Numbers 25-28 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He provides the best leadership to guide His sheep

Several years ago I started a new job, and I was the first person to hold the position.  There were no precedents to follow, no one to train me and a lot of what I did at the beginning was hit or miss.  Through the years I developed a job description and worked out most of the kinks and challenges.  In situations like this it’s easy to take ownership, view it as my baby and become protective of it.

The time had come for me to move on and train someone else to fill the position.  Now I had to trust that the leadership would choose someone who would not harm the job that I had developed and worked so hard to make perfect.  As I trained the new employee, it didn’t take long for me to realize that this was a highly qualified person who would use the equipment and resources to an even greater degree of efficiency than I had done.  And that made my heart sing!  The work would not suffer and would move forward.  Today in our reading, Moses found himself in somewhat the same circumstance, released from a position that he had been the first to hold.

@ Numbers 27
God met with Moses on the mountaintop to show him Canaan, the land he would not enter because of his sin at Meribah.  The 120 year old leader showed his true heart in his response to the Lord, “O Lord, you are the God who gives breath to all creatures. Please appoint a new man as leader for the community. Give them someone who will guide them wherever they go and will lead them into battle, so the community of the Lord will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (16-17)

Even though Moses had not met Jesus yet, although one day he would do so on the Mount of Transfiguration, he had the compassion of Jesus who said, “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)  Jesus had just been called a devil because He delivered a man from the demons that possessed him, but both leaders looked past their own situations and were concerned about the needs of others.

A wise Moses wanted God to choose his successor.  Two men, Joshua and Caleb, had both proven to be led by the Lord and to be worthy of leadership roles, and no doubt there were others who thought themselves worthy of the position.  Sometimes we desire to choose our replacements on the job or in the church; and as parents, we would even like to choose the spouses who will become central in the lives of our grown children. But how much better to leave it to our superiors or the leadership of the Holy Spirit, removing ourselves from the possibility of error.

Of course, God had chosen the perfect replacement for Moses, “The Lord replied, ‘Take Joshua son of Nun, who has the Spirit in him, and lay your hands on him.  Present him to Eleazar the priest before the whole community, and publicly commission him to lead the people.’” (18-20)  Our public acceptance of those who follow us in any position provides continuity so the work will not suffer.  This requires a generous heart, without envy or selfishness, regardless of how much of ourselves we have given to it in the past.  This was the heart of Moses, “So Moses did as the Lord commanded.  He presented Joshua to Eleazar the priest and the whole community. Moses laid his hands on him and commissioned him to lead the people.” (22-23)

When we find ourselves in a situation similar to Moses, where we will pass on the baton to someone else to fulfill a role we have served, may we do so with a generous heart towards his or her success. In doing this, we will reveal a compassionate heart for those being served, trusting that nothing will suffer in the process.  That should make our hearts sing! 

Moving Forward:  I can serve Him with confidence today knowing that when He provides my next step, He also will provide my successor.  He’s very faithful that way. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Chronicles 6-10

John 19-21 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He commissions and empowers us to be His witnesses

Who would have thought split pea soup would be the catalyst to lead someone to the Lord!  Back in grade school, when I was 7 years old, my best friend and her brother were over for lunch one day.  My mom had made split pea soup for us, not exactly kid food, and as she left the kitchen she cautioned, “Don’t add crackers to your soup or it will be too thick to eat.”

As we looked at our bowls of green goo in awe, we decided that crackers could only help the situation and started to crush many crackers into our soup and soon learned that mom was right.  We could have built a monument with the mortar that sat in front of us.  I started to cry just as she came back into the kitchen. Money was tight and this was wasteful.

Mom decided to use this situation to talk about obedience and pleasing the Lord.  At the time I really didn’t understand what came over me, but I started to sing an old hymn of the church, “There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emanuel’s veins, and sinners plunged beneath the flood lose all their guilty stains.”  Well, at 7 years old I certainly did not understand all the theology behind that song and neither did my friends, but they started to weep and in a matter of moments they were repeating the sinner’s prayer.  Carol and Michael were the first souls I helped lead to the Lord, but it was the Holy Spirit that convicted them of sin. 

@ John 20
“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.’ Then he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.’” (21-23)  When we read this scripture, it’s easy to get hung up on the question as to whether or not Jesus was saying that the disciples could forgive sin.  Unless they were the pure spotless Lamb of God and had sacrificed their lives on the cross for sin, absolutely not.  However, this was Part 1 of a Spirit-given commissioning for these new believers to present the Gospel, God’s terms for salvation, to the world.  Part 2 followed in Acts 2 when they received the power of the Holy Spirit, the dunamis, the dynamite explosion to be His witnesses.

Jesus wanted His disciples to know that they were not alone in presenting their message because the convicter, the convincer of sin, the Holy Spirit would be with them. “[The Holy Spirit] will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.” (16:8)  The Holy Spirit is the great evangelist, and we are His voice.  Understanding this truth should remove anxiety and apprehension from sharing the Gospel with others.

The Holy Spirit convicted my friends of their sinful nature because that is His job.  Having already received the Lord as my Savior, I had been commissioned by the Lord through the Holy Spirit to bring others to Christ, and it was so very easy because He did all the work.  I mean, if at 7 years old I could be used in this way, what is my excuse today?  We are His voice, and when we do our job in obedience, He is right there with us doing His job! 

Moving Forward: I pray that I will never let doubt and apprehension diminish the role of the Holy Spirit in bringing people to Christ.  When I share the goodness of God and the salvation He has given through His Son, I am partnering with the Great Evangelist!

Tomorrow @ Hebrews 1- 4

Proverbs 22 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He, the great Counselor, has provided counsel through His Word

When we’re going through a difficult season in life or find ourselves questioning things that have happened to us, we usually find a good friend or counselor to talk to about it.  They don’t always have the answers we need, but it helps to express our thoughts and feelings.  However, the Holy Spirit, the great Counselor, is our greatest listener and leads us into whatever truth we seek through His still small voice and through the pages of Scripture.  Our reading today expresses a way of counseling that is like preventive medicine.

“Listen to the words of the wise; apply your heart to my instruction. For it is good to keep these sayings in your heart and always ready on your lips.” (17-18)  Beginning with verse 17, Proverbs shares its wise sayings with a different approach.  Rather than single verses giving wisdom on different subjects, now several verses are combined to reveal wise instruction.  “I am teaching you today—yes you—so you will trust in the Lord.” (19)  And of course, Solomon was writing to us as well, yes us!

I like reading completely through Psalms and Proverbs every month.  Reading just five Psalms and one Proverb each day makes this possible.  Talk about keeping “these sayings in your heart and always ready on your lips!” Taking just a few minutes each day to read these wonderful words of instruction and wisdom can result in life-changing benefits.  The counsel and example of David through praise and worship and the amazing wisdom of Solomon are at our fingertips every day.  They reveal to us in advance how we should respond to the challenges we may face on any given day and serve as preventive counseling.

We may save ourselves a lot of future pain by reading these treasures in God’s Word every day and keeping them in our hearts and on our lips, and I’m all for that!  “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. I praise you, O Lord; teach me your decrees.” (Psalm 119:11-12) 

Moving Forward: So thankful today for the mighty and trustworthy counsel of His Word! 

Tomorrow @ Joel

2 Timothy 3-4 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He has given His inspired Word to give truth and to equip 

@ 2 Timothy 3
A couple of years ago I was packing up my library, getting ready for a move.  It was quite a trip down memory lane as I recalled the history involved around many of my book selections.  I came to one shelf dedicated to books on diet and health and started to laugh.  The number of different approaches to diet and health over the past quarter century is staggering – eat according to your blood type, eat protein and no carbs, eat carbs and no protein, eat only uncooked vegetables, eat eight times a day (my personal favorite), eat nothing white, eat nothing with a face – just to name a few diet choices.  Each one was based on its own brand of truth.

One year the scuttlebutt was that drinking coffee would kill you.  Two years later it was touted as a great antioxidant that would improve health in many ways.  I have chosen, of course, to believe the second truth.  It amazes me how truth seems to change from one year to the next.  Be assured that many of these books did not make it to the keep box.

Another shelf in my library was filled with many different versions, sizes and colors of the same book. It is a book that’s truth has not changed since its words were written millenniums ago, every copy I have is a keeper and that book, of course, is the Holy Bible.  In 2 Timothy 3, Paul validated the Scripture that comprises our Bible and shared its function, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (16-17)

While some may take and twist the sacred words of the Bible, we can always depend on the Bible itself to be inspired by God and to be true.  Coupled with the great truth bearer, the Holy Spirit, the Bible is alive to us and gives us the specific truth we will need for each day. (Hebrews 4:12)   It equips us for the day with whatever tools we may need to navigate through this life, correcting us when needed, and helps us do what He wants us to do. What a book!

The Israelites may have had their pillar of cloud and fire to guide them, but we have the truth from God’s Holy Word to guide us, inspire us and equip us.  Can we afford to miss even one day of receiving the truth He has for us?  Not really.

Moving Forward:  Reading His Word today, grabbing His truth and moving forward to do His good works. 

Tomorrow @ Numbers 13-16

1Timothy 1-3 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: It pleases Him when we pray for everyone to understand the Truth

Mediterranean food, Mediterranean people…I just love them!  From television and movies, we are acquainted with the fun-loving, energetic and, well, opinionated nature of people from that region. Those of us from a Mediterranean heritage have a tendency to live by the motto, “When I want your opinion…I’ll give it to you!”  I’ve wondered if this was why Paul chose young Timothy, whose father was Greek and not Jewish, to minister at the church in the difficult city of Ephesus.  Possibly he would best understand the culture of the region. Regardless, Paul sent some letters to him to mentor his young charge in the ministry there.

@1 Timothy 2
“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.” (1-2) The first and best advice Paul could give Timothy was to pray – for everyone.  Pray for those who were believers and those who were not and pray for the Godly, peace-loving members of the church and for those who had caused trouble.  Ask God to help them however is best, intercede with boldness on their behalf and thank God for them, regardless of their mindset or behavior.  After all, we all are a work in progress.

Paul encouraged Timothy to “pray for kings and people in authority.”  To be honest, I’d rather fuss about the president and the congress than pray for them, but prayer is the only thing that will change hearts and the laws of the land and allow us to live as Christians in peace and dignity.  We just read a great example of this in Daniel.  Prayer is the answer!

“This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.” (3) Whether male or female or Jew or Gentile, salvation and truth are for everyone.  Paul goes on to state the truth that we all must understand, “For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.” (5-6)  No bias or argument will ever unseat this truth.

And speaking of bias…I’ve always thought that in heaven someday I would like to sit down with Paul over coffee and have a little chat about a few of his teachings regarding women.  There are moments when I imagine the dialogue starting with, “Paul, what were you thinking?!!”  I would only show respect to this giant of the faith, understanding that his influence has changed my life for the good, but his teachings about women such as those found here in Chapter 2 have caused more than a few moments of distress for women in the church through the ages.  Of course, I know that in heaven, absorbed by God’s glorious presence, this will all be immaterial and I’ll just let it go.

We understand that the culture of the Ephesus church demanded these instructions by Paul, “Women should learn quietly and submissively. I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly.” (11) The exciting part of this scripture is that education was now open to women, a freedom that was not a part of the culture.

Just like the sense of free at last that comes to a teenager with a new driver’s license, many believe the Ephesian women were somewhat over the top with their new-found freedom to learn and were disruptive in the church service with their questioning and even with their dress.  This was not good.

I’m certain we all agree with Paul that nothing we do, men and women alike, should be disruptive to the ministry or to the working of the Holy Spirit in our churches.  We should be known, not by our dress or possessions, but by what we have accomplished for Him.  And we should be people who pray for everyone, from the president to the homeless, unbiased, leading everyone to the Truth.

Moving Forward: Challenged once again by Paul, I’ll pray and intercede without bias for my leadership in government, for my neighbors, for my friends and…for everyone. 

Tomorrow @ Number 1-4

1 Thessalonians 4-5 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He provides all the guidance we need to live for Him each day

I love lists!  They’re my friends that help me get through the day, through various events and even through a special holiday dinner: 10:00 – turkey in oven, 12:00 – sweet potato casserole, 1:00 – Boil potatoes, corn soufflé in oven.  Sound familiar?  I even have lists for my lists which seems somewhat Monkish like the neurotic television detective, but that’s who I am.

I wish I could say that I am able to check every item as completed on every list on any given day, but of course, that would not be true.  But my lists keep me focused on the priorities of the day and help keep me from getting bogged down in those things that are insignificant to my goal.  I love lists, and I love that Paul has given us so many of them in his teachings to help us stay focused on our priorities – like the one in 1 Thessalonians 5. 

@1 Thessalonians 5
Between the significant teachings on the end times in Chapter 4 and those of 2 Thessalonians, Paul included a list of instructions for His brothers and sisters that would help them occupy until these future events took place:

1)  Be an encourager.  “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” (11) Who needs a special word of encouragement today?

2)  Honor and respect my spiritual leaders. “Honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other.” (12-13)  We honor our pastors by showing love for them in our acts of kindness, in our words of thanks and through our loyalty.  We honor them by respecting their guidance.  And most pastors would say that living peacefully with each other is right there at the top of the list of ways to honor them – it lightens their load.

3)  Be patient with everyone. “We urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.” (14)  It’s difficult to interact with those who need to pick up the slack or to help those who are weak if we are too busy judging them for who they are and why they are in their present situation. Patience brings understanding and gives us the time to help in the right way.

4)  Do good to everyone. “See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.”(15)  No revenge; simply following the Golden Rule.

5)  Be joyful, always. “Always be joyful.” (16)  We worry about someone who walks around smiling all the time, but Paul encourages us to let the joy of our salvation, the joy of who we are in Christ and the joy of our eternal reward outweigh any temporary discomfort and trial. “Our hearts ache, but we always have joy.” (2 Cor. 6:10)

6)  Live on the verge of a prayer and never give up.  “Never stop praying.” (17)  If we really want to accomplish No. 5 on our list, this is the way to do it.  Of course, we would never get anything done for ourselves or for the Kingdom if we stayed on our knees all day, every day.  I’m a little hesitant to compare prayer to a chronic cough that is present and can erupt at any time, but like a cough, continual prayer is always right there waiting for any provocation.  It’s persistent and never gives up.  Pray away!

7)  Be thankful in everything. “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” (18)  And once again, if we really want to accomplish No. 7, then No. 6 is the way to do it.  When we are thankful to God in our abundance, we are giving Him the glory and credit for it; and when we are thankful in our lack or trial, we are trusting God’s providence to see us through it.

8)  Flow in the Spirit. “Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.” (19-22)  It’s the Holy Spirit who will help us accomplish all the other things on our list today.  We’re not in this alone – we have help!  Whether in sermon or in spontaneous utterance,  a word from the Holy Spirit can be trusted and measures up to the Word of God.

In light of this list, I obviously have a lot to do.  I would like to check off everything on my list today, but if not, it will always be available tomorrow, and the next day and the next.  Thanks, Paul! 

Moving Forward: I’ve got my list for today, working on those priorities, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, I can do it!

Tomorrow @ Leviticus 22-24

Leviticus 10-12 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He expects us to honor His holiness 

@ Leviticus 10
The sin of Nadab and Abihu – what a way to start the day!  “Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu put coals of fire in their incense burners and sprinkled incense over them.  In this way, they disobeyed the Lord by burning before Him the wrong kind of fire [strange fire], different than He had commanded.  So fire blazed forth from the Lord’s presence and burned them up, and they died there before the Lord.” (1-2)  Toast!   We may argue that we are now living in the dispensation of grace, but tell that to Ananias and Sapphira of Acts 5 who lied to the Holy Spirit and fell over dead. I have found God to be gracious, merciful and longsuffering, but I also believe that His holiness deserves our utmost respect and honor, expected especially from those who serve Him.

What caused God to move so swiftly in His response to the offering of Aaron’s sons?  Some have suggested it was multiple misdemeanors resulting in one huge offense to God.  Or perhaps:

1) These newly-ordained priests, anxious to perform their duties, took it upon themselves to offer fire on the altar of burnt offering which was something reserved only for their father to do with their assistance at this point.  We understand their zeal and excitement to serve, don’t we?

2) Then, instead of offering coals from the perpetual Holy fire, they offered coals from another common or ordinary fire.  They showed lack of respect for the fire that God had ignited at the very first burnt offering.  This fire had continued burning from that first offering until 860 years later when Jerusalem fell to Babylon – it was Holy. (See June 19 @ Leviticus 4-6) It’s easy to understand why this ordinary fire would be so strange to God.

3)  Why were these young priests so impulsive and foolish in their behavior?  Some believe they may have been drunk.  After a long day of eating and drinking from the peace and drink offerings, they may have over indulged to the point of dulling their senses – not good.

While these points are somewhat supposition, the scripture following this account helps us to understand that God requires His servants to display His Holiness, not their own. “I will display My holiness through those who come near me.” (3) Also, God insisted on sobriety from His servants so that sins like this one would not be committed, “You and your descendants must never drink wine or any other alcoholic drink before going into the Tabernacle…You must distinguish between what is sacred and what is common.”(9-10)

This story causes me to examine my usefulness to God.  Have I offered strange fire in my service to Him?  If so, what did I do?  I would think anything I do in ministry that glorifies and draws attention to me instead of to Him would be considered strange to Him.   Ministry that results from the latest trends and styles excluding the inspiration of His Holy Spirit would be strange to Him as well.  And I certainly would be wise to avoid being drunk with…anything!  Wine, power, hatred, jealousy to name a few.  These things will only dull my spiritual senses and cause me to sin or make mistakes.

Many privileges come with leadership and ministry, and so do many responsibilities. Jesus said, “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” (Luke 12:48)  Yes, He is grace and mercy to us, but we serve a Holy, Holy God, there is none like Him.  May our ministry, no matter what it is, be obedient, respectful and useful, reflecting His Holiness with our lives. 

Moving Forward: I examine my heart today to be certain that my service honors Him and Him alone.

Tomorrow @ 2 Kings 1-5