Thursday, March 31, 2011

March 31 - Joshua 23:5

this land will be yours
Joshua 23:5
At the end of my recent journey to Israel, our leader asked us to summarize our trip in one sentence. The first person to stand up, a quiet Episcopal priest, said simply, "I stand with Israel."
Having been to the Holy Land, I'm beginning to comprehend the landstanding claims to this region by both the Jews and Palestinians. From each side's perspective, both sides arguments sound very legitimate. But the two sides aren't just Israel vs. Palestine. It's a bigger conflict than that. It's Judeo-Christian vs. Muslim.
In the next few weeks, I invite you to watch the news with a much more critical eye. As 1) turmoil mounts in the Middle East ... as 2) a (probably) more radical brand of Islamic leadership rises in many of Arab nations ... as 3) European nations (currently France and Turkey) begin insisting on an immediate Palestinian state ... and as 4) Iran's influence in the region grows (with their leader's oft-repeated goal of destroying Israel ... I want to invite you to pray for Israel.
For years in teaching Bible History, I've taught that God has chosen the Promised Land for strategic purposes in the fulfilling of his kingdom. Israel is essentially at the intersection point of three continents -- Europe, Asia, and Africa. Therefore, it was a very strategic spot for God to choose to fashion a people, begin his witness, and introduce the Savior.
Always before, my teaching was historical. But we may be watching a new piece of history unfold before our eyes. So again ... I invite you to pray for Israel ... for the military and political stability of the world ... for God's kingdom to come ... and for his will to be done.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who stands with
that Episcopal priest

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March 30 - Joshua 21:45

Not a single one of all of the good promises
that the LORD had given to the family of Israel
was left unfulfilled; everything he had spoken came true.
Joshua 21:45
My thought today was to give you a list of several promises in the Bible. So I googled the phrase and my first hit was from one of my favorite authors, Kenneth Boa.
Kenneth Boa's passion is teaching people to pray the scriptures. And he's compiled a list of ALL the promises in the Bible, book-by-book. Attached is his PARTIAL list, downloaded from His abbreviated list is 20-pages long!!!
Here's the point:
1) God wants to bless us ... in fact, he promises repeatedly to do so.
2) Therefore, claim these blessings, including one the verse before today's verse: "44 Just as the Lord had solemnly promised their ancestors ... the Lord gave them rest on all sides."
If you're lacking peace, the Lord promises you rest. Promises. Absolutely! It may take a while. In fact, it took Israel forty-plus years (and all because of their rebellion). But you can, will, and are guaranteed to rest, as another promises -- this one from Jesus -- says,
"Come to me, all you that are weary
and are carrying heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me;
for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy,
and my burden is light."
Matthew 11:28-30
In Christ's Love,
a guy who wants peace and rest and lighter burdens
and needs to pay attention to the conditions for blessing
so I don't have to wait 40 years for it!
(What was it? Oh, yeah ... simply come to Jesus
and he will give us rest)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

March 29 - Joshua 18:1

Now that the land was under Israelite control,
the entire Israelite assembly gathered
at Shiloh and set up the Tabernacle.
Joshua 18:1
Shiloh was the first semi-permanent home for the tabernacle. Therefore, for about 300 years, it was the spiritual capital of Israel. Centrally located, it was accessible by all in the promised land.
And yet, just because you have a "church building" and a holy place to return to every once in a while, doesn't mean you're holy.
Listen to God's judgment on Shiloh -- and eventually Jerusalem -- in Jeremiah 7:
1 The LORD gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, 2 "Go to the entrance of the LORD's Temple ... 4 but do not be fooled by those who repeatedly promise your safety because the Temple of the LORD is here. 5 I will be merciful only if you stop your wicked thoughts and deeds ... 8 "'Do you think that because the Temple is here you will never suffer? Don't fool yourselves! 12 "'Go to the place at Shiloh where I once put the Tabernacle to honor my name. See what I did there because of all the wickedness of my people, the Israelites. 13 While you were doing these wicked things, says the LORD, I spoke to you about it repeatedly, but you would not listen. I called out to you, but you refused to answer. 14 So just as I destroyed Shiloh, I will now destroy this Temple that was built to honor my name, this Temple that you trust for help ...
It's not the building that protects us. It's not the rituals that save us. It's our faith. And -- as it suggests here and in the New Testament book of James -- sometimes our deeds reflect our faith.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who wants his deeds
to reflect an ever-growing faith

Monday, March 28, 2011

March 28 - Joshua 13:1, 6

When Joshua was an old man,
the LORD said to him,
"You are growing old, and
much land remains to be conquered. ...
I will drive these people out of
the land for the Israelites."
Joshua 13:1,6
I think it was important that Joshua was growing old. Why? So Israel would notice the frailties of the elderly man and would attribute their victories to God rather than any human.
When things go right, human beings always like to assume credit.
The ever-present temptation is to put ourselves on the throne. And if you doubt that, read the verses that lead into today's lesson: "These are the kings Israel defeated:
The king of Jericho
The king of Ai, near Bethel 
The king of Jerusalem
The king of Hebron 
The king of Jarmuth
The king of Lachish 
The king of Eglon
The king of Gezer 
The king of Debir
The king of Geder 
The king of Hormah
The king of Arad 
The king of Libnah
The king of Adullam 
The king of Makkedah
The king of Bethel 
The king of Tappuah
The king of Hepher 
The king of Aphek
The king of Lasharon 
The king of Madon
The king of Hazor 
The king of Shimron-meron
The king of Acshaph 
The king of Taanach
The king of Megiddo 
The king of Kedesh
The king of Jokneam in Carmel 
The king of Dor in the city of Naphoth-dor
The king of Goyim in Gilgal 
The king of Tirzah.
In all, thirty-one kings and
their cities were destroyed."
Joshua 12:8-14
When we think of kings, we think of monarchs ruling over huge empires. These guys were mayors of mostly middling cities. But it just goes to show you that we like to ourselves on the throne.
In fact, read the first line of that quote and compare it to the truth from our verse for today: "These are the kings that who defeated"? We like to sit on the throne. We like to claim responsibility for successes. It was and is God who is victorious. And our strength comes from partnering with him.
In Christ's Love,
a weak man who knows how to be strong
(and the only thing I need to exercise is my faith)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

March 27 - Joshua 10:13

the sun and moon stood still until
the Israelites had defeated their enemies
Joshua 10:13
For the first time in a long time, all the spot lights are working on the corners of our house. Pulling into our driveway last night, Robbie kept saying, "Dad, it looks like the middle of the afternoon out here."
I didn't stop to explain the "how" of electricity and the incandescent bulb to Rob. (He understands that stuff better than I do, anyway.) We were just thankful to Grandpa for helping us change them.
So many people get hung up on the "how" in many of our Bible stories and forget to thank God for his generosity.
Did God slow or stop the rotation of the earth? Did he make the moon shine like the middle of the afternoon? Did a million angels of light brighten the armies path? Did God create the atmospheric conditions to bend refract the sun's light around the edges of the spinning globe? 
It doesn't really matter.
What matters is 1) that Israel asked for extra daylight (v 12), and the creator of the universe -- who clearly has the power to do it -- graciously obliged. What matters is 2) that we need to give thanks for all the wonderful ways he blesses our life.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who find his faith bigger
when he gives thanks
After all, "Is anything too hard for the LORD?" (Gen 18:4)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

March 26 - Joshua 7:21

I wanted them so much
that I took them.
Joshua 7:21
"I wanted ____ so much." Have you ever said that?!
Jericho's fall -- yesterday's story -- contains two stories of two people.
The first is Rahab. As a prostitute, she lived on the fringes of society -- figuratively and literally. In fact, with a household window on the outside walls of town, she was able to help the Hebrew spies escape. Risking her life for God's people earned a place in the Hebrews 11 "Fall of Faith." In fact, she was a distant grandmother of both King David and Jesus himself. God can redeem any checkered past if we will but lay down our lives for him.
But here's the point: Rahab "wanted what so much"? While the rest of Jericho steeled themselves for battle to preserve their way of life, Rahab "wanted a new way of life so much" that she was willing to turn everything over to a God who held that power and potential.
Achan was different. He was already viewed as a child of God. But he "wanted silver and gold and brightly colored robes so much" that he traded in his positive destiny for destruction.
Both of these tell us the story of a trade that we must all make. Will we trade ...
  • our old way of life for a new way of life?
  • and the world's material way of gold and silver for God's spiritual way of true power.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who wants chocolate so much
(no ... no ... God rather chocolate)

Friday, March 25, 2011

March 25 - Joshua 3:15-16

when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan,
and the feet of the priests bearing the ark
were dipped in the edge of the water,
the waters flowing from above stood still,
rising up in a single heap ...
Joshua 3:15-16
Last night (Tuesday), I was with our church's friend, Pastor Reggie Hansome, from Living Waters Church. We'd just finished having dinner with some young minister. And as we left the gathering, Reggie tried to turn his car around on a narrow road with steep ditches on either side. He said, "I hope I don't get stuck."
I said, "Don't worry. Didn't you hear those young ministers? They were talking about doing P90X -- the newest work-out craze. If we fall in, we can just get the young priests to lift your little car out of the ditch!"
When I was saying that, I didn't realize that these young ministers were like the priests in the days of Joshua. Here's the quick story ...
The time had finally come!
It was time for Israel to cross the Jordan River!
But ... there were three big problems:
  1. It was flood time and the Jordan River, says scripture, was overflowing it's banks.
  2. God would not stop the flow of the river until the Israelites, led by their priests, stepped into the flood.
  3. The priests were carrying a ton of metal called the Ark of the Covenant
Think about it ... The water was deep. The bottom of the Jordan was probably very slippery -- and I say that from recent experience. And the priests were carrying an Ark as big as Pastor Reggie's car!!!
But ... you know ... sometimes, that's the way God works! Before he can bless you, you have to step out in faith.
What are you holding back on? Do you think it's time to step out?
In Christ's Love,
a guy who's only carried a Volkswagon
when it's the size of a Matchbox
(it's time to dream bigger!) 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

March 24 - Joshua 1:11

"Pass through the camp, and command the people:
'Prepare your provisions; for in three days you are
to cross over the Jordan, to go in to take possession
of the land that the Lord your God gives you to possess.'"
Joshua 1:11
Most people's favorite verse in Joshua is 1:9 -- "Be strong and courageous ... for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Amen!
But I have another favorite ...
At the end of glorious, moving, spiritual retreats, someone will inevitably say, "It's time to go back to the real world." They mean that after a weekend of praise, thanksgiving, healing, and grace, that it's time to go back to the world that's full of real brokeness, real pain, and real imperfections.
But I tell them, that's not the real world! That's the world broken by sin. God's intent what just what you saw on this retreat: praise, thanksgiving, healing, grace, new friendships, renewed faith. That's the real world!!!
And then I point to Joshua 1:11 with a sense of purpose and conviction, saying, "You've seen what God intended. Now, 'go [and] take possession of the land that God has given you to possess.' Conquer the sin and imperfections. Let light shine on the darkness. Let truth deflate the world's lies. 'Go [and] take possession of the land that God has given you to possess!"
In Christ's Love,
one who is more than a conquerer
through him who loves us
Rom 8:37

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March 23 - Deuteronomy 34:1-5

Then Moses went up to Mount Nebo ...
And the Lord showed him the whole land ...
saying ... "This is the land I promised on oath
to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob ...
I have now allowed you to see it with your own eyes,
but you will not enter the land."
So Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there.
Deuteronomy 34:1-5
Do you have a nickname? Look at the last line of today's lesson. Moses' nickname was, "Servant of the Lord."
Many people think: How unfair for Moses to risk his life, lead a constantly whiny and stiff-necked people, dwell perpetually in parched wilderness ... and still not be allowed to go into the Promised Land. Yes, God allowed him to look at. But his entrance was flatly denied. How unfair, right?
Here's the thing ... We constantly overestimate the value of our efforts in the eyes of God. If we're honest, don't we kind of, somewhat, regularly think: "I did this, this, and this for the church and for the kingdom; therefore, God owes me." 
The truth is: God owes you NOTHING. Rather we owe him EVERYTHING! God can accomplish ANYTHING with you or without you. He doesn't need you. He doesn't owe you. BUT he WANTS you.
He loves you and wants a relationship with you. He chose you and chooses to work through you. Your obedience brings great joy to him. And your obedience allows you to see his power at work. And seeing his power at work through your brings deeper relationship.
The man nicknamed "The Servant of the Lord" obeyed more frequently, saw more power, and developed a deeper relationship with God than any human in history -- except perhaps Jesus Christ, God's own son.
Like all humans, though, Moses also from time-to-time sinned and fell short -- see Numbers 20:1-12 for the sin that kept him out of the Promised Land. Therefore Moses didn't receive his reward on earth. He didn't make it into the Promised Land on earth. BUT he did make it into the Promised Land called Heaven! (See the Transfiguration when the curtain between heaven and earth was dropped and Jesus stood beside a heavenly Moses and a heavenly Elijah -- see Mark 9).
Therefore, don't think your reward is guaranteed on earth. Rather, trust that God will bless and reward you throughout all eternity and in the Promised Land of heaven.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who wants to get better at listening
so he can get better at obeying
so he can see more power
and thereby grow deeper in relationship

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March 22 - Deuteronomy 31:14

Then the Lord said to Moses,
"The time has come for you to die."
Deuteronomy 31:14
If even a hero of the faith like Moses eventually came to end of his time on earth, guess what ... Your time will come too.
So imagine that your time has come. What will be the final thing you'd like to say? What's the final piece of advice you'd like to pass along? Maybe to your spouse ... Maybe to your children ... Maybe to God ... But what would your like your last words to be?
Well, when it came Moses' time, God didn't let Moses choose. He said essentially, "Moses, this is what you are to say ..." Actually, he said, "This is what you are to sing!"
The Lord said, "16 [Moses,] after you are gone, these people will begin to worship foreign gods ... 17 Then my anger will blaze forth ... 19 So write down the words of this song, teach it to th[em], help them learn it ... 21 and when great disasters come down on them [because of their actions, implied], this song will stand as evidence against them, for it will never be forgotten by their descendents."
How'd you like your final words to be a song with the lyrics, "32:28 Israel is a senseless nation"?
Now, while many of us might genuinely want to leave our children with a memorable warning -- as this song was -- we'd also like to leave them with a blessing. And chapter 33 really does contain his final words, and Moses' words, spoken out of love, are a blessing for his people ... but that's a story for tomorrow.
Today, remember that your time is coming. What would you like your final words to be. (And why not email them to me. I'd love to hear.)
In Christ's Love,
a guy who wants to leave you with a song:
Strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord

Monday, March 21, 2011

March 21 - Deuteronomy 28:2

You will experience all these blessings
if you obey the Lord your God.
Deuteronomy 28:2
On just about everybody's list of favorite passages is the Beatitudes. From the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5, Jesus says, "Blessed are the poor in spirit ... blessed are the merciful ... blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness ... and blessed are the peacemakers."
In today's reading, Moses was giving a totally different sermon on a totally different mount -- Mt. Ebal. Moses, in Deuteronomy 27, started not with beatitudes, but with Cursed-Attitudes. In Deuteronomy 27, Moses give us the twelve commandments -- similar, but not identical to the ten commandments -- and says twelve times in a row, "cursed is anyone who ..."
Indeed, in Deuteronomy 28, Moses adds a thirteenth curse, saying, "15 if you refuse to listen to the Lord your God ... 20 the Lord himself will send on you curses, confusion, and frustration in everything you do, until at last you are completely destroyed for doing evil and abandoning me."
Get me back to the Blessed-Attitudes, right?!
But here's the dilemma. All of us definitely want to be blessed ... BUT all of us definitely want to do what we want to do.
And the point of these two chapters is simple. God is saying, "I want to bless you." Read that again. "God wants to bless you, bless you, bless!!!" But God says, "I cannot bless what is not holy and right."
Therefore, since God wants to bless your life, a good question to ask is: Where in my life am I finding more challenge than blessing? One of two things could be happening: 1) You may be living in a thoroughly honorable way, and God is simply testing his faithful servant so that you can grow even deeper!!! Or 2) something in the way you are living may not be honoring God, and God cannot bless what is not holy and right."
In Christ's Love,
a guy who needs a microscrope
(I need to look at my challenges
more and more closely)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

March 20 - Deuteronomy 24:6

It is wrong to take a set of millstones,
or even just the upper millstone,
as security for a loan,
for the owner uses it to make a living.
Deuteronomy 24:6
After several long books of laws and regulations, it's a good time to remind you that there were two sets of laws.
  • One has to do with our relationship with God. The other has to do with self and others.
  • The ones pointing to God are a holiness code. The ones pointing to self and others have to do with health and cleanliness, wisdom and good order in society.
In general, the ones concerning holiness and our relationship with God are timeless. The ones pointing to self and others are often viewed as specific to time and era of the ancient Jews.
Unfortunately, the cultural logic of some of these commands leads to some to reject the set of laws altogether (including some of the holiness ones). Our natural tendency is to cut and paste and demand less and less of ourselves.
Let me give you a cultural example ... and what I believe to be a faithful response: What if you wanted to borrow from me -- whether I'm and individual or big city banker.
  • A very legalistic interpretation of the law says that I can hold as collateral anything from you except your millstones.
  • A very permissive interpretation says, "You see, all of these are hopelessly out of date. And if we're not enforcing millstones, then why shouldn't we just forget all of the commands?"
  • A more reasoned and faithful response -- in my opinion -- says, "Why did God give this law?" "To protect people. Therefore, right living in the kingdom demands that we don't prevent people from working hard and that we allow them to dig themselves out of their debts rather than take advantage of them. Therefore, if you're lender, make this a win-win. It's okay for you to collect interest, as the lender need to make a living too! But don't crush the debtor."
Does that make sense?
Here's my recommendation:
  1. Keep all the laws regarding holiness and a right relationship with God. (We printed one in our devotions two days ago: "18:9 When you enter the land .. be very careful not to immitate the detestable customs of the people living there." Holiness!)
  2. Look deeper into all the other commands -- person to person, health and cleanliness, wisdom and good order -- keeping absolutely as many as you possibly can.
  3. If you're tempted to bend a law, still make it cost you something.
  4. But don't legalistically add burdens to others -- i.e. be more demanding of yourself than your neighbor.
  5. And strive always to love God and love neighbor.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who really wants to know
how to be holy and life-giving
rather than legalistic and burden-bearing

Saturday, March 19, 2011

March 19 - Deuteronomy 18:9, 13

When you enter the land the Lord God is giving you,
be very careful not to imitate the detestable
customs of the nations living there. ...
You must be blameless before the Lord your God.
Deuteronomy 18:9,13
The phrase "be perfect / be blameless" occurs ten times in scripture.
The most famous, perhaps, is the impossible standard that Jesus seems to set in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:48 -- in the context of telling us to love our enemies -- Jesus says, "Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect."
Isn't that an impossible standard?!
As God established his covenant with Abra[ha]m in Genesis 17:1, God sets out the same impossible standard again: "Walk before me and be blameless." 
Humanly impossible, right?
That's why much of the rest of the calls to "be blameless and perfect" are calls to our blameless Father to help us look more like him:
For example, in Psalm 19:13 the Psalmist cries: Keep your servant from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. Right living requires God's help.
In 1 Corinthians 1:8, Paul presents God's help in this endeavor as a promise from heaven to all who yield their hearts to him: "[The Lord] will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Humanly, perfection is impossible. But with God, all things are possible. As you strive for holiness, therefore, let me end with Paul's prayer in 1 Thessalonians 3:13
May [the Lord] strengthen your hearts
so that you will be blameless and holy
in the presence of our God and Father ...
In Christ's Love,
a perfect fool
(but what did Paul say about
being a fool for Christ?!!!)

Friday, March 18, 2011

March 18 - Deuteronomy 15:11

(The Lord-through-)Moses says,
There will always be some in the land who are poor.
That is why I am commanding you to share freely
with the poor ...
Deuteronomy 15:11
As soon as I read that passage, I couldn't help but think of similar (but rather different) words from Jesus in Matthew 26.
Let's remember the context first: Just before his death and burial, a loving, weeping, forgiven woman anointed Jesus. Judas, of course, complained about the waste of this very costly perfume. "It could have been sold and the money given to the poor," said the betrayer. But in a hint of what was to come, scripture tells us that Judas didn't care about the poor; rather he kept the disciples' common purse and was embezzling money.
Now compare Moses words, "There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor ..." with Jesus' response to Judas: "11 You always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me."
On the surface, these two verses seem to contradict each other. But let's add them together, nonetheless: "Give to the poor. Unless you need to give to Jesus first."
But wait! That's not our final equation. About twenty verses before Judas' outburst, Jesus had just finished instruction Judas -- and the rest of his followers: "25:40 Whenever you [fed the hungry, visited the prisoners, welcomed the strangers, or clothed the naked], you did it unto me."
Therefore, our new addition reads, "You need to give to Jesus first, and one of the best ways to do that is by giving to the poor."
In Christ's Love,
a guy who needs to remember
Hebrews 13:2
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers,
for by doing that some have entertained angels unawares.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March 17 - Deuteronomy 14:22-23

You must set aside a tithe of your ...
grain, new wine, olive oil, and
the firstborn males of your flocks and herd.
Doing this will teach you always
to fear the Lord your God.
Deuteronomy 14:22-23
Why does God ask the Israelites -- and us -- to tithe?
He doesn't need olive oil, and in heaven he has no need of a few extra goats. He is literally self-sufficient. He can part Red Seas, build nations, and breathe life into dust to create as many sheep as he wants.
God doesn't need us to give. WE NEED US TO GIVE.
In a very real sense, we need food and money to survive. But tithing points us to the bigger reality. This world and its necessities will inevitably pass away, but our real need will endure. And what we really NEED is God!
Tithing is counter-intuitive. It thumbs its nose at the logic of the world. And it trains us, instead, to quit focusing on the temporary and trust in God for the eternal. 
Are you tithing? If not -- and this is God's suggestion, rather than mine -- if not, maybe it's time to ask what you really depend upon.
In Christ's Love,
a needy person
(we're all desperate
and only one thing truly satisfies)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March 16 - Deuteronomy 9:4

"After the LORD your God has
[crossed over the Jordan ahead of you
and subdued your enemies] for you,
don't say to yourselves,
'The LORD has given us this land
because we are so righteous!'
No, it is because of the wickedness
of the other nations that he is doing it.
Deuteronomy 9:4
When good fortune strikes, who do you give credit too? Some give credit to luck and coincidence -- and sometimes it is. Others are wiser; they more frequently give credit to God -- and God's providential hand is very often involved, indeed! 
But here's where the problem comes in ... Imagine that you prayed and prayed and you finally, wonderfully got the job you'd been praying for. Well, there were probably plenty of other people who prayed and prayed too. Did God bless you ... at the expense of another? Hmmm. And does this mean that God likes you more than the others? Hmmm. And -- and here's the dangerous step -- does this mean that because you were blessed that approves of everything in your life -- just the way you are? Hmmm.
Too many of us are tempted to turn our blessings into "evidence" of God's approval for who we are. And therefore, I've known people who've used life's blessings to justify all kinds of dubios behavior. So what is that standard for righteousness? 
Imagine me pointing to the ceiling and saying, "Imagine the best person you know -- Mother Theresa, for example. Let's say she's high up -- on the goodness scale, as high as the ceiling itself. And let's imagine the worst person you know -- a serial rapist and murderer. They're belly is scraping the floor. You, on the other hand, are somewhere in between. And when enough blessings come along, your self-perceived value inflates, and you see yourself rising farther up the scale."
But what if I told you the scale wasn't as high as the ceiling? What if I told you that the scale is as high as the sky, because on the scale of God's absolute perfection and unwavering holiness, even the Mother Theresa's are sinful and unclean. 
A correct evaluation of ourselves demands -- as today's lesson suggests -- that we don't view good fortune as a prideful testament to how good and righteous we are. 
A correct evaluation of ourselves is 1) that we are sinful and unclean, and yet 2) God loves us deeply anyway.
A correct evaluation of the world is that in spite of our failings, our God is an awesome God!
In Christ's Love,
a very blessed guy
who needs to be thankful
rather than proud

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March 15 - Deuteronomy 6:5

You shall love the Lord your God with all
your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your might.
Deuteronomy 6:5
Deuteronomy 6:5 is arguably the second most important verse in the Bible.
  • The most important is probably John 3:16 which talks about God's amazing, self-giving love for us: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." That's what God did for us. 
  • Jesus made Deuteronomy 6:5 the second most important verse when said that this is what we should do for God: "Mt 22:36 "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"37 [Jesus] said to him, " "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.'"
You probably know that already, right?!! But do you know what (God-through-)Moses commanded the people to do next? The told them -- and us -- to ...
  • 6 Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. How well are you doing at keeping not just the words about loving God in your heart, but a real, live, active love of the Lord in heart, mind, and practice? 
  • 7 Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. How well are you keeping God's name and values at the forefront of your family's life -- morning, noon, and night? when you turn on the TV? in the language you use? as your children choose friends? How actively are you teaching God's truths and modeling God's love for you children?
  • 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9 and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. When I was in Israel, every door to a home (including the temporary home of our hotel rooms) had this command, called the shema, attached to their door posts. Usually it was a scrolls which was placed in a little cylinder called a mezuzahSome of the more orthodox Jews also had a little leather case strapped to their foreheads -- although some would argue that what God and Moses meant was carrying this command in the forefront of our minds. Nevertheless, these are constant, visible reminders. What constant reminders do you have to love God with your heart, soul, strength, and mind?
In Christ's Love,
The Guy with the God's Love Tatoo
(I hope you can see his love tatooed
on my forehead through the way I live my life)

Monday, March 14, 2011

March 14 - Proverbs 1:7

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 1:7
Have I told you about reading through one of my favorite books -- Andy Stanley's, "The Best Question Ever"?
He spends the first 20% of the book trying to tell us why he -- of all people -- is qualified to determine what is truly "the best question ever." (I didn't think he made his case very well, but I kept reading.)
Then he told us what the best question ever was. He said, before you make a decision, ask, "What is the wise thing to do?" (In fact, he said, look back on all your worst decisions. Wouldn't things have turned out much better if you had asked in advance: What is the wise thing to do?!")
With "the best question ever" now defined, the book picked up steam in the second segment. And for the next 75% of the book, Andy Stanley gave some very, very, very wise advice. I loved it. It was practical. But I was missing one thing. This was a church book. It was written by a pastor. Where was God?!!
And just about the point I couldn't take it anymore ... almost put it down with only 5% to go ... Andy Stanley landed this faltering plane perfectly. He was writing, in part, to non-Christians. He had been giving wise answers that anyone from most any culture could agree with. But then he settled, finally, on the only answer that could bring hope, saying essentially, "Friends, if you want to be truly wise, then here's what you need to know -- Proverbs 1:7 -- 'The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.'"
That's what God-through-Moses told the Israelites too in Numbers 4:
5 "You must obey these laws and regulations when you arrive in the land you are about to enter and occupy. The LORD my God gave them to me and commanded me to pass them on to you.6 If you obey them carefully, you will display your wisdom and intelligence to the surrounding nations. When they hear about these laws, they will exclaim, 'What other nation is as wise and prudent as this!'
7 For what great nation has a god as near to them as the LORD our God is near to us whenever we call on him? 8 And what great nation has laws and regulations as fair as this body of laws that I am giving you today?
9 "But watch out! Be very careful never to forget what you have seen the LORD do for you. Do not let these things escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren.
In Christ's Love,
a wise guy
(not because I am personally wise,
but because I'm seeking to follow
the one who is the source of life)