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Be Zealous, Not Jealous

19th Sunday after Pentecost

Be Zealous, Not Jealous

Text: Numbers 11:16, 24-29

It was a mess out in that wilderness.  The people of Israel were whining.  Again.  They were thirsty.  God miraculously sprang forth water out of a rock.  They were hungry.  God dropped manna out of the sky.  Still not good enough.  Now they were complaining that they had no meat.  “If only we had meat like when we were in Egypt.”

Finally, Moses could hardly take it any more.  The pressure was building.  His blood was boiling.  In the verses right before the first lesson this morning Moses erupted in frustration:  “What have I done, Lord?  Why do I have to deal with all this?  I can’t carry this burden by myself.  If this is how it’s going to be, you can go ahead and take my life.”

Moses was overwhelmed and overworked.  But our gracious God had a plan to help.  First, he was going to drop quail out of the sky, so many birds  in 30 days that God said it would be coming out of their nostrils.  Then for Moses, God had this plan in the first verse today:  The LORD said to Moses: ‘Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people.  Have them come to the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with you.”  God was going to assemble a leadership team to help Moses with the two million-some Israelites in the wilderness. Read the rest of this entry

A Triune Blessing from Our Triune God

2nd Sunday after Pentecost

A Triune Blessing from Our Triune God

Text: Numbers 6:22-27

Intro

It was the last day of sightseeing and the last sight to see.  Thursday morning we woke the seventh and eight graders early to rush back into Washington D.C. to visit the final locations on our itinerary.  We stopped first at the National Archives, but upon finding a line that wrapped around the building and that it opened an hour later in the spring and summer, we moved on to the next destination—the Holocaust Museum.

There we found a line even longer, nearly wrapped around the block.  The tickets were going quickly.  But by the time we got to the front of the line, we found that they had 13 tickets available for the last tour of the day at 4:30pm.  We grabbed the tickets, rushed off to Annapolis for an amazing tour of the Naval Academy, and then hurried back to the Holocaust Museum for our final sight to see on our Discover America trip.  And what a sight it was!

Put it down as a “must see” on your bucket list.  Words can hardly describe how masterfully they have designed that museum to immerse you in those horrible times of world history.

The museum walks you through the formation and rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime.  It describes the hunger for power and sickening racism that drove the Third Reich.  Then suddenly the exhibits begin depicting how the Jews became the focal object of their horrific hatred.

The pictures and videos turn your stomach upside down.  Walking into scale models of train cars and concentration camps leave you utterly speechless.  Then you turn into one of the last exhibits of the museum—a room that has two massive piles of shoes worn by actual concentration camp captives.  It’s enough to make the manliest men break down in tears.

We left the museum at closing time to return to our home for the last night.  The normally bubbly and goofy seventh and eight graders were silent.  Several had tears in their eyes.  Others had blank stares of disbelief.  One was literally trembling.

Every night on this trip we had an evening devotion with the students before bed.  I don’t think they will forget Thursday’s evening devotion for a long time.  I focused our thoughts that night on being thankful to God.  Here these students are, traveling across the country for next to nothing, visiting some of the most incredible monuments, memorials, and museums in the world.  Eight of the ten students had their own cell phone (one lost hers in D.C.!).  The other two had iPods.  Most of the cell phones were iPhones.  They all have gigabytes worth of pictures and videos to keep forever.  They had McDonalds and Burger King and pizza and soda any time they wanted.  They wore “cool” and comfortable clothes and they slept in warm and comfortable beds at night.

In our devotion I compared that to the similarly aged children they saw at the museum who had absolutely nothing.  They slept on the ground in freezing temperatures wearing prisoner clothing while many were separated from their families.  They were herded into gas chambers only to have piles of them plowed into a pit by a bulldozer (That actually happened!).

For our last devotion we humbly discussed together that we have much to be thankful for.  We would not have one blessing in life without the good and gracious will of our loving and compassionate God.  Hopefully it was an experience that those ten students and we three adults will never forget.

Some three thousand years ago, God had the same intentions for his people.  Those same Jewish people, the Israelites, also had horrific experiences in Egypt.  They were used, abused, and driven to death as slaves to the Egyptians.  Thus, when God brought them out of slavery and was leading them on to the Promised Land, they had much to be thankful for.  Hopefully they would never forget how blessed they were by the good and gracious will of their loving and compassionate God.

So God gave to Moses and his brother Aaron the high priest a special blessing.  This special blessing was to be a reminder for the people of who God is and what God does.  This special blessing would remind them that the Lord—Yahweh, Jehovah, the loving and compassionate God—would always be with his people.  This special blessing would remind them that the Lord is  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit actively at work in their lives.  This special blessing is A Triune Blessing from Our Triune God. Read the rest of this entry

The LORD is Serious

3rd Sunday in Lent

The LORD is Serious

1. About sin
2. About salvation

Text: Numbers 16:23-40

Intro

How do you show someone that you are serious about something?  In our school we have a lot of rules and policies.  There are rules about attendance and being tardy, rules about dress code and uniforms, rules about behavior, even rules about homework.  But how do you show kids and parents that we are serious about these rules?

First of all, you get rid of softy pastor-principal and you bring in a real principal who will bring the hammer down.  Then you show parents and students just how serious you are with consequences.  If you don’t wear your uniform to school, then you sit in the office until your parent brings the uniform and you’re marked unexcused from school.  If you are late—even one minute late—more than three times in a quarter, then you get a detention.  If you have four assignments not finished in a week, detention.  If you act up or are especially disrespectful, detention.  Oh, and by the way, detentions are Saturday morning at 7am.  Ouch!

How do parents show children that they are serious?  When you act up, you sit in time out.  For older children, you do the most painful thing imaginable—you take away all video games, TVs, iPhones, and iPads.  Sometimes they get a little reminder on their hinder, too.

How do employers show employees they are serious?  They give written warnings and notices.  They suspend without pay.  They fire. Read the rest of this entry

Daily Devotion on Numbers 11:16,24-29

Text: Numbers 11:16, 24-29

“That’s no fair!”

If I had a dollar for every time I hear that every day of the week from my children, I would be writing this devotion from my vacation home in Tahiti right now.

“That’s no fair! How come I don’t get to stay up late?”

“That’s no fair! How come I don’t get three chicken nuggets?”

“That’s no fair! How come I don’t get to sit next to Daddy for supper?”

Half the time the requests and complaints are senseless and pointless. Yet the argument for “fairness” is made nevertheless. Children naturally are wired for jealousy because children naturally are sinful, too.

Unfortunately, our jealousy only gets worse as we get older. How many times have you watched a TV show that tours celebrity homes and thought, “That is no fair! How come I can’t have a life like that?” Maybe it’s just as simple as being jealous over what your neighbor has, “Why can’t I get a nice lawnmower, too?” or being jealous of your coworker, “Why should she get a raise instead of me?”

Moses would have had every right to be jealous when some of the Israelites also started prophesying. He was God’s chosen leader! General Joshua thought it would be best if they stopped, for the sake of Moses. Yet Moses rejoiced in the gifts and abilities of his fellow Israelites and encouraged their activity. Rather than a heart of jealousy, Moses had a heart of love and thanks.

When you happen to glance at the lifestyles of the rich and famous, or even the lifestyles of your semi-rich neighbors, be thankful for what God has given them. Be thankful for all the other gifts and abilities that God gives to other people.

But then, with a loving and content heart, be thankful for what God has given you, too!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you pour out so many blessings upon me–more than I could ever count! Help me to recognize all that you give and to rejoice in the many things I have. Give me contentment to be pleased with whatever you bless me with. Give me thanks for all the blessings you give to others. In your name I pray, Amen.

Daily Devotion on Numbers 12:1-15

Text:  Numbers 12:1-15

“Why can’t I do that too? I’m just as good as he is! I deserve that just as much as he does! I could probably do that better anyways!”

We don’t know exactly what the jealous thoughts of Aaron and Miriam were against their brother Moses. We do know that they were starting to stir up trouble by talking against Moses because of his foreign wife. But we could imagine that this was just a surface argument covering up years worth of jealousy.

Think of all the things that Moses had done! He was chosen by God himself as the leader of the people. He performed miracles. He was on Mt. Sinai alone with God for many days. He personally received the 10 Commandments. Moses even records for us that as he did all those things he remained the most humble man that ever lived (How it must have felt awkward for God to have him write those words about himself!).

All this added up to jealousy, anger, and a desire to supplant Moses’ position and power. God wasn’t having it though. He quickly humbled Aaron and Miriam and taught them a lesson in true humility.

This week our devotions and worship on Sunday focus on Christian love that shows itself in humility. Moved by Christ’s humble love for us, Christians have a unique kind of attitude: They desire to serve. They desire to help. They don’t want to be first. They don’t have to receive fame or glory.

In other words, Christians love and live just as Christ loved and lived. Aaron and Miriam being rebuked by the Lord reminds us today that such an attitude of humble love is what God truly desires.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus Christ, as you humbled yourself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross, out of love for me, so fill my heart with humble love for you. Let that love spill over in my daily life as I deal with friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers. I pray in your name. Amen.