February 19

Numbers 31-32, Psalm 50

According to the National Institute of Justice in a study around a decade ago, 68% of prisoners released from prison in 30 states were arrested again within 3 years; 77% within 5 years. The rates are even higher when it comes to issues such as substance abuse. Relapse rates for those recovering from heroin or opiate addiction are at around 90%. In Proverbs 26:11, we read, "As a dog returns to his own vomit, So a fool repeats his folly." This does not imply that all criminals and addicts are or remain fools. The question is has the individual repented and therefore truly changed, or are they trying to make it in their own strength. Programs like U-Turn for Christ attempt to do just that. By repentance and committing one's life to Christ, rather than armed with their own strength, they are armed with the Holy Spirit.

As we continue through the wilderness journey, it is amazing how circular their history is. We shake our heads as we read of the Israelites committing the same mistakes over and over again. In Chapter 31, we read in 31:2, that the Lord tells Moses, "Take vengeance on the Midianites for the children of Israel. Afterward you shall be gathered to your people." You have to admire Moses. With no hope of entering the Promised Land or extending his own life, his sole focus was to remain obedient and glorify God to the very end. This is one of the keys of spiritual maturity, we will battle against our flesh, against the world system, against our enemy until we die. Accepting this truth will prevent us from becoming disappointed or depressed along the way. As we read of the amazing victory in which not one Israelite lost his life, we read of their mistake in 31:9, "And the children of Israel took the women of Midian captive, with their little ones...". When Moses sees this, we see his response in 31:15-16, "Have you kept all the women alive? Look, these women caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and there was a plague among the congregation of the Lord." The problem was that the Israelites were still worldly. Though we are to live in the world, the greater question is whether the world is in us? Does it maintain its stranglehold over our hearts and lives.

One thing that all of us have in common, is that we are sinners. Though our particular struggles may vary, we are all in a continuous struggle with our flesh, the world and the demonic spiritual forces that exist. We will all fail in certain areas. The question is what will we rely on to help us in this fight. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:12-13, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." What barriers are we putting in place so, like the dog in the Proverb, we don't return to our own vomit. Paul in the letter to the Ephesians in 6:10-17, encourages us to put the armor of God on daily. So the only response which has longlasting results to battle our sins is repentance. This coupled with God's forgiveness enables each of us to boldly go through the Spirit-filled life glorifying God to the very end.

Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley:

Marj Lancaster