Sauntering into the Sanctuary

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After expressing his displeasure at improperly brought worship ( see Nadab and Abihu – Lev 10 ), God commanded that the following steps be followed in meeting Him on the Day of Atonement.

  1. Locate a young bull
  2. Locate a ram
  3. Bathe thoroughly
  4. Put on the linen tunic
  5. Put on the linen undergarments
  6. Tie the linen sash around waist
  7. Put on the linen turban
  8. Locate two goats without blemish
  9. Locate another ram
  10. Sacrifice the bull for the atonement of the priest and his household
  11. Light a censer get two handfuls of incense
  12. Take these implements behind the curtain
  13. Put the incense in the censer to create fragrant smoke, protecting the priest from direct sight of the Ark and the presence of the Lord
  14. Sprinkle the bull’s blood seven times
  15. Bring the goats to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting
  16. Cast lots to determine which goat will be the scapegoat
  17. Sacrifice the goat whose lot fell to the Lord
  18. Repeat steps 11 to 14 with the goat’s blood
  19. The priest will go to the Altar
  20. Sprinkle blood of both the bull and goat on the Horns of the altar seven times
  21. Bring the scapegoat out
  22. Lay both hands on the goat’s head, assigning all of the sin of the nation to the goat
  23. Another man will take the goat and shoo it away into the desert
  24. The priest will return to the Tent of Meeting
  25. Remove the linen garments
  26. The priest will bathe and dress in his regular clothes
  27. Sacrifice the burnt offering for himself
  28. Sacrifice the burnt offering for the people
  29. Burn the fat of the sin offering on the altar
  30. The man who released the goat will bathe and wash his close before returning to camp
  31. The remains of the bull and goat must be taken outside of the camp and burned
  32. The man who burns the remains must bathe and wash his clothes before returning to camp

The meticulous and precise nature of these worship instructions should cause us to pause and consider the way in which we will enter God’s presence this Sunday. Do we toddle in with no more thought than if we were buying a gallon of milk?

There is great privilege in being the children of God, but also great responsibility.

Grace and peace to you.

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Psalm 108 ~ Awaken the Dawn

imageMy heart, O God, is steadfast; I will sing and make music with all my soul.

Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples.

For great is your love, higher than the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies. (Psalm 108:1-4)

In a short cry for physical aid, the psalmist calls us centuries later to consider the urgency of our spiritual motivation. Are we driven to rise in the darkness, to awaken the dawn in fervent worship? Do we linger in the comfort of our bed, seeking additional moments of slumber, delaying our appointment with God until a more convenient moment? Many are the nights in which the Lord beckons us awake, seeking our company and wanting to share a moment of communion with us. How will we respond?

Grace and peace in the Spirit of the Lord to you.

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Psalm 107–Do Tell

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Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story – those he redeemed from the hand of the foe, those he gathered from the lands, from east and west, from north and south. (Ps 107:2-3)

The culture that we have developed within the Church puts an emphasis on the shiny, clean you. Reborn, redeemed? Give effusive thanks for that, Christian!

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things. (vv8-9)

The psalmist reminds us, however, of the value of recounting the journey prior to redemption. Others benefit directly and indirectly from the journey, from seeing the hills and valleys overcome. They gain a deeper perspective on redemption when they see sin beaten, sin removed, sin forgiven and washed clean. The psalmist tells of the wandering, the failure, the enslavement, the loss and greed—all forgotten by Yahweh in an instant when His people focused their devotion on Him.

Let the one who is wise heed these things and ponder the loving deeds of the Lord. (v43)

Grace and peace to you.

image Lewis & Clark College

Learning to Kneel–Two

imageDoes the grace, mercy and love of God preserve us from suffering the same fate as that visited upon Nadab and Abihu? Do we no longer heed the words of Moses paraphrasing his experience?

Among those who approach me I will show myself holy;

in the sight of all the people I will be honored. (Lev 10:3)

Worshippers read this passage and cannot help but  wonder why God would refuse to be worshipped. The young priests added incense to their censers, lit them and swung them back and forth, spreading the pleasing aroma heavenward.

Only to have it received by Yahweh as the stench of death.

So offensive was the smell to God that he sent fire down the same path that the smoke travelled, instantly killing the priests as one might remove an annoying gnat. So rapid was the response to the impropriety of worship that Aaron, the mouthpiece of Moses, is struck silent.

In our modern worship mindset we ask, why would God be offended at their worship? Why would God be offended at any worship? The passage is silent about God’s reasons, nor are we in a position to demand explanation. God alone sets the standards for worship. We can speculate as to the details of the breach. Perhaps they entered the sanctuary unprepared to worship or came at an inappropriate hour. The fire that lit the censers may have been improperly sourced or unholy. The incense might have been similarly profane.

We don’t know the reasons for God’s offense in the case of the priests, but the encounter must cause us to reflect upon our own worship. Are we equally impious?

The words of Moses are a warning to communities stretching into our own day. We must learn to worship properly so that we may worship properly. 

Grace and peace to you.

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A House Divided

The God I Never Knew by Robert Morris

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Pastor Robert Morris adds to growing library of works about the often misunderstood and sometimes forgotten third member of the Holy Trinity. This book is his attempt to clear away some of the mystery and confusion that surrounds God in this person.  This volume succeeds wildly on one level, but struggles to find its footing on another.

The first half of the book having to do with the reality of the Holy Spirit and His work is a good addition to the growing attention the Spirit is receiving. It is scriptural and doctrinal, and does a superior job of presenting the reality of the Spirit to a church that is desperately in need of an outpouring of the Spirit’s power. In addition to the fine explication, Morris applies the truths to our daily lives in way that makes us desire more and more of the Spirit.

Sadly, the second part of the book doesn’t hold up the expectations set out in the first. After adhering close to the Evangelical median in his discussion of the reality and work of the Spirit, Morris tips into a scattered series of chapters about separate Baptisms in the Spirit and the miraculous gifts. An extensive presentation of these topics is beneficial to have, but the way in which the author strikes, fires off an anecdote and then moves on is less than satisfying.

Inconsistency aside, The God I Never Knew can serve as a fine introduction to the Spirit or a reminder of the power that He brings to the believer. Some will find the theological diversions unnerving, but understanding the doctrines contributes to the growth of all Christians.

I’m grateful to WaterBrook press who supplied this copy for review.

Learning to Kneel-One

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;*

imageIf you have ever paddled the quiet waters of a remote lake, gently placing the blades into the water so as not to churn the stillness around you…

If you have ever chanced upon the grandeur of a mountain vista or a verdant valley or the deep crimson of a desert sunset and found yourself quietly absorbing the beauty…

If you have ever held a newborn, warm and taking his first few breaths, and had no words to utter…

… you are familiar with the feelings that overtake you as you truly enter the presence of the Living God.

Many a sanctuary this coming Sunday will be filled, not with awful, prayerful silence overwhelmed by the presence of God, but the noise of a hundred casual conversations that grow slowly louder as more of the brethren enter the room. Bibles will remain closed, guitars will be tuned, and children will play.

As if God will appear at the appointed hour, like the train from Bakersfield, and all we need to do is to be there to meet Him.

Reverence is the first lesson in learning to kneel. This requires a change of attitude and a soul attuned to the Omnipresent God rather than the culturally popular Compartmentalized God. My next post will begin here, unpacking the twin threads of omnipresence and reverence and noting how a heightened awareness of both can radically change our times of worship. This coming Sunday however, enter your sanctuary or meeting room and try sitting quietly, making yourself aware of His enveloping presence. Pray for the service. Pray for the visiting family sitting behind you. Pray a Psalm. See if others follow your lead as the moments tick by toward the first notes of a song. See if your preparation hasn’t brought minutely closer to the throne.

Grace and peace to you.

*Psalm 95:6

image Joshua Conley

Psalm 104–The Beams of His Upper Chamber

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He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. (Psalm 104:2-3)

Feeling the rays of the sun upon our face is one of the simple joys we take for granted. The warmth that brings rejuvenation, a reminder that we are alive. It relaxes us and reminds us of our toil while inhabiting this mortal coil.

The fragility of our skin in the sun’s rays is also a reminder of the source of those rays. We cannot stay long in even the mildest weather as the unseen wavelengths do their work on us. As the beams of His upper chambers strike us our façade, no matter how thick, we are reminded of how His holiness envelopes us. We cannot hide our failings in the light and we are brought to confession and repentance.

Bathe in the light.

Grace and peace to you.

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Psalm 103–So Great Is His Love

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The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. (Ps 103:8)

Of all of the great promises in Scripture, this stands out for those who only see God in terms of His wrath. For many within His people and many more who still stand apart, the image of the Holy Father is not one of love, but one of a God of vengeance, sweeping His eyes east and west watching for any infraction that might be an opportunity to visit retribution upon their heads.

While we are wrong to discount His anger at the ways in which we treat one another upon His creation, we also err when we see His holiness only in terms of righteous wrath. God is patient, demanding holiness, but teaching rather than terminating. When you live with the constant fear of failure and its outcome, the fruit of joy is never harvested in your life. Many Christians have followed this path, living their entire lives with a very narrow understanding of God’s character.

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. (vv 11-12)

This unmatched, vast and measureless forgiveness is one of the prime character traits of God. Far from the hair-trigger vengeful God of lore, He desires a loving relationship rooted in love much more. When we look to the cross, we don’t see charges waiting to held against us, we see a fresh start that is refreshed by our prayers of repentance and our journey toward greater and greater holiness.

Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion.

Praise the Lord, O my soul. (v22) 

Grace and peace to you.

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Psalm 101–Eyes on the Faithful

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My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; he whose walk is blameless will minister to me. Ps 101:6

The psalmist introduces a small group of psalms (101 – 110) that concentrate the larger themes of the entire psalter. Arranged concentrically, both 101 and 110 speak to the devotion of the king to God. He pledges to arrange his kingdom on the principles of the Lord and to reign in righteousness.

I will walk in my house with blameless heart. (v2)

I will set before my eyes no vile thing. (v3)

Men of perverse heart shall be far from me; (v4)

Faithfulness to the Lord begins with separation from the world. Dwelling in the muck does not leave you spotless. While we will reach into the mud to pull another to safety, it is not meant to be our dwelling place. We will spend time with the unsaved, but they will not direct our lives. When blame enters our heart, we will confess and repent.

Grace and peace to you.

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Average Joe Finds the Updraft

Average Joe by Troy Meeder

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You won’t find but a handful of web sites devoted to the comings and goings of the average guy. Blogs, books and the media do not celebrate the dad who works all day and then coaches the kids at night and then does battle with his lawn on Saturdays. No paparazzi track their every move and no one votes via text message for the next “American Average Guy”.

And yet, it’s the ordinary guys that make the world work, socially and spiritually.

Troy Meeder invites us into the world of the average guys who have enormous and often unrecognized impact in Average Joe. He builds the book on the notion that God uses average guys for extraordinary works, paralleling the biblical men who stepped out of unsung, ordinary lives ( the fisherman, the waiter, the farmer ) with their modern counterparts who leave their marks on the lives of others while remaining in the background, as far as society is concerned.

Average Joe would have been ideal material for the Promise Keepers movement in its heyday. Meeder encourages Christian men to recognize that their status needn’t be governed by the categories of secular society, the big house, big car and the corner office. Instead, he says, what we are in the eyes of God is measured by how closely we live out the life that He outlines for us. It is a life in which we enrich others, not by what we can do for them in worldly terms, but rather, by what we leave with them that enables them to do the same for others.

If Average Joe only serves to initiate conversation among men as they see themselves or their mentors in the vignettes, it will be a success. If the pages help to open the eyes of a man who is driven to “be somebody” in order to have a Spiritual impact and to help him to see the power of his ordinary devoted life, the ripples will have effect long into the future.

I’m grateful to Multnomah who provided this copy for review.