Archive for August, 2016

Numbers 13:1-25

Twelve Scouts Explore Canaan

Have you ever made knee-jerk decisions? Have you ever gone to school without having first done your homework? Have you ever had to go to a meeting at work where you had to give a presentation for which you had not done any preparation or study? I think that we have all been there and probably more than once in our lives. I have certainly had those same situations occur to me before. However, that is a situation that I loathe to be in.

 

I would rather work my tail off and be over-prepared, present too much information, write too much, over-document and so on. Never want the metaphorical dream of being in a meeting and realizing that you are in your underwear only and you don’t realize it until you are already in the meeting.

 

I guess it has to do with a basic insecurity about my value in my soul. Growing up as a Methodist preacher’s kid and moving every couple of years, I was always an outsider. I always felt that I had to prove myself because of it, prove that I belonged. In addition to that, as a student, I was a good student but I had to work it. In high school as I was in higher level classes, I always felt that I was not as smart as others so I worked twice as hard, stayed up later doing homework and so on so that I could keep up. Others seemed to come at this higher level academic stuff naturally whereas I got it but simply had to work harder at it. In college, I went to a school that is reserved for the wealthy and privileged, Furman University. Its nickname is “the Yale of the South.” Rich kids from up north and from Florida predominated. There were very few of us local Greenville, SC types at Furman. The only reason that I got to go there was that by the time I was ready for college my mom had been working there long enough for me to get a 50% discount in tuition and then Pell grants paid the rest. Otherwise, I would have had to go somewhere else. Especially here, where kids had grown up with the best tutors and the best schools and the best of everything, you can imagine how this played into my academic and social insecurities. There,  I really did have to work twice as hard just to keep up with these privileged kids. I always felt like there was some class on “smarts” that I missed. I busted my tail there. While working full-time and being married after my freshman year, it was a tough time. I don’t think that I slept much those four years.

 

In much of my career after Furman, I have been an internal auditor (I am the senior financial executive for the company by which I am employed now but the bulk of my career has been in auditing). In that job, you have to be able to perform audit programs that will show you whether a process is working properly or not, document the problems or errors, make recommendations for improvement, and sell the recommendations to the auditee in an audit report. In that kind of environment, you cannot afford to be wrong or make statements for which you have no substantiation. You have to back up what you claim. In order to back up your claims, you must document your findings to prove the error or inefficiency or the need for improvement or compliance. Because of that need and because of my own insecurities about my value and my intellect, I would tend to overkill on documentation. My workpapers (what we auditors call the evidence of our work that back up and support how we have performed our work, what evidence we have to support that we have done the audit program, what evidence we have of our findings and so on) were meticulous and voluminous. I never wanted to be caught off guard in my review by my audit supervisors or by our auditee. My workpapers were usually about twice what others produced and after reading through them there would be no doubt as to how I came about my findings for my parts of the audit reports. I was always the one that worked til 2am in the morning and back up at 6am ready for the next days work at the audit assignment. I was always prepared, but it was not because I was super-intelligent but rather just an insecure boy desperately trying to make sure there were no holes in my work that would cause my ridicule. The worst fear was to get to the audit meetings at the end of an audit and the auditee say that you were wrong about your finding and prove why. That was the biggest fear of all – when you have that dream of being in a meeting in your underwear and you don’t realize it until everyone is staring at you. That’s the feeling you get when you are in an audit closure meeting where you present your findings and the auditee management balks at what you say and proves why. I never wanted experience that humiliation because I was already a guy who thought he was a step behind everybody else anyway.

 

In Moses’ commands here, I felt a kindred spirit of auditing with him. He prepared a team to go do an audit of Canaan. In order to know what the issues were, Moses had to send in an audit team. They were to investigate the land, from the people, to the land itself, to the cities, to economic power of the region. They were to go in and gain and understanding of Canaan and report back to Moses. Moses appears to be a guy that made decisions based on solid information. I like that. Let’s read about this process in Numbers 13:1-24 below:

 

13 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders.”

 

3 So at the Lord’s command Moses sent them out from the Desert of Paran. All of them were leaders of the Israelites. 4 These are their names:

 

from the tribe of Reuben, Shammua son of Zakkur;

 

5 from the tribe of Simeon, Shaphat son of Hori;

 

6 from the tribe of Judah, Caleb son of Jephunneh;

 

7 from the tribe of Issachar, Igal son of Joseph;

 

8 from the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea son of Nun;

 

9 from the tribe of Benjamin, Palti son of Raphu;

 

10 from the tribe of Zebulun, Gaddiel son of Sodi;

 

11 from the tribe of Manasseh (a tribe of Joseph), Gaddi son of Susi;

 

12 from the tribe of Dan, Ammiel son of Gemalli;

 

13 from the tribe of Asher, Sethur son of Michael;

 

14 from the tribe of Naphtali, Nahbi son of Vophsi;

 

15 from the tribe of Gad, Geuel son of Maki.

 

16 These are the names of the men Moses sent to explore the land. (Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua.)

 

17 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. 18 See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? 20 How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.” (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)

 

21 So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, toward Lebo Hamath. 22 They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, lived. (Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) 23 When they reached the Valley of Eshkol,[a] they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs. 24 That place was called the Valley of Eshkol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut off there.

 

In this passage, we see that Moses decided what information was needed before the people could enter the Promised Land, and took careful steps to gain that information. When we are making decisions or entering in new areas of experience that you have never had before, remember these two important steps. Common sense is a valuable tool in accomplishing God’s purpose. One of the biggest weapons that we have in accomplishing God’s purpose is prayer. In prayer, God will reveal to us what information that we need to have about decisions that we make.

 

God is not a god of disorder. He wants us to make decisions with the best information we can have available to us. He wants us not to jump headlong into something without having prepared for the jump. He does not want us to lead a growing, burgeoning church without developing understanding of how to lead a fast growing church. He wants us to read and learn and observe from the experience of others. Sometimes, sure, we have to make snap judgments in certain situations but if we always keep the Bible’s basic story in our mind and be consistent with God’s message in our decision making then we will be OK. But even there, knowing your biblical themes and theology requires study so that when snap judgments are required you are prepared. It is only when we let our ego get in the way when we think we have got it made that we begin to make faulty, non-biblical decisions.

 

God wants us to be prepared for what we are about to encounter. He gives us the tools. Prayer and Preparation. He will make it clear what we need to know, what we need to investigate through prayer and through His Word. God wants us to be ready and we must do the work. We must seek Him and we must study His Word so that we are ready. Without prayer and without study of His Word, we are unprepared. Like the guy who goes into a meeting in his underwear. Like an auditor who goes into the closure meeting without support for his audit findings and recommendations.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 12:1-16 (Part 2 of 2)

The Complaints of Miriam and Aaron Against Moses

I have used this illustration before but it seems so appropriate here that I must use it again. Back when I was about to turn 14 years old, in the Summer of 1976, I was a happy camper just living the life of a popular kid at Lakeside Middle School in Anderson, SC. I had just finished my 8th grade year at the school and was about to move up to the 9th grade at Westside High School. In my 8th grade year at the middle school in this town that we had lived in since the summer of 1974, I was really coming into my own. I was a big man on campus. I was in the “in-crowd”. I had some really close friends and a ton of acquaintances. The girls there thought I was one of the cutest boys in school and at age thirteen I was really discovering girls and found out that kissing them and making out with them gave me this wonderful feeling that was about the coolest thing ever! We were going to be moving that June. It was to be the middle of the month after when had finished the school year in early June.

 

Previously, in all our moves as a Methodist preacher’s family, I was too young to care or object to any of the moves. But now in the summer of ’76, I was 13 years old, a teenager, and would turn 14 just two months away in late August. This time, the move was traumatizing. I was going to be cut out of social circle that I dearly loved. I hated the fact that we moved. I didn’t want it all. If there was any way that I could stay in Anderson, I would have. There was just no way. In Anderson, I had everything. I had a best friend in Donnie Garrison. We did everything together. We were inseparable. At school, I had a lot of really good friends that I used to hang out with at the malls and at sporting events. I had a lot of female friends that I flirted with and would go steady with (as much as 13 year olds can go steady) for weeks (at 13, going steady with a girl for more than a couple of weeks was a big deal). I was popular at the school and was involved in the drama club, was on the middle school football team, and was a key player on my church league basketball team. I was connected. Even when I got in trouble at school, the principal was a friend of the family from church so going to the principal’s office was meeting a friend not a death sentence. It was just a fun time in my life. Everything was going great.

 

Then, it happened. We moved to a city that even its name was an irritation to me. Who names their town “Travelers Rest”? It sounded like a rest stop on the highway. But, yes, there is a town in South Carolina named Travelers Rest just north of Greenville, SC. I will live it to you to google and find the history of the town. It was there, to me, that I was being sentenced to the wilderness. In 2016, this little town of Travelers Rest is the next chic suburb of Greenville. Everybody wants to live there now as sits nestled just below the beginning of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It certainly has natural beauty galore in this unique setting. However, in 1976, it was just a small town. It was town where everybody knew everybody and they distrusted anyone who did not grow up there. It was my Patmos Island. I hated it that summer. I was heartbroken. Anderson was only an hour away but to a thirteen year old boy, it might as well been a million miles away. I did not want to be there. My anger at the move took on grave proportions.

 

One of those summer weeks before school started in the fall, I had my friend Donnie, from Anderson, up for a week to hang out with me. We were a mischievous set. Back in Anderson, since he lived out at the lake, we would hang out at his place which was a four acre small farm right on Lake Hartwell. We had fun exploring the woods all the time. We would enjoy finding stuff and figuring out ways to blow it up or burn it. We were the quintessential mischievous boys. So, of course, in Travelers Rest, I lived right in town, near the business district of this small town. And we were mischievous. Business districts and mischievous 13 year olds are not a good combination. We spent the first few days stealing bubble gum from convenience stores. Exploring the woods behind dad’s church. Shooting bee bee guns at birds. Throwing rocks at whatever we could throw rocks at. Then, that day came. We got the idea that it would be cool to vandalize Travelers Rest Elementary School. We decided that pulling the incoming phone wires out of the junction box at the main office of the school would be cool. We got caught. We got arrested. Worse than that, yeah, worse than that, I got in trouble with my dad. He was the brand new preacher in town and what does his youngest son do within the first month of his arrival in town. He gets arrested for vandalizing the local elementary school.

 

Fast forward to our trial date, which because we were juveniles in Greenville County, SC at the time, meant a private meeting with the judge. Little known to me and Donnie, my dad and his dad had paid to have the phone system at the school repaired. However, they did not tell us that. They had worked out a deal with the school district that if they would pay for the repairs the district would not press the vandalism charges against us. But our dads let us think that we were facing being sent to teenager prison in South Carolina, the John G. Richards School for Boys in Columbia (or JGR as it was known by every boy in the state). I am certain it does not exist anymore in the coddled child world in which we live now but it was a reality then. I had heard rumors about how rough that place was and we were looking at a sentence of at least 6 months there. And, by all rights, we knew that we deserved that punishment that would going to be the toughest thing we ever did to that point in our lives. However, at the trial the judge tells us that we needed to thank our dad for paying the price for our crime. He told us that the charges against had been dropped because of the kindness of my dad and Donnie’s dad. We were free (at least from the law, maybe not from our dads). We were not going to go the hellhole of JGR, the fear of all teenage boys in South Carolina. We did not have to pay for our crime by going to hell, the hell that was JGR.

 

Our dads had shown us loving mercy. Although they could have easily let us, in their anger at us (and yes they were angry and they did make the rest of our summer just whole loads of fun), let us be sentenced to a place that would have made us into God knows what. They paid the price for our crime so that we would not have to suffer the likes of JGR. They showed us mercy that we did not deserve. My dad, Donnie’s dad, could have just washed their angry hands of us and let us go to teen prison. We did suffer the consequences of our sins at the hands of our fathers at home but they did not let us pay for our sins permanently (a criminal record and a visit to JGR would follow you the rest of your life).

 

It reminds me of the mercy shown to Miriam in this passage that we read today for the second and final time, Numbers 12:1-16:

 

12 Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. 2 “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this.

 

3 (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)

 

4 At once the Lord said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the tent of meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them went out. 5 Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them stepped forward, 6 he said, “Listen to my words:

 

“When there is a prophet among you,

    I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions,

    I speak to them in dreams.

7

But this is not true of my servant Moses;

    he is faithful in all my house.

8

With him I speak face to face,

    clearly and not in riddles;

    he sees the form of the Lord.

Why then were you not afraid

    to speak against my servant Moses?”

 

9 The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them.

 

10 When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous[a]—it became as white as snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had a defiling skin disease, 11 and he said to Moses, “Please, my lord, I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. 12 Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.”

 

13 So Moses cried out to the Lord, “Please, God, heal her!”

 

14 The Lord replied to Moses, “If her father had spit in her face, would she not have been in disgrace for seven days? Confine her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can be brought back.” 15 So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back.

 

16 After that, the people left Hazeroth and encamped in the Desert of Paran.

 

Spitting in someone’s face was considered the ultimate insult in this society (and it certainly is still insulting today but the insult was of a higher offense than even today back in the ancient Middle East). It was a sign of shame imposed on wrongdoers. Remember, in Matthew 26:67, the religious leaders at Jesus’ so-called trial spat in His face to degrade and insult Him in the highest possible way. It was the Jewish way of saying that you are lower and less worthy than the dirt on the ground on which I normally spit. It was a deep insult according to ancient Middle Eastern customs. God punished Miriam for smug attitude not only toward Moses but toward God Himself. He struck her with leprosy. Since she bucked the authority of God, it would seem that this punishment was quite lenient. A week was the length of time she would be excluded from camp if someone had spit in your face. How much more did she deserve for standing against the authority of God. But yet, God was merciful to her. He could have struck her down where she stood and she would have been no more and she would have suffered the ravages of hell for thumbing her nose at God. But no, God was merciful.

 

What we see here is that Miriam did suffer the consequences of her sin by being struck with a skin rash and being excluded from the fellowship of the nation of Israel for a time, but God restored her fully after that time. She did not get the punishment she deserved from a just and righteous God. She was granted new life by a loving and merciful God. We do often have to live with the consequences of our sins in life but, through Christ’s mercy on the cross (taking the punishment we deserve), we do not have to pay the eternal price of condemnation to eternity in hell. We are redeemed from the hell we deserve and we are restored to good standing in the presence of the Father through Jesus Christ.

 

Just as Donnie and I were shown mercy by our earthly fathers, just as Miriam was shown mercy by God, we too are shown mercy eternally through our acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord.

 

Do you think your crimes against God are too great to be forgiven? Do you think that you are too far gone? Do you think that you do not deserve God’s love? Think again. No matter what you have done, if you repent of your sins and call on the name of Jesus as your Savior and Lord and believe that He paid the price for your sins on the cross, then you will be shown mercy. You will be restored to God’s family. No longer will you be outside the camp. Call on Jesus’ name. Receive your mercy!

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 12:1-16 (Part 1 of 2)

The Complaints of Miriam and Aaron Against Moses

 

Have you looked at the on-stage members of your church staff and became jealous because they get to be on-stage and you’re not. Have you ever wondered why your talents are not being recognized at church? You say to yourself, I feel called to be a preacher and you go to seminary but yet you never get to preach? Have you ever felt pigeon-holed into certain tasks at your church simply because that is what you have done for a living for all of your adult life? You think to yourself, I have been in my profession for all these years because that’s just how life worked out and it was the easiest path using one of the talents that God has given you. You think that God has given you the skill of writing and He has given you great passion for God’s Word but yet He is providing you no outlet to pursue and use those passions. No churches are calling you to be their preacher and there seems to be no outlet it for it for you at your present church, your home church. Jealousy is divisive emotion. It can cause bitterness and disillusionment. Jealousies are not of God and they are the division-building sins that Satan whispers in our ear.

 

During the past year, I have struggled with this very sin. Jealousy is really a sign of something deeper. It is really about pride and often hides the real issue. Those Lord has dealt with me on this issue and humbled me on it and I now realize that the real issue was that I was angry at Him for not letting me have my heart’s desire. Often we are jealous of others and the positions that they hold because we want what they have for the wrong reasons. Do you think that maybe God was dealing with pride on my part? Did I really want to be a preacher who preaches every Sunday because of some amount of fame that it might bring me? Was I really wanting to be a public preacher without going through the planned process that God has for me in this? Are there things that God is working on in me that need to be worked on before I can hold the position of on-stage preacher at our church or as the solo preacher at a smaller church? Could it be that there are still things I need to learn before I take the next step? Even worse in my prideful heart, could it be that I am not meant to be that public face of my church or any other and that God has me exactly where He wants me? That was a crushing thought to my pride. Maybe, you are already in your ministry. Maybe, the reason that you, as you see it Mark, feel into your accounting career and have excel reasonably well in it is because that is what your God-given talent is. Yes, He has talented you to be a writer, and a prolific one through this blog at that. Yes, He has given you great passion for God’s Word. Yes, this passion is such that you rarely read any other books than books that give you greater insight into God’s Word. It is so obvious to others and to God but it was not to me. Pride simply is a lack of trust in the Lord. Pride can lead you to be angry at God for not giving you, like a two year old child, the toy that you wanted. It is only through painful self-examination in prayer that I have come to realize that I have not been trusting the Lord with my pastoral future. I must realize that God is in control.

 

I liken myself to Joseph and Moses in coming to realize that I must serve the Lord in the capacity that He has me in at the moment and do it with fervor, passion, and with great love for my Lord. I must do what He has in front of me and trust Him with the rest. What if Moses had complained about living in Midian for forty years before he was called to come free his people from Egypt. What if he had whined during those forty years and complained and didn’t see that his time as a herdsmen was necessary for the last forty years of his life where he was the leader of a nomadic people in the Sinai peninsula. What if Joseph, falsely accused of having inappropriate sexual relations with an Egyptian governor’s wife, had whined and complained about being falsely accused and just sat in prison in brooding anger. Instead he became a trusted servant of his jailors which led him to be in a position to become the second most powerful man in Egypt. Each of these men faithfully went about what God had placed in front of them and served in that capacity to the best of their ability for as long as was necessary. They trusted God with the rest. They did not really have much concern about what was next because they knew that God had their back and would open doors as He saw fit. In them, I see men who maybe thought to themselves that this is it. God has me where He wants me and maybe this is where He wants me for the rest of my life and be good with that. How much do we trust the Lord is the ultimate issue or how much will be let our pride take over and destroy what God has planned for us? Some might say that this is a defeatist attitude. But it is more of a trusting attitude and a giving-God-control attitude.

 

I have had to learn to trust God in that way myself. I have had to learn that maybe this is exactly what God intended all along. That struggle in my own heart is what I thought of when I read today’s passage, Numbers 12:1-16:

 

12 Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite. 2 “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” And the Lord heard this.

 

3 (Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)

 

4 At once the Lord said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, “Come out to the tent of meeting, all three of you.” So the three of them went out. 5 Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam. When the two of them stepped forward, 6 he said, “Listen to my words:

 

“When there is a prophet among you,

    I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions,

    I speak to them in dreams.

7

But this is not true of my servant Moses;

    he is faithful in all my house.

8

With him I speak face to face,

    clearly and not in riddles;

    he sees the form of the Lord.

Why then were you not afraid

    to speak against my servant Moses?”

 

9 The anger of the Lord burned against them, and he left them.

 

10 When the cloud lifted from above the tent, Miriam’s skin was leprous[a]—it became as white as snow. Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had a defiling skin disease, 11 and he said to Moses, “Please, my lord, I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. 12 Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother’s womb with its flesh half eaten away.”

 

13 So Moses cried out to the Lord, “Please, God, heal her!”

 

14 The Lord replied to Moses, “If her father had spit in her face, would she not have been in disgrace for seven days? Confine her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can be brought back.” 15 So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back.

 

16 After that, the people left Hazeroth and encamped in the Desert of Paran.

 

People often argue over minor disagreements, leaving the real issue untouched. Such was the case with Miriam and Aaron. They represented the priests (Aaron) and the prophets (Miriam), the two most powerful groups of the Israelites, next to Moses. The real issue was their growing jealousy of Moses and their own anger at God caused by their pride. Since could not find fault with Moses’ leadership, they chose to criticize his wife. Rather than face the problem squarely by dealing with their envy and pride, they chose to create a diversion from the real issue. Miriam was punished by God and not Aaron not because she was a woman and Aaron was a man but rather because, based on the Hebrew grammar of the sentence, she was the one who started the whole jealousy conversation with Miriam. It has been amply proven in Exodus that Aaron was not strong-willed when it came to resisting public opinion even when he knew it was wrong. Miriam was the instigator here.

 

Miriam held an important position in the people of Israel. God had given her great talent of prophecy and of song. She was important among the Israelite people and that is why her story is included here. It shows how jealousy caused by pride can take our eyes of the gifts that God has given us. It can take our eye of serving the Lord in the capacity that He has us. It gets our eyes of the fact that God has us where He wants us at the moment, and maybe even forever, because that is where He needs us to be. It takes our eyes off the good that we are doing in the capacities that we are in. We must learn to trust the Lord that He has us where He wants us and that it is HE that will make it abundantly clear to us (with no sense of dissension but rather a sense of peace) when it is time to take the next step. Joseph was a servant in a jail for 12 years, but He trusted God and served there to the best of his ability. Where would the people of Israel have been without Joseph having served to the best of his ability in that jail. They would be dead due to famine. There would have been no Moses, no Exodus, no Promised Land. What if Moses had not dutifully served his father-in-law in Midian for 40 years. The Israelites may well have not survived in the wilderness without Moses’ experience living the nomadic lifestyle. Without that, there would be no people Israel. No promised land. No people from which Jesus Christ would come.

 

Let us begin to trust God with place that He has us right now and serve Him in that capacity to the best of our ability for as long as God would have us do that. No, that’s not some defeatist, status-quo attitude. That is trusting God with our future. That is trusting that He will make a path for us. That is trusting that He will make our way clear. That is trusting that He will let us plainly see and feel that is time for the next thing. In the meantime, we shout the gospel through our trust in Him to serve Him in the capacity that He has us right as if this is the final thing, as if we are in our sweet spot, as if we are preaching to the world by the way we serve the Lord in the place that He has us. That’s trust. That’s humility. That is putting our pride in its place.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 11:31-35

The Lord Sends Quail

 

They say that one out of every two first marriages will end in divorce. That number goes up to 67% of second marriages. The statistics get even worse with each additional marriage. There is also the old anecdote that there are two things that will break up a first marriage and those are money and sex. The saying goes on to say that there are three things that will break up a second marriage and those are money, sex and my kids vs. your kids. Often times when we are married, we think that a new relationship would be better. Then, we become obsessed with the thought which leads us to be open to the idea. Then, we allow ourselves to be in positions that allow flirtations to go beyond the norm. Then, we begin to idealize that potential relationship in how it could be better than our current relationship. It’s always better in our minds. The object of our desire will always react in ways that are pleasing to us in our minds. We set them up as the perfect mate. Meanwhile, every little thing our current spouse does becomes an irritation. Little things that used to not bother us become major issues. We shut ourselves off to the possibility that our marriage can be saved and become obsessed with the ideal mate that we have made this other person to be. Then, the line is crossed. An affair is begun. There are no affairs that are sustainable. They all end with someone getting hurt. Everyone is affected by the disease of lust. Families are torn apart and often it takes years for all to recover from the trauma of a divorce caused by lust. Our nation is a wasteland of divorce that seems almost second nature now and Christ followers are no different from the rest of the nation in this regard. Alimony, child support, angry children, spoiled children, children who do not get the financial support they need, children caught in the middle of their parents’ anger at one another. We have so made this state of affairs normal that the very fabric of our society has been altered by the prevalence of divorce. It is normal for there not to be a dad living in the home with his children. It is normal for there to be multiple marriages in a person’s lifetime.

 

I am not some guy who is complaining about the world without having experienced it. I have lived the life. Sure, anyone who knows my situation would say now after all these years that my first divorce was justified but it was a divorce nonetheless that caused severe pain and heartache on all sides. After suffering though the life I had with my first wife, I was open to the idea of a new relationship and it began during my first marriage. I idealized the perfection, or it seemed so to me, of my lover (who eventually became my second wife). All the stuff that I put up with from my first wife made me a matyr and made it OK in my mind to lust after my second wife. There is an old saying is that “that greener grass on the other side of the fence is greener because it is growing over a septic tank!” That was my life. I just traded problems instead of solving them. Although my second wife and I had our great moments that were amazing but they were equally offset by the horrors of second marriage life – my kids vs. your kids and combine that with a volatile ex-wife. The lows of that marriage were the lowest. The arguments caused only by the fact that our relationship was not well thought out. Five kids from previous marriages. No training or understanding of how to handle someone else’s children. No understanding of what it meant to have to take child support right off the top of everything we made. No understanding of how to deal with an ex-spouse. It was a marriage destined for failure from the beginning. It was a marriage built on lust and not much else. We let sexual desire blind us to what we were getting into. Sexual desire can dominate your life and blind you to what’s real and what’s not. It can blind you to the reality of the world. It can become your god. That has never been more true than in my life.

 

That past of mine where obsessions with other things than God can seem like this perfect thing but yet when you bite into it, it becomes a bitter pill in your stomach is what I thought of when reading today’s passage, Numbers 11:31-35:

 

31 Now a wind went out from the Lord and drove quail in from the sea. It scattered them up to two cubits[a] deep all around the camp, as far as a day’s walk in any direction. 32 All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail. No one gathered less than ten homers.[b] Then they spread them out all around the camp. 33 But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the Lord burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. 34 Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah,[c] because there they buried the people who had craved other food.

 

35 From Kibroth Hattaavah the people traveled to Hazeroth and stayed there.

 

Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it! Craving or lusting is more than just inappropriate sexual desire. It can be an unnatural or greedy desire for anything that becomes an obsession. It could be, yes, extramarital sexual relations, but it could be desire for money, power, knowledge, etc. It can even be an obsession with the Carolina Gamecocks or the Clemson Tigers. Anything that sits on the throne of our heart instead of God can be a lust. In this circumstance, God punished the Israelites for allowing their desire turn into greed. The desire was not wrong but when it became greed  it became a sin. They felt it was their right to have fine food and they could think of nothing else. When we become preoccupied with something until it affects your perspective on everything else, you have moved from desire to lust.

 

That is the takeaway today for us. Let us not let our fleshly desires blind us to the Word of God and what it tells that is right and what is wrong. When we have to ignore God’s Word and justify why we are ignoring His Word and spend a great deal of time discounting the value of God’s Word, yeah, it’s probably immoral and wrong. When we dive into our lusts, it is not because God is just mean that He tells us not to do things, it is because He knows that our lusts unrestrained will destroy us personally and us as a society. Our lusts can destroy us, ruin us, and keep us from being in a right relationship with Him. He is a good, good Father who wants to keep us from harm. However, in our lustful desires to have what we want and when we want it, we must ignore God’s Word and we must ignore God’s provision for our lives. The boundaries are there for our own good and not to keep us from doing things. He knows the destruction that the lusts of our heart can bring when we make them more important than him. Be careful for what you wish for…the consequences of getting it can be something you didn’t count on.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 11:16-30 (Part 3 of 3)

Moses Choses Seventy Leaders

I may have spoken about this before, but it was a profound moment in my life that I will not soon forget. We were on our first mission trip to Haiti, our first mission trip altogether. The getting to Jacmel, Haiti was an ordeal. Leaving the church at midnight to drive to Atlanta. The hauling of our baggage and supplies that we taking to Jacmel. The arrival in the hottest city on the planet, Port-au-Prince. The chaos of baggage claim and customs that is Port-au-Prince in the stifling heat inside what would be best be described as the equivalent of a tobacco aging warehouse in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina. Old and rickety with very little ventilation. Then after walking out there you walk through the equivalent of those haunted house where hundreds of people are reaching out to touch you. It was intimidating and scary. All of these people are trying to “assist” you with your luggage. Once they “claim” you, you are expected to pay them for this valuable service of pushing your luggage cart out to the awaiting van from the church in Jacmel with whom our church has a relationship. Church vans are not always top-notch as you know. Church vans in Haiti are rugged and show the rough life of a vehicle in Haiti. Then, there is the long three-hour drive to Jacmel from the P-a-P airport. Not only is it blazing hot but you are driven through what has to be the poorest big city that you have ever seen as you drive through Port-au-Prince. Dirty. Nasty. Trashy. After you escape the sensory overload of Port-au-Prince, you still have two hours to go over twisting, turning narrow roads through the mountains of Haiti to get to the other side of the island where we will find Jacmel. Then, in Jacmel, our room has no air conditioning that first year we were there. Where it was situated in building, there was absolutely no airflow into our room. It would get so hot in our room that the sheets would stick to you because of being dripping wet with sweat. The days were hotter and sweatier and the work was hard. It began to make me wonder why I came. I felt no particular spiritual uplift from hauling cement from one place to another or from digging holes for fence posts. I enjoyed being with my friends on our mission team, but, hey, I could have enjoyed that back home in Duncan.

 

Then, Tuesday night came. We were invited to come to the prayer service at the church. At first, when we got there, not but a few parishioners were there. Then, they began to pray out loud each one. There was no agenda for this meeting just prayer. There was no preacher just prayer. As the evening continued, more and more people filed into the church. Prayers being offered up by all. All at the same time. In French Creole, their prayers were offered up to God. Have you ever heard 100 or so people praying at the same time? It was a cacophony of sound. You could hear the rising power of emotion in prayer and the coming down from the high of emotion. The power with which each one was praying was something to behold. Although I could not understand the creole dialect of French, I could understand the intensity with which they were praying to God. In this land where Christianity battles with voodoo for hearts of people, these prayers seemed more intense than any prayers that I had heard ever back in America. I simply closed my eyes and just allowed my auditory senses take over and the walls of sound of 100 people praying with great fervor all at once. I swear that night I could sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in that room. His presence was palpable. Your heart could feel it. The rest of the mission trip was put into perspective by this night. No longer did I view it as a struggle. No longer was it something that I just had to get through. It really helped me see that in the simple lives that these people lead, they are more in tune with the moving of the Holy Spirit than we are as Americans. We have so much noise that we let into our lives that we do not sometimes sense the power of the Holy Spirit’s presence.

 

In that prayer service, these people were in touch with the Holy Spirit in their lives, that indwells in them and in us. However, there was a fervor and a sense of real need of God’s help in their prayers that I have never sensed before or since in the prayers of American people including myself. We do not pray in the same way as these Haitian Christians do. Our prayers are passionless by comparison. We would be made to feel uncomfortable here in our country, if we prayed with the same passion and fervor as these members of Restoration Ministries Church in Jacmel, Haiti. I long to feel the palpable presence of the Holy Spirit as I did that night back some four (4) years ago now. Do I have too much noise and clutter in my life to feel the presence of the Holy Spirit who lives inside of me each and every day? Do I need carve out time to feel Him, to hear Him speak to me, to taste Him in the air, to sense His presence fully?

 

It is that idea that we have an advantage over pre-Pentecost people of God in that we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives daily, but yet we do not sense it sometimes that came to mind when I read through today’s passage, Numbers 11:16-30, today for the third and final time.

 

 

16 The Lord said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. 17 I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.

 

18 “Tell the people: ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The Lord heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. 19 You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, 20 but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”’”

 

21 But Moses said, “Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ 22 Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?”

 

23 The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.”

 

24 So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied—but did not do so again.

 

26 However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. 27 A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”

 

28 Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”

 

29 But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” 30 Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

 

Moses’ reply in v. 29 was looking forward to the day when all God’s people would experience the pouring out of God’s spirit. The prophet, Joel, recorded God’s promise to pour out His Spirit on all believers in Joel 2:28-29, which was fulfilled at Pentecost (Acts 2:16-21). Believers today can be sure that they have the Holy Spirit when they become Christ followers (Romans 8:9). We also can pray to live by the Holy Spirit’s power (Galatians 5:16-26). If you desire to have the full throttle of the Holy Spirit’s power in your life, pray for Him to fill your life with His presence and strengthen you to follow Christ more closely.

 

Moses says, “I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit on them!” It is only through the acceptance of Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord that we can have the Holy Spirit dwell in us. In the absence of Jesus’ imputed perfection to us, we are not holy and thus the Holy Spirit cannot dwell in us. Christ gives us our perfection and it is through that perfection that our souls become a holy temple in which the Holy Spirit can reside.

 

Is that not amazing. That same power that rose Jesus from the grave lives in us, as the song by Jeremy Camp states (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NcEkEeghYQ) . That same power that commanded Lazarus to wake from his death slumber is the same power that resides in us. That same power that causes a raging sea to calm on His command lives in us. We have God’s power living in us. Yet, we do recognize it. We clutter our lives with toys, concerns of how to pay for this and that, concerns over first world problems, such that we cannot sense the Holy Spirit’s presence and power in our lives. What Moses could only wish for is a present reality for all believers. However, we do not sense the power of the Holy Spirit in us at times. How going to poorest country in the Western Hemisphere made me realize that these people who live with so much less clutter in their lives actually realize and sense the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

 

We are the children of Jesus Christ! We can call upon His name through the Holy Spirit dwelling in us and we can conquer anything that troubles us through that power. When we realize that we really do not need any more than that and rely on that is when we really start to grow in Christ. The Holy Spirit lives in us. We are more than conquerors. There is nothing that we cannot overcome when we call upon His name. Let us begin to understand the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Let us declutter our minds and souls and hear His voice. Let us pray with fervor. Let us pray with passion. Let us taste the presence of the Holy Spirit in the air. Let us sense His presence.

 

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 11:16-30 (Part 2 of 3)

Moses Chooses Seventy Leaders

As our church begins planning for one our main events of the year, as we call it, The Thanksgiving Meal Giveaway (TMG, for short), I am reminded of how sometimes people forget that we are ministering to others but rather see such events as ways to make themselves known. I remember the first year that Elena and I were in charge of the event (which was the second year of the event) I had a situation that simply baffled me as to where a person was at in their spiritual walk. I had this one lady who not once came to any planning meetings or any of the volunteer meetings nor did they commit in any of the volunteer sign-ups for the event. However, on the day of the event, they just showed up. And they showed up with expectation because, at that time, she and her husband were members of the small group that I and my wife lead. This lady thought that because we had pushed participation to our small group members and that because she knew us that she would get a special position or something at the TMG.

 

In this event, we make it known to the community through various helps agencies that we will be giving away 500+ turkeys and dry goods for families to have a nice thanksgiving meal at home with their families. It is a big event with lots of moving parts to it. It is a big event with Elena and me as the overall event leaders and then leaders of the ten different functional teams underneath us and then probably 350 volunteers from our church participate in the event (between the 350 volunteers and 15 leaders at various levels, it involves almost half of the 770 regular attendees and staff of our church). It is an event that has taught me more about leadership than any of my secular jobs put together. Needless to say, it’s a big deal that pushes our church’s people resources to the limit each year. However, anyone who has ever participated in it comes away humbled by seeing the needs of the community around us that often remain hidden from our eyes. It is to teach our people that there are needs all around us and that we have to be bold in engaging the culture around to find out what our neighbors are going through and meeting those needs as we are talented by the Lord.

 

I digress on the beauty of not only the beauty of giving to our community without expectation but also the discipling that the event does for our people. Back to this lady of which I have spoken. Although we had meeting to which she did not come where we told people to be there by 7am so that we could marshal all our volunteers into place and advise them of what their functions were and to pray at length for what was about to happen, she shows up at 9am – an hour after the doors opened for the event at 8am. She immediately sought me out and asked where I wanted her. I told her that since she did not sign up for anything that I would have to find a place where we did not have enough volunteers. I knew that we were weak in the “bag room” (where we were handing out the bags of dry goods to our visitors). In that room we had 600 bags containing canned yams, canned green beans, canned corn, etc. that had been donated by our church members and regular attendees. There were people at the counter in that particular room that would actually hand the bags to our guests and interact with him. Behind them were volunteers who would hand to the bags to the counter folk and people behind them that were keeping the inventory of bags moving forward as the inventory was being depleted. This last part was where we were weak and this is where I put this lady.

 

I learned later that she was outraged at me for having put her in the “back of the back of the back” of the event as she called it. She thought that just because she was in our small group that she was going to be given a place of privilege even though she did not take the time to be part of any of the meetings in preparation of the event and did not show up when all the other volunteers did. She wanted a visible position because she knew me. She wanted to be out front and seen. Needless to say, my putting her in the back of the back of the back of the event caused to not only caused her (and her husband) to leave our small group. They eventually left our church over this one offense toward her pride.

 

It is that idea of having our pride get in the way of ministry that came to mind when I read through today’s passage, Numbers 11:16-30, today for the second time. Today, my eyes and my heart were particularly drawn to vv. 26-29:

 

16 The Lord said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. 17 I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.

 

18 “Tell the people: ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The Lord heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. 19 You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, 20 but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”’”

 

21 But Moses said, “Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ 22 Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?”

 

23 The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.”

 

24 So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied—but did not do so again.

 

26 However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. 27 A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”

 

28 Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”

 

29 But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” 30 Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

 

In vv. 26-29, we are reminded of a similar incident in Mark 9:38-41. The disciples wanted Jesus to forbid others to drive out demons because they were not part of the rock band, “Jesus & His Disciples”. The narrow view of Joshua here with Moses and the disciples with Jesus was condemned both by Moses and by Jesus. Moses correctly asserts that oh that all of Israel were prophets. Jealous pride can make our churches into cliques. I am part of the in-crowd and you are not. I have special privilege because I know the preacher and you don’t. I am privileged because I know an event leader and you do not. As leaders too, we can become smug in the power that we have obtained or, even in the fact that we are so in-tune with the Spirit and most of our church folk appear to be here just for what they can get from the church. There is a smugness that God detests in that. God can choose whomever He wants to work through. Just because I have been at my church six years longer than you does not mean that you must wait six years to be on par with me. You are my equal child in Christ. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are here for one thing. To give God the glory. We are not here for our glory. We are here to lift Jesus up high!

 

When you may have a chance to get offended at church, think about why you are offended. Are you harboring the sin of pride? When you as a leader of the church start feeling that you get it and your people do not? Whose fault is that? As leaders, we are not here to massage our egos. We are here to grow people up in Christ. We are grow them up to “get it!” just like somebody grew us up where we got to the point that we “got it!”. We are to develop those who we lead. We are to disciple them so that they can take our place. As the old saying goes in the business world, “the best manager is the one who works himself out of his job!”. That means that you have developed your people so well that the best of them would be able to take over your job when you leave it. That means by developing your people that you give away your job to them by offloading responsibilities to them as they grow. It means by doing that you can take on more responsibilities from those above you and make yourself more valuable to the organization. In Christian organizations, we are to reproduce the leaders that we are in the people beneath us. As a church volunteer or as a leader in the church, we cannot let pride and possessiveness get in the way of ministry. We must humble ourselves to the ministry of Jesus Christ. We are not here to stake out our realm of power. We are here to give glory to God through the love that we show to others in whatever way we can participate in it. We are here to give glory to God by developing disciples who have the hunger and passion that we do and develop them so that they can take our place (when God calls us to the next step within our church or in another avenue of service to the cross).

 

That’s what we are here for!

 

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 11:16-30 (Part 1 of 3)

Moses Choses Seventy Leaders

“They say it’s your birthday! It’s my birthday, too! We’re gonna have a good time!” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MYCPB7a8ks). It’s classic song by the Beatles from back in the day! And then there’s always, “Happy birthday, Mr. President”, a classic impromptu birthday wish from Marilyn Monroe to John F. Kennedy at his birthday celebration (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqolSvoWNck). I guess by this point you can deduce that today is my birthday. Thank you. Thank you. To all the little people that made this all happen. Thank you! Thank you! Yes, today, as of 7:10am EDT, it will be the 54th anniversary of my birth. These fifty-four years have flown by in a flash particularly that last 31 and 4 months since the birth of my first child. I just thought life was fast before that, but since that time, I just don’t know what happened to all those years. The speed of the last 31 years is the speed of the first 23 years on mega-steroids. It’s like the difference between the speed of the Shuttle Enterprise vs. the speed of Starship Enterprise at Warp 9. I was telling someone this past weekend that some want to grow old gracefully but I am not going down without a fight. I am going down kicking and screaming. I will not go quietly into the night. I am still such a kid inside and I am screaming on the inside that I am not this 54 year old exterior that you see. I feel like I still belong in the youth ministry and not in the over-50 ministry. I don’t want to take bus rides to quilting conventions. I don’t want to play bingo on Friday nights. I don’t want to ever think, “I can’t do that because I getting too old” (well, only if it’s convenient). Going down scratching, clawing, and screaming!

 

But it is on our birthdays that I think that we can have an opportunity to sit down and reflect on our lives. In my 54 years, I have seen much. I have been through much. I have survived being a Methodist preacher’s kid and the insecurities that it brought into my life, moving every couple of years and starting over. I have survived two failed marriages. I have survived losing a job twice during recessions. I have survived moving to Charlotte after 20 plus years living in Greenville. I have survived living in California by myself for a time, across the country from my girlfriend (who is now my wife). I have survived creating order out of chaos at my current job on two different occasions (when I first took the job it was a mess there, and then when we went through the Oracle conversion) and I have survived the intercompany politics of Corporate vs. Subsidiary that could of cost me my job a couple of years ago. All of that bad stuff over the years includes times of great joy as well. The births of my two daughters, Meghan and Taylor, and watching them grow into young women. The mighty struggles and the too infrequent joys of parenting stepsons (Trey, Josh, and Dillon) during my second marriage. And to now for the last six years being a stepdad to an adult child who is just as goofy as I am, Michelle. I have seen much heartache in my life, more than I ever want to revisit. However, at the same time, when I look back on my life, I can reflect that it has been equally blessed and even the hard times were preludes to good ones. Even the hard times were used by God to mold me and move me into the place that I am now. God has performed miracles in many instances in my life to keep me from destroying myself so that I can be in this place that I am right now.

 

He is not finished with me yet. I just feel that. I am not done. He has much more in store for me and I think that I will ultimately die doing what I love – serving the Lord through the talents that He gave me. He has blessed me indeed. I have sailed through the troubled waters of my earlier life and am now in a season of blessing and a season of effectiveness. I have a wonderful wife who would follow me anywhere to serve the Lord. I have three wonderful daughters, Meghan, Michelle, and Taylor, who make my life complete. I have a great job at Fujikura America, Inc. that has enabled Elena and me to pay off all the debts of my past and allowed us to begin to be more generous than we ever have been. I have been lucky enough to start following my true calling of going into ministry through my part-time work at my church. Hopefully, one day soon, the Lord will take all this life of heartaches, joys, triumphs, sorrows, mistakes, getting-it-right, wrong turns, correct turns, ups, downs, failed marriages, successful final marriages, good jobs, bad jobs, all of it to serve Him in a full-time way that uses it all. He will have prepared me for it through the roads that he has led me down and through roads that He has saved me from. When I look back, it has been amazing ride so far. When you look back, you can really see the hand of God in your life. When you look back, you can see what he has saved you from. You can see the handiwork of God in not only what He saved you from but what He steered you toward. These are miracles. When I look back at my life, I could whine and complain for what I have been through (about half of which was self-imposed and the other half imposed on me by others), or I can focus on the miraculous way that God has provided for me and guided me to the point where I am today – where I actually see God’s hand daily in my life and live a life of eternal thanksgiving for it when I have time to reflect upon it.

 

In the mundane, routine of living life as it appears in front of you, it is sometimes difficult to see the miracles of God in our lives. We get so tied up in the routine and the mundane that we do not see the hand of God in anything in our lives. It is that need to step back and see what God has done that came to mind when I read through today’s passage, Numbers 11:16-30, today for the first time of the three times we will visit this passage over the next few days:

 

16 The Lord said to Moses: “Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the tent of meeting, that they may stand there with you. 17 I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take some of the power of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them. They will share the burden of the people with you so that you will not have to carry it alone.

 

18 “Tell the people: ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The Lord heard you when you wailed, “If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!” Now the Lord will give you meat, and you will eat it. 19 You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, 20 but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the Lord, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, “Why did we ever leave Egypt?”’”

 

21 But Moses said, “Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ 22 Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?”

 

23 The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.”

 

24 So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied—but did not do so again.

 

26 However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. 27 A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.”

 

28 Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”

 

29 But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” 30 Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

 

Moses had witnessed God’s power in spectacular miracles, yet, at this time, he questioned God’s ability to feed these people meat every day for a month. After all he had seen God do? Wow! If even Moses could doubt the power of God, how much easier is it for us to do so. When we begin to rely on our own understanding, we are in danger of ignoring the power of God in our lives. By remember how He has delivered us from many dangers, toils and snares, we can be sure that we are not short changing the power of God. How strong is God? It is easy to trust God when his miracles are right before us, but after a while, in the mundaneness of life, His strength may appear to diminish in our lives. God doesn’t change but our view of Him often does. The monotony of day to day life lulls us into forgetting how powerful God can be. As Moses would come to learn, God’s strength is always there and always available to us.

 

Let us take time to reflect on what God has done in our lives. Look back and see what He has delivered you from and delivered you too. Think about how He has saved you from so many things and how He has guided you into the life you lead now. Thanksgiving should pour out of us daily for what He has done in our lives and how He should have written us off a long time ago. Yet, He loved each one of us, individually, so much that He provided each one of us, individually, a way to be brought back home to Him through Jesus Christ. Look back at your life. God was there even when you did not see Him. That He cares so much for us even when we do not recognize that He is there. That is the greatest miracle, the greatest love, of all. Take time today to see what miracles God has done in your life. Sing praises of thanksgiving. Love God for what He has done. Act like it’s your birthday! Reflect!

 

Duh dun na duh dun na uh uh….it’s my birthday too!

 

 

Amen and Amen.