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Friday, June 29, 2007

Come to God

Sam Storms, from Signs of the Spirit, pp. 204-205:

Here, then, is how we must come to God, whether to serve him or worship him or enjoy all that he is for us in Jesus:

Come, confessing your utter inability to do or offer anything that will empower God or enrich, enhance, or expand God.

Come, with heartfelt gratitude to God for the fact that whatever you own, whatever you are, whatever you have accomplished or hope to accomplish, is all from him, a gift of grace.

Come, declaring in your heart and aloud that if you serve, it is in the strength that God supplies (1 Pet. 4:10); if you give money, it is from the wealth that God has enabled you to earn; if it is praise of who he is, it is from the salvation and knowledge of God that he himself has provided for you in Christ Jesus.

Come, declaring the all-sufficiency of God in meeting your every need. Praise his love, because if here were not loving, you would be justly and eternally condemned. Praise his power, because if he were weak, you would have no hope that what he has promised he will fulfill. Praise his forgiving mercy, because apart from his gracious determination to wash you clean in the blood of Christ, you would still be in your sin and hopelessly lost. So, too, with every attribute, praise him!

Come, with an empty cup, happily pleading: "God, glorify yourself by filling it to overflowing!"

Come, with a weak and wandering heart, joyfully beseeching: "God, glorify yourself by strengthening me to do your will and remain faithful to your ways!"

Come, helpless, expectantly praying: "God, glorify yourself by delivering me from my enemies and my troubles!"

Come, with your sin, gratefully asking: "God, glorify yourself by setting me free from bondage to my flesh and breaking the grip of lust and envy and greed in my life!"

Come, with your hunger for pleasure and joy, desperately crying: "God, glorify yourself by filling me with the fullness of joy! God, glorify yourself by granting me pleasures that never end! God, glorify yourself by satisfying my heart with yourself! God, glorify yourself by enthralling me with your beauty . . . by overwhelming me with your majesty . . . by taking my breath away with fresh insights into your incomparable and infinite grandeur! God, glorify yourself by shining into my mind the light of the knowledge of God in the face of Jesus Christ!"

[HT: JT]

Monday, June 25, 2007

Quotable Quote

“Works! Works! A man to get to heaven by works! I would as soon think of climbing to the moon on a rope of sand!” - George Whitfield

[HT: Ledford]

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Matt's Messages - Baalam and the Blessing of Israel (Part Two)

“Balaam and the Blessing of Israel (Part Two)”
Life in the Wilderness
June 24, 2007
Numbers 22:39-24:25

Do you remember who Balaam is?

The nation of Israel is camped just north of Moab.

They are just across the Jordan river from Jericho. And they have conquered the whole Transjordan Area north of Moab.

And that has gotten Moab very nervous. They think they are next. They’re not, but they think so.

And their King, Balak, has invested heavily in a Secret Weapon–a famous international pagan magician prophet named Balaam–from Mesopotamia.

Balak hopes to curse Israel so that he can defeat them.

And Balaam, who loves money, has tried to get permission from God to go and curse Israel for Balak.

Did he get it?

No way!

In fact, he was told that under no circumstances would he be allowed to curse Israel...because “they are blessed.”

But that didn’t keep him from trying. He thought he could pull a fast one over on the LORD.

But he learned from a talking donkey (!) And a sword-wielding angel of the LORD that (v.38) “[He] must speak only what God puts in [his] mouth.”

And that left us at a cliff-hanger, wondering what Balaam would actually say.

Remember all that?

Well, this week is just as funny as last week without a talking donkey!

And it’s just as seriously true!

“Then Balaam went with Balak to Kiriath Huzoth. Balak sacrificed cattle and sheep, and gave some to Balaam and the princes who were with him. The next morning Balak took Balaam up to Bamoth Baal, and from there he saw part of the people. [Numbers 23, verse 1] Balaam said, ‘Build me seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.’ Balak did as Balaam said, and the two of them offered a bull and a ram on each altar. Then Balaam said to Balak, ‘Stay here beside your offering while I go aside. Perhaps the LORD will come to meet with me. Whatever he reveals to me I will tell you.’ Then he went off to a barren height.”

Now, there are no “good guys” in this story.

Balak and Balaam were both bad eggs.

Balak hated Israel. And Balaam loved money.

And they are both working their pagan magic and godless sacrifices for all they are worth to try to curse Israel.

Balaam knows that his life is in danger if he says anything that the LORD does not put in his mouth. But, strangely enough, that doesn’t stop him from setting everything up and hoping that he’ll get a chance to curse Israel.

I think this is because Balaam loves money so much.

Whenever the rest of the Bible talks about Balaam it talks about his great love of money–which is the root of all kinds of evil.

So you’ve got an Israel-hater and a money-lover twisting themselves into knots to try to curse Israel.

It’s kind of funny, in a sad way!

Balak makes all of these offerings. And Balaam goes off hoping against hope that God will show up.

And God did show up! But He didn’t say what Baalam and Balak hoped He would! V.4

“God met with him, and Balaam said, ‘I have prepared seven altars, and on each altar I have offered a bull and a ram.’ [Which means absolutely nothing to the LORD without a heart of faith and worship!] The LORD put a message in Balaam's mouth and said, ‘Go back to Balak and give him this message.’

“So he went back to him and found him standing beside his offering, with all the princes of Moab. Then Balaam uttered his oracle: ‘Balak brought me from Aram, the king of Moab from the eastern mountains. 'Come,' he said, 'curse Jacob for me; come, denounce Israel.' How can I curse those whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce those whom the LORD has not denounced? From the rocky peaks I see them, from the heights I view them. I see a people who live apart and do not consider themselves one of the nations. Who can count the dust of Jacob or number the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and may my end be like theirs!’”

Point #1 of 4 this morning:

#1. GOD WILL NOT CURSE HIS PEOPLE! V.8

“How can I curse those whom God has not cursed? How can I denounce those whom the LORD has not denounced?”

God Will Not Curse His People!

Balaam was not allowed curse Israel because God had not cursed Israel.
Balaam was not allowed denounce Israel because God had not denounced Israel.

God’s people are blessed and they will not be cursed.

God is for His people, and He is not against them.

Isn’t that good news?

In sounds pretty simple, but it’s a profound truth!

God will not curse His people.

There will be trials. There will be difficulties. There will be discipline and even a limited kind of disciplinary cursing (Deut 28).

But ultimately, God has only good plans for His people and will not curse them.

Have you ever been around Christians who think that God is against them?

“God won’t give me a break.”
“I can’t seem to get God on my side.”
“God has destroyed my life. He is acting like my enemy.”

Or simply, “I don’t know what God is thinking!”

Well, in those cases, God may be opposing some direction that they are heading. Some pride, or sin, or foolishness.

But, we can rest assured that God is working things to their (and our) good. He is not cursing them! He is for them.

We need the truth of Romans 8:31. “God is for us, who can be against us?”

Do you need to hear that truth this morning?

If you belong to God through Jesus Christ, God is for you.

God is for you.
God is for you.
God is for you.

Now, that means that we will live a different way than other people do. In v.9, Balaam can’t help but notice that these people “live apart and do not consider themselves one of the nations.” That is, they are different. They are holy. They are separate.

They belong to a Holy God, and so, they are holy.

And that makes them curse-proof and blessed. V.10

“Who can count the dust of Jacob or number the fourth part of Israel? [That’s saying that the Abrahamic covenant is being fulfilled. They are like [Genesis 13:16] the dust of the earth.] Let me die the death of the righteous, and may my end be like theirs!’”

Balaam can see how blessed they are. And He wishes that his life could end like theirs.

Of course it could, if He would put His faith in the God of Israel and join them. Will Balaam become a member of the covenant community?

At this second, he can see that God Will Not Curse His People.

And how do you think that made Balak feel? V.11

“Balak said to Balaam, ‘What have you done to me? I brought you to curse my enemies, but you have done nothing but bless them!’ [This isn’t what I paid for!]”

“He answered, ‘Must I not speak what the LORD puts in my mouth?’”

And at this point, the story should be over! But he’s actually just getting warmed up! V.13

“Then Balak said to him, ‘Come with me to another place where you can see them; you will see only a part but not all of them. And from there, curse them for me.’” [Maybe geography is the problem!] So he took him to the field of Zophim on the top of Pisgah, and there he built seven altars and offered a bull and a ram on each altar. Balaam said to Balak, ‘Stay here beside your offering while I meet with him over there.’”

“Balaam Cursing Israel: Take Two.” V.16

“The LORD met with Balaam and put a message in his mouth and said, ‘Go back to Balak and give him this message.’ So he went to him and found him standing beside his offering, with the princes of Moab. Balak asked him, ‘What did the LORD say?’”

You’re not going to like it!

Do you get the idea that God is having fun with these two guys?

I do. They are like a couple of characters from a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Like Wile E Coyote trying to catch the Road Runner. It’s not going to happen. They’re going to get more and more worked up and it’s going to turn against them more and more.

The anvil is going to fall on their heads. V.18

“Then he uttered his oracle: ‘Arise, Balak, and listen; hear me, son of Zippor. God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot change it. No misfortune is seen in Jacob, no misery observed in Israel. The LORD their God is with them; the shout of the King is among them. God brought them out of Egypt; they have the strength of a wild ox. There is no sorcery against Jacob, no divination against Israel. It will now be said of Jacob and of Israel, 'See what God has done!' The people rise like a lioness; they rouse themselves like a lion that does not rest till he devours his prey and drinks the blood of his victims.’”

Point #2 of 4 this morning:

#2. GOD WILL NOT CHANGE HIS MIND!

If the first oracle was about Israel, the second oracle is about God. V.19 again.

“God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?”

God Will Not Change His Mind.

God is not moody. He is not capricious. He is not changeable in His character.

God does not wake up on the wrong side of the bed somedays and take it out on those whom He has promised to care for!

In other words, He is not like us!

He doesn’t lie. He doesn’t break promises. He doesn’t change His mind!

He is utterly trustworthy and faithful!

God always keeps His promises because He never changes His mind.

Now, that does not mean that God never changes His policy or His stance towards someone. When there is genuine repentance and/or heartfelt intercession, on a certain level, God does change His policy or stance towards someone.

But that’s because of a deeper policy in the deepest places in God’s character.

At His heart, God is unchanging and perfectly faithful.

The big word for it is IMMUTABLE.

I remember when I learned that word for the first time. I was part of a group that was supposed to come up with a list of God’s perfections (His attributes, what He is like).

And I knew some of them: omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, etc.

But a new friend of mine named Mike suggested this one: Immutable. God is immutable–unchanging.

And I thought, that’s a great word! God is a Rock!

He doesn’t move. He doesn’t change with the shifting sands.

He is utterly trustworthy because He doesn’t change His mind!

“God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? [No way!] Does he promise and not fulfill? [No way!]”

Balak and Balaam thought that they could manipulate God. But (v.20):

“No misfortune is seen in Jacob, no misery observed in Israel. The LORD their God is with them; the shout of the King is among them. [I love that! God is there King and He’s shouting over them!] God brought them out of Egypt [Red Sea Rescue!]; they have the strength of a wild ox. There is no sorcery against Jacob, no divination against Israel. [There are no tricks that will be successful against them!] It will now be said of Jacob and of Israel, 'See what God has done!' The people rise like a lioness; they rouse themselves like a lion that does not rest till he devours his prey and drinks the blood of his victims.’”

God Will Not Curse His People, And He Will Not Change His Mind!

He is immutable.

Isn’t that good news?

Have you wondered if God has changed His mind about you?

Have you wondered if you are still the apple of His eye?

Have you wondered if God can still be trusted–even when it hurts.

Take courage! God is with you and for you. The shout of the King is among us!

And He Will Not Change His Mind!

Boy, did that bug Balak! V.25

“Then Balak said to Balaam, ‘Neither curse them at all nor bless them at all!’ [Stop! Don’t say anything more. This is working against me!] Balaam answered, ‘Did I not tell you I must do whatever the LORD says?’ Then Balak said to Balaam, ‘Come, let me take you to another place. Perhaps it will please God to let you curse them for me from there.’”

I don’t think he gets it, do you?!

“And Balak took Balaam to the top of Peor, overlooking the wasteland. Balaam said, ‘Build me seven altars here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me.’ Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bull and a ram on each altar. [Numbers 24.] Now when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he did not resort to sorcery as at other times, but turned his face toward the desert.”

Something big is coming! Balaam doesn’t even try sorcery now. And he just lets God speak through him.

“ When Balaam looked out and saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe, the Spirit of God came upon him and he uttered his oracle: ‘The oracle of Balaam son of Beor, the oracle of one whose eye sees clearly, the oracle of one who hears the words of God, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened: ‘How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel! Like valleys they spread out, like gardens beside a river, like aloes planted by the LORD, like cedars beside the waters. Water will flow from their buckets; their seed will have abundant water. ‘Their king will be greater than Agag; their kingdom will be exalted. God brought them out of Egypt; they have the strength of a wild ox. They devour hostile nations and break their bones in pieces; with their arrows they pierce them. Like a lion they crouch and lie down, like a lioness– who dares to rouse them? May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed!’”

#3. GOD WILL BLESS HIS PEOPLE!

It’s not just that God will NOT curse His people.

He will be good to them.

He will bless them. Guaranteed.

Balaam can see how blessed they are. V.5

“How beautiful are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!”

And he can see how blessed they will be!

Don’t you just love the beautiful description of Israel’s blessing in verses 6 and 7?

It remind us of the Garden of Eden!

“Like valleys they spread out, like gardens beside a river, like aloes planted by the LORD, like cedars beside the waters. Water will flow from their buckets; their seed will have abundant water. ‘Their king will be greater than Agag; their kingdom will be exalted.”

Balaam sees clearly that God has good things in store for His people. Including victory. V.8

“God brought them out of Egypt; they have the strength of a wild ox. They devour hostile nations and break their bones in pieces; with their arrows they pierce them. Like a lion they crouch and lie down, like a lioness–who dares to rouse them? May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed!”

God Will Bless His People.

And we should expect His blessing.

If we are part of the people of God, then we should expect His blessing.

If you don’t know if you are part of the people of God, you don’t know whether or not you’ll be blessed.

So make sure you know you are in the people of God. There is either in or out. Not both/and but either/or.

But if you are a part of the people of God, then you can expect His blessing.

Like I said last week, Don’t Be Afraid!

It’s funny that Israel, at this point in the story, doesn’t know that Balak and Balaam are conspiring against them.

They might have been scared if they did know.

But they didn’t need to be! And especially after hearing the pagan magician prophet who was supposed to be the Secret Weapon against them proclaim this!

God Will Bless Them. And there is no need to fear.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This is not a health and wealth prosperity gospel.

This does not mean that there won’t be trials, tribulations, difficulties, setbacks, and suffering.

There will be those. In spades.

But, we, the people of God, can count on this unchanging fact: God Will Not Curse Us, God Will Not Change His Mind, in fact, God Will Bless Us!

We can take that to the bank.

“I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”

“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”

God Will Bless His People.

Make this personal. Don’t just say “Amen” to that this Sunday morning. Look at the week ahead of you with all of its pitfalls and problems, and remind yourself of the immutable purpose of God–to bless you because of His Son.

God Will Bless His People.

God Will Bless You.

V.10. Balak’s done.

“Then Balak's anger burned against Balaam. He struck his hands together and said to him, ‘I summoned you to curse my enemies, but you have blessed them these three times. Now leave at once and go home! I said I would reward you handsomely, but the LORD has kept you from being rewarded.’”

Ouch! I’ll bet Balaam didn’t like the sound of that! V.12

“Balaam answered Balak, ‘Did I not tell the messengers you sent me, 'Even if Balak gave me his palace filled with silver and gold, I could not do anything of my own accord, good or bad, to go beyond the command of the LORD–and I must say only what the LORD says'?”

A donkey taught me that!

“‘Now I am going back to my people, but come, let me warn you of what this people will do to your people in days to come.’ Then he uttered his oracle: ‘The oracle of Balaam son of Beor, the oracle of one whose eye sees clearly, the oracle of one who hears the words of God, who has knowledge from the Most High, who sees a vision from the Almighty, who falls prostrate, and whose eyes are opened: I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. He will crush the foreheads of Moab, the skulls of all the sons of Sheth. Edom will be conquered; Seir, his enemy, will be conquered, but Israel will grow strong. A ruler will come out of Jacob and destroy the survivors of the city.’”

Last point this morning, and greatest of them all.

#4. GOD WILL SEND HIS KING!

Did you see how Balaam prophesies of a coming king? V.17 again.

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel. [v.19] A ruler will come out of Jacob and destroy the survivors of the city.”

There is a King coming! God is going to send a great King to lead Israel.

And that king is going to lead His people to their greatest victories and give them their greatest blessings.

“He will crush the foreheads of Moab.” Right now, Moab isn’t on the radar for Israel, but one day, they will be crushed. He will also conquer Edom.

All of Israel’s foes will be crushed. V.20

“Then Balaam saw Amalek and uttered his oracle: ‘Amalek was first among the nations, but he will come to ruin at last.’ Then he saw the Kenites [probably related to the Midianites] and uttered his oracle: ‘Your dwelling place is secure, your nest is set in a rock; yet you Kenites will be destroyed when Asshur takes you captive.’ [What about Asshur?] Then he uttered his oracle: ‘Ah, who can live when God does this? Ships will come from the shores of Kittim; they will subdue Asshur and Eber, but they too will come to ruin.’ Then Balaam got up and returned home and Balak went his own way.”

Many nations will rise and fall.

But this King will make sure that Israel will never fall.

God Will Send His King!

And that king is going to lead His people to their greatest victories and give them their greatest blessings.

I believe that King David was the first fulfillment of this prophecy.

But with Christians throughout the centuries, I also believe that the fullest fulfilment of this prophecy was great David’s greatest Son–King Jesus!

“I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel...A ruler will come out of Jacob...”

And I believe His name is King Jesus.

Revelation 22:16, "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star."

God Will Send His King!

And He has sent Him!

And He will send Him again.

“What a day of rejoicing that will be!”

Are you trusting in Jesus Christ as the King of Your life?

He died on the Cross as the perfect sacrifice for sin, and He came back to life to give us new life.

He is the King that leads His people to their greatest victories and gives them their greatest blessings!

Balaam could only see Jesus from afar.

And he never trust Him.

But we know Jesus from this side of the Cross.

And He calls all of us to turn and to put all of our faith and trust in His Kingship forever.

Brothers and Sisters, I have the greatest news for you this morning.

Take heart!

God Will Not Curse His People! [He is for us.]
And God Will Not Change His Mind! [He is immutable.]
In Fact, God Will Bless His People! [Unimaginably]
And He Will Do it Through His King!

Praise His Name!

Friday, June 22, 2007

What Did the Cross Achieve?

This 1973 lecture by JI Packer is well worth the hard work of reading.

What a glorious thing the Cross is.

[HT: Al Mohler]

Be Like Zach

Josh Harris concludes his series on Zacchaeus with these words:

Friend, if you realize you're lost then follow the example of Zacchaeus. Don't walk—run to see him. Climb whatever you need to climb to know him. Welcome him with joy into your life. Believe that he went to the cross to pay for your sins. Give up your sins in exchange for everlasting life.

That's the example God wants us to see in Zacchaeus and his story. When Jesus calls you, receive him and reject sin. And when you do, Jesus will make the same joyful declaration about you: "Salvation has come to this house!"

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. He will not pass you by.

Read the whole thing.




Thursday, June 21, 2007

Hey!

My beautiful bride (of 13 years as of Monday the 18th!) and I just received this hilarious e-card from our friends Tom & Stacey.

"Hey" back at you!

Monday, June 18, 2007

There Is a Fountain Filled With Blood

Pastor Dan writes:

"When moments of personal pleasure and glory overtake our finding pleasure in Christ and His glory, we have lost our eternal focus.

Someday our “poor lisping, stammering tongue” will lie silent in the grave; but for those who have lost their guilty stains – who have had all their sins washed away, who have been saved to sin no more, whose theme is redeeming love – will eternally sing the nobler, sweeter song of Christ’s power to save.

May we keep an eternal focus..."

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Matt's Messages - Baalam and the Blessing of Israel (Part One)

“Balaam and the Blessing of Israel (Part One)”
Life in the Wilderness
June 17, 2007
Numbers 22:1-38

Last week, I said that this week’s story would include a talking donkey. Something you don’t see or hear about every day!

Well, Nathan Kristofits has asked if there is a donkey will also be an ogre named Shrek?!

And the answer is No. No ogres today. But there is a pagan magician prophet named Baalam.

And chapters 22 through 24 tell the story of “Baalam and the Blessing of Israel.” We’ll only have enough time today to make it through most of chapter 22. So we’ll call this week’s message “Part One.”

“Baalam and the Blessing of Israel: Part One.”

Verse 1 reminds us where the nation of Israel is right now. V.1

“Then the Israelites traveled to the plains of Moab and camped along the Jordan across from Jericho.”

They’ve conquered this area. We saw that last week with Sihon king of the Amorites and Og, King of Bashan.

They now possess what we call the Transjordan Territory across the Jordan river from Jericho.

And they are north of what? [When in doubt, say Moab!]

That’s right! Moab.

And who do you think is scared of Israel? Moab!

Why? Because, like we said last week, they have grown so strong and are clearly experiencing the blessing of God. So that’s got the ruler of Moab terrified. V.2

“Now Balak son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites, and Moab was terrified because there were so many people. Indeed, Moab was filled with dread because of the Israelites. The Moabites said to the elders of Midian, ‘This horde is going to lick up everything around us, as an ox licks up the grass of the field.’”

Now, do they have any reason to fear? Not necessarily.

Moab is not the Promised Land. As long as they didn’t attack Israel, Moab didn’t have anything to be afraid of.

But they were afraid. So Balak decided to do something about it.

And what he decided to do set off a chain of events that I can only describe as “a very serious comedy.”

Balak decides that he can’t handle Israel on his own. So he brings in a secret weapon.

He sends for Balaam.

Balak decides to hire a diviner. A pagan magician prophet known for his supposed magical word powers.

Where brute force wouldn’t work, Balak decides to try magic. V.4

“So Balak son of Zippor, who was king of Moab at that time, sent messengers to summon Balaam son of Beor, who was at Pethor, near the River, in his native land. Balak said: ‘A people has come out of Egypt; they cover the face of the land and have settled next to me. Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the country. For I know that those you bless are blessed, and those you curse are cursed.’”

Balak went for a hired gun. And not just any hired gun but one of the most famous diviners in the ancient world.

Baalam was internationally known for his prophetic powers. There are inscriptions on the walls of an archaeological site dated at least to the seventh century BC in Deir Alla on the Jabbok river that have some of Baalam’s prophecies still on them.

Baalam was considered a Big Gun in the ancient world.

That’s why Balak ends his letter with this (v.6), “Now come and put a curse on these people, because they are too powerful for me. Perhaps then I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the country. For I know that those you bless are blessed, and those you curse are cursed.’”

Aha.

Balak has faith in Baalam. Do you think he should?

Don’t those last words in the verse sound familiar? And bring you back to a set of promises that a certain God had made that we call the Abrahamic covenant?

Genesis 12, verses 12 and 13. God talking to Abraham: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

What do you think will happen if Baalam tries to curse Israel? We’ll see! V.7

“The elders of Moab and Midian left, taking with them the fee for divination. When they came to Balaam, they told him what Balak had said. ‘Spend the night here,’ Balaam said to them, ‘and I will bring you back the answer the LORD gives me.’ So the Moabite princes stayed with him.”
Now, you might think that Baalam is a follower of the LORD (YHWH) by the way he talks.

But we know that not everyone who talks about God is a true follower of God.

A wise scholar has said that Baalam is a lot like a crooked politician (Duguid, 269-280). He knows what to say to whomever he’s talking to to “sound good.” But that doesn’t mean that he means it.

Probably here, he is saying that he will make contact with the God of Israel to see what he can do about Balak’s Israelite problem.

So they spend the night.

And, surprisingly, God shows up and talks to Baalam. V.9

“God came to Balaam and asked, ‘Who are these men with you?’”

Think He doesn’t know?

This is kind of like God coming to Adam and asking “Where are you? What have you been up to?”

“Balaam said to God, ‘Balak son of Zippor, king of Moab, sent me this message: 'A people that has come out of Egypt covers the face of the land. Now come and put a curse on them for me. Perhaps then I will be able to fight them and drive them away.'’ But God said to Balaam, ‘Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.’”

I have three points about God that I want to make this morning. And this is the first one.

#1. GOD WILL BLESS HIS PEOPLE.

If there is no other lesson that we get from this week and next week’s message, this is the one we need to learn.

God Will Bless His People.

God graciously comes to this pagan magician prophet who has done nothing good to deserve an audience with the King of the Universe and He tells Balaam: “Do not go with these guys. Do not try to put a curse on Israel. It will not work. I will not let you. They are blessed.”

And those whom God says are blessed, are blessed!

God Will Bless His People.

God has said so (Genesis 12, Genesis 15, Genesis 17, Genesis 22, the whole book of Exodus, what we’ve seen so far in Numbers). God has promised to bless Israel, and God is faithful. He will bless them.

He says, “They are blessed.”

What I really like about the Baalam story is that it gives the outside view of what God is doing to and for Israel.

In chapters 1 through 10, Israel was getting ready to march and they looked blessed.

But in chapters 11 through 21, we’ve seen Israel retreat in unbelief, grumble, complain, and receive the heavy discipline of the Lord.

And you begin to wonder if Israel is going to make it.

But here’s the outside view. They can’t not make, ultimately!

“They are blessed.”

God Will Bless His People.

No doubt about it. No ifs, ands, or buts.

God Will Bless His People.

Now, to me, that leads to two important applications.

The first, is MAKE SURE YOU’RE ONE OF GOD’S PEOPLE!

In the Old Covenant, you came into God’s people through participation with Israel.

In the New Covenant, you come by faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Jesus died on the Cross and was a raised to new life to bring people like you and me into a love relationship with God and become God’s own people.

When we turn from our sins and trust in Jesus Christ and His CrossWork, we are not just forgiven and promised eternal life, we are placed into the Body of Christ, the Church, God’s Family, God’s People.

And if we are part of God’s people, then we are blessed. Guaranteed.

God Will Bless His People.

Are sure that you are one of God’s people?

I challenge you to make sure today.

Put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ. And you will be blessed.

And then (second application), DON’T BE AFRAID.

Because if you are one of God’s people, then you are blessed.

Don’t be afraid.

I love the fact that Israel probably doesn’t know that all of this drama is going on around them. Israel is thinking manna and supplies and conquering the Promised Land, and they probably aren’t aware that Balak has sent for Baalam.

And that’s probably good, because I can just see Israel getting spooked if they knew what was happening.

But even if they did, they shouldn’t have been afraid, should they?!
“They are blessed.”

Don’t be afraid.

What are you afraid of this week?

As you look at Monday looming in your face, what are you afraid of?

Hear this word: “You are blessed. God will bless His people. Don’t be afraid.”

Now, that blessing won’t always look like we want it to.

It isn’t always health, wealth, prosperity, good looks, and fast cars.

In fact, it often isn’t.

But we have nothing to fear. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for thou art with me.”

God will bless His people. Their cup will overflow.

Goodness and mercy will follow us all of the days of our lives.

And we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Do you believe that? Believe it this week. God is for you. And no one can be against.

You are blessed.

That’s what God told Baalam. Of course, it’s not what Baalam wanted to hear. V.13

“The next morning Balaam got up and said to Balak's princes, ‘Go back to your own country, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you.’”

Notice that he doesn’t say why! He doesn’t say why he’s not allowed to go back with them. So what do you think they’re going to do? V.14

“So the Moabite princes returned to Balak and said, ‘Balaam refused to come with us.’”

Do you think that Balak is going to give up this easily?

Balak is a patient man. The journey to Pethor was probably about a month long, one way. So this has taken 2 months of Balak’s worrying already.

And Balak is a man of the world. He thinks he knows what Baalam is holding out for: more moolah. So he promises it. V.15

“Then Balak sent other princes, more numerous and more distinguished than the first. They came to Balaam and said: ‘This is what Balak son of Zippor says: Do not let anything keep you from coming to me, because I will reward you handsomely and do whatever you say. Come and put a curse on these people for me.’”

Balak raises the stakes. “Put your price tag on it, Baalam. I’ll meet it.

Come and do your magic.”

Now, what should Baalam say? Before you look at what Baalam does say, think about what he should say.

He should say, “No dice. No way. Head home.

These folks are blessed. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

What you should do is figure out a way to bless them yourselves.

Cursing won’t work. End of story.”

But that’s not what he says. Remember, Baalam is a crooked politician. And even if he sounds good, he’s keeping his options open. V.18

“But Balaam answered them, ‘Even if Balak gave me his palace filled with silver and gold, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the LORD my God. Now stay here tonight as the others did, and I will find out what else the LORD will tell me.’”

I think he’s hoping that the LORD will have changed His mind!

Or that he can talk him into it.

But that leads us to point #2.

#2. GOD WILL NOT BE MANIPULATED.

Baalam may be able to play games with Moab and Midian and Balak, but He can’t play games with God. V.20

“That night God came (again) to Balaam and said, ‘Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.’”

It kind of looks like God changed His mind! But the important piece hasn’t changed. Balaam is still not allowed to curse Israel.

God has His own reasons for letting Baalam go this time. And they don’t involve cursing Israel.

And God warns Baalam, “Do only what I tell you.”

I can just imagine Baalam’s response to that. “Oh, certainly, LORD. Nothing but what you say.” While in his heart of hearts he’s still hoping to pull one over on Him. V.21

“Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab. But God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the road to oppose him.”

Did God change His mind? No. Baalam had.

God reads minds! And He knew that Baalam had decided in his heart to disobey the LORD and curse the people of Israel.

Baalam might have gone to bed somewhat obedient, but he got up ready to disobey.

And God will not be manipulated.

Magicians, sorcerers, witches, and diviners think that they can get God to do what they want.

And so do many many people. Even Christians.

If you just pray a certain way.
If you say these certain words.
“Seven Hail Marys and a Prayer of Jabez.”

If you just dress a certain way or give a certain amount...

...you can control God.

Tell God what He wants to hear and He’ll give you what you want to have.

No way.

God will not be manipulated.

God will not be played.

God will not be mocked or tricked or conned.

He knows our hearts.

Just as He is determined to bless His people, He will not let anything manipulate Him into a different course of action.

One of the major underlining themes in the Baalam and the Blessing of God story is that God is in control–not humans. Not us.

God will not be manipulated.

I think the application to that is clear: DON’T PLAY GAMES WITH GOD.

Don’t try to trick Him.

Don’t try to worm your way in and get what you want. It won’t work.

God only plays one way. His way.

Are you trying to get away with something on God right now?

You might not have put it that way when you came in the door today.

If I had come up to you and asked you how your week was, you probably wouldn’t have said, “Well, I’ve been playing games with God this week!”

But that doesn’t mean you haven’t.

He knows.
He knows what you say. And He knows what you do.
And He knows what you’re planning. Better than you do!

Don’t play games with God.

He will not be manipulated.

That’s what the angel of the LORD was sent to show Baalam.

He was standing in the road, ready to kill Baalam.

But Baalam couldn’t see him! Only one character in the whole story could. The donkey. V.22

“...God was very angry when he went, and the angel of the LORD stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, she turned off the road into a field. Balaam beat her to get her back on the road. Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path between two vineyards, with walls on both sides. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pressed close to the wall, crushing Balaam's foot against it. So he beat her again. Then the angel of the LORD moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat her with his staff.”

The poor donkey!

She was only trying to help her master.

Are donkeys known for being the brightest animals in the world?

Do donkeys have the high IQs and Phds of the Animal Kingdom?

No. Donkeys are known for being dumb, brutish, ignorant.

But compared to Baalam, this donkey was a genius!

She had eyes to see what was really going on. And Baalam was the really ignorant one.

And here’s where the story really gets funny.

God decides to do something that He didn’t do in the rest of the Bible! He gave the donkey speech. V.28

“Then the LORD opened the donkey's mouth, and she said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?’ Balaam answered the donkey, ‘You have made a fool of me! If I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.’”

I love it! The “powerful Baalam” is so ignorant and prideful, he doesn’t even realize he’s talking to a donkey!

He says, “If I had a sword, I’d kill you.”

Well, there’s a sword nearby, but it’s not aimed at the donkey!

“The donkey said to Balaam, ‘Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?’ ‘No,’ he said.”

“Then the LORD opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown.”

All of a sudden, Baalam knows he’s in trouble. This is more than he bargained for!

“The angel of the LORD asked him, ‘Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared her.’ Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, ‘I have sinned. I did not realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now if you are displeased, I will go back.’ The angel of the LORD said to Balaam, ‘Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you.’ So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.”

God will not be manipulated.

He will do what it takes to accomplish His purposes.

He will not be thwarted.

He will thwart those who try to manipulate Him.

I think that Baalam finally has realized what position he is in. And it’s not the driver’s seat. V.36

“ When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the Moabite town on the Arnon border, at the edge of his territory. Balak said to Balaam, ‘Did I not send you an urgent summons? Why didn't you come to me? Am I really not able to reward you?’ [There’s some real comedic irony in that, too, isn’t there?] ‘Well, I have come to you now,’ Balaam replied. ‘But can I say just anything? I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.’”

And we’re going to stop there with the cliffhanger, wondering just what Baalam will say.

We’ll find out next week. If you really want to know, read the next two chapters.

And this is point #3 and last:

#3. GOD WILL OPEN BLIND EYES AND LOOSEN TIED TONGUES.

Did you notice how it was the LORD who opened Baalam’s eyes?

Without that, Baalam would have never seen the angel of the LORD.

And He also opened the donkey’s tongue.

God can do anything.

He can even stop people whose paths are (v.32) “reckless” before Him.

And He can set them again on the path they should be on.

You don’t want God to oppose you.

You don’t want to be on a reckless path before Him.

You and I need God to open our eyes and loosen our tongues.

How much more should we be willing and obedient emissaries of God!

We aren’t pagan magician prophets or dumb donkeys!

We are children of the living God through faith in Christ Jesus.

He opened our eyes to see the glory of the Gospel. And He must loosen our tongues to speak it to those who need to hear.

Application: DO WHAT GOD SAYS TO DO AND SAY WHAT HE SAYS TO SAY. Willingly. Obediently. Humbly. Not recklessly.

Allow God to open your eyes to spiritual things. And open your mouth to testify to what God has done in your life.

It’s often been joked about this chapter that if God could speak through a donkey, He could speak through you and me.

And that joke is absolutely true!

When we realize that we are God’s people and therefore blessed.
And we realize that God will bless His people and nothing will stand in His way.

Then we don’t have to be afraid.

And we don’t have to run recklessly before Him trying to manipulate Him into doing what we want. He’ll do what is best!

He’ll open our eyes and loosen our tongues.

So that we can say [with much more truth in our hearts, v.38], “I must speak only what God puts in my mouth.”

“May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

An Evil Little Man Was He

Josh Harris has begun a series on Zacchaeus.

Whenever I talk about Zach, I always reference the song wrong. "Zaccaheus was an evil little man, an evil little man was he..."

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Behind the Curtain

"Has the Lord taken you behind the curtain? Have you trusted in the blood offering of Jesus Christ to be the only sufficient sacrifice for your sins, so that you have invited the Holy Spirit to dwell in your heart – surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ over your life?

Has the Lord taken you behind the curtain, so that you realize worship is not about candles or flowers or going through the motions; but about the outpouring of your heart to the Lord who has rescued you from sin and death?

Has the Lord taken you behind the curtain, so that your conscience is cleared – taking all of your guilt away?

If you have never been behind the curtain, Jesus is inviting you there now."

Read Dan's whole sermon.

Matt's Messages - Nowheresville

“Nowheresville”
Life in the Wilderness
June 10, 2007
Numbers 21:10-35

Two weeks ago, we read about the famous part of Numbers 21, the part where Moses lifted up a snake on a pole and any Israelite that looked in faith upon it was healed of a poisonous snakebite.

This week, however, we are going to read about the not-so-famous part of Numbers 21. In fact, I thought about just skipping over these verses this week or simply jumping off of them into the exciting and almost comedic story of Balaam in Numbers 22 through 24 (which we’ll be studying the next 2 weeks).

These verses, Numbers 21:10-35, are not so famous, but they are in God’s Holy Word for a reason. In fact, they are useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that Lanse Free Church is fully equipped for every good work.

But it doesn’t seem that way when you first read them.

In fact, it seems like they come from “Nowheresville.”

Before we start reading, let me ask you a question:

Where is Israel geographically located in Numbers chapter 21?

Are they in the Promised Land?

Not yet. They were sent away from the Promised Land and had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years while an entire generation passed away.

Are they in the Sinai Peninsula? Not any more.

They are actually making their way up towards the Promised Land from the Sinai Peninsula. [Map]

Are they passing through Edom?

No, Edom told them to take a hike. They weren’t allowed to pass through.

So they are going the long way around, this is very much desert area.

They were at Mount Hor. And we’re not sure where they wre when they had the Snake on a Pole.

And here’s where they are in verse 10.

“The Israelites moved on and camped at Oboth. Then they set out from Oboth and camped in Iye Abarim, in the desert that faces Moab toward the sunrise. From there they moved on and camped in the Zered Valley.” Stop there for a second.

They have gone around Edom.

They are now going around Moab. That’s important. Moab is going to be important for the next several chapters.

Which side of Moab are they on? What does the verse say?

“Toward the sunrise.” That would be on the East side.

Where were they in between? Oboth and Iye Abarim.

Anybody know where those places are?

On the maps that I looked at this week, there were possible places with question marks after them.

And the commentaries that I read didn’t know either. V.12

“From there they moved on and camped in the Zered Valley. They set out from there and camped alongside the Arnon, which is in the desert extending into Amorite territory. The Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites. That is why the Book of the Wars of the LORD says:’...Waheb in Suphah and the ravines, the Arnon and the slopes of the ravines that lead to the site of Ar and lie along the border of Moab.’” Stop there.

Did you follow all of that?

I’m not sure where the Zered Valley is, but the Arnon is a big gorge that’s right about here. North of Moab, across the Jordan from Jericho.

The other places are mysteries to scholars. Most scholars can’t make sense of the quote in verse 14, “Waheb in Suphah and the ravines, the Arnon and the slopes of the ravines that lead to the site of Ar and lie along the border of Moab.”

It says here that that’s a quote from a book that doesn’t exist any more, “The Book of the Wars of the LORD.”

Maybe it was a song that was memorized for soldiers to remember the geography of the land.

It’s not clear. And what I kept thinking as I read it this week, was that these places don’t really exist any more. Not only does the book not exist, but many of the cities don’t either. They’re really out in the middle of Nowhere.

Jump down to verse 19 and you’ll see it even clearer.

“Then they went from the desert to Mattanah [no one is sure where that is], from Mattanah to Nahaliel [no one is sure where that is], from Nahaliel to Bamoth [no one is sure where that is], and from Bamoth to the valley in Moab where the top of Pisgah overlooks the wasteland.”

Pisgah is a place that is known. If you have a map, it is to be associated with Mount Nebo (in the same mountain range) which is probably on your map.

But a lot of these places are kind of “Nowheresville.”

They don’t exist any more, and they might not have been much to look at at the time.

Nowheresville.

I can just imagine the little Israelite kids in the back of the mini-van saying, “Are we almost there yet? How many more minutes until we get there, Moses?”

Nowheresville.

You know, there are a lot of places in the Bible like that, aren’t there?

We’ve seen that there are genealogies that have long lists of dead peoples’ names.

Well, there’s also travelogues that have long lists of dead cities’ names.

Places that don’t exist any longer and might not have been much to look at at the time.

Why would those places be listed in the Bible?

Why would God make sure that these place names got recorded?

Why would God work so hard to make sure that these Nowheresvilles were preserved in His Holy Word and passed down for over 3,000 years to make it into our worship gathering today?

Well, one reason is that it provides historicity. That is, these things really happened, and these cities really existed and so listing them shows some of the historicity of the biblical accounts.

And that’s really helpful for archeologists whose discoveries validate the historicity of the biblical stories.

These things really happened.

But what about these places that an archeologist will never find? And they really didn’t have much to do with the story anyway.

I mean (v.19) “from Mattanah to Nahaliel, from Nahaliel to Bamoth...” And so on.

There’s a lot of the Bible that’s like that, isn’t there.

What do you do with that?

I was listening to David Powlison this week give a talk on how to apply the Bible to our lives, and he said this, and it stood out for me and I thought immediately of this passage: “God deals with the details. God names names. He knows people in situations.” That’s one of the things that those passages do for us. They tell us that God cares about real little people in real little places.

I put it this way: #1. GOD KNOWS US IN NOWHERESVILLE.

Have you ever wondered if God really knew your name?

I mean there are a lot of people on this planet. More than 5 billion people.

Have you ever wondered if God really knew your name?

Have you ever felt small and in a corner?

I sometimes look up in the big sky at all stars at night, and I wonder if God really knows me.

There are not just a lot of people that are living right now, but there are a lot of people who are dead and gone.

Have you ever spent any time in cemetery?

It seems like I’ve been visiting them a lot recently. Row upon row of people many of whom no one living remembers.

Maybe their name is remembered. But many are simply forgotten.

You and I will probably be there, if the Lord tarries, in another 150 years.

Our own relatives will struggle to remember the details of our lives.

We don’t live in an important metropolitan center.

Have you ever tried to explain to some city person where Lanse is?

I talk to lots of people who only have a vague idea of where State College is!

Have you been to Peale, Pennsylvania? It’s a ghost town just a few miles from here.

I’m sure that most of you have been there. And some of you were there when it was a bustling little town, a stop on the Beech Creek Railroad.

But it’s Nowheresville now.

And all of the grainy black and white pictures of the people who lived there remind me of where I am going, humanly speaking.

Feel small yet?

Sometimes, I do.

But this is the truth: God knows us in Nowheresville.

“from Mattanah to Nahaliel, from Nahaliel to Bamoth...”

From Nowheresville to Nowheresville to Nowheresville.

God knows.

And God is there.

God is here today.

Jesus said that God not only knows our name, but He knows how many hairs are on our head. That’s harder trick for some of you than it is for me, but God knows us!

God knows us right here and right now.

We are not too insignificant for Him.

Not because we are so wonderful. We are insignificant.

But God is wonderful and in His inscrutable love, He knows us. Down to our most intimate thoughts.

God knows us in Nowheresville.

Does that speak to your heart?

What kind of applications can you draw from that?

I helps me to relax. To rest. Knowing that God knows me even if I’m relatively insignificant.

I’ll be honest with you. I’d like to be significant. And I know that in my small circle of influence, I have an important significance and a role to play.

But in the most schemes of things, I am just a blip on the radar. Here today and gone tomorrow.

But instead of getting uptight about it and trying to muster up some significance on my own, I can just relax, and know that God’s got it covered.

He knows me.

He knows where I am.

He knows what I’m up to and what I’m doing.

He knows me in Nowheresville.

That’s a comforting thought.

Over the last two days, I’ve been trying to finagle some airline tickets for Heather and Robin to go to Western Canada to see Heather’s grandfather whose wife died in April and the rest of the family for a wedding.

And I had these ideas about what this awesome trip was going to be like and how cheaply I could get it for if I finagled some air-miles.

Well, it was not working smoothly at all. And I began to get uptight. I know that’s hard to believe!

But I did. And I was really thankful yesterday as I was working through that, that I was also working on this sermon, because even if I failed and it didn’t work out like I wanted, I knew that God knew where I was.

He knows me in Nowheresville.

And that was a comforting thought.

And it leads to the next one. God not only knows us in Nowheresville, He takes care of us in Nowheresville.

#2. GOD PROVIDES FOR US IN NOWHERESVILLE. V.16

“From there they continued on to Beer, the well where the LORD said to Moses, ‘Gather the people together and I will give them water.’ Then Israel sang this song: ‘Spring up, O well! Sing about it, about the well that the princes dug, that the nobles of the people sank– the nobles with scepters and staffs.’”

Where is Beer?

Nobody knows. Somewhere East of Moab. Towards the desert.

The name Beer means “Well.” So it was a little place where they dug for a well, and they found water.

A Nowheresville named “Well.”

Did you notice anything different about this story than a couple of other ones that we’ve read about in Exodus and Numbers?

God says to Moses, “Gather the people and I will give them water.”

No grumbling necessary!

No murmuring needed!

God just gives them the water they need.

God provides for them in Nowheresville.

God cares so much for His people. He loves to provide for their needs.

You know that. You’ve seen it. You’ve experienced it yourself.

Have you had a need that God has met? Maybe in way you never expected?

A healing? A raise? A check in the mail? A job?

God provided us with airline tickets yesterday, really at a moment when I had almost given up hope that it would work out.

God loves to provide for His people.

Even in the middle of nowhere. Especially in the middle of nowhere!

Because that show Him to be glorious!

If God reaches down and cares for the little people like you and me, that shows that He is an amazingly powerful and gracious God.

So He does it all day long, all week long, all year long 24/7/365.25!

God provides for His people in Nowheresville.

There is no greater proof of this than Jesus Christ Himself.

When Jesus came, did He arrive in a royal chariot marching into Rome, the capitol of the world? He could have.

No, He showed up in Nowherseville, Bethlehem in Judea!

And then did He rise to the throne and kick out the Romans? No, He didn’t even have a house!

And He died outside of the city, the death of a rebel–crucifixion.

But as He did that, He was providing for His people.

“He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God...”

He opened up a Well in Nowheresville!

In fact, whoever drinks the water from His well, “will never thirst.” He said, “Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Jesus Christ died on the Cross to provide eternal salvation for all who repent and receive Him as Savior and Lord and become children of God by faith alone in what He did on the Cross.

If that’s you, then you’ve had drink from the well that won’t run dry.

“...a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

How should we respond to a God like this?

We sing!

That’s what Israel did. They wrote a song about God’s gracious provision.

God was here in Nowheresville, and He gave us water to drink!

“Spring up O well, within my soul, Spring up O well, and make me whole. Spring up O well, and give to me, that life abundantly.”

You know that grumbling can’t exist when there is heartfelt singing.

So we need to rejoice. We need to thank God that He provides for us right in the middle of our Nowheresvilles.

Maybe you need His provision today. He knows. Don’t grumble. Don’t murmur and complain.

Trust and rest in knowing that He knows.

And bring Him your needs and watch Him work.

And sing when He comes through!

And last, but not least, #3. GOD GIVES US VICTORY IN NOWHERESVILLE.

We’re looking at verse 21.

Israel is right here. [Map.]

They want to get into here.

And they need to go through the land of the Amorites to do it.

Is this land the Promised Land?

No. They aren’t looking for this land in what’s called the Transjordan Area.

But they have to go through it. So they are polite, and ask. V.21

“Israel sent messengers to say to Sihon king of the Amorites: ‘Let us pass through your country. We will not turn aside into any field or vineyard, or drink water from any well. We will travel along the king's highway until we have passed through your territory.’ [Just like they asked Edom. And Sihon responds just like Edom did! V.23] But Sihon would not let Israel pass through his territory. He mustered his entire army and marched out into the desert against Israel. When he reached Jahaz, he fought with Israel.”

Unlike cousin Edom, however, Israel fights back. V.24

“Israel, however, put him to the sword and took over his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, but only as far as the Ammonites, because their border was fortified. Israel captured all the cities of the Amorites and occupied them, including Heshbon and all its surrounding settlements.”

God gave them victory! V.26

“Heshbon was the city of Sihon king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab and had taken from him all his land as far as the Arnon. That is why the poets say: ‘Come to Heshbon and let it be rebuilt; let Sihon's city be restored. Fire went out from Heshbon, a blaze from the city of Sihon. It consumed Ar of Moab, the citizens of Arnon's heights. Woe to you, O Moab! You are destroyed, O people of Chemosh! He has given up his sons as fugitives and his daughters as captives to Sihon king of the Amorites. But we [Israel] have overthrown them; Heshbon is destroyed all the way to Dibon. We have demolished them as far as Nophah, which extends to Medeba.’ So Israel settled in the land of the Amorites.”

God gives His people victory from Nowheresville.

And there is more. V.32

“After Moses had sent spies to Jazer, the Israelites captured its surrounding settlements and drove out the Amorites who were there. Then they turned and went up along the road toward Bashan, and Og king of Bashan [Deuteronomy tells us that he was a really big guy] and his whole army marched out to meet them in battle at Edrei. The LORD said to Moses, ‘Do not be afraid of him, for I have handed him over to you, with his whole army and his land. Do to him what you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon.’ So they struck him down, together with his sons and his whole army, leaving them no survivors. And they took possession of his land.”

Wait a second!

Did I just read what I think I read?

That last sentence: “And they took possession of his land.”

Israel now owns land?

What’s going on here?

Well, if you put together all of the Nowheresvilles that we just read about that Israel conquered, they now control all of the territory that we call the Transjordan (Across the Jordan from the Promised Land).

Maybe it’s not such a Nowheresville after all?

What’s being fulfilled here?

The Abrahamic covenant.

Is that still in effect? After all this time?

There is offspring here. We’ll see how much in the next few weeks.

And there is land here. Not the Promised Land yet but some honest to goodness real estate.

And there is blessing here. In spite of how Israel has acted, God is still graciously blessing them.

In fact, the whole story of Balaam for the next 3 chapters is all about blessing.

God is keeping His promises.

And one of them is victory.

Not every battle but the whole war.

God gives victory to us in our Nowhersvilles.

From little Father Abraham, one man in Southern Iraq.

To a teeming mass of Israelites camped across the Jordan river on the plains of Moab having victory over all of the Transjordan area.

God gives victory to His people.

What’s the application here?

Fight!

Not physically, with swords, but spiritually with gospel words.

Our battle now is not with flesh and blood.

And our weapons are not the weapons of the world.

Our weapons now are gospel weapons.

But we still fight!

And we are still on the offensive–taking ground for the Lord.

The Christian life is warfare, spiritual warfare, but it’s not primarily defensive.

It’s offensive!

It’s invasional. It’s incursional.

We fight for the Lord and we take ground.

And we should do it without fear. Look again at verse 34.

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Do not be afraid of him, for I have handed him over to you, with his whole army and his land.”

You know what He says to you?

“Don’t be afraid! Greater is He that is in you than He that is in the world! I have handed him over to you, with his whole army and his land. You’ll soon crush Satan under your feet!”

Don’t be afraid. And fight!

Take territory for the Lord with the gospel.

Two nights ago, I thought I was having a heart attack.

I had made two mistakes that day. I had exercised too much and eaten too many baked beans at Ernie and Rike’s surprise party.

So, I was both very sore and full of certain gases.

And at 2 in the morning, I woke up in excruciating pain in my middle.

I’m 99.99% sure that it was sore muscles and pardon the expression, “gas pains.”

But I thought it must be a heart attack, and I went into shock. Start shivering all over and got scared.

And I woke up my wife and she talked me down from it and made sure that I was okay.

And I lay there thinking and thinking and thinking.

And here’s what helped me get back to sleep.

I know that God knows me, even in my bedroom in Nowheresville.

And I know, because of Jesus, where I’m going if He sends for Him.

And so I can rest on Him. I don’t have to be afraid. I don’t have to be scared.

Was a scared? Yes, I was. For a time.

But I don’t have to be.

He won’t leave me or forsake me.

He won’t leave my wife or my kids or forsake them.

He won’t leave Lanse Free Church or forsake them.

God knows us in Nowheresville.
God provides for us in Nowheresville.
And God gives us victory in Nowheresville.

We have nothing to lose and all to gain.

Let’s trust Him, rejoice in Him, and attack the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Our Job, His Job

"It is not our strength we want. It is not our work to make them believe. That is the work of the Spirit. Our work is to give them the Word of God. I cannot convert men; I can only proclaim the Gospel" - D. L. Moody

Friday, June 08, 2007

A Perfect Summer Day

"A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken."

[HT: Al Mohler with his post on Summer reading.]

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Better Blogging

Abraham Piper is guest blogging at Between Two Worlds on Tips for Better Blogging.

He is right on the money with this one!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Get 'Em Outside & Doing Dangerous Things

Al Mohler weighs in here on getting children outside for the Summer and also here a new book for boys.

I say, "Amen."

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Lint Screen on the Dryer

Find out more than you ever wanted to know about Dan Ledford's favorite (and least favorite) household chores.

And while you're at it, glory in the Redeemer and His New Covenant.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Matt's Messages - Whatever

“Whatever”
June 3, 2007
1 Corinthians 10:31

We are going to take a one-week break from the Book of Numbers to give a word of challenge to our graduates of the Class of 2007.

And we’re going to do it with this one verse: 1 Corinthians chapter 10, verse 31.

While you’re turning there, I have a funny story about this verse. When I was a youth pastor, the youth pastors in Zion, Illinois were in charge of putting together the Baccalaureate service for the High School.

And the guest preacher was to preach on our text for today which says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

However, they had printed the wrong text in the bulletin. It actually said, 1 Corinthians 10:13. And I saw that just as a high school senior [who was like the Senior Class President or something] got up to read the text before the speaker got up.

Well, I thought that’s a typo, but it won’t be bad because 1 Corinthians 10:13 is a great passage, too, and on the same page. Anyone have that one memorized? “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

I figured that the speaker could make something of that and transition into his planned message.

But this young lady didn’t know what the abbreviation “1 Cor.” stood for. She thought it stood for 1 Chronicles.

And so she read 1 Chronicles 10:13 with an absolutely straight face from the King James: “So Saul died for his transgression which he committed against the LORD, even against the word of the LORD, which he kept not, and also for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to enquire of it.”

And not knowing that she’d done anything funny, and probably wondering what a ‘familiar spirit” was, she got down and took her seat, leaving the guest speaker to try to pick up the pieces from there.

And I was busting a gut!

So, if we have the right text in front of us. This is the Apostle Paul summing up an argument and putting the cap on it. 1 Corinthians (not Chronicles), chapter 10, and verse 31. A message for our graduates (and for all of us):

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

We live in a “Whatever” society.

It seems to me that people don’t take life very seriously.

And they don’t take God very seriously.

The common refrain is “Whatever!”

As in, “I don’t care.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

But that’s not the attitude that God wants us to have.

He doesn’t say just “whatever.”

He says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

The word “so” indicates that this is part of a larger point that Paul is making.

He’s teaching the Corinthians about how to handle sensitive issues and make decisions about what they should or shouldn’t do.

The specific issue at the time was whether or not to eat meat sacrificed to idols.

Paul believed that they were free to do so as long as they were worshiping God in their hearts and not worshiping idols.

But he also believes that they should be considerate of others and eat in love. If it was a struggle for a weaker brother, perhaps someone recently saved from idolatry and not completely understanding the freedom we have Christ, it might be better to abstain.

And at the end of all of that, Paul tops it off with this consideration.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Whether you eat or not.
Whether you drink or not.

And whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

The glory of God is to be the overriding motivation for all of our decision making.

And that’s not just on the big things.

This isn’t just, “Let the glory of God be the motivation for making the big decisions of your life.”

What job to take.
What career to follow.
What person to marry.

The glory of God should be paramount in those decisions.

But Paul uses that little word with the big meaning: A-L-L.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Whatever!

Whatever you do.

Eat. Drink. Nap. Drive. Kiss. Email. Phone. Watch T.V.

What you read.
What you buy.
What you sell.
What you do with your free time.

Writing a paper for school.
Taking out the trash for Mom.
Cutting the lawn.
Reading the news.
Playing soduku.

Fill in the blank.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

This is because all of life is spiritual.

I used to believe in what I call the “pie-chart fallacy.”

You know what a pie-chart is, right?

It is a big circle divided up into little pie-pieces the divide up whatever your circle is.

In this case, your circle is your life.

And we divide it up:

Your friends, your work, your hobbies, your church activities, your family, etc.

And I used to think that one big slice should be your “spiritual life.”

Is that right?

It sounds right.

Make sure that you give a big slice to God. The Big Rocks, right?

What’s wrong with that?

The fact is that the Whole Pie is Spiritual.

Your whole life is your spiritual life. The whole pie spiritual.

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Does that change anything for you?

I think that this is a piece that is missing for so many professing Christ-followers.

We say we believe. We have gone through some motions.

We may even attend church.

But are we living for the glory of God?

This has recently been on my mind because of a lot of deaths in our family.

In the last month, my wife lost her grandmother. I lost a cousin, a great aunt, and this week, my grandfather.

And with death knocking so closely on our door, we get to thinking about ultimate things, like purpose. Why am I here? What difference am I making? What am I living for?

And God has given us answer:

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Why?

Because God is worth it.

That’s what God’s glory is. It is the beauty of the sum of His infinite perfections.

It is the credit He gets for being awesome in every way.

He deserves all the glory.

He made us.

Sometimes we forget that. But we are creations. And we were made for God’s glory to reflect His glory.

He made us.

And He saved us.

We didn’t reflect God’s glory like we should have. We sinned and fell short of the glory God.

But He didn’t leave us in our sins. He sent Jesus to be a mighty mighty Savior and rescue us from Satan, sins, and self.

He deserves all the glory for that!

He loves us!

God demonstrates His own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died
for us.

He loves us!

He deserves all the glory for that!

And He is making all things new!

What we see is not what will be. One day all the cemeteries of the world will be emptied and Christ will return and set up His Kingdom.

And He will make all things new!

He deserves all the glory for that!

He is God!

He deserves all the glory just for that!

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Do it so that He gets the credit.

The great composer J.S. Bach used to put 3 little initials on every piece of music that he wrote.

Do you know what they were?

S.D.G.

Does anyone know Latin and can say what those initials stand for?

Soli Deo Gloria.

“To God Alone Be Glory.”

Could you put those initials on every email that you write?

Could you put those initials on every mile you drive your truck?

Could you put those initials on every paper that you write for school?

Could you put those initials on every project that you undertake at home?

S.D.G.

Soli Deo Gloria.

“To God Alone Be Glory.”

I know that I can’t. I fall short of that standard all of the time.

But that’s what I want to be.

I want to be S.D.G.

And I want that for you, our 2007 graduates.

Be S.D.G.

And I want that for our church.

That we would be S.D.G.

In both motivation and in action.

In what we do.
In how we do it.
And in why we do it.

What difference would it make it if every decision that we made as individuals or as families or as a church or a community or a nation if we first asked, “What would bring God the most glory?”

That’s really what is behind W.W.J.D. What Would Jesus Do?

He lived for God’s glory. Perfectly! Praise the Lord, it was perfect. Because He gives us His perfection on our account!

What if every one of our decisions was measured by what would bring God the most glory?

And even if we didn’t know the answer to that question, or we differed on it, what a difference it would make if we just agreed that that should be our motivation!

Not just what we do.

But why we do it.

So, what’s going on in my heart? Am I doing what I’m doing FOR the glory of God?

You know sometimes, we do the right thing, but we do it for the wrong reason, the wrong motivation.

Sometimes, I do my work (I’ll admit this) simply for the paycheck that comes every month.

If I stop doing my work, the paycheck stops coming.

So, I do my work.

But God says, “do it all for the glory of God.”

That should be my motivation.

And not just for pastors. This is for everybody in everything that we do. It is all encompassing.

“Do it all for the glory of God.”

And not just what we do and why do it but how we do it.

Are we doing it in a God-glorifying way?

Many of you know that one of my favorite authors is John Piper.

And Dr. Piper once wrote a short article on: “How to Drink Orange Juice to the Glory of God.”

Orange juice!

Listen to what He says:
“One answer is found in 1 Timothy 4:3-5: ‘[Some] forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.’

Orange juice was ‘created to be received with gratitude by those who believe the truth.’ Therefore, unbelievers cannot use orange juice for the purpose God intended-namely, as a occasion for heartfelt thanksgiving to God from a true heart of faith.

But believers can, and this is how they glorify God. Their drinking orange juice is ‘sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.’ The word of God teaches us that juice, and even our strength to drink it, is a free gift of God (1 Corinthians 4:7; 1 Peter 4:11). The prayer is our humble response of thanks from the heart. Believing this truth in the word, and offering thanks in prayer is one way we drink orange juice to the glory of God.

The other way is to drink lovingly. For example, don't insist on the biggest helping. This is taught in the context of 1 Corinthians 10:33, ‘I try to please all men in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved’ (RSV). ‘Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 11:1). Everything we do–even drinking orange juice–can be done with the intention and hope that it will be to the advantage of many that they may be saved.”
Do it all to the glory of God! Even drinking orange juice.

You might be wondering how this relates to work. Many of you work long hours for your employer and it’s not always easy to connect up the dots to how glorify God at work.

In the book we gave the graduates, Don’t Waste Your Life, Dr. Piper has an entire chapter on “Making Much of Christ from 8-5.”
He says, “secular work is not a waste when we make much of Christ from 8 to 5. God’s will in this age is that his people be scattered like salt and light in all legitimate vocations. His aim is to be known, because knowing him is life and joy. He does not call us out of the world. He does not remove the need to work. He does not destroy society and culture. Through his scattered saints he spreads a passion for his supremacy in all things for the joy of all peoples. If you work like the world, you will waste your life, no matter how rich you get. But if your work creates a web of redemptive relationships and becomes an adornment for the Gospel of the glory of Christ, your satisfaction will last forever and God will be exalted in your joy.” (Pg. 154)
It’s not just what you do, or why you do it, but how you do it, too.

“Do it all for the glory of God.”

S.D.G.

And this kind of living is attractive, too!

Who do you know that lives for the glory of God?

Aren’t they the most impressive people to be around?

I think of Tony Dungy this year’s SuperBowl coach.

S.D.G.

I think of missionary friends that I have who are putting it all on the line for Christ.

And I think of many of you.

Choosing each day to live S.D.G.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Not, “Yeah, whatever.”

But “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”