No doubt one of my favorite Bible characters is Phinehas, the priest, grandson of Aaron.  While only mentioned in eleven verses, I believe the glimpse we see of his life gives us a powerful insight into God's zeal and desires.  After a brief mention of his birth, we encounter him in Numbers chapter 25.  Please read the following passage which illustrates his exploits and how he found favor with God.  To give you a bit of context, God was now rebuking the Israelites for taking heathen women and worshipping their gods.

"And behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping (because of God's judgment and shame) before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.  And when Phinehas . . . saw it, he rose up from the midst of the congregation and took a spear in his hand . . . and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman . . . so the plague was stayed from the children of Israel . . . And the Lord said to Moses, 'Phinehas . . . has turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, when he was zealous for My sake among them . . . Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him My covenant of peace: And he shall have it, and his seed after  him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel.'"  (Numbers 25:6-13)

WOW!  So while most of the Israelites were in the middle of repenting and mourning because of their sins with these heathen women, one decides to try to walk by with such a woman.  Phinehas stood up and killed them both, pleasing God and stopping the plague from over Israel.  And what did God do, God highly honored him, giving him a "covenant of peace" and a "covenant of an everlasting priesthood."

I can think of few times in the Bible that God so openly and highly honored a man's deed.  What an Exploit!  What an example!  No, I don't mean we should ever kill or hurt non-Christians (any such talk by Christians is completely ungodly), but I do mean that if someone brings something ungodly into our lives we need to rebuke it and get it out immediately.  We should stand for nothing ungodly in our homes, in our families, in our churches, in our offices, or in our nations. 

For example, I used to be a major fan of the Simpsons, but I saw them mocking God in an episode and that was the last episode I watched.  I threw away all the dvd's too.  I should allow nothing ungodly in my house.  I'm talking about the movies, the evil dealings, the strife, etc.  Any unclean thing, I should remove it from my midst with spiritual violence and righteous judgment.

Not only that, God said that Phinehas was zealous for His sake.  Phinehas cared for God and took it upon himself to act on God's behalf.  We should do the same.  We can't just sit by and watch our church get infiltrated by the world and sin and every other evil thing that exists.  We must rise up, and purge our body of all things unclean.  When we do this, God will honor us.  God will give us covenants of peace, and the everlasting priesthood.  That gets me fired up.  I hope it fires you up too.  What are you going to do? Are you going to be like the other Israelites (even Moses!) who just sat and watched? Or are you going to do something about it when the devil tries to bring sin into your life.  You must protect yourself, your family, your calling, you must do like Phinehas and take it out.

Let's look at the Bible's last mention of Phinehas, the (most likely) speaker is no less than the Psalmist, the great King David himself.  "Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment: and so the plague was stayed, and that was counted unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore."  (Psalm 106:30,31)

That is one powerful passage, especially considering the phrase "counted to him for righteousness."  That phrase is only used for two people and in two circumstances, Abraham believing God's promises, and Phinehas executing the judgment shown above.  I tell you what, Phinehas honored God like few people do, and God honored him with words and promises reserved for an extremely exclusive group.  Remember  Phinehas.  Honor the Lord.  When something ungodly comes near your life, do like Phinehas, and with a Godly zeal stand up and eliminate it.


Follow The Cloud

I was reading the book of Numbers again today when I came across a passage I had never really noticed before.  Don't you love that?  I know some of you have read the Bible several times through, but each time you find new treasures and receive new revelations.  That's one great difference between the Word of God and every other book.  The Bible is alive; it lives and will live in you.  It can read your heart and speak back to you.  The Bible is God (John 1:1).  So when you are spending time with the Bible, you are spending time with God.  So I suppose God wanted me to notice something new today, maybe because of the particular season of my life, or maybe so I could share it with you.  The passage comes from Numbers 9:15-23.  I really don't want to do long quotes here, but I think I should so you can see the power of this.

"And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of testimony: and at evening there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning.  So it was always: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night.  And when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then after that the children of Israel journeyed: and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel pitched their tents.  And when the cloud tarried long upon the tabernacle many days, then the children of Israel kept the charge of the Lord, and journeyed not.  And so it was, when the cloud was a few days upon the tabernacle; according to the commandment of the Lord they abode in their tents, and according to the commandment of the Lord they journeyed.  And so it was, when the cloud abode from evening unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed: whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed.  Or whither it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining thereon, the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not: but when it was taken up, they journeyed.  At the commadment of the Lord they rested in the tents, and at the commandment of the Lord they journeyed: they kept the charge of the Lord, at the commandment of the Lord by the hand of Moses." 

I don't know about you, but by the time I finish that passage I'm thinking to myself, "Enough already I get the point."  When the cloud moved the people moved.  When the cloud stayed the people stayed.  Sometimes the cloud stayed still a long time, sometimes only a very short time.  Regardless, the people followed the cloud.

But what an awesome picture the Word presents here, and how meaningful for us even so many thousands of years later.  The cloud represented the presence of God.  The tabernacle was the place where the priests would meet with God.  But God's presence wasn't confined to the tabernacle.  His presence would be outside, guiding them.  God would know everything about the local terrain, and God would move them perfectly throughout that wilderness.  Here the people learned to follow God's leading. 

We must also learn to follow God's leading.  We must learn to look for Him and His direction.  Then we must learn to follow.  Are you happy where you are right now?  Do you want to move?  Are you looking for direction from Heaven?  Well where is the presence of God?  Sometimes my job can be taxing, but I know the presence of God still remains here, so I know it's not time to get moving.  When I see the presence of God moving, then I will know it's time for me to move.  And by the same token, I know that because God's presence is here, this is the best possible place for me.  I can be content where I am, because I know God wants me right here, with Him. 

You might remember that God told Elijah to go to a certain brook, and then to a certain widow, and God sustained him in those places (1 Kings 17).  I know sometimes it can be difficult to find God's will for your life, or see where He wants you to be.  But I want to encourage you that God has a perfect place for you in this world, not just a spiritual place, but a specific physical place.  I believe God has a city and a job and a church and an abode with your name on it.  Sure you could probably go and get by other places, but only in the place God chooses for you can you be assured of His divine protection and provision. 

I'm glad we serve a God who so lovingly directs us.  Just like the Israelites had the cloud back then, we have the Holy Spirit and the Peace of God to direct us today.  We can also get dreams, visions and prophetic Words.  God has no shortage of ways to tell you where He is and where He wants you to go.  And God won't keep it a secret, God wants you with Him and in the proper place more than you could ever imagine.  Glory to God.  So seek the Lord.  Don't get out ahead of God, but also don't get left behind.  Follow God's presence, and you'll always find yourself exactly where you should be.


Mission Trips

Before reading my thoughts on mission trips, which are below, please see the following list of trip operators, which I update when I learn of new material.
  1. Youth With a Mission - Well known ministry with trip opportunities around the world at various times around the year and various projects.   
  2. Living Water International - Focuses on drilling clean water wells and teaching hygiene in Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala, Uganda, and Honduras.  We have a friend who works for them full time in El Salvador and loves it.  Lots of date options, but it looks like they book up fast.
  3. Global Aid Network - The humanitarian arm of Campus Crusade for Christ International.  Trips to various countries, but limited dates.  Various projects to be served, such as orphanages, hospitals, schools and aid to the impoverished.
  4. World Servants - Mission trips to various countries, mostly with construction projects. One nice focus of this ministry is that it supports group mission trips, even with group members of different ages. So several members of a church could go together. This could help strengthen your local church while blessing others around the world.
  5. Shorttermmissions.com - A cool search engine which can give you information on many trips to many places.  My first search turned up a home building opportunity in Mexico, where you sleep in tents.  I'm not sure that one is for me, but maybe one day. 
  6. Costa Rica - Pura Vida Missions - A great looking organization with mission opportunities to the beautiful land of Costa Rica.  I have been there and the people are great and the scenery is beautiful.
  7. Youth On Mission - Mission trips to several places domestically and abroad, giving you some great options.  I called about their Tampa mission trip (as a possibility for my siblings) and they seem very nice and flexible.
  8. Lifetree Adventures - A sophisticated looking group with lots of options for both services and destinations.  This group even organizes trips to Egypt and Israel. 
  9. Tree of Life Missions - Outreach focused entirely on Honduras, really seeking to change that nation.
  10. Experience Mission - Lots of great looking trips to several different countries, including Kosovo and Scotland.  They also have domestic trip options.
  11. Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association - Awesome evangelism ministry conducting mission trips to the Philippines several times a year.  Check out their newsletters, it's clear that those who go on these great trips really get a chance to interact with the local people and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Bob Tebow is the father of football great Tim Tebow. 
I have never been on a true mission trip.  I wish I could say that I have, but hopefully I will get to go on one soon.  I once heard Dr. Creflo A. Dollar say that many Christians want God to send them to the nations, but God can't send them to Publix.  I prefer to think of my entire life as one great mission trip.  But I still love missions and hope to go on many mission trips in my life. 

Recently I've been working with my three younger brothers on their schooling and helping with our church youth group.  I have done some research and begun thinking about things that could help them, especially considering a typical American teenager experience, and I think a mission trip would be great for them.  I also think it would be great for me and most of the people I know.  There is nothing like going abroad, which I have been blessed to do many times.  It's great to get apart and have time seeing the world just with you, some loved ones, and God.  I know that going abroad, seeing the poverty, helping, and ministering as a Christian would be an incredible experience for anyone. 

We'd love to hear about your experiences, or any other Christian mission organization you know good things about.  We should be ready to serve God at all times, in any place.  But getting out in the world and serving God can do amazing things for one's perspective and passion.  "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us.  Then said I, Here am I; send me."  (Isaiah 6:8)