Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day ~ 2008

Affirmation of Faith on this Holy day

I believe that Christmas is more than a time for parties and ornaments; it is a time for remembering Christ and the incarnation of God's love in human flesh.
I believe there are gifts more important than the ones under the Christmas tree, such as the things we teach our children, the way we share ourselves with friends, and the industry with which we set about reshaping the world in our time.
I believe that the finest carols are often sung by ordinary voices, from hearts made warm by the wonder of the season.
I believe in the angels' message that we should not be afraid - that the Child of Bethlehem is able to overcome all anxieties and insecurities.
I believe in prayer and quietness as a way of approaching Christmas - that if I wait in silence I will experience the presence of the One born in the stable, for He lives today as surely as He lived then.
I believe in going away from Christmas as the wise men went - "another way." I want to be different when these days are past - more centered on Christ, more thoughtful, more caring.

sent to me on angel-wings ~ unknown author

Monday, December 15, 2008

Embrace Obedience

We have been studying the first 2 chapters of Deuteronomy, Moses' review of God's Provision for the Israelites in route to their Promised Land. Surprisingly, they reach the border of the promised destination only to hesitate, doubt and rebel. Left wandering in the wilderness for forty years, the time is now here. Moses records his reminders to them before they enter Canaan, the land promised Abraham.

Deuteronomy is divided into 4 sections: Provision - Obedience - Commitment - Leadership. The previous devotions examine ~ Provision. Continuing, an overview of the next section finds Moses giving a refresher course on the Lord's Commands (the Law) and the need for obedience.

Read Deuteronomy 8:1-9:6 (complete text on obedience - Deut. 4:44-28:68)

. . . Remember how the LORD your God led you through the wilderness for forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would really obey His commands. . . He did it to teach you that people need more than bread for their life; real life comes by feeding on every word of the LORD. . . Today you are about to cross the Jordan River to occupy the land belonging to nations much greater and more powerful than you. . .
I will say it again: The LORD your God is not giving you this good land because you are righteous, for you are not - you are a stubborn people.

The Promised Land lay before them but would require obedience to enter. Once before they stood on the threshold of this God-offered possibility, but refused to go forward. Andrew Murray writes (in his book A Life of Obedience; p.69-70): The land of promise that has been set before us is the blessed life of obedience. We have heard God's call to us to go out and to dwell there . . . We have heard the promise of Christ to bring us there and to give us possession of the land. . . But do we desire that all our life and work be lifted to the level of a holy and joyful obedience?

A desire to be obedient is not the same as being obedient. Murray continues with this response to how we must embrace obedience: It can only be reached by an inflow of the power of the Holy Spirit. By a faith that grasps a new vision and lays hold of the powers. . . which are secured to us in Christ. How does Abraham respond when God first gives the promise? By faith Abraham obeyed . . . And he went out, not knowing where he was going. (see Hebrews 11:8). Through faith, we find obedience that grasps a new vision. Our ability to be obedient comes from Christ, the Bread of Life.

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 describes God's expectations: And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you? He requires you to fear Him, to live according to His will, to love and worship Him with your heart and soul, and to obey the LORD's commands and laws that I am giving you today for your own good.

Consider this!
  • What faith challenges did the Israelites face as they entered their land of promise?
  • If you embrace obedience, what hope waits in your land of promise?
  • What is required to experience "real life"?

Lord, You call us to new hope within a world of old doubt. You offer the Bread of Life to a starving people. You secure our faith through the living Christ. And what do You ask of us? To love You with obedient hearts. Forgive our greed for the land of promise held tightly by selfish desires. Open our hearts to "real life" so we can embrace the blessed life of obedience. Amen. ~ dho

Monday, December 01, 2008

Preparation and Promise

Deuteronomy Chapter 2 begins Israel's return to the wilderness, with God's instructions leading them. Because of their disobedience, the journey to the Promised Land ultimately takes another thirty-eight years. These chosen pilgrims must learn reassurance in God's Presence, must know security in God's Provision, must find joy in God's Promise. Rebellion of the heart interrupts; God's judgement prepares. And so, they wander in the wilderness in preparation for God's promise.

Read Deuteronomy 2:1-25

The LORD your God has blessed everything you have done and has watched your every step through this great wilderness. During these forty years, the LORD your God has been with you and provided for your every need so that you lacked nothing. Deuteronomy 2:7 NLT

This chapter opens with Moses remembering how God sends the Israelites back into the wilderness for a long time, and Then at last the LORD said to me, 'You have been wandering around in this hill country long enough; turn northward'. (Deuteronomy 2:2-3) Now begins the journey back to Kadesh Barnea, the entry to the Promised Land. Verse 14 reminds, So, thirty-eight years passed from the time we first arrived at Kadesh Barnea . . . until all the men old enough to fight in battle had died in the wilderness. God leads this new, more faithful generation back to the border of the Promised Land. God's faithfulness remains true; God's judgement rendered, His people are now prepared to follow.

How often we complicate God's Plan for our lives, prolong the journey with our self-sufficient attitudes, our self-confident plans, our self-serving agendas. Our disobedience interrupts; God's discipline prepares. The sooner we accept God's Unfailing Love as His Promise to us, recognize God's Abundant Blessings as His Provision, trust God's Enduring Presence, the shorter our journey to the promised land He chooses for us.

Consider this!

  • What did the Israelites lack? What was their turning point?
  • How is the journey to your promised land going? What preparations does God need you to make?

Adonai ~ You are majesty and mystery, power and presence. You breathe life into all creation, but I do not understand how. You provide for my every need, and I do not lack anything except humility and gratitude. Forgive me when I choose 'good', and You desire 'best'. Prepare my heart as it struggles in the wilderness and waits before Your promise. Prepare my life to enter the promised land You choose for me! Show me how to be more aware of Your Presence. You are Promise ~ then and now and to come! Amen. ~ dho