Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Deuteronomy 28 - Heaven or Hell on Earth

Deuteronomy 28 is one of the favorite "go to" passages for stewardship studies. It has some wonderful conditional promises for God's people. IF we are obedient.  Abundance, peace, power and honor will come our way at the hand of God. No doubt we should obey God's commands and be a holy people, but let's be honest...you and I don't full obey all the commands of God. We all fall short of God's standard. Prosperity gospel hawkers would lead us to believe that the misery we experience in life is our own fault and if we could just do better, look what waits in store for us. I think that is why so many prosperity gospel believers are so depressed. If perfection is what it takes for God's blessing we are surely doomed. But that is exactly our condition apart from a Savior. We strive and strive for better but we can never quite make it. We might strive until we nearly collapse before we realize that Heaven does not depend on us, we depend on it. 

An interesting point to see in this chapter is just the vast number of verses dedicTed to the curses that are stored up for disobedience. 15 verses of blessing andore than 59 of curses. But if we continue to strive in our own efforts and depending on our strength we will land on the side of curses more often than blessing since we are born sinners and we tend to revert to our natural state. 

We encounter almost daily, strife, disease, disaster, betrayal and oppression. Our footing is not sure and our balance is off. When we encounter hard times our propensity is to cry up to God and say "why me?", as if God was punishing us inappropriately. We view our ways as best by default and we fail to see that we are on a path that leads to destruction.  We experience a bit of hell here on earth that should lead us to repentance and to plead for forgiveness, but we stand up to God and act confused. 

Hell is what we all deserve if perfect obedience to the law is our only hope. No one gets into heaven by obeying the law. All our good works are insufficient to meet God's holy standard. There is only one man who was able to meet the standard and that was God in the flesh, Jesus  Christ. Jesus not only met the standard, but his holiness was able to cover us all if we will look to him for our security. 

Because of Jesus' sacrifice for us we do get to enjoy some of those blessings on earth that we don't deserve. We have provision for our needs, we have peace with God and enjoy His protection. We get it all, but not based on the conditions of the law. We fell short of that. But because of the finished work of our Savior, Jesus Christ we enjoy Heaven in Earth and look forward to the day when we no longer have to live among the curses. Our security is in Christ alone. 

The law holds up a perfect standard that we cannot achieve. It is designed to help us see our need for a Savior and how sinful we are. We get a glimpse of what is desireable, then we are left to consider out true state and what we really deserve. Praise God He made provision for not only our bodies but also our souls!

Heaven can be ours if we will give up our striving and accept the only perfect provision. We have life and abundance because Jesus gave His. Enjoy that provision of God and peace with God today. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Deuteronomy 27 - Take Time to be Holy

Moses is coming to the end of his ministry. He know time is short so he wants to be sure that Israel keeps God close. He really begins this message starting in Deuteronomy 26:16 reminding the people to keep God's commands because they are a chosen people called to live distinctly for God alone. He reminds them how God longs to bless them with honor and praise among the nations. 

The key to holiness is to keep God's thoughts close. Especially when we are living with abundance and plenty, our alliegiance a have a propensity to wander from the Lord's eternal bounty and take refuge in the temporal - the temporary pleasures of the here and now. God is about to give th the land flowing with milk and honey. Moses will not be going with them to give counsel and guidance so they are charged to write God's laws on stones set up as an altar. When we keep God's standard of holiness in front of us all the time we are less likely to slip into the standards of the world. 

God also provides a vision of the future for one who violates His standard. It is the future that we all have if left to our own devices - cursing. Our legacy is marred forever by the sin exposed by God unless God provides the hope of Salvation. The latter half of the chapter is dedicated to listing abominations that no man should contemplate. All sin leads to the curse. If we were not given a hope of salvation in Jesus Christ we would all be doomed. 

If we really believed that God curses sin and that hell is a real judgement for those who will not look to Christ as their hope of salvation, we would be brought to tears over loved ones, colleagues and neighbors who face an eternal separation from God - forever cursed. While we do not in judgment, the coming judgment is real and eternal. Only the work of Christ can save us. Our own merits fall short. 

It is important that for as long as we are here on earth that we keep our focus on God; living a life of holiness as an example to the world of a life lived for Him. We are blessed when we do. Not only will God honor our prayers but also men who may be willing to accept the path of everlasting life have a living reminder of what that life looks like. Keep God's commands in front of us so we can always have a touch point for holy living. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Deuteronomy 26 - Biblical "Giving"

When most people consider the topic of stewardship their minds immediately leap to the tithe. Many churches don't teach stewardship apart from an annual giving campaign. It is sad that so many Christians do not have sound teaching. Today the topic is the firstfruits and tithe. 

Interesting in Deuteronomy 26, God does not refer to the tithe as a gift, though we often refer to offerings before the Lord as gifts. It indicates some warped theology on our parts to refer to the tithe or firstfruits as a gift. In this chapter the rationale for the firstfruits is to publicly recognize the gifts we have received from God. God provides the land, the strength, the sustenance and the increase that we have what we need. It is only right to acknowledge the only giver in this equation - the Creator, Almighty God. We are merely beneficiaries of His generosity. When we begin to consider the tithe a gift, it removes God as the giver and elevates our contributions as if we are the provider. 

The purpose for the tithe was firstly to call to remembrance that we have been abundantly blessed by God. God gave us more than our needs. The second purpose was to use the abundance to care for those in the service of the tabernacle (our pastoral staff and missionaries). This allows them to focus on the service to God and not have to earn a separate income to supply for themselves. The tithe was to be offered for widows, orphans and the poor in the third year. God uses His abundance to provide for those who otherwise have little provision. As we learned in Deut 24, God cares for all people an makes provision for the poor. 

What can we learn about the tithe that we can apply?  As with the Israelites, the tithe is done on recognition of God's provision for our needs. We should remember our heritage and how God has made provision for our physical needs but also for our souls. God is the great giver of all time. Likewise, as we grow in the character of Christ His son, we also should be generous not only in returning a portion for the work of the church but also to provide for the poor and disadvantaged. We are Christ to these who need a message of hope. God uses his people to be beacons in a world that does not know Him. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Deuteronomy 25 - Justice

Justice is a double edged sword. As a sinner unworthy of any favor before God, I never want to ask for justice because it would fly in the face of the grace I have received through Jesus Christ. We should never ask God for our just desserts because Justice would land us all in Hell. Only Christ's righteousness gains us any standing before a Holy God. But when we are discussing our dealings with other people here on Earth, we want to be as fair and just as possible so as not to bring even greater judgment down upon us. 

This chapter discusses various ways we as God's people can be the bearers of Justice and guard against oppression of the vulnerable. 

Sentencing of Criminals Deut 25:1-3
When a criminal is found guilty the criminal must have a sentence appropriate for the crime. There were limits placed on the number of lashes. We too should use caution when retaliating against an offense. There is a place for justice and a place for mercy. 

Muzzling an Ox - Deut 25:4
This seems like God is reminding men to take good care of their animals. No doubt we should, but Paul helps us with an application in 1Cor 9:9 suggesting that it is a principal we should apply to those who share the gospel. We should pay them their wages and not expect them to work without reward. 

Heir for the Widow - Deut 25:5-10
Next of kin were expected to stand in the gap for a fallen brother and care for his widow and assure that there would be an heir to carry on the legacy of the fallen brother. It was called the kinsman redeemer.  The application of this law is seen in Ruth chapter 4 as Boaz offers the right of redemption to the near relative and then assumes the responsibilities of the kinsman redeemer when the first refused. Justice stands up for the vulnerable and provides for those who have no hope. This is also a picture of what our Lord Jesus did for us when we stood bankrupt before God facing eternity of punishment and without hope. our Redeemer bought is and made us His own. We have a legacy forever because of His payment on our behalf. 

Differing Weights -Deut 25:14-19
Our business dealings should be honest. We are not to scam or take advantage of another. God sees every dishonest act and hates them. Absolute honesty is a high standard, but we are called to live rightly. An example of a just weight and measure was applied to the Amelekites as they had measured out to the nation of Israel, they were to receive back in executing God's Justice.  When we take a stand against God and His people we can be sure God will not take that lightly

While we are not in the place of God to execute eternal Justice, we are called to live rightly and to treat others justly so that God receives the glory and we do not heap punishment for ourselves. Weust not ignore offenses but address th me appropriately and without malice. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Deuteronomy 24 - God Protects the Vulnerable

When your ability to turn labor into the means to sustain your family is threatened, you need a Champion who will protect you from those who would seek to use your situation for their gain.  The people of God are challenged in this chapter to defend the cause of the needy, not being a party to oppression. 

In this chapter God mentions a few classes of people who should be protected: 

1. The divorced woman (Deut 24:1-4)- specifically charges the man who has divorced her not to remarry if she should be divorced a second time.  Perhaps so that he will not receive the dowry twice. 

2.  Newly weds (Deut 24:5)- Not to send the husband to war so that he may have opportunity to father children with his new wife. 

3.  Debt Collateral (Deut 24:6, 10-13). - if someone comes to you for a loan, you shouldn't remove their means to gain income as collateral or their necessities of life (coat etc). This person is on a vulnerable state and you shouldn't make his situation worse. 

4.  Slavery (Deut 24:7) - I wish I could say this doesn't apply to today, but sadly servitude continues with those in power victimizing their captives. 

5. Withholding Payment (Deut 24:14-15). If someone has worked and provided a service we should be careful to pay infill and promptly. They depend on their wages to provide for their families. God hears the prayers of the poor and will charge you for any mistreatment. 

6.  Accountability. (Deut 24:16) - the criminal is the one accountable for his crime. Friends and family are not held responsible for the unrighteousness acts of the criminal. 

7.  Victimizing the Outcast (Deut 24:17-18) the passage specifically mentions the alien living in Israel because their nationality was so intertwined in their culture. But beyond nationality, there are classes of people you can think of even now who don't get fair treatment. We was to consider their needs and not mistreat these people. We could be in the same state but for the grace of God. 

8.  Providing for the Poor (Deut 25:19-22). When we provide for our own families, we should set aside a portion for the poor and allow them to have some. Note the poor were to harvest their own grain and it was not just a hand out. I believe if we as the church body took this to heart we would see any be helped and transition from the need to stability. 

As you can see there are a net of types of vulnerable peoples in this passage. Each could become a post of its own, but I trust the Holy Spirit can instruct your heart to become a Champion for a vulnerable one in your life. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Deuteronomy 23 - Financial Principlea

Chapter 23 is chocked full of good words to grow on, but I just want to highlight a couple of principles we can apply for ourselves. If we take them to heart, God will surely bless the labors of your hands. 

Tainted Money
Deut 33:17-18 show us that there are professions that dishonor God and we should not pretend that we can make up for vile gain by giving our portion to God. If we are involved in a business or a business practice that doesn't honor God, we should turn from it and plead for forgiveness. We shouldn't ignore it and ask God to ignore it too. 

Charging Interest
Deut 23:19-20 - We are not to charge our "brother" interest. We are not to profit from our fellow believers misfortune. We are not on opposite sides, but joined together in love to benefit our believing brothers and  sisters. It is perfectly OK to charge a foreigner interest, as he hasn't shared your faith and does not stand to inherit God's favor. 

In this section we have a "so that". I love these because they give insight into the rationale behind the command. Verse 20 says "you may charge a foreigner interest, but not a brother Israelite, so that the Lord your Godsy bless you in everything you put your hand to in the land you are entering to possess".   I can see people saying that even a Christian bank needs to make money, but it is Gods economy and it it He who blesses our work. We can trust Him even when we don't understand His ways. 

Contracts and Vows
Deut 23:21-23 give us principles we can use in honoring our commitments. Whether it is a vow to God or to men. We are Gods people and our word should be our bond. If we make a commitment to God and He may require it from you. It would be better that we do not make a vow than to not honor what we have said. 

Likewise, we should be careful to honor our word among our business dealings as well. It is far too easy to make a contract that extends into the future when we don't know what the future holds. I think of people who are deep in credit card debt and cannot meet their monthly obligations.  If only they had not made the commitment by buying things on time they would be better off. When we sign on the dotted line our reputation and Gods is at stake. 

Neighbors Bounty. 
Deut 23:24-25. When you are waking through your neighbors vineyard it is Ok to enjoy some of the harvest, but not to store up for yourself treasure at his expense. Enjoy his hospitality but don't presume upon it. 

In applying this principle in our lives we shouldn't take advantage of our neighbors, believers or not. To store up his fruit or grain would be akin to stealing, but if you are hungry, it would only be right and kind for him to share of his bounty. 

Gods ways are not natural to us, so we must study and apply if we are to enjoy the best of life God desires for us. Our success is completely in His hands but He looks on our faithfulness as His servants. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Deuteronomy 22 - Make Things Right

There are many applications in this chapter we could examine, but to simplify this entry I will focus on one alone - restoration. In Deuteronomy 22:1-4 God gives instruction on what to do if you notice that a brother has lost or damaged goods. He says, "if you see your brother's sheep straying, give it back". Israel was primarily an agricultural society and the loss of an animal was a loss to ones income provision. It would be like saying to us, if you see someone's car that was stolen or someone's computer left in a public location or someone's phone, get it back to them. We are to make things right and not just walk past without taking action. 

When you and I see things that are out of place it need to be done, it is incumbent upong us to take action. We are to get involved in other peoples business, not to harm or interfere, but to help them and to restore them when they have been damaged.  

It isn't hard to look around today to find great needs. We might find them within our own homes, our church, in our neighborhood, at work or in the streets as we conduct our daily activities. When we make it our mission to set things right and to extend ourselves to help our neighbor, we are honoring God. 

Imagine the number of issues that might be mitigated as a result of God's people taking positive action and becoming the hands and feet of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. Imagine the opportunities for witness thatight result when we demonstrate love to the people we meet by investing a bit of ourselves. In them. 

We should be careful as we engage with others to be diligent in sharing the gospel so that not only will they benefit in this life but also the next. We have a great hope and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit in our lives that the people we encounter shoild know about. They can have joy and peace with God in the middle of their conflicts. 

As God enables you to see a need today be quick to reach out and lend a helping hand. God is honored and not only will you be a blessing, you may also find yourself blessed. 

At God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Deuteronomy 21 - Justice for the Victim

Chapter 21 has a variety of instructions for us: resolving unsolved murder, marrying a captive, rights of first born, rebellious children, capital crimes. God is sharing with us right responses in difficult situations. The responses often go against our own inclinations that is why it is important for us to have God's view. 

In the unsolved murder case, a sacrifice of a heifer was required. Just because the murder is unsolved doesn't mean that the community doesn't have a responsibility to atone for the crime. The crime cannot be ignored or left unresolved.  

The captive woman is to have a period of mourning the separation from family. Her beauty attributes like hair, nails, and clothing are to be separated from her. She is now part of her captors culture and no longer belongs to her own. Her head shaved, nails cut and dressed as an Israelite. After the period of mourning the man may take her as a wife if he chooses. He is not to treat her as a slave. 

These rules may seem foreign to us ofay, but the concept is one we can apply. God knows our inclinations toward selfishness and to do the easy thing. God calls us to be people of integrity righting wrongs and standing in the gap for the oppressed. 

If we will yield our way to God's we we learn His priorities are for the hearts of people. Ours are for our leisure andarerial benefit until we are guided by God's Spirit. This needs to be a conscious effort on our part because it is not a natural inclination. We need to determine in our hearts to follow God's commands no matter what. Are you willing to commit today?  

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Deuteronomy 20 - Battling Enemies

God sent the nation of Israelites into the Promised Land, but things were not smooth sailing as they imagined. They would be charged with confronting the inhabitants and usurping them from the land they occupied. God promised to give them victory but they would have to really trust Him. The enemies were hostile and well prepared to defend themselves. 

God offers up some assurances and cautions for the people as they go to battle:

1. God is on your side (Deut 20:4). The defeat of the EMT was already secure befor the battle began. God had chosen the side of His people. There is no need to fear even if the enemy is intimidating. 

2.  Don't doubt. (Deut 20:5-9). If you have concerns at home and worries that you may not fulfill a commitment, then your faith in God is probably not secure. Go home, God can't really use you. 

3.  Seek peaceable solutions first: if the enemy will surrender, then spare their lives allowing them to continue in peace. But if they refuse, their lives shouldn't be spared. They will only seek to ruin you by having you follow after other gods. 

4.  Don't ruin your future. You may need the fruit trees when ou come into the land. Hey aren't your enemy. Keep them to use later. 

These same principles can be used when we are confronted by financial enemies. We may have lost a job, have unexpected expenses, become overwhelmed by economic conditions. But as Christians who were redeemed by Christ himself, we know that God is on our side. There is nothing that we face that God cannot overcome. The test is, will we trust him when all around things look bleak?  

God can use us in the conflict if we are confident in Him. If we see his as our own battle, we should go home, we have already lost. We need not to give in to negative thinking and doubts. 

In dealing with enemies we should try to negotiate a resolution and gain their support. Calling a creditor or a former employer for a reference may pave the way for less conflict. A proactive approach may leave you with more options. 

We can often ruin our own futures by excessive debt or bleeding off retirement savings when confronted with difficulty. Resist the urge to take from your future. This difficulty is temporary. God can overcome even horrendous situations if we will abide in Him and look to Him for our help. 

When we keep an eternal perspective and stay in right relationship to God there is no enemy too great that cannot be defeated. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Deuteronomy 19 - Justice and Mercy

When we are confronted with hatred and malice, it doesn't matter if no actual crime has been committed; we can feel that hostility. It is displayed in the mannerisms, the tone of conversation, even the glaring in the eyes. Likewise when God judges sin, He sees more than the outward act - He sees the heart. In this chapter we see that God makes special provision for those falsely accused or who have harmed someone not through malice, but by accident. 

Special cities of refuge are established to protect those who may have accidentally killed someone so their lives may be spared. Murder was punishable by death, but God considers motive when distributing Justice and Mercy. 

Not everyone would get a free pass in the City of refuge, but they would receive a fair trial with at least two or three witnesses to establish guilt or innocence. False witnesses with an axe to grind would my be tolerated, but would receive the punishment they intended for the one they accused. 

God leaves judges and priests to discern truth and apply proper punishment where warranted. We do not see inside ones heart as God does, but we can be discerning in consideration of outward acts that reveal a motive to harm. We can rely on God's Spirit to guide us when we are without wisdom and we can apply His word when acting as His representatives here on Earth. We are not to be quick to judgement, but are to wisely look to God when we are called to give testify or to evaluate right. 

We live in a world where the lines between right and wrong are blurred. Those who would live according to their own standard challenge Christians not to judge, but to let them live their way. When others are harmed, we must take a stand for truth and right. We may be the ones who provide God's Justice here for the innocent. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Deuteronomy 18 - Living Out of the World

For forty years God led the children of Israel through the desert with one primary goal: to teach them to trust God even when circumstances would seem impossible. He wanted them to know they served a God of the impossible and able to overcome anything they may face. He wanted their devotion so that they would not be taken in by the practices of the heathen nations around them. 

God is still a God of the possible. He still works miracles. The greatest miracle is that He saved a sinner like me bound for Hell and covered that sin with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. I was bought from prison and made free. I am so free that one day I will be higher than the Angels and will be the bride of Christ forever joined to Him and never experience pain, distress or loneliness again. I am challenged day in and day out to remember whose I am and that even the darkest day is overcome by the light. I am not to live like the unbelievers around me, but to practice in faith the lifestyle God prescribes.  Holy living in the blessed care of my Lord. When we live differently, we witness to the Lord's power on our lives. 

This blog was intended to spell out wisdom for our finances, but our finances are so intertwined with our passions and our lifestyle that they cannot be separated. What we love and how we love determines our financial priorities. Will we live a life focused on the earthly pleasures that can be obtained?  Will we live for stuff, power, leisure or escape?  Or will we lay our lives down and let God choose what is best and follow Him as we live out our days?  

In this chapter we have a foreshadow of Jesus' coming (Deut 18 15-20). Jesus stands as the true leader for God's people in contrast with the heathen gods and the false prophets speaking in the name of God.  We have a guide to discern false prophets. God distinguishes false teaching from true prophesy. There are a lot is false witnesses speaking astounding prophesy and other false witnesses speaking biblical prophesy as if it were new trying to gain for themselves a name. We need to know truth. It isn't found in reading this blog, though I believe I am truthful. The way to know truth is to go to the source, the very word of God and know truth in a way that only God can do. Have that supernatural encounter with God in His word and see the life that can be yours. 

God says if a prophet proclaims some event in God's name and it does not take place that is a false prophet. He is not of God and he has no power over God's people. We can always know a false prophet if they speak against the truth of scripture. If we know scripture we are equipped to judge truth from falsehood. 

I pray you will look up as you live out your days and not dwell on the trials here or the obstacles. God is greater than all of this. Our life is lived for God's eternal glory and we have the assurance that we will be by His side in eternity if we will place our full faith and trust in Him.

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Deuteronomy 17 - Living Differently in the Land

God knows the hearts of His people and how easily we can fall into the practices of the world around us. In Deuteronomy 17, God warns the people of the dangers  in worship, legal dealings and government that could redirect the hearts of His people. 

The people of God are not to adopt the practices of worship of the lands they inherit. They are to worship God alone and not entertain other gods. Furthermore, sin among the people must not be ignored, but addressed. God recognized that someone who compromises their worship with the world stands to misdirect others with him. God is also just in that blasphy against God should have a net of witnesses who will lay the charge against him. This was the law that was applied to Jesus as He was being falsely judged for blasphemy. 

Legal Matters
God's people have the best judge of all and do not need to rely on the world's court system. God gave His law, but also places in position godly men to act as judges in cases that cannot be resolved without the intervention of a third party. 

God's appointed rulers are not to live high and adopt worldly living. They are appointed to lead the people and he is to keep God's law close. Before God he is no better than the people he leads. He is to remain humble applying God's laws to hawlf as well as the people of the land. Power has the potential to corrupt good men and God wanted to remind the King to keep proper perspective. 

As Christians we are also charged to love differently from the world and be an example to the world of God's power. We cannot entertain ungodly practices and hold ourselves up as people of Gid. Only as we become holy does God get the glory in our lives. We should not reject holiness as unattainable, but seek after it making it part of our practices so that we can be seen differently from the world around us. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Deuteronomy 16 - Memorials and Feasts

Anniversaries, birthdays, holidays and festivals are events we look forward to each year because they are times of remembrance and commemoration of events past that impact our lives today. We celebrate each year that passes remembering those people, events and achievements that have made us who we are. Celebrations ground us and cause us to take a moment to consider our history. Even sad commemorations like Memorial Day when we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice to secure our freedoms help us to value what we have, to recognize that it came at a cost and that we now have the charge to continue the legacy established by these men and women. 

In Dueteronomy 16, God sets up several feasts and remembrances because He wants his people to take time to reflect on the ways He has secured their freedoms and provided for their needs. Each year the people were to remember how God supernaturally delivered them from bondage to Egypt and paved the way to their promised land. He wanted the people to remember their time in subjection and oppression under the domination of Egypt so that they would never return to such a life. He wanted the people to see that their prosperity is directly a result of God's blessing in their lives. The Israelites had much to be thankful for. 

We too can take times out of our year to specifically remember God's hand in our lives. At Thanksgiving we consider the provision God gives us through the year and the abundance we share with food, family, health and friends. At Christmas we consider again the grandeur of God himself taking on human flesh and coming to live with us and experience life as a mere mortal. At Easter we consider the great price that was paid for our freedom from sin and the hope that opened up when our Savior took our place and allowed us to be reconciled to God. These feasts should not be taken lightly or allowed to be secularized. We have a God in Heaven that deserves and craves our remembrance. We should rember throughout the war but take special times to celebrate the greatness of God with our family and friends. Who knows but what these celebrations could be just the tool God uses to bring an unsaved lives one into the Kingdom.

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Deuteronomy 15 - Lending and Giving

Right on the heels of instructing us about tithing and putting God preeminent in our financial affairs, we receive instruction about dealing with others in finances. Three keys for us today relate to canceling debt, poverty and giving generously; let's explore them together. 

God establishes a relational principle  in dealing with our brethren. In this case He is talking to the Israelites, but I think it also applies to us as Christians. If the Lord has blessed you with abundance, you should not use it as an opportunity to Lord over another. 

Canceling Debt
In relationship to debts, we are to forgive debts if our brother cannot repay after a period of time. In this case the time established is every seven years. After seven years, the debt has bece a burden. We should be forgiving and show lovingkindness to our fellow believers in the same way God demonstrated compassion on our great needs and in recognition that but for the grace of God we would be in the same situation. 

Notice that the act of forgiving debt is on the creditor (Deut 15:2) and not on the borrower. In the United States, bankruptcy law was designed to bring similar relief to the borrower, but it does not depend on the act of the creditor. The courts force the creditor to release debts rather than it being a voluntary act on the part of the lender. 

Notice also that this service was only extended to people outside the lineage of the Israelites (Deut 15:3). You may require payment from the foreigner, but not from a fellow Israelite. Not everyone had blanket forgiveness of debts extended. 

Borrowing is placing oneself in subjugation to another. This is not God's plan for His people. He intends for people to be free to serve Him at his command without being constrained and entangled in earthly bindings. If we hold debt over another, we keep them from the freedom to serve God on command. If we are indebted, we have entangled ourselves, keeping us from responding when God calls. 

Similarly, when God has blessed a person with abundance, they are expected to be generous toward  the poor. No one should be placed in a position of indebtedness to the foreign nations. Israel was to take care of her own people. It places them in a position of power among the nations that they would lend to other nations, but they would not borrow. 

God tells us that there should be no poor among us (Deut 15:4). If we take care of the poor, they should not have to go begging to foreign nations. In the same way, I believe this principal applies to the church today. If we as believers care for the poor among us, whey should not need to be dependent on government programs and subject to the philosophies that can be contrary to the faith. Keeping free of earthly entanglements. It is right that the church should lend and give to the poor so they shouldn't suffer. 

We also learn that there will always be poor in the land (Deut 15:11) so we should always be prepared to extend a helping hand to those in need. 

God establishes a principle of giving generously without a grudging heart. (Deut 16:10). When we withhold from someone in need we are despising God who has blessed us with abundance. We act as if it were all our effort and all our possession to hoard for ourselves. If we have abundance it is only because God has blessed us. It is all God's to give; our abilities, our opportunities, and our wealth all come from His hand. If we are introduced to a need we have opportunity to act as God's representative in there lives. We are Jesus to that person. We witness of God's benevolence toward us when we give to others. It should be a willing heart and an open hand that characterizes our giving. If we will be generous, God offers to bless our work and everything we put our hand to. God assures the generous person that they will not be left wanting. 

As we recognize God's generosity toward us we are more compassionate toward the needs of others. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Deuteronomy 14 - Tithing

Controversy seems to follow the concept of tithing. Is it part of Old Testament Law which is fulfilled with the sacrificial death of Jesus and no longer relevant for modern times or is it a principle that goes beyond Salvation and should be applied to every Christian life. 

In this chapter starting with verse 22 to the end, God gives His command to the Israelites. He says, "set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce". You would expect that he would then say "give it to the church or the Levites" but He says, "eat the tithe in the presence of the Lord in the place He chooses". 

God helps us out to understand the purpose of the tithe in verse 23 He puts a big SO in the middle for our benefit. SO you may learn to revere the Lord your God always. God wants us to remember it is His hand at work blessing us to provide for our needs and we are to maintain a sense of gratitude. When we bow our heads to pray before a meal we do much the same. We thank God for His provisions and commend ourselves to His care. Reverence for the Lord's provision is not outdated. 

The Levites are cared for along with the fatherless and the widows when the full tithe is committed to th every three years.
Our tradition of tithing as a churches means  for fund raising doesn't quite fit this passage. What we do see is that the those in service to God  and those without means to care for themselves are to be provided for. The tithe should be sufficient to do that. The US system of mandating taxes to provide for those in poverty is based on this concept. I contend that it is because God's people have abandoned this principle that any need for government intervention exists. 

The ministries of the church would not be funded with this provision except for the salary of the leader and the benevolence to the poor. Our churches have need for facilities, Sunday School,children's ministry, music and so on. This would be provided through the giving of the people beyond the tithe. 

There are two principles at work in the tithe. The first is we look to God and give thanks for His provision. The second is that we consider the needs of others and allow God to use us as His means to provide their portion. When we belong to Christ, we become like Him-generously giving of ourselves for the benefit of His Kingdom. We are about His work wherever we go. 

If we make generosity the goal and Gods measure our own, we will have no need to discuss the tithe ever again. It is all God's and we are merely the stewards of God's provision. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Deuteronomy 13 - Discerning Truth

When it comes to the supernatural, there is a heightened sense of interest among the public in our times. There are tales of angels intervening in lives; tellings of near death and near death experiences where people have visited Heaven or spoken to Jesus; or a host of other miracles, hearings and supernatural answers to prayer. Fortune tellers claim to know future events and having access to horoscopes is a daily must for many.  

On the other side of the supernatural there is also great interest in demons, ghosts, zombies and gruesome characters from beyond that scare us out of our wits. 

When it comes to beings or information from beyond, God tells his people to be very discerning. In this chapter, God tells us that He may test our alliegiance to see if we will follow Him when presented with signs and wonders from one who would have us worship other gods. We are to hold the message presented up against the truth of scripture knowing that God's word is truth and our eyes, mind and heart can deceive us. 

The gods we are tempted to follow today are much more cunning than worshipping another religion. Even within Christian circles there are preachers in our neighborhoods and on TV who encourage us to follow our passions and don't speak out against sin. We live in a world filled with people who make gods out of their career, chase after entertainment, money, power or who hold their children higher in life than God himself. Our Gods are where we invest our time and interests. These gods rob  us of prayer, bible study and worship. Of the one true God. 

The measure of our worship and alliegiance to God is this:  obedience. Deut 13:4 says "it is the Lord your God you must follow and him you must revere. If we allow our time spent alone in study, prayer and worship to be usurped by the busyness of our routines, we may have another God operating in our lives. It has happened to so many men of God that their desires lead them away. 

In relationship to miracles, believers should not need a miracle to confirm their faith. They have the Holy Spirit living in them and they have experienced the greatest miracle of all; the salvation of one doomed to eternal judgment. What healing or wonder could compete with that?  We don't have to go to God asking for signs, but we do serve a God of the impossible. He can change hearts, heal AIDS, Cancer and Ebola, BUT if He chooses not to do a miracle, His ways are still best and we can still trust Him. 

We must redouble our efforts to remain close to God and to apply ourselves to knowing His word so that we can stand for truth and help others to know that God can be trusted. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Deuteronomy 12 - Worship God's Way

There is a revolution in American worship. Christianity has taken to television, radio, Internet and even non traditional meeting places to reach people right where they are. Their messages are primarily centered on God's great love for us no matter how we may have failed. Messages to boost our self esteem and to reinforce our worth as people. The music is contemporary and barely distinguishable from the world's pop music. 

While it is true that God loves each person, it is only a half truth without the full message of the gospel. There is little focus on our sin nature that offends God and is worthy of judgment. While messages about Jesus being our friend, the lover of our souls abound, there is little spoken about our sin place on him and our redemption made possible by His sacrifice. 

When I have visited such worship services or watched them on TV, I am left with the sense that we are worthy of being the center of God's universe. I sense that God is waiting for our prayers so that He can know how to do our bidding. It is entirely upside down from he worship outlined in scripture. 

In Deuteronomy 12, God warns the people of not just staying away from the worship offered in these foreign nations to their imaginary gods who serve their purposes; he tells them to destroy any semblance of worship in these nations. The people mud not worship the way the heathens do. We don't worship any way we please and call it acceptable to the Lord. We are not the Master, but we are God's people subject to His direction. 

Is it any wonder there is so much confusion on the topics of Heaven, Hell, Salvation, and the Gospel?  Our culture has demonstrated that it is less concerned about God's pleasure and more concerned with their own. 

Recently, I attended a funeral where there was a lot of praise to God and even some recantations of God's promises to his people. At the end when an invitation was given to unbelievers to accept God's offer of salvation, it occurred to me that sin, sacrifice, and holiness of God were never a part of that message, so how would an unbeliever know to accept the Gospel?  All of the praise and the promises were uplifting and surely an encouragement to the family, but it was only a part of the truth. 

A worship service where people are central and God is the provider of all needs and wants is an aberration. God is to be worshipped and is to be the center of each and every worship service. If we are not given God's mirror to look at the nature of our sin and to humble ourselves before Him in gratitude for His greatness and our great need, we have missed something. 

This chapter ends with, "See that you do all I command you; do not add to it or take away from it."  Let's keep our eyes fixed on God and not ourselves as we worship Him today. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you seve Him. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Deuteronomy 11 - Remember, Observe, and Be Careful

In this chapter God outlines a means for demonstrating love to Him.  Here are the three steps to demonstrating love for God:

Step 1:  Remember (Deut 11:2-7)
Remember the many ways God has provided in the past. God reminds the Isrealites that they have seen Him do mighty things. If you belong to God you have seen him keep you through trials and encourage you when you were overwhelmed. We should cling to those memories of God's acts in our lives to carry us through the next trial and to remind us of God's constant care. 

Step 2 - Observe (Deut 11:8-15)
God says, "love the Lord your God and keep his laws and his commands always". When we love, we honor the person by doing as they ask. God doesn't give commands just to see his people jump through hoops like a circus animal; he loves his people and sets boundaries to keep them protected and so they can have joy in living. Like any good parent, God give rules for us to  give us joy in living.  

Step 3 - Be Careful (Deut 11:16-32)
We need to be aware of the forces that are at work on the world that keep us from living out our faith. There are idols that promise good living, pleasure and ease. They may even offer a temporary sense of euphoria, but it isn't lasting. God hawlf will come against idols in our lives and the result will be hardship and curses. He shows us that idols are no substitute for a relationship with the Almigjty and if we will be careful to avoid the traps here are blessings built in. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Deuteronomy 10 - Gifts to One Who Has Everything

What do you give to someone who has everything?  No gift can ever measure up to the things they already own. Everything in comparison seems like a Dollar Store trinket.  In reality, gifts are meant as a demonstration of our love for an individual. Our love is something that has no real economic equivalent. 

At our core our greatest desire in life is to be loved and valued. Our life is built upon having people affirm, love and support us through our trials and share in our joys. We have the image of God stamped on us and we long for connection. Not the false and superficial connections of trinkets, but a deep and personal connection to stay with us always. 

God longs for that kind of connection with his people and He shares in this chapter what that connection looks like. God set his affection on the Fathers of our faith; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Because the nation of Israel was descended from these men of faith, God blesses the descendants and honors His promise to give a special parcel of land to the people. His love is deep and abiding. He is faithful, powerful, wealthy, and generous. He provides for every need of Israel and as His people He asks them to demonstrate a love for the aliens in the land and for God Himself. 

We too are called to walk in God's ways, to serve Him with all our heart and soul, knowing that He is Master of the Universe and has a deep love for His people. Our fate is secure in His hands if we will but trust Him and honor Him with our lives. 

There are precious promises we can cling to in this chapter. Our calling is to live in connection with our Maker. "Fear The Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths on his name. He is your praise; he is your God, who performed awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes."

Let's rise to the challenge of living as God's people and praise Him for his mercies extend down through the generations even to this day. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Deuteronomy 9 - Unworthy but Blessed

At the precipice of a new chapter in the life of Israel, Moses shares a promise of God, that though the enemy is more powerful than they, God will go before them and overcome them. What an assurance they had!

Moses quickly reminds the people that it isn't because they are good or worthy, but because the other nations are so wicked. Moses then goes on to remind the people of the many ways they have not been faithful or obedient. 

When we are at the end of one chapter of our lives and about to open the door to the next, is our faith and trust really in God for the opportunities that might be there?  There was a richness in the promised land but great danger; the Israelites operating in their own strength would easily be overcome. Only as they trusted God and gave Him the credit would they know the full joy that could be theirs. Their history of faithfulness was not good, yet God for His own name's sake demonstrated His goodness toward the people so that all nations would know the character of God and turn toward Him. 

As I currently sit at my own precipice facing the prospect of both danger and richness undertaking a new project, I recognize that my blessing is not earned. I am not worthy of God's favor. I fail Him it seems daily. It is for His own name's sake that He goes before me and demonstrates His character to both me and the oeople all around so that no one can doubt that it was the hand of God who accomplished this. 

When I consider Christian friends who when asked "how are you?" respond "I am blessed", I wonder if they understand how blessed they really are. Do they really appreciate that God provides for them not because of their faithfulness but because of the wickedness all around and God's desire to be known of all men?  Their blessing is a witness to the world, not a reward for their goodness. If God has blessed you, how will that blessing be a witness to the believers and the unbelievers all around you. 

Our purpose is to proclaim the glory of God. his blessings give us the object lessons needed to give Him attribution and recognize our great position. Unworthy but blessed. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him.  

Monday, August 18, 2014

Deuteronomy 8 - God Alone

Who is the master if your destiny?  Who provides for you needs?  As we are in great need we are prone to look to God for our provision and even perchance attribute that provision to God's intervention in our lives. God showed us a need and as we prayed to Him we saw His hand of provision. I believe most Christians can do that for short term needs, particularly if God rescues us soon. But what happens to us in different circumstances?  

When things are going well and we have no perceived needs can we praise God with our whole hearts?  God was about to release the Israelites into the promised land with abundance of crops, water and resources. "A land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills." Deut. 8:9. Israel had just won the lottery of God (it was rigged by the way, the winners were selected in advance). They would enjoy abundance when all their lives they had lived moment to moment (most had been born since the Exidus from Egypt). God knew their nature (and ours).  

He wanted His people to thank God for their provision even in abundance, but human nature likes to take credit when things go well. "You may say to yourself, 'My power and strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.'" Deut 8:17. Only wealthy men claim to be self made men. Rarely do you see a beggar taking credit for his condition. We too need to guard our hearts so they are not deceived when we enjoy abundance. It is God alone who provides even the wisdom we possess and the strength of our hands is from God. 

When God seems to be against us and nothing goes well, can we praise Him then?  Maybe we are in a wilderness of our own with great thirst, hunger and venomous snakes everywhere. Maybe we are out of work, facing some horrific pain or up against a seemingly vicious foe. Will we continue to pray and praise when our suffering continues for an extended period as it did for the Israelites in their 40 years of wandering?  

Will we thank God when we are disciplined by His hand?  "Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so The Lord your God disciplines you." Deut. 8:5. God chastises His people to turn them from wickedness and to teach them to place their trust in the Master of their destiny. Can we praise even when hard times are also long?  It is a test of our faith, but as we look to God day by day, He can give us His thinking and change our hearts to lovingly praise Him in all conditions. 

Paul said it best when He wrote to the Philippians, "for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength."  Phil. 4:11a - 13. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Deuteronomy 7 - Intermingling with the Heathen

In this chapter God lays out grave warnings for the nation of Israel to keep their alliegiance to God strong and secure and to stay away from living like the world. He warns about intermarriage and following the practices of worship even pursuing wealth. He reminds the people that He is their God and there is none more powerful, loving and faithful than He is. He can and will provide for their sustenance even increase their wealth, keep them from disease if only they make their calling to follow God secure. 

He reminds them of His power. Even though they will come up against seven nations stronger than they are, He will enable them to defeat the enemy and to claim the land for themselves. They must totally remove the current nation and not peacefully coexist but forcefully destroy them. They have no good that Israel can gain from their continued presence. 

As I apply this passage to my own life, I am struck by how often living in a secular world doing secular work that I face head on the pressure to hide my faith.  I have no idea how many opportunities to witness have passed me by. I feel the pressure to conform to the world and to operate by its tenets. I see people hostile to God allowed to speak their hate outright while Christians are quieted. The majority in the middle are confused and don't know what to believe. There is no one who can speak intelligently and ore seen the hope of the gospel. 

We live in the conditions God spoke about in this chapter. Even good Christians attending church three times a week find themselves influenced by the culture. We can stop this degradation of our witness and take back the boldness we once had as new believers if we will return to God, repent of our sliding into the culture and ask His to give us His power for proclaiming Him to the world again. We must face that stronger force knowing it is God who gets the glory when He gives the victory. 

Our success measures are not those of the world, but success is having God and His power seen and recognized by the unbelievers we live among. When it comes down to it, there are only two sides; those who follow God and those who don't. We have an opportunity to take back our witness and live wholly for God if we will not be afraid of the confrontation we may face. If we follow God's leading He has all power to disable the enemy. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Deuteronomy 6 - Love Demonstrated

Love has a way of changing us. When I fell in love with my future husband life took on a new character. There was a spring in my step and there was joy of anticipating our next encounter. I loved to do special things for him and to see him appreciate the special kindnesses. Love always changes our attitudes and actions. 

In this chapter God says the same to the nation of Israel. God looks for actions of love on the part of the people He has preserved and protected. He describes the lavish gifts He wants to give them if only they will love Him in return. The commands God gives are small demonstrations of affection He longs for in His people. He says, "love The Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Deut 6:5). He longs to be loved by His people; in return He gives us His life and provides for our needs. Psalm 19:8 says "the precepts of The Lord are right giving joy to the heart."  God's law not only shows us His standard for Holy conduct but also shows us His desire for His people. 

Our love for God should overwhelm us. It should flow into acts of obedience to please the lover of our soul. God brings his people through much difficulty and pain to show his affection and great power that we would turn to Him even in the midst of prosperity and find our lives complete in Him, but far too often we content ourselves with the pleasures of this world and fall in with the ways of the unbelievers. 

If we could seek hard after God and find Him to be the desire we have longed for we could be salt and light to a dying world and let them see there is more life than they have experienced when they see it in you. We must pursue this love for ourselves and share it with others. We are God's people given to the world that theyay know Him and love Him too. How about it? Are you ready to shine that Jesus may be glorified hear and to find the life our soul thirsts for?  

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Deuteronomy 5 - Boundaries of Love

Every good parent establishes house rules to follow. These rules are not meant to Lord authority unduly, but to protect from danger and to train children in proper conduct. As children, we either comply with our parents desires or we rebel against them. Rules grate against us preventing us from doing what we would naturally do. They form boundaries that seem to hold us back and fence us in. 

God established the 10 Commandments with his people to outline for Israel what holy conduct looks like and to ensure they would stay close to God and not stray into the conduct of the nations they would soon inhabit. God shares His heart  when He says, "oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and to keep all my commandments always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever". (Deut 5:29). His desire is not to frustrate but to see His people enjoy peace, prosperity and security. Isn't that what we want for all our children?

Now we know that everyone has fallen short and broken the commandments of God. If we have broken one commandment we are guilty of breaking all the law because they are so intertwined. Jesus came to fulfill the law and to reconcile us to God, knowing we were fully guilty and unable to save ourselves from God's judgement. But this law stands today to remind us of God's holy standard and His desire that we would be holy for His glory and for our benefit. He longs that we would fear Him and respect Him and worship Him for His goodness toward His people. 

If Israel had reason to worship because of the miracles God performed in the Exodus and in the wilderness, how much more having been redeemed by God's son do WE have reason to sing God's praise and to honor His instructions for our lives?  We have not just been given a land to live in but we have hope of eternal salvation and to live in the presence of God for all eternity. We have great promises; will we heed the voice of God in our lives today?

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Deuteronomy 4 - Higher Authority

We live in an age that largely despises authority and mocks the obedient and glorifies the rebellious. Tattoos, dressing like inmates, gangsters, tramps and the like are prevalent while those who seek after purity are mocked as ignorant and passive. 

From the beginning of time in the garden man has sought to be his own master and call his own shots. We like getting our way and being in charge. God makes it clear in this chapter that there is only one in charge - only one Master. He reminds the Israelites of the ways He has chastised their disobedience and reminds them that they belong to Him and their loyalty is demonstrated in obedience. 

It is right I obey God. Who cares for His people better? Who is more powerful than any enemy?  Who demonstrates faithfulness to generation after generation?  God reminds them f His mighty works and His purpose for doing them. He wants to be known and loved among the nations, but blatant rebellion must be addressed. 

God does not love us because of our acts of obedience, but because of our love for Him and trust in Him. Can we see beyond our circumstances and trust a God who is all powerful, loving but unseen in the moment?  In the midst if our crisis and conflict can we really trust God to pull us trough? 

The person who looks at oppression or injustice and looks to God finds that He is more than faithful to His people. He will glorify himself and make himself known in the midst of your situation if you can trust. The degree of our trust is demonstrated in our obedience. 

I don't believe all people who dress like gangsters are gangsters, but they have identified with rebellion so there always will remain a question. We act like our heroes.  We pattern our choices after theirs. So our challenge from this chapter is to pattern our choices after the commands God has given and to look like Jesus to the world around us. Will you take that challenge?

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Deuteronomy 3 - God's Got Your Back

Time after time, God seems to be teaching the Isrealites the same lesson - God can be trusted but their ways cannot. God chose this little nation and grew them to great numbers and fought for them to prove to Israel they served a mighty God who would provide for their needs and to show the nations around them that God is worthy of their worship and respect. 

This chapter details the defeat of King Og and the 60 cities he ruled. One by one, lands were given to Israel and they were beginning to divide the territory. God saw them through so many obstacles; only their rebellion and lack of faith caused them to suffer. 

When we God's people will make Knowing God's ways and patterning our lives after those ways we can be sure God will have our backs. I love verse 22 of this chapter,
"Do not be afraid of them, for the LORD your God will personally fight for you." I know fear of reactions grips me when I want to witness for The Lord. I don't want to be rejected or seen as fanatical. So I keep quiet and pray and hope for an opportunity for a real heart to heart. How much misery do I bear as a result?  The lessons God had for Isreal are ours too if we will embrace them and learn from them. God has our back if we are walking in His way. 

At the end of this chapter, Moses is denied his request to step over the Jordan and enter the promised land on the other side. God had other plans for Moses and Joshua was chosen to assume authority. God's ways are not always our own. When we pray and ask for something that is contrary to God's plan we can expect that we will not be allowed to pursue a direction that takes where God does not want us to go. 

The difference between Moses and the rest of the people was that Israel would rebel and harden their hearts against God and so they experienced judgment. For Moses, he asked but accepted God's reply and so God let him see the land but only from afar. His time on earth was coming to an end, but he got to see the victory that would be given to the people he led. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Deuteronomy 2 - Trusting God for Your Portion

In this chapter Moses continues the history lesson to the new generation of Israelites so that they could take the lessons from their parents mistakes and not repeat them. Moses shares how they passed through the land of Seir for Gid had given that land to Esau's descendants through Moab because that land was promised to Lot's descendants. See, when God establishes the boundaries of a nation no one, not even God's people should challenge those boundaries. 

Likewise, God moved before the nation when giving them their land of promise. God struck terror and fear in the nations (Deut 2:25) so that they were afraid if Israel. When God prepared Heshbon to be given to Israel, He hardened the King against Israel (Deut 2:30). God got greater glory as a result. 

When God establishes our boundaries there is no force on earth able to overtake Him. The real question is, can we trust God when we see the hardened King coming against us with all his might?  Can we trust that victory to God and allow Him to receive the glory and us to merely enjoy the benefits of trusting and obeying?  The plan is so simple, yet so difficult to implement. 

Trusting God means letting go of the circumstances we are trying to mold through our intellect and shear force of will. Trusting God means stranding confidently when the enemy seems more cunning and powerful than we are.  Trusting God may mean obediently taking an action that doesn't seem to make sense to us and looking to God for the result. It is losing control to gain the victory; a price too high for most to pay and so few see God show up to deliver them from their enemies. 

Whether is is a national boundary as in the case of Istael, or personal achievement, we can trust that God keeps His people according to His good will and He can overcome even a mighty foe for His glory and our benefit. Trust Him today in the midst of your crisis. 

May Gid richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Deuteronomy 1 - Look Back Before You Move Forward

Those who do not learn the lessons history presents are doomed to repeat them. Each of us looks forward to the moment we have arrived-the pinnacle of our lives achieved with God's help. But we must heed the lessons of the history God has brought His people through and our own history. Our experiences have all been purposeful. The good and the bad woven together to help us see life from God's perspective and to help us develop the character of His Son. 

Moses and the nation of Isreal are poised to enter the promised land, but before proceeding to take the land God has given, Moses reminds the nation of how trustworthy God has been and how the people have disregarded God's instructions. 

Moses highlights key events in their travels. He reminds them that they have become a great nation as a result of the Lord's blessing. (Deut 1:10). God has made them as numerous as the stars of the sky. With so many, Moses appointed judges in each tribe to address the needs of the people and to settle disputes. 

When they came to the border of the Amorites, God told the nation to go an possess the land. Instead they chose to send in spies to scout out the land. They brought back fruit of the land and reported that the land was rich and pleasant, but their fear of the enemy was greater than their faith in God. God had been so trustworthy and had demonstrated his power to the people over and again yet they would not trust Him to deliver the land into their hands, so God passed the inheritance onto the children and banished the parents from the land. Yet in their stubbornness they acknowledged their failure and assumed God would overturn His punishment. They went into the land against God and againsnt the Amorites, again showing their ignorance and rebellion. 

When we allow fears to keep us from being boldly acting on God's instructions we are acting in rebellion to God. Whether it is in witnessing or obedience, we display our trust in God daily as we either choose to live for Him or for ourselves. The strange thing is that our life is greatly enriched when we are faithful, but we may not be able to see it at the time if decision. Even our acts of obedience are done in faith. When we act faithlessly we demonstrate we don't believe God will judge the righteous from the faithless. Like wheat and tares, we don't see that there is a difference in the fruit we bear and in the end there will be separation.

We can learn from the lessons of Israel and choose to be like Joshua (Deut 1:38) and Caleb (Deut 1:36) believing God's promise will come to fulfillment. We choose to act in belief or rebellion demonstrating our faith. I pray you will choose belief. 

God has a plan for your life to allow you to demonstrate faith and to receive the promised inheritance of the saints. The world is loud in their rebellion, but God is still trustworthy if we will believe and act in belief by following His plan for us.

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Numbers 36 - Remarriage Claims on Estate

When we create a will, frequently we leave the vast majority of our wealth to our spouse and then to our children. If the surviving spouse remarries, two threats exist to the children - 1. What if the new spouse uses all the wealth for their living needs and 2. When the surviving parent dies will the property then leave the family to the new spouse and his/her children?

The tribe of Manasseh had similar concerns related to Zelophehad's daughters. They were given permission to a portion of land that would have gone to their father if he had lived. Their tribal kinsmen feared that if they married outside the tribe that this land would eventually belong to another tribe and they would lose claim to their own territory. 

The solution provided was to establish a plan in advance (today that is done through a will and trusts). Moses instructed that any female that inherited property must marry within their tribe and keep the property intact. Zelophehad's daughters did just that and peace was maintained. 

Women tend to be the survivors in a marriage. They just tend to live longer. Since they are usually not the larger breadwinners, the estate provided by the husband becomes their source of sustenance in their older years. Many remarry because the provision left to them is insufficient; hence husband #2 is left to bear the provisional responsibilities. If his children fear the loss of their inheritance, strife can build. 

To avoid this turmoil, good communication and a written plan that clearly states the intentions should God determine that our days here have come to an end can really help maintain peace and allow beneficiaries to have reasonable expectations. While we don't like to deal with death, advanced planning can save a lot of heartache in the end. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Numbers 35 - Wrongly Accused

God knows the heart of man. When we are wronged we want justice. We want to see the guilty party pay for the crime. The problem is when we are wronged we can't always see objectively and we may be prone to vengeance rather than understanding. To address this issue with Israel, God ordained cities of refuge when an accused person could flee and have a fair trial. These cities would be within the Levite towns. 

God offered the opportunity for justice and compassion to be displayed. It was clear however that if the person is found guilty, justice should be executed. If there was no intent to harm and the death was accidental, there was provision made for his life to be lived out in the sanctuary cities. 

A life is sacred and taking life is an abomination. As beings made in the image of God the offense of murder is not just against an individual, it is against God himself. Vengeance isn't ours to take. While justice may need to be executed, it should not be done with malice. The judges applied God's standard so that penalties and sentences were carried out as God's representatives. 

We are blessed that we do not receive the judgment that is ours. Jesus is our city of sanctuary where we can run and find pardon and escape the judgement rightly due us. Our Lord paid the penalty for us so that we can live. Our only hope is to remain in Him and never leave His side. We have all sinned and fallen short if the glory of God yet God himself provided our means if escape from the judgment due us. 

It saddens me that there are some who will not run toward sanctuary and will not stay at Jesus' side. They will bear their penalty of sin and face eternity apart from the peace they long for. The only difference is The Lord. You can run to Him and find rest for your soul or run from Him and bear the burdens forever. 

Dear friend, I hope that you not only run to h but being some of the friends and family God has placed in your life that they can know rest too. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Numbers 34 - A Place of Their Own

For 40 years in the desert and for 400 years before that in Egypt, the people of Israel had no permanent dwelling. There was not a place they could say truly belonged to them, yet the promise God made to Abraham and Jacob regarding the land of promise and the great mbers of descendants to inherit the land had now come. 

Eleazar the priest and Joshua were to name leaders to distribute the land to families within ther tribal territories. Finally they would have a permanent place; God's inheritance to his people. They were tested and prepared by God and given instructions to protect their good standing in the land. 

God may take each of us through trials of our own. They may be illness, financial stress, injustice, or strife in relationships but each trial is designed by God for us to grow in faith and trust in Him. The problems may seem insurmountable, but if we keep our focus on Him for provision and follow His plans for our lives we can see God get the glory for the developments and we remain the beneficiaries as His own people. 

God's story with his people continues to today. It is all new because the generations are facing new circumstances and traditions have changed. But two things that have not changed are our sinful state and God's grace extended to His people. Will you press on to see God's inheritance for you?  Only you can decide to follow with your whole heart. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Numbers 33 - instructions for Inheritance

A will is used in our times to distribute the things left after we pass, but if those who inherit are not prepared for managing the wealth, it will likely pass to strangers quite quickly. As we leave an inheritance it is wise to prepare those who receive to manage according to good wisdom we have attained. 

When God was about to open the door to the promised land for Israel, he first reminded them of where they had come from. For 40 years He sustained them in the desert, so looking back on their travels they could see God's grace, but also His judgment. Before they enter Canaan, God warns the people not just to stay away from the idols of the land, but they must utterly destroy them as a symbol to the people that there is no one worthy of worship apart from Jehovah. 

If we belong to God, no other loyalties can remain higher. We must subjugate all other relationships. We must also not just turn from sinful acts but we must actively remove their presence in our lives. Far too many of us Christians live according to the practices of the world and are frustrated that God is not more visible in our lives. We pray fruitless prayers because we tolerate an ungodly lifestyle. 

God said, "If you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides.  They will give you trouble in the land where you live. And then I will do to you what I plan to do to them." Num. 33:55-56. God calls us to guard our loyalties and to stay holy by cultivating holy relationships. Satan will seek every opportunity to hinder our relationship with God using the loyalties to idols and to relationships to destroy us. 

Dear Christian, we must actively pursue righteous living. While we cannot do it without God's power, we also cannot do it with a divided heart. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Numbers 32 - Satisfied with Less

A life of mediocrity is not what God has called us to. We as Christians live peaceably but it is not the path of least resistance. We are called to live boldly and passionately for The Lord. Far too often our tendency is to give up. We give up before sharing a witness to those who are lost, we stop praying for the unsaved, we give into worldly philosophies and blend in with the world around us when God is calling us to press on to the high calling. 

The Reubenites and the Gadites knew what it was like to want to settle for less. They approached Moses and asked him for the first portion of lands Israel conquered, because they didn't want to travel across the Jordon. They said they were satisfied with the land they had already conquered and that there was plenty of grazing there for the animals. In fact they say the eneies in the other side of the Jordon and they were fearful. Moses called them out saying they were just like their doubting parents who offended God and were prohibited from entering the promised land. (Num 32:8). I don't know about you, but when someone says, "you are just like your parents" it usually isn't meant to be complementary. 

The Reubenites and Gadites didn't want to risk their men in battle and they were prepared to settle for less. As Christians we all have opposition in our lives; sometimes it is internal conflict over sin and other times it is external - interactions with others. We must not settle. We must not allow sin to get comfortable in our lives and we must be willing to serve even though we may be treated like servants. The battle is too important not to win. 

Here is great news for you who are tired, weary and afraid. Our God is a mighty God and when we undertake to live for Him, He gives us power to overcome that opposition and to receive greater blessing than we dreamed for ourselves. Dear Christian, never settle for mediocrity; that is nothing but wilderness living. Pray hard and press on to the high calling of Christ knowing that He who is in you is greater than He who is in the world. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Numbers 31 - Holy Conflict

After the devastation that Balaam initiated through his recommendation that the Midianite women prostitute themselves among the nation of Israel and cause them to compromise their faith for momentary pleasures, God commands Moses to defend His name and re-establish His rule over His people. Moses is also alerted that his position of leadership has come to an end and he will soon pass into eternity. God has the nation of Israel attack Midian, kill its 5 kings and Balaam as well. The plunder would be distributed according to God's direction. 

This was an opportunity for Israel to reject the Midianites and their ways and demonstrate that they would honor God. Yet, even with the military victory over the nation, they allowed women and children to be captured as POWs. This had the potential for the poison of passion to re-enter the camp and turn men from their worship of God.   The boys would likely grow and avenge the death of their fathers and so keep the nation in a tenuous situation. These women and boys were to be killed to prevent the spread of contamination. 

The plunder of battle was distributed among the tribes and the fighting men and hence the nation of Israel began to accumulate wealth of the nations for themselves. 

We as Christians must be careful in entering into conflict. We should engage an enemy only at the Lord's command and under His power. The Israelites would not have won the battle without the Lord's help. But there is a battle that every Christian should undertake. Where there is any sin, idol, or temptation we should remove it from our lives we should remove it so that we don't succumb to our sinful desires that rage within us. Each of us is vulnerable, and so we must be in guard to remove threats before they gain control over us. It is one we are commanded by God. Romans 8:13 (KJV)
"For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live."  We can only do this in the power of God's Spirit given to us. 

The plunder from this battle that we wage will the the glorious inheritance we have been promised as the bride of Christ. Our treasure is not found here; but our inheritance is rich indeed. 

Pray that God will reveal those contaminants in your life that must be destroyed so that your witness and your service is not hindered. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Numbers 30 - Contracts and Vows

"When a man makes a vow to The Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said" Num 30:2.  Our word should be forthright and never deceptive as a follower of our Lord. There is no place for game playing when it comes to the integrity of our promises. We live in a world where people break promises all the time. Nearly 1/2 of all marriages end in divorce; bankruptcies continue to escalate; nearly 63% of all households have sub prime credit (primarily as a result of late or non-payment of debts). If ever there was a time when we needed integrity it is now. 

When we obligate ourselves in marriage, in parenthood, even in a commitment with a creditor these are solemn an binding commitments and we should do everything in our power to see them through. Even though the laws of the land allow for divorce, separating of parental duties or even a fresh start when it comes to debts, it does not mean that these should be our chosen path. As much as we can honor our commitments we should do that even if it should require some personal sacrifice on our parts. Wouldn't a little sacrifice be worth the maintaining of our integrity?  Not just for our own reputation but for the reputation of the one who redeemed us and gave us His life?  

Vows should not be taken lightly just for this reason. It may require more from us than we initially antiicipated giving to honor our pledge. We should consider both the best outcome and the worst when committing ourselves and go into our commitments understanding our responsibilities before God.

The chapter goes on to provide an escape for women under the leadership of a father or husband. If their father or husband hear of a vow made by the woman and do not say anything the vow stands. But if they should object, the vow is to be released as she made a rash promise. 

On the part of both spouses, it is important that we work to be on the same page and that we honor one another BEFORE making an obligation that is binding and impacts both. For the wife it will cause less shame in having to undo a promise, but in both cases harmony on the home is preserved when we consider our spouses. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you seve Him. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Numbers 29 - How Much Do You Need?

At the precipice of entering the Promised Land, Israel is commanded to observe a series of sacrifices. The seventh month was to be commemorated for all time in remembrance of The Lord. Sacrifices were to be offered, their sin before God was to be remembered, their journey through the wilderness in tents under God's hand of provision was to be remembered. 

In the midst of all these remembrances God lays out a series of sacrifices for the people. It made me consider, how much sacrifice would be enough to cover my sin. If a large bull should die in my place could that sacrifice satisfy God?  If I bring a bull and a lamb?  How much would it take?  

The average unbeliever doesn't see the sin in their lives, so the idea of sacrificing an anal to God for their sin would be offensive to them. As Christians we see that the sacrifice of all animals could not remove the stain of sin from our lives. There is only one sacrifice sufficient to completely cover all the sins I have committed and will commit, it is the sacrifice of the perfect man, Jesus Christ who took upon Him my sin and died so that I can live. And good news!  His sacrifice is sufficient for all people of all time! We don't need another sacrifice. Our sins can be covered by the blood of Jesus. I can be right with God and my sins forgiven. 

Taking opportunities to remember what God has done for us is good. We need to keep our perspective. God has provided for us in so many ways but the greatest provision we have is a Savior who bought us back from sin and gave us life eternal. The sacrifice of one for all is the hope of our security. 

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him.