When God tells us he’ll never leave us or betray us, we need to pay attention.
Jesus says we’re to love God with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind and all our strength. If we love God like that, we won’t have any love left over for anything or anyone else. What we’ll have instead is caritas, which is the cup-runneth-over kind of love. Caritas enables you to be kind to everyone, regardless of how they are to you, and to treat others as you want to be treated. In other words, caritas enables us to keep the Commandments, including the one Jesus gave us to love our enemies.
Caritas is the by-product of receiving God’s love in return for loving him. When you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, so much of his love pours back onto you that you can’t contain it. That’s where caritas comes from. This overflow love is then meant for you to pour onto others.
The notion of caritas has been bastardized by the world and by the blind to refer to an obligatory form of giving (charity), but real caritas is God’s love overflowing you. You can give caritas to anyone indiscriminately, regardless of whether you know them or not and regardless of whether they hate you or not. God’s love fills you so much that you don’t require love from other people. If everyone in the world hates you but you know God loves you and you feel his love, you have more than enough love for yourself and to share.
When we love God the way scripture invites us to love him, we have no need to look for love in anyone or anything else. People who don’t love God are constantly looking for God-love substitutes, usually in other people, though sometimes also in material things or pursuits. But God made us to love him; we’re hardwired to love him; so if we try to rewire ourselves or override the wiring, we fail. We were built to fail if we try to find love in anything or anyone other than God. This is the failsafe that both drives us toward and brings us back to God, even if we don’t believe he exists.
As an atheist, I believed in love and I believed in truth, but I didn’t believe in God. I thought if I kept looking for love and truth, someday I would find them, though not necessarily in the same place. What I didn’t realize as an atheist is that God is Love and God is Truth, so the desire that drove me to find love and truth was actually the inborn desire for God that was hardwired into me by God himself.
God will never leave us or betray us. These are huge promises. No-one and nothing on Earth can give us these promises and keep them. Only God can. People will always leave you and betray you, just as you will always leave and betray them. You may look the other way and pretend they’re not leaving or betraying you, but you’re only fooling yourself.
Women are very good at this, fooling themselves. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of women I know who haven’t looked the other way while their significant other betrayed them. Most women would rather be betrayed and look the other way than lose their man, and that is just sad.
God will never betray us. HE WILL NEVER BETRAY US. He will neither leave us nor betray us. Imagine the enormity of such promises, and yet you don’t have to imagine, because these promises are real and unbreakable. God cannot break his promise to us. When he says he’ll never leave us or betray us, he won’t. When he invites us to love him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, we should. The rewards of loving God are infinite and nothing on Earth compares to them.
God is standing there with his heart on his sleeve saying “I love you, and I’ve made you to love me.” He’s not begging you; he’s reminding you that he loves you and that he’s made you to want to love him. The desire you feel to give and receive love is at heart the desire to love God and receive his love in return. You have been hardwired to love God and to receive his love.
In loving God and only in loving God can you find your peace and fulfillment. You’ll have no desire to look for love in others or to expect love from others.
In loving God and only in loving God can you truly give caritas.
BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 9 REFLECTION (JOSHUA 22 – JUDGES 21:25)
“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 9: JULY 31
JOSHUA 22 – JUDGES 21:25
Remember when you were in junior high school, and the teacher got called out of the class, and she went out to the hallway to talk to someone and closed the door behind her, leaving the class to its own devices? Remember what the class got up to when the teacher was out of viewing and hearing range? At first it was quiet, with just a few whispers and giggles, and then someone would make a wisecrack, and then someone else would start talking in a normal tone to someone else, and then more people would start talking to other people in a normal tone, and some would get up from their desks and wander across the room to talk to a friend, and then someone would throw a paper airplane, and then someone else would throw another one back until a paper airplane war broke out and there were things flying through the air, back and forth, not just paper airplanes any more, and then someone would go up the chalk board and start drawing pictures on it, usually a caricature of the teacher, and then someone else would start drawing “body parts” (lol)… and in the meantime the talking back and forth had turned into shouts and roars of laughter and a desk gets pushed out of place and a few guys at the back start shooting spitballs at each other and someone gets hit in the eye and starts crying and the friends of the girl who got hit in the eye start yelling at the spitball guys who yell back and before you know it more desks are being pushed around and knocked over and THE SPITBALL GUYS ARE STANDING UP AND YELLING AND THE GIRLS ARE STANDING UP AND YELLING BACK AT THEM AND NEARLY EVERYONE ELSE IS STANDING UP OR SITTING ON TOP OF THEIR DESKS SHOUTING “FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!” AND BANGING THEIR FISTS ON THEIR DESKS –
And then the teacher walks back in.
That’s kinda like today’s reading, only there’s no teacher walking back into the room. Moses and Joshua are long gone. There’s just “FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!” and more of the same, with the children of Israel fighting against the heathens and against the other children of Israel, and all of them fighting against God.
What a mess!
They were warned by Moses and Joshua what would happen to them if they didn’t love God with all their heart and all their soul. They were warned what would happen to them if they intermarried with the heathen and started worshiping heathen gods. They were warned that the result would be chaos and confusion, with paper airplanes flying every which way, dirty pictures scrawled on the chalkboard, and spitballs taking out an eye (or in Samson’s case, both eyes).
Maybe it’s easy for us to sit back and judge the disastrous goings on in the aptly-named book of Judges, but WHAT THEY HECK WERE THEY THINKING???
My only comment is that this is what happens when there is no strong leader: The sheep go astray. As scripture says, there was no king in Israel in those days, so everyone just did what was right in their own eyes.
Even so, we’re not much better today. Can’t really talk about the specks in the eyes of the historical children of Israel when we’ve got beams sticking out of our own. Mainstream formerly Christian society is not much better than the society we read about today. In fact, mainstream formerly Christian society is probably pretty much on par with the society we read about today. The only real difference is that we’re sugar-coated with high tech and good hygiene.
I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s reading. I skipped ahead to see what it was, and I spied David in the pages.
YIPPEE AND THANK GOD!
See ya tomorrow! 😀
The PDF schedule of the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is directly below:
BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 8 REFLECTION (DEUTERONOMY 28 – JOSHUA 21:45)
“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 8: JULY 30
DEUTERONOMY 28 – JOSHUA 21:45
- I always get a little teary-eyed when I read the passages where marquee characters like Moses leave the earthly stage. Moses had grown from a young man who was so skittish that he’d fled the country in fear of a murder charge, to a strong and godly man who fearlessly led millions to freedom. Nothing cowed Moses in the end, not even an angry God confronting him about his wayward people; Moses simply (and always successfully) intervened for them. In this, he was the prototype of Jesus.
- The death of Moses remains a mystery that can’t necessarily be solved by referring to the Bible. We read that Moses went alone to the top of the mountain to die, but scripture doesn’t tell us how he died. We are only told that God buried his body in the valley below and that no-one knows where his grave is.
- I’m wondering if no-one knows where Moses’ grave is because the grave is no more? I’m wondering if perhaps Moses ascended to Heaven like Elijah and like Jesus later ascended? In the transfiguration, Jesus meets with Moses and Elijah. Elijah ascended without dying, and Moses was supposed to have died and be buried, but maybe God instead brought him home the way he brought Elijah home. That would make sense, since both Elijah and Moses were obviously up and about on Heavenly missions (such as informing Jesus of how and when he was going to die), not dead and buried and awaiting resurrection on the last day. It’s possible that Moses died and was buried and then rose to Heaven a short time later in an ascension (like Jesus), or the story of him being buried in an unmarked grave in the valley might just be a deflection from Moses ascending to Heaven straight from the mountain top.
- Moses and God were very close. Few other characters in the Bible were as close to God as Moses. I’m sure God told Moses a lot of things that Moses didn’t tell his people (not even Joshua, his minister), the way that Jesus kept a lot of things to himself, knowing that even his closest disciples weren’t ready to handle the Truth. So it’s highly plausible that God took Moses home the same way he took Elijah home or the same way he took Jesus home, but I guess we’re going to have to wait until we get to Heaven to find out the Truth about that! However, that Moses and Elijah appeared together to Jesus is to me a huge tip-off as to what happened to Moses either at or shortly after his death.
- I don’t know about you, but Moses’ final reminders to the children of Israel sear straight into my soul. He didn’t mince his words. He said if you do a, b and c, things will go well with you, but if you do x, y, z, you’ll lose everything. He couldn’t have made it clearer to them or us.
- It’s hard not to look at our own lives and the lives of those who well know Moses’ words and see where we fall, whether on the side of blessings or the side of curses. It’s also worth noting that those who appear to be blessed (worldly wealth) but are not following Jesus are likely under the protection and reward of Satan and being given the same “greatness” that Satan promised to Jesus if he would fall down and worship him. My grandmother used to say “the devil is good to his own”. You’ll know who is being rewarded by God, because their lives will look like Jesus’ life.
- The crossing of the children of Israel into the Promised Land, with the parting of the River Jordan to let them cross on dry land, is like the parting of the Red Sea 2.0, but without the Egyptians pursuing after them. It doesn’t get as much press as the parting of the Red Sea, but it’s just as miraculous. I’d love to know where those twelve stones are, but I guess I’m going to have to wait until I get to Heaven (if I get to Heaven) to find that one out, too!
- The fall of Jericho always gives me goosebumps at the part where all the people, who’d been cautioned by Joshua to stay completely quiet (except for the blowing of the trumpets), suddenly erupt in an earth-shattering cry. How that must have sounded in God’s ears! And how that must have terrified the people of Jericho, who would then have been even further terrorized when the only thing standing between them and certain death (the walls) came a-tumblin’ down.
- Love the story of God rewarding and protecting Rahab and her family. Interesting that they all stayed with the Israelites after their rescue from Jericho. That would mean they were converted. Scripture mentions “strangers” quite a few times, and cautions the children of Israel to accept and be kind to strangers who choose to live with them and follow God’s Commandments. This foreshadows the conversion of the gentiles to become followers of Jesus.
- Spiritually, all those who are obedient to God are kin. Being obedient to God now necessarily includes following Jesus, too, as Jesus and God are a package deal; you can’t get one without the other.
- From the perspective of our more delicate 21st century sensibilities, it’s sometimes difficult to read about the slaughters carried out by the Israelites. They didn’t just mow down the fighting men, but also killed all the women, children, and elderly. Everyone in the path of the Israelites was killed and their cities burned to the ground. All that escaped were livestock and a few items that could be melted down and used in the tabernacle.
- When we read this part of scripture, we need to remind ourselves that the Israelites were doing God’s will, and that the people who were slaughtered had it coming. God’s justice was just as perfect then as it is now. The Israelites were bringing God’s justice to those who hated him. I guess the moral of this story is that you want to be on the same side that God is fighting on; you definitely don’t want to be on the side that God is fighting against, because you ain’t never gonna win that battle.
What are your thoughts on this reading? Did something jump out at you that you hadn’t noticed before? Or if you’d noticed it, does it seem to have particular relevance this time around, either for your life or for the world in general? What is God highlighting for you? Share it with us in the comments below. Don’t be shy!
Full schedule of the BIBLE READ-THROUGH on PDF:
BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 7 REFLECTION (DEUTERONOMY 1-27:26)
“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 7: JULY 29
DEUTERONOMY 1 – DEUTERONOMY 27:26
Today’s reading is the final (fifth) book of Moses’ contribution to the Old Testament. It’s essentially a summary of the highlights of the Israelite’s 40-year trek through the wilderness, as delivered in a series of speeches (or sermons) by Moses to the children of Israel just before his death and their entrance into the Promised Land. Don’t blink in this reading, because you’ll miss something important.
- What I find compelling is the repetition of important points that Moses obviously wanted to drive home to his listeners and future readers (that would be us!). When I first started reading the Old Testament years ago, I would occasionally think I had lost track of where I’d stopped reading the day before and was going back over the same text, but that wasn’t the case. It was different text but the same topics. The repetition serves the purpose of hammering into us information that needs to be so familiar that it becomes second nature or part of us, and the way to do that is stating the same things over and over but using slightly different words.
- Here are some of the main topics that are repeated by Moses: 1) We need to be obedient to God or we’ll end up like the heathens and get the same punishment as them; 2) we need to remember the children of Israel’s slavery in Egypt and how God brought them out with miracles; 3) we need teach our children and others about the Israelites’ slavery in Egypt and how God brought them out with miracles; 4) we need to keep the Commandments and all relevant laws, statutes, and holidays (note that for us born-agains, most of the laws, statutes and holidays are no longer relevant, other than for the Ten Commandments and the Passover feast, which Jesus commanded us to celebrate in the way he showed us on the night before his crucifixion. But we do – without exception – need to keep the Commandments); and 5) we need to separate ourselves from the heathen (no intermarriage) and not adopt their demonically-inspired sinful ways.
- The fifth point mentioned above became a major trap for the children of Israel. They end up intermarrying with the heathen, which then made them susceptible to adopting the culture of the heathens, which then pitted them against God. I like how God tells his people to utterly smash down the demon-worship pillars (that is, the obelisks) in the heathen cities, and yet today we see obelisks everywhere in supposed Christian nations, including and especially in Vatican City. Some of the abominations in that alleged Christian enclave have even been brought from Egypt at great financial and human cost (with several people dying in the transport of the abominations). It’s like no-one in Vatican City has ever read the Bible, or if they have read it, they decided to do the opposite of what God tells his people to do.
- I have to laugh a little bit at how God reminds his people through Moses (who, by the way, appears to be speaking for himself now that Aaron has passed away) that they were not chosen because they were such a great (i.e., populous) nation or because they were so righteous. In fact, God tells them that the only reason they were chosen is because the heathen were even wickeder than they were. So it’s like God gave the Israelites a D- for their righteousness, but because the heathen got an F, the Israelites win the prize. But a D- is nothing to crow about! One of the prophets later says that all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, and Jesus says that none is good but God. So God isn’t actually expecting us to achieve righteousness, though we still have to try our hardest to achieve it. No dropping out or quitting, even for ‘mental health’ reasons. The harder we aim for righteousness, the more God blesses our efforts.
- Why did God make the children of Israel wander for 40 years in the wilderness? There were actually a couple of reasons, and Moses mentions them in the reading. The first is that the generation that sinned early on in the wilderness trek needed to be killed. God didn’t want to kill them all at once, as they had their uses, but none of them were allowed to cross the River Jordan into the Promised Land. So it took 40 years for them to die in various ways, most of which were natural causes.
- Another reason for the 40-year wander is that God needed to pace the overthrow of the heathen nations. This couldn’t be done all at once. So he organized for them to sack a certain place and purge (i.e., kill) all the inhabitants but keep the food and cattle, and then live there for a while until he told them to sack the next city and purge all the inhabitants but keep the food and cattle, etc. In this way, the Israelites were provided for but didn’t overextend their military resources or take on too great a burden (too much booty).
- But the main reason for the 40-year wander in the wilderness is that God needed to prove the Israelites, to humble them, to know their heart, and to see whether or not they’d keep his Commandments. If you’re born-again, you know exactly what this means. God is proving you and humbling you, even as he’s providing for you, in order to see what’s really in your heart and whether or not you’ll keep his Commandments (especially under duress). In other words, the Israelites’ 40 year-trek was a training time and a testing time as well as a filtering-out phase for what didn’t belong in the Promised Land. As a born-again believer, I 100% identify with the children of Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness, because I’m living them now. All born-again believers live them. It’s our earthly reality until we make it to our Promised Land of Heaven (that is, IF we make it to our Promised Land of Heaven).
- I’m going to include most of a passage here, because for me it sums up everything we should be and do as inheritors of God’s promise and followers of Jesus. God, through Moses, is speaking directly to us:
12 And now, Israel, what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul,
13 To keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?….
16 Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no more stiffnecked.
17 For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward:
18 He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment.
19 Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
20 Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name.
21 He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen.
I hope you guys are enjoying the read-through and getting out of it what you need to get out of it. Feel free to leave a comment below if something jumped out at you in this reading that you want to share. We all read the same words, but God highlights different ones for each of us at different times. In this way, God’s Word always stays fresh and always has something new to teach us, to cherish, and to apply to our lives.
For the full schedule of the BIBLE READ-THROUGH on PDF, see below:
STOP WHATEVER YOU’RE DOING RIGHT NOW AND READ THIS BLOG
I want you to stop whatever you’re doing right now (except for reading this blog) and take a moment to think about a time when you could have done something but chose not to do it. I’m talking about something you felt drawn to do – maybe even called to do – but you ended up not doing it because something or someone got in your way. Maybe it was something as simple as touching base with an old friend you’d lost touch with for a while, or something more involved like pursuing a graduate degree or a professional designation. Or maybe there was someone you wanted to thank for something they’d done for you years ago, only to find, when you finally got around to sending your thanks, that the person had passed away.
I’m old enough to have accumulated quite a collection of these regrets. Chronic spiritual ulcers, they are. They’re different from mourning, which stays with you all your life but as a scar rather than an active sore. Regret for something you could have done but didn’t do is a festering wound that never heals.
Now imagine being called by God and putting off answering him. Imagine coming up with excuse after excuse after excuse after excuse as to why you don’t want to answer him or can’t answer him right now. Imagine being told that time will soon be up to answer him, but still delaying your response.
And now imagine the crushing weight of regret you’ll feel when it’s too late to answer him. And imagine feeling that horror not just for the rest of your life, but for all eternity.
When Jesus called his disciples, they immediately dropped everything to follow him. Dropping everything meant they left their wives, their children, their jobs, their homes, all their possessions – everything – from one second to the next. They didn’t even take a bug-out bag with them. All they had were the clothes on their backs, and off they went with Jesus.
I am constantly amazed by people who know of God but never want to go any further than that, never want to get to know God one-on-one: never want to be reborn. They think going through the motions at a church service is enough, giving charitable donations a few times a year is enough, having a Bible in the house (though never reading it) is enough, and that hurriedly mumbling some scripted words every now and then suffices for prayer. Or they’ve become “spiritual” and concede that there is more to serving God than just showing up in a church building, but they stop short of genuine repentance and never do actually believe the Gospel.
They want to be religious, but not too religious.
I can’t get into the mindset of these people because I went from 0 to 100 – from atheist to Jesus freak – in a matter of milliseconds. Being a Jesus freak is a reality that I cannot deny. It is who I am and who I have been for the past 22 years. So when I see people who are obviously being called acting as if it’s no big deal and that they’ll think about it and get back to God when they have time, I want to scream at them. I want to reach out and grab them by the shirt and slap them hard across the face, the way men in early Hollywood movies used to slap hysterical women to knock some sense into them.
If you feel you’re being called by God and you’re delaying answering him for one reason or another, you need some sense knocked into you. So put your face closer to the screen and let me slap you.
A little closer.
There. Consider yourself slapped.
You do not want to delay answering God’s call. If you delay answering it until it’s too late, you’ll not only hysterically and forever regret it, but you’ll have missed out on the only thing that matters in this world and in the one to come. Nothing else matters – not your kids, your job, your mortgage, your spouse, your pension, your investments, your belongings – nothing else matters but saying “yes” to God and following Jesus.
There is no life outside that. You may think there is, but there isn’t. You may think you have all the time you need to decide whether or not to say “yes” to God, but you don’t have as much time as you think you do. The expiry on God’s offer comes like a thief in the night (that is, when you’re asleep and least expect it). He gives you fair warning, but when time’s up, it’s up.
If God’s calling you, you need to answer him now, and you need to answer with a “yes”. Just a simple “yes”. And God will take it from there.
REAL OR FAKE? TESTING THE SPIRITS ON REBIRTHS
There is a curious trend developing on online forums. Perhaps you’ve seen it yourselves: Someone will post a comment claiming to have been recently reborn, and the comment will be copied and pasted (spammed, actually) across multiple webpages by the initial person or account.
Like Jesus’ early followers who were understandably wary of Saul/Paul when he claimed to be converted to their cause, we should also be wary of anyone who makes such an announcement to strangers on public forums.
When people are genuinely born-again, they always start preaching the Word. They can’t help themselves: the Spirit is moving in them and moving them to do it. After regaining his sight, Paul immediately took to the streets and started preaching Jesus as the Messiah. He didn’t announce to strangers that he was reborn; he started preaching Jesus as the Messiah. The same with the disciples when they were baptized in the Holy Spirit at Pentecost – they immediately went to the streets and started preaching Jesus as the Messiah to strangers in different languages (tongues). Foreigners in Jerusalem heard the Gospel being preached to them by the disciples, who had never learned foreign languages. But again, the disciples didn’t stand on the streets proclaiming their rebirth; they stood on the streets proclaiming the Word.
When I was born-again from atheism 22 years ago, I also didn’t run around proclaiming my rebirth to strangers. Instead, I called my grandmother thousands of miles away (I was in Australia, she was in Canada) to tell her I believed in Jesus, as I knew my grandmother was the only one of my family and friends who would understand what had happened to me. As for strangers, I offered them love and kindness and some passages from scripture (I had only started reading the Bible for the first time on the day I was reborn), but I didn’t feel moved to publicly proclaim my rebirth. I knew it would have no positive affect on anyone except those who already knew God.
Newly-reborn believers are bursting with the newly-infused presence of God’s Holy Spirit on their souls. This makes them overwhelmingly loving and merciful. They are also prescient in a way they’ve never been before, as scripture tells us that “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” New reborns who have a background in scripture see God’s Word in a whole new light (like when an optometrist testing different magnifications finds the one that is exactly right) and so are able to deliver God’s Word with force and conviction based on their new clarity of vision. Meanwhile, those who are newly reborn but don’t yet know scripture well enough to preach it spread the Good News in a different way – through acts of love and kindness. But no ego is involved. Newly reborn people are the most humble souls on Earth.
In the New Testament, the only people who ran around drawing attention to themselves by making out-of-place impromptu announcements were people possessed by demons. Scripture tells us that in the last days God will pour out his Spirit. However, what I’m seeing now in these public announcements of spiritual rebirth is not an outpouring of God’s Spirit, but rather an attempt to deceive, knowing that many Christians will accept professions of faith (especially new conversions) at face value.
Paul says we are to test the spirits, and Jesus says “by their fruits shall ye know them”. There was a flurry of highly publicized alleged rebirths by celebrities a few years ago, but these celebrities have since, by their words and actions, walked back their professions of faith.
Be very wary of people who spam comment sections with news of their rebirth. Be cautious in following them to their website or elsewhere. “Test the spirits”, and if through discernment you find their rebirth to be genuine, celebrate with them and God and the whole host of Heaven, as “there is more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 who need no repentance”. But if you suspect something other than the Holy Spirit has entered these people, pray for them and let them be.
BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 6 REFLECTION (NUMBERS 11-36:13)
“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 6: JULY 28
NUMBERS 11 – NUMBERS 36:13
God lays it all on the line in today’s reading. He holds nothing back. He tells the children of Isreal exactly what’s going to happen to them over the next nearly 40 years and why it’s going to happen. And he lets them know that they have no-one but themselves to blame.
- Years ago, I heard someone preach on this part of scripture. She said that the Israelites were prevented from entering the Promised Land because they complained. At the time, I thought that was rather frivolous of God to lock people out of the Promised Land just for grumbling. I mean, everyone complains every now and then; even Jesus complained. So clearly, there was more to it than that.
- Yes, as this reading shows us, there was much more to it. The Israelites weren’t punished for complaining; they were punished for saying that they would rather be slaves of demons in Egypt than servants of God in the wilderness. In other words, they were saying that they’d rather GO BACK TO LIVING IN THE WORLD under the authority of demons and the demon-inspired Pharaoh, if that meant they could eat and drink their fill. They preferred slavery under Satan to freedom under God. In so choosing, they were rejecting God’s offer of the Promised Land: They were rejecting God.
- I was born-again from atheism in 1999. I can’t imagine even for one millisecond wanting to go back to that horrendous state of being under the authority of Satan and his demons, separated from God. As I’ve said on multiple occasions on this blog – the worst day I’ve had as a born-again believer is still infinitely better than the best day I had as an unbeliever. And I’ve had some bad days these past 22 years (all the result of my own stupidity). Even so, the presence of God’s Spirit made the bad days not only bearable, but enabled me able to step back even while they were happening and view them as teachable moments. It never occurred to me during any of those self-inflicted “teachable moments” to want to be an atheist again, that is, to go back into the world under the authority of Satan, separated from God.
- God keeps his promises, but he also follows through on his warnings. Shortly after springing them from Egypt, God had promised the Israelites that if they were obedient to him, they would be rewarded with the Promised Land. At the same time, he warned them that if they were disobedient, they would lose the Promised Land. God’s punishments NEVER come out of the blue. He warns and warns and warns and warns and warns, and then time is up.
- We have to understand as we read through the Bible that these are not just words written long ago about people long dead. They are living promises and living warnings that are as equally applicable to us today as they were three thousand years ago. That is the purpose of scripture. That is why we read it and learn from it. God wasn’t just warning the ancient Hebrews what would happen to them if they were disobedient; he’s warning us.
- Where do you see yourself in the children of Israel? Who do you identify with? Are you one of the millions who were grumbling and complaining and wishing they were back in Egypt where they had plenty to eat and drink and a comfortable place to live? Or do you see yourself as Moses or Aaron, who were doing their best to shepherd their people but feeling it was mostly a lost cause? Or perhaps you identify as Joshua or Caleb, the only two over the age of 20 when they left Egypt who remained obedient to God for the 40 years of wandering?
- I don’t know who you identify with, but it had better be with Moses or Aaron or Joshua or Caleb, because otherwise you’re going to get thrown to the wolves in the form of plagues, fire from heaven, the ground opening up underneath your feet, etc. None of the ~600,000 men who were of fighting age (20+) when they left Egypt made it into the Promised Land except Joshua and Caleb, and neither did any of the men older than fighting age, or any of the women 20 or older. Only the children who were under 20 the day they left Egypt made it into the Promised Land, along with Joshua and Caleb. The rest perished in the wilderness.
- Love the story of Balaam’s talking ass! It serves as a reminder that: 1) animals are always obedient to God (science calls it “instinct”, but we know better) and are able to see things we can’t, and 2) God will use whatever resource he has at hand to get his message across and carry out his plan of salvation. If all he’s got at hand is an ass, then he’ll use an ass. 😀
It doesn’t get any more high stakes or serious than this. If you’re born-again, you’re wandering through the wilderness of the world led by God’s Spirit. He’s guiding and protecting you. You are no longer under the authority of Satan; you are under the authority of God. You move when he tells you to move, you sit tight when he tells you to sit tight, and you make do with what he provides. This is your lot for the rest of your days if you’re born-again, and it’s a blessed, blessed, blessed state to be in. There’s nothing better on Earth.
But if you don’t move when he tells you to, and don’t sit tight when he tells you to, and aren’t satisfied with what he provides, and keep looking back over your shoulder longing for the days before you were born-again – God help you, because no-one on Earth can.
The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH on PDF is directly below.
BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 5 REFLECTION (LEVITICUS 18 – NUMBERS 10:36)
“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 5: JULY 27
LEVITICUS 18 – NUMBERS 10:36
WHAT A GLORIOUS THING IT IS TO SERVE GOD AND TO HAVE THE PRIVILEGE OF READING HIS WORD! Thank God for all those who received his Word and wrote it down, and for all those who copied and recopied it over the centuries, and for all those who print and publish it today, and for all those who sell and buy it, and for all those who distribute it free of charge online, and for all those who read and teach it. So many hands have gone into the making of the Bible we hold in our hands today, but none of them would have borne any fruit without God moving in and through them. All people, whether believers or not, serve God, AND WHAT A GLORIOUS THING IT IS!
- In Revelation, God warns us that lukewarm believers will be spewed out of his mouth. It’s a compelling image that sticks with you, as warnings should. In today’s reading, we see that the very land itself will VOMIT out those who commit abominations, will purge the ungodly for their moral filth. God warns the Israelites that the abominations committed by the people of the nations they will conquer are the very reason why those people will lose their land, and that they, the Israelites, will likewise lose their land if they commit the same abominations.
- I don’t know about you, but the first thing that came to my mind when reading this passage were the former Christian nations (like Canada) whose people are now being spewed off their land. It’s being bought up by foreigners and rented out from underneath them. This loss of land should not be surprising to us, since the abominations proscribed by God in this reading are an everyday reality in the Western world and have been enshrined into Western law; some abominations are even supported by so-called Christian churches. It should be no wonder, then, that the very same punishments meted out to those who committed abominations millennia ago are being meted out again today.
- God never changes. He warns, and if you don’t heed the warning, he punishes, and if you don’t heed either the warning or the punishment, he destroys. This is how the Israelites inherited the Promised Land – through the overspread of abominations and unrepentant sin of those who once lived in the land. The Great Displacement and Replacement of former Christians on former Christian lands is not only well-deserved but has Biblical precedent. Far from fighting it, we should acknowledge it as just.
- There are some very famous passages in this reading, including Aaron’s beautiful benediction (“The Lord bless thee and keep thee…”) and the final verse for today that includes a line later adapted by David as the opening for his 68th Psalm. I read somewhere that that line scares the you-know-what out of unholy beings. They are terrified of God, and they know that that line is a powerful prayer that opens the door to God’s intervention.
- I admit to some skip-through in today’s reading, but not as much as yesterday’s. You have to watch out when you skip through, because some important nuggets are hidden within the lists of names and numbers, like the warning not to put any marks on you (I’m speaking to a tattooed Jesus-homie out there). When God says not to put any marks on you, you don’t put any marks on you. You don’t negotiate a mark; you just don’t do it. And if you’ve done it, you get rid of it. It’s an abomination in God’s eyes, even a tattoo of a heart or a fish or a cross or whatever. The only mark that should be on you is God’s invisible mark that claims you as his spiritual property.
So what jumped out at you in today’s reading? Do you agree with God’s reasoning for booting the abominators off their land, or do you think God was being a Hebrew supremacist colonialist? 😀
God’s justice is perfect. Anything he permits, he permits for the ultimate good of his people. You want to eat the fat of the land flowing with milk and honey, get right with God. Love God, serve God, follow Jesus, and believe and teach the Gospel. Those who do the good get the good. I don’t see anything wrong with that. God doesn’t tolerate the sin of abominations, and neither should we.
The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH on PDF is directly below:
BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 4 REFLECTION (EXODUS 32 – LEVITICUS 17:16)
“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 4: JULY 26
EXODUS 32 – LEVITICUS 17:16
OK – hands up if you skipped through parts of this reading!
Be honest, now. (Don’t be shy!)
My hand is up. In fact, both of my hands are up (lots of skipping going on here!). To make up for it, though, I read through the non-skipped parts twice, which I’m glad I did. As I’ve mentioned previously, no matter how many times I read the Bible, something always pops up that I hadn’t noticed before. I love those parts. That’s God highlighting things for me in invisible yellow ink, and saying: “Take note of this. It’s going to be useful for you.”
- Still can’t get a handle on Moses’ brother, Aaron, and why he caved so quickly to the pressure to make a golden calf. I’m guessing he was a bit of an honest politician in his role as go-between and spokesperson for Moses. But dang, he sure gave in double-time to the people’s demands. Maybe he just wanted to keep the peace and avoid a riot. Whatever the reason, it didn’t take long for the people involved in the golden calf worship to forget everything God had done for them in getting them out of Egypt, though they did pay the ultimate price in the end. Aaron’s own sons later fell for the same temptation and were immediately killed. God didn’t mess around in those days.
- I like how Moses was able to prevent God from destroying the Israelites for their sin by reminding him of his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. You kinda have the feeling that God wasn’t actually going to destroy them, but he needed to hear the plea from Moses. It was a test; God had told Moses that if he destroyed the children of Israel, he would then make Moses’ lineage great, but Moses turned down the offer. He pleaded instead for all the children of Israel and for God to keep his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (which, by the way, God has done to this very day).
- As a reward for Moses’ selflessness, God promised Moses that his (that is, God’s) presence would remain with his people throughout their journey and for all time, and that in fact his presence would be the sign that separated them from the rest of the world. God’s promise to Moses, like the ones he made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, also continues to this day. We are God’s people, if we’re born-again followers of Jesus, and God’s presence is still with us. It’s what differentiates us from the rest of the world.
- The description of the tabernacle (the actual first temple, when you think about it) and all the beautiful things that were made for it was a little bit skip-over territory for me, as were the laws on sin offerings, burnt offerings, peace offerings, etc. I read these sections enough to get a general idea of them, but I didn’t focus too closely on the details. How about you? Some believers who are more artistically inclined may have found the description of the tabernacle fascinating. The details were obviously important to God at the time and the people were expected to follow them to the letter, but that tabernacle is long gone now, replaced by the temples of the bodies of true believers. We are the tabernacles of God’s Spirit, if we’re born again.
- The sin offerings and burnt offerings and peace offerings, etc., I also mostly skipped over, as I mentioned above. Even so, I read them enough to see which ones are referred to by Jesus later on. This is good background material and we should have a general idea of the rituals, but they’re no longer required of God’s people. Jesus was the final sacrifice once for all. No more are needed.
- There’s a little bit more skip-over territory coming up in the next days, and then we’re back into the meat of things. But maybe you’re more diligent in your Bible reading than I am and you don’t skip over. I have to admit that I was much more interested in the details about the tabernacle this time around than in previous read-throughs. Like I said before, every time you read through the Bible, God draws your attention to something else.
- I was particularly struck this time by how only the people who felt called to contribute to the materials for building the tabernacle were tasked with doing it. They were, of their own free will, asked to provide the gold, silver, wood, fabric, labour, skills, and so on. There were no pressure sales tactics; only those who felt drawn to do it and called to do it were tasked with doing it.
- This is a stark contrast to today’s church obligations, where people are expected to “volunteer” to help with this or that activity or are pressured to donate, even if they don’t want to. A completely different project emerges from a group effort where all the people involved wholeheartedly want to do it compared to a group effort where only a few or even none want to do it, but are only going through the motions out of a sense of obligation. Jesus says that God is looking for people to worship him in spirit and in truth, not out of obligation. This proto-temple group effort showed what God meant by that. Scripture calls these people who willingly stepped forward “wise”. We would be wise to take note of that.
So what jumped out at you in this reading? Did you skip over anything, or did you put me to shame and read every last word?
God loves it when his kids read his Word, especially when they read it together like we’re doing now. He wants us to respect his Word (obviously), but he doesn’t want us to worship it and to feel that we have to speak in hushed tones and walk on eggshells around it. He wants us to come to his Word exactly as we come to him – face bared, soul bared, and with no pretenses. He knows what’s in our hearts, anyway, so we might as well be open about it.
The BIBLE READ-THROUGH SCHEDULE on PDF is directly below:
INTO THE REALM OF MIRACLES
The raising of Lazarus from the dead was a pivotal moment in Jesus’ ministry. It not only foreshadowed Jesus’ own rising from the dead a short time later, but also pushed the faith of Jesus’ followers to the limit.
As Lazarus lay dying, Jesus got his hair and nails done.
As Lazarus lay newly dead, Jesus played another round of pool at the pub.
When Jesus finally made his way towards Bethany and Lazarus’s grieving family, all of his followers were certain that Lazarus was dead. Some of them even blamed Jesus for not showing up sooner to save him.
But God had a plan.
(God always has a plan.)
And God’s plan is always better than everyone else’s. It just doesn’t always look that way.
Jesus knew God’s plan for raising Lazarus from the dead because God told him. But God also told him not to tell anyone else for a time.
He wanted people to believe what they wanted to believe.
It was a test of sorts: A test of faith.
In fact, Jesus said he was glad for our sake that he wasn’t there to heal Lazarus from his illness. He also said that the purpose of Lazarus’s death was to instruct our belief. Imagine the disciples’ confusion when Jesus said that. What kind of lesson required a friend to die?
God always has a plan, and God’s plan is always better than ours. God is never missing in action, even though it may seem that way at times. We think in human terms through our human limitations, but God operates in a realm where the dead can be brought back to life with a simple command. The belief that Jesus wanted us to expand into was the realm of miracles.
Are you still operating in the realm of appearances, trusting only in what you can see and understand? Or have you entered into the realm of miracles, fully convinced that God always has a plan and that nothing is impossible for him?
If you’re born-again, you live in the Kingdom, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve entered into the realm of miracles. Many believers are still like doubting Thomas, wanting to touch Jesus’ open wounds, or they’re like little kids wanting to learn how to ride a bike but screeching every time their father tries to take off their training wheels. And so they wobble along on four wheels, leaning way over to one side, certain they’ve got the hang of riding a two-wheeler.
Pushing into the realm of miracles and finding your faith is like shedding your training wheels and finding your “bike balance”. I still remember the day my father took off my training wheels and ran behind me, holding onto the back of my bike seat. At some point he let go, and without knowing it I was floating along the sidewalk on two wheels all by myself… straight into a neighbour’s front doorsteps. But for the first time in my life, I’d felt the feel of what it felt like to float along on two wheels, and I never went back to training wheels. I’d found my balance on a bike, and that’s something I will never unfind.
Entering into the realm of miracles is similarly definitive. Once you realize that God can do anything at any time, you stop relying on your own limited senses and instead put your trust in God. You just let go and float. That’s the best way I can describe it: You move over a threshold and never want to go back. Trusting means not knowing and not understanding, yet fully believing. I cannot possibly know how God performs miracles, but I know that he does perform them, and that’s enough. Jesus likely didn’t know how God was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, but he believed that God could do it, and that was enough. God worked through Jesus’ belief, and he can work through ours, too, if we let him.
If you haven’t yet pushed into the realm of miracles, you need to get there. You need, as the saying goes, to “let go and let God”. You don’t have to know God’s plan or to understand how miracles work; you just have to believe that God does have a plan and that miracles do work. Or you can keep wobbling down the spiritual sidewalk with your spiritual training wheels on, leaning way over to one side and thinking you’ve mastered the faith thing.
God wants to take off your training wheels so he can share more with you and work through you like he worked through Jesus. Will you let him?