Know Where You’re Going?

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Recently I was sitting in one of my coworker’s classrooms and I caught a glimpse of a poster hanging on the wall. It read, “If you’re not aiming at anything in life, you’re guaranteed to go nowhere.” The poster encouraged kids to set goals for their life and pursue them in order to have a sense of direction. I think most people can relate to a feeling of floundering and waywardness at certain junctures in their journey through life.

For me, goal setting was really emphasized growing up. With that said, I can’t say that I was encouraged to set all the right goals. Most of mine had to do with career, athletics, and school. Those are all good things but something extremely important, downright vital, is missing from the list. Spiritual goals were never an important aspect of my life until about 10 years ago. Because of that, I floundered. You better believe my schooling, athletics, and career pathways were darn near precise. I stayed on track and achieved a lot of what I set out to do. But it was empty because of my lack of direction in the spiritual sense.

I think goals are great. Everyone needs to have them no matter who you are. I will raise my children with that. But I will go further, for their sake. Their spiritual goal is first, foremost, and above all others. It will not be the leftovers from whatever energy they have remaining. It will not be something they put on hold until they graduate, start a family, or “arrive” at the career they want. That’s how I operated, and I want more than anything, to save my kids from that troublesome pathway through life.

Several places in the Bible we are given spiritual goals to pursue. That saves us from the hardest part…figure out where we want to go. The most essential part of any journey is knowing the destination. Without one, everything in between is a lump sum of haphazard choices and consequences. God never intended anyone to go through life that way. So He gave us a destination (knowing Him), a guidance system (His Holy Spirit), and a straight and narrow road (Jesus) to get there.  Here’s a great starter list of five common goals for anyone needing a jumping off point for setting their spiritual goals:

#1- Declare the Praises of God

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

1 Peter 2:9

#2-Serve Jesus and live like He did

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.

Colossians 1:16

#3-Respect God and live the way He’s called us to

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.

Ecclesiastes 12:13

#4-Be a light (different from those in the world) to help people know God

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

#5-Love God and love others well

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’This is the first and great commandment.And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:37-40

Please don’t make the same mistake that I did. Set the goals that matter first and allow them to shape the rest. There are a lot of great things to aim at in this life, but they are all secondary to the centerpiece of life.

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:14

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Offering our Best

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And when anyone offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the Lord to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering from the herd or from the flock, to be accepted it must be perfect; there shall be no blemish in it. Animals blind or disabled or mutilated or having a discharge or an itch or scabs you shall not offer to the Lord or give them to the Lord as a food offering on the altar.You may present a bull or a lamb that has a part too long or too short for a freewill offering, but for a vow offering it cannot be accepted. Any animal that has its testicles bruised or crushed or torn or cut you shall not offer to the Lord; you shall not do it within your land…

Leviticus 22:21-24 ESV

One thing I’ve been guilty of is giving away my leftovers. I make a trip to Goodwill or the Salvation Army with things that I no longer need or want. I don’t believe that there is anything wrong with passing along things that others may find useful. Hoarding it would be wrong and selfish. The problem lies in the singularity of giving. If these are the only types of things that I am offering to others, then my heart needs to get realigned with the biblical concept of giving.

According to Leviticus chapter 22, the heart devoted to God is one who gives freely, gives things that are in perfect condition, and gives what would still be of great value and use to him or her. That’s super challenging! In preparation for writing this post, I’ve tried to take inventory of anything that I’ve given that fit these three criteria. I can tell you, it wasn’t a huge list. For myself, and I’m tempted to say most Christians, I don’t think freely giving is the hard part, until it comes to giving away the prime stuff that we still want or need. Honestly, we should be giving our suits and nice things away and not just the clothes we no longer fit in and utensils we no longer use. If we value a possession too much to share it, then we don’t deserve to have it. That’s the principle I’ve tried to instill in my children, so I better make sure I’m living by it as well.

Jesus calls us to offer our lives for the sake of the gospel so no possession we have should be a problem. Nothing is valuable enough to stand in the way of showing God’s love. Since everything comes from God, nothing is off limits as an offering of praise. To withhold anything from God is like saying that I’m good enough to receive it but God isn’t good enough for me to offer it up to Him. That was the problem with the rich young ruler that Jesus spoke with in Mark chapter 10. All he had stood in the way of serving and following Jesus. That was in stark contrast to the first century Christians who sold of their own possessions to give to those in need. Nothing was off limits for them and nothing should be off limits for us today. What applied to them, applies to Christians still today.

And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?”And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise…

Luke 3:10-11 ESV

Jesus doesn’t say if you have 10 tunics give away one or if your pantries are overflowing with food then give some away. If we have more than one of something, it’s an abundance. That’s something that is hard for many in a modern society to grasp. Let’s give more because we want to love more, both God and others.

He Is Alive

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“Oh that my words were written!
Oh that they were inscribed in a book!
Oh that with an iron pen and lead
they were engraved in the rock forever!
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!

Job 19:23-27 ESV

Job makes one of the most profound statements in these few verses. He says, “For I know that my Redeemer lives and at last he will stand upon the Earth.” This is the foundation for every hope that Christians proclaim and all of humanity searches for. It was the lifeline that Job was so desperately clinging to. It’s a reality that can bring that glimmer of light into anyone’s dark world.

We’ve all felt the sting of sin. Some more than others. Whether self-inflicted or caused by another, it hurts…bad. Anyone who would try to argue that this world isn’t in need of redemption and renewal doesn’t have much of an argument to stand on. The evidence is all around us. The news blasts it, our hearts testify of it, and the pain experienced in every human’s existence rebukes any belief contrary to the notion that things are way off the mark. Just like Job, our hurt is far too real to deny the need for redemption. Our bodies, while absolutely amazing, are frail and prone to sickness. The world is decaying. Social structures, in every culture, are far from perfect. Violence and hate take up way more headlines than love and charity. The hope that this will not always be so, is what motivates many to face another day.

We’ve all tried to make up for the mistakes we’ve made. To set things right again. Most people want to see change and progress made. But no matter how much we try, all our efforts will come short of bringing a lasting change. That’s because we don’t last forever and there’s no guarantee that those after us will continue our efforts. This world needs a redemption far greater than we can accomplish because it owes a debt far greater than we can pay.  But that payment has already been made by another.

The Messiah goes by many names in the Bible. One of those is Redeemer. To redeem is make compensation for faults. Synonyms include to save, justify, rescue, or vindicate. Because of sin, everything and everyone in this world, past, present, and future, need to be redeemed. That’s why the message of the Messiah is a universal one.

Job proclaimed a few things. One, that there is a Redeemer. Two, He is alive. Three, that He will one day stand upon the Earth. And four, that he will one day see the Redeemer face to face. Most Biblical scholars agree that the life of Job came at least 400 years before Moses. That means that Job is at least 1700 years away from the day that Jesus walked the Earth. So how could he possibly see Jesus? And if the Messiah was alive in the days of Job, how could that be a reference to Jesus?

We know that Jesus walked the Earth. No one with any historical credibility would argue against that fact. But that’s only one of the criteria spelled out by Job for the Redeemer. There are a lot of passages that reinforce the idea that Jesus was not only alive during Job’s lifetime, but long before that and way afterward too. Revelation 22 calls Jesus the Alpha and the Omega. These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. It’s a way of saying that Jesus is both the beginning of all things and the end of all things. Check out Colossians chapter one and John chapter one for more evidence to strengthen that concept. If Jesus was in the beginning and will be forever, then 3700 years ago and 3700 years from now is nothing in the life of Jesus. Jesus didn’t come into existence in a manger in Bethlehem. He has always been, and will always be. Our Redeemer is alive and nothing can ever change that. No cross. No grave.

Just like Job, we all can have the same promise that we will see Him. Not as some celestial being with wings and a diaper like popular images like to portray. We will see Him in the flesh. Jesus is coming back. Our destination is not heaven. Earth is our home and for the follower of Christ, always will be. God is making all things new one day. The Earth, along with followers of His, will one day be redeemed and we will enjoy it forever.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my [Jesus] word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.  And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

John 5:24-29 ESV

The Bible ends with the greatest of all happy ending stories. Revelation chapter 22 paints an amazing picture of what is to come. It shows a world redeemed, nations of people healed, and a multitude drinking from the well of eternal life. And Jesus is there too. Forever, with those He created and chose Him.

I know that my Redeemer lives and that one day I will see Him face to face.

This is the final post in part one of the series showing how God revealed the Messiah throughout the Old Testament. We began in Genesis and are wrapping up here in Job. In all, part one has included 22 posts, covering nine different books, over the last seven months. If you’ve missed any of them you can go to the Messiah tab on my home screen or click here. My plans are to have three more phases to this series. Part two will cover Psalms and Proverbs. Part three will just focus on the book of Isaiah because it is arguably the greatest portion of scripture that prophecies about the Messiah. The final phase will span Jeremiah to the end of the Old Testament. I am planning a brief hiatus from this series so as to focus on some other topics I’ve been working on. Part two should launch this summer.  God bless you guys and thank you for coming along with me on this journey.

Handle With Care

SL015-3People can be so reckless sometimes. We fly off the handle with our reactions, we are too careless with our words, and we are often out of touch with the ripple effect of our actions. We are all helping to carry others through life. Whether as a parent, teacher, mentor, friend, spouse, peer, coworker or simply a citizen, we are all part of others’ journeys through life. We will all impact the process. And we will all be impacted by others.

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Philippians 2:3-4 ESV

When a package goes from postage to delivery, it will often go through many hands. It’ll be boxed, wrapped, stamped, sorted, driven, flown, shuffled, stacked, and more. Packages can go through a lot. Those with valuable contents are often marked fragile. When a handler sees that marking, they will be much more gentle, conscious, and intentional on how they treat that package. If only people could be given one of these marks. The truth of the matter is that we’ve all been given this mark.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Psalm 139:13-15 ESV

Upon conception, every living person is deemed with unmeasurable worth. Because we are so valuable, we are also fragile. Those made in God’s image should be handled with care and intentionality. Be careful about how you treat someone. Be thoughtful about the words you speak. Don’t overreact or overcorrect. Don’t be careless or abrasive. People are fragile. Even that 250-pound bodybuilder who can benchpress 350 pounds. Even that successful business executive. Even the millionaires and billionaires. From infancy to the end, people deserve dignity and love and to hear the message that they are of endless worth.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

John 15:12 ESV

How are you helping those in your life get to their destination? Beat up and broken or cared for and loved? We can help how others treat us but we can always choose to be agents of love and peace in this fallen world.

God bless you brothers and sisters

Arbiter

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For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together. There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both.

Job 9:32-33 ESV

Anyone familiar with the story of Job knows that for period of his life it was pure misery. He had lost his entire family, besides his wife, and his body was riddled with pain. The quote from earlier comes on the heels of Job’s friends rebuking him and accusing him of sin. He’s being prosecuted by those close to him and labeled as guilty for his own misfortune. The problem with this is the God Himself had labeled Job as a righteous man earlier in the book. Here are the opening words of the story:

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.

Job 1:1 ESV

Job tried to state his case several times to his friends, but they refused to listen. They tried to explain their view of who God was and why Job’s circumstances had to be due to him being at fault. Job’s friends, however, had not be privy to information that you and me are…Job was under the assault of Satan himself (refer to the rest of Job chapter one).

Bildad, one of Job’s companions, prompted Job to go before God and state his case to Him. Job wasn’t having any of it. In a direct rebuttal, Job proclaims a somewhat misunderstood view of God’s relationship to man. Much of what Job says is true, but he doesn’t clearly grasp Who God is or how He wants to relate to His creation. This ultimately leads to God rebuking Job and his friends later in the book. His blurred view of God becomes pretty clear in chapter nine when he says that there is no arbiter who can bridge the gap between man and God. Through Job’s misconception (which is not his fault because he was operating with limited knowledge from time and space) he makes a prophetic statement about God’s plan for His Messiah.

An arbiter is a mediator. According to the dictionary, an arbiter is, “a person who settles a dispute or has ultimate authority in a matter.” That is a great representation for who the Messiah is. On one hand, what Job says is true. No man can fill the role of arbiter. The only one who could lay hands on both man and God, would have to be God Himself. This is another one of the many prophecies of the Old Testament that made it clear that the Messiah had to be both man and God.

First of all, then, I [Paul] urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior,who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

1 Timothy 2:1-6 ESV [my emphasis]

Jesus solved Job’s conundrum. Jesus bridges the gap. He is both man and God. He is the Arbiter, because as the dictionary says, He has full authority in the matter of humanity’s salvation. No one supersedes Him. Before you say, “wait a minute, this passage says Jesus was a man and says nothing about Him being God. Isn’t that a contradiction to what you were saying earlier?” Not at all. Check out this passage from John chapter 10:

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

John 10:28-30 NIV

God is complex. By extension, so is the Messiah. No man could ever fill the role of Messiah because every human down through the ages are the same…we’re all fallen and imperfect creatures who fall vastly short of the glory of God. The Messiah had to be unique, set apart, and a one of a kind. Enter Jesus, who is both God and Man. He is the Bridge. He is the Arbiter.

For you and me, our enemy is the exact same as Job’s. We all have someone who is trying to blind us to reality, who is trying to make us consumed by our own goals, grief, and desires. Our enemy wants us to not know Who God is or that we have a way to be directly linked with Him. That is the beauty of the Messiah. He is someone who can connect a broken person with a Perfectly Holy God. You and me friend, have access to that loving Messiah…to Jesus. We can come boldly to the throne of God because of love…because of Jesus.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:16 ESV

 

Pouring out our soul

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But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.

1 Samuel 1:15 ESV

Have you ever been distressed to the point where your body aches? Have you ever wept bitterly because of loss or injustice? Have you felt a pain that could be described as your spirit being broken to pieces? Hannah did. She had been left barren, ridiculed by her peers, rejected in society, provoked, and deeply grieved. And this went on for years. If you find yourself relating to Hannah, either now or in the future, may I encourage you to do as she did? Fall at the feet of Jesus and pour out your soul. Don’t be afraid to weep and fast and pray for days, or months, or even years. A breakthrough is around the corner. The Lord is listening and He will act. It may not play out how you predetermined. But God always has your best interest in mind. Please allow your struggles and distress to draw you to Jesus, not drive you away because He’s already near.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:18 NIV

Peace brothers and sister. You are loved.

No One Until Jesus

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I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his priestly house, and they will minister before my anointed one always.

1 Samuel 2:35 NIV

The role of the priests in the Old Testament were second to no one. They tended the tabernacle and eventually the temple. They were on the front lines of ministering to the LORD. They were both worship leaders and pastors. They were set apart from the rest of Israel just as Israel was to be set apart from the rest of the world. If Israel was to be God’s light to the world, the priests were to be God’s light to Israel.

I’m sure, just as many worship leaders and pastors are looked upon with great admiration in Christian churches worldwide, so to would with the priests of Israel. The role of the priest, in a far greater context, was to point to something greater than themselves. The entirety of their responsibilities were to align the people with the heart of God. They were to be both faithful witnesses of Who God is and mediators for all His broken followers. They were to be both leaders and servants. Leaders of a nation and servants of the Most High God.  This image of servant leadership also pointed to something, or someone, far greater than themselves. It was to be a mark of all those who claimed allegiance to Yahweh. And no one demonstrated it better than the Messiah.

The book of 1 Samuel was recorded between 931 and 722 B.C. The central figure of the book is non other than a prophet and priest named Samuel. For his entire life he walked in faithfulness to God and continually pointed Israel back to true worship and obedience. He was arguably one of the greatest figures of the Old Testament. But he too was human. And by extension, he was imperfect. If Samuel had been a perfect representation of the character and mission of God, there would have been no need for a future Messiah. The fact remains, all of the priests down through history have portrayed an imperfect image of our God. Except one. Over 700 years after Samuel, a new prophet and priest would arise. He was and is like no one else. His name – Yeshua (Jesus).

Since the children have flesh and blood, he (Jesus) too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.  For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

Hebrews 2:14-17 NIV

Few books describe Jesus as our faithful High Priest quite like the book of Hebrews. Chapter two explains the reason why God put on flesh in the form of Jesus. It’s a powerful explanation of the need for a new High Priest to fill the role that all the priests before Him only pointed to. Jesus is a merciful High Priest, one Who has faced every form of temptation that you and me have battled with. He knows pain. He knows hardship. He knows homelessness and loss. He knows what it means to be without and to be forsaken by those close to Him. No one has ever experienced betrayal quite like Him. Despite all of this, Jesus was still perfect. His life was the model of servant leadership. Jesus walked in both humility and power. He showed us how true worship should look. And everything He did pointed people to God. Later in Hebrews it goes on to say this:

Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself.For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,” bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.

Hebrews 3:1-6 NIV

Moses set the bar for the priests who set the bar for Israel. Then came Jesus, Who set the bar for the world. When it comes to the priesthood, everyone who claims allegiance to Jesus is part of a kingdom of Priests (1 Peter 2:5). Jesus is our bar. Moses, who passed away, along with all other priests from history, have ceased to be priests. Jesus is the priest who continues forever.

Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

Hebrews 7:23-25 NIV

No priesthood was permanent, until Jesus. No priest could unite the nations, until Jesus. No priest could ever save a single soul, until Jesus. No priests could ever change the hearts of God’s children, until Jesus.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV

Peace in Christ, our Faithful High Priest, brothers and sisters!