Lucia's Blog: February 2014
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Isaiah 55:8-9

Isaiah 55:8-9

Friday, February 28, 2014

THE LAW AND THE WILDERNES - GOD'S TABERNACLE

GOD'S TABERNACLE

The Tabernacle was very different in substance and purpose from other ancient temples. Even though it had some items that were similar to those of the other temples such as a Holy of Holies for God Himself, a Holy Place for the Levite priests, courtyards, incense, candlesticks, food and basins for washing. God's Tabernacle was much different.  Consider the following:

  • God's purpose to reside in the Tabernacle was not in order for His people to meet His needs.  He did not have to be fed, clothed or washed as the ancients did their gods.
  • The Holy of Holies contained only an ark and a lid that was called the Mercy Seat.
  • No idol god sat in the Holy Seat.
  • God never needed light, a bed, a dresser for His clothes, a throne or a table for food. All of these items were in the Holy Place for the priests to use.
  • The Tabernacle was not stationary, but portable.
  • God was never confined to the Tabernacle.
  • God would go in front of His people in order to guide them when the Tabernacle was packed up for travel.
  • God was willing to live in a tent, just as His people who also were living in tents. God did not need a high dwelling place that stood high above those of His people.  He just resided among His people.  His only desire was for His people to know Him and obey Him!  
  • No food was ever brought before God to taste or consume.
  • God's required sacrifices were simple compared to those of the Near Eastern ancient gods.
  • God never needed to wash His hands. The water basin was used only by the priests to wash themselves for purification and cleansing purposes.
  • To enter into God's presence was a holy and reverent act. Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies.  He only entered once a year.  Notice there were no windows to allow others to see inside.
  • There was no class system. The Tabernacle was available to everyone. Even the poor could participate of the special offerings when available. 
  • God did not need clothing. The laws regarding clothing only covered what the priests wore, not what God wore.

INSIDE THE TABERNACLE


The Tabernacle was separated into sections:  the Outer Courts, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies.  Both the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies were confined in a tent.  The entire Tabernacle along with its courtyard was surrounded by a fence.

The Holy Place and the Holy of Holies were shielded with hangings of blue, purple and crimson linen, colors of royalty, which could be seen only from the inside. The linen covered a durable layer of black curtains made out of goat's hair. All around this was a tent layer made of ram's skin, followed by another layer of skin on top. The Tabernacle looked like any other tent from the outside.  Its layers of skin provided protection from the ceremonial elements.


Altar of Burnt Offering:  
Exodus 27:1-8:  

This was made of acacia wood covered with bronze. All the utensils were also covered with bronze. This altar was designed to be carried. The sacrifices on the altar covered the unintentional sins of the Israelites in order that they might have been cleaned.




"For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"  Hebrews 9:13-14; see also Mark 14:24, Hebrews 19, I Peter 1:18-19, 2 Corinthians 5:21
Laver or Basin for Washing:
 Exodus 30:17-21:
  
This was made of bronze. The priests used it to cleanse themselves before entering the Inner Courts.









"Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water."   Hebrews 10:22.  
Table of Shewbread:  
Exodus 25:23-30

This sat in the Holy Place. It was made of acacia wood overlaid with gold. It was designed to be portable like the rest of the Tabernacle. All the utensils were also covered in gold. Twelve loaves of bread were placed in two rows of six each, on the table each Sabbath. This stood as a reminder of the Covenant God made with the twelve tribes of Israel as well as Israel's dependence upon God as their Provider.







"Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst."
John 6:35, 48-51
Lampstand or Menorah:  
Exodus 25:31-40: 

This was made of pure gold and supported seven lamps. It gave light for the priests.





"Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life."  John 8:12
Altar of Incense: 
 Exodus 30:1-10

This was made of acacia wood covered with gold. It sat in the Holy Place. It was burned twice a day by the Priests.




Psalm 141:1-2 indicates that our prayers are like incense to the Lord. Likewise in Revelation 5:8 and 8:3, an angel of the Lord offers incense before the throne and the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar which was before the throne.
The Veil:  
Exodus 26:31-35:




This was made of wool and linen. It was decorated with cherubim. It separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies.


"And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split."   Matthew 27:51


 "Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh"
Hebrews 10:19-20



The Ark of the Covenant:   
Exodus 25:10-22:



 The ark was a chest made of acacia wood covered with gold inside and out. "The Mercy Seat," was its gold cover. It featured two golden cherubim facing each other. God spoke to Moses from above the Mercy Seat, between the two cherubim. Inside the ark there were the two stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments.



In John 1:14 Jesus says,
"And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth."



"For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance."   
Hebrews 9:15 




NOTE: God showed Moses the design of the Tabernacle on Mount Sinai. According to the Book of Hebrews, what Moses saw was exactly the pattern that God wanted him to follow in building the Tabernacle:  

"According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so you shall construct it."
 Exodus 25:9 NASB


"See that you make them after the pattern for them, which was shown to you on the mountain." 
Exodus 25:40 NASB


See also Exodus 26:30, Numbers 8:4, Acts 7:44 and Hebrews chapters 8:5 and 9:1-10 related to the building of the Tabernacle.


In our last discussion we will consider examples of  disobedience toward God and the terrible consequences. We will also discuss the Ten Commandments and the Feast of the Tabernacles.  

Luci

Thursday, February 27, 2014

THE LAW AND THE WILDERNESS - MOUNT SINAI & THE LAW

MOUNT SINAI AND THE LAW

MOUNT SINAI

When the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai, they had been out of Egyptian slavery from three months. God gave them three days in which they were to consecrate themselves before He would meet with them in preparation of the establishment of His covenant with them.  God wanted to have a relationship with His people. He wanted their love, loyalty and faith. God's desire to have this unique relationship WAS UNIQUE. HIS COVENANT WITH THEM WAS ALSO UNIQUE.  Covenants were not uncommon in the ancient world, but a covenant between God and His people was something new to them. God wanted to dwell among them, care for them, and protect them.  In other ancient religions, man's purpose was to work incessantly for their gods meeting their god's needs. What a remarkable contrast between God's Covenant with the Israelites and the covenants of the pagans.  God in His covenant would do all the work. He would be their God, their King and their Judge.  But God had to set boundaries or borders in order that that He might govern their actions or behavior.  All the Israelites had to do was to TRUST AND OBEY HIM.  God's Law!


THE LAW

When we talk about the Law  that God gave Moses, it is often thought that we are referring to the Ten Commandments. Notice that God also gave Moses 603 other laws in addition to the Ten Commandments, totaling 613  laws.  These laws can be divided into three categories: civil or judicial, moral and ceremonial.

  • Civil and Judicial laws: These laws dealt with conflicts between citizens, disputes over property rights and personal injuries.  An example of this law is found in Exodus 21:33.
  • Moral laws: These laws helped in protecting the helpless such as slaves, widows, orphans and foreigners. These laws were unheard of in other law codes. God's laws were just UNIQUE. An example of this law is found in Leviticus 19:35.
  • Ceremonial laws: These laws included the tabernacle regulations, instruction for different kinds of sacrifices, and rules regarding cleanliness and holiness. An example of this law is found in Leviticus 22:26-27.

God' laws were always good, and not burdensome to obey.  The Israelites failed in obeying and keeping them, because they were rebellious.  Notice that the law itself was not harsh nor was it impossible to keep and obey.  In Psalm 119:97, David speaks of the law, "O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day."  Also, these laws were part of the Covenant between God and the Israelites in which He promised to be their God and to make them His special and chosen people.  

"Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel."   
Exodus 19:5-6.


God gave Moses the Law when Moses ascended to Mount Sinai for a period of over forty days.  The overarching Ten Commandments came first, then the moral and civil laws and finally the ceremonial laws.  The moral and civil laws were to provide the Israelites with a guidebook to live a righteous life for the first time.  The Ten Commandments were to dictate and define right from wrong according to God Himself as well as in the moral and civil laws.  God's purpose has always been for His children to live upright in their dealings with other people.  He also wants His children to share and care for the weak and helpless the same way that He cares.  This is evident through out HIS LAWS.  God's laws teach us that He is HOLY!  Also, it is very clear to see that God is a  JUST GOD.


BIBLICAL LAWS COMPARED TO ANCIENT LAWS OF THE GENTILES

The differences between God's laws that He gave to Moses and the laws written for other ancient cultures as in the case of the Code of Hammurabi are very distinct:
  • God's laws were only given by Him and not a human king.
  • The laws were given orally at first and then they were written down.  There was no other way.
  • These laws were designed by God with the purpose of having a relationship with His people.
  • The laws did not make any separation of social classes.  All Israelites were considered equal.
  • No one was to be punished for a crime committed by another person.
  • Punishments were commonly less brutal and tended to fit the crime.
  • Only one punishment was allotted for a crime rather than numerous punishments.
  • The death penalty was used sparingly.
  • Slaves were to be treated with kindness.
  • Slaves were to work for only six days, just like the rest of the household.
  • Hebrew slaves were to be freed after seven years.
  • The laws were built around relationships rather than property.
  • Human life was more valuable than property.
  • The helpless were to be protected.
  • Care was to be given to the alien or stranger.
  • The practice of charging penalties on loans was banned.
  • They were all expected to take care of the needs of others, even the needs of their enemies.
  • The dignity of the poor and helpless was to be protected.
  • Each person was to learn all the law.  Education about the law was very important. 

After the moral and civil laws, God gave the Israelites instructions to build His Tabernacle. This was a kind of mobile temple. Then God gave the ceremonial laws and the laws of holiness.  This new Tabernacle was to be God's dwelling place among His people. There was one condition, the Israelites had to make themselves holy in order to approach and be close to God:  "Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy." Leviticus 19:2 NASB.  It is obvious they needed to learn to behave, appear and worship Him in a manner that was worthy of Him, if they wanted God to dwell among them.  The God of yesterday is the same God today!



There were many differences between God's Tabernacle and other Ancient temples. The Israelites were familiar with these Ancient temples.  Remember Egypt was filled with gods and their temples.  Each city had a temple for each god. Ancient temples were usually large, majestic and stationary, since most gods were tied to their localities. They were built using slave labor and vast amounts of money. They were usually higher than the surrounding buildings and houses. They were opulent in design, filled with rooms. Their holy place often had windows so that their people could see their god sitting on his throne.  The main focus of these temples was to meet their gods' needs. Their idol gods were fed twice a day. The king was the only one worthy of partaking of their gods' table.  This is outrageous!


In our next study we will be considering some fascinating facts about God's Tabernacle.


Luci

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

THE LAW AND THE WILDERNESS - MANNA FROM HEAVEN & THE AMALEKITES


MANNA FROM HEAVEN

GRUMBLING AND COMPLAINING
After the Israelites left Egypt, crossed the Red/Reed Sea and left behind their previous life of Egyptian slavery (the picture above is a picture of the Israelites in slavery). In light of all the miracles God performed for them, one might assume their gratitude for God would never end. Notice that these Israelites were former slaves who had been abused, beaten and oppressed throughout their entire lives. This led them to have a flawed or imperfect body and spirit. When they suddenly found themselves free from Egyptian slavery in the desert without homes and enough food supply or water, they were terrified! They also knew little of the God of Moses. They were only concerned about their present and basic needs: food, water and shelter. Furthermore, they were soon facing the attack of the Amalekites. They felt helpless and fully dependent upon God as their provider and protector. But, they were not yet used to trusting God to take care of them.

At Marah, God provided water for them twice. He made bitter water drinkable for them. In the desert He made water flow from a rock. Let's not forget the manna, the food from heaven. In all three circumstances, God proved over and over His love even when they grumbled and acted like a faithless people. God's faithfulness to them was not based upon their good behavior. Notice that the Egyptian gods expected their people to be enslaved by them and to feed them as well. But the One and only True God acted like a father to His children, rescuing them from slavery, feeding them with manna from heaven and providing them with enough water in the dessert.


In Exodus 15:22-27; 16 and 17:7, we can read of their grumbling and complaining. The Israelites began to complain and grumble soon after God had provided them with water. They began to cry out against Moses and Aaron as soon as their food supply was finished, wishing they were back in Egypt saying, "who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna." Numbers 11:5.

The Lord heard their grumbling and complaining, but cared and loved them enough to overlook their lack of faith. He provided both meat and bread for them in the form of quail and bread, "manna," from heaven. "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “I have heard the grumblings of the sons of Israel; speak to them, saying, at twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall be filled with bread; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God." Exodus 16:11-12 NASB.

The "manna" came every day, except on the Sabbath, but the quail came only once. God provided for them throughout their forty years in the dessert. "The house of Israel named it manna, and it was like coriander seed, white, and its taste was like wafers with honey." Exodus 16:30-31 NASB. It fell with the dew overnight, and was gathered in the morning.


The following are the instructions for the manna:
  • They were to gather enough manna in the morning for the entire day.
  • They were to gather enough only for the people living in their tent.
  • They were not to gather extra and keep it overnight; when they tried to do this, it became spoiled and filled with maggots.
  • They were to gather double portions on the sixth day so that they could rest on the Sabbath day. They could keep it only on that the night without being spoiled.

Notice the following:
  • This manna from heaven was a daily reminder of God's love and provision for them, his people. God was teaching them to rely on Him. Likewise, they were dependent on Him alone, a loving God. This was such a distinct contrast with their former lives as slaves, in which they were dependent upon the Egyptians who were anything but merciful and loving.
  • They had come out of a world of oppression in which rest and leisure was not allowed. God Himself rested on the seventh day after He had created the heavens and the earth. God was in His kindness establishing the Sabbath and giving them, these former slaves, a taste of what is real freedom. The freedom to rest!

In Joshua 5:11-12 we read, "On the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the sons of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate some of the yield of the land of Canaan during that year." The Israelites celebrated the Passover just before they entered the Promised Land of Canaan. They ate unleavened bread and roasted grain the next day.   Manna stopped coming from heaven!


THE AMALEKITES (Exodus 17:8-6)
The Israelites were forced to fight against the Amalekites at Rephidim. These Amalekites might have been descendants of Esau. Esau's son Eliphaz had a concubine who bore him a son named Amalek in Genesis 36:12. This means they were related to the Israelites. Now, the Amalekites attacked from the rear, killing off the weak and helpless, "how he met you along the way and attacked among you all the stragglers at your rear when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God."  Moses sent Joshua to fight against the Amalekites while he, Moses, stood on top of a hill holding God's staff high in his hand, where it was visible for the Israelites to see. As long as Moses kept his staff high, the Israelites would prevail, but when Moses let his hand down, the Amalekites would prevail. When Moses' hands became tired, the Israelites took a stone and placed it under him to sit on. Aaron and Hur held his hands one on one side and one on the other in order to keep his hands STEADY. They held Moses' hands all throughout the day until the sunset. In doing this Joshua and Israelites were able to defeat the Amalekites with the sword, "Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose men for us and go out, fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set. So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” Moses built an altar and named it The Lord is My Banner; and he said, “The Lord has sworn; the Lord will have war against Amalek from generation to generation." Exodus 17:8-16 NASB.

It is clear to me that God was trying to show the Israelites that they needed God's help since they were powerless. I think that when Moses raised his hands this shows us that Moses was calling upon God for help. We are powerless without God's help!

One interesting thing that caught my attention was the "raising of the rod and hand." Notice that in both victories, one over the Egyptians at the Red/Reed Sea and the other over the Amalekites, Moses had to raise his rod along with his hands as a real sign to them of God's mighty power over their enemies, Your right hand, O Lord, is majestic in power, Your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy."   Exodus 15:16 NASB.

After the victory over the Amalekites, Moses built an altar which he called "The Lord is My Banner; and he said, “The Lord has sworn; the Lord will have war against Amalek from generation to generation."  Exodus 17:15-16 NASB.

God had sworn that since the Amalekites had attacked the Israelites, they were going to eventually be wiped off the face of the earth. Ironically, God used the Amalekites to punish Israel's rebellion before He punished the Amalekites. Isn't that a remarkable thing! God's ways are unique!


The Amalekites in the Bible:
  • Numbers 14:43-45: Here the Amalekites and Canaanites attacked Israel. They won because the Israelites were sinning against the LORD.
  • Judges 3:13: The Amalekites and the Ammonites joined with the Moabites to attack Israel. Again they won because Israel had sinned against their LORD.
  • Judges 6:3: The Amalekites and Midianites attacked Israel, ruining their crops. Again they won because the Israelites had sinned against the LORD.
  • I Samuel 15:1-9: Saul was instructed to destroy the Amalekites completely because of the many attacks against the Israelites. But unfortunately Saul sinned against the LORD losing favor with God.
  • I Samuel 27:8-9: David fought the Amalekites. He began to reduce the population of the Amalekites.
  • I Samuel 30: The Amalekites raided David’s camp kidnapping their wives and sons. David pursued the Amalekites killing all but 400 young men.
  • I Chronicles 4:43: During the time of Hezekiah, the remnant of Amalekites were completely destroyed from the face of the earth.

In our next discussion we will consider the Laws that Israel received from God at Mount Sinai.

Luci 

Friday, February 21, 2014

SEEKING THE ONE WHO SEEKS US



   "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened."  
Matthew 7:7-8 NASB


Have you ever heard knocking at your door unexpectedly?  Do you feel like answering when it is inconvenient for you?  Do you ignore it?  Or simply don't want to deal with any one at the door?  The answer is obviously going to be different for each of us.  Some will prefer to ignore it if it is not urgent.  Others may not feel like answering the door.  Eventually the person on the other side will have to give up and go.

I believe and am convinced that God "knocks" on our door many times.  Unfortunately we ignore His calling.  We may deceive ourselves into thinking that it is not urgent.  We may fear what might happen if we answer His knock.  It is sad when we want Him to go away and we ignore His gentle knocking.  Will He knock again?  God never forces His way through our door.  He has given us free will.  He waits patiently for us to answer His knock.  He is patiently waiting for us! 

Jesus is reminding us to seek and knock in order to find Him.  He will open His door only if we indeed purpose in our heart, mind and soul to pursue Him.  The one who seeks finds.  The one whose door opens, knocks.  We diligently pursue God, when we start seeking Him and thus we find God.  Sadly, we give up the phase of seeking and finding too soon.  We think we have found God, but after a few half-hearted attempts, we determine He is not as great as we thought.  We think God is not worth changing our lives of sin for lives of righteous living.  We deceive ourselves thinking it is too much work, thus we are discouraged and we cease caring about our souls. 

The key is our knocking.  Notice that God tells us that the one who seeks finds.  But that's not the end.  There is more to do.  Those who knock at the door will have the door opened to them.  This means we have sought God and have found Him.  Then once the door is opened we are to pursue and seek Him by continuing to knock at His door.  Notice the relationship is mutual.  He wants and demands that we love, pursue and seek Him with all of our heart, mind and soul.  There is no way around it!

To pursue God with all of our heart, soul and mind means knocking on His door daily with an abiding faith, obedience, determination and patience.  This is a daily decision we must make in order that we may see Him and walk with Him.  Likewise, this requires daily prayer, asking our Lord to provide all that we need in abundance in order that we may seek Him.  We must purpose in our hearts to knock at His door daily seeking His wisdom and guidance in order to do His will.  Remember, He that is faithful has promised to open the door to us if we diligently seek Him.  He is not saying He might open the door, He is reassuring us that He will open the door for us.  God is faithful and keeps His promises.  Let's never forget that!

In Revelation 3:20, God tells us, ” Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me."

God has promised us that if anyone hears His voice and opens the door, He will eat with him and vice versa.  But in order that we may enter and dine with Him, we must hear His voice.  That means we must take the step of opening the door to His calling and instruction.  We must never forget that our relationship with God depends a lot on our own actions and response to His calling.  Our actions must be that of pursuing Him, knocking on His door and opening the door when we hear Him knocking on ours.  We are to open it and let Him in. "The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, But He loves one who pursues righteousness."   Proverbs 15:9 NASB.

“He must turn away from evil and do good; He must seek peace and pursue it."   I Peter 3:11 NASB.

Again, Peter instructs us to take two steps:  A seeking step and an action step.  According to Peter, we must seek peace but we cannot stop there.  We must then pursue peace.  God demands and expects action from us.  Notice He says pursue Me and knock at My door.  The Word of God here gives us a beautiful picture of a mutual relationship with God.  One tells us that we are to seek, find and knock and the other one tells us that He is standing and knocking and that we are to open the door.  He knocks at our door, but we also knock at His.  God tells us, "I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me."  When we determine in our heart to pursue Him, that is when we have that mutual relationship with Him partaking of His bread of life.  Then the door will be opened to us.  We will then be able to partake of His love, abide in Him and know Him.

When you feel that God is silent, keep pursuing Him!  Why struggle?  To find Him requires a lot of perseverance knocking at His door.  Don't lose heart.  I guarantee you He will knock back at your door.  Remember His promise.  He will open the door!  God is faithful and keeps His promises.  The door has been opened to me and definitely it will be opened to you too.  "He who pursues righteousness and loyalty finds life, righteousness and honor."  Proverbs 21:21 NASB.

We must be willing to humble ourselves before His throne by asking Him to give us wisdom to respond to His knocking at our door.  We must persevere in knocking at His door while we walk His path and have the confidence that our door will be opened by Him.

May God help us to always remember that when we ask, we will receive.  May He also help us to pursue His righteousness and His peace departing from evil with a diligent and sincere heart.

Luci

Thursday, February 20, 2014

IS SOMEONE CAUSING YOU TO BE IRRITATED OR ANNOYED?



So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;  bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.  Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.  
Colossians 3:12-14 NASB
 

Have you ever met someone in the body of Christ or outside the body of Christ who has made you feel this way? Perhaps, those who get under your skin?   "And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, PUT ON a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and PATIENCE; bearing with one another and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should YOU." Colossians 3:12-13.  Patience is mentioned here. We must learn PATIENCE in order to deal with irritation. In the New Testament, there are two words for PATIENCE. The first one is for PATIENCE under trials.  This is the kind of patience God uses to give us hope when we're under heavy burdens. He's using these trials to help us accomplish what is necessary for our growth and perfection. Knowing and being confident that He will see you through it with a stronger FAITH.  The second word is for PATIENCE with people.  This means interacting with others. Being patient with those immature and irrational people in our lives.  The second kind of PATIENCE is what I want to talk about.

It may seem unreasonable, but God has designed situations in which some irritating people may come into our lives with the purpose of building us up.  These may be people in your family, your spouse, your parents or even your children, and it may be someone in the body of Christ.  Paul really had all this in mind when he talked about relationships within the body of Christ.  Consider how many brethren love Jesus and His church until they meet someone within the body who irritates them.  But remember, you are going to be the irritating person for someone else.  The beauty of being in the body of Christ is that when we interact deeply with members of the body, we are going to have to learn to deal with such things.  Offenses, frustrations and annoyances are going to come.  So be prepared to deal with them because (1) God has redeemed you, (2) You're still growing into the stature of Christ, (3) God has designed this so that we might grow.

With this in mind, what do you do when you're around those that irritate you?  Do you choose to be patient with them?  Here are a few things to take into consideration:   (1) Remember that God has been very patient with you. Just think of all the foolishness you've done in your life, and yet we have a wonderful God who has been patient with us and has not cast us away, even when we deserve it. I need to grow here! I need to learn patience toward others since I am not naturally patient!  (2) There are always factors that you don't understand about the lives of others.  Maybe the person who irritates you or drives you crazy to the bone, has had a bad experience in the past that you don't know about.... and there may be some factors very fresh in that person's life as recent as 30 minutes ago that you have no clue about,  (3) Remember that you are not God!  Instead of judging, pray for them and help them carry their burdens in love.  I understand there is time for admonishing one another with Scripture.  But don't forget, this must be done in order to build them up in their faith.  It must be done with a prayerful humble attitude, not with bitterness or frustration in our hearts. God does not approve of this!  (4) Never underestimate that God is working in your life and in their lives.  He is strengthening the muscle of spirituality, maturity and firmness.  Don't forget that our purpose is to be a blessing to others,  (5) Remember that patience is learned moment by moment in irritating circumstances.  It is learned through changing seasons. We must be willing to learn patience with a humble attitude in order to exercise self-control. We need to let God train us here!  (6) God's will is to build the character of Christ in us by teaching us to rule over our emotions,  (7) There are so many blessings that come through learning and exercising patience with one another.  Do you remember Saul of Tarsus?  He was a persecutor and murderer of Christians.  I bet no one in the Lord's church liked him at all!  They hated him!  Yet, our Lord chose him as a valuable vessel to do His work.  So, when someone is irritating you remember that God may be using them in order to work in both our lives.

It is impossible not to experience this in and out of the body of Christ.  But be careful about giving someone a piece of your mind.  You might not have much to spare!   Be Christ like, not emotional.  Don't let your emotions condemn you.  Why not wait, hope, labor, be steadfast and cultivate faithfulness.  You are responsible before God for controlling your emotions, not theirs.  He is the ultimate JUDGE.

So let's underline the importance of patience, ruling over our emotions, waiting on God patiently, practicing patience with those who push our buttons.  Valuing patience is valuing spiritual maturity!  “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who captures a city.”  Proverbs 16:32.  What a powerful verse!  A slow to anger person, one who controls his spirit, is better, stronger, and more rare than a person able to capture a whole city.  In other words, he who is patient, WILL WIN.

In what areas do you find it most difficult to be patient toward others?  May God help us to bear this burden!

Luci

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

THE CALAMITY OF A FAILURE OF THE HEART


   Nathan then said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘It is I who anointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul.... Why have you despised the word of the Lord by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon.... "  
 2 Samuel 12:7-15

 Even when our God has forgiven us of a SIN, the consequences of that sin can change the course of our lives.  Let us notice the history of SIN in a forgiven man named David.

In reading and studying about the reigns of David and Solomon, I learned that we must lead with integrity and keep our hearts pure before the Lord.  The following are things I learned from the lives of these two men:  These two glorious reigns were two of the greatest in all of Israel's history. We can learn from their lives the difference that it can make to be a man after God's own heart. Such a heart makes a big difference in our own lives. The measure of a man's greatness is the measure of his heart.  God does not value a man's heart according to his riches, status, stunning deeds of valor and glory, but according to the attitude of a man's heart toward Him. From the historical record of these two kings, we can fully understand the difference that it makes.

The Lord exalts the one who keeps his heart pure with all diligence in a meek and lowly manner.  David wrote, "Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place?  He who has cleaned hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood and has not sworn deceitfully.Psalm 24:3-4.

The effort of a man can be hindered by one moral failure of the heart.  David is an example of someone who lost the ability to rule with authority when he fell into sin. His strength and effectiveness both as a father and as a king were fundamentally compromised.  He lost the respect of his people and children.  It is sad to see David once as a man full of discernment between right and wrong and willing to confront evil, turn into a man who had no judgment or discernment about right and wrong. David became a compromiser when his closest friends and family committed the most unspeakable crimes.  David never got beyond the shadow of his ill committed sin with Bathsheba.

Although we have a merciful God who forgives us, there are many scars and consequences of our sins. When a man turns his heart away from God, the cost he has to pay is enormous!  When David found himself judged by God because of his sin and while God heard his crying voice of repentance, God nonetheless judged him for his sin, requiring the life of his son.  The end result of David's sin was God's condemnation and a season of strife among his royal family.  Though the heart can be mended and forgiven, God will not allow anyone to mock Him and there will be drastic consequences for those who practice unrighteousness. He is a God of justice who demands sanctification in our lives.  There is no other WAY with God!

A man whose heart is hypocritical will destroy the honor and respect of his children and those around him. David's biggest heartache was felt in the lives of his sons and daughter. The relationship between Absalom and Amnon became malignant when Amnon practiced a treachery similar to that which his father committed against Uriah the Hittite.  On the other hand we see Solomon who offered pearls of wisdom on the importance of guarding the heart, yet he himself lived a life of lies and lost the hearts of those whom he sought to win for the Lord. When a man calls for purity in the lives of his children and those around him, he must model it in his own life.

Guarding the heart is a life-long commitment. We must never stop purifying our hearts.  Let's not end up like David and Solomon. Although they were known as men with faithful hearts, each failed during critical moments during their reign, changing the course of history forever because of their duplicity. Therefore, it is imperative that we HEED the charge that both men put into words, "Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life"  Proverbs 4:23.

Let us always remember David's cry as part of our walk with God:  "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way."   Psalm 139:23-24.

May our Lord help us to guard and keep our hearts pure with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life.


Luci

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

THE NATION OF ISRAEL AND THE EXODUS - PART THREE


 THE EXODUS

The Israelites journeyed from Rameses to Succoth. They LORD led them by a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. They did not journey toward the Mediterranean shores since they were not ready to battle against the mighty Philistines. Instead the LORD led them on a more southerly route. Their ultimate destination was the Promised Land of Canaan.
                                                                             

Back in Egypt Pharaoh was having second thoughts about letting the Israelites go. Thoughts of vengeance entered his heart gathering a chariot-borne army to chase after them. By this time the Israelites were camping next to the Sea of Reeds at Baal Zephon.

THE CROSSING OF THE REED/RED SEA

There has been so much debate over the years in regards to which sea the Israelites crossed and how they crossed it. Traditionally, the name of the sea was translated as "Red Sea," but most recently it has been translated as "Reed Sea." Unfortunately, some skeptic scholars believe the Israelites crossed at the northernmost tip of the Red Sea. These skeptics have theorized that this crossing was not miraculous. They insist that the Egyptian chariots got stuck in the mud while the Israelites waded across a swamp on foot.  But Scripture says that indeed they crossed the Red Sea.


"Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided. The sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left." Exodus 14:21-22 NASB.

The Parting of the Sea is foundational to the Christian Faith and the Jewish Faith.   It cannot be dismissed or disregarded.  It was a miracle from God.  It was God's ability and determination to save His people. Those who refuse to believe that the Parting of the Sea really happened, also refuse to believe in God's salvation plan for us today.  It required a mighty and significant act of God!


According to the Exodus account, Pharaoh brought six hundred of his best chariots to pursue the Israelites.  He also brought other horses, officers and troops. When the Israelites saw them approaching they cried out to the LORD blaming Moses at the same time.

"Then they said to Moses, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt?  Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, 'Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians'?  For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness."  Exodus 14:11-12 NASB.


The LORD told Moses to move the Israelites toward the sea stretching out his hand over the sea. The angel of the LORD and the pillar of cloud started to move between the Egyptians and the Israelites making it hard for the Egyptians to see the Israelites. But God was with them giving them light.  That is amazing!

"Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord swept the sea back by a strong east wind all night and turned the sea into dry land, so the waters were divided. The sons of Israel went through the midst of the sea on the dry land, and the waters were like a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.  Then the Egyptians took up the pursuit, and all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots and his horsemen went in after them into the midst of the sea. At the morning watch, the Lord looked down on the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud and brought the army of the Egyptians into confusion.  He caused their chariot wheels to swerve, and He made them drive with difficulty; so the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from Israel, for the Lord is fighting for them against the Egyptians.”


Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may come back over the Egyptians, over their chariots and their horsemen.” So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to its normal state at daybreak, while the Egyptians were fleeing right into it; then the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.  The waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen, even Pharaoh’s entire army that had gone into the sea after them; not even one of them remained." Exodus 14:21-28 NASB.

The Israelites had a hard time trusting in God to save them when they saw the Egyptians closing in behind them. Notice, that the Israelites had become a race of slaves, not fighters or warriors. They had no confidence in their ability to fight the Egyptians and most importantly they were not yet trusting and depending on God through faith to take care of them.

The same God that rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt can also rescue us from our own slavery to sin through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Luci