Thursday, March 18, 2010

Gotta know the rules!

They say one of the many differences between men and women is their approach to rules.

Get a large group together to play a game. The women begin chatting and bonding. The men need to establish what the goal of the game is, and what the rules are to play by. How can you win, if you don't know what the end goal is? How can you strategize to win, if you don't know the rules?

God made the rules very clear to Moses. He presented them in a way that got everyones attention.

Deuteronomy 5:1 "Moses called all the people of Israel together and said, “Listen carefully, Israel. Hear the decrees and regulations I am giving you today, so you may learn them and obey them!

2 “The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Mount Sinai.[a] 3 The Lord did not make this covenant with our ancestors, but with all of us who are alive today. 4 At the mountain the Lord spoke to you face to face from the heart of the fire. 5 I stood as an intermediary between you and the Lord, for you were afraid of the fire and did not want to approach the mountain. He spoke to me, and I passed his words on to you. This is what he said:

6 “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.

7 “You must not have any other god but me.

8 “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind, or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. 9 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. 10 But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those[b] who love me and obey my commands.

11 “You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.

12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 13 You have six days each week for your ordinary work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. This includes you, your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, your oxen and donkeys and other livestock, and any foreigners living among you. All your male and female servants must rest as you do. 15 Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt, but the Lord your God brought you out with his strong hand and powerful arm. That is why the Lord your God has commanded you to rest on the Sabbath day.

16 “Honor your father and mother, as the Lord your God commanded you. Then you will live a long, full life in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

17 “You must not murder.
18 “You must not commit adultery.
19 “You must not steal.
20 “You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.
21 “You must not covet your neighbor’s wife. You must not covet your neighbor’s house or land, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.

22 “The Lord spoke these words to all of you assembled there at the foot of the mountain. He spoke with a loud voice from the heart of the fire, surrounded by clouds and deep darkness. This was all he said at that time, and he wrote his words on two stone tablets and gave them to me.

23 “But when you heard the voice from the heart of the darkness, while the mountain was blazing with fire, all your tribal leaders and elders came to me. 24 They said, ‘Look, the Lord our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice from the heart of the fire. Today we have seen that God can speak to us humans, and yet we live! 25 But now, why should we risk death again? If the Lord our God speaks to us again, we will certainly die and be consumed by this awesome fire. 26 Can any living thing hear the voice of the living God from the heart of the fire as we did and yet survive? 27 Go yourself and listen to what the Lord our God says. Then come and tell us everything he tells you, and we will listen and obey.’

Gotta know the rules!

Obey Them So That You May Live

Generally speaking, we do not like to obey.

However, North American society is very rules oriented, and the culture generally is very orderly and polite. Yesterday I was showing houses to a client. We came to two round a bouts in a row. At the second one, a lady was coming into the roundabout. She paused and waited for me to go by before entering. I waived happily as I drove around ahead of her. She guided her car into the roundabout after I had gone by.

I commented to my client that in Colombia, where I grew up, there are many roundabouts. People charge into them with abandon. Sometimes they get completely choked up so no one can move.

We hire lots and lots of police to monitor every thing from speed limits, to wearing seatbelts, to cell phone use.

There were no traffic laws in Moses' day. Come to think of it - there was no traffic in the desert! But God did have rules of conduct...

“And now, Israel, listen carefully to these decrees and regulations that I am about to teach you. Obey them so that you may live, so you may enter and occupy the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. 2 Do not add to or subtract from these commands I am giving you. Just obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you.

3 “You saw for yourself what the Lord did to you at Baal-peor. There the Lord your God destroyed everyone who had worshiped Baal, the god of Peor. 4 But all of you who were faithful to the Lord your God are still alive today—every one of you.

5 “Look, I now teach you these decrees and regulations just as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may obey them in the land you are about to enter and occupy. 6 Obey them completely, and you will display your wisdom and intelligence among the surrounding nations. When they hear all these decrees, they will exclaim, ‘How wise and prudent are the people of this great nation!’ 7 For what great nation has a god as near to them as the Lord our God is near to us whenever we call on him? 8 And what great nation has decrees and regulations as righteous and fair as this body of instructions that I am giving you today?

9 “But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren. 10 Never forget the day when you stood before the Lord your God at Mount Sinai,[e] where he told me, ‘Summon the people before me, and I will personally instruct them. Then they will learn to fear me as long as they live, and they will teach their children to fear me also.’

11 “You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while flames from the mountain shot into the sky. The mountain was shrouded in black clouds and deep darkness. 12 And the Lord spoke to you from the heart of the fire. You heard the sound of his words but didn’t see his form; there was only a voice. 13 He proclaimed his covenant—the Ten Commandments[f]—which he commanded you to keep, and which he wrote on two stone tablets. 14 It was at that time that the Lord commanded me to teach you his decrees and regulations so you would obey them in the land you are about to enter and occupy."

God does have rules.

Obey them so that you may live!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What happens when you don't get your way?

Have you ever asked God for something, but an entirely different result happened?

For me, the biggest time this happened was when my sister died. She was 44 and had a loving husband and three kids at home. I prayed long and hard for God to heal her. And she died, after a long period of intense suffering and pain.

And it made no sense to me.

I was angry, disappointed, hurt and shaken. I knew God was up there, but He was making huge mistakes with my sister and her family and he wasn't listening to me with the most obvious solution. She needed to be miraculously healed!

Little did I realize that the same thing happened to Moses.

Yeah! Moses!

21 “At that time I gave Joshua this charge: ‘You have seen for yourself everything the Lord your God has done to these two kings. He will do the same to all the kingdoms on the west side of the Jordan. 22 Do not be afraid of the nations there, for the Lord your God will fight for you.’


23 “At that time I pleaded with the Lord and said, 24 ‘O Sovereign Lord, you have only begun to show your greatness and the strength of your hand to me, your servant. Is there any god in heaven or on earth who can perform such great and mighty deeds as you do? 25 Please let me cross the Jordan to see the wonderful land on the other side, the beautiful hill country and the Lebanon mountains.’

26 “But the Lord was angry with me because of you, and he would not listen to me. ‘That’s enough!’ he declared. ‘Speak of it no more. 27 But go up to Pisgah Peak, and look over the land in every direction. Take a good look, but you may not cross the Jordan River. 28 Instead, commission Joshua and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead the people across the Jordan. He will give them all the land you now see before you as their possession.’ 29 So we stayed in the valley near Beth-peor."

Was Moses bitter?

Was he angry?

He was surely disappointed!

Yeah - even Moses...

We CRUSHED him!

Its a guy thing. You don't want to just win. You want to win decisively!

You wouldn't hear a group of women saying this. But among guys, it is just typical trash talk.

"We CRUSHED him!"

Well, today Moses is "trash talkin'".

26 "Moses continued, “From the wilderness of Kedemoth I sent ambassadors to King Sihon of Heshbon with this proposal of peace:

27 ‘Let us travel through your land. We will stay on the main road and won’t turn off into the fields on either side. 28 Sell us food to eat and water to drink, and we will pay for it. All we want is permission to pass through your land. 29 The descendants of Esau who live in Seir allowed us to go through their country, and so did the Moabites, who live in Ar. Let us pass through until we cross the Jordan into the land the Lord our God is giving us.’

30 “But King Sihon of Heshbon refused to allow us to pass through, because the Lord your God made Sihon stubborn and defiant so he could help you defeat him, as he has now done.

31 “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Look, I have begun to hand King Sihon and his land over to you. Begin now to conquer and occupy his land.’

32 “Then King Sihon declared war on us and mobilized his forces at Jahaz. 33 But the Lord our God handed him over to us, and we crushed him, his sons, and all his people. 34 We conquered all his towns and completely destroyed[h] everyone—men, women, and children. Not a single person was spared. 35 We took all the livestock as plunder for ourselves, along with anything of value from the towns we ransacked."

Trash talkin'

From old man Moses himself...

Have you ever felt stuck?

Have you ever felt stuck?

Stuck in your career? Stuck in a physical location? Stuck in a relationship? Stuck in the achievement of your dreams?

Moses, the old man, is revisiting what is known as the "Wanderings" of Israel. It is interesting to hear him recount how many times God said. "Move on!"

Deuteronomy 2

Remembering Israel’s Wanderings
“Then we turned around and headed back across the wilderness toward the Red Sea,[f] just as the Lord had instructed me, and we wandered around in the region of Mount Seir for a long time.

2 “Then at last the Lord said to me, 3 ‘You have been wandering around in this hill country long enough; turn to the north. 4 Give these orders to the people: “You will pass through the country belonging to your relatives the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir. The Edomites will feel threatened, so be careful. 5 Do not bother them, for I have given them all the hill country around Mount Seir as their property, and I will not give you even one square foot of their land. 6 If you need food to eat or water to drink, pay them for it. 7 For the Lord your God has blessed you in everything you have done. He has watched your every step through this great wilderness. During these forty years, the Lord your God has been with you, and you have lacked nothing.”’

8 “So we bypassed the territory of our relatives, the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir. We avoided the road through the Arabah Valley that comes up from Elath and Ezion-geber.

“Then as we turned north along the desert route through Moab, 9 the Lord warned us, ‘Do not bother the Moabites, the descendants of Lot, or start a war with them. I have given them Ar as their property, and I will not give you any of their land.’”

10 (A race of giants called the Emites had once lived in the area of Ar. They were as strong and numerous and tall as the Anakites, another race of giants. 11 Both the Emites and the Anakites are also known as the Rephaites, though the Moabites call them Emites. 12 In earlier times the Horites had lived in Seir, but they were driven out and displaced by the descendants of Esau, just as Israel drove out the people of Canaan when the Lord gave Israel their land.)

13 Moses continued, “Then the Lord said to us, ‘Get moving. Cross the Zered Brook.’ So we crossed the brook.

14 “Thirty-eight years passed from the time we first left Kadesh-barnea until we finally crossed the Zered Brook! By then, all the men old enough to fight in battle had died in the wilderness, as the Lord had vowed would happen. 15 The Lord struck them down until they had all been eliminated from the community.

16 “When all the men of fighting age had died, 17 the Lord said to me, 18 ‘Today you will cross the border of Moab at Ar 19 and enter the land of the Ammonites, the descendants of Lot. But do not bother them or start a war with them. I have given the land of Ammon to them as their property, and I will not give you any of their land.’”

20 (That area was once considered the land of the Rephaites, who had lived there, though the Ammonites call them Zamzummites. 21 They were also as strong and numerous and tall as the Anakites. But the Lord destroyed them so the Ammonites could occupy their land. 22 He had done the same for the descendants of Esau who lived in Seir, for he destroyed the Horites so they could settle there in their place. The descendants of Esau live there to this day. 23 A similar thing happened when the Caphtorites from Crete[g] invaded and destroyed the Avvites, who had lived in villages in the area of Gaza.)

24 Moses continued, “Then the Lord said, ‘Now get moving! Cross the Arnon Gorge. Look, I will hand over to you Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and I will give you his land. Attack him and begin to occupy the land. 25 Beginning today I will make people throughout the earth terrified because of you. When they hear reports about you, they will tremble with dread and fear.’”

I'm sure at the time the wait seemed endless, the milling around seemed purposeless and the accomplishments seemed useless.

But in the end, the purposes of God were accomplished, the people of God DID enter the promised land, and Moses is remembered as a hero.

I think I could settle for that!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Moses sent 12 men into the promised land. These were leaders. Valiant men. Courageous. They went in to a dangerous territory in which they could be killed.

19 “Then, just as the Lord our God commanded us, we left Mount Sinai and traveled through the great and terrifying wilderness, as you yourselves remember, and headed toward the hill country of the Amorites. When we arrived at Kadesh-barnea, 20 I said to you, ‘You have now reached the hill country of the Amorites that the Lord our God is giving us. 21 Look! He has placed the land in front of you. Go and occupy it as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you. Don’t be afraid! Don’t be discouraged!’


22 “But you all came to me and said, ‘First, let’s send out scouts to explore the land for us. They will advise us on the best route to take and which towns we should enter.’

23 “This seemed like a good idea to me, so I chose twelve scouts, one from each of your tribes. 24 They headed for the hill country and came to the valley of Eshcol and explored it. 25 They picked some of its fruit and brought it back to us. And they reported, ‘The land the Lord our God has given us is indeed a good land.’

First, the people wanted to do things their way instead of God's way. Then they were overtaken by fear. Then they rebelled against the command of the Lord.

26 “But you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God and refused to go in. 27 You complained in your tents and said, ‘The Lord must hate us. That’s why he has brought us here from Egypt—to hand us over to the Amorites to be slaughtered. 28 Where can we go? Our brothers have demoralized us with their report. They tell us, “The people of the land are taller and more powerful than we are, and their towns are large, with walls rising high into the sky! We even saw giants there—the descendants of Anak!”’

29 “But I said to you, ‘Don’t be shocked or afraid of them! 30 The Lord your God is going ahead of you. He will fight for you, just as you saw him do in Egypt. 31 And you saw how the Lord your God cared for you all along the way as you traveled through the wilderness, just as a father cares for his child. Now he has brought you to this place.’

32 “But even after all he did, you refused to trust the Lord your God, 33 who goes before you looking for the best places to camp, guiding you with a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day."

They didn't trust the Lord. They complained.

34 “When the Lord heard your complaining, he became very angry. So he solemnly swore, 35 ‘Not one of you from this wicked generation will live to see the good land I swore to give your ancestors, 36 except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see this land because he has followed the Lord completely. I will give to him and his descendants some of the very land he explored during his scouting mission.’

37 “And the Lord was also angry with me because of you. He said to me, ‘Moses, not even you will enter the Promised Land! 38 Instead, your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will lead the people into the land. Encourage him, for he will lead Israel as they take possession of it. 39 I will give the land to your little ones—your innocent children. You were afraid they would be captured, but they will be the ones who occupy it. 40 As for you, turn around now and go on back through the wilderness toward the Red Sea.[e]’

41 “Then you confessed, ‘We have sinned against the Lord! We will go into the land and fight for it, as the Lord our God has commanded us.’ So your men strapped on their weapons, thinking it would be easy to attack the hill country.

42 “But the Lord told me to tell you, ‘Do not attack, for I am not with you. If you go ahead on your own, you will be crushed by your enemies.’

43 “This is what I told you, but you would not listen. Instead, you again rebelled against the Lord’s command and arrogantly went into the hill country to fight. 44 But the Amorites who lived there came out against you like a swarm of bees. They chased and battered you all the way from Seir to Hormah. 45 Then you returned and wept before the Lord, but he refused to listen. 46 So you stayed there at Kadesh for a long time."

Trust and obey. For there is no other way...

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dooter Dooter Dooter Dooter Onomy

Dooter Dooter Dooter Dooter Onomy,
Its the fifth book of the Bible you see,
Dooter Dooter Dooter Dooter Onomy,
Full of excellent instructions for me!

(Words and music copyright, Phil Leng)

This is a great book. Full of practical wisdom. Moses is older and much of what he writes has the tone of recapping, reminiscing and story telling. At the end of the book he is an old man, and he wanders off, still best friends with God, to die at the top of Mount Nebo.

Deuteronomy1:1 "These are the words that Moses spoke to all the people of Israel while they were in the wilderness east of the Jordan River. They were camped in the Jordan Valley[a] near Suph, between Paran on one side and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth, and Di-zahab on the other.

2 Normally it takes only eleven days to travel from Mount Sinai[b] to Kadesh-barnea, going by way of Mount Seir. 3 But forty years after the Israelites left Egypt, on the first day of the eleventh month,[c] Moses addressed the people of Israel, telling them everything the Lord had commanded him to say. 4 This took place after he had defeated King Sihon of the Amorites, who had ruled in Heshbon, and King Og of Bashan, who had ruled in Ashtaroth and Edrei.

5 While the Israelites were in the land of Moab east of the Jordan River, Moses carefully explained the Lord’s instructions as follows."

Ouch!

Moses writes down that they could have gotten to the promised land in 11 days. Instead, it took 40 years!

What if we fully believed God?

What if we fully obeyed God?

Would our journey through life be different?

Something to think about...