Saturday, May 25, 2013

"You are Holy"-Summary of Leviticus

The Holy of Holies

As we have journeyed through the book of Leviticus, we have experienced a book where God reveals Himself to be Holy and where He calls us to be Holy as well, beckoning us into this intimate relationship with Him. How does God make us Holy?

I think if we had to imagine that God was writing a love letter to us through the book of Leviticus, He might be saying thees words as written by *Larry Crabb in his book, "66 Love Letters",

The Law of God
"You must not try to fit Me into your plans. Your plans are too small. You must fit yourself into mine, I do have a plan, and it is a good one! I've written Leviticus to tell you one thing. The toughest part of My plan, the part that's costliest to Me, is to make you holy. You want me to solve your problem but you do not know what your worst problem is, the one responsible for all the others. You don't yet realize that distance from me is the most lethal problem you have. When you read Leviticus, notice that I never solve anyone's secondary problem,...because the issue was worship and intimacy with Me, not health, wealth or personal comfort. All twenty seven chapters in Leviticus are written to tell you that relationship with Me, is always the issue that trumps every other concern, and that relating to me will always be on My own terms....I have made a way for you to revolve your life around Me as your first thing...And that is what Leviticus is all about: the requirement that you be holy in order to be close to me".

You may want to ask God, but how are you you making me Holy, I do not see it clearly in Leviticus? He might continue to say,

"Every theme in Leviticus highlights My son (Jesus)... it is through Him that I make you Holy....The first theme-Offerings-covered in the first seven chapters is a picture of how Jesus is the only way to me. Think of the burnt offering as a picture of My loving Son giving Himself fully to Me on the cross. Let the grain offering remind you that Jesus was a perfect man, which is what I had in mind for every human being to be, who willingly and gladly offered Himself for imperfect people, in order to please me. And now because He offered Himself to me for you, we can get along. I am no longer mad at you for your sin, and you no longer hate Me. All of this is represented in the peace offering. The Sin offering tells you that My lovely Son became sin...And the trespass offering reflects the value of my Son's death every time you sin. Cling to Jesus as you face your sin, and we will stay in close touch with each other." 

Yes that is How God is making us Holy, by believing in Jesus Christ, we take up His righteousness and are sealed by the Spirit of God, who causes us to reflect more and more, day by day the image of His son, Jesus Christ (2 Cor 3:18, 5:17).

The High Priest
The next theme in Chapter 8-10 is about the priesthood. "Aaron, a picture of My Son as High priest, needed no cleansing before My Spirit anointed him, Jesus was sinless, no cleansing needed, just Spirit-annointing...I wrote about this too in Heb 2:11...Other themes include the need to be clean, the requirement that every offering be sacrificed at the altar, which symbolizes Calvary, only blood shed there by My Son (Jesus) has life giving power. ...Another theme is-guidance for living in the Promised Land (Canaan), which is a picture of My plan that you will live holy lives in an unholy world.

 If you stay focused on the core themes of Leviticus, that My plan is to make you holy, then you will see My Love-and My Son (Jesus)-all through the letter. My Spirit will help you see these things."

I know this is a lot to digest, especially because we are used to trying to fit God into our own plans and shy away from the sticky issues He tells us to stay away from. So that we can enjoy a life full of His fellowship, a life full of life, joy and peace. However it is my prayer that this first person imagined dialogue has caused you to see the beauty of what God has revealed in Leviticus and the hope you have in Jesus Christ, if you would believe. Now this is true comfort for the soul, with 63 more love letters to go as we continue this journey on Comfortnotes. Until next time...where we venture into the book of Numbers... Read, Share and be Comforted. Blessings beloved.

*All first person dialogue was taken from Larry Crabb's, 66 Love Letters, Pg (10-13).

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Sticky Issues (Lev 18-20)

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. I am the Lord your God. So do not act like the people in Egypt, where you used to live, or like the people of Canaan, where I am taking you. You must not imitate their way of life. You must obey all my regulations and be careful to obey my decrees, for I am the Lord your God. If you obey my decrees and my regulations, you will find life through them. I am the Lord. (Lev 18:1-5).
Sticky notes for a less sticky life
If you are diabetic or know anyone who is, you understand that, to live a long healthy life there are certain foods the doctors say are to be avoided. Foods high in sugar, sodium or fats especially trans fats are not the best for any of us, but especially one who is diabetic. However sometimes sticking to doctors orders can be a battle.  My father who was Diabetic experienced serious diabetics shocks when he was careless about what the doctor ordered.

In a similar way, in Lev 18-20,  I see God as the doctor over his people Israel, giving them instructions on what to do and not do in order to live a healthy life on earth. He digs deep into their sin tendencies and elaborates in very clear terms what brings a full life.  Which is a life fully intimate with God. Being the ultimate physician, God expresses that there is no other life found outside of Him, and only by following His orders will His people Israel avoid the diabetic shocks that plague their broken world. 

So what did the doctor order? What other laws found in our text today did God prescribe for Israel? How does God's prescription to Israel apply to us today? I must warn you...they are sticky....especially in our culture they will sting hard....However let us examine some of what the doctor ordered for His people Israel and see their relation in our world today.

Do not engage in Commentary Reference
Incest Sexual relations with family members (brother, sister, daughter, in-laws, father , mother etc) 18:6-18
Sex during
Menstrual cycle

In the culture, a woman during her menstrual cycle was considered unclean so the man would be too if he was intimate with her during that time
Adultery Sexual intimacy outside of ones own marriage 18:20, Exo 20:14
Child sacrifice Sacrificing children to gods 18:21

Sexual intimacy with someone of the same sex 18:22

Sexual intimacy with an animal 18:23

Honor your father and mother
Respect parents 19:1
Have a day of rest The Lord provided this day for His people as a healthy practice and a sign of trusting God to provide even when they are not working. 19:1, 30
Honor God first Do not worship anything apart from God 19:4
Have a heart of gratitude
May the thanksgiving offering be made as prescribed by the Lord. So even in celebration of God's faithfulness, holiness has to be maintained.
Care for the poor
In your fields of work  provide room for the poor and strangers to get provision from your harvest.
Do not steal, or lie
God's people are to abide by the truth. Bearing false witness was prohibited

Do not Pervert justice or discriminate amongst each other
Justice and righteousness are the foundation of God's rule. Israel, God's people are to abide by truth, equality and embrace diversity 19:13-16
Love one another Do not hate your brother but correct him with love 19:17
Forgive one another Do not take vengeance in your own hands, the Lord Himself will repay evil committed towards you 19:18

Do not consume blood, practice divination, soothsaying, use mediums for consulting the spirits of the dead
Blood portrayed life, so eating anything with its blood was not acceptable. Divination is trying to tell the future through the occult or by using powers outside of God's revelation. 19:26, 31

Do not cut your body for the dead or tattoo marks on your body
The human body is created beautifully whole in the image of God, so disfiguring it in any way, dishonors God. it revealed rebellion towards God's design. 19:28
No sex traffiking
Do not give your children to prostitution for gain or cause them to run into prostitution because of parental negligence
Honor the elderly
Those advanced in age carry unique wisdom from life, although more fragile in strength, they need to be honored out of fear of the God who has given them long life.
Doctors Orders 
For all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you. “‘Everyone who does any of these detestable things—such persons must be cut off from their people.

Ok I must agree, it is a long list. Showing how sick Israel as a people were...and looking at the list, I will say it speaks to my own sickness and to yours as well. The truth is, just like the people over 1500 years ago practiced these things that brought death (Rom 3:23, 6:23), we today practice the same. The list above is not foreign to our own sin tendencies. So the question is, , will we experience diabetic shock, if we, like Israel, decide to ignore the doctors orders? If we ignore the doctor's orders should we count on experiencing death and broken relationships as indicated by God in Lev 20? Like my father, he tried to obey the doctor's orders, but it seemed to fail many times, sometimes causing him to give up trying to conform to the rules and regulations that brought him life.

Like many of us, we are weak when asked to perfectly obey God's righteous standard. So how do we live out the abundant life if rule following is our weakness? God has a plan, He always does. The ultimate doctor has given his rules as an MRI for our hearts (Rom 3:20) and now that we see how sick we really are (Rom 7:7-13), we call out to Him to save us from our hopeless condition and He listens. Just like He did to Paul the Apostle, he declared with anguish and then hope in Rom 7:21-25

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So although God's laws reveals our sickness called sin, we have hope in Jesus Christ, because faith in Him is surgery from the inside out, where we are made into a new person (2 Cor 5:17). One, not enslaved to sin but slave to a right standing with God (Rom 6:18). A new person who desires to follow the doctors orders and is able to do so, by the enabling of the Holy Spirit. God has not left us without help (John 14:17-19), He is with us all the way, going the distance to make us Holy because only by His way, and not ours, do we experience the joy of life, the abundant life (John 10:10). I hope you will seek God out, so that you may experience the life your were created to live. Now this is true comfort for the soul. Until next time...Read...Share...and be Comforted. May this song by Amy Grant, "Carry you", give you the courage to reach out to God to help you live out His beautiful life in and through you.
"Carry you" Amy Grant click here for slower internet connections

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Playing by the rules (Lev 10)

The Ark of the Covenant representing God's Presence and His

Then Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, put incense on it, and offered profane fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them.So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the LordAnd Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke, saying:‘By those who come near Me, I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people, I must be glorified.’”So Aaron held his peace. (Lev 10:1-3)

The statement "playing by the rules" takes my mind almost always to a courtroom drama. Someone has broken the rules and the judge has the authority and responsibility to administer Justice. I enjoy courtroom drama shows because the process of justice prevailing brings out the joy of a battle won. I think we usually understand the seriousness of a crime based on the severity of the sentence. Justice prevails when deserved punishment or reward is administered based on moral standards*. So not playing by the rules of the land usually comes with a price tag, some harder to pay than others.

Nadab and Abihu 's price tag for breaking the rules, cost them their life. In our story today we see a startling courtroom drama  which ended with a death sentence. The context of this story features right after the priest have been taught the rules to follow in making themselves acceptable before a Holy God and the priests, Aaaron and his sons, have gone through the ordination process. The story reveals that Nadab and Abihu disobey God by offering up incense outside of the approved manner. God's response to this disobedience is immediate death.

The Ark of the Covenant
The severity of this verdict only allows our finite minds to understand a little better the reality of God's Holiness, "“This is what the Lord spoke, saying:‘By those who come near Me, I must be regarded as holy. I think this incident, although tragic and severe, helped bring the Priests to a place of respectful fear of God, the Lord says, "And before all the people, I must be glorified". It more than likely provided  understanding in a very real sense, the penalty of sin (breaking God's rules)...which is Death (Rom 6:23a). These lessons I must assume, did not only stay among the priest but translated to the people of Israel. They get another chance to see that God although all loving, is a God of justice. A justice executed according to His standard and not theirs. God was able to reiterate the fact that they were a set apart Nation, different from their neighbors and He was their king. So playing by God's rules is a blessing (Deu 26:16-19), it is an invitation for Israel to freedom...freedom to live the best life possible in the new land they will be receiving.

Can we venture to apply this same invitation to freedom to our lives today. God the creator of the universe is calling us to enter into His Holiness, like He did with Israel. He is inviting us into the beauty of a life lived according to His rules.  At first glance, this story seems to bring out God's cruelty but actually it passionately reveals who our God is. He in a God who is all knowing even outside of time, who has created us to enjoy the very joy of who He is. Psalm 100:2-3 very beautifully says,
Serve the Lord with gladness;Come before His presence with singing.Know that the Lord, He is God;It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
This courtroom drama only allows me to ponder, and stand in awe, that a God so perfect, all sufficient will want so desperately to reach out to me and invite me into His completeness. I share God's invitation letter to you, as it is written in John 17:20-24
20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. 24 Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began! (John 17:20-24)-NLT
...there is no greater comfort than this...will you come in....will you say yes to God's best for you, which is Himself?
....This is Jesus prayer for you beloved, as He lays out this Heavenly Invitation. Now this is true comfort for the soul. Until next time enjoy another invitation into the Holiness of God, as illustrated by Pastor Donnie McClurkin in his song "Holy".

* "Justice" according to

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Delight & Power of God's presence (Lev 8)

The High Priest Garment (Lev 8:6-9)
(8:33-36)…(Aaron and your sons) You must not leave the Tabernacle entrance for seven days, for that is when the ordination ceremony will be completed. 34 Everything we have done today was commanded by the Lord in order to purify you, making you right with him…If you fail to do this, you will die, for this is what the Lord has commanded.” 36 So Aaron and his sons did everything the Lord had commanded through Moses….(9:15)-Next Aaron presented the offerings of the people. He slaughtered the people’s goat and presented it as an offering for their sin, just as he had first done with the offering for his own sin. …(9:22-24) 22After that, Aaron raised his hands toward the people and blessed them…and the glory of the Lord appeared to the whole community. 24 Fire blazed forth from the Lord’s presence and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When the people saw this, they shouted with joy and fell face down on the ground.

I had a very good friend taken away from me a few years ago. He was funny, caring, could cook up a storm, simply a delight to be around. As I mourned his departure I realized something very startling, the thing I missed most about him was his presence. Nothing about what he did or even how he looked mattered, I wanted my friend back simply to be in his very presence....I simply longed to enjoy who he was as a person, leaving all the eternals aside...oh the delight and power of Presence.

Monica A. Coleman a professor at Claremond Graduate University says it well, " The ministry of presence asserts that there is power—divine power—in just showing up and sticking around. It suggests that the incarnation (word becoming flesh) is more important than the Word". Another person who understood the power of presence is Catholic Priest  Henri Nouwen, who expressed this ministry of presence with his world. This 2 minute video captures his words and his way of life.

Yes, the delight and power of Presence, is what the children of Israel experienced at this point of our story today, "Fire blazed forth from the Lord’s presence and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar. When the people saw this, they shouted with joy and fell face down on the ground"

Before the Lord's presence was visible to Israel there were certain things that had to be done. The High Priest Aaron and his sons had to be ordained and made holy (set apart for God) to represent the people before God. As we learnt before, we cannot enter into the very presence of our Holy God without getting rid of all our sin. God's provision for that, at this time, was in the offerings of animals and using their blood to cover sin. So reading Lev 8 we see the process of making the High priest, Aaron and his sons, holy before God. It involved an elaborate process of wearing the right garment (1-10), anointing oil sprinkled (10-13), the blood of bulls being sprinkled (14-17), the rams as gift and ordination offerings (18-24), the cakes of bread (25-29), then the blood being sprinkled on them (30-32). Lastly the order to stay seven days in the entrance of the Tabernacle (33-36), there they stayed with God I am assuming. After this they are made Holy (set apart for God), they are not the same.

Aaron and his sons after spending that time in God's presence, make the sacrifice, making Israel holy before God, and as all the people are holy, Aaron has the power and authority to bless the people, "Aaron raised his hands toward the people and blessed them". Then the Lord Himself offers His people the greatest blessing of all, the joy and power of His visible presence seen in the fire, "Fire blazed forth from the Lord’s presence and consumed the burnt offering". The people saw it and were glad, just like they had been in Exodus (Exo 40), "God with us" they must have cried as they bowed down to the ground. This display of God's presence, I assume,  gave them a confidence that God was pleased with them, that he loved them enough to show up, that He would take care of them, and direct them. God showing up visibly allowed Israel once again to be reminded that they were not alone, they were special, set apart as a people for God. I think maybe just like my desire to be in the presence of my friend, they longed to continuously be in the very visible presence of God.

God answered that desire many years after by sending another High Priest, who was to be like Aaron but better, Who offered himself as the perfect sacrifice, and still stands in the temple at the right hand of God representing us before God. For those who have believed in Him, He left them with his Spirit, sealed in their hearts. So that they will be in the very presence of God always, gleaning power and delight from Him, yes Jesus Christ our great High Priest forever (Heb 7:28). In the New Testament the book of Hebrews gives a beautiful display of how we too like Israel can enjoy the very presence of God through our forever High Priest Jesus Christ. Hebrews says this about Jesus Christ,

(2:17) Therefore, it was necessary for him (Christ Jesus) to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people.

(4:14-15)[ Christ Is Our High Priest ] So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.

(5:4-5) And no one can become a high priest simply because he wants such an honor. He must be called by God for this work, just as Aaron was. That is why Christ did not honor himself by assuming he could become High Priest. No, he was chosen by God, who said to him, “You are my Son. Today I have become your Father.”

(5:9-10)In this way, God qualified him (Christ Jesus) as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him. And God designated him to be a High Priest in the order of Melchizedek

(6:20) Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest in the order of Melchizedek.

(7:26-27) He is the kind of high priest we need because he is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has been set apart from sinners and has been given the highest place of honor in heaven. Unlike those other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices every day. They did this for their own sins first and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus did this once for all when he offered himself as the sacrifice for the people’s sins.

(10:20-22)20 By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. 21 And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, 22 let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

So these scriptures make us understand that, we too can experience the delight and power of being in the presence of God, as Israel was comforted with joy in His presence then, we now are comforted by His presence through Jesus Christ. Through Jesus blood we are made right with God and able to enjoy His presence by The Spirit.  As we enjoy God's presence, I encourage us to practice also being present in the lives of others (John 13:35). As you carry The Spirit of God in you, you bring life to others when you are actively present in their lives...can you be more intentional about this?...for in so doing we experience and provide true comfort for the soul...until next always Read, Share and be Comforted.

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