Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hebrews 9:1-5

I'm working through Bible Study Magazines 8-week study on the book of Hebrews. Today focused on Heb 9:1-5, the description of the tent constructed by the Israelites for worship. 8:5 describes the earthly tent as a "sketch and shadow" of the Heavenly tent where God dwells.

The writer of Hebrews carefully lays out the elements in the earthly tent:
  1. In the Holy Place - the lampstand, the table, and the bread of Presence
  2. In the Holy of Holies - the golden alter of incense and the ark of the covenant (in which were the golden urn of manna, Aaron's staff, and the tablets of the covenant) above which were the cherubim of glory

The lampstand, as designated in Leviticus 24 was to be kept burning at all times with oil of pressed olives. The bread, was to be made with exact amounts of ingredients and baked into 12 loaves. The bread was to be arranged in 2 rows of 6 on the table each Sabbath and then eaten by the priests.

The Holy of Holies was to be entered only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, and only with careful preparation. The priest was given very specific instructions as to what to where, how to bathe, and what sacrifices to preform before entering. He first had to make atonement for his personal sins and the sins of the community before he could enter because God appeared in a cloud on the mercy seat and could have no sin in his presence.

These regulations were set up after Aaron's sons had entered the Holy of Holies and offered unholy fire before the Lord and died.

But all of these things, the lampstand and alters, the ark of the covenent were all carried away in war because of the sins of Israel. Today, they are lost to us. As the writer of Hebrews says, "Of these things we cannot speak now in detail." So where does God dwell without the mercy seat?

The Jewish people answered this by turning to the Torah, the law. But Hebrews provides a different answer. Jesus came as the High Priest and the sacrifice. He entered the true Holy of Holies in Heaven and offered himself as the perfect sacrifice; covering the sins of the people once and for all (not every year like the priests of Israel were required).

And so, because of this sacrifice, Jesus is our mediator of the new covenant. One that doesn't require sacrifce, but trust in Christ alone. It doesn't require good works - like reading your bible daily and attending church. Those were abolished with the first covenant, which was based upon the perfect adhearance to the regulations of the priests and Israelites. The new covenant requires nothing more than abiding in Christ, following His perfect will. All of our good works are a natural overflow of the love of Christ dwelling in us.

In My Utmost for His Highest today Oswald Chambers wrote that the goal of a Christian is not to be useful or win the lost - but to follow the will of God. When we follow God's will first, we will become useful in the kingdom and win the lost. But our primary focus must be God and his will.

What striving do I need to let go of today? What goals are mine and not God's? In what real, tangible ways can I enter into His presence today?

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Synoptic Gospels

This begins week 3 of my seminary journey. The last week has been dedicated to the Synoptic Gospels - Matthew, Mark, and Luke. I have to admit, I've never sat down and read all of them together before. I also have to admit I wasn't all that excited to read all of them together this time. Because really, it's just 3 guys telling the same story, right?

Well, after reading all three, here are some insights...
  1. Matthew is still my favorite. I love how Matt emphasizes the divine authority of Christ; the Davidic savior of the world.
  2. Mark is most like me - short and to the point. He is the master of the summary statement and yet, if you look for it - he really is a literary genius. His writing has layers and layers of meaning.
  3. Luke is a little fluffy for me, but his emphasis on the compassion of Jesus is refreshing.

I have always read the Gospels as novels - like I would read John Grisham. But what I am learning is that the Gospels are more closely related to classical literature in their intentional structure and literary devices. Now I find myself asking "Why did he put that story there?" "Why did he emphasize that in the story?" It is through these questions that we begin to unlock the greater purpose behind each Gospel.

(Check out my guest blog post for more information about the Methodical Bible Study approach that explores this topic.)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Private Worship

Am I the only one that spends more time dreaming about the future than living in the present? I think of what my relationship with my kids will be, meeting their future spouses, the joys of my post-seminary career, things Garrett & I will do after Kidless Day (in approx 6,200 days, but who's counting?)...the list could go on and on.

But what I'm not good at is worshiping God in the moment. I take that back - in church I can worship God in the moment, but that's more a testament to my AMAZING church than it is to me. Again, it was Oswald Chambers that brought it to mind today that I will not be effective in any future ministry God gives me unless I am practicing the disciple of private worship.

But what exactly is that?

I remember hearing someone say that I bird is worshiping God when it is being a bird - singing, flying, eating worms. So doesn't it also translate that we are worshiping God when we are being human, not in the sinful sense, but in the way we interact & just walk through life - encouraging friends, caring for our families, cleaning the toilet (???). If all we do is offered to him as a sacrifice, I believe everything we do can be worship and should be worship.

Lord, help me to focus on what you have called me to TODAY in THIS moment. May it be a pleasing sacrifice to you.

Friday, September 4, 2009


I have recently started a new morning devotional time. It includes reading through the bible and then following it up with Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest. The writings are like a million years old, but still so amazingly sharp and relevant. They are so old, in fact, the version I have is updated to use more modern English.

Today's reading spoke of the difference between loving Christ and being his disciple. I guess I always thought the two had to be synonymous. But there are many people, me included for a majority of my life, that love Jesus, but remain their own. They make their own decisions, work to please themselves, and give glory to themselves. Some people live to please other people - parents, friends, a spouse, children.

The bottom line that Oswald was making is that we cannot be considered "His" is we also belong to someone else. It reminds me of my new friend Paul I spoke about last night.

Following God's call, he left his wife and two children in Kenya. When asked how often he will return home to see them he says, "my program is 2 years. I will return home in 2 years." When people comment about the sacrifice or craziness of it, he simply replies that when we are Christ's we must follow him.

We live in a society where responsibility and hard work is everything. We cannot fathom leaving behind our family for 2 years for any reason (except maybe military service, but even deployments are typically shorter than 2 years).

Moving to Kentucky to go back to school has been a combination of me and God. I knew this move was essential for my spiritual growth (and it has already been very fruitful in that regard), but there always comes a justification for me. "I can do this crazy thing because...." and I have never finished the sentence with "...because God has told me to."

My bible reading today was about Noah. He spent almost 100 years building a boat in the desert. And then, once it was done, they climbed inside and waited 7 days for the rain to begin. 7 days! I'm reminded of the movie "RV." Could you imagine being locked in a confined space for 7 days because one member of your family thought something was going to happen?!?

How do we, in our culture, separate ourselves as His disciples? What is he calling us to do that we haven't done? But more specifically, what is he asking me to do? Am I willing to lay down everything for that? My family? My dreams? My comfort? My status? What it really comes down to is "do I trust God with my everything?"

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Day 1 ATS Orientation

One FULL day of orientation is behind me and I have to say I am really going to love 1.) being back in an academic environment and 2.) being at ATS. The spirit of God and community is so real, so fresh.

Dr. Tim Tennent spoke in the opening chapel this morning about exactly what I posted about last week - the weak "heart only" faith, one that is not backed up by true knowledge. He used a great metaphor - saying we can't even have a good balance of heart and head, but a marriage of the two. Amazing!

Again, it was great to meet even more of my Twitter-pals and other new students. I have enjoyed hearing their stories, including Paul's - who left his family in Kenya to follow God's calling. He has been an encouragement and great challenge to my faith!

I'm still very apprehensive about how all this will work out - balancing wife, mom, Christ Follower, student, and on and on and on... But I know this is where I need to be. This is the season God has placed me in to love on me and prepare me for service. I have so far to go, but such great joy as well.

Oh, and on an exciting side note - Garrett mentioned that he would not be opposed to me signing up for the 3 week summer intensive in Jerusalem next summer. Three weeks walking where Jesus & Paul & the Kings of Israel walked ... I can't contain myself! But first, I must start with prayer, so pray from me that I will hear from God. Where he goes, I go.

New Student Orientation

Today marks the beginning of my academic career at ATS with none other than New Student Orientation. Last night Garrett and I went to the Spouse and Family Ministries Orientation to enjoy a little Thoroughbred Pie (they would neither confirm or deny if it contained bourbon), Ale 8, and to meet other new couples.

I got to meet a few of my newfound Twitter-mates including @mahfrot (who didn't refollow me because he thought I was a wierd Twitter stalker) and @ecrisprun. Twitter has been a great way for me to get connected before getting connected. It creates a "town square" kind of relationship with a person so when you meet them you have a basic relationship to build on. It also is an easy converstation starter & great way to stay connected.

I'm excited to meet more new students today & hear from Dr. Tennent and other leaders at ATS. Can I be honest though? Those things are great, but what really excites me is free childcare and free food!!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"Do not ask questions, just believe"

Celsus, a 2nd century Greek philosopher & opponant of Christianity wrote in his True Doctrine, "some [Christians] do not even want to give or to receive a reason for what they believe, and use such expressions as 'Do not ask questions; just believe,' and 'Thy faith will save thee.'"

How many Christians today have the same understanding of their faith? Just as belief without reason didn't convince many Greeks, it doesn't convince unbelievers today. In Greek times Christians were mocked for their counter-cultural actions. They were the butts of jokes and easy scapegoats for all things wrong. In today's culture Christians seem to be increasingly disregarded and mocked as well. Could there be a connection?

Even more dangerous than being mocked by non-believers, is not having relevant answers for the next generation of Christians. As large part of my ambitions in seminary will be to challenge and solidify what I believe so that I can, in turn, train other Christians to do the same, especially teenagers and college students who are abandoning the faith of their parents and grandparents at an alarming rate.