Will it Be Okay?

Jeremiah 14-17

Jeremiah 14 19 b NIV sgl

I’ve been a pastor for 35 years.  As a pastor I’m often present for the happiest moments of people’s lives – when they get married, when they have a baby and want to have that baby blessed, when they give their life to Jesus Christ and are baptized, and when they celebrate great milestones like graduations, 50th wedding anniversaries and other joys.  I am privileged to “rejoice with those who rejoice.”

At the same time, I am also there during some of life’s most painful moments- when a loved one has died after a long illness, or suddenly in a tragic accident, when someone has just been told by their spouse that they want a divorce, or when their child has been arrested for possession of illegal narcotics.  I am there to weep with those who weep.

When people are going through the most painful or difficult challenges of their lives- when they are waiting for a loved one in major surgery, or for the test results to come back, I try to help them and provide a voice of calm assurance.  “It’s going to be okay.”  And of course, I want it to be okay.  But to be honest, sometimes it’s NOT okay.  Sometimes people don’t make it through surgery.  Sometimes couples don’t reconcile and marriages aren’t saved.  Sometimes test results come back and it’s bad.  Sometimes prodigal children don’t come back home, or back to Church or back to God.

Let’s be honest, 2020 sucks!  Covid-19 has killed a lot of people and has a lot of people scared.  A lot of people are out of work and the economy has tanked because of it.  A lot of people are scared to go anywhere including church.  For a time many states told people they weren’t allowed to go to church – what’s up with that?  And in the midst of that we’ve also had racial protests (or sometimes riots), murder hornets, great white shark attacks and now for more fun – its hurricane season.  Some people joke about, “What’s this month’s plague going to be?” but it’s getting to the point where it’s no joke.  Something’s going on.

The caring pastor part of me wants to take you by the hand and say “it’s going to be alright.  We’ll get through this.”  But can I be honest for a minute?  I don’t know that for sure.  For all I know Covid-19 could get a lot worse.  Or the vaccine they make to cure it could turn us all into vampires.  (Just kidding, I just watched the movie I Am Legend where the cure for cancer turned almost everyone into vampires.)  You get my point, I can’t guarantee that in a few weeks or months it’s all going to get better… it might not.

Can I be more honest?  God may be really angry right now.  “Oh, now Pastor Jeff we don’t believe in an angry God anymore- that Angry God of the 18th and 19th century has been replaced by a much more liberal and chill God, haven’t you heard?”  Well, I hate to break it to you but there’s only one God.  The God we worship today is the same God who was around in 600 BC when Jeremiah was walking around on the earth.  It’s the same God who got so angry with Israel for years of unfaithfulness that he sent a drought.  Yep, no water.  He’s the same God who said I’m going to call your neighbors to come and go fishing and hunting… for you, Judah.  It’s the same God who told Jeremiah that all the prophets who were out there telling everyone “It’s all going to be all right, we’re gonna get through this together” were spreading “fake news.”  They were false prophets telling people it was all going to be okay, when clearly God was not done smiting His very disobedient nation.

Make no mistake about it.  America has changed a LOT in the last 50 years.  It’s changed a lot in the last 10 years… or even 5 years.  Things that for a long time everyone agreed were bad, wrong, sinful have been declared ok.  Things that God used to say were important, like getting married BEFORE you have sex, and being faithful to your spouse after you get married, those kinds of things aren’t so important now.  Protecting the lives of the unborn, those aren’t so important either.  In Psalm 139 David says that God is the one who, “knit me together in my mother’s womb” but now it’s okay if the woman chooses to murder that unborn baby.  (“Pastor, you don’t sound very nice anymore, I don’t think I like where this is going?”)

I’m telling you the truth because I love you.  Don’t just listen to me, go back and read the actual verses in Jeremiah 14-17.  God was angry.  God told Jeremiah to tell the people “don’t even bother to pray to me for help right now, because I’m not helping you.”

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I believe that God is love and that everything God does is because of His great love for us.  That’s why he sent His Son to rescue us from our sinful ways.   God wants to rescue us from our sinful ways.  What we are doing collectively is WRONG.  It is hurting us.

I read an interesting article recently.  So called progressive elites, those liberal professors who say that traditional morality is bad or outdated, those who say that people should be free to do whatever they want.  Yeah, those people, the highly educated, the elites, the 1%.  They aren’t the ones having babies out of wedlock and whose children are being shot by gangs or dying from opioid addiction.  Those people who are “successful liberal elites” actually get married, then have children, work hard, live in good neighborhoods and do the kinds of things that actually lead to successful lives.  The people who suffer from living in a society that has tried to do away with God and with Biblical morality are actually the poor, the uneducated, those without power and privilege.   What we need to be telling people is the truth.  If you want to thrive and live a flourishing life you should do things the way God says to do it.  Adopt God’s values and live by them.  Turn away from evil.  That’s how you thrive.

Now, after telling Jeremiah that he won’t answer their prayers and things are about to get really bad for them, God does offer this hope.  After all the punishment is over, after the exile has passed, after you have repented and you’ve changed and are willing to start doing things the right way, I will take you back home and restore you and everything will eventually be okay.

So yes, ultimately, everything will be okay.  Someday God will restore this earth to its original state of perfection.  But first, God’s got to do some major housecleaning.  God loves you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to leave you that way.  God wants to make you to be like Jesus.  Follow Him. Turn away from your sinful ways – do not follow this world into judgment, follow Jesus into the Kingdom of God.

Pastor Jeff Fletcher

 

Today’s Bible passage, Jeremiah 14-17, can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Jeremiah+14-17&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Jeremiah 18-22 as we continue seeking God and His Ways on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

A New World

Isaiah 64-66

As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me,” declares the Lord, “so will your name and descendants endure.

God called Jacob and He made the descendants of Jacob his Holy people. These are the ones who call on the name of the Lord. Yet today, there are those in Korea, China, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Morocco, Malawi, Russia, Slovenia, Italy, Germany, France, America, Canada, Samoa, the Philippines and all over the world who know the name of the same God who called chose Jacob so many years ago. Even though they were his chosen people, God said, “Here I am, here I am” to a nation that was not called by his name (65:1). God has called Christians to the same promise that he called the Israelites. Indeed, He says “I have come to gather all nations and languages; they will come and see My glory…I will establish a sign among them, and I will send survivors from them to the nations…and the islands far away—who have not heard of My fame or seen My glory” (66:19).

Eight hundred years later, God sent a sign by the name of Jesus. Jesus himself performed sign after sign, from healing the blind (John 9) to raising the dead (John 11). The final sign was being raised from the dead himself, but this was different from the sign that he performed by raising Lazarus, for Lazarus returned to the grave. Jesus never returned to the grave; to make sure there could be no confusion, Jesus was taken up into the sky in the presence of his followers (Luke 24). The fact that Jesus was taken up is key here because it signifies his resurrection to something new, just as Isaiah prophesied that the world will be transformed into something new.

The closing words of Isaiah state that just as the new earth will endure, so will we. We will endure from new moon to new moon and from sabbath to sabbath. That is, we will continue living indefinitely. But the final verse takes a turn from the uplifting words that precede it; it promises destruction to God’s enemies, those who rebelled against him. It does leave you with a few questions though, what does it mean for their fire to never go out? It might point to an eternal suffering of those rebels as is believed by many Christians. I am not entirely sure, but asking questions that make you examine your own beliefs is important for growth. We must always be humble and accept that these prophecies are complex, and we may never fully understand them until the end has come.

Nathaniel Johnson

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+64-66&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Kings 20-21 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

God Has Answers

Isaiah 5-8

Isaiah 8 20 NLT sgl

Today’s reading contained some pretty grim and possibly confusing stuff. In some sections it seems the people of Judah are completely doomed for destruction, while other parts tell of a coming protection. If you have come here today looking for an explanation and clarification on all that took place in these chapters – I’m sorry to say, I haven’t got one. Mainly because one perfect answer doesn’t exist. Scholars, theologians, historians, have all made attempts at understanding biblical prophecy. There has yet to be one universal agreed upon interpretation. The language barrier is one reason, as is the lack of context and historical gaps. If you want to know more about today’s reading and other prophecy, I encourage you to do two things. One, reach out to your local pastor with your specific questions. He or she would love to help you digest the Old Testament. Many have a wealth of biblical knowledge and bookcases stocked with resources. Plus, during this Covid time, many pastors are feeling a disconnect with their congregation, unable to meet under normal circumstances. They would welcome your questions and this opportunity to serve.

My second bit of advice is to follow that in Isaiah 8:20, “Look to God’s instruction and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark.” (NLT) Isaiah goes on to describe the type of darkness these people experience as a sort of wandering aimless search for answers. He paints a picture of people looking at the sky and shaking their fists at God. These people sought psychics and other mediums for answers, instead of seeking the LORD’s instruction. Whenever you are reading scripture and stumble upon a passage that confuses you, look to what you know to be true about God. Some of these Old Testament passages can be tricky and may produce the picture of God as being only angry and vengeful. Be sure to look to ALL of God’s instructions and teachings. Personally, when reading doom and gloom in the Old Testament, I try to keep in mind what God says about Himself as being “the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished;” (Exodus 34:6-7 NIV). I love this verse in Isaiah, because right in the midst of confusing prophecy, he gives us an answer, encouraging us to seek “God’s instructions” known to us through scripture.

This advice from Isaiah can also be applied to other aspects of our lives when searching for answers. I would say all aspects, except I’ve not yet found the part in scripture that explains calculus. Math aside, when we face difficult or confusing challenges, wandering in unknown darkness, we as believers are encouraged to seek God for the answers. We can approach God through our wonderful redeemer, Jesus Christ. Whether these answers are revealed to us by understanding scripture, receiving peace, or prayer, answers exist. I am experiencing some personal challenges in my life right now. A couple weeks ago, one of my best friends sent me a text reminding me to seek answers from God during this trial. Her encouragement applies also to you, and whatever your current struggles may be. The last part of Isaiah 8 reminded me of her words. I want to share some of them with you as a closing thought.

“It may seem like the pain, loss, confusion, and hole in your heart, are the only things you will ever know, but please remember, the Lord has a plan for you and He is there to listen to you, He is there to listen to your cries of anguish and despair. And He will console you, but you have to ask Him for His help. Please don’t shut yourself out of His sweet  and divine presence, my dear friend. Ask Him to give you guidance for what you should do next. How you should proceed with your life. Ask Him for His wisdom so that you can understand what lesson He wants to teach you, how He is trying to mold your character. And also maybe think of what He wants you to ask Him. What is HIS will?”

Emilee Ross

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah+5-8&version=NIV

Tomorrow we begin another prophet writing at a similar time – Amos, chapters 1-5 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

The Queen of Sheba and Jesus

1 Kings 10-11 & 2 Chronicles 9

2 Chronicles 9 23 NIV

Who is the wisest person to ever live?
Let me tell you why you’re wrong. (Just kidding!)
Most of us answer Solomon, right? We are told that many times in Sunday School, and our teachers weren’t wrong. He was wise… to a point. We look at what he did at the beginning of his life and we see a man who was so dedicated to God that he asked for wisdom instead of riches, power, wealth or fame. For that, God gave him all wisdom and all the other things as well. Solomon was “wise enough to know that we are not wise enough on our own.” But, is Solomon the wisest person to ever live?
I believe our reading today disabuses of that notion quickly. Solomon starts off great, but in the end, his rule falls apart. His wisdom allowed his fame to increase. But as his fame increased, his wealth increased; as his wealth increased, his political connections, in the form of marriages, increased; as his number of marriages increased, the amount of gods he worshipped increased. And there’s our problem, but it doesn’t start there. Solomon, for all his wisdom, lost sight of the end goal. Wisdom is not meant for wealth. Wisdom is not meant for fame.
Wisdom is meant for godliness.
If we want to find the wisest person to ever live, we should look to the man who knew and had insight into the hearts of men and women, the one who even knew “all things.” Jesus, of course, is the wisest man to ever live. He unpacks the wisdom of God found in the Torah Law and applies it in a way that changes more than just behavior, but changes the heart. Jesus knew how to perfectly interpret scripture in wisdom. Most importantly, Jesus lived a life of wisdom by being Godly, doing what God wanted, all day, every day.
When we read about the Queen of Sheba and the wisdom of Solomon in 1 Kings 10 and 2 Chronicles 9, we need to remember that her praise was not only directed at Solomon. 1 Kings 10:9 reads “Blessed be the Lord your God who delighted in you to set you on the throne of Israel; because the Lord loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness.” The Queen of Sheba was wowed at the power of YHWH to give wisdom to people. The wisdom that Solomon imparted was that God was the giver of wisdom and that God was the blesser of his people; this, sadly, was a lesson Solomon forgot. It should be no surprise that Jesus said “The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.” (Matthew 12:42, Luke 11:31) Jesus knew that if the Queen of the South, the Queen of Sheba, were alive in his day, she would travel from the ends of the earth to hear the message of wisdom that he preached, because his teaching, his power, his wisdom far exceeds all that Solomon had.
May we my brothers and sisters, stand on the day of judgement found in the wisdom of Jesus, the wisdom that leads to godliness. May we recognize the wisdom of Christ over the wisdom of this world, and choose Christ every time. May you be blessed because you choose to trust and to live your days in the saving grace of the wisest person who ever lived.
Jacob (Jake) Ballard
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Jake Ballard is Pastor at Timberland Bible Church. You can hear more of his thoughts and worship along with the TBC Family on Facebook, live streaming every Sunday at 10am. Reach out to Jake on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Tomorrow’s reading will be the end of the Proverbs (30-31) as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Unworthy of His Greatness

2 Samuel 7 & 1 Chronicles 17

2 Samuel 7 21 NASB

Sometimes I feel like I keep beating the same drum but when we talk about David and the Psalms I have such a difficult time getting away from his heart. The heart of this man is extraordinary and I think because of this God made him into someone extraordinary. God molded him into someone that we are still talking about to this day. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, here we go.

When we talked about David’s ability on Sunday, we talked about how he looked after God’s people and put their desires above his own. Today we will look at how David continued to be an impressive man after God’s own heart.

I want to look at the entire incident in 2 Samuel 7. In the opening paragraph David recognizes what he sees as injustice. The injustice being that though he lives in a house made of cedar, the ark of God dwells in a tent. David’s heart here is pure. He sees that what represents the presence of God for the nation of Israel is dwelling in a measly little tent while he is living in a full-blown swanky house made of cedar. He recognizes that this just doesn’t seem right. It seems very wrong that the maker of heaven and earth, the God of this nation, the reason for this nation’s success, the reason they even existed, the God who had blessed them and literally done everything for them didn’t have a proper dwelling place. He did everything from singling out Abraham and blessing him and all his descendants after him, saved them from oppression in Egypt by sending the plagues, delivered them out with Egypt’s spoils, parted the Red Sea as they walked between walls of water on either side, saved them from their enemies by collapsing that sea on the army seeking to kill them or enslave them. I could go on and on and on about all that God did for the nation of Israel. David didn’t forget any of this. He looked back in gratitude and decided that his God should at least dwell in a place as nice as the one he had. That gratitude sparked a desire in David to take the action of wanting to build a house for the ark.

God’s reaction to David wanting to build a house for him is quite interesting. He says, “Did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” God had never before asked someone to build him a house. Have you ever wondered why God never asked anyone to build him a house? Maybe he didn’t want one. Gods of other nations had physical temples. So why wouldn’t the one true God? When you look back in the history recorded in scripture it seems like God was hesitant to have a physical representation on earth that could be misconstrued. This was not without cause since in the time of the temple when God’s people had drifted away from him, they claimed that they couldn’t be taken over because of the temple. It seems like God’s focus is on his people believing in him and not becoming preoccupied with something that simply represents him. This is continued in the New Testament with what is defined as the church. God defines the church as his people and tells us that we are all the building blocks of his temple as the body of Christ. That is so awesome and mind blowing to me! The thought that I would be a building block of his temple is an overwhelmingly beautiful thought.

Let’s keep going with this passage, though. God continues to speak to David and tells him He would make a great name for him, plant his people and help to leave them undisturbed, give him rest from his enemies, make him a house, allow his children to build him a house, establish his child on the throne, love that child and discipline him as a father, establish his throne, house and kingdom forever. Dang, that is a list, right? Those are some amazing promises! For you girls, if a guy promises you the world – don’t believe him. But if God promises you all that, I would believe him. Utterly blown away is how I think I would feel if I were David.

David responds in the best way ever. He responds in the only way someone who was qualified to receive these promises should. Who am I and what is my house that you have brought me thus far? David didn’t let being king get to his head rather David knew that he was nothing without God. David knew without God he would still be that shepherd in that field. He felt unworthy of all that God had already done for him. Here is the thing, he totally was unworthy. David recognized he deserved none of these things. He recognized that there were better and smarter. David recognized how undeserving he was of the grace and love that God extended to him.

David’s response continues as I think he is lacking the words to even handle this and he says as much in verse 20. He continues to acknowledge and praise God throughout this response where he speaks about God’s knowledge of his heart, his greatness, how none is like him, praising him for raising up the nation of Israel, and stating that because God spoke those promises they would surely come true.

I think it would be too easy to disassociate from this passage and say “God never promised me any of those things” and in doing so we would miss the very heart that David had.

God sent his son to bear your sins. God has made the whole earth and it is all his. I didn’t make anything and yet I still have everything I need. My actions and my sin without the cross mean I don’t deserve a relationship with God, life or breath. My first sin should have been the end of my life and yet the Lord still gives me life and breath. He still wants me and a relationship with me. He is continually extending his grace to us EVERY SINGLE DAY. I don’t even want to think about what my life would look like without God’s grace.

In this way all of us should be responding every single day “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house that you have brought me thus far?” (2 Samuel 7:18)

 

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Samuel+7%2C+1+Chronicles+17&version=NASB

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 25, 29, 33, 36 & 39 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Patience while Preparing

2nd Samuel 5:1-10 & 1st Chronicles 11-12

2 Samuel 5 2b NIV

We return to the people, places and events of King David’s life in our reading today.  The last we read of David, he had been named king of his tribe of Judah following the death of King Saul and he was ruling in Hebron.  It is now 7 years and 6 months later, David is 30 years old and he will finally be anointed king of all 12 tribes of Israel. And he will conquer the town of Jerusalem to convert into his capital city: The City of David.

He has waited a long time for this moment.  Remember the day long ago when the prophet Samuel was sent by God to the town of Bethlehem to visit the family of Jesse.   God had revealed to Samuel that one of Jesse’s sons would be chosen to rule over Israel.  And how surprised everyone was when it was the youngest son, David, a little shepherd-boy, whom God led Samuel to anoint.

Much has happened to David since then.  His life has been full of many twists and turns.  It was not an easy or clearly illuminated path to the throne.  There had been days with great news where it seemed the kingship might not be too far off: invited into the king’s court as a musician, killed the giant, the king offers his daughter to David in marriage, and the king’s son says he wants to see David become king. But, it wasn’t to be – yet.  There would be many difficult years of hiding in exile from jealous King Saul who wanted nothing more than to see David dead.  But, Saul’s plans were nothing compared to God’s.  God would protect David, and use this time to refine David and prepare him to be king of His people.

You may be questioning God’s plans for your life.  Remember David.  You may be wondering how long you will need to be patient.  Remember David.  Even when you aren’t sure what the next step will be – rest in knowing God’s plans and design is greater than man’s.  His promises come true.  Use this time to work on refining yourself  in preparation for whatever God is preparing for you.

Don’t miss the many striking similarities between David and Jesus.  From the town of Bethlehem.  To Jerusalem.  30 years old.  King of the Jews.

Never doubt that God’s plan continues through the ages – including David, and Jesus, and YOU!  And God has so much more planned – including the return of Jesus as King and a New Jerusalem and reigning with Christ!   How are you preparing for what comes next?

Marcia Railton

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Samuel+5%3A1-10%2C+1Chronicles+11-12&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Psalm 133 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Blessings

Joshua 12-15

Joshua 14 8 NIV

Chapter 12 records all of the Kings the Israelites defeated in taking back the Promised Land to this point.  They did it with God’s help of course. Chapter 13 then describes the land that was still left to be taken.  But they would not need to fight for some of that remaining land.  God would do it for them.

 

A commentary on easyenglish.bible.com says, “This is like the Christian life. Jesus has defeated the enemy for us. He did this when he took the punishment for our sins on the cross. God still has other good things for us. He wants to give them to us. God promises all these things to us, my dear friends. So we must keep ourselves morally good. We must keep away from things that make our bodies or our thoughts morally bad.”

 

Thank goodness that Jesus removed the enemy of sin, so that we may be forgiven.  And he will ultimately defeat the enemy of death once and for all as well.  That will permit his followers to live forever with him.  But we need to be free of a lifestyle of sin in order to inherent that gift.

 

Verse 13 of Chapter 13 says, “But the Israelites did not send away the people from Geshur and Maacah. And so these people still live there among the Israelites.”  We know that God’s people had trouble down the road because they allowed traditions and religious symbols of other peoples to mix with their own.  They did not completely eradicate the things God had wanted them to, and paid the price later.  Similarly, we as Christians must defeat all of our enemies, namely sin in its many forms, in order to enjoy the full blessings of God.  Strive every day to do just that.

 

Encouraging verse of the day:

Isaiah 12:2

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.

 

 

Greg Landry

 

 

You can read or listen to today’s Bible passage at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Joshua+12-15&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s passage will be Joshua 16-18 as we continue seeking God on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

If you’re not a sinner, you can skip this

Deuteronomy 21-23

Deut 22 21 b NIV 

What we’re pulling out of this text today and applying to our lives today may at first seem contradictory, but I don’t believe that it is.

Throughout these chapters, we see the phrase, “purge the evil from among you.”  In fact, many of the instructions God gave to the Israelites were for this very purpose.

Purging implies a complete eradication.  If my kids had lice, my goal would be a complete purge.  Mostly gone wouldn’t cut it.  That’s how God sees sin.

Purge sin completely

Paul gives a great analogy in 1 Corinthians 5, comparing sin among the body of Christ (the church) to yeast,

“Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?”

And in Ephesians 5 he uses that analogy again, and gives even more instruction on choosing God’s best (living by the Spirit) instead of choosing what comes naturally (the sinful nature).

Let’s come back to that thought after we look at our next principle.  Exclusion.

Come to the Table

In Deuteronomy chapter 23, we’re shown a list of those who are to be excluded from entering the assembly of the LORD.  Those of certain ancestry, illegitimate birth, or certain physical deformities were forbidden.

Instead of applying this principle directly to believers today, what strikes me is my gratefulness that Jesus changed all of this for us.

In Matthew 22 he tells a story of a banquet that the invited guests have declined to attend.  The host decides to invite everyone, even the ‘undesirables’.

“So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.”

Paul addresses this as well in 1 Corinthians 6 when, after listing all of those who will not be a part of God’s kingdom….the sexually immoral, idolators, thieves, the greedy, the drunkards and more… he says to the church,

“And that is what some of you were.”

You might be thinking that these two principles give counter instructions.  After all, how can we “purge the evil from among us” if we are not excluding the wicked and sinful people?

Simply put, we are the sinful people.  God invites us to the table despite our wickedness, despite our illegitimacy. Once invited, the banquet changes us. As we indulge in the presence of God’s pure holiness, we are called to purge sin from our life and from our church body.  But let us never forget, like Paul writes in 1 Timothy, that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXXxLwxfo0U

 

Susan Landry

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+21-23&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Deuteronomy 24-27 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Why Give to God?

Deuteronomy 14-16

Deut 16 16b NIV

I kind of love Deuteronomy.

Although it contains a lot of laws and instructions that were specific to the Israelites, I find that many of the themes of God’s instruction to them can apply to us as well.  The ‘why’ behind many laws and rituals is at the heart of God’s best for all of us.

Our section today offers a couple of those that we’re going to peek at.

Tithing

In chapter 14, God instructs the Israelites about tithing, saying,

“Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year.  Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always.” 

Do you see that little nugget at the end?

So that.

Little phrases like that often lead to big insights.  Here, it leads us to the ‘why’ behind God’s instruction on tithing.  We all know that God needs nothing from us.  Everything already belongs to him.  The purpose of giving to God from the top (instead of the leftovers) is for us to learn to revere God.  To honor him.  To trust him.

Saying we honor and revere and trust God means nothing if we don’t show it. And when we do show it by putting him first in this way, it can provide a lens that shapes every other area of our lives.

What am I offering God?

We see another giving principle pop up in chapter 16.

“No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed.  Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you.”

This instruction was given specifically regarding three of the appointed feasts that the Israelites celebrated.  But I believe that the principle applies to us as well.  We see the proportion principle repeated in Jesus’ illustration of the widow’s offering and in Paul’s teaching on sowing/reaping generously (Luke 21, 2 Corinthians 9).

But beyond that, how would it change our church-going experience, our daily Spiritual life even, if we kept that first sentence in mind:  No one should appear before the LORD empty-handed.

Am I coming to God, offering him my monetary giving, but also my time…my talents?

What are you bringing today?

 

Susan Landry

 

Susan lives in balmy Minnesota with her favorite person, Greg, and (except for this year) their two sons.  She teaches, tutors and writes.  You can find her blog, The Sparrow’s Home, online at thesparrowshome.com  Some of Susan’s favorite words include grace, kindness, and authenticity.  Also snuggling.

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+14-16&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Deuteronomy 17-20 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Anti-Anxiety

Deuteronomy 8-10

Deut 8 6 7a NIV

Imagine that you are an Israelite that has been taking in all the words of your leader Moses. You have listened as he has given your history. You have committed to love God with all your heart, soul and strength. You have determined to follow the commands, decrees and laws that the Lord directed Moses to teach you. Soon it will be time to enter the land and possess it. You have heeded the warnings of idol worship. You have envisioned this good land flowing with milk and honey. Moses told you of all the good things that wait inside the land, but your mind also fills with doubt. You must face the nations that are physically stronger than you are. As you lie in bed, your mind races over what lies before you. It is then that you remember what else was said. “If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors. He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers.” You decide this is in the LORD’s hands, you settle in, smile and go to sleep.

 

We are sometimes faced with the same dilemmas that the Israelites faced. We live in an uncertain world. We daily experience the results of this fallen world-war, pain, sickness, … We can easily become anxious and worried. But God also provided us with a great teacher who gave us instruction. Jesus Christ told his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Our Heavenly Father and His Son are with us. They are aware of our situation. We may have to face difficult and uncertain circumstances, but they are with us as we go through them. We are certain of this, if we are faithful to them, they will always be with us.

Just like the Israelites we will set our minds on the words of God. We will remember that we live on “every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Even in our chaotic world, we should observe the commands of the Lord our God, walk in obedience to Him and revere Him because the Lord our God is bringing us to a good land. This land where righteousness dwells will reside in a new heaven and new earth.

Rebecca Dauksas

 

Today’s reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+8-10&version=NIV

 

Tomorrow’s reading will be Deuteronomy 11-13 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan