Archive for the ‘04-Numbers’ Category

Numbers 34:1-15

Boundaries of the Land

One week from today is Thanksgiving Day. It is a day that is a uniquely American holiday. It is a day where we give thanks for the bounty that the Lord has given us. Of course, we, as the Americans that we are, the holiday has morphed into something other than it was intended. It is now a day where we rarely give thanks for the generosity of our God in His provision for our lives but rather a day for early bird specials for Christmas shopping, college and professional football, big meals and sometimes travel. There are the logistics of going to her family and to his family. There is extensive food preparation. Rarely is there time of reflection of just how God has provided for us. However, we can reclaim the thanksgiving of Thanksgiving. I know for one, the Lord has richly blessed this young man (yes, I still consider myself a young man and will do so as long as my corny, middle school sense of humor holds out!).

 

When I think back on the past decade, the Lord has richly blessed me even when I did not deserve it. In August 2004, my second wife and I split up. It was the beginning of a difficult time for me financially that would last until the fall of 2007. First off, there was the financial mess that was the life that I had led while married to my first two wives. There was the bankruptcy declared in the Summer of 2002 during the second marriage after the death of my second wife’s oldest child in February 2002. After the split up, there were stupid financial decisions. One was the purchase of a Dodge Neon SRT4 (the turbocharged sports car) that I could not afford and because of the poor credit that I had, the car payment was astronomical – $600 plus per month (in 2004 dollars). After breaking up and having to find a place of my own, there was the constant eating out at places like Applebees, Outback, Chilis where I would drop $50 per meal. In those days, it was all about massaging the emptiness that I felt in my life with wine, women, and boos and whatever I could spend my money on. Then, there was that disastrous trip to London that was a business trip but I so overspent on that trip that I had to get a loan when I got back to pay off the overspending on my company credit card. Add that to the mountain of debt that I already had, I had reached the point that there was one week that I had to get one of those payday loans. NEVER do that! It is fine that first time. You get the money you need to avoid that self-made financial crisis or one that is forced upon you by circumstances. However, it starts a cycle of payday loan, payday loan payoff two weeks later, finding yourself short and having to get another and the cycle continues. You may even have to get a payday loan to pay off your payday loan. There was a point between 2006 and the fall of 2007 that I was juggling as many as three payday loans on a maddening and unending cycle. I even accepted a job outside of Greenville for the first time in my adult life just to try to get my finances under control. After living in Greenville for nearly three decades (since age 14), I accepted a job in Charlotte and moved to the suburb of Rock Hill in January 2006. Although the geography changed, the financial woes continued and finally had to let my SRT4 be repossessed in 2007. Bankruptcy in 2002 and a repossession in 2007. I was screwed.

 

The biggest blessing of my life came actually came in the form of a loss of that job at the end of September 2007. That may sound weird but it actually was the blessing that I needed. I know you are saying, “how can the loss of a job be a blessing.” Rest assured, it did not seem that way to me when the shutdown of our corporate office was announced in June 2007. The shutdown was completed by September 30th. I was out of a job. However, they did give us three months worth of salary as we left plus a bonus. I was able to end the cycle of payday loans with that cash infusion. Then, by the hand of God, I was hired as a financial consultant with Vaco Resources out of Charlotte within a couple of weeks after my shutdown termination. My first gig started 4 weeks after my termination. That was the beginning of recovery for me. It was the greatest blessing of my life in retrospect. The irony of working as a consultant for Vaco was the fact that I ended up with a gig in Duncan, SC (in the Greenville-Spartanburg, SC area). After making the toughest decision of my life to leave Greenville after 30 years, a place I had lived since I was 14, and live in Rock Hill and work in Charlotte, here I was being sent back to the Greenville area. Living in Rock Hill, my new home, but working in the Greenville area, my old home – the irony! Baaaack to my point though. Because of the fact that Rock Hill and Duncan are within driving distance of each other, they are far enough apart that a commute just did not make sense. So, with this job with Vaco, I was living in a hotel in Duncan 5 days a week and then going back to Rock Hill on the weekends. My financial blessing was that I was making a consulting rate that was slightly more than I was making at that job in Charlotte. Add to that I was given a daily per diem amount for my hotels and meals. Talk about your financial blessing. For almost a year, I had not only salary but a per diem that far exceeded what I was spending on hotels and meals. Add to that I had that big burst of cash when the office I worked for previously was shutdown. All the rough waters began to subside financially.

 

Later that consulting gig in Duncan led me out to California with more salary and per diem and a corporate paid apartment. And as this gig came to an end, God’s hand was in action again as the controller’s position at this company’s division there in California suddenly came open at just the time my consulting gig was about to end. It had been a year long consulting gig with Vaco which was fantastic. Few consulting gigs last that long. However, it was about to end and Vaco did not have anything for me for my immediate future. So, this controller’s job was appealing. When the job came open, what is now my current employer, Fujikura America, Inc., offered me the job immediately. And immediately I took the job. That was October 2008. Here I am still with the same company 8 years later. During these eight years and because of the wisdom and advice of my wife, Elena (who followed me to California from Rock Hill and whom I married while we lived out there), I have established more frugal life habits. With her advice and wisdom, I have paid off old debts. I have invested in my company’s 401k. My financial ship is righted. During my eight years at Fujikura America (who has blessed me financially for sure), the wisdom of a good wife, and a more frugal lifestyle, and the blessings of God, I live in financially peaceful waters. We now live a life marked by generosity because we have been frugal with our spending on ourselves. We can now actually say “when can I give” instead of “if I can give.” It really makes me teary eyed to think of how richly blessed I have become. It is so far beyond what I could have imagined back in 2007. It is not lost on me that I am blessed. I do not take it for granted. God has set me on high ground and I know it. No longer am I in the raging river. I am on high ground. It is nothing but a miracle of God who orchestrated all these circumstances and people in my life to put me where I am today. I am richly blessed by God. It is He who did this. It is He I owed my dry clothes on the high ground too. He pulled me from the wet raging torrents and dried me off and set me here. It is for a reason. It is to be generous and to serve. It is not lost on me. I will never forget where I came from financially a decade ago and where God has led me now. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. Shout praises to the Lord in the highest tabernacles!

 

It was this sense of God’s deliverance of His people into the Promised Land that I thought of this morning when I read through this passage, Numbers 34:1-15, about the division of the land among the tribes. Let’s read it together:

 

34 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Command the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you enter Canaan, the land that will be allotted to you as an inheritance is to have these boundaries:

 

3 “‘Your southern side will include some of the Desert of Zin along the border of Edom. Your southern boundary will start in the east from the southern end of the Dead Sea, 4 cross south of Scorpion Pass, continue on to Zin and go south of Kadesh Barnea. Then it will go to Hazar Addar and over to Azmon, 5 where it will turn, join the Wadi of Egypt and end at the Mediterranean Sea.

 

6 “‘Your western boundary will be the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. This will be your boundary on the west.

 

7 “‘For your northern boundary, run a line from the Mediterranean Sea to Mount Hor 8 and from Mount Hor to Lebo Hamath. Then the boundary will go to Zedad, 9 continue to Ziphron and end at Hazar Enan. This will be your boundary on the north.

 

10 “‘For your eastern boundary, run a line from Hazar Enan to Shepham. 11 The boundary will go down from Shepham to Riblah on the east side of Ain and continue along the slopes east of the Sea of Galilee.[a] 12 Then the boundary will go down along the Jordan and end at the Dead Sea.

 

“‘This will be your land, with its boundaries on every side.’”

 

13 Moses commanded the Israelites: “Assign this land by lot as an inheritance. The Lord has ordered that it be given to the nine and a half tribes, 14 because the families of the tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have received their inheritance. 15 These two and a half tribes have received their inheritance east of the Jordan across from Jericho, toward the sunrise.”

 

As we see here in this passage, the land was given by God as an inheritance. The boundaries declared by God are larger an area than was actually occupied by the early Hebrew settlers. The boundaries correspond more to the land of Kings David and Solomon generations upon generations later. The size of the gift of the Promised Land is a portrait of the generous nature of God. It was far beyond what was needed or imagined. That is the nature of God. He richly pours out his blessings upon His people. All He asks is that we are obedient to Him and His Word and He will bless us. It will not always be in dollars and cents or in land or possessions. From our obedience to Him, we find peace of mind and contentment that only comes from obedience to the Lord. It changes our mindset on things. It gives us satisfaction in the moment and gives the worries about provision over to the Lord. He will provide for us. And man there is contentment in trusting the Lord.

 

When I see Israel being blessed with the land they are about to invade and settle, I see their journey from the horrors of slavery, the travails of the wilderness and the stupid mistakes and consequences they lived during the wilderness, but it was all for a purpose now. They are staring at the promised land. They are staring at their high ground. God has seen them through the wilderness and placed them on the high ground. That is the comparison and parallel to my life that I see. God has seen me through the wilderness and He has placed me in the Promised Land in which I now live. I am on the high ground. I am in the dry and warm place. He has delivered me from so much pain and suffering and placed me in a sweet spot. It is not lost on my how generous God has been to me. It is far beyond what I deserve, expected, or imagined. I am the child of an amazing God. Shouts of praise. Shouts of thanksgiving in the highest tabernacles!

 

Amen and Amen

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Numbers 33:1-56 (Part 3 of 3)

Remembering Israel’s Journey

 

Have you ever wondered if some Old Testament judgment is coming upon the United States? We live in a country far different from the one our forefathers founded. We have removed the Ten Commandments from schools and courthouses. We have eliminated prayer to God at sporting events. We are persecuting Christians for standing on their religious beliefs when it comes to marriage. We punish the State of North Carolina for passing a law that negates a Charlotte ordinance that would allow people with sexual identity crises to use whatever bathroom they desire. Certain sexual lifestyles are seen as hip in popular culture and are glorified on television. Certain city governments are requiring pastors to submit their sermons for review on issues of sexual preferences. Anyone who takes a stand against certain lifestyles based on God’s Word are vilified in the public forum for being backwards and out of step with the times. Public schools teach Darwinism but not Intelligent Design. Remember, not too long ago, when President Obama gave a speech at Georgetown University; his people requested that all visible symbols of the Christian faith be covered up. Georgetown a Catholic University complied. For under the banner of being politically correct, the school denied the God they profess to serve. In the Democratic Party’s platform for the 2016 presidential election, any references to God were removed so as to be more inclusive of those who are not of Judeo/Christian roots and those who do not believe in God at all.

 

As we head down this path of political correctness toward humanism and ultimately atheism, there has been a steady moral decline in our country. Once acknowledgement of God’s existence is removed, there is no absolute basis for morals, and a free society drifts toward anarchy. Since prayer was removed from public school classrooms in 1962, when the assault on God began, Eric Hovind in his article, “Prayer in School Affects All Society” at the website, www.creationtoday.org, says,

 

“…we have had a six-fold increase in violent crime, our divorce rate has tripled, births to single mothers have increased five-fold, the teenage suicide rate has tripled, and SAT scores (standardized college entrance test) have dropped 80 points (approximately 10%). The removal of prayer may not be the only cause of social ills, but the negative trends are certainly a symptom of the spiritual decline which is at their root.”

 

It is ironic that my wife’s parents escaped from Cuba just as Castro was taking power and made their way to America in search of greater freedoms to pursue life, liberty and happiness. In Communist Cuba, God was removed from society and anyone who professed belief in God and not the humanism of communist thought was to be jailed. Praying to God meant that you felt that there was something higher and more important than the Cuban government. We see how the communist experiment has worked out in Cuba. If the political correctness and drift toward humanism is what we seek in America and the quieting of Christian moral values, then we must look at our neighbor nation in Cuba. America is drifting toward what Cuba became. Political correctness is the new communism. When we dare to oppose the tolerance of anything goes in our society we are sued, we are arrested, we are vilified and we are crushed. Sound familiar. It is the path of Cuba since 1958. You never hear of people trying to get into Cuba; only out of it. Are we becoming Cuba? Cubans have been fleeing that country for decades seeking freedom but yet what are they fleeing to now? Is America not becoming a godless nation similar to Cuba. Maybe that is why we are starting to normalize relations with Cuba – because we are becoming more and more alike each day.

 

As we continue down this road of ignoring and expelling God from the public square and from our private lives, I am reminded of the judgments that came upon the Canaanites through God’s people, Israel, as I read this chapter of the Book of Numbers (Numbers 33) for the final time before we move on. Let us read it together once more now:

 

33 Here are the stages in the journey of the Israelites when they came out of Egypt by divisions under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. 2 At the Lord’s command Moses recorded the stages in their journey. This is their journey by stages:

 

3 The Israelites set out from Rameses on the fifteenth day of the first month, the day after the Passover. They marched out defiantly in full view of all the Egyptians, 4 who were burying all their firstborn, whom the Lord had struck down among them; for the Lord had brought judgment on their gods.

 

5 The Israelites left Rameses and camped at Sukkoth.

 

6 They left Sukkoth and camped at Etham, on the edge of the desert.

 

7 They left Etham, turned back to Pi Hahiroth, to the east of Baal Zephon, and camped near Migdol.

 

8 They left Pi Hahiroth[a] and passed through the sea into the desert, and when they had traveled for three days in the Desert of Etham, they camped at Marah.

 

9 They left Marah and went to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there.

 

10 They left Elim and camped by the Red Sea.[b]

 

11 They left the Red Sea and camped in the Desert of Sin.

 

12 They left the Desert of Sin and camped at Dophkah.

 

13 They left Dophkah and camped at Alush.

 

14 They left Alush and camped at Rephidim, where there was no water for the people to drink.

 

15 They left Rephidim and camped in the Desert of Sinai.

 

16 They left the Desert of Sinai and camped at Kibroth Hattaavah.

 

17 They left Kibroth Hattaavah and camped at Hazeroth.

 

18 They left Hazeroth and camped at Rithmah.

 

19 They left Rithmah and camped at Rimmon Perez.

 

20 They left Rimmon Perez and camped at Libnah.

 

21 They left Libnah and camped at Rissah.

 

22 They left Rissah and camped at Kehelathah.

 

23 They left Kehelathah and camped at Mount Shepher.

 

24 They left Mount Shepher and camped at Haradah.

 

25 They left Haradah and camped at Makheloth.

 

26 They left Makheloth and camped at Tahath.

 

27 They left Tahath and camped at Terah.

 

28 They left Terah and camped at Mithkah.

 

29 They left Mithkah and camped at Hashmonah.

 

30 They left Hashmonah and camped at Moseroth.

 

31 They left Moseroth and camped at Bene Jaakan.

 

32 They left Bene Jaakan and camped at Hor Haggidgad.

 

33 They left Hor Haggidgad and camped at Jotbathah.

 

34 They left Jotbathah and camped at Abronah.

 

35 They left Abronah and camped at Ezion Geber.

 

36 They left Ezion Geber and camped at Kadesh, in the Desert of Zin.

 

37 They left Kadesh and camped at Mount Hor, on the border of Edom. 38 At the Lord’s command Aaron the priest went up Mount Hor, where he died on the first day of the fifth month of the fortieth year after the Israelites came out of Egypt. 39 Aaron was a hundred and twenty-three years old when he died on Mount Hor.

 

40 The Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negev of Canaan, heard that the Israelites were coming.

 

41 They left Mount Hor and camped at Zalmonah.

 

42 They left Zalmonah and camped at Punon.

 

43 They left Punon and camped at Oboth.

 

44 They left Oboth and camped at Iye Abarim, on the border of Moab.

 

45 They left Iye Abarim and camped at Dibon Gad.

 

46 They left Dibon Gad and camped at Almon Diblathaim.

 

47 They left Almon Diblathaim and camped in the mountains of Abarim, near Nebo.

 

48 They left the mountains of Abarim and camped on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho. 49 There on the plains of Moab they camped along the Jordan from Beth Jeshimoth to Abel Shittim.

 

50 On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho the Lord said to Moses, 51 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, 52 drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places. 53 Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess. 54 Distribute the land by lot, according to your clans. To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one. Whatever falls to them by lot will be theirs. Distribute it according to your ancestral tribes.

 

55 “‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. 56 And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.’”

 

When people read about the conquest of the Promised Land, we often asked the question, “why were the Israelites allowed by God to destroy and kill the Canaanites?” Why were the Israelites supposed to completely annihilate these people? If God is a God of love, why then would he allow the Israelites to kill them all – men, women and children (though the Israelites did not follow God’s command to the letter). What we don’t remember about the Canaanites was that God had compelling reasons to render judgment upon these people. It was not a random act of a capricious and mean God. There were several compelling reasons. First, God was stamping out the evil and wickedness of an extremely sinful group of nations. The Canaanites brought on their own punishment. Idol worship expressed their deepest evil desires. Child sacrifices. Sexual immorality in the name of worshiping their gods was rampant. It all ultimately led to the worship of Satan and in the total rejection of God. Second, God was using the Israelites to judge Canaanites for its unrepentant sinful ways. Judgment was justified when you study the history of the Canaanite people. Another thing that was happening here, too, was that God wanted to remove all traces of pagan beliefs and practices from the land. He did not want His people to mix or compromise with the idolatrous ways of the Canaanite people in any way.

 

However, as we know, the Israelites did not fully carry out the command of God when conquering the Promised Land. They compromised. This compromise of God’s commands and values led Israel down a path that led to cycles of obedience and disobedience to God. The Canaanite worship of idols and the temptations to the Israelites to the same was a constant problem for Israel. God’s people were judged themselves more than one time for turning their back on God. When a nation turns its back on God, that nation will be judged. It is certain. We are a nation turning our back on God and it has been progressively getting worse for decades. We will be judged.

 

So, in a society running away from God, what do we do as Christ followers? It is easier and less painful to go with the flow and do like Georgetown University did. We can cover up the fact that we are Christians in an effort to fit in. We can try to blend into a nation that is headed for judgment. Or we can be true to God and not deny His existence. We can honor Him by knowing and obeying His Word. We must be different and distinct. We must engage the culture and change it. Preachers can only do so much. We must as individual Christ followers not leave the job of changing our nation to the preachers. We must take responsibility for evangelism ourselves in our daily lives of one on one interactions with the world around us. All of us are ministers but we have abdicated our ministerial role to those we pay to be ministers. We think it’s their job to save the nation not ours. We just sit idly and quietly by as our nation becomes less and less Christian by the day. I call out to you and to me that it is our job to save the day. It is our job to tell people about Jesus. It is our job to return our nation to God. Let us be like Joshua and Caleb and say that we can win this fight rather than be like the other 10 spies and say that the problem is too big and there are too many giants out there. We are the ministers of the gospel. Let us take it to the streets and tell people to repent and return to the God who wants to love them but who is a God of justice who will judge them if they do not repent.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 33:1-56 (Part 2 of 3)

Remembering Israel’s Journey

There is an old saying from the days when computers were not as easy to use as they are today that said, “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” It was known at the GIGO principle. It meant that if you wrote a computer program that was in a sense, garbage, you would get results that were meaningless, garbage also. In those days, you had to use specific commands written in a certain specific way to get a computer to follow your directions and generate the results wanted. Because computers are essentially decision tree machines, if you did not write the entire series of commands in the right way, the program would fail, send itself into a logic loop, or just generate garbage results that were meaningless. Therefore, it was important to write the programs with the appropriate commands. It was also important to sequence the commands in the proper order so that the program would not fail. If you remember the card reader days of computers and the days where computers filled up the entire basements of buildings, you will remember the frustration of computer science classes in college. I dropped out of a computer programming class in college (1979-1983) because of the tedious perfection that was required in these kinds of classes back in those days.

 

Certainly, computer programming lives on today because computers are still essentially decision tree machines (yes/no answers to commands). However, the language used to write computer programs I am sure has become more simplified and easier to use. I am sure that it is easier now to develop computer programs because, man, look at the things that computers assist us in doing these days that they could not do back in the early 80s. It is phenomenal to think of the things that are controlled by computers today that were not so back thirty years ago. The programming is still there. It is still essentially driven by yes/no answers to commands. There is just a class of people that has developed over the past 30 years that do that stuff and we have ceded a great deal of hidden power to them. Just think of how our society now can be crippled by someone (with computer programming skills beyond what we dopes of consumers can imagine) introducing a virus into our computer systems that control our lives. Banking systems have been crashed. Power grid computer systems have been crashed. You name it. We have seen it happen. Each of us has probably experienced it on a smaller scale when we have accidently downloaded a virus into our computers and the virus has fried our computers. It all happens because of the lack of security in computer systems or accidently or purposely allowing malicious programs (that is what viruses are, computer programs) into our computers. These garbage programs produce garbage results that fry our computers. Hackers also can use these programs to steal identities and steal money and leverage victim companies and individuals to get what they want.

 

How do we typically prevent these garbage programs from invading our computers or computer systems. It is another computer program called security software. These programs are written to detect the introduction of programs to our computers systems that are inconsistent with the software and operating systems resident on our computers. Also, we have programmers at companies and governments whose job it is to test the defenses of our security software systems. It is all very dizzying to the common man in this computer connected world in which we live. It is important for us as computer users to be very vigilant about websites we visit and about what emails we open and read. We have to develop discernment about what we allow into our computers. You hear of some people who constantly have problems with viruses on their computers and then you hear of people that have little if any problems. It’s all about having your computer protected and not visiting suspicious websites and not opening suspicious emails. You can survive the world of computer viruses if you simply are vigilant and have discernment about what you allow into your computer.

 

Why are we talking about computers and computer programs and the Israelites about to enter the Promised Land in the same breath. They sound so totally unrelated. They could not even conceptualize what a computer was back in those days. But, they are related. I will tell you how after we re-read Numbers 33:1-56 this morning:

 

33 Here are the stages in the journey of the Israelites when they came out of Egypt by divisions under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. 2 At the Lord’s command Moses recorded the stages in their journey. This is their journey by stages:

 

3 The Israelites set out from Rameses on the fifteenth day of the first month, the day after the Passover. They marched out defiantly in full view of all the Egyptians, 4 who were burying all their firstborn, whom the Lord had struck down among them; for the Lord had brought judgment on their gods.

 

5 The Israelites left Rameses and camped at Sukkoth.

 

6 They left Sukkoth and camped at Etham, on the edge of the desert.

 

7 They left Etham, turned back to Pi Hahiroth, to the east of Baal Zephon, and camped near Migdol.

 

8 They left Pi Hahiroth[a] and passed through the sea into the desert, and when they had traveled for three days in the Desert of Etham, they camped at Marah.

 

9 They left Marah and went to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there.

 

10 They left Elim and camped by the Red Sea.[b]

 

11 They left the Red Sea and camped in the Desert of Sin.

 

12 They left the Desert of Sin and camped at Dophkah.

 

13 They left Dophkah and camped at Alush.

 

14 They left Alush and camped at Rephidim, where there was no water for the people to drink.

 

15 They left Rephidim and camped in the Desert of Sinai.

 

16 They left the Desert of Sinai and camped at Kibroth Hattaavah.

 

17 They left Kibroth Hattaavah and camped at Hazeroth.

 

18 They left Hazeroth and camped at Rithmah.

 

19 They left Rithmah and camped at Rimmon Perez.

 

20 They left Rimmon Perez and camped at Libnah.

 

21 They left Libnah and camped at Rissah.

 

22 They left Rissah and camped at Kehelathah.

 

23 They left Kehelathah and camped at Mount Shepher.

 

24 They left Mount Shepher and camped at Haradah.

 

25 They left Haradah and camped at Makheloth.

 

26 They left Makheloth and camped at Tahath.

 

27 They left Tahath and camped at Terah.

 

28 They left Terah and camped at Mithkah.

 

29 They left Mithkah and camped at Hashmonah.

 

30 They left Hashmonah and camped at Moseroth.

 

31 They left Moseroth and camped at Bene Jaakan.

 

32 They left Bene Jaakan and camped at Hor Haggidgad.

 

33 They left Hor Haggidgad and camped at Jotbathah.

 

34 They left Jotbathah and camped at Abronah.

 

35 They left Abronah and camped at Ezion Geber.

 

36 They left Ezion Geber and camped at Kadesh, in the Desert of Zin.

 

37 They left Kadesh and camped at Mount Hor, on the border of Edom. 38 At the Lord’s command Aaron the priest went up Mount Hor, where he died on the first day of the fifth month of the fortieth year after the Israelites came out of Egypt. 39 Aaron was a hundred and twenty-three years old when he died on Mount Hor.

 

40 The Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negev of Canaan, heard that the Israelites were coming.

 

41 They left Mount Hor and camped at Zalmonah.

 

42 They left Zalmonah and camped at Punon.

 

43 They left Punon and camped at Oboth.

 

44 They left Oboth and camped at Iye Abarim, on the border of Moab.

 

45 They left Iye Abarim and camped at Dibon Gad.

 

46 They left Dibon Gad and camped at Almon Diblathaim.

 

47 They left Almon Diblathaim and camped in the mountains of Abarim, near Nebo.

 

48 They left the mountains of Abarim and camped on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho. 49 There on the plains of Moab they camped along the Jordan from Beth Jeshimoth to Abel Shittim.

 

50 On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho the Lord said to Moses, 51 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, 52 drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places. 53 Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess. 54 Distribute the land by lot, according to your clans. To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one. Whatever falls to them by lot will be theirs. Distribute it according to your ancestral tribes.

 

55 “‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. 56 And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.’”

 

In the final few verses, vv. 50-56, God told Moses that before the Israelites settled the Promised Land, they should drive out the wicked inhabitants of the land and destroy their idols. In Colossians 3, Paul encourages us to live as Christians in the same manner. We must throw away our old way of living and move ahead into the new life of obedience to God and faith in Jesus Christ. Like the Israelites moving into the Promised Land, we can destroy the wickedness in our lives or we can tolerate it and let it have a place in our lives. To move into our new life in Christ, we must drive out our sinful thoughts and practices to make room for the new.

 

When we allow unrepentant sin to continue in our lives, it becomes an impediment to our right relationship with God. For example, a person hiding a pornography addiction spends so much time either participating in the sinful activity or covering it up that we start forgetting about God. Maintaining our sins and covering it up become more important than God. Like yesterday when I was talking about my own addiction to approval through sex, it became my god. It got in the way of godly pursuits. It got in the way of sound judgment. It got in the way of family relationships. It got in the way. Anything that we entertain that is sinful in our lives will eventually destroy us and make us ineffective for the Lord. Just think of Perry Noble who did not think his overuse of alcohol would get in the way of leading the third largest church in America. Just think of Mark Driscoll who did not think allowing pride, arrogance, and a sense of celebrity would destroy and implode not only his leadership of Mars Hill Church but also cause the entire church to implode. Just think of any public scandal not only with religious leaders but in general of people who fed their sin and did not recognize sin as harmful and it led to their downfall.

 

We must be vigilant about sin in our lives. We must have God’s security software (His Word and accountability partners) that will help us detect our blind spots of sin. We must recognize sin, isolate it, and toss it out with the garbage. We must be humble enough to recognize sin in our lives and deal with rather than tolerating it and even glorifying it as OK.

 

We must also be discerning about what we allow to exist in our lives. When we listen to music that glorifies sinful sexual behaviors, we begin to tolerate it. When we allow it in our minds it softens our defenses. When we watch television shows that glorifies sinful behaviors, we are allowing it into our computer system of our mind. When we surround ourselves with sinful experiences, it enters our mind and softens our defenses. As we know the Israelites did not completely wipe out the Canaanites from the land and they tolerated their existence and eventually their sinful ways infiltrated the Jewish culture and there were constant cycles of idolatry and sinful behaviors of generations of Israelites. They became ineffective for the Lord. We cannot allow sin to fester in our lives. It is like a computer virus, a malicious computer program, that will crash our computer. It is the old garbage in, garbage out (GIGO) principle. How can we expect to have godly thoughts, act in godly ways, live godly lives if we surround ourselves with sinful inputs to our computer systems. We cannot put our hands in the fire and not expect to get burnt by it. We cannot dabble in sin, say it’s ok, without getting burnt by it. We are to be in the world but not of it. We are to witness to the world but not participate in activities that we know to be against the will of God as expressed in His Word. His word is our security software for our minds. We must know His Word and submit to it and not try to operate outside the boundaries of its protection.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 33:1-56 (Part 1 of 3)

Remembering Israel’s Journey

So far between Facebook posts only and then through postings on my blog page, we have journeyed through twelve complete and now almost thirteen complete books of the Bible. We are at least four years into this project. What a journey it has been and one that we will continue until we have walked through every book of the Bible. It is a journal of sorts of the intersection of the books that we have been in during this steps of this journey and the events or memories of my life.

 

It has been interesting to see over these past four years or so, how the Bible speaks to my life. One of the things that I have learned in this process is that God has guided my life even when I was rebelling againt His presence in my life. It has reminded me that there are no coincidences in life and that God does not make mistakes. I have learned that He even uses our mistakes as part of His guidance of our journey through life. When you look my journey these fifty-four years, God was there using every positive and every negative thing to lead me, to teach me, and to guide my journey. There was nothing wasted.

 

My journey was not unlike that of Israel that has been documented so far here in Numbers. There has been idolatry for me and for them. I used to make the women and the access to sexual relations the god of my life. I lived and died tried to gain the approval of the women that I have been married to or dated. It was the single biggest flaw of my life and I have learned that during this journey through the Bible so far. In reflecting on my life, I know that I was addicted to approval and it expressed itself through thinking that sexual congress was the validation of that approval. If I was having sex, it meant that I was in the good graces of the woman in my life. If I was having sex a couple of times a week, I felt that I was of value. Life was about the pursuit of sex. I was no sexual deviant but sex dominated my life. It was my addiction of sorts because it made me feel better about myself when I got a fix or a hit of my drug. All the stupid decisions of my life can be traced back to this fatal flaw. Living life in this manner was a roller coaster ride of ups and downs emotionally. It was a life of feeling out of control. It was a life where people got hurt by my need to have the positive reinforcement fixes of congress with the women in my life. It caused me to cede my authority as husband in both my previous marriages to the woman. I gave up my authority to maintain my fixes of my drug of choice, sex. Instead of being the authority in my homes, I was contingent man. I would be in authority if authority would maintain my access to sex. I would gladly and willingly shy away from being the authority in my home if giving in would maintain access to sex. Virtually every decision and every mistake had to do with this fact. I would like to say that there were other combinations of flaws that have caused my mistakes in my life. I would like to say there are equal fatal flaws in my character, but being an approval junkie validated through sex is the story of my life.

 

And, I wish that I could say that immediately upon salvation in December 2001, all of that changed immediately. Many people who have just been saved think that the clouds above their life will immediately clear and that sunshine will immediately be the order of the day. They often believe that life will immediately get better. They often believe that they will have no more problems because their character flaws are going to be immediately gone. However, that is simply not true. Salvation is the beginning of a new journey called sanctification. We are all sin-filled people and we begrudgingly give up our top ten sins slowly over the process of a lifetime. For me, this approval junkie validated through sex lifestyle was one of the toughest strongholds of sin for the Holy Spirit to bust up in my life. Just as Israel had a problem with lasting faith in the Lord (their fatal flaw), I, too, could not see how this god of sex and approval was the biggest baddest god of my life. It took drastic measures from God to drive this demon out of my life. He had to yank me out of Greenville, SC after living there for nearly three decades and planting me in what might as well have been a foreign nation, Rock Hill, SC. It was only there that I met the woman that would eventually become my third (my current and final) wife, Elena. It was only through her unconditional love for me that I was able to break free from this god. She loved me no matter what. She examined me thoroughly and I shared all my deepest, darkest secrets and she still loved me. Then, in God’s own unique sense of humor of hitting you where you have your gods, after Elena and I fell in love, He shipped me off to California for a year-and-a-half without her. I was in a relationship without sex on the table! God probably used my favorite line after my corny sense of humor produces blank faces, “Well…I thought it was funny!” Cross country from the woman in my life. Wow! Guess what? Elena and I had to become friends in that process. We actually got to know each other on a deep, deep level. Our relationship was founded on friendship first. She just loved me for who I am. I did not have to perform to maintain approval. I did not have to chase after the carrot of sex. Man, what a burden relieved that was. What freedom that was. Having a woman in your life that you are compatable with both inside and outside the bedroom. What a relief that was and is. There is peace when your let go of your gods. And God used all these seeming coincidences to get me where He wanted me to go. Burning off of my biggest god, my biggest idol was the beginning of God opening the doors that He has opened since.

 

Without my journaling journey through the Bible, I don’t think that I would have ever seen so clearly what God has been doing in my life. I don’t think that I would have ever been able to see the gods of my life as clearly without having this journal of my journey through the Bible. It has been a journey of discovery that we are long from finished with.

 

That is not to say that I do not have plenty of demons left in my life that God is still working on, but in His wisdom, He knew the biggest god that was a roadblock to me moving into what He had and has in store for me was this one big, huge idol in my life. Convicting me of my other sinful flaws were all contingent upon getting rid of this one big thing. Then, I would be ready for the rest of the journey as He refines me. Similarly, right now in Numbers 33, we find the Israelites ready to move into the Promised Land. They have been through the wilderness of refining and getting rid of the gods of their lives – fear and lack of trust in God. It took a lifetime. It took a generation. Now they are ready to take on the Promised Land. It is here in this chapter that Moses reflects on the journey:

 

33 Here are the stages in the journey of the Israelites when they came out of Egypt by divisions under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. 2 At the Lord’s command Moses recorded the stages in their journey. This is their journey by stages:

 

3 The Israelites set out from Rameses on the fifteenth day of the first month, the day after the Passover. They marched out defiantly in full view of all the Egyptians, 4 who were burying all their firstborn, whom the Lord had struck down among them; for the Lord had brought judgment on their gods.

 

5 The Israelites left Rameses and camped at Sukkoth.

 

6 They left Sukkoth and camped at Etham, on the edge of the desert.

 

7 They left Etham, turned back to Pi Hahiroth, to the east of Baal Zephon, and camped near Migdol.

 

8 They left Pi Hahiroth[a] and passed through the sea into the desert, and when they had traveled for three days in the Desert of Etham, they camped at Marah.

 

9 They left Marah and went to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there.

 

10 They left Elim and camped by the Red Sea.[b]

 

11 They left the Red Sea and camped in the Desert of Sin.

 

12 They left the Desert of Sin and camped at Dophkah.

 

13 They left Dophkah and camped at Alush.

 

14 They left Alush and camped at Rephidim, where there was no water for the people to drink.

 

15 They left Rephidim and camped in the Desert of Sinai.

 

16 They left the Desert of Sinai and camped at Kibroth Hattaavah.

 

17 They left Kibroth Hattaavah and camped at Hazeroth.

 

18 They left Hazeroth and camped at Rithmah.

 

19 They left Rithmah and camped at Rimmon Perez.

 

20 They left Rimmon Perez and camped at Libnah.

 

21 They left Libnah and camped at Rissah.

 

22 They left Rissah and camped at Kehelathah.

 

23 They left Kehelathah and camped at Mount Shepher.

 

24 They left Mount Shepher and camped at Haradah.

 

25 They left Haradah and camped at Makheloth.

 

26 They left Makheloth and camped at Tahath.

 

27 They left Tahath and camped at Terah.

 

28 They left Terah and camped at Mithkah.

 

29 They left Mithkah and camped at Hashmonah.

 

30 They left Hashmonah and camped at Moseroth.

 

31 They left Moseroth and camped at Bene Jaakan.

 

32 They left Bene Jaakan and camped at Hor Haggidgad.

 

33 They left Hor Haggidgad and camped at Jotbathah.

 

34 They left Jotbathah and camped at Abronah.

 

35 They left Abronah and camped at Ezion Geber.

 

36 They left Ezion Geber and camped at Kadesh, in the Desert of Zin.

 

37 They left Kadesh and camped at Mount Hor, on the border of Edom. 38 At the Lord’s command Aaron the priest went up Mount Hor, where he died on the first day of the fifth month of the fortieth year after the Israelites came out of Egypt. 39 Aaron was a hundred and twenty-three years old when he died on Mount Hor.

 

40 The Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negev of Canaan, heard that the Israelites were coming.

 

41 They left Mount Hor and camped at Zalmonah.

 

42 They left Zalmonah and camped at Punon.

 

43 They left Punon and camped at Oboth.

 

44 They left Oboth and camped at Iye Abarim, on the border of Moab.

 

45 They left Iye Abarim and camped at Dibon Gad.

 

46 They left Dibon Gad and camped at Almon Diblathaim.

 

47 They left Almon Diblathaim and camped in the mountains of Abarim, near Nebo.

 

48 They left the mountains of Abarim and camped on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho. 49 There on the plains of Moab they camped along the Jordan from Beth Jeshimoth to Abel Shittim.

 

50 On the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho the Lord said to Moses, 51 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, 52 drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places. 53 Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess. 54 Distribute the land by lot, according to your clans. To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one. Whatever falls to them by lot will be theirs. Distribute it according to your ancestral tribes.

 

55 “‘But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live. 56 And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them.’”

 

Moses recorded the journey of his people as God instructed him. It provides us a record of their spiritual journey as well as their geographic one. In their journey between Ramses and Acacia on the plains of Moab, Israel finally became the people who could invade the land of Canaan and claim the promises of God that He made to Abraham. Have you made spiritual progress lately? Recording your thoughts about God as you read His Word will help you see and focus on what you have learned from your journey of mistakes and successes and how God guided it all. It will help you see what your gods are more clearly and what has prevented you and what is preventing you from reaching the Promised Land that God has in store for you?

 

My journaling journey through the Bible has been valuable and will continue to be so as we move through the remaining books of the Bible. It has been revealing and cleansing and instructive. Are you journaling? Are you meditating on how God’s Word applies to your life? Try it. You may just learn something

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 32:1-42 (Part 1 of 2)

Some Tribe Settle East of the Jordan River

When in leadership at church, it is easy to get frustrated with people in your church, particularly in a medium-sized to large church. There is a certain amount of anonymity that comes with being a regular attendee of medium to large sized churches. You can lose yourself in the crowd and you don’t really have to do anything. It is easy to say “someone else will do it”. It is easy to say that I don’t have time. There is an old saying about churches and just about any organization – 20% of the people do 80% of the work. As a leader in the church, even the 20% can disappoint you at times. You plan meetings and only half the people that said they would show up actually do show up. You send out emails requiring a response and you get no responses. It just seems that church is just not that important to people. You can think that they just don’t see church as important as you do. You can think that people simply don’t care about eternal things and make things of this earth more important than the eternal. You can think that people see church as just one of many choices of what to do with their time. You can think that people just don’t get it like you do. You can think that they don’t get it that serving the Lord should be our top priority and not our fifth or sixth priority.

 

Serving the Lord should be the trump card to anything that is in our cards in our hands. We can think that people just don’t get it that serving the Lord should come before the kid’s unending sports activities. We can think that people just don’t get that serving the should come before our obsessions with our favorite college football team. We can think that people just don’t get that serving the Lord should come before weekend getaways, or NASCAR, or Pinterest, or shopping, or whatever it is that people seem to place as priorities than serving the Lord through our local church. We can become jaded as leaders by this constant struggle to just have enough people to have a meeting about an important upcoming event. It is all very easy to just throw your hands up in frustration and give up on people. It is easy to jump to conclusions about people’s motives when it comes to their relationship with the Lord and in their service to the Lord.

 

It is this idea of jumping to conclusions about people’s motives that I thought of this morning when I read through this chapter today (Numbers 32):

 

32 The Reubenites and Gadites, who had very large herds and flocks, saw that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were suitable for livestock. 2 So they came to Moses and Eleazar the priest and to the leaders of the community, and said, 3 “Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo and Beon— 4 the land the Lord subdued before the people of Israel—are suitable for livestock, and your servants have livestock. 5 If we have found favor in your eyes,” they said, “let this land be given to your servants as our possession. Do not make us cross the Jordan.”

 

6 Moses said to the Gadites and Reubenites, “Should your fellow Israelites go to war while you sit here? 7 Why do you discourage the Israelites from crossing over into the land the Lord has given them? 8 This is what your fathers did when I sent them from Kadesh Barnea to look over the land. 9 After they went up to the Valley of Eshkol and viewed the land, they discouraged the Israelites from entering the land the Lord had given them. 10 The Lord’s anger was aroused that day and he swore this oath: 11 ‘Because they have not followed me wholeheartedly, not one of those who were twenty years old or more when they came up out of Egypt will see the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob— 12 not one except Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua son of Nun, for they followed the Lord wholeheartedly.’ 13 The Lord’s anger burned against Israel and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the whole generation of those who had done evil in his sight was gone.

 

14 “And here you are, a brood of sinners, standing in the place of your fathers and making the Lord even more angry with Israel. 15 If you turn away from following him, he will again leave all this people in the wilderness, and you will be the cause of their destruction.”

 

16 Then they came up to him and said, “We would like to build pens here for our livestock and cities for our women and children. 17 But we will arm ourselves for battle[a] and go ahead of the Israelites until we have brought them to their place. Meanwhile our women and children will live in fortified cities, for protection from the inhabitants of the land. 18 We will not return to our homes until each of the Israelites has received their inheritance. 19 We will not receive any inheritance with them on the other side of the Jordan, because our inheritance has come to us on the east side of the Jordan.”

 

20 Then Moses said to them, “If you will do this—if you will arm yourselves before the Lord for battle 21 and if all of you who are armed cross over the Jordan before the Lord until he has driven his enemies out before him— 22 then when the land is subdued before the Lord, you may return and be free from your obligation to the Lord and to Israel. And this land will be your possession before the Lord.

 

23 “But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the Lord; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out. 24 Build cities for your women and children, and pens for your flocks, but do what you have promised.”

 

25 The Gadites and Reubenites said to Moses, “We your servants will do as our lord commands. 26 Our children and wives, our flocks and herds will remain here in the cities of Gilead. 27 But your servants, every man who is armed for battle, will cross over to fight before the Lord, just as our lord says.”

 

28 Then Moses gave orders about them to Eleazar the priest and Joshua son of Nun and to the family heads of the Israelite tribes. 29 He said to them, “If the Gadites and Reubenites, every man armed for battle, cross over the Jordan with you before the Lord, then when the land is subdued before you, you must give them the land of Gilead as their possession. 30 But if they do not cross over with you armed, they must accept their possession with you in Canaan.”

 

31 The Gadites and Reubenites answered, “Your servants will do what the Lord has said. 32 We will cross over before the Lord into Canaan armed, but the property we inherit will be on this side of the Jordan.”

 

33 Then Moses gave to the Gadites, the Reubenites and the half-tribe of Manasseh son of Joseph the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites and the kingdom of Og king of Bashan—the whole land with its cities and the territory around them.

 

34 The Gadites built up Dibon, Ataroth, Aroer, 35 Atroth Shophan, Jazer, Jogbehah, 36 Beth Nimrah and Beth Haran as fortified cities, and built pens for their flocks. 37 And the Reubenites rebuilt Heshbon, Elealeh and Kiriathaim, 38 as well as Nebo and Baal Meon (these names were changed) and Sibmah. They gave names to the cities they rebuilt.

 

39 The descendants of Makir son of Manasseh went to Gilead, captured it and drove out the Amorites who were there. 40 So Moses gave Gilead to the Makirites, the descendants of Manasseh, and they settled there. 41 Jair, a descendant of Manasseh, captured their settlements and called them Havvoth Jair.[b] 42 And Nobah captured Kenath and its surrounding settlements and called it Nobah after himself.

 

Here in this passage, we see that three tribes (Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Mannasseh) wanted to live east of the Jordan River on land that the Israelites had already been conquered. Moses immediately assumed that they had selfish motives and were trying to avoid helping the other tribes fight for their land across the Jordan River. Moses, however, jumped to the wrong conclusion. In dealing with people, we must find out all the facts before making up our minds. We shouldn’t automatically assume that their motives are wrong, even if their plans sound suspicious.

 

For me, the takeaway today is that we cannot automatically assume the worst about people when we are in leadership at church. We can’t assume that they just don’t care. We may well be right about those that attend our church that are not saved to begin with or about those who are spiritually immature. However, we cannot paint everyone with a broad brush. We may not know that someone is struggling in their marriage and serving the Lord is something they wanna do but marital problems prevent it. Maybe someone is having to take care of an ailing parent almost 24/7 now. Maybe, they have a sick child this week. Maybe, they had a friend who just needed to talk that night of the meeting. Maybe, they were sharing the gospel with someone and got lost in the moment of someone coming to know Jesus Christ as their Savior. Sure, often people have priorities issues when it comes to choosing between serving the Lord and serving themselves or their own interests. It is very true and that is a discipleship issue that the church struggles with constantly. But we cannot automatically assume that they just don’t get it. They may be serving the Lord and there was a conflict between that and a meeting. They may be serving the Lord by caring for their elderly parent and that prevents them for this season from being fully available for important church stuff. And people may be going through stuff themselves that is consuming them. A bad marriage can suck the life out of you. A diagnosis of cancer can suck the life out of you. Financial troubles can suck the life out of you. We cannot take a broad brush and throw these people in with those who just don’t care.

 

Well, then, how do we know the difference between indifference and people who legitimately do care but something just got in the way. The one word that I have been thinking about this whole time that I have been writing is – relationships. We must get to know the people we lead. We must get to know that team of people that are underneath us as our team. We must make contact with them outside of asking them to do something for us. We must have coffee with them. We must eat dinner with them. We must get to know them. Instead of being exasperated, make contact and find out why they did not show up or did not fulfill a responsibility. Get to know them outside of the function they perform for you. We must get to know the people on our teams so that we can know of what’s going on in their lives.

 

I know you might say, why is it always on the leader to do these things. Why can’t those who follow make an effort? That’s why leaders are so few and followers so many. As leaders, the work is harder, the hours longer, and the rewards often fewer in relationship to the effort put out. However, God placed you in leadership not by coincidence. He placed you in leadership because He saw something in you. We have talents that He gave us and He placed us in this phase of life to shepherd others. Yes, it’s frustrating to be a leader a lot of the time. But, maybe, just maybe during the time that you are leading, you disciple one person to go from indifference to all-in for Jesus Christ, then all the frustration is worth it. One soul taking flight in their relationship with Jesus Christ under your discipleship is the reward of eternal value – even if it takes 5 to 10 years of leadership frustrations. We are not leading to serve ourselves. We are not leading because it is easy. We are leading to grow disciples and growing disciples starts with relationships.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 31:25-54 (Part 2 of 2)

Division of the Plunder

In less than two weeks, our church will hold its most major community outreach event of the year. We call it the Thanksgiving Meal Giveaway (the TMG). We hold it annually on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving Day. It is a major event in the life of our church. It is a major financial investment of our church and it is a major investment of probably half of the attendees of our church who rotate in and out during the course of the 4-5 hour event. It is a major logistical event. There are ten different functional teams that manage this event. We have representatives of at least 500 families that pass through our doors on that date. We give away all the fixings for a family meal at home for these 500 families and we also give away coats as well. Some churches invite people to their church to have a meal on-site which seems so impersonal. We say let’s give away the meals and let our guests having family time on a family day in their family home. Many of these guests would not have a Thanksgiving meal at home otherwise, because of the expense often associated with Thanksgiving meals.

 

I am profoundly touched by the fact that I often live my life with blinders on to the desperation that often goes on around me in my community. There are sure families that pass through the TMG that are just working the system and are lazy and could work but choose to suck off the teets of public assistance. However, so many of the people that come through our doors are genuinely in need. Many have been made destitute by their disabilities. Many have made stupid mistakes in their life that have caused their poverty and they are trying to work their way back. So many of these particular types get caught in the cycle of poverty and though they are trying to break free and they live so close to the edge that one thing can go wrong and send them spiraling back down to the ground. Then, there are the elderly folks who are just getting by on social security and medications eat up most of their money. Sure, maybe some of these elderly folks should have planned for retirement better but many have been in poverty all their lives and could not save. Maybe they should have taken school more seriously growing up but those are things of people’s pasts. They find themselves in poverty NOW. We cannot judge them for the mistakes of their pasts. We can only love them NOW. We can only show them hospitality NOW. We can only share the gospel with them NOW. We can only pray with them and for them NOW. We can only clothe them NOW. We can only feed them NOW.

 

I also walk away profoundly aware of how completely blessed that I am. God has given me the ability to earn a good living as an accountant. He has blessed with by working with a company for the past eight (8) years that has completely been so good to me. During my time at Fujikura America and the ways this company has blessed me, I have been able to right my ship financially to the point that the only major debt that we have is our mortgage. Through the grace of God and understanding of His Word, we have come to the place where we can be generous without having to think about whether we can do it or not. It is a matter of determining how much not if. We have changed our mindset about things and money. We have carved out space to be obedient to the Lord in our finances. It was a tough road that required discipline to get there but we are here for now. Something may come along and blow us out of the water financially but we will have been trying to prepare for that during this season of blessing. We truly do know that we are blessed. We truly do know that it is not because we figured something out that others don’t. It is because the Lord has guided us and chiseled us and matured us into a desire to please Him first above all others. We know that our season of blessing is directly from the Lord. It is because obedience to the Lord brings the blessing of a changed mindset about possessions and about the use of money. It brings tears to my eyes to think about how God has blessed Elena and me. When you think about how God lifted us both out of bad marriages with bad finances and where God was not present to this plateau of obedience and blessing, it is profoundly humbling. The twists, turns, and intersections of life that brought Elena and me together and the roads that He sent us down since we met are not coincidence. It is part of God’s plan for the place that we are at right now. And right now is preparation for what He has in store next. It is completely humbling.

 

It is not lost on either one of us that we are completely blessed. We are humbled by it. We know where we’ve been and know for a fact that God saw us through it and placed us on dry ground on this plateau we currently occupy. It is for that reason that we give back to our Lord and want to do so generously. He lifted us up out of the pit and placed us on dry ground. There is so much thanksgiving in our heart for what God has done in our lives. There are joyful tears. There is profound humility. We give back to the Lord as simply a thank you for what He has done. We wish we could do more. The annual TMG at our church is at least one reminder to us to never forget the blessings that the Lord has bestowed upon us and reinforces our hearts of thanksgiving.

 

I thought of thanksgiving today when I read through this passage and see how a portion of the spoils of victory were given to the Lord:

 

25 The Lord said to Moses, 26 “You and Eleazar the priest and the family heads of the community are to count all the people and animals that were captured. 27 Divide the spoils equally between the soldiers who took part in the battle and the rest of the community. 28 From the soldiers who fought in the battle, set apart as tribute for the Lord one out of every five hundred, whether people, cattle, donkeys or sheep. 29 Take this tribute from their half share and give it to Eleazar the priest as the Lord’s part. 30 From the Israelites’ half, select one out of every fifty, whether people, cattle, donkeys, sheep or other animals. Give them to the Levites, who are responsible for the care of the Lord’s tabernacle.” 31 So Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the Lord commanded Moses.

 

32 The plunder remaining from the spoils that the soldiers took was 675,000 sheep, 33 72,000 cattle, 34 61,000 donkeys 35 and 32,000 women who had never slept with a man.

 

36 The half share of those who fought in the battle was:

 

337,500 sheep, 37 of which the tribute for the Lord was 675;

 

38 36,000 cattle, of which the tribute for the Lord was 72;

 

39 30,500 donkeys, of which the tribute for the Lord was 61;

 

40 16,000 people, of whom the tribute for the Lord was 32.

 

41 Moses gave the tribute to Eleazar the priest as the Lord’s part, as the Lord commanded Moses.

 

42 The half belonging to the Israelites, which Moses set apart from that of the fighting men— 43 the community’s half—was 337,500 sheep, 44 36,000 cattle, 45 30,500 donkeys 46 and 16,000 people. 47 From the Israelites’ half, Moses selected one out of every fifty people and animals, as the Lord commanded him, and gave them to the Levites, who were responsible for the care of the Lord’s tabernacle.

 

48 Then the officers who were over the units of the army—the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds—went to Moses 49 and said to him, “Your servants have counted the soldiers under our command, and not one is missing. 50 So we have brought as an offering to the Lord the gold articles each of us acquired—armlets, bracelets, signet rings, earrings and necklaces—to make atonement for ourselves before the Lord.”

 

51 Moses and Eleazar the priest accepted from them the gold—all the crafted articles. 52 All the gold from the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds that Moses and Eleazar presented as a gift to the Lord weighed 16,750 shekels.[a] 53 Each soldier had taken plunder for himself. 54 Moses and Eleazar the priest accepted the gold from the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds and brought it into the tent of meeting as a memorial for the Israelites before the Lord.

 

How often we put blinders on and do not see the world around us! How often do we think what we have is through our own effort. Here in this passage, we see the Israelites willing giving back to the Lord from the spoils of victory. The Israelites knew that their victory came from God. They only sent out 12,000 men to fight a much larger force so it was without begrudging that they gave a portion of the spoils back to the Lord.

 

Should we not be the same way. Do we live with blinders on and not see or explain away poverty of others just so we can justify that new car, that overpriced vacation, that new TV, you name. We mortgage our lives away and think how proud we are of the things we have and all the debt that goes with it. Let us learn to live simpler lives. Let us learn to live a life of thanksgiving to the Lord. Let us remember where our blessings come from. They come from the Lord. He gives us our abilities. Let us carve out room to take our blinder off and be generous as acts of thanksgiving to the Lord. He has placed us on this plateau to be a beacon to the world around us. Let us never forget it all comes from Him and we have humble responsibility to give Him thanks for it.

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 31:25-54 (Part 1 of 2)

Division of the Plunder

Lost in all the huh-bub of the election is that (1) tomorrow is Veteran’s Day and (2) Thanksgiving is just two weeks away from today. We have been so busy running up to the election and all the who, what, when, where and why that we have almost forgotten these two important holidays and we cannot forget their significance to us. We will look at the significance of both these holidays in light of the passage, Numbers 31:25-54, over this and one more blog.

 

First, tomorrow, we will celebrate Veteran’s Day. It is the day on the calendar that we celebrate both our living and dead servicemen who have made the sacrifice to serve our country. Originally, it was a holiday to celebrate the peace that came with the ending of World War I. It was call Armistice Day back then. Armistice is an expensive word, a fancy word, for peace (or the lack of conflict). It is celebrated on November 11 each year because the cease-fire that ended World War I went into effect at 11pm on November 11, 1918. So, the cease-fire went into effect at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month so it is fitting that November 11th is Veterans Day. Over the years though Armistice Day, a celebration of the end of World War I, morphed into a celebration of our brave men and women who have served our country, some of who gave their life in that effort. It was President Reagan, in 1986, who said it best when he said,

 

“Veterans Day gives all Americans a special opportunity to pay tribute to all those men and women who throughout our history, have left their homes and loved ones to serve their country. Their willingness to give freely and unselfishly of themselves, even their lives, in defense of our democratic principles has given our great country the security we enjoy today. From Valley Forge to Vietnam, through war and peace, valiant patriotic Americans have answered the call, serving with honor and fidelity.”

 

Thus, tomorrow we give honor to those who have chosen not to pursue the safe course that most of us choose. These men and women have chosen to go into service to our country knowing that at a moment’s notice they could be placed in harm’s way. They serve to protect the interests of the United States and do not question whether those interests are right or not. They just serve their country and defend our way of life. They love their country and are willing to serve. They find it a higher calling. They are willing to be away from family and friends for extended periods of time to live a life of vigilance, honor, duty and fidelity – a way of life that is bound by these characterstics, a way of life that we should employ in the non-military world. These men and women are willing to give their lives for the brothers in arms and for our country. There is no more honorable way to die than in service of defending freedom.

 

It was the willingness to sacrifice time, talents, personal resources, and their very lives that we honor on Veterans Day (when we celebrate both living and dead soldiers – whereas on Memorial Day we celebrate only those who have died). I thought of that because of the willingness to give was what I thought of here when I read through this passage as follows:

 

25 The Lord said to Moses, 26 “You and Eleazar the priest and the family heads of the community are to count all the people and animals that were captured. 27 Divide the spoils equally between the soldiers who took part in the battle and the rest of the community. 28 From the soldiers who fought in the battle, set apart as tribute for the Lord one out of every five hundred, whether people, cattle, donkeys or sheep. 29 Take this tribute from their half share and give it to Eleazar the priest as the Lord’s part. 30 From the Israelites’ half, select one out of every fifty, whether people, cattle, donkeys, sheep or other animals. Give them to the Levites, who are responsible for the care of the Lord’s tabernacle.” 31 So Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the Lord commanded Moses.

 

32 The plunder remaining from the spoils that the soldiers took was 675,000 sheep, 33 72,000 cattle, 34 61,000 donkeys 35 and 32,000 women who had never slept with a man.

 

36 The half share of those who fought in the battle was:

 

337,500 sheep, 37 of which the tribute for the Lord was 675;

 

38 36,000 cattle, of which the tribute for the Lord was 72;

 

39 30,500 donkeys, of which the tribute for the Lord was 61;

 

40 16,000 people, of whom the tribute for the Lord was 32.

 

41 Moses gave the tribute to Eleazar the priest as the Lord’s part, as the Lord commanded Moses.

 

42 The half belonging to the Israelites, which Moses set apart from that of the fighting men— 43 the community’s half—was 337,500 sheep, 44 36,000 cattle, 45 30,500 donkeys 46 and 16,000 people. 47 From the Israelites’ half, Moses selected one out of every fifty people and animals, as the Lord commanded him, and gave them to the Levites, who were responsible for the care of the Lord’s tabernacle.

 

48 Then the officers who were over the units of the army—the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds—went to Moses 49 and said to him, “Your servants have counted the soldiers under our command, and not one is missing. 50 So we have brought as an offering to the Lord the gold articles each of us acquired—armlets, bracelets, signet rings, earrings and necklaces—to make atonement for ourselves before the Lord.”

 

51 Moses and Eleazar the priest accepted from them the gold—all the crafted articles. 52 All the gold from the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds that Moses and Eleazar presented as a gift to the Lord weighed 16,750 shekels.[a] 53 Each soldier had taken plunder for himself. 54 Moses and Eleazar the priest accepted the gold from the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds and brought it into the tent of meeting as a memorial for the Israelites before the Lord.

 

Moses told the Israelites to give a portion of their war plunder to God. Another portion was to go to the people of who Israel who stayed behind. Similarly, the money we earn is not our own. Everything we possess comes directly from God because it is He who gives us the talents that we use to earn it. Thus, everything we own is the result of our ability to earn money and our ability to earn that money comes from the talents that God gave us. As a result, we should always give a share of what we earn back to God. It is a sign of thanksgiving to Him for giving us the abilities to provide for ourselves and for our families. Without God giving us our talents, that are unique to each of us, we would not be able to earn wages. Then, it is selfish and dishonoring to God not to obey His command and give a portion of it back to Him. Are you honoring God in this way?

 

Just as our military men are giving back to the country that they love by going full-on, all-in, in service to their country, so should we be willing to give back in the same way to God. Usually, to a man (or woman), each military persons says that they owe a debt of gratitude to their country so they sacrifice to serve her and are willing to defend her with their lives. What if we viewed our money in relationship to God in this way?

 

Most of tend to give only what we have left over to God rather than sacrifice our personal pleasure and give 10% or more of what we make to the Lord. We do not determine to live our lifes off on 90% or less of what we make so that we might honor God for giving us the abilities we use to earn money. What if our soldiers decided to give our country what was left over? I will serve our country when I have a little time left over in my time wallet. What if our soldiers decided to serve only when they had an extra 20 minutes in their time wallet just like how we tend to give to the Lord when we have an extra $20 bill in our money wallet?

 

Let us honor the Lord in the same way in which our fighting men and women of our military serve our country. They are being sacrificial by not choosing the easy way. They could live a life of pursuing selfish desires but, no, they live sacrificially in service to their country. They make time to serve the country that they love. They have made it a priority in their lives. In the same way, we should make giving to the Lord a priority in our lives. We should honor the God who gives us our talents. We should obey His command to give 10% or more of what we earn to the Lord. We need to learn the life of generosity rather than the life of selfishness. Our fighting soldiers give generously of their time, talents, and resources to serve our country and do so willingly. We should be giving to the Lord out of the joy of thankfulness for how He has given to us and blessed us with our talents. We should be giving to the Lord out of thankfulness for what He has done in us through our salvation in Jesus Christ.

 

Amen and Amen.