Archive for July, 2005

54 The Israelites did all this just as the LORD commanded Moses. – Numbers 1:54

This simple sentence from the very last verse of Numbers chapter 1 may be short, but it is extremely powerful. This one sentence show of the strict obedience to God’s commands. Throughout these first three chapters of Numbers we see God commanding the people to be counted if they were twenty years of age or older to determine the size of the Israelite army. We don’t read of people trying to hide or dodge the draft – they obeyed (Don’t take this as an endorsement of any modern day war. As far as I know, God did not specifically command any of them to take place). Later God gives specific orders for the Israelites to set up camp in certain areas. Again, we don’t read about grumbling because one tribe was given a shadier spot then the other or a place of greater prominence. They obeyed. Finally, we read that God told the people that the Levites were not to be part of this army and they were supposed to camp surrounding the tabernacle. We don’t read about anyone grumbling because the Levites don’t have to put their lives on the line or that they get a place of greater honor near the tabernacle – they simply obeyed. Unfortunately, the Israelites did not always keep up this trend of obedience, but we can still learn from it (we can learn from the disobedience also). The world would be a far better place if all Christ-followers just obeyed God when he spoke – tithe, help the poor, live moral lives, love our neighbors as ourselves – the list could go on and on…

Dear Heavenly Father,

You are my God and my King, yet I often disobey. You are my Savior and Lord, yet I often disobey. Help me to do what you ask without question and help me to love you with all of my life. Amen.

1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.

3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. – Hebrews 11:1-3

When I read these words of Hebrews 11:1-3, I cannot help but think of the power our faith and the creation of the world. It is absolutely true that we have to accept the Word of God on faith. While much of the Bible has been historically proven to be accurate, we cannot prove it beyond a shadow of a doubt. We definitly cannot prove the stories of miracles. We cannot prove the creation story of Genesis regardless of whether you take it literally or more figuratively. We are a people called by God to live by faith, to believe by faith, and to act upon our faith. Simply put, we are people of faith.

That being said, I want to discuss creation. I believe Hebrews 11:3 with all of my heart. God created the universe. It began by his command and continues through his power. Many people try to explain away God activity in creation by pointing to science and the “Big Bang Theory.” This theory may very well be true and a God controlled process, but those who believe it happen all by chance are just crazy. It is mathematically impossible for creation to have started from nothing and to have evolved the create all the animals and humanity without the work of God. I truly believe it takes more faith to believe we are completely here by chance than it does to believe in God and his work in the world. But, here is the real difference. Those of us who are Christ-followers place out faith in a God who reveals himself to us in so many ways. He is obviously here if you just believe. Those who believe this all happen by chance place their faith in science and humanity even though science has proven this could not have happen by chance and humanity has failed itself and this world time and time again.

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for creating, loving and being. Thank you for giving us ample evidence of your reality and truth. Help those of us to follow you to be a beacon of light to this world and to help others see you. I love you Jesus. Amen.

7 For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. 8 But God found fault with the people and said:

“The time is coming, declares the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah.
9 It will not be like the covenant
I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.
10 This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
11 No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
– Hebrews 8:7-12

I have often thought about how we understand right from wrong. Of course, many of us have an understanding from what we are taught by parents, relatives and even friends. However, the things we learn from these people tend to be arbitrary and culturally influenced. God says he has actually written his law on our hearts. This makes so much sense because it explains our conscience. Even from the earliest age we have at least a simple sense of right and wrong. We can understand from early on it is wrong to hurt those we love most (Honor you father and your mother). We understand from the earliest age that rest is absolutely necessary (Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy). What I am getting at is that we are born with a sense of right and wrong that cannot be explained by science, reason or culture. In fact, science, reason and culture are often the very things that try to get rid of our innate sense of right and wrong and replace it with culturally constructed sensibilities. Some of these cultural one are the same as God’s others fly in the face of God’s truth. When we seek God he will lead us to truth and righteousness.

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for being the ultimate and final sacrifice. Thank you for fulfilling the law. Thank you for creating a new covenant that lives within us and not a long list of rules. Help me to listen to you and live by your loving truth. I love you Jesus. Amen.

1 Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. 2 For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. – Hebrews 4:1-2

Knowing is simply not enough. That is the message of Hebrews 4:2. Knowing the Gospel message does not bring salvation. If that was true Satan himself would be saved. Hebrews 4:2 points out the absolute necessity of faith in Jesus and the message he brought. I have been reading a book lately called, “Searching for God Knows What” by Donald Miller. In this book he discusses our modern tendency to boil the Gospels down to four bullet points about how to become a Christian. The problem with this method is that it is too much knowledge and not enough faith. The Gospels are stories filled with wonder, awe, power, truth, mystery and life. When all of these combine together they have the ability to bring about faith. This is a vibrant, true and living faith. It is not based on four bullets points and a ten second sinners prayer. It is based on a growing faith that drinks in the story of God and his past and current activity in our world. We need to stop telling the Gospel with three points and a poem and start living the Gospel.

Dear Jesus,

You are the Gospel. The Bible is our record of the Gospel, but you are it. Thank you for being the living incarnation of all truth and beauty. Thank you for giving us your word so we could literally have you with us past, present and future. I love you Lord Jesus. Amen.

1 The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;

2 for he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the waters.

3 Who may ascend the hill of the LORD ?
Who may stand in his holy place?

4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol
or swear by what is false.

5 He will receive blessing from the LORD
and vindication from God his Savior.

We have this idea in evangelical Christianity that the earth is our to do with as we please. We have used this belief to cause great harm to our world and ourselves through this destruction. However, we can see from Psalms 24:1-5 that we do not own the earth, God does. People often cite Genesis 1:26 where God gives us dominion over the earth. However, dominion does not mean ownership and control as we might think. The Message transliteration of the Bible says we have “responsibility for.” This is actually a much better translation because it show we are to take care of the earth, not exploit it. What would it look like for us to take care of the earth as we were commanded from the very beginning of creation?

Dear Heavenly Father,

We have purposely and willfully polluted and destroyed your grand creation. We have failed to live up to your charge of stewardship for the Earth. Help me, help us to follow your will and stop exploiting your creation for selfish gain. I love you Lord. Amen.

1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from each man whose heart prompts him to give. 3 These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; 4 blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; 5 ram skins dyed red and hides of sea cows [a] ; acacia wood; 6 olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; 7 and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece.

8 “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. 9 Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.
– Leviticus 25:1-9

I am a fundraiser by trade. I ask people to consider giving to the worthy cause that employees me to present their message to the proper constituency. Many people don’t understand why I do what I do. They say things like, “I don’t think I could beg for money every day.” What people don’t understand is that what I do is Biblical. I don’t beg for money. Just like Moses, I present God’s vision to people and ask them to join with God in making this a reality. I have focused my career on helping the least of these (Matthew 25:34-45), the widow and the orphan (James 1:27), essentially those who truly need help to make it in our society. In Leviticus 25:2 we see that God tells Moses to receive offering from those whose heart prompts them to give. This prompting is an act of the Holy Spirit. Fundraising is not begging, it is be ready to receive what God intends to provide through his people for his work.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Just as you prompted the people to give toward your tabernacle, you prompt people to give toward fulfilling your dream for our word. Thank you. Use me to fulfill this dream. Thank you for calling me to your service. I love you Lord. Amen.

17 The LORD said to Moses, 18 “Speak to Aaron and his sons and to all the Israelites and say to them: ‘If any of you�either an Israelite or an alien living in Israel�presents a gift for a burnt offering to the LORD, either to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering, 19 you must present a male without defect from the cattle, sheep or goats in order that it may be accepted on your behalf. 20 Do not bring anything with a defect, because it will not be accepted on your behalf. 21 When anyone brings from the herd or flock a fellowship offering to the LORD to fulfill a special vow or as a freewill offering, it must be without defect or blemish to be acceptable. 22 Do not offer to the LORD the blind, the injured or the maimed, or anything with warts or festering or running sores. Do not place any of these on the altar as an offering made to the LORD by fire.
– Leviticus 22:17-22

As part of the Old Testament sacrificial system God called his people to bring him the best of what they had. The were not to bring to God those animals that they did not want themselves. Instead, they were to bring to God the best of the best. While we may not follow a sacrificial system based upon animals, we are asked by God to give him the best and first of what we have. This means we are suppose to bring the first ten percent of our income to God (not ten percent of what remains after taxes – God comes before the IRS). We are suppose to bring the best of our talents to his work. We are suppose to give him the best of our time. What this means exactly for each of us varies, but the principle remains the same. Do not give God your leftovers. Don’t say, “If I have time, I will spend it with those who don’t know Christ so I can build Godly relationship.” We must make time for these Godly relationship because it is God’s call through the Great Commission. Don’t say, “I will give what I can to God.” Every penny we have is God’s and he only asks for 10%. Give to him generously by supporting your church, those in need and other Godly causes. Don’t say, “I will not use my leadership skill for kingdom purposes because I don’t have time after using them for my purposes.” Remember, God gave you the skills and he expects you to use them for his glory. We must give God firstfruits.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I know all too often I have not put you in first place in my life. I know I have let other things such as family, friends, work and even church come before you. Help me to always keep you first in my life. I love you Lord. Amen.

9 ” ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.
– Leviticus 19:9-10

Throughout scripture God makes it clear that we are to provide for the poor and the alien among us. God makes it clear that when we do these things it is as if we are doing them directly for him (Matthew 25:34-45). If you notice in his Word that God instructs us in simple forms of generosity. Leave food for them. Provide shelter for them. Often we hear from people (Christ-followers included) that they don’t see how they can personally make a difference to help those in need. God shows us it is easy. Each of us is to be part of providing for those in need. For some it might be giving part of the food we produce to those in need. For many it will be giving funds to those who are organized to help. For the business person it might be taking a change on an unemployed person and giving them a job. These are many option and God is calling each of us to do the one (or two, or three…) that he had gifted us to do.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Why do we only take the part of your Word we want to hear? Why do we ignore the widow and the orphan? Help me to always be seeking to help and show me how to best do so. I love you Lord. Amen.

20 “When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live goat. 21 He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites�?all their sins�?and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. 22 The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert. – Leviticus 16:20-22

We don’t often think of Jesus this way, but he was a scapegoat. Jesus came to be a scapegoat. He knew before he came that, that was the reason he was coming. When we read about how humble Jesus was, we only have to remember that he was a scapegoat to realize how very true this really was. The Goat in Leviticus 16:20-22 had done nothing wrong. Jesus did not thing wrong. Yet, both of them were cut off from society and ostracizeed. In fact, the only difference is that Jesus was not only the scapegoat, but he was also the sacrifice. First he was ostracizeed then he was killed.

Dear Heavenly Father,

My heart hurts when I think of what Jesus so lovingly did for me. It hurts because I realize I did not deserve it. It hurts because I realize I don’t even honor it, because I still sin and fail. I realize that definitelyly did not deserve it. Thank you Lord for loving me so much to die for me. I love you Lord. Amen.

1 Keep me safe, O God,
for in you I take refuge.

2 I said to the LORD, “You are my Lord;
apart from you I have no good thing.”

3 As for the saints who are in the land,
they are the glorious ones in whom is all my delight.

4 The sorrows of those will increase
who run after other gods.
I will not pour out their libations of blood
or take up their names on my lips.

5 LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup;
you have made my lot secure.

6 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
surely I have a delightful inheritance.

7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me;
even at night my heart instructs me.

8 I have set the LORD always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.

9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,

10 because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay.

11 You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

I have to admit, I have not always been a fan of the Psalms. I guess I did not really like poetry. I was more interested in the history and teaching of the Bible. However, I have come to really appreciate the Psalm. The Psalms contain more pure emotion than most of the Word of God. The Psalms are filled with anguish and heart ache. They are filled with joy and rejoicing. The are filled with sadness and fear. They are filled with excitement and awe. This Psalm in particular is filled with perfect peace. I love this Psalm because it reassures us that no matter what we are going through God has already taken care of us. What more can we ask!

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for showing the emotion of your followers through your Word. It is good for us to see that those who follow you will experience joy and sadness, fear and excitement. It is good for us to know that we still experience life in all of its pure emotions. Thank you for showing us you love us through it all. I love you Lord. Amen.