Does God need our defending?

Standard

Now that’s an interesting questions, huh?   Our awesome God created this world and everything in it.  He sets things in order according to His Sovereign will.  Nothing that happens comes as an unexpected. Although He is rebelled against, and mocked, and pushed aside, and  misrepresented in our world, God is patient because He knows He will have His day in the eternal courtroom (where He is both judge and prosecutor)!  The truth of who He is and the character and motives for all His actions in history will be on display and every signle person who has ever lived will see in an undeniable, crystal clear kind of way that He is holy and a loving God.

However, while we live today,  because of the love He produces in us who believe there can be a very powerful desire that can spring up within us (like the Old Faithful geyseryellowstone20national20park20wyoming[1])  that wants to shout out and display to others that He is a good God, a faithful God, a holy God, a powerful God, a loving God.

Back in the 1980’s when there were some televangelist scandals that had huge media coverage, Christianity took a beating. I can recall hearing so many comments about Christians being such hypocrites. There also seemed to be a surge in skepticism about the power and realness of our faith (and ultimately, our God).

One day, my spiritual geyser erupted and I couldn’t take any more of the negative comments being spewed out against our faith, and our God.  I remember driving to a nearby forest preserve at lunch and finding a guy by himself.  I parked my car and bolted for him as though I had some urgent news to tell him.  In fact, I did.

I went up to him and introduced myself as a Christian and saying I was so bothered by how the media was misrepresenting Christians that I wanted to defend the truth of who my God really is.  I was so energized and spoke with such firmness (and love).  It was a powerful time and God had ordained that moment because this man was hurting and the words I spoke affected him deeply and he chose to give his life to the Lord right then.  (Yeah, my God is a good God).

Sometimes, I can hear something so often that I fail to really pay attention to it when someone mentions it again. For example, in the Lord’s prayer, Jesus does not encourage us to pray, “MY Kingdom come”, but THY kingdom come. In other words, Jesus is telling us that our concern should ultimately not be about exalting ourselves, but Almighty God.
If I were to be brutally honest, I have to admit my focus, too often is clearly not where God wants it to be.  Unfortunately, there have been too many times, when  I have wanted to see my name promoted and for others to point their fingers at me with their praise, instead of toward God.

Another  lesson on all this comes from  our continuing study in Deuteronomy ( 9:25-29-NLT where it says, in verse “That is why I threw myself down before the Lord for forty days and nights—for the Lord said he would destroy you. I prayed to the Lord and said, ‘O Sovereign Lord, do not destroy them. They are your own people. They are your special possession, whom you redeemed from Egypt by your mighty power and your strong hand. Please overlook the stubbornness and the awful sin of these people, and remember instead your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. If you destroy these people, the Egyptians will say, “The Israelites died because the Lord wasn’t able to bring them to the land he had promised to give them.” Or they might say, “He destroyed them because he hated them; he deliberately took them into the wilderness to slaughter them.” But they are your people and your special possession, whom you brought out of Egypt by your great strength and powerful arm.’

There are two main things that stand out to me from these verses:
First of all, I see that Moses throws himself down and  he is before The Lord 40 days and nights interceding for the lives of the Israelites.

Moses is not concerned about himself, but he is filled with a desperation, an urgency to cry out for mercy on behalf of his fellow Israelites who had been so disobedient to God. To Moses, this is “priority” stuff.

But, Moses is also concerned about one other thing. He is concerned about God’s reputation.

Although God would be fully within His rights as a Holy God to judge the Israelites for their rebellious ways, Moses pleads with God not to punish them (not because they didn’t deserve it), but because of the potential unexpected consequence of God’s reputation being called in to question by the Egyptians. If the Israelites did not make it all the way to the Promised Land, the  Egyptians (and other pagan nations) could say that either God was impotent and not capable of bringing them in to the land, or that  He was an angry God and His real motive was hatred for the Israelites.  In other words, that He delivered them from the land of Egypt to put them to death in the wilderness.

So, Moses prays on behalf of the Israelites, but even more so for God and preserving His reputation.

Moses livesd out the promise of Proverbs 27:18 b, “he who cares for his master will be honored”.

Moses truly cared deeply for his master and his devotion to God set him apart .

Deut. 34:10 Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, (nasb)

How about you, my Christian brother or sister?   When is the last time you spoke to someone about the goodness of our God?  When is the last time you defended Him to others?

To anyone who has not yet put their faith in Jesus Christ to be your savior yet, let me invite you to take two intelligent steps of faith:

1) just say something like “I don’t know if you are real or not, but I am asking you to help me understand the truth. Help me to know who you are.

2) Find a Bible and find the Gospel of John and read it.

My God loves you and He will show Himeslf to those who are lost and looking for Him.

The “Promised Land” – then and now

Standard

In this lengthy Bible study/devo today from Deuteronomy, chapters 4-10, we come to the topic of the Promised Land.  For the Israelites, this subject was of great importance. Their identity as a people was closely tied to having a home land.

Back in Genesis 12, as God inaugurated the Jewish nation through one man, Abraham.   God  laid out a vision to him that this new people group would occupy a specific real estate. It would be as the Israelites lived in accordance with God’s ways that He would use this people in this land as a light to the nations.

So, with this backdrop in mind, you can see how the subject of the Promised Land was so important for the Israelites. They saw it as a Divine gift.

In this Christian era, we are no longer under the jurisdiction and covenant  of the Old Testament, although  God still continues in His desire to have a place of dominion in our lives.  He still desires for us to be a light to others; to show them  the blessing it is to be under His leadership.

Going back to the Israelites, the Promised Land was their hope, it was their inheritance. God told Abraham that one day the Israelites would live in this land, but the fulfillment of that promise was years away. First Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would live in it, and then would come a time of approximately 400 years, where God had foretold the Israelites that they  would live in captivity in Egypt.

After Israel’s captivity in Egypt, they would find  deliverance through Moses and then  journey to the hoped for, Promised Land. Unfortunately, the Israelites would be delayed in getting there, as they would spend an additional 40 years in the wilderness because of their disobedience the first time they attempted to go in to the land.

As they looked forward to this second attempt to conquer the land, God gave them a second teaching on His laws, commandments, and statutes (that is where the name “Deuteronomy” comes from -“second communication of the Law”).

God’s desire was that every inch of this land would be conquered by the twelve tribes of Israel. He said that He would deliver all the pagan peoples to the Israelites and they would defeat them. In fact, His words were spoken as though it was a sure thing. All the Israelites had to do was carry out the plan. Surely, it would not be easy, but nonetheless, if they persevered,  trusted and obeyed God, He would bring about their victories.

God’s intention was once they had conquered all the land, they were to live in it by submitting to the Kingship of the King of Kings. Their obedience and His blessing of them was the plan. Unfortunately, because of their disobedience, they began to experience cycles of faith. They would wander from the faith, “doing what was right in their own eyes”, and then God would discipline them by the oppression of a pagan people who they never fully conquered in the first place. Then the Israelites would cry out to God for deliverance from the harsh rule of the pagan nation. Then, God would come through for them and bring them a deliver ( a judge) like Jepthah, or Gideon, and then they would begin to drift away in disobedience and a lack of faith  in God.  They would begin doing their own thing and the cycle  would continue.

The next phase in the history of their decline in the faith was their desire “to be like the nations around them. They desired to have a human king, rather than God, the king of kings. Like Moses said, “you people have been rebellious ever since I have known you”. God’s vision for the Israelites; of enjoying a prosperous land and His favor and being a model of right living to the nations had to be set aside because of their consistent refusal to go along with God’s plans.

The lesson from the Israelites’ story in the Promised Land is so crucial for all of us to grasp. It is this: God loved the Israelites and wanted to have them live by His righteous ways knowing that their lives would be happiest.  As a further benefit of their submitting to His laws and statutes, God would bless them and other peoples would see the wisdom and orderliness of their faith; living by God’s ways made sense for individuals, as well as society and He would be rightly honored in the process. The underlying foundation to the Israelites’ culture would be submitting to the reign of God.

In a similar way today, God still desires to be in charge. Today, we do not seek a literal specific “promised land”, but rather it does exist in each of our hearts.  We still have enemies that we are to remove (by His help); enemies like lust,pride, greed, deceit, etc.    He desires to reign in each of us, so that our lives will be blessed for our own good, and that we will appear as models of right living, or as the Bible says it, we are to be salt and light to others, attracting them to the faith and to our awesome God.

The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is an excellent, concise place in the New Testament where the vision of what the Kingdom of Heaven (God’s reign) looks like when the King (our God) is submitted to.

As Matthew 5:3 says, “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Like a beggar in the streets, totally dependent on others, we are to live in total dependence to our God, and act in obedience to His promptings and direction. It is then we experience the kingdom of Heaven–His ruling in our life, our Promised Land.

Every time we look to our God to lead us in some area of our life (maybe trusting Him with our finances, or some relationship, or a work issue, etc.), we basically submit to His jurisdiction in that area. It is another “piece of land” if you will,  so to speak, God has helped us to conquer.

Just like the Israelites could have great expectation for the benefits of living in the Promised Land, so we too, in New Testament times, should look forward to the expectation of a blessed life as we live under the leadership of His kingship in our lives. Like the experience the Israelites had where God had already promised them the land was theirs to acquire and dwell in (as long as they were obedient), so too, because of what Jesus accomplished by the cross and resurrection, we are free and empowered to live victorious. We just have to persevere in faith and the receiving of His already-accomplished victory in our lives.

For us today, our mighty God has already won the battle. When Jesus died for our sins and then was resurrected, the enemy was defeated We no longer need to be subject to the bondage of sin. We are free. We just have to submit ourselves to that truth, walk in step to the Holy Spirit who has been given us and enjoy His freedom, and continue acquiring the land (areas in our soul needing to come under His leadership).

So, with that lengthy overview in place, go ahead and meditate on this important theme of the Promised Land. Its importance to the Israelites was huge, and the principle of the Kingdom of God (the place of Jesus’ reign in our lives) is also of vital importance.

For you and me, think of our “Promised Land” being a present day experience where God’s ways are carried out in our actions, words, and attitudes. and motives.

Deuteronomy chapters 4-10 (the Promised Land)—the amount of verses in these seven chapters regarding this theme testifies to the importance of this subject:

4:4-go take possession of the land which The Lord your God is giving you (this shows His Sovereignty)
4:5, 14- – you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it (what were they supposed to do? (obey the statutes and judgements God gave them)
4:21, 22- The Promised Land is described as “the good land”
4:21- it is also described as the land God is giving as “an inheritance”
4:25-27- God’s desire was that they live long on the land, but in saying that, He knew that after they had remained long in the land, they would forget about God and would act corruptly, make idols, and do that which was evil in the sight of The Lord, so as to provoke Him to anger….and by doing so, they would perish quickly from the land, they won’t continue to live long on it, but will be utterly destroyed. The Lord will then scatter them among the peoples and will be left few in number among the nations where The Lord drives them.
4:34-35- The Lord demonstrated His awesome power by taking for Himself a nation from within a nation and He did so by signs and wonders, and by war and by a mighty hand, and by an outstretched arm and by great terrors”…to the Israelites it was shown that they might know that The Lord, He is God; there is no other besides Him.

4:37- 38 He personally brought them from Egypt by His great power, driving
out nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in and give the
Israelites their land for an inheritance
4:40 God’s clear desire was that the Israelites obey His statutes and
commandments that it might go well for them and their children, and
grandchildren and that they might live long on the land which The Lord your God is giving you for all time
-4:41-43–God set apart 3 cities in the land as places of refuge for the
manslayer that he might be protected after unintentionally killing someone who he didn’t have any previous problems with
-The Israelites were to honor their parents as The Lord your God commanded them, so that their days may be prolonged in the and that it might go well with them on the land which The Lord your God gives you
5:31-33 Moses was to teach them, commandments, statutes, and judgements that
they might observe them in the land which I give them to possess……and as they obey, that they would live and that it might be well with them, and that they might prolong their days in the land which you will possess
6:1- again, Moses instructed the Israelites with statutes and judgements from God that they might do them in the land where they were to go over and possess …and that through their obedience, their days might be prolonged….and that it might be well with them and that they might multiply greatly, just as The Lord, the God of your fathers has promised you in a land flowing with milk and honey
6:10 -when The Lord your God brings you into the land —-(again His
Sovereignty)
6:10-11 – the land God was giving them was filled with great and splendid
cities which they did not build, houses full of all good things, which they did not fil, hewn cisterns which they did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which they did not plant….and in this land, they would be satisfied
6:18-19 – The Israelites were to obey God’s ways that it might be well with them and that they might go in and possess the good land, which The Lord swore to give to your fathers, by driving out all their enemies from before you
6:23- He brought the Israelites out of Egypt to bring them in to the land
which He had sworn to their fathers
7:1 When The Lord your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it and CLEARS AWAY MANY NATIONS BEFORE YOU…..seven nations greater and stronger than you,,, and when The Lord your God delivers them before you and you defeat them and utterly destroy them, you shall make no covenant with them, nor show them any favor, not intermarry with them (for any kind of relationship with them could influence the Israelites to turn away from Him))….in this land, the Israelites were to completely destroy any evidences of pagan worship
7:12- 16 and when it comes about that when the Israelites obey God’s ways that The Lord will keep with them His covenant and lovingkindness which He swore to their forefathers. He will bless them and multiply them in this new land—-He will bless the fruit of their womb, the fruit of the ground, their grain, and new wine and your oil, the increase of their herds, and the young of the flock, in the land which He swore to your forefathers to give you.. You shall be blessed above all peoples; there will be no male or female barren among you or among your cattle. The Lord will remove from you all sickness and He will not put on you any of the harmful diseases of Egypt which you have known, but He will lay them on all who hate you. You shall consume all the peoples whom The Lord your God will deliver to you; your eye shall not pity
them, nor shall you serve their gods, for that would be a snare to you.
-7:17-26 – if the Israelites were going to worry and wonder how they could
disposess these nations (who were greater than they were), God says, ” you shall not be afraid of them, you should remember what The Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt., the great trials which your eyes saw and the signs and wonders and the mighty hand and the outstretched arm by which The Lord your God brought you out.. so shall The Lord your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. Moreover, the Lord your God will send the hornet against them, until those who are left and hide themselves from you perish. 21 You shall not dread [v]them, for the Lord your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God. 22 The Lord your God will clear away these nations before you little by little; you will not be able to put an end to them quickly, for the [w]wild beasts would grow too numerous for you. 23 But the Lord your God will deliver them before you, and will [x]throw them into great confusion until they are destroyed. 24 He will deliver their kings into your hand so that you will make their name perish from under heaven; no man will be able to stand before you until you have destroyed them. 25 The graven images of their gods you are to burn with fire; you shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, or you will be snared by it, for it is an abomination to the Lord your God. 26 You shall not bring an abomination into your house, and
like it come under the ban; you shall utterly detest it and you shall utterly
abhor it, for it is something banned.
8:1- all that Moses commanded them to do, be careful to do it, that you might live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which The Lord swore to give to your forefathers.
8:7-9 – it is The Lord who is bringing the Israelites in to a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, , flowing forth in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey., a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper.
8:10 – you should be grateful for the good land which He has given you
9:1-4 the Israelites were going to cross the Jordan and dispossess nations
greater and stronger than you with large cities that have walls up to the sky with people who are strong and tall, Anakites (of whom it was said, “who can stand against the Anakites?”. But be assured that The Lord your god is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy the. He will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them quickly, as The Lord has promised you.. After The Lord your God has driven them out before you…
9:4-6 –the Israelites were to understand that it was not because of their
righteousness or integrity that God was giving them this land, but because of
the wickedness of the nations that were living in the land
10:11- God tells Moses to enter and possess the land He swore to their ancestors to give them

on my Spring Break, I had drifted far from…

Standard

There I was, down in the blazing hot sun in Florida, out in the Atlantic Ocean during Spring Break. I remember running down from the hotel I was staying at on to the beach and that first plunge in to the water. I can recall how hard it was swimming against the pounding waves and then, waiting and then trying to ride that perfect, body-surfing wave.
Over and over, I would repeat the process of getting out pretty far in to the water, then finding and riding that oncoming wave as far to the shore as I could.
After a while of doing this, I can recall looking up at the buildings that lined the beach and none of them looked familiar. All I can remember seeing was a mass of people as far as I could see, in both directions. However, my hotel, which was my point of orientation was no where in sight.
I was amazed at how powerful the currents were that had drawn me away from my familiar surroundings. At first, I remember a flush of panic wondering how far was I from “home”. Slowly, I gathered my wits and came in to shore, then walked, and walked, until I finally, I reached the point on the beach where my hotel was. Whew!
You know, our spiritual lives are like this as well. If we are not careful, we too, can be drawn away from our “point of orientation and find ourselves far from where we want to be.
In fact, our Loving, Heavenly Father told the Israelites about this very thing in Deuteronomy,chapter 4, verses 15-20. He said, that if they did not diligently keep on their guard, they could be caught up in the powerful currents of idolatry.
Most likely, the temptations would come slowly. Maybe it would start with a conversation with someone who would say something like, “do you think our God is the only god out there? No, that doesn’t make sense, does it, that there could be only one way to God and we are the only ones who know it”.
Then there were probably some that would say, “I believe god is something far greater than mere humans, something like the sun or moon. I mean, just look at the sheer size of them. They must be divine”.
But God says to the Israelites (and to us): So watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire, so that you do not act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the sky, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water below the earth. And beware not to lift your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. But the Lord has taken you and brought you of the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be a people for His own possession, as today.
Friends, I understand that few of us will bow down to worship the sun, or the moon, or the stars or some statute of a bird or fish. However, I do believe that all of us can be tempted to be drawn away from our single-minded devotion to God.
I do believe that it is relatively easy to stop “watching ourselves” and to not “be aware” of how we are doing spiritually.
The stakes are too high to not evaluate ourselves often on how our relationship with Almighty God is doing. His ways are too wise and His motives toward us are too loving to find ourselves carelessly having drifted away from them to find ourselves “far from home”.
Like the Prodigal son in Luke 15, if you are there, “come to your senses”, re-orient yourself towards the things you know to be true. Its time to come home.
and for all of us, be careful, watch yourselves closely that you never lose sight of your God and your love and obedience for Him.

She called to say “good-bye”. Something wasn’t right !

Standard

I remember it like it was yesterday, though it was over 30 years ago. I remember getting a call from a friend who I went to college with saying “I just wanted to say good-bye” (though in the few words she spoke, she didn’t say she was going anywhere).

We small talked for just a bit, and then she said she needed to go. Something did not seem right. In my gut, I knew this was a very serious moment.
I called 911 and explained the situation as best as I could, then sped off to where she was, about 45 minutes away.

When I got there, there were two people who were putting my friend in a straight jacket to protect her from doing any more damage to herself. She had just slit her wrists with a blade. Her life had been saved!

Let me tell you about one other story I heard several years ago. It took place in 1871, in Chicago. A very famous evangelist named D.L. Moody was preaching a message about Jesus and at the end of his sermon, he asked the crowd to think about their response to his message, “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called the Christ?” He then invited the people back in a week to listen to his message about Calvary and the Cross. What he unfortunately did was to give people time to think about putting their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior. In giving them a week to again listen to him, he was conveying to them a lack of urgency in resolving this issue with God.

That evening, the Great Chicago Fire occurred. thousands of buildings were destroyed and more importantly, 300 people lost their lives. D.L. Moody firmly said after that evening that he would never give another Gospel message without inviting someone during that message to put their trust in Jesus Christ. He recognized the urgency of the decisions that are made TODAY!

So, what’s the point in all this, its this: there are times in life when NOW is the time to respond. In other words, don’t put off doing something until tomorrow when it can be done today. When it comes to matters with God, there is an urgency of dealing with things TODAY.

This new insight from my memorizing/meditating work in Deuteronomy was refreshing as I saw from God’s Word the importance of TODAY. Looking at the list below and how many times TODAY is mentioned in these seven chapters should support its importance. So, here is another match of repeated verses that I would encourage you to read and ask God to reveal not only what He was trying to convey to the Israelites, but also to you in your life. Are you right with Him? Are you right with others? Have you been putting off doing something that deep down, you know you should be acting on?

“TODAY” verses mentioned in Deuteronomy, chapters 4-10 (bold fonts are added):

4:8 —“or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgements as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?” nasb
4:20- “but the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, from Egypt to be a people for his own possession, as today” nasb
4:37-38 “because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendents after them. And He personally brought you from Egypt by His great power, driving out from before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in and to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is today.” nasb
4:39 -“Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other” nasb
4:40-“So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, that it may go well with you and your children after you, and that you may live long on the land which the Lord your God is giving you for all time” nasb
5:1 -“hear, O Israel, the statutes and ordinances which I am speaking today in your hearing, that you may learn them and observe them carefully” nasb
5:3 – “the Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today” nasb
5:24– “you said, “Behold, the Lord our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His from the midst of the fire; we have seen today that God speaks with man, yet he lives” nasb
6:6 – “these words which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart” nasb
6:24 – so the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God for our good always and for our survival, as it is today” nasb
7:11 – “therefore, you shall keep the commandment and the statutes and the judgements which I am commanding you today, to do them” nasb
8:1 – “all the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your forefathers.” nasb
8:11 -beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; ” nasb
8:18-19 – “but your shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. It shall come about if you ever forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish” nasb
9:3 – “but be assured today that the Lord your God is the one who will go across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them quickly, as the Lord has promised you” niv
10:8 – “at that time, the Lord set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the Lord, to stand before the Lord to minister and to pronounce blessings in His name, as they still do today” niv
10:12-13 – “and now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?” niv
10:15 -“yet the Lord set his affection on your ancestors and loved them, and he chose you, their descendents, above all the nations-as it is today” niv

All of us come to this very second with a history behind us. Some of the moments in our past were very pleasant, but other experiences we’ve had were gut-wrenching. They were painful and they left scars.
But right now, TODAY is the beginning of all your future tomorrows. The decisions you make, starting right now, will affect other circumstances in your future, good or bad.
Let me put it another way, for sports enthusiasts out there. When a college basketball team gets to the “DANCE”, the March Madness tournament, it really doesn’t matter what happened with the team during the regular season. Its basically a new season now, if you lose you are out.
To anyone who has watched MARCH MADNESS, they will tell you about watching many upsets where some high-ranking team got beaten by some lowly-ranked team.
All that has happened in your past is in your past. You are now in the “Dance of life” and this second season, if you will, starts now. It starts TODAY. You will never get another Today like this one. Purpose to make your future one that you can be proud of and that God will be pleased with. Don’t put off any longer living the kind of life you know you should be living and you want to live. Leave the past in the past and live to the fullest expression TODAY and Enjoy it!

Deuteronomy study- “Grace”, it really is Amazing

Standard

The story is told in 2 Samuel about a time when King David (after having replaced the former king, Saul) had defeated most of his enemies around him and filled with such gratitude for God’s kindness in his life, he sought to be a channel of blessings to others.

2 Samuel 9:1- “”One day David asked, “Is anyone in Saul’s family still alive—anyone to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”. He summoned a man named Ziba, who had been one of Saul’s servants. “Are you Ziba?” the king asked.
“Yes sir, I am,” Ziba replied.
The king then asked him, “Is anyone still alive from Saul’s family? If so, I want to show God’s kindness to them.”
Ziba replied, “Yes, one of Jonathan’s sons is still alive. He is crippled in both feet.”
“Where is he?” the king asked.
“In Lo-debar,” Ziba told him, “at the home of Makir son of Ammiel.”
So David sent for him and brought him from Makir’s home. His name was Mephibosheth; he was Jonathan’s son and Saul’s grandson. When he came to David, he bowed low to the ground in deep respect. David said, “Greetings, Mephibosheth.”
Mephibosheth replied, “I am your servant.”
“Don’t be afraid!” David said. “I intend to show kindness to you because of my promise to your father, Jonathan. I will give you all the property that once belonged to your grandfather
Saul, and you will eat here with me at the king’s table!”
Mephibosheth bowed respectfully and exclaimed, “Who is your servant, that you should show such kindness to a dead dog like me?”

What a powerful story of grace. It is interesting to see David’s response to Mephibosheth as they meet. David says, “do not be afraid”. Why would Mephibosheth be afraid? In those days, it was not an uncommon thing for one king to kill all the family of the former king to rule out any potential competing claims on the throne. Other than the killing off of the predecessors staff, it wouldn’t be unlike a new president today coming in and replacing all the previous administration’s cabinet officials with new ones- people he can trust and who would be in agreement with his philosophies.

What King David does is offer Mephibosheth grace. It is something being given that in no way was deserved (or expected). In fact, in verse 8, Mephibosheth recognizes what is happening. He asks, “who am I that you should show such kindness to me?

As a sidenote, Mephibosheth’s response of “who is your servant…” is similar to David’s response on several occasions: of “who am I?” (1 Samuel 18:18, 2 Samuel 7:18, 1 Chronicles 17:16).

Grace is surprising because it comes when we are not expecting it. When we do something good and noble; sure, then we can come in pride and think “give me ….. because I deserve it, look what I’ve done.”

But when grace is offered to us, like when David extended it to Mephibosheth, there is no basis for it. We are undeserving of it. I guess that’s what makes grace so amazing.

So, let’s bring this back to our Deuteronomy study. As Moses speaks to the Israelites in Deuteronomy, chapters 4-10, he wants them to fully understand what kind of character they have been demonstrating, in comparison to their God, who is holy.

In many verses in these seven chapters, God addresses their stubbornness, rebelliousness, and disobedience. For example, in Deut. 9, verses 6 and 7, it says, ” Understand then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people. Remember this and never forget how you aroused the anger of the Lord your God in the wilderness. From the day you left Egypt until you arrived here, you have been rebellious against the Lord (nasb). The Israelites were deserving of only God’s judgement for the way they consistently acted contrary to His righteous ways.

The point in God’s summarizing their sinful behaviors and attitudes in verses like I just mentioned is put in contrast to God’s goodness and kind activities towards them. Notice God’s involvements in their lives (despite how they have acted rebelliously):

-10:14-15 – it is God who chooses the Israelites
-6:10-11, 8:7-10 – God is bringing them in to a good land filled with abundant resources
– 7:1-2 – He acted on their behalf
– 10:10-11 – He spared them from what they deserve
-7:6-8 – He chose the Israelites though they were the fewest in number
-4:1, 4:20-22, 4:29-31-He gave them the Promised Land
9:4-6- He did not give them the land because of their righteousness and integrity,
7:7 – there were no attributes about the Israelites meriting their favor
9:7-8, 12. 14, 16, 20,24—the Israelites were rebellious, stubborn, evil, corrupt, and stiff-necked

So, what do we make of this thing called Grace?
It is obvious after reviewing these seven chapters in Deuteronomy that the Israelites were nothing special that would endear God to love them. Their behaviors and attitudes towards God were in contrast to the obedience He required of them.

They were a very ungrateful people who consistently pursued living independently from Him; rejecting the ways God set out for them; by rejecting living in obedience to God’s ways, they were rejecting God, Himself.

Yet, its in the light of understanding how unworthy the Israelites were in their consistent bad behavior that God’s grace shines brightest.

True Grace is not demonstrated to those who deserve our kindness (or God’s kindness), but to those who are undeserving.

That is also the attraction and power of the Gospel, God’s supreme act of grace by sending His Son, Jesus Christ to die for the sins of the world—that is, your rebellious and independent ways, and mine.

There was nothing worthy about humanity for God to want to give up His life for us. Yet, even though He saw humanity as stubborn and rebellious (just like the Israelites), God was still willing to demonstrate His love and give His life up for us, so that we could be reconciled to Him.

And just as King David experienced God’s grace in his life, and then was moved to pour out grace on others who also were undeserving, like Mephibosheth, so we too are called to be channels of God’s grace to others. Who is it in your life that doesn’t deserve your kindness, but whom you can give it to anyway?

Jesus gives us today this same command to live in a gracious kind of way. For example, in one place, He says in Matthew 5:41:
“If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile,carry it two miles (NLT). “.
The land of Israel was occupied in New Testament times by Rome. One of the laws at that time had to do with a soldier who could demand that an Israelite carry his supplies one mile. It was legal for him to ask this, but so upsetting to the Israelites to be treated in such a demeaning kind of way.
Yet, how does Jesus treat this issue? He says that when these things happen, they should willingly ask the Roman soldier if they can carry their supplies an additional mile! How shocking would that be to hear?
The principle of Grace is so strong here. Did the Roman soldier deserve this kind gesture. Hardly? Yet, it is in this shocking response of going beyond what is expected that God’s Grace stands out.

And it is by acting in such an unexpected and unlikely kind of way, we can expect that we will get others’ attention. “Why would you act in such a way?” will be a question asked of us many times over. To this question, we are given the opportunity to testify to our Awesome God who is characterized by Amazing Grace.

We can then confidently share with others about this grace because we have experienced it firsthand ourselves.

Be on the lookout today for who you can be gracious!

You are His possession- you are in good hands!

Standard

Can you remember the first car you owned?

For me, it was an ’85 Mazda GLC Deluxe. I really liked that car. I took great pride in that car. When an unexpected scratch occurred, I questioned what I should do? Should I file a police report? Should I call Jack Bauer? Or should I put it in perspective and let it go?

My issue was that this was my possession and there was a sense of responsibility I took in owning that car.

I think that’s kind of how God kind of feels toward us.
Deuteronomy 7:6 says that we are God’s possession. It says, “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth”.

Check this out: Almighty God takes pleasure in you. He takes pride in you-His unique creation. You have been personally chosen to be on His team. Awesome!

In a similar way to my washing, cleaning, and maintaining my Mazda GLC, so God disciplines us, is faithful to us, teaches us, blesses us, and loves us).

Because of His great love He for us, He is jealous for
His possession. (Deut.4:24). Almighty God personally takes responsibility in looking after the things that are His, which includes you.

He wants the very best for us and anything that causes us or tempts us to turn away from Him, He will seek to remove from us, or help us to have victory over it: for our own good.

Do you think that God is able to look after what belongs to Him? Without doubt!

As we conclude this study, let me lay out some verse that support what I had mentioned earlier (God disciplines, is faithful to us, teaches, blesses, and loves us).

He disciplines us: “You shall remember all the way in which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you, not did your foot swell these forty years. THUS YOU ARE TO KNOW IN YOUR HEART THAT THE LORD YOUR GOD WAS DISCIPLINING YOU JUST AS A MAN DISCIPLINES HIS SON.”
He is faithful to us -“For the Lord your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you, nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them.” Deut. 4:31
He teaches us: “But as for you, stand here by Me,that I may speak to you all the commandments and the statutes and the judgements which you shall teach them, that they may observe them in the land which I give them to possess” Deut. 5:31
He blesses us: “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey; a land where you will eat food without scarcity, in which you will not lack anything; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper. When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land which He has given you.” Deut. 8:7-10
He protects us: “When the Lord your God brings you into the land …and when the Lord your God delivers them before you…(Deut. 7:1-2. “But be assured today that the Lord your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; He will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them quickly, as the Lord has promised you.” Deut. 9:3b
He loves us: “but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers..”) Deut. 7:8

You are in good hands my friend. In any circumstance you find yourself, you need not ever worry that you are alone. You are a possession of God. He loves you and He will never leave you. You might not understand the circumstances you are currently in, but you can rest in His love for you, which He demonstrated once and for all by dying on a cross for you). Say no more, you are loved!

Deuteronomy study –the importance of “LISTENING”

Standard

I love God’s Word. I love that the depth of its wisdom and insights is unfathomable. I’ve been memorizing and meditating on chapters 4-10 in Deuteronomy for the past year and a half and just the other day another “match” was revealed to me.

I had not noticed it before, but the phrase LISTENING just popped off the page to me. As I read it in chapter nine, I realized that I had seen that word before. So, again with my mindset that if something in the Bible is repeated, it bears significance, I went back to these seven chapters in Deuteronomy and found another treasure of insights regarding this issue of LISTENING (AND HEARING).

It is interesting that in a majority of these seven chapters, the call to listen is stated right up front:

4:4 – “Now O Israel, listen…”

5:1 – “…Hear, O Israel…”

6:3 – ” O Israel, you should listen…”

6:4 – “Hear, O Israel…”

9:1- “Hear, Israel…”

Why is that? My best guess is the importance God is stressing paying attention to what He is about to say. Its similar to a boss or coach, or parent who is with their team (or family) and there is a lot of noise going on, and the boss, or coach, or parent raises their voice to say, “enough, listen to me! Pay attention! You need to really hear what I’m about to tell you.”

But besides these opening verses that called the Israelites to pay attention and listen (and us, too), digging deeper into these seven chapters, I soon found other gems about listening and hearing.

4:10– The Israelites were to assemble before Mt. Horeb that they “may hear My words so that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth and that they may teach their children”

4:30 – after God brings judgement on the Israelites in the future as they turn away from Him, they will come to their senses and repent –“when you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days you will return to the Lord your God and LISTEN to his voice”

4:33 – “has any people HEARD the voice of God speaking from the midst of the fire, as you have HEARD it, and survived?”

4:36 – “out of the heavens He let you HEAR his voice to discipline you; and on earth He let you see His great fire, and you HEARD His words from the midst of the fire.”

7:12- “then it shall come about, because you LISTEN to these judgements and keep and do them, that the Lord your God will keep with you His covenant and His lovingkindness which He swore to your forefathers”

8:20- “like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you , so you shall perish; because you would not LISTEN to the voice of the Lord your God”

As I read these passages mentioning “listening” and “hearing”, I have jotted down a few thoughts that come to my mind. However, I believe that as you, the reader read and meditate on these verses, you will come up with even more insights.

* Never lose sight that only in Christianity is there an opportunity to listen to God. Why? Because only He is God. Whereas every other religion is based alone on some kind of system of beliefs, only Christianity provides, not only a “code” (doctrine) of beliefs, but a Living God behind those beliefs. He is alive. Yes, He is holy, but He is also a loving God. He desires a relationship with us and all good relationships need to be a two-way thing. That thought alone make me evaluate my walk. I fear too often it is characterized as a one-way kind of thing; me, offering up my wish list of requests to satisfy my needs. But, God has such a greater vision for what it could be. It needs to two-way.

* To listen to God, we need to make ourselves available to hear Him. The Israelites were called to Mt. Horeb (Sinai) to hear His voice and it was frightening to them (Deut. 4:33,36, 5:22-27,Heb. 12:18-24), however for us today, God desires to speak to us through His Word and the Holy Spirit who lives in every person who has received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior).

When I speak of listening to God, I do not assume the “lotus” position and wait for God to say something. Mostly, what I do is start the process by reading or listening to the Bible. As I do, God will often speak to me some kind of application in my life. I have found that reading “spiritual growth” kinds of books or studies, even like this one 🙂 can be used by His Spirit to indicate to me (though there is nothing like the Word of God directly).

Like a horse that has blinders on so that they can focus on running the race, so we can too can have our blinders on as we live our lives, so that all we focus on is our self. We rely on our self, we think to our self, and we aim to please our self.

To listen to God means being intentional about making the time to spend with Him. I’m not suggesting a two hour per day time slot every day–it won’t happen. I would like to suggest spending just fifteen minutes, reading the Bible. Because God speaks to us in His Word, reading it is the most common way He communicates His thoughts to us through His Spirit speaking to our spirit and mind.

The other way of seeking to listen to Him is by understanding that God desires to use us to impact this world for His glory. In other words, through out our day, i believe He provides opportunities if we are just sensitive to His Spirit’s whispers of what is going on.

For example, the other day, I was driving in to work and after listening to the Bible on my I-Phone, I was praying and asking God to use me this day to be a blessing to others. About an hour from when I was praying, my boss came in and was mentioning to me how slammed he was with work and that he needed me to help him do something. To me, it wasn’t even something I had to give thought to. I had asked God to use me to be a blessing and this was an opportunity. Done!

Later that day, I felt like God was whispering to me to go to my boss and ask if II could pray for him, right there. This was just another way I could be used to be a blessing. Again, I was on it.

I remember reading a book about animals and in that book, the deer was being mentioned. I read that when a deer senses some danger, its ears get stimulated and it becomes attentive to all that is going on around it. Like that deer, we need to seek to be attentive to all that is going on around us, and attentive to those moments when God prompts us with His thoughts to take action.

* With the idea of really listening comes obedience. Just like it says in the Letter to James:

James 1:22English Standard Version (ESV)

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

Think of a boss, coach, or parent telling someone something. How does that boss,coach, or parent know that they are really being heard? It is by the obedience of the employee, player, or child in carrying out their instructions that they will know.

So, too with God. He is looking for maximum impact when He speaks to us and that takes effort on our part. We need to put the undistracted time in to receive from Him His word to us. Then, as we hear Him, we need to remember who it is that is speaking to us, GOD ALMIGHTY and recognize His holiness, but also His love for us and be responsive to His guidance to us.

* Another aspect we need to keep in mind is the issue of the quality of our listening. Too many times in my life, I have heard the words of someone talking to me, but because of a lack of respect and attention on my part, I was not really listening to what they were saying and meaning to convey to me. Even more so with God, He needs and deserve our full attention.

* It is also worth pointing out specifically, that listening to God requires our submissiveness to Him. “The fool says in His heart there is no God” (ps. 14:1) so he gives no thought to Him. However, each of us because of our sinful natures struggle with pride. In that self-centeredness, we are drawn to reason to ourself how best to live life. We think we know best.

But God wants us to assume a position of submission like Mary in Luke 10:39 and out of dependency and honor, listen to what He has to say.

Lastly, I will only just reference it here, but will go more in depth later in some devotions on prayer, but God listens to us, too (how awesome is that):

The Lord also listens to us:

4:7 – “For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God whenever we call on Him”

5:28-29 -“The Lord heard the voice of your words when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me,”I have heard the voice of the words of this people which they have spoken to you. They have done well in all that they have spoken. Oh, that they had such a heart in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments always, that it may be well with them and with their sons fforever!”

9:19 – “I feared the anger and wrath of the Lord, for He was angry enough with you to destroy you. But again the Lord LISTENED to me.”

10:10-“now I had stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights, as I did the first time, and the Lord LISTENED to me at this time also. It was not His will to destroy you.”

I hope you have enjoyed this fresh devotion/study as much as I have discovered it.

Besides continuing to dwell on God’s Word and digging in even deeper throughout the Scriptures on this important topic of “listening”, I would also highly recommend Bill Hybel’s book, “The Power of a Whisper