Thursday, January 31, 2013

Altar Your Life!

Life in Christ, while a gift, is not free of standards and expectations. As God’s children, He expects us to live for Him, not ourselves. As His dwelling place, we are told in Romans 12:1 to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” It is the how of living “out from among them (the world) and separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17).
This is where I stepped on the trail of blood months ago, wondering what the Old Testament had to teach us about sacrifice now, in New Testament times. Not what to sacrifice, but how. Not rules and regulations, but attitudes of a redeemed, transformed heart.
Rather than shedding blood, we shed flesh.
Here are four key truths from the trail. As then, our sacrifices today should be:
1.       Pure

“Let him offer a male without blemish” (Leviticus 1:3), meaning “compete, whole, entire, wholesome, innocent, unimpaired, having integrity” (Strong’s H8549 tamiym). It’s talking about perfection! The law couldn’t achieve it (Hebrews 7:19), and neither can we on our own (Galatians 3:3), but Christ, through the single offering of Himself, “perfected forever those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14). Thus, as a living sacrifice, we must come before the Lord with a pure heart, “free from corrupt desire, from sin and guilt; genuine, blameless, innocent, unstained with the guilt of anything” (Strong’s G2513, Matthew 5:8, katharos). For me, this means continually laying the motives and attitudes of my heart before the Lord, remaining vulnerable to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, holding up the Bible as my standard, confessing my sins, and seeking His forgiveness.
2.       Voluntary 

“He shall offer it of his own voluntary will” (Leviticus 1:3). As God’s chosen people, He asked the Israelites and He asks us to bring Him our sacrifice of our own free will, even when it’s difficult. Even when we don’t feel like it or can’t see what good it will accomplish. As fire consumed Old Testament sacrifices, the same is true for us, "for everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt” (Mark 9:49). Our faith will be tested by fire (I Peter 1:7), as will our works (I Corinthians 3:13). Therefore, may we “walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Ephesians 5:2). He is our example. May the sacrifices we make on the altar of our lives be a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18).

3.       Personal

“And he shall put his hand upon head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him” (Leviticus 1:4). When any man brought an offering to the Lord, he himself had to lay his hand upon its head, kill it (verse five), skin it, and cut it into its pieces (verse six). In the same way, each one of us must do the hard things required to live in submission to our heavenly Father. No one else can do that for us. No one can be our living sacrifice but us.

4.    Extreme

Let us be in our offerings as the Israelites were in the building of the tabernacle, when the artisans doing the work report to Moses: “’The people bring much more than enough for the service of the work which the Lord commanded us to do.’ So Moses gave a commandment and they caused it to be proclaimed throughout the camp, saying, ‘Let neither man nor woman do any more work for the offering of the sanctuary.’ And the people were restrained from bringing, for the material they had was sufficient for all the work to be done – indeed too much” (Exodus 36:6-7). Their free will offerings exceeded what was needed for the tabernacle. We cannot out give God! Whatever He desires, when we respond in obedience, no matter the cost, no matter how impossible it appears to us, He will always supply all we need and then some. Imagine if God’s entire church, as defined by those who belong to Him rather than the four walls of the buildings in which we worship, gave as the Israelites gave and it was simply too much.

Our sacrifices today will be inconvenient. Uncomfortable. It’s not the suffering that pleases God; it’s the obedience. "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams” (I Samuel 15:22). And just as Jesus learned obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:8), so will we.

That is why it’s still called sacrifice.

“And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24-25), cooperating with His work in us, becoming more obedient, our heart attitudes and resulting actions more pleasing to Him. A living sacrifice.
Lord, help us to serve You in “the newness of the Spirit and not the oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:6), being transformed by the renewing of our minds, that we may prove what is that is Your good and acceptable and perfect will (Romans 12:2), a sweet aroma as we become more wholly Yours today.

Shauna Wallace

Holy His


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Want the Perfect Scapegoat for Your Sin?

Salvation isn’t the ticket to the good life; it’s the ticket to eternal life. We are taken from a hopeless state of corruption to one acceptable before God by faith in Christ Jesus, “whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood” (Romans 3:25).

Used two other times in the New Testament (I John 2:2 and 4:10), the word propitiation refers to Jesus’ blood appeasing God, satisfying the penalty our sins deserve, and atoning for our wrongdoing. The same Greek root is used in Hebrews 9:5, but in English it refers to the mercy seat, which is “the cover of the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies, which was sprinkled with the blood of the expiatory victim on the annual day of atonement (this rite signifying that the life of the people, the loss of which they had merited by their sins, was offered to God in the blood as the life of the victim, and that God by this ceremony was appeased and their sins expiated)” (, Strong’s G2435, hilastērion).

In order to meet with God this one day a year, the high priest had to follow God’s exact instructions. If he passed the veil into the Holy of Holies any other time or any other way, he would die. After a detailed process of purification, the high priest sprinkled the blood of his own sin offering before the mercy seat to atone for himself, his family, and the Holy Place “because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all their sins; and so he shall do for the tabernacle of meeting which remains among them in the midst of their uncleanness” (Leviticus 16:16). He then repeated the process for the altar of sacrifice.

Next, he would he take from the Israelites two kids of goats as a sin offering and a ram as a burnt offering. Casting lots for the goats, one would be sacrificed and the other would be “presented alive before the Lord, to make atonement upon it, and to let it go as the scapegoat into the wilderness” (Leviticus 16:10). He would “lay both hands on the head of the live goat, confess over it all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat, and shall send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a suitable man. The goat shall bear on itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land; and he shall release the goat in the wilderness” (Leviticus 16:21-22).

Not only is Jesus the final sacrifice for our sin, doing away with the law, He is our scapegoat! Our sin was upon Him on the cross, and like the scapegoat, Jesus took it all away (I John 3:5). Not only that, but at the moment Jesus breathed His last, the veil of the temple was supernaturally “torn in two from top to bottom” (Mark 15:38). The most Holy Place is no longer a physical location accessible only to a high priest; through THE High Priest, Jesus, we have uninhibited access!

“Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19-22).

And the temple? It is now the place where Jesus dwells in us! First Corinthians 6:9 asks, “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” In fact, we “have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

Thus, “what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’ Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord almighty’” (2 Corinthians 6:16-18).

We still breathe the same air, drive the same streets, live in the same country, abide by the same legal system, are affected by the same politics and markets, are vulnerable to the same natural, political and health disasters, but WE are no longer the same. We must now think, believe, hope, talk, and live different. And that requires sacrifice of the New Testament kind.

Lord, thank You that Jesus is now our High Priest and in Him we are Your most Holy Place. Open the eyes of our understanding and strengthen us for the sacrifices You require of us now in order to live more wholly Yours today.

Shauna Wallace

Holy His

Thursday, January 17, 2013

How Can Jesus Be the Only Way?

Gruesome as it was, there had to be some satisfaction to God’s system of sacrifices and offerings for sin. Lay your hand on the animal’s head, slay and gut it according to God’s specifications, and then let the priest offer its sacred parts on the altar, thus satisfying Him, our conscience, and our need to have some semblance of control. “I did this, this, and this, and therefore, I’m secure. Surely all I’ve done good is good enough for God.”

Receiving salvation as a gift by faith requires giving up control. It takes faith! And it forces us to trust the sovereignty of an all-knowing, all-present, all-powerful God who has total control, even when things aren’t going the way we want. Even when we’re hurting. Even when we can’t make sense of our world according to our human understanding.

The law, on the other hand, doesn’t require faith at all, but the man who tries to follow it exactly is only its slave. Galatians 3:10 says, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, and do them.’” For “no one is justified by the law in the sight of God”; rather, “the just shall live by faith” (verse eleven). Therefore, we are “justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law…for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified…for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain” (Galatians 2:16, 20).

Why the law at all? Especially when scripture forever foretold a final sacrifice – no longer a covering for sin, but Whose blood actually washes sin away. No longer perpetual; once and for all! “The law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:24-25).

Romans 3:19-26 explains:

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

This is the gospel!

Every single human being (except Jesus alone) is born with no defense against sin. We might have the ability to sometimes do good, but not one of us has the ability to not sin at all. Even our righteous acts are as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6), so deeds we think are ethical, right, and just are treacherous and deceitful before a holy God! Even in our doing good, we sin.

Thankfully, Jesus is the righteousness of God apart from the law. When we put our faith in Christ, His righteousness becomes our righteousness, and we are eternally reconciled to God. Our sin condition becomes a saved condition; our heavenly destination sealed by the Holy Spirit.

Bad things are going to happen. Death comes for every one of us. Sometimes it’s tragic. Other times premature. Sometimes it’s cancer or an accident or a crime. Companies go bankrupt, others downsize. Faithful employees lose their jobs, their houses, and can’t find work. Crimes bring intense pain and suffering into our lives. Horrible things happen to good people, and good things happen to horrible people.

Being a Christian isn’t going to change any of that. In fact, given cultural trends, it might make things even more uncomfortable, which takes me back to the fact that salvation isn’t something to seek in order to have a better life. It is something every single one of us must have in order to have forgiveness of sin, the help and power of God on our side to endure what life delivers here on earth, and assurance of eternal life in heaven once our time here is through, for us and our loves ones who place their faith in Jesus Christ. There is no other way.

Who do you know who needs to hear this today?

Lord, thank You that we are never without Your presence, strength, and comfort. Hedge us behind and before and lay Your hand upon us (Psalm 139:5) as we trust in Jesus, “a better hope, through which we draw near to (You)” (Hebrews 7:19). As we become more wholly Yours, may we “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks (us) a reason for the hope that is in (us)” (I Peter 3:15). 

Shauna Wallace

Holy His

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Trail of Blood: Where Will It Lead You?

Each time I read Leviticus, I thank God animal sacrifices are no longer required for sin! I’m not sure there’s land expansive enough to hold the flocks and herds it would take to keep this girl’s slate clean. Reading the book Thanksgiving week reminded me of the greatest reason I have for giving thanks, not just one day a year, but every single day that I don’t have to slaughter the family livestock in order make atonement for my sins. What a bloodbath that would be!

I once heard Dallas pastor Tony Evans say we can never truly understand what Jesus did for us if we don’t ever read the Old Testament. That has certainly been my experience. I struggled for a long time with believing God’s forgiveness could be for me. Because I continued to stumble and sin, I thought it was impossible for the Bible to be true for me. When I began to read the Old Testament, my relationship with the Lord changed, and my comprehension of the enormity of Jesus began to take shape. Still today, God’s mercy and grace overwhelms me as I witness His protection, deliverance, and provision for a stiff-necked people who repeatedly wandered from Him, only for Him to draw them back, just like He does for me!

My plan was to write a single, simple blog about sacrifice then and now, but as I followed the trail of blood from Exodus to the Cross, God revealed new things and connected familiar ones in a fresh way. Attempting to articulate the impact of the revelation He has given me over the past seven or so weeks has felt like labor. My brain contracts and I try to push out the words only to delete what I’ve written and end up right back at a blank page. No baby. I pray He gives me the ability to effectively convey what He has shown me. Even if it is familiar, God can make it completely fresh for you, too. If not for you, perhaps for someone you know who needs to read these next few posts. Will you join me?

Let’s pick up the trail in Exodus. Three months after leaving Egypt, the Israelites are at Mount Sinai and God gives them the Ten Commandments. He establishes laws for every aspect of their lives and relationships with Him and each other.  Israel enters into covenant with the Lord, and the Lord gives Moses the specifications to build a sanctuary for Him, that He would dwell among them. Anyone who did not obey the commandments of the Lord perfectly all the time, whether they knew they were breaking God’s law or not, was guilty “and shall bear his iniquity” (Leviticus 5:17).

The penalty for sin always has been and always will be the shedding of blood, so God instructs Moses in the consecration of Aaron and his sons as priests and details the sacrifices and offerings He would require. Some covered their iniquity, others their trespasses, and still others their sin. I had never noticed the distinction before! The Lord Himself establishes the three terms in a list as He proclaims:  “The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation’" (Exodus 34:6-9, emphasis mine).

Why separate iniquity from transgression from sin? Intrigued, I researched the Hebrew roots for each word (references for Strong’s and the Hebrew definitions all come from

·         Iniquity is ‘avon (Strong’s H5771), which is perversity, depravity, and a condition of guilt. It is the state of our heart and/or the moral corruption into which we are born: our flesh. I think Encarta’s definition of perversity perfectly captures the essence of flesh: “stubborn unreasonableness, especially willfully persisting in actions that seem contrary to good sense or your own best interests.” The root of ‘avon is ‘avah (Strong’s H5753), which appropriately encompasses the idea of something being twisted, crooked, amiss or distorted, or doing perversely. This describes the state of being all of us are born into rather than a choice that we consciously make.  


·         Transgression is pesha’ (Strong’s H6588), which deals with our rebellion and guilt as we recognize it, as God addresses it, and as He forgives. It is the expression of our intrinsically corrupt condition as rebelliousness. Its root, pasha’ (Strong’s H6586), means to rebel, transgress, or revolt. As a result of our corrupt condition from birth, we naturally revolt against God until He transforms our hearts and turns us to Christ. Only then are we able to recognize our guilt, receive forgiveness, and address wrong attitudes and behaviors.


·         Sin has many roots. Chatta’ath (Strong’s H2403 for) comes from the root chata’ (Strong’s H2398) and refers to the condition and guilt of sin. It is the way we miss the mark and go wrong from the path of what’s right and what is our duty. These are actions by which we incur guilt.

Isaiah 59:2 tells us, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” The condition into which we are born (iniquity), separates us from God and results in an innate hardness of heart and rebellion against God (transgression), which causes us to err and miss the mark in what we do (sin). While there is some overlap between certain meanings for each term, making them interchangeable at times, the specific differences are at the heart of the gospel: Jesus “ was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). Healed in the Greek refers to being made whole, “free from errors and sins, to bring about one’s salvation” (, G2390, iaomai). By Jesus’ stripes, we are saved from our iniquity, transgression, and sins!

Honestly, I think a lot of people are confused about Jesus, why He died, and why being saved is a matter of eternal life and death. I had a conversation recently with a friend who was really hurting. Months prior, she saw me pray for a friend in my driveway, and she wanted me to pray with her that same way. We started talking, and I asked her if she had ever put her faith in Jesus Christ and entered into a personal relationship with Him. She had not, she explained, because both her and her husband had been very sick, they had prayed, and it didn’t do any good. It’s a common story or sentiment. You hear things like, “I read my Bible and nothing changed.” Or, “I prayed, and God didn’t do what I asked, so what’s the point?” Or, “I trusted Him and He didn’t…” Just fill in the blank. Or maybe someone’s gone to church, done all the right things, and then something tragic happened that they think God did or should have stopped.

Here’s the deal. We don’t put our faith in Jesus because He can make our lives better or because we want something from Him. We don’t seek salvation to experience a certain emotional state, like peace or joy, or to manipulate a particular outcome, like healing, financial prosperity, or better whatever. Incredibly, because of God’s goodness, many times we experience those things as His children, but none of them are the reason we should respond to God’s grace with faith.

And listen, it’s not that there aren’t good people who do good things. There are. But works don’t save. Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

There is no way to earn salvation, no matter how good a person you are or how great the things you do. Our sin condition exists at birth. We can’t save ourselves. Only God can, and He chose to do it through Jesus. And that is why we need Him.

Lord, thank You for the trail of blood that leads to Jesus, for His blood that washes away our sin. Give us a deeper understanding of who He is, what He’s done, and what You desire as we become more wholly Yours this year.

Where does the trail lead now? Join me Thursday.

Shauna Wallace

Holy His

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Resolution Revolution!

Due to a track record of complete failure, I refuse to make a New Year’s resolution. Why set myself up for guaranteed disappointment? It’s not that I disagree with the concept. I think it’s good to have goals and inspiring intentions for improvement. I just know that promises that depend on sheer will and determination usually spring from my desire to fix something in me so that I can create my own sense of satisfaction. Even spiritual goals can be self serving when reliant on my own tenacity.

Perhaps our Christmas Eve tradition of giving a gift to Jesus is a form of resolution. The difference in my mind is my gift is really an expression of a desire for the Lord to do a work in me versus me doing a work in myself.

Whether you are a resolution maker or not, one thing is certain: all attempts at improvement are sure to be met with temptation.  Want to eat healthier and lose weight? Intense hunger and cravings are likely to follow. Pledge to get up earlier and spend more time reading God’s word? Interferences will delay your bed time and led-filled limbs will greet early morning alarms. Exercise? Watch your day fill with all kinds of distractions. Vow to improve your financial condition, get out of debt, save more? Extra expenses, necessary and not, are sure to challenge your resolve.  

How do we deal with the temptation to satisfy rather than slay self – that part of ourselves that only wants what we want when we want it? If you’ve made a New Year’s resolution or desire God’s deeper work in your heart and life, how can you overcome challenges that threaten to upset your progress?

After Jesus was baptized and before His official ministry began, Matthew 4:1 tells us He was “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” What??? The Spirit led Him there knowing the devil’s desire to derail Him? Not only that, but Jesus fasted forty days and forty nights, and scripture makes it a point to tell us He was hungry. I don’t know about you, but I get irrational, emotional, and physically and mentally weak when my body needs food. It’s as if God wants us to know just how vulnerable Jesus was at this point. As vulnerable as us.

So the devil attempts to lure Jesus into his snare, just as he does to us. In every case, Jesus responds with the word of God. He recognizes the devil’s schemes and shuts him down with scripture.

“If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread,” Satan challenges Jesus in verse three.

Satan to us: If you’re all God says you are, believer, prove it. Otherwise, maybe you’re a fraud.

Jesus’ answer: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”

Truth for temptation: We don’t base our belief in God on what can do or see. We base our belief on God's word.

The devil dares Jesus to throw Himself from the top of the temple and let the angels rescue Him.

Satan to us: If God is who He says He is, believer, then test Him. See if He’s for real. Otherwise, maybe He’s a fraud.

Jesus’ answer: “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”

Truth for temptation: We don’t tempt God. We trust Him.

Finally, Satan dangles power and glory before Christ if only He will bow down and worship him.

Satan to us: I can give you want you want right now. Instant gratification. It’s not that you don’t love God. Just spend more time seeking things that bring you the immediate satisfaction you desire. Otherwise, you might deny yourself all this pleasure only to find that the Christian life is a fraud.

Jesus’ answer: “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”

Truth for temptation: When the devil dangles worldly pleasures before us, we can dismiss him with authority. Then we must worship and serve the Lord our God, and Him only.

Look at how the story ends. “Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him” (Matthew 4:13).

The devil is the fraud, and everything he dangles before us is a cheap imitation of the abundant, satisfying life Jesus offers. When we stand on scripture in the face of temptation, when we worship and serve the Lord with undivided hearts, He will minister to us and strengthen us for all He has for us to do, including realizing resolutions that serve to accomplish His work in us.

If we pledge to do anything in this new year, let it be to know more of God’s word, to believe scripture, to trust the Lord completely, and to worship and serve Him alone. Then dismiss the devil when he plots destruction. Whatever he offers will turn up empty.

Lord, may Your work be accomplished in us, resolutions or not, as we become more wholly yours this year.

Shauna Wallace
Holy His