Archive for October, 2016

Numbers 28:26-31

The Festival of Pentecost

Today, we have the closing on the sale of our house for the past six years, and during the past six years, our house, bought at the bottom of the Great Recession (2008-2010) in 2010, has since appreciated in a nice little way. It has increased in value by 13% in those six years. Today, we harvest that crop, that value increase. It is a reminder of God’s faithfulness to us even in uncertain times. When we bought the house six (6) years ago, Elena and I were still newlyweds having been married about a year and a half. So, this house was our first major purchase together and it was in this house that we learned greater and greater dependence on the Lord. Until one of our friends in California told us to just check and see if we were pre-qualified for a mortgage, we would not have even considered buying a home when we moved back to South Carolina in 2010. We were thinking of continuing to rent until we followed the advice of this friend. We thought because of my credit past that we would never qualify. However, while in California, we faithful in taking on my past credit mistakes and paying them off as we could. Instead of blowing refunds and bonuses on extravagances, we paid off old debts and negotiated settlements on them to clear my credit profile. That plowing of the fields in preparation was necessary for us to be in a position in 2010 to buy our first house together as a couple. The purchase of the house was a seed planted. Today is the harvest of the planting.

 

During the past six years, we have been faithful to the Lord with our firstfruits of my income. We have been faithful in that. The Lord has taught about being obedient to Him in our finances and we have learned to be less concerned with keeping up with the Joneses and more concerned with pleasing God. During this time, we have learned that the blessings of obedience to the Lord in our finances is not some investment/payback scenario where you invest in God and he will bring you cash blessings as some huckster media preachers might suggest. The blessing of being financially obedient to the Lord means that He changes your mindset about riches and what blessings are. The blessing is no longer chasing after things but rather seeking to be generous to God and watching Him use it to bless the world around us. The blessing is changing from a mindset of consumerism to a mindset of generosity. The peace that comes with being obedient to the Lord and seeking to live on 90% or less of what we make is amazing. The peace that comes desiring fewer things and less debt is eye-opening. Being able to be generous instead of just wishing to be begins with being faithful to God’s Word when it comes to our finances. The peace of knowing that God will provide when we quit worshiping our money and our things is the biggest blessing of all. Placing our trust in the Lord through obedience begins with our finances and trickles down to the rest of our lives.

 

Today, when we close on the sale of our house. It is a celebration of what God has done in our lives during the past six years. It is a time to celebrate His provision in our lives. It is a time to celebrate how He has grown Elena and me over the past six years. Six years ago, we might not have seen the power of God’s provision in our lives as we do today. It would have been seen as more of as the luck of the market. But six years later, we are able to see God’s orchestration of our lives. The way that He orchestrated our desire to live more simply in a smaller home, the timing of our meeting our real estate agent, the timing of our finding the home that we are going to purchase, all of it stems from our being faithful and obedient to the Lord. Today, we celebrate the growth that God has done in us through our obedience to Him. Today is more than a sale of a house, it is a celebration of God’s provision. I do not tell you these things to boast but rather as a signal to those who wonder if it is worth to be obedient to the Lord in the last area of our lives that we typically give up to Him – our finances. Our finances, our harvest, is one area that the Lord invites us to test Him as He states in Malachi.

 

Ours is a story of trying to live our lives our own way and not being obedient to the Lord. Our finances are the evidence of the things that we worship and thus making our finances obedient to the Lord is the first step in being obedient to the Lord in all areas of life. Being obedient to the Lord in our finances is not some cash invest/cash return scheme. It is about learning to trust the Lord to provide for us. It is about trusting that God is our provider and that He will never leave us. It is about changing your mindset about money. So, this is not boasting, but as evidence of how trusting the Lord with your finances brings blessing of peace that are what He desires for us. Today, we celebrate God’s provision and His blessing upon our lives. Today, we celebrate what He has done in our minds, hearts, and souls over the past six years. It’s more than a sale of our house. It is celebrating God’s bounty and His provision in our lives.

 

It is that idea of being obedient to the Lord and reaping the blessings from that I thought of when I read today’s passage, Numbers 28:26-31, with its talk about the offerings to be made at the Festival of Pentecost, fifty days after the Festival of First Fruits. The Pentecost festival was a celebration of the harvest. It was a celebration of what God has done and how He has provided for His people. The similarities of this festival to the life event that Elena and I go through today is not lost on me. Let’s read the details of the offering together but keeping in mind what the Festival of Pentecost was all about:

 

 

26 “‘On the day of firstfruits, when you present to the Lord an offering of new grain during the Festival of Weeks, hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. 27 Present a burnt offering of two young bulls, one ram and seven male lambs a year old as an aroma pleasing to the Lord. 28 With each bull there is to be a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour mixed with oil; with the ram, two-tenths; 29 and with each of the seven lambs, one-tenth. 30 Include one male goat to make atonement for you. 31 Offer these together with their drink offerings, in addition to the regular burnt offering and its grain offering. Be sure the animals are without defect.

 

 

To the Jews, this time of celebration is known as Shavout, which is the Hebrew word meaning “weeks.” This is one of three separate names that are used in Scripture to refer to this important Jewish feast. Each name emphasizes an important aspect of the feast as well as its religious and cultural significance to both Jews and Christians. Besides being called the Feast of Weeks in Leviticus 23, this special feast celebration is called the “Day of the Firstfruits” in Numbers 28:26 and the “Feast of Harvest” in Exodus 23:16.

 

The Feast of Weeks takes place exactly 50 days after the Feast of Firstfruits. It normally occurs in late spring, either the last part of May or the beginning of June. Unlike other feasts that began on a specific day of the Hebrew calendar, this one is calculated as being “fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath” (Leviticus 23:15–16; Deuteronomy 16:9–10).

 

The festival was instituted by God to remind His people to be thankful to Him for His provision in the harvest. How often do we forget that it is through God’s providential care for our lives that He provides us with the talents that we have? He gifts each one of us with the talents that we have and that makes each one of us unique qualified to do something. We use these talents to earn money in the vocations that he gives the talent for. God guides us toward those vocations that will use the talents that He gives us. Some are accountants, some are mechanics, some are engineers, some are talented to be stay at home wives and mothers, and so on. We all have God given talents that we use to earn money. Thus, our money comes from Him and the way He talents us. Thus, should we not honor Him by giving Him the first fruit of the harvest of our wages? He commands that we give Him the first fruits of our labors. When we are obedient, He provides and He blesses. There are times that we must celebrate that. Today, Elena and I celebrate our Pentecost Festival. It is not lost on us how God has provided for us and how He has changed us and how He is the Master of everything. So, it’s more than just a sale of a house today. It is a celebration of God’s provision.

 

Amen and Amen.

Advertisements

Numbers 28:16-25

The Passover Offerings

Have you noticed that this year, the Clemson Tigers could be best characterized as the Cardiac Cats? It happened again last night. The Tigers were down by 8 points in the latter stages of the game and it seemed that all was lost and in those mediocre years between 1993 and 2009, they would have folded up tent and went home. However, the culture of Clemson football has changed and they now expect to win these high stakes games such as last night’s Clemson-Florida State game. Just in the last two games, the Tigers have been resilient in never giving up on a game and finding a way to win it. Last week, their own mistakes almost made them lose. Four turnovers in the red zone will often cause that to happen. Last night was different. It was Clemson-Florida State. When you ask either team, which team outside your in-state rival would you rather beat than anybody else, they would say the Clemson-Florida State game. It has become an intense rivalry and each time gives this game their all. Last night, Clemson smothered Florida State’s passing game but could not stop the Seminole’s run game. Meanwhile, Florida State had a stand-off with Clemson’s run game (no major plays of 20+ plus yards from the Tigers’ run game but there were some solid runs that kept drives alive), but Florida State could not stop the Tiger’s passing game.

 

Ultimately, it was the combination of those things that gave Clemson the nail-biting victory. Clemson quarterback, Deshaun Watson, was superb when it counted the most. He engineered two late scoring drives (and another that yielded a field goal) that gave Clemson the victory. The touchdown pass to Jordan Leggett will immediately become a thing of legend. Diving through air to reach the goal line but having the arm strength to plant his hand in the ground without collapsing to give him those extra inches to get the ball over the goal line. Then, the Clemson pass rush on defense yielded their 5th and 6th sack on the last two plays of the game to preserve the victory. Clemson fans will remember and toast this game for many years to come. Champions are forged in the fires of games like this one and it reminds Tigers fans that we are never out of a game and that you keep playing and keep playing til the clock runs out on the game. That is the part of that our fans will remember for years to come about this team and this game. It will instantly become part of Clemson Nation’s collective memory. We will remember where we were, who we were with, and how crazy we went on the Leggett touchdown and on those two final sacks that sealed the game.

 

There are those classic games of your favorite football team that you will always remember. On this morning after a major victory by my favorite college team and then reading this passage this morning, it is remembering milestones is a good thing. Just as ten years from now, Tiger fans will remember last night’s thriller. So too is the purpose of the Passover offerings and the Passover festival to the Israelites. It’s all about the remembering. Let’s read the passage together, Numbers 29:16-25:

 

 

16 “‘On the fourteenth day of the first month the Lord’s Passover is to be held. 17 On the fifteenth day of this month there is to be a festival; for seven days eat bread made without yeast. 18 On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. 19 Present to the Lord a food offering consisting of a burnt offering of two young bulls, one ram and seven male lambs a year old, all without defect. 20 With each bull offer a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour mixed with oil; with the ram, two-tenths; 21 and with each of the seven lambs, one-tenth. 22 Include one male goat as a sin offering to make atonement for you. 23 Offer these in addition to the regular morning burnt offering. 24 In this way present the food offering every day for seven days as an aroma pleasing to the Lord; it is to be offered in addition to the regular burnt offering and its drink offering. 25 On the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work.

Here, in this passage, the Israelites were given instructions on how to prepare the Passover offerings. The Passover offering was to be a special one. The Passover Festival was a special one so the offering had to be special. Why? It is all about the remembering. It was all about the remembering God in what was the clutch moment of Israel’s history. God’s display of miracles culimating in the final drive to victory of the Passover was Him coming through in the clutch for His people. The Passover commemorates the sacrifice of lambs and the blood on the doorways that excluded the Israelites from the plague of death that He sent upon Egypt. It was the Passover that finally convinced Pharoah to release the Israelites. It was a time to celebrate the fact that they were God’s chosen people who were saved from death by the blood of a lamb. It was that night that Israelites were set free to become a new nation and a new people. It was worth remembering that night. It was a milestone. It was a marker in history. It was a moment to remember the power of God to set His people free from bondage.

 

The passage is also a reminder to us as Christ followers to celebrate our salvation day each year. It is worth remembering. It is a milestone moment. It is worth remembering that day that we accepted Christ as our Savior and Lord and we were set free from sin and death and our own pasts to become a new person in Christ. It is the day that our eternity became secure. It is more important than anything we ever accomplished on our own in our lives. Our salvation day is the day that the blood of Christ set us free. It was a day that we secured our eternal championship in Jesus. Salvation day is a day to celebrate the power of God. Just as the Israelites were set free by the power of God not by their own doing, so too are we set free by the power of God through Jesus not by our doing more good than bad. Salvation day allows us to celebrate the power of God on display in us. It is to celebrate that which God has done and that no man can put asunder. We are free because of the power of the Passover Lamb whose blood shed on the cross sets us free. It is all in the remembering. Remember. We remember where we were, who we were with, and how we celebrated that feeling of release of our will to that of Jesus Christ. Just like remembering where you were and who you were with and how crazy you went when your favorite team had that major comeback victory, we too as Christians remember our salvation day. It’s all in the remembering.

 

Remember the power of God in your life. Remember how He set you free. Remember how He made you a champion, a new nation, a new creation through the blood of the Passover Lamb.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 28:11-15

The Monthly Offerings

In my job as comptroller of my company, we have a once-per-month ritual called month-end closing. It is two days of intensive work and long hours. When clock strikes midnight on the last day of the month, we get up the next morning to do the same ritual each and every month. My general ledger accountant downloads the bank statements and spends much of the first day of month-end closing reconciling our general ledger cash accounts to their respective bank statements and ensures that we have not missed booking a transaction in the general ledger. My accounts receivable specialist reconciles total cash receipts per the bank statements to total cash postings in the accounts receivable general ledger accounts. My accounts payable specialist ensures that all payables transactions for the month have been posted and ensures that total disbursements agree between the general ledger and the bank statements. As for me, on that first day, I reconcile the accounts receivable agings to the general ledger accounts receivable accounts. I reconcile the accounts payable agings in the same manner. I reconcile inventory reports to the general ledger and the open receipts report to the general ledger. Day 1 is always about reconciling – making sure that our major general ledger balance sheet accounts tie out to their supporting documentation. Sometimes it goes like a breeze. Sometimes, the supporting reports don’t agree to their general ledger control accounts. Then, we have to figure out why and book adjusting entries.

 

Day 2 of month-end closing is all about booking entries to the general ledger that we cannot book until the month is over and can run reports with the full month’s worth of data in them such as the bad debt reserve adjustment, employee and third party sales commissions expense, inventory obsolescence adjustments, reconciling intercompany payables and receivables with our sister companies, and any other miscellaneous adjustments to income and expense that are warranted. When all that is done, the books are closed for the month. After that, I spend the next two days generating reports, writing commentaries about financial performance and so on. It is a lot of work during that first week after a month has ended. It is a ritual. Since taking over as comptroller for this company, I have performed this ritual many times. In fact, this coming Tuesday when we close the books once again, this time for October 2016, it will be my 98th month-end closing since taking over here as comptroller. Ninety-eight closings. The ritual comes every month like clockwork. My staff members on my team have worked with me for much of that time, anywhere from four to six years among them. We all know what we have to do each month. There are things that have to happen to get the books closed each month and I and my staff know what to do without instruction. We have our assignments and we get it done. We have it down to a science where we know what time of day each of these tasks have to be completed by so that we will keep on schedule. There are little quirks to each month that have to be dealt with but the base level activities are the same every month. There is comfort in knowing what we have to do. There is comfort in the experience that we have together as a team. We know month-end is coming every month and we prepare for it so that when it gets here, we click it off like a well-oiled machine.

 

The repetitive nature of the cycle of life in accounting is what I though about this morning. In my department, we close the month. We then, begin reconciling general ledger accounts for the middle two weeks of the month, and then we start analyzing current month activity and make adjustments before month-end so that we don’t have so much to deal with DURING month-end closing. Then, the cycle begins again. Cycles of life. That is what I thought about when I read the passage for today, Numbers 28:11-15:

 

11 “‘On the first of every month, present to the Lord a burnt offering of two young bulls, one ram and seven male lambs a year old, all without defect. 12 With each bull there is to be a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah[a] of the finest flour mixed with oil; with the ram, a grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour mixed with oil; 13 and with each lamb, a grain offering of a tenth of an ephah of the finest flour mixed with oil. This is for a burnt offering, a pleasing aroma, a food offering presented to the Lord. 14 With each bull there is to be a drink offering of half a hin[b] of wine; with the ram, a third of a hin[c]; and with each lamb, a quarter of a hin. This is the monthly burnt offering to be made at each new moon during the year. 15 Besides the regular burnt offering with its drink offering, one male goat is to be presented to the Lord as a sin offering.

 

Here, in this passage, we see that God is prescribing that there be a monthly special sacrifice and offering. It was done to signify to the Israelites that God had seen them through another month. It was time to reflect on what God had done in the previous month and honor Him for what He would do in the coming month. It was time to reflect. It was a time to step aside from the hustle and bustle of daily life and remember that God is still God and to take time to specifically reflect upon what God had done in the life of the individual as well as the whole Israelite nation.

 

I think that the takeaway for today is not to get hung up in the details of this passage but rather think on the point of the passage. That point is to stop and take stock of where God has taken you and where He is going to take you. Do you take time to sit back in private moments periodically to thank God for getting you through the tough times. Thanking Him for being with you if you are in the midst of a struggle. Or thanking Him for having landed you on safe shores after a tempest sea of trouble. We should make it a habit say maybe on a monthly basis to take stock with God. We should have our month-end closing with God just as I have every month without fail month-end closings at work. Maybe, we should consider marking the last day of the month or the first day of the month to just sit down with God and reflect on the month that has just passed. It will, I think, begin to attune us to the wonders of God and what He is doing in our lives. That ritual, that thing that you do every month, will become something that you count on to give you a specific look at God’s actions in your life. Let us try it for a while and see what happens. I am sure that it will heighten our awareness of God and His actions in our lives. That was the reason for the monthly sacrifice and offering in the life of Israel. Maybe, we should have a ritual time to take stock with God and start becoming amazed at what we see – a God that is active in our life, a God that cares for us deeply, and a heightened awareness of the need to praise Him.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 28:9-10

The Sabbath Offerings

One of the quirks of Southern life used to the “blue laws”. Blue laws, also known as Sunday laws, are laws designed to restrict or ban some or all Sunday activities for religious reasons, particularly to promote the observance of a day of worship or rest. Blue laws may also restrict shopping or ban sale of certain items on specific days, most often on Sundays in the western world. Blue laws are technically classed as “mala prohibita” or “wrong [as or because] prohibited” (as opposed to “mala in se” or “wrong or evil in itself”). Most blue laws have been repealed in the United States, although many states still ban the sale of alcoholic beverages or cars on Sundays. Most Southern states continued the blue laws up until the early 1980s. One of the last areas of stronghold was the sale of alcoholic beverages in restaurants on Sundays. Those battles were finally won by restaurant businesses within the last decade. There are not many states or municipalities in the South that still have those laws. The only remnant that you may see in the South of the blue laws in today’s world is the ban of the sale of alcoholic beverages on Sundays in grocery stores.

 

All of the discussion and marketing of the repeal of such laws was that the blue laws were bad for business. We did not want to get left behind, the proponents would say, other areas of the country or even other areas of the South (usually ones with large metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, Charlotte, Birmingham, etc.) that were repealing the blue laws. The blue laws forced rest upon us if nothing else. In South Carolina, I remember that prior to the early 80s, the malls would be closed. Any major shopping was taboo on that day. Usually only grocery stores and restaurants were open, but neither could sell alcohol on those days. I remember Sunday mornings were for church. Sunday afternoons were for naps and/or family get-togethers, and Sunday evenings were generally for more church or at least church meetings such youth meetings, etc. It was indeed a time to take things at slower pace. Since businesses were generally closed, it was time for socializing. It was time for visiting your parents or grandparents. It was a time to slow down and pay attention to church. It was a time to just rest. I remember the naps on Sunday afternoon. There was nothing better than the Sunday routine. Get up. Go to church. Have a big Sunday dinner somewhere (either a restaurant, grandma’s house, or home). Then come home (if you had eaten somewhere other than home). Turn on the pro football games and slowly but surely descend into a nap.

 

Now, except for those who attend church on Sundays, the repeal of the blue laws has made Sunday like any other day. All business are open. Once one business started opening on Sunday in protest of the blue laws then it was a landslide of business activity and finally the laws were repealed. Now, Chick-Fil-A is unique not normal. It is one of the few large businesses in America that is closed on Sundays. Except for Chick-Fil-A, Sundays in the South now look like any other day. There is no longer a societal focus on church and rest. Sunday is just another day. Certainly, I am not suggesting a return to those days of being confused as to what you could buy and could not buy on Sundays or do or not do on Sundays. As they say, you cannot legislate morality and thus the blue laws became an ever increasing list of exceptions of what could and could not be done on Sundays. However, I do miss the spirit of the blue laws. The spirit was to promote our focus on God, church, family and rest. Even God rested on the seventh day of creating the universe. Do we have a better nation without the blue laws? That would be a question open to debate at this point in our history.

 

The blue laws and the Southern culture where church was important as late as the early 80’s was the thing that I thought of immediately when I read through the short passage, Numbers 28:9-10, this morning about the Sabbath offerings:

 

9 “‘On the Sabbath day, make an offering of two lambs a year old without defect, together with its drink offering and a grain offering of two-tenths of an ephah[a] of the finest flour mixed with olive oil. 10 This is the burnt offering for every Sabbath, in addition to the regular burnt offering and its drink offering.

 

Here in this passage, we see that the lamb offering was a double offering. There was the daily offering and the Sabbath offering. Sundays were basically doubled up. It means that on the Sabbath extra-special care was taken with the offering and more than usual was offered. There is a certain symmetry with God’s providential care in creation. God rested on the seventh day. He told us in the Ten Commandments, or the Decalogue as the fancy academics call it, that we are to keep the day holy. Thus, God commanding the Israelites to double their focus on the sacrifices is consistent with the focus God wants us have on the Sabbath. He wants us to take time to focus on Him solely. Rest and focus on Him. This extra offering is thus part of the cycle of Sunday where rest and prayer and focus on God were the orders of the day.

 

Are we better off without the legislated closings with the ever-increasing chink holes of exceptions to the rule? Probably. Are we better off without the spirit of the blue laws that just wanted our society to have a day of rest and focus on God? Probably not. Our world seems to be deteriorating at a more rapid pace than ever before. We have become a nation that has lost its focus on God. We have become a nation of “do what ya wanna do if it feels good” and “if it feels good to me than it must be right”. We have become a nation where our focus is no longer pleasing God but pleasing ourselves. Can you say that we are a nation under God today? We have not only lost our focus on God but we have turned away from Him and we Christians are the frogs in the pot of water of ever-increasing temperature. We say nothing. We do nothing. Just like the frog will sit in the water until it boils and kills him. So, too, are we, as Christians, sitting in the pot of boiling water of public change and we do nothing as this nation of ours turns up the heat. Where is our focus? Are we more concerned about fitting in and pleasing man or pleasing God.

 

Let us be a people that doubles up on our focus on God. Let us be different than the world around us rather than trying to be accepted by it. Let us stand up and stand out. Let us be the ones who call our nation back to a focus on God.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 28:1-8 (Part 3 of 3)

The Daily Offerings

 

Today is moving day in Duncan, SC at the Bowling household. After six years and two and half months in this modern traditional style home with its open floor plan, a house that was only 3 years old when we bought it, we are moving. We are going to miss this wonderful two story home with its 2,100 square feet of living space. We are going to miss this house in which our so much our married life has been spent. Elena and I were only married for about a year and half before we moved into this house. This house has been where we grew from spiritual babies into spiritual young adults (we have a ways to go before I would consider us mature believers), though we are middle aged chronologically. Oh, the history of our lives together that this house has seen. This has been a happy home. It has been a calm home. It has been a home of great spiritual growth. It has been a home of good food and good times. If it were not for a feeling, a calling, to move to “The Village” a few short miles (four to be exact) from here, we would stay in our Holly Tree Circle home for years to come. This house just fits our lifestyle and everything about this house is convenient and well placed. It has a big yard, 7/10 of an acre with a high quality,  6 foot high, wooden fence around the backyard for privacy. It is a quiet neighborhood though it is right off the main highway (SC 290) through Duncan. It has been a perfect house for us.

 

The Village is an old mill village where the homes were mostly built in the early to mid 1920s. It is a neighborhood that is experiencing a revival right now where over the past few years people have been snatching up the houses and renovating them. It is just this cool, little neighborhood that is up and coming. It is a throwback in time where neighbors know neighbors and people sit on the front porch. It is such a cool neighborhood that is regionally known for going all out at Halloween that people from all over the region come to trick or treat. Even our church comes there to give away free hot dogs and popcorn to the thousands that come to this neighborhood for Halloween. The neighborhood is a real neighborhood where all the houses have great character. As the neighborhood continues to be renovated home by home it will only continue to sizzle in value. Everybody who drives through this old neighborhood says to themselves that it would be neat to live there. We feel called by God to live there for several reasons. First, to continue to simply our financial lives. We are reducing our mortgage debt by moving into a bungalow style home with a lower price tag than our current home. We have managed over the past six years to pay off all our debts so the final step is to reduce our mortgage. We have learned to live more simply in expectation that God will call us to full-time ministry at some point. I am working part-time in ministry right now in addition to my full-time secular job. We are downsizing by about 1,000 square feet to simplify. We only use about half of this house regularly so it makes sense to simplify. What we have learned over the past six years is that freeing ourselves of debt is freeing and has allowed us to be more and more generous and more and more at peace in life.

 

We are sacrificing what some would call the American Dream to continually buy up and escalate our debt. We are sacrificing these things to God so that we can live a more peaceful and more free life. We are called to minister to our new neighborhood so sacrifices must be made. We are giving up the fruits of our labor, this wonderful house, to live in a way that we are called by God to live. To live with less and less debt, to minister to our neighborhood because we will be more free to do so. Sacrificing that which was the fruit of my blessings at my secular job and following a call. We offer up this house in Duncan, that we have worked hard to pay for, improve, love and nurture. This house that we have labored over and loved is now being sacrificed to the Lord and we move on to a simpler home that will enable us to do more of what God has called us to do.

 

Two blogs ago, we talked about the reason for the daily offerings in Numbers 28:1-8. Yesterday, we talked about the necessity of the daily offerings and, today, finally (3) content of the daily offerings. Today, let’s look at the passage, Numbers 28:1-8, from the point of view of the content of the daily offering requirements:

 

 

28 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Give this command to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Make sure that you present to me at the appointed time my food offerings, as an aroma pleasing to me.’ 3 Say to them: ‘This is the food offering you are to present to the Lord: two lambs a year old without defect, as a regular burnt offering each day. 4 Offer one lamb in the morning and the other at twilight, 5 together with a grain offering of a tenth of an ephah[a] of the finest flour mixed with a quarter of a hin[b] of oil from pressed olives. 6 This is the regular burnt offering instituted at Mount Sinai as a pleasing aroma, a food offering presented to the Lord. 7 The accompanying drink offering is to be a quarter of a hin of fermented drink with each lamb. Pour out the drink offering to the Lord at the sanctuary. 8 Offer the second lamb at twilight, along with the same kind of grain offering and drink offering that you offer in the morning. This is a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.

 

There are three parts to the daily sacrifices in Israel – the lamb, the flour and the oil. According to D. Young in his writings on this subject, he says,

 

“The lambs, the flour, the oil, the wine were taken out of the present food store of Israel. The Israelites were therefore presenting part of their own life. If these things had not been taken for offerings they would soon have entered into the physical constitution of the people. The acceptability of the offering lay to a great extent in this, that it was from Israel’s daily ordinary food. There would have been no propriety in making an offering from occasional luxuries.”

 

This reminds me of how we give today compared to how the Israelites gave. We as Americans pursuing the American Dream on average live off of 104% of what we make. We buy, buy, buy. Get bigger and bigger and more and more expensive things to the point that whatever wage increases we get are spent in new fixed costs every year. We never break free from pursuing our materialistic desires. Then, Sunday comes, we sacrifice from our excess. If we happen to have an extra $20 bill, we throw it in the plate. We typically don’t tithe. We give what we can and pat ourselves on the back for our generosity from what we have left over. We never trust God enough to let go of our money and we consider our money just that. We never consider that our talents to earn money in our jobs as coming from God. It’s all about us. We want more and more things and give God what’s left over. We don’t truly offer sacrificial offerings to the Lord though He commands us, not suggests, to do so. We do not give up going after what we want to please God. We give him the leftovers. We are not sacrificing from our “necessities”. The Israelites gave forth the first fruits of their labors. We don’t carve out room in our financial lives to give obediently to the Lord. We want to be generous to the world around us through our church but only if it comes after our house, cars, and toys. Why is God not first on our list? Why are we not living off of 90% or less of what we make and being generous to a lost world through our local churches? Why are we not sacrificing from our first fruits?

 

The Israelites gave their best and umblemished lambs, oil, and flour to be a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Elena and I are by no means superior in this compared to others. We are simply trying to be obedient to the Lord and live more simply, to find the happiness in less, and to be able to be generous as a habit and not as something that we do when we can from our excess. We are attempting to live more and more simply so that we can follow God’s call. We are sacrificing our favorite thing, this house. There is no asset that we have enjoyed more than this house. We love it. We are sacrificing that thing we love to follow what we feel God is calling us to do. We used to live the maxed out life. There was emptiness and frustration there. We live more simply and desire less now. When you live to have less debt and be more generous, it opens your eyes to God more widely! When you give to God first and live off the rest, you see God more clearly. When you cut out all the white noise of debt, He becomes clearer.

 

Now, Lord, we offer up our most loved lamb, oil and flour to you, this house. Help us to become more and more in tune with your call on our lives. Let us hear you more and more clearly. God, please bless this sacrifice from our first fruits and help us to be more intimate with you as a result.

 

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 28:1-8 (Part 2 of 3)

The Daily Offerings

 

I remember growing up, until we were teenagers and it stopped, that it used to be part of our daily routine to have breakfast together as a family. Every morning without fail. There was one constant to each of those daily breakfasts when you lived in my dad’s house. My dad is a southern man in all the best that it entails. My father was part of the changing of the times in the South. He marched in civil rights demonstrations in the early 1960s and he made it clear from his pulpit that all men were created in God’s image. Yet, at the same time, he was all the wonderful idiosyncrasies that make us Southerners unique and make the South just a cool place to live. One of those quirks about us “born and raised Southerners” is grits. My dad loved grits. I heard my friend, Freddy Coan, say the other day that “grits are flavor carriers. They are not meant to be eaten by themselves. They are meant to have things added to them to carry those flavors – butter, ham gravy, and so on.” My dad loved grits. We had to have grits for breakfast. Every breakfast. Without fail. Every and I mean every…did I tell you, every….breakfast! As long as the sun rose every morning, one thing that I could count on with my dad was that we had grits for breakfast every morning. I had become so disdainful of grits during my 18 years at home that I have rarely, if ever, let grits touch the lips of this Southern boy. I am very proud of being a Southerner. I am very proud of being a South Carolina Southerner. The quality of life here in Upstate South Carolina is just amazing. It is a combination of Southern flair and gentility and a place that is all about business (meaning that as the Upstate has become a hotbed for business, we really don’t have time for the old patterns of race relations).  But, one of the things that expect about us Southerners, you will not find with me is grits. I hate grits. I won’t eat grits. They will make me convulse if I see them on a plate where I am expected to eat them. I am Southern through and through, but grits and me are no friends. It’s all because of my dad and his love for grits that caused my hate for grits. Bless his heart! He loved ‘em and still does! The irony of it all is that after my mom died in 2010, he remarried in 2012…and he remarried to a transplanted Yankee from Upstate New York (though she has been here for probably 25 plus years…still a Yankee). I can imagine the discussions about his love for grits are choice each morning as they live out their lives together in retirement.

 

But there were other rituals that dad had for us growing up too that I am thankful for. Strangely, this one disappeared as we became teenagers too. We must have rebelled against all of dad’s required rituals or something or maybe we just got busy with teenage jobs in the evenings or teenage activities in the evenings. However, this one was a good one. In the mornings, it was about the grits but in the evening, we had a daily devotional time as we ate our evening meal (when we ate at home). I don’t know if any of you remember those Upper Room Devotional booklets that were and still are published monthly by the United Methodist Church’s general publishing house in Nashville, TN. If you don’t they are monthly devotional booklets that have 30 devotionals or so devotionals in them, one for each day of the month. Each month’s devotionals would be written by about maybe 4 or 5 authors so there was a sense of consistency to them throughout the month. The format was to present the writer’s real life situation that he wanted to write about, then tie it to Scripture, and then broaden it out to a general statement of how that Scripture applies to the real life situation and how to put it into practice. These Upper Room daily devotionals were part of our meal time routine in the evenings. Before we would break off into nightly routines of homework, family chores, television, church meetings for dad, getting ready for bed and bedtime. We had this family moment around the table. We were studying Scripture together. Thinking back on it now, I miss those days of family meals and family study of Scripture – back before life got complicated when we became teenagers, and now adults. That was a worthwhile ritual to have. Daily praise to God. Making focus on God a central part of family life.

 

Yesterday we talked about the reason for the daily offerings in Numbers 28:1-8. Today we will talk about the necessity of the daily offerings and, tomorrow, finally (3) content of the daily offerings. Today, let’s look at the passage, Numbers 28:1-8, from the point of view of the necessity for the daily offering requirements:

 

 

28 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Give this command to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Make sure that you present to me at the appointed time my food offerings, as an aroma pleasing to me.’ 3 Say to them: ‘This is the food offering you are to present to the Lord: two lambs a year old without defect, as a regular burnt offering each day. 4 Offer one lamb in the morning and the other at twilight, 5 together with a grain offering of a tenth of an ephah[a] of the finest flour mixed with a quarter of a hin[b] of oil from pressed olives. 6 This is the regular burnt offering instituted at Mount Sinai as a pleasing aroma, a food offering presented to the Lord. 7 The accompanying drink offering is to be a quarter of a hin of fermented drink with each lamb. Pour out the drink offering to the Lord at the sanctuary. 8 Offer the second lamb at twilight, along with the same kind of grain offering and drink offering that you offer in the morning. This is a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.

 

According to D. Young in his sermon so aptly named, “The Daily Offerings” (gotta give him credit for originality there! LOL!), he says,

 

“To make a daily offering was not enough. Israel was not left to its own will as to the time of day for the offering. The sustaining of life is indeed going on all day long, by the secret and unfailing power of God, and the recognition of this power is always meet at any hour of day or night. But the day has its own peculiar blessings, and also the night, and they are to be made special in our thoughts, as they are made special in our experience. The dawn and the twilight bring each their own associations. In the morning we look back on the rest, the sleep, and the protection of the night, and forward into the work, the duties, the burdens, and the needs of the day. Similarly evening will have its appropriate retrospect and anticipation. That is no true thanksgiving which does not discriminate, marking the difference between thanksgivings which may be offered at any hour, and those which are peculiar to the morning and evening. The very recollection of the gradual regular changes in the time of sunrise and sunset should impart an ever-freshening sense of the faithfulness of God, and of how orderly and exact all his arrangements are.”

 

Some rituals if not done with worship of our Creator can become mindless to the point that you hate them and they lose their meaning. Some rituals if you approach them in the right frame of mind where you are engaging your mind and your heart with your God, then, these rituals can be truly uplifting and provide us with daily recognition of God in our lives. It is like the difference between the Grits Ritual and the Upper Room Ritual in my dad’s house when we were growing up. One seemingly was done for the sake of doing it – grits – and the other was done as an interactive family discussion between and among parents and children about Scripture. One was meaningless to the point of loathing and the other was engaging our God through Scripture.

 

I think God wanted the Israelites to remember that He was God all day long. Not just something we do in the morning but something we finish off our day with as well. God is God all the time. The morning and evening offerings were such that it reminded Israel of that fact. All day long God is God. All day long and every day we worship Him. Do offer praise to God everyday? Are there certain rituals that you go through each day with God that remind you that He is part of your daily life? Do you study the Bible in the morning and/or evening? Do you pray daily – in the morning and/or in the evening? Is God part of your daily routine or is he something you put in a box and get down and play with on Sunday. The only way to mature in our relationship with God is through daily interaction. Do you think any of our earthly relationships would survive if we did not pay attention to them daily? We lose so much when we do not encounter God daily. We lose so much when we are not intentional about Bible study and prayer. If you want your relationship with God to grow – spend time with Him daily. Recognize His guidance and control over your life. Recognize the details of how He interacts with you daily. Make God a part of your daily, every day, life. But don’t do it cause I said so – that would be like grits everyday growing up for me, meaningless and unnecessary. Do it because you want to grow more intimate with your Maker – like looking forward to those Upper Room devotional discussions at dinner table of my youth.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 28:1-8 (Part 1 of 3)

The Daily Offerings

There is an YouTube video out there that is this funny clip from a news broadcast, where a lady from the projects is talking about all the crime that had hit her complex recently, and she said, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”… That’s what I thought first thing this morning about this passage.

 

For many of us, church and worshiping God is something that we do on Sunday and that’s it. We compartmentalize God as a choice in our lives of what we do with our Sunday mornings. We get up and we get dressed for church. It can be high fashion or it can be casual depending on the church that you go to. We struggle to get everyone out the door. Often, it is a bitter struggle that leaves you angry at your kids or your spouse. Then, we get to church and we send the kids off to kid’s church or Sunday school, again depending on the type of church you go to. You may go to Sunday School yourself, again depending on the church you to go to. Then, we go to church service. We sing an opening song. Then, there is a brief welcome message, two more songs, then the giving talk. Another song is sung. Then, it’s time for the sermon. Usually, the sermon will connect with us on some level. The preacher prays the sermon closing prayer (while we bow our heads the choir or the worship band has time to get back in the choir loft or the band has time to get back on stage). Then, the final song that drives the point of the sermon home and a final prayer. We leave uplifted and vowing to live our lives better. We go to lunch at a nearby restaurant that’s packed with friends from church. We discuss the sermon and what it meant to us and might even say that the pastor “was on fire today!”

 

We go home and turn the TV on and start watching the professional football game. At midseason, there is nothing urgent about the game you are watching. No playoff elimination at stake, so with your belly full from a big Sunday lunch, you struggle to stay awake. Finally, you dose off for a nap and wake up as the game ends. And slowly, the rest of the day starts becoming normal again. Homework for the kids and chores for the parents. Dinner and bedtime for the kids. A little nighttime TV for the parents and getting ready for the week ahead begins. Then, Monday morning it’s fully back into the swing of daily living – work for husband and, in most cases, the wife too. School and/or day care for the kids. Some type of sports practice or games. Dance or cheer practice is a possibility. Music lessons and recitals. And the cycle never ends it seems. Our lives are litanies of getting us or our kids or both from one activity to another. Our schedules are packed and stress is high. This cycle doesn’t seem to slow down until the kids are able to drive but that brings a whole host of other problems. But, we work Sunday church in their as part of our routine. Church is on our checklist of things to do each week. It makes us feel good about ourselves and the kids get to learn a little bit about the Bible while they are there.

 

This rat race of the American lifestyle is what I thought of when I read through this passage for the first time this morning and how that differs from what God intends for the people of Israel. For this and the next two blogs we will look at this passage from the points of view of (1) the reason for the daily offerings, (2) the necessity of the daily offerings and finally (3) content of the daily offerings. Today, let’s look at the passage, Numbers 28:1-8, from the point of view of the reason for the daily offering requirements:

 

 

28 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Give this command to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Make sure that you present to me at the appointed time my food offerings, as an aroma pleasing to me.’ 3 Say to them: ‘This is the food offering you are to present to the Lord: two lambs a year old without defect, as a regular burnt offering each day. 4 Offer one lamb in the morning and the other at twilight, 5 together with a grain offering of a tenth of an ephah[a] of the finest flour mixed with a quarter of a hin[b] of oil from pressed olives. 6 This is the regular burnt offering instituted at Mount Sinai as a pleasing aroma, a food offering presented to the Lord. 7 The accompanying drink offering is to be a quarter of a hin of fermented drink with each lamb. Pour out the drink offering to the Lord at the sanctuary. 8 Offer the second lamb at twilight, along with the same kind of grain offering and drink offering that you offer in the morning. This is a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.

 

In this passage, we see that the offerings had to be brought regularly and presented according to the prescribed rituals under the priest’s supervision. Following these rituals took time, and this gave the people the opportunity to prepare their hearts for worship. All the offerings were to be made in their due season, and every day that passed over the head of the Israelite people was a due season to make offerings to Jehovah in connection with the daily manifestations of his goodness. As what might be called the ordinary and common gifts of God came day by day, so it was appropriate for Israel to make ordinary and common offerings day by day. Unless our hearts are ready, our worship is a meaningless ritual that is just something we do just because it is Sunday. By contrast, God is delighted and we get more from our worship, when we come before Him in a spirit of thankfulness and thanksgiving.

 

How to we make Sunday morning worship meaningful? It begins right after church service in how we order our lives. We begin studying God’s Word on a daily basis. Instead of watching the football game, we sit down with our family and discuss the sermon and discuss what the kids learned in kid’s church or Sunday school. We make Sunday fully the day of the Lord. We study the passages mentioned by the pastor in his sermon. Then, during the week, we pick a Bible study plan. Maybe, daily, you even blog about about what you have studied and learned from today’s Bible passage from your reading plan. Then, there’s daily specified times of prayer about what you are studying. There’s discussion with your spouse about what you are reading in your plan and what she is reading in her plan. There’s small group where you learn about God’s Word and how God is interacting in other people’s lives and how we lift each other up in prayer and how we are not alone in our struggles in maturing in Christ. You say that you don’t have time for that?

 

We make time for what is important to us? If you are a Clemson or Carolina fan, you make time in your schedule to watch the Tigers or the Gamecocks play. When is honoring God going to become more so important that you make time for Him. Do you have time to play golf? Do you have time to watch 4 hours of TV per night? Do you have time for the Walking Dead but you don’t have time to spend intimate time with God? Do you have time to go to Fall for Greenville all three nights but don’t have time to pray or to study your Bible? Let us take stock of what’s important. When is God going to be a daily priority in your life? Wonder why you do not feel close to God? It’s cause you don’t spend time with Him! You get out of the relationship what you put into it. If you want to be in love with and be intimately close with your Creator, you must invest in the relationship. Carve out, make time for God. It is that important. When we place a priority on our intimacy with God on a daily basis, it makes our life richer and deeper and we begin to see God in action where we did not before. He becomes part of our daily lives when we spend time with Him daily. Then, then, then…Sunday morning worship services become this amazing celebration of what God is doing, and who He is. Sunday morning worship becomes this awesome thing instead of this routine thing. Sunday morning worship is the topper of a week of preparing the heart. Sunday morning is the celebration not the relationship. Sunday morning worship is the culmination of a week spent honoring God. Sunday morning worship begins the moment you leave the church and ends when you get back the following Sunday. It is the culmination of our daily intimacy with God.

 

Amen and Amen.