Too Many Rules

Psalm 119:89-172

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Being a Christian isn’t for me.  There are way too many rules.  My life would be so boring if I followed all those rules.  Have you heard anyone say that before?  Or maybe you are a Christian and you try to follow all the rules, but you feel like you are missing out on the fun.  Or worse yet, maybe you are a Christian, and during your weak moments you don’t miss out on the fun.  The Bible is a huge book with a lot of Do this’s and Don’t do that’s.  Why did God make it so difficult to be a Christian?

If you have ever felt a bit strangled by all the instructions to follow in the Bible, Psalm 119 will open your eyes to a whole new way of thinking.  God’s laws are not some kind of test to see if we can show self-control and prove we want to be Christians.  Psalm 119 says God’s commandments will make you wiser than your enemies, have more insight than your teachers, and understand more than the aged.  Let that sink in for a second.  These rules were given to us to make us smarter – even more intelligent than our teachers and those older than us who have more experience than us.

God did not make all the rules to make our lives MORE difficult; He gave us all the rules to make our lives LESS difficult.  He is watching out for us and has our best interest at heart.  God knows a lot of stuff and He is just trying to share with us some of what He knows to make our lives better.  Don’t be rebellious because you don’t like someone telling you what to do; instead, be thankful for the pages and pages of advice that God has shared with you that will help you out in life.  You might have an urge to lie, steal, have sex outside of marriage, look at porn, get drunk, or do any other sin of your choice.  All these things may seem like a worthwhile option in the heat of the moment, but God’s word lets you know that doing these things will make your life worse.  Trust Him; He knows what is best for you.

Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy word is a lamp to my feet, And a light to my path.”  Life can be difficult, and many obstacles will get in the way on your path.  You can ignore God’s word and try to go it alone, but you will assuredly stumble around in the darkness.  Or you can read God’s word and follow the instructions so your path will be lit up.  Those same obstacles will be on your path whether you read your Bible or not, but if your path of life is lit up with God’s word, you will more easily see how to maneuver through the obstacles you will face.

How valuable are the words of God?  The psalmist who wrote Psalm 119 says in verse 127 that he loves the commandments above gold, yes, above fine gold.  The words of God are more treasured than gold!  Do you believe that also?  Your actions speak louder than your thoughts and words.  If you truly find the scriptures to be that valuable, you will search diligently by reading the Bible, and then you will mold your life to fit the words you have learned about.

One last part of this psalm that really drove home the value of God’s words to me was in verses 163-165.  He said he loves Thy law and praises Him seven times a day because of Thy righteous ordinances.  I feel like this is not an exaggeration to make a point (like forgiving someone 7 times 70 times), but probably a true practice that this individual followed for the most part.  If you are awake for about two-thirds of your day, you would need to praise God for his rules about every two hours to keep up with that psalmist.  You would be in a constant state of thankfulness for God’s laws every day, which seems like a bit much, but verse 165 tells us about the huge reward we receive for following His words.  He said that those who love Thy law have great peace and nothing causes them to stumble.  If you want to add stress to your life, just go ahead and break a rule.  However, if you want true peace in your life, search through the scripture looking for God’s advice and follow that advice.  Thank you to the psalmist for giving us this great perspective on rules.

Rick McClain

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+119%3A89-172&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Song of Solomon 1-8 on our journey through the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Making a Different People : Blessings and Curses

Leviticus 26-27

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Chapters 26 and 27 of Leviticus makes it seem like the book ends twice. While the valuations of 27 help us understand tithes and how giving to the Lord means more than money, indeed EVERYTHING we have, it seems like 26 was the “original” ending. The author, editors, and priests who God inspired to write and work in this text ended, first, with a powerful section on blessing and curses.(See note below)
The narrative of the Exodus, that is, God crushing the Egyptians and their gods, leading his people out to worship him, and then bringing them into the promised land, is the climax of the Torah, and arguably the CENTRAL NARRATIVE of the Old Testament. That is why God has repeated something over and over and over again. I hope you caught it, as I noted that when something is repeated, God wants you to pay attention. Here it is in 26:13 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt so that you would not be their slaves, and I broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.” Think about how many times you have heard something like this in the commands of Leviticus. God keeps grounding his commands in the beautiful reality that he has brought this people, the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, out of the land of Egypt. He has redeemed them from slavery. Because he has done that, he wants them to walk in a way that is different and better than the nations around them. If they don’t walk that way but turn away, then he will allow the trouble of this world to overtake them, in order that they might cry out to him. However, if they do obey, then he will give them unending blessings and he promises, “I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.” (26:12)
I hope you see the parallel to our lives as we follow Christ. The CENTRAL NARRATIVE of creation is the Exodus led by Jesus, who broke us all out of the bondage and slavery to sin and has set us free. As Jesus brings us into the Canaan of the Kingdom of God, not just the future Kingdom on the Earth, but the present rule and reign of God, he looks to us and says, “there is a better way to live.” He gives us a holy way of life, grounded in his love and his sacrifice. But, better than before, we are able to become changed from the inside out because of the power of God flowing through us. No longer must we simply keep outward laws and regulations, but our hearts can become pure. God can change our desires and our destiny.  We are able to become children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and heirs according to the promise of God. If we follow the way of God, through the power of the Spirit of God, all the while redeemed through the Son of God, then one day we will see God. The metaphor of Leviticus, God saying “I will also walk among you” will become reality. We will be in the full, unmitigated glorious presence of God, in the Land of Promise, His Kingdom.
May you, my brothers and sisters, become a different people.
May the principles and practices of Leviticus shape you into a holy people.
May the mercy and justice of God be made evident to you in all of scripture, and especially in Leviticus.
May the blood of Jesus, a perfect lamb, without spot or blemish, cover you, redeem you, cleanse you of all sins.
May God, my brothers and sisters, bless you!
Jake Ballard
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Note : To be fair, this is a hunch, not a statement of fact or even a solid belief. If you disagree and believe that Moses, or whoever authored this book, wrote it this way on purpose as directed by God, then that is certainly an acceptable view. I just want to point out the fun, interesting quirks of books. This is similar to how John 20:30-31 is a good ending to the book, as well as John 21:24-25. Just some fun food for thought, but not the focus of the devotion. Keep reading above.
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(Jake Ballard is Pastor at Timberland Bible Church in South Bend, IN. He lives in the Michiana Area with his wife, daughter, and in the summer, two more little ones. If you’d like to say hi you can find him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jacob.ballard.336  You can also hear more teachings at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCs_awyI1LyPZ4QEZVN7HqKQ  If you want to have an interesting conversation with him, just say “I don’t like the ninth guy in a blue police box.” God bless!)
Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Leviticus+26-27&version=NIV
We made it through the book of Leviticus and learned about God on the way.
Keep reading!  Tomorrow we begin the book of Numbers (chapters 1 & 2) as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

The Lord Who Heals

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Number 19

How many devotions have you ever read about a chapter in Numbers? I know I haven’t read hardly any at all, so I’m excited to be writing one for all of you to enjoy!

What’s the best way to get healthy? Trick question! Don’t get sick in the first place. This might seem obvious to us. We’ve been raised knowing that sickness and disease are caused by tiny germs that we can’t even see. Germs can be transmitted through air, water, food or surfaces. Though it’s common knowledge to us, nobody thought this was possible until about 500 years ago and wasn’t commonly accepted until just over 100 years ago through the work of Louis Pasteur. (If you haven’t heard of Pasteur before, try checking your milk carton for his name.) Now we know that if you want to prevent sickness, all you need to do is wash your hands frequently. Doctors didn’t even start washing their hands until 1847!

Even though the knowledge of germs is very new in world history, Moses, who was living 3000 years before germs were discovered, seemed to know some good ways to prevent disease. In verse 11, we see that touching a dead body makes you unclean. Maybe that law is a little too obvious. Touching a dead body is obviously going to make you unclean. But if you go further down the chapter, he says that even if you are near someone who dies, you are unclean. How could Moses have possibly known that? The answer is simple; God gave Moses knowledge that surpassed the understanding of humans. To us, we can think of how a person who just died might have a disease that we could catch, but the ancient Israelites would have had no idea that diseases can be passed on through the air. Therefore, Moses said that any open container (vs 15) is unclean. Germs could have contaminated the contents of the jar.

I think you all get the point. God gave laws specifically to prevent us from getting sick. And in a way, that is a form of healing. God says in Exodus 15:26, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.” Prevention of disease is a direct consequence of following God’s laws. He created the world and he knows better than any man how to keep us healthy.

To receive the healing of prevention, all we have to do is look to modern hygiene, the same practices that line up with the laws that God gave over 3000 years ago. God is the God of science and nature. He gave us our minds to be able to reason and learn. Because their teachings line up with the Old Testament laws, we should look to the doctors that God gave us for the best health practices. Brush your teeth, wash your hands, shower regularly, don’t touch dead animals, watch your diet, exercise regularly and commit yourself to only one spouse.

-Nathaniel Johnson

 

Blessed 2 Bless (Deuteronomy 3-4)

Tuesday, September 13
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By Joseph Partain

Deuteronomy 3 begins again with God giving the Israelites the victory over their foe, Og the king of Bashan. After the victory Moses begins to divide the land between the tribes. The women and children were allowed to stay and settle the towns while the “able bodied men” went on into battle with their brothers. God was giving the victory but I think he was helping the tribes to fellowship with each other and enjoy God’s blessings together. God states in Hebrews that we will all enjoy his victory and blessing together in the kingdom. Moses was allowed to view the promised land but was told by God that he would not be able to enter the land but that he was to encourage Joshua for when he led the people. How many of our parents have told us, “That is enough!” like God tells Moses in v.26. God is loving and caring but he will not leave sin unpunished and this is a hard lesson that Moses is taught. Sometimes we visualize God as “the man upstairs” or the “big daddy in the sky” but he is HOLY, HOLY, HOLY which when said three times in Hebrew means unsurpassed holiness. If we remember this is who God is some of the seemingly small sins need to be taken seriously.

Deuteronomy 4 reminds us how jealous God is for us. He wants our wholehearted devotion as Caleb was described in Ch. 1. Again he reminds them to let their lives be directed by God’s laws and to impress them on their children, a theme that runs all the way through Deuteronomy. The importance of recounting God’s goodness and what he has done for each one of us should be our theme throughout life. If we share what God is doing in our lives it is hard to complain or grumble, instead a joy should shine through to others. V40 says the benefits will be a life lived well for you and your children in the Promised Land. What more could we ask for than to live eternal life with loved ones in the Kingdom of God. What a reminder that God gives us that he is blessing us to be a blessing to others. Are you up for the challenge?