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Numbers 11 13 Cain

These next three chapters are where things start to heat up in the book of Numbers…literally. In verse 1, we see the Israelites start to complain. After all that God has done for them, I understand why He would be upset. When it says the “fire of the LORD burned among them,” this isn’t a metaphor, but instead literal fire burned throughout the outskirts of the camp. The people obviously didn’t like this fire, so they complained to Moses and Moses prayed to stop the fire. God stopped the fire, but apparently, this wasn’t enough to teach the Israelites their lesson. In verses 4-6, they complain about not having meat and nice food like they did in Egypt; all they had to eat was manna. In verses 11-15 Moses honestly lays out his heart to God to the point where he asks God to kill him. Now, to me, there is an important lesson that we can learn from this outpouring. Even the greatest among us can reach a point where we have had enough. However, we can always bring our troubles and anxieties to God. Even if the problem seems impossible, like feeding millions of people meat in the middle of the desert. God wants to deal with us in a personal way. He doesn’t want the perfect fake versions of ourselves where we have all the answers and are always composed. We can be honest with Him and show Him our true heart. God dealt faithfully with Moses when Moses came to Him with a huge problem and He will deal faithfully with us when we bring our problems to Him.

This interesting incident happens in 11:24-30. The Spirit of God comes upon the leaders of Israel much like what we see in the New Testament on the day of Pentecost. We usually think about the Spirit being a New Testament power, but it is also present in the Old Testament. After the spirit comes on the elders, two of the elders prophesy in the camp. A young man thought this was a problem, so he told Moses. Little did Moses know, God’s big plan was to give His Spirit to each of His followers in the new covenant that was coming. The elders prophesying was just a taste of what God had in mind for His people. I like how Moses doesn’t get jealous about God giving His Spirit to others, but instead trusts and respects God enough to allow Him to deal as He sees fit. I think we too should have this same attitude of trust in God.

In verse 34, Kibroth-hattaavah literally means “the graves of greediness”. They named the place after exactly what happened in that place. The names of places serve as reminders. Imagine going down the interstate and passing the exit to Graves of the Greedy Town. Chapter 11 serves as a good reminder to us about our selfishness and greediness. Do you feel like God owes you something? Are you complaining to God about the things you want? Let’s take chapter 11 as a good lesson for us today. God truly has our best interest at heart and has already rescued us from death and slavery. Let’s not be like the Israelites who are so quick to forget where God has brought them from and so quickly turn to our own desires.

In chapter 12 we read another story of disobedience. Aaron and Miriam get mad about Moses’s wife being a Cushite. This may be because she wasn’t a Jew and in the law people were only supposed to marry Jews. Regardless of the reason for their anger, they think they are justified in thinking they are better than Moses. They say, “’has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us as well?’” (11:2). Almost as to say Moses married a Cushite women and God has spoken through us as well, what makes him think He is better than us? In the way that verses 2-4 talk about the situation, I can imagine Aaron and Miriam colluding in the corner of the Tabernacle, whispering to each other about how they are better than Moses. God sets them straight in verses 5-10, even giving leprosy to Miriam for her disobedience. Even the leaders of Israel were making big mistakes and being divisive. The scope of these happenings highlight the sin nature of man. Even after God has liberated the Israelites from Egypt, with all the miracles that went into that event, they still sin and disobey God. No matter the circumstances, people can’t stay away from sin very long. The only way we can be purified and righteous before God is through Jesus. When God looks at us, He doesn’t see all the mistakes we’ve made today. He sees His perfect son who covers our sin. When I read the Old Testament, it makes me very thankful for Jesus and the role that he plays in my life.

Even though the people have continued to fight and disobey God, He still leads them to the Promise Land. In chapter 13, we see the beginnings of God’s plan to move His people into the Promise Land. God wants the people to spy out the land.  However, things don’t go smoothly, even the spies are disobedient and give a bad report about the land. The only spies to come back and give a good report are Caleb and Joshua. It’s like the spies forgot what they just went through with the Exodus. Did they not see the plagues that God sent on Egypt? Did they not see God defeat the entire Egyptian army in one stroke? Did they not see the manna and quail that God provided? How can they go to the land of Canaan after experiencing all these things and not think God can take care of these people too? Where is their faith? More importantly and real to our lives, are we the same way? We know the stories about what God did. We know who God is and have seen Him work. We know that even death has no power, yet we let our faith fail when we are confronted by hard things. Are we different than the spies of Israel who gave a bad report about the land of Canaan out of fear? Is there a land in which God is leading you? We have seen how He works and He is faithful to follow through. He is powerful to complete any task which He undertakes. I want our faith to be strengthened by chapter 13 and I want us to learn a lesson from the Israelites. Let’s not forget and let’s have faith. Let’s be people who follow God through the wilderness, faithfully, so that we can walk into the place He has prepared for us.

Josiah Cain

 

 

The Dark Side

Proverbs 17

Proverbs 17 4a

Everyone is handsomely dressed and well coiffed. They laugh in each other’s company as they head down the long corridor to the banquet hall where they’ve been invited to a grand dinner. The door slides open and Darth Vader greets his “guests.” Suddenly, Han, Leia, Chewy, and C-3PO realize this was a trap, and they were caught.
For anyone who has not seen Star Wars Episodes 4, 5, and 6 (about 216 times), Darth Vader is the villainous overlord of an oppressive and evil empire. Han, Leia, Chewy, and C-3PO, along with Luke and R2-D2, are the good guys trying to do what’s right and rebel against the regime.
When I read Proverbs 17: 1 (Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it, than a house full of feasting with strife), this scene from Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back immediately comes to my mind (Quite a few other verses bring this scene to mind too… Psalms 23:5 for example). I am certain the Rebel crew would have much preferred some blue milk and tauntaun jerky than a feast with their mortal enemy!
Star Wars is a science fiction epic that has endured for over 40 years in part because, even though it took place “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” it is the classic story of good versus evil.   In Episodes 4, 5, and most of 6, Darth is the personification of evil. Proverbs 17: 5, 13, 15, 19, and 20 describe his actions well. He is angry, murderous, destructive…. like blowing up entire planets destructive!
But he didn’t start out that way. He started as a boy named Anakin. (As a nearly life long Star Wars fan, I know Episodes 1, 2, and 3 are almost worthless for so many reasons, but for the sake of argument, please just go with it.) We learn that he was whiny, self absorbed, impulsive, rebellious, but most importantly, fearful. Theses attributes made him ripe for Palipatine, an evil leader with nefarious intentions, to convince Anakin to listen to evil lips (verse 4) and exchange a promise of power for evil deeds (verse 23).
Even though this is just a movie series, it truly speaks to the fact that evil starts somewhere and it’s usually rooted in selfishness and fear. And in the real world, those emotions are rooted in the absence of faith in God through Christ.
Spoiler Alert: Fortunately for Darth, he does see the light side of the force and repents for all he’s done shortly before his death. Great deathbed conversion scene! But we don’t have to have our world, or Death Star, crumble around us before seeing the error of our ways. Seek knowledge now, practice wisdom now, love now (verse 17).
May the word of God be with you.
Maria Knowlton

Giving!

2 Corinthians 8

2 Corinthians 8 4

 

“But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.”

2 Corinthians 8:7 ESV

 

 

“For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.”

2 Corinthians 8:12 ESV

 

 

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”

2 Corinthians 8:9 ESV

 

Wow. Pause and read this again. So very powerful. Let’s let this one sink in.

 

 

“And not only that, but he has been appointed by the churches to travel with us as we carry out this act of grace that is being ministered by us, for the glory of the Lord himself and to show our good will. We take this course so that no one should blame us about this generous gift that is being administered by us, for we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man.”

2 Corinthians 8:19-21 ESV

 

Throughout 2 Corinthians 8, it is evident that this chapter is explaining the collection that Titus was sent to receive for the Lord’s people. In starting out today’s reading, I decided to highlight a few key verses (as listed above) to read before we move onto a deeper discussion.

 

So often in this life, I feel as if it is ingrained into our society to accumulate more and more so that we may be perceived as the richest, having the most glamor, and being considered high in status. Many popular songs today even send out the message to seek after selfish ambitions– more money, more things, seeking after unhealthy relationships, and the list goes on and on. However, it was so refreshing to dig into this chapter today as it speaks truth onto the matter of, not only having, but also giving. Moreover, this chapter highlights the importance of recognizing what you have, and with responsibility, using a portion of it to present it as an offering unto the Lord with willingness. I love that Paul writes about the importance of being diligent and being invested in your faith, speech, knowledge, earnestness, and love, but also writes that presenting an offering is indeed an act of grace.

  • You don’t think you have anything valuable to offer? Think again! One of the best parts about presenting the Lord with an offering is that you do not have to have a lot to be able to give/carry out an act of ministry, contributing to the furtherance of the kingdom. An offering for one person may look completely different than an offering for another person and that’s okay!

Question:

Ask yourselves, “What do I have to offer today?”

  • Maybe it’s: time, a financial donation, investing in others, offering words of encouragement, acts of service, praying for others, etc.
  • There are several ways that you can contribute!

 

My biggest take away from this chapter is that we have a God who sent His only son to sacrifice everything on our behalf to pave the way to eternal life. It is my hope that we can present our lives as an offering to God and let His work truly come to life within us! We have the chance to do something very special to honor God and further His kingdom unto others. Are you willing to be a part of it? With grace, I encourage you to present an offering to God– today, this week, this month, this year, or all the above. Whatever that may look like in your life, seek after it. Let’s set our selfish ambitions aside and really focus on the things that matter. My friends, you are so loved! We serve a good good father. Have a great day and be sure to join back again tomorrow for our next daily devotion!

-Kayla Tullis

When Temptation Comes

Matthew 4

matthew 4 1

More than we would like to admit, we struggle with temptation.  No matter how great our will or sense of purpose in our life, it always seems to find a way to slither into our lives and rear its ugly head.  Ironically, we are caught most off guard and unaware, not when we are in the midst of a struggle with sin or a desperate time, but when things are at their best.  One minute we are walking close to God, doing his will, connected to His Spirit, loving His word, sharing his Gospel, and the next we are faced with an idea (James 1:13-14).  An awful idea. A wonderfully awful idea that will feed our selfishness, our human condition.

In Matthew 4, today’s reading, Jesus is led by the Spirit to the desert.  God, being the great storyteller he is, takes Jesus to the ultimate contrast of Eden, where the groans of nature longing for restoration can be most heard (Rom 8:22).  A setting that is far away from paradise, an allegory of the state of mankind, filled with the different, yet same challenge – temptation. Now, there are theological hairs you can split as you read this message today. Don’t do that. Fix your eyes on Jesus.

Jesus’s  triumph begs the question, “How did He overcome temptation?”  Well, He was the Son of God, right? This is true, but an error in our thinking if we think this is the sole reason that Jesus wins the days.  He is the Son of God, but he faced temptation, “just as we are”, and did not sin (Heb 4:15). You might say, “He obviously had a special ability to resist.”  You are right. It is the same special ability we have access to: The Holy Spirit. God may take us to the desert to see what our faith is made of, but He will not give us something we can’t handle, and will actually empower us if we seek Him in that moment (1 Cor 10:13).

But careful. Careful we must be because when we are in the desert it is easy to see what is coming.   We might feel as though we have plunged a dagger into the heart of temptation, but we have not put it to rest.  We must remember, we are human. No matter how willing our spirit is to continue on day after day in the will of God, our flesh is weak (Matt 26:40-43).  We crave food. We seek power. We want to be known. Our eyes, the lamp into our soul (Matt 6:22-24), see a way we can instantly fulfill the desires that will be made complete by God and chases after them in selfish, fleeting moments.  Unfortunately, this often comes on the day we leave our armor at home, catching us off guard, not ready to do spiritual battle.

Deut 8 3Looking to Jesus, how can we be ready to do battle with temptation?  First, he knew the word of God. It is how He responds not only to the temptation, but even when the word of God is seemingly being used against Him.  How can you know the will of God? It is as ironically simple as losing weight: diet and exercise. Consume the right thing, His word, and practice it daily, so you will be spiritual healthy.  Next, do God’s business. Know that temptation can come at any moment, but comes easier when we are idle (Prov 16:27-29). Keep your eyes on God and your hands and feet busy to his work. Like the old adage, “if you’re going through hell, just keep going,”  Jesus faced the temptation, but immediately moves onto His ministry. Temptation IS NOT sin. No guilt required; pick up and move on. Finally, be on guard. Relapse can setback or even kill your spiritual life. Removing unnecessary temptation from our lives is a must.  Even if we are in the word every day, engaging in spiritual disciplines, or deeply involved in a ministry, at the very height of our endeavors, it only takes a moment to go back to sin and fall harder and faster than we ever did (the very nature of relapse). If you can’t hang out with your friends without getting drunk, then don’t hang out with them.  If you can’t be on the internet without looking at inappropriate sites, then don’t get on it. If you can’t use social media without bridling your tongue and speaking in love, then stop. Jesus uses hyperbole to illustrate the practical advice when he states, “it is better to cut your hand off” or “pluck your eye out” (Matt 5:29, 30) than to be lost to sin, and ultimately the kingdom of God.

It is imperative you know there is a way to overcome temptation, no matter how great.  We have access to the Father, power through His Holy Spirit, and our eyes on Jesus Christ not only as our example, but our mediator when we fall short. He speaks to the Father because Jesus knows what it is like, and encourages us to not give in or give up.  Study. Do. Guard. Repeat. Temptation may come, but sin will no longer find a foothold in you.

-Aaron Winner

He’s Serious

Matthew 18-20

matt 18

Wednesday, May 3

I think most people think of Jesus as a mild-mannered, humble, loving person.  They believe he is full of mercy and mostly thinks kind thoughts about people.  I think all of these things are true about Jesus, but there is another side to Jesus that I think many overlook.  He can get really ticked off, especially when it comes to sin.  He hates sin!  In Matthew 18 alone he has this to say:

  • If anyone causes a child who believes in him to stumble, it would be better for them to have a heavy millstone hung around their neck and be drowned in the sea.
  • If your hand or foot causes you to stumble, it is better to cut it off than to be cast into the eternal fire.
  • If your eye causes you to stumble, it is better to pluck it out.
  • If a brother sins, go and reprove him. If he doesn’t listen take one or two more with you to talk to him.  If he still doesn’t listen, tell the whole church.
  • He told a parable about a man who would not forgive a debt so the master was so angry that he handed him over to torturers until he would pay the debt. He then said his Father will do the same to you if you don’t forgive your brother.

Millstones around necks to drown people, cutting off hands and feet, plucking out eyes, telling the whole church that someone refuses to stop sinning, and handing people over to torturers if they don’t forgive tells me one thing.  He’s serious!  He’s not messing around.  Sin really makes him upset.  So my advice to you is:  Don’t sin.

I chose to write devotions for the book of Matthew because I knew it would be easy to find something to write about.  Matthew is loaded with nuggets to help you in life, but that has become my challenge to narrow down what to write about.  I can’t pass up this little nugget in Matthew 19:9.  It is about a subject that there is much disagreement about, but I believe this verse should not be ignored.  Jesus said, “whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”  We can debate what is meant by immorality or if this applies to someone who doesn’t want a divorce, but it seems pretty clear to me that you shouldn’t divorce your spouse and get remarried, unless your spouse has committed immorality (likely sexual immorality).  I know some will say you can’t base the whole argument on a single verse and there is more to the story, but I would warn you that you better make sure this verse fits with your view on divorce and remarriage.

Another little nugget I want to mention has to do with children in the kingdom.  I have struggled to understand if children who are not baptized will be in the kingdom.  In fact, what happens to children who died at a young age, including those who were aborted?  What about the children who are young when Jesus returns?  Do they have a chance?  How will their salvation be decided?  I can’t say I have the answers to these questions, but Matthew 19:14 gives me some hope for their eternal wellbeing.  Jesus said, “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  It sounds to me like there will be some children making it into the kingdom.

I won’t spend a lot of time on my last nugget (I’m pretty sure I already lost Mackenzie), but it is such a key concept that it needs to be mentioned.  The last will be first, and the first will be last.  Similarly, Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve.  I am not going to spend a lot of time explaining this to you because it is so simple to understand.  Ditch the selfishness.  Start living for God and others.  Be honest with yourself and ask yourself this question, “Who am I living for?”

-Rick McClain

(Photo Credit: http://indulgy.com/post/znFZhGDqr2/matthew)