Archive for the ‘Numbers’ Category


Pride and Persistence – Numbers 16:8–11

May 9, 2020

“And Moses said to Korah, “Please listen, sons of Levi! Is it too little for you that the God of Israel set you apart from the community of Israel to allow you to approach him to do the work of the tabernacle of Yahweh, to stand before the community to serve them? He has allowed you to approach him, you with all your brothers, the descendants of Levi, but yet you also seek the priesthood. Therefore you and your company that has banded together against Yahweh. What is Aaron that you grumble against him?””

What does your heart desire?

What is the passion of your life?

What motivation drives you toward your goals?

I have a list of goals that I wrote shortly after graduation from college.  Most of those goals have been obtained.  Some are beyond my grasp.  A few would not be enumerated if the list were written today.

I struggle to discern the motivation behind my own youthful list and now even my middle-aged musings.  Therefore, I will not hazard in the foolish task of questioning the motivation of others priorities since I am baffled by my own.  

However, I am aware of the fine line between pride and persistence.  

A good goal will stretch you.  It will challenge you.  A good goal will require persistence.  Yet, the persistence of a good goal can cultivate a discontent in the unfulfilled now.

How do you live in the unfulfilled now?

Discontent in the now can be dangerous for decision making.  Consider Korah and his followers.  They challenged Moses and Aaron because the role of their now was too little for the hopeful goals of their future.  Their decision to resolve an unfulfilled now resulted not in fulfillment but in destruction.  

They wanted a priesthood that was not God’s will.

I don’t know the all motivations of Korah. I do know that his persistence was motivated by something other than righteousness.  

We are called to contentment in God, which means joyfullness with where you are today.  I often ask myself when I sense a dangerously developing persistence, “will I be content in Christ Jesus, if nothing changes”?  

There have been seasons where the honest answer to this question has been “no”.  We all battle the multiple manifestations of pride.  For me, pride often lurks within the persistence necessary for betterment.  I want to be all that I can be.  I want to live to my fullest potential.


Why are you striving?  Why are you persistently pursuing your greatest potential?  You have to know your why…honestly know your why…if you are to have any hope of balancing current contentment with righteous persistence. via the Logos Bible Android app.



April 3, 2014

“So the people of Israel set out from Rameses and camped at Succoth….And they set out from…And they set out from…And they set out from…And they set out from the mountains of Abarim and camped in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho…” Numbers 33:5-49

Moses’ diary of the stages of the people of Israel while in the wilderness chronicles a consistent pattern. It is a boringly consistent pattern when read in summary. The Israelites were constantly moving on. They were setting out from one place and heading to another place. They still did this pattern for decades because they were not in the promise land.


Desert (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

The land they were passing through was not their inheritance. They were not to settle in a land filled with idolatry that would draw them away from following God with their whole hearts. We can read about what happened to the nation of Israel when they failed to take possession of the Promised Land and settle in it as God directed them.

The enticements of the settled land became barbs in their eyes and thorns in their sides, and they had trouble in the land where they dwelt. (Numbers 33:55)

I wonder what the summary of my spiritual journey toward eternal life chronicles.

We get in trouble when our hope settles in this life. We are passing through a world of temptations that can become barbs that pull our eyes away from Christ. We are baited into fulfilling desires that can become thorns in our sides that hold us back.  The summary of our lives should demonstrate a consistent pattern of setting out from those loves that entice our hearts away from wholly following Christ.

I am setting out from my love of praise.
I am setting out from my pride.
I am setting out from my anger.
I am setting out from my gossip.
I am setting out from my success.
I am setting out from my failure.
I am setting out from disappointment.
I am setting out from my love of money.
I am setting out from my jealously.
I am setting out from my envy.
I am setting out from my worry.
I am setting out from discontentment.
I am setting out from my love of comfort.
I am setting out from my lust.
I am setting out from my fears.
I am setting out from my doubt.
I am setting out from unbelief.

I know there are a lot of things that I need to set out from. I can readily attest to the areas of my life where I settle. Many times, I will set out only to circle back to those sinful loves of my heart that bind me like thorns in my side.

DesertWe all have specific idols in our lives that have strong allurement. We should not be discouraged by the number of times we set out from these wayward loves. We will always battle temptations to settle for the false promises of this world.

I hope that the diary of my life is a boringly consistent pattern when read in summary.

The pattern of a follower of Christ should be one of consistent setting out. While we are still in this life, we will be constantly setting out from those things that keep us from wholly following Christ. We can have confidence in a future of not settling because of the power of the Spirit. There is not a power in this world that can keep us from setting out in the power of the Spirit. I look forward to a future of not settling for anything other than my inheritance – eternal life as an heir of God. Therefore…

I am setting out from the idols that ensnare me.
I am setting out despite the barbs in my eyes and the thorns in my side.
I am setting out in faith, pursuing the Hope that will never disappoint.
I am setting out with a mind on the things of the Spirit.
I am setting out with a heart wholly devoted to Christ.


PRAYER: Father, thank you for giving me a hope to set out for. Forgive me for settling upon loves that will never satisfy me.  Forgive me for settling when I should be following.  Lord, help me to follow you.  Give me the power to set out.  Remove the barbs from my eyes.  Pluck the thorns from my sides.  Free me from all that entangles my love for you and you alone.  Thank you for saving me and giving me an inheritance that I did not deserve. I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen


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March 26, 2014

“And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” Number 20:11-12

 Newton’s first law of motion: Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

Spiritual maturity entails learning to respond appropriately to the external forces that are applied to our lives. We can be in a good state –walking with all consistency in the Spirit. We can we be going in the right direction –following Christ with all of our heart. However, all of that uniform positive motion can be thrown into disarray by application of the slightest of force that is beyond our control.

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When I was younger much of the state of my spiritual motion was dictated by the decisions I was making. Decisions will always have consequences. My decisions applied internal forces within my life that drove me in good and bad directions. I was like a five-year learning to ride a bike without training wheels. I wavered all over the path that lay before me. There was nothing in my spiritual life that one would call uniform. I sped up and slowed down. I changed direction and then changed again as I sought out the balance of following Christ in a confusing and fallen world. The inconsistencies of my younger years were mostly due to the decisions that I was making.

As the years have passed by, the Spirit has shown me so much patience and grace while teaching me how to follow Christ. My spiritual life is far from perfect but I am no longer the wavering and inconsistent child that I once was. I look back and know that the Lord has matured my faith, despite myself, to a state of mostly uniform motion.

This does not mean that the spiritual state of the more mature is without wavering. I have come to learn how vulnerable my spiritual motion is to the forces that are beyond my control. We all have to deal with circumstances that are not of our choosing. We all have to respond to conditions that are not our preference. Most of these situations are beyond our control. Yet, they are external forces that can disrupt the uniform motion of our spiritual lives.

There was no man like Moses. He was meeker than all the people who were on the face of the earth. He lived a faithful life. God spoke to Moses, mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles. Moses beheld the form of the Lord. Moses’ faith was steadfast and uniform.

Yet, even Moses was susceptible to the disruption of external forces. The people of Israel gathered together to quarrel with Moses and Aaron. That was a bad decision. It was a decision that Moses and Aaron had no part of. Yet, it was an external force beyond their control that was applied into their lives and they wavered under it. Moses took his eyes off of the glory of God and responded in his own flesh – he spoke in anger, he usurped the place of God, and he acted with aggression. In that instance, Moses wavered due to the external circumstance that was applied to him.

The bad decisions of others created a bad decision for Moses from which he had to face the consequences.

The goal of spiritual maturity is to respond appropriately to other people’s decisions and/or circumstance that are not of our choosing. The spiritually mature child of God should be difficult to dislodge from his consistent motion behind the leading of his Savior.

Why is it hard to dislodge a freight train from its tracks?

To dislodge a freight train, one has to exceed the train’s mass and acceleration. The tremendous force of a train comes from its incredible tonnage and speed. There are few forces that can throw a freight train off its tracks. It can be done but it takes an awfully great wallop to do it.

A mature Christian should be like a spiritual freight train.
our tonnage comes from the glory of God and
our speed through the propulsion of the Spirit.

Hunter-Desportes / Foter / CC BY

We gain spiritual mass when we live for the glory of God. We are grounded when we treasure God more than anything else. The cares of the world can apply little force against a life that is filled with the wonder of the Almighty and living to uphold the holiness of God for all to see.

The child of God who sets his mind on the things of the Spirit is propelled forward as he walks according to the Spirit. The Spirit is the one who accelerates the follower of Christ forward in his faith toward life and peace.

Only the greatest of external wallops can waver the believer who lives within the bulk of God’s glory and knows the Spirit induced acceleration of a life focused only on the things of the Spirit.

May we all mature into spiritual freight trains. Lives lived with so much spiritual force that bad circumstance cannot dislodge us from our walks of uniform motion according to the Spirit.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for how far you have taken me.  Thank you for giving me the Holy Spirit to guide and teach me.  Thank you for keeping me from wandering away from you. Lord, teach me how to live with your glory constantly in my sight.  Help to continue to walk according to your Spirit.  Restore me back into faithfulness when I do waver from external forces.  Father, create in me a faith that is as stable as any freight train for you glory.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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March 18, 2014

“And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet  among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream.  Not so with my servant Moses.  He is faithful in all my house.  With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the Lord.  Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”  Numbers 12:6

Evangelist Billy Graham speaking at Doak Campb...

I do not care for celebrity pastors.

That is not entirely true.  There are several pastors both alive and dead that I like very much and are, or would be, considered a celebrity under most definitions.  If your definition of celebrity is any person who is famous, then there are many pastors who are celebrities from one degree to another.

So, I do like celebrity pastors … just not all of them.

Joel Osteen

I do not begrudge the fame of those who I like.  I celebrate their notoriety because it creates a larger platform for their message to be heard.  It is the celebrity pastors who I don’t agree with, that I don’t like.  I don’t want them to have the large audiences  to teach what I believe might be detrimental to the kingdom of God.

I am quick to praise those I like;
I am quick to disregard those I don’t.

I struggle to resist our culture of praise and condemnation.  We live in a media environment dominated by critics and fans.  I find it strange that people will stand in line to get an autograph of a pastor.  I find it equally strange that people, who profess Christ, feel free to lob venom-latched bombs of accusation and indictment upon a fellow heir of the kingdom of God.

I believe that our evangelical communities would benefit from a healthy dose of meekness and fear.  Moses’ distinguishing characteristic was meekness.

Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.  (Numbers 12:3)

Now, I don’t know any celebrity pastors.  I do not attend a church led by someone famous.  Therefore, I cannot speak directly to the humility of the famous who occupy pulpits.  All I can comment upon is what I observe from the outside looking in.  From this vantage point, it appears that more meekness among our notable pastors, teachers, and leaders would be very beneficial.

No one would ever confuse Mark Driscoll as a rival to Moses in the category of meekness.  His public persona is almost the opposite of meekness.  That is unfortunate because I believe that much of the current controversy resulting from his plagiarism (Is Driscoll Getting Away with Plagiarism?) would never have happened if he was “very meek” as Moses was.

These individuals who bear the fame that we heap upon them, face an immense temptation.  I do not know what it is like to have someone seek out my autograph.  I can only image the temptations of pride that emanates from seeing your name as author of a best seller, as the keynote speaker, or to be sought out for interviews.  Meekness must be a difficult virtue to hold onto in an environment that continues to reinforce how wonderful you are.

If we believe that the church of our age needs leaders who are meek, then we need to pray for them.  My prayer for Mark Driscoll is that God will use this controversy to teach him humility and meekness.  I am hopeful that is exactly what is happening in Mr. Driscoll’s apology.  My prayer for all famous Christians is that the Lord will give them accountability partners, events, and/or thorns in the flesh that will cause them to keep their eye on Jesus and the things of the Spirit rather than the intoxicating praise of men and women.

I pray that the Lord will deliver them from the temptation of pride.

There is not a pastor, teacher, or religious leader on the face of the earth who is an equal to Moses.  Therefore, they are all open to questioning and accountability.  However, much of the criticism that tries to pass itself off as Christian accountability is often as lacking in meekness as those who they are criticizing.

I believe every person who decides to speak critically of another person would benefit from asking the following questions:

Is my opinion beneficial?  I have learned with age that not all of my many opinions are worth giving a voice.    We should only speak when it will be beneficial to the one of which we are critical and those who they influence.  If what we have to say is not beneficial and to the glory of God, then we should keep our mouths shut.

What are my motivations?  Opinions are often espoused merely to get it off of an opinionated chest or for other selfish reasons.  I have read too many articles where the criticism is leveled in such a way as to show how smart the author is.  That is not a good enough reason to enter into a dialogue that is often too closely akin to gossip.  Aaron and Miriam’s criticism of Moses was based in jealousy.  We are just as susceptible to similar selfish motivation.  If our motivation is rooted in selfishness, then we should keep our mouths shut.

Am I treating them like I would want to be treated?  The golden rule does not cease to be applicable when we decide to give voice to criticism.  We need to treat the famous in the same manner as we would want to be treated.  If we cannot give criticism in the manner that we would want to receive it, then we should keep our mouths shut.

Am I acknowledging my fallibility?  Criticism is often spoken with such confidence and limited information.  I have often had opinions on how pastors should respond only to discover that there was much I did not know.  We should approach any criticism with an abundance of fear in being critical of someone who is doing exactly what God has called them to do.  Our opinions should be interwoven with the acknowledgment that we are fallible and prone to error.  If we cannot offer criticism in humility of our fallibility, then we should keep our mouths shut.

Does love drip off of my criticism?  We can be completely correct in our criticism, but if it is not given in love then it probably will not be received and it will turn-off those who are watching the actions of Christians – it will just be a clanging symbol.  If love is not the overriding characteristic of criticism, then we should keep our mouths shut.

I believe that our default should be to keep our mouths shut.  We should be much slower to speak than we currently are.   We should be even more hesitant to speak a critical word and we should only do it in meekness with an appropriate amount of trepidation.

I don’t see our culture of praise and condemnation changing any time soon.  However, that does not mean we need to join it.  Cultural changes start one person at a time.  So, let’s be counter-cultural by living in meekness and trepidation.

PRAYER: Father, Lord, forgive me of my critical and opinionated spirit.  Forgive me for speaking too often just to hear my own voice.  Help me to keep my mouth shut.  Help me to know when I need to speak.  Help me to speak for the benefit of others, in love, and for your glory.  Father, I need you to keep me walking in your Spirit especially when it comes to expressing my opinions I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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March 11, 2014

“And whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, after that the people of Israel set out, and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the people of Israel camped.  At the command of the Lord the people of Israel set out, and at the command of the Lord they camped.”  Numbers 9:17-18

tabernacle-in-wildernessThe fire was kindled and just coming to wake, along with the rest of the inhabitants of the small tent.  The small family struggled to push away the warm embrace of sleep, lingering as long as possible under covers, allowing the fire’s heat to push away the sting of the morning breeze.  Words were mumbled between family members as the rustling of bedding intensified.  As the family comes back to life, the normal discussion of the coming day commences.

The children ask the same barrage of questions, “Father, are we traveling today?”,  “Can have something other than manna for dinner?” “How far are we going to travel today?”, “What will our next camp be like?”, “I don’t want to go to a new camp; I like this one.”

“I don’t know,” was the unsatisfying response of the half-asleep father.

“But Mother, we have not traveled in four days.  I think we are going to travel again today,” the youngest child surmises.

“Yes, you might be right, but I don’t know,” the mother says with a smile.

“But Father, how long can we stay here?  Don’t we have to start moving again?” the logical eldest child contributed.

“We will stay as long as we need to,” the father said in hopes of ending the discussion.

However, the immediate response from the eldest was “how long do we need to stay?”

“I don’t know,” was the frustrated father’s all too familiar response.

“Can I play with my friends today, Mother?  There is that large rock at the edge of the camp that we want to climb.  Can we climb it today?” the middle child pushed.

“If we don’t travel today, then you can play with your friends…after your chores,” the mother quickly added.

“Are we traveling today?” the child could not help but ask.

“I don’t’ know,” was mumbled through a bit of breakfast when the father noticed a hint of dawn in the distances.  Before his children could ask another question about the day’s plans, he sent them out of the tent with the admonition “go see if the cloud has lifted from the tabernacle.”

Printable 2014 calendar

I think this would be my family if we had been Israelites in the wilderness.  We don’t handle uncertainty well.  The days of our calendar are filled months in advance.  We have vacations, events, and commitments all occupying their designated places.  My kids start out every morning with the same question, “what are we doing today?”  There usually is an answer for us.  We don’t have a cloud over a tabernacle to consult.

When asked about our participation, our response typically involves the consultation of the sacred scroll – our calendar.

I know  there is a balance between planning and spontaneity.  However, my personal tendency is to lean toward the planning.  I like to have a plan.  I don’t like the response of “I don’t know.”  I especially don’t like to re-schedule and modify long-established plans and goals.

However, we all live in the “I don’t know” world more that we might want to acknowledge.  God is Lord of our calendars and He can change them in an instance.  The events on our calendar are all tentative no matter how hard we try to etch them in ink.  The Lord can lift His Spirit in our life at any given moment and send us in a new direction or He can keep us in the same spot even though we desperately want to move on.

All of our plans are subject to the Lord’s will – whether we acknowledge it or not.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” – yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:13-14)

I believe that the balance between planning and spontaneity come by acknowledging that the Lord’s will governs over all.  We must make plans; it is a fundamental part of life.  However, all of our plans are written upon our calendars in the tentative of “if the Lord wills.”  Anything can be changed; we must be willing to yield to the Lord’s will in our lives – in the spontaneous or the long established; to not yield is evil boasting (James 4:16).  It is arrogance to live as if we have the ability to set our schedules in ink.

The Lord is lord of all – even our calendars.  Therefore, every follower of Christ’s calendar should have the yielding heading – “If the Lord wills”.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for being in control of my schedule. I need you to guide me in all ways – especially in my commitments, goals and plans.  You know that I live arrogantly in my tendency to embrace my self-imposed plans.  Lord, change my mindset.  Teach me to check your will in all things.  Take my calendar; enable me to yield my schedule to the changes that you have prescribed.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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