Archive for August, 2005

4 After the LORD your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The LORD has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is going to drive them out before you. 5 It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the LORD your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 6 Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.
– Deuteronomy 9:4-6

“I am a good person, I am sure that God will take me.” Comments such as this are common in our world. People believe in a higher power and believe that as long as they are a good person they are okay. However, they do not know the word of God. God has made it clear that our righteousness earns us nothing. It could not earn the Israelites the right to occupy the promised land and it cannot earn us the right to heaven. The reason for this is really simple. We don’t have righteousness. We may think we do, but we don’t. Sure we do right things on occasion, maybe even several times per day. However, we also do wrong things on occasion, probably several times per day. The fact is, it is not a balancing act. We are not judged righteous because we have done a few more good things than bad things. We are judged righteous by the forgiving power of Jesus Christ. We are judges righteous when we accept this forgiving power and allow Jesus to be the leader and lover of our lives. No matter how good I may be, I can never be righteous on my own. I can be righteous through Jesus Christ.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Just as you told the people of Israel, I know I cannot be righteous but through you. Thank you for providing the way of my righteousness. Thank you for loving me so much that you provided forgiveness, mercy and love. Help me to serve you each and every day. I love you Lord. Amen.

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1 Moses summoned all Israel and said: Hear, O Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. 2 The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. 3 It was not with our fathers that the LORD made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. 4 The LORD spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. 5 (At that time I stood between the LORD and you to declare to you the word of the LORD, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:
6 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
7 “You shall have no other gods before me.
8 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 9 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
11 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.
16 “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
17 “You shall not murder.
18 “You shall not commit adultery.
19 “You shall not steal.
20 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
21 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor’s house or land, his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” – Deuteronomy 5:1-21

There is a big debate going on right now in the United States about how we should interpret our constitution. Some say it is a living document that means different things based upon the times we are in. Other believe we should interpret it strictly as the founding fathers would have intended. While this argument does rage around the Bible to some degree, It is a comfort to know that much of the Bible is very straight forward and simple to understand. As I read the “Ten Commandments” I see this. There is not a whole lot of room for ambiguity in these words. “You shall not steal” means exactly the same thing today as it did thousands of years ago. “You shall not commit adultery” has not changed (it seems our interpretation of it has changed, but the real meaning is still the same.) “You shall not murder” still means the exact same thing. While I know as I have matured in my faith, my understanding of scripture has changed. The truth is, I changed, scripture did not.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for making your word understandable and usable. Thank you for making it transcend the ages. I pray for protection over those who translate from ancient languages to make sure you word truly shines forth. I love you Lord. Amen.

3 In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses proclaimed to the Israelites all that the LORD had commanded him concerning them. 4 This was after he had defeated Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon, and at Edrei had defeated Og king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth. – Deuteronomy 1:3-4

The people of Israel were stubborn. They did not go into possess the land when God had originally told them to do so. Instead they let fear get in the way. In the end, they were forced to wait forty years, until all of the people over twenty years of age were dead. In those forty years, the Israelites wandered the dessert being refined and honed by God. They were taught what it mean to be God-followers. They were taught what it meant to obey God, so that the next time he told them to go and possess the land he would. As we read Deuteronomy 1:3 we see that it was exactly thirty nine years and eleven month when God had Moses tell them it was time to prepare. In only one month they would be going in to possess the land God had promised them as an inheritance. I wonder how often we as Christ-followers are forced to wait because we are afraid or unwilling to obey for some other human reason. Just like the Israelites, we are fortunate that God is forgiving, loving and slow to anger.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I know I have often let fear get in the way of doing your work. Help me to get beyond human fear so I can fully participate in your dream. Help me to serve you without question and act when you command. I love you Lord. Amen.

17 Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them. 18 It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you. 19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20 how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you! – Galatians 4:17-20

Each of us has something we love deeply. We have something that we would give up anything to save. The question is, “Does it have eternal value?” Paul says it is fine to be zealous as long as the purpose is good. However, we often become zealous over those things that are not good. We may become zealous over our home, job, family, or money. Yet, we should really become zealous for God. When we are zealous for God everything else will fall into place. God will make sure we have enough money, a adequate place to live and a decent job. God will help us bring our families into relationship with him when we are zealous for him. Essentially, we need to put God first and place our zealousness in him. It is fine to have something else we dearly love, but if it comes before God then we have our priorities out of order.

Dear Jesus,

Thank you for giving us something to truly be zealous about. You give our lives meaning, purpose and direction. You give us something to believe in that is greater than ourselves. Help each of us to look to you, love you, and serve you. I love you Jesus. Amen.

26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. – Galatians 3:26-29

I love the words of Galatians 3:26-29 because they end any argument forever about how God views humanity. No one can say God favors one people, gender or any other human classification over another. Some people have tried to claim that God has placed men above women, white above blacks, blacks above white, rich above poor and the list could go on and on. However, God makes it very clear that those classifications and hierarchies are human concepts. When we become Christ-followers we are to throw all of them out and treat everyone equal just as God does. It is possible to take other portions of the Bible out of context to build the case for discrimination, but this verse clearly tears them down (along with many other verses.) God loves each one of us and does not play favorites.

Dear Jesus,

You are the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. You are the just and righteous ruler. You are the one who creates true equality. Thank you for setting us free from human designed system of discrimination. Thank you for loving us and forgiving us. I love you Jesus. Amen.

1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Command the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter Canaan, the land that will be allotted to you as an inheritance will have these boundaries:

3 ” ‘Your southern side will include some of the Desert of Zin along the border of Edom. On the east, your southern boundary will start from the end of the Salt Sea, 4 cross south of Scorpion Pass, continue on to Zin and go south of Kadesh Barnea. Then it will go to Hazar Addar and over to Azmon, 5 where it will turn, join the Wadi of Egypt and end at the Sea.

6 ” ‘Your western boundary will be the coast of the Great Sea. This will be your boundary on the west.

7 ” ‘For your northern boundary, run a line from the Great Sea to Mount Hor 8 and from Mount Hor to Lebo Hamath. Then the boundary will go to Zedad, 9 continue to Ziphron and end at Hazar Enan. This will be your boundary on the north.

10 ” ‘For your eastern boundary, run a line from Hazar Enan to Shepham. 11 The boundary will go down from Shepham to Riblah on the east side of Ain and continue along the slopes east of the Sea of Kinnereth. 12 Then the boundary will go down along the Jordan and end at the Salt Sea. ” ‘This will be your land, with its boundaries on every side.’ ” – Numbers 34:1-12

When God gave the land of Cannan to his people he gave them boundaries. God could have told them to take over as much territory as possible. He could have told them that any land they conquered was theirs to keep, but he did not. God gave them specific boundaries for their inheritance. It seems to me that God was telling his people that they could not have everything that they wanted. He had decided that there was a certain amount of land that was to be Israel and that was it. I even wonder what this says about the people of Israel that settled on the other side of the Jordan. While God says this replaces their inheritance in the land of Israel, he does not include it in the boundaries. We need to look at boundaries in our own lives and see where God has placed boarders.

Dear Heavenly Father,

It is easy for me to claim anything that I have must be your will, but it doesn’t mean it is. It is easy for me to claim that everytime I receive something I want that you ordained it, but it may not be so. Help me to accept and understand your boundaries in my life. I love you Lord. Amen.

55 ” ‘But 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 will live. 56 And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.’ ” – Numbers 33:55-56

These words God gave to Moses and the people of Israel seem harsh. God has commanded his people to kill all those who are inhabiting the land he has given his people. They are not to make peace with these people and attempt to live side by side. They are literally suppose to wipe them from the face of the earth. As a New Testament Christ-follower (turn the other cheek) this can be hard to accept. How can our God be so full of vengeance. I am not sure I have a good answer, but I do understand what happen when the Israelites failed to do as commanded. The Israelites began to live as the pagan nations around them lived. They stop serving God and started to serve the false idols of their neighbors. They married women who led them astray. While God has not called us kill anyone (in fact, he tells us to not kill), he has called us keep those evil things out of our lives. This would require us to stay far from those who are committed to acts of evil (this does not mean we don’t have evangelistic relationships. Those who are committed to evil are not likely to listen to God’s truth.) We must protect our own hearts.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for loving us and giving us sure guidance. Thank you for showing us to guard our hearts from evil. Help me to know when I can be an influence on people for Christ and to know when I should stay far away. Thank you for your love and protection. I love you Lord. Amen.

1 An oracle is within my heart
concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:
There is no fear of God
before his eyes.

2 For in his own eyes he flatters himself
too much to detect or hate his sin.

3 The words of his mouth are wicked and deceitful;
he has ceased to be wise and to do good.

4 Even on his bed he plots evil;
he commits himself to a sinful course
and does not reject what is wrong.

5 Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.

6 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
O LORD, you preserve both man and beast.

7 How priceless is your unfailing love!
Both high and low among men
find refuge in the shadow of your wings.

8 They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.

9 For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.

10 Continue your love to those who know you,
your righteousness to the upright in heart.

11 May the foot of the proud not come against me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.

12 See how the evildoers lie fallen´┐Ż?
thrown down, not able to rise!
– Psalm 36

Psalm 36 present a wonderful image of God’s justice. Often people think that God is not reallyjustt because his punishment can be harsh (death is even apossibilityy.) However, this Psalm lays it out very clear. God’s justice is not against our mistakes that we are truly sorry for. God’s justice is not against the one time transgression we will not commit again. God’s justice is not even against the repetitive sin we are struggling to stop with God’s help. God’s justice is against a lifestyle of sin. As you read Psalm 36 you see that God is much more concerned about the sin of those who have no interest in changing their sinful lifestyle. In fact, his justice is against those who have rejected God and don’t even see their lifestyle as sin. They have gone so far from God that they have set uptheirr own morality that lets them do as they please.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for keeping me close to you and causing myconsciencee to reject sin. Help me to be salt and light into the lives of those who are rejecting you completely. Help me to speak the truth in love so they can see you and desire to change. Forgive me for my transgressions and help me to not fall into a life of son. I love you Lord. Amen.

1 While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, 2 who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate and bowed down before these gods. 3 So Israel joined in worshiping the Baal of Peor. And the LORD’s anger burned against them. – Numbers 25:1-3

We often get upset when bad things happen to us. We might even question God and ask him why he allowed it to happen. However, most of the time we need to look into our own actions and there we will find why something unpleasant occurred. As you read Numbers 25:1-3 you quickly realize that the Israelites brought great sorrow and pain upon themselves due to their sexual immorality. It say, “the LORD’s anger burned against them.” This anger burned against them because they were have immoral sexual relationships with women who were also asking them to participate in worshipping a pagan god. In this process they broke the first of the ten commandments and they broke God’s laws about proper sexual relationships. We do the same thing in our own lives. We break God’s law that was set up for us to live happy and healthy lives. Then we cry about how life is unfair when negative consequences happen. A man has sex with many different people he does not even really know and then feels somehow wronged when he has AIDS. A women spends her whole life lying and cheating and is shocked and outraged when someone lies to her and cheats her out of something she desires. Another person spends there whole life focusing on themselves and their own success to the exclusion of others and then wonders why their spouse leaves them and their children want nothing to do with them. We reap what we sow just like like the Israelites did.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for abundant grace. Thank you for forgiving me each time I come to see with a contrite heart. Help me to put you first and to avoid sin. Help me to look to you for direction and wisdom. I love you Lord. Amen.

12 Balaam answered Balak, “Did I not tell the messengers you sent me, 13 ‘Even if Balak gave me his palace filled with silver and gold, I could not do anything of my own accord, good or bad, to go beyond the command of the LORD -and I must say only what the LORD says’? 14 Now I am going back to my people, but come, let me warn you of what this people will do to your people in days to come.”

Balaam’s Fourth Oracle

15 Then he uttered his oracle:
“The oracle of Balaam son of Beor,
the oracle of one whose eye sees clearly,

16 the oracle of one who hears the words of God,
who has knowledge from the Most High,
who sees a vision from the Almighty,
who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened:

17 “I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near.
A star will come out of Jacob;
a scepter will rise out of Israel.
He will crush the foreheads of Moab,
the skulls of all the sons of Sheth.

18 Edom will be conquered;
Seir, his enemy, will be conquered,
but Israel will grow strong.

19 A ruler will come out of Jacob
and destroy the survivors of the city.”

As you read through these chapters of the book of Numbers you begin to realize that Balaam is a man who knows God in part. He understands that God is the one true God. However, he does not understand that God has made his sorcery unneeded, powerless and has declared it evil. However, Baalam does know that he can do nothing to oppose God. In fact, he knows that he has to do what God tells him. It is interesting in verse 22:20 God lets Balaam go with Balak even though he has already told him no. As we continue to read we realize this is not because God changes his mind. Instead it seems to be to show Balaam and those opposing the people of Israel that God is truly with the Israelites and that they will fail against them. God emphasizes this point to Balaam by having the Angel of the Lord stand in his way and having the donkey refuse to go forward. We could learn from this to listen to God the first time and do what he says. Balaam knew God did not want him to go, but he went and asked him again. Yes, God let him go, but just to teach him and Balak a lesson.

Dear Heavenly Father,

Thank you for life lessons. Thank you for forgiving us when we refuse to listen and giving us other chances to learn. Help me to have my ears open and my heart listening to you each and every moment. I love you Lord. Amen.