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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

John Flavel on Hot Orthodoxy

"An hot iron, though blunt, will pierce sooner than a cold one, though sharper." - John Flavel

And I add: "Just think what a hot and sharp one might do!"

Missional Living

"God had an only Son and he made him a missionary." - David Livingstone

Monday, May 28, 2007

The Point, Pattern & Promise

Dan Ledford calls us: "Come to the throne of God. Come by the blood of Christ. Come under the promise of the new covenant. Come as one who was God’s enemy, but is now a child of God because of the cross of Christ. Come as one who repents of sin and reconciles relationships, through the redemptive power of Christ. Come."

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

John Wesley on Hot Orthodoxy

When asked about his success at getting people to listen to the gospel, Wesley said that it was no secret:

"I set myself on fire, they come to watch me burn."

Matt's Messages - Snake on a Pole

“Snake on a Pole”
Life in the Wilderness
May 27, 2007
Numbers 21:1-9

We’re only going to make it 9 verses this morning, but we’re going read one of the most famous yet obscure little stories in the Old Testament. It’s the one that Kathy Moore has provided us with a portrait of in our foyer: The Snake on a Pole.

Not to be confused with the recent movie. “Snakes on a Plane.” This is the true biblical story of the “Snake on a Pole.”

Last week, we encountered the End of an Era. The generation that rebelled in the wilderness had, in large part, died. 40 years have passed with an average of 42 men dying per day. And the era ended with the major leaders also dying.

Miriam died. Moses disobeyed and would eventually die in the wilderness, and Aaron died, the first high priest.

So chapter 21 starts the beginning of a new era.

And it starts off a little better than the last one. Verse 1.

“When the Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negev, heard that Israel was coming along the road to Atharim, he attacked the Israelites and captured some of them. [Doesn’t sound good. How will Israel respond? Will they cut and run like they did 40 years ago? Not this time. V.2] Then Israel made this vow to the LORD: ‘If you will deliver these people into our hands, we will totally destroy their cities.’ The LORD listened to Israel's plea and gave the Canaanites over to them. They completely destroyed them and their towns; so the place was named Hormah.” [Destruction.]

Believe it or not, this is the first victory in the whole book of Numbers!

We’re two thirds of the way through Numbers and there haven’t been any victories.

The last time they encountered Canaanites, they got their tails whupped (chapter 14, verses 41-45).

But now, for first time, Israel took courage in the Lord, and He gave them victory.

And they liked their taste of victory.

Unfortunately, they liked it so much that it went to their heads. V.4

“They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way...”

Why did they have to go around Edom? Remember what happened last week in chapter 20?

Edom has refused for them to go through their land. And because Moses didn’t want a fight with their cousins, he is taking them around Edom.

But the people of Israel have tasted victory and they don’t want to way. V.4

“But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!’”

Maybe things haven’t changed so much after all!

These Israelites sound just like their parents.

Impatient. Unwilling to wait.
Speaking against God.
Speaking against their leaders.

“Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert?”

What are they saying? They are sticking their fingers in under God’s nose and accusing Him of doing them wrong!

And the complaints begin:

“There is no bread!”

“There is no water!”

“And we detest this miserable food!”

Room Service!

Verse 6.

“Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died.”

God’s judgment. Why?

Point #1 of only 2 this morning:

#1. DON’T DESPISE GRACE.

Can you see what the people were doing?

They were taking God’s grace for granted. That is, they were acting as if they deserved God’s grace and that it didn’t meet up with their standards!

They were despising God’s grace.

It made them impatient.
It made them rebellious.
It made them discontent.
It made them complain.

They were despising God’s grace.

Can you believe that they were despising manna?

What was manna?

It was bread from heaven.

It was daily bread.

It was food that they didn’t work for.

It was food that they didn’t deserve.

It was a daily [miraculous!] provision for their physical needs.

And in John chapter 6, Jesus said that the manna pointed to Him. He is the Bread of Life.

So, in detesting (v.5) manna, they were, in effect, detesting Jesus.

They were despising God’s grace.

...And this is very easy to do.

Before we go looking down on the Israelites, we need to look at our own hearts.

How many times have we taken God’s grace for granted?

How many times have we complained about what we do not even deserve?

How many times have we become impatient with the route that God is taking us on?

Let’s think about that a little.

Kids. And that’s really all of us here. We’re all somebody’s child.

Have their been times, maybe recently, when you despised God’s grace to you in giving you your parents?

Your Mom & Dad are God’s grace to you. They are manna.

Have you honored them as you should or have you complained about them? Gotten impatient with them? Rebelled against them? Detested them?

Don’t Despise Grace.

Or here’s an easier one. Food itself.

We don’t get manna, but most of us have missed very few meals in our lives.

Are we thankful?

Or are we impatient, discontent, complaining?

In our house, 12 times a day (3 meals times 4 children), we get the question, “What are we having?”

And sometimes, I don’t want to answer that question, not because we aren’t getting something good and nutritious and life-giving. Heather is the best cook on Planet Earth!

But because our hearts are tempted to despise grace.

To not want the good thing we have because we have set our hearts on something else.

How about our jobs?

Does God owe us jobs? Does God owe me a job that is fun and exciting and never a dull moment and never requires that I do something I don’t want to do?

Does God owe me a job where I love all of the people I work with and they never rub me the wrong way? No.

But that’s how we act isn’t it?

Do we get up in the morning and say, “Thank you, Lord, that I get to go to work today!”

Or do we detest grace?

I’m not saying that it’s bad to wish your parents acted differently than they do sometimes or that it’s bad to want some kind of food other than what’s on the plate, or to want work to be better or even to seek another job. That’s fine.

But are we thankful? Are we patient? Are we submissive? Are we content?

Or are we despising grace?

“We detest this miserable food!”

We could do it with our spouse.
Or our marital status, if we are single.
Or our country!

Or our financial situation.
Or our neighbors.
Or our school system.
Or our lot in life.

God’s been good to us.

Don’t Despise Grace.

See what happened? V.6 again.

“Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died.”

Why snakes?

The first thing we think about is Satan. The Big Snake Himself.

And something else we should be reminded of is Egypt.

Remember what Pharoah wore on his head? A big old Snake.

These Israelites were acting like they wanted to go back to Egypt. And live in the land of death.

So, God said, “Okay, I need to remind you what Egypt is really like. Pain, suffering, and death. This is what it means to live under the power of Egypt.

A plague of venomous snakes. The King James has fiery, probably because of the flaming power of the poison in the snakes.

People dying left and right.

And the people repented! Maybe they are different than the last generation! V.7

“The people came to Moses and said, ‘We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people.”

They owned their sin.

They agreed that they had been impatient, rebellious, discontent, and complaining.

And they asked for forgiveness and safety.

“‘Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people.”

And did God take away the snakes? No.

But He did provide a way of healing. And it was a shocker! V.8

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.’ So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.”

How strange!

God wants Moses to make a snake. Perhaps to remind them of why they need this healing. And he is to put the snake up on a pole. Raising it up above everyone’s heads.

We don’t know how big the pole was. But it probably was up very high to be seen by everyone in the camp.

And then if anyone trusted God’s word (this is not magic, this is trusting God’s word) and looked up at the bronze snake (or copper snake–same Hebrew word, I think it was reddish that shouldn’t surprise us either. If anyone trusted God’s word and looked up at the reddish snake), they would live.

V.8 “Look at it and live.” Look and Live.

Point #2 of 2.

#2. LOOK TO JESUS AND LIVE.

Don’t Despise Grace.
And Look to Jesus and Live.

Why do I say Jesus?

Because Jesus said that this snake was like Him.

In the Gospel of John chapter 3.

This is the only way in which it’s okay to call Jesus a snake! But that’s exactly what He did in the Gospel fo John chapter 3.

You might want to turn there.

It’s the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus who came at nighttime. I call it Nick and Nite.

They talked about being born again.

And Jesus said if you weren’t born again you weren’t going to see His Kingdom.

And Nick didn’t know what to do with that teaching. And that frustrated Jesus that the Teachers of Israel didn’t know these basic truths.

But He knew these truths because He had come down from heaven. John 3 verse 14. Kathy has it in a banner across the bottom of the painting in our foyer:

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. [And the most famous verse in the Bible...] For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Look to Jesus and Live.

“Shall not perish.” No eternal snake bites. “But have eternal life.”

Look to Jesus and Live.

That’s what it means in verse 14 that “everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

The “looking” in the story of the Snake on a Pole was “believing.” It was taking God at His word. If I look, I will live.

Do you know that there were probably some, maybe many, who refused to look at the snake on a pole?

They probably thought that they could survive on their own.

Or they had their own method of getting well.

“I don’t need that snake on a pole stuff!” I’m not looking!

And they weren’t trusting.

...And they died.

But Numbers 21:9 says, “When anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.”

Looking was believing.

And it wasn’t looking at just anything. It was looking at the provision that God had made.

It had to be the Snake on a Pole. Why?

Because that’s what God said.

And Jesus says that He is not a snake, but He is like this snake.

“Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

What does that mean, “lifted up?”

John 12:32. Jesus said, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.”

The Snake on a Pole.

The Savior on a Cross.

And I think there’s a double meaning here to “lifted up.” It’s not just that He was crucified, but that His crucifixion was the means of His exaltation. High and lifted up!

“...that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

Jesus Christ took on our snakeyness for us. Every snakey thing we ever did was laid upon His shoulders as He was lifted up on that Cross.

And He died for our snakeyness.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Look to Jesus and Live.

And that eternal life, starts now.

Eternal life is not just a quantity of life that goes on forever.

It’s a quality of life that begins right now as we look to Jesus by faith and changes our lives right now and then goes on forever.

Jesus said that He came to give life to the fullest.

And when we look in faith upon Jesus, we experience that life to the fullest.

Even today, the symbol of a Snake on a Pole is the symbol of healing.

It’s on every ambulance you’ve ever seen.

But the point was not the snake!

Years later, King Hezekiah had to smash that snake and do away with it because the people of Israel were worshiping it! (2 Kings 18:4)

But all along, it was what that snake pointed to that was important.

Faith in Jesus.

Look to Jesus and Live.

Have you looked to Jesus for eternal life?

There is no other way to be saved!

Are you looking to Jesus now for abundant life?

There is no other way. Nothing else will satisfy. Nothing else will make you happy.
Trusting in anything else will lead the way of despising grace.

Look to Jesus and Live.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Should I Switch Churches?

Pastor Josh Perry answers that question with some good reasons and some bad reasons for church people to go switching churches.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Before the Throne

In today's sermon, Dan unpacks the great truths of Hebrews 7:23-28 and the great song Before the Throne of God Above. (And he also points out that we have a great job.)

Matt's Messages - End of an Era

“End of an Era”
Life in the Wilderness
May 20, 2007
Numbers 20:1-29

Do you remember what I have titled this series of messages on the book of Numbers?

“Life in the Wilderness” is the title of this series of messages.

It could also be called “Death in the Wilderness.” Because Israel was supposed to get organized and march up into the Promised Land to conquer it, but they disobeyed God at the Retreat of Unbelief and have been sentenced to 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. And the death of an entire generation during those 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

Now at chapter 20, we reach what I’m going to call today, “The End of An Era.”

The strangest thing I learned about this chapter this week as I was studying for this message is that beginning here in chapter 20, the 40 years are now up!

Moses doesn’t tell us much about what happened during those 40 years of wilderness wanderings. He doesn’t tell us what it was like for approximately 42 men to die every day for 40 years.

We went from chapter 19 into chapter 20, and all of a sudden, God has brought us to the “End of an Era.”

In chapter 20, Miriam dies. Aaron dies. And Moses is told that he will not lead the people into the Promised Land.

You know why? Because Moses rebels against the Lord.

Didn’t think we’d see that did you? But the era ends with the disobedience of Moses.
And as we look into the End of an Era, we’re going to learn some simple, valuable lessons about obedience and disobedience. V.1

“In the first month the whole Israelite community arrived at the Desert of Zin, and they stayed at Kadesh. There Miriam died and was buried.”

It doesn’t say which year this is the first month of, but when you compare this with other scriptures (esp. Numbers 33), it appears that this is the last year of the 40 years of wilderness wanderings.

And after 39 years, the people of Israel are back where they started: Kadesh.

Kadesh was where they decided to disobey and not enter the Promised Land.

Now they are back at Kadesh. And here Miriam dies. The sister of Moses who connected him with Pharaoh’s daughter. The prophetess who composed the Horse and Rider Song after the Red Sea Rescue. And the woman who challenged her own brother’s authority and contracted leprosy. Miriam died. The end of an era. V.2

“Now there was no water for the community, and the people gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron.”

Uh oh. Do you get the feeling of deja vu?

Not only are they back at Kadesh, but they’re out of water. Like they have been a number of times in their history.

And have they learned their lesson? What to do when you run out of water?

Trustingly call upon the Lord? No.

They are still grumbling. V.3

“They quarreled with Moses and said, ‘If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the LORD! Why did you bring the LORD's community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates. And there is no water to drink!’”

They haven’t learned a thing!

They still think that having died is better than living with trouble.
They still think that Egypt was a smorgasbord like Hoss’s.
And they’re complaining that the wilderness isn’t as good as the Promised Land that they had rebelliously decided not to go up and take!

And the worst thing to think about is that these are mostly the children of the generation that died in the wilderness.

The children are acting just like their parents did.

Moses and Aaron have gotten used to falling facedown when this sort of thing happens. They do it again in v.6.

“Moses and Aaron went from the assembly to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and fell facedown, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them.”

And what do you think is going to happen?

Are the children of Israel going to get it? Is it judgment time? V.7

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.’”

Grace! Instead of a judgment, God promises to graciously grant the people drinking water.

Deja Vu all over again, Moses is to take his staff, gather the people at a nearby rock and the rock will produce water!

That’s what happened back in Exodus chapter 17. Water from the rock.

But there’s a difference this time. What is it? What is Moses supposed to do to the rock?

In Exodus 17, he was supposed strike it with his staff.

Now, he’s just supposed to talk to it.

What do you think he’s supposed to say? “Open Sesame?”

How about, “God says give us water. Please do it now.”

But unfortunately, that’s not what Moses does. V.9.

He starts out obediently. “So Moses took the staff from the LORD's presence, just as he commanded him. He and Aaron [they’re together on this] gathered the assembly together in front of the rock and Moses said to them [he speaks to the people, not to the rock], ‘Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?’ Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.”

Dramatic! And God was gracious. Water came out and hundreds of thousands of people and livestock drank from it.

But Moses had disobeyed, hadn’t he?

He spoke in anger. He spoke in judgmentalism. Yes, they were rebels, but Moses didn’t need to say that to them. He was supposed to talk to the rock.

He spoke as out of his own frustration. “Must WE bring you water out of this rock?”

And he struck the rock twice instead of speaking to it. V.12

“But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.’ These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the LORD and where he showed himself holy among them.”

Moses had finally had enough. Maybe it was the death of his beloved sister. Or maybe it was anger at God for not judging the people, but instead graciously offering water to them for only a spoken word to rock.

Or maybe he was just fed up. Whatever the contributing reasons, Moses disobeyed.

And it cost him dearly.

I want to point out 3 lessons for us from story about obedience and disobedience.

Here’s the first one:

1. OBEDIENCE COMES FROM FAITH; DISOBEDIENCE COMES FROM UNBELIEF.

Notice closely what God says to Moses in verse 12.

“But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron [Aaron was in on this,too], ‘Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.’”

Notice that God doesn’t say “Because you didn’t obey me.” Well, he didn’t. That’s why he’s receiving this discipline.

But there is a deeper reason for Moses’ disobedience and that is unbelief.

In other words, “Because you did not trust in me, you didn’t obey me.”

Obedience Comes from Faith; Disobedience Comes from Unbelief.

Do you ever wonder why you sin? It’s not because you’re having a bad day.

Ultimately, we sin because there are still pockets of unbelief, un-trust, inside of us.

Obedience Comes from Faith; Disobedience Comes from Unbelief.

If I trust God then I will obey Him.

If I don’t trust Him, then I won’t.

Does that make sense?

It’s really a fundamental principle, but we often miss it.

Why don’t we obey?

It’s because we do not trust the Lord.

If the Lord says to share you faith with unbelievers, why don’t you do it?

Fundamentally, it’s a matter of trust. Do I really believe that God will save people that I talk to?

Do I really believe that God is worth talking about?

Do I really believe that God is enough even if I am rejected?

If I believe, I obey.

At this moment, Moses didn’t believe. And he didn’t obey.

Was there anything hard about God’s command?

Physically, no. It isn’t hard to talk to a rock. I’ve done it many times myself!

But there was probably something hard about just talking to the rock when you felt like smashing it!

God’s commands normally aren’t that hard to do physically. They’re hard to get up the trust to do it.

What is God asking you do? What area of your life is God calling you to a deeper obedience in?

In that area, He’s calling you, right now, to a deeper faith.

Obedience Comes from Faith; Disobedience Comes from Unbelief.

#2. OBEDIENCE HONORS GOD AS HOLY; DISOBEDIENCE TREATS GOD AS WORTHLESS. Also from verse 12.

“But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.’ These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the LORD and where he showed himself holy among them.”

Do you see that?

God says that Moses’ disobedience did not honor Him as holy.

Obedience Honors God as Holy.

It says that God is amazingly awesome in every way, so perfect and spotless and righteous and beautiful and separate and hallowed, that whatever He asks should be done just as He asks it.

He is worth it! He is worthy of obedience.

Obedience Honors God as Holy.

Does that make sense?

So disobedience does the opposite. Disobedience Treats God as Worthless.

When Moses was more concerned about “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” than he was about obeying God, then he was treating God as less than holy–worthless.

Strikeable even!

Last time, when Moses was supposed to hit the rock, it was clear that the LORD was right there. In fact, the text might indicate that Moses had to go through the LORD to hit the rock.

In the New Testament, we find out that the rock was, in some way, Christ! And the striking of the rock was like the striking of the Good Shepherd on the Cross.

So, it would have been terrible imagery to strike the rock a second time, wouldn’t it have been?

But that’s exactly what Moses does. Twice!

Obedience Honors God as Holy; Disobedience Treats God as Worthless.

Who cares what He says?

What is God worth?

Don’t we do that all of the time?

When we decide that we know better than God and do things our way we are not trust God, and we are not honoring God as holy.

Is there an area of your life where you are walking in disobedience?

Where you are saying, in effect, “I know better than God.”

“I’ve got something more important than God going on here.”

Maybe it has to do with a relationship. Someone you need to forgive?
Maybe it has to do with a habit. Something you need to drop?

I don’t know what it is, but I’ll bet that you if you ask God to “search you and try you” that He’ll put His big finger on it.

Because He opposes it. He deserves and desires to be honored as holy!

That’s why He gave Moses this sentence. “You will not bring this community into the land I give them. [v.13] These were the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the LORD and where he showed himself holy among them.”

That’s God’s goal: shown to be holy.

He deserves and desires to be honored as holy! That’s why we need to obey.

And #3. OBEDIENCE LEADS TO BLESSING; DISOBEDIENCE LEADS TO DANGER, DIFFICULTY, AND DEATH.

I’ve said this time and time again. I’ll say it again and again.

With obedience comes blessing. With disobedience comes danger.

The verdict on Moses was that he wouldn’t bring the Israelites into the Promised Land.

Do you think that’s too harsh?

I mean, all he did was hit the rock! (Twice.)

God deserves and desires to be shown as holy.

And there are consequences to our disobedience.

God is all wise, and He determined that the best discipline for Moses’ disobedience here was to not get the honor of taking the next generation into the Promised Land.

And it will be hard to get there all around. That’s what the next section is all about. V.14

“Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom, saying: ‘This is what your brother Israel says [Edom comes from Esau and Israel comes from Jacob, this is what your brother says]: You know about all the hardships that have come upon us. Our forefathers went down into Egypt, and we lived there many years. The Egyptians mistreated us and our fathers, but when we cried out to the LORD, he heard our cry and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt. ‘Now we are here at Kadesh, a town on the edge of your territory. Please let us pass through your country [to get into the Promised Land]. We will not go through any field or vineyard, or drink water from any well. [We’ll be good boys and girls.] We will travel along the king's highway and not turn to the right or to the left until we have passed through your territory.’ But Edom answered: [No!] ‘You may not pass through here; if you try, we will march out and attack you with the sword.’ The Israelites replied: [C’mon!] ‘We will go along the main road, and if we or our livestock drink any of your water, we will pay for it. We only want to pass through on foot–nothing else.’ Again they answered: ‘You may not pass through.’ Then Edom came out against them with a large and powerful army. [And Israel got the point.] Since Edom refused to let them go through their territory, Israel turned away from them.”

Now, it doesn’t this directly, but I think that this kind of hardship wouldn’t have come upon them if Moses had just obeyed.

Instead, they have danger and difficulty. And death. V.22

“The whole Israelite community set out from Kadesh and came to Mount Hor. At Mount Hor, near the border of Edom, the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Aaron will be gathered to his people. He will not enter the land I give the Israelites, because both of you rebelled against my command at the waters of Meribah. Get Aaron and his son Eleazar and take them up Mount Hor. Remove Aaron's garments and put them on his son Eleazar, for Aaron will be gathered to his people; he will die there.’ Moses did as the LORD commanded: They went up Mount Hor in the sight of the whole community. Moses removed Aaron's garments and put them on his son Eleazar [Eleazar is now the high priest.]. And Aaron died there on top of the mountain. Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain, and when the whole community learned that Aaron had died, the entire house of Israel mourned for him thirty days.”

The End of an Era.

The death of the first High Priest. And the reason?

Disobedience.

Obedience Leads to Blessing; Disobedience Leads to Danger, Difficulty, and Death.

Eventually, Moses will die, as well. And he won’t be allowed into the Promised Land.

All because of disobedience.

Do you see what a big deal obedience is?

Jesus told us that the mark of a disciple is first that they are baptized and then that they are taught to OBEY everything that He has commanded.

Obedience is a big deal.

And it’s only good for you!

Obedience Leads to Blessing; Disobedience Leads to Danger, Difficulty, and Death.

Which do you want?

It’s actually stupid to be disobedient!

The smart thing is to obey.

I know that it doesn’t always feel like it.

Satan is a master at making the opposite feel true.

It often feels like obeying God would just about kill you and ruin your life.

But that’s a lie.

With obedience comes blessing. With disobedience comes danger, difficulty, and death.

Which do you want?

Again, where is God asking for your obedience in your life right now?

Where are you tempted to go for what seems to be the easier route?

It’s not. There is danger there.

But there is blessing with obedience.

Here we are the End of an Era.

40 years of dying Israelites.

All three major leaders of the Israelites are not going to enter the land.

Miriam is dead.
Moses has rebelled.
And Aaron, the High Priest, has also died.

And it seems like there’s very little hope.

If even Moses can’t keep the law and keep his head and do what’s right, what hope is there for the people? If the children act like their parents, then what hope is there for the people of God?

Well, eventually God put to death another High Priest.

And His death was the result of disobedience, but it had a whole other effect.

When this High Priest died, He paid for the disobedience of all who trusted in Him.

When this High Priest died, He paid for the rebellious sins of those who didn’t trust God enough to honor Him as holy.

And after this High Priest died, He came back to life bearing gifts!!!

Jesus Christ obeyed where Miriam, Araon, and Moses did not.

Jesus Christ perfectly trusted God.
Jesus Christ perfectly honored God as holy.
Jesus Christ perfectly deserved blessing and honor Himself.

And He gives us His perfect obedience when we trust in Him and in His Cross.

Because the End of the Era was not the end of the story.

Jesus Christ is the end of the story!

And for all who trust in Him, we get the imputation of His obedience to our account.

That’s the gospel! And it’s the greatest news that ever was!

It not only saves us, but it actually gives us the power to begin to obey.

To trust and obey because there is no other way to be happy in Jesus or to honor Jesus and holy than to trust and obey.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Never Far from the Gospel

My friend Dan Ledford loves the gospel. He oozes it.

And his sermons do, too.

The latest, Hypocrites Wanted, applies the gospel to hypocrisy. Amen!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Vrooom!

Sunshine

Swing, Young Man

Yeah, I'm Cool

Prodigal Loving

Abraham Piper (John's son) writes 12 Ways to Love Your Wayward Child.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Names

From Pastor Dan's sermon on Sunday:

"My name was dirty and I deserved it. My name was sinner and I deserved it. But thanks be to God that we have been given a new name. Our name is righteous but we don’t deserve it. Our name is redeemed but we don’t deserve it. Our name is beloved but we don’t deserve it. Our name is Christian but we don’t deserve it."

Read the whole thing: "What's Your Name?"

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Matt's Messages - The Grace of God

“The Grace of God”
Life in the Wilderness
May 6, 2007
Numbers 17:1-19:22

These three chapters, Numbers 17, 18, and 19 follow closely on the heels of some pretty strong judgments from the LORD.

You remember the Retreat of Unbelief a couple of weeks ago? When the whole nation decided to NOT go up and NOT conquer the Promised Land out of fear and unbelief.

What was God’s judgment? God’s judgment was a 40 year sentence of life in the wilderness and the death of an entire generation.

Last week, we read about Korah’s Rebellion. When Korah and about 250 other Israelite leaders challenged Moses’ and Aaron’s authority.

And what was God’s judgment then? God’s judgment was the earth swallowing up Korah’s followers and fire incinerating the 250 rebellious men.

Judgment.

And mingled with this righteous judgment, we have also seen God’s grace.

And I believe that chapters 17, 18, & 19, serve in large part to communicate “The Grace of God.” The amazing grace of God.

God is not just holy and wrathful, though we dare not forget it. God is also giving and gracious, and we need to be reminded of that each and every day.

So, while we might be tempted to sleep through these three chapters about staffs, and priests, and offerings, and tithes, and red cows, instead, we should look closely to see what these chapters have to teach us about “The Grace of God” and how they point us to the ultimate grace of God–the Lord Jesus Christ.

Think back to last week. What did Korah want?

What did Moses discern was Korah’s real objective?

Korah was a Levite, but he wanted to be a priest. He probably wanted to be the High Priest.

And died for it. And so did a lot of other people.

In chapter 17, God puts an end to any speculation about who should be the High Priest. Chapter 17, verse 1.

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to the Israelites and get twelve staffs from them, one from the leader of each of their ancestral tribes. Write the name of each man on his staff. On the staff of Levi write Aaron's name, for there must be one staff for the head of each ancestral tribe. Place them in the Tent of Meeting in front of the Testimony, where I meet with you. The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by the Israelites.’”

Got the picture? 12 staffs for 12 tribes. Each tribal leader gets his name put on his tribe’s staff.

God’s going to do a miracle. Do dead sticks sprout? No, they don’t.

And what will this prove? V.5

“The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constant grumbling against you by the Israelites.”

God’s going to choose. What happens? V.6

“So Moses spoke to the Israelites, and their leaders gave him twelve staffs, one for the leader of each of their ancestral tribes, and Aaron's staff was among them. Moses placed the staffs before the LORD in the Tent of the Testimony [in the Holy Place]. The next day Moses entered the Tent of the Testimony and saw that Aaron's staff, which represented the house of Levi, had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds.”

No question about it! Aaron is the man God has chosen to be High Priest.

“Budded, blossomed, and produced almonds!”

Bible Trivia question: (And remember, there’s really no such thing as Bible trivia!) What piece of furniture should this staff remind you of?

The Lampstand, right?

Remember that it was shaped of pure gold into the form of an almond tree with clusters?

And remember that it signified the Light of God and His shining His blessing on His people?

Aaron was supposed to do the same thing.

He was to be a blessing for God’s people. A gift of God’s grace.

The people didn’t quite get that. V.9

“Then Moses brought out all the staffs from the LORD's presence to all the Israelites. They looked at them, and each man took his own staff. The LORD said to Moses, ‘Put back Aaron's staff in front of the Testimony, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious [it stays there for good!]. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die.’ Moses did just as the LORD commanded him. The Israelites said to Moses, ‘We will die! We are lost, we are all lost! Anyone who even comes near the tabernacle of the LORD will die. Are we all going to die?’”

Do you think they got it?

God says keep this staff as a sign that they won’t die. And they get scared that they’re going to die!

On one hand it’s good that they finally fear God. But God doesn’t want slavish fear. He wants trusting fear.

They finally seem to understand again that not just anyone can or should approach God in the tabernacle.

But they are missing God’s gracious gift of a priest.

#1. GOD GIVES US OUR PRIEST.

God in His grace, gives us our priest.

Not just any man will do. Only God’s man will do.

But God gives Him to be a priest for His people. That’s the point of the first 7 verses of chapter 18.

The people are scared stiff, but God says (v.1):

“The LORD said to Aaron, ‘You, your sons and your father's family are to bear the responsibility for offenses against the sanctuary, and you and your sons alone are to bear the responsibility for offenses against the priesthood. [God has given His people a priest. V.2] Bring your fellow Levites from your ancestral tribe to join you and assist you when you and your sons minister before the Tent of the Testimony. They [the rest of the Levites] are to be responsible to you and are to perform all the duties of the Tent, but they must not go near the furnishings of the sanctuary or the altar, or both they and you will die. They are to join you and be responsible for the care of the Tent of Meeting–all the work at the Tent– and no one else may come near where you are. You are to be responsible for the care of the sanctuary and the altar, so that wrath will not fall on the Israelites again. I myself have selected your fellow Levites from among the Israelites as a gift to you [Aaron and the priests], dedicated to the LORD to do the work at the Tent of Meeting. But only you and your sons may serve as priests in connection with everything at the altar and inside the curtain. I am giving you the service of the priesthood as a gift. Anyone else who comes near the sanctuary must be put to death.’”

There is awesome responsibility put on the priests and their support staff–the Levites.

And there is an awesome warning of judgment if anyone else comes near the sanctuary.

But the main point that God is making is that He has graciously given the Levites to Aaron and his sons.

And He has graciously given the priesthood to Aaron and His sons.

And He has graciously given priests to Israel so that they have a mediator between them and God.

God gives us our priest.

Now, in the New Covenant, we have a new High Priest. It is no longer Aaron or Aaron’s sons.

This new priest is a priest forever according to another order.

His name is Jesus Christ.

And He is a gift of the grace of God.

He is the light of the world like the lampstand in the tabernacle.

He is the one God has chosen like Aaron whose staff had blossomed.

He is our High Priest.

This is what the book of Hebrews says about it. Chapter 4.

“We have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. [So what?] Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

God gives us our Priest.

And therefore, we approach the throne of grace.

Not only is our new High Priest sinless, but He’s also sympathetic.

He understands. Jesus understands.

And not only that, but this High Priest has opened up the way for us to approach God.

We don’t have to be scared like they were in chapter 17.

Our High Priest has gone through the heavens and opened them to us.

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Are you going through a time of need?

There is grace to help with the High Priest that God has given us!

Trust Him. Take Him your problems. Don’t be afraid. Draw near with confidence.

God Gives Us Our Priest.

But that’s not all. He also gives us our portion.

#2. GOD GIVES US OUR PORTION.

He not only provides us with the mediator that we need to come to Him, but He gives us Himself and everything we need.

God, in His amazing grace, gives us our portion. Verse 8.

“Then the LORD said to Aaron, ‘I myself have put you in charge of the offerings presented to me; all the holy offerings the Israelites give me I give to you and your sons as your portion and regular share.”

Remember, Aaron and the rest of the priests and the Levites are not going to get any of the Promised Land.

How will they be supported?
How will they make a living? They will live off of the tithes and offerings. V.9

“You are to have the part of the most holy offerings that is kept from the fire. From all the gifts they bring me as most holy offerings, whether grain or sin or guilt offerings, that part belongs to you and your sons. Eat it as something most holy; every male shall eat it. You must regard it as holy. This also is yours: whatever is set aside from the gifts of all the wave offerings of the Israelites. I give this to you and your sons and daughters as your regular share. Everyone in your household who is ceremonially clean may eat it. I give you all the finest olive oil and all the finest new wine and grain they give the LORD as the firstfruits of their harvest. All the land's firstfruits that they bring to the LORD will be yours. Everyone in your household who is ceremonially clean may eat it. Everything in Israel that is devoted to the LORD is yours. The first offspring of every womb, both man and animal, that is offered to the LORD is yours. But you must redeem every firstborn son and every firstborn male of unclean animals. [We’ve seen that before in Exodus and in Numbers, haven’t we?] When they are a month old, you must redeem them at the redemption price set at five shekels of silver, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. But you must not redeem the firstborn of an ox, a sheep or a goat; they are holy. Sprinkle their blood on the altar and burn their fat as an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the LORD. Their meat is to be yours, just as the breast of the wave offering and the right thigh are yours. Whatever is set aside from the holy offerings the Israelites present to the LORD I give to you and your sons and daughters as your regular share. It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the LORD for both you and your offspring.”

Now catch this. God is providing for them. V.20

“The LORD said to Aaron, ‘You will have no inheritance in their land, nor will you have any share among them; I am your share and your inheritance among the Israelites.”

“I am your share and your inheritance among the Israelites.”

God not only gives them their portion.

He IS their portion!

And He is ours, as well.

Remember, in the New Covenant, we are all priests!

And God is our portion.

God says, “I am your share and your inheritance.”

Let me ask you a question.

If you had God and nothing else, would that be enough?

Would God be enough for you?

Most of the time, we want God and stuff. God and other stuff.

But sometimes, God strips away “all that other stuff,” just to see if we would be happy with God alone.

That’s one of the things He was doing with Job.

And it was one of the things He was doing with Asaph in Psalm 73.

This is what Asaph finally learned.

He said, “Whom have I in heaven but you[, LORD]? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Is that how you feel about God?

He is so gracious! He not only supplies our needs and gives us many of the things we want–He IS our share and inheritance.

And you know what, that makes it possible for me to give!

If God is my portion, then I can be a giving person.

Look at what God says in the next section. V.21

“I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the Tent of Meeting. From now on the Israelites must not go near the Tent of Meeting, or they will bear the consequences of their sin and will die. It is the Levites who are to do the work at the Tent of Meeting and bear the responsibility for offenses against it. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. They will receive no inheritance among the Israelites.”

“Instead, I give to the Levites as their inheritance the tithes that the Israelites present as an offering to the LORD. That is why I said concerning them: 'They will have no inheritance among the Israelites.'’”

So God has provided for them and been their portion. What the Israelites gave to God, God gave to the Levites. Now what do they do with it?

They give, too! V.25

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Speak to the Levites and say to them: 'When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the LORD's offering. [Even the Levites tithe! They tithe the tithe!] Your offering will be reckoned to you as grain from the threshing floor or juice from the winepress. In this way you also will present an offering to the LORD from all the tithes you receive from the Israelites. From these tithes you must give the LORD's portion to Aaron the priest. [The Levites tithe to the priests.] You must present as the LORD's portion the best and holiest part of everything given to you.' Say to the Levites: 'When you present the best part, it will be reckoned to you as the product of the threshing floor or the winepress. You and your households may eat the rest of it anywhere, for it is your wages for your work at the Tent of Meeting. By presenting the best part of it you will not be guilty in this matter; then you will not defile the holy offerings of the Israelites, and you will not die.'”

When God graciously gives us our portion, we thankfully give to others in worship right back.

Now, this text and others like it form the basis for the New Covenant understanding of supporting gospel workers.

And I’m thankful for your generous giving that makes my labor as your pastor possible.

Thank you for supporting us by your regular tithes and offerings.

God has been your portion and we benefit from your giving from that provision.

And it also forms the basis for mine and Heather’s giving.

We rejoice that you pay us so well that we are able to give both to this church and to the Lord’s work in missions.

We get to support several missionary families because you support us.

And we were also happy to be participate in the special offering today to pay down the remaining debt our church owes on the parking lot.

God is our portion and we give because He’s first given to us.

And the greatest thing He’s given us is Number Three.

#3. GOD GIVES US OUR PURIFICATION.

God, in His Amazing Grace, Gives Us Our Purification. Chapter 19, verse 1.

“The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: ‘This is a requirement of the law that the LORD has commanded: Tell the Israelites to bring you a red heifer without defect or blemish and that has never been under a yoke. Give it to Eleazar the priest [that’s Aaron’s son]; it is to be taken outside the camp and slaughtered in his presence. Then Eleazar the priest is to take some of its blood on his finger and sprinkle it seven times toward the front of the Tent of Meeting. While he watches, the heifer is to be burned–its hide, flesh, blood and offal. The priest is to take some cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet wool and throw them onto the burning heifer. After that, the priest must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water. He may then come into the camp, but he will be ceremonially unclean till evening. The man who burns it must also wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he too will be unclean till evening.” Stop there for a second.

Now this is strange to us, but we’ve seen a lot of these kinds of things already in the book of Numbers.

These are the instructions for the Red Heifer, or the Red Cow. This isn’t really a sacrifice, but it has some sacrificial features to it.

The cow (not a bull) must be perfect, never worked, and most importantly–red.

Why do you think red?

Blood, I think.

Taken outside the camp, to the outskirts of holiness, and slaughtered and burned.

And what do they put in with the red heifer? V.6

Cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet wool.

What color is cedar? It has red highlights, doesn’t it?

And hyssop was the plant that carried the blood on the doorposts at the Passover.

And scarlet (red) wool.

All burned together to make an ash. Why? What’s this all about? V.9

“A man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer and put them in a ceremonially clean place outside the camp. They shall be kept by the Israelite community for use in the water of cleansing; it is for purification from sin.”

“Purification from sin.”

There’s our word: purification. God gives us our purification.

These red-heifer ashes were to be kept in a ceremonially clean place outside of the camp as kind of like an instant cleansing solution to be used when someone comes into contact with a dead body.

Remember, death and sin are intrinsically related.

And clean and unclean are pictures of holy and unholy.

And, you know what, there is going to be a lot of death in this camp. Right?

14,700 people died in the plague last Sunday.

603,548 fighting men, a whole generation of men 20 years and older are going to die over the next 40 years.

That’s an average of 42 deaths per day for 40 years!

And that’s just the men.

And that’s a lot of uncleanness. So here’s what they do. V.10

“The man who gathers up the ashes of the heifer must also wash his clothes, and he too will be unclean till evening. This will be a lasting ordinance both for the Israelites and for the aliens living among them.”

“Whoever touches the dead body of anyone will be unclean for seven days. He must purify himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then he will be clean. But if he does not purify himself on the third and seventh days, he will not be clean.”

Remember what we learned about this back in chapter 5? How they had to go outside of the camp?

What we didn’t know then, was that they had to use this special water that came from red, red, red purification offering to get clean. V.13

“Whoever touches the dead body of anyone and fails to purify himself defiles the LORD's tabernacle. That person must be cut off from Israel. [This is important. Purification is not optional.] Because the water of cleansing has not been sprinkled on him, he is unclean; his uncleanness remains on him. [You’ve got to have it.]”

“This is the law that applies when a person dies in a tent: Anyone who enters the tent and anyone who is in it will be unclean for seven days, and every open container without a lid fastened on it will be unclean. Anyone out in the open who touches someone who has been killed with a sword or someone who has died a natural death, or anyone who touches a human bone or a grave, will be unclean for seven days. For the unclean person, put some ashes from the burned purification offering into a jar and pour fresh water over them. Then a man who is ceremonially clean is to take some hyssop, dip it in the water and sprinkle the tent and all the furnishings and the people who were there. He must also sprinkle anyone who has touched a human bone or a grave or someone who has been killed or someone who has died a natural death. The man who is clean is to sprinkle the unclean person on the third and seventh days, and on the seventh day he is to purify him. The person being cleansed must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and that evening he will be clean. But if a person who is unclean does not purify himself, he must be cut off from the community, because he has defiled the sanctuary of the LORD. The water of cleansing has not been sprinkled on him, and he is unclean. This is a lasting ordinance for them. The man who sprinkles the water of cleansing must also wash his clothes, and anyone who touches the water of cleansing will be unclean till evening. Anything that an unclean person touches becomes unclean, and anyone who touches it becomes unclean till evening.”

That’s a lot of repetition to make sure that they get the point.

Purification is absolutely necessary.

Death is everywhere. Uncleanness is everywhere.

And that’s a picture of sin being everywhere. And it must be dealt with. God is holy.

But He’s provided purification in His grace.

God Gives Us Our Purification.

For the Israelite it was a red, red, red purification offering.

And you know what it was for us...

Listen to Hebrews chapter 9, verses 13 and 14.

“The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences [internally!] from acts that lead to death [sin!], so that we may serve the living God!”

Jesus Christ died a bloody death on the Cross as a purifying sacrifice to cleanse us from our sins and provide us purification so that we may serve the living God.

Have you trusted Jesus Christ as your High Priest, and Portion, and Purifying Sacrifice?

His blood is sufficient to purify you from all your sins.

Once and for all.

He invites you today to trust Him as Savior and Lord, Rescuer and King, High Priest, Portion, and Purification.

WORSHIP AT THE LORD’S TABLE

That’s what this table represents: The body and blood of Christ.

“The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God [on the Cross], cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”

If you are a faith-follower of Jesus Christ and have come under the blood, you are invited to eat and drink with us this memorial meal.

It reminds us of the purification that our High Priest has accomplished for us.

And it is also a call to examine ourselves and re-appropriate the Grace of God that purifies us.

Is there anything right now that stands between you and God that you know of?

Use this time to reflect on God’s grace in providing a Priest, a Portion, and a Purification.

And also use this time to repent of any known sin and receive the cleansing power of Christ’s blood.

1 John 1:9 says that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse (purify us) from all unrighteousness.

This table reminds us of God’s faithfulness and justice to forgive us and purify us because of the Cross.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Bibliophilia Runs in the Family

So says my brother about my sweetie niece, Anna Grace Mitchell.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Birthday Gifts

My greatest gifts today as I turn 34:

My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, His Father and Mine by Adoption, and His Holy Spirit resident within me.

All of the blessings that come from being His.

Especially my wife, Heather.

My kids: Robin, Andrew, Peter, and Isaac

My parents: Chuck & Anita Mitchell

My brother and his family.

My church family.

My extended family.

My friends near and far.

My fellow pastors.

And the list goes on and on an on and on...

Mahler's 2nd Symphony

I was introduced to Gustav Mahler by a friend when I was in high school.

His powerful music moved me and still stirs me today.

But there was something missing in Mahler that I couldn't put into words.

Phil Ryken has done that for me today.

Birthday

My "Timothy" in the faith, Tom Fisch, has sent me this greeting for my birthday:

Have a Screaming Good Birthday

Thanks, Tom, it's a hoot!