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Saturday, February 15 2020

“For your eyes have seen all the great work of the LORD that He did” (Deut 11:7 ESV). Moses reminded Israel of God’s discipline when He brought them out of Egypt by signs before Pharaoh including destroying Pharaoh’s army by the waters of the Red Sea (Deut 11:3–6). What signs have you seen that God has done? Consider every cooing baby and all the life on the earth, and look at every starry nightfall and glowing daybreak that displays the creation of the universe. What is the enduring purpose of it all but signs in an amazing display of creative power in every work of God?

 

Have you seen signs in your life as God has brought you through times that you couldn’t imagine facing? Consider God’s discipline of His people of Israel:

 

1. Those who love God and keep His commands see how God disciplines His people (Deut 11:1). God disciplines His people with an outstretched hand. God brings His people through difficult trials to make them better people. This is true for His people of Israel in the Old Testament and for His people, the church, in the New Testament. The writer of Hebrews revealed that God disciplines His people for their own good (Heb 12:7, 10). God’s discipline for His children is not pleasant but produces “the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb 12:11).

 

2. Those who keep God’s commands become strong (Deut 11:8)When people are obedient to God and keep His whole command, then God gives them strength. God told Israel that they would be strong to overcome the inhabitants of the land of Canaan by remaining obedient to His commands (Deut 11:8–9). Furthermore, God blessed Israel by giving them a promised land that flows with milk and honey receiving heaven’s rains upon its hill and valleys, because God cares for the land and His eyes are on it throughout the year (11:11–12).

 

3. God provides for those who love Him and keep His commandments (Deut 11:13)For this reason, Moses taught Israel to serve God with all their heart and soul, because God did not want Israel to be led away by other gods (11:16). God warned Israel that they would face the curse of His anger if they went after such gods. God promised the curse of shutting up the rains of the heavens. Pagan gods are evil invented for the worship of mammon and lusts leaving their worshipers without pity to sacrifice their own children in fire.

 

4. God’s words are to be on one’s heart and soul (Deut 11:18)God’s words are to be like a sign on the hand or on the frontlets of the eyes. In other words, God’s people must put God’s words before them in all they do with their hands and perceive with their eyes. The Word of God will change the believer's perception when it is foremost in one’s life. For this reason, the believer should teach their children when sitting, walking, rising, and laying (Deut 11:19). God’s words belong written on our doorposts and gates as a constant reminder of going in and out (11:20).

 

Everyone who comes near our homes should know where we stand with God. Imagine posting Scriptures above the doors of your home and over the gates of your fence. No one in your home will escape the priority of God’s words in your lives. Furthermore, think about what causes you to be encouraged and talk about your faith. Keep following that route and continue to read and share those scriptures with your family. Don’t keep it shut up from your children.

            God set before His people of Israel both a blessing and a curse (Deut 11:26–28). Today, this is true for all people. Rebellion against God is a cursed life, but a righteous life is a blessing. We may not have the individual power and influence to change the world by politics and edicts, but we can change the world around us by the strength given to us by God's Spirit (Eph 3:16). We can affect change in the people around us by obeying God with all our heart and soul and so love others with the love that God has poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Posted by: Scott J Shifferd AT 07:30 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, February 10 2020

Forty years after God spoke from the fire of the cloud on Mount Sinai, Moses again instructed God’s people of Israel on the east side of the Jordan River. They were preparing to cross over into the Promised Land. They completed their wilderness journey and were set to engage in conflict with the wicked nations of Canaan. Within this setting, Moses’s preparation was to remind them of God and His Law for them. Moses reminded Israel of the Ten Commands given from Mount Horeb (Deut 5). God gave the Law to Israel so that they may live (Deut 5:32–33).

 

Today, few people think about God before doing what they plan to do. James wrote, “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’” (Jas 4:15 ESV). Christians can gain great insights about God from Moses’s teaching in Deuteronomy 6. Moses is the archetypal leader of a people who proclaims values of justice and love based upon the nature of the Creator of the universe. Israel represents the nature of humanity to wrestle with God. Some live by faith and others rebel. Within our families, we see foolish rebellion after growing up in Christian homes and the faithful immerging from desperate circumstances.

 

1. Obeying God’s commands ensures receiving God’s blessings (Deut 6:1–3). God gave the blessings of life, freedom, and land to Israel according to His promise to Abraham who received them by faith. Neither Israel nor their patriarchs earned God’s favor but received His gifts. God gave commands to live in a way that ensured the safety and welfare of the people of Israel. Today, God’s commands are for the betterment of those who obey Him. Life is better according to God’s way.

 

2. Love Yahweh God with all your heart, soul, and strength (Deut 6:4–6). The rebellious heart responds, “Why should I? Who is God?” God gives everyone life, breath, and a world within to live. The foolish support rebelling against the God who gives life, offers to prolong life, and gives eternal life to the faithful. Therefore, God is more than worthy of love, admiration, and worship.

 

3. Teach and talk of God’s commands especially to your children (Deut 6:7–9). The fool teaches his children while judging others and not recognizing that he is a sinner too who must come to repentance. Moses’s command was not to teach their children only on special occasions or only when asked but to teach children diligently when one sits, walks, lies down, and rises up.

 

4. Do not forget the LORD (Deut 6:10–19). People forget what gifts they received last year and who gave them the gifts. Moses warned Israel not to receive the land and forget their God. People live life not thinking about the God who gave them life. Few consider their lives and the world in which they so happen to fit and survive has a greater Cause, purpose, and meaning then to live as one wants.

5. God gives commands for the good of His people (Deut 6:20–25). God’s commands are not arbitrary or selfish. His commands reflect His loving nature for His people — the faithful. Moses taught, “And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day” (Deut 6:24).

Posted by: Scott J Shifferd AT 10:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Saturday, February 08 2020

Look at the horizon. That’s what I do to rest and see the beauty of God’s Creation. This amazing world is the setting of our journey and conflicts. As Christians, we have the mission to pull down the walls and destroy the castles set against the knowledge of God and take thoughts captive to obey Christ (2 Cor 10:4–6). Proclaiming God is a part of sharing the Gospel in the world and making disciples. The apostle Paul proclaimed “the living God” those who wanted to offer sacrifices to Barnabas and him in Lystra. The apostle spoke that God created the heavens, the earth, and the sea, and God gives the rains and the fruitful seasons (Acts 14:14–18).

            Being a Christian means coming to know God — the Creator of the universe. A person’s salvation is dependent upon knowing God (2 Thess 1:7–9). One must have a zeal for God according to knowledge (Rom 10:2). For this reason, one must study and learn to know God and perceive the attributes of God throughout the Bible and as displayed in the Creation. Deuteronomy reveals much about God’s nature. Consider these observations about God from Deuteronomy 8:

 

1. God wants His people to be careful to keep His whole command and so live (Deut 8:1, 6). Jesus revealed that His words are spirit and life (John 6:63). No one has a “spiritual life” without the words of Christ. John wrote, “And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it” (2 John 6 ESV).

 

2. God humbles His people through the trials of life to bring them to live by God’s Word. God humbled Israel while in the wilderness (Deut 8:2–3, 16). God wanted Israel to hunger and be fed with manna from Him to know that “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deut 8:3). Likewise, Christians suffer with Christ and that produces endurance, character, and hope (Rom 5:3–5; 1 Pet 4:13).

 

3. God disciplines His people as a father disciplines his son (Deut 8:5). Moses revealed, “Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you” (8:5). Likewise, God disciplines those whom He loves as a father who delights in his son (Prov 3:12; Heb 12:6).

 

4. The faithful thank God for the good that God has given them (8:10; 8:17–18). Moses warned Israel not to credit themselves for the good that has come to them. “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day” (Deut 8:17–18). God will give those who do not thank and honor Him over to lusts and passions of dishonor (Rom 1:18–28).

 

5. A person forgets God by not keeping His commands (8:11). Moses warned that if Israel forgot God and served other gods then they will perish (Deut 8:19–20). Those who forget God cannot obey Him. Many people live without much thought of God today and they will perish (2 Thess 1:7–9). The same is true for believers who leave God to worship wealth, recreation, influence, and lusts.

 

Thank God and humble yourself before Him. Obey God’s Word and live in His commands because His commands are for your good. Remember all that He has given you.

Posted by: Scott J Shifferd AT 07:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Saturday, December 28 2019

From the creation of the earth, the formation of light, the earth bringing form life, and God creating humanity in Their likeness, people have wonder with imagination about the genesis of the heavens and the earth. Because of the existence of the universe, humanity can observe the attributes of its cause — the Creator. The biblical writer, Paul declared, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Rom 1:20a). Everyone is able to see God’s attributes plainly in the creation. The Book of Deuteronomy aligns perfectly with God’s attributes of reason and wisdom revealed in God’s creation for humanity to observe.

 

In Deuteronomy, Moses revealed much about God:

 

5. God spoke directly to the people that He has chosen. God gave Israel the highest moral ethic and national sense of justice that set Israel apart from the nations of the world. God spoke the Ten Commandments out of the fire upon Mount Horeb instilling the fearful expectation of divine justice for breaking away from the standard of impartial justice (Deut 4:9–14). God did this so that only Israel can demonstrate the fact that God spoke to them from the fire of Mount Horeb (4:32–33). God chose the nation of Israel delivering them through many wonders and signs as occurred in Egypt and all the world can observe the attributes the Creator of the universe (Deut 4:34; cf. 4:36–38).

 

6. God has no form of a body. No one saw any form of God on Mount Horeb (Mt. Sinai). For this reason, God warned and commanded that Israel not to make any carved image in the form of a male or female person or of any living thing, because “you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire” (Deut 4:15–16 ESV). Moses warned that such images would lead them away from God in idolatry. Furthermore, Jesus revealed that God is Spirit, and later, Jesus observed that spirits do not have flesh and blood (John 4:24; cf. Luke 24:39).

 

7. Everyone can find God. God warned Israel not to make idols because God in His anger will drive them out of the land to live among the nations and worship their gods. God promised that they will seek God again and find Him. Moses revealed, “But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find Him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut 4:29). God has set all peoples in all nations to seek and find Him, because God is not far from anyone (Acts 17:26–27; cf. Rom 1:19–20).

 

8. God is Yahweh — the only God — the God of the universe. God spoke to Israel from the fire of Mt. Horeb, because God loved their fathers who were faithful to God (Deut 4:36–37). By God, Moses attested, “To you it was shown, that you might know that Yahweh is God; there is no other besides Him” (Deut 4:35). God sets the standard that can unite a nation. Therefore, a nation can survive who declare and live by “In God we trust” (Isa 36:7). God had shown Israel great signs and wonders taking them out of slavery and into a land where God will drive out the inhabitants before them (Deut 4:33–34, 36–38). Moses declared, “Know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other” (Deut 4:39).

Everyone can know that the Creator of the universe is not far from anyone. God has given commands as wisdom and understanding to help us. In these last days, God “has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (Heb 1:2).

Posted by: Scott J Shifferd AT 07:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, December 27 2019

Who is the God who spoke to the people of Israel from Mount Sinai? The text of Deuteronomy reveals many things about God. The transcendent causal Creator of the universe has revealed Himself in His creation, so that the universe displays God’s attributes of “His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Rom 1:20b). The study of the attributes of God is “theology,” and the theology revealed by the universe is “natural theology.” All that Moses revealed about God the Bible aligns with “natural theology” as displayed by the reason and science of the universe.

 

Moses revealed and recorded:

 

1. God gives commands to help His people. God’s relationship with His people sets an ancient model for every nation to establish order and protect the people by the highest ideals according to the great standard — God. At the beginning and end of this section of Scripture, Moses commanded Israel to keep God’s statutes and commands for their own good (Deut 4:1, 40). Furthermore, Moses commanded Israel to keep God’s commands that life may go well for them and their children so that they would live long in the land (Deut 4:40).

           

2. God’s laws are better than man’s laws. Moses commanded, “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you” (Deut 4:2). Moses reflected upon God’s justice to destroy the men who rebelled against God by choosing to worship Baal so they could sleep with other women (Deut 4:3; Num 25). While humanity has thought to progress the universal ethic and change reality to match their wants and desires, God does not change and He knows what is best for each nation. No nation can improve its laws without the highest ideals according to the most perfect standard — God.

 

3. God’s laws and statutes are wisdom and understanding. The greatest nation should be defined as having the greatest ethical ideals. God’s nation of people have laws that cause the nations of the world to respect them and admire their God. Regarding God’s Law, Moses commanded, “Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’” (Deut 4:6; cf. Deut 4:5–8; Ps 119:98–105).

 

4. God wants His people to work diligently not to forget God’s works from their hearts. The model of God and Israel tells another truth more than that laws order a nation, but God’s highest teaching and wisdom belong on the hearts of every citizen and they must work not to forget the righteous instruction of God. Moses instructed, “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life” (Deut 4:9).

Posted by: Scott J Shifferd AT 07:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Thursday, December 26 2019

“And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God's. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’ And I commanded you at that time all the things that you should do” Moses commanded (Deut 1:16–18 ESV).


When I read this, I cannot help but think about the Preamble of the Declaration of the United States and the Bill of Rights. By God’s instruction, the governing authorities are to protect and guard the rights of the people (Prov 31:8–9). God instructed the judges of Israel to judge impartially the Israelite and the alien, because the judgment is God’s judgment. Isaiah revealed, “For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him” (Isa 30:18b; cf. 33:22).

            Without individually rejecting the governing authorities, the American colonies worked to reform their government that Great Britain suspended. The unanimous Declaration of the United States affirmed the rights of every man as created equal and endowed by the Creator with unalienable rights. Furthermore, the Declaration affirmed the necessity and purpose of the government to secure those rights. For the Representatives of the General Congress of the United States published independence “appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions” and pledged their lives to one another “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence.”

            Today, government authorities still stand before God for their actions and God will bring justice (cf. Rev 19:1–2; 20:7–10). God has set today’s authorities to enact justice (1 Pet 2:13–15; cf Rom 13:3–4; Titus 3:1–2). However, many politicians and officials are intimidated and extorted to act partially and ignore justice. Politicians promise great things until the corrupt threaten to slander or uncover secret sins.

            God’s laws for Israel protected and guarded the rights of life, liberty, and property among the people of Israel and strangers in the land. God gave Israel the prerogative to choose their own leaders so that ancient Israel was a republic. Moses instructed Israel, “Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads” (Deut 1:13). God knew that Israel would one day ask for a king to judge and reign over them (Deut 17:14–15). Samuel warned them of the heavy burdens of labor and taxes from kings (1 Sam 8:4–18).

            Thank God for the government that secures rights for the people, and trust God to bring justice on those who do not. Thank God for the freedom that Christians have. Subject to the governing authority, be ready to do every good work, and speak evil of no one (Titus 3:1–2).

            When Jesus resurrected, He declared, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt 28:18; cf. Isa 9:6–7). Jesus is the ruler over the kings of the earth. He is the emperor — the King of kings (1 Tim 1:17; 6:15–16; Rev 1:5).

Posted by: Scott J Shifferd AT 07:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, December 16 2019

The United States government grants a federal holiday and recognizes Christmas as a national holiday. However, the Supreme Court noted that it is also a secular holiday. That is strange because the original meaning of holiday was “holy day” and this word has become secular — nonreligious without recognition of God. However, the national recognition of the birth of Jesus at Christmas is both encouraging and yet concerning. For Christians, we must be ready in this season to proclaim the gospel and teach devotion to God as Jesus did at Hanukkah (John 10:22–39).

            The Bible does not specify or command the celebration of Jesus’s birth on December 25 (or January 6). The oldest record of Christians observing December 25 as the birthday of Jesus comes from an early Christian writer Hippolytus who wrote in the early third century AD (Commentary on the Book of Daniel 4.23.3). However, most early Christian writers did not agree on the time of Jesus's birth. Christmas by definition is an early Roman church tradition as indicated by “mass” in the word “Christmas.” Historically, many protestant and reformed Christians opposed celebrating Christmas. Some have claimed that Christmas was originally a pagan holiday, but the evidence is lacking. Every observance of a day can be attributed to one of many pagan holidays, but such is parallelomania. Anyone educated in Christianity knows that Jesus was a Jew and His teachings built on the Jewish Scriptures of the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms (cf. Luke 24:44).

             What are Christians to do with observing special days? Christians are to maintain the God-given traditions just as God has given them (1 Cor 11:2; 2 Thess 2:15; 3:6). The Scriptures do infer the significance of the first day of the week for assembly as “the Lord’s Day” (Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1–3; cf. Acts 20:7; Rev 1:10). For the faithful, the Lord’s Day for assembly and every day is committed to observing the coming of the Son of God in the flesh and Christ’s resurrection to conquer death (1 Cor 15:25–26, 54–55; 2 Tim 1:10; 1 John 4:2–3). Because Christmas is not a biblical holiday, the church should not publically recognize and observe the manmade tradition of December 25 as the day of Jesus’s birth. Recognizing Christmas as a church would imply the day is truly the day of Jesus’s birth and infer observance of a manmade tradition on fellow believers.

            The Christian Scriptures address how the faithful are to approach the observation of days. The apostle Paul wrote, “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord” (Rom 14:5–6a ESV). Furthermore, Paul taught the church not to judge or to despise one another over food or observing days because God is the Judge (Rom 14:10, 13). However, the apostle also taught the church at Colossi, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col 2:16–17).

            Christians should not divide or drive away believers who observe days to the Lord. For harmony and unity, Paul concluded by teaching the Christians in Rome to bear with the weak and build up one another (Rom 15:1–2; cf. 15:5–7). However, Christians do have the right and duty to warn about manmade traditions and observances of days that can lead the weak away from Christ. Paul warned, “You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain” (Gal 4:10).

            Be gentle and respectful with those who observe Christmas as Jesus’s birth. Make good use of a nation recognizing a special day to Jesus of Nazareth. Because many are recognizing Jesus, share the gospel. Like the angel to the shepherds, let us say, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10).

Posted by: Scott J Shifferd AT 08:00 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
 

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