Corn Kernel Christianity


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Corn Kernel Christianity

Wo! Spring is coming. Can you believe it?!? It’s almost time to plant our garden. I always have the best intentions in the Fall. I’m going to till the garden several times during the winter – work in material from the compost bins and leaves from the yard. In January, I realize I haven’t done that yet. I had not even pulled out all the dead plants until a few days ago.

When I was a child, I watched my Dad plant his garden. He would till it up and form the rows or mounds, depending on the type of crop. He would go along and punch small indentations for the seeds, then come back and drop in the seeds – four in each hole, for most of the plants. When I asked him, “Why four?” He said it was what he had learned from his grandfather, and told me a little poem.

farmerpoem

John 12:24 says, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it brings forth much fruit.” I thought about my great-granddad’s poem in light of that verse and had to ask, which one was Jesus referring to? Obviously the ones eaten by worm and crow are gone and don’t produce fruit. The one that rots is surely dead, but doesn’t grow or bring forth fruit. That would mean that the one that grows, is also the one that dies in order to produce. If it dies, how does it produce fruit? And, if it dies, why doesn’t it rot?

Remember in school when you put a seed in a jar and filled the jar with dirt or paper so that the seed was pressed against the glass and you could watch it grow. Eventually, it began to split open and sent out a little root. A stem broke through and began to unfurl little leaves. Soon you had a little plant with a seed stuck to its side. Before long, as the plant continued to grow, there was no sign of the seed itself.

A seed must cease to be a seed and become a plant. It must die to being a seed in order to become the stalk on which more seeds can be produced.

After I finished my cancer treatment, I was told by the doctor it was “gone; we got it all.” People would ask me, “How are you doing?” But there was something different in how it sounded. It was especially noticeable when Trish and I were together. They would ask her how she was doing, in a normal, cheerful-greeting, kind of voice. They would ask me, “and how are you doing?” It would be said with seriousness, sometimes with brow wrinkled by concern, in a slightly hushed voice appropriately seasoned with a hint of sympathy, bordering on sorrow. It used to irritate me a little. I would usually just answer with a cheerful, “I’m fine,” or “I’m great.” Although sometimes I would, with almost the same degree of seriousness add, “How are you doing?”

I am a little ashamed I let it bother me. I still occasionally get the same kind of inquiry. While I do not want pity, when you think how flippantly we inquire into one another’s well being without really caring, I realize how blessed I am that they are genuinely asking after my health. When I tell them it has been five years now and I am still cancer free, they are sincerely happy for me. It often leads to their mentioning another friend who had cancer, or is currently going through treatment.

Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Sometimes that happens just in our choosing to do the right thing, or choosing to not do the wrong thing. Sometimes it comes through major struggles and disasters. Sometimes it is through the loss of a loved one through death or divorce. Sometimes it is a battle with injury or disease – such as cancer. In all these things, as our world is shaken, we can either cling to things that eventually go away or fall apart, or we can cling to the Eternal. We can be devoured by worm or crow, or rot in our self-centered misery. Or, we can die to our small and petty “seedness,” and grow and thrive and produce much fruit in Him.

Which seed do you want to be? How do you respond to life’s challenges? What experiences have you had that have taken you to a deeper understanding of God’s love and faithfulness?

Come Inside

Old Covenant

  • The animal was sacrificed in front of the people – daily sacrifices, annual feast days, and the day of atonement – outside the tent of meeting.
  • The blood of the sacrifice was taken into the tent of meeting and sprinkled before the veil and on the four horns of the altar of incense.
  • The remainder of the blood was poured out at the base of the altar of sacrifice before the people.
  • The people remained in the outer court, as onlookers, while the priests ministered within the place of meeting. The veil hung in the temple to separate the holy place where the priests ministered, from the holy of holies in which the glory of God dwelt, and into which the high priest could enter only once a year, with the proper preparation and sacrifice.
  • It was a system of repeated rituals.

New Covenant

  • Jesus was taken to a hillside where he died in public view, once for all.
  • Jesus’ hung on the cross, blood flowing from His head, hands and feet; and He turned the cross into an altar of incense as He interceded for His executioners.
  • Jesus’ blood was poured out at the foot of His cross, before a crowd of on-lookers.
  • We have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh (Hebrews 10:19-20). This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us… (Hebrews 6:19-20).
  • It was a once and for all work by God on our behalf.

We do not have to stand in the outer court and watch ever again. Christianity is not meant to be a spectator religion. You do not have to watch while the “priest” (or any “professional Christian”) ministers on your behalf. The veil was torn. Jesus made a way for us to abide in the presence of God. It is no longer a once a year thing reserved for the priesthood. It is no longer confined to a place – not a tabernacle, a temple, or even a church building. It is offered to us as our day-to-day experience and lifestyle. Will you be content to stand on the outside looking in?

When you call out as David did, “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness,” He bids you to enter into His presence, into the Holy of Holies. He bids you to draw near to Him, “having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” by means of an eternal, once for all redemption.

When you long for Him to “hide Your face from my sins,” He says, “I did.” When He turned His back on His Son, prompting Him to cry out, “My God, why have You forsaken me?”, He was turning His back and hiding His face from your sins and mine.

Bottom line, He has done it all. He has covered the bases. He has made the way for you to be restored to a loving, living relationship with Him. Your part is to stop trying to fight Him. Stop running from Him. Stop trying to please or appease Him. Stop trying to make yourself acceptable to Him. Becoming a Christian is not something that you do by your own self-effort. Your part is to cease from your efforts and find the rest for which you are searching by trusting that what Jesus did was sufficient to meet your needs, to make you clean and whole, to straighten out the mess you and others have made of your life, and to make you acceptable to God. Rest in Him and His finished work on your behalf.

If you are a Christian, whether you realized the process or not, that is what happened when you became a Christian. It is what every Believer has in common. No matter what your testimony is as to how you came to Christ, this underlying process is what took place at salvation. You get in by the cross. You get in by grace, through faith. You get in by ceasing from your efforts and resting (trusting, “faithing”) in His.

Have you been an “outer court Christian?” Are you learning to draw near to Him, to abide in His presence? Can you see God teaching you through your day-to-day experiences?

Say That Without Spitting


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Say That Without Spitting

Propitiation. That’s one you don’t hear often, but it has become one of my favorites. We really should use it more (just pass the towels). I got so excited when I started studying the big, “church” words. We quit using them because we were trying to make church “seeker friendly.” But we dumbed ourselves down, when we should have just educated our listeners.

If you look up the English word propitiation in a lexicon, you find other big, religious words – like expiation, conciliation, redemption, and justification. Webster’s dictionary defines most of these words around the concept of attempting to please God, to make atonement, find forgiveness, restore peace or friendship with God. It all sounds like things we have to do – big, heavy, burdensome things. And that’s just wrong!

propitiaion

In Exodus, God gives Moses the detailed instructions for building the tabernacle and everything inside it, including the Ark of the Covenant. In Leviticus, He tells him how all these things he built are to be used. On top of the Ark, Moses was told to make a seat, like a bench. The Hebrew word for this is “capporeth.” It was to be 2½ cubits long and 1½ cubits  wide, the same as the Ark itself, and apparently functioning as the lid. Figuring a cubit at about 18″, that would be about 45″x 27″. It was called the mercy seat. At each end of it was a cherubim. The whole assembly of bench and cherubim was to be made of gold. Each of the cherubim was to face inward, looking at the mercy seat. The wings of the cherubim swept inward, toward one another, over the mercy seat, and touching wingtips. The Ark was in the innermost part of the tabernacle, the Holy of Holies. God told Moses, “And there I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel.”

On the annual Day of Atonement, the high priest would sacrifice a bull as a sin offering and a ram as a burnt offering. Then he would take from the congregation two male goats for a sin offering and a burnt offering. He would cast lots and thereby select one of the goats for the sacrifice. The blood of the bull was sprinkled on the east end of the mercy seat, and in front of the mercy seat. The blood of the goat was sprinkled on and in front of the mercy seat. The other goat was the “scapegoat,” and was presented alive before the Lord, and then released into the wilderness, representing the sins being carried away.

In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, the word “capporeth” is always translated by the Greek word “hilasterion.” That is the word used in Romans 3:25 referring to Jesus as the one “whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.”

While the Law was given as commandments to be obeyed, we miss the point that God is the “prime mover.” He is the One who told Moses to make the mercy seat. In other words, He is the One who chose to make a way, and chose the way to reconcile man to Himself. He acted first. It was not about man attempting to appease God, please God, make atonement, find forgiveness, restore peace…. God moved first! He reached out. He made the way.

Consider then, Romans 3:21-25. God took on flesh and blood in the person of His Son, the Messiah, Jesus. Jesus became the propitiation – the Mercy Seat. It wasn’t the blood of bulls or rams or goats, but through His own blood and because of the incredible “forbearance (patience) of God that He passed over the sins previously committed.” In Jesus is the Mercy Seat, the Blood, and the Passover. In Jesus is redemption, reconciliation, propitiation, atonement, forgiveness, and salvation. He is where we come to meet God, to enter His presence. And, it is by His doing. “Apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God, He passed over the sins previously committed.” This, to me, is what Jesus meant when He said He did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill!

God loves you. He wants fellowship with you. He delights in you. It isn’t about what you have to do to appease Him. It’s about what He has done to reach out to you, and to demonstrate His love. Have you accepted that love? Will you?

A Better Way


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A Better Way
In case you are wondering, I frankly will not spend a lot of time in the Old Testament on this blog. The last post, and maybe just a few more, will hopefully serve the purpose of showing some new covenant principles that were foreshadowed in the old. It is not an attempt to be exhaustive on the subject, but to be illustrative.

Last time I mentioned that, because of Abraham’s and Sarah’s being well past child-bearing age, the birth of Isaac was an example of life out of death. It set the stage for the sacrificial system to come.

Considerable detail is given in the Old Testament to the entire system of sacrifices and tabernacle/temple worship. The tabernacle is described in Exodus 25-27. Materials, colors, designs, and dimensions are laid out in detail. There is an outer court with the altar of sacrifice and the bronze laver of water for cleansing. The enclosed part was divided into two parts, the Holy Place held the table of shewbread, the golden candlestick, and the altar of incense. A veil separated this from the Holy of Holies, which housed the Ark of the Covenant. Similar detail is given to the description of the temple, the more permanent structure, in 1 Kings 6-7 and 2 Chronicles 3-5.

Tabernacle

The sacrifice was the core of the old covenant system of worship. On its most practical level, the daily sacrifices and offerings provided food for the priests, whose job was not to farm, but to keep the people focused on God. On the bigger sacrificial events, such as the Day of Atonement, the people were to bring their individual sacrifices, which provided the food for the feast days.

Spiritually, by the sacrifice, sins were forgiven and purification was made. The priest would slay the bull at the doorway of the tabernacle, sprinkle some of the blood in front of the veil of the sanctuary, put some on the “horns of the altar of fragrant incense” (an extension of each corner of the altar), then pour out the blood of the animal before the altar of sacrifice – where the offering was “burnt,” or cooked. The symbolism of all these things is beautiful to consider. Books have been written about it that are more thorough than I have the time or purpose to go into here. I want to focus on the Holiest of All – or, the Holy of Holies.

The Holy of Holies was considered the dwelling place of God. Only the High Priest could enter within the Holy of Holies. He could only enter once a year, on the Day of Atonement. As long as the tabernacle/temple system was standing, the way into the holiest place was not disclosed, according to Hebrews 9:8. The gifts and sacrifices offered through this system could not make the worshiper perfect in conscience. If they could, the average person could have entered with confidence into the Holy of Holies. The old covenant regulations had to do with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body “imposed until a time of reformation.” They had to be repeated over and over. Their effect was not total, nor did it last indefinitely. Hebrews calls it weak and useless because it makes nothing perfect, pointing us to a better hope and a better covenant enacted on better promises. In the “fulness of time,” or at the proper time, God “summed up” all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth (Ephesians 1:10).

Jesus replaced the repetitious system with a once-for-all system. Not by the blood of bulls or goats, but by His own blood, Jesus entered a greater and more perfect tabernacle, that of Heaven, entering the Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

Adam and Abraham


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Adam and Abraham

Most Christians can “share their testimony” of how they “got saved.” However, I am not so sure most understand, or are even aware of the spiritual principles and dynamics of that experience. As a result, they struggle in self-effort to achieve righteousness. They lack a foundation for spiritual growth. They may know a lot about the Bible, but are well-educated spiritual babies. They lack a foundation for righteous living, so they strive to live by the letter of the law, seeking “holiness” by living up to rules plucked from both the Old and New Testaments, and constantly failing, repenting, failing, repenting, ad infinitum. Over the next few blog posts, I want to lay that foundation of understanding the spiritual dynamics of salvation. Understanding how we begin the Christian life can make a world of difference in how we live the Christian life.

Wenera

God has always wanted a relationship with man. He walked with Adam in the Garden. Adam, which means mankind, being the only human at the time, was all of mankind, both male and female. It wasn’t until after the 1st sin, that man designated himself as Adam and his wife as Eve. Through Adam, sin entered the world, and with it, death. The first eleven chapters of Genesis tell of this relationship and how it was disrupted by man’s sin. During this time, God is depicted as relating to man on an individual basis.

Coming on the heels of the stories of the fall and corruption of mankind, is Abraham. In Abraham, God’s relationship with mankind takes a new twist. God narrows the focus of redemption history to one select group, a chosen people. Just as there are significant lessons to be learned from the concept of mankind beginning with one individual created by God, there is significance to God’s establishing a covenant with a one man and thus establishing a chosen people through whom He would relate to the world. And there is significance to the specific man He chose.

Abraham and Sarah had no children, and were too old to start. They were in effect dead to childbearing. Paul says Abram was as good as dead, and refers to the deadness of Sarah’s womb. Out of this death God provided life through the miraculous birth of Isaac. This significant beginning was also the beginning of the ancestry of the One through Whom “all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Abraham became the father of Him who was before him. God demonstrated through Abraham that life comes out of death.

This concept is the basis of the old covenant system of sacrifice. That’s for upcoming posts. For now, let’s look at Adam and Abraham.

  1. With both, God was the prime mover. In other words, He acted first. He created Adam. He walked with Adam in the garden. He sought out Adam after he sinned. God came to Abraham (Abram at the time), and established His covenant with him.
  2. The idea that God created Mankind beginning with one individual teaches the value of each individual. To the Jews, killing one individual was equivalent to killing mankind. More than that, the idea that God took the time and effort to specifically form one individual speaks to the personal value of each individual to God. Random evolutionary process just doesn’t communicate that concept.
  3. When Russian President Putin was asked what he thought of American President George W. Bush calling the 9/11 terrorists “evil,” and how that compared to President Ronald Reagan referring to the USSR as an “evil empire,” Putin had a very insightful reply. He said Reagan’s comments did not bother him. It was just the kind of rhetoric one nation uses to describe a political adversary. “But,” he said, of the Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, “they are truly evil. To them we are but dust.” What an accurate description of evil. God lovingly formed man from the dust of the ground a breathed into him the breath of life. Evil, in direct opposition, sees living men and women, values them as no more than dust, and ultimately seeks to return them to dust. Kill, mutilate, rape, destroy, covet, commit adultery – it doesn’t matter. It is just dust. You cannot get there if you truly believe that God lovingly created that individual.
  4. When God came to Abram, He was not coming to a religious group. He was not coming to an existing nation and telling them a specific way to worship. (That came later). He came to one man and established a relationship. It was a relationship based on His promises. He promised an old man with an old wife descendants as numerous as the stars. He did not give Abraham any rituals to follow (circumcision came later), or any laws to obey. He just gave Him promises. All Abraham needed was faith. That’s why Paul declares that Abraham was the father of all who are of faith, and that if you come to God on the basis of faith, you are Abraham’s descendant. That’s why Rich Mullins sang, “Sometimes I think of Abraham, how one star he saw had been lit for me.” God loved Abraham. When God told him his descendants would be as numerous as the stars, if you have come to God on the basis of faith, one of those stars represented you. Even then, He had you in mind.

Do you find yourself struggling with righteousness? When you fall, do you sometimes want to just give up? Do you know that God loves you because He chooses to?