Salt

Seasoned With Salt

And every offering of your grain offering you shall season with salt; you shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your grain offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt. (Leviticus 2:13)

Under the Old Covenant, not every sacrifice was of an animal and with blood. God also accepted the grain offering. Like every one of the offerings made by ancient Israel, the grain offering had to be made with salt. Why did God command this?

Salt

Salt Speaks of Purity
As a chemical compound, salt can’t change. It has an inherent purity. God wanted every sacrifice brought before Him to come from a pure heart. Some of what we do for God is from impure motives. We should ask God to give us the purest of motives: to show our gratitude and to honor His glory. I’ve also heard that salt itself cannot change, but it can be corrupted by what it added to it. When our motives are impure, it is often because we add concern about our own glory and prestige. Ask God to build in you the purity of salt.

Salt Speaks of Preservation
As a preservative, salt stops the normal operations of flesh. It is the nature of flesh to spoil, but salt-cured meat will stay good. Long before we used refrigeration and freezing to keep things, people preserved meats by salting them. When we come before God, we don’t come in our own “spoiled flesh.” We come in the name of Jesus, on the basis of His merits, not ours. We can only be “preserved” by the constant work of God in us.

Salt Speaks of Preciousness
Salt was an expensive, valued commodity in the ancient world. Roman soldiers were sometimes paid in salt. Adding salt to every sacrifice was a way to make each offering to God a little more costly, a little more precious. We need to put our best into everything, and give everything unto God.

If you go to the market you can see some foods that are “salt free” or “reduced salt.” That might be just what someone needs in their diet, but when we think of what salt symbolized for ancient Israel, we understand that we should never life a “salt free” or “reduced salt” life.

Every day is a gift we can and should give to God. It’s proper that we “season” or “sprinkle” our day with the understanding of:

– The purity God wants us to live out: Jesus is our purity
– The preserving work God wants to do in us: Jesus preserves us to the end
– The precious nature of each moment we give to God: Everything given to Jesus is precious

Even a small sacrifice can be precious before God if it is seasoned with salt!

 

Click here for David’s commentary on Leviticus 2

Fighting God

How to Fight God and Win

He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and in his strength he struggled with God. Yes, he struggled with the Angel and prevailed; he wept, and sought favor from Him. He found Him in Bethel, and there He spoke to us. (Hosea 12:3-4)

Through the Prophet Hosea, God spoke to Israel by an ancient name – Jacob. Jacob was famous because at his birth, he took his brother by the heel in the womb. He literally came out of the womb with his hand on his brother’s heel (Genesis 25:26).

As God looked back at the patriarch Jacob, He saw that Israel in Hosea’s time was just like their forefather Jacob in the days of Genesis. In ancient Israel, a “heel-catcher” was a double-dealer, someone who achieved their goals through crafty and dishonest ways. Through Hosea, God said, “That was Jacob then and it is Israel now.”

Fighting God

Then, the prophet did a fast-forward and looked at another event in the life of Jacob, when in his strength he struggled with God. The prophet recalled the struggle between Jacob and the Man of Genesis 32:24-30. Jacob refused to submit to God, so God demanded submission from him in a literal wrestling match.

In Genesis 32, Jacob had one of the most fantastic athletic contests of all time – a wrestling match with God. We may speak spiritually of wrestling with God in prayer, or wrestling in spiritual warfare, but Jacob’s wrestling was physical and spiritual. He was locked in competition with God in human form.

Hosea’s words he struggled with God reinforce a point already made clear in Genesis 32:24-30: Jacob wrestled with God in human form. Since this was a unique messenger from heaven, He is also appropriately described as an Angel of the Lord.

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Hosea emphasized two more details from the Genesis 32:24-30 account: Jacob prevailed, and he wept. Jacob prevailed in the only way anyone can when they struggle against God: he lost, he accepted it, and he surrendered to God.

How do you wrestle with God? There are many ways we can resist Him. Our resistance may not be physical, but it is still real. When you struggle against God, the only way to win is by losing.

Notice also that Jacob wept. This was how desperate and broken he was as he hung on to God, begging for a blessing. Jacob lost the athletic contest, but he won spiritually. He clung to God until blessing was promised.

Losing when you struggle against God is a good thing. It is good to remember that He is the Creator and I am the creature. He is the King and I am a subject. He is God and I am not. He has won me over. You can win when you fight God by letting Him win you over.

Click here for David’s commentary on Hosea 12

Bible Translations

How to Translate the Bible

You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Corinthians 3:2-3)

The first Bible of my own was a paper-back version given to me when I came forward at an altar call to give my life to Jesus Christ. It was just a New Testament, The Living Bible version, and on the front, it had a picture of a child on his father’s shoulders and said, “The Greatest of these is Love.”

Bible Translations

I have many more translations of the Bible now, and it seems like there is a never-ending stream of new Bible translations. No matter what Bible you like to read, the principle of 2 Corinthians 3 is still true: The Bible everybody reads is your life.

You yourselves are our letter, Paul wrote. Every letter has an author, and we are a letter from Christ. Every letter has readers, and we are known and read by everybody. Our life is like a letter, and we can’t hide it. People you meet every day read the letter of your life. We can’t blame them for doing this, because if the work of Jesus is real, it will be real in our lives.

Because every Christian is a bible, perhaps it’s time to recognize some new translations:

The “Ashamed to Follow Jesus” version (AFJ)
The “Sin Doesn’t Apply to Me” version (SDAM)
The “Other Christians are Terrible” version (OCT)
The “Christian Life is Miserable” version (CLM)
The “Holier than Thou” version (HTT)

How do we get the right kind of letter written? Again, look at 2 Corinthians 3:3. Every letter is written with a pen, and Paul says the letter of their Christian life is the result of our ministry. This means we should never neglect what other Christians can do in our life. Isolating ourselves as Christians is a bad thing to do.

Every letter is written with ink, and Paul says we are written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God. Have you yielded your life to the Spirit of God? Are you walking in stress, or walking in the Spirit? If you are “translating” the Bible poorly, perhaps it’s because you are walking in stress, and not the Spirit.

Every letter is written on something, and our “bible” is written not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. This means we have to let God write His Word on our heart.

It’s sad to think that perhaps we haven’t translated the Bible very well into our lives. When we provide a poor translation, other people read it and get the wrong idea about Jesus. If you aren’t a follower of Jesus Christ, I’m sorry for the bad “letters” you’ve read. But I do ask you to remember that ultimately, it’s all about Jesus Christ. Instead of criticizing – sometimes with good reason – the “translations” around you, why not let Jesus write into your life?

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Corinthians 3

new year

All Things New

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.” (Revelation 21:5)

This wonderful proclamation comes at the end of the Book of Revelation. It comes after God’s people have been gathered to heaven, after the Great Tribulation, after the rise and fall of the Antichrist, and after the Battle of Armageddon.

It happens after the glorious return of Jesus Christ, after the judgment of the nations, after 1,000 years of the personal reign of Jesus on earth, after the end of Satan’s evil career, after the final judgment, after the new heaven and new earth, and after the New Jerusalem.

new year

After all that, God is not finished making things new. He says, Behold, I make all things new. This statement was so amazing to John that he apparently stopped writing and had to be specifically told to keep on writing. We’re glad John did keep writing, because it shows us how much God loves new things.

Logically speaking, when we change the calendar from one year to another, there is nothing really special about the 1stday of the year. Still, something about the first year speaks to our God-given love of new things. It’s possible that we could take that love of new things and make it an idol, but our basic attraction for new things is because we are made in the image of the One who says, “Behold, I make all things new.”

It’s worth it to be happy about a New Year. We should be excited about it and receive it with faith, happiness, and some celebration. Simply said, God has some wonderful new things for you this year:

– New mercies, new grace.
– New blessings.
– New opportunities.
– New responsibilities.
– New conquest over stubborn sins.
– New faith replacing old fears.
– New people coming into His kingdom.

If we look carefully at Revelation 21:5, we see that it is Jesus Himself who makes all things new. It’s because Jesus is an expert at doing new things; what He did on the cross, in dying, in being buried, and rising again from the dead was all completely new.

Receive God’s new things in this New Year. Remember, you love and serve the One who said, “Behold, I make all things new.”

Click here for David’s commentary on Revelation 21

all the fullness

Two Mighty Words

For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell. (Colossians 1:19)

We like the Christmas season and we like to put our thoughts on the baby Jesus. So many aspects of the story appeal to us. We think of two relatively young people out among strangers and in great need. We think of the humble nature of their surroundings – no room in the inn – contrasted with the angelic glory of His birth announcement, even if it was heard only among a few shepherds. We think of the baby Jesus wrapped tight in fabric Mary probably brought with her all the way from Nazareth, knowing she would need it. We think of a little child on a starry night laid down to sleep in a feeding bin for animals.

all the fullness

All this is wonderful and true, yet it only scratches at the surface of the greatness of what God did on that night. The child sleeping in that manager was no mere man. God had humbled Himself to come not only in humanity, but in the full experience of humanity.

Theoretically, Jesus could have come to the earth as a 30-year-old man and began His public ministry immediately. After all, the first Adam came to the earth as an adult; perhaps the second Adam would also come that way. Yet it was good and right and important for the God to add humanity to His deity in a way that connected with the full experience of humanity, including the helplessness and dependence of a baby.

Yet make no mistake; Colossians 1:19 is just as true about the baby Jesus in the manger as it was true about the man Jesus on the cross: it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell.

It is a broad statement – combining the two mighty words all and fullness. Put those two words together and you mean everything. There is nothing left out from the all and from the fullness, and these two words tell us that in Him– that is, in Jesus Christ – there is all of what makes God really God.

There was a definite idea behind the ancient Greek word Paul selected, the one we translate fullness. The ancient Greek word was pleroma, and it was a recognized technical term in the theological vocabulary of the ancient world, describing the total package of Divine powers and attributes. Paul took all that was implied in that one word and said, “All of this fullness – all of this stuff that makes God who He is – all of it dwells in Jesus.”

Paul also carefully chose his words when it came to “should dwell.” The ancient Greek word for dwell is here used in the sense of a permanent dwelling. There is an entirely different word used for the sense of a temporary dwelling place. Paul wanted to emphasize the idea that Jesus was not temporarily God but He is permanently God.

Notice that the fullness is in Jesus Christ. Not in a church; not in a priesthood; not in a building; not in a sacrament; not in the saints; not in a method or a program, but in Jesus Christ Himself. It is in Him as a “distribution point” – so that those who wanted more of God and all that He is can find it in Jesus Christ.

So long ago, all of that slept in a humble manger on that Bethlehem night.

Click here for David’s commentary on Colossians 1

Christmas Love

Christmas Love

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

John 3:16 has long been celebrated as a powerful, succinct, declaration of the gospel. Of the 31,373 verses in the Bible, it may be the most popular single verse used in evangelism.

We learn the amount of God’s love: For God so loved. This means that the love was a significant amount of love. The idea of so loved is connected to the idea of that He gave – there is a cause and effect relationship. He only gave what He gave because He loved so much. A gift at Christmas shows love if it cost something. One of the best Christmas gifts I ever received is a blue sweater knitted by my wife Inga-Lill before we were married. One might find a more expensive sweater other places, but my blue sweater cost something – a great amount of time that Inga-Lill spent knitting it.

Christmas Love

We learn the object of God’s love: For God so loved the world. God did not wait for the world to turn to Him before He loved the world. He loved and gave His only

begotten Son to the world when it was still the world. What Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:7 (You must be born again) refuted the popular Jewish idea of the scope of salvation: for God so loved the world. Many Jews in that day didn’t think that God loved the world. They thought that God only loved them. The universal offer of salvation and life in Jesus was revolutionary.

We learn the expression of God’s love: He gave His only begotten Son. God’s love didn’t just feel for the problems of a fallen world. God did something about it, and He gave the most precious thing to give: His only begotten Son. Real love – Christmas love – is all about giving.

We learn the recipient of God’s love: Whoever believes in Him. God loves the world, but the world does not receive or benefit from that love until it believes in Jesus, the gift that the Father gave. Believes in means much more than intellectual awareness or agreement. It means to trust in, to rely on, and to cling to. When we trust God and rely on Him, we benefit from His love.

We learn the intention of God’s love: Should not perish. God’s love actually saves man from eternal destruction. He didn’t give suggestions for self-improvement or ideas for personal transformation. He says, “Come to Me, look to Me, and I will save you.”

We learn the duration of God’s love: Everlasting life. The love we receive among peo- ple may fade or turn, but God’s love will never change. He will never stop loving His people, even unto the furthest distance of eternity.

Seven Wonders of John 3:16

We might say there are Seven Wonders of John 3:16:

God, who is The Almighty Authority
So loved the world, which is The Mightiest Motive
That He gave His only begotten Son, which is The Greatest Gift
That whoever, which is The Widest Welcome
Believes in Him, which is The Easiest Escape
Should not perish, which is The Divine Deliverance
But have everlasting life, which is The Priceless Possession

What do we do? It is simple. We need to receive this love, and we need to respond to this love. Make it a Christmas of true Christmas Love.

Click here for David’s commentary on John 3

cloud

What the Small Cloud Means

And [Elijah] said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked, and said, “There is nothing.” And seven times he said, “Go again.” Then it came to pass the seventh time, that he said, “There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!” So he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you.’” (1 Kings 18:43-44)

As Elijah prayed for rain, he expected an answer and he would not stop praying until he saw the answer come. So, he sent his servant out to look for the clouds of coming rain. The servant went out and saw nothing; Elijah kept praying. Five times more the prophet sent his servant to see the answer to prayer and the servant saw nothing.

cloud

Yet, “it came to pass the seventh time.” This was stubbornly persistentprayer. It was as if Elijah would not take “no” for an answer, because he was confident that it was God’s will to send rain. He stubbornly furthered the will of God by his persistent prayer. It is a good thing that Elijah didn’t quit praying after six previous disappointments.

Finally, the servant brought a report: “There is a cloud, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea!” The evidence of coming rain came slowly and in a small way, but out of this small evidence God brought a mighty work.

Four Signs

Charles Spurgeon used these verses as an illustration of the small signs that come before a mighty work of God. He spoke of four “certain signs and tokens for good which prayerful faith clearly perceives when an awakening, a genuine revival is about to come.” Christians should regard such things as clouds, as small as a man’s hand, rising out of the sea. Spurgeon noted these four things which, in his opinion, were like a small cloud that signaled a great downpour of blessing to come:

– A growing dissatisfaction with the present state of things, and an increasing anxiety among the members of the church for the salvation of souls.
– When this anxiety leads believers to be exceedingly earnest and bold in prayer.
– When ministers begin pray together, and to say, “What must we do?”
– When we shall see the doctrine of the individual responsibility of each Christian fully felt and carried out into individual action.

Elijah knew that the small cloud meant a big work was on the way. He told King Ahab in faith, “Prepare your chariot, and go down before the rain stops you.” Based only on the sighting of a cloud that was as small as a man’s hand, he knew a torrent was on the way. When we see God moving in even small ways among us, we should have great faith for a greater work to come.

Click here for David’s commentary on 1 Kings 18

God Laughs

What Makes God Laugh

He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;
The LORD shall hold them in derision. 
(Psalm 2:4)

We don’t often think of God as laughing, but Psalm 2 tells of a special reason why God laughs. Here, God laughs because man thinks he can plot and work against the Almighty with any hope of success. It says in the first few verses of the Psalm:

Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.” (Psalm 2:1-3)

God’s response? “He who sits in the heavens shall laugh.” God looks at the way man plots against Him and He laughs. God isn’t afraid or confused or depressed about the opposition of man. God laughs at it.

God Laughs

God laughs because He sits in the heavens. He sits as the Great King on a glorious throne. He doesn’t pace back and forth in the throne room of heaven, wondering what He should do next. God sits in perfect peace and assurance. He doesn’t even rise from where He sits; God simply laughs.

God laughs because He sits in the heavens. It isn’t an earthly throne He occupies; it is the throne of heaven with authority over all creation. What does heaven have to fear from earth?

Please notice that God does not laugh at the suffering of humankind, even their suffering as a result of sin. God laughs at the proud man or woman who thinks so highly of themselves that they will fight against God and seek to prevent His will.

Simply said, “The LORD shall hold them in derision.” Through the centuries many have opposed God and His Kingdom in Jesus Christ. Each one of these opponents have been and shall be frustrated and crushed.

An Example of God’s Laugh

A famous opponent of Christianity was the Roman Emperor Diocletian (AD 245-313). He was such a determined enemy of Christians that he persecuted them mercilessly and wanted to believe that he had defeated Christianity. He struck a medal with this inscription: “The name of Christianity being extinguished.”

Diocletian built monuments with inscriptions that said he had “extinguished the name of Christians” and had “abolished the superstition of Christ.”

Diocletian is dead and gone, now only a few paragraphs on the pages of history. The fame and glory of Jesus Christ is spread over all the earth. God laughs from heaven, and the LORD shall hold them in derision. Let this comfort your troubled heart today.

Click here for David’s commentary on Psalm 2

fruitful

Remember to be Fruitful

And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful. All who are with me greet you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen. (Titus 3:14-15)

These last sentences from Paul’s letter to Titus give us a few final things to remember. We can first look at the goal: that Christians may not be unfruitful. God wants us to “bear fruit” as believers.

fruitful

The idea of “fruit” or being unfruitful here is a poetic way to speak of a Christian life that brings forth good things. It’s good for an apple tree to bring forth good apples, and it’s good for a Christian life to show the “fruit of the Spirit” described in Galatians 5:22-23: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

Here, Paul says we will not be unfruitful if we maintain good works, and if we meet urgent needs, giving us the opportunity to show forth the fruit of the Spirit. It’s good for Christians to do good, and to do good in Jesus’ name! We should not only start doing good works, but we should maintain good works, keep on doing them. We should look for urgent needs and try to meet them in Jesus’ name.

This is another way that the wonderful letter to Titus encourages us to do good and to show the reality of our faith through such good works. We also see another way that the message of Paul and the message of James were not in contradiction, and that Paul also believed that real faith would show in real life.

A Special Kind of Love

In the last verse of Titus, we are reminded of Paul’s warm relationships with Christians all over the Roman Empire. He sent a greeting both to Titus and to the other Christians on the Island of Crete. In this, notice this line: greet those who love us in the faith.

We should be grateful for the people in our life who love us in the faith. We enjoy our bond as brothers and sisters in Jesus, a bond that can go deeper than blood because it is in the faith. I want to say “thank you” to those who love us in the faith.

At the end of it all, Paul wrote: Grace be with you all. Even though the letter to Titus has a lot of emphasis on practical Christian living, we can only live the way God wants us to when we walk in His grace. We’re grateful for all His grace gives us and teaches us, and we long for that grace to be with us more and more. By faith, receive His grace today and for the coming week – and then maintain good works!

Click here for David’s commentary on Titus 3

four friends

Remember People

When I send Artemas to you, or Tychicus, be diligent to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. Send Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey with haste, that they may lack nothing. (Titus 3:12-13)

Many times, towards the end of one of Paul’s letters, he included personal notes to several different people. Paul’s letter to Titus was no different. Here, towards the very end of this short letter, Paul mentioned four people: ArtemasTychicus, Zenas, and Apollos.

four friends

It’s easy to read these words and respond with a great big, “So what?” After all, who really cares about these four people that we know so little about? Yet there is value even in passages like these.

First, this shows us that Paul was a real man in a real world with real friends that he had regular contact with and care for. We can think of a man like Paul of something like a superman, but he wasn’t. He had friends and needed friends and valued these co-workers in the kingdom.

Second, it shows that the work God did in the first century of Christianity went far beyond what the Apostle Paul did. We know the most about Paul’s work, but there may have been many people who did a similar work that Paul did that are lost to history. The mention of these several names shows the dynamic growth of the Christian movement.

Time to Move On

Third, it shows that Titus was not to do his work on Crete forever. It seems that when Artemas and Tychicus came to Titus, he was to leave Crete and join Paul at Nicopolis (a city on what is today the western coast of Greece). Titus was to do as much as he could until those two came, and then turn the work over to them. There was time and a season for Titus’ work there, and it would end.

Fourth, it shows that we should support those who do God’s work. When Paul said, send Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey with haste, that they may lack nothing he meant that Titus should give them the money and help they needed for their travel. Zenas and Apollos probably the ones who brought the letter to Titus. When they left, Titus was to use the money in common among God’s people to send them on their way.

If there are some people you can support along the way as they do God’s work, the prayerfully consider doing. Maybe there is a Zenas or an Apollos you could provide for.

Click here for David’s commentary on Titus 3