A Gift for Our Priest

Gold, frankincense and myrrh – the three gifts of the Magi. We usually think of these gifts in correlation with the birth of Jesus rather than His death and resurrection. However, we are going to look at these precious and expensive gifts from a different perspective as we prepare for Resurrection Sunday.

We will begin by focusing upon frankincense.

The Magi’s gift of frankincense was a prophetic picture of the role Jesus would fulfill as our Great High Priest.

Frankincense is an aromatic incense. It is a symbol of holiness and righteousness. The Old Testament priests used it when making sacrifices. In Leviticus 2, the priests put frankincense upon the grain offerings. In Leviticus 6, it was used with meat offerings.

The priests were from the tribe of Levi. They interceded to God for the people by offering the sacrifices required by the law. However, all the sacrifices only temporarily covered the people’s sins.

Jesus offered the final sacrifice when He became the sacrifice. Jesus was greater than any other priest, so He became our “Great High Priest”.

John 19:17-19 describes how the sacrifice of Jesus was made. They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between.”

The writer of Hebrews points out several distinctions between Jesus as the Great High Priest and the former Levitical priests.

“. . . we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God. . . . For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.Hebrews 4:14-15

The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.Hebrews 7:23-25

How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” Hebrews 9:14

We no longer need to go through earthly mediators. When Jesus died on the cross, the temple’s veil was torn from top to bottom. Jesus restored our relationship with God and we no longer rely upon earthly priests.

Romans 8:34 says, “Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” Jesus made the final sacrifice. However, His mediation for us continues. Jesus reveals the will of God to us through the Holy Spirit. John 14:26 says, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

I John 4:10 sums it up well saying, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Yes, Jesus embraced the Magi’s gift of frankincense to the fullest by becoming the greatest sacrifice.

Can we apply anything about frankincense to ourselves? I think so.

I Peter 2:5 says, “you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Peter adds in verse 9, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” We are priests!

Romans 12:1 states, Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.There is a sacrifice for us to make. However, we are encouraged to be living sacrifices rather than a gum resin in a bottle.

II Corinthians 2:15 declares, “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” Maybe the aroma of Christ that we emit can be compared to the fragrance of frankincense.

Frankincense was presented to Jesus by the Magi when He was about two years old. Frankincense was a prophetic symbol pointing to when Jesus would die on the cross approximately 31 years later. According to Romans 8:34, He now sits at the right hand of God interceding for us as the Great High Priest.

 

 

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Lion and Lamb

There is an old proverb about March that says, “In like a lion and out like a lamb.” As a child, I would always watch the weather on March 1. Was it like a lion? Was it like a lamb? I have also heard that if March comes in like a lamb, it will go out like a lion. Not much truth in this saying other than March weather can be a volatile. Spring arrives in the middle of the month but plenty of winter still hangs around – especially in the northeast where we live. March is a month with ferocious lion-like winter days as well as milder lamb-like spring days. 

Lions and lambs. Two very different animals. Both terms are used for Jesus Christ. He is the conquering Lion of the tribe of Judah and the Lamb who was slain.

Lions are fierce animals that symbolize power. A lion roaming its territory creates a sense of majesty. A lion is known as the king of the beasts. What a powerful prophetic picture of Jesus!

In Genesis 49:9-10, Jacob blessed his son, Judah, saying, You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness – who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.The tribe of Judah became known as the kingly tribe.

I find it interesting that Judah was referred to as a lion’s cub. Was it significant that he was a cub while Jesus later became the Lion of Judah?

Lambs were often the sacrificial animals throughout the Old Testament. They were symbolic of Jesus who would become the sacrifice of all sacrifices. Hebrews 10:14 states, “For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

In Genesis 22, God provided the lamb for the burnt offering so Abraham did not have to offer the sacrifice of his son Isaac. The account of the first Passover is recorded in Exodus 12. The sacrificed lamb provided protection for the Israelites.

John the Baptist described Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” in John 1:29. Three years later, Jesus fulfilled the role as the Lamb of God when He died upon the cross for our redemption.

In the last book of the Bible, Jesus is described as both the Lion and the Lamb. John says in Revelation 5:5-6, “and one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.’ Then I saw a Lamb, looking, as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by four lining creatures and the elders.

While Jesus is described as both a lion and a lamb, each animal reveals a different aspect of His character. We see Him as the conquering King who will slay the enemies of God when He returns. And, we see Him as the sacrificial Lamb who took away the sin from His people so they can share in His ultimate victory.

In one of his sermons, Augustine emphasized that the lion stands for Christ resurrected and the lamb for His sacrifice. His words are “He endured death as a lamb; he devoured it as a lion.”

I like the song The Lion and the Lamb. Partial lyrics are as follows:

Who can stop the Lord Almighty?
Our God is the Lion, the Lion of Judah
He’s roaring with power and fighting our battles
And every knee will bow before You
Our God is the Lamb, the Lamb that was slain
For the sin of the world, His blood breaks the chains
And every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb
Oh every knee will bow before the Lion and the Lamb
So open up the gates, make way before the King of kings
Our God who calls the saved is here to set the captives free

Lions and lambs create an interesting topic whether we are talking about weather or Jesus Christ. According to the calendar, we know March 1st is coming in a couple of days. Then we will find out whether the weather is like a lion or a lamb for 2019. We do not know when Jesus will return. However, the Lamb of God promises in Revelation 22:12, “Behold, I am coming soon!

Be a Waiter while Waiting

I wait for the LORD, my soul does wait,
Psalm 130:5

The Psalmist says that he waits for the Lord. I guess I should follow the Psalmist’s example. In this context, what does it mean to wait for the Lord? Do I just stand around doing nothing? I don’t think so.

Two types of waiters come to mind. Both are found in a restaurant. Waiters can be people who serve those seated at the tables. Or, waiters can be people seated at the table waiting to be served.

The job of the first waiters is to efficiently serve the restaurant’s customers. They often greet their patrons by asking, “How may I help you?” Waiters politely and accurately take food orders. Shortly after serving the food, waiters check to see if everything is to their patrons’ liking.

Waiting is serving. Jesus is an example of a waiter. Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.

All of us are waiters who serve. We serve people and we serve the Lord. Psalm 100:2 NKJV says, “Serve the LORD with gladness: come before His presence with singing.” The New International Version reads “worship” rather than “serve”. Worship is waiting upon the Lord by giving Him the glory and honor He deserves. It is a privilege to wait upon the Lord by worshiping Him.

The second type of waiters are people who are waiting for something to be done for them. They wait expectantly whether it be for restaurant food or for an answer to prayer. These waiters wait with a sense of anticipation.

People seated at the tables expect to be served plates of delicious food in a short time. They do not always wait patiently. Sometimes we can be like them while waiting for the Lord to move in our lives. Scripture gives us a word of caution. Psalm 27:14 NLT says, “Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.”

Isaiah 40:31 NKJV says, “But they that wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Other translations use “hope” or “trust” instead of “wait”. For  me, hoping and trusting are spiritual activities. Effort is involved. The same can be true of waiting. Waiting on God can be faith at work. Lamentations 3:25 ESV tells us, “The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.”

I believe it is our privilege to wait on the Lord by serving Him and those around us while waiting for answers to specific prayers. When serving other people, we can be encouraged by Hebrews 6:10. “God will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him as you have helped His people and continue to help them.” If we are waiting upon the Lord by serving Him, let us follow the advice of I Samuel 12:2, “Be sure to fear the LORD and serve Him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things He has done for you.” While waiting for the Lord to move in our lives, remember Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Which ever type of waiter we may be, let us fulfill Romans 12:11, “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”

Continually Give Thanks


G
ive thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
I Thessalonians 5:18

In the United States of America, we will be celebrating our national holiday of Thanksgiving tomorrow. It is an opportunity for us to pause and thank God for His blessings upon our nation and our families.

All of our family will be together. Before we eat, we will pray and thank God for the food set before us. We will ask for His blessing upon our Thanksgiving dinner. While eating, each of us will express gratitude for at least one thing. It is easy to give thanks for situations where we have seen God move. However, can we give thanks for a blessing we have not yet received?

Jesus sets the example for when we should give thanks. Before Lazarus was raised from the grave, Jesus gave thanks for what was about to happen. John 11:41 says, “Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard me.’” However, it is not until verse 43 that Jesus commanded Lazarus to come forth. In verse 44, Lazarus came back to life. Jesus thanked His Heavenly Father for what He was confident His Father would do. Jesus gave thanks before He received the answer to His prayer.

In her book One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp explains that eucharisteo – thanksgiving – always precedes the miracle. Ann writes, “Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation our Yes! to His grace.”

Thanking God in advance may not appear to make sense in the natural. However, Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Giving thanks prior to receiving the answer to our prayers reveals our confidence in God’s willingness and ability to answer our prayers.

Psalm 119:90 states, “Your (God;s) faithfulness continues through all generations.” The fact that God is faithful to answer our prayers is a valid reason to give thanks.

Giving thanks before we have received our request is an expression of our faith. Hebrews 11:1 NKJV says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

In I Chronicles 16:34 NIV, we are told,Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.Ephesians 3:20 NKJV says, “(He) is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” God is good and God is able. Two reasons to give Him thanks – even before we have His response.

Psalm 71:14 NLT says, “But I will keep on hoping for Your help; I will praise You more and more.” We thank God for what He has done. We praise Him for who He is. The more we praise God for who He is, the stronger our faith becomes regarding what He will do for us.

Philippians 4:6 tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Asking and thanking are both aspects of prayer. God gives us the privilege of asking. We have the responsibility of thanking.

The Thanksgiving holiday gives us the opportunity to focus upon giving thanks. Most of the time, it is easier to ask God for something than it is to thank Him for what we have received. It is even harder to thank Him for what we are still waiting to receive.

I encourage you to take your thankfulness to a deeper level this season by giving thanks in all circumstances. God will bless you in return. He loves to hear you say, “Thanks, God!”

 

Wreaths across America for our Veterans

To be killed in war is not the worst that can happen.
To be lost is not the worst that can happen…
to be forgotten is the worst.
— Pierre Claeyssens (1909-2003)

May we never forget the men and women of our armed forces! In a few days we will celebrate Veteran’s Day. It is an official United States public holiday that honors US veterans and victims of all wars. It is observed on November 11, the anniversary of the end of World War I. What an honor it is to recognize those who have served and are serving in our military.

I became aware of the highlighted statement when we visited the National Wreaths Across America Headquarters in Columbia Falls, Maine. We learned the history of Wreaths Across America.

Here is the story.

Morrill Worcester was 12 years old when he won a trip to Washington D.C. He never forgot the trip. Arlington National Cemetery made an indelible impression on him. He did not like seeing graves without wreaths. His goal became to someday place a wreath on every grave in Arlington. Over the years, he became a successful businessman. He felt his good fortune was due to this nation’s values and the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country.

In 1992, Worcester Wreath Company had a surplus of wreaths near the end of the holiday season. Remembering his earlier experience at Arlington, Morrill realized he now had an opportunity to honor our country’s veterans. With the help of others, wreaths were placed on the graves of an older section of Arlington that seldom had visitors. This tribute quietly continued for several years.

In 2007, Wreaths Across America was formed as a non-profit organization. Fast forward to 2014. That year, Wreaths Across America and its national network of volunteers laid over 700,000 wreaths at 1000 locations in the United States and beyond. The goal of covering Arlington National Cemetery with wreaths was met when 226,525 wreaths were placed on graves. Now, each year wreaths are placed at Bunker Hill, Valley Forge, the Pearl Harbor Memorial, and the sites of the September 11 tragedies as well as in cemeteries.

This wreath-laying event is held annually early December. This year it will be held on December 15, 2018. Not only are wreaths placed in Arlington National Cemetery, but also at more than 1400 additional locations in all 50 states, at sea and abroad.

The mission of Wreaths Across America is to Remember, Honor and Teach. REMEMBER our fallen US veterans. HONOR those who serve. TEACH your children the value of freedom.

As we honor our military personal on November 11, may we help fulfill the mission of Wreaths Across America. May we never forget these men and women who sacrifice their time and safety every day to preserve our freedoms. Forgetting is the worst thing that could happen to them.

 

Untangle What Is Tangled

A friend shared about her granddaughter getting a brush entangled in her hair. Way too many snarls! My friend was able to release the brush by massaging hair conditioner into her granddaughter’s locks of hair.

As Debbie and I talked, we compared her granddaughter’s experience with how we can become entangled in worldly situations. We need the anointing of the oil of the Holy Spirit to free us from our snarls of life.

Scriptures help validate this concept.

The Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin,
so we receive God’s promise of freedom
only by believing in Jesus Christ.
Galatians 3:22 NLT

My friend was able to free the brush from her granddaughter’s tangled hair. Hebrews 12:1 says sin easily entangles us. So, we need freedom from our sins – our entanglements with worldly ways. Faith in Christ is our solution.

If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
John 8:36

Physically, a brush was no longer stuck in the little girl’s snarly hair. Spiritually, this verse confirms our freedom from spiritual snares and sinful snarls.

When people escape from the wickedness of the world
by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then
get tangled up and enslaved by sin again,
they are worse off than before.

II Peter 2:20

When trying to free the brush by herself, the little girl only created more tangles. The same is true for us. We need help to be released from our entanglements. Christ frees us from the snarls of sin. Nevertheless, we must be aware that it is possible to become entwined again. Then we would be in a worse situation.

The Spirit helps us in our weakness.
Romans 8:26 ESV

Neither Debbie nor her granddaughter were able to release the entangled brush. Applying hair conditioner was the answer. Little by little, Debbie applied more conditioning solution. Little by little, she was able to untwist the brush from the knots in the hair. There are times when we are twisted by temptations and knotted in snarls of sin. We may become too weak to get ourselves out of these situations. However, there is help for us – the Holy Spirit is our spiritual conditioner. In John 14:16, we are promised that the Holy Spirit will be our Helper forever.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves
be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Galatians 5:1

Debbie hopes her granddaughter learned a lesson through the knots in her hair. However, she also realizes it could happen again. The same is true for us. Christ has set us free. However, knots of iniquities can again tie us up – we can become yoked to slavery. Be strong in the Lord – stay free!

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in
My name,
He will teach you all things and bring to
your remembrance all that I have said to you.
John 14:26 ESV

Grandmother helped granddaughter with her hair. The Holy Spirit is our Helper.

Watching the Tides with God


While in Maine this summer, I
watched the rise and fall of the ocean’s tide. The statistics for one of the days we were in Maine were as follows. High tide was listed at 12:26 AM and 12:49 PM while low tide was 6:43 AM and 6:56 PM. The morning high tide was 11.3 feet and in the evening it was 10.9 feet. The morning low tide was 0.2 feet and the evening low was 0.7 feet. The times and heights varied slightly from day to day, but the tide faithfully rose and fell twice every 24 hours. We could count on it.

The ocean’s tides reflect the rising and falling of the sea’s level with respect to land. These ocean motions are caused by the gravitational forces of the sun and the moon. I am not a scientist who fully understands it, but it is fascinating.

Becoming aware of the predictability of tide changes, caused me to think about God’s faithfulness. When He created the earth, He fashioned the waters to rise and fall. Through the tides, He displays His faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV says, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

I like Sarah Young’s words in Jesus Always. (for July 30) Hear Jesus speak, “Beloved, My compassions never fail. They are new every morning. So you can begin each day confidently, knowing that My vast reservoir of blessings is full to the brim. . . . I want you to drink deeply from My fountain of limitless love and unfailing compassion. . . . I keep all My promises in My perfect way and timing. I have promised to give you Peace that can displace the trouble and fear in your heart. If you become weary in waiting, remember that I also wait that I may be gracious to you and mercy on you. I hold back till you’re ready to receive the things I have lovingly prepared for you.”  

I have underlined phrases that we can apply to the ocean’s tides. “Every morning” speaks of the dependable timing of the tides. The “vast reservoir of blessings” can be a symbol of the ocean. We “drink deeply from Jesus’ fountain” during the “timing” of the high tide that “displaces” the visible land of low tide. God does not “hold back” the ocean’s movements – and neither does He hold back His involvement in our lives.

Sarah Young applies the Lord’s faithfulness to His answering our prayers. Although it may appear that the Lord is holding back His response, He is not. He simply waits for the correct time – just like the tide times.

The tides of the ocean come in and go out. Similarly, our lives have ups and downs. We experience both throughout the timetables of our lives. II Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” Like we wait for the tide to come in, so must we wait for the Lord to answer our prayers.

Paul reminds us in Romans 1:21 NLT, “that God is able to do whatever He promises.” David declares in Psalm 36:5, “Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, Your faithfulness to the skies.” The heavens, the skies, the tides – all exhibit God’s faithfulness.