Numbers 5-8 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He desires to grant His blessing at our request

God bless you! Blessings to you! May the Lord richly bless you!  These are phrases that we say or write for many different reasons, from a sneeze to a wedding wish.  For many of us, they have become a part of our every day vernacular, and that certainly is not a bad thing.  But I wonder if we really understand the solicitation we are requesting from God on behalf of the dear one we are addressing.  In light of our scripture today, all I can say is “Bring it on!” 

@ Numbers 6:22-26

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell Aaron and his sons to bless the people of Israel with this special blessing:’ 

“May the Lord bless you [impart His holiness to you] and protect you [keep you safe every moment of the day and night because He never sleeps, Psalm 121:4].  May the Lord smile on you [place on you His radiant shine so you may reflect His love to you everywhere you go] and be gracious to you [provide compassionate forgiveness for your sin and eternal life with Him even through you may not deserve it].  May the Lord show you His favor [His kindness, support and approval and preferential treatment] and give you peace [a calm, serene state of being regardless of your surroundings that surpasses all understanding].”  Amen!

When we ask the Lord to bless others, we are asking Him to flood their lives with His holiness, protection, smile, grace, favor and peace.  One simple word reflects such great goodness from God when said in His name.  “Whenever Aaron and his sons bless the people of Israel in my name, I myself will bless them.” (27)  Evidently, He’s listening and waiting on our call for Him to bless.  How could we disappoint Him!

Moving Forward: I ask the Lord’s special blessing on His dear ones who are reading these words today.  I understand what that blessing really means, and I know He will respond. 

Tomorrow @ I Chronicles 10-14

2 Kings 16-20 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He accepts our worship that is untainted by the worship of any other

One afternoon several years ago I watched an interesting exchange on the Oprah Winfrey show between Oprah and guest Shirley MacLaine regarding Shirley’s religious beliefs.  As Shirley explained her belief that anything or all things can be god if they are meaningful to you, I detected through Oprah’s nodding and verbal exchange an acceptance of this notion, an odd response from a former evangelical girl.

Through the years, we have seen a slow acceptance of these new age ideas by those who certainly should know better. For many, a belief system that is more encompassing, more accepting of different views and with fewer restrictions whether based on truth or not is more appealing than acceptance of a single God, a single Redeemer.  Israel found itself in this same position after the Assyrians settled in their land. 

@ 2 Kings 17
The invading Assyrians took captive over 20,000 Israelites from Samaria, sent them to live in Assyria and replaced them with groups of people from their own territories.  Many believe that their ulterior motive was to infiltrate the population through intermarriage in hopes that it would weaken the people’s loyalty and destroy national ties as they had done in other cultures.  This new people group became known as the Samaritans.  I’ve always understood that the Jews of Judea hated the Samaritans because of the Jewish intermarriage with the Assyrians.  They believed that it diluted the bloodline of God’s chosen people; but from this story, I realize that their hatred was based on so much more.

There was a slight glitch in the Assyrian plan when the Lord sent lions to devour the new residents.  “So a message was sent to the king of Assyria: ‘The people you have sent to live in the towns of Samaria do not know the religious customs of the God of the land.  He has sent lions among them to destroy them because they have not worshiped Him correctly.’” (26)  The king sent one of the exiled Israelite priests back to Samaria to teach the new residents how to worship God.

As corrupt as the Jewish priests had been, it was like the blind leading the blind, and the Assyrian residents continued to worship their own gods and the God of Israel.  Soon their offspring, the Samaritans, did the same.  Not good.  The new religion of the Samaritans in Israel was more encompassing, more accepting of different views and with fewer restrictions.  This sounds familiar.

God’s warning at that time is every bit as appropriate for us today as it was for Israel, “You must not worship other gods.  Do not forget the covenant I made with you, and do not worship others gods.  You must worship only the Lord your God.  He is the one who will rescue you from all your enemies.” (37-39) While we are free to worship as we please, hopefully we have learned that it is terribly dangerous to embrace anything that dilutes our belief in the only true and living God and the powerful redemption through His son Jesus.  I really don’t care if I’m unpopular and considered intolerant on this point, I’m not going to budge! 

Moving Forward: Call me stubborn if you want, but I won’t allow the genteel, all-accepting philosophy of this day to infiltrate my belief in  God and in my Redeemer.  “For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto Him against that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12KJV) 

Tomorrow @ Psalm 87-89

Leviticus 13-15 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: God provides all that is needed to keep His people alive and well on their journey

“If a man loses his hair and his head becomes bald, he is still ceremonially clean.  And if he loses hair on his forehead, he simply has a bald forehead; he is still clean. However…” (13:40-41)  For those who are hair challenged, I would imagine reading Leviticus 13 brings great relief, although I’m still somewhat concerned about men with hairy foreheads.  Whether clean or not, I’m not sure hair growing on the forehead is a good thing.  But even more disconcerting is that little word however.

God gave Moses specific instructions regarding the healthcare of the wilderness Israelites.  Hospitals, Emergency Rooms and 24-Hour Urgent Care Clinics did not exist on the backside of the desert where this nomadic community of 2 to 3 million people traveled for 40 years.  The priests were the healthcare providers who administered the diagnosis and treatment needed to preserve God’s chosen people.  It’s not farfetched to imagine an insidious epidemic completely erasing this isolated people group from history, but God would not have that!

God provided all that was needed to keep His people alive and well on their journey as long as they paid close attention to those howevers.  Skin lumps, bumps, sores and discolorations on His people were all diagnosed by the priests to prevent the spread of leprosy, the killer of the day, as well as other diseases.  Even clothing and household goods were evaluated for disease-producing mildew and mold.  Individuals deemed unclean were isolated and goods were either purified or burned.

God was concerned about preventive healthcare because it was obviously much less debilitating and more cost-effective than aftercare.  His laws in Chapter 15 regarding bodily discharges, gross indeed, were all about preserving and protecting those He loved.  God really wasn’t surprised when our medical researchers over the past century discovered conclusive proof that diseases, ranging from colds to AIDS, could be transmitted through bodily discharges.  I would think all of heaven offered one big DUH at that conclusion.

If we think the laws and instructions of Leviticus are irrelevant to us today, we should think again.  Yes, the blood of Jesus protects us, but so does His wisdom. There’s a reason that may go all the way back to Leviticus that I carry disinfectants and hand sanitizers when I travel.  After rereading Chapter 15, I’ll be thinking twice about trying on clothes in mall dressing rooms.  I’m just saying…

All God’s instructions regarding healthcare were essential to protect His people and get them to the Promised Land.  For us today, equally important is what leprosy and the like represent to us.  Sin is much more menacing than any physical disease could ever be.  It may start small, like the white patch or bump with leprosy, seemingly insignificant; however, if left unchecked, it will bring eternal death to us.  Daily examination before our High Priest for His diagnosis is the best preventive healthcare for the soul that I know.  As far as treatment, His blood has it all covered!

Moving Forward: His wisdom protects my life today and guides my steps, and His blood treats whatever ails my soul. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Kings 6-10

Ezekiel 13-18 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is faithful to His everlasting covenant with us

Ohhh…some rough reading today. The Northern Kingdom had already fallen to Babylon, and now judgment was about to fall on the Southern Kingdom of Judah.  The prophets had given warnings to no avail, and most of the Israelites remained in their idolatry and sinful ways even in captivity.

At the end of Chapter 12 we read, “You’ve heard that proverb they quote in Israel: ‘Time passes, and prophecies come to nothing.’  Tell the people, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says:  I will put an end to this proverb, and you will soon stop quoting it.’ Now give them this new proverb to replace the old one: ‘The time has come for every prophecy to be fulfilled.’”(12:22-23)  And then the judgments began.

Judgment prophecies were given through Ezekiel regarding: 1) false prophets of the day who whitewashed the truth so that the Israelites would feel only good about themselves, 2) mediums who used magic and charms to ensnare the people away from God, and 3) leaders who set up idols in their hearts to worship instead of worshipping the true and living God. (14)  The similarities today are remarkable.

The Babylonian captives believed that Jerusalem, the Holy City, would survive the siege, but God called Jerusalem and its people a useless vine. “The people of Jerusalem are like grapevines growing among the trees of the forest.  Since they are useless, I have thrown them on the fire to be burned.” (15:6)  Even more devastating was His charge that Jerusalem was His unfaithful wife, who, worse than a prostitute, had many lovers and didn’t even charge them because she so wanted to be with them.  Jerusalem was filled with altars and shrines to the gods of neighboring countries, and final judgment was coming to Jerusalem.

The riddle of Chapter 17 speaks of the besieged Jerusalem attempting to make an alliance with Egypt to fight against Babylon, but both were crushed by the mighty Babylonian army.  I’ve wondered if it was as perplexing to God as it was to me when I read of this alliance with Egypt, the very country that had enslaved the Israelites without mercy for so many centuries.  Why would they seek to go back to the very ones who had bound them? It was as if they would do anything to keep from trusting God.

Early in our ministry, we had an evangelist friend that God had miraculously delivered from drugs and given a powerful ministry, but over time he slipped back into the bondage of drugs once again.  I’ve never really understood how it happened, but I believe it had to do with pride in what he had accomplished, forgetting Who it was that had delivered him.  Likewise, Israel, so proud of the nation they had become, trusted only in their own plans, rejecting both God and the warnings of Isaiah and the prophets against this alliance with Egypt.  But then, wasn’t it pride that started the whole sin thing with Lucifer? Anytime we consider ourselves equal to God, we are headed for destruction as well.

Well, before we fall right through the floor in depression, let’s remember that Israel is alive and reasonably well on planet earth today.  “Now this is what the Sovereign Lord says:  I will give you what you deserve, for you have taken your solemn vows lightly by breaking your covenant.  Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were young, and I will establish an everlasting covenant with you.” (16:59-60)

God remembered His covenant with Abraham, and He would take the remnant that turned toward Him, the Daniels and Shadrachs, and build a nation.  The everlasting covenant, Christ Jesus, is available to Israel today; and when we pray, let’s pray they will accept Him and escape final destruction.  After all, hasn’t His Word asked us to pray for Israel? 

Moving Forward:  May I not take my solemn vows lightly to God’s everlasting covenant with me through Christ Jesus.  I reject even the slightest bit of pride in anything I may accomplish.  May it be He who sits on the throne of my heart today. 

Tomorrow @ Luke 15-16

1 Kings 14-18 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He wants us to do what He wants us to do

My 10-year-old granddaughter talks a mile a minute and has me wrapped pretty tightly around her little finger. This adorable little girl is intelligent beyond measure and carries enough charm to bring the world to her feet – all facts that are irrelevant to the point I am making but needing to be shared.  I’m sure you understand.

Our reading today reminded me of something she said when she was just two years old.  If you remember, two is the year of the terrible when our precious, cooing little bundle of joy discovers its own will.  When asked to do something by her mother, our ordinarily compliant little girl responded, “I don’t want to do that!  I want to do what I want to do.”  I had to turn my head away to hide my smile because her mother was doing a little reaping at the moment. But just as the commitment to training helped transform our daughter through her terrible twos into the beautiful Godly woman she is today, her instructions and disciplines are doing the same for her daughter.

Today’s reading is about a nation that did not want to do what God wanted them to do and wanted to do what they wanted to do.  God sent someone along who helped them understand who really was in charge so they would be without excuse when discipline for this attitude came to them.

The nation of Israel was now a divided Kingdom – the ten tribes of the northern Kingdom, ruled by rebel leader Jeroboam and the two tribes of the Southern Kingdom, Judah, ruled by Solomon’s son, Rehoboam.  Neither of the kings served God, and both led the people in worship of other gods.  What a sad state of affairs.

Idolatry is a self-serving form of religion that has the mentality, “If it feels good, do it!” The Israelites chose to leave the restrictions of the law and decided to worship gods that offered no restraint on their physical, social and personal passions.  They wanted the freedom to do as they pleased without fear of punishment, an attitude that sounds very…current.

After years of idol worship, Israel was now led by wicked King Ahab.  Like a good parent, God sent the hand of discipline through the prophet Elijah who declared to Ahab, “As surely as the Lord, the God of Israel lives—the God I serve—there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word!” (17:1)

1 Kings 18
“So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?” (17) asked Ahab when Elijah returned for a visit after his prophecy of no rain.  Elijah replied, “I have made no trouble for Israel…You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the Lord and have worshiped the images of Baal instead.” (18) The showdown on Mount Carmel proved that Baal and Asherah were no match for the true and living God, and Ahab’s 850 pagan prophets were useless against Him.  Apparently, Ahab did not know Who he was dealing with, but Elijah knew His God, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel…Immediately the fire of the Lord flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones and the dust.  It even licked up all the water in the trench!” (36,38) I love it when God shows up BIG to defeat the false gods of this world.

These false gods promise freedom from restraint and appeal to our fleshly passions to do what we want to do, but they are no match for the fire of God.  The only requirement is that we submit to His discipline and call on His fire to come down and burn us up entirely with the Fire of Holiness.  He will show up BIG in our lives and bless us with His grace and wisdom to do what He wants us to do.  We will be the men and women of God that He desires us to be! 

Moving Forward: My heart cries, “Burn me up, Lord, with your Holiness that I may stand in your Holy place. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 72-74

Leviticus 1-3 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He receives the sacrifice of praise offered from pure hearts

As a rule, I don’t wake up in the morning thinking that I just can’t wait to read Leviticus today. Of course, God included this information in His Word for a purpose, and the joy of reading it is often in discovering His intention.  The lengthy process of constructing the Tabernacle had just been completed, and next came the instruction on its purpose and its use for God’s people.

The overall message of Leviticus is that God is Holy, and sinful man must follow rites of purification in order to fellowship with Him.  Israel had already proven during their golden calf incident that this message could be easily forgotten, and God was restoring their relationship with Him through His instructions to Moses in Leviticus.  Over the next 27 chapters, God directed their focus to purification through sacrifice, worship, physical principles, holiness and leadership.  By following these instructions, the Israelites who had dabbled in all forms of idolatry would once again commune with their Holy God.

After reading just a few verses in Leviticus, I have cause to stop and thank Jesus for His death and resurrection.  Can you imagine stopping by the farm on Sunday morning to purchase a perfect little lamb to be sacrificed at church?  With somewhat of an affinity for sheep, I think I’d have to go with a dove. 

@ Leviticus 2
“Do not use yeast in preparing any of the grain offerings you present to the Lord, because no yeast or honey may be burned as a special gift presented to the Lord.” (11) After moving to Florida, it didn’t take long for me to see the destructive nature of mold and mildew.  Items attacked by this spreading bacterial fungus are soon discolored or destroyed.  Bleach became my friend.

One tiny spore of mold can multiply rapidly consuming everything in its path, just like sin will do.  Because of this similarity to sin, yeast was forbidden in the grain offering that was sacrificed as a gift of thanksgiving.  The lesson for us today is clear.  When we offer our thanksgiving and praise to Him, let us come with clean hands and pure hearts, free from even the hint of sin so that our sacrifice of praise will be received by our Holy God.

“Season all your grain offerings with salt to remind you of God’s eternal covenant.  Never forget to add salt to your grain offerings.”(13)  I agree!  Salt makes everything taste better.  However, God wasn’t so much concerned about the taste, but rather that the offering would be a reminder of God’s eternal covenant with them.  I learned early in the kitchen that while salt makes food taste better, too much salt in a dish is impossible to remove – it’s eternal.

God’s covenant through Jesus is eternal – impossible to remove. Jesus will always be the Savior. Salt seasons the entire dish, penetrating every part.  In this same way, His influence in our lives encompasses every area.  Salt preserves and protects foods with a coating that serves as a barrier to bacteria just as God preserves and protects our lives from the attacks of the enemy.  Salt also has a healing property for our bodies that soothes and mends.  How well we know of the healing power of God in our lives – body, soul and spirit.  The symbolism speaks loudly to our spirits – salt is good!  Please pass the salt!

The grain offering of thanksgiving was “a special gift, a pleasing aroma to the Lord.”(2)  May our sacrifice of praise be a sin-free, well-seasoned offering to our Holy God, one that will be received as a sweet aroma to Him. 

Moving Forward: With clean hands and a heart of thanksgiving, I offer a sacrifice of praise, ever mindful of His eternal covenant with me through Christ Jesus. May its sweet aroma fill His space. 

Tomorrow @ 1 Kings 10-13

1 Kings 5-9 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He fills our lives with His glorious presence to accomplish His will

“During the fourth year of Solomon’s reign he began to construct the Temple of the Lord…480 years after the people of Israel were rescued from their slavery in the land of Egypt.” (6:1) The construction of the portable Tabernacle that we read about in Exodus was built to last for several lifetimes – 480 years!  God was specific in His instructions for a reason.

Those of us who have been involved in temporary church sites in strip malls and rented spaces understand the cumbersome putting up and tearing down week after week of sound systems, chairs and all that goes with church.  Compared to 480 years, our duration seems insignificant, but because these accounts in the Bible are given to us as lessons, we would do well to consider the reasons for the delay in the building the permanent temple.

During the 480 years, the Israelites were often disobedient and willful against the Lord and were ruled by many judges of like mind.  The people wanted to be like other nations and demanded a king to rule over them because God was not quite enough in their thinking.  King Saul was a major disappointment to everyone, including God, and David the warrior king had too much bloodshed on his hands for the building of God’s temple.

Finally, King Solomon was chosen for this task.  In the building of almost everything, God uses people as his instruments to accomplish His will.  When the building is taking longer than we desire, it never hurts to examine our hearts.  Are we disobedient or willful in our labors?  Is God’s plan enough in our thinking or are we compelled to help Him out, usurping His plan?  No doubt this will slow down our progress.

A significant hindrance to the building of the temple was Israel’s enemies.  From the moment they entered the Promised Land, nobody wanted them there. The Israelites fought to take possession, struggled through the judge era and then through the early kings, but they never gave up.  We can be sure that anything we build for the glory of the Lord, be it family, career or church, will be met by resistance from our enemy.  He will attempt to defeat us at every turn, but we can never give up!  Every demon from hell in local governments will thwart our attempt to build a church or a business for the Lord, raising our costs and burying us in red tape.  The enemy may bring out the big guns by attacking our families, but we can never give up!

How do we defeat our enemy and stay strong in our process of building the temple, our family or whatever it is? We do it the same way we maintain victory once we achieve it.  At the completion of the temple, “When the priests came out of the Holy Place, a thick cloud filled the Temple of the Lord.  The priests could not continue their service because of the cloud, for the glorious presence of the Lord filled the temple.”(8:10-11)  I just love it when the presence of the Lord fills my space to the point where I can no longer perform (NIV) or continue my service, and it becomes all about Him.  Willfulness and disobedience cannot exist there in His Presence, and governments and enemies must bow before Him.  With tenacity to complete the task, I yield to His direction, His handiwork – He is more than enough. 

Moving Forward:  Submitted to His plan for my day, I call for His glorious presence to fill my space, to defeat my enemies and to complete the work He has begun.

Tomorrow @ Psalms 66-68