Saturday, December 27, 2014

Suhweeeeeeet Smelling Savour!

Over Thanksgiving, I cooked a turkey. Our home was filled with a great aroma that reminded us of more than just that we were hungry. The smell of turkey cooking always reminds me of thankfulness and gatherings. That is what Thanksgiving is all about!

As I have read through Leviticus, I have noticed a certain phrase popping up repeatedly. It is "sweet smelling savor unto the Lord" and refers to the burnt, meal and peace offerings made to God in the Old Testament. The same phrase also pops up frequently in Numbers .  It is not necessarily the sacrifice itself but the pious and and attentive heart behind the sacrifice that pleased God.

In the New Testament, the connection of the sacrifice to Christ is made. In II Corinthians 2:14-16:
14 Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. 15 For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish:16 To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things?
Another great smell is the smell of coffee brewing! It always reminds me of good conversation, slowing down time to get together, quiet joyful, mornings when the phone doesn't ring and I don't have to rush anywhere. I can write, read and have great conversation with my husband.  The smell of coffee brewing may not have the same effect on others. It may bring up entirely different feelings like digging in at work. Some people may not even like the coffee aroma.

The sacrifices of the Old Testament foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice  and triumph of Jesus Christ. It was  a sacrifice of genuine love:
2 And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. Ephesians 5:2
 In the Old Testament use of this phrase, it is not used in connection with the sin or trespass offerings (which were made outside the camp and not in the tabernacle) as sin is not sweet smelling to God. In the context of this Ephesians use, verses 3-16 contain some tough talk about sin (it is not a sin to mention sin).

Jesus Christ gave his life for us. In God's eyes it is the giving that is emphasized. We please God in believing (Hebrews 11:6) and that involves believing in His son. Since believing is action-based, it involves giving on our part to others and that is causes us to abound in  productive, satisfying fruit. 
17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. 18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. Philippians 4:18

Saturday, December 20, 2014

So Where Do You Go To Church?

In the book of Acts, it is pretty easy to see that the early Christians 'fellowshipped' on a daily basis. Nowhere in that book are there examples of 'set' meetings like the liturgical works of art we have today. We have tried to imitate the 1st century by dividing up into home fellowships or bible studies and the question still is asked  "Where do you fellowship?" This really is the same question as: "Where do you go to church?"

In the Old Testsment there was first a tabernacle (in the wilderness -Exodus, Leviticus Numbers etc) then there was the temple that Solomon built. Under the New Testament contract a new  construct appeared which was 'not made with hands:
44 Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen. 45 Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David; 46 Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob. 47 But Solomon built him an house. 48 Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, 49 Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? Acts 7:44-49
The church I belong to is a church that a person can't GO to. Fellowship occurs on a daily basis. It is a huge group and it is amazing what transpires within the group  because it is directed by the "Head' ( or 'Lord' if you prefer) Jesus Christ. Its members are found all over the world and it is called 'the body of Christ':
12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. ........... 27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. (I Corinthians 12:12-13,27)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Grace is Not That Complicated!

Years ago I found the concept of 'grace' difficult to understand clearly. Part of my confusion rested in  different teachings of various teachers in the doctrine as well as practice of grace. People define it, connect it, compare it to the law, equate it with mercy, read into it, and sadly invoke what I call 'worm theology', accusation and guilt with it.

I remember distinctly an 'aha' moment on grace I had when I walked by a display of the Pentecost scene portraying the holy spirit as it was poured forth on the twelve apostles(Acts 2:40-47). On the display the word, 'POWER' was written over the tongues of fire. Right then and there I got it! 'Grace' is what God has given us. God on that amazing day gave the opportunity to all who believed, to connect with Him and have bold access to the throne of grace, the source of all power.

And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour ('charis' Greek for grace) with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. Acts 2:46-47
When we truly recognize the power of God in our lives, it affects us. We change, we love and in those moments we don't think about sin. We think about how great God is!

The first use of 'grace' is in connection to Noah. God bestowed grace on Noah. The earth had become corrupt and was 'filled with violence' (Genesis 6:11). God is not the author of evil, He is a God of justice and all that is right. Evil is destructive and destroys those committed to it. This breaks God's heart. He created an earth to lavish His love on man, and man allowed evil to take over. Noah was an exception (Genesis 6:9) and God provided Noah with help in a time of need against the violent activity of men. He helped Noah build a boat so that he and his family would survive. I suppose the God of the universe could have spoken into being a fancy cruise liner and plopped it down in front of Noah and his family. Instead he taught him how to build it and gave him the information, power and stamina to complete the task. Noah had to build the boat!

Grace makes us strong.  On the day of Pentecost God gave those who believe an amazing tool belt of power to provide strength. The book of Acts reveals some tough times that assaulted the 1st century believers. As they applied the tools, strength replaced weakness in face of adversity. It was God's grace that made them strong.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Molten Gods and Graven Images

Leviticus 19:4 4 Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the Lord your God.
A molton image is made when a metal is heated up to a liquid state and poured into a cast. The cast is formed by someone to generate an image. Idols were also commonly called 'graven images' in the Bible. An graven image is carved on wood or etched on stone or metal. In either case, man supplies the design.

God designed man. Man was designed to live according to his designer. Man was not made to be loved by a dumb, silent sculpted object on a shelf.
Habbukuk 2:18 What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols? 19 Woe unto him that saith to the wood, Awake; to the dumb stone, Arise, it shall teach! Behold, it is laid over with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in the midst of it.
Ideas are casts of mental structures. They too can become idols. Certain ways of thinking can usher the mind in directions that are not what God had in mind for His own. Religion can often fall into this trap by going beyond what God says in His Word.  People pour their whole heart, soul and resources into doing what they have fashioned in their own minds as right instead of enjoying the righteousness God has intended for them.

The world also shapes and molds mental structures continually. The news media, educational systems, arts and culture all contribute to the mold. Ideologies become idolatry and confusion and mayhem abound. It is going on everywhere.

God warned his sojourners in Sinai in Leviticus chapters 17, 18, 19 and 20 to watch out for the pagan ideas that would try to ingrain themselves into their way of life and practice (Leviticus 18:3-6). The same warning is found throughout the New Testament too.
Romans 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.