Living Sacrifice

As Living Stones, we are a holy priesthood. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins and came to life again in defeat of sin, death and the devil, he abolished the old system of sacrifice to atone for sin.

Now, Christians can offer spiritual sacrifices out of love and gratitude for the One who gave everything for their benefit.

The spiritual sacrifices we make do not die (as with the old system) when we offer them. Instead, each living sacrifice we make can become…

“…a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.” (Philippians 4:18)

A living sacrifice first and foremost comes from the heart of a believer. It requires taking responsibility for your own sacrifice. No one can do it for you.

Most importantly, Jesus must be the number one priority before an acceptable spiritual sacrifice can even be made. Once that life-changing decision takes place, continue in the journey toward holiness, toward being set apart.

What does God look for our sacrifices?

Consider the following 5 elements when evaluating your sacrifices.

  1. Attitude. God calls everyone to be a living sacrifice in whatever they do in life, yet activity means nothing when offered with the wrong attitude. We must follow Abel’s example and avoid Cain’s. One sacrificed with the right attitude, and one did not. One’s sacrifice was accepted, and the other’s was not. (Genesis 4:3-7) (See The Aroma of your Heart for a related Bible study.)
  2. Love. Loving some people takes little to no effort. Yet, there are those who make loving them difficult and sometimes seemingly impossible. (If we’re honest, we’ve all been difficult to love at some point.) When a person gives nothing in return, loving them becomes a struggle. As living sacrifices, we choose to give expecting nothing in return. After all, isn’t this what Christ did for each one of us?
  3. Balance. Holiness happens in partnership with the Holy Spirit. Every Christian does his or her part through the deliberate and intentional choice to live out God’s will by becoming a living sacrifice. The Holy Spirit is a “helper” who comes alongside us. This is why He was sent to us. (John 14:16, 17, 26)
  4. Discomfort. Convenience often defines us. Yet, sacrifice requires inconvenience and discomfort. We must learn to orient our taste buds toward desiring long-term (eternal) benefit. Doing so allows for intimacy with God, which occurs when we make an acceptable sacrifice. Sweet-tasting convenience is the enemy for an acceptable sacrifice. We must become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
  5. Teachability. A living sacrifice comes from a person willing to learn, grow and change at the prompting of the Holy Spirit. God always provides the appropriate measure of time, talent and treasure to do His will. We hold responsibility for offering ourselves to Him through what He enables and gives us to accomplish.

What’s your heart condition?

An acceptable sacrifice comes through a contrite heart. A sincere and broken heart comes when we spend time at the altar prior to offering our living sacrifices. It comes when we let the Holy Spirit lead us through an attitude upgrade. Submitting ourselves in this way, allows us to…

“…present [our] bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is [our] reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1)

What role does submission play?

Submission begins by evaluating the status of the heart and asking tough questions.

  • Are you doing good?
  • Does your life involve sharing?
  • What sacrifices are you making for God?
  • Are you too comfortable?

Submission continues as we listen to the answers God gives us to these questions.

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Aliens Among Us

Entertaining Aliens

Movies along with a slew of books provide a seemingly endless supply of entertainment involving aliens.

Sometimes aliens invade Earth to annihilate humans and take over the planet (War of the Worlds and Independence Day). Sometimes they come to take back what another alien stole and that they need to survive (Men in Black). Sometimes they just get lost here (E.T.).

While here, aliens sometimes take over human bodies and sometimes just eat them. Sometimes, humans and aliens become friends. There are also stories about humans flying to alien planets, which makes the human become the alien (Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis).

There are many individuals who truly believe that aliens exist, have already come to our planet, and that the government is conspiring to cover up that fact (think Area 51). We are fascinated by the idea that other races and worlds may exist outside of our own.

We Are The Aliens

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” (1 Peter 2:11)

As Christians, we know that we are in fact the aliens in this world (1 Peter 2:11). We are strangers here, and this is not our permanent home. Knowing this should change the way we live our lives.

Because we are strangers and aliens, we should stand out. Standing out isn’t exactly about appearance though. Standing out as Christians refers to the way we live our lives in contrast to our culture.

4 Ways Christians Should Stand Out

As aliens and strangers in this temporal world, we have a variety of ways we can and should stand out.

1. Gifts/Abilities

Every individual has unique qualities that set them apart from others. I am naturally organized. My youngest son is pretty athletic. My oldest son has an amazing ability to memorize. My husband has an unusual amount of constant energy. Some people have a unique fashion style, some have amazing musical talent, and still others have natural leadership or teaching ability.

These qualities in and of themselves are not what should bring notice to a Christian though. The way in which a person uses the gifts and abilities given them should be the focus.

Does God receive credit for the ability? Does the church, His body, benefit from the ability? Does the individual operate in the ability or gift for personal fame or to glorify God?

While only God knows the heart, actions often provide an accurate gauge of what’s happening inside of a person.

“Would not God have discovered it, since he knows the secrets of the heart?” (Psalm 44:21)

2. Perspective

Christians stand out because we realize that this world is not our home. We become comfortable with being uncomfortable in an ever-changing and increasingly hostile world.

With one eye always on eternity, the Christian perspective exists as one that focuses on the eternal rather than the temporal. A Christian’s focus on eternity provides motivation and energy for living a holy (set apart) life.

“For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” (Hebrews 13:14)

3. Motives

The question of motive gets at the reason a person does anything. When the motive is for personal glory, the reward may be immediate and temporarily satisfying to the flesh. But when the motive exists for the glory of God, then the reward endures for eternity.

Asking “Why?” in every facet of life helps keep a Christian focused on the surpassing reward of pleasing the Father in Heaven. Being driven by this “Why?” sets a Christian apart in a world where selfish motives abound.

“We have been set apart as holy because Jesus Christ did what God wanted him to do by sacrificing his body once and for all.” (Hebrews 10:10)

4. A Focus on Truth

Empty promises fill this temporal world. Being sure exists only as an illusion in a culture of relative truth. What’s wrong for you is right for me, and both are okay. Right? Wrong!

As Christians focus on the unchanging truth of God’s Word, they become set apart because they refuse to focus on the ever-changing truth of a temporal world. They focus on truth that satisfies the spirit instead of that which satisfies the flesh (and does so only temporarily).

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

Do you look like an alien?

As aliens, Christians live in this world but focus on eternity. They take the gifts and abilities God gives, makes sure their motives and perspectives line up with His Word, and then choose to focus on the truth He places in their hearts.

This temporal world is one of roller coaster realities with highs that quickly plummet into valleys. But a Christian living as an alien uses those highs to rejoice in God’s goodness and the lows to depend on His mercy and grace.

God wants His children to stand out, and He provides the tools for doing so. When we consider our gifts and abilities, our perspective and our motives and as we live those out with a focus on His truth, we see that God has truly given us a myriad of ways to be and stay set apart

How to… Live Like a Recabite

1-7-12 Recabites

What in the world is a Recabite?

The Recabites are descendants of Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, through the Kenites (1 Chronicles 2:55, Judges 1:16; 4:11). Recab’s son assisted Jehu as he got rid of Ahab’s evil, Baal-worshipping family (2 Kings 10:15-17). The Recabites had a history of knowing evil and why it was important to get it out of their lives.

In Jeremiah 35, the Recabites are used as examples of obedience. God told Jeremiah to take the Recabites into the inner room of the temple and to offer them wine. When Jeremiah did this, the Recabites responded by saying,

“We don’t drink wine, because Jehonadab son of Recab, our ancestor, gave us this command, ‘You and your descendants must never drink wine. And do not build houses or plant crops or vineyards, but always live in tents. If you follow these commands, you will live long, good lives in the land.’ So we have obeyed him in all these things.” (Jeremiah 35:5-8)

What lessons can we learn from the Recabites?

God tested the Recabites not to set them up for potential failure but to use them as an example as compared to the Israelites who continually failed to be obedient to God. The Recabites held firm to their ancestor’s instructions to remain separate from their surrounding culture. The Israelites, on the other hand, failed to obey their living God by remaining separate. Instead, the Israelites took on the evil habits of the culture as their own.

The Recabites’ provide a terrific lesson in how to live an obedient life dedicated to God, which often means living counter-culturally.

  1. Know your why. The Recabites knew why they were not to drink wine and why they were living in tents. We too must know our why to be able to stand firm in our convictions when trials hit.
  2. Be ready to give an answer. As soon as temptation was presented, the Recabites knew exactly how to answer. They didn’t have to first think about what to say. (1 Peter 3:15-16)
  3. Develop strong family values. Strong family values allowed the Recabites to hold to their unique lifestyles for many generations. If you don’t have strong family values, be the one to begin a legacy of obedience.
  4. Be ready to live counter-culturally. Because the Recabites knew why they were living like they were and because they had strong family values, they were able to live counter-culturally. They impacted the culture instead of letting the culture change them.
  5. Realize the significance of obedience. The Recabites give us a lesson in obedience that was passed on from one generation to the next. The Israelites, on the other hand, struggled passing this crucial life principle on and to create a solid defense.

How can we apply the Recabite message? We don’t have to necessarily abstain from drinking wine or live in tents to apply the Recabite message today. We’re talking message over method here. In other words, we can apply the message that God was making when He had Jeremiah use the Recabites as an example without using their exact method (not drinking wine and living in tents).

Need another example to help grasp what this might mean? Check out Daniel’s story. The Recabites and Daniel show us that we can choose to obey God in all areas of our lives as well as choose to live counter-culturally if necessary.

Are you willing to live counter-culturally?

God praised, blessed and protected both the Recabites and Daniel for their obedience. He will do the same for us too. He wants us to live lives impacted by Scripture instead of culture. He wants us to make choices that honor Him even if they go against our culture. Ask yourself, “What would my life look like if I was less influenced by my culture? How should my life reflect the message of the Recabites?”

DISCUSSION: What does 2 Timothy 3:14-17 tell us about living lives obedient to God?

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