april 12, 2021

Joshua 5:1-7:15

The fear factor is powerful. The Canaanites heard of all that the LORD had done for Israel, and their hearts melted, it would be a factor in their defeat. One wonders if instead of melting hearts they would have had turning hearts – if only they would have (like Rahab) turned to the LORD now, or even earlier in their history, when their consciences must have gripped them in all the evil they were practicing.

God had Joshua make knives, but it’s interesting that instead of the knives being used on the enemies first, God commanded Joshua to use the knives on himself and on those who were serving with him – in circumcision. This would be symbolic of the covenant the Jews had with the LORD, and of the cutting away of the flesh. Today God doesn’t use knives He uses His Word in order to circumcise our hearts (Romans 2:29). God wants us to use His word in the secret and sensitive places.

Warren Wiersbe, “The new generation had not received the mark of the covenant (Genesis 17), so this ritual was a reaffirmation of their relationship with God. Circumcision symbolizes putting off what belongs to the sinful flesh (Romans 8:13; Colossians 2:11–12) and devoting the heart wholly to the Lord (Deuteuronomy 10:16; Jeremiah 4:4).”

God is on the move on behalf of His people. He’s rolling away the reproach of homelessness (Gilgal means “wheel or rolling”). The people ate of the fruit of the land, no more manna (I have mixed emotions on that one). It all happened in the time of the passover – definitely a new beginning.

I’ve always loved this section of Jesus appearing to Joshua as the people are on the brink of the Promised Land. Joshua doesn’t know who it is (this theophany) but he asks that question, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” Jesus loves everyone, so His simple response is:

Joshua 5:14-15 (NKJV) “‘…No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, ‘What does my Lord say to His servant?’ Then the Commander of the LORD’S army said to Joshua, ‘Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.’ And Joshua did so.”

Warren Wiersbe, “Joshua met Jesus Christ and learned that the Lord already had a plan for taking Jericho. All Joshua had to do was obey and remember that he was on “holy ground.” From that time, whenever Joshua took off his shoes, it reminded him that he was second in command. That was the secret of his victory (2 Chronicles 20:15).”

God appeared to Moses with similar instructions (Exodus 3:5).

The battle plan to conquer Jericho didn’t make much sense from a military perspective, but God wanted to clearly demonstrate to Israel that obedience to Him would be the key to victory. His ways are not our ways, they’re infinitely higher. There will be many times in life when we don’t understand God’s direction – we must simply trust and obey. If we do, we will see victories in life.

The first-fruits belong to God. By giving to Him first, off the top, the best of the best, the fat of the firstborn, we remind ourselves that it’s all from Him and it all belongs to Him. This was supposed to be the case in the conquering of the Promised Land as well – the spoil of Jericho belonged to God. We read God’s clear command in:

Joshua 6:18-19 (NKJV) “And you, by all means abstain from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are consecrated to the LORD; they shall come into the treasury of the LORD.”

But Achan disobeyed, thinking he could get away with his secret sin, and brought defeat to the entire nation…a little leaven leavens the whole lump (1 Corinthians 5:6; Galatians 5:9).

Warren Wiersbe, “We never sin alone. God sees His people as one, so the sin of Achan was the sin of the whole nation. (See 1 Corinthians 12:12–27) One man’s sin caused the death of thirty-six soldiers. Sin ultimately brings defeat. The secret of success is knowing and obeying God’s Word (Joshua 1:8), and Achan knew that. But he deliberately disobeyed God and brought defeat to the army, disgrace to the Lord, and dismay to his commander. Joshua started looking back instead of looking ahead (Joshua 7:7)!”

Disobedience leads to defeat which can easily lead to doubt and discouragement. It’s hard to read Joshua’s words:

Joshua 7:7b (NKJV) “…Oh, that we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan!”

May we never be content to live on the wrong side of the Jordan, wandering through life. God commanded Joshua to get up and deal with the sin within, in order to win. (Joshua 7:12)

Luke 15:1-32

Warren Wiersbe, “These parables are Christ’s defense of His ministry, explaining why He fellowshipped with sinners and even ate with them.”

Christians need to be careful to avoid two extremes. On one hand there are those who live in a Christian bubble. They only interact with Christians, do business with Christians, talk to Christians, and over time the only people they know, are those who are saved. How can we be lights in the world, or salt on the earth, or fishers of men if we stay within our Christian bubble?

The other extreme is worldly trouble. Some Christians make the mistake of getting too close to the edge. In their attempt to win the lost they compromise and rather than pulling them “up,” their worldly friends pull them “down” (which is easier to do). Jesus told us in John 17 that we are to be in the world, but not of the world. It’s okay for the boat to be in the water, we just don’t want too much water in the boat (we’ll sink).

I love the fact that Jesus was friends with sinners. In Luke 14 Jesus ate with the “saints,” but in Luke 15 He ate with sinners – even tax collectors (they were considered the worst). I have to search my heart, “Do I only interact with Christians? What about all the lost and hurting people out there, am I afraid to ‘contaminate’ myself by getting too close? May it never be, after all, I’m the chief of all sinners! (1 Timothy 1:15)”

How ugly the heart of a legalistic Pharisee and how contrary to God they are. Pastor Sandy Adams said, “The Pharisees looked down their noses at the sinners who Jesus loved. They lived to draw distinctions that would keep people out of the Kingdom. Jesus lived to build bridges that would woo them in.”

In Luke 15 we have three Parables. The parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.

Some would say that the shepherd is representative of Jesus, leaving the 99 sheep safe-and-sound to go looking for that one which has strayed.

The lost coin is a story of how the Holy Spirit searches diligently for the valuable drachma (silver coin) – for everyone is infinitely valuable to God, and the Holy Spirit is gathering a bride for Christ.

The parable of the Prodigal Son, might more aptly be called, the Parable of the Forgiving Father. The younger son asks for his inheritance NOW! In that culture this would be a terrible thing to do, it’s as if he was saying to his dad, “You’re as good as dead to me.” But the father obliged, sold half his estate, gave his son the wealth, and his son swiftly traveled to the city and blew it all on prodigal (wasteful) living.

In this parable the Father didn’t go looking for His son, He no-doubt prayed and waited (we must all be led by God). His son proceeded to eat, drink, and be merry, spending his father’s hard-earned money on girls and apparently even prostitutes. We don’t know how long it was, but eventually there was a famine in the land and the son sank so low, that he would have gladly eaten pig-food, if only he could. But then, he came to himself (Luke 15:17). He decided to go home, reasoning that he could at least be a servant. The parable reveals that our heavenly Father will forgive anyone who returns to Him, He will even run to them, embrace them, and celebrate. It brings joy in heaven, in the presence of the angels, and in the heart of God, and it should’ve brought joy to the religious leaders (the older brother) but tragically it didn’t – selfish self-righteousness will do that to you every time.

Psalm 81:1-16

This Psalm was probably written in a time of special celebration, perhaps it was a Passover celebration, but it may have coincided with a time when Israel was not doing all that well as a nation, maybe even in the middle of discipline.

The Psalm begins with the volume cranked up – to sing aloud, to make a joyful shout to God (Psalm 81:1). This would be accompanied with the timbrel, the harp, the lute, the trumpet. It was a day established while still in Egypt (Psalm 81:5) so it seems to point to the Passover.

God removed their burden, God set them free, He tested and sustained them in the wilderness, gave them the law and was willing to fill them with the fulness of life.

But then things went south.

Psalms 81:11-12 (NKJV) “But My people would not heed My voice, and Israel would have none of Me. So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, to walk in their own counsels.”

Warren Wiersbe, “Had they obeyed, they would have experienced victory instead of defeat, fullness instead of emptiness, and the best instead of the worst. They could have looked back with rejoicing, but instead they had to remember with regret.”

I don’t know about you, but I need these constant reminders – if I would only seek the Lord to know and do His will – He will take care of me and my family, defeat our enemies, feed us with the finest wheat, with honey from the rock, and there, right there in that proper place of obedience wherein God satisfies us (Psalm 81:16)

Proverbs 13:1

Of course, this applies to those children whose father was wise; we see it repeatedly in the Proverbs, don’t we? Children, listen to the instruction of your parents who love you.

A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a wild child won’t be directed or corrected. It’s usually because they think mom and dad are square, out of touch, the child thinks he knows better than his parents. If only he’d listen.

Mark Twain said, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

“God, help our children to grow up…to their need to heed instruction.”

If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.

april 11, 2021

Joshua 3:1-4:24

Just as Moses led the people through the Red Sea supernaturally divided, so Joshua would now lead the people through the Jordan River supernaturally divided by God.

I believe the Red Sea crossing symbolizes our salvation (redeemed from Egypt) and then getting water baptized. The Jordan crossing symbolizes us ending the life of wandering in the wilderness and getting baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8; 2:1-4) and entering into the Promised Land – a life of victorious Christian living.

As the people crossed the Jordan, they were to be led by God, symbolized in the Ark of the Covenant, for they had “…not passed this way before.” We find ourselves there frequently don’t we? Venturing out into new territory, facing new challenges and struggle – no need to worry, just keep your eyes on the Lord.

One the reasons God divided the Jordan was to let the people know that just as He was with Moses, He would also be with Joshua; they could trust his leadership.

This would also be a faith-builder for the people:

Joshua 3:10 (NKJV) “And Joshua said, ‘By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites and the Hittites and the Hivites and the Perizzites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Jebusites.’”

I love those words, “without fail.” God will not fail us, He’s with us and can be completely trusted.

When Israel crossed over, God commanded the Israelites to gather 12 stones from the midst of the dry Jordan as a testimony to their children and future generations.

Joshua 4:6–7 (NKJV) “that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ 7 Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.”

It’s good for us to set up some sort of reminders of those significant days, movements, and miracles of God in our lives, to tell (show) our children that they might tell their children.

It’s also good for us to see what God did for the nation of Israel – they’re a sign to the world.

Luke 14:7-35

Jesus noticed the way they all jockeyed for position and seats of prominence at dinner, so He gave them (and us) that wonderful principle found repeatedly in the Scriptures:

Luke 14:11 (NKJV) “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Another interesting lesson at dinner-time has to do with the people we invite. We usually invite our family and close friends, people who typically would return the favor. But Jesus challenges us to take our hospitality a step further – invite people who in all reality will not be able to do the same. Invite the poor, the handicapped, someone who can’t afford to “pay you back.” We don’t do it for the reward, but the truth is, we will be repaid by God at the resurrection of the just (the Bema Seat judgment).

One of the attendees at the dinner spoke up about how he looked forward to the heavenly feasts in the age to come, but Jesus responded with a parable that pointed out the overall Jewish rejection of Jesus. There are some Jews who have embraced Jesus as their Messiah, but generally speaking, they have rejected Him. And not just the Jews, what percentage of the population would you say is truly saved? Who are true-blue believers in the Lord Jesus Christ? Jesus said in Matthew 7:14 that there are few who enter through that narrow gate. So many excuses regarding relations, ambitions, and possessions. Many of those people who assume they’re set and on their way to heaven are not – often times they don’t even go to church service, or have a heart to pray, read the Word, or reach out. How can such people think they’re saved?

Of course, God’s heart is that all would be saved (2 Peter 3:9) so He tells the workers to go out into the highways and byways and do everything they can to bring people in, so God’s house would be full. This challenges me to reach out with much more of an urgency.

Jesus saw the crowds begin to grow, but did they understand the nature of the call. When Jesus bids us to follow Him, He bids us to come and die. Sometimes people think that being a Christian means my life is going to be everything I want it to be – but that’s not what Jesus said. There are to be no rival thrones – our love for Christ is to be so supreme, that there are no comparable loves – anywhere else. Do we know the cost of discipleship? Are we willing to pay the price? When we follow Jesus like this, our life will be radically different, our life will be like salt on the earth – working as a preservative from decay and creating a thirst for Jesus in the lives of others.

Psalm 80:1-19

This is another one of the Psalms of exile. The nation is being disciplined and the prayer is for God’s intervention.

The Psalmist prays for God’s restoration, for God’s favorable expression, for God’s salvation (Psalm 80:3).

It’s getting hard – it’s been a long time, and there have been many tears.

Psalm 80:4–5 (NKJV) “O LORD God of hosts, how long will You be angry against the prayer of Your people? 5 You have fed them with the bread of tears, and given them tears to drink in great measure.”

The Psalmist identifies Israel as a vine (Psalm 80:8). We see similar comparisons in Isaiah 5, Matthew 20 and elsewhere in the Scriptures. God expected fruit, but there was none; so the day came when He disciplined His people. The church is also compared to a vine (John 15) am I bearing fruit?

The Psalmist pleads for mercy, “Revive us and we will call upon Your name.”

Psalm 80:19 (NKJV) “Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; cause Your face to shine, and we shall be saved!”

Proverbs 12:27-28

V. 27 – Apparently this lazy man had fun hunting, but when it came time to cook what he’d caught, he couldn’t muster up the energy.  We’re reminded frequently in the book of Proverbs that careful and persistent work and effort (diligence) is wise to have, and will be rewarded.

V. 28 – In many way our entire existence is this battle between life and death. Once we place our faith in Jesus Christ we receive His righteousness and life, and in this pathway there is no death! God help us to experience the imputed and imparted righteousness of Christ!

If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.

april 10, 2021

Deuteronomy 34:1-Joshua 2:24

Moses went up the mountain and was allowed to the see the Promised Land but he wouldn’t be allowed to enter-in. His time had come. It was time for him to enter an even better land, his home in heaven.

Moses had fought the good fight, he had finished his race, he had kept the faith. He was one hundred and twenty years old and his natural vigor did not not diminish, but he died and God personally buried him. No one knew where the grave of Moses was located, and I have a hunch it’s because the LORD was well aware of the fact that they would make an idolatrous monument out of it.

Jude 9 tells us something interesting, that Michael the Archangel disputed with Satan over the body of Moses. We’re not sure why, but the devil may have wanted to desecrate Moses’ body or even perhaps possess it in an attempt to lead the people astray…but the LORD didn’t allow it.

The mantle has now fallen to Joshua the son of Nun. He is an excellent successor to Moses, for he has personally seen all that God has done over the years and he’s gone through the hard times, he’s traveled the wilderness with the nation. The LORD promised to be with Joshua, as He was with Moses, and this is the key to life and ministry (Matthew 28:20; Acts 18:10; Hebrews 13:5). God commanded Joshua to be strong and courageous – to live and lead by God’s Word.

Joshua 1:7-8 (NKJV) “Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

Some might not see strength and courage as matters of obedience, but they are. We must choose to gather our strength from the LORD by depending on Him – and if you think about it, courage is not always the absence of fear, sometimes it’s facing our fears. We must do this obediently. We can do this, for God is with us (Isaiah 41:10).

May we not miss God’s command in Joshua 1:9 to meditate in God’s Word, to ponder it, mull over it, talk to yourself about it – don’t just skim the surface, don’t stay on the outskirts, soak it in, marinate yourself in it – for the observance of it (obedience) brings spiritual prosperity and success. (see also Psalm 1)

Joshua sent two spies to conduct a reconnaissance of Jericho and while they were there, they were hidden and protected by a harlot named Rahab. The people of Jericho were petrified, they had heard of Israel’s great victories over Egypt, and the two Amorite kings. Rahab knew in her heart that the LORD was the God of heaven and earth, and it is for that reason she hid the spies and asked the men to spare her and her family. The men agreed to do so, if she hung the scarlet cord out her window; all within that home would live (symbolic of the scarlet blood of Jesus washing away our scarlet sins; Matthew 27:28; Isaiah 1:18).

Rahab is a fascinating figure in the Bible; she is commended for her faith in Hebrews 11:31 and her faith in action in James 2:25. She is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:5. She is an example of Jesus’ words in Matthew 21:31. May this truth be loud and clear, God can forgive any sins of anyone who places his or her faith in Him.

Now, understandably there is the question about Rahab’s lie. The following is a brief word from Warren Wiersbe, and a longer answer from a great resource cited below.

Warren Wiersbe, “Although the Bible does not commend Rahab for her lies, it does commend her faith (Heb. 11:31) that revealed itself in works (James 2:25). Her faith saved her and her family from destruction (Joshua 6:17–19), and it resulted in her becoming an ancestress of the Messiah (Matthew 1:5). Once you begin to trust God and obey Him, you never know what He will do!”

JOSHUA 2:4-5 – How could God bless Rahab for lying? 

PROBLEM: When the spies came to Jericho, they sought refuge in the house of Rahab. When the king of Jericho commanded Rahab to bring out the men, she lied saying that the men had already gone and that she did not know where they went. However, when Israel finally destroyed Jericho, Rahab and all her family were saved alive. How could God bless Rahab for lying? 

SOLUTION: Some argue that it is not clear that God blessed Rahab for lying. God certainly saved Rahab and blessed her for protecting the spies and assisting in the overthrow of Jericho. However, nowhere does the Bible explicitly say that God blessed Rahab for lying. God could have blessed her in spite of her lie, not because of it. Actually, Rahab’s act of protecting the spies was a demonstration of great faith in the God of Israel. She firmly believed that God would destroy Jericho, and she exhibited that belief by siding with Israel against the people of Jericho when she protected the spies from being discovered.

Others insist that Rahab was faced with a real moral conflict. It may have been impossible for her to both save the spies and tell the truth to the soldiers of the king. If so, God would not hold Rahab responsible for this unavoidable moral conflict. Certainly a person cannot be held responsible for not keeping a lesser law in order to keep a higher law. The Bible commands obedience to the government (Rom. 13:1; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13), but there are many examples of justified civil disobedience when the government attempts to compel unrighteousness (Ex. 5; Dan. 3, 6; Rev. 13). The case of the Hebrew midwives lying to save the lives of the male children is perhaps the clearest example of this.

Thomas Howe;Norman L. Geisler. Big Book of Bible Difficulties, The: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation.

Luke 13:22-14:6

Luke 13:24 was one of the first passages I ever memorized as a Christian, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate…” Of course we know that salvation is a free gift, we could never, ever earn it by our own efforts, but we must make sure we know the Lord and we should strive (make great efforts) as Christians. We must strive to resist legalism and the traditions of men that are contrary to truth. We must strive to fight our flesh that viciously pulls us to the left and to the right. We must strive to cultivate a truly personal relationship with God, to listen to His voice, to know Him more and more, to experience God in this life so that there will never be a day when we say, “I never knew Him,” and walk away. We must examine our lives to make sure there is the genuine fruit of the Spirit, because if there isn’t, how can we say that we truly know Him?

Jesus lamenting over the way the people were not willing to come to Him, is one of the most heartbreaking scenes in all of Scripture (Luke 13:34). God wanted Israel to be saved, but they “were not willing.” God’s heart and desire is that none would perish (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9) but we are all free to choose. How about you? Do you see His love? Have you honestly decided to follow Jesus? I pray that you have.

The leader of the local synagogue invited Jesus over to his house for dinner – but the table was only a trap. There just happened to be a man with dropsy at this dinner, and they were watching Jesus like a hawk, to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath. When I read those words, “…they watched Him closely,” I thought to myself, if only they watched Him closely for the right reasons, not to find fault, but to find God, to find love and life, freedom and forgiveness. But they didn’t. they had a law that said healing was prohibited to do on the Sabbath (please show me in the Bible where it says that). They lacked any and all compassion.

Pastor Chuck Smith said, “Dropsy was a fatal disease where the capillaries break and the fluids cause great swelling and sagging of the skin.” Jesus humbly asked them if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath – but no one responded. Jesus would go on to heal the man and tried to reason with the Jews regarding the value of human life, but they wouldn’t have it, they were set in their ways, hard-hearts, minds made up, bound by the traditions of men, rather than the truths of God.

Psalm 79:1-13

This Psalm was obviously written during Israel’s exile. It breaks your heart to think of all the suffering, death, and blood that was shed when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and leveled the Temple.

Israelite bodies left out in the open for birds to feast on. The shame, the pain…and it was lingering so long. The Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel and Judah had forsaken the LORD to serve other gods, and they were now paying the price. The Psalmist prays and he wonders, “How long?”

Psalms 79:5 (NKJV) “How long, LORD? Will You be angry forever? Will Your jealousy burn like fire?”

The Psalmist didn’t just ask questions though – he also acknowledged the sins of the nation, pleading for mercy and forgiveness, for God to defeat Israel’s enemies (he still believed), and he commendably did ask for the right reason – for the glory of God’s name.

They were prisoners who were groaning (Psalm 79:11) and at the same time they were growing (spiritually). Many a soul has been saved in prison – time to think, to search, to ponder and appreciate true freedom.

Even in the midst of such horrible circumstances, the Psalmist knew, Israel belonged to God, they were the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 76:13).

Proverbs 12:26

The Hebrew word translated “choose” means to search out, to explore.

Let’s do some sanctified exploration to search and even pray for God to bring good friends into our lives, not worldly or wicked.

That doesn’t mean we can’t have people in our circle who don’t know the Lord, after all, we should have people we’re reaching out to as Christians, but when it comes to “friends,” people we’re close to, people were getting counsel from, spending most of our time with – they really should be genuine Christians, people who honestly love the Lord (see also 1 Corinthians 15:33).

If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.

april 9, 2021

Deuteronomy 33:1-29

These are the final words of Moses before he enters into glory. If you read carefully, you’ll notice that these are actually prayers for the twelve tribes of Israel. Moses was a faithful intercessor on behalf of the people he served and he’s a great example for us. Do we pray for the people?

Warren Wiersbe, “Before viewing the land, Moses viewed the future and told the tribes what lay ahead. When Jacob gave his blessing before he died, he revealed some of the sins of his sons (Genesis 49), but Moses did not do that. Instead, he focused primarily on the relationship of the tribes with the Lord and how each one would have a distinctive character, blessing, and ministry.”

In Deuteronomy 33:2 we read that the LORD “came with ten thousands of saints,” and most likely this is in reference to the innumerable angels behind the scenes (Daniel 7:10; Acts 7:53).

It would require volumes to comment on everything in detail, but certain things stood out to me this time around.

I love the way God’s word is described as a “fiery law” (Deuteronomy 33:3; Luke 24:32).

And after all these years and all that had transpired in his lifetime, Moses knew, something to be true:

Deuteronomy 33:3 (NKJV) “Yes, He loves the people; all His saints are in Your hand; they sit down at Your feet; everyone receives Your words.”

The people are also made saints by the power of God’s love – yes, He loves us and calls us to be blessed as we sit at His feet to receive and become students of His Word (Luke 10:38-42).

Jeshurun was another name for Israel which means, “Upright One.” It’s only found in Deuteronomy 32:15; 33:5, 26; and Isaiah 44:2.

Moses goes on to pray for, and bless the twelve tribes individually. 

Moses alludes to the incident where the tribe of Levi chose God over their own family (Deuteronomy 33:9; Exodus 32:27-30). We are to love God more than anyone else.

We also have the responsibility of the priest and even pastors spelled out in:

Deuteronomy 33:10 (NKJV) “They shall teach Jacob Your judgments, and Israel Your law. They shall put incense before You, and a whole burnt sacrifice on Your altar.”

Teaching the Word, praying for the people (incense), and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ (the ultimate sacrifice). God help us to be faithful as “priests!” (1 Peter 2:9)

Moses closes his words in such a wonderful way – ALL in reference to the holiness and glory of God (Deuteronomy 33:26-29).

Deuteronomy 33:26-27 (NKJV) “There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides the heavens to help you, and in His excellency on the clouds. The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy from before you, and will say, ‘Destroy!’”

Did you catch that? There is no one like our God – who comes to us faster than the speed of light, right on time, to help us, to protect us, to carry us and to defeat every form of opposition. Even in the hard times we are more than conquerors, in Christ (Romans 8:37).

Happy are you Israel. (Deuteronomy 33:29)

Happy are you (Manny) (please put your name there) because the LORD is our God, our Helper in life, He really is the Savior of our souls!

Are you happy? Some prefer the word joyful…are you joyful? Is there a smile in your soul? Moses’ final words are prayers of blessing upon God’s people. As believers we are God’s people! This is probably where the Psalmist was inspired.

Psalms 144:15 (NKJV) “Happy are the people who are in such a state; happy are the people whose God is the LORD!”

Luke 13:1-21

I remember when the Twin Towers were hit by terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. It was a horrible tragedy where close to 3,000 people died and 6,000 were injured. Immediately there were certain Christians who began identifying these New Yorkers as the worst sinners of all, saying that this was the reason for the tragedy. I tend to stay clear from such conclusions, from playing God in the tragedies and calamities of life – and part of the reason is because I’m aware of this passage, and I know how much of a sinner I am! In Luke 13:1-5 Jesus condemns these type of conclusions when it comes to calamities. Let’s not be quick to judge others, but rather let’s be swift in judging ourselves (in reference to personal repentance – 1 Corinthians 11:31).

The fig tree was symbolic of Israel. They’d been given ample time, but still no fruit. Justice tells us “the tree” should be cut down, or at least judged, but Jesus said, let’s give it some more time. What’s true for Israel is true for all of us. God is looking for fruit (see Galatians 5:22-23) if we’re not bearing fruit, God is gracious to give us more time, but let’s not take that lightly, for if we don’t bear good fruit, eventually the day of discipline will arrive and hit hard. Such was the case for Israel in A.D. 70 when 1.1 million Jews died.

It’s hard to consider the calloused heart of the ruler of the Synagogue.

In Cambodia I’ve seen women bent over to such extremes, I just couldn’t handle it. If only I had the power to heal like Jesus. This so-called ruler of the Synagogue should have rejoiced in the healing, but this religious man had elevated tradition over truth, he cared more about the petty rules and regulations than he did about the people. Jesus exhibited His power over the enemy and disgust for man-made religion, by healing the woman. She was made upright (Jeshurun).

The parables of the Mustard Seed and Leaven both point to that part of the Kingdom of God (the invisible Spiritual realm) where the church grows in exponential fashion. The shrub grows to a tree, so the bad birds of the air (the enemy) rests in its branches. Leaven (a typology of sin, false doctrine, and hypocrisy) permeates the people. This may have been a reference to the state of Judaism in Jesus’ days, or a warning to the church, or both.

Beware and be aware.

Psalm 78:65-72

Psalm 78 has been a tough Psalm chronicling the history of Israel. Although God had chosen them, loved them, blessed and graciously cared for them, they turned their backs on Him, over, and over, and over again. Israel therefore experienced the heavy hand of God’s discipline.

As this Psalm concludes, however, it ends on a good note.

God had used nations like Assyria and Babylon (and many others throughout the years) to discipline His people, but He wouldn’t fail to deal with Israel’s enemies as well.

It’s as if God woke up, beat back His enemies, and continued the work in His people through the southern Kingdom of Judah (hence the Jews).  God would take care of His them as He’d always done.

The Temple would be built up (the sanctuary).

Servant leaders would be raised up…just as He chose David. I love the way David is described as transitioning from following after sheep, to leading God’s people (Psalm 78:71). When we’re faithful in the little things, God will entrust more into our hands (Luke 16:10; 19:17).

And then when David led, we read:

Psalms 78:72 (NKJV) “So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands.”

Lessons for us as servants and leaders – take note of these two things:

The integrity of our heart – being real and right with God to the core.

Skillfulness of our hands – cultivate those gifts and talents, work hard at getting better in what you do for the Lord, play skillfully (Psalm 33:3), serve skillfully, let’s do our best…and commit the rest.

Proverbs 12:25

This is a huge verse in the day and age that we live in. There’s so much anxiety, so much depression.

Anxiety is  when we worry, we’re nervous, uneasy…usually about an imminent event ahead of us, something with an uncertain outcome. But anxiety doesn’t need a special event to take over…it can permeate our lives for no reason at all.

This passage offers two forms of advice.

1. Offer up a “good” prayer to God (from the heart).

2. Listen up to a “good” word from a friend, be open to Godly care and counsel.

If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.

april 8, 2021

Deuteronomy 32:28-52

Deuteronomy 32:28-30 reveal the heart of God’s complaint against His people.

Deuteronomy 32:28-30 (NKJV) “For they (Israel) are a nation void of counsel, nor is there any understanding in them. Oh, that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end! How could one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had surrendered them?”

Israel would eventually reach a place where they would completely lack all wisdom and understanding, if only they would have considered where they were heading. If only they opened their eyes! Imagine one enemy soldier chasing a thousand Israelite soldiers, or two enemy soldiers chasing ten thousand – how could that possibly happen? The LORD would surrendered them to their enemies as a form of extremely severe discipline.

But although Israel would be severely disciplined, in His grace God would not extinguish them, God would show compassion upon His people (Deuteronomy 32:36). This reminds me of the passage in:

Lamentations 3:22-23 (NKJV) “Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”

The rest of this chapter details the way God would take vengeance upon the nations that God used as instrument of judgment on Israel – they thought it was their strength and their gods, but it wasn’t. There’s only one Rock, and there’s only one God (Deuteronomy 32:39).

The LORD would take vengeance upon His adversaries (Deuteronomy 32:43).  I can’t help but think of:

Zechariah 2:8 (NKJV) “For thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.’”

I know, I know, we sound like broken records, saying the same thing over and over and over again, but as my pastor used to say, “Repetition teaches a donkey.” (that’s me) Moses once again commands us to obey God’s law, His Word, and to make sure we teach it to our children.

In our reading through the Old Testament we’re not only on the brink of the Promised-Land, we’re also on the brink of Moses’ death. Just like his brother Aaron it was time for him to be gathered to his people (Deuteronomy 32:50). I’ve always loved this way these passaged describe the passing of a believer, how we will be reconciled with our loved ones who have gone on before us (1 Samuel 12:23). This is the ultimate ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

I will see my dad again, my father in law,  mother in law, I think of other family members and dear friends from church…even though I want to finish my race with joy, I DO, I really do look forward to that day. Not only will I be gathered to God (John 14:3) I will be gathered to “my people.”

Moses would be able to see the Promised Land, but because of the incident recorded in Numbers 20:7-13 when he lost his temper in front of the people, He would not be allowed to enter in.

This has always struck fear in my heart. “O Lord, help me when I’m tempted to sin in anger.” 

Luke 12:35-59

Am I really ready for the return of the Lord? He can come at any time, even today, but if He doesn’t…I won’t ever regret living with that genuine possibility permeating my every day. We must not only be waiting for His return, we must be watching for His return! (Luke 12:35, 37) we must always be ready!

Luke 12:40 (NKJV) “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

If we spend our lives living in the light of the Lord’s imminent return, we will serve Him faithfully now, and be graciously rewarded then.

Luke 12:43–44 (NKJV) “Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44 Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has.”

But if people say in their hearts, “Ah, Jesus isn’t coming anytime soon,” they will lose that spiritual edge and leverage and inevitably begin to mistreat people, get caught up in the appetites of the flesh – that lack of spiritual sobriety can even lead to a life of drunkenness. When Jesus comes, or that person dies the Bible describes Christ’s judgment as “cutting him in two.” (Imagine that) This is a vivid picture of the judgment of the half-hearted hypocrite. 

Luke (again) goes back to the place of punishment for the wicked. The more a person knows but chooses to suppress the Scriptures, in disobedient unbelief, the more that person will suffer. Just as there are degrees of reward in heaven, there are also degrees of punishment in hell. Make peace with God before it’s too late (Luke 12:57-59).

Sometimes being a committed Christian creates divisions in families; don’t be surprised by this or let it make you stumble. Hold your ground – love them, but love Jesus more; let there be no rival thrones, and prayerfully one day they too will follow Him. Sadly, over the years I’ve seen many Christians “undone” by a family member’s unbelief. Jesus warns us in advance, so we won’t stumble if it happens, or choose anyone over Him.

Earlier we spoke about waiting and watching. Watching means you’re looking for and into the signs of Christ’s return – proactively. Have you noticed the times we’re living in? It’s the Times of the Signs – we see them everywhere. The religious leaders missed His First Coming, and I have a hunch a lot of religious folk are gonna miss His Second Coming. “O Lord, please help me to always be ready.”

Psalm 78:56-64

In spite of all that God had done for Israel (they had tasted of His goodness) it didn’t matter, they tested Him who loved them.

They turned their backs on God, were unfaithful to Him, they turned aside and provoked Him to anger, moved Him to jealousy by serving other gods.

If only we would stay true to our Maker and Maintainer. Why do our hearts so easily drift? This Psalm is the history of Israel – may we learn from their tragic mistakes.

God was furious with the the nation, He forsook the tabernacle, and delivered His people into bondage. He gave His people over to the sword, the young men died, the maidens were not married, the priests even fell, and their widows made no lamentation.

Sometimes I think we have this misconception that no evil can befall us, but that’s not true, for if we forsake the Lord, we bring it upon ourselves and anything is possible.

The book of Hebrews was written to a church that was falling back into their old ways; listen to what he wrote:

Hebrews 10:31 (NKJV) “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

Hebrews 10:38 (NKJV) “Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.””

Have you ever had to hold on to something for life? This must be our mentality with Jesus. May we hold tight lest we fall away or draw back. On the contrary may we grow forward.

Proverbs 12:24

The Proverbs frequently emphasize the importance of hard work, and here once again we see that notion with promotion. The lazy man is the man who only works when he’s pushed and forced to work, when he’s watched by his supervisors. They usually don’t rise in the ranks.

Let’s make it a point to be the best employees of all, and the best workers for the Lord Himself.

If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.

april 7, 2021

Deuteronomy 31:1-32:27

Moses would not be permitted to enter into the Promised-Land. He had prayed to the LORD three times about it and God said no – Moses had misrepresented God when he was angry with the people. 

I only bring that up because although Moses didn’t get his way, he didn’t get bitter; he didn’t finish his life on a sour note. He encouraged the people. He encouraged Joshua his successor. He encouraged the Levites. He did everything possible to infuse the people with faith. 

When we started the church in El Monte the verse that God made personal to me was:

Deuteronomy 31:6 (NKJV) “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”

One day back in 2002 I was praying about what to do. I was looking at a beautiful work of art my eight-year-old daughter, Ariel, had colored for me and it had a Bible verse on it; while I was pondering and praying, a lady who had never previously called me, phoned and told me that God had given her a Bible verse for me, it was Deuteronomy 31:6. After I hung up the phone, I noticed that it was the same verse my daughter had put on her artwork – Deuteronomy 31:6. This was one of the ways God clearly confirmed my calling, that He wanted me to go and start a Bible Study in the city of El Monte. He told me to be strong and courageous – NOT to be afraid for He Himself was the one who would go with me. And what a beautiful work God has done in Calvary Chapel El Monte all these years. His promise is true!

Moses wrote the law (Deuteronomy 31:9) and he commanded the Levites to read all the law to all Israel (Deuteronomy 31:11). His prayer was that the people would learn to fear the LORD (Deuteronomy 31:13).

Moses’ time was drawing near, he was to bring Joshua to the tabernacle in order to inaugurate him into “office.” God told them at that time that the day would come when Israel would serve other gods, and He would punish them by expelling them from the land. Neither Moses or Joshua knew exactly when, so this would keep all future leaders on their toes, to be constantly warning the people to be true to the LORD. But when that generation was eventually carried away, they would have this song as a witness against them.

The Law, which was placed the in Ark of the Covenant, would be a witness against them, and so would the song of Moses.

The LORD is good, He is Rock, His ways are perfect and just – and yet they have corrupted themselves.

Deuteronomy 32:6 (NKJV) “Do you thus deal with the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is He not your Father, who bought you? Has He not made you and established you?”

The LORD separated the sons of Adam, He divided to them the Promised Land; Israel was God’s inheritance.  God chose Israel, God instructed Israel, God kept them as the apple of His eye. The LORD carried Israel, He bore them up on eagle’s wings. God blessed this nation. 

But once they prospered, they forgot God, they provoked Him to jealousy, they even sacrificed to demons.

So God hid His face from them, He heaped disasters on them, He brought other nations against them and would have dashed Israel to pieces, but He didn’t, for the sake of His name.

The reason this song would be a witness against Israel is this is close to six hundred years before it ever happened. All the children would know this song, memorize this song, and sing this song, but because they ignored this song, the generation would eventually come…that would experience this song.

If only we would read and heed God’s Word, especially His warnings! What a different life it would be!

Luke 12:8-34

The public confession of Christ in the here and now, is imperative – we must not be ashamed! The denial of Christ now, leads to a denial of entrance into heaven…forever. Are you bold in your belief? Unashamed?

To blaspheme the Holy Spirit is to refuse His message of salvation in Christ (John 15:26) this is the only unforgivable sin.

In Luke 12:11-12 Jesus is not speaking about preparing a Bible study, He is speaking about testifying in a courtroom setting, as the church would suffer severe persecution. The promise is beautiful:

Luke 12:12 (NKJV) “For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

Imagine this guy interrupting Jesus’ sermon because he’s so desperate to get the money. Our Lord’s teaching on this is radically different than the world’s teaching (Luke 12:15). When we start to accumulate too much stuff, it’s time to start giving it away, not building bigger barns or renting more storage. If our focus is only on earthly riches, which are temporary, we will lose out on those spiritual riches which are eternal. God knows our hearts, and can know our hearts too, by searching out at the way we spend His money.

Worry is not only an act of disobedience, it’s dangerous. Warren Wiersbe said, “The word translated ‘worry’ (in Luke 12:22) means “to be pulled apart,” and that is what worry does to you.”

 Worry is a sin simply because Jesus commands us not to worry. My prayer: “Lord, You know, that I don’t worry too much about food and clothing, (although I may be preoccupied with these things), but I do worry about my family, I do worry about the flock; it seems as if there are always ‘issues’ that somehow surface and I have a choice, I can melt in fear, or I can pray over it, ask You for wisdom, and surrender it to You. Lord, please help me to trust You.”

When Jesus commented on how worrying cannot add one cubit to my stature, I believe He’s saying we won’t grow by worrying – but we will grow by trusting and seeking God and His Kingdom – first.

Jesus closes this section on money-matters with a banking truth:

Luke 12:34, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Am I giving to God? Am I giving to ministries that are doing God’s work? Am I giving to the genuinely poor, to genuine needs? Am I giving at all? 

May our hearts not be bound to this earth, but rather completely surrendered to God, reflected in the way we lay up treasures in heaven.

Matthew 6:19-20 (NKJV) “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

Psalm 78:32-55

In reviewing the history of Israel – it just breaks our hearts. In spite of all that God had done for them, in spite of all the love He showered upon them, they still sinned, they still did not believe in His wondrous works (Psalm 78:32).

Psalms 78:33 (NKJV) “Therefore their days He consumed in futility, and their years in fear.”

What a terrible epitaph!

God disciplined the people, even to the point of death, it was then that they sought Him, in moments of earnestness, but that didn’t last very long. The Lord knew their unfaithful hearts, He knew they would wander, but He had compassion upon them and forgave their iniquity. 

Have you ever been there? Maybe with a child? Maybe even with a spouse? You’ve tried everything you can to bring them to a proper place in life; you’ve been nice, you’ve been forgiving, you’ve tried tough love, even heavy discipline, but it doesn’t work? We read over and over again the pattern of foolishness:

Psalms 78:40-41 (NKJV) “How often they provoked Him in the wilderness, and grieved Him in the desert! Yes, again and again they tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.”

The Lord wanted to do so much more and bless His people beyond their wildest imagination, but they limited the LORD God Almighty! They did not remember all that God had done in saving them from Egypt.

May we learn, may I learn from their tragic mistake. May I always remember the way God saved me and has so graciously sustained me…all my life. May I bless Him and obey Him opening my eyes to this the wonderful land I’ve landed in; may we all.

Proverbs 12:21-23

V. 21 – When we’re followers of Christ, even what the world may perceive to be troubles, become triumphs…no grave trouble overtakes us. This is not true of the wicked.

V. 22 – We are to gird our waists with truth (Ephesians 6:14) – always. Lies are the language of Lucifer.

V. 23 – Wise is the person who does not share everything with everyone; we may hear of the fall of a fellow believer, or the struggle of a saint, the latest gossip in the world, or even might be tempted to boast of our Bible brilliance. God knows our heart – may it never be foolish in its proclamation.

If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.

april 6, 2021

Deuteronomy 29:1-30:20

The LORD had given the law to Israel in Horeb, at Mt. Sinai, but now Moses adds these beautiful words of warning and encouragement to the people as they find themselves in the land of Moab – Israel is now on the brink of the Promised Land.

What would be the key to their success? 

To love the LORD by living a life of obedience, by clinging to God and His Word. We read the solemn summary:

Deuteronomy 30:19–20 (NKJV) “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; 20 that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”

Imagine that, heaven and earth as witnesses! Life and death set before us! Blessing and cursing! Choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.

It’s one thing to see and hear, but it’s another thing to perceive with our hearts. Israel had seen and heard many things, but it still didn’t sink in. Unfortunately, I see that today, frequently in the church, people sit and hear, but their hearts aren’t there. Jesus explained the reason this happens in:

Matthew 13:13–15 (NKJV) “Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; 15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.’”

Someone might read Deuteronomy 29:4 and blame it on God, but make no mistake about it, God is not holding back, He’s not hiding His will from certain people. God wants everyone to see and hear with their hearts, to perceive with the senses of their soul, but as we read in Mark 13:15, we must beware that our heart doesn’t grow dull, that we don’t close our spiritual eyes and ears, let nothing keep us from turning to Him, for it is there that we are able to perceive.

Moses was a leader to emulate; he cared for the people and wanted them to enjoy their covenant relationship with their Creator (Deuteronomy 29:12-13). Moses was not guilty, in any way of tickling the ears of the people, he told them what they needed to hear, not what they wanted to hear; he warned them as to what would happen if they chose not to follow the LORD…if they turned to other gods.

God help us to take these warnings to heart!

Deuteronomy 29:29 is a popular passage. We quote it when we come across the things we don’t understand, “The secret things belong to the LORD.” And that’s true, but the primary point of Deuteronomy 29:29 is not necessarily the secrets God keeps, but the revelation He’s given – He’s revealed everything we need to know – it’s all here for us to hear and heed, for us and our children, it’s all in His Word.

Sadly, God knew Israel would stray away; that they’d be scattered throughout the world. So God promised to bring them back to the land, if they returned to Him will all their heart and soul (Deuteronomy 30:2). God is always willing to receive the prodigal back to His heart, and when we return, He meets us there, to embrace us (Luke 15:20) and begin a new work (Deuteronomy 30:5-6).

Deuteronomy 30:11-14 is alluded to by Paul the Apostle in the book of Romans 10:6-8. Sometimes we think this Word from God, or to God, is too mysterious or distant, that it’s over yonder in heaven, far, far away beyond the sea – so to speak, when in all reality it’s near, it’s here, in our hearts. God has written His Word on our hearts and our response should come from the same place. Even as you read these words, it doesn’t matter where you are, you can hear and speak to God from your heart.

Luke 11:37-12:7

The Pharisees were the religious elite among the people during the times of Christ’s earthly ministry. The general public’s perception of them was that they were holy, godly, and right before God. But they weren’t. They got caught up in all the externals of religion and traditions of man, they lost sight of true love for God and His people.

Jesus loved the Pharisees and here we even have an account of His willingness to dine with them, but this certain Pharisee found fault with Jesus (accounting it as sin) because Jesus didn’t wash His hands before He ate (the Pharisee marveled). Now if it were a matter of personal hygiene, he might have a point, but to the Pharisee it was a matter of holiness, the Pharisees had a certain way of washing their hands, from not just the germs, but the sins and uncleanness of others (see also Mark 7:3).

The Lord therefore warns these guys to get their hearts right on the inside, not just the outside – that looking good to others is not what really matters, what matters most is being right in the sight of God. They were meticulous in their tithing which is fine, but they were not meticulous in the weightier matters of the law such as love and justice. They were hypocrites, and sad to say we see many in the “church” visible today, poser-pastors, wolves in sheep’s clothing, greedy, and wicked – one day they will give an account, especially those in prominent positions who loved the special treatment at the expense of the people.

It wasn’t just the Pharisees, it was also the scribes and lawyers who were the teachers and experts in the law. They placed heavy burdens on the people (a ton of rules and regulations can quickly add up) but they themselves didn’t live what they taught. They built the tombs for the martyrs, but didn’t acknowledge their guilt for the past, they would be responsible for the blood of the saints in the future, even the Apostles (Luke 11:49), but God would eventually require it of them. As a matter of fact, this generation would pay the price for the blood of the prophets, from Abel, all the way to Zechariah, and in A.D. 70 the Romans came and leveled Jerusalem.

Bible Knowledge Commentary, “The blood of Abel and the blood of Zechariah refers to the killing of innocent men involved in serving God. Abel was the first innocent victim (Genesis 4:8), and Zechariah the priest (not the writing prophet) was the last martyr in the Old Testament (2 Chronicles 24:20–21; Chronicles was last in the OT Hebrew order).”

What a heavy exchange took place that day! They assailed Jesus vehemently!

Jesus warned His apostles to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. God help us to be the real deal, to maintain our heart as well as our witness, to live and speak the same at home as we do when we’re at church.

The Lord knew the day would come when His followers would be persecuted by the religious institution of the day, so He tells them (and us) not to fear. God values us, He never, ever forgets us; if He cares for the sparrow, how much more will He care for His children? He knows every hair we have, yes, He’s involved in all the details of our lives, and if something comes our way, we can be sure, it’s been filtered through His sovereign will – we can trust Him, even to the point of death. We must not fear death – the only valid fear in life, is the fear of God Himself.

Psalm 78:1-31

This Psalm is an exhortation to every Jewish generation NOT to forget all that God has done for them, especially in redeeming them out of Egypt and the way He sustained them in the wilderness – even in His discipline.

We have the word “children” five times in the first nine verses – a reminder to us, how we parents are responsible to tell our children, that they would tell their children, and so on and so forth.

What for?

Psalm 78:6–7 (NKJV) “That the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, 7 That they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments.”

Apparently by now, Israel had been divided and the Northern Kingdom (Ephraim)  was already guilty of apostasy (Psalm 78:9-11). In spite of all that God had done, dividing the sea, leading the nation, water from the rocks, forgiving their sin, manna (angel’s food – Psalm 78:25) from heaven, all you can eat meat in the wilderness – all that God did, including His discipline.

Should we not know all this and learn from these things?

Proverbs 12:19-20

V. 19 – If we tell the truth, we’ll go the distance, and that truth will go the distance as well; we won’t just be a shooting star, and neither will our message be a fly by night, but truthful lips and lives will last and build a legacy. I think of Pastor Chuck Smith – decades of teaching and telling the truth – he’s still making that impact in time and eternity.

V. 20 – What’s in our hearts? Deceit to beat? Or peace to pass on, or joy for others to enjoy? May God fill our hearts with truth, peace, and joy.

If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.

april 5, 2021

Deuteronomy 28:1-68

Out of the sixty-eight verses in Deuteronomy 28, fourteen reveal the blessings of obedience and fifty-four reveal the curses of disobedience. As a protective Father would, God warns His children extensively.

The blessings would abound: in the city and in the country, they’d be blessed in the fruit of their bodies, their fields, and even of their flocks. Obedience to God’s Word would lead to blessing whenever they traveled and whenever they fought in war, God would grant victory!

God even promised to bless Israel in all to which they set their hands! (Deuteronomy 28:8)

God’s blessings upon obedience is expressed beautifully in:

Deuteronomy 28:9 (NKJV) “The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways.”

Others nations would be afraid of Israel, for they would see God’s hand upon them. Israel would be the head and not the tail, they would lend, with no need to borrow.

Just think of the blessings upon a life of obedience to God’s Word. For us in the New Covenant, the blessings are not necessarily physical and temporal, they’re primarily spiritual and eternal. In the New Covenant God allows heartache, hard times, and thorns in our flesh to keep us on track and usable in His hands.

But then there’s the vivid and sober reality of the flip-side:

Deuteronomy 28:15 (NKJV) “But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.”

Wow! The tragic results of disobedience to God’s Word, especially for those to whom so much had been given. It breaks our heart to realize that Israel did go on to disobey God to such an extent that they experienced every almost single one of these curses, they even ate their own children, when they were besieged by the Babylonians; when the soldiers invaded the land they ravished the women and took their brightest children away captive to foreign lands. Israel was scattered throughout the face of the earth in 586 B.C., returned to the land seventy years later, but was scattered again in A.D. 70. It wasn’t until 1948 that Israel regained the land.

The only curse Israel did not experience, by the grace of God, is that they were not destroyed.

We should thank God for His Word, we should love it, cultivate a heart to learn it for the ultimate purpose of living it. When we read we need know that God is not a kill-joy, as a matter of fact, the Scriptures give us the secret to success and joy!

May we learn from the harsh lives and lessons Israel endured.

Deuteronomy 28:47–48 (NKJV) “Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, 48 therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the LORD will send against you…”

Luke 11:14-36

You would figure that the spiritual leaders in Jesus’ day would be infinitely grateful and in awe of the way He demonstrated absolute power in casting out demons, but they weren’t. They accused Him of casting out demons by the power of the devil (see article on Beelzebub). How foolish they were. Even we realize that if Satan is fighting himself, he’s doomed. Any kingdom (or home for that matter) divided against itself, will eventually fall. Too bad they didn’t simply see that God showed up! He was casting out demons with His finger!

Luke 11:20 (NKJV) “But if I cast out demons with the finger of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.”

Jesus spends some time elaborating on the fact that the Kingdom of God had come upon them – Jesus simply overpowered the enemy who has tragically taken many people captive. The only way to be completely protected from demonic possession is to be possessed by God. It’s not good enough to clean up our lives, we need to fill our lives with the Lord, and when we place our faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit takes up residence within us. 

The Roman Catholic church has highly venerated Mary, the mother of Jesus, but when a woman in the crowd tried to do the same in the presence Christ, He completely rejected that theology, proclaiming an equal blessing for all by simply hearing and obeying the Word of God. Listen to Jesus’ words:

Luke 11:28 (NKJV) “But He said, ‘More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!’”

Every generation is evil, but it’s crazy to contemplate the generation that rejected God when He came in the flesh,  to teach us, show us, to love us, and then eventually save us by dying on a Roman cross. An evil generation is looking for signs, when we’ve already been given the Sign of all signs, it’s Jesus, His life and resurrection from the dead (that’s the sign of Jonah; Matthew 12:39-40).

If our eyes are “good” God’s light will enter our lives. We’ll have our eyes on Him, His Word, and the beautiful things He does for us in our lives. As the light comes in that light should beam forth, shine bright and strong, that others may see the goodness of God – that they’d be saved and He’d be glorified (Matthew 5:16).

Psalm 77:1-20

Asaph, the writer of this Psalm, describes himself, or perhaps it’s a song of someone else, going through an extremely difficult time.

He was so troubled he couldn’t sleep, he couldn’t speak, he was wondering if God had given up on his people.  I was sad to read:

Psalm 77:2–3a (NKJV) “In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; My soul refused to be comforted. 3 I remembered God, and was troubled…”

I remembered God, and was troubled?

Everything he was experiencing and feeling seemed bad. But the beautiful thing about this Psalm is Asaph forced himself to remember the works of the LORD. He forced Himself to meditate on, and even talk of God’s great deeds. He began to look back on God’s gracious dealings with the Jews – it would help him personally; even remembering how God Himself had led Israel – it wasn’t Moses or Aaron – they were just vessels in the hands of God.

Whoever you are and whatever you’re going through, I pray, like Asaph you would walk by faith and not by feelings. Keep soaking in the Word and seeking God’s face. He will encourage you, and He will lead you, for He loves you.

Proverbs 12:18

Evil people speak sharp and hateful lies – they pierce and poison hearts, they tear others down through their verbal abuse and deceptions.

The tongue of the wise speaks the truth in love and promote the overall health and welfare of others. 

God help us to be careful to choose our words and use our tongues wisely.

If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.

april 4, 2021

Deuteronomy 26:1-27:26

When the people settled in the land and began to harvest God’s blessings, they were to bring a tithe to the Lord to the Tabernacle. As part of their presentation, God put the very words in their mouths – what they were to say regarding the history of their nation and how God had given them the land (Deuteronomy 26:5-10). 

What a blessing to realize that God has freely given us all good things to enjoy.

Deuteronomy 26:11 (NKJV) “So you shall rejoice in every good thing which the LORD your God has given to you and your house, you and the Levite and the stranger who is among you.”

Some people feel guilty enjoying a good meal, good music, good weather, fun, laughter, even love. We shouldn’t. We should accept all good things from the heart of God (James 1:17).

1 Timothy 6:17 (NKJV) “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.”

On the third year, the children of Israel were to also bring an offering for the poor, not just an offering for the Levite, but also the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. God’s pattern of provision is perfect, as we give to God our tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:8-10). If Israel gave – from the heart – they would indeed be blessed by Him in every way, in the land flowing with milk and honey (Deuteronomy 26:15).

In Deuteronomy 26:17 that the people proclaimed the LORD to be their God. And in Deuteronomy 26:18 the LORD proclaimed Israel to be His special people. This is how relationships flourish – it’s always a two way road.

Warren Wiersbe give us insight into the solemn ceremony commanded in Deuteronomy 27, “This ceremony was observed only once, after Israel entered the land and began to conquer it (Joshua 8:30–35). It was a solemn reminder to them that obedience to God was the secret of success (Joshua 1:8). The Law was written on large stones so that everyone could read it. Today, as we read and meditate on God’s Word, the Spirit writes it on our hearts and transforms us from within (2 Corinthians 3:1–3, 18). The ceremony was a renewal of the nation’s covenant with God, for new beginnings deserve new acts of dedication.”

Israel could never say that God didn’t warn them.

Deuteronomy 27:26 (NKJV) “‘Cursed is the one who does not confirm all the words of this law.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen!’”

Luke 10:38-11:13

Martha had lost sight of her priority. We must make sure that we’re not so busily distracted, even in the service of God, that we neglect that time to just sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to His Word. Time in the Word and prayer is never time lost.

Out of all the things the disciples could have asked Jesus to teach them (how to heal, how to cast out demons, how to preach, etc.) it’s interesting that they only asked Him to teach them how to pray. I’m sure they knew that the key to Jesus’ life – was His prayer life. That’s the key for us too, so it’s okay to ask Him to teach us to pray.

Jesus gave us what I would refer to as the “Model Prayer.” Try praying each line (and then elaborating on it). Let’s be well aware of Who we’re talking to – our Father – in heaven. Let’s pray for His will; ask Him for bread for both body and soul. Let’s get serious about confession and ask for forgiveness – making sure we settle accounts by forgiving others also (please see Matthew 6:15). One of the most important parts of our prayer is to plead that we’re not led into temptation; we sometimes forget to pray this, and for God to deliver us from the evil one. I bet our days would be very different (our lives would be different) if we prayed the way Jesus taught us to.

Jesus then encourages us to pray persistently. Warren Wiersbe comments on Luke 10:5-8, “God is a loving Father, not a grouchy neighbor; He gives us what we need. He neither slumbers nor sleeps; and He doesn’t become irritated when we ask for help (James 1:5).”

Let’s keep asking for a fresh willing of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), keep seeking God Himself (Jeremiah 29:11-13), and keep knocking on those doors, for ministry opportunities (1 Corinthians 16:9; Revelation 3:8).

Psalm 76:1-12

This Psalm is a declaration of the way God has defeated the enemies of Israel. God broke their bows and arrows, and shields, and swords. God rebuked their horses and chariots; and the enemies’ mighty men even lost use of their hands (Psalm 76:5). Israel had been attacked as prey – but they prayed, and God delivered them. He will do the same for us.

We can trust God, make vows to God, and keep them…for He keeps His Word, He will defeat anyone and anything that come against us (Romans 8:31).

Proverbs 12:15-17

It’s always good to get counsel, begin with the counsel of God’s Word, and then continue with the counsel of genuine Christians, who will give you God’s Word.

Fools are quick to anger, but the prudent are patient.

The truth is always best, as Mark Twain said, “If you don’t know what to say, just tell the truth.” This is especially important in the court of law, among witnesses.

If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.

april 3, 2021

Deuteronomy 23:1-25:19

In this section Moses covers many miscellaneous laws, some that are applicable to us today, and others that aren’t. This is where it’s not just helpful, it’s critical to know the New Testament (the New Covenant) and to be able to identify the precepts and principles of Christianity. 

If I lived in those days I would not be eligible to enter the assembly of the LORD (the Tabernacle fellowship) because I was born out of wedlock – this would apply also to my descendants, up to the tenth generation. Thank God we are no longer under the law! (Galatians 4:4-5; 5:18)

Generally speaking God would not allow the Ammonite or Moabite to enter the assembly because they did not meet Israel with bread and water on the road. As a matter of fact, they tried to curse the Jews. But God’s people cannot be cursed by the enemy. I always get immeasurably blessed by these words:

Deuteronomy 23:5 (NKJV) “Nevertheless the LORD your God would not listen to Balaam, but the LORD your God turned the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loves you.”

Moses commanded Israel not to reject the Edomites or the Egyptians, and to keep their hearts clean, as well as their camps. I love the reasoning:

Deuteronomy 23:14 (NKJV) “For the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and give your enemies over to you; therefore your camp shall be holy, that He may see no unclean thing among you, and turn away from you.”

Did you know that God walks among us?

The legitimate runaways were to find sanctuary with God’s people. Income was to be honest. Warren Wiersbe comments on Deuteronomy 23:17-18, “Even the source of our money is God’s concern. The pagan temples had religious prostitutes, male (“dogs”) and female, and God would not accept their money earned by abominable means.”

God wants to be involved in all the details of our lives, He’s interested in who we charge interest to, He wants us to make sure we keep our word and pay our vows, and He has a special place in His heart for the poor. We see frequently in God’s law the way He gave the foreigner, fatherless, and widow opportunities to glean the leftovers in the field (Deuteronomy 23:24-25; 24:19-21). Laboring like this would be preferable to handouts. 

Again, we see that Moses allowed divorce because of the hardness of man’s heart (Matthew 19:8), but God hates it (Malachi 2:16). We even read the way a husband was called to bypass military service for a year, in order to “bring happiness to his wife…” (Deuteronomy 24:5).  What a wonderful goal for all guys who are married…what can we do to make our wives happy?

There’s much to ponder – how kidnappers deserve the death penalty, the care we should take in times of pestilence, to be kind and considerate of all people, including our employees, and to be sure to pay them what they’ve earned.

The Law of the Lord covered every sort of situation they would ever face – the number of blows a man could receive when he was punished, how oxen were to be treated while treading out grain, how to perpetuate a man’s name and family (levirate marriage), fair and respectable fights, honest business, and dealing with the flesh, which is what Amalek symbolized.

May God plant His principles and precepts in our hearts, that it may go well with us, and that we’d bring God glory.

Luke 10:13-37

Jesus spoke woes of warning to towns of Chorazin and Bethsaida, for they witnessed firsthand the power and presence of God, and yet refused to repent. On the day of judgment their punishment would be more severe than other towns because they’d seen so much. It reminds us of that Biblical principle , “To whom much is given, much more is required.” (Luke 12:48)

When the seventy return, their joy is rooted in the fact that they have power over demons – and it’s good and true that in Christ we do; but we’re not to focus on that. Our joy must never be anchored to what appears to be “ministry success,” our joy must come from our salvation (Psalm 51:12). 

Luke 10:20 (NKJV) “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

Warren Wiersbe touched on this truth, “When the disciples rejoiced over their successful ministry, Jesus told them to rejoice because they were the citizens of heaven. After all, their work might not always be successful; but their salvation would never change.”

Luke 10:21-22 reminds us that none of could ever have been saved unless the Lord had revealed Himself to us. Jesus thanked the Father for the simple saints, the childlike church, those who don’t overcomplicate it. Unfortunately what can happen all too easily is people get “educated” in the ways of the world, sophisticated, complicated and therefore miss out on the saving mission of the Messiah. Not many “wise” in the world…enter in (1 Corinthians 1:26).

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is such a heavy, heavy, teaching. The lawyer (scribe) asks Jesus about eternal life, and Jesus turns the question around by asking him what he saw when he read the Bible? The lawyer mentioned the two greatest commandments, to love God and to love others. Jesus’ response is, “Yes, that’s the evidence of a saved soul – love!” So the lawyer wanted to hone in on this and asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor that I’m called to love?” It’s here where the conviction hits hard. It’s the one who’s in need, the people God puts in your path, those who are brought to your attention – even if it’s someone we’re at odds with (the Jews hated the Samaritans, and vice versa). 

God is calling us to love everyone, especially the ones we might have an inclination to hate. Some think they’re good with God because they serve in the ministry, they’re very busy, too busy to help, like the priest and Levite, they just pass by on the other side, but Jesus teaches us – that’s not love or life! We are to love with a very practical, tangible, and sacrificial love in order to prove we are saved.

Warren Wiersbe said this, “It is not difficult to discuss neighborliness in the abstract, but it costs something to be a real neighbor. Do you pause to help when you see injustice and hurt, or like the priest and the Levite, do you look for an escape? You are never more Christlike than when you feel another’s hurt and seek to help.”

God helps us to, “Go and do likewise.”

Psalm 75:1-10

Judgment is coming, we just don’t know when. God will choose the “proper time.” (Psalm 75:2)

The Psalmist may have the entire earth in mind (Psalm 75:3), but he also addressing individuals who will be brought down in God’s timing. We’ve seen it throughout the ages, how God humbles the mighty and exposes the unrepentant. He lifts up one, and He brings down and other, for He really is a just Judge.

Psalm 75:6–7 (NKJV) “For exaltation comes neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south. 7 But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another.”

Proverbs 12:12-14

V. 12 contrasts the difference between the wicked who would rather steal what others have stolen,  and the righteous who works hard and bears fruit.

V. 13 contrasts the difference between the wicked who gets trapped (caught) by his wicked words, and the righteous who escapes the devil’s traps through God’s wisdom.

Verses 13 and 14 are what we all “antithetical parallelism,” while v. 15 is “synthetic parallelism,” where the second line expands upon the first. A wise man will be blessed because he not only says good things with his mouth, but because he also does good things with his hands.

If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.

I want to know Christ more, and make Him known…