screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-12-39-59-pmPrintable15screen-shot-2016-12-05-at-12-40-04-pmSudden terror, wasting diseases, fever, destroyed sight, life drained away, enemies receiving all proceeds from your work, defeat by enemies, being ruled by those who hate you and having the most powerful army against you. Fun times, right? Who would ever sign up for a life like that? The Israelites.

According to Leviticus 26:16-17, this is the list of all the things that God said he would do to the Israelites if they chose to disobey and NOT listen to Him. History shows us His list proved true. What was the core reason they didn’t want to listen or obey? Look at today’s verse; apparently it was stubborn pride. In fact, right before this verse, God starts out saying; “If after all this [see previous list of disasters and curses] you will not listen to me…” He then zeros in on the fact he will break their pride. Pride that is the cause.

Of course, as we read the Old testament and observe who God is, we need to consider how this should change our view of our self? Could we too, perhaps be like these Israelites? Could pride really be the reason we choose not to obey God or to listen to Him? It is certainly worth considering, isn’t it? I, for one, know I am not perfect in my obedience to God. If I truly want to pursue Him and any blessings He has in store for me, it will require my honest assessment of those areas of stubborn pride in my life. What are those areas you don’t want to obey God or that you find it very hard to obey Him? Perhaps you too need to deal with pride. Proverbs 16:18 warns us that “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty [translate: cocky] spirit before a fall.” When am I cocky and prideful? When are you? Where do we think we are “better” than others?  What aren’t we willing to “stop” or “give up” even though we know it is dishonoring to God? Let’s ask God to truly convict us in these areas and help us humble ourselves before He gets to the point where it takes “destruction” to bring us to our knees before Him.

A bit like Sesame Street…

screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-2-20-08-pmPrintable15screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-2-20-16-pmSesame Street used to play a game called “One of these things is not like the other one” There was even a song to go with it that I still remember to this day.
There is a repeated phrase in Leviticus that keeps making me think of this game. It is; “I am the Lord your God.” I have lost count how many times I have seen it. It usually comes after a regulation or command God is giving, like in today’s verse. Sometimes, it comes after a verse where God is telling his people what will happen in the future. The thing is-it seems kind of out of place. It is not a rule. It does not seem to “flow” with the previous sentence. Look at today’s verse-it just “sticks out” in the midst of instruction.

I have given this much thought and realize God says this as the reason for what the people are to do, not do, or celebrate. It is the “because”. The reason for all the specific actions they were to take were because God was their God. They were not doing these things for themselves or another god. It was solely because God wanted them to. I can imagine a foreigner seeing a Jew not picking every last berry from his strawberry patch and asking why. A Jew might say, “because God is my God, and He has instructed us not to.” God was the reason.

As our Lord too, God is the reason for many things in our life. Consider what questions we could be asked where you (or I) would answer “because God is the Lord my God.” Maybe someone would ask why you say a blessing before eating. Maybe they might see us get up on Sunday and go to church even after a very late Saturday night event while all our friends are sleeping in. Yet again, Leviticus reminds us by this repetition that if we say“God is the Lord our God” then our lives will also speak of this truth.

Stand out…

screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-10-09-49-amPrintable15screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-10-09-43-amToday, in Leviticus, God is teaching his people how not to be “defiled”. Fortunately this is just Old Testament stuff about eating, laws of the land, idol worship and so forth, so they do not particularly pertain to us, do they?

Yes, they do. The God of the Old Testament is not different from God in the New Testament. He still wants His people to not be “defiled” by those around them. He still wants His people to be separate and different so that they can remain in relationship with Him and be His people.

Are you one of God’s people? Am I? Is He our Lord and God-as He mentions in today’s verse? Think about what this verse says to you and I right now. What characteristic of God and our relationship with Him is He revealing to us? God is saying, “Don’t be like those around you who are not mine, those who do not belong to me. They will do things, “practices”, that you should not be doing. You instead, should be careful to follow my decrees; my rules, not theirs.” This idea to be different and not like those around us is clearly reiterated in Romans 12 where we are told to not be conformed to this world, but instead to be transformed.

If God is our Lord and God, we should not be following the practices of those around us. In the days of Leviticus, that included not sacrificing to the goat idols, and not having inappropriate relations with relatives. I would guess these are not issues we struggle with, so we have it easy, right? No, we do not. It is just that our issues are different. Today, I want us to seriously think about what those issues are specifically. Think of 3 right now for you in particular. As a 51 year old mom, I would say for me a few examples I see might be women my age enjoy reading books like “50 Shades of Gray”, married women freely post or talk about how cute a certain actor is and moms my age have no problem letting their daughters sleep over at their boyfriends house . These are “common” practices of women my age in the US. These are a start in things I should not be doing, that would be honoring to God and keep me “separate” or “set apart” from those around me. There are many more practices I need to think about and ask God to show me how I can better follow Him and follow His commands. How about you? How do you see yourself standing out as separate from the crowd? What specific practices that are common in those around you in your generation do not jive with God’s commands? Is it obvious that God is “the Lord our God” or do we completely blend in just like everyone else around us?

No more lots and no luck…

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-12-30-26-pmPrintable15screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-12-30-31-pmPicture this: 2 goats. One to be killed, the other to go free. The choice is made by “casting lots”-similar to a coin toss, except God controls the landing. As you can see in today’s verse, the goat who is unfortunate enough to have the lot “fall” on them, is sacrificed as a sin offering. Our world would call this very “bad luck.”112816

As I read this in Leviticus today, it reminded me of the Hunger Games. Each district has 1 person chosen by “lot” so to speak, who has to play in the game, and most likely get killed. Katniss sister, Prim,  was the “unlucky” one in the Hunger Games. The goat on whom the lot falls is  the “unlucky” in Leviticus. But for us and dealing with sin today-there are no games, no lots, no coin toss and no luck. There is only sin and a payment required for it.

This payment is not chosen by lot anymore. Instead, all people pay the offering themselves or allow Christ to pay it for them. Those are the only 2 choices.

As always,  a person’s life will at some point or another give evidence as to who is their “Savior”-Christ or themselves. The activities we choose to do, the things we watch, the words we speak, what brings us joy or grieves us all gives evidence of who is our Savior-ourself or Christ.  Our lives are the testimony for others to see who is our “sin offering”. Leviticus is a good reminder today that sin requires an offering and atonement. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, let’s be thankful our sin is paid for in full-and doesn’t require goats, lots, luck or anything else. Then, because of this, may we live a life that is a living testimony to the one who offered himself as a living sacrifice for our sins once and for all.

Be selfish today…

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screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-11-50-44-amDad will be on a plane today to Texas. I guarantee the stewardess will at some point give those famous emergency instructions:  “If you are helping a child with an oxygen mask, put yours on first-then help the child.” This is one case to be “selfish” in a sense. There is also a biblical scenario in which we are to be “selfish.” This is the case where we want to serve and help others in their “getting right” with God.  In this case, we need to take care of our own selves first. We have to be right with God.

There is no helping others spiritually if we are living in disobedience and sin with God. Look at today’s verse. God made this very clear in the beginning of setting up his own people and the tabernacle. The priests, Aaron and his family, were to cleanse themselves and make offerings for their own forgiveness before they could start to help and present offerings for the people. They literally had to physically clean themselves and wear special clothes as well as present an offering to make atonement for themselves.

Again, the Old Testament is modeling something for us that still stands today. Yesterday we were reminded to confess our sins to restore our relationship with God. Today, we are reminded this needs to be done before we can be of any help to anyone else. Is there someone you have tried to encourage spiritually or that you have been praying for. Has it seemed “unfruitful”? Maybe we need to “atone” for our own sins, confessing to God, before we will be able to serve in helping another in any manner of thankfulness, restoration or forgiveness. So in this case, today, I encourage us to go ahead, “be selfish” and take care of ourselves first.  By doing this first, we will then be able to help others more effectively.

Keep the pattern going…

screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-11-32-03-amPrintable15screen-shot-2016-11-16-at-11-31-32-amI love a good  lamb gyro. I don’t like to take a live lamb, slaughter it, smear some of its blood on a horn, pour the rest of the blood out, remove its fat, and then burn the animal. That would take a lot of time, be very messy, probably smell and be a lot of work-not to mention it would be sad to have to kill any lamb myself.  Fortunately, I don’t have to and you don’t either.

Today’s verse about offerings is just one out of many in the chapters in Leviticus on all the different sacrifices  and offerings God commanded of his people so they could restore their relationship with Him. God was specific and there was a clear pattern. It went like this:
1️⃣ Sin
2️⃣ Guilt
3️⃣ Atonement
4️⃣ Forgiveness

We do not need to do sacrifices today, thank goodness. Unfortunately, we do still sin, so what are we to do?

The pattern from Leviticus that God laid out for forgiveness and restoration really has not changed at all. We still sin. We are still guilty. Restoration in our relationship with God still requires atonement and forgiveness. The atonement and forgiveness are thankfully already there now through Christ’s permanent blood sacrifice on the cross, but what about the restored relationship? In the New Testament, we are told to confess our sin to God. I John 1:9 clearly states “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. We no longer need lambs, blood, or altars, but we do still have guilt from sin. Atonement and forgiveness are still the path to restoration with God. Unconfessed sin and lack of repentance toward sin can still greatly affect our relationship with God.

When was the last time you or I actually confessed a specific sin  (by name)  to God and then asked for His forgiveness and help turning away from that sin? I can admit, it was not recently for me. If it was not recently for you either, why not? Do we not think 1 John 1:9 is necessary? Is it a command we can just ignore and disobey? Have you felt distant from God recently? Maybe we need to go back to the Levitical pattern and remind ourselves that some things have not changed when it comes to restoring our relationship with our God, and we can start by confessing our sins frequently and honestly and let that become a pattern in our life.

Committed or not?

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screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-10-07-09-amIf you want to build your muscles, you look at work out plans and commit to faithfully doing it. If you want to lose weight,  you commit to eating less. If you want to walk with God, you commit to repenting of sin and asking for God’s help to be transformed. So, are we really committed?

This week’s Scripture verse points to a sin in all of our lives that needs “working” on: the sin of “exalting oneself”.  The question is, are we serious enough about drawing near to God, to admit this, and ask God to help us? If so, read on.

Everyday in life we choose to exalt ourselves or be humble in hundreds of ways. Exalting ourselves is really pride, and it is the opposite of humility. I don’t think I need to explain today’s verse. It is easily understood. Here’s my challenge-what are you and I going to do about this verse?

John Piper has a great article on “Subtle Symptoms of Pride”. I have listed here the 7 symptoms he mentions. I am sure there are more, but these are a good start. I suggest we all look at these and ask God to show us which of these are our greatest areas of sin in regards to pride. If we are really serious, we could ask a close friend what they think is our weakest area on the list. Then ask for God’s help to repent and change in those areas-with a heart committed to doing so. Only then, will we move toward what Matthew points out today, where we put ourselves in a position to be exalted, because we live a life of humility.

Equation solving and obedience…

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-9-49-16-amPrintable15screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-9-49-21-amToday let’s talk algebra and how to solve an equation. There are rules about solving them. I am sure Mrs. Swalm would tell you that if you have an algebraic equation, like this one,
25x + 9(y2-4) = 63

it has to be solved in a certain order. If it is not done it order, the answer will be incorrect.

Moses was not solving algebra during the Exodus, but he did have to follow certain instructions in what he was doing. He was told to build a tabernacle-and God gave him EXTREMELY detailed instructions, down to the color thread to be used in clothing and curtains! He was to follow it exactly.

According to today’s verse, he did. He did everything “as the Lord commanded him.” This phrase “as the Lord commanded him” is repeated 8 times in chapter 40 alone. I get the idea Moses understood what it meant to serve and obey God’s commands.
God has not told us to rebuild the tabernacle, but there are still commands for us to obey. The first one that comes to mind for me is where Jesus gives us a command in John 13:34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another…” Are we obeying that?

As you read through Scripture I encourage us to perhaps take more notice of what God’s instruction and commands are. It is not really that complicated. I would even suggest we start to make a list of the commands he points out to us of things we are to do. Maybe choose one each day to pray about like, “Lord, help me to obey you and to love one another as you have loved me.”

Moses is a great example of a man of God who sought to follow and obey with his whole heart. Would we be able to substitute our name in that verse for Moses’? It is something to consider and strive for each day.

Together like Peanut butter and jelly…

screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-9-32-59-amPrintable15screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-9-33-03-amPeanut butter and jelly, Peter Pan and Wendy,  shoes and socks, Romeo and Juliet, -all these things “go together”. Willingness and a movement of the heart are also a “pair” that goes together according to Exodus. At least, this is what I see in today’s Scripture reading.

We have moved into the actual building of the tabernacle during the exodus. The workers are available, and supplies are needed, which means resources to get the supplies are needed. People who were willing and whose hearts were moved, brought what was needed; an offering. In fact, if you were to read on in Exodus, you would see in a chapter later that “more than enough” was brought by the people! (Ex. 36:5) I wonder if that has ever happened to a church in recent times-where people gave MORE than what was needed. That would certainly be amazing.

This portion of Scripture says people were both willing and their hearts were moved. God was at work and God’s people were in the right place in serving Him. Their desire was to do what was right, to serve God. They were “willing.” God then moved their hearts and his will was accomplished in this project.

We know that God is a “project worker.” We know that His ultimate project is to spread the gospel worldwide. We know part of this is done by daily good works He has prepared in advance for us to do, just as he prepared His people in Exodus. We know He will provide the materials and skills necessary to accomplish these works. Are we willing? Are our hearts softened and attentive to God’s stirring of our hearts to do a certain thing? Have you personally heard or felt him urge you recently to do something you know was of Him?As you and I go through our day today, may our hearts be moved to do things for God-to act a certain way, to say a certain thing, to help a person or maybe, to give money to someone doing God’s work. May we too play a part in doing great things today to God’s glory and for His purposes.

Power and Influence…

screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-8-54-46-amPrintable15screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-8-54-41-amIt s election day today. It is a landmark election for a number of reasons, one of which is the possibility of a female president for the first time. In many people’s eyes, this will be the pinnacle of success for women as far as reaching the ultimate level of power. I would like to set forth another thought-women have always had far more “power” and “influence” than they perhaps ever knew. God pointed this out thousands of years ago. Today as we look at this verse in Exodus, I encourage you boys to consider the influence of women on you and us women, to realize the power we have been given and to use it wisely.

As you can see, God warned the Israelites back in Moses day to how marrying women who were idol worshipers would end. He tells the Israelites they will lead their sons astray. They did. History shows this over and over. Women still can and do cause men to go astray.

Boys-the girls you surround yourself with now and more importantly, the woman you choose for a wife will have a far greater influence on you, your life and your spiritual walk than you can ever imagine. Choose well. I hope you are already praying about this. Consider what you will be looking for. Consider how you as a husband will want to lead your wife and nurture her so that she is a helpmate to you and not a bad influence. How will you love her to encourage this?

Miriam, myself, and any other women reading this: Consider the influence we have on our husbands and/or the men around us. It is far greater than we may imagine. How are we using that influence? Are we helpmates or are we prostituting ourselves to other gods, and leading men astray with our words, actions, clothing and more.
Whether we end up with a female president today or not, women have always had power. The question is, will we use it to encourage men in their walk with the Lord, or will we use it to destroy them? Please take God’s warning seriously and with great prayer, consider what the influence and power of women are and how God would be most glorified by its use.