Leviticus 13-15 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: God provides all that is needed to keep His people alive and well on their journey

“If a man loses his hair and his head becomes bald, he is still ceremonially clean.  And if he loses hair on his forehead, he simply has a bald forehead; he is still clean. However…” (13:40-41)  For those who are hair challenged, I would imagine reading Leviticus 13 brings great relief, although I’m still somewhat concerned about men with hairy foreheads.  Whether clean or not, I’m not sure hair growing on the forehead is a good thing.  But even more disconcerting is that little word however.

God gave Moses specific instructions regarding the healthcare of the wilderness Israelites.  Hospitals, Emergency Rooms and 24-Hour Urgent Care Clinics did not exist on the backside of the desert where this nomadic community of 2 to 3 million people traveled for 40 years.  The priests were the healthcare providers who administered the diagnosis and treatment needed to preserve God’s chosen people.  It’s not farfetched to imagine an insidious epidemic completely erasing this isolated people group from history, but God would not have that!

God provided all that was needed to keep His people alive and well on their journey as long as they paid close attention to those howevers.  Skin lumps, bumps, sores and discolorations on His people were all diagnosed by the priests to prevent the spread of leprosy, the killer of the day, as well as other diseases.  Even clothing and household goods were evaluated for disease-producing mildew and mold.  Individuals deemed unclean were isolated and goods were either purified or burned.

God was concerned about preventive healthcare because it was obviously much less debilitating and more cost-effective than aftercare.  His laws in Chapter 15 regarding bodily discharges, gross indeed, were all about preserving and protecting those He loved.  God really wasn’t surprised when our medical researchers over the past century discovered conclusive proof that diseases, ranging from colds to AIDS, could be transmitted through bodily discharges.  I would think all of heaven offered one big DUH at that conclusion.

If we think the laws and instructions of Leviticus are irrelevant to us today, we should think again.  Yes, the blood of Jesus protects us, but so does His wisdom. There’s a reason that may go all the way back to Leviticus that I carry disinfectants and hand sanitizers when I travel.  After rereading Chapter 15, I’ll be thinking twice about trying on clothes in mall dressing rooms.  I’m just saying…

All God’s instructions regarding healthcare were essential to protect His people and get them to the Promised Land.  For us today, equally important is what leprosy and the like represent to us.  Sin is much more menacing than any physical disease could ever be.  It may start small, like the white patch or bump with leprosy, seemingly insignificant; however, if left unchecked, it will bring eternal death to us.  Daily examination before our High Priest for His diagnosis is the best preventive healthcare for the soul that I know.  As far as treatment, His blood has it all covered!

Moving Forward: His wisdom protects my life today and guides my steps, and His blood treats whatever ails my soul. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Kings 6-10

Ezekiel 13-18 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is faithful to His everlasting covenant with us

Ohhh…some rough reading today. The Northern Kingdom had already fallen to Babylon, and now judgment was about to fall on the Southern Kingdom of Judah.  The prophets had given warnings to no avail, and most of the Israelites remained in their idolatry and sinful ways even in captivity.

At the end of Chapter 12 we read, “You’ve heard that proverb they quote in Israel: ‘Time passes, and prophecies come to nothing.’  Tell the people, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:  I will put an end to this proverb, and you will soon stop quoting it.’ Now give them this new proverb to replace the old one: ‘The time has come for every prophecy to be fulfilled.’”(12:22-23)  And then the judgments began.

Judgment prophecies were given through Ezekiel regarding: 1) false prophets of the day who whitewashed the truth so that the Israelites would feel only good about themselves, 2) mediums who used magic and charms to ensnare the people away from God, and 3) leaders who set up idols in their hearts to worship instead of worshipping the true and living God. (14)  The similarities today are remarkable.

The Babylonian captives believed that Jerusalem, the Holy City, would survive the siege, but God called Jerusalem and its people a useless vine. “The people of Jerusalem are like grapevines growing among the trees of the forest.  Since they are useless, I have thrown them on the fire to be burned.” (15:6)  Even more devastating was His charge that Jerusalem was His unfaithful wife, who, worse than a prostitute, had many lovers and didn’t even charge them because she so wanted to be with them.  Jerusalem was filled with altars and shrines to the gods of neighboring countries, and final judgment was coming to Jerusalem.

The riddle of Chapter 17 speaks of the besieged Jerusalem attempting to make an alliance with Egypt to fight against Babylon, but both were crushed by the mighty Babylonian army.  I’ve wondered if it was as perplexing to God as it was to me when I read of this alliance with Egypt, the very country that had enslaved the Israelites without mercy for so many centuries.  Why would they seek to go back to the very ones who had bound them? It was as if they would do anything to keep from trusting God.

Early in our ministry, we had an evangelist friend that God had miraculously delivered from drugs and given a powerful ministry, but over time he slipped back into the bondage of drugs once again.  I’ve never really understood how it happened, but I believe it had to do with pride in what he had accomplished, forgetting Who it was that had delivered him.  Likewise, Israel, so proud of the nation they had become, trusted only in their own plans, rejecting both God and the warnings of Isaiah and the prophets against this alliance with Egypt.  But then, wasn’t it pride that started the whole sin thing with Lucifer? Anytime we consider ourselves equal to God, we are headed for destruction as well.

Well, before we fall right through the floor in depression, let’s remember that Israel is alive and reasonably well on planet earth today.  “Now this is what the Sovereign Lord says:  I will give you what you deserve, for you have taken your solemn vows lightly by breaking your covenant.  Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were young, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.” (16:59-60)

God remembered His covenant with Abraham, and He would take the remnant that turned toward Him, the Daniels and Shadrachs, and build a nation.  The everlasting covenant, Christ Jesus, is available to Israel today; and when we pray, let’s pray they will accept Him and escape final destruction.  After all, hasn’t His Word asked us to pray for Israel? 

Moving Forward:  May I not take my solemn vows lightly to God’s everlasting covenant with me through Christ Jesus.  I reject even the slightest bit of pride in anything I may accomplish.  May it be He who sits on the throne of my heart today. 

Tomorrow @ Luke 15-16

1 Kings 14-18 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He wants us to do what He wants us to do

My 10-year-old granddaughter talks a mile a minute and has me wrapped pretty tightly around her little finger. This adorable little girl is intelligent beyond measure and carries enough charm to bring the world to her feet – all facts that are irrelevant to the point I am making but needing to be shared.  I’m sure you understand.

Our reading today reminded me of something she said when she was just two years old.  If you remember, two is the year of the terrible when our precious, cooing little bundle of joy discovers its own will.  When asked to do something by her mother, our ordinarily compliant little girl responded, “I don’t want to do that!  I want to do what I want to do.”  I had to turn my head away to hide my smile because her mother was doing a little reaping at the moment. But just as the commitment to training helped transform our daughter through her terrible twos into the beautiful Godly woman she is today, her instructions and disciplines are doing the same for her daughter.

Today’s reading is about a nation that did not want to do what God wanted them to do and wanted to do what they wanted to do.  God sent someone along who helped them understand who really was in charge so they would be without excuse when discipline for this attitude came to them.

The nation of Israel was now a divided Kingdom – the ten tribes of the northern Kingdom, ruled by rebel leader Jeroboam and the two tribes of the Southern Kingdom, Judah, ruled by Solomon’s son, Rehoboam.  Neither of the kings served God, and both led the people in worship of other gods.  What a sad state of affairs.

Idolatry is a self-serving form of religion that has the mentality, “If it feels good, do it!” The Israelites chose to leave the restrictions of the law and decided to worship gods that offered no restraint on their physical, social and personal passions.  They wanted the freedom to do as they pleased without fear of punishment, an attitude that sounds very…current.

After years of idol worship, Israel was now led by wicked King Ahab.  Like a good parent, God sent the hand of discipline through the prophet Elijah who declared to Ahab, “As surely as the Lord, the God of Israel lives—the God I serve—there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!” (17:1)

1 Kings 18
“So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?” (17) asked Ahab when Elijah returned for a visit after his prophecy of no rain.  Elijah replied, “I have made no trouble for Israel…You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the Lord and have worshiped the images of Baal instead.” (18) The showdown on Mount Carmel proved that Baal and Asherah were no match for the true and living God, and Ahab’s 850 pagan prophets were useless against Him.  Apparently, Ahab did not know Who he was dealing with, but Elijah knew His God, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel…Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones and the dust.  It even licked up all the water in the trench!” (36,38) I love it when God shows up BIG to defeat the false gods of this world.

These false gods promise freedom from restraint and appeal to our fleshly passions to do what we want to do, but they are no match for the fire of God.  The only requirement is that we submit to His discipline and call on His fire to come down and burn us up entirely with the Fire of Holiness.  He will show up BIG in our lives and bless us with His grace and wisdom to do what He wants us to do.  We will be the men and women of God that He desires us to be! 

Moving Forward: My heart cries, “Burn me up, Lord, with your Holiness that I may stand in your Holy place. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 72-74

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

1 Kings 5-9 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He fills our lives with His glorious presence to accomplish His will

“During the fourth year of Solomon’s reign he began to construct the Temple of the Lord…480 years after the people of Israel were rescued from their slavery in the land of Egypt.” (6:1) The construction of the portable Tabernacle that we read about in Exodus was built to last for several lifetimes – 480 years!  God was specific in His instructions for a reason.

Those of us who have been involved in temporary church sites in strip malls and rented spaces understand the cumbersome putting up and tearing down week after week of sound systems, chairs and all that goes with church.  Compared to 480 years, our duration seems insignificant, but because these accounts in the Bible are given to us as lessons, we would do well to consider the reasons for the delay in the building the permanent temple.

During the 480 years, the Israelites were often disobedient and willful against the Lord and were ruled by many judges of like mind.  The people wanted to be like other nations and demanded a king to rule over them because God was not quite enough in their thinking.  King Saul was a major disappointment to everyone, including God, and David the warrior king had too much bloodshed on his hands for the building of God’s temple.

Finally, King Solomon was chosen for this task.  In the building of almost everything, God uses people as his instruments to accomplish His will.  When the building is taking longer than we desire, it never hurts to examine our hearts.  Are we disobedient or willful in our labors?  Is God’s plan enough in our thinking or are we compelled to help Him out, usurping His plan?  No doubt this will slow down our progress.

A significant hindrance to the building of the temple was Israel’s enemies.  From the moment they entered the Promised Land, nobody wanted them there. The Israelites fought to take possession, struggled through the judge era and then through the early kings, but they never gave up.  We can be sure that anything we build for the glory of the Lord, be it family, career or church, will be met by resistance from our enemy.  He will attempt to defeat us at every turn, but we can never give up!  Every demon from hell in local governments will thwart our attempt to build a church or a business for the Lord, raising our costs and burying us in red tape.  The enemy may bring out the big guns by attacking our families, but we can never give up!

How do we defeat our enemy and stay strong in our process of building the temple, our family or whatever it is? We do it the same way we maintain victory once we achieve it.  At the completion of the temple, “When the priests came out of the Holy Place, a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord.  The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the temple.”(8:10-11)  I just love it when the presence of the Lord fills my space to the point where I can no longer perform (NIV) or continue my service, and it becomes all about Him.  Willfulness and disobedience cannot exist there in His Presence, and governments and enemies must bow before Him.  With tenacity to complete the task, I yield to His direction, His handiwork – He is more than enough. 

Moving Forward:  Submitted to His plan for my day, I call for His glorious presence to fill my space, to defeat my enemies and to complete the work He has begun.

Tomorrow @ Psalms 66-68

Exodus 29-32 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He longs for us to know Him as our God. He desires to live with us.

@Exodus 29
“Then I will live among the people of Israel and be their God, and they will know that I am the Lord their God.  I am the one who brought them out of the land of Egypt so that I could live among them.  I am the Lord their God.” (45-46)  God wants relationship, plain and simple.  He wants to live with me, not just visit occasionally, or send cards and emails.  He wants to live with me – laugh at my bed head in the morning, hover over my devotional time, go to work with me, be the center of my other relationships and watch me drool in my sleep. Whether or not anyone else in the world wants to be with you or with me, we need to understand that He does!

Before Jesus came to die for our sins, there was a long, detailed process to follow in order for sinful man to fellowship with our magnificently Holy God.  These chapters in Exodus detail the purification, sanctification, ritual sacrifice, fragrant incense, anointing and much more that were required to secure relationship with Him.  Why all these instructions and details to follow? I’m sure there are many reasons that my mind doesn’t understand, but if God could not even look at Jesus on the cross as He bore our sin, how could He ever live with the Israelites in their sin?  Atonement for sins had to be made.  From verse 45, we understand that he wanted His people to know that He was their God.  He wasn’t just someone they happened upon, stumbled over by accident or met along the way.  He wanted them to know Him through an intentional connect.

The death and resurrection of Jesus changed the process that God requires, but not the outcome He desires. Our Holy God is now able to live with us through our acceptance of the ultimate sacrifice of His Son.  However, I believe He still desires that we know He is our God, not just someone we happened upon, stumbled over by accident or met along the way.  With our busy lives and commitments, it is easy to treat Him like a casual acquaintance rather than the One who lives with us, sleeps and wakes with us, the One with whom we are intimate.

What a heartbreaking moment for God – while sharing with Moses the very details of this intimacy, those He longed to live with were dancing around and worshiping a golden calf.  What was Aaron thinking? Every time I read this account, I am amazed that Aaron, a priest of the Most High God, wasn’t immediately toast.  Moses interceded to God for Aaron and the people, and God allowed His mercy to supersede His punishment.  “So the Lord changed his mind about the terrible disaster he had threatened to bring on his people.” (32:14)

Fortunately for us, we have Someone interceding for us, “Because Jesus lives forever, His priesthood lasts forever. Therefore He is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through Him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.” (Hebrews 7:25)  Hallelujah!  Mercy allows Him to live with us and also enables the intimacy with us He so desires.  When Someone wants us this much, how could we ever choose a substitute? 

Moving Forward:  My heart is full of His love for me today – His patient, merciful love.  I approach this day knowing that He is God and so thankful that I can spend the day with Him. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Samuel 20-24

Jeremiah 32-36 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He will not easily let go of us and rewards our commitment to stay

Because I went to a small college and knew my fellow students reasonably well, the first day of each school term was somewhat revealing as to how challenging our classes would be.  After we filed into each of our classes, we would look around the room for the curve wreckers – those students that we knew would ace the tests and raise the grading curve for all the other students.  In our reading, Jeremiah, too, was looking in his day for those who would set the standard high and follow after God. 

@ Jeremiah 33
While Babylon was laying siege to the city of Jerusalem, Jeremiah received these words of promise from the Lord, “Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come…You expect to fight the Babylonians, but the men of this city are already as good as dead…Nevertheless, the time will come when I will heal Jerusalem’s wounds and give it prosperity and true peace…I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line.  He will do what is just and right throughout the land…I will never abandon the descendants of Jacob or David, my servant…Instead, I will restore them to their land and have mercy on them.” (3-26)

This message to Jeremiah reveals the heart of our Lord.  He desires that we ask Him when we need direction for our lives.  In our asking, we are humbly saying that we cannot figure this out on our own and that we are dependent on Him for His help, and He responds to our submission to Him. “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for.” (Matthew 7:7)

The “righteous descendant from King David’s line” is yet another Old Testament prophetic promise about Jesus.  Although Israel would face dark times, God had not given up on His special treasure, and He had a plan to redeem them.  Even still, the Israelites rejected the first coming of Jesus, but these scriptures foretell of His second coming where His throne will be forever established in Jerusalem.

Israel’s existence today is proof that He has not given up on His chosen ones. As adoptees into this family, it is our assurance as well that He will not give up on us.  He will send Jeremiahs into our lives to call us back to Him if we stray, and as with Israel, He will not let us slip away without great effort to keep us.  Oh, how He loves us! 

@ Jeremiah 35
Oh, those Recabites! They were the curve wreckers of their day.  “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17, NIV)  For over 200 years, this Nomadic group had followed their ancestor’s special vow of dedication to God to not drink wine, to not buy land and to not plant crops.  Because Israel had trouble keeping a commitment to God for two minutes, much less 200 years, God brought the Recabites before the Israelites as an example of steadfast devotion to Him.  “Come and learn a lesson about how to obey me…Jehonadab son of Recab will always have descendants who serve me.” (13,19)  As with the Recabites, I pray that my commitment to the Lord will be so evident that it is imprinted on the hearts of my children and my children’s children.

Today I have learned a lesson about how to obey Him. I am challenged to listen to the Jeremiahs of my generation even though their messages don’t always bring warm fuzzies to my heart.  Their messages from God are given to save me, protect me and keep me so that one day I will worship before God’s very throne in Heaven.  I’m challenged to be a curve wrecker in my generation, setting the bar high and keeping strong my commitment to follow the Lord in obedience.   If I do this, I believe He has promised that I will always have descendants who serve the Lord! 

Moving Forward: I move forward today so very thankful that He has not given up on me.  I pray that I will always have descendants who follow the Lord, and may they be the curve wreckers of their generation! 

Tomorrow @ Luke 1-2