Day 3:  Godly Patterns

 

Day 3:  Godly Patterns

(When you see “these children”, insert the names of the children for whom you are praying.)

Lord, may these children not conform to the pattern of this world, but may they be transformed by the renewing of their minds, so that they may be able to test and approve what God’s perfect will is.         Romans 12:12                          

                                                                                                                                                In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

I remember when my mother used to sew for us.  I remember the feel of the thin paper pattern, I remember watching her lay the pattern on top of the cloth, pin it onto the fabric with straight pins, and then slowly and carefully cut along the pattern lines.  It makes me smile to remember that.

What pattern is laid on your life?  What is pinned to you, determining how you will be shaped?  We are told that we are not to conform to the pattern of this world.  Instead, we should allow God to lay His pattern found in His Word on our hearts, pin it securely there and cut away the access, so we may look and act the way He intends for us to look and act.  But it won’t look much like the rest of the world.  And for us to be okay with that, we must change our thinking—renew our minds.  Then we will clearly see and be glad of His perfect will being fulfilled in our lives.  May it be so for us and for our children.


Thoroughly Equipped: Reading Schedule for September

Well, Friends, we have made it to September.  I hope you are pressing on and still reading your Bible.  Even if you have gotten off track, no worries.  Just pick up where you left off.  There is some good stuff coming!  Let me know what you are learning.

September 1:  Job 40:1-42:17, 2 Corinthians 5:11-21, Psalm 45:1-17, Proverbs 22:14

September 2:  Ecclesiastes 1:1-3:22, 2 Corinthians 6:1-13, Psalm 46:1-11, Proverbs 22:15

September 3:  Ecclesiastes 4:1-6:12, 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:7, Psalm 47:1-9, Proverbs 22:16

September 4:  Ecclesiastes 7:1-9:18, 2 Corinthians 7:8-16, Psalm 48:1-14, Proverbs 22:17-19

September 5:  Ecclesiastes 10:1-12:14, 2 Corinthians 8:1-15, Psalm 49:1-20, Proverbs 22:20-21

September 6:  Song of Songs 1:1-4:16, 2 Corinthians 8:16-24, Psalm 50:1-23, Proverbs 22:22-23

September 7:  Song of Songs 5:1-8:14, 2 Corinthians 9:1-15, Psalm 51:1-19, Proverbs 22:24-25

September 8:  Isaiah 1:1-2:22, 2 Corinthians 10:1-18, Psalm 52:1-9, Proverbs 22:26-27

September 9:  Isaiah 3:1-5:30, 2 Corinthians 11:1-15, Psalm 53:1-6, Proverbs 22:28-29

September 10: Isaiah 6:1-7:25, 2 Corinthians 11:16-33, Psalm 54:1-7, Proverbs 23:1-3

September 11: Isaiah 8:1-9:21, 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Psalm 55:1-23, Proverbs 23:4-5

September 12: Isaiah 10:1-11:16, 2 Corinthians 12:11-21, Psalm 56:1-13, Proverbs 23:6-8

September 13: Isaiah 12:1-14:32, 2 Corinthians 13:1-13, Psalm 57:1-11, Proverbs 23:9-11

September 14: Isaiah 15:1-18:7, Galatians 1:1-24, Psalm 58:1-11, Proverbs 23:12

September 15: Isaiah 19:1-21:17, Galatians 2:1-16, Psalm 59:1-17, Proverbs 23:13-14

September 16: Isaiah 22:1-24:23, Galatians 2:17-3:9, Psalm 60:1-12, Proverbs 23:15-16

September 17: Isaiah 25:1-28:13, Galatians 3:10-22, Psalm 61:1-8, Proverbs 23:17-18

September 18: Isaiah 28:14-30:11, Galatians 3:23-4:31, Psalm 62:1-12, Proverbs 23:19-21

September 19: Isaiah 30:12-33:9, Galatians 5:1-12, Psalm 63:1-11, Proverbs 23:22

September 20: Isaiah 33:10-36:22, Galatians 5:13-26, Psalm 64:1-10, Proverbs 23:23

September 21: Isaiah 37:1-38:22, Galatians 6:1-18, Psalm 65:1-13, Proverbs 23:24

September 22: Isaiah 39:1-41:16, Ephesians 1:1-23, Psalm 66:1-20, Proverbs 23:25-28

September 23: Isaiah 41:17-43:13, Ephesians 2:1-22, Psalm 67:1-7, Proverbs 23:29-35

September 24: Isaiah 43:14-45:10, Ephesians 3:1-21, Psalm 68:1-18, Proverbs 24:1-2

September 25: Isaiah 45:11-48:11, Ephesians 4:1-16, Psalm 68:19-35, Proverbs 24:3-4

September 26: Isaiah 48:12-50:11, Ephesians 4:17-32, Psalm 69:1-18, Proverbs 24:5-6

September 27: Isaiah 51:1-53:12, Ephesians 5:1-33, Psalm 69:19-36, Proverbs 24:7

September 28: Isaiah 54:1-57:14, Ephesians 6:1-24, Psalm 70:1-5, Proverbs 24:8

September 29: Isaiah 57:15-59:21, Philippians 1:1-26, Psalm 71:1-24, Proverbs 24:9-10

September 30: Isaiah 60:1-62:5, Philippians 1:27-2:18, Psalm 72:1-20, Proverbs 24:11-12

 


Thoroughly Equipped: Blessings In Obedience

Today’s reading is Leviticus 25:47-27:13, Mark 10:32-52, Psalm 45:1-17, Proverbs 10:22.  Today we find a section of scripture which we can define as an If You, Then I Principal.  The book of Leviticus is the written form of the law so that the Levites, the priests of God and the rulers/leaders of the day, could lead well the people of God.  Twenty-five chapters have laid out the story, the restrictions, the requirements, and the expectations while God ultimately knew the people could not comply with these standards, at least not for very long.  So, as God gave these restrictions and requirements, He also included the remedy to come.  He knew the people would fail, just as we all fail in keeping the law.  Paul worded it perfectly when he said,

14 So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. 15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.16 But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. 17 So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[d] I want to do what is right, but I can’t. 19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power[e] within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.

                                                                                Romans 7:14-25

I am thankful that the Holy Spirit reveals to us the presence of Jesus, the Remedy, throughout the Old Testament.  Though the law of the Old Testament is confusing and overwhelming at times, its purpose now to is show us our sin, to point out our weakness and inability to keep the law.  And then to show us the intricate design of the Remedy God intended from the beginning.  I find myself continually grateful that we are on this side of the cross and resurrection.

But now we have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit.

                                                                                                 Romans 7:6

We are released from the law.  That does not mean we do not keep the law of God’s Word.  We are given power to keep it in a grace-filled, mercy-filled way.  It is no longer about what we do or don’t do, but about Who we trust to change us.  It is about our good deeds becoming a gift to the One who saved us, not as a means of being saved.  We are now free to act like children.

12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.

                                                                                          John 1:12

As children of God, we are still required to obey Him, not just rest in our freedom of being His child.  We obey Him because we love Him.  We obey Him because we trust that He knows what is best.  There are things I see that my 5 year old son does not understand.  We teach him to obey us because we are his parents, even if he doesn’t understand everything about the command.  When he doesn’t obey us, we, too, have to sometimes utilize an If You, Then I Principal.  If you obey, then I may give a privilege or reward.  If you don’t obey, then I may give you a punishment.  But the If You, Then I Principal has nothing to do with how we feel about him, with how we love him.  We love him, period.  Just because he is our son.  But we would not be very good parents if we didn’t care about how he behaved.  It is our duty to teach him to obey so that he can receive the blessings of obedience.

Leviticus 26 not only highlights the If You, Then I Principal, it also highlights the truth that there is blessing in obedience.  Let’s look at some of the specifics.

“If you follow my decrees and are careful to obey my commands, I will send you the seasonal rains … “I will give you peace in the land, and you will be able to sleep with no cause for fear. I will rid the land of wild animals and keep your enemies out of your land. In fact, you will chase down your enemies and slaughter them with your swords. Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand! All your enemies will fall beneath your sword.

“I will look favorably upon you, making you fertile and multiplying your people. And I will fulfill my covenant with you.

Let’s look at verse 9 again.  If you obey, I will make you fertile and multiply your people.  That language is a nod toward the command of the covenant from the very beginning, “Be fruitful and multiply.”  God said that to Adam, to Noah, and to Jacob.  It is a sign of His covenant.  But our covenant with God is a bit whop-sided.  We can’t hold up our end without His help.  And He lovingly offers to help us.

These are samples of the blessings that come with the obedience.  But there is the other side of the If You, Then I Principal.

14 “However, if you do not listen to me or obey all these commands, 15 and if you break my covenant by rejecting my decrees, treating my regulations with contempt, and refusing to obey my commands, 16 I will punish you…

God is a good Father.  He wants to give us the blessings of obedience.  But He will punish us if we don’t obey.  He may bring on a punishment or simply let the consequences be our punishment.  But lest we think He is somehow unjust or unkind to do so, let’s fast forward a bit in the passage.  After He lays out all of the punishments, which occur in layers and increase in severity, we see the reason behind it all.

40 “But at last my people will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors for betraying me and being hostile toward me. 41 When I have turned their hostility back on them and brought them to the land of their enemies, then at last their stubborn hearts will be humbled, and they will pay for their sins.42 Then I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham …

44 “But despite all this, I will not utterly reject or despise them while they are in exile in the land of their enemies. I will not cancel my covenant with them by wiping them out, for I am the Lord their God.

The If You, Then I Principal is establish for restoration.  The punishment is meant to restore and redeem.  As a good father punishes a wayward son, for the betterment of the life of that son, so our Good Father loves us too much to allow us to wander too long in the wilderness of sin.  Let’s not forget, though, that it is far above what is expected that God offers us blessing in our obedience.  If He was simply a judge we would not get reward and blessing for obedience.  We would simply have the expectation of keeping the law and if we did not we would suffer punishment.  But our God, in His love, punishes us when we are wrong in order to restore relationship.  He also blesses our obedience with good things.  And finally, He Himself offers us the Remedy.


Thoroughly Equipped: Grace and Mercy

Today’s reading includes Leviticus 13:1-59, Mark 6:1-29, Psalm 39:1-13, Proverbs 10:10.

In today’s reading we see the specific instructions given to the priests concerning leprosy.  We see no mention in the Bible of the problem of leprosy before the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt.  Was this a consequence of the exposure they encountered during their years of slavery.  Tradition of that day, was that leprosy was not just a disease, but it was a sign of being unclean.  It went deeper than a disease.  It effected their entire life—physically, mentally, and spiritually.  It was a gradual eroding of everything that was beautiful and godly and good in their lives.

It is interesting to note that the priests were only given instructions as to how to diagnose this “uncleanness.”  They were not given the ability to cure it.  But Jesus–the One of whom it was said, “by His stripes we are healed”–was the only One who could cure the unclean.  Matthew Henry had this insight:

The plague of leprosy was an uncleanness, rather than a disease. Christ is said to cleanse lepers, not to cure them. Common as the leprosy was among the Hebrews, during and after their residence in Egypt, we have no reason to believe that it was known among them before. Their distressed state and employment in that land must have rendered them liable to disease. But it was a plague often inflicted immediately by the hand of God. Miriam’s leprosy, and Gehazi’s, and king Uzziah’s, were punishments of particular sins; no marvel there was care taken to distinguish it from a common distemper. The judgment of it was referred to the priests. And it was a figure of the moral pollutions of men’s minds by sin, which is the leprosy of the soul, defiling to the conscience, and from which Christ alone can cleanse. The priest could only convict the leper, (by the law is the knowledge of sin,) but Christ can cure the sinner, he can take away sin. 

Luke 17 gives us a remarkable view of the difference between the priests of the day and the greatest High Priest, Jesus.

11 As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, he reached the border between Galilee and Samaria. 12 As he entered a village there, ten men with leprosy stood at a distance, 13 crying out, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”

14 He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”  And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.

15 One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God!” 16 He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan.

17 Jesus asked, “Didn’t I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And Jesus said to the man, “Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.

            Luke 17:11-18

The ten men had already been diagnosed by the priests as lepers. And as a result, they were unclean, not only physically, but also spiritually.  They called out to Jesus for mercy, and He gave it to them.  Mercy is not getting what we deserve.  They asked for mercy and they received it. They went to the priests to confirm that their diagnosis of leprosy, and their diagnosis of unclean-ness was no longer their reality.  And that is what the priests declared according to their instruction of Leviticus 13. But the sad reality is that only one came back to say thank you. All received mercy, but only one sought grace.  Grace is getting what we don’t deserve.  In His mercy, Jesus gave the ten lepers the merciful relief for their current predicament.  But when the one man came back to say thank-you, he received grace in addition to mercy.  And grace is even better than mercy.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—

                                                                                                  Ephesians 2:8

We need to pause in this great account and look at the details of who the man was.  He was a leper, he was on the fringe of society—isolated and unwanted.  He was a Samaritan who was hated by the Jews.  But he was humble enough to fall at the feet of the Savior, for Jesus said “Stand up, your faith has healed you.”  All of the ten lepers received the mercy of physical healing, but only the one who was humble and grateful received both mercy and grace.

Matthew Henry put it beautifully when he wrote:

A sense of our spiritual leprosy should make us very humble whenever we draw near to Christ. It is enough to refer ourselves to the compassions of Christ, for they fail not. We may look for God to meet us with mercy, when we are found in the way of obedience. Only one of those who were healed returned to give thanks. It becomes us, like him, to be very humble in thanksgivings, as well as in prayers. Christ noticed the one who thus distinguished himself, he was a Samaritan. The others only got the outward cure, he alone got the spiritual blessing.

I hope you (and me) want both mercy and grace.  I hope we remember to say thank you and worship the One who has freely give us both.  I hope we worship Him, even if we have to worship alone.


Thoroughly Equipped: Shekinah Glory

Today’s reading includes Leviticus 9:7-10:20, Mark 4:26-5:20, Psalm 37:30-40, Proverbs 10:6-7.

Today, my thoughts are on something useful and valuable which is at the same time, dangerous and costly.  My thoughts are on the purpose of fire.  We have been studying the offerings required of God’s people before Jesus and it involved fire.  It seems to me there are good fires and bad fires.  There are holy fires and unholy fires.  When God first appeared to Moses, He appeared to him in flames of fire from the burning bush.  (Exodus 3:2).  The bush did not burn up–it was a perpetual fire.  Exodus 13:21-22 tells us that throughout the time God was leading the people through the wilderness, He led them by a pillar of cloud during the day and by a pillar of fire at night—once again, a perpetual fire.  (Exodus 12:21-22)

Then came the law and all of its requirements.  One of the requirements involved the tending of the fire.  It, too, was to be a perpetual fire.  Leviticus 6:13 said:

“The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.”

Three different times in chapter six, God says to keep the fire going. (verses 9, 12, and 13) Three times.  What does that tell us?  It is holy.  It is to be a perpetual and holy fire, which represents a perpetual and holy God.

In the previous chapters, we have been hearing the instructions to the priests concerning the offerings.  They were taking notes, learning the ropes.  But today we see the time had come.  It was time to implement what had been instructed.  Aaron did as instructed, and he prepared the sacrifices first.  He slaughtered the calf for himself as a sin offering, then an animal for the burnt offering, then he, as the high priest, presented the people’s goat for their sin.  A literal scape-goat.  Then, another burnt offering, then the grain offering.  Then, he slaughtered the bull and the ram for the people’s peace offering.  After following all of the instructions to a “t”, he raised his hands and blessed the people. Then they presented all of these to the Lord and he and Moses went into the Tabernacle.  When they came back out, they blessed the people again. Then we see a wonderful account.  The glory of the Lord appeared to the whole community.  Fire—good, holy fire—“blazed forth from the Lord’s presence and consumed the burnt offering and the fat on the altar.  When the people saw this, they shouted with joy and fell down on the ground.” 

God Himself started the fire for the sacrifice.  God Himself initiated the only way for the people to get right with God.  This fire represented God’s presence, and they could not let the fire go out. Just as the pillar of fire which led them through the darkest times of their wilderness journey was a perpetual fire, so the holy fire God sent could not be allowed to go out.  The priests must keep this fire going, day in and day out.

“God is a consuming fire”

                                                                                                    Deuteronomy 4:24

Shekinah glory is a term that the Jews use to describe God’s ongoing presence.  In the Encyclopedia Judaica the “Shekinah” is defined as “the Divine Presence, the numinous immanence of God in the world,…a revelation of the holy in the midst of the profane….” (Volume 14, pp. 1349-1351).

Though the current form of the word commonly used by Jewish people was not in the Bible, according to the folks at patheos.com, an early form of the word was in the Bible.

The work Shekinah is from the Hebrew word “shekinot” and actually is in the Bible where God is said to “settle in” or “dwell with.”  This word means where God is dwelling, settling or where His Divine Presence is.  This glory is seen when God’s glory filled the Temple and even in the wilderness where He was a light during the night and the Shekinah cloud of His glory shaded Israel in the scorching sun of the desert.  His presence was manifested by the intense light that filled the Tabernacle, the Temple in Jerusalem and even in the Transfiguration on the Mount where Jesus shone brighter than the sun when He spoke with Moses and Elijah ….”

It was this Shekinah glory which Moses longed for when he boldly said to the Lord, “Show me your glory.”  And it was this Shekinah glory that was so marvelous, so wonderful, so bright and white and pure, that Moses could not handle the full glory.

Moses said, “Please show me your glory.”  And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.  But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”  And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by.  Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

                                                                                           Exodus 33:18-23

It was not until Jesus died and rose again that we were given the opportunity to have eyes to see His glory and feet to walk boldly to the Throne of God.  And even still, we will not be able to fully understand or comprehend the full Shekinah glory until we stand before Him, clothed with the finely woven linen given to us by our Bridegroom.  At that time, we will finally see Him face to face.

12For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

        1 Corinthians 13:12

The Shekinah glory was visible when God rained down as fire at the altar of burnt offering. This was a reminder and symbol of the ongoing presence of God and was meant to remind the Israelites that salvation is only from the Lord. The atonement made at the burnt offering could only be made through Him, who is perpetually with us and for us.  Remember in Biblical times, pre-electricity days, the only “light in the darkness” was fire.

12When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12

And what are we to do with this light—this holy fire—which is the Presence of God in our souls?  We are to let our light—our fire, our Jesus—shine for all to see.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

                                                                                         Matthew 5: 13-15

 

Today, remember that the holy fire of the perpetual presence of God is what will light your lamp with the holy fire.  Don’t hide that light, that holy fire.  Let it shine so others may see a way in the darkness, and feel the warmth of His Presence.