Friday, August 22, 2014

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Tarnished

A white satin tablecloth, fine china, crystal stemware, polished silver and candles set a perfect table for a special occasion. One of my favorite things about entertaining is setting the table. There is something that makes one feel special when sitting down to a well dressed table. There are also those who prefer not to use their special dishes, but instead display this precious dinnerware in a china hutch.

This past week, I began reading the book of Daniel. As I read Chapter 5, I was reminded of a study I went through a few years ago by Beth Moore on the book of Daniel. This particular chapter begins with a great banquet given by Belshazzar, the King of Babylon. He was the grandson of King Nebuchadnezzar and co-ruled Babylon with his father Nabonidus. Belshazzar watched over the affairs of the kingdom while his father worked on reopening trade routes that were taken by Cyrus and the Persians.

The banquet Belshazzar was having, was not your everyday shindig. What I mean by this is that, traditionally the custom at that time was that women did not attend the same banquets with the men. Remember Queen Vashti's banquet for the women in the book of Esther? He had invited his nobles, his wives, and his concubines to this party. They had been drinking wine and were possibly acting out immorally. The King wanted to kick it up a notch, so he ordered that all of the gold and silver goblets that his grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem to be brought in for them to use. (Daniel 5:1-3) Verses 3 and 4 read, "So they brought in the gold goblets that had been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. 4 As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone."

These articles from the temple were holy and undefiled. They belonged to God and were to be kept in the temple. God was angry with what Belshazzar had done. If you read the rest of this passage, God writes with his finger on the wall in an unknown script that only Daniel can interpret. God wrote on the wall for Belshazzar and for everyone else to see. The inscription said that his kingdom and life would be short lived. That very night he was slain and King Darius the Mede overtook Babylon.

When I went through this study, Beth Moore brought something to my attention. These gold and silver goblets were important to God. They were special and holy vessels. Not only did Belshazzar use them immorally, but they praised their gods with them. This was defilement at its best and it was detestable to God. Under the Old Covenant, these cups were to remain in the temple because they had been anointed by Moses and placed in the temple where God's presence dwelt. The temple is where these vessels were protected. Much like a china hutch that keeps special dinnerware protected.

Now that we live under the New Covenant, we are considered God's gold and silver vessels. 2 Timothy 2:20-21 says, "In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. 21 If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work." (NLT) Hebrews 10:10 says, "we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."

Unfortunately, we find ourselves tarnished from the pollutants of life. (See above photo) Satan is always looking for ways to use us to celebrate his cause. He wants to defile us, just like Belshazzar did the temple vessels. His goal is to make us think we aren't holy enough for God. He can't take our salvation from us, but if he can make us think we are unholy, then he's already got a foothold on us.

The amazing conclusion of these defiled vessels is that they were sent back to the temple in Jerusalem by King Cyrus of Persia. (Ezra 1:2-8; 8:28 &29) In the book of Ezra, these vessels were now being given back to God's people and were to be reinstated as holy. We too can declare ourselves holy, even if we have been used for unholy acts. Jesus paid that price for us when he shed his blood. 1 John 1:7 tells us that the blood of Jesus purifies us from all sin. I'd like to think of Jesus cleaning us, just like that popular brand of silver cleaner/polish. Remember those commercials of the tarnished spoon and when it was dipped into his miracle cleaner, it sparkled like new? Jesus' blood is greater than any silver cleaner or polish. Even if we have defiled ourselves over and over, God see's us marked with His name and declares us holy! It doesn't matter what you've done, you are a permanent vessel in God's china hutch!

If you are feeling today a little tarnished from the pollutants in your life, know today that no matter what, you belong to God. Pray this prayer with me:

Dear Heavenly Father, I am holy because your Holy Spirit lives in me. You are the Most High God who has declared me holy because you are holy. I commit today that I will believe and start believing everyday from here on out, that I am your holy vessel. Help me to think of myself as holy. Help me to recognize the schemes of the enemy who wants to treat me as if I am not holy. You are God! Your Word is the truth and it WILL set me free. In the purifying and cleansing name of Jesus! Amen.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional - Skeletons in the Closet

The Bible reading for this particular day lands on Ezekiel 37 entitled The Valley of Dry Bones. For those who are unfamiliar with this particular passage, it is a vision of Israel's restoration physically and spiritually to the land God promised them. God showed Ezekiel a valley full of dry bones. God told Ezekiel to prophesy over those bones and tell them God will breathe life back into them and that He will attach tendons and make flesh come upon them and they will come to life. (Ezekiel 37:1-6) It is a promise of hope for God's people.

As I was reading this morning, the phrase that came to mind was, "skeleton's in the closet." The more I read on, the more this picture the Lord began to give me was that this passage is an illustration of salvation. Bear with me on this, but I want to look at it under the New Covenant of the New Testament.

So many of us come to Jesus with skeleton's in our closet. Sometimes the skeletons come after we've come to Jesus too. Those skeletons represent the sin in our lives that even after becoming a follower of Jesus, we sometimes have a hard time getting past. What I mean by that is, even after receiving our salvation, we allow the things of the past and sometimes present, to haunt us. They are a hindrance that keep us from fully becoming what God has purposed for us, which is to become like his Son. Instead, God wants to take those dry bones and use them in our lives for His purpose to do good. Those skeletons are canceled out according to Romans 8:28 - 30 promise that says, "And we know that in all things (including the bad) God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed into the likeness of his Son, that he might be the first born among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified he also glorified."

Verse 10 in Ezekiel 37 says, "So I (Ezekiel) prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet - a vast army." Verse 13 and 14 goes on to say, "Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord." Sounds like God is taking something dead and resurrecting it for His glory. Just like He did with his son, Jesus. Colossians 2:13 and 14 says, "13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross."

Chapter 37 concludes, beginning in verse 15 entitled One Nation Under One King. It says in verse 16 & 17, "Son of man, take a stick of wood and write on it, 'Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him. (Jesus came from the line of Judah) Then take another stick of wood, and write on it, 'Ephraim's stick, belonging to Joseph (Joseph is often used as a parallel to the life of Jesus) and all the house of Israel associated with him.' 17 Join them together into one stick so that they will become one in your hand." The picture the Lord showed me as I read this, the only way for two sticks to be joined together would be in the form of a cross. A symbol of Christianity. The cross that brings complete redemption and wholeness to our lives. The cross that brings life to the skeletons in our closet. Like the vision the Lord showed Ezekiel by bringing the dry bones to life. The cross is a symbol of hope for us being conformed into the likeness of God's Son. That the spirit living in us is the life of the Holy Spirit and eventually we will settle in our eternal home which is the Kingdom of Heaven.

I hope you are able to track with me on this. I pray that the Lord would use this to encourage you today about those skeletons that might be stashed away in your spiritual closet. Know that from this day forward that they can be used for good works and purposes that will ultimately glorify the good work that the Lord is doing in your life. Just as Ezekiel prophesied life to those dead and dry bones, you too can prophesy over those dead, dry bones in your life, to be resurrected under the blood of Jesus and used to glorify God and God alone!