Sacred Spaces 545 – “Covered by the Blood” (Promise, we’re not vampires…)

I heard this talk yesterday and the speaker ended off in prayer and in that prayer they mentioned being “covered by the blood of Jesus.”

Part of me cringes when I hear that.
Not because of I’m ungrateful for what Jesus did for me. No ways!

And I know that phrase is in scripture; a few times:

” I said to him, “My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Revelation 7: 14

“Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.” Hebrew 13: 12

“They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” Revelation 12: 11

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TO READ (LEARN) MORE about the blood of Christ… go to the end of this post:

But I guess, I’m just….wait for it… another “christianese” phrase: seeker sensitive. (Haha!)

But seriously, the people who are new to the faith, or still checking out this whole God thing… how does that phrase sound to them?

Vampire-ish? Cult-ish? Just darn scary!
A lot of Christian folk assume a lot of things a lot of the time.
Maybe we can use our words in sermons (talks) and prayers wisely.
And I’m not even suggesting taking out some of those phrases, but rather being aware of the people with you…

And when we say a phrase like “blood of Jesus” or the “blood of the Lamb” we add a little explanation to it too…

That way we include everyone in that moment.

Because, truth is, the imagery is grace-filled:

By Jesus dying for us, (the blood shed of His death) we are forgiven.
Because for any wrongdoing (our sin) there needs to be a punishment.
The modern world understands this! Hence, the reason for the police, court cases, prosecutions, jails and capital punishment.
If some crime (wrongdoing) is done – there needs to be a suitable punishment given right?
Jesus, did that for us. His death set saved us.
He died in our place.
We were (are) all guilty in the eyes of God.
Human nature is sinful.
But Jesus died as an ultimate sacrifice.
He was punished in our place.

And so, when we celebrate communion.
The elements of bread and juice represent Jesus “body and blood”
We celebrate with gratitude His mercy.
His pardon.
His death that set us free…


Explanation of the “Blood of Christ” can be found in Hebrews 9

Here is the text below:

The Blood of Christ
“11 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

15 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.

16 In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. 18 This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. 19 When Moses had proclaimed every command of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20 He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” 21 In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”

This passage explains things quite well and why Jesus had to die.
In the old way (old covenant) to show that one was sorry for their sins, they would need to offer an animal sacrifice as an apology.
The idea behind it, was it costs them something to sacrifice some livestock. (livestock is equivalent to modern property)
Another idea, (perhaps ancient and sort of primitive) is that the aroma of the sacrifice (who does not enjoy the smell of a Lamb on a spit?) would be pleasing to God above.
And He would forgive the people.
And only a person deemed worthy (usually a priest) would be called to offer the animal sacrifice on the altar.

The new way (new covenant): enter Jesus.
God initiates the idea too.
The “old way” of sacrifices, became just a ritual.
No remorse or true repentance came with the animal offering…
A most costly sacrifice had to take place…
One that would COST EVERYTHING.

God sent His very own Son (John 3: 16)
For you and I.
That one death would set us free.
Bring us forgiveness.

Now that’s something to be incredibly thankful for!

Hope this helped a bit?

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Sacred Spaces 544 – Freedom and my Football Analogy

In South Africa, today we celebrate Freedom Day!
It’s a day that we as a nation celebrate the first non-racial elections of 27 April 1994. More info HERE

So being the thinker that I am. I thought of one of the scriptures about Freedom that comes to mind. Galatians 5: 1

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We are offered this freedom. We are given it. But so often… we revert to our old ways… because enslaved by the yoke of slavery…

Firstly, when last have you thanked God for your freedom?
Secondly, how does your life reflect one that is living free? (Sadly, we can look out at others and even ourselves… and we look like a miserable lot.)
You have been set free!
Thirdly, in what areas of your life… to you keep slipping back into “slavery”?

NOW FOR THE FOOTBALL ANALOGY:

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There is this common misconception a lot of people have about Christianity:
“I don’t want to be a Christian, because it’s full of rules.”

Now let’s focus on football. What are some of the rules?

i) Only 11 players per team on the field.
ii) No off-sides!
iii) No picking up the ball.
iv) No running out of the lines.

These rules don’t take away from the game do they?
Next question:

Does Hazard (or Messi, Salah, Erikson, Ronaldo – you can use any name here) think this when they step on that field: “Oh dear, I have to concentrate on all these rules to play this game properly?”

No they don’t! They’re probably are so thrilled to play the game that they love so much. Football is not about the rules for them. It’s about playing the game!

And same with following God?

I don’t do it because of the rules.
The rules don’t define me.
My relationship with God is what it’s about.
In learning from Jesus.
Trying to reflect His nature as His child…
You know what happens…?
I end up living in the rules anyway.

But my focus is not the rules.
It’s God Himself.


So as a follower of Christ – I am free. I live in that freedom! I’m not bound by crippling rules. In fact, some of the rules… turn out pretty good…

Think about football again…

ALL players would dislike it if one could just pick up the ball and throw it in the goals.
One team of 11 would hate playing against a team of 22.
Etc etc…

The rules add to the quality of the game. Maybe that’s a way of seeing some of the “rules of Christianity” ? How do they give life?

Happy Freedom Day!

Sacred Spaces 543 – God is not a puzzle that needs to be solved…

…. but rather a Mystery to enjoy and discover!

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I was thinking about this recently.
It’s okay not to know everything about God.
As we live out our lives with Him, He will show us more of Him in time.
The scriptures reveal more – as we read through it through the years…
Nature is a constant sermon.
The Spirit within us leads us into truth and reveals things to us.

But don’t rush any of this!
Just enjoy the Mystery!

I wear this chain with the Hebrew word “Hesed” engraved on it. (Thanks bro!)
It comes from Joel 2: 13:

“Rend your heart…
The Lord is gracious
He is compassionate
slow to anger
abounding in love”

You see the word “Hesed” cannot be explain in one word… but all these words above: slow to anger, abounding in love, gracious…

You see, it’s like God…
He cannot be contained in one word.
In one of our descriptions of Him.
He cannot be solved like a puzzle. And there is no need for that too.

Sacred Spaces 542 – The Gate Keepers (John 10)

 

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Isn’t so exciting even after many years of reading the scriptures you can read a familiar passage and yet discover something NEW?

That in itself is a glorious mystery. Evidence that God’s word is life giving!

I read John 10 again today. (Read the whole chapter Here is John 10)

But for brevity’s sake let me highlight some verses:

Firstly:
“He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

God calls each one of us by name. Incredible! There are about 8 billion people on the planet. And yet He knows my name. And He knows yours too.
The bigness of the world and yet God makes things personal and calls you and I.

Secondly:
“The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice.”

Where in your life right now do you need to “listen to His voice?”
Switch off the noise and focus. God has a word for you.
Then the Spirit highlighted the word and task of Gatekeeper to me.
We as pastors (and in fact all people) are called to be gatekeepers.
People are longing to hear God.
We need to look after the pen. Make sure the sheep are feeling safe and are able to connect with the Shepherd.
What a privilege and what a sincere calling it is to be a gatekeeper!

Lastly:
“I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

Pastors and organisations (and even church members) often fall into the trap that the “thing they’re doing is the only thing”
Like it’s the most important thing?

Truth is – there are lots of great ministries out there!
There are lots of good things and places and people and organisations that God is using.
That truth is rather freeing.

God has many “pens”
The “sheep” in those also need to hear His voice.

You know what, I can’t be the gatekeeper for everyone!!
But for the people God has put in my life – I can faithfully do that.

Sacred Spaces 541 – In and out of Psalm 23…

While driving today, I had this thought about Psalm 23:

Have you ever thought about going through the Psalm? Going right through the valley?
Enjoying the green pastures and quiet waters and then walking along the right paths, going through the dark valley, stopping for a meal with your Lord and then heading on forward (surely your goodness and love will follow me…?)

See what I mean?
What if read the Psalm as if it were a journey?
What if certain times in your life you could find yourself in a certain place in this Psalm?

Let’s take a look:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,

You may be in a good place with God. You are close with Him.
You feel content. Feel at peace.

He leads me beside quiet waters,
He refreshes my soul.

Adding to that.
You’re in a place of rest and retreat.
A place of revival and renewal.
You feel Him in your very soul.

He guides me along the right paths
for His name’s sake.

You trust God.
You let Him lead you on a journey. He always chooses the right paths for you…

Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,

Then comes the valleys.
The dark times, the difficult moments.
But note.
The psalm doesn’t say you stop in the middle of the valley.
Rather you go THROUGH it.
That’s good news, right?!

And something about a valley: Look up, look to the sides. See the sheer cliffs that hang over you. Yes, may you hold your breath? May you stand in awe and think “Wow, God made all of this?”
And then look forward…
Look to the exit of the valley.
There is a summit.
One foot forward at a time.
But you get through? You get to the top.
Where the views are breathtaking!

I will fear no evil,
for You are with me;

Maybe you need to hear that promise?
God is with you.
God is with you.
God is with you.

(Say it over if you need to.)

Your rod and Your staff,
they comfort me.

A shepherd with a rod. See the image? It’s not violent.
I would trust Him.
The God of comfort is near.
Believe it? Embrace it?

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.

Then sometimes on the journey one needs to dine.
One needs to pause and just be.
Commune with God.
(Commune with the other saints.)
Stop rushing ahead…
Enjoy the moments. Savour them.

You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

A place of abundance?
A cup overflowing… what an image…
You’re not a ‘the glass is half empty or the glass is half full’ sort of guy…
Instead… there is overflowing. Soak in it. Celebrate.
Oh, how people have forgotten how to celebrate?

Surely Your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Then the ending is not really and ending…
The goodness and love of God follows you…
God’s house. (That’s His presence with you, wherever you may go.)

And I like the idea… that this was just one of many valleys.
Truthfully, there will be more.
After all, life is a journey – there will be more difficult times.
There will be more times of refreshing
There will be more times where you feel very close to God.
There will be more meals with Him. With others.
There will be more breathtaking views.
There will be more.

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Sacred Spaces 540 – To God be the Glory

On Wednesday night in church (a holy week service) we sang this well know hymn.
I was encouraged and inspired by the profound lyrics.
In a world of too many worship songs were the content becomes fluff and cheesy – perhaps it’s best to step back into old school and learn from there:

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Speaking of old school… I retyped each sentence… hoping that in writing down the words, God would stir something in me. Or even that the words would impress on my heart a little further.

(New school, would have been to copy and paste from another tab…
Not this time…)

To God be the glory, great things He hath done!
So loved He the world that He gave us His son.
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin
And opened the lifegate that all may go in.

The great thing God did for us was wipe our slate clean?
The sacrifice of His Son (His death) set us free.
Sin had to be atoned for? (Look at how law works in the world today. If it’s broken, it needs to be atoned for, right?)
So Jesus does that for us.
Perhaps things about that again this Easter.
I like the imagery of a lifegate.
Life is waiting on the other side. and who may go in? ALL

Oh perfect redemption, the purchase of blood
To every believer the promise of God.
The vilest offender who truly believes
That moment from Jesus a pardon receives.

Who ever is the vilest?
Grace reaches you too
The redemption we receive from Jesus is perfect.
We don’t need to earn it. But need to embrace it with an open heart.

Great things He hath taught us.
Great things He hath done
And great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son;
But purer and highers and great will be
Our wonder, our rapture, when Jesus we see.

Simply, God does great things.
Would we believe that for a change?
And celebrate that?
When will our wonder be greater and higher?
We become “unconvinced” or “uninspired” too easily!
What’s with that attitude we often bear?

So… how should we respond with these three stanzas?

Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord,
Let the earth rejoice
(Psalm 150 had something to say about that.)
Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord.
Let the people rejoice
(Psalm 40 speaks of that new song He put inside every one of us…)

Oh come to the Father thru Jesus the Son
And give Him the glory, great things He hath done.

There is your invitation. How will you respond?

Sacred Spaces 539 – The Journey (God of the eleventh hour)

You and I both have heard the saying: “life is a journey.”

Cliche? But true.
I came up with a term “journey theology”

We learn a lot about God in the journey.
God does a lot with is during the journey.

In a world, of fast results, we can be very impatient.
We want to skip the process and just have the results.

But we have to go through things:

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Like Frodo undertaking the quest to destroy the ring in the fires of Mount Doom.

On his journey he had companions who helped him. So do we.

Like the Israelites who wandered in the desert in for 40 years. (Geographically the journey didn’t have to take that long.)

A lot of character building happened for them. Some unlearning and some learning too.

Likewise with us. On the journey, a lot may occur.
We make have to let go of some destructive thoughts and beliefs.
We may have to take on a new attitude.
We may need to wrestle with stuff.

But the question is; looking at a calendar year. If the thing God wanted to show you / tell you was going to occur in Nov, being in March… would you go through all those months to get to November.

The answer should be (I’ll answer for you.) is YES!

There is another cliche saying: “God is a God of the eleventh hour.”
Meaning He arrives (answers) just at the right time.
But we need to keep living and moving until that happens.

Because I believe that throughout the journey He is preparing us for that 11th hour. For that answer.

And the best thing about “journey theology” is that once we look back… we see who pertinent the WHOLE journey was.

I was thinking back on 2017 and the gap year I ran with the Pneumatix students.
There are significant moments where a certain career visit, or time in Argentina, or lesson, or conversation or something… that OCCURS at exactly the time it was meant to.
In those moments it felt like God had planned it so.

Such as the scripture that we are familiar with:

Romans 8: 28 “And in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.”

And as I bring the gap year students of 2018 before God.
And as I present my current circumstances to God.

I trust Him.
I trust the process. God will do what God does with the whole journey.