Archives For Deuteronomy

God’s love and mercy for us comes free of charge. We can’t do anything to deserve it any more or any less. The fact is we don’t deserve it at all. Still, the love of God is such He gives it to us anyway. We cannot work harder to be more deserving or earn more favor. He has already given everything on our behalf. Regardless of what we do or don’t do, He sees us as having unsurpassable worth and loves us unconditionally.

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No matter how much we may want it to be otherwise, none of our efforts will change these facts. However, when it comes to our relationship with Christ, we have a very direct influence on how close we are and how much our lives look like Jesus to those on the outside looking in.

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Are you selfless? I’m not talking about being a person who readily helps others. That’s part of it, sure. But a truly selfless disciple has forsaken everything for the love and mission of Jesus. When we are selfless, we no longer think of ourselves. We think of Jesus, and we think of how we might reflect Him to others. Society does everything it can to convince you life is all about you. You deserve to have nice things, a nice place to live, a good job, and a sense of safety; you deserve to be comfortable.

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Except you don’t. As I’ve said before, what you (and me) deserve is to spend eternity separated from our Creator. We spend the bulk of our days in abject rebellion to our professed “Lord”. We deserve nothing good. But our selfishness convinces us it’s not true. We listen to society and live selfish instead of selfless lives.

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In the Lord’s Prayer we are taught to ask for our daily bread. Most of us have never had to wonder where we would find food for the day. Our cupboards and pantries always seem to yield some sort of nourishment. Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the West have more than likely never gone without food for an entire day. We are blessed beyond measure, and one need only look at the plight of the truly hungry around the world to be reminded of that fact.

According to WorldHunger.org, over 978 million people in the world are going hungry; that’s approximately one out of every six persons on the planet today. This is simply inexcusable for the world at large, but particularly egregious for those of us who seek to follow Jesus. We are told repeatedly in Scripture to feed the hungry (Isaiah 58:7, 10; Matthew 25:31-46; Romans 12:20; James 2:14-17; Deuteronomy 24:19-22; Luke 14:13). Knowing this, why is it that we are content to hoard the food for ourselves? I cringe when I think how often I’ve said, “There’s nothing to eat in this house!” I don’t think that has ever truly been the case. The real truth is there is perhaps nothing I am craving to eat in the house. We are so spoiled that we lament when we run out of a certain food, yet all the while we have more food in our house right now than nearly a billion people will have in an entire year. Our worst hunger cannot compare to their best days.

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Many cannot fathom the abundance we take for granted.

We must do something. The problem is large and daunting, but the God we serve is able to deliver the hungry from their distress. He calls us to be His hands and feet in bringing relief to their gnawing stomachs. God will honor and use our prayers, donations and efforts to bring His justice to this world. With the resources we have at our disposal, there is no excuse for a single person to go to bed hungry tonight. Let’s all do a gut check and review our expenses for the last month. How many needless material things did each of us buy? How much money did we spend on food that exceeded our “daily bread”? If we had only given half of that total to feeding the hungry, how much might all our contributions together have totaled? One person can make a difference here; a concentrated effort of all followers of Christ would have an impact that would resonate around the world.

Jesus made it very clear that His followers would show mercy to those around them, and he particularly pointed out feeding the hungry (Matthew 25:31-46). He made this a stipulation of being welcomed into His kingdom. If we do not feed the hungry, then we do not love as Christ loved. Our Western culture has blinded us to the needs of those in other countries; our suburban lifestyle shields us from the hungry in our own cities. It’s not enough to acknowledge and pray for the problem. As followers of Jesus, we must take action. Love is a verb and it is not passive. If we are to love others as Christ did, then we must act. I am not advocating that we should all become destitute and give every last cent to feed the hungry (although I do believe there is virtue in that). I am simply asking that we all, myself included, take a fresh look at how we are spending our money while looking for ways to distribute it to the poor and hungry instead.

Look into the eyes of the hungry. Let their faces burn into your mind. Begin to notice how much food is wasted in our country. We throw away so much food while one in six people lack food for the day. Here’s something I read about that we can all try. Get a large can or perhaps just a separate garbage bag, and put nothing in it except the food you throw away for a week. At the end of the week, weigh it and see how much you have wasted. According to the United Nations, about 25,000 people die each day due to hunger or hunger related diseases. How many lives might have been saved with the food we waste each week? It is sobering and it is not acceptable. Jesus called us to be His hands and feet in this world that has so much hunger. He called us to feed them. We, in turn, have become blind to the needs of others while continuing to satisfy our own selfish desires.

We all need our daily bread, but none of us needs any more than that. What if we all cut back to eating simply what we needed and gave the money we saved to feed someone who is impoverished? We can change the world, one person at a time. We can all make a difference if we would simply do the things Jesus commanded us to do. Don’t turn away from the hungry. God loves them and we should too. Determine today to make a difference in their lives; in the name of Jesus, be the hands that deliver their daily bread.

It’s the greatest invitation ever given, a greatly compelling recruitment speech: Jesus said to come and die. He told everyone who followed Him that if they continued to do so they would face persecution. To sweeten the pot He informed them that they would become homeless, rejected by their families and in the end be put to death. Can’t you just see the people rushing to sign up? But this is the call of Christ, to come and die.

Are you willing to give up everything you own for the cross of Christ? Are you ready to die for the sake of pursuing His mission? Would you pursue Him without promise of any reward for yourself? A life spent following Christ is a life full of risk and adventure. We risk what we perceive to be safety in this world for the sake of knowing Him and continuing the mission to which He calls us. In a “me first” generation, sacrificing our own lives for the sake of another is a foreign concept. If we are going to lay everything on the line, we expect a certain return on our investment. But that’s not how the Kingdom of God works. To be a true follower of Jesus, we must give up everything we are solely for the chance to know Him better. Christ is the reward, and to receive it we ultimately must die.

Most of us in the United States have grown up being taught to pursue the American dream. We are expected to acquire material goods to prove our success. Possessions are tangible items that make it a simple matter to measure our progress against that of another. In the race to achieve higher and higher goals while gaining more and more goods, we ignore the very simple message of the Gospel. Jesus said that to find Him, we must lose ourselves. If we are to gain life with Him, we must first die to ourselves (Luke 17:33). Anyone who is living for themselves can never truly love those around them. If we don’t love others, we can’t love Christ (1 John 4:20).

In the Western world, Christianity has come to be synonymous with prosperity and success. For many years, this bad theology has been propounded to the masses and is now accepted as gospel in many circles. The teaching is false and not found in the Bible. The Israelites were told if they would follow all of God’s statutes then they would prosper in their land (Deuteronomy 5:33). That’s about as close as one gets to Biblical approval of the so- called “prosperity gospel”. However, which one of us has succeeded in obeying all of God’s commands? We all have fallen short and missed the mark (Romans 3:23). This is why Jesus came to sacrifice Himself for us. Without His blood and His resurrection, we would all be hopelessly lost. With our sinful tendencies we cannot perfectly keep the law of God. It is only by the grace of Jesus that we have hope of eternal life with Him.

By coming to die, Jesus set the example for us. He did not turn away from the cross that was set before Him, but rather He embraced it knowing that through His sacrifice, many would live. As followers of Jesus, we have the same call on our lives today. Life is not about what we can acquire or how successful we might become. Rather, it is about sacrificing ourselves for the good of others. It is about setting aside our own ambitions so that everything we do might point back to God and bring glory to Him. Our lives are to be lived for a single purpose, the opportunity to reflect the love and beauty of Jesus Christ to a world in desperate need of the truth. If we will live with Jesus Christ being our only goal, then we will achieve true fulfillment; we will receive His blessing on our life and His mercy at our death. Along the way we may be asked to give everything we own away; we may face persecution and watch those we love be taken from us. Following Jesus is dangerous because we are warring with the powers of darkness. To those who choose this path, to those who persevere, there is light and there is life. If we would follow Jesus then we must embrace our death. Jesus said to come and die. Is He worth it to you?

“The LORD your God is commanding you this day to follow these statutes and ordinances. You must be careful to follow them with all your heart and all your soul. Today you have affirmed that the LORD is your God and that you will walk in His ways, keep His statutes, commands, and ordinances, and obey Him. And today the LORD has affirmed that you are His special people as He promised you, that you are to keep all His commands, that He will put you far above all the nations He has made in praise, fame, and glory, and that you will be a holy people to the LORD your God as He promised.” – Deuteronomy 26:16-19 (HCSB)

At times in my life, it has been easy to dismiss scriptures like the one above as being applicable only to the Jews. After all, the book of Deuteronomy was written specifically to the Israelites, long before Christianity came onto the scene. If we view Old Testament scripture this way, we do a great disservice to our ability to live in the manner God intends for us. When Christ died on the cross, He ushered in an explosion in the population of His chosen people: it now included all those who would bow to Him and call Him Lord. With that in mind, let’s examine how this Old Testament scripture can be applied to our lives today.

If we would call Jesus Lord, then we must follow His rules. If we do not, He is not truly our Lord. Calling someone Lord involves an attitude of subservience and devotion. Are we devoted? Do we love Him as we say? Then we will obey Him. Jesus will not force us to obey; He will love us regardless of our response to His directives. He is the Servant King, and those who love Him must become servant subjects.

Notice the wording chosen when He instructs us to follow His instructions: He says we must “be careful to follow them”. Why would we need to “be careful”? I believe there are two reasons. First, when we do something carefully, we are fully engaged, we concentrate to accomplish the task at hand with great precision. Doing something carefully implies we are giving great thought to the task, not haphazardly rushing through what we have to do. Second, I believe we are told to “be careful” because we will be opposed at every turn as we attempt to be faithful. The enemy is lurking around our every move, looking to persuade us to deviate just a little from our destination. We must be diligent to ignore the temptations that would cause us to move off course.

Accepting Christ as our Lord is a marvelous two way street. When we accept Him, He promises to establish us as one of His chosen people. There are no preconditions, there is no entrance exam; our acceptance is automatic. When we believe and surrender to Him as Lord, we are transformed and integrated into the mass of His chosen people. He promises us that if we will simply obey His commands, He will make us a Holy people. He will raise us up above all nations. We are no longer citizens of any earthly kingdom or nation, but rather we belong only to Him, and He to us. From this point forward we must dismiss our sinful need to identify with anything that has been created, and find our identity only in the One who is the Creator. Our attitudes have to change, our lifestyles have to change. We are a Holy people, and if we would call Jesus Lord, we must then act like Holy people.

Study His Word and learn His commands. We must learn to everyday draw closer to God. We do this by carefully following all He will teach us. Just as we don’t take a day off from being a citizen of our country, there are no days off from being a citizen of God’s kingdom. Our surrender to Him provides us a permanent residence among His people, so long as we should want it. Relax in the loving arms of the King; rejoice in the fellowship of His people, who are now your people. Be careful to never shame His name and to always walk in His ways. If we would call Him Lord, we must faithfully live out our proclamation. In return, He will rain love and strength upon us.

For the LORD your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God, showing no partiality and taking no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreign resident, giving him food and clothing. You also must love the foreigner, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt. – Deuteronomy 10:17-19 (HCSB)

God is more powerful than all, yet He loves everyone and shows great compassion to each one. He is perfectly just and looks at no one as more important than another.

James referenced this verse when He defined true religion in James 1:27. The restatement of this Old Testament principle in the New Testament assures of its importance. We are to care for the orphans and the widows. In this time of war, how many widows are being created daily? How many orphans? To take the point a bit farther, how many single parents do we find in today’s society? I think caring for them certainly qualifies for inclusion in the definition of true religion. When does one cease to be an orphan anyway? What about the homeless man whose family has long since passed away? Is he not also an orphan?

Notice what the latter half of the scripture says; Christ tells us to love foreigners – those from a different country, people group or culture. It’s easy to take care of “our own”. Are we willing to care for those a little different than we are? Speaking again of the war, think how many more widows and orphans are added to the roles each day in Iraq. What about Darfur? Orphans and widows die by the dozens every day. Are we serious enough about following the commands of Christ to reach out there as well?

God does not differentiate by any criteria – not by class, gender or ethnicity. We are commanded to do the same. We must love all people equally without partiality. Christ did it, and He commands us to follow His example. We must take the kingdom wherever there is need.

Lord, forgive my shallowness when I look only to those near me. Broaden my vision that I may see hurting people outside of my comfort zone. Grant me the courage and grace to reach out to them. Fill me with an unquenchable passion for their souls.