Quiet Faith

The Book of Judges lists 12 people who served as rulers in Israel after the conquest of Canaan; Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, and Samson. Some would mention Abimelech in a list of judges, but I will leave him off the list since his role is questionable. Of the twelve judges listed, seven are mentioned in 3 or fewer verses each. That is more than half of the judges. These seven people are easy to look over. We know a name. Sometimes how many sons and how many donkeys they had. We know that Shamgar killed 600 men with an ox goad (a pointy stick). But beyond that, there is not much information about these people.

When I was about 17, I had a chance to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. At the time I don’t think I had a good idea of what the wall stood for. It had only been open for about 5 years at the time. It was more or less just a list of names of the men who had given their lives in the service of their country during Vietnam. To tell the truth, it was stark and bare. No explanation given. No ranks listed. No recognition of which branch of service or what particular group the men and women fought with. Just a list of names. The sheer number was overwhelming and at the time I thought that was the point. To give a long list of people who had given their lives so that I could experience freedom. And I think that is important. But years later, thinking about that wall, I have more and more respect for what it stands for.

The rank of each person is unimportant. The number of people is staggering, but not what is most important. The branch of service might be nice, but it is, in the end, unimportant. Each name stands for someone who served, and died, or who was missing in action. They each served a principle. They each followed a standard. They gave all to insure the forward movement of freedom. Their names are enough to remember them. Their names give us enough information. They were people, like you and me, who showed us how to stand up for freedom and liberty.

That is what those seven judges in the Book of judges mean for me. Their story is not about great feats of strength or cunning, like Samson’s story. Their story is not about learning trust and reliance the way that we see Gideon learning. Their story is not about listening to the voice of God like Deborah taught Barak. No. Their story is the quiet but powerful story of everyday faith. These seven lived a life devoted to God and that was what was most important. That was what God decided to share with us in the Bible. It is the legacy that they leave behind. The legacy that says, “there people followed God, no matter the cost.”

Quiet, devoted faith makes a difference. Learning to trust and to follow, to lead and to serve, are all important. That kind of faith is formed in the everyday decisions of life. Faith is shaped in the “normal” part of how we live. The decisions we make about movies, television, and reading. The discussions we have with friends and family in the familiar surroundings of home. The prayers we utter during laundry or morning coffee. The habits of service we practice in the everyday moments of life. These are not big, flashy moments of growth. They are slow, deliberate growth that shapes our hearts.

Embedding the Bible is not about some bolt of lightning from heaven. Oh, God can do that when He wants, and sometimes there are big flashes of insight. But growth also comes through the steady study of God’s word. The decision to be faithful in every moment of the day. The deliberate embedding in our hearts that we do as we read our Bibles. Embedding is about steady, deliberate growth. Growth that quietly but persistently impacts those around us and builds a legacy of faith that follows us.

Date Daily Reading
August 14 Judges 8
August 15 Judges 9
August 16 Judges 10:1-11:3
August 17 Judges 11:4-40
August 18 Judges 12
August 19 Judges 13
August 20 Judges 14
August 21 Judges 15

 

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Unintended Consequences

With the words of Joshua ringing in their ears, the Israelites now settle the land of Canaan. As the Book of Judges opens, we see a people who cling to God. The men of Judah and Simeon trust the promises of God and prepare for battle with the Canaanite inhabitants. Victory follows battle and the trustworthiness of God is once again displayed. Trust in God has led His people to experience the promises that He has made.

But read down to Judges 1:21 and a different picture begins to emerge. The tribe of Benjamin does not follow the command of God. Rather than driving the inhabitants out of the land, the Benjamites decide to allow the Jeusites to live dwell among them. It is a concession to the commands of God. It seems merciful in the moment, a peace that leads to coexistence, but it is, in reality, a moment of disobedience that will lead to hurt, pain, and a growing chasm between God and His people.

This pattern of compromise with the world will repeat itself over and over even more blatantly in the rest of Judges 1. The tribes of Manasseh, Ephraim, Zebulon, Asher, Naphtali, and Dan seemingly do nothing to finish the conquest of Canaan. They lay down their arms and dwell among the inhabitants of the land. They ignore the all of Joshua and the promises of God.

In the moment, this may seem like a reasonable solution. The people of God long to stop the fighting and lay down their arms. They decide that living among the people of the world is OK. But the long term effects of this decision will have grave, unintended consequences. And that is the lesson and the warning of the chapter.

The phrase “unintended consequences” was first used in a popular sense by John Locke in the mid to late 17th century and further defined by Robert Melton in the 20th century. I tis used to explain how a decision can have one of three possible effects on a given situation. The social sciences (sociology, psychology, political science, economics, etc.) use the phrase extensively and acknowledge that any decision made can affect a group dynamic in unexpected ways. There can be unexpected benefits, unexpected drawbacks, or perverse results. It is the idea that, while we think we are making a good decision, a reasonable action can bring about consequences that we did not think through.

In Judges 1 we have a great example of a people who make a decision that will bring perverse results. A perverse result is a decision that is intended to lead one place, but ends up in the opposite place. Israel seems to decide to live in peace. The decision will lead them to conflict. By deciding not to follow through with the conquest of Canaan, the people of Israel invite idolatry and sin into their lives. This decision to make peace brings them into conflict with God. This decision to live in the land on their own, personal terms, will eventually lead to captivity and the removal of Israel from the Promised Land.

You and I make decisions every day. Like Israel, we have a clear call from God about how to live and how to interact with the world around us. But like the Israelites, we often just want to live in peace. So we make decisions based on our own desires or our own wishes. Beware! The law of unintended consequences may be lurking in your future!

Judges 1 teaches us that God knows what we need. Although it is often hard to see how God is unfolding the future, we know that God is in control. Every decision we make must fall in line with His will and His word. We must live by the promises of God. This means we will live in conflict with the world’s desire, or with our own wishes at times. But that is what embedding the Bible is all about. Learning to conform our wishes to the desire of God. Being transformed so that our hearts beat in time with the heart of God. Heed the warning. God knows best. He desires good for us. He gives us a path to walk. He calls for our surrender. Otherwise, there just might be unintended consequences.

Date Daily Reading
August 7 Judges 1
August 8 Judges 2:1-3:6
August 9 Judges 3:7-31
August 10 Judges 4
August 11 Judges 5
August 12 Judges 6
August 13 Judges 7
August 14 Judges 8

 

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Cling to God

We’ve done a lot of babysitting in our time and we love it! The funniest part of the experience are those last few minutes as a set of parents is dropping off the child or children and preparing to head out the door. There are always a ton of last minute instructions. Bedtime routine reminders, feeding tips and tricks, and the mention of the favorite stuffed animal or blanket that the child just can’t do without. It is a moment when the parents want to know that the child still has something to cling to for comfort and support as the parent walks out the door. It may be for just a short time, but both baby and parent need the assurance.

In Joshua 23 and 24, Joshua is giving his final address to the people of Israel. This leader has walked with God’s people through a trying time in history. He has led the people in the conquest of Canaan. He has fought alongside them. Prayed for them. Guided their steps and given them battle plans. He loves the people of God. Now he is preparing to exit the stage. But before he goes, he has to give them some last minute instructions. Some reminders about who they are and where they are headed. Like a good parent, Joshua wants to reassure his people that they are in good hands.

In Joshua 23:8, Joshua tells the people to cling to God. I love that picture. The idea of “clinging” is to grab hold of and never let go. It is the picture of the child with the favorite blanket or stuffed animal. They cling for comfort and assurance. Joshua is reminding the people that though things are changing, though they are settling into the promise of God as they settle the land, God is present and active. He continues to be the God who moves and blesses His people. Clinging to God is an active picture of dependence and surrender.

How do you and I live in the presence of God today? Just like the people of Israel did in the time of Joshua.

See the blessings of God around you. The Israelites were reminded that the land allotments were a gift from God. They were to look at the places where they lived and know that God was the gifter. You and I need to do the same. Look around you and see how God has blessed you. Home, family, friends, all of these are a blessing from God. God’s hand continues to move in your life.

Listen to the voice of God. Joshua reminds the people to obey the commands that God had given Moses. The commands that had shaped their lives and guided their steps. You and I need to be aware of the voice of God. We need to be committed to reading and studying our Bibles. We need to be in fellowship with God’s people, the church. We need Godly mentors who remind us of God’s will and God’s words.

Live lives of distinction. Joshua warns against intermarriage and close associations with foreign nations. While it is a little hard for us to always understand, we need to see that we are called to be distinct in the world. We have a responsibility to call people out of the world and the culture, not to become so enamored or so enthralled with the culture that we lose our God given flavor. God wants us to live lives distinguished by grace, mercy, service, truth, and commitment.

Joshua’s words to Israel are powerful words for us today. They are worth embedding on our hearts. God is present. He still calls for His people to cling to Him. That means letting go of the world.

Date Daily Reading
July 31 Joshua 15
August 1 Joshua 16-17
August 2 Joshua 18-19
August 3 Joshua 20
August 4 Joshua 21
August 5 Joshua 22
August 6 Joshua 23-24
August 7 Judges 1

 

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The Presence of God

The very name of Jericho brings to mind thick, strong walls. These are walls that tower over the people of Israel and make them look small in comparison. The walls of this city scream “strength.” They cry out “security!” They are built to protect. They serve to intimidate. But as Joshua leads the army of Israel against these walls, there is another presence that is proclaimed. The presence of God.

Too often on our journey we come face-to-face with walls. Walls that block our vision. Walls that dominate the landscape of our hearts. Walls that make us feel small and powerless. As Joshua faces the walls of Jericho, he learns that the presence of God can make the walls come tumbling down. We need to hear the lessons. Strength is not found in walls or man’s ability to deal with them. Strength is found in the presence of God.

God makes a promise to Joshua. “I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.” God says that the battle is already won. The victory is already here. The people just need to open their eyes and see it. In a place where the world’s power seems dominant, God calls the people to announce His presence.

Close your eyes and capture the picture. A long column of armed men gather in front of Jericho. In the midst of the column are priests carrying a gold box atop their shoulders. Beautiful golden cherubim grace the lid of the box. God has promised His people that His presence will dwell between their outstretched wings. The ark of God’s presence is to go with the armies of Israel as they march around the city. As the priests walk before the ark, they are to blow the trumpets. Trumpets announce the presence of God.

As we look at Israel’s history, we see that trumpets announce three very specific things. They announce the crowning of kings. They announce times of worship. They announce the call to battle. At the gates of Jericho, the blowing of the rams’ horns means the same things.

A King is present. Through the trumpets blare, the Israelites announce that even though they do not have a physical and earthly king, God leads them. He is the King of Heaven and He is the King of their hearts. The throne of heaven and the throne of their lives is filled with the presence of God. Every act of obedience honors Him as worthy. Every step they take declares His majesty. Every blast of the trumpet proclaims that all authority and dominion belong to the Lord.

Bow your hearts in worship. As the sound of the trumpets echoes against the walls of stone, it calls the people to worship. Their hearts are not to be hard and stone-like in the presence of the Lord. Recognizing His presence in this moment should unleash a flood of awe, humility, adoration, and praise. The call of the trumpets is a call to give themselves fully to God.

Prepare for victory. Trumpets are a call to battle. God’s people have always faced enemies. There have always been battles to fight and evil to subdue. Joshua follows where God leads. He knows that God is with him. In this one truth, there is victory. The outcome of the battle does not depend on our own strength or cunning. The call of the trumpets is a call to keep our eyes on our General. Triumph and victory are found in Him alone.

The symbol of God’s presence leads the people into battle. As the army walks around Jericho, they see the ark. They know God is leading them. Their eyes can see the gold shining in the sun. Like fire in the night, God’s presence calls the army to follow. Each step the army takes has already been walked by God.

As the walls of Jericho crash to earth, Joshua sees the fulfillment of God’s promise. The battle is won and the victory is secure. Not because of Joshua’s strength or the Israelites’ bravery. The victory rests in the presence of God.

What do you need to do today to more fully open your eyes to the presence of God? Embedding the Bible helps us lift our eyes from ourselves and the walls that we face to see God’s presence in our lives.

This article comes from “Tell Me the Story: Heroes of Faith.” I hope it helps you experience the presence of God as your read your Bible this week.

Date Daily Reading
July 24 Joshua 6
July 25 Joshua 7
July 26 Joshua 8
July 27 Joshua 9
July 28 Joshua 10
July 29 Joshua 11-12
July 30 Joshua 13-14
July 31 Joshua 15

 

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Transitions

Spiritual growth is about change. As we walk with God, we are transformed. God works in us to change the way we think, act, behave, and feel. This process of change is not random, nor should it be unexpected. God has a design in mind for the life of every believer. The goal of spiritual growth is the transformation of our lives into a reflection of the nature and character of Jesus. With this specific goal in mind, God guides us through the process of spiritual growth and we experience life change. But change is often scary. If we admit it, most of us don’t like change. Change is one of those things that means life will become different than it is. I know that the promise of being “better” is appealing, but the unknown is often hard to adjust to.

As we embed the Bible this week, we make a transition. We finish the Book of Deuteronomy and start the Book of Joshua. While we simply turn the page in our Bibles, the people living the story of God’s people were experiencing a tremendous amount of change. That change came in the form of leadership, purpose, and movement.

At the end of Deuteronomy, Moses gives his final blessings on the people of God. The leader that brought the Israelites out of Egypt and who walked with them for more than forty years is not going to be leading them as they enter the Promised Land. The transition in leadership means that a different voice is talking to God on behalf of the people. Would Joshua lead them the way that Moses led them? How could they know that they were going to be led the right way? It is a good question to ask. This transition was designed by God. Joshua had been the aide to Moses. He had stood at the tent of meeting while Moses talked to God. He has walked through the wilderness with the Israelites. Joshua was chosen by God to lead God’s people. The younger leader was taking over for the older leader.

As you and I grow in our walk with God, we will experience a variety of leaders. We will come to know and trust godly people who will have an impact on our lives. How do we know what to listen to? That is where you and I can find answers in the life of Joshua. God calls us to be in community. Transitions are easier when we are surrounded by voices who follow God. Just like Joshua had stood in the presence of the Lord, you and I should be looking for people who stand in the presence of God. Is our leader a person of prayer? Do they live what they know of God’s will. Is the character of Christ displayed in their lives? Have they been faithful followers, listening to other godly voices?

The Israelites are entering Canaan. No longer are they a wandering people. They now have a specific purpose. They are called to conquer the land. They are now an army. In the same way, as we grow, we transition from wandering through life to committing to the specific purpose of God. We are called to stand up for faith, to proclaim God’s rule in our lives, and to dedicate ourselves to His purposes. Watching the Israelites, we see that Joshua prayed. Living in God’s purpose requires us to be connected to God. The Israelites were circumcised. You and I are called to baptism and the daily cutting away of the world from our lives. The Israelites worshiped. As we grow, worship becomes vital to our lives. Living in the purpose of God calls us to prayer, repentance, and worship.

Transitions can be hard, but they are necessary. Like the growing pains of a child, we may experience some discomfort, but we know that when we stay in the will of God, we are growing to be healthy, spiritual, godly men and women. Embrace the change to look like Jesus. Embed the will of God deep in your heart. God has great things in store for His people!

Date Daily Reading
July 17 Deuteronomy 33
July 18 Deuteronomy 34
July 19 Joshua 1
July 20 Joshua 2
July 21 Joshua 3
July 22 Joshua 4
July 23 Joshua 5
July 24 Joshua 6

 

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Plain to See

In Deuteronomy 27:1-8, Moses calls the people of Israel to erect stones as they enter Canaan. The stones are to be plastered and then the Law of God is to be written on the stones. This writing is meant to be a memorial that is plain to see. Anyone who comes and reads the words or sees the stones can plainly see the standard of God’s people.

While the call seems a bit strange in our minds, it is a reminder of what you and I are in this world. We are a declaration to the world that God is moving and shaping mankind. As children of God, we are called to live distinctive, noticeable lives for God in this world. Just take a look at some of the ways you and I write the Law of God on our lives so that it is plain to see in the world.

Matthew 5:16 declares that you are light. Your deeds are done in plain sight of the people around you so that they may see and praise God. Jesus calls us to live our lives for God in such a way that people notice. He calls us salt and light. We influence the taste and the sight of the world as we share the grace and transformation that Jesus promises. We do not blend in with society or fit in with the standards of the world. We invade the culture with the heart and call of God.

Paul echoes the words of Jesus as he writes to the church in Thessalonica. In 1 Thessalonians 5:5 Paul tells us that we are children of light. We shine in the darkness of this world. We do not act in the cover of darkness. We do not hide our allegiance or our lifestyles from the world. We boldly live our beliefs for all to see. Christians cannot hide behind or within the world. We are called to take a stand and shine with the light of Jesus.

In 2 Corinthians 3:2-3, Paul changes the image but keeps the spirit of the message. He tells the church in Corinth that they are a letter, written on the heart, that proclaims the presence of Jesus to the world. This letter is intended for all to read. Paul reminds us that we live out the life of a disciple in such a way that the whole world can read our story. We live lives of transparency. Not confident in our own strength, but as men and women who struggle with sin, but stand in the forgiveness provided by God. It is a powerful message. We are not perfectly living out the will of God, but can stand perfectly within the love of Christ. We can show the world what it means to rely on God for all we need.

In Galatians 6 Paul points to his own handwriting and the large letters he uses to write to the Galatians. He points to the need for God’s people to be large letters as they live life. Just before this statement, Paul encourages those who have been taught to become teachers. To live large lives in the world. Teaching others how to live with Jesus.

As you can see, the memorial stones of Deuteronomy 27 prepare us to see how living with God is a declaration to the world. You and I are called to embed the will of Godin our lives in such a way that we become a memorial in the world. We show the world the heart of God in lives lived boldly. We make the presence of God plain to see.

Date Daily Reading
July 10 Deuteronomy 27
July 11 Deuteronomy 28:1-14
July 12 Deuteronomy 28:15-68
July 13 Deuteronomy 29
July 14 Deuteronomy 30
July 15 Deuteronomy 31:1-29
July 16 Deuteronomy 31:30-32:52
July 17 Deuteronomy 33

 

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Preparation

On July 4, 1776, the American Continental Congress issues a Declaration of Independence. We look back on this day as the day when the United States took its place on the world stage. We celebrate in one day our country’s beginning. But like so many things, this day does not exist by itself in history. Independence Day did not come about in a vacuum. It is surrounded with events and people and places both before the day and after. The 13 British Colonies that declared independence on July 4th had fought for their freedoms in a variety of ways before Independence Day. The Boston Massacre in March of 1770. The Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773. The battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775. All of these events led up to the declaration. After the colonies claimed independence, the Revolutionary War broke out. Independence was not a single event. It was an event that rested in the middle of other events. In Deuteronomy 20, Moses stands and issues a call to preparation. It is a call to stir the Israelites to readiness to go to war.

From the Exodus, through the wilderness, and now to the borders of Canaan, Israel has been preparing to go to war. God has been leading them to the moment when they would enter the Promised Land and claim the gift the God. As they stand ready on the Plains of Moab, they can look back and see how God has prepared them. God has shown His might and power on behalf of His people in the 10 Plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. God has taught them to follow His footsteps in the Pillar of Cloud and Fire. He has given them a standard to live by at Sinai with the 10 Commandments. God has taught them the lessons of rebellion when they would not take the land the first time. Ten spies said proclaimed the power of the world. Two spies proclaimed the might of God. The people followed the ten and spent the next forty years dying in the wanderings. Now there was a people ready to follow God into the Promised Land. Now Moses calls the people of God to be ready.

Battle begins with the understanding that God goes with us. We do not fight battle with our own strength or by our own might. We fight he battles that God lays before us and we rely on His strength for victory. Any situation we face must first focus on the presence of God. Are you struggling with family trouble? Are your finances a mess? Are you worried about the world and its influence? Then it is time to set your eyes on the power and presence of God. What is God calling you to do in this situation? What does God want for your family, finances, and the culture you live in? Don’t make your own plans. Set your mind and heart on God. Spend time in prayer and study. Listen for the voice of God in His people. Get a perspective on God’s desire. Prepare yourself to follow where God is leading. Moses calls for the priests to stand before the people in battle. Worship is a powerful tool to help get your perspective right. When we surrender our time, resources, hearts, and lives in worship, we learn to follow where God is leading.

As Moses calls the priests to stand before the people in battle, he instructs the priests to call the people to boldness. Faintheartedness is not for the people of God. Boldness is the order of the day. We live in a time when the people of God need to stand boldly for the will of God. The battles that we face can be daunting. We see soldiers and chariots arrayed before us. Media and political structures that look too big to fight. But we are not called to fear. We are called to see the might of God. We area called to boldly face the giants that inhabit our land and our culture. Being prepared for boldness demands that we get our lives in line with the coming battle. Does your family, your home, belong to God? Does your work life reflect a dedication to God’s will? Is your heart in the hands of God?

Boldness shows up in the “normal” places of our lives. Fighting for God is not about taking on the big things all at once. It is about years of following the daily leading of God. Preparedness takes place in the everyday moments of life. When we declare independence from the world, we are committing to the battle. The battle for the hearts and minds of the world. Our Independence Day is today! God calls us to practice the obedience and faith that He has been preparing in us. Are you ready to fight?

Date Daily Reading
July 3 Deuteronomy 20
July 4 Deuteronomy 21
July 5 Deuteronomy 22
July 6 Deuteronomy 23
July 7 Deuteronomy 24:1-25:4
July 8 Deuteronomy 25:5-19
July 9 Deuteronomy 26
July 10 Deuteronomy 27

 

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Truth

Embedding the Bible is about learning to live in the will of God. Embedding is the act of placing God’s will in the center of my life. Not just in the center of my religious activity, but in the center of everything that I do and say. Living in the will of God means that God’s heart sets the standard for how I parent, watch television, surf the web, read books, talk to my friends, and act on my job. God’s heart defines my work ethic, parenting decisions, friendships, and relaxation. As God calls us deeper and deeper into His presence, we experience transformation, a change in how we think and act and feel. This change is based on the character of God.

Embedding the character of God in our lives leads us to look for truth. God establishes His truth through His character. In John 14:6 we learn that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Truth is not simply an objective standard. It is not the ability to agree with or conform to a principle. Truth is not simply about mental assent. Truth is a person, the person of Jesus. Following truth means following Jesus. There is no other way to live in the presence of God but to live in the truth of Jesus.

Sometimes in reading through the Old Testament, we forget that we are reading through the story of Jesus. We often look at the Israelites and the call to follow the law and miss the point that God is preparing the world for the coming of the Christ. Each law, each feast day, each command is meant to shape the hearts of men to accept the truth that is found in the character and life of Jesus.

This week, we open our reading with Deuteronomy 12:29 and a warning against idolatry. Idolatry is the worship of anything that is not God. Idolatry takes something other than God and puts it into God’s rightful place in our lives. Idolatry can be an image made of wood or stone or metal that we bow before. It can also be a belief or a tenet that the world holds up as more important. Remember that idolatry does not always mean that we completely forget about God. The Israelites continued, in their history, to worship in the temple at Jerusalem. They offered the appropriate sacrifices and observed the feast days established by God. But they also worshiped idols under trees, sought to be like the world around them, and accepted standards and “truths” that could no be found in the will of God. They mixed the standards of the world with the truth of God and so divided their hearts. This is so easy to do in our world today.

We have many voices which call for our attention. Voices that tell us how to be successful. Voices that seek to define beauty and truth. Voices that call us to believe what the world believes. Too often, we want to accept the voices of the world and then try to figure out how they can exist alongside the truth of God. We try to mix what the world says with what God says. We try to give both an equal voice in our lives. But God does not call us to see him through the lens of the world. He calls us to see the world through the lens of His character. Following truth puts God in the center of our lives so that we everything through the eyes of God.

Embedding eh Bible is about becoming so intimate with God that we cannot see the world through any lens but the lens of His heart. Like the Israelites, we need to learn to look at everything the world throws our way and ask if it conforms to the image of God, the person of Jesus, our standard of truth.

Moses warns the people that there will be those who call God’s people to follow after other gods. People who present a standard to follow that is not from God. The warning is that this kind of thinking leads to death and separation from the will of God.

Where is your thinking leading you? Are you walking in truth? Or are you listening to too many voices? Embedding the Bible helps us recognize the voice of God and live in truth.

Date Daily Reading
June 26 Deuteronomy 12:29-13:18
June 27 Deuteronomy 14
June 28 Deuteronomy 15
June 29 Deuteronomy 16:1-20
June 30 Deuteronomy 16:21-17:20
July 1 Deuteronomy 18
July 2 Deuteronomy 19
July 3 Deuteronomy 20

 

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Hear

Embedding the Bible is about listening to God. In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Moses calls the people of Israel to hear God. The phrase is distinct. “Hear O Israel.” The Hebrew word for hear that is used in this passage is the word “shema.” This passage has become known in Judaism as “The Shema.” It is a call to hear what God is saying. It is an invitation to tune our ears to hear the words that God speaks and be changed. In the Shema, there are some very specific instructions about what it means to listen to God and be changed.

It starts with a description of God. God is One God. We can talk about monotheism, the worship of one God as opposed to the worship of many gods (polytheism), but I think that more important is the understanding that God is unique. God is unlike any other being that we know or come into contact with. God alone is supreme. He is the Creator of life and the shaper of the world. God has spoken the creation into existence with His words alone. God alone is worthy to be praised. Moses calls the Israelites to see God as the One true God that is faithful to care for His people.

This reminder speaks to our hearts today. In a world that call loudly in many voices, it is important to tune our ears to hear the voice of God. The one voice that can change us from the inside out. The one God who can heal our hurts and cure our sin sickness. God alone has the answers that we need. God alone is the authority for mankind.

Moses then goes on to tell the Israelites that they must love God with all their hearts, souls, and minds. It is a picture of surrender. God calls for us to give our whole selves to Him. Both then, and now. Walking with God is not simply going to church on Sundays. It is a lifestyle that touches every part of who we are. When we love God, we love with all our heart. The heart is the seat of how we feel. Loving God means we surrender our emotions to Him. His joys become our joys. His desires become our desires. God instructs us on how to be joyful and how to be angry. His heart shapes our hearts.

When we love God with all our minds we turn over control of our decisions to Him. God gets to decide what happens in my life and when it happens. God gets control over my schedule. He gets to decide what I watch on television or the movies I go to see. Giving God my mind means God gets a say in the websites I visit and the tweets that I post. God gets to be in charge of what I think and how I think. I am not guided by my heart or my gut. I am guided by the heart of God.

To love God with all my soul means that God gets the very core of who I am. God gets to lead my eternity. My spiritual thinking and acting become reflections of Gods nature and character. I am trusting God to lead me in a way that allows me to live with Him today and forever.

Moses goes on to show us how to give ourselves entirely to God. Moses describes talking about God with our children. Thinking about God when we walk along the roads or streets or when we lie in our beds to rest or sleep. When I am at home, I am God’s. When I travel, I belong to God. Giving myself to God, loving God, means allowing Him to have control of my eyes and my hands. There is nothing in my life that is outside of His control.

Hearing God is important. As I listen to God, I take to heart what His plans for me are. I surrender my life to following where He leads. It means embedding His word deep in my life.

Date Daily Reading
June 19 Deuteronomy 6
June 20 Deuteronomy 7
June 21 Deuteronomy 8
June 22 Deuteronomy 9
June 23 Deuteronomy 10
June 24 Deuteronomy 11
June 25 Deuteronomy 12:1-28
June 26 Deuteronomy 12:29-13:18

 

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Review Days

I think every school aged child longs for the summer break. In the summer there is a relaxed bedtime, no homework, days at play and at the pool. In summer there is a sense of freedom. When I was in school, it did not take me long to figure out the markers that proclaimed that summer was coming. Less homework, more movies and play in school, and review days. It seems that every year in school, we reached a point where we stopped to review what we learned through the school year. In high school, these days were followed by final exams. But then summer came! Glorious summer!

The Book of Deuteronomy is like the review days in school. All the promises of a land, freedom, and a home that God had prepared for His people are just across the Jordan River. The people have come out of forty years of wandering in the wilderness. They stand ready to enter the Promised Land. But before they do, Moses stands before them and calls them to remember. This generation that he speaks to has grown up in the wilderness. They don’t remember the experiences of Egyptian bondage. They were not old enough, indeed most of them were probably not even alive at the time of the Exodus. The Red Sea parting, the fire, smoke, lightning, and shaking at Mt. Sinai are stories told by their now dead parents and grand-parents. Moses looks out on the Israelites and knows that they need to review the hand of God and His promises to His people before they can enter Canaan. So we have the Book of Deuteronomy. The review days before one time in their lives ends and another begins.

The Book of Deuteronomy encompasses the events of about forty days. Its contents are defined by a series of speeches that Moses gives to the people. In these speeches we have a call to obedience and faithfulness. We have warnings against unbelief and rebellion. And it all starts with a reminder and a review of how the people got here.

As the Israelites stand on the Plains of Moab, Moses begins by recounting their history from Egypt to now. Chapters 1-3 tell the story of how the people came to Sinai and then wandered in the wilderness. It is a story of God’s leadership and a reminder that God has moved with purpose and power in the lives of His people. It is a warning against the rebellion that a generation of people participated in when they lost faith and gave into fear at conquering the land God had promised. It is a call to follow where God leads and trust what God says.

Chapters 4-5 are a recap of the Law. Moses repeats the 10 Commandments, reminding the people that God has set a standard for His people to live by. The 10 Commandments are a covenant between God and the children of Israel. They define a way of living and interacting with God and the people around them. The 10 Commandments give the people an identity and a purpose in life. They offer a relationship with God and define what it means to be His.

Moses knows that in order to walk into the promise of God, His people must have faith. Faith is defined as knowing, trusting, and moving with God. Moses reminds the people about knowing God in His movement among them. The way He has freed them from bondage and called them into relationship. Moses wants them to trust God so he reminds them that God is their provider. Manna in the wilderness, daily guidance, overcoming hunger, and the defeat of Israel’s enemies all point to the power of God at work in His people. Moses knows that eh people need to trust God as they prepare to conquer Canaan. As the people prepare to move into the Promised Land, they are called to know and trust God. So Moses reviews.

Reviewing was important for Israel, and it is important for us. You and I walk in a land that is often hostile to Christians. But we must remember that we walk in and into the promise of God every day. Embedding the Bible is about knowing God. Becoming intimate with His character and love for us. Learning to love Him and rest in the relationship that He offers. Embedding the Bible builds trust in God. Seeing Him move in history and the daily lives of His people help us see how He moves in our lives. Stories of redemption and salvation are not only about others, they are markers which show us how God is redeeming and saving His people today. How He is working in my life in this moment. Embedding the Bible teaches me how to move with God. How to surrender my heart to His heart, my will to His will. Embedding grows faith as it reviews the story of God.

This week look for the reminders of what God is doing. We stand in the review days. The days that call us to see a future that is glorious with freedom. The days that raise hope. Don’t forget that God is moving now. We are not simply waiting for the end. We are watching and moving with God today. Hold that in balance with a longing for tomorrow. God’s people are a blessed people because God is present in every moment.

Date Daily Reading
June 12 Numbers 35
June 13 Numbers 36
June 14 Deuteronomy 1
June 15 Deuteronomy 2
June 16 Deuteronomy 3
June 17 Deuteronomy 4
June 18 Deuteronomy 5
June 19 Deuteronomy 6

 

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