Monday, January 26, 2015

Deuteronomy 34 - The Number of Our Days

MDeath. Even among Christian circles, the center of our prayers seems to be health and long life. We cling to our existence here with great tenacity. I am not saying that we wish for death, but so far only a few have escaped it. It is reality unless the Rapture should occur in our lifetimes. Deuteronomy 34 reminds us that our days are determined by God. When our end comes it is God's direction and so that is good. As a Christian we have the assurance that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. 2 Cor 5:8. 

If God has our life and our passing determined by His Sovereign rule can we trust God even in death? Moses did not leave this life kicking and screaming, he submitted to God's Divine authority and yielded even his own life to God. We can trust God in every circumstance. In his passage we learn that Moses was not weak or ill. It was just God's time for him to enter into eternity. 

While I am sure in the flesh he would have loved to go into the promised land, I feel certain that he found eternity with the Lord so much more fulfilling. He knew there was a life that continued beyond his physical life on Earth. You see, our citizenship is in Heaven. We should not and indeed cannot be at home here. We are merely visitors waiting for our passage to our real home. 

While we are here however we are living out a legacy that will continue to be told. Joshua received the Spirit of God upon Hom to lead the people. Moses laid hands on Him and handed down his own legacy to Joshua Deut 34:9. 

Furthermore we see that Moses was remembered for his greatness among all the men of Israel for the signs he performed before Pharoh and it is said there was no other prophet since like Moses. His legacy was of total yieldedness to God and because of that God was able to use Him as an object lesson for the Israelites and for us. 

God has a story He is writing in your life as well.  Like Moses He wants to demonstrate His power in your life. Our challenge is humble submission when our old nature demands "rights". Will we submit to God's plan and see the wonders He would perform?  Will we listen to that Spirit within us that calls us to obedience and worship?  When it is our time can we go with the dying grace that Moses showed - looking forward to the future home in Heaven and not with bitterness about what could have been here?  

The best is yet to come dear Christian. We have just a taste of the fellowship we will have in Heaven and it is sweet. We should be energized to consider the great joy we have in store yet diligently live our lives here to leave a legacy to God that people will consider long after our passing. 

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

Friday, January 23, 2015

Deuteronomy 33 - The Power of Blessing

Moses, knowing his days are numbered takes time before the nation to give God's blessing upon the nation. This same nation who had shown themselves so rebellious toward God was still His people. Moses and God loved these people dearly and God still had plans for them. 

Moses begins by reminding the nation that they are selected by Him and He has specially protected them and given them the law and charged them to live Holy in the land they are about to enter. Moses then goes on to pronounce blessing upon each tribe individually. 

After hearing about God's judgement on the wicked in the prior chapter they must have felt convicted and saddened. What an encouragement for their souls to know that they are still loved and that they have a role to play in God's unfolding story among the nations. 

We too can feel defeated when we consider the depths of our sin, the lengths God went to save us by giving His only Son to die in our place. Though we are adopted into His family as were the Israelites, we still fail and disappoint ourselves and God. 

What great hope we have in the blessing God gives us - as far as the easy is from the west, God has removed our sin from us. He has specially equipped us with His Spirit to accomplish His plan in our lives. God has told us that He has a plan and a purpose for our lives as well. Everyone's life will be used for God's glory and everyone will one day kneel before their Creator and confess Jesus Christ is Lord.   We have power now because of God's Spirit within us and we have purpose and hope for the future because we are His to command. 

We also have the power to judge and condemn people for their sins, bad choices and unholy conduct. We are right to intervene and correct if someone has gone astray, but we must follow it with a message of love and blessing. They are people of value in our lives and in God's eyes. We have no right to tear down even one of God's creation if we are unwilling to come alongside and rebuild that wounded soul and remind them of their purpose and their value in God's eyes. 

If we do see error, we should be careful that we are not speaking from our own preferences, but that we hold out God's word as we convey a standard of conduct. Thoughtless words are often spoken in our attempts to get people to adopt our way of thinking. God's thinking and God's values should be the only measure we use if we are going to criticize.  By the same token, God's love and view of that person's soul should be our measure for grace as we reach out to errant ones in our lives. 

We should not underestimate the power of an encouraging word to breathe life into another. Even as we hope that others will embrace the Lord, we should leave the conviction to the Holy Spirit  and make blessing rule our lips. As people have admired even small achievements in my life, I have strived to please them all the more. My bad habits were replaced by better ones just by seeing a model of grace in my life. 

We can all do the same for other sinners struggling. We can encourage them that they are created by God ad He has a plan and a purpose for their lives if they will accept it. Past failures are behind confessed to God and forgiveness poured out. A new day is ahead to be played out and only we can choose how we play it. With an encourager cheering you on with words of blessing, success seems more hopeful. 

Let's all be a blessing and consider the words we speak today. I love how Moses ends this passage: "blessed are you O Israel!  Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord?  He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will trample down their high places"  we too are saved by God and can claim Gods blessing for our lives. 

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

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Deuteronomy 32 - The Bitterness of Blessing

Moses makes his final pleas to the nation of Israel to honor God, avoid the idolatry of nations, and not to turn from their only hope. He begins by reminding the nation of how magnificent God is. He is the Rock, the solid foundation that will not fail - even their enemies say so. Think of it - a puny ragtag collection of grumblers have experienced the adoption of God as His own people and have seen miraculous acts as God feeds, guides, sustains, and protects the nation through  the wilderness. 

The nation of Israel twisted God's blessing into entitlement and griped every time they didn't get their way. They grew full and fat on the bounty they received. You would think that abundance would  make them grateful, but instead they chased after the gods of the foreign nations and rejected God their Savior who delivered them from Egypt. 

Wealth can be a blessing, but more often than not it turns us from God and into trusting our own power and in temporal pleasures. We don't remember that every provision we have comes through God's hands. We don't have the same urgency to trust God in the moment when all our desires are fulfilled. 

God does not judge people based on their wealth or lack their of. God looks on the heart and asks his people to trust Him no matter what. Look to God for our provision even when we don't see abundance all around and thank God for the blessings when our needs are met. Blessing can turn to bitterness if we abandon the God who gives us all good things.

I think of our own nation who has enjoyed greater blessing in my lifetime than any other nation on the planet. We have incomes beyond the reach of most nations. We have abundance in our stores as we shop for the desires of our hearts, we have every new technology in the palm of our hands, yet there is great animosity against the God of the Christians and the Jews. It is not fashionable to live righteously - it flies on the face of our worldly lifestyle as a nation. I believe the hostility is because those that see the contrast hate the conviction that they feel in their hearts. 

The bitterness of blessing is that we fail to rely on God our Savior and lean on our wealth and our own knowledge to sustain is. We forget our sin and our need of a Deliverer. Ultimately that is insufficient. 

Our eternity in Heaven is in jeopardy and God will judge us for our rejection of Him. (Deut 32:36). God says he will judge His own people, those who have experienced the blessing of God and have been nurtured by Him.  But the second part of verse 36 says that God will have compassion on His servants. We certainly all have failed to do right, but God sees the desire of our hearts whether we love Him or love stuff and our own pleasures more. 

As the people of God we have the desire to please God, but we live in a world that does not play by the same rules. There is strife and ungodliness all around. Praise God we have a Savior who has overcome this wickedness and can keep us until our final breath. 

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

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Deuteronomy 31 - Service and Succession

Suppose you were a ship Captain and you were told that you would be given command of a state of the art sailing vessel with a seasoned crew. Your vessel would travel faster than any other and would transport some of the most influential and wealthy families. Now what if you were told you would Captain the Titanic?  Would you jump at the chance?

Effectively Joshua was placed in a similar position when he was given leadership over Israel, the people of God. The difference was that God revealed to Joshua the rebellion among the people he would face. God would be with him to guide him, but he would soon be confronted with betrayal, ingratitude and outright rebellion. I am certain that this responsibility was more challenging for Joshua than fighting off the end nations. It is one thing when you can oppose an enemy, but quite another when the opposition is internal within your own camp. 

Nonetheless Joshua was selected by God for the task. There are some lessons we can take in application from this chapter I believe. 

There is no positition we hold that is so vitally tied to us that God cannot replace us. If the work we do is God's work, he can bring in new players at anytime. Moses was at the end of his life and not only would retire, but soon would pass into eternity. (There is a supplemental lesson about continuing to apply ourselves in service for as long as we breathe - a servant of God never retires; they just transition to new responsibilities). Moses had been preparing Joshua for a while and was looking for his successor throughout his ministry. We have a responsibility to train the next generation so they can assume leadership. 

Both Josha and Moses were willing to serve at the Lord's command and took their cues from the Lord. The service was not anything that they would necessarily have chosen for themselves. It was not easy or pleasant service. Both men had so committed themselves to the Lord that they layed themselves out as living sacrifices - prepared to serve wherever they were needed. 

Our positions all have good aspects and unpleasant ones. God has placed us where we are not for our happiness and enjoyment, but for the development of Christ's character in us and to point others to their savior. Our work takes on new meaning and purpose when we are committed to serve where we are placed. 

God gave us our talents and provided for  our education. We can trust that he knows best when placing us in service, both in the secular and in the holy. 

Joshua and Moses had a little bit of insight because of Gods revelation to the of the challenges that lay ahead. We don't know from day to day what challenges we might face, but God knows the end from the beginning and He knows what is best. We can trust Him and follow His leading. 

No matter what stage of life we are in, God has a plan for our service if we will choose to engage in it. Whether training the next generation, witnessing in the workplace or assuming leadership of a mutinous nation. We can do all things through Christ who is our life. 

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

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Deuteronomy 30 - Keep Your Eye on the Prize

This chapter is the capstone to the chapters before. God promises to tangibly bless those who are obedient with prosperity and long years. For those who do not death and destruction is in store. God says that even if we are disbursed to foreign lands and suffering oppression He can and will restore us if we will turn back to Him. 

Our welfare is tied up in God's grace toward us. We don't take our next breath apart from His willing it so. Abundance is not found in the trinkets of this earth but in fellowship with our Creator. That fellowship is only made possible because we have a Deliverer, Jesus Christ. 

Because we cannot uphold the fullness of the law on our best days our hope is placed in the one who is able to keep all God's commands perfectly and who cares for us so deeply that He would redeem us from our sin and take us under His cloak to be with Him forever. 

All the abundance and blessings described are just a visual of the lavish grace that has been poured out on is and  the permanence we have living as redeemed children of God. Like a shepherd He has brought us back from the domination of the world. Like a surgeon He has circumcised our hearts so that we can love Him the way we are loved by Him. Like a Father who pours out good things for his children, we are blessed in His presence and enjoy wealth a d peace that the world doesn't get. Our joy is full to overflowing because we are the recipients of good gifts from the Father. 

God asks each one, will you choose life and abundance, or will you choose death and destruction.  He calls to his creation "choose life so that you and your children may live the Lord your God, listen and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and He will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your father's Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." Deut 30:19b-20

The choice is ours, will we live for God or will we choose to go our own way. 

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

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Deuteronomy 29 - Guard Your Hearts

God views the heart of His people and He is looking for people who will follow Him wholeheartedly in love. In this chapter God reminds his people of the ways He has sustained them and warns against turning away. He tells His people to guard their hearts so that they won't fall away from God's care. Deut 28:18 Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the Lord out God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison. I don't think that any of us knows for sure what evil we are capable of. When it comes to sin we need to perpetually guard ourselves against forces that rise up against God. Here are just a few:

Overestimation of self worth
No one here on earth loves us or thinks about us as much as we think of ourselves. From the time of Adam we humans are prone to convincing ourselves that we know enough to choose rightly and that we don't need to go back to God for our decisions. We discount our sin and overestimate our self worth. We are masters of self deception, that is why we need to be diligent students of the word so that we have the word of God empowered by the Holy Spirit to challenge our thinking and keep us pointed toward righteousness. 

God has shown the Israelites over and over that no matter what they faced, whether man-made or natural forces, God is able to overcome any challenge and He loves and cares for His own. We have seen it in our own lives as we look back. How many conflicts and tribulations has God brought you through?  Yet, like the Isrealites, when the  next tribulation comes we are given to doubt. What will God do? How will we continue?  We wonder if God may have turned His back on us this time for some wrig we may have committed. My dear friend, God is faithful and He has given Hos promise to keep those whose faith is in Him.  We can trust and never doubt God. God does not change and His love for us endures. 

Competing forces 
Satan is a master of diversion. He can convince us to chase after the wind. He whispers in our ear that we should dedicate ourselves to doing good works and rest in our own efforts. He sends his people to woo us over to worldly living and to chase after worldly pleasures. We must guard our hearts against such lies and the way we do that is to feed on truth. 

Other gods 
There are heresies even within Christianity that would have us depend on something other than Christ's sacrifice alone for the assurance of our souls. False gods are everywhere taking in forms of Budda, philanthropy, wealth, power, science and more. We can be diverted from our wholehearted service when we are swayed by such temptations. The noise in our lives doesn't point us to God. We need to protect our ears from such noise and seek after God alone. 

Consider the forces at work in our lives and erect barriers and guards to protect us from anything that would stand against God. Then we will see how God blesses and protects us even more than we have in our past. 

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