Hebrews 8-10 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He forgives and forgets our old life and gives us a new way of living

Countless plays, movies, and television programs have told the story of the old family patriarch who dies and the greedy heirs that gather at the family estate for the reading of the Last Will and Testament of the deceased.  Whether portrayed with humor or drama, the story is usually filled with murder and mayhem until the so-called deceased dramatically reappears having faked his death to observe who really deserves his treasure in the future.  The Jews in the book of Hebrews were dealing with a death of sorts, and in our reading today, the writer was reading the Will. 

@ Hebrews 9
For centuries the Jews had looked to the Temple and the High Priest for the forgiveness of their sins.  Now that Jesus had come, the apostles were telling them of a new way to receive forgiveness, a new covenant, and many were having difficulty accepting that the old covenant was really dead.  “But only the high priest ever entered the Most Holy Place, and only once a year. And he always offered blood for his own sins and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance…So Christ has now become the High Priest…He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven…With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.” (7,11-12)

I, for one, would have been thrilled to know that the bloodbath around the Temple each day had ended, but the Jews were still looking at the Temple and all it represented for their redemption.  Even though the writer had told them the old way of redemption was dead, they could still see the Temple, the old patriarch so to speak, was standing before them. Further explanation was given, “Now when someone leaves a will, it is necessary to prove that the person who made it is dead.  The will goes into effect only after the person’s death. While the person who made it is still alive, the will cannot be put into effect.” Hebrews was a statement of proof that the old man, the old covenant was dead through the death of Jesus on the cross.

The provisions of the Will were as follows, “This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the Lord:  I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.’  Then he says, ‘I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.  And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.’” (10:16-18)  Not only is the old covenant dead, but also dead are our sins and lawless deeds.  Dead, forgotten.

Sometimes we find the results of our old way of life staring us in the face just as the Jews viewed the Temple and its former importance.  In our old life, we may have attended church and loved God, but after accepting Jesus as our Savior, we entered a new way of living.  The old way of living is dead, buried and forgotten by God.  We can go ahead and dig up the old man and make him reappear if we choose to do it, but as said, “The will goes into effect only after the person’s death.”

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place…For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” (10:19-20,22)   Praise God!  The old man is dead, the Will is in effect, and we don’t have to even remember old what’s his name! 

Moving Forward: Some days we just have to reread the terms of the Will.  “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)  The old man is dead! 

Tomorrow @ Numbers 33-36

I Chronicles 15-19 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: His response to our request is always what is best for us

No one likes being told “No, you can’t have that” or “No, you can’t do that,” etc.  I’ve been told that when I was really young, I wasn’t a child who whined or sobbed when told no.  I was a pouter.  Ugh.  That lower lip would fall to the floor, and, you know, it’s very difficult to smile when one’s lip is on the ground.  However, my mom had a way of putting a smile on my face even in my moments of disappointment.  She would look at me and say, “I’ll smile if you’ll smile,” and then she would give me a hopeful little smile.  Sometimes it took more than one smile on her part, but eventually, I couldn’t help but smile and laugh.  In our reading today, David heard no from God but praised Him anyway. 

@ I Chronicles 17
David had a brilliant idea.  He wanted to build a beautiful temple for the Lord.  I’m sure his hopes of accomplishing this were high when the prophet Nathan said to go for it. (2)  However, Nathan returned to David after hearing from the Lord with a definite no to David’s idea.  We love it when God says yes to us, or we submit to His wait, but when He says no, we are wise to accept His will as well.

Because God is so very gracious even when He answers with a negative response, He threw in His own version of I’ll smile if you smile at David. “I will raise up one of your descendants, one of your sons, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for me. And I will secure his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my favor from him as I took it from the one who ruled before you. I will confirm him as king over my house and my kingdom for all time, and his throne will be secure forever.” (11-14)  Now a proclamation like that would put a smile on any father’s face.  Even though many of David’s descendants failed in their love for God, a descendant was coming to redeem the world, Christ Jesus, and His throne will be secure forever.

Even in the face of disappointment, David was immediately humbled by God’s smile in the midst of a no.  “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And now, O God, in addition to everything else, you speak of giving your servant a lasting dynasty! You speak as though I were someone very great, O Lord God!…O Lord, there is no one like you. We have never even heard of another God like you!”(16-17,20)  David’s response to God is filled with praise and worship – a big smile for God!

Sometimes God’s answer to our prayer is no, and we may be tempted to whine, cry or pout.  A much better response is to follow David’s example and believe that God knows what is best and has a better plan, whether He expresses that plan at the time or not.  The very thought that my God loves me and is concerned enough about my welfare to say no at times humbles me to my knees.  I cry, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?”  And that makes me smile!

Moving Forward: Throughout my prayers today, I will smile with confidence because I know He has my best interests at heart. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 102-104

1 Chronicles 5-9 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He carefully planned for the security and care of His Temple

I have had the privilege of meeting some of the most outstanding pastors, missionaries and evangelists of our time.  Life has just afforded me that honor, and I’m grateful to have met them and to have sat under their ministries. If you asked who I considered being the most faithful man or woman in the work of the church in my lifetime, it would be difficult to choose.  It could be a missionary hero like Mark Buntain who changed the future of so many in Calcutta, the great evangelist David Wilkerson whose ministry rocked the drug culture of our nation, Reinhard Bonnke and his powerful evangelism of Africa or it could be a church custodian I knew by the name of Bob. 

@ 1 Chronicles 9
“In all, there were 212 gatekeepers in those days…David and Samuel the seer had appointed their ancestors because they were reliable men.” (22)  In the verses that follow we learn the role of the gatekeepers who opened the Temple doors in the morning, protected and cared for the Temple furnishings and utensils, oversaw the entrance and all those who entered, took care of the money, made sure supplies were available for the priests, provided the showbread for the offerings and finally closed the doors of the Temple at night.  We may call them gatekeepers, custodians or even janitors, but all those who follow after them in this role serve the house of the Lord with faithfulness.

Bob was the custodian at my church when I was growing up.  He opened the church early Sunday mornings long before Sunday School began and stayed to lock up until the very last souls left the building late that evening, which usually included my mom, my sister and me.  Mom was a prayer warrior. Every time we came to church for any event on any given day we walked into a spotless building, every chair in place, paper goods always provided in the restrooms, the communion set ready to go…Bob was reliable, Bob was amazing.  We always knew where he was by the jingle of his keys and the song he was humming.  Bob smiled through the messes his fellow parishioners made and smiled even when we stayed late at night.  Bob served his church for many, many years and is one of the most faithful men in the work of the church that I have ever known.

Our churches are filled with workers just like Bob who receive few accolades for their faithful service – janitors, ushers, nursery workers, Sunday school teachers, offering counters, sound men and pew fillers.  Oh, the list is endless.  Most are volunteers, some receive some small remuneration; but, trust me, it’s not enough.  However, Someone sees everything they do and is keeping a record of it.  God was concerned enough about His Temple that He gave detailed instructions about its security, care and maintenance, and we can be sure that He sees every moment spent on something that is so close to His heart.

Someday when God divvies out all the eternal rewards, Bob is going to get a boatload, as well as all of God’s many other faithful gatekeepers.  In the meantime, we would bless the Lord by praying for these faithful servants and by sending notes of thanks and sharing kind words of gratitude to the many Bobs in our churches who serve us so very faithfully.  “Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” (Proverbs 16:24) 

Moving Forward: My prayer today is special blessings for the gatekeeper and servants at my church, followed up by words of thanks. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 96-98

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

Hebrews 8-10 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He forgives and forgets our old life and gives us a new way of living

Countless plays, movies and television programs have told the story of the old family patriarch who dies and the greedy heirs gather at the family estate for the reading of the Last Will and Testament of the deceased.  Whether portrayed with humor or drama, the story is usually filled with murder and mayhem until the so-called deceased dramatically reappears having faked his death in order to observe who really deserves his treasure in the future.  The Jews in the book of Hebrews were dealing with a death of sorts, and in our reading today, the writer was reading the Will. 

@ Hebrews 9
For centuries the Jews had looked to the Temple and the High Priest for the forgiveness of their sins.  Now that Jesus had come, the apostles were telling them of a new way to receive forgiveness, a new covenant, and many were having difficulty accepting that the old covenant was really dead.  “But only the high priest ever entered the Most Holy Place, and only once a year. And he always offered blood for his own sins and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance…So Christ has now become the High Priest…He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven…With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.” (7,11-12)

I, for one, would have been thrilled to know that the bloodbath around the Temple each day had ended, but the Jews were still looking at the Temple and all it represented for their redemption.  Even though the writer had told them the old way of redemption was dead, they could still see the Temple, the old patriarch so to speak, was standing before them. Further explanation was given, “Now when someone leaves a will, it is necessary to prove that the person who made it is dead.  The will goes into effect only after the person’s death. While the person who made it is still alive, the will cannot be put into effect.” Hebrews was a statement of proof that the old man, the old covenant was dead through the death of Jesus on the cross.

The provisions of the Will were as follows, “This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the Lord:  I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.’  Then he says, ‘I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.  And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.’” (10:16-18)  Not only is the old covenant dead, but also dead are our sins and lawless deeds.  Dead, forgotten.

Sometimes we find the results of our old way of life staring us in the face just as the Jews viewed the Temple and its former importance.  In our old life, we may have attended church and loved God, but after accepting Jesus as our Savior, we entered a new way of living.  The old way of living is dead, buried and forgotten by God.  We can go ahead and dig up the old man and make him reappear if we choose to do it, but as said, “The will goes into effect only after the person’s death.”

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place…For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” (10:19-20,22)   Praise God!  The old man is dead, the Will is in effect and we don’t have to even remember old what’s his name! 

Moving Forward: Some days we just have to reread the terms of the Will.  “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)  The old man is dead! 

Tomorrow @ Numbers 33-36

I Chronicles 15-19 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: His response to our request is always what is best for us

No one likes being told “No, you can’t have that” or “No, you can’t do that,” etc.  I’ve been told that when I was really young, I wasn’t a child who whined or sobbed when told no.  I was a pouter.  Ugh.  That lower lip would fall to the floor, and, you know, it’s very difficult to smile when one’s lip is on the ground.  However, my mom had a way of putting a smile on my face even in my moments of disappointment.  She would look at me and say, “I’ll smile if you’ll smile,” and then she would give me a hopeful little smile.  Sometimes it took more than one smile on her part, but eventually I couldn’t help but smile and laugh.  In our reading today, David heard no from God but praised Him anyway. 

@ I Chronicles 17
David had a brilliant idea.  He wanted to build a beautiful temple for the Lord.  I’m sure his hopes of accomplishing this were high when the prophet Nathan said to go for it. (2)  However, Nathan returned to David after hearing from the Lord with a definite no to David’s idea.  We love it when God says yes to us or we submit to His wait, but when He says no, we are wise to accept His will as well.

Because God is so very gracious even when He answers with a negative response, He threw in His own version of I’ll smile if you smile to David. “I will raise up one of your descendants, one of your sons, and I will make his kingdom strong. He is the one who will build a house—a temple—for me. And I will secure his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my favor from him as I took it from the one who ruled before you. I will confirm him as king over my house and my kingdom for all time, and his throne will be secure forever.” (11-14)  Now a proclamation like that would put a smile on any father’s face.  Even though many of David’s descendants failed in their love for God, a descendant was coming to redeem the world, Christ Jesus, and His throne will be secure forever.

Even in the face of disappointment, David was immediately humbled by God’s smile in the midst of a no.  “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? And now, O God, in addition to everything else, you speak of giving your servant a lasting dynasty! You speak as though I were someone very great, O Lord God!…O Lord, there is no one like you. We have never even heard of another God like you!”(16-17,20)  David’s response to God is filled with praise and worship – a big smile for God!

Sometimes God’s answer to our prayer is no, and we may be tempted to whine, cry … or pout.  A much better response is to follow David’s example and believe that He knows what is best and has a better plan, whether He expresses that plan at the time or not.  The very thought that my God loves me and is concerned enough about my welfare to say no at times humbles me to my knees.  I cry, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?”  And that makes me smile!

Moving Forward: Throughout my prayers today, I will smile with confidence because I know He has my best interests at heart. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 102-104

1 Chronicles 5-9 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He carefully planned for the security and care of His Temple

I have had the privilege of meeting some of the most outstanding pastors, missionaries and evangelists of our time.  Life has just afforded me that honor, and I’m grateful to have met them and to have sat under their ministries. If you would ask who I considered to be the most faithful man or woman in the work of the church in my lifetime, it would be difficult to choose.  It could be a missionary hero like Mark Buntain who changed the future of so many in Calcutta, the great evangelist David Wilkerson whose ministry rocked the drug culture of our nation, Reinhard Bonnke and his powerful evangelism of Africa or it could be a church custodian I knew by the name of Bob. 

@ 1 Chronicles 9
“In all, there were 212 gatekeepers in those days…David and Samuel the seer had appointed their ancestors because they were reliable men.” (22)  In the verses that follow we learn the role of the gatekeepers who opened the Temple doors in the morning, protected and cared for the Temple furnishings and utensils, oversaw the entrance and those who entered, took care of the money, made sure supplies were available for the priests, provided the showbread for the offerings and finally closed the doors of the Temple at night.  We may call them gatekeepers, custodians or even janitors, but all those who follow after them in this role serve the house of the Lord with faithfulness.

Bob was the custodian at my church when I was growing up.  He opened the church early Sunday mornings long before Sunday School began and stayed to lock up until the very last souls left the building late that evening, which usually included my mom, my sister and me.  Mom was a prayer warrior. Every time we came to church for any event on any given day we walked into a spotless building, every chair in place, paper goods always provided in the restrooms, communion set ready to go…Bob was reliable, Bob was amazing.  We always knew where he was by the jingle of his keys and the song he was humming.  Bob smiled through the messes his fellow parishioners made and smiled even when we stayed late at night.  Bob served his church for many, many years and is one of the most faithful men in the work of the church that I have ever known.

Our churches are filled with workers just like Bob who receive few accolades for their faithful service – janitors, ushers, nursery workers, Sunday school teachers, offering counters, sound men and pew fillers.  Oh, the list is endless.  Most are volunteers, some receive some small remuneration; but, trust me, it’s not enough.  However, Someone sees everything they do and is keeping record of it.  God was concerned enough about His Temple that He gave detailed instructions about its security, care and maintenance, and we can be sure that He sees every moment spent on something that is so close to His heart.

Some day when God divvies out all the eternal rewards, Bob is going to get a boatload, as well as all of God’s many other faithful gatekeepers.  In the meantime, we would bless the Lord by praying for these faithful servants and by sending notes of thanks and sharing kind words of gratitude to the many Bobs in our churches who serve us so very faithfully.  “Kind words are like honey—sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” (Proverbs 16:24) 

Moving Forward: My prayer today is special blessings for the gatekeeper and servants at my church, followed up by words of thanks. 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 96-98