A Brief Word…Time to Abide

Hello good people of “Digging Daily with Pastor Michael”!

Thank you for following. As is my custom from time to time, I will be taking a break from public devotions through this blog. I will be in and out of town over the next several weeks, and I find that my time with this blog is best spent when I am in my normal routine.

So, through June and much of July, I will be posting, but only sporadically. I look forward to my travels with youth trips and vacation time with my family.

Blessings!


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S (Scripture): Numbers 23:25 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Don’t curse them or bless them.”

26 But Balaam answered and said to Balak, “Didn’t I say to you, ‘I’ll do whatever the Lord tells me to’?”

27 Balak said to Balaam, “Please come and I’ll take you to another place. Perhaps God will prefer it, so that you could curse him for me from there.”

O (Observation): Balak is King of the people of Moab, a place through which God’s people asked to march, on their way to the Promised Land. Balak said no…he did not give his permission. Moses spoke to God. God said, we are going anyway.

Balak wants to fight God’s people. So, in order to weaken God’s people, Balak sends messengers to Balaam (a sort of priest) to talk with God, in order to send a curse on God’s people. Balaam speaks to God. God says, “I blessed these people. They’re gonna march on.”

Balak’s like “no way.” Balaam’s like “way.”

Twice already, Balaam has blessed God’s people, since God has already blessed them.

Now, we have the text above. For a third time, Balak is seeking to curse God’s people. Nope. Not gonna do it. Not even if Balak sweetens the deal.

A (Application): Ever tried to go against a calling God has placed on your life? To move into a new thing? Ever tried to convince God to choose a different path forward?

We are so tempted to be like Balak…sweeten the pot. Convince God to get on our side.

Only to be disappointed when God doesn’t choose “our” path.

What is God saying to you today? How is God shaping your thoughts and heart today? Who are you in God’s eyes?

With that blessing, now ask yourself: What is God calling me to do? Now that I am reminded that I am God’s…which direction will I head towards now?

Seek wisdom from friends and trusted leaders around you. Share your thoughts and dreams. Seek prayer partners to help you in your discernment this day.

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to hear and see our place in your journey. Amen.

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Jealous?

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S (Scripture): Psalm 70

1

Hurry, God, to deliver me;

hurry, Lord, to help me!

2

Let those who seek my life be ashamed and humiliated!

Let them fall back and be disgraced—

those people who delight in my downfall!

O (Observation): The psalmist seeks solace from the Lord in the face of those who wish ill thoughts on the psalmist.

Just seeking a little help in the midst of folks whose the author to fail.

A (Application): What is it about seeing someone else fail that gives us joy? Why is it so hard to see someone else succeed?

Assuming what the other person is succeeding in is morally in the center…why hope for failure?

Jealousy? Ego?

If so, it’s time to let it go. God has enough Good News to go around.

P (Prayer): Lord, let my jealousy go. Amen.

“So How’s That Working Out for You?”

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S (Scripture): Numbers 14:1 The entire community raised their voice and the people wept that night. 2 All the Israelites criticized Moses and Aaron. The entire community said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt or if only we had died in this desert! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us to this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and our children will be taken by force. Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 So they said to each other, “Let’s pick a leader and let’s go back to Egypt.”

10b Then the Lord’s glory appeared in the meeting tent to all the Israelites. 11 The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people disrespect me? And how long will they doubt me after all the signs that I performed among them? 12 I’ll strike them down with a plague and disown them. Then I’ll make you into a great nation, stronger than they.”

19 Please forgive the wrongs of these people because of your absolute loyalty, just as you’ve forgiven these people from their time in Egypt until now.”

20 Then the Lord said, “I will forgive as you requested. But,

25 Since the Amalekites and the Canaanites live in the valley, tomorrow turn and march into the desert by the route of the Reed Sea.”

26 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron: 27 How long will this wicked community complain against me? I’ve heard the Israelites’ dissent as they continue to complain against me. 28 Say to them, “As I live,” says the Lord, “just as I’ve heard you say, so I’ll do to you. 29 Your dead bodies will fall in this desert. None of you who were enlisted and were registered from 20 years old and above, who complained against me, 30 will enter the land in which I promised to settle you, with the exception of Caleb, Jephunneh’s son, and Joshua, Nun’s son. 31 But your children, whom you said would be taken by force, I’ll bring them in and they will know the land that you rejected. 32 Your bodies, however, will fall in this desert, 33 and your children will be shepherds in the desert for forty years. They will suffer for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies fall in the desert. 34 For as many days as you explored the land, that is, forty days, just as many years you’ll bear your guilt, that is, forty years. This is how you will understand my frustration.” 35 I the Lord have spoken. I will do this to the entire wicked community who gathered against me. They will die in this desert. There they’ll meet their end.

O (Observation): WOW! Some extremely harsh words from a God who is all-powerful and all-knowing. God gives the people a land…but they’d rather be back in Egypt…enslaved. So they complain to God…and God leaves them to their own devices. God is the one who saves and who lets people choose for themselves how they will live. Of course, choosing one’s own personal desires can cause harm to one’s self and the community.

But instead of focusing on missing the mark, perhaps we have a lesson on faith and trust in the Lord. Let us focus on this: when God provides vision, God also provides provision.

A (Application): I think Israel’s problem can be summed up by a question that Dr. Phil likes to ask: “So how’s that working out for you?”

This question comes when this television personality / counselor speaks to his guests and they share how they decided to heed their own advice, rather than seek wisdom from others. “So how’s that working out for you?”

You wanna provide for yourself? Go for it.

You wanna be enslaved? Let me know how that goes.

What are we doing that goes against God’s call in our lives?

Where is God leading us that we are too scared to follow?

Remember, where God provides VISION, God provides PROVISION! Go for it! Trust in the Lord! God will provide…whether we go straight into our call…or even if it takes “40 years” to get there.

P (Prayer): Lord, call us onward and provide. Amen.

Destiny???

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S (Scripture): Numbers 13:25 They returned from exploring the land after forty days. 26 They went directly to Moses, Aaron, and the entire Israelite community in the Paran desert at Kadesh. They brought back a report to them and to the entire community and showed them the land’s fruit. 27 Then they gave their report: “We entered the land to which you sent us. It’s actually full of milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 There are, however, powerful people who live in the land. The cities have huge fortifications. And we even saw the descendants of the Anakites there. 29 The Amalekites live in the land of the arid southern plain; the Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites live in the mountains; and the Canaanites live by the sea and along the Jordan.”

30 Now Caleb calmed the people before Moses and said, “We must go up and take possession of it, because we are more than able to do it.”

31 But the men who went up with him said, “We can’t go up against the people because they are stronger than we.” 32 They started a rumor about the land that they had explored, telling the Israelites, “The land that we crossed over to explore is a land that devours its residents. All the people we saw in it are huge men. 33 We saw there the Nephilim (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We saw ourselves as grasshoppers, and that’s how we appeared to them.”

O (Observation): So its time for God’s people to explore the land they thought God was giving to them. They figured someone lived there, so they were covert about this operation of scoping out the land. What the spies found was that the land was occupied and strongly fortified.

If that wasn’t bad enough, all of the spies (except Caleb) made up stories about how LARGE these people were.

The spies were intimidated, but they really resisted the idea that this was the land God set aside for them.

A (Application): Given our current climate of Israel vs. Palestine, I feel the need to be clear about something: modern-day Israel and the biblical Israel are two different things. Sure, the current day Israel descended from the people that helped to settle the area in which the country now resides, but they are separate in this: Israel as God’s people in Scripture is NOT the political entity and government known as Israel today.

One need only to look at the military means by which Biblical Israel took over. This comes later in the Scriptures, but Gideon blasts a trumpet, not a cannon from a tank.

Mercy and care for the orphan and widow were the main concern of God for the people, not where the border was.

I know this is more political, than biblical, but I need to struggle with this, because people are dying over the issue of Israel vs. Palestine. The hope is that the two can find common ground…I just don’t know how soon.

But then, Caleb found hope. He thought that those occupying the land were no match for God. Trust in God. Humility before God.

Perhaps we could be like Caleb…willing to face the challenges before us, and somehow remain humble enough to realize that if harm to others is part of the plan…that God would find another way.

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to follow you, but never to use your name to support harming others. Amen.

Like Falling in Love

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S (Scripture): Mark 13:14 [Jesus says: ] “When you see the disgusting and destructive thing standing where it shouldn’t be (the reader should understand this), then those in Judea must escape to the mountains. 15 Those on the roof shouldn’t come down or enter their houses to grab anything. 16 Those in the field shouldn’t come back to grab their clothes. 17 How terrible it will be at that time for women who are pregnant and for women who are nursing their children. 18 Pray that it doesn’t happen in winter. 19 In those days there will be great suffering such as the world has never before seen and will never again see. 20 If the Lord hadn’t shortened that time, no one would be rescued. But for the sake of the chosen ones, the ones whom God chose, he has cut short the time.

21 “Then if someone says to you, ‘Look, here’s the Christ,’ or ‘There he is,’ don’t believe it. 22 False christs and false prophets will appear, and they will offer signs and wonders in order to deceive, if possible, those whom God has chosen. 23 But you, watch out! I’ve told you everything ahead of time.”

O (Observation): What frightening words to be heard by those who follow Jesus and are assured of the grace of God!

This text seems to be a great way to make certain that God’s people are both assured of God’s love for them AND – at the same time – to make sure that God’s people are not falling asleep as Christians in the world. To both be assured and to stay awake!

The promise is that Jesus the Christ will come again. The time will seem perilous to those who experience Jesus’ return, but Jesus will be known again as he truly is….not just in bread and wine.

A (Application): Falling in love creates an alluring and also terrifying reaction in a person: alluring, because love is sensational, and yet frightening, because you want to to be ready to respond to the other in just the right way at any given moment.

This is like awaiting the parousia (the return of Christ). We anticipate what Jesus’ return will be like; we speak of his return in the creeds we speak and in the bread and wine. But he will come fully, one day.

And Jesus’ day of return might be a million years from now…or a thousand…or a hundred… or…today?

We don’t know. So, in this text, we are encouraged to be comforted and yet set on edge. That we should not worry, yet we can be prepared for his coming.

Anticipation. Like falling in love all over again. Or for the first time. Be ready. Receive grace. Receive the Lord.

P (Prayer): Lord, we may be nervous, but your Spirit – your Advocate – prepares us. Amen.

Bound Together for Ministry

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S (Scripture): Numbers 11:10 Moses heard the people crying throughout their clans, each at his tent’s entrance. The Lord was outraged, and Moses was upset. 11 Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you treated your servant so badly? And why haven’t I found favor in your eyes, for you have placed the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give birth to them, that you would say to me, ‘Carry them at the breast, as a nurse carries an unweaned child,’ to the fertile land that you promised their ancestors? 13 Where am I to get meat for all these people? They are crying before me and saying, ‘Give us meat, so we can eat.’ 14 I can’t bear this people on my own. They’re too heavy for me. 15 If you’re going to treat me like this, please kill me. If I’ve found favor in your eyes, then don’t let me endure this wretched situation.”

16 The Lord said to Moses, “Gather before me seventy men from Israel’s elders, whom you know as elders and officers of the people. Take them to the meeting tent, and let them stand there with you. 17 Then I’ll descend and speak with you there. I’ll take some of the spirit that is on you and place it on them. Then they will carry the burden of the people with you so that you won’t bear it alone…”

O (Observation): Moses is fed up with God and the people, because he feels all the weight of the people’s complaints squarely on his own shoulders…and he only has God to blame! Moses complains to God: “Where am I gonna get meat for them to eat?! These are YOUR people, God, not mine! Just kill me now, if this is what leadership looks like!”

God encourages Moses and tells him to gather everyone in the worship space. There, God will share the burden on Moses with 70 of the leaders in the community. They will do ministry TOGETHER! And God will provide the meat.

A (Application): As a seminary student, I was challenged with finding a story or person from Scripture that shaped my call into ministry as an ordained minister (aka “pastor”). I chose Numbers 11.

I chose this passage because it reminds me that I as I venture into all sorts of ministries, God will make sure that I am surrounded by those who are called to share the burden along with me.

In each venture into ministry (whether as a pastor or in the community) I have felt alone and abandoned…only to have the Spirit remind me that I am part of the BODY of Christ in which others are being called to come together to work with me.

And as I grow in faith, God has brought others outside of the body of Christ to share burdens with me. Burdens of the poor and the marginalized in our society.

Christ is still my savior and inspiration…and this has moved me to seek God out for strength and sustenance as I venture into the varied callings God has set out for me.

I am blessed.

P (Prayer): Lord, bind us together in love. Amen.

Changing Perspective

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S (Scripture): Mark 12:41 Jesus sat across from the collection box for the temple treasury and observed how the crowd gave their money. Many rich people were throwing in lots of money. 42 One poor widow came forward and put in two small copper coins worth a penny.43 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I assure you that this poor widow has put in more than everyone who’s been putting money in the treasury. 44  All of them are giving out of their spare change. But she from her hopeless poverty has given everything she had, even what she needed to live on.”

O (Observation): Jesus was all about reexamining the understanding of the Kingdom of God. Did God care more about the amount someone put in the offering plate? Or that someone was sensing that this money is first and foremost God’s money?

(Remember a few verses ago when Jesus was asked about paying taxes? How did he respond? Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. Give to God what is God’s. Reevaluating. Perspective. One must struggle with what belongs to God.)

How was Jesus changing the perspective of the Kingdom for his disciples in this observation regarding the widow?

What is valuable in the Kingdom? What is valuable in the world?

A (Application): So money is an obvious connection here. My wife and I struggled to reach a point where we acknowledged that the money we have is indeed a gift from God. As such, we give 10% of our income. The weird thing is that as we reached this point, I feel like our capacity to give has increased even more! The perspective changed from “How do we get to 10%?” to “how does God seem to magnify the margin in my life?”

I think this is all about perspective. What is God’s? And in a way that is joyful, we have responded to God’s call to see that our finances are God’s.

Now, I am in a situation where I have money to give. (Odd perspective since I still have student loans…but God has moved us…).

So, what about those who have very little? Well…let’s remember perspective. If someone has less money…what can they do? They can also choose to discern – for themselves – what they can give. If it’s 1%, or 5%, or 50%…if that is what they sense is God’s…then so be it. (That’s not snarky…it’s acknowledging what God is up to in our lives.)

Please don’t take my application as a judgment based on amounts or percentages. Rather, I encourage you to know that God’s Kingdom is different than that of this world. Don’t let anyone tell you that your gift of time or money or resources is yours to exploit.

The world places expectations on our money and time. I encourage you to discern how to use the gifts you have for God’s Kingdom. You have to decide what that looks like for you and yours.

P (Prayer): God, take my life that I may be consecrated Lord for thee. Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise. Amen.