Sunday, July 31, 2016

Aug 1 - PHYSICAL vs. SPIRITUAL - Numbers 20:2-12

      Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. ... 4 "Why did you bring the Lord's community into this wilderness, that we and our livestock should die here?" ... Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the tent of meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the Lord appeared to them. The Lord said to Moses, "Take the staff ... Speak to that rock ... and it will pour out water." ... So Moses took the staff ... 10 He and Aaron gathered the people ... "Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?" 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out ... 12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them."

          Numbers 20

It seems like a little thing. 

God said, "Staff + Rock = Water," right?

So Moses went with the staff to the rock and as a result of his ministry, water poured out. Mission accomplished, right? 

So how come God was so angry and the result of this "little thing" was Moses never being able to enter the Promised Land?

Read it again: the formula wasn't "Staff + Rock = Water." The formula was "God = Water and Provision." And while it would be bad enough for Moses to think, "Staff + Rock = Water," what Moses essentially said to Israel was, "Staff + Rock + me (Moses) = Water." 

Moses said,  "Listen, you rebels, must WE bring you water out of this rock?" (emphasis added).

Moses knew God -- knew him personally, like virtually no human before or since. He'd conversed with face to face. He'd seen God's glory. He witnessed the sheer awesomeness of God's power and provision. Moses knew he wasn't God -- not be a million miles. 

But ... God had used Moses so many times that Moses almost began to view himself as a partner, an equal (of sorts), a co-actor. 


Moses was a servant ... at best. 

He was a proud, willful, rebellious human being ... at heart. And when he presumed -- even just a little bit -- to stand in the place of God, God needed to humble him ... for the sake of Israel ... and for the sake of himself. 

The punishment seems harsh. You cannot enter into the Promised Land. But it's wrong to capitalize "promised land" as if it is The Promised Land. God didn't just want to give Moses and Israel a few earthy acres. He wanted to give them an eternal inheritance. And hearts of rebellion, presuming that we are God, don't open the gates to The Eternal Promised Land. 

God humbled Moses temporarily so that he could ultimately bless Moses eternally. (Which we know Moses received, because he appeared with Jesus at the Transfiguration.)

Do you trust God that much ... especially when you aren't receiving what you "want" at any given moment in life? 

In Christ's Love,

a guy who wants to get

the word problems in life right:

Staff (physical) + Water (physical) Living Water (spiritual)

God + anything = Life and Hope and Peace and Joy

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Jul 30-31 - LIVE WELL - Numbers 15:37-39

      37 The Lord said to Moses, 38 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments,with a blue cord on each tassel. 39 You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. 

          Numbers 15

The Israelites did not "live well" in the wilderness. 

That's what we've been studying over the last few chapters in Numbers. In the wilderness, they rebelled. 

Therefore, just after condemning this faithless generation to forty years in the wilderness, God begins to teach the people -- again -- what it will take to "live well" in the Promised Land ... when they do finally get there at least. 

The instructions on how to "Live well" started with sacrifices -- "1 After you enter the land I am giving you ... present to the Lord food offerings ... as an aroma pleasing to the Lord."

The first to-do had to do with worship. With honoring God. With pleasing the Father. 

It was an attitude of the heart. 

As God's new list for living well continued to unfold, a new category emerged for staying close to God -- see our lesson for today. 

Now, we could certainly get legalistic and ask why we aren't still wearing tassels today! If you go to Israel today, you'll find that many faithful Jews remain black clad with long beards, braided hair, and tasseled cloths. But rather than us being legalistic (which the New Testament largely released us from), it's still imperative that we ask what it means for us to "live well" in our land and in our days. 

The reason that God gave this tasseling command to Israel was so that they so that they might 

1.      "remember all the commands of the Lord" 

2.      "obey them" and 

3.      "not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes."

What helps you "remember" and "obey" the commands of the Lord ... every day? 

We live in a society that progressively "prostitute[s it]sel[f] by chasing after the lusts of [individual] hearts and eyes." What therefore are you doing to "remember" and "obey."

I remember hearing about the first thing done by one counselor for pornographic addiction. At his Christian counseling center, he asks patients, "Do you believe in God?" "Yes." "Do you believe he's powerful, omniscient?" "Yes." "No you don't," he says gently. "Not really." 

Above their protests, he says, "When do you go online?" "When my wife is out. When my family has gone to bed." "Why then?" "So no one will see me. So no one will know." 

"God sees. God knows." That's the message of the counselor. "We believe in our heads that God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, but what do we do daily to remind our hearts that God really is right beside us?

In Christ's Love,

a guy who still has an old pair

of shoes with tassels

(but it's not those shoes

that keep me focused on God)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Jul 29 - REBEL - Numbers 14:39-45

39 When Moses told … the Israelites [that they would not enter the Promised Land], the people mourned greatly. 40 They rose early in the morning and went up to the heights of the hill country, saying, “Here we are. We will go up to the place that the Lord has promised ...” 41 But Moses said, “Why do you continue to transgress the command of the Lord? 42 Do not go up. 41 That will not succeed, 42 for the Lord is not with you … 44 [Nevertheless] they presumed to go … even though the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and Moses, had not left the camp. 45 … and [they were] defeated …

Numbers 14


When and where was it decided that the Israelites would not go into the Promised Land?


Right here.


Chapter 14.  


Rather than trusting in the power of God, the people of Israel chose to believe the ten fearful spies. Rather than living on faith, they decided to operate on fear.


And the judgment came down this way: “20 The Lord said, ‘I do forgive … 21 nevertheless … 22 none of the people who have seen … the signs that I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and yet … have not obeyed my voice, 23 shall see the land that I swore to give to their ancestors; none … 31 except Caleb … and Joshua … 32 [and] your little ones … I will bring in.”


I want you to think for a moment about what was happening …


God is the author and giver of life. He’s the one who brought Israel out of Egypt and he’s the one who protects us in the midst of our trials. So let me ask …


·         What happens when we rebel against the author of life? Death.

·         What happens when we rebel against our guide? We get lost.

·         What happens when we rebel against our protector? Trials … and defeat.

·         What happens when we rebel against the deliver? No delivery. No Promised Land. We have to go it alone. And the result is defeat.


But it’s here when a funny thing happens. It’s here that people blame God for being harsh and cruel. Trials, defeat, wandering, and death are natural consequences. It’s what Israel brought on themselves. It’s something we keep bringing on ourselves.


The author of life want us to live, but we choose rebellion and death … and then we blame for the pain. The Good Shepherd wants to guide us, but we want to go our own ways … and then we blame God for the ills of a lost and wandering society. We like our free will, but when someone else’s free will (and cruelty and pain) hurt us … then we blame God again.


Who really is to blame?


Ask God for forgiveness for your part in this world-wide rebellion, and choose to be like Joshua and Caleb, trusting that God – through Jesus Christ – is strong enough to deliver you.


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who doesn’t want

to rebel against the one

who created chocolate


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Jul 28 - HALF TRUTHS - Numbers 14:1-10

1 Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. … Joshua … and Caleb … , who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the Israelites, “The land that we went through as spies is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us ... Only, do not rebel against the Lord”10 But the whole congregation threatened to stone them.

Numbers 14


Have you ever heard the phrase: “Don’t shoot the messenger”?


Usually it’s reserved for when the messenger is bringing bad news. But Joshua and Caleb were bringing good news – “It’s a good land given to us by a good God.” So why did the Israelites want to shoot (or stone) them?


It was because of fear … and lies. It was because of doubt sewed into them by ten of the twelve spies. But more than that, it was because of lies they chose to believe.


The truth is out there (as the old TV saying goes). But how many of us keep choosing to believe lies?


Choosing. It’s a choice. We can know the truth and the truth can set us free. (That’s what Jesus taught us.) Or we can choose to be intellectually lazy and not investigate. We can choose to believe religious clichés and theological half-truths.


In fact, Satan traffics in half-truths. His method is two truths and a lie. Liars and the Father of Lies sprinkle in a few positive truths to establish trust (13:28  “the land to which you sent us … flows with milk and honey … ”), then they add in a few negative facts and inconvenient truths to make them seem logical and dispassionate (13:32 “ all the people that we saw in it are of great size), and now people are prepared for the lie (13:31  “We are not able to go up against this people, for they are stronger than we”).




Except it isn’t true.


What fact did the liars – intentionally or unintentionally or probably fearfully – leave out? That though the enemy is “stronger than we,” God is stronger than the enemy and we are more than conquerors through him who loves us!


Caleb and Joshua told the truer truth … and the world tried to stone them. Jesus told the truest truth … and the world put him on a cross.


Why are we so vulnerable to lies (which often turn into defeat)? It’s because we’re intellectually lazy. We believe half-truths and religious clichés. And half the truth is more than enough to make us constantly vulnerable whenever trials may come. Do you want freedom?Know the truth. It will set you free.


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who doesn’t like

to cry out with the crowd

(I’d rather reflect than react)



Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Jul 27 - TRUE REPORTS - Numbers 13:30

Caleb quieted the people

before Moses, and said,

“Let us go up at once and

occupy [the Promised Land],

for we are well able

to overcome it.”

Numbers 13:30


Yesterday we talked about the twelve spies who sent into the Promised Land. And we talked about how fear does funny things to people … even those who want to believe.


When the twelve came back, Israel heard the report that while the land was good (flowing with milk and honey), the people living there was so strong and powerful that Israel would be like mere grasshoppers coming against them.


Yes, that’s what Israel heard the spies say. And that’s probably what you heard me say. And I surely didn’t do a good enough job emphasizing that while this was surely the majority report of the spies (ten out of twelve), it wasn’t the whole truth and nothing but the truth!


Two of the twelve report the full truth …


1.    Yes, the enemy is numerous.

2.    Yes, they are big and powerful.

3.    But our God is bigger!

4.    And “we are well able to overcome it.”


Ten of the twelve may have wanted to believe … but fear does funny things to people.


Faith also does funny things to people. Joshua and Caleb believed God. And not just a little … but fully. They trusted that they were “more than conquerors through him who loves us” (see Romans 8:37).


And what was Israel’s fate? Because of fear, they believed the ten out of twelve (the majority report, rather than either God or the truth). And what was the result? They spent the next forty years wandering the desert until their whole generation passed.


Joshua and Caleb, however, believed the truth. They believed in God. And what was the result? They were the only two from that whole generation who got to go into the Promised Land! And they got to see God’s power as mighty cities like Jericho fell before them at just the blast of a trumpet.


Yes, fear does funny things to people. But faith does funny things to people too … powerful things!


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who likes comedy

(but I want to experience

God’s good humor rather

than fear’s bad jokes)


Monday, July 25, 2016

Jul 26 - FEAR IS FUNNY - Numbers 13:21-33

21 So they went up and spied out the land … 25 At the end of forty days they returned … 26 And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation … 27 “We came to the land to which you sent us; it flows with milk and honey … 28 Yet the people who live in the land are strong, and the towns are fortified … 32 “The land that we have gone through as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people … are of great size. 33 [so that] we seemed like grasshoppers … to them.”

Numbers 13


Fear does funny things to people … even those who want to trust and believe.


In yesterday’s lesson – as God was sending out the spies – we made several points, including 1) believe that your generous God desires to bless you … then 2) trust that He will.


Trust is a powerful thing. But fear does funny things to people … even those who want to trust and believe.


The spies were leaders among the people. They’d seen first-hand God’s provision. Their own feet had crossed the parted Red Sea. Their own lips had tasted the sweetness of daily bread – manna. Their own throats were repeatedly quenched with water from the rocks. God was good. They knew it. They’d seen it. But fear does funny things to people … even those who want to trust and believe.


Have you ever felt like a little boy having to face down a giant? (David was that boy. Yet – with God’s help – David was more than a conqueror.)

Have you ever felt like it was just you (and maybe a few friends) having to battle of one hundred thousand? (Gideon was that little warrior. Yet – with God’s help – Gideon and his little band were more than conquerors.)

Have you ever felt like a grasshopper going up against a monstrous foe? (Forty years later, Israel would march into that same Promised Land that ten of the twelve spies tried to chase them away from. Yet – with God’s help – Joshua and his people were more than conquerors.)


Are you “more than a conqueror”? Or does fear do funny things to you … even when you want to trust and believe?


If you occasionally fear or feel defeat, I urge you to listen to one of my favorite old songs, Casting Crowns’ The Voice of Truth.


But the voice of truth tells me a different story
The voice of truth says, "Do not be afraid!"
The voice of truth says, "This is for My glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth


In Christ’s Love,

a guy whose favorite chapter

in the Bible may be Romans 8 –

in all these things we are more than

conquerors through him who loved us.

For I am convinced that neither death,

nor life, nor angels, nor principalities,

nor things present, nor things to come,

nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth,

nor anything else in all creation,

will be able to separate us from the

love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Jul 25 - EFFORT plus TRUST - Numbers 1-20

1 The Lord said to Moses, 2 ”Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites; [one] from each of their ancestral tribes ... 17 Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan ... 18 [to] see what the land is like, and whether the people who live in it are strong or weak, whether they are few or many, 19 and whether the land they live in is good or bad, and whether the towns that they live in are unwalled or fortified, 20 and whether the land is rich or poor, and whether there are trees in it or not. Be bold, and bring some of the fruit of the land.” 

Numbers 13


Twelve spies. One from each tribe. Question: Who sent them into the Promised Land? 


It was God. The Lord commanded Moses to send the spies. 


So next question: Why? Did God — who was sending the spies — need to know who  was living in the Promised Land and her well fortified their cities were? Of course not. God knew already. He knows all things. Thus, it was obviously the people who needed to know. 


And what did the people need to know? (Here’s what we find out as we keep reading this chapter ...)


·         First, they needed to know that it was a good land that God was bringing them to! God is generous. (Do you believe that about God?! Do you believe passages like Jeremiah 29:11 which says, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”)


·         Second, they needed to know that there was a challenge awaiting them. (And that’s life in this broken world -- challenge.) The Israelites were about to find out that the cities were fortified and that taking this land might require some sacrifice and some effort. (Do you believe that about your life? That while your Promised Land is absolutely given to you by God, it may still require some effort to achieve? Please realize this: Our greatest blessings usually require some effort.)


·         Third — and even more important than blessings requiring work — this whole story about the spies (tune in tomorrow) will teach us that experiencing blessing also requires trust! As the chapter unfolds we’ll learn that the enemy was numerous and their cities were indeed fortified. All of Israel’s collective effort would surely have had a positive effect ... nevertheless, it still might not have been enough. If Israel was going to gain the Promise (and the Promised Land), they’d have to trust the Promise-Giver to fight for them. They’d have to trust that God would win the victory. 


This lesson provides one of the truly powerful secrets to life:


1.    God is generous and desires to bless those who are faithful. 


2.    Experiencing these blessings generally requires our effort. (Absolutely do all you can.)


3.    But beyond even the blessing of your own effort is God’s provision. When God has made specific promises, do all you can ... and then trust God to do the rest!


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who wants a harvest

as big as God intends

(verse 23 ... the spies brought

back “a single cluster of grapes

[so big that they] carried it

on a pole between two of them)



Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Jul 21 - POWER - Number 11:21-23

21 But Moses said, “The people I am with number six hundred thousand on foot; and you say, ‘I will give them meat, that they may eat for a whole month’! 22 Are there enough flocks and herds to slaughter for them? Are there enough fish in the sea to catch for them?” 23 The Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord’s power limited? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.”

Numbers 21


This past Sunday, you heard the testimonies from our mission trip. The key story involved driving an hour back into nowhere … and then getting off the road and driving more two miles deep into a remote holler.


The sound of sheer silence and peace should have been what greeted us. Instead, it was the whoosh of a rapidly deflating tire.


·         Will the spare have air?

·         Will it hold up on the rugged drive back to the main road?

·         Which direction do we turn for a new tire when civilization is an hour (if not hours away)?


I confess that I was asking practical question. I was busy using human wisdom when a youth on our team began leading us in prayer. And just about as soon as he said, “Amen,” a truck came down the road and had to stop because there sat our team’s immobile van.


I’d been busy trying to figure out practical solutions. God had been busy answering prayer. In the middle of absolute nowhere, this truck had an air compressor and the driver had a plug kit. Within eight minutes of our youth praying, the tire was fixed!


That’s the story in our lesson for today too. The people of Israel were hungry (again!) and Moses had been busy trying to figure out practical solutions.


·         We’re in the middle of nowhere.

·         Are there enough flocks and herds for meat?

·         How am I supposed to feed them?


Meanwhile God was busy listening to their cry. He was, indeed, beginning to answer their prayer. The Lord was responding to Moses, “Is the Lord’s power limited?”


Bread in the wilderness. Meat for “six hundred thousand on foot.” Tire patch kits at the end of a remote holler. As someone on our Mission Team said, “Why aren’t we surprised when God shows up on a Mission Trip, but we constantly forget to look for him in our day-to-day.”


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who wants

to be a “looker”

(sure, I’d like to be more

Handsome – a “looker)

but I’ll settle for being

reminded to look for God’s

presence more readily)

Monday, July 18, 2016

Jul 19 - SPEAKING TO GOD - Numbers 7:89

When Moses went

into the tent of meeting

to speak with the Lord,

he would hear the voice

speaking to him

from above the mercy seat 

that was on the ark

of the covenant from

between the two cherubim

Numbers 7:89


God gave Moses a specific place to meet with him.


It was in the Tabernacle. It was within a specific section of the tent of meeting, the holy of holies. It was at a specific place within that holy of holies. God would come down upon his earthly through – the mercy seat between the two cherubim on top of the ark of covenant. And from there, God would speak to Moses.


Now, if we read this wrong, we’ll say something like, “That was a special exception in the history of the world, and since Indiana Jones hasn’t found a lost ark of the covenant for me; then I should never really expect to hear God’s voice.”


First, yes, it was special exception in this history of the world. No one talked to God exactly like Moses did.


Nevertheless, the Bible isn’t a book of special exceptions. The Bible is a book about the heart and intentions of God. God wants to communicate with his people. (Our sin keeps getting in the way of that. It stops up our ears. It tiptoes us step-by-step away from his presence. Nevertheless, deep communication is God’s heart and intention.) So, yes … God wants to communicate with his people, and more specifically, he wants to communicate with you!  


And so my question is: Where’s that place for you where God comes to sit with you … and more importantly (because we’re the problem in this), where is the place where you go daily to sit with him?


I remember the story of one of history’s famous reformers (it might have been the Wesley brothers) whose mother could only find one place in her house filled with like twenty kids to have a quiet place with God. She’d sit in the middle of the house and pull her apron over her head (and dare any of her kids to interrupt her time with God). Without God’s blessing, help, and peace (see yesterday’s devotion), she wasn’t much fun to be around (and the kids soon learned: Give mom the blessing of time with God!).


I doubt you have twenty kids. And I’ll bet your home is bigger than an 18th century cottage. You could find a space. (Scripture even suggests going into your closet.) But make that your regular mercy seat.


I watch my wife do this. (It’s her back porch with her coffee in her hand, her Bible in her lap, and her dogs at her feet.) And it’s beautiful.


My spot is far less beautiful. (But it works for me.) It’s at a computer keyboard. I’m a doer not a sitter, I’m a servant not a contemplative. I’d rather write devotions (for you, letting you listen in), than just sit and … wait. And yet it works for me (… not perfectly – because I’m a sinner. But …)


I heard meditation defined recently as “thinking intentionally in the presence of God.” That’s what writing is for me. I take God’s word. I turn it in my head and in my heart. I hear God’s speak. And then I meditate – What does it mean in a modern American context? How can we apply that to life? And it shapes me. Day after day it aligns me closer and closer to God’s purposes.


My guess is that you’re imperfect too. Yet the point is this: Where is your mercy seat? Where do you go intentionally, day after day, to meet God?


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who is currently

thinking intentionally

in the presence of God






Sunday, July 17, 2016

Jul 18 - BLESSING - Numbers 6:22-26

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:

Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying,

Thus you shall bless the Israelites:

You shall say to them,

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine

upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance

upon you, and give you peace.

Numbers 6:22-26


Our seasonal theme is freedom. So let me state the obvious first:


·         The Lord’s blessing is freedom.

·         When the Lord keeps us in the palm of his hand, that’s freedom.

·         When the Lord countenance shines upon us, that brightens our darkness and there is freedom.

·         We need the Lord graciousness like we need oxygen, and in that, there is freedom.

·         And when the Lord rescues us from trials, his peace is the very definition of freedom.


Have you ever felt the Lord’s blessing, keeping, grace, and peace?


I’ve been reading through a book on freedom and healing, and the neuroscientist/author’s first step is stopping and listening. We’re always in such a rush. The beginning of healing is over letting our senses turn back on.


So last night I was sitting beside my niece. From Oregon, she’s making an Instagram album of her southern summer journey. So she went out in our back yard and recorded the buzzing, chirping, clicking of the cicadas. And underneath that, you could also hear the sound of four kinds of birds tweeting. Tweaking the sound, she played it over and over again It was peaceful. It was holy.


And I wondered … why don’t I take long enough to stop and hear the wonder of God’s creation that’s always around me? His countenance is continually shining on me, and I miss it.


We were just on the mission trip, and with an intentional team, we were looking moment for moment for God’s presence … and he kept showing up. Why don’t I do that more on my own?


May the Lord bless you and keep you. And may you take the time to feel his countenance shining on you. And as the Lord is gracious to you – a continual blessing – may you discover peace.


In Christ’s Love,

a guy in a rush

(slow down, Ed, slow down)