Just men reading, memorizing and studying the bible together!

February 9, 2016

Alternate Reading Plans
Chronological Order: Exodus 25–26
Old Testament Only: Exodus 34:1–35:29
New Testament Only: Matthew 24:32–51

Everybody Needs A Scapegoat

Today’s Passage: Leviticus 16-18

Your scapegoat!

Your scapegoat!

Our reading today begins with the description of The Day of Atonement, or, as the Jewish people call it, Yom Kippur.  This was the one day a year the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies; after much cleansing and a sin offering.  He entered the Holy of Holies to sprinkle the blood of a bull and goat before the mercy seat in atonement for the sin of the nation of Israel.

Two goats are actually chosen for this day of atonement.  One is sacrificed as the sin offering to the Lord.  The priest takes the other goat, and with his hands upon its head places the sins of God’s Chosen People upon it.  The goat is then sent into the desolate desert.  It is through this goat that the people of Israel escaped their just reward.   It is from this act that we get the word “scapegoat”.

The word translated as scapegoat in some Bibles is translated Azazel in others.  Azazel was a demonic figure to whom the goat was sent.  Some believe that Azazel refers to a desolate place in the desert.  Either way we have a vivid picture of what sin does to us.  Our sin takes us away from God to a desolate place where Satan is king.

It also gives us a vivid picture of Christ.  The sins of the world were placed on Him and He was, for a brief time, separated from God.

Matthew 27:46 ESV
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?””

At that moment, on the cross, Jesus in His full humanity, felt the separation from God that we all experience when sin hangs upon us.  He was, at that moment, the scapegoat.  The sin of the world, your sin, my sin, was placed on His brow.  Can you imagine how crushing a burden that must have been?  He is your scapegoat.  Of course, He was also the goat whose blood was sprinkled before the mercy seat.

Hebrews 8-9 draws heavily on the Day of atonement to explain Christ’s sacrifice.  If you have a little extra time today I recommend you read it as well.

I found an interesting description of Yom Kippur from a Jewish perspective at the following link:

http://www.judaica-guide.com/yom_kippur/

It is a short post so again, if you have the time, you might check that out as well.

Finally, in Leviticus 18 we get the listing of sexual sins.  The Hebrews had been in Egypt a long time and they had picked up a lot of bad habits.  Many of the prohibitions we read here in Leviticus were extremely important to help the Israelites maintain an appropriate relationship with God.  In Egypt they made offerings to false gods.  They also had extremely unhealthy sexual practices.  One commentary I reviewed stated that Egyptians had allowed sibling marriage and even parent/child marriage.

Hard to believe isn’t it?  We know the acts described here are wrong.  Homosexual marriage seems to be all the rage these days.  I refer you to:

Leviticus 18:22 ESV
“You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”

I remember mentioning to someone that God viewed homosexuality as an abomination.  That individual, who I assume supported homosexual marriage, informed me that I was taking something out of context.  I suggested they actually read the Bible.  The context, the verses before and after this one, all referred to sexual sin like adultery, incest, and bestiality.

What is the consequence of such debauchery?  God tells us in:

Leviticus 18:24-28 ESV
“Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants.  But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean), lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you.”

I feel like I’m living in ancient Egypt at times.  I remember hearing Billy Graham once say “If God doesn’t punish America He will owe Sodom and Gomorrah an apology.” (That may not be an exact quote but you get the gist.)  Guys, we need to practice our spiritual disciplines as a defense against our toxic culture.  Read your Bible, pray, stay away from filth.  What our country needs are faithful men of God who will set a good example.  Let’s show the light of Christ in this ever darkening world so that God will be glorified through us.  I think this is the best way we can impact our nation for good.

What do you think?

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

February 7, 2016

Alternate Reading Plans
Chronological Order: Exodus 19:1–21:32
Old Testament Only: Exodus 30–31
New Testament Only: Matthew 24:1–14

Leprosy Of The Soul

Today’s Passage: Leviticus 13

Do you have Leprosy of the soul?

Do you have Leprosy of the soul?

Today we have a very detailed description of the process by which leprosy, or a disease of the skin, is diagnosed.  Notice that this disease is not diagnosed by the physician but by the priest.  It was thought that a disease of the skin could be divine judgment on the afflicted individual for some sin.  Notice I said “could be”.  The priest was to look for certain signs and take specific steps based on what was observed.  In this way the priest was separating the clean from the unclean.

I found in “Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible” an interesting comment about this leprosy:

“That it was a figure of the moral pollution of men’s minds by sin, which is the leprosy of the soul, defiling to the conscience, and from which Christ alone can cleanse us; for herein the power of his grace infinitely transcends that of the legal priesthood, that the priest could only convict the leper (for by the law is the knowledge of sin), but Christ can cure the leper, he can take away sin. Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean, which was more than the priests could do, Mt. 8:2.”

There are many who call themselves Christians who bring disgrace to the name of Christ.  By the same token there are many non-Christians who hold Christians to an irrational standard.  Some non-Christians think that if you say you are a Christian you are saying you never sin.  This is, of course, the opposite of what a Christian is confessing.  A Christian confesses he is a sinner in need of a savior.  The Christian is not saying he is better than anyone else; he is saying he is as bad as everyone else.  The Christian, however, has admitted his sinful nature, repented of his sinful behavior, and accepted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to save him from his just reward.  By doing this a Christian has put himself under the authority of Christ.

As far as those that claim to be Christians, some have actually repented and accepted Christ; others have simply gone through the motions.  If you have truly accepted Christ, there will be signs.  You will still stumble from time to time as you discover the new person Christ has created within you.  These stumbles are scabs and sores but you are not “unclean”.  One who has not really had a change of heart will be found sinning habitually and without remorse.  This is leprosy and they are unclean.

Just as the priests in these verses were to separate the clean from the unclean, so will Christ when He returns:

Matthew 25:31-35, 41 ESV
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. “…Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Matthew 7:21-23 ESV
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Friends, if you have truly accepted Christ and simply stumble from time to time, know that your salvation is secure.  Christ will not lose a single one who is His.  This is not a pass to do whatever you wish.  If you’ve truly accepted Christ, sinning hurts; your desire is to do the will of Jesus Christ.  When you sin, stand up, confess, ask for forgiveness, dust yourself, off and do what you must to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

If, however, you accepted Christ as some kind of cosmic insurance policy, and continue to habitually sin without remorse, He does not know you.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.

Brothers, be clean!  Run from filth and sin!  Be ready to inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world!

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

February 6, 2016

Alternate Reading Plans
Chronological Order: Exodus 16–18
Old Testament Only: Exodus 28–29
New Testament Only: Matthew 23

I Want To Be Like Mike

Today’s Passage: Leviticus 11-12

Do you want to be like Mike?

Do you want to be like Mike?

Do you remember old TV commercials that had the slogan “I want to be like Mike!”?  The “Mike” in question was Michael Jordan, and the idea was that if you wanted to be like Mike you should buy this or that product.  Now I was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago and actually lived in the city in the days when Michael was winning championships.  Those were exciting days for Bulls fans; and Michael’s winning attitude, his drive for excellence, was certainly something one might want to emulate.

I often wonder, however, why a celebrity draws such a following.  Every night on TV there are shows talking about some person who is famous for being famous, for acting or athletics.  Those shows probe every aspect of the celebrity’s life; often intimate aspects which are really none of our business; and yet, there must be a very large audience since this goes on night after night.

Why do we idolize our fellow human beings?  Why are we so intrigued by people who can make a great shot or mimic daily life well or sing a song beautifully?  Their skills are certainly admirable but why do we desire to know so much about them?  Why do we often wish to be like them?

These, obviously are rhetorical questions.  I don’t really have an answer; but in today’s reading we hear that we are to be like God in that we are to be holy.  Now let me be clear.  We cannot be God.  We cannot do what God does.  When we are told that we are made in the image of God it means that there are aspects of our being that are a flat colorless reflection of what God really is.  Those devotees of the New Age movement would have us believe that we each can be a god; that Jesus found the path to godhood and we can be just like Him and be gods too.  That is absolute non-sense.  When I say we are to be like God in this case, I am referring to what God Himself says in today’s reading.

Leviticus 11:44-45 ESV
“For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”

Again, to be holy means to be set apart.  You are not to soil yourself with sin like the lost.  You are children of the King!  You are set apart.  You are to act like it.

Now, we all know that we are under a new covenant.  We are not under the dietary restrictions listed in today’s reading.  We know this because in Acts 10 we learn that Peter went into a trance and God revealed that the dietary restrictions were no longer pertinent.  The unclean had been made clean.

Acts 10:9-15 ESV
“The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.  And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air.  And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.”  But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”  And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.

The dietary restrictions served a couple of purposes.  First, the things prohibited were either very unhealthy to eat or they had connections with pagan religions.  To deny these things was in the best interest His chosen people.  The second purpose was to daily remind His people that they were under authority.  You understand that the fall of man, and every sin since, comes from the same place; our rebellion against God.  That first sin occurred because Adam and Eve ate the one thing God said was forbidden.  They rejected God’s authority because they wanted to be under their own authority.

When you accepted Christ you repented of your sin.  This means that you accepted God’s authority.  You were unclean but the shed blood of Christ made you clean.  You were set apart; made holy.  God is holy.  You are to be holy.

When we want to be like our fellow humans we are, in a sense, worshipping the created instead of the creator.  We are seeking lesser things when we do this.  It’s kind of saying “I don’t want that diamond over there.  I want that cold grey pebble of granite.”  Doesn’t make much sense does it?

Michael Jordan was a phenomenal basketball player.  God sure put him together well didn’t He?  While I will always have fond memories of watching him play, the one I want to be like is Jesus.  How about you guys?

What do you guys think about the dietary restrictions?  Some still follow them because what was restricted wasn’t all that good for you.  Any thoughts?

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

February 5, 2016

Alternate Reading Plans
Chronological Order: Exodus 13–15
Old Testament Only: Exodus 26–27
New Testament Only: Matthew 22:23–46

Between The Holy And The Common

Today’s Passage: Leviticus 8-10

Stop SignAs I read today how Moses slaughtered the animals in order to atone for the priests, I was struck once again with all the blood that had to be spilt.  The blood is being thrown against the alter, wiped on the horns of the alter, put on earlobes, thumbs and toes and it seems to go on and on.  “The wages of sin is death”, Romans 6:23.  There is a lot of death here.

I am really seeing the devastating effect of sin.  Sin is a dark, suffocating, death.  I remember reading about the last days of the mass murderer Ted Bundy.  Dr. James Dobson had been a member of President Reagan’s Commission on Pornography.  Bundy had been corresponding with Dr. Dobson for two years before meeting face to face just hours before his execution.

Bundy told Dr. Dobson about the influence porn had on his behavior.  It started as a child finding soft porn in a trash can.  Over time he graduated to more and more hard core materials.  He said it was like a drug and he could never get enough.  Eventually he could no longer restrain himself and he acted out on the horrible fantasies that had been instigated by these materials.  The results were horrifying.

Sin is like that.  When it starts we think it is no big deal.  It’s just a little sin; not so bad.  Slowly we take one step after another.  A craving is born that is never satisfied.  Eventually it controls us and we are over the cliff; we are lost.

All sin comes from the same place; self-centeredness.  As we selfishly seek to fulfill our desires we walk further and further from God.  This is not okay.  In fact, it’s disastrous.  There is only one moral standard; God’s.  Man does not have a moral standard.  By definition a standard doesn’t change.  Man’s understanding of morality shifts with time, desire, and situation.  That is not a standard.

Here is God’s standard: perfection.  You are not up to that; it’s why you need Christ.  Aaron’s sons had previously done all that the Lord had commanded.  Now in Leviticus 10:1 Nadab and Abihu decide they are going to do things their way.  This is the age old problem, substituting their standards for God’s; in essence wanting to be God.  He will have none of that!  After frying up the two god-wanna-bes He said this:

Leviticus 10:3 ESV
“…‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’…”

And in

Leviticus 10:10 ESV
“You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean”

Guys, Christ lives within us through the Holy Spirit.  You can’t get a whole lot nearer to God.  He is to be sanctified, set apart.  He will be glorified.  With Him inside of you, you are to distinguish between the holy and the common, the unclean and the clean.  Your standard isn’t going to wash.  It’s His standard, period.  There is no such thing as “a little sin” just like there is no such thing as “a little pregnant”.  Stay away from sin.  Don’t get burned!  Be holy!

May God continue to bless you as you grow into the man He created you to be!

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

February 4, 2016

Alternate Reading Plans
Chronological Order: Exodus 10–12
Old Testament Only: Exodus 24–25
New Testament Only: Matthew 22:1–22

Keep The Fire Burning

Today’s Passage: Leviticus 5-7

Let your light shine before men!

Let your light shine before men!

Did you notice that one could “unintentionally” sin against God?  There is no way a person could keep from sinning.  Just living our everyday lives, we fall short of the glory of God.  In today’s reading we read about another set of offerings to be burnt on the alter in atonement for sin.  The “sin offering” was for these unintentional, or non-defiant sins, while the “guilt offering” was for defiant sin where further restitution was required.

Remember that besides these offerings there was a lamb sacrificed every morning and evening.   These lambs were cut in pieces and positioned so as to keep the fire burning day and night.

Leviticus 6:9 ESV
“…The burnt offering shall be on the hearth on the altar all night until the morning, and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning on it.”

Leviticus 6:12 ESV
“The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not go out…”

One of my commentaries states that this fire had been “kindled from heaven at the consecration of the tabernacle”.  This was holy fire.  These morning and evening sacrifices were an expression of national repentance and faith.

What I see is the constant un-ending need to atone for sin.  Look at what’s happening here.  The fire is never without a sacrifice to consume.  Now we know that Jesus Christ is the final sacrifice that covers all sin for those who repent and accept His sacrifice.  His sacrifice covers our sin day and night.  But what about the fire?

Do you remember how you felt the days and months after you first accepted Christ?  I remember that I was filled with joy.  I could practically feel the fire burn within me.  Over time the fire faded only to be rekindled once again.  I had a number of people tell me during those rekindled days that they were drawn to me; that they gained joy from my joyful attitude.  I had one fella tell me he could see the light of Jesus in my face.  That was the best compliment I have ever received in my life!

Later, I recall having my own fire smolder for a while only to be re-energized by the flame burning in the heart of a new Christian.  We seem to be as moths to that flame.  Why?  Because all are drawn from the darkness to the light.  That light is Jesus Christ.

John 8:12 ESV
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”

John 9:4-5 ESV
“We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Matthew 5:14-16 ESV
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Brothers, we are new men in Christ!  When we accepted Him, His Holy Spirit came to reside in our hearts, the new tabernacle.  His fire; His light shines within us.  How can it be that this light dims?  The world my friend is a wet blanket; a basket.  The closer we get to the world the darker our life becomes.  The closer we get to Christ the brighter our light shines!  Men, be the man God created you to be!  You are that man; you just have forgotten who he is!  How do you rediscover that man?  Read your Bible every day, pray every day, memorize scripture, run from filth and impurity.  Let your light shine before men so that others will give God the glory!

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Without Blemish

by | February 3, 2016 | In Daily Reading No Comments

February 3, 2016

Alternate Reading Plans
Chronological Order: Exodus 7–9
Old Testament Only: Exodus 21:33–23:33
New Testament Only: Matthew 21:33–46

Without Blemish

Today’s Passage: Leviticus 1-4

Stick Drawing Group Praising GodAs I read today’s scripture I counted the phrase “without blemish” seven times.  Of course this was referring to the offerings God’s people were to bring to Him.  We see in these sacrifices a picture of the Christ that was to come.  He was without blemish.  His blood was spilt to cover our sin.  His gift was voluntary and it cost Him greatly.

The animals, as the grain, were essential to life; this was food to sustain one’s self.  In Leviticus 2:10, Aaron and his sons are given a portion of the grain offering as food. This conveys the notion that we are to gain sustenance from Christ.  In one of my commentaries the grain is said to represent Christ’s humanity, the oil poured on the grain the Holy Spirit, the frankincense His prayer life.   I’m afraid all of that is a little too deep for me.  I know there is beautiful symbolism here but I feel inadequate to pontificate on that knowledgeably.

Let me instead speak with you about our offerings being without blemish.  Christ is the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.  When we accept Him there is no need for some helpless animal to be slaughtered to cleans us.  Christ did it once, for all.  But does this mean we no longer bring offerings to the Lord.  One might say, “what offering could we possibly bring that would be acceptable to the Lord now that Christ paid it all?”  Good question.

My daughter was a typical child.  She could be very sweet and she could be very obstinate, insisting that things be done her way.  During her sweet moments, she would at times bring me something that showed me that she loved and appreciated me.  She at times drew pictures for me.  At one time, she had been saving money for something very dear to her heart but for my birthday she went out and bought, with her own money, a travel coffee mug.

My daughter is a talented, budding artist.  I’m always impressed with the quality of her work.  She is not yet, however, a Rembrandt.  I don’t drink coffee, or at least not very often, and I work from home.  Do you think her “offerings” mean nothing to me?  I could go buy a painting, or at least a copy, by a famous artist.  I could throw the coffee mug out.  Do you think I would do either of these things?  No.  My daughter’s paintings are worth more to me than anything else I could ever put on my walls.  Her sacrifice of money that she wanted to use to her own purposes makes that mug a treasure beyond measure for me.

My daughter brought me her very best.  The condition of her heart was the real offering; and as such a “sweet aroma” to her father.  What is the condition of our heart?  Do we desire to bring our best to God, not because we think it is required, but because we love Him and want to please Him?

You know many, if not most, of us rush through the week working, running errands, rushing from this to that to the other.  We slam into the weekend where we paint the shutters, scrub the base boards, go to the little league games, do the shopping, and all the other miscellaneous chores we feel we must get done.  Sunday comes and we are exhausted.  “Isn’t the Lords day to be a day of rest?”, we ask ourselves.  If we manage to drag ourselves out of bed to go to church, it can feel like we are just “going through the motions”.

I don’t know about you but Sunday mornings can be a challenge.  When my daughter was little my wife would get her ready for Sunday School and little Missy didn’t seem to appreciate her mother’s impeccable taste; less than Godly attitudes and words would often ensue.  I don’t like being late but my wife, fresh from those battles with my daughter would then attempt to find time to put herself together.  She wasn’t always in the best frame of mind and I was not always in the best frame of mind, and less than Godly attitudes and words would sometimes ensue.  I would at times arrive at church ready to paste on an insincere smile and pretend to be the Godly man I want everyone to think I am.

Now that Christ has covered our sin once and for all, our offerings to God are our attitude as we come to praise and worship Him.  If my daughter came up to me and said, “I know you expect me to give you a picture every week so here is this week’s picture.  Man this is getting old!” I would not find that picture all that pleasing.  It is her attitude in showing her appreciation for her father that makes the offering meaningful.

Fellas, we’ve got to find a way to lead our families in right attitudes about coming into His presence to praise Him.  Let’s start looking at everything else besides worshiping God as an interruption and chore.  Let’s start looking at time with God as the greatest joy in our life.  I’m a Tennessee Titans fan.  I need to start having the same excitement for my time of worship as I feel every Sunday for the game.

How do we lead our families to have the right attitude about worshiping God?  I’m looking for input here guys.  What do you say?  I’m a planner so maybe I could have helped my wife by encouraging us to lay out our close the night before.  Speaking of that, maybe the night before I could have brought us all together and talked about God’s love for us and how He has provide to save us from destruction.  That could lead us into talking about what we are thankful for and what a privilege it is to go before Him in the morning and praise His Holy Name.

What do you think guys?  Any suggestions?  What works for your family or what do you think might help?

How can we bring God our best, not just on Sunday, but every day?

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!