DECISIONS DETERMINE DESTINY Deuteronomy 30:15-20
William S. Epps, Senior Pastor
Sunday, February 12, 2023
15“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 17But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. 19I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”
Your decisions determine whether you have a destiny of dignity or disgrace. Life is about the choices you make. Your Decisions Determine Your Destiny because your decisions decide and or establish the direction of your life, charting the course
that you take.
We are reminded by the psalmist's request to have the Lord, “teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.” Psalm 90:12
“There is a destiny that makes us brothers: None goes his way alone: What we send into the lives of others comes back into our own. I care not what his temple or creeds, one thing holds firm and fast. Into the heap of days and deeds the soul of man is cast.” ~Edwin Markham
"Sow a thought and you reap an action: sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Your decisions determine your destiny.
Consider what it means that your decisions determine your destiny.
Monday, February 13, 2023
Moses shares with Israel words of challenge that have limitless meaning in their applicability to life generally and specifically. He frames those words as a warning with a caution about the consequences choices carry. When Israel arrives in the Land of Promise, it will face alternative ethical options, alternative objects of trust, and alternative modes of power. The prosperity and abundance of the new land may indeed talk Israel out of its faith in Yahweh. (Deut. 6:10-15; 8:6-11). Moses alerts Israel to the danger and risk that Israel must now face.
Israel faces a choice (30:15-18). The choice is clear and direct. It is a choice between life and good, death and evil. Death here is not the physical extermination, but it is existence that lacks in abundance, joy, security and well-being. Death is the absence of peace (shalom). The choice before Israel is expounded by Moses in two daring "if-then" clauses that make astonishing connectives. The first "if then" clause is a positive one (v. 16). 16“If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.” Faithful obedience to the Torah of Sinai will lead to a good life.
The negative "if-then" phrasing in verses 17-18, The negative "if" concerns a refusal to "listen" and a readiness to serve "other gods." 17“But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess.”
Obedience to an alien god means the embrace of a world perspective and a practice of social relations that are hostile to your covenant with God. The alternative gods to which Israel was tempted were variously fertility gods or the gods of the empire. "Fertility gods" are not particularly preoccupied with sexuality. Rather,
they are objects of loyalty and trust who reduce the costs of life to manageable procedures, so that one can manage the system and thereby secure one's own life on one's own terms. Thus, "fertility religion" is a scheme of self-sufficiency.
"I did it my way," is the mantra of self-sufficiency.
Consider what it means to serve God only and not the alternative gods
that create systems and schemes of self-sufficiency to
do it your way instead of trusting God’s way.
Tuesday, February 14, 2023
Happy Valentine's Day Let love permeate the atmosphere.
The "then" consequence of such disobedience is to "perish" (v. 18).
But such perishing is not wrought through God's supernatural intervention. It is a consequence of your choice. "Perishing" means to be caught in patterns of social relations that generate anger, fear, hate, violence and diminished human possibility. Thus both the positive and negative "if then" are about our social practice. Trusting the Lord fosters caring social relationships. The “other gods” foster destructive social relationships.
We can all use some help as we navigate life. Life is tricky. Its waters are filled with all kinds of unexpected and dangerous currents. Its deserts are often inhospitable. Its mountains filled with unanticipated crevices and fissures.
Its valleys can be both beautiful and thorny. And all along life’s journey we must make choices which have corresponding consequences.
Consider what it means to navigate life without the direction
of the Lord determining how you manage life.
Wednesday, February 15, 2023
Firstly, God Gave Us the Gift Of Choice. (We are accountable for our responsibility to choose) It’s a wonderful gift, but it can be abused.
One of the most amazing gifts that God gave mankind was the gift of choice. Call it free will, but it is really about the ability to choose.
Choices are a gift of God. God has given us the ability to make decisions. The power to choose is very great, a gift of faith and trust. Imagine, God has more faith and trust in us than we probably deserve and most definitely more faith and trust in us than we have in God.
We make choices all day, every day. To choose is to decide. Before we lie down at night we make a choice and then decide as to what time to set the alarm, then we choose the time we eventually get up. We choose our clothes, our breakfast, the route to work, our speed. I think you get the picture. We make hundreds or maybe thousands of choices each day. A robot or puppet cannot make choices, therefore God did not make us like that. The power to choose is a gift of God and like all power in the hands of anyone, is subject to abuse.
Some of our choices are good ones and some are not so good. I don’t think any of us purposely desire to make bad choices. To minimize bad choices and to maximize good ones it is imperative that we first have good information (knowledge) then we must understand that information (understanding), and thirdly we must properly apply information and understanding (wisdom).
Life is full of choices. Before the children of Israel went into the land of Promise, Moses delivered an important message about the choices available to them.
"Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide, / In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side; / Some great cause, God's new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight, / Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right, And the choice goes by forever 'twixt that darkness and that light." ~James Russell Lowell / Present Crisis
Consider what it means that the moment always come for persons
to decide in the, "strife of truth and falsehood for the good or evil side,"
and that "choice goes by forever twixt that darkness and that light."
Thursday, February 16, 2023
Secondly, exercise your ability to choose carefully and cautiously because today's choice can make all the difference in your life. (Choices have consequences) However, God did not give it to us in a vacuum where we have to figure it all out by ourselves. The Lord has given us guidelines.
“Behold, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil“ (v. 15). The word “today” appears four times in verses 15-19, giving this text an urgent quality—a feeling of immediacy. Indeed, “this day” is always the day to decide for the Lord—the day to choose life—the day to begin anew. The person who defers important decisions until tomorrow will be tempted to defer them to other tomorrows—tomorrows that might never come. Moses sets out the possibilities clearly. They can choose life and prosperity or they can choose death and adversity. There is no middle ground.
Shema (“hear”) is the Hebrew word that begins the most important prayer in Judaism. It refers to Deuteronomy 6:4, which begins with the command to “Hear.” The whole Shema prayer, which includes verses 4-9, is spoken daily in the Jewish tradition:
"Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."
The summons to love God and keep God's commandments, however, is not the simple embrace of a set of rules or disciplines. It is an invitation to a covenantal understanding of social relationships. Obedience issues in specific conduct; it is, however, essentially a different valuing of social reality, refusing to reduce social relations to power, force, greed and brutality. When life is ordered according to what God gives, there will indeed be well-being. This obedience is a social enterprise, which issues in an alternative community. Such an enterprise should not be understood as rule-keeping, as much as an outcome of genuine social relationships (harmony, peace and security of a future that is productive).
This covenantal obedience to God is described in the way we treat each other
God has a claim on you. You were liberated to worship God. Worshipping God focuses our allegiance, devotion, faith, loyalty, and gratitude in the proper direction, and thus keeps us from attributing our allegiance to the wrong source.
Consider what it means that to love the Lord is expressed
in the way we treat each other.
Friday, February 17, 2023
Thirdly, your decision determines your destiny.
When Israel arrives in the Land of Promise, it will face alternative ethical options, alternative objects of trust, and alternative modes of power. The prosperity and abundance of the new land may indeed talk Israel out of its faith in God (Deut. 6:10-15; 8:6-11).
Israel now faces a choice (30:15-18). The choice is between "life" or "death." It is also, "prosperity" and "adversity." Death is not physical extermination, but it is existence that lacks joy, well-being, security, and abundance. Death is the absence of "shalom" peace. Moses gives two, daring "if-then" clauses that make astonishing connections. The first if-then clause is a positive one (v. 6). The first "if-then" is love of God lived out through obedience to the commandments. The second "if-then" of consequence is life, abundance, prosperity and blessing in the land. The connection is that faithful obedience to the Torah of Sinai will lead to a good life. Bear in mind that the summons to love God and keep God's commandments, however, is not the simple embrace of a set of rules or disciplines. It is an invitation to a covenantal understanding of social relationships. This covenantal obedience includes, according to this tradition: A different valuing of social reality, refusing to reduce social relations to power, force, greed and brutality.
~sharing feast with the hungry (Deut. 14:27-29)
~canceling the debts that the poor cannot pay (15:1-11)
~organizing government to guard against advantaging
some and disadvantaging others (17:14-20)
~sharing hospitality with runaway slaves (23:15-16
~not charging interest on loans in the covenant community (23:19-20)
~paying hired hands promptly what they earn (24:14-15)
~leaving the residue of harvest for the disadvantaged (24:19-22)
~limiting punishment in order to protect human dignity (25:1-3)
When life is ordered covenant-ly, there will indeed be well-being. Here is a social enterprise which issues in the alternative community.
The negative "if-then" phrasing is to be understood in comparable fashion through the work of social interaction (vs. 17-18). The negative "if" concerns a refusal to "listen" and a readiness to serve "other gods" or gods of the empire. "Fertility gods" are objects of loyalty and trust who reduce the cost of life to manageable technical procedures, so that one can manage the system and thereby secure one's own life on one's own terms; fertility religion is a scheme for self-sufficiency.
The "then" (consequence) of such disobedience is to "perish" (v. 18). Perishing means to be caught in patterns of social relations that generate fear, anger, hate and diminished human possibility. Thus both positive and negative "if-then" connections need to be brought very close to concrete social practice. Both Yahweh and the "other gods" are present in the midst of social relations that either foster caring covenants, or oppose such covenants and social relations in destructive ways.
Managing to positively perpetuate what you have been given makes it more viable to follow God’s way, as the only God who is your ultimate authority and who has your allegiance, faith and loyalty as your ultimate authority.
Consider what it means to have God as your ultimate
authority in making your choices and decisions.
Saturday, February 18, 2023
Oh Blessed Savior Count on Me
The Lord has need of workers to till His field today,
So kindly He has led me to walk in wisdom's way;
I pray for grace to help me with all my heart to day,
O blessed Savior count on me.
Count on me, count on me, / For loving hearted service glad and free.
Yes, count on me, count on me, / O, blessed Savior, count on me.
I count on Thee, dear Master for cleansing in Thy blood,
For constant streams of blessing, a never-failing flood;
To ever-new fruition I see Thy mercies bud,
O blessed Savior, count on me.
Now gird me for the battle when evil powers oppose,
And give me faith and courage to conquer over Thy foes;
I pledge Thee my allegiance, my soul no other knows,
O blessed Savior, count on me.
I'll bear another's burden along a lonely way,
Or teach that burden-bearer with confidence to pray;
In service ever loyal at home or far away,
O blessed Savior, count on me.
Oh Blessed Savior
Count on Me