Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Clean Hands, Clean Hearts

I'm studying Exodus. Okay, I know that probably isn't your favorite book of the Bible--or even of the Old Testament. But I am learning some amazing truths and finding there is so much more to Exodus than I ever saw before. Consider this a plug for Beth Moore's Bible Study titled "A Woman's Heart -- God's Dwelling Place."

My normal morning routine is to wake around 5:30am, spend 30-45 minutes in reading the Bible and praying, about 30 minutes exercising with Gilad, a shower and it's time to leave by 7:30am. I used to exercise first and have my devotional time after my shower, but I invariably ran late and short-changed my time with the Lord.

So I was caught off guard this morning when I felt a very strong leading to do my exercise routine and shower first. But I went with it.

Our "Treaure" this morning was Psalm 24:3-5:

3 Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD?
Who may stand in his holy place?
4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not trust in an idol
or swear by a false god.[a]

Naturally, my first thought was very literal, "Did God really lead me to shower first because He cares about whether I'm sweaty and stinky when I come to Him in prayer?"

Thankfully, the study led me past the obvious, beyond the surface, to a deeper understanding. We were studying the Bronze basin that resided in the courtyard of the Tabernacle where the priests must wash their hands and feet before offering a sacrifice and entering the presence of the Lord. The priests were first required to be consecrated by a blood sacrifice and cleansing before serving. A perfect picture of Christ's sacrifice on our behalf and out subsequent baptism. Our baptism isn't about getting physically clean--it's a metaphor for our sins being cleansed.

Then, each time they approached the Tabernacle to meet with the Lord, they were required to wash only their hands and feet. John 13:10 tells us, "One who has bathed," Jesus told him, "doesn't need to wash anything except his feet, but he is completely clean." This cleansing pictures our on-going sanctification--the process of conviction, confession, and repentance that enables us to enter the presence of a Holy God! Just as the Psalmist tells us: "Who may stand in the holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not set his mind on what is false and who has not sworn deceitfully."

Although as believers we have been cleansed by the sacrifice of Christ and washed in the waters of baptism, we cannot enjoy the presence of God or His fellowship on an on-going basis unless and until we have gone through this process of confession and repentance.

God was definitely speaking to me through my study this morning - but the message had very little to do with the order of my morning routine and much more to do with the state of my heart when I approach the throne of God.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Don't Mess with my Children

You've undoubtedly heard the wise advice not to come between  a mother bear and her cub. People can be the same way. When it comes to our children, most of us would rather endure any insult or injury ourselves than to see our kids suffer. In fact, we see an attack on our children as an assault on us.
Did you know that Jesus feels the same way about you?

When Saul was confronted by Jesus on the road to Damascus, Jesus didn't say, "Why are you persecuting my followers?"

He said, "Why are you persecuting ME?"

You see, Jesus takes it rather personally when someone abuses His children. When the Israelites were being persecuted, God took it very personally. And when He led them out of Egypt, and the Pharoah's Army was in hot pursuit, Moses told them (Exodus 14:14) "The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

You see, it was God's battle to fight.

Why do you suppose the enemy, Satan, loves to attack the children of God?

He certainly cannot attack God directly - he has no power against God and he knows that he is subject to God's sovereignty. And he knows his most effective weapon is to strike at the very heart of God through attacks on his children.

Of course, he has no power over God's children either, except what we willingly hand over to him.

When we mistakenly believe a battle is between us and Satan, or more often, between us and another person, we hand Satan a victory on a silver platter. We end up like two toddlers wrestling in the sand box over who will drive us home. We both belong to the same Father.

Satan is just a stranger seeking to kidnap us from our loving home and instead of standing united with our Father, we waste our time fighting one another. Regardless of what the offense or injury is, the battle is between God and Satan. We are the children of God and our Father wants to fight our battles for us! He is perfectly capable of crushing Satan's head. But we have to get out of the way and let Him take care of it.

How do we let God handle it? Isn't there SOMETHING we need to do?

Jesus gave us the play book for winning every battle. Our instructions are simple and go something like this, "You have heard it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:44-45) Whatever the disagreement, victimization, abuse, torture, cruelty, offense, or insult, the instructions to us are the same. "Pray for the person who hurt you."

Love them.

Not in the Valentine's Day, send-them-a-box-of-candy-and-a-Hallmark-card kind of way. And not by simply saying words without meaning. Love is an action demonstrated most perfectly in Christ's sacrificial death on the cross.

Loving them means giving yourself up for them. Giving until you cannot give any more and then praying that God will give you more so you can give that away too.

Luke 6:27-30 takes this radical love thing even farther, "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic." And in verse 35, "But love your enemies, do good to them and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked."

Are you one who hears Him? Remember, it is not a battle between two people. It is God's battle. "The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still."