Deuteronomy 1: 5-6a: Reflection, Not Condemnation

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The old man begins to speak, his voice strong and resonant. Everyone can hear him clearly. No one needs to strain. The atmosphere is electric with excitement—you’re finally going to enter the Promised Land! Yet the reality of this being the old man’s Swan Song covers everything with a wet blanket. No one speaks or even dares to whisper. The people are as still as the air around them. The silence sharpens everyone’s attention, including yours. And the first slide illuminates the screen…

“While the Israelites were in the land of Moab east of the Jordan River, Moses carefully explained the Lord’s instructions as follows. “When we were at Mount Sinai…”
Deuteronomy 1:5-6a NLT

Did you catch that? I almost read right through it. That is, until God threw on the brakes and lit it up in neon…“When we were at Mount Sinai…”

Now, wait a minute! I thought the Israelites’ history started with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? What about Egypt? The Exodus? The Parting of the Red Sea?

Yes, this all part of their history as a people—but not as a nation. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all had an intimate relationship with God; but for them, a nation with people as numerous as the stars was still a promise yet to be realized. And, even though their numbers rivaled that of modern day Chicago; at the time of the Exodus and the crossing of the Red Sea, they were still a people group. Not a nation.

They didn’t become a nation until God met with them at Sinai. Here He offered be their God and them His chosen nation. And in order to complete this contract (covenant) the Israelites had to accept His offer, agree to return His love, follow Him, and obey His commands. And they agreed, allowing this group to be born again—to become something they weren’t—God’s Holy Nation.

Some of you need to hear this today. When God calls us to look back, we’re often afraid He’s going to make us relive the time we were in bondage to sin, before we were His. But that’s not usually the case. He typically wants us to review our history as His Child—from the time we accepted Jesus as our Savior AND chose to follow Him.

God does this to encourage and strengthen us—especially when we’re facing transition. He knows it’s easy to allow fear and anxiety to overwhelm us, to keep us from living up to the potential He’s drawing out of us. He’s also aware of the giants and fortified cities in the land. So He gives us confidence in His ability to get us past the gates or through the walls. As for the giants, He promises to go with into battle and defeat them.

How do I know this? Because this is where I’ve been recently. As a new writer trying to break into the publishing world, there are many giants and countless fortified cities I need to conquer in order to accomplish the task God has given me. It’s terrifying. But when I look back at where God has been faithful despite my faithlessness; where He has lead and guided me when I’ve been lost; how He’s blessed me when I wouldn’t dare ask…I chose to believe Him and His calling. I chose to trust His leading and control.

So in this barren land overlooking your Promised Land, take time to reflect. To remember. Relish the moment. Reminisce of when you first fell in love with Him and entered into a relationship with His Son. Be in awe of when the Holy Spirit came on you, indwelled you, and sealed you—marking you as a Child of the King. Then when God exposes your defeats and times of disobedience; take ownership of your sin, repent and rededicate yourself to Him. Then your trust will be made stronger in your future uncertainties, and you will find security in His promises to guide you and not abandon you.

Just so you know, like the Israelites, God isn’t neglecting your past bondage or discrediting it. He still uses that period of their history to encourage many and draw them to Himself. And, if you let Him, He will use your story to reach others with His gospel as well. But this is not that time. This is your time to reflect on your personal relationship with Jesus Christ—The One who pursued you with His unrelenting love, rescued you from bondage, and offered for you to be one of His chosen. How are you doing? Are you learning about who Jesus is and how to follow Him by studying your Bible? Are you spending time in prayer seeking Him asking Him for wisdom, discernment and insight? Are you making wise choices to guard our heart and mind against things you know are outside of the will of God for you? Are you obeying His instructions on how to live and treat others? If you’re not following Jesus as you should (if we are honest, none of us are), accept the gift of this time to repent and rededicate yourself completely to Him.

May Joshua 1:1-9 be the banner we march under as we claim our Promised Lands. Tuck it’s promise and instruction inside our heart for those times you feel afraid—like a soldier taking out a photograph of those he loves. Without taking this time to reflect we will be weak and discouraged. But God says, Be Strong and Courageous! I’ve got your back! I’ve got you! Let’s do this thing!

Journal: What had God done for you? Reflect back. Where do you need to confess and rededicate? Do so now. Let Him fill you with strength and courage.

 

Deuteronomy 1:1-4: A Gift and An Opportunity

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Over the horizon you gaze at The Promised Land. As the sun stretches across this little piece of Heaven, what do you see? It’s okay to look. Drink in the vista. Can you see the trees and vines laden with fruit? And the dark soil, rich with nutrients—anticipating its next crop? Can you sense the honey flirting with your tongue, sweet and reminiscent of summer? Can you hear the streams gurgle as lakes sparkle in the sun? Beautiful.

Envision your Promise Land. What does it look like? What dream has God planted in your heart and nurtured into desire? For most of us, “land” is more metaphorical—a career, a ministry, a family, etc. But for some “a new land” is quite literal—a relocation, a foreign mission field, or military service.

My “Promised Land” is a new ministry/career. But when God planted the dream to publish…let’s just say, I found myself sitting with my trash can between my knees trying to dislodge the “You’ve got to be kidding me” from my throat. Ever been there? I have taken this detour several times recently. However, once I recovered, I preceded to pour out my fears, concerns, and reservations. I was wholeheartedly willing to step our in faith, but this is a whole new world for me. And I was terrified!

But God (don’t you love that phrase) graciously responded by leading me to Deuteronomy. I had never studied this book in its entirety before, and as I dug deeply into His messages to the Israelites I realized these messages were for me—for us.

Deuteronomy 1:1-4, NIV
These are the words Moses spoke to all Israel in the wilderness east of the Jordan—that is, in the Arabah—opposite Suph, between Paran and Tophel, Laban, Hazeroth and Dizahab. (It takes eleven days to go from Horeb to Kadesh Barnea by the Mount Seir road.) In the fortieth year, on the first day of the eleventh month, Moses proclaimed to the Israelites all that the LORD had commanded him concerning them. This was after he had defeated Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon, and at Edrei had defeated Og king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth.

I love how God led these people to this deep barren valley before leading them across the Jordan. He sharply contrasted the physical realities of their present location and The Promised Land to illustrate their present spiritual condition—and ours—to where He would like to take them—and us. 

It’s here He chose to offer them a priceless gift: a time of reflection, restoration, and dedication. He also provided them with the opportunity to realign their hearts, minds, and focus with His before becoming overwhelmed and distracted by all the challenges that go along with conquering a new land. 

I shudder to think of what would have happened if they scorned this opportunity and rejected His gift; if they’d chosen to slosh their way through the Jordan instead of waiting to walk across on dry land (Josh 3:1-18).
Before we enter our personal Promised Land, God also brings us to a barren land—void of distractions and with our dreams just out of reach. Here He presents us with the same gift and opportunity. And like the Israelites, we must choose to follow Him with complete obedience or to turn back. Don’t resent this season. It’s not a delay in your progress, it’s a precious opportunity to reflect on all that Jesus has done for you. It’s also a time to take an honest account of the condition of our heart and make adjustments where necessary. Because, the truth is, when we reject God’s gift of restoration and disregard the opportunity to realign our hearts and minds with His—we are no better than the generation that died in the wilderness.

Beloved, seize this opportunity to learn from the consequences of their repeated rebellion and unbelief. You may not get another chance. 

And just in case you’re wondering if it’s all worth it…take another look over the horizon.  

Journal exercise: Reflect on everything Jesus has done for you. Write it down. Ask Him to reveal any adjustment that you need to make your heart realign with His. Then read it and give Him the thanks and praise He deserves.

Blessings

It Time For A GIVEAWAY!

Hey All!

I am so humbled and excited by the incredible response of my website and blog (which I’m still adding to as I become more fluent in “computerese”). I would like to say Thank You for your encouragement and support by giving away a beautiful new journal and package of colorful pens like I talked about in Bible Study Tips.

Just sign up to receive notifications of new blog posts via email by Monday 4:00 PM CST to enter. I will draw name at that time and email the winner to get your address so I can send the journal and pens to you the next day. Blessings!

Transition: A Call To Complete Devotion, Intro. To Deuteronomy, part 2


As your leader takes a drink of water and prepares for his first discourse, you gaze at the people around you. These are your people. Your family. The seeds of your new nation. As you look in their eyes, you see a reflection of your own emotions: anticipation, excitement, fear, and grief. Everyone has lost loved ones. In fact, over the last 40 years your parent’s entire generation has died, with only two exceptions. And as their bodies littered the desert, your generation’s tears have stained the sand. The people around you now are young, none older than 59—except for the 2 and the old man.  The tech crew has finished setting up the projector. And the old man is moving to take his place. The slide show is about to start. His words are capable of turning each photo into a motion picture—breathing new life into neglected memories while rekindling old emotions. For you, not all the old memories are your personal memories; but they are your most recent history. Each picture represents a segment of the epic tale for the ages. Like any good tale; there are mind-blowing miracles, unlikely victories, devastating defeats, and shameful embarrassments.

But you know this tale isn’t complete—the story you are about to hear is to be continued by your generation. It’s up to you to determine its trajectory. And it’s your responsibility to ensure the future generations know God, love Him, and follow Him. As you wait for the old man to arrange his notes you ask God to open everyone’s heart and mind to absorb his entire message so the last generation’s rebellion and unbelief won’t be repeated. The shadow of their failure is just starting to ebb from your memory. And there’s too much at stake for you to fail as well!

 As soon as you look up, the old man begins… 
Deuteronomy is a call to complete devotion to God. Period. 
In the midst of its profound theological themes, rich pastoral teaching, and the reiteration of the Law; Moses gets deeply personal. He instigates each person to make wise spiritual decisions because of who God is, how He has cared for their individual needs, and what they know of Him in the private recesses of their soul.
Moses isn’t trying to ignite warm-fuzzy feelings. He’s provoking action! He’s single-minded in his task—to equip God’s people to thrive in the midst of a religiously hostile culture of their Promised Land. He knows the Land they are about to enter is saturated with various religions, complete with idolatry and demonic pagan rituals—everything God is against. The people currently in the Land and surrounding it are hostile toward God’s people and reject their monotheistic point of view. Moses warns these people won’t stop at resistance. They’re determined to erode Israel’s faith until they’re willing to convert to their pagan lifestyle.
Sound familiar? We also live in a very religious culture. Religion is accepted, tolerated, and encouraged. But Jesus is not. “Only a consistent, wholehearted dedication to remain faithful to the true God will enable the people of God to maintain a vibrant relationship with God and a powerful testimony for him.”   
Therefore, Moses’s message to the Israelites is Vibrantly Relevant to us. Whether we’re transitioning to a new chapter in life, entering a new phase of development, or approaching the Promised Land God has led us to, we must “Take to heart all the words [Moses has] solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess” (Deut. 32:46-47).
Beloved. There’s much to learn and remember in Deuteronomy. There’s encouragement and warning. But most of all there’s a call to action: To be completely devoted to God. Are you game? Are you as excited as I am?
If you are journaling through this:
What is your current state of transition? 

Are your at the beginning, middle, or end? 

What are your excited about? Afraid of? Uncertain of? Anticipating?

Are you relying on God to guide you or are your trying to guide yourself?

What are you hoping the end results will be?
Ask God to help you and direct you. Ask Him to light your path so you won’t stumble and will know which way you are supposed to go. Thank Him for all He has done for you and in the areas where your faith is weak, ask Him to strengthen it. 
Blessings! I can’t wait to being digging in to this AMAZING book!

Pause. Breathe. Reflect

Tonight’s sunset is a great reminder to Pause. Remember who God is and that He has not abandoned you in your season of transition. Thank Him for His unfathomable love and constant care. Breathe. Take a few deep cleansing breaths to clear your heart and mind while leaning on your Father for endurance and strength. Ask Him to refresh and restore your heart, mind, body, and soul. Reflect. Reflect on where you have been, all God has done for you, and where He is leading you. Reflect on His promises, even if you are in a season of uncertainty. Rest in His presence and care. 
This may sound simple, but as I watched the sun sink lower in the sky and the colors reflect off the water, I did just that. Did my situation change? No. Did my perspective? Yes. Do I feel more in balance? Not even. Do I trust The One who is? Absolutely.  Did I get the answers I am searching for? No. Did my resolve to follow where my Savior leads strengthen? Definitely. 
Blessings!

Transition: On the Banks of The River, Intro. To Deuteronomy, part 1

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The sun is mercilessly beating down on you as you stand on the banks of the river. A bead of sweat runs down the back of your neck, but you don’t notice. Nor do you notice the people passing by or those swinging on the rope, plunging into the water. All your attention is riveted to the old man’s message. His last. You love this man. You respect him. He has been your leader, your shepherd, all your life. And you know his final words are going to equip you for victory and success, despite the conflicting emotions tumbling around inside. So you listen intently—because you are on the banks of the biggest transition of your life…

Transition. Did you wince at that word like I did? But if a transition is simply the passage from one state to the next, why is this word so distasteful, abhorrent, and even offensive? Is it because it’s BFFs with the word change? And nothing instills fear like the unknown. Or because change and transition have a bad reputation? Granted, they’re rarely smooth and easy. They have dips, bumps, blind-spots, and washed out roads. But they also have peaks, paved surfaces, dazzling vistas, and purpose.

Like puberty, transitions are a necessary part of life. And life isn’t stagnant. It’s constantly moving. Transitioning from one day to the next; one event followed by another.

I’m currently in a state of transition, and if I had to guess—you are too. For me it’s a change from designing landscapes to writing, blogging, and speaking about Jesus. To revealing the Vibrant Relevance of God’s Word in our day-to-day life. What’s your current transition? Are you on the edge of it, in the midst of it, or stepping out of it? What are you anticipating the end result to be? What are you excited about? Afraid of? Hoping for?

Some transitions are planned and have time to evolve and develop—beginning a new relationship, transferring schools, starting college, changing majors, and graduation. Others are abrupt, unexpected, and unforgiving—breakups, rejection letters, test failures, illness, divorce, or death of a loved one. No matter how or why transitions happen, they tend to bring fear, frustration, and difficulty with them—even when they’re for our benefit. BUT transitions have a way of shaping us and our character like nothing else can. They build into our integrity and refine our faith. They enhance our dependence on God as He guides us through. They also solidify our trust in His perfect control instead of our own. When we rise to occasion; transitions instigate growth, development, and maturity.

Think back to some of the transitions you’ve survived. Were they easy? Scary? Exciting? Adventurous? Challenging? Smooth? Were the end results worth it?

Deuteronomy is a book all about transition:
It’s Moses’s Swan Song to the Israelites before handing to baton of leadership to Joshua.
He’s speaking to Gen II; the children of the Israelites freed from Egyptian slavery.
The 40 years of wandering are over, and they’re on the east side of the Jordan River in view of Canaan, the Promised Land.
Joshua us about to lead them across the river to take over and settle in the Promised Land.

In this devotional we’re going look deeply into Moses’s messages to this young generation—and us: To remember what God had done for us so we will have confidence in following Him. To remember who He is and what He has done for us so we will love Hi completely and submit to His expectations of godly living. To learn what He has to teach us so we will be equipped to possess the Promised Land He is leading us to.

The generation that came out of Egypt believed IN God, but they didn’t trust Him. Their refusal to BELIEVE Him, caused their bodies to litter the wilderness for 40 years as opposed to living in the Land of Promise. Beloved, Deuteronomy is all about committing ourselves to God, and out of that commitment–loving, trusting, and obeying Him, even in the state of transition.

Bible Study Tips

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This is how I started studying God’s Word

and how I still do my Quiet Times now.

  1. Get a Bible, the actual book if possible
    1. If you don’t have one, that’s ok, there are many free Bible apps available. But when/if you can, get the actual book.
      1. Apps are awesome, but I don’t use mine when I study because I’m too easily distracted by notifications. They derail my train of thought and interrupt what God is trying to speak to me about.
    2. Plus having the book allows you to highlight verses and write margin notes—creating a journal of sorts to record your growing relationship with Jesus through life’s ups and downs.
  2. Get a notebook or journal
    1. I prefer a spiral bound journal and pretty colored pens. However, my boys prefer notebooks and black or blue ink. Either are perfect.
      1. My preference for journals is two-fold:
        1. They have heavier pages that don’t tear out easily making them last for years
        2. They can be fun, pretty, motivational, have verses in them, etc.
    2. I go back to my journals when I restudy a portion of Scripture.
      1. I always learn something new each time I restudy Scripture because as life changes, different things resonate with me that didn’t resonate before.
      2. Other times, I have to relearn something—get it driven by the Holy 2×4.
      3. But every single time I look back at my journals, I’m blown away by the contrast of where I was and where I am now. Of how God has changed me. Of how His grace has made me new. And then I fall in love with Him all over again.
    3. You can type your notes, but again, you have to take into consideration those pesky notifications. Plus—there’s something deeply personal in the act of putting a pen to paper in response to what God’s telling you.
      1. I retain things better and longer when I write them down as opposed to typing them. I also ponder more about what I’m writing and internalize it. And that, Beloved, is when change happens! I firmly believe journals are critical to your growth!
  3. Read the Scripture passage and record its address at the beginning of your new journal entry with the date.
    1. Example: Sept 1, 2017—Luke 1:1-4
  4. Summarize the passage in your words and engage with the passage.
    1. What are your thoughts, reactions, and questions
    2. How can I apply this to my life?
    3. If it doesn’t directly apply to my life, what instruction can I benefit from this passage?
    4. What new information can I glean about who God is and how He cares for His people?
    5. How did God blow your mind, bless you, call you out, challenge you, refine the direction and purpose He has given you, etc. ?
  5. Read the devotional and record your thoughts, reactions, and questions
    1. What is God saying to you?
    2. How is He blessing, encouraging, challenging, convicting you?
  6. Write a prayer to God
  7. It is only after this I consult any of my commentaries, lexical aids, or other books and resources.

I hope this helps. Blessings, Dear One!

Scripture’s Vibrant Relevance

 

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Have you ever opened your Bible knowing you should be reading it, studying it, engaging with it; but are not sure how or where to begin? This is a common predicament among Christians. And it’s causing an epidemic of Biblical illiteracy and weakened faith among many in the Church because it’s easier to clap The Book closed and turn on Netflix than to wrestle with the uncertainty. I know, I’ve been there. However, I no longer believe Satan’s lie that the Bible is hard to understand, archaic, and irrelevant. And it’s my ambition to teach you how to study God’s word so you can you stand firm in your faith and look that snake in the eyes and call him a the liar he is (Jn. 8:44).

In Ephesians 6, Paul teaches about The Armor of God (vs 10-18). This is our defense against Satan’s evil schemes, and it ensures our victory when we’re earnestly seeking God in prayer—no matter how difficult the battle is. At the end of the list he says, “Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” This my friends is our one offensive weapon. And it’s the same weapon Jesus used to defeat Satan while being tempted in the wilderness (Mt. 4:1-11; Mk. 1:12-13; Lk. 4:1-13). Beloved, if our sword is dull we’re limited in our ability to fight back against Satan’s tricks and subterfuge. So let’s sharpen it and learn how to wield it.

I know studying the Bible can be challenging. Things like the differences in time, culture, and language are very real barriers to fully understanding it. And knowing how to read the different types of literature recorded in the 66 books that make up this cannon is another. But as we go through devotionals together, I will teach you how to break down those barriers to reveal the Bible’s Vibrant Relevance in your day-to-day life.

Consistent Bible study is like fertilizer to your faith. It enhances significant growth and development, allowing you to become strong and deeply rooted in your faith and relationship with Jesus. And as you fall in love with your Savior and follow Him more closely; your trust in Him will explode, you will discover your purpose here on earth, and will overflow with the Holy Spirit’s power—which is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (Eph. 1:19-21). Are you ready to join me in this adventure?

 

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