Tuesday, March 31, 2009

When will we ever learn? When will we e-e-e-ever learn?

Way back in Deuteronomy, God told Moses to tell the people to absorb the Words of God into their lives, their homes, their daily activities, AND their children's lives.

"Write these commandments that I've given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates. " (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)

In today's reading we see why.

They followed God for a while, then they worshipped idols. God punished them by putting them under the cruel reign of Cushan-Rishathaim for 8 years.

They cried out to God. He rescued them, and they had peace for 40 years.

12 -14 "But the People of Israel went back to doing evil in God's sight." So God punished them by putting them under Eglon for 14 years." (Eglon was the extra fat king. See previous blog.)

They cried out to God and God rescued them. The land was prosperous and quiet for 80 years.

1 -3"The People of Israel kept right on doing evil in God's sight. With Ehud dead, God sold them off to Jabin king of Canaan who ruled from Hazor." (Judges 4) God let him oppress them for 20 years.

They had a mighty battle this time. Very dramatic. Women end up playing major roles.

"The land was quiet for forty years."

When will they ever learn? When will WE ever learn?

words and music by Pete Seeger
©1961 (Renewed) Fall River Music Inc. All Rights Reserved.

You'll never believe what I just read. And its in the Bible!

I'm ten years old, and working my way through the Bible for the first time.

I come upon this passage, and I can't believe it! It is just too good to keep to myself. I gather my buddies together and say, "You'll never believe what I just read. And its in the Bible!"

This guy took out his dagger, "and thrust it into his belly: 22And the haft also went in after the blade; and the fat closed upon the blade... and the dirt came out." (Judges 3: 22,23) King James Version.

Yes it really says that!

"And the dirt came out!"

Read it for yourself!

The Bible was much less boring after I uncovered that delicious nugget...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Compromise - and Wrath!

There is a strange phenomenon that biologists refer to as "the boiled frog syndrome". Put a frog in a pot of water and increase the temperature of the water gradually from 20oC to 30oC to 40oC…to 90oC and the frog just sits there. But suddenly, at 100oC, something happens: the water boils and the frog dies.

Today we start reading the book of Judges.

I have to tell you - I find this first part of Judges deeply disturbing.

First chapter is largely review, but toward the end it shows one compromise after another after another. God said to take the land over, and utterly kill every single inhabitant. The people had a hard time doing that entirely, but they would let the people stay and make them into their laborers. Good compromise, right?

"The parallel of it all in the Christian life is that we, like Israel, are delivered by the grace of God from the bondage to sin, but as we drift away from the joy and thrill of our spiritual experience we tend to get more worldly and many slip back into a life that is more about the idols of the world than about the Lord and his will. We cease to hate the sins that we left, and do not pursue taking to ourselves all that we are redeemed to experience in the godly life. This can lead to all kinds of negative experiences in life that call for repentance and renewal. Some people are like this book and go through the cycle over and over just like Israel did. What is the problem? It is lack of hate. What a paradox! The key to a life of love with consistent obedience to God demands the balance of hate for what God hates." (Judges Commentary by Glen Pease)
In North America, we have made compromise into one of our most cherished cultural values. We call it "Tolerance". Under that banner, all kinds of sin is accepted. Shall I give you a list? Prostitution, adultery, fornication, pornography, homosexuality, bestiality, perversions, murder (as long as the baby is not born yet) every kind of pagan practice, witchcraft, idol worship (both modern and ancient)... the list goes on and on.
It took the people of Israel only two generations to fall into every kind of pagan practice that God forbade and they claimed they would never do.
11 -15 "The People of Israel did evil in God's sight: they served Baal-gods; they deserted God, the God of their parents who had led them out of Egypt; they took up with other gods, gods of the peoples around them. They actually worshiped them! "
What was God's reaction?
"And oh, how they angered God as they worshiped god Baal and goddess Astarte! God's anger was hot against Israel: He handed them off to plunderers who stripped them; he sold them cheap to enemies on all sides. They were helpless before their enemies. Every time they walked out the door God was with them—but for evil, just as God had said, just as he had sworn he would do. They were in a bad way. "
Compromise with God's standards leads to His wrath. There is no pretty way to say it.
Man, I liked Joshua better than Judges already!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ending Strong

Last night Patti and I went to see a movie called, simply, "The Cross."

"Beginning in 1968, the evangelical minister Arthur Blessit took it upon himself to carry a large wooden crucifix around the world. With the help of a wheel affixed to the end of the cross, a decent pair of shoes and the motivating fervor of a man who believed that Jesus was telling him what to do, Mr. Blessit succeeded, over the next 40 years, traversing nearly 40,000 miles." New York Times movie review.

The movie impacted me profoundly. The central issue is, do you do what God tells you to do or do you do what you want to do? On the one hand, it would seem like a complete waste of a life to drag a 12 foot cross around the world for 40 years. Yet Arthur Blessit is an evangelist by gifting and by calling. God told him to do this, and he has used the attention it gets to faithfully present the love of God and the Good News of God to everyone he meets, in every country, climate, culture and religion.
If you have the opportunity to watch this movie, definately go see it. He is now 68 years old, and is still carrying out the mission he felt God called him to. I would say he is "ending strong".

In our reading today we come to the end of the book of Joshua (Chapters 22-24), and also to the end of the life of Joshua the man. He calls all the people together to give them a last charge before he dies.
2 -3 "I'm an old man. I've lived a long time. You have seen everything that God has done to these nations because of you. He did it because he's God, your God. He fought for you.
6 -8 "Now, stay strong and steady. Obediently do everything written in the Book of The Revelation of Moses—don't miss a detail. Don't get mixed up with the nations that are still around. Don't so much as speak the names of their gods or swear by them. And by all means don't worship or pray to them. Hold tight to God, your God, just as you've done up to now. "
His words carry the weight of his long life, of his amazing accomplishments, of his voice as prophet of God.
11 -13 "Now, vigilantly guard your souls: Love God, your God. Because if you wander off and start taking up with these remaining nations still among you (intermarry, say, and have other dealings with them), know for certain that God, your God, will not get rid of these nations for you. They'll be nothing but trouble to you—horsewhips on your backs and sand in your eyes—until you're the ones who will be driven out of this good land that God, your God, has given you."
He admonishes them and warns them knowing his time on earth is about done.

14 "As you can see, I'm about to go the way we all end up going. Know this with all your heart, with everything in you, that not one detail has failed of all the good things God, your God, promised you. It has all happened. Nothing's left undone—not so much as a word.
15 -16 "But just as sure as everything good that God, your God, has promised has come true, so also God will bring to pass every bad thing until there's nothing left of you in this good land that God has given you. If you leave the path of the Covenant of God, your God, that he commanded you, go off and serve and worship other gods, God's anger will blaze out against you. In no time at all there'll be nothing left of you, no sign that you've ever been in this good land he gave you."
Last words. FAMOUS last words. You may have memorized them as a child, as I did...
14 "So now: Fear God. Worship him in total commitment... As for me and my family, we'll worship God."
Soon after, Joshua died. He was 110 years old. He lived well. Led the people well. Followed God well.
He ended strong.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

God Gave Them Rest

We have galloped through the amazing book of Joshua. Tomorrow we finish.

Remember how just a few days ago it was all out war? One battle after another after another? And then to top it off, all the remaining kings got together to exterminate Joshua? If we could have interviewed Joshua during that time (if we got have gotten him alone for a minute) he would have said it seemed like war would never end.

But it did.

Now the relatively peaceful and boring job of administering the nation had occupied him for many years. In this passage, the division of the land among the tribes is reviewed. I chuckled at these verses.

49 -50 "They completed the dividing of the land as inheritance and the setting of its boundaries. The People of Israel then gave an inheritance among them to Joshua son of Nun. In obedience to God's word, they gave him the city which he had requested, Timnath Serah in the hill country of Ephraim. He rebuilt the city and settled there. "

He had his pick of the country to choose his own "digs". So he chose a beautiful place, central in the territory, and militarily strategic. Again the combination of human and divine. He had requested the city. But they gave it to him in obedience to God's Word. God's word to whom? How did they know?

"Timnath-serah was nestled in the hills of southern Samaria in the Hill Country of Ephraim, thirteen miles southeast of Aphek and ten miles northwest of Bethel.
The city was situated on the road that linked Aphek in the Sharon Plain and Bethel. It therefore controlled the northwestern approach to the strategic Central Benjamite Plain.
Timnath-serah means "extra portion" or "portion of abundance" (Hebrew), a possible reference to the fact that this town was given to Joshua who had led the conquest of the Land. An alternate name for this location was Timnath-heres meaning "portion of the sun" (Judg 2:9). " (Source - The Internet) ((Always known to be accurate and reliable))

43 -44 And so God gave Israel the entire land that he had solemnly vowed to give to their ancestors. They took possession of it and made themselves at home in it. And God gave them rest on all sides, as he had also solemnly vowed to their ancestors. Not a single one of their enemies was able to stand up to them—God handed over all their enemies to them.
45 Not one word failed from all the good words God spoke to the house of Israel. Everything came out right.

They obeyed and prayed. They fought fierce battles. They worked hard to settle the land. In the end it all worked out.

And God gave them rest.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

God's Part - Man's Part

There is a great saying in Spanish.

"A Dios rogando
y con el mazo dando."

Even if you don't know Spanish you can see what a nice poetic feel it has. What it means is - "Crying out to God.
And swinging the hammer."

Many times we are in a quandry. What am I supposed to do? And what is God supposed to do? I know it is foolish for me to try to do it on my own.
But am I supposed to lay down in my hammock, pull my hat over my eyes, and pray that God would just do everything on my behalf?
Have you ever struggled to understand that balance? I do all the time...

Well, it appears that the clan of Joseph ended up being a bunch of whimps. (Joshua 16 -18).

14 "The people of Joseph spoke to Joshua: "Why did you give us just one allotment, one solitary share? There are a lot of us, and growing—God has extravagantly blessed us."
15 Joshua responded, "Since there are so many of you, and you find the hill country of Ephraim too confining, climb into the forest and clear ground there for yourselves in the land of the Perizzites and the Rephaim."
Logical enough. You need more room? You want more land? Go get it. Be a Caleb. Conquer the people, conquer the property. Go into the hills, knock down the trees and build to your hearts content.

16 But the people of Joseph said, "There's not enough hill country for us; and the Canaanites who live down in the plain, both those in Beth Shan and its villages and in the Valley of Jezreel, have iron chariots."
Whine, Whine, Whine! What a bunch of wimps!

17 -18 "Joshua said to the family of Joseph (to Ephraim and Manasseh): "Yes, there are a lot of you, and you are very strong. One lot is not enough for you. You also get the hill country. It's nothing but trees now, but you will clear the land and make it your own from one end to the other. The powerful Canaanites, even with their iron chariots, won't stand a chance against you."
In other words, "Get up off of your fat butts and get to work!!!"
So its a balance.
And work...

This Boy's Got Game - Daughter's Got Game Too!

What a story!

Joshua has transitioned from General of a conquering army, to President and Administrator of an incipient country. The people are settling into to their new "digs", and seem busy and preoccupied with establishing themselves in the land.

In the middle of a rather boring passage, talking about who gets what land, comes this story.

If you remember back to when Moses sent 12 CIA agents into this land, you will recall that 10 of them were afraid, and two of them were bold. One of those faith filled warriors was Joshua. He has now been the leader of the pack.

The other guy was Caleb. I believe he was the only person born in Egypt who made it to the promised land. He now comes to Joshua. Listen:

"Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite spoke: "You'll remember what God said to Moses the man of God concerning you and me back at Kadesh Barnea. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of God sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land. And I brought back an honest and accurate report. My companions who went with me discouraged the people, but I stuck to my guns, totally with God, my God. That was the day that Moses solemnly promised, 'The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance, you and your children's, forever. Yes, you have lived totally for God.' " (Joshua 13: 6-9) He sort of reviews his story with Joshua. Joshua was now a big shot, and apparently Caleb had not been in touch very much. He goes on...

"Now look at me: God has kept me alive, as he promised. It is now forty-five years since God spoke this word to Moses, years in which Israel wandered in the wilderness. And here I am today, eighty-five years old! I'm as strong as I was the day Moses sent me out. I'm as strong as ever in battle, whether coming or going. So give me this hill country that God promised me. You yourself heard the report, that the Anakim were there with their great fortress cities. If God goes with me, I will drive them out, just as God said." (Joshua 13:9-12)

Old guy, but full of gumption! Still strong! Still energetic! Is he asking for favors? Kinda, but not really. He wants permission to conquer some unconquered territory. Of course, Joshua says yes.

13 -14 "Joshua blessed him. He gave Hebron to Caleb son of Jephunneh as an inheritance. Hebron belongs to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite still today, because he gave himself totally to God, the God of Israel."

There were giants in that area, but apparently it was no problem to Caleb. 14 -15 "Caleb drove out three Anakim from Hebron: Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai, all descendants of Anak. He marched up from there against the people of Debir. Debir used to be called Kiriath Sepher. "

That was a great story, but it doesn't end there. Apparently this one battle was difficult, so Caleb offers his daughter as wife to whomever defeats the city. Caleb's brother does it (I guess bravery runs in the family) and gets the daughter as his wife. OK, so that part is a little weird by our standards, but stay with me.

This girl's got game too!

18 -19 "When she arrived she got him
to ask for farmland from her father.
As she dismounted from her donkey
Caleb asked her, "What would you like?"
She said, "Give me a marriage gift.
You've given me desert land;
Now give me pools of water!"
And he gave her the upper and the lower pools. "

She goes, "Hey papa, you just got all this land and what you give us is desert? I don't think so! How about some nice farmland with fresh water running through it?"

Caleb acceeds and she gets some great property.

End of story. Caleb and his daughter. Courageous. Bold. Adventursome. Fit. Energetic. Faith filled.

Pretty cool!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

All Out WAR!

NOW I understand why God didn't let Moses cross over into the Promised Land.

Joshua started out taking one city at a time. One king at a time. Panic spread throughout the land. The kings started banding together. Five at a time attacked Gibeon. They were all defeated.

Joshua and the Israelites were on a rampage, breaking into the land from east of Jordan, then penetrating past what is now Jerusalem, turning south and taking all of the Jedean hill country down to Gaza.

This was a job for a young man! Non stop, all out war!

Miracles all over. In the account of Joshua 10:1-14 you read this: "

God threw them into total confusion before Israel, a major victory at Gibeon. Israel chased them along the ridge to Beth Horon and fought them all the way down to Azekah and Makkedah. As they ran from the People of Israel, down from the Beth Horon ridge and all the way to Azekah, God pitched huge stones on them out of the sky and many died. More died from the hailstones than the People of Israel killed with the sword." God sent killer hailstones!

A bit later, God caused the sun to stand still to give the army more time to finish. What! That's what it says! God caused the sun to stand still for a day. Follow this link for more information: http://www.tmgnow.com/repository/secret/velikovsky2.html

In Joshua 11 all the Kings of the west and north band together for a massive battle. Their property, thier culture, their very lives were at stake. They needed to destroy Joshua once and for all. They gathered for battle at the Waters of Merom.

(Now you know why God kept encouraging Joshua in Chapter 1.) Be strong and very courageous God says to him then. Now God says, "Don't worry about them. This time tomorrow I'll hand them over to Israel, all dead. You'll hamstring their horses. You'll set fire to their chariots."

It happened just as God said.

Joshua didn't even pause. He rooted out town after town.

23 "Joshua took the whole region. He did everything that God had told Moses. Then he parceled it out as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribes.
And Israel had rest from war. "


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Power Encounter

Today's reading is from Joshua 5 - 8. The story of the taking of Jericho. The debacle at Ai. The building of an altar on Mount Ebal. Lots of great, exciting stories.
But it begins with a time of obedience and cleansing. A time of worship as they celebrate the Passover. And then a Power Encounter.
13 "And then this, while Joshua was there near Jericho: He looked up and saw right in front of him a man standing, holding his drawn sword. Joshua stepped up to him and said, "Whose side are you on—ours or our enemies'?"
Joshua is nervous. New leader. Land full of enemies. I would presume he was startled by a stranger with a weapon so close to him. Where were the Secret Service?
His attitude changes pretty quickly though when he hears the answer.
14 "He said, "Neither. I'm commander of God's army. I've just arrived." Joshua fell, face to the ground, and worshiped. He asked, "What orders does my Master have for his servant?"
15 God's army commander ordered Joshua, "Take your sandals off your feet. The place you are standing is holy."
Joshua did it. "
God was going to do a series of miracles on behalf of his people. But He does not share His glory. It was important that Joshua demonstrate that he knew who God was. And who he was. So God appeared to him. And Joshua bowed down.
Before God can do things of significance through us, we too, need to establish in our hearts, in our minds, in our souls - that we can do nothing without HIM!
Then He is free to do the miracles He plans to do, and wants to do, knowing that we will not stand proud and try to take credit for what He has done...

Cool Postings

Two postings I just had to share today.

We start our 11th premarriage class tonight. We have 7 couples going through. It lasts for eight weeks. Today I got a posting from one of the people who went through our last class - Fall of 2008. She is young. Got married between the end of the class and now. Here it is...

"I love Jesus!!!
My husband is my best friend.
I have incredible friends and family
and have more than enough to live a life of contentment.
God is so good."

Like that one? Here is another. This one from an older, very mature believer who has weathered the bumps and disappointments of life. Here is what he writes...

"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty & well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, totally worn out and proclaiming:
Wow, what a ride!"

Isn't that great!

Probably not a surprise - that last guy rides Harleys as well! We plan to ride together this summer.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Strength! Courage! Don't get off Track!

Joshua is under 40 years old. Moses is dead. He is the anointed and appointed leader. He has been by Moses' side for years. But now he is in charge.

Joshua was not a rebel. He never chaffed under Moses' leadership. He never participated in all the complaining that different people had done over the years. Most of those people were dead.

A good leader needs to know how to follow well, in addition to leading well.

Now God is talking to Joshua. The task is huge. The group he is leading is huge. Here is what God says to him:

"Strength! Courage! You are going to lead this people to inherit the land that I promised to give their ancestors. Give it everything you have, heart and soul. Make sure you carry out The Revelation that Moses commanded you, every bit of it. Don't get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you're going. And don't for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you'll get where you're going; then you'll succeed." (Joshua 1:4-8)
Joshua wasted no time. He told the leaders to prepare the people. In three days they were going to cross the Jordan and start their invasion. He sent two spies to Jericho, the biggest close by city, to scope it out. God told him He would roll back the waters of the Jordan.
14 -16 "And that's what happened. The people left their tents to cross the Jordan, led by the priests carrying the Chest of the Covenant. When the priests got to the Jordan and their feet touched the water at the edge (the Jordan overflows its banks throughout the harvest), the flow of water stopped. It piled up in a heap—a long way off—at Adam, which is near Zarethan. The river went dry all the way down to the Arabah Sea (the Salt Sea). And the people crossed, facing Jericho.
17 And there they stood; those priests carrying the Chest of the Covenant stood firmly planted on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground. Finally the whole nation was across the Jordan, and not one wet foot."
Huge miracle! Amazing! God was still with them! God was with Joshua! Their reputation surged ahead of them as people whose God was the Almighty God!
Lots of lessons here. Joshua and the people did their part. They depended on God to do what they could not do. Joshua and the leaders were ahead. By faith, the priests stepped into the river. They believed God for the miracle, and put their pride, reputation, even lives on the line in faith.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Last Words of a Dying Saint

Today we say good bye to Moses.

He sings a song, writes a poem, says a blessing over them, gives some last words, and climbs slowly up Mount Nebo, never to be with the people he has led again.

7 -8 "Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eyesight was sharp; he still walked with a spring in his step. The People of Israel wept for Moses in the Plains of Moab thirty days."

His last words are rich. I could blog for a month.

"For it's God's Name I'm preaching—
respond to the greatness of our God!
The Rock: His works are perfect,
and the way he works is fair and just;
A God you can depend upon, no exceptions,
a straight-arrow God.
His messed-up, mixed-up children, his non-children,
throw mud at him but none of it sticks." (Deuteronomy 33:3-5)
From his last song. Copyright words and music - Moses

After he finishes his song, he says this: "Take to heart all these words to which I give witness today and urgently command your children to put them into practice, every single word of this Revelation. Yes. This is no small matter for you; it's your life. In keeping this word you'll have a good and long life in this land that you're crossing the Jordan to possess."

Moses tries to pound into the people that you have to HEAR the word of God. You have to OBEY the word of God. You have to PRACTICE the word of God. "Dear God, pound those words into MY heart..."

From the blessing he spoke over the people:
"Oh, how you love the people,
all his holy ones are palmed in your left hand.
They sit at your feet,
honoring your teaching,
The Revelation commanded by Moses,
as the assembly of Jacob's inheritance. "

And he was not quite through. One of the most beloved Psalms of all time is attributed to Moses - Psalm 91. If so, listen to some of the words:

14 -16 "If you'll hold on to me for dear life," says God,
"I'll get you out of any trouble.
I'll give you the best of care
if you'll only get to know and trust me.
Call me and I'll answer, be at your side in bad times;
I'll rescue you, then throw you a party.
I'll give you a long life,
give you a long drink of salvation!" (Psalm 91)

Whoever wrote the end of Deuteronomy had a beautiful tribute to a "one-of-a-kind" follower of God:

10 -12 "No prophet has risen since in Israel like Moses, whom God knew face-to-face. Never since has there been anything like the signs and miracle-wonders that God sent him to do in Egypt, to Pharaoh, to all his servants, and to all his land—nothing to compare with that all-powerful hand of his and all the great and terrible things Moses did as every eye in Israel watched."

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Prone to Wander, Lord I Feel It

The very next chapter after the blessings and curses, God starts talking about what would happen if His people turned away from Him. He offers a path back, saying He will forgive, and recieve the people back after they repent and turn back to Him.

The phrase that jumped out to me this morning is:

6 -7 "God, your God, will cut away the thick calluses on your heart and your children's hearts, freeing you to love God, your God, with your whole heart and soul and live, really live."
Thick calluses on your heart. Wow. That describes it pretty well.
There is that verse in Isaiah that says, " 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way..."
I am reminded of a hymn we used to sing. I have reprinted all the words here.

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

Here is the story of the author of the words of that hymn.

Robert Robinson

"Robinson’s wi­dowed mo­ther sent him at age 14 to Lon­don, to learn the trade of bar­ber and hair dress­er. How­ev­er, his mas­ter found he en­joyed read­ing more than work. Con­vert­ed to Christ at age 17, Ro­bin­son be­came a Meth­od­ist min­is­ter. He lat­er moved to the Bapt­ist church and pas­tored in Cam­bridge, Eng­land. He wrote a num­ber of hymns, as well as on the sub­ject of the­ol­o­gy. His lat­er life was ev­i­dent­ly not an ea­sy one, judg­ing from a well known sto­ry about his hymn “Come, Thou Fount of Ev­ery Bless­ing.” One day, he en­count­ered a wo­man who was stu­dy­ing a hymn­al, and she asked how he liked the hymn she was hum­ming. In tears, he re­plied, “Madam, I am the poor un­hap­py man who wrote that hymn ma­ny years ago, and I would give a thou­sand worlds, if I had them, to en­joy the feel­ings I had then.”

The story of the people of Israel was one of wandering away from God and coming back to Him.
It is the story of Robert Robinson.
Unfortunately, it is my own story far too often...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Blessings (or Curses)

I want this!

"God's blessing inside the city,

God's blessing in the country;

God's blessing on your children, the crops of your land, the young of your livestock, the calves of your herds, the lambs of your flocks.

God's blessing on your basket and bread bowl;

God's blessing in your coming in,

God's blessing in your going out. " (Deuteronomy 28:2-6)

7 "God will defeat your enemies who attack you. They'll come at you on one road and run away on seven roads.
8 God will order a blessing on your barns and workplaces; he'll bless you in the land that God, your God, is giving you."

The blessing of God on your life, your family, your work, your investments. God's blessing on your food, your daily activities and your travels. God's blessing everywhere. All the time.

The promises go on.

9 "God will form you as a people holy to him, just as he promised you, if you keep the commandments of God, your God, and live the way he has shown you.
10 All the peoples on Earth will see you living under the Name of God and hold you in respectful awe. "

This has certainly happened to the Jews as a group. By any measure, God's blessing has been on them as a people. If you look at creativity, in music, in art, photography, acting, producing or writing movies. If you look at accomplishments, in science, research, agriculture, patents. If you look at business, whether industry, or banking or international trade. God has blessed them. That same blessing is offered to us Gentiles as well. Read on...

11 -14 "God will lavish you with good things: children from your womb, offspring from your animals, and crops from your land, the land that God promised your ancestors that he would give you. God will throw open the doors of his sky vaults and pour rain on your land on schedule and bless the work you take in hand. You will lend to many nations but you yourself won't have to take out a loan. God will make you the head, not the tail; you'll always be the top dog, never the bottom dog, as you obediently listen to and diligently keep the commands of God, your God, that I am commanding you today. Don't swerve an inch to the right or left from the words that I command you today by going off following and worshiping other gods."
That could easily be presented as the story of North America over the 200 years that they followed God. Not so much now, as in the last 70 years the country has officially, governmentally and educationally gone far away from God.
Are there conditions to this happy state? Yes. The passage begins with conditions.
1 -6 "If you listen obediently to the Voice of God, your God, and heartily obey all his commandments that I command you today..."
The entire passage begins with an "IF".
What if a person or people does NOT follow God and His commands? I mentioned curses in the title. Read with me...

15 -19 "Here's what will happen if you don't obediently listen to the Voice of God, your God, and diligently keep all the commandments and guidelines that I'm commanding you today. All these curses will come down hard on you:

God's curse in the city,
God's curse in the country;
God's curse on your basket and bread bowl;
God's curse on your children,
the crops of your land,
the young of your livestock,
the calves of your herds,
the lambs of your flocks.
God's curse in your coming in,
God's curse in your going out.

20 God will send The Curse, The Confusion, The Contrariness down on everything you try to do until you've been destroyed and there's nothing left of you—all because of your evil pursuits that led you to abandon me.
21 God will infect you with The Disease, wiping you right off the land that you're going in to possess.
22 God will set consumption and fever and rash and seizures and dehydration and blight and jaundice on you. They'll hunt you down until they kill you.
23 -24 The sky over your head will become an iron roof, the ground under your feet, a slab of concrete. From out of the skies God will rain ash and dust down on you until you suffocate.
25 -26 God will defeat you by enemy attack. You'll come at your enemies on one road and run away on seven roads. All the kingdoms of Earth will see you as a horror. Carrion birds and animals will boldly feast on your dead body with no one to chase them away. "

And it goes on.

Here I thought following God was all bliss and joy. Happy, happy, happy all the time. A free pass to heaven, and rollicking good times here below. Name it and claim it. Whatever you want, is yours. A santa claus in the sky that doled out wonderful presents all the time.

Looks like the Bible presents a more serious God. A real God. A holy God who has demands.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Foundation of a Happy Society

We start our class for premarrieds next week. It is the 11th time we have taught this class. We have 5 new couples, one just married couple, and one couple, married many years, who are taking the class to see if they would like to teach it.

In today's reading is one of my favorite marriage verses. It is Deuteronomy 24:5 Here it is:

5 "When a man takes a new wife, he is not to go out with the army or be given any business or work duties. He gets one year off simply to be at home making his wife happy."

The principle is easy to discern. The first year of marriage is a foundational year. Pay attention and take time to adjust. The delight (or bad patterns) that you establish that first year will reverberate througout the years of your marriage.
Would it not be cool if our society took this principle seriously? Let a new couple actually have a year to adjust. No job. No army. No school. No business. Just a time to enjoy each other, get used to living together, and creating patterns of interaction that lead to long term joy.
It is difficult in our modern fast paced society to fulfill this verse literally. However, the principle can still be honored. Cut back on community and church involvement. If you are studying, cut back on classes for a while. If working, don't volunteer for extra hours. What you have just started is huge. It is a marriage. It usually leads to children. It is the foundation of the society.
Ultimately, it is the foundation of a happy society.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

No Juvenile Delinquents

There were no juvenile delinquents in Israel. At least, not for long.

Read this with me:

18 -20 "When a man has a stubborn son, a real rebel who won't do a thing his mother and father tell him, and even though they discipline him he still won't obey..."

Wait a minute! Does the text say mother AND FATHER! You mean, this rebel youngster was raised in a real home? There were TWO parents? Together? And they love this child, and discipline him? OK. I am starting to get it. Read on...

"his father and mother shall forcibly bring him before the leaders at the city gate and say to the city fathers, "This son of ours is a stubborn rebel; he won't listen to a thing we say. He's a glutton and a drunk."

So - his parents are together, and he is part of a caring community. There is order in the society. There are rules. The rules are to be followed. It is a moral society that does not approve of a rebel, an undisciplined no good, who takes chemicals to excess.

21 "Then all the men of the town are to throw rocks at him until he's dead. You will have purged the evil pollution from among you. All Israel will hear what's happened and be in awe."

The MEN are present. And engaged. They are role models. They have standards. And expectations. They carry out capital punishment. And yes, it IS for prevention.

I spent a very long time yesterday trying to find a picture that would work for this blog. In my searching, I ran across teen ranches, counseling for out of control teens, the whole gang movement, gang violence, violence in the schools. Even death row inmates.
I never found a picture that I could put up, that did not seem like a racial put down, or be insensitive to troubled young people.

Any picture I used would have to pass the test of my children's approval. One son-in-law is a youth pastor. His wife (my daughter) works with children. My other son-in-law was a teacher for many years. His wife (my other daughter) is a social worker, working with severly broken homes.

I gave up the search for the perfect picture. But my thinking ended up in a very different direction than it started. Most rebellious teens are reacting to divorces, or the knowledge that they are not loved, or parents that are dysfunctional or distracted. Gangs are all about family. They are a very violent, very harsh substitute for the deepest longing that God has placed in all of us. A relationship with God and a relationship with a loving, integral family.

Before I even finished this blog, my girl cousin, Heidi, commented about her brother and myself...

"I wonder how many times you and Bruce would have been stoned when you were teenagers!"
And she wasn't referring to marijuana.
So I guess that comment sums it up rather nicely!

Monday, March 16, 2009

His Cherished Personal Treasure

"His cherished personal treasure."
Brings up images of a treasure chest full of gold.
But no.
It is God talking about YOU.
In this passage there are many rules and regulations. Underlying it all is that God loves His people. He wants the best for them.
There is to be prosperity, and generosity, justice, fairness and mercy. After 7 years all debts are to be forgiven. No one should be poor among them.
4 -6 "There must be no poor people among you because God is going to bless you lavishly in this land that God, your God, is giving you as an inheritance, your very own land. But only if you listen obediently to the Voice of God, your God, diligently observing every commandment that I command you today. Oh yes—God, your God, will bless you just as he promised."
They are to lend to others, but never borrow, because God is going to prosper them.
"You will lend to many nations but won't borrow from any; you'll rule over many nations but none will rule over you."
Their gifts and sacrifices to God are to be from the first, and from the best, that they have.
Underlying it all, is this truth.
They were "His cherished personal treasure."

Sunday, March 15, 2009

He put you through hard times

There is a lot in today's passage that jumps out at me.

These are hard times for many people. They have been for us.

As I am coming back into the real estate listing and selling business, I am noticing in practice what I have been reading about and seeing on the news. That is - there is an avalanche of foreclosures and "short sales", where the people selling owe more than the house is worth. Every single one of those properties has a story. Mostly it is a story of anguish.

Americans are the most optimistic people on the planet. And among North Americans, the Christians have a firmly held belief that as you follow God, life will just get better and better. Financially, my generation is the most prosperous in the history of the world.

A time of financial contraction, such as we are now in, is a great time for reflection. And a good time to reevaluate life and our assumptions. Listen to what Moses says today:

"Remember every road that God led you on for those forty years in the wilderness, pushing you to your limits, testing you so that he would know what you were made of, whether you would keep his commandments or not. He put you through hard times. He made you go hungry. Then he fed you with manna, something neither you nor your parents knew anything about, so you would learn that men and women don't live by bread only; we live by every word that comes from God's mouth. Your clothes didn't wear out and your feet didn't blister those forty years. You learned deep in your heart that God disciplines you in the same ways a father disciplines his child.
6 -9 So it's paramount that you keep the commandments of God, your God, walk down the roads he shows you and reverently respect him."

You remember that the people were just about the enter the promised land. God knew they would prosper in the years ahead. Here is His prophecy, and also His warning.

11 -16 "Make sure you don't forget God, your God, by not keeping his commandments, his rules and regulations that I command you today. Make sure that when you eat and are satisfied, build pleasant houses and settle in, see your herds and flocks flourish and more and more money come in, watch your standard of living going up and up—make sure you don't become so full of yourself and your things that you forget God, your God, the God who delivered you from Egyptian slavery; the God who led you through that huge and fearsome wilderness, those desolate, arid badlands crawling with fiery snakes and scorpions; the God who gave you water gushing from hard rock; the God who gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never heard of, in order to give you a taste of the hard life, to test you so that you would be prepared to live well in the days ahead of you."

Doesn't that sound a lot like our experience in North America? As I visit the church around the world, I discover that the North American church is consumed by money and materialism. Christianity, in many cases, is a veneer over rampant consumerism. Yet listen to God...

17 -18 "If you start thinking to yourselves, "I did all this. And all by myself. I'm rich. It's all mine!"—well, think again. Remember that God, your God, gave you the strength to produce all this wealth so as to confirm the covenant that he promised to your ancestors—as it is today."

Then a summary. As powerful today, Sunday March 15, 2009 as the day it was spoken:

12 -13 "So now Israel, what do you think God expects from you? Just this: Live in his presence in holy reverence, follow the road he sets out for you, love him, serve God, your God, with everything you have in you, obey the commandments and regulations of God that I'm commanding you today—live a good life."

And when He says, "live a good life", it is a life with the moral quality of goodness. Not the selfish, materialistic, easy life we think of.

Live in His presence.

Live a good life.

Friday, March 13, 2009

What's inside - will come out...

I have a friend whom I have known for 26 years.

He's always talking about God. It is annoying sometimes. He has never changed over the years. Good times. Bad times. Trouble. Comfort. He always talks about God. Me - I more talk about business.

But listen to Moses. Old man Moses, full of passion. Earnest. Direct. Prophetic.

4 Attention, Israel!
God, our God! God the one and only!
5 Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that's in you, love him with all you've got!
6 -9 Write these commandments that I've given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.

Love God with all you've got.

Put His words into your heart.

Let what's inside you spill out.

From the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night.

What's inside - WILL come out...
I ended my blog here this morning.
My friend (who I referred to) emailed me and called me. What he wrote was so powerful, I decided to include it in today's blog. (Thank you, Jim)
It is good to hear from you.I do love to speak of the Lord and about His Goodness. He has been good to me all my life and I know it and see it . I tell people that even if the rest of my life was full of problems and pain that I still will rise up and bless His Name for the gift of life He has given me . The ability to know His goodness overshadows all the rest. Truly " all things work together for those that love the Lord and are called according to His purpose".It takes a long time to let that sink in but the Lord is Good and He is really working that into us in reality. The closer we move to Him the more we love Him.
I asked a pastor of a church the other day"how is it going"? He said he was just trying to stay out of trouble. I said" I guess that depends on who is leading" I told my wife the other day that I am not trying to be religious or weird but Words are important to me and I want people to always know ( believers and non believers) that there is a God and we operate in trusting Him and not in "luck". Maybe I am weird or God wired me that way, I am looking for His coming and my full redemption and then Sin will no longer be in me.
I was very encouraged and moved by your words Phil. Sometimes I need some confirmation that I am about His business. I love Him and am striving to learn how to love Him with all my heart.Praise His Name, He is good and truly His mercies are new every morning. By the way, you have also been an encouragement to me over the years and I believe you are a Godly man of character. I trust your thoughts and words.
Thank you Phil , the Lord bless you( call again)
Your friend and brother in Christ

Thursday, March 12, 2009

No Other gods

We are built to worship. We can't help it. It is part of the most basic part of our nature.

God does not tell us NOT to worship. He knows that is impossible for us.

He tells us not to worship OTHER GODS. Listen:

6 "I am God, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of a house of slaves. 7 No other gods, only me. 8 -10 No carved gods of any size, shape, or form of anything whatever, whether of things that fly or walk or swim. Don't bow down to them and don't serve them because I am God, your God, and I'm a most jealous God. "

Don't bow down to them. And don't serve them.

It seems like it is a matter of priority. We have many gods in our culture. They are worshipped every day.

It does not mean that we can't go to a concert. Or a ball game. Or get a great education. Or love food, or liesure or a hobby, or a car.

But God must be first. First in our affections. First in the time we spend every day, and along the way. First in the money we get and give. First in priorities when we make decisions.

I am trying to give God the first part of every day.

We have long had the practice of giving back the tithe. Someone made the point well - the first check you write, or money you send needs to be the part that goes to God's kingdom.

He asks that we separate the first day of the week for Him.

He demands to be first in our lives.

He says, "I'm a most jealous God."

"No other gods. Only me."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Listen Carefully! Pay Attention!

This is Moses first sermon. Deuteronomy 4. There are many things he wants the people to "get". In his own words...

1 -2 "Now listen, Israel, listen carefully to the rules and regulations that I am teaching you to follow so that you may live and enter and take possession of the land that God, the God-of-Your-Fathers, is giving to you. Don't add a word to what I command you, and don't remove a word from it. Keep the commands of God, your God, that I am commanding you."

5 -6 "Pay attention: I'm teaching you the rules and regulations that God commanded me, so that you may live by them in the land you are entering to take up ownership. Keep them. Practice them. You'll become wise and understanding. When people hear and see what's going on, they'll say, "What a great nation! So wise, so understanding! We've never seen anything like it."
7 -8 Yes. What other great nation has gods that are intimate with them the way God, our God, is with us, always ready to listen to us? And what other great nation has rules and regulations as good and fair as this Revelation that I'm setting before you today?"

23 -24 "So stay alert. Don't for a minute forget the covenant which God, your God, made with you. And don't take up with any carved images, no forms of any kind—God, your God, issued clear commands on that. God, your God, is not to be trifled with—he's a consuming fire, a jealous God."

39 -40 "Know this well, then. Take it to heart right now: God is in Heaven above; God is on Earth below. He's the only God there is. Obediently live by his rules and commands which I'm giving you today so that you'll live well and your children after you—oh, you'll live a long time in the land that God, your God, is giving you."
Well said!
Thanks, Moses.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Wisdom Store

I remember why I have always liked Deuteronomy so well.

Moses is an old man. He is telling the story again - from the beginning.

It's like a store, where you can come to buy some wisdom.

The name means "second law", because indeed, he repeats the law, and much of what has already been written. But he adds the perspective of a man who has walked with God for a life time. He has seen God work. He has seen people respond. And people rebel.

It's sort of like the game my oldest granddaughter likes to play. It goes like this... "Grandpa, tell me a story of when you were little." Are you familiar with that game? Did you play it yourself? With your parents? Other relatives? YOUR grandparents?

So we get to hear, up close and personal, from a great man of God. I don't know if all the people there realized what a privilege it was.

We DO, however. So pull up a chair.

You are welcome to ask questions.

He will tell the entire story.

He starts with a recap of their 40 years of wandering. They could have gotten into the promised land in two years. Here Moses says their sojourn was because of their disobedience and rebellion.

Wow! Has that ever happened to you?

Time wasted. Time lost.


Because you were not following the path God wanted to lead you on?


Its gonna be good...

Monday, March 9, 2009

Judicial System




Themes dealt with in Leviticus 35. Summed up nicely in verse 33: "Don't pollute the land in which you live. Murder pollutes the land. The land can't be cleaned up of the blood of murder except through the blood of the murderer."

Accidental murder got leniency. There were 6 cities set up that you could run to. Once inside you were safe.

Motivation was weighed. The tool involved in the murder was a significant part of the process.

16 "But if the killer has used an iron object, that's just plain murder; he's obviously a murderer and must be put to death.
17 "Or if he has a rock in his hand big enough to kill and the man dies, that's murder; he's a murderer and must be put to death.
18 "Or if he's carrying a wooden club heavy enough to kill and the man dies, that's murder; he's a murderer and must be put to death.
19 "In such cases the avenger has a right to kill the murderer when he meets him—he can kill him on the spot. "

So if you claimed to have killed someone accidentally, but the implement that killed the person was considered lethal - you were assumed to have had intent to kill, even if you claimed you did not.

There was always an avenger. Sort of like our present day police. I imagine the avenger was a man or group of men from the family of the deceased. It is assumed all throughout this passage that there is an avenger chasing the murderer. Justice is involved in allowing, or NOT allowing the avenger to take the life of the murderer as just compensation.

Motivation was a strong factor in every case. 20 -21 "And if out of sheer hatred a man pushes another or from ambush throws something at him and he dies, or angrily hits him with his fist and kills him, that's murder—he must be put to death. The avenger has a right to kill him when he gets him. "

The jury system was established. 22 -27 "If, however, he impulsively pushes someone and there is no history of hard feelings, or he impetuously picks up something and throws it, or he accidentally drops a stone tool—a maul or hammer, say—and it hits and kills someone he didn't even know was there, and there's no suspicion that there was bad blood between them, the community is to judge between the killer and the avenger following these guidelines. It's the task of the community to save the killer from the hand of the avenger—the community is to return him to his asylum-city to which he fled."

We have a double system of justice. The internal sense of fairness that says wrongs should be punished. And a legal system, based largely on the Bible, to weigh motives, involve the community, give mercy occasionally, and mete out punishment to the wrong doer.

A human legal system is never perfect.

But by and large, justice must be served for a people to live in peace.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Reflection - and Hope.

In Numbers 33 and 34 Moses is looking back. And also looking forward. The account of Numbers is winding down, with its brisk and rather perfunctory telling of the travels and events in the life of the wandering people of Israel.

Deuteronomy is coming up, where Moses gets reflective. He teaches. He reiterates God's laws and what it means to follow them.

Here Moses recounts the journey. He kept a journal. (If he didn't we would not get to read all this.) He has kept careful records of everywhere they have been.

I can't help but reflect on what Moses' life was like.

Did he have a pocket daytimer? Did he himself write everything down, or did he have a group of scribes? He was trained in Egypt - the leading empire of the world at the time. Did he have a whole department dedicated to his writing? One group preparing fresh parchment every day. Another group writing feverishly as he dictated? Another group reviewing, editing, rewriting with better diction or more accurate language? A whole group dedicated to storage - including filing, retrieving, cataloguing?

While I think about it, what WAS his life like? Did he get up early every morning? Did he go somewhere specific to meet with God? Did he meet with the leaders at a specific time each day? Did he enjoy his life, or was it a burden and drugery for him?

I am at a time in life when I am looking back. And looking ahead. Every year I take a day or two to write down my goals for the upcoming year. I could not do that this year. Everything was so chaotic and uncertain, I could not predict or plan what might happen. I am still feeling my way along, uncertain what will develop and what my life will look like.

Moses is at that time in his life here. He reviews their journey. God lays out for him the borders of their new land, and instructions for taking it. However, Moses does not appear in that picture. He is not going to be able to go in. He will see it, and send them in with many words from God.
But he will not be with them.

I find that very nostalgic and sad in a way. Yet God had used him. And God was not finished with him yet. His most important words were yet to be spoken. They had more weight and more power and more lasting impact BECAUSE of the life journey he had lived.

Friday night some friends had us over for supper. There were two other people invited. Our evening consisted of hearing each persons story. EACH story had a lot of pain. Each story also reflected the glory and faithfulness of God.


And hope...

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Sex, Plagues and Plop & Roll

The sex starts with Balaam. Yeah - the guy with the talking donkey.

He tried to get a curse from God to pronounce over the people of Israel. The Bible dedicates an entire chapter to the endeavor. Three prophecies come out, each one more strongly in favor of the people of Israel than the one before.

So he comes up with an alternate plan. Send out the beautiful, lucious women.

No kidding! And it works.

The men go "gaga", start having sex with them, and start worshipping their idols, which are part of a blood thirsty and sex oriented religion. "While Israel was camped at Shittim (Acacia Grove), the men began to have sex with the Moabite women. It started when the women invited the men to their sex-and-religion worship. They ate together and then worshiped their gods. Israel ended up joining in the worship of the Baal of Peor." (Numbers 25:1-3)

How does God feel about this? Not happy.

Triple disobedience. 1. Don't mingle with the locals. 2. Don't have sex outside of marriage. 3. Don't worship any gods other than God almighty. As a culmination of haughty disregard for God's standards, one of the leaders proudly parades his beauty in front of everybody, takes her into his tent in broad daylight, and starts "doin what comes nachrally". The priest of God went into the tent and put a sword through the both of them. Put out the passion rather suddenly...
(Its all in there. Chapter 25)

God was S-O-O-O angry, he started a plague among the people. The action of this priest stopped the plague, but 24,000 people died. (Did I say God was angry?) "God spoke to Moses: "Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has stopped my anger against the People of Israel. Because he was as zealous for my honor as I myself am, I didn't kill all the People of Israel in my zeal. So tell him that I am making a Covenant-of-Peace with him." (Leviticus 25:10-13)

Plop and Roll
So it is some time later.
"God spoke to Moses: "Avenge the People of Israel on the Midianites. Afterward you will go to be with your dead ancestors." (Numbers 31:1,2) So Moses sends only 12,ooo men to deal with the Midianites. If I understand correctly, they killed EVERY Midianite man, and not a single Israelite soldier died. Not quite sure how that happened, but it appears that it did.

What happened to Balaam? He was killed too...

So the Midianites plopped down dead and rolled over. (I know, it is a sad attempt to be "cute", and it didn't work very well.)

Several family groups negotiate to settle into the land and houses they have just emptied. The conquest and take over of the promised land has begun!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Doesn't Seem Right!

Moses has been faithful.

He has sacrificed a lot.

God has used him to effect some of the mightiest miracles of history.

He will be revered by Jews and Christians through the ages.

Yet here he is, toward the end of his life. God is telling him what will happen, although it does not happen for a while. He will get to SEE the land that the people are to possess and live in, but he will not get to GO to it.

Wow! After all the dust, and the complaints, and the desert, and the rebellions... He does not get to actually go into the land. And why?

"When you've had a good look you'll be joined to your ancestors in the grave—yes, you also along with Aaron your brother. This goes back to the day when the congregation quarreled in the Wilderness of Zin and you didn't honor me in holy reverence before them in the matter of the waters, the Waters of Meribah."

He didn't honor God in holy reverence. He became accustomed to being used by God, and almost started acting as if the power were HIS. He was tired and he was angry. He was sick and tired of the people complaining. I seem to be able to make lots of excuses for him, but God does not. He disobeyed, and he dishonored God.

I had to go back and read the original story again. Here it is...

The LORD said to Moses, 8 "Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink."
9 So Moses took the staff from the LORD's presence, just as he commanded him. 10 He and Aaron gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them, "Listen, you rebels, must WE bring you water out of this rock?" 11 Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.
12 But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them."

So Moses does not get to go into the land of Caanan. He does not get to have an heir to take over leadership in his name.

He is going to die.

On top of the mountain.

An old man.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Strange Story

Today we start with the people of Israel on a rampage. They are coming up the east side of the Dead Sea, and that area was pretty populated. Different than some of the desert where they had been wandering. Not even a rat would live out there. This land was varied, and nice, and people had settled into towns, with kings.

Of course, 3 million people coming to pay a visit was a pretty big threat. The first Caananite king came out and attacked them. Here is what follows:

2 "Israel vowed a vow to God: "If you will give this people into our power, we'll destroy their towns and present the ruins to you as a holy destruction."
3 God listened to Israel's prayer and gave them the Canaanites. They destroyed both them and their towns, a holy destruction. They named the place Hormah (Holy Destruction). "

So - next time you are mad and go on a rampage, don't say you lost your temper. Just say you are causing "a holy destruction" Well - that struck me as funny when I read it, but as I write it I realize it is not funny. Not funny at all. If you have an anger problem you need to get counselling...

On to a truly strange story.

The Israelites are moving in. They take over a number of towns and cities, kill all the residents and take over the real estate. I am a real estate investor, but this is the best deal I have ever seen. Fix up the house (from the damage that you yourself did) and move in. No down payment, no qualifying, no mortgage, no payments, no real estate taxes, no utility bills. Sounds great to me!

(I must be in a really weird mood today!)

The strangest story is still to come. There is a guy called Balaam. If you think the Bible story is about his butt you are wrong. It is about his donkey.

He was known as a diviner. God talks to him, so perhaps he is a God follower or prophet, but he acts more like a mercernary witch doctor, doing spells and incantations for money. The leader of the next town sends a contingent to this guy - offering to pay money for a curse.

Balaam asks them to stay overnight so he can ask God in the morning. God says to Balaam, "Don't go with them. And don't curse the others—they are a blessed people." So Balaam says "No".

The king sends another contingent. More senior in his administration. MUCH more money offered. When Balaam hears the sum of money he thinks, "Maybe I didn't hear God right. Let's try this again..." So they stay overnight also.

The next morning God says, "Go, but only say what I tell you." So they are all returning together to see the king. Everybody is hopeful for a satisfactory and profitable result of this little trek.

God puts an angel in the way, so the donkey can't go around it. Balaam beats the donkey. Once. Twice. Three times. Finally the donkey talks to him. "Can't you see the angel? Why are you beating me these three times?" If that isn't bad enough, Balaam now sees the angel, who asks the same thing again, "Why are you beating your poor donkey these three times?"

Balaam repents, goes on his way, and ends up blessing the people of Israel. I rather think he did not collect the cash, but apparently he got away with his life.

What is the lesson? I have no clue. But it sure is an interesting story...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009



It has a bite unlike any other.

Am I connected?

Do I belong?

Are these MY people, or am I a stranger? Dislocated? Out of place?

Who cares for me, at the deepest level?

Moses was surrounded by some three million people. Yet at this point in his life he was very lonely. He had sent his wife and two kids away long ago to live in their ancestral home. They didn't have facebook OR email to keep in touch.

God had allowed him to work hand in glove with his brother. His older sister was always around. Close at hand.

In this passage Miriam, his older sister dies. She had rescued him from the waters of the Nile as a baby. Been close at hand when he was growing up. Although they lost contact for forty years, they reconnected when Moses came back, storming into Egypt and confronting Pharoah. She was always there during all the adventures in the desert. And now she was gone...

1 "In the first month, the entire company of the People of Israel arrived in the Wilderness of Zin. The people stayed in Kadesh.
Miriam died there, and she was buried."

He didn't have time to properly mourn, becuase they immediately fell into another crisis in Kadesh. So they moved on...

22 "The People of Israel, the entire company, set out from Kadesh and traveled to Mount Hor.
23 -26 God said to Moses and Aaron at Mount Hor at the border of Edom, "It's time for Aaron to be gathered into the company of his ancestors. He will not enter the land I am giving to the People of Israel because you both rebelled against my orders at the Waters of Meribah. So take Aaron and his son Eleazar and lead them up Mount Hor. Remove Aaron's clothes from him and put them on his son Eleazar. Aaron will be gathered there; Aaron will die."
27 -29 Moses obeyed God's command. They climbed Mount Hor as the whole congregation watched. Moses took off Aaron's clothes and put them on his son Eleazar. Aaron died on top of the mountain. Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain. The whole congregation, getting the news that Aaron had died, went into thirty days of mourning for him."

This is doubly sad. Aaron, his quirky younger brother, was at his side at all times. Like so many brother relationships, he was a source of trouble as well as a source of strength and inspiration. I think they truly were best friends.

And now he was not only dead - but dead in disgrace.

This time the group properly mourns. Thirty days. But I think Moses' private mourning went on a whole lot longer.

My beloved grandpa died when I was 19. The other 3 before I was 25. Then my adored and beloved sister Dorie died when she was 44 of breast cancer. My beloved auntie Doris at 80 from heart failure. My Dad died in 2003. My Mom in 2007. Uncle Cecil shortly after.

I have experienced the bite of loneliness. Even when surrounded by good and loving people.

It hurts!


The unrest from yesterday comes to a head today.

"Korah...had with him 250 leaders of the congregation of Israel, prominent men with positions in the Council. They came as a group and confronted Moses and Aaron, saying, "You've overstepped yourself. This entire community is holy and God is in their midst. So why do you act like you're running the whole show?"
4 On hearing this, Moses threw himself facedown on the ground.
5 Then he addressed Korah and his gang: "In the morning God will make clear who is on his side, who is holy. God will take his stand with the one he chooses."

Moses response is not to argue. Not to contradict. Not to get defensive. He appeals to God Himself for direction and help. In the morning he has a word from God, and tells the two remaining sons of Aaron to come to the door of the Tent of Meeting.

Listen to THEIR answer:

12 -14 Moses then ordered Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, to appear, but they said, "We're not coming. Isn't it enough that you yanked us out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness? And now you keep trying to boss us around! Face it, you haven't produced: You haven't brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, you haven't given us the promised inheritance of fields and vineyards. You'd have to poke our eyes out to keep us from seeing what's going on. Forget it, we're not coming."

This time Moses response is very human:

15 Moses' temper blazed white-hot. He said to God, "Don't accept their Grain-Offering. I haven't taken so much as a single donkey from them; I haven't hurt a single hair of their heads."

The result is dramatic.

And violent.

19 "It was Korah and his gang against Moses and Aaron at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. The entire community could see the Glory of God.
20 -21 God said to Moses and Aaron, "Separate yourselves from this congregation so that I can finish them off and be done with them."
22 They threw themselves on their faces and said, "O God, God of everything living, when one man sins are you going to take it out on the whole community?"
23 -24 God spoke to Moses: "Speak to the community. Tell them, Back off from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram."

Then God "did His thang..."

"...the Earth split open. Earth opened its mouth and in one gulp swallowed them down, the men and their families, all the human beings connected with Korah, along with everything they owned. And that was the end of them, pitched alive into Sheol. The Earth closed up over them and that was the last the community heard of them.
34 At the sound of their cries everyone around ran for dear life, shouting, "We're about to be swallowed up alive!"
35 Then God sent lightning. The fire cremated the 250 men who were offering the incense."


Talk about Shock and Awe!!

I don't even know how to apply this. Let God do the fight for you? He can always take care of your enemy better than you can?

Its OK to be angry when you are attacked? Just don't let the anger control your response?

I don't know what to learn from this. It certainly is entertaining, like all good fights are. Would make a great movie. Wish God would do this stuff today.

In every group there are challenges to the leadership. Most leaders squash it powerfully and thoroughly. I guess Moses did too, but with a God component. Interesting stuff...

Monday, March 2, 2009

Turmoil, Toil and Trouble - Double Trouble

This is a tempestous time.

Of the twelve men Moses sent out in reconnoissance - ten have been killed by God. God sentences the entire group to forty years of wandering in the dry and parched desert - one year for every day the demoralized scouts spent in Caanan.

God offers to kill the whole lot and start over. Moses pleads with Him to reconsider.

A group of guys valiantly and foolishly decide they will march into Caanan and "kick butt." God says "No." Moses says "No" and they go anyway. They are immediately and easily routed. Many die.

Then we read a prayer that Moses offered at this time. It is Psalm 90. Its language is exalted, but also piteous.

1 -2 "God, it seems you've been our home forever;
long before the mountains were born,
Long before you brought earth itself to birth,
from "once upon a time" to "kingdom come"
—you are God. "

He goes on...

"Are we no more to you than a wispy dream,
no more than a blade of grass
That springs up gloriously with the rising sun
and is cut down without a second thought?
Your anger is far and away too much for us;
we're at the end of our rope."

My favorite part...

"We live for seventy years or so
(with luck we might make it to eighty),
And what do we have to show for it? Trouble.
Toil and trouble and a marker in the graveyard."

This part of his prayer I make my own...

12 -17 "Oh! Teach us to live well!
Teach us to live wisely and well!
Come back, God—how long do we have to wait?—
and treat your servants with kindness for a change.
Surprise us with love at daybreak;
then we'll skip and dance all the day long.
Make up for the bad times with some good times;
we've seen enough evil to last a lifetime.
Let your servants see what you're best at—
the ways you rule and bless your children.
And let the loveliness of our Lord, our God, rest on us,
confirming the work that we do.
Oh, yes. Affirm the work that we do! "

Sometimes the times of greatest turmoil and trouble create the closest relationship with God...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

So - You Want to be a Leader?

It started innocently enough.

It was a simple and appropriate decision. The people are close to the area they plan to invade, take over, and settle in. Moses sends out 12 CIA agents, carefully selected leaders, one from each family group.

They do reconnaissance throughout Canaan for 40 days, investigating the people, the culture, troop strength, the land, the crops. After they come back, they submit a highly classified dossier to the Commander in Chief.

The report leaks to the press, and pandemonium breaks out! Seriously! Read this:

1 -3 "The whole community was in an uproar, wailing all night long. All the People of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The entire community was in on it: "Why didn't we die in Egypt? Or in this wilderness? Why has God brought us to this country to kill us? Our wives and children are about to become plunder. Why don't we just head back to Egypt? And right now!"
4 Soon they were all saying it to one another: "Let's pick a new leader; let's head back to Egypt."
5 Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in front of the entire community, gathered in emergency session."

Sounds just like the main stream media in the US about the war in Iraq. At least, between the time of initial success, and before the final success.

Sometimes it is great to be the leader.

Sometimes it sucks...