Saturday, March 29, 2008

Being seduced away: Dt 13

"If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him." (Deuteronomy 13:1-4)
Our call is to cling to the Lord; to serve Him, love Him, and obey Him. All around us, forces are seeking to seduce us away from our fidelity and devotion to the Lord; to seduce us to serve other Gods and to obey another Gospel, one other than that which Jesus delivered unto us. In this chapter, Moses warns us of three specific seductions.

The seduction of the supernatural

God is a supernatural being but not everything that is supernatural is from God. While we need the supernatural manifestations of God in our lives, we must be careful to seek the Lord and not the supernatural. If we seek the supernatural above the Lord, then we open ourselves up for deception. Jesus explicitly warns of of the deception of those wielding supernatural power. "For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance." (Matthew 24:24-25) This is not to say that we should despise all sings and wonders, but rather that they should not be the focus of what we seek. Paul also warns us saying, "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!" (Galatians 1:8) We live in a time where there is great interest in angels. Certainly the scriptures attest to the reality of angels and other things that are spiritual in nature, but we should never seek these things in place of the Lord. The Lord alone we must seek, love, and serve.

The seduction of relationships
"If your brother, your mother's son, or your son or daughter, or the wife you cherish, or your friend who is as your own soul, entice you secretly, saying, 'Let us go and serve other gods' (whom neither you nor your fathers have known, of the gods of the peoples who are around you, near you or far from you, from one end of the earth to the other end), you shall not yield to him or listen to him; and your eye shall not pity him, nor shall you spare or conceal him." (Deuteronomy 13:6-8)
It is possible to love people more than we love God. Our commitment and devotion to God must rise above our commitment and devotion towards others in our lives. This is what Jesus meant when He said, "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple." (Luke 14:26) In using the term "hate" Jesus is not saying that we should hold an emotion of "hate" towards those dear to us, rather He was emphasizing the comparison of our love for God verses our love for others in terms of degrees. Our love for God should far supersede our love for others such that, when forced to chose, we will chose for God. Even if those we love should chose to walk away from the Lord, we must still chose to walk with Him, even if alone. This is why our choice in relationships is so important and why Paul warns us, "Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?" (2 Corinthians 6:14-16)

The seduction of riches

Moses instructs the children of Israel how to deal with those within their own borders that departed from serving the Lord, especially when a whole town or city departs from the Lord to follow after other Gods.
"Then you shall gather all its booty into the middle of its open square and burn the city and all its booty with fire as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God; and it shall be a ruin forever. It shall never be rebuilt. Nothing from that which is put under the ban shall cling to your hand, in order that the Lord may turn from His burning anger and show mercy to you, and have compassion on you and make you increase, just as He has sworn to your fathers." (Deuteronomy 13:16-17)
The Israelites who remained faithful to the Lord were to be careful not to desire the riches or benefits of those who had departed from the Lord. If we begin to desire the things of the world, we can find ourselves being seduced away by the world and by the things it has to offer. Concerning what the world has to offer, John warns us, "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever." (1 John 2:15-17) This is not to say that God wants us to be poor and destitute during our stay on this Earth, but rather that we should not seek the things of this world. If we should receive from the Lord riches and blessings from this life, then we should enjoy them as gifts from the Lord, but we should never depart from the Lord to seek those things on our own. Paul also warns us about being attached to our worldly possessions saying, "and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away." (1 Corinthians 7:30-31) We must always remember that what this world has to offer pales in comparison to the riches and pleasures that are to be found in the presence of God.

David Robison

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Eating your Tithe: Dt 12:17-18

"You are not allowed to eat within your gates the tithe of your grain or new wine or oil, or the firstborn of your herd or flock, or any of your votive offerings which you vow, or your freewill offerings, or the contribution of your hand. But you shall eat them before the Lord your God in the place which the Lord your God will choose, you and your son and daughter, and your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates; and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God in all your undertakings." (Deuteronomy 12:17-18)
I find it very interesting that the tithe was not just to be given but it was to be eaten in the presence of the Lord. Jumping ahead, Moses elaborates on this command.
"You shall surely tithe all the produce from what you sow, which comes out of the field every year. "You shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God, at the place where He chooses to establish His name, the tithe of your grain, your new wine, your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and your flock, so that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. If the distance is so great for you that you are not able to bring the tithe, since the place where the Lord your God chooses to set His name is too far away from you when the Lord your God blesses you, then you shall exchange it for money, and bind the money in your hand and go to the place which the Lord your God chooses. You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household." (Deuteronomy 14:22-26)
This command seems so out of character with how tithing and giving are typically taught today. When offerings are taken today, they are usually for the benefit and support of someone else's ministry, mission, or vision. The gifts given are used by others to accomplish God's will and to further His kingdom. However, in Israel, the tithe was to be enjoyed by the giver; enjoyed and eaten in the presence of the Lord. We often hear messages today about the need for sacrifice in given. When our church recently undertook a building campaign, they used the slogan, "Not equal giving but equal sacrifice," yet such sacrifice, i.e. giving "in faith" what we do no have, seems to be to be inconsistent with the teachings of tithing and giving in the Old Testament. It seems to me that perhaps God is wanting to change some of our thinking about tithing and giving. What if, in our giving, we focused on enjoying our tithes and offerings in the presence of God? How might our giving be different? What if we used our tithes and giving in the following ways?
  • Call a feast and ask everyone to use their tithes to buy what every they would like and bring it to Church so that everyone could eat together in the presence of the Lord.
  • Use our tithes and offerings to pay for Christian training and education for us or our children. Maybe a Christian school, Bible school, or some ministry school.
  • Use our tithes and offerings to pay for a short term missions trip for one of our children or even for ourselves.
  • Use our tithes and offerings to help someone in financial need. Perhaps even a parent or grand-parent.
  • Spend our tithes and offerings on a family vacation to reconnect with our family and, together, with God.
These are just a few suggestions, but you get the idea. Tithes and offerings are not meant to be a burden but a blessing. Perhaps we need to start thinking about them in this light.

David Robison

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Worship and the Presence of God: Dt: 12:10-14

"When you cross the Jordan and live in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies around you so that you live in security, then it shall come about that the place in which the Lord your God will choose for His name to dwell, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution of your hand, and all your choice votive offerings which you will vow to the Lord. And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion or inheritance with you. Be careful that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every cultic place you see, but in the place which the Lord chooses in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you." (Deuteronomy 12:10-14)
Worship is to be preformed in the presence of God. What made every other place of worship different from the place God chose to be worshiped was His presence. There were many "high places" where Israel could have offered their offerings to God, but there was only one place where His presence, His tangible, manifest, and visible presence, abided. There and there alone were they to worship and offer their sacrifices. The same is true for us today. When we worship, we should do it in the presence of God. The psalmist exhorts us saying, "O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms." (Psalm 95:1-2) When we worship, we should do so "before His presence."

It is true that God is omnipresent, but there are also times when He is more present then at other times. For example, consider the promise made to us by our Lord Himself. "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." (Matthew 18:20) Its not that He wasn't there previously, but when we gather together in His name, He is amongst us in a special way.

I have come to see that it is possible to worship apart from the presence of God. Even in some of the churches I have been apart of, there have been times when we went through worship as merely going through the motions. It was as Isaiah said of the children of Israel, "this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote." (Isaiah 29:13) Our services had the patterns of worship but what was lacking was the presence of the one we were worshiping. We had become so comfortable and familiar with our times of "worship" that we became like those to whom Jeremiah prophesied, "The priests did not say, 'Where is the Lord?' and those who handle the law did not know Me." (Jeremiah 2:8) Yet the truth is that, if God is not present when we worship, then we might as well all go home.

I think it is time that we ask ourselves, "Where is the Lord?" If we don't know, or if He has become distant, than perhaps it is time to seek the Lord afresh.

David Robison

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Severing the ties: Dt 12:2-4

"You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess serve their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. You shall tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and burn their Asherim with fire, and you shall cut down the engraved images of their gods and obliterate their name from that place. You shall not act like this toward the Lord your God." (Deuteronomy 12:2-4)
We are not to make peace with the enemies of our souls. There can be no detente with sin, sin must be defeated, and sin must be eradicated from our lives. We must never be casual towards the ungodly and sinful ways that still remain in our lives. We must be radical, we must be severe, and we must be determined to purify our lives by the grace of God. Here are some practical examples from the scriptures of how we can apply this passage to our lives today.
"Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver." (Acts 19:18-19)
Make a break with your past. This could include previous habits, patterns, relationships, or beliefs. It is clear that we cannot live in the Kingdom of God according to the ways which we learned while living in the world. Sometimes our past can limit our future. We must be willing to make a clean break with our past and to fully embrace the new life we have in Christ.
"If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell." (Matthew 18:8-9)
Remove the stumbling stones. Each of us have areas of weakness, areas where we susceptible to stumbling. The key to avoiding sin is to identify those areas and to take action to remove the stones over which we too often stumble. For example, if you struggle with lust, then you may want to cancel your subscription to the swim suit edition of Sports Illustrated. If you struggle with drinking, then you may have to stop partying and hanging around with your old drinking buddies. If you and your girlfriend continually fall into "sin" then you may have to break off your relationship with her. The truth is, it is better to deprive ourselves of certain "pleasures" or "activities" than to continue to live a life of sin.
"for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live." (Romans 8:13)
It is not enough to be saved, but Jesus has saved us for sanctification. As we grow in Christ, we should grow to become more like Christ and less like our old selfs. We are saved "just as I am" but we are not to remain "just as I am". God wants us to grow in righteousness and godliness, and this means putting to death our old ways; being willing to look at our lives and change our behaviors, to set aside old ways and to adopt new ways, godly ways.

When we were saved, we were born again, literally, we had a new beginning, a new genesis. This new life requires new ways of living. If we are to be fruitful in our new lives then we must be willing to lay aside and put to death our old life. We must be radical in our commitment to change, sanctification, and growing in Christlikeness, for it is for this that we were called.

David Robison

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Expecting unbelievers to act like believers: Dt 12:1

"These are the statutes and the judgments which you shall carefully observe in the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess as long as you live on the earth." (Deuteronomy 12:1)
It is important to remember that many of the laws which the children of Israel received from God while they sojourned in the wilderness did not take affect until the actually entered the Promised Land. In fact, for some of the laws, it was impossible for them to keep them prior to their crossing of the Jordan river. Prior to entering the land, they were taught the laws of God, but after entering the land, they were expected to obey those laws.

This scripture reminds me of how, as Christians, we sometimes expect unbelievers to act like believers, and when they don't, we are quick to judge them as law breakers. The truth is, however, that as unbelievers, it is impossible for them to obey God and to keep His laws. They are as those whom Paul describes saying, "the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (Romams 8:7-8) He goes on further to say that it is only after coming to Christ that we are truly free to live a godly life.
"But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness... For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness... But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life." (Romans 6:17-18, 20, 22)
We should expect believers to act like believers and unbeliever as unbelievers. When an unbeliever willfully continues in their sin, we should not be surprised, they are simply acting according to their nature; they are showing that they are slaves to sin. Nor should we require unbelievers to first put away their sin before coming to Jesus, for their sin uniquely qualifies them for salvation in Jesus because, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1 Timothy 1:15) We must always remember that Jesus did not come to reform us back to the law, but rather to reconcile us back to God. Only after having been reconciled to the Father can we find the grace and power to live like believers. This is the true Gospel message.

David Robison

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Obedience, the Key to Success: Dt 11:22-25

"For if you are careful to keep all this commandment which I am commanding you to do, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him, then the Lord will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will dispossess nations greater and mightier than you. Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours; your border will be from the wilderness to Lebanon, and from the river, the river Euphrates, as far as the western sea. No man will be able to stand before you; the Lord your God will lay the dread of you and the fear of you on all the land on which you set foot, as He has spoken to you." (Deuteronomy 11:22-25)
The children of Israel would soon be entering the Promised Land. They would be inheriting a land previously owned by others but that was now being given to them by God. The previous owners had forfeited their claim to the land because of the magnitude and accumulation of their sins. Israel had spent four generations in Egypt waiting for "the iniquity of the Amorite" to be complete (Genesis 15:16), but now was their turn to enter in and possess the land.

The land was to be theirs, but what would be their history in the land? Would they increase and prosper, or would they decline? Their entry into the land was based upon God's promise, but their longevity and prosperity in the land was conditional upon their obedience. God reminded Joshua that success was the result of obedience.
"Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success." (Joshua 1:7-8)
The same can be said for our Christian walk. We come into the Kingdom of God purely by the grace of God and not by own own works or righteousness. "Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works , but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity." (2 Timothy 1:9) We all enter the Kingdom of God the same way, but not everyone will be equally fruitful in their kingdom walk. Paul tells us of those who would build upon the foundation of Christ in their lives with wood, hay, and stubble. "If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." (1 Corinthians 3:15) Our fruitfulness in the Kingdom of God is determined by our obedience, not an obedience to an external law, but an obedience to the Spirit of God.
"Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?" (Romans 6:16)
To our faith, let us add obedience. We should obey, not to appease God and to grant us access into the Kingdom of God, but out of gratitude that, through Jesus Christ, we have already been born again into God's kingdom. Therefore, with thanksgiving, let us obey God.

David Robison

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