Friday, June 27, 2014

Deuteronomy 1 - Look Back Before You Move Forward

Those who do not learn the lessons history presents are doomed to repeat them. Each of us looks forward to the moment we have arrived-the pinnacle of our lives achieved with God's help. But we must heed the lessons of the history God has brought His people through and our own history. Our experiences have all been purposeful. The good and the bad woven together to help us see life from God's perspective and to help us develop the character of His Son. 

Moses and the nation of Isreal are poised to enter the promised land, but before proceeding to take the land God has given, Moses reminds the nation of how trustworthy God has been and how the people have disregarded God's instructions. 

Moses highlights key events in their travels. He reminds them that they have become a great nation as a result of the Lord's blessing. (Deut 1:10). God has made them as numerous as the stars of the sky. With so many, Moses appointed judges in each tribe to address the needs of the people and to settle disputes. 

When they came to the border of the Amorites, God told the nation to go an possess the land. Instead they chose to send in spies to scout out the land. They brought back fruit of the land and reported that the land was rich and pleasant, but their fear of the enemy was greater than their faith in God. God had been so trustworthy and had demonstrated his power to the people over and again yet they would not trust Him to deliver the land into their hands, so God passed the inheritance onto the children and banished the parents from the land. Yet in their stubbornness they acknowledged their failure and assumed God would overturn His punishment. They went into the land against God and againsnt the Amorites, again showing their ignorance and rebellion. 

When we allow fears to keep us from being boldly acting on God's instructions we are acting in rebellion to God. Whether it is in witnessing or obedience, we display our trust in God daily as we either choose to live for Him or for ourselves. The strange thing is that our life is greatly enriched when we are faithful, but we may not be able to see it at the time if decision. Even our acts of obedience are done in faith. When we act faithlessly we demonstrate we don't believe God will judge the righteous from the faithless. Like wheat and tares, we don't see that there is a difference in the fruit we bear and in the end there will be separation.

We can learn from the lessons of Israel and choose to be like Joshua (Deut 1:38) and Caleb (Deut 1:36) believing God's promise will come to fulfillment. We choose to act in belief or rebellion demonstrating our faith. I pray you will choose belief. 

God has a plan for your life to allow you to demonstrate faith and to receive the promised inheritance of the saints. The world is loud in their rebellion, but God is still trustworthy if we will believe and act in belief by following His plan for us.

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

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Numbers 36 - Remarriage Claims on Estate

When we create a will, frequently we leave the vast majority of our wealth to our spouse and then to our children. If the surviving spouse remarries, two threats exist to the children - 1. What if the new spouse uses all the wealth for their living needs and 2. When the surviving parent dies will the property then leave the family to the new spouse and his/her children?

The tribe of Manasseh had similar concerns related to Zelophehad's daughters. They were given permission to a portion of land that would have gone to their father if he had lived. Their tribal kinsmen feared that if they married outside the tribe that this land would eventually belong to another tribe and they would lose claim to their own territory. 

The solution provided was to establish a plan in advance (today that is done through a will and trusts). Moses instructed that any female that inherited property must marry within their tribe and keep the property intact. Zelophehad's daughters did just that and peace was maintained. 

Women tend to be the survivors in a marriage. They just tend to live longer. Since they are usually not the larger breadwinners, the estate provided by the husband becomes their source of sustenance in their older years. Many remarry because the provision left to them is insufficient; hence husband #2 is left to bear the provisional responsibilities. If his children fear the loss of their inheritance, strife can build. 

To avoid this turmoil, good communication and a written plan that clearly states the intentions should God determine that our days here have come to an end can really help maintain peace and allow beneficiaries to have reasonable expectations. While we don't like to deal with death, advanced planning can save a lot of heartache in the end. 

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

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Numbers 35 - Wrongly Accused

God knows the heart of man. When we are wronged we want justice. We want to see the guilty party pay for the crime. The problem is when we are wronged we can't always see objectively and we may be prone to vengeance rather than understanding. To address this issue with Israel, God ordained cities of refuge when an accused person could flee and have a fair trial. These cities would be within the Levite towns. 

God offered the opportunity for justice and compassion to be displayed. It was clear however that if the person is found guilty, justice should be executed. If there was no intent to harm and the death was accidental, there was provision made for his life to be lived out in the sanctuary cities. 

A life is sacred and taking life is an abomination. As beings made in the image of God the offense of murder is not just against an individual, it is against God himself. Vengeance isn't ours to take. While justice may need to be executed, it should not be done with malice. The judges applied God's standard so that penalties and sentences were carried out as God's representatives. 

We are blessed that we do not receive the judgment that is ours. Jesus is our city of sanctuary where we can run and find pardon and escape the judgement rightly due us. Our Lord paid the penalty for us so that we can live. Our only hope is to remain in Him and never leave His side. We have all sinned and fallen short if the glory of God yet God himself provided our means if escape from the judgment due us. 

It saddens me that there are some who will not run toward sanctuary and will not stay at Jesus' side. They will bear their penalty of sin and face eternity apart from the peace they long for. The only difference is The Lord. You can run to Him and find rest for your soul or run from Him and bear the burdens forever. 

Dear friend, I hope that you not only run to h but being some of the friends and family God has placed in your life that they can know rest too. 

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

Monday, June 23, 2014

Numbers 34 - A Place of Their Own

For 40 years in the desert and for 400 years before that in Egypt, the people of Israel had no permanent dwelling. There was not a place they could say truly belonged to them, yet the promise God made to Abraham and Jacob regarding the land of promise and the great mbers of descendants to inherit the land had now come. 

Eleazar the priest and Joshua were to name leaders to distribute the land to families within ther tribal territories. Finally they would have a permanent place; God's inheritance to his people. They were tested and prepared by God and given instructions to protect their good standing in the land. 

God may take each of us through trials of our own. They may be illness, financial stress, injustice, or strife in relationships but each trial is designed by God for us to grow in faith and trust in Him. The problems may seem insurmountable, but if we keep our focus on Him for provision and follow His plans for our lives we can see God get the glory for the developments and we remain the beneficiaries as His own people. 

God's story with his people continues to today. It is all new because the generations are facing new circumstances and traditions have changed. But two things that have not changed are our sinful state and God's grace extended to His people. Will you press on to see God's inheritance for you?  Only you can decide to follow with your whole heart. 

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

Friday, June 20, 2014

Numbers 33 - instructions for Inheritance

A will is used in our times to distribute the things left after we pass, but if those who inherit are not prepared for managing the wealth, it will likely pass to strangers quite quickly. As we leave an inheritance it is wise to prepare those who receive to manage according to good wisdom we have attained. 

When God was about to open the door to the promised land for Israel, he first reminded them of where they had come from. For 40 years He sustained them in the desert, so looking back on their travels they could see God's grace, but also His judgment. Before they enter Canaan, God warns the people not just to stay away from the idols of the land, but they must utterly destroy them as a symbol to the people that there is no one worthy of worship apart from Jehovah. 

If we belong to God, no other loyalties can remain higher. We must subjugate all other relationships. We must also not just turn from sinful acts but we must actively remove their presence in our lives. Far too many of us Christians live according to the practices of the world and are frustrated that God is not more visible in our lives. We pray fruitless prayers because we tolerate an ungodly lifestyle. 

God said, "If you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides.  They will give you trouble in the land where you live. And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them." Num. 33:55-56. God calls us to guard our loyalties and to stay holy by cultivating holy relationships. Satan will seek every opportunity to hinder our relationship with God using the loyalties to idols and to relationships to destroy us. 

Dear Christian, we must actively pursue righteous living. While we cannot do it without God's power, we also cannot do it with a divided heart. 

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

Monday, June 16, 2014

Numbers 32 - Satisfied with Less

A life of mediocrity is not what God has called us to. We as Christians live peaceably but it is not the path of least resistance. We are called to live boldly and passionately for The Lord. Far too often our tendency is to give up. We give up before sharing a witness to those who are lost, we stop praying for the unsaved, we give into worldly philosophies and blend in with the world around us when God is calling us to press on to the high calling. 

The Reubenites and the Gadites knew what it was like to want to settle for less. They approached Moses and asked him for the first portion of lands Israel conquered, because they didn't want to travel across the Jordon. They said they were satisfied with the land they had already conquered and that there was plenty of grazing there for the animals. In fact they say the eneies in the other side of the Jordon and they were fearful. Moses called them out saying they were just like their doubting parents who offended God and were prohibited from entering the promised land. (Num 32:8). I don't know about you, but when someone says, "you are just like your parents" it usually isn't meant to be complementary. 

The Reubenites and Gadites didn't want to risk their men in battle and they were prepared to settle for less. As Christians we all have opposition in our lives; sometimes it is internal conflict over sin and other times it is external - interactions with others. We must not settle. We must not allow sin to get comfortable in our lives and we must be willing to serve even though we may be treated like servants. The battle is too important not to win. 

Here is great news for you who are tired, weary and afraid. Our God is a mighty God and when we undertake to live for Him, He gives us power to overcome that opposition and to receive greater blessing than we dreamed for ourselves. Dear Christian, never settle for mediocrity; that is nothing but wilderness living. Pray hard and press on to the high calling of Christ knowing that He who is in you is greater than He who is in the world. 

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

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Numbers 31 - Holy Conflict

After the devastation that Balaam initiated through his recommendation that the Midianite women prostitute themselves among the nation of Israel and cause them to compromise their faith for momentary pleasures, God commands Moses to defend His name and re-establish His rule over His people. Moses is also alerted that his position of leadership has come to an end and he will soon pass into eternity. God has the nation of Israel attack Midian, kill its 5 kings and Balaam as well. The plunder would be distributed according to God's direction. 

This was an opportunity for Israel to reject the Midianites and their ways and demonstrate that they would honor God. Yet, even with the military victory over the nation, they allowed women and children to be captured as POWs. This had the potential for the poison of passion to re-enter the camp and turn men from their worship of God.   The boys would likely grow and avenge the death of their fathers and so keep the nation in a tenuous situation. These women and boys were to be killed to prevent the spread of contamination. 

The plunder of battle was distributed among the tribes and the fighting men and hence the nation of Israel began to accumulate wealth of the nations for themselves. 

We as Christians must be careful in entering into conflict. We should engage an enemy only at the Lord's command and under His power. The Israelites would not have won the battle without the Lord's help. But there is a battle that every Christian should undertake. Where there is any sin, idol, or temptation we should remove it from our lives we should remove it so that we don't succumb to our sinful desires that rage within us. Each of us is vulnerable, and so we must be in guard to remove threats before they gain control over us. It is one we are commanded by God. Romans 8:13 (KJV)
"For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live."  We can only do this in the power of God's Spirit given to us. 

The plunder from this battle that we wage will the the glorious inheritance we have been promised as the bride of Christ. Our treasure is not found here; but our inheritance is rich indeed. 

Pray that God will reveal those contaminants in your life that must be destroyed so that your witness and your service is not hindered. 

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

Monday, June 9, 2014

Numbers 30 - Contracts and Vows

"When a man makes a vow to The Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said" Num 30:2.  Our word should be forthright and never deceptive as a follower of our Lord. There is no place for game playing when it comes to the integrity of our promises. We live in a world where people break promises all the time. Nearly 1/2 of all marriages end in divorce; bankruptcies continue to escalate; nearly 63% of all households have sub prime credit (primarily as a result of late or non-payment of debts). If ever there was a time when we needed integrity it is now. 

When we obligate ourselves in marriage, in parenthood, even in a commitment with a creditor these are solemn an binding commitments and we should do everything in our power to see them through. Even though the laws of the land allow for divorce, separating of parental duties or even a fresh start when it comes to debts, it does not mean that these should be our chosen path. As much as we can honor our commitments we should do that even if it should require some personal sacrifice on our parts. Wouldn't a little sacrifice be worth the maintaining of our integrity?  Not just for our own reputation but for the reputation of the one who redeemed us and gave us His life?  

Vows should not be taken lightly just for this reason. It may require more from us than we initially antiicipated giving to honor our pledge. We should consider both the best outcome and the worst when committing ourselves and go into our commitments understanding our responsibilities before God.

The chapter goes on to provide an escape for women under the leadership of a father or husband. If their father or husband hear of a vow made by the woman and do not say anything the vow stands. But if they should object, the vow is to be released as she made a rash promise. 

On the part of both spouses, it is important that we work to be on the same page and that we honor one another BEFORE making an obligation that is binding and impacts both. For the wife it will cause less shame in having to undo a promise, but in both cases harmony on the home is preserved when we consider our spouses. 

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

Friday, June 6, 2014

Numbers 29 - How Much Do You Need?

At the precipice of entering the Promised Land, Israel is commanded to observe a series of sacrifices. The seventh month was to be commemorated for all time in remembrance of The Lord. Sacrifices were to be offered, their sin before God was to be remembered, their journey through the wilderness in tents under God's hand of provision was to be remembered. 

In the midst of all these remembrances God lays out a series of sacrifices for the people. It made me consider, how much sacrifice would be enough to cover my sin. If a large bull should die in my place could that sacrifice satisfy God?  If I bring a bull and a lamb?  How much would it take?  

The average unbeliever doesn't see the sin in their lives, so the idea of sacrificing an anal to God for their sin would be offensive to them. As Christians we see that the sacrifice of all animals could not remove the stain of sin from our lives. There is only one sacrifice sufficient to completely cover all the sins I have committed and will commit, it is the sacrifice of the perfect man, Jesus Christ who took upon Him my sin and died so that I can live. And good news!  His sacrifice is sufficient for all people of all time! We don't need another sacrifice. Our sins can be covered by the blood of Jesus. I can be right with God and my sins forgiven. 

Taking opportunities to remember what God has done for us is good. We need to keep our perspective. God has provided for us in so many ways but the greatest provision we have is a Savior who bought us back from sin and gave us life eternal. The sacrifice of one for all is the hope of our security. 

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

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Numbers 28 - Worshipping with Offerings

While Jesus died to atone for sin, once for all, the sacrifices outline a system if worship that we can apply to ourselves. Note that sacrifices were offered regularly and again on special occasions.

God looks for His people to seek Him and fellowship with Him regularly. The sacrifices were offered daily, weekly and monthly. Our regular pattern should be to worship day in and day out. Disconnecting from that fellowship only opens the door to corruption of our faith. 

The perfect sacrifices without blemish all point to the one perfect sacrifice of Jesus the Messiah. We no longer need to slay animals as an offering to The Lord. Our redeemed lives are an offering to The Lord. We ourselves are the offering. We offer our service, our praise, our obedience and our intellect as a sweet savor to The Lord. 

There were also the special sacrifices offered in remembrance of God's goodness to His people. For all time we will remember the Passover as a demonstration of God's passion for His people. He delivered his people from the oppression of Egypt and He delivers His people from the oppression of sin. Additionally there was the festival of the harvest remembering how God provides for our needs and gives us good things. 

Dear friend, we have so much to thank God for, most especially for our redemption through the finished work of Jesus.  We have God's spirit within us and we are His people just as Israel was His. We find Him faithful and true throughout our days. He has saved us from the oppression of sin and He has provided for our needs. Morning, noon and night we have so many reasons to worship our Lord. 

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

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Numbers 27 - Dying Intestate

As I started this blog I planned to highlight financial principles from scripture to help us be better stewards of our time, talent, money and possessions. Over the last few chapters we have had indirect references to stewardship by examining God's holiness, man's failures and principles of leadership. Here in Numbers 27 we have direct stewardship again. Who inherits your stuff when you are gone?  

Unlike today where we allow every person to direct their property after death within certain guidelines, everyone in Moses' time died intestate. No will needed. There were traditions that governed the distribution of the estate. First the oldest son and then down through the sons. Women inherited by virtue of being in the home of a man who would be their provider. 

Zelophehad had only daughters. These daughters came to Moses and asked to have their share of their fathers inheritance. The land was being distributed among the tribes and they wanted to be included in that distribution. Moses seeks God and receives what is now the basis for distribution of property of a person dies without a will. 

First: down through the children
Second: if no children go to siblings
Third: if no siblings, go up a generation to parents and their siblings
Fourth: nearest relative

Our legal system looks to our Lord for its wisdom.  Even though it may seem that more and more our government looks away from scripture, it's roots are deep. Thank God our forefathers honored The Lord in establishing our rule of law. 

The other thing to notice is that women are not treated as chattel by God. He lives Wien and honors them by providing for their needs. Women are highly esteemed by God. So highly esteemed that God said his seed would be delivered through a woman and that seed would overcome sin and death to offer a hope of eternal salvation. 

My friend, you have an opportunity to designate your wealth on passing from the world. Since that wealth comes from Gods hand we should do everything possible to insure that those who inherit are trained with godly wisdom to apply that wealth for God's glory. 

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

Monday, June 2, 2014

Numbers 26 - Next Gen Israel

Standing on the edge of entering the promised land, God instructs Moses to induct a new census of men over 20 just as he had when they left Egypt. Interesting that only Joshua and Caleb were in both censuses. They stood apart as men trusting in God for their security and not looking at the strength of the enemy. They knew they had a great and powerful God. All the rest perished on the desert because of their faithlessness and wicked rebellion.   Even so, both census tallies were greater than 600 K. God had raised up the next generation to see His deliverance. 

God also apportions the land among the tribes so that it is equitable based in their population (with the exception of the Levites who were set aside.for God's service. 

We can know for sure that God's plans will not be thwarted. He will raise up for himself new servants if we choose to live for ourselves and ignore His leading. God gets the glory and no one, not even His people can steal it from him. 

God preserves for himself a remnant in Joshua and Caleb. Though the numbers be few, God will always look out for His faithful few and preserve them as a testimony to Himself. We can know our place is secure in God's hand and no for is greater than our God. We can trust in His care even if all around we see danger and opposition. If you belong to Christ, nothing can separate you. 

We shouldn't be afraid to step out in faith and to go about the work God has set for us to do. We are secure and no enemy can take us off our job until God himself changes our task. 

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