Author Archive

When the Crowds Come

Click here to read Deuteronomy 28 on BibleGateway.com
Click here to read Isaiah 55 on BibleGateway.com

“nations you do not know will come running to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has endowed you with splendor.” – Isaiah 55;5

Here at EverydayDevotions, we use the McCheyne Bible Reading plan, which suggests reading four chapters a day from different sections of the Bible.  One of the advantages to reading in this manner is that sometimes the passages work together in ways you might not notice if you read straight through the Word.  It’s kind of like when you mix a bunch of sauces at the Mongolian grill – you know they’re awesome individually, but together they can create something truly epilicious.

Take today, for example.  In Isaiah 55, God is talking about bringing all the nations to Israel as a blessing to Israel.  Basically, if they are faithful to God, they will be so blessed all the nations of the world will want to come there and see what’s what.  But in Deuteronomy 28, God says again he will bring all the nations to Israel, but in this case it’s a judgment to Israel.  The nations are coming to see how low Israel has fallen, and to take all the blessings of the land for themselves. The nations will come – either to share in the blessing, or to plunder the remains.

THE ARRIVALS

The same principle is true for our churches today – people will come, one way or another.  The reason they come is what’s up for grabs.  Do people get excited to meet Christians because they want to know more of Jesus, or because they want to see them fail?  Do they come to church to have changed hearts, or because they need more material for complaining on Facebook?  Our churches can be oases of glory, or they can be mausoleums ripe for scavenging.

Of course, there’s always going to be some of each; even Jesus had his Judas.  But God describes in our readings today that he will send the nations to Israel either way – they can either be an example of God’s blessing, or a warning of God’s judgment.  For us, people can come to experience God, or they can come to mock.  They are either drawn closer to God because of what we do, or they are driven from Him.

THAT HAS MADE ALL THE DIFFERNCE

What makes the difference?  In a word – Christ. If Jesus is lifted up, if we are dedicated to knowing Him and following His commands,  then everything else will be blessed as well.  If not, then those momentous edifices will be turned into museums or art galleries or businesses.  It sounds simple, yet it’s amazing how often we get distracted from Jesus by emphasizing outreaches, apologetics, compassion ministries, politics, and many other good-yet-not-Jesus-pursuits.

It’s so easy to get distracted with building a nice framework to do our ministry in, we forget that Jesus himself did not have a place to lay his head.  It’s not about the structure (by which I mean programs and policies as well as physical structure), but it’s about serving Christ in a personal, intimate relationship.  That’s when the nations will come for the right reasons. Our first goal must always be to know Christ, and Him crucified.  Otherwise, we become just another social club following our own wisdom, and that can never last.

They will come – why they come is up to you.

The UnSandaled Savior

Click here to read Deuteronomy 25 on BibleGateway.com

“His brother’s widow shall go up to him in the presence of the elders, take off one of his sandals, spit in his face…That man’s line shall be known in Israel as The Family of the Unsandaled” – Deuteronomy 25:9-10

When you think of the worst thing that could possibly happen to you, losing a sandal probably isn’t at the top of the list. Bran muffins kicking in during rush hour – sure. Tripping on the carpet on the way into that job interview – awesome. Losing a sweet flipflop – not so much.  But for the people of ancient Israel, losing a sandal was akin to discovering that secret ninja tryout video you sent in is trending on youtube.

Plus, you have the whole public perception thing that was so important in those times. It’s a little strange in our day to think of the emphasis on honor in those days, but we’re not that far removed from the days of duels. As recently as the last couple hundred years, even US presidents had dueling on their resume. Being barren had that kind of seriousness for a woman, and being publicly mocked was one of the worst disasters that could happen to a man.

SPIT SHINE

So here in Deuteronomy we have a story when both shames collide – the theoretical woman in the story is barren, and the man refuses to honor her, thereby bringing shame to himself as well. If a man’s brother died, it was the brother’s duty to marry his widow and carry on the family line. But what if the surviing brother doesn’t want to? According to this chapter, she gets to publicly spit in his face and, the ultimately insult, take his sandals. Even his last name shall be changed to “The Unsandaled.” It seems almost kind of silly to us, but it was serious business for people then.

THE SHAME

Ironically, this scenario happened not once, but twice in Jesus’ line of ancestors. Back in Genesis, Judah (whose descendants were all the kings of Judah, and ultimately Jesus himself) and his children refused to honor this custom with a woman named Tamar. One of his kids was even killed by God for his refusal. Tamar was in pretty dire straits until Judah inadvertently slept with her and continued the family line. In a slightly less soap-operatic scenario, Ruth was also barren after the death of her husband. She was reduced to abject poverty because her husband’s closest relative wouldn’t follow this guideline, until Boaz stepped up. Rather than being shamed as they thought, both of these women have a prominent place in Jesus’ family line.

That’s how Jesus works; He takes our greatest shame, or what we think is our greatest shame, and brings out the greatest glory and honor. Lose that job? Maybe God is moving you on to something better. Get left at the altar? Perhaps God has a greater marriage planned for you. It doesn’t always seem that, and certainly not at the time, but how many times can you look back on what you thought was a humiliating disaster, only to realize it was the very thing that made you who you are today. We never know what God is up to; all we know is that He works all of it together for good for His plan and His children.

Even the Unsandaled.

Unwell Wishing

Click here to read Psalm 108-109 on BibleGateway.com

“Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy…may a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.” –  Psalm 109: 6,11

Thanks to invulnerable yet unpredictable green men, anger has taken on a more positive spin in recent years. It used to be that anger was seen as a negative – only the weak lost their cool and became angry. But now, what with all the good the Jolly Green Giant has done, not to mention the comedic gold of anger management classes and enraged fowl, anger has taken on almost positive tones these days.

Christians, for the most part, still have a lingering distrust of anger. After all, if we are truly close to God, doesn’t that mean that we should be happy and well-wishy all the time? Hard to reconcile that with the desire to take batting practice to the car that keeps parking in your spot, or that quick desire to “accidentally” spill hot coffee on that one co-worker. We know that we should be kind, yet we have this frequent tendency for the most unkind actions.

HE LIKES YOU WHEN YOU’RE ANGRY

The thing is – God understands.  He even put it in his best seller, just for us to see.  God is not surprised by our frustrations, nor is he surprised that maybe we have less than honorable wishes for those that hurt us.  Want that ex-spouse to lose their house? God understands.  Want that embezzling boss to get caught so you can have his job? God understands.  Mystified why that girl keeps getting all the guys even though everybody knows what a backstabber she is?  God understands.

The Old Testament is full of examples of people being angry with other people – sometimes even God’s people.  The Psalms in particular have some pretty detailed descriptions of exactly what the author wants done to his enemies, and we’re not talking wedgies here. Various psalms ask God to visit violence, infertility, treachery, and of course death to their enemies.  Hardly the stuff you’d think you’d find in God’s songbook.

God understands – but He doesn’t accept it.

MARVELOUSLY MORE

God knows that you want that business competitor to fail, yet He asks you to do what you can to help them succeed.  He knows you want to merge that reckless driver right off the bridge, yet He asks us to yield to them instead. He knows you hope that guy at the meeting who got the last custard-filled pastry chokes on a doughnut bone, but He asks you to offer him the fresh coffee as well.

God understands who we are, and knows our desires, probably better than we do. Yet, we are called to live beyond those desires. We are sinful and broken creatures, after all, and so we wil have struggles in this life; yet through God’s Spirit, we can be more than who our desires say we are. That anger and frustration is part of what we deal with, but they are not who we are.

It’s ok to acknowledge them, even in song apparently.  But it’s not ok to act on them, or even to dwell constantly on those thoughts.  We are to take those things to Jesus, and release them.  We don’t plan our revenge, we trust God to bring justice; and if He doesn’t, if that person just keeps on succeeding despite their cotton-headed-ninny-mugginess, we are to celebrate with them.

God understands that we desire the worst for them – but He requires that we love them anyway.

Because while you were the worst you could be, that’s what He did for you.