Bare Feet

“Do not come any closer,” the Lord warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5)

Beaches are beautiful meeting places. The best way to enjoy the beach is to experience it. Postcards, while picturesque, don’t offer a scratch ‘n sniff option. The air is different, the noises are different at the beach. To truly experience the beach, your feet need to be bare. This allows you to feel the heat from the sand as your toes sink in. As the curves of your feet come in contact with the sand grains, they sink in deeply. Some of the gritty sand sticks to us even as we walk away from the shore. The evidence of where we’ve been lingers.

Bare feet were part of the high priest’s attire for temple service. Going into the sanctuary to serve and worship God was a holy meeting. The high priest met with God in the sanctuary. In addition to the reverence and humility required for this role, with his feet bare, the high priest was able to have an intimate experience with God.

With his feet bare, the high priest had nothing between him and God. He was all in, able to immerse himself fully in the presence of God.

While many of the sanctuary customs have changed since the death of Jesus, God’s love for us has remained steadfast. He continues to love us with the same intensity and desires an intimacy with us. He wants us to immerse ourselves fully in our worship to Him. He doesn’t want there to be any obstacle between our hearts and His indescribable love.

As we spend time in worship with God, our lives will be the evidence of our time together. There will be something different about our characters, our behavior, our words, our service that will linger long after we’ve left His presence.

 

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This article is part of the Ten Days of Prayer 2018 series. Visit that page to find all the other articles in this series.

Where to Pray

There was something off about the cupbearer, something out of the ordinary. Sensing that Nehemiah wasn’t fine, the king asked him what was wrong.

Nehemiah explained what was happening back in his homeland of Jerusalem and the deterioration of its surrounding wall. Then the king took the conversation one step further. He asked how he could help Nehemiah with this situation.

This was the moment for Nehemiah to win big. The king, someone of influence and wealth, had offered to help. But Nehemiah didn’t respond immediately.

Instead, he prayed. While standing directly in front of the king, Nehemiah first addressed the King of kings before responding.

It’s not surprising that Nehemiah prayed before sharing his requests with the king. He had been praying, fasting and grieving over Jerusalem for about four months prior to this moment. He knew that another prayer would only be helpful.

This story shows us that we, too, can pray at any time and in any place. Nehemiah’s prayer before the king did not go unheard because he wasn’t in his private room. God didn’t ignore him because he wasn’t lying prostrate with his head bowed low.

Nehemiah’s request was a large one. He asked for a leave of absence from his work, to go back home and help with the rebuild. He also requested that the king send letters of recommendation allowing safe travels and supplies from surrounding kingdoms. The king granted his requests.

There will be times when news pierces our hearts. Before responding, before reacting, let’s try Nehemiah’s approach: prayer. God will show us the right time and the right way to respond to hard situations when we give Him the opportunity to lead us.

Holiness Unto the Lord

You must be holy because I, the Lord, am holy. I have set you apart from all other people to be my very own. (Leviticus 20:26)

Job postings list the requirements that potential applicants should have. Employers expect their future employees to already be qualified when applying. They will not help you to reach where they think you should already be.

God operates on a different standard. While He calls us to be holy, He does not expect us to do this on our own. He makes us holy.

When we choose to let God live in our hearts and determine to trust and obey Him, He is able to transform our lives as He desires. He’s able to clean us and cover us with His holiness.

“If men in any line of work ought to improve their opportunities to become wise and efficient, it is those who are using their ability in the work of building up the kingdom of God in our world.”

We are not called to holiness just as a state of being. One reason why we need to be holy is that holiness is part of the equipping and training necessary in order to serve God. In order to show a more accurate view of God’s character, we must also include holiness as one of His many attributes.

 

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This article is part of the Ten Days of Prayer 2018 series. Visit that page to find all the other articles in this series.

Hanging With Lions

We focused on Daniel as our notable person of prayer this past week. In studying his story, it is clear that Daniel was dedicated to serving God and making Him known. To accomplish this goal, Daniel developed a private prayer routine. He habitually prayed at set times each day. One place he liked to pray was at home, kneeling by his open window.

One of the highlights of Daniel’s life is when the king issued the decree that for thirty days, people could only pray to the king and nothing or no one else. Anyone who broke this law would be executed.

If a similar decree was issued today, we might not worry too much. We could easily continue to pray to God without being caught. We would simply change our prayer routines to fit into the restrictions around us in efforts to stay alive.

Yet, Daniel, upon hearing this new law, went straight home and proceeded to assume his customary prayer position. It sounds like an act of rebellion.

Maintaining a consistent connection with God keeps our hearts and minds focused on Him.We’re able to hear God better. He gives us clarity to discern between what is a personal attack and an attack on God. Daniel recognized this decree to be an attack on God and trusted God to fight this battle.

Daniel couldn’t hide to pray that day. His accusers would have presumed that in the face of adversity, Daniel’s faith in God could be shaken. That God’s power is diminished in the face of man-made laws and decrees. No longer would the kingdom think to call on Daniel and his God whenever the next dilemma arose.

Daniel wasn’t being rebellious that day. More than his own life, He valued God’s honor. Daniel needed his accusers to know that God is worth standing up for. Daniel was not willing to forsake God to save himself. He understood that the Promise-Keeping God he served would continue to guard him and guide him until the end.

We, too, can have a holy boldness. The same God who directed Daniel and answered his prayers is the same God that hears and answers us today. We have seen God’s character attacked and challenged, both in obvious and subtle ways, particularly in 2017. Beyond our human fear is the faithful God who knowingly tells us not to fear because He’s in charge.

Spoiler alert: God saved Daniel that day. Daniel went to the lion’s den that night but ended up hanging out as the lions stayed hungry. Daniel didn’t even get hurt from when he was thrown into this pit. We know the lions were ravenous because the Bible tells us how the lions destroyed the bodies of Daniel’s accusers and their families before they even touched the floor of this pit.

God has ways of caring for us, especially when we choose to serve Him. We have to be willing to trust Him, one moment at a time. God is faithful!

Pastor’s Appreciation

The idea of a formal Clergy Appreciation began in the early 1990s. Using 1 Timothy 5:17 as a foundation, it soon became a widely-recognized holiday, also referred to as Pastor’s Appreciation. Churches and congregations are encouraged to do what the Bible says, to respect those who work hard in the church.

During our November 11 worship service, our head elder formally recognized and publicly thanked Pastor Josué and his family for his work at Henderson Highway Church. In addition to prayer, they were gifted with family memberships for Assiniboine Park Zoo and the Manitoba Museum.

The congregation was invited to participate as well, over the next 30 days. Volunteers selected a date ranging from November 13 through to December 12. The back of the card read:

“Thank you for praying for Pastor Josué and his family today. Do something kind for him today.”

An air of excitement ran through the church as we started to brainstorm acts of kindness. Some are planning fun surprises, some are planning fun pranks. What a blessing to have a Pastor with a sense of humour!

Though we’ve dedicated ourselves to intentionally loving the Sánchez family for the next month, our church will also be gifted. As we spend time in prayer for our Pastor, we will also be impacted, as God answers these prayers.

The Anointing Oil

How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! For harmony is as precious as the anointing oil that was poured over Aaron’s head, that ran down his beard and onto the border of his robe. (Psalm 133:1,2)

The first aspect of the garment that we’re studying isn’t actually an article of clothing. It’s not an easy process to put on and take off oil. After studying the necessity of this particular piece, I can appreciate why the ten days began with this.

The oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit. A more common practice for anointing today has been to dab a touch of oil on a person’s forehead. The way described in the Bible suggests that a good amount of oil is actually poured over the high priest’s head. Enough that it was dripping down his entire face, into his beard, and onto his clothing.

I appreciate the word picture here because it shows that we need much of the Holy Spirit. We don’t have to settle for only being dabbed with a bit of God’s Spirit. We need to be fully covered with His Spirit.

“There must be an interchange of taking in and giving out, receiving and imparting. This links us up as laborers together with God. This is the lifework of the Christian. He that will lose his life shall find it.”

We need to be immersed in God’s Spirit in order to be effective in God’s work. In addition to sharing the gospel message of hope and salvation with others, we need to be united in the work. God wants us to work together.

Yes, we each have differences. God creates us to be unique individuals. The enemy distracts us from God’s work by highlighting and magnifying our differences. However, it’s those very same differences that enable us to approach gospel-sharing from unique perspectives to reach more people.

The Holy Spirit reminds us to stay focused on the bigger picture—the Kingdom of God. He’ll help us to work with our differences and fit them together like a mosaic masterpiece to glorify God.

 

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This article is part of the Ten Days of Prayer 2018 series. Visit that page to find all the other articles in this series.

Ten Days of Prayer 2018

The theme for the 2018 ten days of prayer is “A Prayer Experience With Our High Priest”. From January 10-19, we’ll be exploring the garments of the Old Testament High Priest.

Whenever God gives directions to His people, it is deliberate and intentional. The same details apply to the dress code for the high priests. This clothing has a deeper significance than just looking set apart. Each aspect of the garment reminds us of God’s love and the purposes He desired for His high priests and still desires for each of us.

In previous years, we’ve met at the church for the ten days each January to pray together. This year, we’re trying a different format, in hopes of spreading the effect of the event. Instead of meeting at the church, we’re encouraging our church family to gather together with their families or in a small group setting for the ten days. They can study at a more suitable time and location for their needs. We look forward to hearing the positive feedback from this week.

Listed below are highlights from each of the ten days. Perhaps these same points may have impacted you. What have you learned during these ten days?

These daily highlights are saved on our site. If you’re unable to participate during January, you’re welcome to revisit them at any time and use the information later.

Day 1: The Anointing Oil
Day 2: Holiness Unto the Lord
Day 3: Bare Feet
Day 4: The Robe
Day 5: The Ephod
Day 6: The Girdle
Day 7: The Breastplate
Day 8: Urim and Thummim
Day 9: The Censer
Day 10: The Bells and Pomegranates

Guard Your Heart

There may be times when we settle into a spiritual comfort zone. We figure out a routine with God, how to serve Him and follow what He says. As a result of our obedience and faithfulness to God, He blesses us.

Our prayers change. Not only do we pray for ourselves, but we willingly pray for those around us. We want them to share an intimacy with God, similar to our own. We also desire good things for our enemies. When we are connected with God, we no longer pray about those who persecute us. We pray for them. We pray that they will be liberated as they surrender their hearts to God. We want our enemies to experience the joy of His love and His grace. We’re fueled by the answers to our prayers.

We saw this trend with Hezekiah. He trusted God and led the kingdom of Judah well because of his faithfulness to God. When Hezekiah prayed, it wasn’t to enlarge the territory of his realm or increase his riches. He asked God to rescue the nation from the promised attacks of their enemies. Hezekiah realized that the words from the enemy were attacking God and His character more than they were aimed at Hezekiah. He asked God to intervene, to let it be known that He is the only, true God. God answered those prayers.

When Hezekiah lay on his deathbed, he again turned to God, as was his custom, and asked Him to intervene once again. And God answered another prayer by extending Hezekiah’s life another fifteen years. In the excitement of his recovery, Hezekiah drifted from the diligence and humility he once knew.

When foreign visitors came to share their well-wishes and to gift Hezekiah, this was an opportune moment to testify of God’s goodness and healing power. As these visitors were not believers, this was potential for a teaching moment. Instead, Hezekiah used the chance to show off his stuff. He paraded them through his entire palace, including the royal treasuries. There was a consequence for this decision, that was felt by later generations.

There will be times when we feel strong, spiritually. And there will be times when we will fall to temptation, even undetected. We have to work to guard our spiritual connection with God. Humility isn’t a one and done event. Experiencing a period of humility will not sustain us for a lifetime. We have to choose, moment by moment, how to respond in each situation. Our faithfulness to God cannot last without our hearts being dedicated to serving Him at all times.

When We Drift

Living the high life as royalty, complete with answered prayers, world-renown fame and riches galore, Solomon drifted from God.

When presented with the option to pray for whatever he wanted, Solomon humbled himself. Rather than seeking to satisfy the human desire for material things, he chose to ask for wisdom. As newly established king of Israel, he did not know it all. In order to rule God’s people effectively, Solomon needed God’s type of wisdom.

Pleased with this request, God answered Solomon’s prayer for wisdom and gifted him with bonus blessings. He promised Solomon an unmatched level of wisdom that no one before ever had and no one after will ever have. He was then given riches and fame. God also promised him long life if he continued to walk in obedience.

Yet, even with all the wisdom and understanding in the world, we cannot stop praying to God when things are going well. We have to be diligent in maintaining our relationship with God. We need to make Him our main priority in all things.

It doesn’t take much for us to drift. But if we don’t quickly reroute when we start drifting, we’ll soon find ourselves in an unplanned and unrecognizable destination.

There is still hope in this story. Though Solomon drifted away from God, God never drifted away from him. Solomon was never stripped of his God-given blessings and gifts. His disobedience did have consequences for him in his later years as well as the generations that followed him, but God never stopped loving Him.

We drift. It doesn’t take much, just a tiny nudge off the path and we’re slowly veering in a slightly different direction. We can be encouraged by Solomon’s experience.

God is there. He’s not eagerly watching, hoping for us to mess up so that He can strip us of our blessings. Rather He’s anticipating our call, for us to realize that we need Him.

And God lovingly answers our calls too.

No Self-Discounts

David. A notable person of prayer?

The idea sounds like an oxymoron. Yet, the more we think about it, we can understand how this is possible.

What often comes to mind when we hear the name “David” are the more colorful details of his past. A puny boy ignored by his father, yet hand-picked by God. A shepherd who kills wild animals bare-handed. Goliath & the stone. Escaping from multiple murder attempts by Saul. Nabal. Bathsheba. Absalom…

One who repented.

This is the reason why David was able to commune with God the way he did. David understood his status as a forgiven child of God and knew that the grace and mercy of God, though unbalanced to humans, was fair.

Our pasts are littered with their own collection of colorful moments. The enemy loves to highlight our ugly at the most inconvenient moments. This causes us to forget that the God who thoroughly forgave David also forgives us thoroughly as well.

When we feel unworthy, we sometimes feel that we cannot ask God for too much. We pray as though His grace is pre-packaged according to what we’ve earned throughout our lives. We pray for what we believe are the ‘easy-to-answer’ prayers. Perhaps we might find it easier to intercede for others, willingly praying great things on their behalf, yet neglect to pray as willingly for ourselves.

Lord, forgive us for discounting ourselves without Your permission. Forgive us for self-regulating our prayers hoping that it might improve our chances of Your approval. Help us to remember our status as children forgiven by a loving God. Guide us when we’re tempted to feel inadequate before You because You do not see us as inadequate. Help us, Lord, so that we can walk more closely with You each day. We pray in the name of Jesus.

Amen.