Tree of Life Blog

Engaging Culture with the wisdom and power of Christ!

About Tree of Life Church

We are a growing network of growing churches, with services weekly in Dagenham, Guildford, Watford, Croydon, Brentwood and Dorset. We are also planting churches in Cambridge, Suffolk, West Midlands and Hemel. Find out more at www.tree.church, www.tree.church/youtube and www.tree.church/app.

How to Behave in Church 04: Men and Women 01 – Move to the Middle Lane

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Men and Women Together | Graceworks

Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. (1 Tim. 2.8-10 NIV)

Now, this is an interesting issue. What you find a lot in the Bible is it is penned by people who understand something that has been forgotten in our “smart” modern age – that men and women are different. In Ephesians 4, talking about the home life, Paul tells men to love their wives and women to submit to their husbands. But elsewhere he tells us all to love each other and all of us to submit to – to honour and reverence – each other. So, why tell the men to love and the women to honour? Because men generally live in a culture of honour and relate to one another with honour, and need to be reminded to cherish their wives. And women tend to live in a culture of love and relate to each other with love, and need to be reminded to honour their husbands. Doing this will bring both husband and wife together in the middle of the road and bring unity to a home.

In church, we have the same problem. Some churches in the UK are ridiculously feminized, they are not hospitable environments for men to walk into, unless those men are feminized. Paul here is teaching us how to behave in church and again his plan is to move us both to the middle.

He first of all tells the men to pray. Prayer is a lot more natural to a woman than a man, on average. At the end of the day, prayer is communing and communicating with God, and we all instinctively realize women are generally better than men at communicating. So, Paul says “hey men, I know it’s not your strength, but you should be at the prayer meeting, you should be praying to God, you should be praying for the nation to change. Paul also reminds the men not to get angry or get involved iwth disputes. Men would often rather argue a point of doctrine, and have long discussions over a drink, then lift up their hands and commune with God and believe for a better nation.

We need to be taken by the hand by Paul here and be led into the prayer closet. Men, listen to me, when you go to church, you are there to encounter God, to commune with Him in the worship, to hear Him speak to you during the preaching. If someone comes to me at the end of a service to discuss a minor point, and miss all the major points we agree on, nine times out of ten it is a male! Why? That’s our tendency. We break things down into component parts. So, the solution – go to church to pray, to encounter God, don’t worry about the spelling error on the notice sheet, don’t worry about when the preacher misquotes the Bible verse number, don’t worry about disagreeing on one point in the sermon, but rejoice in the 99 points you agree on and love those points and let those points drive you further into communion with God.

Women do not generally need to be reminded of that. So Paul has different instructions with them. He starts off by mentioning dress – he says dress modestly. Now, this has often been taken to refer to not dressing in a salacious or sultry way, and that’s important in church that you shouldn’t look like you are going clubbing, but it’s more than that. It’s about a problem that happens when your culture is relational, you start to compare. You start to look at each other’s clothes. When a woman dresses in a certain way, most men do not notice or comment. It’s women that get upset if a woman wears the same dress every week in a row, it’s women that get upset if two of them wear the same dress to the same event! Paul is saying church should not be like that – it should never be like that. There is nothing wrong with dressing up and looking nice, Paul is not saying that. He is not saying you cannot do your hair up and put some make up and jewellry on, Paul is saying – that is not your adornment. That should not be your purpose in growing to church – to show off the dress.

If you have to show off, then show off your good works. And this is the cruz of the matter for the women – you love God, you relate to God, you pray more than your men, so do something! Sometimes you need to get your head out of the prayer closet and help someone and care for someone and do something. Stuff will always need doing, and sometimes it is hard to do because you have to learn how to do it, it’s boring, you prefer the relationships. Don’t leave all the work to the men! And especially do not leave all the work of the ministry to the men either!

If the men make sure they are interested in prayer, and if the women make sure they are adorning themselves with good works and getting stuff done then the church will come together. If not, then the women will think they are more spiritual than the women, the men will think the women are not doing anything, and the church will divide on those lines. It sounds foolish, but I have seen it happen.

The truth is men and women are different, but we both need the insights and wisdom of each other. If we can all humble ourselves, learn from each other and come towards the middle of the road, the whole church will function better.

Jesus is Our Tabernacle 05: The Light of the World

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Golden Lampstand of the Tabernacle Symbolism
The Lampstand Illuminating the Holy Place

31 “Make a lampstand of pure gold. Hammer out its base and shaft, and make its flowerlike cups, buds and blossoms of one piece with them. 32 Six branches are to extend from the sides of the lampstand—three on one side and three on the other. 33 Three cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms are to be on one branch, three on the next branch, and the same for all six branches extending from the lampstand. 34 And on the lampstand there are to be four cups shaped like almond flowers with buds and blossoms. 35 One bud shall be under the first pair of branches extending from the lampstand, a second bud under the second pair, and a third bud under the third pair—six branches in all. 36 The buds and branches shall all be of one piece with the lampstand, hammered out of pure gold.

37 “Then make its seven lamps and set them up on it so that they light the space in front of it. 38 Its wick trimmers and trays are to be of pure gold. 39 A talent of pure gold is to be used for the lampstand and all these accessories. 40 See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain. (Exodus 25.31-40 NIV)

We are talking today about the source of light in the Holy Place, a lampstand. The KJV calls this a candlestick but it was not a candle like you would think of a candle, it was an oil-fueled lamp. Moses was very clear only oil could be the light in the Holy Place (Lev. 24.2). The lampstand was one of three objects in the Holy Place, the showbread we mentioned in our last post and the next post will discuss the altar there. This was where the Levites served daily.

Now, the lampstand is unusual as it is the first object in which we are not given dimensions for. It had to be hammered out of 120lb of pure gold (that’s nearly £2 million worth of gold in today’s prices), the gold reminding us of Jesus – that He is precious and divine! This lamp would have been large, as large almost as the table of showbread that it was opposite.

The bread on the table as we said was Jesus our sustainance, our bread of Life, our growth and maturity. But Jesus is also the lamp shining on the bread. Not only does Jesus feed us – He shows us the way to feed on Himself. He is not just the life, He is the wisdom that shows us how to live the life!

Now Jesus is the light of the world, but this light was not shown to the world. There is a light you can only see inside the tabernacle, and there is a light that only the righteous can see. There is an illumination that we can only have as we turn to Jesus. The light shows us Jesus.

The lampstand had seven cups and they were filled with oil and lit for the light. Oil is often a picture of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has been sent to us from Jesus to reveal Him to us, to point us to Him, to exalt Him. What a powerful picture – the Holy Spirit is the light fueling our minds illumination to reveal the Bread of Life to us.

Now to get the lamp to the correct shape to bring light, it needed to be hammered. The Hebrew word is miqshah, and it means to beat the whole object over and over again. To turn a single piece of gold into a lamp without breaking it and just by beating it takes a lot of skill and energy. But think of that image, this block of gold was beat over and over again – and as it was beat it became our light.

Jesus Christ, the God-man, was beat over and over and over. He was whipped again and again, He was nailed to a cross, His beard was ripped off, His head was bleeding, His hands and feet were nailed to the cross, and He died of that beating. But He rose again on the third day, the beating had changed His shape. No longer the one and only Son of God, now He is the first born of many brethren. His suffering transformed Him into the captain of our salvation. His beating made Him the light of the world. And He is still our light today.

What a powerful image of Jesus! The light shines out of the darkness. The dark beating and death of Jesus, his face marred beyond all recognition, his form no longer looking human, has released the light of glory into the world!

How to Behave in Church 03: Pray in Church

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6 Ways to Increase Corporate Prayer in Your Church | Facts & Trends

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;

For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour;

Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. 2.1-4, KJV)

When we read 1 Timothy in the light of the fact that Timothy is written by Paul to show us how to behave in local church, we can then put everything penned in the letter into the context of local church – and that includes prayer! Prayer should be at the heart of every local church, every church should pray together, and pray in a variety of different ways.

I am not going to give a general teaching on prayer, but I will tell you that prayer should happen within private and also at the same time in the local church. If you do not have a local church, your prayer life is missing an essential direction. I cannot emphasise that enough – if you are not having success in your prayers and do not go to church, those two things are absolutely related. You need to pray with not just other Christians, not just the Christians you meet in the pub, not just your fellow Bible College students (if none of them go to church, you are all a bunch of clowns) – you need to pray with your church. The first time the prayer of agreement is mentioned by Jesus in the Word it is agreeing in prayer with the people from your church! The first time the prayer of binding and loosing is mentioned it is in the context of local church praying together. The first time Peter is jailed for his faith, as soon as he leaves jail he goes to his own company to pray with them. If you do not have your own church, your own company, you have missed the point of Christianity. It really is that simple.

So when we gather we should pray and not just pray for your knees and my back. We should be praying for the nation and city we live in and pray for the leaders of the town, nation and region. We absolutely must be praying for those. Then we should be praying for all people! Why? Because God wants people saved and God wants people to know the truth. Those two concepts – the world being saved and people knowing the truth are summed up in two words: evangelism and discipleship. God wants the church to be evangelistic and God wants the church to make disciples. So, God put praying together into the church. The more we pray, the more we communicate with God and we find out the wisdom, the strategies, the flow of the gifts to help evangelise and disciple the world.

How To Behave in Church 02: Don’t Act Without Meaning

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How to Excel at Almost Anything With Deliberate Practice Self-control -  Reed Rawlings

The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith. But some people have missed this whole point. They have turned away from these things and spend their time in meaningless discussions. They want to be known as teachers of the law of Moses, but they don’t know what they are talking about, even though they speak so confidently. (1 TIm. 1.5-7, NLT)

In my first post in this series, I said that we all have to behave in church, and that 1st Timothy was written to teach and train every Christian on how to behave in church. Today, I am going to give you a number of ways that you can behave in the house of the Lord, which is the church.

  • Be Filled with Love
    • This is fundamental. Now we know that our spirits are filled with love the moment we get born again, so it is our souls that need to be filled with love. We need to be thinking about how much God loves us and how much God loves everyone else in the church. This is an essential behaviour in the house of the Lord. When you go to church, when you go to living church, when you go to meet your brothers and sisters in Christ, remember God loves them, God cares for them, God wants to bless them, honour them and lift them to a higher level. Ask the Lord for ways you can show love to them, ask the Lord how to walk in love, think of creative ways to bless people in church.
    • We could say a lot about this, but 1 Cor. 13.5 in the ESV says “Love does not insist on its own way”. One of the ways we misbehave in the house of the Lord is by insisting on things being done our way. Insisting we have a say, insisting we have our turn to speak and minister, insisting the church be run our way, insisting that we can do what we want. None of that is walking in love, and none of that is behaving in the house of the Lord. When people come to Tree of Life Church and in their first week they want to speak to everyone in the church, I know wherever they have been – what church, what Bible College, what conferences – they have never ever learned how to behave in the house of the Lord.
    • 1 Cor. 13.5 also tells us that love is not irritable. We need to not be moody with each other. The Greek word for irritable is paroxyno, and it means to be sharp or uncomfortable. We need to be deliberately working on making people in the church as comfortable and as blessed as possible! Those people who enjoy stirring, and love their drama, and share their gossip, have no idea how to behave in the house of the Lord and need to be taught the basics!
  • Don’t Miss the Point
    • The whole point of church is to be filled with love. But some people in Timothy’s church missed the point. They didn’t realize that was the point of church. The vision of church is to build something full of love, filled with love, but so many people today still miss that point. They want the church to be about them showing off, about them causing a scene, they think just learning about love is boring, and they want to “do something”. I regularly get asked “what is the church doing”, by people who are not there a lot or when they are there are not walking in love and are easily offended and not prefering one another in love. They have missed the whole point. The point of church is not chasing satan, not who can pray in tongues the best, who can impress the most, who can be the most dramatic, who can get themselves talked about, who can have their say. It is to grow in love, and if you don’t realize that – you have missed the point. Some people get upset and annoyed if you bring the point back to love and walking in love and training people to love each other. They want to “go deep” in the Word, but they are not deep because they never serve. You cannot be deeper than the people you serve!
  • Don’t Turn Away
    • Other people start off walking in love, start off loving the church, but then something happens and they turn away from that love. They turn their back on building a house where people walk in love and share love, and love each other and help each other in practical and spiritual ways. They started off behaving in the house of the Lord, but the pace of learning love, the pace of discipleship, the pace of wisdom was too slow for them so they started running at the pace of the spectacular, chasing miracles, chasing fads, chasing each other’s tails. Getting promoted in the church was taking too long, so they started sowing sedition within the church and ended up in the sin of Absalom. They turned away, and they lost out. And when people turn away from love – they end up in a place where nothing has meaning, because all meaning is found in God, and God is love.
  • Don’t Waste Time in Meaningless Discussions
    • There are many times in church I have to shut down a discussion because it is meaningless. People want to argue about something that is not explicitly said in Scripture, or about a Scripture that has an ambiguous meaning. They want to pontificate about conspiracy theories, about politics, about other people’s hearts and why people did a certain thing. It’s all meaningless discussions and it is not how you behave in church. And with a lot of people it is the same meaningless discussion every single week. Week after week. Every living church, every conversation, every situation has to be warped and twisted to become a chance to bang on about their meaningless topic. That time could be spent learning more about love and grace and God’s goodness, and studying the Word.
  • Don’t want to be known as a law-teacher
    • People want to have all sorts of secret knowledge. They want to point to something in the book of Leviticus and then show something about the Hebrew and how this letter of a Hebrew word means this and the other letter means that. It’s all about being sensational and not about building people up. So many people mangle Hebrew, it’s more likely someone mentioning the Hebrew is mangling it than not in some circles! People also want to control others, and the law is great at helping you control people. If you preach the law, you can easily make other people feel scared or guilty, and then you can control them. That’s one reason why people love preaching and teaching the law, to control. The truth is found in Romans 6.14 that we are not under the law of Moses. It is in the Scripture so it is definitely able to admonish us and teach us, but it is not the law we are living under, but the grace of God, and we should major on that. If not, we are missing the point.
  • Don’t Talk About Things You Know Nothing About
    • Psalm 131.1 says that “I do not concern myself with things above my level”. A lot of people like to talk about things they just know nothing about. They will tell me how church should be run, and they have never run a church (except into the ground). They will talk about how to do this or that, but have no idea. They tell me how we should do evangelism but never do it themselves. They tell me how the worship should be led and they cannot hold a note. They tell me what I should preach on but they cannot even serve someone. They tell me they are a prophet but they cannot handle a slight correction! Stick with things you know about and you are learning to behave in the house of the Lord!

Next week we will look at the point of the law of Moses and what it is good for.

How To Behave in Church 01 We Should Behave in Church!

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Are Children Supposed to Enjoy Church? | Rational Faiths | Mormon Blog

14 I am writing these things to you now, even though I hope to be with you soon, 15 so that if I am delayed, you will know how people must conduct themselves in the household of God. This is the church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth. (1 Tim. 3.14-15, NLT)

Paul told Timothy that he wrote First Timothy so that Timothy, as a pastor, would know how people must conduct themselves in the house of the Lord. To me that is a staggering statement – there is a whole book of the Bible written to Christians to show us how to behave in church, and some Christians are still discussing whether they should even be in a church, let alone behave in one.

Also, I have seen so much bad behaviour in churches by people who clearly have no idea how to behave in church, I wonder if they have ever read their Bible. They have watched Christian TV all day, they have listened to all the popular ministers, they have even been to Bible College – but still they do not know how to behave in church. It’s stunning to me, but sadly it is true.

So, I am going to pull a few truths out of Timothy and help you learn how to behave properly in the most important environment in the universe, the church of the living God and the local expression of church that God has called you to!

Let’s start right at the beginning of the letter as Paul jumps straight in and tells pastor Tim what he need to do in the local church:

When I left for Macedonia, I urged you to stay there in Ephesus and stop those whose teaching is contrary to the truth. Don’t let them waste their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees. These things only lead to meaningless speculations,which don’t help people live a life of faith in God. (1 Tim. 1.3-4, NLT)

Timothy was the pastor of the church at Ephesus, and it was a big church. Some estimates tell us it might have been 100,000 people! Clearly Timothy was not doing all the teaching himself, and there were clearly elders and other leaders involved in teaching some classes, small groups, maybe mid-week meetings. But Timothy as the pastor was told imperatively: stop those who do not teach truth.

It is the sole responsibility of the pastor of a local church to decide what is taught and what is not. It is that simple. Now any experienced guest speaker knows that, they will ask me if there is a teaching that is controversial or that I do not want taught in the church. But sadly, wolves do not often come in the form of travelling ministries, they don’t wear evangelist’s clothing, they come in sheep’s clothing. They join the church then start spreading their particular hobby horse. Even sadder, a lot of churches in the UK are designed and set up as a legal entity that the pastor has no recourse to stop this kind of teaching. That is not Biblical – the pastor of the local church has the authority to stop others teaching.

Now in our “everyone gets a participation prize” generation, many people struggle with that. I have heard many people call me “pulpit possessive” and “pulpit proud”, I have been accused of having a closed church, an unspiritual church, and a lot worse because I obey the Scripture and I am very careful about who I let teach in the church, and when I let people teach, I am prescriptive of what they teach. I do this because it is Biblical. There is a way to run church, a way to behave in church and the way is this:

  • Pastors have the authority to stop anyone from teaching anything contrary to the truth

I always tell people if you want to flow in the gifts or teach in the Tree of Life Family you cannot be a thin-skinned, over-emotional, immature Christian. Because there will be times I stop you teaching, stop you sharing, stop you participating in a meeting because I am the pastor and I have a gifting and ministry and responsibility to ensure the whole church is fed with green grass and led to still waters. That’s part of my job as a pastor, and if I do not do it, I am not doing my job properly.

That should make you feel safe. That should make you feel confident in the Tree of Life. If it makes you frustrated, you have to ask yourself why. If you think the church is too closed for you, don’t worry, there are plenty of churches around that ignore this Biblical principle and will let you say pretty much whatever you want. But you will have to be prepared to never grow as a Christian in that environment and you will have to be prepared to move churches as those kind of churches do not last long. Also, someone there will have a bigger mouth than you, and because of your unchecked pride you will get annoyed at them pretty much every week. On the other hand, you could let us disciple you, train you, equip you and give you the character and wisdom to handle your giftings and help you launch out into a stable, Biblical, strong ministry. It’s your choice, but I recommend you choose life!

What happens if you let anyone just get up and teach in a church and do not bring it into check as a pastor? Two main things will end up dominating the teaching. I know this from experience as well as the Word:

  • Discussion of Myths
  • Spiritual Pedigrees

The first thing that happens is a discussion of myths. In an eagerness to not feed the sheep, but to be remembered by the sheep, to be spectacular, to be esteemed by the sheep, people will pick the hardest to grasp stories in the Scripture, and develop outlandish theories about them. I know one church where the pastor ignored my advice on this, and eventually changed when one morning the “preacher” preached on the aliens in the Bible. Not foreigners – actual aliens from other planets who helped the children of Israel. That is a myth. It never happened! The Jewish people have a lot of myths and urban legends and so do the church, and I guarantee you let teaching go unchecked they will all surface and become the domination discussion point in your church. Meanwhile, no-one will be talking about living by faith, walking in love, forgiving, our righteousness in Christ. That is on the pastor if they allow it, and it is on the small-minded people who want a platform and want to just be sensational. You find that the conspiracy theories of the day will find their way into the pulpit as these teachers attempt to out-myth each other. It is tedious, unedifying and not the way the church of Jesus Christ should be run,

Secondly, there will be a discussion of pedigree. Lacking true Biblical authority, and not being in the fivefold ministry and not being called by Jesus Christ as a pastor (I don’t count going to Bible College as making you a pastor, and I don’t count pastoring for a couple of years a church that had to close down being called of God), people will then reinvent their qualifications as to why they are the most spiritual person in the church. In my life I have heard things like:

  • I don’t have to listen to you because I am 71 and you are only 40-something.
  • I have been to X Bible College and you haven’t, I should be in charge here
  • We have had a person stop the entire service, everyone worshipping and loving God, and stop it all by yelling to let everyone know he invited a new person to church!
  • I am more loving than you, I should be the pastor
  • I have seen a miracle, I should be allowed to speak now

None of those things have any true spiritual pedigree. Only fruit! By their fruit you know people (Matthew 7.15). The problem is that fruit takes time to grow. But these people come to church, and week 2 want the pulpit. They have no idea how to behave in the house of the Lord. They have no idea about feeding the sheep, loving the sheep, laying down their lives for the sheep. They want things to be stirred up, not still waters. They’d rather a drama on a Sunday than a smooth, still service. They have no idea how much the sheep need it to be still to be able to drink. They stir things up because it suits them and not because it suits the church. They have no idea how to behave in the church.

If they are asked to preach, rather than feed the sheep the green grass of a powerful, Biblical message on grace, faith, our identity, they would rather feed them something spicy and novel and exciting – their pet doctrines, their view of a particular conspiracy theory, their idea of some obscure teaching on an obscure passage. They are more concerned about being venerated than feeding people. They want to be on X-Factor, not MasterChef. They have no idea how to behave in the house of the Lord.

If you are causing a scene because “my pastor won’t let me teach my thing”, it’s time for you to sit down and listen to what is being taught and rejoice you have such a good pastor. Rejoice you are in a “closed” church, because that is a safe church. Yes, all things should be done – but decently and in order. You jumping up and yelling in the middle of the service is out of order, and a church that allows that is out of order.

Pastors, only teach things that build a foundation of faith in people. And only let people teach who do the same. And people – go for the people who preach faith not those who cause speculation and confusion. Let’s learn how to behave in church. Let’s not do foolish things to impress the sheep, to be down with the kids, to attract a goat or two, let us teach what feeds the sheep and let’s feed them! And let all of us celebrate those who do that!

Jesus is Our Tabernacle 04: Jesus is Our Bread of the Presence

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All About Bread 4: The Bread of the Presence | The Layman's Bible

23 “You shall make a table of acacia wood. Two cubits shall be its length, a cubit its breadth, and a cubit and a half its height. 24 You shall overlay it with pure gold and make a molding of gold around it. 25 And you shall make a rim around it a handbreadth wide, and a molding of gold around the rim. 26 And you shall make for it four rings of gold, and fasten the rings to the four corners at its four legs. 27 Close to the frame the rings shall lie, as holders for the poles to carry the table. 28 You shall make the poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold, and the table shall be carried with these. 29 And you shall make its plates and dishes for incense, and its flagons and bowls with which to pour drink offerings; you shall make them of pure gold. 30 And you shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before me regularly. – Exodus 25.23-30, ESV

While the Ark was behind the veil in the Most Holy Place, the table was not there, it was in the Holy Place. Notice there were three parts of the tabernacle – the outer court, the holy place and the most holy place. This is a picture of us as humans – our body on the outside, the holy place – our soul, our mind and emotions, and our most holy place – our spirit on the inside. The mercy seat is in the spirit, our most holy place, but this bread is for our soul.

The table was the same height as the ark exactly, and was also constructed from wood with gold overlaid it – what a picture of the soul of Jesus, perfectly human but only thinking the thoughts and wisdom of the Father! Two natures in one table – just like Jesus is fully man and fully God in his soul as well as his spirit. A table in Hebrew culture is always a symbol of fellowship, and this table shows how God fellowship with us – by feeding us. This is true in the New Covenant too, where our deepest thoughts about Christ and His crucifixion happens with bread and wine at a table! The table is where we remember Jesus and His work on the cross.

This bread in the Holy Place was called the Bread of the Presence. It had to be made of pure flour (Lev. 24.5). This bread was baked into twelve loaves of equal size and put on the table in two piles of six. They were to stay before the Lord for one week, and were replaced every sabbath. Then, the priests could eat the bread.

There was no wine here, because communion tells us of the blood and body of Christ, but we have already seen the blood at the altar. But the bread is here – pointing to Jesus, our Bread of Life (John 6.35). A strange thing here is the insistence that the table has a rim to it – the width of a human hand to keep the bread from falling off the table. I like that image – what an image – we are kept secure by the hand of Christ and are always secure resting in Him and on His mind.

There are 12 loaves just like there were 12 tribes. Now get this – I love this – all the tribes were different sizes, had different jobs, different skills. They were all different, those tribes. But the bread was all the same size. We are all different, with different skills and ministries, and strengths and incomes and abilities and gifts. But before Jesus, in the mind of God, at the foot of the cross, we are all the same. We are all equal in the sight of the love and grace of God! We are all equally precious and loved by God!

Now you might accuse me of making a mistake there – I started off saying the bread was a picture of Christ, but I am now saying that it is a picture of us – but that is the reality of the New Covenant, we are in Christ, and the bread is the picture of Him and us. We are now new creations, just like Him! In fact, every symbol of Jesus in the Old Testament is now a picture of us now we are in Him. He is the bread of life we feed on to increase and gain life, but we are now the bread of life in Him, called to feed and transform the world.

God said “you shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before me regularly” – we should regularly be reminding ourselves of the fact we are in the presence of God, and we should be very aware that God is always reminding Himself that we are in His presence, dreaming and planning ways to prosper us and not to harm us. There is always bread in the house of the Lord for us! There is always life for us. What a glorious picture of God’s grace and goodness! Bread!

Jesus is Our Tabernacle 03: Jesus is Our Mercy Seat

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The Mercy Seat, throne of Grace, Exodus 25, ark of the covenant - free  PowerPoint Sermons by Pastor Jerry Shirley Message Bible Study Manuscripts  Notes Helps

17 “Then make the Ark’s cover—the place of atonement—from pure gold. It must be 45 inches long and 27 inches wide. 18 Then make two cherubim from hammered gold, and place them on the two ends of the atonement cover. 19 Mold the cherubim on each end of the atonement cover, making it all of one piece of gold. 20 The cherubim will face each other and look down on the atonement cover. With their wings spread above it, they will protect it. 21 Place inside the Ark the stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant, which I will give to you. Then put the atonement cover on top of the Ark. 22 I will meet with you there and talk to you from above the atonement cover between the gold cherubim that hover over the Ark of the Covenant. From there I will give you my commands for the people of Israel. – Exodus 25.17-22

Last week we looked at the fact that Jesus is our Ark of the Covenant, Now, I want to show you that the Ark is not just a picture of Jesus, but the lid of the ark is another picture of Jesus. The lid of the ark is called the Mercy Seat, and Jesus is our Mercy Seat. The Greek word is hilasterion which is means the place where sin is covering. It was on this lid that every year the high priest would come into the Most Holy Place and pour the blood of an animal on the golden lid of the ark. This was the mercy of God covering the sins of the people.

The lid was built to perfectly fit the Ark, it was one piece of gold hammered into shape. On top of the lid, there are two cherubim facing each other, with their wings spread. The cherubim show that God is holy and pure, and that we need mercy!

So here in the solid gold lid we see a place where in the midst of God’s holiness, the blood of mercy is saying that we can still stand.

Where else do we find in the midst of judgment and holiness the mercy of God? It is the cross of Jesus. In between the angels, the blood of Jesus Christ Himself was poured out, Jesus took the punishment that brought us peace. Last week we pointed out that the ark contained the law – the life of Jesus contained a perfect life. He lived a perfect life. But the lid covers the law – it remove the demand of a perfect life, and then the blood is poured on the lid, calling for mercy.

The ark is the picture of the life of Jesus, but the lid, the top – the highest point of the life of Jesus is the act of providing mercy through blood. And Jesus did not go and get a bull or goat, He used His perfect blood to bring us mercy.

The Mercy Seat is the only seat in the entire Tabernacle, and God sat on it. God could take the place of judgement or wrath, but God sits on mercy. He takes the place of mercy. You could not see the Mercy Seat from the outside of the tabernacle – you had to trust by faith that the priest had gone inside and poured out the blood on the altar for you to cover your sin, and you cannot see the mercy of God in the flesh – you need faith, you need to accept the blood is inside and poured out on your behalf.

Jesus sits in heaven full of mercy. Now, God told the Israelites that He would meet with His people between the cherubim, on the seat of Mercy! God still speaks to us from the place of mercy, and still is with us by the Spirit of God. The work of Christ at the cross – means there is blood for you and mercy for you!

Next week we will look at the bread of heaven, and see Jesus in that.

Jesus is Our Tabernacle 02: Jesus is Our Ark

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The Ark of the Covenant and the Holy of Holies – Reasoned Cases for Christ
The Ark of the Covenant

Have them make a chest of acacia wood, two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. Overlay it with pure gold both inside and out, and make a gold moulding around it (Exodus 25.10-11, KJV)

Now we are continuing our series to look at Moses’ Tabernacle and how it is one of the clearest images of Jesus Christ in the whole Bible. Today, I want to look at the Ark that was in the tabernacle. It was a box, four foot by two and a half foot by two and a half foot, so not particularly huge. It was the main item in the Most Holy Place.

God tells us about the Ark first because it was the central part of the Tabernacle, it was the place where God lived with His people. As we look at the Ark, we can see several reflections of the Lord.

  1. It had to be made from acacia wood. The acacia tree only grows in the midst of deserts and because of this, it is a very hard wood that simply will not decay. That wood formed the ark, and it is a beautiful image of the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ. You all know Jesus was human? Did you know that he “grew up before the Lord like a tender shoot” (Isa. 53.2), did you know that Jesus never rotted or decayed either (Acts 2.27)?
  2. Then the wood had to be covered with gold inside and out. There was one Ark made with two materials – wood and gold. Just like Jesus is one person made of two materials – fully human and fully God! The gold is an image of the fact that Jesus was and is fully God. He was the Word from the beginning! The gold completely covered the wood, but the wood made the shape of it. Jesus looked like every other human, but was covered inside and out with gold – He was the Word made flesh, He was fully human. Did you know Jesus is still human today? A lot of people seem to not realize that, but He is. Jesus Christ, the place where we meet God is fully God and fully man, and the Ark is fully gold and fully wood! What a powerful image.
  3. Inside the ark we get three items: a jar of manna, the two tablets of the Ten Commandments and Aaron’s budded rod. The manna was in a golden jar, and is a picture that Jesus is the true bread from heaven. Jesus told us in one of his sermons that he is the “bread that came down from heaven”. So we see that Jesus is the manna for us in the New Covenant, feeding us and giving us life. The Ten Commandments represent the law, and we know that Jesus was righteous because He perfectly kept the Law. There were two sets of tablets with the Ten Commandments on. The first were broken and smashed – that is an image of Adam failing and breaking the law, but God then produced a new set of tablets – a picture of Jesus coming and not breaking the law. Jesus Christ kept the whole law His whole life. Finally, the rod of Aaron had budded – and blossomed and had almonds on it. It speaks of what? New life – resurrection life. It was a dead stick, but as it was in the hands of the High Priest, it came back to life and produced fruit after being dead. That is a powerful image of Jesus – He was a dead stick, who then flourished and produced fruit and is alive forevermore!

This ark is the only item from the tabernacle that made its way into Solomon’s Temple. It has a number of titles, but the main one is “the Ark of the Testimony”, because it is such a powerful testimony of Jesus Christ. I hope you can see Jesus in this Ark today. Next week, we will discuss the lid for this box – another powerful picture of Jesus.

Jesus is Our Tabernacle 01: He Is in the Midst of Us!

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Tabernacle Introduction and Overview | Truths From the Tabernacle

One of the most spectacular and clearest pictures of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament is the tent in the wilderness, what is commonly called the tabernacle. The Bible takes a lot of time to describe this tabernacle – it starts in Exodus 25 and finishes in Exodus 40. That is a lot of space to describe a tent. But this tent was no ordinary tent. It was not built in any old way, it was built in a very specific way:

“Have the people of Israel build me a holy sanctuary so I can live among them. You must build this Tabernacle and its furnishings exactly according to the pattern I will show you. (Exodus 25.8-9 NLT)

In the New Covenant we find these verses quoted and we find out why God was so specific on what He was building:

They serve in a system of worship that is only a copy, a shadow of the real one in heaven. For when Moses was getting ready to build the Tabernacle, God gave him this warning: “Be sure that you make everything according to the pattern I have shown you here on the mountain (Hebrews 8.5 NLT)

The Old Testament tabernacle in the wilderness was built specifically because it was a precise copy of something heavenly. This tabernacle is so important to the Old Testament, it has more chapters describing it than Abraham or David have describing their life! Why? It is a picture of Jesus, one of the clearest pictures of Jesus in the Bible. It is a visual picture of salvation that anyone can see. It shows we need someone to approach God in our place, it shows us that blood is essential to make a sinner righteous, it shows that God wants to live in the midst of His people. It is a very powerful image.

We know the tabernacle is a picture of the work of Jesus, and we know that Jesus became flesh and tabernacled among us (John 1.14). Jesus Christ was no ordinary human, He was God become flesh, He was God among us. And in the same way, this tent was no ordinary tent, it was the tent God lived in. When we look at the pattern of the tabernacle, we see Jesus in a clear way that helps us understand and appreciate His moving. Just like this tent is where God was, now Jesus is where God is and if you find Jesus you find God! If you see Jesus, you see the Father!

The Tabernacle was only supposed to be temporary, but Jesus Christ is eternally the dwelling place of God. This is the first picture of the tabernacle – the first lesson we learn about Jesus from it – the Tabernacle is the centre of the people of God. The people surrounded the Tabernacle (Numbers 1.50). The most significant event at the tabernacle, the thing that happened day after day, all the time, is the blood sacrifice of animals, pointing to the blood sacrifice of Jesus. This tabernacle was also where the priests were fed. We are all priests of Jesus and we are fed by walking with Jesus, reading the Word and spending time around Him.

There is only one way into the Tabernacle, just one door – and there is only one door to the presence of God – Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life. The one door to the Tabernacle was on the east side, which opens to the camp of Judah. To get to the tabernacle, you had to walk through the camp of the tribe of Judah. Jesus was from the tribe of Judah! That was His tribe, He is the lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5.5). There was already a prophetic sign of what tribe Jesus would be from in the Tabernacle.

The Tabernacle was surrounded by a giant curtain, and inside the curtain was the first of three places inside the tabernacle – the outer court. The first thing you would see when you walk in the outer court, through the one door in, would be a giant bronze altar. Moving forward you would see a giant bronze laver, for washing. Then in the middle of the outer court was another tent, divided into two sections, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies.

It took a long time to plan and build this Tabernacle. God gave Moses exact dimensions, exact materials to use, exact instructions on what priests should wear, and what items should be in each part of the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle was truly designed in Heaven by God! Then after Moses gets the instructions, it is built. We find out that:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Look, I have specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. He is a master craftsman, expert in working with gold, silver, and bronze. He is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft! (Exodus 31.1-4, NLT)

What have we found out – the Spirit of God enabled people to build the tabernacle, it could not be built without the Spirit of God. Just like Jesus could not be born without the Holy Spirit coming on Mary, the Tabernacle could not be built without the Holy Spirit coming on Bezalel. We need to spend time thanking the Holy Spirit for building the tabernacle in the Old Testament, but also thank Him for the Holy Spirit overshadowing Mary and bringing Jesus to birth on earth. We want to remember that God is with us, God is camped in the midst of His people today through Jesus. As Israel marched through the desert, the tent always came with them and was always right in the middle of them. Today, even if two or three are gathered, our Tabernacle is in the midst of us – moving where we move, never forsaking us, never letting us go, never abandoning us. He is with us always, even to the ends of the earth.

Get Beyond the End of Your Nose 07: All Ministry is to Others

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So many people who want to be in ministry want to be in it for either themselves, or if they are slightly larger hearted, several people who they already know. I had honestly had people ask me to start a church in their town because their church is struggling and so all the people that are leaving are wanting somewhere to go. That’s the limit of their vision! I have been asked to plant a church next to a Bible College so the students have somewhere to go to – that’s the limit of the vision!

No – a true minister of God wants to reach others. It wants to reach the people who do not go to church or Bible College, it wants to reach the people who are from all over the earth. It wants to reach the people who are utterly unreachable, people who are not right there, but people who are out of the way. A true minister of God wants to reach people – all people.

A true minister of God cares about people he does not even know. As the Tree of Life Family grows, there will be people we reach I don’t know, our TV ministry is impacting many people I do not know. Sometimes people ask me why I travel so much, but the truth is that I want to reach people far away. Paul invested his life in others, and we should too!

It is hard for me in the Tree of Life Family sometimes to get people to think of others. Why are we going to all these places? Why are we building churches in all these towns? Why is your eye on Europe, why do you travel to America and Africa, isn’t there enough problems in the UK? Why are you planting in Cambridge? Why did you go to Dorset? Why are you in Suffolk? Guildford is doing fine, you don’t need to go there. What is your interest in this place or that place? I have a call of God on my life to go into all the world and make disciples. Sometimes I have to work on persuading people that it is all about others. I understand William Booth writing “others” as his special message for the church.

Paul had to keep reminding others to think of others. Paul raised up TImothy in ministry because he thought of others. My favourite pastors and elders are the ones who are thinking of others. My favourite places to minister are around people thinking of others. My favourite places to go are where there are others.

Paul told the Corinthians this:

I will very gladly spend and be spent for you, though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.

2 Corinthians 12.15

We need to have the same attitude, and love others, even if it means that others love us less for it. I have certainly been loved less by certain people because I have loved others more. If I had stayed pastoring one church certain people would love me more because of it, but because I have a drive inside me to reach others, it has cost me friends, it has cost me love. But the rewards have totally outweighed the cost. And it will be the same for you.

What can you do for others today? Give to a ministry that is involved in world mission and planting churches! Pray for others. If you are part of the Tree of Life Family, go viist another one of the churches, or one of our Grace Gatherings when they open up and get involved helping and loving people. Pray for a country you have never been to. Pray for a church you have never been to. Ask the Lord for some wisdom here and He loves you and will lead you!

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