Looking Back & Looking Forward

Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 6-12

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves WHOLEHEARTEDLY to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” – Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Moses continued his farewell speech to the Israelites by encouraging them to remember how the Lord has rescued them. He told them to fear the Lord and serve Him only, for God is a jealous God and He desires for us to DILIGENTLY obey the His commands. He calls us to do what is right and good in His sight so that all will go well with us (Deut. 6:18).

Each January, our administrative team meets to look back over the past year. Together we remember ALL that God has done and all HE has accomplished. We celebrate God’s generosity and His grace over the ministry to which He has called us. We then look forward to the new year, asking God for His guidance and His blessing. We long to see His vision for His ministry – His plan in His time.

Perhaps you went through this same process on the first day of this month – looking back at 2017 and looking forward to 2018. Perhaps you felt like the Israelites as they saw the mistakes they had made and the consequences of their decisions. There were probably moments to celebrate and memories to regret. Looking forward to this year might have felt like getting a blank slate or a chance to start a new chapter of your life. God gives us moments like these to purposefully stand between what He has done for us and what He promises to do in the coming years – looking back and looking forward while praising God for every moment.

Moses was having a similar moment with God’s people as they stood between the wilderness and the promised land, looking back and looking forward. He told them their children would ask – Why do we do what we do? Why do we follow these traditions and rules? LET THEM HEAR THE STORIES. Make them aware of where God has brought us from and that we will be counted as righteous when we obey all God’s commands (Deut. 6:20-25).

“…Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure… Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands. But he does not hesitate to punish and destroy those who reject him.” – Deut. 7:6-10

You have seen it with your own eyes! God has led you – sometimes humbling you, sometimes testing you, but all the time teaching you. He has provided in order to teach you that people do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes have not worn out; your journey has been long but your feet are neither blistered nor swollen. Now praise the Lord for this good land He has given you. In the midst of your plenty, do not become proud and forget the source of all blessings. Don’t think you have achieved anything by your own strength and energy but remember that it is the Lord who gives you the power to be successful (Deut. 8).

“..But recognize today that the Lord your God is the one who will cross over ahead of you like a devouring fire…Don’t say in your hearts, ‘The Lord has given us this land because we are such good people!’ No…it is not because you are so good or have such integrity…You must recognize that the Lord your God is not giving you this land because you are good, for you are not – you are a stubborn people.” – Deut. 9:3-6

So now Israel, what do you think God expects from you? Just this: LIVE IN HIS PRESENCE in holy reverence, follow the road he sets out for you, love him, serve God, your God, with everything you have in you, obey the commandments and regulations of God that I’m commanding you today—live a good life.

Look around you: Everything you see is God’s—the heavens above and beyond, the Earth, and everything on it. But it was your ancestors who God fell in love with; he picked their children—that’s you!—out of all the other peoples. That’s where we are right now. So cut away the thick calluses from your heart and stop being so willfully hardheaded. God, your God, is the God of all gods, he’s the Master of all masters, a God immense and powerful and awesome. He doesn’t play favorites, takes no bribes, makes sure orphans and widows are treated fairly, takes loving care of foreigners by seeing that they get food and clothing.

You must treat foreigners with the same loving care—
remember, you were once foreigners in Egypt.
Reverently respect God, your God, serve him, hold tight to him, back up your promises with the authority of his name.
He’s your praise! He’s your God!
He did all these tremendous, these staggering things
that you saw with your own eyes.
When your ancestors entered Egypt, they numbered a mere seventy souls. And now look at you—you look more like the stars in the night skies in number. And your God did it.
– Deuteronomy 10:12-17 (The Message)

Father God, I cannot help but laugh out loud at your goodness! My heart is overflowing with all you have done! Thank you for being a generous God, even when we fail and struggle. Lord, thank you for the privilege to be called to holiness, to be set apart for your glory and for your excellence. We feast in your presence this morning as we rejoice in all you have accomplished! Fill us with your strength and your righteousness today, we pray.

Lord, we take this time to pray for our country. Help us to find a balance between protecting our freedoms and protecting our country. Help us to always be a refuge for those in need, to be compassionate towards ALL people. You are a God immense and powerful and awesome, taking loving care of all your children. Give us hearts that extend that same love to one another, treating foreigners with the same loving care we receive from you. Amen.

But Wait!

Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 1-5

Have you ever anticipated something for a long time? Then you get to that moment and someone makes you pause for a moment of reflection. Have you felt the anticipation of what is about to happen and the anxiety of something delaying that moment you have been waiting for?


Christmas morning – you see the gifts piled up but wait, it’s time to read the Christmas story and thank God for how generous He has been. You struggle to listen despite the anticipation of what hides under the beautiful wrapping paper!

You have been driving for three hours to get to the amusement park. You are finally through the gate and you can hear the screams of those fortunate enough to already be on the roller coaster. But wait! We have to pose for a quick picture by the park sign before we ride the rides. But wait! We need to decide where we are going to meet and at what time.

Consider those hot summer days. All morning you look forward to going to the local pool. Your mother took FOREVER to finish all she wanted to accomplish before loading the car but now you are finally standing at the edge of the beautiful blue water. But wait! You need sunscreen applied…let the sunscreen dry first…you just ate lunch, you should probably let your stomach rest for a few minutes before you swim…UGH!

I wonder if this is what the Israelites were feeling as they stood between the desert they had wandered in for so long and the beautiful Promised Land of Canaan. After defeating King Og of Bashan and King Sihon of the Amorites, Moses took the time to address the people he had led this far. What could have taken eleven days had taken forty years due to the Israelites disobedience. Moses reminded the people of what God had done for them and of the covenant relationship He had entered into with His people.


The majority of the book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ last speech to the Israelites before handing leadership over to Joshua. He looked back over his time with God’s people, reminding them of God’s faithfulness to them through some of the hardest times. He intentionally reminded them of the last time God said to go into the Promised Land and take possession of it.

Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, and in the desert. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place. In spite of this, you did not trust in the Lord your God, who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go. – Deuteronomy 1:29-33

In response to their lack of faith and unwillingness to obey, God’s people wandered for 40 years but God did not abandon them:

The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has WATCHED OVER your journey through this vast desert. These forty years the Lord your God has BEEN WITH YOU and you have not lacked anything. – Deuteronomy 2:7


“You saw with your own eyes what the Lord did…” Now obey! This is the main theme of his message.

“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Remember…” Deuteronomy 4:9-10a

There will be tough times ahead of you, “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29).

Moses’ strong desire was that history would not repeat itself – that Israel would learn from their past mistakes and move forward in righteousness and faithfulness to their covenant relationship with God. He reminded them of the 10 Commandments and then gave them this very wise advice:

“Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.” – Deuteronomy 4:39

“So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.” – Deuteronomy 5:32-33


Dear God, we thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for the times in our lives when you have carried us as a father carries his child. We praise you for those times when you have made us pause – when you have gone ahead of us in our journey, preparing the way and directing us down the right path. Your plan has never been for us to fear but always for us to trust in your provision. Thank you for watching over us, for remaining with us even when we struggled to trust you, and for your provision.

Abba Father, we thank you for being a God who is there for us – a God we find every time we seek you with all our heart and with all our soul. Lord, we patiently wait in anticipation of what you have next for us. Give us courage through the unknowns and patience in the waiting. We choose to walk in your way today, to remain in a covenant relationship with you. Guide us into your perfect plan, we pray. Amen.

Searching for Signal

Today’s Reading: Numbers 23-36

God had a purpose for Balaam – a place he needed him to be. Because Balaam responded in obedience when God blocked his way, God was able to use him in this next story.


After forty years of wandering around in the wilderness, the Israelites were finally making their way toward the promised land of Canaan. When they came to the edge of the land occupied by the Amorites, they sent a message to the king asking for permission to travel through their land on their way to Canaan. They promised to stay out of the fields and vineyards, staying only on the King’s road and refraining from drinking from any of the wells.

The King of the Amorites refused to be generous with God’s people and instead mobilized an army to attack the people of Israel. The King obviously UNDERESTIMATED THE POWER OF GOD. The Israelites slaughtered the army sent by King Sihon and occupied the land. They moved on to Jazer and then marched up the road to Bashan, where King Og was waiting to attack them.

The Lord said to Moses, “Do not be afraid of him, for I HAVE HANDED HIM OVER TO YOU, along with all his people and his land. Do the same to him as you did to King Sihon of the Amorites, who rules in Heshbon.” And Israel killed King Og, his sons, and all his subjects; not a single survivor remained. Then Israel occupied their land. – Numbers 21:34-35

Now King Balak of Moab saw everything that happened and watched the Israelites camp across the river from Jericho. He sent for Balaam, offering him money to curse the people of Israel. Unlike King Sihon, Balaam understood the power of the Israelite’s God and replied:

Even if Balak were to give me his palace filled with silver and gold, I would be powerless to do anything against the will of the Lord my God. – Numbers 22:18

After hearing from the Lord, Balaam traveled to King Balak but warned him, “Look, now I have come, but I have no power to say whatever I want. I will speak only the message that God puts in my mouth” (Numbers 22:38).


Balak took Balaam up to Bamoth-baal, built altars and made sacrifices in hopes that Balaam would curse Israel. Balaam went alone to the top of the hill and God met him there, giving Balaam the words to say and the message to give back to Balak – a message blessing Israel instead of cursing them.

Frustrated, Balak took Balaam to another place overlooking the Israelites. Balak asked Balaam to at least curse some of the Israelites if he couldn’t curse all of them. They built more altars and offered more sacrifices. God commanded Balaam again to bless the people of Israel. This was the message Balaam delivered:

“Rise up, Balak, and listen!
Hear me, son of Zippor.
God is not a man, so he does not lie.
He is not human, so he does not change his mind.
Has he ever spoken and failed to act?
Has he ever promised and not carried it through?
Listen, I received a command to bless; God has blessed, and I cannot reverse it!…”
– Numbers 23:18-20

Balak took Balaam to a third place, hoping it would please God to curse the Israelites from there. God again blessed His people and Balak flew into a rage. God gave Balaam a final message for King Balak. Not only would he bless and not curse the people of Israel, he would use Israel to crush and destroy the nation of Moab.


I wonder if we ever communicate with God in the same way that King Balak did. Like moving from place to place to get better cell phone reception, do we refuse to listen to God’s first reply to us and continue to manipulate our circumstances to get a different result? “Can you hear me now?” When God gives us clear instructions, do we stall and try other methods to get what we want instead of obeying and accepting His plan?

God, this morning we have gone alone to our mountaintop and you have met us there. Show us your plan and give us direction, giving us also the strength to accept your will. Reveal if there is anything you have told us to do and we have ignored it, hoping for a different message next time we hear from you. Forgive us for manipulating our situation instead of submitting to your Lordship. Lord, may our heart’s desire to please and serve you be stronger than our own selfish desires. We love you, Lord. Amen.

Choosing Fear or Faith

Today’s Reading: Numbers 18-22

Now the Lord told Moses to send out men into the land of Canaan to explore the land. The men came back and reported what they had found and brought back the fruit of the land. They celebrated the bounty of the land but worried about the size of the men in Canaan, calling them “giants”.


But Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. “Let’s go at once to take the land,” he said. “We can certainly conquer it!’

But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. “We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!” So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: “The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers and that’s what they thought, too!” – Numbers 13:30-33

Do I live in fear or in faith?

God was angry with the people for living in fear instead of faith. God was ready to destroy the Hebrews with a plague, but once again Moses intervened and prayed for God to forgive His people.

“Please, Lord, prove that your power is as great as you have claimed. For you said, ‘The Lord is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty…In keeping with your magnificent, unfailing love, please pardon the sins of this people…” – Numbers 14:17-19


Now God recognized in Caleb a different spirit. He saw that Caleb followed him wholeheartedly (14:24). Caleb and Joshua were the only ones who would enter into the land of Canaan because of their faith in God.

Am I like Caleb or one of the other spies? Do I choose to live in fear or in faith? I want to be like Caleb, one who has a different spirit and follows the Lord with all my heart – living in faith and not fear.

Do I trust in God or trust in my “staff”?

When God’s people camped at Kadesh, there was no water and they began to rebel against Moses and Aaron once again. They blamed the leaders for their discomfort and circumstances. Without water, there would be no grain, no grapes, no pomegranates, and no water to drink. Moses and Aaron fell face down before the Lord with this new problem and God gave them clear instructions, just as He is generously in the habit of doing for us.

“You and Aaron must take the staff and assemble the entire community. As the people watch, speak to the rock over there, and it will pour out its water. You will provide enough water from the rock to satisfy the entire community and their livestock.” – Numbers 20:8


Moses took his staff of leadership with the intent of following God’s instructions but, when the moment came for him to act on his leadership, Moses trusted in his staff more than God. He was to speak to the rock and he instead struck the rock. Water poured forth and the needs were supplied, but not in the way God had instructed Moses. Moses found himself relying on the strength of his own leadership instead of God’s miraculous power, and the consequence was great.

“Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate my holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!” – Numbers 20:12

Am I focused on my plan or listening for God’s plan?

Balaam was so focused on his own plan, what he thought he should do, that he was both blind and deaf to God’s attempts to block his plan.

God’s response through his angel (22:32-33): “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to OPPOSE you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared her.”

Once God had his attention, Balaam’s response was one of repentance and obedience (v.34): “I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.”

Am I focused on my plan or listening for God’s plan? Am I like the old Balaam or the new Balaam? Am I pushing after what I want instead of listening for God’s instruction? I want to respond as Balaam did. I want to be the one who has a heart of repentance and is willing to go with God’s plan once I realize that I am doing my own thing instead of following the Lord.

Thank you for the reminder, Lord, to live in faith and not fear. Please show me if at any moment today I am trusting more in myself than in You. Quiet the distractions and circumstances in my life so that I can better listen for your clear instructions and your plan. My desire is for your way and not mine. I love you, Lord. Amen.

Called Out by God

Today’s Reading: Numbers 12-17


Have you ever been “called out” for your behavior or actions or attitude? That is literally what happened to Miriam in this next passage of scripture – she was called out. Moses was a very humble man but Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses, concerned that he was getting all the credit. “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?…Hasn’t he also spoken through us?” (Numbers 12:2)

God heard them and called them out of the Tabernacle where they received a good old-fashioned lecture. At the moment Miriam heard God say, “Come out to the Tent of Meeting, all three of you”, she had to know she was in trouble. God’s response:

Listen carefully to what I’m telling you. If there is a prophet of God among you, I make myself known to him in visions; I speak to him in dreams. But I don’t do it that way with my servant Moses; he has the run of my entire house; I speak to him intimately, in person, in plain talk without riddles: He ponders the very form of God. So why did you show no reverence or respect in speaking against my servant, against Moses? – Numbers 12:6-8 (The Message)


Jealousy and pride crept into Miriam’s heart and she began thinking more of herself than she thought of God. Not only did she get called out by God, she was placed in a “time out” of sorts. Miriam was struck with leprosy and made to spend seven days outside the camp by herself – seven days covered with skin as white as snow, time segregated from her family and friends. She had plenty of time to find the humility she was lacking.

Miriam also had time to consider how her actions were impacting others. While Miriam was in her “time out”, the people didn’t move. No progress was made while the Israelites waited for Miriam to learn her lesson. Her bad attitude and jealousy had literally stopped the movement of God’s people. No, I definitely do not want to be like Miriam. I definitely do not want to stand in the way of where God is taking His people, His Church. I’d much rather be like Moses than Miriam.


God made it clear that Moses had “run of the entire house” or as it says in the NLT, “Of all my house, he is the one I trust” (12:7b). The writer of Hebrews also spoke of the faithfulness of Moses and how he was entrusted with God’s entire house (God’s people) because he was a faithful servant. In the same way, Christ, as the Son, is in charge of God’s entire house for he was faithful to God who appointed him (Hebrews 3:1-6).

And we are God’s house, if we keep our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ. – Hebrews 3:6b

So do I tend to be more like Miriam or Moses? Do I worry about receiving glory and credit, fame or attention? Or do I humble myself before God – only concerned that God receives glory? Like Moses, I want to know God intimately and humbly enter His presence. I want to be called by God, not called out by God.


Another man thought more of himself than he should. Korah from the tribe of Levi, along with three others from the tribe of Reuben, incited a rebellion out of jealousy – jealous of Moses’ leadership and jealous of Aaron’s elite position as priest.

They united against Moses and Aaron and said, “You have gone too far! The whole community of Israel has been set apart by the Lord, and he is with all of us. What right do you have to act as though you are greater than the rest of the Lord’s people?” – Numbers 16:3

As a Levite, Korah had been given a special ministry but it was Aaron and his sons who were made priests. Korah became discontent with what God had blessed him with and coveted the priesthood. For his selfishness and pride, Korah and his followers received the wrath of God. For the first time ever, the earth opened up and swallowed the tents of these rebellious men, taking all of their families down into the grave alive. The other 250 men who had entered into the rebellion were burned up with a fire from the Lord (Numbers 16:31-35).

The Lord gave Moses instructions to gather a staff from each leader of Israel’s 12 tribes, with the leader’s name inscribed on the staff. The 12 staffs were placed in the Tabernacle in front of the Ark and God said sprouts would grow on the staff of the man chosen by God. When Moses went back in the Tabernacle the next day, Aaron’s staff had not only sprouted, it had budded, blossomed, and was producing ripe almonds (Numbers 17:1-8).

When God calls us into leadership, He takes the staff we have been given to lead with and He makes something grow. When we remain humble, recognizing the source of the growth, God can take our leadership beyond our wildest imagination. He can take our calling and make it sprout, blossom and produce fruit.

So do I tend to be more like Korah or Aaron? I pray that I humbly accept the leadership of others whom God has called. When it is my turn, when God calls me to do something significant for Him, I pray my humble spirit and faith in Him allows God to take my life and make something sprout, blossom and produce fruit – for His glory!

But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that REACH deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit. – Jeremiah 17:7-8

More Than Enough

Today’s Reading: Numbers 1-6 and 10:11-11:35


One year after leaving Egypt, God told Moses to take a census of all the men 20 years of age and older. The people did everything just as the Lord had commanded Moses (Numbers 1:54) and the total came to 603,550. God instructed each tribe to set up camp under their family banner with three tribes to the north of the Tabernacle, three tribes to the east, three tribes to the south and three tribes to the west. And the people did everything just as the Lord had commanded Moses (2:34).

God said to count the number of men in the tribe of Levi who were one month of age or older, men who had been set apart to serve as priests. The people did everything just as the Lord commanded Moses and they counted 22,273 (3:42-43). God gave distinct responsibilities to each family group within the tribe of Levi and He told the priests to bless the people saying,

“The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
– Numbers 6:24

Moses dedicated the Tabernacle and gave the priests specific instructions on how to serve God. It was now a year after their rescue from Egypt and so the Israelites celebrated their first Passover, remembering how God had spared their firstborn by passing over the homes with the blood of a lamb on their doorposts. And the people did whatever the Lord told them through Moses to do (9:23).

The beginning of Numbers ranks right up there with Leviticus on portions of the Bible that I do not enjoy reading, but God is generous and can tell us exactly what we need to hear, even in the book of Numbers. So as I hear myself whining and complaining, I read in Numbers about how Abraham’s growing family had a problem with whining and complaining.


Now the people of Israel (all 603,550 of them plus women and children) were still wandering in the wilderness and had not yet arrived to the land God had promised. Eventually the Israelites became tired of this way of life – tired of the work of picking up and moving, wandering from place to place. They were tired of the manna God had provided for them to eat and they began to whine and complain. Manna was no longer enough for them. Now they wanted meat. Moses became aggravated with the people and began to feel sorry for himself, taking out his frustrations on God.

And Moses said to the Lord, “Why are you treating me, your servant, so harshly? Have mercy on me! What did I do to deserve the burden of all these people? Did I give birth to them? Did I bring them into the world? Why did you tell me to carry them in my arms like a mother carries a nursing baby? How can I carry them to the land you swore to give their ancestors? Where am I supposed to get meat for all these people? They keep whining to me, saying, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I can’t carry all these people by myself! The load is far too heavy! If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery!” – Numbers 11:11-15

“Don’t make me come down there.” This was a common sentence at my house as I was growing up and in this passage we hear God giving the same sort of fatherly warning. He said He would come down and the Israelites would get want they wanted – Oh boy, would they get it! In fact, they were about to get enough meat to start them whining and complaining again.


Moses responded – Where am I supposed to get enough meat to feed all these people?!!! Oh Moses, I wish I could not relate to your faithless behavior. I know I serve a God who provides generously, yet I find myself asking how I am supposed to do what God is calling me to do. I can also sadly relate to the people who have been blessed by God but have become dissatisfied and bored, ready for God to bless in a new and different way. Oh, what a patient God we serve! Oh, how we must frustrate Him!

God answered Moses, “So, do you think I can’t take care of you?” – Numbers 11:23a (The Message). Or the NLT version says, “Has my arm lost its power?” and the NIV says, “Is the Lord’s arm too short?”

Over and over again Moses had witnessed the Lord’s provision and also the Lord’s anger at the people’s complaining and selfishness, yet here he is – the one lacking faith to believe that God could do what He said He would do. I would love to sit here in judgment of Moses and shake my head and consider him an idiot but the truth is that I am no better than Moses. I am the one to whom the Lord needs to ask the question “Is the Lord’s arm too short?” or “So, do you think I can’t take care of you?” or “Has my arm lost its power?”


Over and over again we witness God’s provision. My prayer for us today is that we know with confidence that God can take care of us, that His arm is not too short. I pray that we remain in a state of obedience without questioning God or praying for more than what God is giving us. I pray that God does something within each one of our hearts today, causing us to only desire what He desires for us and to be content with what He has for us. Lord, may these things be true in our lives today. Amen.

God has provided over and over again and I choose to trust Him. I have faith that He is able and He will take care of me. I pray God strengthens your faith today as you trust in Him.

He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. – 2 Corinthians 9:10

His Holiness on Display

Today’s Reading: Leviticus 18-27

This is clean; this is unclean. This is permissible; this is unacceptable. You can eat this, but don’t eat that. Chapter after chapter in Leviticus define how God wants us to separate ourselves from sin and from situations that might tempt us to sin. We serve a God who requires holy living, but who also generously equips and supplies us with HIS holiness. Praise God!

So set yourselves apart to be holy, for I am the Lord your God. Keep all my decrees by putting them into practice, for I am the Lord who MAKES YOU HOLY. – Leviticus 20:7-8

I love this! The Lord God, who requires us to be holy, makes us holy. That’s the kind of gracious God we serve! He clearly lays out his expectations of holy living and what it looks like to obediently follow his commands, but He knows we cannot make ourselves holy. It takes the hand of the Almighty to reach down and do something in our lives as we submit our will to Him. Then God gets the glory for our life of holiness.


You must faithfully keep all my commands by putting them into practice, for I am the Lord. Do not bring shame on my holy name, for I will display my holiness among the people of Israel. I am the Lord who MAKES YOU HOLY. It was I who rescued you from the land of Egypt, that I might be your God. I am the Lord.” – Leviticus 22:31-33

The book of Leviticus lays out the requirements of God for the people of Israel – requirements of how to worship, how to make sacrifices and how to life their daily life. God instructed them on how to live in relationship with a holy God and how to live in relationship with others. Just as we learned in Exodus, God’s command is clear – to love God also requires that we love others.


Act with justice, speaking up for others (5:1). Do not spread slanderous gossip (19:16). Show respect for the elderly (19:32). Love foreigners as you love yourself (19:33-34). Don’t take advantage of one another (25:14). Help those who have fallen into poverty (25:25,35). Be generous towards the poor:

“When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. Leave it for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 23:22

More than 2000 years later, the apostle Peter reminded the people again of God’s call to holiness. Just as God commanded in the book of Leviticus, Peter taught the same connection between holy living out of love for God and holy living displayed in our love for others.

So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”…For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God….You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart. – 1 Peter 1:14-22

The God-required response to our salvation is to love each other. Our salvation is not just about us. We were not saved to live focused on ourselves but we were saved to focus on God in obedience and love. We were called to holy living and that call includes living a life of love and kindness toward others. That is what God required of the people of Israel in Leviticus, that is what God required of the Jewish Christians to whom Peter wrote, and that is what God requires of us today.

…you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. “Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.” – 1 Peter 2:9-10

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that GOD SUPPLIES. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen. – 1 Peter 4:8-11

Our holy God, who calls us to be holy, will make us holy. What He is asking us to do, He will equip us to do. He will give us spiritual gifts and He will supply us with the strength and energy we need to do what He is asking us to do. Why? So that our lives will bring glory to Him. That is my desire this morning – to live a life of obedience, letting God come in and MAKE ME HOLY for His glory and for His purposes. Lord, this is my prayer!

The Atonement of Sins

Today’s Reading: Leviticus 1-17; Numbers 7:1-10:10

What is the purpose of the book of Leviticus? It is often tempting to skip over this book full of priestly instructions, but even in this detailed list of rules and how-to’s God makes Himself known to us.

We serve a God of details – a very specific God.

By reading through the instructions for the priests of Israel, we better understand the God we serve. We understand that He is a holy God and that He has provided for the atonement of our sins so that we can worship our holy Father and live in a relationship with our holy Creator. Each sacrifice described, each holy day required, teaches us something about the God we serve and what He requires of us.

“For I am the Lord your God. You must consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy….For I, the Lord, am the one who brought you up from the land of Egypt, that I might be your God. Therefore, you must be holy because I am holy.” – Leviticus 11:44-45


The priests were given specific instructions on how to purify the people from their sins and make them right with the Lord so they could be forgiven of their sins. Even when they sinned unintentionally, God required them to respond at the moment in which they became aware of their sin – to respond with a heart of confession (Lev. 4:35; 5:5,13).

Chapter 16 of Leviticus describes the Day of Atonement – a day in which the sins of God’s people were presented to the Lord in confession and payment for those sins was made in order to make right what was wrong. The blood and life of an animal was presented to God as a substitute for the life of the sinner. As the animal parts were ceremonially presented to God, His anger was appeased and the worship of His people was accepted.

For the life of a creature is in the blood and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. – Leviticus 17:11


The death of Jesus on the cross makes it possible for us to be in a right relationship with a holy God – a God who requires us to live a holy life.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. – Ephesians 1:3-8

For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. – Colossians 1:20


Jesus offered himself as the perfect sacrifice and mediated a new covenant between God and people. Because of this sacrifice, we are adopted into God’s family and will receive an eternal inheritance.

So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. With his own blood – not the blood of goats and calves – he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever.

Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people’s bodies from ceremonial impurity. Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. That is why he is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed under that first covenant. – Hebrews 9:11-15

Precious Jesus, thank you so much for dying to set us free from our sin. Thank you for living in us through your Spirit, making it possible for us to experience a life of holiness. Cleanse our hearts and purify us from all efforts to be self-righteous and self-centered. Lord, we love you and long to worship you with pure hearts.

“You must be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” – Leviticus 19:2b

Let Me Lead

Today’s Reading: Exodus 35-40


It was always God’s plan to lead His people and to direct them in His ways. They were never alone and never without His leadership. This is evident in His instructions to Moses. He told Moses to build a Tabernacle so that He could live among His people – a holy sanctuary where He could dwell (Exodus 25:8). He gave Moses an exact pattern to follow in building this place of worship and “Moses proceeded to do everything just as the Lord had commanded him” (Exodus 40:16).

There were specific instructions about the Ark of the Covenant in which the stone tablets containing the 10 Commandments would be placed. Moses was given the exact measurements for the table, the lampstand, the framework and curtains for the Tabernacle. There was to be an altar on which to give burnt offerings and a courtyard. Lamps burning pure olive oil were to burn continually (Exodus 25-27). God set apart Aaron and his descendants as priests to minister in the Tabernacle and again gave specific instructions regarding their role and their garments.

These are the garments they are to make: a chestpiece, an ephod, a robe, a patterned tunic, a turban, and a sash. They are to make these sacred garments for your brother, Aaron, and his sons to wear when they serve me as priests. So give them fine linen cloth, gold thread, and blue, purple, and scarlet thread. – Exodus 28:4-5

On the ephod (apron with front and back pieces joined by shoulder straps) was engraved the names of Jacob’s twelve sons in birth order, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. He would carry these names on his shoulders reminding him of who he represented every time he went before the Lord.


The chestpiece was beautifully adorned with twelve stones, again representing the twelve tribes of Israel. It was worn as a constant reminder that it was the priest’s task to bring the people to God and to bring God’s word to the people. He was to wear the chestpiece for seeking decisions from God. Aaron was never meant to lead the people of his own strength, but was to always seek God and follow His lead.

“These burnt offerings are to be made each day from generation to generation. Offer them in the Lord’s presence at the Tabernacle entrance; there I will meet with you and speak with you. I will meet the people of Israel there, in the place made holy by my glorious presence. Yes, I will consecrate the Tabernacle and the altar, and I will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. Then I will live among the people of Israel and be their God, and they will know that I am the Lord their God. I am the one who brought them out of the land of Egypt so that I could live among them. I am the Lord their God.” – Exodus 29:42-46

The preparations God asks us to make are different than those He instructed the Israelites and priests to do, but He still desires for us to prepare our hearts to enter into His glorious presence. He longs to live among us and be our God, that we might know that He is the Lord our God!

For we are the Temple of the living God. As God said: “I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord. Don’t touch filthy things, and I will welcome you. And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.
– 2 Corinthians 6:16b-7:1

What a privilege to be in God’s presence!
Who am I representing when I come before the Lord?
Whose needs am I lifting to God in prayer?
Am I seeking God for every decision, following His lead?
Is His will the desire of my heart?


Moses was never meant to lead the people at his own pace, but was to always seek God and follow His lead – God’s will, God’s way, in God’s time. Sometimes the whirlwind of life pushes us to move at a faster pace, or sometimes it slows us down. God says – Let me lead. Let me set the pace. I know where I am taking you. Trust me.

Now whenever the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out on their journey, following it. But if the cloud did not rise, they remained where they were until it lifted. – Exodus 40:36-37

Lord, cleanse us from everything that can defile us. Create in us a clean spirit and make us a masterpiece of your holiness at work, clothing us in your righteousness. Bring the needs of your people to our hearts this morning so that we can lift their needs to you in prayer. Dwell among us, oh Lord, and lead us on today’s journey. Help us to trust your timing as we relax and let you lead at your pace, taking us where you want us to go. May this be our song today:
I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!

For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness.
I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.
The Sovereign Lord will show his justice to the nations of the world.
Everyone will praise him!
His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring, with plants springing up everywhere.
– Isaiah 61:10-11

Palm of His Hand

Today’s Reading: Exodus 28-34

Moses went up on the mountain and received instruction from God. God emphasized over and over again how He is to be the only God and that they should not bow to any other idol or worship anything else but Him. When he came down from the mountain, Moses found God’s people doing the very thing God had just stressed over and over again not to do – he found them worshipping an idol.

Moses knew how important it was to God that His people not defile themselves in this way and he understood God’s plan to destroy them all and start over. But Moses stood between God and the Israelites and begged God to forgive them, to allow them the opportunity to repent and try again. And so God allowed the Israelites to live.


Moses had a big job ahead of him and he knew it. He knew that he was called to lead a stiff-necked people. Moses knew he needed God if he was going to accomplish the task set before him. He knew what it was to be in God’s presence and longed to continue in His presence with God leading him.

Moses said to God, “Look, you tell me, ‘Lead this people,’ but you don’t let me know whom you’re going to send with me. You tell me, ‘I know you well and you are special to me.’ If I am so special to you, let me in on your plans. That way, I will continue being special to you. Don’t forget, this is your people, your responsibility.”

God said, “My presence will go with you. I’ll see the journey to the end.”

Moses said, “If your presence doesn’t take the lead here, call this trip off right now. How else will it be known that you’re with me in this, with me and your people? Are you traveling with us or not? How else will we know that we’re special, I and your people, among all other people on this planet Earth?”

God said to Moses: “All right. Just as you say; this also I will do, for I know you well and you are special to me. I KNOW YOU BY NAME.”

Moses said, “Please. Let me see your Glory.”

God said, “I will make my Goodness pass right in front of you; I’ll call out the name, God, right before you. I’ll treat well whomever I want to treat well and I’ll be kind to whomever I want to be kind.”

God continued, “But you may not see my face. No one can see me and live.”

God said, “Look, here is a place right beside me. Put yourself on this rock. When my Glory passes by, I’ll put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand until I’ve passed by. Then I’ll take my hand away and you’ll see my back. But you won’t see my face.” – Exodus 33:12-23 (The Message)

I don’t know what task God has before you today, but I pray you hear Him say that He will walk this journey with you to the end because He knows you well. You are special to Him, and He knows you by name. May you have the strength and faith needed to put yourself on “this rock” – this place right beside your merciful God. May you feel the protection of God tucking you safely into the cleft of the rock and covering you with His hand. May your heart’s desire always be to remain in God’s presence and allow Him to lead you each step of the way on this journey He has chosen for you.


Just as God cared about Moses and invited Him to experience His presence, He loves us enough to be present – to allow us to feel His presence in the good times and in the hard times. He has a purpose for our lives and He calls us by name (Isaiah 45:3).

Can a mother forget her nursing child?
Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?
But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!
See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands…
– Isaiah 49:15-16a

I love the thought that God knows everything about me – all my faults and all my fears, all my regrets and all my sins – yet He loves me!


Today, January 22nd, is a tragic day in the history of our country. Today marks the anniversary of a Roe v. Wade – a Supreme Court decision to allow a woman to end the life of her unborn baby. In 45 years, our country has acquired the scars of more than 60 million abortions. This heart-breaking reality is hard to think about, hard to live with. Some of you are even frustrated with me for mentioning it in this blog. It makes us uncomfortable. So we look the other way and close our ears when anyone mentions the word abortion. We ban the word “abortion” in our schools and sit comfortably in our pews as the word “abortion” is absent from our sermons. Meanwhile, our pews are full of men and women who live with the regret of their own abortion decision.

In April, the ministry I have the privilege of working for will hold their 9th healing retreat for individuals who are struggling with the pain of a decision they cannot undo. This weekend allows a woman or man to go “Deeper Still” to find the forgiveness and healing God wants to give them. Will you help me spread the word? There may be someone you know who holds a secret tightly in the depth of their heart and they need to know that God loves them and has written their name on the palm of His hand. For more information about the Deeper Still retreats, go to: http://hopeforafuture.com/services/deeper-still-retreats/

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.
He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.
– Isaiah 61:1-3