Archive for August, 2009

Deuteronomy 21

Deuteronomy 21 gives some guidance on handling issues that come up in the community.  It deals with death, marriage and kids.  God’s direction is pretty clear, and strong.  The Levitical priests were charged with making decisions and leading the community in how to deal with the difficult situations that were bound to occur.  The Message version says it this way: “the levitical priests will then step up”.  That is a refreshing thing to hear.  It seems more often than not when there are tough situations to handle, people croutch down and try to hide rather than raise their hand and step up.  Are you a person who sees an opportunity and puts your hand up high to step up?  That is an area where God’s people need to get involved.  We often sit by and idly watch things happen, unwilling to get involved.  Then we wonder why it goes as it does, and why God is left out.  Because His people don’t step up.  II Chronicles 7 tells us “if my people, who are called by my name…..”.  We are the ones who need to take action to heal the land.  We can point fingers at all the bad things that happen and blame folks who do not know God for that.  But the solution rests squarely on those of us who do.  And step one of the process is for us to step up and be part of the solution.

 This chapter also really put a different level of intensity on obedience.  “When a man has a stubborn son”.  I was one, and certainly some days had one as well.  God is clear that disobedience is a serious thing.  If this son doesn’t come around “even though they discipline him he still won’t obey” – there are some rather extreme measures given.  He is to be forcibly brought to the leaders and stoned.  Can you imagine the agony of that requirement?  It would certainly change the stakes on parenting.  There would be a whole lot more accountability for parents if the outcome of their inability to raise kids that were obedient was that they had to be killed.  The reason is given as to why it is important: “You will have purged the evil pollution from among you”.  God is clear throughout scripture that who we have around us makes a difference.  Disobedience is one of those things He just won’t tolerate, and He wants it purged from our lives.  Parents would stop making excuses for their parenting if the result of failure meant this kind of action.  But today we can just push the problem on society and pretend it isn’t our issue.  Parental accountability is really a dying breed of people unfortunately. Not in God’s economy, but definitely in our country.  God wants us to train up a child in the way he should go.  He expects us to teach obedience and model how to live.  Kids turn out as they do based on how they are raised.  We can complain about the generations all we want, but the hard truth is that people become what they are led to become.  It is the adults who are the issue, not the kids.  Time for grownups to take responsibility and be accountable for the way children grow up.

Deuteronomy 20

Deuteronomy 20 contains the instructions on how to go to battle.  I love the way God approaches this with the people.  He tells them how they should not act when facing “your enemy and see horses and chariots and soldiers far outnumbering you”.  The odds don’t sound very good do they?  Being overwhelmed with what seems to be the situation is often how life goes.  We feel like we can’t deal with it.  But this passage gives us the short list of how to respond when we are overwhelmed:

  1. Don’t recoil in fear
  2. Don’t waver in resolve
  3. Don’t fear
  4. Don’t hesitate
  5. Don’t panic

Does that describe your approach to an overwhelming situation?  No fear, just trust and action.  It can if we really believe that us plus God always is a majority.  And that is the reality.  God is always enough.  He is always able.  So the real wild card is the “us” in that equation.  Will we show up?  Will we chose to go ahead?  Will we turn and run rather than face things?  God isn’t leaving or running away.  He isn’t hesitating or wondering if He can.  We shouldn’t either.  We need to move forward in obedience to His direction knowing and trusting His leading.  He is able and will do what He says.  Always….every time.

 The chapter also talks about those who are stepping up to battle and have something unfinished or distracting them from being focused.  The officers are instructed to send those people away to deal with the things that are undone rather than take them into battle less than ready.  It is obvious that only those who are ready to serve and be part of the battle are to be in the army.  Distractions are bad when facing difficult battles.  God wants them out of our life before we become part of the troop.  Sometimes we are so interested in getting numbers we don’t focus on the right kind of people.  Does that happen in churches today?  So interested in bringing people in that we fail to make sure they are ready for the battle.  And we are in a battle – a spiritual war between good and evil that requires we show up ready to fight.  But are we going into that battle with only those who are ready to take on the enemy, or are many distracted with things left undone and unprepared to face the attack of the enemy.  I fear that is the case – that our army of good is not really ready to do battle.  That many are not focused on victory but along for the ride.  That doesn’t make a fine tuned army.  We need to get ready to fight.  The battle is real and it is now.  Make sure you are prepared as the enemy wants to kill, steal and destroy.  That is his desire for you.

Deuteronomy 19

Deuteronomy 19 reviews God’s plan for those who cause accidental harm to another.  He instructs the people to set aside three cities where someone who unintentionally hurts another may go to live in safety as under the law it was “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot”.  You didn’t just get away with causing pain or damage under the law.  There was definitely a price.  But God knew that sometimes things happen without intent and for that reason He has instructed the creation of these safe havens.  The chapter also reveals the need for multiple witnesses and sets up the penalty for those who bear false witness.  “If the witness turns out to be a false witness….give him the same medicine he intended for the other party”.  Telling lies had serious consequences.  It does today too.  It may not be as apparent as it was in those days, but it is still not something that God tolerates.  He expects us to be truth tellers and to live His way every day.

 There is a phrase that is repeated over and over in this and many other chapters that seems to be important to note: “When God, your God……love God, your God……God, your God”.  It begs the question – how do you see God?  Is He your God?  Do you have a personal relationship with Him?  Or do you see Him as the white bearded old guy sitting up there somewhere watching over things but basically leaving you alone?  I don’t claim to know what He looks like, but I do know He is not passively sitting in heaven on the sidelines.  He is actively involved in our lives and is watching our every move.  He is patiently waiting for us to move into deeper relationship with Him.  He is personal.  He wants to be right in the middle of our lives and the center of our universe.  He is God, our God and we need to put Him on the throne of our universe where He belongs.  Too often we think we actually sit on that throne.  How very wrong that picture is.  God alone is worthy, and when we take that seat ourself, when pride leads us to think we actually can run the show, sin is in full force and difficult times are ahead.  God alone is worthy and we need to put Him where He belongs!

Deuteronomy 18

Deuteronomy 18 talks about the service of the Levites.  They were not to receive any of the land that was to be taken.  Instead, “God is their inheritance”.  How does that sit with you?  Would you be content to serve God each day knowing that there was no inheritance that you can pass on to your family.  Sure their needs were met as people brought the first fruits and sacrifices.  But God has a plan to keep them focused on serving and not getting too comfortable with what they accumulate, because they aren’t going to accumulate a thing.  They are to serve and do their work every day ministering to the people and their reward would come in daily as they did that.  The chapter further goes on to say “be completely loyal to God”.  No mixed loyalties, no spreading of time.  God was the focus and He alone was to be served.  We tend to let a lot of other things get in the middle of our worship today.  Lots of distractions and things that cause us to lose focus.  God didn’t allow it then, and He won’t allow it now either.  He wants our total worship and praise.

 The other key teaching here is that prophets will be raised up and be among us.  God speaks His truth to people for the express purpose of helping the rest of us know what to do.  Some are false, and make up things that lead people to their own selfish intents.  But scripture gives us a very clear way to tell if a prophet is from God or not. Check this out: “If what the prophet spoke in God’s name doesn’t happen, then obviously God wasn’t behind it; the prophet made it up.  Forget about Him”.  Seems pretty common sense doesn’t it.  A prophet should always speak truth and God always does what He says.  So if there is a disconnect, it just shows that the person is not a prophet but parading around as one.  Scripture tells us to test things to see if they are true.  We need to do that particularly when someone tells us they are speaking for God or sharing God’s truth.  We need to be diligent to see if it is so.

Deuteronomy 17

Deuteronomy 17 talks about how God wants things to happen in the new land.  There are a couple key things to consider.  God wants evil kept out.  “You have to purge the evil from your community”.  So what would our world look like if evil was purged?  The method God gives here is to stone people who are evil.  And much of the focus is on those who are “going off to worship other gods”.  That is a far cry from our society today where we don’t even want to admit that our God exists.  But the reality is that the community was responsible to keep people on track, and there was a requirement to stay that way.  I don’t claim to have the modern application for this today – and certainly don’t think stoning people is the right response – but I do think Christ Followers need to stand up for what is right and push against that which is evil.  And far too often we are silent and just avoid any confrontation with evil completely.  That is not what God calls us to do.

 The second thing that jumps out at me is God’s instructions for the king that he knows the people will put in place once they get to the Promised Land.  God gives parameters on who should be selected and the things he needs to avoid – a big military, a lot of women, and too much stuff.  Hmmm – those sound like the same triggers that get people in trouble today – power, sex and money.  But God also tells us what the “first thing he must do” is as well.  I love this: “make himself a copy of this Revelation on a scroll….to remain as his side at all times….to study it every day so he may learn what it means to fear his God….living in reverent obedience”.  What an effective way to get started with God – copy the scriptures in your own hand writing and keep them close so you can live by them.  We think it is a big deal to read them.  How about copying the Bible by hand?  That might be a good way to get God’s Word into your heart.  Oh that our leaders in this nation would have God’s Word by their side so they could learn what He desires and then live in reverent obedience.  Let’s pray that a wave of that will flow through our nation that the people leading will return to God’s truth!

Deuteronomy 16

Deuteronomy 16 talks about the need to remember from where they came from.  The requirement to celebrate the Passover and to spend seven days eating unraised bread along with other things to keep them remembering the past.  I can almost hear the whining as people return to that which sustained them for 40 years wandering on their way to the Promised Land.  But God is big on us remembering.  And I for one am more than willing to admit I am bad about forgetting.  It is so easy to receive His blessing and just move on to the next thing without remembering that blessing even moments later.  We can become so used to His love and touch that we almost take it for granted.  But God desires us to remember, celebrate and rejoice His presence.  He wants us to do it with everyone:  “you, your son, your daughter, your servant, your maid, the Levite who lives in your neighborhood, the foreigner, the orphan and widow among you”.  Passover was not to be a private time, but one where everyone shared the process of remembering together.  So it brings up a couple questions – are you recording God’s blessing in your life so you can share it?  Do you write them down and keep a journal or list that lets you tell others just how God has touched your life? What a powerful testimony to be able to share.  Yet I find that so often when asked about what God has done in someone’s life, the deer in the headlights look shows up.  I know God has been active, because they are still breathing, but it is so sad that we fail to keep track so we can remember.  Maybe folks have a few biggies they can recite, but what about yesterday?  How did God work in your life yesterday? 

The other question that comes to mind is really around considering where we would be today without God.  Scripture asks this question: “Don’t forget that you were once a slave in Egypt”.  I have commented before that it seems hard to fathom that these people could forget the difficult circumstances they lived in for many years, but they seemed able to do just that.  It is much harder to remember once you are a generation or two removed from the actual situation.  Yet God does want us to remember His goodness and power over time too.  Not just what He does for us today, but what He did for mankind over time.  That means we need to read and study and understand how God has moved and worked in the past.  We need to learn it and teach it so we know.  We need to all remember how we were all once a slave to sin until the blood of Jesus set us free.  We need to share that experience freely with those around us.  We need to remember just how pathetic our life was before Jesus came in and redeemed our souls.  Have you shared your story with anyone lately – maybe ever?  Part of remembering is to tell the stories and share the reality of what God has done.  What does your testimony sound like?  If you haven’t written it out, that is a great place to start.  Record it for the generations to follow.  It is a legacy that can impact many for eternity.  Write it down and then share it.  Let God do the rest!

Deuteronomy 15

Deuteronomy 15 gives us a very basic formula for God’s blessing.  “God is going to bless you lavishly….but only…..if you listen obediently….diligently observing every commandment”.  Here is one of those “but only” things again.  God promises to bless us a bunch but there is a catch.  The catch is that we need to listen and obey.  Seems like that is how a lot of things are in scripture.  God will do so much more than we deserve or even expect, but there is a requirement for us to do our part of the deal.  We have to be tuned in and walking with Him in obedience.  Far too many of us want to stop reading God’s promises after the promise part.  We don’t want to hear or even acknowledge the fact that we may have to do something as our part of the deal.  Even when we consider God’s grace, the blood of Jesus shed on the cross, action is required on our part.  For if we don’t actually receive grace, make His sacrifice our own through accepting Him as our Savior, then knowing of God’s grace does nothing for our eternal future.  Almost without exception, every promise or gift has some action required on our part.  We have to DO something.  It isn’t just simply to sit back in the recliner and let God bless us while we sit there and take it all in.  Not how God works.  If we don’t do our part, things stop quickly.

 That is probably no more clearly evident than in the area of giving and finances.  God provides for our needs, not our wants.  And He expects us to give some of what He has entrusted to us back in return.  In this chapter, we also learn that we need to be socially responsible to those in need as well.  Check out what Scripture tells us: “When you happen on someone who’s in trouble or needs help….don’t look the other way pretending you don’t see him. Don’t keep a tight grip on your purse…. Look at him, open your purse, lend whatever…..he needs…. Don’t count the cost…..Give freely and spontaneously. Don’t have a stingy heart. The way you handle matters like this triggers GOD….. blessing in everything you do, all your work and ventures”.   Don’t think for a minute that God is not paying attention to how we live with those around us.  He expects us to open our wallets and give to those in need.  He expects us to get involved and help those who are in trouble.  We aren’t just to go to church and pray for people in dire straits, we are to get involved and help them.  We need to do it freely and spontaneously.  We need to do it generously without regard for the cost.  Do you have a stingy heart?  Are you looking the other way when someone is in need of help?  I know that sometimes the cost is far beyond just money – it takes time and emotional investment to help another.  But God calls us to be involved and to take action.  Are you looking for those opportunities to matter in life?  God expects us to!

Deuteronomy 14

Deuteronomy 14 starts with some very key words: “you are children of God”.  Yes it was written to the people of God a long time ago, but the reality is that we are also His children.  God has absolutely made us His own.  He created us and has a plan for us.  He has called us to Himself and wants to bless us beyond our wildest imagination.  But we stiff arm Him so often and resist Him because we want to do things our way. We don’t act like His children, but rather as rebellious brats.  God also writes that we are a “people holy to God”.  Have you considered what holiness really is?  It means to be like God – to live the way He desires – to walk with Him moment by moment – to see the things He sees.  God wants us to be close to Him, not just on Sunday morning when we go to church or during our praying when we are in trouble.  He wants a continual relationship with us where we are living as His children and walking in obedience to His Word.  Part of that is the reminder in this chapter to give God “ten percent, a tithe, of all the produce”.  I know for many this is a struggle.  How can God expect me to give that much?  We don’t have that much left at the end of the month.  So the secret to tithing is to give it at the beginning of the month.  Give it before you spend it all on yourself.  Give to God first.  What a noble concept.  God gets His just before we take it all and blow it on our own desires.  That is how tithing is supposed to work.  God first, then me.

 There also is a reminder here to “take good care of the Levites”.  These were the guys who were charged with taking care of the ministry.  Today they are our pastors, ministers, preachers, evangelists or whatever other word we may label them.  Are you taking good care of the shepherd of your flock – your church?  When is the last time you wrote a note to thank your pastor for what he does each day to serve?  When is the last time you took your minster to lunch, or stopped by the office to say thanks for their dedication and hard work?  When is the last time you gave them an unexpected gift – not a Christmas present – but a heartfelt gift of love because of their service and impact?  Some will say that the person(s) in that role isn’t all that great in their church.  I often find when we feel that way, speaking from experience, that the issue is not with the pastor but rather me.  My heart is not right with God and I don’t want to hear God’s truth from anyone.  My life is not lined up with God’s Word so the easy target is to try and deflect my disobedience by trashing the preacher.  Been there, done that.  God has not called these folks to run a popularity contest, but to lead His people and speak His truth.  Sometimes we don’t like what they have to say, but that is our problem and we need to take it up with the One who wrote the Book.  Take time to do something special for your pastor this week.  They deserve it!

Deuteronomy 13

Deuteronomy 13 talks about how we need to stay very carefully on course with God.  Scripture tells us that we will be challenged in our love and devotion for Him.  Others will come and attempt to pull us off course.  They will try and get us to follow other gods.  They will encourage us to walk away and focus on self rather than the One true God we know.  We will be tested to see “if you totally love Him with everything you have in you”.  So what about that question?  Do you totally love Him?  Above all else?  With all that is in you?  A pretty tall order indeed, but that is what God desires and actually expects.  He is all we need, and really all we truly have that we can depend upon.  He alone is worthy of our praise and adoration.  He alone is the Creator and Maker of all things.  He alone is the Master of this universe and in control of every minute and detail.  So how can we not give Him our total love?  The answer is our own selfish attitude and thinking that somehow the world actually revolves around ourselves.  Me, myself and I get in the way of truly loving God.  And that is a slippery and dangerous slope.

 In case you wonder what God’s expectations are around loving Him – He made it pretty simple to understand because He wrote it for us: “You are to follow only GOD, your God, hold him in deep reverence, keep his commandments, listen obediently to what he says, serve him–hold on to him for dear life”!  If we break this down, it is pretty clear what He wants from us:

  1. He wants us to follow Him
  2. He demands being our only God
  3. He wants it personal – He is to be our God
  4. He expects us to hold Him in deep reverence
  5. He wants obedience
  6. He wants us to listen to what He says
  7. He expects us to serve Him
  8. He wants us to hold on to Him for dear life

What a list He gives us – makes it really clear and also gives us a whole lot of confidence that we have a God that is not only worthy, but more than able to take care of us.  Are you following God this way?  Is He your life?  He is more than enough, more than able, more than we need.  He is our God and we need to be in very deep and consistent relationship with Him. He loves us beyond what we deserve.  How do you love Him?

Deuteronomy 12

Deuteronomy 12 is a chapter filled with practical guidance on how to live.  God starts by telling us what to do in regard to things in our life that pull us away.  Check out the words He uses to describe the response we should have to those things:

  1. Tear apart
  2. Smash
  3. Burn
  4. Break up
  5. Obliterate
  6. Stay clear

Are there things in your life that separate you from God and His will for your life?  God isn’t interested in us just shoving them aside, He wants them gone – permanently.  He wants us to purge the junk from our life that gets in the way of our relationship with Him.  He wants it gone for good.  Do you need to take those steps?  To get rid of things that you may think you are hiding in the closet because no one here on earth knows.  Just a little secret – God absolutely knows.  He knows exactly what areas are a hindrance and His desire is that they are gone.  Time to ask Him what those things are and get rid of them. 

 He gives us a couple clear statements that describe exactly what we should do.  “Be vigilant, listen obediently to these words that I command you so that you’ll have a good life, you and your children, for a long, long time, doing what is good and right in the eyes of GOD, your God”.  I love those words – be vigilant – as we have to do exactly that.  We have to work tirelessly at obedience if we want to really hit the mark in our walk with God.  It doesn’t happen accidently. Obedience is hard work.  And it starts with listening.  Did you catch that?  We have to know the words He commanded and then DO them.  That always seems to be the battle.  Often people know what they should do – the rub comes when it is time to actually do them.  But obedience is all about doing, not knowing.  He also tells us “Diligently do everything I command you, the way I command you: don’t add to it; don’t subtract from it”.  It isn’t about obedience half way – it is about obedience all the way – no addition or subtraction – just straight up obedience.  God has a pretty clear plan for us.  He wants us walking with Him.  We don’t really need to do a whole lot of deciding – we need to listen and do.  Are you on that path?

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