The best of Deuteronomy (Part 4)

(Following are 16-20 of “the best things in Deuteronomy.” To see the earlier ones, go to and scroll back a few days.)


“The Levites will not be getting a portion or inheritance in Canaan; the Lord is his inheritance, just as the Lord your God promised him” (10:9).

In Numbers 18:20, the Lord told Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in their land (i.e., Canaan), nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel.”

Members of the tribe of Levi (Numbers 18:2), Aaron’s descendants were the priests for all future generations.  All the other tribes of Israel received territorial allotments when Joshua led them to conquer Canaan. But not the Levites. The priests were to scatter throughout the countryside, live among the other tribes, and receive their living from the tithes and offerings.  (Sound familiar, preachers?)

Israel’s songwriters liked the concept of the Lord being our portion, and worked it into three psalms (Ps. 73:26; 119:57; 142:5).

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Something that should never happen to any preacher ever again

“He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much, and who is unjust in what is least is unjust in much” (Luke 16:10).

Once I read the story, I never forgot it.

Some preacher in Texas was waxing eloquent (what the kid called “waxing an elephant”) and told of the author of the 1960-ish book “I’m OK, You’re OK” having soured on life and committing  suicide.  It underscored some point he was making and he drove it home.

He got the story, he told a court of law, from an evangelist whom he had heard at some camp meeting or something.

The evangelist, who was sued by the author, sheepishly admitted that he had gotten his facts wrong.

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More of the best of Deuteronomy (Part 3)

(The earlier 10 “best things” can be found on our blog,, by scrolling back a few days. Permission is given to use any of this in any Christ-honoring way you please.)


You get to choose; you have to choose.  Every generation lines up and repeats the process.

“Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse; the blessing, if you obey…and the curse, if you do not obey….” (Deuteronomy 11:26ff.)

When Israel came into the Promised Land, they drew near to Jacob’s Well and parked for a religious ritual.  One group of priests walked over to Mount Ebal while others walked over to nearby Mount Gerizim.  The mass of citizens stood around in the middle, close enough to hear both groups.  And the priests did a reading.

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The (next) best things in Deuteronomy (Part 2)

(Points 6-10 of the best things in Deuteronomy follow a short digression.  Feel free to skip the first part.)

Since Deuteronomy will be taught in Southern Baptist churches across the land this winter, this is a good time to talk about effective teaching…..

First: Get your people to read Deuteronomy.

I imagine the most common error of Bible teachers and pastors is to teach something no one has read.

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How to keep your church young and growing

“They will be full of sap and very green” (Psalm 92:14).

The December 2014 issue of “The Progressive Farmer” asks whether to “Keep or Cull?”  Subtitle of the article: “High prices have changed the rules about when to cut one loose from the herd.”  

Farmers who want to keep their herds young and viable know the importance of culling certain animals that get too old, consume too much resources, are no longer producing, or are a detriment in other ways.

Pastors cannot cull.

More’s the pity, we say with a wink.

There is a reason certain businesses are dying before our eyes.  K-Mart and Shoney’s come to mind.  The discount store and the restaurant were once all the rage.  Today they are fighting to stay alive.  (My wife says, “K-Mart is coming back.” Okay. Good.)  We think of names like Montgomery-Ward, Spiegel, Western Auto, and Rexall– in most cases only dim memories now.  National Shirt Shop. Woolworth. Maison Blanche.

To stay healthy and maintain its mission, any entity must be constantly reinventing itself, tweaking its systems, sloughing off the old and dead, birthing the new.

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The best things in Deuteronomy

(The first five of “the best things in Deuteronomy”)

The first 5 books of the Bible, called the Pentateuch, are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  These are called the books of Moses, since they claim him as their author.

What sets Deuteronomy apart from the first four is that it is actually a recap of the earlier ones.  (The name literally means a second giving of the law.)

Moses is about done.  The people who exodus’d out of Egypt have mostly died off now and a new generation is on the scene, the children of those ex-slaves.  Only Joshua and Caleb, faithful spies from the Kadesh-Barnea days, will have traveled the entire road and will settle in Canaan (see Numbers 14:30).  Even Moses will die before entering, the result of his own failure to obey the Lord (see Numbers 20).

The new generation needs to know everything. Everything is now on their shoulders. They need to be taught their history, their scriptures, the Laws, their relationship with the Lord, what God has promised and what He is  up to at this moment, and what will be expected of them.

We’re always only one generation away from paganism.

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To anyone mystery-shopping my sermon

Over the years I have benefited from the occasional helpful criticism of my preaching.  And, may I add, my preaching was not helped at all by the sniping from another segment of the audience.

Smiley-face here.

Mystery-shoppers are people who, with the pastor’s full acceptance, visit your church as first-timers and later file complete reports on a hundred aspects: Their impression on arriving at your campus, whether the signage was adequate, if someone greeted them in the parking lot, whether they spotted trash or clutter on sidewalks, the friendliness of your people, condition of the bathrooms, and of course the service itself: the choice of music, the flow of the service, the arrangement of the platform, and the sermon.

Ah, the sermon.

It’s a rare pastor who wants you to unload on him about his preaching.

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Every pastor ought to see a counselor occasionally.

“Listen to counsel and receive instruction so that you may be wise in later life” (Proverbs 19:20).

You need a counselor.

Particularly if your work is demanding, the stress heavy, your schedule filled, and you’re finding the needs around you overwhelming, it would be good to sit down and unburden yourself with a friend with gifts for wise counsel.

I don’t mean a shrink necessarily.  Perhaps it’s only a friend who knows the Lord and His Word, and has insight into human nature with a gift for discernment.  Usually, that means a professional counselor, whether they call themselves “pastoral counselor” or “adolescent therapist” or something else.

Don’t get hung up on titles. And don’t be overly impressed by framed certificates on the wall.  Wisdom is where you find it.  “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly…” (Psalm 1:1).

I tease preachers about getting pedicures.  I’m in favor of it, by the way.  Some of them tease me in turn, saying I have to turn in my “man card” as a result of my monthly visits to the nail parlor in our neighborhood.

But I’m serious in saying every pastor would benefit from seeing a counselor from time to time.

So you will know, I came to this position late.

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What faithful witnesses do the rest of us don’t but should

“If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would ask Him and He would give you living water” (John 4:10).

Rhonda Harrington Kelley is a preacher’s wife.

But not like any other preacher’s wife you know.

Now, Rhonda Kelley herself is quite an individual. She has a Doctorate from the University of New Orleans and is a professor in New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. And she is married to the President of that preacher-training institution, Dr. Chuck Kelley.  Furthermore, she is the daughter of another preacher, Bob Harrington, known for decades as “the chaplain of Bourbon Street.”  (Her mother is the wonderful Joyce Harrington, a fixture in New Orleans’ First Baptist Church and easily one of the most wonderful people I know.) Rhonda Kelley is the author of many books, including serving as co-editor with Dorothy Kelley on “The Study Bible for Women,” among other books.

But don’t let all that fool you. She’s funny, she’s happy, and she’s loving.  You would adore her.  I promise.

Okay. I’m leading up to something here.

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Show me your faith.

“I will show you my faith….” (James 2:18).

We tend to think of faith as something intangible, something ethereal, not unlike a foggy mist which when approached seems to recede into the distance.

The Lord can see our faith.

And so can you, once you stop to think about it.

When four men brought their paralyzed buddy to Jesus and ended up tearing up the roof to get him into the house, Scripture says the Lord Jesus “saw their faith” (Mark 2:5).

And so, “seeing their faith,” the Lord forgave the paralytic of his sins and then healed him.

It would appear from Scripture that our Savior has a hard time turning away from faith.

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