Pure Deuteronomy

 

INTO THE NIGHT – Dave and Jess Ray

 

Someone paraphrased some of Chris Wright’s presentations on the ‘Great Commission’ as pure Deuteronomy.  I like it. I like it because obedience, particularly in Deuteronomy was not just about following a set of rules, but in fact, imitating the very nature of God. In Deuteronomy chapter 10 it meant imitating both justice and compassion. This specifically was a foreshadowing of Jesus’ instructions.

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul,  and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?  Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it.  Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.  Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.  For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.  He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.  Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. – Deuteronomy 10:12-19  ESV

One may want to argue that this has nothing to do with the Great Commission but I think that it would be hard to object how we are naturally linked to the Lordship of Jesus. Jesus commands and actions to show compassion on the poor is only echoed here. This is who God is and what He does.

The foundation and essence of my life as a follower of Jesus means that I follow Him with all that I am and hold nothing back. Deuteronomy challenges me in the area of my financial life as it declares it inseparable from my worship. To be a lover of God is to be a giver. To be filled with the Spirit is to be filled with the very essence of our generous God.

You shall tithe all the yield of your seed that comes from the field year by year.  And before the Lord your God, in the place that he will choose, to make his name dwell there, you shall eat the tithe of your grain, of your wine, and of your oil, and the firstborn of your herd and flock, that you may learn to fear the Lord your God always. – Deuteronomy 14:22-23  ESV

I find myself coming back to the standard definition of a disciple as someone who adheres to the teachings of another – a follower or a learner – someone who takes up the ways of someone else. When I apply it to my walk with Jesus, I am someone who learns from Him in order to live like Him. My aim is to become a “little Christ” – a Christian.

And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian? – Acts 26:28  ESV

 

 

 

 

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Wholehearted love

 

Wholehearted

 

If there is only one God then it makes sense that this one God demands total devotion to Him. To confess Him as Lord, the only one worthy of worship, the response needs to be obedience to Him. I am not too sure I know too many that like the word “obey.” But there are a few I know that like others to obey them. What I do love about God is that He Himself looks at obedience to Him as love. In fact, to obey God is to love Him. In fact, I was created so that I could love Him above all else. What makes this even more attractive to me is that my love for God is actually a response from me to Him because of His love for me. So as a disciple of Jesus, I want to love God fervently. This is what love looks like.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. – Deuteronomy 6:5  ESV

When it came to disciple-making our children, this was the one action on my part that became the foundation of what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus.  I know we feel lost at times – where to begin, what to say, do I really know myself – feelings of inadequacy.

The passion to follow Jesus can be a great role model. Others with such passion accomplished so much. Martin Luther, John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli were advocates for the teaching ministry within the family. Luther wrote two catechisms – one focusing on assisting the clergy to teach parents and a smaller one for children and their training. Calvin also wrote two catechisms aimed at children. The idea continued through those like Robert Raikes who pioneered what we know today as Sunday School and Alexander Campbell who emphasized the family with parents as disciple-makers within the home.

 

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. – Deuteronomy 6:6  ESV

What a great role model for how I can proceed in my own discipleship process. In this manner I can relate daily events and actions to God’s sovereignty and connect them to my responsibilities. So either as a parent, mentor or disciple-maker, I can turn conversations towards learning opportunities.

Basically I can see Paul changing his language skills and presentation style to suit his audience too. He never spoke to children, but he did on occasion proclaimed the gospel to the polite and educated elite. He used literary koine to encase his speech. As a result, he saw impact right away. As an ambassador of the good news he focused on the message, modified his style and persuaded his audience so that they could understand and he could be respected. As a disciple of Jesus, I am empowered by the Spirit to be an effective witness for Jesus.

 

 

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Points to ponder

Looking at the end of Numbers and the beginning of Deuteronomy and trying to figure out what I can glean for a disciple-making nugget. I was interested in how the “disciple-making” Levites were taken care of and provided for by the community.

 “Command the people of Israel to give to the Levites some of the inheritance of their possession as cities for them to dwell in. And you shall give to the Levites pasturelands around the cities.  The cities shall be theirs to dwell in, and their pasturelands shall be for their cattle and for their livestock and for all their beasts.  The pasturelands of the cities, which you shall give to the Levites, shall reach from the wall of the city outward a thousand cubits[a] all around.  And you shall measure, outside the city, on the east side two thousand cubits, and on the south side two thousand cubits, and on the west side two thousand cubits, and on the north side two thousand cubits, the city being in the middle. This shall belong to them as pastureland for their cities. – Numbers 35:2-5  ESV

Being with the Navigators who are a deputized mission, it shows how important it is to make this a ministry that is fully supported by the community they serve.

Deuteronomy starts with a similar message that came through yesterday. There is a time to wait, but at some time you have to get up and go! I pray that I can discern the difference between the two as they are both significant steps.

“The Lord our God said to us in Horeb, ‘You have stayed long enough at this mountain.  Turn and take your journey, and go to the hill country of the Amorites and to all their neighbors in the Arabah, in the hill country and in the lowland and in the Negeb and by the seacoast, the land of the Canaanites, and Lebanon, as far as the great river, the river Euphrates.  See, I have set the land before you. Go in and take possession of the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give to them and to their offspring after them.’ – Deuteronomy 1:6-8  ESV

I jumped to Acts 23 to get some New Testament reading in and Paul’s true colours come out here. He opens with the assumption that he can say what he wants, when he wants, and earns a slap on the mouth. Then he angrily responds and then has to apologize right away.  If Paul can lose it, so can I. How do I pass by my assumptions and emotions?

And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God’s high priest?” And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’” – Acts 23:1-5  ESV

While I have not been on a specific track today, I picked up a few things to ponder.

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Why do I wait when I am called to move?

 

Josh Wilson – I Refuse

 

When Paul had to address a crowd that were eager to have him put to death, he recounted his conversion story and the calling from God that came right after it. He shared some of the words that Ananias spoke over him.

 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. – Acts 22:14–15  ESV

Ananias summarized Paul’s life – he would know God’s will, see His Son, hear His word and be God’s witness to everyone. But I loved the very next verse – that is my challenge today.

And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name. – Acts 22:16  ESV

Why are you waiting – get up and go and do what you are supposed to do. Why am I waiting?

 

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Happiness in my old age if I am still a disciple

 

LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS – Mark Spiro

 

Unfortunately for me, I have seen old men leave the call of being a disciple of Jesus as they chase old men dreams. I have prayed many times asking God that when I reach their age, may I still be found as a disciple of Jesus. There is only one love, one hope, one joy and abiding with Jesus makes them all mine and it means that I desire to abide in Him all of my days. Sometimes such a conviction causes me to think that I need to be unbending, legalistic even, but no, it means that I need to keep growing and deepening my relationship with Him.

What got me thinking about this? I was reading about a disciple named Mnason.

And some of the disciples from Caesarea went with us, bringing us to the house of Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we should lodge. – Acts 21:16  ESV

He must have been one of the first to respond to the Gospel.   He kept true to growing from his early faith and his faith still was bright as he looked after Paul. His encouragement to me was that whether I have just started to follow Jesus or have done so for many years, I have a confidence of my reward, I have already received victory over the world, and I have seen myself grow in grace and in knowledge of Him. Mnason had purposed in  his heart to be a follower and he held on to that purpose even though he may have put his life in danger to be a friend to Paul.

It reminds me and I am being reminded often of what a disciple means. It means I am a Christian but it is possible to be a Christian and not a disciple.  A Christian is one who responds to the Gospel message but have not initiated a relationship with Jesus where they sit at His feet to learn of Him and to follow Him and who submits to be His disciple. I find myself checking in with these questions – Am I a disciple of Jesus? Have I accepted His discipline, His authority, His lordship over my life and am I learning from Him from day to day?

 

 

 

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Heaven is not far away

 

What does that mean – heaven is not far away? Basically, heaven is the range of God’s effective will. It can be right here, closer than the air we breathe.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.[a]
 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,[b]
    on earth as it is in heaven.         Matthew 6:9-10  ESV

The biggest question I have for myself is this – do I believe in this prayer – do I believe that God can do what He wants to do on earth just like He does in heaven? At the end of the day that is what I feel is my responsibility. At the end of the day this is the best news of life transformation.

On a lighter note, I found this great story on the Lord’s Prayer – for those of us in who remember the heyday of the Chicago Bears – enjoy! Gary Bartlett tells this story:

John Cassis told a story recently about a time when he was serving as one of the chaplin’s for the Chicago Bears during their glory years of the 80’s.

As John tells it, Mike Ditka was about to deliver a locker room pep talk one day. He looked up and saw defensive tackle William “Refrigerator” Perry. How could he not see him? At 338 pounds the Fridge stood out even in a crowd of pro football players. Ditka gestured to the Fridge. “When I get finished,” he said, “I’d like you to close with the Lord’s Prayer.” Then the coach began his talk.

Meanwhile, Jim McMahon, the brash and outspoken quarterback, punched John Cassis. “Look at Perry,” McMahon whispered, “he doesn’t know the Lord’s Prayer.”

Sure enough, Perry sat with a look of panic on his face, his head in his hands. He was sweating profusely. “Everybody knows the Lord’s Prayer,” said Cassis to McMahon in disbelief. After a few minutes of watching the Refrigerator leaking several gallons of sweat, McMahon nudged Cassis again. “I’ll bet you 50 bucks Fridge doesn’t know the Lord’s Prayer.”

As Cassis tells the story, he stops to reflect on the absurdity of it all: “Here we were sitting in chapel and betting 50 bucks on the Lord’s Prayer.”

When Coach Ditka finished his pep talk, he asked all the men to remove their caps. Then he nodded at Perry and bowed his head. It was quiet for a few moments before the Fridge spoke in a shaky voice, “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord, my soul to keep…”

Cassis felt the tap on his shoulder. It was Jim McMahon. “Here’s the 50 dollars,”he whispered. “I had no idea Perry knew the Lord’s Prayer.”

 

 

 

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It is not about the rules

 

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. – Romans 14:17  ESV

I have to admit, I like rules. So when it comes to the kingdom of God it seems that there is a temptation inside me to distort it and legalize it. What happens sickens me – His kingdom becomes exhausting and undesirable. I am thrilled that the kingdom of God is not about rules. I think it might have been seen that way in the Old Testament, but it was never about that. It has always been about righteousness, peace and joy and I know that today because today we have the Holy Spirit working in us to bring this all about.

This is why some of the followers of Jesus, known maybe by many of us as monks, would find a why of seclusion so as not to violate any of the rules, thus guaranteeing themselves a spot in heaven. This is where the Holy Spirit comes in, and He seemed to be missing from the lives of our monks. If I am unable to display the temper of a follower of Christ, why would anyone want to be part of the kingdom of God? So my light needs to shine before people. It is my kingdom works that will glorify my Father.

For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.  For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. – Romans 14:7-9, 12  ESV

Romans chapter 14 has given me some great truths about what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, maybe difficult truths that I do not ever hear preached, but read in many different places. Using the word ‘slavery’ to describe my relationship to the kingdom of God sounds wrong in so many ways. It is a word that defies the intimacy in relationship I have with God yet at the same time it describes what that intimacy looks like. The verse above does describe me as being owned and it describes that one day I have to give an account. That is why I like rules – they say I am right or wrong. But that is not what is happening here. The kingdom of God awakens a vision, a tremendous desire in me – it awakens me to the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is stronger than any other desire I have for anything else because I know that to have it would be better than to have anything else. This is what the Lord’s Prayer was trying to say – Your kingdom come. Jesus’ plan all along was to bring what was up there down here.

 

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