Your Broken Body, A Freewill Offering

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1

God has had me in Leviticus lately; a place Beth Moore affectionately calls “the graveyard of anyone who commits to read the Bible in a year.” However, I’m powering through it, not for the first time, but discovering all kinds of ponderable things this time through.

This time, I’m mesmerized by the specificity with which God describes each type of sacrifice and offering.

The sacrifices and offerings described in Leviticus never truly did away with sin. The animals were merely a portrayal of the ultimate sacrifice to come—Jesus Christ. That is why the offerings for sin, guilt and purity always required an animal without spot or blemish.

Have you ever wondered about Paul’s meaning in Romans 12:1 of, “ … present your bodies a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God … “ .

Those who believe in Christ as savior understand that Christ paid our debt. He was the final sacrifice. There is no more blood to be shed, work to be done or sacrifice to be offered. And even if there were, we are painfully aware that our imperfections would exclude us from being an acceptable sacrifice. What kind of offering could we possibly be, that Paul would urge us to … oh …

Present. That’s an important word. It implies to bring something to someone or surrender it to them for their purposes. In other words, it’s a willingly given offering. It is not an offering demanded for payment. It is not required by law, but Paul urges us—“by the mercy of God” to do this. It’s only reasonable he says.

The freewill offering is the only offering in the Old Testament in which God said the Israelites could present a blemished animal. That’s you and me. It is only in this capacity, freely presented, that our blemished, broken bodies are of any use or value to a holy God. (Leviticus 22:21-23)

You see, Christ did pay the ultimate sacrifice. His sacrifice for sin was required. Without it, all of humanity is damned. But now, we are overflowing with gratitude. We are stunned speechless by undeserved mercy. Now, it is that mercy, the mercy of God, that compels us to bring forward our damaged bodies and present them to our Father. And the beauty of it is, because of Jesus, they are acceptable.

“Assent From Darkness” Review, Day 3

Satanism is essentially all about self; it literally forces you to turn inward in such a way that all of your thoughts are dominated by the desire to please the self.

Since the Tower of Babel, actually since Eve ate the fruit in her desire to, “be like God knowing good and evil,” mankind has been tirelessly driven to gain power, to conquer, rule and master his environment. Oh that he would spend as much time working to master and gain control over his own passions.

In his book, Accent From Darkness, Leehan admits that one of the complications that made it so difficult for him to walk away from Satanism is loss of personal power.

I held on to my depression, hate, and anger with a vise-like ferocity. This was the fruit of my satanic harvest, and I refused to surrender it. I was intent on holding onto the dark power I’d gained.

It’s amazing that this Satanist felt more power in his daily life than most Christians feel in a lifetime. How is that possible?

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. Eph. 1:18-23

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:1-4

The Bible makes it abundantly clear that we are not without power and that the power available to us is infinitely greater than any power leveled against us. So why so weak? (Believe me, I’m preaching to myself here.)

A key difference in the tiny, self-serving power offered by Satan and the limitless power offered by our Father, is that God does not give us power. God remains the sole possessor of His great power.

For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstbornn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

Romans 8:29-34

It remains that God is the one who chooses. He is for us, He sacrificed for us, He rescued us, He defends us, He pleads for us, He glorifies us. To know and experience God’s power for and through us we must learn humility, submission, gratitude. But isn’t that more wonderful? In Christ we can rest like a child, fight with courage and win like a warrior – for eternity. 

Prayer for Crushing Idols

Last weekend, I was disappointed because Patrick had to work. I look forward to our Saturday morning coffee times. We roll out of bed about 7 a.m.  and sit our butts right back down in cozy living room chairs with steaming cups of banana nut-flavored coffee and the computer. Sounds romantic right? Well, we don’t get cable and we don’t pay for newspaper delivery, so Yahoo News, and FOX online do the trick. After browsing a few depressing stories, our search deteriorates to the funniest pictures of animals, or YouTube bloopers.

But this last weekend, one of his soldiers got a DUI, so Patrick called the whole company in for a corporal punishment of 8 hours of safety classes. But my greatest Lover, my Heavenly Father, met me right there. This week, I promised to share Scripture prayers with you. The Bible is laced with perfect narratives, supernatural dialogue and personal scripts for prayer. I am without excuse for prayer-less-ness. Saturday morning, God got personal.

I am doing a wonderful Bible study called In His Image, by Setting Captives Free. I had been doing it infrequently, a day every couple weeks, but I’ve been missing out! God has used my study mentor and the probing questions to dig deeply into the lingering worship that I ascribe to food and exercise. The Bible talks several times about the Israelites “following God,” and yet at the same time refusing to tear down their high places of idol worship. I often find myself in that exact position: daily serving and following God, all the while with my idolatrous alters standing in the background. Why? Is it a safety net? The idea that I can always go back?

So, Father brought me again to a place of surrender. I want to share with you the verses that He strung together and draped as a garland around my neck. When I am inhaling, exhaling, gazing at and living in God’s word, then I am beautiful.

“My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment,
do not let them out of your sight;
they will be life for you,
an ornament to grace your neck.” Proverbs 3:22

Father, today (Saturday, April 28, 2012) I lay my body and my appetites before you in reasonable and rightful worship. [Romans 12:1] I choose to renew my mind in your word and conform it to your perfect, personal will. I am setting my mind purposefully on your Holy Spirit, grateful for and convinced of your promise of life and peace. Just as you raised Jesus from the dead, you can and will fill my body with life. [Romans 12, 8] I confess to you that I am unable to do this at all – but you promised to help me in weakness. Intercede for me and personally meet my needs and bless me. I am opening my very mouth before you – fill it. [Ps. 81:10] I will feast on your sufficient word, it is my delight. [Jer. 15:16] I hear you call my name. Speak Lord, your servant is listening.

P.S. Check out this WONDERFUL WEBSITE!(picture above courtesy of… 365 Promises

Want To Read Someone’s Diary?

Most of you may not realize that each time you read this blog, you are flipping through the pages of my journal. Have you ever wondered where Scripture came from? Particularly, the Pentateuch? In the New Testament, on several occasions, God instructs the authors to “write this down.” Peter even refers to Paul’s writing as scripture. It seems clear that most of the New Testament authors knew what they were writing and why.

Outside of the Gospels, the New Testament reads a little like a sermon. It’s full of instruction, admonition, encouragement. It’s the correspondence between itinerant pastors and their churches. But what about the Old Testament? This week we are taking a close look at Moses: the friend of God, the most humble man that ever lived, the stutterer, the shepherd of God’s people, the son of a Hebrew, the son of an Egyptian princess.

I am plodding through the Bible in a year, this time chronologically. As I skip between chapters of the Old Testament, most of the first 5 books are written cohesively, each episode in order. Episode, maybe I mean “entry.” I think the Pentateuch reads like Moses’s journal. Think of it, Moses writes about:

1. What God is doing

2. What his fellow Israelites are doing

3. What he is learning

4. His failures

5. His triumphs

6. His prayers

7. His complaints

8. His travels

9. Illness and miracles

10. His siblings, his in-laws and his wife

I wonder if God told Moses that one day the world would have the opportunity to read his journal?

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

Being a journaler, I submit to you that we are not the only benefactors of Moses’s journal. It’s obvious in Deuteronomy 1, that Moses is beginning to read out loud his journal entries from past decades. “At that time I said to you…” (Duet. 1: 9) Throughout the Old Testament, God instructed His people to erect monuments, altars, tell their children, remember…

Do I learn from my past? Do I consider the mistakes of my predecessors and learn from them? Moses went from being a murderer and a liar, to being called the “most humble man that ever lived.” He talked with God face-to-face. He was a friend of God.  Moses certainly wasn’t perfect, but how was he perfected?

What Fell?

Did you ever think about what fell in “The Fall”? Usually, we think about sin entering the world. Before Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, we know that there was no death, no hate, no sexual impropriety. There was no lying, fear, anger, bitterness or rebellion. There was no cursing, fighting, disobedience, murder or cheating. But what about pain?

The Bible says that in heaven there will be no tears, no pain. Revelation 21:3-4

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

This morning I drudged my way through “Kinesiology and Functional Anatomy” in my course book for the NESTA personal trainer certification. It’s a tough chapter. But even as I flunked my first attempt at the practice test, I have to admit, it’s incredibly interesting. Just as God had an original intent for our lives: the praise of His glory, He had an original, perfect plan for our bodies.

Just a couple examples:

The heart has its own pacemaker and is self regulated. Not once have you ever had to tell your heart to beat

Our bodies were made to work and our muscles, even our bones, grow stronger in response to this stimulus

But what happens when we abuse or damage one little thing? I had to go to the doctor today because I’ve been experiencing some knee pain. At first, I rolled my eyes when he told me that my knee pain was related to the callus on my big toe. He quickly explained that the callus was indicative of over-pronation in my foot, which in turn was affecting my knee. Wow!

It’s similar in our spiritual lives. It only took one sin – the intentional act of disobedience of eating a food God forbade – to introduce the painful sins and consequences that we experience today. In many ways, the continued degradation of human behavior is a consequence of the first sin. That doesn’t mean we’re innocent! Just because Adam’s sin started the downward spiral doesn’t mean we are simply victims of sin.  

Jesus Christ came to redeem sinners. Think of it as: Jesus lived a perfect life, building up antibodies to the illness we are suffering from, sin. Then, on the cross, he poured out His blood, gave His life in order to offer us the cure for sin and death. But we cannot become well if we refuse to accept and consume the cure He has made freely available. If we arrogantly despise the sacrifice, forgiveness and healing of Jesus Christ, we can know for sure that our sin will continually, progressively destroy us.

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23

Every single heart beat of every single day, your body is preaching to you the message of salvation. Please listen!

All that glitters isn’t gold…

I am disgusted with myself. I feel like a million tiny spiders of world-life are spanning across my brain. I am awash in ankle-biter issues and things to do. Things, horrible, temporary, things I want. I have no needs, None. And yet my eyes are starry with the glittery things around me. All worthless pursuits become urgent.

This is going to get ugly. This week Blackberry (Rim technologies) experienced global spasms. Growing pains, I guess. Like the millions of other Blackberry owners, I could care less about the literal cause of their problems. I only cared that my phone suddenly failed to collect my emails. My calendar didn’t alert me to appointments and who knows how many phone calls bounced back into technosphere.

Rewind to last Friday. Patrick and I were enjoying breakfast at IHOP when he made the loaded observation that the iPhone is incredibly amazing. You know “everyone” we know has one and they’re “so much better” than our phones. Never mind that we were so excited to get smartphones less than a year ago. Time for an upgrade, right? The rest of that weekend I sleuthed through eBay and unauthorized websites for cheap deals on unlocked iPhones. In fact, I bought one on eBay before I panicked at my worldliness and lust for newness. I contacted the seller and begged him to cancel the transaction.

I survived a few more days ignoring the iPhone users around me, willing myself to be content with my Blackberry. Enter the global glitch. I was instantly convinced that my phone had failed, it must be a sign that I should buy a new phone – an iPhone! Then, when I realized it was a temporary, broader issue, I tried to believe that Blackberry is second-rate and I should still get a new phone.

I don’t know about you, but I can do mental gymnastics over silly decisions such as this. Really, it’s lust. “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Romans 12:2 Suddenly, conviction washed over me. How much time and energy I had wasted shopping around for a cheap new phone? I didn’t like what I saw in the rearview mirror of my day.

This “age” is littered with techno-crap. Who writes a to-do list anymore? We keep it on our smartphone. I can barely read a map (I hate to admit it) the GPS evolved in my lifetime. I don’t like phone conversations – why not email, text or use some other more removed mode of communication. I Need my coffeemaker, I Need my Kindle, I Need my cellphone, my mp3 player, my microwave – my buttons. Staples even coined the “Easy Button.” Isn’t that what we’ve all come to expect? Push-button happiness.

I wonder, has Satan used “progress” to distract us? We are progressively more absorbed by our things that our relationships are withering. And it’s not only our relationships with each other. It’s our relationship with God.

“The true worth of a man is to be measured by the objects he pursues…” Marcus Aurelius

Last Day for a FREE book…

Perhaps one of the reasons that Jesus is so offensive to the world is that He is so counter-intuitive. He is exactly like we don’t expect Him to be. But we fail to realize that HE is exactly what we need Him to be.

As we wrap up this week of reviewing Michael Card’s book, Luke, The Gospel of Amazement, we are at a perfect chapter. Luke chapter 5, is a microcosm of what Card has been highlighting all along – amazement. There are a series of events in this chapter that will either send us running from Jesus screaming, “Mad-man! He has a demon!” or, “Jesus, my Lord and my God.” C.S. Lewis said it well in Mere Christianity,

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”

In this chapter Jesus calls his disciples. Matthew, Card teaches us, was not simply a tax collector. That was his profession, but in his world that made him equal to robbers and murderers. The “tax farmer” was a Jew who collaborated with the Romans to collect taxes. But, in this capacity they often swindled their fellow Jews by collecting beyond what was due and pocketing the surplus.

I have always read this chapter quickly, and acknowledged that it was an unusual thing for Jesus to choose a tax collector as His disciple. But, Card asks us to imagine the dynamics of this band of 12 Christ-followers. Matthew had been collecting taxes and lining his pockets at the expense of men just like Peter and John. Perhaps he had even cheated Peter himself! Jesus not only won 12 men to Himself, but He worked forgiveness, acceptance, mercy and repentance in their hearts.

There is a parable in Luke 5 that has seemed so strange to me that I always read over it quickly. I’ve been embarrassed to say that I have no idea what Jesus was getting at.

“And they said to Him, ‘The disciples of John often fast and offer prayers, the disciples of the Pharisees also do the same, but Yours eat and drink.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘You cannot make the attendants of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them, can you? But the days will come; and when the bridegroom is taken away from them, then they will fast in those days.’ And He was also telling them a parable: ‘No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says,`The old is good enough.'”

Ummm…so?  We use glass for wine now, so is this important?

Jesus is explaining the insufficiency of the Law for salvation. He, Himself is the new wine, the new garment. We cannot apply Jesus to, or fit Him in with, juxtapose along side or in any way entertain both Jesus and our personal efforts to earn salvation. The truth of salvation by faith in Jesus rends the old and burst the former.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17

“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” Romans 3:20-22a

The Pharisees were upset that Jesus and his disciples were not adhering to the Law.  This is the the bridge that Card mentioned before: Luke as a bridge between the old (looking in faith toward Jesus) and the new (following Jesus as Savior). The Pharisees clung desperately the “old ways.” The only way they knew to relate to Yahweh was through sacrifice, ritual washing, fasting and scheduled prayers.

Here Jesus tells them that HE is counter to what they have believed and superior to their most earnest efforts – they cannot combine the old way and the new way. There is no hope for good deeds, the Law cannot save. But Jesus has made all things new.

Alright – hit the keyboard! You only have a matter of hours to make your comments and be given the chance to win a copy of, Luke, The Gospel of Amazement. 

Women are Inferior To Men…

The Bible says women are inferior to men.  

You’re being a doormat to treat him with such respect when he doesn’t return the favor.

You’ve heard it.

Recently, my little sister’s boss asked her the $24,000 question.  As a mom-to-be and a new home owner, her priorities are shifting.  In the midst of an unrelated conversation he asked, “Do you think your husband’s job is more important that yours?”

Wow, feminists, I can hear you roaring!  I smell the bacon frying and you’re on your way back out the door to trample on every man who gets in your way.

Kelsey said, “Yes.”  Now, there are plenty of logical reasons – Kelsey is going to be taking maternity leave at the very least and be unable to work for a while, and Blake makes more money, to name two.  But really, she told me, her heart is committed to the Biblical description of Christian behavior.  She is proud of and loves her home.  She is anxious to fill their new house with baby things, a loving atmosphere and if she’s lucky – puppies!  Kelsey does not plan to sign her life away to a progressive career before her first child is even born.

So, Christian, is a woman inferior to a man?   Can she achieve less?  Is she doomed to servanthood all her days?

“Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.”  1 Peter 3:1,2

I can hear you protesting.  Did you only look at those two verses?  Step back, take in the full view.  Start in 1 Peter 2:13-25.  I’ll excerpt some of it for you.

“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.” (v.13) …jump…

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His footsteps.” (v. 21)  Jesus was abused, ignored, reviled and slandered.  Even in the worst of circumstances, Jesus submitted himself without retaliation or indignation.  He entrusted himself to God, who judges justly.

If Jesus Christ submitted Himself to the Father’s will in order to ransom me, then, can I not submit myself to any authority figure, knowing that ultimately (whether they realize it or not) I am subjected to and judged justly by God?

And men, don’t think you’re off the hook!  Just a few verses down, there’s another “Likewise.”

The command to submit is not limited to women any more than salvation is limited to men.  Christ-like behavior is to, “Honor everyone.  Love the brotherhood.  Fear God.  Honor the emperor.” 1 Peter 2:17

“Outdo one another in showing honor.” Romans 13:10