Freely Taken

Whoa, whoa, whoa?! Who do you think you are? Do you really think that you deserve this? Do you really think that the Lord is so impressed with your righteousness that he is blessing you with all of these things? No! No! No! says Moses. You’ve got it all wrong. You are not here because of the great things you have done, but because of the more horrible things that those other people did. Ouch!
These seem like harsh words from Moses. But, clearly, they are not. He explains by describing, in detail, how they have assaulted the glory of the Lord. Remember the golden calf you made? He asks. Wait, how about when you spied out the land of Kadesh? Remember, you said it was “flowing with milk and honey?” (Numbers 13:27). But, when the Lord asked you to go in and take it, you refused. You became afraid and did not trust in the Lord. Have you forgotten these things? Do you still think you deserve this?
The answer is no, the Israelites did not deserve to enter the promised land. That right was purchased for them. Moses has to remind them. He explains to them “you would do well to know what I did on your behalf. The sacrifices I made and my humble pleadings to God that he would not look at you with anger, but with love. This is why you are here. You have not gotten what you deserve. Instead, you have gotten a wonderful gift.” (Deuteronomy 9:18, my paraphrase)
We too live in the land of milk and honey. It is far too easy to believe that we deserve it all. Our freedom, our cars, our jobs, our houses, our family, our breakfast, lunch, and dinner. To top it off, we enjoy a gift called salvation. It’s free for the taking. Or is it?  Just like the Israelites, our freedom was purchased. This time, the ultimate price was paid with the life and blood of Jesus Christ.    So no, this gift is not free for the taking.  It requires something of us.  It starts with gratitude and ends in worship.

Love God, Fear God

Deuteronomy 7:9-10

9 “Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and Keep His commandments; 10 and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face.”

Do you fear God?  Do you love God? Can you love someone and fear them at the same time?

In a worldly sense, I think these two emotions are difficult to maneuver.  When we love someone, we have an unending appreciation, value, and yearning for a relationship with them.  We want to be with them and spend time with them.  We know them and trust them.

When we fear someone, we avoid them.  We resent them.  We may even hate them, to use a much harsher word.  The individual may have altered our lives in a way that seems unforgivable.

Here is how I ratify the two emotions as it relates to God, where I both love and fear Him.

God shows me mercy and grace every day.  I sin and He forgives.  I sin again, and His promises in scriptures says He will forgive again, if I repent and ask for forgiveness.  He showed us inconceivable love by sending His son, Jesus, to earth to become a man, to live a perfect life, breath scripture into our world, and suffer a horrible death to demonstrate His love for us.  God is merciful every day and His actions speak louder than words.

As for it relates to fear, I don’t want to disappoint God.  I have developed a relationship with Him that I do not want to “let Him down.”  I know that if I don’t live by scripture, follow His guidance, I will be punished.  Much like a parent and child relationship, I wish to please my Father.   Growing up, I “feared” my parents, as I did not want to disappoint them.  I did not fear mental or physical harm, by any means.  I “feared” letting them down as I knew right from wrong, good from bad, and I did not ever want them to be upset with me.

At a whole other level of fear, I know that if I don’t believe that Jesus died on the cross to forgive my sins, I will not spend eternity in Heaven with Jesus and the rest of my relatives that have passed.  I know that I will be sent to “Hades,” as the Bible calls it, where I will suffer great pain and “gnashing of teeth.”  That is not for me.

For me, I have learned right from wrong.  I know the standards and morals that I should live in my life.  My foundation for truth and direction is the Bible.  The Bible provides me specific guidance on how God wants me to live my life.  As such, I expect that if I sin against God, I will be punished as is written in the Bible.  As I did not want to disappoint my parents, I do not want to disappoint God.  My parents did not deserve my sin, and God certainly does not either.

The Next Chapter

Our family moved to a new country this week. Along with this brought a change in living accommodations, a new school, new opportunities to meet friends and still maintain relationships with family and old friends, and a whole lot more.

As for me in this season of change, I am praying over how to best lead my family and grow in my faith knowing that with major changes comes the potential for distractions. How will I respond to challenges? How will I choose to lean on God’s promises instead of worrying or giving into temptation?

What does your current “life chapter” look like?

Whether you’re just starting a chapter, in the middle of a chapter, or preparing for the next one, yesterday’s scripture (and and post by Jennifer) on the Ten Commandments, along with today’s scriptures (Deuteronomy 5:23-33) offer some great insights. The Ten Commandments simply state how God wants us to live. Today’s reading has a key verse as to why:

You shall walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you shall possess. (Deuteronomy 5:33)

God didn’t give those commands to burden us or take away joy. In fact, he gave the commandments so that we can be free and experience the true joy found only in him. To paraphrase, he gave the commands so that:

  • we may live
  • we will live abundantly (in him)
  • our families will experience his goodness for generations

This theme reminds me of the words of our Savior Jesus as he explains that his commands in a similar way.

Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)

Following him comes with a cost, yet the benefits far outweigh the alternative. We never know which chapter will be our last so live and choose today with eternity in mind. Jesus is calling. How will you answer?

The Ten Commandments

Today’s Reading:  Deuteronomy 5:1-22

Earlier in my career, I got to lead the design and implementation of a few enterprise programs that enabled my employer to comply with different laws and regulations.  Every program was a little different, as each had its own unique set of challenges.  But all of them eventually led us to the same question – “How much is enough?”  Our business partners who were responsible for executing the programs always asked more detail.  They wanted a checklist that told them exactly what to do. That way, they always had an answer for every circumstance and were less likely to make a wrong decision.  From an enterprise view, however, the law of diminishing marginal returns usually applied.  While enough rigor to produce compliant outcomes was a must, we didn’t need to measure and monitor every little thing in order to drive the right behavior.

Today’s scripture in Deuteronomy 5 is the Ten Commandments.  Verse 22 of this passage caused me to reflect on the question – “How much is enough?”

These are the commandments the Lord proclaimed in a loud voice to your whole assembly there on the mountain from out of the fire, the cloud and the deep darkness; and he added nothing more. Then he wrote them on two stone tablets and gave them to me (Deuteronomy 5:22).

Did you catch the end of the first sentence?  “And he added nothing more” tells us that God concluded ten commandments were enough to drive the right behavior.  We have five commandments about how we relate to God and five commandments about how we relate to other people.

In Matthew 22, Jesus affirmed that loving God and loving other people were [are] the key principles of God’s plan for our lives.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-49).

If Jesus is truly the Lord of our lives, ten commandments are enough to give us the guidance we need.

 

 

 

 

In Awe

Last week, while visiting New York City, I walked through St Patricks Cathedral.  It is everything you expect.  The building is massively overwhelming and overwhelmingly intricate.  The cathedral’s cruciform shape has an altar prominently positioned in the nave and raised in the direction of heaven.  The altar is enshrined in gold and surrounded by angels.  Throughout the building, you’ll see the saints hosting various shrines, imagery, and relics of heavenly trophies.  It’s amazing.  Awesome, even.  All of it.
I stood at the entrance gazing down the long hall, wondering how many people think about Jesus.  More importantly, how many people considered the sacrifice he made?  How many people came and found God?  That is the risk, of course, that we may go and find awe but miss what really matters.  The hope and solace of Jesus Christ.  This is what Moses is warning us against today.  He knows that we are likely to take these most beautiful things like gold and saints and fantastic architecture and turn them into something they are not.  Beware, he says, “that you may be drawn to them and serve them” (Deut 4:19).  Do you see it?  We are likely to bow down and serve the created thing over the creator.  it’s easier.  It’s tangible.  It feels real.  But, the created things have no power.
Dig a little deeper and review the mission statement of the St. Patricks Cathedral.  There, it says that these things – this cathedral – are brought to us for one purpose.  That it may “call us to respond to our shared humanity – one in the image and likeness of God, saved by his Son, Jesus Christ, in the family of the Church”.

Obedience

Jackson (11), Marshall (7), Gianna (4), and their mother and father (me) have had plenty of opportunities this summer to talk about obedience.  This seems to be a daily topic that usually ends up in a consequence or situation that allows us all to learn.  When I think about my children and how they think they know what they want until things don’t go their way, they throw a fit when things don’t go as planned.  (I know we all have been there. ) As a principal and a coach, I also get additional time to speak to players and students about their decisions and their lack of obedience at times.  These are all moments that help shape our lives. Moments of molding that help decide future decisions. The thought would be that a household of educators would make this obedience command easier.  The phrase first-time listening is used often.

See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.

Today’s Reading of Deuteronomy 4;1-14 shows Moses talking with the Israelites.  Moses points them back to the 10 Commandments and the reminder of obedience to the ways laid out for them.  Not more, not less.  I wish I could say I had steller obedience in all things.  The truth is I fall victim to worldly and selfish desires as well.

As you walk along this spiritual journey, follow the path that leads to Him.  (10 Commandments) – Will we get it right all the time? No.  But we will try.  Pray. Repent. We can keep the faith and take steps to draw closer to Him.  Jennifer has posted on our mirror Romans 12:2.  This verse reminds me of our audience of one we should live our life-like.

Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Today I pray that our Heavenly Father helps each one of us. That we feel Your presence as we navigate this side of Heaven.  That we pray and focus diligently on avoiding worldly pleasures. Thankfully we have a God that is bigger than any of our worldly desires.

In his final years, the writer  Amazing Grace, John Newton, wrote, ” I am an amazing sinner, But Jesus is a better saver, “

We all can lean into this message as we work on our obedience today.

Stay Blessed

 

The Second Time Around

Today’s reading Deuteronomy 1:1 – 33

 

It seems to me that God is talking directly to me through these scriptures. In today’s reading Moses is charging the tribe of Israel to go into the Promised Land. This is the beginning of his farewell speech. The sermon that Moses is given is titled Deuteronomy which literally means “The Second Law“. This is the second time God is speaking through Moses to the tribe of Israel to give them God’s commandments. This is at the end of the 40 years that the tribe of Israel since they have been freed from Egypt and has been in the wilderness.

The time that the tribe spent in the wilderness for these forty years was not in vain, this time that they had there was for reflection and understanding God‘s purpose for the people. Actually, God had the Promised Land ready for them directly after they exited Egypt.  Moses sent twelve elders or leaders of the tribe to scout out the promised land.  From the reconnaissance, ten of the twelve hesitated and did not want to go to the promised land because of the perceived risk and dangers( Numbers 13) . Because of the majority of the leaders of the tribe, the people had to endure 40 years of reflection and endurance,  before  they could go to the promised land.

In Deuteronomy, this is the beginning of the entrance to the promised land. This is the second time that the tribe has been given the instructions to go into a claim the promised land. This is a call to action that we must not forget or put aside. God is calling us to do things a second time. We cannot allow others to influence us when God has promised us amazing things. God is calling us to move , get up and go, and keep moving. We may have outside influences that try to stumble us or try to change us, but we have to be aligned and in tune with God to move toward the promise.

Deutoronomy 1: 5-8 

Beyond the Jordan, in the land of Moab, Moses undertook to explain this law, saying, “The Lord our God said to us in Horeb, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Turn and take your journey, and go to the hill country of the Amorites and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, in the hill country and in the lowland and in the Negeb and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates. See, I have set the land before you. Go in and take possession of the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their offspring after them.’

 

Time to go: 

  • In this particular passage Moses is giving us time to go. We have to move, we cannot think about any of the risks or dangers. We must act now. We must move now. God has it ready for us and is expecting us to move. The time to go is now.

Get out of your way

  • A lot of times we overthink and over analyze situations. Is this the right time? Do we have enough money? I have to finish these other things first. I’m not healthy enough. What about the lights in the house? Did we turn off the gas to the stove? Who’s going to take care of the yard and take out the trash? I don’t have the right shoes. I don’t have enough clothes…. All of these are obstacles that we place in front of ourselves when God has already planned and provided everything that we would need on the journey and everything that we would need at the end of the Journey. Everything that we could possibly think I’ve got it already thought about that and has had planted and thriving for us before we even knew the journey was going to be made.

Move forward

  • God wants us to move forward. We know what’s in the past. We know where we have come from. We have been practicing for this journey for a long time, the children of Israel practice for forty years. Do you need 40 years to practice when God has it ready for us now?

This is a passage and a message for me in particular. There have been things that I have put on the back burner for quite some time or I have allowed obstacles to slow my progress. But God is showing me that the time is from now to move all these things for the better of me. Is God speaking to you as well? If I’m telling you that is time to move on things that you have put on the side? Has God prepared you for a journey that he’s ready for you to take? Is this the second, third, or fourth time that God has revealed this to you? When will you take his prompts and move forward?

Be blessed

 

God Is With Us

A few days ago I wrote in our Bible Journal about the Pharisees and Sadducees wanting to see a sign from Jesus that He was who He said He was. They believed the sky could predict the weather, but they doubted that Jesus was really the Messiah. Sometimes we are the same. We just want a physical sign that God is real and among us.

In today’s reading Exodus 40, we see the physical sign that God provided to the Israelites. In this final chapter of Exodus, Moses and the Israelites are putting the finishing touches on the tabernacle. It is like when you move and finally have the boxes unloaded and everything organized. You can finally decide where that special decoration, plant, or pillow fit best. Moses had direct instructions on where to place every item in the tent. Once everything was in its place a cloud covered the tent of meeting.

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
Exodus 40:34-35

The cloud was a visible sign that God was with them. The cloud was the presence of God in their midst. The cloud would tell the Israelites when to move and when to stay put.

In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would se out; but if the club did not lift, they did not set out=until the day it lifted. So the cloud of the Lord was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the Israelites during all their travels.
Exodus 40:36-38

Sometimes I would like to see a physical manifestation of God. Can you imagine seeing an actual fire in a cloud? The news stations would be all over that! But, if we constantly had visible signs of God we would not need faith. We have to look for signs of God in our daily life.

Where do we see Him show up in our experiences?
Where do we see Him show up in our daily interactions with others?            Where do we see Him show up in our Bible reading?
And where do we see Him show up in our worship.
We have to be looking and expecting Him to show up.

We now have the presence of the Holy Spirit. Through the Holy Spirit is now how we experience the glory of God. We have to be looking for the Holy Spirit to show up. God’s presence is always with us, will you look for Him today?

Warning Sign

Have you ever ignored a very obvious warning sign and paid the price? My mind immediately goes to when I was 18, leaving a ski hill in the hills of rural Missouri after a day of heavy snowfall and low temps. I remember driving by the sign at the ski slope’s exit saying “Watch for Ice,” and thinking to myself “like that’d be a problem for me.” As I found out about 5 minutes later, after sliding down a big patch of ice right off the road down a steep hill, it would indeed be a problem for me. Who could’ve seen that coming?

The message of Hebrews 12:12-29 is a reminder that the warning we’ve been given about living focused on the flesh instead of on God’s kingdom. The author uses the Israelites at Mount Sinai as an example: even with the terrors of facing God’s holiness against their own unworthiness, witnessing “thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast” (Ex 16.19), they couldn’t follow God’s command for them despite their terror. Yet while we don’t encounter flaming smoking mountains too often, we’ve encountered Jesus, “mediator of a new covenant”, offering us the gift of eternal life. And the warning is laid bare: Jesus has told us “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens,” removing what can be shaken, leaving only what can not – what is not of this world. The warning signs we’ve been given are clear as day. Yet, even so, many who hear the warning choose not to listen; be it human pride, obstinance, ignorance, or whatever it is, many choose to ignore what Scripture tells us about a life not talking God’s warnings seriously.

Scripture warns us of the danger facing those who turn away from Jesus’ warning. As Galatians 5:21 puts about those living in the flesh versus living in the Spirit: “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Or 1 Corinthians 6:9 tells of those living immorally and unrighteously to themselves & others: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” Those who live such baseless lives are not only destined to be on the receiving end of God’s wrathful judgement, but do so despite so many warnings & Christ’s offer of redemption on our behalf. We are called as believers not just to live just, righteous lives as God commanded His earliest people (“Be holy, because I am holy” – Leviticus 11:45), but to strive for showing others to Christ’s salvation as well through our words and actions as Hebrews 12:14-15 says.

Remaining ever strong & growing in our faith and vigilant against our desires to do things our own misguided ways is not only a lifelong challenge, but one we must take an active role in always; compared to Esau by this passage, who rejected the blessings laid out for him & “found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.” We are called not to be proud & self-reliant as Esau was, but to strive to lean on & serve the Lord, and furthermore, to reflect this in the holiness we demonstrate to others. I pray today for renewal of the strength and perseverance in our walks with the Lord to stay straight on our paths always, and to help & lead others to the Lord as well. I pray that we would take seriously at all times the warnings towards the unrighteousness of man, knowing always that we are to serve the Lord in all we say & do. And I pray for the sharing & growing of the Lord’s kingdom, that His kingdom would continue growing & rejoicing until the day all else is shaken away.

Bread Alone?

Today’s reading is Genesis 28:1-22.

This past Friday we were eating spaghetti and our 4-year-old Hudson was complaining he wanted more garlic bread while we continued to tell him he could not have more until he finished his spaghetti he was not eating. As he carried on and continued to beg, in typical ‘bad dad joke’ fashion, I leaned over and said, “Hudson, man cannot live on bread alone.” This is of course in reference to Jesus’ words in Matthew 4:4 and also in the Old Testament Deuteronomy 8:3.

From our reading today we see God come to Jacob in a dream and give him the land He had promised his grandfather Abraham and also confirm that he would have many offspring spread upon the Earth to again fulfill his original promise to Abraham. In addition, God tells Jacob he will be with him wherever he goes (Genesis 28:15). In response, Jacob says he’s on holy ground where the Lord is which he did not know (Genesis 28:16). Finally, he says in Genesis 28:18-22 that since the Lord is with him and had provided food and clothing, he will build a house of the Lord here and give 1/10 of everything back to God.

I find it very interesting that Jacob’s thanksgiving is not really focused on the ground he received or the many offspring, but instead the most basic needs of food and clothing. When I went on a mission trip to New York City a few years ago, many of the homeless people we approached to witness actually witnessed to us by giving thanks and saying God had given them all they really need. I thought they had nothing, but they were satisfied having God. Instead of focusing on what they didn’t have, they were focused on the one thing they really need which they had…Him.

Embarrassingly, many of my thoughts lately have been focused on what more I want, rather than what I already have. It has been said that one cannot feel stress and anxiety at the same time they are in gratitude. I need to be even more thankful for what I already have. And most importantly I must focus on the fact that I cannot survive on “bread alone.” I always have all I really need which is the promise He’ll be with me wherever I go and His life given on the cross to save me.