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Posts Tagged ‘instruction’

As the Lord begins to speak to Moses on Mount Sinai, he enters into a very long discourse on exactly how to build a place of worship.  He goes into great detail over a period of forty days and forty nights just instructing Moses on how to instruct His people to erect, furnish, and attend His place of worship.  It begins in Exodus 25 and does not conclude until Moses comes back down the mountain in Exodus chapter 31.  Let’s consider these instructions for God’s holy dwelling place carefully.

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel, that they take for me a contribution. From every man whose heart moves him you shall receive the contribution for me. And this is the contribution that you shall receive from them: gold, silver, and bronze, blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, goats’ hair, tanned rams’ skins, goatskins, acacia wood, oil for the lamps, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, onyx stones, and stones for setting, for the ephod and for the breastpiece. And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. Exactly as I show you concerning the pattern of the tabernacle, and of all its furniture, so you shall make it. ~Exodus 25:1-9

The very first thing God tells Moses about his sacred place is that it is to be a place of giving.  Each and every person attending God’s place of worship was to offer a gift.  Each and every person was to contribute.  No one was to come empty handed.  No one was to be excluded from making an offering.  No one was to be kept from giving whatever they had to give.  God gave specific instructions on what to bring.  The idea here is that the people of God were to bring the very best things they had and offer those to the Lord.

Note…to the Lord.  Verse two tells us that the contributions made were “for me” and God was speaking.  The gifts we bring to the house of God are for HIM; to glorify HIM; to honor HIM; to please HIM.

This was the very first instruction God gave in regards to the place of worship where he would be pleased to come and dwell.  This tells us that giving and offering our very best gifts in a place of worship is greatly important to God.

We should never enter or attend a place of worship empty handed.  We are to bring our very best gifts and offer them back to God.  We ought never to forbid others from giving their best gifts to the Lord.  God commands His people first and foremost in a place where he is to come and dwell to contribute.

If we fail to contribute to God’s house due to apathy, complacency, laziness, or greed, we ought to be very ashamed.  If we fail to allow others to contribute due to pride, control, envy, or jealousy, we ought to be very ashamed.  God would not have made this instruction first, foremost, and primary if it was not of great importance.

Let’s do things God’s way, Church.  “Whatsoever is done in God’s service must be done by His direction and not otherwise.” ~Matthew Henry

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altar

In Exodus 20:22-26, we find Moses meeting with God.  He has just walked into the darkness after God has given the 10 Commandments and all the people are afraid.  Moses is elected mediator and he enters God’s presence on Mt. Sinai.  Here, God begins to expound about the commands he just gave.  In this passage, we find God giving details as to how to carry out worship to him and how to avoid breaking the first two commandments he has just given.

22 And the Lord said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the people of Israel: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have talked with you from heaven. 23 You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold. 24 An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you. 25 If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it. 26 And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it.’ ~Exodus 20:22-26

In verse 22, God instructs Moses to tell His people that because they have seen for themselves that he has come down and condescended them from heaven – because they have personally witnessed God’s presence among them – that there should be no need to break command number one.  There should be no reasonable excuse for you to make images of God as if he were not present.  Not only that, but they had experienced God’s voice, not his form.  They had not seen any images of Him to even have the ability to make a proper representation even if they had been permitted to do so.  This served as a reminder to both they and we that we must keep close to God and his presence on account of his Word alone.

In verse 23, God forbids making gods out of fine materials.  He knew the people were apt to use their silver and gold to make images and set them up beside him in pretense of worship to him.  With these, they pretended to worship and honor God but actually became guilty of idolatry and worshipped them in place of or in addition to God.  In other words, they started out with the idea that they were going to use their best, most expensive materials to make the most elaborate things to worship god with, but ended up worshipping those things their hands had made as idols.  They stopped giving honor and glory to God and began giving it to the things their hands had made.

Next, verse 24-26 instructs the building of altars and promises a blessing where he is remembered.  The altars were to be made of earth or unhewn stone.  The altar was to be a place of honor and worship to God.  Therefore, God determined that it ought to be made from the unadulterated versions of what he created without man’s modifications.  The composition of the altar was to remind men that they cannot improve upon God’s building blocks for change. Furthermore, they may be tempted to make a graven image if they were permitted to finish the stones rather than using them as they found them.   Finally, the humble, base materials God called for here coupled with the lowness with which they were to be constructed were to help God’s people realize that worship to God ought to be humble and self-abasing rather than external, flashy, prideful, and pompous.

Matthew Henry says this in relation to God’s promise to meet with them and bless them anywhere his name is remembered: “In all places where I record my name, or where my name is recorded (that is, where I am worshipped in sincerity), I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.  Afterwards, God chose one particular place wherein to record his name: but that being taken away now under the gospel, when men are encouraged to pray everywhere, this promise revives in its full extent, that wherever God’s people meet in his name to worship him, he will be in the midst of them, he will honor them with his presence, and reward them with the gifts of his grace; there he will come unto them, and will bless them, and more than this we need not desire for the beautifying of our solemn assemblies.” 

So, what does this mean for us today?  The practical applications are thus:

  1. God’s Word alone is to be sufficient evidence of his enduring presence with us.
  2. We must recognize and be on guard against the temptation that comes by setting out to build God’s kingdom starting with what we consider the best materials when we are actually building a kingdom for ourselves because we love those things and the praise and honor that comes with them more than we love God.  True worship and acceptable sacrifice is a result of what God gives, not what man makes.
  3. The place of change, worship, and sacrifice ought to be a place of noticeable humility and lowliness rather than extravagance and man-made showmanship.
  4. God honors the gathering together of his people no matter how humble and small the group is.  If he is being honored and his name is being lifted up and remembered among us, that is a place God is bound and determined to bless.

 

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My husband taught on Colossians 4 this past Sunday and there were a few things I wanted to study further and comment on because of their great importance.  After his discourse on interpersonal and familial relationships, Paul begins chapter four with a few last commands and then mentions quite a few people.  Being that most of them have weird names and most of us generally gloss right over the closing salutations of epistles, I want to look at those people specifically and glean some wisdom as to why he does this.

Firstly, Paul tells the Colossians to pray.  He instructs them to be both watchful and thankful in prayer.  He asks them to pray for he and his companions who are in prison for preaching the gospel, and especially that they would have opportunities to share the gospel.  He also asks that they would pray that he would be able to convey the message with clarity.

Next, he tells them to be wise – especially toward outsiders.  He is speaking of those outside the faith, also known as unbelievers.  He instructs them to always speak with grace, tastefully, if you will.  The reason he gives is so that they will know how to answer everyone.

Now, before he closes his letter, Paul begins to name names.  He mentions more than a few individuals and a couple groups of people.  It is quite important that we consider these people, who they were, and try to understand why he does this.  Why are these names included in the sacred scripture?  Let’s see.

The first person mentioned is Tychicus.  Paul said he was sending this man to tell the Colossians how he was – to give a report on Paul who was, of course, in prison for preaching the gospel.  He includes a man named Onesimus with Tychicus.  He calls Onesimus a faithful and beloved brother and adds that Onesimus is “one of you.”

Onesimus.  Now here’s a guy Paul devoted a whole book – Philemon – to.  The whole whopping one chapter of Philemon is a matter of Paul vouching for Onesimus.  Why does he do this?  He does it because Onesimus had been Philemon’s slave.  Onesimus had run away.  He had been a slave.  He’d done wrong in his past.  But he had been converted to Christ and Paul had discipled him.  He had ministered to Paul in prison and Paul knew first hand that Onesimus was a changed man, that he was trustworthy, and that he was a true brother in Christ.  Paul also knew that Philemon would not take well to Onesimus’s return.  He knew that it was very likely that he’d be looked down upon, excluded from fellowship, and thought ill of when he returned to Philemon.  Therefore Paul sends a letter to instruct Philemon to accept this man.  He does so once again here in Colossians.  Paul goes to great pains to include and honor Onesimus in the church, even after all the failure of his past.

It is very important that we get this.  It is important that we understand why Paul did this.  Why was this so incredibly important to Paul – so much so that he makes special mention of this man not once, but twice in the epistles?

Paul was once like Onesimus.  You and I were once like Onesimus.  Lost sinners do wrong things to others.  When we become Christians, people do not automatically believe that we are changed.  Church people, on many occasions, do not feel particularly inclined to include us after we have just come out of grievous sin and rolled on into their fellowship.   They’re scared.  They’re proud.  They’re self-protective.  Paul knew how people are – even Christian people.  Good leaders understand the difficulty diversity brings.  So, instead of excusing the suspicion and prejudice he knew his buddies were going to have against this man, he takes special time to honor and publicly vouch for him calling them all to grace, peace, acceptance, and inclusion of this particular brother in Christ.

Barnabas did as much for Paul in Acts 9.  Remember, Paul was a murderer, a Christian hater, an abusive religious leader.  Not many Christians were real anxious to trust and include him just because he said he knew Jesus now.  But Barnabas stood next to Paul.  He did what Paul is doing for Onesimus here.  Paul knew how it felt to be the one under a cloud of constant suspicion and mistrust.  Therefore, he instructs his church to include this man.  What a beautiful picture of grace.

Matthew Henry says this: “The meanest circumstance of life, and greatest wickedness of former life, make no difference in the spiritual relation among sincere Christians; they partake of the same privileges, and are entitled to the same regards.”

Next, we have Aristarchus.  Aristarchus was just mentioned as a fellow prisoner.

Then we have Mark, the cousin of Barnabas.  Remember, at one point Paul had big issues with Mark.  Mark had deserted while they were preaching the gospel and went home.  The next time when Mark wanted to go on a mission with Paul, Paul absolutely refused to take him.  Here, though, we see great evidence that Paul and Mark were completely reconciled.  By making mention of Mark here, and even giving great recommendation and honor to Mark in view of the churches, Paul proves his forgiving spirit and that reconciliation was full and final.

This is what Christians are called to do even when disagreements are sharp and strong.  This is the gospel applied to our relationships.  Christians are not at liberty to stay at odds with one another no matter how severe the disagreement is.  We are called to reconcile – and reconcile to the point of previous peace or better.  This is a very important principle found in Paul’s mention of Mark here.

Next we have a man named Jesus who was called Justus of whom little is known and then Epaphras.  Epaphras is honored for his faithful prayers for the church.  He was actually the founder of the Colossian Church.  Then, we have Luke the doctor and Demas mentioned.  Demas later forsook Paul and in 2 Timothy 4:10. Paul calls Demas out by name for his sin.

Now this, remember is the same guy who just instructed his church to always make sure their conversations were seasoned with salt and full of grace – especially with outsiders/unbelievers – yet he writes his very public letter to Timothy that this particular guy forsook him and states his specific sin – loving the world.  The fact that Paul mentions Demas here with honor tells us that Paul had no personal issue with Demas before he called out his sin and his name individually for all to know.  There’s a lesson here.  It is not wrong to call out sin in leadership – even by name when necessary.  (See 1 Timothy 5:20)

Next we have Nympha.  Paul greets Nympha and describes her as one who has a church in her house.  Gasp!  A girl!  With a church!  In her house?!  What?!! Yep.  I think that greeting speaks for itself.

Finally, Paul mentions Archippus.  Here is an interesting instruction.  Paul tells the members of the Colossian Church to admonish this minister – their minister!  The people are called to admonish their leader and remind him to make certain he is working diligently for the gospel.  Imagine that.  Wow.  Kinda puts to rest some misconceptions of the religious rules we are indoctrinated with today, huh?

I don’t know about you but I am just amazed at the amount of wisdom found just in the listing of these names in this ending salutation.  There is great wisdom, instruction, and importance in understanding who these people were and why Paul takes the time to mention them.  They are thus:

  1. Your past should not dictate your future within God’s church.  You can do great things for God even if you were the worst kind of sinner in the lowest social position!  Good leaders will build up the lowly and call others to do the same.
  2. Your disputes with other believers, regardless of how sharp, can and should be fully reconciled.  Restoration among all believers is the gospel lived out.  
  3. Present good standing in the church does not excuse poor future behavior and sin.  There should be no good old boy system within God’s church!  Good leaders are never partial and they give honor and call out sin as needed no matter who is involved.
  4. Girls can have churches!  Churches can be in houses!  Hallelujah!
  5. Members can and should admonish their leaders. 

Lastly, Paul concludes with asking the Colossians to, “remember my chains.”  Think of me.  Pray for me.  Be faithful.  Remember my suffering for Christ.  Remember me and remember why I’m here.  We should all remember those who suffer and are persecuted for the sake of Jesus Christ as well.  Amen.

 

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shepherd

God had heard the cries of his people.  Slaves in Egypt, they needed a miracle.  As they prayed, God worked.  Forty long years after Moses fled Egypt a murderer, God called him back a deliverer.

In Exodus chapter 3, we find Moses tending sheep.  He is working a very common job in complete obscurity.  During his daily routine of this low and lonesome job, God comes to him and reveals something – a bush on fire that does not burn.  The text doesn’t say Moses was looking for a sign or seeking God when this happened.  He was merely working his everyday job.  God sought Moses.

God waits until he has Moses’ full attention to speak.  When he does so, the first thing God does is command respect and obedience.  Before any further instruction, God tells Moses to keep his distance and take off his shoes.  Moses obeys.

Finally, God confirms his identity.  Moses reacts with Godly fear and humility as the Lord begins to unravel his plans for him.

All God-ordained callings begin with God, his Word, and our obedience.  Living peaceful, quiet lives in obscurity does not disqualify us from doing great things for God if we are listening for him and attentive to his Word.  God only gives one instruction at the time, though.  He waits for our obedience before giving more information.

Moses may have looked like a commoner to everyone who knew him as a shepherd, but he was actually a prince.  He had knowledge and understanding of the very things God was calling him to do in Egypt.  Moses was anything but ordinary.  God qualified and prepared him his entire life for what he was about to do.  The same is true when God calls us.

There are many, many people in our culture who are in bondage and slavery to an oppressor even greater than Pharaoh – namely, Satan.  Therefore, go to work.  Be faithful in the low and lonesome daily-ness of life.  Watch and pray.  Be attentive and sensitive toward God and his Word.  Obey in the small things.  Who knows whom God will call you to deliver to Christ.

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