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Spiritual Unemployment

I’ve been in too many grocery stores where it seems that a tornado went through and rearranged everything randomly so that I could have a “fun” challenge to find what I was looking for that day. Maybe you’ve shared my experience? My thoughts…? …Where are all the workers? Why are they not doing their jobs!!! How about trying to find an employee to ask a question at a hardware store? Yep, same question. Where is everyone? I need help after all!

Now, before you get too sucked into a handful of bad memories, think about some history. Maybe your history. Have you ever been in a job where you felt overwhelmed, felt that management should provide more workers to get the job done? What happens all too often today is what? Yes, the company cuts the workforce even further and expects you to work EVEN MORE! Crazy and infuriating, correct?

The fact of expecting more from workers is in the blood of our nation historically. This attitude is a failing and not a strength. Maybe you disagree, but I doubt it.

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”LordofHarvest2_987450940

Jesus recognized the problem that we are all too well acquainted with! This passage from the end of Matthew 9 is regarding Jesus sending out the disciples. Whether you are a Christian or not, you most likely know that Jesus did a lot of work over a short period of time (3 years or so). If he hadn’t, then there would be no way the Christian faith would still be around today. Or am I wrong about that theory?

Let’s think this through. Jesus did turn a lot of heads and did die for ALL sin, so I’m not belittling the sacrifice. I am going to say that it wasn’t really Jesus who propagated the Christian faith. It was the workers. Read that passage again. Jesus tells his disciples to pray for workers to be send out. Doesn’t Jesus know that he IS sending out his Disciples? Of course he does! Jesus knows that there needs to be a lot of workers!! Note that in this instance he didn’t say to pray for those that needed help…he said to pray for workers. I don’t think we do this…and we wonder why there are billions of unbelievers and starving people around the world.  Hmm.

So, are you a worker? Do you pray for workers to go into the “harvest fields”? You see, in our culture we have failed to study, to really read the words of Jesus in many ways. We sit at home, we read about other people doing the work, we wonder why things aren’t getting better…. We are sickened at the disarray of the Church, sad that more people have not come to faith in Christ, and lost as to how to do anything about it…

In much the same way, we are baffled at poorly kept grocery shelves, no help to find the garage door part we need and having to do the work of three people. Do you see any links here?

  • We need to pray for workers to enter the mission field, Jesus said to do this.
  • We need to stop and listen and be a part of the solution
  • We need to look in the mirror at our culture to see exactly why our faith is so weak.

You may be employed at a job, but are you spiritually unemployed? What are you going to do about it? You might want to consider starting to pray. After all, in many places like South Korea they fill stadiums up at 4am to do nothing but pray. What are we missing?  They fill stadiums just to pray.  We ARE missing something.

Thanks God and to David Platt whose book Radical inspired my thoughts today.

Leviticus, Oh Leviticus

I don’t see the problem.  I just don’t.  This is truly entertainment on some level.  Solid direction, solid explanation… Repetition to be sure we can recall some of the details.  Lots of pleasing aroma, rams, goats, lambs, doves, and of course grain mixed with heart healthy olive oil!  Come on, WE EVEN GET TO PLAY WITH A TON OF FIRE!!!!

Burn this, burn that, over here, over there, up here, outside over there.  Knives, lots of knives, blood everywhere (this was obviously added for the guys) also twisting the necks off birds.  Haven’t we all wanted to try that once?

Seriously though, Leviticus, yes that’s what I’ve been discussing, isn’t so bad.  What’s that?  You’ve never gotten through Leviticus?  Stop the presses!

If you’ve never made it through Leviticus, it’s due to an attitude problem :)

For the first 8+ chapters I find it fun to count how many times it’s noted that the aroma is pleasing, or burning the sacrifice [creates] an aroma pleasing to the Lord.  I see it as a three part phrase, [an aroma] [pleasing] [to the Lord].

After reading that like 15 times it seems, I REALLY want to know what that sacrificesmells like!  Don’t you?

I like to grill out, so I’m guessing it’s that nice roasted meat smell.  BUT, what about the grain?  I need to get some good flour and mix in some olive oil and let ‘er rip in the skillet to see what all the fuss about aroma is all about!!!!

Another method of reading through the first several chapters is to look for the subtle differences between the various types of offerings.  We have General offerings, Sin offerings, Fellowship offerings, etc…within each offering we have options for goat sacrifices, male or female, maybe grain and even birds depending on the offering.  You’ll see flock, herd, flock, hyssop, lots of interesting words.

Then as you move forward into chapters 9+ you start getting into some historical details about how Aaron became a priest, how God did a “flame on!” at his two boys and “lit” them up….I know, I know…you’ll have to read it to get the details!

Is Repentance Enough?

 My buddy Ezzy makes me think once again…  There is a common theme throughout the Bible that in essence says “repent and you will get a new heart and a new spirit and you will live”.  In the Old Testament especially, these words may be confusing to some.  After all, wasn’t there a need for a Temple sacrifice?  So, why all these verses (and there are many) that note that if you simply repent, you will be saved?  Sometimes it’s worded as, Wash and make yourselves clean! (Isa 1:16) or Turn from evil and do good! (Ps 34:14) or Turn to the Lord and he will have mercy on him..he will freely pardon (Isa 55:7)….it goes on and on…Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord (Acts 3:19)…Both the New and Old Testament speak the same truth.  Remember, these verses don’t say that you shouldn’t still proved a sacrifice (referring to the Old Testament verses) or be baptised (referring to the New testament verses).

What does this mean!!??

Does this go against Jesus’ teaching that “No one comes to the Father except through me (Jesus speaking in John 14:6)”?  Does it wipe out all Jesus proclaims?  NO, because Jesus is the Son of God, the Christ, Messiah.  Jesus and God are one.   Jesus proclaims this truth himself in Mark 14, Matt 26 and Luke 22: 

“Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Jesus.

“I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”
“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.

“If you are the Christ,” they said, “tell us.”
Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”
They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”
He replied, “You are right in saying I am.”

 What do I mean by all this?  Well, let’s look at repentance.  This is an action verb meaning to turn from, do a 180, not go back.  Where is the action directed toward?  Who is requiring this action?  God!  To save space I will not go through all the verses that make it clear there is a Trinity or a tri-une God.  A God that is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit….that are one.  Jesus was the Son, therefore giving him authority.

In reading many commentaries, definitions and study guides this is the simplest way I can explain all of the Old Testament verses that some stumble around;  the verses that confuse people about why we need Jesus, when the Old Testament seems to say we just need to repent.

The ANSWER:

These verses do not contradict the New Covenant with Jesus, they support it!  They support the claim that Jesus is God, they support the claims that Jesus made of himself and regarding how we are saved!  How, you ask?  If Jesus is God, he is simply repeating himself and what he already said through the prophets in the Old Testament.  If he is God, then of course, ‘no one comes to the Father except through me!’  If he is God, then of course, ‘you must believe in me’ in order to truly repent.  To not believe in Jesus (God) would not enable you to repent to God!  What would be the point?  You can’t repent of something you did to hurt “someone” if you do not believe “that someone” exists….  Hmmm, was that too deep?

Think of it this way — A long time ago God said that in order to live, ‘you must repent of your sins and turn to me.’  You must provide ritualistic sacrifices in order to atone for these sins that you are repenting of.  Later, he came to earth and decided to take the punishment upon himself that he felt we all deserved in order to once again show how much he loves us.  He still requires us to repent of our sin, hoping that his example of love would wake us up to his reality.  Now, he says you must believe in me and what I am saying, then you will understand your need to repent.  Repent and I will save you.  I have even made things a bit simpler, please listen and believe!  —

Is repentance enough?  Yes, if you believe in God, his Son, his Spirit, if you believe in his words, his actions and his commands AND you follow them.

Blessings,

Jeff

How does God forgive?

 NEWS FLASH!  Yes, answers can be found in Leviticus and 2 Chronicles!  There is a verse in 2 Chronicles that is often taken out of context.  God was speaking to Solomon regarding the Israelites.

…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

2 Chron 7:14

Some think since this is an Old Testament verse, it means there is no need for a Savior or Messiah.  They read this snippet and think all they have to do is humble themselves and pray to God for forgiveness and that’s it!  The essence of this thought is not entirely inaccurate, but nonetheless, this thought is incomplete when looking at the entire biblical context.  2 Chronicles 6 & 7 are all about Solomon praying to God and asking for forgiveness, then the Temple is dedicated and many sacrifices are performed.  Then God speaks to Solomon and explains this forgiveness.

Scholars say it is clear that this response it meant for the Israelites at that time only.  I want to add some unique insights from Leviticus that I feel further clarifies just what is going on.  Throughout the early chapters of Leviticus (4 and 5 especially), while discussing the particulars of the sacrifices of the flock, herd and others, it is repeated:

In this way the priest will make atonement for the man’s sin, and he will be forgiven.

(Leviticus chapters 4 and 5 various)

 NOW STAY WITH ME!  In 2 Chronicles 6-7, Solomon prayed, had the priests offer sacrifices, then he and all Israel were forgiven.  In Leviticus, the order of the sacrificial ritual was, repent or acknowledge a sin occurred, bring the animal to be sacrificed, have the priest perform the sacrifice, then you or the community were forgiven depending on what ritual was performed.  Hmmm.  It sounds to me like over the years, teachers of the bible have taken the “you are now forgiven” aspect of the sacrificial ritual and have discarded the rest of the story to make it fit some sermon outline.  In turn this has caused confusion, and rightly so.  Think about it, see if you agree or not. 

The Old Testament is clear that the Messiah will come and will present a new covenant.  God came as a human and established this new covenant.  Just as Abraham was led to almost sacrifice his son Isaac in a show of obedience, God followed through and sacrificed himself in the person of Jesus to abolish the Old covenant and bring in the new covenant of being saved by grace not works.  Jesus modeled perfect obedience, much like Solomon was obedient to the sacrificial ritual of the Old covenant.  God follows through on his promises, and forgave Israel AND sent the Messiah in order to allow for the forgiveness of the entire world.

In the end, I hope this simply makes you interested in all the neat ways the bible reveals itself when one takes the time to read it!

God bless!

Frustrated with Frivolous Lawsuits

 Here we go again!  Ya know, you can’t pick up the paper or read news on the web without finding the determined journalist that has written about some situation where someone is suing someone else!  Biblically, we are not supposed to sue anyone, we are to seek forgiveness and rectify the situation before it goes to court.  I agree with this to an extent, since I feel there are times when you have to be involved in a lawsuit.  BUT, let’s get real.  Here’s what set me off this morning.

There is a grieving lady, probably a nice lady, I don’t know.  Her daughter was killed in a plane crash.  Tragic?  YES!  The girl’s father flew the plane and crashed it with the daughter inside.  The nice lady is suing the AIRPORT WORKERS because the father was not certified to be able to fly alone.  All in all, it seems to be a “valid” lawsuit, however, here’s the rest of the details.  The father flew the plane over 90 minutes, then proceeded to crash the plane into his mother-in-law’s farm house.  Sure seems like he didn’t know how to fly a plane, eh?  Again, tragic?  Of course!  Worthy of a lawsuit, NO WAY.  A lawsuit will not bring someone back to life, nor will money EVER buy happiness.  All this lawsuit will do will stir up emotions, and hurt the lives of airport workers who most likely feel terrible.  It will also prolong the grieving process.  I think God had some intimate knowledge about our emotions when Paul declared:

 1If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? 2Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? 3Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! 4Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! 5I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? 6But instead, one brother goes to law against another-and this in front of unbelievers!

    7The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? 8Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.  (I Cor 6:1-8 NIV)

What Paul says is that we should be able to talk about a situation and resolve it without going to the law courts of man.  We should seek a wise believer (like the old testament judges) who can speak some sense into the situation and help to resolve it.  Will this always happen in this world that is so messed up?  Sadly, no.  There are many, many situations where a court of law must be used, since that is the only way to reach the secular world it seems.

Wake up people!  Resolve your differences and overcome your grief without jumping into a frivolous lawsuit or listening to a greedy lawyer.  The father made a choice, he most likely would have revved up the plane and took off if he was approached.  After all, he was supposed to be in the plane since his instructor was going to be at the airport soon to instruct him.  Grief can be blinding, that is why we must have good friends around us that will give sound advice.

Peace!

A Blessing

 I like a challenge.  I like to BE challenged.  I like to be challenged in my faith.  I thank God everyday that He has given me the opportunity to write this blog and get interesting feedback and comments.  So far I have had 4 or 5 challenging comments that have started me into emailing back and forth with a person.  I don’t expect to change minds or convert someone via email.  God can do it, though.  I enjoy some of the challenges, and especially a recent comment that came from my blog For Sale: The Old Testament?.

This person has strengthened my faith, when at first I was hit with a question I had not considered before.  I ended up doing some personal research and came to a reasonable conclusion that I feel is more logical than how my friend viewed the scripture.  I’m awaiting a response from a pastor as well, but I feel I have my answer.  I will blog about this exchange in the near future, but I warn you it’s a pretty cool look into 2 Chronicles and Leviticus.  Had you forgotten about these great Old Testament books?

God bless!

For Sale: The Old Testament?

 The Old Testament is no longer relevant or needed, right? I used to think this. Many Christians currently think this. Let’s take a look at some basics of the Christian faith, and you can decide if the Old Testament is still relevant.

THE ARGUMENT:
Jesus’ sacrifice and death was the start of a New Covenant with God, therefore, the Old Covenant in the Torah (Old Testament) is gone and no longer relevant.

THE DETAILS AGAINST THIS STATEMENT:
Christianity is based on faith in the actions of Jesus Christ, who He was and what He did. It is based on grace that God would allow us to be saved while we were still sinners.

What is a sinner? How do we know the definition of sin and where it came from? Yep, you guessed it, the Torah or Old Testament. Even Paul understands this when he states:

“Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law.” Romans 7:7

What is the law? To sum up the law, it’s the Ten Commandments, but it’s way more than that as there were a multitude of laws presented to the Israelites. They had to follow them ALL, and when they messed up they had to offer sacrifices in order to be forgiven or make atonement.

Moses said to Aaron, “Come to the altar and sacrifice your sin offering and your burnt offering and make atonement for yourself and the people; sacrifice the offering that is for the people and make atonement for them, as the LORD has commanded.” Lev 9:7

Jesus was sacrificed, is that related to those types of sacrifices? Yep, do you see a light bulb over your head right now? Jesus was a human sacrifice, to end all sacrifices once and for all. Who better to redefine the Old Covenant than God himself in the form of Jesus, the Son? Thus, the New Covenant was borne. This sacrifice was eluded to many times in the Old Testament, prophecies were fulfilled and lessons were learned. Jesus’ death made a final atonement for ALL sin, with one condition.

“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved…” Mark 16:16a

Back to sin, the Old Testament defines this in Genesis, where Adam and Eve first defied God. The first sin occurred in the Garden of Eden. From there, the free will God gave us took over and sin “abounded” or increased. God made laws to “reign in this sin”, but of course we couldn’t handle the temptation and failed over and over. The Ten Commandments pretty much sums it up. Ever told a lie? Yes? That makes you a sinner and therefore you need forgiveness and hence need a Savior, and thank goodness we have one! Especially, because we know from MANY places in the bible, and here’s one, that:

But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars-their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Rev 21:8

Find the Savior, and learn all about Him and the history behind salvation and you will be a powerful witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Peace!