Our Priestly Service

… pronounce them clean … pronounce them unclean … (about 40 times in Leviticus 12-15).

The Old Testament priests could not cure anyone, they could only pronounce cleanness or uncleanness. Only God could cure. So when Jesus walked this earth, He showed His deity by touching lepers and saying, “You are clean,” by stopping the flow of blood that made a woman unclean, and by restoring maimed limbs and blinded eyes that kept people from entering into the place of worship. 

Jesus said to His followers—and He still says to us today—“You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you“ (John 15:3). Jesus cleanses our bodies and our consciences, and He keeps us clean until He presents us to His Father in Heaven (Hebrews 10:22; Jude 24).

We have been cleansed for a purpose. What is that purpose? In short, it is for our priestly service to our world. 

I find it interesting that the person in the Old Testament who was pronounced clean was then anointed in the exact same ways as the priests were when they were consecrated for service in the tabernacle (Leviticus 14:14-18, 25-29; 8:23-24, 30). When Jesus sent His followers out to minister, He consecrated them with the New Testament mandate, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, CLEANSE those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give“ (Matthew 10:8). 

Not just, “Pronounce them healed, raised, cleansed, and freed,” but “Heal, raise, cleanse, free”!

Jesus has cleansed us AND consecrated us to be His ministers. He has given us His authority not just to make pronouncements, but to actually heal and deliver! 

Acceptable And Pleasing

…acceptable to the Lord … an aroma pleasing to the Lord… (Leviticus 1:3, 9). 

Whether it’s a sacrifice or a lifestyle, these two phrases sum up the goal of obeying all of God’s directives: acceptable and pleasing. 

“But,” you might say, “there is a lot of law to obey—a lot! 

And I would agree with you. Beginning with the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 and going all the way through Numbers 9, there are 56(!) chapters of regulations.

“And I’m supposed to follow all of those?!” 

Yes! Every single one of them. And not just those, but also the innumerable man-made rules that were added on top of all of those laws. 

In the opening words of Leviticus, two key words emerge:

  • Acceptable to the Lord 
  • An aroma pleasing to the Lord

“How can I ever get there?” 

YOU can’t! 

For EVERYONE has sinned; we ALL fall short of God’s righteous standard (Romans 3:23 NLT). 

For NO PERSON will be justified—made righteous, acquitted, and judged acceptable—in God’s sight by observing the works prescribed by the Law… (Romans 3:20 AMP). 

But here is our hope—Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing the heavenly places in Christ…to the praise and of the glory of His grace, by which HE MADE US ACCEPTABLE in the Beloved (Ephesians 1:3, 6 NKJV). 

And when we are in Christ, we also become an aroma pleasing to God—Our lives are a Christ-like FRAGRANCE rising up to God (2 Corinthians 2:14-17 NLT). 

On our own, we cannot accomplish any of this. But in Christ we are both ACCEPTABLE to the Lord … and an aroma PLEASING to the Lord…. 

Stop Letting Fear Limit Your Life

It’s inescapably true: We let fears limit us when we listen to them. 

John Piper wrote, “I call you today to stop defining and limiting your future in terms of your past and start defining it in terms of your God.”

When we have a spirit of fear instead of the confidence that comes from a right relationship with God through Jesus, the smallest of things sends us ducking for cover! “As for those of you who may be left, I will also bring weakness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. And the sound of a driven leaf will chase them, and even when no one is pursuing they will flee as though from the sword, and they will fall.” (Leviticus 26:36 NASB) 

God says, “Fear not—there is nothing to fear—for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My victorious right hand of rightness and justice.” (Isaiah 41:10 AMPC)

“When God calls you to be free from fear (to overcome this natural emotion and have peace), He does not leave the command hanging in the air. He puts pillars under it. Five of them in Isaiah 41:10. That’s the nature of all biblical commands. They come with divine support.

  1. Fear not . . . God is with you.
  2. Fear not . . . God is your God
  3. Fear not . . . God will strengthen you.
  4. Fear not . . . God will help you.
  5. Fear not . . . God will uphold you.” —John Piper

When we grasp that God is with us, that God is helping us, that God is bigger than the things we wrongly fear, there is nothing we cannot do! 

As Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, and let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us. For there is nothing to prevent the Lord from saving by many or by few.” (1 Samuel 14:6 AMPC)

O Sovereign Lord! You made the heavens and earth by Your strong hand and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for You! (Jeremiah 32:17 NLT)

“Because you’re not yet taking God seriously,” said Jesus. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, ‘Move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.” (Matthew 17:20 MSG)

The Tabernacle Of Israel (book review)

the-tabernacle-of-israelIf you have ever used the Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance Of The Bible, you are probably familiar with the work of Dr. James Strong. By the way, if you haven’t used this concordance, it is 1500+ pages listing every word in the Bible and their Hebrew or Greek word and definition. By contrast, Dr. Strong’s book on The Tabernacle Of Israel is only 170 pages, but it’s just as jam-packed with helpful information.

I was recently reading through the books of the Bible where God gives Moses highly specific instructions for the portable Tabernacle that is to be used for the Hebrews to conduct their worship services. This temporary Tabernacle not only served them while they sojourned in the wilderness for 40 years, but it became the pattern for the brick-and-mortar Temple that King Solomon built years later, and its pattern is referred to again in the New Testament book of Hebrews as being a pattern of the worship in heaven. Obviously this is a significant thing!

Dr. Strong uses his extraordinary skills to compile an easy-to-follow study of the design guidelines, building materials, and exact layout of this Tabernacle. He uses not only the biblical accounts, but also augments his work with extensive archeological discoveries.

Then to wrap up the book, Dr. Strong talks about the significance of the layout, colors, materials, and even mathematical significance of the Tabernacle’s design, showing how it still impacts the New Testament Christian to this day.

This is an academic book, but it is well worth your time if you would like to get a more in-depth knowledge of the Tabernacle which God commanded Moses to build.

One Word

RedemptionWhen it comes right down to it, there is really just one word that makes Christians peculiar. Just one word changes our citizenship from Earth to Heaven. One word took us from a path where our sins had us headed toward an eternity in Hell.

Jesus stepped in where He didn’t have to go. Jesus became our sin to pay-off our sin debt. Jesus took us back from satan’s possession, and made us a part of His Father’s family.

Jesus redeemed us! 

I wonder if we truly understand that word redemption?

Peter is speaking to us as “strangers here in reverent fear” on Earth, and he calls us to live up to God’s call—Be holy, because I am holy (1 Peter 1:16; Leviticus 11:44-45). He asks us to obediently follow God’s Word (1:22), to get rid of Earth-bound things (2:1), and instead taste that the Lord is good (2:3).

Why? Because we’ve been “redeemed from the empty way of life…by the precious blood of Christ” (1:18-19) We don’t live holy lives to try to earn redemption, but because we have been redeemed we are now capable of living holy lives!

To help illustrate his point, Peter quotes a couple of verses from Isaiah 40. In this chapter, we are invited to weigh the greatness and love and knowledge and power of God against the things we can provide for ourselves on Earth. Please check out the video below, where I go through this 40th chapter of Isaiah.

If you don’t have a home church in the Cedar Springs area, please join us this Sunday at 10:30am for our special guest speaker Jeff Hlavin. Pastor Hlavin will be continuing in our series on Aliens and Strangers. If you cannot join us live, tune-in to the Periscope broadcast (search @craigtowens on Periscope).

If … But If … If … But If …

IfNo, I’m not repeating myself; I’m just quoting the pattern in the Bible (specifically Leviticus 26).

God’s laws are inviolate. No conditions will be made, nor any exceptions allowed. The conditions in Leviticus 26 apply as much to the Israelites in 1400 BC as they do to us in the United States of America today.

IF we obey God’s Word, He will bless us with His favor (verses 3-13).

BUT IF we disobey, He will set His face against us (verses 14-17).

IF we continue to harden our hearts and remain unrepentant, God’s punishments will grow increasingly more severe (verses 18-39).

BUT IF we repent wholeheartedly, God will again restore us (verses 40-45).

It’s time for us in America to wake up to this reality! If God held His chosen people, the Israelites, to this, how much more so will He not hold us to it.

We in America have violated God’s principles for too long. We have clearly moved through the first IF and BUT IF stages. I believe we are now in the second IF stage. But the hopeful news is that there is still another BUT IF stage for us to obtain, if only we will repent and ask God’s forgiveness.

It starts with me and with you. Will you join me in asking for repentance and praying for God’s favor to visit us once again?

Distinguishing

DistinguishingA week ago I blogged about why some people avoid reading some of the Old Testament books because they seem tedious, or even out-of-date. But if you look at the Old Testament through the light of Jesus, you will find a rich beauty in its pages.

In Leviticus 11 God lists all kinds of food that is considered clean or unclean, and the proper ways to prepare and eat certain foods so as to not become unclean.

I believe one of the reasons God gave the commands for clean and unclean food was to cause His people to pause. Instead of just gobbling up what was in front of them, without any thought as to what it was, they would have to slow down to distinguish. God even said, “You must distinguish” (Leviticus 11:47).

Slowing down gives time for thankfulness too. How many times do I grab whatever is close by when I’m hungry? I shove anything in my mouth just to satisfy an immediate hunger, but there is no distinguishing, no thought, and no gratitude.

If I were to pause long enough to distinguish, how much healthier and grateful might I be?

Necessary Or Additional?

In listing the sacrifices that the Israelites were to bring to the tabernacle, a repeated phrase kept jumping out at me:

…in addition to the regular burnt offering…

There was one daily offering that was necessary every day, then there were other offerings that were additional.

Here’s the principle:

The additional should never take the place of the necessary if the additional is crowding out the necessary.

There are some things that are necessary for me every day: my devotional time, my personal prayer life, time with my wife, time with my kids, and a few other necessaries.

There are some things that are additional for me: a church project, a community event, a committee or club. You get the idea.

There is nothing wrong with the additional UNLESS the additional is crowding out the necessary.

What is necessary for you? What are the additional things you have added?

Always remember: The additional should never take the place of the necessary. If your additional is crowding out your necessary, it’s time to make some changes.

Synergy

The dictionary defines synergy as the combined action of two items, where their output is greater than the sum of their individual efforts. I like the Bible’s definition better:

Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you (Leviticus 26:8).

God’s synergy has an “if” attached to it. A few verses earlier God says, “If you follow Me and obey My principles, then this is what you can expect from Me.”

So God’s synergistic math looks like this:

5 = 102 = 104

Five people motivated by their devotion to God and trusting Him for victory = 100 enemies defeated.

One hundred people doing the exact same thing = 10,000 enemies defeated.

The first synergy is a 20-fold increase, while the second synergy is a 100-fold increase! The more people that buy into this truth, the greater the synergy.

Imagine if you could get just four other people to join you in prayer and in seeking God for…

  • …the lost in your city
  • …the healing of an “incurable” diseases
  • …the alleviation of poverty
  • …the strengthening of marriages
  • …the end of abortion

Imagine!

God’s synergy is an amazing thing! Be a part of it!

Stopping More Than Enough

There’s a well-known line from the movie Wall Street in which the up-and-coming Bud Fox asks his rich mentor Gordon Gekko, “How much is enough?” By his words and actions, Gordon answers, “It’s never enough, pal!”

The pursuit of More Than Enough is beyond greed. It’s what both the Bible and the Greeks called Mammon: the relentless pursuit of More. It’s an easy trap in which anyone—young or old, rich or poor—can get caught. But God gave us a way out:

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.

God wants us to acknowledge that He is Provider by deliberately leaving something behind.

Let me state that another way: God provides our daily bread, if I have anything that is More Than Enough, it’s not for me—it’s for others.

This is yet another work-in-progress for my life: I am thinking about how I can deliberately leave the More Than Enough behind for someone else? I have a couple of thoughts, but would love you to expand on this list:

  • Leave a larger tip for my server at the restaurant.
  • Pay for the people in the car behind me in line at the drive-thru.
  • Continue to be a proud member of the Junky Car Club, so I can use my car payment money to help others.
  • Find out what one day of work really earns me, and then give up just one day a month to help others (see One Day’s Wages).
  • Order less food at McDonald’s and giving a donation to The Ronald McDonald House.
  • When I have a buy-one-get-one-free coupon, give the free one away to someone in need.

That’s just the start of my list.

I want to honor God and I want to defeat the More Than Enough monster. I can do both by deliberately leaving something behind. Will you join me?

(And feel free to continue to add to the list of ways we can all deliberately leave something behind.)

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