Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Burden Sharers: Thoughts on Numbers 11

He was overwhelmed. He was tired. He was frustrated and angry. Moses had not chosen his path. He was just a simple man with deficiencies and insecurities. He had no great ambition or desire to lead. Yet God had chosen to make him the greatest mediator (second only to Jesus Christ) and the sole container of His Spirit at the time of the great exodus from Egypt.

In Numbers 11, Moses finds himself mere days from the incredible event when God revealed Himself and spoke to the redeemed Hebrews in the wilderness. He had done everything that was asked of Him. He had been God's voice and a leader for the people. He worked for them day and night, receiving God's covenant terms. He had been faithful in helping to settle disputes and comfort that people, in praying and interceding on their behalf and literally putting out fires. Yet despite all this, the people complained bitterly. And Moses had had enough. So much so that he declares,

I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. So if you are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in your sight...
Numbers 11:14-15

Moses felt he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. And indeed, he was carrying the weight of mediating on behalf of the entire house of God. It was simply too much. So he, as one does when in an intimate relationships, called on his closest companion for comfort, he poured out his feelings of inadequacy and exhaustion to the Lord. He told God the truth about how he felt. And, as our faithful God does, He provided a solution. And in His remedy we find keys to understanding a very important truth for us today.

Moses as a 'Type'

I've told you before that Moses is a type, meaning that his life, ministry and job description are all a reflection of someone else - in this case Jesus our messiah. Through paying attention to how Moses lived out his days as the mediator between God and man, we can understand things about how our Mediator, Jesus, worked out His calling on earth and still in heaven today.


For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus
1 Timothy 2:5
Let's look at YHWH's solution to Moses's plight:
The Lord therefore said to Moses, "Gather for Me seventy men from the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and their officers and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. Then I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit who is upon you, and will put Him upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so you will not bear it all alone.
Numbers 11:16-17
So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord. Also, he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people, and stationed them around the tent. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him; and He took of the Spirit who was upon him and placed Him upon the seventy elders. And when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied.
Numbers 11:24-25
Does this sound at all familiar to you? Let's think about what is happening here: the spokesman for God is giving up his spirit in order that the Spirit can rest upon others. So God takes Moses' spirit and places it upon the others who He calls and deems worthy. When this happens the response of those who receive it is that they "prophesy" which literally means to speak in ecstacy.
Let me share some scriptures with you that might drive the point I am making home:
“But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.
“I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.
John 16:5-15
It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
Luke 23: 44-46
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome both Jews and converts to Judaism; Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 
Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
Acts 2:1-13
By reading the scriptures I have laid out for you here, are you beginning to see that the exact same events unfold again, centuries later? The event of this outpouring of God's Spirit from Moses onto the elders is a real event - but it serves as a physical reality of a much more important historical spiritual event - it serves as a shadow of the when Jesus Christ released His spirit on the cross - the same Spirit which had descended like a dove at His baptism - in order that His followers - even you and me - could be partakers and sharers in that same Spirit's comfort and conviction. And just as those seventy elders spoke in "ecstasy," the first disciples to receive the Holy Spirit also spoke passionately, so much so that people around them believed they were intoxicated. Pretty amazing, right? Here we were, believing that Acts 2 was a revolutionary event, when all along God was telling us it was going to happen!
But if this is true, then we must look at the implication here. In our church bodies, we live as if we receive the Holy Spirit as only a luxury, something only for our own personal gain. It has become something that represents our elevated status, a perk of being redeemed. And that's true, it is the sign that we are in covenant with God, set apart, and that's a wonderful thing to celebrate and enjoy.
But let's not miss the purpose of it, Beloved.
Moses needed someone to share the burden. He didn't need another opinion or another 'chief.' The indwelling of the Holy Spirit is not about having a title or power at all. It is about being equipped to share in the burden of the work.
Jesus Christ has made available the Holy Spirit so that you can share in the work He was doing. Is your agenda His agenda? I would hate to think that we as the body are misusing it for our own personal gain. We are called to be burden sharers.
That is exactly what Jesus meant when He spoke these words:
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Matthew 16:24
Are we doing the work, my friends? Are we living as laborers for the Most High? Are we holding up others and not just ourselves? It's not easy. It's a life of regarding God and others above our own self interest. It's about being the first to pick up the phone, delving out extra patience and grace, being a listener, letting others win and celebrating their giftings, and giving up our time and our money and our attention so that others can experience love and care of God through us. What an amazing honor to be able to carry out what Christ began. I pray for open eyes and opportunities for us all to do that today.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Armed and Dangerous: A Study of Titus 2

I heard an illustration about being properly armed once that absolutely stunned me - It went something like this:

Imagine you are at home in your bed, in a deep, comfortable sleep. Suddenly, you hear a noise. Your eyes snap open and there, in the dark, you realize - you are not alone. Someone has broken in to your home. As you come to from your deep slumber, adrenaline pumping through your veins, you begin to frantically think about what you should do. Then, to your great relief, you realize - you have a gun in the side table just next to your bed. Your heart pounding, you (as quietly as possible) turn and reach to open the drawer. At this exact moment the the burglar enters your bedroom. There is a surprised pause between the two of you - he towers over you, just a few feet away. You snap into action, grab the gun, so comforted by your preparedness when...wait a second...You have all the parts here...bullets, gun. But suddenly panic washes over you as you remember that though you bought your gun but never bothered to learn to use it. Your stands there, he laughs at your ignorance, he smiles viciously at you. He has won.

the first P - PROCURE

That scenario has stayed with me for years. And you know, this works the same way with the Word of God. When we are under attack, it is our weapon of defense, our protection. But without a knowledge of its inner-workings, and how to properly use it, it is not a weapon at all. We should never allow the enemy to sneak in undetected only to laugh at us, to win the battle over us, because we didn't bother to learn, to take time, to prepare for battle.

I write a lot about the importance of knowing the Word of God in order to be an effective kingdom citizen, a warrior for the Lord. And Paul, in his letters to Timothy and Titus, also speaks to this. But here in Titus 2 we find an rare circumstance in which the teacher explains why we need to be familiar and knowledgeable about God's Word - he tells us exactly what we are expected to do with it! So in our study here, we will learn how, regardless of the season in which we find ourselves, we can be prepared for winning victories for the Lord.

When we profess to be a believer, in covenant with the living God, it is expected that we will begin to procure knowledge about God through His Word. But this is only the first step - there are three P's we must master in order to be armed and dangerous.

Let's begin to read the text and see what they are:

1 But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine.

Right from the start of the chapter, in the first four words, Paul makes an excellent point. "BUT as for you," he says. How many moms have uttered the words, "If so-and-so jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?" or "Well you aren't in so-and-so's family. You're in this one - so start acting like it!" The inclination to want to assimilate is natural. But that's not the way the life of a believer works. You, Beloved, are to be different. Everything about who you are and what you stand for should contrast with the world. Holiness, after all, does mean set apart.

Next we see Paul commanding Titus to speak. Yes, the life of a leader entails action! If you want to lead, you must be willing to speak up...that is, assuming you have done your homework, to PROCURE a sound knowledge of the Word. It means we have searched out information and wisdom for ourselves, so we know what we're talking about. That is what is meant by sound doctrine. The word sound means whole, well, complete, error-free. Our goal is to learn everything there is to know about holiness, God, Christ and His work, redemption, and sanctification - so that when we tell others the Good News, it will be in its purest form, undefiled by errors, assumptions and ignorance.

But what do we do once we acquire this knowledge, this wholeness of understanding? The Greeks wanted to continue to take information in, to hear more, to talk more. Think about the great philosophers like Socrates, Plato and others. They wrote essays debating ideas. Their mindset was that knowledge is power, and they just wanted to accumulate as much information as they could get. Conversely, the Hebrew mindset was to learn in order to do. And Paul says himself, he is a Hebrew of Hebrews (Philippians 3:5). So hold on to your hat, because he's going to tell us just what to do what that sound understanding.

the second P - PERFORM

For the next several verses Paul will address different stages in which we might find ourselves. Don't be too quick to dismiss these if you're not currently in one of these places. Depending on the room you walk into during your day, you might find that you can fit in any number of them. Know that just because you don't fit into each one now doesn't mean God is not preparing you for what is around the corner. So try to stay tuned to what the Spirit is revealing here. But also, be looking for the common thread tying them all together. For each stage we will find there is a specific call and a temptation that would cause us to deny that call.

2 Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, and perseverance.

The Temptation

When we have lived a little bit more life than those around us, when we have had great battles and achieved some milestones, the temptation is to become relaxed in our morals, to to say "I have worked hard, I deserve to take it easy now," believing that we have earned or deserve complacency. Older believers may even believe the lie that they are useless or finished. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Call

Here in verse two is described the reverent, self-controlled and secure demeanor you find in a man seasoned by years of truly walking with the Lord and pursuing holiness. Notice the underlined word in the verse - here it is in Greek:

σώφρων (sophron)

It means self-controlled, and we will see it again. I love that it says sound (again, complete) in love, faith and perseverance. This person has a complete understanding of not just trust in God but of the doctrine, of God's love and our responsibility to love others, and has been tested in these areas, developing patience and endurance. It's hard to describe this person verbally, meeting one is an unmistakable experience. My husband's grandfather just happens to be such a man. A baptist preacher from a little town in South Carolina, he embodies warmth, availability, godliness and vigor. And at 85 years old, he is still active. He preaches and instructs in every God-given opportunity, he is generous with his time and his resources (he literally gave us his entire pastoral library), and he is even going on a mission trip to Costa Rica in a few weeks. Wow! This is a man that my husband can look to as a model, something to strive toward.


It is good for younger or less experienced men to see what a life of obedience and self control in youth can become in the later years of life. The call here is to model that the work of a Christ follower is never done. As long as there is breath in our lungs, we are still to be serving, reaching, teaching and building up the body. The younger generations, the less experienced, they need the knowledge you possess. Don't  disappear, don't abandon them. Be the vessel through which God teaches, empowers and inspires the next generation. Finish strong!

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14

Let's look now at the second group:

3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women...

The Temptation

Women like to take care of things. We crave opportunities to nurture and be needed, we feel we have valid advice and love to come to the rescue - it gives us purpose. So when a woman finds herself in a season of life when her children are grown, when maybe her husband has passed on, she may be tempted to feel discontent about this season of her life. So temptations arise to try to stir up opportunities to meet a perceived need - like pointing out, gossiping, diagnosing or criticizing. On the other side of that pendulum, the temptation is to shut down, become embittered and deal with our fear of uselessness through our appetites, finding comfort in unhealthy things or in an unhealthy way.

The Call 

Paul's use of words here is very interesting. The word reverent is made up of a few words smashed together:

ἱερός (hieros) + πρέπω (prepo) = ἱεροπρεπής (hieroprepos)

Why do I tell you this? Because the word hieros (the first word) means sacred and refers to divine things. The second word in the equation, prepo, means fit for duty. So in essence, what he is saying is that older men and women are sacred objects for divine duty. Both find themselves in a place where they can be special, set apart vessels for the Lord, uninstructed by new marriages and the hectic schedules of children and teens. They are free to devote themselves fully to God. It is a very serious, prestigious calling.


Paul's words are an exhortation to take seriously the call of this season of life and not to waste it. When we find ourselves to be the older, more mature females in the room, God's expectation is that we not be controlled by our passions, our appetites or our emotions as so many worldly women are, but rather that we stand out as holy vessels. Prayerfully seek out the younger women God puts in your sphere of influence who need a mentor. You are, let me assure you, desperately needed by the young women out there today. For an outline of how to instruct them, let's move on to the next verse. love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. 

The Temptation  

This is the category in which I find myself in the domain of my home. I'm a new wife in a new house. I can say with certainty that there are things that truly test your ability to be kind and subject to your husband. Being a helpmate can sometimes feel like a tedious and thankless job. For instance, I am still learning that God seems to have wired men not to be troubled by the laundry pile that grows and grows. I, on the other hand, have some unmarked meter in my mind that sounds an alarm after it has grown to a certain height. I just have to take care of things, I can't leave them. After only two years of marriage, housework feels so monotonous, never fully done and something I always feel I have to take ownership of. What is that job function in your home? Whatever it is, you know it is enough to make you crazy...and resentful. I can only imagine how this must increase exponentially when noisy, messy (albeit wonderful) children enter the picture. And through it all, the biggest temptation here is to begin to resent this domestic role, to lose our home work ethic, to mistreat our husbands and children in response to that frustration and to forget that there is a divine order in the home. We should never let our freedom in Christ or our frustrations in the home serve as an excuse for not to submitting to God's order and to our husbands. 

The Call

For you to dislike this role and so not to perform it, or even worse, for you to try to take from your husband his God-give job, casting yours off, is exactly what the enemy wants. Because your divine call as a wife and mother is to show servant leadership in contrast to your husband's shepherding and protecting. These are both attributes of God that we must understand to have a full picture of who He is. If you do not submit to your role as godly mother and wife, if you forget to love and begin to fuss and complain or not do the work in the home, if you demean or usurp your husband rather than to support him, then your family misses out on understanding God's nature and divine order. The role of the mother is one of the most important - and Christ-like - callings there is. Don't cheat yourself out of that great honor or your family out of that crucial experience. 


Notice that Paul begins with love as the command for young women. Love is an action, not an emotion. One that requires self control. Notice again the underlined word in verse four - it is that same word we already saw (sophron) meaning self-controlled. But realistically, it is much easier to be so, to love actively, to overlook all the tedium if we simply meditate on things that spark emotional reactions. For instance, think about the day your husband proposed, and the day you married. Remember what things were like when you dated, and remind yourself how he is everything you need, your perfect compliment. Think about how much you yearned for your children, about what it felt like when you carried them, and how you've watched them grow and become unique individuals, how amazing they are. Allow yourself to remember that love, foster it and guard it. If we can focus foremost on the love, everything thereafter will simply fall into place.

6 Likewise, urge the young men to be sensible

The Temptation

Now after having giving all those specific directives to young women and older men and women, here we find that Paul simply tells the young men to be sensible. First of all, this word sensible - we've seen it before. It's that same word that we saw in verses two and four. We know enough about this word now to know that Paul is telling young men to be exercise self control. Now at this point, you might be thinking what I was thinking. Really!? That's it? So, for a little insight, I spoke to my husband.

In our conversation I discovered that there are many battles young men face that can be won with self discipline. Lust, dedication to Bible study, spiritual leadership, work ethic to name a few. Fostering self control in these areas at a young age, creating good habits, are what enables a man to succeed in God's eyes. So while the world says, 'live it up,' 'look out for number one,' and 'do what feels good,' the godly young man must be different.

The Call 

Everything about becoming a man like the one we read about in verse two hinges on how you set your course now as a young man. Be disciplined in your finances and you will be able to provide for your family. Be disciplined in your biblical study and you will be blessed with wisdom and leadership opportunities. Be disciplined with lustful desires and you will find the mate who is God's best for you - or if you've already found her, you will be equipped to best honor the gift God has given you in her. Be intentional, not careless, in all areas of your life, and you will become a revered, tested, honorable and sound man. 


When my husband and I were friends, we spent so much time together. Since we were both adults by the time we met, we had our own living spaces and lots of freedom. There were evenings that would be getting late, we would be at my apartment watching a movie and having fun when suddenly, the phone would ring, a few hushed words would be spoken and he was quickly out the door. Other times there was no phone call, just an abrupt departure. Finally one day I asked what this was about. It turns out that he and his friends had an accountability system, rules they lived by and helped each other to honor to keep them out of trouble with girls. His best friend, living in New York at this time, would call at a certain time to see if he was alone with me. He would say, 'It's time to go home.' And then he would call again to ensure he was in the car. Other times, when the phone hadn't rung, he said, there were thoughts or impulses in his mind, and he didn't want to act in a way that would hurt or dishonor me. So he would just flee the temptation, literally. I was so impressed that he had the foresight and wisdom and discipline to plan such a strategy. Set up safety checks for yourself. Set up goals and boundaries. Live intentionally. This is the way of a man of God that leads to success,'s very attractive and appealing to godly women, bosses, peers and friends.

7 In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.

The Temptation 

Now Paul turns his attention to the power structure. He is speaking to Titus, the leader of the congregation. The temptation for those who find themselves in power is to take advantage of that anointing by misusing it. 

The Call

Paul is charging leaders to be servant-minded and ever aware that they are the living, breathing model for others to follow. You are a representative of the Lord in all your dealings when you find yourself in a position of authority. God has put you there for a reason. Make sure you are executing his agenda and not serving yourself.


God doesn't like when we represent him by tearing others down or by shying away from confrontation and instruction that is needed. Instead, leaders are to "urge (see verses 6 and 9) which essentially means to beg, to plead. Be very careful that you choose a leadership style that is Christ-emulating as well as God-honoring. I heard my pastor say once that everything we say is encouraging an idea. When you are in a position to lead others, what ideas are you encouraging in your interactions with them? Are you modeling the behavior you want to see? If not, maybe it's time to rethink the whole "do as I say, not as I do" philosophy. It's just not biblical. 

9 Urge bond slaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect. 

The Temptation

I read a great description of a bond slave - it is one whose will is completely swallowed up in the will of another. Many of the people in Crete, where Titus was ministering, were in this demographic. Now suddenly they were being told that they were free in Christ. It must have been very confusing for them to sort out this new found freedom in the face of living in subjection to someone else. Here Paul teaches the principle that though we are free in Christ, we must still honor our earthly authorities. 

But beyond that, in a spiritual sense, we are all bond slaves. We are born in servitude to our sinful nature, but when Christ redeems us, we become a bond servant to Him. As we read in this verse, it is a temptation to try to rebel against our authority. Sometimes we want to pilfer what belongs to God - particularly when we are not in control, when we are not getting our way, when things are uncomfortable. 

The Call

As a redeemed bond servant of God, our will must be completely wrapped up in His. We must live every day in awareness that we are members of His kingdom. When we say yes to Christ, we must give him all of ourselves, holding nothing back, showing ourselves to be grateful and living our lives to be pleasing to Him.


What are we holding back that belongs to God? Often it is easy for me to be obedient when I'm getting my way. But recently I've walked through some things for the Lord and have been asked to serve in ways that are a challenge for me. He wants to know that we are willing to submit even when it's not on our terms. Are we well pleasing to our master always? Are we argumentative, or are we embracing our place and His authority over our lives? 

the third p - PROTECT

At this point, we've talked about many seasons and phases in life. Through all of them, the common thread has been self control. No matter where we find ourselves in life, in leadership or in subordination, the most experienced or the newest, we must practice self control over the temptations of each phase in order to succeed. We must not only possess the knowledge, but we must use it to perform in a manner that brings glory to the Lord.

But why do we have to do all of this? Well, Paul has been explaining why all along, and we're going to discover how - it's our next 'p.' 

If you notice, in these verses we have seen in several places the phrase "so that." Go back and read through if you like. What is being done here is we are being shown the purpose of exercising this self control in each of these seasons in life. Here are the reasons Paul gives:

1. So that you may encourage others who are younger in the faith (v 4)

2. So that the Word of God will not be dishonored (v 5)

3. So that your opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us (v 8)

4. So that we will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect (v 10)

More than that, though, he really drives home the purpose for Procuring and Performing with the final verses of the chapter:

11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. 

Here Paul speaks of self control again, so living a vigilant lifestyle. But what caught my eye about what he says here is the phrase "a people for his own possession." 

When I read New Testament passages, I always try to note key phrases or allusions to the Old Testament that will help me understand what I'm reading. And here is such an example. This is not the first time we see God choosing a people for His own possession. In fact, He chose to redeem the Hebrew people from Egypt and made them a nation called Israel. And from that nation, he chose a very specific group to be His special possession:

“Thus you shall separate the Levites from among the sons of Israel, and the Levites shall be Mine. Then after that the Levites may go in to serve the tent of meeting. But you shall cleanse them and present them as a wave offering; for they are wholly given to Me from among the sons of Israel."
Numbers 8:14-16
Why were they set apart as God's? Read this passage:

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Bring the tribe of Levi near and set them before Aaron the priest, that they may serve him. They shall perform the duties for him and for the whole congregation before the tent of meeting, to do the service of the tabernacle. They shall also keep all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, along with the duties of the sons of Israel, to do the service of the tabernacle. You shall thus give the Levites to Aaron and to his sons; they are wholly given to him from among the sons of Israel. So you shall appoint Aaron and his sons that they may keep their priesthood, but the layman who comes near shall be put to death.”

Numbers 3:5-10

These people would be those who would serve all of the rest. Never make the mistake of thinking the priesthood of God in the Old Testament was a bunch of monk-ish namby pambies. No, they were tough enforcers, guardians, laborers. There is a reason that priests had to be in the 30-50 year age range - it was hard work! And notice that last verse - they had to be able to defend God's holiness and territory, even to the death. 

In their day, the Levites were the only thing standing between God's judgement and the people. If they did their job properly, they facilitated in the atonement of people so that they could draw near and not have to experience God's wrath. They were guardians of God's sacred name and territory. They were the protectors of people. They were servants, their inheritance was not worldly belongings (land) but in God. 

So what's that got to do with me, and with Titus 2?

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light...

1 Peter 2:9

That's right, Beloved. If you are a believer, then you are part of the spiritual priesthood God is building. That means everything that the physical Levitical priesthood did, you are now spiritually responsible for. You have been entrusted with the holy things, charged with facilitating the cleansing and atoning of God's people. In short, the only thing standing between the world and God's judgement you. We must be guardians protecting God's holy name and preventing those around us from experiencing judgement by not experiencing the atonement found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. It's a very serious call. Are you living in a manner worthy of that call?


No matter where you find yourself now or a year from now, you have a great calling as a priest of the Most High God. Every role in life is designed to reflect a particular aspect of our God. Each comes with its own unique challenges, but through Titus 2 we are shown if we exercise self control and anticipate the temptations of each stage, we can be equipped to stay on track. 

How are you functioning as His servant today? What has He entrusted you with? How can you better mediate between others and God in what you say and how you live? Pray today about which of these you need to focus more closely on.


Acquire these skills and become armed and dangerous, Beloved. It's time to get to work, and win this battle for our King!


Monday, May 20, 2013

Five Things You Should Know About the Bible BEFORE You Study It - Part Four

Thus far we have discussed the general makeup of the holy scriptures (in part one), some suggestions for responsible study (part two), the major point and purpose of the Word (part three) and now we come to a few very helpful final facts.

One of the most common observable problems I see with believers today is that we focus far more of our time on the New Testament scriptures than the Old Testament. This is ironic to me, because a major percentage of the New Testament is actually Old Testament quotes, and even more are references and allusions! If we don't know what something meant the first time it was spoken, what makes us think we could fully understand a reference to it or it's context?

Paul tells us in his letter to Timothy clearly that all scripture is inspired by God and useful. So why would we disregard parts of it? The answer is because we don't know how to study it. It's daunting. It's confusing. And some even find it boring. So here I'm going to provide you with a few tools that have helped me in my journey to understanding and studying the Old Testament, followed by a few pointers for using them.

searching for TYPES

There are certain characters that stand out in the Old Testament that serve as 'types' with which we need to become familiar. Types are real people who lived real lives, but something about the way God called them to live their lives, execute their ministries, or endure their challenges, has made them a model for understanding spiritual matters. By observing Aaron, for example, we can apply the knowledge of his job description and adornment as the Levitical high priest to our High Priest, Christ. His job functions are the same as Christ's function as our priest and mediator - they are both set apart to make atonement possible, bringing God and man into relationship, protecting God's holiness and man from God's judgement. Another classic example of a type is Moses, a type of mediator. Observe:

Moses was a prophet • Jesus was a great prophet
Moses fasted for 40 days • Jesus fasted for 40 days
Moses was the great mediator between God and Man • Jesus IS the greatest mediator between God and Man
Moses gave the Law of God to the people on a tablet of stone • Jesus' sacrifice made it possible for the Holy Spirit to write the Law of God on our hearts of stone, transforming us
Light radiated from Moses • Jesus refers to himself as the light of the world

These similarities are not coincidence. We are supposed to draw connections between the two of them. God was signaling long before Jesus ever came what His son would be like. And we can learn things about what Christ has done through what we observe about Moses, Aaron, and other 'Types.' Make sense?

So when someone stands out: Samson, Melchizedek, Ruth - then there is probably a reason for that. The more you know about the Old Testament and about God's law and plan of salvation, the better you can gauge what they are a type of. 

recognizing PATTERNS

One of my favorite things about God is that He teaches through patterns. He is so merciful to those of us remedial learners, and so He repeats himself over and over again in different scenarios, making His point ever-clear.

A great example of this is the pattern of inside vs. outside. Throughout scripture we read about many stories where being inside represents being in covenant with God, resulting in protection, and being outside meant being outside a covenant with Him, resulting in judgment. 

• Adam and Eve were inside the garden of Eden until they disobeyed, and their punishment was that they were removed to 'outside' the garden of Eden

• The Israelites who marked their doorposts with the blood of the passover lamb and were inside their homes were safe from the destruction of the angel of death outside.

• Noah and his family were safe inside the ark, while those outside were exposed to judgement via the flood

• In the wilderness, those inside the camp could enjoy the presence of God; when rebellion and sin occurred, they were relegated residence outside the camp

This pattern is a picture for us, helping us to understand that safety and protection lie within His parameters and provision. Now those parameters, as defined by God, are to trust fully in Christ; only then are we safely in covenant and members of His kingdom. To disobey and rebel against Him by not doing this can only lead to destruction. Many other patterns just like this are found within the pages of your Bible, if you only look for them.

discovering SHADOWS

Shadows are concepts and frameworks set in place that, while at the same time they are physical truths, they actually also represent spiritual matters. Truthfully, each of the 613 commandments have a spiritual message; each are shadows of a spiritual principle. But here is a little bit of a less nebulous example:

For many years I wondered what the whole purpose of the sacrificial system and purity laws were. Only recently as I have personally studied out Leviticus have I begun to understand that these systems are a 'shadow' of what Christ ultimately came to do. The sacrificial system was a method for people to draw near to God; since the Holy Spirit did not yet reside in mankind, this was necessary. They could not approach Him just any time or in any way. They had a sinful nature that had to be atoned for so that they could approach His holy presence. 

There was also a specific set of purity rituals, set in place for in order to cleanse oneself to even become eligible to offer sacrifices to draw near to God. To be clean required water, typically in the form of a ritual bath. To be atoned for required blood, an animal sacrifice. This is the principle that still stands. It is no coincidence that during Christ's crucifixion, when the guard pierced His side, that both water and blood emptied from His body. This sealed the deal and connected Jesus to those purity and atonement systems: He was the source of that living water and that blood. He was what those systems alluded to. It is through Him that it was always intended that true cleansing and atonement would come. What was in place before were mere shadows of Him.


Once we begin to understand these basic concepts we begin to see that by the time the New Testament rolled around, God had already revealed everything we needed to know. The New Testament is the portion of the Bible where we get to see all the types, patterns and shadows come to fruition and fulfillment in Christ's work. So, as I said before, we can really best understand the New Testament if we have a firm grasp of what exactly it's fulfilling!

I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.  
Isaiah 46:10  

There are a few cautionary statements I'd like to put out there before I turn you loose with these: 

1. Before you go around diagnosing patters, shadows and types, you must ensure that whatever you think you discover can be backed up with other parts of scripture. You must be able to confirm your assertion. For example, I can say boldly that Melchizedek was a type of Christ because I have found that the writer of Hebrews specifically addresses and confirms this assertion. Scripture always confirms scripture. So if someone uses scripture (one phrase taken out of context), be sure that you find another place in scripture that confirms this truth.

2. This leads me to another point: if you want have have real, effective biblical study, you must believe that the Bible is the infallible word of God. And what I mean by that is, if you discover something that you believe is an inconsistency or an error, then instead of concluding that because it doesn't make sense to your rational mind that it must be an error, know that the error is in your understanding, not the Word. God is unchanging, so his words will not refute each other. The New Testament does not negate Old Testament, Jesus doesn't negate the Law or contradict it, and Paul doesn't contradict himself. Further, if you find something like this, it is probably God inviting you to dig deeper to discover a new truth. Things that bother you, or stand out, are generally an invitation down a rabbit hole to something God wants to reveal to you. 


The Bible is not a storybook or a novel. It cannot simply be read through or scanned if we want to fully understand it. Neither is it a self help book full of quotes just for making us feel better when we're having a tough day. No, this book contains the greatest love story ever told, a treasure hunt map, leading us to the God who made us and a blueprint for how humanity should live. When you begin to employ these tools, your Bible study and your life will be revolutionized. So don't say I didn't warn you!


Friday, May 17, 2013

A Lesson in Gratitude: Thoughts on Shavuot

You must accept my sincerest apologies.

I am late in writing to you about the most recent biblical feast because I was in the middle of learning a very important lesson about it - the hard way of course!

You see, my lifelong struggle - and I suspect many of you can relate - is finding contentment in circumstances I don't like. My husband used an illustration in a lesson I heard him teach once about a little girl who's father wanted to pry her away from her Barbie Dream House because they were late getting somewhere. "But Daddy, it's not fair! I love my dolls, I don't want to leave!" Little does the petulant little girl know that her Father has bought her surprise tickets to the Barbie on Ice show with a special backstage pass, and she will actually get to meet the real deal, Barbie, herself...if she would just be obedient. But little girl can't see all that. All she sees is she's being pulled away from what she wants. She can't imagine that her father would have something better in mind for her. And so she cries, she resists, she disobeys.

Can you relate with that story or what?

So, this week I found myself in a conversation with the Lord we've had many times. "Why is X the way it is?" I ask. "Because this is my plan and you are my vessel, beloved. Remember?" "Well," I respond indignantly, "If that's the way you want to do it, fine. But I think I could make a much better plan. And by the way, don't expect me to be happy about this."

Yikes! Reading that as I'm writing it makes cringe. But, you see, the lesson that I've been learning, and I suspect will continue learning for many years to come, is the art of releasing, trusting and obeying - and being content about it. My obedience and joy cannot be conditional upon my getting my way. I'm just like that spoiled little girl, wanting her Barbie Dream House, what else can I say?

So, due to my personal spiritual crisis, I am late in sharing Shavuot with you. But recently our ever-so long-suffering Father has righted my heart. And now, in spite of my little temper tantrum, I feel as though through that process I have come to the other side of it better equipped to tell you what Shavuot is all about. How you ask? Read on!

So what is Shavuot, anyway? You might have heard it called Pentecost, but it has many names, including the Feast of Weeks, the day of the marriage of God to His people, the season of the giving of the Torah, and more. Let's rewind a moment to something I've shared before about these feasts: each one of the seven honors an agricultural event. Each also commemorates important events that took place between God and Israel, celebrated to remind them continually who they were and Who made it that way. Finally, each serves as a prophetic shadow, divine revelation of events in God's plan for mankind and the world-a kind of blueprint for how everything has and will play out.


An Agricultural Event

Every year, beginning at the Festival of First Fruits, the people of Israel began counting 50 days to Shavuot. First fruits, as we have already discussed, was a time when the barley harvest was brought forth, the first part brought to the Lord in gratitude. Now other crops would be ripening - wheat, pomegranates, grapes, dates and more. During the 50 days between First fruits and Shavuot, called 'the counting of the omer,' when the plants yielded fruit, families would tie ribbons around the earliest crops, collecting them to the side to offer to the Lord at Shavuot. People were continually reminded, in this way, that God provides.

When the day arrived, families would take their collections of their first fruit crops in a basket and travel to the temple. There, they would come in before the priest and declare these words, found in the book of Deuteronomy:

A wandering Aramean was my father. And he went down to Egypt and sojourned there, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. And the Egyptians treated us harshly and humiliated us and laid on us hard labor. Then we cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil and our oppression. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm with great deeds of terror, with signs and wonders. And He brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And behold, now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground which you, Oh Lord, have given me.

The sacrificer would then set his basket down there before the Lord, a great act of worship and gratitude for God's great faithfulness, abundance and provision.

A God Intervention: Israel Receives the Law

Not only is Shavuot an agricultural celebration, but also it is known as the anniversary of the day God gathered Israel at Sinai and gave them the law. This is how this appointed festival became known as the day of the marriage between God and His people. If Passover was the proposal, then this would be the actual wedding ceremony, the day the God and Israel said yes to one another.

You may not know a lot about Jewish weddings, but they are beautiful events which involve a great deal of symbolism. Imagine the huge, towering mountain over the heads of Israel as the 3 million people gathered together with expectant hearts, ready to see God Himself! Then upon the mountain's summit descends the very presence of God in a thick cloud. It loomed over them as if it were a chuppah, the structure that is built underneath which the bride and groom stand when they pledge their love and faithfulness to one another.

It was here that God offered the terms of their covenant. In Jewish weddings this is also done, and the marriage covenant, the ketubah, is drawn up. You can see one pictured below. Both husband and wife would sign this during the ceremony. So it is in the 10 Commandments and following laws, statutes and ordinances that we find Israel's marriage covenant, where the assurance of protection, life, abundance and health was declared for obedience to the terms. And Israel eagerly accepted.

So not only is this a celebration of God's giving physical needs, but here now we also see that it is a day to celebrate the giving of our spiritual needs as well - in this case the giving of His very word and the blueprint for life to us.

A Heavenly Principle: God's Redemptive Plan 

It is not at all coincidence that the faithful followers of Jesus found themselves in the feast of Shavuot (called Pentecost) on the day that the long-awaited Holy Spirit was poured out on them (which is the part of Pentecost that most of us are more familiar with). Isn't that fascinating? Fifty days after the passover lamb was sacrificed and the first fruit offering was made, Shavuot was celebrated to commemorate the giving of the Law. Then we find that fifty days following the resurrection of Christ came the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It is a direct connection, a fulfilling of what God was revealing to us through the shadow of His appointed times. The Holy Spirit is, after all, the promised guide who would come after Christ left the disciples. And still to those entering covenant with YHWH, the Holy Spirit's indwelling us is the sign of our authentic relationship with God. But what we have not probably considered is that He serves as our living ketubah, relaying the terms of our marriage covenant with God by granting us understanding to apply God's laws every day.

This event of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on mankind was the day that God spoke of in Jeremiah when He said,

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

and through Isaiah the prophet when He said

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleanness, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

We have long made the assumption that this new covenant was solely a New Testament thing. But He reveals the end from the beginning, Beloved. He spoke of it centuries before it actually came. The heavenly principle behind Shavuot is the giving of the Law and the marriage covenant between God and spiritual Israel (you and me) through the giving of the Holy Spirit. That is what all of Shavuot has always pointed to from the beginning. And just like those Hebrew people long ago, in this covenant we have everything we need - provision, protection, joy and security. And that is something to celebrate!

A Lesson Learned

So to finish the story I began in this entry, I found myself in the middle of the Shavuot holiday not having really done my reading and study. I had been so busy fixating on what I wasn't getting that I wanted, that I lost my focus on the Word and and God's appointed times. When all the while, gratitude and a remembrance of the great harvest God has done in my life was exactly what I needed. What a humbling lesson.

So now, I find myself back on track - bringing my basket before my High Priest, Jesus, and saying, "I was no one, I was lost, I was broken and an enemy. But you sought me out, you rescued me, and you brought me into a life and a joy that I never could have imagined for myself. conclusion...Thank you so much for giving me exactly what I need and abundantly fulfilling all that you have promised in our covenant. I need to get focused again on honoring my part of this I think I'll take your plan Lord. I think I can hang on in faithfulness a little bit longer. And I'll do it gratefully!"


Do you need a perspective check like I did? Or are you looking for a way to make Shavuot practical in your life? What can you bring before the High Priest, to show for God's provision in your life? My first fruit offering consisted of listing off all the ways God has provided for me and my family in this last year. For example, I was given opportunities to minister and do His work, I started this blog, which I adore, I was handed the opportunity to purchase a home from a trusted friend, which has now become my safe haven, and many more. Once I started thinking about it, I realized there is a lot more He had done than I realized. And it left my heart so full (not to mention repentant for my previous ingratitude!).

Recall, as a family and individually your blessings and milestones. Acknowledge to God that it is He who has granted that increase. What is the fruit God has given to you? If you can think of nothing else, know that the air you are currently breathing, the device on which you read this blog, and just having access to His holy scriptures are great blessings in your life. But I doubt you will be able to stop there...what are you waiting for? Go enjoy your stroll down memory lane with the Lord.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Lessons From Leviticus: Beaten, Not Crushed

I was so sad last week to turn the page from the end of Leviticus to the book of Numbers in my study. It has been a profoundly perspective-altering couple of months delving in to God's expectation for His holy priesthood and beginning to understand the spiritual parallels for us today. I know I haven’t blogged through the entire book with you, but here are a few nuggets of wisdom I picked up from our wonderful and wise King. I pray they bless, encourage and inspire you in your own study.

Last week I found myself in a difficult situation. A mistake I had made was brought to my attention - and in front of several people whom I happen to respect.

Ugh! It's always hard to be wrong and to discover that you made an error, and so naturally my pride and ego were bruised. I had been riding high, on a peak of success and minimal confrontation for a long while, and I had even begun to feel a new confidence, not to mention a little pride.

So now suddenly I had a choice to make: I could argue and retaliate, deflect the fault away from myself - or I could be humble and apologize. I felt defensive, and frustrated at being reminded that I am fallible, and I knew to argue was not the right choice, but to not state my case left me with such a sense of defeat.

Then in my study of Leviticus 24, I came across a verse that caught my attention:

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Command the sons of Israel that they bring to you clear oil from beaten olives for the light, to make a lamp burn continually. Outside the veil of testimony in the tent of meeting, Aaron shall keep it in order from evening to morning before the Lord continually; it shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations. He shall keep the lamps in order on the pure gold lamp stand before the Lord continually.

The oil being called for here is the oil for the golden lamp stand within the holy part of the tabernacle. It's not in the Holy of Holies, but in the Holy Place right outside of it, along with the table of show bread and the incense altar. Interestingly, it was burned from dusk until dawn - in the hours of darkness.

A few things stood out to me here. First of all, I don't know much about making olive oil, but what's with beating the olives?  What did the olives do to deserve such treatment? And how in the world would that yield a better oil? I looked into this and discovered that it's in the actual harvesting process that the branches of the olive trees were beaten, so often olives fell to the ground and were bruised. This does, apparently, make for a better oil. There are still some olive orchards that use this ancient method.

But even if that were not the case, is that why God wanted the oil is His menorah to have come from beaten olives? Why in the world would God want the fuel in his gorgeously ornate, solid gold candelabra to be associated with beaten, bruised olives? Let's think about that for a moment. If the olives were not prepared in just the right way, they could not light in the way God had intended for them to. So now we see God's divine plan involving light through something being beaten, bruised and crushed. Isn't it interesting that the Light of the World, Yeshua (or Jesus to us western believers) also would be beaten and ultimately killed in order that the world could experience His light - salvation. Ah, now it begins to make sense!

But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5

Were it not for his obedience to experience a short-lived time of physical and emotional discomfort, the world would never know true enlightenment through a relationship with YHWH, our God. So, even from the early portions of the Bible, God was revealing that His Messiah, and the servants of that Messiah, would be long-term and kingdom-minded thinkers, sacrificial givers, and that they would have to allow for some crushing, some bruising, and some defeat in this world. But it did not end there for Christ. Just like with the olives, their death made way for light-giving oil that pierced through the darkness. His death gave way to victory. And in modeling my Savior's light to the world, I knew that there was a victory ahead for me in this moment of decision.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9

In the end, after prayerful and tearful consideration, I apologized, asked forgiveness, and shared my heart with the person who felt wronged. I let my ego take that beating. Though leading up to that confession and admission was so very difficult, the moment after it was done an overwhelming peace came over me. I was affirmed by the Holy Spirit through the joy I experienced because I knew that though I had felt hurt, I had chosen to let my ego be bruised and my pride be burned up to radiate His light. For all the selfish, careless things I do, in that moment the world got a little brighter - and He let me know it.

Application: Every day we have a choice - It's hard to choose forgiveness and empathy instead of anger, kindness instead of resentment, compliments instead of venomous gossip - but it's the right thing to do. Let's be light-bearers, you and me. What do you say? I pray that in the days to come you are challenged to choose light and love and holiness in these difficult situations.


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