Tag Archives: atonement

Leviticus 12-14, Psalm 111, Hebrews 5

If you were a fly on the wall of our home in the last several weeks, you would be sick of hearing the same things over and over again. You would wonder why there was a need for continued repetition. You would think, what is so hard to understand? If you were a fly on our wall and you have raised children, you would not be surprised. The repetition is daunting and wears a person down. We have been hitting hard on the rules and expectations of our home and the reasons for them. We explain that much like the reasons for the Ten Commandments, we are placing rules and expectations in our home to protect our family and help us live for the Lord each and every day. We discuss obedience and ow broken rules have consequences. But no matter how much we discuss them we still find the same conversation occurring at least once a day. I become easily frustrated because I feel like we are in the movie Groundhog’s Day!

Today I was thinking about my own sin and how I am constantly breaking the heart of my Father. Day after day I commit the same sins. I too must suffer the consequences and heartbreak that sin affords. If there was a fly on the wall of my heart it would be asking the same questions that I wonder about why my kids are so sinful.
I have read through portions of Leviticus many times but honestly, I get lost in the rules between neighbor’s broken fences and hurt animals and unclean women after childbirth. Hundreds of regulations and consequences that follow if broken. But even then, the Lord provided a way for atonement. He appointed priests to perform ceremonies that would make the sinner clean again. He provided a mediator between Himself and the people.
When I think about Jesus becoming that mediator, I am in awe. He was appointed by God. Chosen but willing.

4-6 No one elects himself to this honored position. He’s called to it by God, as Aaron was. Neither did Christ presume to set himself up as high priest, but was set apart by the One who said to him, “You’re my Son; today I celebrate you!” In another place God declares, “You’re a priest forever in the royal order of Melchizedek.” MSG

It is hard to comprehend the great love that God the Father has for us that he would send his only Son to be the atoning sacrifice for us. It is even harder for me to fathom the deep love that Jesus has for us that he would give up heaven and willingly come to Earth to take on our sin and shame as the Ultimate Passover Lamb. Jesus prayed for us and interceded for us in eternity past, while on earth and continues to do so to this day. What a difficult thing to understand.

7-10 While he lived on earth, anticipating death, Jesus cried out in pain and wept in sorrow as he offered up priestly prayers to God. Because he honored God, God answered him. Though he was God’s Son, he learned trusting-obedience by what he suffered, just as we do. Then, having arrived at the full stature of his maturity and having been announced by God as high priest in the order of Melchizedek, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who believingly obey him. MSG

Praise you, Lord. I will give thanks to you with my whole heart. Great are your works. You are full of splendor and majesty. Your righteousness endures forever. You sent redemption to your people and you keep your promises. Holy and awesome is your name. Jesus, you are our Eternal Salvation, the Hope of the the world! Amen.


Leave a comment

Filed under Hebrews, Leviticus, Psalms, Uncategorized

1 Samuel 11-13; Psalm 38; Acts 9

Be careful what you wish for.

The circumstances were grim. The people took matters into their own hands and demanded a king and now Samuel held them accountable.

But when you saw that Nahash, king of the Ammonites was moving against you, you said to me, ‘No, we want a king to rule over us’—even though the Lord your God was your king. Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for; see, the Lord has set a king over you. 1 Samuel 12:12-13.

The Israelites got who they asked for. A king, but this king was a mere man, not the Lord of the Universe. They and subsequent generations paid dearly for their choice.

What happens when there is a huge disparity between what I want from life and what reality brings? What happens when the circumstances look bleak and I can not see God?  Do I forget history and turn my back on the God who has brought me safe thus far?  Do I look for other means of salvation? Will I forgo trusting God and rely on a false illusion of control, fear and anxiety to save me?  Israel’s cautionary tale tells me to choose the Lord God as my king, my deliverer.

When my desires and deepest longings are open, festering wounds, who do I turn to? Do I forget history and turn my back on the God who has brought me safe thus far? King David, Saul’s successor leads the way to staying close to the heart of God,

All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you…O Lord, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God. Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior.  Psalm 38:9…21

Mysteriously, mercifully, God provided a king for his people through a long line of frail and fallen earthly kings. This time, the king was God himself in human form so that we might know him. Because of the death and resurrection of this King Jesus, we his followers, will never be forsaken nor separated from the love of God. We have a God who understands the depths of suffering and abandonment so that we don’t have to know that kind of pain. And if we do forget him, he will not forget us and is always waiting for us to return to him with open arms.

Lord, when circumstances seem to tell me that you are not in control and you will not save me, hold me close and help me trust and wait for you. Keep me from looking for salvation from anyone, anything other than you. It’s in the precious name of your Son that I ask this. Amen.


Leave a comment

Filed under 1 Samuel, Acts, Psalms

Deuteronomy 32-34; Psalm 13; Luke 13

I want clarity, control and power over the direction of my life.

I dislike being wrong; being right feels oh so good.

I want to live by formulas that I know work.

Jesus provides clarity; to live for him is to surrender any illusion of control and power. He asks me to adopt a whole new kind of math, a new form of life economics; “Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.” Luke 13:10He asks me to put my questions aside: “Who is good enough? Who gets it right?” In God’s kingdom the insignificant things of life take on a glorious life of their own. The tiny mustard seed takes root and becomes the sheltering tree.

When I cling to the old order and snub his grace, I hear his sorrow expressed, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you are not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'” Luke 13:34-35

Present day Jerusalem, the beleaguered city known for centuries of conflict and sorrow still waits for peace. When Jesus cried out in sorrow for Jerusalem did he know then that the city would remain broken and hurting today? Does God grow weary of being rejected? I believe God longs for Jerusalem’s restoration as well as my own.

Lord, this Holy Week show me how I reject you and your kingdom. Peel back and expose those the layers of my life that resist you. Forgive me for my hardness of heart and restore me to the life you have called me to. Thank you for your patient pursuing love and grace. Amen


Leave a comment

Filed under Deuteronomy, Luke, Psalms

Leviticus 12-14; Psalm 111: Hebrews 5

I have a young friend who has been earnestly looking for a job. She’s studied how to craft her resume so it gets reviewed, filled out endless applications and has been practicing interview skills. Along the way, she has heard the adages, “it all comes down to being at the right place at the right time” and “it’s all about who you know.” Although the job hunt has been frustrating, she hasn’t given up or been without hope because she knows there is some truth in the last saying. In the end it is about who she knows: her advocate, judge and high priest, Jesus. She trusts in him. He holds her future in his hands.

Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 5:8-10

The Levitical priest described in today’s passages examined and judged peoples’ lives and possessions and offered sacrifices for purification. He interceded on their behalf before God. Jesus actively does the same for us. When we come to him, he sees our hearts, offers us forgiveness and healing for our broken places. He embraces us and asks us to come and enjoy the company of our Father.

I am amazed that Jesus humbled himself to become human, like me so he could show me the way to the Father. Jesus, the perfect one, “learned obedience” in the minor as well as the major difficulties of life. He chose obedience every time— all the way to the Cross on my behalf. His eye is forever on me. Like my friend, he holds my past, present and future in his hands.


1 Comment

Filed under Hebrews, Leviticus, Psalms

Leviticus 4-7 & Hebrews 3

Sometimes it’s hard to read the old testament without yelling at the people. Have you ever done that? I find that I’m often frustrated to read how the Israelites wandered for 40 years because they just couldn’t trust the Lord and listen to him. But as much as I get frustrated with those disobedient Israelites, I have to stop for a minute and think about my wandering ways.

In Leviticus, the Lord gives his people a very clear requirement to follow for atoning their sins. Without the grace, there had to be a way to make atonement for their sins. And not just the sins they knowingly committed but ALL sins. Can you imagine having to butcher an animal and go through the very specific and intricate ceremony EVERY time you sinned?  And if you missed, skipped or messed up a step, back to the beginning it was. The ceremony not only had to be completed in a specific order but through a specific group of people (Moses’ family), and all of this to receive forgiveness of sins. I wonder how many people skipped this altogether.

Fast forward several hundred years and the writer of Hebrews points out that there is one greater than Moses. Moses only “testified to the things that were to be spoken later” but Christ came to make a better way and fulfill God’s ultimate plan. So here’s the ironic thing. I sit here and read the Old Testament yelling the Israelites who wandered in the desert even though they literally saw God’s power alive and active. For days and weeks and months the Lord provided for them. He brought them out of slavery, guided their path, gave them chance after chance and even provided for them a way to atone for their sins and get right with God and many STILL didn’t really believe in him. They were stubborn and rebellious. But guess what? So. Are. We.

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,     on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test     and saw my works for forty years. 10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;     they have not known my ways.’

 11 As I swore in my wrath,     ‘They shall not enter my rest.’”

Ugh. How often do I wander? Why can’t I learn from my mistakes and my rebellious heart and follow hard and fast after Jesus? How can I be successful in this day and age with the technology and media that surrounds me 24/7? But once again, the word speaks loud and clear and gives me a way to combat this in the verses that follow. The message version clears up nicely how to avoid wandering:

12-14 So watch your step, friends. Make sure there’s no evil unbelief lying around that will trip you up and throw you off course, diverting you from the living God. For as long as it’s still God’s Today, keep each other on your toes so sin doesn’t slow down your reflexes. If we can only keep our grip on the sure thing we started out with, we’re in this with Christ for the long haul.

I am so thankful for these incredible words written by the hands of men through the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit. What would we do without them? Not only does the living word of God point out where we go wrong but it immediately tells us how to correct and then stay on course. We are warned to always be searching our own hearts but also to help our Christian friends. Oh how quickly I forget that iron sharpens iron and the best way to stay on track in this crazy world is to have the Word of God in one hand and a handful of friends in other. Friends willing to sharpen me and keep me keep me on my toes.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Ezekiel 24-26; James 3

“…But no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil full of deadly poison.” James 3:8

Ouch. I know this to be true. One minute positive words come out of this mouth, the next minute a complaint, criticism or a curse. My very words condemn me. I commiserate with Isaiah when he cries, “Woe to me! I am ruined for I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” Isaiah 6:5.  Between God and me, I am the only one surprised by the inclinations of my heart. Thanks to Jesus, my guilt is erased and I am  restored. I think of the line of the song, “fall down six times, get up seven.”

Friends of mine just went to a marketing seminar where they were advised to tap into the human desire to think of oneself as superior. That couldn’t be farther from James’s advice to embrace humility and provide no safe harbor for “bitter envy and selfish ambition” within my heart. These are words to dwell on before I take my seat at the Thanksgiving table with parents, siblings, in-laws and outlaws. It’s amazing how quickly adults can revert to old childish ways when back in the family fold.

So along with preparing the traditional dishes, this upcoming week, I’ll focus on cultivating a heart of gratitude as well as commit these words of James to memory:

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. James 3:17-18.

When I fall short, I’ll quickly breathe that prayer of repentance:

Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen


1 Comment

Filed under Ezekiel, James

Isaiah 19-21; Ephesians 2

Hi… I’m a work in progress… who are you?

As part of my work with guys in men’s group, I’ve recently conducted an informal survey, of sorts, to hear the response when asking the question “… can you tell me about yourself?” Given the chance to provide anything at all about who they were as an individual, almost immediately, without hesitation, the response usually started with their job first, followed by their education, and/or their accomplishments. These men seem confident in what they do, but their response seemed to lack who they were. And this response isn’t reserved for men only… women, too, seem to identify themselves closely with “the title”… there was rarely hesitation in their responses… what they did, defined who they were… Was this really the goal? A job or degree??

The secular world has done a great job at conditioning us from when we were very young to begin the process of building our personal resume. In my opinion, there seems to be more of a pride issue going on when it comes to building that resume… after all, isn’t that what impresses others and helps to get jobs? How long and comprehensive our resume is? As adults, we get caught up in this push for the top, but, sadly, many of us are raising our children to do the same. Specifically, we want our children to go to the best schools, earn the highest grades and assessment scores, they are usually expected to excel in a sport or other trophy- or ribbon-granting activity to display for the world to see. And then after school, we typically encourage them to follow a great career path that will have great monetary consequences. This will, in turn, allow them to purchase material things that help them to identify themselves as successful… or will it? Is this really who our children are? What they’ve become?

Don’t get me wrong… there isn’t anything wrong with accomplishments based on education, career, sports, etc., but when we begin to believe the lies surrounding what we do, this can lead to an unfulfilled life of dissatisfaction at the deepest level regarding our true identify. Ultimately, this leads to a life of ongoing searching for significance. And usually, when there’s a distortion of something that, on the surface, isn’t bad, the enemy is usually close by. Satan and his demons use worldly things and our flesh against us… to draw us away from God’s purpose for our lives… to convince us that we have significance by way of our performance and the things that others say about us… having us believe that we need to meet some outside standard or level of expectation in order to feel worthy about ourselves… completely contradictory to God’s plan about who we are as individuals…

God’s word speaks to who we are in His eyes… that “…you are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus…” (Ephesians 2:10). In this one verse, God reveals His beautiful plan for our lives. The verse doesn’t say you will become God’s workmanship once you achieve some promotion or get another degree, Paul’s words are speaking fact here… reality… you are God’s workmanship… a truth to be sought after and believed. But what does it mean to be “God’s workmanship”? When I hear these words I immediately think of an artisan… someone who can see beauty in something raw and unfinished. Just as an artisan creates beauty out of raw material, God’s ability to see beauty in us amazes me… that He continuously “chips away” to unfold unrecognized beauty in all of us!

As humans, as Christ followers, we belong to the King of kings. Our destiny, our eternal home has already been prepared for us. It is guaranteed not by what we do or what we become, but by who we are in the eyes of our Father. As we believe in who we are and allow the Holy Spirit to move through us and with us, we unknowingly fulfill our earthly purpose in His power, not our own. So, if you’re ever asked who you are, perhaps the best response is that we are a work in progress, with the goal of being something beautiful and magnificent in the eyes of our Father!

Greg (gstefanelli)

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized