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.

Advertisements

The Book of Leviticus

You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy (Leviticus 19:2).

Part 1 of 2. One of the greatest stumbling blocks to personal Bible study is the Book of Leviticus, but it’s one of the most important and wonderful books of the Bible … when you understand God’s purpose in giving it.

Leviticus is a lengthy list mundane and sometimes odd laws given by God to Moses to regulate Israel’s relationship to Him, to each other, and to life as His earthly people. It’s a national law of behavior for ancient Israel.

Every law known to man exists for the purpose of restricting unacceptable behavior. Between 2000 and 2007, the US Congress classified 452 new crimes creating a total of 4,450 illegal activities. This doesn’t even consider additional state, county, and city laws! In 2013, there were already 20,000 federal laws on the ownership and use of guns.

But we continue to break the existing laws so government creates new laws to stem the lawlessness. It is believed that the average American breaks 3 federal felony laws per day that no one even knows are on the books! No law can make a person good or righteous, but laws point out our failures. Man is sinful and the law makes that abundantly clear.

The Apostle Paul characterized the Law of Moses as the ministry of death that kills (2 Cor 3:6, 7). By that he meant that the Law condemns each of us as guilty of violating the holy character of God. God said, “This is how you are to serve Me“; and we rebel. God said, “This is how you are to treat one another“; and we do what we want.

Think about the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17. Today, have you made anything in life of equal or greater devotion than God? Have you lied? Have you craved something that doesn’t belong to you? Have you had an unkind thought about someone else? We can’t even keep the 10 Commandments for a day, let alone the multitude of rules in the Book of Leviticus. And the penalty?

The soul that sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:20). The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

Yes, this is a major bummer! But read again tomorrow to see the amazing hope God gives the guilty sinner in the Book of Leviticus!

Savoring the Symphony

I love summer!

Each morning at about 4:30, the first rays of the sun begin chasing back the darkness. The brightening sky calls together a heavenly ensemble in the secluded sanctuary of my backyard.

The forest trees mingle with the climbing vines of dark purple and crimson clematis. Scattered among the trees and ever-green ferns are bright pink and ruby-red hibiscus, the long glowing purple cones of butterfly bushes, yellow and pink honeysuckle, and the giant white blossom bells rising above yucca. A cathedral of the Creator.

Outside my bedroom window is my bird feeder, and the birds assemble as an early morning choir awaiting breakfast. The hooting owl in the towering firs is joined by a pair of cooing doves. Soon attending are blue jays, bright colored tiny finches, brown and white sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, and red-breasted robins, each echoing their offerings for the new day.

The cool breeze blows back the curtains and the songs of the birds sift uninhibited into the bedroom and to our sleeping ears. This morning orchestra becomes so loud at times that my wife keeps a set of earplugs next to the bed.

By the time the sun slides over the hilltops, the song of the birds is replaced with the zip of speeding cars on the road and the roar of jet engines gliding along an invisible flight path overhead from the nearby airport.

I lay here and consider how my life reflects this first hour of the day.

The Bible says: By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10). The Greek word for “workmanship” is the basis for the English word poetry. Think on this: We, through God’s gifts of grace and faith, are His poetry ….

Just as I revel in the morning symphony played outside my bedroom window, God is writing every part of my life as a poem declaring His eternal greatness and glory.

I Stand at the Door

You say, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing” – and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked (Revelation 3:17).

When I was in the first grade, my mother took me to see an eye doctor. A few weeks later I received my first pair of glasses and was surprised that individual leaves could be seen on trees. For those first six years of my life I thought my vision was fine, I didn’t know that I was unable to see the world around me clearly.

Laodicea was a major city of ancient Turkey and financial center where wealthy Romans retired. Surrounding farms produced a soft, black wool very desirable for clothing a carpets. The city also boasted of a medical research school known for a salve that cured a form of blindness.

On Sunday, people gathered to hear how Jesus died to meet their needs, make them financially prosperous, and heal their physical ailments. They were absolutely sure their faith in Jesus gave them everything they needed materially, but Jesus knew they were spiritually destitute, naked, and blind.

Jesus stood outside this congregation that believed it had everything but was spiritually bankrupt. They didn’t know Him and He didn’t know them. If they would respond to His continual urgent knocking, He would enter into a relationship of peace and intimacy with them.

It’s possible to be very religious and still not know Jesus.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me (Revelation 3:20).

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).

God of All Comfort

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation … (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4).

I’d skedaddle, fall down, and scrape my hands and knees. Mom would wash my wounds and apply a little Mercurochrome and a couple Band-Aids. It wasn’t better, however, until she finally added a gentle kiss to each boo-boo. As a little boy, it seemed to be the kiss that made everything right.

We’re prone to turn to other people, thinking they can soothe the soul, when God is the source of all comfort. We might expect God’s answer to our prayerful pleadings to be an other-worldy warm-fuzzy. We like to imagine Him bending down from Heaven to blow a mother’s kiss and wrap us in arms of love and still the raging storm.

These emotional sentiments may provide a temporary lull in our discontent, but God’s comfort in our tribulations comes in the form of a settled assurance that He is sovereign over every circumstance, and in the confidence that He never leaves us nor forsakes us in each trial He’s lovingly prepared.

In writing to the believers in Rome, Paul explained that, Whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope (Romans 15:4).

Other Christians were troubled as their friends and loved ones died before the return of Jesus. To them Paul explained our hope in Christ adding that we are to Comfort one another with these words he had written (1 Thessalonians 4:18).

God uses His Word to comfort His children. As we struggle with disappointments, trials, and the pains of this world, God uses the Bible to remind us of His promises, His presence, and His power. The Holy Spirit applies the Scriptures as His comforting encouragement in our journey through life.

A Sermon in Blood

If a woman has a discharge, and the discharge from her body is blood, she shall be set apart seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening (Leviticus 15:19).

The average woman spends nearly 7 years of her life menstruating, that’s more than 10% of her adult life. This every 28-day cycle occurs when the lining of a woman’s uterus peels away and is discharged from the body and a bloody liquid.

Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden resulted in God’s judgment. I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception, in pain you shall bring forth children  (Gen 3:16). Her pain would be matched by man’s toil in working to provide (Gen 3:17). Pain, in all its many forms, is the direct result of a sin and a reminder that this world, and our lives, are not what God intended in the beginning. Despite all the pain pills we’ve created, a woman’s body proves that we live in a fallen world.

A woman’s discharge of blood isn’t sinful, but it is symbolic of uncleanness and separation from God and others (Lev 15:19-33). Since Life is in the blood (Lev 17:14) and the loss of blood represents the loss of life, God is drawing a vivid picture that sin is a separation and death, and that goodness requires God’s intervention.

Paul wrote that nothing good dwells within any person (Rom 7:18) except that which is produced by the Spirit of God dwelling in the believer. A woman’s cycle is a message of sin and of redemption.

Jesus entered the world through Mary’s own pain and blood. The eternal God became a Man and experienced the very same pain, judgment, and death that you and I know. Still, by the shedding of His own blood, He took our sins upon Himself so we could experience unbroken and eternal fellowship with God (2 Cor 5:21).

Martin Luther called the Old Testament the picture book of the New Testament. In the Old Testament are expressive illustrations of simple spiritual truths too valuable to ignore.

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.

A Matter of Personal Honor

I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also (Matthew 5:39)

One of my favorite moments in US history took place on July 11, 1804.

Aaron Burr was the sitting Vice-President of the United States. In April of 1804, he lost the election for governor of New York and laid the blame on Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton was the first US Secretary of the Treasury, close advisor to George Washington, and a faithful Christian man. Hamilton accused Burr of being a greedy, self-serving, and immoral man (which was all true). To settle their personal battle, Burr challenged Hamilton to a duel.

At dawn on July 11th, the two rivals met on a New Jersey river bank. Hamilton planned to throw the duel because it violated his Christian beliefs, but showed up as a matter of personal honor.

As Hamilton and Burr stood opposite each other with loaded pistols, Hamilton’s gun accidentally fired into a tree. Burr returned fire through Hamilton’s liver and into his spine. Hamilton died the next day with his wife and pastor at his side.

For centuries, men gently slapped each other across the face to symbolize disgust and dishonor toward one another. A punch to the gut might knock the breath out of you, but a slap on the face meant a war against ones honor. This symbol of a slap across the face was practiced even by Jews in the days of Jesus.

Jesus went so far as to use violence to oppose evil (Mt 21:12; Jn 2:15) and stood squarely and openly against sin and false doctrine. He commanded His disciples to keep and bear arms for self-defense (Lk 22:36). But when He was personally attacked, Jesus acted like a lamb before the shearers and did not respond (Mt 26:67-68; 1 Pet 2:20-23).

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught His followers to handle personal disagreements by turning the other cheek rather than hurling arguments and insults back and forth.

Your personal honor and dignity are not worth a duel of words or pistols. As Dr J Vernon McGee often said, “If you knew me the way I know me, you wouldn’t like me either.” Leave your honor in the hands of the true and righteous Judge who knows your heart and will one day bring perfect justice. Trust Him to make all things right.

*** Be sure to read the comment question and answer!

Pants or Trousers?

England is where the English language developed over the past 1,500 years. English is different in different parts of the United Kingdom. Neither is American English like Australian or Canadian English. Frankly, some of the British English dialects sound a lot like slippery gibberish with unpronounced “le’as” (leTTERs) in words. We also use different words to express the same ideas.

A friend in England once posted on Facebook a photo of herself wearing a new pair of sandals and a sporty silver toenail polish.  I asked if she had a pair of silver pants to wear along with her silver nail polish.

Lisa replied that I’d made her laugh. In England, the word “pants” refers to men’s underwear. Lightheartedly I replied how I wish the British would learn to speak English.

It’s so easy to misunderstand each other, get angry, and take offense, even when we’re speaking the same language. We can either be offended and become defensive, or we can laugh, be compassionate, and show grace by asking questions when we don’t understand. My dear friend showed grace and a laugh toward this American cousin across the Pond from her.

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection  (Colossians 3:12-14).