They Marveled

Luke 20:26

“And they marveled at His answer and kept silent.

We are introduced to a group of men who are examining Jesus. They have taken the time to carefully observe Him in action, dissect His teachings, and even quiz Him on a variety of difficult subjects. Their conclusion is worth noting. We read, “they marveled.” The word “marveled” means to be amazed by, and even to admire. It is a word that would commonly be used of a person standing in a museum observing a beautiful work of art. In that case, the proper response would be to admire the work and protect it from being harmed.

These men are acting like curators and treating Jesus like a museum piece. They knew a lot about Him. They could give His opinion on a variety of subjects. They could explain how He treated the sick, blind, lame and sinners. But rather than receiving Christ and watching as He transformed their lives, they simply “marveled and remained silent.” They were content with treating Him like a museum piece.

What about you? Are you an expert on the things of Christ, or a follower of Jesus? Are you only interested in learning about the things He did, or are you determined to see Him do those same things in and through your life?

All that Jesus is and does is marvelous. We are right to be in awe of Him; but awe alone is not what He desires of us. Let’s be sure that we are following after Him.

Pastor Jim

Living In The Outskirts

Numbers 11:1
“Now when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; for the Lord heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp.”

As the cloud begins to move, the Children of Israel take their first steps toward the Promised Land. It does not take long before they begin to complain about their circumstances. In response to their complaints, God sends a burning fire upon some who dwelt in the outskirts of the camp. Why is God so upset by their complaints? Why does He treat complaining so harshly? Keep in mind, God was in charge of their wilderness expedition. He was in the lead. He controlled the cloud, the fire, and the blowing of the horns. They were following His orders. They were not in the wilderness by accident or happenstance, but by God’s direction. By complaining, they were actually saying, “God, we gave you the lead and You’re simply not doing a good job.” or perhaps, “If I were God, I wouldn’t do it that way, I wouldn‘t treat my people like that.”  And as a result of their complaining, the anger of the Lord is aroused and they get burnt.

Notice where the complaining seems to start.

“. . . and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp.”

Back in Numbers 1 and 2, God organized the people to camp around the Tabernacle. Each tribe was given a specific location within the camp, no one was to dwell “in the outskirts of the camp.” Yet there were people living outside the fellowship, in the “outskirts.“ We are not told what caused them to depart from the fellowship of believers. Perhaps they didn’t feel like they fit in. They might have said, “I don’t really feel like I fit in there. I went to that camp, I sat under that banner, and nobody was friendly to me. I sat there and nobody said ‘Hello’, and afterwards, nobody even asked me my name, so forget it. I’m not going to camp under that banner, I’m going to camp in the outskirts.” But tragically, when they left the camp, they started to complain. Perhaps their complaints were about the camp. “They didn’t love me, and minister to me, nobody met my needs….”  The anger of the Lord is aroused, and those in the outskirts of the camp got burnt.

Like you, I have often had my feelings hurt by others who are part of the camp of God. But that is not good reason to abandon the camp and move to the outskirts. Living outside of fellowship is hurtful to the family of God as a whole, and is hurtful to you individually. Remember, it was those who lagged behind that the Amalekites attacked. Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh who camped East of the Jordan, were the first to fall to Assyria. If you or I “forsake the gathering together of the brethren”, we will end up an easy target for the enemy, and will find ourselves getting burned.
Let me encourage you. If you have been drawn away from fellowship for some reason, forgive those who have hurt you, return to the gathering of the brethren, and pitch your tent as close as possible to the Tabernacle.

Psalm 92:13
“Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.”

Pastor Jim

Here Comes The King

Luke 19:11 

He spoke another parable, because He was near Jerusalem and because they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately.”

Jesus rebuked the leaders of His day for being able to discern weather patterns, yet failing to recognize the signs of the times. He also exhorted His followers to carefully observe the condition of the world, and to live in anticipation of His soon return.

Today, it is not difficult to ignore the similarities between our world and Jesus’ description of the world when He returns. Things like a one world currency, government, and religion, which seemed impossible to past generations, are unfolding before our very eyes. All of this, makes this parable even more applicable to His church.

Notice the parable was given because they were expecting His kingdom to be established at any moment. Their problem was not failing to LOOK for the kingdom, but failing to LIVE for the kingdom. In the story, Jesus exhorts His followers to serve Him.

Like the characters in the story, we have all been given different gifts, talents, abilities and resources. They are given that we might use them for the furtherance of His kingdom. Too often, we look around at what others have been given, and think, if we had their gifts we would serve the Lord. If I had their wealth, I would give. If I had their voice, I would sing, if I had their time, I would serve… Notice, Jesus only expected the servants to use what they had been given. They were rewarded or rebuked depending upon how they used the gift they had received.

Jesus is coming back! He will set up His kingdom. He will reward those who have surrendered, submitted, and served Him. The question remaining for us is, how are we waiting? Live today in light of the fact that there is a day coming when we will be face to face with the King of kings. He will look at us with His eyes like flames of fire and say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

Pastor Jim

Reach Out

Numbers 10:29

“Now Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite . . .”

(Hobab is the father-in-law of Moses. Notice, we are told that he is a Midianite, not an Israelite). Listen to what Moses says to him:

“We are setting out for the place of which the LORD said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us, and we will treat you well; for the LORD has promised good things to Israel.”

In the midst of all the hurrying to get ready to go, Moses searches out his father-in-law and invites him to join Israel in their journey to the Promised Land.

Remember, Hobab is a Midianite, he’s not a believer, he’s not a follower of the Lord. Yet, Moses says to him, “Hobab, we’re going to the place the Lord has been preparing for us for 400 years. God promised it to Abraham, and He has been getting it ready all this time.” Moses asks, “Do you want to come to the land the Lord is preparing for us?”

I think Moses is setting a very good example for us. I think we can learn a little bit regarding how to reach the lost from his example. Israel was heading for Canaan, but where are we going? We’re going to the place that Jesus has been preparing for us, not for 400 years, but for 2000 years. Like Israel, we are waiting to hear the trumpet sound.

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells us how to be ready for that trumpet sound. He told the story of the 10 virgins, exhorting us to be certain we are, in fact, saved. Then he told the story of the talents, exhorting us to be involved in serving the Lord. Jesus Christ is coming back to take us home, and I don‘t think he wants us to come home alone.

So, in a sense, Moses is evangelizing. He’s trying to reach out to his father-in-law. He implores Hobab, “Come on, man, come with me.” That is a great way to approach evangelism. I’m going to heaven, do you want to come? A friend of mine was going to be baptized at her church, so she put together very formal invitations and sent them out to friends and family who were not believers. She made it clear in the invitation, this was a very important event for her, and she really wanted them to be a part of it. When the day of her baptism arrived, her pastor explained what baptism represents, then he gave her an opportunity to address the congregation. In short she said, “I have trusted Jesus and I am going to heaven, but I love all of you so much, I do not want to go alone. Will you please accept Jesus so you can come to heaven with me?” I have to tell you, it was one of the most powerful evangelistic messages I have ever heard. If you have received Jesus Christ, then you are saved and going to heaven; seek to bring as many along with you as you can. I recall a song we used to sing when I first got saved, one line went, “. . .with one hand reach out to Jesus with the other bring a friend. . .” Moses is not so consumed with packing for the trip that he neglects to invite Hobab.

Pastor Jim

Man-made Religion

Luke 18:9

 “He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others”

The chief trait of this Pharisee was the idea that he did not need God. A modern equivalent would be the person who, with his imagination and personal experience, has fabricated both a god and a religious system by which he is acceptable to his god. The Pharisees did just that. They picked out certain verses from Scripture to form what they thought God was like, then based upon that, they established behaviors they believed He would accept. The result was a group of self-righteous men who looked down upon others and rejected Christ. In contrast, we find a man who has lived a compromising life. While externally he seems to be the one whom God would reject, he is accepted because he came to God, not on his own terms, but on God’s.

The lesson is very clear. It will be those who humble themselves, confess their sin, and come to God through Christ, who will be accepted by Him.

Don’t be like the Pharisees who rejected Him because they thought they were good enough.

Pastor Jim

The Right Way

Numbers 7:9
“But to the sons of Kohath he gave none, because theirs was the service of the holy things, which they carried on their shoulders.”

About 600 years after these events, somebody got it into his head that it would be a great idea to take the Ark of the Covenant into battle. He had lost sight of who God was, and thought the Ark of the Covenant was the presence of God. So, seizing the Ark, the army marched into battle, assuming it would ensure victory. They were defeated. The Philistines captured the Ark and took it into their camp. As a result, God began to plague the Philistines, so they put the Ark on a cart, hitched to oxen, and sent the cart back to the nation of Israel, where it remained in the house of Abinadab until the time of David.

Later in I Chronicles 13, David is on the throne, looking at the spiritual condition of the nation, and realized something was lacking. God was not the central focus of the people, or the nation. So he decided to bring the Ark to Jerusalem and place it in the Tabernacle; symbolizing the centrality of God to Israel. He sent a letter to all the leaders in Israel, asking, “I’ve got this idea, what do you think?” They replied, “Great idea, let’s return the Ark to its rightful place in the Tabernacle.” Then they talked to the people, and the people agreed, “Wonderful idea! Let’s do it!” So they placed the Ark on a brand new cart, and appointed Uzza as driver. The people joined in with a big celebration of singing and rejoicing in the Lord; until they hit a pothole and the cart tipped. Uzza reached back to keep the Ark from falling out and being damaged. When he grabbed the Ark, God struck him and he died. As you can imagine, at that point, the celebration stopped, the people were in shock. David became angry with Lord. Perhaps he thought, “I’m bringing this Ark to the Tabernacle, I’m trying to glorify You, I’m trying to raise the spiritual level in the nation of Israel, and this is what You do?” And so, he stores the Ark in Obed Edom’s house and goes home.

After 3 months, David realized how he had erred. He asked the people if they thought it was a good idea, he asked the leaders if they thought it was a good idea, but he didn’t ask the Lord. He did not go to the scriptures and see what God said about moving the holy things. So David opened his Bible and began to read. He, no doubt, went to Numbers Chapter 7. He saw that God never intended for the Ark to be carried on a cart. Gathering together the priests and the sons of Kohath, he instructed them. “You can’t look at the Ark, so we need to have the priests cover it first. After it is covered you need to put the Ark on your shoulders.” So the priests covered the Ark, and the sons of Kohath carried it on their shoulders. As they brought the Ark into Jerusalem, they began to worship the Lord again, and set it up in a tent that David had erected for it.

But why? I understand that David broke the rules; but what was the point of the rule? Why did God not allow the Ark and the utensils to be placed on a cart?

Numbers 7:9
“But to the sons of Kohath he gave none, because theirs was the service of the holy things”

I think this is one of those biblical principles that is so foundational in our service to the Lord. The things of the Lord, (the holy things, our service unto the Lord), move differently than the things of the world. It’s OK to throw curtains on a cart, and it’s OK to throw silver blocks on the cart. However, when it comes to the holy things, the things that represent the nature and character of God, they move in a different way. God does things differently.

So many events that happen in the church, happen out of people’s great desire to raise the level of spirituality in the church, or even in the nation . “We’ve got to impact our community. We want to see people come to the Lord, so here’s what we’ll do: we’ll imitate the world’s methods, take the Ark, throw it on a cart, get a bunch of musicians, and start marching to Jerusalem.” Failing to recognize, God is not only interested in the end, He’s also interested in the means. God has a way of doing things, and that way often flies in the face of the way we think. Some things that work wonderfully in the business world, don’t have any place in the church. And so He says, “Here’s what you’re going to do. You’re going to carry it. It’s going to take you longer. It’s going to be more difficult. You’re going to be more fatigued. But, ultimately, I’m going to be glorified. So don’t get carts or oxen.”

There are many models in todays approach to ministry. It seems, every time I open my mail, I am introduced to another tactic on taking the Gospel to the world, or building up the body of Christ. I know, in many cases, they are devised by people who sincerely want to minister to others. The question is, what is the right model? I am so thankful to have God’s way of ministry modeled for us in the book of Acts. I want to encourage you, if you desire to serve the Lord, look to the book of Acts, and follow the only approach to ministry that is actually divine in nature. We need to be careful, when we seek to serve the Lord, that we are not looking to the world for a model, but instead we are looking to the Word.

Pastor Jim

Marriage Problems

Numbers 5:14
“If the spirit of jealousy comes upon him and he becomes jealous of his wife, who has defiled herself; or if the spirit of jealousy comes upon him and he becomes jealous of his wife, although she has not defiled herself”

This section addresses the subject of marital problems, specifically that of jealousy. If a husband suspects his wife of cheating on him, but has no evidence, only suspicion; or if she hasn’t cheated, but he becomes jealous of her, this is what they are to do. The man is to bring his wife before the priest, and the priest is to make a concoction for her to drink (holy water, dirt and dried ink). Then, if she cheated on her husband, when she drinks it, her thigh will rot and her belly will swell. What’s this all about?

The Code of Hammurabi law dates back roughly to the time of Abraham. It is believed this code governed the pagan people in the area of Mesopotamia. In this code, there is something very similar to what Moses is talking about in these verses. According to Hammurabi, if a woman was suspected of cheating on her husband, she was thrown into the river; if she survived, she was innocent, and if she drowned, she was guilty. Other cultures had similar rites in order to discover the guilt or innocence of a person. They might throw them in a pit of poisonous snakes, or alligators, and if guilty, they would die, but if innocent they would survive. Remember when Paul was bitten by the poisonous snake, the pagans believed it was because he was guilty of a crime worthy of death.

At first glance, Numbers 5 sounds similar to those pagan rituals. However, there is a striking difference between what Moses tells the people to do, and what the Code of Hammurabi, and other pagan rituals declare. Here’s the difference. If I filled a glass with water, put in a handful of dirt from the planter, added in a little ink from a pen, stirred it up, then gave it to you to drink, would that cause your stomach to swell and your thigh to rot? It might not taste good, but it’s not going to kill you. There’s nothing deadly about it. It might make you feel sick, but it would not be an effective form of capital punishment. If you have small children, it is a mixture they probably consume on a regular basis. A little dirt, a little ink, unwashed hands and a cheeseburger or handful of grapes. When you see their filthy hands grasping a french fry, you are not concerned their stomach will swell or their thigh will rot. The difference between Numbers 5 and pagan rituals is, in this case, the woman is presumed innocent. She’s not thrown into a pit of poisonous snakes or a raging river, where 99% of the time the person dies. Instead, she’s put into a circumstance where it’s physically impossible for a cup of dirty water to cause your belly to swell and your thigh to rot.

If a woman is out cheating on her husband, there’s something wrong in the home. If the man is so jealous he’s accusing his wife of committing adultery, even when she hasn’t, there’s something wrong in that home. In one case, it’s the sin of the wife, she has committed adultery. In the other case, it’s the sin of the husband, his jealously is unwarranted. In both cases, there are problems going on in the marriage; there are problems going on at home. I think it is important for us to understand that our relationship with the Lord has to be happening in our house. You can be under the banner, in the right camp, marching with the Tabernacle in the center; you can remove the lepers, you can confess the sin, and make the 120% restitution, but if things aren’t right in the home, then the army’s not ready for battle.

What is God’s solution for a marital problem? How were they to go about solving the problem? They were to take their marital problem to the Lord. Notice, it was a problem that only the Lord could decipher. The husband’s saying, “You cheated on me.” And the wife replies, “I didn’t.” And the husband declares, “I know it.” And she’s saying, “Prove it.” And he responds, “I can’t. There’s no evidence, I just know it.” Either he’s wrong or she’s wrong; there seems to be no answer. How are we going to find an answer? God says, “Bring it to Me. Drink some dirty water and I’ll provide the answer.” It’s so ludicrous! Dirty water is not going to make your stomach swell or your thigh rot. Nevertheless, they are putting their marriage into the hands of the Lord. The Lord is going to have to solve this marital conflict.

So often, when things are going wrong in our relationships at home, we want to run to the world for help. But the world‘s answer is, “Get divorced, you were never in love in the first place”, or “Separate for a while, you need some ‘me time’.” And we think that sounds like a good idea. Not recognizing, it is as foolish as if we were told, “throw her in a pit with some snakes. If she dies, it was her fault, but if she lives it was your fault.” Christian, the world does not have the answer. We must go to the Lord, and let the Lord be the one to fix the problems. Let the Lord be the One who provides the answers. Then, when she drinks the concoction and she doesn’t gain excessive weight in strange places, and loose it in others, her husband will realize,  “I was wrong. Honey, I’m sorry I was so jealous. I’m sorry I brought you through that.” Or if her stomach does swell, and the wife realizes, “I was wrong. Forgive me, I’m sorry.” The Lord has solved the problem, the relationship is restored, and we are able to continue to impact the world for the kingdom of Heaven. Difficulties in marriage are not reasons to give up on marriage, but rather, are opportunities for the husband and wife to seek the Lord together. To see God accomplish the miraculous in their lives. Whatever problems you may be facing, humble yourself, go to your spouse, and begin with your spouse, to seek the Lord to heal and restore.

Pastor JIm