Tuesday, September 09, 2014

A Thought

“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendents may live; that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days.”  Deuteronomy 30:19-20

The people of Israel had witnessed firsthand the might and the power of The Lord in Egypt, and they had spent 40 years developing a relationship with The Lord and with one another within the Covenant.  They had seen and experienced the blessings of The Lord’s favor and mercy, and they had experienced the cursing which comes from disobedience and faithlessness when they tried to go it alone.  Yet even as the journey itself was about to come to an end, a whole new chapter was about to unfold with dangers and challenges not unlike all they had already endured.  Moses was taking great care to remind the people of The Lord that it was far from over!

Serving in the US Marine Corps while stationed in the Mojave Desert in 29 Palms CA, we had a company commander who was the epitome of the Marine officer.  He was hard and firm and rigid in his demands, but he was fair.  He used to lead us on what he called the “Death Run” through the desert, but the purpose of the run itself was not just to see who could hack it.  The run was a means to an end.  This commander was incapable of getting tired, it seemed, so we ran for what seemed like eternity!  In the end the captain always made it clear that the run was not a test (though we were all expected to pass!); it was pure training to prepare us physically and mentally for the rigors of combat.  It was a means to an unseen end.  It was hard to appreciate what he was preparing us for since it was peacetime, but he worked to keep us focused while we were at peace.

Moses is doing the same thing to the people of The Lord, then and now.  There are experiences written of that seem overly harsh to us (taking a disobedient child outside the camp to be stoned to death!), experiences you and I cannot fathom in our contemporary culture; but it was all done not as an end but as a means to an end: to prepare to take possession of the Promised Land, the land “flowing with milk and honey”, and to “put evil out from your midst”.  Even then, the people were clearly warned that the challenges they faced in the wilderness were nothing compared to the challenges they would face once they crossed over the river and into the Land; and obedience to the Word of the Lord was key to success, while disobedience would lead to utter failure and disaster (as in the Exile they would soon face).

Jesus, as the “Word made flesh”, the “Voice” we must obey, continues to lead us, but He is also clear through the Scriptures that we still must be willing to follow completely, not half-heartedly.  The death on the Cross does not in any way mean it is over for us, that nothing more is required or expected of us in this life!  There is still something ahead we cannot anticipate, challenges we cannot imagine.  It is necessary, then, that we “train” constantly to learn to obey The Lord, learn to “cling to Him” before we face these challenges, and remember where we come from.  It is entirely about learning to trust Him and learning to trust one another.  It is always about developing relationships; and if we do not care about one another, including the “stranger”, if we expect that Jesus will do all the hard stuff for us while we refuse to participate, we will not be prepared for whatever is ahead.  Even though The Lord promised to lead Israel into battle and to protect them, He nevertheless required them to create an army of warriors because they were still going to have to do the work.  The enemies they faced did not magically dissipate!

The same is expected of the Church today.  No one is going to do “for us” or “instead of” us, but most would be willing to do “with” us if they can be shown what it is we are preparing for and can trust that they will not be abandoned.  There are no magic spells, no magic potions, no magic prayers or incantations that will make all the broken pieces of our lives come together; only devotion and dedication.  We are required to do for one another and with one another.  That is the Church, the Body of Christ.  A “decision for Christ” leads us into this reality; it does not end the journey nor does it excuse us from further participation.

“Count the cost” before the decision is made, but “choose life” in that decision and all life entails; the blood, the sweat, the tears, the disappointments, and the heartaches.  But “choose life” knowing the Church is with you to support you, to “train” you, to teach you that you are not alone.



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