Monthly Archives: April 2017

Numbers 10-11; Is The Lord’s Arm Too Short?

Moses was overwhelmed with the responsibility of leading the nation of Israel. It wasn’t like he ran for office, or even applied for the position. God called, Moses answered (though somewhat reluctantly). Now in the desert with a million whining Jews, he probably wished he’d ignored God’s call.

Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease You that You put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do You tell me to carry them?… If this is how You are going to treat me, put me to death right now… (11:11-15)

Yep. Moses is wound a little tight here.

The problem with the Jews this time was about the manna. Not that they weren’t grateful. They were just sick of it. How many ways can you cook a wafer before you want to gag at the sight of it? They missed eating meat. They wanted meat.

God told Moses He’d give them meat, and plenty of it. Now here’s what happens when your nerves are shot, and you are hanging by a thread: You lash out at the first person who dares speak to you.

In Moses’ case, that person just happened to be God.

Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them? (11:21-22)

Moses is like, Seriously Lord? There aren’t enough animals in our flocks or fish in the sea to feed these people for a month. Are you kidding me? Just kill me now.

I’m often amazed at the relationship Moses had with God. Because, isn’t it true that most of the time when we are at wit’s end, we tend to lash out at the people closest to us, the people we love and trust the most? I love God’s response to Moses’ outburst:

Is the Lord’s arm too short? You will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.

Yes, dear one, when circumstances are overwhelming, God reveals Himself. When burdens are too heavy to bear, you see how big God’s shoulders are. When problems seem impossible to solve, God provides the solution. When you feel like you can’t go on, God carries you.

How? For myself, it’s when I shut myself away and read His love letter to me. I spend time reading the Bible. I use my concordance and read verses about God’s faithfulness, His character, His provision, love, Presence, and promises. I crawl up into my Father’s lap and whisper in His ear about all the things that have me frustrated, or frightened.  I pray, and I listen. Then I trust Him, even if I can’t see what’s ahead.

So no, Moses. God’s arm isn’t too short. He is able. Sometimes we need to just step back a second and watch what He can do.

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Numbers 7-9; Whose Responsibility Is This, Anyway?

I’m teaching a Sunday School class this quarter for the older ladies of our church. Our ages range from 60-80something. These women bless me and challenge me every week.

We’ve been looking at Jesus’ last days on earth in human form, and have been impressed with the Savior’s urgency in preparing his disciples for what was to come. Jesus was going to die, then come back to life, and there would be work for them to do amid hardship, persecution, and blessing.

Our lesson book is challenging us to get busy ourselves in sharing the Gospel, reminding us that there are people out there going to hell without Jesus.

I was praying Sunday morning as I was getting ready for church. Standing in front of the mirror with hair drier humming, I prayed, “God, these women have walked with you for decades. They are prayer warriors. They continue to use their gifts to serve you. Many have health issues. Some are widows the church should care for. They’ve put in their time, and this lesson is telling them to get busy. What can I possibly say to these dear women who are at the end of their service?”

The thought came to me, “Do you think I’m done with them, that they are of no use to Me?”

Point taken. I taught the lesson, and reminded them God does have something for them to do, someone they need to share the Gospel with, some whose lives God wants them to touch for eternity.

This thought was reinforced today as I read 8:23-26. Priests had mandatory retirement at age 50. After serving in the temple for 20 years, their responsibilities were passed on to younger men.

But here’s the good news for us old geezers: “They may assist their brothers in performing their duties…”

God doesn’t want us to turn in our union cards just because the pages of our calendars show more days behind us than ahead.

There’s a flip side to this coin. My Ohio church family does amazing things in the community. It’s a small congregation of people who love the Lord, and who work hard. And the bulk of the work is done by the dear ones who are in their 70’s and 80’s.

They work with backaches, arthritis, hernias. They work with hearing loss, and fatigue. But whenever there is a job to be done, these amazing people are the first in line. I love them so much.

But, young people – where are you? God’s footprint for an effective church includes you. It’s easy to let someone else do a job if that job is a bit inconvenient. They’re retired. I’m working. They’ve got experience. I don’t. Their kids are grown. Mine demand my attention.

Lets’ be honest here. We all find the time to do things that are important to us.

So whose responsibility is the work of the church? It’s all of us who know the Lord. It’s yours. It’s mine. There is something for all of us to do.

Let’s be faithful.

Numbers 5&6; Do You Trust Me?

As a woman, I had a hard time reading God’s instructions for a jealous husband. If a man thought his wife had been unfaithful, he could drag her to the priest who would make her drink dirty water that, if she was guilty, would render her infertile painfully and publicly. If she was innocent, the dirty water would do no harm.

The husband needed no proof of infidelity. He just had to be jealous. Doesn’t seem fair. What if a woman was truly innocent and her body reacted to the poison anyway?

And here’s the kicker: Regardless of the outcome for this woman, “the husband will be innocent of any wrongdoing…” (5:31) Plus, no mention is made of the guy this woman was supposed to have had an affair with. Let’s organize a march on Washington or block traffic or something.

But God doesn’t let me go off on tangents very long before He sits me down and reminds me of the Truth. Today I felt Him ask, “Do you trust Me?” If He gave the order, He’s not about to fail to make it work. So I am absolutely 100% sure that not one innocent woman – not one innocent woman – ever reacted to the dirty water.

And I am reminded that just because the male offender isn’t mentioned here, doesn’t mean God doesn’t address adultery elsewhere. God is very specific about sexual sins in both the Old Testament and the New.

So why institute this public judgment on adultery?

  1. It reminds us God takes marriage seriously. Marriage is a picture of His relationship with His church. And He will not tolerate unfaithfulness.
  2. Private sins have far reaching consequences. How many people do you know who are living with disease, abortion, raising children alone, or even poverty, as the result of sins they thought were private?

Then God reminded me that He is able and eager to forgive. We might bear consequences in the flesh, but God can make us pure in His eyes and able to bear fruit for His kingdom. Yes, He is serious about sin. Yes, the guilty will not go unpunished.

But thank God, through His Son Jesus, we can know the forgiveness of any and every sin we’ve ever committed, no matter how bad we think that sin is.

 

The lesson for me today wasn’t so much about the way guilty adulteresses were revealed, although at first I thought it was. The bigger question for me was, do I trust God to do all things well?

The answer is yes, I do.

Numbers 4; Hold On!

I remember witnessing a situation in a church I attended years ago. A young man in his late twenties came to know the Lord in a dramatic and exciting way. I don’t think I’ve ever known anyone more on fire after meeting his Savior. And his enthusiasm was contagious.

But I was surprised when the board approved him as a Sunday School teacher only a few months after his conversion. I talked to the pastor who said they felt his enthusiasm was exactly what our stagnate congregation needed. Even though he was still a baby in the faith, and had much to learn himself, the board thought he would be “a shot in the arm” for our fellowship.

The young man began to teach the young married class. But it wasn’t long before he began to teach some things that were not consistent with Scripture. He’d latched on to a popular TV preacher whose message was full of partial truths. But being a babe in his faith, the young man didn’t recognize the error. Eventually, after one of our elders tried to mentor him in the Truth, the young man left the church and took two of the couples with him.

God instructed Moses that men 30-50 were to be given the responsibilities to serve in the Tent of Meeting. In Numbers 8:24 provisions are made for younger men to take part in the work, and Matthew Henry suggests they could be apprentices until age 30, when they would be given their official duties.

It’s believed Paul took some time in Damascus after his conversion before he began his preaching ministry. Some have it as long as three years, and believe he spent time with Christians, learning about his Savior, getting grounded in his faith.

The excitement of a newly saved person should energize our churches. Enthusiasm for the things of God is contagious. But let’s choose our leaders wisely. When we appoint teachers and hire pastors, we are placing on them a serious responsibility, a higher standard by which they are held accountable by God.

Paul sets out some guidelines in I Timothy and Ephesians for church workers. I think we would do well to follow them. And if what Matthew Henry says is true, giving time for a bit of maturity, is the Old Testament basis for serving, as well. Maybe insisting an enthusiastic babe in Christ hold on before tackling leadership positions is exactly what God has prescribed for a very good reason.

We are told to pray for those in positions of authority. (I Timothy 2:2) I’m pretty sure that’s a good thing to do for our church leaders as well as our government. Let’s all be faithful to do that.

And, mature Christian, maybe YOU are the shot in the arm your fellowship needs. Just a thought.

Numbers 1-3; Family

We celebrated my niece’s wedding this past weekend with a reception at the local arts’ center. It was so beautiful and so fun to honor the love of her and my newest nephew. To add to the occasion, our family from Texas traveled the thousand mile journey to join us. I got to see my Texas niece’s daughter for the first time, and hug on my sister’s new husband and his daughter. 35 of our immediate family gathered together for brunch on Saturday, then had an Easter Egg hunt for the eight little ones in our lives.

The five “Zehner girls” were all together for the first time in five years. We followed each other around like sappy puppies. No one wanted to miss a moment of our time together. And having almost all their children and grandchildren with us was nothing short of amazing.

Maybe that’s why this morning, as I read these first chapters in the book of Numbers, I was impressed with the fact that God told the Israelites to camp, and travel with their families. Yes, they were all God’s children. But they were divided into family groups, numbered as family groups, went to war as family groups.

I’m thankful for my family group. I won’t pretend that everything has always been as it was this past weekend. There has been hurt, and anger, and separation. There have been times when there was little or no communication with some of us. But as I sat together with my sisters, laughing and remembering the good times, as I watched our children enjoying each other, someone said, “Thank you, Bob and Ginny.” Our parents gave us quite a gift in our forever friends.

Some of you may be experiencing brokenness in your family group. I don’t know your situation. But I would encourage you to do what you can to fix it. Reach out to that one with whom you are estranged. Confess. Forgive. Encourage. Family units seem to be important to God.

If you are a parent I would suggest that you would raise your children to be friends. Model the behavior with your own siblings that you want to see in your kids. People don’t believe that a house full of five girls could exist without fights. But we didn’t get away with fighting. We weren’t allowed to be mean to each other,  and our parents never thought it was funny if one of us would strike another or take another’s toy.

I, being the oldest, was never given authority over my younger sisters. I can’t remember ever being “in charge” when our parents weren’t home. (Oh, I might have thought I was in charge, but I don’t think that position was ever really given to me). We weren’t all forced to fit into a single mold. I never heard, “Why aren’t you more like your sister?”

Parenting is hard. But how you raise your children will have a lot to do with the relationships you have with them when they are adults. I’m loving the adult relationships I have with my nieces and nephews, and their spouses. And I love that the second generation of Zehners are friends with each other, too.

 

Jesus’ friends were concerned for His family, His mother, brothers, and sisters. Jesus told them that we who do God’s will are his family. Yet, when He was on the cross, He looked at Mary, His mother, and told John to take care of her. There was still that family connection.

So I believe the Bible teaches that families are important. They can be those people who love you best, hold you accountable, encourage, and challenge you.

I’m praying for yours.

Leviticus 26-27; Tithing?

Have you ever been tempted to buy back your tithe? God gave Moses directions for how the Old Testament Jews could do just that, with interest of course. That whole idea is confusing to me.

Malachi will tell us to just bring the whole tithe to the storehouse and leave it there. Give it away and go.

The Old Testament tithe was not usually monetary. They tithed their crops, their animals. But, like one commentator pointed out, you don’t read about carpenters giving 10% of their profit.

Now, before you go cancelling that check you wrote last Sunday, let me remind you what Jesus’ take on Old Testament Law was and is. Don’t murder becomes don’t hate. Don’t commit adultry becomes don’t lust. An eye for an eye becomes turn the other cheek, love your neighbor and do good to those who harm you. And, although Jesus didn’t specifically name all the Laws God gave Moses, I believe we can apply the same principle.

Don’t tithe. Or should I say don’t just tithe. Don’t limit yourself to 10% of the gross or the net of your income. Give as God has given. Where your treasure is there your heart is also. God loves a cheerful giver.

And if we give generously from the heart, it won’t matter if the Old Testament provisions for buying back a tithe is confusing. We wouldn’t consider the possibility.

It’s all God’s anyway. I want to old nothing back from Him. He didn’t hold anything back from me.

Leviticus 24-25; A Sabbath Year

I wonder what it would be like if every seven years, the world went on vacation. No one worked. Not even soldiers in war zones. CEO’s would make no deals. Lawyers would argue no cases. Shops would close. Even policemen would stay home because thieves would take a break, too. For 365 days, everyone would stay home, love on their families, put the cares of the world aside.

Ain’t gonna happen.

But what if it did?

We would learn about the way God provides. We’d learn to give up a bit of control, trust more, worry less.

I wonder what it would be like if every seven days, the world went on vacation. Just 24 hours to worship God, to relax, to love on our families, to play. We are so busy, aren’t we? We fill up our days with good things, or we waste time on useless things. Even our thoughts race at 100 MPH much of the time.

God instructed His children to regularly take time off. Not to “find themselves.” But to find Him without the busyness of life.

I wonder what it would be like if just for one hour each day, the world would take that time off. Mini vacations spent with the Lord, basking in His light, loved on by the Savior, spending time with the God of Creation.

I wonder.