February 2012


Prayer Focus: Bahamas, Bahrain

Bible Reading: Numbers 17-20

Scripture

Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. 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.” (Numbers 20:11-12)

Observation

Many have felt that God was unfair in punishing Moses and Aaron so severely for one act of obedience. Rather than speaking to the rock as God instructed in verse 8, Moses struck the rock twice with his staff. Neither Moses nor Aaron was permitted to enter the Promised Land.

Application

Regardless of whether or not the punishment was restricted to this one event or merely the tipping point, God can do what He chooses. He’s God! He can punish or bless whenever and however He desires. This is yet another reminder that God is in control and I must fear, respect and obey Him at all times and in all ways.

Prayer

Awesome God, Your ways are so much higher and greater than mine. You have plans and purposes that I could never begin to comprehend. I never want to make a fatal error or engage in a devastating sin, both for my sake and Yours. I don’t always understand You and Your ways, but I trust that You are good and faithful…all of the time. Thank You for being You! In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Prayer Focus: Bahamas, Bahrain

Bible Reading: Numbers 14-16, Psalm 95

Scripture

For the LORD is a great God, a great King above all gods.  He holds in his hands the depths of the earth and the mightiest mountains.  The sea belongs to him, for he made it.  His hands formed the dry land, tooCome, let us worship and bow down.  Let us kneel before the LORD our maker, for he is our God. Psalm 95:3-7 NLT

Observation

In our reading schedule Psalm 95 comes after three devastating chapters in the book of Numbers.  The Israelites want to replace Moses, rebel against the Lord and return to Egypt.  In the course of events God declares that they will not enter the Promised Land, an entire generation will have to wander the wilderness for 40 years and die and then their children will enter the Promised Land.  Thousands are killed to rid the Israelite community of evil.

It’s difficult to read.  The Lord rescued these people from slavery and has cared and provided for them every step of the way.  How could they keep grumbling against the Lord and even reject His word to them?  Now they pay the consequences of their rejection.  On the very door step of the Promised Land they are turned away.

Application

When I attended a Missouri Synod Lutheran Church we sang the words of Psalm 95 every Sunday.  It’s a beautiful piece and I can recall the tune even now in my head.  In the same way that God spoke to Job, Psalm 95 speaks to the Israelites, and it’s speaking to us, too.  The message is simple: God made the universe.  He holds it in his hand.  He makes it go.  Arguing with Him is not an option.  You can take your case before the Lord and ask Him to explain things and sometimes He will.  But to stand before the Lord and suggest that He doesn’t know what He’s doing is foolish in the extreme.  Question, argue, ask for answers, but never tell God how, when, or why to do something.  He built the system; He knows how it works.

Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but given what happened in Numbers 14-16 I think it’s good advice.

I shouldn’t be so hard on the Israelites either because I’ve done the same thing at one time, or another, when I knew the right path, but ventured off on a side trail anyway.  I’ve sided with the enemy more times than I can count, but thankfully, God covers me with his grace and mercy.  Not so that I can do wrong again, but so that I can learn to do right.  Grace isn’t a license to sin, it’s another chance to do the right thing.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for another chance.  I don’t know how many times I’ve stood at the door of opportunity you’ve place in front of me only to turn and go back the way I came.  There’s that lyric, give me your eyes for just one second, so that I can see the opportunities you’re giving me.  Now I know, if you’re providing the opportunity, you’re also providing the means to see it through.  Thank you, Lord.  Amen.

Prayer Focus: Azerbaijan

Bible Reading: Numbers 10-13, Psalm 90

Scripture

For a thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.

The length of our days is seventy years—
or eighty, if we have the strength;
yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:4, 10, 12)

Observation

God is clearly beyond time and space. They are merely dimensions that He created. Perspective is everything. Our days often seem long, yet the years fly by. What are seventy or eighty years in light of eternity?

Application

I never want to take a single day for granted. Each one is a unique gift and truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to love God and love others. What will happen today? I want to “carpe diem” (“seize the day” in case you missed Dead Poet’s Society!).

Prayer

Creator of time and space, thank You for the precious gift that You have given me, this moment in time, the health and strength to read and write, this 24-hour period that lies ahead of me. There are no guarantees about what will happen today, though You know it as clearly as You know yesterday. It is tremendously comforting to know that Your perspective is far greater than mine. You hold the future. Your will and plan will be fully realized. I want to do today with You, and I invite You to speak and lead and guide me in order to make the most out of today, knowing that it could be my last day on earth. I want to live my life with no regrets. Most of all, I want to hear You say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Finally, I pray for a heart of wisdom as Moses requested in Psalm 90. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Prayer Focus: Austria

Bible Reading: Numbers 6-9

Scripture

When Moses entered the Tent of Meeting to speak with the LORD, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the Testimony. And he spoke with him. (Numbers 7:89)

Observation

Moses heard the voice of the LORD. Wow! What does God sound like? Did Moses always hear God’s voice when he entered the Tent of Meeting? What were his expectations?

Application

Although there are moments when I wish I could meet with God and converse with Him audibly, it may ultimately be in my best interest that God does not speak regularly to me out loud (or, perhaps, at all). Am I prepared for what He would say? Does He speak more than I acknowledge, drowning out His voice with busyness or even rationalization of what I do hear Him say?

Prayer

Awesome God, I can only imagine what it will be like to meet with You face to face someday. I can only imagine the sound of your voice. Regardless of the form and tone, I am grateful that You do speak today and that I can know You. I want to know You. I want to hear your voice. I want to know You…more. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Prayer Focus: Australia

Bible Reading: Numbers 3-5

Scripture

The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘Any man or woman who wrongs another in any wayt and so is unfaithful to the Lord is guilty and must confess the sin they have committed. They must make full restitution for the wrong they have done, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the person they have wronged. (Numbers 5:5-7)

Observation

After pulling His people out of Egypt, God set about the business of making them His own.  He taught them about right and wrong, clean and unclean, and how to tell the difference.  Through the sacrifices he taught them how to move from one state to the other, and in today’s reading he spent time giving them jobs to do and establishing authority, a chain of command whereby some were held in responsibility for others and what the consequences were for breaking those laws.  He was establishing rule and order, and working out those laws into the every day part of their interactions, including how to handle the sins they committed against one another.

Application

Making wrongs right again still involve the same pattern today that God set out in Numbers.  Confession and restitution.    1st John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins He is faithful and will forgive our sins and to purify us from all unrighteousness.”    He made a pathway through sin to reach us, knowing that ten minutes after we make ourselves right, we would do wrong again, and need his forgiveness all over again.  Such is His mercy.

I believe that contriteness of spirit (that willingness to agree with God on what sin is, and the resulting repentant behavior), is directly tied to our understanding of what sin is and what it does in our lives.

So, today I will examine my sins more closely.  I always want to be the hero in my own story and I squirm away from the ugly parts of me that I am ashamed of, but today I will be asking myself if I stopped at “I’m sorry” or did I take the next step to make things right?  Did I follow all the way through and burn the bridges I made my internal excuses on?  Did I bring honor to God by sacrificing my pride and humbly approach the people I wronged while I lashed out?  How I answer those questions, will determine how much of my life God can use.  It will either make room for more of Him or it will bar Him from living there in the temple he made in my heart.

Prayer

Lord, forgive me for not only the wrongs I’ve done, but for the times I’ve stopped half way and didn’t clean out the props I used to hold my pride together.  Help me see more clearly where I need to go and make things right with my neighbor.  Then I pray that you give me the courage to trust you and not myself… by making restitution with them.  I want to be clean.  Forgive me for trying to hide behind my excuses.  Give me courage to act.

Amen.

Prayer Focus: Australia

Bible Reading: Leviticus 26-27, Numbers 1-2

Scripture

I will set my face against you so that you will be defeated by your enemies; those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee even when no one is pursuing you.

“ ‘If after all this you will not listen to me, I will punish you for your sins seven times over. I will break down your stubborn pride and make the sky above you like iron and the ground beneath you like bronze. (Leviticus 26:17-19)

Observation

God promised many blessings for those that obey Him, but He also gave strict warnings of the consequences that would ensue if they chose not to follow the One who brought them “out of Egypt” (a phrase used nine times in Leviticus).

Application

The choice seems so obvious—obey and be blessed rather than experience punishment. The choice seems obvious to me each day—do the right thing. Unfortunately, temptation can be, uh, tempting!

Prayer

LORD God, I want Your blessing and favor in my life. I never want to experience Your wrath and punishment, though my sins deserve it. Thank You for this sobering passage. It reminds me that You are in control and we will reap what we sow. I truly want to obey (I think it is Your love language!). Thank You for Your grace and forgiveness when I sin. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. I want to avoid Your wrath, but I also want to bring You joy. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Prayer Focus: Aruba

Bible Reading: Leviticus 23-25

Scripture

So Moses announced to the Israelites the appointed feasts of the Lord. (Leviticus 23:44)

Observation

God commanded several festivals. There was a vital remembrance with each. He never wanted the people to forget their history…or their God who brought them up out of Egypt.

Application

Gentile Christians do not celebrate like Jews. I wish we did! There is rest, sacrifice, reflection, mind thanksgiving with each feast, lasting as long as eight days! That’s a party!

Prayer

Jesus, You taught us to remember Your death and resurrection. We celebrate Your birthday. Beyond that, we don’t pause and celebrate like the Jews, for various reasons. Teach me to celebrate, appreciate, nod observe more. In Your name, amen.

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