Forgiveness – it’s too easy.

I think I take sin too casually. Perhaps, it’s that I take forgiveness to casually.

I think I take sin too casually.  Perhaps, it’s that I take forgiveness to casually.

I’m reading through the Bible again this year, but this time chronologically.  I just started Leviticus.  I’m not sayin’ I’ve read this book as often as I’ve read, say, James.  However, I have read Leviticus a time or two and something just slapped me in the face today.

“4 Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. 5 He shall kill the bull before the Lord; and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall bring the blood and sprinkle the blood all around on the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of meeting.” (Leviticus 1:4, 5 NKJV)

“… He shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering…”
“… He shall kill it before the LORD…”

Let that sink in. Imagine being “he”.

The first part of the process, I remember – the transferring of my sin to the animal to be offered.  My sin.  My actions, thoughts, attitudes and disobedience – what I did –  becomes the cause of what is about to happen to this animal.

It’s the next part that gave me a bloody nose today.  What hit me is that in this practice, I  kill the sacrifice – by hand – with a knife. There was no lethal injection or medicine to put the animal down and make this easy, clean and painless.  No, this is ugly, loud, and messy.  It is bloody and painful and gruesome. I can only imagine how difficult it is and how much work it was.

It turns out, the last time I read this passage a couple of years ago, I was struck in a very similar manner – see the post here:  “What A Bloody Mess!”

Here’s where it’s different.

I believe if I had to perform that perform that sacrificial ritual – that bloody, exhausting, sacrifice – each and every time I wanted forgiveness, every week , every month, every day – I believe I’d behave differently than I do.

How would my behavior change if I had to gruesomely slaughter a bull to get forgiveness?  How would my behavior change every time I wanted forgiveness, I had to take the life of another animal?

Jesus died a vicious, bloody, painful and gruesome death – so I could have forgiveness.  How would my behavior change if I had to watch “The Passion of The Christ” before every confession? If I had to visualize the beating and abuse He endured for me?

But I don’t.  Jesus died for me to have forgiveness – and that forgiveness comes easily. I only have to ask for it.

At the very least I should remember what my Savior did and endured for me and EVERY one of my sins.  I should remember it every time I ask for forgiveness…

Thank you LORD for dying for me and providing forgiveness and eternal atonement.

Running After Papa

Declared Holy

“What does it mean to be holy?” This is the question we were basing our study and ensuing conversation on. I had spent some time during the week scouring my bible program and had pulled some pretty interesting (to me) ideas, definitions, and scriptures on the word “holy” and “holiness”… but it wasn’t until we began sharing and discussing for a half hour or so, that one of my friends made a comment similar to, “… sometimes we forget who we are…” (Read more by clicking the title…)

On most Saturday mornings of late, I meet with my buddies to open The Word and discuss what we’d been studying the previous week.  This week’s topic was “Holiness.”

“What does it mean to be holy?”  This is the question we were basing our study and ensuing conversation on.  I had spent some time during the week scouring my bible program and had pulled some pretty interesting (to me) ideas, definitions, and scriptures on the word “holy” and “holiness”… but it wasn’t until we began sharing and discussing for a half hour or so, that one of my friends made a comment similar to, “… sometimes we forget who we are…”  The implication being we forget who we are in Christ.  This thought stayed in the forefront of my mind as we began going down a particular thread of discussion.

Leviticus 11:44-45 For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. 45 For I am the LORD who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. (emphasis added)

Leviticus 20:7-8 Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy (emphasis added). for I am the LORD your God. 8 And you shall keep My statutes, and perform them: I am the LORD who sanctifies you.

These were verses that kicked off our discussion and the week’s study.  Interestingly enough, both passages use “consecrate” and one uses “sanctifies.” Both of those words are very, very similar to the word “holiness” – from the New Bible Dictionary:

“Sanctification is one of several possible English translations of qdš, hagios and their cognates. See *HOLINESS for usage. Context alone determines whether the translation should be holy, holiness, holy one, saints, consecrate, consecration, sanctify or sanctification. Even in individual passages translators do not always agree. Its broad meaning is the process by which an entity is brought into relationship with or attains the likeness of the holy.”

I began to wonder if God was declaring part of his name – who he is – when he said “… for I am holy.”  What if when God identifies himself as “… the LORD who sanctifies you,” he was in fact restating his holiness (see the definition of sanctification again).  What if he was stating it, like we state our names?

Then, like a flood, connections, ideas, and thoughts hit me – saturating my mind like an overfilled sponge.  I simply could not write fast enough in my journal or quite explain my thoughts to my buddies during our discussion.   This is my exploration of those connections and thoughts…

First family picture after adoption
First picture of Megan, Jordan, and Nick as "Shoemakers"

In December 2004, my wife and I adopted 3 kids from Penza, Russia.  This doubled our children overnight.  The Russian kids were from two different orphanages – one ten year-old boy from Orphanage #3 and a brother and sister, ages 15 and 14 respectively, from Orphanage #1 – yes, they were quite creative with the names of the Orphanages in Penza.  On our adoption date, I remember sitting in the courtroom, waiting for the finality of what was more than a year in the making: filling out paperwork, filing paperwork, authorizing paperwork, and re-working, re-filing, re-authorizing paperwork.  It all culminated when the Judge declared that our adoption was complete and that these three children were mine and Dawn’s.  They were declared to be Shoemakers.  My now embellished memory is the Judge striking his gavel on the desk transferring my name, ‘Shoemaker’, to those unrelated, orphaned kids.  With that single declaration, they forever became part of my family, my heritage, my namesakes, and became Shoemakers…

Isn’t the transference of my name, Shoemaker, to those children in the courtroom that day, exactly what happens when we become “adopted” into God’s family through Jesus Christ?

We are adopted into God’s family as children of God.  God who?  God with many names, one of which is Holy.

Galatians 4:4-7 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born  of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

Romans 8:15-16 “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,”

I am Holy,” God declares (Lev 11:45) and “... the LORD who sanctifies you…” (Lev 20:8).  “You are my child!” God declares as he strikes down his gavel.  Forever, we are “Holy” because we are God’s… just as Nick, Megan, and Jordan are “Shoemakers” and no longer Mordashov. Mordashova, or Savenkov.

We are holy and there is nothing we can do to change it.  You may be saying, “God is very specific about what holy actions and characteristics are in Scripture.” I agree 100%.  I believe God puts those in there to teach us what it means to be Holy, not to define the requirements to attain holiness.

Over the first year (and beyond), we had to teach Nick, Megan, and Jordan what it meant to be a “Shoemaker.”  I wrote a letter and translated it into Russian very early in our parenting them that explained what carrying my name meant.  What behavior was acceptable and what what not.  What I began to teach them was drastically different than what they had learned in the orphanages where they grew up.  It was not an easy process.  Nick and Megan had spent 10 years in the orphanages, from ages 5 and 4 through ages 15 and 14.  There was a lot of behavior and attitude and character to work on and it took time.  There were many occasions they did not exhibit what was “Shoemaker” approved.  Whenever they exhibited those characteristics, actions, words, or attitudes that were not congruent with being a “Shoemaker”, it didn’t make them any less a Shoemaker – it just meant there was still more work and learning to do.   It was, and is, a continual process of changing to be WHAT THEY ARE… SHOEMAKERS.

Is that any different in our lives with respect to holiness?  God calls us – and better yet – DECLARES us to be holy.  In Genesis 1, God says “… let there be light…” and spoke light into being where it did not exist.  In Leviticus 11:45 God says “… you shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”  What if God is declaring holiness into our lives and speaking holiness into being where it did not exist?  I believe He is declaring us holy – because we are his and he is holy.  It’s our responsibility to learn what that practically looks like.

Remember our definition of sanctification?  It basically means “holiness.”  The last line and main idea of sanctification (holiness) is “… the process by which an entity is brought into relationship with or attains the likeness of the holy.”  How are we brought into that likeness?  We read it in Gal 4:6 & 7 “… God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts… therefore you are no longer a slave but a son…”

God puts his Spirit in us.  This enables us to live – AND CHANGE – to “… attain the likeness of the holy.”  This is a permanent thing – just like my kids will forever be a Shoemaker – we will forever be God’s and therefore holy.

Ephesians 1:13-14 ” In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

So where does that leave me?  I simply have to receive that I am who He says I am.  Easy to say, not so easy in practice.  Leads to a whole other discussion of who I’m listening to… but that’s another post.

Running After Papa…

 

 

What a bloody mess!

I’m not sure we really “get it” when it comes to confessing and repenting of our sins…

Lev 1:3-9 (NKJV)
If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord. 4 Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. 5 He shall kill the bull before the Lord; and the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall bring the blood and sprinkle the blood all around on the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 6 A
nd he shall skin the burnt offering and cut it into its pieces. 7 The sons of Aaron the priest shall put fire on the altar, and lay the wood in order on the fire. 8 Then the priests, Aaron’s sons, shall lay the parts, the head, and the fat in order on the wood that is on the fire upon the altar; 9 but he shall wash its entrails and its legs with water. And the priest shall burn all on the altar as a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord.

What a bloody mess!

This is the second day in a row, I’ve read this passage and what jumped out of the text to me is the fact that each person bringing their sacrifice (be it a bull or a sheep) had to kill and skin and cut it into parts so that the priests can make the offering to the Lord on his behalf.

Here is what the offer-er was physically responsible for in the burnt offering:
– slaughtering the animal himself before the LORD (v5, v11)
– skinning the animal (v6)
– cutting it into pieces (v6, v12)
– wash the entrails (guts) and legs in water (v9, v13)

A sacrificial bullHave you ever slaughtered a bull… by hand… with a knife? As gross as it may be, can close your eyes and imagine that? Can you imagine what a mess that would be? Can you imagine skinning a bull by hand? How does one manage a dead carcass 3x or 4x his own body weight? Where would one wash the entrails and legs? I expect that meant hauling all those parts somewhere to wash them and hauling them back.

Here’s my point. A burnt offering wasn’t a quick prayer at the end of a 30 minute sermon. I expect it was no small feat or quick little ritual. I expect this was a quite long ordeal. I expect by the time one was done, he was probably covered in the blood of the sacrifice.

In our “everything gets wrapped up in a 30 TV show” culture, I fear we don’t have a grasp on what it means for us to be “covered by the blood of the sacrifice.” I know I don’t. Way too often, I treat confessing my sin much too lightly.

Christ suffered a long, painful, multiple hour ordeal when He became the sacrifice to atone for my sins.  Galatians 2:20 tells me that I’ve been crucified with Christ.  Have I killed my self in this crucifixion?   Have I labored hours over that sacrifice? Am I a bloody mess at the end of it?

I hope to be. I need to be…

Running After Papa…