March 8, 2015

 Deuteronomy 11-13 - So love God, your God; guard well his rules and regulations; obey his commandments for the rest of time.

Today it’s very clear that it isn’t your children who are front and center here:... Nor was it your children who saw how God took care of you in the wilderness up until the time you arrived here,...  Yes, it was you—your eyes—that saw every great thing that God did.  So it’s you who are in charge of keeping the entire commandment that I command you today...  Your obedience will give you a long life on the soil that God promised to give your ancestors and their children, a land flowing with milk and honey...

From now on, if you listen obediently to the commandments that I am commanding you today, love God, your God, and serve him with everything you have within you, he’ll take charge of sending the rain at the right time,... He’ll make sure there’s plenty of grass for your animals. You’ll have plenty to eat.

But be vigilant, lest you be seduced away and end up serving and worshiping other gods and God erupts in anger and shuts down Heaven so there’s no rain and nothing grows in the fields, and in no time at all you’re starved out—not a trace of you left on the good land that God is giving you.
Place these words on your hearts. Get them deep inside you. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder. Teach them to your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning until you fall into bed at night. Inscribe them on the doorposts and gates of your cities so that you’ll live a long time, and your children with you, on the soil that God promised to give your ancestors for as long as there is a sky over the Earth...

I’ve brought you today to the crossroads of Blessing and Curse.  The Blessing: if you listen obediently to the commandments of God, your God, which I command you today.  The Curse: if you don’t pay attention to the commandments of God, your God, but leave the road that I command you today, following other gods of which you know nothing....

These are the rules and regulations that you must diligently observe for as long as you live in this country that God, the God-of-Your-Fathers, has given you to possess.

Ruthlessly demolish all the sacred shrines where the nations that you’re driving out worship their gods—Stay clear of those places—don’t let what went on there contaminate the worship of God, your God.  Instead find the site that God, your God, will choose and mark it with his name as a common center for all the tribes of Israel. Assemble there... Feast there in the Presence of God, your God. Celebrate everything that you and your families have accomplished under the blessing of God, your God.

Don’t continue doing things the way we’re doing them at present, each of us doing as we wish.... God, your God, chooses to mark with his name as the place where you can meet him, bring everything that I command you:..Be extra careful:... Offer your Absolution-Offerings only in the place that God chooses in one of your tribal regions. There and only there are you to bring all that I command you...And make sure that for as long as you live on your land you never, never neglect the Levite....

Be vigilant, listen obediently to these words that I command you so that you’ll have a good life, you and your children, for a long, long time, doing what is good and right in the eyes of God, your God...Don’t get fascinated with other nation’s gods, thinking, “I wonder what it was like for them, worshiping their gods. I’d like to try that myself.” Don’t do this to God, your God... Diligently do everything I command you, the way I command you: don’t add to it; don’t subtract from it.

When a prophet or visionary gets up in your community and gives out a miracle-sign or wonder, and the miracle-sign or wonder that he gave out happens and he says, “Let’s follow other gods” (these are gods you know nothing about), “let’s worship them,” don’t pay any attention to what that prophet or visionary says. God, your God, is testing you to find out if you totally love him with everything you have in you. You are to follow only God, your God, hold him in deep reverence, keep his commandments, listen obediently to what he says, serve him—hold on to him for dear life!...

And when your brother or son or daughter, or even your dear wife or lifelong friend, comes to you in secret and whispers, “Let’s go and worship some other gods”... , don’t go along with him; shut your ears. Don’t feel sorry for him and don’t make excuses for him. Kill him. That’s right, kill him. You throw the first stone.... Every man, woman, and child in Israel will hear what’s been done and be in awe. No one will dare to do an evil thing like this again.

When word comes in from one of your cities that God, your God, is giving you to live in, reporting that evil men have gotten together with some of the citizens of the city and have broken away, saying, “Let’s go and worship other gods” (gods you know nothing about), then you must conduct a careful examination. Ask questions, investigate. If it turns out that the report is true and this abomination did in fact take place in your community, you must execute the citizens of that town... Get rid of it so that God may turn from anger to compassion, generously making you prosper, just as he promised your ancestors.  Yes. Obediently listen to God, your God. Keep all his commands that I am giving you today. Do the right thing in the eyes of God, your God.

Romans 14 - Welcome with open arms believers who don’t see things the way you do.  And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with--even when it seems that they are strong on opinion but weak in the faith department.  Remember, they have their own history to deal with.  Treat them gently...  

God, after all, invited us all to the table.  Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God’s welcome?  If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.  

What is important in all this is that, if you keep a holy day, keep it for God’s sake; if you eat meat, eat it to the glory of God and thank God for prime rib; if you are a vegetarian, eat vegetables to the glory of God and thank God for broccoli.  None of us are permitted to insist on our own way in these matters.  It’s God we are answerable to -- all the way from life to death and everything in between- not each other.

So where does that leave you when you criticize a brother?  And where does that leave you when you condescend to a sister?  I’d say it leaves you looking pretty silly--or worse.  Eventually we are all going to be kneeling side by side in the place of judgment, facing God.  Your critical and condescending ways are not going to improve your position there one bit...

So tend to your knitting.  You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life before God...Here is what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is.  I’m convinced--Jesus convinced me!--that everything as it is in itself is holy.  We of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it...  

Don’t you dare let a piece of God-blessed food become an occasion of soul-poisoning!... Your task is to single- mindedly serve Christ.  Do that and you will kill two birds with one stone; pleasing the God above you and proving your worth to the people around you.  So let’s agree to use our energy in getting along with each other.  Help others with encouraging words, don’t drag them down by finding fault.

Cultivate your own relationship with God but don’t impose it on others.  You are fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent .  But if you’re not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways that are inconsistent with what you believe--some days trying to impose your  opinions on others, other days just trying to please them---then you know that you’re out of line.  If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong.