Monthly Archives: March 2019

March 21; Do You Want The Good News First, Or The Bad?

Deuteronomy 27-28

So the first thing the Israelites were to do after they’d crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land had to do with the Law. Moses instructed them to erect the equivalent of a modern-day billboard, and carve God’s Commandments clearly enough for everyone to see. Their occupation of that land came with conditions. Their future depended on them obeying God’s Law.

God gave them the good news first. “If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commandments… all these blessings will come upon you…” (28:1-2) Then He proceeds to describe what life would be life for God’s obedient children:

You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock – the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed. You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out. (vv 3-6)

It doesn’t even stop there. Victory over enemies, full barns, nations recognizing the fact they are God’s holy people, abundant prosperity…

I’d pick door number one!

Because beginning in verse 15, God describes in gruesome detail what life would be like if they chose disobedience over obedience.

You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country. Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed. The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out. (vv16-19)

Oh, it gets worse. Much worse. From devastating losses in battle, to awful diseases, to broken relationships, barren land and famine, such suffering that cannibalism would be the only means of survival.

There’s more. It’s just too awful.

God spent fourteen verses talking about the blessings for obedience. He took 53 verses to warn them about the consequences for disobedience.

I’m reminded God does not want ANYONE going to hell. He takes no delight in the death of an unrepentant sinner. He is desperate for us to know the truth about what is ahead.

The blessings speak for themselves. You know what I mean, if you’ve given your heart to the Lord, and are careful to follow His rules. The blessings are there! It’s the bad news God wants to make clear.

If you think what we read in chapter 28 is bad, you’ve seen only a glimpse of eternity without God. Only the first day of eternity in hell.

The good news is that God is so desperate, so driven to have us with Him, He came to earth Himself and paid the price for all our sin. When we accept His gift of grace, when we follow Him and choose to obey, He opens the floodgates of blessing. Our enemy is defeated, our sins are forgiven, we experience love and joy and peace like never before. And we know for certain that no matter what happens in this life, what comes next will knock our socks off.

And because God is so desperate that no one die without Him, He wants you to know what it is you are choosing when you choose to deny Him, As you read what God said to Israel here in chapter 28, put yourselves in their shoes. Feel the pain, the humiliation, the fear. Feel what it would be like if God removed Himself, no longer tried to get your attention. Realize the desperation, the anguish, the abandonment that comes from disobedience.

Then understand that without following God, there is no hope for mercy. No possibility of relief. Ever.

The bad news… the really bad news is…

Eternity is a very long time to be without God, my friend.

 

March 20; A Relationship

Deuteronomy 23-26

Religion is full of rules. If you do this, this, and this, and don’t do that or that, your god will accept you, won’t punish you, or will at least tolerate you. We read about religions that advocate sacrificing children, or killing the infidel to appease a god. We hear about religions that require X-number of prayers, abstaining from certain food and drink, or wearing veils and head coverings as part of their religion.

Now I’m not saying Christianity doesn’t have rules. God gave us the Ten Commandments and holds us accountable for obeying them. The Bible, especially the Old Testament like the chapters we read today have pages and pages of rules, often repeated several times.

But there is a reason I believe Christianity stands out from all the rest. The rules God gave His people were given so that He, a Holy God, could fellowship with us. The rules we abide by were given because God loves people.

It’s not about rule-following so we can get Him on our side. He’s already on our side. It’s not rule-following so that He’ll forgive us. He’s already forgiven us by the blood of Jesus. The God of Christianity put down rules so that He can:

“set (us) in praise, fame and honor high above all nations he has made and that (we) will be a people holy to the Lord (our) God, as he promised.” (26:19)

The God of Christianity doesn’t look at people as something to dominate, or control. He looks at His children as “his treasured possession.”

When the followers of most other religions follow their rules, the only thing they can hope for is a god that might let up on them, and maybe promise them some kind of eternal peace. The God of Christianity promises Himself, His Spirit living in us, blessings and joy, as well as an eternity in His Presence.

It’s for that reason I agree with those who say Christianity is not a religion as much as it is a relationship. Here’s God, awesome in power, Holy, Holy, Holy, creator of the universe, wanting to hang out with me. Here is God, knowing that I cannot obey all the rules, that I am a sinner by virtue of the first sin I ever committed, paying the penalty Himself that my sin deserves. Here’s is that same God, knowing I can’t come to Him no matter how many rules I follow, coming to me.

And I, as His child by His grace through Jesus, will demonstrate my love for Him by obeying Him, cherishing Him, walking with Him. It’s not about the rules. It’s about the person of Jesus Christ, a Holy God who came down to my level so that I can have a relationship with Him.

It’s about a God who actually loves me. And I love Him, too.

March 19; It’s a Battle

Deuteronomy 19-21

When you go to war against your enemy, Satan, and see the media, government officials, and special interest groups that seem stronger than you, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, who rescued you from being slaves to sin, will be with you. When you are about to go into battle, our High Priest Jesus Christ Himself, shall come forward and address the army. He shall say, “Hear, O Christian, today you are going into battle against your enemy Satan and his army. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them. For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.” (from 20:1-4)

I think we sometimes forget we are at war. We’re still pretty comfortable here in the US and many of us have been lulled into a false sense of security and peace. But make no mistake about it. We are at war.

I have also heard some soldiers in our army say, “It’s too much. The country is too far gone. The end is near.” Are we really ready to raise the white flag in surrender? I don’t see that battle plan in Scripture at all.

Are you willing to say Satan is too powerful for God? Or are you going to quit with the excuses, put on the whole armor of God, and join an army of Christians ready to stand up  and be counted? Whether it’s a battle for your soul, or the battle for our country and the world, we are at war. And sitting back and doing nothing is doing something.

I pray you will ask the Lord what you can do as a soldier in His army. Remember who the enemy is. It’s Satan. Our enemies are not flesh and blood. Not homosexuals, newscasters, politicians, abortion doctors, or the annoying neighbor next door. But the lies they believe, fueled by evil, are the things I believe God would have us fight against.

Light always overcomes darkness. That is, if someone is shining the Light. It’s a battle God delights in winning. Are you in?

 

March 18; Modern Day Mediums

Deuteronomy 15-18

From the title of this post you might think I’m going to talk about fashion. I just saw where a women’s size 14 is now considered plus size. So, no. I’m not going to talk about or even think about size medium. It’s too depressing.

But if you are up watching TV late enough at night, I imagine you’ve seen those advertisements for “the best psychic reading ever.” Are you ever tempted to try it – just once – out of curiosity. I mean, the people giving testimony say, “She told me things she couldn’t possibly know.” (which is probably the only true statement in the whole ad.) I can confidently say, after reading these chapters today that if you are tempted to make that call, don’t.

I knew a lady who lost her husband suddenly. She was desperate to speak to him again. It was a source of great pain not having said goodbye. So she went to someone who claimed to be able to speak to the dead. It took several visits and quite a bit of money, and people said what a touching expression of her deep love for him it was.

If you are a Christian, I hope you consider what God says about these things. He calls these practices detestable. He calls people who who do these things detestable. (18:12) As a Christian, I certainly don’t want to do or be anything close to “detestable” to the One who died for me.

I believe God would have us understand that speaking to a medium or spiritualist, dabbling in witchcraft, spells, potions, and the like are sin. Forgivable. But none the less sin. If you have called that number, or gone to see a medium, even for the fun of it, I would encourage you to pray about it. God will probably convict you, if you aren’t already convicted. Ask Him to forgive you. You know He will.

And, dear one, if you think you might have these detestable powers yourself, confess it as sin. Toss Satan out on his ear. God is not going to gift you with anything he considers detestable.

Moses reminds us in verses 13, “You must be blameless before the Lord you God.” He’s specifically talking about being or using people who consider themselves mediums or sorcerers. Don’t mess with the spirit world. It’s detestable.

March 17; You Must Not Listen

Deuteronomy 12-14

The first commandment God gave Moses was “You shall have no other God before me.” Now, as the Israelites are ready to take the Promised Land, God inspired Moses to remind them of that. But something he said has me thinking today.

In his warning about worshiping false gods, God inspired Moses to tell the Jews, and us, that there will be people who look and sound religious. Some will be able to perform miraculous signs and wonders. Don’t be deceived. If they preach a doctrine, a gospel other than the one spelled out in the Bible, “You must not listen…” (13:3)

The other day I saw several TV ads from someone who claims to be a minister, selling “miracle water.” There was a Bible verse on the screen, testimonies from people who supposedly received thousands of dollars in the mail after drinking the water. The affordable “seed faith donation” must make it tempting to some. After all, he says he’s a preacher and he talks about the Lord.

Let me ask you this: According to Scripture, did Jesus or the disciples ever charge people for healing them? Was money ever exchanged? Does the Bible indicate that there is even something close to “miracle water.” Did Jesus or the disciples use water as the source of their power to do miracles?

This questionable preacher was already exposed as a fraud a couple decades ago. But here he is again on TV, reeling in a new generation of needy, vulnerable people. Makes me angry.

Friend, please let the Bible be your final authority. Please don’t fall for the lies because you haven’t searched the Scripture for the truth. “You must not listen to the words of the prophet…”

Moses says this is the test: do you love God with all your heart and soul? Follow Him. I know for certain that He is the God who answers prayer without you buying a miracle potion from anyone.

I guess I hadn’t thought that listening to false prophets, giving consideration to doctrines that don’t align with Scripture, (even religious-sounding as some are) is breaking the first Commandment. a form of worshiping another god.

Once again I am encouraging us to be in the Word. Reading our Bibles, not just picking out a verse here and there. Meditating on Scripture and asking God to reveal His Truth. I know it’s tempting to think “I’ll try anything,” when things are difficult. But don’t.

March 16; By The Grace Of God

Deuteronomy 9-11

Moses is reminding the Jews that God had blessed them, not because they were this great, upstanding, cleaned-up family, but because of who God is. Moses called them a stiff-necked people, and then proceeded to recall the many times they had blown it. Did they think they deserved God’s favor? Think again, folks.

But God had chosen the Jews to show the world who He is. God chose the Jews to demonstrate His holiness, His power, His grace to the people of that time, and to us. Which reminds me of what Paul said in Ephesians 2:8-9

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.

Our salvation, God’s blessings on our lives have nothing to do with our being this great, upstanding, cleaned-up person. It’s God. Period.

Now, if you read all three chapters today, you’ll hear God tell us that as His children, we need to be obedient. Our obedience leads to blessings which translates into a window through which the world can get a glimpse of Jesus.

But what we do is a result of who we are in Christ. Sinners forgiven. Lost found. Dead alive.

By the grace of God.

March 15; Made In The Shade

Deuteronomy 6-8

God gave the Israelites a stern warning before they crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land. It went something like this:

“It’s amazing there. Streams and pools of water. Healthy wheat and barley fields. Fig trees, pomegranates, olive trees, honey. Flourishing cities you did not build. Wells you did not dig. You can mine copper out of the hills. And you will lack nothing.”

God goes on to say, “The land is inhabited by my enemies. Don’t worry about that. I will defeat them.”

Sounds pretty good, made in the shade, so to speak. A cushy lifestyle, health and wealth for the taking. Doesn’t sound like much of a warning. But there were two stipulations that went along with the promise:

  1. Destroy the enemy totally. Don’t show mercy. Don’t make treaties with them. Don’t marry them because if you do, they will turn you away from Me.
  2. Be careful not to forget the Lord your God. Don’t get comfortable in your new surroundings and become self-satisfied. Don’t get cocky thinking you deserve it, or created it yourselves.

But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirm his convenient, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. (8:18)

Then God’s stern warning:

If you forget… you will be destroyed like the nations around you. (8:19-20)

There are so many parallel lessons here. We could look at the state of our nation, the condition of the Church. But I think God would have us look into our own individual hearts today. What would God say to us about our relationship with Him?

Consider the enemy. Sometimes we “marry” into the enemy by adopting the world. We show mercy to the enemy by worrying about their feelings over their eternal souls. We look and act like them instead of standing apart, and sometimes we invite them into our hearts one compromise at a time. When you look into your heart, do you recognize the signs of the enemy there, even if it’s disguised as tolerance?

Consider our attitudes. Do we truly give God the glory for everything, or do we secretly take satisfaction in believing we are strong, capable, powerful in and of ourselves, like the enemy wants us to believe? Please don’t tell me you’ve fallen for Satan’s “I deserve this” lie. When you look into your heart, what do you  see? Be honest. Is it so full of Jesus that there is no room for anything else – not even yourself?

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (6:4-5)

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.(7:9)

Hold on to that promise. God is true to His word. But don’t ignore His warning. He shows no mercy for the disobedient. And there are no blessings, only destruction for those He considers His enemy:

But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him. Therefore, take care to follow the commands, decrees and laws I give you today.

You might say, I don’t hate God. But do you love Him with all your heart, soul, and strength? I guess that’s what God has me looking at today for myself. I don’t want to be satisfied with where I am, sit back and think I’ve got it made in the shade. I don’t want to be entertaining the enemy while pushing my Savior aside. I want to give Him the glory with every breath I take, because He alone is worthy. And I’m just not.

March 14; Listen, Learn, Labor

Deuteronomy 3-5

The history lesson is over. Now Moses goes on to lay down the Law for the Jewish people ready to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land. But before he does, he says this:

Hear, O Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn themFollow them. (5:1, emphasis mine)

Hear them. Learn them. Follow them. I believe God would have us do the same.

We’ve got to be a people who hear what God says. I pray your pastor is faithful to the Truth of Scripture, that you are faithful to attend church and Bible studies, and that you read God’s Word for yourself every day. And I pray that when you hear God’s Word, you really hear Him. Pay attention. Meditate on what you hear. Discern the truth and reject the lies. God’s Word is alive. Let it speak to you. Listen when God speaks.

I pray that you are memorizing Scripture, digging into God’s Word to really learn the Truths it contains. Don’t just listen to a sermon, or read a chapter, then walk away and forget it. Every time you listen to God’s Word you have an opportunity to learn something. I pray that you will listen with understanding. That you won’t just be a hearer of God’s Word, but a student of God’s Word as well.

I pray that you are using what you’ve learned. I pray that your time in God’s Word translates into action. What does your relationship with Jesus LOOK like? Do you base your decisions, your actions, your relationships on what you have read and learned from God’s Word? As you serve God, does your labor come from obedience to His Word?

The thing is, some of us are good at one, maybe even two of the three. We can listen intently on Sunday morning, pat the preacher on the back and tell him how good the sermon was – and mean it. But we walk out of those doors and never give it another thought.

Some of us can quote entire chapters of God’s Word. We can tell you the names of every disciple, and can quote the Ten Commandments in order. But we never hear God’s voice, and our lives are no different than the unbeliever. I am reminded Satan can quote Scripture, too.

Some of us are good people. We volunteer at soup kitchens, give generously, attend church, and serve on committees. We don’t drink or smoke, we don’t use vulgar language, and we love everyone. I know a lot of really good people who have nothing to do with God. And if God isn’t in it, we labor in vain.

Moses suggests we can’t do one without the other two, and please God. Being a child of God takes intention. Listen. Learn. Labor. In that order.

March 13; No Admittance

Deuteronomy 1-2

God inspired Moses to give a history lesson to the Israelites poised and ready to take the Promised Land. None of these Jews remembered the Exodus from Egypt forty years earlier. Most of them hadn’t been born when their parents and grandparents crossed the Red Sea on dry ground. Many of them weren’t even born when their parents refused to take the Promised Land forty years earlier.  So Moses wanted to be sure this generation knew the truth, knew exactly why their parents had turned about a two week walk from Egypt to Canaan into forty years of bouncing around in the wilderness.

Their parents were whiners. But it wasn’t their persistent complaining that caused God to shut the door on the Promise.

Their parents were disobedient. But their disobedience wasn’t the reason they were kept out of Canaan.

Their parents worshiped idols. But it wasn’t even their idolatry that caused them to die in the wilderness.

Moses wanted this generation – and ours – to know that the reason none of their parents and grandparents stepped foot into the Promised Land was because of unbelief. They closed the door themselves when they refused to trust God.

And that’s still true today. The only thing standing between an unsaved person and God is unbelief.

Do you believe God when He says Jesus is His Son, and the ONLY way to God? You may be a liar. God can forgive that. You may be an adulterer or a homosexual. God can forgive that. You might be angry, hateful, jealous, dishonest… All forgivable. You might even consider yourself agnostic, atheistic, Muslim, Mormon, Buddhist… all of which God can forgive…

if you believe. If you repent while your heart is still beating.

I John 1:9 If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.

But, friend, you will not see God or know what it’s like to walk with Him in this lifetime if you don’t believe in Jesus, if you don’t accept God’s forgiveness bought for you when Jesus died on the cross. The truth of Scripture as seen in the Old Testament and the New is that there is a “No Admittance” sign on the gate of heaven for anyone who has not believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Your past doesn’t matter. But what you do with Jesus really does.

March 12; A Small Share

Numbers 34-36

The Israelites were on the verge of receiving what God had promised Abraham centuries before. The Promised Land! Here in Numbers we are given the actual square footage this massive congregation would occupy. I was a bit surprised.

Matthew Henry, on page 175 of “Commentary in One Volume,” tells us it was 160 miles long, and about 50 miles wide, or 8,000 square miles. (The US state of New Hampshire is a little over 9,000 square miles). But that tiny piece of real estate in the Middle East was the part of the world where God “was known, and His name was great.” (Psalm 76:1)

God, who created everything there is, who has dominion over billions and trillions of square miles of real estate, could have given His people so much more land. Instead, He gave them 8,000 square miles. Does that say anything to me today in 2019?

I had to stop and think about something else Matthew Henry said:  “How small a share of the world God often gives to his own people.” (Commentary in One Volume; Zondervan; 1961; page 175) But so many of us put so much emphasis on that tiny bit of the world God gives us.

So many of us spend an inordinate amount of time pruning, expanding, enjoying our own material possessions, while that which lasts for eternity suffers from neglect. We have heard, and most of us agree, that this world is not our home. But do we live like it is?

Today God is asking me to check my priorities. I believe He wants me to be a good steward of the material blessings which are mine. But I need to put it in perspective. God could give me the cattle on a thousand hills, the wealth in every mine. But He hasn’t. What He has given me is the Truth, the Gospel, Himself, riches beyond the material. How much time to I spend pruning, expanding, and enjoying those?

The small share of this world which has been given me, is enough. I thank God for it. But if I lost it all today, I’d still have the most precious thing of all. I pray you can say the same.