Does your evangelism look like this?

If it does, I have good news for you.  I’m about to start a series about some things I’ve learned when sharing the Gospel.  It does not have to be a painful, antagonistic process.

When I first became a Christian and got serious about my faith, there were three things I knew about evangelism:

  1. It was part of my job description as a Christian.
  2. I wanted to share the truth of Jesus.
  3. I was really, really bad at it.

Item #3 isn’t false humility.  I really didn’t know what to say or how to say it.

I’ve learned a lot since then through study, prayer, training and experience.  I’ve had the opportunity to witness to multiple people of every major world religion and cult plus many atheists and agnostics, all without starting any Jihads.

I thought I would share some of those stories in a series and seek the experiences / tips of others as well.  Click here for the series and other posts on evangelism.

Numbers 5-6

n5.jpgGreetings!

The Purity of the Camp

5     The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Command the Israelites to send away from the camp anyone who has an infectious skin disease or a discharge of any kind, or who is ceremonially unclean because of a dead body. 3 Send away male and female alike; send them outside the camp so they will not defile their camp, where I dwell among them.” 4 The Israelites did this; they sent them outside the camp. They did just as the Lord had instructed Moses.

Holiness is very serious to God.  As Leviticus showed, many real and symbolic things should be done to demonstrate this.

Restitution for Wrongs

5 The Lord said to Moses, 6 “Say to the Israelites: ‘When a man or woman wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the Lord, that person is guilty 7 and must confess the sin he has committed. He must make full restitution for his wrong, add one fifth to it and give it all to the person he has wronged. 8 But if that person has no close relative to whom restitution can be made for the wrong, the restitution belongs to the Lord and must be given to the priest, along with the ram with which atonement is made for him. 9 All the sacred contributions the Israelites bring to a priest will belong to him. 10 Each man’s sacred gifts are his own, but what he gives to the priest will belong to the priest.’”

The Test for an Unfaithful Wife

11 Then the Lord said to Moses, 12 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him 13 by sleeping with another man, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), 14 and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure—or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure— 15 then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder offering to draw attention to guilt.

16 “‘The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the Lord. 17 Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. 18 After the priest has had the woman stand before the Lord, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse. 19 Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has slept with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. 20 But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have defiled yourself by sleeping with a man other than your husband”— 21 here the priest is to put the woman under this curse of the oath—“may the Lord cause your people to curse and denounce you when he causes your thigh to waste away and your abdomen to swell. 22 May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells and your thigh wastes away.”

“‘Then the woman is to say, “Amen. So be it.”

23 “‘The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. 24 He shall have the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water will enter her and cause bitter suffering. 25 The priest is to take from her hands the grain offering for jealousy, wave it before the Lord and bring it to the altar. 26 The priest is then to take a handful of the grain offering as a memorial offering and burn it on the altar; after that, he is to have the woman drink the water. 27 If she has defiled herself and been unfaithful to her husband, then when she is made to drink the water that brings a curse, it will go into her and cause bitter suffering; her abdomen will swell and her thigh waste away, and she will become accursed among her people. 28 If, however, the woman has not defiled herself and is free from impurity, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children.

29 “‘This, then, is the law of jealousy when a woman goes astray and defiles herself while married to her husband, 30 or when feelings of jealousy come over a man because he suspects his wife. The priest is to have her stand before the Lord and is to apply this entire law to her. 31 The husband will be innocent of any wrongdoing, but the woman will bear the consequences of her sin.’”

I’m not sure how this worked for men accused of committing adultery.  This process was to remove suspicion.  Note that it actually helps the woman, because she can clear her good name and the husband will have been publicly corrected for his error.

The Nazirite

6     The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of separation to the Lordas a Nazirite, 3 he must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or from other fermented drink. He must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins. 4 As long as he is a Nazirite, he must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins.

5 “‘During the entire period of his vow of separation no razor may be used on his head. He must be holy until the period of his separation to the Lord is over; he must let the hair of his head grow long. 6 Throughout the period of his separation to the Lord he must not go near a dead body. 7 Even if his own father or mother or brother or sister dies, he must not make himself ceremonially unclean on account of them, because the symbol of his separation to God is on his head. 8 Throughout the period of his separation he is consecrated to the Lord.

9 “‘If someone dies suddenly in his presence, thus defiling the hair he has dedicated, he must shave his head on the day of his cleansing—the seventh day. 10 Then on the eighth day he must bring two doves or two young pigeons to the priest at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 11 The priest is to offer one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering to make atonement for him because he sinned by being in the presence of the dead body. That same day he is to consecrate his head. 12 He must dedicate himself to the Lord for the period of his separation and must bring a year-old male lamb as a guilt offering. The previous days do not count, because he became defiled during his separation.

13 “‘Now this is the law for the Nazirite when the period of his separation is over. He is to be brought to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 14 There he is to present his offerings to the Lord: a year-old male lamb without defect for a burnt offering, a year-old ewe lamb without defect for a sin offering, a ram without defect for a fellowship offering, 15 together with their grain offerings and drink offerings, and a basket of bread made without yeast—cakes made of fine flour mixed with oil, and wafers spread with oil.

16 “‘The priest is to present them before the Lord and make the sin offering and the burnt offering. 17 He is to present the basket of unleavened bread and is to sacrifice the ram as a fellowship offering to the Lord, together with its grain offering and drink offering.

18 “‘Then at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, the Nazirite must shave off the hair that he dedicated. He is to take the hair and put it in the fire that is under the sacrifice of the fellowship offering.

19 “‘After the Nazirite has shaved off the hair of his dedication, the priest is to place in his hands a boiled shoulder of the ram, and a cake and a wafer from the basket, both made without yeast. 20 The priest shall then wave them before the Lord as a wave offering; they are holy and belong to the priest, together with the breast that was waved and the thigh that was presented. After that, the Nazirite may drink wine.

21 “‘This is the law of the Nazirite who vows his offering to the Lord in accordance with his separation, in addition to whatever else he can afford. He must fulfill the vow he has made, according to the law of the Nazirite.’”

Nazirite vows were made by people who wanted to set apart a period of time to exclusively serve God.  At that time people’s vows really meant something.  Samson, Samuel and John the Baptist were probably Nazarites for life.

The Priestly Blessing

22 The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

24 ““‘The Lord bless you

and keep you;

25 the Lord make his face shine upon you

and be gracious to you;

26 the Lord turn his face toward you

and give you peace.”’

27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

That is a familiar blessing, but I didn’t realize it came from Numbers!

Weekly roundup

New links for the blogroll: Pistol Pete, Got questions? and College Christian.  Check ‘em out.  I’ll wait here.

Randy had an excellent series on Pay day loans that made me reconsider my views on them.  It is a three-part ending on 5/22.  I just linked to his main page so you can read them all at once.

NARAL fuelds pro-abort civil war – Jill Stanek’s column. 

On Jan. 24, when the pro-abort divide between Clinton and Obama supporters was escalating into civil war, National Abortion Rights Action League, or NARAL, President Nancy Keenan issued an appeal for all sides to remain calm and focused on the real enemies, preborn children.

Keenan assured factions that all Democrat candidates were equally qualified to advance prenatal killing.

I wonder who the National Organization for (unaborted) Women is endorsing?

Virtually all gender selection abortions destroy unborn female human beings, and the rate of abortions in black communities is 3x that of whites, so NARAL et al pull off a double-play of appealing to misogynists and racists (OK, that was a bit harsh but I really, really don’t like that organization).

Scenes from the assisted suicide underground – even weirder than you would expect.

The fear of publicly opposing Darwinism is realeven for someone who loathes Intelligent Design as well!

In the interview, Piattelli-Palmarini points out that many academic biologists muffle their unhappiness with the received neo-Darwinian theory, either out of fear of being ostracized, or from worries about being exploited by intelligent design advocates.

While selection clearly operates, he says, its power is confined to minor adjustments:

“Of course, there is natural selection all around us (just think of the flu virus, mutating and adapting every year, to our detriment) and inside us (just think of our antibodies and our synapses and the pancreas cells and the epithelial cells). The point is, however, that organisms can be modified and refined by natural selection, but that is NOT the way new species and new classes and new phyla originated.”

The Dawkins Delusion (Hat tip: College Christian) and Incredible creatures that defy evolution (Hat tip: DawkinsWatch).  Friendly reminder to trolls: Save your keystrokes

 

Denying the obvious

dna2.gifI had some fun sparring with a commenter over at the Christian Alert.  He dismisses all arguments for the existence of God, including those from causation, design and morality.  It isn’t as if he just doesn’t give the arguments much weight, he dismisses them altogether.  For him, the exceptions make the rule when it comes to eternal matters – no matter how far-fetched or whether they have been shown to really exist.

Yet I noticed that he constantly uses inferences from causation, design and morality himself.  Here’s how I responded to one of his comments:

I think there has been a big misunderstanding here. You responded to a comment that appeared to have been written by me, but it wasn’t. I checked with Dan and Edgar and they confirmed that they didn’t do it. No, it just appeared without a cause. Those things happen – you know, quantum physics and all.

Now I can see why most people would think I wrote it (or at least that some person wrote it). After all, we observe that 100.00% of the effects we see have causes (give or take 0.00%). But in your worldview you know that things can happen without agent or event causation, so I’m not sure why you jumped to the conclusion that I wrote it. Maybe you were overly conditioned by your environment, but you really should try to live more consistently with your worldview.

I can also see how most people would assume that it was designed by me. After all, it has the tell-tale poor grammar, syntax, spelling and humor you’ve come to expect from me. And again, everywhere we look in life the more complex something is the more likely it had a designer. So even that poorly written comment appeared to have been designed by someone. Again, a mistake most of us would make, but not someone with your worldview.

And if you think the above paragraphs are lies and inconsistent with my worldview, then you are misapplying your own. You know that there is no universal morality that you could apply to me.

I guess you are right. There is no way to prove that effects need causes, designs need designers and moral laws need moral law givers. And of course, even if one (deliberately?) misunderstands the nature of God then all their reasoning about him could still be accurate, right?

Gosh, I hope that doesn’t happen again. In the mean time, try to live more consistently with your worldview. Otherwise we might think that deep down you don’t really believe it.

Do arguments from cause, design, morality (and many others) give absolute, 100.00000% proof of God?  No, but they are completely rationale arguments.  Critics tip their hands when they give them no weight and dismiss them cavalierly with “imaginary friends in the sky” and “pink unicorn” digs, especially when they use the same reasoning 24×7 themselves with everything else in life. 

Numbers 3-4

n3.jpgGreetings!  God set apart the tribe of Levi to be priests for Israel.  This was an important and unique role.  It foreshadows Jesus’ role as the great High Priest who intercedes with God for us.  Various clans in the tribe had different roles.   

The Levites

3     This is the account of the family of Aaron and Moses at the time the Lord talked with Moses on Mount Sinai.

2 The names of the sons of Aaron were Nadab the firstborn and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. 3 Those were the names of Aaron’s sons, the anointed priests, who were ordained to serve as priests. 4 Nadab and Abihu, however, fell dead before the Lord when they made an offering with unauthorized fire before him in the Desert of Sinai. They had no sons; so only Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests during the lifetime of their father Aaron.

5 The Lord said to Moses, 6 “Bring the tribe of Levi and present them to Aaron the priest to assist him. 7 They are to perform duties for him and for the whole community at the Tent of Meeting by doing the work of the tabernacle. 8 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. 9 Give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to him. 10 Appoint Aaron and his sons to serve as priests; anyone else who approaches the sanctuary must 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 man or animal. They are to be mine. I am the Lord.”

14 The Lord said to Moses in the Desert of Sinai, 15 “Count the Levites by their families and clans. Count every male a month old or more.” 16 So Moses counted them, as he was commanded by the word of the Lord.

17 These were the names of the sons of Levi:

Gershon, Kohath and Merari.

18 These were the names of the Gershonite clans:

Libni and Shimei.

19 The Kohathite clans:

Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel.

20 The Merarite clans:

Mahli and Mushi. These were the Levite clans, according to their families.

21 To Gershon belonged the clans of the Libnites and Shimeites; these were the Gershonite clans. 22 The number of all the males a month old or more who were counted was 7,500. 23 The Gershonite clans were to camp on the west, behind the tabernacle. 24 The leader of the families of the Gershonites was Eliasaph son of Lael. 25 At the Tent of Meeting the Gershonites were responsible for the care of the tabernacle and tent, its coverings, the curtain at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, 26 the curtains of the courtyard, the curtain at the entrance to the courtyard surrounding the tabernacle and altar, and the ropes—and everything related to their use.

27 To Kohath belonged the clans of the Amramites, Izharites, Hebronites and Uzzielites; these were the Kohathite clans. 28 The number of all the males a month old or more was 8,600. The Kohathites were responsible for the care of the sanctuary. 29 The Kohathite clans were to camp on the south side of the tabernacle. 30 The leader of the families of the Kohathite clans was Elizaphan son of Uzziel. 31 They were responsible for the care of the ark, the table, the lampstand, the altars, the articles of the sanctuary used in ministering, the curtain, and everything related to their use. 32 The chief leader of the Levites was Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest. He was appointed over those who were responsible for the care of the sanctuary.

33 To Merari belonged the clans of the Mahlites and the Mushites; these were the Merarite clans. 34 The number of all the males a month old or more who were counted was 6,200. 35 The leader of the families of the Merarite clans was Zuriel son of Abihail; they were to camp on the north side of the tabernacle. 36 The Merarites were appointed to take care of the frames of the tabernacle, its crossbars, posts, bases, all its equipment, and everything related to their use, 37 as well as the posts of the surrounding courtyard with their bases, tent pegs and ropes.

38 Moses and Aaron and his sons were to camp to the east of the tabernacle, toward the sunrise, in front of the Tent of Meeting. They were responsible for the care of the sanctuary on behalf of the Israelites. Anyone else who approached the sanctuary was to be put to death.

 The sanctuary was taken very, very seriously.

39 The total number of Levites counted at the Lord’s command by Moses and Aaron according to their clans, including every male a month old or more, was 22,000.

40 The Lord said to Moses, “Count all the firstborn Israelite males who are a month old or more and make a list of their names. 41 Take the Levites for me in place of all the firstborn of the Israelites, and the livestock of the Levites in place of all the firstborn of the livestock of the Israelites. I am the Lord.”

42 So Moses counted all the firstborn of the Israelites, as the Lord commanded him. 43 The total number of firstborn males a month old or more, listed by name, was 22,273.

44 The Lord also said to Moses, 45 “Take the Levites in place of all the firstborn of Israel, and the livestock of the Levites in place of their livestock. The Levites are to be mine. I am the Lord. 46 To redeem the 273 firstborn Israelites who exceed the number of the Levites, 47 collect five shekels for each one, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. 48 Give the money for the redemption of the additional Israelites to Aaron and his sons.”

49 So Moses collected the redemption money from those who exceeded the number redeemed by the Levites. 50 From the firstborn of the Israelites he collected silver weighing 1,365 shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel. 51 Moses gave the redemption money to Aaron and his sons, as he was commanded by the word of the Lord.

The Kohathites

4     The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: 2 “Take a census of the Kohathite branch of the Levites by their clans and families. 3 Count all the men from thirty to fifty years of age who come to serve in the work in the Tent of Meeting.

4 “This is the work of the Kohathites in the Tent of Meeting: the care of the most holy things. 5 When the camp is to move, Aaron and his sons are to go in and take down the shielding curtain and cover the ark of the Testimony with it. 6 Then they are to cover this with hides of sea cows, spread a cloth of solid blue over that and put the poles in place.

7 “Over the table of the Presence they are to spread a blue cloth and put on it the plates, dishes and bowls, and the jars for drink offerings; the bread that is continually there is to remain on it. 8 Over these they are to spread a scarlet cloth, cover that with hides of sea cows and put its poles in place.

9 “They are to take a blue cloth and cover the lampstand that is for light, together with its lamps, its wick trimmers and trays, and all its jars for the oil used to supply it. 10 Then they are to wrap it and all its accessories in a covering of hides of sea cows and put it on a carrying frame.

11 “Over the gold altar they are to spread a blue cloth and cover that with hides of sea cows and put its poles in place.

12 “They are to take all the articles used for ministering in the sanctuary, wrap them in a blue cloth, cover that with hides of sea cows and put them on a carrying frame.

13 “They are to remove the ashes from the bronze altar and spread a purple cloth over it. 14 Then they are to place on it all the utensils used for ministering at the altar, including the firepans, meat forks, shovels and sprinkling bowls. Over it they are to spread a covering of hides of sea cows and put its poles in place.

15 “After Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy furnishings and all the holy articles, and when the camp is ready to move, the Kohathites are to come to do the carrying. But they must not touch the holy things or they will die. The Kohathites are to carry those things that are in the Tent of Meeting.

16 “Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, is to have charge of the oil for the light, the fragrant incense, the regular grain offering and the anointing oil. He is to be in charge of the entire tabernacle and everything in it, including its holy furnishings and articles.”

17 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 18 “See that the Kohathite tribal clans are not cut off from the Levites. 19 So that they may live and not die when they come near the most holy things, do this for them: Aaron and his sons are to go into the sanctuary and assign to each man his work and what he is to carry. 20 But the Kohathites must not go in to look at the holy things, even for a moment, or they will die.”

The Gershonites

21 The Lord said to Moses, 22 “Take a census also of the Gershonites by their families and clans. 23 Count all the men from thirty to fifty years of age who come to serve in the work at the Tent of Meeting.

24 “This is the service of the Gershonite clans as they work and carry burdens: 25 They are to carry the curtains of the tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting, its covering and the outer covering of hides of sea cows, the curtains for the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, 26 the curtains of the courtyard surrounding the tabernacle and altar, the curtain for the entrance, the ropes and all the equipment used in its service. The Gershonites are to do all that needs to be done with these things. 27 All their service, whether carrying or doing other work, is to be done under the direction of Aaron and his sons. You shall assign to them as their responsibility all they are to carry. 28 This is the service of the Gershonite clans at the Tent of Meeting. Their duties are to be under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron, the priest.

The Merarites

29 “Count the Merarites by their clans and families. 30 Count all the men from thirty to fifty years of age who come to serve in the work at the Tent of Meeting. 31 This is their duty as they perform service at the Tent of Meeting: to carry the frames of the tabernacle, its crossbars, posts and bases, 32 as well as the posts of the surrounding courtyard with their bases, tent pegs, ropes, all their equipment and everything related to their use. Assign to each man the specific things he is to carry. 33 This is the service of the Merarite clans as they work at the Tent of Meeting under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron, the priest.”

The Numbering of the Levite Clans

34 Moses, Aaron and the leaders of the community counted the Kohathites by their clans and families. 35 All the men from thirty to fifty years of age who came to serve in the work in the Tent of Meeting, 36 counted by clans, were 2,750. 37 This was the total of all those in the Kohathite clans who served in the Tent of Meeting. Moses and Aaron counted them according to the Lord’s command through Moses.

38 The Gershonites were counted by their clans and families. 39 All the men from thirty to fifty years of age who came to serve in the work at the Tent of Meeting, 40 counted by their clans and families, were 2,630. 41 This was the total of those in the Gershonite clans who served at the Tent of Meeting. Moses and Aaron counted them according to the Lord’s command.

42 The Merarites were counted by their clans and families. 43 All the men from thirty to fifty years of age who came to serve in the work at the Tent of Meeting, 44 counted by their clans, were 3,200. 45 This was the total of those in the Merarite clans. Moses and Aaron counted them according to the Lord’s command through Moses.

46 So Moses, Aaron and the leaders of Israel counted all the Levites by their clans and families. 47 All the men from thirty to fifty years of age who came to do the work of serving and carrying the Tent of Meeting 48 numbered 8,580. 49 At the Lord’s command through Moses, each was assigned his work and told what to carry.

Thus they were counted, as the Lord commanded Moses.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Mission trip tips

kenya-2007-neil-018-8x10.jpgI’ve had the blessing to go on three short-term mission trips to Kenya and am in the process of preparing for our Honduras trip.  I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned along the way and see what kinds of tips other more experienced folks might have.

Learn some of the language – You don’t have to be fluent, but just learning a dozen words / phrases makes a big difference.  It shows that you are trying to relate to them as individuals and have a respect for their culture.  It even made a difference going through immigration.  As soon as I used a couple Swahili phrases for “Hello” and “How are you?” (Jambo!  Habari?) the man’s face lit up and he started a conversation.

When preparing to go to Kenya I made some mp3 files with some basic Swahili words and used them on my iPod to memorize them.  I would say the word, then the definiton and repeat it a couple times.  Then I made “tests” which went in the reverse order.  I reluctantly shared them with team members (these were not professional quality at all!).  Many people used them extensively and we jokingly referred to the CD’s as Learn Swahili with Neil-ie. 

My daughter was kind enough to make a Spanish mp3 file for me that I am currently using while I commute to learn some basic phrases.  The most important phrase is, “This is my daughter.  She translates for me.”

Bring at least a couple sets of easy-dry clothes (t-shirt, pants, underwear).  They aren’t cheap, but if you just use them for trips they’ll last a long time.  Bring one set in your carry on baggage along with some basic toiletries.  That way, if your luggage is lost you can just wash them every day or so.

Be humble about thinking we know the best way to do things – There are many occassions when the local builders we worked with would be doing something that looked odd to us.  But 9 out of 10 times it made sense later on, so I am glad I repressed my “We’re from America and we know how to do everything better” impulses.  Asking them to show us how to do things their way helped bridge the relationships quickly.

The local people are watching you closely, so be on your proper behavior at all times!  Some nights we’d be driving back to the “hotel” totally exhausted.  When we’d pass people on the road they’d look at us warily.  But if you smiled and waved they would light up and wave cheerfully.  We tend to stick out, for obvious reasons, so we are always on display as representatives of Christ and of the U.S. 

When in doubt, visit with the people - We are such “task completers” that it is tempting to focus on the projects.  But they will get done one way or another, so always take time to visit with the people you are helping, onlookers, workers and especially the children. 

Put bright tags or strips of ribbon on the bags of everyone on the team - This helps a lot when finding and moving luggage.

Don’t give food, money or anything else without clearing it with the local church - They know who is truly needy.  Giving without using discretion can cause very serious problems for your team and future teams.

What are your tips?  What are your questions / concerns about going on mission trips?

Numbers 1-2

n11.jpgGreetings!  The book of Numbers starts with a familiar phrase: “The LORD spoke . . .”  The Bible is God’s word, and it claims to speak directly for him roughly 3,000 times and claims that all of scripture is “God breathed.” 

At this point the Israelites had been out of Egypt for about a year.  They had received the laws and regulations as recorded in the book of Leviticus, and they had build the Tabernacle. 

The cencus was important to help the Israelites get organized.  There were roughly 2,000,000 total people at this point. 

Numbers

The Census

1     The Lord spoke to Moses in the Tent of Meeting in the Desert of Sinai on the first day of the second month of the second year after the Israelites came out of Egypt. He said: 2 “Take a census of the whole Israelite community by their clans and families, listing every man by name, one by one. 3 You and Aaron are to number by their divisions all the men in Israel twenty years old or more who are able to serve in the army. 4 One man from each tribe, each the head of his family, is to help you. 5 These are the names of the men who are to assist you: from Reuben, Elizur son of Shedeur; 6 from Simeon, Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai; 7 from Judah, Nahshon son of Amminadab; 8 from Issachar, Nethanel son of Zuar; 9 from Zebulun, Eliab son of Helon;

10 from the sons of Joseph:

from Ephraim, Elishama son of Ammihud; from Manasseh, Gamaliel son of Pedahzur; 11 from Benjamin, Abidan son of Gideoni; 12 from Dan, Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai; 13 from Asher, Pagiel son of Ocran; 14 from Gad, Eliasaph son of Deuel; 15 from Naphtali, Ahira son of Enan.”

16 These were the men appointed from the community, the leaders of their ancestral tribes. They were the heads of the clans of Israel.

17 Moses and Aaron took these men whose names had been given, 18 and they called the whole community together on the first day of the second month. The people indicated their ancestry by their clans and families, and the men twenty years old or more were listed by name, one by one, 19 as the Lord commanded Moses. And so he counted them in the Desert of Sinai:

20 From the descendants of Reuben the firstborn son of Israel:

All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in

the army were listed by name, one by one, according to the

records of their clans and families. 21 The number from the tribe of Reuben was 46,500.

22 From the descendants of Simeon:

All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in

the army were counted and listed by name, one by one, according

to the records of their clans and families. 23 The number from the tribe of Simeon was 59,300.

24 From the descendants of Gad:

All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in

the army were listed by name, according to the records of their

clans and families. 25 The number from the tribe of Gad was 45,650.

26 From the descendants of Judah:

All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in

the army were listed by name, according to the records of their

clans and families. 27 The number from the tribe of Judah was 74,600.

28 From the descendants of Issachar:

All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in

the army were listed by name, according to the records of their

clans and families. 29 The number from the tribe of Issachar was 54,400.

30 From the descendants of Zebulun:

All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in

the army were listed by name, according to the records of their

clans and families. 31 The number from the tribe of Zebulun was 57,400.

32 From the sons of Joseph:

From the descendants of Ephraim:

All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in

the army were listed by name, according to the records of their

clans and families.

33 The number from the tribe of Ephraim was 40,500.

34 From the descendants of Manasseh:

All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in

the army were listed by name, according to the records of their

clans and families. 35 The number from the tribe of Manasseh was 32,200.

36 From the descendants of Benjamin:

All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in

the army were listed by name, according to the records of their

clans and families. 37 The number from the tribe of Benjamin was 35,400.

38 From the descendants of Dan:

All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in

the army were listed by name, according to the records of their

clans and families. 39 The number from the tribe of Dan was 62,700.

40 From the descendants of Asher:

All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in

the army were listed by name, according to the records of their

clans and families. 41 The number from the tribe of Asher was 41,500.

42 From the descendants of Naphtali:

All the men twenty years old or more who were able to serve in

the army were listed by name, according to the records of their

clans and families. 43 The number from the tribe of Naphtali was 53,400.

44 These were the men counted by Moses and Aaron and the twelve leaders of Israel, each one representing his family. 45 All the Israelites twenty years old or more who were able to serve in Israel’s army were counted according to their families. 46 The total number was 603,550.

47 The families of the tribe of Levi, however, were not counted along with the others. 48 The Lord had said to Moses: 49 “You must not count the tribe of Levi or include them in the census of the other Israelites. 50 Instead, appoint the Levites to be in charge of the tabernacle of the Testimony—over all its furnishings and everything belonging to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings; they are to take care of it and encamp around it. 51 Whenever the tabernacle is to move, the Levites are to take it down, and whenever the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall do it. Anyone else who goes near it shall be put to death. 52 The Israelites are to set up their tents by divisions, each man in his own camp under his own standard. 53 The Levites, however, are to set up their tents around the tabernacle of the Testimony so that wrath will not fall on the Israelite community. The Levites are to be responsible for the care of the tabernacle of the Testimony.”

54 The Israelites did all this just as the Lord commanded Moses.

The Arrangement of the Tribal Camps

2     The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: 2 “The Israelites are to camp around the Tent of Meeting some distance from it, each man under his standard with the banners of his family.”

3 On the east, toward the sunrise, the divisions of the camp of Judah are to encamp under their standard. The leader of the people of Judah is Nahshon son of Amminadab. 4 His division numbers 74,600.

5 The tribe of Issachar will camp next to them. The leader of the people of Issachar is Nethanel son of Zuar. 6 His division numbers 54,400.

7 The tribe of Zebulun will be next. The leader of the people of Zebulun is Eliab son of Helon. 8 His division numbers 57,400.

9 All the men assigned to the camp of Judah, according to their divisions, number 186,400. They will set out first.

10 On the south will be the divisions of the camp of Reuben under their standard. The leader of the people of Reuben is Elizur son of Shedeur. 11 His division numbers 46,500.

12 The tribe of Simeon will camp next to them. The leader of the people of Simeon is Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai. 13 His division numbers 59,300.

14 The tribe of Gad will be next. The leader of the people of Gad is Eliasaph son of Deuel. 15 His division numbers 45,650.

16 All the men assigned to the camp of Reuben, according to their divisions, number 151,450. They will set out second.

17 Then the Tent of Meeting and the camp of the Levites will set out in the middle of the camps. They will set out in the same order as they encamp, each in his own place under his standard.

18 On the west will be the divisions of the camp of Ephraim under their standard. The leader of the people of Ephraim is Elishama son of Ammihud. 19 His division numbers 40,500.

20 The tribe of Manasseh will be next to them. The leader of the people of Manasseh is Gamaliel son of Pedahzur. 21 His division numbers 32,200.

22 The tribe of Benjamin will be next. The leader of the people of Benjamin is Abidan son of Gideoni. 23 His division numbers 35,400.

24 All the men assigned to the camp of Ephraim, according to their divisions, number 108,100. They will set out third.

25 On the north will be the divisions of the camp of Dan, under their standard. The leader of the people of Dan is Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai. 26 His division numbers 62,700.

27 The tribe of Asher will camp next to them. The leader of the people of Asher is Pagiel son of Ocran. 28 His division numbers 41,500.

29 The tribe of Naphtali will be next. The leader of the people of Naphtali is Ahira son of Enan. 30 His division numbers 53,400.

31 All the men assigned to the camp of Dan number 157,600. They will set out last, under their standards.

32 These are the Israelites, counted according to their families. All those in the camps, by their divisions, number 603,550. 33 The Levites, however, were not counted along with the other Israelites, as the Lord commanded Moses.

34 So the Israelites did everything the Lord commanded Moses; that is the way they encamped under their standards, and that is the way they set out, each with his clan and family.

At this point the Israelites were doing “every the the LORD commanded Moses,” but that won’t last.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.