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.