Sunday, February 28, 2010

2010 – Feb. 28 – Mixed Signals from the Law

Study from God’s Word Deut. 5: 17; Exod. 21: 12-14; Lev. 24: 17, 24b; Num. 35: 20-21, 16-19, 29-34; Exod. 22: 2-3; Num. 35: 22-25; Deut. 19: 4-6; Num. 35: 9-15; Deut. 19: 1-3, 7-10; Num. 35: 26-28; Deut. 19: 11-13; Num. 35: 32; Exod. 21: 25; Exod. 21: 16; Deut. 24: 7; Lev. 24: 19-20; Exod. 21: 26-27; Deut. 22: 25-29; Exod. 21: 15-21; Deut. 25: 11-12; Deut. 5: 19; Exod. 22: 1-4; Deut. 19: 14; … Passage for Reflection: Exodus 21: 20-21 … NIV 20 "If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, 21 but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.

My Journal for Today: Today’s highlighted passage (oh, I wish Dr. Smith had not chosen this one) is a case where my human comprehension cries out for explanation from God; but from our so-called “modern day” concept of justice; God’s word, in this regard, is nothing but confusing to me.

For centuries, and even into the 19th century in this county, I can imagine that this passage was used to justify the horrible enslavement of other humans, especially the stench on our country which was our enslavement of our African-American brothers/sisters. I know that there were those, even into the 20th century, wearing KKK robes and calling themselves “christian,” who spouted out this very passage as justification for their beatings of our darker-skinned brothers/sisters in Christ, whom they felt should have been retained as their “property.”

So, how do we explain many of the laws and rules of justice which I have studied today as the precursors for the system of law we have today? I’m afraid my heart, and especially my mind, is not astute enough to be able to do so with any great clarity. Dr. Smith feels that it may have been God moving His children through a cultural milieu which was much more cruel and punitive with regard to justice than those laws about which I was reading today which He imparted through Moses to His people. The pagan cultures surrounding the Israelites in Moses’ time were much harsher than would God’s Law be for the Hebrews as they were being prepared to go into the Promised Land. So, … maybe God had to give them laws which they could accept and use in their culture and their times; but by today’s standards, these laws, at times, seem bizarre at best and unusually vindictive at times.

Hence, here’s where I am forced, by my very limited ability to grasp these concepts of justice, to trust that God knew EXACTLY what He was giving His children for their just needs and cultural limitations in those days. I have to trust that God was moving His people toward the realization of justice which would come in the Person of The Messiah, Who would become the fulfillment of THE LAW. So, I’ll not try to speculate with “perhaps this” or “perhaps that” when it comes to understanding why God set His law in motion through Moses with laws like the one quoted as a study passage today.

As Dr. Smith closes, he asks a provocative question, ”If I am ever tempted to give up on God when I don’t understand how He acts (i.e., through His word and truth), what would be my alternative?” And to that I say, “Right on, brother!” When I don’t understand God’s word, I know that I’m being challenged to dig deeper into God’s full counsel (i.e., His entire Word) to get to know Him more deeply and intimately and to find His wisdom; and I know that every time I do that, I come out loving Him more, wanting to obey Him more diligently, and desiring to serve Him with more fervor. And that I know is a good and Godly pursuit, drawing me ever closer to my Savior.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to understand; but even more, help me to trust You when I don’t. Amen

Saturday, February 27, 2010

2010 – Feb. 27 – A Most Intriguing God

Study from God’s Word Deut. 17: 14-20; Exod. 22: 28b; Deut. 16: 18; Deut. 17: 8-9; Deut. 17: 8-13; Deut. 1: 9-18; Exod. 23: 8, 3-6, Lev. 19: 15; Deut. 24: 17-18; Deut 16: 19-20; Deut. 5: 20; Exod. 23: 1-2; Exod. 23: 7; Deut. 19: 16-21; Deut. 19: 15; Deut. 24: 16; Deut. 25: 1-3; Deut. 21: 22-23; … Passage for Reflection: Deut. 17: 14 – 15a … NIV 14 When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, "Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us," 15 be sure to appoint over you the king the LORD your God chooses.

My Journal for Today: Today, in my devotional studies from The Daily Bible in Chronological Order, Dr. Smith, the Editor, had me bouncing through quite a bit of the Pentateuch to see some pretty intriguing principles about God and how He governed His people during the times of Moses and those theocratic times. And in this topical area of study today, we read of God actually anticipating man’s desire – much later in history – for a king; and so we read of the establishment of God’s laws with regard to the rule of men over men by earthy kings.

And, as Smith points out, isn’t it intriguing that God would actually allow man to rule men when he knows the sin nature of His fallen creature; and when God’s chosen could see what the pagan governments and cultures which surrounded them in Moses’ day had done? But God, in His omniscience, did anticipate and establish rules and methods for kingship; and really, in retrospect, it all makes perfect sense.

And let me quote the questions raised by Dr. Smith which help us to answer this seeming conundrum. He writes, “Without earthy kings how would we (i.e., believers) understand God’s own kingship over a (His) spiritual kingdom? … Without bad kings, how could we (God’s people) appreciate good kings – especially the righteous King of kings? … And how could we learn to honor our secular leaders, whether kings, presidents, or governors?” Yes, we do serve a most intriguing God, with a most intriguing sense of justice and righteousness, as well as an infinitely intriguing sense of humor. And so, it’s our responsibility to go with God’s flow; and wow, that is certainly being called into question in today’s world, isn’t it?

We have kingdoms [i.e., nations] in today’s world which are much like the pagan lands into which God injected Moses and His people, setting them free from one such mighty nation to follow Moses, a very human sinner; but one who would follow God and lead God’s people. And we see how even Moses, who certainly had God’s ear, had trouble ruling a nation of sinners. Now, today, why would we be surprised by kings and Presidents trying to rule nations of sinners, who are very much like God’s chosen … fickle, selfish, and disobedient people? And yet, we are to understand that it is God Who establishes governments and leaders of governments – for His good favor and as part of His plan. Thereby, and therefore, we must let our leaders lead; and we must do so until and unless our leaders cause us to break God’s law and to be disobedient, individually, to our God. Then, and only then, must we stand for righteousness in anticipation of the coming of the King of kings who will rule forever on God’s throne of grace and righteousness.

So, are you hanging in these days while governments all over the world seem to be becoming more and more evil and corrupt? We must always remember that God is still in control; and His righteousness will one day rule in the Personage of the Lord of lords and the King of kings. Jesus WILL RETURN; and HE WILL RULE - … FOREVER !!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, You will always be my King of kings and Lord of lords. Amen

Friday, February 26, 2010

2010 – Feb. 26 – The Making/Keeping of Vows

Study from God’s Word Deut. 23: 1-8; Num. 6: 1-21; Lev. 27: 1-34; Deut. 23: 21-23; Lev. 19: 1-2, 19; Deut. 22: 9-11… Passage for Reflection: Deut. 23: 23 … NIV 21 If you make a vow to the LORD your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the LORD your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin. 22 But if you refrain from making a vow, you will not be guilty. 23 Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the LORD your God with your own mouth.

My Journal for Today:
The making and keeping of VOWS has waned in our western culture. Certainly in the days I read about in today’s study, vows were considered very important; and that would be a definite understatement. When one made a vow to God in the days of Moses, under God’s law, he was expected to keep that vow as a sign of surrender to God and man’s attempt to be holy just as God is Holy (see Lev. 19: 2 or 20: 7 in today’s OT readings or 1st Peter 1: 15, 16, repeated in the New Testament]. Today, I’m afraid that our use of vows has become far too superficial, even such ceremonial vows as marriage, which we know, in commitment and reality, only last about half the time.

Under the Old Covenant, the making and keeping of vows was serious business; and Nazirite vows were good examples of that. When a Hebrew man took a Nazirite vow, he vowed to separate himself in holiness so as to be used by God. Examples of those who took Nazirite vows in the Bible were Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist; and in those days, these Nazirites vowed to let their hair grow and abstain from wine as signs of their intent and commitment to separate themselves unto holiness. Well, we know what happened to Samson, who definitely had trouble keeping his vows. Today, about as close to making vows as most of us get is in making New Year’s resolutions; and I think we know how often these fall by the wayside when it comes to keeping them.

This year, I have undertaken to make, and prayerfully keep, some commitments that are more like vows than resolutions. I began the year attempting to activate or maintain a series of behavioral commitments which I felt were those things which helped me to deepen my desire toward becoming a “living sacrifice,” as spelled out in Romans 12: 1-2. My initial surge was a 40 day commitment to maintain these habits and record these commitments to/for God; and I was able to go through those 40 days at the outset of this year, keeping – and even reporting my daily fulfillment. At the end of the 40 days, however, I realized that I needed to keep up the accountability and maintain my “vows” to God, which I felt were Spirit-led, anointed, and a calling to become more intimate in my relationship with my Lord. THEREFORE, I have surrendered myself to keep doing and reporting these vow-like commitments, at least for the remainder of this year. Those who are part of the ministry I lead [Battle Plan Ministries] see my logging of completion of these behaviors daily so that I might be accountable, somewhere, to someone, to document what I’m doing in surrender mode to God.

I don’t desire to be seen as being a “Nazirite” or something special because of my calling to pursue these commitments. I’m not doing these things to be seen as some kind of disciplined “Minister of commitment.” If anyone really knew me, they would know how far from that is from my normal, default, and very human mode of living. Bill Berry is naturally undisciplined, disorganized, and definitely selfish. Hence, this is my need to be more serious about going into and remaining in “surrender mode,” as I call it, to a Spirit-led life which allows me to deepen my relationship with Christ.

I know that only when I make habitual choices to follow Christ will I be able to receive His enabling grace and then to become fruitful for His Kingdom. Allowing myself to go into my default, natural mode of fulfilling my fleshly tendencies, I would become useless for God. And in the spirit of self analysis (which is exhorted by God’s word in 2nd Cor. 13: 5), I would charge you to take an inventory of your commitments to God (i.e., your vows of holiness); and decide which areas you might “tune up” for God’s glory. Then, write down those commitments (“goals,” if you will); and finally develop some way to be accountable for your commitments. And this needs to be far above any new year’s type resolutions. These need to be “VOWS” in the sense of today’s highlight verse; and I think you know which ones need to be made, recorded, and maintained for God’s glory.

I know that doing what I’ve been doing thus far this year has deepened my intimacy of relationship with Christ; and that is well worth any brief failures I’ve experienced during this year.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray that I can keep on keeping on in my desire and intent to be more holy and follow You. Amen

Thursday, February 25, 2010

2010 – Feb. 25 – Water, Water, Everywhere

Study from God’s Word Lev. 12: 1-8; Lev. 14: 1-32; Lev. 15: 13-15, 28-30; Num. 19: 1-22 [Num. 9: 10]; … Passage for Reflection: Lev. 14: 8a … NIV "The person to be cleansed must wash his clothes, shave off all his hair and bathe with water; then he will be ceremonially clean. …”

My Journal for Today: My readings for today focused on the ceremonial cleansing, such as actions or offerings, which were required by God and the Israelite Priesthood, especially when God’s people confronted certain elements of life such as childbirth, certain diseases [especially skin diseases], bodily secretions, and contact or close presence with a dead body. My devotional shepherd, Dr. Smith, had me reading about many of the Hebrew ceremonies, offerings, and actions required of the people who were confronted with some of these life challenging issues which God’s Law had laid out to help protect His people.

For example in my focus verse/passage for today, I read about how someone with a skin disease was required to be cleansed by the Priests, … first outside the camp; and then, after that ritual cleansing, he was to stay outside his own tent for seven days and be cleansed for a week with ceremonially blessed waters by the Priests until he was bodily healed and ceremoniously cleansed.

As Dr. Smith points out, many religions have ceremonial cleansing with water in their rituals; and often these rituals picture the basic sinfulness of man and the need to be cleansed from sin. Hindus actually “bath” themselves in the polluted waters of the Ganges, believing that it cleanses the soul of the one so cleansed. I’ve been to the Dome of the Rock, in Jerusalem; and I know that the Muslims entering their temple there have to be “cleansed” by a ceremonial washing before entering the Temple. And even Christ submitted Himself to the ceremonial cleansing of the waters of the Jordan River as He, being baptized by John, the Baptistizer, wanted to paint the picture of the need for man to be cleansed of sinfulness by submitting himself to the cleansing of God’s Spirit. This latter process, of course (i.e., Baptism) doesn’t save the believer who is baptized. No, it merely signifies that the person has surrendered to God, in submission to the cleansing of the blood of the Lamb of God, who shed His blood for our sins on the Cross at Calvary. And if you go back to Leviticus 14: 1-8, you’ll read how the blood of a clean dove was sacrificed by the Priest who combined that blood with the ceremonial water for cleansing of the one with the skin disease. All of these are pictures of God’s desire that we be cleansed of our sin and redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God.

When asked about the saving power of baptism, I once heard a preacher say, “That water [in the Baptismal font] doesn’t save anyone. If you haven’t surrendered your life to the Lordship of Christ when you’re baptized, you’ll come up out of the water, and all you’ll be is a wet sinner.” And that is Dr. F. LaGard Smith’s point today, as he closes his devotional entry with this application question, “If God has painted me pure in the waters of baptism, have I allowed myself to become polluted?” And it is so true that we can be made positionally holy by believing in and receiving the baptism of God’s Spirit with our faith in the atoning and finished act of Christ’s death and resurrection; but practically, our sin choices can make us as unclean as those Jews with skin diseases who needed to be ceremonially cleansed from their disease.

We need to ask ourselves if we are living out the holiness which became our right of cleansing when we were cleansed by the blood of Christ. If not, we need to be cleansed by our own personal surrender in confession to God so that we can receive His promised cleansing by His Spirit (see 1st John 1: 9 - linked) How about it? Are we keeping short accounts for our sins; and are we living out the cleansing which has been given to us by our Savior on the Cross?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to live holy because You are holy; and my only reflection of Your holiness comes in the way I make my choices and live my life. I am cleansed by the blood of the Lamb; and so, may I live cleanly to show Your presence in my life. Amen

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

2010 – Feb. 24 – Jubilee Freedom!

Study from God’s Word Lev. 21: 1-24; Lev. 22: 1-16; Lev. 25: 1-7: Exod. 23: 10-11; Lev. 25: 8-34, 39-43, 47-55 … Passage for Reflection: Leviticus 25: 10 … NIV Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan.

My Journal for Today: Today in my study of many of the rules and practices given to the ancient Jewish Priesthood for the establishment of God’s rule on earth to His people, there was the establishment of the year of Jubilee, a festival which was to be celebrated every 50 years amongst the Hebrew people; and like many things in the establishment of God’s way of living in ancient Israel, Jubilee was a picture of something special to come; and that was also found in and connected to the feast of Pentecost, which was to take place 50 days after each Passover. So, after 50 years of celebrating Pentecost there would be for the Jewish people a special year of Jubilee in which debts were forgiven, land was returned to the original owners, and slaves were freed. And God’s people celebrated that freedom could only come and be granted through and because of their observance of God’s laws.

And the picture God was providing in Jubilee was of THE DAY of Pentecost, which finally came when the Spirit of the Lord descended on those who had repented of their sins after Jesus was crucified (i.e., those we consider the original “Church”); and then, the fulfillment of the spiritual picture of Jubilee took place. As F. LaGard Smith so aptly points out in his devotional, the people after Jesus ascension into Heaven, becoming “THE Church.” And as we know from Acts 2, Peter, was preaching the message of deliverance to God’s people, and the people asked “What must we do?,” seeing their guilt for Christ’s crucifixion. And to this Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized … for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” And we know that God’s Spirit, in what must have been a glorious Jubilee in Heaven, descended on the early church and for any who would be a part of God’s Church from thence forth.

As Dr. Smith points out, ”Like Jubilee’s turning back of property, REPENTANCE is a turning back of one’s life. Like Jubilee’s redemption, FORGIVENESS is the discharge of debt for sin. And just as with Jubilee’s freedom for those enslaved, the GIFT OF THE SPIRIT accompanies freedom from spiritual bondage.” And when a believer comes to repent of his/her sinfulness and receives the saving Grace offered by Christ’s atoning blood sacrifice, it is no wonder that there is a Jubilee celebration in heaven by God’s angels, who celebrate that all that Christ came to earth to accomplish (you can read about that in Luke 4: 18-19 - linked here) becomes worthy of celebration in heaven as a life is set free from the bondage of sin and ultimately remade into the image of Christ, The Lord and Savior.

To close his devotional entry for today, Dr. Smith asks, ”Have I (or ‘have you’) prepared the way for my [or ‘our’] own jubilee by doing what the celebrants on Pentecost did?” And only you or I can answer that one for ourselves. But if we’ve acknowledged our sinfulness before God’s throne of grace; and if we’ve declared with our mouth [to another Christian as well as to God] that Jesus is your LORD and Savior [see Rom. 10: 9-13 - linked ] the angels in heaven have celebrated our Jubilee of deliverance; and we have been invested with the presence and power of God’s Spirit to provide us, as truly repentant souls, deliverance and freedom in Christ.

And to that, we, who have had our own Pentecost, must all celebrate and say, “HALLELUJAH!!!”

My Prayer for Today:
Lord, I pray that all who read here have felt the deliverance that Your freedom from sin can offer in our Jubilee of coming to know You as Lord and Savior. Amen

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

2010 – Feb. 23 – Communal Responsibility

Study from God’s Word Lev. 5: 14-19; Lev. 6: 1-7; Lev. 7: 1-10, 37-38; Num. 28: 9-15; Deut. 21: 1-9; Lev. 22: 17-25 [Deut. 17: 1]; Lev. 22: 26-30; Ex. 23: 18: 35, 34: 25; Lev. 14: 1-9; Num. 6: 22-27; … Passage for Reflection: Deuteronomy 21: 6-8 … NIV 6 Then all the elders of the town nearest the body shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley, 7 and they shall declare: "Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it done. 8 Accept this atonement for your people Israel, whom you have redeemed, O LORD, and do not hold your people guilty of the blood of an innocent man." And the bloodshed will be atoned for.

My Journal for Today: As I’m reading today through the various rules and offerings which were required of God’s people in my daily reading of the Daily Bible in Chronological Order, we come across a section in Deut. 21: 1-9 where offerings for an unknown murderer are discussed; and one might ask, why would God, in His instructions to His people, especially the leaders of the people, discuss the communal responsibility of a town or group of people where a corpse was discovered and the community didn’t have a clue who was responsible for the murder?

Then Dr. Smith poignantly points out that with full knowledge of the “law” that a community of God’s people must take some responsibility for even an unknown murder. Then, we think about those Jewish believers, especially the leader elite, who called for the blood of Jesus to be shed on the cross. What responsibility, given their full knowledge of this section of God’s Law, did they take for that murder? And then I think of a very personal thing which happened for me just a year ago when my wife and I were with a group of Christians on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

At one point in our sightseeing, we were led to the place in Jerusalem where archeologists believe Jesus was nailed to the cross. I’ll not go into how they know that; but I will mention that there are carvings in the stones which show that Roman soldiers were playing games, casting lots for clothing. And so, as I was standing on those stones, I looked down at my feet; and I began to weep because I realized that it was MY sin which nailed MY Savior to that cross. I realized that I was not only no better than the mob who cried for Christ’s death, I was equally responsible for each nail which was driven into the body of my Savior.

In some sense, when we read each day – as we here in the Memphis area certainly do – of murders, rape, and other senseless crimes, we must take some degree of corporate spiritual responsibility for those crimes. We may not pull the trigger in a murder or rape a weakened woman; but we can’t say were blameless as a community for the atmosphere which breeds such senseless crime. As F. LaGard Smith wrote to close his devotional for today, ”As I go about my community today, what vulnerable lives will I be touching for good or for ill?”

My Prayer for Today: Lord, we touch others with our influence, … with our caring, …or with our lack of concern. May I be one who makes a difference for Your glory today, Lord, and may I give honor to You in the way I treat others. Amen

Monday, February 22, 2010

2010 – Feb. 22 – Unintentional Sin

Study from God’s Word Lev. 3: 1-17; Lev. 7: 11-21, 28-36; Lev. 17: 1-7; Lev. 4: 1-35 [Num. 15: 22-28]; Lev. 5: 1-13; Lev. 6: 24-30; Num. 15: 29-31 … Passage for Reflection: Leviticus 4: 27-28 … NIV " 'If a member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD's commands, he is guilty. 28 When he is made aware of the sin he committed, he must bring as his offering for the sin he committed a female goat without defect.’ “

My Journal for Today: Is God way too tough on His children to make them atone for sins committed unintentionally? Well, from man’s point of view and since we’re all sinners in the sight of an absolutely Holy God [remember Romans 3: 23], one might want for our God to turn His head of judgment and look the other way for those things we do, especially unintentionally, which fall short of His mark of holiness. But, as God’s word makes it very clear, God cannot do this, being the mark of Holiness Who demands that anyone coming to Him must be presented to Him completely and utterly cleansed of sinfulness. But there’s only one way that can happen; and God has made a way.

Sure, we might say that it’s unfair for God to have such high standards now that we inherit the sin nature, naturally, from our sinner parents, Adam and Eve. But God’s standard is God’s standard; and so He set up this way for His people in ancient Israel to atone and be cleansed for their sins; and we read of this in today’s highlight passage. And if you’re a Christian today, aren’t you glad that God made a way – THE WAY – for our sins to be cleansed, once and for all, by the shedding of Christ’s blood on the cross? And we, who plead the blood of Christ, acknowledging our sinfulness and believing on the atoning sacrifice of Christ, will positionally be made right in God’s eyes forever. Do I sense a loud “HALLELUJAH!” from any reading here, joining me in my sense of gratefulness in this moment?

Now, we know that we are still sinners, … even those of us who have received God’s saving grace of mercy from our faith in what Christ did for us. And so, what about what we must do to make amends for our sin? And the word of God, from the Apostle John’s first letter is clear on that. And I hope you know – by heart – the wonderful words of promise from 1st John 1: 9, which states in the NIV, If we confess our sins, He [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Wow! What a wondrous promise for a sinner like myself, … one who knows that I’m never going to be able to stand before my God, at any moment in time, without being able to plead the shed blood of my Lord and Savior, Who was sacrificed on that cross, shedding His blood, that I might be able to come to God and be cleansed of any sin, any time, any where … CLEANSED COMPLETELY … forever! But that means that I must do all I can to be aware of and keep short accounts for my sinfulness, … doing all I can to avoid sin; and then by confessing and pleading the blood of Jesus whenever I discover – intentionally or unintentionally – that I have transgressed in sin.

Oh, every day and in every way may I keep myself cleansed from my sin by my confession and contrition in God’s sight.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, You are so wondrously forgiving and merciful; and I’m so grateful to have a Savior, Who stood for me on that cross, shedding His blood that I may be cleansed from my sin and presented to You, dear Father, holy in Your sight. Amen

Sunday, February 21, 2010

2010 – Feb. 21 – Keeping Faith Alive

Study from God’s word: Lev. 1: 1 – 17; Lev. 6: 8 – 13; Num. 28: 1-8; Lev. 17: 8-9; Lev. 2: 1-10; Lev. 2: 11-13, 14-16; Lev. 6: 14-23; Num. 15: 1-12; Num. 15: 13-21; … Passage for Reflection: Leviticus 6: 13 … NIV The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out.

My Journal for Today: Today my trek through the times of Moses from my Daily Bible reading had me looking at the sacrifices and offerings which God established to help in the removal of guilt (i.e., the expiation of sin) from a people who were born into sin and needed the removal or payment (i.e., propitiation) of that sin on a continual basis. The Day of Atonement, for example, was an annual feast (now called “Yom Kippur”) where the people were given an opportunity to confess and have atonement for their sins through the sacrifices and offerings brought to God’s altar on that day. And a blood sacrifice was necessary for that to be accomplished through these ceremonies. But God knew that His people needed more than an annual feast to keep the fires of worship burning for God so that He could pour His grace out for His chosen people.

And one thing Dr. Smith did in this study of the sacrifices and offerings the people was to highlight what was required of the Priests for devotion and worship, keeping the fire of the altar lit and burning continuously (see the focus verse for today in Lev. 6: 13). Why did God order the Priesthood to keep the worship altar fire burning? Well, I’d bet that you know the answer to that one. It’s because God knows how hard it is for His children to keep their minds/hearts focused and burning in worship to our God, Who is our protector, provider, and the essence of our purpose. God knows – and we’ve seen – just how weak of purpose we can be in our continual worship of our God. But we need to remember that we, as Christians, are now God’s Priesthood (see 1st Pet. 2: 9); and thereby we need to keep that fire of devotion burning in our hearts, where God now resides, forever.

Did any of you make New Year’s resolutions this year; … maybe to lose weight; … perhaps to exercise more and more regularly; … maybe to have a deeper and more devoted quiet time with God each morning? How’re you doing? Well, if you are like many of us, it’s easy to let the demands of the flesh or of the world interrupt our commitment; and our focus and attention to our Godly goals wane, breaking through and letting the fires of devotion dwindle and then to die. Do I sense a confession of “Amen!” to that?

Well, God, knowing how easy it would be for His children, who had a heart described by Jeremiah (see Jer. 17: 9) as “deceitful … beyond cure,” commanded the Priests, the spiritual leaders for God’s people to keep the flame on the altar of worship burning – continually - to remind the people to hold their worship out for God on a daily basis. It is far easier to keep a fire burning than to have to restart it when it has died out, … isn’t it? And once someone has developed a habit of regular devotion, worship, or Bible study, it would be a lot easier to keep it going daily than to let the habit dwindle and die and then have to restart and re-establish the habit again. But unfortunately the latter is the way most New Year’s resolutions go, … don’t they?

So, where do we go with this very human tendency to let the fires of purpose die in our lives? Well, if we know that we need to have a regular and deeper devotional life with God, when and how are we going to relight the fire and keep it burning? Would it be better to wait until tomorrow or begin again today? And if the answer is today, as we know would be better, what do we need to do set the fire of our worship/devotion of God ablaze for His glory?

At the beginning of this year, I did an inventory of my life and determined a number of disciplines which were honoring to God, … disciplines which I needed to keep going or to get going. I listed them and began on a 40 days of commitment to document and report [to a select accountability group] how I was doing on these disciplines as part of my daily devotion to God.

Well, I was able to do the 40 days; but then I realized that if I didn’t keep this fire burning in the way I had started it – on a daily basis, my own default sin nature would likely let it burn out sometime down the road. So, I made a commitment on Day 40 to make it a 365 day commitment to the Lord and report every day to my select group how I was doing on my list of offerings of purpose. If you are in the group who get this devotional journal with my daily listing of behavioral entries, you would know that I’m still doing my listings daily. And I’m reporting this to praise God for giving me the enabling grace to keep this fire of devotion to Him burning (see 1st Cor. 10: 13 and 2nd Cor. 12: 9).

Have I waxed and waned on some of the individual disciplines? Yes, I have; but I immediately know it as I report it daily; and I can – and have – rekindled that fire to keep it burning. Recognizing how weak I can be, this is my way of following through with my behavioral and devotional offerings daily; … to keep the fires of worship burning in my heart for God. And I recognize that this may not be a way that you can or will keep your worship fires for God burning. However, I maintain that you’re going to need to do something, on a daily basis, to do it; because we do have a flesh which will pull us away from God. And we have an arch enemy, Satan, who will pour gas on those fleshly embers so that our fleshly choices will draw us away from keeping the fires of devotion lit and burning for God.

How are you keeping your fires of commitment burning – every day - for God?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me to keep my fires burning each day; no, each moment, for You! Amen

Saturday, February 20, 2010

2010 – Feb. 20 – Chasing Away Scapegoats

Study from God’s Word - Exod. 23: 14-17, 34: 23; Deut. 16: 16-17; Exod. 34: 24; Exod. 34: 18; Deut. 16: 1-7; Num. 9: 13-14; Lev. 23: 4-8; Num. 28: 16-17; Deut. 16: 8; Num. 28: 18-25; Deut. 16: 9-12; Lev. 23: 9-14; Exod. 34:22; Lev. 23: 15-21; Numb. 28: 26-31; Lev. 23: 23-25; Num. 29: 1-6; Lev. 16: 1-5; Lev. 16: 6-34; Lev. 23: 26-32; Num. 29: 7-11; Lev. 23: 33-43; Num 29: 12-38; Deut. 16: 13-15; Lev. 23: 37-38, 44; Num. 29: 39-40 … Passage for Reflection: Leviticus 16: 22; … NIV The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert.

My Journal for Today: Well, my guess is that you didn’t likely follow me by reading all of the verses to which my Bible Reading guide has led me to read yesterday or today. When I saw what was asked of me to read/study today in my devotional bible series, I thought of the times when, staying overnight with grandparents, my grandmother would give me medicine, several teaspoons of Castor Oil, when I had an upset stomach. I remember that the second and third of those teaspoons, once having tasted the first, became terribly “yukky,” as she would say to me, “Now, young man, you take this because you need it!”

Well, my devotional guide today was having me study God’s instigation of the various FEASTS which were established by God to help God’s people remember and worship their God, helping them to remember what He had put them through and saved them from in their past. It was God’s way in those days to help God’s children retain their focus of worship in the One True God, Who had established an everlasting covenant with His people.

Well, it was tough reading; but it was good medicine for me to realize that we, of the New Covenant, can – and do – celebrate all that ancient Israel celebrated in our worship of Jesus Christ, Who, by becoming the sacrificial lamb, allow us to become the scapegoat and to run free, our sins having been atoned for by His blood sacrifice.

And it is this latter element of celebrated worship upon which F. LaGard Smith focuses in his highlighted verse for today from Leviticus 16: 22, which describes how, during the Day of Atonement, now called “Yom Kippur,” the priest laid his hands on the head of one of lambs, which was then sent out into the wilderness as a symbol of God laying all the confessed sins of His people on the head of another, perfect lamb. And it was this second, perfect lamb, who, by lot, became the blood sacrifice for the sins of all of God’s people.

I know it can seem so contrived that God would create such an elaborate way for God to give His people a way of celebrating what God had done for His people; but it was also God’s way of painting a picture of what would one day be the very real and final way for God to set His people free from their sins. And I’m sure it’s not difficult for Christians today to see whom has become the scapegoat and Whom was the perfect Lamb of sacrifice for the sins of all mankind. Our sins, of course, were laid on the head of the Lamb of God, our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ; and we become the scapegoat, running free into the wilderness as the Lamb of God became the atoning blood sacrifice for our confessed sins.

Dr. Smith’s question today hits deep after I took my “medicine” and read through all that God did in ancient Israel to paint a ceremonial picture of what would take place when the perfect Lamb of God would be taken outside the city and sacrificed, becoming the sacrificial Lamb, shedding His blood so that I can live and go free, having confessed my sins and letting the Lamb of God take upon Himself my sins; and paying for my sin debt with His blood. Dr. Smith’s question is this: ”Does my gratitude match the extent of Christ’s love when He willingly became a scapegoat for the sins I will commit even this very day?”

As we enter the season of lent – the 40 days prior to Easter – we have to answer that question by the attitude we hold about what we’re willing to do to remember what God did for us by providing His Lamb to become both the scapegoat and the sacrificial lamb, taking our sins upon Himself and shedding His blood so that we can live and walk free for eternity. I’m glad I took my medicine today and read these passages to remind me of just how much I take for granted.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I’m totally convicted by my sinfulness and so grateful for Your sacrifice. Amen

Friday, February 19, 2010

2010 – Feb. 19 – Misusing God’s Name

Study from Lev. 19: 20b; 19: 31; 20: 6-8; Deut 18: 9-14; Exod. 22: 18; Lev. 20: 27; Deut. 13: 1-5; Deut. 18: 15-19; 18: 20-22; Deut. 5: 11; Exod. 22: 28; Lev. 24: 10 – 16, 23; Exod. 22: 29-30; Exod. 34: 19, 20; Exod. 22: 29; Exod. 23: 19, 34: 26; Deut. 15: 19-23; Deut. 18: 1-8; Deut. 14: 22-29; Deut. 26: 1-11; Deut. 26; 23-25; Exod. 31- 16, 17; Lev. 19: 30; 26: 2; Lev. 23: 1-3; Exod. 35: 3; Exod. 24: 21; Exod. 31: 12-15: Num. 18: 32-36 … Passage for Reflection: Deuteronomy 5: 11 … NIV You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.

My Journal for Today: Well, it is unlikely that you’ve followed along with me in reading what I have read from God’s word today unless you have the Daily Bible in Chronological Order, which I’m using for my reading adventure through God’s word this year and most certainly today. Being led by Dr. F. LaGard Smith, I’ve been through quite a few passages from the first five books of the Bibles as Smith has brought me to read today about the many laws – laws about everything one could imagine – which were given BY GOD through Moses to/for His people. But in the final offering, Smith settled on one of the Ten Commandments, from Deut. 5: 11, to discuss in some depth today; and you know that one. It’s about not taking the Lord’s Name in vain.

Well, it’s way too much to ask you to dig out and read what my Chronological Bible led me to read today; but reading and meditating on Deut. 5: 11 is not too much to ask. So, I hope you’ve gone back and reviewed those Ten Commandments in Deut. 5, which were also spelled out in detail in Exodus 20 for us believers. And this one, in Deut. 5: 11 points to the reverence we need to have for our God in the use of His Holy Name. And wow, there certainly is a lot of misuse we can use to illustrate how we take God’s Law and trivialize God through the use of His Name!

Before I was a Christian, calling myself an “agnostic,” it always felt wrong to me somehow to cry out, “Jesus Christ!” as a statement of anger. Maybe it was the way I had been raised; but that use of God’s Name just seemed wrong to me. But yet, at that time in my life I totally disclaimed the deity of Jesus Christ. How hypocritical was that?! And how common is that foul use of God’s name these days? But Smith points out something quite interesting as he points out that when someone is surprised, flabbergasted, or angry we never hear them using the name of “Buddha” or “Mohammed.” Yet I know you’ve often heard others say something like, “Oh, … my God!” when they are surprised by something. We hear people say the latter when they are totally surprised by something or even when they taste some luscious piece of cake. And the use of “Jesus Christ!” or “Oh, my Lord!” as exclamation is about as close to prayer as some people in our culture will ever get.

And all of these, of course, flagrantly break with God’s Law in the Ten Commandments. But Dr. Smith then points out a very sad and notorious misuse of God’s Name; and that is how mankind will take oaths, even legal oaths, saying, “… so help me God;” and they are lying at the time or subsequently they break the oath. Taking oaths in “God’s Name” is serious business; and I would expect that the Angels cringe when they hear us humans making or taking an oath in God’s Name than then breaking it. We mock our God when we take an oath in His Name and then fail to carry it out. And that, my friend, is serious business!

But I’m most convicted by probably the most common misuse of God’s Holy Name by Christians, one which I’m afraid I’ve breached God’s Law all too often; and that has to do with invoking the name of Christ, calling myself “Christian,” and then living in a way which misappropriates that blessed Name. Oh, I know that I’m not the only one who does it. Whole Universities do it when the name of the University is labeled as a “Christian” University but where many ungodly things are being taught in the curriculum of the school. But I’m no better when I am called “Reverend” Bill Berry, my title of Ordination, and I do things which dishonor the Name of Christ. And how many of us witnessing in the world as “Christians” do things which dishonor the Name of God?

Oh, may God have mercy on me when I misrepresent My Lord by my choices or my actions, especially when I publically call myself a “Christian.” Well, conviction has been leveled here for me today, my friend; … how about you?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, may my life be a reflection of the Holiness of Your Name; and forgive me when it has not been so. Amen

Thursday, February 18, 2010

2010 – Feb. 18 – Marked for Holiness

Study from various sections of Deut. 5, Exod. 22, Deut. 16, Lev. 19, Deut. 12 – 13, and Deut. 17; Passage for Reflection: Leviticus 19: 28 … NIV Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourself. I am the Lord.

My Journal for Today: Today my trek through God’s word, under the shepherding of F. LaGard Smith, in The Daily Bible In Chronological Order, took me through several sections reviewing how God imparted his laws to His people through Moses, as the called and anointed “Law Giver.” And though Moses was the agent of the law being imparted to God’s people, God, and God alone, was “THE Law Giver.” And we see just how detailed the laws could be for the Israelites; but they all were designed to set God’s chosen people aside from the world of that day, to protect them from evil (which, of course, included themselves), and, above all, to honor and glorify the One True God.

And today, in his devotional, Dr. Smith singles out one of these laws which was given to the Israelites, dealing with the avoidance of a pagan practice of the day, which was marking the body, including tattooing. And right before this one law, we read in Lev. 19: 27, [to the men of Israel] “Do not cut the hair at the sides of sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.”

Even today in the obvious personal practices of the Hasidic Jews, we see these laws lived out in the way the Hasidic men display their very orthodox observance of God’s Mosaic laws; and we ought to be able to see how it sets them apart from the world in their very close observance of the ancient bodily practice laws which God laid down for His people through Moses.

But why then don’t we see orthodox Evangelical Christians observing these personal practice laws the same way as the Hasidic Jews do? Well, we could get into a long discussion here about the fact that our day – the age of grace and of the New Covenant – follows the example of Jesus, The Christ, in what we think, say, and do. And God’s Law (and all those laws which set apart God’s people from the pagan cultures which surrounded them in that age/culture) is not part of our day as we follow Christ as our Law Giver.

But when we can see from those past laws and their observance how they might apply to our lives, we can learn from them and let them teach us how to honor God through what we do or don’t do for Him and in His Name. And you don’t have to have a Ph.D. in Theology to see that tattooing or cutting one’s body to set the self apart for the observance of worldly or selfish pleasure dishonors God and would therefore be considered a sinful practice. Tattooing marks the body permanently; and we who are Christians need to recognize that we are already permanently marked in the Temple (i.e., the body) God has given us by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, Who will display in and through us the marks of Christ, which are the fruit of His Spirit (see Gal. 5: 22-23). We don’t need any bodily marking to set ourselves apart in the world and display Christlikeness for all to see. So, there is Spiritual validity for all the ages in the command given by Moses to God’s people to avoid being like the pagans with the marking/tattooing of the body as a way for showing that the flesh is on display to honor pagan gods and/or worldly idols.

In application here, we need to ask ourselves if the markings of God’s Spirit are on us for all the world to see to Whom we belong. Does the world see God’s markings of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control in the way we live our lives? Or do we find ourselves tattooing our lives with the marks of the world and the trappings of selfish pursuit? Can the world see the permanent tattoo of Christ emblazoned on our very being; or do we have idolatry tattooed on our soul which dishonors God by the way we live our lives?

Choices are the tattoos of our Christian living.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I so desire that others see Your permanent eternal marking on my soul from the way I choose to live. Amen

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

2010 – Feb. 17 – Treating Cause and Effect with Caution

Study from Deuteronomy 9 – 11; Passage for Reflection: Deut. 9: 6 … NIV Therefore understand that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people.

My Journal for Today: I hope you’ve read through Deuteronomy, Chapters 9 – 11, or you know its contents well; because when you read/meditate on the instructions that Moses is giving to God’s “stiff-necked,” fickle, and often foolish people, the Israelites (especially knowing, from God’s word, where they are going mess-up over and over again), one has to feel like poor Moses, as a leader of God’s people, has been given a poor cohort of followers to let Joshua lead them across the Jordan and to take possession of that “Promised Land,” to which God had promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their progeny. But in what Moses is saying to the Jewish nation, we have some principles which we need to understand and to apply in our lives.

The first is that God is a merciful God, slow to anger and completely bound to His covenant promises. So, if God has promised something to us as believers today, we can expect that He will carry out His part of that covenant. And the biggest of those promises is wrapped up in the promise of eternal salvation for anyone who believes in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and is willing to surrender his/her life to the Lordship of The Christ. If you have done that, God, as He has promised by His word, will deliver; and by His grace, He will give you eternal life [and you know of that from John 3: 16 and Romans 10: 9 – 13].

With that said, then, like with the “stiff-necked” Jewish people, we must realize that nothing we can, or will do, can earn anything more than what God has promised. So, if we do a lot of good stuff, as born-again Christians, we cannot expect God to “pay off” with anything more than He has already delivered on the cross by Christ’s blood sacrifice. So, all I need to know is that God’s grace is sufficient for my life (see 2nd Cor. 12: 9); and that what I do in this life is merely preparation for my life in heaven. Yes, I should be seeking to glorify my Lord with my good works; but I’m not doing that to earn a bunch of good things in this life. What I do – i.e., good works in His Name – are simply a reflection of God’s grace working itself out in my life (see Eph. 2: 10 as a result of Eph. 2: 8 – 9). And by my works, may He be glorified.

We need to remember that we’re never as good as we think we are; and God is always better than we can imagine Him to be. As Moses warned God’s children, those warnings apply to you and me as well; and if we have some foolish notion that we can – in these New Covenant times – ignore the realities of our obedience to the Law, we are no better … and probably a lot worse … than the “stiff-necked” Jews to whom Moses was addressing for God in today’s readings.

I pray that we all can keep our works in perspective and in the context of God’s grace through the completed sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, You did it all for me on the cross. May I do it all for You in this life as I prepare for the next. Amen

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

2010 – Feb. 16 – Godly Parenting

Study from Deuteronomy 4: 44 – 5: 8: 20; Passage for Reflection: Deut. 6: 6 – 7 … NIV 6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.

My Journal for Today: During my discipleship after I came to know Christ as my Lord and Savior, my mentor and my teachers and the leaders of my Christian education [remember this is occurring after I was 39 years old] taught me one practical principle involving my study of God’s truth from His word, the Bible. And this truth was that when I would read God’s word, through whatever author, book, or passage where God was repeating Himself over and over again, I was alerted to PAY ATTENTION and assimilate that truth, whatever it was, if it was pertinent to my life (which it often was).

And in today’s passages from Deut., Chapters 4 – 8, we read Moses repeating something we had heard God say through him a number of times during the first five books of the Bible, often referred to as “THE LAW” by orthodox Jews. And here today we have something emphasized in the highlight passage for today, a principle of diligence which we find being challenged greatly among those of us who believe that it is the responsibility of Godly parents to impart Godly principles into our kids and grandkids.

How often do we need to read from God’s word or hear from God’s messengers (i.e., His church leaders, preachers, and Christian educators) that we should teach our kids to obey God’s truth? BUT … [and it’s another BIG BUT in our world today] … how often do we find this instruction concerning what Christian parents need to be doing for their children ignored and often mocked by today’s believers who call themselves “christian.”

When my wife and I had children in their formative years of learning (i.e., in their pre-teen and teen years), we were agnostics; and I even flaunted my desire to put down Christianity and the Christians around me. But apparently with time enough to turn things around in the minds of our two daughters, Elly and I became Christians back then; and we began teaching our daughters the truth of God’s word; and now our daughters are about the age we were when we became Christians; and they, along with their husbands, are doing all they can to pass along God’s truth from the Bible to their kids, … our grandchildren.

And thus far what God instructs Godly parents to do in Deut. 6: 6-7, we see them doing on even a daily basis. And Elly and I are doing all we can to support and back up this discipleship process, taking every opportunity we can to pass along the essence of God’s truth which is conveyed by the Bible.

We want our children to understand and apply what Moses was trying to impart to the children of God, … that obedience to God’s truth from His Law was/is essential to our being the benefactors of God’s promises. And just prior to the statement of today’s highlight passage, there is a truth lain out for all God’s people to read and incorporate into our lives. It is called “The Great Shama,” which is the core Hebrew prayer, to which all believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and most certainly all Christians, must adhere. It is stated primarily in Deut. 6: 4 – 5“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is One 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” And Jesus became the fulfillment of this prayer on earth; and we, who call our selves by His Name, must live this out and teach it to our children and grandchildren.

To ignore this prayer and truth is to ignore the very God Who spoke it and commanded that His children pass it along to their children and their children’s children. The question first becomes, “Are we living it?” And then are we should be teaching it by example and principle to our children? I will leave that to be the application question for our lives from today’s study. And my friend, we simply cannot afford to be lax, or worse, to snub God by ignoring our responsibilities to convey this principle to our children and grandchildren.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, may I live to see the day when our grandchildren exhibit this truth of The Shama in their lives. Amen

Monday, February 15, 2010

2010 – Feb. 15 – In Proper Retrospect

Study from Deuteronomy 1 - 4; Passage for Reflection: Deut. 4: 9 … NIV Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

My Journal for Today: We certainly have some stark and important warnings in God’s word about looking back and dwelling too heavily on the past. We have the curious story of Lot’s wife looking back and dwelling on her past (see Gen. 19: 26); and she became a pillar of salt. And there was Paul’s exhortation in the New Testament (see Phil. 3: 13 – 14 - linked here for you) to focus on the prize which God has lain ahead of all who are born-again Christians; … and that is the prize of Christlikeness which comes from building a deep/abiding relationship with our Lord, … following Him along the narrow, but clearly marked road to righteousness.

Yes, it is true that we should primarily focus on the road ahead when we’re driving toward the future. It is said that we only use our rear-view mirror in driving to keep us from driving into the wrong lanes based upon where we’ve come from and the traffic on the road. But when we’re driving toward our destination, which for the Christian is that narrow road to Christlikeness, we keep our eyes on the road by looking through the windshield, preferably keeping it as clean as possible so that we can clearly see what lies ahead.

That’s what Moses was trying to get the people to do as we read in Deut. 1 – 4 of his admonition to God’s people as they were about to move into the Promised Land. He wanted the Israelites to remember the roads they had traveled in the past following their God; and he especially wanted them to pay attention to the laws of the road and what would happen if they ignored the laws which had been given to them for their safety by their God. And poignantly he even used himself as an example, reminding the people that he would never step foot in the Promised Land because of his own transgressions in the past as well as God’s judgment upon Moses’ leadership of God’s people along the way.

Dr. Smith, my devotional author asks today, ”Am I trapped in time, unable to escape the past, or is my rearview mirror an invaluable aid to the journey ahead?” In the ministry God has called me to lead, those who can/will avoid past trails to the tarpits of sinful living and those who can focus on God’s light shining on the path of righteousness ahead, … it is those Christians who will travel successfully into the future, following God’s road signs and moving effectively down the narrow path of Christlikeness. However, those, who cannot or will not avoid the very wide and tempting roads which the world or the flesh point them towards, will continually be lured off God’s road and crash along the highways of life as Satan leads them astray.

How’s your driving record along God’s highway these days?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, shine Your light brightly on the ever darkening road ahead so that I might follow Your Light toward glory. Amen

Sunday, February 14, 2010

2010 – Feb. 14 – The Importance of Eradication

Study from Numbers 27: 15-23; Num. 32; Deut. 4: 41-43; Numb 33: 50-56; Deut. 25: 17-19; Num. 34 - 35; Passage for Reflection: Numbers 33: 55 … NIV 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.

My Journal for Today: It happened before in their history. God had commanded His people to eradicate the Midianites; and they were unwilling to follow His commands 100%. Then God led them through the wilderness for 40 years to eradicate an entire generation of recalcitrant and grumbling children. Now, here they are poised and ready to enter the promised land; and God again reminds them of the importance of the eradication of their spiritual enemies.

And being Bible students, you’ve read on ahead; and you know that as they take the land in God’s Name under the leadership of Joshua. However, once again, God’s people, who had pledged to follow God’s will, once again became the fickle children of compromise and character weakness.

If, like me, you’re an application junkie of Bible truth, what does this picture for you? It doesn’t take one with a Ph.D. in Bible lore to see that we, so-called “believers,” have always had a tendency to play patsy with the one major force in our lives which stands to destroy us and our relationship with God; … and that is sin. We know, in our hearts (as defined in a passage like Jer. 17: 9) that we are deceptive and evil beyond our ability to recognize that weakness. We know that we’re all – 100% of us – sinners (see Rom. 3: 23). And fortunately – and yet, unfortunately – we know the truth of Isaiah 53: 6, where in the Old Testament our salvation from our sinful selves is prophesied. And prayerfully all us, as painfully weak lambs, have become part of God’s flock, by placing our faith in the saving grace of what Christ, the Lamb of God and our Good Shepherd, did on the cross to save us from our sin.

But though we may be saved, we still have the charge from God to eradicate sin from our lives; and we still have powerful God-hating enemies who desire to lure us, divide us, and use our deceit-ridden hearts to capture us from the 100% devotion expected by our Savior. Reading today’s passage about the Israelites as they prepare to take what God has promised them, I realize that I’m no different or better than those children of God, who would hear God’s commands and then march off to do life in their own way, … unwilling and/or unable to eradicate sinful, selfish patterns behavior from their lives [i.e., our lives].

F. LaGard Smith asks (for me) today, ”Am I kidding myself to believe that I can rid my life of most major sin and still live comfortably alongside the few ‘insignificant sins’ I allow to remain?” How many of us live with “acceptable” sin patterns in our lives – sins about which even the church will not discipline from it’s members, things like gluttony, gossip, and I’m sure you know others as well. When am I going to get it … that God desires I clean out ALL SIN from my life; and then to do what he charged the young adulteress to do … “Go and sin no more!” ??

And God has even given us way to do that. He’s given true-believers the ministry and empowerment of the Holy Spirit to reside in our hearts and to clean us up any time we’re willing to confess and receive His enabling grace of forgiveness [see 1st John 1:9). He’s given us the ability to wear His full armor into battle each day, and to carry His Spirit-Sword, as well as to go to the high ground of prayer in battle (see Eph. 6: 10-18). Because when we don’t compromise with our weaknesses and our fickle hearts, we can be victorious (see 1st Cor. 10: 13 and 2nd Cor. 12: 9), letting God’s strength cover our weakness and allowing us to eradicate sinful living from our lives.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, … 100% … nothing short of Your goal to eliminate sin from my life. That is my prayer today. Amen

Saturday, February 13, 2010

2010 – Feb. 13 – Disinherited Children

Study from Numbers 26; Passage for Reflection: Numbers 26: 65 … NIV For the LORD had said of them [Moses and Aaron after the first census], “They shall surely die in the wilderness.” So there was not left a man of them, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.

My Journal for Today: Here we are, coming out of 40 years of wandering in the wilderness; and God is about to activate His covenant to His children, … giving them entrance into the “Promised Land.” And as we know, from Biblical accounting and historical study, two men [and their families] from the original census of Israel will be benefactors of God’s covenant; and they are Caleb and Joshua, … the two who came back with reports based on faith and promise when Moses sent 12 spies into Canaan over a generation earlier.

So, God is about to begin the process of turning His Promised Land over to His Children; but note that those who will receive the bounty of that promise are those who come from the “Children of faith” and those who remained obedient to God from the beginning to the end of the covenant. Even Moses and Aaron would not physically step into the promised land because of acts of disobedience, which disinherited them from receiving the initial benefits of God’s ultimate covenant.

So, what do we learn from the Book of Numbers and this accounting of God’s people in Chapter 26. Well, God speaks loudly to this humble follower of God’s Son, Jesus, that it is the living out my faith in Christ’s New Covenant act of atonement which will bring me into His eternal Kingdom. I have no doubt that I will be an inheritor of God’s promise because all of His promises of atonement have been fulfilled by God’s Son, Jesus, on the cross and through His resurrection, ascension, and His being re-established on God’s throne of grace. Therein lies my faith; and therein lies the hope of my salvation.

Oh how patient, loving, and merciful God has been in providing me – or you – with a way to eternal inheritance in glory; and Moses will be there as well. He may not have been able to physically walk into the “promised land” with God’s children from the original census of Israel or even from the second census; but God has provided a way that His faith will justify him, … just as it did for Abraham and others of faith in the original covenant God made with His children. Faith, and the humble obedience which marks that faith, is the key which opens God’s gates into glory.

I pray that anyone who reads this has lain their faith in the Lordship and saving grace offered by God through His atoning blood shed by the Lamb of Gold on the cross, … having faith – the faith of Caleb, Joshua, or even one who had sinned, like Moses – that God will provide a way for all who believe in His saving grace to be saved and be given entry into God’s eternal Promised Land.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, You have provided THE way; and that way comes through faith in Your redeeming plan of salvation, which was completed by my Savior and Lord, Jesus, on the cross at Calvary. Amen

Friday, February 12, 2010

2010 – Day 43. Feb. 12 – In Praise of Moral Outrage

Study from Numbers 25 and 31; Passage for Reflection: Numbers 25: 7-8 … NIV 7 Now when Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose from among the congregation and took a javelin in his hand; 8 and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her body. So the plague was stopped among the children of Israel.

My Journal for Today: Yes, the climate of political justice in the days of Moses was different than it is today; but moral justice, God’s moral justice, never changes. And Phinehas, Aaron’s grandson and the son of the Priest of God’s people becomes a moral example, a personal picture of how we have lost our sense of moral righteousness in today’s world. Of course, in the world we live in, we cannot – and should not – take it upon ourselves to kill someone who is an outright and open sinner against God’s Name. That is not the message which, from our New Covenant we would get from THE ONE we follow, Jesus, the Christ.

As I write this, a man is being tried for murdering George Tiller, the abortionist who admittedly carried out thousands of late term abortions in Kansas City. Is this man who is on trial for killing Tiller – in a Church, no less – a modern day Phinehas? Of course not! He is murderer! And we’d get the wrong message if we took today’s passage and used it to justify the striking down of an open murderer of children like George Tiller by carrying out murder ourselves.

So, how do we interpret God’s justification of Phinehas in that day and the unjustified homicide of George Tiller today? What Godly, New Covenant lesson do we get from Phinehas’ action to apply in today’s worldly climate where sin is being glossed over and God is being mocked as he was in Moses’ day? Well, we can say that we need to have the zeal toward righteousness which Phinehas had; but we need to exercise that zeal within the model of Christlikeness which was exemplified by our Lord when He walked this earth. We cannot take a righteous and zealous hatred of sin, which we should all have in our hearts and exercise that hatred of sin by sinning grievously against our fellow human beings. That was THE message Jesus was trying to impart in the Sermon on the Mount, was it not?

But we can choose to hate sin in our own hearts with the zeal of a Phinehas; and we can, even in the codes of conduct of our present culture, do all we can to crucify the sin in our own hearts and lives and then to be a warrior against sin in our cuture. God has given us the power, through the Holy Spirit residing in our hearts as Christians, to murder sin in our lives. We can act out our anger against the open sinfulness we see in our world by not succumbing to the nonjudgmental, tolerance culture we find all around us today. We can be a Phinehas by standing up and demanding our political representatives represent BIBLICAL moral values.

I need to be asking myself and possibly you need to ask yourself these things …
... What am I doing to follow Christ as He demanded in Luke 9: 23?
... Am I being the “living sacrifice” of a 24/7 lifestyle of worship exhorted by God in Romans 12: 1-2?
... Am I showing myself to be a warrior to kill sin in myself and my culture as exhorted by Eph. 6: 10-18?

If I can answer “YES” to these questions, I think I can be a Phinehas to kill sin in my own life and to be God’s warrior against sin in my world. To that end I will set myself on God’s narrow road.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, help me kill the sin in me; and stand against sin in my world. Amen

Thursday, February 11, 2010

2010 – Day 42. Feb. 11 – Foolishly Testing God’s Word (Truth)

Study back to Numbers 22 - 24; Passage for Reflection: Numbers 23: 12 … NIV He [Balaam, the Sorcerer-Prophet to King Balak of Moab] answered, “Must I not speak what the Lord puts in my mouth.”

My Journal for Today: You Bible students have probably read and studied this curious passage which has a fearful Moabite King (Balak) seeking out a sorcerer (Balaam) to curse his enemies (Israel). And in this account we have the famous (or rather, “infamous”) account of “Balaam’s ass,” his donkey who does God’s bidding by actually speaking to Balaam about the power of God.

And don’t we see a lot of ourselves in these characters. We can see our fearfulness, as we come up against our own enemies in this world, … enemies like other religions, worldly power, tempting wealth, etc. And like Balak, we’d like to have our own “big stick” and be placed in a position to defeat our enemies. So, we call upon our diviners, … forces like education, science, or military power to put us in the position to be secure in the face of our enemies. But then, over and over again, we get the message from a God, Who cannot lie to us about Himself (see Numbers 23: 19); and He tells us over and over again in His word of truth, exactly what we need to hear about the blessings He has upon those who obey Him and His cursings on those who disobey Him.

Balak kept sending Balaam, over and over again, to try to hear what he wanted to hear, … trying to get Balaam to curse Israel, who were his enemies. But over and over again, God just put the mirror of truth in Balaam’s prophesies in front of Balak, even using a pagan magician, like Balaam, as His Prophet (don’t you love God’s sense of humor!). But in the end God can only reflect Himself through His mirror of truth; and how many times does our world need to hear God’s Prophets, reflecting truth … that abortion is evil or that homosexuality is an abomination or that Israel is God’s chosen people … before we – the world – will see that God cannot and will not reflect anything but truth from the mirror we know of as God’s word – The Bible.

We can – as some try to do – fashion interpretations of God’s truth to fit our world. There are people who call themselves “christian,” who try to get God’s word to say what they want to read … creating their own fashion of “truth,” We’ve read the lies; … like the Bible doesn’t mean what it says – literally; and we can accept homosexuality in our culture, which has evolved to a place where God can accept that lifestyle as “normal.” Or we read of “christians” who say that abortion can be accepted as a “choice” women should have to give them control of their bodies. Or we read that we need to allow Islam to be tolerated as a religion which serves the same “god” who was the God of Abraham.

Oh, how we can look into the mirror of truth; and by our own design see ourselves the way we want to see us, rather than using God’s mirror of truth (the Bible) and letting it show us the true image of the God Who is the only true God. How many times does God have to speak His truth in our midst; and we ignore it or disobey Him? How many times will God’s mercy and His grace give our world the chance to hear how He desires for all to be saved; BUT … and it’s a big “BUT,” for sure, … there will come a day, when, as it was for Balak, God’s truth will prevail; and His prophesies will unfold … AND the rain of righteousness will fall on the remnant of believers as well as on those who will not see truth in God’s mirror.

Balaam’s donkey cries out for us to see God’s truth for what it is … THE TRUTH; … and it has, is, and will unfold in the Person of Truth, Who is Jesus Christ! [e.g., meditate on John 14: 6]

My Prayer for Today: Lord, thank You for giving me Your mirror of Truth, which is Your word and Who is my Lord and Savior, Jesus. May I see clearly Your way and follow it. Amen

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

2010 – Day 41. Feb. 10 – Records That Reflect

Study from Numbers 20 – 21, then on to Num. 33; Passage for Reflection: Numbers 33: 2 … NIV At the Lord’s command Moses recorded the stages of their journey.

My Journal for Today: A number of years ago, I had waded through the Book of Numbers, reading it like a history text book as part of compulsory exercise of biblical study. But now, some years later, as I have committed to read through the Bible this year, being led by The Daily Bible, edited by F. LaGard Smith, and his companion devotional book, The Daily Bible Devotional, reading and studying in Numbers now takes on a whole different light.

First, … there is the fact that my wife and I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land about a year ago, seeing and walking in many of the places brought out in the Book of Numbers. Being in this very special area on God’s earth does have an enlightening influence when one thereafter studies God’s word. Today, reading about the Israelites coming out from the Desert of Zin and about the travels of God’s people from Kadesh into the land of Edom and Moab, I know where all those places are because we’ve walked there. And when I read of Moses’ journaling about what transpired where he struck the rock and his pride, along with that of his brother, Aaron, kept them from entering the land they saw from Mount Nebo, west of the Dead Sea, all of that is personally meaningful, having been there and “owning the t-shirt,” so to speak. I hope that some day any of you who’re reading here might have the opportunity to visit and travel in the lands described in the passages which were journaled by Moses in the Book of Numbers, in the Old Testament, and especially where Jesus walked in the New Testament times.

But on to the subject of today’s devotional passage, where, in Numbers 33 Moses was commanded to journal the trek of God’s people in the wilderness during those 40 years of purging carried out by God for His chosen people, and where they were finally allowed to enter and take the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua [later in the book by his name]. And the subject of today’s verse points to the importance of journaling in our devotional lives, as we attempt to go deep in building a very personal and lasting relationship with God.

Years ago, my personal mentor helped me to see the value of journaling in my devotional life. (Oh, how I pray that you have had or now have a Godly, and biblically knowledgeable, mentor to be your guide as possibly Elijah was for Elisha or Paul was for Timothy.) And so, … as I began to develop the discipline and techniques I now use in journaling, much as I am here in writing this blog, I came to realize that God’s truth could, if I surrendered myself to the enlightening ministry of God’s Spirit, become so much clearer - for me personally - if I tried to put into words – possibly for others – what God was trying to show me in order to help me become more like my Savior and Lord, Jesus.

And so now, today, I journal about journaling, …an interesting bit of circular redundancy, isn’t it? But God wanted Moses to journal; and much of what we know of in the Bible, especially in OT books like Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Proverbs, Psalms … and in the NT in books like Acts, the Epistles, and Revelation are really just journaling, led and inspired by God’s Spirit [see 2nd Tim. 3: 16-17] which has become canonized and incorporated into God’s word for our edification and enlightenment so that we, as Christian believers, can deepen our understanding of our God and His work (i.e., that of the Holy Spirit) to shape us into the image of God’s Son, Jesus.

So, I’ve come to recognize and realize the importance of journaling as I attempt to go deeper and deeper into God’s word, which really is His journal, in my attempt to know my Lord and to share Him with others. Therefore, if you are not into journaling, I would strongly exhort you to consider doing so. And for Heaven’s sake (literally), don’t get hung up in the “HOW” of journaling, which is not so important as the “WHY” you would do it. Don’t fret over technique; just begin journaling your prayers or your thoughts as you have your “quiet time” with God each day. Obviously the regularity and the discipline of doing it daily is important; but just rely on God’s Spirit to do His thing of giving you His wisdom as you seek to know God more today than yesterday … and even more tomorrow than today. That’s the promise of James 1: 5,6; and as you journal in your devotional life, you’ll see it unfold in truth for you in a very personal way.

And I’m here to give witness to the truth that God can and will do that more powerfully in your life if you begin journaling what He’s bringing to you than just being a sponge, soaking up what He has for you. The latter is not a bad model of devotional life [it’s better than no devotional model at all]; but journaling will add so much more to your time with God each day. …. Trust me! … It works!!!

My Prayer for Today: Lord, … precious Holy Spirit … I thank You for Your ministry of enlightenment, which grows exponentially in my heart/mind when I journal what You share with me. Amen

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

2010 – Day 40. Feb. 9 – Nothing But the Finest for God

Study from Numbers 16 – 18; Passage for Reflection: Numbers 18: 29 … NIV [God’s instructions to the Levites through Moses] You must present as the Lord’s portion the best and holiest part of everything given to you.

My Journal for Today: Tithing. It seems so legalist, … so arbitrary, … doesn’t it? It almost seems like God is modeling selfishness by wanting the first and the best as He commands us to give to Him. And then, He not only asks His children to give the best of their best to His Priesthood, He turns around and asks the Levites, His Priesthood, to give the very best from the Tithe as their tithe to God.

And if you’ve read along with me today, in Numbers 16, there is the story of how God handled those who rebelled and decided that God’s Priesthood had gone too far in their demands (which, of course, were only the commands of God passed along to His chosen people from Moses). Today, there are many Christians who have trouble with the concept of the “TITHE;” and I’m not going to get into that Old Covenant verses New Covenant theological debate here. But no matter who you are as a believer in Christ, there is no doubt that God has a lot to say in His word to His kids about stewardship, giving, and how we prioritize the handling of God’s providence.

You probably know – or I hope you do – what God’s word highlights about tithing, giving, and being a steward of His talents, time, or treasures. And if you cannot glean from God’s truth that He demands the first and the best from what He’s given to us as a marker of our devotion to Him, I think you need to do some serious study on this. Because when I read passages like those linked here ... Malachi 3: 7 – 10 … or Proverbs 3: 9 – 10 … or 2nd Cor. 9: 6 -7 … or [Jesus Himself teaching about stewardship] in Matt. 25: 14-30 and Matt. 6: 19 – 24, it seems so very obvious to me that what we do with what God has given us is how God measures our devotion to Him as our Lord.

So, a long time ago, my wife and I decided to quit debating about whether the “tithe” was an Old Testament or New Testament command on our lives. We decided to prioritize what God had given us, i.e., time, talents, and/or treasures; and without questioning or grumbling, to gratefully and joyfully give the first and the best portion of His providence back to Him. Now, I can almost feel the wheels turning in the minds of those who are reading here, some of you asking, “Well, Bill (and Elly), how do you do that … this business of tithing and giving of our time, talents, and treasures?” And I agree that this is a very important question which we all need to answer from God’s teaching and leading. My wife and I have studied on this, prayed about it, and we’ve decided how we go about giving back to God His first and His best from His providence. And I’m not about to try to legalistically say here’s THE ANSWER, the “Berry Patch” answer, to that challenging question for you.

No, you’re going to have to answer that one for yourself; but I will say that those verses I’ve prioritized above [see those linked, emboldened and underlined] would be a good place to start if you’re trying to answer this very important question related to Godly Stewardship. But … please [!!!] don’t put it off; because putting off how you give back to God will delay just how much God can or will pour Himself into your lives; and you don’t want to be delaying the dispersal of God’s grace in your life either because you’re ignorant of God’s plan for giving or because you’re simply not willing to cooperate with His plan.

So let’s all answer the question my devotional shepherd, F. LaGard Smith, challenges us with today. He writes, Of all that I give to God today, will it truly be the best and the holiest?”

My Prayer for Today: Lord, I pray that my life is truly a living sacrifice; and I pray that I’m always giving back without hesitation the first and the best You have given to me. Amen

Monday, February 08, 2010

2010 – Day 39. Feb. 8 – Crowned with Humility

Study from Numbers 12 – 14; Passage for Reflection: Numbers 12: 3 … NIV Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.

My Journal for Today: In the chapters we read today, the statement from Num. 12: 3 just jumps out from the pages of scripture. It’s like a neon sign, lauding Moses’ character trait of humility; … and God’s word becomes outright superlative about it, declaring Moses to be the most humble man on earth.

And we see some comparisons in these chapters as well, … the most obvious being Moses’ brother, Aaron, and his sister, Miriam, both of whom had become prophets among God’s peoples, with the people looking to them for support of Moses. And early in Numbers 12 we read of Miriam, followed by Aaron [what a “wuss” is Aaron ;>), disputing Moses’ choice of a Cushite wife (we don’t know what has happened to Zipporah, his Midianite wife). But God became so displeased at Miriam’s grumbling against God’s chosen #1 Prophet that she was given a case of leprosy for a week as a lesson in humility.

Then we read – ONCE AGAIN – of the Israelites becoming prideful and selfishly grumbling against God, with their lack of faith on display when the 12 spies came back from Canaan with their fearful report (well, at least 10 of 12). And the people grumbled – AGAIN – that they should rather have stayed back as slaves in Egypt. And we know what happened there; … off they were sent by God for 40 years in the wilderness to learn their lesson in humility.

Humility is obviously a quality God honors very, very, very highly. If you do a biblical study in humility, you find that in both the Old and New Testaments that God honors the humble (with His grace) but simply refuses to honor the prideful (go back and read Prov. 3: 34, 1st Peter 5: 5-6, and James 4: 6 … as well as how Paul had to learn to be humble via Satan’s thorn when he learned to receive God’s empowering grace – in 2nd Cor. 12: 7-10). And here we have Moses, God’s shining example of humility.

Have you ever wondered, as F. LaGard Smith discussed today, why Moses was so humble? Here he had been in the very presence of God, really the only man to that date who had had face-to-face encounters with God. God generally spoke to His Prophets indirectly – through dreams or visions; but not Moses. With this humble man, it was mano-a-mano interaction; and you’d think that such encounters would cause a man like Moses to fall trap to the very human default of pride.

In fact, religious leaders are particularly vulnerable to slipping into pridefulness, … aren’t they? Think of examples in Scripture like Jonah or even the Apostle Peter. In today’s church environment, Pastors, especially high profile televangelists, often get acute cases of pridefulness when so many people put them up on pedestals as their preaching becomes very well known. It’s hard for any public leader to remain humble; – think of our Presidents and political leaders in the past decades who’ve fallen prey to pride, finding it very difficult to humbly cope with the power which comes with their office.

So, back to the question of how Moses was able to remain so humble; and though you might say that it had something to do with Moses remembering his roots or being convicted by his past sin (remember he’d been spared by God even though he murdered an Egyptian). Or maybe you might speculate that it was because he’d been given a 40 year lesson in humility out there in the Negev deserts as a shepherd. And maybe some of that is true; but I agree with Dr. Smith in thinking that Moses was such a humble man because he had developed such a deep, deep and abiding relationship with the living Lord. Moses had an audience with God everyday; and when you’ve gone that deep with the Creator of the Universe, it’d pretty hard to become prideful about anything.

And I think therein we have a key to leading us toward God’s highly desired quality of humility and away from man’s default character weakness of pride. Some of the most humble people I know, now in my life, are those who have the deepest and most disciplined devotional relationships with God. They are the ones who never miss a day being with God and digging deep into His word, which is the repository of God’s treasure of grace in this world. Oh, how I pray that I can develop the kind of humility which God honored in Moses and He desires for all of His children. And I will continue to seek out that humility by learning more about my God in my daily encounters with Him … just as I’m doing as I write this … on this very morning.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, show me all of Yourself and help me to see less of myself as I see more of You. Amen

Sunday, February 07, 2010

2010 – Day 38. Feb. 7 – Running Out of Cope

Study from Numbers 10 – 11; Passage for Reflection: Numbers 11: 11 … NIV 11 He [Moses] asked the LORD, "Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me?

My Journal for Today: To any Brother or Sister who might be reading here with me, … can you identify with the despair which Moses felt when all of God’s people began to grumble, even though God was meeting all their needs and leading them toward the promised land? They were tired of the manna and WANTED meat; so, they clamored to Moses like little children who get tired of one thing and want another. And here was poor Moses, feeling the burdens of about 600,000 men (let alone all their families), … people under his guidance who had begun to murmur and grumble for something more and different than God was providing.

Ever been there? Well, maybe not exactly; but maybe you’ve been in a place where you felt like things were overwhelming and your coping mechanisms had reached their limits? Have you ever been in a place where you felt the burdens of your family or where the circumstances of the day were just too much for you? And maybe you, like Moses, began to strike out at those around you … maybe to your wife … or maybe even to God, saying something like …“WHY ME, Lord!? What did I do to deserve this?” I’ve been there; and I’ll bet you have too! And if you read on in today’s passage, which was Moses’ royal pity party, you’ll even read that Moses was so despondent, he even prayed for God to take his life (see Num. 11: 15).

I’ll bet you know and believe – as I do – that God hears every prayer of every believer, anytime or anywhere, even when we’re having a first class pity party; and aren’t you glad that God doesn’t automatically say “YES” to everyone of our selfish demands? If He did, Moses would have been a dead man in that moment; and so would have others in Bible lore who became depressed and prayed to die, … men like Elijah or Jonah. But fortunately for our well being, God knows exactly what we NEED; and though He hears all our prayers, He knows what is best for His kids; and God, our Heavenly Father, will always give us what we NEED, not necessarily what we want.

But God also has an infinitely incredible sense of humor when he’s trying to teach His selfish kids a lesson in humility. And here were God’s kids, clamoring for meat; and so, what did the Lord do? Well, He gave them exactly what they asked for; and all of a sudden they had to deal with so much meat (in the form of bird meat) that they choked on what God gave them. Today, I think of what so-called “christians” are clamoring for from God. For example, we hear people who call themselves “Christian,” asking for God to give them homosexual marriage, which actually mocks what God’s word says about human sexuality and His institution of marriage; and as we can read in Romans 1: 18 – 32, mankind is doing many things in our culture which are an outright mockery of God’s principles. And I’m concerned that God, as He did with the grumbling children of Moses’ day, is going to give our culture all the pornography, all the homosexuality, and all the godless marriage for which He hears His kid’s clamoring. And then, the result is going to be mankind choking on exactly what they have grumbled for; and the rain is going to fall on the righteous as well as the unrighteous as God shows His kids just how foolish are their selfish demands.

Well, my friends, maybe I’m venting here just like Moses was; but I need to remember that God is still in His Tabernacle (Who is Jesus); and He resides in my heart; and whatever He does, He will do for my good and for His glory [see Romans 8: 28]. Therefore, if He sends a social plague on this land to show us His presence and His power, it will be what we NEED and what we deserve. But in the process, let me pray for His mercy.

My Prayer for Today: Lord, have mercy on Your remnant in this world who know that You do love mankind; and who strive to follow Your ways. And if You need to chastise Your children for our disobedience, have mercy on us, oh Heavenly Father. Amen

Saturday, February 06, 2010

2010 – Day 37. Feb. 6 – The Principle of Substitution

Study from Numbers 3 - 4; Passage for Reflection: Numbers 3: 40-41 … NIV 40 The LORD said to Moses, "Count all the firstborn Israelite males who are a month old or more and make a list of their names. 41 Take the Levites for me in place of all the firstborn of the Israelites, and the livestock of the Levites in place of all the firstborn of the livestock of the Israelites. I am the LORD."

My Journal for Today: “Substitutionary atonement.” It’s a big theological phrase; but a really important one; and it was all part of God’s plan, after the fall of mankind in the Garden, to redeem mankind from his own sinfulness and pridefulness. And we see this plan beginning to work itself out in God’s planning as He established the set of order for Tabernacle worship in ancient Hebrew culture.

F. Lagard Smith today makes a good practical point when he says that generally we don’t want to have a substitute when we can have the real thing. For example, people, if they can afford it, will choose genuine leather furniture over a man-made vinyl substitute. However, sometimes we actually choose – even prefer - a substitute over the real-deal. Why? Because it’s better for us. Example: I’m a type 2 diabetic, and most of the time I choose to use a sugar substitute, rather than real sugar because it helps keep my blood sugar levels under control. In other words, a substitute for the natural helps to save me from my own natural disease process.

And when it comes to a plan to deal with the cataclysmic mistake mankind made in the garden, disobeying God’s warning not to eat of the tree of knowledge, God set in motion a plan of blood sacrifice, instituted among his Chosen People, the Israelites, which was ultimately worked out and completed by the Lamb of God becoming the final blood sacrifice, substituting and atoning for the sins – all sins – of all of mankind. And that’s the place where we, as sinners, will – or at least “should” – choose THE “Substitute” over the original sin we all have in our hearts. Only if - and until - we choose to receive the substitutionary atonement offered by God’s plan to save us from ourselves and give us THE eternal substitution for our sin can we be provided with the eternal redemption which God has offered in the place if our sin nature.

So, as you might choose, as I have done today, to read through these long, seemingly boring passages, in the Book of Numbers or other Old Testament books, realize that God is carefully documenting an eternal course of treatment – a long involved prescription, if you will – which gives a sinner like me (or you) the way for a substitute – THE SUBSTITUTE – to stand in and provide me [us] with the eternal real-deal which was originally offered to Adam/Eve, but turned down, thereby requiring a redemption plan to be set in motion – the plan which I waded through today in the Book of Numbers and the plan for which Jesus Christ became the Lamb of God to save us all .

And praise my merciful and grace-giving God that He was willing to come up with a sacrifice and substitution to take care of my original sin nature! Can I hear another witness of “Hallelujah” from my followers in this place?

My Prayer for Today: Heavenly Father, praise Your Holiness and Mercy for providing a way – Your Son, Jesus – to be the substitution for eternity Who allows me to find and become Holy and be able to spend Eternity with You. Amen

Friday, February 05, 2010

2010 – Day 36. Feb. 5 – A God-Centered Community

Study from Numbers 9: 1-12; then from Numbers 1 - 2; Passage for Reflection: Numbers 2: 1-2 … NIV 1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: 2 "The Israelites are to camp around the Tent of Meeting some distance from it, each man under his standard with the banners of his family."

My Journal for Today: Sometimes when one (well, at least yours truly) reads passages like those from Numbers, as I have this morning, it’s a bit hard to extrapolate God’s intent from the historical context to the personal one in the here-and-now, going through centuries of sociological change to get from then to now. But with the help of my devotional author today, Dr. Smith has taken me from the documentation of the Israelite soldiers and even the counting of the Priesthood, centuries before Christ, to an application which would apply from the Old Covenant into the New Covenant and right into my heart as a 21st century Christian. And Dr. Smith does so by asking a very simple, but pointed question: “If I were a community of one, where would God’s special place be?”

And as God’s very special timing would have it, last night in our weekly small group, which is somewhat like a first century home church, I was teaching on the subject of putting God (i.e., Christ) at the center of our lives; i.e., giving Him the center-piece of our worship, which is our 24/7 lifestyle, … where He is the focus of our living. And in that teaching our group was to study and memorize two passages from the New Testament, Luke 9: 23 and Matthew 6: 33 (which I really hope you have already memorized – and if not I’ll leave it to you to seek them out for study. These passages help the New Testament Christian disciple to see the essence of Christian living (or “worship,” if you will); and that is to place our relationship and walk with Christ at the center of our community of the heart, where God’s temple resides Spiritually in the lives of any Christian.

If you read through the passages from the Book of Numbers [mentioned above], you’ll read that God wanted to put Himself, in the Tabernacle, no matter where it moved with these nomadic people, smack dab in the center of His people. And God dictated to Moses exactly how this would take place, … which tribes would be on the East, the West, the North, and the South; and the designation of the Levites to watch over the Tent of Meetings, i.e., the Tabernacle, which was to be placed strategically in the center of the guardians of God’s community … at the center of the lives of His people. And as we move forward in time, God’s New Covenant Tabernacle has been established in the Person of Jesus Christ, Who now resides in the hearts of each Christian, who becomes a community of one. And God expects to be established with each of us as His priesthood; and we are to place His Tabernacle – i.e., our relationship with Christ - at the center of our hearts so that everything in our lives will center on a lifestyle of worship of Him.

That is what Jesus was saying to His church and to us in the two passages referred to above (from Luke 9: 23 and Matt. 6: 33); and isn’t it wonderful how even the structure of the first community of believers in the Old Testament in the Book of Numbers spoke to this truth by the structure of how the community was to be constructed … the Tabernacle at the center for worship and with God residing there for His worshipping people to be able to focus on Him as our Center of their sacrificial worship.

Think on that for a while; and see that even the listings of people and the construction of the earliest of God’s communities became a picture of how our hearts should be put together for worship today. Can I hear a witness of “Hallelujah!” from anyone reading here?

My Prayer for Today: Lord, …Oh Lord, Hallelujah that You were preparing Your Tabernacle of Worship in ancient Israel to be a picture of where You now reside in my heart. And may my life be a reflection of You being the center of my worship this very day. Amen