Category Archives: Learning Center Lessons

Learning Center Lessons

Numbers 14:13ff Grief and Justice

Life of Moses
Grief and Justice 
Numbers 14:13ff

Introduction…When someone commits an egregious act or sin, how does one balance mercy and forgiveness with truth and justice? Though this might seem like a simple question, it is far from that. Observe how both the LORD and Moses wrestle with it, each on their own terms. Can you see both the mercy and the justice? Have you experienced one of these moments lately? How does Christ’s death, as well as the Spirit’s conviction and discipline address both these issues for us as God’s children (for help, read Hebrews 10:19-12:13). Is God both merciful and just with his children? Now, for the real kicker, how might this affect our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ? 
Heaven’s Grief…
Teacher’s Note:  You might want to briefly review what has just occurred. Remember the 12 spies, one from each tribe has just returned. While Joshua and Caleb, believing God, fight to take the land, the other ten persuade the nation that taking their rightful inheritance would be too risky. Panicked that they have come all this way from Egypt for nothing, the nation wants to stone its leadership. God, feeling utter contempt, seeks to destroy Israel and renew his promises to the line of Moses.
General Introduction…

The third book of the Old Testament and the OT Law, the book of Numbers, gets it title from a census, by tribes, of the Children of Israel, which begins the book. Ultimately, Numbers takes the Children of Israel, under Moses’ leadership, from the Sinai Penisula to the Promise Land. Along the way there are some dramatic plot twists…
Along with some of the more pivotal movements of the OT Law, including…
• Beginning with Genesis (Beginnings), the story of Creation, the First Murder, the Flood and the Construction of the Tower of Babel (Gen. 1-11)…
• Yahweh God’s choosing to bestow his magnificent blessings through the biblical patriarchs (Gen. 12-50). 
• beginning with Abraham (the father of nations), 
• his son—Isaac–and 
• Isaac’s son–Jacob (or Israel) and 
• Jacob’s twelve sons and their descendents…who will, while exiled in Egypt for over 400 years, eventually become the 12 tribes of Israel… 
• Then beginning in Exodus (A Way Out), the story of Moses, including…
• Yahweh God’s calling of Moses at the Burning Bush to lead Israel out of Egyptian slavery…
• the Ten Plagues upon Egypt that Yahweh God uses to break Egypt’s grip of the Children of Israel… 
• particularly, the last and most devastating Passover plague
• Yahweh God’s parting of the Red Sea to deliver Israel from Pharaoh’s pursing chariots, then 
• Yahweh God returning of the Red Sea’s waters to where they were before in so doing, drown Pharoah’s charioteers… 
• Moses’ return to Mt. Sinai where he was first called by God… 
• Israel’s entering into a covenant relationship with Yahweh God through the Law… 
• Israel’s immediate breaking of her covenant when she constructs and worships a golden calf…
• Both Yahweh’s just discipline and his gracious mercy after Israel’s disobedience…
• (And now, beginning with the Book of Numbers)
…the story of Israel’s failure at Kadesh Barnea (Num. 13) to boldly claim and take what had been promised to her—her Promise Lands—forms yet another major plot development… 
…for forty years Israel will pay for her tragic indecisiveness. Two generations of Israelites will die off before the nation is allowed a second chance at claiming her Promised inheritance. 
Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 8.05.35 PM

Read Passage several times…
Ask Questions…
 13 Moses said to the LORD, “Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them.   

That God destroyed the Israelites? That they died in the wilderness? 
v. 12 I will strike them (the children of Israel) down with a plague and destroy them, but I will make you (Moses) into a nation greater and stronger than they.” 
14 And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that you, O LORD, are with these people and that you, O LORD, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.   

That the inhabitants of the land that they had been about to conquer, had they not balked to do just that, might here would hear from the Egyptians how Israel finally failed in the desert? 

15 If you put these people to death all AT ALL ONE TIME the nations who have heard this report about you will say,   

Interesting to note that Moses makes a point of the Israelites being destroyed all at once as opposed to be gradually wiped out generationally, which is exactly what will take place, and not just one generation, but two…

16  `The LORD was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them on oath; so he slaughtered them in the desert.’   

In other words, YOU, YAHWEH, could not deliver the goods. You could not get them to their Promised Land.  This is about your honor, glory and majesty that is at stake here, not Israel’s disobedience in the end. Note: This is the second time that Moses has desperately interceded on behalf of a disobedient Israel. The first occasion was at Mt. Sinai when Yahweh God wanted to destroy them for having built and worshiped the golden calf while Moses was up on the mountain with God receiving their Law. 

17  “Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared:   

18  `The LORD is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.’   

Moses uses God’s own character to reinforce Moses’ argument that God is both extremely compassionate, while at the same time being just and fully willing to be disciplinary. He is patient, patient, patient, but then his patience runs out, and there is pain to pay for several generations. While the Creator is patient, his glory will not be devalued…

19 In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.”   

Thank God for Israel’s having a mediator, a go-between, in Moses, between her sinful self and her righteous, offended Creator.  

20 The LORD replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked.   

That was quick and to the point!

21 Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth,   

Oh, here is where the other shoe drops. These are two sure things: he does live and his glory fills the earth.

22 not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times–  

My patience has run out. It is Spiritually or logically inconceivable that someone could have witnessed my glory and doubt that they would have not witnessed my glory again. No earthly way!

23 not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.   

Contempt for God’s glory and majesty will not go unpunished!
24 But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.   

But not everyone will be punished. The few…the noble, courageous, obedient few will be honored! 

25 Since the Amalekites and Canaanites are living in the valleys, turn back tomorrow and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea. “

A change in plans? Back to the desert? Back towards Egypt? But the Red Sea is both south and west? 
(Review of the Most Recent Events…)
• Led explicitly by the fiery cloud (the presence of the LORD), the children of Israel leave Sinai, the place where they tied the marriage knot to their spiritual groom, Yahweh God, experienced their greatest moral failure in constructing another god, the golden calf, were severely disciplined and finally received their law/contract which they will live by in the land they are traveling to. Num 9-10.
• The people begin to complain: first about their hardships, then about their food. The Lord hears both complaints. The first time he sends fire from the sky around the outskirts of camp. The second time he instructs Moses to gather 70 of the leaders from the nation to come before him so that the can place his Spirit upon them as he has done with Moses in order to help him with the burden of leading his people. Num 11.
• By not only giving Israel more than what they want in quail, God disciplines the nation for having complained against his provision and wishing they were back in Egypt. He also chastises them with a plague.  Num 11.
• God defends his humble servant, Moses, from an attempted sibling coup when he strickens Moses’ sister, Miriam, with a snow white leprosy and requires her to remain outside the camp for seven days. Num 12.
• It is now time to explore the land; they explore it, but are intimidated by the size of the people. Despite Caleb’s protest they spread their report to the rest of the people. Num 13.
• Despite Caleb and Joshua’s attempts to remind them that God’s will will accomplish what he has promised for them, the disobedient children of Israel, now trusting the majority of spies, grieve the spies’ negative reports, wishes, as a nation, that they were actually dead, seek to stone Moses and Aaron and replace them with a leader that will lead them back to EgyptGod then intervenes and seeks to destroy Israel and bless Moses.  Num. 14.
Summary…The LORD accepts Moses’ plea bargain for the nation. He will not destroy them, but those they have repeatedly disobeyed will never into the Land. Only his faithful servant, Caleb, will receive the Promise. Now they are to turn back towards the Sea.
Why? (What truths do I learn about God, man, people, myself, life?)
• God is our protector. 
• Just as Israel had one who interceded for them so that God would not destroy them for their sin, so we have one who has interceded on our behalf so that God would not destroy us for our sin in Jesus Christ. 
• Perhaps we are too intercede on behalf of others as well. 
• God’s love and patience is overwhelming. At the same time he is just and will not leave the guilt unpunished. 
The Cross was a demonstration of both God’s Mercy and Justice…
• Just as righteousness has long term effects, so sin’s consequences bleed over into the following generations as well. Our long-term deeds make a difference. 
• God does live and his glory does fill the earth.
• Men can be stubbornly stupid, disobedient, selfish, self-centered and short-term in their thinking, fear and memory.
• God will not be dishonored. There will be a price for his dishonor.
• God rewards those who are willing to stand against the crowd and do the right thing. 
• God follows through on his word….bottom line. God’s word is his decree…his will. 
So What? 
2016 Application…
Thanksgiving…I am alive! Good week; challenging week filled with several “todays” that were indeed made by God and that because they were made by him, that one truth…that they were made by God and God only, caused me to dance and rejoice! One praise…I am witnessing second hand, a Spiritual reconciliation, and that is wonderful! 
Struggle…My temptation to lose focus and be discouraged by my seemingly failures or weaknesses as an administrative shepherd.  
Truth and Application…I cannot only imagine the failure that Moses must have felt when Israel balked at taking the Promised Land. He had to live with that moment for another forty years. I have had to live with my own for twenty years. I not only feel my own pain and the pain that Moses must have felt, but Yahweh God’s own pain, obviously in an anthropomorphic (viewing God in human terms) sense.  We all want things to go so well. No problems. Everyone obedient. But we forget, the struggle is with sin, and that battle never ends. Play the game as dictated. No one fully knows the earthly decrees of the Father for his children’s individual ministries. 
Your servant,
Joseph M. Cross

Your Struggle?

Your Truth? 

Your Application? 
Scripture quotations, unless noted otherwise, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version‚ NIV‚ Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.

Numbers 14:1ff The Community Raised Their Voices

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Life of Moses
The Community Raised Their Voices!
Numbers 14.1ff
No against the crowd
Introduction… When was the last time the majority intimidated you into doing something that you weren’t quite sure of? What did you do? Did you stand or cave? Why? How did you feel about it later, one way or the other?

Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb are all finding out the high price of doing the right thing…of trusting God, when all those around seem NOT to be. 
Most of us are crowd followers, whether we like to admit it or not. We often fail to have the “guts” to think and pray for ourselves. There is no way that so many could be wrong, and I could be right?!
But once a person understands the psychological make-up of a crowd (or a mob) it is not hard to see how we can become so intimidated and follow the guy just ahead of me off the cliff. 
“If everyone else is doing it, there must be some legitimacy to it. Right?” Not always! And probably, not even mostly! Do your homework! 
What happens, is at some point in time, out of fear of being left out or going against the grain, individuals stop doing their homework. Call it Beanie Babies, AOL, the 2001 tech bubble, the 2008 mortgage crisis or Israel’s moral failure at Kadesh Barnea, we all do it. It’s human nature. The real question is can we summon the moral fortitude to stand up to the mob, risk sacrifice, but in the end, live with ourselves because we did the right thing, even if not perfect? 
In this case, the mob’s choices will have disastrous consequences. 

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Numbers 13:1ff How is the Soil?

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Life of Moses
How is the Soil?
Numbers 13.1ff
1.4.4; ed. 2/7/16

Introduction…Ever felt the pressure of being a minority in a given situation? Where you thought one thing, but the group or majority thought another? Was your tendency, if possible, to give in and go along with the crowd, even if you knew or suspected something different or better? How did your experience turn out? Where you right? Wrong? Did you feel any guilt? Did anyone, in the end, stand up to the group’s seeming position? What happened to them? Was that person you? 
Probably, one of the most important skills you will ever develop as a Christ-follower is the courage to go against the crowd…to stand against the mob…to go against the grain…to risk rejection and possible ostracization or exclusion from the group. In fact, one has to have a tough backbone in order to risk this kind of pressure. But it’s a must if one is to follow Christ. 
Bird - the crowd 
On a secondary note: how and why does this affect happen…the power of the mob? 
Going a step further
Below is a link leading to PBS’s Frontline special A Class Divided (airing on March 26, 1985). The day after Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, a teacher in a small town in Iowa tried a daring classroom experiment. She decided to treat children with blue eyes as superior to children with brown eyes. FRONTLINE explores what those children learned about discrimination and how it still affects them today.
Learn about discrimination

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Numbers 12:1 Et tu, Brute?

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Life of Moses
Et tu, Brute?
Numbers 12.1ff
Orig. 12/28/3; ed. 1.24.16

Introduction… Ever been jealous before? Why? Is jealousy normal? Why do people get jealous? What is at the heart of jealousy? 
How long did it take for jealousy to rear its ugly, deadly, destructive head within the biblical story? Try the first murder in Gen. 4? And who was it between and what were the deadly repercussions? Try between two brothers seeking to please God. I mean, even if something noble, such as seeking to bring appropriate offerings to God, can trigger hidden jealousies, then anything can and will. We all want to be loved, and somehow, when we perceive someone is getting better than we are, suddenly what was sufficient, now becomes less than…and less than can become deadly. 
On the other hand, have you experienced the painful side affects of someone else’s jealousy towards you? You were just being you, and then someone, because of your position or gifts or success, turned on you from seemingly out of nowhere, perhaps even a sibling? 
It’s a weird feeling. Typically, we don’t prepare our children for this type of experience. We tend to teach our children that the world is a good place…that justice prevails, and therefore, we are to do the right thing and we will be rewarded for it, right? Wrong. We forget to tell them, that even though they should still seek to do the right thing, your success can and usually does mean someone’s jealousy. Thus also the need to teach our kids about true humility even in the midst of perceived success. 

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Numbers 11:18-35 The Painful Provision

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Life of Moses
The Painful Provision
Numbers 11:18-35

Introduction… Have you ever felt the presence of God? Have you ever had a God-moment in which God answered a prayer, or a sudden inspiration has come to you when only a moment or second before, you had never had that thought? How do you know it was God? How did things work out for you? Do you understand the importance of the Spirit’s role to not only the church in general, but to individual believers—how the Spirit, unlike the Son, is with and available to every person on the planet who puts their confidence, hope and trust in God the Son’s atonement for the forgiveness of all their sins, and thus allowing them to be reconciled with the holy, perfect, just and righteous Creator of the Universe?
In addition, it’s not always easy being a good Spiritual leader. Moses is finding this out the hard way. At times, especially early on, Moses was probably a bit too optimistic about people’s support. Now Moses is discovering that people…humans… can be very fickle, have short memories, say cruel things, as well as, cave into mob rule around them. 

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Luke 2:41 The Forest of our Lives

© 1998-2016
Life of Christ
Luke 2:41ff
Missing that Special Tree in the Seemingly Never-ending Earthly Forest of One’s Daily Existence…
Introduction…Sometimes we see things through a wrong lens, which can completely distort the image. 
Sometimes we can’t see the real forest…God’s forest… for our trees.
Light streaming through coniferous forest, Columbia River Gorge Area, Oregon, USA - ferns, conifers

Light streaming through coniferous forest, Columbia River Gorge Area, Oregon, USA – ferns, conifers.

We see something as frustrating or an inconvenience when, in all actuality, everything is still really okay because God is in control and has a much greater agenda going on than what we see.
Can you think of a situation in which you thought something was really going bad, but in the end, it wasn’t so bad. 
Why was this true? What kind of lens were you looking through at the time? 
What was the lens God was looking through in the same circumstance? 
How can one see life’s experiences, including the more frustrating ones, through a different, God-like lens, as opposed to my own self-centered lens? 
How can I see life and all my experiences through a bigger, God-like picture or lens? 
If I do see life with a God-like lens, then how would that change the way I view life? 
What am I looking for? 
So when bad or frustrating things are occurring, what can I do to change the way I view my difficult circumstances so that I see the same through a different, God-like bigger picture lens?
Pray for insight… 

Read the passage 3 times…

Now let’s begin to ask questions…

 41Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. 

42When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. 

How long was it to Jerusalem from where they lived? Nazareth? Thirty, fifty, seventy miles? How long did the journey take? Was it a rough journey? Had the family taken this journey every year? What about Pentecost festival in June and or Booths or Tabernacles in the fall? How many times had the young Jesus been to Jerusalem? Was he aware that he was the Son of God or Messiah to begin with or a gradual experience, strengthened by each trip to Jerusalem? Was Jerusalem a safe place for Jesus now? Had people forgotten what a threat his birth had caused 12 years earlier? 

43After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 

How did he know to do this? Why did he do this? Was he that deep in thought? Was he distracted? Did he know what he was doing? Why did he remain? 

44Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 

How did they miss him for one whole day? Was there that many people in their traveling party? Was a 12 year old given that much freedom at this time? How many relatives were there? Friends? So Jesus had a large family? A large spiritual or religious family? 

45When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 

I can only imagine their anxiousness…and their hurry…We have lost the Son of God…We have lost the Messiah…

46After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 

Three days? How great a city was Jerusalem? So it’s been four days without our son? And Jesus is totally focused on what he is doing in the temple, and they have no idea? Amazing… No clue whatsoever? What questions was he asking them? Did he know the answers or was he truly seeking their thoughts and understanding with respect to Scripture? 

47Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 

So they asked him questions as well? How did he know the answers? Did he study back in Nazareth? Had his mother or father or grandfather or grandmother taught him? Did he have a photographic type of memory? Was Jesus a genius? How did he know what he knew? Was it just there? What was the Spirit’s role?



When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” 

So apparently his mother did not understand even though she had been told all this by the angels? Had she forgotten? Had nothing happened in the previous 12 years so that his living with them had become commonplace? Why did they not see this coming?  What kind of child was Jesus? Was he precocious? A brat? Did he ever do wrong? Was he a quiet kid? A leader? Since the Scriptures say that he committed no sin, are kids sinful? Was Christ’s development taken into consideration or was he just always perfect? It this the first time his parents have ever had to deal with anything but perfection with him? Is this why they didn’t worry about him in the first place—that he had never given them any problem? They just assumed he would be with everyone? 
49“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 

It says this like it is obvious? Why was it not so obvious to them? Why has Luke chosen to include this episode? If we assume Luke received this account from Jesus’ mother, then is she trying to tell us that this is the first time she really grasped that Jesus was really different? That something else was going on here, even as a young child of 12?

50But they did not understand what he was saying to them. 
51Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 

52And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.

Wisdom of God, like the Proverbs? The OT? The OT prophesies? The ability to apply the Scriptures to life? And stature…strength, physical nature? God is pleased with him, as well as men? 
Summary: Jesus’ parents get a glimpse of their son’s uniqueness and special giftedness when, at the age of 12, he unknowingly becomes separated from his parents as they return home from the Passover, while at the same time, he remains engaged in a theological discussion with the teachers in the temple. 
Bottom line: When Jesus remains at the temple engaged with the temple’s teaches, Jesus’ parents are reminded whose son he really is—God’s.
Why did God include this event in his record or what would we not know–about God, life, myself, others, etc.–if this story were not in the Bible? 
About God, life, myself, others? 
• That although Jesus was the Son of God, he must have appeared normal for his parents to have been surprised by his remaining behind at the temple to discuss the Scriptures with the teachers of the law. 
• Although Jesus was 12, and apparently his parents didn’t totally grasp who he was, apparently he was beginning to. 

• And yet, despite his awareness and his giftedness, he went home and respectfully seasoned. He played his role at home. He was a respectful son. He seasoned. He waited. He did not rush. He waited for God’s timetable with respect to what he was born to do and was called to do.



2o16 Update
…2009 was particularly painful as we lost some valuable members. But, as usual, with God’s ever-present grace, we survived…and in time, eventually, we were vindicated and prospered. We did not die. Was it tough? Yes. Disappointing? Yes. Was there poor communication? Yes. Immaturity? Yes. Dishonesty and sin? Yes. But God’s grace is stronger yet…Truth in time…
Thanksgiving…a fundamentally solid year. We held our own. Paid our bills. Accomplished our missions, goals and tasks, and we did a lot of good work. And it has been a nice and relaxing holiday. 
Struggle…Battling anxiousness about working on a new section or addition of SLove, at the same time knowing that they will still be lots of other demands placed on us and myself that are important, needed and necessary, but at the same time, distract from the larger goal…SLove…
Truth…Don’t miss the forest for the trees. Don’t confuse the daily and mundane…for what lies asleep, awaiting to be awakened by God’s Spirit at the proper moment and season. Do your Spiritual due diligence. God has his own divine timetable. Do the basics, but don’t discount the greater latent purpose. 
Application…Do the fundamentals. Trust the fundamentals. I have a plan in place. Stick with the plan, including the improvements or the Spiritual renovations I am moving towards, along with remaining tethered to SLove and its crucial revision. And then be prepared that the unexpected will happen. My day…our day…will come. The pieces are there…slowly being rounded into form.   
Your application:
Biggest Struggle at the moment:
How does what happen here relate to you?
As always, thanks!
Scripture quotations, unless noted otherwise, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version‚ NIV‚ Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.

Luke 1:26-38 Don’t Be Afraid Mary!

© 1998-2015
Life of Christ
Don’t Be Afraid, Mary! Or Joe! Or Gordan! Or Nikki! Or a Thousand Million Other Spiritual Parents!
Luke 1:26-38
Introduction 2015: Being chosen! Chosen for the incredible task of raising someone special. In Mary’s case, the Savior of the world, as well as, the leaders and founders of the early church, Jesus’ siblings. In our case, these wonderful children that God has gifted us with so that in attempting to Spiritually raise them, the Spirit will, no doubt be raising us. 
One can only do it with the supernatural, ongoing and constant grace, favor, mercy and kindness of God. Without this, we are failures and doomed to fail, but bathed in this love, we have hope. Hope to do the impossible, raise a godly kid…a godly human being…someone that benefits mankind as opposed to robbing or stealing from humanity. It was the grace that helped a gifted, but imperfect mother prepare a son to sacrificially offer his life to save the world from Sin’s darkness, and it is the grace that still sustains Spiritual parents today. May the Grace be with You, as well… 

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Fwd: The Undoubted Truth… Luke 1:1-25

Life of Christ
Lesson 1 (The Very First LC Bible Study Lesson)
The Undoubted Truth…
Luke 1:1-25
Introduction…This now represents an edited version of Learning Center Bible Study Lesson 1, written 17 years ago. Several things leap out at me. 1) The work, time, inspiration and passion required to research, discover and write sustainable TRUTH, as well as,  the outstanding, inspired research and reporting of a few first century Christians , still stands the historical test of time; 2) Spiritual faithfulness’ true reward is often delayed, but no less real; 3) We are John the Baptist. John the Baptist foreshadows every Christian. When we are reborn in Christ, we are graced with God’s Spirit, and with God’s Spirit our goal is to prepare people for God. Pure and simple. 

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Numbers 11:1ff Leadership Training 11-29-15

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Life of Moses
Leadership’s Training Grounds: 
When Someone Else’s Problems are Greater than my Human Resources…
Discontentment’s Rebellion, God’s Discipline, the Mediator’s Cry and the Spirit’s Comfort!
Numbers 11.1ff
11/30/3; ed. 11/29/15

Introduction…Ever notice how many people love to help when the help is short-term? Or when we do help someone in the short-term and it works, we tend to feel good about ourselves? 
Cowboy helping-others-ws31
But when our short-term answers run out too quickly and what we thought helped or fixed that person didn’t, then the helping or loving is NOT as much fun? Are you kidding me? You are NOT fixed? I don’t have time to really help you! How much help do you really need?! I can’t keep helping! I have other things to do…other people to help! Get your act together! Just how messed up are you?!
Remember earlier, when His impatient bride fashioned a golden calf to be her new god, how a frustrated Yahweh God was ready to be done with his fickle bride, but the Mediator, Moses, interceded on her behalf and the Groom relented? Feeling the increasing pressure of intervening on behalf of or attempting to please the fickle, often-discontented and constantly-aroused mob, the Mediator has finally reached his human limit and asks for Divine Help!

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Numbers 9-10 The Cloud: When to Move 11-22-15

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Life of Moses
The Cloud: When to Pull Up Stakes and When Not To
Numbers 9-10
Introduction…How does one know if one is following the Cloud? Not the internet cloud, but the presence of God…i.e. for us, members of his church…his Spiritual gathering of saints? What do you think that means—to move and do when God leads, as well as, to rest and worship when the Cloud or Spirit ceases to move? I mean, how does one know if what I am doing is just me or from God? Do you think that God wants us to sit still sometimes…i.e. rest? And listen for or to his voice. I know, it seems for me when I have rested, it seems that God does inspire me with refreshed insights that I didn’t have before I rested and was Spiritually refreshed? Do you think that God does want us to go, go, go all the time? If God did say to sit still, could you? How would you? Would that sitting still at some point in time involve worship?
If I were a teacher, I might even play a competitive game of still water to see who can be the stillest and why? Afterwards, I would ask my students, how it felt to be still for a few moments? Was it comfortable or uncomfortable and why? What were the greatest distractions to remaining still? 
General Study Introduction…
Note: Today’s passage represents a major transition. 
We are skipping over the later portion of ExodusLeviticus and the beginning of Numbers
Both Exodus and Leviticus contain significant sections dedicated to the establishment and construction of the tabernacle or movable tent where Yahweh God intends to Spiritually dwell with his bride, Israel. 
Also prescribed are special sacrifices, along with offerings, that Israel was to bring to her divine husband, either as acts of devotion or to atone for her sins committed against the Law or her covenant with Yahweh. In turn, these sacrifices and offerings were ritually received by and offered by the Levites (one of the 12 tribes of Israel), as well as a set apart subset of the Levites, the anointed Priests. The Priests were descendants of Moses’ brother Aaron, both of whom were members of the tribe of Levi. 
Numbers gets it’s title from the national census that begins the book. Ultimately, the book of Numbers takes Israel from God’s mountain at Sinai where she receives her Covenant or Law, to her promised ancestral lands in Canaan. Along the way, there are several major plot twists that dramatically shape the biblical narrative. 
It has now been almost one year (see Ex 19:1; Numbers 10:11) since Israel first arrived at Mt. Sinai to enter into her covenant with her Divine Sovereign, and almost 15 months since she first left Egypt (Ex 12:1). 
Now with her law in hand and having committed a major spiritual debacle, under the leadership of her mediator, Moses, Israel prepares to leave for her promised ancestral lands.
Read Passage several times…
Ask Questions…
9:15 On the day the tabernacle, the Tent of the Testimony, was set up, the cloud covered it. From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire.   
What kind of cloud? Was God in the cloud? Why a cloud? And why did the cloud appear like fire at night? Was this to reveal that this was no ordinary cloud, but the glory of God? 
Mountain in cloud

The Mountain in the Clouds

The peak of Mt. Olivia emerges briefly from the morning clouds behind Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego. Mt. Olivia can be seen behind Ushuaia in yesterday’s picture, and is part of the Southern Andes of Patagonia.
16 That is how it continued to be; the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire.   
Why over the tabernacle, the set apart place where God chose to meet with his bride Israel via their mediator Moses?
17 Whenever the cloud lifted from above the Tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped.   
No doubt, this represents a repeated pattern. When the cloud lifted, the bride knew it was time to pack up and travel. When it did not, she would remain camped. Follow the cloud. Israel’s total dependence was upon this God…this manifestation of God. 
18 At the LORD’s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp.   
The cloud was everything. Everything. 
19 When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the LORD’s order and did not set out.   
What was a long time? And why? What was God up to when the cloud remained stationary for extended periods of time? 
20 Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the LORD’s command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out.  
A few days…
21 Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out.   
Tent City
Tent city: An aerial view of the thousands of campers that Prince Charles witnessed at Glastonbury
Sometimes even just one day…

22 Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out.   

Sounds like obedience to me. Heaven’s timetable—do we understand, or does it make any difference? To us, it is solely about being and undertaking life with the presence of God, our direction, power, love and refuge. 

23 At the LORD’s command they encamped, and at the LORD’s command they set out. They obeyed the LORD’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses.

Now that a Spiritual rationale has been giving of why they traveled or not has been given, it is time for Israel, armed with her covenant and God’s presence, and much as believers in the New Testament, armed with their New Covenant and the Spirit of God, to take her next step, as God’s bride, towards her promised destiny.
(Skipping to 10:11…)

10:11 On the twentieth day of the second month of the second year, the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle of the Testimony. 

Just over a year after Israel departed from Egypt—since the Passover plague occurred freeing Israel from her Egyptian slavery on the fifteenth day of the first month (Ex. 12)—Israel prepares to depart Sinai. 

12 Then the Israelites set out from the Desert of Sinai and traveled from place to place until the cloud came to rest in the Desert of Paran.   

How far was Paran from Sinai? Notice, this is from one desert to another. How many days was this journey? 
Wilderness of Sin Map copy
(Skipping to 10:33…)

10:33 So they set out from the mountain of the LORD and traveled for three days. The ark of the covenant of the LORD went before them during those three days to find them a place to rest.   

Their covenant with God leads them to their next temporary place of rest…

34 The cloud of the LORD was over them by day when they set out from the camp.   

35 Whenever the ark set out, Moses said, “Rise up, O LORD! May your enemies be scattered; may your foes flee before you.”   

No doubt a confession of faith….

36 Whenever it came to rest, he said, “Return, O LORD, to the countless thousands of Israel.”

The cloud descending and enveloping the tent of meeting? 

Summary… Through Moses’ command and the visibility of the fiery cloud, Israel strictly followed the Lord’s leading and presence.
Bottom line…The Lord leads his people through the wilderness via his fiery cloud.
What truths do I learn about God, man, people, myself, life?
• God was present with his people in a very visible way. 
• God directed their journey, including how far they would travel and how long they would rest. Does not the Divine do the same with us, beginning with our Spiritual rest forever in Christ’s atonement for our sin, thus ensuring us…God’s children…the promise of heaven forever? So both in Christ’s atonement for sin and the giving of the Holy Spirit, the church and its individual members are given both daily and eternal Spiritual leadership and rest at the same time and forever. 
• And, in this case, the people were obedient. They did stick close to God, and thus his direction and protection. 
• Moses pronounces a blessing or confession upon the Divine who is both leading and protecting Israel’s dangerous journey. 
• In the end, God both protects and leads his children through the haunting deserts of this world to their promised objective—rest with God forever in his presence. As God leads and move, so we move and live. As God rests, so we rest. And as he leads and moves or rest, we worship or confess the truth that it is God that lead, protects and rests, an no other. 
So What? 
2015 Application…Ironically, over the years, little has changed in the way of dealing with the changing seasons and motivations. These days, thank God, I do have a part-time executive assistant that God has sent my way and that works with me to overcome my seasonal fatigue and rebellion. We are learning that because there is so much, I have to be held accountable for smaller tasks over smaller amounts of time. In other words, such as writing, we break huge tasks into smaller bites in order to fit into what can feel like a very demanding schedule at times…demanding not just in time, but emotionally-draining as well. For instance, I spent four hours with a couple last night. I had not intended to, but it just worked out that way. They were referred to me by a member of our body, thus they have not attended our church, but I am teaching them about love and marriage. I help them sort out and untie their marital and relationship knots. At the same time, I am not kidding myself concerning the mental and emotional energy required to focus this intensely for this amount of time. So it is not just time, but how I spend that time.  
Thanksgiving…So appropriate, now that we are at this culturally seasonal moment for giving thanks. I am thankful for so so so much. 1) God’s financial provision still remains amazing, and I certainly don’t want to take this for granted. 2) It seems like everyday God is also providing for me Spiritually. I mean every day something amazing takes place—some answered prayer, a great counseling session, someone being broken and coming back to God, a truth I have never thought about before revealed in his word, a song…some kind of seemingly more mystical revealing of God’s presence, a crucial text…It’s like I am beginning to see God in so many thing and in so many ways…I am very very very blessed. 
Struggle…My counseling load seems demanding and at times draining, but I just keep on going everyday, thankful whether an appointment makes it or not. I just pick up one counseling foot and place it in front of another. At the same time, it has been difficult to focus on writing, as well as, other crucial pastoral duties. In response, I am attempting to leverage my part-time executive assistant, and that is what she certainly is, because of her over-the-top competence and Spiritual sensitivity, into more and more accountability with respect to either doing or managing all the tasks, lists, needs, dreams, hopes, goals and demands that fill my mind. My prayer and hope is the work, dreaming and planning that we are doing now will translate into my better empowering the Body to do whatever the heck the Spirit has in mind for our precious body…
Truth…I think as I relook at this passage 12 years later, almost to the day, and certainly to the week, is both the unrevealed, but clearly-communicated, day-by-day plan that Yahweh God had for his bride. In other words, whether she was to travel or rest for a day or a year, that was what she was supposed to do. Oh for a people of God that would be that obedient to the Spirit or the Cloud’s leading and protection. Are we supposed to sit still, rest and wait or are we to pull up stakes and follow the Cloud for this day. Heaven has a timetable for all things, but it is our temptation to NOT watch the cloud and either do it all on our own or sit stubbornly, when we ought to be moving. What an amazing paradoxically and beautiful plan of truth, trust, presence, rest and risk…all with the expressed purpose of bringing us through the world’s wildernesses to our promised destiny and rest in the real presence of God. What a plan! What a journey! What a Divine! Amen. 
Application…Today, I will finish the lesson; get some rest…and then see what God has in store. A few pastoral contacts perhaps. Some writing…simplifying almost seven hundred references concerning what is ultimately implied as Spiritual love…not just love, but Spiritual love…not just agape, but Spiritual agape. Hopefully a walk. God, I will move and rest as you lead. I trust you. I pray my Body will also follow my lead and trust you with going and resting as well. Amen. 
Your servant,
Joseph M. Cross

Your Struggle?

Your Truth? 

Your Application? 
Scripture quotations, unless noted otherwise, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version‚ NIV‚ Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.