Monthly Archives: May 2017

Deuteronomy 1-3; “Why” Doesn’t Matter

I will admit I am a bit disappointed in Moses. As he is teaching an important history lesson to the children of Israel before they finally go into the Promised Land, he says something that is only partially true. He says it in 1:37, then again in 3:26.

“It’s because of YOU,” he tells them, “the Lord was angry with me and won’t let me go with you into Canaan.” Now, while it’s true the Jews had been whining about not having water, their verbal attacks on Moses were not the reason God was angry with him. It was Moses’ own disobedience that resulted in God’s punishment.

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day. She shared that her son, a man who is celebrating fifteen years sober after many years addicted to drugs and alcohol, doesn’t want anything to do with church. A while back he attended a service, and an elderly saint said something that offended him, so therefore all Christians are judgmental and unkind.

Now being verbally attacked, whether you’re Moses or a recovering addict, is unfair, embarrassing, infuriating. You may have reason to be upset. But the fact of the matter is, when you stand before God, He’s not going to ask you how you felt you were treated by others in this lifetime. He’s not going to ask any of us WHY we refused to obey Him.

The “Why” won’t matter. But the “What” will.

What did you do with my Son? Did you repent of your sins? Did you accept His grace? Did you obey His Words? Did you live your life in such a way that drew others to the Savior?

When you meet Jesus face to face, the only thing that will matter is, does He know you? No excuses. No pointing fingers. Just you and Jesus.

What will you say?

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Numbers 34-36; Don’t Do It!

Cities of Refuge interest me. They were cities in walking distance from anywhere in the Promised Land, assigned as safe havens for those accused of murder, if the death was a result of an accident. The dead person’s kinsmen’s avenger, determined to kill the killer, could not exact revenge while the guilty party was inside the walls of a City of Refuge.

But, should the accused step outside the city, the avenger of blood could take that ultimate “eye for an eye,” with no repercussions. I imagine the avenger camped outside the gate of the city, waiting, watching, hoping the accused will let his guard down and take just one step away from the city of refuge.

If you’ve been with me very long on this blogging journey of mine, you know that I am always looking for spiritual truths, and pictures of Jesus on the pages of this dear book we know as the Bible. It’s thrills me to see how God has woven Himself into every story, every verse. And He is certainly visible in the chapters I read today.

I am guilty. Like the accused murder I’ve just talked about, I have blown it. I deserve a death penalty. But I have found refuge in my Savior, Jesus. Not because I am not guilty, but because He forgave me. He paid my death sentence, shedding His blood on Calvary, dying and living again. I am safe in His Presence. He is my City of Refuge.

Because there is someone out there who wants me dead. Satan is camped outside the gate, waiting for me to step away.

When I think about the accused person hiding out in the City of Refuge, it occurs to me that person had to leave everything, and everyone behind in order to find safety. His home, family, career, savings account, lifestyle, friends, everything that was familiar to him, left behind. And I imagine, after time, the temptation would be there to go back just for a second, to see his old stomping grounds, to experience the fun of the past, to collect some keepsakes, to say “Hi” to the old gang.

And we, as a people saved by grace, might find the pull of our past lives tempting as well. The parties, the friendships, even unhealthy relationships, or the power or income or prestige that came with a compromised life, might draw us back.

Don’t Do It!

Satan would love nothing more than to pounce on us as soon as we let our guard down. Scripture tells us to guard our hearts for a reason. Paul tells us to put on the Armor of God, to study, to pray without ceasing. Remember Jesus said if we love anyone or anything more than Him, we aren’t worthy of Him (Matthew 10:37). God promises if we draw near to Him, He will come near to us.

I don’t want to take a step toward the gate that leads outside my City of Refuge, by entertaining thoughts about ungodly things, by watching things on TV that numb me to the ugliness of sin, by aligning myself to people who compromise the truth of Scripture in any way.

Jesus is my City of Refuge. May I be found living, loving, and serving under His umbrella.

And that’s my prayer for you, too.

Numbers 31-33; A Godly Response to Serving God

The Midianites, children of Abraham through Keturah, had turned from God and were worshiping idols. God told Moses to take some men, and go and wipe out those disobedient people. So Moses sent 12,000 soldiers to war.

The Israelites were successful. 31:7 tells us they “killed all the males” just like God had told them to. They brought home the spoils of war: women, livestock, gold and jewels. Then they divided up everything among themselves and the entire population of Israel, and gave a percentage to the Levites. Well, except for the gold and jewels. They were allowed to keep those things for themselves.

God had blessed them for their obedience.

Here’s the lesson I gleaned from these verses today, beginning in verse 48: When the commanders had a chance to count their troops, they realized there’d been no casualties. 12,000 men went to war, and 12,000 men came home. They immediately went to Moses.

Now, they didn’t go to Moses to demand recognition, or an “attaboy” for doing great work out there on the battlefield. First of all, they came humbly, calling themselves “servants” not warriors or victors or nice guys. They didn’t go to Moses to report their accomplishments, or to point out their sacrifices in the line of duty.

They came to Moses to lay their gold and jewels at the feet of their God. Scripture says they wanted to make “atonement for their souls.” God had spared their lives. They wanted Him to save their souls.

So many Jesus followers are busy doing great things in our churches and in our neighborhoods. Many spend hours preparing lessons, giving up vacations for mission work, visiting the sick, giving generously of our resources. We are on the battlefield every day, fighting this battle against the devil, and winning.

My question is, what is our attitude about all that? Are we working toward some pat on the back, some applause or recognition? Are we trying to convince God that He’s got a gem in us? Are we waiting for that blessing we’re sure we deserve?

God has given us life. God has taken our sins to the cross. God has forgiven us at a very high price. Our response can only be humility, and praise to the only One who deserves praise.

Our response to God when we are obedient, when we serve Him, should be like that of these Israeli soldiers. It’s a privilege to serve Him, and He deserves all that we are or have. And the bottom line isn’t what we do, as much as who we are in Him.

 

Numbers 28-30; Old Testament Sacrifices and Jesus

I’m sure I say this every time I read passages describing the required Old Testament sacrifices but… there was so much blood! Thirteen bulls one day, twelve the next, then eleven, etc. Not to mention two rams and four lambs a day for a week. Oh, and don’t forget the daily goat sacrifice.

That’s a lot of blood being shed there at the temple.

We talked about the cross yesterday in Sunday School. Jesus did what the blood of millions of bulls could not do. His precious blood was shed once and for all. He laid down his life willingly, intentionally, painfully, and gloriously for the forgiveness of every sin every person has ever committed or will commit.

“It is finished,” He cried. Debt paid. Period.

All the requirements of Old Testament sacrifices were fulfilled in that one amazing act. The Old Testament sacrifices paint a picture of what Jesus did there on the cross. Sin is serious business. The consequence for sin is death, and without the shedding of blood God cannot forgive sin.

Praise Jesus! His blood was shed so that you and I can know the freedom that comes from accepting His grace, receiving the forgiveness He bought, and walking with the God of Creation, having Him living right in us.

Thanking God for the cross today.

 

Numbers 25-27; Leading By Example

When Moses found out he was about to die, he prayed that God would raise up a man to take his place. I was struck today about how he prayed:

Moses said to the Lord, “May the Lord, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (27:15-17)

Moses knew that, left to their own devices, the Jews would go astray like sheep without a shepherd. He prayed two things about the one who would come after him. And I can’t help but think we should be praying the same thing for our own leaders, those dear ones who accept the responsibility as pastors of our church fellowships.

  1. Moses prayed that his successor would “go out and come in before them.” This seems to be speaking of the kind of example our leaders should present. Does your pastor (or do you if you are a pastor) demonstrate how to share the Gospel, and not just talk about it on Sunday mornings? Is he (or she) a presence in your community, does he talk about Jesus over coffee at McDonalds? Are people coming to your church on Sunday because of the contact your pastor has made? I knew a pastor one time who said that visitation wasn’t his gift. I’m sorry, but I question his calling. I don’t think a pastor should be making excuses for not “going out and coming in” before the people he is called to shepherd. We sheep learn by example. Moses knew that, and he prayed for a leader that would be that example.
  2. Now before you get too hard on your pastor for not being the perfect example, Moses didn’t let us off the hook. He prayed that his successor would “lead THEM out and bring them in” as well. I am reminded that Jesus wasn’t just speaking to preachers when He commanded that we get out there and make disciples. We aren’t to sit comfortably in our sheep pen while the shepherd is out there knocking on doors. We are all to be sharing our faith, calling on people God puts on our hearts, striking up conversation with people in the grocery line if God prompts us to do that. Are people coming to church because you have made the effort to invite them? It’s not just the pastor’s job to share the Gospel.

But it is his job. I will say that both of my pastors, the one in my Ohio church and the one here in Georgia, are men who are leading by this example. Going to school board meetings, or Rotary Club, or striking up a conversation with the waiter who brings coffee, or helping a neighbor pull weeds, finding opportunities to share Jesus… and taking those opportunities, these dear men aren’t just preachers on Sunday mornings. They live their faith openly every day. And they challenge us to do the same. I think this is what Moses had in mind when he prayed like he did.

Yes, our pastors have a grave responsibility to lead by example. Pray for yours. His is a very difficult job, and Satan would love nothing more than to shackle him to his desk.

And pray that God will prompt each of us to get busy, too. May we be people who eagerly put ourselves out there and lead people into our fold.

For Jesus’ sake. May He find us faithful.

Numbers 21-24; Are You Really Going To Ask God For That?

I’ve always been a bit puzzled by Balaam’s story. It seems God told him to do something, then tried to kill him when he did it. (I also have to admit I laugh every time I read Balaam’s response to his talking donkey. He answered her like it was the most natural thing to hear words coming out of a donkey’s mouth. Makes me smile)

Anyway… I’ve spent some time looking at what others have to say about this passage of Scripture, and today the lightbulb finally turned on. Let’s see if I can put into words what I see here:

King Balak’s men came to a prophet by the name of Balaam, and asked him to join them, to go back to Balak, and to curse the people of Israel. Balaam does what I think he should have done, he waited for God to tell him His will in the matter.

Balaam ends up telling the men that God refused to let him go with them. Which was true. But Balaam left out an important detail. God had said, “You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.” That’s the message Balak’s men should have taken back with them. The story might have ended there.

But Balak tried again, with more important men representing him. Surely Balaam didn’t mean God was holding him prisoner. Maybe a new bunch of messengers would convince Balaam to come, with or without God’s blessing. Worth a try. Their request was the same as before: come with us and curse Israel.

Here’s another mistake: Balaam decided to go back to God and ask again what he should do. I wonder what made Balaam think God would change His mind about about not cursing His people. Maybe Balaam WANTED to go to King Balak with these important people. He said he didn’t want Balak’s money. But I wonder if his actions reveal something else.

Was he really asking God to give him permission to sin? Did Balaam want God’s blessing on sin? How many times does God need to say, “No” before we hear Him? (Should I curse Israel? Should I rob this bank? Should I spread this hurtful rumor? Duh!)

But this time God gives the go-ahead. So Balaam jumps on his donkey and heads to the king of Moab. God’s WILL was that Balaam stay. He made that plain the first time Balaam asked. But God gave permission for him to go after the second request. It was obviously not God’s will because He gave Balaam three opportunities to turn back. God tried to prevent Balaam from putting himself in a tenuous position. But it wasn’t until the donkey spoke up, that Balaam’s eyes were finally opened. He fell on his face, and admitted his sin.

The angel called Balaam’s actions “reckless.” Balaam called it “sin.”

Sometimes Scripture tells us to pray persistently. Like Jesus’ parable of the neighbor who kept knocking because he needed food for some unexpected visitors. Or like the Gentile woman who kept asking Jesus to heal her daughter. We learn that if we keep asking, there are blessings.

In this case, however, we’re told not to keep asking, or there are consequences. What’s the difference?

Sin.

You are wasting your breath if you keep going to God and asking Him to permit a sin, or condone a sin, or bless a sin. If what you are asking is clearly a sin, hear Him say the first time, “NO,” and let it go. You put yourself in difficult positions if you keep thinking He’ll change His mind.

But if what you are asking is in line with Scripture, then go for it. Keep asking. Keep praying. You might have to wait for an answer, but there are blessings even in the waiting.

Just be honest with yourself and God about what it is you are asking Him for. You can dress up a sin with good intentions, but it’s still a sin.

And God is never going to bless a sin, no matter how many times you ask.

Numbers 19-20; No One Gets A Free Pass

Not even Moses. You remember Moses, the one God used to deliver an entire nation from slavery, the one who performed miracles, the one with whom God entrusted His Law, the man who could be in God’s Holy Presence and live. Who in all of history has done more, seen more, had conversations with God more than Moses?

Yet when God told Moses to speak to the rock and water would come rushing out of it, then Moses tapped the rock instead, God didn’t look at all the good Moses had done and balance that against his sin and say, “The scale tips toward good so you get a free pass.” Even Moses had to suffer the consequences for his sin.

Even Moses.

The Bible is clear that every sin comes with a death sentence. (Romans 3:23; 6:23) Every sin.

I hope you are busy doing good things in our world. I hope you are honest and kind, that you are involved in a Bible believing church, that you volunteer at the homeless shelter, recycle, and support a child in Africa.

But don’t think that any of that can substitute for accepting Jesus as your Savior, for admitting and repenting of every sin God reveals in your life. The sin you commit will be repaid with death. That’s why Jesus died.

Because no one gets a free pass.