Monday, February 29, 2016

priestly blessing

Num. 6:22 The Lord said to Moses, 23 "Tell Aaron and his sons, 'This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
24 ""The Lord bless you
    and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.""
27 "So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them."

This passage is very interesting to me, especially as I have recently been considering what my role is as a priest of the New Covenant.  It seems to me that this instruction for blessing transcends from the Old Covenant into the New.  In principle, it seems similar to Jesus's model prayer for our Father to bring His Kingdom on earth, which includes His blessings of presence and provision.

Fundamentally, I think it starts with the Name of God ("... hallowed be your name.").  We invoke the name of God, not as a magic spell or a talisman, but His name represents His character.  YAHWEH is the self-existing one, the definition of all existence, the great I AM, the covenant keeper.  And He loves to bless. His heart is toward us; He is a gracious Father who is seeking relationship with His children.  He delivers us out of darkness and into the light of His presence, and He gives us abiding peace that passes all understanding.

Heavenly Father, please teach me to be a person of blessing.  I want to be an ambassador for you, a deputy who is blessing everyone in my path with the Good News of redemption through Jesus Christ - that we have been rescued from our lostness and darkness into a place of light and peace, a place of favor and blessing because we are your beloved children.  Lord Jesus, thank you for making this way.  Holy Spirit, thank you for your light and your presence.  My spirit is with you in the heavenly realm, and you are with me here on the earth.  I want to receive the blessing and anointing of your presence today, and I want to share the blessing of your presence with others around me today.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

privilege of being a priest

I finished reading Leviticus, and I am a few chapters into Numbers.  I am reminded of how rigorous and complex the codes of righteousness were for the Israelites.  I am reminded of how formal the procedure was to even enter the holy place, and how it was nearly impossible to actually enter the most holy place and be in the presence of God.  Even the Kohathites (the clan of Levites who were responsible for transporting the sacred items of the tabernacle) were not allowed to see the sacred items until after they had been double-wrapped with blue cloth and hides of sea cows (Numb. 4:15-20).

However, in Christ, we are royal priests (1 Peter 2:9), and we are invited and encouraged to boldly enter the presence of God:

Heb. 4:14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven,f Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus, our Great High Priest who has made open access to your presence.  Holy Spirit, thank you for the privilege of being a priest; help me grow in understanding of that identity and proficiency of serving in that role.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

consecration and holiness

God said this to all Israelites:

Lev. 20:7 "'Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God.8 Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy. ... 26 You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.
What is the New Covenant reality of this Old Covenant principle?  It is certainly not legalism, following a bunch of rules.

The Hebrew verb translated "consecrate" in verse 7 is וְהִ֨תְקַדִּשְׁתֶּ֔ם (wə·hiṯ·qad·diš·tem, H6942), and the adjective translated "holy" is קְדֹשִׁ֑ים (qə·ḏō·šîm or qadosh, H6918), both of which are related to קֹ֖דֶשׁ (qodesh, H6944), which means "apartness" or "sacredness".  

I think God wants us to be devoted to Him, willfully choosing Him over the things of the flesh and the world.  I think it is fundamentally an attitude of the heart that affects our behavior.  I think it is related to "in it but not of it", like Jesus prayed (John 17:16) and Paul instructed (Romans 12:2).  And we realize that Jesus is our Great High Priest whose sacrifice has atoned for our sin and initiated a progressive sanctification process:

Heb. 10:14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
Heavenly Father, I love you, and I want to be completely set apart for you.  I want to be with you in such a way that wherever I go, it is because you are going.  Lord Jesus, you have made me perfect, and you are making me holy.  I want to live in that eternal reality that I am forever righteous because of your sacrifice, and I want to joyfully proceed in the progressive process of becoming more "set apart" with you and for you.  Holy Spirit, please help me live as a spiritual man today, not a carnal man.  I want to keep in step with you and listen to you; please produce your fruit in me today.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

water you drinking

Monday night, I was watching a movie with the boys.  Rhett got restless, so he started playing with the toy kitchen set, and he kept bringing me an empty toy teacup saying "water" or "juice".  I obliged and pretended to drink what he brought me. After a few rounds, I continued to oblige while still watching the movie.  Until he brought me a cup and I realized that I was actually sipping water into my mouth.  But Rhett is not tall enough to reach the sink.  And he has a bad habit of playing in the toilet.  Fortunately, I caught myself and ran to the sink to spit out what was in my mouth, which I had observed had a foul taste/smell.  I tried not to think about it.  But then I discovered that one of the other boys forgot to flush the toilet.

I was thinking about how we nearly unconsciously "sip" all kinds of propaganda and worldly nonsense nearly every day.  We have to be really careful what we actually "ingest", because it really affects us.  It affects the way we think and what we end up believing.  And our implicit value system governs our behavior.  What am I drinking?

Heavenly Father, thank you for revealing your truth, and thank you for the hope of sanctification and a renewable mind.  Lord, I want to believe your truth, and I want to continue to seek you.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

unveiled faces

God's goodness and glory are inherent to His presence:

Ex. 33:18 Then Moses said, "Now show me your glory." 19 And the Lord said, "I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. ...

34:5 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished...

When Moses came down the mountain after seeing the Lord's goodness, he didn't realize that his face was radiant with the Lord's glory, which was the source of some awkwardness in relating to the people.  So, he engineered a compromise:

Ex. 34:33 When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever he entered the Lord's presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the Lord.

I was reminded of Paul's explanation of how much more glorious the New Covenant is that we enjoy:

2 Cor. 3:7 Now if the ministry that brought death ... came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, ... 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? 9 If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! ... 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the New Covenant in Christ Jesus!  Thank you for direct and unveiled access to your presence, which inherently includes your glory and goodness.  Heavenly Father, I want to go boldly into your presence, confident that I am your son, and that you delight in me.  Holy Spirit, fill me and anoint me with your presence, and radiate your glory so that others may experience your goodness.  I love you, and I want to be more glorious.  I pray in the glorious name of Jesus Christ.

Friday, February 12, 2016

discipline versus punishment

Moses went up the mountain to receive the ten commandments written by God on two stone tablets, and God gave Moses a bunch of instructions about the tabernacle, worship protocols, etc.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Israelites persuaded Aaron to make a golden calf.  And it seems to me that God punished the Israelites for their sin:

Ex. 32:33 The Lord replied to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. 34 Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin." 35 And the Lord struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.

I can see how some Christians might assume that God would treat Christians like He treated the Israelites, especially since the Apostle Paul explains that they were an example for us of what NOT to do (1 Cor. 10).

However, there is a fundamental difference between God's interaction with the Israelites and His interaction with us: God punished the Israelites, but He disciplines us. That is, Jesus endured the full wrath and punishment of God for all of our sin (Isaiah 53), so that the old covenant is obsolete by Christ's once-and-for-all sacrifice (Heb 8-10).  Thus, now we enjoy a relationship with God as His children, and he disciplines those He loves:

Prov. 3:12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves,
    as a father the son he delights in.

God does not discipline us in anger, but in delight.  He corrects us because He loves us (Heb. 12).

This past Tuesday evening, we were singing a song about Jesus sharing His cup with us, and I was impressed with the truth that Jesus drank the cup of wrath to the dregs so that we could enjoy the banquet cup of blessing and celebration!

Heavenly Father, thank you so much for your kindness towards us.  Lord Jesus, thank you for bearing ALL of the wrath, so that there is none left for us!  Thank you so much!  Holy Spirit, thank you for your discipline, even though it doesn't feel good, I believe that you discipline me because you delight in me.  I believe that you delight in me.  I bless your name because you are good!  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Marriage Retreat - Sacramento Mountains

This past weekend, Brandi and I had the privilege of spending a couple of days at a camp in the beautiful Sacramento Mountains, near Cloudcroft.  (I am so thankful to my parents for watching our boys for us!)

Roger and Yvette gave us a framework for thinking about intimacy in our marriage (friendship, spiritual, and physical).  On Friday evening, we completed an assessment of these three aspects of intimacy of our marriage.  Brandi and I agreed on most of the assessment, but I interpreted one question quite differently than Brandi, and thus, I came across as very critical.  This was a good lesson for me to think about being careful in communication and being sensitive to how I say what I say.

On Saturday, Roger and Yvette led us through identifying emotional hurts and "unpacking our baggage" or "emptying our emotional cups".  We started with emotional hurts from our spouse, and we continued with emotional hurts from our childhood.  For me, this was a marathon of a day; I am not used to being aware of my emotional state, and certainly not accustom to processing through emotional pain.  But it was good.  Brandi and I talked through some friction points in our marriage, and we were united in wanting to foster a culture in our children of being emotionally and spiritually aware through daily times of reflection.

On Sunday morning, we discussed several typically ways of thinking that can inadvertently result in emotionally hurting our spouse.  For example, I have a tendency to polarize (i.e., make "black and white") many situations that are not moral issues (e.g., the "correct" way to load the dishwasher).  I need to be careful that I don't impose my efficiency/efficacy framework on my spouse or children.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the opportunity to retreat from our routine and reflect on the condition of our souls and the state of our marriage.  Thank you for the healing and reform that you brought to us, and I pray that we will continue to enjoy your peace and love in our family.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus.