2/23/17 “Taking time to Rejoice in God’s Fulfilled Promises” (Daily Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 26-28)

“And you shall go to the one who is priest in those days, and say to him, 'I declare today to the Lord your God that I have come to the country which the Lord swore to our fathers to give us’” (Deuteronomy 26:3).

How often do you think of the many blessings God has already given you? Do you spend much of your time in prayer thanking God for all He has already done for you or is most of your prayer time spent with petitioning God to help with concerns you have or asking Him for things you have not yet been given. Why is it important to reflect upon the fulfilled promises God has already given to us?

When the Israelites came into the Promised Land, God gave them a command that would help them to reflect upon the promises He had already fulfilled for them: “And it shall be, when you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and you possess it and dwell in it, that you shall take some of the first of all the produce of the ground, which you shall bring from your land that the Lord your God is giving you, and put it in a basket and go to the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide” (Deuteronomy 26:1-2). The Israelites were to take in a basket some of the first produce of the land which grew from their individual land inheritances they had received, and bring that to the priest. As the opening verse above indicates, they were then to say to the priest: “'I declare today to the Lord your God that I have come to the country which the Lord swore to our fathers to give us” (Deuteronomy 26:3).

The priest would then set the basket of produce before the altar of the Lord and the individual Israelite would then recount the history of His people from the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to their deliverance from Egypt, and finally, to their entrance into this land “flowing with milk and honey” (Deuteronomy 26:4-9). The basket of first-fruits they had brought was a symbol that they recognized God had fulfilled His promises to them and they were rejoicing in this fact (Deuteronomy 28:10-11).

They were to take time to recognize the promises that God had fulfilled to them. God was so wise to have His people do this. God understood that it was essential for His people to take time to reflect how He had blessed them and fulfilled the promises He made to them. This would encourage them to grow in their faith in Him and encourage them to remain faithful to Him.

As Christians, sometimes we can get wrapped up so much in the affairs of daily life that we fail to take time to reflect on God’s fulfilled promises to us and how He has blessed us. When this happens, our Christianity becomes nothing more than a set of rules we follow. Our relationship with God suffers and we feel ourselves becoming distant from Him as the joy slowly slips out of our lives and we find ourselves grumbling as we try to serve Him.

Do I take time to reflect on how God has blessed me, answered my prayers, and fulfilled the promises He has made to me? God has saved me from the lost sinner I was through the promise of salvation He kept through the centuries which He fulfilled through Jesus Christ. God has blessed me by sustaining me through this point of my life and seen me through various trials. God has fulfilled numerous prayers which I have made to Him. Today, I will take time to let His joy fill my life as I rejoice in how God has fulfilled His promises to me!

“When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches. Because You have been my help, Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice” (Psalm 63:6-7).

2/22/17 “For You, O God, Have Heard My Vows…” (Daily Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 22-25)

"When you make a vow to the Lord your God, you shall not delay to pay it; for the Lord your God will surely require it of you, and it would be sin to you” (Deuteronomy 23:21).

How well do people keep the vows which they make? One only has to look at the divorce rate to see that many people do not follow through with the vow they make before God to stay with their mate through the good times and the bad times.

As noted in the opening Scripture above, the importance of following through with the promises we make is especially true when it comes to making vows to God. As Moses continues to share God’s Will with the generation of the Israelites that are going to be crossing the Jordan River to conquer the Promised Land, he mentions how God will require them to pay any vows which they have made to Him (Deuteronomy 23:21). He adds, “That which has gone from your lips you shall keep and perform, for you voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God what you have promised with your mouth” (Deuteronomy 23:23).

Someone has said, “Promises are like babies: easy to make, hard to deliver.” We should be careful about making vows. Abraham Lincoln noted, “We must not promise what we ought not, lest we be called on to perform what we cannot”. In fact, in the context of the opening passage above, God encourages us not to be rash about making vows we may not be able to keep: “But if you abstain from vowing, it shall not be sin to you” (Deuteronomy 23:22).

However, there is nothing wrong with making a thoughtful vow to the Lord. It shows one’s commitment to their relationship with God. When faced with a challenge in his life, Jacob made an important vow showing his commitment to God: “Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God's house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You’ ” (Genesis 28:20-22). As far as we know, Jacob followed through on this vow he made to God to give God a tenth of all that God had given him. Other faithful servants of God, such as Hannah and David made many vows to God which they kept (e.g. 1 Samuel 1:11; Psalm 22:5; 61:5,8).

How often have I said or thought, “God if you get me through this trial I face I promise then I will ­__________” (fill in the blank). Do I actually follow through with whatever is in the blank or does the blank remain empty because I do not follow through with my vow I made to God? Solomon warned us, “When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; For He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed-- Better not to vow than to vow and not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5).

When I go on the Lord’s Day to worship God or during my own daily devotional time with God, it is a great opportunity for me to reflect on the vows and commitments I have made to God and follow through with them. I understand that it is right for God to hold me accountable for my vows I have made to Him. I do not take my vows to God lightly. He has kept all the promises He has made to me. I will strive to keep the promises I have made to Him!

“Vows made to You are binding upon me, O God; I will render praises to You, For You have delivered my soul from death. Have You not kept my feet from falling, That I may walk before God In the light of the living?” (Psalm 56:12-13).

2/21/17 “Keeping Up Our Morale Going Into Battle” (Daily Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 18-21)

“So it shall be, when you are on the verge of battle, that the priest shall approach and speak to the people. And he shall say to them, 'Hear, O Israel: Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies. Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them; for the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you'” (Deuteronomy 20:2-4).

Can you imagine what it would have been like to be an American soldier on June 6, 1944 landing on the first wave of attack on the beach code named Omaha? These soldiers faced a wall of lead fired from German machine guns and so many died that this beach became known as “Bloody Omaha”.

As any soldier knows, going into battle is understandably a grave and fearful matter. To be able to face such a challenge, it is important for a soldier to have good morale and the confidence and that the generals above him have put together a plan for him to be successful if he does his part. General Dwight David Eisenhower said, “Morale is the greatest single factor in successful wars”.

As Moses continues his farewell address to Israel shortly before they are going to cross the Jordan River, he gives instructions regarding conquering the various cities of the Promised Land. As the opening verses above indicate, because God understood the importance of the army of Israel having good morale, these instructions included allowing some to not fight in some of the upcoming battles.

Provisions were made to allow those who might weaken the morale of the army to be allowed to go home and not fight in the battle. Those who had recently built a house, but had not dedicated it or had recently planted a vineyard, but had not yet eaten of it were allowed to not have to participate in the fight (Deuteronomy 20:5-6). Those who had recently betrothed a wife, but had not yet married her were allowed to go home (Deuteronomy 20:7). Even those who were simply fearful and fainthearted were dismissed from the battle (Deuteronomy 20:8).

The army that remained to fight against the cities they faced would not be full of cowards or those who were distracted by the cares of life. Instead, it would be an army of high morale that had confidence that they would be victorious against their enemies because they were not fighting their enemies by their own strength alone. As the opening verse above indicates, the priest reminded the soldiers that God Almighty Himself was leading them into battle!

As Christians we are engaged in a spiritual warfare (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). We face hardships as soldiers of Christ as we are persecuted for standing up for God and His Word (2 Timothy 2:3-4) and striving to remain faithful to God as we face many trials and temptations (Revelation 2:10).

While it is important for us to be properly equipped with the provisions God has given to us (Ephesians 6:10-18), it is also essential that we have outstanding morale in the army of God as we look to God as the One who leads us into battle and fights our battles with us and saves us. God doesn’t expect us to rely on our strength alone to fight such battles. Like the apostle Paul, we need to rely on God’s strength as we go into battle. Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Today, I will praise God and remember He leads me into battle!

“Blessed be the Lord my Rock, Who trains my hands for war, And my fingers for battle-- My lovingkindness and my fortress, My high tower and my deliverer, My shield and the One in whom I take refuge…” (Psalm 144:1-2).

2/20/17 “There, But For the Grace of God, Go I” (Daily Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 15-17)

“And you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and you shall be careful to observe these statutes” (Deuteronomy 16:12).

What is the one disease you fear the most of happening to you? For me, I would dread getting Alzheimer's disease. I would hate to lose memory of who I was and of who my loved ones are. Losing my memories of the special days in my life such as my wedding day, the births of my daughters, and the other significant events in my life is something I fear. I feel for those families that have had to endure the fight with Alzheimer's disease and the loss of a loved one’s memories.

What is worse than Alzheimer's disease is when a person by willful neglect loses the memories of all that God had done for them. As Moses continued to instruct the next generation of the children of Israel regarding the various commands given the them from God, he spoke to them about observing various feasts God wanted them to keep (Deuteronomy 16:1-17). He instructed them about keeping the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Deuteronomy 16:1-8), the Feast of Weeks (Deuteronomy 16:9-11) and the Feast of Tabernacles (Deuteronomy 16:13-15). As the above verse indicates, in the middle of this instruction, Moses gave them the reason God wanted them to remember these various feasts: God wanted them to remember from where they had come. They had been slaves in Egypt!

English novelist Anthony Burgess said, “It’s always good to remember where you come from and celebrate it. To remember where you come from is part of where you’re going”. One of the keys to living a wholesome life is keeping a proper perspective on one’s self. We see some people who become very wealthy, very popular, or very successful in their particular fields of endeavor forget from where they had come and their lives spin out of control. One of the best ways to keep a proper perspective of yourself is to remember from where you have come. This helps to keep us humble.

For those of us who have been Christians for a long time, it is easy to forget from where we came. We can begin to lose our humility and start to look down on those around us and say, “Why do these people around me do all these terrible things to each other? Why do they live such wicked lives?” The answer is simple: The world around us is living the way we used to before we got to know Christ! It is important to remember as John Bradford stated: “There, but for the grace of God, go I”.

As Christians, we came from being slaves of sin (John 8:34). Satan had a hold on our hearts and minds. He lured us into temptations by getting us to live life based on fulfilling all of our desires and various lusts (James 1:13-15). Sin dominated our lives and we lived as slaves in service to Satan. Spiritually, we were dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1).

As a Christian, I celebrate that God reached out to me in my sin and gave me the opportunity to know Him and His Son Jesus and set me free from the bondage of sin (John 8:32). I refuse by willful neglect to forget all that God has done for me. Today, I will remember from where I came and to where I am going!

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7).

2/19/17 “So Open Minded that Your Brains Fall Out?” (Daily Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 12-14)

"When the Lord your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise’” (Deuteronomy 12:29-30).

How open-minded should we be? Should we be open-minded about everything or are there certain things we should be closed-minded about and not even allow ourselves to consider? In our society it is generally frowned upon when a person chooses to be closed-minded about certain things.

As Moses continues to speak to the children of Israel about their future in the Promised Land, he warns them to be sure to destroy all the idols and all the remnants of idol worship in the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 12:1-3). God said, “You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things” (Deuteronomy 12:4). Instead, they were to worship God in the way He had prescribed and at the location He had commanded (Deuteronomy 12:5-31). He ends the chapter by saying, “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it” (Deuteronomy 12:32). How to worship God was not something open to various options or opinions. It was a closed subject. God expected His people to worship Him in the exact way in which He had commanded.

As the opening verse above indicates, God warns them to “take heed” that they do not become “ensnared” to follow after the nations from whom they were conquering the Promised Land to serve their gods. God was concerned that His people would be tempted to go astray from Him in their hearts and begin worshipping the same gods the nations around them did. In fact, when one looks at the history of Israel, this is exactly what happened. It all began because Israel failed to heed this warning of God. They began to “inquire” about how the nations around them “served” their gods and they did likewise (Judges 2:10-13). Their troubles began because, instead of being closed-minded and worshipping God as He commanded, they chose to be “open-minded” and give consideration about engaging in idol worship.

G.K. Chesterton said, “Do not be so open-minded that your brains fall out.” Many times we give into temptations because we first “inquire” about it. We let ourselves be “open-minded” about the particular temptation. For example, Eve was willing to “inquire” about whether or not she should partake of the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3). Furthermore, a person does not become an alcoholic until they are first “open-minded” about imbibing that first drink. Moreover, a man doesn’t commit adultery until he is willing to at least “consider” forsaking his marital vows.

As Christians, we are not to be “open-minded” about temptation. We are commanded to “flee” temptation (1 Corinthians 6:18; 10:14; 2 Timothy 2:22). We have our perfect example in Jesus our Savior of not being open-minded about temptations. When Satan tempted Jesus by saying he would give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would fall down and worship him, Jesus said, “"Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.' "(Matthew 4:10). Jesus wasn’t “open-minded” about temptation.

Today, I will strive to guard my heart and mind from Satan and not inquire about or be open-minded about temptation. I will not be so open-minded that my brains fall out!

“But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:11)

2/18/17 “Taking an Honest Look at Myself” (Daily Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 9-11)

“Therefore understand that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people” (Deuteronomy 9:6).

How many of us enjoy getting on the bathroom scale? Sometimes, we avoid this because we are afraid of what it will show. When it reads higher than we thought, we wonder if it is not calibrated correctly. However, generally, the bathroom scale gives an honest assessment of our weight.

Like with our weight, are we afraid to honestly look at ourselves and observe both our strengths and our weaknesses? Are we comfortable accessing both our successes and our failures?

Moses believed in telling it like it is. He reminds the children of Israel that God was not giving them the Promised Land because they were such a good people and deserved it. Their righteousness certainly didn’t “measure up”. He calls them a “stiff-necked people”. He then goes on to remind the Israelites of their great failure when while he, Moses, was up on Mt. Sinai receiving the law, they were down at the base of the mountain worshipping the golden calf (Deuteronomy 9:7-21).

Moses was not telling them these things to lay some kind of a “guilt trip” on them. He was simply helping them to understand their own weaknesses and how easy it had been for them to forsake God in the past. As he continues to speak to them, He reminds them that God loves them in spite of their weaknesses: “The Lord delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as it is this day” (Deuteronomy 10:15). Moses then encourages them to strive to keep their hearts soft towards God even though they have a tendency to struggle with being “stiff-necked”. He tells them, “Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer” (Deuteronomy 10:16).

Today, our society seems to be so concerned with everyone having a “positive self-image” that we are afraid to take an honest inventory of ourselves. It is good to have a healthy self-esteem; however, are afraid to look inward and see that often we do struggle with evil thoughts or that we at other times act out in rebellion towards God and His Word? I am concerned that sometimes we are afraid to call our evil actions “sin”. Instead, we cover them up with euphemisms such as saying we made a “mistake” or we “fell short”.

God is not afraid to say we have sinned! All of us have (Romans 3:23). Actually, there is something liberating when I honestly acknowledge that I do struggle with sin. Certainly, at different times in my Christian life, I have felt a desire to rebel against God. I have been “stiff-necked”!

This does not condone my sin. I am not encouraging us to be “stiff-necked”. I am only encouraging us to take an honest inventory of ourselves. As we do so we must remember the important truth, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). God loves me anyway! God understands I am not justified by my own righteousness. My own righteousness looks like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). I am justified by Christ. Praise God that God is able to save a stiff-necked soul like me through His precious Son Jesus Christ!

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Romans 5:8-9).

2/17/17 “Focusing on Loving God” (Daily Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 6-8)

"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).

Do you love God? How do you express your love for God and how often do you speak of your love for God? Is it really necessary to express our love for God since God knows all things and He certainly knows what is going on in our hearts and the feelings we have for him?

As Moses continues his farewell speech to those of the children of Israel who are about to enter the Promised Land, he reminds them of the importance of their loving God with all their being. Moses was concerned that once they entered the Promised Land, the children of Israel would forget it was God who brought them there (Deuteronomy 6:12), that they would no longer fear God (Deuteronomy 6:13), and that they hearts would be led astray and begin going after the gods of the nations they had conquered (Deuteronomy 6:14). Sadly, when one studies the history of God’s people following the conquering of the Promised Land, this is exactly what happened. They went astray from God.

Although future generations of the children of Israel failed to heed this message of Moses, there are some important insights for us to glean here from this passage of Scripture. God’s people were to make a FOCUSED EFFORT to LOVE GOD. After Moses tells them to love God with all their being (Deuteronomy 6:4-5), notice what he instructs them to do: He says, “"And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). He adds that they were to put God’s Word’s on the clothing they wore (i.e. “bind them as a sign on your hand”, “frontlets between your eyes”, Deuteronomy 6:8) and they were to write them around their houses (i.e. “doorposts” and “gates”, Deuteronomy 6:9).

We should not view this as just some ritualistic exercise that God wanted them to perform. The picture we should take away from this is they were to be continually expressing the love they had for God by speaking of Him throughout the day and having His Word’s all around them as reminders of His love for them. God wanted all this to be done for the future welfare of His people: “And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord, that it may be well with you, and that you may go in and possess the good land of which the Lord swore to your fathers” (Deuteronomy 6:18).

As Christians, Jesus tells us, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Again, Jesus doesn’t tell us this as some kind of a ritualistic exercise or an attempt to “earn our salvation”. He loves us so much He gave His life for us (John 3:16). Jesus knows that if we want to have a great relationship with Him it involves not only Him showing love for us, but also our showing love for Him! We do this by keeping His commandments which are for our own welfare.

As with the children of Israel of old, so it is with us today: It takes a focused effort on our parts to love God. There are many things which distract us from loving God and which compete for our love. This is why it is important for us to study God’s Word daily and for us to speak of our love for God and how He has blessed us throughout each day of our lives. Sharing the good news of Christ not only benefits those lost souls we are trying to reach for Christ, but it also benefits us by helping us to keep our minds focused on God’s love. Today, I will celebrate God’s great love for me and focus my mind on showing my love for God by striving to keep His commandments!

“I will never forget Your precepts, For by them You have given me life” (Psalm 119:93).

2/16/17 “Reacting to When God Says, ‘No’ ” (Daily Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 3-5)

“But the Lord was angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me. So the Lord said to me: 'Enough of that! Speak no more to Me of this matter’” (Deuteronomy 3:26).

How do you react when you feel God is saying, “No” to a particular prayer request you have made to Him? Does your faith in Him waver or do you become angry when He appears to say, “No” to your request; or, do you trust in faith that God knows what is best for you even when His answer is “No”?

As Moses recounted to the Israelites their history since they left Egyptian bondage and the various wilderness wanderings of their forefathers, he reminded them of the incident which he had committed and would keep him from entering the Promised Land. Following the Israelites once again complaining of no water to drink, God told Moses to SPEAK to the rock and the rock would bring forth water (Numbers 20:1-8). Instead, in his anger towards God’s people, Moses STRUCK the rock and, instead of glorifying God, he and his brother Aaron directed glory to themselves by saying to the people, “Hear now, you rebels! Must WE bring water for you out of this rock?” (Numbers 20:10) God’s judgment on Moses for failing to give God the glory in this matter was that Moses would not be allowed to lead God’s people to the Promised Land (Numbers 20:12).

God forgave Moses of this sin. God still loved Moses and appreciated his service to Him. However, Moses would still have to bear the consequences of his sin by not be allowed to lead God’s people into the Promised Land. Moses had difficulty accepting God’s answer regarding the consequences of his sin. Moses says he pleaded with God saying, “I pray, let me cross over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, those pleasant mountains, and Lebanon” (Deuteronomy 3:25). In His response to Moses, God says, “Enough of that! Speak no more to Me of this matter” (Deuteronomy 3:26).

Sometimes God says “No” in answer to our prayer request. For example, He told Paul that he would not remove the thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-8). In His response to Paul the Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My Strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). God even told his own Son Jesus, “No” in answer to Jesus’ request that the cup of suffering might pass from Him and that He would not have to experience the suffering of the cross (Matthew 26:36-46). God knew there was no way to save the world from sin without the death of His only Son to satisfy the justice of God (John 3:16).

Do you have difficulty in accepting when God apparently says, “No” to your prayer request? At times, I do. But I have to remember that God has His own reasons for saying, “No” to my prayer request. He may say “No” because what I am praying for may not be what is best for me. He may say, “No” to give me an opportunity to rely more on His grace and His strength. He may say, “No” to give me an opportunity to glorify Him by my life as a go through a particular trial.

I can either fight God when He says “No” to me, or I can embrace God’s answer of “No” to my prayer request by accepting and trusting that God’s reasons for saying “No” to me are far above my ability to comprehend. Part of living the life of faith in God is learning to accept His answer of “No”. I rejoice that God hears and answers my prayers even when His answer to my particular request is “No”. Today, I will strive to learn to accept when God says “No” to me. I am thankful that I serve a God who understands so much more than I do!

“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

2/15/17 “You Have Skirted This Mountain Long Enough” Daily Bible Reading (Numbers 36-Deuteronomy 2)

“And the Lord spoke to me, saying: 'You have skirted this mountain long enough; turn northward’” (Deuteronomy 2:2-3).

Have you ever set goals for yourself and then found yourself struggling to achieve those goals? Instead of making progress towards those goals, you felt like you were just going around in circles?

In the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy Moses is giving his farewell speech to a new generation of Israelites. Moses recounts to this next generation of the children of Israel the events of the past 40 years during which the children of Israel had wandered in the wilderness. As he begins, Moses mentions what God had told their forefathers: "The Lord our God spoke to us in Horeb, saying: 'You have dwelt long enough at this mountain’” (Deuteronomy 1:6). It had been time for their forefathers to have left the comfort of Mount Horeb and journey towards the Promised Land.

However, although their forefathers had left Mount Horeb and journeyed towards the Promised Land, they did not reach their goal. Why? As Moses moves along with his farewell speech to this next generation, Moses reminds them of the failures of their forefathers and their lack of faith in God. He particularly points out the failure following the bad report given by those who had spied out the Promised Land. The Israelites allowed this bad report to cause them to lose faith in God’s power to enable them to conquer the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 1:19-46). As a result of this failure, their punishment was to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. Instead of reaching their goal, they ended up going around in circles.

As Moses continues his farewell speech, he mentions how that former generation of Israelites had passed away according to God’s punishment (Deuteronomy 2:14-15; cf. Numbers 14:26-35). Moses mentions what the Lord told the current generation of Israelites following the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. As the opening verses above indicate, God says the time for wandering was over. Now it is time to go and conquer the Promised Land. The Lord says, “turn northward” (Deuteronomy 2:3)! Moses leads them through in conquering the land of Sihon, the King of the Amorites, and Og,  the King of Bashan which were on the east side of the Jordan River (Deuteronomy 2:24-3:11). Now this next generation of Israelites is on the threshold of achieving their goal of conquering the land west of the Jordan River, the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 1:1-4). Throughout this farewell speech, he encourages them to keep their focus on achieving the goal God has set before them.

Do you ever feel like your wandering in a spiritual wilderness? I know at times I do. It is easy to get stuck in a spiritual rut. This is why we are admonished, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth’ (Colossians 3:1-2). We need to keep our focus on Christ.

As Christians, it is important for us to “turn northward” and be about the work and mission that God has set before us and not fall into the trap of wandering in the wilderness. Today, I will celebrate God’s guidance and direction in my life and “turn northward” and be about doing His Work. Have a blessed day in service to Christ!

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

2/14/17 “God is Our Refuge” (Daily Bible Reading: Numbers 33-35)

“You shall appoint three cities on this side of the Jordan, and three cities you shall appoint in the land of Canaan, which will be cities of refuge. These six cities shall be for refuge for the children of Israel, for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them, that anyone who kills a person accidentally may flee there” (Numbers 35:14-15).

Have you ever found yourself stuck outside in the middle of a terrible storm? It can make you feel very miserable to be in such a situation. During the winter months I gain a special appreciation for my home and the warmth it provides. It provides me with a place of warmth from the bitter cold and the winter elements of snow and freezing rain. I thank God for that my home is a place of refuge.

Shortly before the Israelites are going to conquer the Promised Land, God gives commands to the children of Israel regarding how the inheritance to be divided once they have conquered this territory. As He does so, God commands 6 cities be set up as “cities of refuge” where someone who had accidently killed someone else (i.e. a manslayer) could flee until justice could be determined (Numbers 35:9-12). Because God was concerned that the land could become defiled through the shedding of innocent blood, God had them set up these cities of refuge (Numbers 35:34).

While God did command that those who were guilty of murder would have to make atonement by the shedding of their own blood as they were to be put to death (Numbers 35:30-33), God did not want innocent blood to be shed in the Promised Land. He did not want the relative of the person who had accidently been killed (i.e. the avenger of blood) to act hastily and kill the manslayer before proper judgment could be determined (Numbers 35:22-24). If it was determined that the person killed another by accident then that person would have to remain in the city of refuge till the death of the high priest at which time he could return to his own land (Numbers 35:25, 28). If that person went outside the city of refuge before this, the avenger of blood could put him to death without being guilty (Number 35:26-28).

It is interesting that these cities are described as “cities of REFUGE”. Webster’s defines “refuge” as a “shelter or protection from danger or distress”. The manslayer was to flee to one of these 6 refuge cities for shelter and protection. He could find refuge here from the avenger of blood until justice could be determined in his case as to whether he had intentionally or accidently killed another.

For the follower of Christ, God is described throughout the Scriptures as our “Refuge”. Why do we need a place of refuge? Life can beat us up at times. Sometimes we get scared at the circumstances we face. Notice how King David felt in his distress, “For the enemy has persecuted my soul; He has crushed my life to the ground; He has made me dwell in darkness, Like those who have long been dead. Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is distressed” (Psalm 143:3-4). However, in this same Psalm David took time to remember that God was his Refuge, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your works; I muse on the work of Your hands. I spread out my hands to You; My soul longs for You like a thirsty land” (Psalm 143:5-6).

It is comforting to know that God is there to provide us with shelter and protection. When we feel scared, anxious, and concerned about the challenges and trials that lay before us, it is important for us to remember His Presence. Today, I will celebrate that God is my Refuge!

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

2/13/17 “Shall Your Brethren Go to War While You Sit Here?” (Daily Bible Reading: Numbers 28-32)

“Therefore they said, ‘If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession. Do not take us over the Jordan.’ And Moses said to the children of Gad and to the children of Reuben: ‘Shall your brethren go to war while you sit here? Now why will you discourage the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which the Lord has given them?’ ” (Numbers 32:5-7).

As a Christian, how essential is it that I discover and carry out my particular ministry in the Lord’s Church? Is it “good enough” that I simply attend worship services and praise God or must I also honor God by my service to Him and others by my works through ministry?

As Moses continues leading the Israelites through their 40 years journey through the wilderness, God has already blessed them with some victories in war. They had defeated Sihon king of the Amorites and Og, king of Bashan on the east side of the Jordan River (Numbers 21:23-25; 33-35). Moreover, they had now come fresh off a victory of the Midianites (Numbers 31:1-11).

At this point that Moses is approached by leaders of the tribes of Reuben and Gad. As the opening verses indicate, it appears they didn’t want to cross over the Jordan to take the rest of the Promised Land (Numbers 32:5). From what they said, one could assume they were content to just dwell on the east side of the Jordan in the land which had already been conquered from Sihon and Og.

Moses was very concerned about this. He knew if he allowed them to do this it would “discourage the heart of the children of Israel” from conquering the rest of the Promised Land which was west of the Jordan River (Numbers 32:6-7). Previously, in his leadership experience with God’s people, Moses had seen what happens when the morale of the army plummets (cf. Numbers 32:8-13; 13:26-14:10). As a leader, Moses knew it was essential to keep the heart of the people encouraged to carry out the task God had set before them to go in and conquer the Promised Land.

After his rebuke of them, the leaders of the two tribes come up with a better plan: “Then they came near to him and said: ‘We will build sheepfolds here for our livestock, and cities for our little ones, but we ourselves will be armed, ready to go before the children of Israel until we have brought them to their place; and our little ones will dwell in the fortified cities because of the inhabitants of the land. We will not return to our homes until every one of the children of Israel has received his inheritance. For we will not inherit with them on the other side of the Jordan and beyond, because our inheritance has fallen to us on this eastern side of the Jordan’ "(Numbers 32:16-19). They would go and fight with their brethren. They would not be a source of discouragement to the heart of their brethren!

The Christian life is described as a warfare (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4; 2 Timothy 2:3-4; Ephesians 6:11-18). Jesus has called all of us to find our particular ministry and to serve: “And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave-- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:27-28). The apostle Paul describes the church as a body in which each member “does its share” (Ephesians 4:16). I realize others can get discouraged if I refuse to support my brethren by going to war with them in the spiritual warfare to which we have been called. I want support my fellow Christians, discover my unique ministry, and do my share in serving others. Today, my brethren shall not go to war while I sit here!

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12).

2/12/17 “Serving God with a Pure Heart” (Daily Bible Reading: Numbers 25-27)

“Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel” (Numbers 25:1-3)

Most of us have heard the expression, “Appearances can be deceiving”. When I think of this expression, one of the characters in the Bible that comes to mind is the Old Testament character named Balaam. Balaam appeared to say many things which were right and true, but inwardly, his motives were corrupt as he was filled with a desire for greed.

As the opening verses above indicate, during the years of wilderness wandering, the children of Israel committed harlotry with the women of Moab. To gain a better understanding of why Israel did this, one needs to look at the rest of the Bible and what it says about the prophet Balaam whom Balek, king of Moab, had hired to curse God’s people (Numbers 22:1-6).

While with Balek, God had insisted that Balaam only speak the words God instructed to him (Numbers 22:35). As a result, Balaam blessed God’s people instead of cursing them (Numbers 23:7-10, 18-24; 24:3-9, 17-24). Balaam then departs from Balak (Numbers 24:25). From reading only chapters 22-24 of the book of Numbers, one might think this is all there was to the story. However, the rest of the Scriptures shed great light on Balaam’s motives and actions.

Balak had promised Balaam great wealth (Numbers 22:15-17). Balaam was willing to curse God’s people because he was motivated by greed (2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11). Moreover, it was Balaam who “taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality” (Revelation 2:14). The reason Israel committed harlotry with the women of Moab (Numbers 25:1) was because Balaam counseled Balak to tempt Israel to do this.

Balaam DID a lot of things which appear to be right. He did speak God’s Word to Balak. Time and time again, he pronounced God’s blessings upon Israel and refused to curse God’s people as Balak had wanted. He told Balak, "Look, I have come to you! Now, have I any power at all to say anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that I must speak" (Numbers 23:38). He also told the king of Moab, “…Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my end be like his!" (Numbers 24:10)

While Balaam appeared to DO and SAY the right things, these actions came from an evil heart motivated by greed (2 Peter 2:15; Jude 11). In an efforts to get financial gain he counsels Balak to get God’s people to curse themselves by engaging in harlotry (Revelations 2:14; Numbers 25:1-3).

As I consider this, I am reminded I can DO and SAY many things which APPEAR to be right. But if my motivation for doing these things is evil (e.g. hate instead of love, pride instead of humility, greed instead of sacrifice, etc.), then, although my actions may appear right, they are wrong in God’s eyes because, like Balaam, my motives are corrupt. On the other hand, I may be struggling with a trial or a sin. I may fail time and time again. Each time I fail, I may reach up and grab God’s hand and ask for His help to continue. Those around me may just see my failure and think I am not really trying to serve God. But God knows my heart. Today, I will live striving to serve God out of a pure heart!

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).

2/11/17 “Blessed by God” (Daily Bible Reading: Numbers 21-24)

"How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?” (Numbers 23:8)

How do you feel when you fail God? More importantly, how does God see His people who often succumb to their own weaknesses? As Christians, does God look upon us cursing us for our sins and failures or does He look upon us with His favor looking to bestow a blessing upon us?

In their journey through the wilderness Israel had settled in the plains of Moab on the east side of the Jordan River across from Jericho (Numbers 22:1). They had defeated Sihon the king of the Amorites and Og the king of Bashan (Numbers 21:21-35). They were ready to enter the Promised Land. However, Balak the king of Moab was very afraid of Israel and had hired Balaam to come and curse Israel so that he might be able to defeat Israel and drive them out of his land (Numbers 22:2-6).

But, as the opening verse above indicates instead of cursing God’s people Balaam blessed them (Numbers 23:8). In fact, later, as Balak again attempts to get Balaam to curse God’s people, notice what God says through Balaam: Referring to God, Balaam says “He has not observed iniquity in Jacob, nor has He seen wickedness in Israel. The Lord his God is with him…” (Numbers 23:21). God says He has not “observed iniquity in Jacob” or “seen wickedness in Israel”.

This is an interesting statement for God to make. In the preceding chapters that Moses records for us in the book of Numbers, we see many failures of Israel (e.g. the evil report of the 12 spies, Numbers 13:26-33; Korah leading a rebellion along with 250 other leaders of Israel against Moses’ and Aaron’s authority from God, Numbers 16:1-40; the people complaining about lack of water and Moses’ failure to glorify God when he disobey God’s command to speak to the rock, Numbers 20:1-13). Why does God, through Balaam, say to Balak, “I have not observed iniquity in Jacob?”

The answer lies in understanding the power of God’s forgiveness and His great desire to bless His people. Although Israel still bore the consequences of their sin and had to continue on their wilderness journey, God had forgiven them. God had great purposes for Israel and He didn’t allow their failures to cause Him not to fulfill those purposes. His desire to fulfill the promises He made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for Israel to inherit the Promised Land and through their descendants to send His Son to save the world (Genesis 12:1-3) was far greater than His disappointment with them regarding their sin. God focuses on His desire to bless us and not to curse us for our weaknesses!

As Christians, this gives us great encouragement. God loves His people. He loves us so much He gave His Son to die for us (John 3:16). Yes, God is disappointed when we stumble and sin. But, He has provided a way for us to be forgiven of our sins as Christians (1 John 1:7-9). After we have repented or our sins, the Lord doesn’t dwell on our failures. He focuses on how to bless us as we continue to walk with Him. The apostle Paul reminds us, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). I am greatly encouraged to see that God focuses on His desires to bless me and not on how I fall short of His glory by my own sin (Romans 3:23). Today, I will not dwell on my failures, but I will rejoice in God’s desire to bless me!

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

2/10/17 “Allowing Frustrations to Get the Best of Us” (Daily Bible Reading: Numbers 18-20)

“Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them’" (Numbers 20:12).

Dale Carnegie stated, “Our fatigue is often caused not by work, but by worry, frustration and resentment”. Do you find yourself getting frustrated with what is happening in your life or with other people in your life? Allowing ourselves to get weighed down by the temptation of frustration, can, not only rob us of the joy God wants us to have, but can even rob God of the glory we ought to give Him.

As the Israelites continued their 40 years journey in the wilderness, they began to complain again about not having enough water (Numbers 20:1-5). It is interesting that God calmly instructs Moses to speak to the rock and the rock will bring forth water for the people and their animals (Numbers 20:6-8). However, Moses is not calm. He is extremely frustrated with God’s people. He is getting sick and tired of their rebellion. In his frustration he does not speak to the rock; instead, he strikes the rock and says, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” (Numbers 20:10)

Water flows from the rock and the people’s thirst is satisfied (Numbers 20:11). However, as the opening verse above indicates, Moses failed to glorify God and “hallow God in the eyes of the children of Israel” (Number 20:12). Because Moses had allowed His frustration with God’s people to get the best of him, Moses would not be allowed to bring the Israelites into the Promised Land.

Although God viewed what Moses had done as a very grave matter, God did forgive Moses and let Moses continue to lead God’s people through the wilderness. In fact, in His mercy and grace, God would let Moses go up to the top of Mount Nebo and view the Promised Land before God took Moses to his heavenly reward (Deuteronomy 34:1-7).

As I read this I can appreciate how frustrated Moses must have been with this people who were always complaining about something. I can also appreciate the challenge that leaders in the church today face as they have to continue to strive to maintain a reverence for God and keep Him hallowed in the eyes of the people of God when many times Christians in the church complain about things which they ought not. Life is full of numerous things which we can let frustrate us if we choose to, but we don’t have to make this choice!

When the feelings of frustrations swell up in our hearts, we tend to try to solve them all by ourselves. During such times, we tend to think, “How am I going to solve this?” This usually leads to greater feelings of frustration because we find we are unable to solve the problems we face. Instead, we can choose to give these things over to God and not try to solve them all by ourselves.

As a Christian, I need to keep my eyes on God. I must be careful about trusting in myself when dealing with difficult situations or with difficult people. It is during such times that I can often fail to give God the glory which He deserves and end up trying to glorify myself to my own shame. Today, I refuse to allow the frustrations of life to get the best of me. I will give these over to God and try to keep my focus on hallowing Him and glorifying Him by my faith and trust in Him!

“I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify Your name forevermore” (Psalm 86:12).

2/9/17 “Is a Little Rebellion Every Now and Then a Good Thing?” (Daily Bible Reading: Numbers 15-17)

“They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, ‘You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?’" (Numbers 16:3).

As Americans, many have difficulty wanting to respect authority. Many of us grew up in a generation which encouraged us to “question authority”. One of our founding fathers Thomas Jefferson said, I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing”. However, how does God feel about those who rebel and fail to respect His authority or those whom He has appointed to positions of authority?

Following their spies evil report about the Promised Land and their own lack of faith in God’s promises, Israel begins their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness (Numbers 14:33-34). Some among them began to blame Moses’ leadership instead of their own lack of faith for their having not reached the Promised Land (cf. Numbers 16:13-14). As the opening verse above indicates, Korah, who was of the tribe of Levi, leads a group of 250 other leaders in Israel and challenges the authority of Moses (Number 16:1-3). God did not take this matter lightly.

God has each of these 250 men bring a censer filled with fire and incense and come before the Lord at the tabernacle of meeting (Numbers 16:4-19). Moses tells the people why God had them do this: “And Moses said: ‘By this you shall know that the Lord has sent me to do all these works, for I have not done them of my own will. If these men die naturally like all men, or if they are visited by the common fate of all men, then the Lord has not sent me. But if the Lord creates a new thing, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the pit, then you will understand that these men have rejected the Lord’ ” (Numbers 16:28-30). Korah and his family are swallowed up by the earth and the 250 men who participated in the rebellion with Korah are devoured by fire (Numbers 16:31-35).

Following this, God has Eleazar the priest take the bronze censers that these men had used and hammers them out as a covering for the altar of burnt offering to serve as a memorial (Numbers 16:36-40). Every time an Israelite came to the tabernacle, they would see these bronze censers which now covered the altar of burnt offering outside the tabernacle. This would remind them the importance of respecting God’s authority and those whom God has placed in positions of authority.

As Christians, we are told that these events we read about in the Old Testament, such as Korah’s rebellion against Moses, were written for our learning (Romans 15:4). It is fundamental for us as Christians to learn to live within the boundaries God has set for us. We need to respect God’s authority and those whom God has placed in positions of authority (cf. John 12:48; Romans 13:1; Hebrews 13:17). We are told to submit to God so that the devil may flee from us (James 4:7).

A little rebellion against God, His authority, and those whom He has placed in positions of authority is not a good thing. I need to remember that God is God, not me. I realize that God knows best and I accept that God has all authority over me in all areas of my life. I will not be like Korah and those who rebelled along with him against Moses by “questioning” his authority. I will strive to have the attitude of Samuel who said, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears” (I Samuel 3:9). Today, I rejoice in God’s authority as He guides me in my walk with Him!

Make Your face shine upon Your servant, And teach me Your statutes” (Psalm 119:135).

2/8/17 “Grasshoppers or Conquerors?” (Daily Bible Reading: Numbers 12-14)

“And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, ‘The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight’ "(Numbers 13:32-33).

When obstacles enter into the path of your journey, do you tend to focus on the obstacles or are you able to keep your eyes fixed on the goal you are seeking to achieve? Many of the problems that enter into our paths are significant, but this doesn’t mean they are unsurmountable.

When Caleb went with Joshua and 10 other leaders in Israel to spy out the Promised Land, they saw its abundant fruit and that it was a land that flowed with milk and honey (Numbers 13:26-27). However, they also saw its defenses and that it was inhabited by strong and powerful people including giants (Numbers 13:28-29). It was a land filled with both abundance to be enjoyed and obstacles to be overcome. All of the spies saw the same circumstances the nation of Israel faced.

How did the spies react to the circumstances which they saw? Two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb focused on the goal of conquering the Promised Land through God’s power. Caleb said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it” (Numbers 13:30). However, most of the spies focused on the obstacles that lay in their path and limited themselves to looking at only their own ability to conquer the land. They said, “We are not able to go up against this people, for they are stronger than we” (Numbers 13:31). They were intimidated by the giants and this made them feel like grasshoppers as compared to these giants (Numbers 13:33).

Joshua and Caleb were not oblivious to the challenging circumstances that lay before them, but they refused to limit themselves by only looking at themselves and their own ability to conquer the land. Instead, they looked up. They looked up in faith and placed their faith in God’s ability to conquer the land: “and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: ‘The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, 'a land which flows with milk and honey'” (Numbers 14:8-9).

As I consider this Biblical account, I am reminded that as Christians we face the same challenges in life other people face (e.g. problems at work, challenges in our families, financial concerns, etc.). At times, I fail to look up and look at myself and think, “How am I going to solve this problem I face?” When I do this, I come away discouraged feeling like a grasshopper trying to solve my problems.

But, when I face these same problems and choose to remember God’s power to act in my life and rely on his ability to lead me through these circumstances, my heart is lifted up and I am filled with peace, joy, and love, even though I am facing the same circumstances. I am trusting in God’s power even though I don’t know how He is going to solve everything. I only know that He can and He will!

I want to be like Joshua and Caleb who kept their eyes on the prize and relied on God’s power to enable them to obtain it. I don’t want to be like the 10 spies who focused only on the obstacles they faced and on the weakness of their own power. Today, I will remember God’s power to act in my life and lift me up from feeling like a grasshopper and has made me into a conqueror!

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

2/7/17 “Yielding to the Craving of Discontent” (Daily Bible Reading: Numbers 9-11)

“Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: ‘Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!’ "(Numbers 11:4-6).

How would you rate your level of contentment with the things you have? Are you filled with peace and joy as you rejoice at all the blessings in your life or do you struggle with envy and jealousy because, as you compare yourself with others, you wish you had some of the things they do?

The children of Israel had left the bondage of Egypt and had gathered at Mount Sinai to hear God speak to them (Exodus 19:1-20:20). Then they began their journey from Mount Sinai and were headed to the Promised Land (Numbers 10:11-13). During their time in the wilderness, God had provided them with food to eat by giving them manna from heaven each day (Exodus 16:4-36). They could visibly see that God was leading them by the cloud that led them by day (Numbers 10:34).

However, when they left Egypt not only did the children of Israel depart, but a “mixed multitude”, which probably included some God-fearing Egyptians, went with them as well (Exodus 12:38). Now that “mixed multitude” was no longer content with the manna God had provided for them to eat. They gave in to an “intense desire” to have meat. As the opening verses above indicate, this grumbling spread and all the children of Israel become discontent. Not only were they discontent with the manna God had provided, but now they loathed the manna God had given them (Numbers 11:4-6).

It is interesting that God did give His people the meat they desired. In fact, in His chastening of His people over their sin, for a whole month God caused so many quails to fly among them that they ate meat until it came out of their nostrils (Numbers 11:18-20, 31-32). Also in His wrath, God also struck the people with a plague (Number 11:33). Israel would name this place “Kibroth Hattaavah” which means “Graves of Craving” (Numbers 11:34). The name of this place on the map would forever serve as a reminder to Israel of the dangers of discontentment.

As I read this I can’t help but ask myself, “How often do I fail to be content with what God has provided for me?” Like the “mixed multitude” it is so easy for me to take my eye off rejoicing in the things which God has given to me (e.g. my family, my relationship with Him, my job, my health, my daily food, etc.) and begin to become discontent by moaning over the things which He has not chosen to give me (e.g. excessive wealth, perfect health, the “perfect” family). Like Israel, I often times listen to those around me (e.g. TV commercials, my peers, etc.) instead of listening to God. As a result, this breeds discontentment in my heart and I make myself miserable.

As Christians, it is vitally important that we “learn” contentment. We all have desires that we struggle with that can lead to sin (James 1:14-15). The key is to not let these desires become “intense desires” by dwelling on these desires instead of on God and submitting ourselves to His Will. God has provided us with so many blessings! Today, I will take time to rejoice in what God has given me and work on not letting Satan lead my heart astray through discontentment.

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:  I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Philippians 4:11-12).

2/6/17 “Blessing One Another” (Daily Bible Reading: Numbers 6-8)

Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace” ’ " (Numbers 6:23-26).

As Christians what kinds of things should we be saying to each other? When we gather together, at times, we discuss the Scriptures. At other times, we may even need to confront each other, when we one of us is not walking according to the Scriptures (cf. James 5:19-20). Are there other kinds of conversations we should be having with each other to encourage one another in keeping the faith?

Following the erection of the tabernacle, as recorded in the books of Leviticus and Numbers, Moses receives a lot of detailed instructions from God that he was to share with God’s people. God expected his people to follow these commands and not waver from them in the least. After giving Moses detailed instructions, regarding how one was to carry out the “vow of a Nazarite” (Number 6:1-21), God tells Moses another important command that He wanted the priest to follow.

This particular command was not about an offering the Lord wanted them to make or a ceremonial cleansing He wanted them to follow. As the opening verses above indicate, this command was about a blessing He wanted them say to God’s children. As the priests blessed the children of Israel, they were calling upon God to bless, keep, make His face shine upon, be gracious, smile upon them, and give them peace (Numbers 6:22-26). By blessing the people with these words, God said, “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them” (Numbers 6:27).

As one who often teaches and even preaches to God’s people, I often instruct my brethren in God’s laws and challenge their commitment to Christ. I want them to grow and mature as followers of Christ. This is necessary. Preachers are to convince, rebuke and exhort. Paul told Timothy, “I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:1-2). There is certainly a place for convincing God’s people of important truths and of rebuking them when they fail to follow them.

However, as Paul wrote to Timothy, he also spoke about the importance of exhorting God’s people. While keeping God’s laws are very important, following God is not just about keeping His commands. Following God also involves remembering that we are recipients of His blessings. Christians need to be encouraged that God loves them and wants to bless them. It is a challenge to live the Christian life and sometimes Christians need to be reminded that God is eager to bless them! They need to be reminded that the Lord makes His face shine upon them and desires to be gracious to them. God’s people also need to be reminded that God smiles upon them as He lifts up His countenance and wants to give peace to their lives.

As Christians, sometimes we focus too much on each other’s shortcomings and weaknesses. Instead of encouraging each other, we discourage each other. Instead of blessing each other, we curse each other (James 3:10). It is interesting that the apostle Paul could strongly rebuke a church like the church at Corinth which struggled with many sins, and, yet, still called on God to bless them. Remember that your brethren in Christ are a blessing and put God’s name on them to bless them.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen” (2 Corinthians 13:14).

2/5/17 “Accountable to Carry Out My Task” (Daily Bible Reading: Numbers 2-5)

“According to the commandment of the Lord they were numbered by the hand of Moses, each according to his service and according to his task; thus were they numbered by him, as the Lord commanded Moses” (Numbers 4:49)

Regarding church growth, who in the church plays the largest role in growing the church? Is it a dynamic preacher, a charismatic Bible class teacher, or a bold and visionary leader?

As the children of Israel were making their way through the wilderness, God calls Moses to number the people. First, he has Moses number all of the tribes of Israel, except the tribe of Levi. God tells Moses, “"Take a census of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by their families, by their fathers' houses, according to the number of names, every male individually, from twenty years old and above--all who are able to go to war in Israel. You and Aaron shall number them by their armies” (Numbers 1:2-3). The important role of these individuals was to fight against the current inhabitants of the Promised Land and to conquer it as it had been given to the nation of Israel by God.

Next, God has Moses number the tribe of Levi (Numbers 3:5-6). Their role Levites was to attend to the needs of Aaron the high priest, the needs of the whole congregation before the tabernacle, and to do the work of the tabernacle (Number 3:7). The opening verse above comes after God had given instructions to the sons of Levi as to what each of their particular duties was to be in the service in the tabernacle (Numbers 4:49). Those of the sons of Levi who were of the family of the Gershon were responsible for carrying the coverings of the tabernacle (Numbers 3:25-26). Those of the sons of Levi who were of the family of Kohath were responsible for the holy things of the tabernacle such as the ark, the table, and the lampstand (Numbers 3:30-31). Those of the sons of Levi who were of the family of Merari were in charge of the framework of the tabernacle such as the boards, bars, and pillars (Numbers 3:36-37). Eleazar, the son of Aaron, was to oversee all of this (Numbers 3:32). Everyone had a particular way in which he was to serve for the overall good of the nation of Israel.

Today, the church is described as the “body of Christ” in which each Christian is described as a member of that body with a particular function regarding how they are to serve for the overall benefit of the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:12-26). In describing how the church is to continue to grow in Christ (Ephesians 4:15), the apostle Paul describes the role each church member is to contribute to that growth as he writes, “from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:16). However, God does not tell each of us as Christians exactly how He wants us to serve in His church. He has given us the liberty of discover our own ability and to use that ability for the building up of His body, the church, to His glory.

As Christians, each of us has an important part to play in the growth of the church. No one in the church is more important that anyone else when it comes to the growth of the body of Christ. We are so blessed to discover and use the unique abilities God has given us to minister to others. Today, I will remember that I am an important part of church and I have a unique part to play in its growth. I will remember that I am accountable to carry out my task in the church to God’s glory!

“Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave-- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:26-28).

2/4/17 “God’s Chastening of Us” (Daily Bible Reading: Leviticus 26-Numbers 1)

“I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be their slaves; I have broken the bands of your yoke and made you walk upright. But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments…” (Leviticus 26:12-14).

How many of us enjoyed being corrected by our parents growing up? Although I can now look back on my life and see how their chastisement of me was for my good, at the time when I received their guidance, in the form of a paddle or by being placed on restriction, I did not appreciate what they did.

Do we appreciate God’s correction? We often praise God’s grace, mercy, and love, but what about His correction? The Bible clearly teaches that God corrects us: “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:7-11).

As Moses continues to receive God’s instructions following the erection of the tabernacle of meeting, God describes the blessings He will shower upon Israel if they walk within the confines of His commandments (Leviticus 26:3-13). However, in the same context, God also details His chastening of them if they choose to not follow His laws (Leviticus 26:14-39). As can be seen from the amount of verses warning of God’s chastening versus the amount of verses speaking of God’s blessing, God wanted Israel to fear God and keep His commandments. Yet, if Israel disobeyed God, God would forgive them once they confessed their sins, repented, and returned to Him (Leviticus 26:40-45).

Why did God go to such lengths to warn Israel of the potential chastening they would receive if they disobeyed Him? God realized the difficulty the Israelites would have in remaining faithful to Him while living in a world where they were constantly surrounded by sin. He did not want His people to return to the bondage of sin. He would do all that was in His power, including chastening His people, to prevent this from happening.

When we read a chapter like Leviticus 26, we can choose to think how harsh God is to His people because He chastens them for their sins. However, reacting in this manner is the way a child reacts to his or her parents who through chastening are trying to give them loving guidance. It is because of God’s great love for His people that He chastens them. The wise man Solomon wrote an inspired age-old truth: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11-12).

As a Christian, I am not perfect. Sometimes I take my eye off God. At times, I am able to recognize the error of my ways and repent of it. At other times, God needs to chasten me so I will “come to my senses” and recognize the error of my ways and repent. Part of my maturing as a Christian is to embrace the fact that God loves me enough to chasten me so that I will continue to “walk uprightly” and not fall back under the bondage of sin. Praise God that He loves me enough to chasten me!

“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3:19).