I am reading through the Bible and find myself in the Book of Leviticus. This is not my favorite book in the Bible, but I try to read Leviticus with an open heart, asking God for applications I can make in my life today. Here is something I believe speaks to us right now. Throughout Leviticus we see various offerings presented to the Lord by the Israelites. One of these is called the “burnt offering.” This offering was a voluntary act of worship, with the emphasis being on fellowship and devotion to God. In other words, the people could come to the altar and present an animal which would be killed and offered as a “burnt offering” on the altar. They could do this simply because they loved God and wanted to draw near to Him. Although this was a good thing to do, the people needed to be warned about giving God their best and not something inferior. In Leviticus 22:18b-20 we read, “If any of you—whether an Israelite or a foreigner residing in Israel—presents a gift for a burnt offering to the Lord, either to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering, you must present a male without defect from the cattle, sheep or goats in order that it may be accepted on your behalf. Do not bring anything with a defect, because it will not be accepted on your behalf.” The message here is that God will accept our acts of worship, but we must aim to give Him our best. The other day I was very busy and distracted. When it came time for a prayer time in the evening, it was late, and I was tired. I started to pray and then “woke up” about an hour later. I was disappointed in myself but didn’t “beat myself up.” Instead, I determined that I needed to offer God something better than my “leftovers.” Also, I think about someone I knew who offered God a dollar or two each week in the offering plate. This same person spent a lot more money every week on scratch tickets and other forms of gambling. What do you think God thinks of this? Let’s look at what we’re doing and present God the best. He deserves it!
What if Christians embraced the warnings of God as enthusiastically as the promises of God? As I was reading 1 Corinthians 10 this morning, I noticed how all God’s people who came up from Egypt were given the same blessings and opportunities…but only a few made it to the Promised Land. “They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness” (verses 3-5). Instead of entering into the land of promise and conquest, they endured defeat and humiliation in the desert. Now, I don’t believe we are reading here that all of the people lost out on eternity with God. Only God knows how many were true believers and how many were imposters. But what we are reading is a serious warning to reverence the Lord in the way we live. In the wilderness, God called His people into a holy covenant relationship with himself and gave them the supreme honor of entering into the land prepared for them. However, most of them carelessly tossed it aside. What was their problem? Verses 7-10 reveal the reasons why God denied them entrance into the victory He provided. These warnings are as relevant today as in the days of Moses: “Do not be idolaters, as some of them were…. We should not commit sexual immorality…. We should not test Christ…. And do not grumble….” God loves us and gives us amazing promises for both now and eternity. God also hates sin and expects us to battle and overcome the fleshly nature within us. He provides us with the power, by His grace, to defeat every temptation we face (see verse 13). Serving the Lord is a process of choosing every day what is godly over our desires. By God’s grace we can grow and become like Jesus! However, we must be willing to take the warnings of the Word seriously. There is a promised land to enter and a wilderness to avoid. God’s ways are worth the battle!
“In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:5-7). The Apostle Peter, as an older man, wrote two letters to believers in Jesus (1 and 2 Peter). He wanted the followers of Christ to know God’s loving concern for their welfare. He opened his first letter by saying, “Grace and peace be yours in abundance” (1 Peter 1:2b). If you study the history and context of when Peter wrote these letters to the disciples, you understand the great challenges they faced daily. Rome, with its power-crazed Caesars, ruled the nations. Taxes were high, wages were low, and slavery abounded. Christians were suspect of undermining the government because of their refusal to worship Caesar or the Roman and Greek gods. Life was not easy. In the midst of all this uncertainty, Peter spoke a clear and comforting word, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (5:7). As we look at our own lives and circumstances, we realize that sometimes we will be anxious and stressed. After all, this world is full of trials and tribulation. However, if we humbly exercise our faith, we can cast all our cares on the Lord. He is the expert at handling anxiety! He is more than able to handle our special circumstances, and, by His grace, to bring us to the place of peace. We sometimes ask, “Does anybody really care about me?” The answer is: “he cares for you” (5:7b). The One who suffered and died for you will surely help you in the time of trouble. He loves you as His own child…and anything He takes you to He will take you through!
When you walk in prayer, the Lord guides your footsteps! I feel sorry for those who think of prayer as just some formal words you hear at church or a quick “thanks” before a meal. If we only realized the excitement of living “in company with God!” I love reading the stories in Genesis. In chapter 24, we read of Abraham’s servant (probably Eliezer) tasked with the responsibility of going back to “the old country” to find a wife for Abraham’s son, Isaac. Apparently, Abraham had a good influence on Eliezer. The Scriptures show Eliezer as a man who honored God and knew how to pray. On the journey, as he approached Abraham’s homeland, he prayed specifically that a young lady (Isaac’s future wife) would come to the well where he had stopped. He prayed that this woman would offer him a drink of water…and volunteer to water the camels. The Bible says, “Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder” (Genesis 24:15a). After Eliezer asked her for some water, she gave him some…and immediately offered to take care of the camels as well! The prayer was answered just like that! I love Eliezer’s response after going back to the house, “Then the man bowed down and worshiped the Lord, saying, ‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the Lord has led me on the journey to the house of my master’s relatives’” (vv. 26-27). Since this was obviously the Lord’s leading, everyone was in agreement that Rebekah should go back with the servant to become Isaac’s wife. Eliezer received the great privilege of being an instrument of the Lord in finding a wife for Isaac. This story, which has blessed countless millions through the centuries, occurred in his life because he prayed and kept company with God. Let’s remember that life is not just random experiences of meaningless events. As the old hymn declares, “God leads His dear children along.” May we discover the leading of the Lord as we pray and believe!
To live each day and make choices means we create priorities. Your priorities shape your life into a journey toward a destination. A lack of priorities results in your life becoming like a leaf blowing in the wind of passing desires. The word priority comes from the word prior which means “coming before in time, order, or importance.” In his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul expressed his greatest priority: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). For Paul, the priority of life was the gospel of Jesus Christ! The gospel proclaims the greatest story ever told because it reveals the greatest person who ever lived accomplishing the greatest good ever done! No wonder gospel means good news! We live in a hectic world constantly trying to fill our sight and imagination with distractions. These smaller things of life tend to blind us to the greatest thing…the Lord Jesus himself. His death, burial and resurrection create a pathway back to God! Through faith in our Lord Jesus, we are given the key which opens the door to fellowship with God. His presence in us, through the Holy Spirit, gives our life purpose and hope. May we never be ashamed of the gospel; may we be willing to share the hope that we have with others who need Him. Be careful to keep the gospel of Jesus first place in your life! Paul stated it this way: “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2).