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

Leviticus 4-6 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He desires that our lives are a perpetual flame for Him

There’s nothing like sitting around a campfire, reminiscing with friends and family, toasting marshmallows and enjoying the warmth…hair smelling of smoke, the swatting at mosquitoes, listening to ferocious animals in the distance.  OK, let me change this scenario.  There’s nothing like sitting in front of a cozy fireplace, sinking into a comfy sofa and sipping hot chocolate with worship music wafting in the background.  Ahhh…

My husband has completed training in Fireplace Fire Construction 101, and after many years of diligent practice, he’s got it down. Each log is artfully placed to provide the proper airflow, kindling is strategically located to ignite the artfully placed logs, and before you know it, we have a beautiful fire.  I love him for that.  The fire smolders in the fireplace until long after we have dozed off to sleep, but by morning, not even a spark remains.  I can’t imagine the dedication it would take to keep that wood fire going all night long.

Tucked in between the instructions for many offerings to be burned by the Israelites for the atonement of their sins is a paragraph regarding the burnt offering.  Offered once in the morning and again in the evening, the burnt offering was presented by the priests for the atonement of the entire congregation.  The Lord instructed Moses five times in this short paragraph that the fire was to be kept burning at all times. “Remember, the fire must be kept burning on the altar at all times.  It must never go out.” (6:13)

Jews have long believed that the fire never went out from this moment of instruction from God until the Babylonian captivity some 860 years later.  Talk about dedication!  Why was this fire so important that God expected this commitment?  In Leviticus 9:24 we learn that the first burnt offering was set on fire by God Himself, causing the entire congregation to fall face down on the ground.  The perpetual flame honored the original fire that came from God and the continual need for atonement or forgiveness for their sins.  It was symbolic of perpetual worship and a habitual attention or mindfulness of spiritual things.

Do we remember and honor the original fire that set our lives aflame for God?  That moment when the Holy Spirit’s conviction burned deep within our hearts and the sacrifice of Jesus cleansed us from our sins?  This question causes me to consider what I am doing to keep the fire of God going in my life, a habitual attention or mindfulness of spiritual things rather than the myriad of things that seem to consume my time.  Are the gifts and talents He has given me totally dedicated as perpetual worship and service to Him?  Have I fanned the flame of these gifts (2 Timothy 1:8) and put another log on the fire, so to speak, to keep it burning?

I pray that I will never be listed with the dying embers of Laodicea in Revelation 3:15-16, “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold…I will spit you out of my mouth.”  I want to be hot, a perpetual flame for Him!

Moving Forward: I desire that my life burns hotter for Him today than ever before, dedicated to keeping His flame going. 

Tomorrow @ I Kings 14-18

Psalms 66-68 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He listens to our prayers offered from a pure heart 

@ Psalm 66
“Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what He did for me.  For I cried out to Him for help, praising Him as I spoke.  If I had not confessed the sin in my heart the Lord would not have listened.”(16-18)  Every time I read this passage my mind goes back to an occasion several years ago when this truth became reality to me.

Sitting in a Sunday morning service where Tom was ministering, I noticed during the praise and worship time that many others were experiencing a tremendous blessing from the Lord, but I was not.  I knew His presence was there by the response of the worshipers, yet I was not experiencing the fullness of His presence that comes when He inhabits our praises.  I just needed to focus more on Him, I thought, but nothing helped.  Finally, I cried out in my spirit, “What is it, Lord?”  Immediately, the response came, “You judged.”  And, of course, I knew what He meant.

The night before we attended a gathering of people I assumed to be Christians, and some activities occurred that caused little red flag alerts to pop up.  I know all the scriptures about our role as fruit inspectors, etc., but I was visiting a different culture with many new Christians, really knowing only a very few.  In a split second, I had made a negative judgment in my heart about their commitment to the Lord.  While I never expressed my viewpoint to anyone, I withdrew and instead of being a source of light in their lives at that moment or in the future, I blew out my candle.

Let me just say, the youth and young adult culture today look and act dissimilar to anything we have known in our lifetime.  Tattoos, piercings, rap and spin are common in the Christian culture as well as in the secular.  It really is impossible for us to be a light and compass for them if we are too busy judging them.

Well, I repented that morning, my praise reached His throne and His wonderful presence immediately flooded my space.  I could say with the Psalmist, “But God did listen! He paid attention to my prayer.  Praise God, who did not ignore my prayer or withdraw his unfailing love from me.” (19-20) Like the old saying God loves us just as we are, but loves us too much to leave us like that.  It wasn’t that He didn’t love me that morning, but I know He was displeased with my response the night before.  It hindered the fellowship with Him I desired, and He wanted to restore our relationship.

We’ve been reading in Exodus and will continue to read in Leviticus about the prerequisites of the priests before they entered the Holy Place.  They were arduous with detailed washing, purifying, abstentions and just a long list of requirements in order to enter God’s presence.  Because of Christ and the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, these rules of law are no longer necessary.  However, they most definitely reveal how God desires for us to enter His presence with our praises and prayers – with clean hands and pure hearts. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”(Matthew 5:8)  I want to see Him, to sense Him and to know Him, and I don’t want anything in my heart to hinder it, ever. 

Moving Forward:  My heart today, “A pure heart, that’s what I long for, a heart that follows hard after thee…a sweet aroma of worship that rises to your throne.” (A Pure Heart, R. Nelson) 

Tomorrow @ Proverbs 2-3

Galatians 4-6 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He desires to fill us with the joy of the Holy Spirit

Paul questioned the Galatians, “What has happened to all your joy?”(4:15 NIV)  Now that’s a question I don’t want to be asked because it signals to me that in the eyes of others, my joy is gone. If asked this question, I would feel obliged to examine what really did happen to my joy so that I could give an answer.  Where exactly did my joy go?

I’ve noticed when I am especially embroiled in a tedious task like income tax filing, checkbook balancing or bill paying, the joy really isn’t flowing.  Although I love to cook and try new recipes, following a very detailed Martha Stewart recipe can change the environment in my kitchen very quickly. Suddenly, it’s just not fun anymore.  This is how Paul found the Galatians – encumbered by the Law of Moses at the bidding of the false teachers who had invaded the church.  Their relationship with the Lord had been usurped by legalism, and they had lost their joy. 

@ Galatians 5
“So Christ has truly set us free.  Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” (1)  The incessant observance of all the laws had turned the Galatians’ focus from the work of the Holy Spirit through Christ in their lives to their work in their lives, saving themselves through circumcision and the adherence to all the laws.

Anyone or anything that turns our focus from Jesus and what He did on the cross to rules and methods that we must follow to earn our salvation is wrong.   “When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5)

New life through the Holy Spirit!  “So, I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives…the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.” (16,22-23)  Joy is the end result when the Holy Spirit controls our lives.  Joy doesn’t come from our substitutions for Him or our manipulations of Him, but rather His pure guidance and freedom in our lives.  When the Holy Spirit guides us, we are filled with a deep, abiding peace regardless of our circumstances and a joy that comes from deep within us.

“Now with patience in our suffering, perseverance in our prayers, with good reason this hope is in our hearts.  Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Christ our joy and strength.  Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Christ our joy and strength.” (Sara Groves)  With His joy, no one will ask “What has happened to all your joy?” because He puts a song of joy in our hearts and we sing Hallelujah, Hallelujah!

Moving Forward:  As I move through this day led by the Holy Spirit, I experience His joy because He is guiding me and producing what is good in my life.  Hallelujah! 

Tomorrow @ Exodus 37-40

Luke 3-4 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: Through the way we live, He sees our true repentance.  He gives the power of the Holy Spirit and His Word to counter the enemy’s attacks.

John the Baptist certainly had a unique style of ministry. “When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes!  Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented.” (3:7-8)  Wouldn’t that approach draw the crowds today!  Perhaps he was dining on too many locusts and not enough wild honey, and, of course, camel hair can be so scratchy. (Matthew 3:4)

Actually, this voice in the wilderness, filled with the Holy Spirit in his mother’s womb, discerned that many had come to hear his message simply to escape eternal punishment, as if he were a lucky charm.  He was looking for true repentance of sins and a changed life. John told his listeners to prove that they had repented by being generous, honest and kind to one another at the very least. (3:10-14) Great advice from the wilderness evangelist!

I’ve always known those who consider church-going their lucky charm, keeping the Big Guy happy with them, but never allowing His power to change their lives.  Because God loves their souls, He often allows challenging situations to occur in their lives to get their attention and to turn their hearts toward Him.  This is when we are able to step in to encourage and undergird them with generosity, honesty and kindness expressed by John in Chapter 3.  Time and time again I’ve seen those out on the fringe of God’s grace turn to a true relationship with Him.

It’s interesting to note that while Jewish Matthew’s genealogy only went back to Abraham, Luke the Greek went all the way back to Adam, proving once again that Jesus, our elder brother, is related to all mankind.  Luke’s love of details blesses me. 

@ Luke 4
I wish I could say that our walk with the Lord is paved only with wonderful moments, but that wouldn’t be true.  Fresh out of the carpentry shop at age 30, Jesus was baptized in water, filled with the Holy Spirit and started His ministry in the wilderness with a full-fledged frontal attack by Satan.  And sometimes we think we’re having a bad day!

The record of this encounter is filled with many truths about the Kingdom of God, but two of them stood out today in my reading.  Satan had been successful in his temptation of Adam and Eve, and the failure of Jesus would certainly have been a plus for him.  However, even trying to tempt Jesus proves one glaring fact:  Satan does not know the future.  Although he often confronts us with fears and outcomes that sound prophetic in nature, he’s just guessing!  He is offering what he wishes to be true; and just like Jesus did, we should resist him.

How did Jesus resist him?  By quoting scripture!  The two-edged sword of the Spirit is the only offensive weapon in our armor against the enemy. (Eph. 6:17)   When He was under attack, Jesus did not hesitate to bring out His Sword to take down His attacker.  We keep our weapon sharp and ready for use by our daily attention to the Word and its application to our lives.  The enemy knows scripture too, but Satan’s misuse of scripture in his encounter with Jesus left him powerless – knowledge without relationship is futile.

Being the slow learner that he is, the enemy will make many attempts to bring us down just as he tried with Jesus, but armed with our fine-tuned weapon and filled with the Holy Spirit, we are invincible!  “Submit yourselves, then, to God,” is the often neglected part of James 4:7; submit first to Him and to His Word, then, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (NIV)  Armed and dangerous! 

Moving Forward: As I carry with me His Word today, I face the day armed and dangerous against any attacks. With generosity, honesty and kindness – proof of a changed life – I will undergird and encourage those that He is drawing into true relationship with Him. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Corinthians 11-13

Luke 1-2 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: Filled with unexplainable love for us, He sent His Son to us

Details, details, details! Women especially love details, and the Book of Luke is loaded with them.  Because most of the women in Luke’s day were uneducated, I’m fairly certain he wasn’t writing to accommodate the female reader.  His detailed accounts of the life of Christ more than likely resulted from his profession as a doctor.  Luke’s life had been filled with accuracy, details and careful observations, and we are blessed by what he has added to our understanding of scripture because of this. He talked with eye witnesses, many believe he interviewed Mary, and “carefully investigated everything from the beginning.” (1:3) As a Greek, Luke was the only known Gentile author of the New Testament, but his love and devotion to the Lord was evident in both of his books – Luke and Acts. 

@ Luke 1
“Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.” (6-7)  Gabriel, an angel of the Lord, appeared saying, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John.”(13)

I’ve tried to imagine a visit from the angel Gabriel, and I would like to think that after I picked myself up off the floor, I would believe all that he had to say.  Zechariah, however, doubted the angel’s message because of the sheer impossibility of it all. This obviously offended Gabriel and he made Zechariah mute, temporarily.  Physical limitations clashed with the power of the living God.  I’ve often wondered if it offends the Lord when we pray for something to come to pass, and when it does, we are completely shocked.  Thankfully, He forgives our faltering belief and does the extraordinary any way.

On the other hand, Mary’s reaction to Gabriel and his news that she would bear God’s son was different.  News that she would be an unwed pregnant teenager was not met with resistance.  As a virgin, Mary must have been confused by Gabriel’s message, but she responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” (38) The miracle pregnancy of her relative, Elizabeth, did more than provide the forerunner to Jesus, but also added credibility to the miracle that Mary was experiencing and must have encouraged her in the weeks ahead.  “For nothing is impossible with God,” declared Gabriel. (37)  Nothing is impossible with God!

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in the meeting between Elizabeth and Mary.  Two miraculously pregnant women – emotional, joyful, wondering, and awestruck – bring out the tissues!  Two observations have always blessed me in this meeting.  “When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.”  Now, how could a soul-less, unborn, useless fetus be filled with the Holy Spirit (15) and respond with such emotion?  David explained it so beautifully, “You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.  You saw me before I was born.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book.  Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” (Psalm 139:15-16)  As a society, how can we be so bold to tamper with God’s plan?

Then came Mary’s beautiful Song of Praise.  Knowing she would face ridicule, disbelief and disdain for her explanation of this pregnancy, Mary submitted herself to God with a song of praise on her lips.  “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.  How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” (46-47) Jesus left heaven’s splendor and came to this world for us. I can’t help but rejoice with Mary at His goodness.

When Zechariah was finally able to speak, he eloquently expressed, “Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” (78-79)  And I sing with Mary, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.  How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” 

Moving Forward: How can I do anything today without praises in my heart for His amazing love and grace?  He came, He conquered, He reigns in my heart. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Corinthians 9-10

Psalms 51-53 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He will never reject a broken spirit and a contrite heart

The ocean is dramatic, the mountains are majestic, but for me nothing beats the white and purity of new fallen snow, pure and simple.  Of course, science tells us that this moisture falling through the atmosphere collects dirt particles and debris, etc., but as its glistening blanket covers the earth, we only see spotless white.  In light of this, it’s humbling to imagine ourselves as whiter than snow because of His purification, but this was the cry of David’s heart as he cried out to God in repentance. 

@ Psalm 51
“Purify me from my sins, and I will be whiter than snow… Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God.  Renew a loyal spirit within me.” (7,9-10)  God forgave David for his dreadful sins in the Bathsheba moment of his life because of true repentance.  Forgiveness didn’t come because of David’s sorrow for having been caught in his sin or because he feared losing God’s favor, but because of true repentance. Contrition was shown through repentance when David asked of God:

  • Wash me from my guilt (2)
  • Purify me (7)
  • Return my joy (8)
  • Create a clean heart in me (10)
  • Renew a right spirit (10)
  • Restore your presence and Holy Spirit in my life (11)
  • Make me willing to obey, (12) a fearsome request
  • Forgive me (14)

He didn’t ask God to roll back the clock or ignore his sin, and he didn’t offer immediate sacrifices to ease the pain of it all or stop the hand of God.  In return for God’s forgiveness, David said:

  • I will teach your ways to other rebels (13)
  • I will sing of your forgiveness (14) which he did in many, many Psalms
  • I will praise you with unsealed lips (15)

“You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one…the sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.  You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” (16-17) It’s human nature to blame others for our sins or even to blame original sin (5-6), but then this would not be true repentance.  A broken spirit says, “I did it.”  A broken and repentant heart says, “I did it. I will do right.”  This He will not reject.

Every day I ask God to purify my heart of all wrong doings – deliberate sins to be sure, but also those more secreted sins, like unforgiveness, judging others, pride, envy, resentment, etc., sins that often lead to deliberate sins when left unchecked.  Secreted sin led David to adultery and murder when first he lusted.  In response to my prayer, God so faithfully reveals to me where I have failed, and when I repent, He forgives and purifies my heart.  And for that, I am eternally grateful. 

Moving Forward:  Purify my heart today, dear Lord.  Make me whiter than snow! 

Tomorrow @ Job 35-36