Deuteronomy 13:1-16 (Part 2) – Those Voices That Distract Us From Following the Lord

Posted: February 1, 2017 in Book of Deuteronomy
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Deuteronomy 13:1-16 (Part 2 of 3)

A Warning Against Idolatry

Right now, at this moment, I am playing the waiting game. Over this past weekend, my wife and I traveled to Wooster, OH to interview with a large church there for a full-time position that is the full-time equivalent of what I do now at my current church. At LifeSong, I am the director of finance and administration on a part-time basis (in addition to my secular job as controller for the company that I work for, Fujikura America, Inc.). The job in Wooster would enable me, if offered, to combine these separate jobs that I currently hold into one full-time job. It would enable me to pursue my passion of being in full-time ministry through my giftedness in finance and administration. The interview process for this job in Wooster has been extremely intense and drawn out. I began interviewing for this position over two months ago. There have been two phone interviews and a video interview. Then, there was this past weekend where we traveled to Wooster to have on-site interviews all weekend. It has been a grueling process to say the least. Both my wife and I were interviewed at length this past weekend. The interviews were pretty intense to say the least. Now, we wait. We wait for the church in Wooster to make its decision as to whether we are an appropriate fit for their church.

As we wait for the decision, my mind has been rationalizing why I did not win the job. There seemed to be great concern on the church leadership team as to whether I would consider this a destination job or whether it is a just a next step kind of job. My response to those questions was the fact that the church should want the best talent available and someone who was ambitious and driven. There statements to me over the past two months was that they wanted someone to take the financial reporting of the church “to the next level”. In that vein, they should need someone who is bright, imaginative, and driven to succeed. My daughter told me, when discussing this issue, that someone once told her that if you are a business owner, a school principal, a department head, or anyone in leadership and other organizations are not seeking out your people then you do not have the right people on your staff. If your people are not being sought after that means that they are unremarkable or average. They are position holders and not the best and the brightest. That was basically what I told them that yes I want to grow in this position and that I want to be the best that I can be. I want the job to have grown in responsibility over the time that I hold it. If I am good enough at this job, I will be afforded the opportunities to expand the role. If then as a result, other churches or academic institutions seek after me, I will consider those positions. However, I will only leave for other positions if God provides me the understanding that it is time to move to a new season. If not, I will remain. I didn’t know how else to honestly answer that question. It may however be the reason that the job is not offered – that I did not unequivocally answer that this job is my destination job. That would be a tough blow. I really like this church and the opportunity to pursue my passion for Jesus’ bride, the church, in a full-time way. We have prayed for a door such as this to be opened up to us. We feel drawn to the church and its mission there in Wooster. The church is actually doing the things that our church right now can only see in the future. It is our current church 10 years down the road. I told my wife that it was LifeSong Church (our current church) on steroids. I was so impressed with this church and what it does in the community. To me, it is a great fit for us at this point in our development as a pastoral couple. But, those are my desires and for this to work out, it must be God’s will as well. However, if it is not to be, I must see it as God’s will and just redouble my efforts in the field in which the Lord has me planted now and continue to work passionately at my current church.

When the interview process got to the point of our being asked to come to Wooster for the weekend, on-site interviews, we had to share the possibility of our move with family and friend and the church leadership at LifeSong. Some were positive and understanding and saw this as the natural progression of things for Elena and me. Some however were incredulous. Some were even negative. Why would we want to leave the life that we have here? We have the best of both worlds here. I have a secular job that has enabled us to live a life of both no worries about finances and to be generous to our church, our family, friends and even strangers. I have a position at church that enables me to serve the Lord on a part-time basis. It is a good life. We have family close by. We have friends that we have developed close relationships with over the past 7 ½ years. Life could not be more settled. People wonder why we would do this, leave all this. Leave what we have here and move from the sunny South to a region where it snows a great deal of the time. Leave here and live in a place that is 800 miles away from ailing parents, our children, and a grandchild. Some even blasted me for thinking that I am ready for full-time ministry because it is so different from secular work. There has been those who simply think we are crazy to take such a job that would be a reduction in pay, would be like having to start over, and why not just enjoy the remaining years of our life before retirement. Why not cruise into the finish line? You’ve got it good. You’ve earned it to just finish out.

However, we feel compelled to go into ministry full-time with what time we have left to be truly productive for Christ. It is a calling. It is a desire to do whatever He wants us to and wherever He plants us. Sometimes the doubts are loud voices thundering at you as to why you want to follow God’s calling. Sometimes the voices are quiet and inside our own soul. You can’t do this. You are not good enough. You weren’t saved at an early age. You are not a member of that seeming club of those who got saved at age 8 and have been in ministry since they graduated from a Christian college and a Christian seminary. You are not good enough. Those are the voices that are attacking me in addition to the outside voices. You started to late. You don’t spew Bible verses from memory and in every other breath. You don’t say all the right things at the right times. You are a poor public speaker. You just don’t have what it takes. Yours is just a pipe dream. You are not part of the pastoral world. You are just on the outside looking in and no one really takes your desire for ministry seriously because you have not “eat and breathed it” all your life.

That idea of the external and internal voices of doubt when it comes to following the Lord is what I thought of this morning when I read Deuteronomy 13. Let us read it together this morning:

13 If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a sign or wonder, 2 and if the sign or wonder spoken of takes place, and the prophet says, “Let us follow other gods” (gods you have not known) “and let us worship them,” 3 you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. 5 That prophet or dreamer must be put to death for inciting rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. That prophet or dreamer tried to turn you from the way the Lord your God commanded you to follow. You must purge the evil from among you.

 

6 If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods that neither you nor your ancestors have known, 7 gods of the peoples around you, whether near or far, from one end of the land to the other), 8 do not yield to them or listen to them. Show them no pity. Do not spare them or shield them. 9 You must certainly put them to death. Your hand must be the first in putting them to death, and then the hands of all the people. 10 Stone them to death, because they tried to turn you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 11 Then all Israel will hear and be afraid, and no one among you will do such an evil thing again.

 

12 If you hear it said about one of the towns the Lord your God is giving you to live in 13 that troublemakers have arisen among you and have led the people of their town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods you have not known), 14 then you must inquire, probe and investigate it thoroughly. And if it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done among you, 15 you must certainly put to the sword all who live in that town. You must destroy it completely,[b] both its people and its livestock. 16 You are to gather all the plunder of the town into the middle of the public square and completely burn the town and all its plunder as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God. That town is to remain a ruin forever, never to be rebuilt, 17 and none of the condemned things[c] are to be found in your hands. Then the Lord will turn from his fierce anger, will show you mercy, and will have compassion on you. He will increase your numbers, as he promised on oath to your ancestors— 18 because you obey the Lord your God by keeping all his commands that I am giving you today and doing what is right in his eyes.

In this passage, the Israelites were warned not to listen to false prophets or to anyone who tried to get them to worship other gods – even if this person was a close friend or a relative. The temptation to abandon God’s commands often sneaks up on us. It may come not with a loud voice but with a whispering tone of doubt. And whispers can be very persuasive, especially when they come from family members or close friends, or even from our own mind. But love for relatives should not take precedence over devotion to God. We can overcome whispered temptations to abandon God’s call to obediently follow Him by pouring out our hearts to God in prayer and by diligently studying His Word.

When God calls us, He may call us to different geography but He does not call us to stop loving our family and friends. We still have friendships with people that we shared time with in California. We have not lived there for 7 ½ years now but those friendships are still there. We lived away from family for those three years and we did not lose touch with them. As a matter of fact, we valued our times together even more so than we do now when we are right here in the same region. We cannot let anything get in the way of obeying the call of the Lord. In Matthew 8, a young man told Jesus that, basically, he had to go home first and settle his affairs with his family first before he could follow him. Jesus knew that if we let our worldly concerns get in the way, the man would find another excuse not to follow after he buried his father and then another and then another. We must be ready to drop every pursuit we have to follow the Lord when He calls us to leave where we are. We must be willing to depend on Him to work out all the details and issues. We must be obedient to Him and not let excuses and woulda/shoulda/coulda’s get in the way.

We also must trust in God’s providence and not let a disappointment jade us into withdrawing from the service of the Lord. If the door you desired to be opened does not open, do not let doubt that you are not good enough, that you do not have what it takes to follow the Lord into ministry, creep into your mind. God simply wants to show you what the future is going to look like. It is to prepare you. Then, return to the field you are tilling and do it to the best of your ability. Joseph thought he was going to get out of jail when two men for whom he had interpreted dreams returned to the royal court. However, they forgot about him. Sure, Joseph probably got pretty down and out about that disappointment but he continue to diligently serve the Lord where he was planted until it was time for his season, a season where he became the second most powerful, trusted, and respected man in all of Egypt. He served the Lord diligently wherever He was planted. He never gave up on the Lord and the Lord rewarded that. Don’t let your doubts end your ministry. Don’t let your doubts stop your from following and serving right where you are. Trust the Lord to bring about the ministry opportunities that He has planned for you. Be diligent and serve the Lord with that Joseph-like trust and devotion.

Amen and Amen.

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