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If you’re going to get worked up over something…

Father, grant us an eternal perspective today. Help us see what we hang on to that is really just temporary, and what we ignore that we should treasure. This life is something we live quickly through, and there’s only so much that really maters in the middle of the noise. Give us wisdom to latch onto those things, and to leave what is worthless or fleeting behind. Give us ears to hear & eyes to see what maters most of all. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Luke 21:5-9
And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” And they asked him, “Teacher, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when these things are about to take place?” And he said, “See that you are not led astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and, ‘The time is at hand!’ Do not go after them. And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified, for these things must first take place, but the end will not be at once.”

The disciples just heard about the widow’s offering moments before. Jesus talked to them about how her gift from the heart mattered more than someone else’s impressive looking gifts and offerings. He let them know it wasn’t about the pomp and ceremony, the first glance. Was this a ‘Nice story, bro.’ moment for the disciples? It sure sounds like it.

“Jesus, we get the widow, that’s sweet & she definitely has faith, but this place? This is still impressive. You can’t deny how awesome this building is.”

And we see a quick course correction by Jesus, again. He picks up right where He left off. This Temple was being freshly rebuilt. There was still work being done on it.The shine hadn’t worn off the steps or gutters even. In the face of a massive, moving human effort, Jesus was letting them know that it wasn’t going to stand for long. In fact the hinges on the gates wouldn’t even get a chance to start squeaking real good before the Romans came along and decimated the place. This impressive stuff was temporary, too.

It’s not the big offerings, the big stones that matter. We’re reminded by Solomon that life is temporary. He wrote Ecclesiastes as a treatise on the fleeting nature of pleasure, purpose & significance of human life apart from God. “Building projects?” he asks, “Meaningless.” Chasing after human passions, again he says, “Meaningless.” There is no eternal meaning in just doing things for the sake of doing them. There is no reward that actually comes from our little projects or attempts to draw attention to ourselves. It all turns to dust. Sounds uplifting, doesn’t it? But at the end of the book, Solomon brings it all back around and says that the end game for you & I is to honor & obey God with everything we have. That is where meaning comes from.

So the disciples ask a question of timing. They want to know when all this is going to happen. And that’s no surprise. Anyone would want to know that little tidbit. If you knew you were going to have a wreck on the way to work Monday, wouldn’t you change your route? If you knew a meteor was going to hit your hometown next Thursday, wouldn’t you warn people? Of course you would!

How do we prepare for the inevitable? How do we make sure that we are safe & square & that the people we care about have ample time to get clear, too? That is a perfectly sane & logical question to ask. What are the signs? How can we know?

Jesus doesn’t give them a day, hour or minute though. He warns them about something that is more pressing. More distractions & lies are coming. The Pharisees & Sadducees already had a hold on people and distracted them from God’s real desires for their lives. But now, after He goes, there will be more & times will be harder. But we aren’t to be distracted by that anymore than we are distracted by these big, impressive, temporary buildings & impressive offerings by impressive people.

Even the worst sorts of things are not to consume you. We have been given something better to consume our time, talent & treasure. There is a Kingdom on the move, a movement away from these temporary things & an eternal perspective to gain which propels us so far beyond this tangible, most, rust & thief prone things we see every day. If we will look to Jesus, and walk in the rhythms of His grace every day, then we will see what really matters. If we serve humbly & spend our life’s efforts on those things that really matter, we will see why timing is of the essence & why our concern needs to be for those who will find themselves unprepared when that day of wrath & judgment comes. We don’t build sandcastles in the face of waves. We work for the One who parts the sea itself & dries up the water so we can move beyond into promise & deeper things.

Eyes up. Heart aligned. Move in what matters today & leave the rest behind.

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Poor Contributions

Father, humble hearts are precious to You. Healthy perspective of the limitations of human effort & our brokenness, an understanding of our deep & unending dependence on You, & a faith that reflects both seem to go a long way in Your eyes. It isn’t big gestures that win You over, but the small daily obediences that come from this faith. Grant us eyes to see & hearts to comprehend this measure of faith. Give us the grace of Your strength to measure to the stature of the generous & faithful widow in Luke 21. We should all depend on You so freely, trust in You so deeply as we walk in these precious rhythms of grace in Your Spirit. Let us abide this deeply with You today. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Luke 21:1-4
1 Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box,
and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

Self-promotion & humility rarely seem to go together, do they? When we see people who claim to honor God with their life constantly drawing attention to their piety, naming things after themselves, building stadiums and lavish homes for themselves, it can be difficult to take them seriously. I was blessed to grow up with a preacher who had an obvious God-given talent for drawing people to Jesus. His ministry flourished, the membership grew & the buildings did, too. But all the way through, he was also gifted by God to do something amazing, he remained humble. He refused a lavish salary. He stayed in the same unassuming house for years & he never bought himself a fancy car.

And God honored his humility & the primacy of the Gospel in His life. It was obvious. He was a wonderful example (and still is) of what it means to serve faithfully and humbly, despite the evidence to the contrary that said he should have had more attention & accolades.

This day in the temple, Jesus looked. He saw what people were doing as they came into the Temple of YHWH in Jerusalem. God notices who we are. He knows what we do & He has no issue discerning the intentions of our hearts. We come to Him with all manner of motivations, our hearts & minds crowded with thoughts, worries & concerns. We hurt for someone who is hurting. We are stressed over income. We long for a friend or family member to leave addiction behind, to find help in their struggle with drugs or pornography. We grieve with the weeping mother & father who lost their days-old infant. We carry guilt from our own sins. And with these burdens we come to God.

You would think that concerns like these would keep us on our knees, humble before God as we approach Him. The messes of our life, the lives of our friends & family, the brokenness we struggle within this world…these things should bring us to a place of open, honest reflection as we come before the King of Creation. He is holy, righteous & perfect. We are so obviously not. He needs nothing. Apart from Him, we are nothing. Humility & perspective shouldn’t be a problem.

But these rich people enter into the Temple complex with pomp & ceremony. They bring along their entourage, a porter to carry their gifts in front of them. They make a big show & blow horns as they give their ‘gift’ to God & draw more attention to their self than to Him. The show matters to them. They want to be seen. They want to be impressive. They want things their way. They want people to want to know them, to desire their company. They make idols of their own façade & shrines to their ego. They do not understand humility, at least not publicly, and so they over compensate with inglorious displays.

The offering box sat in the doorway of the Temple. It was there for ease of use as you came in & went out. It was placed in a location where you didn’t have to come in, walk up to the front & draw attention to yourself. Rich & poor, men & women, young & old would all pass by it & there was no preference, position or power honored above another as people came in to worship God. The focus was on Him.

So, in stark contrast, the widow drops in two very small, very thin copper coins. They would make no noise when they fell into the box. They would draw no attention to her status or income level. She had no entourage, no pomp. So, Jesus looked & saw her heart.

He had no words to praise the rich that day. But He stopped what He was doing to pay attention to & praise the heart of this nameless widow. No husband, no job, no family entering in with her. She comes to God, an impoverished, undervalued individual. But she knows her God. She understands His faithfulness. She has full confidence in His provision & His love over her & so she gives Him all she has. No reservation, no ego to block the intent. She loves God, trusts God & allows Him to be the one who cares for her even if no one else can or will. There is beauty in this humble love, this complete trust & Jesus cannot let this moment pass.

Giving from abundance is still acceptable. God blesses some people to have much in this life. They have been entrusted with a gift that spreads & blesses others. They can give to multiple charities, employ large numbers of people & surprise those in need with gifts from the Lord. Being rich is not a crime. Being rich does not constitute a lack of favor in God’s eyes. But Jesus did say it as easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. Wealth isn’t all advantages. Stewardship does matter. Humility & an understanding of God’s place in what we have is an absolute imperative. Otherwise we fall into the traps of wealth, and the pits of arrogance.

Giving from poverty isn’t always a guarantee of God’s favor, either. You can be poor & have a terrible attitude toward God or generosity. You can make a big deal about the $2 you put in this month & talk to people about how proud you are that you remembered to give two weeks in a row. You can talk about the struggles of giving & generosity, drawing attention to your situation, seeking pity for yourself & admiration for being able to give anything at all.

I’ve seen both sides of both of these coins over the years and there is one thing that remains through every situation, every heart:

God loves a heart that gives cheerfully, freely & humbly.

Generosity that matters comes from faith & trust in Him. Generosity that makes an impact comes from trust in Him. Generosity that speaks to the heart of God is generosity that lays everything else aside & reveals an unfettered reliance on Him & a seeking of His glory as the first-fruits of our life. Time, talent & treasure all belong to Him. They are given to us by Him for His glory & we give them back as gifts & tithes & offerings for the exact same reason. John the Baptist has it right: He must become greater, I must become less. Humility matters. Generosity matters. The two go hand-in-hand every time.

In Step. In Unity. In Boldness.

Father of lights, Lord of Creation, Author of my life, Sovereign over me,
Please grant us the strength today to stand in service of You. Purify us from all the filth that clings to this sin-drenched, mortal life. By the blood of Jesus, poured out over us, cleanse us from human brokenness & chart a pathway through the wilderness of our hearts that they might become springs of life by the power of Your Holy Spirit at work in us. Remember our sins no more, as You have promised, and grant us confidence in Christ, united together, to step boldly into the day You have created and lay at our feet. We pray this in Jesus’ precious Name. Amen.

Hebrews 10:11-25
11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
    and write them on their minds,”

17 then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Paul reminds Timothy (2 Timothy 1:7) that God has not given us a spirit of fear or timidity, but a spirit of power through Jesus Christ. There is boldness that should inherently come from being made pure by the blood of Christ, and by the presence of the Holy Spirit within us. There is a confidence (not an arrogance) that should come from knowing whose we are and what it is that we are up against. There is  a strength of character that comes from walking with Jesus, as He works His will in us day after day after day that should exhibit that handiwork and the Master Craftsman behind it.

If Jesus grants us the confidence to enter the holy places by His blood, how much more so those places where He already holds victory over the enemy? Why should we cower in fear? Why should we worry? If we have been washed with pure water, why would we not walk in that newness of life, throwing off the faithlessness that used to bind us, but that binds us no more?

This is one of the reasons why the author of Hebrews is encouraging us to continue gathering together. This is just one reason why it is good that we look other Christians in the eye, shake their hands and give them hugs. We need to be in the presence of other people who have seen victory at work in their own lives. We need to see people whose faces have been lifted up to heaven, whose eyes have looked upon the cross and we need to stand in boldness with them as we unite in Christ, our Great High Priest, and stand in bold assurance against the schemes of the enemy.

Standing alone is wrong & dangerous. God did not design us or example to us this stand-alone mentality. Instead, we are gathered together with our people to receive this encouragement: God has the victory. He is in charge. He loves us dearly. He has paid the price. He will bring change about in us. He will see change happen in the lives of others through the work He is doing in us today. We are meant to be together, walking in the rhythms of grace together. Praise God for that.

Father of lights, Lord of Creation, Author of my life, Sovereign over me,
Please grant us the strength today to stand in service of You. Purify us from all the filth that clings to this sin-drenched, mortal life. By the blood of Jesus, poured out over us, cleanse us from human brokenness & chart a pathway through the wilderness of our hearts that they might become springs of life by the power of Your Holy Spirit at work in us. Remember our sins no more, as You have promised, and grant us confidence in Christ, united together, to step boldly into the day You have created and lay at our feet. We pray this in Jesus’ precious Name. Amen.

Acts 5:1-11 // Lying to God

“1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property. 2 However, he kept back part of the proceeds with his wifes knowledge, and brought a portion of it and laid it at the apostles feet.

3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the proceeds from the field? 4 Wasn’t it yours while you possessed it? And after it was sold, wasn’t it at your disposal? Why is it that you planned this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God!” 5 When he heard these words, Ananias dropped dead, and a great fear came on all who heard. 6 The young men got up, wrapped his body, carried him out, and buried him.

7 There was an interval of about three hours; then his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 “Tell me,” Peter asked her, “did you sell the field for this price?”

“Yes,” she said, “for that price.”

9 Then Peter said to her, “Why did you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out!”

10 Instantly she dropped dead at his feet. When the young men came in, they found her dead, carried her out, and buried her beside her husband. 11 Then great fear came on the whole church and on all who heard these things.”

Acts 5:1-11

The church is in her infancy, and while she is moving in the might and power of God’s Holy Spirit, people are still figuring out what it means to be a Christian. What makes them distinct, separate? What defines the life, heart and attitude of someone who follows Jesus? In just a short time, the Gentiles will be confirmed and invited in to be a part of what is going on, along with the Samaritans. So what happens here, in these first crucial moments, lays the foundation for everything that is to come. Will the followers of The Way be like many of the adherents of Judaism? Is this about ritual, doing the right things in the right time, or is it more than that? Is it more than just sacrifices & good impressions? And indeed it is.

Ananias & Sapphira were in a position to make an offering, to be devoted through sacrifice just like everyone else had been doing. They sold land so they could donate money, that’s good. But they lied about how much they had to give from the sale, in order to make themselves look better, and that’s bad. They lied directly to God, who knows everything, down to the deepest thoughts and attitudes of our hearts. This couple desired the acclaim that they saw others getting for their generosity, but they also wanted to keep a little back for themselves. We don’t know why exactly, could it have been a lack of trust? Greed? Did they have other obligations to meet? Who knows? What matters is that they desired to create a false impression and to build themselves up in the sight of everyone, and they placed themselves above God.

This is where much of the fault lies…

lying to God and placing self above Him.

Again, the church in her infancy, people still figuring things out, listening to and watching the Apostle’s every move to determine what this life would say is acceptable, and what it meant to follow Jesus Christ. And immediately, the hammer comes down on these two because this is in no way acceptable, permissible or can it be encouraged as proper behavior or motivation for followers of Jesus Christ. And so they bear the punishment for their guilt & sin. This couldn’t just be about ritual, walking through the motions. This had to be more, this had to be deeper, and so the motivations of the heart matter intensely.

For us today, this is still true. We cannot lie to God, walk through the motions, and expect to remain in His good graces. This life we live in Jesus isn’t just about looks and appearances, as if it could be so shallow. Instead, we must come to Him, nothing withheld, honest in all we do, raw & open hearted. This isn’t about social contacts, networking or personal fame. This isn’t about looking good in the eyes of others, this is about honor God and bringing Him glory as we walk in the footsteps of Christ. If we are going to GoLove others as Jesus did, then it cannot be about us for even a moment. We cannot hold anything in reserve. We cannot lie to God, or ourselves. For the growth and health of the church, we must lay it all on the line and own only Him.

Mark 12:38-44 // Hypocrisy inside and out

“38 He also said in His teaching, “Beware of the scribes, who want to go around in long robes, and who want greetings in the marketplaces, 39 the front seats in the synagogues, and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows houses and say long prayers just for show. These will receive harsher punishment.”

41 Sitting across from the temple treasury, He watched how the crowd dropped money into the treasury. Many rich people were putting in large sums. 42 And a poor widow came and dropped in two tiny coins worth very little. 43 Summoning His disciples, “He said to them, I assure you: This poor widow has put in more than all those giving to the temple treasury. 44 For they all gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she possessed — all she had to live on.”

Mark 12:38-44 

Here we find two hearts in stark contrast with one another. We find the audacious, bold, arrogant heart of the religious leaders standing in opposition to the quiet, faithful, Humble heart of the widow. The religious leaders, proud of their accomplishments, proud of their position, proud of their wealth, proud of their intellect stand apart from God. They worshipped only themselves, and as Jesus says, their reward comes from men and their praise.

But this quiet widow, giving all she had, trusting in God, she is the one with the heart that honors God. Nothing those religious leaders could do could begin to imitate what she brought to God. The religious leaders trusted only in themselves, they had no concept of grace or of God’s care. Sure, they would have considered themselves blessed, but they would also take the credit for the blessing. God showed them favor because of their genetic forebears and because of their own righteous acts. They earned it. 

The widow comes knowing that YHWH is her provider, knowing that there is nothing in her that buys her love from Him. Instead, she comes wholly trusting and wholly thankful. Out of her poverty, she gave it all. And if you’ve ever seen the Israeli ‘mite’ you know that it is an incredibly small coin. For that to be all you have in the world is to be dependent on God. 

Mark 10 – “23 Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 24 But the disciples were astonished at His words. Again Jesus said to them, Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

We would all be better to be more dependent on God, trusting in Him, rather than trusting in money, intellect, position or anything else. To GoLove in His Name means to GoLove dependent on Him. Rich and poor, learned and meek, we must come to others humbly through our understanding of Him. We cannot go out proud of self, but instead boasting in Christ. 

Mark 8:34-37

“34 Summoning the crowd along with His disciples, He said to them, “If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it. 36 For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world yet lose his life? 37 What can a man give in exchange for his life?”

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

“26 Brothers, consider your calling: Not many are wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. 27 Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. 28 God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world — what is viewed as nothing — to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, 29 so that no one can boast in His presence. 30 But it is from Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became God- given wisdom for us — our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written: The one who boasts must boast in the Lord.”

Numbers 28 // An interactive faith

“1 The Lord spoke to Moses, 2 “Command the Israelites and say to them: ‘Be sure to present to Me at its appointed time My offering and My food as My fire offering, a pleasing aroma to Me.’ 3 And say to them: ‘This is the fire offering you are to present to the Lord:

Each day present two unblemished year- old male lambs as a regular burnt offering. 4 Offer one lamb in the morning and the other lamb at twilight, 5 along with two quarts of fine flour for a grain offering mixed with a quart of olive oil from crushed olives.’ 6 It is a regular burnt offering established at Mount Sinai for a pleasing aroma, a fire offering to the Lord.””
Numbers 28:1-6

And along with these daily sacrifices, there was a double sacrifice for each Sabbath, and then monthly offerings as well. In total, each month would see about 75 lambs, two young bulls and a ram, in addition to all the drink and grain offerings. This does not include the possibility of a festival or holy day during that month, which would then increase the work of the priests and the people depending on what is to be done. Every day, every weekend and every month there was a constant line of sacrifices going through the tabernacle, a constant aroma of incense and burnt offerings, trumpets, prayers and songs, all being offered up to God as part of the worship His people would give Him.

And this wasn’t a dull, dusty, ritualistic, just-because-you-have-to type of faith. No. God set this all up to first bring honor and glory to Himself because He is worthy, but He also did this so we would have a way to interact with Him, to fulfill that primary component of our humanity, which is to worship Him with every facet of our being. There were always going to be daily, weekly and monthly opportunities to lift God up in praise. There were always going to be times of extra worship, celebration and somber remembrance.

God has blessed us with a faith that goes with us daily, that is always wafting around us, like the smoke in the Israelite camp. Little whiffs, aromas, that remind us of Him all throughout the day. A rhythm of worship, sacrifice, prayer, praise and His love, established to make that all important connection between the Maker and the made, the Shepherd and His sheep.
Again, every moment of it is meant for His glory, and is intended to be worship for Him. It -is- all about Him, after all. We benefit from this because this is what we were made for, and so our hearts find fulfillment, deep, lasting fulfillment, in worship.

As we GoLove others in the Name of Jesus, our lives should be a reflection of our acknowledgement that this is indeed our purpose. We should live lives of worship, praise, prayer, sacrifice, and all done in love of the One who first loved us. That sacrificial life is a clarion call above the pride and selfishness of the world, and the sinful behavior of mankind. We have been made for something far greater, and we will never find fulfillment until we find it in worship of our Great King, Jesus.

Numbers 19 // Impure until evening

“21 This is a permanent statute for them. The person who sprinkles the water for impurity is to wash his clothes, and whoever touches the water for impurity will be unclean until evening. 22 Anything the unclean person touches will become unclean, and anyone who touches it will be unclean until evening.”
Numbers 19:21-22

It’s definitely interesting and telling that even in the rights for purification and making things and people ‘clean’ again that one could be made ‘unclean’ in the process of making the ashes and water for impurity. This is another example that God gives to us that points to the need for a ‘once-for-all’ sacrifice that covers all sin and all impurity.

These Levitical rituals pointed in the most basic way toward a need for personal cleanliness, but their necessary repetition surely left the people desiring a more lasting ordinance, a way to be made pure in a definitive and final way. As Christians, we who have been baptized into Christ have been baptized into His death and have been covered by His blood, not just the ashes of a heifer. We have been purified by His perfect sacrifice, not just temporarily atoned for by an animal.

Look at what the author of Hebrews says about this in Hebrews 10:1-10 –

“1 Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come, and not the actual form of those realities, it can never perfect the worshipers by the same sacrifices they continually offer year after year. 2 Otherwise, wouldn’t they have stopped being offered, since the worshipers, once purified, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3 But in the sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

5 Therefore, as He was coming into the world, He said:
‘You did not want sacrifice and offering,
but You prepared a body for Me.
6 You did not delight
in whole burnt offerings and sin offerings.
7 Then I said, ‘See —
it is written about Me
in the volume of the scroll —
I have come to do Your will, God!”

8 After He says above, ‘You did not want or delight in sacrifices and offerings, whole burnt offerings and sin offerings’ (which are offered according to the law), 9 He then says, ‘See, I have come to do Your will.’ He takes away the first to establish the second. 10 By this will of God, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all.”

And that is where our peace in Christ comes from. His sacrifice covers us once and for all, and it will continue to cover us as long as we live according to the covenant that was established in His blood. He will never fail us, but we can walk away, although that would be a sad and terrible thing to do.

As we GoLove others in the Name of Christ, we carry with us the joy of the ‘once-for-all’ sacrifice that He made for us. We do not work our way to heaven or pray that we do no accidentally die in an ‘unclean’ state, but rather, we rely on the finality and wholeness of His sacrifice. In Christ, we are only ever made ‘clean’ and as we walk with Him, that holiness carries us through all life’s struggles and pains because we know it is a gift of love, grace, mercy and compassion. It draws our hearts toward the One who first loved us.

Numbers 18 // The Covenant of Salt

“17 However, you must not redeem the firstborn of an ox, a sheep, or a goat; they are holy. You are to sprinkle their blood on the altar and burn their fat as a fire offering for a pleasing aroma to the Lord. 18 But their meat belongs to you. It belongs to you like the breast of the presentation offering and the right thigh.
19 I give to you and to your sons and daughters all the holy contributions that the Israelites present to the Lord as a permanent statute. It is a permanent covenant of salt before the Lord for you as well as your offspring.
20 The Lord told Aaron, You will not have an inheritance in their land; there will be no portion among them for you. I am your portion and your inheritance among the Israelites.”
Numbers 18:17-20

There are certain phrases which have a deeper cultural meaning than we understand today. There are ideas and ideals that were commonplace for people groups 3000-6000 years ago that for whatever reason have been lost to those of us in Western culture today. One of those is the meaning of salt in life. For us today, salt is common, cheap and in most prepackaged foods, is already applied for us for flavoring. There are so many salted foods, that we almost wouldn’t know what to do if the manufacturers suddenly quit using it in their preparation processes.

But for the Israelites and many other ancient peoples, sharing salt was an intimate thing. If you were sharing salt with someone, that implied that hospitality was taking place, provision was being made and that that individual was someone welcome in you home. Sharing salt was a sign of friendship, and indicated a closeness that you wouldn’t show to just anyone.

So, this covenant of salt was a covenant that implied a closeness, it wasn’t just a business transaction, or a trade agreement. It wasn’t some cold, contractual closeness, brought on by the necessity of getting work done. We all have those connections, people we know but don’t really “know.” These are the people that we will probably never invite over to our house to share a meal, people that we don’t think of when we are sending out Christmas cards or invitations to family functions.

But this covenant of salt with God was a precious and special thing, and to emphasize this, God required that salt be a part of the offering between the people and Himself. Leviticus 2:13 – “You are to season each of your grain offerings with salt; you must not omit from your grain offering the salt of the covenant with your God. You are to present salt with each of your offerings.”

The ‘salt of the covenant’ indicated the closeness of the covenant, the intimacy of the two parties. To leave it out would be an insult, and would negate the offering. This shared closeness was a key to seeing this covenant relationship as being seen in that way, as a relationship. The salt was a reminder of the provision and hospitality of God. And again, the true value of hospitality has been lost in our culture today, and that is not to our benefit. It has made us quick, cold and distant. But if we would all add a little salt into our relationships, we might all be better off for it.

If we are going to GoLove others for the sake of Christ, we need to add a little salt into our presentations and into our language. We need to be hospitable, let people in, and allow there to be a closeness there beyond a simple presentation. Sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not the same thing as a business contract being explained between two parties. Rather, it is a deep reaching thing, protruding beyond what anything else can do, into the depths of our heart. And we cannot speak to the depths of the hearts of others if we are keeping them at an arm’s length. We must be open. We must allow contact to really happen so that lasting, positive impressions can be made. Be open, be genuine and allow people to sit with you at the table of your heart so you will be welcome at thiers.

Numbers 7 // All worship being equal

In Numbers 7, the Israelites are celebrating the completion of the Tabernacle and so God tells them to bring in their gifts to be uses for sacrifices and for use in the worship services and dedication. Each tribal group brings in the exact same type and number of items, regardless of the size or prominence of their tribe:

Numbers 7:12-17
“The one who presented his offering on the first day was Nahshon son of Amminadab from the tribe of Judah. 13 His offering was one silver dish weighing 3 1/4 pounds and one silver basin weighing 1 3/4 pounds, measured by the standard sanctuary shekel, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; 14 one gold bowl weighing four ounces, full of incense; 15 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; 16 one male goat for a sin offering; 17 and two bulls, five rams, five male breeding goats, and five male lambs a year old, for the fellowship sacrifice. This was the offering of Nahshon son of Amminadab.”

And as you read through all twelve tribes, the offering list is identical. Each group is presenting to God a gift for His use and for His worship that matches those of their brothers. Each tribe could have come in trying to out do each other, showing off with more and more lavish gifts, but then the giving would have been about them, about their tribe gaining notoriety rather than God being praised and lifted up. So it was fitting and right that each tribe brought in items identical to each other, the same numbers of livestock and the same type of flour, oils and incense.

Worship is meant to be orderly, selfless and focused on God. And when we recognize that no one else’s worship is any more or any less than ours, our perspective changes. When we realize that worship is not about us, our gifts or our preferences, our perspective changes. When we recognize that the gifts we bring are special and precious and appreciated by God, then our perspective changes. Because from the first silver bowl to the last male lamb, every gift is for God, and therefore the worship. Is about God, focused on Him and meant to glorify Him.

It is never, never, for a moment about us. It is never a time to have our way, to show off our skills or to draw an eye toward our efforts. Each tribe had equal share then, and we all have an equal share now as we worship God every single day. Worship isn’t about being seen by man, but lifting God up to be worshipped and adored by all. He alone is worthy, and anything else we bring into that mix distorts that beautiful gift of love. And if you and I are going to GoLove others in a way that draws eyes to Christ, it only makes sense that we would maintain that attitude of humility in worship. No effort for God is unappreciated or undervalued. Every single one of us has an equal role before the throne of Almighty God.

The forbidden topic and the tightly held fist // 2 Corinthians 9

“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”
2 Corinthians 9:6-9 ESV

Everybody loves talking about money, even more than that, we love talking about how each of us should use the money we have been given in a way that honors God. Sermons on giving are the most popular ones throughout the year, and congregants are always sending notes to the preacher asking him to talk even more about money and finances, giving and generosity, right? Right?

No. Money is a major contender in the hearts of most people for the place of first priority. It is an idol to beat out most idols and a worry that consumes many, weakening them in their service and willingness to walk with Christ. There is a greater sense of possession and a desire to control our money than most any other resource we have been given apart from our homes, which we must use that money to continue to possess and maintain. We place trust in money. We are Moore comfortable when our bank accounts have more in them, and we are more anxious and consumed with fear and/or worry when they begin to run low.

So, when Jesus or Paul or anyone else talks about money and generosity, there is a tendency to look at what they are saying as more of a suggestion rather than as a command or as an imperative. We will speak of moral issues with certainty, but of money with a half hearted sense of commitment. We will give most anything, but don’t ask us to give too much of our money.

And so again, Paul’s address to the church in Corinth, masterfully handled through the Spirit, is an encouragement to glorify God and build up others, both those who will receive the offering and those who will be encouraged to generosity through the giving of others. When we give cheerfully, the state of our hearts reflect God’s when He gives. When we give like we’re being robbed at gunpoint, no one is glorified and hearts are hardened and our own attitudes only worsen.

And if we are honest with God and with ourselves, we are only able to be generous because He has been generous with us first. Our witness to His generosity stands through the generosity we show in turn. How we show love to others is reflected in the generosity we show and the openness we exhibit from all the corners of our hearts. So GoLove God and others with a cheerful, giving heart. It encourages us to open up more, to be more generous and to have a deeper understanding of His great love and generosity. A heart that mirrors the generosity of God is a heart that draws more and more people to Him.

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