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Friday, March 30, 2007

How Well Do You Know Your Bible?

Following the Bible riddle, I thought I'd point to this Bible Quiz.

I scored an 83% (B Minus?). There were a couple of pretty tricky ones.

See how you fare.

You rank 83% on the biblical comprehension scale.

Well done! You have comfortably passed this advanced biblical comprehension test. You are clearly an attentive student of the Scriptures. There may be a few areas where you are a little rusty, though. Hopefully this test has helped you to identify some of them. Keep up the good work!

How Well Do You Know Your Bible?
Quizzes for MySpace

Monday, March 26, 2007

Riddle Answer


That was a whale of good one, wasn't it?

Riddle Reminder Here.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Matt's Messages - Envy Vs. Humility

“Envy vs. Humility”
Life in the Wilderness
March 25, 2007
Numbers 12:1-16

Last week, we read about Israel complaining in the wilderness. Complaining about their hardships and complaining about God’s gracious provision of manna.

And we read about God’s judgment upon them for their complaining. Fire on the outskirts of the camp so that they named the place “Burning” and a quail storm that overwhelmed them with bird meat and resulted in a plague that made them name the place “Graves of Craving.”

But now, having moved to another place, named Hazeroth, and having learned their lesson, the people of Israel are now going to faithfully march right up to Canaan and conquer the promised land. No more complaining, right?

Wrong.

They have not learned their lesson yet. In fact, some of their leaders are now going to complain again.

Surprisingly, some of their most important leaders are going to launch an attack on their chief leader–Moses.

In fact, these important leaders are from Moses’ own family: Miriam and Aaron.

And as we read about their attack on their brother, we are going to see in living color the difference between envy and humility. “Envy Vs. Humility.”

And hopefully, we’ll be drawn away from the one and to the other.

Let’s pray together and then get into Numbers chapter 12. [prayer]

Verse 1 should come as an absolute shock to us.

“Miriam and Aaron began to talk against Moses because of his Cushite wife, for he had married a Cushite.”

It seems that Miriam was the real leader in this.

She began to verbally attack Moses’ leadership (and she roped Aaron into it, too) because Moses had married a Cushite.

Miriam! The same Miriam who had faithfully watched baby Moses in his little basket on the river and boldly spoke to Pharoah’s daughter in a way that rescued Moses and eventually rescued the people of Israel!

Miriam! The same Miriam who had written the first praise song recorded in the Bible. “I will sing to the LORD for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea.”

That same Miriam is now publically talking against Moses. Why?

First off, because Moses had married a Cushite. Now that could be talking about Zipporah because the land of Cushan was the same as the land of Midian.

Or it could be that Moses had recently taken a new wife. Perhaps Zipporah had died. And this wife was from Cush or Ethiopia.

Either way, Miriam was upset because Moses had married an outsider. A non-Israelite.

This was, of course, not against the Law unless the wife was not willing to come into the covenant community of Israel.

But there was something deeper here than ethnicity.

There was something deeper in Miriam’s heart than racism.

It was envy. Look at verse 2.

“‘Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?’ they asked. ‘Hasn't he also spoken through us?’ And the LORD heard this.”

Notice the envy here?

It isn’t that they just disagree over Moses’ choice of a bride.

They talk against Moses, and they are envious of his position.

“‘Has the LORD spoken only through Moses?’ they asked. ‘Hasn't he also spoken through us?’”

Notice that they don’t talk to Moses about their concern. They talk about Moses and they try to get other people on their side.

That’s how envy operates.

If you have a problem with someone, the biblical thing to do is to go to them. Not to talk about them.

90% of the problems that Christians have with one another could be solved by simply following that prescription.

Notice where envy comes from.

Envy comes from pride.

You might not think so, because when you envy something or someone you don’t have something. So you might not think that pride was the issue.

But envy says, “Don’t I deserve what that other person has?”

I’m worth it!

“Don’t I deserve it?”

Miriam said, “Hasn’t the LORD also spoken through us?”

Envy comes from pride.

But humility is the opposite of pride.

It says, “I don’t deserve it.”

When you ask a humble person how he’s doing, he answers, “Better than I deserve.” Right?

But Miriam (and Aaron) were full of themselves and therefore envious of the special relationship that Moses seemed to have with God.

And their envy led to a frontal attack. V.2 “And the LORD heard this.”

Again, the LORD hears everything! In this case, He hears in such a way that He decides to act.

And He acts on behalf of Moses, who was unfairly being attacked.

In this case, Moses was the opposite of Miriam in every way. V.3

“(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.)”

He wasn’t perfect, but at this moment in time, Moses was the most humble man that was alive.

And he didn’t deserve these attacks.

Moses loved to share leadership. We saw that last week, didn’t we? He would have rather someone else took over!

And when God gave the Spirit to the 70 elders, including to Eldad and Medad, the ones that weren’t at the Tent of Meeting, Moses wished that everybody could have the Spirit in the same way!

Moses was the picture of humility.

Not always, not perfectly, but truly. And the most humble man on earth.

So, it wasn’t fair that Miriam and Aaron attacked him like this.

And then, God got involved. V.4

“At once the LORD said to Moses, Aaron and Miriam, ‘Come out to the Tent of Meeting, all three of you.’ So the three of them came out. [Time to get to the Principal’s office!] Then the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud; he stood at the entrance to the Tent and summoned Aaron and Miriam.”

Imagine what this was like! God summoned these three to appear before Him. And He came down in the pillar of cloud (whatever that means!), and He stood at the entrance (whatever that means) to the Tent and then summoned the two who were speaking against Moses to step forward. Imagine what they felt!

“When both of them stepped forward, he said, ‘Listen to my words: ‘When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?’”

“You were wondering if Moses had a special relationship with me?

The answer is “Yes!” He does.

With other prophets, there are visions and dreams and riddles.

But Moses and I are on face to face (literally: mouth to mouth) terms.

He has not seen me in my full glory. Noone can see that and still live. But I put Moses in the cleft of the Rock and passed by him. And he has seen my “form.”

“Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”

You should have been.

Notice again, the contrast between envy and humility.

Miriam wants to be known as a Leader (with a capital L!).

Moses is known as a faithful servant.

There are only a handful of people in the Old Testament whom God calls, “My servant,” and Moses is one of them.

And it should be our goal to be similarly commended!

It should be our goal to hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Do you want that?

I do.

I want to be found faithful. And known as faithful. And serving.

And be known as a servant.

Sometimes, I want to be known as a Leader with a capital L.

I confess to loving to see my name in print and loving it when someone says that I’m a good leader.

And I can get jealous of those who lead bigger churches or who publish books.

But the deepest desire of my heart is to hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master.”

And notice this. Envy (because it is sourced in pride) gets opposed by God. V.9

“The anger of the LORD burned against them, and he left them. When the cloud lifted from above the Tent, there stood Miriam–leprous, like snow.”

She was covered in a skin disease and it was like she was covered in snow!

The Bible says in many place: “God opposes the proud.”

If you are proud, you are striving against God.

And it might seem right now like the proud get away with it, but it is not true.

God opposes the proud.

What you see on the cover of most magazines will encounter the active opposition of the Almighty Ruler of the Universe!

What you see in the posturing of World Leaders will in His timing encounter the active opposition of the Almighty Ruler of the Universe!

And that’s what God does to those who are envious.

God opposes the proud!

“But He gives grace to the humble.”

And Aaron, immediately humbles himself. V.10

“Aaron turned toward her and saw that she had leprosy; and he said to Moses, ‘Please, my lord [notice that!], do not hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed. Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother's womb with its flesh half eaten away.’”

Notice how Aaron takes responsibility for his sin.

That’s a mark of humility.

Many confessions these days equivocate on responsibility.

“Well, if I did something wrong, I’m sorry.”

“I’m sorry that you’re hurt by that.”

Notice that Aaron takes full responsibility in his request for forgiveness.

And notice how he calls Moses, “Lord.” He puts himself into the position of a subordinate. That’s the position he should have been taking all along.

And notice Moses’ response. V.13.

“So Moses cried out to the LORD, ‘O God, please heal her!’”

Here’s humility in action. He’s gracious.

He’s loving. He feels for her.

He doesn’t say, “That’s right, Lord! You got her now! Give it to her some more!”

He calls out for mercy. He’s maybe too merciful. Because God says that it would be right for her to stay that way for a period of time. V.14

“The LORD replied to Moses, ‘If her father had spit in her face [public rebuke], would she not have been in disgrace for seven days? Confine her outside the camp for seven days; after that she can be brought back.’”

Why does she have to go outside the camp? Remember chapter 5? She’s got a skin disease. It affects her entire body!

V.15 “So Miriam was confined outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on till she was brought back. [It appears that God healed her.] After that, the people left Hazeroth and encamped in the Desert of Paran.”

God gives grace to the humble.

Moses’ prayer for mercy was answered by the LORD.

And they moved on to the staging ground for their attack on Canaan.

Let’s review and then apply this to our lives.

What we have here is a picture in black and white (black like Cushite and white like Miriam’s leprosy) of envy versus humility.

1. Envy comes from pride. Humility is the opposite.

2. Envy says, “Don’t I Deserve It?!” Humility says, “I Don’t Deserve It.”

3. Envy wants to be known as a Leader. Humility is known as a faithful servant.

4. Envy is actively opposed by God. Humility draws grace from God.

Which do you want to be?

Envious or Humble?

It’s easy to pick that out when this list is put up here, isn’t it?

But it’s not so easy to remember this when the temptations rear their ugly heads.

When are you tempted to envy?

At work?
At home?
In your neighborhood?
In your extended family?
At church?

What are you tempted to envy?

Possessions?
Positions?
Wealth?
Beauty?
Happiness?
Success?

God opposes the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.

I’ve recently been re-reading C.J. Mahaney’s excellent little book, “Humility: True Greatness.”

I recommend it and all of the 14 practices that he suggests for cultivating humility in our personal lives.

We think of envy (like we do complaining) as a little sin that doesn’t matter very much.

But God cares a lot, doesn’t He?

God opposes the envious but gives grace to the humble.

Because God Himself is humble!

The One Who has every right in all the universe to be proud!

God is humble. Just look at His Son!

Jesus being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death–[Good Friday] even death on a cross! Therefore [Resurrection Sunday] God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, [so that on That Day!] at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

He was the humblest of all.

And He was a faithful Servant like Moses.

But He was so much more, friends!

The book of Hebrews picks up this passage from Numbers 12 and points out how much more Jesus was than Moses!

It says, “Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God's house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.”

Moses was a faithful servant. And may we want to be, too.

But Jesus was a faithful SON!

Moses heard the word of the Lord and saw His form.

But Jesus is the Word of the Lord and is His form!!!!

And Jesus didn’t just pray that we would not have to go outside the camp.

Jesus went outside the camp for us.

He bore our sin and our shame. He suffered outside the city walls for you and for me.

Jesus bore our sins.

And if we trust in Him and hope in Him and Him alone, we have everything!

Forgiveness, Redemption, Eternal Life in Heaven, Hell Cancelled, Heaven Guaranteed, Adoption–Everything!

Jesus is what we need.

If you don’t have Jesus yet, I invite you right here, right now to trust Him as your own Lord and Savior. Your only King and Rescuer.

He bore your sins and went outside the camp for you.

Trust Him. Receive Him.

Turn from your way of doing life and trust in His.

The Humblest Man ever was Jesus Christ.

And He not only shows us the way to live in humility.

But He paid the price for all of our pride and envy.

Come to Him.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Thankful for Young Children

My buddy Byron mists up over a song about children growing up and insists, "If you happen to be blessed at this stage of life with young children, thank God for the privilege, and love them while you can with everything you’ve got, because you will not believe how quickly time flies."

Thanks for the reminder, Byron.

And I do thank God and am loving being their daddy.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Wide Open Hearts

One of my favorite things to tell the flock at LEFC is "It's a joy to be your pastor."

Not that it's always fun(!), but it is a true joy to love them and serve them.

Sometimes I'm better at that than others.

Thabiti's post today is about pastors and congregations with wide open hearts. Amen.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Good Boasting for Pastors

Thabiti says there are at least 2 things that pastors should be able to boast about. I pray that they could be my boasts, as well.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

"So, as the Holy Spirit says..." (Heb 3:7)

John Piper says that God still speaks (supremely through the Bible)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Matt Mitchell: Purveyor of Fine China Tea Pots?

Something we're trying new at the Mitchell home is selling a thing or two on Ebay.

Yes, we've finally entered the new world of computerized garage sales!

This last week, I've tried to sell a rare teapot that I had previously bought on Ebay (actually, I bought one for my wife and one to try to sell).

I don't think I'm very good at it. Probably shouldn't quit my "day job!"

If you're interested, the auction ends today, and yes, I take PayPal!

Ashamed of the Gospel?

Thabiti proclaims that pastors shouldn't be.

Painfully Learned Lessons

Mark Dever shares two sobering lessons.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Bible Riddle

God made Adam out of dust,
But thought it best to make me first;
So I was made before the man
According to the Lord's Holy Plan.
My whole body God made complete,
Without arms or hands or feet.
My ways and acts did the Lord control,
But in my body He placed no soul.
A living being I became,
And Adam gave to me a name.
Then from his presence I withdrew,
For this man Adam I never knew.
All my maker's laws I do obey,
And from these laws I never stray.
Thousand's of me go in fear,
But seldom on the earth appear.
Later, for a purpose the Lord did see,
He placed a living soul in me.
But that soul of mine the Lord had to claim,
And from me took it back again.
And when this soul from me had fled,
I was the same as when first made;
Without arms, legs, feet, or soul,
I travel on from pole to pole.
My labors are from day to night,
And to men I once furnished light.
Thousands of people, both young and old,
Did by my death bright lights behold.
No right nor wrong can I conceive,
The bible and it's teachings I can't believe.
The fear of death does not trouble me,
Pure happiness I will never see.
Up in Heaven I can never go,
Nor in the grave or Hell below.
So get your Bible and read with care,
You'll find my name recorded there.

The answer is one word, five letters long, and appears only four times in the King James Version of the Bible.

What is the answer??

[Answer Next Sunday If No One Gets It]

Update: Answer Here.

Matt's Messages - Don't Complain!

“Don’t Complain!”
Life in the Wilderness
March 18, 2007
Numbers 11:1-35

Last week, we read about Israel setting off on her big march.

The twelve tribes with banners unfurled marching in perfect order and obedience whenever and wherever the cloud of the LORD and the Ark of the Covenant led them.

And the ultimate destination of their triumphant march was the land that God had promised to give them.

10 chapters of glorious obedient preparation.

And almost nothing in those chapters has prepared us for what is about to happen.

10 chapters of disobedient problems.

Surprise, surprise!

10 chapters of “Faith is the Victory!” And all of a sudden, it looks a lot like defeat.

In the world of finance, a chapter 11 is a bankruptcy.

And that’s essentially what happens in Numbers chapter 11.

The people of Israel are shown to be spiritually bankrupt.

And it comes out in complaining.

If I could boil down the application of this chapter into one short exhortation, it would be simply this: “Don’t Complain!”

Okay, you’ve got the whole thing. Now you can go home.

But before you go, let’s see what happened and why and what lessons we can draw from it.

Numbers chapter 11, verse 1.

“Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the LORD, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp. When the people cried out to Moses, he prayed to the LORD and the fire died down. So that place was called Taberah [BURNING], because fire from the LORD had burned among them.”

“Now the people complained.” It doesn’t sound that bad, does it?

They didn’t complain for the first 10 chapters. No real hint of it. But here, three days into their journey, they complain.

It appears that they encountered some hardships. We’re not sure what those were real or imagined. But we do know that they complained about it “in the hearing of the LORD.” [Which, by the way, is wherever you are. He doesn’t miss a thing!]

“And when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.”

Is complaining a big deal or just a little one?

The Bible says that it “aroused” God’s anger. So much that he set fire to the outskirts of the camp. We don’t know if that was tents or people or what. But it was terrifying.

And the people cried out to Moses, and Moses called out to God and God made the fire die down. And they named that place “Burning.”

Complaining (or grumbling or the old King James word murmuring) is a big deal.

It’s a real bad sin.

We tend to downplay the sinfulness of complaining because we live with it all the time.

Paul Tripp writes, “We live with grumbling all the time. Isn’t it amazing that we human beings can stand in front of a closet full of clothes and say we don’t have a thing to wear? Or stand in front of a refrigerator full of food and say there’s nothing to eat? We are angry at the food and go on diets because we’re convinced that anything that ever tasted good is fattening. Isn’t it remarkable that we have wonderful activity-filled lives full of meaning and purpose, and we grumble that we’re way too busy? Or that we can look at everything that exists and find some reason to complain? Grumbling may seem like a little thing—a little sin—but I would like to propose to you that grumbling is a pollutant in the waters of your heart. It will kill life.” (Grumbling–A Look At A ‘Little’ Sin, Journal of Biblical Counseling, Volume 18, Number 2, Winter 2000).

That’s true.

And the Israelites found that out first hand.

God takes complaining seriously.

Because (#1) GOD IS HOLY.

All sin is abhorrent to God. All sin is detestable in His sight.

And the sin of complaining is no different.

It’s not an insignificant little trifle that God just overlooks.

God is holy. And He says to not complain.

Complaining arouses His wrath.

Ever think about it like that?

I often don’t. It’s easy for me to slip into complaining-mode.

But that doesn’t make it right.

The problem with complaining is not just that God is holy, so we shouldn’t, but that (#2) GOD IS GENEROUS! So we shouldn’t!

But when our hearts aren’t in the right place, we can’t see that.

That’s what happened to Israel at a place called “Kibroth Hattaavah.” Verse 4.

“The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat!”

The “rabble” here are the Gentiles that were attached to Israel and lived on the outskirts of the camp but hadn’t full assimilated to the people of Israel yet.

They led the way in complaining. And notice where their complaining came from–cravings.

Complaining comes from craving. Note that down.

Complaining comes from craving. A craving is a desire that is out of whack.

Desires aren’t necessarily bad in and of themselves. But when a desire becomes a need, becomes a demand, becomes something you can’t be happy without, it turns into a craving. And cravings lead to complaining.

Here what they wanted so bad was meat to eat.

And it led to (v.4), “Wailing!” They were really yelling this one.

“If only we had meat to eat!” V.5

“We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost–also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” Blech!

Notice how cravings distort the facts!

These guys have talked themselves into believing that they were living it up in Egypt!
Yeah! Back when they were slaves making bricks without straw! That was the life!

But their cravings have made them forget how it really was.

And how generous God really is.

They’re complaining about manna!

Verse 7 reminds us what manna is.

“The manna was like coriander seed and looked like resin. The people went around gathering it, and then ground it in a handmill or crushed it in a mortar. They cooked it in a pot or made it into cakes. And it tasted like something made with olive oil. When the dew settled on the camp at night, the manna also came down.”

Was manna good? You bet. The NIV for verse 8 doesn’t really get across the idea.

“It tasted like something made with olive oil.” The “something” there could be translated “pastry.” It tasted like a little pastry with olive oil.

It was good!

And it was free!

Did they have to work really hard to get it? No way!

Just go out and pick it up. And they didn’t even have to pick up on the Sabbath. They got a double the day before.

But here they are complaining!

Bread from heaven! “The original Angel Food Cake!” (Iain Duguid, pg. 150)

And they’re complaining!

And you and I say, “How ridiculous.”

But how often do we do the exact same thing?

We look at the gifts God has generously given us and we find something to complain about.

We had to go the ER on Friday with Isaac. He was having trouble breathing.

He has a bad cold and cough that apparently overwhelmed his lungs.

It was a little scarey watching him suck in the air and have a hard time breathing.

The little guy got an x-ray, diodes stuck on him all over the place, oxygen coming into his nose, a little thingergigger on his thumb to give his vitals the computer.

And he got over an hour’s worth of breathing treatments.

And he bounced back in a big way. We were really proud of him and happy for him!

And you know what, I missed my supper.

Just about a soon as Isaac seemed to be doing a lot better, I began to complain (inwardly) that I hadn’t been able to have my supper.

I’m looking at my son who is breathing freely again, and I’m giving thanks to God for it.

And in the same breath, I’m grumbling inwardly that my tummy is empty!

God is generous! Don’t complain.

Have you ever noticed that complaining is contagious?

If you are around complainers, chances are you’ll become a complainer, too.

But when you’re you around thankful content people, it’s a lot easier to be thankful and content.

Well, the contagious disease of complaining had spread from the rabble to the families of Israel. Verse 10.

“Moses heard the people of every family wailing, each at the entrance to his tent [what a pathetic image!]. The LORD became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled.”

And here’s where Moses goes wrong in this story. It’s the opposite of Moses’ Battle Cry that we saw last week.

I call this, “Moses’ Pity Party.” He starts complaining, too. V.11

“He asked the LORD, ‘Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers? Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, 'Give us meat to eat!' I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now–if I have found favor in your eyes–and do not let me face my own ruin.’”

Did you notice how self-focused his speech here is?

Complaining is all about me.

Me, me, me, me, me.

And look how generous God is to him! V.16

“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. I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone.”

God is so generous! Why would we ever complain?

God knows what Moses needs. So He promises to lighten to load.

And the same time, He is also just. Verse 18.

“Tell the people: 'Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The LORD heard you when you wailed, ‘If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!’ Now the LORD will give you meat, and you will eat it. You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, but for a whole month–until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it–because you have rejected the LORD, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?’”

Notice that in God’s eyes, complaining amounts to rebellion. Look at verse 20 again.

“You have rejected the LORD, who is among you, and have wailed before him, saying, ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?’”

Ultimately, complaining is rejecting the LORD. The King James Version says, “despised” here.

“You have despised the LORD.”

When we complain, we put the LORD on trial (even when we aren’t thinking about the LORD!), and we’re saying that He is bad and something else that we want is better.

We are breaking covenant with Him!

“You have rejected the LORD.”

But does He break covenant with us? No. He’s faithful.

(#3) GOD IS FAITHFUL. Don’t complain!

“You have rejected the LORD, who is among you,”

He’s right here being faithful. And you want to go back to Egypt?

Let me put in stark terms. It’s like a former Christian saying, “Jesus, I don’t want your salvation any more. Thanks but no thanks for your Cross. I’m going back to my old way of life.”

Now, we don’t go that far with most of our complaining, but that kind of treachery is still inherent in each of our grumbles.

The big story of the next 10 chapters is a story of treacherous grumbling.

And it’s so sad because God is so faithful.

And here, Moses still doesn’t get it yet! He still focused on himself and comes out with another complaint. Verse 21.

“But Moses said, ‘Here I am among six hundred thousand men on foot, and you say, 'I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!' Would they have enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough if all the fish in the sea were caught for them?’”

How am I going to pull this one off?

And the LORD says, “You won’t, Dummy. I’m going to do it!” V.23

“The LORD answered Moses, ‘Is the LORD's arm too short? You will now see whether or not what I say will come true for you.’”

I love that question. We need to remind ourselves of that question again and again and again. “Is the LORD’s arm too short?”

Is anything to difficult for the LORD?

No way! “He is able, more than able!”

(#4) GOD IS POWERFUL!

His arm is not too short.

Didn’t He do the 10 plagues against Pharoah?
Didn’t He part the Red Sea?
Didn’t He provide the manna?
Didn’t He give the water from the rock?
Didn’t He come down on Mount Sinai?

“Is the LORD’s arm too short?”

Do you need to be asked that question today?

Maybe you’re going through something really difficult. Impossible.

He’s the God of the impossible.

His arm is not too short.

Don’t give in to the temptation to whine and complain and focus on yourself.

Look up! See this God who is Holy, and Generous, and Faithful, and Powerful!

His arm is not too short to accomplish what concerns you today.

And finally, Moses got the message. V.24

“So Moses went out and told the people what the LORD had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the Tent. [Where’s the tent? At the center of the camp. Seventy is two perfect numbers put together: 7 times 10. V.25] Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took of the Spirit that was on him and put the Spirit on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again.”

I’m not sure all of what was happening here, but it was transferring some of the Spirit’s power onto these elders to help Moses with the burden of leading the people. The prophesied in some way to indicate that the Spirit was on them in a special way.

And it happened in the camp, too. V.26

“However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but [for some reason] did not go out to the Tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. A young man ran and told Moses, ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.’ Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses' aide since youth, spoke up and said, ‘Moses, my lord, stop them!’”

Joshua is concerned that there might be a power struggle. And there will be one! Come back next week.

But Moses doesn’t complain. Instead, he speaks in faith. V.29

“But Moses replied, ‘Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD's people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!’ Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.”

Moses gets it. God is powerful. He has more than enough Spirit to do empower whomever He wants.

I think that the ultimate fulfillment of Moses’ wish happened at Pentecost when the Spirit came to indwell all believers the same!

God is Powerful.

But His power isn’t used willy-nilly. He isn’t moody and capricious.

(#5) GOD IS JUST.

He always does what is right. And His great power is always put to righteous use.

God is Just. And His justice is what we see in verse 31.

“Now a wind went out from the LORD and drove quail in from the sea. It brought them down all around the camp to about three feet above the ground, as far as a day's walk in any direction.”

I call this, “A Quail Storm.” And it is the justice of God. V.32.

“All that day and night and all the next day the people went out and gathered quail. No one gathered less than ten homers. [Look at the footnote: “That is, probably about 60 bushels.” This is a bushel. The people who gathered the least, picked up 60 of these full of quail!] Then they spread them out all around the camp. But while the meat was still between their teeth and before it could be consumed, the anger of the LORD burned against the people, and he struck them with a severe plague. [Many died.] Therefore the place was named Kibroth Hattaavah, [GRAVES OF CRAVING] because there they buried the people who had craved other food. From Kibroth Hattaavah the people traveled to Hazeroth and stayed there.”

God is Just.

Notice how the punishment fits the crime?

You want meat? You’ll get meat!

You reject me? I’ll give you what you want. It won’t be satisfying.

Call the place, “Dead Meat” if you want. Graves of Craving.

If we follow our deceptive cravings to their natural end, they will lead to death.

Only God is truly satisfying!

Sometimes, we might think that God is being too harsh.

But He’s not. He’s perfectly just.

Don’t complain.

He’s Holy.
Don’t complain.

He’s Generous.
Don’t complain.

He’s Faithful.
Don’t complain.

He’s Powerful.
Don’t complain.

He’s Just.
Don’t complain.

And one more.

(#6) GOD IS GRACIOUS.

You know why?

Because this failure in the wilderness is not the end.

He was merciful all along. His fire ate up the outskirts of the camp.

Moses wasn’t burnt to a crisp for his pity party.

He responded to the people’s prayers with mercy.

But one day, many years later, He sent His Son Jesus to do what we could not do on our own.

Jesus passed the test in His wilderness!

He never complained.

Did you ever think about that?

He never sinned. So He never sinfully complained.

He never murmured or grumbled.

He never complained.

“He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22).

And He carried the full burden of the people.

Moses couldn’t handle it all and needed 70 helpers.

But Jesus took the whole burden on Himself and carried to the Cross.

God is gracious. He sent His Son to do what we could not do.

I’ve said, “Don’t Complain!” many times in the message.

But it’s a lot easier to say than it is to do.

But Jesus did it. And He did for me.

On the Cross, He took my place. He paid the penalty for my sinful complaining.

And He gave me His perfect track record of thankful, contented speech.

And now, because of Jesus and His Cross, I can be thankful, and contented, too.

Because of His Spirit resting on me (even though I’m not at the Tent of Meeting!), I can change into a contented thankful man.

I can keep from complaining because of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ.

If you belong to Jesus, you can to.

Don’t Complain!

Trust Jesus.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Sin Quotes

Paul Tripp gives a long list of strong quotes on sin.

Sin is not a small or thin thing. It is a powerful, destructive force around and in me.

Praise God for the even more power, life-giving Cross of Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Antioch School of Church Planting & Leadership

There is a new school on the block. And it's appearing in your town, in your church!

My friend Steve Kemp is a leader at an organization named BILD.

BILD has just launched a new school for theological education and ministry training that is completely church-based! They just advertised in Christianity today.

Steve is the first dean of the Antioch School of Church Planting and Leadership.

This may be the premier model of the future for training leaders for the Church.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Matt's Messages - Marching Orders

“Marching Orders”
Life in the Wilderness
March 11, 2007
Numbers 9:15-10:36

Today is the big day!

Israel is receiving her “Marching Orders.”

13 months ago, Israel was rescued from Egypt, and God brought them to Mount Sinai.

There, at a mountain on fire, He gave the Law and made a covenant with them to be His covenant people.

And He also gave them the instructions for building a tabernacle: a Tent of Meeting to sit in the center of a nation of tents.

A tent where He would dwell among His people.

And then, God had them number the fighting men: 603,550 when you add them all up (chapter 1).

And He arranged them in 4 different divisions of 12 tribes in a circle around the Tent of Meeting (chapter 2).

And then He had them count the Levites: 22,000 divided into 3 major tribes (chapter 3).

And He situated them between the other tribes of Israel and the Tent of Meeting and gave them all the work of taking care of the Tabernacle and the Holy Things (chapter 4).

And the LORD gave them instructions about how to purify the camp (chapter 5) and how to be totally dedicated to Him (chapter 6).

And He gave the priests a special blessing to pronounce over the people (chapter 6).

And they also dedicated the altar with expensive, extensive and expressive offerings in an elaborate 12 day ceremony (chapter 7).

They set up the lampstand and they cleansed and dedicated the Levites to do their holy work (chapter 8).

And last week, we saw them celebrate the Passover again. Passover 2.0 and 2.1 one year after the Red Sea Rescue and the Exodus from Egypt (chapter 9).

And now, it’s time to move out.

The final preparations are to be made and they are going to march in the direction of the land that God has promised this nation–the land of Canaan–the Promised Land.

In Numbers chapters 9 and 10, the people of Israel get their marching orders from the LORD.

And in one triumphant day with banners unfurled and every man at his post, the people of Israel set out on their march.

That’s what we are going to experience today.

Israel’s marching orders.

It starts with a cloud. Verse 15.

“On the day the tabernacle, the Tent of the Testimony, was set up, the cloud covered it. From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire. That is how it continued to be; the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire.”

This cloud first showed up at the Red Rescue. And it was a visible miraculous sign of the powerful presence of God.

And then was at the top of the mountain when Moses received the Law.

And when the Tabernacle was completed, the LORD’s cloud of presence came down and into the middle of the camp and covered the Tabernacle.

What a sight that must have been!

Remember where they are, too. They’re in the desert.

During the day a big cloud would be a welcome shade from the heat of the sun.

And at night? A giant column of fire perhaps heating the entire camp and giving light?!

God’s powerful presence in the middle of His people.

And this cloud did more than just sit there. It actually gave the people their marching orders. Verse 17.

“Whenever the cloud lifted from above the Tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. At the LORD's command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp.”

You see how the cloud communicates the command. Verse 19.

“When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the LORD's order and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the LORD's command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out. Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out. Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. At the LORD's command they encamped, and at the LORD's command they set out. They obeyed the LORD's order, in accordance with his command through Moses.”

Those were a lot of verses to say the same thing over and over again.

The cloud was the LORD’s command. When He said go, they went. When He said stay, they stayed.

Point #1. THE LORD GIVES THE MARCHING ORDERS FOR HIS PEOPLE.

This is a picture of how it should be with God and us.

When God clearly says to do something, we should obey.

There should be no questioning, no excuses, no rationalizing of other behavior.

There should be nothing but obedience.

The LORD gives the marching orders for His people.

It wasn’t just the miraculous fiery cloud that gave the commands. It was also the trumpets. Chapter 10, verse 1.

“The LORD said to Moses: ‘Make two trumpets of hammered silver, and use them for calling the community together and for having the camps set out. When both are sounded [both trumpets], the whole community is to assemble before you at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. If only one is sounded, the leaders–the heads of the clans of Israel–are to assemble before you. When a trumpet blast is sounded, the tribes camping on the east are to set out. At the sounding of a second blast, the camps on the south are to set out. The blast will be the signal for setting out. To gather the assembly, blow the trumpets, but not with the same signal. The sons of Aaron, the priests, are to blow the trumpets. This is to be a lasting ordinance for you and the generations to come. When you go into battle in your own land against an enemy who is oppressing you, sound a blast on the trumpets. Then you will be remembered by the LORD your God and rescued from your enemies. Also at your times of rejoicing–your appointed feasts and New Moon festivals–you are to sound the trumpets over your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, and they will be a memorial for you before your God. I am the LORD your God.’”

Now these two trumpets weren’t a lot like our modern day trumpets. Short little things with valves and buttons. These were long pieces of hammered silver probably as much as two feet long with big flared ends.

[And just to make it interesting I got out my old trombone to give us an idea of what it might have been like. Don’t worry, I won’t blast you like the priests probably blasted their trumpets so that everyone could hear. Trombone blast.]

What was the point of these trumpets?

A few things, including celebrating feasts and calling upon the LORD to rescue them in battle.

But the most basic function of these trumpets was to give assembling and marching orders.

When God wanted them to get together and to set out, these trumpets were to blast.

They were signals of God’s will, God’s command. God’s marching orders.

The LORD gives the marching orders for His people.

Where do you get your orders?

Some people take their cues from the world.
Some people take their orders from their spouse.
Some people take their prompts from what their friends are doing.

Many people, especially Americans, want to make up their own marching orders.

Go their own way.

But God’s people, Christ-followers are under His command.

Do you think of yourself that way, as under His command?

At this moment in time, Israel recognize that they were under God’s command and obeyed.

And His command was to march. Chapter 10, verse 11.

“On the twentieth day of the second month of the second year, the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle of the Testimony. [It’s time to go!] Then the Israelites set out from the Desert of Sinai and traveled from place to place until the cloud came to rest in the Desert of Paran. They set out, this first time, at the LORD's command through Moses.”

The trumpets sound and the tribes fell in to their marching formations. Verse 14.

“The divisions of the camp of Judah went first, under their standard. Nahshon son of Amminadab was in command. Nethanel son of Zuar was over the division of the tribe of Issachar, and Eliab son of Helon was over the division of the tribe of Zebulun.”

Do those names sound familiar? It’s the fourth time in the book of Numbers that we’ve heard them.

These are the same names of the leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel. And they have their banners (their standards) unfurled and proudly they march forward in their order.

The tribes to the East are first. Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun.

Then the tabernacle. Verse 17.

“Then the tabernacle was taken down, and the Gershonites and Merarites, who carried it, set out. The divisions of the camp of Reuben [to the South] went next, under their standard. Elizur son of Shedeur was in command. Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai was over the division of the tribe of Simeon, and Eliasaph son of Deuel was over the division of the tribe of Gad.”

“Then [more Levites] the Kohathites set out, carrying the holy things. The tabernacle was to be set up before they arrived. [From the West...] The divisions of the camp of Ephraim went next, under their standard. Elishama son of Ammihud was in command. Gamaliel son of Pedahzur was over the division of the tribe of Manasseh, and Abidan son of Gideoni was over the division of the tribe of Benjamin. Finally, as the rear guard for all the units, the divisions of the camp of Dan set out [from the North], under their standard. Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai was in command. Pagiel son of Ocran was over the division of the tribe of Asher, and Ahira son of Enan was over the division of the tribe of Naphtali. This was the order of march for the Israelite divisions as they set out.”

The LORD gives the marching orders for His people.

This was a big day, wasn’t it?

Triumphant, exultant, jubilant, joyful, and...obedient.

The people of Israel began their march.

The LORD gives the marching orders for His people.

And He does so today, as well.

The LORD gives the marching orders for His people today.

But today, we don’t need a cloud. (Sometimes we’d like one, but we don’t need one.)

Today, we don’t need a fiery cloud.

Today, we don’t need the trumpets.

Today, we don’t even need a system of priests to tell us what God wants us to do.

Because, today, we have God’s marching orders right here in God’s Holy Word.

And each one of us who believes in Jesus have the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit inside of us.

God Himself is present and lives within each of one us who believes.

And through His Word and His Spirit, today, He gives us His marching orders.

The question is, “Will we obey?”

The LORD gives the marching orders for His people.

He is the commander in chief of the church.

And we are called to obey.

But you say, “I thought that as a church we are called into a love relationship with Jesus Christ. Not a slavish obedience!”

This is what Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

That’s John 14:15, and I’ve been meditating on it the last couple of days.

You should to. Everyone should have that one memorized. John 14:15. “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

What is the relationship between our love for and trust in Jesus and our obedience to Jesus?

Well, we don’t obey Him to get into His good favor.

We can’t earn God’s blessing by racking up the brownie points through obedience.

But if we do trust Him, and if we do love Him–if we are in a trusting love relationship with Jesus Christ, then we will obey Him.

The LORD gives the marching orders for His people.

And they obey Him out of love.

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

Are you obeying Jesus Christ?

Do you think of yourself as “under command?”

And are there any significant areas right now where you are not in compliance with His will?

To the extent that you don’t do what He commands, to that extent you don’t love Him.

Are you obeying Jesus’ commands to love?
To love your enemies?
To do good to those who mistreat you?
To forgive?

Are you obeying Jesus’ commands to give as the Lord has given to you?
To not place your treasure where thieves break in and steal and moths destroy.
To place your treasure in heaven where nobody and nothing can get at it?

Are you obeying Jesus’ commands to make disciples?
To be baptized as a disciple?
To teach disciples to obey everything that Jesus has commanded?

Are you obeying Jesus’ commands to not worry?
To not worry about what you will eat or drink or what you will wear?
To put first the Big Rock of the Kingdom of God and all the little rocks will find their places.

Are you obeying Jesus’ commands to forgive your brother when he sins against you?

The LORD gives the marching orders for His people.

And they obey Him out of love.

There is probably something that you know that the LORD is calling you to do and you are not doing.

Write it down right now and pray for the power to obey in love.

This day was the picture of how God relates to His people. Everything was working just right.

God said to march, and the people got up and marched just as God had commanded.

Have you noticed that Israel has obeyed everything God has commanded for the first 10 chapters?

We’ve seen it over and over again. God speaks to Moses and says “Do this or that.” And Moses tells the people, and they obey. It says over and over again, “They did just as the LORD commanded Moses.”

It’s been almost boring, hasn’t it?

I think that one of the things that makes the first 10 chapters of Numbers so boring to sinners like you and me is how boringly obedient the people of Israel have been.

Well, starting next chapter, they aren’t going to be boring any more. But they’re going to lose an awful lot of their blessings, too.

Right now, they are right where God’s people should be.

The LORD gives the marching orders for His people. And we obey Him out of love.

It’s not always going to be easy.

These people were setting out to march as nomads in tents.
And they were warned (even in verse 9) that they were going to face warfare.

The Christian life isn’t always easy. It’s not a bed of roses.

But they set out together and obediently.

And they were headed for something good.

Point #2. THE LORD PROMISES GOOD THINGS TO HIS PEOPLE.

Israel was marching towards something very good.

That’s what Moses told Hobab. Verse 29.

“Now Moses said to Hobab son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses' father-in-law, ‘We are setting out for the place about 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.’”

Hobab was Moses’ brother-in-law. He would make an excellent desert guide. He and his people knew the desert like the back of their hands. And Moses invited Him to come along.

And what was the incentive? “The LORD has promised good things to Israel.” Verse 30.

“[Hobab] answered, ‘No, I will not go; I am going back to my own land and my own people.’ But Moses said, ‘Please do not leave us. You know where we should camp in the desert, and you can be our eyes. If you come with us, we will share with you whatever good things the LORD gives us.’”

The book of Judges tells us that Hobab agreed and came along as a guide.

He believed what Moses was saying, that God had promised good things for His people.

You see, when God tells His people to march, He’s promising them that they are marching towards something good!

And that’s just as true today.

Jesus’ commands are for our good and they lead us to good.

And we need to trust Him that He knows what He’s doing and follow Him wherever He leads.

The LORD promises good things to His people.

You can count on that.

Because, when He makes a promise, He always keeps it.

The Lord Jesus has promised Heaven to His people!

That’s the ultimate in “good things.” It’s what the Promised Land was a picture and a foretaste of.

But you have to be one of God’s people to get there.

Hobab was a pagan outside of the covenant. But Moses invited him to tag along.

You and I are Gentiles, naturally outside of the covenant ourselves. But Jesus has invited us to come into the New Covenant by His blood.

Jesus died on the Cross to let us in to His promises for good things.

But we must accept His invitation.

We must put our trust in Jesus and Jesus alone.

And when we do, we become heirs of these great and precious promises, too.

We become God’s people.

And God promises good things to His people!

Have you trusted Jesus Christ alone as your Lord and Savior?

I challenge you today, to receive Him as King and Rescuer.

Putting all of your trust in Him alone.

You’ll never regret it...forever!

Because He’s a great God.

Want to know how great He is?

Where is God in this picture?

Where in the formation do you think the Ark–which was a representation of the Throne of the LORD–marched?

Right here at the front. What the military calls the Vanguard. Verse 33.

“So they set out from the mountain of the LORD and traveled for three days. The ark of the covenant of the LORD went before them during those three days to find them a place to rest.”

Point #3. THE LORD MARCHES AHEAD OF HIS PEOPLE.

God goes first.

Here He is not at the center. He is that vanguard. He is the advance troop.

He is not hanging back being defended by His people.

He goes before them (v.33) “to find them a place to rest.”

Wow!

Did you know that you have a God like that? A warrior God Who is before you and fighting at the forefront of your battles?

We tend to wonder sometimes where God is.

He’s right out front!

Listen to Moses’ battle cry. It’s all about God. Verse 34.

“The cloud of the LORD was over them by day when they set out from the camp. Whenever the ark set out, Moses said, ‘Rise up, O LORD! May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you.’ Whenever it came to rest, he said, ‘Return, O LORD, to the countless thousands of Israel.’”

What would happen if we went into our days with faith like that?

If we got up in the morning and said, “Rise up, O LORD! May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you as I got into this day.”

And when we lie down at night, “Return, O LORD, I rest, one of the countless thousands of your children.”

The LORD marches ahead of His people!

He doesn’t send us anywhere that He hasn’t gone first.

Maybe it doesn’t seem like that to you right now.

Maybe it seems like God is distant and far away.

Maybe it seems like He doesn’t care or that you’re fighting alone.

But that’s not the truth if you are a child of God.

YHWH is fighting for you. He is the vanguard, the forefront of your battle, your trial, your problem.

And He is fighting for you.

Trust Him.

Trust Him.

Call upon Him to rise up and scatter His enemies.

Trust Him.

And obey Him.

Follow His marching orders no matter what He says.
Because if you do, you will march right into good things.
And He’ll be there before you.

Trust Him.

Trust Him.

The LORD marches ahead of you.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Preaching: Laying One Block at a Time

Piper makes this point:

One sermon may have little effect, but the cumulative effect can be powerful.

More on Membership

Jack Brooks asks the question, "Is Church Membership Biblical?"

And his answer is: YES.

Getting Ready for Resurrection Sunday

Bob Kauflin gives us some things to think about when preparing our worship celebrations for Resurrection Sunday. Wise advice, as usual.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

And Now Chuck Mitchell Is 61!

Happy birthday, Dad!

For a trip down memory lane, visit last year's birthday blog.


Failing

Growth in the Christian life is a matter of "failing-forward."

Read this quote on Dan's blog.

Thankfulness

My friend Josh Perry woke up thankful today. Amen.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Captain America - RIP

I used to read comic books--especially those by Marvel. I still have many fond memories of time spent escaping into the world of superpowers.

Eventually, however, I had to give them up--for a lot of reasons: the glorification of violence, the blatant sensuality, unbiblical worldview, and (most of all) their addictive nature.

One of my favorite super heroes: Captain America was killed off in the comic books this month.

EFCA Pastor Jack Brooks wrote about it today, and sadly, I agree with everything he says.

“Jesus’ Family Tomb” Online Resources

A number of folks have asked what I think about the "Jesus Family Tomb" controversy that broke in the media last week.

The internet is full of good information de-bunking the claims of the Discovery Channel’s recent “docu-drama.”

Listed below are some of what I consider to be some of the best resources that cover the evidence well. We're going to hand out the last two articles in church on Sunday.

Don’t forget to read everything with discernment!

Denny Burk
Bible Professor with more links to more information than you'll ever need.

Andreas Kostenberger
Top Evangelical Biblical Scholar from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Stand to Reason Apologetics Ministry
Lots of articles covering the whole thing.

Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry
“Has the Tomb of Jesus Been Found?"

Ben Witherington
Top Evangelical Biblical Scholar at Asbury Seminary
"The Jesus Tomb? 'Titanic Talpiot Tomb Theory Sunk from Start'"

Darrel Bock
Top Evangelical Biblical Scholar at Dallas Theological Seminary
"Hollywood Hype: The Oscars and Jesus' Family Tomb, What Do They Share?"

Craig Blomberg
Top Evangelical Biblical Scholar at Denver Seminary
“Did They Really Find Jesus' Bones?"

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Book Review: Uprooting Anger

Book Review
Uprooting Anger, by Robert D. Jones
Reviewed by Rev. Matt Mitchell

Where did my anger come from?

I didn’t know I was an angry man until the autumn when my 2-year-old decided to stop sleeping at night and my wife contracted mononucleosis and had to sleep a lot. At the time, I thought my surprising rages came from groggy days and sleepless nights.

But my friend Bob Jones contends that my sinful anger came from the residue of corruption in my new but still imperfect heart. In Uprooting Anger, Jones insightfully teaches what the Bible says about anger’s true cause and gospel cure.

The greatest strength of this incisive little book is the careful, nuanced thought the author has dedicated to the biblical data, combined with field-tested practical application. Jones was an EFCA pastor for 18 years, and it shows. His extensive counseling experience provides a wealth of true-to-life illustrations.

Uprooting Anger covers a lot of ground. Not only does Jones provide a biblical definition of anger, a diagnostic for gauging the righteousness of anger and a detailed roadmap to change, but he also delves into specific problems with anger—such as anger against God and anger directed at yourself. A whole chapter is also devoted to helping others deal with their anger. This is a body-life book, practical theology at its best.

Along the way, Jones dispels some of the psychological fog that floats through our culture. For example, he claims that the Bible nowhere teaches that we should “forgive ourselves.”

If I were writing the book, I might have put the last chapter first: “Why You Must Deal With Your Sinful Anger,” but it also makes a fitting close. This is Jones’ first time out of the harbor as an author, so his prose wobbles a bit in places and shows some unnecessary repetition, but the content is pure gold.

I recommend it for just about anyone. It’s perfect for both hotheads who bite people’s heads off and “bloodless-murderers” who kill others with a cold look. Why not form a “12 Angry Men” discipleship group and go through the study questions and application assignments together? I want to. Now I know where my anger comes from and what to do about it, but I still need the body of Christ to help me actually uproot it.

[Reprinted with permission from EFCA Today, Spring 2007, published by the Evangelical Free Church of America. EFCA Today is online in .pdf format. This book review appears on pg.2 of the document, pg.21 of the magazine.]

Paul Tripp Ministries Blog

One of my favorite writers and speakers has started a new blog.

Paul Tripp writes about practical theology (the best kind of theology, right Hot Orthodoxians?!) with humor and panache. Highly Recommended.

The Difference Between Just Escaping Hell and Inheriting Heaven

Dan Ledford says:

"The difference between escaping Hell and inheriting Heaven is like the difference between escaping Cancer and inheriting Super Powers. Which one is more motivating?

Readers Digest tells me that eating Spinach means fighting off prostate cancer; but Popeye told me that eating Spinach means that I can pick up a house with one hand. I’m with Popeye.

Popeye didn’t get cancer (and he even smoked) and people going to Heaven don’t go to Hell; but inheriting Heaven is a lot more exciting that just avoiding Hell.

We have undersold Heaven. The picture of souls with halos playing harps on clouds is lame and wrong. Who wants that?

Instead, replace the halo on the bodiless soul with a crown atop your perfect, resurrected body. Replace the harp and cloud with sinless power and authority to rule over creation. Replace an eternity of boredom with an eternity of unspeakable joy and glorious riches.

This isn’t about escaping Hell. This is about the grand inheritance of the new Heavens and new Earth as co-heirs with Christ – standing in the presence of the Almighty God Himself."


Amen.

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Matt's Messages - Substitution & Celebration

“Substitution & Celebration”
Life in the Wilderness
March 4, 2007
Numbers 8:1-9:14

Before we get into chapter 8, I want to see what you remember from the first 7 chapters that we’ve studied so far this year.

Q. Where is Israel right now?

A. Camped at the Base of Mount Sinai.

Q. What have Moses and Israel been up to in the first 7 chapters?

A. Census, Organization, Purification, Dedication, Blessing, Offerings, etc.

It takes a lot to set up a new nation, doesn’t it?

It probably seems to you (it has to me) that Israel is never going to be ready to march towards Canaan. Wally and Nesta left on a month’s vacation. They probably thought we’d be in the Promised Land when they got back! Here we are in chapter 8 with the lamps and more Levites!

One of the reasons why it’s taking so long is that there is a lot of preparing to do to go from being slaves in Egypt to being a new holy nation ready to conquer. (And we don’t see everything because we’ve skipped the things in Leviticus they were supposed do!)

Next week, they will begin their march towards Canaan. Next week.

But there are still some important things left to do before they leave.

And we’ll see some of them this week in chapter 8 verse 1, through chapter 9, verse 14.

And as we do, I want to draw your attention to two major themes that are highlighted in this text and which come to full realization in Christ Jesus.

“Substitution and Celebration.”

The first four verses in chapter 8 are about the menorah–the seven lamps on the lampstand in the Holy Place in the Tabernacle. Verse 1.

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to Aaron and say to him, 'When you set up the seven lamps, they are to light the area in front of the lampstand.'’ Aaron did so; he set up the lamps so that they faced forward on the lampstand, just as the LORD commanded Moses. This is how the lampstand was made: It was made of hammered gold–from its base to its blossoms. The lampstand was made exactly like the pattern the LORD had shown Moses.”

Now, we’re not going to spend much time on this part this morning. It’s not clear to me why this text is located in this particular place. Probably because chapter 7 ended with the LORD speaking to Moses in the Holy of Holies. So this instruction about the lampstand in the Holy Place makes some sense to be here. But I’m not sure.

What I do want to point out about this passage is where the light shines.

The lampstand was in the Holy Place. How many holy windows were there in the Holy Place?

None right? No windows at all. So this is the light in the Tabernacle that says that God is home. And what is it shining on? Well, it doesn’t say here, but from what we learned in Exodus, the light (if it is shining forward) shines on the Table of the Bread of Presence.

Now how many loaves of fresh bread were to be put on that table every day? 12.

So I think there may be a picture here of the light of the LORD shining on the twelve tribes of Israel–the people of God.

So in many ways, this is a picture of the blessing we saw in chapter 6: “The LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.”

And that grace is a key feature of the next section. We move from lamps to Levites. V.5

“The LORD said to Moses: ‘Take the Levites from among the other Israelites and make them ceremonially clean.’”

Remember the Levites? Are they the priests?

No, they are the support staff for the priests.

In Leviticus chapter 8, there is a ritual for cleansing the priests.

Here in Numbers chapter 8, we have a ritual for cleansing the Levites.

Before Israel can march, the Levites need to be cleansed and put to work.

What is the ritual? V.7

“To purify them, do this: Sprinkle the water of cleansing on them; then have them shave their whole bodies and wash their clothes, and so purify themselves.”

Water makes sense for cleansing.

A shave makes sense. But what a shave this was! Their whole bodies.

How many Levite men were there? 22,000 right? (Chapter 3.)

22,000 men shaved 100% bald. Are the Jews famous for being bald? No, they’re much more into beards and stuff. Here are 22,000 Jewish men with every hair on their body shaved off.

And then their clothes got washed.

They were a picture of purity. Just like we were just singing.

But that’s not all. They also had to have sacrifices. V.8

“Have them take a young bull with its grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil; then you are to take a second young bull for a sin offering.”

“Bring the Levites to the front of the Tent of Meeting and assemble the whole Israelite community. You are to bring the Levites before the LORD, and the Israelites are to lay their hands on them. Aaron is to present the Levites before the LORD as a wave offering from the Israelites, so that they may be ready to do the work of the LORD.”

Now slow down. I’ve never seen this before as I’ve read Numbers many many times.

How many people are supposed to gather in front of the Tent of Meeting?

Well, all of the Levites for one.

And then the whole rest of the community or congregation of Israel!

How many fighting men? 603,550. At least those men were called forward. This is a massive assembly!

And what do they do?

The Israelites who aren’t Levites are to (v.10), “Lay their hands on [the Levites].”

At least 22,000 Israelites (maybe the firstborn?) lay their hands on 22,000 of the Levites.

And they identify themselves with them. Highly symbolic isn’t it?

This is the presentation getting them ready to do their holy work.

But the laying on of hands doesn’t end there. V.12.

“After the Levites lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, use the one for a sin offering to the LORD and the other for a burnt offering, to make atonement for the Levites.”

So there is another identification here, isn’t there.

The Israelites laying their hands on the Levites. The Levites laying their hands on the bulls.

Keep that image in mind.

And then v.13.

“Have the Levites stand in front of Aaron and his sons and then present them as a wave offering to the LORD.”

22,000 Levites standing there being presented as a wave offering to the LORD themselves!

Not a wave offering in the place of these men but these men as the wave offering.

It might be here that we get a bit of what Paul means when he says that we are to present our bodies as living sacrifices!

We don’t know if they literally waved themselves back and forth like a sacrificed wave offering.

But the wave offering was a presentation of a gift in sacrifice to God that God allowed the giver to share in after it was waved.

These men were an offering themselves.

Last week, we talked about giving. Here is the ultimate. We give ourselves. V.14

“In this way you are to set the Levites apart from the other Israelites, and the Levites will be mine. After you have purified the Levites and presented them as a wave offering, they are to come to do their work at the Tent of Meeting. They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me. I have taken them as my own in place of the firstborn, the first male offspring from every Israelite woman. Every firstborn male in Israel, whether man or animal, is mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set them apart for myself. And I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel.”

We saw this before back in chapter 3.

The LORD killed all of the firstborn sons of Egypt.

But He passed over the firstborn sons of Israel if their parents had applied the blood of the Passover Lamb to their doorposts.

And in not killing them, the LORD owned them in a special way.

But instead of demanding the life or service of the firstborn, God took the Levites in their place.

Remember that? 22,000 Levites to replace about 22,000 firstborn?

Here’s our first theme to think about today: SUBSTITUTION.

Did you see it in this passage?

The Levites substituted for the Israelites. Laying their hands on them.
The bulls substituted for the Levites. Laying their hands on them.

Verse 18 again.

“And I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel.”

“In place of.”

Substitution.

You know where I’m going to go with that, don’t you?

The Cross.

1 Peter says, “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (3:18).

That’s the greatest substitution there ever was!

“Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”

The Passover Lamb for the firstborn.
The Levites for the firstborn.
The Bulls for the Levites.

Substitution is near to the heart of God.

It’s how He goes about saving His people.

“Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”

Substitution is at the heart of the gospel.

It’s what we are proclaiming when we go to the Lord’s Table.

It’s what we are trusting in to get us to God.

Do you want to get to God?

“Christ died for sins once for all [not a little bit now and a little bit later, not died for sins once but now we work them off ourselves! Once for all!], the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”

Have you trusted in the Substitute?

He is how you get to God.

“There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

Are you trusting in that Substitute and that Substitute alone?

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Trust the Substitute.

Now, having trusted the Substitute, what difference does that make?

Notice that these Levites were God’s possession.

V.14 “...and the Levites will be mine.”
V.16 “They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me.” That’s what all of this cleansing is about.
V.17 “...I set them apart for myself.”

Substitution leads to being God’s possession.

Do you see yourself as owned?

We are not our own, we’ve been bought with a price.

The Bible says, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Cor 6:19-20).

What a difference it would make to our lives to realize that we have been branded as God’s!

But notice that the Levites weren’t just bought for God, but God turns around and gives them back to the people. V.18 again.

“And I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel. Of all the Israelites, I have given the Levites as gifts to Aaron and his sons to do the work at the Tent of Meeting on behalf of the Israelites and to make atonement for them so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary.”

The Levites were God’s possession, given to Aaron and the rest of the Israelites to stand in the way of God’s wrath and protect them.

We are saved to serve. We are sanctified to serve.

We were substituted to serve.

And serve they did. V.20

“Moses, Aaron and the whole Israelite community did with the Levites just as the LORD commanded Moses. The Levites purified themselves and washed their clothes. Then Aaron presented them as a wave offering before the LORD and made atonement for them to purify them. After that, the Levites came to do their work at the Tent of Meeting under the supervision of Aaron and his sons. They did with the Levites just as the LORD commanded Moses. [And they went to work. V.23] The LORD said to Moses, This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the Tent of Meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the Tent of Meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.’”

Substitution leading to service.

Now, the second theme that I want to bring out–CELEBRATION–is in verses 1 through 14 of chapter 9.

This chapter tells us the story of the second Passover. Passover 2.0.

We’ve just been reminded of the first Passover–when the Angel of Death passed over the Israelite firstborn whose parents had the faith to apply the blood to their doorposts.

The first Passover Feast was eaten in the dark by the Israelites ready to leave Egypt on the run.

Now, a year later, it’s time for the Passover again. V.1

“The LORD spoke to Moses in the Desert of Sinai in the first month of the second year after they came out of Egypt. He said, ‘Have the Israelites celebrate the Passover at the appointed time. Celebrate it at the appointed time, at twilight on the fourteenth day of this month, in accordance with all its rules and regulations.’”

Notice that this is a flashback. It actually takes place before the censuses of chapters 1 through 4.

God speaks to Moses and commands the celebration of the second Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month of the year. One year from the first Passover.

Notice that word: celebrate. Celebrate the Passover.
Your Bible might have the word, “Keep.” Keep the Passover.

Notice how strongly the command is issued.

“Have the Israelites celebrate the Passover at the appointed time. Celebrate it at the appointed time, at twilight on the fourteenth day of this month, in accordance with all its rules and regulations.’”

Celebrate. But do it correctly.

Keep the Passover, but do it obediently.

And they did. They remembered what God had done in rescuing them. V.4

“So Moses told the Israelites to celebrate the Passover, and they did so in the Desert of Sinai at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. The Israelites did everything just as the LORD commanded Moses.”

But there was a problem. V.6

“But some of them could not celebrate the Passover on that day because they were ceremonially unclean on account of a dead body. So they came to Moses and Aaron that same day and said to Moses, ‘We have become unclean because of a dead body, but why should we be kept from presenting the LORD's offering with the other Israelites at the appointed time?’ Moses answered them, ‘Wait until I find out what the LORD commands concerning you.’”

You see the problem? Remember the purification of the camp from chapter 5?

Remember the concentric circles?

What happened if you came into contact with a corpse?

You had to go outside of the camp.

And you couldn’t eat the Passover.

How important was the Passover? The LORD said if you didn’t do it, you were to be cut off.

So what about someone who within seven days of the Passover had come into contact with a dead body?

Moses asks the LORD. And He gives a very interesting answer. V.9

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Tell the Israelites: 'When any of you or your descendants are unclean because of a dead body or [also] are away on a journey, they may still celebrate the LORD's Passover. [How?] They are to celebrate it on the fourteenth day of the second month at twilight. [One month later. Passover 2.1] They are to eat the lamb, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They must not leave any of it till morning or break any of its bones. When they celebrate the Passover, they must follow all the regulations. But if a man who is ceremonially clean and not on a journey fails to celebrate the Passover, that person must be cut off from his people because he did not present the LORD's offering at the appointed time. That man will bear the consequences of his sin.”

Notice how the LORD is both demanding and gracious at the same time.

He is holy and requires full obedience.

But He also provides a gracious way of navigating natural problems like this one.

Those who were providentially hindered from participating could participate a month later–but they had to do it correctly.

And those who could have done it, but didn’t, were to be cut off.

That’s how the Passover was to be celebrated.

What were they celebrating?

They were celebrating the substitute!

They were eating and drinking in remembrance of God’s holy and gracious salvation!

They were celebrating the substitution of the Passover Lamb for them.

And you know where that’s going, too, don’t you?

The Cross again.

And this Table.

The Passover was the meal that formed the basis for the Lord’s Supper.

It was a Passover meal that Jesus was eating with His disciples when He said that the bread was His body and the cup was His blood.

The Apostle Paul tells us that Christ is “our Passover Lamb” (1 Cor. 5:7).

He is the perfect Substitute that we are to celebrate.

Did you notice that the lamb (in verse 12) was to not have any of its bones broken?

John 19.

“Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: ‘Not one of his bones will be broken...’”

He is our Passover Lamb.

We Celebrate the Substitute.

And we celebrate our inclusion.

Verse 14.

“An alien living among you who wants to celebrate the LORD's Passover must do so in accordance with its rules and regulations. You must have the same regulations for the alien and the native-born.”

What kind of alien is that? E.T., Mork from Ork, Mr. Spock, 3rd Rock from the Sun?

No, it’s us. It’s most of us.

Gentiles.

Non-Israelites were allowed to celebrate the LORD’s Passover with Israelites!

Exodus says that they had to be circumcised first, but they could be included.

And now in the New Covenant, Gentiles are allowed into Christ without even being circumcised!

All they need to do is exercise faith in Jesus alone.

That’s something to be celebrate, isn’t it?

We who were far from Israel have been included!

Jesus is OUR Substitute.

Jesus is OUR Passover Lamb. Ours, too, by faith.

Isn’t that good news?

Isn’t that worth celebrating?

That’s what this Table is all about.

This Table is all about celebrating the Substitute.

Often, we are quiet and contemplative during our time at the Lord’s Table.

But don’t mistake that quietness for somberness.

We are sober thinking about what Jesus went through for us.

But we are celebrating it!

We are saying, “Hallelujah, What a Savior!”

“Hallelujah, What a Substitute!”

“Hallelujah, What a Passover Lamb!”

“Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”

Everyone who believes that and is trusting in that alone to be brought to God is invited to eat and drink this celebrative memorial meal with us.

If you have not yet put your faith and trust in the Substitute, then we ask that you not eat and drink but instead consider placing your faith in Him and Him alone.

Because we all need a Savior. We all need a Substitute. And that’s what Jesus has done for us.

Let us celebrate the Substitute who died in our place so that we could be brought to God.