FullSizeRender-1

 

Yesterday we said goodbye to Moses.

Left him on Mt. Nebo,

overlooking the Promised Land as he took his final breath.

We turned the page on the early history of the Israelites,

completing our reading of the first five books of the Old Testament.

Forty years in the wilderness slipped by for us in just a couple of months,

but for the Israelites these years were long and tiring.

Today, Joshua takes center stage.

God promises to be with him just as he was with Moses

and the people promise to do everything he commands.

The Promised Land is just across the Jordan,

and I can only imagine how eager the Israelites are to enter it.

I wonder sometimes if they were surprised to discover that even this land wouldn’t be theirs without a fight.

Joshua, who had been promised “every place the sole of his feet would tread” sends two spies to “scout out the land.”

Aren’t battles easier to face when we know what we’re up against?

This morning, I’m thinking of so many people I know and love who are facing battles.

Cancer

Loss of a loved one

Loss of a job

Emotional trauma

The list is endless.

If only we could send spies ahead of us to bring back word of what we’ll encounter next.

_________________________

Rahab enters the Israelite story,

a prostitute who risks her life in order to hide the two men investigating her city.

Somewhere along the way,

she has heard the story of the Israelite people.

And she quickly acknowledges the fact that God is going to give them the land in which she and her family live.

Maybe this is what the spies needed more than anything –

Verbal confirmation from enemy territory that the victory was already theirs.

Don’t we need that today?

Don’t we need to know that no matter what we’re up against,

God is already there?

Announcing our victory to the enemy.

Joshua knew the battle was theirs.

The Israelites knew too.

But there had to be something incredibly empowering about hearing someone on the other side say,

“I know the Lord has given you this land and that the terror of you has fallen on us.”

I’m thankful this morning that I don’t need a spy to go ahead of me.

Jesus already did.

He conquered death and won the final victory before I even reached the battle line.

The Promised Land is already mine.

The Promised Land is yours too.

So today, we can face whatever this world hurls at us, with confidence,

because the scarlet cord of Rahab hangs from the enemy’s window as a reminder –

even he knows the war has already been won.

This scarlet cord protected Rahab and her family.

But this morning, this same cord reminds me we are protected too.

 

Nicholas Yancy Nischan Found Logo

 

I didn’t want to read the last few chapters of Deuteronomy this morning.

Maybe because I knew what was coming.

If I could just skip these chapters,

maybe it wouldn’t seem as real.

Moses was about to die.

That’s right.

The man who entered our story as a tiny baby, floating down the Nile River in a basket made of reeds,

was going to be asked at the ripe old age of 120 to climb a mountain and “be gathered to his people.”

I knew reading through the Bible didn’t give me permission to skip over things I wanted to avoid.

I reminded myself that I survived Leviticus.

Could anything stop me now?

So I opened my chronological Bible and began with chapter 31.

Moses doesn’t beat around the bush (no pun intended).

Chapter 31 begins with Moses announcing,

“I am now 120 years old; I can no longer act as your leader. 

The Lord has told me, ‘You will not cross the Jordan.'” 

I’m trying to remember if the people had heard this news before or if this was first time they realized the man who had led them through the desert would soon be stepping out of their story.

What were they thinking as these words soaked in?

Moses, the man who had pulled them back to the straight and narrow time after time, would no longer be their leader.

Joshua is then summoned by Moses.

He is chosen as the one to follow in the footsteps of the man who had climbed Mt. Sinai and whose face had radiated the glory of God.

The transition of power is recorded as a dramatic experience at the tent of meeting.

God appears in a pillar of cloud at the entrance to the tent,

and He begins to speak.

He doesn’t begin with a “thank you” to Moses or any kind of praise for Moses’ faithful leading of the Israelites for forty years.

He begins by saying, “You are about to rest.”

I want to believe God knew exactly what Moses needed to hear.

And I want to believe these words made the transition easier for Moses.

He was surely tired.

Like a runner crossing the finish line of a long race,

Moses had to feel the exhaustion of reaching his goal.

He had successfully led a grumbling, often rebellious group of people from the bondage of slavery to the edge of the Promised Land.

To hear God say, “You are about to rest,” probably meant much more than being handed a ribbon or having a medallion placed around his neck.

I’m reminded of Galatians 6:9,

“Let us not become weary in doing good, 

for at the proper time we will reap a harvest

if we do not give up.”

All along the way, Moses had not given up.

Because of this, he was about to reap his harvest.

But not before he is asked to write down every single word of the law on a scroll.

A scroll that was to be placed by the ark of the covenant as a reminder to the people.

God had not spared Moses the news that the Israelites would turn to false gods after getting comfy in the Promised Land.

In fact, God gave Moses one last task.

He gave Moses a song.

A song he was to write down and then teach to the Israelites before slipping away.

This Song of Moses is filled with reminders of the faithfulness of God to a faithless group of people.

And as it ends,

so does Moses life.

There’s something beautiful about this kind of ending.

I remember Nick’s last morning with us.

How his silence for two days changed to humming.

And then silence again.

The Song of Moses surely carried the people through good and bad days just as The Song of Nick carries me.

I believe with all my heart, Nick was humming in the presence of God while his body was still with us.

And I believe with all my heart he knew “he was about to rest.”

He did not grow weary.

And he was on his way to reaping his harvest.

Life is a gift.

But this morning,

Moses reminds me that death is too.

Deuteronomy has ended.

The law has been written.

The Israelites are about to cross the Jordan.

And Moses has been gathered to his people.

So much can happen in four chapters.

I’m so glad I didn’t skip the last few chapters of Deuteronomy and miss this beautiful goodbye.

Like Moses, my life has had some hard chapters.

But if I had the chance to live my life again, I wouldn’t skip them either.

Because God has a way of showing up in the hardest chapters.

And I believe these are the chapters where our song is written.

And I’m so thankful Moses’ life ended with a song about the faithfulness of God.

I want my life to end with one too.

Because even on my most faithless days,

God is faithful.

As I take my last breath,

I want to be singing or humming a song of praise to Him who loves me most.

 

(Today’s reading was from Deuteronomy 31-34)
family picture wall

 

If Deuteronomy were a musical,

the background music would be swelling today

as the intensity of Moses’ last words to the Israelites surely draws a speechless crowd.

Moses briefly reviews all they have witnessed in the wilderness,

reminding them once again of God’s faithful presence every step of the way.

At the same time, he pleads with them to do more than “see” God.

He wants them to also hear Him and keep His commandments.

If “seeing is believing,” then “hearing is responding to what has been seen and believed.”

Moses had done both in his own life journey.

He had seen the burning bush and mustered the courage to approach it and listen.

Then, with fear and trembling, he had chosen to respond to God’s call,

“Return to Egypt.”

Over forty years have passed since this pivotal moment in Moses’ life.

He now stands before a mass of men, women, and children who didn’t know him in the early years.

They didn’t witness the plagues their great grandfathers had seen all around them

as they slaved away under the oppressive hands of Egypt masters..

They didn’t watch the Red Sea split in two and feel dry ground under their feet as they escaped slavery.

No.

Those Israelites have passed away in the wilderness,

suffering the consequences of what Moses wants these Israelites to avoid.

A new generation prepares to cross the Jordan,

a generation who has only “heard” about all the things their forefathers saw.

Moses has to find a talking point they can recall with their own eyes.

“Indeed, you know how we lived in the land of Egypt

and passed through the nations where you traveled.

You SAW their abhorrent images and idols

made of wood, stone, silver, and gold,

which were among them.”

Deut. 29:16-17

Moses, the man who claimed he had no public speaking skills,

stands before God’s children with no help from his deceased brother Aaron,

and creates a powerful visual to go with his words.

He wants something to sink in.

There is only One God.

And they must continue to worship only Him.

Several times in these three chapters Moses states how critical it is to obey all the words of the law

and how serious the punishment will be if they do not.

Like any good parent,

Moses spends a good amount of time talking about the consequences of disobedience.

If the Israelites were elementary school-aged children,

Moses would have simply placed their names on huge charts and said,

“This is what it takes to clip up,

and this is what it takes to clip down.”

It was simple.

Follow God and be blessed.

Follow false Gods and be cursed.

The choice was their to make.

So he wraps up these chapters by saying,

“This command that I give you today is certainly not too difficult or beyond your reach.”

In other words,

“Clipping up is up to you……and so is clipping down.”

Moses sets before them both “life and prosperity and death and adversity.”

And then he tells them what he knows to be the only right choice,

“Choose life.”

As I type these words I’m looking up at our wall of family pictures.

So many memories framed in wood then covered with glass.

I’m reminded of so many easy and not-so-easy roads God has walked with our family.

He has carried us across many Red Seas –

out of the bondage of grief and sin.

All along the way,

we’ve had one choice to make.

Clip up or clip down.

Follow Him or turn away?

And can’t doubt or the temptation to follow false gods slip in so easily?

Moses knew this.

But he also knew something else the Israelites and I both need to know.

If I took a string and connected every picture on my wall,

the string would be God’s presence.

That’s the one part of our story that has never changed……

even in our ever-changing family story.

 Moses wanted the sraelites to remember this too,

even after his death.

This same string would weave in and out of every chapter of their lives,

whether they chose to obey Him or not.

So he ends the chapter with these words:

Deut. 30:1-6

When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today,  then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.  Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors.  The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.

That’s the great thing about God.

Like a fair and consistent elementary school teacher,

He provides consequences on the days (or in the seasons) we clip down.

But He’s all about fresh starts.

New chances.

Moving our clip back to the beginning….

over and over again.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

Lam. 3:22-23

A.W. Tozer, in his book The Knowledge of the Holy, says,

“The divine attributes are what we know to be true of God. 

He does not possess them as qualities; they are as God is as He reveals Himself to His creatures.

Love, for instance, is not something God has and which may grow or diminish or cease to be.

His love is the way God is and when He loves He is simply being Himself.”

God is love.

His love never fails and is never ending.

Why would I not choose Him today?

And not be led astray by doubt or idols?

He is love.

This morning and every morning,

I want to remember all I have seen and heard.

I want to choose life.

I want to clip up.

(Today’s reading was from Deuteronomy 28-30.)

 

When I finish reading a section of Scripture and then find myself staring at my blank computer screen,

I sometimes read the next days’ chapter selection in my chronological Bible……..

hoping for something to stir my thoughts.

This morning was one of those mornings.

The first few chapters I read left me wordless,

so I kept reading.

Hoping for something.

But if I’m honest,

the next day’s chapters left me wordless too.

God spends a lot of time in Deuteronomy going over specific laws with His people,

reviewing in explicit detail how to treat those who choose not to obey His commands.

Words like “grace” and “mercy” are alluded to only in the breaking of the necks of animals.

It’s a harsh chapter in human history,

and God’s presence doesn’t always bring what I would call “a sense of tranquility.”

Maybe that’s what I’m realizing this morning as I sit under a blanket,

sipping hot tea,

trying to find a connection between me and the children of Israel.

I like tranquility.

But the Bible often feels anything but peaceful, calm, and cozy.

____________________________

So I’m reminded once again this morning

that a lot has changed since the Israelites walked on planet earth.

Their sandals may have never worn out,

but I’m thinking the support of their arches wasn’t as high a priority as it is for us today.

God wasn’t the kind of father who ran himself ragged making sure his kids were comfortable.

And He didn’t work overtime so Disney Land could be added to an already-full summer schedule.

No.

The God of the Old Testament focused His energy on making sure His children were on the right path.

And then had his kids pick up the very stones they’d walked on and build an altar from them.

An altar on which they wrote all the things they had been taught along the way.

If God’s a business man,

He’s in the character-building business.

And I don’t have to read many verses

to realize the character of the Israelites

was never built while sitting under a blanket sipping hot tea.

So what is God saying to me this morning in a section of chapters full of so many laws and commands…..

and consequences of breaking them?

I think He’s saying,

Get up and get going,

never forgetting what it means to be Holy.

All along the way.

Oh, and while you’re at it……

take these stones you’ve walked on this morning with you.

Everywhere you go.

Even when they hurt your feet.

Being mine doesn’t mean you’re walking on “easy street.”

But it does mean I’m walking with you………….

on every street you face.

And like the Israelites,

your shoes will never wear out as long as you’re walking with me.

For I am sure that neither death nor life,

nor angels nor rulers,

nor things present nor things to come,

nor powers, nor height nor depth,

nor anything else in all creation,

will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

(Today’s reading was from Deuteronomy 20-27.)
DSC_0876

 

There are so many rules and regulations in today’s reading.

From Festival guidelines

to rules for appointing a king

to recognizing a true prophet

to dealing with people involved in occult practices.

Like a father sending his child off to college,

God goes over every possible thing He can think of before releasing His children into the Promised Land.

I can almost see the Israelites inching toward the Jordan as they hear God saying,

“And one more thing……”

I wonder if they took notes or just hoped someone else was recording all the details……..

there was so much to remember.

Or I wonder if God supernaturally brought things back to their minds as needed.

I read Deuteronomy 19:14 and envision an Israelite farmer

walking the edge of his field in the cool of the evening and noticing the stone separating his land from his neighbor’s.

Did he hear these words as he gazes down at the rock and considers moving it slightly towards his neighbor’s field?

Do not move your neighbor’s boundary stone

set up by your predecessors

in the inheritance you receive

in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess.

Deut. 19:14

Was the grass greener on the other side of these stones just as it is our fences today?

Did the farmer or shepherd ever think,

“If I just had a few more feet of land,

I would be happy.”

Did he ever glance to the right or left

and find himself tempted to pick up the stone

and stretch his property line just a little to the east or west?

God must have seen it coming.

He must have known human nature always wants a little more.

This must have continued to be a problem.

The same law is mentioned several times in Scripture.

“Cursed is anyone who moves their neighbor’s boundary stone.” Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

Deut. 27:17

Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your ancestors.

Proverbs 22:28

 Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless.

Proverbs 23:10

According to commentaries on the subject, most property lines were drawn by one simple stone.

It would have been so easy to take what wasn’t rightfully yours.

Slowly.

Over time.

Without anyone noticing.

And isn’t that the way the enemy works?

Sin usually starts small.

The inching into someone else’s marriage through little conversations that slowly become longer ones.

Moving the stone a little further with each encounter.

The use of drugs that begins with “just once” but slowly becomes an unstoppable addiction.

Moving the stone a little further with each decision to use….one more time.

The deceptive record keeping that leads to embezzlement.

Moving the stone a little further with each incorrectly recorded balance sheet.

We’re no different today.

Lack of contentment still pushes us down dark roads.

Roads marked by out-of-place stones.

_____________________________

God knew then what He knows now.

The ancient stones were set in place for a purpose.

And the purpose was a pleasant one.

The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places;

Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.

Psalm 16:6

Boundaries keep us safe.

Boundaries bring joy.

So when I read this morning of the moving of stones leading to a curse,

I take note of my own life.

Where have the boundary lines fallen for me?

And how can I know when I cross them?

I think the answer is simple.

When I begin to feel uncomfortable with my decisions,

I know I’m moving stones that aren’t mine to move.

So I flip to the New Testament.

Who can help me when I become a stone mover?

Who can remind me of where I’m supposed to be?

I remember Paul,

writing from a prison cell.

If anyone had a reason to move a stone,

it was him.

Hungry, cold, alone……

this surely didn’t feel like part of God’s plan.

But Paul knew what I want to remember today.

He says it in the very next verse,

 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Phil. 4:13

His boundary stone was in place,

and he could handle it with the help of God.

Because of this,

he was content.

Even when moving the stone would have been tempting.

I don’t think it ever crossed his mind.

So today, I want to remember the Israelites.

And I also want to be like Paul.

My boundary stones were set in place long ago.

And it’s not my job to move them.

_____________________________________________________

I know what it is to be in need,

and I know what it is to have plenty.

I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,

whether well fed or hungry,

whether living in plenty or in want.

Phil. 4:12

(Today’s reading was from Deuteronomy 16-19.)
DSC_21383

 

It’s funny how a song you haven’t thought about in years can suddenly pop into your mind while reading the Bible.

This morning as I read Deuteronomy 12 – 15,

I began hearing a song in my head.

A song I had not thought of since church camp over thirty-five years ago:

“We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord
And we pray that our unity will one day be restored
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

It seemed so easy to sing these lyrics as an elementary-aged girl and teenager.

Who doesn’t want to feel united with something bigger than themselves while holding hands with other boys and girls who feel the very same way?

I think that’s the thing I loved most about church camp:

I was surrounded by other people who loved God as much as I did.

And I had an entire week of isolation from the world.

Everything we did while we were at camp centered around Jesus.

From early morning quiet time to morning classes to afternoon recreation to evening vespers,

this week was dedicated to one thing:

Helping campers grow closer to God.

Moses knew the Israelites were getting ready to cross the Jordan and enter a land filled with all kinds of different people who worshiped all kinds of different gods.

Although the wilderness had been difficult, it had provided a somewhat safe place to focus on and learn more about the One true God.

The Promised Land would be filled with milk and honey,

but it would also be filled with people who would try to convince the Israelites that there were other gods to worship.

False prophets and false gods would begin to show up in places they had never been before.

God knew the Israelites needed a place to come together and refocus.

God knew the Israelites needed a place to find unity and freely worship Him as a group of believers.

So Moses spends time explaining how important it will be for them to have a designated location for this purpose.

There are lots of things we do today as Christians that bring us closer to God.

Church services

Small groups

Sunday school

Bible studies

Accountability partners

The list goes on and on.

But as a middle-aged Christian woman looking back on my life, I believe church camp was the place my spiritual foundation was laid.

I lived for this week every summer where I would reconnect with boys and girls from many different churches and feel like I belonged.

Memorizing Scripture

Learning new songs

Playing fun games

And feeling God’s presence from the minute I woke up until the minute I laid my head back down at night,

church camp was my home away from home.

As I read the Bible this morning,

I couldn’t help but think of all the false gods kids have to face today.

I thought of the addictions so many kids struggle with today.

From video games to social media and sadly, even to pornography;

and I was reminded of the power they could find in a week away from it all.

If Moses were here today,

I feel like he would encourage all parents to consider sending their children

to a place where they could learn about or reconnect

with the One true God who loves them most of all.

I didn’t think I’d be writing about church camp this morning.

I honestly never know where God will lead me as I read through the Old Testament.

But this morning as I read,

the song “We are one in the Spirit,”

moved through my mind,

and I was drawn back to tether ball games and campfires with other boys and girls who loved God just like I did,

and I smiled.

For me, church camp was an annual reminder of how much I loved God and He loved me.

And a reminder of how many other kids loved Him too.

Church camp brought Hope in seasons of my life when I needed it most.

And as a teenage girl, bombarded with all sorts temptations,

church camp kept my feet on solid ground.

Moses wanted the Israelites to cross the Jordan and plant their feet on solid ground,

but he knew it would take intentional effort to create a place where God could be met and worshiped.

I think it takes intentional effort today too.

If you need help finding a church camp near you,

please email me or call your local church.

I would love to help you find a place for your children or grandchildren to go this summer and spend a week fully in the presence of God.

It’s a scary and uncertain world for kids these days.

What can we do as adults to help them be ready to face it with courage and confidence as adults?

I believe church camp is one option we will never regret adding to our list of options.

Start children off on the way they should go,

and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Proverbs 22:6

(Today’s reading was from Deuteronomy 12-15.)
snow bush

Where Power Rests

March 20th, 2019

 

Were they able to see the blessing in the manna they received every day,

even though they grumbled about it from time to time along the way?

Did they ever reflect on and talk about the times God sent water from a rock just when they thought they would die of thirst?

And most of all, did they ever look back on their forty-year journey and realize how amazing it was to actually hear God’s voice coming from a cloud or fire?

Things will soon be changing for this group of people.

God will soon begin speaking directly to prophets.

His voice will no longer thunder from the sky as it did in those wilderness days.

So Moses spends his final moments on earth reminding the Israelites not of the wealth or power or riches that will come from being God’s chosen people, but of the gift of receiving words directly from the Creator of heaven and earth.

Over and over again, He says,

“Do not forget the Lord your God by failing to keep His Words.”

Basically, Moses is saying,

“The minute you stop obeying His words, you will begin to forget Him and His power.”

Moses knew what I need to be reminded of today.

God’s words matter,

and as I read and reflect on His Word, 

I realize my words matter too.

 I’m thinking of Proverbs 18:21 which says,

“Death and Life are in the power of the tongue.”

Just as Moses pleaded with the people to remember all the words they had heard from God so that they would not forget Him,

I believe God pleads with us to think about the words we choose to use so we will not forget Him either.

Deuteronomy 11:26-29 says,

See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse—  

the blessing if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today; 

 the curse if you disobey the commands of the Lord your God

and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, 

which you have not known.

 When the Lord your God has brought you into the land you are entering to possess,

you are to proclaim on Mount Gerizim the blessings, and on Mount Ebal the curses.

Moses makes it clear.

In the Promised Land, they will have the power to declare both blessings and curses.

God places the power of words in the tongues of His people.

We don’t have to read far in the book of James to learn that this power is still with us today,

but the battle is no less difficult than the ones the Israelites will soon face as they cross the Jordan.

James 3:5-12

Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

With words,

God spoke the world into existence,

led the Israelites through the wilderness,

and announced the coming of His Son.

Jesus defeated the devil in his own wilderness experience with the proclamation,

“Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

Revelation 12:11 says,

“They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony;

they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”

From Genesis to Revelation,

words had power.

And I believe they still do today.

Yes, there’s power in the blood.

But I believe there’s power in our words too.

Jesus did the first part.

The second part is up to us.

Maybe that’s where our power rests.

In our tongues.

IMG_1999

 

While taking senior pictures in downtown Ashland early yesterday evening,

I never dreamed the middle-aged woman who passed us in an alley was a priest at a nearby church.

I’m not sure if it was her sweatpants or the purple stripes in her short brown hair that threw me off.

Whatever the case, I wouldn’t have chosen her as a priest in a long line-up of options.

On her way to an exercise class with other church members,

she apologized for her outward appearance

but took time to make small talk with us

as she headed into the church building we were using as a backdrop.

It’s not every day I meet someone who claims that title,

so I couldn’t help but ask the first thing that entered my mind.

“What do you think of the book of Leviticus?”

The irony of that moment didn’t hit me until this morning.

Who gets to ask that question to a priest with purple hair?

My only regret was not asking if I could take her picture.

Her answer to the question I did ask, though, was perfect.

She sighed and said,

“Ahhhhh……Leviticus…..it’s a hard one.  But it’s the law. And we need it.”

She then went on her way.

And we went on ours.

I didn’t give her words much more thought until this morning as I was reading Deuteronomy 4-7.

Moses stands before the Israelites to speak.

In a final attempt to instill in them the importance of keeping God’s commands before they enter the promised land,

he warns them of the danger of false gods.

All the while, he reminds them of God’s faithfulness

and encourages them to teach all they have learned to their children and grandchildren.

Moses knows his own death his near,

and he won’t have the chance to do this himself.

He will soon exit the story of the redemption of God’s people,

passing the baton as his death draws near.

Don’t someone’s last words seem to matter most?

What does Moses want the Israelites to remember?

What is pressing on his heart as he looks out into  the crowd and makes eye contact with so many different people he has grown to love?

What does he want them to remember after he is gone?

Fear God. Obey His laws.

Seek Him with all your heart, soul, and mind.

Tear down every idol.

Worship only Him.

As difficult as it was for me to blog through Leviticus,

I’m realizing something this morning.

The purple-haired priest was right.

Leviticus is the law.

And we need it.

We can’t obey someone who doesn’t tell us what to do.

And we can’t trust someone who doesn’t have a reason for the commands they give.

God set boundaries in Leviticus as any good parent does today.

And there were consequences when these boundary lines were crossed.

So Moses reviews the ten commandments with his audience,

reminding them of the fear they felt in Horeb as God spoke from the mountain blazing with fire

and how this fear moved them to obedience.

Ultimately, their obedience moved them closer and closer to Him –

the One who loved them most.

God no longer speaks from mountains blazing with fire.

But maybe He’s okay with speaking through purple-haired priests.

Leviticus…..it’s a hard one.

But it’s the law.

And we need it.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;

all who follow his precepts have good understanding.

To him belongs eternal praise.

Psalm 111:10

And our children do too.

Deut. 6:5-9 says,

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.

Impress them on your children.

Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road,

when you lie down and when you get up.

Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  

Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

(Today’s reading was from Deuteronomy 4-7.)

We’ll never feel conviction from our sins quite like the Israelites did,

not only offering sacrifices every time they fell short…..

but also every time they even had thoughts of falling short.

We’ll never know the fatigue of wandering in the wilderness for forty years,

or the awe of being led by a pillar of fire at night and a pillar of clouds by day.

We can read about it all day long,

but the truth is,

we’ll never truly grasp what it felt like to travel forty years

in the same clothes and the same shoes

with no need of replacing them.

God demanded a lot of His chosen people,

but He took care of them all along the way,

making His presence known with every step they took

and somehow preventing what they wore from ever wearing out.

As difficult as it has been to blog through the Old Testament so far,

one thing has been evident.

God chose the Israelites and He didn’t go back on the promises He made to them.

As Deuteronomy started this morning,

Moses stood before the Israelites and recapped their wilderness journey with them

just before they stepped forward to enter the Promised Land.

As if he knew they needed a reminder of God’s presence and leading,

Moses breaks down their story into sections so that they can see why certain things happened when they did,

and how they ended up where they were on this particular day.

He wanted them to grasp with confidence just how faithful God had been at getting them to this place in spite of their grumbling and complaining all along the way.

He also wanted them to realize that even in the wilderness,

God never kept them in one place any longer than necessary.

Moses begins by reflecting on their time at Mt. Sinai

where God gave them the law and taught them just how serious it was to disobey it.

For a whole year, they camped here at Horeb.

Fear and trembling were the norm at this campsite..

People died when they ventured too close to this mountain.

The power of God’s presence had to be seen AND taught in order to be appreciated and understood.

Once they grasped His Holiness and their daily need for it,

they were ready for their journey.

So in Deuteronomy 1:6, Moses reminds them of the day when God finally said,

“You have stayed at this mountain long enough.  Resume your journey.”

After a year in this same place in the desert,

I can only imagine how ready they were to pack up their tents and get on their way.

With no clocks and no calendars,

the sun and stars were their only way of keeping track of time.

And nearly 365 sunrises would have been a lot to tally without a dry erase board and marker.

Did they even appreciate the power of the sunrise in the wilderness –

before the Son had actually risen?

I have so many questions when I get to Heaven.

That will be definitely be one of them if I get to interview any of these people.

I’ve often thought I would love if Heaven offered workshops for the first 10,000 years.

I’d love to move from cloud to cloud,

learning the back stories of people like Abraham, Noah, and Moses.

For this morning, though, I have to believe I’ve been given all I need to know for life on this planet

in the pages of the Bible.

And this morning,

I learned this.

God keeps us where we need to be as long as we need to be there…….

but not one day longer than necessary.

He uses every mountain in our life as a teachable moment.

And He uses every valley too.

We may not know until we’re looking back on life just how much we learned at each stop along the way,

but I do believe there’s not one day or week or year that’s wasted in our journey.

I can see the winding path of my own life up to this point and how even my years of taking typing and shorthand as a twenty year old college student prepared me for this morning as I sit at a keyboard over thirty years later,

clicking away with my somewhat wrinkled hands in the exact same positions as my youthful hands rested on a keyboard so many years earlier.

I never would have dreamed writing would have been my main reason for needing typing skills.

But God knew.

As I sat in the computer lab of Cincinnati Bible College day after day typing the sentence,

“The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,”

over and over again in order to practice moving more and more quickly over all letters of the keyboard,

God was preparing me for today.

And as I’ve faced much harder days,

He has prepared me for even harder moments.

Strengthening my heart and mind just as he strengthened my fingers.

Moving me on only after I had learned what I needed for the next leg of my journey.

I believe every day is both a time of learning for tomorrow and a time of putting into practice what we learned yesterday.

Spiritually as well as physically.

No chapter is insignificant.

But no chapter is forever either.

So here we are,

three chapters into Deuteronomy and far from Mt. Sinai.

Almost to receive the Promised Land yet not too far from the law to forget how much it matters.

I think that’s what this Monday’s reading is all about for me.

It’s a reminder of where I’ve been and where I’m going.

It’s the Hope of all that is to come with the gentle whisper of all that has already been.

It’s the standing at the crossroad of my past and my future and realizing that every single day is actually a chance to stand at this same place,

taking a moment to look back while having the courage to step forward.

I’m not sure what this year holds for our family.

There are lots of questions looming in my mind this morning.

But this I know for sure, just as the Israelites knew several thousand years ago,

God is with me.

He held yesterday and He holds tomorrow,

but most of all,

HE HOLDS TODAY.

I’m not sure what else I need to know this morning.

IMG_4149

 

Blogging through the Bible is more challenging than I ever dreamed.

Some mornings when I read, I find myself staring at the chapters I’ve just read and wondering,

“What in the world do these words have to do with us today?”

This morning I finished the book of Numbers.

The journey through the wilderness is broken down into all the places the Israelites camped along the way with significant moments recorded at some of these locations.

After this, the Promised Land is divided between the tribes.

Special instructions are even given to the daughters of Zelophehad about who they are allowed to marry,

because their inheritance normally would have gone to brothers,

if they would have had any.

There is fear that if these women married outside their own tribe their family’s inheritance would be handed to another tribe.

And no one wanted to lose what rightfully belonged to them.

_______________________________________________

Not much has changed today.

Inheritances matter.

We see it more on television shows when a wealthy family member dies,

and his or her relatives gather for the reading of the will.

Everyone sits around a conference room table, waiting to hear what’s coming their way.

Sometimes family members are shocked to learn what they thought would become theirs has been left to an entirely different person or group.

___________________________________________________

The Israelites wanted to avoid any shocking changes in what belonged to their families.

They had traveled too many years and fought too many battles to lose their inheritance now.

So they covered all their bases with God in order to ensure their inheritance was secure.

_________________________________________

As Christians,

we are heirs.

And thankfully, our inheritance comes with a promise.

If we belong to Christ, we are Abraham’s seed.

Part of the family.

Co-heirs with Christ.

Called to  “share in His suffering in order to share in His glory.”

Just as the Israelites fought their way through the desert,

we are called to fight our way through life.

Not against men-

But against an enemy who would love nothing more than to see us miss our chance at the table.

If my life journey were broken down into places I’ve camped along the way,

with details of what happened at certain places,

March 15th, 1992, would be mentioned.

This was the day our first daughter was born.

My first and only c-section,

this little gift from God left both a physical and emotional scar.

She showed up in perfect form and became our cuddle bug immediately,

but six and a half weeks later,

she quietly slipped away.

SIDS became part of our story.

And Adrienne Annabeth’s inheritance came early.

On the day she left our arms,

we were left holding a decision.

Would the enemy get the best of us in the wilderness?

Would the suffering be too much?

I remember feeling very unloved at the young age of 27,

as if God’s love depended upon my happiness.

I had a lot of wrestling to do before I would find joy again.

And like Jacob years before, I was left with both a blessing and a limp.

Twenty-seven more years have passed since the day Adrienne became our daughter.

Tim and I have lived a whole other lifetime since then –

and we’ve camped many other places along the way.

This morning, as I think about Adrienne’s birthday and about the Israelites setting up tents and taking them down in so many different places across the desert,

I can’t help but think that’s exactly what we’ve been called to do today.

Not forgetting where we’ve been or how far we’ve traveled,

we have to keep moving forward.

Step by step,

We’re moving closer to the land we’ve been promised,

trusting that when the day comes for His will to be read aloud,

our names will be there.

No surprises.

Heirs with a promise.

But in order to share in His glory,

we shouldn’t be surprised when we’re also called to share in His suffering.

____________________________

So, today, instead of making a birthday cake,

I’ll finish this blog post and get ready for a regular day of work,

trusting that the birthday party in Heaven will exceed any celebration I could have pulled off here.

Happy birthday,

Adrienne Annabeth.

You are still so loved.

I’m camping here today in your  memory.

But I won’t stop traveling closer to you as the years pass by.

See you soon, little one.

______________________________________________________

 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, 

and heirs according to the promise.

Gal. 3:29

 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—

heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ,

if indeed we share in his sufferings 

in order that we may also share in his glory.

Romans 8:17

(Today’s reading was from Numbers 33-36.)