Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Following The Money Trail

Good morning my friends,

It has been an adventurous couple of weeks for me filled with great moments and many frustrations. The frustrations usually center around technology; it's great when it works but when it doesn't .... Anyway, I apologize for the number of days I have missed with the devotions. I prepared them but was unable to upload them.

This morning we continue our journey through Numbers, specifically looking at Balaam in numbers 23 and 24. This was a case of religion for hire. It is subtle so most people miss the whole point here but it was basically Balaam went where the money was. It can sometimes be the case today as well. Often churches will get involved in community projects and will receive money from the government for it. But when the money is gone the church drops the program. Sometimes it is not about faith and service but instead its all about money.

In this passion week we also find Jesus chasing out the merchants from the temple. A sacred place of prayer had turned into a money making opportunity. Jesus unleashed an anger that had not been shown against anyone else. It is hard for people to reconcile this image in their mind. Yet, God has told us that he is a jealous God. These people had set up a barrier to prevent people from enter into the temple if they could not pay, all for the opportunity to make money.

Most church programs and community programs start off with the best of intentions and there is little doubt they often have a great impact. However, when money is involved our motivation can be tainted. Many churches are desperate for money and will do most anything to survive. We begin to lose sight of God's will and the need for faith. God decides which things will continue and which will not. Yet, we mess around with that will because we are an intelligent people and we can always find a way to survive. We find it hard to let go but this does not bring honour and glory to God.

This is getting harder and harder for us to understand because we are back in the days of Babel and everything seems like a good idea. It seemed like a good idea to build the tower. It seemed like a good idea for Balaam to listen to the king. It seemed like a good idea to provide the animals for sacrifice for those who had to travel a distance. It always seems like a good idea but just because it seems like a good idea does not mean it is God's will.

For too long we have allowed the god of mammon to control our lives, the church and our actions. What we do should never depend on the amount of money we have. What we do should always depend on the Father's will. Perhaps it will not make any sense; it doesn't matter. Do what the Father wants and it will always turn out well.

May the Lord prove to be all you need for today.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Disobedient By Nature

Good morning my friends,

So they did it. The Israelites were given a long list of instructions of how they were to set up everything and do everything and they did it. You can know they did it because we are given every detail of what they did, right down to the exact offering each leader brought. Maybe to you it is a matter of information overload but it should be a matter of noting the dedication and obedience of these people to God’s instruction. Mind you, it did not last long as they soon went back to their usual disobedient selves.

This brings to mind a question Jesus posed through a story:

"What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.'

" 'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

"Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go.

"Which of the two did what his father wanted?"
"The first," they answered.

Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him. (Matthew 21:28-32)

I have left this passage in its context as Jesus used the story to speak to those who were rejecting the direction of the Father. I also want you to consider that this story reveals the heart of the Father toward obedience.

It is not good enough to put on a show for God. He is not interested in actions that lack the proper motivation. That is not to say he is not interested in our actions. However, what he wants is the perfect situation of a heart dedicated to him that provokes obedience in our actions. We can be like the son who says yes to the instructions. We can raise our hands in worship and yell out Amen at the right moments in the preaching but if we walk away and do what our rebellious nature dictates for us to do our words are useless.

Perhaps we are rebellious to begin with. Perhaps we hear what we are suppose to do Perhaps it strikes us as impossible or something we just do not want. We are rebellious toward God and say forget it. But then the Spirit works on us and we submit ourselves to God’s direction, the Father’s will. Jesus tells us this is worth so much more than those empty words of promise to obey.

Obedience to God is not just when it is convenient for us. It is not just on sunny days. The Israelites were obedient when there was no opposition but when opposition presented itself they failed to trust God and fell back into their rebellious ways. Our real challenge is our obedience in the things we do not want to do. I am not going to lie and say it is a simple matter; it isn’t. These are the moments of spiritual crisis and sometimes they last for more than one season as we struggle to submit our rebellious nature to the Father’s will. The strange thing is the Father seems to be very patient in these times. Our success in these struggles is what will define our character.

Some of you parents may be able to relate to the Father as you deal with adolescents who struggle to submit themselves to the will of their parents. We need the strength of the Father to be patient during this season. Just as we have to learn patience in matters we do not want to submit to so do they. It is not easy as they deal with the issues of respect along with their changing perspective of life and the world. We need to keep in mind how much the Father respects us by allowing us to make that decision for ourselves. We often fail our adolescents by not giving them the respect that they also deserve. We owe it to them to listen to their ideas, their concerns, their fears, their dreams. As we listen we discover their hearts and we are better able to understand who they are. We may discover the reasons for their struggle to obey and in understanding we become patient, giving them the time they need to submit to something that is hard for them to submit to.

We need to take time today to worship our God and thank him for being so patient with a people who can be so stubborn in our rebellion. He is an incredible God!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Blessings

Good morning my friends,

The idea of blessing others permeates the Old and New Testament, whether formal or informal:

The LORD said to Moses, "Tell Aaron and his sons, 'This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

" ' "The LORD bless you
and keep you;

the LORD make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;

the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace." '

"So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them." (Numbers 6:22-27)

Also:

And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' (Matthew 22:39)

Also:

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. (Hebrews 13:17)

Perhaps you do not see these other passages as having anything to do with blessing, or at least the passage from Hebrews. In our current age we are all twisted in our thoughts of authority and obedience. We tend not to submit to the authority but to argue with it or feel resentment towards it, or feel that we must always question it.

Now I am not advocating blind obedience to authority because all authority is imperfect; just ask a teenager. (That should provoke some comments). I think it is proper to examine what authority is saying and measure the worth. If we have questions there is a proper way of approaching that authority; it is called respect. All authority must be respected. However, if everything is questioned and there is no trust then the job of the authority is going to become hard and burdensome. Allow me to use school as an example (after all what else do I know).

The teacher’s responsibility is to teach or to create an atmosphere of learning. That is all a teacher desires to do is share information that will see the students grow and attain greater character and wisdom. However, if students decide to fight against the simplest rules, becomes argumentative and disobedient then they are turning the teacher from a teacher to a manager. The teacher must now manage and deal with all the difficulties. This makes his or her job burdensome because they want to teach but end up managing. It affects everyone. Being burdened the teacher has less capacity to bless his or her students. Everyone loses.

When there is cooperation and respect the authority finds their responsibility a real joy. They are happy to serve those they have authority over. They then become a source of joy. They gladly lay down their lives, become a drink offering and bless the lives they serve. There is a marked difference and everyone benefits. In my example, the students’ obedience to the rules becomes a blessing to the teacher. It really does change everything.

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

My students, do you understand? The same is applied to parents and children. If children would respect their parents it would be to their advantage. This is the reason why it is the only command with a promise.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Significance of Feasts

Good morning my friends,

Everyone loves a good party! Well, maybe not everyone. Ok, so let’s say everyone loves a holiday. We all like getting a day off from work when we can do what we want to do (unless you are a parent of 9 children). Yet, the holidays we have often have a greater purpose to them than just allowing us a time to do what we want. The purpose of a holiday is often to remember something. Unfortunately most of our holidays have lost any significance to us.

God had given Israel seven days of remembrance, if we were to count the Sabbath as a single day. It is interesting how the numbers work. The Sabbath represented a day of rest every seventh day and there were seven days representing a rest from labour for the purpose of remembrance. All of these feasts and celebrations were to mark a particular significant moment in the history and development of the nation of Israel. God wanted them to remember these moments. He wanted them to reserve a time when they would reflect on who they were and what their God had done for them and to pass this on to their children

We have two very important dates in our Christian calendar that we mark along with the rest of our society. For our society these are feast that have lost any significance and are simply a time off from work. For some Christians it is much the same. Yet, we need to recognize the importance of reflecting on these moments. Easter is approaching. This is the most significant moment in our history. This is the day the Son of God stepped into our place and took upon himself the penalty that was intended for us. He did this at the direction of the Father. It is a moment when we remember his death. It is a bitter and then sweet celebration as we come together on Sunday to celebrate the victory he won for us by breaking the grip of death.

I think we have it all backwards as we turn Christmas into something of greater worth than Easter. Most people take a week or two of holidays at Christmas and put a lot of money and emphasis into it. Christmas is significant but its celebration would be lost without Easter. We need to recapture our sense of awe and anticipation as Jesus draws nearer his time of suffering. We need to recapture our appreciation and adoration of what the Son of God did for us. It is great to celebrate Easter Sunday but we also need to approach Good Friday with a great deal of respect and humble worship. I believe that this is the day we need to put more effort into rebuilding awe and enter into it with a sense of it being the most holy day in existence. It should be a day of great respect.

Some would argue against what they see as a religious spirit but I argue against them. There is nothing religious about having days that cause us to stop, reflect and remember what Jesus has done for us. Yes, we celebrate this all year long but we need to take these opportunities given to us to teach the significance and respect due to our God to our children. As we remember we need to teach. I am afraid that in our desire to throw off some of the trappings of the traditional church we are also throwing out the significant and the holy.

Where will you be on Good Friday? Where will your children be? Will you demonstrate the significance of this day to them? Will they grow up remembering? Youth, where will you be? What will you be planning to do on Good Friday? Will you remember the significance of this day? Will you remove your “sandals” on this most holy day and call him Saviour?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

We Lost That Loving Feeling

Good morning my friends,

I believe we have lost a bit of respect for our God. There was a time when we would dress our very best on Sundays as a sign of respect. We would treat everything to do with worship with a sense of reverence and perhaps fear. I know I was raised to respect the property of the church because it belonged to Jesus. As a child, if I was going to be bad on Sunday, I would wait until I was away from the church. Perhaps a silly idea but one that showed I was raised to respect what belonged to God. Unfortunately the teaching that everything belongs to the Lord did not sink in as far.

As we read Leviticus this morning we get this same sense of reverence and respect for the things of God. God demanded it. The priests no longer belonged to themselves but to God and they were expected to behave in a manner different from the general population. In fact, this was so important that any priest who had a defect could not make the offerings. They were not cut off and rejected from the priesthood; they simply could not approach the holy things of worship. Why? Because:

I am the LORD, who makes them holy. (Leviticus 21:23)

In a couple of generations where irreverence is the rule of the day it is hard for us to understand this kind of respect. The problem is, if we lose respect and fear of our God then we also lose them for the created things of God. Would you say that we live in a society that emphasizes respect for our neighbours or do we place our rights above those of our neighbour’s? Consider some of the teachings of Jesus. What did he emphasize? What about Paul’s letters? What did he often say?

Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' (Matthew 22:37-39)

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)

As we lose our love, our respect of our God everything else begins to slip as well. But do we not realize that we too have been called as priests, to serve our God with our lives? Do we not understand the importance of treating all of God’s created things with respect but especially his holy things, our brothers and sisters? We too have rules to follow but these rules spring willingly from hearts filled with love for our God:

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:1-17)

We are a holy people, instruments chosen by God to serve his holy purpose. Either we have forgotten that fact or we have forgotten our respect for our Holy God. We continue to look for that renewed spiritual awakening.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

It Is A Matter Of Respect - Nothing Else

Just how important is it to respect parents and the elderly? Have we completely lost our understanding of God's desire in this area of respect?

video

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Sacrificing To Molech

Good morning my friends,

I think most of you would agree with me that the world is a crazy mixed up place. Most restraints that were placed on people by our society have been thrown off as our society loses sight of the holy things. There used to be a very clear distinction between right and wrong. Perhaps these distinctions were poorly applied and people suffered as a result but just because some people went overboard with it does not make it right today.

This morning’s reading contained a chapter on wrong sexual behaviour. It would have been difficult for my younger students and I will temper my comments on it because of them. One would think that common sense would dictate that this behaviour is wrong but there is no such thing as common sense. We do have a moral compass that God has built in us but often we do not know how to apply that compass to our behaviour. Our sin nature has knocked it out of whack. The law was given and then explained in detail so that the people could understand that compass.

Unfortunately everything that was listed this morning takes place every day in this world. Thirty-five hundred years ago we were told not to behave in this manner and yet today we find this behaviour to be far too common. Unfortunately as our society becomes more “tolerant” of these “life-style choices” we are going to find more of our children becoming curious and experimenting with them. Our public school system is very good at spreading the gospel of some of these groups, all in the name of tolerance and equality. Next the common thief will be pushing for his rights because his is a “life-style” choice. As far as I am concerned (and this is a personal opinion) sending our children to public education is the same as sacrificing them to Molech. There are some great Christian teachers in the system but there are too few to protect our children from the ideas and opinions that bombard our children every day. These teachers are more like evangelists, out to save as many of the perishing as possible.

A big problem in all of this is the attitude of many Christians. First there are the pastors who do not recognize the mounting dangers of the public education system and fail to uphold the Word that tells us to train up our children in the ways of the Lord. Second, there are the pastors and fellow Christians who have pet-sins that they pick on. We have countless sermons being preached out there against the evils of homosexuality but what about the sin in the church that is taking place right in from of the pastor? Is there any difference between the sin of homosexuality and the sin of sleeping with your neighbours wife?

It is one thing to be narrowed on the Word of God and it is another to put blinders on so we can’t see what is happening around us. Pastors, teachers, evangelists, Christian workers must all be willing to open their eyes fully that we may see all the things that are happening around us. We need to recognize what is happening in our public schools. Only a miracle will be able to turn that beast around and from what I read in the Word the end times are only suppose to get worse. We need to start facing the times we are in. We need to train up our children. Get them into an educational system we believe in and trust. Make decisions about what they are watching on TV. Monitor their internet use and guide them in good choices. Help them select friends who will not destroy them. Take an active part in their spiritual growth. We will take them to sports events and desire to see their physical, social and mental skills increase. Yet, when it comes to their spiritual growth we do not give it much thought.

Understand that parents sacrificed their children to Molech in the hopes of securing a better future for themselves. I hope we are not doing the same thing by choosing our desires over our children’s needs. I hope we do not send them to daycare and school with the attitude that they are being babysat while we continue with our life? I hope we do not choose public education over Christian because we want to save our money for something we want to buy for ourselves. I hope all of us who are Christian parents will remember that we will have to give an account for our decisions with our children.

I also hope that we will stop pointing fingers at the world. They are acting as their sin nature dictates. They are acting normal for their nature. However, we have been saved from this so there should be a difference in the Church. As we reach out to the world let us not lose sight of the correction that must continue within the Body of Christ. There is a difference between the Holy and the Common.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Day of Atonement

He paid the penalty of our sin. We must not take that sacrifice for granted.

video

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Disease Of Pessimism

Good morning my friends,

Pessimism is contagious. It is like a disease that is introduced to a healthy group, spreading from cell to cell until the body is left diseased and sickly. Pessimism robs a group of its strength and desire and it spreads quickly once it is introduced to a group. This is what Moses found himself facing as the 12 spies gave their report to the assembly.

Although these men recognized it was a good land ten of them allowed their personal fears to interfere with the instruction of God:

“But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan." (Numbers 13:28-29)

God’s voice is never silenced even when facing pessimism. Caleb stood before the people and tried to rally them to the Lord’s side He told them they should attack now. But pessimism can be a strong foe, especially when there are people actively promoting it:

But the men who had gone up with him said, "We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are." And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, "The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. (Numbers 13:31-32)

Why would they persist in this? Were they not there when God showed his might against Egypt? Did they completely forget the parting of the sea and the provision of the quail? A clue is found in the last verse of this chapter:

We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them. (33b)

How we see ourselves is often how we assume others see us. If we think little of ourselves that is exactly the attitude we expect from others toward us. If we think we are deficient in something we expect everyone sees it the same way. Often our perspective of our self is distorted and messed up by the many filters we put in place. This is the reason we are not suppose to live our lives according to our own perspective. Often the trees are too thick for us to get a proper view of the forest. We cannot see how close we are to the lake, to shelter, to a food source. We require a much larger perspective.

The ten spies saw giants in the land. They did not take into consideration the might of God. They compared the strength of those giants to their own, leaving God out of their math. They saw themselves as weak and the enemy as mighty. Yet God’s perspective was so much greater. He looked at the land and saw a wicked people who had to be removed from creation. The wicked had built mighty kingdoms that perpetuated evil behaviour so God had planned to smash their might. His tool for this was Israel. His plan was greater than just giving Israel a land. He had promised punishment for the wicked and he was about to deliver. But he needed a people who would trust him:

The LORD said to Moses, "How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them? (Numbers 14:11)

God wanted to wipe them all out and start over with Moses but Moses did his job and interceded for Israel. Instead God decided he would raise up a new generation in a relationship of trust. He would keep them in the desert, providing for his people so they would learn trust. They would either trust him or die on their own. It worked, because the generation that entered the land with Joshua was the most faithful generation of all the generations of God’s people. Remember the instructions the Lord gave to Joshua?

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)

Do not miss the significance of this; “Have I not commanded you?” We do not have to be concerned about how we see ourselves or of how others see us. All that we need to know is the will of the Lord. That should be our biggest concern and we should be fully occupied with knowing only that and being obedient to that will. No one questioned the weirdness of the battle of Jericho. Perhaps the tactic was a test of the obedience of this new generation. They were obedient and they had a great victory.

Let us examine or lives. Is the will of the Father the most important thing in our life? Are we set on a course of obedience to that will? Have we allowed ourselves or someone else to infect us with the disease of pessimism? Remember Paul’s plea to the Galatians:

You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. "A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough." I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion will pay the penalty, whoever he may be. (Galatians 5:7-10)

Stop looking at yourself as a grasshopper. In this past week God has shown how he lays down his plans long before the battles are upon us. Most of you know how hard we have been working to learn the new technology and to teach it to our students. Four years ago the Lord laid it on my heart to take our school in this direction. This past week I was asked to present my knowledge to the executive of our school’s association. It turns out that what we know and what we can teach others to do will go a long way in satisfying the concerns the government has about our Secondary schools. Again we will be able to continue with the curriculum we are using and Jesus Christ will remain the center of every course of study. We will be able to continue to train up our students to serve the Lord in our communities in any area of discipline he sends them into.

Our God is an amazing God. Stay the course. Do not become discouraged. His view of things is better than ours so let us trust him with all things.