Only do Not Rebel

Numbers 13-14 and Psalm 44-45

Here we are to chapter 13, and we get to read one of the “fun” stories throughout the book.  Today, we get to read a handful of spies checking out a chunk of land, and it kind of reminds me of a present-day James Bond movie.  The story starts off with Moses sending out 12 spies to check out the land of Canaan.  If we remember from Genesis, the land of Canaan was the land that God promised to Abraham and his descendants.  Therefore, it’s the land that rightfully belongs to the Israelites.  Since they were saved from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites have been making their way back to the Promised Land.  Now they were so close. Before they were ready to enter the Promised Land though, they wanted to receive some intel on the land, and that’s where the 12 spies come into play.

The 12 spies spent 40 days away checking out the land of Canaan.  At the end of the 40 days, they reported to Moses and the Israelites.  All twelve of their reports were similar in the fact that they all agreed the land was good!  The land was flowing with milk and honey – better than some manna and quail.  However, 10 of the 12 spies said that they should not go take the land because it was well defended, as the cities were large and well-fortified.  The other 2 spies, Joshua and Caleb, said that they should go for it because they have the X-factor, God.  What great faith demonstrated by Joshua and Caleb!

The Israelites ultimately listen to the 10 spies unfortunately.  This was very displeasing to God, as they didn’t have faith that He could deliver to them the land that he promised them.  Therefore, God said he was going to strike down the Israelites right then and there, but Moses interceded for them.  God compromised with Moses, and instead of striking them down, God decided that he wouldn’t allow anyone over 20 years old to enter the Promised Land other than Caleb and Joshua.  Spoiler alert, this is precisely why the census at the beginning of the 40 years was about the same as the end of the 40 years.  There would have been a lot of dying and a lot of reproducing at the same time.

At first the Israelites didn’t want to go in the Promised Land when God promised it to them.  However, when God said they couldn’t enter the land, they decided to take matters in their own hand and attempt to enter the land.  You guessed it, that attempt did not go very smoothly for those who tried.

Let’s learn from the example of the Israelites here.  When the Israelites displayed a lack of faith, they were severely punished by God.  Then, when God told them not to enter the land of Canaan, they did that exact thing!  Because of their disobedience, the people who attempted to enter were killed.  Rather than going against God’s direction and will like the Israelites, let’s humbly submit to God and His will for us.  Trust me, it will totally pay off if you follow God rather than rebel against God.

I hope you all enjoy the rest of the book of Numbers, as there are some interesting stories waiting for you all!  Remember, the book is not as boring as the title would suggest.

A note from Psalms:

“For not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me,” Psalm 44:6.

The Israelites would have been well off if they considered this verse when they attempted to go to Canaan against God’s direction.  We may not put our trust in a bow or sword; however, it’s very tempting to put our trust in our money and possessions.  When we put our trust in our possessions, we will only be disappointed.  In fact, we will only not be disappointed if we put our trust in God!

-Kyle McClain

Links to today’s Bible reading – Numbers 13-14 and Psalm 44-45

Complaining

Numbers 11-12 and Psalm 42-43

A couple of years prior to Numbers chapter 11, the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt.  They were being mistreated by the Egyptians, and they wanted out!  God answered their plea, and he delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians.  It wasn’t an easy process though, as man could not have done it alone.  God had to perform a number of miracles along the way to free the Israelites. 

If we fast forward back to Numbers 11, the Israelites begin to complain because they are hungry.  They complain to Moses who then complains to God.  It’s as if the Israelites completely forgot all of the miracles that God performed in the first place to get them out of Egypt.  When I read about how the Israelites complain time and time again about being hungry, thirsty, or whatever, I get irritated with them.  I ask how in the world could they complain after all that God has done for them?!

Unfortunately, the more I think about the Israelites complaining, the more I realize similarities between them and many of us today, myself included.  God may not have rescued us from the hands of the Egyptians, but He has done so much more than we could ever begin to ask.  God laid down his own Son for us, so that we could have everlasting life in His coming Kingdom.  That’s powerful!  After all that God has done for us, we still have our bad days.  We still have our days in which we complain to God about the current issues we are experiencing in life.

From the outside looking in, the problems that the Israelites faced seemed like such small issues in the big picture, and the truth of the matter is that they were.  The same could be said about many of the small issues that we face on a daily basis and have the audacity to complain to God about after all He has done for us.  I’m all for being honest with God and expressing our real, raw feelings to God, so I don’t think that’s the issue.  Rather, maybe we shouldn’t let the small issues that we may experience affect us so much.  We need to put all the temporary issues that we experience into perspective.  Most of the issues that a lot of us, myself included, may complain about aren’t even worth complaining about in the first place! 

A small bump in the road may seem like a giant mountain when we are going through it, but hindsight is often able to put those issues into perspective.  Let’s work on putting those small issues into perspective in the moment, which is a lot easier said than done.  If we do this, then our positive attitudes will uplift us and those around us.

A note from Psalms:

“Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!” Psalm 43:3

This ties directly in to our conversation yesterday about being led by God.  Pray for God to send out his light and truth to us to lead us where He sees fit.

-Kyle McClain

Links to today’s Bible reading – Numbers 11-12 and Psalm 42-43

God Guides

When you Look for It

Numbers 9-10 and Psalm 40-41

I always love a good celebration with my friends and family!  The Israelites had a number of different celebrations, but arguably the most important one to them was the Passover.  The Passover was in commemoration of God sparing the Israelite firstborn sons during the tenth and final plague to free the Israelites from Egypt.  All of the Israelite households who spread the blood of the lamb on their doorposts had their firstborn sons spared, but everyone else did not.  In chapter nine of Numbers, God instructs the Israelites, through Moses, to celebrate the Passover.  This is a vital celebration that the Israelites struggled to remember to celebrate later on.

It would be cool to see the whole nation of Israel gather together to celebrate the Passover.  Truth be told, there are a ton of events recorded in the Bible that would be flat out awesome to see firsthand!  Of all the awesome things to see, Numbers chapter 9 records one of the top 10 things that I would have liked to have witnessed firsthand – maybe top 5.  That awesome thing recorded is the pillar of fire that guided the Israelites where to go at night.  During the day, a pillar of cloud guided them, but at night it had the appearance of fire.  How cool would it be to see the pillar of fire in the sky at night?!  I would say top 10 throughout the whole Bible!  Our God is incredible, and he is capable of some awesome feats.

I don’t think many of us are going to be led by a pillar of cloud or fire.  However, similar to the Israelites, we can and should still be guided by God.  There’s a very good chance that the guidance that God provides you will not be as obvious as the pillar of cloud or fire.  Therefore, we really need to be in tune with God and keep our eyes, ears, heart, and mind open to His guidance.  There are a number of ways in which God can lead us, so we should be ready at all times.  If we are actively seeking God’s guidance, then we are much more likely to see it.  That has to do with our Reticular Activating System in our brains.  If you don’t know what that is, then look it up on Google or YouTube.  You’ll be amazed.

 I would encourage you all to pray to God to help you become susceptible to God’s guidance.  You may be surprised with all the ways that God attempts to guide you.

A note from Psalm:

“Blessed is the one who considers the poor!  In the day of trouble the LORD delivers him,” Psalm 41:1.

Let this serve as a reminder to be generous with everything that God provides us with.  If we consider the poor with our resources, then God will deliver us!

-Kyle McClain

Links to today’s Bible verses – Numbers 9-10 and Psalm 40-41

Giving and Serving

Numbers 7-8 and Psalm 38-39

The Tabernacle played a very important role for the Jews before the Temple era.  The Tabernacle served as the central area where the Jews worshiped God.  Therefore, it was important that the Tabernacle was well taken care of.  We discussed two days ago that the Levites were responsible for the upkeep of the Tabernacle.  Although not all the tribes participated in the actual work of the upkeep of the Tabernacle, the tribes did provide gifts for the Tabernacle.  When we think about the church today, we may not all partake in the physical upkeep of the church building.  However, we should follow the example set in Numbers 7, and everyone should provide for the needs of the church.

After 88 verses describing the different gifts that the tribes presented to the Tabernacle, Moses communicates with God.  Moses went into the tent of meeting (the Tabernacle), and God spoke to Moses from above the mercy seat that was on the Ark of the Covenant.  The Ark of the Covenant represented the presence of God to the Israelites, and it was an extremely important artifact for the Israelites.  I, along with Indiana Jones, have often wondered where in the world the Ark of the Covenant is located today. 

Chapter eight talks more about the responsibilities of the Levites.  Not only were the Levites responsible for the upkeep of the Tabernacle, but they were responsible for serving the people of Israel at the Tabernacle.  The upkeep of the Tabernacle and the upkeep of our church buildings are important, but it is all for naught if we neglect the people of God.  Therefore, let these two chapters serve as a reminder to provide for our church buildings, but also more importantly to care for the people of God.

A note from Psalms:

“But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.” Psalm 38:15

Praise God that we serve a good God who hears and answers our prayers.  God may not always answer our prayers the way we want or expect to, but he will provide an answer.  Sometimes, we need to remember to wait on the LORD.

-Kyle McClain

Links to today’s Bible reading – Numbers 7-8 and Psalm 38-39

Set Apart

Numbers 5-6 and Psalm 37

            This past year has been quite the crazy one to say the least!  The main contributor to this for many was COVID-19 and how we responded to it.  Many governments throughout the world encouraged their citizens to quarantine because of the virus.  These decisions received a lot of support and a lot of backlash at the same time (you’re never going to be able to please everybody!).  I’m not here to provide support or backlash for these decisions, but I am here to inform you that this was nothing new.  In Numbers chapter 5 verses 2-3, God commanded the Israelites to “quarantine” the “unclean” people.  The word “quarantine” isn’t found in any translations that I found, but that is precisely what was taking place.  Now obviously the circumstances are by far and away vastly different in Numbers chapter 5 compared to the year 2020.  Therefore, take this bit of information for what it is worth in comparison to our past year’s circumstances.

            Chapter 5 also describes a test to see if a woman has committed adultery against her husband.  Sex outside of marriage was not something that the nation of Israel took very lightly, as God had very strict rules for them in this regard.  It’s a shame that our society does not value the sanctity of marriage like the Israelites in the Old Testament.  Our society teaches us that the physical benefits of marriage are for everyone, whether married or not, and that hinders many marriages.  Let’s revisit and exemplify the positive values demonstrated by the Israelites and live a sanctified life.

            Speaking of living a sanctified life, there were some Israelites who took this concept above and beyond.  Those Israelites took on the Nazirite vow.  The purpose of the Nazirite vow was to “separate himself to the LORD,” (Numbers 6:2).  There were a number of different rules revolving around the Nazirite vow, but the two most well-known ones are abstaining from alcohol and cutting your hair.  Some may recall that the judge Samson took on the Nazirite vow, and he did not cut his hair – until a lady came in and ruined it for him.  We don’t necessarily need to take on the Nazirite vow ourselves, however, we shall strive to live lives that are set apart from the rest of the world – the purpose of the Nazirite vow. 

A note from Psalms:

“The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever.” Psalm 37:29

What a glorious hope that we have!  If we live a sanctified life, then we can inherit the land forever and ever!

-Kyle McClain

Links to today’s Bible devotions – Numbers 5-6 and Psalm 37

Belonging to the Lord

Numbers 3-4 and Psalm 35-36

            Today, we get to talk about the Levites.  We should already basically be pros on the Levites, as we just finished the book of Leviticus.  Just a refresher though, the Levites descended from Levi, the son of Jacob.  If we remember from Exodus, God saved the Israelites and spared their firstborn sons through the Passover.  Therefore, rather than God taking the oldest son of each family, the descendants of Levi would be dedicated to God.  We can read about that in Numbers 3:11-13, as God says, “They shall be mine: I am the LORD.”  Moses and Aaron were both Levites as well who belonged to the LORD.

            The Levites had a number of jobs, but they are mostly known for being priests.  Aaron himself was one of the Levite priests, and his descendants followed in his footsteps.  No matter what job a Levite had, they were to be used for God’s glory and sake.

One of the main responsibilities of the Levites were to care and provide for the Tabernacle.  I like to refer to the Tabernacle as a “portable temple”.  The Israelites were constantly moving around in the wilderness.  Therefore, they had to build the Tabernacle out of curtains so that they could move it around easily. 

            Chapter four talks about the Kohathites, and they are a clan within the Levites.  Their jobs specifically revolved around the Tabernacle.  The Kohathites were in charge of setting it up and breaking it down each time.  It reminds me a lot of the last day at a church camp, and we all have to pitch in to put away all the equipment.  It’s a tough job that we sometimes forget about.

All in all, the Levites were a very important group of people in the Old Testament, as they ultimately belonged to God.

A note from Psalms:

“Then my soul will rejoice in the LORD, exulting in his salvation.” Psalm 35:9

Let this serve as a joyful reminder that we should constantly be rejoicing in the LORD.  We serve a good, good God who provides each of us the opportunity to partake in his salvation!  Hallelujah!  Praise God!  Amen!

-Kyle McClain

Links to today’s Bible reading – Numbers 3-4 and Psalm 35-36

Counting

Numbers 1-2 and Psalm 33-34

            We have made it to the book of Numbers – yay!  I’m sure not many of you are celebrating being to the book of Numbers, as it is notoriously known for being one of the most boring books of the Bible, if not the most boring.  However, I think it’s a false representation.  I think the false representation comes from the name of the book – Numbers.  The title “Numbers” isn’t a book that just screams to be read.  However, we have to understand where this name comes from. 

The reason that the book is entitled Numbers is because the nation of Israel took a census at the beginning of the book and near the end.  In other words, the book is entitled Numbers because of 2 chapters out of 36.  That’s it!  The book of Numbers actually has a lot of really cool, unique stories. It’s a book that consists of a talking donkey, spies, the earth eating people, and more!  Therefore, I’d encourage you to celebrate the book of Numbers!  There’s a lot more in it than just two censuses.  Whether this is your first-time reading Numbers, your second, or fiftieth, I hope that you can learn something from this fun, yes fun, book.

            Well, let’s get down to it and take a look at the first two chapters of Numbers.  The book starts off with one of the previously mentioned censuses.  Their objective was to count all of the men who were able to fight in war.  The number came out to be 603,550 men.  This census was taken in just the second year after the Israelites escaped from Egypt.  This number also only includes the number of fighting men, so one could assume that Israel had about 2 million people.  That’s a huge increase from 400 years prior, as they were just the family of Jacob.  That’s a lot of multiplying taking place in 400 years to say the least!

A note from Psalms:

            Each day this week I would like to include a verse from the reading in Psalms as well, and provide a very brief note.  Here is today’s verse:

“Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!” (Psalm 33:8).  Let’s remember to have that healthy fear for God and just be in awe of His great wonders.

-Kyle McClain

Links to today’s Bible reading – Numbers 1-2 and Psalm 33-34

Dead Faith

James 1-5

I have enjoyed going through the first half of the book of Acts with all of you, as the book of Acts is one of my favorite books in the Bible.  I am fascinated with the history of the church after Jesus ascended to heaven, and there is no better source to take a look at than the book of Acts.  I hope you all enjoyed the first half of Acts as well.  Today, we cover the book of James, another real solid book (really all 66 books are real solid).  James is one of the first books of the Bible that I would have a new believer read, as it has a ton of applicable information.  The book provides great stepping stones to living a godly life.  If you haven’t read the book of James before, stop whatever you’re doing (Well, I guess that means stop reading this devotion), and read the book of James for yourself.  If you have read it before, I would still encourage you to revisit this piece of gold.

            James covers a wide range of topics throughout his book.  Today, we are going to spend most of our time covering two topics found in the book.  Before we do that though, I want to mention the other topics found in James.  If there is a topic that interests you, then go ahead and see what James himself has to say about it.  The main talking points in James that we won’t talk about are: hearing and doing the word, the sin of partiality, taming the tongue, wisdom from above, warning against worldliness, boasting about tomorrow, warning to the rich, patience in suffering, and the prayer of faith.  Much could be said about each of these different topics.  There is simply not enough time/space to mention all of these topics in our devotion.

            With that being said, we will talk about the testing of our faith and the relationship between faith and works.  I wanted to talk about the testing of our faith because it connects very well with what we have been talking about with the book of Acts.  In the first 14 chapters of Acts, we saw a handful of people suffer because of their faith in Jesus.  What does James have to say about this?  Well, James says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing,” (James 1:2-4).  In summary, James says to consider it a joy!

            I don’t know about you, but it is not my initial thought or feeling to consider a trial a joy.  I think a large reason is because it is not fun or enjoyable to go through a trial.  However, when we think about the effects of enduring through trials of various kinds, we can come away with an appreciation.  When we successfully endure through a trial, it can produce steadfastness, which enables us to be a more complete, well-rounded person. 

Every single time that someone goes through a trial, they either grow closer or they grow further away from God.  The heroes of our faith that we took a look at in Acts went through various trials, and it appears that they grew closer to God.

Our next main topic is the relationship between faith and works; they have an interesting relationship with one another.  They have caused a lot of discussion and even some disagreement in Christian circles.  According to James, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead,” (James 2:17).  That means that a faith that is not accompanied by any works is useless!  We need to remember though that it is by God’s grace that we are saved, and we accept that grace through our faith, not our works (Ephesians 2:8).  However, we can’t accept God’s grace with a dead faith; it must be a living and active faith that we have to accept God’s grace.  We already mentioned that a faith without any works is dead and useless.  That means that we must accept God’s grace through our faith, but we have to accompany our faith with our works.

At an initial glance, it can appear at times that James and Paul (in Ephesians) clash with one another.  However, that is not the case at all.  They both show how faith and works have a beautiful relationship with one another.  I remember being stumped over the relationship between faith and works for some time.  It took me awhile to see how they work together, and I hope this very short explanation can help clear up the confusion that any of you may have between faith and works.

Well, there we have it, folks.  This past week we got to spend time in Acts and James.  We have learned a handful of very valuable lessons from the likes of Paul, Peter, and James.  If you have read the devotions for this week, I hope you stick with it!  There is lots of great content ahead, as we get to explore the writings of Paul and others.  As always, there is also a great lineup of writers to help us all dig into God’s Word.  God bless!

-Kyle McClain

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – James 1-5

Tomorrow we read Acts 15-16.

Passion for God’s Word

Acts 13-14

Today, we pick back up with Paul, and we have yet to mention his main companion that shows up in chapters 13 and 14 – Barnabas.  Barnabas means “Son of Encouragement”, as he was an encourager to those around him.  Barnabas travelled with Paul frequently when Paul would go to a different region to share the gospel message.  They mostly got along great and accomplished a lot, but they did reach a disagreement down the road.  Barnabas wanted to take his cousin, Mark, with them during one of their missionary journeys, but Paul did not since Mark abandoned them on a previous trip.  We are getting ahead of ourselves a bit here though, so let’s rewind to chapter 13.

            In chapter 13 of Acts, Paul and Barnabas set sail and visited a couple of places, most notably Cyprus and Antioch.  It was at these different locations that they took advantage of their opportunity to share God’s message with others.  It’s important to note that some places that they traveled to the gospel message already was presented and spread a bit, as they weren’t the only ones around spreading this gospel message.  However, they were certainly instrumental in furthering the spread.

            In verses 16-41 of chapter 13, Paul delivers a message to the people on the Sabbath.  At the conclusion of this message that he presented, “the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath,” (Acts 13:42).  From a preacher’s perspective, this would be a dream come true!  The people were so eager to hear the gospel message that they BEGGED!  They didn’t just ask or hope or want, but they BEGGED to hear the gospel message.  When was the last time that you were so eager to hear God’s message being shared?  For most of us, it probably has been a while.  Somehow, someway we need to find that passion again for God’s Word.  Pray to God today, that he would fill your heart with a passion and desire to dig deeper into His Word.  That would be a great place to start.

            We fast forward a week from Paul’s message in verses 16-41, and we arrive at the next Sabbath in verse 44.  Verse 44 reads, “The next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord,” (Acts 13:44).  How awesome would that be?!  The week prior, the people begged to hear more of God’s word being spoken, as they had so much excitement.  It is evident that they didn’t contain their excitement to themselves.  Apparently, their passion for God’s Word drove them to share with their friends and family about the word of God that they just listened to.

            It’s a general notion that word of mouth is the best mode of advertisement.  The group who listened to Paul’s first message did a great job of advertising to others by word of mouth.  This proved to be extremely effective, as almost the whole city showed up the following week.  This serves as a good reminder for us to advertise God’s Word by word of mouth with our friends and family.  When was the last time that you shared a bit of God’s Word with someone who is not an active believer?

            Paul continued to gain a following in the different locations that he traveled to.  On the other hand, though, his adversaries were continuing to grow.  In chapter 14, Paul was stoned nearly to death for his faith and his part in spreading the gospel message.  My mind cannot stop thinking about the differences in how the early Christians were persecuted versus how we are persecuted (or the lack thereof) today in America.  I’m grateful that we don’t have to experience some of the trials and tribulations that the likes of Paul went through.  However, I can only imagine how much more serious we would take our faith if we had to physically risk our lives in order to share the gospel message with others.  Something for you to ponder.

            We continue to see the great works of some of the heroes of our faith in Acts.  I hope that these great heroes, such as Paul and Barnabas, serve as an encouragement and lesson for all of us.  God bless.

-Kyle McClain

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 13-14.

Tomorrow we will read James 1-5.

God’s Work & Way

Acts 11-12

The past couple of days we have really focused on Saul/Paul, and for very good reason!  Today, we get to highlight another very important figure in the New Testament – Peter.  Peter was seen as one of the pillars of this new Christian movement in the city of Jerusalem.  Jerusalem served as the central hub for the Jews.  Therefore, it served as a central hub for the Christians as well, as many of the Jesus followers were simply Jews who believed that Jesus was the Messiah they had been looking forward to for so long.  Peter was instrumental to share this news with other Jews.

            In chapter 11, Peter went up to Jerusalem.  When he arrived to Jerusalem, he received a lot of flak for eating with and associating with the uncircumcised.  Jews were circumcised, as they followed the law of Moses.  Therefore, Jews did not want to be seen around those who were uncircumcised, but Peter ate with them regardless.  Sounds like Peter learned some lessons from his teacher – Jesus.  Peter shared how the uncircumcised Gentiles received the gift of the Holy Spirit, so who was he to stand in God’s way?

            While Jerusalem was the central hub, we see in chapter 11 that many people who believed in Jesus as the Messiah dispersed because of the persecution.  This was quite common as the early Jesus followers received persecution from non-believing Jews and from the Roman Empire.  Some of the Jesus followers escaped to Antioch, and it was there that the disciples were first called “Christians”.

            In chapter 12, we see more persecution of this Christian movement.  This time, the persecution was directed against two key leaders and figures – James and Peter.  James (the brother of John, not Jesus) was killed at the hands of the treacherous King Herod.  While Herod was at it, he decided to arrest Peter because the Jews were pleased with Herod’s persecution of the Christians.  Evil!  Herod wasn’t able to persecute the Christians for much longer though, as God struck him down and killed him.

            Peter, fortunately, did not spend too much time in prison, as he broke out.  God sent an angel of the Lord to help Peter break out.  This was a semi-common theme in the New Testament of early Christians breaking out of prison, thanks to God.  After breaking out, he was then able to go meet with John, and the mother of John.  What an emotional instance that must have been.

            Praise God for leaders like Peter and James who were willing to suffer for the sake of God and his Son Jesus.  We could see more of this attitude today in 2020.  There is certainly much to take away from their relentless attitude of spreading the gospel message.  

-Kyle McClain


Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Acts 11-12

Tomorrow we will continue with Acts 13-14.