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Numbers 3–The Levites, God’s Firstborn

The Levitical tribe had a unique place in Israel.  They were set apart to perform all the duties related to the spiritual functions of the nation.  They were in charge of the Tabernacle and the tent of meeting.  They would care for the furnishings and the Ark of the Covenant.  They would be the priests of the tribes and always be spread through the tribes and not left on their own.

But, the Lord said something unique to Moses–These are to be the replacement for the 1st born males from every Israelite woman that I lost in Egypt.  God had not forgotten the horrible act Pharaoh had ordered.  The Levites were to replace the first born males lost to Israel–the ones that would normally be committed to God. What a seat of honor–to be truly set apart as a tribe, to replace such a grievous loss.  The men of Levi would hold that distinction from then on.

In our lives, God set us apart as well.  We are to be his chosen.  We are to be his ambassadors among the people of the world.  We are to wear the LORD’S name boldly as we live our daily lives.  God treasured the Levitical order; just as He treasures us. We simply need to live as His people, It is as great an honor to live as God’s ambassadors while we walk among those we know each day!

God Bless You

The Lord said to Moses, “Bring the tribe of Levi and present them to Aaron the priest to assist him. They are to perform duties for him and for the whole community at the tent of meeting by doing the work of the tabernacle. They are to take care of all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, fulfilling the obligations of the Israelites by doing the work of the tabernacle. Give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to him.[a] 10 Appoint Aaron and his sons to serve as priests; anyone else who approaches the sanctuary is to be put to death.”

11 The Lord also said to Moses, 12 “I have taken the Levites from among the Israelites in place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman. The Levites are mine, 13 for all the firstborn are mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set apart for myself every firstborn in Israel, whether human or animal. They are to be mine. I am the Lord.”

I Corinthians 12 Part 2–The BODY of Christ

As a church, Paul likened the family of God as parts of a body.  This was an especially keen example for the people of Corinth because, as a port city, it was a fashion hub. The Corinthians were all about how they looked and what the had.  They all wanted to keep up with the best and the elite.  So, when Paul was explaining spiritual gifts, it probably resonated that like a body, not every part could be attractive.  But, there was so much more. In reality, the attractive parts of the body, hair, height, eye color are not what keeps the body alive. It is the pancreas, the liver, the colon. It is teeth, kidneys, and feet. So many of our unattractive parts are vital to the survival of the body.  
 
Paul wanted the people to grasp the idea that it takes all the parts to make the body function properly. What is more, if parts are not healthy, the entire body suffers. One need only have a toothache or ear infection to realize how it affects the entire body. It makes as little sense to minimize the different roles within the church, as it does to minimize the importance of the different parts of the body. 
 
In our day, we are so much more aware of the critical nature of the ugly parts of the body. Hopefully, we are also aware of the critical nature of the different working parts of the church body. In my various roles within churches, I have seen the invaluable work of those not on stage or in elected leadership. The childcare folks, the trustees, the deacons and AV folks. those that mow lawns or help those in need.  All the people behind the scenes are what help a church body to remain alive and healthy. When those people are not functioning, the rest of the church body suffers greatly.  I can tell you that I am forever devoted to a guy that fixes electrical problems, builds shelves, teaches kids and makes coffee. Week in and week out people all over the church benefit from his quiet and humble devotion to the family, to Christ and to walking humbly with our Lord. He is a critical part of the church and if he is gone or ill, it is like an organ failure–life-threatening. 
 
We must be willing to realize the vital help those behind the scenes give and be willing to fill the less attractive roles knowing that it is those roles that keep a church alive.  Lord, help me to fulfill the role you have for me in the body–even if I am to serve in a role no one ever notices–Make me a liver for You, Lord!!!
 
God Bless You
 

 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it

I Corinthians 12 Part 1–The Distribution of Spiritual Gifts

Next, Paul addressed the issue of spiritual gifts.  The first thing that Paul wanted the people to understand was that the Holy Spirit distributed the gifts, and, as he did, it was never done to become an issue for the church.  The Spirit of God did not operate as a tool for division, nor did the Spirit ever do things that would take glory from God or tear God’s family apart.  So, Paul wanted the people to understand that the distribution of spiritual gifts was never done to divide the church or to make one person a spiritual superstar.  The gifts of encouragement, teaching, prophecy, speaking in tongues, discerning spirits were all distributed to the people for the purpose of making the church stronger.  They were not given out to divide the church or highlight any one person.  So, Paul wanted the people to stop acting as if one gift was more spiritual than another. What Paul hoped to see was that the group used their unique gifts and talents to honor and glorify God!
 
God still distributes the spiritual gifts to his people. The gifts each possess are given to support and build the entire body of Christ. Christians cannot begin to wear their spiritual gifting as some sort of badge or trophy to glorify themselves.  The church should remain submitted to God and humble.  They should use their gifts to help glorify God and build up the entire church. One’s gifts should never point to themselves, but, should always point back to God. As that remains the case, the Church becomes strong and makes an impact on lives and communities. There is no place for division among the Church, and the Spirit would never do anything that would cause such division. Simply put, God gladly distributes the gifts for the edification of all of us in God’s family. If the use of our gifts does anything else–we need to take a look at our hearts and motives.
 
God Bless You

Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers, and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.[b] 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

I Corinthians 11 Part 2–Church is More Than Simply Gathering

The Corinthians never had a problem getting together, in fact, that was one of Paul’s major concerns.  The people were coming to argue and to party.  The regular meeting to take communion had become a combination tailgate party and runway to show the haves vs have nots.  Some people would come to the fellowship and not have anything while others would come and get drunk and eat bread until they were sick. Paul was furious.
First, communion is for remembering the sacrifice Christ, it was not about us. So, when folks came in and used it as a buffet and bar, clearly Christ was neither the focus nor purpose for the communion. 
In addition, If folks were coming to communion underfed and hungry, the church should have been meeting those needs in another forum–not communion.  The church body should not have had a “have’s” and “have not’s” division. It is unthinkable to have such issues in a prosperous and growing church.
 
As believers, we need to keep our focus on Christ, His sacrifice and His leadership.  Communion is an opportunity to stop, take stock and refocus upon Him.  When we come together as believers, we are blessed to share that experience of remembering His sacrifice and love for us. We must never use that time to focus on our needs or our accomplishments.
As a body, Christians must focus on how to serve Christ and the others in His church. We must be proactive in our service and humble in our demeanor–if we will, then the Church will be a family, not a meeting place. Our gathering will be a joyful time and not a time of jealousy, pride, and infighting. Help us, Lord, to gather with the desire of honoring you and not focusing on ourselves.
 
God Bless You

 In the following directives, I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent, I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. 20 So then, when you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. 22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? Certainly not in this matter!

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

1 Corinthians 11 Part 1–Hair, Hats and Whose in Charge of all That

In the 1st part of I Corinthians 11, Paul speaks directly to the issue of head coverings, haircuts and the hierarchy of roles among believers. In the culture, men had short hair, women had long hair and women wore head coverings and men did not…Paul’s point, do not cause controversy where it is not needed.  Paul was trying to stabilize a church that was growing but also going off the rails. They were dealing with division, immorality and trying to determine significance and relevance in the church. In Paul’s mind–hair, hats and whose in charge of all that needed not to be a point of contention. Paul made it clear–take the controversy out of this.  Be modest, be humble and let God be in charge.
 
That brings us to the 21st century. In our culture, there are so many issues that divide churches. Issues around worship styles, leadership, political and social justice that cause controversy among church families.  If Paul were here, he would say let’s not cause controversy over things that we do not need to. Be modest, be humble and allow God to be in charge.  He will bless his people–when they are seeking Him with their hearts, and adopting His character.  If we, as Christians, will get over ourselves and have the same attitude as Christ (Philippians 2:5-10); then the Lord will bless us and draw folks to His kingdom through us!  Face it–we are human and do dumb stuff. We get all bothered over things God simply does not see as that significant. The truth is, if we are busy taking care of our Father’s business, we will not have time to worry about hair, hats and whose in charge of all that!
 
God Bless You
 

I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man,[a] and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.

A man ought not to cover his head,[b] since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was a man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own[c] head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For a woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.

I Corinthians 10 Part 2–Dealing With Sin vs. Preferences

Paul was facing a tough issue. How do we separate grace from practical ministry? To become a Christian, the person needed only to confess the need for Christ and believe God raised Christ from the dead for that purpose.  There were no religious requirements. Still, when one gives his life to the Lord, it is no longer one’s own.  So, Paul was trying to get the Corinthians to understand that their behavior regarding matters of preference still impacted the lives of others.  So in the case of eating meat that was not kosher or that was offered to idols–Paul’s line was its impact on non-believers and young believers.  If their behavior would keep others away from Christ, they needed to evaluate the behavior and decide how important that thing really was.  No meat is as important as the spiritual life of another.  So if eating meat offered to idols caused another to stumble, LET IT GO!
 
The same principle holds true in our lives. If there are things we eat, drink, watch or buy that really impact others ability to trust God–those things need to be out of our lives.  No matter our personal beliefs around whether something is sin or not, if it hurts another’s chance to know Christ–it needs to be out of our lives.  Conversely, we cannot allow religious acts to replace the truth about our heart. If we are trusting God and following the Lord closely, we will be selfless enough to honestly evaluate what is sin and what is a preference. We simply need to be selfless people that do not allow our preferences to control our lives.  If we are seeking God first, then He will make clear the dividing lines for preference and sin.  We have to remain on guard and allow the spirit to guide us away from a life that hinders others from knowing Christ!
 
God Bless You
 “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. 24 No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

25 Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, 26 for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”[f]

27 If an unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the one who told you and for the sake of conscience. 29 I am referring to the other person’s conscience, not yours. For why is my freedom being judged by another’s conscience? 30 If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?

31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

1 Corinthians 10 Part 1–Accountability and Faith

Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand–God set standards and kept his people accountable. Israel literally followed God for 40 years prior to taking the promised land. Each day they followed the cloud, each night they saw the pillar of fire.  In the midst of the journey they saw seas parted, manna provided water shooting out of rocks…Still, they grumbled, they sinned and they worshipped idols–WITH GOD RIGHT THERE!!!  As a result, God made the people accountable, they died, they wandered in the desert they never experienced the blessing God intended for them.  Still, He loved them and wanted for them to have all they were promised.  Paul summed it up this way–There is nothing that they or you face–that is not common to everyone. God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you can handle. Also, all temptation is a choice, and with it comes a way out to not fall into sin.
 
Nothing has changed.  We are a blessed nation. God has provided us freedoms and opportunities few have ever seen. With that comes the temptation to worship idols, to selfishly take without giving back to be prideful and haughty and to forget that it is God that provides and be grateful for what we have rather than being bitter for what we lack.  We have opportunities each day to trust and follow God–in both good times and bad.  We can never forget that we do not have to choose to sin, to be ungrateful or to forget that HE is Lord and I am not.  The struggle is real–every force in the world draws us away from God. We do have the glory of God displayed throughout creation to remind us of God’s supremacy and presence–much like the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire Israel followed. We must continue to trust God–even when it seems impossible. We must remain faithful to the end, just as HE has!!!
 
God Bless You

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.”[a] We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ,[b] as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.

11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation[c] has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted[d] beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,[e] he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

I Corinthians 9 Part 2–Being Adaptable and Disciplined

Being a minister of the Gospel was no easy task.  It required adaptability and discipline.  Paul broke the mold.  He was not simply preaching to the Jews in the local synagogue, He crossed Europe and Asia preaching to any and everyone that would listen. He preached to people in a way that met their culture and welcomed into the family of God as they were.  He never was paid for his efforts nor did he expect to be.  He was called by God to become everything he was not to advance the Gospel across the world. So, Paul told the Corinthians that they also needed to be adaptable as they shared the Gospel.  They needed to quit worrying so much on whether people fit the mold for Christianity and start to focus on getting this message out to those the Holy Spirit could touch and redeem.
 
In our day and culture, we also need to be disciplined and adaptable.  The older I become, the more real the idea that I need to adapt to be effective becomes.  My kids are adults and their kids will not respond to the things that drew me over 50 years ago.  We need to keep the message real, relevant and in front of people.  We need to sense the urgency of the Gospel as Paul did.  We cannot be offended or afraid as we tell others about Christ.  He will do the leading and saving– we simply need to be disciplined and adaptable as we spread the message.  Help me, Lord to continue to speak the truth without fear or prejudgement.

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law, I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law, I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

The Need for Self-Discipline

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.