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Archive for August, 2012

And you shall present an offering made by fire as a burnt offering to the Lord: two young bulls, one ram, and seven lambs in their first year. Be sure they are without blemish. Numbers 28:19 

Cream of the Crop 

If the scriptures are true (and they are), if “The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein,” (Psalm 24:1) and if, “every beast of the forest is (His), And the cattle on a thousand hills,” (Psalm 50:10), and if indeed, “The silver is (His), and the gold is (His),” (Haggai 2:8) why then does God require we bring and sacrifice the best of the best to Him?

There’s a reason 

I touched on this subject a while back and I could not get the notion out of my head — love is the reason God wants these things, or to be more accurate, it’s His love for us. Let’s take a step back and gaze at the picture God has painted that we might better understand.

Consider the Sacrifice

When we view the Old Testament, regardless of the type of sacrifice being presented, God required that it be perfect and without blemish. Perfect? Maybe He doesn’t realize just how hard a request that is. I submit to you that He does know, and that it is precisely the reason He asks for it.

Imagine God said, “I want you to sacrifice to Me a perfect horse without blemish.” So you set about doing what must be done to produce the perfect steed. Finally, after much toil and effort, a fine young colt is produced and it’s offered it to God. God then says to you…

Now, look behind you.”

What do you see?

You’ll likely see the fruit of your God-inspired labor and effort to please Him — a stable full of thoroughbreds! In our obedience to produce one unblemished thing to give to God, He has entrusted to us the abundance (the leftovers if you will) which is the byproduct of hard work. If God had asked for anything less than perfection, our blessing from Him would have been proportionately less. God wants our best effort. He wants us to appreciate worth and the value within the sacrifice.

So we can get the glory?

No, so God gets the glory, lest we think it’s something we accomplished!

His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ Matthew 25:23

Are you abundantly blessed? Then you likely have obediently positioned yourself to continually please Him; giving back to Him the best He has given you.  The blessed individual understands, at least in part, that love breeds love. He is also keenly aware that he does not deserve any of it.

A Picture of Jesus

It’s also vitally important that we don’t lose sight of this truth: the perfect sacrifice, without spot or blemish, is a picture of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. God has been painting this picture all along that we might know.

Our reality is that we have never been able to offer anything perfect that could appease God and atone for our sin. God demanded perfection and only He could provide it for Himself in Jesus. As we give Christ Jesus our all, the Father once again says to us, “Now, look behind you.”

And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” Genesis 22:8

  1. What do these say of God?
  2. What do they say about us?
  3. What’s our recourse?

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“For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Romans 8:6

Making Godly Decisions

Arguably the number one question Christians ask has to do with God’s will. Personally, I believe discerning God’s will is an easy thing; especially as it pertains to understanding our role in His plan for the present moment. Let us consider a few passages on the topic of God’s will, keeping in mind that these are just a sampling.

Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing. And we urge you, brethren, to recognize those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves. Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:11-18

That verse concludes that all the recorded activities, although not an exhaustive list, are the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. So if you woke up this morning saying,Gee, I don’t know what God wants me to do,” start with these:

  1. Comfort and/or encourage someone (this is God’s will)
  2. Recognize & esteem your pastor and elders (this is God’s will)
  3. Keep the peace (this is God’s will)
  4. Patiently educate and/or care for the needy (this is God’s will)
  5. Fight evil by pursing goodness (this is God’s will)
  6. Rejoice (this is God’s will)
  7. Pray (this is God’s will)
  8. Give thanks (this is God’s will)

Have you done any of these things today? If you haven’t, you should know that you are not submitted to God’s will. Have you even prayed? Pastor Chuck Smith has said repeatedly, “We can do more after we pray, but we can’t do more until we pray.” That my friend is pure, God-inspired wisdom.

Here’s another one:

Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men 1 Peter 2:13-15

The Father has placed each of us under various authorities; from the President of the United States to the cops in our local police departments, from our parents to our teachers, from our bosses to the mall security guards. It’s a huge list and it’s God’s will that we’re obedient to their lawful rule, providing it doesn’t contract His authority.

I believe that when we are disobedient, we effectively move ourselves from beneath the spout where God’s blessings pour out — God doesn’t stop the flow, but we move away when we sidestep His will. And I can argue that sidestepping is the equivalent to back-sliding.

One more:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2

What’s God’s will for you today?

Be a nonconformist!

Walk away from what the world and satan wants you to become and allow the Lord to give you a Holy make-over. If you have been waiting for God to reveal His specific plan (will) for you, but sense you’re not receiving any divine direction, there is a chance you haven’t been walking in His will with any consistency. Today is the day that can change.

Future Decisions

What about God’s will in regard to the choices we  make: should we go there, should we buy this, should we marry that guy; how are we to know? Well, assuming we have been faithful with these other things, there are essentially four (4) criteria that we should consider before making every decision.

Number one:

What Does God Say?

The probability exists that your issue has been addressed within the scriptures. In other words, there is a Biblical foundation that you can base a decision on. You may not find an exact match, but if you were wrestling with the idea of getting a tattoo or piercing (for example), you would likely happen upon a complementary directive in God’s word regarding stewardship and/or honoring the temple that is your body. That’s step one.

Next…

WWPD

What would your pastor (or an elder, deacon, etc.) do?

I confess the hardest thing for me to do is ask my pastor his opinion on matters. Why? Because I know he will give me his opinion. Be that as it may, God has placed these people in our lives and they are valuable resources who have the capacity to look at things from an unbiased and Biblical position.

If we look long and hard enough, we can find someone who will agree with us. This is not God’s will — He would rather we ask our pastor or elder who is not afraid of telling us the truth or losing us as a friend.

A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, To understand a proverb and an enigma, The words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:5-7

History

What has your experience shown you; how does your track record look? If you are in the habit of following the previous steps, you probably have a history of making good choices. A person who prays and patiently waits, searches God’s word, and seeks Godly counsel, typically makes good choices. Is that your testimony? Is it your routine to allow your Creator to search the depths of your heart?

The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9

Who Has Led You to This Point?

How did you get here? When you boil it all down, there is really only two ways you have come to the fork in the road we call choice: you either traveled there on the flesh-express, or the Holy Spirit has brought you to this place. How can you be sure which it is? The answer lies in going back to what you know to be true regarding God’s will and complying with it. Remember, God’s will brings you closer, while satan’s will widens the gap.

‎”However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come…Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” John 16:13, Galatians 5:16

  1. What do these passages say about God?
  2. What do they say about you?
  3. What’s our recourse?

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These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power…2 Thessalonians 1:9

Hell

Before we go any further, Christians and non-Christians alike must accept one basic truth: Hell is a real place. This needs to be shared because there are false teachers among us; those who claim they are Christians, but teach that Hell is not real.

Who are these guys?

Well sadly, the list is long, but a few of the more popular heretics on the scene today are: Rob Bell (who also preaches everyone who wants to go to Heaven, goes to Heaven), Brian McLaren (who does not believe making disciples equals making adherents to the Christian religion), and Joel Osteen (who rarely mentions Hell, so as to not offend anyone).

Needless to say, these folks, and many like them, should be avoided. Are they even Christians? Only God knows, but whatever their Spirit condition, what pours out of their mouths is proof-positive they should not be teachers of God’s word. Even a baby-Christian can figure out that if Hell isn’t real, than Christ Jesus died for naught.

What the Bible Declares

While it is debatable if God spoke more about Hell than Heaven, the reality is that the place of everlasting damnation is spoken about a whole lot in the Bible. I won’t list them all, but check out some of the descriptors God uses:

As horrible as we can envision Hell to be, these things are not the worst of it. What makes Hell truly horrific and terrifying is that God is not there. Consider for a moment Christ’s experience in the Garden of Gethsemane. On the evening before His arrest, humiliation, torture, and murder, Jesus, being in agony the likes of which we have never known, sweat great drops of blood.

Why?

Was Jesus afraid of being humiliated, tortured, and murdered?

While I don’t believe He was looking forward to any of those things, I don’t think they were the primary source of His dread and agony. I believe the agonizing horror Jesus faced was being completely separated from His Father, even though it was only going to be for a relatively short period of time. Jesus knew that even one second apart from the Father was too much to bear. This is why the God-Man sweat droplets of blood.

That should give every person pause. Can we imagine the terror of  momentary separation from God, let alone an eternity?

A while back I wrote a piece called ‘We Have No Idea,’ where I mulled over this passage of scripture:

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. Psalm 139:17-18

I was determined to calculate (as best I could), how many times God thinks about us individually (you can read that piece in its entirety via the link). I came to the conclusion that God thinks about each of us approximately three hundred million times per second (a number I believe to be very conservative by the way).

If this is true (and I believe it is), then we must give thought to what God could possibly be thinking about so frequently? Is He merely recounting 3oo,000,000 times a second how much He loves us? Maybe, but I contend that God is demonstrating His love for us, over and over, in practical hands-on ways.

God, by means of each divine thought, is orchestrating every minuscule thing that’s going on inside our body, from the knitting together of damaged cells, to the beat of our hearts, to the digestion of our food, to the healing of that pimple on the tip of our nose. On a grander scale, He’s producing the oxygen we need to breathe, while spinning the planet on its axis, while providing the sun and the rain, and maintaining gravity so we don’t all float away. Everything that needs to be done to keep Dave Wells (and you) going, God is doing in a loving, practical way.

Oh, and by the way, He’s doing it for the non-believers too. What they fail to grasp is that when they die, He will do nothing for them ever again.

This is Hell. 

If the non-believer could experience God’s absence in this way for just five seconds, they would know the terror Jesus felt in the Garden of Gethsemane. Can you imagine Godless-ness for eternity? God paints the picture, the question that remains is, do we see it and do we believe it?

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” Psalm 14:1

  1. What do these passages say about God?
  2. What do hey say about us?
  3. What is our recourse?

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