Deuteronomy 26-28 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He rewards those who obey His commandments

Parents have been using the whole naughty or nice list of Santa’s for a long time to exact obedience and good behavior from their children for a few weeks leading up to Christmas.  I haven’t met anyone who was emotionally scarred for life after learning all this good behavior was for an imaginary figure that existed in the minds of conniving parents, but I guess the potential is there.

As a parent, I always believed in rewarding good behavior and punishing disobedience, but many today have a different viewpoint.  Some think that punishment is too degrading and that rewarding some children and not others may cause a lack of self-esteem in those unrewarded. The thought of raising a generation of children who do not understand that there are consequences that will follow their actions is frightening to me.  Our scripture today leaves no doubt in my mind that God is all over the idea of rewarding obedience and punishing disobedience. 

@ Deuteronomy 28
If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world.” (1)  As Israel stood at the gateway of promise into the land of their dreams, God put before them a challenge.   Tucked in between many curses that would result from disobedience to God’s law are 14 incredible verses of blessing for the nation of Israel if they would keep His commandments.  Rewards and punishments.

Moses went on to declare blessings over towns, fields, children, crops, herds, and flocks.  God would conquer their enemies and fill their storehouses with prosperity.  They would be powerful and respected among the nations.  All this would be theirs if they obeyed God’s commandments.  “If you listen to these commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today, and if you carefully obey them, the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you will always be on top and never at the bottom. You must not turn away from any of the commands I am giving you today, nor follow after other gods and worship them.” (13-14)  But isn’t that exactly what the nation of Israel did!  They threw away the promise of all these rewards for the worship of other gods.  Because of their disobedience, they eventually lost their nation and freedom to Babylon.

The rewards and curses of Deuteronomy 28 are relevant to all lives and nations.  I believe we have come dangerously close to throwing away the blessing of the Lord through our worship of other gods. May we learn from the mistakes that Israel made.  As New Testament people, even more is at stake. “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)  God’s rewards for those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and obey His commandments are more numerous than this blog could contain.

Consider Philippians 4:19, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  Jesus said, speaking of His followers, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)  “When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love…I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:10-11)  And one day we will experience His reward of eternal life, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Excessive joy, provision, God’s continual love, abundant life and countless other rewards here on earth and then eternal life in Heaven!  I don’t know, I just can’t think of any desire or disobedient act that is worth the risk of losing any of it.  I want all the rewards that come with my obedience to God’s commandments.  God’s nice list, if you will, the list of the redeemed, is the Lamb’s Book of Life, and that’s the list I want to be on! 

Moving Forward: I’m looking forward to walking in His blessing and reward today, obeying His commands and listening to His voice. 

Tomorrow @ Nehemiah 10-13

Ecclesiastes 11-12 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He rewards our obedience to Him with eternal life in heaven

My husband and I are avid readers.  While he manages to read five books at a time, a little here and there until he has finished them, I enjoy reading one book at a time and giving it my full attention.  A real treat for me that doesn’t happen often enough is reading a well-written novel.  I have a friend who pages ahead occasionally to find out what’s going to happen and has been known to read the end of the book first.  I worry about individuals who do this.  There’s nothing like a plot building, collecting all its intricate parts and then exploding at the end with a grand finale.  Who would want to ruin that by reading ahead?  Almost like a novelist, Solomon has been building a story in Ecclesiastes, and today we read his grand finale.

We’ve read through some rather dark moments in Solomon’s life over the last twelve chapters: “Everything is meaningless,’ says the Teacher, ‘completely meaningless! …Everything is wearisome beyond description…all meaningless—like chasing the wind.” (1:1,14)  Solomon had tried everything on earth to bring meaning to his life, but nothing worked. After years of searching, he finally came to this conclusion, “So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him?  God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please him.” (2:24-26)  Everything is fleeting, at best, apart from the eternal God.

Solomon also brought us words of encouragement and understanding, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven,” (3) and “To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past.” (5:20)  We can toil and strive to get ahead of God’s plans for us, but Solomon concluded that living in our moment and accepting His timing will bring the most peace during our brief stint on earth. 

@ Ecclesiastes 12 – The Grand Finale
“That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion:  Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.  God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.” (13-14)  Living with unbridled devotion to the One who created us and gives us breath, never assuming that role as our own, is the very least we can do to show our love and respect to God.  Obedience is a natural result of our devotion to Him.  Whether it’s our job, our family or sports, if we’re devoted to it, we are going to play by the rules.

Solomon’s statement that God will judge everything we do should confirm in our hearts that eternal life is inevitable otherwise there would be no need for judgment.  “He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” (3:11) Our hearts yearn for that day when we will live with God for all eternity as recorded in the Revelation.  I must admit, the Bible is one book where I’ve paged ahead to see how it ends, and guess what?  For those who love God, it’s all good!

Moving Forward: With a heart of devotion to Him, I move through this day in obedience to His commands, ever mindful of my eternal home. 

Tomorrow @ Malachi

Luke 13-14 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He asks that we count the cost of following Him and loving Him more than any other 

@ Luke 14
Within our cache of junk mail, we all have received the seemingly innocuous credit card offers.  What a deal!  Free annual fee, 0% interest for about two minutes followed by a monthly pint of blood and extortive interest rates.  Well, somebody has to pay for it!  We would be wise to count the cost of this incredible offer – some offers just are not what they appear to be.

On the other hand, we all have been offered a fantastic opportunity that is not only more than what it appears to be, but more than we can even imagine:  free paid membership, life-long eligibility as per the agreement, including out-of-this-world dividends – literally.  However, before we sign on the dotted line, it would be good to read all the print. There will be some dues to be paid as well as a commitment to the everything stipulation.  In spite of this, the offer is miraculous, and there’s really nothing like it anywhere.

“If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison…carry your own cross and follow me…count the cost…giving up everything you own,” Jesus explained to the large crowd following Him that day. (26-33) While these requirements to His offer may seem difficult, this blog couldn’t begin to hold all the blessings that result from our acceptance of His offer – abundant life here on earth and eternal life in heaven, just to name a couple of them.

We can easily understand the examples Jesus gave of the builder, the king and the importance of counting the cost to follow Him.  And because of the example of Jesus at Calvary, we can somewhat understand what it means to carry our own cross and the willingness to follow Him even to death.  Many throughout history have followed Him to this very end, and others are walking this path today. Does He really require us to hate our families and friends? In comparison to our love and devotion to Him, it may appear that way at times.

The giving Him everything stipulation is a tangible, hardcore giving of all that we are, all that we ever will be, all that we have and all that we ever will have.  The truth is that our everything could not be in better hands—He gives back to us what we need when we need it and how we need it.  We couldn’t find a better life coach and financial planner anywhere!  More importantly, He is our Creator, the One who knows us better than anyone else does and the One who knows our tomorrow.

Jesus desires that we count the cost of following Him so that our passion and enthusiasm is authentic and eternal.  The offer is this:  “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  When counting the cost, how can we can we not consider His incredible offer!

Moving Forward: Today I renew my commitment to the cost of following Him, regardless of the path it takes. I’m yours, Lord, everything I am or ever hope to be, everything I have or ever hope to have.  I love Him most. 

Tomorrow @ Philippians 1-2

Job 13-14 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: The all-knowing God directs our lives according to His knowledge

We’ve all heard the sayings, ignorance is bliss and what you don’t know can’t hurt you, but it’s difficult to not know or be ignorant in this information age. There are times, usually about midday, when my brain just hurts from too much input, but thankfully it’s nothing that a good cup of coffee doesn’t cure.  Most often knowledge on just about any subject is invaluable and helps to protect us. It enriches our lives, although sometimes not knowing does offer momentary bliss.  However, in Job’s situation, not knowing was almost killing him. 

@ Job 13
After much discussion, Job’s dialogue with his visitors became, well, cranky to say the least, and I really don’t blame him.  “As for you, you smear me with lies. As physicians, you are worthless quacks.  If only you could be silent! That’s the wisest thing you could do.” (4-5) Job also questioned their audacity to speak for God without His permission.

“Listen closely to what I am about to say. Hear me out. I have prepared my case; I will be proved innocent.” (17-18) No longer filled with the earlier lofty questions to his friends about God and His actions, Job took matters into his own hands and decided to take his case to court before God—and became his own lawyer!

He personally wanted to ask God what the charges were against him, why had God turned from him.  But in the closing remarks of his trial, this broken man, filled with sorrow over loss, covered with sores, acquiesced, “You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer.” (14:5)  Job lost all hope for the future.

It’s important to remember here that we know some things that Job was not privy to. We are aware of Satan’s challenge in Chapter 1, but Job had no knowledge of it.  He had no idea of the purpose behind all his pain, and while Job felt he was being wrongfully punished, we know he was being tested.  Walking through difficult times in the past, nothing comparable to Job’s trials I might add, I often wondered if I had done something to cause it – why this pain?  After examining my heart for a cause, I came to realize that there are just some things I am not privy to. God has a plan and a purpose that I may or may not someday understand, and that’s okay because I have hope.

Where Job had little to no knowledge of eternal life, we are well aware that we are simply sojourners through this life on our way to heaven.  It makes me smile to read Job’s hopeful question, “Can the dead live again?  If so, this would give me hope through all my years of struggle.” (14:14)  Job was brave to even ask the question in his day.  Can the dead live again?  Yes, Job, yes!

We are blessed to live on this side of Calvary with a Bible to read, where we learn about God’s purpose for us and the knowledge that we will one day live again to spend eternity with Him. “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18NKJ)  Where Job sat in despair, uncertain of his future, we have hope of an eternal future with God.  Be comforted! 

Moving forward: Because God is in control of today’s challenges, I have hope for the future and the assurance of eternal life with Him. 

Tomorrow @ Isaiah 34-39

Job 7-8 (NLT)

Discover His heart: Through His attention to our lives, He makes us more like Him

As a child, I don’t think I really appreciated the luxury of lying on the grass for an hour or two, drinking in all the Vitamin D I would need for the day and observing the cloud formations overhead.  I saw ships, alligators, clowns and whatever my imagination could conjure up and then think of all the adventures they held.  Over the minutes, I’d watch each image slowly dissipate into vapor, the story ended and the image was gone forever.  I’ve wondered how a video game could possibly compete with that, but I guess that’s just me.  Job had watched a few cloud formations in his day; in fact, he felt that he was one. 

@ Job 7
“O God, remember that my life is but a breath, and I will never again feel happiness.  You see me now, but not for long.  You will look for me, but I will be gone.  Just as a cloud dissipates and vanishes, those who die will not come back.  They are gone forever from their home—never to be seen again.” (7-10)  Clearly, Job’s reflection on clouds did not hold for him the same happy thoughts that my memories give to me.  Yes, this life is fleeting, as James concurs with Job in James 4:14, “For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (NKJV)  Nevertheless, while we are living, we have adventures and stories to live out, but Job didn’t care much for his adventure, and I can’t really blame him.

Early in history, God-fearing individuals had little knowledge or understanding of eternal life.  Job wanted God to know that time was running out for Him to bring justice to his situation in life or at least to bring an explanation.  Job would die, and he would be no more.  Later in the book, Job uttered a brave hope of a life after death, but without the revealed truths from God’s Word that we have, he had no assurance of a better day.  With the Bible as the vanguard directing our lives, we have the understanding that regardless of the trials we face during this brief vapor of life, eternal life is in our future.

Reading Job’s cry for help is difficult, to say the least, but the real stab to my heart comes in verse 16, “I hate my life and don’t want to go on living.”  His words make me think of the all too many times I’ve heard individuals, young and old alike, utter these words in despair. Words of comfort often fall useless to the ground, but it’s then that I pray for a revelation of eternity from God to flood their hearts and minds.  Life with its pain and disappointment is short, eternity is a very long time.

“What are people, that you should make so much of us, that you should think of us so often?  For you examine us every morning and test us every moment.  Why won’t you leave me alone, at least long enough for me to swallow!…Why make me your target?” (17-20)  Or in today’s urban lingo, “Why you all up in my business?”  No matter how it’s said, Job’s response to God in the midst of his trial is opposite to the response of what we read yesterday.

Yesterday we read that David found God’s constant watch over him comforting, but Job found it annoying at best. Job felt God had made him His target, which was true in a sense; and over the course of his affliction, Job would correct the very area where God was aiming.  Imagine that!  When we’re going through a rough patch in our journey, we may be tempted to consider ourselves God’s target for pain and agony, especially when things are not resolved quickly.  Just as God was perfecting Job through his pain, He uses our trials to perfect us and make us more like Him.  In the process, we may mutter, “Why you all up in my business?” but then, isn’t that really where we want Him to be?  Watching over us, protecting, avenging and perfecting.

Moving Forward:  I surrender my business to the Lord today. I’m so thankful that He is mindful of my brief stint on earth, and my cry is “Don’t leave me alone!” Someday, our eternal life with Him will make it worth it all.

Tomorrow @ Isaiah 18-22

Deuteronomy 26-28 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He rewards those who obey His commandments

Parents have been using the whole naughty or nice list of Santa’s for a long time to exact obedience and good behavior from their children for a few weeks leading up to Christmas.  I haven’t met anyone who was emotionally scarred for life after learning all this good behavior was for an imaginary figure that existed in the minds of conniving parents, but I guess the potential is there.

As a parent, I always believed in rewarding good behavior and punishing disobedience, but many today have a different viewpoint.  Some believe that punishment is too degrading and that rewarding some children and not others may cause lack of self esteem in those unrewarded. The thought of raising a generation of children who do not understand that there are consequences that will follow their actions is frightening to me.  Our scripture today leaves no doubt in my mind that God is all over the idea of rewarding obedience and punishing disobedience. 

@ Deuteronomy 28
If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world.” (1)  As Israel stood at the gateway of promise into the land of their dreams, God put before them a challenge.   Tucked in between many curses that would result from disobedience to God’s law are 14 incredible verses of blessing for the nation of Israel if they would keep His commandments.  Rewards and punishments.

Moses went on to declare blessings over towns, fields, children, crops, herds and flocks.  God would conquer their enemies and fill their storehouses with prosperity.  They would be powerful and respected among the nations.  All this would be theirs if they obeyed God’s commandments.  “If you listen to these commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today, and if you carefully obey them, the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you will always be on top and never at the bottom. You must not turn away from any of the commands I am giving you today, nor follow after other gods and worship them.” (13-14)  But isn’t that exactly what the nation of Israel did!  They threw away the promise of all these rewards for the worship of other gods.  Because of their disobedience, they eventually lost their nation and freedom to Babylon.

The rewards and curses of Deuteronomy 28 are relevant to all lives and nations.  I believe we have come dangerously close to throwing away the blessing of the Lord through our worship of other gods. May we learn from the mistakes that Israel made.  As New Testament people, even more is at stake. “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)  God’s rewards for those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and obey His commandments are more numerous than this blog could contain.

Consider Philippians 4:19, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  Jesus said, speaking of His followers, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)  “When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love…I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:10-11)  And one day we will experience His reward of eternal life, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Excessive joy, provision, God’s continual love, abundant life and countless other rewards here on earth and then eternal life in Heaven!  I don’t know, I just can’t think of any desire or disobedient act that is worth the risk of losing any of it.  I want all the rewards that come with my obedience to God’s commandments.  God’s nice list, if you will, the list of the redeemed, is the Lamb’s Book of Life, and that’s the list I want to be on! 

Moving Forward: I’m looking forward to walking in His blessing and reward today, obeying His commands and listening to His voice. 

Tomorrow @ Nehemiah 10-13

Ecclesiastes 11-12 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He rewards our obedience to Him with eternal life in heaven

My husband and I are avid readers.  While he manages to read five books at a time, a little here and there until he has finished them, I enjoy reading one book at a time and giving it my full attention.  A real treat for me that doesn’t happen often enough is reading a well-written novel.  I have a friend who pages ahead occasionally to find out what’s going to happen and has been known to read the end of the book first.  I worry about individuals who do this.  There’s nothing like a plot building, collecting all its intricate parts and then exploding at the end with a grand finale.  Who would want to ruin that by reading ahead?  Almost like a novelist, Solomon has been building a story in Ecclesiastes, and today we read his grand finale.

We’ve read through some rather dark moments in Solomon’s life over the last twelve chapters: “Everything is meaningless,’ says the Teacher, ‘completely meaningless! …Everything is wearisome beyond description…all meaningless—like chasing the wind.” (1:1,14)  Solomon had tried everything on earth to bring meaning to his life, but nothing worked. After years of searching, he finally came to this conclusion, “So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him?  God gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy to those who please him.” (2:24-26)  Everything is fleeting, at best, apart from the eternal God.

Solomon also brought us words of encouragement and understanding, “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven,” (3) and “To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past.” (5:20)  We can toil and strive to get ahead of God’s plans for us, but Solomon concluded that living in our moment and accepting His timing will bring the most peace during our brief stint on earth. 

@ Ecclesiastes 12 – The Grand Finale
“That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion:  Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.  God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.” (13-14)  Living with unbridled devotion to the One who created us and gives us breath, never assuming that role as our own, is the very least we can do to show our love and respect to God.  Obedience is a natural result of our devotion to Him.  Whether it’s our job, our family or sports, if we’re devoted to it, we are going to play by the rules.

Solomon’s statement that God will judge everything we do should confirm in our hearts that eternal life is inevitable otherwise there would be no need for judgment.  “He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” (3:11) Our hearts yearn for that day when we will live with God for all eternity as recorded in the Revelation.  I must admit, the Bible is one book where I’ve paged ahead to see how it ends, and guess what?  For those who love God, it’s all good!

Moving Forward: With a heart of devotion to Him, I move through this day in obedience to His commands, ever mindful of my eternal home. 

Tomorrow @ Malachi