Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why Do You Serve?

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Deuteronomy 13:1-15:23

"And if it happens that he says to you, 'I will not go away from you,' because he loves you and your house, since he prospers with you, then you shall take an awl and thrust it through his ear to the door, and he shall be your servant forever."  Dt. 15:16-17 (NKJV)

Why do you serve God?  Do you do it because of fear?  You may be afraid of what would happen to you if you went away from Him.  You may be afraid of hell.  Do you serve because of the watchful eyes of others?  You simply do not want to give a bad example, so you keep up the front.  But inside, your heart simply isn't in it.

Why do you serve God?  Do you have some sort of bargain with God?  You give Him "so much" in exchange for "so much" from Him.  It's a agreement of expedience.

Sometimes, people serve God because they feel indebted to "pay Him back" for all the good things He has done for them.  That's ok, but what happens if you feel like you've paid back enough?

Servants/slaves in the Old Testament were not like the slaves of the pre-Civil War South who were owned for life.  In the Bible, slaves were indentured for a specific season -- usually to pay back a debt or to "right" some "wrong."  At the end of the season of slavery, the slave was free.  BUT HE/SHE HAD AN OPTION.  And we do today, too.

He could declare permanent allegience to his master.  Interestingly, the sign of such allegience was that his ear was drilled with an awl.  The place of his hearing was marked, so that he from that point forward would hear only one voice. 

Why do you serve God?  Do you do it because of true allegience to Him or because you're paying off some sort of agreement or fighting off some superstitious fear?

Happy is the man or woman who settles early who they will serve for all their days.

Blessed by God

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Deuteronomy 11:1-12:32

"And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love the Lord your God and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, then I will give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil."  Dt. 11:13-14 (NKJV)

God has called you to live a BLESSED LIFE.  In the midst of economic shortages, stretched schedules, and over-worked lifestyles, it can seem that God's plan is to work you to death.  It can seem that your destiny is to forever be stressed, tired, and needy -- unfulfilled and unhappy.  We must be reminded that God's plan is to BLESS YOU.  Throughout the Bible, we read of cups that overflow, of bountiful harvests, of lands flowing with milk and honey. 

The devil's lie to many people is to convince them that such things are only given to OTHERS.  God clearly lays out in His word:  "Follow me, love me, serve me, and I WILL GIVE YOU RAIN.  He states that the destiny of all true Christ followers is to gather good grain that nourishes your soul.  We are invited to drink deeply of new wine -- a metaphor for fullness of the Holy Spirit.  He provides oil which in Scripture usually speaks of healing and gladness. 

The blessed life begins with God and it leads to experience.  It begins with right relationship upward and it takes us to blessing outward.  This is the desire of our God!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Living the Impossible

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Deuteronomy 9:1-10:22

"Hear, O Israel: You are to cross over the Jordan today, and go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourself, cities great and fortified up to heaven."  Dt. 9:1 (NKJV)

Our God loves "impossible" situations.  As  matter of fact, one of the marks of being in His will is that you are facing the "impossible."  He sends a small David up against a huge Goliath.  He choses a rag-tag group of fishermen to serve as His vanguard.  He selects a young maiden named Esther to stand against the might of the Persian empire. 

He sent Israel into a land that was beyond their ability to conquer.  They were in over their heads.  They had stirred up armies far larger than their own.  I am sure that there were nervous moments as they began to face their enemies.

God set all this up so that He could show His mighty arm.  There is no challenge beyond His ability.  If your challenge today is EASY, it may not be of God.  There are always fierce giants in the true promised land. 

We saw a few days ago that God burns up our flesh.  But HE ALSO BURNS UP OUR ENEMIES.  He is a consuming fire that goes BEFORE us.  We are called to live on the supernatural edge.  One man once said that the life of faith is like living in the midst of a miracle on the edge of disaster.  The most beautiful flowers grow on the edge of the cliff.  Let's trust God today!

The Path of Progress

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage (for Mar. 27)
Deuteronomy 7:1-8:20

"who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end."  Dt. 8:16 (NKJV)

Israel's journey into the Promised Land is a wonder-filled story of highs and lows, challenges and successes.
God tells them (and us) some of the characteristics of this journey of inheritance:

1.  It will be gradual (7:22).  You will get your inheritance "little by little."  If you got it all today, you'd lose it by tomorrow.  He gives it to you as you are able to handle it.

2.  It will test you (8:2).  God does not always give you what you need at just the moment you feel you need it.  He may require you to wait for it.  He will actually allow you to be hungry.  This is a test to see if you really want HIM.

3.  It will not fail (8:16).  God stands behind His promise.  He will bring you into your inheritance.  This is not dependant solely on you and your ability.  It rests on His faithfulness.

4.  It will make you stronger (8:18).  It is a major realization that God's aim is not just to carry you limping into your future.  He desires to teach you to RULE.  He is glorified not just in your forgiveness, but in your rise to reflect His victory.  He is glorified in your redeemed strength.

The path of progess is before us.  We are called to travel it with faith, with obedience, and with joy.

The "Dangerous" Voice of God

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage (for Mar. 25)
Deuteronomy 5:1-6:25

"But as for you, stand there by Me, and I will speak to you all the commandments, the statutes, and the judgments which you shall teach them, thaty they may observe them in the land which I am giving them to possess."  Dt. 5:31 (NKJV)

The children of Isreal came right up next to the mountain of God, but they refused to get close enough for God to speak to them.  They were afraid.  They saw the fire; they heard the thunder.  It was a frightening situation.  They were got close enough to know that it truly was God they were dealing with.  But they refused to get any closer.  They were afraid they would die (Dt. 5:25). 

Our flesh dies in the presence of God.  Our selfish will dies in the presence of God.  When He speaks, His voice always shows us HIS WAY, and it often cuts across OUR WAY.  Many people spend their entire lives fighting the ways of God.  Their life story is characterized by "heel marks" of resistance. 

It might be said that the voice of God is "dangerous."  It will lead us to adventure and conquest of new territory.  It will lead us into our new identity in Christ.  The voice of God speaks to us of massively important things and may not address our petty peculiarities.  The voice of God makes us into new people.

Moses was invited to hear the voice of God.  He said to Moses, "stand here by Me."  God wanted to have a conversation with him.  This is an ultimate moment -- a realization of God's great desire.  It is found throughout the Bible.  God talking with man.  And He wants to do that with you today, too.

The Jealousy of God

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage (for Fri., Mar. 25)
Deuteronomy 4:1-49

"For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God."  Dt. 4:24 (NKJV)

It is awesome to contemplate the attributes of our God!  In several Bible passages, we can find lists describing His characteristics (Ex. 34:6-7, I Tim. 1:17 to name just a couple).  The entire Bible the story of WHO GOD IS and WHAT HE IS LIKE. 

Moses makes a remarkable assertion about God in this passage.  It is an often misunderstood part of God's charater.  GOD IS A JEALOUS GOD.  Jealousy sounds like a demeaning characteristic, as if the person feeling the emotion wishes he or she were someone else, or owned that which belonged to someone else.  This is not the charateristic by which God is described. 

God's jealousy flows out of His love.  It does not flow out of any insecurity in Himself.  In the greatness of His desire and passion for our good, He is furious at that which would take us away -- that which would pull us down or knock us out.  His jealousy springs from His great desire that we be in the place of greatest blessing and that HE BE IN THE PLACE OF PRIMACY IN OUR LIVES.  He knows what is truly best for us -- Himself!  He hates that which draws us away. 

Jesus lived His life as a display of this desire.  It was once said of Him, "Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up" (John 2:17). 

The only approprate response we should have to His jealousy for us is that we be jealous FOR HIM -- that we be full of passion for His glory!  We desire that His Name be famous! 

His heart is UNDIVIDED toward us.  May our hearts be equally UNDIVIDED toward Him!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Fight for Your Future

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Deuteronomy 2:1-3:29

"You must not fear them, for the Lord your God Himself fights for you."  Dt. 3:22 (NKJV)

Our God is a warrior.  Exodus 15:3 says, "The Lord is a warrior. The Lord is His Name."  In many modern minds, a war-like attitude is frowned upon.  Being "hawkish" is sometimes not even consider "Christian."  We major on the verses that call us to be peace-makers, and to flee from undo controversy. 

There is no doubt that peace and tranquility are part of the Christian domain.  However, there is also a forgotten part.  We are called to be warriors.  Our God is a warrior and He engenders in us an ability to fight the good fight. 

THERE IS NO REAL PROGRESS IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE WITHOUT A FIGHT.  Our three adversaries we never let up this side of heaven.  The WORLD, the FLESH, and the DEVIL surround us with one major objective: STOP THIS BELIEVER!

God is with us in the battle.  He has equipped us weapons for victory.  He has promised us a sure final outcome.  This is the calling and destiny of every believer.  Let's fight the good fight.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

When 11 Days Turns into 40 Years

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Numbers 36:1-Deuteronomy 1:46

"It is eleven days' journey from Horeb by way of Mount Seir to Kadesh Barnea.  Now it came to pass in the fortieth year in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spoke to the children of Israel according to all that the Lord had given as commandments to them."  Dt. 1:2-3 (NKJV)

The distance from Mt. Sinai (also called Mt. Horeb) to the edge of the Promised Land was only an 11 days' journey.  Yet, it took the children of Israel 40 years of wandering around in the wilderness before they finally arrived again at the borders of Canaan. 

The Christian life is far more than "OUT OF."  It is also "INTO."  It took relatively little time for the children of Israel to come OUT OF Egypt.  It took 40 years for them to get ready to go INTO the Promised Land.  They could have completed the journey in under two weeks.  Instead it took a lifetime.

I can identify with Israel.  It was not hard for God to get Israel OUT OF Egypt.  It took 40 years to get Egypt OUT OF Israel.  This is the process we are now undergoing.  We have experienced a "relocation."  We have gotten a new citizenship -- a new identity.  Yet we still tend to go back to the old ways.  We tend to revert to our old citizenship. 

Our God is FAITHFUL!  He has determined to bless us.  He will not relent.  It can take you 11 days or 40 years.  Regardless, you will ultimately come into fullness.  God has brought you OUT, in order that He might bring you IN.  He will complete what He has begun.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Drive Them Out

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Numbers 33:40-35:34
"But is 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."  Numbers 33:55 (NKJV)

The story of Israel as they conquer their Promised Land is our story, too.  Just as they took physical territory, so we are called to lay hold of spiritual territory.  This is the story of spiritual growth.  We are all called to "possess the land."

Every one of us, however, encounters challenges and blockages that threaten to halt our progress in God.  Most people have one or two persistent challenges that seem to be designed specially for them to keep them from fullness of life.  These can be "life-defining problems." 

God, however, has equipped us and now calls us to move into our inheritance and not settle for "peace at any price."  He calls us to overcome, to conquer our enemies.  We must not ignore them; placate them; co-exist with them.  We must overcome.

The Bible says that if we do not "drive out the enemies", those enemies will become worse.  They will destroy our vision (irritants to the eyes).  They will be points of hurt and weakness (thorns in our sides).  Praise God that He has given us weapons for conquest.  We can and must win the battles of life.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Good and the Best

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Numbers 32:1-33:39

"Therefore they said, 'If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession.  Do not take us over the Jordan.'  And Moses said to the children of Gad and to the children of Reuben: 'Shall your brethren go to war while you sit here?'"  Numbers 32:5-6 (NKJV)

After forty years of traveling toward the Promised Land, the tribes of Gad and Reuben decided they would not go the last leg of the journey.  They looked around at the land east of the Jordan and said, "This is good enough for us." 

So often, we are ROBBED of the BEST, because we settle for the GOOD.  There was nothing really wrong with the land on the east side of the Jordan.  It looked pretty good.  It just was NOT GOD'S FULLEST PROVISION. 

It seems that the further we walk this journey, we find that our decisions are not between good and evil.  It seems that the decisions are between the good and the best.  Far too often, we settle for half of God's provision when the fullest blessing is just a little further down the road.  Due to tiredness or loss of vision, we stop just short of the finish line.

Moses issued a stern warning to Gad and Reuben.  They responded by going the full distance with their brothers and fighting with them until they ALL had their possessions.  It is somewhat of a shame that Gad and Reuben went throughout the land of Canaan fighting for conquest only to withdraw later and settle for a lesser inheritance.  They could have had the BEST but settled instead for the GOOD.

One last thought:  Gad and Reuben are never a force for Israel again. In the dispersion years later, they were the first to disappear.  They were good people living on the wrong land.  It is time for each of us to know our identity in Christ and to stand on our God-given territory.  Though the battle may be heavy, it's still the best and safest place to be.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Giving Away Your Food

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Numbers 26:52-28:15

"Command the children of Israel, and say to them, 'My offering, My food for My offerings made by fire as a sweet aroma to Me, you shall be careful to offer to Me at their appointed time.'"  Numbers 28:2 (NKJV)

The books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deutronomy talk a lot about offerings.  There are all kinds of offerings mentioned there.  But, we need to remember what it's all about.  The issue is IDOLATRY.  Fallen man has an incredible propensity to CREATE LITTLE GODS.  Therefore, God requires that offerings be made in which we take something that we think is really valuable and we offer it to God.  We say to Him, "Here.  Take this.  I just want You to know that YOU are more imporant to me than this."

He is our greatest joy.  He is our greatest delight.  He is our fullest enjoyment of life.  Offerings teach us that.

In Numbers 28:2, God says that the offering is like food.  He calls it "My food."  Here's the picture:  Imagine sitting down to really good meal, and you are very hungry.  Yet, somehow you find that someone else has taken your meal!  You were about to enjoy your food, but someone asks for it or just plain takes it.  Most of us would get pretty upset if this were to happen. 

An offering, according to the Scripture, takes place when you actually GIVE AWAY that which you really wanted -- like that meal when you were hungry.  Such an offering is an act of worship.  It is offering to God that which you normally would have delighted in. 

One of the wonderful things about our God is that once you have given Him your food, He then will usually give it right back to you.  But first it must pass through His hands.  So, today, give God that which is most valuable to you.  THAT is an offering.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Reading the Signs

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Numbers 26:1-52

"...and they became a sign."  Numbers 26:10 (NKJV)

Three men from the tribe of Levi had incited rebellion and division in Isreal.  Their names were Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.  We read their story in Numbers 16.  Because of their actions, God brought severe judgment on them.  As such, God says that they were "a sign" to Israel. 

In their rebellion and God's resultant judgment, they became a sign to Israel.  We might ask, "A sign of what?"  In this case, the answer would be that God deals seriously and severely with those who incite discord and division among His people.

Let's look, however, at the big picture.  God here used a very negative situation to be a "sign", a message to Israel.  I believe God may be doing this toward us more often than we realize.  Not just with NEGATIVE messages, but with POSITIVE words of His blessing and providence.  Jesus once spoke to the Pharisee about reading "the signs of the times" (Matt. 16:3).  God is continually talking to us -- and He uses an amazing variety of means.

Our context today was a NEGATIVE warning.  However, His signs are often POSITIVE too.  Look around and see the evidences of God's direction and leading on your life.  Today, He may use the words of a friend, the unfolding events of the day, or the small voice of your conscience.  In the words of Francis Shaeffer, "He is there, and He is not silent."  God hedges our way with tokens of His blessing and indicators of His will.  Let's see the "signs" by which He speaks.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Star Shall Arise

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Numbers 24:1-25:18

"I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; a Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall arise out of Israel ... Out of Jacob One shall have dominion..."  Numbers 24:17, 19 (NKJV)

Throughout the Old Testament there are pictures and prophecies of the coming King.  All of history points toward one Person.  He has appeared to us the first time as a humble Servant.  He will appear to us the second time as the conquering King.  We have the sure word of prophecy that promises incredible things about our future.  As Christians will LIVE by these prophetic words. 

We see Him, but not with physical eyes.  We behold Him, but the manifestations may at times be scarce around us.  We live out of faith in a God who works behind the scenes with a HIDDEN HAND. 

The two images about which the prophet spoke are a STAR and a SCEPTER.  Jesus is to us like the stars of heaven.  The stars shine brightest in the darkest of nights.  I have stood on mountain tops in lands where there are no competing street lamps or house lights.  Looking up into the dark night sky is almost shocking in the beauty and clarity of the stars of heaven. 

The scepter speaks of God's rulership and His justice.  He chooses now to let His scepter rise in our sights as we trust.  The day will come that it will be unveiled for all to see.  This is the REALITY of the spiritual world that surrounds us now.  We may not see it with outward eyes, but it is there and it is real. 

His dominion shall never end.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Irreversible Blessing

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Numbers 22:21-23:30
"Behold, I have received a command to bless; He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it.  He has not observed iniquity in Jacob.  Nor has He seen wickedness in Israel.  The Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a King is among them."  Numbers 23:20-21 (NKJV)

Do you consider yourself to be a blessed person?  Are you living the blessed life?  It all starts with God!  So many of us are trained to believe that it starts with us.  We are trained to believe that we must EARN God's blessing.  Corrollary to this belief is that if we must earn God's blessing, then we can also lose it or forfeit it.

When the adversary (Balak) in this passage sought to curse Israel, he ran into an obstacle.  The pagan prophet Balaam found out that God had already blessed Israel and that blessing could not be undone!  It could not be reversed.  Whoever the Lord blesses is blessed indeed!  THE BLESSING IS STRONGER THAN THE CURSE.

One might wonder however, "But can we not UNDO God's blessing through our disobedience?"  In a temporal sense we certainly can limit the manifest sense of God's favor.  But in the ultimate sense, God has determined to bless and therefore the blessing WILL GO FORTH. 

Balaam comments on this when he says that God "has not observed iniquity in Jacob, nor seen wickedness in Israel" (vs. 21).  This is the same people who not long before had produced the golden calf!  This is the same people who had incurred divine discipline due to their grumbling.  Yet God says that He has not observed iniquity in them. 

God is not deluded about our condition.  He sees us clearly.  But, He does not see us the way we see ourselves.  He sees us through the eyes of covenant love -- through the eyes of redemption.  Though He may discipline and rebuke us, yet He sees us as BLESSED.  He sees us as RIGHTEOUS.  He sees us as COMPLETE.  Now, how do we see ourselves?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Looking to Jesus

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Numbers 21:1-22:20

"So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived."  Numbers 21:9 (NKJV)

Often times we struggle to "get our faith up."  Perhaps it seems that difficulties have increased, and God seems far away.  We hope to restore some sense of closeness, so we muster up our faith as best we can -- and try to believe.  This can be a rather rigorous undertaking.  Our mind may be trying to focus on God, while our heart feels very empty.  Positive mental attitude can only take you so far. 

The weight of responsibility to keep your faith up can be a heavy load.  Especially if you are already physically tired.  At times like these, this passage has always been a source of inspiration to me.  Moses spoke to those who were "bitten by serpents."  He said that had to do only one thing:  "LOOK." 

This is the fundamental thing God calls each of us to do:  simply LOOK AT JESUS.  Faith is not a feeling, it is "looking."  Faith is not even an attitude, it is LOOKING.  Just stop and stare at Jesus.  We need do nothing more, and under His care, health will be released to us. 

Unbelief is when we look away from Jesus.  It is when we start to look at other things -- our own condition, our circumstances, our failings.  When we look elsewhere, we will be discouraged and disappointed.  But they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength.  We need do but one thing:  LOOK AT JESUS.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Speak to the Rock

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Numbers 19:1-20:29

"Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together.  Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water to them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals."  Numbers 20:8 (NKJV)

Year earlier, during a time of great thirst, Moses had been commanded to "strike the rock" so that water would be given to the children of Israel (Ex. 17:6).  Now, a similar situation has presented itself again.  Great thirst -- great need for water.  This time, however, God instructs Moses to "speak to the rock."

This rock that followed Israel through the wilderness was Christ!  (I Co. 10:4)  The first action we have toward Him is to "strike" Him.  This is indicative of our sins being placed upon Him at the Cross.  "He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities" (Is. 53:5).  But thank God, that does not ever need to happen again.  He has carried our sins away.  There is no need to again seek a price or payment for our failings.

It is for us now to SPEAK to the Rock.  We have but to speak, and water will pour forth.  There is no need for any work yet to be done.  Just speak.  In a broader sense, when we strike the rock again, we are saying that what Jesus did on the Cross is not enough, and more work must be done.  But, praise God, His work is complete.  All we are to do is SPEAK TO THE ROCK.

The Essence of True Ministry

"One Year Bible" Old Testament Passage
Numbers 16:41-19:32

"And he stood between the dead and the living; so the plague was stopped."  Numbers 16:48 (NKJV)

How amazing it is that God would use human beings in His great redemptive work.  The history of this world since the Garden of Eden is that of a RESCUE MISSION.  Sin has worked it way into every section and sector of human existence.  Holy God has every right to banish it all to eternal damnation.  It is really quite amazing that He hasn't done this. 

Instead, He continues to pursue and persuade.  He continues to seek and to save.  He continues to redeem.  And how does He do this?  He uses frail, fallen men and women to represent Himself.  We who have been in the depths of rebellion ourselves are now called to throw out lifelines of help those who are perishing in their own rebellion. 

Moses stood between the living and the dead.  The plague had broken out among those who had rebelled against his own leadership (and thus God's leadership).  By every right, Moses might have thought that they were getting what they had coming to them.  Instead, he set about redemptive activities -- he prayed, he reached out, he stood. 

Such is the essence of Christian ministry.  We stand between the living and the dead.  Really, this is exactly what Jesus did.  And we do as He did.  We pray as He prayed.  We speak as He speaks.  AND THE PLAGUE IS STOPPED.

Fall on Your Face

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Numbers 15:17-16:40

"So when Moses heard it, he fell on his face."  Numbers 16:4 (NKJV)

Moses was under attack.  Korah, along with Dathan and Abiram, were criticising his leadership.  A full rebellion was under foot against Moses.  They were saying things -- exagerrating -- saying that Moses was "exalting himself." 

How do you react when you are attacked?  It is highly unlikely that Moses was completely without error.  How can you lead a few million people without making some mistakes.  The attack was vicious and deadly.  How do you react when such things happen to you?

The Bible says that Moses fell on his face.  I must admit, my reaction might have been somewhat different.  When faced with criticism and anger, most people react in one of two ways.  We either explode with anger -- we get mad at the people who don't like us.  Or, we implode -- we wilt in depression and self-condemnation.  This is the way the flesh usually reacts.  It's either fight or flight.  We lash out at our enemies, or we retreat in quick defeat.  We'd rather just not fight.

Both reactions are usually wrong.  Moses did not lash out at Korah even though he had good reason to.  Nor did he abandon his post in the name of "peace at any price."  He did the one option that all followers of Jesus should do -- he fell on his face before God.

If you meet resistance, do not give up and do not fight back in fleshly wrath.  Fall down before God.  He will tell you the right response.  He will rightly address the problem and handle it in the best way.  You are His instrument to deal with hard issues and hard relationships.  Do not wilt and do not flare up.  God will defend you, and He will do it the right way.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Promise

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Numbers 14:1-15:16
"but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord."  Numbers 14:21 (NKJV)

Numbers 14 is one of the most dramatic passages in all of Scripture.  God hints at wiping out the children of Israel and starting over with a new people.  Only Moses' intercession stays the hand of God.  The twelve spies have returned from their foray into Canaan and the majority opinion is, "We can't do it!"  The people respond with an outburst of despair, frustration, and unbelief.  This is a bad moment.  It appears that the entire undertaking is about to go down.

In the midst of this, God makes an awesome, breath-taking promise.  In essence, He says this, "You folks may be about to give up.  You folks may be shaking in your boots.  But, I want you to know something for sure.  As surely as I live, I am going to bring blessing out of this!  My purposes WILL go forward.  I am going to pour out My glory."

God makes an incredibly strong promise.  The writer of Hebrews refers to this by saying, "He could swear by no one greater, so He swore by Himself" (Heb. 6:13).  He swears by Himself saying, "as surely as I live." 

In our darkest moments, God is there.  When propects are most dismal, God is there.  He is there and He is speaking.  He says, "Remember what I've brought you here for.  I am going to fill the earth with My glory like the waters that cover the seas."  That's our God!  He brings beauty out of ashes.  He gives the oil of joy in the midst of mourning.  He takes off the spirit of depression and heaviness and replaces it with garments of praise and glory.  (Is. 61:3)

At one of Israel's worst moments, God made one of His greatest promises.  He does the same with us today.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Your View of Yourself

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage Numbers 11:24-13:33

"...and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight."  Numbers 13:33 (NKJV)

The twelve spies were sent out by Moses to look a the land of Canaan and bring back a report.  The plan and promise of God had guided them to this point saying, "I will give you a land flowing with milk and honey" (Exodus 3:8,17).  These twelve were the advance guard to spy out and prepare for the next steps in land-taking. 

In fact, the spies were sent to look at the land and bring back a report of what they saw.  Instead, they went out and took a look at THEMSELVES and brought back a report about THEMSELVES.  Ten of them looked at the land through the eyes of their own capabilities.  The Bible says that ten of them said that "they were like grasshoppers IN THEIR OWN EYES."  As a result, they knew that their enemies would not fear them in the least.  Two of them, howver, looked through the eyes of God's promise and God's capabilities. 

This is an important lesson.  YOUR VIEW OF YOURSELF DETERMINES YOUR FUTURE.  God will not take you someplace that you don't already see in your spirit.  As we move through life, we have a tendency to look at everything as a challenge or an obstacle.  We measure it in terms of our capabilities.  Too often we are challenged beyond measure.  The obstacle does not tell you anything about ITSELF.  It tells you something about YOURSELF. 

We are called to live a SUPERNATURAL life.  This is a life built and empowered by God's ability, not ours.  The FIRST STEP is not looking your ability but rather at God's ability.  Your future is as bright as the Word of God!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Sounding of the Trumpet

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Numbers 10:1-11:23

"Make two silver trumpets for yourself; you shall make them of hammered work; you shall use them for calling the congregation and for directing the movement of the camps.... When you go to war in your land against the enemy who oppresses you, then you shall sound alarm with the trumpets..."  Numbers 10:2,9 (NKJV)

The trumpet in Scripture is always indicative of prophetic ministry (see I Co. 14:8).  Prophetic ministry is vitally important for our progress in God.  It is like the sounding of a trumpet.  It is God speaking to us both corporately and individually. 

The silver trumpets had three functions in ancient Israel.  We read about them here in this passage.  The three functions are:  1) GATHERING -- calling the people together, 2) MOVEMENT -- signalling movement to new locations, and 3) WAR -- a signal that war is under way and we need to do battle!   

We need these three functions today!  When God speaks by His Spirit, there will be a gathering, a rallying of the people of God.  We come together in oneness of mind and heart.  When God speaks by His Spirit, He is able to move us to new places.  We break new ground.  Prophecy often gives us needed direction and confirmation.  When God speaks by His spirit, there is a rising up to do battle against our enemy, the devil. 

May God speak to us today causing us to rally together; causing us to move to new places; helping us to effectively do spiritual battle against all forces that oppress.  This is "the sounding of the trumpet."

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Cloud That Is Fire

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Numbers 8:1-9:23

"Now on the day that the tabernacle was raised up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the Testimony; from evening until morning it was above the tabernacle like the appearance of fire. So it was always: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night."  Numbers 9:15-16 (NKJV)

Angelic presence!  This was no ordinary cloud.  During the daytime, it was probably a billowing, cumulus-type cloud -- morphing and boiling above the tabernacle, casting a shadow of protection from the heat of day.  Then, at nighttime, in the dark, the interior of the cloud would shine out.  There was a fire in it!  It was a cloud of fire that provided warmth from the cold desert nights.

This cloud was the same cloud we find in Ezekiel chapter one.  As Ezekiel stood by the River Chebar in Babylonian captivity, he looked up and saw "a whirlwind...a great cloud with raging fire engulfing itself; and brightness was all around it and radiating out of its midst like the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire" (Ezekiel 1:4).  This is the cloud, the whirlwind, out of which God spoke to Job (Job 38:1).  John describes something similar in Revelation 10:1, "I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud.  And a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, and his feet like pillars of fire."  This cloud will attend the Second Coming of Jesus for the Bible says, "Behold, He is coming with clouds..." (Rev. 1:7)

This is the cloud of God's protective presence that resides with and over God's people.  God attends His purposes with His powerful presence.  Angelic forces are assigned by God to minister to those who are heirs of salvation (Heb. 1:14). 

Two major things are provided by this cloud:  1) PROTECTION and 2) GUIDANCE.  Our job is to stay under the cloud.  There we will find God's care.  There we will find God's purposes.  Psalm 91 calls this "the secret place of the Most High...the shadow of the Almighty" (Psalm 91:1).  Are you abiding under His shadow today?  Are you following the cloud of His presence as He moves to fulfill His plan for your life?  Our greatest task is to STAY UNDER THE CLOUD.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Power of Blessing

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Number 6:1-7:89

"Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying 'This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel.  Say to them:
"The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace."'
So they shall put My name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them."  Numbers 6:23-27 (NKJV)

This is the great Aaronic blessing that the priests were to daily pronounce over Israel.  It was a part the daily worship of God.  It is important to note that God says that in this way, the priests "shall put My name on the children of Israel."  The result will be the fulfillment of the blessings described.

This is GRACE.  It is the confession of the character of God -- His disposition toward us.  Have you ever felt that God was distant or angry with you?  Try meditating on the words of this blessing.  Satan, our accuser, seeks regularly to slander the Name of God and to disfigure His face toward us.  The priests of Israel were COMMANDED daily to place the true face, the true Name of God on the people. We. too, are commanded daily to look into God's face.

This is the declaration of God toward you.  When we hear it and believe it, BLESSING is released into our lives.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bitter Water

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Numbers 4:1-5:31

"And he shall make the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and the water that brings the curse shall enter her to become bitter."  Numbers 5:24 (NKJV)

This passage today is one of the more bizarre and unusual portons in all of Scripture.  I believe that there are many actual events and practices found in the Old Testament that are designed by God to be vivid PICTURES OF SPIRITUAL REALITY.  It is as if God determined to give many object lessons in practical, visible form to show us the importance of our spiritual and moral condition.

As a test of moral condition, the accused woman was to drink holy water that had been tainted with the dust from the floor of the Holy Place.  It was therefore bitter water.  This water symbolized two things:

1) The water symbolizes sin.  Truly when we intentionally engage is willfull sinful practices, we are "drinking into a curse."  We are not only offending God, we are poisoning our own system.  If we could only see what sin really does to us!  It's like drinking acid that burns and kills.  Thankfully, the New Testament states that Jesus, by His Cross, cancels this curse to all those who come to Him!  He forgives and heals.

2) The water symbolizes sin in the presence of God!  This is holy water that has been tainted or fouled.  In essence, it is the combination of being in God's presence and at the same time experiencing conviction of sin.  How do we know what sin is in the first place?  God Himself defines the nature of sin.  And, it is only in His presence that we see our sins clearly. 

We believe that Jesus is the cure for our poisoning by sin.  We believe that the negative effects of sin can be removed by His ministry to su.  Those effects will stay only if we refuse to bring to Him.  Even though He will always forgive, there is also the process of cleansing our system of the negative effects of our rebellion.  So, may that FORGIVING, HEALING PROCESS go forward today!!!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Leviticus 27:14 - Numbers 1:54

"The children of Israel shall pitch their tents, everyone by his own camp, everyone by his own standard, according to their armies; but the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the Testimony, that there may be no wrath on the congregation of the children of Israel; and the Levites shall keep charge of the tabernacle of the Testimony."  Numbers 1:52-53 (NKJV)

The children of Israel numbered perhaps two million as they waited before God at Mount Sinai.  This was a season of organization and receiving direct instruction from God.  Each tribe gained increased identity and found its place in Israel. 

The priesthood was centralized in the tribe of Levi.  They were given a very special place and responsibility.  The very CENTER of Israel was the tabernacle.  This represented the PRESENCE OF GOD in their midst.  While different tribes (Reuben, Gad, Asher, etc.) had diverse jobs (particularly going to war!), the Levites only responsibility was VERTICAL -- toward God and the care of priestly matters. 

It is interesting that God says that the Levites are to function "that there may be no wrath on the congregation" (1:53).  What does this mean?  Some might think that God is holding His finger close to the "smite" button waiting to pour our wrath if Israel messes up.  There is, however, a better, clearer way of interpreting this passage.

Matthew 6:33 says "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these (food, clothing, the essentials of life) shall be added to you."  This is a wonderful promise which says that if we keep our eyes on the Kingdom, God will take care of needed additions to our lives.  Let's look at that from a different angle however.  Does Matthew 6:33 have a flip side?  It would sound like this, "If you DON'T seek first the Kingdom, things will not go so well with you in the various details and needs of life." 

Numbers 1:53 may be a different way of saying this truth, but throughout Scripture God says this: KEEP YOUR HEART (priesthood) CORRECT TOWARD ME, AND I WILL BLESS YOUR LIFE.  By contrast, if you refuse to keep a God-ward heart, bad things can be released in your life.  This is called "wrath" in this passage, but it could also mean "spiritual warfare will take its toll on you."

PRIESTHOOD IS PROTECTION.  A godly, consistent upward dimension in life will release God's blessing.  If we drop our guard, "Satan does about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Peter 4:8).  Let's keep our priesthood strong today!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A God of Blessing

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Leviticus 25:47-27:13

"If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them, then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit...I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, thay you should no longer be their slaves; I have broken the bands of your yoke and made you walk upright."  Levitucus 26:3-4,13 (NKJV)

Our God is full of blessing.  The promises of the Word of God are magnificent to consider.  Some folks consider the Book of Leviticus to be dry and monotonous.  The passage for today is, however, one of the richest, most beautiful descriptions of a blessed life you will find in all of Scripture. 

He promises you FRUITFULNESS.





He promises you HABITATION -- He'll come dwell where you are!

Sometimes, in the midst of the grind of life, we forget how far God has brought us and how wonderful His work is in us.  He has taken broken, bound people who had no future and caused them to stand upright (a picture of righteousness).  Even today, He BENDS LOW to us and lifts our countenance giving strength to help us STAND UP.  He holds us in His hands.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Fuel for the Lamps

"One Year Bible" Old Testament History Passage
Leviticus 24:1-25:46

"Command the children of Israel that they bring to you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to make the lamps burn continually."  Leviticus 24:2 (NKJV)

One of the jobs of priesthood was tending to the lamps inside the tabernacle.  They were commanded to keep these lamps burning continually.  One of the worst moments in the history of God's people came years later when Eli was priest, and the Bible says the lamps nearly went out (I Samuel 3:3). 

These lamps are symbolic of the fire of prophetic passion that should burn at the heart of our relationship with God.  One of Satan's major objectives is to put out that fire inside of you.  We are commanded to keep the flame alive.  We are to tend it and to keep it fueled.

In the days of Aaron and Moses, all of the children of Israel were commanded to continually bring to the tabernacle fresh oil to keep the lamps burning.  In similar fashion, we are commanded to do the same today.  There is no fire on earth that can burn without new fuel.  So, what fuel are you bringing to the lamps today?

A strong, vital relationship with God can only be maintained if we are regularly bring oil to the lamps.  This is done by staying in God's Word -- by engaging in heart-felt prayer -- in living a life of face-to-face communion with God. 

Are you today being REPLENISHED?  Or are you being DEPLETED?  God wants you to grow stronger each day.  The key to that is finding "pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to make the lamps burn continually."