Life is in the Blood

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul (Leviticus 17:11).

Part 2 of 2. Leviticus is one of the most neglected books in the Bible. It is full of arcane laws that most Christians ignore and pastors hide from preaching. But Leviticus is beautiful when understood.

The myriad of laws in Leviticus reveal with great clarity that man is incapable of living according to God’s character and standard. We fail miserably to live in obedience to Him and in harmony with each other. However, the primary purpose of the Bible is to reveal Jesus in the midst of a sinful world, and Leviticus puts Jesus on display as the means of being made right with God.

Through a series of blood sacrifices, God promised to cover over sin. The blood of animals could never forgive sin (Heb 10:4), but all that blood and death of animals was symbolic of God’s provision of His own Son as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Forgiveness is possible because life is in the blood … the blood of Jesus. Man’s failure is swallowed up in God’s love through the death of Christ Jesus.

Paul wrote: I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Gal 2:20).

Sin requires death, and there are many ways to die. But it is impossible to crucify yourself. The Bible says that Jesus was crucified on our behalf to pay the debt our sin created. By faith, we believe God’s promise that Christ’s death paid the penalty for our every failure. In a sense, when Jesus was crucified, we were crucified with Him. The One who loved us gave Himself for us and the shedding of His blood is life for us.

The laws of Leviticus shine a light on man’s sinfulness, God’s holiness, and anticipates Jesus as the blood-Redeemer whom the Father would provide.

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Lawlessness and Cold Love

Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold (Matthew 24:12).

Lawlessness is a disregard for what God says about life and living.

Adam and Eve hid themselves in shame when they sinned (Genesis 3:7-8), whereas today the things which God calls sin have become a badge of honor to be celebrated. We don’t live in an age where the Father knows best. Even in our churches, people don’t care what God has to say.

As people turn away from God, they turn more toward themselves. One of the effects of sin is what we might call “self-love”. While God-given love is self-less, giving, and concerned about the welfare of the one being loved, love stirred from the sin nature is selfish, self-centered, and self-interested. And when you’re wrapped up in yourself, you’ve got a mighty small package!

As the world approaches the Second Coming of Christ Jesus, there will be more self-love and less love for God and for others.

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: Men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money … unloving … lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. From such people turn away! (2 Timothy 3:1-5).

Temptation and the Way of Escape

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Every temptation and trial you’ve ever faced is common to the human race. As King Solomon wrote nearly 3,000 years ago, There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9). He went on to write that things only seem new because we’re ignorant of the past.

The word temptation means “a testing experience that breaks the pattern of peace, comfort, joy and happiness of a person’s life to prove the genuineness of a person, idea, or item.” Every temptation comes with the opportunity to prove something is exactly what it says, or that it is a failure. Temptations rightly faced prove strength; temptations given in to become opportunities for evil.

Whatever the temptation in your moment might be, God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able. This means that for the believer, no trial or temptation you face is greater than your spiritual resources in Christ Jesus. God is greater than your trials and His “greaterness” is available to you.

Still we each sin because we want to do so. God never promises to suck us out of our troubles and plop us down in a land of lollipops, fairy dust, and unicorns. Instead, He promises a way of escape so we can bear the trial.

God’s faithful assurance is that we can trust His power to bear us up in the waves of every temptation so that we need not be overwhelmed and drown in our trials.

Well-Hidden Idols

Jesus was heading to Jerusalem to be arrested, beaten, and crucified, when a rich Jewish man approached. The young man had a vital question on his mind. “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Lk 18:18).

Jesus listed off the last five of the Ten Commandments, each dealing with a person’s relationships with other people. The young man was sure he’d kept those commandments since childhood, but Jesus knew something the young man may not have known about himself.

Even so, Jesus answered, “You still lack one thing. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven and come, follow me” (Lk 18:22).

Jesus knew that the rich young ruler had missed the mark on the greatest commandment of loving God above everything else (Lk 10:27). An idol isn’t necessarily a carved chunk of wood or chiseled slab of stone. An idol doesn’t have to replace God, it just has to stand alongside Him.

From all appearances, the rich young ruler wanted to see Jesus. He came right up to Jesus and asked about eternal life, but that wasn’t the deep yearning of his heart. His real desire was his money.

An old Latin proverb says, “Love and a cough are two things impossible to be concealed.” An idol may be well-hidden and may not look like mine, but it can be discerned. Here’s a simple test: give it away. If your mind cannot leave it, or your heart cannot stop grieving its loss, it has been an idol to you.

The rich young ruler couldn’t separate himself from his money. The problem wasn’t that he was wealthy, but that his heart loved his wealth more than he loved God. When he heard this, he became very sorrowful … and went away grieved, for he had great possessions (Lk 18:23; Mk 10:22).

The idols of your heart will keep you from genuine personal contact with Jesus the Saviour. Those idols will also keep you from fully serving Him once you are saved.

Little children, keep yourselves from idols (1 John 5:21).

** Part 1 of 10 from a sermon series: The Way to Jericho

What is a Christian?

Kimberly Mathembe

And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26).

My friend and brother from another mother became a father for the third time almost a year ago. When Isaac and Tabitha found out they were pregnant, they decided to name the baby after either myself or my wife Kimberly, a name rarely heard of in Kenya.

And so little Kimberly Mathembe was born last May.

It is a great honor to have someone named after you. It signifies a bond between the two people of the same name and even between two families. That bond endures as long as the name continues. It is my hope and desire that little Kimberly will grow to be a godly woman like her namesake.

Christians are so named, not because they were raised going to church or believe in God. The name Christian literally means one who is like Christ. A Christian, then, is one who is like Jesus.

The Bible records that the followers of Jesus were first called Christians in the city of Antioch in present-day Turkey, as a term of ridicule. Soon after, believers gladly took the name as a symbol of being persecuted and martyred like Jesus.

What does it mean to be a Christian, but to follow after Jesus and be made day-by-day more in His likeness.

We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Grace, Mercy, and Forgiveness

My mother and me when I was a year old, 1968.

“Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:19, 21).

The other day I watched a mother pushing her two young children in a shopping cart. One child accidentally poked the other in the tight space and the mother told the crying girl to hit her brother back. Revenge was this mother’s solution. Vengeance always feels like a tonic to the sinful soul.

By the time my mother was in her mid-twenties, she was basically raising her 4 children by herself. As a kid, I didn’t think she was an awful parent, but as I’ve become older, I think she was pretty close to a perfect parent.

I have a sister a year younger than myself, and growing up we had our share of disagreements (all of which were her fault). She’d allegedly bump me by accident, so I’d poke her back. She’d sock me in the arm and I’d kick her. Then she’d clobber me. It was sweet vengeance all the way. We lived an Old Testament eye-for-an-eye and a tooth-for-a-tooth justice.

My mother’s solution was for us to say we were sorry “and mean it“, hug each other, and then get back to playing together. She taught us the Christian virtues of practicing grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Yes, there were times she intervened with sovereign and wise judgment, applying fair justice, but it was always at her hand, not the revenge-hungry hand of my sister or me. Grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

The popular perception is that children are angels, but children naturally practice the sinful art of revenge. Getting even is what the sin nature longs after, and what we re-enforce in our children.

God, however, teaches His children to leave revenge in His hand and rather be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).

 

Feeding My Birds

Every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer (1 Timothy 4:4-5).

Every morning I enjoy watching “my birds” come to sing and eat at the feeder hanging on the maple tree outside my bedroom window. I keep it filled each Springtime with bread crumbs, sunflower seeds, and millet for the sparrows, finches, doves, and wrens to feed upon until the weather warms and food is more abundant.

Jesus said that the birds of the air neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26).

Some will argue, God isn’t feeding your birds, you are! Nay, God is keeping the birds fed through me. I’m just the channel through which His blessing flows.

As Christians, we give thanks to God before we eat. Yes, your husband cooked the meal and your employer gave you the wage to buy the food. You drove to the store and bought what was provided by the farmer and the rancher. But we remember that every blessing we enjoy flows from God above, though often through the hands of others. As expressed in the ancient hymn Christians still sing by Louis Bourgeois:

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him, all creatures here below. Praise Him above, ye Heav’nly host. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen. 

 

Brothers

R Rice, Isaac Mathembe & Matthew Ferraro. Brothers in Christ and fellow servants of God

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother. To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia (2 Corinthians 1:1).

The Apostle Paul is unquestionably one of the most famous and important people in the history of Christianity. As the last apostle chosen by Jesus, Paul took the gospel throughout Asia Minor and southern Europe and was either directly or indirectly responsible for two-thirds of the New Testament. He had every reason in this world and the world to come to boast of his position, power, and place in the Kingdom of God, yet notice the humble way he described himself to the believers in the city of Corinth: a brother to Timothy.

Timothy was raised by a godly grandmother and mother knowing the Bible. Paul met him in Lystra and was used to bring the young man to faith in Jesus. Paul immediately became a spiritual father to Timothy. More importantly, the two became brothers in the family of God.

What could be more wonderful than to know that one is not alone in the world. Through faith in Jesus, we are adopted by God the Father and brought into the family of God for all of time and eternity. He lovingly gives us different gifts and richly bestows upon us different roles and responsibilities in His family. Black and white, young and old, we are made brothers and sisters in His household.

When people are bragging about titles and positions, could any claim be more blessed than child of God and brother to His saints.

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus … there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:26, 28).

A New Father, a New Family, and a New Name

Leslie Lynch King, Jr

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God (First John 3:1).

You’ve never heard his name, but Leslie Lynch King, Jr became the most powerful man in the world in the summer of 1974.

He was born in the State of Nebraska in 1913, and two weeks later Leslie’s mother fled her home to escape a physically abusive and alcoholic husband. She took her infant son with her to Michigan and soon married a paint salesman.

The hardworking and kind salesman adopted the baby, giving him a new father, a new family, and a new name. In an instant, Leslie King became Gerald R  Ford, Jr. He was one man but with two names. The old things had passed away and all things became new. The younger Ford was catapulted into the pages of history when he became the 38th President of the United States upon the resignation of Richard Nixon.

Adoption is a legal act whereby a child is separated from its biological parents and placed permanently into a new family. In adoption, the rights and responsibilities of one set of parents is terminated and the child is brought fully into a new family. Once in this new family, every legal difference between the adopted child and any biological children comes to an end. All the children legally become joint-heirs together in the family.

Through faith in Jesus, the sinner – not a cute cuddly baby – is adopted into the family of God. By this great legal transaction, God the Father lovingly makes the sinner His child forevermore. In salvation, we receive a new Father, a new family, and a new name. O! What love of God to be made a child forever of the King.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name … and redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons (John 1:12; Romans 4:5).

The Bride and Her Dress

Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready (Revelation 19:7).

The traditional Western wedding ceremony is structured to focus attention on the bride and her white dress. She enters with great pomp and ceremony and every eye is upon her glory. Generally, however, the bride is not focused on her expensive dress, the myriad of flowers, the white carpet under her feet, or her bridesmaids. Her vision is the man she is about to marry.

We live in a generation obsessed with selfies and being famous. Many seem to even think that Christianity is about the individual – raising my fame, making my Best Day Ever, finding my place and glory in this world.

The Bible speaks of the Church corporately being the Bride of Christ. While the eyes of the world may be on what they see, the true Bride’s eyes are stayed on her Beloved. It is Christ Jesus, who according to Revelation 19:7, is alone worthy of all the wedding glory.

I love the image in the hymn, The Sands of Time are Sinking by Anne R Cousins (1857):

With mercy and with judgment my web of time He wove,
And aye, the dews of sorrow were lustered by His love;
I’ll bless the hand that guided, I’ll bless the heart that planned
When throned where glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

The Bride eyes not her garment but her dear Bridegroom’s face.
I will not gaze at glory but on my King of Grace,
Not at the crown He giveth but on His pierced hand:
The Lamb is all the glory of Immanuel’s land.