Faithful

Numbers 31-32

Numbers 32 18

In the second half of Numbers, we have seen plenty of dissatisfaction from the people of Israel. Even Moses was fed up with the complaining of the Israelites. As his life was drawing to a close, he had no patience for any more unfaithfulness. So when the tribes of Reuben and Gad requested to take their homes before crossing the Jordan, he assumed the worst. As it turned out, at least in this instance, these tribes had their hearts in the right place. They were actually satisfied with what they already saw, and God honored their request.
Moses’ reaction is understandable given what he has gone through with Israel. After forty years of wandering and waiting to enter Canaan, a request to not enter the land would have been foolish. Similarly, if Reuben and Gad failed to fight alongside their brother tribes, it would have constituted treachery. But the tribes were merely asking the Lord to provide, not complaining about what they didn’t have. And they did prove faithful to their commitment to fight throughout the campaign in Canaan.
For Reuben, Gad, and a segment of Manasseh, the battle began early. They drove out the enemy, an important requirement for faithfully claiming the land. They even changed the names of the cities to remove the stigma of false gods as well as the people who worshiped them.
What Moses originally suspected as a sinful act became a breath of fresh air in the book of Numbers. Where others had complained, these tribes asked from the Lord. Where others served their own interests, these tribes were willing to leave their families in order to serve their brothers. And where others were drawn to false gods and foreign worship, these tribes drove out the enemy. The key difference was faith. These tribes trusted the Lord to give generously to meet their needs, and that faith produced obedience in their hearts and deeds. Even when Israel seemed desperate or disappointing, God was always in complete control. He doesn’t get overwhelmed by anything, even disobedience. Remember that as your faithfulness waivers or your situation worsens, God’s love and faithfulness remains. When you feel like a failure or threatened by anything at all, know that God’s grace is sufficient, and His faithfulness is assured. Your circumstances will change, but your God will not.
Andy Cisneros
Today’s reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+31-32&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be Numbers 33-34 as we start the 11th week of the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Appointed Time

Numbers 28-30

Numbers 28 2 NIV
Numbers 28:2-2″Give this command to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Make sure that you present to me at the appointed time my food offerings, as an aroma pleasing to me.’
In this and the next chapter, we have a repetition of the laws concerning the great religious observances of the nation. This repetition is an orderly statement covering the whole year, and thus showing its relationship throughout to spiritual things. It was set forth new and repeated on the eve of their entering upon possession of the land, in order that the arrangements for worship might be duly carried out.
First, we find the religious rites connected with the smaller time divisions, those of the days, and the weeks, and the months (28. 1-15). Then we have those associated with the year, those of the Spring-time, Passover, and Pentecost (28. 16-31), and finally those of the Autumn, Trumpets, Atonement, Tabernacles (29). The words we have emphasized are those which, introducing this section, reveal the value of these rites. In the first phase, the food offering is the Hebrew word Korban. It always refers to the present which secures admittance. Today in the East it is called the Face-offering. In all of this, we see the meaning of these religious rites. They recognized the relation of men to God and their need for Him for all life. They need Him every day, every week, every month, every year. Because all time is arranged for and in Divine relationship. So also, is all activity. If the time is redeemed, all activity is sanctified. Here is a question.  Have you set aside regular time to be with, express love, listen to God?  Is there a rhythm to what you are doing for the LORD? A pattern?  Or are you acting, saying, doing things for God sporadically? When you feel like it? It’s time for you to recognize God wants you all the time, in every situation, for HIM.
Andy Cisneros
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+28-30&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be Numbers 31-32 on our2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Daughters of God

Numbers 26-27

Numbers 27 7 NIV
In our passage today, in Numbers 27:1-11, the five daughters of Zelophehad (what a name) face issues concerning land inheritance. Upon the death of their father, Zelophehad, the five sisters boldly approached Moses and other leaders to ask for the property that rightly belonged to their father’s clan (vv. 2-4). Moses brought their case before the Lord, who said the women are “right.” He proceeded to establish the legal requirement for handling such cases in the future (vv. 6-11). At first glance, this may seem to be a slow and boring account of how property rights for women were established among the Israelites in the ancient Near East, but there is a lot to learn here.
Land is among God’s promises to Abraham (see Gen. 12:113:14-1715:7). It’s an inheritance of God’s children, an expression of their covenantal relationship with Yahweh. There are theological implications for the daughters of Zelophehad and anyone who might disinherit their land. For their “father’s name to disappear from his clan” (v. 4) is to be cut off from the Lord’s covenant community. This explains why the five sisters are “right” in their request.
The case of the daughters of Zelophehad sets the precedent for future Hebrew families without male heirs. The Lord’s response reminds readers that He is always making a way for women to have full rights to His covenant community and His blessings. God the Father watches over the socially vulnerable and cares for them as His children. If you ever feel vulnerable just know that God will always fight to keep you in His covenantal love just as He did for the women of that time.
Andy Cisneros
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+26-27&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be Numbers 28-30 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Trust

Numbers 23-25

Numbers 23 19 NIV
Numbers 23:19 describes a foundational aspect of God’s character, his faithfulness. Scripture says, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” As believers, we need a revelation of God’s faithfulness. Being able to fully trust God is the beginning of living an abundant life. If you don’t fully believe that God is faithful to lead you into the best possible life you could live, then you won’t seek out his will, trust him with your possessions, or be able to fully enjoy his presence.
God’s word promises us in Numbers 23:19 that God is perfectly faithful, steadfast, and true. Philippians 1:6 says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Romans 8:28 promises, “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Your God is faithful to you. No matter what you do, he will be there for you. His faithfulness isn’t dependent upon your works. All he requires is a willing heart to bring about the fruit of the Spirit in your life.
You aren’t meant to live life apart from the knowledge of God’s faithfulness. You aren’t meant to live with the weight of doing life on your own. Man may fail you, but your God will not. Family and friends may not be there when you need them, but your God will always be there for you.
Where do you feel on your own? In what ways do you need a fresh revelation of God’s faithfulness? He promises to be true to you. He promises to see you through any situation you find yourself in. Isaiah 54:10 says, “‘For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” Faithfulness is foundational to the very character of God.
Respond to God’s faithfulness today. Let His promises calm the parts of your life that feel unsure. Think about the things you’ve put your trust in. Remember, God promises that His faithfulness will outlast anything you see. May your affections for him be more today. May you respond to his faithfulness with your own. And may you experience the love and joy of a Father who loves you perfectly and completely.
Andy Cisneros
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+23-25&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be Numbers 26-27 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Formula

Numbers 21-22

Numbers 21 7 NIV

In today’s reading, the Israelites needed a spiritual “blood transfusion.” Their sinful and rebellious attitude had shown itself in impatience, complaints about hardships, ingratitude for manna, and a lack of faith in God’s leader, Moses. This faithlessness resulted in a deadly plague of snakes that were killing the people.
The Israelites repented and asked Moses to intercede for them. God’s response required them to show their repentance by a simple act of faith. Moses made a bronze serpent and lifted it up on a pole. To be healed, people had to look at the serpent. If they didn’t believe God’s words, they wouldn’t look up and would therefore die. Only through faith could they be saved.
Homeopathic medicine is the practice of curing likes with likes. The patient receives diluted doses of substances that, at full strength, cause the same symptoms the patient already has.
This type of medicine is used in many parts of the world, though it remains controversial among medical experts. In this instance, God prescribed a similar remedy for Israel, treating snake bites with a replica of a snake. Going a step further, God undid the effects of the plague through an image of the curse itself.
Today’s story begins with the people grumbling … again. It was the same old story: we’re dying, we’re starving, we don’t like the miraculous food, and we’re sorry we ever left Egypt. But this incident is unique; this time, the people repented.
In past events, Moses had asked God for mercy on behalf of the Israelites, but on this occasion, his prayers were prompted by a recognition of their sin that Israel hadn’t shown before. They realized on their own why the snakes were sent, and they confessed their sin. In that way, this was a spiritual breakthrough for Israel!
If God had followed the formula we’ve seen so far, we might expect Him to demand a sacrifice of some kind, like a lamb without defect. But the Lord told Moses to put a bronze snake, a picture of judgment, on a pole for all to see. He directed the people’s eyes, not to an image of purity, but to a symbol of wrath.
For healing to take place, the people had to close the loop of repentance. They sinned, confessed, and asked for mercy. The last step was to accept God’s remedy by faith and follow His instructions.
We often picture Christ as the perfect sacrifice, and that he is. But He also took upon Himself the shame of sin and the full penalty of wrath. In His conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus compared His upcoming crucifixion to the lifting up of the serpent in the desert. Let’s confess our sins, seek His mercy and turn our eyes to him, who not only gave his life but also received our punishment. Thank Him in word and in deed today.
Andy Cisneros
Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+21-22&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be Numbers 23-25 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Satisfaction and Sin

Numbers 18 29 NIV

Numbers 18

Everything in Israel that is devoted to the Lord is yours. – Numbers 18:14
The old saying to “save the best for last” might be our natural inclination as people, but when it comes to giving to God, the best should always come first. That was what God demanded of Israel. As the chosen servants of God, the Levites received that offering, the very best, as their own.
1st of all, the Levites enjoyed a distinguished role. They were God’s gift to Aaron. There should have been no confusion about Aaron’s authority over them; instead, they should have appreciated the fact that God had wanted them for His service.
That service was part of its unique responsibility. No one else in Israel could come so close to the Lord’s dwelling as the Levites. They were given the opportunity to care for and handle the holiest dwelling in the whole land. They were employed in the service of the Almighty.
God blessed them with material gifts as well. In exchange for their service to God, the Levites received the tithe offered by the entire community, the best that Israel had to offer.
For any among the Levites to have been unhappy, they must have been deceived or deluded about their stance with God. The proper response to all that He had given them was to give Him a tenth of what they received—not just any part of it, but the very best of the best. Instead, they demanded more. People who are not satisfied with the best, can never really be satisfied. Do you recognize what God has blessed you with?

Numbers 19

If a [unclean] person does not purify himself, he must be cut off from the community, because he has defiled the sanctuary of the Lord. – Numbers 19:20
It was very easy to become unclean without realizing it. To touch a corpse, to be in the same room as the dead, to stumble over a grave, was enough to defile the Israelite, and excommunicate him from the Tabernacle with its holy rites. Could anything more graphic give us a clear picture of sin? We cannot be in contact with people who are blatantly sinning, or using foul language, or watching movies or tv that express the evil of this world.
This is the reason why, at the end of the day, we often feel unable to pray, or hold fellowship with God: we are excluded from the Most Holy Place, because of this defilement. There is only one way of escaping it, and that is in being covered, sealed, by the Spirit of God. “In whom you were sealed until the day of redemption.”
Andy Cisneros
Today’s Bible reading, Numbers 18-20 can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+18-20&version=NIV
Tomorrow’s reading will be Numbers 21-22 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Rebel to Righteousness

Numbers 16 38 ESV

Numbers 16

There was a man named Korah who led a rebellion against Moses’ leadership (Numbers 16:2-3). Moses instructed them to put fire and incense in censors before the Lord to let God decide what man would be in charge. Of course, God stayed faithful to Moses and made it clear that Korah and his men were sinning.
God, to punish the rebels’ sin and rid Israel of false leadership, caused the earth to open up and swallow Korah, his household, and his rebellion. Next, God redeemed the sinful situation into a holy one by turning the censors the men used to sin with into a covering for the altar that was holy.
This is a large part of what makes the Christian faith different than other beliefs. In order to be justified, or have right standing, with the gods of many religions, one must work their way into the god or goddesses’ approval; they need to pray enough, give enough, fast enough, and do enough good all with the hope of making the cut. Our God doesn’t work like that. Instead of accepting the good or holy, he seeks the sinful and makes them holy (Mark 2:17), having exchanged our sin with Jesus’ perfection (2 Corinthians 5:21). That is a fundamental difference, that he takes the sinful and makes him holy, instead of expecting the sinful to clean himself up and work his way into his favor which is impossible for man (Rom. 3:10-12). We serve a wonderful God who can turn rebels to righteous before God.

The God of Second Chances – Numbers 17

The story of the rod of Aaron.
The rod was like a stick and these twelve men carved their names on them, out of the twelve one of them sprouted. The one that sprouted was Aaron’s rod and he became the priest. God worked this miracle to prove to the children of Israel that they had been wrong in questioning whom the priesthood rightfully belonged to. God mercifully gave Israel another evidence of his will, to correct their judgment. The miracle was sufficient to silence the complaints of the Israelites. After they realized what they had done, they were terrified and said: “Behold, we perish, we are dying, we are all dying!” God asked Moses to place the rod in front of the alter so that it served as a reminder that they were wrong in questioning God’s authority.
How many times has God given us a second chance? If you haven’t noticed, every morning is an opportunity to serve Him, love Him, give yourself to Him, reconcile with Him, reconcile with your brother, love those around you, enjoy nature, be kind, serve others. My point is, God is merciful and loving, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercies for thousands..”(Exodus 34:6-7). In His great love, he gives us second chances. However, there will come a day when we will have no more second opportunities.
Andy Cisneros
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+16-17&version=NLT
Tomorrow’s reading will be Numbers 18-20 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Sent and Thankful

Acts 13 2

Acts 13

“The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit…” Acts 13:4
Is God calling you? When’s the last time you’ve looked and watched somebody go on a missions trip? Go up front at church and speak? Or teach a class? Do you ever think ‘I should be doing that.’ Maybe God is calling you to do that. When have you ever allowed the Holy Spirit to speak to you and send you out to do God’s work? God has equipped and called each and every one of us to go do great things for the glory of His Kingdom. Nothing brings more joy than recognizing the purpose that God has made you for. Heavenly Father, help me to open my mind and heart to where You are calling me.
Open your ears and heart and listen for God’s voice in the less obvious places.
Acts 13:13-52
“We tell you the good news.  What God promised our fathers, he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.” Acts 13: 32–33
I have served in many churches throughout the United States. I have been blessed to go out and have many chances to work with youth and adults alike. To see ministries started, buildings put up and peoples’ lives changed.  But for me nothing compares to watching someone who serves the Lord. Men and women from our congregations serving me, helping, guiding  me.  Missionaries since Paul and Barnabas have risked their lives to spread God’s word in my place. Pastors and teachers have come before me and expressed their faith so that I could have a chance to know the LORD.
And Jesus died on the cross for my sins.   Nothing I can do can compare with these sacrifices, and spreading God’s word is a way for me to remember my blessings and express my thanks.
Lord, show me where I can serve you and give me the strength to respond. Help me to express thanks for others’ sacrifices through action.
-Andy Cisneros

Miracles and Praise

Acts 12 9

Acts 12

Acts 12:1-19
“but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening: he thought he was seeing a vision.”      Acts 12:9 “Pinch me! I must be dreaming.” We are not so different from Peter. When miraculous things happen, we doubt that they are real. When we finally accept the reality, we make ourselves crazy trying to explain it rationally.
I have had many moments where God has worked in a miraculous way. And I was so thankful for those moments at that time. But then those fade and you begin to question whether that was God or if it was just you hoping it was God. We all have those doubts. We have to ask – do we believe it’s God…do we want it to be God?  We all have those moments where God is speaking to us and we have to be able to recognize His voice.  The more we know God the more we are able to recognize miracles for what they are. God working in our lives.
Mighty God of Miracles, we confess that we try to explain your miracles rather than enjoy them. Help us to accept that you use all of your creation including other people to work your miracles. Open our hearts to your generous gifts and use us to deliver your miracles to others.
Next time something amazing happens to you or someone you know, don’t try to explain it away.  Accept it as a miraculous gift from God. Give Him the Glory!
Acts 12:19-25
On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, “This is the voice of a god, not of a man.” Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. But the word of God continued to increase and spread.” Acts 12:21-24
In Matthew 22:37, the first and greatest commandment for Christians is ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’.  Likewise, the 10 Commandments warn us against idolatry.  In today’s passage, Paul talks about Herod’s meeting with the people of Tyre and Sidon.  Once Herod won their approval, they praised and idolized him as a god. Giving another the praise God deserves is turning away from Him who gave you life and a way to salvation, including the death of His Son.  What more must God do to prove how much He loves you and deserves your love in return? We can even lose sight of His authority by relying too heavily on a fellow Christian for guidance. Give all your praise and honor to Him.
-Andy Cisneros

Dreams and Determination

Acts 11

Acts 11 5a

“I was in the town of Joppa and was praying when I fell sound asleep and had a vision.” Acts 11:5
Peter experienced dreams.  What about us?  How do we hear from God?  When God gives us the urge to follow, we cannot rest until we complete the task that has been assigned.  When it’s right, you will be moved to do it.
He rewards our faithfulness. I pray often for my spirit to be stirred. To move me towards God and lead me to the adventure He has planned for me.  I pray for the wisdom to know when He is speaking to me.  I ask Him to help me be fearless in His name.  Are you willing to be obedient, to have a life of changing moments?  It’s not a burden to follow the Lord, it’s a true privilege.
Acts 11:19-30
News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.  When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.  He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.                            Acts 11:22-24
Defining moments for any of us can be loss or can be about God’s great grace that can transform us in the midst of sorrow.  Through times of suffering we can see that through God’s grace we can achieve greater depth, compassion, joy, and appreciation of simple blessings.  This story in Acts reminds us of the great persecution and suffering that was going on at the time.  Yet Barnabas (the great encourager) arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God and he was glad.  What a gift to live outside the box—to trust in God’s great grace.   There is such depth in the faithfulness of God in our lives.  If you are going through a difficult circumstance, a tough choice, a rough path in your life, try recalling God’s love, faithfulness and His great grace.
God, thank you for the gift of your great grace.  May we trust that your grace is sufficient for us.
-Andy Cisneros