Deuteronomy 30:15-19 – Choose The Good

Deuteronomy 30:15-19
15
 See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil;
16 In that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it.
17 But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them;
18 I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it.
19 I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:

-The Bible teaches that when we are tempted, we should never accuse God of tempting us; for God can neither be tempted with sin or tempt others with sin. (James 1:13)  But we also know that God is in control of everything so He is ultimately responsible for everything that happens in our lives. (Isaiah 45:7)  How do we reconcile these two truths?  How can the Lord be responsible for things that tempt us, yet not be responsible for tempting us?  The key is in the word “tempt” which means “to entice or allure to do something often regarded as unwise, wrong, or immoral”.  As we see in today’s scripture, God does set before us the path of good and the path of evil, but the key is that the Lord explains the consequences of both and encourages us to choose good and life.  The Lord doesn’t want you to sin, He wants you to succeed.  “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

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Luke 18:9-14 – He That Humbleth Himself…

Luke 18:9-14
9
And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

-Being judgmental, sanctimonious, holier-than-thou, elitist, snooty, whatever you want to call it, it’s one of the most common human behaviors and even the nicest and most humble among us have been guilty of it at some point.  All pride is born of ignorance for “if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” (Galatians 6:3) That means pride will never be profitable, not to mention the fact that the Lord absolutely hates it (Proverbs 8:13).  If we could get through the rest of our days without ever feeling this way, we would be much better off; but that can be easier said than done.  If you ever feel this mindset coming on, remember that the people around you are made out of the same dirt that you are.

Genesis 16:6-13 – The Lord Hears

Genesis 16:6-13
6
But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thine hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face.
7 And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.
8 And he said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.
9 And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.
10 And the angel of the Lord said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.
11 And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Behold, thou art with child and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the Lord hath heard thy affliction.
12 And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.
13 And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?

-The name Ishmael means “The Lord Hears” and is the defining aspect of Hagar and her son’s whole life.  Hagar was used by Abram and Sarai to suit their needs only to be despised and driven away by their cruelty.  Hagar could have died an ignoble death in the wilderness and no one would have noticed, but “The Lord heard”.  Hagar’s story is my story and your story.  The Lord could have left us to die in the wilderness and eternity would never have even noticed.  But God heard the cries of a people who were no people; He gave attention to a people who were beneath His attention.  Then He did something even more wondrous; He provided His mercy, protection, and blessing while promising a happy ending.

Hebrews 1:2-3 – By Himself

Hebrews 1:2-3
1
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:

-Lest we ever be tempted to share any of the Lord’s glory with another, the Bible reminds us here that it was Jesus Christ who paid the price for our sins all by himself.  There were no angels with Him, no church elders with Him; no one else finished His course with Him.  Why is this important?  If your child had sacrificed their life to save others, would you want anyone else getting credit for it?  Yet we do that to God all the time.  Anytime we miss an opportunity to thank the Lord and acknowledge what He alone has done, we offend God.  Anytime we try to find another way out of our problems, we basically give credit to whatever we end up seeking whether it is false religions, drugs, alcohol or whatever the case may be.  Remember that Allah didn’t die on a cross for you, Buddha didn’t die on a cross for you, Budweiser didn’t die on a cross for you; Jesus Christ died on a cross for you.

John 11:40-44 – Let Him Go

John 11:40-44
40
Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?
41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.
42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.
43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.

-Is anything impossible with God?  Here Jesus calls forth one of his servants from where he had been laid four days prior.  For anyone else this would present a problem considering Lazarus’ body is bound by wraps and his spirit is bound by death.  However, the Word of God never returns void and not even death itself can stand in the way of the Lord’s command for your life.  Death took Lazarus only by the allowance of God and Death held Lazarus only at the discretion of God.  Death may seem inescapable, but Jesus holds the keys of Hell and Death.

Exodus 15:22-25 – Bitter Waters

Exodus 15:22-25
22
So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water.
23 And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah.
24 And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?
25 And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them,

-While making the long journey between Egypt and the Promised Land, the thirsty Hebrew came upon a watering hole.  While usually a sight for sore eyes, in this case the waters were bitter and undrinkable.  This otherwise bad situation was made good by two things: 1) Moses cried out to the Lord, which is always a good start and 2) The Lord showed Moses a tree which, when cast into the bitter waters, made them sweet.  Not just drinkable, not just tolerable, but sweet as honey.  Notice that the tree does not soak up the bitter water like a sponge, the water is still there, but it is changed into something good, something profitable.  In our journeys we will often come upon waters that are too bitter to be swallowed.  But the Lord has another tree, fashioned into the shape of a cross, that when added to your circumstance will take away the bitter sting.  It won’t dry up your waters, they will still be there, but they will be changed into something profitable and sweet to the taste.

John 8:1-11 – Neither Do I Condemn Thee

John 8:1-11
1
Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.
2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.
3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,
4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.
5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?
6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.
8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.
9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

-Caught in the very act; what is the actual “act” of adultery? Sex.  That means the Pharisees caught this woman in the midst of physical intimacy and drug her out to Jesus. What clothing do you think she had time to grab on the way out? Probably not much. So here is a half-naked woman being carried down the street. Where did they take her? To the feet of Jesus, obviously, but look again at verse 2; the Pharisees plopped her down right in the middle of Jesus’ Bible Study class!

They certainly thought they had a winner this time; they could trap Jesus and then get rid of the girl. Think about it, if Jesus agreed with the Pharisees, then all His teachings on mercy and second chances would be null and void; but if He disagrees, they would have cause to label Him a lawbreaker and a heretic. They found themselves ill-prepared, however, for the force of the Lord’s response; not that he stood up screaming or came out swinging, but the fact that “the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) The words that Jesus spoke cut right through the hatred and self-righteousness of the Pharisees and left behind shame and conviction; so much so that they could no longer bear to be in the presence of God’s Lamb or the poor sinner to whom He had extended mercy.

And what of this poor sinner? As ashamed and humiliated as she must have been, consider the indescribable service that the Pharisees did for her that day; they plucked her out of her sin and brought her straight to Jesus, straight to mercy, straight to freedom. What does this mean for us? Two things: 1) God can save us from our ugliest sins even while we are in the very act. 2) If the Lord can use the rotten lives of the Pharisees to work salvation in the lives of a sinner, imagine what He can do with someone who willingly yields their life to His service.

Philippians 2:14-15 – Blameless and Harmless

Philippians 2:14-15
14
Do all things without murmurings and disputings:
15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;

Verse 14 is a mouthful; it can be difficult enough to simply do all things sometimes, much less doing all those things without complaint or contention.  But consider the reasons given in verse 15:  To be blameless shows that a bad attitude will reflect poorly on both us and God, because if a Christian can’t take bad circumstances in stride, what does that say about the depth of our God and our Salvation?  The second qualifier is just as important- harmless.  We are under constant observation by those around us and the things we say and do have a profound impact whether we want to admit it or not.  Your behavior could be teaching a young person that it’s okay to be a dimly lit Christian or it could be giving an unbeliever evidence that there is nothing really special about serving the Lord.  The Bible warns us not to be a stumbling block (Romans 10:32), so if you’re struggling to fulfill Philippians 2:14, do it for the sake of all those you might trip up along the way.

Genesis 18:10-14 – Is anything too hard for the Lord?

Genesis 18:10-14
10
And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.
11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?
13 And the Lord said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?
14 Is any thing too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.

-With a gentle rebuke, the Lord reminds Sarah that it is unwise to judge God by human standards.  Having a child becomes a physiological impossibility at a certain point in life, even by today’s medical standards.  Based on that, it would have been easy for any of us to reach the same conclusion as Sarah; laughing at the absurdity.  But then God asks the question that we must always remember- “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”  Even if we can’t do it, God still can; even if we don’t understand it, God does understand it.  It doesn’t matter what “it” may be in your life.  Can God?  God can!

1 Corinthians 1:23-24 – We Preach Christ

1 Corinthians 1:23-24
23
But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness;
24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

-What separates true Christianity from every other “religion” in history (aside from Christianity being real) is that all religion is built upon rules and ceremony.  Rituals that must be kept, elaborate proceedings and steps that keep everything moving along.  Our faith requires none of that.  Christianity is not about a service, it is not about a building, and it is not about legalities.  Christianity is all about Jesus Christ- a man who was also God.  He is the start and end of our religion; “the author and finisher of our faith”. (Hebrews 12:2)  The more you can learn about God’s Word and His plan for the Universe, the better off you’ll be; but if you don’t know anything else, just know Jesus- and that will be enough.