Tag Archives: bible

What Do We Offer God These Days?

Numbers 7:23
And for a sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he goats, five lambs of the first year: this was the offering of Nethanel the son of Zuar. (KJV)

This verse describes one of the offerings made at the dedication of the Tabernacle by leaders of the 12 tribes, and is part of the longest chapter in the first five books of the Bible. Each of the 12 tribe leaders brought identical sacrifices to show their dedication to the Lord, and to praise and honor Him for blessing them through Moses (recorded in the previous chapter of Numbers).

For modern believers, this kind of physical act of sacrifice seems alien. In this day and age, who would bring animals and precious objects to a modern Christian church as any kind of offering to God? Indeed, since the practice of sacrificing to atone for sin has been rendered unnecessary by Jesus, this kind of voluntary material tribute to God feels weird.

This does not mean, however, that we are exempt from thanking God. Just because we don’t bring our best plates and lambs to the altar anymore doesn’t mean we’re cleared to treat God like Santa Claus and just ask Him for things without being grateful. Yet many times we do just that–we cry out to Him only in times of sorrow or need. In times of health and happiness, sometimes we forget to tell God “Good job;” we forget to recognize how He protects us, and to praise Him for prayers answered.

Praising is just as important as praying. It’s not that God needs our praise, but that we need to praise Him in order to remember all that God has done for us, all the times He has taken care of us. We bring the sacrifice of praise, as this hymn states; instead of items, we bring our gratitude and humble hearts before God, and we let the memories of God’s faithfulness develop our trust in Him. Our praise and gratitude are literally the best things we can offer God today.

God is Omniscient, and Yet Close By

Jeremiah 23:23-24
“Am I a God near at hand,” says the LORD, “And not a God afar off? Can anyone hide himself in secret places, so I shall not see him?” says the LORD; “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the LORD.”

In this part of Jeremiah, God is expressing his disgust for false prophets, who think that they can spread false testimony about what “God” is saying. God reminds the false prophets–and everyone else–that He is both close by and omniscient. He is right beside the people who need Him, at the same moment that He is watchful over all Creation. No one can hide from God or do anything that God does not know of. The false prophets believe they’re getting away with putting fake divine prophecy about, but God’s rhetorical questions in this verse say differently.

To the casual reader, this can sound scary, as if God is a “Big Brother” figure who just looks over our shoulders all the time. But this is actually a comforting verse–God knows all and watches over all, even when we think He has forgotten us, even when we think that He does not care what happens to us. He witnesses all the evil that goes on in our world and moves to right it according to His timetable (not necessarily ours), and yet He is right beside us when we need Him, too.

God’s Still Working With You!

Philippians 1:6
6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul, in this verse, encourages the church of Philippi to continue using their worship and outreach to touch the lives of others in the community. We need that message, too, so we don’t lose faith in what God is doing in our lives and through our efforts. Sometimes we can feel as if we’re half-finished, or that what we’re doing isn’t worth much to other people–the world can make us feel pretty worthless and useless. But this verse serves to contradict that thinking. God’s not finished with any of us yet, and He’s always working in our lives and working in our hearts to shape us and help us become more than we ever dreamed we could be.

For instance, I see God personally working in my life to apply my writing skills to new, faith-based opportunities. Certainly, I’ve tried to shape my own career before, with disastrous results (like the teaching career that fell apart in my hands). But once I trusted God fully and let go of the career decision, I found opportunities starting to form, sometimes literally dropping in my lap. He began a “good work” in me by giving me the gift of communication with others, and now He’s helping me use that gift to its best potential, whether it’s through my novel, this blog, or my Sunday school lessons. And He is doing the same for you in your life, right now, with whatever gifts He gave you and whatever opportunities are coming.

Seek Out Ways to Revive Your Faith

John 14:6-11
6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. 7 If you know Me, you will also know My Father. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.”

8 “Lord,” said Philip, “show us the Father and that’s enough for us.”

9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been among you all this time without your knowing Me, Philip? The one who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on My own. The Father who lives in Me does His works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. Otherwise, believe because of the works themselves.”

You can almost hear the incredulous tone in Jesus’ voice as he addresses Philip: “Have I been among you all this time without your knowing Me, Philip?” Even though Philip is one of the disciples and has been literally walking with Jesus this whole time, he has momentarily forgotten exactly Who Jesus is. Jesus then says that if they can’t believe that He is the Father just because He says He is, then they should believe because of the miracles (the “works”) themselves.

Established Christians can often get into a similar kind of rut about our beliefs–in the throes of new belief, we eagerly suck up everything there is to know about Christianity like a sponge. Over time, however, some of those truths can evaporate away from our daily lives, leaving us with a limited, more worldly understanding of Christianity again. We can end up unsure if we believe Jesus is the only way to heaven, or we end up saying Satan isn’t a real being, or that even the Holy Spirit is a myth. Even if we once believed in these truths, our secular lives, our mindsets, and our society can make us drift away from the things that sound maybe a bit too unbelievable.

In reminding Philip of His divine identity, Jesus is also encouraging him to be revived in his faith. Most Christians go through an annual Revival at church each year for this same purpose–to reconnect to our Christian beliefs, to reaffirm what we know to be the truth (and the way and the life, according to Jesus). Just like adding more wood to a fire that has burnt down to embers, during Revival (or at any other time during the year) we add more memories and more experiences of God’s grace and power to rekindle what we first believed. Reaffirming Christian truths, such as Jesus’ divinity and the need for salvation, also help. But above all, we have to keep our minds and hearts open to the miracles around us, the works which only God can do.

Submission Is Not Docile Silence

Ephesians 5:21-24
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

Note the first verse of this excerpt: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Paul isn’t saying that the husband equals the Lord and the wife should abase herself before him. This passage is the beginning of an analogy, showing the similarity between a marriage relationship and the relationship between Christ and the church. “Submitting” in this context does not mean that there should be inequality or superiority/inferiority between husband and wife.

A past boyfriend of mine quoted this to me as proof that the Bible supports male superiority. I disagreed, and the larger section from which these verses are taken (Ephesians 5:21-33) disagrees with that assertion as well. Christian submission in marriage means voluntarily compromising, helping, hearing and acknowledging the other person’s viewpoint, and ultimately respecting each other. As we submit to Christ’s teachings and God’s will, so must husband and wife submit to helping each other.

This means that neither husband nor wife will always get their way; this means a lot of emotional work and maintenance throughout married life. It also means that each person’s pride and selfishness is put aside in favor of seeking God’s will and what is best for the other person. This is, after all, how Christ commanded us to treat each other–serving each other and putting God first.

Don’t Get Desperate, Trust God

1 Samuel 24:20-22; 26:1-2
20 “Now I know for certain you will be king, and the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hand. 21 Therefore swear to me by the Lord that you will not cut off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father’s family.” 22 So David swore to Saul. Then Saul went back home, and David and his men went up to the stronghold.

26:1 Then the Ziphites came to Saul at Gibeah saying, “David is hiding on the hill of Hachilah opposite Jeshimon.” 3 So Saul, accompanied by 3,000 of the choice men of Israel, went to the Wilderness of Ziph to search for David there.

Saul is temporarily sorry for what he has put David through, chasing him around and threatening his life; however, this remorse doesn’t last even two chapters in the Bible. When the Ziphites warn Saul that David is again in the area, Saul wastes no time in dispatching himself and his men to search for him, ostensibly to kill him. David’s promise that he will not harm Saul or his family, which echoes David’s promise to Jonathan in chapter 20, seems to mean nothing to the dishonored ruler–he continues to seek to remove the threat he perceives in David.

But David is wise; he knows not to trust Saul’s repentant behavior, and he makes sure he and his men are hidden even before Saul goes to seek him again. Even though the Ziphites give up his position not once but twice (first in chapter 24 and again in chapter 26 as quoted), David and his men are hidden in desert strongholds that are quite inaccessible, which frustrates Saul no end. The divine protection that has been with David since Samuel selected him continues, and Saul has nothing to counteract it.

Saul knows and acknowledges to David’s face that “[he] knows for certain that [David] will be king,” yet he is doing everything in his earthly power (which isn’t much) to try to overturn this result. Even though he knows he is beaten, he continues to try to fight–a mark of his desperation and fear of losing the last tie to the God-given administration of Israel, which he knows he no longer deserves. David has several opportunities before and after this passage in which he could take Saul’s life and grasp the throne in that way, but he chooses to spare Saul’s life instead. Thereby, he sidesteps the treachery and back-room politics that Saul is enmeshed in; against the advice of his own friends and allies, he is merciful to Saul, and further proves himself worthy for the throne.

These days, we may not be facing a despotic ruler who is trying to kill us, but many times life situations seem to explode without warning, throwing us into crisis mode. And while we are in that panicked mode, we can forget all about God in our attempts to save ourselves from shame, from failure, from disappointing others. David’s story reminds us that even in our most stressed, harried moments, we can trust God to guide and protect us. Our lives as Christians will not always be easy, but we have access to the Source of peace and strength to carry us through.

Be Ready to Share Your Experience of God

1 Peter 3:15-17
13 but set apart the Messiah as Lord in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. 16 However, do this with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear, so that when you are accused, those who denounce your Christian life will be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Peter wrote his first letter to encourage others who were being persecuted for being Christians, telling them that it is right and good to speak openly about Christ to anyone who asks. Note, however, that he says to do this “with gentleness and respect, keeping your conscience clear.” Witnessing, according to Peter, should be a thing done with subtlety and finesse rather than bluntness and brutality, so that others cannot point to you and say, “Well, if that’s a Christian, I don’t know that I want to be one.” And along with a gentle, respectful style of witness, you also must have a strong commitment to God in your heart already, as Peter says in verse 13. If you do not have this commitment and faith, it will be much harder to endure the “suffering for good” and “accusations” that Peter speaks of, the possibility of which still exists today.

Nowadays, it is not so much the Pharisees or polytheistic Romans who would attack our beliefs, but the message is still relevant–you must not be afraid to share your story about God when the moment arises, even if you’re afraid someone else will take offense. This can be difficult in this era of multitudes of religions; you’re never sure how the other person is going to take it. You might sit there fearing that your words won’t be enough to adequately describe your experience, or that the other person will brush you off as another silly Bible-thumper ready to judge them for their sins. But sometimes the preparation isn’t a conscious process of devouring Bible verses for hours, but a result of speaking honestly about your personal salvation story. Sometimes, all a lost person needs to hear is how your life has been touched by Jesus and His loving sacrifice.

Do Everything for God’s Glory

1 Corinthians 10:31-33
“31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory. 32 Give no offense to the Jews or the Greeks or the church of God, 33 just as I also try to please all people in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”

Glorifying God, according to Paul in 1 Corinthians, is the point of our lives–we should act and speak in ways that help the light of Christ shine out from us to other people. Not “giving offense,” or causing others to falter in their faith, is part of raising other Christians up and bringing salvation to those who are not Christians yet. Working for the common good, being unselfish and caring about others’ well-being above our own, is another way we glorify God. (Note: “pleasing all people” in verse 33 does not mean making others temporarily happy with gifts or false words, but giving them permanent joy by serving them because God loves them, too.)

The part of verse 33 about “not seeking my own profit” is especially salient in our society today. So much of what we do is based upon what recompense we get, and glorifying God through our works and lives is not usually high on the list of lucrative things to do. (Sometimes we can even get caught up in that same worldly attitude when we work for the church–a danger in itself!) But what better profit could we as Christians have than to know that we have touched someone else’s life and given them the knowledge of Jesus?

We Complain, God Provides

Jeremiah 33:10-11
“This is what the LORD says: ‘You say about this place, “It is a desolate waste, without men or animals.” Yet in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are deserted, inhabited by neither men or animals, there will be heard once more 11 the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord, saying, “Give thanks to the LORD Almighty, for the LORD is good; his love endures forever.” For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were before,’ says the LORD.”

This Bible passage reminds us that even if we don’t like what’s been given us, God provides us with what we need. The Israelites didn’t like the land God had led them to, but they were still living in towns together, in houses–God was providing for them, even as they were rejecting His gifts of land and protection as being “not good enough.” (And not only that, God promised even more blessings if the Israelites would only trust Him!)

Even if we’re living in difficult times, we must find the strength to trust in God that He will care for us and provide us with what we need to survive. Our wants may not be met, but our needs will be, if we place them in God’s hands.