Grab your mirrors…

Today is the last day of midterms for Aaron. I know he will be glad when they are over. Midterm finals are given to measure what has been learned thus far in the current school year.

What if we had a “my walk with God” midterm or final? How would we score on that? How could it be measured?

On the one hand, we all know we would get an “F”-because “…no one is righteous, no not one.” (Rom. 3:10) But, we are asked to “examine ourselves” to see if we are in the faith. (2 Cor. 13:5) In Deuteronomy 17, if you look real closely, we get a  a clue of one way we can “test” ourselves.

The context today is instruction being given to future kings of Israel. They are told to copy the law (that is the Scripture up to that point). The king is then to have it with him and read it all the days of his life. Deut. 17: 19,20 tells them why.

Being in God’s Word daily would teach the king to revere God, to follow God, it would help him to not consider himself better than others, and it would prevent him from going astray. Daily time in God’s Word still reaps these benefits.

The hidden test I see is the part about “not considering himself better than others.” Do I consider myself better than someone else? Do you? Or, let’s make things a little clearer: How often are we in conversations where someone is telling us something and we respond with , “Well, I can _____” or “I did _____”. That is comparison, and an attempt to prove we are better than another. It is pride. Defeating pride in our life will be in part proportional to the time we spend in the Word of God. To battle the sin of pride, we must get into the Word. Let God show us how to rightly see ourselves. This keeps us from considering ourselves better than others, it will help us more easily put others first, defeating the sins of selfishness and pride.

Stay plugged in!

Aaron has midterms today. I hope everyone is praying for him. Much of his studying includes memorizing lists. I have a list for us today we would all do well to memorize.  It is found in Deuteronomy 10:12-13. It looks long, but here is a shorter breakdown:
1) FEAR God
2) WALK in his ways
3) LOVE him
4) SERVE him
5) OBSERVE (obey) him

Why you ask? “For your own good.

This was God’s instruction to the Israelites that would make a difference as to whether they would blessed or cursed. We all know how that turned out. Has God changed the rules for us? Did He say, “Ok, that was too hard, so I propose something new.” Was this instruction only good for the Israelites and at that time?

I don’t think so. And we all know, He hasn’t changed this request, but he HAS changed our ability to fulfill it. He knew we can not do them, so he gave us a game changer that would give us the power to do them-the Holy Spirit. We can’t fail. We CAN not only memorize this list, but follow through as well. When we choose to use that power available to us, the things we do in our lives will end up for our own good.

This is a lame example, but consider electricity in a house. Our houses have electricity flowing through wires. We may have a light bulb but there will be no light unless we CHOOSE to plug it in to the electricity available. When you and I choose to listen and obey the Spirit’s whispers and convictions in our hearts, we will fear, walk with, love, serve and obey God.  Looking at that list, which is hardest for you right now? Do we need power to adjust our attitude? To soften our heart? To humble us? To desire to serve others? To control our tongue or eyes? Whatever it is, we already have been given the spirit to empower us. If we are not succeeding, we need to find out where the “break in the circuit” is and ask God to repair that so we can hook back up to that power ASAP!

Rebelling? Who, me?

Dad and I are thankful that you all have not been “rebellious” children. A rebellious child is a child who disobeys their parents, often causing great distress in a family.

Rebellion in God’s family also is disobedience and causes great distress throughout the family. Did you know though, that you and I are rebellious children in God’s family? Or at least, we most likely have been at some time? I certainly would not have considered myself rebellious or at least try not to be. I try to obey God and walk in His ways. But here is the twist-rebellion against God is not only disobedience. According to today’s reading, it is also lack of trust in God. Did you know that? I didn’t.

Deuteronomy calls the Israelites out for rebelling against God … defining it as not trusting or obeying Him. Distrust of God is rebellion.

That sure puts a whole new light on it, doesn’t it? The scary part of rebellion is the ramifications of it. Just like a child who is rebellious ends up walking a path of destruction, so does a child of God. When we rebel, both in disobedience or distrust, we choose our way instead of His. When we don’t trust that God will take care of us, a situation or even others, we will take matters in to our own hands and try to “fix” it ourselves. This is not a good plan.  It will end badly.

Are you worried about something today? Is God asking you and I to trust in an area of our lives in the future that we can’t see clearly? Choose to be patient in hope, be constant in prayer about it, and trust God to see you through it. (Rom. 12:12b) These are some steps to help us trust God, instead of turning  in rebellion away from him and going down a very dangerous path.

Wealth “pros” and “cons”…

For the past two summers, Jordan has had the great opportunity to work at Merrill Lynch in a paid internship. Miriam has worked at Texas Roadhouse which has helped her earn money to pay for college. Aaron worked at Chick-Fil-A this past summer, and hopefully will again. These jobs are the beginning of earning money-or as the Bible puts it today: “to produce wealth”.

Here is the thing: Our ability to earn money and produce wealth will also always be a temptation for pride and self-sufficiency. God warned the Israelites of this in Deuteronomy and I believe we can read it as a reminder to us as well. God says HE gives the ability to produce wealth. We must never forget this. If you back up a few verses from today’s you will see the danger of forgetting this. In vs. 14 God tells them (and us) as we accumulate wealth, if we fail to observe the things of God (follow his commands and walk with Him) we will become proud and forget Him. The end result of this is destruction. (vs.19)

Heed this instruction. Wealth is not wrong. Working hard and producing wealth is not wrong.  Becoming wealthy, taking credit for it, becoming prideful about it and forgetting God by our actions and walk is wrong. This will always be the temptation. We need to be constantly aware and taking steps to see all these things as blessing from God. Every day we have a job, thank God for it. Thank God audibly for every paycheck received before it is even deposited. Tithe from every paycheck before spending any of it as tangible means of thanking God. These are a couple of things that could help keep things in perspective. If you think of any other ways, please share them with the rest of us, so we can help each other walk faithfully and never forget!


The “Covenant of love”…

Don’t you love to follow and try to obey the 10 commandments? I know it gives all of us a “warm and fuzzy” feeling in our heart, doesn’t it? Would you use the word “love” in any way to describe the 10 commandments? That they are “loving” commandments?

I know it is not the first thought that comes to my mind when I consider the commandments. Interestingly enough, throughout the book of Deuteronomy the phrase “covenant of love” is used to describe the commands given to the people and the promises attached when we obey them. It seems strange, but it is not.

They are loving. In fact, the other words used over and over after the mention of the “covenant of love” is “blessing.” Would anyone like to be blessed by God? If that is the question, I know I am in.  I suspect you are too!

Remember, the Bible is one giant story. I am seeing through the Bible Project and reading through the Bible that God’s heart WITHOUT A DOUBT is to bless his people, and other nations. Time and time again, His people fail him, He comes up with another way for them to come back to him, so that He can shower them with blessings. He loves us THAT much. God’s heart’s desire is to bless us. That is VERY loving. This is the God you and I worship. This is why He wants us to worship Him and him alone. No other god, idol or thing will ever love us as much as He does. No other god will ever shower us with blessings the way our God will. Why would we even consider turning away from this?
Worship and rejoice in this truth today. Maybe we could begin to realize the 10 commandments (and all other commands) are “loving”   instruction from a loving God, and that they go hand in hand with blessings!

They are watching…

Intolerant, judgmental, legalistic, and narrow-minded. Who do you think I am describing?
I am describing believers. In some people’s minds, these are the words used to describe us. Believers.

When God originally set his people apart way back in the Old Testament, He had many purposes for giving them all the laws. In today’s verse (and the following verses I couldn’t fit) He tells us 3 of His reasons and what could happen if His people would obey them. Other nations would hear (and see) that…

1. God’s people were a wise and understanding people. (Deut. 4:6)
2. God’s people were the only ones whose God was so near and personal. (Deut. 4:7)
3. God’s people had the most righteous laws. (Deut. 4:8)

In 2017, we are 3,500 years away from these words being written, but I am willing to bet that God has not changed. He still wants His people to establish His reputation in the same way, so others will still come to this conclusion. So, how can this aspect of God change our view of ourselves? Well, how would you and I be described? Would those outside of our faith describe us as wise and understanding? Would they see by our lives that our God is very near to us? God says this would be seen when we pray to Him. We have to BE praying for this to even be seen. This would include consistent time set aside daily specifically to pray. It means when we tell others we will pray for them, we actually do it. It could include times we are rejoicing in answered prayer and can’t help but tell others about it. Consider what we truly obey from the Bible. Since none of us are murderers, adulterers or thieves at the moment, I suggest we consider an honest assessment on the “respectable” sins we just dismiss. Sins like worry, discontentment, unthankfulness, cockiness (pride), selfishness, irritability, anger and others like these. Are we repenting?  Are we turning from these sins, actively seeking holiness through obedience?

These are the things the “other nations” or now, those unbelievers around us, will take note of. When we are doing these things, God’s reputation will shine and be described with the words it should be!

Temporary memory loss can be very costly!

Do you remember the last bonfire you attended? Aaron gathered around many fires on his wilderness trip. I suspect Jordan and Miriam attend some bonfires at LU. Bonfires are a great time to sit around with friends and chat.

After reading Deuteronomy today, I was thinking that perhaps a little “bonfire time” might have done the Israelites some good, depending on what they discussed. Often when sitting around with friends, we discuss funny things or events in the past. This is what the Israelites should have done. They should have had a bonfire or some meeting to discuss their past.

Today, we read they did not trust the Lord. This is in the context of looking at the Promised Land, and all those spies who came back and said; “The people are too big”, “We will lose the battle”, “We should just go back to Egypt.” They FORGOT how God had carried them the past 40 years. Because they forgot, they did not trust in the Lord, their God. The consequences were dire. None of them received the blessings of the land that God had for them because of lack of trust.

We know God can be trusted to care for us and stick to His Word. We know humans are prone to NOT trust God. We will undoubtedly throughout life find ourselves in circumstances where what we see with our eyes will look very bleak. It will be the equivalent to facing an army of giants that in human terms could destroy us. We will have two choices-to distrust God and suffer those consequences, or to trust Him despite what our “eyes” see.

Are you and I having some difficulty trusting? I suggest have a ‘bonfire’-or at the very least, gather with your closest believing friends for a time of recollection. Ask them or dad and I to remind you of God’s faithfulness in the past. Be reminded that God can be fully trusted and will be faithful to the end, no matter what things “look” like. Don’t miss out on God’s blessings because of temporary memory loss!

Pay close attention to the “navigator”…

One of the best features of the Waze navigation app is traffic information. When driving on a trip, it will re-route the user around traffic. Dad and I have often used it because of these warnings and  thankfully, we have avoided some major traffic trouble and delays.

How smart would it be to use Waze, see the heaviest traffic, and then purposefully plan to drive straight into the traffic jam? You and I would call that person a fool, wouldn’t we? No one would CHOOSE the path of trouble, would they?

Apparently, yes, we do. You and I do. Have you ever considered that when you make the choice to do things your way, instead of God’s way, you are intentionally choosing trouble. It may not initially “look” like trouble, just like the road ahead on a trip may look perfectly clear. But, that  is only because we can’t see the traffic that lies just out of sight. We also can’t see the horrors just out of sight with disobedience and sin. When we intentionally choose to walk in sin, there will be trouble. We are literally fools when we do this.

Look at Numbers verse today. I chose this because it so clearly spells out God warning his people to NOT do a certain thing or there will be trouble.  He says this: “They will give you TROUBLE…” What did the people do? They did exactly what God told them not to. What happened? Exactly what God said would happen. MAJOR TROUBLE.

Let’s cement this truth in our minds. Satan will for the rest of our lives try to deceive us that our way is “better”, that the “road is clear.” If the navigation of God says go a different way- count the cost of choosing the course of a fool as opposed to the course of obedience. Prov. 1:22 talks about how “…fools hate knowledge.” When you and I have the knowledge of God before our very eyes and in our hearts, and we STILL choose to disobey, we are the fools!

Stumbling or building blocks…

Wow-we women are bad news, aren’t we? We have the power to cause God to strike His own people with a plague! Of course, there is more to this story than “women” being evil. Let’s take a look.

Moses in Numbers, warns his people that they have made a huge mistake in taking some Midianite women as part of their plunder from war. God, through Moses, questions why in the world they brought them back. (See Num. 31:15) He then gives reference to why this was a bad plan.

God is not happy because these women had previously led the Israelites into sin. They did this via “Balaam’s advice.” I had to look into this to see exactly what advice it was. To make a long story short, via some additional New Testament verses, Balaam’s advice is found to be “casting a stumbling block before the children of Israel.” (Rev 2:14). Balaam somehow recommended that Balak (remember him-he wanted the Israelites cursed?) to get the Israelites to intermingle with the midianite women. By doing this, these women could purposefully lead them to sin, which essentially would cause the Israelites to curse themselves. If the Israelites sinned, they would come under the curse of those sins.
Just as these women had a disastrous influence on these men,  all people have an influence on us.  We also are constantly influencing others whether its our intention or not. As we live our lives and invite others to do things with us, join us in conversations and activities, we are either placing stumbling blocks leading to sin in our friends’ lives or building them up. Not sure which it is? Just ponder whether our friends sin more or less after being with us.

What about the influence of our friends on us? Are they placing stumbling blocks or building blocks in our lives? After spending time with me or your sibling or a friend, are you drawn closer to God in some way, or drawn to sin? Consider these things today. I am certain none of us want to follow Balaam’s advice to purposefully place stumbling blocks in anyone’s life and we certainly don’t want to be tripping and falling getting “cursed” due to sin ourselves either!

Every _____ …

Think about the things you do daily? Brush your teeth, get dressed, sleep. What about weekly? Go to church, go to class, change sheets/towels. How about monthly? Car oil changes, change calendar. Yearly? Christmas, Easter, summer vacation. Life happens in routines and cycles-from small to large.

God is a God of order, routine and “cycles”. In fact, he gave the Israelites some “to-do’s” to make sure they included in their daily, weekly, monthly and yearly cycles as you can see in the verse portions to the left. These all are references that describe the offerings He wanted done in these time frames. They were VERY regular. They were for specific times. They were to be repeated on an ongoing basis.

These offerings drew the people to God. The offerings brought to light their sin, and made a way for atonement of it. These offerings are described as a “pleasant aroma” to God.

Through all these little seemingly boring details, we can see God’s continued desire to commune in some way with his people on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. We see his heart’s desire to re-establish our relationship with Him over and over again. We see him creating festivals where He specifically tells them NOT to work and to just hold a festival-sometimes for days! This is our God.

As we consider our daily, weekly, monthly and yearly routines, let’s consider what spiritual routines we have. When do we meet with God regularly to restore our relationship with Him. Do you and I confess our sins, repent and ask God to forgive us regularly? What in our lives on a regular basis is a “pleasing aroma” to God? Is there anything we could add in our routines or celebrations that God has brought to our attention? You know I am a huge fan of good habits and routines. It was encouraging to me (and hopefully is for you as well) to see today, that apparently God is too!