His faithfulness will be your shield

Deuteronomy 32-34, Psalm 91

Deuteronomy 32 46 47 NIV

Even things that were written with a specific audience in mind can contain principles that we can apply, too.  Our look at this section of Deuteronomy this week has shown us a number of these principles.

As we dig into these final chapters, I want to back up a smidge to chapter 31 from yesterday’s reading.  It fits a bit more to mention it here, as a lead-in to the close of the book.  What I thought after reading chapter 31 was this:

How depressing for Moses.

Here he is about to die, and God decides to tell him that, by the way, these people that you served all these years…they’re going to totally screw up and abandon me.  (I believe the phrases God uses include, “prostitute themselves to foreign gods”, “forsake me” and “break the covenant they made with me”)

Clearly God knows what he’s doing, though, as he further prompts Moses to take this information and write a song that the Israelites can sing as a reminder.  (Showing what a great teacher God is, knowing that songs stick in our minds!)

Blackout Poetry

The song of Moses can be found in Deuteronomy 32.  I want to take a look at it by singling out certain words and phrases.  Blackout poetry is a form of poetry in which you take an already printed piece (article, story, anything) and black everything out except the words you want to shine a light on.  In this instance, I think it can help us get a feeling for the heart of God in these words.

Listen

Proclaim … Oh, Praise the greatness

He is the rock…A faithful God who does no wrong

To their shame they are no longer his children…warped and crooked…foolish and unwise

He made you and formed you

Remember

He found…He shielded..cared for..guarded…fed

Abandoned God…Rejected the Rock

Jealous…Angered

“I will hide my face from them,” he said… “They angered me with their worthless idols.”

Fire kindled by my wrath

Heap calamities upon them…wasting famine…pestilence…plague…fangs…venom

Perish

Scatter

“If only they were wise and would understand”

The LORD will judge…and have compassion…When he sees their strength is gone and no one is left

I have wounded and I will heal

Rejoice

He will…make atonement for his..people

 

Speaking of poetry, Psalm 91 is a beautiful picture of God’s protection and provision.  (You can read it here  https://biblehub.com/bsb/psalms/91.htm )  One phrase I want to single out is in verse 4.  It tells us that

“His faithfulness will be your shield.”

In Moses’ song, he says that our God is,

“A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.”

We are foolish and unwise, weak and broken, and often fail.  But we can depend on God’s faithfulness.  We can trust that he does what he says he will do.  After all of this Moses tells the people in 32:47, and I remind you today:

“They are not just idle words for you—they are your life.”

 

Susan Landry

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+32-34%2C+Psalm+91&version=NIV

Tomorrow we will begin the book of Joshua (chapters 1-4).  Don’t miss out – Be Strong and Courageous – as we charge ahead on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan.

And if you haven’t started consistent daily Bible reading yet…now is a great time to start.  Come read with us and see God at work – through the books of Old Testament history – and in your heart.

Restoration is Possible

Deuteronomy 30-31

Deut 30 4 NIV

Yesterday we looked at God’s promises of blessings and curses, rewards and consequences, for the choices that the Israelites made.  We also saw that God enacted those consequences exactly as described hundreds of years later with the Babylonian captivity.

Today’s passage in Deuteronomy provides some hope that even after God punishes, he restores.

In historical context, we once again see God doing just what he promised. (See books like Ezra and Nehemiah).

God’s response to us is really no different. His word is clear on what he expects of us, and the consequences we reap can be crushing.  But if we return to him, he will always restore us.  Always.

Make good choices

From the middle of chapter 30 on, we see God literally pleading with his people to choose his ways.  He lays it all out, and reminds them that he’s not asking them for anything too hard, saying,

“Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.”

Then he reminds them of the promised rewards or consequences they will face and gives them a bit of an ultimatum and a plea,

“I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life, so that you and your children may live, and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.  For the LORD is your life”

Our sin hurts us.  But it doesn’t just hurt us, it grieves God.  His pleading with us to choose his path is not only because he knows that it’s ultimately the best for us.  He’s also pleading with us to choose him.  He loves us that much.

If you’ve found yourself suffering the consequences of bad choices, restoration is possible.  It is usually a long path, but worth every step.  Here’s a resource that you might find helpful  https://thesparrowshome.com/caught-in-sin-restoration-possible/

 

Susan Landry

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+30-31&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be the final chapters of the first 5 Books of Law – Deuteronomy 32-34 and then also Psalm 91 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Rewards, Consequences, and Follow-Through

Deuteronomy 28-29

Deut 28 1 NIV

We’re spending the week looking for principles in Deuteronomy that we can apply to modern believers.  Chapters 28 and 29 are nothing if not a striking lesson in believing God’s warnings and preparing us for end times.

In yesterday’s devotion, we thought about how moms spend a few minutes in the car before going somewhere, reminding their kids about the expectations and what consequences might ensue should they not meet those expectations.

As a parent, I found that being specific in these kinds of discussions mattered a lot.  Consistency also mattered.  If I promised a reward or consequence, it was important to follow through.

These chapters in Deuteronomy are the car discussion.

The follow-through can be found in books like Jeremiah, 2 Kings and the end of 2 Chronicles.  Honestly, we find almost word for word the exact things that God told them would happen…happened!  Hundreds of years after they were promised.

It’s not enough to be awed that God is the perfect parent…consistent in all he does.  We should be called to attention that as modern believers, we are living in a time between car discussion and follow-through…if you know what I mean.

Lord, make us ready for your kingdom

Prophecies about the end times are not my personal area of interest when it comes to Biblical study.  But I am reminded in this passage that understanding what to watch for is important.  It’s also gravely important for me to know what God’s expectations are for my life so that I can be counted among those blessed on that day.

God also reminds us that there’s no charming, schmoozing, or faking your way in, either.

Deuteronomy 29:19-21 describes a person who positions themselves among believers and invokes the blessing on themselves while thinking, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way.”  We’re told that this person will be not only punished, but singled out for disaster.

Yikes!

Tomorrow’s reading offers more in the way of promises that we can see fulfilled in history, and that we have hope for future fulfillment of as well.  In the meantime, as we think about how we can prepare for Christ’s return and our place in the Kingdom, soak in these beautiful words from the end of chapter 29:

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.”

Susan Landry

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+28-29&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be the Deuteronomy 30-31 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Reminder!


Deuteronomy 24-27

Deut 26 17 NIV

Continuing in our search for principles we can apply to modern believers found in the instructions that God gave to the Israelites, we’re going to pause in chapters 26 and 27.

At the end of Deuteronomy 26, we find an exchange that reminds me somewhat of marriage vows.  Here’s what it says,

“You have declared this day that the LORD is your God and that you will walk in his ways, that you will keep his decrees, commands and laws, and that you will obey him.  And the LORD has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands.  He has declared that he will set you in praise, fame, and honor high above all the nations he has made and that you will be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he promised.”

How lovely.

I can picture the minister, looking down at the loving couple and announcing to all gathered, “You have declared here in the presence of these witnesses…..I now pronounce you man and wife.”

Perhaps we need a similar declaration at baptisms?  Or maybe just a reminder for the church body now and then…Hey church, remember what you promised God?  Remember the contract you made with him?

Reminders of expectations

Another reminder that we see in chapter 27 tickles me a bit.  Just before entering the Promised Land, Moses instructs the Levites to stand on a mountain and recite curses to all the people.  A reminder of the consequences of the things God told them not to do. Eleven “cursed is the man who” statements that they shouted at the people.

Now, to be fair, they also blessed the people.  But in this chapter, only the curses are recorded.

What tickles me is that, as a mom, I can remember sitting in the car before taking my kids somewhere and reminding them of the expectations.

“There will be no….”

“Don’t even think about…”

“I expect you to…”

Moms everywhere know that kids that are prepped immediately before an activity are far more likely to behave than those that are maybe just reminded of expectations at random times.  Being reminded of the consequences of not following directions keeps those expectations in our mind as we enter the situation.  God knows that we are the same.

Perhaps this would be helpful to us in our daily lives as well.  Reminding ourselves of the expectations God holds for us, especially before entering possibly tempting or difficult circumstances, could help to keep us on the narrow path.

We’re going to read more about blessings and curses tomorrow.  Stay tuned…

 

Susan Landry

 

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+24-27&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Deuteronomy 28-29 as we continue 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

 

God’s Promises are Not Empty Words

Deuteronomy 17-20

Deut 20 3 4 NIV

We’re going to continue our study of Deuteronomy today by looking at a principle that, although given specifically to the Israelites, also has application today.

Let’s look in chapter 20.

“When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you.  When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army.  He shall say: “Hear, O Israel, today you are going into battle against your enemies.  Do not be faint-hearted 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.”

Promises in Action

First, it’s kind of cool to see examples of God’s people claiming this promise and God doing exactly what he promised. (Because frankly, more often than not, we see disobedience, don’t we?)  In 2 Chronicles 32, Assyria invades Judah and Hezekiah does all the typical stuff to prepare for war.  He consults his military advisors, makes some strategic moves, has weapons and shields made.  Then he addresses the soldiers with these words;

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him.  With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.”

Want to know what God did?

“And the LORD sent an angel who annihilated all the fighting men and the leaders and officers in the camp of the Assyrian king. So he withdrew to his own land in disgrace.”

Moses’ successor, Joshua, also reminded God’s people of this very promise before his death in Joshua 23.

“…the LORD your God fights for you, just as he promised.”

God will fight for you

Wondering how this principle applies to us today?  After all, I don’t know about you, but our church doesn’t have its own military battalion.  Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 that our battles are against the “powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  He further encourages us to “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.”

Whatever you are battling today, God will fight for you.

Even if you are out-manned, out gunned, or have every reason to run….don’t.

Be like Hezekiah—consult advisors, make a plan, do what you can do.  And then remember,

“The LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”

 

Susan Landry

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+17-20&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Deuteronomy  21-23 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

 

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.

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

 

Seeker Sensitive?

1 Corinthians 14

i Corinthians 14 25

Any Princess Bride fans out there?  There’s a scene in the movie where one character keeps using a word and another character says to him, “You keep using that word.  I do not think it means what you think it means.”

There’s a lot of talk about whether churches should make their services more ‘seeker sensitive’ or ‘seeker friendly’.  Believe it or not, Paul actually addresses this issue in 1 Corinthians chapter 14.  And I believe his view is a resounding ‘YES’ to the question of seeker friendly churches.

However, I think our definition of seeker sensitive and Paul’s definition are vastly different.

Typically, a seeker friendly church service does anything possible to avoid causing guests to feel uncomfortable.  We want them to come back, after all.

Here’s what Paul thought,

“If an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in…he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged…So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’” (1 Corinthians 14:24-25)

Understand that this teaching comes in a section of Paul’s letter in which he’s digging in to exactly how the Corinthian church should ‘do’ church services.  He talks about speaking in tongues, sharing prophecies, and what an orderly service might look like.  While specifics of church services may have changed over the years, I believe the principles that Paul is teaching remain true.

I’ve heard the opinion that in order to be more seeker friendly, churches should not mention the names of God or Jesus.  The Bible may be referenced, but only generally because giving verse references may cause outsiders to feel…well, like outsiders.

How can God convict someone that they are a ‘sinner and will be judged’ if we aren’t clearly and boldly preaching the Bible?

Churches should be the most loving, welcoming, friendly places in a community.  But there should be no doubt when entering that one is in a Christian environment, surrounded by people who live their lives by the instruction of God’s word.

Wouldn’t it be cool if we could master the art of boldly yet kindly speaking truth?  Maybe if we did, we’d have more visitors fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”

-Susan Landry

 

 

Ahhhh, Love

1 Corinthians 13

1 corinthians 13 4

I Corinthians 13.  The ‘love’ chapter.  Has any passage of Scripture been read at more weddings?

Let me ask you, what’s the difference between the wedding and the marriage?  We typically spend years planning and orchestrating one to be perfect and we waltz into the other without a thought and expect it to go off without a hitch.  And that’s sad.

It’s sad that this passage that so eloquently captures what real love should be is relegated to a romantic poem.

This description of love is raw.  It is get your hands dirty, give up your ‘rights’, lay down what you want, doesn’t feel good kind of real.

Patient

Kind

Trusting

Humble

Not rude

Not selfish

Not angry

Doesn’t bring up past wrongs

Protective

Never gives up

Who wouldn’t want to be married to THAT person?!  Right?  But being that person, well, that’s a big ask.

I think it’s great if you want to read this passage at your wedding.  (Pro tip if you do: Rehearse)  But remember to take the time to dig in to each one of these descriptors that Paul gives us.  You know which ones are hardest for you.

Think about how many hours you put into wedding planning.  Does your marriage deserve any less?

Check out this post that includes some helpful resources for building a strong marriage as well as advice from a number of married couples that have stood the test of time:  https://thesparrowshome.com/marriage-resources-advice/

 

-Susan Landry

 

 

 

But how do I know what my Spiritual Gift is?

1 Corinthians 12

1 Cor 12 27

Do you ever think God sits up in heaven, listening to us, and just smacks his forehead?  I do.

Think about this:  He is so amazingly gracious and wonderful that He supernaturally equips believers with gifts to make life better for all of us.  But instead of doing that…we sit around and take Spiritual gift inventories.

Head smack.

1 Corinthians 12: 4-7

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

Want to know how God has gifted you?  Here’s the super-complicated, algorithm-created, surefire way to find out.  Ready?

Try stuff.

Ta-da!

Seriously.  Try stuff.  See what fills your bucket.  What makes you light up.  What energizes, instead of drains you?

All believers are called to serve in lots of ways.  We’re all expected to demonstrate some amount of wisdom, knowledge, faith and discernment.  We are all supposed to serve through giving, helping, teaching, and working.

While I can serve by mowing the lawn or doing dishes, I don’t feel particularly pumped after doing so.  But my friend Cheryl does.  Serving others in these ways invigorates her and motivates her to do more.

Cheryl will step in and lead a class if needed, but she doesn’t love it.  I love (insert many hearts here) it.  Teaching fills my bucket, it drains hers.

So put down the Spiritual gift inventory and start doing.  Ask God to help you find your sweet spot.  I’ll bet He won’t say no.

“you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”

 

-Susan Landry