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“UN” (Un_Qualified) by: Brooke Guthrie

 


“UN” (Uniquely Near INTRO)

You know them. Every Christmas, every holiday, somehow some way, you are surrounded by those people. You can’t figure out who let them into your home. Then you remind yourself, ahh they are family. Like Clark Griswold, everyone has their uncle Eddie. If you are like me, looking through this lens at others only makes me blind to the reality that it may just be me who is playing the part uncle Eddie. However we try to frame others in certain ways, means or categories, we all fit the mold of the UN. Yeah, you heard right, UN. The UN_Qualified, UN_Desirable, UN_Likely, UN_Worthy, or even at times the UN_Lovable. As humans, we have that tendency to look at others around us with this sort of skepticism and disdain, hanging the UN wreath around their necks. In many ways what we ultimately desire is to get them, their trash sniffing dog, and old beat up camper out of our home and off our lawn as quick as the kids wake up on Christmas morning. We don’t want to be near them any longer than we have to. Ever stop to think that the feeling may be mutual? I know this seems to be a pessimistic way to look at this joyous time of year. But, the feeling is there lurking in the background. And despite all the nutmeg, eggnog and Christmas trimmings you try to throw at it, chances are you’ll still find yourself right in the middle of your own version of the Christmas Vacation.

So, now that we have all that pessimism and silent chuckle behind us, let’s get to the good news. There, wrapped in swaddling clothes, over 2000 years ago, was not just any baby. It was a fleshly vehicle that brought the gift of God’s presence Uniquely Near to mankind. The entire account is filled with God moving in close to those who others would have deemed as UN’s. Mary, just a small town girl living in a lonely world. Oh wait, that’s Journey’s version…. Mary just a teenage girl betrothed to a young carpenter’s son from Nazareth, Joseph, both chosen to foster and care for God’s only son. His plan for salvation. You don’t have to think hard before you realize they wouldn’t be your obvious pick. They aren’t of the priestly class. They are just getting started in life. They, for all other reasons, are young. In my mind they would be UN_Qualified. But, these are who God chooses to draw Uniquely Near and pick for His purpose.

Shepherds guarding their flocks by night. Shepherds were those the priestly class saw as barely in. It was a boarder line unclean profession to be a shepherd. There they are hanging out all day in the fields. I mean they seem to love animals more than people. Maybe they are smarter than we think….. But by all accounts we can see how they could be UN_Desired by others. But, there is God, Uniquely Near to them, as He announces to them of their savior’s birth. They become first hand eye witnesses to this miracle. This is God revealing to us that His presence is meant for all people. Even more so for those of “higher standing” would deem UN_Desirable.
          “This is God revealing to us that His presence is     meant for all people”
Magi. Men of great wisdom and renown. Wealthy and prestigious. Of all people, would they really need the presence of God? After all they would be seen as having everything. Yet, there they were searching for more. The incredible reality? God draws Uniquely Near to their searching, guides them through prophecy and a star to their answer for fulfillment wrapped in the flesh of a young boy. Out of all people, they would seem to be the UN_Likely. Far from God’s “chosen” Jewish nation. Gentile of origin. Most likely not even exclusive worshippers of Yahweh, and like many of the intellectuals surrounding your tables this Christmas, seemingly know it all’s…… But there is God Uniquely Near to those seemingly UN_Likely.

This is the reality of what we celebrate in Jesus’ birth. We are all the UN’s. No one is exempt. We were UN_Imaginably far from God, but in and through the plan of His son, Jesus, He drew Uniquely Near to us. Those who, if we were in the place of God, would have wrote ourselves off a hundred times over as UN_Redeemable. But there is God, Redeeming us bunch of UN’s.
 


Make Every Effort

So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord Deuteronomy 34:5 (ESV)

Throughout the first 4 books of the Old Testament, otherwise known as the Torah or Pentateuch, are a treasure shinning the wonderful power and glory of God. Within the life of Moses we see some incredible events take place. Most importantly we see God’s commitment to set apart for Himself a people that He would use to bring forth His ultimate plan through. Every direction, move and leading all pointing to the coming True king and redeemer, Jesus. For Moses he had endured much through His leading of the people. God had called Him to a great task, and as stated by the Scripture there was none like that of Moses. Why? His relationship with God. Verse 10 of chapter 34 answers the why. “Whom the Lord knew face to face.” That is an incredible statement. Face to face is personal. It is intimate. That was the relationship Moses had with the Lord. Yet, he did not enter the promised land. The very man, sent by God, to bring His people to the promised land, himself does not complete the journey.

Moses had disobeyed God’s command. It is hard to believe that such a thing could happen. One that knew God face to face and yet still rebels in the midst of such intimacy? Chapter 32:51 gives us the reason why Moses will not enter, “because you broke faith with me in the midst of the people of Israel at the waters of Meribah-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, and because you did not treat me as holy in the midst of the people of Israel.” In their thirst the people once again had held contempt for God. They were grumbling against His provision. Moses was upset and sought to duplicate the provision through a rock as God had done before. Only this time he moved to make it happen without the command of God. Water was provided in spite of this. However, because of his presumption against God, Moses would be stripped of his entrance into the promised land. He would be cut short in fulfilling the journey God had set Him out on. The plan was still carried through. Moses was still chosen of God and saved for His redemption, but missed seeing the culmination of years of toil, all because of a moments rebellion.

It is easy to question why God would hold Moses on the outer edges of seeing this plan fulfilled. After all he had been through why keep this moment of completion from him? In answering this we see how serious God is about us completely following Him. How serious he takes our rebellion against him. This rebellion did not take away the intimacy that God had provided with Moses. In fact Moses had repented of this act. But what we do see is clear consequences for our choice to either obey God’s call or to willfully disobey. Although He does not constantly hold our destiny over our heads, He does desire to see a people completely given over to him inn love.

Like Moses, we have such intimacy with God today, provided by Jesus and experienced through his Holy Spirit. Living completely in this relationship requires that we must die to ourselves. God has something lain before us that He desires to work our through our lives. The question is will we be pliable in those times or carried away in rebellion? Like Moses, it is possible to get to the edge of that promised land, yet be prevented from entering it because of our choice. We may even see another anointed to finish out what we once began. In the words of Paul, “May we finish the race well.” You see, if we are in Christ then we will finish the race and cross the line. Our salvation is sealed in Him. But we want to finish the race stronger than we began. We want to cross the line knowing we have been completely used up for God’s kingdom work. How are you running? Is there rebellion? Or are you moving faithfully in the direction and call of Jesus? Finish the race well. Make every effort to not die outside of the place God had directed you, but to walk into the fulfillment of what God had originally called you for.



Choose Life

Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20 loving 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.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (ESV)

The first three words of this passage are quite the challenge. “Therefore choose life.” In reading this we have to ask the question what is the therefore, therefore? Prior to this, Moses is relaying God’s message, renewing HIs covenant with them on the plains of Moab. Leading into this verse, Moses begins to remind the people of the destruction that will follow them if they turn away from God in order to worship other gods. They were to keep the commands of God, not strictly as duty, but to align their hearts with the love and call of God. Moses continues on to say that God has both set before the people “life and death, blessing and curse.” It is here that we find the answer to our question, “what is the therefore, therefore?”

Amidst God’s ultimate plan for His people , we see him provide levity to move according to His love and call. The ability to respond in favor of, or against, His love and call. This does not restrict His authority nor restrain His Sovereignty. Rather, a required response, an opportunity for His chosen to respond, only undergirds His complete commitment to love. Could forceable compliance have been an option? Could God have ultimately made His chosen act accordingly to His commands. Certainly. However, in this dictation, we would not see the responsive action that love so requires. God is there demonstrating to His people His love for them, even amidst their sinful ways. Ultimately He is after their heart. Out of their heart will flow life or death.

For us, like the Israelites, God has presented us with the fullness of His love, through Jesus. He has lain before us blessings. Abundant life. Our response matters. It matters because it reveals the root of our heart. If we seek to worship other gods, chase after our own hearts desires or attempt to work ourselves in good standing with God, then our hearts are inclined to love other things and ourselves instead of God. We bring death to ourselves. But to move into relationship with God. To pursue after Him and His heart then we reveal that our first love is Him and not ourselves. The blessings of this love are joy, peace, everlasting life, contentment, all in the face of a world that only offers hurt and destruction. These blessings are poured out in the midst of our circumstances and give hope in times of seeming hopelessness. It is then that we can echo the words of Paul, “I have learned to be content in all things.”

Where is your heart? What has been your response? Are you motivated by His love or your so thought duties or desires? He has given you all of Himself, and nothing short of all of you will do. It is not your circumstances that need the changing, it is your hearts true love. It is the center of your life that needs to shift. Move into the blessings He has lain before you.



First Fruit

“When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance and have taken possession of it and live in it, 2 you shall take some of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you harvest from your land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you shall put it in a basket, and you shall go to the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name to dwell there.” Deuteronomy 26:1-2 (ESV)

First fruits. This is considered to be the first of our provisions. Whether that is our food, our money our time, our gifting and talents, our relationships, our firsts in these things carry great weight. For many we never give any thought to this concept of first. Everything, in our western mind, belongs to me and comes by the result of my own hand, my own hard work, my own efforts. Therefore, whatever is gained through these pursuits exist to fulfill my heart and my desires. Sadly, this perspective and view comes withs a great loss to the very self we attempt to live for.

The Israelites were no different. They continually sought to fulfill their ow hearts and desires while God was their bringing provision to their lives. He had sustained their very existence and delivered them from the clutches of evil in Egypt. Moses, in the above verse, presents them with a command from God on how they should handle their provisions as they enter the land. Among several other means of the tithe, there was one require call the first fruits. This was an offering that was brought to the Lord from the first of the peoples harvest. The first of their provisions. The first of their currency. Before they took for themselves, they were to bring to God His required portion. For those of us with a western mind, we have just as much trouble with this concept as the Israelites. It is counter intuitive, so we think. However, with this request God was attempting to scratch past the surface of His peoples lives cutting straight to their hearts. 

The first fruits were important because they were to reorient the pursuit and elevation of ones self in favor of God. To bring the first fruits was to signify that by, and only by ,God’s hand, did the people even exist, let alone prosper. This was not to be a domineering attempt on God’s part, but one of true love. In this request was woven the very thread of love, compassion and mercy that He had poured out on His chose people. Knowing man’s heart, God wanted the people to see their condition and find their true life, love, identity and everything in the one true God. To let go of the first provisions, to give them as an offering was to reorient their lives, see God as the center of their existence. The only One that has created, provided and secured such an existence. It was to let go of the idea that one could fully find life in themselves, and only through a God full of abundant life. 

Many of us never let go of the first fruits of life. We cling to them in an effort to find fulfillment, happiness, joy and peace. Unfortunately, what we normally find is the stench of rotting fruit, rather than the sweetness of true life. Holding onto the provisions only brings discontentment. But to see through and by who’s hand they have come from, is to let go of selfish pursuit. Releasing and letting go of the very things we think bring life is where we can begin to find true life. What are the fruits you have tried to hold onto in your life? What are the things you have received from God but refuse to release to God’s leading? The fact is He doesn’t want the stuff, He wants your heart. 



Intimate Distinction

For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? 8 And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today? Deuteronomy 4:7-8 (ESV)

As we know, throughout Deuteronomy, Moses is reminding the people of the intricacies of their journey from Egypt to the promised land. As well, Moses goes even further as to reveal for the people his interaction with God during this period. All the ins and outs of what God was speaking to him intended for the people. It is pretty intimate. Here in the above passage, Moses is challenging the people to remember the words that were given to them. To remember the commands of the Lord. To not add to them nor take away from them. But to keep them use as they are. Why? To thwart God’s wrath? To reflect His holiness? To be a holy people? Although the answer to all these is yes, I think we can see an even deeper and more intimate purpose revealed in this passage. “For what great nation is there that has a God so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?”

For all the other nations, they served gods that were aloof. They purposed themselves to satisfy or to move their gods to act in their favor. Often times with little promise or effect. Why? They were not true. They couldn’t be near to a people because they did not exist. What YHWY, the I Am, the Most High God, revealed to his people was His actual presence, displayed through His glory. There was no doubting that God was there and present through all the miracles, through the pillars of cloud and fire leading the people out. God was making himself available, intimate with a people. This was the distinction Moses was trying to present to the people. Nothing could define them, or set them apart from any nation more than the reality that the One True God was there in their midst. The law was to help display that through the way they lived. God’s presence among His people.

For many of us today, we have become like the Israelites. We have forgotten what truly sets us apart. Who sets us apart. We have forgotten who makes us different than all others. That is an intimate relationship with the Creator of the Universe. We have all tried to find our identify elsewhere, in things made by mans hand, yet the very thing that makes us great is the One who truly great. Maybe today you need to be reminded that the only thing that will bring purpose and true meaning to your life is God. The only thing that will fulfill your life is man intimate relationship with the Most High God, made available through Jesus. If you stand in Hm the folly of the world will see your life’s wisdom. They will see a God that is intimately involved with His people.



Presumptuously

And the Lord said to me, ‘Say to them, Do not go up or fight, for I am not in your midst, lest you be defeated before your enemies.’ 43 So I spoke to you, and you would not listen; but you rebelled against the command of the Lord and presumptuously went up into the hill country. Deuteronomy 1: 42-43 (ESV)

One of the hardest statements made by God, to man, in all of Scripture, I believe, is “I am not in your midst.” It is a frightening thing to think about. If we look to the account with Samson, yes the one with Delilah, he experienced the very same demise. Because of his rebellion the Spirit left him and he never knew it. That’s a sad place to be in. That’s a scary place to be in. Especially if you call yourself a believer, and say that you live for Jesus.
Here, recounting the journey from Egypt to the promised land, Moses reflects on the people’s resistance to enter the land. The spies have returned with good report. However, there is one thing that seems to present a challenge. Giants. The people were terrified. They were defeated by the sound of the words. Only two stood firm and trusted the Lord. Joshua and Caleb. Because of the people’s resistance, a wandering in the wilderness becomes their punishment. After receiving word of this punishment, then the people decide they will go. Unfortunately it’s to late. They have already rebelled. The Lord will not be with them. “Do not go up or fight, for I am not in your midst.” The result? Those who go up get slaughtered and chased back by the Amorites with their tail between their legs.

What happened? There is one word that is used in the passage that displays the problem. Presumptuously. To be presumptuous is to go and do without permission. To overstep one’s bounds. God had told the people to go and He would be with them, but they wouldn’t. They let their eyes tell them other wise. So they forfeited the opportunity to go under the Lord’s leadership. They were not motivated by obedience to His leading. Rather, they became motivated to move based on the punishment they were to receive because of their disobedience. They thought that they could make it right by going into the land on their own, presuming that God would be there just the same as before. This presumption was a mistake. It was folly and lead to destruction.

For many of us, we live presumptuously towards God. We say and live as though we are lovers of Jesus, yet when he asks us to go and be obedient, we rarely trust his leading. We decide we would rather do things the way we want to. So we chose another route we deem is best suited for us and then presumptuously lean on God to lead us through. Problem is, God does not bless the plans of man, but only His plan for man. If we try to call the shots and rally ourselves and others towards what we feel is best for the kingdom, while never caring or disregarding what God really wants to do, then we are presuming. When we ask God to come bless our plans, rather than walking in the plans and way he has called us to be obedient in, then we live presumptuously. Just because you tag the name of Jesus to an initiative, whether personal, corporate, organization or church, doesn’t mean that He is in your midst. God will not be manipulated and our presumption placed upon Him is our way of trying to do so. Where have you presumed upon God? What are the ways you have tried to go asking God to come bless something he has never called you to? What is the level of your obedience to follow His lead and walk in His plan? May we never hear the words, “I am not in your midst.”



Boundaries

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Command the people of Israel, and say to them, When you enter the land of Canaan (this is the land that shall fall to you for an inheritance, the land of Canaan as defined by its borders),” Numbers 34:1- 2 (ESV)

Boundaries. They can be labeled by sign, by legislation, by decree or even through an unsaid word. Many of us never realize the boundaries we operate within throughout our lives. It can even be said that boundaries are never noticed until broken. However, what they provide is a way to maintain healthy relationship. That is the whole purpose behind boundaries.

As the Israelites are now coming into the land to possess it, God speaks to Moses laying out strategic boundaries for each tribe to take ownership of within the land. These boundaries were not to divide or separate a people, but rather to provide them with a way to function with one another’. None had purchased any of the land but had been all given it by God. Thus whether the tract be large or small, it was all equal through the Lord’s provision.

In many ways these designated boundaries were symbolic of the boundaries the people would operate in with one another and God Himself. Relationships were to be maintained and in order to accomplish this, certain parameters have to be established. Without lines, when are we sure we have crossed one and become encumber some in the relationship? Without boundaries there would be no need of grace or forgiveness.

Boundaries. We all have them and struggle when they are crossed. Who has crossed your relational boundaries? Who has pressed into you a little more than you like and have become an encumbrance to the relationship? Have you forgiven? If not, think about this. When was the last time you crossed the relational boundaries Jesus has established for you? When and where are the places in your life that you have crossed the line with Him? If you are honest, you know that when this happens you can be assured that grace and forgiveness have been found amidst your repentant heart. If that is how our Lord responds to us, then what is holding us back from extending the same. Make your boundaries are clear, and when people cross them be the first to extend a grace and forgiveness that resembles Jesus.



Settle

And they said, “If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants for a possession. Do not take us across the Jordan.” Numbers 32:5 (ESV)

Have you ever settled for something? Maybe someone? Possibly, this settling came from an angst to reach a certain desired point, place or person. The journey to reach this promise seems long and brings with it an intense faint. Like a carrot in front of the horse, you keep walking but the carrot seems to get farther away. So, you eventually give up on the carrot in front of you and decide to settle for whatever seems to carry similar promise. It may not be exactly what was before you, but at this point anything will do. You must scratch the itch.

This was the sentiment of the people. God had promised them a land. yet their continual disobedience kept that promise way out in front of them. Their hope of obtaining the promise was constantly waining. Even in the face of God’s provision, the people continually rebelled. They wanted what they wanted now. Like a screaming kid in the toy isle at wal-mart, they were going to kick and scream all in an attempt to get what they wanted.

Here in the above passage, two tribes, Gad and Rueben, see the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead and find it pleasing to their eye. They decide to request that Moses give them this land to inhabit. The trade? The will give up the opportunity to cross the Jordan and take possession of the promised land of God. Needless to say this finds no favor with God. Because of their desire for momentary appeasement, another 20 years they will wander the desert making it a total of 40.

The problem with settling is where your focus is. If your focus is strictly on the journey and not the One leading you to His blessings, you will think satisfaction can be found else where. Settling is trading what God desires for you, in favor of what you deem as better. Choose today to stay the course. He has blessed you immensely in His son Jesus. As Paul writes to the Ephesians, He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Settle for nothing less. Cling to the hope that is found in Him. He is the only satisfaction. Where are you settling? Where are your eyes focused?



Holy Leadership

“Moses spoke to the Lord, saying, 16 “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation 17 who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.” 18 So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.” Numbers 27:15-18 (ESV)

The time had come for Israel to enter the promised land. Moses was God’s representative to them. Yet here, God is making clear that Moses will not be the one to lead the people in. He will not see the land. Why? His rebellion. Moses disobeyed the Lord and struck the rock during Israel’s grumbling for provision of water. Within this reality comes a transfer of leadership. Change for a people.

It is remarkable that Moses asks God to fill the void of this leadership. His request holds this particular plea, “who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.” God was to be that shepherd. It was His chosen people and He had been the one leading the people, from Egypt, through the wilderness, giving His presence by cloud and fire. Making provision for right relationship through the law and sacrifice. Yet Moses Himself missed that very fact. Yet, God gave one that would lead. Joshua. He and Caleb were the only two spies from the previous generations that would see and enter the land because they had believed the Lord would provide a way for them to take it. One characteristic stands out in Joshua. The Lord says he is “filled with the Spirit.” There would be a man, but one that was lead of God.

Changes are promised. Leadership will convey. But the question remains who will truly lead. If we seek the counsel and leadership of anyone other than The Most High, then wilderness will be what we experience. Whether in our personal lives, our cities, communities, states, churches, or country, no matter what appears to be right, if it is not of the Lord’s leadership than we will only find destruction.

Where are the places you have tried to grab onto other means of leadership other than God? What or who are the things that have been holding authority over your life? If not God and His Holy Spirit, then pain will be the fruit. May we seek The Lord, His counsel and leadership in all things and areas of our lives. We are but sheep, and with out the true Shepherd, we are at great risk of great loss.