Scripture Reading: Numbers 29:12-31:24 / Luke 8:19-39 / Psalm 39:1-13
Want to know your life expectancy? The Social Security Administration has a Life Expectancy Calculator that will roughly estimate how long you may live. It uses your gender and date of birth to determine how many additional years a person can expect to live. Since I’ve reached 55 years of age, they calculate an additional life expectancy of 27.7 years so I can expect to reach 82.8 years old!
Of course, those calculations are inaccurate and unreliable. No man can determine the length of a person’s days and none of us are guaranteed we will live to see tomorrow. Life is filled with uncertainties and can end abruptly and unexpectantly. George Bernard Shaw aptly said, “The statistics on death are quite impressive. One out of one people die.”
David writes about the frailty of life and asks God, “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath.” (Psalm 39:4,5)
It is impossible for men to number their days. They attempt to extend and lengthen life through nutrition and health incentives. Life is short and the older we get, the faster life gets! I have discovered those things in life that I thought I had some measure of control; they are now out of my control! We may consider 70 years “long” in comparison to 5, 10 or 30 years but 70 and any amount of years are short compared to eternity!
David describes life as fleeting and similar to a “handbreadth”. A handbreadth is one of the shortest natural measurements and is equal to the width of four fingers…such is the brevity of life. Not only is it short, it’s also uncertain and frail. James describes life as a vapor, appearing for a short time and then quickly vanishing. (James 4:14)
David also uses an interesting observation by saying our life is but a breath. The word breath comes from a Hebrew word that is used 36 times in Ecclesiastes and means “vanity”. The word is used to describe something with no substance and is transitory; like pursuing your shadow or building a house of sand on the seashore.
Because life is so short, it is to be lived with great meaning and focus. We are not to live for the fleeting and uncertainty life of this world but for the Lord in the light of His certain promise of eternity! The longest length of days on this earth will never begin to compare to the never-ending eternity of heaven. A man made life expectancy calculator or a God given eternal life promise….what are you living for?
Scripture Reading: Numbers 27:12-29:11 / Luke 8:1-8 / Psalm 38:13-22
The Pony Express was a thrilling part of early American history. It ran from St. Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California - a distance of 1,900 miles. The trip took 10 days with 40 men each riding 50 miles a day, using 500 of the best trail horses available. To conserve weight, clothing was light, saddles were extremely small and thin and they carried no weapons. The mail pouches were flat and conservative in size as letters were written on thin paper - yet each man carried a full size Bible!
The Bible was presented to him when he joined the Pony Express and he took it with him despite all the weight restrictions. I was taught at a young age that the Word of God was the foundation of life and I could put my trust in the Bible. There was a song we used to sing in Sunday School class, “The B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the book for me, I stand alone on the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E!” I believed every word and as I have grown, God’s Word has proven to be everything and more than I ever believed.
The “Good News” delivers and transforms, it gives hope and peace, it directs and changes our lives! Jesus uses the Parable of the Sower to describe the power of God’s Word to transform lives. Jesus begins the story with, “A farmer went out to sow his
seed….” (Luke 8:5) and begins the story's explanation with, “The seed is the Word of God…” (8:11) The parable seed was scattered and it fell along the path, on the rocks, among the thorns and on good soil. Similarly, the Word of God falls upon unproductive hard hearts of unbelief, shallow faith and worldly cares of life. But when The Word is sown into a heart of faith…it brings transforming results!
The Word isn’t defective or unproductive; men’s hearts are defective because they are hard, shallow and divided! A physical seed has a DNA code to reproduce itself and the Word of God has a spiritual DNA code to bring forth abundant and everlasting life! There are no other words in our world or throughout time that has the power of God’s. He “spoke” all things into existence as He called the heavens and earth forth. When God speaks…all of creation and the unseen world comes to attention and subjection to Him!
God’s Word is infallible and incapable of error. It does not mislead, deceive or disappoint. The Bible is inspired, inerrant and totally true. It is not a dead letter but a Living Word! The enemy will try to distract us from God’s Word and will attempt to stir doubt within our hearts. We must be careful to embrace and hold tight to God’s Word for it is our all-sufficient rule for faith
and practice. We do not seek the counsel of this world but look to God’s revelation and truth for direction and answers. No matter how much this world weighs you down, don’t lay aside God’s Word. Just believe, standing and singing…The B-I-B-L-E!
Scripture Reading: Numbers 26:12-27:11 / Luke 7:36-50 / Proverbs 8:12-21
Love is a wonderful thing and sometimes evolves over time as Maggie’s husband writes. “Before I married Maggie dear, I was her pumpkin pie; her precious peach and honey boy, the apple of her eye. But after years of married life, this thought I pause to utter, those fancy names are now all gone…I’m just her bread and butter!”
Sadly, some people love because of what they can “get”. But we cannot love Christ because of what we can “get” but because of what He has “given”! Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus to have dinner with him and it became very apparent that there was one person who loved Jesus deeply and another who loved Him casually and conveniently.
A woman who lived a sinful life crashed Simon’s dinner party, bringing an alabaster jar of perfume with her. This woman did not care what others thought about her display of love for Jesus. She wept at his feet, washed them with her tears, let down her hair
and wiped them with her hair. She kissed his feet and anointed them with expensive perfume. (Luke 7:38)
Simon and the “religious” were appalled, critical and judgmental. “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner. (7:39) To them, her display of tears, kissing and anointing were degrading and unacceptable. For her, her love for Christ was worth any criticism and accusations she would receive.
She gave Jesus respect and honor, washing His feet while Simon did not give Jesus a basin to wash His feet. She gave Him a basin of tears that flowed from her broken heart. She dried His feet with the humility of her worship. Simon offered no kiss of greeting when Jesus arrived, nor did he anoint Christ’s feet. She kissed His feet in a spirit of meekness and reverence. She anointed them with the best she had and the most costly.
We can be guilty of neglecting to offer Christ a basin of welcome, inviting His presence in our daily lives. May we never greet Jesus with a heartless, formal and ritualistic heart like Simon but worship Him with sincerity and brokenness. Desiring Him without inhibition, longing to be in the joy of His presence.
We can begin to love like this sinner woman when we understand everything He is and everything we’re not. Pharisees have an
imperfect sense of their guilt, sin and His mercy. They fail to recognize the depth of their sin and the abundance of His grace and forgiveness. Some have no consciousness of the Lord’s mercy but no matter how great or small we may consider our sin to be…we all need a Savior. Simon had a spirit of self-righteousness and a casual love. The sinful woman saw her sin and knew her Savior. She loved…because she had been forgiven much!
Scripture Reading: Numbers 23:27-26:11 / Luke 7:11-35 / Psalm 38:1-12
The opportunity for wealth, riches or power is a difficult thing for people to ignore. Surveys have asked people what they would do for a million dollars and some of the answers were, “Have my forehead tattooed” “Give up 10 years of my natural life” “Abandon my family” and “Poison a stranger”. There were many more bizarre and immoral things people said they would do for money. The greatest treasure we have is not for sale or open for negotiation. Our relationship with Christ, faith and salvation are more valuable than even the greatest amount of riches.
We read of a prophet named Balaam who compromised his integrity, giftings and faith in pursuit of riches. Balak, King of Moab,
offered Balaam a sizable amount of wealth for him to prophesy curses and destruction over Israel. The temptation was too great for Balaam and God allowed him to follow his sinful heart. On his journey, he faced the rebuke of his donkey, the correction of God and the continual hammering of the Holy Spirit.
Balaam prophesied over Israel 2 times but as he spoke, God brought forth from his mouth blessings, not curses. Here in Numbers 23, he prepares to speak again but this time moves to a different place and as he looks over Israel in the wilderness below it says, “He did not resort to sorcery as at other times, but turned his face toward the desert.” (Numbers 24:1)
He knew the purpose of God was to bless Israel, not curse them so he did not use enchantments this time and did not seek The Lord. He was attempting to speak on his own behalf and finally accomplishing the conditions set by Balak and finally receives his financial reward. Yet this 3rd time and a following 4th time; was likened unto the first two… God prophesied blessings over Israel through Balaam.
But it wasn’t over for Balaam because we read in Revelation 2:14, “Balaam…taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit fornication.” Balak followed Balaam’s counsel by sending young Moabite women into Israel’s camp to lead Israel into sexual immorality and idolatry. Because of their sin, God did curse Israel, killing 24,000. (25:9)
Balaam was guilty of the greatest of sins; deliberately leading others into sin…and he did it for money. Greed was Balaam’s vice and it led him down a pathway of destruction. We may never think about forsaking Christ under the greatest of persecutions but many have because of the allurement of money and financial security. If Judas could betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, the sinful and financial attraction the enemy places before us is a real threat. May we not maintain an external obedience while being governed by a greedy heart…we will gain nothing but lose everything!
Scripture Reading: Numbers 22:21-23:26 / Luke 6:37-7:10 / Psalm 37:32-40
Judge Hatchett, Judge Wapner and Judge Judy…household names in arbitration-based reality court television. I remember watching “The People’s Court” years ago and it was interesting to hear the claims and everyone’s bantering explanations. It was quite comical but there was no resolve to the case until Judge Wapner made his decision. His judgment was final!...
I have discovered that there are thousands upon thousands of reality time judges and they all have different names like… Betty, Bridget, Dennis, Fred, Lucy, Paul and possibly a name like yours. We do have to admit that we at times sit in our courtroom, put on a “judges robe” and pass judgment on everything from products to people. Sometimes our judgments, like the reality judges, are just as shortsighted.
Jesus has some advice for us…“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37) We live in a world where you need to use wisdom and judgment. It is imperative that we live above the deceptiveness of hypocrisy, sin and satan. A judgment like that requires the measurement of God’s Word and His Truth. Paul makes mention that judgment must first begin in the “House of God”. We are to measure our lives according to God’s standards and live accordingly using His standards as the basis of our decisions and judgment.
It is a different story when our judging reaches outside of the context of our lives and becomes critical, condemning and unforgiving of others. The Pharisees took pride in their judgment of publicans, sinners and Jesus. They constantly censored people’s lives and internal motives.
We can fall prey to a Pharisaical spirit that is quick to see and spy small faults in others…looking for eye specks when there are beams in our own eyes. Hasty and improper judgments are passed on others based on small and insignificant facts. What it “looks like” isn’t always what “it is”. Hearing half the story or seeing half of the picture is a dangerous platform for passing judgment. Usually judgment like this is unreasonable and not open to correction.
Some pass judgment on others based upon their past struggles, hurts, frustration and emotions. Experiences are good teachers but they can often leave us with more questions than answers and emotional baggage. Relating and judging others out of our past experiences is not wise. The past is the bedrock of hurts and unforgiveness.
We need to be quick to forgive, as Christ has forgiven us. We are called to be an encourager and not respond critically and treat others like they are beyond mercy, grace and transformation. So the next time you hear the phrase, “Here comes the Judge!” hopefully they are not talking about you…only God can be given that title!
Scripture Reading: Numbers 21:14-22:20 / Luke 6:12-36 / Psalm 37:21-31
There is a vast cultural difference between the United States and third world countries. Customs, language and economics are the most notable and striking dissimilarities. The amazing thing is that the prosperous culture of America is regarded as the height of utopia, yet there is a greater invisible and spiritual culture that is present in virtually every culture.
I have seen the poorest people live with greater riches than the richest of people who live in luxury. There are hungry people who eat in greater abundance than the most affluent. People who live in depressing conditions have a greater joy than those who live in ease and security. Despite the persecution, oppression and insults… those who endure such things for the name of Christ will be blessed!
Jesus put it this way, “Blessed are you who are poor; for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.” (Luke 6:20-22)
It is difficult for us to recognize that God has a divine purpose and world waiting for us. Jesus said He was preparing a place for us so we could live eternally with Him. It is easy to place our confidence, desire and security in our prosperous and abundant
lifestyles. I am so thankful for God’s earthly blessings and we can use them for His Kingdom but our attention and desires cannot be held captive by a temporary and fleeting world.
Jesus also prophesied “woes” to those who abandoned the riches of salvation for the comfort, abundance, merriment and favor of this world. (vs.24-26) Just as there are blessings for those who follow the ways of The Lord, there are judgmental consequences for those who reject Jesus and His message of redeeming love.
I have been reminded first hand these last few days that riches are not what you have in your wallet but in your spirit. A full heart is more important than a full stomach and satisfaction is found not in external abundance but in internal blessings. Jesus crosses all cultural lines and brings a life that is “out of this world!”
“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.” (vs.22) I am thankful I met some precious Cambodian believers whom I will one day live with in heaven. They don’t live like us or talk like us or have the same color of skin as we do BUT they do have the same Savior as we do, the same love as we do and the same hope as we do. Heaven is a place where the poor become rich and the rich find true riches! You have much to rejoice in today…not for what you have here on earth but for what God has prepared for you today, tomorrow and forever!
Scripture Reading: Numbers 19:1-21:3 / Luke 5:33-6:11 / Proverbs 8:1-11
Did you know it’s hot in Cambodia? I have learned to appreciate fans and air conditioning more but the greatest comfort is water! As hot and dry as this country may be, the driest place in the world is the Atacama Desert in Chile. The average rainfall is less than ½ inch per year and some, as of this Desert, haven’t had rainfall for 400 years!
Israel had reached a point in their wilderness journey where water was scarce. They camped at Kadesh, in the Desert of Zin. It was here, Miriam died and they had no more water. It says Israel, “…quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the Lord! Why did you bring the Lord’s community into this desert, that we and our livestock should die here? And there is no water to drink!” (Numbers 20:3-5)
They were experiencing a life or death moment. Without water they would all die. They had reason to be concerned yet their complaining grew out of a heart of rebellion and dissatisfaction with Moses and Aaron. It is quite significant that Miriam had died here at Kadesh because the people took on her disgruntled spirit.
Miriam led Israel in song as she sang the great song of deliverance when Pharaoh’s army drowned at the Rea Sea. Yet it wasn’t long before she challenged Moses’ leadership and God stuck her with leprosy. Moses pleaded for her life and God restored her back to health. Miriam may have died but her rebellion lived on.
Israel needed water, wished they were dead, desired to be back in Egypt and threatened mutiny against Moses and Aaron. It
is strange that even the bondage of Egypt was more desired than their waterless place. They would rather go back to the evils of Egypt than trust God in the empty places of life.
Moses went to God in prayer and was given direction to speak to the rock and God would provide water. Earlier, God had Moses strike the rock and water flowed from it but here, Moses was specifically instructed to only “speak” to the rock. Moses failed to trust God for what He promised. In frustration, he used this time to bring attention to himself, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock? Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff.” (vs.10,11)
God was faithful and water gushed from the rock but it came at a great price. For his disobedience, Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land. God wanted the miracle to reflect His power and provision, not Moses’ anger. Even the strongest leaders have weaknesses and there is a cost for misusing the power of God for personal expression, whether anger or pride. We will all experience times when we feel as parched and dry as the Atacama Desert. God will provide water and refreshment! He is a God of miracles…may we be people of faith and patience!
Scripture Reading: Numbers 16:36-18:32 / Luke 5:17-32 / Psalm 37:10-20
We live in a messed up and sinful world today but this is the world Jesus came to save! We forget that we were part of this God rejecting world before the grace of God rescued us. It is somewhat easy to see the evils of society, the depth of rebellion and be filled with righteous indignation. We certainly are not to conform to this world and never compromise truth but we must not write the world off as hopeless and unreachable.
The Pharisees dedicated their entire lives to keeping the Law of Moses and the oral traditions. They became very legalistic and overburdened people with impossible demands and legalistic laws. The Pharisees propagated a message of religious zealousness whereas Jesus brought a message of relational redemption.
As Jesus was walking along the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee, He saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his “IRS” booth. There was a heavy flow of commercial goods that went through the popular seaport of Capernaum and Levi was the appointed tax collector for the Roman government. Tax collectors were called “publicans”, sinners, renegades and traitors because of their unscrupulous ways and extortionist methods. They were considered to be on the lowest rung of the social ladder.
It was this Jewish tax collector named Levi or “Matthew” that Jesus said, “Follow me.” (Luke 5:27) Levi immediately “got up, left everything and followed Him. (vs.28) Levi was hated by both Romans and Jews but Jesus saw something in him that others did not see…his physical, emotional and spiritual desperation. The world saw him as materially rich with a big house and fine furnishings but Jesus saw him empty and spiritually bankrupt.
Levi was searching and abandoned everything to follow Jesus. The words of Christ offered more hope and peace than he ever before experienced in his life. His life was changed and he wanted all of his friends to meet Jesus so he invited them to a banquet and asked Jesus to attend. Christ gladly accepted Levi’s invitation and the Pharisees accused Jesus of being a friend of sinners. They asked the disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and “sinners”?” (vs.30)
Jesus responded, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (vs.31) Christ’s desire has not altered since 2000 years ago…to reach the lost with the message of repentance and salvation. Interestingly the name Matthew means “Gift of God”. This gift of God who once was a hated tax collector became a disciple of Jesus and was now an extension of God’s grace, love and mercy! How many tax collectors, renegades, cheats, empty and spiritually bankrupt “Levi’s” do you know? Follow Christ’s example and reach them…whomever they may be and wherever they may be!
Scripture Reading: Numbers 15:1-16:35 / Luke 4:38-5:16 / Psalm 37:1-9
The most enjoyable thing about fishing is catching fish. It isn’t real exciting when you don’t catch any fish but when they are biting and you reel them in as soon as you cast…now that’s fun! But, any fisherman will tell you that a bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work! That may be true for many but that isn’t true if your job is “fishing”.
Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen by trade and had caught nothing after a long hard night of fishing. A crowd gathered nearby as Jesus was teaching and they began to press Him back against the water’s edge. Jesus got in Simon’s boat and asked Peter to push it off shore so He could continue to teach.
After Jesus was done, He gave Peter some unusual instructions, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” (Luke 5:4) There is not a fisherman alive that doesn’t want to know where the fish are and that they are biting. Jesus gives them more than a “tip”; He gives them a “guarantee” yet it defied their logic and experience.
Peter replied, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:5) They had cast their net out, pulled it in over and over again without catching anything. They didn’t have a great deal of faith because of their experience. Simon’s response was indicative of experience; his experience led to fact, which led to opinion, resulting in discouragement and leaving him hopeless.
They toiled, were tired and had cleaned their nets. Besides, they fished during the productive times of darkness rather than the useless daylight hours. Their nets were also designed for shallow waters, not the deep waters where Jesus told them to go. Jesus instructed them to go into unfamiliar waters. Remember, the Lord’s directives are not to be reasoned, just believed! Sometimes we “fish” or “live” in the shallowness of our own feelings instead of the depths of His faithfulness!
Simon Peter reluctantly agreed to obey and the results were more than he ever experienced or imagined. The catch was so great that their nets began to break and boat began to sink. Peter called for reinforcements and both boats were barely afloat from the enormous miracle.
If Jesus is to be involved in our lives, He must be in control…launch out into the deep. What has God called you to do or launch out into? We can clean our nets and object to The Lord’s directives or simply trust and follow His leading despite our discouragement or doubt. Do you want empty nets or breaking nets…a full boat or docked boat? We need to get out of the shallow waters because our blessings are not where we remain but are in the new, different and deep. Launch out!
Scripture Reading: Numbers 13:26-14:45 / Luke 4:14-37 / Psalm 36:1-12
In 1983, John Sculley was president of Pepsi Company and one of the fastest rising corporate stars. Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computer, for months attempted to lure Sculley away from Pepsi to manage the rapid growth of Apple. He had no interest in leaving Pepsi and knew almost nothing about computers.
After he turned down Jobs offer one final time, Steve Jobs issued a challenge that haunted Sculley. “Do you want to spend the rest of your life selling sugared water, or do you want a chance to change the world?” The challenge and opportunity was too enticing for Sculley. He left PepsiCo to help Steve Jobs change the world. The vision of Apple’s leader was too much for Sculley to resist.
God offered a challenge, cast a vision and provided a promise for Israel…to secure the Promised Land! 12 spies were sent to explore the land and when they returned, 10 gave a discouraging report while 2, Joshua and Caleb, gave a favorable report. Caleb reported, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us.” (Numbers 14:7,8)
Caleb believed God despite the opposition and insurmountable odds. God describes him as having “a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly.”(vs.24) Caleb did not waver in believing and following God’s voice and direction. His outlook, attitude and thinking was different. He was not discouraged by the presence of giants but was unmovable in his faith and spirit. Caleb had the vision of God!
He did not ignore the obstacles of conquering the Promised Land but believed God’s preferred future for him and Israel. His vision did not center upon his aspirations but what God desired to accomplish…possess the land! Caleb believed God was going to create the future. It is said that great men of God have been made because they were great believers of God…just like Caleb.
Caleb was fully committed, sold out and dedicated to God. For 40 years Caleb continued to believe and maintain a different spirit to follow God fully. God granted only 2 people of that generation to enter and possess the Promised Land, Joshua and Caleb. Despite what some may think or assume, Caleb faced great opposition as he fought and battled for his Promised Land. At 85, he was as strong in faith and vision as when he spied out the land and declared, “Give me this mountain!”
He desired the land of Hebron, the highest point and town in the land. It was occupied by a race of the fiercest giants. Caleb drove them out, defeated them and possessed God’s promise for him. Great men of God attempt great things for God. Israel lost out on what God desired them to have and enjoy. The victories, blessings and favor of God rest on those who dare to believe and obey…people of vision!
Pastor James Clark has pastored Calvary Assembly since 1985. He is blessed with his wife Yvonne, six children, two son-in-laws, a beautiful granddaughter and hopefully many more grandchildren to follow!