Archive for September, 2016

Numbers 18:8-32

Support for the Priests & the Levites

I am going to pull no punches today. This is a straight up challenge to who we say we are as Christians…

Have you ever wondered why churches struggle to make ends meet? Sure, there are large mega-churches out there that seem to have turned that corner and have sufficient funds to do whatever they want (or so it seems from the outside). The average church, according to Barna Research and other church statistical sources, of my church’s size, 600 per Sunday, with an average potential 350 in giving units (families or singles who are your potential givers), typically operates on a budget of $750,000. A budget of $750,000 would mean that weekly giving (online, mail and Sunday morning) averages around $14,425 per week. Statistics show that in churches of my church’s size, you will actually average about 115 giving units per Sunday (out of the average 350 giving units that attend each Sunday). That means these 115 giving units give about $125 per week. Certainly that is the average, there are a select few who give extremely generously each Sunday and there are those who give a $10 spot each each but must be counting as a giving unit. That means too that there less than half the average 600 attendee church, 115 out of 400 giving units, actually gives to the church or 33.28% of mid-sized churches give to their church.

 

In churches my church’s size in the Southeast in suburban areas (where our church finds itself – in a suburban area of the Greenville-Spartanburg metropolitan statistical area), the average income of church attendees is about $50,000 gross income before deductions. If we take that out to its potential, each giving unit in a 600 attendee church should tithe $5,000 annually. If each potential giving unit, all 350 of them in a 600 attendee church, making an average of $50,000 annually gave 10% annually, the average church budget would $1,750,000 for a 600 member church. Wow! What a difference that would be if we all just did what we are commanded to do.

 

I know that this sounds all financial and everything but I am a financial guy who is passionate about being obedient to the Lord in this area. What if we had all our potential giving units giving in our churches today. What if the church did not have to choose between ministry and paying the preacher? What if the church did not have choose between pay the electric bill and doing ministry outside the four walls of the church? What if we could have pastors who could take care of their families instead of scrimping by and praying that they have enough money to send their kids to college when the time comes? What if we could fully fund a helps ministry that helps people with getting themselves out of poverty? What if we had the money to help teenage girls who have gotten pregnant? What if we had the money to help get girls who have had to succumb to prostitution off the the streets and teach them marketable skills? What if we could fund missionaries who go to foreign nations and help girls get out the sex trafficking trade? What if we had the money to go into the cities and open satellite churches and really make a difference through education and outreach to street gang kids? What if we could help the little old lady living in a dilapidated house just down the road from the church? What if we thought more of that than spending 104% of what we make on ourselves? What if we tithed or more? What if we put our money where our mouth is about being a Christian? What if we lived off of 90% or less of what we make as God has commanded us to do?

 

It was that idea that God made provision for the ministry of the Tabernacle by requiring the Israelites to tithe of their crops and animals. It got me to thinking about how we as the modern church could learn so much from being obedient to the Lord in the area of finances and giving. We have written off the need to support the church. We have abdicated our responsibility to “they”. They will take care of it. I don’t have to. If we cannot be obedient in the area of supporting the church, it breeds a take it or leave attitude when it comes to obeying God. We see how that has worked out for the Israelites throughout the Old Testament. Let’s read what God commands about supporting the ministers and ministry of the Tabernacle, in Numbers 18:8-32:

8 Then the Lord said to Aaron, “I myself have put you in charge of the offerings presented to me; all the holy offerings the Israelites give me I give to you and your sons as your portion, your perpetual share. 9 You are to have the part of the most holy offerings that is kept from the fire. From all the gifts they bring me as most holy offerings, whether grain or sin[a] or guilt offerings, that part belongs to you and your sons. 10 Eat it as something most holy; every male shall eat it. You must regard it as holy.

 

11 “This also is yours: whatever is set aside from the gifts of all the wave offerings of the Israelites. I give this to you and your sons and daughters as your perpetual share. Everyone in your household who is ceremonially clean may eat it.

 

12 “I give you all the finest olive oil and all the finest new wine and grain they give the Lord as the firstfruits of their harvest. 13 All the land’s firstfruits that they bring to the Lord will be yours. Everyone in your household who is ceremonially clean may eat it.

 

14 “Everything in Israel that is devoted[b] to the Lord is yours. 15 The first offspring of every womb, both human and animal, that is offered to the Lord is yours. But you must redeem every firstborn son and every firstborn male of unclean animals. 16 When they are a month old, you must redeem them at the redemption price set at five shekels[c] of silver, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs.

 

17 “But you must not redeem the firstborn of a cow, a sheep or a goat; they are holy. Splash their blood against the altar and burn their fat as a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord. 18 Their meat is to be yours, just as the breast of the wave offering and the right thigh are yours. 19 Whatever is set aside from the holy offerings the Israelites present to the Lord I give to you and your sons and daughters as your perpetual share. It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the Lord for both you and your offspring.”

 

20 The Lord said to Aaron, “You will have no inheritance in their land, nor will you have any share among them; I am your share and your inheritance among the Israelites.

 

21 “I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the tent of meeting. 22 From now on the Israelites must not go near the tent of meeting, or they will bear the consequences of their sin and will die. 23 It is the Levites who are to do the work at the tent of meeting and bear the responsibility for any offenses they commit against it. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. They will receive no inheritance among the Israelites. 24 Instead, I give to the Levites as their inheritance the tithes that the Israelites present as an offering to the Lord. That is why I said concerning them: ‘They will have no inheritance among the Israelites.’”

 

25 The Lord said to Moses, 26 “Speak to the Levites and say to them: ‘When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the Lord’s offering. 27 Your offering will be reckoned to you as grain from the threshing floor or juice from the winepress. 28 In this way you also will present an offering to the Lord from all the tithes you receive from the Israelites. From these tithes you must give the Lord’s portion to Aaron the priest. 29 You must present as the Lord’s portion the best and holiest part of everything given to you.’

 

30 “Say to the Levites: ‘When you present the best part, it will be reckoned to you as the product of the threshing floor or the winepress. 31 You and your households may eat the rest of it anywhere, for it is your wages for your work at the tent of meeting. 32 By presenting the best part of it you will not be guilty in this matter; then you will not defile the holy offerings of the Israelites, and you will not die.’”

 

 

Do you think God just might bless us if we obeyed Him? We are no longer under the penalty of the law in Jesus Christ but Jesus said He came to fulfill the law not abolish it. Paul tells us that we should be generous givers because of what Jesus has done for us. Paul felt that 10% was just a starting point not a stopping point. He felt that we should give that and more to help the ministry of the gospel. The Lord will bless those who obey Him. He will bless you with a new perspective when you tithe and more. He will breed in you a heart of generosity rather than a self-seeking selfishness. When you give to the Lord first, you see things in a different way that begins to permeate through the rest of your life. When you give to the Lord first in your finances, you begin to put him first in everything else. When you give to the Lord first in your finances, you see that the rat race of collecting things means nothing in eternity. When you give to the Lord first in your finances, you think of giving to make eternal things happen instead of what newest thing you can buy that you think will fill your soul. It’s funny how it changes your perspective. It sure changed my and Elena’s attitude about our money. It actually changed everything when we worked out where in our finances to where we could get rid of debts and could begin to tithe. I would dare say that beginning to tithe was the beginning of seeing the world from God’s perspective and see his generosity to us be generosity that we must repeat.

 

Think about obeying the Lord and changing the perspective. Think of giving instead of collecting. Think of living off less and living more joyfully. Think of being free to be generous rather than being a slave to your debts. Think about it. Just think of the impact that our churches could have if we all were obedient to the Lord and were generous givers to the cause of Christ.

 

Amen and Amen.

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Numbers 18:1-7 (Part 2 of 2)

Duties of the Priest & The Levites

When I was six years old back in the day, my family was living in a small farming community in between Sumter, SC and Camden, SC. Sumter’s claim to fame is that it is home to Shaw Air Force Base and is named after the revolutionary war hero, Thomas “The Fighting Gamecock” Sumter and probably not much else. Camden has a bit richer history in that it is the oldest inland town in South Carolina and there was a major revolutionary war battle fought there for which there is a historical preserve just outside of town that commemorates those events. Both though are small southern towns that are not of any particular import these days. And, we lived in an even smaller town in between the two, Rembert, SC.

 

In that small area, it was so small population wise, we had to be bussed to our school over near Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter. Back in those days, the elementary school, the junior high and the high school were all on the same property. This point has a lot to do with my illustration this morning. That year, my 1st grade year, it was time for the homecoming football game, and apparently the homecoming committee (some of the high school kids) came down to the elementary school part of the campus on a Monday and was looking for a first grade boy and girl to be the crown bearer and the flower bearer for the homecoming game to held the following Friday. They looked in each classroom of first graders and were going to select some boy and some girl at random to become part of the homecoming court that Friday. By some twist of fate, I was selected. It may have had something to do with my innate cuteness at that age! LOL! However, it was not because of something I had done or something I had qualified for. It was simply that I was chosen by the girls of the homecoming committee because for whatever reason they just liked me.

 

It got me and the young girl whose name I cannot remember these 48 years later out of class twice that week to practice with the homecoming court. I was to carry the crown, which was attached, to this white satin pillow and my fellow cute first grader girl was to carry the roses that were to be bestowed upon the 1968 Homecoming Queen of Hillcrest High School. We just did what we were told. We were guided into our positions in practice. Then on Friday, during halftime of the homecoming game, we did it all again for real. Although we practiced it twice during the week, being there during the game under the lights with at least two thousand spectators there, I was a bit nervous. Must not drop the crown. Must not drop the crown. Must not walk faster than the girl I am with. Must not walk faster than the girl I am with. It was a great honor. Even though we were only first graders, if you find a 1969 Hillcrest yearbook, you will see two little first graders in the homecoming court picture. Why I was chosen for this honor still eludes me a half a century later. No one knows in my family why I was chosen. It was just that the homecoming committee’s teenagers just thought I fit the look or whatever. It was not that I was from a power family in the region. My dad had just been transferred to be the pastor of a couple of rural Methodist churches just a few months before so it wasn’t that I was like the child of this longtime preacher in the region. My mom was a working mom so she was not one of those 1960’s stay at home moms that was heavily involved in the school. None of those reasons that you might think in this situation was an explanation here. I was simply chosen at the whim of a few teenagers who peaked into Mrs. Lipsey’s first grade classroom that day. No pedigree. No history. No who ya know. Just chosen.

 

It is that idea of unmerited choice that I thought of when I read Numbers 18:1-7 for our second and final pass at this Scripture this morning. Let us read through it together now:

 

 

18 The Lord said to Aaron, “You, your sons and your family are to bear the responsibility for offenses connected with the sanctuary, and you and your sons alone are to bear the responsibility for offenses connected with the priesthood. 2 Bring your fellow Levites from your ancestral tribe to join you and assist you when you and your sons minister before the tent of the covenant law. 3 They are to be responsible to you and are to perform all the duties of the tent, but they must not go near the furnishings of the sanctuary or the altar. Otherwise both they and you will die. 4 They are to join you and be responsible for the care of the tent of meeting—all the work at the tent—and no one else may come near where you are.

 

5 “You are to be responsible for the care of the sanctuary and the altar, so that my wrath will not fall on the Israelites again. 6 I myself have selected your fellow Levites from among the Israelites as a gift to you, dedicated to the Lord to do the work at the tent of meeting. 7 But only you and your sons may serve as priests in connection with everything at the altar and inside the curtain. I am giving you the service of the priesthood as a gift. Anyone else who comes near the sanctuary is to be put to death.”

 

Here you see that the Levites were chosen by God to serve, not because they were anything special, not that there was a competition among the clans to see which clan got to be the priestly clan and they won out. There was no competition as to which clan was most holy all the time. None of the clans would have qualified under those circumstances. Yet, they were called out by God. They were chosen by Him to carry out the honorable duties of the Tabernacle (and later the Temple). This unmerited choice emphasized the fact that these priests, and these people had done nothing to merit the provision. It was wholly one of grace, a gift from God. Therefore, it was not less, but more, important that they should recognize its sanctity. Whatever service is ours as a result of the giving of grace, is the most holy and sacred service, and therefore to be rendered with the utmost devotion.

 

When we accept Christ as our Savior, we are given an unmerited gift than cancels out the penalty of our sins for which we deserve eternity in hell, separated from God, where there is burning of flesh and the gnashing of teeth eternally. That is what we deserve. That is what we have earned. We cannot do enough good deeds to undo the effect and the penalty of our sins in the absence of the grace, the unmerited gift of salvation, of Jesus Christ. Why then are we so often seen as a sorrowful people, the people of the church. We should be the most joyous people on the planet. We actually know what we deserve and where we were headed in the absence of the gift that we did not deserve. We know that hell exists and that were pulled back from its precipice. Not because we deserved it, no! We know that we rightfully by our own merits should be eternal residents of hell. But when we throw ourselves on the mercy of the Lord, He released us from our sentence through salvation in Jesus Christ. Through grace by faith, we have been set free. We don’t deserve it by any means. There should be such great joy, tempered with great humility. There should be this outpouring of “this is what Jesus has done for me” that we cannot hide it or help it from pouring out of us. We are like prisoners who are granted a reprieve from the electric chair. We are murders, rapers, liars, whores, prostitutes, thieves, prideful, arrogant, greedy, needful, all of us. None deserve being chosen through grace by faith. But we are chosen and set on the high, dry rock above hell’s flames. We are placed on the rock of Jesus Christ through faith and extended grace that we do not deserve. How’s your joy? How well do you serve the Lord just to pay him back just a .000000000001 of what we should do for our Savior?

 

Do you see serving the Lord as an imposition? Do you think that other things are higher priorities? Are all these other things that we involve ourselves in more important than showing God honor for what He has done for us through Jesus Christ? Whatever we do, it will never be enough for the grace He has extended us? No way no how. There is not enough we can do to serve our Lord! We must do it with passion and fervor because of what He has done for us. We cannot boast because we do not deserve anything other than the fiery flames of hell. Grace is a gift. We should be like kids on Christmas morning with our gift of grace that we do not deserve.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 18:1-7 (Part 1 of 2)

Duties of the Priest & The Levites

 

My brother and I were very close in age, only 18 months apart. We were so close in age we often participated on the same sports teams growing up. There might be one year here and there where we would be separated because he would pass the age break between team age classifications before I would, but you get the point. We were so close in age that there was no big brother/little brother separation. We were basically the same age although he would invoke the big brother privilege every now and then. There were those I had known growing where there were significant age differences between an older sibling and a younger sibling. You would see the little brother get themselves in a jam and the big brother would swoop in and defend his kid brother. Movies are made of such stuff. I remember in the movie, Stand By Me, John Cusack played, although it was a brief appearance, the big brother of the character played by Will Wheaton. In the movie, Will Wheaton’s character was like the forgotten son. John Cusack’s character was the superstar football player that everybody knew and admired while Will Wheaton was the much younger and more average kid. One scene of the movie, you see John Cusack’s character deflect the praise his parents were heaping on him so that he could get them hear what his little brother was saying. He was defending his brother to a set of parents who had lost sight of the fact that they had two boys and not just one.

 

My oldest daughter is 5 ½ years older than my youngest daughter. Whereas with me and my brother, we were so close in age that we fought like cats and dogs. But in my own children I got to see this concept of an older child looking after the younger child. Meghan and Taylor were oh so close growing up. Meghan was the mothering big sister and Taylor was the idolizing little sister. Meghan was fiercely protective of her little sister. Taylor was the precocious one who knew that Meghan always had her back. Taylor looked up to her sister and would sometimes obey her sister more than she would her parents. There was closeness that Meghan and Taylor had that my brother and I never had. My brother and I were so competitive with one another because we were so close in age that we would throw each other under the bus to preserve our victories over the other. Meghan and Taylor, though, were tight. There was such an age difference for them that they did not run in the same circles and were never at the same school at the same time. So, it was the classic big sister/little sister relationship. Meghan was a second mom to Taylor and would run interference with her mom to keep Taylor out of trouble. Taylor would do stuff for Meghan that a little sister could get away with that a big sister could not. They would work together to get what they wanted. Taylor admired her big sister and Meghan watched out for and defended her little sister. Although their relationship has hit a rough spot of late (at ages 26, Taylor, and 31, Meghan), I imagine that if the chips were down and each had no other to call, they would be there for each other.

 

It is that idea of taking the punishment for someone else or defending someone else in the face of wrongdoing like much older siblings often do for their younger siblings that I thought of this morning when I read Numbers 18:1-7 for our first pass at this Scripture this morning. Let us read through it together now:

 

 

18 The Lord said to Aaron, “You, your sons and your family are to bear the responsibility for offenses connected with the sanctuary, and you and your sons alone are to bear the responsibility for offenses connected with the priesthood. 2 Bring your fellow Levites from your ancestral tribe to join you and assist you when you and your sons minister before the tent of the covenant law. 3 They are to be responsible to you and are to perform all the duties of the tent, but they must not go near the furnishings of the sanctuary or the altar. Otherwise both they and you will die. 4 They are to join you and be responsible for the care of the tent of meeting—all the work at the tent—and no one else may come near where you are.

 

5 “You are to be responsible for the care of the sanctuary and the altar, so that my wrath will not fall on the Israelites again. 6 I myself have selected your fellow Levites from among the Israelites as a gift to you, dedicated to the Lord to do the work at the tent of meeting. 7 But only you and your sons may serve as priests in connection with everything at the altar and inside the curtain. I am giving you the service of the priesthood as a gift. Anyone else who comes near the sanctuary is to be put to death.”

 

Here you see that the Levites clans were given to Aaron and his descendents to be the permanent helpers of the priests at the Tabernacle. There were to most everything at the Tabernacle except for certain duties reserved for the Aaronic priests. They were to be held responsible for any offenses related to sanctuary. The Levites were like the big brother or big sister taking the rap for the Israelites. They, then, had to make sure that the people understood what a violation was. If a violation occurred the Levites would take the punishment for it. They had to prevent people from getting to close to the holiness of God in their imperfections. They had to run interfence for them just like a big brother or big sister does sometimes for their precocious little brother or little sister.

 

Isn’t that what Jesus does for us? When we are a precocious little brother or little sister we drift off into territory that we should not and He comes and rescues us from the errors of our own making. When we get in trouble with the Lord through our sins, Jesus comes in and accepts the blame for our wrongdoing and accepts the punishment for it. We sin with impunity against the Lord. We are precocious sinners. We think we can get away with our sins by saying that they are OK. It is not OK even though we think we are the cute little brother or little sister. Sin is sin even if we change its name to something more acceptable. But when God’s wrath comes against us and we are rightfully to be consumed, and we scream out to the Lord to do something in all earnestness and humility knowing that we deserve our punishment, Jesus steps in and takes our punishment for us. We are preserved. We are wiped clean. We are saved from our own judgment. Oh yes, we deserved get our butt kicked. We deserve to be punished by God. However, Jesus steps in and defends us and takes the punishment that we deserve.

 

Are you a precocious sinning little brother or little sister? Are you in a jam from which you cannot extricate yourself? Do you see that you are about to be swallowed up in punishment for the sins of of your own making? Call out to Jesus right now? He is your Savior and He will take the fight that you should have fought? He will take the beating that you deserve? He will take the punishment that you deserve and will set you on high ground and clean you off and make you right with God. Are you ready? Are you willing to call on His name in humility and seeking forgiveness for the mess you have made of your life and the lives of others? Are you ready to accept His protection and love?

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 17:1-13 (Part 2 of 2)

The Budding of Aaron’s Staff

Are you producing almonds in your life? Is your staff budding and blossoming? Or are you a dead stick not producing any fruit?

One of the complaints about us as Christians, in general, is that we have a critical spirit and that we are judgmental. There is plenty of evidence to support these assumptions. Just think of so-called churches life Westboro Baptist Church. They send their members around the nation to condemn the activities of others. They have decided that they are the brokers of God’s Word and that they have cornered the market on understanding God. There have been numerous abortion clinic protests and, even, abortion clinic bombings that have killed people. Often in churches, we feed on our own by gossiping about what someone wears to church or what someone is doing at church to begin with considering their reputation. Why is it that so often people who are in the midst of a divorce quit church because of fear of what people will say? Just look at Facebook. Christians seem to hide behind their keyboards and judge others harshly for having beliefs that are not Christian. You know. You’ve seen it. There’s old saying that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. We must be characterized by love and not hate. We must be characterized by conviction and not by condemnation.

 

Often as churchgoers too, we complain that something major cannot be done because it costs too much or we can’t get enough people to commit to doing the work. We accept half-ass at church where it would never be acceptable in the secular because we think that we are lucky just to have the bare minimum when it comes to church. We don’t dream big dreams at church because we just don’t think it can be done. We defeat ourselves before we even begin. We don’t dream big dreams because it might take some work, some commitment. We are just happy that we can keep the lights on at church much less impact the world around us with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Sometimes, we accept sub-standard at church and we wonder why the world doesn’t pay us any attention. Sometimes, at church, we accept low-quality, low-budget as the best we can do because it’s church. Sometimes, we think that a flyer done on a computer will capture people’s attention when we need professionalism in our communications. Sometimes, we think an old-time gospel singing will impact the community and we wonder why no one shows up. Sometimes, we think church bake sale when we should be thinking bigger and better. Sometimes, we like our old tired ways better than trying something new and bold. Sometimes, we think small instead of thinking big. We can’t make a splash if are bold enough to do a cannonball.

 

It is that idea of critical spirits in our actions toward others and that defeatist attitude that sometimes characterizes us as Christians that I thought of when I read this passage again today, Numbers 17:1-13, before we move onto the next passage:

 

17 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and get twelve staffs from them, one from the leader of each of their ancestral tribes. Write the name of each man on his staff. 3 On the staff of Levi write Aaron’s name, for there must be one staff for the head of each ancestral tribe. 4 Place them in the tent of meeting in front of the ark of the covenant law, where I meet with you. 5 The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by the Israelites.”

 

6 So Moses spoke to the Israelites, and their leaders gave him twelve staffs, one for the leader of each of their ancestral tribes, and Aaron’s staff was among them. 7 Moses placed the staffs before the Lord in the tent of the covenant law.

 

8 The next day Moses entered the tent and saw that Aaron’s staff, which represented the tribe of Levi, had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds. 9 Then Moses brought out all the staffs from the Lord’s presence to all the Israelites. They looked at them, and each of the leaders took his own staff.

 

10 The Lord said to Moses, “Put back Aaron’s staff in front of the ark of the covenant law, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die.” 11 Moses did just as the Lord commanded him.

 

12 The Israelites said to Moses, “We will die! We are lost, we are all lost! 13 Anyone who even comes near the tabernacle of the Lord will die. Are we all going to die?”

 

 

Are you are a person that says the sky is falling? Are you a person in a disaster move that has the line that says “we’re all going to die?” Are you a person who criticizes others rather than encourages? Are you a person that dreams small because you don’t think it can be done? It is true that plants won’t grow in soil that is too acidic. How is your soil? Are you supercritical? Are you not dreaming the big dreams because everyone believes it cannot be done? Are you one of the ones who subscribes to the theory that it cannot be done? Are you shooting down your own ministry because of not allowing dreams to be dreamed?

 

Flowers don’t grow on dead sticks. Almonds are not produced on dead trees. Maybe it’s time for us to go big or go home. What is it that you dream or wish that you church could do to impact the world for Jesus Christ? Maybe it’s time we take some risks and trust God. Maybe it’s time we moved beyond the bake sales, and cow drops, and old-time gospel singings, and hand-made flyers and go big. Maybe we stop believing that we can’t do something big and stop settling for less than. Maybe we quit grumbling that it cannot be done and dream the impossible dreams. Maybe we should be dreaming that we can do something that is impossible because it means that we will have to depend on God to make it happen. Maybe we begin to trust the Miracle Maker.

 

How can we dream big if we are stuck in a critical, defeatist spirit? Is your staff not going to bud because you don’t really believe in a big God? Do you believe that he does not do miracles anymore? Do you believe in a second class, just barely enough God? Then, you are a dead stick. Believe in the big, wide open, anything is possible God? Believe that He is an amazing God. Believe. Have faith. When you dream God-sized dreams there will be no second-rate, just barely enough. When we dream God-sized impossible dreams, God will show up and show out. When we are doing what God wants us to do, when we are making an impact for His eternal kingdom, God will go big if we believe in a go-big God! God is a God of miracles. Why do we spend time grumbling about one another and selling God short because we think it cannot be done? Let’s keep our eyes on the Creator of the Universe! He is a big God. He is an awesome God who can make the impossible possible. Let us dream big about making Jesus’ name known in unique ways, modern ways, professionally crafted ways, ways that are not halfway done, with what we have available. Let us dream big, done well, and fully funded. Let us believe that God will bring about the miracles. All we have to do is quit grumbling and start budding. When we quit complaining about others we start budding. When we love instead of complain and criticize our soil becomes fertile.

 

When we trust instead of saying it can’t be done, we start flowering. When we go big God will bring us home. When we depend on Him to make the miracles, we are ready to produce almonds.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 17:1-13 (Part 1 of 2)

The Budding of Aaron’s Staff

 

As some of our friends know and, now, you the reader join in with us, we signed a contract with our real estate agent on Monday of this past week. After arranging for photographs and working on the write-up of the house with the agent, our home was finally uploaded to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) of Greenville and Spartanburg on Thursday. As of today (two days later), Saturday, we will have had five showing of our home and we already have two offers at or above our asking price on the table. Our real estate agent, Stephanie, told us that our house because of its price point would sell quickly because of where we live is the next hot area in the Greenville-Spartanburg, SC market and housing in that middle market $100k-$300k is under inventoried right now. Yes, $100-300k is the middle market here (one of the reasons I love Upstate SC – housing prices are not crazy like they are elsewhere). So, today, our agent is going back to the two offers and asking them to give us their highest and best offer. We could very well have our house under contract before the day is done – after only 3 full days on the market. That, to me, is amazing and it is God’s hand.

 

For the past several years, since my graduation from seminary at North Greenville University’s graduate school, we have felt led to downsize our life. We have paid off cars, old unsecured debts, student loans and have now we have only our mortgage as our only fixed debt. We have felt drawn to what is known as the Lyman Mill Village which is in the town that borders Duncan, where we currently live. The Mill Village is a collection of about 200 homes that were once a part of the Pacific Mills mill village back in the day. The houses mostly built in the 1920s are now being snatched up by 30 somethings with kids and houses are being remodeled all over that village. One of the appeals of the village is the throwback neighborliness of the community. It’s like stepping back in time where everybody talks to each other as the people are out walking and jogging and strolling their infants. It’s the new chic retro neighborhood. Our church over time has loved on this neighborhood in many ways and we have just felt drawn there.

 

But then there’s this house in Holly Tree Estates. Man, how our life has changed since we moved in here in August 2010. I love this house. It is the nicest house I have ever owned. It is a comfortable house. It is such a cute house too. It is beautiful from the road. It has almost three quarters of acre lot. It’s a corner lot, one the biggest in our subdivision. It has a high wooden privacy fence all the way around the back yard. Lovely screened-in back porch. Wooded areas. Inside it’s just comfortable. Everything is where its supposed to be so you don’t have wasted motion. There is no wasted space in the house either. All that alone would make you love this house. And I do love it for those things. However, what I love the most about this house is that this is where God meant us to be these six years. When we were living in California and preparing to move back here, we shopped the houses that our agent recommended for us. From the moment I saw this house, I knew it was the one. God made sure of that! All the shopping of houses and the offer process, God made sure we were here. This was our sweet spot.

 

This house is where we moved in as 5 month newlyweds and are leaving as a mature couple who knows each other completely. It was here that we matured in our respective walks with Jesus Christ. So so much in that regard has happened with this place as our address, as our refuge, as our La Casita, as we call it. It was a place of maturation and preparation. It was our incubator. We matured in Christ. Through Christ, we matured financially and we have been so abundantly blessed by being obedient financially to the Lord. This house has been crucial to our history. We tried selling this house on our own two years ago but somehow it did not feel right, think Holy Spirit, so it did not sell. But now was the right time, and it will sell and sell quickly. Some people are calling us silly for selling this house and buying one in the Village but we both have peace about it and believe that we are following what God called us to do. Simplifying our finances in one more way is the next step. When you know that you are in God’s will for your life there is peace about it. Although I will most like shed slow man-tears when we set the keys on the counter and walk out of this house for the last time (because of what this place has meant to us), I will be at peace that we are doing what God has designed for us, regardless of what others think. Each step is leading us to what God has prepared for us.

 

When you are not in His will, there is always conflict. When we are in alignment with God’s will, He makes things happen so that you can see His hand in it. We are seeing that right now in our lives in how He has worked out the past six years and how He is working in our next steps. That’s what I thought of here when I read this passage for the first of two reviews this morning in Numbers 17:1-13:

 

17 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and get twelve staffs from them, one from the leader of each of their ancestral tribes. Write the name of each man on his staff. 3 On the staff of Levi write Aaron’s name, for there must be one staff for the head of each ancestral tribe. 4 Place them in the tent of meeting in front of the ark of the covenant law, where I meet with you. 5 The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by the Israelites.”

 

6 So Moses spoke to the Israelites, and their leaders gave him twelve staffs, one for the leader of each of their ancestral tribes, and Aaron’s staff was among them. 7 Moses placed the staffs before the Lord in the tent of the covenant law.

 

8 The next day Moses entered the tent and saw that Aaron’s staff, which represented the tribe of Levi, had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds. 9 Then Moses brought out all the staffs from the Lord’s presence to all the Israelites. They looked at them, and each of the leaders took his own staff.

 

10 The Lord said to Moses, “Put back Aaron’s staff in front of the ark of the covenant law, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die.” 11 Moses did just as the Lord commanded him.

 

12 The Israelites said to Moses, “We will die! We are lost, we are all lost! 13 Anyone who even comes near the tabernacle of the Lord will die. Are we all going to die?”

 

 

I think the thing here that jumped out at me was that God made it evident who was doing His Will. The budding of Aaron’s staff was full-on evidence that Aaron was being designed by God to carry this particular task – being the head of the priestly clan. He made it abundantly clear. There was no doubt. It was clear as day.

 

That’s the thing. When we are doing God’s directed will for our lives, there is peace. There is trust. We sometimes don’t understand why God calls us to do certain things. They may not even make sense to us much less other people. But there is peace about it because God is making the way clear and making it evident to us that we are doing the right thing. He gives us peace even in the uncertainty of following His will for our lives. There is a peace. A calmness. Just the feeling that you are doing what God commanded in your heart. When we are going our own way, there is frustration. There is conflict. There is that bad feeling. There is the unclear path. There is no peace. The way ahead is not abundantly clear. There is confusion. There is no consistency in what you THINK you are hearing from God.

 

God will make the path clear. He will make it abundantly evident that we are supposed to follow this path. He will give us peace about following His lead.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 16:1-50 (Part 3 of 3)

Korah, Dathan and Abiram

 

In recent weeks, we have seen North Carolina take a beating in the press with regard to House Bill 2, otherwise known as the Bathroom Bill. The latest in the vilification of North Carolina has been actions by the NCAA, the governing body of college-level athletics, and by the ACC (the Atlantic Coast Conference), whose headquarters happen to be within the borders of North Carolina in Greensboro. The Atlantic Coast Conference is made up of member schools, Boston College, Clemson University, Duke University, Florida State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Louisville, University of Miami, University of North Carolina, North Carolina State University, University of Pittsburgh, Syracuse University, Wake Forest University, Virginia Polytechnic & State University, and the University of Virginia, and member in all sports except football, Notre Dame University. The conference, headquartered in the heart of Tobacco country in Greensboro, NC has decided to join the ever-increasing bandwagon of sporting events that have been removed from North Carolina by removing all of its conference sports championships that had been planned for the next year in the state.

 

Although I am a Clemson fan and have been proud of our heritage as one of the few schools (in this day and age where schools change their conference affiliation like I change underwear) that has remained in this conference since its formation in 1953, this decision is so disheartening. Clemson has had chances to leave the conference on two occasions but has decided to stay because of loyalty to the conference. Although I think it would be better from a football standpoint for Clemson to join the SEC, they have remained loyal. I often defend the ACC to my SEC friends. I am angered when the level of competition in our football is questioned. Although the ACC has four teams ranked in this week’s Top 25 rankings and three of those are ranked in the Top 10 (Florida State, Clemson and Louisville), we still must defend the strength of our league. Although we rank only second to the SEC in the number of NFL draftees over the past five years, we still have to defend our league. And, I have done so with passionate fervor. However, I must say that I feel betrayed this morning by the very league I often staunchly defend.

 

The irony of it all is that the ACC, as well as the NCAA, do not seem to grasp their own hypocrisy in this situation. Although the ACC has come out in favor of unisex bathrooms in catering to those with claimed gender identity crises, it remains committed to holding separate men’s and women’s sports championships in sports common to both sexes. If you go to their website, www.theacc.com, and click on the “Sports” link at the top of the page, you will note the blatant segregation of men’s and women’s sports. The same would be found in a browse of the NCAA’s website. So, it seems that the objections of the ACC from the get-to to HB2 is fundamentally flawed and fundamentally hypocritical. Why not allow men to compete in women’s sports and vice versa and just remove the labels of men and women altogether. You and I both know why. It is because of safety concerns not only on the field but off it. Women could easily be gravely injured by competing with men. And, certainly, women would, in general, desire not to be required to undress in front of men.

 

The motivation for this removal of sporting championship from the state where the conference is headquarted is nothing more than political bandwagoning. If the ACC is so committed to principles to which it says it was committed to yesterday, why not move the ACC headquarters out of North Carolina? Would that not show how committed they are to the unisex concept? The ACC owes much its heritage to the tobacco industry that has long supported its core North Carolina member institutions. Why not protest that, too, by moving out of North Carolina? As Franklin Graham said yesterday, why not drop Dr. Pepper as title sponsor from the ACC football championship game. Dr. Pepper readily and willing operates in countries where transgenderism and homosexuality is actually a crime punishable by imprisonment or death. Why not put your mouth where you money is, ACC? The hypocrisy is astounding. Standing on wagon with tobacco on it while on one side of the wagon saying you boys have your championships over here and you girls have your championships over there, and then turning around and taking a gulp of Dr. Pepper and shouting that inclusiveness is our thing so we disdain the very state in which we are headquartered and have no intention of leaving. It’s all about gaining political currency as well as seeking to maintain actual currency. This has less to do with conviction and more to do with perception. I am dismayed. North Carolina actually had the common sense to make state law that would supersede a city ordinance passed by its largest city, Charlotte.

 

Jumping on the bandwagon, ACC, and caving to what you perceive as the populist wave does not make what you did yesterday morally correct. God did create us as men and women for a reason. If He had wanted us to blur the lines between manhood and womanhood, he would not have made the division so distinct. Such sexual identity crises should be met with loving and compassionate counseling not glorifying it as normal behavior. However, we are glorify and normalizing what we have no idea how it will impact society for years to come. It is like though we have the capability to create nuclear weapons we as society have chosen to not use them anymore. Just because we CAN be transgender does not mean we SHOULD not only from a God-ordained standpoint but also simply from a social chaos standpoint.

 

Yet, here we are, the bandwagon of lunacy and hypocrisy grows larger each day. North Carolina will be vilified to the point of having to repeal their law. The bandwagon pressure will grow and grow but as the bandwagon falls of the cliff, they will say they are supporting liberty and quash anyone who has a different opinion. The bandwagon was joined by the ACC yesterday, the biggest hypocrite of all. My dad used to say to me that “if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?” That’s the very question that I ask here.

 

It is that idea of having to choose between popular opinion and that which is of God is the thing that I thought of when I read this rather extended passage for the third and final time today, Numbers 16:1-50:

 

16 Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent 2 and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. 3 They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?”

 

4 When Moses heard this, he fell facedown. 5 Then he said to Korah and all his followers: “In the morning the Lord will show who belongs to him and who is holy, and he will have that person come near him. The man he chooses he will cause to come near him. 6 You, Korah, and all your followers are to do this: Take censers 7 and tomorrow put burning coals and incense in them before the Lord. The man the Lord chooses will be the one who is holy. You Levites have gone too far!”

 

38 Moses also said to Korah, “Now listen, you Levites! 9 Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the Lord’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them? 10 He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too. 11 It is against the Lord that you and all your followers have banded together. Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?”

 

12 Then Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab. But they said, “We will not come! 13 Isn’t it enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness? And now you also want to lord it over us! 14 Moreover, you haven’t brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey or given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Do you want to treat these men like slaves? No, we will not come!”

 

15 Then Moses became very angry and said to the Lord, “Do not accept their offering. I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, nor have I wronged any of them.”

 

16 Moses said to Korah, “You and all your followers are to appear before the Lord tomorrow—you and they and Aaron. 17 Each man is to take his censer and put incense in it—250 censers in all—and present it before the Lord. You and Aaron are to present your censers also.” 18 So each of them took his censer, put burning coals and incense in it, and stood with Moses and Aaron at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 19 When Korah had gathered all his followers in opposition to them at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the glory of the Lord appeared to the entire assembly. 20 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 21 “Separate yourselves from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.”

 

22 But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, “O God, the God who gives breath to all living things, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?”

23 Then the Lord said to Moses, 24 “Say to the assembly, ‘Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.’”

 

25 Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. 26 He warned the assembly, “Move back from the tents of these wicked men! Do not touch anything belonging to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins.” 27 So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing with their wives, children and little ones at the entrances to their tents.

 

28 Then Moses said, “This is how you will know that the Lord has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: 29 If these men die a natural death and suffer the fate of all mankind, then the Lord has not sent me. 30 But if the Lord brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the realm of the dead, then you will know that these men have treated the Lord with contempt.”

 

31 As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all those associated with Korah, together with their possessions. 33 They went down alive into the realm of the dead, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. 34 At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!”

 

35 And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.

 

36 The Lord said to Moses, 37 “Tell Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, to remove the censers from the charred remains and scatter the coals some distance away, for the censers are holy— 38 the censers of the men who sinned at the cost of their lives. Hammer the censers into sheets to overlay the altar, for they were presented before the Lord and have become holy. Let them be a sign to the Israelites.”

 

39 So Eleazar the priest collected the bronze censers brought by those who had been burned to death, and he had them hammered out to overlay the altar, 40 as the Lord directed him through Moses. This was to remind the Israelites that no one except a descendant of Aaron should come to burn incense before the Lord, or he would become like Korah and his followers.

 

41 The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. “You have killed the Lord’s people,” they said.

 

42 But when the assembly gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron and turned toward the tent of meeting, suddenly the cloud covered it and the glory of the Lord appeared. 43 Then Moses and Aaron went to the front of the tent of meeting, 44 and the Lord said to Moses, 45 “Get away from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.” And they fell facedown.

 

46 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put incense in it, along with burning coals from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the Lord; the plague has started.” 47 So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. 48 He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped. 49 But 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died because of Korah. 50 Then Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance to the tent of meeting, for the plague had stopped.

 

The Israelites were told to not even touch the belongings of the wicked people. In this case, doing so would have shown sympathy to their cause and agreement with their principles. Korah, Dathan and Abiram were directly challenging Moses and God. Moses clearly stated what God intended to do the rebels. He did this so everyone would have to choose between following Korah and following Moses, God’s chosen leader. When God asks us to make a fundamental choice between siding with that which is not of God and that which is of God, we should not hesitate but commit ourselves 100% to the Lord’s side, no matter the ramifications of public opinion.

 

We should choose God’s side over human opinion each and every day. When we begin compromising our beliefs to make our beliefs more palatable to the world then we begin destroying the integrity of the Christian faith. At the same token, we are not to blow up buildings and such things to get our point across. We are simply to choose God’s way in peaceful and loving ways. We cannot jump on the bandwagon and say this thing that the Bible said is OK now in the 21st century but that has been wrong eternally. God does not change. What He says was wrong a million eternities ago is still wrong today. Just because we now call a gorilla a kitten does not mean the kitten is not fundamentally and in every way still a gorilla.

 

I do not wish to sound harsh here but the bandwagon mentality has taken over our country. We as Christians must lovingly stand against the tide of public opinion and stand with God. We must stand with North Carolina in a very public way. We must stand with them and not cave to public opinion and fear of losing corporate dollars as the ACC did yesterday. May we have the same conviction to the principles of God and with the same love for others as Jesus did when He died on the cross. That loving necessity meant pain and suffering and public ridicule but He was executing the Father’s will and that was the most important thing to Him. May we stand with Christian principles with the same conviction knowing that God loves the very people that are spitting in our faces.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 16:1-50 (Part 2 of 3)

Korah, Dathan and Abiram

When we take our eyes of the ball flying toward us, we will inevitably will get hit in the head by it. Think about how we take our eyes off the ball sometimes…

 

Your neighbor has a nicer house. Your fellow employee seems to have it all together – smart, politically savvy, good looking. Your see guys who are young and slim. You see women with the perfect figure and the perfect clothes and the perfect kids and it seems like she was never pregnant – somebody must’ve had those kids for her! You see these power couples that are combination of all these things – both slim and fit, wealthy, good looking, living in the finest house, with the finest yard, with the adorable kids, always seemingly being at the right place at the right time, and they seem to have all the right friends, and it all seems to come natural to them. You are jealous because they seem to have everything that you are not. You know the feeling. We have all experienced it before.

 

In church settings, when you are called later in life to be a minister, sometimes you feel like missed some secret class that you were supposed have gone to make you more ministerial. You didn’t go to the how to be a cool pastor of a modern church secret class. You didn’t get your card punched at the right age. You have the desire and the passion to do what they do but you don’t have the credentials. You feel as though you are a step behind and will never catch up. You don’t know the secret handshake and no one is willing to show you. Even in pastoral settings, it is easy to take your eyes off what you are supposed to have your eyes on. I am sure that at times when you are a pastor of a newer church and you are struggling to get past 700 regular attendees and you see the Steve Furticks of the world with their multi-campus churches that are 10 times as large as yours in the practically the same amount of history that you say, “what am I doing wrong?” We are all human even when you work for a church. Jealousy and envy can be really destructive.

 

You know too that you have heard the stories of jealous husbands or wives. The other spouse cannot do anything without being accused of having designs on another man or woman. One constantly accuses the other of having affairs. What was once love is now fear and jealousy. It sometimes gets so bad that the spouse being accused of having affairs actually has one. So, the other spouse through their jealousy actually creates the self-fulfilling prophecy that they were dreading. We have seen it before. Maybe, you have experienced it before. Maybe you have been the jealous one.

 

Maybe you are a high schooler. Maybe you are smart but not super smart. Maybe you are a good athlete but not good enough to be first string. You see the super smart guys and gals at school where everything seems to come naturally. The only advantage that you see there is that they are mostly socially outcasts. Then, there are the jocks that seem to excel and they seem to have this popularity thing down cold and they usually have the pretty girls too. The only advantage you see there is that the jocks are often much less talented than you in the classroom. The worst is when you find the quarterback is actually a straight A student and he has the homecoming queen as his girlfriend and a handful of other girls that would be his girlfriend in a moment’s notice. He is all conference on the football field with scholarship offers from Division 1 colleges. He is the student body president too boot! It drives you nuts. Instead of admiring what seems to be a natural born leader, you hate this person and everything about them because, ironically, they are what you want to be.

 

It is that idea of destructive jealousy that I thought of when I read this rather extended passage for the second time today, Numbers 16:1-50:

 

16 Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent 2 and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. 3 They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?”

 

4 When Moses heard this, he fell facedown. 5 Then he said to Korah and all his followers: “In the morning the Lord will show who belongs to him and who is holy, and he will have that person come near him. The man he chooses he will cause to come near him. 6 You, Korah, and all your followers are to do this: Take censers 7 and tomorrow put burning coals and incense in them before the Lord. The man the Lord chooses will be the one who is holy. You Levites have gone too far!”

 

38 Moses also said to Korah, “Now listen, you Levites! 9 Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the Lord’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them? 10 He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too. 11 It is against the Lord that you and all your followers have banded together. Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?”

 

12 Then Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab. But they said, “We will not come! 13 Isn’t it enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness? And now you also want to lord it over us! 14 Moreover, you haven’t brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey or given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Do you want to treat these men like slaves? No, we will not come!”

 

15 Then Moses became very angry and said to the Lord, “Do not accept their offering. I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, nor have I wronged any of them.”

 

16 Moses said to Korah, “You and all your followers are to appear before the Lord tomorrow—you and they and Aaron. 17 Each man is to take his censer and put incense in it—250 censers in all—and present it before the Lord. You and Aaron are to present your censers also.” 18 So each of them took his censer, put burning coals and incense in it, and stood with Moses and Aaron at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 19 When Korah had gathered all his followers in opposition to them at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the glory of the Lord appeared to the entire assembly. 20 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 21 “Separate yourselves from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.”

 

22 But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, “O God, the God who gives breath to all living things, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?”

23 Then the Lord said to Moses, 24 “Say to the assembly, ‘Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.’”

 

25 Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. 26 He warned the assembly, “Move back from the tents of these wicked men! Do not touch anything belonging to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins.” 27 So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing with their wives, children and little ones at the entrances to their tents.

 

28 Then Moses said, “This is how you will know that the Lord has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: 29 If these men die a natural death and suffer the fate of all mankind, then the Lord has not sent me. 30 But if the Lord brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the realm of the dead, then you will know that these men have treated the Lord with contempt.”

 

31 As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all those associated with Korah, together with their possessions. 33 They went down alive into the realm of the dead, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. 34 At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!”

 

35 And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.

 

36 The Lord said to Moses, 37 “Tell Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, to remove the censers from the charred remains and scatter the coals some distance away, for the censers are holy— 38 the censers of the men who sinned at the cost of their lives. Hammer the censers into sheets to overlay the altar, for they were presented before the Lord and have become holy. Let them be a sign to the Israelites.”

 

39 So Eleazar the priest collected the bronze censers brought by those who had been burned to death, and he had them hammered out to overlay the altar, 40 as the Lord directed him through Moses. This was to remind the Israelites that no one except a descendant of Aaron should come to burn incense before the Lord, or he would become like Korah and his followers.

 

41 The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. “You have killed the Lord’s people,” they said.

 

42 But when the assembly gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron and turned toward the tent of meeting, suddenly the cloud covered it and the glory of the Lord appeared. 43 Then Moses and Aaron went to the front of the tent of meeting, 44 and the Lord said to Moses, 45 “Get away from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.” And they fell facedown.

 

46 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put incense in it, along with burning coals from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the Lord; the plague has started.” 47 So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. 48 He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped. 49 But 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died because of Korah. 50 Then Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance to the tent of meeting, for the plague had stopped.

 

One of the easiest ways to fall away from following God is to quit looking vertically at him and begin looking horizontally at what others have that you do not. We often look at our own situation and exaggerate the problem. Dothan and Abiram did just that when they began to long for better food and more pleasant surroundings. Egypt, the place they had longed to leave because of their slavery to the Egyptian masters, was now looking better and better – because it had better food. They began to have a warped ideal of what Egypt had been to them. They longed for the better food and made that the ideal place. They had forgotten that the better food came at a high price. They forgot about the slave driving labor that would break the strongest man. They forgot about being defeated at every turn because they were Jews. They only saw the food. These two men and their followers completely lost their perspective.

 

When we take our eyes off God and start looking at ourselves compared to others or to some idealized past or future world, we can lose our perspective as well. When we compare ourselves to what others have that we do not we can lose perspective. When we compare ourselves to others instead of keeping our eyes on God, we will lose perspective. When we focus on what others have that we do not, we lose perspective. When we think we are the only ones who get it and others do not, we lose perspective. When we are jealous of the lifestyle that others have that we do not, we lose perspective. When we are jealous of others who seem to have a better grasp on serving the Lord, we lose perspective. When others have paid their dues over a longer period of time in their service to the Lord but we want what they have and we want it now, we lose perspective. When we want a 7,000 member church when we have a 700 member church, we lose perspective. When we compare ourselves to others in pride or in jealousy, we lose perspective.

 

What are we here for? We are not here to have what others have. We are here to trust the Lord. We are here to serve Him. And, most of all, we are here to love the Lord with the totality of our heart, soul, mind and strength. We are here to be madly in love with the Lord. We are here to be passionately in love with Him. When we have our eyes constantly on that vertical relationship, the horizontal relationships will take care of themselves. When we are madly in love with our Almighty God, we simply serve Him and rely on Him to show us the path to our future. When we are madly in love with the Lord, we work on what is in front of us with all our heart because we know that the Lord has a plan and we trust Him with it. When we are madly in love with the Lord, we do not desire what others have because we see those as decaying things and replaceable things. When we are madly in love with the Lord, it does not mean that we simply lay down and die and just accept things the way they are but it means that giving glory to the Lord in whatever we do is the goal. We trust the Lord to tell us when to fight and when not to. We trust Him so completely that we find joy in every situation that we find ourselves in. Sure, we as Christians must fight injustice but the injustice does not become our God. We fight injustice because it blocks the glory of God being shown to man. When we are in love with the Lord, everything else follows. When we are madly in love with the Lord, we love Him first and when we do that, He will guide us to where we need to be and to do what we need to do. Is there not great contentment in trusting the Lord? Knowing that through our passionate love for Him that He will get us to where we need to be – by His standards and not ours. Boy, does that take the pressure off or what?

 

Let us love the Lord with a full-on, all-in, no holes-barred passion. Everything else will fall into place after that. Not because things happen the way we want them to, but rather because God’s will and His plan become more visible and clear.

 

Amen and Amen.