Deuteronomy 9:1-5 – A Reality Check

Jordan River by Ilan Szekely, 1944

Listen, Israel! Today you will cross the Jordan River to enter and take possession of nations larger and more powerful than you, along with huge cities with fortifications that reach to the sky. These people are large and tall—they are the Anakim. You know and have heard what people say: “Who can stand up to the Anakim?” Know right now that the Lord your God, who is crossing over before you, is an all-consuming fire! He will wipe them out! He will subdue them before you! Then you will take possession of their land, eliminating them quickly, exactly as the Lord told you.

Once the Lord your God has driven them out before you, don’t think to yourself, It’s because I’m righteous that the Lord brought me in to possess this land. It is instead because of these nations’ wickedness that the Lord is removing them before you. You aren’t entering and taking possession of their land because you are righteous or because your heart is especially virtuous; rather, it is because these nations are wicked—that’s why the Lord your God is removing them before you, and because he wishes to establish the promise he made to your ancestors: to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Common English Bible)

When my kids were small, I dealt with the issue of sharing, as every parent has to do. Once, two of my girls were fighting over a doll. As I entered the room, one of them quickly said, “She has my doll!” So, I sat her down with me and calmly asked, “Whose doll is it?” “It’s mine!” my daughter cried.

I asked again, “Whose doll is it?” Again, the answer came, “It’s my doll!” I asked yet a third time, “Whose doll is it?” Because this was not our first rodeo together about fighting over dolls and toys, my daughter bowed her head, gave a big sigh, and quietly said, “It’s God’s doll.”

“Yes, it’s God’s doll,” I said. “God is just letting you borrow it for a while and expects you to take good care of it and share his stuff with others.”

Kids often need a reality check of where things come from and who really owns it all. Many times, adults need the very same reality check.

We big people grow up and tend to think we are bigger than we really are. Over the years, we gain misguided notions of our possessions and accomplishments. We believe we did it all through our own skills and character.

Maybe you recognize some of these common notions about our life, work, and ministry:

  • “I worked a long time for my money. I’m not giving it to so-and-so.”
  • My church has a lot of people because we preach the Bible, not like other churches.”
  • “The government takes too much of my hard earned money.”
  • “Here, you can have this couch. I was going to throw it away, anyway. My couch is a nice new one.”
  • “I made a lot of sacrifices for my job. I’m not letting anyone steal my position from me.”
  • “I raised my kids and they’re all doing very well in life. They wouldn’t have made it without me.”
  • “Hey, that’s my yard. Your dog can’t be on it.”
  • “This is my time.”
  • “It’s my car. Don’t touch it.”
  • My way or the highway.”

Those are actual statements Christians have said to me over the years. In their extreme individualism, they believed they were the masters of their own goodness and achievements. In other words, they gave themselves more credit than they really deserved.

A person is proud and selfish not for pursuing their own good but for neglecting their neighbor’s.

It’s far too easy to chalk-up our positions, titles, degrees, jobs, and the good things which come with them as of our own doing. We then believe we are the true owners of all our stuff. Some can even take the next step of believing that if others would just do what I do and think the way I think, then all would be well in the world.

That’s pretty much how Lucifer thought about things. And even after getting cast from heaven, he still exists with the delusion that he didn’t deserve it, as if he were above ever getting treated any other way than like God does.

The reality, however, is that everything and everyone belongs to God. The Lord is the rightful ruler of the universe, and we are not. Every good and perfect thing we have in this life is a gift from a gracious heavenly Father.

Stupidity doesn’t come from a lack of brains or smarts; it’s a result of pride taking over one’s thinking.

Indifference doesn’t have its source in a lack of caring; it comes from believing certain people don’t deserve to have my attention, my stuff, or my time.

Arrogance isn’t an inbred personality trait; it’s the logical end of the successful person’s life who is convinced that everyone ought to adopt their particular set of societal mores, cultural values, political views, and personal disciplines.

Conversely, a person in humble circumstances with little to their name is not necessarily lazy or unwilling to work. And when they have giants in their lives, they can trust the God who specializes in taking down the stupid, the indifferent, and the arrogant.

All things are a gift from the Lord, even the difficult people and hard circumstances we face. They are really opportunities for God to show up and give us precisely what we need.

Everything is a trust from God that we are to steward well, whether it is people, things, or money. They are given to us, not because of any superior spirituality on our part or righteous ingenuity, but because God simply gives it. We have what we have because of God, period.

The appropriate way of stewarding our resources, as well as expressing thanks to God, is through sharing our stuff, our money, our time, and our love with others.

Whose life is it?

We do not presume to come to your Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in your abundant and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table; but you are the same Lord whose character is always to have mercy. Grant us, therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat and drink that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

Mr. Lucifer

            Most believers, it seems, have never looked a real demon in the face.  They have not been a part of an exorcism, or seen demonic manifestations occur right in front of them.  That is likely because the enemy of our souls is much more crafty and subtle than to put blatant evil out there for everyone to clearly discern that something insidious is among them.  Rather, Satan cleverly disguises his dark agenda in ways that are sometimes barely discernible.  In fact, it can be so subtle that we even take the presence of evil for granted.  I hope that last statement scares the be-jeebers out of you because our struggle as Christians is not a contention with humanity, but with unseen dark forces and powers.
            If you have ever felt like your Christian life or your church is just plain dull, as if things were like a perpetual gray sky with no sunshine, it is quite possible that an evil canopy hovers above.  I’m not really talking about a literal cloudbank of evil, but a palpable intuition that something is askew and not quite right.  The true face of evil is ordinary and common, shallow and superficial.  When expecting to see the sight of evil in the apparition of a devil with a pitchfork, the real presence of evil is a well-dressed and well-groomed gentleman name Mr. Lucifer.  He looks more like a pencil toting paper-pusher than the architect of severe systemic evil in the world.  While far too many Christians are wasting time on witch hunts, the respectable looking Mr. Lucifer strolls unopposed into the church.
            Mr. Lucifer says things that make sense to church folk:  “I’m quite sure it has never been done that way before;”  “Perhaps you ought to induce a little guilt in order to get the people to serve;” “Well, not everyone can really follow Jesus like Billy Graham or Mother Teresa;” “Everyone in our town already knows about God, so there is no intelligent reason to plant another church – after all, what about us and our needs?”  Maintaining the status quo at all costs is at the heart of the satanic agenda because life transformation through the power of the Holy Spirit is Mr. Lucifer’s greatest nemesis.
            “Zeitgeist” is a German word.  It roughly translates in English as “the spirit of the age.”  In other words, zeitgeist has to do with what is already assumed around us.  It takes for granted the way things are, and feels threatened if anything is new or different.  Because God desires spiritual growth and maturity in his people, Mr. Lucifer will oppose anything that develops others into disciples who learn to follow Jesus.  And he does it not through pitched open battles, but in the shadows.  Parking lot conversations, church prayer chains, and meetings that never seem to get anything accomplished are his standard fare.  Anything that takes place in the dark and keeps people in it is the realm of his power.
            Make no mistake about it:  not only is there a Spirit of the Church; there is also a spirit of the church, a zeitgeist, a low-lying snake-crawling yawn-inducing banality that wants to keep slipping demonic roofies into the after-church coffee.  The effects of it inevitably lead to a preference for discussing the weather and last night’s football game over how to put the just-listened-to sermon into practice.
            The good news of it all is that God wiped out the charges that were against us because of Mr. Lucifer.  God took all our disobedience and shame and nailed it to the cross.  It was there that Christ defeated all dark powers and forces (Colossians 2:14-15).  God has given us a new lease on life – one in which we no longer have to succumb to unthinking conformity to the way things presently exist.  We have the freedom to question, to fail and get back up again, to love without fear.


            “Dear friends,” the Apostle John said, “don’t believe everyone who claims to have the Spirit of God.  Test them all to find out if they really do come from God” (1 John 4:1).  Evil is much closer than you think.  And the solution to it is yet even closer.