BRO. JOHN BEN RODRIGUEZ:
Today we’ll be reading a verse from Deuteronomy 30:15-20. This is Moses’s command to the Israelites– because they’re about to enter the Promised Land. And I believe this is very much applicable today:
And now he repeats:
Have you noticed the recurring pattern in Moses’s message to the Israelites?
I think it’s quite a simple message. Two options:
So, if you’re ordering, please choose option one.
Is that clear and simple enough? But would you agree with me– that the challenge for me is this: Sometimes when life presents us with options and choices, it’s not that easy to distinguish which are curses and which are blessings.
For example, you had a bad day at work and you ate at a restaurant to pamper yourself.
And after that, you thought, “Should I order cake?” Which will you choose: Option 1 or Option 2?
What if there’s a notification for life, you see? Option 1, Option 2. Will you choose the cake or not? And there’s a little eye icon– so, there’s an explanation. So, when you click the cake, there’s Option 1—choose life. It says there. Don’t eat the cake! You have said this 30 times this month already because you had a hard day at work every single day.
So, choose life. You already had cake. Besides, your blood sugar level is already doing the cha-cha with the borderline.
Wouldn’t it be nice if life decisions were like that and you had those means and tool: “Lord, there’s an opportunity presented to me today. There’s a challenge ahead for me. How do I choose life– or death– in this situation?”
That is also my desire. And my desire for everyone because we all need one word—alignment. We need alignment with God’s heart so that when something is presented, we’re aligned with God.
And you will see: “Lord, how can I perceive this beyond my own logic, beyond my own understanding? Because upfront Lord, I don’t understand it. I don’t want it. But if this is a path, Lord, that leads to life, I need to have the grace and the wisdom from You to decide the proper step.
Lord, I want Option 1. Father, in times that we cannot discern if a certain option goes with Your way or goes against Your way– or probably there are times that it will be against our own way– may we have the grace to choose You and follow You each day. Because Your path and following You leads to life. Amen.
You Have the Power To Choose
You create your destiny. You dictate your own weight. Right? In some sense, it is true– because you have also the power to choose what to eat and what not to eat, or to exercise or not.
And I think this is the message of the verses we are reading today.
Who among you here is familiar with the Matrix?
For us who are in Engineering, we don’t like Matrix because there’s computation there.
But who among you here is familiar with Morpheus? He gives Neo an option: Would you choose the blue pill or the red pill? This one leads to this, this one leads to that.
Do you think Morpheus has a preference?
Does he want Neo to choose that? Of course, he does– because he wants Neo to be the savior.
But what does he do? He knows that he has to give the option. And the truth is the person must choose for himself.
In the same way, we must choose for our own self.
Why? The wives will know this. Some wives will come to me and say,
“Bro. JB, why is it that when some advice is said at The Feast, my husband follows it? But when I keep telling him the advice, over and over again, he doesn’t follow. Why is it that way?”
It’s because if a decision comes from within, and the person decides to do it, most likely it will happen. Because there’s power in the decision.
So, in the same vein, when God is speaking through Moses, the way He’s presenting options, He is saying: “I want you to have power over your decision.”
So, if you look at the blessings in Deuteronomy– we will talk about this and dig deep– the first option is actually simple. Option 1 is life, and Option 2 is death.
Bro. Audee will talk later about death, but I will talk about life.
A List of Blessings
In Deuteronomy 28, you see a list of blessings. If you choose God, you will have blessings– you will have many descendants, the harvest will be good, you will have economic and financial abundance, and you will have military victory.
The intro is in Deuteronomy 28:1:
Wow. God will elevate you. For us who are working on our careers, we know that. You will be promoted.
But we also know that with great power comes great electricity bill, right?
With great power comes great responsibility.
So, if you look at it, you’ll see that this is hyperlinking to Genesis.
You are not to have blessing and power alone for your own sake. That was highlighted also in our Talk last week– that God cares for the little ones– and we should too. So, let’s not use power to afflict and abuse the little ones.
Here is the hyperlink in Genesis 12:2-3:
God is blessing you with power– with authority, with finances, with everything good in your life so that you may use this power eventually to bless the people around you.
Here’s the reality my friends that I want to share this truth with you today: If a blessing is not shared, it may become a burden.
Imagine you get a whole cake, but you don’t share it.
You’ll enjoy it but certainly you’ll feel it in your belt.
But if you look at it, you’ll see– straight forward– that God is presenting us a choice between good and bad. But again, as I said in my intro, sometimes the options are not easy to discern.
Reasons Curse Still Happens
So, some of you might be asking this question which I was also asking as I was preparing this talk.
“Lord, why do I still receive curses even if I’m already following you?”
Have you ever asked that question?
“Lord, here we are, we’re attending The Feast… We’re trying to follow you…
Of course, we sin once in a while. Of course, sometimes we get angry, and sometimes we lose our cool…
But why does it feel that sometimes even if I’m following you, the curse does still happen in my life?
There are two reasons.
First: Because of other people who chose curse. That’s why our talk last week is important. If you’re a person of authority and you have power, your choices affect those under you.
Another example: I came from a broken family. So, the choices of my parents in the past have had an effect on me. Growing up in a different setup has very much an effect on my self-worth, of my finding my identity.
Second: Because of the enemy switching labels. We talked about this: The enemy’s goal is to confuse you, to make what is bad seem good and what is good seem bad.
Surrendering to God Is a Journey
I had a revelation recently. I was reviewing my journal entries from 2010.
I used to write down significant events in my Iife. I also wrote down my prayers. At the time, I was still single, serving in the Kids Ministry and Campus Missions.
As I was reviewing what I had written, I saw a line in my prayer there that says:
“Lord, when it’s my turn to be a parent, I want to be there for them (my children) especially in their formative years.”
And I realized, oh God, He was answering my prayer that I had already forgotten.
Because, as you may know, my daughter has a medical condition and initially, my wife and I really saw this as a burden, a challenge, a curse, because it has limited our life in terms of our finances, our time, our everything.
At the beginning of this journey, there were days that my wife and I would tell ourselves, “We can no longer engage in rackets. Before, I could do documentaries while you give talks out of town… We could no longer do these.”
As parents, we desire to have that particular level of financial capacity– because it would make a difference for our children. We had been really good at it in the past– in managing what we had and maximizing it.
We were really praying, “Lord, we want more financial provision.”
And then the situation of my daughter came in. And now that I’m trying to make sense of this, I’ve realized one thing: surrendering to God is a journey, and understanding the will of God is sometimes a journey. It will not be revealed to you in one fell swoop that you will understand.
Curse or Blessing?
Sometimes, it comes in bits and pieces. And now that I have all these bits and pieces and trying to make sense of them, and I’m connecting to the heart of God, I’m trying to figure it all out, I now realize that my daughter and all those that come with her are blessings in our life. Her condition forced us to change our work schedules. Her condition forced us to find other ways to help her. You know the saying: God will not give you a burden you cannot handle.
And I now realize that it’s true.
Now, when I see my daughter, I realize, “Wow, God, this is such a blessing and privilege that You have given me.”
And a big blessing came to us just yesterday.
It was the day of assessment of my daughter by her developmental pediatrician.
The pediatrician was to assess if her development is at par (with the growth and development of children her age).
And naturally, as parents we were nervous.
We were coaching our child, “O, when the doctor asks you, answer, ha?” We were very much pressured. But we were blessed when the results came. The doctor said, “Your daughter is at par.”
Now, it’s clear validation. It’s not a curse but a blessing, a privilege, that I tried to label before as a curse.
In choosing life, following God is a blessing in itself.
Challenges may come, confusion may come– but if you follow God, God is with you. If you do that, you’re choosing life.
BRO. AUDEE VILLARAZA:
Let’s talk about death. May I start with a simple story?
One day, when we were teenagers, my brother came and he started raving about this book.
He said, “This book is so revolutionary.
It’s the most amazing book that you will ever read! It’s going to change the way that we consume…”
At first, I didn’t believe him– until I started reading the book.
And I was like, “Wow! He’s correct!”
Have you ever read that book when you were young? That’s Choose Your Own Adventure. It’s a good book, right? For those of you who don’t know this book, this is the first book ever written– at least during my time– from the second- person perspective. So, as you’re reading it, you become the hero of the story.
In what way? You get to choose how the story progresses based on options. For instance, after you’ve read two to three pages, you’re given options. And depending on what option you choose, that’s how the story will progress. The outcome becomes different if you choose another one of the options. So, in a way, there are multiple endings to this book.
Life or Death?
That’s what Moses is trying to get at the Israelites. He says you have two options: You have the option to choose life, you have the option to choose death. Life leads to a blessing but death leads to a curse.
Automatically, we’re going to choose life. Everybody wants to choose the blessing. But did you know that it’s not really true? Because it’s not always easy to choose the right thing. As much as it’s not always easy to do the right thing.
Now, JB already told you about choosing life.
When you choose life, yes there are blessings, and there’s abundance. But what happens when you start choosing curse? There’s death.
Moses started talking about this. This is a very important and hard message to preach today but I pray that the Holy Spirit will open up your heart to receive this.
In Deuteronomy 28:15, Moses says:
And then Moses proceeds to list down all the curses:
As you’re listening to this, don’t you feel scared? When I was reading this I was like, “Why is God out to punish me? Why does it feel like God is out to get me?”
We had a recent experience with our son Ethan. School had been great for him in the past three weeks. I brought him to school.
I would drop him off and I would leave– to work and do errands.
Last Tuesday, something happened.
I got a call. I was in the grocery and somebody from the school said, “Daddy Audee, are you close to the school?”
I said, “No, I am actually back at home, I’m in the grocery. Why?”
“Because Ethan has been crying inconsolably for a few minutes now and we can’t stop him.”
And I was like, “Is it an emergency? Do you need me to drive back there? It would take me about 15-20 minutes to get there.”
They said, “No, no. I think we can manage it. But I want to ask you a question.
Is there a recent death in the family?”
“No, not that I know of. Why do you ask?”
The teacher said, “Because your son, keeps on saying that your wife, his mom, had been sick and that she passed away– but by some miracle, she was rescued, she survived.”
And I was like, “That must’ve been a dream– because my son is too young to be on drugs!”
So we fetched him and confronted him about it.
We asked him, “Ethan, did you say that mommy was sick?” And he said, “No. I just missed you and Mommy.”
So that’s it. The next day, the same thing happened except that I didn’t get a call. We fetched him. The teacher said that my son needed to be pulled away from class. He needed to be in a special class with a special teacher because he was crying again.
And again we confronted him about it.
By this time, as a parent, you know when your kid is thinking of something…
But he was not saying whatever it was– until we kept on prying and prying, and finally, he said the truth.
Calling Your Attention
Ethan said, “Daddy, I’m afraid to be in class because I have a scary teacher.”
“What’s scary about her?”
“She shouts so loud and she’s always mad at me.”
I knew that you don’t always take your kids based on what they say. So, the following day, as a parent, I deliberately looked for the teacher to talk to her. And true enough, to confirm
my suspicions, she was the sweetest small, little lady. But yes, she had a loud voice.
I asked her, “Teacher, Ethan is actually afraid of you because you have a loud voice.
Can you explain to us why you have a loud voice?”
She said, “Daddy, the reason I have to have a loud voice is these children are transitioning from Kinder to Grade 1. Kinder is playschool. Grade 1 is when they have to sit down at their own tables. They need a little more discipline. They don’t listen. They have to learn how to listen and so the reason I have to raise my voice is I’m calling their attention.”
And I could very well see the same thing about God. You know, there are passages in the Bible that sometimes are so hard to hear. But what if the author makes it feel like it’s a threat? Because that’s the only way that God can call our attention.
God is simply telling somebody today that this is serious stuff! If you choose life, you get blessed but if you choose death, you get a curse.
This is an important message for somebody here to hear.
Take note: Moses lists down all the blessings in 14 verses. You know how many verses about the curses? 32.
Twice the number of the blessings. Because God is calling your attention. He simply wants to say, “You got to choose life because I care about you.”
What Is Curse?
One thing you have to learn when you hear the word curse: The very first time the word curse was used was in Genesis. This is a hyperlink. When Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden of Eden, they were told that the ground that they would walk on would be cursed. In the Garden, they just sit down and enjoy the fruits in the trees. Now they have to work, they have to toil and sweat until the harvest comes.
But sometimes, the harvest doesn’t even come because that’s an effect of sin.
But here’s one thing you need to know:
The truth is, God doesn’t have to punish us– because sin is its own punishment. God has given you free will. You can decide if you want to walk with God. And you know what God will do if you don’t want to be with Him? He’s going to remove His Presence from your life. You don’t feel Him.
That’s why I believe God will always respect the decisions that you make– however you want to choose the decisions of your life.
That’s why the curse in the Bible is God allowing the consequences of your bad decisions– so that one day, you might want to change and be with God.
That’s what a curse is—not because God wants to punish you, not because God doesn’t love you. But because He wants you to experience the choices you have. Some choices you make will lead you away from God.
Two Points To Remember
I’d like to imagine that there’s somebody here who hasn’t been with God for the longest time and maybe you’re asking, “Is there a place for me up in Heaven, for somebody who has sinned against the Lord again and again? Can God ever forgive somebody like me who keeps repeating the same mistake and the same sin again and again?”
If that’s you, I want to repeat what Moses has to say about this.
In Deuteronomy 30, he says:
While I was reading this, I was like, “Wait a minute, why does it look like Moses can see the future?”
He says, “In the future, the Lord your God will exile you.” I mean, where is he coming from?
Here’s the context: Remember that Deuteronomy wasn’t written during the time that these things were happening (when the Israelites were exiled in Babylon— because they refused to pay tribute to the then reigning King Nebuchadnezzar II who besieged Jerusalem). Deuteronomy was compiled during the Babylonian exile so, in a way, this was in the context of the Israelites being in exile.
But two points I want to leave to you:
First: Prophecy. Some authors believe that when he (Moses) was writing his prophecy, he was under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He knew that a time would come when the Israelites would be exiled. (So, the readers who read this passage were already exiles in Babylon. They were living in the middle
of the curse.)
Second: Predictability. Human behavior is very much predictable. You wake up at a certain time to do a certain thing and you respond a certain way on some things, right?
The more that you grow up, the more you realize: “Hey, I’ve been with my wife for almost 10 years this coming October and I know some of our habits are very predictable.”
It’s true! When you’re together with somebody, his/her actions become really predictable.
The Enemy’s Ploy
But here’s the thing: This is exactly where the enemy gets us.
Because if the enemy knows your weak spots, he knows exactly how to trigger you to stay in that area.
For example, if the enemy knows that you’re struggling with sin– for instance, you’re struggling with lust– the enemy will expose you to maybe just a naked picture. He knows that he doesn’t need to do
much because that will trigger a pattern of predictability in your life– because now you’re thinking about lust.
If you’re somebody who’s addicted to greed, the enemy will expose you to corrupt practices or situations where he knows that if you’re exposed to those, the only thing you would do is follow the pattern of your predictability– if that’s something you’ve been doing again and again.
So, how will you stop the predictability? You replace it with a good habit. Start a cycle right there. If you are addicted to porn, you stop whatever triggers you with porn—an image, a thought, a situation. Get yourself out of that.
But you know, the truth is, we can’t do it on our own. Fr. Mark said the same thing again: we struggle with sin and we keep repeating the same sin again and again because of the truth that we cannot stop on our own.
Thank God that we don’t have to– because what the enemy could not predict is that one Man would come and would be able to overcome sin.
That’s why it’s so important that you need Jesus.
Sin will always be a part of life. That’s why you need Jesus to be part of your life.
After Moses says that God will exile the Israelites, he gives them powerful hope. He says:
This is for somebody here right now who is so far away from the Lord. You’ve walked away. This is a promise that if you return, the Lord is quick with His mercy. He will restore your fortunes. He will restore your life.
But here’s the solution in Deuteronomy 30:6:
Let me explain. There are two kinds of circumcision:
The physical one is what all the men know about. It’s a rite of passage for all the guys. At a certain age, you get circumcised for a hygienic practical purpose.
Back in the day, it wasn’t for hygiene. It was for a religious purpose– a covenant that they had with God.
I had my circumcision when I was 7 years old and I didn’t remember anything. I needed to confirm with my
mom what age I was because I only remember one word about it—ouch! Masakit! Di ba? It hurts, right? But you know, the most ironic time in a boy’s life is also when you’re circumcised. Because people are saying, “Congratulations! You’re now a real man!” And they’re saying this to you when you’re wearing your mommy’s skirt. How ironic! So, that’s the physical circumcision.
Spiritual circumcision is the same kind of circumcision in the sense that it’s also painful. But it’s not a physical pain.
Spiritual circumcision is you vacating your throne and saying, “Lord, this is Your place. Take Your place, Lord.”
This is when you are allowing the Lord to rule your life. Because the truth is we cannot do it on our own. We need Jesus to be the One to help us.
And this is where we turn to Paul. In the book of Colossians, Paul said:
Physical circumcision is when you cut away the foreskin. Spiritual circumcision is when you cut away the “before sin”.
That’s what it is! It’s cutting away the “before sin” that we cannot do because sin is hard.
The Real Message
We said that the big message today is
You create your own destiny.
But you know, in basketball, the players sometimes pump-fake. When they’re not shooting the ball, they are pumping fake (just pretending an attempt to shoot the ball).
That “big message” is actually a pump fake.
That’s not the real message.
The real message is this: God is the one creating a new destiny for you.
Because you cannot do it on your own. You need the power and the grace of God to help you. I don’t know what kinds of sin, inequity, or shame you’ve been carrying. But you need Jesus, yes? But the way that you can have Jesus is that you need to choose Jesus. He can’t force you to choose Him.
That’s why when I came to Christ at the age of 25, I realized that I needed Jesus to be by myself. It’s a personal decision.
But it’s not only by myself. I need to choose Jesus not only for myself but also for others. You’re not just making a decision for your own life. You’re also making a decision that will affect other people’s life. It will affect your spouse if you’re married. It will affect your parents if you’re still under their roof. It will affect your co-workers. It will affect the generations that follow after you.
That’s why it’s so important that we choose Jesus.
The greatest decision that you could ever make is to follow Jesus. Jesus says:
The road to curse, to death, to sin—it’s wide! It’s an open highway– there are no blockages there. You are free to enter!
But the journey to life, Jesus is saying, is small and it takes a deliberate decision to stay in that path even if it’s small because that’s what we’re meant to do: to follow that small path.