Saturday, May 12, 2012

Ultimate Empowerment of the Spirit

Today's Reading:
  • Numbers 10:1 - 11:23
  • Numbers 11:24 - 13:33
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Numbers 10:1 - 13:33
I decided to continue on in my reading of Numbers today because the first reading stopped in the middle of a story I was interested in finishing.  The Israelites were once again complaining, this time about meat.

The complaining must have gotten really bad because Moses got very mad and told the Lord so.  The verses where Moses spoke against the Lord are contained in 10:11 - 15.  I was surprised with the candor of his speech to the Lord.  Moses asks the Lord what he did to deserve this burden, and why must he carry them in his arms like a mother carries a nursing baby?  Moses ends it by telling the Lord to go ahead and kill him.

Have you ever been extremely angry with the Lord?  I honestly can't think of a time that I have.  I think I'm too afraid to be angry at the Lord.  Moses didn't seem afraid though.  He must have been insanely frustrated to go off like that.  I can't say I blame him either.  Just reading about how the Israelites moaned about everything, and how many times they said they were better off as slaves in Egypt.  That's a topic I've covered before (multiple times even), and is a topic for another day.  All I can say is it's surprising Moses didn't blow up earlier. 

At this point the Lord told Moses to gather 70 elders and leaders from amongst the people of Israel.  The Lord then sent His spirit upon those 70 so that Moses would have help with this burden.  I have commented time and time again how wonderful it would have been in those days to live with the Lord's actual presence.  My post from yesterday reflected heavily on this. 

It seems I was making one very wrong assumption about how wonderful it would be to be guided by the Lord's presence -- I was making the assumption that His spirit would both be within me at the same time.  As we know, however, God's relationship with people has changed over these last few millennium.  I realize now that I much prefer this very personal relationship I have with the Lord through Jesus Christ to one where I was just a person following the presence of the Lord, but not experiencing the changes within my heart and spirit that comes with that today.

I guess the ultimate experience that I long for is the one that I will have when I die, or when Jesus returns -- whichever comes first.  When that time comes I imagine I will have the whole package, both pieces to the whole.  The Lord's presence will be inside me and His presence will be all around me, and I will have no doubt of His will and will live to serve Him.  And He will be wonderful to all of us -- all the blessings we have received on earth will not even come close to comparing to the good things that await us then.  We will know nothing but happiness, nothing but His will for us, nothing but life as He wanted us to have from the beginning.  It's a fate too wondrous to fathom with my mortal mind.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cloud by Day, Fire by Night -- Leading the Chosen Ones out of the Wilderness

Today's Reading:
  • Numbers 8:1 - 9:23
  • Proverbs 10:29 - 30
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Numbers 8:1 - 9:23
I read more about the cloud that hung over the tabernacle today.  This cloud was the presence of God.  By day it appeared as a cloud, and overnight it appeared as fire.  The cloud was always there to lead the people.  Whenever the cloud moved on, the people broke camp and followed it.  Whenever the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, the people would stay.  The length of time that the presence of God stayed in one place at a time varied -- sometimes just overnight, sometimes a few days or weeks, sometimes for a month, and other times for a year.  Regardless the people were always ready to follow the presence of the Lord. 

Don't you wish it were that easy to follow the Lord?  Wouldn't it be something to have a physical manifestation of the Lord ahead of you, mapping your every move?  Feeling the Lord's presence and physically seeing it are two entirely different things. 

When you rely on your feelings and your commune with the Lord to lead you, your flesh can often get in the way.  It's so hard to distinguish at times what the Lord is saying to you verses what you want the Lord to say to you.  Or sometimes we do hear what the Lord says but we want to argue our way out of it.  Other times we might have a fleeting thought of something great, and think that it must have been sent by the Lord to us, when instead it might have been a distraction of our flesh to follow the wrong path.

Not everything the Lord tells us to do will be hard, but a good deal will be hard, will require sacrifice, and will take you out of your comfort zone.  So we can't just say, "well, it wasn't easy, so I guess it wasn't really what the Lord wanted me to do." If the Lord tells you to do it, there is a way to accomplish it.  The Lord does not give us direction without a means to follow. 

I still wish finding the Lord's path for my life was as easy as following a cloud.  It's so hard to separate the flesh from the will of God.  All one really can do when trying to discover their path is just to read the word and pray hard for direction in his or her own life. And when God tells you to go -- break up camp, and follow!

Proverbs 10:29 - 30
29  The way of the Lord is a stronghold to those with integrity, but it destroys the wicked.
30  The godly will never be disturbed, but the wicked will be removed from the land.
Following the Lord truly gives one inner strength.  Looks like the message of today is to find the path the Lord has given to you, embrace it, and take strength in it.  Then you will have a stronghold when the rest of the world crumbles around you.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

No Man Can Avoid the Grave; Thankfulness to the Lord

Today's Reading:
  • Psalm 49:1 - 20
  • Psalm 50:1 - 23
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Psalm 49
Psalm 49 is a very powerful Psalm regarding hiding behind one's riches.  We are told that all people must die, and no one can pay enough to never see the grave, nor can someone redeem themselves by paying a ransom to God. We are told the grave is their eternal home and they will never see the light of day again.  They will die, just like animals.

I am so thankful that I have a Lord that loves, cares and provides for me.  A Lord that doesn't require us to pay our way to salvation with wealth.  A Lord that knows our heart and rewards (or punishes) us for what is in it.  A Lord full of Love so great that He sent His son to die for us so that we can spend an eternity in perfect peace with Him.  This world will eventually forget us, but the Lord never will. Thank you, Lord!

Psalm 50
This Psalm talks about thankfulness to the Lord.  We are told that the Lord doesn't need sacrifices.  Instead, we are told that thankfulness and keeping of our vows are the sacrifices we should strive for.  Twice we are told this, once in verse 14 and once in verse 23:
14  Make thankfulness your sacrifice to God, and keep the vows you made to the Most High.
23  But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.  If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.
 So keep to God's path, and remain thankful for all He does for you. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Signs of the End Times as Written in the Book of Mark

    Today’s Reading:
  • Mark 12:38 - 13:13
  • Mark 13:14 - 13:37
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Mark 12:38 - 13:37
Once again I combined two readings of Mark into one day because I wanted to see what Jesus said about the end times.  The first time I read anything regarding the signs of the end times was in the book of Matthew.  I was shocked to find the prophecies there, because I expected the prophecies to be contained to the book of Revelation.  I have since learned that every single book of the New Testament, with the exception of 3 John, contains prophecies regarding the return of Jesus Christ.  That certainly gives me a lot to look forward to when I continue my studies.

In this passage we are told that there will be world war, that earthquakes and famines; but that those things are just the first of the birthing pains (13:8).  We are told that Christians will be handed over, beaten, and made to stand trial.  Brother against brother, child against parent, father against child -- all will be betraying each other to death (13:9 - 13).  We are told there will be a sacrilegious object taken up in the temple, and that all the people must immediately flee (13:14).  Jesus then says that right before he comes, the sun will be darkened, the moon will give no light, and the stars will fall from the sky (13:24 - 25).

It is unclear to me what has already occurred and what has yet to occur, or if the list given was in chronological order (with the exception of the very last statement).  Since the desecrated object points to the destruction of the temple, I think the part leading up to the fleeing of the people has already occurred.  My study bible gives 7 possible explanations that could have fulfilled that prophecy.

Trying to make any sense out of this is not something I can do right now.  I haven't read enough of the bible, I don't have a good enough sense of context, and it's just a lot to process at once.  Of course no man, not even Jesus, will know when He is coming.  My main interest of study is to figure out all the signs, and which have likely come to pass, and which we are waiting on.

Regardless, we are warned to be ready.  The master can return at any time -- don't let him catch you sleeping! (13:34 - 37)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Special Vow of the Nazirite

Today's Reading:
  • Numbers 6:1 - 7:89
  • Proverbs 10:27 - 28
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Numbers 6:1 - 7:89
Today I learned a new term -- "Nazirite."  From what I could gather in my reading today, it seems that a Nazirite was a Israelite who set themselves apart with a special vow of dedication to the Lord.  It also seemed to be a way for members of clans other than the Levite clan (who were specially set aside to serve the Lord, handle the tabernacle, help the priests, etc.) to be more involved in the Lord's work.

Those who wanted to become Nazirites had to take a very special vow of dedication to the Lord.  While they were serving their terms, they had specific rules to follow:
  1. Not allowed to drink any alcohol
  2. Never eat or drink anything from a grapevine (juice, wine, grapes, raisins)
  3. Not allowed to cut their hair
  4. Never go near a dead body.  If a person were to so much as fall dead beside them, their service to date would not be counted, they would have to go through a cleansing period and purification rituals, shave their hair, and start their service over again.
My study bible points out that the most famous of Nazirities was Samson.  I know the story of Samson, and that cutting his hair had significance grave enough for him to lose all his strength.  I did not know that the reason his hair had not been cut was to fulfill a Nazirite vow.  I look forward to reading the story of Samson with this new perspective in mind.

Proverbs 10:27 - 28
27  Fear of the Lord lengthens one's life, but the years of the wicked are cut short.
28  The hopes of the godly result in happiness, but the expectations of the wicked come to nothing.  
Hmm ... long life with fulfilling hopes, or a life cut short where all my plans come to nothing.  It's quite a choice, but after giving it much deliberation, I think I'll choose option #1! 

It is comforting to know that the Lord is there to support those who are faithful in Him.  I would much rather have His support now and after death, rather than lead a life filled with despair now and an eternity facing His wrath later. 

The Lord could have made us mindless servants, but He didn't.  He is letting us choose.  It's sad to know that others choose to be cut off from the wondrous Lord; the Lord who fills us with hope, happiness and long life.  Thank you, Lord!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Till Death Do We Part -- Is There Marriage In Heaven?

    Today’s Reading:
  • Mark 12:18 - 37
  • Psalm 48:1 - 14
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Mark 12:18 - 37
In my reading today I came across a verse that was very interesting to me.  I came across the same exact verse while I was reading the book of Matthew, but I wasn't ready to think about it at the time and so went a different direction with that post.  The verse is Matthew 22:30, or Mark 12:25.  In these verses Jesus said:
For when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage.  In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven.
This is radical thought for me, and probably for many other people also.  My whole life I've been under the misguided impression that I will have a spouse in heaven.  Which spouse, I do not know -- because I am on my second marriage after rushing into a bad first marriage.  Regardless, I always thought that I would be with my family when I entered heaven -- and that thought includes my husband.

Once again, I don't think we can even fathom how our existence will be different when we enter heaven.  The Lord won't be taking away marriage as a means to punish it.  I am certain we won't feel a loss about it, or like anything is missing. 

Here on Earth we rely upon our families -- spouse, children, parents, grandparents, etc -- to feel loved.  They are the ones we bestow the majority of our love upon.  Jesus tells us that the greatest commandments are love (Mark 12:29 - 31):
The most important commandment is this: 'Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord.  And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.'  The second is equally important: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' No other commandment is greater than these.
In heaven we will be exactly as God intended us to be, perfect servants of the Lord.  If the greatest commandants are to love the Lord above all else, and to love all others as you love yourself, then there will be plenty of love to go around in heaven and I don't think any of us will feel like anything is lacking.

How does the commandment to love your neighbor as you love yourself allow room for you to love another (such a spouse) greater than you love the person who is serving the Lord right next to you? We will just have to learn to trust the Lord and take this piece of information in stride, knowing that it will not upset us after we enter heaven. It appears marriage really is "till death do we part."

Psalm 48:1 - 14
This is another psalm of the descendants of Korah.  In it they praise the Lord and lift Him up as the defender of Jerusalem. 

I long to live in a nation of people who declare the Lord to be the greatest and to be their defender.  I am thrilled that I live in the US, but even though we are "One Nation Under God", we are far from it.  I don't feel like our nation has any right to call upon God to defend it, for our nation is failing the Lord. 

People are demanding that their rights extend so far as to have to see or hear anything to do with Christianity.  The Christian people in the US are losing their simple rights to display religious items on public property, or losing the ability for their children to say "one nation, under God" while reciting the pledge of allegiance. 

Christians are losing rights while people of all other religions (or lack thereof) are gaining them.  I don't care if you don't want to participate in a Christian ritual, or you don't want to believe in God -- that's your choice.  But that doesn't mean I don't have to right to display my faith in a public setting. 

Anyway, that is just a small rant.  The real point is that it would be so lovely to truly live in "one nation under God".

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Jealousy Offering -- The Old Testament Method to Finding out if a Wife had been Unfaithful

Today's Reading:
  • Numbers 4:1 - 5:31
  • Proverbs 10:26
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Numbers 4:1 - 5:31
Today's reading in Numbers started off with more numbers -- numbers of people eligible to move the Tabernacle and instructions on how to do so.  But in chapter five, all that changed drastically.  Suddenly the numbers were gone, and I was reading about something called the "jealousy offering".

I flipped back to Leviticus in my study bible because I knew it had a list of types of offerings to the Lord.  That list consists of burnt offerings, grain offerings, peace offerings, sin offerings and guilt offerings.  Jealousy offerings was not part of that list and it immediately peaked my interest.

The jealous offering was a way for a man to tell if his wife had been unfaithful to him when there was no proof to be offered.  The man would bring his offering and his wife before a priest.  The priest would have the woman drink a bitter water (holy water mixed with dust from the ground) that contained a curse.  If the woman were innocent, she would avoid the curse, but if she were guilty her abdomen would swell and she would become infertile.

What it boils down to is that this was a way for a person to be judged for sins that they hadn't accounted for.  It's human nature to think that when we do something we know is wrong, yet get away with it, that we will not have to pay for what we did. 

We might not have to stand before a priest at the tabernacle and drink a curse these days, but that doesn't mean that we aren't going to be held accountable for what we have done.  The Lord will forgive us of anything but blasphemy against the holy spirit, but we first have to admit what we have done, repent, and ask for that forgiveness. 

I am sure I am not the only one in this world who has done wrong and not yet repented and asked forgiveness for some of my actions.  Please, let's not wait until judgement day for those things to come upon us.  Personally I would much rather deal with it here and now, instead of when I'm standing to await judgement.  The Lord gave us Jesus Christ so that we could freely be cleansed of our sins as long as we are willing to repent.  Let us truly take advantage of that glorious gift from the Lord. 

Proverbs 10:26
Lazy people irritate their employers, list vinegar to the teeth or smoke in the eyes.
I chuckled a little when I read today's verse.  I don't know why I found it funny, but I did.  I can vouch that smoke in the eyes is irritating, but I can't say that I've ever experienced taking vinegar to my teeth. 

Tomorrow my family is probably going to find me in the laundry room, jar of vinegar in hand, rubbing it on my teeth and wondering what on earth I'm doing.  Maybe it's not painful right off the bat, perhaps it's something that slowly dissolves away the tooth enamel instead.

Regardless, the message is clear.  Lazy people irritate those they work for, and with good reason since they are paying us to perform a series of tasks in an efficient manner.  I'm a pretty productive employee, but we all have our days.  I might have to hang this verse in my office as a reminder not to slack off!