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Archive for September, 2009

The children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spoke to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the leaders of the congregation, saying…”If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession. Do not take us over the Jordan.” Numbers 32:2 + 5

Crossing Over

Israel is poised to enter the Promised Land and constituents from the tribes of Gad and Reuben seek out Moses. Using a lame excuse, they make their case for staying behind and not crossing over into the territory the Lord had promised them. As we read on we learn this was a huge error on their part. Among other things, the fallout from the incident caused the tribe of Manasseh to stumble (they too would opt to be left behind). The entire episode is a valuable illustration for the church of today.

Comfortable Christians

Part of the problem with Gad and Reuben is the same problem that befalls most Christians now — finding ourselves either too lazy, too selfish, or too fearful, we languish in spiritual comfort zones. These brothers and sisters in Christ cry out, “Leave us alone; we are happy where we are!”

They probably are, but happiness of this sort lasts only for a season.

They refuse to put forth the effort it takes to mature spiritually — going to church is all they’re usually willing to do, if that much. Fellowship, prayer, and reading their Bibles, outside the boundaries of sixty minutes on Sunday morning is more than they want to handle. In this light we see how laziness and selfishness are one in the same.

Additionally the self-centered Christian is a hoarder. He accumulates the blessings that the Lord has freely given and does little with them, forgetting that all things belong to the Giver. Somewhere this Christian has forgotten that the miracle cure Jesus provided was to be shared by those He cured.

Finally there are the fearful; those Christians who cower at the thought of engagement on the spiritual battle field, failing to realize that this is where we grow and mature as Christians. These same folks may also dread giving up the sinful relics of the past: the old people, places, and things associated with their sinful behavior. As a result they are frequently dragged back down into the mud and oppression they were rescued from.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:1-5

Jesus Christ has secured for us a better way. Let us not be a church that shrinks back in fear from the sanctification process and worshipful obedience. Let us not be as Gad or Reuben! Our Promised Land, the guarantee of an abundant, spirit-filled life lies directly before us. Let us rise and continue along His narrow, maturing path — let us cross over to that which He has promised us.

 

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Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Count up the plunder that was taken–of man and beast–you and Eleazar the priest and the chief fathers of the congregation; and divide the plunder into two parts, between those who took part in the war, who went out to battle, and all the congregation. Numbers 32:25-27This is Cool

This passage is a picture of how our Father in heaven blesses both those who are engaged in life’s spiritual battles and those who sit on the sidelines. From a strictly procedural point of view the Christian does not have to do anything beyond having faith in order to be blessed. Like it or not, this is the truth. Whether or not that is wonderful news to you depends upon where you’re sitting on the bench.

What You Receive is by Determined the Team Your On

According to the typology those engaged in the battle get half of the booty and those sitting the battle out get the other half. Again, depending upon where you stand, this deal is either quite sweet or extremely unfair—that’s why we need to do the math.

First we need to know that the sides are not even. The warriors (in out Bible verse) number 12, 000 and the benchwarmers number about 3 million. Isn’t this the way it is in the church—only a small portion of Christ’s body is doing anything of significance. So while the plunder was massive, when we divvy one portion among 3 million souls we soon realize that this scrap is very small in deed.

Take the Sheep…

Included in the loot were 675, 000 sheep. That’s a lot of sweaters and socks and after the arithmetic is done, each soldier got a small herd of 28 sheep. On the other hand for those who watched the battle rage from afar, they received one sheep for every 11 people. So yes, they were blessed, but not nearly as much as they could have been. These two Bible verse come to mind…

Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you…He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Luke 6:38, 2 Corinthians 9:6

The choice has always been ours. Sure, we are all saved by faith in Christ Jesus and we’re all going to Heaven, but what are we doing with these gifts we have been given? Are hoarding what the Lord has provided; are we happy to receive smaller portions when the Father desires to bless us abundantly?

It’s No Different in Heaven

The same principle holds true in Heaven. We (Christians) will all be judged on what we did while stationed on earth and then we will be rewarded accordingly. Those who opted to engage in these spiritual battles will receive abundantly over those who chose the safety and security of the bench—one will reign over many cites while the other will be making mud pies on the sidelines. No doubt both will be happy, but given the option, which would you really prefer?


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Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Command the children of Israel, and say to them, ’My offering, My food for My offerings made by fire as a sweet aroma to Me, you shall be careful to offer to Me at their appointed time.’ Numbers 28:1-2
This Ain’t No BBQ

Who doesn’t love the smell of a barbeque. The first thing we need to know is that these sacrifices were no outdoor picnic—we’re talking total fleshly consumption. Have you ever experienced the smell of burning tissue, skin, hair, and bones? At best it is a putrid odor. But yet the Lord finds this aroma sensorially pleasing. How come?

Generally speaking, the Lord delights in our offerings; that we might give back that which we freely received from Him. In many ways it reminds me of how I would borrow money from my dad on his birthday so I could turn around and buy him a present. Dad wasn’t disappointed, but legitimately content with my pitiful gesture. If this is true of our earthly fathers, how much more so must it be true of our Heavenly Father?

But its Bigger Then That

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. Romans 7:18

This is really all about dying to self for in these sacrifices God sees an expression of His children putting their flesh to death. Why is this pleasing to God? Because nothing good dwells in our flesh and to the degree we die to it is to the degree we see God face to face.

But Didn’t God Say…

“You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” Exodus 33:20

God did say that and we need to stop looking at that verse in a negative light. The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain, ” because he fully understood the implications—Paul desired nothing more than to be in God’s full presence and understood that it begins (on earth) when we allow our flesh to pass away. Its worth repeating, “To the degree we die is to the degree we will experience God’s glory here on earth.”

But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God–and righteousness and sanctification and redemption–that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:27-31

For the most part, we seek the gifts of God rather than His glory and that’s okay to a certain extent. God loves us so much, He is more than willing to give us the things we ask for. But spiritually speaking, that’s just a leaping-off point. What pleases Him most is when we unselfishly give up those things, even to the point of physical death.

 

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In particular her AOL featured story regarding the,

“10 Things NEVER to Do on a Cruise.”

And do you know what tops her list in the number one position? NEVER: Touch a Bible!

Her twisted reasoning takes us back to the Norwalk virus outbreak that befell the cruising industry between 2002 and 2007. Ms. Che further cites that one cruise line in particular, “Got serious about debugging their ships… Everything touched by hands that might have carried the virus—from Bibles to poker chips, railings to remote controls—had to be sanitized to a temperature of 170 degrees or thrown out.”

Now I am not naive Cathy, I know you were just trying to draw attention to your article, but really, “Don’t Touch the Bible They Leave In Your Cabin…It Puts You at Risk,” Seriously? This is way beyond any alarmists threshold. It certainly gives me pause why you posed your fright ploy towards Christians and not gamblers or cable viewers. You should know true believers are not that easily swayed and that fear Cathy is the direct opposite of faith. Besides that, we generally bring our own Bibles when we travel.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear,

but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7

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Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds…And the Lord said to Moses, “Bring Aaron’s rod back before the Testimony, to be kept as a sign against the rebels, that you may put their complaints away from Me, lest they die.” Numbers 17:8 & 10

God’s Challenge

“Your Staff Against Mine!”

In Numbers 16 the Lord squashed a rebellion that rose against His appointed servants, Moses and Aaron, and in chapter 17 He implements a doctrine, if observed, would thwart future insurrection and provide a sign by which all might know Who is in command.

Gathering the staffs of all the leaders, God effects only one to blossom and bear fruit; that of Aaron’s. From that time forward if a rebellion was brewing or folks were merely questioning God’s authority or His God-given authority, all one need do is to fetch Aaron’s rod and that budding, blossoming, and almond festooned pole would instantly bring to memory God’s miraculous supremacy. But we might ask, “How is this applicable for Christians today?”

The Rod Points to Jesus

Everything in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament, points to Jesus as Christ in one way or another, although we may wonder how a piece of dead wood, albeit covered in fresh growth, is symbolic of our Lord and Savior. We need go no further than the Prophet Isaiah to make that connection.

There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots…He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. Isaiah 11:1; 53:3b-4

This Rod, this tender shoot would die, cut off from the vine, and forsaken. But Jesus foretold of His own restoration; how like a piece of dead wood He would once again bud, blossom, and bring forth fruit—just as Aaron’s rod wonderfully, miraculously, and symbolically demonstrated. There would be those who doubted Jesus; questioning His authority, just as Korah in his rebellion had questioned Moses and Aaron’s. And like in the prophetic case of Moses and Aaron, He would produce one sign.

“What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” John 2:18b-10

One Sign, One Resurrection

How do we know Jesus is the Messiah? By this one sign we know: His resurrection. Had Jesus not blossomed from the grave, our faith would be without value. In contrast we can know that there is no other way by which a person can be saved, because no other dead rod has brought forth fruit. Every false god or prophet of every false religion lies dead and fruitless in the grave. Dead wood cannot produce.

What About Preachers, Teachers, and Churches?

How do we know who we should listen to and what church we should be attending? Again, the answer lies in Aaron’s rod and everything and everyone claiming deity must be held to its standard. Jesus told us, “Beware of false prophets…you will know them by their fruits, ” in Matthew 7:15-16. And of Himself He reminds us in John’s Gospel, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5

But how can we know if we are receiving the truth and not cleverly twisted Bible passages crafted to suit one person’s agenda? The answer is simple and it starts interestingly enough with this bit of .. the combination of buds, blossoms, and almonds is found in one other place in the Bible—the lampstand of God’s Tabernacle.

You shall also make a lampstand of pure gold; the lampstand shall be of hammered work. Its shaft, its branches, its bowls, its ornamental knobs, and flowers shall be of one piece…Three bowls shall be made like almond blossoms on one branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower, and three bowls made like almond blossoms on the other branch, with an ornamental knob and a flower– Exodus 25:31 + 33

Amazingly, God ties everything together. This lampstand of course is symbolic of God’s Word and we know…

Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path. Psalms 119:105

James develops the illustration even further explaining that the contrast between that which is right and wrong is made manifest by fruit or the lack of it.

But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:14-18

James is once again holding Aaron’s rod as the means by which we measure God’s truth, essentially saying, “Examine the fruit!” Is there envy; is there self-seeking; is there strife; is there no peace? Has purity, love, and gentleness been tossed aside for hypocrisy and perversity? Is the fruit good or is it bad? If we are not at peace with these things, then these words of Isaiah ring true…

If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. Isaiah 8:20b

Where Would Jesus Go

And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.” And His disciples heard it…Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. Mark 11:13-14, 20

If we are still confused as to what church to attend we might inquire, “WWJG?” or to put it plainly, could Jesus’ hunger be satisfied in this place. The fig tree in Mark’s Gospel is representative of everything that can go wrong with a church. Certainly it had plenty of beautiful leaves providing both shade and comfort, but no fruit; nothing to sustain spiritual growth. It’s heartbreaking to know that many believers are starving in comfortable churches that afford no nutritional value whatsoever. Do we hunger for comfort or for nourishment? The ultimate standard for any church, teacher, or religion is whether or not it can measure up to Aaron’s rod.

And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply…” Genesis 1:22a

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Now Korah…Dathan and Abiram…took men; and they rose up before Moses with some of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown. Numbers 16:1-2

The Byproduct of Pride

Korah’s rebellion was fueled by jealousy; pure and simple. Korah, Moses, and Aaron were in fact cousins and Korah was likely sick and tired of watching Moses and Aaron (seemingly) getting all the glory. Korah’s biggest mistake was failing to remember that God had given these two men their authority and only He could remove it. The reality was that Korah brought his affliction (spiritual blindness) upon himself. Pride has a way of doing that and it something I can unquestionably identify with.

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. Romans 13:1-2

I have always made the assertion that in Christ Jesus there are no coincidences and therefore confess that it is no accident that this Bible study crossed my path today. I must acknowledge that the Lord has revealed [to me] that I need to reevaluate how it is I voice my opposition to those in authority over me, lest like Korah I be swallowed-up in a worldly pit. The remedy for self-destructive behavior, thank you Jesus, lies in His word.

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Joshua 1:8

The Numbers passage reminds us that first and foremost we need to examine the motives for our oppositional behavior; in other words, we need to know what’s percolating deep within our hearts. The problem is that this is a task we cannot do outside of ourselves; we need God to do both the searching and the revealing. Moses understood this. Despite the fact that cousin Korah’s rebellion angered him, Moses fell on his face before the Lord and sought His supervision rather than rely upon his own.

The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind… Jeremiah 17:9-10

Having secured a Godly account of the heart, we then need to examine those things which encompass our grievances. Our Father has prescribed that the best method is to engage the counsel of like-minded, Christian men. The fact that we often lack eagerness to take this step strongly suggests that our objections are without weight. Far too many times we seek those we know will agree with our position; a trap of an unexplored heart.

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. Proverbs 23:7a

One cannot help but think of the Apostle Paul (when he was just Saul) and how he zealously persecuted the church in God’s name. Without any doubt this man thought he was doing the right thing, but it was not until the Lord restored his spiritual sight that he saw the horrendous error of his way.

The Way

Matthew 18:15-20 provides for us an excellent prescription regarding the airing of grievances and I would suggest that we devour that text enthusiastically. However, before tackling that instruction, it’s vital that we absorb the doctrine in these two passages.

For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. Romans 12:3

~And~

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8

There is really little need to expound on that text, except to say we need to soak in these God-given conclusions until they ooze from our souls; then and only then should we give voice to our grievances. Oh to God that I might remember these things.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. Colossians 3:16


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Now while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation. They put him under guard, because it had not been explained what should be done to him. Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” So, as the Lord commanded Moses, all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him with stones, and he died. Numbers 15:32-36Wrong Place/Wrong Time?

Occasionally we read a bit of scripture like this and suppose God’s behavior unreasonable. Other times we hear, “I thought your God was a loving God?” The truth of the matter is that God’s ways are perfect and we will fully appreciate their implications when we [Christians] get to Heaven. However, in the meantime, we can take great comfort in appreciating that God, in His grace and mercy, has provided us examples so that we might not repeat mistakes.

God Has a Plan

“…Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth–in Him.” Ephesians 1:9-10

It seems like an obvious statement, but God has a plan and we can see it plainly outlined in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. Everything we do is either in agreement with His will or in opposition to it–everything. We should further recognize that there is nothing we can do to thwart His plan, but there are things we can do to delay the blessings He desires to bestow upon us. Likely the best example we have is in post-Exodus Israel. God’s intent was to bring them into the Promised Land about a year after they left Egypt, but because of their disbelief they turned a week-long trip into a forty year journey. God’s purpose was not destroyed, just delayed. The experience is recorded, at least in part, as an illustration for us.

The Stoned-Stick-Gatherer

Surely there must have been other stick-gatherers; why weren’t they stoned to death? We might never know the answer to that question, but we do know this guy’s actions stand as our example today. You could say that this man’s mission in life was to be an example. Was he damned too? Not necessarily.

The truth of the matter is that a person might be saved, but because they opted to venture into sinful territory (maybe just one time), God opted to use him or her as an example for others. Suddenly their mission field is reduced to an illustration depicting what not to do. Is their salvation still secure? If they knew Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior it is, but their ministry to God ends up becoming a shortened or radically altered life.

Teaching Our Kids

Clearly these are things we need to know, but it’s imperative that we are driving-home this notion to our kids. Far too many of our saved children, particularly teenagers and young adults, are living lives with one foot on the narrow path and one in the gutter. They (we) need to know that while their salvation might be secure, there are always consequences and at the extreme-est level, their conduct may be converted into an example for everyone else. God is not mocked and everyone saved or not, will reap what is sown.

What if you Survive?

Not every Christian who stumbles in sin winds-up a dead example for the rest of us. The reality is that most of us, gratefully, do not. However, many of us become so distraught by the repercussions of our past behavior we become mired in spiritual depression that prevents us from being of any earthly good. This is precisely where the nation of Israel found themselves in the 15th book of Numbers. Our loving God offers a remedy…

“Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners. And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God. Numbers 15: 38-40

Blue is the color of Heaven and while our Father is not mandating that we adorn our garments, herein lies an application for the Church; a remedy for what ails us. When we mess up (and we will), let us be mindful to keep our eyes on the Heavenly prize eternal. There is no need to be anxious or distressed for those who are in Christ Jesus. Remember and do.

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1-3


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