Sunday, 28 February 2010

Then you shall bless the Lord

When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you. – Deuteronomy 8v10

This is a beautiful picture of an oft neglected part of the walk and life of God’s people. After all of the battles and trials and struggle of the wanderings in the wilderness and after all of the struggles in Canaan the people are reminded to ‘bless the Lord for the good land He has given.’

It is easy for us to run to God in our times of need begging and imploring Him to step in and sort things out for us. We see a need and run to Him with it. I find myself that in my own prayer life a lot of it is focused on what I want God to do for me.

Sadly, when it is all over it is easy to forget to go back and bless, praise, and thank Him for what He has done. It is not a new problem or Israel would not have needed to be reminded to do the same.

After the battles and conflicts let us be careful and be sure that we not forget to bless Him for all that He has done. Make sure we know Who did it when it is done.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

That He might make you know

So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD. – Deuteronomy 8v3

If we are not careful we can spend a lot of our time moaning and complaining and whinging and wondering why we have to go through what we have to go through. Every trial, big or little, send our little minds into a tizzy trying to figure out why it has to happen to us.

Israel must have felt the same. Why does this all happen? Why did we have to go through the wilderness? Why all the struggles and trails and testings and temptations? Why were we so hungry? Why could we not find water? Why did we face enemies?

Here, I suspect, that we have an indication of the answer. Moss tells the people ‘God humbled you. He let you get hungry, and then fed you with manna so that you would learn what your father’s forgot. God wants you to know that you don’t live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

Sometimes our trials come to remind us that God is in control. Sometimes it comes to take our eyes off of the seen and to look at the unseen because that is what really counts. We need to be humbled because many of us think that we have to sort everything out in our power an in pur strength. We need to understand that we don’t really live by the physical, but by His word.

Our trials and tests should not drive us to despair, but to His word because that is the source of life!

Trails come to humble us and teach us that we live not only by the necessities of this world, but primarily by His word.

Friday, 26 February 2010

You shall not be afraid of them

you shall not be afraid of them, but you shall remember well what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt: the great trials which your eyes saw, the signs and the wonders, the mighty hand and the outstretched arm, by which the LORD your God brought you out. So shall the LORD your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. – Deuteronomy 7v18-19

It is a good thing we are constantly reminded in God’s to ‘not be afraid of them.’ There is a lot going on today that would make us afraid if we did not have His promise of being in the midst of His people.

There was a meeting of the Christian Institute in Newbridge this week. I couldn’t make it, but there were couple of shocking topics for discussion. The Oireachtas is the Irish parliament. Two of the bills now under consideration are of special concern to Christians. One of them would make it illegal for anyone performing a legal marriage ceremony to refuse to marry anyone. Christians who refused to marry a homosexual couple, for example, could face a fine of up to €2000 and six months in jail. Another bill under consideration is the ‘Gender Recognition Bill.’ This would allow any person to declare their gender despite physical characteristics and have their birth cert changed to reflect it. This bill originated when a man in nearby Wales sued a church because they would not let him use the ladies’ toilet.

In the UK any foreign religious workers now must be sponsored by a church with special permission. The law requires that that recognised churched advertise for any open position and that they cannot refuse employment based on race, gender, creed, or sexual preference. Recently a Baptist church was registering an American missionary to work with them and had two Muslims apply for the job. They are required to submit regular forms detailing exactly what any foreign worker is doing. This has serious consequences for missionaries in the UK.

With this kind of thing happening all over the world we might be tempted to say that these are scary days. Indeed, in the flesh they are scary days.

But we need not fear because our focus is to not be on these things, but on eternity. This world is not our home. We have to live here and we have to find a way to deal with these laws, but our citizenship is in Heaven and our King is with us here. Don’t be afraid. The real victory is already won!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Don’t test Him

"You shall not tempt the LORD your God as you tempted Him in Massah. – Deuteronomy 6v16

The list of reminders to the people of Israel continues on. Now we read ‘Do not tempt, or test, the Lord your God.’ God used the setting of the testing at Massah to remind the people of what it meant to test God.

At Massah the people were discouraged and were doubting God. They wondered if God was really there with them. They wondered if maybe this particular incident was too hard for God. God has sorted everything else out, but this time it is just too much.

With this illustration of testing God it is obvious to see how we test God. I know I covered this a few weeks ago when we looked at Meribah and Massah, but when I cam across it today I was reminded about just how important this is.

Yesterday was one of those ‘poor me’ days when I had to keep reminding myself that God is the one who is in control. A couple of things are going on at the moment where I cannot see a good resolution.

God is in control. He can work through these situations. He can do it. May each of us continue to avoid the Massahs of our lives.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Don’t forget

then beware, lest you forget the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. – Deuteronomy 6v12

I am not (yet) old. I keep telling myself that at least. However, I do find myself at times not being quite as sharp as I was at one time. Sometimes I walk into a room and forget why I am there. That is only really bad when I go into the toilet. Sometimes I open an app on my phone and forget why I opened it or go to a contact list and forget who I am looking for.

I can joke about this, but sometimes forgetfulness can be serious or even tragic. Those with Alzheimer’s or other related illnesses can forget serious things. Even spouses can go unrecognised. Relationships are forgotten and because of that they are seriously affected.

‘Don’t forget the Lord.’ This is not the only place this is mentioned. We are told not to let the things of God ‘slip away.’ We are told to ‘hold fast.’ We are instructed to ‘call to remembrance.’

Not forgetting is an active role that we are to play. We can’t just hope to float along and depend on what we have learned.

When there is so much to distract us it is easy to forget the Lord. When we are burdened down with testings and trials and temptations and turmoil it is easy to focus so much on them that we forget Him. He is the One who brought Israel out of bondage. He is the One who brought us out of the bondage of sin.

I have found for myself that the best way to not forget Him in the hard times is to apply the principle found in Philippians chapter 4. ‘Be care-full for nothing. But in everything, by prayer and supplication, WITH THANKSGIVING, let your requests be made known to God.’ Then, and only then ‘The peace of God that passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.’

Don’t forget God. Remember Him with thanksgiving for who He is and what He has done.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Teach them

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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. – Deuteronomy 6v7-9

I love teaching. (I think I may have mentioned that before) Because of that passages about teaching just seem to jump out when I read them. This passage is one of those teaching ‘classics’ of the word of God.

The context is God’s commandments. It is obvious that what is being said here is important. If Israel did not pass on God’s words to the next generation they would quickly turn from it.

Teach them with diligence – it is not something we can take lightly. Talk of them when you sit in your house, when you are out walking, when you go to bed, and when you get up. Keep them always before you. Write them out for all to see.

I think there is a fervency that most of us can miss when we are raising our children. His word should be part and parcel of every thing we do, be it spiritual or not. That seems to be the idea here, doesn’t it?

We used Keys for Kids as a devotional help when our kids were young. We are using them now before school for Morgann and Eoin. Sometimes we laugh at how they turn every situation into a spiritual lesson. Of course they are written for that purpose. But I do think they have a point. We need to search for ways to teach or children the word of God in every circumstance. Getting up, going for a walk, bedtime, etc. All of these are times for us to diligently teach God’s word to the next generation.

Monday, 22 February 2010

All of me

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. – Deuteronomy 6v5

When Jesus was asked to summarise the Law He did so with a simple statement. The first half of that statement was this passage of from God’s instructions to Israel. It describes in just a few succinct words our ideal relationship with God.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

It is obvious that our love for the Lord cannot be a half hearted affair. There is no room for holding back part of our love. It is a total dedication of all that we have. It is giving all of us to Him.

Frances Havergral penned these words regarding this kind of love for our Lord. They do far more justice to the thought than I could do.

Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.

Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee;
Take my voice and let me sing,
Always, only for my King.

Take my lips and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee;
Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold.

Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in endless praise;
Take my intellect and use
Every pow’r as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it Thine,

It shall be no longer mine;

Take my heart, it is Thine own,

It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store;
Take myself and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.

As we read over those words we must ask ourselves if our love for our Lord is great enough that we could pray that prayer with open and earnest hearts.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Such a heart

Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever! – Deuteronomy 5v29

I am preaching the second part of a two part message today. The topic is ‘Keep your heart with all diligence.’ I thought about that as I read this passage yesterday and my eyes fell on the words ‘oh that they had such a heart in them.’ Even here, way back in the time of the Old Testament law there was a focus on the heart being right.

Notice that the attitude of the heart precedes fearing God and keeping His commandments and that precedes things going well with them. It all goes back to a right heart.

Our heart is the real us. We can all put on a show and fake it before the world. We can trick everyone, but eventually what is in our hearts will come out and be seen. The Bible tells us that everything that comes out in our lives is from what is in our hearts.

Oh that there were such a heart in us today. Oh that our hearts would lead us to fear God and keep His commandments.

Keep your heart with all keeping for out of it spring all of the issues of life. We can all keep the list of rules and regulations, but how are we are heart keeping?

Saturday, 20 February 2010

That it might be well

Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever! – Deuteronomy 5v29

You can almost sense a yearning in God’s heart here. There are a couple of reasons why it is important to ‘fear God and keep His commandments.’

First, obviously, we obey God because He is God. He is holy, righteous, just, eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and so much else. Such a God, but the very virtue of who He is, deserves our obedience.

But there is just a little more here. God gives more of a reason why His people should obey Him. What does this mean? ‘…that it might be well with them and with their children forever.’

Before we look at that, I think it is interesting to note that God has not created us to be some sort of robot that must follow His commands. He was yearning for their obedience, not forcing it. ‘Oh that they would have this kind of heart lets us know that He created man with the ability to make choices.

But back to the question. What does it mean that it ‘might be well?’

I guess there are two possibilities, and maybe they both apply here. First is that if they obey Him God will make sure that things go well for them and hold off His judgment. I am sure that there is some truth to that. He does act in response to the behaviour of His people.

I also think that there is another application. Perhaps, if God’s people will just follow Him their lives will, as a result, just be better.

In my mind at least this makes sense. God designed this world. He knows it best. He knows how people are best going to relate to His creation. He created both of them and knows how one will relate to the other.

How does this apply to the ‘real world’ and believers in the 21st century? We of course are no longer bound by the law. As we read through the law though, we see that so much of it makes sense. Laws of food preparation and human sanitation lay the ground work for much of what we now practice as a matter of course today.

When we look at God’s word in both Old and New Testaments we see God giving all kinds of instructions for living. Don’t lie, don’t steal, work hard, take care of your body, watch your mouth when you speak, etc.

We can’t build a doctrine over this. We can’t make an absolute statement, but following God’s way is just smart.

Friday, 19 February 2010

God speaks with man

And you said: 'Surely the LORD our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire. We have seen this day that God speaks with man; yet he still lives. – Deuteronomy 5v24

'God has shown us His glory and his greatness...we have seen this day that God speaks with man and lives.' It is easy enough to read over the first part of this and miss the second. God is full of glory. God is great indeed. This truths make the rest even more amazing.

God speaks with man. How amazing is that? Not only that, God speaks with man and lets him live! This particular incident refers to God speaking to Moses, but it still reveals an amazing truth. God, the perfect Holy One, whose name is Holy, who inhabits eternity, condescends to talk to man.

I enjoy posting on a couple of internet forums. I have been posting on one for several years. There are people there in my ignore list. I simply won’t communicate with them. I can’t see them as ‘worth my time.’

Praise God that we are not on His ignore list. God talks to man. What a blessing!

What is tragic is how rarely most of us talk to Him.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

When you turn and obey

When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the LORD your God and obey His voice (for the LORD your God is a merciful God), He will not forsake you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers which He swore to them. – Deuteronomy 4v30-31

Here we see more evidence of a merciful and forgiving God. God warns Israel that they are going to go astray when they go into the world. He knows their nature and their inclination to join to the world. He knows that there even going to accept and take part in the worship of false gods.

We might think that God would have had enough by now. But no, His mercies never fail, they are new every morning. His compassions go on and on and on.

God makes them a promise. ‘When those days of distress come, if you will turn to the Lord and obey His voice, He will not forsake you, destroy you, or forget His promises. He is a merciful God.’

God’s mercy is astounding. He wants His people to come to Him and even disobedient Israel is not without hope. When they weary of their sin and are distressed God will still be ready to hear them and forgive them if they will turn.

Satan may lead us to think that we are too bad for God to hear. When we accept that we are ignoring His mercy.

An interesting thought here. This may very well also a prophecy of the gospel. The term ‘latter days’ often refers to the time of Christ. Maybe we see here just a hint of God’s ultimate expression of mercy.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Your grandchildren

Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren, - Deuteronomy 4v9

In case you can’t tell it yet I love grandparenting and I love my grandkids. Being Grampy is my favourite lifestage. I think that is mostly because with grandparenting I get to be involved with both my kids and my grandkids.

All grandparents know that there is a fine line to walk when dealing with our grandkids. We need to remember that these are our kid’s kids, but at the same time exercise our God given responsibility to parent and to grandparent. We certainly need prayer and God’s wisdom as we strive to walk that line.

God sets a pattern here for Israel that I think we would be wise to emulate. Basically it is this – ‘You take heed to keep the things you have seen and heard so that they don’t depart. Teach them to your children and your grandchildren.’

I look back at parenting our children when they were young. It is a good thing that parenting is a life-long job, because if mine we all based on those early years I would not have the best track record. Over and over again I acted unwisely. I made mistakes that still have in impact today. Gratefully we are still close to our children so we still have chances to try and rectify those mistakes.

And now God gives us grandchildren. Not only that, he gives us the responsibility to teach them. Is it too much to think that maybe God gives us a second chance? We take the lessons we learned from parenting their parents and try to do a better job with this generation, working and in hand with Mum and Dad.

What a great blessing God gives those of us who have the amazing opportunity to grandparent.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Take heed to yourself

Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. And teach them to your children and your grandchildren, - Deuteronomy 4v9

Part of my growing as a Christian was reading the Christian scandal sheets. The purpose of some of these things seemed to be to search out the church for anything that might be interpreted as error and make sure that everything, no matter how small, was exposed. These ‘brother watchers’ were everywhere and often their only sourcing was each other.

Don’t get me wrong. The Bible is clear that we need to be on the guard against false teachers. We also must expose error, but I suspect that there is such thing as taking a good thing too far.

Look at what God told Israel – ‘Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself…’ Remember what Jesus said about the mote and the beam? Remember what we are to do when we observe the Lord’s Table?

Seems like there is a lot more about watching ourselves than watching others, yet that area is far too often neglected.

Guard ourselves against error, of course. But I think we could all do with a little more of ‘taking heed to ourselves.’

Monday, 15 February 2010

The importance of following God’s word

"Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.' - Deuteronomy 4v5-6

There are a lot of reasons to obey God’s word. Not the least of these is for our own welfare. God loves us, knows what is best for us, and teaches us how to live to enjoy all His benefits.

But there are other reasons. Here God tells Israel one of the key reasons that His people must obey His word and keep His ways.

Moses said, ‘I have taught you what God taught me regarding how you should act in the land. Observe theses things carefully, this is your wisdom and your understanding.’

That is great, we know that, but what follows tells us why it is so important - ‘That the people who will hear these statutes will say “surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”’

Part of the reason we are to obey God’s word is our testimony. The only way that people are going to know that our faith is real is if our lives back up what we say. Only then will they see the source of our wisdom and understanding.

Joseph did this in the prison. Daniel and the others did this – the people were amazed at their wisdom and vigour. The early disciples did this in Acts and they ‘turned the world upside down’ because no one could argue that they ‘had been with Jesus.’

What do our lives say about us? Do people know that are a ‘wise and understanding people’ as we follow God’s word?

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Don’t add to my words

You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. – Deuteronomy 4v2

As God gave Moses His instructions for the land He made one thing perfectly clear – ‘Do not add to the word I give you. Don’t take away from it. That is the only way to keep My commands.’

We now are privileged to have His word compiled and written down where we can access it at any time. Not only that, we have it on our computers with various translations and study helps. We even have it on our phones so we never have to be without out. There is no excuse for most of the world not to know what God’s word says.

Just because we have it though does not mean that we are any less tempted to add to it or take away from it. Chances are that all of us have been guilty of ‘pick and choose theology’ at some point in our Christian lives. Too often we approach our study of scripture with our own notions or preconceived bias. Preachers may even approach their studies to prove a point they want to make instead of seeing what God has to say.

How do we keep from that? How do we preach the words that God wants us to hear and know what His commands? It is pretty simple – we dare not add to or take away from His word.

Even more simple – ‘Preach the word…’

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Prepare Joshua

I pray, let me cross over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, those pleasant mountains, and Lebanon.' "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. Go up to the top of Pisgah, and lift your eyes toward the west, the north, the south, and the east; behold it with your eyes, for you shall not cross over this Jordan. But command Joshua, and encourage him and strengthen him; for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which you will see.' – Deuteronomy 3v25-28

Despite Moses’ pleadings he was not going to be permitted to go into the land. ‘Please let me go and have a look Lord.’ I can certainly understand that feeling. He was getting old, they were right there. He had been leading the people here for forty years and now it was in sight. But God said, and my parrowphrase is not too far off here, ‘That’s enough Moses. Shut up about that…’

But God was gracious even in this. ‘Go up to the mountain Moses and look at the land with your eyes, but you are not going to go in to the land.’

He did not stop there. His next words excite me as a teacher. ‘Teach Joshua. Encourage him. Strengthen him. He is the one going in to the land.’

Moses could not go in, but he was able to do the next best thing. He was told to train the guy who would go in. He could not go in personally, but his impact would continue on. Teaching and training are practices that never die.

I am reading a fascinating book titled ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.’ It is about a woman who died of cancer in the early 50s. Unknown to her and her family the doctors removed some of the cancer cells and used them in research. These HeLa cells are amazing in their ability to reproduce. For almost 50 years now these cells have been reproducing and are still being used in all sorts of medical research. Her cells have been labelled ‘immortal’ because they just keep growing and dividing.

This woman was well loved by her family and friends, but in reality her mark on the world in her lifetime was minimal. Her contribution to the world happened after her death. She never stepped out of the dirt and poverty of her life, but she lives on in research and in cure after cure.

The HeLa cells are a good picture of the impact of a teacher. Moses’ impact would not end with his death. Through Joshua his impact would go on and on and on. The same is true with any teacher. We never know the impact our lives and teaching may have.

Moses did not make it to the Promised Land. He was a failure, right? Hardly.

Friday, 12 February 2010

God fights for you

You must not fear them, for the LORD your God Himself fights for you.' – Deuteronomy 3v22

In Act IV – Scene 8 of Shakespeare’s ‘Henry V’ we find Llewellyn and the king discussing the victory of the Battle of Agincourt. An excerpt of their dialogue follows:


Come, go we in procession to the village;
And be it death proclaimed through our host
To boast of this or take that praise from God
Which is his only.


Is it not lawful, an please your Majesty, to tell how
many is kill'd?


Yes, Captain; but with this acknowledgment,
That God fought for us.


Yes, my conscience, He did us great good.

The dialogue here was related to how to deal with the victory. The king was determined that though the victory was great, man should claim credit for it. The point was, at least in his view, that God fought for England that day.

I don’t understand all the intricacies of God’s involvement in human wars, but Moses faced a different situation. God was instructing him about all the human challenges they would face. Part of the challenge would be battles with the people they were encounter. It must have been daunting; especially considering the rabble Moses was leading. But God encouraged Moses with these marvellous words, ‘Don’t be afraid of them, for God Himself fights for you.’

Today we face our own battles. The task can be daunting. Sometimes we can wake up and wonder how we are possibly going to get through the battles of that day. Don’t be afraid of them, God Himself will fight the battles for you.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

I have been with you

For the LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hand. He knows your trudging through this great wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing." – Deuteronomy 2v7

There are times during those periods of plodding along that we can feel an awesome, terrible loneliness. I remember back to the especially lean days of this ministry. There were months when we felt all alone and like not many really cared. Some folks were critical of that period of our work and we even loss some support because ‘nothing was happening.’ I look back with gratitude at those who encouraged and prayed for us in those days.

We are going through another bit of a plodding time at the moment. Praise God that the ministry is going well and the church is prospering, but Michelle’s illness is a long challenge for her, Matt, the girls, and the rest of the family. Together we are facing several more weeks of hospital visits and the accompanying practical necessities. Yet, during this time we know that people are with us. We have total support from friends here and all around the world.

The great truth is that in our plodding times, in those times when it seems all we are doing is picking up one foot after another, that God is with us. Whether we are surrounded by support or feel like we are all alone His presence is always there. Our task is to keep our feet moving and keep our eyes on Him.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Plodding along

For the LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hand. He knows your trudging through this great wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing." – Deuteronomy 2v7

Sometimes it feels that all we do in our Christian walk is to trudge along. The Christian life is not always bands playing and fireworks of celebration. Sometimes it is just plodding along in the muck and mire. In fact, I suspect that trudging is the norm rather than the exception.

One of my missionary heroes is William Carey. Some have called him ‘God’s Plodder’ because although he eventually accomplished some truly amazing feats, for the vast majority of his ministry he saw very little results and instead just plodding along. He took whatever happened and just kept going.

Some would have us believe that the Christian life is all about great ‘blessings,’ excitement, and seeing wonderful things happen. God knew of the trudging of Moses in 40 years in the Wilderness.

We must not get discouraged when our Christian life becomes nothing more than tough old slog. Remember God’s charge to ‘not be weary in well doing’ because we have the promise that ‘in due season we will reap if we don’t faint.

Keep plodding along. Keep on trudging. Keep slogging not matter how tough it gets. He knows where we are.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

You lacked nothing

For the LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hand. He knows your trudging through this great wilderness. These forty years the LORD your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing." – Deuteronomy 2v7

Good ole Moses. He was not perfect. He got frustrated with the people. It was so bad one time that he disobeyed God and because of his disobedience he would never see the Promised Land of Canaan.

Yet, despite that, he was faithful and God saw his faithfulness. I love this picture of his diligence because it reminds me of the reality of Christian living. ‘The Lord has blessed all the work you have done. He knows about your trudging in the wilderness. You have lacked nothing.’

I am going to do two thought somewhat backwards. When I did my devotions this morning I focused in the last phrase, but as I was working on this entry I saw the previous, so bear with a little confusion.

Moses lacked nothing in all those years of service. Moses was faithful in his service and God was faithful in taking care of him. God always provides exactly what we need to live for and serve Him. There are always going to be lean times and good times, but God does not change.

It may appear at time that God has forgotten that He is not doing what He said. It may look from our point of view that He is not ‘providing all our needs according to His riches in glory.’

Moses did not lack anything to achieve the will of God and to bring Him glory. We can trust that we will not lack what we need to serve Him. Praise God for that promise and Moses’ example.

Monday, 8 February 2010

So Israel was joined to Baal

So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel. – Numbers 25v3

Israel was dwelling in Moab. It appears from Numbers 25v3 that they were remaining there when they should have been moving on. This caused difficulties for them. The people of Moab began inviting the Israelites to dinner and to come to worship their false gods with them.

Verse three is tragic. ‘So Israel was joined with Baal…’ A theme of separation runs all the way through the word of God. He consistently calls on His people to take and stand with Him and for Him. All through history God’s people have had to live and work and function in the real world. The challenge has been to not to be joined to the world while living there.

Israel failed that test. Instead of showing the real God to the people they looked at the Moabites false gods. As they ate with them they were not firm enough in their relationship with Jehovah to trust instead. Instead they saw something in Baal that they did not see with God.

So Israel was joined with Baal.

That is bad enough. What is worse is that I can think of times in my life when it could be written, ‘So Roger was joined with the world.’ Israel had to look forward by faith to what God would do. I can look back with faith and sight to see what He has done. I have the clear instructions in His word.

Yes. ‘Roger was joined with the world’ is at least as bad as ‘Israel was joined with Baal.’

With God’s help may ‘Roger was joined with the world’ never be a part of my future.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

God is not a man

"God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? - Numbers 23v19

As the years have gone by I have learned a lesson or two. One of them is that I try to never make a promise. I have been working on the principle with Morgann. When she wants to so something thing I tell her that we will do our best, or that we will try, but I can’t promise her because something might come up that makes it so that we can’t. I love the response that she got from her dad. She says, ‘There is one thing that you can promise Grampy, that you will always love me.’ That of course is a promise I can keep.

God is different from us. He is not a man. He can make promise because He can keep them. He promises might be for good or made from our perspective, but we can be assured that He can keep them, because nothing is going to ‘pop up’ and catch Him by surprise.

God is not a man. He cannot lie. He will do what he says He will do. He will make good on His promises.

Because God is not a man, we can always count on Him.

I am grateful that our God is not a man like us. Even with our best intentions we may still fail. He never will.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

How shall I curse whom God has not cursed?

How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce whom the LORD has not denounced? – Numbers 23v8

Part of what I have grown with in my Christian life has been a stress on pointing out real or imagined false teachers. I don’t want to downplay that, it is a Bible principle, but I think if we are not careful we can use that as an excuse to attack those who don’t fit our preferences.

Paul wrote the following to the Philippians regarding his own opponents:

Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.

The most important thing to Paul was that the gospel was being preached, even by those who opposed him and his way.

I am thinking of a particular pastor at the moment. Some of my brethren have labelled this man with a particularly odious label in conservative circles. This is seen as a way to dismiss him as a serious Bible teacher and Christian leader. The more I learn about this man the more I realise how wrong that label is. I don’t know everything about this man, but I am convinced that he is not a dangerous false teacher.

It appears to me than men’s preferences instead of God’s word are behind the ‘cursing’ of this man.

Balaam was in a similar situation. Balak wanted him to use his influence as a prophet to curse the people. Balaam resisted the urging with these words, ‘How shall I curse whom God has not cursed and how can I denounce whom God has not denounced?’

I think we have an example worth considering here. If false teachers are truly false teachers according to the word of God then we have no choice but to expose their false teaching. However, can we curse and denounce men simply because they do not suit our preferences?

Friday, 5 February 2010

I could not go beyond the word of the Lord

Then Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, "Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more. – Numbers 22v18

I never have really studied through the whole story of Balak and Balaam. I need to do that someday, and maybe even preach on it so that I can make myself understand it better.

At this stage of the story Balaam is striving to do right. Balak has tried to hire him to curse the people of Israel. That was not God’s will and God told him to not do it because the people were to be blessed instead.

I do know that Balaam was not the greatest example of a faithful man of God. I don’t know whether he was genuine when he said this or he was just saying the words. Either way, the words he speaks here should be a great motivation for us all.

When Balak was trying to buy him off he said, ‘Even if Balak gave me a whole house full of gold and silver I still cannot go beyond the word of the Lord. I can’t do any more or less.’

Let’s just take his words at face value, shall we?

All of us, especially preachers and teachers, should take Balaam’s words here and make them out motto. Nothing should ever dissuade us from being faithful to God’s word and nothing else. We actually have His word recorded for us. We know what we are to proclaim. Hopefully, at least, none of us could be persuaded by money from saying what God wants is to say. We would all say something like, ‘I can’t be bribed from being faithful to the Bible.’

We need to be careful though that nothing can persuade us from proclaiming God’s word and only God’s word. We may be pressured by peer pressure, by our associates, or by the crowd. We as missionaries can be tempted to alter our preaching based on fear of the loss of support. Many things can keep us from proclaiming Hid word without adding to it or taking away from.

Do we let pressures keep us from faithfully proclaiming His word?

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Like the serpent in the wilderness

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live." – Numbers 21v8

One of the fascinating things about the Old Testament accounts is when are referred to in the New Testament. This is one of those that really jumps out because Jesus uses it as a picture of salvation. This incident presents a biblical type of salvation.

Let’s lay the background first then make an application.

The people of Israel were once again whinging, crying, and complaining. Same complaint, no food, no water, and they hated the manna God had provided. Amazing, isn’t it, that people will despise and make light of what God has given? I am sure that none of us would ever do that.

We know that God hates discontentment. He makes that clear over and over in His word. Because of their sin God sent serpents to punish them and some people died.

When the punishment started they decided to do something about it. They went to Moses, confessed their sin, and Moses prayed for them.

‘Make a brass serpent,’ God said, ‘and put it on a pole. Lift it up before the people and anyone who looks at the serpent will live.’

That is exactly what happened. Those who look lived, those who ignored it died.

It’s a pretty simple picture isn’t it? Maybe that’s why Jesus chose to use it to illustrate his offer of salvation.

In the middle of His great conversation with Nicodemus Jesus said this:

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. 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.’

Israel was delivered from the curse of the snacks by looking up to the brass serpent. Man is delivered from the curse of sin by looking to Jesus on the cross. God’s way was the only way then and it is the only way now.

May we lift Him up in our lives.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Because you did not believe me

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 20v12

This is one of those passages that I have learned to just accept by faith and the knowledge that God knows best. I know Moses is saved; he is listed as one of the great heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11. Here though, we find that what appears as one little mistake keeps him out of the land he worked so hard to achieve.

It is difficult to know exactly what is going on here, but I suspect from the phrase, ‘to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel’ may be the key.

Moses was a leader and a teacher of the people. His example was important. The beginning of James 3 reminds us that teachers are help to a higher level of judgement. In Hebrews 13 we find that leaders must give account for their actions and the actions of those who follow them.

Moses blew it here. In a sense he was no better than the rebellious people. They did not do things the way God wanted them to. As the people watched it might have made sense to some of them that Moses got the water by hitting the rock and stirring up a well or a spring. God’s desire was for them to see His power for only God could give water from a rock that was spoken to.

People are watching us all the time. We are to hallow God before them. When we are in positions of leadership this is especially important because others are watching us and matching our actions to our words.

Moses did not miss his eternal blessing, but he did miss a temporal blessing by his act of disobedience.

I wonder if we ever miss temporal blessings by our disobedience. Amazingly, even though he knew he would miss this blessing, Moses stayed at the task for many more years. He is really quite a guy.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Nothing but God

Then the LORD said to Aaron: "You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel. – Numbers 18v20

At first glance here it looks like Aaron and his descendents are being forced to do without. When the land was being divided up Aaron was told that he and his sons would receive no land at all. That doesn't sound good, but that is not the whole story.

'I am your portion and your inheritance,' God said to them.

‘Nothing but God. That was the lot of these folks. They had no place to call home, no land on which to develop an inheritance, and no share in dividing up the spoils. All they had for their share and their inheritance was God.

You know what though? When it was all said and done isn’t He the only portion and inheritance anyone needs? We are reminded of that truth in Hebrews 13v5-6 when God tells us to be content with what we have, because He has told us that He will never, ever leave us or forsake us in our time of need.

No other possession is totally secure. Everything else can be taken away or destroyed.

Is it really so bad to have ‘nothing but God?’

Monday, 1 February 2010

Separate yourselves

Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment." – Numbers 16v21

The setting for this was the rebellion we looked at yesterday. God was about to judge the rebels. He told the people they had a chance to escape His righteous judgement. 'Separate yourselves and escape my wrath.'

There is a dividing line between those who are God’s people and all the rest. The people who separated from the rebels obeyed God and stepped aside. If they had friends or family members among the rebels this would have surely been difficult. They had to trust God that the rebel group would suffer God’s righteous wrath and they would not.

Today the world is faced with a similar challenge. Judgement is coming. We don’t know when. To escape God’s righteous and holy wrath people must separate themselves from the world and to the Lord. It is an act of faith. Only Christ can provide that escape.

Separating from the world may be difficult. Family and friends are not always going to get it, but it is the only hope.

We have a message to share. God is still calling people to separate from sin and come to Him. Are we sharing that message?