“These Forty Years…”! How to be ‘Successful’!

Repetition can be vain, but not if it calls people back to God, and encourages faithfulness to him. A British professor lectures at a Chinese university through a translator. His long delivery is summed up at fifteen minute breaks with three short statements. Finally the audience bow respectively and leave! The Professor later finds out what the translator’s 3 statements actually said: (#1) The professor has so far said nothing new, (#2) I don’t think this professor is going to say anything new to us, (#3) I was right, he did not say anything new at all!!

Deuteronomy (8:1-10) is Moses’ rehearsal of God’s covenantal promises – laws yet expressions of God’s love for a new generation settling east of Jordon before the conquest of their land. The emphasis is on God’s sovereignty in choosing to bless Israel among all other nations. This came with the responsibility to obey God’s Word and reflect his loving character to “all nations”!

This speech reflects the giving of the original law at Sinai or Horeb. Moses at Moab highlights: 1) the love of God 2) the Word of God and 3) their Way of life. It can be titled: “How to be Successful”. Notice the rhetoric is persuasive filled with candid stories from the past, exhorting obedience, so that you may… for what is ahead. The repetition is intentional as the commands warranted enactment. God’s people were to wholeheartedly do all the law required. Any revision is pedagogic, serving as ethical teachings in covenant form on how to now live and showing them it was for their own wellbeing and bright future!

Moses, like Lincoln at the Gettysburg’s address, offers it fresh, simple and memorable: he reminds them of the power of God’s love in deliverance; rescuing them out of Egypt their enemies. He then highlights the wonders of God’s grace in providence; symbolized in sending manna to care for them in the wilderness. Finally he celebrates the richness of God’s mercy in abundance; in bringing them into and securing for them a good “land”! Now at ‘the end of the beginning’ are instructions on how to respond so God makes them truly ‘successful’:

Obedience: adhering to the Torah, God’s Word (8:1-3) ‘so that you may’ more than survive or stay alive but thrive or enjoy the ‘good life’ in the inherited land. Not so much a realization of William James’ self-centered ‘American dream’! But an increase in true prosperity that leads to posterity, the handing down and spreading of faith in a God who is good all the time.
– When you hurt and chastened by God, NB: God is too good to be unkind

Dependence: learning to trust in YHWH alone; Note, at this time, land was still under control of the Canaanites! Always mindful that God is sovereign and in control, Israel is identified as God’s beloved children, not rebellious slaves and they must live as grateful sojourners. This world was not their ultimate home, God was! There is always a lurking danger in times of doubt and danger to become self-sufficient (golden calf) so the ‘forget not, remember’ notes.
– When feeling you’re not going to make it, NB: God is too strong to let you down

Confidence: developing a blessed assurance that testifies, ‘all the way my Savior leads me, what have I to ask besides?’ On one hand is a warning against independence, the ‘we did it!’ mentality and on the other ingratitude at the “place of plenty that can leave us empty of God”. God’s people easily allow arrogance the ‘who needs God!’ attitude make us idolatrous. An over-confidence, God-complex with idols of materialism that are not in the shelf but self!
– When thinking you’ll lose if you trust/obey, NB: God is too wise to make mistakes

This exhortation is to Be careful to obey, then we will always be… joyful. Be mindful to trust, and then we will truly be successful, and Be grateful to bless and walk in God’s ways. Above all to be thankful, God is good/wise all the time and all the time, God is wise/good! God’s Word that reveals his character and covenantal love requires our worship and obedience. His redeeming grace, not our goodness, has given us all things richly to enjoy. Now, we must fear, love, trust, obey and walk worthy of God. So where are we headed? What does our success tell other people about the kind of God we trust and obey?

An Epitaph:
Stop my friend as you go by, where you are now so once was I,
Where I am now, you soon will be, prepare my friend to follow me
A Response:
To follow you is not my intent, until I know which way you went!

Ask! – Taking every need to God, in “Prayer”!

Communication is the building block for any relationships, certainly the believer’s with God as ‘Father’. Prayer is two-way communication. Normally when we read God’s Word he speaks to us and we talk to God in prayer. We won’t find the time to pray, we must make and take time to be holy and talk oft with our God. Jesus taught his followers to, “Ask, and to keep on Asking!”

1. ASK: Jesus’ on “Asking”… (Matthew 6:5-8)
Prayer is proportionate to spiritual power! Jesus in fine Jewish tradition stressed the need for and demonstrated what asking God is all about. He wanted us always to pray and not faint (Luke 8:1; 18:1).  Yet, Jesus questioned pharisaical motives in saying prayers and condemned pagan methods of meaningless babblings directed to impress people rather then get through to God! James (4:2-3) notes that believers have not because we ask not and how often we ask and do not receive because we ask with selfish motives, not according to God’s will.  Jesus taught his followers how to pray and understood this exercise as a means of [divine] grace where God’s Spirit enables us to do his will and develop our relationship with our Father!

2. WHY ASK? The (Lord’s) Disciple’s Prayer:
Christian prayer is not primarily about giving God our wish list or downloading personal needs. Yet asking is essential and there is ample motivation for believers to do so. First, our association with God as “our Father” a way no other religion dares to address God! (Rom. 8:15) This endearing title encourages us as children of Abba God to share our heart’s desires with him. Yet we must keep in mind that he knows our need (and greed) even before we ask (6:8)! Second, we have “free access” to his throne of grace because of Jesus our High Priest! (Heb. 4:16). Third, when we don’t know what to say we have the assistance of the Spirit to ask according to his will. We must be careful to cultivate intimacy and not take this awesome freedom for granted!

3. WHAT to ASK? – Sharing our needs with God:
Notice in the way that Jesus taught us to pray, the first three petitions concern God: his name, his kingdom and his will (6:9-10). The second set of three requests flow out of this and are about our human needs, for: Food – Literally like manna, we need God’s day-by-day providence. Again we remember that our heavenly father knows and will give his children only good gifts, richly to enjoy. Second, Forgiveness – We are prone to wander from God and fall into sin. This affects not only our relationship and ability to share with a holy [hallowed] Father God but the way we treat others! A debtor is someone who has offended another and owes them mercy, not just money. Third, for the Future guidance – Thus we commit ourselves and whatever lies ahead to sovereign God who does not tempt us (Satan does) but leads us in right paths and keeps us from falling!

What a Father we have in heaven! What a Friend we have in Jesus! What a Future we have in the Spirit. So, pray when you feel like it, when you don’t feel like it and until you feel like it!

Never Give Up! Serving Other- 1Thess. 2

Introduction:
Have you felt like giving up lately? What keeps you going? I must be a meaningful relationship that encourages you and you care to cultivate. When someone becomes ‘very dear’ to you, as the Thessalonians had to Paul, it becomes natural to share life’s joys and struggles with them (2.8). A good relationship can ‘spark off’ but strong, significant and lasting ones take time to build and maintain. Here, great need can cause tremendous growth. What does this investment look like? Paul paints 4 pictures for us that help us serve together and not give up in tough times:
1. A Consistent Steward (2:1–6)
The basic, essential requirement of a steward is to be faithful with regard to: (a) The Message: Guarding the Gospel (b) Ministry: Serving Christ’s body (c) Members: Caring for God’s family. Trustworthy stewards willingly endure hardship. They use honest methods with pure motives, never for personal gain. Paul gave praise publicly where due but didn’t fall for flattery.
2. A Caring Mother (2:7–8)
Paul gave himself in the service to others like a ‘nursing mother’ (2:7). We must offer younger disciples TLC (Tender, Loving Care). It is crucial we feed new believers with milk and honey (1Pet.2:2; Psa. 119:3) before they can help themselves with bread and meat (Mt.4:4; 1Cor 3:1-4)
3. A Concerned Father (2:9–16)
Paul perceived the problem in “Bible” churches when he chided: “You have many instructors or teachers but few fathers!” (1Cor.4:15). Children are looking for heroes. If their fathers aren’t spiritual role models, they find them, often in the wrong places! Fathers lead by example, not force. With sacrifice, hard-earned money (2:6) and tough love, they both warn and encourage.
4. A Compassionate Brother (2:17–20)
The local church is a fellowship of “brothers and sisters” where service time is family time. The word com-passion literally means “to suffer with”. So, when away from church, Paul felt like an “orphan”! So he prayed for, corresponded with and couldn’t wait to see his family again. There was someOne else Paul and all true believers loved and long to see again – their Lord Jesus!

Conclusion: Indian Take Away,..
Think: What an honor and privilege to be a trustee of the Gospel that changes people forever!
Q: In what ways do you ‘love on’ new attendees and nurture younger disciples at our church?
A mentor has gone where you want to go and can help you get there! Do you have one? Why?
What’s the best way to be ready for Christ’s 2nd coming? – Keep loving, and serving one another!

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Gethsemane: what to do at your breaking point

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Gethsemane, Aramaic for ‘Oil press’, was an olive garden maintained by wealthy Jews on the west slopes of the Mt. of Olives (Mt. 26:36-41; Lk. 22:42). On his way to Jerusalem, across the Kidron valley, Jesus reveals to his disciples … Continue reading

Jesus… ‘in the midst’

crosses.jpgJesus must be the centre and source of the Christian faith and life. The Good Friday and Easter Sunday events show Jesus dying ‘in the midst’ of two thieves, then manifesting himself ‘in the midst’ of his followers as the resurrected Lord. What was He doing amidst these people? Studying the significance of these occasions will help us understand the reality of Jesus’ oft-quoted promise: Where two or three are gathered in my name there I am ‘in the midst’ (Mt. 18:20) Continue reading

Take a walk… with God!

It was a pleasant Sunday evening as Cleopas and his friend tread a seven mile road toward a town named Emmaus (Lk. 24:13-35). The two were feeling down and disheartened. Jesus, their teacher, had inspired much hope in them but then he was unjustly tried and murdered three days ago. They were further disillusioned as mysterious news concerning his missing body had filtered to their ears that morning Continue reading

God’s “Home” town, Bethlehem: believe it or not!

bethlehem.jpgNo matter where we happen to be, the mention of our native place or “hometown” can recreate fond memories and associations. “Bethlehem” focuses our thoughts on a precise time in history and transports us to a particular place in Palestine where Christmas happened (Lk.2:4). Importantly, it tells the story of a peculiar way in which God revealed himself and his loving purposes to us Continue reading