My Pilates instructor is big on deep cleansing breaths. I thought it was a lot of hype until I realized in a recent incident how I was taking several and how calm I felt.

This is something like the way faith feels.

Leviticus 6-7

In these chapters, God gives Moses regulations for the five main offerings required at the tabernacle, the place his people have just built for God’s worship. My eyes glaze over as I read them, because there are a lot of picky-picky parts.

Some offerings are of animals and some are of grain, oil, and wine. Some are burned completely, and some are eaten. Some are eaten the day they’re offered, and some are kosher until the second day after. Some are made without yeast and some with. Some belong to the individual priest who offers them, and some belong to all the priests. It’s a lot of detail to keep straight. I don’t even want to try.

I can see why the rules of worship became the Jew’s focus over time. They slipped into thinking their standing with God depended on how well they followed his rules rather than on how well they loved him from their hearts. With so many offerings and so many rules to remember, it would be easy to think that keeping the rules is what made a person right with God. And it wouldn’t be long before you’re proud about how well you keep them, and your worship becomes a matter of humoring God with a bull or a goat at the tabernacle to cover the sin you intend to enjoy the rest of the week.

By the time Jesus arrived over a thousand years later, the Pharisees were in charge at the synagogue. They were known for such meticulous rule keeping as tithing herbs and spices, and they got angry when Jesus healed someone and broke the Sabbath. They were so dug-in to law keeping as a way to earn righteousness, they didn’t recognize the Messiah when he came, and they killed him just to shut him up, Mt 23:23; Mk 3:1-6.

But God has always emphasized the heart, even in the Old Testament. While he required offerings for sin and guilt, other offerings could be made as a person’s heart prompted him, like for giving thanks. Besides this, God said that the labor and materials for building the tabernacle were to be given by those who wanted to give–no one was compelled. And it’s in the Old Testament that God first said to “Love the Lord with all your heart….” He didn’t say to “love him with all your rule keeping,” Le 7:11-15; De 6:5; Ex 35:20-29, 36:2.

Obeying God’s law was a way to show a person’s love for him, but it didn’t make anyone right with him. No one could ever keep the rules perfectly enough to have a relationship with God based on their own goodness. It would take a Savior who would come and keep the law perfectly and then die to pay for sin who would connect them to God. The offerings and sacrifices pointed to Jesus, whose blood would be shed so that sin could be forgiven, Jn 14:15; Ga 2:15-16; 1 Ti 2:5-6; 1 Pe 1:18-19.

I’m thankful that making sacrifices and offerings is no longer necessary for finding peace with God. I’m glad I don’t have to find a perfect sheep or goat and slaughter him in a temple every time I sin. It would be a bloody event, blood being pretty much the whole point, since “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.” But sacrificing wasn’t something to watch the priests do even then. It was something to participate in. The people were sometimes required to do the killing and butchering themselves after they laid their hands on the animal they’d bring, Le 1:1-6, He 9:22.

As much work as it was, you’d think they’d think twice before they sinned. But they didn’t. They hardened. There wasn’t any power in a ram’s or bull’s blood to change anyone. Animal blood was simply a reminder that blood needed to be spilled for them. It was only a matter of time before they got bored with their new tabernacle and God-worship, and their hearts wandered to the idol worship of their neighbors. It was just what God forbade, and yet, by doing so, they set the stage for the Savior. Nobody messes up God’s plans, Ex 20:4-6; Ac 7:43; He 10:4.

Jesus is a far greater sacrifice than anything brought to the temple. He is the great sacrifice that all the other’s pointed to. He perfectly kept God’s law, his blood was spilled, and he died and rose and advocates for us, still. He’s freed us from sin and thrown open the gate, ripped through the curtain that stood in our way. He’s made peace with God, so we’ll never see a frowning face, but only one full of love and grace, He 9:11-15; Mk 15:38; Ro 5:1.

Jesus opened a 24/7, two-way communication system for every single person on earth with the God of the Universe that can be activated with words and thoughts and groans. He’s given his Spirit to live within us so we can know his love beyond imagining and have access to his power to live holy lives for him. He’s the high priest who speaks to the Father for us so that what we need is always before him, Ep 3:14-19; Phi 4:6; Jn 15:7; Ro 8:11, 26; He 3:1; 2 Ti 1:7.

I’m not OK with God because of my being good and doing good. That’s a Pharisee’s way. It’s Jesus’ goodness—his life and death—that makes me right with God. My obedience simply shows him how grateful I am. It’s my response of love to him, not my way of getting loved by him, Mt 23:15; 1 Jn 2:1-2; 1 Jn 4:19.

I know this, and still I find myself getting sideways with him. When I feel like he’s more pleased with me because of the time I’ve spent with him, or the meal I took a friend, or the money I gave someone needy, I’m depending on my goodness, not on his. But the truth is, I can’t make myself more pleasing to the Father than I already am, because the reason he’s pleased is because of what Jesus did. When I try to add my good rags, I’m like the Pharisee who thought he didn’t need a Savior–and didn’t have one, Mt 23:33.

Jesus says to lay striving down, because all the work to make me right with God has already been done. What Jesus has to give is rest,

“Come to me,
all you who are weary and burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy,
and my burden is light,”
Mt 11:28-30.

Deep cleansing breath.

Mark 3:7-35

“When they heard all he was doing, many people came to him…,” v 8.

There are four groups of folks who come to Jesus in this passage:

Large crowds. Jesus heals many who are sick and drives out demons, so many that he’s become a sensation. Large crowds are following him from all over the region, some even from distant cities. He asks his disciples to have a small boat ready, so he can get away from the people on shore and teach from the water, Mk 3:7-9; 4:1.

These folks seem more interested in his miracles, in “all he was doing,” and what he can do for them, than they are in him or his message, “for he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him,” v 10. They’re quick to jump on his bandwagon, but will be just as quick to jump off and holler, “Crucify him!” Mk 15:13.

Apostles. Jesus goes up on a mountainside and calls “those he wanted, and they came to him.” Besides large crowds, there’s a smaller group of followers he has, a group that includes women who take care of his needs, Mk 15:41. From these, he calls 12 men he wants to be closest to him, “that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons,” v 14.

This is still Jesus’ way with his people today. He draws them in to send them out to others. A faithful life with Jesus includes time “with him,” and time “sent out” from him. In and out, in and out is the pattern, and it includes having authority in spiritual warfare.

Family. Jesus’ family hears about the hoopla surrounding him and how he’s so pressed in by people that he and his disciples can’t even eat, and they decide he’s lost his mind. Why put up with this? they’ve gotta wonder. He can’t live this way day after day. So they show up to “take charge of him” and manage him, rather than to ask how they can help him, v 20-21.

Maybe they’re thinking they will make him stop this foolishness and come home. Maybe they’re motivated by concern for what’s best for him. Maybe all the fuss over him embarrasses them, so they decide to show up and “take charge of him.” It’s likely not from faith that they’re concerned, since elsewhere we’re told that Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe in him, Jn 7:3-5.

Whatever the reason, at the end of this chapter when his mother and brothers try to get Jesus’ attention, he looks at those seated in a circle around him and says, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother,” v 34-35. Maybe God’s family matters to Jesus as much as his flesh-and-blood, because we need more than family to love us. Sometimes they just don’t.

I’m guessing this incident didn’t end as Jesus’ family hoped. There would be no taking charge of the One who has all authority in heaven and on earth. Jesus knew as early as the age of 12 when he stayed behind in Jerusalem to talk in the synagogue, that his heavenly Father’s business was what he was about. It had to have been painful for Jesus to be so poorly understood again, as he had been then, Mt 28:18; Lk 2:49-50.

Religious teachers from Jerusalem. These men have heard the hubbub surrounding Jesus and have come from Jerusalem to see what it’s all about. Earlier in this chapter, the Pharisees are angry enough after Jesus heals a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath that they begin to plot with the Herodians (Jews who support Rome) about how they can kill him, v 6. They’ve likely sent word to Jerusalem and these big dogs have come to check on what he’s teaching.

Jesus has driven out demons and has given power to his disciples to do the same, v 11-12, 15. These teachers say it’s because he’s demon possessed himself that he can drive out other demons. But Jesus points out that this doesn’t make sense, “How can Satan drive out Satan?,” because a kingdom divided against itself can’t stand, v 22-26.

The four groups who come to Jesus represent four ways people still come to him today:

–those with a flash-in-the-pan faith, looking for what Jesus can do for them;

–those with an in-and-out faith, spending time with Jesus and sharing his love;

–those with a management-faith, wanting to take charge of Jesus rather than submit to him;

–those with no-faith, who hate Jesus and want to get rid of him.

Jesus responds to these four groups differently: he continues to reach out and teach the flashes-in-the pan; he rebukes the haters and gives them the chance to repent; he lets managers wait while he invests in the ones at his feet; he pours into his men so they pour out for him. Time with Jesus is meant to be spread.

JESUS…
Teach me who you are,
Fill me with your Breath,
Send me out to share,
Let me feel your rest,
I am yours fore’er.

Psalm 37:1-11

David teaches how to handle “those who do wrong” and still seem to prosper. He says to remember they’ll soon wither and die, like grass, v. 1-2

Then he gives a list of things to do with one’s eyes on God—not on one’s enemy:

–Trust in the Lord, v 3.

–Do good, v 3.

–Delight yourself in the Lord, v 4.

–Commit your way to the Lord, 5.

–Be still before the Lord, v 7.

–Wait patiently for him, v 7.

–Don’t worry about the success of the wicked, v 7.

–Turn from anger and fear, v 8.

–Hope in the Lord, v 9.

And he shares the rewards for doing the above:

–You’ll have safe pasture, v 3.

–You’ll be given the desires of your heart, 4.

–Your righteousness will shine like the sunrise, v 6.

–Your vindication will be obvious, like the noonday sun, v 6.

–You’ll be humble, v 11.

–You’ll inherit the land, v 11.

–You’ll “enjoy great peace,” v 11.

If you have wicked, wrong-doing, or foolish people in your life, this psalm is encouraging. The counsel from King David is to stop being in awe of them and to put your focus on living for God and being in awe of him. It’s easy to let their behavior consume you. Turn your thoughts to God instead.

It does no good to go tit-for-tat, or to defend and explain, or to take revenge or get bitter or complain. The only path out of the pain and into “great peace” is God’s, and David should know. He spent long years of his life running from his enemies, some from his own family.

My take away today is Jesus, the better Sacrifice, who has done everything I need and offers me rest in him; Jesus, the One folks stumble over or find their footing on; Jesus, who embodies the advice and reward of David’s psalm and teaches me to do the same.

God, I want to run from my own agenda and my ways of proving worth and just relax in yours, but this is hard for me. Striving is engrained.

Show me the way, Dearest Cleansing Breath.

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