Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Foolish Vow of a Father toward His Daughter

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Tuesday, April 30, 2013:  Judges 11:1-12:15

29 Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, and he passed through Gilead and Manasseh, and passed through Mizpah of Gilead; and from Mizpah of Gilead he advanced toward the people of Ammon. 30 And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord, and said, “If You will indeed deliver the people of Ammon into my hands, 31 then it will be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.”  Judges 11:29-31 (NKJV)

The Book of Judges is filled with strange and unusual stories.  Not the least of which is the story of Jephthah and his daughter.  It is an example of an incredibly gifted leader who makes a rash and unwise vow to the Lord.  It is, however, NOT what it appears to be.

Jephthah was an outcast who became a great leader.  His mother was a prostitute and this black mark had caused him to be the object of derision among his half-brothers.  He fled to escape their cruel rejection.  He was an obviously gifted warrior and leader of men, because during a period of distress, all Israel called for him to return from his self-imposed exile.

Jephthah is an example of a man who is incredibly gifted but yet who lacks wisdom.  He jumps off into deep water without thinking.  Scripture says that one day the Spirit of God was so heavy on him that he started making promises to God.  He started bargaining with God.  Have you ever done that?  "Lord, if you will only get me out this predicament, I will serve you forever."  In passing, we might note that it is never a good idea to try to bargain with God.  He is not a hard task-master who needs to be leveraged into blessing you.

Many have stumbled over the story that follows.  Jephthah asks God for victory in battle.  In exchange for that vicory, he makes a promise to God.  At first glance, it looks as if Jephthah vows that whoever he first meets when he comes home will be offered up as a human sacrifice.  Some have pointed to this story as an indicator of the gruesome morality of the God of the Old Testament.  "How could God sanction such actions?"

Let's look a little closer.  First, the Old Testament clearly forbids offering human on the altar of sacrifice (see Lev. 18:21; Lev. 20:2-5; Dt. 12:31; Dt. 18:10 for starts).  No where does God approve of any sort of action whereby Jephthah would offer his daughter as a burnt offering.  If he did this (and I believe that he did not), he would have been actually violating God's law rather than obeying it.  Certainly that would be a stupid thing for ANYONE to do, much less a national leader of God's people.

Second, we are not, in fact, told that Jephthah offers his daughter as a sacrifice.  He had vowed that "whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me ... shall surely be the Lord's" (Jud. 11:31).  He then says, "and I will offer it up as a burnt offering" (Jud. 11:31).  This sounds at first like he will offer whatever comes out of the door as the burnt offering.  However, it might be understood differently.  Jephthah is saying that whatever comes out of the door will be dedicated forever to the Lord and His service.  He then says that he will consecrate this vow by making a burnt offering. 

Lastly, Jephthah's daughter's reaction indicates what really happened in this story.  When Jephthah sees her come walking out to meet him, he reacts strongly.  He tells her what he has vowed in order to get the victory from the Lord.  She accepts what her father tells her, but requests that se be allowed to go for two months into the mountains to "bewail her virginity" (Jud. 11:37).  She does not appear to be grieving over her impending loss of life, but instead over the fact that she will never be able to marry and have children. 

In essence, Jephthah's daughter becomes a nun -- she enters "holy order" similar to Anna in the New Testament (Luke 2:37).  At the end of the two months in the mountains "bewailing her virginity", Scripture says that Jephthah "carried out his vow with her" (Jud. 11:39).  As a result, "she knew no man" (Jud. 11:39).  For the balance of this young girl's life, she would live in dedication to the service of God and God alone.  It appears that she became somewhat legendary in the history of Israel.  For years to come, her example of service was honored among the other young women.

The reason for Jephthah's extreme distress was not that he had to offer his daughter as a sacrifice.  It was because she was his only child (Jud. 11:34).  One of the most important aspects of ancient Jewish life was the development of a family line -- a heritage.  Jephthah knew that because of his rash vow, his own family lineage would cease to exist.  His daughter would never marry and he would have no family to follow him.  His grief was the same that Hanna would have years later when she dedicated her only son Samuel to the Lord (I Samuel 1:11). 

This is not a story about the awful human sacrifice of an innocent daughter by an ignorant and foolish father.  It is rather a story of the keeping of vows.  It has been said before, "Be careful what you promise the Lord.  He might take you up on it."  We need not be fearful of our merciful and gracious God.  We should however be ready to fulfill all our vows to Him (Ps. 50:14; Ps. 56:12). 

His daughter speaks to us today.  May the vows of our mouths be fulfilled.  "If you have given your word to the Lord, do to me according to what had gone out of your mouth" (Jud. 11:36).  He has always kept His promises to us.  May we keep our promises to Him.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


Here are the notes from the message from Sunday morning, April 28, 2013 at New Life Community Church.  Fourth message in the series ON THE MOUNTAIN.  Title:  "Moving".  If you would like to listen to this message, you may do so by going to our website at www.newlifesite.com.  God bless!

On the Mountain, Part 4                                                                    Sunday, April 28, 2013

So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”  Genesis 22:14 (NIV)

1.     Winning – Moses on the mountain; Joshua in the valley
2.     Hearing – Mount Sinai – how to hear from God
3.     Knowing – different levels of prayer
4.     Moving – taking action

By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action.  Daniel 11:32 (NASB)

22 Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. 23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. 24 But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.  Matthew 14:22-24 (NKJV)

25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. 26 And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.  27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”  Matthew 14:25-27 (NKJV)

28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”  29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”  31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.  Matthew 14:28-31 (NKJV)
What Happens When Jesus Prays for Us?
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  I John 2:1 (NIV)

1.     He helps our WEAKNESSES.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  Romans 8:26 (ESV)

14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 4:14-16 (NKJV)

2.     He overcomes CONDEMNATION

who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.  Romans 8:34 (NASB)

And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. 10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying,  “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. 11 And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.  Revelation 12:9-11 (NKJV)


31 And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.”  Luke 22:31-32 (NKJV)

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.  Hebrews 7:25 (NIV)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Step BACKWARD is the Step FORWARD

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Saturday, April 27, 2013: Judges 7:1-8:17

And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ Now therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead.’” And twenty-two thousand of the people returned, and ten thousand remained. Judges 7:2-3 (NKJV)

Sometimes we must take steps BACKWARD before we can take steps FORWARD.  That's what happened with Gideon, and that's what happens with you and me, too.  This never makes sense from a worldly point of view.  But then, we must remember a very basic truth.  Isaiah 55:8-9 says, 'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' says the Lord.  'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.'

Gideon was a WIMP who was made into a WARRIOR.  He started out as a coward hiding in a winepress.  He ended up as a courageous captain leading God's army to victory against overwhelming odds.  God tears us down so that He can build us up!

You must give Gideon credit.  When he finally "manned up" and obeyed God, he did so while being hopelessly outnumbered.  He took 32,000 soldiers against a Midianite army between 150,000 and 200,000.  But, surprisingly, God told him, "You have too many men..." (Jud. 7:2)!  After two tests, Gideon sent home 31,700 men!  That left 300.  Sometimes you must take steps BACKWARD before you can take steps FORWARD.

God's strength is not made perfect in our abilities.  It is made perfect in our WEAKNESS (II Co. 12:9).  God took 300 men and defeated 200,000.  How did He do it?  Not with weapons of warfare, but with trumpets, pottery jars, and small torches.  God can bring victory by His own means.  as a result, He alone gets the glory.

The "tear down" process is necessary to set up the "build up" results.  It's like a slingshot or an arrow.  You must pull it back in order to release it forward.

In New Testament terms, the Lord says, "Repent and believe" (Mark 1:15).  The way forward always includes a step backwards.  We cannot trust in our own ability, but fully trust in Jesus.  He always leads us to triumph (II Co. 2:14).

Friday, April 26, 2013

Gideon: Faith, Fear, and Fleeces

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Friday, April 26, 2013: Judges 6:1-40

11 Now the Angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth tree which was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon threshed wheat in the winepress, in order to hide it from the Midianites. 12 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said to him, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!”  Judges 6:11-12 (NKJV)

Gideon had a FEAR problem.  Even though he became one of the great warrior-deliverers in the history of Israel, he did not start out that way. God found him cowering down in a winepress hiding from the Midianites (Jud. 6:11). 

Here's the background:  Israel had moved into Canaan under Joshua but it was an incomplete job of possessing the land.  Many enemies still lived there and from time to time rose up and dominated these new Israeli occupants.  The Midianites were a nomadic tribe that actually invaded Canaan from the east.  They were a foe Moses had defeated years before (Numbers 25) and they came back now to get revenge.  The Midianites were robbing God's people of their harvests.  Just about the time the crops would come in after a hard year of labor, they would rush in and take the produce.

God always has an answer to the attack of the devil.  He will raise up someone who will stand against the plundering work of the enemy.  That man in this story was Gideon.  But Gideon had a FEAR problem. 

Fear is one of the great enemies of God's work in your life.  Fear does four things:

1. It undermines your faith.
2. It drains you of power.
3. It walls you in and isolates you.
4. It distorts your thinking.

That is exactly what was going on with Gideon.  No sooner had the Lord spoken his name than all kinds of INSECURITIES started kicking in.  Gideon starte making excuses for his fearfulness.  Because of his fear, he had lost confidence in God.  He was questioning the faithfulness of God.

The Angel of the Lord found Gideon in a winepress.  This was an enclosed, hollowed out vat in which grape juice was pounded out of grapes.  It was a confined, stuffy, isolated place.  But, the Angel saw in Gideion more than he saw in himself.  "The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor!" (Jud. 6:12)  Immediately the insecurities surfaced and the excuses started flying.  "O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?  And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about?" (Jud. 6:13)   

Gideon was afraid of failure.  He was afraid that God would not come through for him.  He was afraid that he himself was not good enough.  He questioned God's faithfulness and he then pointed to his own weaknesses.  "O my lord, how can I save Israel?  Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house."  (Jud. 6:15) 

Four robs us.  It takes away our future.  It stands as a road-block to the great things God has planned.  It does this by first UNDERMINING OUR FAITH.  Gideon was more controlled by his fears than he was by the Word of God.  Even when the Angel of the Lord spoke directly to him, his fears were yelling more loudly.  As a result, Gideon saw himself as POWERLESS.  He saw himself as a victim rather than a victor.  His fear cause him, like his kinsmen years before, to see himself as "a grasshopper" (Num. 13:33).  Those fears deposited Gideon in a hole in the ground -- a wine vat.  He was cut off, ISOLATED, fearful, and hiding.  I know many individuals today who are so bound up by their fears they refuse to be around anyone other than strangers.  They live lonely lives afraid to break out of their isolation.  Fear DISTORTS reality.  Gideon stood on the threshold of a wondeful future, but he could not see it.  His mind was filled with a wrong way of thinking.  Fear does that.  It causes us to see defeat even while victory is being offered to us.

Fear also causes us to do crazy things.  How much does God have to yell at you to get your attention?  How many times does He have to speak to you in order to get you to listen?  How many confirmations does it take for you to finally get His message?  For Gideon it took three.

First, Gideon prepared a sacrifice (Jud. 6:19-22).  The Angel of the Lord merely extended the tip of the staff He was holding, touched the meat and bread, and POOF! it all was consumed in fire from heaven.  You would think that was enough to seal the deal for Gideon.  Not so.  Gideon proceeds to "lay out a fleece" before God.  In fact, he lays out two fleeces.  (He is certainly a slow learner)

Some have used the story of Gideon and the fleeces to encourage using this method to find divine guidance.  I remember over the years hearing folks talk about "laying out a fleece before the Lord" as a means of obtaining divine confirmation.  Is this a good method? 

There may in fact be times that any of us ask God for some sort of sign to confirm to us what He is saying.  That can be ok if we don't take it too far.  In Gideon's case, his need for confirmation was an expression of his FEARS not of his faith.  God had ALREADY spoken to him and made His plan clear.  Sometimes we lay our fleeces not because of an honest desire to hear from God, but as an excuse to hesitate and delay the obedience God has already called for. 

Fleeces are not God's best plan.  They are at best a tool for young believers to start growing in their faith.  But the older you are in the Lord, God simply says, "Do what I told you."  He does not like begging us to do His will.

The call of God to each of us OVERCOME YOUR FEARS.  Scripture says that we are called to walk in love, in faith, and in power.  So here is a little of what God says about that:

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. I John 4:18 (NKJV)

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  II Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Deborah and Women in Ministry

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Thursday, April 25, 2013: Judges 4:1-5:53

Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time. And she would sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the mountains of Ephraim. And the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. Judges 4:4-5 (NKJV)

One of the hottest topics in the Church today is the place of women in ministry.  Many local churches and even entire denominations have grappled with what the Bible says on this important topic.  There are three major schools in this debate: 1) the Male Leadership Model (Traditionalist), 2) the Plural Ministry Model (Complementarian), and 3) the Equality Model (Egalitarian). 

It is not by any means my purpose in this short blog to lay out the spectrum of discussion represented by these three models.  Numerous books are available to carry the reader as far as they want to go in that endeavor.  It is a topic of importance and bears our serious and thoughtful study.

For my part, I personally hold to the complementarian view.  I grew up under the "male leadership model" and so my thinking has been affected by that tradition.  However, as the Holy Spirit has birthed new levels of ministry potential in all parts of the Body of Christ, I agree with the outlook that God uses both men and women  to accomplish His purposes.  They are "heirs together of the grace of life" (I Peter 3:7).  God has used and continues to use women mightily in my life.  One has only to look at the ministries of people like Joyce Meyer, Anne Graham Lotz (Billy Graham's daughter), or Beth Moore to realize that God uses these women in extraordinary fashion.

Having said that, I do not go to the position of the egalitarian model.  I do believe in male leadership both in the home and in the church.  But, of course, the nature of that leadership then becomes the issue.  I believe that godly proper male leadership actually LIBERATES women into their destiny rather than LIMITING them or binding them.  But, I have now gone much further in this discussion than intended in this short blog.  Suffice to say that God originally created male and female (it was His idea) and He had a purpose, a role relationship, a design that He wants us to lay hold of. 

The story of Deborah figures heavily in many discussions on the role of women in leadership and ministry.  We find that story in Judges 4-5.  The popular view describes her as one of the judges of Israel, a leader in wartime, a deliverer who vanquished the oppression over Israel.  As such, she has been described as an example for the Egalitarian View.  In fact, I believe that this popular view is not an accurate description of this great women.  I believe she is an example of the Complementarian View in which men and women can COOPERATE instead of COMPETE in bringing victory to the people of God.

Let's look for a moment at this woman Deborah.  What do we know about her?  I can see five things:
1. She was a WIFE. (Jud. 4:4)
2. She was a PROPHETESS (Jud. 4:4)
3. She was a MOTHER (Jud. 5:7) -- I realize this may be either literal or figurative.  She may have actually had children or she may have been a "mother-figure" to Israel.
4. She was INCREDIBLY WISE (Jud. 4:4-5)
5. She had a specific LOCATION of ministry/service (Jud. 4:5) -- "under the palm tree".

Unlike other judges such as Ehud, Gideon, and Samson, nowhere do we find specific instruction from God to Deborah to elevate her to leadership.  She is such an anointed and gifted woman that people gravitated to her.  One writer said of her, she is "the most honorable character in the book of Judges."  She was a womanly woman who preferred to defer to Barak, the military leader.  But, she was a strong woman in an era of weak men.  There was no clearly defined leadership in Israel in those days.  Twice we read, "In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes" (Jud. 17:6, 21:25).  She steps up into the void left when Joshua did not raise up a successor as Moses had.  She was a beacon light of sanity in a period of confusion.

All Deborah ever does is listen to God and share what she hears.  That's why she is called a prophetess.  She did not try to assume leadership of the nation or of the military.  In fact, she only gave to others the wisdom she had received from God and encouraged them to carry it out.

As an example, she told Barak, the military leader of Israel at the time, "Has not the Lord God of Israel commanded, 'Go and deploy troops at Mount Tabor; take with you ten thousand men...'" (Jud. 4:6).  Barak's reponse is incredible.  "If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!" (Jud. 4:8).  Barak stands in the long line of weak men who could not move on their own.  Another example is Ahab who whined to his wife Jezebel (I Kings 21:1-7).

Deborah's response is very telling.  She is reluctant to leave her home (that is another picture of godly womanhood).  She tells Barak, "I will surely go with you; nevertheless there will be no glory for you in the journey you are taking, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman" (Jud. 4:9).  She is telling him that the glory of this battle should be his, not hers.  And she is saying that a MAN should be the victor over Sisera rather than a woman.  There are certain roles that women fill and there are certain roles that men are suited for.  That is a complementarian view.

What can we learn from Deborah and Barak?  Here are a few brief perspectives:
1.  God uses both men and women to accomplish His purposes. 
2.  When men and women work together in complementary fashion the result is great victory for God's people.
3.  The failure or cowardice of men has often forced women to go to places they do not need to go and to fulfill roles they do not need to perform.
4.  Strong men will liberate women into their destiny.

May God help us to win victories in our day!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Relay of Truth

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Wednesday, April 24, 2013:  Judges 2:10-3:31

When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel.  Judges 2:10 (NKJV)

Three and a half weeks ago, on March 30, 2013, Edith Schaeffer died at the age of 98.  Few now know who she even was.  But her passing once again marks the passing of a generation.  It was Tom Brokaw who coined the phrase "The Greatest Generation" referring to those like her who grew up in the Great Depression and then lived and fought through the Second World War.  Of them Brokaw said, "that generation is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced."  He went on to say that "these men and women fought not for fame and recognition, but because it was 'the right thing to do.'  When they came back (from the war), they built America into a superpower and sent men to the moon."  The Edith Schaeffer's among us are nearly gone.

She was the daughter of missionaries, who, with her husband Francis Schaeffer, founded L'Abri Fellowship in Switzerland in the 1950's.  They became two of the greatest voices for biblical Christianity of their generation.   They are true heroes.

In her book What is a Family?, Edith Schaeffer states that family "is a perpetual relay of truth."  She goes on to explain, "I think we can see the whole race as one in which true truth is to be handed over like the flag in a relay race, from generation to generation ... We are responsible for 'handing on the flag' and for being very careful not to drop it -- or to drop out -- because of our responsibility to the next generation."  She concludes, "The primary place for the flag of truth to be handed on is in the family.  The truth was meant to be given from generation to generation.  If those who knew God and who had so very much to tell about Him had always been faithful, and had always stuck to the commands or the rules of the relay, there would have been no gaps.  Each generation would have learned from the one before." 

The Book of Judges is a graphic example of exactly what Edith Schaeffer describes.  It illustrates the FAILURE to pass truth to the next generation.  I fear that America today is also such an example.  Beyond the work ethic and integrity of the Greatest Generation, there is also the spiritual heritage of our great land.  We are "the Land of Lincoln" but we are also "the Land of Jonathan Edwards" and of George Whitefield, the Great Awakening, and "the Faith of our Fathers".  Some of the greatest moves of God in history were spawned in our land.

Like Israel in the days of the Judges, America has failed to pass on the values and truths that have made her strong.  The freedoms that were so foundational to the very forming of our nation are now in retreat.  It is today as it was in the days of Isaiah when he prophecied, "Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands afar off; for truth is fallen in the street" (Is. 59:14). 

The reason for this decline is in the FAMILY.  But, I refer here not just to the nuclear family (father, mother, and children) but also to the Family of God.  Just as the very concept of family has deteriorated in America, so our nation has become weaker. 

Far too many children grow up today without the firm foundation of parental guidance.  They have not been taught the good way.  So too, our entire society has not been filled with the Words of our great God.  As a result, another generation has risen which does not know the Lord nor the great work He has done for us.

The Book of Judges is a story of cycles.  We can read a summary of the seven-steps of this roller coaster in Judges 2:11-19.  Our nation's history parallels the history of Israel in many ways. 

1.  Israel forsook God
2.  God brought judgment
3.  Israel cried out to God in their distress
4.  God raised up a judge
5.  God used the judge to deliver Israel out of her troubles
6.  The judge died
7.  Israel immediately reverted to disobedience

This is not only the story of a nation, it is also the story of people -- you and me -- many of our friends and neighbors.  Individual lives can follow this same pattern of rise and fall.  We need to return to the Lord.  We need to once again love the Truth.

But, more than that, we need to play our part in the relay of truth.  Deuteronomy 4:9-10 summarizes the Word of the Lord to us.  Israel had seen God do awesome things -- at the Red Sea, at Mt. Horeb, many times and many ways.  We have seen the Lord, too.  So hear what the Lord says,

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. 10 Remember the day you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, when he said to me, “Assemble the people before me to hear my words so that they may learn to revere me as long as they live in the land and may teach them to their children.”  Deuteronomy 4:9-10 (NIV)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Tuesday, April 23, 2013:  Judges 1:1-2:9

12 Then Caleb said, “Whoever attacks Kirjath Sepher and takes it, to him I will give my daughter Achsah as wife.”13 And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, took it; so he gave him his daughter Achsah as wife. 14 Now it happened, when she came to him, that she urged him to ask her father for a field. And she dismounted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you wish?” 15 So she said to him, “Give me a blessing; since you have given me land in the South, give me also springs of water.”  And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.  Judges 1:12-15 (NKJV)

We often hear and study about examples of Jesus in the Old Testament.  But, what about the ministry of the Holy Spirit?  Throughout the pages of the Old Testament we find pictures of the work of Jesus on the Cross and of the power of His death and resurrection.  But do we also find pictures of the promised Holy Spirit?  I believe that we do find such a picture in the story of Caleb's daughter Achsah.

Stories such as this are more than just the historic record of what happened in the past.  They are signs and types of good things to come.  So here is the deeper meaning of Caleb and his daughter Achsah. 

Caleb, the father, shows us aspects of our heavenly Father.  He represents God's ability to carry us to our full inheritance.  That's what Caleb did for Irael.  He was never discouraged over the challenges.  He never gave up -- so that even in old age he was still winning victories.  Most importantly, he cared for the needs of his children.  He had a heart to seek blessing and provision for his daughter, Achsah.  That's the kind of man Caleb was.  God Almighty is the same kind of Father to us.

Caleb made provision for the marriage of his daughter.  In similar fashion, God the Father has sought a Bride for His Son.  In many ways, the center and focus of God's eternal activity has been to gather the Bride of Christ from redeemed humanity.  The culmination of history is the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.  At the center of the universe is a LOVE STORY. 

Caleb, the father, made provision for his daughter.  He gave her land.  But, we find that this land was "in the South".  That means it was desert land.  It was dry and arid, unable to provide crops.  It was unfruitful, unproductive land.  In similar fashion, many believers find that their lives have dried up.  They are like a desert.

Caleb asked his daughter what she needed.  Her reply was that he give her "springs of water."  This speaks to us of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  She asked her father for water.  We are encouraged to ask our Father for the enfilling and empowering of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus spoke of this by using the illustration of a good father's care for his children. 

11 If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”  Luke 11:11-13 (NKJV)

At times, our lives can become dry and unproductive.  We long for refreshing from God.  Like Achsah, we recognize that our lives need "springs of water" to replenish, restore, and revitalize.  We need the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  So we boldly ask our Father to fill us.

Caleb responds by doing more than he is asked.  God does that, too.  Ephesians 3:20 says that He is "able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think."  Caleb gave her "the upper springs and the lower springs."  God actually wants to give us more than we are asking for.

The lower springs are the bottom of the mountain.  This is the pool from which the workers can drink -- from which the fields can be irrigated and the animals watered.  It is the actual SUPPLY that brings renewal.  The upper springs are the head waters far up in the mountains.  The upper springs are the SOURCE.  Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will be like a river of living water flowing from the depth of your insides -- your heart (John 7:38).  God wants to give us both.

We need daily to drink from the lower springs.  As we walk through life, there is a continual need for a drink of the water of the Holy Spirit.  This is what it means to be daily filled with the Holy Spirit.  But, we also need to tap into the head waters.  We need to go to the top of the mountain and find a fullness that will never run dry.  Jesus spoke to a woman by a well one day about this very thing.  He told her "whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14)

If we are dry and parched, Jesus offers us living water.  The Holy Spirit will come and fill us to overflowing.  We can enjoy the daily and hourly presence of God. 

He will also become a well-spring inside us continually pouring His life through us.  We need not run from one blessing to the next -- from one meeting the next.  We can have "the anointing which abides in you" (I John 2:27).  It stays and is an abiding comforter to guide and strengthen.

The SUPPLY is the hand of God.  The SOURCE is the heart of God.  He wants to fill you in such a way that all your needs are met.  But He also wants to take you to the head-waters.  He wants you to know HIM as well as what He can do.  The Holy Spirit will be like an unending river that brings joy, peace, and power.  He will cause His rivers to flow in our dry places -- streams in the desert (Is. 35:6).

Monday, April 22, 2013

How to Avoid a Family Fight

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Sunday, April 21, 2013: Joshua 22:21-23:16

Then Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said to the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, and the children of Manasseh, “This day we perceive that the Lord is among us, because you have not committed this treachery against the Lord. Now you have delivered the children of Israel out of the hand of the Lord.”  Joshua 22:31 (NKJV)

Isn't it amazing how quickly relationships can deteriorate and turn sour?  Old seemingly dormant issues resurface and an uneasy peace turns into an outright war.  That's what happened to two and a half tribes of Israel.

It all started in the days before Israel crossed Jordan.  After 40 years of journey, all Israel stood on the brink of entering their Land of Promise.  Quite amazingly, the tribes of Reuben and Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh decided to opt out at the last minute.  They felt that they had gone far enough.  These two and a half tribes offer a strange kind of instruction for us today.  

In Numbers 32 we read the first chapter of this story.  These two and a half tribes saw land that was GOOD ENOUGH.  God had promised them THE BEST, but they chose to stop short.  They settled for a land that seemed adequate for their needs.  They had cattle, and this land east of Jordan was "a place of livestock" (Num.32:1).  Like Lot before them (Gen. 13:10-11), they chose a well-watered land that looked good enough, but it was not God's best plan.  

Moses reluctantly granted their wish (Num. 32:20-24).  He only required that they enter Canaan to help their fellow tribes win their territories, too.  It is clear that this decision by these two and a half tribes was  a surprise and a disappointment to the rest of Israel.  They had come such a great distance only to stop short of Canaan.  It does not seem that Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh had any thought of rebellion or disobedience.  They had no desire to separate themselves from their brothers in the other tribes.  They did it purely out of expedience and convenience.  Their cattle would be well cared for.  It did not occur to them that this move was inconsistent with the historic call of God on their lives.  They simply responded to immediate need and the first available answer.  Does this sound familiar to you?  We far too often settle for WHAT WORKS rather than believe for God's best!

Years later, in Joshua 22, the second chapter of these two and a half tribes unfolds.  They had fulfilled their word to Moses and helped their fellow tribes win their territories.  Joshua released them to return east of the Jordan.  It was a solemn moment when Joshua charged them to keep the faith with the ten tribes west of the Jordan (Josh. 22:5).  From this point the story goes haywire and brings God's family to the brink of their first civil war.

The two and a half tribes BUILT AN ALTAR on the banks of the Jordan River -- a great and impressive altar (Josh. 22:10).  In fact it looked just like the main altar before the Tabernacle at Shiloh. The ten tribes of  Israel MISUNDERSTOOD what these two and a half tribes were trying to do.  They thought this new altar was designed to set up a new "East-of-Jordan" type of worship and sacrifice.  

The old injury re-surfaced.  The seeds of distrust that were planted in Numbers 32 came back to life in Joshua 22.  This new altar WAS NOT what they thought it was.  It was not for burnt offerings or sacrifice.  Instead it was for WITNESS -- for solidarity -- for saying, "We are still one people."  By the grace and mercy of God, a war was averted.  But, there are several lessons we should take away from this story.  

1.  Distrust can destroy our relationships.  If distrust is allowed to remain and fester, it can ultimately bring an all-out war.  When the two and a half tribes settled for land east of Jordan it produced a silent anger in the other ten tribes.  That anger lay dormant until additional evidence surfaced to "confirm" their suspicions.  Lesson:  DEAL WITH TRUST ISSUES.  If you don't deal with them, they willcome back to trip you up later.

2.  Send an envoy to check it out.  Israel sent the priest Phineas to check out the rumors.  When  distrust and misunderstanding kick in, it can be the devil's playground.  Always stop and check out the details before charging into war.  I have found this to be true so many times.  I can THINK things are one way when all along it is totally different.  Things are fine but I think they are about to fall apart.  Phineas represents the ministry of reconciliation.  Communicate before you start firing the bullets.

3.  Allow people to differ from you.
The two and a half tribes settled for less than God's best.  But, when the dust settled, the rest of Israel had to accept that.  In fact, they all had to affirm God's blessing on them even though they had gone in different directions.  This requires bigness of heart.  Israel did this with Reuben, Gad, and half-Manasseh.  They released them.  In so doing, they avoided the first civil war among God's people. 

These are three small steps -- lessons -- that each of us need to apply in our family relationships.  It is a daily and weekly discipline to keep positive peace in our families -- and in all relationships for that matter.  Taking the land is huge mandate before us.  But, keeping the peace is perhaps even bigger. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013


Here are the notes from the message at New Life Community Church for Sunday, April 21, 2013.  This is the third message in the series ON THE MOUNTAIN, and is entitled "Knowing".  If you would  like to listen to this message, you may do so by going to our website at www.newlifesite.com.  God bless!

On the Mountain, Part 3                                                        Sunday, April 21, 2013

So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”  Genesis 22:14 (NIV)

28 Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. 30 And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.  Luke 9:28-30 (NKJV)

A number of things happen on the mountain.  You find out what God wants you to do.  You see Jesus more clearly.
You also get power to handle the situations at the bottom of the mountain.
And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!”  Luke 9:35 (NKJV)

Steps up the mountain:
Step 1:

4.   Know ______ better

3.   Help me ____________

2.   Find God’s _______

1.     Get THINGS from God

Most people go to God in prayer to GET something from God.
This is real. 
Give us today our daily bread.  Matt. 6:11 (NIV)

You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.  James 4:2-3 NIV)

Video:  Prayer Answererer.

Step 2:

4.   Know ______ better

3.   Help me ____________

2.   Find God’s _WILL___

1.     Get THINGS from God

We want God to show us the way.
For You are my rock and my fortress; therefore, for Your name’s sake, lead me and guide me.  Psalm 31:3 (NLT)

Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.”  Isaiah 2:3 (NKJV)

Step 3:

4.   Know ______ better

3.   Help me _UNDERSTAND_

2.   Find God’s _WILL___

2.     Get THINGS from God

We need wisdom
We need God’s help make sense of life.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.  James 1:5 (NLT)

Step 4:

4.   Know _GOD__ better

3.   Help me UNDERSTAND

2.   Find God’s WILL

3.     Get THINGS from God

Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”  Moses bowed to the ground at once and worshiped.  Exodus 34:5-8 (NIV)

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:  “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”  Isaiah 6:1-3 (ESV)