“Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
The word that stands out in these verses is the word “choose.” I remember very clearly the day that I had to “choose for (my)self this day.”
It was January of 1977. I was a freshman at Tulane University in New Orleans, La. I had become a Christian during my junior year of high school – or at least thought I had. I played at being a Christian, especially when I was at church and around church people. But I also did some partying and participated in un-Christ like behavior. This continued on into my 1st year of college.
The first week I was at Tulane 2 things happened that epitomized this: 1) I got involved with Campus Crusade for Christ and 2) I joined a fraternity. I played at being a Christian when I was around CCC and I did some partying when I was around the fraternity. Now, to be clear, I was not a wild party animal – but I did take advantage of some frat parties and the French Quarter of New Orleans to demonstrate un-Christ like behavior. I knew that I was being double-minded.
In January, shortly after second semester had begun, I had a “choose this day” moment. I was walking across campus from my fraternity (where I had just eaten lunch) heading back to my dorm. As I passed beneath a tree not far from the frat house I was stopped in my tracks by what I can only explain as the voice of God. It was not a voice that thundered from the heavens that anybody else could hear but it was a voice that thundered in my spirit – just as if God had spoken out loud. And very clearly the voice said, “Choose! You have been straddling the fence between my kingdom and the kingdom of this world and now it is time to choose which one you will serve.”
I don’t know if you have ever had an undeniable God moment like that or not where you have heard God speak as if it were out loud. It has happened to me 3 times – at 3 significant crisis moments in my life. This was the first time. So I had a decision to make. I knew that I could not continue to play the game I had been playing. I had to choose!
So I know what the Israelites where thinking when Joshua told them to “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites” or the Lord God. Life is full of choices. But there comes a point when we have to decide one way or the other who we are going to serve. So if you have not already done so, I will echo what Joshua said…
Choosing one thing over another doesn’t necessarily mean we love the thing we choose. If given the choice to eat spinach or broccoli, you may choose broccoli. It may only mean you don’t want to eat spinach. Heaven is not for people who just want to skip Hell. Heaven is reserved for those who love Jesus, who have been rescued by Him and who long to praise Him. If someone doesn’t have much use for praising Him now, it’s foolish to think they’re ready for Heaven.
One of the huge ways that my Mom influenced my life was by instilling in me a love for travel and seeing the world. Admittedly, I have traveled much more extensively internationally than I have in our own country – something which I think will change over the next 30 years. Much, if not most, of this travel has been mission oriented over the last 30 years.
I wanted to create a post that chronicled the countries I’ve had the great fortune of visiting – if for no other reason than to help me remember as my brain cells begin to deteriorate. There is much beauty in this world. I’ve witnessed it both in the scenery and in the faces of the people I’ve seen all around the world. This is a good reminder to me as our world becomes a scarier place each day and as travel becomes more hazardous.
It has been a joy to see so much of this world. It will be even more so to see the wonders of the new heaven and the new earth that God has created for those who are called by His Name.
North America: U.S., Mexico, Canada
South America: Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru
Central America: Nicaragua, Honduras
Caribbean: St Thomas/St Johns, Haiti, Jamaica, Bermuda, Bahamas, Trinidad and Tobago, Caymans
Middle East: Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Cyprus
Europe: England, Scotland, France, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Italy, Vatican City, Netherlands, Belgium, Monaco, Greece, Macedonia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Kosovo
Have you ever wondered why music is such an important part or worship? The Lord gives a “theology of music” to Moses in Deuteronomy 31:19-22. He tells them two things that we all know is true: 1) Songs touch the heart (v.21a), and 2) Songs stick in our mind (v.21b). In other words, songs a way of piercing us in a way that mere words cannot and songs have a way of sticking with us in ways that mere words do not.
How many times have you heard a song that brought you to tears? And many of you can remember the words of songs 10, 20, even 40 years ago even though you have not heard them since then.
Moses was instructed to teach the Israelites a song – an unforgettable song – that would proclaim the greatness of God, that would steady their hearts in the middle of hardship, and that would draw them back when they were far away. This is what music can do.
I am a terrible singer. And yet I have often fancied myself as songwriter. I have written dozens of songs over the years and even put them to some simple guitar melodies. You will never hear them on The Voice being sung by the amazing Katie Basden ( by the way… tune in this week as she enters the knockout rounds) – but they have helped me over the years to express my heart to God in ways that prose does not. Here is one such song ( taken from Ephesians 1:1-14)… you can make up your own melody to go with the words.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ
He chose us in Him to be holy.
We are His sons, we are his loved ones
And it’s all to the praise of His glorious grace.
According to the riches of His grace we’ve been redeemed.
And His perfect will is no more a mystery.
Christ is our head, through Him we’re fed
And it’s all to the praise of His glorious grace.
Glorious grace, God’s glorious grace.
We’re wrapped up in the arms of a Father’s embrace.
Glorious grace, God’s glorious grace.
We sing out our praise to His glorious grace.
We were marked in Jesus on the day that we believed.
We received His Spirit who is now our guarantee.
Now we all are heirs of wealth beyond compare
And it’s all to the praise of His glorious grace.
Sin is cosmic treason. Sin is treason against a perfectly pure Sovereign. It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward the One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself. Have you ever considered the deeper implications of the slightest sin, of the most minute peccadillo? What are we saying to our Creator when we disobey Him at the slightest point? We are saying no to the righteousness of God. We are saying, “God, Your law is not good. My judgement is better than Yours. Your authority does not apply to me. I am above and beyond Your jurisdiction. I have the right to do what I want to do, not what You command me to do
Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad. Hear O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.
Shema (“hear”) is the Hebrew word that begins the most important prayer in Judaism. It is found in Deuteronomy 6:4, which begins with the command to “Hear.” The whole Shema prayer, which includes verses 4-9, is spoken daily in the Jewish tradition:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.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 door frames of your houses and on your gates.
There is a discipleship lesson here that believers need to take to heart. Discipleship begins in the home. It is primarily the job of parents to disciple their children as they put these verses into practice. It is not the Pastor’s job. It is not the Kid’s Pastor or the Youth Pastor’s job. It is the job of parents. Note some of the admonitions to parents:
Impress (these commandments) on your children
Talk about them… when you sit, when you walk, when you go to bed, when you get up – in other words… all. the. time.
To say it another way, the conversation around the house should constantly and continuously be centered around the Word of God. Parents need to be men and women of the Word so that they can instruct their kids according to the Scriptures – not according to Dr Spock or Oprah or Dr Phil or the best parenting books on the market.
Shema! Here! Listen up! The Lord is saying that if you get this right – if you diligently put these verses into practice in your home, then THIS will happen. And you will be glad. I promise you.
Some professing Christians have only a passing acquaintance with the Gospel. They can hardly give an account of what they hope for, or whom they hope in. And if they have some principles they take kindly to, they are so unsettled that every wind blows them away, like loose tiles from a housetop.
When Satan buffets and temptation washes over you like a tidal wave, you must cling to God’s truths. They are your shelter in every raging storm. But you must have them on hand, ready to use. Do not wait until it is sinking to patch the boat.
As I continue reading through the Bible this year using the F260 Plan, there were some general principles from several of the readings that jumped out at me.
Leviticus 23 – This chapter describes the appointed feasts of the Lord that the Israelites are to “proclaim as holy convocations.” The Lord prescribed these community gatherings throughout the year so that they could be reminded of what the Lord had done for them. In other words so that they would NEVER FORGET! It is the same reason why we have special dates sprinkled throughout our calendar year. The difference is that we often treat these holy days as mere holidays rather than as sacred reminders of God’s goodness to us.
Leviticus 26 – There are a lot of “thou shalt nots” and “thou shalts” in this chapter but the principle comes through loud and clear: OBEDIENCE BRINGS BLESSING! Thisis a principle that I have known a long time but that I often need to be reminded of. I have seen it play out in my life over and over again – just as I have seen the converse to be true: Disobedience brings cursing. When we are careful to live according to the rules of life that have been established by God then we will generally find ourselves blessed. This is true for both believers and unbelievers. God has given us His commands not to take all the fun out of life but in order to provide for us and to protect us. In other words, He knows what’s good for us better than we do ourselves and if we pay attention to the owner’s manual we will find joy in the way that we were designed to live.
Numbers 11-12 – In chapter 11 the Israelites are grumbling because all they have to eat is manna. Manna burgers. Manna pizza. Manna shakes. Manna bread. And in chapter 12 Aaron and Miriam are grumbling because Moses is top dog and not them. In both cases their grumbling resulted in catastrophe. The principle here is that GRATITUDE IS ALWAYS A BETTER ATTITUDE THAN GRUMBLING. We live in a culture that seems to feel entitled and rather than being thankful for what we do have people are more than likely to grumble about what they do not have. Evidently this propensity towards entitlement has been around a long time. Nobody wants to be around a grumbler and a complainer. We can always finds things to be thankful for even when life is hard – if we are willing to look.
Number 13-14 – These are the famous spying out the land of Canaan passages where Caleb and Joshua are the only 2 out of the 12 that came back excited and ready to press on toward the Promised Land. There are a lot of leadership principles that have been preached from these passages – I will mention two: 1) LEADERS SEE OPPORTUNITIES WHEN OTHERS SEE PROBLEMS, and 2) THE MAJORITY IS NOT ALWAYS RIGHT. We can see the converse of these playing out in our country right now as candidates are jockeying for votes. They often appeal to the masses and give them what they want to hear rather than speaking hard truth. Great leaders lead from a position of humility (see Numbers 12:3) rather than being proud and bombastic. I’m afraid that because of where our country is heading that God is going to give us what we deserve rather than what we need – and America will learn a very hard lesson as a result… just as the Israelites did.
It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.
All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.
It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.
There are no ordinary people.
You have never talked to a mere mortal.
Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat.
But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.
As I continue reading through the Bible this year using the F260 Plan, this chapter grabbed my attention not so much by what it said but by what it did not say.
Last week I commented on an incredible encounter from Exodus 24 that the leaders of Israel had in the very presence of God. This was just before Moses and Joshua ascended Mt Sinai to receive the Tablets of Stone. Here we are in Exodus 32, less than 40 days after the most spiritual experience these guys have ever had, where literally they saw God, and I’m wondering why there is no mention of any of these guys other than Aaron.
So here’s the deal. Moses has been gone for a while. The people are getting antsy and very impatient and wondering what their next move will be. God has miraculously brought them out of Egypt but now they seem to be going nowhere fast. So they have given up on Yahweh and are ready to move on to a “god” that they can actually see who will lead them forward from here. Enter the “Golden Calf.” This is what they came up with that supposedly will solve all their problems and help them feel good about themselves as a nation again. Forget God. Forget Moses. Give us a god of our choosing that we actually have some control over.
Again my question is this: Where are the 40+ leaders who just saw the God of Israel. Why are they not speaking up and calming the people’s fears? Why are they not encouraging the Israelites to be patient. Why are they not giving testimony after testimony after testimony of what they saw and how they KNOW that the Lord has not forgotten about them? Why are the leaders not leading?
John Piper says this about spiritual leadership…
All genuine leadership begins in a sense of desperation; knowledge that we are helpless sinners in need of a great savior. That moves us to listen to God in his Word and cry out to him for help and for insight in prayer. That leads us to trust in God and to hope in his great and precious promises. This frees us for a life of love and service which, in the end, causes people to see and give glory to our Father in heaven.
I do not know why the leaders of Israel did not step up and give godly leadership in the midst of this crisis. I do not know why Aaron seemed to cave in to the pleadings of the people. I do know that great leaders arise in times of great difficulty. Our nation is facing some very difficult days. I am quite afraid that we will not have a leader who can lead us through the crises we are going to face – probably sooner than later. Our churches are going to face some difficult days as well. My prayer is that we who are considered leaders are “seeking the face of God” now so that when the time comes we can lead God’s people to see the face of God even in the midst of hardship and suffering and adversity.