The Bible in 90 days Journal: Exodus and Leviticus (Much Ado About Offerings)

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Reading through Leviticus was a much bigger struggle than Genesis and Exodus. I got overwhelmed with all the specific instructions about the what, when, and how to offer sacrifices; namely, the burnt offering, grain offering, peace offering, sin offering, guilt offering and ordination offering. Truly, there is “much ado about offerings.”

However, as I was reading through the chapters, I suddenly had a realization: If the Israelites had been commanded to make all these different offerings of animals and grain, then it must be assumed that they as a matter of fact had a lot of animals and a significant amount of grain with them. It was after all, from these daily sacrifices that the Levites get their portion and they even had regulations where and up to when they could eat it.

In Exodus 12:32, the Pharaoh sent them away with their flocks and herds after the death of the firstborn of Egypt, and so we know where the animals came from. Now as for the grain, it seemed unlikely for the people to plant and cultivate wheat in the desert, so it would be most probable that they brought a lot of grain with them as well when they left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea.

With this realization came a big question: If they had all these sources of food, then why would the Israelites complain of “starving to death” on the desert? They had their animals and grain which they could have eaten!

Here’s the scripture wherein they grumbled against the Lord:

The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt. In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord ’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.” (Exodus 16:1-3 NIV)

This prompted a bit of researching (another stall in my daily reading, but I couldn’t help it; I have to try and make sense of what I’m reading, right?). Unfortunately, it appears that scripture is silent as to the specific source of grain while they were in the desert. They probably brought some from Egypt, it is possible they traded with other peoples while in the desert, or maybe they found some grain in the desert — it’s all speculation. However, since God commanded them to offer it, it would be safe to assume that God also provided them with a source where to get such offering.

What we do know is that for 40 years, God provided them with manna or the “bread from heaven” to eat. They had quail in the evening and manna in the morning the day after they complained. God made sure their needs were met, even though they weren’t always gracious nor deserving of God’s generosity.

The Israelites did not lack God’s provision. They lacked faith. And perseverance. And persevering faith.

Today, during our Praise and Worship, we sang the song, “Ikaw Lamang” which talks about God’s goodness and grace. As I sang it today, it became a personal acknowledgment of how God chose to show his goodness to me; how He has given me such a wonderful family; how He has blessed us with all that we need and more. I realized more deeply how God, by His grace and mercy, has allowed that a proud, spolied, fault-finding, rebellious and always complaining, miserable individual such as myself would ever be called a child of God.

Grace: “God’s unmerited favor.” Being blessed even when we don’t deserve it.

I found myself humbled at His presence, as I pieced together the different things He has led me to ponder on these last few days. I have been reflecting on how God has never allowed me to experience deep suffering and hard trials, and yet as a child and even as an adult, I was angry at God and complained about things that others would already count as blessings in comparison to their own suffering.

To put it simply, I know I’ve had an easy life compared to most others, and still, I spend a lot of time grumbling against God.

Not very far from what the Israelites in the desert did, right? They were blessed far more than any other nation; they have seen God’s mighty hand as they were kept safe from the 10 plagues; they saw how God made the Egyptians give them silver and gold as they left Egypt and they came out of bondage with much wealth; they witnessed how God parted the Red Sea and punished those who had oppressed them;  they were freed from slavery and was given a wonderful promise from God that they were to come to their abundant inheritance of the land of milk and honey.

With a renewed heart, I continued to sing to the Lord, asking forgiveness for my shortsightedness and thanking Him for His grace. I sang to ask for His help to always see His goodness in everything and to commit myself and my whole family once again to serve Him with all our hearts, soul and minds; to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice; an offering that will reach the heart of God…

To Love God with all that we are, and with all that we’ve got.

We may not always get it right, indeed we will fail often; but with God’s grace, we have a reason to have a faith that perseveres;  a confidence that “He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 1:6)

Almighty God, You are soooo GOOD! We love You, LORD!

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The Bible in 90 days Journal: Genesis (Lot Saved by God’s Grace)

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(Note: These are personal reflections regarding certain verses that caught my attention as I am journeying to read the Bible from cover-to-cover in 90 days. I am not a bible scholar or anything of that sort. I am but an ordinary person serving an extraordinary God.) 

THE STORY OF LOT: A Picture of God’s Saving Grace

With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.” When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. (Genesis 19:15, 16 NIV)

What an amazing story of how God takes care of His chosen ones. Even if Lot was a stubborn sheep, hesitant to obey and not deserving any favors considering his many failures, the Good Shepherd remained faithful and kept Lot from being destroyed, even it it meant He had to purposely “grasp his hand” and lead them out of the city of Sodom and Gomorrah.

So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. (Genesis 19:36, 37 NIV)

What men do for evil, God is able to turn for good. After receiving such mercy from God to spare their lives when Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed, this little family who fled to the mountains sinned the unthinkable. But the offspring became the father of the Moabites, from which Ruth came from. Ruth was the mother of Obed (by her union with Boaz), who was the father of Jesse, who was the father of David.

The Bible in 90 days Journal: Genesis (The fall of man)

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THE GREAT DECEPTION AND FALL OF MAN

It is common knowledge that Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden and evil came to our world through their sin of disobedience. Satan deceived Eve by making her doubt God’s Words, and he made the temptation sound wonderful by making an offer that by eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they could “BE LIKE GOD.”

““You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and YOU WILL BE LIKE GOD, knowing good and evil.” – Genesis 3:4-5

This was actually Satan’s own desire as we read how he wanted to raise his throne above the stars of God and said, “I will make myself like the Most High.” (Isaiah 14;13, 14)

How ironic because this desire to “be like God” was in fact, God’s plan and purpose for the human race.

“So God CREATED MANKIND IN HIS OWN IMAGE, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27).”

From the start, God had in mind that man was to “be like Him” (made in His image and likeness). By eating the fruit from the forbidden tree, Adam and Eve bypassed God’s original plan which was in all likelihood, to have us undergo a certain “processing” of some sort so that we could be more and more like Him. When Adam and Eve were still connected to the Spirit of God, all wisdom and knowledge was given to them as it pleased God to so. When the serpent made them question God’s motives of placing a rule for them,  they took it upon themselves to use their own efforts to make this desired thing of “being like God” happen; they did not let God be God. This, of course, displeased our Maker, and our loving God who is also the God of justice punished them for their sin.

It seems that this desire to “be like God” and to exalt oneself was a constant struggle for man, for even right after the great flood, the people gathered together and said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, SO THAT WE MAY MAKE A NAME FOR OURSELVES; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

To me, what is striking is how people so long to achieve something that God has in fact already designed for man in the first place. Man tends to ignore “Master Planner” and tries to achieve the goal by his own strength, wisdom and efforts, rather than work with the Creator Himself and be led to become what He has created us to be, which again, ironically, is to be like Him.

But God, being the sovereign God who holds everything in His might hand, did not give up on mankind because of what happened that fateful day in the garden. Instead, God’s purpose remains, and to those whom He has chosen to believe, we are being perfected from glory to glory, with the goal to be more and more like Christ, ending in perfection with our glorified bodies when we will be like Christ and see Him face to face.

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, CREATED TO BE LIKE GOD in true righteousness and holiness.” – Ephesians 4:22-24

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are BEING TRANSFORMED INTO HIS IMAGE WITH EVER-INCREASING GLORY, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” – 2 Corinthians 3:18

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to BE CONFORMED TO THE IMAGE OF HIS SON, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” – Romans 8:29

(Note: This particular revelation is something I learned from the ST505 course in http://christiancourses.com/ from Dr. Roger Nicole. As I started the the Bible in 90 days plan, it was one of the first things that came to mind as I read the book of Genesis.)

Of the perseverance of the saints…

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Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12, 13 NIV)

Thank You dear Father, that we have the assurance from Your Word that we have a sure hope and a great reason to persevere; and that is, as a people whom You have mercifully called out of darkness into Your marvelous light, it is by Your gracious and mighty hand, and not our own feeble strength that we are in fact able to do anything good at all, and that since it is Your sovereign plan at work in our lives, we cannot help but rest in Your victory and proclaim Your glory in our lives. All praises to You Almighty God!!!

(Praise God for all the wonderful things I learned from the ST505: Doctrine of Salvation  by Roger R. Nicole, Th.D.The free course ended today, and I’m considering paying for the certificate course to learn more from this great man of God about God’s wonderful plan of salvation.

 

Of small sins and medium sins and big sins…

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The world believes we have the right to get angry with someone like Janet Napoles who allegedly stole P10 billion from the people’s money. She has a “pig’s heart,” people would say, and she deserves to “rot in hell”. The world says we have a right to condemn a Mark Joseph Solis who had the nerve to steal someone else’s photograph and win in an international competition, but whose deed was later found out and is now subject to international ridicule and anger. He brought shame to the Philippines as well and we may think it serves him right if he goes to jail for what he did.

The world thinks we have the right to judge and condemn people who are “evil,’ – those whose sins are far greater and weightier than the mistakes of any of us mere mortals. Our earthly conscience tries to comfort us with the fact that we deserve to feel good about ourselves because we know we will never be as “bad” as them. Our sins are “small-time” in comparison to theirs, and for that, we are thankful. Most of us are like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable in Luke 18:9-14 who thought he was a lot better than others and said, “‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 

However, God’s Word – the Bible – tells us differently. James 2:10 tells us, “For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.”

The world’s standard seeks to separate evil into categories:

  1. little, negligible-will-soon-be-forgotten sin
  2. medium, needs-more-time-to-heal sin
  3. gigantic, world-impacting-unforgivable sin

In contrast, God’s Word is the “great equalizer,” for Romans 3:10 says, “As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous–not even one.” In God’s eyes, we are all sinners, no matter how big or small our transgression, “sin” is “sin” and it has separated us from the love of God.

“All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.” – Isaiah 53:6

Little sinners, medium sinners and big sinners alike are all LOST —  some have wandered just a bit and all they need is a little holler to come back home; some are lost a little farther and would need fetching; while others are completely lost, are in the dark, or at the clutches of an enemy such as a lion or even drowning in the stream and need rescuing.

The truth is, whether we just need a holler, we need fetching or we need rescuing, we are all lost without a shepherd. And it is only by the “Good Shepherd” – Jesus Christ , who gave His life for us on the cross — that we may have peace once again with God.

Remember that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. The tax collector in Jesus’ parable went home justified before God because he recognized he is a sinner and sought mercy from God. The Pharisee on the other hand, thought he was already justified (through what he has done) by his proud attitude and thus, his coming to the temple was simply a show of religiosity and not the kind of true faith that leads to God’s saving grace.

And so we read, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18). What does this mean?

It means to be humble enough to recognize, we are all like Janet Napoles and Mark Joseph Solis who are lost and deserves to be damned in hell because we have all sinned. But, God’s grace of salvation is open to them just as it is for us. We are not better than anybody else. We all need Jesus. So, learn to forgive as God forgave.  Ask God to help us love as He has loved us. Let us be ready to show kindness, mercy and grace, especially for those who seem to deserve it the least.

And,

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:21

Are we robbing the Lord?

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Do we take our portion from what belongs to the Lord? Malachi 3:8 tells us, “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ “In tithes and offerings.” 

Read: 1 Samuel 2: 12-17

12Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord. 13Now it was the practice of the priests that, whenever any of the people offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fork in his hand while the meat was being boiled 14and would plunge the fork into the pan or kettle or caldron or pot. Whatever the fork brought up the priest would take for himself. This is how they treated all the Israelites who came to Shiloh. 15But even before the fat was burned, the priest’s servant would come and say to the person who was sacrificing, “Give the priest some meat to roast; he won’t accept boiled meat from you, but only raw.”

16If the person said to him, “Let the fat be burned first, and then take whatever you want,” the servant would answer, “No, hand it over now; if you don’t, I’ll take it by force.”

17This sin of the young men was very great in the Lord’s sight, for theyb were treating the Lord’s offering with contempt.

For Eli’s sons, the judgment was death. Hophni and Phinehas thought they had the right to take their portion of the meat sacrifice since they are in fact entitled to some of it as per the law. But they took their portion BEFORE the meat was boiled, and BEFORE the fat was burned — thus, got their share before the meat was offered to God.  God said, “Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained.” (1 Samuel 2:30). Ananias and Sapphira also died when they kept back money for themselves but made it appear to the apostles as though they have offered to them everything they had (Acts 5). The Lord has shown repeatedly that what He desires is obedience, not sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22)

Isaiah 1:11
“The multitude of your sacrifices– what are they to me?” says the LORD. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.

Jeremiah 6:20
What do I care about incense from Sheba or sweet calamus from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable; your sacrifices do not please me.”

Amos 5:22
“Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them.”

Therefore, do not think it is alright to take our tithe and give it to the poor ourselves, or spend it in some form of ministry or charity, or maybe even give it to help our elderly parents,  thinking that we are still honoring God with our wealth in such acts anyway.

Instead, we must offer our tithe to the Lord faithfully, and if we really wanted to help others, then we are do so after the Lord’s tithe. The tithe shows our faithfulness to the Lord, and to me, it does not seem proper to have an “offering” but not a “tithe.” We are to honor God first and love our neighbors too, as this is part of honoring God. It cannot be the other way around, that we think as we do good to others by sharing our wealth to help instead of tithing, we are in fact, putting God first in our lives. It really doesn’t make any sense, does it? Honoring God first means exactly that — HONOR GOD FIRST!

Jesus further clarifies this in Mark 7:8-13. We cannot mock God and say to our parents (whom God also commands us to honor) that we have nothing left to help them because we chose to honor God first. Tithing does not give anybody the excuse to refuse to help others through offering because we feel we have already done our obligation to the Lord and the rest of our money is already meant for our own personal needs. The commandments go hand-in-hand — (1) love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and (2) love our neighbors as ourselves. God did not mean for us to choose the one that is most convenient and follow that only.

The Lord does not delight in us putting the matter of our tithes and offering into our own hands. It is obedience out of love He requires; it is the right standing of our heart to God; a full surrender and acceptance that what He says is true and it is good; a mind that seeks to follow as best as we possibly can (as far as it depends on us) as the Lord commands because of a true “fear and awe of God;” — that is what makes our offering a pleasing sacrifice, a “sweet-smelling aroma” that rises up to the throne of God.

Whatever you do, do it for the glory of God

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“Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the Lord is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed.” -1 Samuel 2:3

God reminded me about my past sins as a student, and how I would even boast about them. It was as if I deserved applause for getting away with accomplishing a bachelor’s degree the “smart” way – sleeping through the whole sem and still passing the class, copying my way thru exams, plagiarizing books and theses to manufacture my own thesis, and tons of other stuff. I had no integrity and the Lord has brought my deeds to light. So what remains is what I do with the knowledge of that sin now. Do I go to my school and tell them to strip me off of my degrees? But I have been cheating and lying, albeit in much smaller ways, even from my grade school days. Do I go to them to? For I have always crammed for exams and only remembered the lessons enough to get good grades on my report card. But ask me now about the same concepts and theories and I remember very little. How could anyone expect anything more? I wouldn’t have remembered those lessons even maybe after a month after the school exams had passed. It was all about accomplishing the task in whatever way works; never about actually learning and keeping my integrity. And especially not about doing my best because I wanted to honor God with what He has blessed me with.

Now, God is telling me, am I training my child to do the same by the way I homeschool her? O God forbid! Help me Lord! Do not let me fail my child by instilling in her the same values of doing things for the wrong reasons, whether it is to simply pass the subjects (because failing would have been shameful) or get good grades (so that I may boast)! Help me Lord to train our children always do their best for the glory of God alone!

May these words always guide our ways,

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”- 1 Corinthians 10:31

In the mighty name of Jesus, this I pray!

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