One nation under God… or not…

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Luke 7:1 After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. 2 A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. 3 When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave. 4 When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, 5 for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.” 6 And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; 7 therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. 8 For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” 9 When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 10 When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health.

It always interests me that the people most likely to have faith in Jesus were non-Jews or people on the margins of society: sinners, lepers, widows, and the like. It seems the more power and status people had among the Israelites the less likely they were to support Jesus, much less believe in him.

In some ways not much has changed. Today is July 4th, America’s birthday if you will. Seems that our nation has been walking away from Judeo-Christian ethic for many years now. The larger we get, the more wealth we accumulate, the more likely we are to leave faith behind. Lord Jesus, turn our hearts back to you that we might bear witness to your great love and mercy. Amen.

Put these words… in your heart and soul…

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Deuteronomy 11:18 You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead. 19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 20 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 so that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your ancestors to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth. 

Through Moses, God is giving guidance to the Israelites as they prepare to enter the Promised Land. He says, “You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul…”. He’s talking about the covenant statutes and ordinances of the Lord – the law.

As post-resurrection people we are no longer bound by the covenant of the law, but that doesn’t mean we are not blessed as we steep ourselves in God’s word, which is the spirit of this practice we share. God’s word generates, creates, sustains, guides us as we walk this journey of life.

Lord, the prophet Isaiah tells us that your word does not return empty, but accomplishes that for which it is sent (Isaiah 55:11). I pray this truth comes to fruition in us as we make time/space for your word each day. Amen.

A technical solution to an adaptive problem…

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Deuteronomy 9:22 (Moses said) At Taberah also, and at Massah, and at Kibroth-hattaavah, you provoked the LORD to wrath. 23 And when the LORD sent you from Kadesh-barnea, saying, “Go up and occupy the land that I have given you,” you rebelled against the command of the LORD your God, neither trusting him nor obeying him. 24 You have been rebellious against the LORD as long as he has known you.

Moses had just recalled that the people had NEVER been faithful to the Lord, but were rebellious from start to finish. So what does the Lord do? Gives them a set of rules to follow (10 commandments) which, if followed faithfully, would give the people life. But they proved to be unfaithful once again. Sounds like a technical solution to an adaptive problem. Ultimately, through Jesus, God applies an adaptive solution to an adaptive problem – and it changes everything.

Breaking the law…

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Luke 6:6 On another sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. 7 The scribes and the Pharisees watched him to see whether he would cure on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him. 8 Even though he knew what they were thinking, he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” He got up and stood there. 9 Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?” 10 After looking around at all of them, he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was restored. 11 But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus. 

We tend to give the Pharisees a hard time about their focus on the letter of the law, but those guys had a job to do. The OT reading today in the Moravian Daily Texts was from Deuteronomy. It made very clear that the Israelites needed to follow the letter of the law, diligently, lest they incur the wrath of God. In Israel’s history there were numerous times when the people became lax in following the law and really awful things happened as a result. God would send plagues and famine and opposing armies that killed thousands by the sword.

So when the Pharisees see Jesus violating the law of God – they were extremely anxious about that. Based on history, continuing in disobedience could lead to great suffering and even death from God the Father. I’m reminded that I probably need to cut the Pharisees a little slack.

Praise God from who all blessings flow…

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Deuteronomy 6:10 When the LORD your God has brought you into the land that he swore to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—a land with fine, large cities that you did not build, 11 houses filled with all sorts of goods that you did not fill, hewn cisterns that you did not hew, vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant—and when you have eaten your fill, 12 take care that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 

Moses is giving counsel to God’s people BEFORE they enter the promised land. These people have been wandering in the wilderness for decades. They have never owned property. Everything they possessed was an obvious gift. They could not and did not produce anything. That was about to change.

They would take possession of lands and towns and livestock and “all sorts of goods” they didn’t not work for. God’s fear is that, after a while, they would forget this truth. Which they did.

This morning I’m thinking about my own reality. Everything I possess is a gift from the Lord, but I often get into the mindset that it’s “mine” – to do with as I please. It is not. Which leaves me with a question. Am I being a good steward of the gifts God has entrusted to me? Have I internalized the “gift” that is my life – or do I act as if what’s mine is “mine”?

Lord reveal your truth to me in this area. Never let me forget from whom my blessings flow. Amen.

Just follow these 10 simple rules… simple

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Deuteronomy 4:So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the LORD, the God of your ancestors, is giving you.

Moses is giving his final address to the people before his death. They will enter the Promised Land, though he will not. The command is simple; “Give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teach you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the Lord… is giving you.”

And… they did not follow the statutes and ordinances… and lost everything.

Just because something is simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. Following the will and ways of God is not just hard, but impossible for sinful people like me and you. Which is why we are in such desperate need of the Lord and the power of the Holy Spirit. Apart from the Lord we can do nothing good. But with God all things are possible.

Lord, this morning I’m acutely aware of my shortcomings. They are many. In my own strength I am utterly without hope. Done for. Toast. Consigned to eternal death and separation from you. Thank you Lord Jesus that you died for sinners like me. Send your Spirit to do a work in me today that I might serve you well. Amen.

 

He spoke “with authority”

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Luke 4:31 (Jesus) went down to Capernaum, a city in Galilee, and was teaching them on the sabbath. 32 They were astounded at his teaching, because he spoke with authority. 33 In the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Let us alone! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” When the demon had thrown him down before them, he came out of him without having done him any harm.

v.32 describes Jesus’ teaching as “with authority”. On one hand “authority” can refer to the fact that Jesus doesn’t shy from offering his own interpretations of the scriptures rather than citing other peoples’ interpretations. “You have heard it said…. but I say to you….”. That kind of thing was unheard of in Jesus’ day.

But another understanding of authority is illustrated in v.33 and following. Luke interprets authority for us by pointing out Jesus’ capacity to cast out demons. The spirits submit to Jesus’ spiritual authority.

I’m reminded of Matthew 28 in which Jesus says to his disciples “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me…” as he sends them out to continue the work he had begun. And, of course, as they went along the did the things Jesus did – cast out demons, heal the sick, raise the dead.

Is that kind of authority still available to us? Some Christians say “no”. They believe the the powers given by God to the early Christians ceased once the church was established. I disagree. It doesn’t happen often, but I’ve seen this kind of spiritual authority first hand. So if this authority is still possible, why do we see it so little?

Lord Jesus, give us grace to lay hold of your authority and use it for your glory. Amen.