Posts Tagged ‘loving God with all your heart’

1 Samuel 4:1b-11 (Part 1 of 3)
The Phillistines Capture the Ark

Yesterday morning, I found out as soon as I returned from my usual morning 1 hour and 40 minute walk (usually between 4:20am and 6:00am weekday mornings) that my Michelle (my stepdaughter) lost her paternal grandfather to the Lord this morning. He had been lingering on in hospice care for the last few weeks. This grandfather is Michelle’s biological father’s dad. Although Michelle’s mom and dad divorced long ago, Elena still has fond memories of her ex-husband’s parents. Michelle was close with her paternal grandparents so you can understand that she is distraught this morning. But from what I understand of Michelle’s grandfather, he was a devout Christian and a caring man. Just and old school Southern man that loved the Lord and did things the right way and a man of honor, dignity, and morality. You might consider him backward or boring by today’s standards. He saved his money, lived modestly, gave generously and quietly, and provided for his family. From what I know of this man from the glowing reviews that my wife gave him, there is no doubt in my mind that at 5:55am this morning, Michelle’s grandfather made the transition from his earthly shell of a body into the presence of the Lord and is no longer wracked by the pain of being a soul in an earthen vessel that was incapacitated. Michelle can take comfort in knowing that her grandfather is now in heaven and is free of pain and is celebrating the joy that is living in the actual presence of God in heaven. She can take comfort in knowing that her grandfather was not one to fake his faith. He lived it out quietly and unassumedly each day. He was, from what I understand, the real deal. What he was at church on Sunday is what he was on Monday-Saturday, every day. The fact that this man lived out his faith every day is something to take comfort in. There is joy in knowing that someone you loved is dancing in heaven right now and will do so for eternity.

For what shall we be known when we die? Will we be known for being a man of God? Will we be known for being a man whose word you can count on? Will we be known for being a man of integrity? Will we be known for being a man of morality of doing the right thing even when it costs us something? Will we be known for being a man who would give another person the shirt off their back if necessary? Will we be known for being a man who was generous to a fault? Will we be known as a man who lived by biblical principles? Will we be known as a man who shared his faith whenever the opportunity was presented?

Or will God be our fallback position? Will we love God only in times of crisis? Will we love God only when the chips are down? Will we love God only when we have no other option? That’s what I thought of this morning as I read through this passage, 1 Samuel 4:1b-11 – how there are people who treat God as a fallback position or as a last resort. Let’s read the passage now:

At that time Israel was at war with the Philistines. The Israelite army was camped near Ebenezer, and the Philistines were at Aphek. 2 The Philistines attacked and defeated the army of Israel, killing 4,000 men. 3 After the battle was over, the troops retreated to their camp, and the elders of Israel asked, “Why did the Lord allow us to be defeated by the Philistines?” Then they said, “Let’s bring the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord from Shiloh. If we carry it into battle with us, it[a] will save us from our enemies.”

4 So they sent men to Shiloh to bring the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, who is enthroned between the cherubim. Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli, were also there with the Ark of the Covenant of God. 5 When all the Israelites saw the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord coming into the camp, their shout of joy was so loud it made the ground shake!

6 “What’s going on?” the Philistines asked. “What’s all the shouting about in the Hebrew camp?” When they were told it was because the Ark of the Lord had arrived, 7 they panicked. “The gods have[b] come into their camp!” they cried. “This is a disaster! We have never had to face anything like this before! 8 Help! Who can save us from these mighty gods of Israel? They are the same gods who destroyed the Egyptians with plagues when Israel was in the wilderness. 9 Fight as never before, Philistines! If you don’t, we will become the Hebrews’ slaves just as they have been ours! Stand up like men and fight!”

10 So the Philistines fought desperately, and Israel was defeated again. The slaughter was great; 30,000 Israelite soldiers died that day. The survivors turned and fled to their tents. 11 The Ark of God was captured, and Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were killed.

In this passage, we see that the Ark of the Covenant, as you may know, contained the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses. The Ark was supposed to be kept in the Most Holy Place, the most sacred part of the Tabernacle that only the High Priest could enter only once per year. Hophi and Phinehas desescrated the room unlawfully by entering into the Most Holy Place and removing it. Not only were they not the High Priest and not only was it not the proper time of year for the room to be entered, they did not enter for the right reasons. The only reason that the High Priest was to enter was either to prepare the entire Tabernacle to be moved or to enter at that one time per year that he was to intercede on behalf of the people of Israel for their sins during the past year. It was always to be entered into in humility and honor. I bet most likely Eli’s horrible sons probably just ran in there slammed things around and took the Ark out without paying due honor and respect for where they were and to God himself.

Here, we see these men, the sons of Eli, who were immoral, greedy, lecherous men. They seduced women and had sex with them because they had loose morals. Sex was a recreation sport to them. Stealing was a way of adding to their wealth and power. Taking advantage of people was the way they accumulated wealth and showed their power. A relationship with God was not a part of their lives. They were out to satisfy their lusts for power, money and sex. And they were destroying Israel in the process. They were causing distrust of the Tabernacle as a place of worship. They were breaking down the honor and integrity of the priesthood. They were all about getting what they could get and as much as they could get. It did not matter who they hurt in the process. However, when the chips were down and Israel was about to be crushed. They went “oh, yeah, there is God. He will help us!” Living all their lives thumbing their nose up at God but now when they were about to lose their wealth and power, they fall back to God. Sound familiar? Are you and I out for ourselves and God is the farthest thing from our minds until something doesn’t go our way and THEN we cry out to God? Don’t we live our lives for ourselves more often than not? Doing things and wanting things and not caring who we hurt to get what we want? Are we not Hophni and Phinehas? Are we not arrogant in the face of God thinking we know better and thinking we can do it all by ourselves? Do we not try to get all we can get when we can get it? We know of God but we don’t care about Him until something goes awry? We think we can fix our relationship with Him later? You know later in life when we get older? You know! Some time before we die! God is our fallback position. That was me before I met the reality of my eternal destination of the night of my salvation. That was the way I lived my life before Jesus. I am not perfect post-salvation for sure, but I do love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. I want to please Him now. He is front and center in my life. He is part of my everyday life. He is part of everything I do. He is no longer my fallback position.

Hopefully, when I die, people will speak of me as I have been hearing about Michelle’s paternal grandfather. God was not his fallback position. He lived it and breathed it when it came to his faith. Because in the end, it is when we meet our Maker that we want Him to say to us “well done, good and faithful servant! You have run the good race. You have fought the good fight!” Welcome to your mansion that I have prepared for us. When we only use God as a last resort, Jesus said that there will be many running around saying “Lord! Lord!” but he will say “away from me for I never knew you!”

The choice is yours. You can be like Hophni and Phinehas that used God as a good luck charm for bad times or you can have a real relationship where you love Him and put Him first in your life and obey like Michelle’s paternal grandfather, Paw-Paw.

Are you going to be Phinehas or Paw-Paw?

Amen and Amen.

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Judges 9:1-6

Abimelech Rules Over Schechem

 

Recently, I have been reading the book, Conformed to His Image, by Kenneth Boa. It is an interesting read and it’s one of those books where you highlight a quote on average about every five pages and I am 283 pages into the 511 page book. The basic tenor of the book that I am gathering so far is that we must seek God’s presence and seek to please Him first before we do anything else in ministry. When we let ministry overcome our love for God and the desire to please Him, then we get off track. If we look upon our situation and what is happening with others then, we get off track.

 

 

 

I think that combined with what we learned from this passage is something that God is trying to teach me. When God deals with me, He has to do it from multiple sources and from multiple avenues for me to get it. Oh yeah, God, I see what you’re saying now. I am not the brightest bulb in the marquee. So, God has put the giant finger on what He is trying to point out to me by repeating the message in multiple different ways. As I have discussed with you before, here, that I have been struggling with why God has not yet opened the doors to full-time ministry to me as we sit here three years after graduation.

 

 

 

It’s not that I am destitute or anything. God has blessed me with an amazing secular job as comptroller of the company that I work for and it has enabled us to be generous to our church, to friends, and to family. With a wise and frugal Proverbs 31 wife by my side and the job that the Lord has blessed me with, the distance he has allowed us to travel from near financial disaster when I met my wife to where we are now is amazing. We are not rich by any means but God has provided amply for us and we are comfortable not chasing the Jones such that we only have debt on our house. So, please don’t feel too sorry for me. God has blessed us immeasurably.

 

 

 

However, I know in my heart that God has called me to ministry full-time and we know that it will be a change in our financial picture. We have been preparing for that reality for some time now. The struggle comes from wondering when God is going to reveal that people that need us and that people we need. The struggle comes from not knowing. I have applied for many pastoral positions over the past three years and have come tantalizingly close on one occasion and have had numerous first interviews. It all has become very frustrating for me. I know that I want to serve my Lord full-time. I used to think it would be at my church but things have happened with hiring decisions there, of which I have no issue with, that make it clear that God has other plans for my full time ministry. Just what is that? How do I know? Am I barking up the wrong tree? Am I just completely missing the boat here? What am I not seeing? What am I doing wrong? What is it that I need to be doing that I am not doing? Is there some secret pastoral handshake and hand signals that I am not giving? Why am I not seeing what needs to be seen? My greatest fear is that I am looking west when God is placing the obvious signals in the east (over vice versa, but you get my drift I am sure)? Am I just deluding myself? Notice all the “I” statements here.

 

 

 

The thing that I has become apparent in these last few weeks of reading this book by Kenneth Boa and watching the horrendous way in Abimelech achieves his power is that I must first love God with all of who I am.  Then and only then will he open the door that I have been waiting for Him to open. I do not want to become an Abimelech that is self-seeking and has selfish desires in pursuit of what I think is the right thing. Along with these two sources of message, my wife and I have been doing a dinner-time devotional the last two weeks. We have been going through the Psalms as we eat dinner in the evening. The one thing that is apparent so far is that no matter the circumstance, David is teaching his readers about loving God. We must trust the sovereignty of God.

 

What I need is more of God and less of me. What I need is to be less concerned with what is and what is not happening horizontally. I need to be more concerned about loving God. That’s it. Just loving God and pleasing Him. What could be simpler? Just loving God and trusting Him and praising Him and allowing Him to have my back and having complete trust in that. Just loving God with all my heart, all my soul, and all of my strength. Just loving God. Not what God can do for me. Just loving God Not what I want Him to do for me. Just loving God. That is what God is telling me. Don’t be Martha fretting and worrying about the details when Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, is in your living room. Instead of all sound and fury, be quiet be still and hear from God. It is like pedaling like crazy on a stationary bike and not getting anywhere. When we get all furious about the things we are doing for God, the things we want from God, the things we want God to do for us, we forget to just luxuriate in the presence of the Almighty Creator of the Universe.

 

 

 

Although I am not a cold-blooded murderer like Abimelech, I do see in him how we can lose focus on eternal things and simply get caught up in selfishness. In Scripture, we are warned against selfish desires and allowing such desire to get in the way of loving God.

 

 

 

·         It is written that “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (James 3:16).

 

 

 

·         Paul tells us in Philippians that we should “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3–4).

 

 

 

·         If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1–4).

 

 

 

Just loving God is the message. When we are about just loving God, the scales will be removed from our eyes and the ministry will become clear. If we concern ourselves less about the results, the plan, the what, the when, the where, and the how, and just be with God. It is like the love we have for our significant other or spouse. Just being with them is more important that what we do together. Spending time in the presence of the one we love is often what we treasure most, not the what, the when, the where, and the how.

 

 

 

So with that in mind, let’s read about how we can become consumed with selfish desires and lose complete sight of God, in Judges 9:1-6:

 

 

 

9 And Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal went to Shechem to his mother’s [a]relatives, and spoke to them and to the whole clan of the household of his mother’s father, saying, 2 “Speak, now, in the hearing of all the leaders of Shechem, ‘Which is better for you, that seventy men, all the sons of Jerubbaal, rule over you, or that one man rule over you?’ Also, remember that I am your bone and your flesh.” 3 And his mother’s [b]relatives spoke all these words on his behalf in the hearing of all the leaders of Shechem; and [c]they were inclined to follow Abimelech, for they said, “He is our [d]relative.” 4 They gave him seventy pieces of silver from the house of Baal-berith with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, and they followed him. 5 Then he went to his father’s house at Ophrah and killed his brothers the sons of Jerubbaal, seventy men, on one stone. But Jotham the youngest son of Jerubbaal was left, for he hid himself. 6 All the men of Shechem and all [e]Beth-millo assembled together, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the [f]oak of the pillar which was in Shechem.

 

 

 

Here, in this passage, we see that Israel’s king was to be the Lord and not just a man. But Abimelech wanted to usurp the position reserved for God alone. In his selfish quest, he killed all but one of his 70 half-brothers. People with selfish desires often seek to fulfill them in ruthless ways. We, as Christ followers, just as anyone else, must examine our ambitions to see if they are self-centered or God-centered. Here, Abimelech is blinded to the things of God by his lust for power. He is blinded by selfish concerns. He begins to define what is right for him instead of God.

 

 

 

 

 

How often, in the name of Jesus, we seek to fulfill what amounts to selfish desires that we cloak in righteousness by our own definition. How often do we get so busy doing things for God that we forget the proper order of thing – God desires first and ours second. When we get so busy doing things for God we sometimes forget to just be in love with Him. We get so busy doing what we think that God wants instead of just being in love with Him. It is the just being in love with God where we exist in His fullness and His presence and being desperate to seek His face that we find the doors that He will open for us. We cannot get so busy with the things of God that we forget to be with God. Let us not let our own definitions of what is right in God’s eyes replace listening to what He says is right and true and real for us. Let us be a people that will patiently wait for God to reveal what His intentions for us are. But above the calling that He places on our heart is that we love Him with everything we have and that we pursue after Him and live in His love and live in His presence. Everything else comes falling into place when we can do that.

 

 

 

Just love Him with every fiber of our being first. Then, everything else falls into place. Then, we have eyes that are ready to see what He wants us to see. Then, we are ready for the calling He has on our lives. So, the takeaway. Just love Him. Just seek Him. Just exist in Him. When we can find our completeness, our rest, our joy, our needs met, our peace in that, we are then ready for His calling on our lives.

 

 

 

Amen and Amen.

 

Deuteronomy 10:12-11:7 (Part 1 of 7)

A Call to Love and Obedience

 

We talked about prayer, yesterday, as the key to a closer, more intimate relationship with God. Just like with our spouses, the way that they became our spouses was that we invested time and effort into the relationship such that we got to know our spouse on more than a surface level. Prayer is that vehicle by which we get to know the Lord our God on a personal, intimate level. However, we can get to know people pretty well without investing our hearts in them. That’s the difference between a spouse and a friend. When we put our heart into a relationship like we do with our spouses, there is a transcendence that occurs. When you love someone, there is a connection on a deeper soul level than when you are just good friends with someone. When you are in love with someone, your heart rises when you see them. When you love someone, you want to be with them as often as you can. When you love someone, they are with you even when you are not with them. When you are gone away from them, you cannot wait to be back in their presence. When you love someone, you sometimes just enjoy being with them not having to say anything or do anything but just being with them in their presence. When you love someone, you want to learn their likes and dislikes, their quirks and odd behaviors, and what makes them tick. When you love someone, you want to do the things that will make them happy, not necessarily because you may get something back out of that but rather because doing those things make them happy. That pretty much explains love as we know it among us humans – husband and wife, parent and child, grandparent and grandchild, siblings (well, after they are grown up, LOL!), and so on – all of the closest of human relationships. We want to make these relationships as good as possible so that they will grow, deepen, and flourish into something that transcends the people involved.

 

How much do we want that to be our relationship with God? Are you and I in love with God? There is often a lot of lip service from people saying that they love God? But do we really love him with the same amount of emotional investment, the same amount of time investment, the same amount of caring investment that we do with, say, our spouse or our children? Just as Jesus asked Peter repeatedly if Peter loved Him, we must ask that question ourselves? How much do we love God? Is our relationship with God like a dead marriage, where you know that each other is there but you are just existing together?

 

One of my faults is that maybe that I am too rational and too much of thinker. In a conversation, yesterday, about with my oldest daughter a mutual hopes and dreams for my granddaughter and it was my prayer that she gathered the best of her ancestry not the worst. From my oldest daughter and me, I hope that she gets my and Meghan’s drive to succeed, our willingness to put in hard work and do whatever it takes to make things work and succeed, our rational approach to the world, and our willingness to understand other peoples’ motivations (rather than just seeing the world from our own point of view). Yet, at the same time, I hope that even though my ex-wife, Meghan’s mom, was off the deep end about a lot of things that drove people nuts and out of her life, there was one thing that I admired about her was her willingness to stand up for what she thought was right (even if it was obvious to everyone else that she was wrong). I told Meghan that I hope Ralyn gets a modified version of that – the ability to know what was right and stand up for and not cower and fold when things got tough as Meghan and I often do. We are conflict avoiders and I don’t want that for Ralyn. I want her to be that perfect mix of reason and passion/strength.

 

Having said that I am often like I said too much of a thinker and not enough passion. I can reason my way out of not standing up for something. I can reason my way out of not take a dangerous, uncharted course of action. I can reason my way into seeing another person’s point of view even if it is detrimental to me. I am an academic-type. A thinker who thinks too much. I sometimes make my relationship with God too much of an academic exercise, I think. How much do I love God? How deep is my relationship with Him? I can recite to you all the reasons that I know with conviction that God exists? I fully believe in a rational way that God created the universe. It is the only logical explanation. I can reason through God’s redemptive plan. I understand it fully and completely from a rational point of view. I fully and completely understand the substitutionary sacrifice of my Lord And Savior Jesus Christ and what it means to my eternal future. But how much do I love God? How much passion do I have for Him?

 

When it comes down to it? Am I willing to show how much I love God by doing His will when it seems by human standards to be completely idiotic? How much do I love God? Am I passionately in love with Him and am I willing to walk through the doors that are dark on the other side and I cannot see the end? As Martin Luther King once said, “Faith is taking that first step when you cannot see the whole staircase!” How much do I love God? Is He more than academic debate to me? Is He the passion of my life? Are my prayers perfunctory or all-in passionate pleadings with my Maker?

 

This question is the one that jumped to mind this morning as I read through this passage for the first time of the three times that we will hit it over the next few days. Let’s read Deuteronomy 10:12-11:7 together today:

 

12 And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

 

14 To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. 15 Yet the Lord set his affection on your ancestors and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations—as it is today. 16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. 17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. 20 Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. 21 He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. 22 Your ancestors who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.

Love and Obey the Lord

 

11 Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. 2 Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm; 3 the signs he performed and the things he did in the heart of Egypt, both to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his whole country; 4 what he did to the Egyptian army, to its horses and chariots, how he overwhelmed them with the waters of the Red Sea[a] as they were pursuing you, and how the Lord brought lasting ruin on them. 5 It was not your children who saw what he did for you in the wilderness until you arrived at this place, 6 and what he did to Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab the Reubenite, when the earth opened its mouth right in the middle of all Israel and swallowed them up with their households, their tents and every living thing that belonged to them. 7 But it was your own eyes that saw all these great things the Lord has done

 

Just as God wanted each Israelite male to be circumcised as a symbol of obedience, He also wanted it to be a symbol of love. He wanted them to see beyond the surgical procedure and understand its meaning. It should be a symbol of submission to God inside their bodies, in their hearts. Then, they could begin to imitate God’s love and justice to others. If we love God passionately, it will spill over into relationships with other people. When we get our heart right with God, when we love Him with reckless abandon and with passion, we will begin to see a change in how we live our lives and how we treat others and how we serve them.

 

How much do you love God? Sure, yes, we must have the academic, rational side of our relationship with God. We must be able to defend our faith with conviction and belief and an understanding that ours is indeed a rational faith that truly can be defended. However, academics will only get us so far. Passionate love for God must be there also. Passionate love for God changes things. Passionate love for God can lead us to do things that a purely rational understanding of God would talk us out of. Passionate love for God will lead us up the staircase when we can only see the step in front of us. Passionate love for God will lead us through an open door when the light is not on, on the other side. Passionate love for God will lead us to do the impossible. Passionate love for God will lead us to do things that others will say are crazy. Passionate love for God will lead us to change the world!

 

How much do I love God? Am I passionate in my pursuit of Him and what He wants out of me? Am I submitted to Him and His will for my life because I truly do love the Lord my God? Or is it an academic ascent, an academic recognition, with no heart?

 

How is it with you?

 

Amen and Amen.

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

Korah, Dathan and Abiram

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Amen and Amen.