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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Take You Back and Hypocrisy

Deuteronomy 29-30

Blessings, curses, blessings and more curses.  God wants Israel to understand that their actions and decisions have consequences.  Sometimes brutal consequences.  And when we think about the Old Testament, these are usually the passages we think of first.  We think of God as judgmental, harsh, and punishing.  However, we rarely look at passages like the one beginning Deuteronomy 30.  If you turn back to God, he will have mercy on you.  He will restore your wealth and your homes.  He will defeat your enemies.  He will gather you together.  God will again delight in you.  It’s all about relationship.  Sure, sometimes we are going to go through hard times and difficult stuff, but God doesn’t just do it for fun.  I certainly don’t enjoy when Carter is being disobedient and I have to punish him, but I also know that for he and I to have a good relationship for a lifetime, we have to go through difficult moments like that.  But God will always take us back.  There is a song by Jeremy Camp that is about this very idea.

Luke 11-12

There are two unfortunate things that commonly happen with Jesus’ teachings on Pharisees and hypocrisy.  First, the Pharisees are considered the ultimate enemy of God, which is pretty harsh.  These are men who study God’s word, try as hard as they can to follow the letter of the law and try to get other people to do the same.  Granted, Jesus often indicates they do so for the wrong reasons, but they really aren’t all bad.  I mean, the reason they are often so mad at Jesus is because they have such high expectations for the Messiah that Jesus offends them.  I think we are wrong to assume that all Pharisees had bad intentions.  It’s much more likely that many of them had the best of intentions.  The second result of much teaching on the Pharisees is that we use it as an excuse to attack the church and other Christians.  You hear sometimes that people don’t want to go to church because everybody there is so perfect that people don’t feel like they can belong.  And then you also hear that some people won’t go to church because it’s so full of hypocrites, people who say one thing and do another.  I am happy to go to a church full of people who acknowledge that God calls them to live by a standard that they admittedly fall short of.  When we invite other people to join us in attempting to live by that standard, it doesn’t make us hypocrites.  It makes us people in need of a savior.

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Blessings, Curses, and Demons

Deuteronomy 28

This section on blessings and curses is a little extreme.  The blessings go through many areas of life and explain that when God’s people are faithful to him that they will receive great rewards.  The passage then proceeds to list curses that will accompany disobedience.  After responding to every area mentioned in the blessings, the curses keep coming and coming.  They are graphic and disturbing, to say the least.  The curses include images such as mothers hiding and eating their newborns and the placenta and also fiances who will cheat on their betrothed.  There is no question that Deuteronomy is powerfully putting forth the idea that God will reward faithfulness and punish abandonment or betrayal.

The ideas in this passage are very difficult, because we know that we live in a world where bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.  That doesn’t seem to fit this passage.  What does fit is that God isn’t some uninvolved Creator who sits far away watching us work and live.  He will work with us and through us to make sure that His will is done.  Therefore, good things are likely to come our way when we are working alongside God and bad things are likely to happen when we ignore or fight with God.

Jesus will later be asked by his Apostles is a blind man was born that way because of his sin or his parents based largely on this and similar teachings.  Jesus responds that it was neither, but that he was blind so that Jesus might be glorified.  I mention this just to say that bad things are not necessarily indicative of sin and some people can sin without having obvious consequences. Deuteronomy 28 is dealing with consequences for disobedience and God’s willingness to discipline his children.  It is not dealing with the complex questions and issues associated with grief, conflict, divorce, or any other number of difficult and traumatic events.

Luke 11

Clearly Jesus isn’t from Satan.  At the end of that conversation, however, is a comment that I thought was significant.  “Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is working against me.”  As Christians, we could look around and see apathy in the church wherever we look.  It’s an epidemic.  And yet, Jesus says that if we aren’t working with him, its the same as working against him.  It’s a meaningful call for every self-proclaiming Christian to find their passion, find the needs of others, and put their gifts to work serving God and serving others.  If you don’t, then this passage indicates that you are working against Jesus.

This is also important because we often think of Christianity as a way of “not living.”  People think that Christians don’t drink, don’t have sex outside of marriage, don’t cuss, don’t steal, don’t worry, don’t cheat.  But you can abstain from all of those things and have faith, and you still aren’t working with Jesus.  You’re not doing anything.  Christianity was always intended to be active.  God’s Kingdom was supposed to impact and change things.  God’s people where to be agents of good in this world.  Our faith should be lived out in a way that causes us to work with Jesus in the redemptive work in this world.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Holidays, Pep Rallies and Good Gifts

Deuteronomy 26-27

Our national legacy is rooted largely in the events that took place immediately before and after the Revolutionary War.  It’s built on freedom, equality (at least the principles of equality), and opportunity.  So we design our monuments, holidays, and even our National songs and sayings around these ideals that are at the heart of our identity.  You have the Liberty Bell, Statue of Liberty, and many monuments in and around Washington, D.C.  We celebrate the Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and Memorial Day.  We teach our children the National Anthem, and the Pledge of Allegiance.  All of these are ways that we capture the ideas at the core of who we are and pass them on to the next Generation.

These chapters in Deuteronomy are doing that exact same thing for Israel, except that there national identity is rooted in being God’s chosen nation with a long relationship with Him, delivered from Egypt, and obedient to his commands.  So God commands that they design their monuments, holidays, and national sayings around these core ideas.  They are intended to be real life reminders that become traditions that force us to remember and require us to teach our founding principles to the next generation.  When countries cease to do this they lose their identity and begin to fall apart.  When your nation is also your religion, as it was for Israel, this can be extremely dangerous for the entire nation.

The ceremony described in Deuteronomy 27 would have been an unbelievable experience as the people of Israel held what had to be one of the world’s largest pep rallies, shouting the law back and forth and following it up with a confirming “amen!”  The graphic above depicts the geography of the area and why it would be an ideal venue for such an event.  It’s also an important location for altars throughout the Old Testament and becomes the mountain on which the Samaritans will eventually worship when Israel won’t allow them to worship Yahweh at the Temple in Jerusalem.  You can go to this website for more pictures and information about this event and the archaeology there then you could ever really want.  http://www.bible.ca/archeology/bible-archeology-altar-of-joshua.htm

Luke 11

Jesus is teaching about prayer and gifts from dads in this section.  I have actually been thinking about this passage all week.  Carter loves Elmo and Barney.  Last night Leah and I were singing the Barney “I love you” song and whenever we would sing “a great big hug and a kiss from me to you” Carter would run over and give us a hug and a kiss.  A couple of weeks ago we got him Elmo pajamas and it immediately got easier to put him in bed.  The last week he has slept with his book with Elmo on the front.  So, Leah and I decided to get him a stuffed Elmo and Barney.  We ordered them a week ago and I have been checking the tracking information every day because I can’t wait to give him this gift.  They came in this morning, and I am about to head home and give them to him right now.  I can’t wait to see how happy he will be.

So when Jesus tells me that God listens to my prayers and feels that way when blessings are coming towards me…that’s pretty powerful stuff.

I could go on, but I think I am going to rush home now and give my boy some new toys.

 

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Random Laws and the Most Important One

Deuteronomy 23-25

Leah and I were doing our reading at the same time this evening and she kept reading some of the more bazaar laws out loud.  I have to tell you, that several of these laws are sort of odd when read quietly.  They are very weird when your wife reads them out loud.  Here’s a couple of the highlights:

  • Eunuchs can’t be in the assembly of the Lord.  This will matter much more when we get to Acts.
  • If God is going to live in your camp, then your camp must be kept clean, holy and pure.
  • In your business and financial dealings, be fair, honest, and don’t take advantage of others, especially weaker others.
  • Justice and fairness matter and should be put into practice by God’s people.
  • Don’t abandon your family when they need you.
  • God still wants Israel to wipe out the Amalekites for attacking them when they were vulnerable.

Luke 10

The Good Samaritan

Jesus explains to the disciples and Apostles that they have received something very special.  This is seemingly the personal relationship with Jesus and the opportunity to learn from him and follow him.  In addition, they have been given a special type of understanding that has opened their hearts and minds to understanding what Jesus is doing.  It was certainly God’s wisdom to open the eyes of a group of regular guys instead of going to the wise, the wealthy, and the pious.

After this, a religious teachers asks Jesus what the greatest command is.  Jesus asks him the same question and he says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, body and soul and also love your neighbor.”  Jesus then goes on to explain that the real question isn’t “Who is my neighbor?”  The correct question is “Who can I be a good neighbor to?”  Jesus’s example is a man who gives of his time, his money, and even his reputation potentially to help another man.  They are different races, difference situations, and have almost nothing in common.  The Samaritan has nothing to gain and yet he still goes out of his way to help this man when others simply walked by.  This just goes to reinforce the idea from yesterday that God expects more than obedience and restraint from his followers, he also expects us to do the right thing, even when its hard.

It might also be worth noting that this is one of the few times that a religious teacher answers one of Jesus’s questions correctly.

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Right Things, Purity, and Discipleship

Deuteronomy 22

I love the beginning of this chapter because it’s different from much of the law.  We are used to laws that are prohibitive (Thou shall not) or are specific commands.  The beginning of Deuteronomy 22 is different though.  It emphasizes the idea of simply doing the right thing.  If you find something, don’t assume it’s yours, but return it to its owner.  If you see them struggling with an animal in the road, help them.  As Christians today, God still expects us to go out of our way to help neighbors in need.  We aren’t supposed to turn a blind eye or mind our own business.

God also continues to reveal his strong desire for purity.  Don’t mix fibers on clothing.  Don’t yoke a donkey and an ox.  These are physical reminders that God’s people are not to be impure, but they should live holy lives.  This should clearly manifest itself in sexual purity.  In a world that is obsessed with sexuality and sexual “freedom” we need to be sure to continue pursuing the kind of sexual purity in our lives that God calls us to.

Luke 9:51-10:12

It seems like there are so many times in Jesus’s ministry that he wants the Apostles to have enough faith to do great and powerful things and they fall short.  In this story, they come across some inhospitable Samaritans and suddenly they are willing to have faith that God will send down fire from heaven to destroy this city.  It’s extremely ironic, and somewhat comical even, that this is the time they have faith God will do what they ask.  It also shows the continued expectation among the Apostles that Jesus, as Messiah, will at some point exalt Israel at the expense of other nations.  Jesus, of course, is not interested in wiping out this city.

Jesus then sends out seventy-two disciples to go into the surrounding cities and preach the good news.  What is interesting is that he sends them to cities they will likely be going to later, healing the sick and proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is near.  This is in stark contrast to much of the Gospels where Jesus avoids attention and is almost secretive about his identity.  At this point in his ministry, he has turned his attention to Jerusalem and to the events that will lend to his death.  He is no longer interested in spending time with his small group and doing as much as he can.  He needs them to start doing the work, spreading the good news, doing the ministry.  The disciples must learn how to be Jesus to the world once he is gone and make the most of the final weeks and months they have with him.

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Purge the Land of Evil – Great Battle Speech!

Deuteronomy 18:1-20:20  

One of the laws I have always thought would be interesting to implement in our culture is 20:19. I’ve often applied it to the sue happy people of our culture. We would be a lot less cavalier to sue for $2 million after being burnt by pickles on our hamburger if we were running the risk of having to pay the $2 million to them.

God’s focus here is the purge the community of evil. If people kill without mercy then they need to die. Leaving this person alive is cancerous to a community. If you allow people to run around giving false witness whenever they want they bring about evil in the community and become cancerous. God takes the sin thing very serious. Too often we (I) hesitate to confront friends of mine when they are being flippant with sin because I (we) fear hurting the friendship or driving them off. The caution is to be careful to find the line between judging sin and being judgmental. Our culture has a tendency to say people are being judgmental when a person is pointing out sin that is cancerous.

I love watching movies that have amazing battle speeches…Braveheart, Glory, Lord of the Rings, etc. I can’t imagine what emotions would have welled up in the army to hear the priest of God say,

“Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them. for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”

I love this continual theme of “God will fight for you!” Let’s remember who’s side we’re on and live accordingly!

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

A Prayer for the President – Psalm 72

Deuteronomy and Luke readings for today…”stop me if you’ve heard this one before…”

STOP!

So today we are going to look at Psalm 72.  I wonder what would happen if we prayed like this for our leaders today?  In fact, what would Psalm 72 look like if an American today wrote this about our President?  Let’s imagine…

Thank You Lord for These Men

Give your love of justice to the President, O Lord, and give righteousness to his appointed leaders.  Help him judge your people in the right way; let the poor always be treated fairly.  May the economy provide jobs and financial security for everybody.  May the President always stand up for the poor and go to the rescue of their children, and destroy anybody who takes advantage of them.  May those who take advantage of the needy be terrified as long as you are in office.  May the President’s term be refreshing like spring rain on freshly cut grass or water falling upon the earth.  May Christians flourish during his term in office and as long as his policies remain in place.  May he reign from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Niagara Falls to the Rio Grande.  Migrant workers and immigrants will respect his authority and laws and terrorists will collapse in front of him.  The President of Iran will show him respect and show him hospitality and he will have favorable trade agreements from China and throughout the world.  The world will respect our President.  He will help the poor when they call to him; he will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them.  Our President has pity for the weak and needy and he will rescue them.  He will redeem them from oppression and violence, for their lives are meaningful to him.  Long live the President, may he be easily reelected to another term.  May the people always pray for him and bless him all day long.  May there be jobs even in the inner city and poor communities.  May business thrive and families have plenty to eat.  May the President’s legacy last long after his life.  May he be a blessing to all the nations of the world.  Praise the God of America, who alone does such wonderful things.  May he receive the glory and honor forever and ever.  Amen and amen.

Does this sound like you when you speak of our President?  But, you say, this doesn’t sound anything like our current or last President (depending on your politics).  This isn’t about the President, but it is about how God’s people pray for the President.  Some of you might have felt like applauding this post, while others might still be cringing.  You can vote for whomever you want, it’s your right as an American.  But you should pray for your President.  It’s your obligation as a Christian.  And when I say you should pray for him, I mean you should pray good things about him…blessings and the such.  Maybe God will answer your prayers, which wouldn’t be all that bad, would it?

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Dining With God – What Kind of Faith?

Deuteronomy 13:1-15:23  

In case you’re thinking God is being a bit harsh saying that these people should be killed, imagine someone coming to your spouse and trying to entice them to run off with someone else. They keep doing what they can to get you to break your commitment to your first love and move on to another. Our God is a jealous god and He takes His commitment to us very seriously.

Something I had never noticed in the tithes section is that God wants to have this meal with His people. He calls Israel to set aside their best and then to join Him in a meal. I’ve spent some time today thinking about the implications of this understanding of the tithe on our time communing together and with God. A phrase I grew up hearing often between the Lord’s Supper and contribution is “…separate and apart…” In the tithe here, God doesn’t just want the best meal we can provide Him. He wants us to join Him in this meal. God has provided us the best meal, the body and blood of His Son, and desires us to dine with Him. He gave us His best and desires a response of the same.

 

 

 

Luke 8:40-9:6  

There is quite the contrast of characters in this combined story. You have the women who has been subject to bleeding who has such faith that she simply reaches out and touches the edge of his cloak and is healed. Jesus credits her faith and bids her, “Go in peace.” Then on the other end of the spectrum you have people laughing at Jesus because he claimed that the dead girl was merely sleeping. What kind of person do you want to be? Someone who reaches out for Jesus as your source of healing? Or do you want to be the person who laughs when things seem impossible? Pick one and strive to be like that. God, give us the strength to be people of faith who reach out for healing.

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

Teach Your Children As You Go

Deuteronomy 11-12

God begins by telling Israel, “I am talking to you, not your children.”  He reminds them everything that they have witnessed and all God has done for them.  He brought them out of Egypt with mighty plagues and punished Egypt so that they still had not recovered.  He provided for them in the wilderness when they needed food or water.  God was their deliverer and provider.

However, their children did not witness these things.  They weren’t there.  So, God tells them to write his word upon their heads and hands.  Some religious leaders would eventually would develop something called a phylactery that had Exodus 13 and Deuteronomy 6 inscribed on it to wear on their hand, arm or head.

Apparently the forehead ends above the ear.

Somehow it doesn’t feel like this is what God had in mind.  But when I look at most Christians, maybe phylacteries are closer to God’s intention than how we are living.  I think the primary problem is that we don’t think Biblically unless we are at church or in Bible class.  When we are at work, do we make ethical decisions based on scripture.  When we are shopping, does our faith have any impact on our purchases?  Do our kids see our relationship with God at home, watching tv, praying, or when we are in the car?  If not, how are we supposed to find opportunities to teach our children about God as we are going?

In your families, talk about God at home and when you are travelling.  Talk about him when you go to bed and when you get up.  Decorate with them.  As Christian families and parents, our homes should constantly be filled with discussions about God, the Bible, and what he has done for us.  For some reason this is difficult, but I am not completely sure why.  In the end, you are choosing between a blessing and a curse.

We also get a glimpse today of how worship will change once Israel reaches the Promised Land.  As the people scatter, the holy days and sacrifices will become even more important as they scatter because they will unite the people as a common nation under God.  Therefore, God wants to make sure that Israel knows they must make certain celebrations and sacrifices in the place God will designate.  Even as early as Deuteronomy, there is some indication that God cares whether or not his people assemble.  This doesn’t mean we idolize the church building, but location does matter and God wants his people to share a place.

Don’t drink blood.

In the Luke passage, we have the calming of the storm and the story of Legion.  We have covered both of these in discussions on the other Gospels.  It’s always interesting to watch how people respond to Jesus.  When a man from God appears in your town and you can’t decide if he is legit or not, how do you respond?  The story of Legion is one of the few times that people are frightened of Jesus in the Gospels.  Apparently it’s disturbing when a man can heal a clearly demon possessed man while wiping out an entire herd of pigs.

At the end of the story the man formerly known as Legion (for he was no longer many) asks to go with Jesus.  Of course, Jesus does the unexpected and sends the man back to the villages he came from to share with them the good news of Jesus and what he had done for him.  Whatever your story is, perhaps you should find a way you could share it with others and let them know what God has done for you.  It’s what God wanted parents in Israel to do and it’s what Jesus wanted Legion to do with his neighbors.  Your turn.

 

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2011 in Bible in One Year

 

God Chose You – Secrets of the Kingdom

Deuteronomy 9:1-10:22  

You are about to go into enemy territory. They are bigger than you. They are stronger than you. There is no way in this world that you can defeat them. What you need to know is this…when God is for you, NO ONE is strong enough to stand against you! In the words of my good friend Kenton Reeves Brown (which I’m positive he stole from someone else) My God is so big, so strong, and so mighty…there’s nothing my God cannot do! *clap, clap* When God overpowers your enemies for you, do not say to yourself, “it is because of my righteousness that God has overtaken my enemies.” There is a tendency to blame God when bad things happen and blame ourselves when good things happen. Keep the right perspective! Keep God on the throne where He belongs! Remember who you are in His presence!

Moses reminds them that God brought them out of Egypt kicking and screaming. They were rebellious the entire time. How quickly do we lay down our rebellious actions to follow God? What does the LORD our God ask of us? If you ever wonder what God’s Will is for your life it is laid out in the last section of our reading today. Fear God, walk in obedience, love Him, serve Him with all your heart and soul, and observe His commands and decrees. Remember that He chose you!

Luke 8:4-21

Much has been said about this parable and we’ve all heard a number of lessons on it. It is probably one of the easier lessons to teach. For us as insiders it seems to be really straight forward and it is hard for us to see how they didn’t get it. I want to focus on the comments Jesus makes between telling the parable and explaining the parable. In v9 Jesus’ disciples ask him what the parable meant and he tells them that “the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables so that, ‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’”

I think Luke is establishing a them that runs through the next few chapters. Jesus is telling his disciples that they have a different way of looking at the world because they have been given the secrets of the kingdom of God. So…what does this mean. Right after this Jesus will calm the storm showing them that he has power over the elements (v22-25). He restores a demon possessed man showing that he has power over demons (v26-39). He has power over death and sickness (v40-56). Power over hunger (9:10-17). After all of those things he then looks at them and says, “I’m going to die…but don’t worry! I have power over that as well!” (9:21-27). As Jesus disciples the 12 to carry on the Good News of God after he has left them he wants them to know that they have nothing to fear in this world. They have been given the secrets of the kingdom of God and nothing can stand in their way!

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2011 in Bible in One Year