His Law & Love

Numb 5-6 CainPicture1

Right at the beginning of chapter 5 we continue the theme of supreme holiness.  This helps me remember that chapter and verse separations are not part of the original scriptures. For me, sometimes using verse and chapter markings can hinder my Bible study because I can see them as walls dividing different ideas or topics instead of a continuation of an idea.  That being said, we see God’s holiness carry over from chapter 4 to chapter 5. He wants His people to be so holy that He doesn’t even want unclean people in the camp. Of course, this could have medical benefits as well, which I think is another reason God instructed His people to leave the camp if they are unclean (verses 1-4).

In verse 6 there is something that grabs my attention. The NASB translation says, “Speak to the sons of Israel, ‘When a man or woman commits any of the sins of mankind, acting unfaithfully against the LORD, and that person is guilty”. The word unfaithful is מַעַל (maal) in Hebrew. It is the same word that is used to talk about unfaithfulness in marriage. You will notice that the rest of the chapter deals with unfaithfulness in marriage. I think it is intriguing how God sees sin and idolatry as unfaithfulness in the same way that people see unfaithfulness within marriage. In fact, this is the premise of the entire book of Hosea. God uses the authentic metaphor of an adulteress wife to show how Israel acts towards Him. In God’s eyes, sin and marital unfaithfulness are one and the same.

Speaking of marital unfaithfulness, the majority of chapter 5 deals with an interesting situation that may arise in the lives of the Israelites. We are presented with a situation where there is a jealous man who thinks that his wife might have been unfaithful in their marriage, but there is no proof. No one saw her with another man; there is just suspicion. Now I think it is important to understand the world in which the Israelites live. Surrounding the time the law was given to the Israelites, there were other nations with other laws to deal with similar situations. Here is what the code of Hammurabi says about a woman accused of adultery, “If a man’s wife should have a finger pointed against her in accusation involving another male, although she has not been seized lying with another male, she shall submit to the divine River god for her husband.” This divine River god test pretty much consisted of her husband making her jump into a raging river and if she survived then the “god” ruled that she was innocent and if she died then she was guilty and her judgment was given to her. Keep this in mind as we go through Numbers 5.

If a Jewish man had suspicion that his wife was unfaithful, he didn’t throw her in a river to see what happened. Instead, he had to go to the tabernacle and see a priest. The couple would bring barley meal as a memorial offering and then the priest would set out the rules for the test that was to come. Essentially, the woman agreed to drink some water mixed with a little bit of dust and ink. A little bit of dust and ink isn’t going to have major adverse health effects unless there actually is some divine judgment involved in the situation. However, jumping in a raging river has been known to kill people even if they weren’t unfaithful in their marriage. This test takes the judgment out of man’s hands and squarely puts it in the hands of God to make the call. I know it doesn’t look like it at first, but this dust and ink water test is a major step forward for women in ancient history. No longer can a man choose to beat his wife or throw her in a river based on his suspicion. He must do the very public act of taking her to the tabernacle and allowing God to make a judgment. If you notice in verse 28, she is free if the judgment doesn’t come over her. This means the man can no longer bring this charge against her. Women weren’t treated this well in any other society on earth during this time in history. The Bible puts men and women on equal playing fields in value. God makes sure that His people cannot take advantage of women the same way other nations do.

Many people want to point a finger at the Bible and say that it’s misogynistic and oppressive to women. However, God’s law ensured that women were taken care of and given the same value as men. God doesn’t hate women; He made both men and women in His image. I think there are two major points we can pull out of Numbers 5. First, God sees sin as a spouse sees marital unfaithfulness and second, God values both men and women the same. God put into effect laws that protected both His holiness and the holiness of His people and He made sure the men of His people couldn’t abuse the women who are also made in His image. This is a true gift of the Bible. In every page, in every sentence, we see the heart of God coming alive to us. Even in obscure laws about obscure situations, we see God’s heart for His people.

Now let’s take a look at Chapter 6. The majority of this chapter is dedicated to explaining the Nazarite vow. A Nazarite vow is a special vow that a person can take to dedicate themselves to God. Notably, Samson partook in a Nazarite vow which is why he lost his strength after his hair was cut. A part of the promise to Samson was to keep his vow with God and once he broke that vow, his strength left him. If you wish to take a Nazarite vow, remember the wise words of Ecclesiastes 5:5, “It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.” The Nazarite vow is so intense it even bars contact with dead relatives which would make a person unclean. Yes, if you were in a Nazarite vow and a close relative died, you wouldn’t be allowed to attend their funeral without breaking your vow. This is how serious the Nazarite vow is.

The last few verses of chapter 6 are an interesting section usually referred to as the Aaronic blessing (Aaronic referring to Aaron, the brother of Moses). The words of the Aaronic blessing are beautiful and tender. God asks for Aaron to make known how much God cares for His people.  In these words we see God’s heart. Later, there is a great promise that proclaims “they shall invoke my name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them”. Ultimately, God wants us to call out to Him in all seasons. When we see Israel go off track in the Old Testament, God desires for them to return to Him so that He can return to blessing them. We see this in Matthew 7:11 as we are reminded that God is our Father.  “So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Don’t these words resonate so well with what we see in Numbers 6?! Our God doesn’t change – He still loves us and wants to bless us. If God didn’t change in the 1,400 years between the writing of Numbers and the words of Jesus, then surely He hasn’t changed between the time of Jesus and our time now. If you are a child of God today, God wants to bless you and wants to take care of you. Take peace and find rest in this truth.

 

Josiah Cain

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+5-6&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Numbers 7 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan (1) (1)

The Cure for Death

January 2 – Genesis 4-7

Genesis 6 11 niv

The tragedy of the Garden of Eden continues, as we see the effects of the humans’ disobedience played out in a very real way. Brothers begin to kill each other, women are taken as “prizes to be won”, destruction throughout God’s creation grows exponentially, and even angels begin to break their commitment to God, coming down to mate with human women! (Depending on your interpretation of Genesis 6) God’s solution is to “clean the slate” and destroy humanity with a flood, starting from scratch with Noah and his family. It is surprising that things got this bad, right? Well, maybe it’s not as surprising as we may think…

 

We are told in 2 Peter 2:4-10 that this event happened “as an example” of what will happen when God returns to earth again; sinful humanity will be destroyed again, leaving only “the righteous” left on earth to inherit God’s Kingdom. In 1 Peter 3:18-22, we are told that we have the opportunity to be saved from this destruction through the sacrifice of Jesus and responding in faith by being baptized. Thankfully, we are also told in 2 Peter 3:3-9 that God is being patient with us all about bringing this destruction, desiring that everybody in the world come to repentance and faith in Jesus, so that they can be saved.

 

While this may seem like a very dark devotion, it should motivate us and make us appreciate the sacrifice that Jesus made even more. It is only because of Jesus’ willingness to die on our behalf that we have the opportunity at salvation in God’s Kingdom (see Ephesians 2:8-10), not because of anything we have done. God has been gracious and provided us a way out of destruction through His son, all because He loves us and wants to spend eternity with us.

 

This story should also motivate us to share this message with our loved ones, giving them the opportunity to be saved as well. If you had the cure for cancer, would you keep that information to yourself, or would you share with everybody that you came into contact with? This message is even greater than that; it is the cure for death itself, and a promise for immortality. Why are we not sharing with people every chance we get?

 

As you go about your day today, I want you to remember three things from this story:

  1. Your actions have real consequences, so think before you act
  2. God loves you and has provided a way for you to spend eternity with Him
  3. You need to love someone enough today to share the gospel with them, giving them a chance at salvation

 

As you consider and act on these three things, I will be praying for you!

Talon Paul

 

Day 2 of 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Today’s passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+4-7&version=NIV)

 

The Love Chapter

1 John 4

i John 4 11

This chapter starts out with an admonition to “test the spirits to see whether they are of God.” Not every teaching or spirit is true. There is a very important test which can be used to know if a spirit is from God, or not. “By this you know the spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God” (4:2).  The test does NOT say:

  • that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh and yet is fully God
  • that God has come in the flesh as Jesus Christ, taking on a human nature
  • that Jesus Christ came from some pre-existent state into the flesh.

We must be very careful to read the text for what it says and not read into it what it doesn’t say! The phrase “come in the flesh” means that Jesus the Christ (Messiah) is a real human being, not just dressed up like one.

1 John 4 is actually the “love chapter” in the Bible as love is mentioned 26 times, almost three times as many times as in 1 Corinthians 13 (9 times). A friend once read this chapter as a devotional thought on Valentine’s Day, and it stuck with me as the “love chapter.” So much so that when I read it last February 14th, I thought that maybe the children’s song could also go “Yes, God loves me, yes, God loves me… the Bible tells me so.”  Ultimately, it’s God’s love that ignites our love for others through His Son, Jesus the Messiah. A key verse that summarizes this chapter of love showing how love is of God is verse 9.  “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

God took the initiative, motivated by love, to remedy our sin problem.

Knowing that “God is love” (4:8,16) should motivate us to love others. But the author is not calling for a hippie kind of “All you need is love, love”. He is admonishing us to a love of other “brothers” who believe that Jesus, the human Jesus, is the Messiah/Christ (5:1). This admonition to love is a call for unity among like-minded believers, because they are family as the children of God. The way we love other like-minded believers whom we can see demonstrates how much we love God, whom we can’t see. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also (4:21).

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. (4:7)

 

Bill & Stephanie Schlegel

Agents of Hope

Psalm 37 37

Happy Saturday!  Some of you have been walking with me on this slow and steady journey through Psalm 37.

We started reading and chewing on and praying and resting with God in these verses on Sunday.  Hopefully you have found times when you were able to delight in God.

Today we come to the final portion of this magnificent Psalm.

Once again, let us read it Lectio Divina Style: Read, Meditate, Pray, Rest in God.

1.  Read through verses 35-40 slowly, at least 3 times.

35 I have seen a wicked and ruthless man

flourishing like a luxuriant native tree,

36 but he soon passed away and was no more;

though I looked for him, he could not be found.

37 Consider the blameless, observe the upright;

a future awaits those who seek peace.

38 But all sinners will be destroyed;

there will be no future for the wicked.

39 The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord;

he is their stronghold in time of trouble.

40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;

he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,

because they take refuge in him.

2.  Meditate.  Choose a word or phrase and spend some time thinking deeply about what it says and what it means.

For me, two contrasting phrases stand out and speak loudest to me.  “A future awaits those who seek peace” and “there will be no future for the wicked.”

I have spent a considerable amount of time in recent months studying the phenomena of despair and the state of depression.  Life expectancy in the United States has declined for three consecutive years.  More younger people are dying from what has been labeled “deaths of despair.”  These are deaths that result from drug addiction, alcohol related deaths and suicide.  The rate of deaths of despair is massively increasing.  Despair can kill a person.

In the story, The Inferno, Dante has the gates of hell have a sign over it that says “abandon hope all ye who enter.”  Dante wasn’t really talking about an afterlife here, but more likely a state of being.  Hell is where people find themselves when they are living without hope.  The absence of hope is despair.  When a person lives without a meaningful hope for the future it is soul destroying.  As I see it, as followers of Jesus Christ we are called to be agents of hope who are called to share that hope with a world of people who are in despair.

In a world in despair and hopelessness we bring with us a message of hope and with that, the opportunity to bring people into a state of shalom or peace.  People need not live in alienation from God, from others or from themselves.  People can be reconciled to God, to others and selves.  They can be made whole.  They can experience salvation/wholeness from God which results in healing and hope.  The Psalmist rightly says “the salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord.”  Only God can save us, heal us, make us whole and bring an end to our existential despair.

God, I want to continue to be one who lives life with a hopeful future.  I want to be one who seeks peace/shalom.  Jesus was probably thinking about this Psalm when he spoke in his Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God” (See Matthew 5:9).

3.  Pray.  Whatever your meditation brings up, bring that to God in prayer.  For me I pray- “God, am I living as a peacemaker?  Am I acting as an agent of your shalom/healing/wholeness/salvation in this world.  Am I living life out of the deep well of hope?  In what ways do you still want me to seek peace in my home, in my church, in my workplace, in my neighborhood and community, in my country and in this world?

4.  Rest in God.  Living as a peacemaker and an agent of hope in this divided and despair filled world can be spiritually and emotionally (as well as physically) exhausting at times.  We need to draw our strength from the deep well of God’s love and mercy.  As you prepare for whatever the day may bring you as you prepare to be a peacemaker, spend a few moments resting in God’s love.

This concludes our slow and deep reading of Psalm 37.  We have divided the 40 verse Psalm into 7 smaller sections and, within each section we have read, meditated, prayed and rested in God.  I hope that you have come to appreciate how this form of reading and praying the Bible can deeply enrich your spiritual life as you seek to serve God.  I encourage you to practice Lectio Divina prayer/scripture reading on a regular basis and note how it helps strengthen your life of prayer with God.

Pastor Jeff Fletcher

Peace

1 Thessalonians 3

1 Thessalonians 3 8

The big three are faith, hope and love.  Chapter three is all about growing stronger in faith. (vs. 7).  Esther and I have been watching all the very small things God has been doing through each day to show His love to us.  Things such as sending rain after the baptism tonight instead of during.  Things such as God’s gentle spirit blowing the door shut to the tabernacle as we write this devotional.  Things such as the enormous peace in the stone chapel as we prayed very early in the morning.

 

Application: As Christians, we can endure all persecution, and still have faith God loves us as we obtain perfect peace with both God and other friends.

 

-Paul & Esther

 

We Are Hupernikao

Romans Chapter 8

 

I am thrilled that I will be sharing my thoughts on Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome.  Romans is my favorite book of the Bible due to the sheer amount of truth, enlightenment and encouragement that is contained within.

 

Pages and pages can be written on any given chapter within Romans, but I plan to touch on only one or two (or three) portions of each chapter I am covering.

 

Romans chapter 8 is right in the middle of this amazing book, and it should be an amazing encouragement to any believer who is struggling with the weight of life.

 

Have any of you watched the news any time recently?  The old adage, “No news is good news” is often very true.  If the news didn’t have BAD news to talk about, they wouldn’t have much to say at all it seems.  Our world is fallen, and sinful behavior thrives in this fallen world.  But you don’t have to watch the news to know that.  We can see the adverse effects of living in a fallen world on a day to day basis within our own lives.

 

We are reminded in this chapter that all of creation groans and waits in eager expectation to be made perfect and freed from the bondage of decay.  Me too!  I’m not too old yet, (47 is the new 40), but I know my body is slowing down.  Much worse, I have seen loved ones pass away as a result of their bodies failing.

But that will all end!  We will be made perfect in the coming Kingdom!  That is the hope talked about in this section, and it is a hope that can not be taken from us.

 

Until that day comes, be encouraged, fellow believers, in the words Paul shares here.  Verse 28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  That’s encouraging!  That doesn’t mean everything will be perfect as we want it to be, but God, in His infinite wisdom knows what is best for our own good even if do not.

 

Verse 31b – “If God is for us, who can be against us?!!!!”  (I added the exclamation marks – it SHOULD have them in my Bible.)  That is one of the best lines in all of scripture in my humble opinion.  What God has put in motion is unstoppable.  No one will stop God’s plans, and God’s plans include YOU!

 

Yes, we all face hardships in this fallen world today, until we are made perfect in the Kingdom.  But we have a certain hope in that coming day, and nothing can take that hope away or prevent that day from coming.  Likewise, these momentary troubles can not separate us from the love of Christ.  Paul tells us  in verse 37 that in regards to these troubles we are “more than conquerors.”  The Greek word for that phrase is hupernikao.

greg 1

We learned that word in a Sunday School lesson last year, and it was fun to shout “Hupernikao!” if we demolished the other team in volleyball after church on Wednesday nights!  It feels great to be hupernikao.  That is what we are intended to be with God and Christ on our side.

 

Finally, this chapter concludes with more incredible encouragement in regards to the possibility of being removed from the love of God:

 

“38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

I hope that is as encouraging for you as it is for me.  Take these passages to heart.  Remember them when the world seems to be against you.  Remember that your creator, your Father, your God is FOR YOU!  And nothing can take that, or His future promise for you, away.

 

-Greg Landry

I Want to Know What Love Is

1 john 4_16

At this time of year, I usually think about the resolutions that I want to make and mine usually include some method of time management so I have time for the people and things that I truly love.

I love the scriptures.  Why? Because through these scriptures God reveals who He is and He is amazing. The Bible is a message from God. This message is essential for every human being. After all we are created in His image so it makes sense that He wants us to understand what life is truly about.  He also explains why He created us in the first place. What purpose we should fulfill as we live out this life as His children. He also provides us with the message of our future, our hope.  The scriptures explain why God gave us His Son and what Jesus did and said. God explains how we can receive some present blessings while we patiently wait for future rewards including immortality in His Kingdom. Wow!

Why does God offer us all of this? He loves us. Now I know at this point we would all say, “Of course He does, we all know that”. But we need to be constantly reminded because while we face the struggles of life, we can forget that message of love. Christ warned us that in the last days because of the increase of wickedness, that the love of most will grow cold (Matthew 24:12), but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. So how do we keep our love for others and God strong?

In 1 John 4:7&8 we read, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” So we can rely on God to provide us with His love. A love from God gives us the ability to love God with all that we are – to love with our heart, soul, strength and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:27).

Lets return to 1 John 4, verse 16, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

So the Word of God is important to me because it is a message of love. A message that God loves us so much that he wants to live with us eternally.

-Rebecca Dauksas