Beyond Consent

Scripture Focus: Leviticus 18.3-5, 24-28
3 You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. 4 You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. 5 Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord. 

24 “ ‘Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. 25 Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. 26 But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the foreigners residing among you must not do any of these detestable things, 27 for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. 28 And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you. 

Reflection: Beyond Consent
By John Tillman

In an old stand-up comedy routine that was a favorite of ours in college, a comic (whose name I can’t remember) told a story about a sign in a hospital containing an injunction against having sex in the delivery room of the obstetrics ward. 

When you think about things you might want to ban in a delivery room, that’s not one that jumps immediately to mind. “No smoking” probably. “No foul language” maybe. But no one would make a sign like that for no reason. The comic quipped, “Somebody had to do that.” 

Many of the sexual prohibitions listed in Leviticus and other forbidden practices were also things that no one would ban for no reason. The Egyptians were doing it. The Cannanites were doing it. Even brutal Ammonites were doing it. But God was clear that his people were not to follow along.

These common practices were uncommonly dangerous and damaging. The nations that practiced these things were enslaving women, sacrificing children, destroying their God-given bodies and families, yet they sneered at the prohibitions. Immersed in their culture, they couldn’t see the damage.

Our culture is no different. We think we are so sensitive and self-aware, but we are numb and calloused to the damage of the non-existent sexual ethic of our culture. When the only sexual ethic that exists is “consent” a lot of evil, manipulation, deception, and abuse gets a free pass. 

The very first step of abuse is to groom victims until they consent to abuse. Our culture has groomed many of us to accept the idea that the “freedom” of unlimited sexual experiences is harmless to us and others. We often believe this despite the evidence of rising mental health issues among the most sexually promiscuous members of the population.

Today we view sexuality as the ultimate freedom, the ultimate expression of our identity. Any hint of restriction or restraint, no matter how commonsense, is viewed as unnecessary at best and a form of self-hatred at worst.

Every person, regardless of sexual behavior or sexual feelings, is an image-bearer of God and is called by God to live in purity. This means living in ways that do not damage themselves or others. 

May each of us submit every part of our identities, including our sexuality, to God’s calling in our lives.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
The Lord is near to those who call upon him, to all who call upon him faithfully.
He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he hears their cry and helps them.
The Lord preserves all those who love him; but he destroys all the wicked. — Psalm 145.19-21

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 18 (Listen – 3:46)
Psalms 22 (Listen – 3:49)

Read more about It’s In The Bible
Polygamy was never in the Bible because God approved of it. It was there because the culture approved of it.

Read more about Resisting Cultural Pressure
Culture wants us to think we are primarily identified by our race or sexuality or gender or political party.

Life in the Blood

Scripture Focus: Leviticus 17.10-12
10 “ ‘I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood, and I will cut them off from the people. 11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. g 12 Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood.” 

Genesis 4.10-12

10 The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 

Genesis 9.4-5

4 “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. 5 And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being. 

Reflection: Life in the Blood

By John Tillman

It is often the case that a biological fact reveals spiritual truth. Our life really is in our blood. 

We measure life based on brain activity more than any other system of the body. For example, the rapper, DMX, recently died after life support was removed following a coma/vegetative state. However, many of the brain’s commands are carried out by the hormones, proteins, and other chemical signals that travel through the blood.

Everything that makes us alive is circulating in our blood. Life “moves” within us even when we are at rest. When blood stops moving, or is spilled out, life ends. 

The most important and revealing reason for the prohibitions regarding blood was spiritual not physical. Blood is life given for atonement. Since the blood of the first animal, killed by God in the garden to clothe Adam and Eve, animals have given their lives for human sin and creation has groaned for the blood spilled. (Genesis 3.21; Genesis 4.10-12; Romans 8.20-23)

All spilled blood, God says, is precious and holy, not only on its own, but because it points to the blood of Jesus. Christ’s blood is the most precious blood in history, but every drop of blood shed draws precious meaning from his. 

The blood is still life and it should matter to us when blood is spilled. It is the life of our brothers and sisters of every race. It is the life of the unborn. It is the life of those dying of Covid. It is the life of both Christians and non-Christians murdered for their faith. It is the life of those killed in every kind of violence whether in war or on public streets, whether in mass shootings or lone suicides.

So both the life of a police officer given stopping a mass shooting in Colorado and the life of a Black citizen, crushed out of him by a police officer’s knee are united in that their lives point to and plea for Christ’s blood. One is lost in self-sacrifice and one cries out from the ground in a plea for justice.

May we revive a holy respect for blood, no matter where, how, or by whom it is shed. May we not casually “eat” blood by profiting from violence, supporting bloodshed, or indifferently shrugging off bloodshed that doesn’t affect us.

God will require an account. (Genesis 9.5; Isaiah 5.7) When he does, we must plead the blood of Jesus to cover all of our bloodshed. Only in his blood will we find true life. (John 6.53-57)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons

I will bear witness that the Lord is righteous; I will praise the Name of the Lord Most High. — Psalm 7.18

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 17 (Listen – 2:39)
Psalms20-21 (Listen – 2:37)

Read more about  Two Lamechs, One Jesus
There are those who multiply and escalate violence, trusting in and glorying in their strength.

Read more about Peter’s Unfinished Work
Ending racism was a Christian idea from the beginning and we are possessed of the only ideology that can do it—the gospel.

Spiritual Instruments

Scripture Focus: Psalm 19.1-4
1 The heavens declare the glory of God; 
the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 
2 Day after day they pour forth speech; 
night after night they reveal knowledge. 
3 They have no speech, they use no words; 
no sound is heard from them. 
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, 
their words to the ends of the world.

From John: The day before this devotional publishes, Sunday, April 11th, is the scheduled first flight of the Mars helicopter. May we continue to allow wonder at our universe to inspire humility and thankfulness to its creator.

Reflection: Spiritual Instruments
By John Tillman

Whatever scientific instruments we use, whether looking at evidence of black holes, at video from a helicopter on Mars, or deep within our own DNA, we find the fingerprints of God.

In Psalm 19, David tells us that the fingerprints of God are on the stars. Speech about God pours forth from the heavens in an unhearable voice that echoes through the Earth and to the “end of the world.” 

David wasn’t writing about the realities of physics but about spiritual realities. However, there are subatomic vibrations, unhearable to human ears, that do seem to testify to the creator. In an April interview with Steven Colbert, physicist, Michio Kaku, said while explaining string theory, “The mind of god is cosmic music resonating through hyperspace.” (Interview, Part One; Interview, Part Two

Kaku is not a devotee of any religion and the “god” he describes is an impersonal “god of order” not the God we know. However, the complexity and interconnectedness of what he can see, tells him that there is more to see. What he can know, tells him that there is more to know. 

Wonder about our universe is returning. With wonder comes seemingly contradictory truths about our humble state and our eternal destiny. We seem to be insignificant specks in the universe, yet the maker of that universe considers us not meaningless or trivial, but glorious and of eternal worth.

This week, or whenever you look to the heavens, pray this prayer from 2019, reflecting on Psalm 19.

Humbled by the Heavens
God, we stand in awe on our tiny planet.

You have placed us here among deserts, seas, and mountains that seem incredibly vast, yet they are just imperceptible ridges on the tiny ball of our planet.

And, in the vast darkness of space, our tiny blue dot of light seems so insignificant compared to the other great lights of the sky that you have created.

Thank you for heavens that humble us, Lord.

Without words, let us hear your glory, see your law, experience your touch and your love.

Yet you gave us more than wordless wonder, Lord. You send your Word, your Son, Jesus, to clarify your commands and enlighten our understanding.

The commands of the Lord are radiant,
   giving light to the eyes.

Give our eyes your light, our actions, your love, our words, your persuasive persistence. 

Make us spiritual instruments through which the world can detect your magnificent presence.

Image: The image in today’s devotional is of Sirenum fossae, a geological feature of Mars.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
O God, you have taught me since I was young, and to this day I tell of your wonderful works. — Psalm 71.17

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 16 (Listen – 5:36)
Psalms 19 (Listen – 1:52)

Read more about Humbled by the Heavens
David’s ancient psalm tells us where to learn about our “unobservable” God—in the heavens.

Read more about The Materialist Cosmos
If the cosmos of the materialist is the real cosmos, it is not much of a cosmos. — GK Chesterton

Overgrown by the Gospel

Scripture Focus: Psalm 15
1 Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? 
Who may live on your holy mountain? 
2 The one whose walk is blameless, 
who does what is righteous, 
who speaks the truth from their heart; 
3 whose tongue utters no slander, 
who does no wrong to a neighbor, 
and casts no slur on others; 
4 who despises a vile person 
but honors those who fear the Lord; 
who keeps an oath even when it hurts, 
and does not change their mind; 
5 who lends money to the poor without interest; 
who does not accept a bribe against the innocent. 
Whoever does these things 
will never be shaken. 

From John: After reflecting on holiness as separateness and not superiority, this post from 2019, shows us how the gospel will never stop working its way into our lives to make every part of us holy. The picture used today is one from a hike my wife and I took in the Guadalupe Mountains. A rock had been tumbled to the floor of the wash that we were hiking up, and the marks of the roots of the tree that split the rock were still visible on it. 

May the roots of the Holy Spirit penetrate the hardness of our rock-like hearts and crack us open, leaving his mark upon our lives.

Reflection: Overgrown by the Gospel
By John Tillman

Psalm 15 lays out what David sees as God’s requirements for his holy people.

Reading it, we can deceive ourselves into thinking God is describing us. But if we are humble and honest, we will be struck by how far short we fall, and how rare even one of these qualities is in our world, much less all of them together.

How then, can we ever hope to dwell with God? How can we become his people and live in his kingdom and its city?

This list is not intended to be a list of ways we must prove or earn our way into God’s kingdom. Those who will live with God, as described in the psalm, are those who respond to his call, and to whom he responds by sending the Holy Spirit. Paul describes the Holy Spirit as both a down payment and a renovator of our inner being.

The gospel can be accepted in an instant, but it works in us a transformation that accelerates over time. The qualities of the people of God are cultivated by God. They are the blossoms and blooms of actions that the Holy Spirit will plant in us when we surrender to him.

When the seed of the gospel begins to grow in us, it is like the springing up of a tree from a crack in our hardened, concrete heart. As it grows, the concrete doesn’t stand a chance. The roots swell and crush the rock, cracking it open to expose the earth beneath. Soon the concrete structure is unrecognizable and covered with green growth.

Cultivation begins with destruction. May the gospel make ruins of our pride and selfishness. May we be overgrown by the gospel.

May our concrete hearts be cracked open by the swelling roots of the gospel in our lives. 
May parking lots for our possessions become parks to share with our community. 
May every sealed off vault of sin with reinforced concrete walls be ruined by the invading growth of our new nature. 
May our self-worshiping architecture be overgrown, cracked open, and torn down by the persistent growth of what the Holy Spirit cultivates in us.

May our controlled environments become reclaimed land that is transfigured into the wild beauty of the garden of God.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Everyone will stand in awe and declare God’s deeds; they will recognize his works. — Psalm 64.9

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 13 (Listen – 9:34)
Psalms 15-16 (Listen – 2:03)

This Weekend’s Readings
Leviticus 14 (Listen – 8:11), Psalms 17 (Listen – 1:58)
Leviticus 15 (Listen – 4:59), Psalms 18 (Listen – 5:47)

Read more about Cultivation Starts With Destruction
Cultivation often begins with the smell of fire, the wielding of sharpened metal tools, and the sounds of chainsaws.

Read more about Cultivation Is Supernatural
Cultivation is not natural. It is supernatural. We give plants a safer, healthier place to grow than exists naturally, and they give us better food in greater quantities.

Separateness Not Superiority

Scripture Focus: Leviticus 11.47
47 You must distinguish between the unclean and the clean,

Acts 10.15
15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” 

Reflection: Separateness Not Superiority
By John Tillman

The Israelites were charged with making distinctions between holy things and unholy things. One of the ways this was carried out was in dietary laws.

To modern sensibilities the dietary laws seem strange and puzzling. (Pigs are unclean but crickets are on the menu?) These regulations may have been given, partly, for health reasons or may have had to do with the animals being used as sacrifices in the worship of other gods. The new nation needed defining cultural touchstones that would remind them of who, and whose, they were. The dietary laws were a part of building this culture. 

God’s regulations often include practical concerns not just spiritual concerns. However, the practical “why” is always less important than the spiritual act of obedience. Obeying the command to “be holy” is what makes us able to be a light to the world. No holiness, no light. However, over time, the idea of being separate engendered a sense of superiority.

Throughout the Old Testament law we see the principle that uncleanness transfers by touch from one thing or person to another. In Jesus, the disciples saw a new thing. Jesus touched the unclean and made them clean. (Matthew 8.2-4) Jesus touched lepers, Samaritans, the demon possessed, and even the dead. The unholy became holy. The dead became alive. Rather than them making him unclean, he made them clean. Like the coal taken from the altar that cleansed Isaiah’s unclean lips, Jesus cleansed what was unclean. (Isaiah 6.7)

Today we, like the Israelites, are charged with keeping ourselves holy. (Matthew 5.48; 1 Peter 1.15) There are sensible and practical ways that we can separate ourselves from the cultural flow of unclean philosophies, practices, or theology. But we must not allow our separateness to breed superiority. Believing God about what is unclean, means believing him about what is clean and about what may be made clean.

The Spirit of Christ is within us and we are his body. We have Christ’s power to touch the unclean and make them clean. His power in us can redeem broken people, systems, or philosophies, with the touch of the gospel. 

God shows no favoritism but instead accepts those who acknowledge him and do what is right. Like Peter, if we open our eyes, we may find many things and people around us that seem unclean that God desires us to touch and make clean.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land. — Psalm 85.9

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 11-12 (Listen – 7:20)
Psalms 13-14 (Listen – 1:43)

Read more about Much Demanded
God judges those with little lightly and those with much heavily. This should be sobering to us who are greatly privileged.

Read more about Unprecedented
They have taken for granted the immense privilege and wealth they have as people chosen by God.

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