Leviticus 1-3 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He receives the sacrifice of praise offered from pure hearts

As a rule, I don’t wake up in the morning thinking that I just can’t wait to read Leviticus today. Of course, God included this information in His Word for a purpose, and the joy of reading it is often in discovering His intention.  The lengthy process of constructing the Tabernacle had just been completed, and next came the instruction on its purpose and its use for God’s people.

The overall message of Leviticus is that God is Holy, and sinful man must follow rites of purification in order to fellowship with Him.  Israel had already proven during their golden calf incident that this message could be easily forgotten, and God was restoring their relationship with Him through His instructions to Moses in Leviticus.  Over the next 27 chapters, God directed their focus to purification through sacrifice, worship, physical principles, holiness and leadership.  By following these instructions, the Israelites who had dabbled in all forms of idolatry would once again commune with their Holy God.

After reading just a few verses in Leviticus, I have cause to stop and thank Jesus for His death and resurrection.  Can you imagine stopping by the farm on Sunday morning to purchase a perfect little lamb to be sacrificed at church?  With somewhat of an affinity for sheep, I think I’d have to go with a dove. 

@ Leviticus 2
“Do not use yeast in preparing any of the grain offerings you present to the Lord, because no yeast or honey may be burned as a special gift presented to the Lord.” (11) After moving to Florida, it didn’t take long for me to see the destructive nature of mold and mildew.  Items attacked by this spreading bacterial fungus are soon discolored or destroyed.  Bleach became my friend.

One tiny spore of mold can multiply rapidly consuming everything in its path, just like sin will do.  Because of this similarity to sin, yeast was forbidden in the grain offering that was sacrificed as a gift of thanksgiving.  The lesson for us today is clear.  When we offer our thanksgiving and praise to Him, let us come with clean hands and pure hearts, free from even the hint of sin so that our sacrifice of praise will be received by our Holy God.

“Season all your grain offerings with salt to remind you of God’s eternal covenant.  Never forget to add salt to your grain offerings.”(13)  I agree!  Salt makes everything taste better.  However, God wasn’t so much concerned about the taste, but rather that the offering would be a reminder of God’s eternal covenant with them.  I learned early in the kitchen that while salt makes food taste better, too much salt in a dish is impossible to remove – it’s eternal.

God’s covenant through Jesus is eternal – impossible to remove. Jesus will always be the Savior. Salt seasons the entire dish, penetrating every part.  In this same way, His influence in our lives encompasses every area.  Salt preserves and protects foods with a coating that serves as a barrier to bacteria just as God preserves and protects our lives from the attacks of the enemy.  Salt also has a healing property for our bodies that soothes and mends.  How well we know of the healing power of God in our lives – body, soul and spirit.  The symbolism speaks loudly to our spirits – salt is good!  Please pass the salt!

The grain offering of thanksgiving was “a special gift, a pleasing aroma to the Lord.”(2)  May our sacrifice of praise be a sin-free, well-seasoned offering to our Holy God, one that will be received as a sweet aroma to Him. 

Moving Forward: With clean hands and a heart of thanksgiving, I offer a sacrifice of praise, ever mindful of His eternal covenant with me through Christ Jesus. May its sweet aroma fill His space. 

Tomorrow @ 1 Kings 10-13

Job 9-10 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He sent a mediator to reconcile mankind to Him

When labor and management are in a dispute over wages or work conditions, the atmosphere can get tense and volatile.  Fortunately, individuals are brought to the table with the ability to negotiate the terms of a contract between the two parties to bring them together. These mediators are highly gifted in this arena and do their best work when they have the complete trust of both parties. The best mediators have the keen ability to make both sides feel as if they won – now that’s a talent.  In our reading today, Job was looking for someone who could do this very thing – Job was looking for a mediator. 

@ Job 9
“God is not a mortal like me, so I cannot argue with him or take him to trial.  If only there were a mediator between us, someone who could bring us together.” (32-33)  Poor Job had presented to God his side of the conflict as best he could, but from his standpoint, negotiations for relief were going nowhere.  First of all, he couldn’t see God, “Yet when He comes near, I cannot see Him.  When He moves by, I do not see Him go.”(11)  Job did not have an experience to hold on to like Moses did where God’s presence was seen in a tangible way. Secondly, Job felt inadequate to talk with God, “So who am I that I should try to answer God or even reason with Him?”(14)  Job wanted a qualified mediator who was worthy to talk to God on his behalf, yet one who understood his pain.  It certainly would not be any of his so-called friends.

We, on the other hand, are privileged to have a top-notch, highly-qualified, personal mediator working 24/7 to negotiate with God on our behalf.  Our mediator lived tangibly on earth at one time and understands our pain, yet He lives in heaven and is seated right next to God – who better to mediate for us!

Our mediator’s great bargaining chip is that He was willing to die in order to bring both sides together, “For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ JesusHe gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.” (1Timothy 2:5)  Talk about a win/win situation!  And Jesus still sits at the table, so to speak, mediating on our behalf should our communication with God break down, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins…” (1 John 2:1-2)

Job didn’t know that he was calling for the Mediator across the centuries of time who would one day come to bridge the gap between sinful man and a sinless God.  Of course, God was listening to Job’s lament, spared his life and blessed him abundantly. But it was Jesus who ultimately negotiated for Job’s eternal life and for all of us as well by His death and resurrection.  The work of the great Mediator made us worthy enough to one day see Him face to face and worship around His throne, and He’s still on the job!

Moving Forward:  I’m so thankful today that I don’t need to negotiate my way into heaven – Jesus did it all! 

Tomorrow @ Isaiah 23-28

Acts 9-10 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: God uses our difficult experiences to touch the hearts of others

When we receive salvation and follow the Lord, we make a decisive break from the old way of life, the old way of doing things.  We become new creatures yet we bring along with us memories from our experiences in life to date.  God is faithful to help us move past the difficult moments we’ve experienced so that we can look forward to better days ahead, but He doesn’t always remove all painful memories and feelings.  He has a purpose in this.  Paul is a great example of how our past experiences can serve God’s greater purpose for our lives. 

@ Acts 9
“Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers.  So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.” (1-2)  When we think about hateful leaders and individuals throughout history who murdered Christians for their faith, we might as well throw Saul into the mix because he was one of them.  Talk about painful memories and feelings.

Better than just about anyone, Paul understood the hearts of those who were blinded to the truth about Jesus.  Highly educated and qualified, Paul made his appeal for Christ to the Jewish leaders, to government leaders and to Jews and Gentiles alike.  He understood their hatred, their confusion and their doubt because he had lived it.

Just as the scales fell off of Paul’s blinded eyes after his glorious conversion, we read throughout Acts how he was so very capable to open the blind eyes of others to see their need for salvation. “Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful, and the Jews in Damascus couldn’t refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.” (22)

Paul remembered enough of his painful past to make this statement to Timothy, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all.  But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.”(I Timothy 1:15-16) God used Paul’s hateful past to serve a greater purpose of which we, too, are the recipients today through his written words.

Remembering our difficult experiences in the past makes us more sensitive to others who are walking through similar trials.  We understand their fears, their broken hearts and sometimes even their anger at God and everyone.  Like Paul in his day, we are able to help them and convince them to believe in God.  “[God] comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)

We can fulfill His greater purpose to touch others who walk where we have walked only through opening our hearts and eyes to see their need of Him.  Our understanding of this walk and our victory through Christ challenge us to share with them that “they, too, can believe in Him and receive eternal life.”

Moving Forward: My prayer today is that God will open my eyes to see those whose pain I, too, have felt so that I may lead them to Him. 

Tomorrow @ James 4-5

1Timothy 1-3 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: It pleases Him when we pray for everyone to understand the Truth

Mediterranean food, Mediterranean people…I just love them!  From television and movies, we are acquainted with the fun-loving, energetic and, well, opinionated nature of people from that region. Those of us from a Mediterranean heritage have a tendency to live by the motto, “When I want your opinion…I’ll give it to you!”  I’ve wondered if this was why Paul chose young Timothy, whose father was Greek and not Jewish, to minister at the church in the difficult city of Ephesus.  Possibly he would best understand the culture of the region. Regardless, Paul sent some letters to him to mentor his young charge in the ministry there.

@1 Timothy 2
“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.” (1-2) The first and best advice Paul could give Timothy was to pray – for everyone.  Pray for those who were believers and those who were not and pray for the Godly, peace-loving members of the church and for those who had caused trouble.  Ask God to help them however is best, intercede with boldness on their behalf and thank God for them, regardless of their mindset or behavior.  After all, we all are a work in progress.

Paul encouraged Timothy to “pray for kings and people in authority.”  To be honest, I’d rather fuss about the president and the congress than pray for them, but prayer is the only thing that will change hearts and the laws of the land and allow us to live as Christians in peace and dignity.  We just read a great example of this in Daniel.  Prayer is the answer!

“This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.” (3) Whether male or female or Jew or Gentile, salvation and truth are for everyone.  Paul goes on to state the truth that we all must understand, “For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.” (5-6)  No bias or argument will ever unseat this truth.

And speaking of bias…I’ve always thought that in heaven someday I would like to sit down with Paul over coffee and have a little chat about a few of his teachings regarding women.  There are moments when I imagine the dialogue starting with, “Paul, what were you thinking?!!”  I would only show respect to this giant of the faith, understanding that his influence has changed my life for the good, but his teachings about women such as those found here in Chapter 2 have caused more than a few moments of distress for women in the church through the ages.  Of course, I know that in heaven, absorbed by God’s glorious presence, this will all be immaterial and I’ll just let it go.

We understand that the culture of the Ephesus church demanded these instructions by Paul, “Women should learn quietly and submissively. I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly.” (11) The exciting part of this scripture is that education was now open to women, a freedom that was not a part of the culture.

Just like the sense of free at last that comes to a teenager with a new driver’s license, many believe the Ephesian women were somewhat over the top with their new-found freedom to learn and were disruptive in the church service with their questioning and even with their dress.  This was not good.

I’m certain we all agree with Paul that nothing we do, men and women alike, should be disruptive to the ministry or to the working of the Holy Spirit in our churches.  We should be known, not by our dress or possessions, but by what we have accomplished for Him.  And we should be people who pray for everyone, from the president to the homeless, unbiased, leading everyone to the Truth.

Moving Forward: Challenged once again by Paul, I’ll pray and intercede without bias for my leadership in government, for my neighbors, for my friends and…for everyone. 

Tomorrow @ Number 1-4

Leviticus 1-3 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He receives the sacrifice of praise offered from pure hearts

As a rule I don’t wake up in the morning thinking that I just can’t wait to read Leviticus today. Of course, God included this information in His Word for a purpose, and the joy of reading it is often in discovering His intention.  The lengthy process of constructing the Tabernacle had just been completed and next came the instruction on its purpose and its use for God’s people.

The overall message of Leviticus is that God is Holy, and sinful man must follow rites of purification in order to fellowship with Him.  Israel had already proven during their golden calf incident that this message could be easily forgotten, and God was restoring their relationship with Him through His instructions to Moses in Leviticus.  Over the next 27 chapters God directed their focus to purification through sacrifice, worship, physical principles, holiness and leadership.  By following these instructions, the Israelites who had dabbled in all forms of idolatry would once again commune with their Holy God.

After reading just a few verses in Leviticus, I have cause to stop and thank Jesus for His death and resurrection.  Can you imagine stopping by the farm on Sunday morning to purchase a perfect little lamb to be sacrificed at church.  With somewhat of an affinity for sheep, I think I’d have to go with a dove. 

@ Leviticus 2
“Do not use yeast in preparing any of the grain offerings you present to the Lord, because no yeast or honey may be burned as a special gift presented to the Lord.” (11) After moving to Florida, it didn’t take long for me to see the destructive nature of mold and mildew.  Items attacked by this spreading bacterial fungus are soon discolored or destroyed.  Bleach became my friend.

One tiny spore of mold can multiply rapidly consuming everything in its path, just like sin will do.  Because of this similarity to sin, yeast was forbidden in the grain offering that was sacrificed as a gift of thanksgiving.  The lesson for us today is clear.  When we offer our thanksgiving and praise to Him, let us come with clean hands and pure hearts, free from even the hint of sin so that our sacrifice of praise will be received by our Holy God.

“Season all your grain offerings with salt to remind you of God’s eternal covenant.  Never forget to add salt to your grain offerings.”(13)  I agree!  Salt makes everything taste better.  However, God wasn’t so much concerned about the taste, but rather that the offering would be a reminder of God’s eternal covenant with them.  I learned early in the kitchen that while salt makes food taste better, too much salt in a dish is impossible to remove – it’s eternal.

God’s covenant through Jesus is eternal – impossible to remove. Jesus will always be the Savior. Salt seasons the entire dish, penetrating every part.  In this same way, His influence in our lives encompasses every area.  Salt preserves and protects foods with a coating that serves as a barrier to bacteria just as God preserves and protects our lives from the attacks of the enemy.  Salt also has a healing property for our bodies that soothes and mends.  How well we know of the healing power of God in our lives – body, soul and spirit.  The symbolism speaks loudly to our spirits – salt is good!  Please pass the salt!

The grain offering of thanksgiving was “a special gift, a pleasing aroma to the Lord.”(2)  May our sacrifice of praise be a sin-free, well-seasoned offering to our Holy God, one that will be received as a sweet aroma to Him. 

Moving Forward: With clean hands and a heart of thanksgiving, I offer a sacrifice of praise, ever mindful of His eternal covenant with me through Christ Jesus. May its sweet aroma fill His space. 

Tomorrow @ 1 Kings 10-13

Job 9-10 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He sent a mediator to reconcile mankind to Him

When labor and management are in a dispute over wages or work conditions, the atmosphere can get tense and volatile.  Fortunately, individuals are brought to the table that have the ability to negotiate the terms of a contract between the two parties and bring them together. These mediators are highly gifted in this arena and do their best work when they have the complete trust of both parties. The best mediators have the keen ability to make both sides feel as if they won – now that’s a talent.  In our reading today, Job was looking for someone who could do this very thing – Job was looking for a mediator. 

@ Job 9
“God is not a mortal like me, so I cannot argue with him or take him to trial.  If only there were a mediator between us, someone who could bring us together.” (32-33)  Poor Job had presented to God his side of the conflict as best he could, but from his standpoint, negotiations for relief were going nowhere.  First of all, he couldn’t see God, “Yet when He comes near, I cannot see Him.  When He moves by, I do not see Him go.”(11)  Job did not have an experience to hold on to like Moses did where God’s presence was seen in a tangible way. Secondly, Job felt inadequate to talk with God, “So who am I that I should try to answer God or even reason with Him?”(14)  Job wanted a qualified mediator who was worthy to talk to God on his behalf, yet one who understood his pain.  It certainly would not be any of his so-called friends.

We, on the other hand, are privileged to have a top-notch, highly-qualified, personal mediator working 24/7 to negotiate with God on our behalf.  Our mediator lived tangibly on earth at one time and understands our pain, yet He lives in heaven and is seated right next to God – who better to mediate for us!

Our mediator’s great bargaining chip is that He was willing to die in order to bring both sides together, “For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ JesusHe gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.” (1Timothy 2:5)  Talk about a win/win situation!  And Jesus still sits at the table, so to speak, mediating on our behalf should communication with God break down, “But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins…” (1 John 2:1-2)

Job didn’t know that he was calling for the Mediator across the centuries of time who would one day come to bridge the gap between sinful man and a sinless God.  Of course, God was listening to Job’s lament, spared his life and blessed him abundantly. But it was Jesus who ultimately negotiated for Job’s eternal life and for all of us as well by His death and resurrection.  The work of the great Mediator made us worthy enough to one day see Him face to face and worship around His throne, and He’s still on the job!

Moving Forward:  I’m so thankful today that I don’t need to negotiate my way into heaven – Jesus did it all! 

Tomorrow @ Isaiah 23-28