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Monday, June 29, 2015

A Note:

I will be journeying for a few weeks and am not sure I will have time to do research or write new posts. Please keep us all in prayer as we venture forth.
Gail

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Luke 7:1-10 A Devotion


Encountering Jesus
Bible Passage – Luke 7:1-10
Focal Passage – Luke 7:2-3 “There a centurion's servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant.”

I have read this passage several times over the years. The points I saw most often were Jesus performed another miracle and the Roman centurion had great faith. Indeed, that is what Jesus said in verse nine: “When Jesus heard this, He was amazed at him (the centurion), and turning to the crowd following Him, He said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.’” These are undoubtedly great points to consider and are most easy to recognize.

Today as I read this passage, verses two and three made an impression on me. “Why,” you ask, “does the fact that a Roman and Jews going to Christ interest you?” First, Romans were the rulers and, often, the oppressors of the Jews. A centurion was a man who had authority over 100 men in the Roman army. He was accountable to another man who had authority over him. When a centurion gave a command, the men under his command obeyed.

The second thing we should notice is that the people the centurion sent to summon Jesus were Jewish elders. The word from which Jewish elders comes is presbuteros. This word, for the Jews meant the Sanhedrin. Let me remind you of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin consisted of chief priests, heads of the twenty-four classes of priests, elders, men of age and experience, scribes, lawyers and those learned in the Jewish law (http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/sanhedrin/). These men were well educated in Jewish law. They were a judicial body like a supreme court and an administrative council.

What is significant in these two verses is that a Roman would seek the help of Jewish elders and Jewish elders, learned men that they were, held the Roman centurion in honor and wanted to help him. Both the Roman centurion and Jewish elders were men of authority. They commanded respect and honor. The Jewish leaders taught their people to obey the LORD God, yet they looked up to this Roman. The Roman enforced the imperial laws, yet he asked the Jewish leaders for help. That these two groups would look to the other for help, compassion, and understanding is significant.

What is even more significant is that the Jewish elders would deign to recognize and approach Jesus as having power to heal. These same elders along with the Pharisees sought to trick Jesus so they could arrest him because He had too large a following. Jesus, to them, was a radical against whom they must teach. To the Roman, Jesus was a potential trouble-maker. The Romans highly regarded their way of life. They coined a term to define it – the Pax Romana. Peace was their goal in the lands they conquered and ruled. So for the Romans, Jesus was a potential dissenter or riot-maker. The Romans kept a close eye on Him to make sure His followers and the people who opposed Him did not descend into unruliness.

From this, you realize the Roman centurion and Jewish elders working together was unusual as was their seeking Jesus for His power to heal. By admitting Jesus had power to heal and that He healed the servant, they unconsciously admitted He had power from Yahweh God. If that was true, then He was either the Son of God, as Jesus confessed, or a priest/prophet. Either way, the story ended with the centurion’s slave being healed without Jesus’ presence, just His words.

This makes me consider: Does God working in my life encourage people to seek Him? In what I do, will people encounter something of Jesus? From what I say, do people ask what I believe? You understand, each of us encounter people from different faiths and lifestyles. Is there something about your life – your words, actions, and worship different from theirs so that they encounter Jesus in you?

 At some point, the Roman centurion learned about Jesus. When his favored servant became seriously ill, he knew nothing else would heal him. The centurion chose to put his faith in Jesus because of the testimony of other people. The Jewish leaders without doubt learned about Jesus. They did not want to believe in Him, but they wanted to help their benefactor, the Roman centurion. What they received was evidence once again of Jesus’ power. At some point, these two groups received information about Jesus. The Roman chose to believe and Jesus said He had not seen such great faith “even in Israel.”

We each encountered Jesus, either from testimony or firsthand experience like physical help in one’s life. Before Jesus returns to earth, everyone will have the opportunity to hear about Him. If you have not heard of Jesus before, you now have. How will you respond to Him – in faith or in unbelief. Others of us heard about and experienced Him. We became believers. Is God working in and through your life to impact people so they ask who is your God or why do you speak of act in the way you do? People can encounter Jesus through the lives of others. Will you allow Him to meet people through you? The Roman chose to believe.  His beloved servant lived. Do you choose to believe so others can be touched, too? Are you giving credit and glory to God for what He is doing in and through your life so others will know of Jesus?

Are people able to encounter Jesus through you?


Saturday, June 20, 2015

NEVER FORSAKE YOU – DEUTERONOMY 31

Introduction

In the study of Deuteronomy 30, Moses told the Israelites when they were in exile or captivity because of their unfaithfulness to their covenant with God, God would heed their pleas and requests for forgiveness. God promised they would continue to be His chosen people. He would forgive them and take them back to the Promised Land.

In the second part of Deuteronomy 30, Moses encouraged the Israelites to “choose life.” The Israelites who stood on the brink of crossing the Jordan River were not the ones who made the original covenant with the LORD at Mount Sinai. The current Israelites were infants at that time or were born after the Sinai covenant. Moses exhorted the current Israelites to choose to be in a covenant relationship with the LORD. He encouraged them to “choose life.”

In Deuteronomy 31, we find three distinct sections of text – Moses speaking to the Israelites, God speaking to Moses and Joshua, and Moses speaking to the priests, elders, and officers. Threaded throughout these sections are the words of encouragement “be strong and courageous” and “do not fear or tremble.” Besides these, we read a few times, “God will cross ahead of you” and “God is the one who goes with you.” In the middle section, where God spoke to the Israelites, He foretold the Israelites future disobedience and turning away from Him to serve other gods. It appears Deuteronomy 30 was suitable for the Israelites to listen to before they heard God foretelling their turning away from Him. By doing so, they would understand God would always forgive them if they repented. In addition, by foretelling the Israelites’ future, God showed the Israelites once again He was not just the God of their past and present, but of their future, too.


Moses Speaks

Moses to the Israelites.

In the first section of this chapter, which encompasses verses one through thirteen, Moses spoke to three sets of people – the Israelites, Joshua, and the leaders – priests and elders. The time Moses spoke with the Israelites is in verses one through 6. Verses seven and eight record Moses speaking to Joshua. His command to the priests and elders is in verses nine through thirteen.

Moses began his speech to the Israelites reminding them of his age. He was 120 years old. Moses spent forty years in Egypt learning how to lead people, forty years shepherding and learning to follow the LORD, and forty years with the Israelites learning from God how to lead/shepherd His people. In the Bible, the number forty often reflects times of trial – to learn and discipline oneself to be a better follower of God. We see Moses’ life as just such a case. Besides reminding them of his age, Moses told them he could not lead them any longer and would not cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land. If you remember, the latter was God’s punishment of Moses from Numbers 20. At that time, the people grumbled about having no drink. God told Moses to tell the rock to yield its water. When Moses arrived before the people, he hit the rock and water came from it. He did not give the credit and glory to God (Num. 20:12); therefore, the people did not learn God provided for them again. Remember, part of Moses’ task was to help them know (yada’ – progressively come to know) of and who the LORD was. At this point in Deuteronomy 31, Moses told the Israelites he would lead them no longer. He reminded them God would cross before them as He had previously gone before them.

Besides God crossing the Jordan with them, their next God-appointed leader, Joshua, would cross before them, too. Remember, Joshua was one of the twelve spies who scouted the Promised Land. He was one of the two spies who said the Israelite should have gone into the land forty years before when God told them He would give them the land. As God would have done forty years before and did to the Amorites on the east side of the Jordan, He would do to the Canaanites when the Israelites crossed the Jordan River at their current time. The LORD would deliver the Canaanites to them. The Israelites were to do as the He commanded them do to the Amorites (vs. 4-5).

Moses encouraged the Israelites in the last part of this sub-section when he said God would be with them. He told them to be “strong and courageous” and “do not be afraid or tremble.” Because God was with them, the Israelites had no one and nothing to fear. They were strong because God is strong. Moses told them to be bold and step out in faith because of that fact. From experience, they would be acquainted with the LORD God and His strength and omniscience. The Israelites could stand in faith knowing what God commended them to do would occur as long as they followed Him.

Moses to Joshua.

This sub-section of the chapter is just two verses long. In front of the Israelites, Moses called Joshua to him. While standing before the people, Moses told Joshua God chose him to lead His people into the Promised Land. He encouraged Joshua by telling him to “be strong and courageous” (vs. 7) and “do not fear or be dismayed” (vs. 8). You will notice Moses said the same to the Israelites in verse six. He said it again in verse twenty-three.

Moses next told Joshua he would go with the people into the Promised Land (vs. 7), but with God going before them (vs. 8). This may have been the first time Joshua discovered Moses would not be going into the Promised Land. He may have felt fear. Moses encouraged him when he said, “The LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail or forsake you” (vs. 8). The last part of this verse is a promise many Christians have held on to over the centuries. We understand Joshua reminded the people of this in Joshua 1:5 and the writer of Hebrews used it in Hebrews 13:5. God proved Himself faithful to the Israelites and His covenant with them. We read of it in the Bible many times.

Moses encouraged the Israelites by saying God would go ahead of them, just as he did to Joshua. He told them to be strong and courageous; do not fear or be dismayed, just as he did Joshua. Moses was their leader. From him the Israelites learned about God. They learned how to recognize Him, and how to hear and obey Him. Moses prepared the Israelites for his departure by giving them a God-appointed leader, Joshua. He encouraged them further with his words by reminding them who God was and is for them and who He would continue to be. Just as Moses called out Joshua from the Israelites, he spoke directly to their leaders – the priests and elders of the tribes.

Moses to the Leaders.

In this sub-section of section one in the chapter, Moses directed his speech to the Israelite leaders – the priests and elders of the tribes. Moses wrote the law – the commands, laws, statutes, and ordinances – God gave to the Israelites over their forty years’ journey. He finished writing them with Deuteronomy 31. Moses next gave the book of the Law to the priests with a command (vs. 9).

Moses commanded these leaders do two things with the Law and at two specific times. First, he charged the priests to read God’s Law every seven years at the remission of debts and every year at the Feast of Booths (vs. 10). These two feasts and festivals were when God required every Israelite and resident of Israel to worship at the sanctuary or temple.

The second command Moses gave the priests and elders was to gather every person of Israel to listen to the reading of God’s Law so they would learn and fear the LORD being careful to observe all of it (vs. 11-12). We must remember what the Hebrew words for “hear,” “learn,” “fear,” “careful,” and “observe” mean to understand the depth of this command. “Hear” comes from the Hebrew word shama’ and means to hear, listen, and obey. Remember the Hebrew culture taught when students learned things they should listen to and act upon them else the person did not truly hear. “Learn” derives from the Hebrew word lamad, which means to exercise in and learn. Practicing the laws by acting upon them was important. “Fear” comes from the Hebrew word yare’. It means to fear and revere. The Israelites were to revere the LORD from whom the laws came and by association hold fast to His laws. They carried great weight and influence amidst the people of Israel. “Careful” comes from the Hebrew word shamar, which has the same root as shama’. Shamar means to hear, listen, preserve and guard, and to give heed. Finally, “observe” comes from the Hebrew word ‘asah and means to observe, accomplish, and do. Over the forty years that Moses lived with and led the people of Israel, he taught them about God and they saw His might and power. They gained a first-hand impression of Him. By itself, that should have made them fear and revere the LORD enough that His commands would carry great weight and impel them to love and obey Him.

Moses closed this sub-section of the chapter by impressing on the people one other matter. By assembling and reading/hearing the Law of God at these two festivals/feasts, they would make sure later generations heard and knew God, His actions, power, and laws. They would obey them and not go astray. Moses said it in verse thirteen, “Their children, who have not known, will hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as you live on the land, which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess.” Moses gave a very similar statement to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 11:19. He told them, “You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.” The parents had the responsibility for training their children to know and obey the LORD God. In this sub-section, Moses made the priests and elders responsible for ensuring the people of Israel heard and understood the Law of God at these two festivals/feasts either yearly or every seven years. So, for this section, Moses told his age, of Joshua becoming the leader of the Israelites, and the requirement for the priests and elders to recite the Law and teach Israel.

God Speaks

Section two of this chapter encompasses verses fourteen through twenty-three. God commanded Moses and Joshua to go to the tent of meeting. He foretold to them of the Israelites’ forsaking Him and breaking His covenant. God explained what His reaction would be. He commanded Moses to write a song about this for the Israelites as a testimony and witness against them when they sin. At the end of this section, God chose and commissioned Joshua as the new leader of the Israelites.

Obedience and Affirmation.

The first verse of this section, verse fourteen, is significant. It says, “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Now the day of your death is near. Call Joshua and present yourselves at the Tent of Meeting, where I will commission him.’ So Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves at the Tent of Meeting.” The first thing we note is the LORD told Moses his death was imminent. Moses realized he would not enter the Promised Land. This statement explained it would happen soon.

In the second sentence of this verse, God gave a command to Moses and Joshua. For Moses, obeying that command began his descent from leadership and inaugurated Joshua’s rise to Moses’ position. God prepared Joshua for the leadership position and now He would commission him.

The third important fact of this section is their obedience to God’s command. They did not linger where they were, but went at once to the Tent of Meeting. When God gives a command, a person should obey it right then. We should recognize one other important fact. By being at the Tent of Meeting, the Israelites would be around and would see and overhear God’s commission of Joshua and decommissioning of Moses. They would hear the LORD’s voice for themselves. Moses could have explained what occurred after the fact, but God wanted them to listen to and see Him. It became an affirmation by God of Joshua’s commissioning and Moses’ descent from leadership. It confirmed what Moses said to Joshua and the Israelites.

LORD’s Foretelling.

The second sub-section of this section, verses fifteen through twenty-two, tells us what the LORD said in the doorway of the Tent of Meeting. Remember, by being at the doorway of the Tent of Meeting, the Israelites could listen to the LORD’s voice and apprehend what He said to Moses and Joshua. The LORD appeared as a pillar of cloud, a familiar sight for the Israelites.

In the first part of His speaking, He reiterated what Moses said before to Joshua. The LORD said Moses would soon die (vs. 16). Moses realized he would soon have rest from leading the fickle Israelites and would receive his punishment, which God assigned to him for taking His glory.

The second part of verse sixteen, in the same breath as the first part, revealed the Israelites would soon be unfaithful to God. The biggest part of this section is God’s foretelling of the Israelites’ disobedience to Him and His covenant. God spoke about their unfaithfulness and His resultant actions against them in verses seventeen through twenty-one because of their forsaking Him and breaking His covenant (vs. 16). He expounded on what the Israelites would do when they forsook Him and broke His covenant. The LORD said, “They will turn to other gods and serve them, and spurn Me and break My covenant” (vs. 20). Notice this reflects a progressive turning away from God beginning with turning to other gods to completely separating from the LORD God.

What were the LORD’s reactions and actions because of the Israelites forsaking Him and breaking His covenant? They kindled His anger against them. He said in verses seventeen, eighteen, and twenty-one He would be angry with them. The LORD would forsake them and hide His face from them. Evils and troubles would come upon the Israelites and consume them. The LORD explained why the latter would happen. He said in verse seventeen, “So that they will say in that day, ‘Is it not because our God is not among us that these evils have come upon us?’” God reiterated for emphasis in verse eighteen what He said in verse seventeen. He said, “But I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they will do, for they will turn to other gods.”

The LORD explained the tendency of humans when He explained why the Israelites would forget Him when things were going well. He said in verse twenty when the people had eaten, became satisfied, and became prosperous, they would feel no need for the LORD. They would become lax in their faithfulness to Him and His covenant. That would lead the Israelites to begin turning to other gods. First, they would turn to the other gods, then serve and worship them, spurning the LORD completely. In the end, the Israelites would break His covenant.

In verse nineteen, God commanded Moses to write this in a song – to write about God’s history with the Israelites, their covenant with Him, their falling away and God’s anger, and God’s grace and forgiveness when they returned to Him. He explained why He wanted a song written. God said at the end of verse nineteen, “So that this song may be a witness for Me against the sons of Israel.” The LORD said this again in verse twenty-one, too. He said, “This song will testify before them as a witness (for it shall not be forgotten from the lips of their descendants); for I know their intent, which they are developing today, before I have brought them into the land which I swore.” [NASB] In verse twenty-eight, Moses said the words of this song would “call the heavens and earth to witness against them.” The song obediently sung through the generations would remind the Israelites of God and their faithfulness to Him, His anger for unfaithfulness, and forgiveness for repentance. It would be a teaching and reminding tool. In that way, the heavens and earth would witness what the LORD and Moses told them about God and their covenant with Him. The song would teach them of God’s judgment for unfaithfulness, too. No Israelite could say he or she was unacquainted with God, His laws, and His judgments. The song would give a witness against the Israelites for disobedience. Most of all, the song would remind them to be faithful to God. God perceived the intent and weakness of the Israelites’ hearts.

God knows the intent and possibility of humankind to turn their backs on Him when they are prosperous. As we learned in Deuteronomy 30, He is willing to forgive His children who repent of their sins/disobedience. This song reminds people of every age who God is, what He did and will do, what He requires of His children – faithfulness, and what will occur because of faithfulness and unfaithfulness. In his faithfulness to the LORD God, Moses wrote the song and taught it to the Israelites (vs. 22). Deuteronomy 32 is this song. 

God Commissions.

The final sub-section of this section concerns Joshua’s commission. Moses recorded Joshua’s commissioning by God in verse twenty-three. He said, “Then He [God] commissioned Joshua son of Nun, and said, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the sons of Israel into the land which I swore to them, and I will be with you.’” [NASB] Each part of this commissioning repeats what Moses told Joshua and the Israelites in verses seven through eight and verses three and six. The LORD commanded and encouraged Joshua – be strong and courageous. Be strong because the LORD is strong. Be strengthened in your mind and heart, the LORD meant, because of who He is and because He was with him and went ahead of him. Joshua had no one and nothing to fear because of the LORD’s presence and might. The LORD would never fail or forsake him. God stated the same thing Moses did in verses six and eight to emphasize and add weight to it.

The Israelites listened to what occurred in the doorway to the Tent of Meeting. It could have encouraged them to stay faithful to the LORD and His covenant. The Israelites received words of encouragement from Moses. They noted the LORD’s words of command and encouragement to Joshua. This may have encouraged them to be faithful to the LORD and His covenant.

Moses’ Commands

The last section of this chapter are verses twenty-four through twenty-nine. Verse thirty is part of Deuteronomy 32. In this last section, Moses finished writing God’s laws in a book. He then gave commands to the priests.

Moses commanded the priests to take the book of laws, place it beside the Ark of the Covenant, and gather the elders and officers of Israel. He said the book of the Law must lay beside the Ark of the Covenant so it would be a witness against the Israelites (vs. 26). They could not say they did not learn the laws of God since Moses and God both told them. Moses wrote them in a book to be a visible testament available to them, too. Moses and the LORD recognized the Israelites were rebellious and stubborn. The priests had the responsibility to teach the Israelites God’s Law. God and Moses held them accountable to this task.

Next, Moses commanded the priests to gather the elders and officers of the tribes of the Israelites. Moses told them the words of the Law. He told these leaders what God foretold about the Israelites, too. By doing this, Moses ensured they heard and knew God’s Law and knew what He expected of the Israelites. In speaking aloud to make sure they caught what he, Moses, said, the heavens and earth bore witness against them should the Israelites forsake God and His covenant. Moses understood the Israelites - their fickleness and stubbornness. He recognized they would “act corruptly and turn from the way” he commanded them (vs. 29). From God, Moses understood when they turned from God evil would fall on them because, in His anger, God allowed it. Moses had been accountable to God for the Israelites the last forty years. Now the elders, officers,  and priests would be accountable to teaching and enforcing God’s Law, too.

Moses ensured the leaders of the Israelites and the tribes of Israelites hearkened to and knew the laws of God. He wrote those laws in a book and had the priests place it next to the Ark of the Covenant. Moses commanded the priests, elders, and officers of the Israelites to teach and enforce the Law because he realized the hearts of the Israelites would forsake God and His covenant. By making the leaders accountable for the obedience of the Israelites, Moses hoped the people would stay faithful and not endure God’s anger after he died. By their faithfulness, God would not allow evil and troubles to befall them. Moses did what he could as a human leader to help keep his people from falling away from God and His laws.

Recap

This chapter began with Moses speaking to the people and Joshua, preparing them for their crossing of the Jordan River, and for the claiming of Canaan as the Promised Land of the LORD. He told the tribes he would die soon and Joshua would take over leadership of the people. Moses commanded the priests read the Law of God at the Feast of Booths every year and at the seventh year remission of debts. These festivals and feasts would regularly remind the Israelites of God and their covenant with Him. The future generations of Israelites would learn, too, of the LORD and His covenant. Moses reminded the priests in verse twelve to read to and teach the people to “hear and learn and fear the LORD [their] God and be careful to observe all the words of this Law.”

With the second section of the chapter, the LORD commanded Moses and Joshua to go to the Tent of Meeting. He appeared as a pillar of cloud at the doorway of the there. The LORD proclaimed that Moses would soon die. Next, God foretold the Israelites forsaking Him and breaking covenant with Him. He explained how His anger would be kindled, he would forsake them, and hide His face from them. When that occurred, evils and troubles would consume the Israelites. They would recognize that the LORD was not with them while they were in the midst of troubles and evil. Because God perceived the intent of the Israelites’ hearts, He commanded Moses to write a song for the Israelites about Him and their relationship with Him. The song would help them remember God and His covenant and would aid them in teaching their children. It would readily be on their lips. The Israelites could not say they did not comprehend because Moses taught them for the previous forty years and the song testified to God and His covenant with them. They were accountable for their obedience to the Law of God. As Moses taught the people the song and as they listened to the LORD foretelling their future (of their stubborn and rebellious hearts), the heavens and earth could witness against the Israelites if they forsook God and disobeyed His laws.

The last part of God’s speaking in the Tent of Meeting was His commissioning of Joshua in front of the Israelites – priests, elders, officers, and tribes. They bore witness to God’s commission of Joshua. As Moses told the Israelites and Joshua at the beginning of this chapter, God told Joshua to be strong and courageous. He would be with Joshua to instruct and lead him as he leads the Israelites. God would bring the Israelites into the land He swore to give them.
The final section of this chapter tells us of Moses completing his writing of God’s laws in a book – the book of Law. He then commanded the priests to place it beside the Ark of the Covenant. Next Moses called the elders and officers to tell them the words of God. He told them this book of the Law and the heavens and earth would be witnesses against them and their people if they forsook the LORD and His covenant. These leaders of Israel were held accountable for the Israelites’ faithfulness to God and His covenant. Moses reminded them that forsaking the LORD meant His anger would be kindled against them and evil would come upon them.

Relevance and Conclusion

In this chapter, a change of leadership and a command to be accountable to the LORD and His covenant occurs. God held the leaders of Israel accountable for teaching and enforcing those laws when Moses gave and told of the book of God’s Law. The leaders understood it was a difficult responsibility to keep the Israelites faithful to the LORD God. They had experienced the people’s disobedience and stubbornness. These leaders had seen God’s anger kindled against the Israelites before and listened to God’s foretelling of their disobedience and His punishment in the future. Because they did not want this to occur, they would teach God’s laws to every generation of Israelite and resident of Israel, out of either faithfulness and reverence or fear and trembling. Before, Moses was the leader and Aaron the priest. They were the only human leaders. After Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, counseled him, he called for other leaders from the different tribes. Upon Moses’ death, other leaders would be accountable for the Israelites’ faithfulness to God and His covenant.

We understand from history the Israelites were not always faithful to God and their covenant with Him. They failed several times, repented to God, and He took them back to Israel. Was the fault due to the leaders – priests, elders, and officers? Were the Israelites at fault for their faithlessness? We could point fingers, but we would miss the point. God held each person accountable for faithfulness to Him and His Law. Individual people can forsake God. When enough did that, the nation fell. The leaders were there to teach God’s laws and encourage faithfulness to Him. When a person became unfaithful, the leader was to help bring that person back to faithfulness and covenant with God. If the person wandered from God too long, his or her failed faith and turning to other gods could lead more people to forsake God. This interweaving of responsibility – leaders and individual - makes and keeps a society strong or weakens it and makes it susceptible to God’s anger and judgment.

We need to ask ourselves if we are falling away from God. Is something becoming more important in our lives than the Lord? What is it and what do we need to do to restore our relationship with Him? On the other side of this, we Christians, as part of the royal priesthood of believers, are accountable to help other Christians grow in their faith so they do not slide and turn away from the Lord. We are not to point fingers and yell “sinner” at them. Out of love and knowledge that God wants them to have the best possible life, life that comes only through Jesus Chris, we teach, guide, and encourage them. So we are each individually accountable to God for our faithfulness and corporately accountable to Him for encouraging, teaching, and nurturing other believers to stay true to the Lord. When we are faithful to the Lord, He is pleased and promises abundant life here on earth as we live in our human bodies. As Christians, we have received the promise of eternal life in heaven. Obedience and faithfulness to God now brings abundant life, not just a trudging, toiling drudgery to which to awake everyday.
We have a choice to make each day –
Stay faithful to God and love Him with our heart, soul, mind, and strength
Or
Walk the road we want not caring if it is in God’s plan.

What do you choose?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Deuteronomy 31 A Devotion

Deuteronomy 31  A Devotion
In Deuteronomy 31, we read about four types of leaders and a group of people making one community. Moses, who was about to die, and Joshua are the leaders called and commissioned directly by God. God set aside the priests from the tribe of Levi to lead the spiritual life of the Israelites. Since Israel was the only true theocracy, they lead the spiritual life involved civic leadership, too. The elders helped instill and keep civic laws that came about from God’s laws. They were the wiser and sometimes older people of the community. The officers generally were the ones who led bands of men in armies, but they could also be the keepers of peace in the towns, cities, and countryside. These sets of leaders led groups of people.
Moses directed a portion of chapter 31 to the leaders, but he directed his speech to the tribes of Israel, too. He reminded them to remain faithful to the LORD God. He encouraged them to stand strong and be courageous; the LORD was with them. In this chapter, too, Moses reminded them what God said in the doorway of the Tent of Meeting. The LORD foretold their future unfaithfulness to Him and their covenant with Him. This, He said, would result in His anger being kindled and evil falling on them.
Were any of these groups of people not accountable to God? No, there were not. All of them individually were accountable to God for their own faithfulness to God and their covenant with Him. God, though, created a distinction between the leaders of people and the individual people. They led the people to follow the will of the LORD as laid out in His Law. Besides that, they were accountable to God for teaching His Law and encouraging the Israelites’ faithfulness to Him and His covenant. Both groups of people – individuals and leaders – God held accountable to Him individually. The leaders had the greater burden of being accountable to God for education and encouragement to faithfulness of other people.
Today is the same. Today when you are a child of God, a Christian, you individually are saved from your sins, enter into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ,  and are given eternal life when you earthly life is done. Besides that, we are part of the priesthood of the believer. We are commissioned by Christ to go tell other people about Him and God’s salvation plan – the Gospel. Jesus told us to go make disciples (Matthew 28:19). Making disciples is not a once-off event. This requires teaching, encouraging, mentoring, training, and much prayer. God holds us accountable to go tell and to disciple. Discipling and encouraging helps a person not rebel and turn away from God. This makes us like the priests, elders, officers, Joshua, and Moses.
Just as the Israelites one by one began to turn away from God and then the nation turned away from God, this happens today. The LORD set up leadership back then to teach, train, and encourage people to stay true to Him. Today each of us as “priests” (messengers and teachers) for God are accountable. The leaders back then were to help keep the nation strong and faithful to the LORD. We, too, can do this. We are accountable to the Lord as Christian and as priests/disciples called out by God to help our brother or sister in Christ remain strong in the Lord. Yes, God wants us to go out and tell the Good News. He also wants us to disciple and strengthen the people who are already Christians.
We are accountable as individual Christians, disciplers, and preachers who tell the Good News.
Have you fallen back on one of some of these roles? You are accountable to God for each of them.
Turn back to God and let Him lead you to be leader and individual – one who cares for God, his brother or sister and Christ, and one’s self.

What will you choose to do and be?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Deuteronomy 31:1-2 A Devotion

"So Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel. And He said to them, 'I am a hundred and twenty years old today; I am no longer able to come and go, and the LORD has said to me, 'You shall not cross this Jordan.'" [NASB]

You notice Moses did not say anything else about God not allowing him to enter the Promised Land. He did not complain or weep about it. Moses knew why God did not allow him to enter there.

In Numbers 27:13-14, God told Moses he would be punished for He was being punished by God for not honoring Him as holy at the waters in the Desert of Zin. In this desert, the Israelites complained about not having water. The LORD told Moses to speak to a specific the rock and water would gush out from it. Moses chose to strike the rock, berate the people, and did not give God the glory for the miracle and providing the Israelites with water.

We note in Deuteronomy 3:25-27 Moses asked God to allow him to go over to see the land. The LORD stood firm on His punishment of Moses. The next time we hear from Moses about this subject is right before his death in Deuteronomy 31.

Moses had seen God at work - His might, provision, love, and protection. He had seen God's patience tested with the Israelites. Moses was tested by them. Because he knew God, knew He is holy and righteous, and knew he was wrong and deserved punishment, he did not challenge God's judgment. Moses had been blessed by God. Pharaoh raise him in Egypt and educated him by the best teachers to be a leader in Egypt. Moses stood up for his people when the Egyptians oppressed them. As a shepherd, he acquired a personal relationship with the LORD God and learned how to lead people God’s way. As the LORD's chosen leader of the Israelites, he saw God's power and might in action to bring them out of Egypt and provide for them. Moses could not argue with God's judgment of his actions in Numbers 27.

Moses expressed in Deuteronomy 31 he had a very long life. He knew the LORD would soon come for him. Moses called forward the man God appointed to be his successor and introduced him to the Israelites. He heralded in the future of the Israelites and gave credit to God with his obedience at the end.

How many of us can say we would accept God's judgment of our wrongs as quietly as Moses did? How many of us would willingly and  graciously usher in the next leader and God-anointed person?

We need to get to a point where we recognize the holiness of the LORD God and listen to and obey Him because of Who He is. When we do that, we will sin against and offend Him less. When we disobey, because we recognize God's holiness, we can accept with grace God's punishment while at the same time recognizing, as Moses did, God's recognition of good service to Him.

Yes, we will all sin and be punished by God at some time during our lives. Maybe more than once. Yet if we are children of God, we know the punishment is not for eternity. Jesus redeemed and saved us. We will be renewed and made holy and blameless. For now though, while we live on this earth, let us accept our justifiable punishment from God with grace and possibly, just possibly, lead more people to discover and accept the LORD God by our humble acceptance of His righteous judgment.

Will you accept that challenge? Will you accept God's righteous judgment on you for your fault/sin/error recognizing that He is holy and deserves honor and glory even when we deserve judgment and punishment?

God is glorious and majestic even when we are sinful. We will never take that away from Him.
Give Him the glory even in receiving punishment.
It is for your growth and for His honor and the praise of His glory.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Hebrews 12:5-8, 11-13 A Devotion

5 Have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.
11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. [NIV]

This devotion continues the thought from yesterday’s devotion. Yesterday the author of Hebrews encouraged Christians not to grow weary when faced with trials and suffering because we are not suffering anything the saints who went before us did not suffer. They continued running their race in the midst of persecution and trials and remained faithful. In addition, Jesus endured persecution and suffering but did not waver in but kept running the race so that ever person of the world could be saved from sin and death. We must continue to run the race because we are like them and they continued their race. That was point one.

Point two was that the great crowd of witnesses watching us from heaven as we live our lives in the trials and persecutions (in addition to the times of joy and exhilaration) cheer us on to remain faithful and endure to the end. We have a cheering section at the stadium who encourage us to keep running, not to give up.

In today’s passage, we hear the writer’s words in our minds and recognize God’s voice telling us our times of trial are permitted to affect us so that we can be disciplined. Any athlete who is good or wants to be good at his sport disciplines his or her body so that the muscles work like a well-oiled machine. The muscles are trained by the determination of the person’s mind.

That is what our trials are like. They are discipline. Discipline is not punishment or chastisement, but a way to develop the body or person. God allows trials to come to develop and grow us to be more like Him, to be more righteous and holy. The writer said this in the verse seven when he said, “Endure hardship like discipline.” Discipline is not punishment, but training. It is a growing experience to mature our minds, hearts, and bodies.

The writer of Hebrews used the analogy of a father disciplining his child. When the child is more mature, he or she sees what the father did as a positive thing, a way to mature the child so that he or she would be a properly functioning adult and member of society. That father is compared to Father God. God allows trials to grow His children to be mature in their faith as well as righteous and holy – like Himself.
That is the first point – we are to look at trials as discipline, an opportunity to grow. So look at it in that way when you face a difficult time. How can you grow from that difficult time? What does God want you to learn from that experience?

The second point of this passage is that we each have to determine for ourselves to strengthen our mind, heart, and body for the task of growing through the trial. We must decide in our minds that we will get through it, realize it is an opportunity to be used for Father God (heart), and then focus ourselves and our bodies to be strong and endure. By doing this, our faith grows and our bodies are more prepared to live the Christian life on earth as a more pure, righteous, and holy child of God. That is strengthening our feeble arms and legs and making paths straight.

Choose to be trained by trials and suffering. Choose to stand strong in your faith so that God can make you more like Christ – holy and righteous. Being a child of God requires the head, heart, and body – mind, soul, and body. Choose to be disciplined and grow more like Christ. When we go through trials and grow stronger in our faith, we can then say as Paul did in Romans 5:3-5,


"We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." [NIV]

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Hebrews 12:1-4 A Devotion

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin.” [NASB]

This passage is often recalled when a person is overwhelmed with trials and suffering. The passage gives hope. Hope it what way, you may ask. To some these verses reveal that there is more suffering to come since the people who have walked their faith in earlier times had more than us to deal with.

Yet for most people, we see it as a source of hope. Yes, the Christians who came before us endured much animosity and anger, but we see what their reward was. We see that they held on to their faith and endured because they had a hope greater than the trials they went through.

The faith of our forebears can be our encouragement. They endured this and that and still did not doubt the Father’s love. These saints in the faith endured them and went on to be with the Father in heaven. These are the “great cloud of witnesses.”

These are the people whose faith under persecution helps us endure in our times of struggle. These witnesses not only give us hope because of what they endured, they give us hope as a cheering gallery as we run our race in life in the midst of our joys and trials. They stand and tell you, “Keep going; do not lose hope. We know from our lives the hope we had is truth. Do not give up.”

These saints identified with Jesus because they endured trials and suffering just as Jesus did in His earthly life. They looked to Jesus as their example and so can and should we. We look to the Christians who have lived before us and endured. In addition, we can and should look to Jesus Christ as the supreme example of living with hope and faith during trials and suffering. He endured the cross because of His love for all of us. He did not back down from what He had to do to save us. He took the hard way of His own choice.

We can look to the saints and Jesus who walked before us as encouragement that we will make it through our difficult times. We look to Jesus the author and perfecter of our hope, too. Finally, we look to these who have gone before us in faith and with hope as our cheering squad encouraging us to keep running the race.

Are you going through an exceptionally hard time? Do you need to be encouraged to keep up your faith, keep running? Look to our cloud of Christian witnesses who faced persecution, trials, and suffering. Know you are going through your difficult times just as they did theirs, but your end result, like them, is God’s strength now to get through it and the hope of living with God in His kingdom at the end. In addition, know that Jesus went through trials and persecution, too, and He not only endured them, but defeated them with His resurrection.

As a child of God, we have that hope. We will get through. Do not grow weary and lose heart. We will be able to say as Paul did  in Romans 8:35-39,
 "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." [NIV]

Will you continue to walk your days with faith and hope?


Monday, June 15, 2015

Romans 5:20b - 6:14 A Devotion


5:20 Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
6:1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin.
 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. [NASB]

Points to consider from this passage –
1. God’s grace is greater than the amount of sin people commit. His grace abounds. He gives righteousness for every sinner to cover all their sin through Jesus Christ.
2. Does that mean we can keep on sinning because God’s grace will forgive us no matter what? It is your decision to live the life Jesus Christ died to put into you.
a.    If you continue to sin because you say grace will always cover you, you are making yourselves slaves to sin again instead of living the freedom Christ gives to you through His resurrection.
b.    When we accept God’s gift of grace, we accept forgiveness and salvation as well as newness of life – escape from the old life of sin, which entangled us in sin from which we could not escape on our own. This new life is united with Christ Jesus so we have the power of Christ to overcome temptations and sin to be free from the entanglements in which Satan wants to keep us.
c.    So we understand since Jesus Christ rose from the dead to which Satan thought he banished Him with crucifixion on the cross and since we have accepted His gift of grace and salvation which gives us new life, we know we, too, are raised from the dead and are no longer slaves to sin and the resultant death it brings to us.
d.    We have the power to beat Satan and His schemes. We are alive to God in Christ Jesus.
e.    So do not obey sin and its lust so that it continues to reign in your earthly bodies, but give yourselves to God as alive from the dead. With God, sin will not be master over you.
3. Then we can say with Paul, “Thanks be to God that though you [I was] were slaves of sin, you [I] became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you [I was] were committed [the teaching that enslaved you to sin], and having been freed from sin, you [I] became slaves of righteous [which is freedom and results in sanctification, the being made holy and pure by God].”

Considering this passage from Paul and knowing he spoke the truth as revealed by God and experienced by himself, will we continue to choose to sin after we have been freed from it, from its enslavement. Make no mistake, choosing to sin imprisons you. One step towards it leads to another and then another, then you become blinded to the truth of God by Satan’s deceptions. Do not make that mistake. Take on the new life Christ died to give you, the life of truth, grace, love, and life. Do not let sin entangle you, then you can give thanks to God as Paul gave thanks to God for the Roman Christians who gave their lives to Christ. The life Christ died to give you is the taking on of His freedom of sin and receipt of eternal life as well as His attributes. It is the becoming more life Christ with each day. We each have to choose whether we will accept this gift from God or if we will continue to walk in the blindness of Satan and sin still more.

What will you choose –
God’s love, grace, forgiveness, and eternal life through Jesus Christ, who gives freedom from sin
or
Continuing in your old life of sin, which leads to slavery to sin/Satan and death?

Choose life. Choose freedom from sin.
Choose to live the new life Christ died to give you.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

1 Samuel 31:11-13 A Devotion

11 When the people of Jabesh Gilead heard of what the Philistines had done to Saul, 
12 all their valiant men journeyed through the night to Beth-shan. They took down the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall of Beth-shan and went to Jabesh, where they burned them. 
13 Then they took their bones and buried them under a tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and they fasted seven days.

In this chapter, we read of the last stand of King Saul and three of his sons. They fought the Philistines and lost the battle. The Philistines did not honor Saul, but beheaded him and hung his body along with his sons on the walls of Beth-shan.

The people of Jabesh-Gilead heard of this tragedy and dishonor. They purposed, even though they were afraid of the Philistines, to sneak to Beth-shan and remove the men’s bodies from the walls. These men chose to put their lives at risk to show gratitude to Saul.

Prior to this time, when the city of Jabesh-Gilead was attacked by the Ammonites, their ruler, Nahash, would only make a treaty with the people of Jabesh-Gilead if he could gouge out the right eye of everyone in the city (1 Samuel 11). The people were horrified. They requested time to make a decision. During the seven days they were given, they sent S.O. S. messages throughout Israel. Saul, the strong, virulent leader of men, purposed and acquired the man-power to overtake the Ammonites. For this, the people of Jabesh were grateful to King Saul. For this, they chose to put into action their gratefulness to him.

This story should make us think back and remember those who did good things for us. Who affected your life in a positive way? Have you shown your gratitude to them? Have you acted upon that gratitude? Now is the time be thankful and act upon it. Now is the time to be grateful and show it to the person who was kind and good toward you.

Possibly, you need to consider what God has done for you in giving you salvation. Have you given Him thanks? Have you shown Him in action your gratitude? What have you done today?


Each day should be lived with an attitude of thanks and praise and with actions expressing this.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Philippians 1:12-14 & 29-30 A Devotion


12 Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. 
13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 
14 Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.
29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, 
30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

Paul began this letter with thanks and joy for Philippian Christians. Even from prison, he encouraged and praised them. Paul recognized that he could die and that would be all right with him, but to live was better for these people and others so they could hear the Gospel of Christ and mature in it, bearing the fruits of the Spirit.

Paul explained that his imprisonment turned out for the good. Many of the Roman guards then had the opportunity to hear the Gospel, which might not have occurred if he was not imprisoned. So when he said he was in chains for Christ, it was not a lament, but a joy and praise that God used him there even if he had to endure the hardships of prison.

Paul continued this passage by adding another benefit to his being in prison. He said that his imprisonment in chains encouraged others of his brothers and sisters in Christ to tell the Gospel without fear and with boldness. Because in Paul’s imprisonment Christians saw the grace God gave him and the boldness of his proclamation that led many to become followers of Christ, this gave courage to others to increase their proclamation of the Gospel without fear.

At the end of this chapter, Paul told them because of their great faith, people came to see them as strong Christians worthy of receiving persecution. His brothers and sisters in Christ should be proud they were counted as one of Jesus’ followers. They stood strong and bold for Christ and were seen as His followers. Not only did this mean they endured suffering because of their faith, but they could know for sure the hope of Christ Jesus – His promise of strength now and eternal life for the future. In addition to this, they could have the hope of making it through the earthly suffering because Paul expressed his joy and assurance that God was not finished with him yet. If Paul could do it, they thought, they could go through persecution and suffering, too.

Paul’s endurance in prison by God’s grace and his continued proclamation because of his hope and faith encouraged other Christians not to let the threat of imprisonment stop them from proclaiming the Gospel. It increased their desire to tell the Good News boldly and fearlessly. Do we feel this when we hear of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ being persecuted by intimidation, imprisonment, and death? Do we react to their persecution to be more determined to share the Gospel?

Another thing we need to ask ourselves is, if we were imprisoned, would our testimony in prison cause our guards to become Christians? Would it cause those who hear about us to be encouraged and emboldened to share the Gospel more, in the face of fear and possible persecution?

Paul was an evangelist, apostle, teacher, encourager, and model to the people of his time. He continues to be these now. We can be encouraged to be bold in the face of persecution. We can continue to stand strong and proclaim our faith knowing that when we proclaim the Gospel of it will be heard and more people will know about Him. Our standing strong and continuing to proclaim can encourage others to be and do the same. We can become "Pauls" for someone else so that more people hear the Gospel.

Are you bold and fearless in proclaiming the Gospel? Do you speak no matter what? Do you hold on to the joy and hope of your salvation no matter your circumstances? Can people look up to your life and model themselves after you because of your boldness and fearlessness in telling the Good News? If you are a Christian, then you have the hope only Christ can give – life and strength while on the earth and eternal life with God the Father and the Son. Nothing can separate us from the love of God. What will it take for you to have this boldness and fearlessness so others will hear the Good News and so other Christians are encouraged and emboldened?