Monday, February 29, 2016

Do You Want Peace? Be Zealous for God!

Today’s study will show us how being zealous for God can bring peace to our lives. Like King David was zealous for God when he battled Goliath, and brought Shalom to his people.
            As we move forward to Numbers 25:10-13, we find — sadly — that a certain con artist name Balaam has figured out how to contaminate the children of Israel and separate them from God’s peace and blessings. He learned how to dampen their zeal for God.
            Although he would not speak against God’s children, or against God, he figures out how to infiltrate and corrupt them from the inside. And God is livid about it! And He’s not going to turn a blind, permissive eye to their sin. He’s going to discipline them — hard — and He operates like a master surgeon slicing out a fast-growing, invasive malignant tumor. He wants to stop it in its tracks. Why?
            Because he loves his people; He is jealous for them. Like a husband who treasures his wife and is jealous for her and does not want, or intend, to share her with another man. He watches over her, cherishes her, prizes her like the crown jewels, and will go to any lengths to protect her.
            Now that’s love! Even though the “surgery” looks like unnecessary retribution, the surgery needs to be extreme because the disease is fatal! In reality, God is actually — like a trained, adept surgeon — performing a merciful act in order to save them. Just
as you would want a talented physician to do for you if an ugly, deadly disease were
eating you up on the inside.
            The Israelites are being devastated by a plague because of their sin. And when a man named Phinehas, who is Aaron the high priest’s grandson, witnesses an event that would only exacerbate the problem, worsen the plague, and rain more death and destruction upon the people, he rises up and does something about it. He kills the offenders because of their sin, and God has something to say about his actions. Does God chastise Phinehas? Punish him? No. God ends the plague and says:
            Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the
            son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of
            Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not
            consume the children of Israel in My zeal. Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give
            to him My covenant of Shalom; and it shall be to him and his descendants
            after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was
            zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.’”

            Not only does God not punish Phinehas, He actually rewards him and his
descendants. Forever! Why? Because this man had a heart after God and His people. Phinehas was jealous for the Israelites, his people. He was angry about what was happening and he was scared for his people. He wanted them to live, not die. He knew someone needed to take action and put a stop to what was happening, and he rose up and took action. Blunt, swift action. And God is pleased.
            When I first studied this passage, this is what I wrote in my journal: “How wonderful and miraculous that such passion and zeal for you, Lord, can impart peace — life, health, prosperity and favor.”
            In his Life Principles Bible, Dr. Charles Stanley says, “As believers, we are to have a passion for God. Today, the word ‘passion’ often carries a sexual connotation, but the true meaning of the word is ‘an overwhelming, strong desire,’ which can be a strong desire for matters of the spirit. Like Phinehas, believers are to have an urgency, a fervor, a zealous desire for the Lord, and everything related to Him.”
            Phinehas had passion. And he didn’t hesitate to demonstrate it.

Questions to Ponder:

1) Let’s consider Phinehas’s actions again. What he did seems brutal, uncivilized and ruthless to us now. And certainly I don’t think God is calling us to slaughter those living contrary to His word. Jesus actually calls us to pray for our enemies and not to return evil for evil but to return good for evil. So how do we apply this teaching and example to our own lives in order to have Shalom?

For one thing, I think we need to seriously consider what, and who, we have allowed to infiltrate our churches, and how we protect the congregations from infiltration. Jesus does caution us against ripping up the unbelievers in our midst in order not to rip up and damage the believers along with them, but we do need more spiritual wisdom and discernment about what is being taught in our churches today and open our eyes to how the world has sneaked in the church’s back door, as James said it would in the New Testament. We need to be more zealous — jealous and protective — about our churches, and for one another. Because this isn’t just about us; it’s about the health of the Body!

The way Balaam was able to curse Israel was by wreaking havoc from within. His tactics are now known as “the doctrine of Balaam.” Dr. J. Vernon McGee has this to say about it:
            “Our Lord (Jesus) tells us in Revelation that that same doctrine gets into the
            church, and is in the church today. My viewpoint is that the enemy can’t
            hurt God’s people or God’s work or God’s church from the outside. The
            church has never been hurt from the outside. To the church at Pergamos
            our Lord said, ‘But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast
            there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a
            stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto
            idols, and to commit fornication.’ (Rev. 2:14). This is the doctrine of
            Balaam. In the history of the church, Pergamos marked the union of the
            world and the church. The world came in like a flood, and the devil
            joined the church at Pergamos. It was not persecution from the outside,
            but the doctrine of Balaam of the inside that hurt the church.”

            So my questions to you today, for exploration and meditation are:

            What is your particular church tolerating in their midst now that they
            would not have tolerated in the past, and should not be tolerating?
            What kind of teaching are you receiving that you know in your heart —
            that the Spirit is warning you about and you may be trying to ignore —
            is contrary to God’s word? To what teaching and behavior are people
            turning blindfolded eyes? And how have participated in that, or allowed
            it to happen without so much as a word? Has your church, in her
            efforts to attract the world, grown lukewarm, complacent and
            compromising toward God and His word?

Years ago I personally experienced this dilemma. As I grew closer to the Lord, it became clearer to me that the church I was attending, and many of the people in the congregation — including the pastor — had compromised God’s word. The scales were being painfully peeled away from my eyes, and, much to my broken heart, it was becoming obvious to me what I needed to do. My husband was, simultaneously, having his eyes opened and was moving the same direction. But I didn’t want to leave. I loved those people. They were dear friends who had seen me through heartache and tragedy, joy and victory. When God’s directions to me became clear, I lay on the floor, curled into a ball, and wept. And the Lord spoke to my heart: “Do you love those people more than you love me?”

He didn’t mince words. He got right to the essence of the issue, and it was like an arrow shot through my heart. And I had to ask myself: Who do I love more? Who matters more to me, and to my life? For my sake, my husband’s sake, and my precious children’s sake, we had to leave that congregation. We had to say goodbye to the familiar and venture forth into a different congregation. And we found more joy, peace, and spiritual strengthening in our new “home” than I ever knew existed! I remember my thoughts as I sat through our first service there, tears of joy and wonder streaming down my cheeks: So this is what I’ve been missing. This is what worship can be like! Thank you, Lord, for calling us to this place!

            So now, on a more personal level, I ask: Has your heart grown lukewarm toward 
            God? Have you been too willing to compromise with the world and allowed it to 
            infiltrate your life? Another thing I wrote in my journal on the same day I wrote the 
            above words I shared with you was this: “The more involved in the world I get, the 
            more I seem to lose peace, the more it seems to wane in my life. The more time I 
            devote to You, the more it flourishes and reigns.”

            And that’s another question today? Have you allowed the world to
            infiltrate your life? Are you now measuring your standards by the world’s
            standards rather than God’s? Is there someone you have allowed to have
            too much influence over you, your decision making, or your life?

            I know it’s not easy, and it can only be done after intense meditation and prayer for 
            direction, but sometimes you must “excise” the offensive doctrine, lifestyle, or 
            influencer from your life. Like an alcoholic, you need to go “cold turkey” and give 
            up all your old drinking buddies and find new friends who enjoy life in more 
            healthful ways. You need to stop going places you once frequented. You need to 
            stay away from negative influences and influencers. Like a surgeon, you may need 
            to make some sudden, drastic changes.
            In order to have a life of Shalom.

            Take a moment right now to ask God to reveal to you who, or what, in your life you have allowed to become too much of an influence. Ask Him to reveal to you how you have compromised and pushed Him away, how doing so has cause peace to be elusive in your life or damaged or stolen the peace you once enjoyed. Then ask Him for the wisdom on how to rectify that, and the strength to do what He directs you to do.

            May God strengthen you for the journey!

Next week we’ll move into Deuteronomy to hunt for Shalom.

Until then, may your week be full of blessings that you receive and give, your heart be full of joy and thankfulness, and your days be filled with laughter! Build a little heaven in your life right now, and watch your heavenly garden grow!

In Christ’s love and peace,

and Happy Leap Day!


When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on earth. ~ A. W. Tozer

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Monday, February 22, 2016

Do You Want Peace? Prepare Yourself to Receive the Blessing!

            The book of Numbers is normally considered to be one of the least exciting books of the Old Testament. A real snoozer. As the name implies, there is a lot of counting and number taking. Something only an accountant or mathematician might love. Yet there are some real treasure chest gems in that book to guide us in our search for Shalom. More gems for us to gather and store in our hearts. We’ll explore just one of them today and learn how to have peace by preparing ourselves and receiving the blessing.

            The first stop we’ll make is at Numbers 6:26, but to get the full impact of this Shalom type of peace, we’ll back up to verse 24. You may instantly recognize this passage as a common benediction your pastor bestows upon your congregation.

            “The LORD bless you and keep
             The LORD make His face to shine
                        upon you,
             And be gracious to you;
             The LORD lift up His countenance
                        upon you,
             And give you Shalom.”

            This blessing is what God told the high priest Aaron (Moses’ brother) to say to God’s people. It is known as the “priestly blessing” and it comes to the people of Israel after their numbers have been counted, a full census has been taken, each tribe has erected a standard or banner signifying their lineage and location or dwelling place in the camp, so they all know where they belong — in their assigned place with their own tribe and family. And the priests have cleansed the camp according to God’s direction. Only after all of these things had been done could God bestow this kind of peaceful blessing on them.
            And after all of that preparation, the LORD can bless them through the priests with the above words. The blessing seems short, but it’s loaded with meaning.
            Dr. J. Vernon McGee points out that this blessing has the Trinity embedded in it — God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
            He says, “The LORD bless you, and keep you” speaks of God the Father who is the source of all blessing. “The LORD make his face to shine upon you” speaks of the Lord Jesus as the One who makes His face to shine upon us. “The LORD lift up his countenance upon you” speaks of the Holy Spirit that both looks upon us and gives us Shalom — rest, happiness, security — when He resides in our hearts, and when we allow Him to govern our lives.
           It is a simple, beautiful picture of God’s love and desire to bless us, to look and smile upon us, and grant us the favor of a life of rest, prosperity, happiness, and health. It is a reminder of the total security we have as children of God.
            Contrary to what many think, God does care about us! He loves us deeply. His heart aches for us. He didn’t just create the universe and then drift off to some distant corner of the cosmos to leave us to wander aimless and vulnerable on this little planet. He wants us to know Him intimately; He wants us to seek Him daily; and He desires to shower us with spiritual blessings. He wants us to live in Shalom with Him, in spite of all that is swirling like a hurricane around us.

Questions to Ponder:

1) Do you feel as if you’re experiencing this blessing? Dr. McGee gives us some insight as to why many of us, and our churches, are not experiencing this blessing. He says,

            “Many churches today are not experiencing the blessing of God. The problem
            is that they are not properly prepared for the march. They are trying to
            start out without first setting things in order. They are like a soldier who
            forgot to put on his belt one morning. Believe me it is pretty hard to march
            and carry a gun without your belt or suspenders! And there are churches
            like that, my friend. They are starting out before things are set in order. Paul
            is writing to the church when he says, ‘Let all things be done decently and in
            order’ (1Cor. 14:140). Know your pedigree; that is, know you are a child of
            God; know your standard; know what your gift is and use it for Him; and
            keep your life clean.”

            Are you prepared for your march, or do you need to back up and set things in
            order first, in order to receive the full blessing of God before the journey? Ask
            God to reveal to you where you may have been hasty and moved ahead of
            Him. Ask Him how you can back up, prepare, and fully receive His blessing, so    
            you are not laboring in vane to build your house!

2) One thing I like to do, which I have found to be tremendously effective, is to pray the Scriptures. I encourage and invite you to pray this priestly blessing in the following way:

            “Please, Lord, bless me and keep me; Lord, make your face to shine upon me. Please 
            be gracious to me, and look and smile upon me, and grant me Shalom.”

I love to watch our pastor pray this blessing upon our congregation at the end of the service, as he walks down the center aisle, hands outstretched, his giving eyes meeting our expectant ones, as though he wants each of us to be covered and showered in God’s love and blessings.

Maybe someone in your life needs you to pray this prayer for him or her. Your spouse? Your son? A friend? It is a wonderful prayer to pray on a daily basis for any of them, and it takes little time to pray it. Personalize it by placing their name in the passage. 

Who do you know who needs this blessing from God this day? Raise your hands to heaven and pray it aloud, for you and for others!

Next week we’ll stop at the end of Numbers to study one more passage on Shalom before we move on to Deuteronomy.

Until then, may your week be full of blessings that you receive and give, your heart be full of joy and thankfulness, and your days be filled with laughter! Build a little heaven in your life right now, and watch your heavenly garden grow!

In Christ’s love and peace,


When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on earth. ~ A. W. Tozer

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