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The Centurion's Tale


June 1

Acceptable Worship

Romans 12:1

One of the more common wishful fantasies of the typical Christian is this: “If I had a billion dollars, I would give so much to…” No doubt you would; it is easy to give from an excess. It is hard to give from scarcity; remember the Widow’s Mite? We see newspaper articles about wealthy men giving huge sums to various causes; we think, “How grand!” But God does not measure the giving so much as the sacrifice.

Sacrifice? There seem to be at least three definitions of that word for the typical Christian:

· There is the Old Testament sense—God, it seems, likes to keep the barbeque on, and is very specific about the menu. What it all means is rather obscure and not important.

· There is the modern sense—we say that someone sacrificed to send her kids through college. It is something that you give up so that you may obtain something else, when the something is very expensive to you.

· But there is a New Testament sense too: it is something you give, or give up, to please someone you love. Those who are young and in love understand this sense well enough.

So then, what is Paul asking us to give or give up?

· He’s asking that you give your body. Your service to Christ should not be abstractly intellectual but in the flesh.

· He’s asking that you give up the ways of this world and follow the ways of Christ. Another way to say this is, be holy.

The last clause of this verse is rather difficult to translate. He puts forward two ideas:

· First, that this is your worship—or is it service? The two words are sometimes the same, as here. To serve him in the flesh is to worship him.

· Next, that this is your reasonable (or spiritual, or intelligent) service. The word in the Greek for this is the one from which we get our word, “logical.”

So—look what he has done for you! Is it not reasonable in return to present yourself, in the body and mind, to him for service? He came to serve; we can surely imitate him in that.

Lord, most of us are not destined for greatness—so teach us, then, what is our reasonable service.

June 2

Drink Offering

Philippians 2:17

Somewhere on this planet there is a factory that makes the world’s smallest umbrellas. Made of bamboo and paper, they are no more than four inches in diameter. For the uninitiated among the readers, they are referred to as “cocktail umbrellas.” Tropical drinks often call for a fair number of ingredients, to be blended under the watchful eye of the customer. The last step is inserting the cocktail umbrella; it signals that the drink is ready. It also (by its color) helps identify whose drink is whose.

There is something of that sense of “finished!” in this verse. The drink offering was the cocktail umbrella on a sacrifice to heathen gods (remember that the Philippians were converted heathen, not Jews.) It is a finishing touch. So what Paul is telling them here is that his life is about to be taken; when it is, it will be the finishing touch to their faith and service. A ceremony of dedication, so to speak.

We can picture this sacrifice thusly:

· The Philippians represent Paul’s sacrifice of time, effort and danger in bringing them to Christ.  He gave them to Christ.

· But then they too have labored for Christ, and their service is also a sacrifice.

To both of these Paul now adds his finishing touch: his own martyrdom. This, he says, is cause for rejoicing and sharing his joy.


· Paul rejoices because he, the great enemy of the early church, has been accepted by the Lord he persecuted.

· Paul rejoices because it is now clear that his work, carrying the Gospel to the Gentiles, holds firm.

· Paul rejoices as one who has finished an arduous task.

But he has cause to share this joy as well. The Philippians are his brothers and coworkers in the faith; his joy is theirs. How so?

· Because they have shared the hardship and labor with him.

· Because, ultimately, they will share the resurrection with him.

The cloud of impending martyrdom looks indeed bright to one whose faith is firm in Jesus Christ.

Lord, how little we know of the hardships, perils and sacrifices made by your apostles. Teach us to sharpen our minds to be a living sacrifice to you.

June 3

First Class

Philippians 4:18

Frequent fliers have one slight consolation for hours on airplanes: if you do it long enough, you can get upgraded to first class.

First Class! It has a certain mystique. This was well expressed by an elderly lady in the First Class line at the airline counter. The person ahead of her was whining about this and complaining about this. The lady tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Young man, first class is not a ticket. It is a style.”

There is a certain sense of first class in this little verse, too. Some of us are very good at giving God the absolute least we can get away with. Others have learned the style which is known as sacrificial living.  In the Old Testament we learned that the priest was to burn the fat of the offering—which, like a barbeque today, is what produces that wonderful aroma. So just what produces that first class aroma in a gift to God?

Paul gives us three clues here:

· The first is in the word used for “received.” In the original, it is a business term, meaning that had received in full, i.e. he had received all that was due. So our first task is to see that we don’t forget anything needful.

· The second is in the word “abundance.” The word can also be translated “overflowing.” Not only are we to give the right things, but we are to give them so that there is more than what seems to be needed.

· The third is in the phrase, “amply supplied.” This carries with it the idea that the items were crammed in everywhere, the package was just stuffed with them. It carries with it the idea that the giver is indeed more than generous.

When you come to a barbeque at my house, you will find that we always cook more than we really need; it is the motto of my house: “No man leaves my home hungry.” Side dishes so numerous that they can’t all fit on one plate; condiments everywhere. It’s not just a form of cooking; it’s a style of entertaining. Now, if I would do that for my guests, how much more should I do for the sake of the Lord?

Sacrificial living is a style—a style that is generous in supply, thorough in provision and needs no bubble wrap. The box is full with the care and love provided.

Lord, we know so little of sacrifice in our lives! Teach us the way which is pleasing to you.

June 4

Sacrifice of Praise

Hebrews 13:15

Have you ever noticed just how terrible newborn infants really look? All purple and wrinkles, they resemble a pickled egg which was shelled with a lawn trimmer. But whenever Grandma shows up with the pictures, all the ladies gather round and say, “Isn’t he cute?” We praise the infant not for his or her beauty, but for love.

Praise is a sacrifice made from love. It is a sacrifice because in it we give up the natural order of praise:

· First, we praise ourselves. Me first—if I can get away with it.

· Then we praise our “team” - family, friends, local fan club, bowling league—whatever group we value.

· Finally, in the outermost circle, are those who deserve praise on sheer merit alone.

But there is also a supernatural order of praise:

· God comes first. He is the most deserving of our praise.

· Then those around God—his church.

· Then other people, then “me.”

You will kindly note that the passage tells us to praise God continually, to keep on praising him. There are reasons that we don’t make this a one time thing:

· First, because he is eternal—and deserves the same kind of praise.

· As with one’s wife, you must tell her continually that you love her. The truth of that does not change, but it strengthens the relationship to repeat it.

· Finally, we praise him so that others might know him. We may not be able to pound a pulpit—but we can tell what God has done for us.

How should we praise God?

· In song—even if you don’t have a singing voice.

· In testimony—you are the living expert on what God has done for you.

· In prayer—so the he knows you mean it.

In all of these give thanks.

Lord, how often we complain; how little we give thanks. Teach us the joy of the sacrifice of praise.

June 5

Photographic Memories

Hebrews 10:1

There is a very famous photograph from World War II: raising the flag on Iwo Jima. Those who study photography as art can tell us of its use of composition; those who know nothing of this are still powerfully affected at this picture of sacrifice triumphant.

Great photos are like that. They are not “just a picture”; but we know they are also “not the real thing.” Somewhere in between lies the art of photography. Such art touches the heart of the one who sees it; touches—and leaves so much more yet to be done. The truly great photographs seem to work in the same ways:

· They bring up memories, especially shared memories. It was no accident the firefighters at the World Trade Center used this photograph as a guide to their own.

· They tell a story—a story of hope, a story of fear, a story of sorrow. Sometimes all of those.

· Ultimately, however, they cannot replace the real thing.

Have you ever wondered how people kept such memories before photography? One way is still in use: ritual. Like photography, ritual brings up shared memories—triumphs or disasters. Likewise, such a ritual touches the heart, telling of hope or sorrow. To this day the notes of Taps float over the watery grave of the USS Arizona; calling forth the patriot’s tears.

The Old Testament sacrifices were like that. They looked back to the days of Moses, when the glory of God was seen on the earth. They told the tale of sorrow, the tale of atonement for sin. But they also looked forward.

The Old Testament sacrifices were the photograph of the Messiah to come. Paul uses the word “shadow”; it was the closest thing he had. They showed us what the Messiah would be like; how he would become the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Is there only one Day of Atonement in the ritual year? There will be only one Atonement, done by the Messiah. The lamb must be free from blemish? Only the perfect, sinless life of the Messiah would do for this sacrifice.

At a distance of more than three thousand years the sacrificial rituals of the Old Testament seem dim indeed. So why are they still in the Bible? Have you ever treasured an old photograph?

Lord, your atonement was planned from the very beginning. Let us treasure it above all other rituals or photographs.

June 6

Eighth Day

Leviticus 22:27

At first reading this is a strange passage. Why would God take the trouble to insist that the sacrifice be at least eight days old? It seems to make no sense, until you examine the Scripture, seeking for those things which may be done on the eighth day.


Ceremonial cleansing was required in a number of instance.

· If a man had leprosy and it went away, he would present himself to the priest. Various sacrifices were made; but it was on the eighth day that the man could be declared clean.

· A woman was considered unclean after childbirth—and her sacrifices would produce cleanness on the eighth day.

· The Jewish observance of Yom Kippur ends on the eighth day, the Day of Atonement.


The common form of consecration in the Old Testament was circumcision. The male child would be circumcised on the eighth day—even if it were a Sabbath.

On a larger scale, the Jews still celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, which commemorates the Exodus. This is a type of the journey from sin (Egypt) to holiness (the Holy Land).


Construction? Often in the Old Testament we see something dedicated on the eighth day after its completion. For example, God gave Ezekiel instructions for consecrating the altar—which could then be used, starting at the eighth day.

Cleansing, Consecration and Construction for today

· Our cleansing is in communion, where we are taught to examine ourselves.

· Our consecration is in baptism

· Our construction is building the church by making disciples.

It pleases God when we are holy, and do his will.

Lord, we so often need your cleansing, we forget our consecration and neglect your construction. Have mercy on us; open our eyes.

June 7

Covenant of Salt

Leviticus 2:13

It is hard for us to understand what salt means in the context of Biblical times. Today, the phrase “low salt diet” is a common one; the medical profession weighs in against the substance. Cautious heart patients check labels for sodium content; cook books abound with low sodium recipes. Salt is villainous.

But salt has not lost any of its original virtues. We see this in our daily lives:

· Salt is still used as an antiseptic. Your mother (and my doctor) recommend gargling with salt water as a treatment for a sore throat. In the time of Moses, this would have been a prime use. For example, newborn babies were rubbed down with salt.

· Salt is still used as a preservative. Did you know that you cannot sell olives in the United States unless they have been pickled in brine? Pickles, ham and I suppose Spam® are all preserved with salt. In ancient times, this was even more common, as this was the only effective preservative they had.

These uses explain the spiritual meaning of salt. Consider:

· Salt with grain offerings reminds us that bread usually has salt in it too. It is a visual recognition of God’s promise to “give us this day our daily bread.”

· The priesthood of Aaron was proclaimed to be a covenant of salt—which cleansed the people by sacrifice and kept them before an eternal God.

· The throne of David is also said to be a covenant of salt—hence David’s rule was promised forever.

Which brings us, then, to the salt of the earth. By way of reminder, that’s what Jesus called his followers. So we may ask:

· Are you a cleansing influence—assisting your fellow Christians in ridding themselves of sin?

· Are you a preservative—one who carries the Good News of eternal life to all you meet?

The covenant you have with Christ carries those properties: cleansing and preserving. Do you?

Lord, we think so little of the ordinary duties of a Christian. May my lips speak of your eternal covenant; may my life be visible to all as one who will spend eternity with you.

June 8

Baking Instructions

Leviticus 7:12-13

In the entire world, is there any aroma more likely to drive you crazy than the smell of bread baking? My route to college crossed paths with a huge bakery; in the summer they would open the windows. That aroma probably caused dozens of traffic jams.

How does this occur? Into the dough the bakery places some yeast—or, as it is called in the Bible, leaven. The leaven digests a portion of the flour, leaving behind a quantity of carbon dioxide gas. The gas produces the characteristic hole structure.

Throughout the Bible leaven has been used as a symbol as well. Christ frequently used it to warn against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, for example. It’s a good symbol; leaven spreads quickly by letting out hot air.

The connection starts with the exodus. The Jews were in such haste to leave Egypt that they had to pack up the bread dough, unleavened, to take with them. It is a symbol of their haste in leaving Egypt—symbolically, our haste in leaving sin.

But there are two exceptions to such a rule:

· If the offering you were bringing was a peace offering, you were required to bring leavened bread.

· At the celebration of Pentecost, you were required to bring leavened bread as an offering.

These two exceptions have their parallels in the New Testament. In particular, we must remember who is our peace offering—Jesus Christ himself. He is the one who brought peace between us and God the Father, at the price of his very life. The kingdom of God is like a little bit of leaven which leavens the whole batch. We are to be that leaven.

Pentecost: the name brings up tongues of fire and speaking in tongues. Its real significance is this: it marks the start of evangelization by the church. Starting with a handful of men, Christ’s kingdom has spread through the world, continuing to reach new people for Christ.

Leaven in the bread; peace between us and God. Leaven in the bread: go into all the world and make disciples. Is his leaven rising in you?

Lord, you have commanded us to be the leaven in the bread of the world—so that they might have the bread of life. May we bring your peace to this world.

June 9


Leviticus 16:7-10

The word “scapegoat” comes into the English language by way of the Bible. We now mean it that a scapegoat is one who took the blame for another’s misdeeds. Usually the scapegoat is some underling of the real culprit. The picture is familiar; a nobody is dismissed so that a somebody can keep his position.

Here we have the origin of the concept. This was done on the Day of Atonement. When translating from Old Testament ritual to New Testament reality, we remember that “once a year” in ritual means “exactly once” in reality. So we confirm the fact that Christ died once, for all.

It may seem strange, then, that there were two goats in this process. That’s why we are told of casting lots for the goats. By casting lots the High Priest showed that these two goats were interchangeable; symbolically, they are the “same thing.”

So we can see the functions of the atoning sacrifice:

· One was to die, to pay the price for sin. If sin be atoned for, blood must be shed.

· The other was to carry the sins of the people to “an uninhabited place” - the wilderness. The purpose is to show that the sins are now removed from us.

Both goats were presented before God before the casting of lots. The picture is a vivid one, and shows the emphasis God places on sin. Sin separates us from God. It must be paid for; it must be removed. Only Christ did that; only he could, only he can.

There is one essential difference between God’s handling of the Scapegoat and ours. In our handling of the scapegoat, he is someone who is high enough in the hierarchy of things to feasibly be blamed, but as low as possible to mitigate damage to the people at the top. In other words, our scapegoats are as low a level of personnel as we dare announce.

God’s method is exactly opposite to this. The Scapegoat who came once is none other than God’s own son, God in the flesh. He came for the specific purpose of being the atonement sacrifice; he came with the specific purpose of removing our sins from us. We sacrifice the little man for the higher ups; God sacrifices his Son for the lowest of the low.

Lord, your sacrifice is beyond our understanding—but within our acceptance. We praise you for the great things you have done.

June 10

Acceptable Sacrifice

Psalm 51:17

Sacrifice: something of value given up without realistic hope of return. Only the character of God guarantees any return at all.

That’s how we view it, and I think correctly. A sacrifice has no worldly hope of paying back; it relies entirely upon God’s unchanging will.

The world would have us look at this in another way. Of course God wants your sacrifices! What you do for him is all to your credit, and God will, eventually, reward you for it.

· It’s wonderful for you to make great sacrifices—just be sure they are acknowledged in a suitable fashion. Make sure everyone else knows what you’ve done for God. It’s an example for the others, right?

· When you go to him in prayer, approach with confidence. Remember, he owes you, big time. You should be proud of your accomplishments. Surely he will recognize them.

· Remember, God is the source of power in your life. If you want to be successful, make sure he knows what you need. That way, you’ll be a step or two ahead of the others.

God’s view is curiously different.

· Does he want great sacrifices from you? Only those of the broken contrite heart. It is a plain on which the rich and the poor may be leveled. The contrite heart acknowledges its sins, and repents of them.

· Bring to him the broken heart—no longer steeped in pride. Be still, know that he is God, and that you are a sinner. Do not take up your pride to him; rather, admit your sins and beg his mercy.

· Remember, God is not only the source of power—he is the source of mercy. He longs to hear from you, confessing and repenting. His joy is in a sinner returning home

God brings down the proud; he lifts up the humble—in his own time. He favors those who humble themselves in his sight. So learn, please, to know the humble and contrite heart. All locks have a key; the humble and contrite heart is the master key to God’s heart.

Lord, often we approach you with earthly confidence, when you ask for heavenly boldness. Grant us the humble, contrite heart.

June 11

Middle Class Sacrifice

Leviticus 5:7

The use of a dovecote is now lost to most of us. If we feed the birds, it is to attract the colorful and musical ones. Our ancestors viewed such birds as food—and a treat at that. So they would build a place for doves (or other birds) to nest—a place with a back door through which the owner could put his hand. The purpose of this was to tie a string around the leg of each hatchling. When full sized, the squab made a tasty treat.

In ancient Israel, the two doves mentioned here are a middle class sacrifice. The rich would bring a lamb from their flocks. It was only the middle class that would keep a dovecote. The poor were allowed to bring a tenth of an ephah of flour. (Don’t ask me what an ephah might be. One of my references cleared things up this way: “Twelve logs to one hin; six hins to one bath. One cab and four-fifths to one omer. Three omers and one third, one seah. Three seahs to one ephah. Ten ephahs to one homer.” Does that explain it?)

God, you see, is quite reasonable about this. He asks but a token of the price of redemption. He just asks that it be in proportion to your wallet. What else can we learn here?

· God is no respecter of persons. Your wallet doesn’t matter; your willingness to repent does.

· All of us need this; all of us have sinned.

· Honest repentance includes your wallet—but see how he puts you in charge of the giving!

· Though we cannot afford it, God provides a way for each of us to obtain redemption. In those days, the sacrifices mentioned here. In our time, the Cross.

But one must ask: didn’t they know that these two doves could not really buy redemption? Perhaps they did. But when they were obedient to the commandments God was careful to bless them. Indeed, even today God rather prizes obedience.

It is just possible that, on one day, two doves purchased more than those in the Temple knew. For this was also the redemption price of a first born. It is the sacrifice that Joseph and Mary brought to redeem her first born, Jesus.

Lord, we know that the only sacrifice for sin which is effective is the one you made at Calvary. We are rich in so many unimportant things, Lord. Teach us to prize the best.

June 12

Right Things, Right Way, Right Place

Leviticus 17:8-9

One of the recurring themes of the Old Testament—clearly affirmed in the New Testament—is this: we are not given the liberty of finding a better way to present our offerings to God. He sets the number of doves; he is the one who tells the priest precisely how the sacrifice—and, strangely, it seems, where the sacrifice is to be made. Even at the construction of the Temple, God’s instructions are that this is the place where He will place His Name. Why?

· First, for the unity of the people.  These wanderers were many; they needed to be formed into one people.

· Next, so that they might not sacrifice to other gods. Remember, these people had seen multiple gods and temples in Egypt; the concept of one God is new to them.

· Finally, so that their sacrifices would not be wasted. If this is where God wants it, nothing else would do.

In a sense, we come presenting sacrifices to God also. Ours typically come from a checkbook rather than a flock of sheep, but they are sacrifices. At least they should be. Does God still have reason to accept these sacrifices only within his church?

· The unity of the church is a frequent theme of Paul’s letters. In our day, sadly, the unity we have comes solely from having one Lord. But it is still God’s will that we be one.

· Could we sacrifice to other gods? Not literally, but by being in his house on Sunday morning we are reminded of what should come first in our lives.

· Finally, so that your sacrifices will be accepted—for they will only be accepted through Christ.

Sacrifice: a word not used much in church these days. Americans will give from the bounty God has given them, but sacrifice is a rare thing. Take a lesson from the Old Testament. If you want to see the fire of God ablaze in your church, then bring in his sacrifices. Bring the right things—the contrite heart, for example. Bring them to the right place—his church. Bring them at the right time. Which, perhaps, is even today.

Lord, we are a nation you have greatly favored. Lord, bring us a spirit of revival—so we may bring our sacrifices to you: the lips that praise you, the help that comforts others, the contrite heart.

June 13

Can of Worms

Leviticus 23:27-28

“The only way to get a can of worms back into the can,” said my boss, “is to use a bigger can.”

He’s right. Think for a moment about nuclear waste. Every scheme for dealing with it is the same: put it in a can and hide it someplace for a long, long time. If it leaks, get a bigger can.

Israel had a can of worms too—sin. Sin cannot be allowed to continue to abound; there must be a cleansing. But the Israelites had no such cleansing—nor would they until the coming of the Christ. So until then, they needed a method for handling the problem—in other words, a bigger can.

The word translated “atonement” is the Hebrew Kaphar, which means a cover. It does not carry with it the idea of paying for sins; it carries the idea of covering them up. From this we may learn two things:

· That they had sins to cover, and

· Those sins were hidden—but not gone.

It was not as simple as it sounds. God had given them the bigger can (or at least the lid), but this was not just a casual thing. Indeed, to partake in this covering required three things:

· First, humility. The deliberate act of humbling yourself before God is now seldom recommended—except in song. It would seem the songwriters listened to the heart of God, and encourage us to “humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

· Next, the presentation of an offering. It is the sure sign that a man is serious when he pulls out his credit card. The offering does not cancel the sin—only Calvary could do that—but it does say you are serious.

· Finally, do not work on that day. Why? So that you might focus upon how sinful you really are, and how gracious He really is.

From the time of Moses until the coming of the Christ, all Israel knew that there must be a day of cleansing. There was, the day of the Crucifixion.  All God’s children since then have known that there must be a day of reckoning, when our Lord returns.

Lord, help us humble ourselves before you, in the gentleness of your care, seeking pardon. We seek mercy, not reckoning.

June 14


1 Chronicles 16:40

It is the privilege of a select few to do great things for God; one of a multitude is counted worthy to suffer great things for God. These are not volunteers; they are selected by the Holy Spirit for the tasks in question. Certainly there could be no less likely candidate than Paul, for example.

Most of us are not called to great things; we are called to ordinary things. Consider these priests, for example. We know their names, and occasionally the names of their successors pops up in a genealogy somewhere. But they are indeed anonymous souls. They were to tend the fire; each morning and each evening they were to perform the ritual sacrifice of a lamb. Those that were faithful to their charge lived a life of ordinary holiness. No one congratulated them for their style; everyone else felt that it was their duty—as long as they tended to it, no one else cared.

Constancy; ordinary holiness. No one sees but God and the occasional bystander. How can this be to the glory of God?

· Consider constancy to your church. There are those who perform the unknown or unpleasant tasks every week (someone’s got to change those diapers).

· Consider constancy to your wife. This is a radical thought for the church today which gasps when told sex outside marriage is wrong. Perhaps your spouse has an opinion too.

· Constancy to your family. For the children who need your attention, and the parents who are frail, you may be the steady rock they need.

Constancy, you see, is an imitation of God.  He is the same today, yesterday and forever. He changes not. When you are doing his will, neither should you. It may seem to you that your talents are too great for so small a sphere. Consider it well: he has chosen the place of service for you. You can accept it, you can ignore it. But you cannot substitute your own; He will not allow it to prosper. Little is much—when God is in it. Even great things amount to dust if He is not.

You might ask how we are to keep this constancy. The answer is found with these priests: they kept the fire burning constantly, and made the same sacrifice every day. Keep the flame of faith lit.

Lord, we yearn to do great things. Teach us to do your things—every day; teach us to keep the flame of faith lit.

June 15

Trumpet Calls

Numbers 10:10

It is difficult to understand a culture which has none of the modern conveniences. The ancient Israelites—three thousand years ago, and more—have these commands which seem strange to us.

In my younger days I knew a man from the tribal life in Kenya. He told me that appointments were made for a time—but not a date! It seemed that the only reason one would make an appointment was due to travel. You didn’t know what day you would arrive; but at the set time you would be at the designated point. Your friend had only to go there once a day to be certain of finding you. This sounds very strange to us. But he assured me that it worked well.

Consider: do you really need to know the future?  Can you really schedule it? We do so down to the last detail—but sometimes God has other plans. The ancients recorded the past as important; we write down what we think the future will hold. I could not say which is the wiser; but the ancients had a much easier time with God’s command to “take no thought for the morrow.”

We see this passage and wonder—would this really work? Could you really do this with trumpets? The answer is yes. I lived in such a system. In the late 1950’s I lived on an army post which still had a live bugler (the last one). Reveille, Retreat, Mess Call, Mail Call and the haunting melody of Taps ran the lives on that post. Until World War II this was common. The key to making it work was that everyone had to know the bugle calls. Someone blowing on a bugle meant nothing; the right melodies counted.

So it is with God as he marshals the forces of history into the coming of the Christ. These calls were blown to remind Israel of God, and what he had done for them. They set Israel before the Lord—and the Lord before Israel.

The Day is coming when the great and final trumpet call of history will sound. Many interpret the signs this way and that, but it is of no matter. He has made it clear that when the time comes, He will break forth with Gabriel’s trumpet and time shall be no more. Until then, His call is clear: “Ye that are men now serve Him, against unnumbered foes; let courage rise with danger, and strength to strength oppose.”

Lord, we long to see into the future; to know when you will return. All we are given are the signs of your coming. Even so, Lord Jesus, come soon!

June 16

Zero Defects

Leviticus 22:17-20

Most of those acquainted with contemporary business practices will be familiar with the phrase, “zero defects.” The object of this practice is to make a process so reliable that the product produced is without defect. As a practical matter, this is achieved when the probability of one defect is very small. This requires careful analysis and attention to detail. It is a fine goal—but often a frustrating one.

Ancient Israel was given two such targets of perfection: priest and sacrifice. The priest must be free from bodily blemish or flaw; the sacrifice likewise. Both of these point to the coming of the truly effective sacrifice, the Lamb of God. But there are other points given here which still apply today:

· Israelite and alien. It did not matter who you were; the sacrifices were governed by the same rules. Today the church is divided into sects and denominations—but still we celebrate the sacrifice of Christ with the acceptable sacrifice of the humble and contrite heart.

· Species doesn’t matter. As long as the animal was clean, ceremonially, it was acceptable. This tells us that the rich and the poor stood alike before God. He is no “respecter of persons.”

· The sacrifice must be male. Of all points in these verses, this is the most controversial. After all, the church now proclaims the same vision of men and women as does the world—namely, interchangeable parts. Why male? Perhaps, just perhaps, we have it wrong. Perhaps Christ is male to the church’s female—and therefore the sacrifice must be male.

All of these are required for one purpose: that the sacrifice might be accepted. This we might understand with a modern parallel. Have you ever been to a restaurant which did not accept your favorite credit card? It happens, of course. That’s why most of us carry more than one credit card. But one or many, our desire is that the card be accepted in payment. Here God makes clear what is an acceptable sacrifice in payment of sins: unblemished, male—according to his purpose and plan. Only the Lamb of God fits this; His is the only acceptable sacrifice.

Lord, we are quick to enjoy your blessings, but pained to share in your sacrifice. Teach us your ways in this.

June 17

Only One Place

Deuteronomy 12:13-1 4

A curiosity of the Hebrew faith is its insistence on precisely one spot on earth being suitable for the Temple. The site is currently occupied by a mosque named The Dome of the Rock; but Judaism, Christianity and Islam agree: this is the site on which Solomon built the Temple. There is no other acceptable site. Pagan religions would construct temples as it seemed good to them; the ancient Hebrew had only one site. This thought was so strong among them that when the kingdom of Israel was split into Israel and Judah, Jeroboam, the new king of Israel, understood clearly that if the Temple were to remain the one place of worship, his kingship would soon end, as he did not control that site. So he took a note from Aaron and cast two golden calves. By this he was able to split God’s people. From then on, Israel worshiped whatever god seemed convenient.

Indeed, the lesson is not lost today. If there is to be unity in Christ’s church, it must follow the example of the singular temple. But how? By following the same purposes that the Temple had for ancient Israel.

· The Temple was to be a house of prayer for all nations. Can the church of today say the same? Or do we politely exclude those who are not “one of us?” Even the alien was welcome at the Temple; Solomon prayed specifically that God might hear the alien’s prayer and grant it for His name’s sake.

· The Temple was a house of sacrifice. Offerings were brought there too; but it was designated the house of sacrifice. Only that site would do. Can we say the same about the church today? Is it true that we bring our sacrifices to the house of the Lord, his church?

· The Temple was the dwelling place of the Name of God. His name was held in such high honor that even today there are Jews who will not pronounce it. Is the name of God held in such high honor by those who claim to be his children?

Jeroboam was right. If you do not control the house of prayer, the house of sacrifice, the place where God’s Name dwells, you cannot be king over his people. Who is the king, if not Christ? Does he hold our prayer, our sacrifice; do we honor his Name?

Lord, it is easy to call you friend; hard to call you Lord. Hear our prayers; accept our sacrifices; teach us to honor your Name.

June 18

Leaven and Honey

Leviticus 2:11

It should not be necessary to tell you this, but a reminder never hurts: there are things in the Bible which we may never understand.

I’m not speaking of the deep mysteries of prophecy, nor the profound wisdom of God. Plain, ordinary things from three thousand years ago may be mysterious to us today. This verse is an example.

Leaven (which is bread yeast) is something easy to understand. You do not offer it to God in a burnt offering . Why?

· To begin with, the Israelite was to remember the Exodus—when they were in such a hurry to leave Egypt that they had no time to let the leaven ferment in the bread. Hence the use of unleavened bread (matzo) in sacrifices and in kosher cooking for Passover.

· Next, it is also the symbol of corruption. This is not always the case, but in the sacrificial system of the Old Testament it is used to symbolize the corruption of sin. Sin must not be used in the sacrifices; therefore, no leaven.

· Finally, there is some evidence that this prohibition set the Israelites apart from other worshipers. The baking of sweet cakes to be sacrificed to idols was well known. The Israelites were to have nothing to do with it.

All this is clear enough, and amply justified throughout the Scripture. But what’s with honey? Why is it prohibited?

· Some think this is because of the cakes the heathen sacrificed; these would not be acceptable to God since they were made for an idol.

· Others hold that it’s natural sweetness—and God would accept only prepared items. (Huh?)

· Others simply note this: burnt honey stinks.

Perhaps the ancient Israelites knew the reason; we really don’t. But that is not unusual; God often calls us to do things his way, at his command, even when we cannot see the reason. Perhaps this is to teach us obedience to his will without knowing the reason. His way is perfect. He never said you’d see it; He just said it is.

Lord, so often we reply with “why?” or “yes, but.” Teach us to see the blessings of sweet, simple obedience.

June 19

Thanksgiving Peace Offerings

Leviticus 7:11-15

As you read through Leviticus it may seem that God had an unusual set of rules for his sacrifices. It’s like tax law; you need to call in an expert. Or so it seems, sometimes.

Take this little passage as an example. It is the only place in the Bible where “thanksgiving peace offerings” are even mentioned. It seems a little strange, too:

· It is the only type of offering with which one can bring leavened bread (what we would call real bread.) With all other offerings, it is forbidden as a sign of sin.

· It is the only type of peace offering which must be totally consumed on the same day of the sacrifice. All other peace offerings give you an extra day.

To understand why, you need one other fact: this is the only offering in the Old Testament law which is completely voluntary. Indeed, with all other offerings you get instructions on when you should offer them—this offering you hear only how.

Why? Well, first consider what kind of event might trigger this. This is an offering both of thanksgiving and peace; the kind of offering you’d make because God had somehow greatly blessed you—and you wanted to say thanks to Him. Even today there are those who offer a special gift upon joyous occasions, such as the birth of a child (or grandchild).

So what is God’s command in this? Party hearty! You brought that cow to sacrifice, barbeque it all today. Let the whole neighborhood know that God has blessed you. Make sure there are no leftovers but paper hats and confetti.

Is this really of importance today? Consider it this way: suppose you hit the lottery—big time. Let’s say they hand you a check for fifty million dollars. Have you ever said to yourself, “If I ever hit the lottery, I would…”? Big time giver, right? The preacher would remember that day, right? Well, says God, get to it. Don’t let that nagging instinct to hold everything back stop you from being generous. Acknowledge what the Lord has done for you.

Now, is this just for those who hit the lottery? No; it is for those whom God has blessed in some special way. Honor God with your gifts in times of joy.

Lord, we share our sorrows with you, seeking your comfort. When you bless us greatly, teach us to share our joys as well.

June 20


Hebrews 13:11-13

The Old Testament sacrifices draw for us a picture of the Passion of Christ; here, in this passage, is some of the explanation.

Alone among the major religions of the world, the symbol of Christianity is a simple cross. It looks innocuous at first—until you hear why it is the symbol of the followers of Christ. Our Lord was executed and execrated at the same time. His death was that of a criminal, a shameful death. A reproach.

Here we are told that we must share in that reproach. In the Old Testament, sacrifices for sin had their blood poured out before the altar—but the meat of the sacrifices was not eaten. Instead, someone would take the carcass outside the camp and burn it. It is the forerunner of the Crucifixion. It was no accident that Christ was crucified outside the city walls of Jerusalem.

We are his disciples. We are the ones who follow his discipline; those who are of “the way,” as the early church put it. As such, we are not privileged above our Lord and Master. If he suffered reproach, it is fitting that we should too. You might think that this would hinder our witness to the world. On the contrary, the ever present paradox is present: when I am strong, I am weak—for God does not sustain me. But when I am weak, I am strong—in His strength.

This, one must admit, is not the most motivational of thoughts. We like to dwell on success, not suffering. Our Lord understands that.

· So He tells you that when you are reviled for his sake, you are blessed. How so? At the very least it makes it clear just which side you’re on. And if you read the back of the book you’ll see that it’s the winning side.

· Remember, to be reproached for the sake of Christ—because you are a Christian—is a badge of honor. It tells you and all others that you are one worthy to suffer for the Name. Satan has looked at you and decided he has to do something about you. God permits it—so that your faith might be strengthened.

· When it gets tough, remember this: if you share in His sufferings, you will share in His glory.

Lord, none of us enjoy suffering. Ridicule is painful. Strengthen us that we might be worthy of your Name.

June 21

A Look in the Mirror

1 Samuel 6:1-6

The Philistines were simply following the custom of the times. The winners of the battle felt themselves quite entitled to rape and pillage the losers. It was considered part of the payment for being a foot soldier.

One of the things you would gather up would be the gods of the losers. Those gods might or might not be as strong as your own—but it never hurts to have both sets of gods on your side, right? So we must attribute to these poor heathen at least a little naiveté.

The custom of the time was simple. You took their gods and placed them in the temple of your gods—thus showing the superiority of your gods. When the Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant, they put it in the temple of their god, Dagon. This didn’t turn out too well. Next morning Dagon was found face down in front of the Ark. No harm, no foul; prop him back up. The following morning he’s face down again, with his head and hands missing. Things are getting serious.

Meanwhile life has been none too pleasant amongst the victors. There’s a rather bad plague going around; the crops are overrun with mice—and we have a little problem: hemorrhoids. Life is painful. About this time the Philistines decide the Ark needs to go on tour. The folks in Ashdod send it to Gath (Goliath’s home town). The plague, the mice and the inability to sit still go with it. So the folks in Gath try to send it to Ekron.

No dice. So they call in the magicians. These guys remember what happened in Egypt. Solution? Get rid of it as soon as possible. And send a guilt offering with it. They acknowledge the source of their problems by making the offering of golden mice - and hemorrhoids.

They give us one good bit of advice: “Do not harden your hearts.” How often we, three thousand years later, miss that advice! Have you ever had that warning from God about what you’re doing—the warning you ignored? You said, “It was just a coincidence.” Coincidence? Or God trying to warn you gently that you are in sin and need to get out? If you’ve been through this before, you know that the warnings become more and more severe. But if you harden your heart, the time will come when God will turn you over to your sins. When he does, remember: you were warned.

Lord, open our eyes and our ears so that we might heed your gentle correction in the time of your favor.

June 22

Sly Rebellion

1 Samuel 15:22

This passage sounds rather strange to modern ears—for modern ears are accustomed to the sly rebellion shown here.

A little background: Saul, the king of Israel anointed despite the objections of Samuel, the prophet, has been given his instructions. He is to utterly destroy the Amelekites—people and livestock both. No trace of them is to be left.

Saul, in his own wisdom, saw what he thought was the better way. Clearly, he thought, we could spare the livestock. And what a trophy the king of the Amelekites would be; how proud we would be to have him grovel for his food at the king’s table. So Saul kept the king alive, and distributed the livestock. He then concocted his excuse for Samuel’s benefit. Surely the prophet would see the sweet reasonableness of Saul’s actions, right? And even if he didn’t, Saul was sincere. It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you’re sincere, right? Think how big the sacrifice would be!

This is “sly rebellion.” We substitute our own reasoning for the command of God, complaining that God wrote this stuff thousands of years ago, clearly not intending it to be taken literally today. Do you need an example? Sex outside of marriage used to be called a sin; even from the pulpit. Now, of course, we realize that God had not contemplated birth control pills and women’s liberation; but fortunately we’ve helped him in that regard. Those passages are all now considered “cultural.”

Do you think it doesn’t matter—as long as we’re sincere? Consider this: the world at large pays no attention to the church’s railings against homosexual marriage. They know that it’s just a matter of time before this is accepted just as adultery, fornication and divorce are commonly accepted in the church today. The world knows—we don’t really mean it. We have rejected God; he will now reject us.

What can you do about it? First—read the Scriptures! If you are puzzled, read a commentary from a century ago, before this mess arose. Then—be obedient to what you have learned. Even if you don’t understand it, be obedient.

Do not be one who “adjusts” the Scripture for every whim of thought that passes by; do not associate with those who do. Be obedient; that is what God rewards.

Lord, we trust so much to our own wisdom, thinking you must agree. Give us a season to repent.

June 23


Proverbs 21:3

Some years ago the scientists at Cal Tech were busy preparing a recording to go on the Voyager spacecraft. It was decided that one side would be sounds of our world; the other, music. So they went to one of the professors in the music department and asked what they should put on it. “Bach, nothing but Bach,” he replied. “We can apologize for the rest later. They’ll understand we wanted to put our best foot forward..” It is to be regretted that his advice was not taken; Bach was replaced by Johnny B. Good.

I once attended a church that knew all about Bach. The music before the service came from a magnificent pipe organ, set in a beautiful replica of a Gothic cathedral. The choir would process down the center aisle to open the worship with great music. It was, simply, thrilling. Alas, it was all for show.

If you’d like a reputation as a great Christian without really having to do the work, join the church choir. Everyone thinks the people in the choir are something special, and often they are right. But do recall that in most choirs the scrutiny applied to the singers is mostly in the form of sharps and flats. It’s entirely possible to be a fraud of a Christian and an excellent tenor at the same time.

Now, this is not meant to cast aspersions on the church choir. The reputation of most is well enough earned; there are no counterfeits unless the real thing is of value. The danger lies in the fact that humans are perfectly capable of self-deception. The thrill of the special music, the soaring counterpoint of Bach in praise of his God, these things are all good. One is closest to heaven when singing God’s praises. But for some this becomes the substitute for the life of the disciple. We start by fooling others; we end by fooling ourselves—which makes us, of course, fools.

By all means, sing in the choir. Work at it diligently; those of us who are sharp and flat shower singers love to hear it. But do not neglect the weightier matters: righteousness and justice. Let your service in song be the shining exterior of a life which glows with the goodness, righteousness and justice of God.

The Voyager spacecraft is gone, now. Into the deep void of space, someday (perhaps) the craft will arrive in alien hands. Those alien ears will hear Johnny B. Good. We could have sent them Bach. When your Voyager arrives, what will God hear from you?

Lord, do not let us deceive ourselves. Do what you need to do so that we may bring you both the good and the best.

June 24

Mafia Money

Proverbs 21:27

Let me put the problem to you in terms of a practical example. You are the leader of a church in the poorest section of town. One of the members of your congregation is the local Mafia boss. (Hey, Mafia bosses have to have a church too.) The church needs a new roof, and there is no money. So you announce a special giving campaign.

You know where the Mafioso’s money comes from; you see it every day:

· How many marriages were ruined by the prostitution which now so flagrantly exists in our time?

· Does drug addiction take its toll? Some would have us think it a harmless thing, needing only legalization. But the church sees the ruin of the lives touched by it.

· How often this church sees a wife begging to borrow money to replace the rent money gambled away.

All these things can be (and are) justified by the liberal thinkers who now run our governments. Progressive minds, it seems, see this as a source of revenue untapped by the government. The church sees the human carnage.

So tell me: do you accept his generous check? No one else will match it—and the roof leaks.

But it can get worse. Suppose his gift comes with strings attached—he want you to stop preaching about prostitution, drugs and gambling.. He’s a business man; it’s a wise investment.

Whatever your answer would be, you know what it should be. But in this take heart: God sees, and God acts. God does not accept the sacrifices and offerings of the wicked man; how much more so when the gift comes with evil intent!

You know the answer in this case, but consider the matter in your own life. Are there the little temptations to cut the corners, to “forget” to record the income, to walk just inside the law—thinking that if it’s legal, it’s moral? You can always justify them (to yourself) by saying, “It means I can give more to the church.” And perhaps you can. But you should know beforehand that whatever comes that way, God will not bless. He desires your righteousness, not an extra dime.

Lord, teach us to value what you value; may our offerings come to you from clean hands and pure hearts.

June 25

What Does God Want?

Hosea 6:6

Any husband can tell you what he can’t tell you: what she wants. She knows, he doesn’t. This once got to the point that I told my wife that if I didn’t get a wish list for her birthday, she was getting a seven foot polar bear. (One of children’s favorite stories, when they were little, was that of a seven foot polar bear who made life miserable for everyone in the house.) She didn’t believe me. As the full seven foot size bear (at Abercrombie and Fitch) was over a thousand dollars, I settled on a stuffed polar bear officially named “Seven Foot.” Shortly thereafter she blessed me with a teddy bear wearing an eye patch.

Unlike my wife, however, God is rather clear on what he wants from his people. The first thing in this verse is translated in various ways; here are three:

· One word is loyalty. Those who are pious on Sunday and skeptics on Monday are not pleasing to God. He wants people he can count on.

· Anther translation is mercy. God is merciful; so merciful that Christ went to the Cross. He wants his people to be like Him, to be merciful.

· Yet another phrase for this is steadfast love. Many of us delight in the passion of the moment; God is looking for the kind of love that produces fifty year marriages.

Beyond this, God seeks those who will know him, personally. (The NIV uses the word “acknowledge,” but this does not convey the meaning of the word correctly). How do you get to know the Almighty God?

· By your study. Be one who is found frequently in the Word.

· By your prayer. Speak with him on all occasions, and listen for his word.

· By the Holy Spirit. As He guides you, follow and take action.

The bear with the eye patch is holding a bouquet of roses in one paw. The roses of loyalty, mercy and love are always sweet in the sight of God.

Lord, it is easy for us to become enthused upon hearing a great sermon; the spur of the moment is often the only spur we can feel. Teach us, Lord, by study, by prayer and by your Spirit to bring the offering of loyalty, mercy and love.

June 26


Amos 5:21-24

It is not clear from reading just the verses cited, but Amos the Prophet is issuing a dire warning. In the verses preceding he describes “the Day of the Lord.” Alternately called the “Day of Wrath,” it is a day which springs from the very righteousness and justice of God.

Look at it this way: do you think Adolf Hitler got everything he deserved in this life? Nor do I; nor do I think God is finished with him yet. As God is righteous, there must be a judgment at which the wrath of God comes down upon the deserving who have not sought mercy in his Name.

Chief among the sinners on that day will be those who thought themselves secure in their relationship with God. These are those who led the pageantry in the worship of God—but neglected the weightier matters. It is no accident that Jesus reserved his harshest words and dramatic actions for those hypocrites who claimed to be religious but were actually frauds; hypocrites.

Note one thing: the verbs in this passage. It’s not that God doesn’t approve of such worship; he hates it. He rejects it. As with Christ and the Pharisees, the anger that burns, the zeal for the Name of the Lord, is the only hope of the hypocrite.

Of course, we think, this does not apply to us. But consider well: they thought the same thing. Surely God could not reject his chosen people, especially those who bring burnt offerings to him! Can we not hear the same today—”I give a lot to the church,” or “I’m in the choir every Sunday.” These things are good—but not at the neglect of the greater things.

Are you one whose wealth and position make you able to give generously to the church? Good! Do so generously. But do not neglect justice. True, a Christian does not always get justice—but a child of God should always give true justice on every occasion. Let it flood out from you like an overflowing well. Do not neglect righteousness. God expects it to come out from you like water in a river that cannot run dry,

On the day of wrath, many will say to him, “Lord, Lord.” He will say to them, “depart.” How bitter it will be for those who sang his praises but never took him as Lord of their lives.

Lord, it appears that being such a hypocrite is a powerful delusion, the image of righteousness over the stench of death. Teach us to examine our ways, so that we may come home to you.

June 27

Payment Due

Deuteronomy 23:21-23

There once was an advertisement in a trade magazine for dentists. Its intent was to motivate dentists to subscribe to a certain credit card, taking it in payment. It showed a young couple going through a stack of bills. Coming upon one, the husband said, “Oh, it’s just the dentist—he won’t mind if we’re late.”

The advertisement was a roaring success. Dentists signed up to offer the card in huge numbers. The ad struck a nerve. Dentists cannot afford to be grouchy people. The customer likes to have the impression that the dentist is really a nice guy who would never have gone into this profession to practice sadism on the unsuspecting patient. Nice guys, it seems, don’t get their bills paid on time.

Sometimes we take the same attitude towards God. For one reason or other we promise God that we will do something—and then put off doing it. This is most unwise; if you have promised, then you should deliver promptly. Delay is dangerous:

· It is dangerous because you may become unwilling to keep your promise. In the crisis you needed God; now, you’re not so sure.

· It is dangerous because you may become unable to keep your promise. Things change; tomorrow might not be so good as today.

· It is dangerous because of the temptation to half measures. Oh, we’re still sincere—just stingy.

· It is very dangerous because it may lead to forgetfulness. When the crisis is over we tend to forget the promises we made. Strangely, we think God does too.

· Finally, it is dangerous because others may be watching you. Your example may tell them all they need to know about the followers of Christ.

As Solomon assures us, God takes no pleasure in fools. He expects you to honor your word to Him, and promptly. Do not assume he will wait in idleness; after all, this is your character we are talking about. Did you think He would not act?

Lord, the morals of many are very loose in our time. Keeping promises seems to require a lawyer’s contract these days. You need no such thing; teach us to respect that.

June 28


Genesis 4:3-5

This passage has excited great commentary within the minds of Christian scholars. Why was Abel’s sacrifice acceptable; Cain’s was not? It is clear we have no record of any instructions on the subject at this early time. Yet both brothers felt the need to offer a sacrifice to God. How, then, did God decide to accept Abel’s sacrifice but not Cain’s?

It is a matter of faith. We find something similar with Abraham. The Law of Moses is several hundred years in the future; but God takes the faith of Abraham and calls it righteousness. Cain was certainly not a righteous man; we may infer from his comment (“Am I my brother’s keeper?”) that his relationship with God was based on fear, not trust.

Still, the tidy mind likes to know: just what was it that Cain did wrong? It is impossible to know unless we know what God commanded. But in this instance, it seems God has commanded nothing in particular. Yet Abel is accepted; Cain is not. The distinction is based not on their relationship to the law—but their interpretation of God’s silence.

Can silence be a message? Every married man knows the answer to that. (Which is not to say we understand what the message is; merely that there is one.) What message is God sending when you hear nothing but silence?

· Perhaps the message is “wait upon the Lord.” Silence—to be followed with instruction later. Patience, child.

· Could it be that you are to stand still—and like Moses and the children of Israel, see the glory of the Lord?

· Perhaps he has become silent as a teacher sometimes does—so that you will be silent too, and hear instruction clearly.

· If there is sin in your life, perhaps he is giving you a space of time to repent.

· Perhaps it is simply this: in imitation of your Lord before his tribunals, you are to keep silent in your suffering.

But know this: God does not entrust his silences to beginners. He knows they can’t handle it. But as you mature he will give you those silences, and the blessings that come with them.

Lord, how often do we take silence in the wrong way. Teach us to discern your hand of grace when your voice seems silent.

June 29

To The Egress

Malachi 1:14

One of the most amiable of swindlers ever to grace the American scene was P. T. Barnum. Circus founder, showman, impresario, he understood the American sense of humor in fine detail.

Take, for instance, his museum of oddities established in New York City. One of the exhibits advertised was the “Six Foot Man Eating Chicken!” (Exclamation marks followed Barnum everywhere he went.) Paying your two bits, you went in to discover exactly that: a man, six feet tall, eating chicken.

In order to get the crowds through (and increase his revenue) he put up signs saying, “To The Egress.” People would follow these signs down several twists and turns, finally coming upon a door—which opened onto the streets. “Egress” means the same as “exit.” People were so amused that it became a joke to send someone in with glowing tales of the egress.

Barnum understood that we can be swindled—if we are entertained in the process. But the swindler is usually not in that business. He depends upon the trust of his victims; at the very last moment he substitutes something of no value for the promised reward. He then leaves the area—but looking good until the last day.

Religious people are a particular target for such people. The swindler depends upon trust; religious folks are those who practice trust. Indeed, schemes of religious swindlers are often the more outrageous because God often does the improbable. It looks good—right to the last day.

We may look back on P. T. Barnum with chuckling fondness at his ability to extract money from the swindled while amusing them at the same time. But please, do be assured that God is not amused at swindlers who use His name. Very rarely does the Old Testament use the phrase, “cursed be…” Similarly, Christ reserves his wrath for the hypocrites—who were the religious swindlers of their time. In the name of God they would dispossess a widow from her home. The religious swindlers of our day are indeed hypocrites—and in six thousand years God’s curse upon them has not varied a bit. So—what you promise to God, deliver. He takes no pleasure in fools.

Lord of heaven and earth, grant that the hypocrisy among us will be strangled at birth. Keep such deception far from us; lead us not into temptation—that one, in particular.

June 30

A Dog’s Wages

Deuteronomy 23:18

It is a solid and shameful fact. At the early service in our congregation, attended largely by the older members of the church, the pastor remarked—almost in passing—that “sex outside of marriage is wrong.” There was a distinctly audible gasp.

I’m not sure why. I was about to go, “Amen, brother” when I realized just how much of a minority I was. It has now become a scandal that the preacher of a large, modern church would hold such archaic views. Preach on, brother.

Such a view is not new. It seems that God had to explicitly tell the Israelites his opinion on the subject. The two items mentioned here are simply wages earned by a prostitute. The harlot is a female prostitute, of course; “dog” means a homosexual male prostitute. God makes it clear that an offering from such wages is utterly unacceptable to him—no matter how sincere the whore.

Today, of course, we have no whores. Not even prostitutes; the newspapers use the politically correct phrase “sex workers.” Why? Everyone approves of sex, at least in some fashion. Work is still a four letter word, but generally taken as positive. So how could we disapprove? Wait until we get to “income redistribution specialists” (formerly known as thieves and bank robbers.)

It seems that God Almighty is a touch more fussy about this than we are. He will accept no offering or sacrifice from our hands which comes from evil. Why not? He is holy, and can have no fellowship with evil.

But wait; is it not the case that we are his children, noted for our family likeness to Him? So I am told. What, then, does this say about us? Are we willing to accept the results of fraud or theft as payment? Do we wink at the dishonesty which seems profitable? The matter can easily be examined in your life:

· Let’s start with your taxes. Are all the deductions legitimate? Or did your tax man identify some “opportunities” for you?

· Or should we begin with your business? Do your customers know and trust you? Do you earn that trust?

· What about your insurance claims? Are they insurance, or a “revenue source”?

Should God accept an offering from you—from these sources?

Lord, in our dealings with others, let us be your children—not just honest, but holy.

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