A Clouded Pillar of Fire

Oh man do I wish that I had a pillar of fire today….or a cloud of smoke….just to guide me where I’m supposed to be going.  Do you have those days?  Where you think you should be going one way, but there’s no clear “sign” and you get confused?

Maybe you don’t have a specific question you’re looking for an answer about…..but rather the general direction of….where is my life going?…where is it going to take me, who am I going to be, what am I supposed to learn, ….what should be my focus? 

Days like this….I want a clear vision….I have dreams, like many of us do I suppose, and a “vision” of where I’d like to end….but I desire a few goals along the way, and they seem to be cloudy today.  I don’t know why, but it’s like…..today, I just feel like I’m living until tomorrow, not really with a purpose, which is pretty sad when I think about it.  I’d love to be one of those Israelites, living day to day following a giant pillar of fire, or a cloud of smoke….they knew that there would be an ultimate end point, but until then, just following the fire & smoke was enough. 

I’m trying to live a better story, something that’s worth being a character in it…..but I don’t know where I want this story to go….I don’t know where God might have written the scene already. 

Do you know what I mean? ….thoughts?

Opening the Way to Walk with God

“The way to God is by the Savior’s death. The way to walk with God is to be set apart by the Savior’s life.” Leviticus is a book about holiness. To some, the book of Leviticus is known as a priest’s manual, the intricate how-to’s of sacrifices, offerings and prayers. The point of these rituals however, was to allow people to remain close to God. These sacrifices were a way to set themselves apart from others, and to recognize the holiness of the God we serve.

For our cry to reach God, however; there needed to be a sacrifice…a holy sacrifice. Once a year, a high priest would enter the Holy of Holies to offer a sacrifice on behalf of him and the nation. This was a special honor that was only for one called by God. God himself would choose a high priest, the one to go between Him and the people. In Hebrews, it tells how God did this with Jesus…”The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever.’ Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.

“Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

“Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.” (Hebrews 7:21b-28)

Our Savior’s life was truly perfect and holy in the sight of God…”Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” (Hebrews 4:13-15)

Holiness as a characteristic would be someone who is recognized or declared sacred by religious use or authority…someone devoted to or set apart for the service of God. In Leviticus, the sacrifices of the priests were not to be the redeeming power bringing someone to God, but served as the outward and humbling act of a life committed to being set apart for the worship and service of God.

Now, as we seek to live a life that is set apart for God, one that is distinctly covered by the sacrificial blood of Christ, we can trust that God hears our prayers. There is now an avenue to call on our Father to hear us and guide us. We know that He will be with us forever, and will walk with us forever in an open relationship made possible by the priestly sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Some days however, we still do not know how to call out to the Father for help. It is then, as always, the Holy Spirit is present to intercede on our behalf. As Romans 8:25-27 says, “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”

When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, He carries our prayers and petitions before our God. He enters the Holy of Holies on our behalf and pleads for us. Through this is the redemption of our sin, and the way to stay in a close relationship to our Heavenly Father.

Being confident in this, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 6:19-20)

Praise God for sending us a perfect and holy sacrifice, one who can serve as a High Priest that brings us into an open relationship with the God of the universe. He is worthy to be praised.

Perfectly Imperfect

I am a recovering perfectionist. This is not entirely true. This is not nearly true. I am only a perfectionist in some areas & in those areas I am perfectly content to stay a perfectionist….I am not in denial. However, though with certain things I can “claim” to be a perfectionist, I know fully that I am not perfect. This may come as somewhat of a shock to most of you, but it’s true that I am not even slightly perfect. Nothing that I have ever done or could hope to do would be considered perfect because who I am, inside & out is full of crud…sin. I was born this way…as were all of us I suppose. It is in our human nature & the only way to emerge from that imperfection is to come under the redeeming blood of Jesus. For it is His perfection that can make our imperfection perfect.

It’s true that no matter what we do, say or think, our being, our human flesh is corrupt….yet I trust that by the God who sent his only son, the one who shed his blood to cover that imperfection, that we can be cleaned & redeemed. It is this redemption that spurs me on to live a more holy life, striving for goodness in Christ & to be ever closer to him. I know I’ll never be able to attain this on my own & so my hope comes from Him that though I am not perfect, His grace has & will forgive me. I do not take this for granted, and hope that through His grace others may come to know Him through my life & other lives, because if God would save us…then He can surely save you. “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

It is good to know that God is not the same as us, fumbling about in a body that has urges one way or another, good & bad….He is perfectly good. Numbers 23:19 says “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.” (1 Peter 1:18-20)

And the imperfection in us & in the world that causes us pain…..it is only temporary….and what’s more, is that in humbling ourselves to the power of His grace, we are covered by the power of The One who has already humbled himself as a lamb being led to slaughter, and through his grace He will reign forever and will take away that pain of imperfection….Revelation 7:17 “For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Knocking on doors

Someone this past week, was talking about opportunities in life, and said how we shouldn’t always be looking for another new thing or a better thing because we need to just be content and happy with what we’ve been given. It had a dissonant tone to it when I heard this…and I couldn’t really figure out why, but I think now I know.

Paul says that he is content in all circumstances. Content? He was satisfied with what he had, and did not want anything else? Yes. It’s true, he was content. Through prison, torture, allegations, investigations, hunger, exhaustion, persecution and ridicule. He knew that his satisfaction would never be met on earth, so he was utterly and completely content. And in this sense, I think we should all be this content. We should be content wherever we have been placed, in whatever race we are running, in whatever job, housing situation, social status, whatever. We should be content and know that our being, our self worth and justification will not come from the next best thing, but in the God who directs our paths and that wherever we are He will use to His glory if we allow him in.

However……Paul also says that he continues to press on toward the goal. Well what does that mean? If he is totally content, why is he “looking for more”?  As I said above, I think we should all be content in the circumstances that we find ourselves, yet throughout the Bible there is an example of never finding ourselves “stale,” but always learning, growing, trying, failing and trying again.  In our situation there should be a peaceful contentment, but in our spirit, in our soul, should there ever be a contentment? Shouldn’t we always be searching out what God is speaking to us? Where He is directing us? What opportunities might be shadowed around the corner, just waiting to be revealed by our search?

If I had been completely content, I would have never tried finding another job, I would have never been employed where I am today, would never have met the friends I now have, and would have been “perfectly content.” Yet I would have been missing something (though whether I would know that or not I’ll never really know)….but there’s a whole side of my life that I never would have found. I would have never gone to Mexico and found blessing through small conversations. I never would have had the opportunities to talk about Romania’s orphans to pastors all over the world. None of this would have happened if I had been ….content.

I AM content….every day….some days….but I’m never content to stay the same person that I was the day before. It’s Christ’s life that challenges me to grow, to run toward the prize, to be drawn closer and closer every day toward the Father who has blessed my life. In this sense, I will never be content. I hope I never am content. I hope you can be content in your circumstance,….but never content in your soul. Thoughts?

Not a moment too soon….

In the New Testament there are 290 references to the love of God, 290 times when God had declared His love for man. But in the same chapters and the same verses there are more than 1,300 references to the atonement, 1300 assurances that salvation can be had through the blood of Christ. —G. Franklin Allee

Abraham was a man tested by God. Over an over God came to him & asked him to go here or there, do this or that, say something or keep quiet. Abraham listened to God. He understood when it was truly God that was speaking and not just his own thoughts or the thoughts of those around him. Abraham wasn’t perfect however; he pushed forward with the said blessings of God by having a child with someone other than his wife, thinking that this child would be “the one” that God had promised. While God still protected this child, Abraham had clearly not waited for God to fulfill his promise. After a little while, God did come through for Abraham & Sarah, in blessing them with a son Isaac. In their old age, Sarah & Abraham love their little boy fiercely. They would have never guessed that this little boy would become the center of yet one more test of faith for them.

God spoke to Abraham and told him to sacrifice his son Isaac. If this was a message to me, about my own son, I probably would have hidden Isaac & tried to keep him safe…but Abraham didn’t do this. The Bible says that he immediately went out & made preparations for an altar & the three day trek to the mountain of the Lord. On the way up the mountain, Isaac humbly asked his father where the lamb for the alter was, to which Abraham responded that “the Lord will provide the lamb himself.”

I expect that he had great pain while saying this, trusting that God knew how the situation would end, and all the time Abraham following without understanding. It doesn’t say that Isaac struggled while his father tied him up & placed the boy on the alter. This surprises me, and says a lot to the relationship of trust Isaac had with his father! Just as Abraham raised his armed hand to slay his only son, the Angel of the Lord came to him & told Abraham that God had seen how he feared the Lord. Just then, Abraham noticed a Ram that was stuck in the bushes. God himself had provided the sacrifice of atonement.

…Faith obeys completely the Word of God. –Abraham trusted in God’s voice, and acted immediately.
…Faith surrenders the best to God, holding nothing back. –He surrendered his only son, the one he had prayed fervently for and had seen God provide.
…Faith waits on the Lord to provide all one’s needs. –Abraham knew that God would provide for him, whether through this son as a sacrifice or with something else. God had promised to make him a father of many nations, and Abraham trusted that whether it would be through Isaac or someone else, that God would bring that to pass.

“A true worshiper of God holds nothing back from God but obediently gives Him what He asks, trusting that He will provide. The key idea of the entire passage is summarized in the name Abraham gave to the place: Yahweh Yir’eh, The Lord will provide.”

It is hard to put your all onto the alter. To open up yourself completely to our God, though we should know deep down that He WILL provide. It is still difficult sometimes. A true test of God will ask you to do something that doesn’t make sense. It forces you to rely solely on him and not on your own power. I struggle to do this some days….and who am I kidding….most days I struggle with this. Simply in knowing that God will provide for me in EVERYTHING I need.

It is then that I remember that God has already provided a sacrifice for me, and that He has already provided all that I need. He has given me a new life, a clean slate, the forgiveness for my sins through the atonement His one and only son paid for me on the cross. Through trusting in Him, and even before I trusted in Him, He had given me and all of us forgiveness.

I loved this thought I read while studying about God as our sacrificial Lamb….”When does God meet our needs? Just when we have the need and not a minute before. When you bring your requests to the throne of grace, God answers with mercy and grace “in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Sometimes it looks like God waits until the last minute to send help, but that is only from our human point of view. God is never late.