#6 Numbers 6:24-26 "Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,"

Do you ever struggle finding the right words to say?  Its surprising how often it really is difficult to know how to express congratulations or sympathy.  Every year before Mother's Day you will find me and dozens of other men rifling through scores of cards trying to find one that says "just the right words".

I also struggle responding to compliments, in part because I'm from a large, blue collar family that couldn't cheer-lead us on every occasion.  We weren't neglected.  We were expected to do our best whether we had a fan club or not.  Nowadays as people leave services some say, "Wonderful sermon" or "Thank you for that message", etc.  I understand "Thank you" and "You're welcome" are fine replies, but always felt they were inadequate.  Sometime ago I settled into responding "Praise the Lord".  To my mind it satisfied a theological itch and didn't feed my ego.  It is God's word, so praise Him.  It is the Gospel of Christ, so praise Him.  Application bringing joy to the saint is the work of the Holy Spirit, so praise Him.  I'd say for 15 years my reply to those compliments has been "Praise the Lord".

But what if we had no point of reference to know what to say?  When I consider Numbers 6 24-26 I am comforted by the Lord's ministry to ministers.  Aaron and his sons had been appointed to serve as the high priest of Israel in Exodus 28 and 29 while the LORD was giving instruction on building the tabernacle.  They were serving this office while the first books of the Bible were being given through Moses.  Meaning there was no precedent of what to say.  When Aaron stood before the assembly, I'm certain he was a wiser man than I am, but also can't help but feel a sense of what it felt like the first time my pastor called on me to pray in a service.

Whether any sense of that existed or not, I cannot know.  But what I do know is what the Lord did.  He ordered Aaron and his sons to say specific words in blessing the congregation of Israel: The LORD bless you and keep you:  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 peace.

In the the New Testament, Paul begins his letters with this salutation: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." (See Rom 1:7, 1 Cor 1:3, Gal 1:3, etc.)  I believe this apostolic salutation was adopted from the high priestly blessing.  Even John begins Revelation with "Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come."  It is the right thing to say.  Grace is what we need from God.  Peace is what we want with God.  The Lord gave a point of reference in the priestly blessing, and now we know what to say.  What a comfort for Him to command "You shall speak my words to them." Ezekiel 2:7.

Today, when my children are leaving for school, or as I dismiss the congregation after a special time of worship, or even when I conclude this post, the Lord has given the perfect words to say: The LORD bless you and keep you:  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 peace . . . Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thank you Lord for Numbers 6:24-26!!

#5 Galatians 6:1-10 "Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up."

What does it take to intentionally change the world?  We know sudden events (like tragedies or fortuitous windfalls) can bring instant change.  However, those are usually unforeseen and seldom within our control.

On the other hand, there is the idea of a meticulous, deliberate, fail-safe plan.  In one of my favorite movies, "The Shawshank Redemption", Andy Dufresne escapes from Shawshank prison. After his escape, his friend Red made an observation.  Andy loved the study of Geology, a science that essentially observes the effects of time and pressure.  With the application of pressure, over enough time, a man can move a mountain by spoonfuls.  In Andy's case, he had used a tiny rock hammer to burrow through the wall of Shawshank Prison one pocketful at a time . . . for twenty years.

Jesus told us, "if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'move from here or there,' and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you. Matthew 17:20."  Now here is a good question, was Jesus advocating instant gratification of enormous requests?  Can we just arbitrarily pray or demand something and expect it to be done?  Is faith just believing God will do whatever we ask?

Fortunately, the Bible clarifies this when we consider all God says about faith.  In James 2 we are told living faith is only expressed by a constant flow of good works (James 2:17).  In Hebrews 11 genuine faith is presented with a list of examples of people in Bible history and ends with a telling observation, "all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised" Hebrews 11:39.  Did you hear that!?!?  They each had the very faith Jesus spoke about, and were active like James 2:17 says, but without receiving what they desired.

That is why I love what Paul told the Galatian churches in chapter 6.  They were in the middle of several severe trials of faith corporately, and beyond that there was the messy reality of ministry among individuals.  Weaker Christians are going to sin, and mature believers are to help restore them when they fall.  Mature believers are to privately assess how God has used them without making public boasts of their accomplishments.  Several facets of personal ministry are considered in a very dense passage that culminates with this truth, "Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up."

That's the secret to intentionally changing the world.  With faithful confidence in the Gospel, we commit our lives to one continuous exertion (time and pressure) in absolute faith of God's plan to be glorified in Jesus Christ.  Then, whether in our lifetime or eternity, we know it will not fail.  After all, it was Isaiah who prophesied that when Jesus returns, "every mountain and hill will be made low." Isaiah 40:4.  Asking God to remove a mountain is a prayer that is already and ultimately answered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

What kind of challenge do you face today in your church or perhaps in a difficult relationship?  Don't get tired!!  Don't give up!!  Eventually God will bring your faith reasoned efforts to harvest.

Thank you God for Galatians 6:9!!

#4 - 3 John 4 "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth."

What is our greatest aspiration for those around us?  Whether it is our spouse, children, neighbors, coworkers, whoever . . . what do we dream for them?

This may sound a little old fashioned, but I'm not afraid to articulate some expectations.  I expect my wife to be a faithful, loving complement to me, and she expects the same of me.  I expect my children will obey and honor us.  I expect church members to love and pray for each other.  I expect a waitress will refill my glass and bring the check.  Face it, we expect a lot from each other!

But what about aspirations?  Our dreams for our spouse, children, church family, etc. are much more intimate and vulnerable because they usually stem from what we love besides that person.  For instance, when someone aspires for their child to be a great athlete, it usually begins with a love for the sport, not the child.  If athletic, academic or career success are typical aspirations for those around you, please consider this very carefully.  There are higher and nobler ambitions.

We do not have a biography for the writings of John.  General consensus among Bible conservatives is 3 John was probably written in the later part of the first century, 40 to 60 years after Jesus Christ's earthly ministry.  In fact, John may have been the last living eye witness to Jesus miracles, death, burial, resurrection and ascension.

The churches and individuals John addressed had never seen Jesus.  Jesus once said to His disciples, "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed." (John 20:29)  This impacted the disciples deeply as evidenced in what Peter wrote to the displaced Christians of his day, "though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him." (1 Peter 1:8)  What a fantastic thing to behold.  A generation believing in Jesus without seeing Him.

So . . . our highest aspiration.  The greatest desire I should have for anyone else should proceed from what I love most of all.  That very love for the Gospel above all else is what propelled those simple fishermen throughout the world to make Christ known.  That's why the aged apostle John would say, "I have no greater joy than to hear my children are walking in the truth."

I love 3 John 4 because it articulates the highest aspiration proceeding from the greatest love.

Thank you God again, for Your word.


#3 - Micah 6:6-8 "With what shall I come before the LORD?"

#3 - Micah 6:6-8 "With what shall I come before the LORD?"

The whole spectrum of religious practice is contained in the question "With what shall I come before the Lord?"  How desperate . . . complex . . . and unattainable if we are trying to accomplish this ourselves.  There is nothing besides Christ that allows one into the Lord's presence.  After one has believed the Gospel, how can they know their life is pleasing to this merciful and powerful Creator?

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#2 - 2 Corinthians 13:8 "For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth."

In January of 2009 we left our home in Mongolia for a BMA team meeting in the Philippines and some vacation.  Describing Mongolian winters as harsh equates to saying the holocaust was bad.  Suffice it to say we were anticipating warm sand and fresh fruit.  Prior to departure we had decided Laura would seek some medical advice regarding health problems she had been having that winter.  We weren't sure what direction to turn but prayed and trusted God to provide.

As it turned out, God had providentially answered our prayers weeks before we had prayed them.  Due to a schedule conflict the speaker for our meeting had to cancel his trip.  In his place our speaker was a doctor and wife team who formed the core of our new missionary care team.  In addition to conducting a conference, they scheduled two counseling sessions with each missionary unit.

In our first meeting they asked something like, "what would you like to accomplish in this meeting?"  We responded with the primary concern of Laura's health.  After some initial probing, they confided they had discussed Laura's visible symptoms before our meeting.  A woman with the same symptoms had just been under their care in the US, and they were reasonably sure Laura had an illness caused by pituitary tumor called Cushing's Disease.  They recommended she be sent to the US for tests, and if those were positive, probably neurosurgery.

Later that day, we were called to a private meeting with our regional director, the doctor and his wife.  They looked me in the eye and said, "What would you say if we told you you weren't going back to Mongolia?"  I replied (and yes, it was this immediate), "I've been reading 2 Corinthians this week.  This morning, the verse that stuck was 2 Corinthians 13:8 'We cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.'"

2 Corinthians is a written defense of Paul's ministry to a church under the influence of false teachers who criticized the apostle's every step.  Paul was insanely busy preaching the Gospel throughout the world.  He had established the church at Corinth during an 18 month stay in his second missionary journey (see Acts 18:1-18).  In between his visits to Corinth (see Acts 20:2-3) others had infiltrated the ministry, presented themselves as ministers of light and criticized every aspect of Paul's ministry.  2 Corinthians 13:8 concludes Paul's defense, and is a deliberate statement of personal assurance in God's sovereignty over the ministry of the Gospel.  No trial, hardship, attack, criticism, accident, NOTHING happens outside of God's providence and thus cannot inhibit His purpose to glorify Himself above all else through the proclamation of the Gospel.

My testimony in 2009 was as true then as the day Paul wrote it in the first century.  Along with Paul, I'll not say I haven't battled depression, anger, resignation, bitterness, etc.  Our agency extended tremendous grace, but some also unfairly criticized me and my ministry.  Others questioned whether or not our trials were evidence of God's displeasure with us.  Another missionary left the field due to sinus problems caused by allergies . . . at the same time Laura was having part of her brain literally pulled out of her nose!!  Trust me, in that climate surrender was hard, but living sacrifices must die to selfish ambitions in order know God's perfect will (Romans 12:1-3).

The conclusion?  The Gospel is still being proclaimed, even in Mongolia.  Laura is alive and improving every year.  Our family is in a great place of ministry.  I am still preaching.  In essence, NOTHING was done against the truth . . . only for it.  What an awesome verse.

Thank you God for 2 Corinthians 13:8!!