11

The Lord spoke these words to Aaron after two of his sons, Nadab and Abihu, took a flippant attitude into their priestly duties and offered wrong incense to the Lord. God consumed them in a blaze of fire for their lack of regard for His holiness. And then he reminded their awestruck, grieving father of his own priestly obligations.

When we offend God's holiness, it is usually because we have only thought of ourselves. There are no details to describe exactly what the "strange fire" was that Aaron's sons offered. We just know that they tried to perform priestly duties in some way that God did not allow. It was the routine offering of incense and it wasn't done in a holy way. And they knew it. It appears to have been deliberate. They failed to distinguish what was holy in their actions by offering their incense in an unauthorized way.

Ministry seeks the glory of God first. It does not default to the perceived needs of the people first. It does not point to the ego of the minister first. God will be shown as holy in His worship and His service. His Word will be honored and taught. His holiness will mark His people. He will not stand for us giving Him anything less.

Monday, June 22, 2015

a quick forgiver

Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.
Luke 17:3-4

Jesus sets a very high standard for reconciliation. The standard for forgiveness is nothing less than Jesus Himself. Who is it that is sinned against seven times a day if not Jesus? And who graciously forgives me when I sin against Him so very much? It is Jesus.

I am called to be like my Lord in all things. And when I am sinned against and the offender repents, I am to be instantly ready with forgiveness. And that is the heart Jesus wants me to have. I must however, as Jesus commands: "Pay attention to myself"! This is intentional. My default sinful settings are to punish those who sin against me, even if they ask for forgiveness. My self wants retribution. Jesus wants me to be a quick forgiver. This can only come by His grace changing me as I pay close attention to myself and choose to be the kind of forgiving person that Jesus is.

I confess to You my need to pay close attention to my heart when it comes to being a forgiver. My flesh wants to harbor grudges and to punish others. But I am a hypocrite because I fall down in repentance more than seven times a day with You! Help me to forgive like You do. Help me not to be bitter over how I was sinned against in my yesterdays so that today I can forgive with hope that You will make me (and my brother or sister) more like You as we live for tomorrow.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Jesus is Lord and God is glorified!

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:9-11

The fact that Jesus Christ is Lord brings glory to God the Father. When people worship Jesus... when knees bow and tongues proclaim His praise, God the Father is glorified. Jesus is God. Jesus is Lord. I confess it. I order my life under His salvation and direction and authority. I surrender to Him.

Jesus will be recognized as Lord. God has ordered a time where every person who ever was will confess it for His glory. Every non-religious person, every Muslim, every Jew, every Buddhist, every Hindu, every athiest, every confused New Age mystic, every person who took pride in their individuality so that embracing sin became their identity, every Christian in name only will be convinced of the Lordship of Jesus. Some, too late at the final judgment, will know Him as the Lord of Eternal Judgment. Others will inherit His kingdom, forgiven of huge and flagrant sinful transgressions because they confessed Him as Lord and repented in their lives and were thus washed and sanctified by His gift of Himself (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 for a list of these greatly forgiven people of whom I am one... none of their sins is worth taking "pride" in).

Lord Jesus,
You are great. Yours is the name above all names. You have saved me and You are Lord of all, even those who in selfish, sinful arrogance oppose You. You will bring them to know the truth, even if it takes breaking them down in this life to humbly confess sin and seek Your grace. And since all judgment has been given to You, then even eternal condemnation of willful sinners will bring You praise. And so I will bow now and later. I will worship You now so that I may know the eternal joy of my Lord! The universe bows to You and so must I. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

lying liars lie

They have seen false visions and lying divinations. They say, ‘Declares the Lord,’ when the Lord has not sent them, and yet they expect him to fulfill their word.
Ezekiel 13:6

Liars are bold. Religious ones even more so. The false prophets Ezekiel takes to task are so brazen against God and so full of themselves that they have come to believe they have the power to command God to do what they say. Think about it. They make a bold statement not from God but say that it is from God and then proudly demand that God will do it. This sounds exactly like what many prosperity preachers believe, teach, and do today. It is why Creflo Dolllar proclaims God wants his ministry to possess a Gulfstream private jet that costs millions in operational expenses each year. He has come to believe that God is his personal genie to command by declaration. It is also a convenient way to fleece pensioners.

Humility is the mark of God's servant. And faith is not about commanding God. I believe that Jesus will reward His servants. I also think that at His Bema Seat, we will find that the lowliest behind-the-scenes pastor in some small corner of the world (I think it somewhere in Asia or Africa) who was faithful to Christ's Word and loved the flock like the Great Shepherd will receive the biggest rewards. I fully expect false prophets to burn in the hottest hell. And those who offended Jesus' little children through their selfish false visions will have millstones tied to their necks in eternal damnation.

So, Creflo, if you are reading this, enjoy the jet dude. Just steer clear of those engines when they fire up, baby. I'd hate to see you lit up before your appointed time.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wisdom brings balance.

Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
and call insight your intimate friend,
Proverbs 7:4

Of all the gifts God gives in His Word through the ministry of His Holy Spirit, wisdom is the most personal. It is truth applied to life. Wisdom takes general insights from God and personally places them into meaningful and impactful personal context. And this personal application is unique. God's wisdom leads me a little differently than it leads you.

And I have found that personal application of God's truth can morph and change over time in my life. The truth absolutely is unchanging and remains the same. The application however can change. A very mundane example would be what scripture teaches about alcohol. The Bible condemns drunkeness as well as what used to be called carousing -- alcohol fueled partying that is an unfortunate social commonality these days. Yet scriptures also indicate that wine is an accepted beverage and at times the Bible enjoins us to enjoy it as such. So the application must find room for wisdom in its practice. In many cases in my life I have preferred the application of abstinence from alcohol. Refraining from alcohol has kept me from extremes of sin. Yet moderation is a good thing, and frankly, abstinence as legalism and judgmentalism is another type of sin. And so insight tells me that to practice moderation in proper settings is also pleasing to the Lord as long as it leads me to 1) enjoy God's good gifts and 2) refrain from the sin of overindulgence. I might add, however, that if I was ever tempted to alcholism, I would follow Jesus' injunction to radical amputation and simply "cut off" alcohol altogether. That would be wise and the best insight from God.

The same balance applies to food (gluttony is a sin vs feasting as a pleasure from God), relationships (true love from God vs selfishness), or even sex (marital faithfulness between man and wife as God designed vs selfish sensuality that pursues every urge). God's good gifts require obedience to Him, discretion in their practice, and insight into why we should enjoy them. "Whatever you eat or drink or anything you do, do it all for God's glory". That is how the New Testament call us to the practical application of wisdom and insight.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

wonders and might

Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
Psalm 77:13-15

Celebrating what God has done for us is a key part of real, heartfelt worship. It is the call Asaph makes in this psalm as he opens with describing questions in his soul that have him struggling. It seems he is at a point where it "appears" God is distant. But to move beyond this, he must bring his frame of mind back to worship. He does this by choosing to recall God's past miraculous care of Israel. Soon he is praising God again.

He realizes that only God could have done for His people what their history shows. He is indeed a holy and great God comparable to nothing else. He alone does wonders.

Israel saw God's might from their collective birth as a nation in the Exodus from Egypt. God delivered them from the most powerful empire of their day. Pharaoh's armies drowned in the Red Sea, the same sea that Israel crossed on dry land! God gave them a land of abundance in Canaan in which to live and worship Him. He did wonders among them.

Israel did not redeem themselves. There was no slave uprising to topple Egyptian cruelty. God brought them out and God led them to a new land. God was their redeemer. And His power was to be praised!

And so Christ is my Redeemer and strong Deliverer. He has done mighty things for me. Jesus has done wonders. Each salvation in the church is an Exodus from sin's slavery. His might is known among His people. Death is broken over us by His death and resurrection. Amen!

Friday, June 12, 2015

under the broom tree

And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.”
1 Kings 19:5

Elijah was in a ministry funk. And after 27 years of pastoral work, I can tell you, I know what it is like to be there from time to time. Elijah entered the prophetic scene boldly. He declared a drought to Ahab, then fled to the brook Cherith, later to the home of a barely sustained widow. And in both places God supernaturally provided for him. After confronting and killing the prophets of Baal at Carmel, Elijah is told he is wanted dead by the crown. And rather than see this as a faith and trust in God moment, Elijah "boldly" flees to the wilderness again. And under the shade of a broom tree he prays for God to end his life.

God heard the prophet's despairing prayer, but chose to respond to it quietly and deliberately over a rather long period of time. As Elijah slept in his depression (probably curled up in fetal defeat under the broom tree), an angel came and ministered to the suffering prophet. Elijah awakes to find a meal prepared by angel hands. After a coupld of short naps and some more snacks from his angelic chef, Elijah is sent on a forty day journey to Horeb, where he woulld have an extended encounter with God.

It was there that Elijah found God, not in an earthquake, fire, or fierce wind, but in the holy, unsettling encounter of a low quiet whisper. And God reassured him that he was not alone in the struggle against evil and idolatry that comprised the rule of Ahab and Jezebel. God could use Elijah as well as seven thousand more who were faithful to Him.

The process wherein Elijah moved from despair to faith was at least a forty day season and probably more. He journeyed to Beersheba and the wilderness. He traveled forty days to Horeb, and there he encountered God in a way that reinstated his courageous faith. For every moment we sit under the broom tree, God is preparing to lead us to Horeb and His low whisper. It just takes time to get there.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take Aaron and his sons with him, and the garments and the anointing oil and the bull of the sin offering and the two rams and the basket of unleavened bread. And assemble all the congregation at the entrance of the tent of meeting.” And Moses did as the Lord commanded him, and the congregation was assembled at the entrance of the tent of meeting.
Leviticus 8:1-4

The priests were consecrated to their duties in front of the entire assembly of Israel by "doing" their duties. Their immediate action upon donning priestly garments and being anointed with oil was to offer a sin offering for themselves and the nation (Leviticus 8:14). This was the beginning of a long relationship Israel had with God in which priests offered sacrifices, and regular bloody animal slaughter was the means to atone for sin. It kept them in covenant with Yahweh.

The priests were in constant demand to offer portions of each animal brought to the altar. It was a necessary duty so that sin could be dealt with and God could dwell among His people. The altar was first consecrated with blood (see Leviticus 8:15-16). It would be constantly covered in the blood of sacrifice from that point forward.

Today the blood of the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world consecrates the altar of my life. Jesus was sacrificed so that I might be able to myself live as a living sacrifice. Christ has consecrated my life so that I may offer it back to God in all that I now do.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


'For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
Luke 15:24

Like the son in the story Jesus told

I wandered
squandered my gifts
ran away
shamed my Father

And I wasted
all He had given
until nothing
remained but misery

And all alone
in my hunger
I came to my sense...
returned to my Father

Like the son in the story Jesus told

I saw my Father
run to me
arms open wide
wildly forgiving

He gave to me
a feast
of celebration

I was lost
but now I'm found
I was blind
now I see

Like the son in the story Jesus told

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

5 aspects of Christian community

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:1-3

There are five ways in which true Christian community honors the calling to "love one another" as Jesus loved us. This is the new commandment Jesus gave His disciples. It is the distinctive of Christian relationships. It is also something only God can do within us.

First we love in humility. We set aside selfish agendas and consider other members of the Christian community as more important than ourselves. We learn to sacrifice for each other as Jesus did. Like Jesus we enter into relationships to serve others.

Secondly, we are gentle with each other. Christian relationships are not sharp or divisive. We humbly care for each other, even when our brother or sister may not quite be approaching us that same way. We can handle their neediness with gentleness.

Next, we are patient. That is not easy. It means that in the church we may encounter long term difficult relationships. By being patient with God to do His work in our fellow Christians, we learn to be part of His sanctifying process in others. And this sanctifies us.

Along with patience must come a loving forbearance. We can easily have a grudging forbearance. In fact, I have to guard against it given my personality which is to "get along" while simultaneously being sarcastic in order to deal with what I don't care to experience! Christ tells us we must bear with one another in love. Love is the driving emotion that ties it all together. Christian love makes patience and forbearance possible.

And finally, we seek to stay together in Christian unity. We seek peace and reconciliation under a common faith and love for Jesus. Then the Spirit's bond of peace can hold us together in Christian community. It is the most amazing set of relationships with people we will have in our lifetimes. And I belive it is worth obeying Jesus, even in the hard work, to experience this together.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Exile is a mercy

You have feared the sword, and I will bring the sword upon you, declares the Lord God. And I will bring you out of the midst of it, and give you into the hands of foreigners, and execute judgments upon you. You shall fall by the sword. I will judge you at the border of Israel, and you shall know that I am the Lord.
Ezekiel 11:8-10

Messages of judgment are not fun reading on a Monday morning. In chapter 11 of Ezekiel, God takes Jerusalem into judgment. The prophecy that Ezekiel gives is in response to two counseling princes/prophets who are using the fear of judgment to scare people beyond hope. It seems the people are so frightened of their message ("The city is the cauldron, we are the meat" or in other words "We're cooked!") that they have abandoned hope and abandoned God.

But God had promised He would bring a remnant through... so this extreme fear needed to end in faith. The gloom prophets are confronted by Ezekiel, one of whome drops dead mid-sermon as Ezekiel gives God's final word on the matter (see Ezekiel 11:13). Now that is a dramatic audience response! God vindicates His mercy, seasoned with judgment, even as false prophets are judged for taking a true reality (impending judgment) further than God intended (missing the mercy of the exile).

The Exile was a mercy of God. It honored His Word and the covenant with Israel. If Jerusalem were destroyed with no captives alive, the Abrahamic covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the love of God for His people Israel would all have just been lies. But because thousands were marched to Babylon, God's mercy and love remained on His people even in judgment. The Exile would be an extension of His grace so that the Jews might return again to prosper in another generation that lived in covenant with their God. That is why the serious events shutting down these over negative wicked "counselors" occurred. God will not have His mercies denied by human fear or even human failure.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Finish this sentence: "God helps those who..."

Go to the ant, O sluggard;
consider her ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief,
officer, or ruler,
she prepares her bread in summer
and gathers her food in harvest.
Proverbs 6:6-8

The most often misquoted scripture is not in the bible at all... "God helps those who help themselves." Go ahead. Search for it. Google it. It ain't in the book! It has been used as a colloquial proverb for generations and many people think it is a verse of scripture. It is not. It originated in Greek philosophy with both Sophocles and Euripides. In English the phrase as we know it probably dates to the 17th century, first mentioned in publication by Englishman Algernon Sidney (a nod to wikipedia for that trivial insight). So the phrase is not scriptural... but the concept has some merit as a principle.

This passage using ants for illustration sets forth a general principle: God often uses our daily hard work as a means of His common grace to provide for our needs. That is why the lazy person is instructed to consider that even in the natural world, animals must seek food and shelter of their own effort. A colony of ants provides this insight. The busy ants gather food so that all of them may thrive. God provided them with the instinct and ability to do so. They still must diligently gather.

It is that idea that guides my understanding of God's common grace. I have proud blue collar roots. My dad was a hard working man. He hauled freight and drove trucks, loaded freight on docks across Kansas City, and drew a union wage and pension his entire life. He literally worked until his back broke. He taught me the necessity and value of hard work. We were never rich. But we were never hungry. The week that I graduated from High School I got a warehouse job. I have been employed ever since both outside ministry and from within ministry. Before being privileged to be supported as a full-time pastor, I have been a grade school janitor, a factory worker, a window installer, an underground utilities locator, a telecommunications technician, a graphics arts designer, and a house painter. And though not wealthy either, God has supplied for my family systematically by His common grace. The ants will teach us a lifetime lesson if we look to them as scripture asks us to do. Hard work is a means of God's provisioning grace.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

"...I discerned their end."

But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.
Psalm 73:16-17

There is a tension each believer feels when they see what appears to be prosperity for the wicked under the world's rules and the generous common grace of God. Sometimes the wicked seem to go unpunished and they often flourish. We see the same in our culture both inside and outside the visible Church. It is a troubling experience. It can bring doubts and disillusionment.

I expect the wicked to make wealth an idol. Unbelievers will very well prosper materially. The economic systems of this world favor not just hard work, but also ruthlessness. From the days of the Egyptian pharaohs until now, the powerful have exploited those under them to make fame and fortune for one person's name only. It is the way of the world to promote self.

To see it in the church is frightening. But it is here, make no excuses for it. You see it in every multi-media televangelism "ministry". It oozes out of Joel and Victoria like the serpant's seductive charm, promising good looks, health, lots of dreamy stuff if we just live as positively (and self-driven) as they do. I have said this many times, but the demise of American Evangelicalism has come from within, not without. It comes from our fascination with creating celebrities, marketing curriculum, and aping culture that steals away true biblical community in the church, and makes marketing our mission rather than bringing the gospel into the world.

God, I see our end if we don't return to Your sanctuary. It is not looking good for the future of Christian faith in my world. We cannot blame the rapidly paganizing culture of unbelievers. We ourselves... Christians... the people You call out of the world to be a light to the world... are to blame. Your people have forgotten to follow You, Jesus! God help us, we must repent of our wicked desire for worldly prosperity and fame. May we only make You great in what we do. Destroy our evangelical culture if You must. Burn our curriculum and any books save our Bibles. Bring us to shame for our celebrity worship... and Jesus... may You be our only Bright and Morning Star.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

the brook dried up

And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. And after a while the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.
1 Kings 17:6-7

Elijah's prophetic ministry began with an intense test of faith. His first message was confrontation with Ahab, the wicked king of Israel. He declared that God had decreed a three year drought. And then God hides him at the brook Cherith where ravens bring him morning and evening sandwiches (that's what I would make with bread and meat) and the running brook brings fresh water. Elijah starts his ministry hiding, but secure.

We don't know how long Elijah lived in this way, fed by ravens at Cherith, but it would have taken some time for the stream to go dry. Every day the ravens brought Elijah his food, and eventually as the drought took its toll, Elijah saw the water supply dwindle, until one day a stagnant pool was all that was left of the once nourishing stream that God supplied. The stream ran dry. And Elijah watched it happen, powerless to change it as he trusted God. It was only when the brook dried up that the prophet received direction from God. The Lord took his faith to the very last drop of water.

There are seasons in life when God lets the brook dry up. He takes us right to the point of desperation. We watch what sustained us turn to dust so that our trust will be in God and not the stuff He gives to us. It is those times that prove our faith. Are they tests? Maybe so. Maybe not. I tend to think that God simply works with us in this way most of the time so that we might trust Him more.

I write these words on a humid Kansas early summer morning. It is going to rain today again. It is a wet summer already, the kind of wet that causes flooding and forces you to mow your yard twice a week so that you don't live in a suburban jungle. It's like a midwest rain forest... and it is hard to imagine anything drying up right now. But I know it happens... come August or September this same yard will be dormant, brown, and dry. And the dryness is also known by God. He will nourish what the rain cannot sustain. He will provide for my soul when the brook dries up.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

sin offering

“Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If anyone sins unintentionally in any of the Lord's commandments about things not to be done, and does any one of them..."
Leviticus 4:2

Chapters four through six of Leviticus are all about the priestly duties required for various situations in which a sin offering needed to be sacrificed. It is a detailed list of instructions. It was hard work. Basically, a large animal was slaughtered, butchered, and portions of it were burned on the altar in order to atone for the sin of someone. The levitical system was not an "easy fix". I imagine it would take the better part of a day to make such an offering. And every Israelite was bound by the covenant to embrace this system of atone for their sins by animal sacrifice.

As I read Leviticus I am struck by the holiness of God and the seriousness of sin. It was not an easy thing to participate in sin offerings. When you headed to the priest with your sacrificial beast in tow, everybody knew why you were doing this! You publically admitted your need for atonement. The system emphasized the holiness of God and the extensive wickedness of humanity and the pervasiveness of our sin.

I am thankful that Christ made atonement for me and for all of us once and for all. I am thankful that I can study the Old Testament so that I can appreciate all that Jesus did for me!