They are your life

They are not just idle words for you—they are your life.

Deuteronomy 32:47 (NIV)

How often do we read through the Bible and see nothing but words on a page, a combination of letters, spaces, and punctuation that may or may not carry any meaning for us? God did not merely say a bunch of things so that we could have a big book of nice platitudes. He gave us, through His word, life.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

John 1:1-4 (NIV)

Far more than just ink on a page, the Word of God can bring life to us. It can bring hope in a hopeless situation. It can bring joy in sorrow. It can be light in the darkness. God’s words are never just words, they are your life.

And the closer we keep those words to us, the more effective they will be for us.

No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

Deuteronomy 30:14 (NIV)

Neither God, who is life, nor His words, that bring life, are far from us in any moment.

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.

Deuteronomy 30:11 (NIV)

God, and the life we receive through his Word, are never out of reach.

Read: Deuteronomy 31-32, Luke 1:1-23

In and out

I’m scheduled to leave for a short missionary trip to Mexico in just a few days. This morning I received a phone call from the mechanic (where I managed to push my car after it broke down in the middle of the road yesterday) saying I needed a new fuel pump. It’s not a cheap fix. Cheaper than needing a new car, but not cheap.

I then got to thinking. This isn’t the first time something really crappy has happened right before I’ve left for a missions trip:

  • Just days before I left on my first trip to Peru, my great-grandmother passed away, almost a year to the day since my grandfather passed away—my grandfather was supposed to accompany me on that trip.
  • Again, just days before leaving for Costa Rica, I broke a toe. It may seem insignificant, but is quite significant when you can’t put on proper shoes to walk through a squatter village.
  • Upon returning from another trip to Peru, I came home to learn that my employer had filled my position in my absence—an absence I had scheduled and made arrangements to be covered until my return.

In addition to these points, I’ve dealt many times with lost or delayed luggage, differences in opinion with leadership, and a plethora of other small issues that, when I think about it, really add up.

Does this mean I’m destined to deal with garbage every time I go on the mission field? Possibly. Does it discourage me? When I look at the bill for my car, maybe. Will all this stop me from future missionary work? No. Because I have a list of promises from the Bible—both in the Old and New Testaments—that say I can expect more.

If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord you God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessing will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:

You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.
The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.
Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.
You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.

Deuteronomy 28:1-6 (NIV)

This is an Old Covenant blessing, but I don’t believe that the New Covenant completely voids it. I don’t believe that God withdraws His blessings, He adds to them.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

Ephesians 1:3-6 (NIV)

My inheritance in Christ doesn’t included broken down cars, broken toes, or lost jobs. My inheritance includes every spiritual blessing in Christ. According to Ephesians 1:18-19 it also includes the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.

Just because we may deal with junk in life doesn’t mean that we can’t also expect good things from a good Father. In Deuteronomy, the blessings of the obedient Israelites were to serve as a sign to the nations that they belonged to God. In Ephesians, we were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Bad things happen. It is the nature of a fallen world. But it is our response in those situations that will either push us ahead or drag us down. I choose to believe that every attack I have encountered before a missions trip is yet another sign that I am on the right track. The enemy won’t waste his time on people who have no intention of accomplishing anything for the Kingdom. I choose to believe that God has a plan for me and that His plan is a good one.

I choose to believe that, even in the trial, I will be blessed when I come in and blessed when I go out.

Read: Deuteronomy 28, Mark 15:27-47

Hurry hard!

Read: Numbers 32-33, Mark 10:1-31

Up here, in the Great White North, we like curling. Not our hair. The sport. If you’re not familiar with it, here is a brief explanation. If you’re from a land of indoor or summer sports, curling is the winter version of shuffleboard or bocce ball. One addition is brooms. Yes, brooms. A large, and very heavy, polished stone is pushed down a sheet of ice. A sweeper (or two) then sweep a little (or a lot) depending on how the rock was thrown. More importantly from clearing any debris from the ice, the friction, and subsequent heat created by sweeping can actually change the speed and direction of the stone as it glides down the rink. A common command for more vigorous sweeping is, “Hurry hard!”

While I’m quite certain that curling did not exist in ancient Canaan, I am certain that God intended for His people to do a quick and clean sweep of the land ahead of them.

Speak to the Israelites and say to them: “When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places.

Numbers 33:51-52 (NIV)

You see, in order to fully possess the Promised Land and maintain said possession, Israel was commanded to sweep it clean. The quality of their sweep held the potential to change the direction of an entire nation of people. Like curling without sweeping isn’t really curling, possessing the Promised Land in any other manner than the one prescribed by God isn’t really possessing.

The same goes for our lives. When we give our lives over to God, He wants everything. Everything, everything. Even those little things that we say aren’t harming anyone. He wants us to do a clean sweep so that our lives can change direction.

And, He doesn’t want us to do it a little bit at a time. We need to hurry. Hard. Notice that God’s command said, “When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you.” God knew that if they waited to get rid of the pagan filth of the Canaanites, they would never get rid of it all—which is exactly what happened.

We cannot expect a different outcome than the Israelites. If God’s chosen people, those He had cut a covenant with, would not be spared just because of who they were, what makes us think we’d be any different? If we, like Israel, refuse to rid our lives of all sin, we cannot expect all of the victory, either.

But we don’t have to do it alone.

Mark 10-27.jpg

Jesus didn’t just throw out this statement as though God were a great magician, able to conjure up anything we wish. He was talking about salvation, being able to leave our old lives behind to walk on the new path before us.

Even though they gained their Promised Land, Israel didn’t fully succeed in the plan God had for them. They got lazy and complacent once they reached their final stop. Perhaps all they needed was a skip hollering from the other end of the rink. Like ripping off a bandage, the faster you accomplish the task, the better. It may hurt more in the moment, but it will only last a moment.

So when it’s time for you to sweep something out of your life, don’t wait. Hurry. Hurry hard.

An eternal sin

Read: Numbers 3-4, Mark 3:22-35

Mark 3:28

It’s a nice thought, knowing that all of our sins and blasphemies will be forgiven us. On this verse alone, we could hinge our very existence. Jesus said it, after all. But that’s not all he said.

But whoever blasphemes against he Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.

Mark 3:39 (NIV)

Yikes! We tend to believe that nothing we could ever say or do is beyond forgiveness, but apparently there’s this one thing that would earn us eternal damnation. Why? Why is this one sin so much worse than anything else we could possibly do? Once we understand who the Holy Spirit is and what his purpose is in our lives, the answer becomes very clear. Let’s start with what Jesus had to say about the Spirit.

If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

John 14:15-17 (NIV)

In Jesus’ own words, he describes a Helper that will come to live with and in us. So we have a Counselor, a Helper. Great. Why is it such a big deal to speak against the Holy Spirit?

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Jon 14:26 (NIV)

Oh! Are you starting to get the picture? Without Jesus, in phyical form right in front of us, we need something or someone to give us a nudge in the right direction and remind us the right path we need to take. But there’s more!

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

1 Corinthians 12:4-6 (NIV)

Not only does the Holy Spirit help us, but he comes bearing gifts. Good gifts. No, not just good, great. Great gifts. The Spirit gives us gifts of wisdom and knowledge, faith, healing and miracles. Gifts of prophecy, discernment, tongues, and interpretation. Without the Spirit none of these things exist. And, without the gifts of the Spirit, how can the body be edified?

For we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

1 Corinthians 12:13 (NIV)

And there’s the verse that wraps it all together. Why is speaking against the Holy Spirit so unforgivable?

  1. The Holy Spirit was sent to help us when Jesus’ time on earth was complete. Just as John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, Jesus prepared the way for the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is there to help us, to guide us, and to remind us of all Jesus taught and commanded us.
  2. The Holy Spirit is here for our edification. He gives us these incredible gifts so that we can communicate better with God and do His amazing works on His behalf.
  3. Lastly, and possibly most importantly, the Holy Spirit is what holds us all together as one body. To blaspheme the Spirit is to speak against God, against Jesus, and against the entire body of Christ.

God has given us all that we need to succeed in the path He has set out for us, the Holy Spirit being our guide and Jesus, the Word, being the lamp that lights the way. Let us not fall into sin by reaching for one gift and not another, but let us take every advantage available to us so that we can live the full life intended for us.

Grunt before glory

Read: Exodus 39-40, Matthew 24:1-22

Who doesn’t want to see God’s glory? You’d have to be crazy not to. For many in the church, it is (or maybe should be) our primary pursuit.

Exodus 40-34

We all want the cloud to descend so we can bask in the presence of God. But, for as many of us who pursue the glory, nearly as many never see the fullness of it. Why?

Moses did everything just as the Lord commanded him.

Exodus 40:16 (NIV)

This verse is followed by seven more that state, as the Lord commanded him. Seven. the number of completion and perfection.

And so Moses finished the work.

Exodus 40:33b (NIV)

He did everything the Lord commanded him. Then he finished the work. And only then did the glory of the Lord fill the tabernacle.

Well, I’m just waiting on the Lord. It is to our detriment that we use the word wait. To wait on the Lord has absolutely nothing to do with sitting in silence and everything to do with getting off our blessed assurance and working toward the high calling that God has set before us.

WAIT: To attend to; to perform. To be ready to serve; to obey.

Moses waited on the Lord by doing exactly as he had been commanded. Not only did God give a long list of very specific instructions, but He also sent His Spirit to empower the craftsman to do their work.

We all want the glory, but very few want to do the grunt work required to prepare ourselves and the place for the Lord’s presence. Christianity is not the easy way out, but the narrow road in. We are called to live a life set apart and that life requires work. Lots of work. Hard work.

We have a whole book of commands that we carry around to make us feel good about ourselves, but carrying the book is the most work many are willing to do. If we would only put into practice all the instruction we’ve been given, perhaps we’d see a lot more of that glory we’ve been looking for. A little grunt may go a long way toward the glory.

Plead your case

Today’s culture has made the blame game popular. Everyone loves to be the victim and point out villains. We all want to have our voices heard, the chance to plead our case.

Listen to what the Lord is saying: “Stand up and state your case against me. Let the mountains and hills be called to witness your complaints.”

Micah 6:1 (NLT)

Hey, that’s awesome! God is inviting us to state our case. If you have a complaint against God, now is the time to let it be known! Go ahead, let’s hear it.

“And now, O mountains, listen to the Lord’s complaint!”

Micah 6:2a (NLT)

Uh oh.

Here’s the deal, we all want to plead our case, but no one is interested in being pleaded against. It’s not fun. No one wants their faults or secrets pointed out. We don’t want to be blamed for anything whether we’re innocent or guilty.

Many are keen to paint God as a tyrant. The bully on the playground. The great villain of the ages. These people tend to be the ones hollering to have their case heard, but are the first to run and hide when someone calls them out on their own behavior. Here’s the lesson: don’t try to call God out unless you want to be called out yourself.

So how do we avoid having all of our dirty laundry aired with all of creation as a witness?

No, O people, the Lord has already told you what is good, and this is what he required: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8 (NLT)

You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. You can either walk humbly with God and avoid a very public trial, or you can do whatever you want and face God as judge. It’s not difficult. God has not given us impossible instructions.

Moral duties are commanded because they are good for man. In keeping God’s commandments there is a great reward, as well as after keeping them. God has not only made it known, but made it plain. The good which God requires of us is, not the paying a price for the pardon of sin and acceptance with God, but to love himself; and what is there unreasonable, or hard in this?

Matthew Henry

Avoiding the punishment for sin is simple. We must love God and accept His love in return. That’s it. If you’d rather take your changes and plead your case, be my guest. But you can’t say that you haven’t been warned.

On his deathbed, Matthew Henry made this statement: “A life spent in the service of God and communion with Him is the most pleasant life that anyone can live in this world.” Wouldn’t you rather walk with God than fight against Him?

Daily Bible reading: Micah 6-7, Revelation 12

Stay free

It would seem that the Galatian church struggled—as many churches still do—with the concept of freedom, how it works and how it is to be applied to our lives. Being free from the law—receiving salvation as a gift rather than earning it through works—is a difficult concept to grasp. And, no matter how much revelation some people get, there always seem to be those who want to find a set of chains and shackle the Church back to the law.

So Christ has really set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.

Galatians 5:1 (NLT)

How do I know when I’m getting tied up again? The answer is quite simple and you probably know it already.

But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Here there is no conflict with the law.

Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

If you are being led in a direction that produces anything but these things, you’re being led back into the bondage of the law. The Holy Spirit will never lead you into anything that is based on works and produces selfish results. He will only lead you into things that produce good fruit with selfless results.

For you have been called to live in freedom—not freedom to satisfy your sinful nature, but freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Galatians 5:13-14 (NLT)

So if you’re questioning where you’re being led, ask yourself a few simple questions:

  • Is this solely for my benefit or will others benefit from it?
  • Will this result in producing the fruit of the Spirit?
  • Does this reflect love for my neighbour? How so?
  • Am I serving myself or am I serving others?

In the end, our freedom is all about serving one another. If you’re not serving your neighbour—whether you like them or not—you’re not really free. There are no qualifiers on the love we are commanded to give. It’s not always easy and that’s why we need the Holy Spirit to guide us. If we are truly free and have nailed our own passions and desires to the cross (Galatians 5:24), we live by the Holy Spirit and must follow his guidance in every part of our lives.

Love your neighbour. Stay free.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 10-12, Galatians 5