See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse—the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods.
Chapter 11 is a constant reminder for obedience. We see multiple reminders to be careful – which to me shows how easy it is mess up. If we are not paying attention we can easily fall.
The Israelites are about to finally leave the wilderness and go into the land that was promised. Before entering they are given some instruction to help them not fall away like those before them. It was focused on obedience to the law and commands that were being given to them.
We often think of obedience as a restriction from the things we would like to do. But here we are reminded that God desires blessing for us and those blessings are for those who make the choice of obedience.
Obedience isn’t just knowing God or about his commands. It is making the choice to follow them. Making the choice to have them be a priority in your life. Surrounding yourself with reminders to do what is right so you are not tempted to fall away.
It is a choice! We are not forced to do anything. God did not create humans as robots. He gave us the choice to obey or not. We make a choice everyday and that choice is tied together with love. If we love God we will obey him!
Those that love God will obey God. Those that obey God will be blessed by God.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
When have you experienced God’s blessings for obedience?
Can you think of a time you may have experienced God’s punishment or curses because of a time of disobedience?
What have you seen of God’s power and might with your own eyes? How can you pass this along to those younger than you who did not experience what you did? Why is that important to do?
Following God and obeying His will does not mean that we will have a life free of problems as we can see from so many of the stories in the Bible. It does mean that God is with us as we go through the hard times. Sometimes life is harder for us when we tell others what God wants them to hear. As we read Jeremiah 33 & 34, we see that this is true for Jeremiah. Jeremiah is still imprisoned by King Zedekiah and Jeremiah is still obeying and trusting in God and telling them what God has told him to say. In Jeremiah 33:2-3a it says “This is what the Lord says, He who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to create it, He whose name is the Lord: ‘Call to Me and I will answer you,‘” Isn’t it amazing that the God who created the universe wants us to call out to Him, and it’s equally amazing that He WILL answer. We all have hard times that we go through, but we can call out to our Father and He will walk with us through the hard times. But He wants us (and the Israelites & Judeans) to know that there is a bright future when all the hardships will be over and we will live in joy and peace.
It says in Jeremiah 33:11b “Give thanks to the Lord of armies, for the Lord is good, for His mercy is everlasting,” God is a good God and His mercies are everlasting, and He has a great future in store for His children. God reminds them that a day is coming when His word will be fulfilled. In Jeremiah 33:14-16 we have a prophecy about Jesus and it says; “Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good word which I have spoken concerning the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch of David sprout; and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth. In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety; and this is the name by which it will be called: the Lord is our righteousness.’”
In Chapter 34 God tells Jeremiah to tell King Zedekiah that Babylon will come in and take over and he will meet King Nebuchadnezzar face to face, but he says that the king would not die by the sword but that he would die in peace. As we learn in the rest of the chapter that is exactly what happened.
We have all seen commercials about something that is “New and Improved,” which means that something was not as good as it should have been or there would be no need for improvement. Hebrews 8 is all about a new covenant that has been established through Jesus, our sacrificial lamb, and now our high priest. The reason there had to be a new covenant was because the first one was not faultless, but the new covenant is. Hebrews 8:1 “Now the main point in what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, without fault.” Jesus was the perfect sacrificial lamb, without fault or blemish. We have read some of these verses already because they were taken from Jeremiah 31:33. Anytime a verse is used in both the Old and New Testament, we should pay attention to what it says. Hebrews 8:10-11. “For this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, And write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they will not teach, each one his fellow citizen, and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least to the greatest of them.” God is constantly working in our lives because He is a God of love, He loves His children, and He wants to be our God, and for us to be His people.
Paul is one of the few people who can write “Finally” and continue on writing for the same length that he had just written! He writes two chapters, puts “finally” and writes two more. Inspired as he is, obviously Paul thinks of most of what he writes from Philippians 3:1-4:7 as all one idea. To be fair, as you are reading today, he uses “finally” in chapter 4 as well. It reminds me of a “midwestern goodbye;” he keeps trying to end his conversation but doesn’t want to say goodbye just yet.
While Paul starts his writing in verse one on the happy note of “rejoice” in the Lord, he quickly moves to talk of things that we need to beware of and, I think, overcome. That means we need to live differently, have victory over, and to not be defeated by.
In two places in this chapter, Paul discusses two kinds of unfaithful people and the way they live. First, there are those whom he calls “dogs” and “evil workers”. These are both the Jews and the Judaizing Christians who believe they follow God because they are circumcised on the outside and think all must follow them. However, their pride and focus on the law is actually showing that they have a false circumcision (3:2). Paul says that we are the ones who truly follow God, who follow him with a “circumcised” (or pure) heart.
Secondly, there are those who have never come to faith of any kind. Instead of even trying to honor God through false rules and regulations, they focus on fulfilling their own desires, whether that is food, drink, or sex. They worship those desires as their god. Even, (maybe especially) in our world there are those who glorify their appetites that they indulge as “healthy”, “not-repressed”, and “liberating”. However, Paul weeps knowing that their end is not life, not joy, but destruction. (3:18-19)
We need to not be like either of those groups, but that means overcoming ourselves. True, we need to overcome the teachings of those who say following God is keeping a bunch of rules and regulations, but it is easy to feel good about ourselves because we did keep God’s word. It would be easy for Paul, for example, to glory in who he is. (3:4-6) He fulfilled all the credentials of what a successful Jew would be. But he considers it “dung” (skubala) if he might instead have Christ. He would count all these things rubbish in order to have the far greater, far surpassing righteousness of Christ. (3:7-9)
Once we know that our best attributes are only dung in comparison to Christ, we may say we might as well live terribly because we can never measure up. But Paul encourages us to strive to live rightly. Ever upward into the call of God in Christ. He says, though we will never be perfect, let us keep living by the same standard to which Christ has raised us. (3:12-16)
How to Hupernikao (Overcome)
How are we to overcome? How are we to not fall into the traps of being legalistic or being completely wild with our living? We need to live LIKE CHRIST! That should sound familiar! If we live like Christ, forgetting what lies behind and pressing on ahead (12-16) then we will be conformed to him. We will suffer the way he suffered, being mistreated on both sides. We will sound to0 gracious to the “judgmental” and too judgmental to the “gracious”. We won’t look like those who are legalistic and believe that rule following will save them. But we also won’t look like those who believe that everything is OK and permissible.
But this is the way Jesus lived. He was a friend of tax collectors and sinners and yet told them they needed to stop sinning. If we live like him, we will face the suffering he faced, we may even be conformed to him in death. (3:10) But the GLORIOUS news is that if we are connected to him, believe in him, and live like him, we will ALSO be raised with him. If we die with him, we will also live with him. (3:11, cf. 2 Tim. 2:11-13)
It is because we have a savior who will raise us up, and glorify us as he rules over all things that Paul can say, in Philippians 4:1 “Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.” Because we have a savior who will redeem us, we can rejoice in the Lord and we can be the joy of those who have trained us in the way we should go.
May you, my brothers and sisters, overcome those who tell you to be more strictly following all the right rules that only they seem to know.
May you overcome those who say live with abandon and do whatever it is that makes you happy and fulfills you.
May you overcome the desires in yourself that push in you in those directions.
May you instead be conformed to the life, suffering, death, and ultimately resurrection of Christ, as you seek to live like him.
May you forget what lies behind, press on ahead, and retain the standard, while only trusting in Christ’s sacrifice to save you.
In response to yesterday’s definition of joy, you may be asking, “how do I get joy?” As the example definition says, it comes from hearing the gospel message, responding in faith, and receiving the Holy Spirit. There is a truth to the fact that salvation is a one time event, being transferred from the domain of darkness to his Kingdom of marvelous light. (Col. 1:13, 1 Peter 2:9) But there is also the truth that we are called to continue to grow in faith. We bring joy to ourselves and others as we pursue faith and Christlikeness.
Philippians 2 is known primarily for the “Christ Hymn” in verses 5-11. These verses contain a powerful, beautiful, early Christian hymn sung to the glory of God in honor of Christ. We could spend a long time discussing the theology, christology and soteriology, but that would miss the MAIN POINT for why Paul wrote this section. He is trying to teach the Philippians to “live like Jesus.” Jesus, who had every right to think of himself as great and wonderful, instead lowered himself and followed God’s will. Because Jesus did this, we should not be selfish, vain, or arrogant, but should regard others more important than ourselves. (2:3)
Paul tells the Philippians that being like Christ is going to fill them with joy. Verse one shows that if we seek Christlikeness, we can have encouragement in Christ, the consolation of love, fellowship of the Spirit, affection and compassion. If we seek any of those things, we need to maintain love, be united, and intently serving God (2:2). Maintaining love, being united and intently serving are all descriptions of how Christ lived. If we want the joy that Christ had, the connection to God that allowed him to be joyful in the midst of what, by all accounts, was a tough life, then we need to live as Christ lived, obedient and following God.
Which is why in verses 12-13, we are told to obey and work our salvation directly after the Christ hymn. Obedience leads to joy! So often we think rebellion, independence, being novel will lead to joy. But that may only be true if we are rebelling against wicked things and unjust systems. Rebelling against good and loving commands of God will only bring heart ache. God is working for our salvation, and we are to work alongside him. Along with the old hymn, we sing “trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey!”
One final note, I said in the first paragraph that we bring joy to ourselves and others when we pursue faith and Christlikeness. When we obey the commands of God like honoring others over ourselves and taking care of their needs, he will bless us with joy. But how does that bring joy to others. Of course, we can and should expect it to bring happiness, which is a fine emotion in itself, but it isn’t the lasting joy we are talking about. But it’s not often the recipients of our blessings that are filled with joy. When we live like Christ, those who led and taught us the faith see and rejoice that we are more like the one they love. Paul asks the Philippians to “make my joy complete” in 2:2 by living like Christ. If the Philippians lived blameless and innocent lives, which they could do by the power of the Holy Spirit, then Paul could rejoice in their faith. In like manner, as we live in faith by the power of Spirit, our parents, grandparents, or spiritual ancestors will react in joy, knowing that we are going to be rejoicing together one day in the Kingdom with Christ.
May you, my brothers and sisters, live like Christ through the power of the spirit, and by living with that humility, focus on others, and blameless innocence, that you bring joy to yourself and others.
(I know the days are off, but I needed to define joy yesterday. I am gonna focus mainly on joy and that will take over the first couple days of Colossians, too.)
Truth in our current culture has been a major point of contention. The common motto of today is “You have your truth and I have my truth.” As if truth is something that can be different to different people. I believe that there is only one truth and I think this is the one that includes God in your worldview. I believe that when we become Christians, we are forced to accept the truth that there is a God in the world who is all powerful, with us and loves us.
Our faith or belief about what we believe should greatly inform how we act and how we view our world. Belief or faith in God should change our paradigms regarding the things we do, what we worry about and what we focus on. When we view the world, we cannot accept the natural possibilities but we are made to view the world in light of the knowledge that we have a miracle-working God alongside of us who is active in our world. An example where this plays out best is in the beatitude blessed are the meek because this is so contrary to the world in which we live. Living meekly through the natural course of this world doesn’t end up with our benefit but God tells us to live meekly and believe that following God’s commandments is ultimately to our benefit. This allows us to be meek because we believe that God exists, knows what’s best and cares for his people.
I think that the world teaches us a bunch of lies about how our lives should go and what will make us truly happy.
Therefore, if we have faith, we should seek and know God’s commandments and words to follow them to the best of our ability. I think this is what David is looking for in Psalm 25. I love how David opens up this psalm.
David is completely committed to the truth that God exists. He opens up the Psalm by saying to you I lift up my soul. I feel like this would be a great thing to incorporate into our own prayers. Just opening up our souls to God to begin our prayer time.
He follows that up with “O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me.” What this prayer says to me is David wasn’t seeking his own victory. David was seeking and depending on God for victory. David was dependent on God for his life. He submitted his life to the paradigm that God was in control and put his battles, struggles and life in God’s hands. David was humble before God by living in obedience and submitting to his leadership.
Verse 3 shows David’s conviction to this idea. David articulated a very important scriptural theme. David recognized that having faith in God meant waiting for God to act and bring victory.
In verse 4 and 5 David is asking for guidance. He asks to know God’s ways and to be taught his paths. This should be a prayer for all of us. I think sometimes we don’t seek God’s guidance in our lives. Not just in specific instances, I think we sometimes forget to ask God to teach us how to live life while believing him. The teachings of Jesus give us a great list of things we should be doing but I would rather God show me his way and his path than trying to do those things on my own path. David in this verse was acknowledging the truth of God in this world and seeking to be taught by God directly.
David later in the Psalm says that the man that abides in the path of God will have his soul abide in well-being. Is there anything more you could want? To have a soul that is abiding in well-being is the best life I can imagine. This is what happens when we learn the ways and paths of God.
In verse 5 David asks God to teach him his truth. He asks God to teach him. That is so convicting for me. I am not sure that I really do this. I just kind of assume God will because of my heart for him. We should be asking God to teach us just like we would our earthly fathers. I think that learning God’s truth will change the way that we view everything. There is only one truth and it’s God’s.
So, today I pray that God would teach us his truth. God, I ask that you would change our paradigms, the way we view others, the way we view our lives and the way we view you. I pray that you would teach us your ways, teach us your way of doing life and lead us in our pursuit of you. I pray that you would teach us.
In Psalm 17:3, we see that David wholeheartedly sought God – “Though you probe my heart and examine me at night, though you test me, you will find nothing; I have resolved that my mouth will not sin.” He goes on to say, in verse 5, “My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not slipped.”
Because David wholeheartedly followed God, he could then say with confidence in verse 6, “I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer.” Unlike Saul, David’s predecessor, who rejected God (and God rejected Saul), David longed to please God, and knew that God heard and answered him.
With this assurance, David then prayed in verses 8 and 9, “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings from the wicked who assail me, from my mortal enemies who surround me.” David was literally running for his life, but was able to have an assurance that God was with him and would help him.
Finally, in verse 15, David acknowledged his ultimate rescue, “And I – in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.” David is looking forward to the resurrection, recognizing that at the resurrection of the righteous, all sin will be removed, and David will awake, and see God’s face – and will be satisfied.”
Ultimately, this is our longing too. We must live a righteous life today, not only so God will answer our prayers now, but ultimately because only by living for God today, will we be resurrected to eternal life, and see God’s face – and be satisfied. And this all starts with drawing close to God today.
I’ll close with Psalm 63:1-4, also from today’s reading, “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name, I will lift up my hands.”
This chapter is very poetic and filled with a personification of wisdom. It is used to draw people in and make the writing more personal, and to have greater impact. I think this is a way of showing how important Godly wisdom is, and how important it should be to each of us. The idea that wisdom is calling out at the entrance of the city so that we can each hear “her” is an interesting idea. Obviously, wisdom is a virtue that we should aspire to, not a being. However, it is so important, and so beneficial to each of us, something that God desires each of us to have, it is as if wisdom is crying out to us, and we need to listen.
If wisdom is something that we aspire to, why do we need this chapter showing all the strengths of wisdom? Why do we need to hear wisdom calling out to us? Why do we need to be told again to heed instruction? This has already been stated multiple times in the first 7 chapters of proverbs.
Verses 4 and 5 say:
To you, O men, I call,
And my voice is to the sons of men. 5 “O naive ones, understand prudence;
And, O fools, understand wisdom.
Maybe this isn’t for all of us. We are all “men” (or people) and sons (or children) of men, but verse 5 specifically talks to naïve ones and fools? So, maybe this is just for people who aren’t getting it yet. But, maybe if we are thinking it is just for the naïve or fools, we are being naïve and foolish.
Verses 7 and 8 say:
“For my mouth will utter truth;
And wickedness is an abomination to my lips. 8 “All the utterances of my mouth are in righteousness;
There is nothing crooked or perverted in them.
When I look at this, I have to admit that not everything I say is done in righteousness. I say things out of anger at times. I say things at times when I should jut keep my mouth shut. So, I still need help with wisdom.
I can read through this chapter and point out things in nearly every verse that shows how important wisdom is. We obviously need to be reminded of this often, based on how often it is written about. I encourage you to read through this and pick out each of these items. The end of the chapter summarizes why we should do this:
“Now therefore, O sons, listen to me,
For blessed are they who keep my ways. 33 “Heed instruction and be wise,
And do not neglect it. 34 “Blessed is the man who listens to me,
Watching daily at my gates,
Waiting at my doorposts. 35 “For he who finds me finds life
And obtains favor from the Lord. 36 “But he who sins against me injures himself;
All those who hate me love death.”
Wisdom comes from God and will only be gained when following God. This will lead to eternal life. If we turn away from wisdom, we are turning away from God, and that leads to death.
Proverbs 3:5-6 is an often quoted and memorized Bible verse. However, not surprisingly, it is easier said than done. It is easy to say the words, without really thinking about what living out these words looks like.
Trust in the LORD. When I trust in something I can count on it. The dictionary definition of trust is, “to believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something; to have confidence in (someone or something); to believe that something is true or correct.” All of these definitions need to apply to my trust in God. I must believe that all his promises are reliable and that what he says is true. I must believe that he had the ability to create the world and that he has the strength to stand against my enemies. I need have confidence that he cares for me and believe that his word, the Bible, is true and correct.
There are so many things in this life that I can put my trust in. I can trust my family, my doctor, the government, my pastor, and the list goes one. But over time, all these people will disappoint and let me down. There is only one that is totally faithful and trustworthy, and that is my Heavenly Father. However, if I don’t take the time to get to know God personally, I will never be able to totally trust him.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart. If I truly trust in God, it must be with ALL my heart. If I only trust God some of the time, or with only some things, then I am not trusting God at all. Trust is an all or nothing kind of proposition.
And lean not on your own understanding. I need to let go of what I think I know, and totally rely on God. I must stop trying to be self-sufficient, but instead depend on my Creator and his infinite wisdom.
In all your ways submit to him. Trusting in the Lord requires that I submit everything that I have, and everything that I do to him, all the time, every day. Some versions say, “in all your ways acknowledge him.” I acknowledge him when I feel his presence with me throughout the day, and turn to him for comfort, companionship and guidance.
And he will make your paths straight. When I fully trust God, then he can lead me down the correct path. So often I want to go my own way and do my own thing. I like to be the boss. However, when I am truly trusting in God then I eagerly follow God’s direction.
When I want to know what God’s will in my life is, I only need to trust in him with all my heart, and lean not on my own understanding, but in all my ways submit to him. If I am trusting, leaning, and submitting, then I can be confident that I am following God’s plan for my life.
Earlier this year I was asked to be a part of the LHI Peru trip, which I gladly accepted after much prayer and consideration. I was not sure what to expect while on the trip, but I was so excited to see how God was going to use me and in what ways I was going to be able to touch the lives of the Peruvians, little did I know just how much God was going to work in my heart and all the things he would teach me throughout the week.
The Peruvian people do not take God’s word for granted. They sit and listen to Bible studies and sermons for hours on end, and until late into the night. When one of the ladies within the church heard that her translation of the Bible was not the original version that the early Church read, she wanted to learn Greek so that she would be able to read the Bible in the original language. This was also the same woman who was excited when she received new reading glasses, and the first thing she chose to read was her Bible. The excitement in her eyes and smile hit me hard, why do I not see this kind of attitude within my own community? What is it that could make us lack this same kind of excitement within our Christian lives?
What I noticed while in Peru was how dependent on God the whole community was. This was due to the amount of poverty they lived in and the fact that they have all of their trust in God to provide for them and protect them. I find that the reason we lack this is because we rely on ourselves more than we rely on God. We each need to examine our hearts and find this same excitement within. Even amongst the days where we think we need God the least, those are generally the days that we need him the most. We cannot forget about God during the good times because we need him just as much as we did in the bad times. He is the reason for those good times because he always provides for us and takes care of our many needs. When we forget to let God in, that is when the enemy comes in and distracts us away from our Father.
So I want to challenge you to search for that excitement within yourself. Remember that God wants us to follow him every day of the year, not just on the days that are convenient for us. Allow him to be a part of your everyday and continue to grow stronger in your faith.
7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” 10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty.
Have you ever been having a good day, only to have something or someone happen, and totally change the day? It’s easy to get beat down by life some days. And it’s even easier to point the finger at other people or difficult circumstances when we let the things going on around us effect our relationships negatively. I totally understand that sometimes life is difficult, and sometimes it’s unfair, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about when we’re really finding our stride in our Christian walk, and then we let something knock us off the path. That’s why I love the section of scripture in Galatians 5. It leaves us with no excuses.
This section reminds us that we are responsible for our own faith. It isn’t our pastor’s, our parents’, or our friends’ responsibility. Those can all be great people that God uses to challenge us to grow, but we must be careful to follow God and the teachings of Jesus, not people. Notice too that even a little yeast works its way through the whole batch of dough. Letting just a little thing bother us without dealing with it could have huge implications on our actions. We also see that whoever is throwing us into confusion, has to pay a penalty. We must therefore also pay attention to how we are influencing people. Take a good look into your life and ask yourself, Am I letting someone throw me off my daily walk? Am I throwing someone else off of theirs? If the answer is yes, we have some changes to make.