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.