Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Choose Life--Part 2 Unpacking the Passage
I woke up this morning with a list of phone calls waiting for me. My niece was due to arrive shortly and the boys would be stirring soon. Laundry was quietly teasing me about how it had been dry for over 24 hours and still hadn't been folded. You all know the tyranny of the urgent--the unwelcome visitor in all of our lives. So here I was, at my desk--cell phone next to me, sticky note with names and errands listed, and my Bible and journal to the left. So simple. Really. Life or Death? Which would I choose to tackle first--bit of time with God or the deafening demands of day to day living? It's easy enough to argue that those kinds of decisions have nothing to do with choosing life or death, blessings or curses--that those types of choices are not relevant. But in fact, I've found that the opposite is true in my own life. Those are the very decisions that open the door to what the remainder of our day will in fact hold. Those are the decisions--little, insignificant, not seemingly important that separate people who live abundantly from people who exist. When Moses began this discussion about life and death with the Israelites he was 120 years old. Basically he tells them, "Look, I'm gonna kick the bucket pretty soon. I'm passing the baton on to Joshua and this is my last chance to lay it all out for you. You're a people that are special to God--He's set you apart as His own. You have got it made. Literally. But you have to choose whether you are going to follow Him completely in obedience or whether you are going to follow your own whims. One results in blessing and the other in curses. It's that simple. You choose life and get blessed or you choose death and you receive nothing." (Deut. 26-30) Here is a man who has spent the greatest part of his adult life leading a group of Hebrews from slavery into freedom. Here is a man who has watched as time and time again these very Hebrews opted to return to their slave-like tendencies and at times even said out loud, "It would have been better for us if we had stayed in Egypt." He watched these foolish people eat food showered down from God himself and turn around and melt their gold into a cow. They stared life in the face and melted their earthly possessions down into the form of death. He knew their weaknesses. I bet he thought in his heart more than once, "I just don't know if they'll make it to the promise land or not. They are like sea grass that sways whatever direction the wind is blowing. They are weak of faith and they are drawn like metal to a magnet back to slavery, to death." So I understand when he insisted they go through it all with him one last time before he gave up his physical shell here on earth. In Deuteronomy 30:11 Moses says, "This commandment I am giving you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it woo remote. It is not in heaven, as though one must say, "Who will go up to heaven to get it for us and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?" And it is not across the sea, as though one must say, "Who will cross over to the other side of the sea and get it for us and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?: For the thing is very near you--it is in your mouth and in your mind so that you can do it." In other words, Moses is saying, "Guys, this is so simple. You don't need some great preacher or some new book or some new approach to understand this. What I am telling you is not locked up in some heavenly realm where only the super spiritual can get it. What I am saying to you is already in your mouths--you've spoken it before to your own children. And it is already in your minds--you can do this!" Then he goes on to say, "Look! I have set before you today life and prosperity on the one hand, and death and disaster on the other. What I am commanding you today is to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to obey his commandments, his statutes, and his ordinances. Then you will live..." (Deuteronomy 30:15, 16) To have abundant life we must set ourselves in a position to receive it. You can't fill a vessel to overflowing if it isn't positioned under the tap. For a believer, positioning ourselves to receive the overflowing blessing of God we must love the Lord and obey Him. It's that simple. Love and obey. And to make it even more simple--love generally produces obedience as a bi-product. So ultimately we're dealing with just who or what holds our heart's strings. Because if we can follow the path of our heart to who or what may be holding it, we can very quickly determine whether we are positioned under God's tap or whether we are sitting beside it watching the water bursting out like a dam released and wondering why we are empty and thirsty. Lord, in this moment show me the palm that grips my heart. Is it yours, Lord? God help me to let go of the things that are blocking me from being positioned under your overflow of abundant life. Open my eyes that I may see who and what it is that I love, Lord. Cultivate within me a love for you that is greater than any other passion of my soul. Amen.