A Special Offering

Every where you go in Israel, you find groves of Olive trees. They are part of the culture and history of this country. If you go all the way back to when Moses received the Law, you will find that olive oil was used in anointing, in offerings and in the lighting of the lamp stand that stood in the Temple. Leviticus 14:24 says, “The priest will take the lamb for the guilt offering, along with the olive oil, and lift them up as a special offering to the Lord” (NLT). Just like in the Old Testament, olive oil was a part of the offering Jesus made for our guilt.

Gethsemane means, “Oil pressing”. When Jesus prayed in the garden, we know that He was being pressed by the weight of the situation. He knew that He was about to be betrayed and handed over to be killed. He knew He would feel the stinging of the whip, the piercing of the nails and the crushing of the weight of our sin on Him. The Bible says He sweat drops of blood that night as He prayed because He was being pressed so hard. The oil from the pressing that night was the special offering because it was the first pressing that would have been used to light the lamp in the Temple.

Today, you and I are the light of the world. We must keep ourselves filled with the oil of being in His presence so our lives can burn bright until He comes. When we spend time in prayer and in His Word, we keep oil in our lamps. If your lamp is running low on oil, then take time to get a refill from God by spending time in His presence. We can’t afford to run out of oil that was paid for with such a high price. Our lives are to be living sacrifices that are pleasing to God. Your guilt is gone through Jesus’ sacrifice, so lift up your life now as a special offering and keep it lit with His oil.

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Blessed

Many of us grow up thinking of God as a righteous judge who is out to get them the moment they mess up. Knowing we are human is to know that we can’t be perfect. That means that it’s only a matter of time before God gets mad at us and condemns us. It creates stress on those who think they can overcome temptation with will power alone, and apathy on those who know they can never measure up. Legalism chokes the life out of Christians and creates fear. That fear is used to persuade people into putting on a facade that everything is ok and that they aren’t struggling with anything. It creates a Church who can no longer find healing because they can’t confess their sins one to another.

When Jesus walked this earth, He challenged the legalistic Pharisees constantly. He pointed out their hypocrisy and shed light on how they used legalistic teaching to stay in power. They hated Him for it, but the people loved it. His teachings were authoritative and directed at helping people to know God. He had compassion on the masses, spoke in language they could understand and crowds followed Him wherever He went. While He is a righteous judge, He is also compassionate and loving. He blessed people wherever He went, not based on their status or financial value, but based on their humanity. The Beatitudes in Matthew 5 marked a shift in how we view God. His blessings are available to everyone, no just a select few. Read this excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount and think about how God has and is blessed you because you’re you.

God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.

God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied.

God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.

God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.

God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.

Matthew 5:3-11 NLT

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Sent

After visiting the Pool of Siloam, I knew I had to read John 9 again. Jesus was walking down the street and saw a blind man. The disciples wanted to know who’s fault it was that he was blind. They believed that it was a punishment from God for a specific sin committed by the man or his parent. Jesus replied, “Jesus answered, “Neither. It happened to him so that you could watch him experience God’s miracle” (TPT). Jesus then spit on the ground, mixed it in some dirt and put it on the guy’s eyes. He then said, “Now go and wash the clay from your eyes in the ritual pool of Siloam.” For the first time in His life he could see.

We live in a cause and effect world. We like to find the reason behind things so that we can make sense of it. If we can’t make sense of something, we don’t know how to deal with it. I’ve learned that the things of God don’t always make sense. Why did Jesus have to spit on the ground? Why send him to the pool that means “Sent”? I don’t know, but I do know that we, along with the disciples, get to witness this man experience a miracle that was impossible for a man to accomplish. Even though he faced excommunication from the community, he put his faith in Jesus as the Messiah.

Just as Jesus was sent into this world, you and I are too. Our mission is to help others believe in Jesus. We are to help restore the spiritual sight of everyone we come in contact with. We are to bring light into this world so that others may see and give praise to God. Look around you today. You have been sent to the people you will come in contact with. Will your life bring light or leave them in darkness? Just as the man was sent to the Pool of Siloam, we should send people to the foot of the Cross for their spiritual, emotional and physical healing. When you do, you will watch them experience God’s miracle.

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The Promise Of Humility

Unless you’ve been to Israel, you may not know that Bethlehem is only about 6 miles south of the Old City in Jerusalem. It’s currently situated in the West Bank of Palestine and has been in existence for about 3,400 years. We know it mainly as the place of Jesus’ birth, but so much more in the Bible happened here. It is where Naomi returned with Ruth. It’s where Ruth worked in Boaz’ field until they were married. The had a son named Obed. He had a son named Jesse. Jesse’s youngest son David became the most famous king of Israel. The name of the city translates, “House of Bread”.

I find it amazing that God did so many things in this town generations beforehand to ensure that this would be the place Jesus would be born. If you think about it, Bethlehem is a story of how God exalts the humble. David wasn’t even considered by his dad as a possible candidate to be king. He was an humble shepherd. It was also the humble shepherds who were first given the news that the Messiah had been born. Even the manger was an humble place to house the King of Kings. There’s a pattern there that you and I can’t afford to miss. Humility preceded the favor of God.

In Luke 14:11 Jesus was teaching about humility when He said, “For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (NLT). Humility is a mindset of understanding our position as the created being who is nothing without the Creator. That knowledge should keep us hungry to have a deeper relationship with Him. It should cause us to obey whatever God asks of us knowing He will equip us and partner us with those who will help us fulfill His will for our lives and further His kingdom. Great men and women don’t just have humble beginnings, they find a way to stay humble even in success.

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The Way Of Suffering

This weekend I had the opportunity to visit the room where the Last Supper took place, walk through the Garden of Gethsemane, visit Caiaphas’ house and then walk down the Via Dolorosa. To walk in the final footsteps of Jesus before His crucifixion can be a moving experience if you can block out all the chaos around you. As I went to each place, I tried to imagine the emotions of Jesus in each place and to feel the tension He must have felt knowing He was leaving the Passover meal a free man to cross the Kidron Valley, but would return a prisoner. It’s a very sobering journey.

As I entered the Church of All Nations at the foot of the Mount of Olives where the Garden of Gethsemane is, I walked around the outskirts of the sanctuary instead of down the middle. The purple glass in the shape of a cross makes sure that the room is lit, but remains dim. I went to the front where there is a rock protruding out of the foundation of the church. I stood outside the barrier as I watched people lay on it and weep. On the barrier were pieces of paper in different languages. I walked around until i found one in English. It had a portion of the Gospel of Luke that ended in Luke 22:46. It said, “Jesus went to the disciples who were sleeping and said, ‘Why are you asleep? Wake up and pray that you won’t be tested.’”

Are you and I like the disciples? Are we awakened to the things God is asking us to do or are we asleep? Do we realize that the moment God has us in right now is in preparation for greater things? God’s plan for you is always good. It may involve some suffering and times of emotional stress. There are times we will walk in darkness so we can share God’s light. The only way to achieve God’s desired outcome in our lives is to pray like Jesus prayed in the darkest time of His life. Luke 22:44 says, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup [of divine wrath] from Me; yet not My will, but [always] Yours be done” (AMP). Submitting to God’s will, even in suffering and pain always yields the greatest outcome.

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The Importance Of Prayer

Prayer should be as vital to a Christian as a heart is to their body. You simply cannot survive without it. As I’ve traveled the world, I’ve seen different religions have certain times and certain prayers that their adherents must follow and do. Some have to face a certain way, others have to wear special clothes, and some have to repeat certain mantras. Protestant Christianity doesn’t have any of that so that prayer can be an act of willing worship from the heart. It’s about getting alone with your creator, sharing what’s on your heart and listening to what’s on His. Unfortunately many Christians don’t have a regular time to spend with God and instead only offer up prayers when we need God to solve a problem.

I want to encourage you to find a set time to spend with God each day, not out of obligation, but out of devotion. You don’t have to Pray the entire time. Many times prayer is simply sitting in God’s presence and listening. He knows what you’re going to say before you even say it, and hears your heart when words are not enough. Christianity is about having a relationship with God, and relationships live and die on communication. Prayer is our way of communicating with God and finding direction in our lives. Pick a time and a place to meet regularly with God and watch your relationship grow.

Here are some Bible verses on prayer.

1. Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!

Psalms 116:2 NLT

2. GOD ’s there, listening for all who pray, for all who pray and mean it.

Psalm 145:18 MSG

3. Then you will call to me. You will come and pray to me, and I will answer you.

Jeremiah 29:12 GNT

4. I will answer your cry for help every time you pray, and you will find and feel my presence even in your time of pressure and trouble. I will be your glorious hero and give you a feast.

Psalms 91:15 TPT

5. Lord, you know my prayer before I even whisper it. At each and every sunrise you will continue to hear my cry until you answer.

Psalms 88:13 TPT

Photo by Jack Sharp on Unsplash

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This Could Be The Day

Recently a friend of mine and I were discussing Jesus’ return. We discussed how every generation has preached it starting with the early church. They thought Jesus was going to return in their lifetime. They sold all they had and pooled their money together so they could get the message of Jesus out to as many people as possible quickly. Here we are around 2,000 years later and we are still waiting. The difference now is there is no urgency among believers about His return. Believers have very little motivation in them to share their faith.

We know Jesus will return because He told us He would in John 14. In verses 2-3 He said, “There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. (NLT)” He made a promises to return and He will fulfill it. We don’t know when everything will be ready on His end, so we have to be ready on our end.

He told the parable of the ten virgins waiting on the groom. When the groom didn’t show up quickly, it became apparent that not everyone would be ready. Five had enough oil in their lamps and five didn’t. Five were in it for the long haul. They had reserves of oil to keep their lamps burning. What group do you and I belong in? Have we given up on His return? Have we run out of oil? It was late in the night when he returned. It was past the time they thought He would. We are seeing that now as people run out of the oil of urgency for His return.

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.

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