2412 Griffith Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90011   (213) 748-0318   info@secondbaptistchurchla.org

SECOND BAPTIST CHURCH OF LOS ANGELES

Inspirational messages for Sunday June 28 through Saturday July 4, 2020


Sunday June 28, 2020
Decisions Determine Destiny


15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 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. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I 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. 19 I 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, 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 30:15-20

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 establish the direction of your life, chart the trajectory of your journey and the route that you are taking. 
 
Moses shares with Israel words of challenge whose meaning are limitless 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, abundance, joy, security and well-being.  Death is the absence of peace (shalom). 

Consider how your choices have consequences individually and communally shaping your life bit by bit, moment by moment, with the decisions you make. 

 

Monday June 29, 2020

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."  Deuteronomy 10:15-16

The choice before Israel is explained by Moses with a daring "if-then" clause that makes an astonishing connective.   The "if then clause" is a positive one (v. 16).  The "if," that is, the condition embraced, is love of God (expressed in faithfulness and trust)  enacted through obedience to the commandments.   The "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.

Life is tricky. Its waters are filled with all kinds of unexpected and dangerous currents. There are often inhospitable places without reference points.   Its mountains filled with unanticipated dangers and valleys can be both beautiful and thorny. And all along life’s journey we must make choices which have corresponding consequences.  We are accountable for our responsibility to choose. It’s a wonderful gift, but can so easily be misappropriated, misguided and misused. The power to choose is a gift and like all power in the hands of anyone is subject to abuse.

Consider what it means to be those who are freed from captivity to choose the Lord and obedience to the Lord's directives that lead to life and blessing


Tuesday June 30, 2020

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. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I 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. Deuteronomy 30:16-18

The negative "if-then" phrasing is to be understood in comparable fashion through the work of social conciliation (vs. 17-18). The negative "if" concerns a refusal to "listen" and a readiness to serve "other gods" (v. 17).  Obedience to an alien god means the embrace of a world perspective and a practice of social relations that are hostile to being in 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 technical 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. 

The "then" (consequence) of such disobedience is to "perish" (v. 18).  But such perishing is not wrought through God's supernatural intervention.  Rather "perishing" means to be caught in patterns of social relations that generate fear, anger, hate, and diminished human possibility.  Thus both the 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 either fostering caring social relationships or destructive social relationships. 

"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 for those who are freed from captivity to begin to secure their life on their own schemes of self sufficiency with false gods.     

 
Wednesday July 1, 2020

17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I 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. 19 I 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.  Deuteronomy 20:17-19

There is the "if" in all of our lives.  Imagine the choices available to you from your earliest awareness to the present.  Surely you can remember the possibilities available to you.  We are made aware that we have help as we navigate life's choices.

Exercise your ability to choose carefully and wisely.  Today's choice can make all the difference in life.  However, we do not have to make choices in a vacuum without direction.  We do not need to figure it all out by ourselves.    We have been given guidelines.   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).

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."

Consider the guidelines that influence the choices you make whether inspired, intuitive or intellectual or maybe a combination of one or more of them.   

Thursday July 2, 2020

18 I 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. 19 I 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, Deuteronomy 30:18-19

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 an understanding of social relationships.   Obedience comes in specific conduct. Obedience to the Lord's guidelines is essentially a different valuing of social reality, refusing to reduce social relations to power, force, greed and brutality.  When life is ordered by God's directives, there will indeed be well-being.  This obedience is a social enterprise, which creates an alternative community.  Such an enterprise should not be understood as rule-keeping, but the outcome of genuine social relations where all people are treated equitably.  The obedience to God is described in the way we treat one another.  Maybe that is why the first four commands are about relationship with the Lord and the remaining six are about our relationships with one other.    


 Moses reminds the people that God has a claim on you.  You were liberated to worship God.  Worship of God focuses our allegiance, devotion, faith, loyalty, and gratitude in the proper direction.  That keeps you from attributing to the wrong source your allegiance, devotion, faith, loyalty, and gratitude whether it is an individual or ideology, a cause or crisis, a principle or a purpose. 

We are all driven, guided, inspired, and motivated by something or someone influencing the decisions of our lives.   What purpose does your life fulfill?  What end does it achieve?  To what goal does it strive?  Toward what aim does it drive?  Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:37-40.    

Consider what it means to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself.  

 
Friday July 3, 2020

15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 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. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I 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.  19 I 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,

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 good, death and evil, life and death, blessing and curse.   There is no middle ground.

 “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there "is" such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”― Martin Luther King Jr.

There was a game which required hardly any equipment during the Great Depression called "kick the can." All you needed was an old can, one player to be "It," and a bunch of other players to hide.  It's job was to guard the can while trying to find the others.  Anyone who was found would be escorted to a holding area.  But if a hider could kick the can before getting tagged by "It, everyone went free.  In the 1980's a new phrase began to be heard in the United States Congress.  "To kick the can down the road" became, in the rhetoric of some lawmakers, a colorful and mildly critical new way of referring to putting off work on an issue for a later date. 

"Procrastination is the thief of time" as well as an excuse for neglecting to do today so you can put off to whatever tomorrow which never seems to come because the time is never right to do what you should have done and ought to have done simply because your didn't or don't what to do it.

We are living in a time which requires decisions now.  There is "a fierce urgency of now" as reflected worldwide with the pandemic of Covid-19 and the social protest against police brutality, blatant racism and the diminished respect for democracy.  The time is now to make a decision that will determine our destiny, weather a future of life and good or death and evil. 

 

Consider the choices that need to be made to address "the fierce urgency of now" with the concerns, issues, pandemic crisis, political reality and world-wide protest.  

 

Saturday July 4, 2020

 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 30:20

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 coax Israel out of its faith in God (Deut. 6:10-15; 8:6-11). 
 
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 excessive wealth ( 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)

The negative "if-then" phrasing is to be understood in comparable fashion through the work of social mediation (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 to loyalty and trust who reduce 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 of social relations in destructive ways. 

Managing to perpetuate what you have been given positively and making it stable and more viable can only come with loving the Lord and obeying the Lord's directives for our relationship with one another.  

Consider the choice/s that will depict the love of the Lord and obeying the Lord's voiced guidelines and the voice/s that promotes anger, fear, hate and diminished human potential.  

Conclusion 


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.