Wednesday, February 27, 2008


44. Leviticus 11-13

In the past I have struggled through the books of Leviticus and Numbers when I have been reading through the Old Testament. And even this time I have not made any comments about this book. I guess it is the attention to detail that sorta wears me out reading through the specifics of the Law that God gives to Moses and the children of Israel. I also have not commented because I have really never done much study on this book, so I don't have a lot to say, but I am going to try and bring a little insight when I can from a few things that I have learned lately.

The word Leviticus is a Greek word which means "relating to the Levites." Which makes sense because the entire book is devoted to the works of the Jewish Priests or Levites. If you were to read this book in Hebrew the title would not be Leviticus it would be "Vayikra." Vayikra is a Hebrew word, which is the first word of the book of Leviticus. It means "And He called."

Leviticus chapter one begins, "The Lord called to Moses." Vayikra, "And He called." Each time God calls Moses, He calls him by name. In Hebrew writing and culture to call someone by name was a sign of affection. It is the same expression employed by the ministering angels when addressing each other, as it says, “And one called to the other…” (Isa. 6:3). Moses is God's man. Even though he made excuses and he made mistakes (killing an Egyptian slave master for one) God still has affection for him. So this is how the book of Leviticus begins, with God affectionately calling His servant Moses. Vayikra.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

psalm 40

Anyone ever hear this at the end of a U2 concert?

Monday, February 25, 2008

gone fishing

42. Matthew 17:14-27

This morning before I left the house, Bonnie and I were talking about bills and money and this discussion turned into a conversation about doing our taxes. I'll have to admit that for the last few years, Bonnie has taken care of our taxes. Neither of us really want to do what it takes to sit down and figure out all this stuff so we usually keep putting it off, not until the last minute, but longer than we should. Which reminds me of years ago when David Willis and I would make an event out of going down to the Post Office on the night of April 15th, just so we could watch people try to get their taxes done and mailed on time. Every year some poor soul would show up just after midnight and would bang on the door, but to no avail. They were going to pay a late fee.

Jesus has an interesting way of paying his taxes in Matthew 17. First, Jesus makes the point that the kings of earth do not collect taxes from their sons, so the Son of God should not have to pay the Temple Tax. But not to offend, Jesus sends Peter out fishing with these instructions, "Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours."

So tomorrow, I'm taking the day off. Tell everyone I've 'gone fishing.' Hey, you never know!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

oh, by the way

39. Acts 22

One of my favorite chapters in the New Testament.  There are many reasons I like this chapter, but mostly because it highlights one of my favorite Biblical characters, the apostle Paul.  In the previous chapters is the account of Paul saying good-bye to many of the elders and leaders in some of the churches that he had started, many of these good-byes included tears.  Paul was a compassionate man who knew what his job was and ultimately he knew that he would one day die for the cause of the gospel.  So Paul against the wishes of many of these friends goes back to Jerusalem and sure enough the people there are ready to kill him.  There is such a riot over Paul that the Romans had to intervene so that Paul would not be killed on the spot.  As they are taking Paul to prison, he asks if he could address the crowd.  First of all, if it were me I would just be glad to have escaped the clutches of the crowd.  Second, I don't think I would even think to address the crowd which was already worked up, I would rather spend time building my case which I might be able to present to the roman authorities.  Not Paul.  He seizes the opportunity to tell the gospel once again.  And he tells his story so eloquently, with passion, without compromise.  And once again the crowd begins to boil.  There is nothing that the Romans hated more was for the Jews to squabble between themselves, so they take Paul away in chains intending to have him flogged when Paul nonchalantly mentions, "Did you know you are about to flog a Roman citizen?"  Oh, by the way, I wouldn't do that if I were you.  

Oh, that we could muster up enough courage just to live even one hour of each day the way the apostle Paul lived his entire christian life.  Amazing.   

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

honeybuns and sour milk

36. Exodus 30, 31

A dozen years ago I was working with a bunch of students in Newport News who had put together a student led Bible study group at their school. The group was comprised of students from many different churches and backgrounds. The kid who was asked to lead the group was one of the kids from our youth group and he asked me to help him with the lessons he was putting together. Marty did a nice job teaching, but did get into some controversy when the lessons had to do with the details of becoming a christian. The controversy led to a meeting between one of the other student's and his dad. I went along to help Marty defend the Biblical position on salvation and to make sure they didn't gang up on him too much.

So we get there and begin this discussion about how one becomes a christian. Marty used scriptures to explain that the Bible teaches us that we are saved by grace, through faith, at baptism, for good works. (Ephesians 2, Acts 2, Romans 6, etc.) The response from this other kid's dad was classic. He told this story about how he used to be strung out on drugs and alcohol and one day as he was coming down from a night of binge drinking and drug use he had an encounter with God. So far I'm listening and glad to hear that this guy is seeing the error of his ways and sounds like he is searching for the only real remedy to the predicament that he has gotten himself into with these addictions and whatever other sins he might be guilty of. The guy goes on to say that he then finds a stale honeybun and some sour milk which he uses for a makeshift communion service during which he receives Jesus as his Savior and assures us that he is saved. He concludes his "come to Jesus" story with a stern rebuke for me saying that we should not limit how people might become Christians by teaching there is a certain way (biblical or not) that one becomes a Christian. "Everyone has their own path," I believe is what he was saying.

Now I am not God, which is quite obvious to anyone who knows me. And I do not presume to be the final authority of who gets into heaven and who does not. That job is one I do not want. Here is my point. For more than ten chapters in Exodus God gives Moses extreme details about how to set up the tabernacle and the other items associated with the priestly duties. And what do all these things have in common? They are all connected with the process for redemption for the people of Israel. They all have to do with atonement. From the ark of the covenant to the way that the priests were to wash before they could be annointed, God gives very specific details about how these things should happen and very specific details of what happens to those who do not follow these regulations. So according to my honeybun and milk friend, this God has changed his character. Now it doesn't matter. Redemption is based on each one's own path. God's annointed ones can make the decisions about how they become annointed. I'm not buying it. God is still God, he does not change. There are still specifics about redemption that we need to be very careful to follow or we could be in danger of death, spiritual death.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

naked and bleeding

34. Acts 19:1-22

There is a story in Acts 19 that I have read before, but didn't remember until I read it again today. It is sort of a funny story, but has a serious application. Paul is travelling through Asia and is teaching and healing people, he has become so powerful in the Spirit that people would take hankerchiefs and clothing that had touched Paul and touch the sick with them and the sick would be healed. Around this time some Jews were going around driving out demons by invoking the name of Jesus and the name of Paul. These guys came across a demon posesses man and tried this when the demon inside the man said, "Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?" Then it says that the demon posessed man jumped on them, all seven of them and overpowered them. The text says that he gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

The funny part is them running out of the house naked and bleeding. The serious part is the fact that our enemy is real and powerful. We serve a God who is greater, but do not be confused, the enemy is ready for a fight. May we continue to follow and serve our God, and may we ever be aware that the enemey is not to be underestimated.

the tabernacle

From our reading last week, here are a few pictures of a scale model of the tabernacle and some of the items described in Exodus 21 - 29.

the tabernacle

tabernacle outer court

tabernacle tent fabric

the ark of the covenant

the altar

the tabernacle from a distance

Friday, February 15, 2008

take a dip

32. Acts 18:18-28

Paul leaves Corinth and is headed for Ephusus and then Antioch. Verse 24 tells of a Jewish believer named Apollos who was teaching about Jesus accurately except he was hung up on one point, baptism. The text says that he knew only of the baptism of John. So a christian couple, Pricilla and Aquila, took him aside and "explained to him the way of God more adequately." Apollos was still teaching and baptizing in the same way that John, the forerunner, had taught. So what does it matter? Baptism is not that important is it? Isn't it just a good thing to do? Not according to Acts 18 and 19. It was important enough that Pricilla and Aquila needed to correct Apollos and in chapter 19 Paul actually baptizes some disciples "into the name of Jesus Christ," when they had already had the baptism of John.

In the Christian world today there is more division over baptism than just about any other teaching in the New Testament. One church says one thing another says something else. One says it is not important, another says it is essential. So what are we to believe? The simple answer is, believe the Bible. It was important enough to the early church that some believers needed to be straightened out concerning this teaching. Throughout the book of Acts people who were old enough to believe when told about Jesus and his sacrifice were immediately baptized (which in the Greek means to dip, plunge or immerse) for the forgiveness of sins. John's baptism was to signify repentance. Baptism after the church started (Acts 2) was a connection to Jesus and was always accompanied with the forgiveness of sins. Romans 6 explains that when you are baptized you die are buried and then raised to new life. There is a literal connection to Christ's death, burial and resurrection. I believe this is what we must take from the Bible, not any other baptism will satisfy the scriptural accout. As we continue to read through the book of Acts let's see if this pattern holds true.

By the way, the thief on the cross was saved because Jesus says he was saved. There also would be no way for the thief to have been united with Jesus death, burial and ressurection since Jesus had not died yet. The thief is pre-church era just like all those others in the Gospels that Jesus told, "your sins are forgiven." If the thief were going to be baptized at this time, before the church was established, he probably would have been baptized by John's baptism for repentance, but like Apollos he too would have needed to be taught about Christian baptism after the beginning of the church.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

where's my boy?

31. Matthew 12:38-50

This passage is another example of just how serious and on point Jesus was as he was out teaching and leading his disciples. Jesus, in verses 46-50, is teaching and the Bible records that his mother and brothers stood outside and wanted to talk to him. I have been in a few situations where I was speaking or leading worship and unannounced my parents showed up to support me. My reaction was always one of pleasant surprise. I was honored that my folks would make the effort to come and hear their boy. Not Jesus. He is all business. Not that he is unhappy to see his family, but he is so focused on his task that he cannot pull himself away to speak to his mother. Jesus is full of passion, devotion, commitment to task. He even says, "Here are my mother and my brothers. (speaking of his disciples) For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." We would be tempted to think, "OK, Jesus, lighten up." But there was no waver in Jesus, no room for idleness, he was completely on point all the time. The mission was too valuable, the time too short, the work to overwhelming to take a break. The same is true for us today, yet we are often flippant, arrogant, and wasteful of time and devtion.

Oh, that we would be willing to deny everything and follow Jesus.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

buyer's remorse

30. Exodus 13-15

The entire story of Moses and Pharoah is crazy to me. Here is an entire nation, living within another nation. They are described in the reading as 600,000 men plus women and children. So more than a million people, roughly the same number of people that live in all of Hampton Roads, are wanting to leave their company and move on to another job in another state. Not only that but they worked for nothing, literally. I see why it was so hard for Pharoah to let them go, I mean the temp agency just wouldn't have a million brick makers hanging around their office waiting for a job. Talk about losing your competitive edge. God knows this so He sets up this scenerio where Pharoah would get so sick of the sight of Moses, Aaron and the entire nation of Isreal that he finially tells them to go. I mean it takes blood, frogs, gnats, flies, dead animals, boils, hail, locust, darkness and the death of everyone's firstborn sons, but Pharoah is ready to flip his lid. "OK, OK, Please Just LEAVE!"

So they do, and then he gets cold feet. Ever get buyer's remorse? Just about everytime I buy something, even if it is something I really wanted, like a 42" plasma, I get it home and think, "Did I really need this?" Then I feel a little guilty and eventually I get over it but for awhile, remorse. Pharoah gets freedom remorse. He had to be thinking, "This was such a bad idea, why did I let them go?" So he gathers his army and chases them into the Red Sea. You would think that he might have thought about what God had just done in Egypt that led to the release of the Isrealites, but he follows them right into a trap. I wonder what kind of remorse he was experiencing when he and his army looked up and saw that the walls of water on each side of them were collapsing. I'll bet he would have settled for the boils, instead he just bought the entire Red Sea.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

fred 08

Sorry I have been absent the last few days.  Our family is still working its way through the cold/flu.  Ella has it now, I am just getting over it and I'm afraid Bonnie is next.  A few prayers would be appreciated.

I saw a funny bumper sticker today.  The sticker was red and blue around the edges and oval (like the obx stickers maybe you've seen) and the center was silver with the words "Fred '08."  It took me a minute to even remember who the "Fred" was in the '08 election, so I googled it to jog my memory.  Fred Thompson.  Ah, that's right, wasn't he an actor?  It was funny to me that someone put that sticker on their car.  It wasn't even on the bumper, it was on the paint.  And I'm pretty sure that it was a sticker, not one of those magnetic things you can take off.  This guy is committed to "Fred '08."  Unfortunately Fred was done, way before this election even started.  

As I read through the gospel of Matthew I am often surprised at how many people were following Jesus.  I mean without TV or newspapers or even the internet, there were frequently thousands of people showing up to see Jesus.  I don't know how many people can fit in Indian River High School, but I'll bet Bill Clinton packed that place today, and he didn't even serve lunch.  I believe that Jesus was surrounded by thousands of people much of the time.  And these people were looking for a new candidate, a candidate of change.  Right?  They were sick of the old government (Rome) and high taxes, and oppression, so they wanted something else.  Jesus at least gave them lunch.  But I'll bet when Jesus was executed many of them were wondering, "How do I get this bumper sticker off my donkey?"  

So here's the thing, 2,000 years later I still see Jesus bumper stickers.  <><  I see them all the time.  And guess what, this candidate never goes out.     

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

so relieved

26. Acts 15:22-41

I have always been nervous when someone says, "Let's get together, there's something we need to talk about." I think it goes back to my childhood when I would often get a letter sent home or a conference with my teachers because of my behavior. I was never really a bad kid, I just liked to cut up a lot. Sorta the class clown I guess. (I know that is hard to imagine) I can remember walking home with my report card or even worse a letter from my teacher. It was like bringing home your death sentance. See my parents are from the 'old school.' From the first day of kindergarten the rule at our house was, 'if you get in trouble at school, you are going to be in a lot more trouble when you get home.' Those were the longest walks home ever.

Acts chapter 15 describes a controversy that had arisen in the church in the city of Antioch. There were some Jewish descended christians who were teaching that everyone who became a christian must also be circumcised. Luckily for these non-Jewish believers Paul and Barnabas disagreed and set off to Jerusalem to discuss this with the apostles and elders. I don't know how long it would take to make this journey, but I'll bet for the non-Jewish believers it was like the long walk home with a bad report card. So the apostles and elders met, made a decision and wrote a letter to be taken back to the church in Antioch. Paul and Barnabas brought the letter back to Antioch. I can imagine the anticipation when they arrived and told them that there was a letter. I'll bet Paul and Barnabas didn't let on as to what the decision was either, so that they could hear it directly from the apostles' letter.

It probably took awhile to gather everyone together.

Then open the scroll.

Finially read the decision.

Here it is:

Abstain from foods sacrificed to idols. Abstain from blood. Abstain from the meat of strangled animals. Abstain from sexual immorality. Avoid these things. (These are all things associated with pagan rituals)

"That's it?" they are thinking. No circumcision?

I'll bet they were so relieved.

Monday, February 4, 2008

could this have become too familiar?

25. Psalm 23

Psalm 23 is recognized as one of the great pieces of literature in all the world. It really is a beautiful passage. It is one of those well known passages that can get overlooked because it is familiar.

My encouragement for us today is to spend a few minutes meditating upon this passage allowing God to make these wonderful words new to us today.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


24.  Matthew 9:27-38

Yesterday I was hanging out with a very good friend and he gave me this nice pair of sunglasses.  It was one of those like, "dude these are nice and I just lost the best pair of sunglasses I ever had."  (not that the ones I lost were that nice, I just had them for awhile and I had gotten used to them)  So, later he says, "hey just keep those sunglasses."  Then I feel bad cause I didn't mean for him to give them to me, but they are nice and I do like them.  And here's the thing, he told me they are good because they are polarized.  I don't even know what that means, but when you put them on there is no glare, just nice.  So thanks Jero!

It is nice to see things better.  When I was reading today's passage I was thinking about those sunglasses.  Jesus had the ability to see things as they really are, without distortion, without glare.  Verse 36 says, "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."  When I see people I don't always see them undistored.  I see imperfections.  I see flaws.  I see them the way I want to see them.  I don't see them the way Jesus did.  Jesus had the ability to see people as souls.  Deeper.  Must have been those spiritually polarized lenses he was wearing.