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Showing posts from April, 2012

You're Still in the Picture

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Normally I would focus on the wonderful promises of God's presence and blessing that we find here in the first chapter of Joshua. But this morning something else grabbed my attention.

Moses has died and upon Joshua now rests the mantle of leadership. The Israelites are about to begin a new chapter in their history. The land God has promised to them lies just on the other side of the river.

Not all the Israelites are planning to settle on the other side of Jordan. The tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh have made the choice of not crossing over with the rest of their people. This decision had been made, and approved, some time earlier. But when the deal was struck it was with the provision that when the time came for the rest of the nation to cross over and take the land, these two and a half tribes would also cross over to help their brothers in the fight that would surely take place.

Now, as they prepare to cross, Joshua reminds them if their promise: "Re…

Life to the Max

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As Moses concludes his instructions to the Israelites on the eve of their entrance into the promised land he presents this challenge to the people:

"This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that 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 you God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life…" (Deuteronomy 30:19, 20, NIV).

Who would choose death? The truth is that many do. Even many believers never fully experience the life that only He can give because they refuse to follow Him wholeheartedly. A half a life might be better than no life at all but why drag a ball and chain behind you when you can be truly free?

 Choose life, then embrace it to the maximum (30:15, 16).

The Party of the First Part

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It was a solemn vow, a contract between two parties. It was much more than a business arrangement, a convenience for the mutual benefit of both. And it is interesting to note that on God's part it was a "love, honour and cherish" commitment but expressed as though the other party would need to learn to love, honour and cherish as the relationship developed.

Here is what Moses said as he finished his message to the Israelites.

"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" (Deuteronomy 26:17-19, NIV).

The sense of the passage her…

Short Term Adjustments for Long Term Benefits

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"Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds and tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates…carefully observe all these commands I am giving you to follow—to love the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways and to hold fast to him—"  (Deuteronomy 11:18-20, 22, NIV)

For many parents whose children's schedules of activities already have a strangle hold on them, and for parents whose own priorities have cut them off from any signifanct spiritual influence in their children's lives, making the adjustment to the kind of lifestyle Moses is describing here, will be difficult.

Some would say impossible, but apparently that is not so. Author, speaker and pastor, Peter Scazzero describes some of the ways he and his family simplified their lives so …

A Whole Heart

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Is there anything worse than giving love without getting love back?

While we are to offer love without reservation and without the expectation of anything in return, to give without receiving is a painful thing.

It's hard to imagine that even God would feel such pain. He gives—abundantly and without reservation—but often doesn't get a whole lot in return.

As Moses continues to instruct the nation of Israel as it anticipates finally going into the land that God had promised to Abraham, he gets down to matters of the heart.

"Circumcise your heart…" (Deuteronomy 10:16, NIV).

The Israelites were familiar with circumcision. It was that permanent physical sign of the covenant they had made with God. The truth was that it meant nothing unless the heart of the person who bore the mark was committed to the covenant that the mark represented.

Perhaps a modern day example can be found in many church directories or on most church membership rolls. Names appear of people who, as …

"My Daddy is Bigger Than Your Daddy"

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Ask anyone. It is unlikely that there are many people on the planet who can't come up with at least one challenge that they are currently facing. Big or small, significant or not, there is always something.

As Moses continues through his final discourse to the Israelites before he takes his final journey, he has some words of encouragement for the nation. Some might raise their eyebrows at that one since the instructions about obedience and faithfulness and the consequences of rebellion seem so prominent in the Old Testament books. But, yes, there are words of encouragement.

As we start Deuteronomy 9, Moses reminds his audience about the report that had come back from the ten spies forty years earlier. These men had warned that there were giants in the land and were not at all excited about taking those giants on. Yes, admits Moses, these Anakites are big brutes (9:1, 2) living in strongly fortified cities.

But God was bigger.

"But be assured today that the Lord your God is …

Good Memory, but Sometimes Short

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Deuteronomy 8 in my Bible has been titled: "Do Not Forget the Lord."

Moses is continuing his more or less final instructions to the Israelites as they prepare to enter the land that God had promised to their forefather, Abraham.

First of all they were to remember the lessons of the past (8:1-5). God had disciplined them, humbled them, tested their faithfulness and provided for them. "Know then in your heart" writes Moses, "that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you" (8:5, NIV).

Secondly they were to obey the instructions that the Lord had given them. They were to follow the Lord and revere Him. He was giving them everything they could possibly desire: "a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing…" (8:9, NIV).

Thirdly, they were to be continually thankful to God for His blessings. The very human tendency to forget where all those blessings come from and to rely on one's one strength, ability,…

No Longer a Slave

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The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping the covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments” (Deuteronomy 7:7-9, NIV).

I am reminded of salvation as I read these verses.

Those of us who believe were once like the galley slaves of old, chained to the bottom of the ship of death. If the ship went down—as it inevitably will—we would have gone down with it. But God, in His love and mercy, set His affection on us and sent His Son to provide the way for us to be free from the chains of our sin that held us captive. With a mighty hand He redeemed us—not beca…

I will see it…

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I quit a lot—in my mind. I beg God to give me the opportunity to quit for real. I feel my limitations, my weaknesses, and the burden of responsibility that seems too heavy to bear. Certain things trigger the meltdowns, but niggling in the back of my mind lies the urge to run, an urge just waiting for the gun to sound to give me permission to go.

Then God steps in. He always does. He uses many avenues to get His message across to me. This week He has blessed with many words of encouragement. Mind you, I struggle to believe them at the best of times, and certainly during the meltdowns. It always easier to believe the negative and to think that the positive is just a mistake.

Then this morning, God sent me a message from His Word. He often speaks that way and it's one message that I can't write off as a mistake.

I entered the territory of Deuteronomy this morning in my devotions. Moses is giving instructions, recounting the journey Israel has taken. He is encouraging and warning …

Spring Fashion

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Tonight my growth group begins a series of studies on the fruit of the Spirit, the God qualities that He wants to develop in believers. But if we hope to make room for the character of God in our lives, we have to clean out the closet and get rid of the old stuff. Ephesians 4:24 tells us: "You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self…and to put on the new self created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."

As I read Numbers 33 this morning I was reminded of the Old Testament illustration of the New Testament instruction.

Moses had come to the end of his journey. The children of Israel were soon to enter into the land that God had promised them. Moses reviewed the past with the people he had led for so long and gave them this instruction: "When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places. Ta…

Inside Job

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If it wasn't so sad it would be funny. Israel camps too close to Moab, and Balak and the Moabites are scared skinny that Israel will do to them what she has done to other nations in her path (22:2, 3). In desperation Balak sends for Balaam to put a curse on Israel to deaden the effect of her presence in his territory. Balaam refuses on the grounds that God will not allow him to curse what He, God, has chosen to bless. (22:12, 13, 18, 38; 23:12, 26; 24:12, 13). Balaam delivers several oracles ending with one that plainly warns the Moabites that God will bring on them what they want brought on Israel.

On the heels of this episode we discover that what the armies of Moab couldn't do, what a prophet was held back from doing, the women of Moab succeeded in doing.

"While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to the sacrifices of their gods. The people ate and bowed down before these gods. So Israel joi…

Following the "Cloud"

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Sometime I move before the Lord tells me to do so. Sometimes I drag my feet when He is moving me. The lesson from Numbers 9 is an excellent reminder to listen and watch, to move willingly when He does and to stand still when He does.

The nation of Israel learned to watch the cloud that represented the presence of the Lord among them. "Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out.; but when it lifted they would set out. At the Lord's command they encamped, and at the Lord's command they set out. The obeyed the Lord's order, in accordance with his command through Moses" (Numbers 9:22, 23, NIV).

There are times when I wish I had a cloud to follow. But that's where the listening comes in. We are blessed with God's instruction manual, complete with maps that show us the direction the Lord wants us to go. We are blessed by the presence of the Holy Spirit of God who whispers (…

A Blessing for You

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Sea World, Orlando, Florida, March 2012

Eggs-actly

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You are not supposed to do this, but sometimes it works just to prove that nothing happens by chance.

I sat down this morning and let my Bible fall open "on its own" and it fell open at Psalm 78. The passage at the top of the page began with verse 65:

"Then the Lord awoke as from sleep, as a man wakes from the stupor of wine. He beat back his enemies; he put them to everlasting shame. Then he rejected the tents of Joseph, he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim; but he chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion, which he loved. He built his sanctuary like the heights, like the earth that he established forever. He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them" (78:65-72, NIV).

A little further along, in Psalm 118, we are reminded that though we have every expectation that our…

Crocs and Holiness

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I just came back from a week in Florida. While we were there we traveled up to St Augustine and visited the crocodile preserve. It was fascinating to be able to observe them without the worry of losing a leg! I thought about the crocodiles again as I read this morning's scripture. The book of Leviticus is full of regulations that God put in place for the developing nation of Israel. Chapter 11 has to do with the kinds of animals and birds that the Hebrews were allowed to eat. I suspect crocodiles were among the prohibited. When the chapter ends, Moses records this: "You must distinguish between the clean and the unclean…" (11:47, NIV).

This phrase is repeated in other parts of the Old Testament in relation to how God is to be worshiped. In Chapter 10, it is repeated again after the Aaron's sons had disobeyed a command God had given (10:1). Moses writes: "You must distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, and you must teach t…