Purge (Deuteronomy 20)

I’m not what you’d call a hoarder, necessarily, but I will admit that I tend to hold on to things longer than I should. I have a closet full of clothes I haven’t worn in years, some of which I can’t even fit into any more. But I like them. So there they hang.

Others I know have a difficult time letting go of anything. They live in houses so full of things there is only a path from one room to another. Magazines thirty years old, food that has long outlived its healthfulness, toys that haven’t been in the hands of a child in decades, things stacked from floor to ceiling.

Sometimes the thought of purging is terrifying. So when I read God tell Israel to purge the evil from among them by destroying entire cities full of idolaters and people doing detestable things, I can’t believe that was easy to do.

“…do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them…”

But if the Israelites wanted God’s blessings, they had to obey 100%.

Now let’s be clear. The Bible emphatically declares our enemies are no longer flesh and blood this side of the cross. (Ephesians 6:12). We are NOT commanded to kill people who reject God. But the Bible says we do have enemies we need to purge from our lives.

Our enemies are spiritual forces of evil, powers in this dark world. Our enemy is Satan. Our enemy is sin. And that’s what we are to purge, destroy, annihilate.

I don’t know what enemies look like in your life. An addiction to video games? Pornography? Alcohol? Gossip? Lying? Putting your job above serving God? Yourself?

Whatever sin you are identifying in your life right now is something God is telling you to purge. Don’t let a remnant survive. You might have to sell your TV, erase some apps from your phone, change jobs, stop drinking if God leads you to that.

But God also told the Israelites over and over that if they obeyed Him, if they went to war against their enemies He would go before them. He would fight for them. And He’ll do the same for you.

God doesn’t want us to purge the sin from our lives because He is against fun. He invented fun. God wants us to purge sin from our lives so that we can enjoy a relationship with Him, free from any bondage.

I’m going to use my closet as an example. Right now I walk into that space and have to step over boxes, shoes, a pile of clothes I am considering donating. I have to force clean blouses onto the rack because there just isn’t room for another hanger. I long to go into my closet and be free to walk from one end to the other without tripping over stuff on the floor, to pull out a pair of slacks and not have to iron them because they’ve been smashed onto the rack between a dozen pairs of slacks and are wrinkled. There is nothing fun about that.

But when (notice I said “when” not “if.” I’m thinking during this virus quarantine, I have no excuse not to clean my closet) I purge myself from the things that are holding me back, entering my closet will be so much better. Do I dare say fun?

Is it time for you to purge, to repent of sin, to get rid of the evil that is keeping you from an unhindered relationship with God? Do it!

Wearing Truth (Deuteronomy 11)

What a privilege we have to hold God’s own Words in our hands, to read it, study it, memorize it, any time of the day or night. I trust you aren’t squandering this incredible gift.

Moses told the Israelites that God said to “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road…” (Deuteronomy 11:18ff) Simply reading the Bible isn’t enough.

Moses goes on to tell the Jews what God promises to those who have His Word in their hearts. They would possess the land. Their enemies would be defeated. No one would be able to stand against them.

In Good News Club the past few weeks we have been talking to the children about the armor of God. The first piece of the armor is the Belt of Truth. In this day and age of many so-called truths, how can we know what is really truth, or is there such a thing?

The ancient soldiers wore a thick leather belt in battle. It wasn’t decorative, or meant to hold up their trousers. It was an important, life-saving, piece of armor. For one, it held a soldier’s weapons at the ready. There was a leather flap attached to the belt which covered the soldier’s manhood. If the belt was not worn properly, or if it was twisted even slightly, the soldier couldn’t access his weapons efficiently, and was exposed to an enemy’s fatal blow.

The people in the Ephesian church to whom Paul wrote his letter, knew exactly how important that belt was in battle. So when Paul told them to put on the Belt of Truth, I’m pretty sure they understood the analogy. The Truth is that vital.

So how can we know what is true? Moses shared God’s instructions. The truth is in God’s Word. This Bible that we have in our homes is that first and necessary piece of armor in this battle against the enemy. We have got to put on that Truth for protection, for readying us to use the weapons of war that are God’s righteousness, the Gospel, faith, salvation, and the Spirit. All of those things must be secured by the truth of God’s Word.

There are those who would twist what the Bible says, or replace it with man’s wisdom. But, folks, we are in a battle with eternal implications. Why would we want to fight it without state-of-the-art battle gear? Why replace the Belt of Truth with a Belt of Opinion? That would be like taking a Nerf gun into a nuclear war.

Read your Bible. Fix God’s word on your hearts and minds. Never be ashamed of what is there, never try to hide it or twist it or replace it. Talk about it to your children who are being fed a lot of lies about Truth. (actually, now that most of us are quarantined because of the virus hype, it would be a great time to have those conversations with your children stuck in your homes. What Satan intends for evil, God can bring about something really good! Don’t miss this opportunity.)

God promises to bless those who wear His Truth. Be blessed today.

 

Shepherds and Warriors (Numbers 27)

Oh, for more leaders like the one Moses prayed would succeed him. A shepherd. A warrior.

I know I’m cynical, but I think too many leaders in our churches are businessmen, entertainers, and followers. So much focus is on making their churches look like everyone else’s church, I wonder how much real shepherding is going on.

I don’t know of any warrior who invites the enemy into camp in order to fight a battle. Yet the emphasis in many churches today is to make worship inviting, to bring people in to hear the Word and be saved. I wonder how many pastors are truly leading their people into battle, going into the neighborhoods and towns to make disciples. Too many are focused on fighting the battle within the safety of their church walls.

That was never part of Jesus’ plan according to Scripture.

I pray God will raise up more leaders in our churches whose focus is in being the shepherds and the warriors God needs for His Church. Maybe God is calling you.

God Said It (Numbers 18-20)

Moses spoke with God like a best friend. He alone heard God’s voice. He saw the form of God, if not His face. Moses and God had a relationship unlike any other. In fact, they were so close, it seems Moses forgot WHO he was talking to.

I don’t think Moses’ sin at Meribah was a blatant act of disobedience. I don’t even think it was simply the sin of pride that caused him to tap that rock. I think Moses might have assumed he knew God so well, he knew what God meant apart from what God said. (purely my opinion).

I don’t believe we can ever be too close to God. But I think there is a temptation to be too comfortable with Him. He’s not a buddy. He’s not an equal. He is not a doting grandpa who gets a kick out of disobedience.

He is holy. He is to be feared, respected, obeyed, and we need to take His Word very seriously. God inspired men to write His Words exactly the way He wanted them written. He said what He meant.

But in this day and age of “political correctness,” where people have re-written God’s Word to be gender neutral, or to soften God’s view of sin so as not to offend, we need to be careful. If you read the Bible and are tempted to think God “meant” something different that what it says, beware.

He didn’t let Moses get away with that. He certainly won’t let us get away with it, either.

 

An Alternative To Grumbling (Numbers 16-17; Psalm 90)

My mother underlined Psalm 90:12,14 in her Bible. As I think about those verses this morning I am blessed by the fact that God knows the number of my days in this flesh and blood body I’m wearing. In fact, He’s already seen my physical death and welcomed me home, because He lives outside of time. I am forced to live this life one sixty second minute at a time. He is not. And knowing my days are in His hands brings me peace and assurance. May I begin every morning, allowing God to satisfy me with His unfailing love, with His joy so that I will sing his praises and be glad all my days.

The Old Testament Jews were always grumbling, always complaining about something. What a miserable way to spend our days. There has to be a better way, an alternative to complaining, doesn’t there?

Moses said something to the complaining Levites that spoke to me today. He asked them, “Isn’t it enough that God has set you apart and brought you near to himself? Isn’t it enough that God has given you the privilege of serving Him today in a way no one else can serve Him?”

The answer is, “Yes, it is enough.” Or at least it should be the answer. In fact, it is more than enough. More than I deserve.

So when I find myself wanting to grumble about something, I pray I learn to number my days, to get alone with God who has drawn me near, and allow Him to satisfy me with His unfailing love and joy. May I read His Word and pray, may I be “in the moment” of His embrace. May I be quick to turn from complaining, to singing His praises.

Oh, I can always find something to grumble about. But there is a better alternative.

 

 

 

Not Equal (Leviticus 7)

I find it so interesting, and reassuring, that each tribe brought exactly the same offering to the altar, no matter the size of the clan, or its wealth. All had equal share in the altar, all were required exactly the same. It speaks to me of our own equal footing before God in regard to our sin debt, and His grace equally available to all.

But there was something not equal in this chapter, too, and I have overlooked it until today. God told Moses to give carts and oxen to each Levite clan, “as each man’s work requires.” For those families in charge of the lighter loads, Moses assigned two carts and four oxen. For those with the heavier burdens, Moses gave four carts and eight oxen. The holy things didn’t require a cart or oxen at all. Those things were to be carried on the shoulders of the Kohathites.

I have a friend whose husband died yesterday. Janie’s load is heavy right now. And I know God will supply exactly what she needs to carry on with a broken heart, and a burden too great to carry on her own.

The thing is, she has lovingly cared for her husband these past 20+ months since his debilitating stroke. She has spent every day talking to him, even though he could not answer her. She has read to him, or just sat with him day after day after day, assuring him of her love with kisses and by holding his hand or stroking his cheek. It has been a difficult time.

Many people may think, “I don’t think I could do that. I’m not strong enough.” And they are right to think that. When our life is about carrying a lighter load, God doesn’t give us four carts and eight oxen. If our circumstances require us to do what we need to do while carrying our burden on our shoulders, He will not give us the strength of two oxen.

But let me assure you, that for those of us who know Jesus as our Savior, those of us who have a relationship with God Himself, we can count on all the oxen and carts we need when we need them. Not before. But exactly at the right time.

I’m praying for my friend today. She loves God, and Jesus is her Savior. I pray that she will recognize the strength that is hers through her relationship with God. I couldn’t do what she’s done, and what she is going to have to do in the days and weeks ahead. My burdens don’t require four carts and eight oxen right now. But Janie’s does. And I pray that she will find rest in the assurance of God’s strength, His love, and His Presence in her life.

I believe God gives His children what we need when we need it, that when we are at a place in life when we are crushed by pain, we find that Jesus provides exactly what we need to walk through it. One day my friend won’t need four carts and eight oxen. But she does today. And I trust that God is going to provide exactly what she needs.

 

Uninterrupted (Leviticus5-6)

I’m not sure what prompted men to make a Nazarite vow. It was most likely to honor God, or as a testimony about their devotion to God. Whatever the reason, it was a serious thing to do, a commitment God took very seriously.

If you made the Nazarite vow, you had to do it God’s way – no exceptions. Not even if something unexpected happened to that person. If for any reason he was exposed to uncleanliness, the vow was voided, and he had to start over again. Making the Nazarite vow could not be interrupted.

The vow required complete obedience. And that has me thinking about my vow to God as His child. My vow to follow Him and serve Him requires complete obedience. It’s not a vow that I can honor on Sunday, and ignore on Thursday, if I want to please God. It’s not a vow that I can put on when it’s convenient.

Now the man whose vow had been interrupted had to start over. I don’t lose my salvation every time I sin. But – and this is what God is saying to me today – I cannot let sin in my life go unaddressed. Not ever. When I sin, I need to confess that sin and allow God to forgive me. In a sense, I guess it’s like starting over, with a clean heart and a determination not to repeat that sin.

God tells us to be holy as He is holy. I am praying that each of us will vow to be everything He wants us to be, that we will follow His rules, and with His help be a man or woman totally dedicated to Him…

uninterrupted.