Thursday, August 18, 2016

Aug 18/19 - REGULAR AND SPECIAL - Numbers 28:1-3

1 The Lord said to Moses, “Give this command to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Make sure that you present to me at the appointed time my food offerings, as an aroma pleasing to me.’ Say to them: ‘This is the food offering you are to present to the Lord: two lambs a year old without defect,as a regular burnt offering each day.

Numbers 28

As the book of Numbers draws to a close, God gives the people of Israel some final instruction. Moses is departing. So how can a rebellious people draw near to a Holy God ... especially when Moses, their constant Intercessor, is gone? 


How? It's not new rules. It's what they've been told before. 1) It's daily sacrifices -- a lamb without defect, an aroma pleasing to God. 2) It's also season festivals (see chapter 29) which have a dual purpose: to bless God ... and to bless us. (We bless God through our worship. We honor him. Furthermore, our own souls are blessed whenever we turn from our sins and return to God.)


But let's apply that to our own lives ...


·         These chapters are a simple message from the Father: Your sin costs. It costs either your life ... or the life of a financially expensive substitute -- a perfect lamb. 


·         God was also saying that your repentance needs to be daily. Why? Because your sin is daily. 


·         Furthermore, in encouraging repeated festivals (chapter 29), I think that God was saying that your daily sacrifices will grow stale. Therefore, I'm going to call you back for special occasions. On these holy days, I want you to tell the stories of freedom over and over again to renew your faith and empower your (re-)commitment. 


Yes, in these remembrances, God was also prefiguring the sacrifice of Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, but ask yourself ... how well do my family and I follow this rhythm? Is our confession daily? And does it cost us anything? Furthermore, do we use the holidays of the faith as an excuse for a day off (and a party) or as a reason to return to him in repentance and praise. 


We all need to be called back ... over and over again. 


In Christ's Love,

a guy who loves the liturgical --

because it calls us back first

in confession and repentance

... and celebrates the festivals




Sunday, August 14, 2016

Aug 15 - TAKE POSSESSION - Numbers 27:18

18 So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit of leadership, and lay your hand on him.

Numbers 27


Imagine being Joshua. 

The great and mighty Moses, the man who talks to God, is dying. And you, little you, are supposed to take his place?!


You have a personal call upon your life. Your call is different than my call. But it's yours. And how dare any of us say, "I can't do that," when ordinary little guys like Joshua have to follow legends like Moses. 


Now, we're not through with the Exodus yet. (We have one more full book, Deuteronomy.) Nevertheless, it's a good day to change our focus and look forward. It's a good day to ask: How will an ordinary person like Joshua (or you or me) move forward, even across the Jordan and into the Promised Land?


What you need to know from the outset is that the first step on the journey to success is to "just do it." Joshua took up the mantle ... and got a whole book of the Bible named after him in the process! Here's the story from Joshua 1 ...


·         1 ... The Lord said to Joshua ... If God calls, he'll equip. Now, it's rare that humans get to hear an audible voice like Moses and Joshua did, but God will give you what you need, just as he gave Joshua what he needed. 

·         2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River ... "One season has ended," the Lord was saying, "Don't live in the past. Move forward."

·         2 “get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give ... to the Israelites. Trust that as you move forward, God is active. Indeed, God says, I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised ...

·         5 No one will be able to stand against you ... Do you really believe that God is bigger than any worldly foe? 

·         5 As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Do you trust that God is alive and active? That if he acted before, he will act again? Do you trust that the promises are for you?

·         6 Be strong and courageous,because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. You have been given a task. You have. You are called to lead. Maybe it's only your little family that you're called to lead, but it's your sacred job. Be strong in it. Be confident and courageous. Why? Because, verse 5, God is leading! He is powerful and victorious. He will never leave nor forsake you. 

·         7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. The key to success is obedience. It is doing things God's way rather than your own. 

·         8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Being rooted in the Word is part of this obedience and success too. 

·         9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” When we follow those steps, we don't need to be afraid! God is with us!

·         10 So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: 11 “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your provisions ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.’” Now is your time. Today is your choice. "Go and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you." You life is that earthly Promised Land for you. Take possession of this life in your life. It is yours!!


In Christ's Love,

a guy who's learned

that the secret to leading

isn't skills and techniques,

it's saying yes and trusting God


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Aug 13/14 - NEW LEADER - Numbers 27

15 Moses spoke to the Lord, saying, 16 “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint someone over the congregation 17 who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the Lord may not be like sheep without a shepherd.”

Numbers 27


Our time on earth is short. 


Even great leaders come and go. 


If our focus is down here, we'll get as discouraged as the old and dying leader, Solomon, did in Ecclesiastes 1:2-10.  (Do you remember Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh? Well, read this passage in your best sad, defeated Eeyore voice.)


·         “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. ... "Everything is meaningless.” ...

·         A generation comes ... and a generation goes  ...
The sun rises and the sun sets ...
The wind blows to the south, and goes around to the north; round and round goes the wind …

·         All streams run to the sea, but the sea is never full ...

·         What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done ...

·         All things are wearisome; more than one can express ...
Is there a thing of which it is said, “Behold, this is new”?


Moses' time was nearly finished. Solomon's time was nearly finished. Your time and mine are short too. Therefore it's important to ask: Do you sound like Eeyore? Is your focus on just earthly Promised Lands and worldly success. Or can you look up like John the Apostle who scans the future for us in the Book of Revelation. 


·         Solomon asked, "Is there a thing of which it is said, 'Behold, this is new'?"

·         Jesus answers this question in Revelation 21. As the New Heaven and New Earth descend, Jesus says, "Behold, I make all things new!"

In Christ's Love, 

a guy who wants to be

more like Piglet than Eeyore

(kind and hopeful)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Aug 12 - REAL PROMISED LAND - Numbers 27:12-13

      12 The Lord said to Moses, “Go up this mountain of the Abarim range, and see the land that I have given to the Israelites. 13 When you have seen it, you also shall be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was

          Numbers 27

Moses got to see the Promised Land. 

He didn't get to go in, of course. He rebelled. (We take our rebellion too lightly. It eventually cost the Son of God his life. Rebellion is not light.) 

Nevertheless, in an act of grace, Moses at least got to see the Promised Land. 

I will contend, though, that Moses had already seen The Promised Land. (Notice: I capitalized the word "The.") 

The true and eternal Promised Land really has nothing to do with a place. It has to do with a "person" and a relationship. When Revelation 21 gives us the final glimpse of what "heaven," eternity, the New Jerusalem, and The Promised Land look like, it says, "behold the home of God is among mortals."

Wait ... what does it say? "Heaven" is when God is near us, among us, with us. (By implication, then, Hell is conversely when we are not near or with God.)

Now, was Moses ever "with" God along this Exodus journey? Absolutely! Moses connected more deeply with God than perhaps any human in history. His face would literally glow from the close encounters. 

Like all of us fleshly humans, Moses kept focusing on an earthly prize. Thus, he devalued the greatest prize of all -- his ongoing personal relationship with God. 

How do we keep from devaluing this greatest prize in creation?

One step is to remember God's grace. He let a weak human see a godly prize on earth ... and God still gave him something bigger. That means that God care about your time on earth. And yet He's fully focused on the true prize! And Moses received it. He is one of those few that Scripture absolutely shows us as being in heaven -- he and Elijah showed up to bless and encourage Jesus at the Transfiguration. Meaning? Moses' Promised Land wasn't on earth ... is yours?

In Christ's Love,

a guy who wants

to focus on heaven

and get earth thrown-in,

rather than focusing on earth

and getting neither

(CS Lewis said something

like that too!)

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Aug 11 - DYING - Numbers 27:12-13

      12 The Lord said to Moses, “Go up this mountain of the Abarim range, and see the land that I have given to the Israelites. 13 When you have seen it, you also shall be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was

          Numbers 27

A generation is passing. Aaron has died. 
And Moses is about to be "gathered to [his] people" too. (That's an old euphemism for death.) Yes, he's about to "pass away." (That's a modern euphemism for death.)

We use euphemisms because we don't like to talk about death. 

We could say that death is a punishment. After Adam and Eve at the apple, they were kicked out of the garden of Eden and death entered the world. (See Genesis 3.)

Was death a punishment for our rebellion? No. It was a consequence. If we say to the author and sustainer of life that we don't want his life-giving hand upon us, should we be surprised when life begins to ebb away from us? Death -- that gradual ebbing away of life -- is consequence for our rebellion. 

So death is not punishment ... it's consequence. 

Can I also suggest, however, that in a strange way that death is a gift? a blessing!

Think about it: This world is a mixture of blessing and curse. There is good and evil. Light and dark. Health and disease. Love and anger. 

God designed us to be with him personally. He wants to bless us with perpetual light, hope, peace, and joy. Unfortunately, however, we've helplessly entangled ourselves in hatred and rebellion, anger and war. The world hurts us and we hurt the world and the people around us. This is not the way that things are supposed to be! 

If God's desire is for us to be with him personally, joyfully, peacefully, and freely, then this world is as close as a believer will ever get to hell. Therefore, death for a believer is not a loss ... it's a gain. It's a blessing. A victory. A triumph. A celebration. Earth is grief and tears and heartache. Death is the gate to no more mourning or crying or pain (see Revelation 21). 

No, death is not a good thing. It is NOT God's ultimate plan! The plan is eternity. Perpetual light, hope, and joy. But because of humanity's perpetual rebellion in this world, we have to transfer from this realm grief, sin, and pain, into the kingdom of light, hope, and joy. We have to die to this world and live for Christ. 

And the wonder is that we can choose this heavenly escape anytime. No, not through suicide or an earthly death. But through a "spiritual death," a submission of the heart. When we focus on Christ, this world and its challenges and pain begin to pass away before us, and we begin to experience greater peace, hope, forgiveness, and joy. 

In Christ's Love,

a guy who is voluntarily dying

(and discovering less fear

of physical death in the process)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Aug 10 - FAIRNESS - Numbers 27: 1-11

      Then the daughters of Zelophehad came forward. ... They stood before Moses ... and all the congregation ... and they said, “Our father died in the wilderness ... and he had no sons. Why should the name of our father be taken away ... because he had no son? Give to us a possession among our father’s brothers.”

      Moses brought their case before the LordAnd the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 7 "The daughters of Zelophehad are right in what they are saying; you shall indeed let them possess an inheritance among their father’s brothers and pass the inheritance of their father on to them. You shall also say to the Israelites, If a man dies, and has no son, then you shall pass his inheritance on to his daughter. If he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers. 10 If he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. 11 And if his father has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to the nearest kinsman of his clan, and he shall possess it. It shall be for the Israelites a statute and ordinance, as the Lord commanded Moses.

          Numbers 27

Long story ... short commentary. Here it is ... 

God is fair!

Now, we may not always understand God's ways, but this story should remind us that God is fair -- "Of course the daughters should share."

If and when you read a story that doesn't fit with our modern, cultural understanding of correct or politically correct, fair or unfair, just or oppressive, remember this story. Keep reminding yourself of the truth that God is fair ... God is loving ... God will bless those who truly trust in him

In Christ's Love,

a guy who's name

is not Zelophehad

(God gave me sons,

not daughters)

Monday, August 8, 2016

Aug 9 - TAKE STOCK - Numbers 26:1-2

      After the plague the Lord said to Moses and to Eleazar son of Aaron the priest, “Take a census of the whole congregation of the Israelites, from twenty years old and upward, by their ancestral houses, everyone in Israel able to go to war.” 

          Numbers 26

The book of Numbers began with a census. (That's why it's called the book of counting and "numbers.")

Well ... the book of Numbers is beginning to end with counting and numbers too -- "Take a census." After all the deaths (and surely births too) in the wilderness …

"stop and take stock

of where you are."

That's a good quick message for us too today: After all your victories and defeats ... in the midst of all your hopes and worries ... surrounded by opportunities and disappointments ... "stop and take stock of where you are."

Really … Do it right now!

In Christ's Love,

a guy who is giving thanks

for all the blessings and

is asking for wisdom and

guidance in the face of

disappointments and worry

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Aug 8 - SEX - Numbers 25:1-3

1 While Israel was staying at Shittim, the people began to have sexual relations with the women of Moab. 2 These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 Thus Israel yoked itself to the Baal of Peor, and the Lord’s anger was kindled against Israel.

Numbers 25

Judgment occurs when "marry" the culture around us. 


That's the message for today. 


We tell ourselves that it's "not that bad." And some of it technically is "not that bad" -- who cares, right? -- until we realize that we're rejecting God and worshiping (at best) the ways of this world. 


At worst, we're falling into Baal's (Satan's) trap. The "Father of Lies" is the one who tells us that it's "not that bad." Any and every rebellion, big or small, is what necessitated the cross. Baal continually sows seeds of compromise. 


Think about it ... Satan doesn't always need to stir an outright rebellion. The eventual effect is the same if hell merely stirs a million little daily compromises ... and then we gradually create our own hell. 


God gave sexuality to us as a powerful blessing. But our modern world has redefined the blessing of sexuality. We can cry that it's "not that bad," but since America's summer of free love in the late sixties, what has been the consequence of that compromise? America has an epidemic of children growing up without one or both parents. Statistically this creates a cycle -- a downward spiral -- of generational poverty. 


We can say, "it's not that bad" ... we can say, "but if two people love each other" ... we can say, "what two people do in their own bedrooms ..." ... we can say, "who's it really hurting" ... and we can make a case for it not being "that bad" for any one or two individuals ("we understand," "we weren't that much better," "who am I to say anything") ... but when you multiply it out, "free love" has absolutely enslaved a generation of children. And one compromise at a time, it has trapped our nation's children in a downward spiral. (In other cultures, it's the compromise and AIDS that's leaving up to 70% of children in some areas without one or both children.) We must stop bowing down to the lies of Baal and the compromises of culture. 


In Christ's Love,

a guy who hopes that when

you read this today, you

didn't say, "it's not that bad"

Aug 6-7 - BEYOND THE WORD - Numbers 22-24

Here’s part two of yesterday’s strange and wonderful story …


Numbers 22:36 When Balak heard that Balaam had come, he went out to meet him … 38 Balaam said to Balak, “I have come to you now, but do I have power to say just anything? The word God puts in my mouth, that is what I must say.” 


41 On the next day Balak took Balaam and brought him up to Bamoth-baal; and from there he could see part of the people of Israel.


Numbers 23:3 Then Balaam said to Balak, “Stay here ... Perhaps the Lord will come to meet me. Whatever he shows me I will tell you.”


Then God met Balaam … The Lord put a word in Balaam’s mouth, and said, “Return to Balak, and this is what you must say.” So he returned to Balak,[a] who was standing beside his burnt offerings with all the officials of Moab. 6-7 Then Balaam he returned to Balak and uttered his oracle, saying: “How can I curse whom God has not cursed?”


11 Then Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but now you have done nothing but bless them.” 


13 So Balak said to him, “Come with me to another place … then curse them for me from there.” …  15 Balaam said to Balak, “Stand here … while I meet the Lord over there.” 


16 The Lord met Balaam, put a word into his mouth … 18 Then Balaam uttered his oracle, saying: 19 God is not a human being … that he should change his mind.23 Surely there is … no divination against Israel … 21 The Lord their God is with them.”


25 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Do not curse them at all, and do not bless them at all.” 


26 But Balaam answered Balak, “Did I not tell you, ‘Whatever the Lord says, that is what I must do’?”


27 So Balak said to Balaam, “Come now, I will take you to another place … 24:1 Now Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, so he did not go, as at other times, to look for omens … Balaam looked up and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe. Then the spirit of God came upon him,and he uttered his oracle, saying … “How fair are … your encampments, O Israel!God who brings [his people] out of Egypt … shall devour the nations that are his foes … Cursed is everyone who curses you.”


10 Then Balak’s anger was kindled against Balaam … “I summoned you to curse my enemies, but instead you have blessed them these three times. 11 Now be off with you! Go home! I said, ‘I will reward you richly,’ but the Lord has denied you any reward.”


12 And Balaam said to Balak, “Did I not tell your messengers whom you sent to me, 13 ‘If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the Lord.


One of the most jarringly truthful passages in Scripture is Galatians 6:7 – “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked.”


We dare not bless what God doesn’t bless, nor curse what God blesses. That’s what Balaam (and all of Scripture) teach us.


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who want to

be a border guard

(Let’s all of us agree to never go

beyond the word of the Lord.)









Saturday, August 6, 2016

Aug 5 - WHO TO CURSE - Numbers 22

I’m going to let Scripture tell the story today.


I’ll edit it (shorten it) and put in a few clarifying comments in green. But mainly today just read this wonderful, strange story!


Numbers 22:1 The Israelites … camped in the plains of Moab across the Jordan from Jericho. Now Balak [the Moabite king] … saw all that Israel had done to [to another nation,] the Amorites. [Thus,] Moab … was overcome with fear of the people of Israel. … [So Balak] sent messengers to [the prophet] Balaam … to summon him, saying, “Come now, curse this people for me … perhaps I shall be able to … drive them from the land; for I know that whomever you bless is blessed, and whomever you curse is cursed.”


So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the fees for divination … and they came to Balaam, and gave him Balak’s message. He said to them, “Stay here tonight, and I will bring back word to you, just as the Lord speaks to me …


God came to Balaam and said …“You shall not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.” 


13 So Balaam rose in the morning, and said … “The Lord has refused to let me go with you.” 


14 So the officials … went to Balak, and said, “Balaam refuses to come with us.”


15 Once again Balak sent officials, more numerous and more distinguished ... 18 But Balaam replied … “Although Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the Lord my God, to do less or more.19 [Nevertheless] remain here … so that I may learn what more the Lord may say to me.” 


20 That night God came to Balaam and said to him, “If the men have come to summon you, get up and go with them; but do only what I tell you to do.” 21 So Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the officials of Moab.


22 [Now] God’s anger was kindled because he was going. [Actually, God was frustrated that Balaam already knew God’s answer, but because he desired the Balak’s reward, he decided to try and persuade God to change his mind. Therefore, God said, “Go with them,” but along the way, God was planning to teach Balaam a lesson. Thus ...] the angel of the Lord took his stand in the road as [Balaam’s] adversary. Now [Balaam] was riding on the donkey … 23 The donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand; so the donkey turned off the road, and went into the field; and Balaam struck the donkey, to turn it back onto the road. 


24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side.25 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it scraped against the wall, and scraped Balaam’s foot against the wall; so he struck it again. 


26 Then the angel of the Lord went ahead, and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam; and Balaam’s anger was kindled, [the same words that described God] and he struck the donkey with his staff. 


28 Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29 Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me! I wish I had a sword in my hand! I would kill you right now!” 30 But the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I been in the habit of treating you this way?” And he said, “No.”


31 Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed down, falling on his face. … 34 “I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now therefore, if it is displeasing to you, I will return home.” 


35 The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men; but speak only what I tell you to speak.” So Balaam went on with the officials of Balak.


That’s part one of the story.


The point: God is bigger than us! And his purposes are bigger than ours. So don’t go looking for an earthly reward. Seek first the kingdom of God.


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who doesn’t want

to get scolded by a mule

… or God


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Aug 3-4 - LIFTING UP - Numbers 21:7-9

The people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

Numbers 21


Just before scripture’s most famous verse – John 3:16 – Scriptures refers to today’s story from Numbers 21. Therefore, strange as this story is, it must be important!


John 3:14 And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.


Here’s the story: Israel is journeying through the wilderness. The King of Edom denies them permission to pass through his territory. Thus, Moses turned the people in a roundabout way. But when he did, the people of Israel begin to complain against Moses … and against God. The result? In judgment upon their grumbling, God sends poisonous snakes into their midst.


Now, how did the people respond as snake bites were claiming the lives of many? For once they repented! They acknowledged their sin. They asked Moses to intercede for them. In response to their prayers, God told Moses to craft a serpent out of bronze and put it on a pole. Everyone who looked at the serpent would be saved.


Here’s the point, and here’s why it’s connected to Jesus in John 3 …


We may think that this story sounds harsh, but isn’t this the story at the heart of the Gospel: Because of sin, the curse of death is upon us all. The rebellious Israelites didn’t deserve to live. Neither do we.


God provides, however, a remedy to sin. Yes, in grace, God provides. Now, if I alone compared Jesus to bronze snake that Moses hung on a pole, you might think I was teetering on blasphemy. And yet this was Jesus’ own analogy! And the key was this: First, God himself must provide the remedy.


Second, the remedy must be lifted up – lifted up in the physical sense of hoisting the remedy high on a pole (on a cross), but also lifted up in terms of being exalted.


Our freedom comes from …


·         Acknowledging that there’s no hope for us without God’s remedy.

·         Repenting of our sins.

·         Looking upon the one who is lifted up.

·         And highly exalting him in worship that lifts him higher in praise.


In Christ’s Love,

a guy who deserves

to be strung up

… instead the one

who was lifted up,

keeps lifting me up