Poetry Saturday—The True Aaron

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See Aaron, God’s anointed priest,
Within the veil appear;
In robes of mystic meaning dressed,
Presenting Israel’s prayer.

The plate of gold which crowns his brows,
His holiness describes;
His breast displays, in shining rows,
The names of all the tribes.

With the atoning blood he stands,
Before the mercy-seat;
And clouds of incense from his hands,
Arise with odor sweet.

Urim and Thummim near his heart,
In rich engravings worn;
The sacred light of truth impart,
To teach and to adorn.

Through him the eye of faith descries,
A greater Priest than he;
Thus Jesus pleads above the skies,
For you, my friends, and me.

He bears the names of all His saints,
Deep on His heart engraved;
Attentive to the state and wants
Of all His love has saved.

In Him a holiness complete,
Light and perfections shine;
And wisdom, grace, and glory meet;
A Savior all divine.

The blood, which as a Priest He bears
For sinners, is His own
The incense of His prayers and tears
Perfume the holy throne.

In Him my weary soul has rest,
Though I am weak and vile
I read my name upon His breast,
And see the Father smile. —John Newton [Levitcus 8:7-9]

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Who Can Claim God’s Promises?

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

It’s a bit scary to me to realize how many people have a scarcity mindset. As a result, far too many people are trying to figure out how to get their piece of the pie, but they don’t really want others to have their piece too. This should never be the mindset of a Christian! Our God has an unlimited supply, so we should be the most generous and abundance-minded people. 

Sadly, sometimes I still encounter Christians who think that only some people can claim some of God’s promises. 

This is part 5 in our series “Is that in the Bible?” 

Statement #5—Old Testament promises are for the Jews, New Testament promises are for the Christians. Is that in the Bible? No! 

First of all, this assumes a dichotomy between the Old Testament and the New Testament. Second, it reveals a lack of understanding of what Jesus has done for everyone who places their faith in Him. 

Jesus Himself said, “Do not think that I have come to do away with or undo the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to do away with or undo but to complete and fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17 AMP). 

Plato told a story about people chained in a cave in such a way that they could only see the shadows on the wall. He said that if the chains were unlocked, some would turn toward the opening of the cave, see the solid figures that had been creating the shadows, and move out of the cave. Plato also said that some would see the reality and choose to stay trapped in the cave—they would prefer shadows over reality. 

Both John and the writer of Hebrews describe how Jesus came as the incarnate Reality of God. Jesus reveals that He is the Substance behind all of the shadows of worship in the First Testament (Hebrews 1:1-2; John 1:1-14). 

Look at the worship practices of the tabernacle, specifically the practices on the Day of Atonement. Two goats or lambs were brought into the outer court on that day—one had all of the sins of the people transferred to it and was sent into the wilderness as the scapegoat, and the other was sacrificed so its blood could make atonement for the sins of the people. The high priest would take this blood past the curtain separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, and would sprinkle it on the atonement cover (also called the mercyseat) of the ark of the covenant of the Lord. 

John said that Jesus came to make His dwelling among humans. The word John uses for “dwelling” is the same word for “tabernacle.” Jesus Himself became not only our High Priest, but every single item the earthly high priest used on the Day of Atonement. Jesus is the…

  • scapegoat—Leviticus 16:20-22; John 1:29 
  • sacrificial lamb—Leviticus 16:15; 1 Peter 1:18-19
  • curtain in front of the Holy of Holies—Hebrews 10:22 
  • mercyseat—Exodus 24:8; Leviticus 4:6, 5:9; Hebrews 4:16

(Check out all of the above references by clicking here.)

By His life, death, and resurrection the shadows became Substance through Jesus. Hebrews 10:1-14 describes this, but especially note verse 12: “But when this High Priest [Jesus] offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God.” 

Look again at the picture of the tabernacle and note that there are no chairs. That was because the earthly priest’s work was never done. But our fully human, fully divine High Priest completed everything that needed to be done, so He could sit down. 

This High Priest not only sits down in God’s presence, but He takes us with Him into the Holy of Holies: “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6)! 

So now ALL God’s promises are for ALL who are in Jesus! “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through Him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20). 

I like how the Personalize Promise Bible turns that verse into this prayer: “My heavenly Father is faithful to His every Word. No matter how many promises He has made, in Jesus, He makes good on every one. I have God’s Word; therefore, I have God’s will. Every time that I pray in line with His Word, the answer is guaranteed.” 

My friend, if you have placed your faith in the completed work of Jesus, then EVERY promise in the Bible is a promise you can claim for your life. Hallelujah! What an amazing thing God has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ! 

If you’ve missed any of the topics we have covered in this series, you can find the full list by clicking here. 

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The Human Jesus

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

We saw that our beautiful Jesus became grotesque—taking our ugly sin on Himself so that He could clothe us with His perfectly righteous robe. In so doing, He became even more resplendent. His friend John saw Him in such radiant beauty that he crumbled to his knees at the sight of His majesty (Revelation 1:12-16)! 

Just like John and others in the Bible, when we see ourselves in contrast to His awesome beauty, we often feel shabby and unworthy to be in His presence. Job expressed his desire to somehow get away from this Perfection (Job 7:11-21). Ultimately, in his desperation, Job utters something prophetic—

God is not a mere mortal like me that I might answer Him, that we might confront each other in court. If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that His terror would frighten me no more. Then I would speak up without fear of Him, but as it now stands with me, I cannot. (Job 9:32-35) 

When we are confronted with the perfection of God, we all want “someone to arbitrate”—someone who will fairly represent both sides. We need someone both God and man. Since man cannot become God, only God can become man. Isaiah prophesied it this way, “God saw that there was no one, He was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so His own arm achieved salvation for Him” (Isaiah 59:16). 

This Arbitrator or Mediator is Jesus the Christ! 

Jesus means “help from Jehovah.” This is His human name given to Him at His birth (Luke 1:31; Matthew 1:21, 25; Luke 2:21). 

Christ or Messiah means “anointed by God” and is His divine title. Often His title is used with the definite article “the” to signify that Jesus is the One and Only Messiah (Luke 2:26-27; John 1:41; Matthew 16:16; Acts 10:38). 

William Barclay commented on this: “Peter states [that Jesus was a human descendent of David] in the first recorded sermon of the Christian Church (Acts 2:29-36). Paul speaks of Jesus Christ descended from David according to the flesh (Romans 1:3). The writer of the Pastoral Epistles urges men to remember that Jesus Christ, descended from David, was raised from the dead (2 Timothy 2:8). The writer of the Revelation hears the Risen Christ say: ‘I am the root and the offspring of David’ (Revelation 22:16).” 

Many times this human name and divine title are linked together. In Hebrews, the name Jesus is used more times than any other title (19x), and Christ is the second-most used title (15x).

(For my Patreon supporters, I’ve shared a list of all of the titles for Jesus used in the book of Hebrews.)

Hebrews makes it perfectly clear how important it is that Jesus was made fully human just like us. We read phrases like

  • “made a little lower than the angels,” which was David’s way of talking about humans (see Psalm 8:4-6) 
  • “made perfect through suffering”—only humans can suffer 
  • “flesh and blood” 
  • “made like His brothers in every way” 
  • “His life on earth”

Remember that I said the most-used titles in Hebrews were Jesus and Christ. The third-most used title in Hebrews is high priest (14x). Only the Human Jesus and the Divine Jesus could be the perfect High Priest and Mediator that Job longed for, and that you and I have to have!

This post is a part of a bigger series on prayer with the subtitle: “Learning to pray in the awesome name of Jesus.” So what does it mean that we can pray in the human name of Jesus? 

It means we don’t have to pray majestic prayers in order for God to take notice. We can pray very human prayers, we can groan with real human pain, we can growl with real human anger. Our totally human Jesus understands us, and the totally divine Christ runs to help us! 

Don’t try to sanitize your prayers to make them sound acceptable. Jesus didn’t! How awesome it is to have a High Priest who is both fully human and fully divine! 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in this series on prayer, you can find a link to all of them by clicking here. 

►► Would you please prayerfully consider supporting this ministry? My Patreon supporters get behind-the-scenes access to exclusive materials. ◀︎◀︎

Poetry Saturday—Before The Throne Of God Above

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea,
A great High Priest whose name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart;
I know that while in heav’n He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart,
No tongue can bid me thence depart. 

When satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me,
To look on Him and pardon me. 

Behold Him there! The risen Lamb,
My perfect, spotless righteousness;
The great unchangeable “I AM,”
The King of glory and of grace!
One with Himself I cannot die,
My soul is purchased by His blood;
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, my Savior and my God,
With Christ, my Savior and my God. —Charitie Lees Bancroft

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“It Is Finished”

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

Just before Jesus said, “I am thirsty,” John tells us that Jesus knew everything written about Him in the law had been completed and all of the prophecies about Him had been fulfilled. Jesus knew this to be true but no one else standing there would have said “Aha!” because of that statement. But Jesus left no doubt for any of us when He next said, “It is finished!

These three English words are just one word in Greek: tetelestai. It’s in the perfect tense, telling us that nothing more needs to be added to Christ’s work. It not only shares the same root word that John uses for completed and fulfilled, but it closes the circle of another dying declaration of Jesus when He quoted Psalm 22:1: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” His “It is finished” statement is also the last verse of Psalm 22.

The root word telos translated as completed, fulfilled, and finished has a very rich meaning. Here are three definitions we should consider: 

(1) To complete or bring to a conclusion

Jesus told His Father that He had finished (telos) His mission (John 17:4). Q: How do we know His mission was completed? A: Jesus sat down! Think about this: There were no chairs in the Old Testament temple because a priest never rested, there was always more work to do. But when Jesus finished His work, He sat down (see Hebrews 10:1-4, 11-12). 

(2) To discharge a debt

Since Jesus was the only One who could make the final “once for all” payment, that means that we were hopeless debtors prior to that. God foretold of His forgiveness using the picturesque language of a debt being “doubled up” when it was paid in full (see this video where I explain this concept more fully). Here’s what Jesus did: 

Having cancelled and blotted out and wiped away the handwriting of the note with its legal decrees and demands which was in force and stood against us. This note with its regulations, decrees, and demands He set aside and cleared completely out of our way by nailing it to His cross. (Colossians 2:14 AMP) 

Q: How do we know the debt was paid in full? A: The curtain that had separated us from God’s presence was torn in two.

(3) To fill up what’s missing

In this case, Jesus took what was missing by switching cups with us. He drank the cup of God’s righteous wrath—which was justly ours—and gave us His cup of righteousness in its place! (see Isaiah 51:17-22; Matthew 26:39).  

Q: How do we know we have a cup of righteousness in place of a cup of wrath? A: Dead saints of God were resurrected when Jesus died. “It is finished” was not Jesus giving up, but death giving up … it was not Jesus defeated, but death defeated! 

Jesus paid it all! There is nothing I can do to add to His completed—tetelestai—work, so I can now do what formerly was impossible: I can live a holy life for God’s glory. I can now finish (telos) my race on earth and receive the rewards God has stored up for me (see 2 Timothy 4:7-8). 

Christ’s tetelestai confession is our empowerment to live holy! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series looking at the dying declarations of Jesus, you may access the full list by clicking here.

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Learning Empathy

I’m an up-and-at-em, carpe diem kinda guy. Nothing gets me down for very long—I’m resilient and self-motivated. So I used to have a hard time relating to people who weren’t wired the same way. That is until I went through a time in my life where getting up-and-at-em was one of the hardest things I had to do each day.  

In the midst of this dark night, I would ask God, “Why is this happening to me? What did I do wrong?” But I heard the Holy Spirit gently but unmistakably remind me, “This isn’t about you!” 

The dictionary says that empathy is nearly a transliterated word from the Greek word empatheia. It means to be in suffering, but the emphasis is more on imaginative empathy. Something like, “If I was them and I was in that situation, I bet it might feel like this.” 

In the New Testament, a different Greek word is translated sympathy, which is also a transliterated word from the Greek sympatheō. This word means to enter into another’s suffering, but the emphasis is on experiential empathy. In other words, I don’t have to imagine how you might feel, but I know how you feel because I’ve gone through the same thing myself. 

Just as the Holy Spirit taught me this lesson, let me say the same thing to you: the dark night you are going through isn’t about you. It’s about learning empathy SO THAT you can help others persevere all the way to the end! 

Think about the dark night Jesus went through just before His crucifixion. He might have asked His Father, “Why is this happening to Me? What did I do wrong?” But He knew why He was going through this night: it was to prepare Him to be the perfect empathetic High Priest for all of us (check out these verses in Hebrews).  

When we invite Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, we become a part of His Body (1 Corinthians 12:13, 26). 

Dr. Paul Brand was a renowned hand surgeon and missionary who worked with leprosy patients in India for years. He learned that leprosy doesn’t mangle a person’s foot or hand, but their lack of ability to feel pain does. He wrote, “A body only possesses unity to the degree that it possess pain…. We must develop a lower threshold of pain by listening, truly listening, to those who suffer. … The body protects poorly what it does not feel.” 

Sometimes we have to go through the painful, dark nights so that we can learn to feel others’ pain so that we can learn empathy. 

Through those nights we can learn to hear what others aren’t saying, and feel what others aren’t expressing. We don’t have to ask, “Can I help?” but rather, “I’m here to help because I know what you’re going through.” 

You cannot truly empathize until you go through your own dark night. I can be thankful IN the night because God is growing my empathy so that I can help others! 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in this series, you can check out the full list by clicking here. 

Prescribed & Personal Worship

But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put His Name there for His dwelling (Deuteronomy 12:5).

THE place—not a place.

The Old Testament physical practices always point to the New Testament spiritual practices:

  • We cannot worship like everyone else does—You must not worship the Lord your God in their [pagan] way (v. 4) 
  • We cannot worship God like it’s always been done before—You are not to do as we do here today, everyone doing as they see fit (v. 8) 
  • We cannot worship God in a way that is cheap and convenient—Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please (v. 13) 

Go to THE place the Lord will choose (v. 26). 

The exclusivity focus is on the Person not the place or the practice.

Jesus said, “Not here or in Jerusalem, but in spirit and in truth” (John 4:20-24). And He made clear that He is THE exclusive way to the Father (John 14:6).

The apostle Paul noted that the day of the week or the type of food doesn’t matter in our worship practices; THE focus on Jesus is what matters (Romans 14).

So worship of God is both prescribed and personal:

  • Prescribed in that it’s only THE work of Jesus that makes worship possible. 
  • Personal in that I worship God as me—as He created me—not by following a formula. 

Paul went on to say in Romans 14 that we shouldn’t judge the sincerity of another person’s worship. If they are glorifying God—great! If not—they will have to stand before THE Judge.

We only have access to God through THE High Priest Jesus Christ. Let us always make sure that He is THE focus.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Nothing Left Undone

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Nothing Left Undone

Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this Priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time He waits for His enemies to be made His footstool. (Hebrews 10:11-13) 

     You see the superiority of Christ’s sacrifice rests in this: that the priest offered continually, and after he had slaughtered one lamb, another was needed. After one scapegoat was driven into the wilderness, a scapegoat was needed the next year, but this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins, did what thousands of scapegoats never did and what hundreds of thousands of lambs could never effect. He perfected our salvation and worked out an entire atonement for the sins of all His chosen ones.

     I infer that His work is finished from the fact that He is described here [Hebrews 10:12] as sitting down. Christ would not sit down in heaven if He had more work to do. …

     But do you think my Savior would sit still if He had not done all His work? Oh no, beloved. He said once, ‘For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burns’ (Isaiah 62:1). …

     Oh, if the last thread had not been woven in the great garment of our righteousness, He would be spinning it now. If the last particle of our debt had not been paid, He would be counting it down now. 

     Oh, glorious doctrine! This Man has done it. This Man has finished it. This Man has completed it. He was the Author. He is the finisher. He was the Alpha. He is the Omega. … You are accepted perfectly in His righteousness.… ‘By one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified’ (Hebrews 10:14). 

From Christ Exalted

Friend, Jesus has left nothing undone that would keep you from God’s full favor! 

Christ’s work on the Cross and His resurrection from the grave have removed every impediment that would keep you from God’s presence. Not sin’s condemnation, nor chaotic world affairs, nor the clamoring or godless people, nor anything you can imagine can hinder God’s favor. 

Cling to this: He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

Prayer Expectations

Many of our prayers could be much bolder and much more specific than they are. Why is that? Because how we view God is going to determine what we pray and what we expect after we pray.

When we pray, we approach an All-Loving Father, and we approach an All-Powerful God. I have found that typically people get warmed by the idea of Father and get scared by the idea of God. They say things like: “What if my prayers don’t hallow God’s name? What if He’s mad at me? What if I pray an improper prayer?” 

God wants us to come to Him in prayer, so He makes Himself very accessible! The Father is both Father and God; the Son is both Friend and King; the Spirit is both Comforter and Convictor. We get ALL of this in One God. 

Charles Spurgeon had this word of encouragement: “If You are my Father, then You love me. If I am Your child, then You will regard me, and poor though my language is, You will not despise it.” Jesus came to earth fully God and fully man, making Him our perfect intermediary (see Job 9:32-35; 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 7:25). And the Holy Spirit helps interpret our groaning prayers (Romans 8:26-27). 

Have you ever noticed that neither the prophets of the Old Testament, nor Jesus in the Gospels, nor the apostles in the New Testament ever prayed, “God, if this is Your will please do such-and-such”? They simply prayed. Or more accurately, they prayed so boldly and specifically it almost sounded like a command: “Stand up” or “Be clean” or “Go, your prayer has been answered.” 

When you and I are praying to an All-Loving and All-Powerful Father, with Jesus interceding for us, and the Spirit helping us, we too can pray these bold and highly specific prayers. 

After all, if you don’t pray specifically and expectantly, how will you know when your prayer is answered? 

I find John Piper’s acrostic very helpful in praying these bold and expectant prayers. He calls it APTAT: 

  • A—Admit I can’t do anything without Christ. This hallows His Name. 
  • P—Pray for help to do it. 
  • T—Trust a specific promise of God to help me (two general promises are found in Isaiah 41:10 and Romans 8:32). 
  • A—Act. Do the things I need to do: apply for the job, ask forgiveness, schedule a meeting. 
  • T—Thank Him when I’m done. 

Two final thoughts—

  1. Make prayer more of a listening relationship than a talking relationship. 
  2. Give yourself some grace as you are maturing; don’t expect immediate perfection. Start praying and then let the Father, the Son, and the Spirit help you mature in your prayer life. 

I hope you can join me this Sunday as we continue to work on our plans to pray.

Links & Quotes

link quote

“The whole duty of the Christian can be summed up in this: feel, think, and act in a way that will make God look as great as He really is. Be a telescope for the world of the infinite starry wealth of the glory of God.” —John Piper

It’s pretty sad—and quite telling—when Planned Parenthood’s arguments for abortion sound eerily similar to pro-slavery and pro-Nazi arguments of the past.

Seth Godin reminds us that past performance is no guarantee of future results. Check it out! I also really liked Seth Godin’s warning about getting caught up in the Black Friday hype.

“Things will all work out” and “You can do anything you set your mind to” are just two of the seven sentimental lies you might believe.

Eric Metaxas shares about a “crisis of despair” where the church is desperately needed.

What a comfort we can have in this—“This very day I am being saved by the eternal intercession of Jesus in heaven. Jesus is praying for us and that is our salvation [Hebrews 7:25]. We are saved eternally by the eternal prayers (Romans 8:34) and advocacy (1 John 2:1) of Jesus in heaven as our High Priest. He prays for us and His prayers are answered because He prays perfectly on the basis of His perfect sacrifice.” —John Piper

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones asks a vitally important question: How’s your prayer life?

[VIDEO] A great look at competitiveness from John Maxwell—

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