Sunday, March 31, 2019

Our God is Great ...

“Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb. For I will proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God!" - Deuteronomy 32:1-3
Spring is upon us with the early rains as well. Such days may seem dreary, but they are greatly needed for beautiful flowers to blossom and the landscape to be deep green. The best rain falls gently on the tender grass and afterward, the fragrance is intoxicating. Spring is glorious, but it can't compare to the greatness of God Himself.
As Moses began to sing the song that the Lord gave him, he called attention specifically to the character of God. There was a great history of God's provision, protection and promises fulfilled. But, over and above all these wonderful works, Moses proclaims the name of the LORD and all that He was to his people. Miracles are glorious, but they can't compare to the greatness of God Himself.
What are you rejoicing in today my friend? What are you thanking God for this morning? Are you excited about the spring weather, good health, a bonus in your paycheck, a new baby in your family? All this is a great blessing, but when have you simply focused on the person of your God and His very nature? His works are certainly glorious, but they can't compare to the greatness of God Himself.
  

Saturday, March 30, 2019

HIS Arms ...

“There is none like God, O Jeshurun, who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in his majesty. The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms." - Deuteronomy 33:26-27
Arms... The ones that carried us when we were too young to remember, the ones that scooped up our own babies, and the arms that carried our parents from the chair to bed in their latter days. Arms that loved, arms that rocked, and arms that protected. Arms are a comfort, a strength and a refuge, but just for a moment.
From the beginning of the book to the end, Moses spoke of the Lord's care for His people. "... in the wilderness, where you have seen how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place." - Deuteronomy 1:31 Year in and year out, God was their dwelling place and He carried them, but in the end Moses made it clear that it wasn't just for the moment.
Where do you dwell my friend? Who rides through the heavens to your help? Never allow the moments of doubt or discouragement get the best of you. Don't yield to your weariness and weakness. Know this... “Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save." - Isaiah 46:3-4  Yes, He carries you, never just for the moment, because underneath are ... The Everlasting Arms.



Friday, March 29, 2019

Too many Secrets ...

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. " - Deuteronomy 29:29
The Secret to happiness .... The Secret to getting ahead ... The Secret to making Money ... The Secret to Southern Charm ...The Secret to doing everything ... and there you have it. Apparently there's a secret to absolutely everything in life. How wonderful to know that you can find these secrets at your local book store any day of the week. Yet, the truth is, your entire life happens while you're looking for secrets.
After the Lord opened His heart and poured out great wisdom and insight for life, He knew that there would be a driving force to discover secret things not yet revealed. The message was quite clear; what they really needed to know, had been revealed. So, rather than lose the joys of life while searching for the secrets, live to the full with what you know.
Bible study is of great importance my friend. But, why spend years pouring over the Scriptures to find the secrets of numerology or some "hidden between the lines" truth and miss the heart of it all?  Jesus spoke of this in John 5:39-40 ... "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life."  Be careful that you don't miss the "Way, the Truth and the Life" while you're searching for those secrets to life!

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Practice...

“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God." - Deuteronomy 28:1-2  
People spend millions of dollars every year attending instructional conferences, workshops and reading numerous handbooks. Their purpose is the improvement of skills to achieve success in life. Sadly, there are many whose success is never realized. The reason is simple: they fail to put their learning into practice.
Israel would eventually suffer from the same experience. They had all they needed to achieve success and great blessing. Instructions and clear guidelines were in abundance from the Lord. All they had to do was a daily follow through. The potential of good days ahead was all linked to putting their learning into practice.  
If you hope to have a blessed life, set high above the rest, practice is required. You can't just know it my friend, you need to do it. We learn how to pray by praying, we learn how to serve by serving, we learn how to trust by trusting, we learn how to love by loving and we learn how to forgive by forgiving. As always, we can only succeed by putting our knowledge into practice.


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

We are His ...

"And the LORD has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, and that he will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that he has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he promised.” - Deuteronomy 26:18-19
We had a parent/child dedication at our church this last Sunday morning. The moment was such a great blessing for the family and the church as well. All eyes were focused on the little girl as the Pastor spoke, and then prayed. We look at little ones with such joy and expectation. As one song puts it, they are a masterpiece of God. But, to Mom and Dad they are a treasured possession.
When Israel was chosen by God to be a blessed and holy people, there was nothing special about them. We saw this in previous passages (Deuteronomy 7:6-8) that spoke of God's love being the single reason for their being chosen. Today, we see the Lord promising to bless His people by setting them in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations. All this because they were His treasured possession.
Someone once said, if God carried a wallet, our picture would be in it. It's true that God loves us dearly, as John writes in 1 John 3:1 ... "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are..."  He is our Father and we are His dear children, just like the little girl was to her Mom and Dad last Sunday. We are our His treasured possession.


Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Friendly Neighborhoods ...

“You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray and ignore them. You shall take them back to your brother. And if he does not live near you and you do not know who he is, you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall stay with you until your brother seeks it. Then you shall restore it to him." - Deuteronomy 22:1-2
Remember the proverbs we grew up with? "Every man for himself", "Only fools and horses work", "Revenge is sweet", "Nice guys end up last", and then there's the ever popular "Finders Keepers, Loser weepers". Such thoughts are so "it's all about me", without any concern for others. While these quips may seem cute, when they determine our conduct, we build unfriendly neighborhoods.
As we read through the various commands in Deuteronomy, God's concern for a peaceful and caring society is quite evident. Somewhere in the ballpark of 2.5 to 3 million Israelites entered into the promised land with Joshua. That's a lot of neighbors, and the only way to keep peace in the hood was to be considerate. When someone found a lost ox or sheep, they were to restore it to the owner, because "Finders Keepers" was the way to build unfriendly neighborhoods.
When Jesus speaks of the two most important commandments, He states: "And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:39) If we will obey this commandment in practical everyday life, we will avoid following the proverbs of the world. Instead, we will follow the teaching of Matthew 7:12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." This will assure us of having friendly neighborhoods.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Who's that knocking?

“And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel." - Deuteronomy 17:18-20 
No one  enjoys working for someone who looks down on others. Then again, no one respects those who represent the law and don't obey the law. Almost every week there's a newspaper article about some person of authority that abused his or her position. Over time, such people have become "legends in their own mind". As sad as this may be, at one time or another, this temptation may come knocking at your door too.
When the Lord gave His commandments, He provided wisdom and direction for generations to come. He knew the sin nature of mankind and the potential for pride and arrogance to defeat future leaders of His people. This actually became true over and over again, as we will find out in reading more of the Old Testament. The word of God was ignored and the temptation of pride came knocking at the door.
Be careful my friend. Leadership comes in many forms. Whether we are parents, grandparents, big brothers/sisters, big bosses or little bosses... power can corrupt, and absolute power can corrupt absolutely. The more time you spend in the Word of God, the more you will understand what Paul speaks of in Romans 12:3... "For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned."  Be prepared when the temptation of pride comes knocking at your door.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Hear, O Believer ...

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might... You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." - Deuteronomy 6:4-5, 9 
My first pastorate was at First Baptist Church of Dix Hills, N.Y.  Our church was located in the middle of a very Jewish community. This became quite clear when we would visit our neighborhood, going door to door with church materials. A large majority of the homes had a Mezuzah placed on the entrance doorpost. This little case would contain a parchment of Deuteronomy 6:4-9. These families embraced the Torah with careful precision.
The original intent of this passage had to do with an entire lifestyle. The people of God were to make the Lord an every day and night priority in their families. In contrast to the other nations that boasted of many gods, Israel worship only One God. They not only proclaimed Him in every way, but they loved Him with all their heart, soul and might. They were expected to embrace the Lord with careful precision.
The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 9:5 concerning Israel, "To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen."  This same Jesus, the very Son of God, referred to this passage during His earthly ministry in Matthew 22:37 as the greatest commandment. The triune God, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, still calls for our daily devotion and loving embrace with careful precision. 

   

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Compassion and Care...

"And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do." - Deuteronomy 14:29 
"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." - James 1:27 
Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, City Missions, and Meals on Wheels are great programs for so many people. The truth is, were it not for such programs as these, millions of our neighbors and friends would end up destitute. While there are those who take advantage of this system, every community needs to heed the timeless call for compassion and care for one another.
When the Lord established the nation of Israel, He wasn't just creating a religious movement. Rules and relational guidelines were taught, so this nation would experience consideration, cooperation and a supportive atmosphere. He led tribes, families and individuals to live together in a community of timeless compassion and care for one another.
John Donne, the English poet and cleric once wrote: "No man is an island". He meant that no one is really self-sufficient, in truth everyone relies on others. There is also an African proverb that states, "It takes a village to raise a child". All such thoughts can find their roots in the Word of God. Pure and undefiled religion will always embrace, and provide for, those in need. When we have sincere love for our neighbor, we will show timeless compassion and care for one another.



Friday, March 22, 2019

Be strong and Live long ...

“You shall therefore keep the whole commandment that I command you today, that you may be strong, and go in and take possession of the land that you are going over to possess, and that you may live long in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give to them and to their offspring, a land flowing with milk and honey." - Deuteronomy 11:8-9 
Among the many reasons why we should take multivitamins, here a few claims ... They boost immunity, they slow the aging process, they prevent the risk of some cancers, they maintain muscle strength and much more. Whether scientifically proven or not, according to the CRN consumer survey of October 18, 2018, 75% of U.S. adults take a dietary supplement. Apparently, people want to be strong and live long.
While health professionals aren't all agreed on the benefits of multivitamins, a lot of people believe they work, and take them every day. In contrast, the people of Israel were promised a far greater result from taking spiritual vitamins. "Keep the whole commandment...that you may be strong... that you may live long".  The daily obedience of God's word was a solid resource for success and health in possessing the land. It was, without apology, the God given means to be strong and live long.
Why pour out a large portion of your hard earned money on health supplements? You might respond with your desire for preserving good health. But, what about the long term health of your body, soul and spirit? If, questionable resources such as multivitamins, are worth your investment, why not commit to a sure thing? Those who will daily take in God's Word and faithfully practice it are promised to be strong and live long.    


Thursday, March 21, 2019

For our Good ...

“And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?" - Deuteronomy 10:12-13 
My wife and I grew up on the shore of Long Island. We spent more time at the beach than we can remember. In addition, we spent the last twenty years haunting the shores of New Jersey and Cape Cod. These beaches cover many different locations, with a vast number of guidelines and life guards. But, one thing we've noticed about all town beaches... their requirements are for our good.
Just as beach rules are intended to save lives and prevent injury, God's laws and commands were given for the same reason. Furthermore, He looked for the people of Israel to follow and serve Him with loving hearts. It wasn't enough to obey out of mere obligation. The Lord asked for total commitment of "all" their hearts and souls. Why did God make such requirements? ... for their good.
Our Lord's requirements for believers are no different today. Before Jesus went to the cross, he charged his disciples in John 14:21 and 15:7 ... "Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him... "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you."  When we read His word and obey it, we show our love to Him. In turn, the Lord gives greater love, reveals more of himself and answers our prayers with His blessings,... all for our good.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Because He Loves You ...

“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt." - Deuteronomy 7:6-8 
Six years ago, my wife and I adopted a rescue dog. She wasn't a purebred and she would never place in the Westminster Dog show. But, of all the dogs who are on the face of the earth, she became our treasured possession. After bypassing many others, we chose her, and she brings laughter, joy, and comfort to our hearts everyday. She's not ours because she has a blue ribbon... she's ours because we love her.
As Israel was about to receive all that the Lord had promised, one important fact needed to be stated. This nation wasn't chosen and blessed because they were cool. They weren't better, greater or stronger than other nations. They were simply slaves, set free by the mighty hand of their Redeemer. The answer to the haunting question "why", was stated quite simply...because the LORD loved them.
When you wake up every morning do you ever wonder why the Lord has blessed you with breath, strength and provision to face a new day? Do you wonder why you were included in the family of God? Or why the Lord has gone to prepare a place for you in heaven? Well, Jesus made it rather clear in John 15:13, 16 ... "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends...You did not choose me, but I chose you." Be encouraged and greatly inspired my friend, since it's all because He loves you.


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Wisdom ...

"Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people." - Deuteronomy 4:6
I have often heard reference to someone being "street wise". The implication includes the idea of knowing what to do at the right moment and doing it. Such people may, or may not, be well educated through formal schooling. Just possessing knowledge doesn't make one wise. The quality of being "street wise" is found in using the knowledge that one has in a practical manner. Wisdom puts into practice what one knows.
One could look at the vast number of commands that Israel received and be turned away from such high expectations. But, Moses knew that an obedient lifestyle would have an lasting impact on the surrounding nations. Whenever God's Word is followed, one's "wisdom" will have a greater influence. Just knowing God's Word doesn't make one wise,  it's doing it that makes the difference. Wisdom puts into practice what one knows.
Many believers proclaim their Bible knowledge daily, at work, school, or with their family. But, unbelievers test our reality by the wisdom that comes from Godly living. Psalm 111:10 puts it this way ... "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!" Wisdom puts into practice what one knows.


Monday, March 18, 2019

His Story ...

"In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses spoke to the people of Israel according to all that the LORD had given him in commandment to them, after he had defeated Sihon the king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon, and Og the king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth and in Edrei. Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to explain this law, saying, “The LORD our God said to us in Horeb, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain." - Deuteronomy 1:3-6 
It has been uniquely worded that all history is "His Story"... The creation of our world, the rise and fall of nations, the spiritual visitations that brought revival of whole regions and turning of entire kingdoms. It has also been said that the only thing we really learn from history, is that we don't learn anything. Thankfully, there are those who understand the value of history and are better prepared for the future.
Before Israel was to enter the promised land, she needed a fresh history lesson. The first three chapters of Deuteronomy serve as that lesson. Before the people could move forward, they were reminded that God was able to do great things to provide victory. They also needed a reminder of their previous rebellions and journeys in the wilderness. All of this was necessary so they would be better prepared for the future.
As believers, we need not brood over past failures because..."There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:1)  But, along with Biblical history, there are spiritual matters of which we need reminders, as we read in 2 Peter 1:12-15 ... "Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things."  "His Story" will always better prepare us for the future.



Sunday, March 17, 2019

Preparation ...

"The LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying,..These are the commandments and the rules that the LORD commanded through Moses to the people of Israel in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho." - Numbers 1:1 / 36:13
When someone enlists in the military, they are required to receive basic training at a home base before they are sent anywhere else. The training covers necessary military codes and guidelines, physical preparation, along with specialty training. This process is challenging and very demanding, but military personnel must be fully equipped for the work and location where they will serve. No one is sent unprepared.
Yesterday,we completed reading through the book of Numbers. During the days that led up to entering the promised land, the Lord took time to clearly instruct the people of Israel on how they should live and worship. It wasn't easy, as there were occasions when rebellion led to strong repercussions for all the tribes, as well as Aaron and Moses. The commands were challenging and demanding, but the Lord fully equipped His people for the future. No one was sent unprepared.
The life of a disciple is also one of preparation. As the seasons of change approach, or the callings to new ministries come, the Lord faithfully equips us. The disciples were told to wait in Luke 24:49  "And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” And, before Barnabas and Paul were sent out... "While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2) The Lord never sends us unprepared.



     

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Our Refuge ...

"And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall select cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person without intent may flee there." - Numbers 35:9-11 
In our rather litigious society the job of the lawyer or advocate is very often called upon. No matter what the crime or legal charge, the first plea is a request for legal counsel. Most people know that the twist and turns of the legal system is far more complex than any untrained person can possibly understand. No one wants to go it alone without a refuge.
The passage before us speaks a loud message of God's grace. In the most serious matter of a lost life, there is a place to find help and understanding. THere were six cities within traveling distance for anyone to find protection. Where there was no intentional death involved, God provided hiding places from the avenger of blood. No one needed to go it alone without a refuge.
In David's time of confession, he wrote in Psalm 32:7, "You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah." Like having a city of refuge, or a hiding place in trouble, we too have a person to whom we can go ... John writes in 1 John 2:1 ... "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."  Don't go it alone my friend, run to your refuge... run to Jesus.

Friday, March 15, 2019

No place for wildlife ...

“Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you and destroy all their figured stones and destroy all their metal images and demolish all their high places. And you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it." - Numbers 33:51-53 
For a few summers during the 1960s, my wife's family would travel up to Northfield, Massachusetts for vacation. The family owned a cabin in the woods that served the purpose, but it was quite rustic. While ownership was established, each year the family men would have to "drive out the inhabitants" before the family could possess their living quarters. To put it simply, the cabin was no place for wildlife.
Following the above train of thought, the Lord had given the land to Israel so they could possess it. They were to take possession of every parcel of land and build homes and cities. But, to do so, they had to "drive out the inhabitants". The images, alters and places of idol worship needed to be demolished before any child of God would settle down in the area. The people of Israel worshiped God alone, and to put it simply, this land was no place for wildlife.
The spirit of Holy distinction was not just for the times of Israel. Paul reminds us that believers are also called upon to possess the Holy Life that the Lord has given them in Christ. Consider the following words from 2 Corinthians 6:17-18 ... "Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” The day will also come when we will settle down in our heavenly home, which is spoken of in Revelation 21:27 ... "But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life."  To put it simply, the believer's heart, and the believer's home is no place for wildlife.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

As One ...

"And Moses said to them, “If the people of Gad and the people of Reuben, every man who is armed to battle before the LORD, will pass with you over the Jordan and the land shall be subdued before you, then you shall give them the land of Gilead for a possession." - Numbers 32:29 
During World War II, from 1941 to 1945, there was a national program called the "Home Front". It involved Citizens Defense Corps, Citizens Service Corps, American Unity, Salvage Program and Victory Gardens. There was a general feeling that sacrifices at home would help the war effort. Millions of students, retirees, housewives and the unemployed entered an active labor force. At home and abroad, the nation worked as one.
The spirit of unity in conquering the promised land was necessary for ultimate victory. When the Lord gave the command to move forward, He expected solidarity of effort on the part of every tribe. This was no time to break away and settle down. An agreement was acceptable for the people of Gad and Reuben to leave their families on the east side of the Jordan, but the troops were to work as one.
The church is no different than the "Home Front" of 1941-1945, nor the call for Gad and Reuben to join their brothers in battle. God calls us to strive together in reaching the world with the gospel. This is no time to break away and settle down. We face a spiritual battle every day and unity is needed to conquer the enemy. Paul was most thankful for the believers in Philippi when he wrote in Philippians 1:3, 5, "I thank my God...because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now."  Reaching the world and conquering the opposition needs God's people to work as one.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Watch out!

"Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the LORD." - Numbers 31:16 
"Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting." -  Sun Tzu, Art of War. From the earliest record of confrontation, misdirection and deception has won the day on the battleground. When Eve faced the evil one in the garden, her resistance was not broken by force, but through subtle temptation.
This chapter before us is "the rest of the story". We now find out that after all the efforts by Balak and Balaam to curse Israel failed, victory was finally achieved. By following Balaam's advice, the daughters of Moab broke Israel's resistance, through sexual immorality, leading them to Idol worship in Numbers 25. The time had now come to "strike them down" (25:16) for their subtle temptation.
While the quote from Sun Tzu is secular wisdom, it can be seen practiced by the serpent in the garden and the Midianites in Numbers 25. Paul's counsel in Ephesians 6:11 holds a similar warning ... "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil."  Spiritual battle will rarely come at you directly. Be wise and watchful my friend, because the evil one will most often strive to break your resistance through subtle temptation.   


Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Your Word ...

"Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the people of Israel, saying, “This is what the LORD has commanded. If a man vows a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.' - Numbers 30:1-2
While attending Bible College, it came to my attention that the school had been offered a large piece of property for a very reasonable price. The property was owned by two men of the Jewish faith. The one who made the deal with the college president gave his word and shook hands. The agreement was final, in spite of his partners objections. There was no paperwork or signatures, just the word and handshake of a man who practiced his faith. His word was his bond.
In this first statement concerning vows, the Lord made it very clear that when a promise is made, that promise was to be kept. He didn't allow for any "loopholes" to get out of any costly commitment. The command applied to, vows made to God and pledges made to men. There were no details for written contracts or a required signature from a notary public. When it came to vows or pledges, a person's word was their bond.
In the world in which we live, there are too many guarantees and contracts that are broken every day. There are more than enough lawyers that can find the "loopholes" necessary to get anyone out of keeping their word. Even the marriage vow has become a very breakable promise. But, for those of us who strive to practice our faith, the above passage, along with James 5:12, sets a clear path to follow ... "But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation."  When you vow, pledge or promise, my friend...may your word be your bond.

Monday, March 11, 2019

God's Calling ...

"Moses spoke to the LORD, saying, “Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the LORD may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.” So the LORD said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him." - Numbers 27:15-18
Far too often, churches across the country "hire" pastors. They do their homework, check out all the credentials, follow up on the references, review sermons and carry out various interviews. If the individual is the "right" age and has the proper experience then a "vote " may be taken and the offer is sent to the pastoral candidate. It's all neat, smooth, crisp and nicely wrapped up. Your hired!
When the time came for Moses to pass the baton, none of the above took place. WIth great wisdom and reverent dependance on the Lord, Mose said: "Let the Lord...apppoint a man."  He knew that the Lord would make the best choice. The future responsibility was going to be overwhelming and the man who took the position would have to lean on the Lord every moment. When the going would become difficult, the chosen leader would need to remember that he wasn't just hired, he was called!
The principle is not any less important and just as necessary today as it was then. When a church seeks a senior pastor, or any spiritual leader, the choice should always be placed in the hands of the Lord. Missionary Martyr, Jim Elliot often said ... “God always gives his best to those who leave the choice with him.”  Actually, for the believer who seeks the will of God, every career choice should be more than a well chosen position, with a successful hiring ... it should be God's calling.


Sunday, March 10, 2019

Loss or Gain?

 "And the LORD said to Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the people of Israel. " - Numbers 18:20
Over the last few weeks, as usual, there have been various deaths of well known and successful personalities. Among those reported, were actors, sports figures, entrepreneurs, musicians and many more. As you read their obituaries, it will be noted that they left all their wealth behind. They left all their fame behind. They left all their power behind. They left this world with great loss.
In our study of the priesthood and levitical leadership, it is often mentioned that these faithful servants of the Lord had no earthly inheritance. One might consider such people to have been cheated and as a result, quite poor. Even though, they had a high calling with incredible responsibilities. They spent their entire life in the work, along with sacrificing a great deal. Yet, they had the most valuable inheritance of all... The LORD. When the time came, they left left this world with great gain.
You don't have to be a priest to enjoy the same inheritance that these servants of the Lord enjoyed. David wrote in Psalm 16:5-6... "The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance." Choose your portion wisely my friend. Seek an inheritance that will bless your life in the here and now, AND into eternity. When you leave this world will you suffer great loss or enjoy great gain?

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Working the angles ...

"And Balaam took up his discourse and said, “Rise, Balak, and hear; give ear to me, O son of Zippor: God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? Behold, I received a command to bless: he has blessed, and I cannot revoke it." - Numbers 23:18-20
Children have a way to get what they want. They don't go to school to learn this, it just comes naturally. If Dad says no, they go after Mom to see if they can get their way through her. When children become adults they follow the same pattern. If they can't get their way from the boss, they often go after the supervisor until they get what they want. To get their way, people always try to work the angles.
Balak wanted God to curse the Israelites. He was willing to bargain, juggle or even force Balaam into a corner. If he couldn't get it one way, he was ready to try another. He wasn't going to take no for answer. This approach basically involved trying to get God to change his mind. He knew that as long as Israel was blessed and protected, the future of Moab was in serious question. Balak tried his best to work the angles.
What do you do when God says no to your request? Do you come back with a new and different approach? Do you try to bargain with him, hoping to change his mind? Do you seek counsel from the Pastor or a godly friend, hoping that by doing this, God might finally change his mind? When God says no, he has good reason, and as our passage says ... "God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind."  Be wise, and accept God's answer when given. God means what he says for our best, so be wise and don't try to work the angles.

     

Friday, March 8, 2019

Look and Live ...

"And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live." - Numbers 21:7-9 
"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." - John 3:14-15
Every fall the call goes out to get a flu shot. People make their way to the Doctor's office or to the nearest pharmacy. They may have full insurance coverage or they might have to pay a fee. Next, they sit down, pull up their sleeve and have a needle poked into their arm. There's no other way to avoid Influenza. The only way to be protected from an illness or to be treated for one, involves a needle or oral medication. Wouldn't it be great if all we needed to do was ... look and live?
Here we go again. More grumbling and complaining. More critics of the Lord and His servant Moses. God is never pleased with whiners. Ingratitude and impatience is very much a disease, a little like influenza. The critical spirit and hardened heart toward God will eventually kill you. In the situation before us we see God's retribution on such people. In their plight they cried out in repentance and the answer that came was simple. Raise up a bronze serpent onto a pole, then ... look and live.
Here we find another prophetic moment. This is the occasion that Jesus speaks of in John 3:14. The picture is clear and timeless. Sin runs rampant through everyone's heart. It flows through every vein, every thought and every action. We are born with the disease and there's absolutely no human needle or medication that can cure us of the condition. But, God has provided a wonderful and miraculous antidote for this spiritual poison. The Son of Man (Jesus) was lifted up on a pole (the cross) to provide forgiveness, cleansing and redemption for all who, in faith, would just simply ... look and live.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Obedience...

“Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” ... And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” - Numbers 20:8; 11-12 
I heard a story many years ago during a missions conference. A missionary father was in a wooded area with his son when he sternly ordered him to fall onto the ground and lie still. The command sounded rather foolish to the young boy, but he dutifully obeyed. He then observed his father quickly swing a machete and kill a poisonous snake located on a branch just above the child. His obedience to his father's command saved his life. Obedience is important.
Today's reading contains an incredible moment in the life of Moses. Once again, the people quarreled with Moses and the Lord over the need for water. On this occasion, God commanded Moses to speak, rather than strike the rock for water. The command was very specific and when disobeyed, God's purpose was seriously compromised. Moses paid a very high price for his striking the rock. He lost the privilege of entering the promised land with the people of Israel. Obedience is important.
This story cuts across the years to Calvary. Jesus suffered the death blow of the cross only once. After that day of sacrifice, every sinful soul that comes to Him with a thirsty heart need only speak a word of repentance and the waters of salvation pour forth. By striking the rock, rather than speaking, Moses destroyed a most beautiful picture of the coming Messiah (1 Cor. 10:4). When God commands, He has a distinct purpose which may not be understood at the time. Trust His heart and His word my friend, because ... Obedience is important.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Who is the greatest?

"And Moses said to Korah, “Hear now, you sons of Levi: is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the LORD and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, and that he has brought you near him, and all your brothers the sons of Levi with you? And would you seek the priesthood also? Therefore it is against the LORD that you and all your company have gathered together. What is Aaron that you grumble against him?” - Numbers 16:8-11 
I've met far more unhappy leaders than not. It has always amazed me when someone who has been promoted to a position of privilege and honor, find themselves dissatisfied. Rather than rejoicing in the role that they have been given, they resent those who have been entrusted with more demanding responsibilities. The green monster of envy eats away at the soul without any benefit to the victimSuccess is truly overrated when you're haunted with the question... WHO is the greatest? 
Korah and other levites weren't happy with their position of privilege. They had been chosen and set apart by the Lord. They were part of an elite group that the Lord brought near to Himself in ministry. Moses, on the other hand, was uniquely set apart as in verse 28, “... the LORD has sent me to do all these works, and that it has not been of my own accord." They failed to grasp the timeless fact that ..."there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." (Romans 13:1)... WHO is the greatest? (Mark 9:34)
The answer to the haunting question "WHO is the greatest?" is simple ... THE LORD. He is the one who sets apart one for this position and another for something else. Mary said it well in her magnificat ... "He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate" (Luke 1:52) The Lord calls whom He wills, to do what He wills. We can serve HIm as we are called, with joy, or with envy, but the answer will always be the same... HE is the greatest! 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

You can't go back ...

"Do not go up, for the Lord is not among you, lest you be struck down before your enemies. For there the Amalekites and the Canaanites are facing you, and you shall fall by the sword. Because you have turned back from following the LORD, the LORD will not be with you.” But they presumed to go up to the heights of the hill country, although neither the ark of the covenant of the LORD nor Moses departed out of the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and defeated them and pursued them, even to Hormah." - Numbers 14:43-45 
It is said that you can't step into the same river twice. We also know that "windows of opportunity" come and go quickly. We may wish we were young again, but that's not going to happen. When the movie director says "that's a wrap", the actors must move on to the next scene. The sun will come out tomorrow, but today will then be yesterday. The truth is... You can't go back.
Yes, our Lord is the God of the second chance ... when there is true confession and repentance. But even then, the second chance is a new beginning, not a revisit. The people of Israel made a huge mistake in rejecting the directions of God. They saw the enemy, but the enemy was themselves... hearts of unbelief. No amount of mourning could make up for the disobedient, presumptuous mindset that moved on without God. The truth was...They couldn't go back.
Obey the Lord and follow him with a whole heart ... the first time. Don't presume the that the window of opportunity will remain open indefinitely. I had a good friend at Bible college who came to school with a call from God. He made poor choices and soon became diverted from the call. The years passed and he often mourned over the his disobedience and lost opportunity. Our Lord's words to Philip, in John 1:43, remain relevant and clear... "Follow Me". So, heed his call and follow his lead every day, because... You can't go back!