Thursday, February 27, 2014

Numbers 3 - Special Responsibilities

Have you ever noticed at church or at work there are always particular individuals that are busily working and often called on in a pinch?  These people are the faithful servants and no matter what is required, they are willing to serve. If supplies are needed, they will go get them; if cleaning is needed they are right there. They don't complain or comment that someone else is not pulling their weight. They just do - they are the "go-to few". 

God appointed his special people in this chapter of Numbers. The Levites were appointed to the holy task of maintaining the Tabernacle and administering the sacrifices on behalf of the nation. God would trust no one else with the task. At the head of this tribe was Aaron and his sons. All the work to be done would be under their command. They would be priests. 

Among the Levites are the Gershonites, the Kohathites and the Merarites. Each appointed area of responsibility and given a station in relationship to the Tabernacle where they will camp. The labors divided according to their clan and they were numbered by their clan unlike the rest of the nation. 

They were to count males one month old and greater not just those old enough to fight. I believe they intended for each of these young boys to be about the work of the Tabernacle throughout their lives. This would be their responsibility from early age. It sets a pattern for us as we grow our children allowing them to be engaged in work from early years. 

The Levites served in place of offering the first born for each family. They were the redemption for the first born. Even their livestock redeemed the first born of the nations livestock. They would belong to God and be in his service all their days. 

Every tribe was given a place, just as every believer has a purpose and God has a plan for their lives. But there are some called to ministry who have a special place in God's order. They cannot sacrifice for us or take our place, but they apply the word of God to our hearts and call us to holy conduct. They also beacon the gospel to people who don't know The Lord offering the hope of salvation freely offered to those who will accept it. 

Where has God placed you?  How will you serve Him today?  May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Numbers 2 - Places Everyone

God is a God of order. When He spoke in creation, form emerged out of chaos. When we speak to Him in our moments of crisis, He can bring peace and order even in the face if overwhelming strife. In the life of every believer He infuses spiritual gifts that enable us to function in a special way within the body that allow us to function according to God's order.  

In this chapter, we see each tribe with their men able to serve in their military numbered and now ordered. Tribe by tribe, God place them around the tabernacle. Each tribe has a standard or a symbol as a visual identifier for their group. 

EAST: Judah, Issachar and Zebulun
SOUTH: Reuben, Simeon and Gad
WEST: Ephriam, Manasseh and Benjamin
NORTH: Dan, Asher and Naphtali

Notice even though God had a place for each tribe and a separate identification, they were also sent out as a team. They worked together with the other tribes and moved in the order they were assigned with Judah as their leader (Num 2:9). 

Everyone is called by God to honor him and to join his people to bring God glory in their conduct. Everyone has a place and a role to serve. God does not want anyone to be lost or disengaged. 

I think of a testimony shared on Joni and Friends radio program recently. She shared about two siblings who had a rare disorder that left them paralyzed, blind and deaf. What hardship could be greater? Yet these children were faithful in praying for others in need. As Joni travels they are praying. I am sure their list is long with prayer needs. Two children who are in need themselves find a place in God's kingdom to serve. 

Dear friend, we are without excuse if we have not engaged in service. God has specially equipped and placed us for a ministry that allows God's light to shine brightly in a dark world. Will we hide our light?  

As we go out to serve, know you are not alone.  There is a team sent out with you. We are to function in the body but also in the world together. I have a friend that is always ready to join into a service project if I get the notion to take something on. I know I can depend on her whenever there is a job to do. She works with no accolades but is always faithful. That's what God is looking for in His servants. Will you consider today where has God placed you and how has he equipped you for service?  Where is you team that you can serve with?  We all fit somewhere and we don't have to look far to see a need we can meet. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Numbers 1 - Inventory

The Lord stops the nation of Israel two years into their desert journey to have them assess the resources they have for battle. Each tribe is to count the males old enough for military service. There is no war or threat suggested, but during a time of respite, the nation conducts an inventory. 

There is a principle we can apply to our own lives. If you are not in the midst of a crisis, consider it a time of preparation. Inventory your assets and consider how you can best prepare for a coming storm. 

Here are some things to try:

1.  Take pictures of your valuables. If there is damage or theft these pictures can be a blessing when doing insurance claims.

2.  Organize important papers. If you needed to evacuate or if something happened to you, what would be needed?  

3. Create an emergency phone list for notifying friends and family should a crisis arise. This will make it easy for a friend or family member to help in a crisis. 

4.  Back up important data. 

5.  Take an assessment of your financial situation. List your assets, location and value as well as your debts, payments and contacts for your creditors. Assets - Liabilities = Net Worth. These are the assets that can be garnered as a resource in an emergency. 

God wanted his people to prepare for coming conflict, so when we find ourselves in times of peace, we can know that it is a time of preparation for the next storm of life. God offers us times of rest to give us renewal and to strengthen us for battle. Are you prepared?  

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Leviticus 27 - Dedication to God

I once attended a Bible study where in consideration of God's ownership of everything, we were challenged to create a "Quit Claim Deed" where we would yield identified possessions to God's authority and trust God with them. I remember listing off a number of possessions and even relationships dedicating them as holy unto God. In effect I was conducting a dedication much like that described in this chapter. 

In this chapter people could voluntarily dedicate possessions, land and even people unto God. God would allow them to continue using these dedicated items if the person wanted to redeem them. There were various prices set on the values of these dedications. 

There were certain things considered holy to The Lord by nature. The firstborn and the tithe could not be dedicated to The Lord as they were already holy and were the Lord's already. God has His mark on these. 

Dedications were to be voluntary and in effect when we accepted The Lord as our Savior, we ourselves dedicated ourselves to The Lord and we are holy into God. Our lives are no longer our own, but offered to The Lord for his purposes. We offer ourselves in love to The Lord for His great provision for our lives. He in fact redeemed us from bondage and offered us hope of eternal life and freedom from the oppression of sin. We are His forever as His purchased treasure. 

God could demand out service and our dedication but He loves to be loved. He offers us the opportunity to express our love toward Him and to measure it out according to the largeness of our heart toward Him. We give not because of law but love. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Leviticus 26 - Choosing Sides

At some point you have to make a commitment. Even in not making a commitment you have taken a stand. Unfortunately, there are a great number of people who claim the name if Christ but still keep one foot firmly planted in the  world's camp. They have taken a stand, but probably not the one they think they have. They believe they are reconciled with God even though their lifestyle centers on themselves. My heart aches for these people attending church and going through the motions not recognizing that they are indeed lost. 

This chapter makes it quite clear that when we choose to live as God's people there are some signs and some results that separate us from the world. Those on God's team choose obedience. They don't have other alliegiances that compete with God; no idols. They follow Hod's pattern because it is God's and they are his people. 

God in turn marks his people by granting blessing, peace, provision, even abundance. No enemy will stand against God's people and even the weather is in their favor. Living in favor and peace with God, his people enjoy fellowship and blessings beyond measure. They will fellowship with a God who breaks down barriers and overcomes foes. Consider what he did for his people in breaking them free from Egyptian oppression. 

Those who are not fully God's claiming his name but living their own way are promised terrible plagues and destruction. God will first send correction, then judgement being separated from their land and dying in captivity. The Babylonian captivity is foretold in this chapter not as a possibility but as a done deal. Consider Lev 26:43 "For the land will be deserted by them and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them". The sabbath years also foretold to the prophets for the time of separation because of the sin of the people. 

God offers a solution for their sin. In Lev. 26:40-42 "but if they will confess their sins and the sins of their fathers- their treachery against me and their hostility toward me, which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies- then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham and I will remember the land."  

God longs for even his strong willed children who seek their own way to turn from their rebellion and to call it what it is - sin. If we can agree with God regarding our sin and confess it, He stands ready to restore fellowship and to provide a way out of the desolation caused by our wrecklessness. 

We cannot live as if we are our own Master and still claim the name of Christ. Our love for God is demonstrated in our full on commitment demonstrated through obedience. But if you are living with chaos and desolation in your life, God offers a way out and extends forgiveness to those who will confess their offense calling it what He calls it and turn from it. We can once again have fellowship with God. 

If your time with God is dull and lifeless consider if their might be sin blocking your relationship and draining the joy of time spent in prayer and communion. God offers a rich and abundant provision if we will accept it from His hand. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Leviticus 25 - Year of Jubilee

I love the principles of Sabbath rest and Jubilee presented in this chapter. This chapter helps us grasp that even the land and all our possessions ultimately belong to God. 

Sabbath Year
It is right that the land that belongs to God have opportunity for rest. Even in this rest however, notice how God provided for the needs of his people. "Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you" (Lev 25:6). God cares for his people even as he observes rest for the land. 

Jubilee is a consecration of the 50th year where land and slaves are returned to their original state. There is no concept of "getting ahead" here.  At the end of 50 years all arrangements are off so that no one people would permanently dominate another. No one can really own what is God's anyway. 

In today's culture we have a skewed view of property and we live in times where Jubilee is not practiced. Men have claimed what is God's for ther own. 

Under the provision of Jubilee, if someone bought land and used it to plant, that land would be returned after 50 years. If someone was poor among the nation there was the provision of a near relative to redeem the land and keep it in the family. (Lev 25:25). This is the same principle at work in the story of Ruth when Boaz redeems the land. It is also our story when our kinsman Redeemer came to buy us back for the Father giving us hope and eternal security. 

We have a Redeemer who has redeemed us and purchased us back from the slavery of sin and restored to us a life of promise full of hope. We can rejoice because we have been redeemed!  No trial on earth can match the power of our wonderful Savior. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Leviticus 24 - In Honor of Holiness

God set up rituals for the Israelites in these chapters not that they would go through the motions of worship without engaging their hearts and minds, but so they would have visual objects that pointed to spiritual precepts. 

The lamps and the showbread were reminders of God's continual presence with his people. God never sleeps so His lights should not be extinguished. Just as Jesus is the light of the world these lamps were a visual and constant reminder that God is with his people.   The showbread was to be refreshed week after week and was to be eaten by Aaron and his sons. They would eat it in the tabernacle area before the Lord's presence. They were reminded of God's provision for them and his constant observance of their service. 

God's holiness is not to be taken lightly. The mixed race son of an Israelite woman blasphemed the name of God in the midst of a fight. When he was brought to Moses for judgement, Moses sought The Lord for a penalty. You can tell Hod does not take blaspheming lightly as the penalty given was death. God's name is to be held high and not to be used as a curse. 

I am afraid that there would be few left on the planet who have kept their language pure and their reverence for God spotless, but our conduct should reflect a reverence for God and we should hold Hum high before the world. We have all sinned against God and that sin is worthy of death. None of us has held up the Law but Jesus Christ and He makes us an offer that is just too good to pass up. he said if you will believe in me, I will take your penalty of death and give you eternal and abundant life. 

We have an amazing God. Though I have sinned worthy of death, He has made a way out of my death sentence and has given me His Spirit so that I might enjoy real fellowship in His presence and have the promise of a place in Heaven. This offer is free and available to anyone who will accept it. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Leviticus 23 - God's Special Days

Every breath we take we can rejoice that God made it possible. He provides for the air and all the natural functions within our bodies that cause us to take it in without even having to think about it. He ordains the number of our days and knows the plans He has for us. Every day could be a special celebration of God's goodness toward us. 

Yet God, knowing that special celebrations have the built in reminders of their origins can bring us into a special reflection time before Him. The Sabbath is a remembrance of God's work in creation, how when he was finished he rested. In honor of what God has done for us, we rest too. The Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread remind us of how God delivered his people from the hands of the Egyptians. Each celebration a pause from ordinary activity to consider once again what God has done. 

Throughout the year, God ordained special celebrations for the people as opportunities to pause and reflect on our standing before God. Much like a Christian conference might be a special time away from activity to worship and reflect, celebrations like those mentioned in this chapter strengthened the people's faith and encouraged them to press on with daily trials knowing they serve the same God who has done marvelous things in their lives. 

We need special infusions in our lives. Times to pause and remember, times to be encouraged. Each week our worship services should do just that. Not just sing songs of praise, but having a time where the pastor unfolds the Word to remind us of God's provision, grace and mercy toward his people. We need to be reminded as we go out into a world that is increasingly godless that we are on the winning side and looks right now can be deceiving. 

Our application is to actively participate in days of worship making them opportunities to consider again what God has done for us. Identify some specials times of worship and reflection, perhaps Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, Ash Wednesday and remember what God has done for you and remember His story is not yet completed. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Leviticus 22 - Don't Come as You Are

Casual worship. It almost seems as those two words should not go together. In Leviticus 22 God continues His instructions for holiness. His priests and his people are not to come to offer sacrifices if they are deemed unclean. Worshipping God is not done in a casual way. God demands respect for He is holy.   Today's marketing to entice more people to church reflects our culture, but not God's standard for holiness. 

God says in this chapter priests are to keep my requirements so they do not become guilty and die for treating them with contempt. (Lev 22:9).   God treats our conduct seriously. Yes, God offers forgiveness of sins but he looks for his people to make holiness their pursuit. To offer God less than our best desecrates his name and demonstrates our low esteem of him. 

This chapter goes on to outline acceptable sacrifice. God sees a lowering of the holy standard as profaning his name. How can we claim to be his people and treat our Lord so? 

I love the very last segment of this chapter, Gid says," I must be acknowledged as holy. I am The Lord who make you holy and brought you out of Egypt to be your God."  Just as God brought his people out of Egypt, He also redeemed us from sin so that we could be His people and He would be our God. God desires fellowship with his people and longs for us to seek to be like Him and to treat Him with the respect He deserves. How could we do any less?

When you worship The Lord this week in personal time or in corporate worship, give Him your whole heart and tell Him how grateful you are to belong to Him. Give Him your utmost respect. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Leviticus 21 - Double Standards

There is an expectation on the part of unbelievers when they look at a person of faith. They expect a more holy standard of conduct than what the rest of the world conveys. While the average Joe may do what feels good or what he deems is right in his own mind, Christians are to be Holy. While the standard is high, the unbelievers are right in their assessment. 

In Leviticus 21, the word "holy" is the theme here. This instruction is directed at priests who had been consecrated for God's service, but it is also applicable to us since we have been adopted into God's family so that we can manifest the greatness of God to the world. God's standard is holiness and his people are called to that standard because they belong to Him and should reflect his character. When we engage in unholy conduct we defame God and separate ourselves from him and align ourselves with sin. 

We should also recognize that the standard if pure holy living was never achieved by anyone apart from Jesus Christ himself. Our striving should be toward righteousness, but there is only on Master of Righteousness and that is Jesus. Like the priest, he presents our offerings to the Father and intercedes for his people. 

We desire to please God and overcome sin with mere human effort, but only a supernatural work can put to death the sin that is at work in us. But good news!  That supernatural transaction is available to each of us if we will swallow our pride and confess our need of a Savior. Jesus is our great high priest and fulfills the demands of the law. We who belong to Him have a high standard of conduct as we serve, but we also have His spirit at work in us to accomplish it. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Leviticus 20 - Consequences of Unholy Conduct

This chapter makes reference to conduct with which most are unfamiliar such as giving children to Molech and beastiality.  I certainly hope it is. Their are few sins more shameful than to take the life of a child, but that was the ritual worship of Molech to make a burnt offering of your children to this pagan God. God detests such acts and called the the person's death.  Beastiality, having sex with animals also had death as its consequence. I think we coud agree that these acts are truly unholy. 

However in this passage, there acts which are not uncommon in our culture such as cursing one's parents and adultery with a married person that hardly get attention in social circles much less legal consequences today. 

God spends a lot of time outlining unholy sexual conduct because I think He recognizes that the drive is strong and the lure of sexual temptation can defile us. Sexual union is to be kept holy and protected. Engaging in sexual misconduct outside of marriage, inside the family, with the same sex or with beasts is considered detestable. We are called to be Holy because we belong to God and He makes us Holy (Lev. 29:7).  

Sexual purity is hardly embraces in today's culture. Young girls dress provocatively, boys use girls for their pleasure without regard for marriage. Those who do marry frequently end in divorce because marriage is not held sacred and commitments are easily broken. Children are discarded prior to birth to allow the parents to pursue their self centered pleasure. Parents are not honored and the culture is quickly degraded. But God said that He has set His people apart from the nations so that they would shine before the world as models to emulate. We belong to God and not to ourselves. He has redeemed us and adopted us as His children. We need to guard ourselves against such unholy conduct. 

All if us have sinned and have engaged in unholy conduct and thinking. Our only hope for peace with God is not wrapped up in our righting ourselves but in the shed blood of Jesus Christ. It is because His sacrifice on our behalf that we have hope. 

There is consequences for sin, yet Jesus paid for my sin and for yours so that you might have eternal security and peace with God. We must first agree with God and call our unholiness as He does. Call it sin - confess it to God. Repent of it and ask God to forgive your sin. The Bible tells us that He is faithful to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

Perhaps you are reading this thinking "I haven't done anything that bad". I haven't broken my marriage vows and I haven't engaged in lewd behavior. This is great news, but there has been sin in your life and we have all acted selfishly and have disregarded God and our fellow man. It is hard for "good" people to see their need of a Savior. Like the Pharisees, following the rules does not make you Holy. Gods standard is so much higher than what we set for ourselves. Until we realize we cannot attain holiness on our own we remain utterly lost. 

God longs for his people to live rightly and he has made provision for the sins we have committed.  Jesus Christ, the only sinless one who could stand in our place and pay the penalty for sin. We can embrace that sacrifice and live or reject it and die. Choose life. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Leviticus 19 - High Way to Holiness

God reveals to the nation of Israel His expectation for holy living. They (and we) are to be holy because they are God's people and God is Holy. Holiness is manifested in both conduct and relationships. Actually the conduct reveals our honor of others. God spells things out for us here outlining several types if relationships that should be honored. 

Relationship to God 
1. Be holy as I am holy (Lev. 19:2)
2. Observe Sabbath. (Lev. 19:3)
3. Refuse idolatry (Lev. 19:4)
4. Obey Sacrificial Commands (Lev. 19:5-8)
5. Keep Decrees (Lev. 19:32)

Relationship to Parents/Elders
1.  Respect (Lev. 19:3)
2.  Rise in their presence (Lev. 19:32)

Relationship to Poor
1.  Leave Provision (Lev. 19:9-10)
2. No Favoritism (Lev. 19:15)

Relationship to Fellow Man/Neighbor
1. Don't take their stuff (Lev. 19:11)
2. No Deception (Lev. 19:11-12)
3. Don't Defraud/Withhold Good  (Lev. 19:13)
4. Create Stumbling Block (Lev. 19:14)
5. Be Fair (Lev. 19:15)
6. Don't Spea Ill (Lev. 19:16)
7. Don't Endanger Another (Lev. 19:16)
8. Don't Hate/Bear Grudges/Love Trumps (Lev. 19:17-18)

Personal Holiness
1. Don't defile yourself (Lev. 19:20 - 22)
2. Purify the Land you live in (Lev. 19:23-25)
3. Hair and Tattoo markings (Lev. 19:27-28)
4. No Divination, Sorcery or Mediums (Lev. 19:26, 31)
5. Honest Dealings (Lev. 19:36)

1. Treat with respect (Lev. 19:2)

We honor God when we treat others with respect and fairness. Each of these commands have a number of applications for us today we could expound on in posting after posting, but for now we will just consider that there are a myriad of ways we can demonstrate holiness to the world. I challenge you to come up with some ways you can demonstrate your love of God and love for others in your conduct.