July 27

1 Chronicles 21:22-24 (NIV) 22David said to him, "Let me have the site of your threshing floor so I can build an altar to the LORD, that the plague on the people may be stopped. Sell it to me at the full price." 23Araunah said to David, "Take it! Let my lord the king do whatever pleases him. Look, I will give the oxen for the burnt offerings, the threshing sledges for the wood, and the wheat for the grain offering. I will give all this." 24But King David replied to Araunah, "No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the LORD what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing."

Because of David's sin in numbering the people, he had chosen between three possible curses. He chose three days of plague. When the angel stood over Jerusalem with his sword drawn, David knew he must act. 70,000 had already died. He interceded for the people and asked that the curse fall on him and his family since he had committed the sin. The LORD told David, through the prophet Gad, to build an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.

This was the same place that Abraham had offered Isaac. It is the same ridge upon which the Lamb of God would be offered for the sins of the world. It is where the chaff is blown away, and what is of value remains. For Abraham, the hope in his son was "blown away" and trust in God remained. For Jesus, the sins of the world were blown away with his blood, and redeemed children of God remained. For David, the guilt was about to be blown away, and a forgiven man would remain.

David wanted to purchase the ground upon which to build the altar and later the Temple. Araunah offered to give it to him. You might say he was generous, but remember that he is standing in the shadow of an angel with a sword. David insisted on paying full price. Though Jesus paid our sin debt, it was not as if it was inexpensive. He paid the full price in our place. Offerings cost. It cost God the greatest price that could be paid. When we give to God our own hearts, we too, should be willing to pay with lives of service.

Consider: Will you sacrifice to God what costs you nothing or will you give Him your all?

July 27

Acts 14:21-23 (NIV) 21They preached the good news in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. "We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said. 23Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.

After being stoned and left for dead, Paul got up and went to Derbe. A large number of disciples were won there. What does it mean to win? There is a battle raging over the souls of men. Paul and Barnabas were instruments to win them to the Lord.

After the successful time in Derbe, they went back through the cities they had preached in. They did so to strengthen the disciples and encourage them to remain true to the faith. We need leaders that will do that in our churches. They reminded them that the Christian life is not easy. If we are going to truly change from worldly ways to those of heaven, the Lord will take us through many situations that will stretch our faith. Paul never preached that the Christian life was a bed of roses. What do you expect? Are you determined by faith to endure what will inevitably come your way?

As they went through the towns where they had started churches, they appointed elders for each church. Notice the wording is more than one elder in every church. There is no single leader, but a group of men that are recognized to meet the qualifications of Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3. That sounds like the group in Acts 13 that sent Paul and Barnabas out. These men pray together and seek God's will for leading the local church. There was no hierarchy to which they were to submit. That would not be introduced until well into the second century. With prayer and fasting, they were committed to the head of the body, Jesus. That is where the trust of Paul and Barnabas and these new elders was placed. They would trust the Lord to speak to the elders so that they could feed and lead these new churches. We have come so far from the simple structure of the early church.

Consider: How can we return in spirit if not in letter?