John 16-18 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is praying for us

I can’t begin to imagine how strange it would feel to find out that the leader of my nation was thinking about me right now, talking with his staff about my life and possibly about the challenges I’m facing.  Of course, the leaders of most countries have a general concern for the welfare of their constituents, the people who vote for them, but I’m talking about my leader zeroing in on little old me with his thoughts and concerns.  For this, I am not holding my breath, but it’s a fascinating notion.  It would be humbling, and actually frightening, to think that anyone with power and prestige would focus on me.  However… 

@ John 17
I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 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.” (20-21)  Forget presidents and powerful leaders! This is astounding to me! Jesus, the Son of God, present at creation, seated at the right hand of God the Father is thinking about me, and He is praying for me.  He is concerned about my welfare – and He is someone who can actually do something about it.

In His prayer, Jesus first prayed for His disciples who had followed Him while He was on earth, but added, “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me.”  As His followers and disciples today, we, too, are included in His prayer.  The prayer Jesus offered to God for us in Chapter 17 was not a multipurpose “God bless, so and so,” etc.  No, He had specific requests in mind.

Jesus prayed for our protection.  “I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do.” (14-16)  What in this world do we have to fear with Jesus praying for our protection?

Jesus prayed for holiness.  “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.  Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.” (17-19) Jesus paid a great price for our holiness.  How could we ever trade it or dirty it for the pleasures of this world?  His truth sets us free from all that.

Jesus prayed for our unity. “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 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.” (22-23)  He has given us the glory of God, the revelation of who God is, by revealing Himself to us.  This is our common bond, our unity.

As the body of Christ, we may differ in style of worship or formality, but we should let nothing we do hinder or damage our message of Christ crucified so that the world will know that God loves them.  How could we do anything to impede God’s perfect plan to save a lost world?

Jesus is praying for us!  “Sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” (Romans 8:34)   “He lives forever to intercede with God on [our] behalf.” (Hebrews 7:25)  No matter what we’re facing today, perhaps feeling like no one cares enough to even pray for us, we can be assured that Jesus cares.  He is thinking about us, talking to God about us, zeroing in on us and praying for us.  So very humbling. 

Moving Forward:  One of my favorite songs, “He’s ever interceding to the Father for His children…Through Him you can reach the Father so bring Him all your heavy burdens…” (C. Gillman) 

Tomorrow @ Philemon

Ezekiel 43-48 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: “You must be holy because I am holy.”

“And the glory of the Lord came into the Temple through the east gateway…and the glory of the Lord filled the Temple.” (43:1-5)  What a moment in the life of Ezekiel!  How he had grieved when his earlier vision revealed that the glory of the Lord had left the Temple (11:23).  But now after years in exile, a new vision, a new future for Israel was foretold to him, and the plans for a new Temple were given to him.  Many believe this Temple revelation was two-fold:  a Temple for the returning Babylonian exiles and a Temple for the Millennial Jews.  Regardless, it was envisioned as a beautiful Temple filled with the glorious presence of God. 

@ Ezekiel 46
Six chapters today filled with Ezekiel’s vision of the return of the glorious presence of the Lord to the temple, but I’m focused on the kitchens.  “The Temple Kitchens -In my vision, the man brought me through the entrance beside the gateway and led me to the sacred rooms assigned to the priests, ‘This is where the priests will cook the meat from the guilt offerings and sin offerings and bake the flour from the grain offerings into bread’…Then he brought me back to the outer courtyard and led me to each of its four corners. ‘These are the kitchens to be used by the Temple assistants to boil the sacrifices offered by the people.’” (19-24)

While reading about the sacrifices in Leviticus, I must admit I’ve often wondered about all the food prep and where it took place.  I mean, really, daily sacrifices for several million people involving butchering, seasoning and boiling meat as well as bread baking with whole grains and olive oil – there had to be a place where the food prep took place!  We know from these verses that spacious areas were provided for this in the new Temple.

More importantly, these verses in Ezekiel 46 include a very intriguing passage.  The Priests had sacred kitchens where they cooked and baked, “They will do it here to avoid carrying the sacrifices through the outer courtyard and endangering the people by transmitting holiness to them.” (20)  Would transmitting holiness be a bad thing?  Apparently so.

Everything inside the Temple – furniture, sacrifices, priests – was holy.  “And this is the basic law of the Temple:  absolute holiness!” (43:12)  With sin in their lives, Israelites in the outer court would be endangered by a Holy sacrifice carried past them by the priests. Thus the special kitchens in the priests’ quarters were provided.  This reminds me of the scene in the Indiana Jones movie when the ark was opened by the evil Nazi and the only ones spared from the consuming fire of God’s holiness as it was portrayed were those with pure motives.  The Israelites may even have been so bold as to think that just being in the presence of the sacrifice would make them holy, a false assumption to be sure.  Therefore, for the safety of everyone, only priests who had been purified and made holy would be allowed in the presence of the atonement sacrifice.

We may consider all the legalese of Ezekiel somewhat irrelevant, but the truth in it is more current than we would imagine.  God’s basic law is still absolute holiness in we His temple, “Now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:15-16)  In our Communion service, when we remember Jesus, the sacrifice for our sins, we would do well to purify our hearts as did the priests, “For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died.  But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way.”(I Corinthians 11:27-31)

Communion isn’t a moment of careless observance with a hope of becoming holy through it.  It first requires careful examination of our hearts to be certain that we partake with pure motives and pure hearts, holy before the Lord, and then our souls will not be in danger.  A perfect end to the Book of Ezekiel – a call to absolute holiness!

Moving Forward: My prayer for a holy nation must first begin with me, examining my life, purifying my temple and experiencing His Holiness.

Tomorrow @ John 1-2

Leviticus 10-12 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He expects us to honor His holiness 

@ Leviticus 10
The sin of Nadab and Abihu – what a way to start the day!  “Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu put coals of fire in their incense burners and sprinkled incense over them.  In this way, they disobeyed the Lord by burning before Him the wrong kind of fire [strange fire], different than He had commanded.  So fire blazed forth from the Lord’s presence and burned them up, and they died there before the Lord.” (1-2)  Toast!   We may argue that we are now living in the dispensation of grace, but tell that to Ananias and Sapphira of Acts 5 who lied to the Holy Spirit and fell over dead. I have found God to be gracious, merciful and longsuffering, but I also believe that His holiness deserves our utmost respect and honor, expected especially from those who serve Him.

What caused God to move so swiftly in His response to the offering of Aaron’s sons?  Some have suggested it was multiple misdemeanors resulting in one massive offense to God.  Or perhaps:

1) These newly-ordained priests, anxious to perform their duties, took it upon themselves to offer fire on the altar of burnt offering which was something reserved only for their father to do with their assistance at this point.  We understand their zeal and excitement to serve, don’t we?

2) Then, instead of offering coals from the perpetual Holy fire, they offered coals from another common or ordinary fire.  They showed lack of respect for the fire that God had ignited at the very first burnt offering.  This fire had continued burning from that first offering until 860 years later when Jerusalem fell to Babylon – it was Holy. (See June 19 @ Leviticus 4-6) It’s easy to understand why this ordinary fire would be so strange to God.

3)  Why were these young priests so impulsive and foolish in their behavior?  Some believe they may have been drunk.  After a long day of eating and drinking from the peace and drink offerings, they may have overindulged to the point of dulling their senses – not good.

While these points are somewhat supposition, the scripture following this account helps us to understand that God requires His servants to display His Holiness, not their own. “I will display My holiness through those who come near me.” (3) Also, God insisted on sobriety from His servants so that sins like this one would not be committed, “You and your descendants must never drink wine or any other alcoholic drink before going into the Tabernacle…You must distinguish between what is sacred and what is common.”(9-10)

This story causes me to examine my usefulness to God.  Have I offered strange fire in my service to Him?  If so, what did I do?  I would think anything I do in ministry that glorifies and draws attention to me instead of to Him would be considered strange to Him.   Ministry that results from the latest trends and styles excluding the inspiration of His Holy Spirit would be strange to Him as well.  And I certainly would be wise to avoid being drunk with…anything!  Wine, power, hatred, jealousy to name a few.  These things will only dull my spiritual senses and cause me to sin or make mistakes.

Many privileges come with leadership and ministry, and so do many responsibilities. Jesus said, “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” (Luke 12:48)  Yes, He is grace and mercy to us, but we serve a Holy, Holy God, there is none like Him.  May our ministry, no matter what it is, be obedient, respectful and useful, reflecting His Holiness with our lives. 

Moving Forward: I examine my heart today to be certain that my service honors Him and Him alone.

Tomorrow @ 2 Kings 1-5

John 16-18 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is praying for us

I can’t begin to imagine how strange it would feel to find out that the leader of my nation was thinking about me right now, talking with his staff about my life and possibly about the challenges I’m facing.  Of course, the leaders of most countries have a general concern for the welfare of their constituents, the people who vote for them, but I’m talking about my leader zeroing in on little old me with his thoughts and concerns.  For this, my friends, I am not holding my breath, but it’s a fascinating notion.  It would be humbling, and actually frightening, to think that anyone with power and prestige would focus on me.  However… 

@ John 17
I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 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.” (20-21)  Forget presidents and powerful leaders! This is astounding to me! Jesus, the Son of God, present at creation, seated at the right hand of God the Father is thinking about me, and He is praying for me.  He is concerned about my welfare – and He is someone who can actually do something about it.

In His prayer, Jesus first prayed for His disciples who had followed Him while He was on earth, but added, “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me.”  As His followers and disciples today, we, too, are included in His prayer.  The prayer Jesus offered to God for us in Chapter 17 was not a multipurpose “God bless, so and so,” etc.  No, He had specific requests in mind.

Jesus prayed for our protection.  “I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do.” (14-16)  What in this world do we have to fear with Jesus praying for our protection?

Jesus prayed for holiness.  “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.  Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.” (17-19) Jesus paid a great price for our holiness.  How could we ever trade it or dirty it for the pleasures of this world?  His truth sets us free from all that.

Jesus prayed for our unity. “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 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.” (22-23)  He has given us the glory of God, the revelation of who God is, by revealing Himself to us.  This is our common bond, our unity.

As the body of Christ, we may differ in style of worship or formality, but we should let nothing we do hinder or damage our message of Christ crucified so that the world will know that God loves them.  How could we do anything to impede God’s perfect plan to save a lost world?

Jesus is praying for us!  “Sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.” (Romans 8:34)   “He lives forever to intercede with God on [our] behalf.” (Hebrews 7:25)  No matter what we’re facing today, perhaps feeling like no one cares enough to even pray for us, we can be assured that Jesus cares.  He is thinking about us, talking to God about us, zeroing in on us and praying for us.  So very humbling. 

Moving Forward:  One of my favorite songs, “He’s ever interceding to the Father for His children…Through Him you can reach the Father so bring Him all your heavy burdens…” (C. Gillman) 

Tomorrow @ Philemon

Ezekiel 43-48 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: “You must be holy because I am holy.”

“And the glory of the Lord came into the Temple through the east gateway…and the glory of the Lord filled the Temple.” (43:1-5)  What a moment in the life of Ezekiel!  How he had grieved when his earlier vision revealed that the glory of the Lord had left the Temple (11:23).  But now after years in exile, a new vision, a new future for Israel was foretold to him, and the plans for a new Temple were given to him.  Many believe this Temple revelation was two-fold:  a Temple for the returning Babylonian exiles and a Temple for the Millennial Jews.  Regardless, it was envisioned as a beautiful Temple filled with the glorious presence of God. 

@ Ezekiel 46
Six chapters today filled with Ezekiel’s vision of the return of the glorious presence of the Lord to the temple, but I’m focused on the kitchens.  “The Temple Kitchens -In my vision, the man brought me through the entrance beside the gateway and led me to the sacred rooms assigned to the priests, ‘This is where the priests will cook the meat from the guilt offerings and sin offerings and bake the flour from the grain offerings into bread’…Then he brought me back to the outer courtyard and led me to each of its four corners. ‘These are the kitchens to be used by the Temple assistants to boil the sacrifices offered by the people.’” (19-24)

While reading about the sacrifices in Leviticus, I must admit I’ve often wondered about all the food prep and where it took place.  I mean, really, daily sacrifices for several million people involving butchering, seasoning and boiling meat as well as bread baking with whole grains and olive oil – there had to be a place where the food prep took place!  We know from these verses that spacious areas were provided for this in the new Temple.

More importantly, these verses in Ezekiel 46 include a very intriguing passage.  The Priests had sacred kitchens where they cooked and baked, “They will do it here to avoid carrying the sacrifices through the outer courtyard and endangering the people by transmitting holiness to them.” (20)  Would transmitting holiness be a bad thing?  Apparently so.

Everything inside the Temple – furniture, sacrifices, priests – was holy.  “And this is the basic law of the Temple:  absolute holiness!” (43:12)  With sin in their lives, Israelites in the outer court would be endangered by a Holy sacrifice carried past them by the priests, thus the special kitchens in the priests’ quarters were provided.  It reminds me of the scene in the Indiana Jones movie when the ark was opened by the evil Nazi and the only ones spared from the consuming fire of God’s holiness as it was portrayed were those with pure motives.  The Israelites may even have been so bold as to think that just being in the presence of the sacrifice would make them holy, a false assumption to be sure.  Therefore, for the safety of everyone, only priests who had been purified and made holy would be allowed in the presence of the atonement sacrifice.

We may consider all the legalese of Ezekiel somewhat irrelevant, but the truth in it is more current than we would imagine.  God’s basic law is still absolute holiness in we His temple, “Now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:15-16)  In our Communion service, when we remember Jesus, the sacrifice for our sins, we would do well to purify our hearts as did the priests, “For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died.  But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way.”(I Corinthians 11:27-31)

Communion isn’t a moment of careless observance with a hope of becoming holy through it.  It first requires careful examination of our hearts to be certain that we partake with pure motives and pure hearts, holy before the Lord, and then our souls will not be in danger.  A perfect end to the Book of Ezekiel – a call to absolute holiness!

Moving Forward: My prayer for a holy nation must first begin with me, examining my life, purifying my temple and experiencing His Holiness.

Tomorrow @ John 1-2

Leviticus 10-12 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He expects us to honor His holiness 

@ Leviticus 10
The sin of Nadab and Abihu – what a way to start the day!  “Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu put coals of fire in their incense burners and sprinkled incense over them.  In this way, they disobeyed the Lord by burning before Him the wrong kind of fire [strange fire], different than He had commanded.  So fire blazed forth from the Lord’s presence and burned them up, and they died there before the Lord.” (1-2)  Toast!   We may argue that we are now living in the dispensation of grace, but tell that to Ananias and Sapphira of Acts 5 who lied to the Holy Spirit and fell over dead. I have found God to be gracious, merciful and longsuffering, but I also believe that His holiness deserves our utmost respect and honor, expected especially from those who serve Him.

What caused God to move so swiftly in His response to the offering of Aaron’s sons?  Some have suggested it was multiple misdemeanors resulting in one huge offense to God.  Or perhaps:

1) These newly-ordained priests, anxious to perform their duties, took it upon themselves to offer fire on the altar of burnt offering which was something reserved only for their father to do with their assistance at this point.  We understand their zeal and excitement to serve, don’t we?

2) Then, instead of offering coals from the perpetual Holy fire, they offered coals from another common or ordinary fire.  They showed lack of respect for the fire that God had ignited at the very first burnt offering.  This fire had continued burning from that first offering until 860 years later when Jerusalem fell to Babylon – it was Holy. (See June 19 @ Leviticus 4-6) It’s easy to understand why this ordinary fire would be so strange to God.

3)  Why were these young priests so impulsive and foolish in their behavior?  Some believe they may have been drunk.  After a long day of eating and drinking from the peace and drink offerings, they may have over indulged to the point of dulling their senses – not good.

While these points are somewhat supposition, the scripture following this account helps us to understand that God requires His servants to display His Holiness, not their own. “I will display My holiness through those who come near me.” (3) Also, God insisted on sobriety from His servants so that sins like this one would not be committed, “You and your descendants must never drink wine or any other alcoholic drink before going into the Tabernacle…You must distinguish between what is sacred and what is common.”(9-10)

This story causes me to examine my usefulness to God.  Have I offered strange fire in my service to Him?  If so, what did I do?  I would think anything I do in ministry that glorifies and draws attention to me instead of to Him would be considered strange to Him.   Ministry that results from the latest trends and styles excluding the inspiration of His Holy Spirit would be strange to Him as well.  And I certainly would be wise to avoid being drunk with…anything!  Wine, power, hatred, jealousy to name a few.  These things will only dull my spiritual senses and cause me to sin or make mistakes.

Many privileges come with leadership and ministry, and so do many responsibilities. Jesus said, “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” (Luke 12:48)  Yes, He is grace and mercy to us, but we serve a Holy, Holy God, there is none like Him.  May our ministry, no matter what it is, be obedient, respectful and useful, reflecting His Holiness with our lives. 

Moving Forward: I examine my heart today to be certain that my service honors Him and Him alone.

Tomorrow @ 2 Kings 1-5