Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 25 Mar 18:
1. Deuteronomy 13:1-4 — “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder… and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’… you shall not listen…. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.” Today, more than any other time in history, people are being bombarded with “evidence” to counter the word of God, all false evidence, but enough to lead many astray. Are you firm in your faith?
2. Deuteronomy 13:4, 5 — “You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him…. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” Obedience to God means removing those things in your life that dishonor Him. Does your entertainment honor God? Does what you read, watch, and listen to strengthen your purity or hinder it? Are your best friends Christ followers working with you to glorify God? “Agree with God, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you. Receive instruction from his mouth, and lay up his words in your heart. If you return to the Almighty you will be built up, if you remove injustice far from your tents, if you lay gold in the dust, and gold of Ophir among the stones of the torrent-bed, then the Almighty will be your gold and your precious silver. For then you will delight yourself in the Almighty and lift up your face to God. You will make your prayer to him, and he will hear you, and you will pay your vows. You will decide on a matter, and it will be established for you, and light will shine on your ways. For when they are humbled you say, ‘It is because of pride’; but he saves the lowly. He delivers even the one who is not innocent, who will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands.” Make God your absolute treasure; purge the evil from your life; and live as a powerful Christian. (Job 22:21-30)
3. Deuteronomy 13:11 – “And all Israel shall hear and fear and never again do any such wickedness as this among you.” Punishment is not just for the person being punished but also for others in order that they may learn and not do the same thing the one who was punished did. Part of wisdom is understanding what you haven’t experienced – learning from observing consequences (good and bad) in the lives of others. The accounts in the Bible were provided that we might gain wisdom – “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11) But note, that ultimately, the Bible is not just pointing us to instructions for better living but to the One “on whom” all outcomes rest, “on whom” we have faith and hope. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4) The whole Bible points to Jesus.
4. Deuteronomy 14:2 — “The LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” Are you still amazed by grace? Do you understand the incredible thing God has done for you and the great fortune you have that so many others don’t have?
5. Deuteronomy 14:3 – “You shall not eat any abomination.” There are many theories for why God told His people not to eat the certain animals and foods He told them not to eat. Some talk about health reasons; some think because the pagans ate these food, God used dietary laws as a way to separate His people from other people, to keep them focused on their holiness. Likely these reasons are both true, along with other reasons, some we might never understand. Safe to say, we should never put anything in our bodies that does not honor God or that hurts the body. We should take care of our temples as an act of worship and demonstrate thanksgiving and the character of God in the way we eat. Many Christians know the way they eat is unhealthy, yet they do it anyway. For other Christians, “proper” nutrition has become an idol. This too is an abomination. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor 10:31)
6. Deuteronomy 14:23 – “And before the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always.” The tithe facilitated an environment where the people ate together and all were fed together, resulting in fellowship, camaraderie, unity, and charity. How often does your church feast together?
7. Deuteronomy 14:23 — “…that you may learn to fear the LORD your God always.” God’s commands are intended to teach you how to love and respect Him as God.
8. Deuteronomy 14:24-26 – “And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the Lord your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the Lord your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the Lord your God chooses and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.” Money was created to be a substitute for goods in order to facilitate trade across great distances. God’s word has much to say about the sin of manipulating the value of currency because it essentially robs people of their goods; currency manipulation is a form of stealing, and the people most affected are the poor. Jesus flipped the tables and drove out the moneychangers in the Temple because they were manipulating the currency and stealing from the poor and from the church. God forbade his people from earning wealth on the interest applied to money and loans because it is money for nothing and a way to take advantage of others. (Deut 23:19; Proverbs 28:8; Psalm 15:5; Ezek 18:12, 13; Deut 23:20; Levitcus 25:36-37; Nehemiah 5:7; etc) All personal finance advice today encourages people to “make your money make money” by lending it to others with interest, rather than merely selling or trading the fruit of your honest labor at fair market value. This is a trap. This is why bankers are so rich and the poor are so poor. Abrahams plan for retirement was much different than the rich fool’s plan condemned by Jesus in Luke 12. Abraham built an industry (sheep) that would continue to produce in order to sustain him in his unproductive years (which were few). The rich fool’s plan was to hoard resources in order to have something to live off of in his unproductive years. The rich fool’s plan looks a lot like most retirement plans today. God’s plan for his people is not to hoard golden eggs but to raise geese that lay golden eggs. (Proverbs 27:23-30)
9. Deuteronomy 14:28-29 — “At the end of every three years you shall bring out all the tithe of your produce in the same year and lay it up within your towns. And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.” The tithe is intended, in part, to provide for those in need. Today, most give less than 3% of their income, and charity has largely been turned over to the government and to private secular organizations. God intended a far different plan.
10. Proverbs 25:4 — “Take away the dross from the silver, and the smith has material for a vessel.” Does your holiness render you usable by God for special assignments?
11. Proverbs 25:26 — “Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.” How much pollution do you want in your drinking water? How much sin does God want in your life?
12. Proverbs 25:28 — “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” A lack of self-control leaves you defenseless.
13. Proverbs 25:6, 7 – “Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, ‘Come up here,’ than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.” Don’t be a self-promoter. Let your reputation speak for itself. Margaret Thatcher once said, “Power is like being a lady… if you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” What you are should be so apparent that you don’t have to promote it artificially. Some people become great at writing resumes, conducting job interviews, collective awards, accreditations, etc, all to get important positions, but they are only “empty suits” who overpromise and underdeliver. Of course politicians are known for doing what it takes to get elected and then failing to be all that they said they would be or failing to do all that they said they would do. Proverbs 25:14 says, “Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.” Instead, Christians should let their actions, rather than their words, earn them an invitation to the party and a seat at the table. Do whatever you do so well that everyone demands more.
14. Proverbs 25:9 – “Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secret.” God gives very specific instructions for conflict resolution that is often ignored by Christians who should be experts on conflict resolution because we have been given by God the ministry of reconciliation. In this verse, God tells us to first seek to handle matters with others 1-on-1 and privately, not sharing the issues with others. Is that what you do?
15. Proverbs 25:15 – “With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone.” Patience is very powerful. Instant gains are usually quickly lost. Things that matter take time. Patience is the first virtue mentioned in the Great Love Verse, 1 Cor 13:4 – “Love is patient and kind….”
16. Proverbs 25:26 – “Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.” Jesus is the Pure, Live Giving, Living Water. Always let His pure water for through you to others by remaining faithfully obedient and pure.
17. Psalm 35:10 — “All my bones shall say, ‘O LORD, who is like you, delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him, the poor and needy from him who robs him?’” The Lord reveals Himself in our lives by doing what we cannot do for ourselves. Trusting in God is trusting beyond ourselves, relying on the character and strength of God rather than our own. Do you have the faith to do that?
18. Psalm 36:11 — “Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.” The psalmist’s fear was his own tendency towards pride and arrogance that opened the door to temptation and sin. So, the psalmist prayed for protection from arrogance. Are you praying likewise?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 25 March: Today, figure out what percentage of your income you gave specifically in the name of Jesus, tithes, gifts, alms, etc. last year. Was it 10% or more? (Deuteronomy 14:22-29) Consider what your level of giving reveals about your heart and your faith.