Posts Tagged ‘the Holy Spirit’

Judges 3:7-11 (Part 3 of 3)
Othniel Becomes Israel’s Judge

Getting in the zone. You know those times when you get really focused on something where everything else seems out there but a blurry blob. Sometimes, we have to have that extraordinary focus to accomplish a task that has been assigned to us. I know that most people would think that being an accountant is a passionless job. However, it has been my passion for 30 plus years now. I don’t know if it is the work itself or that I have this masochistic need to accomplish the seeming unaccomplishable. But that extraordinary focus used to be expressed as an internal auditor back in that part of my career where I worked for big corporations who had business holdings around the country and sometimes around the world. As internal auditors for these big companies, we used to have to fly into these locations and do internal audits of their financial records and analyze the efficiency of their day to day operations.

We would have to do internal audits of these locations and the work we had to do in just normal 8-hour workdays would take anywhere from three to four weeks. Usually, we only had two sets of Monday-Friday to get these audits done. It required working at least 10 hours a day on site, going to dinner for a little while, and then working another 3 or 4 hours back in the room. I used to get to go to neat places like London, York, and Sandwich, England, or Cork, Ireland, or the Cayman Islands, or Puerto Rico, or Ensenada, Mexico, or the Bahamas among many others over the years and people would say that they would envy having a job like mine. I would always say, be careful what you wish for, because we would be working 13-14 hour days getting these audits done. There was very little time to go live the wild life in these locations (unless we spent the weekend there in between the two weeks of work). The work was the thing. I guess it was through these jobs that I gained this dedication to task and the ability to break down tasks into their smallest components and then chunk away at them. In these internal audits, it would require great focus to make sure that you got all your audit programs completed and that all our audit workpapers were more than adequately documented to prove that you actually did the work and did it professionally (and had not cut any corners to do it). And, when there was an audit finding, you had to make sure that you had it so well supporting that the management at the auditee location could in no way dispute the veracity of your finding. And to get it all done in two weeks required great focus of mind and dedication to task no matter how seemingly insurmountable it seemed. It was good training for today that is for sure.

Now, I am and have been comptroller for Fujikura America, Inc. for almost 9 years now. I will celebrate that event on October 6th coming up soon. That job alone requires great focus month after month and day after day. We are a small part of a larger US group of Fujikura companies and an even smaller part of the global Fujikura family of companies but that does not mean I have any less work than any of our larger sister companies. We have a small staff and there is much work to be done by each person in my finance group. I carry a big load of work myself and especially at month-end when we have to get the books closed in 2 business days. It requires great focus. I get in a zone. People around me are just a blur as I complete my 20 different tasks during those two days. It is like a blur, those two days. It is like the rest of the office does not exist. I get so focused on what I am doing that people coming up to my desk actually scare me when they speak to me because I did not see them coming. It startles me. I just get so laser-focused on what I am doing that nothing else can penetrate that psyche that I have at month-end. Then after those two days of closing, there is another 2 days of generating reports, analyzing and commenting upon them and the doing the final reporting to Japan. After those four days of closing and reporting are done, I come up for air. I look back and go wow! Another laser-focused moment in time complete. Another monumental task accomplished. I also find that the same is true for me overall as I not only perform my busy secular job, but also perform the same tasks on a lighter scale for my church. Add to that I am pursuing my D.Min. degree. My life in general requires scheduling tasks, great focus, and time management.

I think that is why I value my vacations so much. My wife and I get to unplug. I get to drop off the grid of my life for a moment. Get some rest. Then, when it’s over, it’s back to laser-focus. It’s back to the zone. I know that all of this is similar to when the Holy Spirit takes over with us as Christians. Sometimes, though we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we have to have a special dose of Holy Spirit power to accomplish something great for the kingdom. Let’s read Judges 3:7-11 now for the second of three reads:

7 The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord; they forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. 8 The anger of the Lord burned against Israel so that he sold them into the hands of Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram Naharaim,[a] to whom the Israelites were subject for eight years. 9 But when they cried out to the Lord, he raised up for them a deliverer, Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, who saved them. 10 The Spirit of the Lord came on him, so that he became Israel’s judge[b] and went to war. The Lord gave Cushan-Rishathaim king of Aram into the hands of Othniel, who overpowered him. 11 So the land had peace for forty years, until Othniel son of Kenaz died.

In this passage, we see that this phrase, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him,” was spoken of the judges, Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson, among others. It expresses a temporary and spontaneous increase of physical, spiritual, or mental strength. This was an extraordinary and supernatural occurrence to prepare for a special task. Today, the Holy Spirit is available to all believers, but for special tasks he may come upon believers in an extraordinary way. We should ask the Holy Spirit’s help as we face our daily problems as well life’s major challenges.

There are people who throughout Christian history who had special moments in which the Holy Spirit has given them that extra lift, that extra needed infusion to accomplish great things for the kingdom. Just think of Peter, and Paul, and the other disciples that spread the gospel throughout the Roman Empire within a century after Jesus’s death, burial and resurrection. Think of modern day folks like Martin Luther King, Jr. who went against all odds for years against institutional racism in the South. He went from being a nice little preacher in a nice little black church to a series of moments in time where He had to stand fast on God’s Word against hatred and fear of change. That was Holy Spirit power sustaining him when it would have been just as easy to quit and say the task cannot be accomplished. Think of Joshua leading the conquest of the Promised Land. It took over 7 years to accomplish that task. He had to have those laser-focused times of spirit-filled infusion of the Holy Spirit.

When we think of the Holy Spirit power that raised Jesus from the grave. That same power that raised Him from the grave is living in us as Christ followers every day. That same power that brought Jesus’ lifeless human vessel back to life. That same power in you and me. That same power we can call upon when we have insurmountable tasks for the kingdom to accomplish. When we are called to plant a church in a strange place, the Holy Spirit will give us great infusion of His power to accomplish what He has called us to do. When we get down and out about our life’s circumstances and how we are crushed and defeated, the Holy Spirit power that raised Jesus from the dead can be called upon to deliver us from that which oppresses and defeats us. We have the power in us. We have that which will give us laser-focus to do what needs to be done. We have that which we give us abilities far beyond what we can do on our own. We have that which will empower us to be bold for the kingdom. We have the Holy Spirit!

Amen and Amen.

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Numbers 9:1-14 (Part 1)

The Second Passover

As we move on from our nine part review of Numbers 8:5-26, we move into the one of the final preparations before the Israelites leave Mt. Sinai and head for the Promised Land. God asked them to remember the night before they left Egypt and hold a second Passover feast. It reminds me of what we do when we share our testimony.

 

Every so often in the small group that my wife and I lead, particularly when a new couple comes into our group, I ask the whole group to publicly share their personal journey to salvation and what their lives have been like since coming to know Jesus Christ as their Savior. It is a way for us to make connections with each other. Sometimes when new people enter a church small group, they may think that nobody in the group has a past of which they are not particularly proud, or that they do not have problems in their lives right now. Sharing our stories is a way to level the playing field between those of us who have been in our small group for a couple of years and those who have just entered.

 

The sharing of our stories helps us in two ways. First, it allows the new members of our group to get to know the people in our life group. They get to see that we all have warts and imperfections. It is a way to make them feel at home. There is nothing worse than a group of church people being together acting as if they have perfect lives and that nothing is wrong. The new folks get to see we are just as screwed up as they are. There’s no better icebreaker than that! To find out that people you are going to potentially hangout with for the next few years are just like you – Christ followers who are just trying to make sense of their world and follow Christ as we are doing it. Second, it allows us, those who have had to share our stories within our group several times, to continue to mature our stories. Each time we share our stories, it allows us to see again what God has done in our lives. Each time, God allows us to remember more details about our story of our run-up to the cross and our life since. Each time we share, we flesh out more details that are important to our story. Each time we share, we may bring out or emphasize different things than the last time so that our story becomes more complete. Each time we share, we learn more about our own walk with Jesus Christ and how it truly has changed us from the person we used to be. Each time we share, the Holy Spirit will inevitably make us realize something new about what God has done for us. Each time we share our story, the picture becomes more complete. Each time we share our story, it makes it easier for us to recount our story. Each time we share our story, it helps us remember and solidify the history of what God has done. We can never let ourselves forget what our life was like before the cross, what was happening in our life right around our moment of salvation, and what our life has been like since our salvation. It is important to know and remember our salvation history. It is important to remember what God has done.

 

Passover was the celebration at which God had prescribed for the Jews to celebrate their liberation from slavery in Egypt at the hand of God. There is no other way for them to have escaped Egypt except by the power of God Himself. Passover is the way they remembered these momentous events. God is saying here in Numbers 9:1-14 that they must remember. They must recount and celebrate and imitate the night before their freedom from Egypt. The second Passover was the beginning of this annual remembrance so that Israel would never forget what God had done for them.

 

Let’s read through the passage, Numbers 9:1-14, for the first time this morning and for this morning, let’s concentrate on vv. 1-5:

 

 

9 The Lord spoke to Moses in the Desert of Sinai in the first month of the second year after they came out of Egypt. He said, 2 “Have the Israelites celebrate the Passover at the appointed time. 3 Celebrate it at the appointed time, at twilight on the fourteenth day of this month, in accordance with all its rules and regulations.”

 

4 So Moses told the Israelites to celebrate the Passover, 5 and they did so in the Desert of Sinai at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. The Israelites did everything just as the Lord commanded Moses.

 

6 But some of them could not celebrate the Passover on that day because they were ceremonially unclean on account of a dead body. So they came to Moses and Aaron that same day 7 and said to Moses, “We have become unclean because of a dead body, but why should we be kept from presenting the Lord’s offering with the other Israelites at the appointed time?”

 

8 Moses answered them, “Wait until I find out what the Lord commands concerning you.”

 

9 Then the Lord said to Moses, 10 “Tell the Israelites: ‘When any of you or your descendants are unclean because of a dead body or are away on a journey, they are still to celebrate the Lord’s Passover, 11 but they are to do it on the fourteenth day of the second month at twilight. They are to eat the lamb, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12 They must not leave any of it till morning or break any of its bones. When they celebrate the Passover, they must follow all the regulations. 13 But if anyone who is ceremonially clean and not on a journey fails to celebrate the Passover, they must be cut off from their people for not presenting the Lord’s offering at the appointed time. They will bear the consequences of their sin.

 

14 “‘A foreigner residing among you is also to celebrate the Lord’s Passover in accordance with its rules and regulations. You must have the same regulations for both the foreigner and the native-born.’”

 

The Passover celebration was to celebrate what God had done. It was to help God’s people to give God glory. It was to remind them (because we humans have short memories when it comes to what God has done for us) that it was not by their own power but the miracles of God that they escaped Egypt. It was to remind them of where they had been and where they were going. It was to keep the story of God’s deliverance fresh in their mind. It is remembrance. It is history. It is glory to God. Sometimes, we need to sit back and remember what God has done.

 

In the busy-ness of our lives where we get all wrapped up in ourselves and our little universes and our little first world problems, we need reminding. When the internet is down or the power goes off for a couple of hours, we need reminding. When we have to juggle work schedules and our kids’ dance recitals or football games or cheer competitions, we need reminding. When we have a fight over what show we are going to watch or what restaurant we are going to, we need reminding. When we stress over our first world luxuries as if they are necessities, we need reminding. When we obsess over our investments, we need reminding. When we see the choice between Hillary and Donald as the worst possible thing ever, we need reminding. When we blast people on Facebook for not living according to our own standards, we need reminding. When we are tempted to sin, we need reminding. When we think we have arrived, we need reminding. When church leadership becomes more about checking off things on a to-do list of assignments than it is about giving God glory and reaching people for Christ, we need reminding. When we get so wrapped up in our own problems and our own abilities to solve them, we need reminding. Even for us who know Christ as our Savior for many years, we need to be reminded of just what Christ has done in our lives. We need to be reminded of the disaster that was our lives before we met Him. We need to be reminded of how we cast all pride in ourselves aside and got down on our knees and asked Jesus Christ to come into our lives and take it over (we need to remember that feeling of terror followed by complete release). We need to be reminded how God is continually transforming our lives since that point. We need to be reminded how He has truly changed us. In some areas and then in some areas where His change in us has been swift and painful. In some areas it has been slow and painful. In some areas, His change in us has been welcome relief. We need to remember that at the moment of salvation we are not the person we are now thanks to God! We mature in Christ. We are honed and chiseled by God into more Christ-likeness with each passing day. By sharing our story, we can see how He is maturing us. How the unholy things that we might have accepted as OK and justifiable in our early Christian walk now are things that we are revolted by now. We need reminding of where we were and where we are now. God’s miracles in our lives are so evident when we think about it. That’s why we remember. That’s why we need reminding.

 

Passover was to be the same thing to the Israelites. It was to remind them of God’s power in their lives. It was to remind of God’s deliverance from the dark days in Egypt. As we know from the grumblings of the Israelite people, they surely needed reminding. We smugly read how the Israelites seemingly quickly forgot the great things that the Lord had done for them and think “those ungrateful little #%&*’s” But, are we not the same way. We get all wrapped in how things are not. We get all wrapped up in our stuff that seems so important. We get wrapped up in things that don’t really matter. We whine at God for why we are in the position we are in. We need reminding. Let us recount our salvation stories often. That exercise puts things into perspective. Instead of being ungrateful little #%&*’s, we will see the glory of God in a changed life. We will see thanksgiving for what He has done for us in the person and work of Jesus Christ. We will be gracious because of the grace shown us through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit that makes us more like Christ each day. We will give glory to the God of all things that is responsible for it all. That’s why we remember. Because we need reminding!

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 8:5-26 (Part 4)

The Levites Dedicated

Have you ever made a promise to God that you would do something for Him or stop doing something if he gets you out of jam? Many of us do that. Whether it be as crass as a person who, as they say, is “john-hugging drunk” and is, as they say, “making offerings to the porcelain god” where a person swears to God they will never drink again (only to renege on the promise a week later). There are times when we are sober that make deals with God too. If God will stop the pain of a situation such as a broken relationship, where it is simply hard for us to get out of bed in the morning, we may make deals with God if He will just stop the emotional pain that we are experiencing. Other times, we have situations where our lives may be physically in danger and there is seemingly no way out of the situation where we bargain with God. In a lot of this bargaining, we promise to do better. We promise to curtail our bad behaviors. We promise to go to church more often. We promise to read our Bibles more. We generally promise to dedicate ourselves to the Lord in ways that are impossible to maintain. After the crisis, we find it is difficult to be as good as we thought we could be during the time of crisis when we made the promise. When things don’t improve or the situation does not go away, we become disillusioned with the promise that we made to God because we think He did not keep up his end of the bargain. We get angry with God because He did not change our circumstances or we simply find this “churchy” lifestyle more than we are willing to do. Have you ever been there, done that? I know that I have before Jesus became my Savior and Lord.

 

Another example is when we go to church are hear the great music that touches a chord in our souls and the sermon is truly convicting to us and then that final song just creates a well of emotion within us. So much so that we are drawn to come down to the altar at the church during the altar call at the end of the service. We have full intentions of becoming a believer in Jesus Christ but after we leave the church on a spiritual high we find that life is the same. We have the same friends. We have the same lifestyle. Problems still exist. It’s still hard to pay the bills. Your husband, wife, or kids are acting no better. You seem to make the same choices and end up in the same situations. You end up doing the same behaviors over and over again. When nothing seems to have changed you fall away from this spiritual high that you had and the internal promises to do better. These “spiritual warm fuzzies” as I call them are similar to the bargains with God discussed above. The spiritual warm fuzzies are bargains with God as well. It is not a crisis situation often. It’s just a desire to be better and do better. When life doesn’t change the way we expect it to, the bargain we made does not pan out the way we want, we fall away from the Lord.

 

When we go to church for what church can do for us is another example. When we go to church because it is the cool church to be at. When we go to church so that we can work our way into being buddies with the pastor so that it seems that we are holy. When we go to church for the political connections that we can make. When we go to church so that we can get patted on the back for our talents and ingenuity. When we go to church to get praise for the amount of money that we give to the church. When we go to church to have power that we do not have in our non-church life. When we go to church because our best friend goes there. When go to church because the church has programs to that meet the need of my kids. When we go to church because we get to be on a committee or the chairman of a committee. We are bargaining with God. We are wanting payback for living a certain way. We want our needs met. We will always be disappointed when we bargain with God. We have the relationship all out of whack when we bargain with God.

 

It is this idea of making bargains with God that struck me this morning. It was the wave offering that was mentioned in this passage that brought the idea to mind because I got to wondering what’s the difference between bargains we make with God and the wave offerings in the Old Testament. Let’s read the full passage together and then let’s concentrate on v. 11 for today after we have read through it:

 

5 The Lord said to Moses: 6 “Take the Levites from among all the Israelites and make them ceremonially clean. 7 To purify them, do this: Sprinkle the water of cleansing on them; then have them shave their whole bodies and wash their clothes. And so they will purify themselves. 8 Have them take a young bull with its grain offering of the finest flour mixed with olive oil; then you are to take a second young bull for a sin offering.[a] 9 Bring the Levites to the front of the tent of meeting and assemble the whole Israelite community. 10 You are to bring the Levites before the Lord, and the Israelites are to lay their hands on them. 11 Aaron is to present the Levites before the Lord as a wave offering from the Israelites, so that they may be ready to do the work of the Lord.

 

12 “Then the Levites are to lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, using one for a sin offering to the Lord and the other for a burnt offering, to make atonement for the Levites. 13 Have the Levites stand in front of Aaron and his sons and then present them as a wave offering to the Lord. 14 In this way you are to set the Levites apart from the other Israelites, and the Levites will be mine.

 

15 “After you have purified the Levites and presented them as a wave offering, they are to come to do their work at the tent of meeting. 16 They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me. I have taken them as my own in place of the firstborn, the first male offspring from every Israelite woman. 17 Every firstborn male in Israel, whether human or animal, is mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set them apart for myself. 18 And I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel. 19 From among all the Israelites, I have given the Levites as gifts to Aaron and his sons to do the work at the tent of meeting on behalf of the Israelites and to make atonement for them so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary.”

 

20 Moses, Aaron and the whole Israelite community did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses. 21 The Levites purified themselves and washed their clothes. Then Aaron presented them as a wave offering before the Lord and made atonement for them to purify them. 22 After that, the Levites came to do their work at the tent of meeting under the supervision of Aaron and his sons. They did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses.

 

23 The Lord said to Moses, 24 “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, 25 but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. 26 They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.”

 

It is the wave offering that caught my attention this morning. What is it? I had never really noticed this concept before when reading in the Old Testament even though it is there in other Old Testament books that I have studied. So, let’s find out what it is and what it means. According to www.gotquestions.org, a wave offering is:

 

The wave offering, part of the offerings of the Mosaic Law, was the symbolic act indicating that the offering was for the Lord. Portions of the things offered were literally waved in the air before the Lord. The wave offering is first seen in Exodus 29:19-28 in the description of the ordination ceremony of Aaron and his sons… A wave offering was a portion of a sacrifice presented to God, then released by God for the use of those involved in the sacrifice. The meat fed the families of the priests. The Levites served first the tabernacle and then the temple, fulfilling the obligation of the rest of the Israelites. Both were God’s provision for those who sacrificed themselves in service to Him.

 

I guess then the difference between our bargains with God and the wave offerings is then a matter of intent. A wave offering was offered up to the Lord when a true dedication was made, when a real sacrifice was made. The Levites gave up all rights to land and the fruits of it to be dedicated to the service of the Lord. That’s the difference to me between bargaining with the Lord and a wave offering. When we are willing to give up those things that are important to us, the gods of our own making, to be dedicated to the Lord it is different. When we do not see salvation as giving something up but rather gaining something, then we are wave offerings. When we see that we have gained eternity and are willing to follow the Lord and not romanticize our pre-salvation past, then, we are wave offerings. When we realize that we are sinners before a just and righteous God and are willing to follow Him and obey His Word willingly no matter what happens, no matter the cost to us, then we are wave offerings. When we experience real life change where we are in love with God, then, we are wave offerings. When we see life in Jesus as the beginning of a new and better life rather than trying to maintain a life of do’s and don’ts, then, we are wave offering.

 

When we get down on our knees in realization that we are destined for hell and that there is no amount of good stuff that we can do, no amount of service that we can bring, no amount of money we can give, no committee chairmanship great enough, no goody-two-shoe behavior excellent enough, no being friends with the right people at church enough, no being close friends with the preacher enough, no bargains big enough that we can make, to make us right with God and we fall at the feet of Jesus and beg Him to grant us peace and ask Him to be the Lord of our lives and change us from the inside out, we are wave offerings. It only through true salvation, knowing that there is nothing we can do to earn God’s grace and that in the absence of Jesus Christ we are simply hypocrites playing a game, that we can become fully dedicated to the Lord. It is only then that we are truly a wave offering. Anything less is just a bargain that we can’t keep. When we sacrifice our desires and make Christ’s desires our desire, we are wave offerings. When there is humility before the Lord, we are wave offerings. When we place God first and seek His ways and not our own, we are wave offerings. When we realize that we are not in a position to bargain with the Creator of the Universe and that we are not on equal footing to Him and simply fall before His feet and beg His grace and seek His face and humbly serve Him because He granted us grace, then, and only then are we wave offerings to the Lord. All-in. Fully dedicated. Seeing the sacrifices that we made of our old life as gain rather than loss. Understanding who God really is for the first time through the changing power of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Understanding how lucky we are to have Jesus Christ as our Savior. And we jump full-in, all-out into this life dedicated to the will of God (and realizing that we will still make tons of mistakes and that life will not be perfect), we are wave offerings then and not bargainers who have no leverage to bargain but falsely believe that we do.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 8:5-26 (Part 1)

The Levites Dedicated

Sprinkling, Shaving, Washing. We Americans are obsessed with cleanliness. Products related to personal hygiene are a multi-billion dollar industry. We want to be clean. We may sweat during our workouts and while doing labor outdoors, but we hit the shower as soon as we can because we want to be clean. Because of our obsession with cleanliness from our water, to our homes, to our bodies, to our food, it is often difficult for us to travel to third world countries where the water is often not clean, the food not pure, and personal hygiene is often lacking. Disease can fester and spread quickly in places like these. We, Americans, when we travel to such places often have to be extremely careful about what we eat and what we touch and how we cleanse our bodies as our bodies are often not able to handle the raw nature of the environments of third world countries. We have become prima donas almost in that we have to be so careful when we travel to such places.

 

It used to not be that way for me. When I was a kid, I was all boy. The dirtier I got the better. It did not matter to me whether I took a bath or not. I had holes to dig. Trees to climb. Things to do outside. Bikes to ride. Hills to climb. Wars to win in the woods. Bugs to grab and look at and examine. All those things that kids in the 70s would do. Life was a dirty adventure for us boys. The dirtier the better. It you stayed clean all the time, it meant to us boys that you weren’t really living. There were always those boys here and there that had overbearing moms that wouldn’t let their sons get dirty. To us, that was not living – being in fear of getting dirty meant that were so many boy things that you could not do. You missed out on life if you could not get dirty. The old saying that “God made dirt and dirt don’t hurt” was the mantra of most of us boys. Life outside the house was dirty and if you were gonna live the life of a boy, you were gonna get dirty. It was a badge of honor to come home from a day of playing with your clothes so filthy that your mother wondered how one boy could get so dirty and for us to not even care. Even filthy, dirty, we did not think we needed to take baths. We certainly didn’t do it voluntarily. Our moms and dads would have to threaten a “belt whoopin’”, as we would say in the South, for us to even entertain the idea of an evening bath. It just seemed so unnecessary and unnatural. Boys dreamed of being on an island where baths only happened as you swam in the ocean. On the islands of our dreams, there was no pre-set baths to be taken, no routine of brushing teeth, and washing our hair. But, I imagine if we had not been forced to take baths, we would eventually not wanted to sleep in dirty beds. We would have begun to stink. And the greatest fear of a Southern mom in the 70’s, “you can’t go to church looking like that!”

 

We always had to be clean when we went to church. Those Saturday night baths before church the next day had to be extra special. Those baths would have to be supervised by mom or dad. They made sure we got in the tub. They made sure we washed our hair and everything else. They made sure we brushed our teeth. They made sure we clipped our fingernails and toenails. It all seemed so pretentious to us as young boys. But there was honor in that. Making sure that we were clean as possible made us ready to enter the house of the Lord and not some dirty, filthy ragamuffin that I would have been if were not for nightly baths but particularly the Saturday night ones.

 

Later in life though as we grow older, we discover girls and how intoxicatingly clean and pretty they are and out the windows go all the uncaring things of boyhood. We may still not mind getting dirty but before we go meet that girl, we voluntarily get clean. We want the girls to think the best of us and cleanliness was what girls liked. As we grow even older, we play less outdoors and become obsessed with staying clean and keeping healthy through cleanliness. Gone is the little boy from the 70’s that would rather ride his bike through a big mud puddle of dirty red-clay water than ride around it. To us now, dirty just means that we are gonna have to get cleaned up again. Clean sheets. Clean towels. Sterilized toothbrushes. Clean water. Clean floors. Clean tables. Clean cooking surfaces. Clean food. The 4 year old me would look at 54 year old me and ask me to come play in the mud puddle with him and I would probably refuse 8 times out of 10. As we mature, cleanliness becomes important in a way that 4 year old me could not even fathom.

 

It was that idea of what I used to be like as a little boy compared to grown-up me where cleanliness is a premium is the first thing that popped into my mind as I studied this new passage that we have moved to today. When I read through this passage, I found that there are going to be multiple blogs coming from this passage (in part because it is a long passage) because there are some key points that come out of reading it. The first being the cleanliness issue that we will talk about today. Let’s read the full passage together and then let’s concentrate on vv. 5-7 for today after we have read through it:

 

5 The Lord said to Moses: 6 “Take the Levites from among all the Israelites and make them ceremonially clean. 7 To purify them, do this: Sprinkle the water of cleansing on them; then have them shave their whole bodies and wash their clothes. And so they will purify themselves. 8 Have them take a young bull with its grain offering of the finest flour mixed with olive oil; then you are to take a second young bull for a sin offering.[a] 9 Bring the Levites to the front of the tent of meeting and assemble the whole Israelite community. 10 You are to bring the Levites before the Lord, and the Israelites are to lay their hands on them. 11 Aaron is to present the Levites before the Lord as a wave offering from the Israelites, so that they may be ready to do the work of the Lord.

 

12 “Then the Levites are to lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, using one for a sin offering to the Lord and the other for a burnt offering, to make atonement for the Levites. 13 Have the Levites stand in front of Aaron and his sons and then present them as a wave offering to the Lord. 14 In this way you are to set the Levites apart from the other Israelites, and the Levites will be mine.

 

15 “After you have purified the Levites and presented them as a wave offering, they are to come to do their work at the tent of meeting. 16 They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me. I have taken them as my own in place of the firstborn, the first male offspring from every Israelite woman. 17 Every firstborn male in Israel, whether human or animal, is mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set them apart for myself. 18 And I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel. 19 From among all the Israelites, I have given the Levites as gifts to Aaron and his sons to do the work at the tent of meeting on behalf of the Israelites and to make atonement for them so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary.”

 

20 Moses, Aaron and the whole Israelite community did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses. 21 The Levites purified themselves and washed their clothes. Then Aaron presented them as a wave offering before the Lord and made atonement for them to purify them. 22 After that, the Levites came to do their work at the tent of meeting under the supervision of Aaron and his sons. They did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses.

 

23 The Lord said to Moses, 24 “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, 25 but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. 26 They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.”

 

The process of cleanliness was important when it came to being in the presence of the Lord our God in the Tabernacle. The process involved three steps. There was the sprinkling of the water of purification on their bodies. There was the shaving of their body hair and trimming of beards (as anyone who shaves knows that in order to shave there must be lots of water and soapy material). Finally, there was the washing of clothes. The sprinkling of pure holy water was symbolic of imputing God’s holiness upon us through Jesus Christ. The shaving of the body hair was to ensure that the hidden dirt that our hair retains is washed away and is symbolic of our purposeful repentance of our sins. And the washing of clothes is again to remove the dirt and dust that our garments collect from the world outside that must be purified before entering the presence of the Lord. It is symbolic of the rags of the world that we bring before God at salvation and the robes of riches that He bestows upon us through our salvation in Jesus Christ.

 

Yes, we live in dirty world, both literally and figuratively. Does that mean that we cannot be in the presence of the Lord? No, but we have been cleansed first. Just as my mother would have never took me to church immediately after riding my bike repeatedly through a dirty mud puddle, we must be cleansed somehow. For us it begins with realizing that we are dirty. We must realize that we have the dirt of sin all over us. We must say to the Lord, I realize that I am dirty and that I need your mercy. He then, while yet still dirty, sprinkles us with holiness through our salvation in Jesus Christ. Once we admit that we are dirty and come humbly before the Lord to ask for His imputation of holiness upon us through Jesus Christ, we must shave, in a sense. It is through the action of the Holy Spirit that we are sanctified and we realize that we have more dirt on us that we had originally though. We have our hair follicles of sin. We have this hidden dirt in the hairs of our body and head. We have those sins that we enjoy and don’t even realize that are sins. We have those sins that we know are sins but that we bury in the hair of our soul. It is through the Holy Spirit that we realize that these sins are keeping us impure and prevent us from being truly holy and from being fully intimate with God. We must go through the process of shaving our sins and removing them from our bodies. It can be painful at times. Some of these sins are deep rooted follicles and the shaving of them causes cuts and pain. It is to through the Holy Spirit that we realize that the clothes that we have on are dirty. We have our world trappings that keep us from being holy whether its friends, obsessions, habits, desires, worldly thinking. In salvation and sanctification, the trapping of this life that once seemed wonderful to us are revealed as nothing but rags to us. What we once thought was cool and OK to participate in that grieves the heart of God is revealed to us as needing cleaning and washing. We put on the new clean clothes of the righteous through Jesus Christ and the action of the Holy Spirit in our souls. We are clean and now we can get close. We can truly be in the presence of God through salvation and sanctification. Salvation assures us that we can be in the presence of the Lord eternally, the sprinkling of the holy waters of Jesus Christ upon us. Sanctification allows us to draw closer and closer to Him and go deeper in our relationship with Him. As we mature in Christ we draw closer and closer to Him, the shaving and the washing.

 

Amen and Amen.

Luke 4:31-37 — This passage reminds us that there is no power greater than God. There are a couple of things to notice here. First, Jesus spoke with authority. Second, we are helpless against Satan on our own. Finally, even demons recognize the power of Jesus Christ.

Throughout the gospels, we see that people were amazed at the the authority with which Jesus spoke. Jesus required no biblical citations when He spoke. He required no research material citations to support what He said. He spoke with authority. He spoke with authority because He and the Father are one. God inspired holy men to write Scripture. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, all Scripture was given life through His breath. God created the universe in which we live, thus, He has all knowledge. Jesus in his trinitarian function of the Son is God in the flesh. Jesus had all knowledge and all power. He chose to set His glory aside to walk among us in the flesh. That made Him no less God. Therefore, His speaking with authority is not unexpected. Luke emphasizes this fact often. Jesus spoke with authority, he says. People were amazed. He did not say, “Rabbi X said this” or “Scholar X said this”. Jesus needed no citations. He is the Lord. He was direct and clear. He was the ultimate expert on truth and life. In fact, that’s one of the things that still bothers people about Jesus – – – he was so straightforward and unambiguous. He said that he is the only way to God; outside of Jesus there is no forgiveness of sin or eternal life. The authority that amazed people then still amazes us today. Luke is stressing to His readers that there is a reason for that. Jesus was God in the flesh. He needed no support of others. He, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are self-sufficient in the Holy Trinity. God has always existed and existed before creation. Everything was created through Jesus. His authority is complete. Why do we not recognize this fact? Why do we try to make ourselves god and not submit to the only and one Creator God whom we know through Jesus Christ?

The second thing that we notice here is that we are helpless against Satan on our own. We can be possessed by evil so easily. It doesn’t have to be physical possession by an actual demonic spirit but we are so easily manipulated by Satan. Since Adam, we are born with a sin nature and we are manipulated by Satan based on this sin nature. We cannot make it through life without giving into Him on a daily basis. He plays on our self-centered nature. We have a nature of looking out for number one and we often don’t care who we hurt in the process. Satan loves destruction, disarray and discord. Some very bad things happen to very good people just because we live in a world that has been messed up by sin. There are bad things that have no direct demonic involvement that we can see or identify. Besides, we are more than capable of sinning on our own. However, there is an invisible spiritual battle raging around us that seriously impacts our lives. Demons do exist according to Scripture. Have you ever been in a situation where you felt the presence of evil and it gave you chills and made you want to get out of there as fast as you could. There are evil spirits. They exist just as surely as there are angels. Physical demonic possession does occur on occasion. There are evil things that people do that can be explained no other way. People that seem to have no soul that do things that are just pure evil. They are under the influence of demons. We are helpless in the absence of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Even if we are not physically possessed by demons, or simply oppressed by them, we are easily influenced by Satan. We believe his lies. We are susceptible to his lies. We have a sin nature that makes it possible. We need the One with authority. We need Jesus.

The final thing to notice here is even the demons know Jesus Christ as the Son of God. They know that they have no authority greater than Jesus and are afraid of Him. They call Him the Holy One of God. They were afraid of Him. Isn’t funny that the movies try to make us believe that demons and/or Satan himself are as powerful as God. In the movies, they can read our minds when in reality they cannot. In the movies, they can overpower good. It is reality that demons and Satan are no match for Jesus. They recognize that He is God. They are created being and He is not. They recognize that it was He that cast Satan out of heaven. They recognize that He is the Holy One. They recognize that He has power of them. They recognize that they are no match when we call on the name of Jesus. That doesn’t sell movie tickets. But, that is the reality. All things created are subject to Jesus. Even the demons recognize His holy Authority. Why is it that we are so willing to believe in the power of evil and believe that it is unparalled or at least equal to the power of Jesus Christ. It is just not true. We so easily believe the flashy displays of evil in the movies but we cannot believe the miracles of God that happen daily around us. Here, in this passage and in others where demons meet Jesus, they bow down to Him and leave on His command. Can we not remember that the next time, we feel defeated and oppressed? Jesus is greater than any problem, any situation that we have. He is the Creator! Nothing, include the demons, is greater than He. The demons believe He is the Son of God with all power and authority — why do we have such a hard time truly believing that Jesus is greater than anything that we face? Even the demons have no issue with that! Why should we? Believe that Jesus is the one and only. Believe that He has the power over sin and evil. Believe He is who He says He is. Amen.

Romans 12:17-21 — Do you remember a movie from 20 years ago called, “The War” (starring Kevin Costner and a young Elijah Wood). It is one of my favorite movies ever. It speaks to our human nature. In that movie, whose setting was the Vietnam War era, kids build a tree house/fort and some other kids try to take it away from them. As the movie progresses, there is an ever-increasing level of violence to the point that on one summer afternoon the hatred of the two groups of kids for one another grows to the point that an all-out war for possession of the fort begins. In the end, the fort is burned to the ground. No one wins. There is nothing left to win.

It is this mentality that pervades our world today. It is to this mentality that Paul speaks through the ages directly to us in today’s verses. These verses summarize the core of Christian living and how it is often times the opposite of our human nature. It is our human nature to pay back evil with more evil. It is our nature to seek revenge for real or perceived wrongs done to us. In this day and age of ever increasing lawsuits, we demand that our rights not be abridged. In this world where we have become a people who says I can do whatever I want and I have inalienable right to do it, Paul speaks to us. Paul’s command sounds almost impossible.

When people hurt you deeply, in our sin nature, we wanna pay ’em back with what they deserve. Paul says to befriend them. Why should we forgive our enemies? C’mon Paul, that sounds so weak. That sounds like we should be doormats and let people just run roughshod over us. Why forgive our enemies? Man, that’s a hard one. My soul screams out for revenge. I want to be satisfied. I want to knock down my enemies and give them the same feeling of hurt and pain that they gave me. Can you feel that anger and pain? Can you feel it? Right now, you are drifting back in memory to a time that someone hurt you deeply. Right now, you may be experiencing that time all over again in your mind. The anger wells up in you and your stomach churns. Your pulse quickens. You mentally think about the revenge that you did take or should have taken. Why Paul? Why? Why do I as a Christ follower have to forgive me enemies?

Forgiveness may break a cycle of retaliation that leads to destruction and bring about reconciliation. It may make your enemy feel ashamed causing a change in the person’s ways. Even if your enemy never repents and forgives you as well, you have relived yourself of a heavy burden of bitterness. When we forgive evil done to you, you quit obsessing about that person. When we forgive, we quit “letting them live rent free in our head.” Lend a helping hand, send a gift, or just smile at them. Right actions often lead us to forgiveness. If we forgive without having the payback we want for revenge, we are extending grace. Remember, grace by theological definition is an undeserved gift. By giving an enemy grace, we are not excusing what they did, we’re not recognizing, forgiving, and loving that person with a love that they do not deserve. Hmmm. Who else did that? Yes, it was Jesus Christ. God loves us despite our rebellion against Him. He loves us so much that He sent His Son to be a sacrifice for the sins that we committed so that we can avoid our proper judgment and be reconciled to Him. It is like a father who loves his teenage son despite the fact that the son blatantly has disdain for him in word and deed. If we have been given grace through Jesus Christ, should we not extend that same grace to our enemies.

Forgiveness does not mean forgetting like the saying says. Forgiveness means remembering what was done but choosing, get that – choosing, to love your offender anyway. We do not have to be gushy friends with those who have hurt us. We do have to extend them grace. They may have their own motivations that we must try to understand. In our understanding, we learn to extend grace. However, it does not mean we have to be best friends. We can learn to respect them again. We can end the cycle of revenge. In my divorce from my first wife, it was the “divorce from hell” where my ex constantly attacked me with intensity for over two years – to the point that she made accusations that prevented me from seeing my children for six months. It was nasty. It was mean. It consumed life and all that was around it. Through it all, I tried to take the high road and not get down in the dirt. Many times, my sin nature got the best of me but I was able to get beyond it. Today, twenty years later, I have forgiven all the mean things that happened. However, we are not friends. I care about what happens to her and can have a civil conversation with her these days when we do in fact talk but I have moved on in life. There is no commonality other than our grown kids now. There is just nothing in common. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t mean that you have to be all up in their lives. Forgiveness is for us not for those we forgive. When we forgive, we give it up to the Lord. He may lead us to re-establish relationship but He may also lead us to just quit letting our enemy consume our mind and heart. When we forgive, He may lead us away to more healthy relationships. He may lead us to change playgrounds and playmates. We can’t have healthy relationships with others when we let our enemies consume our very soul. Our very soul should be consumed with the Holy Spirit not our enemies.

In the end of the movie, “The War”, the fort was destroyed. Nothing was left to win. The only thing, the one and only thing that broke the cycle of ever-escalating violence was when Elijah Wood’s character saved his enemies’ little baby brother from drowning. The war was over then. Although the kids did not become great friends in the end, the war was over. They learned to respect each other. They learned that revenge for revenge leads us to forget what the heck we were fighting for in the first place. Revenge becomes its own god. Revenge destroys our soul. Forgiveness frees us. Regardless of whether we get our payback or not, forgiveness sets us free to remove that idol from our lives. When we are obsessed with revenge, we are making ourselves god. Forgiveness puts God back on the throne. Forgiveness emulates our Father’s forgiveness for us. We have been given grave. Let us extend it to others. It doesn’t mean we have to be their best friend but it does mean that we let go of that obsession, that I idol that we have made of our hatred of that person. It is God’s job to judge. It is not ours. It is our job to extend the same grace that God gave us in Jesus Christ.

Otherwise, the fort is burned. There is nothing left. In “the War” the fort was never rebuilt. Destruction was complete and there was no desire anymore. Love has gained more than war every time. War just leads to more war. Love is a permanent solution. War consumes everything in its path. Love lets things grow. Forgive before the war consumes you. Forgive.