Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Today is Yom Kippur, one of the high and holy days of the Jewish calendar. We know it from the Old Testament as the Day of Atonement, the one day once a year that the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem. The high priest would enter the inner sanctum in order to sprinkle the blood of the lamb on the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant for the sins of the people each year.

The writer to the book of Hebrew goes into great detail about this when speaking of Christ's sacrifice on our behalf...

"The first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up, and in its first room were the lampstand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.   The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They were only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applied until the time of the new order. For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once and for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption."  (Hebrews 9)

Happy Yom Kippur - Blessed Day of Atonement! Thanks be to God for redemption and salvation through the blood of Christ!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Monday was Citizenship Day in our country. This day often goes by without notice and without mention. But I think this is an important day on our calendar. We should be asking ourselves - what does it mean to be a good citizen? What does Christian citizenship look like? How does who we are affect what we do out in the world? How can we be good Christians & yet good citizens?

Well, first of all, in this election year its important to remember that being a good citizen doesn't depend on one being either a Republican or Democrat. Jesus was neither, you know. He pretty much avoided any kind of label people wanted to put on him. And actually, if you think about it, I guess you could say that Jesus was a Liberal Conservative. Morally conservative, yet liberal with God's love and forgiveness.  (But I digress ...)

In the Bible we find out that we are citizens of two kingdoms, the kingdom of the world (society and govt.) and the Kingdom of God (the church). We also come to realize that God is sovereign over everything, even the government. Paul wrote in Romans, "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”  As Christians, that means we are to submit to the governing authorities even though we may not always agree with them. But when they go against God's laws and commands, we must obey God rather than men.

Even though we are American citizens, as Christians our true citizenship is in heaven. We eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.”  Paul says in 1 Timothy, “I urge, then, that requests, prayers, intercession & thanksgiving be made for everyone - for kings & for all those in authority, that we may live peaceful & quiet lives in all godliness & holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved.”

That's part of what it means to be a Christian citizen.

A man once visited his longtime friend, a British military officer stationed in an African jungle. One day when the friend entered the officer’s hut, he was startled to see him dressed in formal attire and seated at a table set with silverware and fine china. The visitor asked why he was all dressed up and seated at a table so nicely set way out in the jungle. The officer explained, "Once a week I follow this routine to remind myself of who I am - a citizen of Great Britain. I maintain the customs of my real home and live according to the codes of British conduct, no matter how those around me live. I always want to remember my homeland."

We need to be reminded of that as well. This is not our final destination. Heaven is our home.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

"Instead of some sort of penance, we're called to confess our sin as best we can (though it will always be lousy) and appeal to God's mercy on the basis of what Christ did for us, not on the basis of "I really mean it", or "I really promise to", or "I vow this or vow that". That's all out the window.  You're utterly without excuse and without the energy to promise anything. You appeal to nothing but God's mercy in Jesus. That's it. That's the only thing you can plead. It's like the old seminary professor once said, "adverbs are the great enemy of the gospel". We hear things like "I deeply repent" or "I am heartily sorry".  Bah! We repent in a half-assed way at best. We're only sort of sorry. Even our confession sucks. And yet the gracious God in Jesus Christ says to us, "Be of good cheer son, your sins are forgiven."    - Rod Rosenbladt