March 4, 2017

March 4, 2017

DEUTERONOMY 14-16

Focus Verse: “You must set aside a tithe of your crops—one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year. Bring this tithe to the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for his name to be honored—and eat it there in his presence. This applies to your tithes of grain, new wine, olive oil, and the firstborn males of your flocks and herds. Doing this will teach you always to fear the Lord your God.”
Deuteronomy 14:22-23

 

I firmly believe this is why we’ve seen a drift in the church in America. I’m also allowed to preach on this without any fear because none of you are paying me a tithe. But how pathetic is that statement? Preachers across the nation have to weigh whether or not a sermon on tithing will be beneficial to their congregation or cause them to shut their pocketbooks and pull their tithe because they don’t like what they’re hearing.

But the Church isn’t a business. You don’t get to keep your money because you don’t like a part of the service. The whole point of the tithe is that the money isn’t yours in the first place. I should also add, preachers shouldn’t be weighing anything that they preach. If God’s told you to preach it, you preach. If God hasn’t told you to preach it, why are you messing around with that? You think God’s people will grow more from a message you came up with? Show me one example of a popular prophet in the Bible. We need to get away from the idea that we get to follow Jesus and be super popular.

But back to the main issue at hand; when we start holding back our tithe from God we lose far more than 10% of our income. First of all, we begin to lose our trust in God. And when we stop trusting God to provide for us, then all of our possessions become things that we’ve earned and pride creeps in. It’s a vicious cycle. When you’ve earned your wealth it becomes so much harder to give away. Your pride won’t let you because it belongs to you, you’ve worked hard for it, why should you give it away to someone who hasn’t worked as hard as you have? And once our possessions become things that we’ve earned, why can’t we work hard and earn everything else…like salvation.

Ultimately, we lose our fear of God when we stop trusting Him. It’s not that there is something magical about our tithe, but it is the ultimate show of trust in God. Do you trust Him with your livelihood? Do you trust Him to provide for you daily? Do you believe He is the God who provided manna in the desert for the Israelites every day? Or do you believe you can do more with that 10% of your income than He can?

Put your money where your faith is.

March 3, 2017

March 3, 2017

DEUTERONOMY 11-13

Focus Verse: “Your pattern of worship will change. Today all of you are doing as you please, because you have not yet arrived at the place of rest, the land the Lord your God is giving you as your special possession.”

Deuteronomy 12:8-9

 

I’m going to take this passage out of context a little bit…which is always a very dangerous thing to do with scripture. I think if you go back through and read the passage surrounding it though, you will find that, though I am applying it a little differently than God’s direct instruction to the Israelites, the heart of God remains the same through both applications.

 

I feel like this passage applies so well to the church today. We worship as we please. Seriously. When was the last time you asked God how you should worship? Most likely never. We show up to church on its designated time of the week, and once there, we “worship” for the allotted time, then sit down and behave like good little boys and girls until we are blessed to go out into the world and forget everything we’ve just experienced (no pastor actually says this, but that’s what 90% of us do).

 

It is so ingrained in us that to do a church service any differently would draw huge objections from those running the church. We love to hide behind the veil of “Well there would be chaos! Paul charges our services to be done with order.” And that’s where we know better than God.

 

Do we really think that the God who ordered all of the laws of nature, Who placed the stars in the sky, Who engineered every atom in yours and my body, can’t also order our worship services? He could handle all of the universes and the everyday tasks in your life, like breathing and cellular reproduction, but WE are the ones who have to take control of these services.

 

THAT’S NOT OUR JOB!

 

So do we sit back and let people do whatever they want during our time of worship together? Absolutely not! We, as a collective body (NOT JUST THE PASTOR), are called to test the spirits. We have the responsibility of determining whether what we are doing is what God is telling us to do.

 

Instead, we are driven by fear. We’re afraid of giving up control. At it’s lightest, we are afraid that false teachers and prophets will hurt some in our congregation. At the worst though, we are prideful and want all of the attention for ourselves. We want the book deals and the mega-churches. The spotlight and the salary.

 

But what if we just tried what this passage from Deuteronomy says? Just give it a shot and move from worship as we please and ask God how He wants us to worship. My honest guess is that it would look nothing like what we’re doing now. And it might actually lead to lasting change in us. That tends to happen when we listen to the Lord.

March 2, 2017

March 2, 2017

DEUTERONOMY 8-10

Focus Verse: “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the Lord your God, and live in a way that pleases Him, and love Him and serve Him with all your heart and soul. And you must always obey the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good.”

Deuteronomy 10:12-13

 

It’s pretty easy. What does God require of us? Only everything. I think we make this way more difficult than it needs to be sometimes. Which sounds a little strange, because it is really difficult. I feel like so many of the discussions I hear revolve around what God wants us to do and trying to figure out His will.

 

Here’s God’s will…He wants you. All of you. He wants to be the first one you turn to in crisis. He wants to be the first one you turn to when things are wonderful. We saw this in yesterday’s reading, but you are number one to God, so He wants to be your number one. He has given everything for you, so that’s what He wants in return, everything from you.

 

That’s a steep price to pay, but the last verse here gives us the reason why…it’s for your own good! Now I know that we are all skeptical when we hear that phrase. Most of us have flashbacks to our mothers yelling that as we tear off down the road on our bikes, with her holding the helmet we should be wearing. And, if we would swallow our pride long enough to admit it, Mom was always right. How much more so does that apply to God, who knows everything.

 

God wants what is best for you. And here’s the clincher, He is the only one who truly knows what is best for you. Bless our parents, they did the best they could (which I see much clearer now that I have children), but we are imperfect. God on the other hand, created us. He knows us better than anyone else ever could. So when He says He wants everything from you, you can trust that He is the only one that can give us a true purpose, can make the most out of what little we have to offer. You can trust Him to give you hope and a future. Does it get any better than that? And all it costs you is everything. I think you’ll find that He is more than worth it.

March 1, 2017

March 1, 2017

DEUTERONOMY 5-7

Focus Verse: “For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God. Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure. The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors. That is why the Lord rescued you with such a strong hand from your slavery and from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.”

Deuteronomy 7:6-9

 

You are God’s special treasure. James calls us God’s prized possession in 1:18. No matter which way you slice it, God loves you so much. You are the apple of His eye, his favorite child, everything to Him. I could stop right there and that should be enough for anyone to reflect on and be in awe about for all of eternity. YOU are number one in God’s book. The Author of life! Creator of the universe! The Great I AM! And He has set His sights on you as the object of His affection.

Now I think any of us who have half of our wits about us would naturally ask the obvious question: why?!? Sure, there are some who might be thinking, “What’s not to love!” I’d venture a guess to say that they’re not really seeking a strong relationship with Jesus at the moment. The Gospel has a way of breaking that attitude in half once we realize we are nothing more than a broken sinner saved by grace.

The majority of us, even if we aren’t actively walking with Jesus, will wonder why God, if He really is everything He says He is, would want something as broken as us. I ask myself that question about my wife! Why would I think anything different when we are talking about the One who created all of the worlds around us?

God answers that question for us here in Deuteronomy 7:7-8. He didn’t rescue the Israelites because they had the numbers to take over the world. He didn’t rescue them because their military was top notch, their tactics light years beyond all the other nations. God flips Darwin’s theory of natural selection on it’s head and picks the lowest of all nations, the weakest, the most socially unacceptable, slaves, to become His prized possession. And all because He loves us! That’s it! That’s the only reason!

This theme is skillfully woven all the way through the Bible; God choosing the foolish things of this world to shame the wise. Why? Because the wise don’t realize they need a savior. The religious experts can’t even recognize the Messiah when He is standing right in front of them, but a group of uneducated fishermen fall to His feet.

How are you God’s prized possession? How are you his special treasure? Are you completely dependent on His love or are you trying to earn that favor? Do you need a Savior? Or can you do it on your own?

Let’s become fools for Christ today. Let’s set Him as our prized possession, let’s set Him as our special treasure, as our one and only, because that’s where He has set us. We are God’s number one even though we don’t deserve it. Doesn’t He deserve to be ours?

February 28, 2017

February 28, 2017

DEUTERONOMY 3-4

Focus Verse: “At that time I pleaded with the Lord and said, ‘O Sovereign Lord, you have only begun to show your greatness and the strength of your hand to me, your servant. Is there any god in heaven or on earth who can perform such great and mighty deeds as you do? Please let me cross the Jordan to see the wonderful land on the other side, the beautiful hill country and the Lebanon mountains.’

“But the Lord was angry with me because of you, and he would not listen to me. ‘That’s enough!’ he declared. ‘Speak of it no more. But go up to Pisgah Peak, and look over the land in every direction. Take a good look, but you may not cross the Jordan River.

Deuteronomy 3:23-27

 

I have a strange hobby. I love to pick apart cheesy Christian Facebook and Instagram posts and find all of the theological problems with them. I’m not a jerk about it…I keep the thoughts primarily to myself, but I do It a lot. I’m going to go public with one of those thoughts today.

There is a saying out there in Christians circles about how God has three answers to our prayers, “Yes”, “Not yet”, and “I have something better in mind”. This is one of those nice fluffy answers to make us feel good. And it perfectly encapsulates what we think about God today.

This example from Deuteronomy shatters that concept though. Moses begs God to enter the Promised Land. And God says, “No, Moses, I have something better for you…you are going to go over here to another Promised Land that you get all to yourself!” Nope. That’s not what He says. He says, “No. You’re going to die because you didn’t listen to Me. Get Joshua ready to do your job.”

We need to stop thinking that God owes us anything. We try to make Christianity and Jesus and God so appealing to non-believers that we start making up all of this nonsense about how God is never going to deal with you harshly, He’ll never tell you no, He’ll never judge you when you mess up and make you do something you don’t want to do. I just don’t know who that kind of god is. It’s not my God. It’s not the God of the Bible.

Now Moses did have something better waiting for him. We all do. But it’s not what most people think when they read cheesy social media posts about God. We get so fixated on the blessings this earthly life has to offer that it can destroy our faith when those blessings don’t come. We need to get over that. We need to fix our eyes on heavenly blessings, on eternal promises, and let the things of this world pass away.

Moses was about to enter the ultimate Promised Land…heaven. But if his eyes were fixed on this world, he would have pouted and maybe even turned away from God and missed out on the biggest promise we all have waiting for us. He didn’t though. He leaned into God’s everlasting arms and submitted to God’s decision…even though it hurt, even though there was no earthly blessing in that decision, even though it was a straight up NO.

Do we have that kind of relationship with God today? Where He is able to tell us “no”, to give us an answer that has no earthly reward, no material blessing behind it, maybe even an answer that involves nothing but suffering? It ultimately comes down to this: is Jesus Christ enough? Or do you need stuff from Him to make that relationship worth it?

I don’t think I need to tell you which of those is the right answer.

February 27, 2017

February 27, 2017

DEUTERONOMY 1-2

Focus Verse: “Normally it takes only eleven days to travel from Mount Sinai to Kadesh-barnea, going by way of Mount Seir. But forty years after the Israelites left Egypt on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses addressed the people of Israel, telling them everything the Lord had commanded him to say.”

Deuteronomy 1:2-3

 

Supernatural slowness. That is the only thing that can explain stretching an eleven day journey into forty years! That never shows up on any of the spiritual gift assessments thought, does it? That’s because nobody likes to think of this as an attribute of God. But time and time again we see this character trait pop out of our Creator. His patience is unbelievable to the human mind.

Now we love this when it comes to our sins and shortcomings. He is always so patient with us through our missteps and failures, but when we start seeing His patience play out in our best laid plans, that’s when it starts to get frustrating. Can you imagine how frustrating this must have been for the Israelites.

But God is really good at getting us where we need to be…and I’m clearly not talking about destinations (though He’s really good at that too, it’s just not His first priority). The Israelites weren’t ready for the promise yet. They proved that when they were afraid to take the Promised Land the first time. They proved that when they complained that they didn’t have meat to eat and would rather go back to Egypt and be subject to slavery. They proved that when they questioned God’s love for them because they didn’t have anything to drink…TWICE!

I heard someone say once, that when you are studying your Bible and praying, if God keeps teaching you the same thing over and over again, instead of getting frustrated that He won’t move you on to a new lesson, you need to realize you clearly aren’t getting the one He’s currently teaching you. When it’s taking you forty years to do an eleven day devotional…you’re missing something that God wants to do in you. And sometimes there are no shortcuts for these lessons. Your spirit needs to cure in the desert for all forty of those years to be ready for that next promise God has for you.

I know it’s hard, but be patient in the desert. What God is doing in you is far more important than where God is taking you. Trust Him and let Him do His thing in you…even if it stretches an eleven day trip out for forty years.

February 26, 2017

February 26, 2017

NUMBERS 35-36

Focus Verse: “You must not defile the land where you live, for I live there Myself. I am the Lord, who lives among the people of Israel.”

Numbers 35:34

 

Where does God live? Any good little boy or girl who attends Sunday School will tell you that He lives in our hearts. When Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, He told her that a time was coming when it would no longer matter where someone worshiped God, but instead how they worshiped Him (in Spirit and in truth). And why is that? Because, as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:16, “we are the temple of the living God”.

The same principle still applies though. If God is living in you, you must not defile His place of residence. I heard a heart wrenching story once from a pastor who had let his morals grow loose while serving in ministry. He said that it wasn’t something that happened overnight, but a very gradual, slippery slope. One Sunday morning he walked up to the pulpit to preach, got into a tight spot and when he looked for direction from the Spirit, he realized that the Spirit wasn’t where He used to be. He had lost the Spirit through turn after turn in disobedience.

Again, we need to walk this tightrope. This doesn’t mean that we are suddenly bound to the law and if we don’t keep it to a T, we’re toast; the Spirit leaves and will never come back. But if the Spirit is consistently telling you to turn from something, if He tells you not to go somewhere and you go anyway, if He tells you to do something and you don’t do it, eventually that voice is going to become quieter and quieter until you aren’t hearing anything at all.

It’s not that the Spirit has disappeared. We aren’t that powerful. But if you aren’t going to allow yourself to be used by the Spirit, He will find someone who will…which means that your “temple” will be nothing more than a dusty old monument; like many of the ancient ruins we see today.

Keep God’s temple clean. Keep your heart clean. Not by obeying the law, but by following the Spirit. HE will lead you into all truth. HE will make His home in your heart. HE will help you keep it clean. Your job is simply to obey.