Month: April 2023

Spirit vs Flesh

My husband and I recently came upon a volt of vultures who were contemplating eating a dead animal in the middle of a bridge—directly in the path of oncoming vehicles. As we inched closer in our truck, we decided to pull off onto the side of the road and more closely observe the birds’ behavior as they instinctively pursued their meal:

Initially, one vulture was “on the fence” contemplating the amount of risk that might be involved in fulfilling his desire to eat the fresh road-kill…

The vulture decided to take the risk and soon after, another bird was “on the fence” observing and contemplating whether he should follow suit…

Overcome with “temptation”, he soon joined the other vulture.

Notice, once both birds fully succumbed to their desires, they became oblivious to the fast-approaching danger; meanwhile, other vultures observed the events from a higher perspective:

While the instinctual behavior of the vultures is distinctly different from the contemplative behavior of human beings, the comparison helps visibly demonstrate the process of wrestling with lusts of the flesh: First, a point of conscious choice precedes decisions to act; and then once decisions are made to give in to temptation, other people are often influenced and enticed to join in. Finally, as people continue to choose unwisely, they become increasingly focused on fulfilling their desires, and less aware of the possible dangers of such pursuits.

However, much like the vultures in the trees, we can wisely make our choices from a “higher perspective”—a Biblical perspective, lead by the Spirit, who receives from Jesus, and reveals it to us (John 16:13-14). We find the central truth of this narrative summed up in Galatians 5:24-25, “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

Look and Live

The context for Numbers 21:8-9 is the disobedient, complaining disposition of the people when they grew discouraged by the difficulty of their flight from Egypt. They actually began to speak against Moses and against God…not because they were without bread or water. They had manna and also water from a Rock; nevertheless they claimed they had neither regardless of the fact (as we learn in verse 5) that they “loathed” the bread God had provided. The consequence was that they provoked God to send fiery deadly serpents to bite them, resulting in many of them dying.

You might be saying to yourself, “That seems too harsh and it may even be unfair.” Yet, when the full narrative of the children of Israel’s flight from slavery is taken into account, it becomes evident that the Lord was patient, long-suffering, and merciful to them: From the very start, the people sinned with doubt and ingratitude while continually complaining, grumbling, and falsely accusing their leadership and the Lord about the the things they perceived were lacking. They had continually spurned, grieved, and provoked the Lord in the wilderness.

Yet, God in His great love and mercy provided a way for them to escape His judgement: They only needed to look upon the bronze serpent to live. Now we might think to ourselves, “This seems unfair…the Hebrews did not deserve such an easy way out” and we would be justified in our assessment. All that was required was for the people to ignore the biting snakes and give full attention to the bronze serpent on the pole; this even applied to those who had already been bitten and doomed to death—they could still look and live. It should be noted that two things had taken place in order for them to trust in the Lord’s deliverance: The people repented, and Moses prayed for them.

Numbers 21 provides critical lessons that are still true and applicable for these trying times today: God is good and loving at all times, and we can count on Him to provide our needs. Just as with the children of Israel, it is critical to remember to be grateful for all that He gives, not focus on what we think is lacking. Only then we will be able to refrain from grumbling and complaining so that we can endure with patience the difficulties of our earthly journey. Most importantly, we can with empowerment from the Holy Spirit, turn away from (repent of) our sins such as ingratitude, complaining and unbelief and place our trust in the One whom God provided for our deliverance—Jesus.

The Lord is My Shepherd

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When I think about the 23rd Psalm, I regard the Shepherd personally: “The Lord is MY Shepherd”

To list all of the implications of this personal Shepherd described in Psalm 23 is perhaps an impossible undertaking; therefore, I will present a few of the shepherding characteristics that each and every child of God can count on from Jesus, the Good Shepherd:

  • He provides a genuine sense of belonging and possesses a knowledge about us on the deepest level (John 10 14; John 10:3; Ps. 23:1).
  • He provides all I need (Ps. 23:1; Phil. 4:19)
  • The Good Shepherd causes me to rest, be safe and secure, and experience peace (Ps.23:2,
  • He restores/heals our minds, wills, and emotions (souls) (Psalm 23:3)
  • Jesus leads me on the right (righteous) path; He does not drive or force me, but shows me the way (Psalm 23:3; John 10:27)
  • He never leaves us or forsakes us—we do not need to fear anything or anyone because Jesus protects us (Ps. 23:4; Luke 15:3-7)
  • Our lives overflow with His abundant supply and power—no matter our circumstances—because of His consistent and ever-present goodness and mercy toward us (Psalm 23: 5-6)
  • We will dwell with our Good Shepherd forever! (Psalm 23:6)

The Power of the Tongue

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The Bible has much to say about the words we speak—words that give life or words that administer death. Whether our communication builds up those who hear or whether it tears down and discourages others, we ourselves will also be impacted by our words. As Proverbs 18:21 demonstrates, we will “eat” the consequences of what we say, for example:

GOOD WORDS: Builds up and gives grace to others (Ephesians 4:29); turns away the anger of others (Proverbs 15:1); are soothing to the soul and healthy for the body (Proverbs 16:24); will keep us out of trouble (Proverbs 21:23); are acceptable to God (Psalm 19:14); are prudent and appropriate to say (Colossians 4:6), etc. Lastly and most assuredly, when we appropriately speak the word of God to others, it will be profitable communication (2Timothy 3:16).

However, when we speak BAD or CORRUPT WORDS, they can defile us (make unholy) (Mt. 15:18); they can be condemning (Mt. 12:37); can corrupt us and others (Eph. 4:29); bring us under judgement (Mt. 12:36); can wound and discourage (Prov. 12:18); stir up anger (Prov.15:1); break another’s spirit (Prov. 15:4), etc.

Perhaps it would be helpful to keep these images in mind:

GOOD WORDS administer life and are sweet like honey——————————————————->

(Proverbs 18:21 & 16:24)

CORRUPT WORDS are bitter and deadly

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(Proverbs 13:13)

It is sobering to realize how our words can cause us to fall into sin and even come to ruin (Proverbs 10:9 & 13:3); but at the same time, encouraging to know that our words can be a tree of life for ourselves and others (Proverbs 15:4).