Count the Towers

 

by Stephanie H.
“Walk about Zion, and go around her; 
Count her towers; 
Consider her ramparts; 
Go through her palaces; 
That you may tell it to the next generation.  
For such is God, 
Our God forever and ever; 

He will guide us until death.”  ~Psalm 48:12-14

 

I really loved what Tai had to say in her post about Psalm 84 and the highways to Zion.  It was on my mind when I read the above passage.  We have such a great blessing in the history that has gone before us.

Sometimes it can be easy to look back on the heroes of the Bible and think they had it easy, but can you imagine what it was like for Abram to hear from a God no one knew, and simply obey the call to leave everything he did know?  Perhaps, even Abram fell back on the story of Noah.  Noah’s son, Shem, was still alive when Abram left Ur, after all.  It wasn’t a story; even if it was nearly a thousand years later, it was recent history to Abram.  What about Noah?  What did he have to fall back on when God told him to build an ark in order to survive a weather phenomenon that had never happened before?  Well, Noah’s father was born before Adam died.  Even the first people to put faith in God with radical results were not operating on blind faith.  They faced great opposition, but they could see that putting their trust in God was trusting in a stronghold that has never yet been taken by the enemy.

We are very small people.  God’s work will never be undone, but sometimes it is the easiest thing in the world for the enemy to convince us that we are not allowed into the stronghold of Zion.  We have trusted the Lord this far, but we get to thinking that maybe next time our luck will run out, or that we will fail Him, and He will be right in leaving us in a situation for which we blame ourselves.

In times like these, I have found that my greatest comfort and encouragement comes from going about Zion, and counting her towers.  Often, that means going into Scripture and reading of all of the faithful who have gone before me with the Lord.  Hebrews eleven is wonderful on this point.  Who was Abraham?  Just a man who trusted enough to leave his home when God called.  Who was Moses?  Just a man who trusted enough to return to the nation that had wanted him dead, in order to bring over a million people out of slavery and into a desert with no food and hardly any water, all because God told him to do it.  Who was Rahab?  Just a woman who had heard of what the Lord God had done, and trusted the safety of her family to Him.  None of these people are very shining examples of natural trust or skill.  Don’t be afraid if you’re not either.  Consider the ramparts.  A castle is meant to hold the weak inside it.

One of the other ways in which I love to walk about Zion is to recount the ways God has worked in my life, particularly within the past year.  There have been circumstances that would have made me feel like a colossal failure if I had not already seen my brothers and sisters go through the same things, and seen what God had done for them through those situations.  Recently, I received a strong reminder that I am not at all naturally good at the job God has called me to do.  I grew up believing that the best way to be a better person is through militant perfectionism that never shows any weakness.  It has been something that the Lord has been lovingly addressing in my life, but I realized recently what an influence that mindset can still have on the way that I act.  It was a cause of distress, but I have seen the Lord soften my heart so much before now.
“I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in [me] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 1:6

 Our strongest faith comes when we believe that God is more real than our fears and circumstances, and that Zion is a stronghold that is greater than the weapons of the enemy.

We are just one small piece of the history of God’s faithfulness.  We rely heavily on those who have gone before us, but there are also those who will see what God has done in our lives and find strength to trust in Him because of it.  Count the towers to strengthen your faith, and to tell it to the next generation.  Faith takes us out on limbs when God calls us to live in deserts with no water, and to receive our daily bread from ravens.

Sound crazy?  Excellent.  That is when others will see that it is the Lord who can be trusted, and not our own worldly wisdom.  It is in the against-all-odds circumstances that He shows Himself so that we may shout “Such is God!  Our God forever and ever!  Who is like our God?  Just wait and see what He will do!”  And such is God.  Our God forever and ever.  And He will guide us even until death.  Keep counting the towers.  Keep considering the ramparts.  Keep going through Zion’s palaces, until you finally enter the throne room in person.

Kneeling to Pray

 

 

by Stephanie H.

 

We can read about it in classic literature, we see it in paintings and other art in the church, even modern comics and movies that feature little children show little pajama-ed knees bent in prayer, sometimes with teddy bears sharing the same posture.
So why do we kneel to pray?
Sure, we don’t always have to kneel to talk to the Lord.  If we’re to pray without ceasing, we’re going to have to stand up and walk around at the same time!  So why is it so traditional to kneel while praying?
Consider this parable from Luke 18:10-14
“Two men went up into the temple to pray, on a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer.  The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer.  I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all I get.’  But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted.”
 
Now, don’t think that the only way to approach the Lord in prayer is to crawl up in agony because of all of your sins.  Look at the contrasted postures of these two men.  The one was praying “thus to himself” (an interesting choice of words), thanking God for how great he himself was, but talking of himself more than anything.  If this were a conversation with the Lord, what would the Pharisee expect Him to say?  Meanwhile, the tax-gatherer begs God to act on His promise to be merciful to the repentant.  He is humble, and knows that the Lord is the one with the power to be merciful, rather than believing, like the Pharisee, that he is the one who can make himself good enough to talk to God.  We don’t earn the privilege to talk to God by being important enough for His attention.  No one could ever be important enough to get the attention of an eternal God.  We can best approach Him in prayer when we realize that He is willing to come down to listen to people that will never really be worth anything all by themselves.
Have you ever tried to make a business deal with God?
“Dear Lord, I would really like to have this, and here is what I would do for You if You let me…” or “Dear Lord, my friend needs help, and here are all the reasons they deserve the best…”
They are sincere prayers, but when I pray this way, it always leaves me anxious, wondering if I have said the right things in the right way to convince God that it really would be in His best interest to listen.  Sounds rather like the Pharisee again, doesn’t it?  It is so easy to imagine that prayer gives me the power to tap into God’s attention and favor if I can just say the right things.
I teach at a small Christian school, and one of my favorite portions of our morning prayers reminded me recently of the true posture of prayer.  Every person that is able kneels on one knee as the Great Commission is read:
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”  ~Matthew 28:18-20
 
What are those first words?  “All power is given unto me…” 
 
Jesus is the one who has all power in heaven and in earth.  Because of that, He’s given us a job to do.  It isn’t a project we are left to figure out on our own, execute on our own, and then hope that it is good enough for His liking.  “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
 
If your reading this, I’m guessing the world hasn’t ended.  That means that the Spirit that raised Christ from the dead is present with you, and eager to show you the work that He has prepared for you to do.
Imagine a good and honorable king, at war with a vicious enemy.  At the moment, his wise eyes are surveying little figures on a mapped table that represent the movements of his troops and the enemy’s.  A knight rushes in and kneels before hastily making his petition:
“Sire, several of your men have been captured, and are being held in the enemy’s fortress.”
Or perhaps…
“Sire, the battalion on the northern front is desperate for supplies.”
“Sire, the enemy is spreading lies that are crippling morale, and causing many of your troops to lose hope.”
What is this knight expecting to hear?  An order.  Of course, he will eagerly watch to see how his king will respond to this news.  If he is a young knight, he may worry when his king acknowledges the need and dismisses him, or when his king gives him an order that does not make sense, but the king is wise and careful.  His plans have far-reaching results beyond any short term solutions his young knights may offer.
Our prayer is when we come into the presence of the King, remember that the battle is His, and spend time in His presence, to learn the depth of integrity of His character, and be involved in His will in whatever way He chooses.
Now, the effectiveness of our prayers do not rely on us literally kneeling, or imagining kings and knights and battles when we pray, but it has been something that has really helped me in my prayers lately.  The more time that I spend in prayer and in the Word, the more I come to trust the Lord with some things.  Even so, it is very easy for me to work myself up into distraction as I try to pray in such a way to earn immediate results.  When that happens, one of the quickest ways out of that state of worry…
Surrender my plans.
Kneel before the throne.

Contentment in Serving God…His Way.

 

 

servinggodblog

 

I struggle with lots of things. Shocking, I know. 😛

But one of my biggest ongoing struggles has been wanting to be more fruitful than I am…and, in spite of being on tour half of the year specifically to go around sharing the gospel with people all over North America, with my family, I often feel so useless….and have a list of TONS of things that *I* want to do for the Lord that would be *way* more fruitful than what I’m doing….at least, in my mind, that’s the way it seems.

But, the other day, a thought suddenly came to me…that  my struggles are just like this scenario:

What if my husband came and asked me to go out to dinner with him…and I responded with, “Well…that’s nice, BUT…I already have a list of things that I’m going to do for you that will make you REALLY happy. I’m going to clean the house, vacuum, scrub the floor, and mow the lawn – because I know all that will make you really happy!”

But…what my husband actually wanted was just for me to go to dinner with him. And, while all of those other things might actually *be* a blessing to him at a different time, at that moment, if I was refusing to go out with him so that I could do all those other things instead, OR if I went out, but I was continually talking about how I should actually be doing all of those other things instead because they would have been more useful or more of a blessing to him…..that would NOT be actually blessing his heart. AND it would probably both take away from the sweetness of the time that could have been had, and also it would ruin his plans for blessing me and just having a sweet night.

Well, it’s the same with God. There have been times that I know He has asked me to do some “projects” (like my magazine, books, etc.), and when He has asked it of me, He has made it to be in the perfect timing and has blessed it, and caused it to be completed, making my small windows of time to be very efficient.

BUT…if I am continually wishing I could do all these “fruitful” things that I feel would bless Him *more* than what He has set before me right now (like being on tour, being a mommy to two kiddos, etc.), that is really not a blessing to His heart, and in fact, it takes away from the sweetness of being with Him and being faithful in what He has set before me, and fills my heart with discontentment and endless struggles.

I’m praying that God shows me how to be JOYFULLY content in His will, as well as fruitful in being faithful with what He has set before me.

What about you?

 

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A Prodigal Constraint

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by Stephanie H

My dearest, most beloved son whom I have forgiven,

Please do me the kindness of reading this letter through to its end.  Do not be afraid of the words I have written in it.  Do not be afraid of what I will think of you for having read them.  I love you, my son.  It is a fact that will never change.  You are as dear to me as a son now as you were when you were born, when you left home, and when you returned.  I welcomed you with all that I have.  Do you still not believe it?

The first days after your return, there was joy and peace over your entire face like sunshine.  What crept into you after that?  You grew quiet when I would enter the room.  I would hear you as you told your brother of the time we had spent together, but you held your tongue whenever I joined you, and refused to meet my eyes.  When I ask, you tell me everything is fine.  You made excuses then, now you only mumble.  I am not blaming you.  My dear son, you have not failed me.  I see your fear at what I might say, but how can I comfort you if you will not let me in?

You know that I found your ring back in the chest where I used to keep it.  I wish that you would keep it.  I gave it to you as a reminder of my love.  Have you forgotten?  I love you, my son.  Yes, you are my son.  That will never change.  You could not hide it when you stopped wearing the robes that I gave you.  Do you mean to prove that I have not loved you after all?  You cannot convince me that you are too much a failure that I cannot love you.  I will always love you.  If scrubbing the floor instead of eating at my table, mucking the stall instead of riding your donkey, and sleeping on the floor instead of your bed are not enough to prove your humility, will you run away from home again?  I cannot help you if you force me away.

How could I not see your earring?  Would you declare your loyalty to me as a slave when I have offered to you my heart and everything that I own?  Oh, how it grieves me!  You know as well as your brother the number of servants in my pay.  Shall I lose a son that I would gain a stable boy?  The work I taught you when you were young was so that we could be father and son together.  Every task I desire is done at the snap of my fingers, if that were what I desired.  I desire your love infinitely more than your gestures of humiliation.  My son, I love you.  Why will you not spend time with me?

What will it cost to prove to yourself that you have repaid me?  Do you count the hours you have worked as wages with which you could replace what you lost in your days of sin?  Do the tears that you hide come when you weigh yourself against a vanished fortune and find yourself wanting?  It is true, the loss was great.  Beloved son, I forgave you that debt.  Even if it were small enough to be repaid, would I choose to gain back a few tarnished coins rather than receive the son of my own blood?  I have made the way for you to return to me.  Do not weep to think that your hard labors are your only hope for salvation.  You would see it if only you would come into the light.

There are so many things that I have wanted to share with you these past years.  The joyful hours we were meant to spend together while you were lost, now again waiting for you while you work yourself to exhaustion.  If you will come with me, they are still waiting for us.  It is not too late.  I have asked your brother and sisters to tell you the same.  You still speak to them, but they have yet to convince you.  Have you not seen how I have forgiven them their faults?  Why should you be any less precious to me, my beloved son?  I received you with open arms when you returned to my house.  Will you forever shy away from my heart?  Please, come home to me.

I love you eternally,

~Abba

Part 2: How Can YOU Be God’s Sanctuary?

PART2
by Stephanie H.

Spare no Expense.

Exodus chapter twenty-six describes the construction of the tabernacle.  The first instruction is to make ten curtains of fine linen, in blue, purple, and red (the most expensive colors to make in those days), with designs of cherubim on them, all made by skilled craftsman.  These curtains were to be about forty-two feet long, by six feet wide each.  That means each curtain was nearly three times longer than a two story house!  Each beam that supported the tabernacle was covered in gold.  Only some of the sockets and clasps for holding the curtains and beams together were made of more humble things, like silver and bronze.  There was nothing synthetic here!  Keep in mind that all of this was built while the nation of Israel was wandering in the desert.  All of that material could have been used on their own tents, the gold could have been used to trade for food, and the craftsman could have used their time working for themselves rather than building a sanctuary.  This luxurious building was all created at a time when over a million people were out in the desert where there wasn’t even reliable food and water!  Your relationship with Jesus is meant to be luxurious.  Did you know that the one who created all the billions of atoms in a single pine needle wants to be your best friend?  Make Him your priority.  Make time to spend with Him on a regular basis.  If He wants to spend time with you when you already have plans, be willing to change them.  Give Him your talents, your money, and your possessions, and be willing to use them as He tells you.  Don’t be afraid to put all of your eggs in one basket, and give it to Jesus.  To others, it may seem like you are choosing to live in a desert, but your relationship with Jesus will be luxurious when you give Him everything.  Don’t be afraid either.  While the Israelites wandered, the Lord brought water out of a rock, and sent bread down from Heaven to feed every one of the people.

 

Maintain the Sanctuary.

“And the king and Jehoiada gave it to those who did the work of the service of the house of the LORD; and they hired masons and carpenters to restore the house of the LORD, and also workers in iron and bronze to repair the house of the LORD.” ~2 Chronicles 24:12

When the Lord gave the instructions to build the ark of the covenant, He commanded the people to build it with poles, so that it could be carried as they moved about through the desert.  When Israel was settled in the Promised Land, they did finally built a temple on a permanent foundation, but the tabernacle was designed to be taken apart, and to go with them wherever they went.  We don’t interact with gold much nowadays, but it is a very soft metal (that’s why people would bite gold coins.  If their teeth left a mark, it proved that the coin was really gold, and not a fake), and fabric wears easily.  Imagine having to pack up this enormous, luxurious tent, and having to carry all of the curtains and beams through the desert.  The sanctuary was designed to be luxurious, but it was also meant for constant use.  That means repairs will have to be made to keep it in tip top shape.  Even the temple needed to be maintained.  The people of Israel did not always take the time to maintain and nurture their relationship with the Lord.  In the days of King Manasseh, the temple fell into great disrepair, and little use.  When his son Josiah became king, he ordered the temple to be repaired.  A priest found a book of the Law in the rubble, and the king was surprised to hear what was written in it, because so few of the people (even the priests) knew anything about who the Lord really is, and that He wanted to dwell with them!  Your relationship with Jesus needs to be maintained.  It is meant for constant use, and that means wear and tear.  When you first believe the promises of God, you are laying the foundation for your temple, but more needs to be built up.  Even when you have a close relationship with the Lord, you can still grow distant, and the temple can fall into disrepair.  Even after I have had some of the sweetest time in prayer with the Lord, I can have the greatest struggle to find any kind of time to spend with Him the next day.  Even though you love Jesus, that doesn’t mean it will always be easy to find time with Him, or to face the parts of yourself that don’t want to submit.  In fact, there are times when it absolutely won’t be easy.  That is when you have to press in and make a deliberate effort to seek Him anyway.  Sometimes we grow distant with Jesus, and don’t even notice until we wonder how it happened that we don’t read our Bibles anymore.  That is when our temples have fallen into disrepair.  The only way back to Jesus from there, is to start maintaining the relationship again.  It will mean more renovation than just daily upkeep to get the gold really shining again, so don’t be discouraged if one hour of prayer and worship doesn’t see you in the places of deepest joy and peace that you used to know.  Repent, and believe His promises again, then follow the plan from the mountain, and keep seeking Him with all your heart.  Even when you feel that everything is right between you and the Lord, don’t be afraid to ask Him what you need to maintain.  Seek out the cobwebs and the single frayed thread, and you’ll never have to wonder where your relationship with the Lord lost its luster, because it will glisten in front of you every day.

 

Protect the Sanctuary

“And you shall make a covering for the tent of rams’ skins dyed red, and a covering of porpoise skins above.” ~Exodus 26:14

Some translations don’t read “porpoise skins”.  Some say badger skin, some say tanned goat skins, and some say tanned leather.  The main thing is, it’s waterproof!  The tabernacle was subject to daily wear and tear, but it was still designed to be protected from the elements.  Imagine how quickly the linen curtains would fade if they were not protected from the desert sun!  What about rain, or sandstorms?  Then the tabernacle would need such constant attention for repair, that it would hardly be usable!  Your relationship with Jesus needs to be protected.  We live in a very fallen and corrupt world, and we need to share the light of Jesus with those who are in darkness, but we can do the work of Christ and still keep a protective layer of porpoise skin between our precious temple, and the rough elements of the world.  Our hearts are the place where we are vulnerable.  What we allow into our hearts is what we allow into our temple.  In the days of Nehemiah, one of the priests allowed an enemy of the remnant of Israel to live right inside the temple.  A room set aside for the storage of holy items, incense, and tithes, was cleared out so that Tobiah could keep all of his personal stuff right inside the house of God!  Our hearts are meant to be set apart entirely for the Lord, but sometimes, we let the enemy live there.  We will always live in a world full of enemies of God, but where do we intentionally spend our time, especially our time alone?  If you listen to music, or read novels, or watch movies and shows that point away from Jesus, or even just distract you from remembering Him, it is like pulling off the protective coverings of the sanctuary, and throwing open the doors and letting all elements, and moths, and enemies come into your temple to do whatever they like.  Sometimes we tell ourselves that these don’t matter so much, because we know it’s not real, or we’re just doing it to relax, but that is when we are most vulnerable.  Music and stories speak right to our souls.  If we learn to love the darkness that so much of the media gives us, it is like worshiping idols right in the place where God dwells with us.

“Then He brought me into the inner court of the LORD’s house.  And behold, at the entrance to the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs to the temple of the LORD and their faces toward the east; and they were prostrating themselves [worshiping on their faces] eastward toward the sun.” ~Ezekiel 8:16

God has done everything He can throughout history to dwell with His people who are too lowly to reach up to Him, but very often, this is how He is treated.  Dear sister, when you construct your sanctuary, protect it from the darkness of the world.  Put to death the things of the flesh, and give your whole devotion to Jesus.  The people with whom you choose to spend time can also draw your focus away from the Lord.  Sometimes, we don’t have the choice of what people are around us.  Coworkers, and even family members may be people who are not seeking the Lord, but the covering of porpoise skin can protect from that.  The covering did not mean that it never rained, the sun was never too bright, or that there were never sandstorms or linen-eating locusts about, but it was a wall between the sanctuary, and those things that would harm it.  When we seek out and enjoy the company of friends who pursue the things of the world, we are letting them inside our sanctuary, where they can hinder our closeness with Jesus.  If we even spend time being bitter with someone, or complaining, and are not willing to surrender it to the Lord, we are bringing that bitterness and complaint into the sanctuary, where it can harm our relationship with Jesus.

The beauty of the protection of the sanctuary is that if we are faithful in having a heart devoted to Jesus, the porpoise skin covering is very thick and durable.  It is what allows God’s people to walk right into the darkest places in the world, and speak right to the hearts of prostitutes, Satanists, and drug addicts.  Because they have not allowed their hearts to pursue and love evil, or to be distracted from the promises of the Lord, they are the members of His royal priesthood who are able to walk straight into the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and be used to steal back broken souls, straight from the jaws of the enemy.  It is not always easy, but it is certainly always worth the trouble to be devoted to the Lord.

Dear sister, never forget that God desires to dwell with you.  I hope my words have been helpful to you as you prepare for an eternity of discovering the deep mysteries of the Lord.  If you are studying in the books of the Law, and have discovered any other parallels between the old covenant, and your walk with the Lord, please, don’t hesitate to share them!

Part 1: How Can YOU Be God’s Sanctuary?

PART1

by Stephanie H.

“And let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.” ~Exodus 25:8

Oh, the dear Old Testament.  It can be so easy for me to learn only the “usual” lessons from the Old Testament, especially the books of the Law, and reserve my real growth for Psalms, the Prophets, and mainly the New Testament.  Usually, if I think about Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, I may remember a few stories that take place in there, an a lot of grief between God and the Israelites, but I most often approach these books as being full of things to learn that I no longer need to worry about, since I am under the blood of Jesus.  I am an avowed student of knowledge, so it fascinates me to know that the Israelites were not to seek to model heathen cultures who would wear cloth made from plant fibers, and from animal skin, while wearing pins of precious stone, in order to worship nature by representing animal, vegetable, and mineral in their garments.  Fascinating!  I devour that kind of knowledge on a regular basis, but I know the Lord does not require me to be picky about what blend of wool, cotton, or polyester my t-shirts are.  I love to study the books of the Law, but sometimes it’s hard to know what to do with the information once I have it.

Enter the book of Hebrews.  This letter is written to the Christians who have been worshiping God since their ancestors left Egypt, over fifteen hundred years before this letter was penned.  Jesus had only come, at most, a few decades ago.  Can you imagine?  Now all of these lifelong believers need to know: what do we do with our faith?  How are we to continue in our faith as Jews, but still give our full devotion to Jesus, without neglecting the commands given from God the Father to Abraham, Moses, and the fathers?

With pen in hand, and plenty of notebook paper, I was ready to document all of the contrasts between the old and new covenants.  Of course, I was also willing to compare the things that hadn’t passed away, but I honestly wasn’t expecting to be blown away by the straightforwardness of the religion found in the books of the Law.

“And let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.” ~Exodus 25:8

The Lord did not give His people a building project so that they would stay out of trouble.  He also wasn’t involved in intimate relationships with all of His people until He decided they should have to come into His house in order to see Him.  God is so pure and holy that if any sin is in the presence of His radiant, blinding, infinite purity, the sinner will die instantly.  God never wanted us to be separated from Him like that.  The tabernacle He commissioned, and the Law He gave His people were a lot of work, but it would mean they could be near to Him again.

“‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means, ‘God with us.'” ~Matthew 1:23

Jesus’ purpose for coming is the same purpose God had from the beginning.  Building the tabernacle and the temple were just previous steps to that plan.

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” ~John 1:14

I just love it when the Lord shows me something new in familiar places!

“Jesus therefore answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple [or sanctuary], and in three days I will raise it up.’ … But He was speaking of the temple of His body.” ~John 2:19, 21

But wait!  There’s more!  The writer of Hebrews tells us that the tabernacle is a shadow of what it will be like in Heaven.

“…who serve as a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for ‘See,’ He says, ‘That you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.'” ~Hebrews 8:5

So everything that the Lord told Moses was so that His people would know what it will be like when we are all with Jesus for eternity.  So if Heaven is the true sanctuary, and Jesus is now our High Priest, what does that mean for us today?

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;” ~1 Peter 2:9
“Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” ~1 Corinthians 3:16

Do you hear that?  If you are in Christ, you are a new creation, and that creation is the temple of God!  You don’t have to wait for a priest to burn incense before the Lord on your behalf.  You are a priestess!  Your prayers are set before Him like incense! (Psalm 141:2)  You can come into His presence whenever you pray, because the Holy Spirit dwells in you, and Jesus is your High Priest.  You are the temple of the Most High.

As I sit here and write, that is enough to baffle me.  The fact that God has gone to such great lengths and depths just to dwell with me is astounding.  Now what do I do?  How do I construct the sanctuary, that God may dwell with me?  If we no longer burn incense and offer sacrifices to be near to the Lord, what does a priestess do to prepare for life in Heaven?

I’m so glad we’re asking the same questions.

 

Prepare the Sanctuary.

“For there was a tabernacle prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the sacred bread; this is called the holy place.” ~Hebrews 9:2

Sometimes individual words just stand out to me.  What did it mean that the tabernacle was prepared?  That means the Israelites had to be expecting something to happen.  They were making the sanctuary ready for the purpose it would fill.  That purpose was the one God gave them: “Construct a sanctuary, that I may dwell with you.”  The Israelites believed, and obeyed.  That is the first step in constructing your sanctuary.

Believe, and obey.

God dwelling among us is not a naturally occurring state.  Sometimes we expect that we will be stumbling through the desert of life, and that if God is real, we will just trip and fall into an oasis.  That is probably why mirages of worldly happiness so often deceive us.  True, the Lord does offer more peace and joy than anything in this world.  It is like finding a river surrounded by shade palms in the middle of a parched land.  But we are priestesses.  We play an active role in our relationship with the Lord.  Even when the Lord chose to meet Moses by surprise through the burning bush, it was not God’s dwelling place.  It was a command, and a promise.  Moses believed the Lord and acted accordingly.  The tabernacle was not discovered like the burning bush.  It was prepared for God to dwell in it among His people.  Our relationships with the Lord today are built on the same faith.  We come before the Lord, and He will tell us what to do to prepare for His blessing and His work in our lives.  We believe, and do as He tells us in His Word, and in prayer, and we grow in our faith when we see that His promises are true.  God is infinite, so we will be spending an eternity discovering Him!  So prepare yourself, sister.  Your walk with the Lord will be a series of preparations to meet with Jesus, and to receive His promises, all in preparation to be with Him forever, just as He promises!

 

Follow the Plan.

“Then you shall erect the tabernacle according to its plan which you have been shown in the mountain.” ~Exodus 26:30

There was no room for artistic license in building this sanctuary.  Not in the architecture, not in the lighting, not in the interior decorating.  God still employed the talents of incredible craftsmen and weavers for the building of the tabernacle, and later the temple, but their job was to follow the plan.  As God’s temple, it is the same for you and me.  We follow Jesus first.  He has given us a plan in the Bible, and it is our duty to follow it so that we will be made pure and holy temples that can dwell in His presence.  That always means there will be some things we have to give up, even some hobbies that aren’t sinful in themselves, but have become idols in our lives.  For me, a big part of my life that had to be removed was my writing.  I wanted to be a fantasy novelist.  For the most part, I even wanted to use it for the Lord.  I had plans to write stories that would show good triumphing over evil, and hoped they would teach good lessons.  But God had better plans for me than I had for myself.  The more closely I follow His plan for my life, the more He shows me things I had never even thought of before!  Not all hobbies will be things He asks us to remove.  He let me keep all of my field guides, and He has given me joy in discovering more rare birds than I usually see, but it is something I must still be willing to leave behind if it does not fit with the pattern on the mountain.    Many times, we decide who we want to be, and then want to look for ways to adapt our sanctuary to be more like the things we like, but the Lord desires obedience, not sacrifice.  A priestess cannot have her own agenda.  She is to serve the Lord with her whole heart.

 

….To Be CONTINUED….

True Freedom

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Guest Post by Stephanie H.
Freedom is a word with a very different meaning for the soldier than for the child. The latter is keenly focused on wanting to do the opposite of what they are told (and often, what is right and good), and seeks freedom as the opportunity to indulge whims rather than heed the wisdom of his parents. The freedom of the mind of a soldier is a far different thing. During the Civil War, with rumors of a draft to take place, many men enlisted in the army so that there would be no doubt about their loyalty to the honor of their nation. They considered it a shame to need to be forced to do what they considered they highest honor and most basic duty to their nation. The freedom exercised in the life of a soldier looks suspiciously like slavery to the wayward child.
Consider then, the freedom of Christ. We dearly like to talk about the freedom of Christ allowing us to let loose, and forget the laws laid out in the Old Testament. We embrace the freedom to indulge. We are free to state our opinions in whatever manner we like, regardless of ramifications, because we are free to think our own thoughts. We can season our conversation with profanity, because we are free to speak. We can sleep late, eat this or that, sit back, relax, and do unto others as they do, because we are free. We are not required to atone for our sins and selfish quirks, so what have we to fear?
In choosing this freedom, we choose to return to the slavery of the natural man. For centuries, the Israelites kept a very close account of right and wrong, and had very specific penalties and payments when they were transgressed (though many generations turned away). When Jesus came, there were many who seemed to be able to meet the standards laid out to Moses in the wilderness. Jesus did not remove that standard so that the prostitutes and tax-collectors could get in too. He did not reverse the order so that the righteous in deed would be cast out while the sinners were proclaimed righteous. In the fifth chapter of Matthew, Jesus reaffirms the standards God had given the people centuries before, and then raises the bar to include the merest sliver of selfishness that could hide in our hearts. Even if we think we have kept the laws, there are countless ways in which we have mortally sinned against it, without our even being aware. Yet He has given us freedom in that He will be the strength when we choose to pursue His righteousness. In comparing the two, the new covenant is impossible in our own strength, far beyond the difficulty of the old covenant which dealt so greatly with the actions and appearances rather than the heart.
Yes, we are free to choose Christ, or our worldly loves, but that does not mean either path is equally blessed. When it comes up in conversation that I do not do, or have given up certain things, it is not uncommon for the conversation to turn to “freedom in Christ”. True, I am not required to slaughter a lamb or pigeons if I play video games or read fiction or watch television. But I pray that I might use my freedom like a soldier. That when the Lord would ask of me a mile, I would be willing to give Him two at least. When He gives an order, I have a choice to obey or not. Am I wrong to obey simply because I have been given the freedom not to hear His voice? Willingly, I have signed my life away to the One who signed His away for me. His blood has given me the freedom to choose a path so difficult, as to kill my own flesh, and has most often ended in the painful deaths of those who have gone before me. I accept.

Holding Back Our Feet From Evil

 

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Well, here I am again, after a long silence! I apologize for my lack of posting lately. Life has been incredibly crazy (and I only foresee it getting crazier as baby #2 joins our lives sometime in the next few weeks), and I have been longing to post, but haven’t had the time or energy…and it has been making me so very sad. But today, I seized a little spot of time I had, let the clothes sit in the dryer for a little longer, asked my daughter to quietly read a book in her room…and I just want to share with you one little verse that I’ve been pondering the past couple days. I’ve been reading through Psalm 119 again this week, and this is one verse that stuck out to me (and perhaps I’ll share more at some point too, because Psalm 119 is chock-full of good stuff!):

“I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep Your Word.” Psalm 119:101

This verse implies a purposeful holding back of oneself from evil…on purpose (did I mention on PURPOSE??)…just because we love God, and love His Word, and His commands! Now, I point this out because it is easy to fall into the mindset – especially for a new Christian – that once you pray for Jesus to be your Savior and Lord, things will change, and you will become free from all sinfulness and sinful desires. And, while it is true that Jesus sets us free from the power sin once held over our lives, and gives us hearts that can desire what is right and good…it is also true that we still have to purposefully keep ourselves from what is evil. Because the devil is not passive in his attempts to deceive us, and turn us back from doing what is right, and following Jesus….and on top of that, our sin nature is still very much intact, and it takes a lot of discipline to get it to come under submission to its new Ruler. It’s also a misconception to think that keeping God’s Word will just come naturally to us, without any real effort. Doing what is right, and resisting the temptation to sin and do what is wrong will always be difficult…because temptations to sin are always something that appeals to and/or gratifies our flesh…and doing what it right doesn’t usually have immediate gratification for those sinful desires — “only” the peace and joy that God will fill us with, which can never be found apart from doing His will.

So, first, we must read God’s Word so that we will know His standards and what He wants us to do and not do. It never works to call ourselves Christians and to try to live like one without really getting to know our King, and reading His Word. We must understand what He asks us to do, so that we can understand what we must do in order to live in a way that honors and blesses Him.

And second, we must purposefully obey His Word…even when it is hard, and even when it is something that doesn’t come naturally to us. For instance, if someone does something hurtful to you, it is only natural to be angry, to hate them, gossip about them, snub them, and hold onto bitterness in your heart. That is the easy way. BUT, God’s way is to love them, pray for them, forgive them, let go of bitterness and anger, and even seek reconciliation and friendship with them again. But this is the difficult way, and it takes work to do this — HARD work. It takes work to keep ourselves from thinking angry or bitter thoughts. It takes work to cultivate love after your heart has been wounded. It takes work to stop yourself from gossiping about the ones who hurt you to all your friends, in an effort to make yourself feel better and more justified in your distain. BUT, it is what we must do, if we wish to honor the Lord’s commands and live as a true Christian. As Jesus said, “A tree is known by its fruit.” We cannot do all of those things that go against real love and still call ourselves a Christian, because a Christian is a lover and follower of Christ…and to love and follow Him, we must love and follow His commands, and His good character.

We must hold back our feet from every evil way…asking God for His strength and the power of His Spirit to resist the temptation to sin…and asking Him to show us how to keep His Word.

And those, friends, are my ponderings of the day. 🙂

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Spring Cleaning the Heart

 

Spring Cleaning

It’s that time of year again: SPRING! Unless you’re in Canada (where there is still snow floating around), hopefully you are seeing blossoms peek through the ground and cheerful little birds popping around on the treetops. I live in an area that’s nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and I LOVE Spring here. Dogwood Trees, Redbuds, Weeping Cherry Trees and every other kind of budding tree make such an incredible display every single time I set foot outside my door. It is glorious.
 
But, along with these happy thoughts, most people also think: SPRING CLEANING. *Insert the moans and groans of housekeepers everywhere* You know – that week where you spend time cleaning areas you didn’t even KNOW existed? Those places where you don’t even think to look? I mean, who cleans their baseboards anyways? Like REALLY cleans them?
 
Just as the faithful housekeeper tends to the nooks and crannies of her home, there is a spiritual cleaning we need to remember to do. Even more than once a year, WE – the up-keepers of this earthly vessel – need to tackle frequently the nooks and crannies within our own hearts. The places we didn’t even know were in existence. The DEEP parts of our heart.
 
When we become a Follower of Jesus Christ, it SHOULD go without saying that things are going to look different in our lives. I mean…Jesus and the World (aka: the way our lives looked normally before we allowed Jesus to take the lead in our life) don’t mix. There’s no way they can mix. One is Light and the other is Darkness (2 Cor. 6:14). Our “old man” (Romans 6:6) has to begin to die, and we have to pack up and move out our old desires. Our old ways. Our old sins. Things must leave in order for the aroma and Light of Christ to fill our hearts.  It is an ongoing process, which never actually stops–no matter how “spiritual” you think you are.
 
However, as we mature in our faith, often we forget to do basic maintenance. We forget to “check the fence-line”. When farmers have a large herd of animals, they have to make it a routine to check ever square foot of the fence line. Not only are they looking for holes, but looking for weak areas in the fence. This enables the farmer to keep his herd safe, MEANWHILE keeping danger OUT. As we pursue Christ, we need to check our own “fence lines” within our lives and hearts. By doing this, we are required to humble ourselves (seeing ourselves for who we truly are) AND keep the devil OUT.  We have to clean out these hearts so he has no place to hide among the dust and clutter!
 
Three steps to start your Spiritual House Cleaning:
 
1.) Ask. YOU may not see any areas of “blatant” sin, but you would be surprised at the things that sneak in. ASK the Lord to reveal any areas of your life that you have (a) withheld from His Lordship OR (b) any areas where you are unknowingly sinning. It may not be adultery that you have committed, but lust (even lusting via Romance Novels) is a sin (Matthew 5:28). You may not have killed anyone, but hatred IS a sin (Matthew 5:21). Harboring un-forgiveness (intentionally choosing NOT to forgive someone). FEAR–which is not trusting the Lord. Greed. PRIDE. GOSSIP. Vanity. These are just a few of the things that sneak in – often before we even realize it. ASK the Lord to show you areas where you need to repent.
 
2.) Examine. Spend a few moments thinking about your relationships. Think about what you are investing your time into – with work OR leisure time. Who are the people you chose to spend time with? What do you and your friends do when you are together? Is your conversation pure, or do you “push the limits” with inappropriate remarks (Phil. 4:8)? Do you actually make an effort to speak well of others (which can be really hard), or do you join right in “bashing” the character of someone else (James 4:11)? What do you do when no one else is around? Do you feel like you have to hide your activities from others – especially your parents? What are you watching on TV? If you had a godly woman sitting beside you, would you be ashamed to tell her what you’re watching? Are you seeing good things – good fruit –come from your words, your actions, and your decisions? Or do you see rotten fruit (Matthew 7:16-20)?
 
3.) Respond. A house doesn’t get tidy by the housekeeper sitting down and pointing out all the areas that need to be cleaned. It’s when she stands up, puts on her “shnazzy” yellow gloves and TACKLES that grime -THAT is when the real change happens. In the same way, there is almost no point in doing anything if we are not willing to ACT. When (and I say when, because there is always something to apologize for – we aren’t in heaven yet!) the Lord shows us these things, we can’t just say “woe is me” and then pull the rug over our pile of dirt. We are offered forgiveness when we repent. If we leave these things standing in the way of our relationship with Christ, it truly hinders our walk with Him. It hinders our growth, our discernment, our relationships, our Souls. Everything. It prohibits our ability to produce eternal fruit. In the Gospel of Matthew, it says to “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). Repentance is crucial. When we repent, it is going against our human nature by (1) humbling ourselves, (2) admitting we were wrong, (3) asking for forgiveness, (4) and choosing to acknowledge that God’s way is better. By HIS strength, we choose to follow HIS better way. His perfect, incredible way.
 
We have to let go of anything that ties us down, dear friend. We live in perilous times–there is not time to “mess around” and waste our lives. People are dying. Spiritually and physically. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us (Hebrews 12:1). We must lay aside the things that continue to “trip” us up, in order that the Kingdom of God may expand!
 
 
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,” (Acts 3:19)
Article By: Anna Faith

Christ Will Not Divorce You

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Recently, I was visiting my mom, who read me the following quote from a devotion she has, written by the faithful Puritans of the past, and it really stuck out to me:

“Your sins shall never provoke Christ to give you a bill of divorce.  They may provoke Him to frown upon you, chide you, correct you, but they will never provoke Christ to give you a bill of divorce.”  Thomas Brooks

As I pondered this quote, the truth of it resounded more and more clearly in my soul.  The analogy of a divorce is one that rings true to our lack of commitment in our relationships with the Lord.  “…if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13

For it is Christ Himself who said, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” Matthew 19:8  Jesus does not believe in divorce.  He’s not a fan.  His heart is grieved by it just as much in our relationship with Him as with one another.  He made our relationships on earth to reflect our relationship with Him…and He intended from the beginning that they would be steadfast, immovable, and committed until “death do us part”.

Christ will never let go of us, give up, or send us away.  Even when we have sinned, and we think we cannot possibly return to God, for surely He has given up on us and, essentially, “divorced” us…even then, it is we ourselves who are doing the excluding.  Christ has shown us His heart in this matter yet again, when He said, “Return, faithless Israel, declares the Lord.  I will not look on you in anger, for I am merciful, declares the Lord; I will not be angry forever.” Jeremiah 3:11

WE are the ones who do the wandering, as God waits patiently, hoping — longing — for our return.  We get tired of God’s ways, and begin to wander after other “loves”.  We decide we’ve had enough, and that we don’t want to hold fast to our commitment.  We start looking for loopholes in our commitment, and start looking for a “divorce”.

“But I have this against you, that YOU have abandoned the love you had at first.” Revelation 2:4

If we have a broken relationship with God, it is not God’s fault.  It is because of our own hardness toward God, and our own lack of commitment and love.  But God has made the simplest way imaginable for us to return and be reconciled again, if we have wandered or sinned!  It is as simple as turning back, repenting for our sins and our wandering hearts, and learning to DELIGHT in Him again (see our post: The Delight Challenge), as a new bride delights in the husband of her heart!  Then you will find your relationship with God restored, the weight of sin and the loneliness of separation from Him removed, as well as the joy of first love again flooding your heart!  It is never too late to return, because Jesus remains faithful even when we are faithless, and stubborn.  He is SO good!

 

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