Thursday, August 28, 2008

Lingering Sin

Numbers 33:55-56
"But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall be that those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell. 56 Moreover it shall be that I will do to you as I thought to do to them.’”

Just as the Israelites needed to drive out and destroy everything that did not fully belong to and honor God - so too must new believers do as they enter into a new life and land of promise. Even those things that are not blatantly sinful must be eliminated or else they become a distraction, temptation or something that takes our eyes off of Christ. And like a thorn or splinter in the flesh, temptation or sin left unresolved is eventually absorbed into the body - becoming part of the flesh and a constant infection and sore. At that point, we subject ourselves not only to personal torment, but also to the judgment of God as He removes His hand of protection and mercy.
So what remains of my old life? What lingers behind? What have I picked up in the wilderness? (Similar to the Midianite women) What is drawing my focus away from Jesus? Where do I sense His judgment or His mercy receding?

God - open my eyes to see what lingers behind in my flesh. Give me strength to drive out the thorns and mercy to endure the battle. Amen.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Justification or Judgment

Numbers 24:1-2
"Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he did not go as at other times, to seek to use sorcery, but he set his face toward the wilderness. 2 And Balaam raised his eyes, and saw Israel encamped according to their tribes; and the Spirit of God came upon him."

Numbers 31:7-8
"And they warred against the Midianites, just as the LORD commanded Moses, and they killed all the males. 8 They killed the kings of Midian with the rest of those who were killed—Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian. Balaam the son of Beor they also killed with the sword."

I'm always challenged and surprised by the story of Balaam; reasoning (arguing really) with a donkey, dismissing the fact that it talked, trying to trick or outsmart God, word games, shifting "holy" (or unholy) ground, judgment and mercy, curses and blessings... it's all so unexpected and even tragic.
I could feel sorry for so many of the characters in this story. I could pity Balaam for trying to outsmart God. I could pity his blindness even after God opened his eyes and used him. I could pity Balak for being so thick-headed that he not only invites a curse upon himself and a blessing on Israel... but he does it three times!!! Perhaps the one deserving of the most pity is the donkey who did nothing wrong!... and ironically nobody would listen to.
I have so many questions about Balaam.
Was he ever really repentant and redeemed? Did God claim him for a moment, for his lifetime or not at all? Did Balaam claim God for just a moment, for his lifetime or not at all? Was he a believer who slipped back into his old way of life in Midian or was he never a believer at all? Was his death an accident, simply collateral damage? Was his death the divine judgment of God? Was he killed by Israel in revenge for his attempt to curse them? If so... how did Israel know the story and who Balaam was?
In the midst of all these stories, there are some truths that are displayed.
God can use anyone, anywhere for anything at any time... even a donkey!
There is a difference between God's Spirit resting upon someone and residing in someone.
God's choice to use or reveal himself to someone should not be confused with His eternal blessing.
God's blessing or favor at moments past (or in eternity) may not mean exemption from future judgments in this life. I may still pay for my sins before I get to heaven.

As for me - may I never get too comfortable or prideful in that God has chosen to use me in the past. No amount of blessing or favor or past obedience and use gives me the right to rest on my laurels, coast it out, return to my Midians or stop identifying with God's people and work. My life can be remembered as a tragic dichotomy of blessing and selfishness just as easily as Balaam's.

Father - keep me humble and obedient always. May my path shine like the sun and reveal Your glory. Amen.

Proverbs 4:18
But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My Portion & Inheritance

Numbers 18:20
"Then the LORD said to Aaron: “You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel."

Much is made about legacies and memories of influential people; making a name for one's self, monuments of greatness, memorials, inheritance and estates that live on, etc.... This should not be so of influential men called into the Lords work. To be called into the service of God means to surrender my stake in this world, to be fully consumed with making His name great, building His kingdom and preparing and inheritance for the Lord. My treasure is to know Him and to dwell close to Him in both this life and eternity. I need not worry about tomorrow, my reputation, meeting my needs, building my estate, legacy or name... I am God's servant and He shall meet all my needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19). To serve Him today is to trust Him for tomorrow.

God - keep me from being distracted by worry, worldly pursuits, popularity, renown, personal ambition, self-promotion, and anything else that might be substituted for the great privilege of serving You. Show me the fullness of my portion and make me patient for Your inheritance. Let my life exalt Your name and advance Your kingdom. Amen.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Fear & Reverence

Numbers 14:8-9
"If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’ 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them.”

If the Lord delights in us is contingent on if we fear Him or fear the people and things of this world. Joshua and Caleb feared God and respected His power and authority. The other spies had greater respect for the giants of Canaan. This is rebellion before God. However Joshua and Caleb so trusted and feared God that they believed even the strength of Canaan would become their blessing - the bread of sustenance. This is reverence before God and in this He delights. Victory, sustenance, glory, revelation, abundance - these are the fruit of such reverence.
So where have I turned my focus and fear to the things of this world? Who or what has become my giants? Finances? Relationships? Failure or the fear of it? Rejection or acceptance? Security? Safety?

Father - replace my fear and timidity with a reverence for You alone. May I be faithful that You may delight in me. Teach me to trust You more. Amen.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Ministry Burden

Numbers 11:11
"So Moses said to the LORD, “Why have You afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all these people on me?"

So often in ministry it is easy to get self-centered and myopic. The burden is great and the temptation even greater. Moses forgot about the great strength and provision of the Lord. Moses failed to understand how deeply God invested in these people, how thoroughly He bore their burden. If Moses felt the weight of ministry, God felt it infinitely more. These were not Moses' people, they were God's.
It's so easy to take ministry struggles personally and let them drag us down. However, being in the place of burden should encourage us and remind us of our favor with God to be entrusted with such a responsibility. We need to be reminded often that these are God's people, not ours. His arm is not too short and His calling not too tall. I have been chosen by God to be his tool to display His glory to the world and minister to His people. I am blessed to bear this burden.

God - may the weight of ministry drive me to faith, humility, obedience and Your glory. Amen.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Wave Offering

Numbers 8:13
“And you shall stand the Levites before Aaron and his sons, and then offer them like a wave offering to the LORD."

The wave offering was presented before the Lord symbolically giving God full possession of what it represented. What fat or impurities were burned to consecrate them as Holy for God's use. Here, the priests were purified and given fully to the work of God. Nothing impure was to remain and nothing was to be held back.
As believers, we are all part of God's Holy Priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). We must come before Him in purity, having sacrificed (crucified) to the cross whatever belongs to our flesh. We must present all else to God as His possession and instrument for His service.
What fat or impurities still remain in me? What have I been holding back from God? What have I refused to place on the altar and let him use?

God - I surrender my will and agenda to You. Purify my heart and mind and actions so that I may be Holy and acceptable to You. Amen.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Numbers 1:53
"but the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the Testimony, that there may be no wrath on the congregation of the children of Israel; and the Levites shall keep charge of the tabernacle of the Testimony.”

What gravity! The weight of spiritual leadership is no light task. Not only must God's chosen priesthood handle with great care the Holy things of the tabernacle and worship, but they must also stand in between a righteous God and sinful man as a shield from His wrath. The spiritual leaders in God's kingdom must constantly absorb the intensity of God's standard for conduct, thought and purity and intercede for God's people with even greater acts of sacrifice, service, obedience and holiness (James 3:1).
My role as pastor demands that I not only maintain the responsibilities of ministry, but invite the blessing of God and repel His wrath on behalf of the people of God through my personal holiness. My thoughts, actions, attitudes and words have deep spiritual and tangible implications beyond what is seen and heard. In my call to ministry I must never forget my greater call to holiness.

God, make me holy.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Gospel

Mark 16:15
"And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."

Two phrases stand out to me most in this version of the great commission; "all the world," and "to every creature." These phrases speak to the extend to which we share the good news of salvation found in Jesus Christ. There is no limit to where we should go or who we should tell. No place is too dark and no person too lost for the light of the Gospel.
In these two phrases, two words stand out; "world" or kovsmoß (cosmos) in the Greek, and "creature" (creation in the NIV) or ktivsiß (ktisis) in the Greek. These words lead me to believe that the Gospel is not just for people but for all of creation as it eagerly awaits redemption (Romans 8:19-22). The Gospel should not only penetrate hearts and lives but all of nature, science, politics, business, medicine, sport, art and every other arena of life. By word and deed we are to bring the light of the Gospel to every place and part of creation regardless of what we may find there.

Father - make me bold to preach Your Gospel to all creation. May I knot be silent or lazy. Make me both "go" and "preach" in every arena that you lead me into. Amen.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Courage & Conviction

Mark 15:43
"Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body."

What courage and conviction! It took tremendous bravery for Joseph to step forward and oppose his fellow council (Sanhedrin) members. This was more than a kind act toward a kind man, this was a public act of descent toward the group he swore allegiance to. This was rebellion against the highest religious authority in his world. By going to Pilate for the body, Joseph was publicly casting a vote of innocence for Jesus and declaring that the high priests and other members were wrong. He was identifying with Jesus.
Where did this conviction come from? I think the answer is found in the statement that he "was himself waiting for the kingdom of God." Unlike the others, power and authority had not blinded Joseph view of Scripture or of the Messiah. His desire for the kingdom of God was greater than his desire for his own kingdom and prominence. When Jesus arrived, Joseph was not only able to understand the fulfillment of prophesy, but also able to participate in the fulfillment of it.

Father - may I come to know Scripture and Your will so clearly that I may courageously stand up and speak out even against my own. Give me a kingdom desire and conviction that lead me to boldness and resolve in the face of opposition. Amen.

Friday, August 1, 2008

flesh & prayer

Mark 14:38
"Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Here in the garden as Jesus asked His disciples to pray with Him, no amount of spiritual willingness could overcome their physical exhaustion. Keeping well rested and taking care of one's body is so crucial to living the Christian life. When I am tired or lethargic I'm more prone to impatience, unkindness, harsh words, laziness and other temptations. However in the midst of this battle between spiritual willingness and physical weakness is the mighty Spirit of God. To connect with Him in prayer and rely on His power is to overcome the flesh and strengthen the spirit. This can be seen in Jesus' tone before and after His prayer; from "exceedingly sorrowful" to "arise, let us be going! My betrayer is at hand." It's only through prayer that we gain such strength in weakness to resist temptation and trials.

God - make me more a man of prayer. Give me a more willing heart and watchful spirit. strengthen me to obey and honor You in temptation and trial. Amen.