Monthly Archives: September 2010

Typology for Tykes

Teaching young children the concept of types, or symbols, of Christ in Scripture is not difficult.  Actually, it’s a lot of fun!  The tabernacle is a great place to start because there are so many beautiful visuals you can use to illustrate the lesson.  It is imperative to have some kind of visual for the children to see as you teach this lesson.  There are many types of models available, expensive or cardboard; there are also flannelgraph figures, posters, and charts.  Make sure you have a little priest figure to move through the tabernacle and point out the elements.  Also, have a Jesus figure with which to replace each element as you discuss it during the last part of the lesson.
I have taught this lesson to children as young as two years old, and they always get it.  It’s rather long, but with the visuals and the promise to be allowed to play with the visuals afterwards, they usually maintain their interest to the end.  The really young ones won’t get everything, but they will get the gist.  So, here goes:
Pretend you are Aaron, the first High Priest, and you are walking through the tabernacle soon after has been built.  The outer court is walled in by high curtains of fine linen.  When you enter the outer court, these walls hide the barren desert outside and you are in a cool sanctuary.  There is only one entrance to the tabernacle, only one way to the presence of God.  The first thing you see when you enter the court is the bronze altar.  You know you will spend a lot of time here!  The people will bring their sacrifices here and as high priest you will be responsible to kill the animals, drain the blood, and place them on the altar to be burned.  The altar is bronze, which is the symbol of judgement.  You know that a Holy God must judge sin, and as you look at the bronze altar you are thankful that God has given a way for sin to be atoned for so that each one who sins may live and not die.  It is so shiny and pretty now that it is newly made, but you know it will not be so for long.  When each sacrifice is made, the blood must be splashed against the altar and poured out on the ground around it.  It will be an ugly, messy, smelly place soon.  You know that you will be constantly reminded of how ugly, sin is, and what a cost there is to make sin right.  For atonement to be made, an innocent life must be taken.
Now you move on to look at the next piece of furniture, the bronze laver.  It is a bowl made of mirrors, and you know that each time you wash yourself in it, you must also examine yourself in the mirrors to make sure you are as clean on the inside as you are on the outside.
You look at the tabernacle itself–its meaning is a mystery to you.  You know it is made of wooden boards covered with gold, a symbol of man covered by God.  How could that be?  You know that the boards are held together with the silver your people paid as atonement money.  How does atonement bring God and man together as one?  This is something you may think about for a lifetime!
The tabernacle is really not much to look at from the outside.  It is covered by a gray, waterproof skin protecting it from the rain.  But you know that beneath the dull gray is a bright red ram’s skin, red as blood.  The ram’s skin reminds you of the ram God gave to Father Abraham to sacrifice in the place of his son Isaac.  Beneath that layer is a covering of goat’s skin, a symbol of the sin offerings to be made in this place.  Underneath it all is a beautiful curtain of red, purple and blue linen.  When you go inside the tabernacle, it is this lovely curtain you see, the colors of heaven, of earth, and of the two intermingled.
Inside, the tabernacle is full of light coming from the seven-branched lampstand which is made of solid gold, standing to your left.  On your right sits the table holding the twelve loaves of unleavened bread, one for each tribe of Israel.  Straight in front of you is the little altar of incense, which is constantly sending up its sweet odor, the symbol of the prayers of men going up to God.
Behind the altar of incense, a thick veil is stretched.  You know that it hides a smaller room, the Holy of Holies, behind it.  The veil is covered with pictures of Cherubim, the angels who guard God’s holiness.  You know that the very presence of God is in that little room, above the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant.  You know that you will have to go in there once a year to offer blood on the mercy seat for the sins of the people.  You cannot help but feel a sense of awesome fear as you think of standing in God’s holy presence, because you are so unholy.
Did you put yourself in Aaron’s place?  Did you feel the awe he must have felt? But this tabernacle was made by men.  In Hebrews 9:24, the Bible tells us that this earthly tabernacle was a copy, a picture, of the true tabernacle in heaven.  Imagine now that you are in heaven, and God is letting you tour the real tabernacle.  It is very much the same, but also different.  You go up to the white walls around the outer court, but as you look at them you see that they are not made of white linen but of the good, righteous things that Christians have done.  How happy you are to see that some of the things you did on earth to serve God are part of the walls of this wonderful structure!
You go in through the only door, and somehow, the door is Jesus! (John 10:9) The High Priest comes to meet you, but he is not Aaron or any other mere man, but Jesus! (Hebrews 4:14) He takes you by the hand and leads you to the great bronze altar.  It is still covered with innocent blood.  The High Priest shows the sacrifice which He Himself made.  He offered it only one time, but it was enough to cover the sins of the whole world for all time!  You see a perfect lamb on the altar–but as you look, you see that the Lamb is really Jesus!
You could spend eternity thinking about this wonderful truth, but there is more to see.  The High Priest leads you to the bronze laver to wash yourself.  You look into the mirrors, but instead of yourself, you see Jesus!  He has washed you clean, inside and out, and He Himself lives in you and through you.
You look at the outside of the tabernacle and you know that the entire structure is Jesus.  You know what Aaron could not have known: that the wood and gold boards are a picture of Jesus, Who is both God and man, and that because of His becoming a man, atonement was made for our sins.  The plain gray covering reminds you of Isaiah 53:2, which says that Jesus had no outward appearance that would attract us to Him.   You know the ram’s skin is a picture of Jesus taking our place just as the ram had taken the place of Isaac as a sacrifice.  The goat’s skin reminds you that Jesus gave His life to pay for your sins.  You go inside and admire the beautiful inner curtain of red, blue and purple.  Here is the way you think of Jesus–the beautiful savior, with the blue of heaven and God and the red of earth and man blending perfectly to create the royal purple.
The tabernacle is filled with light.  You look for the lampstand, but it isn’t there!  The light is coming from Jesus! (Rev. 22:5) You feel weak from excitement and desire food, so you look for the table of unleavened bread.  But it isn’t there either!  Jesus gives you His own strength, and that is all you need, because He is the bread of life. (John 6:48)
You feel so full of gratitude to God for all He has done that you want to pray.  But you just cannot find the words.  You go to the altar of incense to send up your prayers in the smoke (Rev. 5:8) But instead of the altar, Jesus stands there, praying for you.  You may not know what to pray, but He does! (Eph. 5:2) You fall to your knees and thank Him.
Now you look for the veil which separates you from the Holy of Holies, where God’s presence dwells.  But it is torn from top to bottom!  There is now nothing that stands between you and the holy God!  You look again and see that the veil is Jesus, torn in His death to make the way for us to go to God. (Heb. 10:20)  But it is a fearsome thing to go into the presence of the holy God!  You hesitate.  But Jesus takes you by the hand and leads you into God’s presence.  There are the cherubim, not cold golden statues but real, living things.  They are there to guard God’s holiness from sin.  But you are no longer afraid.  You have a right to be here because Jesus Himself, God’s own Son, is bringing you in.  There is the Ark of the Covenant, with the mercy seat covering up the Law.  And there is God Himself, smiling at you and calling you His own dear child.
There is so much more of Jesus in this marvelous tabernacle.  You could spend all eternity exploring it.  But you don’t have to wait until you get to heaven to learn about God’s tabernacle.  He graciously told us what it is like in His Word.

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How America Thinks

This blog may seem untimely, but it really is not.  I’ve been mulling over this for some time and recent events just served to highlight what I’ve been thinking.  As I have stated before in this forum, Americans do not know how to formulate a logical argument.  This is a sad state of affairs for our country; but even worse is the fact that American Christians are no better at it.  Americans of all religions, races, and educational levels seem to believe that personal opinions and feelings are arguments in and of themselves.   I am certainly not saying that having opinions is wrong or that I don’t care about anyone’s feelings!  I am saying that unsubstantiated opinions and emotions have no place in public debate.  Give the public proven facts and cite authoritative texts!

The problem with stating personal opinion or feeling as proof of any stance on any given issue is that opinions can be wrong and feelings can be manipulated.  They can be based on misinformation or even based on no information at all.  Even opinions based upon past personal experiences can be wrong, because experiences can be misinterpreted.  Before stating an opinion in a public forum, one should do one’s homework.  Read authoritative texts; talk with people who have some expertise in the field in which  you wish to comment; do some research! I may, for example, have an opinion about what BP should have done to stop the oil spill.  But I have no engineering knowledge whatsoever; therefore I have nothing on which to base my opinion.  I can read the opinions of engineers and other experts in the field and then cite their opinions in a public debate on the subject, but I have no business trying to formulate an opinion based on my own personal feelings in the matter.  Feelings cannot change facts and emotions do not constitute knowledge.

Christians are as bad at this as any other American.  The recent controversy concerning the nut-case “preacher” in Florida who was threatening to burn the Koran brought this to my attention on no uncertain terms.  Plenty of Christians were denouncing the lunatic, and so they should have.  But no one, (except my own husband!) in all the articles and comments I read about the subject, cited any other authority than his own opinion or feelings.  “It’s not nice.”  “It’ll get people killed.”  “Jesus wouldn’t have done it.”  These things are all true, but why?  Because I say so?  Because you say so?  As People of the Book, we should never enter a public forum and cite our own opinions.  If we cannot back our statements up with Scripture, we should keep silent until we can.

In keeping with that assertion, I will now cite Scripture to back up my opinion on this matter!  Jesus says in John 8:28, “I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.”  Reading through the Gospels proves that He is speaking the truth:  Jesus constantly quotes Scripture as proof of what He is saying.  In John 5:31-40, and again in John 8: 13-18, Jesus acknowledges that if He only testifies about Himself, His testimony is invalid.  The Law requires at least two witnesses to validate any truth (Deuteronomy 19:15-19).  Jesus claims John the Baptist and the Scriptures themselves as two of the witnesses that validate the authority of His teachings.  If Jesus acknowledges the need to cite authority other than Himself to validate what He says, how can we do otherwise?  Are we better than He is?

Read through the epistles and you will find that Paul, James, Peter, John, and Jude also constantly quote Scripture to back up what they are writing.  If  they need outside authority to validate their teachings, so does everyone!  They were, after all, writing Scripture themselves; and yet, they cited previous Scripture to give authority to their own writings.

Psalm 119:130 says, “the unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”  I could go on and on, but I hope my point has been made.  We are the People of the Book.  We should know that Book well enough to quote it as our authority on all spiritually-related (and many other) subjects, just as I would quote the Dictionary to defend my spelling of a word.  Here is what I would have liked to have seen in an argument against the lunatic preacher in Florida:  in Acts 17, Paul preaches to the pagans in Athens.  Actually, before he speaks, he does his homework.  He studies their religious beliefs, memorizes their poetry and acquaints himself with their philosophers so thoroughly that he can use their own words as his authoritative text to back up what he says.  He begins addressing these heathen unbelievers by complimenting them on their great spiritual interest.  He then uses the spiritual knowledge they already possess and builds on it, adding the truth of the Gospel to the truth they already had.  He never spoke down to them; he never insulted them.  He never trashed their temples or burned their religious texts.  In fact, later in Ephesus (Acts 19), when the silversmiths start a riot against Paul because he is converting enough people to cut into their idol-making trade, the mayor of the city defends Paul by saying that Paul has never blasphemed their goddess Diana.  By citing Paul’s example, we could have defended the Christian faith in an authoritative manner. We could have started an enlightening discussion about how to approach persons of other faiths with the truth. Instead, the whole sorry incident turned into a “nice versus not-nice” slug-fest.  It’s true that the “preacher” in Florida was “not nice”.  But what kind of argument is that?


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Teaching Children that the Bible is God’s Word

This lesson, based on II Timothy chapter 3, helps a child understand the origin and the purpose of Scripture.  I have heard so many adults say that they wished they knew more about the Bible.  Helping children to understand the importance of studying the Scriptures, of memorizing them, of praying for the Holy Spirit to reveal truths to them through what they read, will guide them into a lifetime of learning Spiritual truth.  Everyone is capable of it; not everyone is confident of their ability to do it.  Helping a child form the habit of study, memorization, and prayer will give them the confidence and the tools they need to continue to pore over the Scriptures as adults.
Paul wrote this second letter to his dear friend Timothy just before he was martyred.  What do you think you would tell your friends if you knew you were about to die?  What if your friends had come to know Christ through you and depended on you to teach them about the things of God?  What last words would you write down for them to help them keep strong in the faith after you had gone? One of the things Paul felt was important say to Timothy was to assure his young friend that the Scriptures really contained all that he needed to know about God and about Jesus the Messiah.  I suppose if you were used to having a man like Paul around to answer your questions personally, you might think it would be hard to learn  more about God after your great teacher was gone.  But all that Paul knew about God and about Messiah he got from the Scriptures and from the words of Jesus Himself.  Timothy had access to those same Scriptures, and by this time Matthew and Mark had probably already written their Gospels so Timothy might also have had access to Jesus’ words and the story of His life as well.  The fact is, everyone has the same chance to learn as much as Paul had learned about God.  We have the same Scriptures Paul had, and we have all four Gospels and Paul’s own letters, as well. In addition, we have Luke’s account of the early church in the book of Acts and some of letters of James, Peter, John and Jude.   Even more important than that, we have the Holy Spirit in us to help us understand what we read and to help us to remember it. We have all we need to be as knowledgeable about God and about Jesus as any great scholar.
Here’s what Paul says about it: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  Let’s take that apart and see what it all means.  “All Scripture is God-breathed.”  We know that Paul is writing this letter to Timothy, but since what Paul is writing is also Scripture, we know that he is not writing his own ideas.  He is writing down whatever the Spirit of God is telling him to write.  If I were to tell you to write down every word I say, it would be you doing the writing, but the words would be mine, wouldn’t they?  I could tell you to write down what I say in your own words, so that the words would be yours, but the ideas are still mine.  The wording may change a bit to match the personality of the person speaking, but the meaning is still mine.  Now, if you said something that did not mean the same as what I said, I would stop you and correct you, right?  If I have the power to do that, you know God does, too!  He makes certain His meaning is clear, even when He allows the men doing the writing to use their own words.
Paul is not the only one who explains how Scripture came about.  Paul says Scripture is “God-breathed”, which means that God spoke his Word to whomever was writing it.  Here is what Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples and close friends, says about Scripture: “But know this first of all, that no  prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,  for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (II Peter 1:20-21) This makes it clear that God’s Word is GOD’s Word, not the words of mere men.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching.”  All Scripture is useful for teaching, even the boring parts that are hard to understand!  The genealogies in Matthew and Luke were boring, weren’t they?  It might be harder to find useful things in a list of names, but someone who really wants to hear God speak and who is praying for the Holy Spirit’s help can dig in and find some great stuff!
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for rebuking.”  What is “rebuking?”  That’s a word we don’t use much nowadays, isn’t it?  It means to tell or show someone what they are doing wrong.  It’s easy to criticize people, but that’s not very useful if you can’t explain to them why GOD says that what they are doing is wrong.  In order to use Scripture to rebuke someone, you must be very familiar with it and be able to find the right passages for what you need to tell that person.
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for correcting.”  It’s not enough to tell someone they are doing something wrong.  You need to be able to tell them the right thing to do.  Paul gave an example of this in an earlier letter when he told the church not to steal.  “It’s wrong to steal, so stop it!” is a rebuke.  “Instead of stealing, work to earn money for what you need.” is a correction.  Rebuking and correcting should always work in pairs!  It’s more helpful to give someone something positive to do instead of just telling them what NOT to do!
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  Everything we need to know to be useful in the work of God is there for us in Scripture.  We just need to be faithful in reading and studying God’s Word so that we can know all that He wants us to know.  This work of learning the Scriptures never, ever ends!  The more you study, the more you learn.  It’s like a well of water with no bottom.  You can get as much out of it as you wish.  Or, you can get very little out of it.  It all depends on the effort you put into it.  God will not open your brain and stuff His Word into it.  You must put it there yourself!  He is not going to speak to you through His Word if you don’t want to listen to Him. You must ask Him to speak to you and let Him help you understand His Word.


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