Man of God.

Deuteronomy 33-34, Acts 5

We must obey God rather than men. ­– Deuteronomy 34:29 ESV

Moses was a man, a flawed and sometimes fault-filled man. But he was God's man. Throughout his tenure as God's appointed leader of the people of Israel, Moses tried to live in obedience to God. He attempted to faithfully carry out God's will, in spite of his own feelings of inadequacies and the people's stubborn refusal to obey. It isn't easy to find examples of this man's faults and failings. There were times when he got frustrated and even angry with God. He often became exasperated with the very people he had been called to lead, and at times wished he could walk away from the job. But there are just as many examples of his faithful leadership and his loving intercession to God on behalf of a stiff necked people. We know that Moses was not perfect because God refused to allow him to enter into the land of promise. Instead, he died in the land of Moab, and was buried by God Himself. He was 120 years old when he died, and “his eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated” (Deuteronomy 34:7 ESV). Moses was an incredible man, but a man nonetheless. He is an example of what it means to follow the Lord and to know God face to face. He had an intimate, personal relationship with the living God of the universe. He was used by God because he remained useable to God. He was willing to do whatever God called him to do. Yes, sometimes he exhibited reluctance and even reticence. But eventually he always overcame his fears and apprehensions, doing whatever God had called Him to do.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God works through men. He chooses to reveal His extraordinary power through the means of ordinary men and women. Moses was not chosen by God because he had any special qualities or characteristics that set him apart. God used him in spite of his faults. Moses was actually a murderer with a bounty on his head, but God chose to use him to set the people of Israel free from captivity in Egypt and to lead them to the land of promise in Canaan. In the New Testament, we see God using a group of men to spread the message of Christ's death and resurrection to the world. These were ordinary men who brought nothing to the table except their belief in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. After the resurrection of Jesus, God would fill these men with His Holy Spirit and empower them to do signs and wonders in the midst of the people of Israel, just as Moses had done. Like Moses, they would become spokesmen for God, speaking on His behalf and exhibiting His power and presence through their own lives and ministries.

God is not obligated to use men. He could just as easily accomplish His mission without the help of men or women, but He has chosen to use us. Just as in the days of Moses, God wants to exhibit His power and presence through the lives of ordinary men and women in order to show the world what a right relationship between He and His human creation should look like. When we live in obedience to His will and empowered by His Spirit, we become living, breathing witnesses to the world of the reality and life-changing power of God. The world gets to see God in us. His presence becomes tangible and highly practical.

What does this passage reveal about man?

When the apostles faithfully ministered as Jesus had commanded them to do, they quickly found themselves in trouble with the Jewish religious authorities. In fact, it wasn't long before they were arrested and thrown in jail. They had been teaching, preaching, healing and proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. Thousands of people were hearing and accepting the message regarding salvation through Christ alone. “And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” (Acts 5:14 ESV). These ordinary men were making an extraordinary impact on the world. And even when they found themselves locked in a jail cell, God would use their circumstance to reveal His power. He sent an angel to release them and commanded them to “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life” (Acts 5:20 ESV). And they obeyed. The high priest had them re-arrested and brought before him. He confronted them saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you intend to bring this man's blood upon us” (Acts 5:28 ESV).

Confronted by this powerful religious leader who had played a role in the death of Jesus, Peter and the apostles didn't bat an eye. Rather than back down and give in to his threats, they remained faithful to their calling. “We must obey God rather than men,” Peter responded. They would not give in or give up. Even when they were beaten and warned again not to speak in the name of Jesus, Luke records that they left “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name” (Acts 5:41 ESV). These ordinary men, filled with the Spirit of God, would go on to do extraordinary things for God. “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:42 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

There is no limit to what God can accomplish through the man or woman who is willing to be used by Him. Our usefulness to God has nothing to do with our own abilities, talents, or strengths. God is not obligated to use us or somehow dependent upon our abilities to accomplish His will. Like the apostle Paul, we often find ourselves weak and ill-equipped to do what God has called us to do, but we quickly learn as he did, that God's grace is sufficient. “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV). I don't have to be strong. I don't have to be smart. I don't have to have my act together or bring a special array of talents to the table. I simply must be willing and ready to be used by God. It is the recognition of my own insufficiency and weakness that makes me useable by God. When I realize just how much I need Him, I am much more likely to be used by Him. What the world needs to see are more men and women of God who are empowered by God and being used by Him to accomplish His will in His power through their lives.

Father, I want to be a man of God, who knows You face to face and relies on Your power and presence in my life to accomplish the unimaginable and inexplicable, so that they world my truly know You exist. Amen


Blessed and a Blessing.

Deuteronomy 27-28, Acts 2

And all the people of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you. ­– Deuteronomy 28:10 ESV

God was serious when He called His people to live in obedience to His commands. They were not suggestions. They were not up for debate or open to interpretation. And God made it abundantly clear that obedience to His law came with unbelievable blessings, while disobedience would result in devastating consequences. If the Israelites obeyed God, they would enjoy a place of honor and exaltation as His people. They would experience God's favor in the form of fruitfulness, abundance, victory in battle, and recognition among the nations as being the people of God. But disobedience would be extremely costly. The warnings found in chapters 27 and 28 were meant to be deterrents toward disobedience. Their free-will choice to disobey God would not go unnoticed or unpunished. And it's interesting to note that many of the curses that are outlined in these two chapters are violations of the commands of God. “And you shall be only oppressed and robbed continually, and there shall be no one to help you. You shall betroth a wife, but another man shall ravish her. You shall build a house, but you shall not dwell in it. You shall plant a vineyard, but you shall not enjoy its fruit” (Deuteronomy 28:29-30 ESV). By disobeying the laws of God, they would experience first-hand what violation of those laws felt like. God had told them, “You shall not steal” (Exodus 25:15 ESV). Yet if they failed to obey that law, they would find out what it was like to be on the receiving end. They would discover the devastating consequences of life lived in opposition to God's divine will.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God's intention had been to make Israel a showcase of His grace and mercy. They were to be a witness to the nations of His abundant power and amazing love. He had told them, “And all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you” (Deuteronomy 28:10 ESV). But their disobedience would have a completely different outcome. “And you shall become a horror, a proverb, and a byword among all the peoples where the Lord will lead you away” (Deuteronomy 28:37 ESV). They would go from being a blessing to becoming a curse. They would move from being blessed by God to being under His curse. But God's desire all along was that they might be a blessing. He wanted to pour out His grace, mercy, and love on them. He desired them to be a shining example of what it looked like for men to live in obedience to and in favor with God.

What does this passage reveal about man?

God's favor required man's obedience. The blessings of God were conditional and demanded adherence to His commands. Throughout these two chapters in Deuteronomy we see “if…then” statements that clearly indicate that enjoyment of God's blessings required obedience to His laws. But in spite of Moses' dire warnings, the Israelites would find it virtually impossible live up to God's exacting standards. They just didn't have it in them. Their hearts would prove to be unfaithful. Their strength would prove to be too weak. Their good intentions would not be enough to overcome their bad choices. And God knew exactly what was going to happen. He was not surprised by their inability to live up to His holy standards. He gave His law to them in order to illustrate just how holy He was and just how difficult it would be for ordinary men to meet His extraordinary requirements. The apostle Paul understood the role of the law well. “Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness” (Romans 7:7-8 ESV). When God gave the law to the people of Israel, they found themselves facing an impossible task. They had been given God's righteous standards and yet were ill-equipped to meet those standards. They were sinful men and women attempting to live up to the righteous requirements of a holy God. And they would fail. Every one of the curses outlined in these two chapters would take place. They would end up in exile, living in a foreign land, serving as slaves to a pagan king and worshiping false gods. Their fortunes would be reversed. They would go from many to few, from blessed to cursed, from free to slave, from honored to reviled, and from worshiping the one true God to serving “other gods of wood and stone” (Deuteronomy 28:64 ESV).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

But God had a plan. He was not done. His relationship with the people of Israel would not end with their failure to keep His commands. The history of the Jewish people is a picture of God's faithfulness, love, mercy and grace. He had made a covenant with them and He was going to keep that covenant in spite of them. While they proved to be faithless, He would be faithful. He would do what He said He would do. Yes, He would fulfill every one of the curses. They would end up in exile. They would experience every single one of the consequences outlined in these chapters. But they would also experience God's amazing grace when He restored them to the land and returned them to their rightful place as His chosen people. And God would fulfill every one of His promises made to Abraham. He would make the descendants of Abraham a blessing to the nations. It would be through the nation of Israel that Jesus would come. He would be born a Jew, required to keep the laws of God and meet the exacting standards that God had given to Moses. Jesus would be the one man who would do exactly what God had commanded to be done. He would live in obedience to the laws of God, resulting in a perfectly sinless life, and making Him a perfectly blameless sacrifice for the sins of mankind. But Jesus was not just destined to die. He would rise again, and He would return to His Father's side in heaven, sending His Holy Spirit in His place. And we see the arrival of the Spirit in the second chapter of Acts, when He came upon the disciples and empowered them to speak in foreign languages they didn't know. These “Galileans” were transformed by the Spirit of God and became powerful witnesses for God. These common Jews would end up being a blessing to the nations, including “Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians” (Acts 2:9-11 ESV). The disciples would be blessed and a blessing. They would receive the power necessary to live in obedience to God's laws and reveal to the nations “the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:11 ESV). And that is exactly what God wants to do in my life. He has blessed me through His Son and He wants me to be a blessing to the nations. He wants my life to be a living testimony of His grace, mercy, love and forgiveness. He wants my life to exhibit His power and testify to the fact that a holy life is impossible without the help of the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is only available to those who have placed their faith in the only man who was able to live a holy life: Jesus Christ. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 1For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV).

Father, You have blessed me with the gift of Your Son. You have saved me. You have given me new life and the promise of eternal life. But You have also called me to be a blessing to all of those around me. May my life be a constant reminder and an illustration to those around me of Your grace, mercy and love. Never let me forget that I was as hopeless as the Israelites when it came to living the life You have required of all men. I was incapable of meeting your exacting standards. But You sent Your Son to do what I could never have done. He lived the life I couldn't have lived and He met the standard You required, making Himself the perfect sacrifice and payment for the sins of mankind. And His death made it possible for you to extend Your blessings upon all those who would accept His gift of new life through His death. Thank You! Amen


Chosen by God.

Deuteronomy 25-26, Acts 1

You have declared today that the Lord is your God, and that you will walk in his ways, and keep his statutes and his commandments and his rules, and will obey his voice. And the Lord has declared today that you are a people for his treasured possession, as he has promised you, and that you are to keep all his commandments, and that he will set you in praise and in fame and in honor high above all nations that he has made, and that you shall be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised. ­– Deuteronomy 26:17-19 ESV

The Jews were God's chosen people. They were the descendants of Abraham, the very offspring God had promised to give him after having called him out of Ur. Now they stood on the edge of the very land God had promised to give Abraham as his inheritance. God's original promise to Abraham had contained three parts: A land, a seed, and a blessing. The land was almost theirs. All they had to do was go in and conquer it according to God's plan. Obviously, God had given Abraham many descendants or seed, because by this time the Jews were large in number. But as Paul reminds us in the book of Galatians, God's promise regarding the seed was not just referring to the fact that Abraham would have many descendants. He would have a very specific descendant, through whom God would bless all the people of the earth. “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as referring to many, but rather to one, ‘And to your seed,’ that is, Christ” (Galatians 3:16 NASB). God had something far greater in store for the people of Israel than simply their occupation of a particular plot of land somewhere in the Middle East. He had a more important reason for choosing them than just the pouring out of His divine grace, favor and mercy on them alone. God had set them apart in order that through them He might bring about the birth of His Son. The people of Israel were integral to God's plan for redeeming mankind. To them alone He had revealed His divine will and given His holy commandments. They experienced His divine presence. They enjoyed the benefits of His immense power and immeasurable grace. They were a people holy to the Lord, a conduit through which He would bring His Son into the world in order that He might bless the world.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God never does anything without a reason. His actions are always purposeful and meaningful. And while we might not always understand His ways, they are always righteous and just. God Himself tells us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 44:8-9 ESV). God had His reasons for choosing Abraham. He had a plan in mind when He made the people of Israel His prized possession. He had a purpose behind the giving of His commandments to a people who could never keep them. There was a reasonable explanation to His making of a covenant with a nation who could never uphold their end of the agreement. A cursory study of the history of the people of Israel, as revealed in the Old Testament, would seem to reveal that they were a failed experiment that didn't quite turn out as planned. But the New Testament reveals that God's their seeming failure was actually preparation for the second part of His divine plan. While they would fail to be the blessing to the nations He had commanded them to be, He would still bless the nations through them. He would send His own Son as a descendant of Abraham. Jesus would be born a Jew, in fulfillment of God's promise to give the people of Israel a permanent King from the house and lineage of King David. Jesus appeared on the scene during a time in which the nation of Israel was struggling under the heavy hand of Rome. They were once again subject to the humiliating domination of a foreign power. They lacked a king, an army, and a national identity. They were weak, powerless, and hopeless, left to wonder where their long-awaited Messiah might be and when God was going to restore them to His divine favor. But when Jesus came, He declared a kingdom of a different sort than they were expecting. He came to offer a release from captivity to something other than Roman rule. His was a spiritual kingdom offering freedom from the bondage of sin and the inevitable condemnation of death that a sinful life deserved. Jesus did not show up on earth to rule and reign, but to suffer and die. It was all a part of God's plan.

What does this passage reveal about man?

God's plan for mankind is sometimes hard for us to comprehend. Even the disciples were confused when Jesus' life ended with His tragic and unexpected death by crucifixion. That was not what they had expected. It caught them off guard and left them demoralized and defeated. They went into mourning and hiding. As far as they were concerned, with the death of Jesus, their dreams were shattered. Their Messiah was dead, and so was any hope of Him setting up His kingdom on earth. But little did they know that this was all part of God's plan. Jesus had come to suffer and die, not conquer and rule. He came to provide release from captivity to sin, not from subjugation to Rome. Jesus died, but He rose again, and He revealed Himself to those very same disciples who had given up hope and hidden themselves behind locked doors. Luke tells us, “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3 ESV). Then “he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4 ESV). There was more to God's plan. The Holy Spirit had to come, just as Jesus had predicted. God was going to transform a ragtag group of cowering, hopeless disciples into a powerful force that would literally rock the world. These simple Jewish men and women would end up being the catalyst for a major religious upheaval that would leave the world changed forever. None of them knew what was going to happen, even though Jesus had told them in advance. They were oblivious was to what God was going to do to them and through them in the days ahead. But God had chosen them for a reason. The disciples had thought their role as followers of Jesus was to be His assistants and co-rulers when He set up His kingdom on earth. Little did they know that they were going to be His witnesses “in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8 ESV). God had great things in store for them.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

God has a plan that is far greater than anything I could have ever imagined. His choosing of me has far greater ramifications than just my own personal salvation and escape from the consequences of my own sin. God didn't choose me just to save me. He wants to use me. Just like the disciples, I am to be a witness for Him on this earth. I am to be His ambassador, spreading the good news of His Kingdom wherever I go. I have been chosen so that I might witness to His grace, mercy, love and forgiveness. I have received the “promise of the Father” in the form of the Holy Spirit, so that I might have the power necessary to accomplish all that God has for me to do on this earth during my lifetime. It isn't about me. It is about God's Kingdom and the fulfillment of His plan for all of mankind. The disciples had thought it was all over. But little did they know that it was all just beginning. Their greatest days were ahead of them, not behind them. God was going to use them in incredible ways to spread the good news of Jesus Christ and salvation to the ends of the earth. And we are still part of that ongoing process. I must be about the work of the Kingdom. I must see my role here as an extension of what was begun by the first disciples of Christ all those years ago. God's plan is not yet finished. His redemption of mankind is not yet complete. His Son has not yet returned. So until He does, we have work to do. It was for this task that we were chosen.

Father, keep me focused on Your plan, not my own. Use me to accomplish Your will, rather than my own. I want to live with Kingdom purpose and a future focus. Your plan is still being unfolded, day by day. I want to be part of that plan. Never let me forget that You chose me for a purpose – not just to take me to heaven some day – but to make a difference on this earth as one of Your chosen ones. Amen

God In Our Midst.

Deuteronomy 23-24, John 21

Because the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you. ­– Deuteronomy 23:14 ESV

The presence of the Lord was something the Israelites were never to take for granted. God wanted them to understand that His presence among them was conditionally based. They were not free to act as they wished or do as they desired. His regulations and rules were designed to ensure their proper behavior so that they could count on His continuing presence among them. It was His presence that truly set them apart. Without Him, they were nothing. Sin in all its forms creates a separation between God and man. Injustice, inequality, uncleanness, immorality, idolatry, infidelity, indecency – all of these things could end up creating a barrier between God and His people. God's concern for them was that they live righteously and holy, set apart from the ways of the world around them, in order that they might continue to enjoy His abiding presence among them. Repeatedly in the book of Deuteronomy, we read Moses' admonition to “keep yourself pure from every evil thing” and to “purge the evil from your midst.” The abiding presence of God was to be more important to them than anything else in the world. But they faced the constant temptation to make things other than God higher on their list of priorities. Greed could cause them to act unjustly. Lust could lure them into acting immorally. The constant presence of other gods could end up making them behave unfaithfully. But if they wanted God to remain in their midst they would have to remain faithful to Him and Him alone.

What does this passage reveal about God?

All the way back at Mount Sinai, when God directed the people to begin their march to the Promised Land, He told Moses, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14 ESV). Moses took this promise literally and quite seriously, responding, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:15 ESV). God's abiding presence was what set them apart as a people. It was not their behavior or their ability to keep a set of rules that made them distinct. It was His presence. The laws and commands of God were given to ensure that a holy God could remain in their midst. A holy God could not abide among an unholy, disobedient people. But it would not be long before the people of Israel began to believe that it was their behavior that made them righteous. They would miss the very important point that it was God who had set them apart as distinct and separate from the rest of the world. Their behavior was to be a reflection of their set-apartness. They were to live as those who belonged to God. Their conduct was intended to ensure God's presence. They were never to forget that “the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp” (Deuteronomy 23:14 ESV).

God desired to dwell among His people. When He sent His Son to earth, He became Immanuel, “God with us.” Earlier in his gospel, John wrote, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 ESV). God placed His divine presence, His glory, among men in the form of His own Son in human flesh. Wherever Jesus went, the power, wisdom, and love of God was present. He spoke for God. He healed by the power of God. He preached of the Kingdom of God. He did the works of God. He offered Himself as the way to be restored to a right relationship with God.

What does this passage reveal about man?

When Jesus was removed from the midst of the disciples through His death on the cross, they lost all hope. They went into hiding. They hid behind locked doors and wondered what the future held for them. The presence of God was missing and their lives were miserable. But then Jesus rose again from the dead. He appeared to them numerous times. He reassured them that He was still among them and that He was truly the Messiah, the Son of God. His resurrection was proof of His claim to be the Savior of the world. But even after having seen the resurrected Lord, the disciples were uncertain as to what to do with their lives. At one point, Peter, Thomas, James and John found themselves going back to what they used to do: fishing. After more than three years serving alongside Jesus, they went back to what was most familiar to them. And yet, Jesus was not present among them. Without Jesus, they were directionless. Not only that, they were unsuccessful. John tells us, “that night they caught nothing” (John 21:3 ESV). But then Jesus showed up. He stood on the shore, “yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus” (John 21:4 ESV). He instructed them to throw their nets on the other side of the boat. The obeyed and they were blessed. They did as He said and they were rewarded with a net full of fish. Suddenly, it hit Peter that Jesus was in their midst. It was deja vu. Years earlier, He had gone through a very similar experience (Luke 4:6-7). He shouted, “It is the Lord!” (John 21:7 ESV). The significance of the situation was evidence of the Lord's presence. What he had just witnessed was the work of the Lord. Jesus could have just walked up and revealed Himself. He could have called from the shore and said, “It's me, Jesus!” But He chose to reveal Himself through their circumstances. He made His presence known through their hopelessness and helplessness. These were seasoned fishermen who had failed to catch any fish. But when Jesus showed up, everything changed. His presence was a game changer. But Jesus didn't do what He did so that they might be successful fishermen. He did what He did to assure them that He was still with them. Before His death, Jesus had promised the disciples, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18 ESV). He had also told them “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper,to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17 ESV). Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples to assure them that He was alive. But He was returning to His Father. And yet, they would not be alone. The presence of God would remain with them in the form of the Holy Spirit. God would still be with them and in them, providing them with His abiding presence and power. And their behavior from that point forward was to reflect their belief that God was among them. They were to live differently and distinctively.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

It is so easy for me to forget the abiding presence of God in my life. I can fail to see Him actively engaged in and around me. Like the disciples, I can fail to recognize Him for who He is and what He is doing. I can also neglect the reality that my behavior can harm my relationship with Him. While I can't permanently damage my relationship with God, I can temporarily quench His Spirit's work in my life through disobedience and unfaithfulness. My greatest desire should be for His unceasing power and presence in my life. I must never forget that He desires to be in my midst at all times, but that my sin can create separation between my God and me. The desire for His forgiveness has nothing to do with my salvation, because Christ's death on the cross paid for my sins once and for all. When I confess my sins to Him, I am simply seeking His forgiveness so that I might continue to enjoy His abiding presence in my life here and now.

It's interesting to note that after Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples, He gave them some very specific instruction. It was Peter who said, “I am going fishing” (John 21:3 ESV). And it was to Peter that Jesus asked the question, “Do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15 ESV). It was Jesus who had claimed that he was willing to die for Jesus. It was Peter who had said that even if all the other disciples abandoned Jesus, he would not. In the garden on the night that Jesus was betrayed, it was Peter who had rashly pulled out his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest's slave. And as Jesus was being tried, it was Peter who had denied the Lord three separate times. Jesus asked Peter whether his love for Him was really greater than that of the other disciples. His actions had seemed to prove that He did not. In fact, even after Jesus had revealed Himself as risen from the dead, Peter chose to go fishing. So Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” And each time, Peter assures the Lord of His love. But each time, Jesus tells Peter to prove His love through His actions. “Feed my lambs” (John 21:15 ESV). “Feed my sheep” (John 21:16 ESV). “Feed my sheep” (John 21:17 ESV). Jesus wanted Peter to live his life with a focus on the will of God. He wanted Peter to recognize the abiding presence of God in His life and the need to live in keeping with His abiding presence, dependent upon His power and focused on His purposes.

Father, may I continue to appreciate more and more Your presence in my life. My I long for Your unbroken fellowship more than anything else. Help me see sin for what it really is, a constant threat to Your presence and power in my life. I want to walk in keeping with Your presence, dependent upon Your power and focused on Your purposes for my life. Amen


That You May Believe.

Deuteronomy 21-22, John 20

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. ­– John 20:30-31 ESV

Much of what we find written in the Scriptures is difficult to understand. When we isolate particular passages and remove them from the more global context of the entire written Word of God, we run into problems. Some of the commands found in chapters 21 and 22 of Deuteronomy can appear to be arbitrary and even unfair. But we must constantly go back to the giving of the Ten Commandments and see these more specific laws simply as practical, everyday applications of God's original commands. It is essential that we read Scripture as the revelation of God, rather than as a guide book for life. Too often, we want to view the Bible as a self-help manual that provides tips and techniques for living life in this world. We see it as some kind of spiritual encyclopedia containing isolated and somewhat disconnected advice for life. For many of us, our study of Scripture becomes little more than looking up key words in the concordance found in the back of our Bible. If you are struggling with peace, you look up the word “peace” and see what God says. If you are wrestling with faith, you seek out those passages that will give you insight into faith. While this technique is not necessarily wrong, it is not how the Bible was intended to be used. It can lead to dangerous misinterpretations of Scripture by taking verses out of their context. It can also lead to some seriously wrong conclusions. For instance, let's say you are looking for biblical insight into how to handle a rebellious child. A word search in the concordance may lead you to Deuteronomy 21:18-21: “If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and, though they discipline him, will not listen to them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city at the gate of the place where he lives, and they shall say to the elders of his city, ‘This our son is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.’ Then all the men of the city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel shall hear, and fear.” Correct application of the Scriptures requires careful study of the Scriptures – in their entirety. It is essential that we understand the context surrounding various passages. We must familiarize ourselves with the circumstances and the audience. We must always study Scripture with a view toward knowing more about God, not just gaining insight for living life.

What does this passage reveal about God?

The various commands found in chapters 21 and 22 of Deuteronomy were extensions of God's original ten commands. They were intended to be practical, everyday applications of those laws that further illustrated God's desire for His people to live set-apart, holy lives. God even gave them laws to regulate behavior when the people lived outside of His preferred will. God knew that His people would fail to live up to His holy standard. He knew that they would be driven by their sinful passions and constantly tempted to live according to their base desires, so He provided them with rules to regulate their behavior in those cases. God never intended for a man to have more than one wife, but He knew it was going to happen, so He gave rules to handle this inevitable situation (Deuteronomy 21:15-17). God took the separation of His people seriously and so He gave practical, everyday examples of separation to drive him His point. He wouldn't allow His people to plant two kinds of seeds in the same vineyard. They were not allowed to mix wool and linen in the same garment. He restricted them from plowing a field using an ox and donkey in the same yoke. While there are certainly practical reasons for these restrictions, we will miss the point if we don't view them in light of God's overarching desire that His people live their lives “unmixed” with the world. These laws applied to them alone. God was not requiring them of the other nations. They were intended to set His people apart from the rest of mankind. These rules and regulations would have seemed ridiculous to those outside of the nation of Israel. God's moral laws would have come across as onerous and heavy handed to a non-Israelite. But they were intended to teach God's people that He was a holy God who took sin seriously and who demanded a high standard from His people.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Mankind has always had a hard time understanding God. The human race is prone to misinterpretation of God's intentions. He can either come across as a kind of harsh and overly judgmental dictator or simply as some kind of senile, sentimental grandfather figure in the sky. What we know about God is directly tied to what He has revealed about Himself in creation and through His Word. Those whose only interaction with God is through His creation, usually end up with a distorted and impartial view of God. They can easily end up making more of the creation than they do the Creator. The Bible was intended to reveal a more comprehensive and complete image of the Almighty to man. It provides us with a grand narrative that takes us from the literal “beginning” to the end of the story. It reveals the character of God and the condition of man. It answers the questions of how we got here and why evil exists. It provides us with a clear explanation of sin and a simply solution as to what we can do about it. Ultimately, the Bible is about Jesus. He is and always has been God's solution to man's sin problem. The Old Testament provides a glimpse into the future, driving home the sinfulness of man, the holiness of God, and the desperate need for a means to reconcile the two. The Old Testament is incomplete without the coming of Christ. The New Testament makes no sense without the foundation set by the Old Testament. The grace provided by God through Christ will be unappreciated and misunderstood if not seen through the Law found in the Old Testament. The sin of man, so vividly displayed in the books of the Old Testament, provide a stark backdrop against which the Light of the world shines more brightly. And yet, even the disciples of Jesus didn't know what to do when His death ended their hopes and shattered their dreams. They had seen Him as their long-awaited Messiah, predicted by the Old Testament prophets. But when His life was cut short by His death on the cross, they found themselves disillusioned, defeated and in hiding. Even after Jesus rose from the dead and appeared in their sight, they had a hard time believing, “for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead” (John 20:9 ESV). They knew the Scriptures. They just didn't understand them.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

That is the problem most of us face today. We may know the Scriptures. We may even study and read the Scriptures, but we lack understanding of the Scriptures. Our knowledge tends to be incomplete and disconnected. We find ourselves gravitating to passages we prefer. We avoid the difficult sections of Scripture and too often fail to see the Word of God as one book written by one Author telling a single story. Ultimately, the Scriptures are the revelation of God to man. They are intended to teach us to believe in God. They tell us how He created all that exists. They give us a comprehensive history of His interaction with mankind over the centuries. They reveal the problem of sin as well as God's gracious solution. To a certain degree, the Bible is an unbelievable book. It tells an unbelievable story. But it is intended to help us believe in God. The Scriptures point toward the coming of Christ as the Savior of the world and the solution to man's sin problem. John reminds us, “but these things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31 ESV). That we may believe. That's the point of the Bible. It is less about regulating behavior or providing lessons for living than it is about providing us with the key to eternal life. Yes, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17), but it is ultimately about belief in God and in His Son whom He sent to provide salvation from sin and death.

Father, I sometimes find Your Word hard to believe. But as I learn to believe what it says, I find myself believing the One who said it. I grow in my understanding of who You are and what You have said You are going to do. Keep increasing my desire for Your Word so that I might grow in my knowledge and understanding of You. Don't let me treat Your Word as just another book or some kind of self-help manual for life. Show me more of You. That I might grow in my belief. Amen

Mission Accomplished.

Deuteronomy 19-20, John 19

So you shall purge the evil from your midst. ­– Deuteronomy 19:19 ESV

Sin within the community of God's people is like a cancer in the human body that, if left unchecked, will rapidly metastasize, infecting the entire organism and resulting in destruction. Oftentimes, the removal of cancer from the human body requires drastic measures. It can require invasive and seemingly destructive measures to preserve life. But the longer the disease is left unattended, the more radical the cure will need to become. When we see the commands of God concerning the destruction of the nations occupying the Promised Land, we can sometimes become appalled at the radical nature of the genocide He seems to be commanding and condoning. But God's intentions are clear, if not always understood. “But in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes,  but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded, that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 20:16-18 ESV). The reality we often lose sight of when studying the history recorded for us in the Old Testament is that the entire human race was destined for destruction because of sin. Ever since the fall or man, recorded in the opening chapters of Genesis, sin had separated mankind from God, and left them condemned to the penalty of death. But God had not left mankind without hope. He had a plan for dealing with the effects of sin. In Genesis 3, in God's pronouncement of His curses on Satan, the woman and the man, He gave us a glimpse of what He had planned. “I will put enmity between you and the woman,and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15 ESV). This is the protevangelium or first gospel. It is a prophetic picture of God's plan to destroy the enemy and his hold on mankind through the death of His own Son. Eve's eventual offspring, Jesus, would ultimately bruise or crush the head of Satan by conquering sin and death through His own sacrificial death on the cross.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God had chosen the people of Israel as His possession and commissioned them to live according to His law. They were to be radically different from the other nations. They were to remain set apart and pure, uninfected by the other nations around them. God had wanted the nation of Israel to be a living, breathing example of what men and women who lived in obedience to the will of Almighty God would look like. But to be effective witnesses of God's glory and power, they needed to remain holy, distinct and pure. So God, knowing the power of sin and its infectious characteristics, demanded the complete destruction of those nations occupying the land He had promised to the descendants of Abraham. Why? So that they would not cause the Israelites to sin against God by tempting them to worship false gods or mimic their immoral behavior. Purging was necessary. The infection had to be removed. It appears radical and harsh, but it provides us a picture of just how dangerous and destructive sin can be. It is not to be taken lightly, either in the life of an individual or a nation. God had demanded that the Israelites put to death any prophets who claimed to be speaking for God, but who sanctioned the worship of false gods. If a man or woman was caught worshiping false gods, they were to be stoned to death. “So you shall purge the evil from your midst” (Deuteronomy 17:7 ESV). If an individual refused to obey the decision of the priest or judge who was ordained by God to render judgment regarding disputes, they were to be put to death. “So you shall purge the evil from your midst” (Deuteronomy 17:12 ESV). God gave this instruction over and over again. Evil was to be removed. The cancer was to be eradicated from the body.

What does this passage reveal about man?

It is fascinating to read the gospel record of John and his first-hand account of the death of Jesus. Standing on this side of the events of that day, we know that Jesus' death was intended by God to solve man's sin problem. He was the cure for the cancer that had infected mankind. His death was intended to provide payment for the sins of man. And yet, the people of Jesus' day saw Him as the problem, not the cure. Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest had said of Jesus, “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation” (John 11:48 ESV). In his mind, Jesus was a problem that needed to be removed. He had to be purged from their midst or He would bring destruction to the nation of Israel. He went on to say to his colleagues, “You know nothing at all, Not do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish” (John 11:49-50 ESV). John tells us that from that moment on, the Jewish religious leaders sought to put Jesus to death. They wanted the cancer in their midst removed. At His trials, Jesus was accused of everything from insurrection to blasphemy. He was labeled as a troublemaker and rebel against the rule of Rome. When Pilate asked the Jewish leadership, “What accusation do you bring against this man?”, they simply replied, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you” (John 19:29-30 ESV). In their eyes, Jesus was evil and needed to be purged from the midst. He was a threat to their way of life. The sad irony of this event is that Jesus was actually the cure for what ailed them. He was the solution to their sin problem. But they simply saw Him as a threat. And while they believed that if they could have Jesus put to death, their troubles would be over, they failed to understand that they were sealing their own death warrants. They were rejecting the very One who could have saved them. When Pilate asked them, “Shall I crucify your King?”, they vehemently responded, “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:15 ESV). They were the infected ones. They were the diseased and dangerous ones. Jesus had warned the disciples about these men. “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1 ESV). The religious leaders, thinking themselves to be doing the people of God a favor by eliminating Jesus, were actually sealing their own fate and condemning the people of God to destruction.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Because Jesus was the cure for the sin of mankind, I have been given a chance to receive healing from sin's infection and release from my death sentence. I have been cured and made whole. And I have been given the power to continue to process of removing sin from my midst. I have the Holy Spirit within me who provides me with the power I need to extricate any remaining sinful behavior from my midst. It is a lifelong process that will require constant vigilance on my part. God's Word exposes the sin in my life. God's Spirit convicts me of residual sin and empowers me to remove or purge it from my life. But I must take sin seriously. I must understand that Jesus' death was required because of the devastating and destructive qualities of sin. Peter reminds me, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24 ESV). I have been healed, but I must live in constant awareness of the power and presence of sin in my midst. Not only in my own life, but in the life of the body of Christ. Together, we must purge sin from our midst. If left unnoticed and unchecked, it can become invasive and pervasive, spreading like a cancer in the body of Christ. The sins of one can affect all. We must care about the spiritual well being of one another. We must be concerned about the spiritual state of our brothers and sisters in Christ and not tolerate sin in our midst. We have been called to live lives that are set apart and distinctively different than the rest of the world. We have received the cure and we must do all we can to remain spiritually healthy and whole, with the help of the Holy Spirit and through a mutual concern for one another.

Father, thank You for providing the cure for what ailed me. Your Son healed me from the devastating and deadly effects of sin. He provided salvation when I was in a hopeless and helpless condition. Now give me the strength and motivation to remain pure and whole. Help me listen to the promptings of Your Spirit and confess the sins of which He convicts me. Give me a growing concern for the spiritual health of my brothers and sisters in Christ. Don't allow us to tolerate sin in the body of Christ, but do all we can to purge it from our midst. Amen


Wholly Holy.

Deuteronomy 17-18, John 18

You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. ­– Deuteronomy 18:13 ESV

God wanted His people to be holy. He demanded that they be blameless. The Hebrew word translated as blameless is tamiym and it means “entire, whole or complete.” It is a word that carries the idea of moral integrity. In Latin, it is the word, integer, and it means “untouched, undivided, whole.” When we read the word, blameless, we tend to think of perfection or perfectness. But the real idea behind the word is that of wholeness. It is the same word used by God in His address to Abraham found in Genesis 17:1: “When Abram was ninety-nine years old the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless’”. God was not expecting Abraham to live in perfection or without sin, but He was expecting Abraham to live a life that was wholly and completely dedicated to God. Every area of his life was to be lived out in full view of God. No compartmentalization. No hidden areas. He was to “walk before” God. The Hebrew word is halak and it means “to walk back and forth; to walk about; to live out one’s life.” God expected Abraham to live his entire life in full view of the gaze of God, knowing that God would see every area of His life. Nothing was hidden from God. The Israelites, descendants of Abraham, and recipients of the promises made to him, were to live their lives in the same way. They were to be blameless, whole and complete. There was to be no hidden areas in their lives, where they attempted to hide their actions from God. The laws of God were intended to cover every area of life. They were comprehensive and complete. Nothing was left to the imagination. A life lived in relationship with God was to be a life that was wholly and completely impacted by His presence, power and will.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God had already told the people of Israel, “You must love the Lord your God with your whole mind,your whole being,  and all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5 ESV). This was the great Shema. God was telling them that He expected their love for Him to be comprehensive and complete. It was to come from their whole mind, their whole being, and their whole strength. Their love for God was to encompass their entire life – emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and physically. Jesus said of the religious leaders of His day, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8 ESV). He was quoting from the writings of Isaiah, the prophet, who had recorded the words of God against the people of Israel. God does not want lip-service. He doesn't want His followers to simply go through the motions. The worship of God is to be holistic and complete. It is to be comprehensive and all-encompassing of every area of life. We see this modeled in the life of Jesus. His love for His Father was comprehensive. It was evident in every area of His life. His desire to do the will of His Father, even though it involved His own death, was an expression of His love. He held nothing back. Jesus was arrested, falsely accused and forced to undergo a series of trials on trumped up charges. He was subjected to all kinds of abuse and accusations. Even Pilate said, “I find no fault in him” (John 18:38 ESV). He was blameless. He was obedient. He was simply doing what His Father had called Him to do. And it was for His dedication to the will of God that He would die. Rather than preserve His own life, He willingly sacrificed it, out of love for the Father.

What does this passage reveal about man?

We are the kings of compartmentalization. We are constantly trying to keep back certain areas of our lives over which we can maintain control. We give God portions of our lives, but withhold other areas for our own use. Our work can easily become our private domain, somehow separated from our “spiritual” lives. Our finances can become our personal arena over which we alone sit as masters. We can so easily give the appearance that we are dedicate to and in love with God, while we reserve certain aspects of our lives for our own use. Our thought lives remain ours to control. Our time becomes ours to use as we see fit. Our social lives become separated from our spiritual lives. And yet, God has called us to live lives that are holy and blameless, completely and wholly dedicated to Him.

At one point in His earthly ministry, Jesus was approached by a Jewish lawyer who asked Him how he could inherit eternal life. Jesus, knowing the man was an expert in the law of Moses, asked him what he thought the law said about it. The man responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27 ESV). Jesus told the man, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live” (Luke 10:28 ESV). What Jesus knew was that it was going to be impossible for the lawyer to “do this.” He would find it impossible to love God wholly and completely. He would discover that his inability to love others as God intended would be a stumbling block in his attempt to love God. No man can live blamelessly or wholly dedicated to God apart from the saving work of Jesus Christ. He alone makes it possible for us to stand before God wholly holy. It was the death of Jesus that cancelled our debt to God and transferred the righteousness of Christ to our account. It is what is often referred to as the Great Exchange. “But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners” (Romans 4:5 NLT). My sin for His righteousness. Because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross on my behalf, I stand before God as wholly holy.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

But while I am positionally holy before God, there is a need for me to live practically holy before Him all the days of my life. I must continue to learn to live in obedience to His will, not out of some misguided attempt to score brownie points with God, or earn His favor, but out of love for Him. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15 ESV). There is an expectation on each of us as Christ-followers to live obediently within the will of God, submitted to His Spirit and guided by His Word. We are to model our lives after Christ, We are to “have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had” (Philippians 2:5 NLT). At attitude of servanthood, submission, humility and obedience to the will of God. My entire life is to be lived out before God, with nothing held back, no parts hidden or compartmentalized. I have the Spirit of God within me who makes it possible for me to live wholly holy. Not perfectly, but increasingly more willingly submitted to God's will for my life as His child. It is a process. It takes time. It is what is often referred to as sanctification, the ongoing transformation of my entire life into the likeness of Christ Himself. And there is a day coming when we will be like Him. “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3 ESV). The time is coming when we will be perfectly holy and complete. In the meantime, we are to maintain that as our goal. We are to strive towards holiness in every area of our lives. We are to love God with our whole mind, our whole being and every ounce of our physical strength – striving to be wholly holy – with the Spirit's help.

Father, I want to be wholly holy. I know it is impossible in this life, but it must be my goal. It must be my heart's desire. I also realize I can't do it on my own. I must rely upon the Holy Spirit's help and depend upon His power to make it possible. Continue to reveal to me my own shortcomings and inadequacies and remind me of my constant need for Your help to live the life You've called me to live. Amen

The Truth.

Deuteronomy 15-16, John 17

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. ­– John 17:17 ESV

One of the things the Israelites were constantly having to learn was to trust God when He spoke. Much of what God told them to do sounded bizarre and far-fetched. His rules and regulations had to have seemed onerous and arbitrary at times. The sacrificial system He commanded them to keep had to have been burdensome and costly to keep. His commands regarding the release of all debts during the sabbatical year had to have seemed unfair and unjust. But God kept reminding them that His laws were to be obeyed and His commands were to be kept – at all times and at all costs. He repeatedly told them, “You shall…” and “You shall not…” God's commands were to be obeyed, even when they seemed to make no sense. His appointed festivals and feasts were to be celebrated on time and in the manner He prescribed. Everything was a reminder of God's faithfulness and goodness. Their expressions of mercy toward one another were to be reflections of the mercy God had shown them. Their celebrations of the festivals and feasts were regular reminders of God's past deliverance and daily provision in their lives. They were to live according to God's word, trusting that what He said was true and trustworthy. They were to listen to His instructions and obey His commands, regardless of what the other nations around them did. God's word was not to be treated as a suggestion or an option to be considered, but as truth to be believed and obeyed.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God's word is truth. It isn't just another version of the truth, it is the truth. It is not to be treated as optional or negotiable. It is not to be considered as one of several options to be considered. God didn't give the Israelites a choice as to whether or not they could obey His word. Of course, they often did disobey His word, but it always came with consequences. Failure to fully comply with His commands always resulted in a less-than-enjoyable outcome. One of the ways the Israelites learned to believe God's word was to disobey it. They often found out the hard way that what God said was true. They inevitably discovered that God's way was always the better way. His word was worth obeying. One of the difficult things about living in this world is our constant struggle with knowing the difference between truth and falsehood. The Israelites would constantly find themselves tempted to worship false gods. They would struggle with listening to alternate versions of the truth. This world is the domain of the enemy. Jesus referred to him as the father of lies. “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44 ESV). But God is truth. He is the essence of truth. What we see around us is tainted by the effects of the fall. It is not as it should be. It is not as God intended it should be. Injustice, poverty, disease, war, suffering, heartache, and death are not God's invention or intention, but the result of sin entering into the world. God's word brings life. Even when God ordered the seeming death of the innocent, there was always a just and righteous reason for it. Even His command that His own Son die in the place of sinful man was a justifiable, righteous and true. It was right. It was necessary.

When Jesus claimed, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV), He was including His own death as part of the equation. His death was necessary for Him to become the way. His death was a required part of God's truth. His death had to happen for eternal life to be possible. And while the disciples had a hard time understanding and embracing the gravity of Jesus' words, it was the truth. It was the revealed word of God. It was His divine plan to deal with the problem on man's sin and separation from His presence.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Man has always been in a desperate search to know the truth. Where did we come from? Why is there suffering in the world? How can we eradicate disease and forestall death? What comes after death? But we are limited in our understanding and prone to believe lies instead of the truth. We turn to just about anything and anyone in our search for the truth. We listen to the lies of men. We embrace the false assumptions of science. We turn to our intellect and rely upon reason. But we continually find ourselves wondering what is true and what is false. We question who we can believe and trust. But unless our search for truth takes us to God, we will constantly find ourselves believing the lie and living with a false sense of hope and an unreliable version of reality. Jesus told the Jews in His day, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32 ESV). There is only one version of the truth, and it can only be found in God's written word, the Bible, and through the Living Word, Jesus Christ. Anyone who seeks truth in the Scriptures, but fails to see the Son of God, will miss the whole point of God's written word. To turn the Bible into a self-help guide or a manual for living is to distort the truth of God's word. The Bible reveals God to man, and the greatest manifestations of God was Jesus Christ, the very Son of God in human flesh. Praying to His Heavenly Father in His High Priestly Prayer, Jesus said, “For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me” (John 17:8 ESV). Jesus was sent from God. He was the very truth of God revealed to men. He was God's revealed plan for the salvation of mankind. And yet, men refused to believe Him. They refused to acknowledge Him as the way, the truth and the life. He didn't fit their definition of truth. They had embraced a different truth – one of their own making. But for those who believed the truth and placed their faith in Jesus as their Messiah or Savior, Jesus revealed to them the truth of God regarding man's sin and the divine plan for salvation and their own sanctification.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Jesus asked the Father, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17 ESV). The truth not only includes our salvation, but our ongoing sanctification. The Bible reveals man's plight and God's plan for restoring mankind to a right relationship with Him. The Bible tells us the truth about God and man. It reveals to us who God is and tells us the truth about who we are and how desperate our condition. The truth of God's word paints a vivid and realistic picture of the world and mankind's need for a Savior. Even as a believer, I must depend upon God's word to expose me to the truth – enlightening me to my ever-present need for God's ongoing salvation and His Spirit's constant transformation of my life. Just as God's word reveals that no man can save Himself, it also teaches me that I cannot sanctify myself. I can't make myself holy. I can't make myself Christ-like and righteous. Salvation and sanctification are the work of God alone. That truth should be a source of freedom and release for me. The truth is, I must live in this world, surrounded by lies and falsehood. I must attempt to grow in Christ-likeness and increase in holiness. But I don't have to do it alone. My ongoing spiritual maturity and increasing holiness is a result of God's work in my life. As Jesus said, I am sanctified in truth – the truth of God's word.

Father, we are surrounded by lies. We are constantly tempted to believe anything and anyone, except You. Thank You for opening my eyes to the truth regarding Your Son and His offer of salvation. But help me to understand that the truth found in Christ also includes my ongoing sanctification or growth in spiritual maturity or Christ-likeness. You have shown me through Your Word how maturity takes place. Sometimes it sounds farfetched and difficult, but I know it is the truth. Sometimes Your Holy Spirit seems distant and hard to comprehend, but I know He's there because Your Word promises it. Help me trust Your Word and live according to Your truth. Amen

Help For Holiness.

Deuteronomy 13-14, John 16

For you are a people holy to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the people who are on the face of the earth. ­– Deuteronomy 14:2 ESV

Over and over again, God reminded the people of Israel that they were to be holy, because they belonged to Him. They were His possession and, as a result, they were to live lives that reflected their unique position as His chosen people. He had given them rules and regulations for conducting their lives that included dietary laws and a sacrificial unlike any other. They were to worship only God and were not allowed to have any other gods as substitutes or options. God took idolatry quite seriously, demanding that any prophet who encouraged the people to worship other gods was to be executed. Any friend or family member who tried to tempt a loved one to worship a false god was to be stoned to death. It didn't matter if it was a wife, mother, father, brother, son or daughter. Any city that ended up worshiping a false god was to be destroyed and all its inhabitants put to death. Nothing was to be taken as spoil and the city was to remain a ruins forever. Holiness was a non-optional requirement for the people of God. They had been set apart by God for His glory and so they were to live lives that reflected their unique standing as His possession.

This demand to live holy lives was passed on to the New Testament believers. Peter wrote, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:14-15 ESV). God still expects His children to live holy, set-apart lives. But we have a distinct advantage over the people of Israel. We have been given the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, who makes our pursuit of holiness possible.

What does this passage reveal about God?

What we see in the Old Testament is a vivid glimpse of God's holiness in full display. By the time He had called the people of Israel and led them to the border of the Promised Land, idolatry was in full swing in the world. False gods were everywhere. Mankind had developed the capacity to make gods out of just about anything and everything. They worshiped gods they made with their own hands. They worshiped the trees, the planets, the water, and other parts of creation. They made gods who handled everything from fertility and fruitfulness to war. Nations borrowed the gods of other nations. They saw nothing wrong with having multiple gods and would add new gods to their retinue of deities in a heartbeat. But the God of the Israelites would not tolerate the worship of any other gods. He claimed to be the one and only God. He let them know that they, as His possession, were to have no other gods before them. They were to remain devoted solely to Him and worship Him alone. God was intolerant and inflexible on this matter. His people were to remain faithful to Him. He knew they were surrounded by nations who worshiped all kinds of gods. He realized that they would be constantly tempted to turn to those other gods and give their devotion and allegiance to them. That is why God was so adamant that the people of Israel destroy the nations who lived in the land and tear down their altars and the places of worship dedicated to these false gods. The people of Israel belonged to God. He had chosen them. He had redeemed them from slavery. He had made a covenant with them. And He had kept His part of the covenant. Now He was expecting them to keep theirs.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Faithfulness is not a natural character trait among men, and spiritual faithfulness is a virtual impossibility. When it comes to the worship of God, the human race has proven it has a difficult time remaining faithful and true. Ever since the fall, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God by listening to the lies of the enemy, man has made a habit out of making gods of his own creation. We have a long track record of remaking God in our own image, or simply making a whole new god altogether. And with our new gods we have ended up making our own set of rules and standards by which to live. The various gods available today tend to offer conflicting views regarding life and how one can enjoy the afterlife. Each offers their version of the truth. But Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV). He claimed to be the only means by which man could be made right with God. False gods offer false hope when it comes to mankind's condition. Sacrifice to a false god can never provide true forgiveness or redemption. Belief in a false god, not matter how sincere, can never deliver anyone from the penalty that sin deserves. Even the Israelites, while they worshiped the one true God, could not keep His laws perfectly and completely. They were incapable of living the holy lives He demanded. They couldn't keep His laws or live up to His standards. They struggled with disobedience and unfaithfulness. The law constantly reminded them of their sins and the sacrificial system provided little more than a temporary pardon, delaying the inevitable consequences for their sin because they couldn't stop sinning.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

But God fully understood man's condition and had a divine solution already in place. He had planned all along to send His Son to die in man's place as a payment for the penalty for man's sin. Jesus, the Son of God, took on human flesh and lived as one of us, so that He might live in complete obedience to the law of God. He did what no other man had ever done: obey God's law to perfection, which made Him the perfect sacrifice for the sins of man. He was the sinless sacrifice that God required. And because of His death in our place, God is able to offer us forgiveness from sin and salvation from death – and all we have to do is trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior. When we do, God offers us forgiveness from sin and promises us eternal life. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV). But even with the promise of eternal life, God still demands that His children live holy lives. He still expects us to live set-apart lives, in keeping with His divine standards and reflective of our unique position as His holy possession. But the good news is that He has given us a “Helper” – the Holy Spirit – to assist us in living the life to which God has called us. Jesus told His disciples, “it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:7-11 ESV). After His death and resurrection, Jesus ascended back to heaven, and this triggered the arrival of the Holy Spirit. The story of Pentecost found in the second chapter of Acts, tells of His initial coming. The Holy Spirit was a game changer. He turned cowering, fearful disciples into bold, fearless spokesmen for the Kingdom of God. He turned timid, uneducated men and women into passionate evangelists for the Good News of Jesus Christ. He made possible powerful preaching and unbelievable miracles. He empowered, guided and comforted those who had, just a few hours earlier, been fearful and hopeless. Jesus ended up leaving His disciples behind, but He did not leave them alone. He gave them His Holy Spirit, and today, as Christ followers, we have that same Holy Spirit available to us and resident within us. As a result, we have all that we need to live the lives God has called us to live. We can be holy. We can live distinctively and differently from the world around us. Peter tells us, “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence” ( 2 Peter 1:3 NLT).

Father, thank You for making holiness possible. You have given me Your Spirit to assist me in the process. And never let me forget that it is a process. It is a transformational process that takes time and requires my willing participation. I must desire to live differently and then allow Your Spirit to lead me and empower me to make it possible. I have the ability to live according to Your divine standards and live up to Your righteous requirements, just as Your Son did, because Your Spirit lives within me. Amen


No Excuse.

Deuteronomy 11-12, John 15

If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. ­– John 15:22 ESV

The people of Israel were without excuse. They had seen the hand of God in their lives. He had rescued them from captivity in Egypt, led them through the wilderness for more than 40 years, and now had them poised to enter into the long-awaited land of promise. Moses told them, “For your eyes have seen all the great work of the Lord that he did” (Deuteronomy 11:7 ESV). All that they had seen God do over the years on their behalf should have empowered them to obey Him. They should have had no problem believing in God and his ability to lead, provide for and protect them. As they entered the Promised Land, they should have been fully confident in God's ability to do what He had promised to do. Not only had He said He would give them the land, He had told them that the land would be rich and abundant and, if they obeyed Him, it would get ever better. Moses reminded them, “he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full” (Deuteronomy 11:14-15 ESV).

But in spite of all that God had done for them, the Israelites continued to struggle with believing and obeying. Moses had to repeatedly warn them not to worship other gods. He made sure they fully understood that they were going to have to destroy all the nations living in the land, along with all their false gods. They were going to have to remove every imaginable temptation to turn their attention from God and worship anything or anyone other than Him. God had made His will clear. Moses had made the conditions regarding God's promises non-negotiable. So whatever happened in the days ahead, they would be without excuse.

What does this passage reveal about God?

From the very beginning, God has made Himself known to man in a variety of ways. God's creation reveals His divine nature, power, and presence. Paul wrote, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20 ESV). God is not hidden from man. He has displayed His glory all around them. But man has tended to worship the creation rather than the creator, making gods out of animals, trees, the planets, and even one another.

In the days following the fall of man, when Adam and Eve sinned against God, mankind found itslef on a trajectory of disobedience and rebellion against Him. Each of the nations developed a whole host of other gods to worship. By the time Abram received his call from God, idolatry was in full-swing. So God revealed Himself to Abraham in a remarkable way, making Himself known more intimately to man than ever before. Over the centuries, God would continue to reveal Himself to the descendants of Abraham – visibly and even verbally. He would reveal Himself through His law and the sacrificial system. He would display His power. He would allow them to enjoy His divine presence. No longer would they be limited to learning about God through nature. His revelation of Himself had become intimate and immediate. So they were without excuse. They knew that God existed. They knew He was faithful. They knew He was powerful. They knew He was holy, righteous, and just. And they knew He had a strong hatred for sin and had to punish it unapologetically.

And yet, theycontinued to struggle with belief and obedience.

What does this passage reveal about man?

The problem with man is not that God is impossible to discover, but simply that the God of the universe is not the God they want. They prefer a god of their own making. They don't want an all-powerful, must-be-obeyed-at-all-costs God. They want a loving, merciful, gracious, gift-giving, wish-granting god who exists for their benefit. The truth was, the Israelites had experienced God's abundant grace, mercy, and generosity. But His gifts came with requirements. He demanded allegiance and faithfulness. He required fidelity. God had made man for His glory. Man had turned that idea on its ears, insisting that God existed for their glory. Even the Israelites had slowly begun to believe that they were somehow special because God had chosen them. They convinced themselves that He owed them His undivided attention and affection. In their minds, God owed them something. He had to bless them. He had to prosper them. But they had forgotten that God chosen them in spite of them, not because of them. Rather than seeing themselves as dependent on God, they had somehow convinced themselves to believe that God needed them. They believed themselves to beindispensable to God. After all, they were His “chosen people.”

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

God was not done revealing Himself to man. With the coming of Jesus, God had chosen a new way to make Himself known. Jesus was “God incarnate” – God in the flesh. He was Immanuel, “God with us.” But even when Jesus left heaven and took on human flesh, men chose to reject Him. Even after He had performed miracles and given them sign after sign of His deity, they just couldn't bring themselves to believe in Him. Why? Because He was not who they were expecting or offering what they wanted. As always, God's revelation of Himself blatantly exposed the sinfulness of man. Jesus came to keep the law that no man had ever been able to keep. He came to offer them salvation from sin. But Jesus said, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin(John 15:22 ESV). He had arrived on earth proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven. They were looking for a kingdom on earth. He had come to offer salvation from sin. They wanted freedom from Roman rule. He came demanding that they must believe in Him as the Son of God and the Savior of the world. But they refused to believe Him. His arrival had demanded a decision on their part. They either had to believe in Him or reject Him. But Jesus said, “If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father” (John 15:24 ESV). His signs and miracles were intended to reveal His deity. They were meant to validate His claim to be the Son of God. But the people worshiped His miracles instead of Him. They wanted to see signs and wonders, but rejected His offer of salvation. And they were without excuse.

God wants to offer me so much more than just a better life and temporal blessings that fade with time. He wants to provide me with more than simply good health and a trouble-free existence in this life. He sent His Son to pay for my sins and offer me eternal life, free from condemnation and the fear of death. Jesus offers me abundant life, but based on the promise of a life after this one. The tendency is to make this life the goal, to attempt to get everything I can here and now, and forget about the hereafter. God wants us to live in dependence upon Him, allowing Him to bless us as He sees fit in this life, but focusing our hopes and desires on the life to come. Jesus promised us, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5 ESV). We must rely on Him. We must depend upon Him. We must allow His life to flow through us, producing the fruit of His Spirit, not the deeds of our own sinful flesh. Apart from Him, we can do nothing. And if we attempt to live this life in our own power, focused on our own selfish desires, believing that God exists to make us happy, we are without excuse.

Father, I can so easily make it all about me. Help me to understand that I can do nothing without You. I am helpless and hopeless without Your Son and His gift of salvation – available to me every day of my life. May I continually learn to live for You and Your Kingdom, not my own. I have no excuse for believing that this life is all there is or that You somehow owe me a favor. May my life bring you glory each and every day I live. Amen

A Love For God.

Deuteronomy 9-10, John 14

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? ­– Deuteronomy 10:12-13 ESV

Moses went out of his way to remind the people of Israel of all that God had done for them over the four decades since He had released them from bondage in Egypt. He made sure they understood that it was “Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (Deuteronomy 9:12-13). He broke the news to them that God was “not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people” (Deuteronomy 9:6 ESV). But he also told them, that in spite of themselves, God was going to go before them and deliver the land and their enemies into their hands. And all God asked for in return was that they show Him the love, devotion, obedience, and yes, fear, He so rightly deserved. Moses wanted them to understand the incredible nature of the relationship they enjoyed with the God who created the universe. “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing” (Deuteronomy 10:17-18 ESV). He wasn't just some divine guide for living or a convenient source for food. He wasn't some kind of talisman or good luck charm to help them win battles or overcome difficulties. He was the almighty, holy, righteous, just, powerful, loving, merciful and gracious God of the universe.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God desires that men show Him the honor and glory He deserves. He demands that they show Him the fear His power and holiness requires. He longs for them to understand just how incredible it is that He allows them to come into His divine presence, in spite of their sins and constant tendency to rebel against Him. God wants men to willingly obey and love Him because of all that He has done for them. Of all people, the Israelites knew first-hand the power and holiness of God. They had been given His law. They had heard what He required of them and what He would do if they disobeyed Him. But they had also experienced the incredible blessings that came as a result of obeying Him. They knew what it was like to have Him go before them, providing direction and protection. And they alone, of all people living on the earth at the time, had been given this unique relationship with God. And all He asked in return was that they love, fear and obey Him.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Even those who have experienced the love, mercy, grace and power of God in their lives, sometimes have a difficult time expressing legitimate love in return. We all struggle with obedience to God. Partly because of our sin nature. But also because our God is invisible to us. We live in a temporal and physical world where the spiritual is difficult to see and comprehend. So we make decisions based on what we can see. We tend to believe what we can touch and experience with our senses. We find ourselves trusting what we can hold in our hands and see with our eyes. The Israelites had visible manifestations of God's glory and presence, and still struggled with trusting and obeying Him. They experienced countless displays of His blessings and still tended to fall out of love with Him when things didn't go quite the way they expected. And we do the same thing today. But we have been given God's Word as a constant reminder of who He is and all that He has done for mankind over the centuries. Not only that, God's Word tells us what He is going to do in the future as part of the fulfillment of His divine promise to mankind. For those of us who know Him and have a relationship with Him through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, we have been given a glimpse into God's faithfulness in the past and His faithfulness yet to come. We know how God solved the problem of sin and man's inability to live obediently to His law. We know God sent His own Son to pay the penalty for our rebellion against Him and provided a way for us to experience forgiveness and a restored relationship with Him. We also know that God is not done yet. He is one day going to send His Son again to bring an end to ALL sin and suffering. He will restore order where there has only been chaos and put all things back the way God had intended them to be all along.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Jesus came to provide salvation from sin and the penalty of death. He gave His life so that I might live – not on my own terms, but according to God's divine will. Christ's death not only provided me with salvation, but with the power of the Holy Spirit who makes it possible for me to live obediently and faithfully according to God's will. Jesus promised His disciples, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever” (John 14:16 ESV). “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26 ESV). Jesus still expected obedience and love from His disciples. He told them, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him” (John 14:21 ESV). But He also knew that they would be incapable of obedience and love without help. So He told them that they would receive divine assistance in the form of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Like the disciples, I have the capacity and power to love and obey.

God's requirements have not changed. He still expects us to fear Him, love Him, obey Him and serve Him. But He hasn't left us to try in our own strength. He has placed His Spirit within us, and that power is now available to us, He resides within us. Which is why Jesus told His disciples, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:12-14 ESV). The Holy Spirit gives us the capacity to do great things in the name of God and out of love for God.

Father, I want my life to be an expression of love for You. I want to live in obedience to You and reliance upon You. I have no excuse for not doing so, because You have placed Your Spirit within me. I know I have the capacity to say no and refuse to listen to His directions for my life. I do it far too frequently. But help me to see that His power is the key to living obediently, joyfully, and powerfully. I want to let Him lead me and empower me to love You by living fearfully, obediently, faithfully and submissively to Your will for my life. Amen

Betraying God.

Deuteronomy 7-8, John 13

Beware lest you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth”. ­– Deuteronomy 8:17 ESV

God had blessed the people of Israel in amazing ways over the four decades since He had released them from captivity in Egypt. Not only had He arranged their release through a series of spectacular and devastating plagues, He had also fed them with manna from heaven and water from a rock. He prevented their clothes and their sandals from wearing out. He had revealed the glory of His power and presence through the pillar of fire by night and the pillar of cloud by day. He had promised to give them a land of their own, providing for them vineyards and fields they never had to plant, as well as homes and cities to live in that they weren't required to build. God had shown these people favor after favor, extending mercy and grace beyond measure. But as they stood on the edge of the Promised Land, Moses warned them. He knew their hearts. He was well aware of their tendencies. He had struggled with these people for over 40 years. So he gives them some much-needed last-minute advice.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God was going to do His part. He had gotten them this far, and He would make sure that the land He had promised to them made it into their possession. Moses knew that this second generation were no different than the first. As soon as they saw the strength and size of the enemies in the land, they would panic. But he reminded them that God was clear out all the nations before them. He would literally give them over to the Israelites for destruction. Their job was to fight and, ultimately, to wipe out the nations who occupied the land. As harsh as this may sound, God had a very good reason for the extermination of the pagan nations that lived in the land of Canaan. He knew that they were idol worshipers and worse. They were the antithesis of what He wanted the people of Israel to be. If left to live in the land, it would just be a matter of time before the Israelites intermarried with them and took on their gods. They would end up co-habitating with the enemy and compromising their convictions. So God ordered their complete annihilation. He wanted the full attention and devotion of the people He had chosen. God wanted to bless them, but that was going to be impossible if they risked betraying their loyalty and devotion to Him.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Moses told the people, “The whole commandment that I command you today, you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land that the Lord swore to give your fathers” (Deuteronomy 8:1 ESV). “So you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God by walking in his ways and by fearing him” (Deuteronomy 8:6 ESV). But he also provided them with a sober warning to “take care lest you forget the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 8:11 ESV). How would they forget God? By failing to keep His commandments. By accepting His blessings and enjoying the God-given wealth of the land, but allowing pride to rise up and cause them to wrongly assume that “my power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:17 ESV).

He warned them not to forget God. To do so would be to betray Him, to turn their back on Him. And yet, they would be constantly tempted to do just that. God would give them victories and they would attempt to take credit for it. God would bless their crops and increase their wealth, and they would assume responsibility for having made it happen. Moses knew that God was going to bless them, because He had promised to do so and God could be trusted to keep His word. But Moses also knew that the people would be prone to betray God by refusing to obey Him and give Him the glory He deserved. One of the greatest ways men can honor and glorify God is to recognize His activity in their lives. Acknowledging the presence and power of God all around us brings Him glory.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Jesus lived His life on this earth to glorify the Father. He said, “The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him. And since God receives glory because of the Son,he will soon give glory to the Son” (John 13:31-32 NLT). Jesus complete obedience to the will of the Father in this life brought glory to God. His death on the cross brought glory to God because it was the ultimate expression of His unwavering obedience. His resurrection from the dead brought glory to God because it was the work of God. And now, Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven, restored to His former place and glorified by God Himself.

Jesus was not going to betray His Father. He would not assume credit for the work of the Father in His life. He spoke only what His Father commanded Him to speak. He lived in obedience and submission to the will of God. And He has called all His disciples to live likewise. We are called to live like Christ, to live in humble submission to God and willful obedience to His Word. Jesus washed the disciples' feet, not as a ritual to be repeated, but as an example to be followed. Jesus humbled Himself. He served others. In just a few hours from the moment He toweled off the feet of the last disciple, Jesus would be hanging on a cross, the ultimate expression of servanthood. He would give Himself as the sacrifice for the sins of mankind. Jesus wanted His disciples to follow His lead. He wanted them to honor God rather than betray Him. Peter claimed that he was willing to die for Jesus, but Jesus begged to differ. “Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times” (John 13:38 ESV). Jesus had already revealed that Judas was going to betray Him. Now He tells Peter that, he too, will betray Him. The betrayal of God is a constant threat to each and every one of us. Turning our backs on God will always be a real temptation as long as we live on this earth. But we have been called to live in obedient submission to His will, giving Him the glory He deserves by recognizing His constant hand in our lives. Nothing we do is accomplished apart from God. Our greatest achievements are due to the grace and mercy of God. Rather than betray Him, I should live to display Him to the world around me. Christ in me, the hope of glory.

Father, I am nothing without You. I can do nothing without You. Forgive me for taking credit for and control of my life. I want to live in obedient submission to You, recognizing Your role in my life and remembering all that You have done for me over the years. May my life bring You glory and honor as I recognize Your activity in my life. Amen


Called Out. Sold Out.

Deuteronomy 5-6, John 12

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. ­– Deuteronomy 6:4-5 ESV

God had chosen the people of Israel for a reason. He wanted them to be a living, breathing example of what a relationship between God and man might look like. He wanted to reveal His power through them. He wanted to providentially provide for them. He wanted to guide and direct them, as well as protect them. Their relationship and interaction with God was to be a special and unique, unlike that of any other nation. But that relationship required allegiance and obedience. God had proven His love for them through His decision of choosing them, redeeming them from slavery in Egypt, and giving them His irrevocable pledge of a land of their own. But God expected theirs to be a reciprocal relationship. He wasn’t just looking for half-hearted adherents to His laws who obeyed solely out of fear. He desired a people who would love Him for who He was and for all He had done for them.

Verses 4-5 of Deuteronomy 6 contain the great “Shema” – what would become, in essence, the statement of faith for the Hebrew people.  “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 ESV). This was a call to commitment, a corporate live in a covenant relationship with God, recognizing Him as their God and loving Him accordingly. The proof of their love for God was to expressed in their faithful devotion to Him alone. It was to be holistic in nature, influencing every area of their life and every aspect of their nature. They were to be wholly holy, completely set apart to God and fully in love with Him.

What does this passage reveal about God?

God desires a relationship with mankind. He could have demanded unwavering allegiance from those whom He has made, and hold them accountable for their failure to obey. But knowing that they were completely incapable of living in obedience to His law and unable to meet His righteous standards, He chose to show mercy and grace. He lovingly and graciously provided the means by which they could enjoy His presence and receive His forgiveness and pardon, in spite of their repeated failures to remain faithful and sinless. But God expected those whom He had chosen and showered with His mercy and grace to respond in love. He wanted them to recognize His goodness and appreciate just how blessed they were to have this one-of-a-kind relationship with Him. He wanted them to tell their children. God expected His people to be so overwhelmed by His grace that they would willingly and gladly tell the next generation.

In those days, the key to living in a loving relationship with God was based on an understanding of and obedience to the law of God. That’s why Moses tells the people, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 ESV). But it wasn’t just the law of God that was to be passed down. They were to constantly remind one another of God’s goodness and grace. They were to remember His great deeds done on their behalf. They were to recall His covenant faithfulness and recount it to those who were too young to have experienced it. One of the greatest expressions of our love for God is our willingness and eagerness to talk about Him to others. We talk about those whom we love. We brag about those who are near and dear to us, including our family members or friends. But do we brag about God?

What does this passage reveal about man?

Over in the gospel of John, we read that not long after Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, people began to believe in Him. It’s amazing how a little thing like raising the dead made a profound impact on them. Even some of the rulers of the Jews had become convinced that Jesus was truly who He claimed to be. But John tells us, “but because of the Pharisees they would not confess Jesus to be the Christ, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue. For they loved praise from men more than praise from God” (John 12:42-43 NET). Isn’t that the problem we all face? They cared more about what others thought about them than they did about all that God was doing among them. They worshiped man more than they did God.

Jesus Himself said, “The one who believes in me does not believe in me, but in the one who sent me, and the one who sees me sees the one who sent me” (John 12:45-45 NET). Ultimately, belief in Jesus was really an expression of belief in God, because He had been sent by God. He was the Son of God. Upon His arrival in Jerusalem, Jesus had been greeted by enthusiastic crowds shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!” (John 12:13 NET). They appeared to be expressing love for Jesus that was from their whole mind, their whole being and all their strength. It looked as if they were giving it their all. But in just a short time, their shouts of joy would turn to screams of rage. Instead of “Hosanna!,” they would be shouting, “Crucify Him!” Their love for Jesus would prove to be short-lived and short-sighted. Instead of recognizing Him as their Savior, they ended up rejecting Him. His talk of death and sacrifice were unappealing to them. They weren’t looking for a suffering Savior, but a conquering Messiah and King.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

Jesus told the people in the crowd, “If anyone wants to serve me, he must follow me, and where I am, my servant will be too. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26 NET). Jesus was calling for a commitment. He was asking for a wholesale expression of allegiance on the part of His followers, involving their whole mind, their whole being, and all their strength. Jesus was calling them to a long-term relationship that was going to last long after this world has ceased to exist. God expects those for whom He sent His Son to express their love and appreciation for His great gift of mercy and grace. We show our love through our belief, but also through our behavior. We express our love for God by talking about Him incessantly and eagerly. We tell of His goodness. We brag about His power. We express thanks for His blessings and remind one another of His promises yet to come. Those of us who have been called out are expected to live sold-out lives, fully committed to Him and expressing our love for Him as we live in obedience to Him.

Father, thank You for choosing me. I was totally unworthy, but You sent Your Son to die in my place in order to pay for the sins I had committed. Help me comprehend the magnitude of that reality and live accordingly. May my life increasingly reflect my love for You as I talk about You, brag on You and live in obedience to You. Amen

Greater Than Moses.

Deuteronomy 34; Psalm 91

There has never been another prophet like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face..Deuteronomy 34:10 NET

Well, this is the final chapter – of the book of Deuteronomy and of Moses' life. Here we have recorded the last days of this mighty prophet of God. Because he had struck the rock in anger in the wilderness of Zin, failing to show respect and reverence for God, Moses had been denied the privilege of taking the people into the Promised Land (Numbers 20). Instead, Moses was only able to go to the very edge of the land, and view it from a distance. God took the life of Moses on Mount Nebo. He was old, but not in bad health. "Moses was 120 years old when he died, yet his eyesight was clear, and he was as strong as ever" (Deuteronomy 34:7 NLT). This great leader died in the land of Moab and went to be with the Lord. His death is marked by 30 days of mourning and a statement commemorating his role as God's chosen spokesman:

There has never been another prophet like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face. The LORD sent Moses to perform all the miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, all his servants, and his entire land. And it was through Moses that the LORD demonstrated his mighty power and terrifying acts in the sight of all Israel. – Deuteronomy 34:10-12 NLT

Yet as great as Moses was, there would be someone greater. Not Joshua, his replacement. But Jesus Christ. He would be a prophet not unlike Moses in His role as deliverer and shepherd of God's people. He would be the spokesman for God. He would be God's representative, performing great signs and miracles as proof of His power and validation of His words. The book of Hebrews makes it clear that Jesus was greater than Moses himself.

And so, dear brothers and sisters who belong to God and are bound for heaven, think about this Jesus whom we declare to be God’s Messenger and High Priest. For he was faithful to God, who appointed him, just as Moses served faithfully and was entrusted with God’s entire house. But Jesus deserves far more glory than Moses, just as a person who builds a fine house deserves more praise than the house itself. For every house has a builder, but God is the one who made everything. Moses was certainly faithful in God’s house, but only as a servant. His work was an illustration of the truths God would reveal later. But Christ, the faithful Son, was in charge of the entire household. And we are God’s household, if we keep up our courage and remain confident in our hope in Christ. – Hebrews 3:1-5 NLT

Jesus deserves far more glory than Moses. Moses was a foreshadowing of who was to come. He as an illustration of the truths God would reveal later. While Moses was a deliverer, Jesus was the deliverer. Moses could provide release from captivity to Egypt. Jesus provides release from captivity to sin and death. Moses could only provide the law written on tablets of stone, outlining the requirements of God, but incapable of providing the power to keep those requirements. The law pointed out the sin of man but could not prevent it. Jesus came to fulfill the law and provide mankind with a way to satisfy the righteous requirements of God and stand before Him as sinless and pure. Moses could only lead the people to the Promised Land, but Jesus would provide a true Promised Land marked by eternal life with God the Father.

Jesus is greater. But like the people of Israel, we can run the risk of failing to listen to the words of Jesus just as they did the words of Moses. We can rebel against the leadership of Jesus, just as they did the leadership of Moses. So the writer of Hebrews warns us:

That is why the Holy Spirit says, "Today you must listen to his voice. Don’t harden your hearts against him as Israel did when they rebelled, when they tested God’s patience in the wilderness. There your ancestors tried my patience, even though they saw my miracles for forty years. So I was angry with them, and I said, ‘Their hearts always turn away from me. They refuse to do what I tell them.’ So in my anger I made a vow: ‘They will never enter my place of rest.’" Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, as long as it is called "today," so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. But never forget the warning: "Today you must listen to his voice. Don’t harden your hearts against him as Israel did when they rebelled." – Hebrews 3:7-14 NLT

Today you must listen to His voice.

Father, You have sent Your Son Jesus as the greater prophet. He has brought us words of truth directly from You. He speaks to us daily through Your Word. He reveals to us Your will. But we tend to disobey and rebel, rejecting His words and refusing to believe. Forgive us for treating Him just as the people of Israel did Moses. Forgive us for the many times we have refused to listen to His words and keep His commands. But thank You for Your patience and kindness. And thank You for sending Your Son as our deliverer and redeemer. Amen


A Song Worth Singing!

Deuteronomy 32-33

"See now that I, indeed I, am he!” says the Lord, “and there is no other god besides me. I kill and give life, I smash and I heal, and none can resist my power."Deuteronomy 32:39 NET

Have you ever had one of those songs that you just can't seem to get out of your head? The kind that just keeps coming up no matter how hard you try to get rid of it? Usually, it's some worthless little ditty with meaningless lyrics and a less-than-memorable tune, but for some reason it takes up residence in your head and it won't go away.

In chapter 32 of Deuteronomy Moses teaches the people of Israel a song that he wants them to get stuck in their heads. It's a song that God had give him. In fact, God tells Moses, "Now write down for yourselves the following song and teach it to the Israelites. Put it into their very mouths so that this song may serve as my witness against the Israelites!" (Deuteronomy 31:19 NET). God wanted the people to learn this song and to sing it to themselves relentlessly as a reminder of their rebellion and disobedience against Him. This song paints a picture of God as the faithful One. It sings of His power and might, His justice and faithfulness.

He is the Rock; his work is perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is! (Deuteronomy 32:4)

Look now; I myself am he! There is no god other than me! I am the one who kills and gives life; I am the one who wounds and heals; no one delivers from my power! (Deuteronomy 32:39)

But this song also tells of the wrath of God and His anger with the people of Israel because of their constant rebellion and unfaithfulness. It's a tune that tells the sad story of man's turning away from God in order to give their love and allegiance to false gods.

They have roused my jealousy by worshiping non–gods; they have provoked my fury with useless idols. Now I will rouse their jealousy by blessing other nations; I will provoke their fury by blessing the foolish Gentiles. (Deuteronomy 32:21)

This song tells of a people who had been blessed by God, but as a result of their abundance they had become "fat and happy." They had gotten satisfied and complacent in their relationship with Him. Instead of recognizing their prosperity as the handiwork of God, they began to take credit for their successes and become self-sufficient and developed a habit of unfaithfulness.

But Israel soon became fat and unruly; the people grew heavy, plump, and stuffed! Then they abandoned the God who had made them; they made light of the Rock of their salvation. They stirred up his jealousy by worshiping foreign gods; they provoked his fury with detestable acts. (Deuteronomy 32:15-16)

This wasn't exactly a Christmas carol with a catchy tune and light-hearted lyrics. It was at the same time an anthem to God's greatness and a lament to Israel's unfaithfulness. It is a timeless picture of God and mankind, and a chilling reminder of our inability to live the life He has called us to live without His help. We are prone to wander and leave the God we say we love. We are wired to rebel and turn away from the very One who created us. But this song does have a happy ending. It tells us of God's mercy and grace. It reminds us that, in spite of our rebellion, God restores. He continually shows us compassion.

Yes, GOD will judge his people, but oh how compassionately he'll do it. When he sees their weakened plight and there is no one left, slave or free. (Deuteronomy 32:36)

The lyrics of this song don't exactly roll right off the tongue and I don't know if it would be easy to sing even with a great tune behind it, but the message is one we all need to remember. We need to have it stuck in our heads and we need to sing it from the roof tops. This is the message of God and His relationship with mankind. It is about rebellion and redemption, sin and salvation, helplessness and hopefulness. It is the story of our plight and God's plan. The song of salvation through Jesus Christ.

Father, we have something to sing about. We can sing of Your greatness and grace. We can sing of Your mercy in the midst of our sinfulness. You have provided a way – the Way – Your Son Jesus Christ. You have made it possible for us to sing about salvation in spite of our sin and rebellion. Never let us stop singing the reality of who You are and what we would be without You. Amen


Choose Life!

Deuteronomy 29-30

Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, that you and your descendants might live!Deuteronomy 30:19 NLT

It's really quite simple. Choose life or choose death. Choose death or choose destruction. Choose blessing or choose cursing. In chapters 29-30, we have God making His commands quite clear to the people of Israel. Choose life so that you and your descendants might live. There were a lot of things about God the people did not understand. There were mysteries about Him they would never be able to explain or comprehend. But what He wanted from them was perfectly clear. "There are secret things that belong to the LORD our God, but the revealed things belong to us and our descendants forever, so that we may obey these words of the law" (Deuteronomy 29:29 NLT). He had revealed His law. He had given them His instructions. Now all they had to do was choose – to obey or disobey. This was not nuclear science.

"This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you to understand or perform. It is not up in heaven, so distant that you must ask, ‘Who will go to heaven and bring it down so we can hear and obey it?’ Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ The message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it." – Deuteronomy 30:11-14 NLT

They knew perfectly well what God wanted. Now it was a matter of choice. "Now listen! Today I am giving you a choice between prosperity and disaster, between life and death" (Deuteronomy 30:15 NLT). They could choose to obey and experience the life He had promised them or they could choose to disobey and experience an existence void of blessings. You see to choose a life that is missing God is to choose no life at all. To live outside of His will and apart from His presence isn't life, it's death. Yet, even today, people will choose to live their lives apart from God and then learn that the life they seek is non-existent. The blessings they desire are unattainable. The joy they desire is nowhere to be found. To choose God is to choose life. To reject God is to reject His blessings. It's that simple.

Over in the book of Romans, Paul quotes from this very passage in Deuteronomy when talking about the Jewish people and his desire that they choose life through Jesus Christ. "Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is that the Jewish people might be saved. I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Instead, they are clinging to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. They won’t go along with God’s way. For Christ has accomplished the whole purpose of the law. All who believe in him are made right with God. For Moses wrote that the law’s way of making a person right with God requires obedience to all of its commands" (Romans 10:1-5 NLT). Paul goes on to quote directly from Deuteronomy 30 when he says, "But the way of getting right with God through faith says, "You don’t need to go to heaven" (to find Christ and bring him down to help you). And it says, "You don’t need to go to the place of the dead" (to bring Christ back to life again). Salvation that comes from trusting Christ––which is the message we preach––is already within easy reach. In fact, the Scriptures say, 'The message is close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart'" (Romans 10:6-8 NLT). The message was simple. Paul was preaching it. Choose life. Choose Christ. It was that simple. The gospel message is incredibly simple. Choose life through Christ. Jesus Himself said, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again" (John 11:25 NLT). He is life everlasting. And He is offering it to all who will accept it. And He offers it to those of who are already His followers – on a daily basis. He came that we might have life to the full. He said, "My purpose is to give life in all its fullness" (John 10:10 NLT). Full life. Abundant life. Choose life. Choose to make Christ your Lord and Savior. It's really that simple.

Father, we try to make everything too difficult. We want to understand all mysteries. We want to be able to explain who You are and how everything in the universe works. But what we really want is life and You offer it through Your Son. While we're busy looking for answers, we tend to walk right past the solution to all of life's problems. The abundant life we seek is found in Jesus, not in knowing more and more. It's so simple, but we try to make it so complex. Open our eyes. Help us see that to choose Jesus is to choose life. Amen


Obedience and Blessing.

Deuteronomy 27-28

If you fully obey the LORD your God by keeping all the commands I am giving you today, the LORD your God will exalt you above all the nations of the world.Deuteronomy 28:1 NLT

Blessings and curses. These two chapters are filled with both. And the key to enjoying one and escaping the other is the same: obedience. God calls His people to live lives of willful obedience. The benefits are staggering. The penalty for failing to obey are devastating. Over and over again, Moses stresses the importance of obeying God's commands, of keeping His laws. God tells him to erect large stones, white wash them, then write the laws on them as a reminder of what they are supposed to do once they arrive in the land. Any future disobedience on the part of the Israelites was not going to be a case of pleading ignorance. God was making it perfectly clear what His expectations were. The people would have no excuse. Obedience and disobedience are always a choice – a decision of the will. And God makes the ramifications of both quite clear. The burden was on the people to obey what God had commanded them to do. And we know how it all turned out. We know the rest of the story. What is predicted here actually takes place. The people fail to keep God's commands, and end up in exile. Everything Moses predicts comes about. The curses come about with chilling accuracy – from the sieges to the peoples' ultimate exile in foreign lands.

But here's the good news. We don't live under the curse of the law. Paul makes that point clear. "But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, 'Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all these commands that are written in God’s Book of the Law.' Consequently, it is clear that no one can ever be right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, 'It is through faith that a righteous person has life.' How different from this way of faith is the way of law, which says, 'If you wish to find life by obeying the law, you must obey all of its commands.' But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.'" (Galatians 3:10-13 NLT).

Christ has rescued us from the curse of the law. We don't have to keep to the law to keep God satisfied. Christ has satisfied His righteous demands by doing what no other man could do: keep the law perfectly. He alone could satisfy the demands of God. He alone could obey the righteous law of God. We are now free to enjoy the blessings of God, not because we have kept the law, but because Jesus did. And because He has paid the penalty required by the law for our disobedience. His death satisfied God's demand for justice. So now we obey, not out of a sense of fear or to avoid the curse, but out of a sense of gratitude and love. Jesus said that if we love Him we will keep His commandments (John 14:15). Obedience is the result of love, not the antidote for cursing. We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). And an expression of our love is our obedience.

Father, You have already blessed us in so many ways and it has nothing to do with our obedience. It has to do with Christ's obedience. Because He obeyed You fully, we are blessed completely. And as a result, we should desire to obey you willingly. Open my eyes so that I might see just how blessed I really am. Let me understand more completely with each passing day the reality of what Christ has done for me. He has freed me from having to keep the law in order to keep my relationship with You right. He has made me right with You permanently and perfectly. Amen


Gratitude for God's Magnitude.

Deuteronomy 25-26

The LORD has declared today that you are his people, his own special treasure, just as he promised, and that you must obey all his commands. And if you do, he will make you greater than any other nation. Then you will receive praise, honor, and renown. You will be a nation that is holy to the LORD your God, just as he promised.Deuteronomy 26:18-19 NLT

We take a lot for granted as God's people. Sometimes even our salvation itself can become "old hat." We can get so used to the fact that we have been saved by God through Jesus Christ that it loses its significance. The Israelites faced this same problem. As God's chosen people, they ran the risk of forgetting the significance of their position. With all the talk about rules and regulation, laws and legal requirements, they could very easily begin to think it was all about what they were doing for God instead of all that God had done for them. But God wanted them to remember. He wanted them to constantly recall the reality of their situation and the significance of their calling. Their lives and their keeping of God's laws were to be a response to all that God had done for them. He had taken an insignificant group of people, placed them in the land of Egypt, multiplied and blessed them, rescued them from the slavery imposed on them by the Egyptians, led them across the wilderness, provided for all their needs for more than 40 years, and given them an incredibly fertile land in which to live. Their response should have been one of gratitude. They should have been willing to give back to God a portion of what He had given to them – out of thankfulness for His grace and generosity.

And the same should be true of us. Not only does God shower us each and every day with all kinds of physical blessings, He has made us His own possession. We are His people, His treasured possession. He has set us apart as His own and given us His promise of eternal life. Peter reminds us of this very fact. "But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God's instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you--from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted" (1 Peter 2:9-10 MSG). We are blessed. We belong to God and He has chosen to make us His instruments to accomplish His purposes here on this earth. And our attitude should be one of gratitude. Gratefulness for God's incredible goodness and grace.

Father, thank You for all You have done. Forgive me for the many times I take Your grace for granted. Too often I fail to remember all that You have done for me. Never let me forget the greatness of Your goodness. Amen


He Walks Among Us.

Deuteronomy 23-24

For the Lord your God walks about in the middle of your camp to deliver you and defeat your enemies for you. Therefore your camp should be holy, so that he does not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you.Deuteronomy 23:14 NET

Like the two chapters that precede them, chapters 23-24 contain what seems to be a wide range of topics that don't seem to fit together. But they all have something to do with the presence of God. They each reflect an awareness that God is in the midst of His people. As a result, He has different standards and He expects His people to live differently than the nations around them. We may view some of these restrictions as unnecessarily harsh, but God had a reason for them. He was illustrating for His people His own holiness and set-apartness. Even when the people of God went out on manuevers as an army, they had to remain holy. They couldn't cut corners or excuse themselves from following God's commands. "When you go out as an army against your enemies, guard yourselves against anything impure" (Deuteronomy 23:9 NET). Personal and corporate purity were to be a priority – at all times. Even when it came to personal hygiene, they were to practice purity. When an army was out in the field, each of the men was to cover his waste products, not leave it out in the open like a latrine. Why? Because God would be walking about their camp. He would be in their midst. Not only did this result in good hygiene, it resulted in a constant awareness of God's presence. God's people should ALWAYS conduct themselves in view of God's presence among them.

This is a huge need in the church today. So often we fail to sense God's presence among us. We act as if He is nowhere to be found. Which results in a flippant, casual kind of attitude about our thoughts and actions. Over in his letter to the Ephesian church, Paul says, "Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes––these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God" (Ephesians 5:3-4). We are to remove these things from our community. We are NOT to live like the rest of the world. Our homes are NOT to have in them the same kind of things the rest of the world has. We are NOT to watch the same kind of movies and TV shows. We are NOT to listen to the same music. We are NOT to have the same kinds of conversations. Because we are better? No, but because the holy, righteous God walks in our midst. He walks among us. I remember one time having a conversation with my oldest son about his use of the Internet. I warned him about the dangers of pornography available online. I tried to tell him that there would be temptations to look at things he knew he was not supposed to look at. But the thing that made the greatest impact on him was when I told him to consider what it would be like if he was surfing the Internet and decided to click on a site he knew was inappropriate – and I was sitting next to him when the improper images appeared on the screen. I remember the uncomfortable look on his face. I asked him if he would ever click on something inappropriate or improper on the Internet if I was sitting next to him and he said, "No!" Then I told him to consider the fact that God Himself was sitting next to Him at all times. The holy, righteous God of the universe was with Him every second of every day. So if he did end up clicking on that site in order to look at images he knew were wrong for him as a believer, he would be doing so right in front of God.

But most of us don't seem to believe that God is with us at all times. We don't recognize that He walks in our midst. So we tolerate all kinds of "uncleanliness" in our midst. Rather than bury our filth, we allow it to remain in the open, subjecting God to our sin and uncleanness. Sexual immorality, impurity, greed, obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes. Sounds like a description of prime-time TV doesn't it? Yet as we sit on the couch taking it all in, God is there with us. He is in our midst. His presence is there whether we feel it or not. Yet we live like the nations around us – ignoring His presence and pursuing a lifestyle that has no place among God's people. "GOD, your God, strolls through your camp; he's present to deliver you and give you victory over your enemies. Keep your camp holy; don't permit anything indecent or offensive in GOD's eyes" (Deuteronomy 23:14 MSG).

Father, You are in our midst, but we live like You are not there. We allow all kinds of uncleanness to exist in our camp, ignoring Your commands for holiness and purity. We resemble the world around us more than the God among us. We have lost our distinctiveness. Forgive us Father and remind us once again of our uniqueness as Your people. You walk among us. You have placed Your Spirit within us. We belong to You and not this world. Make us increasingly aware of Your presence so that we might willingly remove any and all things in and around our lives that have no place in the life of a believer. Amen


Extremely Tough Love.

Deuteronomy 21-22

Suppose a man has a stubborn, rebellious son who will not obey his father or mother, even though they discipline him. In such cases, the father and mother must take the son before the leaders of the town. They must declare: ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious and refuses to obey. He is a worthless drunkard.’ Then all the men of the town must stone him to death. In this way, you will cleanse this evil from among you, and all Israel will hear about it and be afraid.Deuteronomy 21:18-21 NLT

Chapters 21-22 of Deuteronomy are difficult at best. The content appears to be somewhat random and unrelated. It covers everything from how to properly marry a woman taken captive in the defeat of an enemy city to the proper resolution of manslaughter cases when you don't know who committed the crime. There's even some admonitions about home safety, cross dressing, and the care of animals. But all these topics have something to do with the fifth, sixth and seventh commandments. "Honor your father and mother." "You shall not murder." "You shall not commit adultery." Each of the situations covered in these chapters have something to do with illustrating in greater detail what these commandments really meant. These two chapters are practical, daily applications of these three laws. Yes, they seem a little odd to us at times, but they fit the context in which the people of Israel were living. They were real life events that took place every day.

But the one that struck a chord with me was the one on the rebellious son. As the father of two boys, I have actually used these verses to jokingly remind my sons how important it is that they obey. At times, when they have given me a hard time and disobeyed me, I have reminded them that in "Bible days" boys like that could have been stoned. Now hear me out. I never threatened to stone my kids and I was not trying to instill the fear of God into them. I was just kidding around. But as I read this passage again in its context, I am struck with how much this is NOT a laughing matter to God. Obedience is a serious matter to God. So is rebellion. In God's economy, parents are his legal representatives. They exercise authority over their children on His behalf. This is not a role we should take lightly. This passage is given as a last resort for parents who have exhausted all other avenues to restore their son to a right relationship with them and with God.

The fifth commandment states, "Honor your father and mother." This was a command that God took seriously. Disobedience to authority was a serious matter to God. A child that habitually disobeyed his parents would be a man who willingly and regularly disobeyed the commands of God and every other authority in his life. He would become a bane to society and a blot on the community. This passage was not intended to give parents the freedom to kill their rebellious sons, but to encourage them to do everything in their power to restore their child. But in the end, their love for God was to supercede their love for their child. This passage seems to indicate a son who had developed a habit of willful rebellion. The terms "stubborn and rebellious" are used to describe the son. They are the same terms used throughout the Old Testament to describe the nation of Israel in terms of their relationship with God. Whenever Israel disobeyed God, it was in effect saying, "You are not my God!" They were declaring by their actions that they rejected His authority over their lives. They were dishonoring Him as their rightful ruler and authority. In rejecting the authority of his parents, a son was doing the same thing. The son, in renouncing his relationship with his parents, has effectively declared, if not by his words, then certainly by his deeds, what the adopted son in the Mesopotamian adoption contracts says when he abrogates his contract, "I am not your son; you are not my parents."

As a parent, I am to place my love for God above my love for my child. I am not to excuse his behavior, but see his rebellion and disobedience as an affront to the authority and sovereignty of God. A rebellious child will grow up to be a rebellious man. To allow my son to habitually disobey my authority would be to encourage his future rejection of God's authority in his life. God seems to have given this regulation as a reminder of His ultimate authority and requirement of obedience, but also as an effective deterrent to disobedience and juvenile delinquency. No loving parent would have willingly brought their son to be stoned without first having done everything in their power to restore their son. But in the end, our love of God should even overshadow our love for our own children. Our desire to honor God should supercede our desire to tolerate our childrens' rebellious behavior. In his commentary on the book of Deuteronomy, Dr. Thomas L. Constable has this to say about this passage:

"It may appear at first that God was commanding the Israelites to exercise less grace with their own children than He showed the whole nation. However, God had previously promised never to cut off His people (Genesis 12:1-3). The Israelites were to be God's instruments of judgment in many specific situations, as we have seen in Deuteronomy. The punishment of sinners, be they Canaanites or Israelites, for specific types of sin was imperative for Israel to fulfill God's purpose for her in the world (Exodus 19:5-6). This legislation teaches us that parents should put their love for God above their love for their children."

Father, as a parent it is so easy to excuse little acts of rebellion or disobedience in my children. I have done it regularly over the years. And when I do, I fail to see that I am creating an environment of rebellion. I am encouraging a lifestyle of disobedience. I am allowing what I think is a love for my child to become a tolerance of unrighteousness. You have given me a position of authority with the responsibility to teach my children to obey me so that they might one day obey You. When I allow them to reject my authority, even in small ways, I am training them to reject Your authority in the future. Show me how to love You more than I love my own children. May I long to see them live lives of obedience so that they might grow up to obey You in all things. Amen