Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – August 24, 2016

A Mystery: What Happened to the Ark?

FOCUS VERSES

2 Kings 24:12 In the eighth year of the reign of the king of Babylon, he took Jehoiachin prisoner. 13 As the Lord had declared, Nebuchadnezzar removed the treasures from the temple of the Lord and from the royal palace, and cut up the gold articles that Solomon king of Israel had made for the temple of the Lord

Some mysteries of the Bible intrigue believers and non-believers alike’! The mysterious Nephilim of Genesis 6, the Tower of Babel or the séance of Saul… but none has had more staying power than the quest for The Ark of the Covenant.  (Ask Indiana Jones!!) The Ark was the centerpiece of the Tabernacle.  Designed by God and built according to the blueprint given to Moses.

Meaning: This Holy piece of furniture included a box that originally contained the Ten Commandment tablets (written by the finger of God), a jar of manna and Aaron’s staff that budded.    Nothing more ‘holy’ existed in Jewish life.  On top of the box was a lid of gold. Atop this lid were two cherubim (angels).  Between these two angels is the place where the Glory of God dwelt.  It was called the Mercy Seat.  One time a year, on the holiday known as the Day of Atonement, the High Priest ark of the covenantwould stand before the Ark and sprinkle the blood of the Scapegoat on the Mercy Seat, ’covering’ the sins of Israel.

As you look at the photo (a replica of Ark), understand how ‘holy’ and powerful this relic was.  It represented the Presence of God with His people.  Anyone who touched the Ark could die. Even Israel’s enemies were aware of the power and meaning of the Ark.

Journey: The ‘journey’ of the Ark of the Covenant began in the Wilderness with Moses and into the Promised Land with Joshua.  David brought the Ark in Jerusalem, dancing before it all the way.  Solomon ultimately moved it from the Tent of Meeting to it’s place it in the Temple.  It resided in the Temple, behind the curtain in the Holy of Holies, for over 300 years.  And here, the mystery deepens!

What Happened to the Ark:  The last mention of the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament is during the reign of King Josiah of Judah.  Josiah was a Godly king–  and the last King of Judah to lead the people to worship Jehovah God. Josiah reestablished the importance of the Temple and worship.  In 2 Chronicles 35:3, King Josiah commands the priest to follow the correct ways in taking care of the Ark.  This is the last time we hear about the Ark in the chronology of the Old Testament.  Twelve years later, Babylonian armies would destroy this Temple and either cart off or repurpose it’s furnishings.

So, what happened to the Ark? In truth,  we don’t know! There is no mention of it ‘going’ to Babylon or ‘coming back’ during the return!

It is highly unlikely that the priests of the Temple just sat around and allowed the Ark of the Covenant to be captured or destroyed by a pagan army of the despised Nebuchadnezzer.  So where is it??

One theory (mentioned in the apocryphal book of 2 Maccabees), is that the Prophet Jeremiah, in order to save the Ark, took it south to the desert and hid and sealed it in a cave on Mt. Nebo. (Moses was buried on Mt. Nebo).

A second possibility is the claim of the St. Mary of Zion Church in Axum, Ethiopia.  For centuries the people of Axum have claimed that the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Ethiopia, kept safeSt Mary of Zion Church and is now housed in the edifice you see to the right.  Before you laugh… remember Solomon and the Queen of Sheba?  Tradition suggests that they had a son, who returned to what is now Ethiopia.  When the destruction of the Temple seemed eminent, the Ark was secreted out of Jerusalem and to Solomon’s people in Africa  — where it resides unseen to this day!

A third possibility… one strongly believed in Israel today… Is that the Ark is in a tunnel dug under the current Temple Mount.  When the ‘next’ Temple is built someday in Jerusalem, they will bring out the Ark and restore the worship and sacrifices of Solomon’s Temple.

Does it really matter.  Well, from a New Testament standpoint, no!  (As a Christian, YOU are the Temple and God’s Glory now resides IN us.)  On the other hand, who knows what God is going to do in these Last Days.  Certainly, at some point in the days ahead, the Jews will build a Temple in Jerusalem.  Nothing would raise Jewish fervor more than for the Ark to be ‘discovered’ and a place needed to house it.  Whatever God’s plan is… keep your eyes on events in Israel.  It is God’s timepiece, last day focus… and the key to the return of Jesus!

 

 

 

Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – August 23, 2016

Can we Coexist without Compromise?

John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?

coexist1You have probably seen the popular, stylized bumper sticker with the word ‘COEXIST’ using the religious symbols of 7 world ‘religions’ or ‘philosophies’.  (For meanings of letters, see the yellow box below!)coexist

So, as those who display this saying often say ‘Can’t we all just get along?’ Well, Yes and No!

If one means by ‘get along’ the idea that we all live in the same cities and respect the classic tradition of American life that each citizen can worship the god he chooses, then the answer is YES!

If, however, ones means by ‘get along’ that we all admit that every god or philosophy is equal… or they are all the same… then the answer is a resounding NO!  Jesus does not give Christians the option of worshipping or recognizing any Messiah or Savior or ‘way to Heaven’ other than Himself!!  In John 14, Jesus declares his exclusivity!  He (Jesus) is the only way, the only truth and the only life!  NO ONE gets into Heaven except through Jesus!  Christians cannot recognize the Lordship of Jesus AND Allah, or Shiva or Gaia or man.  That… would not be permissible.  It’s Jesus ONLY as the Son of God!  Which is why many today ‘despise’ Christianity.  It will not/ can not conform just to ‘get along’.  Millions have given their lives through the ages for just this reason.  We must be prepared to do the same!

 

Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – August 22, 2016

Romans Road: A Model for Leading People to ’Jesus’

FOCUS VERSES

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us

Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;

Those who have run for public office (as I have many times) understand it! Those who are in sales understand it!  Teachers get it!  How about you??  Do you have a model… a spiel.. a planned presentation in order to communicate the ‘truth’ you want someone to know.  If you don’t… as a Believer in Jesus… you are failing your ‘Commission’!

Politicians will give the same speech many times in many places.  To be effective, they memorize standard ‘points’— often called a stump speech, so they can deliver the speech with authority and passion.  Sales personnel know their product inside and out, are prepared for the normal questions and can even guide the discussion to get the sale!  Teachers not only know their material, they develop ‘lesson plans— some times with charts and diagrams— so that their students will make the grade.  Now.. What are you doing to learn how to share the gospel of Jesus?  If you answer ‘nothing’ or ‘very little’, you flunk the test.  And you disappoint the heart of our Savior!

Above are 4 simple verses from the book of Romans.  Often called Romans Road’ it is a simple way to explain the Gospel and lead someone to salvation. MEMORIZE  THEM! Let’s look at the 4 points:

  1. Everyone has sinned! (Rom. 3:23)

Most people will admit they have sinned or fallen short.

  1. Sin earns us death! (Rom. 6:23)

We are all going to die… the Bible says ‘our sin’ is the reason.

  1. God shows His love by sending Jesus! (Rom. 5:8)

This is what the Cross is all about.  Someone loved me and paid the price for my sin by dying in my place.

  1. To be saved, simply confess Jesus as Lord’! (Rom. 10:9)

If a person will ‘believe’ in and follow Christ, they are forgiven!

 

Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – August 19, 2016

The ‘Oneness’ of Marriage

FOCUS VERSES

Ephesians 5:31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.

Matthew 19:4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

God the Creator had almost finished the sixth day of Creation.  Every star in place, the sun strategically positioned to give light and life to Planet Earth, the seas filled with fish, the sky with birds, incredible creatures roaming the land— and the first man Adam, as caretaker over all.  God surveys his work and says ‘It is NOT good’!   It is NOT good for man to live alone.”  (Genesis 2:18) And so, our Lord and Father fashioned the woman, Eve.  God himself officiates at their wedding with all Heaven as witness.  He pronounces them ‘husband and wife’.  They kiss… and God smiles.  “It is VERY good.” Marriage graphic

No aspect of human relationship is more important than marriage.  It was God’s first ‘gift’ to humanity.  It is the deepest of all human relationships.  Marriage is the ‘fount’ from which all other life is to come… as a man leaves his ‘father and mother’, is joined to his wife, and then they begin to have children.  Marriage is specifically and exclusively between a man and a woman.

A good marriage is the most satisfying relationship a human being can have.  It is God’s plan to complete and fulfill men and women.  If you are married, and you understand the ‘oneness’ aspect of that covenant relationship, you are blessed!!  If you don’t understand the beautiful and Biblical design for marriage, maybe this devotion can help.

To help us understand the ‘oneness’ aspect of God’s marriage plan, examine the chart on the opposite page.  The three connecting circles represent ‘us’— man and woman— as made in God’s image.  As 1 Thessalonians 5:23 tells us, we have three ‘component’ in our humanity.  We are a ‘body’ (the physical part of us through which we relate to the world around us), a ‘soul’ (the social part of us through which we relate to other people) and we are a ‘spirit’ (the part of us through which we relate to God).  Just as God has three components (Father, the Son and the Spirit) and yet is ‘one God’, we have these three components (body, soul and spirit) and yet are one individual, one person.

God’s design for marriage is for a male and female to become ONE.   But for a married couple to truly be one, they have to ‘relate’ on all three levels of their being.  In other words, the couple has to become ‘one’ in body, soul and spirit to reach God’s purpose and ultimate pleasure for marriage.  Again, notice to chart on the opposite page.

The arrows between the husband and wife are the ways in which we become one in marriage.  For example, as everyone understands, the way we become physically ‘one’ in marriage is through the God-designed experience known as sex (fill in the blanks in the diagram if you want).  Human beings can have sex outside of marriage, but only in the marriage covenant is it sanctioned and blessed by God.  When we understand that sex is a ‘gift’ and not a ‘right’… when we see sex as a way God has given us to fulfill His design, it becomes a holy act.

The middle arrow is the ‘oneness’ of soul between a husband and wife.  That we can call ‘friendship’ (again, fill in the blanks if you wish).  When a husband and wife understand that God’s plan is for them to become friends— to enjoy each others’ company, to value one another, to respect the unique gifts each one brings to the marriage, well… you get along better and the marriage will truly be a partnership.

The bottom arrow is the most important.  IF both husband and wife are ‘born again’ Christians, then they can enjoy the deepest, most intimate level, which is ‘fellowship’.  Fellowship is the opening up of the most vulnerable part of us— our spirits.  We can pray together, worship, study God’s Word, have common goals and values.  The ‘spirit to spirit’  relationship is the ’eternal relationship.  Deeper than husband/wife is brother/sister in Christ.   If a couple can practice ’oneness’ on all three levels, they will have a strong, blessed and happy marriage.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – August 18, 2016

The Antichrist: What We Know, What We Think…

FOCUS VERSES:

Daniel 12:12 “…There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then…11 “From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days.

Matthew 24:15 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains

2 Thessalonians 2:3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed..  4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

How much do we know about this one called the Antichrist.  Well, some bits and ’pieces’!   The key of course, is how the pieces all come together.  And that, we may not know until it begins to unfold.

We do know that Daniel lays the initial foundation concerning this ‘man of Lawlessness’.  Jesus verifies Daniel’s prophecy in Matthew 24 when He quotes Daniel 12:11.  Paul adds to the understanding in 2 Thessalonians 2, speaking about the time when this Antichrist’ will ‘set himself up in God’s Temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

In today’s devotion, lets just pick up some of the Biblical ‘pieces’— and offer a few suggestions as to how the pieces will fit together!

When he rises, the focus (hatred) of the Antichrist will be against the nation of Israel.  Daniel and Jesus call him an ‘abomination that cause desolation’.  Scripture suggest that a new (third) Jewish Temple will be erected in Jerusalem, since he will ‘stop the daily sacrifices’.  He will use the Temple as the platform from which to declare that he (the Antichrist) is god and must be worshiped. His maniacal desire for power and worship will bring the whole world under his control.  He will control the world’s currency (no one can buy or sell)  as well as establishing his own debit card (the mark of the Beast).  For three and one half years (time, times and half a time) this Antichrist will rule.  His wickedness will exceed all other tyrants.  Most likely, the church will be long gone, raptured to Heaven.  But for Israel and those remaining, hell on earth has arrived— in the form of Antichrist!

 

 

Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – August 17, 2016

Daniel’s Lion Den

FOCUS VERSES:  Daniel 6

 16 So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!” … 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.  19 At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 20 When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” 21 Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”

Daniel was an amazing man.  Not only was he held in very high esteem by 4 different Babylonian rulers, he was also held as one of the most righteous men to ever live— by none other than God Himself.  The ’depths’ of revelation Daniel received indicate just how valued he was in the eyes of Jehovah God.  His faith, courage and purity opened the heart of God to Daniel.  Our faith, courage and purity will do the same.

Daniel’s commitment to ’prayer’ and his courage to be ’unashamed’ landed him in the ‘lion’s den’.  A desperate situation, no doubt— but hardly his first.  Remember some other ‘tests of faith’ in Daniel’s life.  In Daniel 1, he refused to eat the ‘pagan’ and defiled food.  Throughout the chapters of the book of Daniel, we read about Daniel risking his life to interpret the king’s dreams.  He, along with three of his friends, refused to bow to the ’idol’ of Babylon.  You see, Daniel’s faith had already been tested many time.  Each time Jehovah God had come through— and Daniel’s faith grew stronger.  The ‘lion’s den’ was just one more test of his ever increasing faith.

You have had many similar testings in your life.  Maybe your faith won the day… maybe you faltered.  Regardless, it is those testings that make us stronger.  Each one of Daniel’s dilemmas was preparation for the next.  We should see each trial that we face as an opportunity to live by faith… to grow in courage… and to trust a little more in the Lord who loves us so.  Our spiritual battles also open up the heart of God to give us revelation into our lives. So, bring on the lions.

 

 

Journey – Devotions With a Purpose – August 16, 2016

The Destruction of the Temple

FOCUS VERSE

 Jeremiah 52: 12 On the tenth day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, who served the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. 13 He set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. 14 The whole Babylonian army, under the commander of the imperial guard, broke down all the walls around Jerusalem.

It was all over!  Approximately 350 years ago, a unique, tremendous, amazing day had occurred in Israel.  Solomon, David’s son (now King of Israel) had built the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem.  At the Dedication Service, while the bands played, sacrifices were made and the citizens of Jerusalem shouted as an unheard of event took place: God’s Shekinah (visible) Glory came down from Heaven and filled the entire building.  The Glory was so intense and palpable that the priests could not even go in to the Temple.  It was a day unlike any other— the Lord of Heaven attending, abiding and putting his ‘seal of approval’ on his people Israel and their new Temple on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem.  The entire assembly fell on their face, worshipped the Lord and gave thanks say “He is good; His love endures forever.” (You can read about this incredible event in 2 Chronicles 7).

temple 1

And now this!!  As often happens (even in God’s people today) over the years, the people lost sight of the Glory of God and instead began to focus on the buildings. The ’ceremony’ of religion took precedence  over the personal worship and purity God desired from his people.  God will not be mocked… nor will he allow any ‘thing’ to become a replacement for worshipping Him.  Even a Temple.

Jeremiah, most likely an eyewitness of these events, records the destruction of the Temple in Jeremiah 52.  On the 10th day of the fifth month in the year 586BC, the armies of Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Temple of Solomon.  They set fire (vs. 13) to the huge dry timbers— the cedar beams from Lebanon— that supported roof and walls.  The ancient curtain between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, almost 90 feet tall— torched!!  As the fire turned the Temple into a blast furnace, the gold that adorned many of the pillars and roof supports melted, running into the cracks of the stones.  In short order, the soldiers began turning over each stone of the Temple structure to retrieve the gold as plunder.  Before long, not one stone was left standing upon another. The massive bronze pillars standing on either side of the front door were broken into pieces to be carried back to Babylon— as well as the Bronze Sea that stood in the Courtyard of the Temple.   The destruction was utter… complete.

Temple

Much of the ’furniture’ inside the Temple was carted off to Babylon.  Twelve bronze bulls made by Solomon that supported the Bronze Sea, pots, wick trimmer, the Seven pronged candlestick holder (the Menorah), the Altar of Incense, and most of the Holy Furniture made for the Temple worship— now on carts loaded for the 600 mile trip back to Babylon.  (Interestingly, there is no mention of what happened to the Ark of the Covenant— more on that later)

How could it have come to this?? The answer, really, is pretty simple:  sin!! God’s kids (Judah) rejected God’s ways.  God’s kids trusted more in Lord’s Temple than they did in the Lord of the Temple. Warning after warning was ignore.  And now… the Temple was destroyed and they were going into captivity in a foreign land.

Is this not the same attitude that many of us in the church— especially here in America— have today?  We have as our motto:  In God We Trust.  God wouldn’t let anything such as what happen to Judah that happen to us, would He???  I believe the answer is a resounding YES HE WOULD!!

Temple2

We are told over and over again is Scripture to place our trust ‘in the Lord’.  Not in our military might and weaponry… not in our building or our technology or our politicians or even our history.  We must place our hope, confidence and trust in the Lord who hears from Heaven and will heal our land.  As we look around our land, do we see citizens and churches that are walking in obedience to God’s laws… or have we, like the citizens of Judah presumptuously assumed that God has to protect us.  The Glory of the Holy City of Jerusalem was now is ashes.  I pray that the same fate would never befall the cities of America.  There is no mistaking this reality, however:  God will reject the nation that rejects Him.  Be a part of inspiring our people to return to the Lord.