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

The Lord your God

Read: Deuteronomy 8-10, Marik 12:28-44

On the eve of Israel’s move to the Promised Land, Moses takes a few moments to set some reminders for his people.

But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

Deuteronomy 8:18 (NIV)

Israel had a terrible habit of forgetting about God and the covenant they had with Him. In the morning they’d be picking up manna and by the afternoon, they’d be complaining that God brought them out of Egypt only to kill them in the wilderness. Moses knew he’d been leading a stubborn group of people. They only existed because of his intercession on their behalf. After all the trouble he’d gone through, he wanted to be sure they got things right once he was gone.

Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.

Deuteronomy 9:6 (NIV)

The Promised Land was not a reward for good behavior. If God were to reward His people according to what they deserved, He’d have to send them back to Egypt. But because of His covenant and Moses’ prayers, Israel would take possession of the land promised to their forefathers.

This possession was not without its trials. God had already let the people know that they would have to fight. And it would be a long fight. The land would only be cleared of its inhabitants as Israel was prepared to occupy it. God would fight for them, but they still had to go into battle. God would make them prosper, but they would still have to do the work.

Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the Lord promised on oath to you forefathers.

Deuteronomy 8:1 (NIV)

The promise to possess did not come without conditions. God wanted the obedience of Israel and He wanted their love.

When asked which was the greatest of all the commandments, Jesus replied:

Mark 12-30-31.jpg

I believe that we, too, need the reminder, like Israel did, that the Lord is our God. And, if the Lord is our God, we should love and obey Him. Twenty-four times, Moses used the words the Lord your God in Deuteronomy 8 through 10. It must have been important. Important enough for Jesus to used the very same words when speaking of the greatest commandment.

If Israel remembered the Lord their God, loved Him, and obeyed Him, all would go well for them. The very same goes for us.

And we know that in all thing God works for the good of those who love him. He appointed them to be saved in keeping with his purpose.

Romans 8:28 (NIV)

 

Mark it

Have you ever set your mark on something? Of course you have! Even if it was as a kid making sure your name was ever visible on a school book or perhaps your mother marked your backpack for you. No matter who did it or how it was done, it was yours. Marked.

God wanted Israel to mark the Promised Land. Right away. As soon as they entered it. Not when they conquered it—when they arrived in it. He commanded that massive stones be erected and the law written upon them. I imagine this would have been the ancient version of Neil Armstrong planting the American flag on the moon. We were here! This is ours!

I believe that, in the same way the USA marked the moon and Israel would mark Canaan, God wants to make His mark on our hearts. The image that immediately comes to mind is of a row of four tiny lines with another crossing over. Tiny marks of counting. But that isn’t how God wants to mark our hearts. He doesn’t just want to mark us, he wants to leave His mark like the standing stones of Israel. He wants it to be obvious that we belong to Him and no other.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)

If I trust God with my entire heart, I’m giving Him a lot more room than just space for ticks to mark the day. I’m giving Him room to set up His marker. The Song of Solomon says I am my beloved’s, and he is mine. When you belong to someone and that person belongs to you, you make it obvious—you wear a ring or get a tattoo.

If we have given Him our hearts, the mark of God on our lives should be obvious.

Daily Bible reading: Deuteronomy 26-27, Mark 15:1-26

Be Excellent to Each Other

Do you remember what it was like to be trapped in sin? If you were raised in the church, perhaps not. But in some way or another, we were all slaves to sin. We were all bound. We all needed (or possibly still need) salvation.

Now imagine you’re the one in need. You can’t escape from the never ending cycle of fear and faithlessness. Nothing you do seems to make a difference and you are without hope. How would you respond if someone who’d found their salvation looked down on you as though you were scum? Maybe it did happen and, in spite of that person’s opinion of you, you were able to find what you were looking for.

God spends a lot of time in the Old Testament law reminding Israel that they were once slaves. They were once held against their will.

Remember that you were slaves in the land of Egypt. That is why I am giving you this command.

Deuteronomy 24:18 (NLT)

What command did God give? He talked about not going back to glean again once you’ve harvested—leave what’s left for the foreigners, orphans, and widows. Don’t take a man’s cloak as security and keep it overnight lest he be cold in the night. Always use honest scales in trade.

You were once in a similar position of bondage and someone looked upon you, not with disgust, but with grace and mercy. It is our mandate, as the Church to continue that tradition.

Basically, in the words of Bill S. Preston, Esq., be excellent to each other.

Daily Bible reading: Deuteronomy 23-25, Mark 14:51-72

Daily

How are you with reading the Bible daily? I’m almost there. If you read this blog, you’ll know that some days I cheat. I’ll miss a day posting and then catch up the next day (or week). On the positive side of things, I have been making up the missed days—something I failed to do last year.

Reading the Bible every day isn’t meant to be a tedious chore. When you’re reading through Leviticus, it may seem that way. But there’s nothing that says you must follow the read-your-entire-Bible-in-a-year program. Just read something from the Word every day. This shouldn’t be a tedious thing, but rather a joy. An opportunity to get God’s heart into your heart.

When he sits on the throne as King, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the Lord his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. And it will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel.

Deuteronomy 17:18-20 (NLT)

Not only did the king have to read the law, he had to write it down. Did you know that there are benefits to actually writing something down? I’m not talking about tapping it into a note on your phone or tablet or sitting in front of a computer screen. I’m talking pen and paper. Old school.

Writing things down:

  • increases learning comprehension
  • fully engages your brain
  • calms the body and nerves
  • slows down mental ageing
  • unleashes creativity
  • eases depression and anxiety
  • enhances focus
  • stimulates the brain

Every day before I sit down to write my post, I sit in the quietest corner of my house with a really big cup of coffee, a cozy blanket, my big leather bound Bible, and my favourite notebook (Moleskine all the way!). I read and I write the points that jump out at me. Some days it isn’t much and other days, I put the pen to paper to jot down a few words and suddenly a whole paragraph comes pouring out. My brain is stimulated! Imagine that. God actually knew what He was doing when He gave the instruction for things to be written down.

Next time you sit down to read your Bible, put the electronics away. Read from a paper Bible. Grab a notebook and a writing utensil. Record the words God speaks to you. You may be surprised at what comes out—and also at what stays in.

Daily Bible reading: Deuteronomy 17-19, Mark 14:1-25

Uncommon Worship

What do you suppose worship should look like? Is worship simply worship no matter who or what is honoured? Or should it look different for different people at different times?

God certainly thinks worship of Him should be set apart. He spent a lot of time giving Moses very specific instructions on how, when, and where worship was to take place.

Do not worship the Lord your God in the way these pagan peoples worship their gods. Rather, you must seek the Lord your God at the place of worship he himself will choose from among all the tribes—the place where his name will be honored.

Deuteronomy 12: 4-5 (NLT)

God doesn’t want (or need) the worship of the common gods. He wants (and even demands) uncommon worship. Our worship of Him should be set apart. It should look different. It should happen in a different place at a different time. It should stand out.

And the rest of the world should notice.

Our worship of the Lord our God should be so different as to be noticeable. If our praise and worship looks so much like the world’s that they can’t tell the difference, are we still worshipping in spirit and in truth?

Let your worship be uncommon. Look different. Act different. And let people see the difference. There is nothing common about the God we serve. So should there be nothing common about the way we honour Him.

Daily Bible reading: Deuteronomy 11-13, Mark 13:1-13

Choose

We make choices every day. Really, that’s about all we do. When do I get up? What do I eat for breakfast? Which route should I take to work? Does this sound familiar? We talked about this a couple of weeks ago when God was offering up some choices regarding life and death. A similar moment takes place when Joshua, near the end of his life is offering a few last pointers to the Israelites.

And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Joshua 24:15 (ESV)

Choose. Choose now. Choose life or death. Choose Christ or choose another God.Even by delaying your choice, you are making a choice. Joshua doesn’t give a direct answer like we saw in Deuteronomy, he just stated what his choice would be.

What is your choice today? In this moment, do you choose to follow Christ? If you’re waiting to answer, you’ve already made the choice not to follow Christ. Think about that. Every choice that you don’t make is a choice in itself.

Is this the moment when you declare that you and your house will serve the Lord? Or will you serve something or someone else while you wait to make the decision?

Daily Bible reading: Joshua 23-24, Luke 6:27-49