Quick Note – Leviticus 19:5-8 – The End Does NOT Justify the Means

Leviticus 19:5-8 – “When you offer a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD, you shall offer it so that you may be accepted.  It shall be eaten the same day you offer it or on the day after, and anything left over until the third day shall be burned up with fire.  If it is eaten at all on the third day, it is tainted; it will not be accepted, and everyone who eats it shall bear his iniquity, because he has profaned what is holy to the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from his people.”

I really enjoy reading comic books, because I love seeing superheroes overcome the worst odds while still maintaining their integrity.  But lately, comic book writers have started to muddy the black-and-white heroes and villains and making them more gray.  Heroes have begun to compromise their values in order to reach a “peaceable” solution.  For example, in a current storyline, in order to save their own universe, heroes like Iron Man, Mister Fantastic, and the Hulk destroy other universes, sacrificing innocent people’s lives to save some of their own.  Instead of simply refusing to compromise, they settled on what they felt would be the most practical solution in the face of danger.  They chose to do what was wrong by allowing the death of another universe, so that something good could result, the saving of their own universe.  In other words, the end justified the means.

Often times, we do the same thing, in that, we use this quote to justify doing wrong for the sake of reaching a good goal.  We justify stepping over other people in order to get a promotion in our jobs.  We justify lying about our credentials in order to get a job interview.  We justify cutting a few minutes off our work schedule so that we can “get to church on time.”  But doing wrong in order to “do good” is never right.

Our passage today comes from Leviticus which is filled with laws that the Lord had set out for the people of Israel.  These laws ranged from sacrificial laws to dietary laws to farming practices.  Many Christians ignore this book and the lessons it teaches, because they feel like it has no application to us today; but in our passage, we learn an important principle from some specific laws about sacrifices.  Today’s verses describe how to offer peace offerings.  These were often voluntary offerings, which the people gave to praise God for the fellowship that they could have with Him.  To demonstrate this fellowship and peace between God and man, some of the offering would be burnt at the altar, some eaten by the priest, and some eaten by the person offering.  But even though it was voluntary, the sacrifice still had to meet specific criteria to be accepted.  It had to follow certain rules lest what was good would become tainted by disobedience.  One of these rules was that the offering needed to be consumed by the third day.  If anything was eaten on the third day, the offering would be tainted, and the good would then be considered sin.  Doing what is good but not in God’s way was equivalent to sin.  This principle is one that completely debunks the rule of “the end justifies the means.”

As Christians, if we want to do something good and right and pleasing before God, we must never do it in the wrong way.  The choices that we make on the journey to the final goal of glorify God matter and should never be compromised.  Even a little sin can taint our sacrifice and our acts of worship.  Let us be careful to never compromise the principles and values God has set for us as we seek to expand His ministry, share His Word, or worship Him.  Instead, we must be careful to have every thought and every action bring Him glory and not just our “end goal.”

Quick Note – John 3:30 – Giving it all to God – Both Glory and Obedience

John 3:30 – “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

I’m sorry for not posting in a long while.  I have been quite busy with a lot of things going on in my life from preparing applications to graduate school, planning and traveling for interviews, and dealing with relationship growth pains with friends and family.  All these good things in my life caused me to lose focus of what was really important and made me think that I was bigger and better than I was.  I was becoming proud, self-centered, and self-reliant, and God has recently taken a lot of these things away from me to help me to realize that I needed to humble myself before Him again.

To help you understand the context, the year of 2015 started out so great in that I had what looked to be a blooming relationship, interviews at top schools, and a good relationship with family, friends, and church members.  The Sunday school group I was teaching seemed to be growing.  My friendship with a dear friend seemed to be progressing into something more.  I had graduate school interviews lined up with Harvard, Yale, and UPenn.  Life seemed to be going my way.  All things were go.  Blessings seemed to just keep pouring in.  And as these blessing poured in, I became proud and idolatrous of the blessings rather than grateful and dependent on God.  But recently, each of these things seemed to be slowly stripped away.  My friendship seems to have soured due to my pride and my inability to be compassionate and understanding.  Now, I feel that all she sees me as is another failed friendship in her life and another mistake.  My ministry seems to have gotten hurt from my inability to reflect Christ in that friendship.  Some of the additional interviews I expected to receive from Stanford and Caltech did not come in.  Things just don’t look so bright anymore.

After having multiple talks with multiple people, it has become obvious that what was clearly happening was a growth in my pride and independence from God.  With the friendship, I began to idolize that relationship and would no longer allow God to do what He must with it.  In my desire to be “Prince Charming,” I ended up fighting against God’s will, which was to let go.  With my ministry, I began to think that I had every ability to show the character of Christ all the time and like 1 Corinthians 10:12 says, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”  My unloving attitude and anger led to me not living up to the standards God had set for me.  I was no longer the example I should have been.  With my graduate school interviews, I began to think that every school would want me, but I began to realize that I was nothing without God’s blessing.  It was only because He granted me these interviews that I had these incredible opportunities.

These past few weeks have been hard, because I want to be mad at God for taking all the blessings He laid out at the start of the year away from me.  But I am starting to realize that God is doing this for my best.  He saw my pride, my idolatry, and my self-centeredness and called me out on it.  And as I continued to refuse to listen, He began to take them away until I could see the utter corruption that was taking place in my heart.  I needed to decrease, and He needed to increase.  I needed to decrease in my leading my life, and He needed to increase in the place of Lord.  I needed to decrease in how I wanted people to view me, and He needed to increase in the sight of others.  I needed to decrease in people looking to me, and He needed to be pointed to by my life.  As hard as this has been for me, I am grateful that He loves me enough to chastise me.  I hope that one day I can fix the problems that I started by refusing to listen to Him in the first place.  Just remember that as disciples of Jesus Christ, God needs to increase as we must decrease.

Update:

I wrote the above blog post (on January 21, 2015 in the morning).  Today is January 22nd, and God has done some amazing things.  By relinquishing my life to Him, He has given me peace in my heart about so many things.  With the friendship, we may not be in the same place as before, but I feel like I can say that right now we are back as friends.  With the interviews, just today, I was offered a chance to interview for an MD-PhD program at UC Irvine.  With the ministry, I have yet to see what will happen, but God will definitely work accordingly.  It is interesting how God can work, when you just give it all to Him.  When you seek His will and obey Him and give Him the glory.  Amazing work He does!  Just amazing!

Genesis 18:1 – Meeting God in the Ordinary

Genesis 18:1 – “And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day.”

We often think that we can only meet God in situations that are “spiritual” or “extravagantly special.”  We go off on retreats to escape the noise and hear from Him.  We go to conferences specifically designed to teach us new lessons about our Christian life.  We go to revivals to be renewed by the Holy Spirit.  We set out these events so that we can meet with God.  These are definitely not bad things; they are all actually wonderful things, but oftentimes, we start to believe that we need these “engineered” events to grow closer to God and to hear from Him; but that is not true.  We can meet God anytime, anywhere as long as we are ready and willing to hear from Him.  He is not some distant entity that can only be met at one point in time.  He is not some limited being who can only be met in one temple in the entire world.  He is not some unapproachable king who requires you to perform a number of tasks before you meet him.  He is an available and loving God, who loves to spend time with each and every one of us.

In our passage today, we find that Abraham was going about his normal business in the day.  He wasn’t doing anything special.  He was simply sitting at the door of his tent during the heat of the day, likely around noon or early afternoon time, probably trying to avoid the sun.  But it was during that time, that the Lord met Him to remind Abraham that he was going to have a son.  The context does not mention him offering a thousand sacrifices or fasting for days without end.  It simply mentions that Abraham was doing ordinary things on an ordinary day, when God met him.  The same situation occurred for Elisha when he was called to be the successor of Elijah the prophet.  Elisha was simply working the fields, when he was called (1 Kings 19:19-21).  Peter and Andrew or James and John were simply doing their jobs as fisherman, when Jesus Christ also called them to follow Him (Matthew 4:18-22).  God met and called each of these people in the ordinary situations of their lives.  The important thing was that each of them was willing and ready to listen to God’s calling and to respond.  Abraham when he saw the Lord hurried to meet Him and prepared a meal for Him.  Elisha immediately stopped his work, said goodbye to his family, and followed Elijah for training.  Peter, Andrew, James, and John all immediately left their nets to follow Christ.  Although they were about their usual ordinary day, they were always ready to meet with God.

As God’s children, we need to remember that God can meet us anytime, anywhere, as long as we are faithful, available, and teachable for Him.  In other words, we need to be F.A.T. for Jesus as my Dad would say.  So don’t think that just because you aren’t at a revival meeting or a retreat that God can’t meet you.  He can meet you right now.  Oftentimes, He uses the simple, ordinary things in life to teach us extraordinary lessons about Him, if we are just willing to listen.  Think about how God asked Jeremiah to use the illustration of the Potter to depict how He shapes our lives.  Think about how Christ used the illustration of a shepherd to show His care for us.  These were everyday jobs of everyday people, but they were used to illustrate important spiritual principles.  God is ready to meet us in our everyday lives, are you willing and ready to hear Him?

Quick Note – Amos 7:14 – Unexpected Prophet

Amos 7:14 – “Then Amos answered and said to Amaziah, ‘I was no prophet, nor a prophet’s son, but I was a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore figs.  But the LORD took me from following the flock and the LORD said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”’”

Most people have never heard of the name of Lottie Moon, but being the son of a pastor of a Southern Baptist church, I grew familiar with her name every Christmas season, since an annual church missionary offering was collected under her name.  This offering is collected by the International Mission Board and is used to support foreign missionaries.  The offering carries her name because she was a devout Southern Baptist who served as a foreign missionary to China.  One of the interesting facts about her though is that she was very short; according to her Wikipedia page, she only grew to be 4ft and 3in.  I would almost dare to bet that she was often overlooked and disrespected as a missionary just because of her short stature.  People likely judged her by her height rather than her heart and what God could do through her.  Another missionary, which is more well-known, also had a similar problem, but it was not because of her height.  Her name was Gladys Aylward.  She eventually gained the respect of the missionary community and even had a movie made about her life called The Inn of the Sixth Happiness starring Ingrid Bergman, but it didn’t start out that way.  In reality, she almost did not become a missionary, because the missions board did not deem her fit due to her lack of education.  But after working hard to provide her own funds to travel to China, she took a missionary position, started an inn, and shared stories about God and His love to those travelers.  She even went from village to village and helped to end the awful practice of foot binding.  This little woman who people thought would amount to nothing in the kingdom of heaven was used by God to do great things.

Our passage today speaks of a prophet who would have never been considered in the running to be a prophet if not for God calling him.  According to this verse, Amos was originally a shepherd and caretaker of sycamore trees.  These were not high end jobs, but jobs for common people.  They did not require an extensive religious education or much of an education at all.  Simply put, they were “blue-collar” jobs that nobody really wanted.  But God took this person with no reputation of being a prophet, no family legacy of becoming a prophet, and even no education of a prophet, and He made him into one.  Amos could have argued with God and told Him that he was not fit to serve like Moses did in Exodus 3.  He could have acted like so many of us who tell God that we don’t have the skill set to do what He has called us to do.  But instead, he chose to follow God and prophesied to the people of Israel even when being persecuted by people like Amaziah who was a priest at Bethel (likely for the calf idol).  Amos trusted that God would equip him to do what He called him to do.

There are two important lessons for us to learn from this verse – one in regard to how we treat people and the other in regard to how we treat ourselves.  First, we must remember that God can use anyone to do His work and that we should never judge a person’s ability to serve God simply by appearances.  1 Corinthians 1:27 says that “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.”  He selects those who are the most inadequate and most unexpected to do His work, because they are the ones who will end up bringing Him the most glory.  He chose Israel because it was a small, insignificant nation.  He chose only three hundred soldiers for Gideon, so that they would not think that they were delivered from the Midianites from their own power.  God can and will use anyone to do His work, so we should never judge a person and deem them unfit for God’s work.  Second, we must remember that God can use any of us personally to do His work at any time.  God called Amos, who likely would have never thought to become a prophet.  God called Gideon, who was the least in his family which was the least in his tribe.  God called David, the youngest of Jesse’s sons to become king.  God can call you to do His work at any time, so never discount your worth to Him.  Don’t sell yourself short in His eyes, for He sees you as precious and useful in His kingdom.  Be open and available to have His work done in and through you.  Like Amos, like Gladys Aylward, like Lottie Moon, let us be ready to be taken out of our comfort zones, out of what little people may expect from us, and even out of our own expectations to bring honor and glory to God.

A True Disciple – Part 5

The last characteristic we will talk about is found in John 13:34-35 which states:

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”[1]

Jesus clearly said that the way people will know that we are His disciples are if we love one another as He loved us.  In the Medieval period, you could know a knight was loyal to a specific king by the crest that he had on his shield and uniform.  That crest was the insignia that he had to differentiate him from all other knights.  One example of this that I can give you in something I enjoy is found in my Green Lantern comic books.  In the comics, there are many different color lantern groups.  They all wear rings that give them flight and shoot energy beams, but you can tell each one belonged to a specific group by the color of his/her uniform.  If they wore yellow, they were part of the Sinestro Corps.  If they wore green, they were part of the Green Lantern Corps.  And so on and so forth.  Even more than that, each corps had a specific characteristic that was their strength.  For example, green lanterns had the ability to overcome great fear and a strong sense of will.  Yellow lanterns loved to inflict fear upon people.  Violet lanterns wanted to instill great love in the hearts of others.  Without their uniforms even you could tell that they belonged to a specific corps by their characteristics.  This principle is the same with Christians.  We are known by our love.  It is our designated characteristic, for the love being talked about here is not the superficial love that we see in this world but one that is deeper and founded in what Christ did for us.  He had a love that was willing to humble Himself to death, a love that was unconditional and for His enemies, a love that is everlasting and looking to purify and cleanse.  He had this deep agapo love.  This is the love we need to reflect as Christians to each other and to the world, for it is a rare thing to see.

A true disciple of Jesus Christ will carry these characteristics of being willing to give up all for Christ, being willing to take up the cross daily for Him, of becoming like Him, of bearing fruit, and of showing agapo love.  Examine your hearts today and see if you are truly a disciple of Christ.  If not, make the decision of whether you want to be one, for the cost is high, but the benefit is Christ.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Jn 13:34–35). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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