Archive for May, 2011

May 31, 2011

The Lord and The Law

by Bethany

Today”s Reading: Deut. 23:15-26:19

Law | The law of the Lord is anything but reason free from passion. Although modern readers may be confused about what to do with the Old Testament laws, we know one thing for sure – every law tells us something about the passionate character of the God who gave it. Although some may be more confusing than others, their truths are not limited to any one nation or time. Therefore, we – like the Israelites – must know and understand the commandments if we want to know and understand our Lord.

Obedience | As we have already seen, God delivered His law to His people because He wanted them to put His character on display to the nations around them: The LORD your God commands you this day to follow these decrees and laws; carefully observe them with all your heart and with all your soul. You have declared this day that the LORD is your God and that you will walk in obedience to him, that you will keep his decrees, commands and laws — that you will listen to him. And the LORD has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands. He has declared that he will set you in praise, fame and honor high above all the nations he has made and that you will be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he promised” [1].

Calling | Although salvation is by faith alone – not by works so that no one can boast – our true faith is revealed by our obedience and – in turn – our obedience puts the Lord’s character on display to the world. Thus, we will increasingly look more and more like Christ: “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” [2].

Prayer | Lord, Thank You for giving us Your law so that we can know You. We confess, however, that we have not accurately displayed Your character when we have been disobedient. Forgive us and work in our hearts to pursue You in increasing measure. Amen.


[1] Deut. 24:16-19 NIV  |  [2] 2 Peter 1:5-8 NIV

May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day Weekend

by Bethany

We will resume posting tomorrow. Hope you have had a restful weekend.

May 27, 2011

Faith Is Not Blind

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Deut. 19-20

Faith | Believing in things that I cannot see is difficult for me. As a lawyer, I value concrete evidence, logical assumptions, and rational reasoning. Unfortunately, however, much of life is about making decisions with incomplete and imperfect information, as we make future decisions based on past data. For example, I can trust that my chair will hold me up tomorrow if it has supported me in the past. Yet, when it comes to obeying God and believing that He will make good on His promises, where do we look for data?

The Promise | As the Israelites stood at the edge of the Promised Land, God promised to be with them in warfare: “When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you” [1]. But how could they trust Him? On what data could they rely?

The Past | When the Israelites left Egypt and passed through the wilderness, although the Amalekites attacked them, God fought for them merely by raising Moses’ hands: As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning … So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army” [2].

The Future | Although they could not see into the future, we now know how God continued to bless Israel with His presence in warfare. He gave them victory over Jericho [3] by their mere marching around the city and He helped them defeat the Midianites, even though Gideon’s army had only three hundred soldiers [4].

The Present | Although we are also called to trust God by faith, not sight [5], we have far more information than the Israelites did. We have centuries of His dealings with Israel and the good news of Jesus Christ. Thus, as we can look back to see His faithfulness, we can look forward to trust His promises: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” [6].

Prayer | Lord, Thank You for giving us a record of Your dealings with Your people and for fulfilling Your promises to them. As we make decisions tomorrow – faith vs. fear / obedience vs. disobedience – help us to believe You and Your promises. Amen.

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[1] Deut. 20:1 NIV | [2] Ex. 17:11-13 NIV | [3] See Joshua 6 | [4] See Judges 7 | [5] Heb. 11:1 NIV (“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”) | [6] Rom. 8:32 NIV

May 26, 2011

Jesus as a Great Moral Teacher: “Patronizing Nonsense”

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Deut. 16:18-18:22

Moses | After God delivered the Ten Commandments, the Israelites were in awe. Fearing that the fire of His glory would consume them, they asked for a mediator. Although Moses fulfilled this role while they were in the wilderness, God told him that He would call another prophet [1]: “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name” [2].

Christ | No one spoke like Jesus did. His claims were not neutral or polite. In fact, they were irrational and bombastic … unless, of course, they were true. After all, He claimed to be God [3], the sole source of eternal life [4], the one who would raise people from the dead [5], and the all-satisfying joy in eternity [6]. He said that we could do nothing without Him [7], that He existed before He was born [8], and that He could forgive sin [9]. When He preached, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” [10], the temple guards proclaimed, “No one ever spoke the way this man does” [11] and many wondered whether He was the prophet of whom Moses spoke.

Lord | As C.S. Lewis argued, it is foolish to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher and also reject Him as God: “A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic … or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to” [12].

Prayer | Lord, Thank You for sending Your Son as our mediator – rather than a mere moral teacher or prophet – for it is His obedient life and atoning death that saves, not His teaching or words. Open our hearts to believe in Him. Amen.

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[1] Since Moses was prohibited from entering the Promised Land due to his lack of faith in the Lord, God had to raise up another prophet to take his place. | [2] Deut. 18:15-22). | [3] See John 13:19 (where Jesus identified Himself with the I AM of Exodus 3:14). See also John 10:30. | [4] See John 10:10-11; 14:6; 8:12; 12:46; 5:29. See also Matthew 18:8; 25:42, 46. See also John 6:35; 4:14; 10:27-28. | [5] See, e.g., John 11:25; 6:40 | [6] See, e.g., John 17:24 | [7] See, e.g., John 15:1,5 | [8] See, e.g., John 8:58 | [9] See, e.g., Mark 2:1-6 (noting that even the Pharisees knew that Jesus’ claim to forgive sins was His claim to be God). | [10] John 7:37-38 NIV | [11] John 7:46 NIV | [12] CS Lewis, Mere Christianity. Macmillan, 1952 (pp. 55–56). A few days after the Madrid terrorist bombings in 2004, Bono was interviewed by a French journalist. When the conversation turned to Christianity, Bono said, “It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven,” and the journalist replied, “Such great hope is wonderful, even though it’s close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world’s great thinkers. But Son of God, isn’t that farfetched?” Perhaps having read Lewis, Bono responded, “It’s not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: “No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: ‘I’m the Messiah.’ I’m saying: ‘I am God incarnate.’ And people say: ‘No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don’t mention the “M” word! Because, you know, we’re gonna have to crucify you.’” And he goes: “No, no. I know you’re expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah.” At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: “Oh, my God, he’s gonna keep saying this.” So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He was, the Messiah, or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson … I’m not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched. Bono in Conversation with Michka Assayas, New York: Penguin Books, 2005 (p. 227).

May 25, 2011

You Are His Treasured Possession

by Bethany

Today’s Readings: Deut. 14:1-16:17

Individualistic | Western culture often encourages expression of the individual over obligation to the community. From individual liberties to capitalist markets, we sing with Walt Whitman, “I celebrate myself” [1]. Thus, when we – as individualist Christians – sin, we often default to thinking merely about how our sin has affected our personal relationship with God, forgetting about its effect on the community or on the Lord’s reputation.

Treasured | As we have already seen, God did not choose Israel because she was powerful or impressive. In fact, she was stubborn, faithless and rebellious. Nevertheless, He chose to display His character through her: “[Y]ou are a people holy to the LORD your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the LORD has chosen you to be his treasured possession” [2]. They were to live in a special way when it came to how they ate (eating only clean foods [3]), spent their money (offering ten percent tithes [4]), handled debts owed to them (canceling debts for the poor [5]), treated their employees (freeing their slaves [6]), and celebrated (remembering the appointed feasts [7]). Repeatedly, He told them that He would bless them for their obedience so that their joy would be complete [8].

Loving | Today, the calling over Israel to display His character is extended to the church. Thus, we are to be holy as He is holy and, when we sin, we not only hurt our relationship with Him, we also put His reputation at risk: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” [9]. What does it look like for us to love one another? Actually, it looks similar to the laws given to Israel – tithe our income, be merciful to the poor, treat our employees with respect and celebrate festivals that remind us of all His marvelous works for us.

Prayer | Lord, When You call us to be Your children, You call us to display Your character and bear Your family resemblance of holiness and love. Yet, we confess that we are highly individualistic in our lives, forgetting that how we live affects the church and the display of Your character. Forgive our selfishness and help us to work together, loving one another and cherishing Your reputation. Amen.

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[1] Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself,” Leaves of Grass.  |  [2] Deut. 14:2 NIV  |  [3] See Deut. 14:3-21  |  [4] See Deut. 14:22-29  |  [5] See Deut. 15:1-11  |  [6] See Deut. 15:12-18  |  [7] See Deut. 16  |  [8] See, e.g., Deut. 14:29; 15:10, 18; 16:15, 17.  |  [9] John 13:34-35 NIV  |  Special thanks to Allison F. for her spectacular editing skills!

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