After A Meal, Satisfied, Bless GOD

Keep and live out the entire commandment that I’m giving you today so that you’ll live and prosper and enter and own the land that GOD promised to your ancestors. Remember every road that GOD led you on for those forty years in the wilderness, pushing you to your limits, testing you so that he would know what you were made of, whether you would keep his commandments or not. He put you through hard times. He made you go hungry. Then he fed you with manna, something you nor your parents knew anything about, so you would know that men and women don’t live by bread only; we live by every word that comes from GOD’s mouth. Your clothes didn’t wear out and your feet didn’t blister those forty years. You learned deep in your heart that GOD disciplines in the same ways that a father disciplines his child.

So it’s paramount that you keep the commandments of GOD, your God, walk down the roads he shows you and reverently respect him. GOD is about to bring you into a good land, a land with brooks and rivers, springs and lakes, streams out of the hills and through the valleys. It’s a land of wheat and barley, of vines and figs and pomegranates, of olives, oil, and honey. It’s a land where you’ll never go hungry — always food on the table and a roof over your head. It’s a land where you’ll get iron out of rocks and mine copper from the hills.

After a meal, satisfied, bless GOD, for the land he has given you.

Make sure you don’t forget GOD, your God, by not keeping his commandments, his rules and regulations that I command you today. Make sure that when you eat and are satisfied, build pleasant houses and settle in, see your herds and flocks flourish and more and more money come in, watch your standard of living go up and  up — make sure you don’t become so full of yourself and your things that you forget about GOD, your God, the God who delivered you from Egyptian slavery;

the God who led you through the huge and fearsome wilderness, those desolate, arid badlands crawling with fiery snakes and scorpions;

the God who gave you water gushing from hard rock;

the God who gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never heard of, in order to give you a taste of the hard life, to test you so that you would be prepared to live well in the days ahead of you.

If you start thinking to yourselves, “I did all this. And all by myself. I’m rich. It’s all mine!” — well, think again. Remember that GOD, your God, gave you the strength to produce all this wealth so as to confirm the covenant that he promised to your ancestors — as it is today.

If you forget, GOD, your God, and start taking up with other gods, serving and worshiping them, I’m on record now as giving you firm warning: That will be the end of you; I mean it — destruction. You’ll go to your doom — the same as the nations GOD is destroying before you; doom because you wouldn’t obey the Voice of GOD, your God.

Deuteronomy 8

I don’t know about you, but I don’t do that well with receiving gifts. I like gifts, but I’m always surprised when I get them. And, quite frankly, having learned to get along without them most of the time, I don’t know what to think when I do get them.

Now, I know, you’re thinking, “What kind of people does she know?” or “She’s just looking for some kind of pity-party by painting her life in a gray hue!” Or, maybe I don’t know what you’re thinking. Maybe, you can identify, and it’s taken you by surprise.

Well, you’re not alone. What I’ve been realizing along these lines has been taking me by surprise too. I mean, come on, it just sounds dumb! “I don’t know what to do with gifts.” Is this some sort of warped attempt at originality, uniqueness?

But I bring this up because it’s been on my mind the last few days, or weeks. I don’t know how to receive gifts — but when I talk about this, I’m not talking about Christmas gifts or birthday gifts, or non-occasion gifts that I wasn’t expecting; I’m talking about the big gifts, the gifts I don’t deserve and couldn’t earn, the gifts I can’t wrap my mind around: the gifts from God.

Weird, or natural? When God sends a gift your way, what is your first reaction? Or, maybe after you’ve gotten used to using or enjoying it for a while, do you notice a change in how you see it? Do you start to feel attached to it, as though its presence serves a greater function than originally? Maybe you once felt fine without it, or you had learned to contentment apart from it, but now that you have it, you don’t want to face that kind of “deficiency” again.

Why is it that we are so afraid of deficiency? Why are the words of Psalm 23 so far from us? “I shall not want” is not a phrase that I naturally use to define my life because of the connect I have with God. Isn’t God the kind of Person who doesn’t like us to be happy and satisfied? Aren’t these things that he brings only when he can ting them with sorrow and pain we would never choose.

If I sound like I have a bias, I do; stated simply, I don’t think God is trustworthy. Trusting God can be taken for granted in religious circles. We assume that it comes with the territory of knowing God, and following Him. But how do any of us ever really trust God. I mean, He is so big, and so far beyond our reach of fully knowing, and we are so full of sin and rebellion against Him. How does all of this, how can it, work?

I don’t know. It is easy for me to say that I trust God in some areas, and seemingly impossible in others. Yet, if I am supposed to — in the sense that I will never experience what life was truly meant to be for me until I do — trust Him absolutely, there must be a way. Yes, a Way.

Maybe it starts back to chapters ago with learning to love God for who He is. Maybe then I will understand who He is for the first time, and because of who He is, I will finally trust.

This is the commandment, the rules and regulations, that GOD, your God, commanded me to teach you to live out in the land you’re about to cross into to possess. This is so that you’ll live in deep reverence before GOD lifelong, observing all his rules and regulations that I’m commanding you, you and your children and your grandchildren, living good long lives.

Listen obediently, Israel. Do what you’re told so you’ll live a good life, full of abundance and bounty, just as GOD promised, in a land abounding with milk and honey.

Attention, Israel!

GOD, our God! GOD the one and only!

Love GOD, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got.

Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates. When GOD, your God, ushers you into the land he promised through your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give you, you’re going to walk into large, bustling cities you didn’t build, well-furnished houses you didn’t buy, come upon wells you didn’t dig, vineyards and olive gardens you didn’t plant. When you take it all in and settle down, pleased and content, make sure you don’t forget how you got there — GOD brought you out of slavery in Egypt.

Deeply respect, GOD, your God. Serve and worship him exclusively. Back up your promises with his name only. Don’t fool around with other gods, the gods of your neighbors, because GOD, your God, who is alive among you is a jealous God. Don’t provoke him, igniting his hot anger that would burn you right off the face of the Earth. Don’t push GOD, your God, to the wall as you did that day at Massah, the Testing-Place. Carefully keep the commands of GOD, all the requirements and regulations he gave you. Do what is right: do what is good in GOD’s sight so you’ll live a good life and be able to march in and take this pleasant land that GOD so solemnly promised through your ancestors, throwing out your enemies left and right — exactly as GOD said.

The next time your child asks you, “What do these requirements and regulations and rules that GOD, our God, has commanded mean?” tell your child, “We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and GOD powerfully intervened and got us out of that country. We stood there and delivered as GOD gave miracle-signs, great wonders, and evil-visitations on Egypt, on Pharaoh and his household. He pulled us out of there so he could bring us here and give us the land he so solemnly promised to our ancestors. That’s why GOD commanded us to follow all these rules, so that we would live reverently before GOD, our God, as he gives us this good gift, keeping us alive for a long time to come.

“It will be a set-right and put-together life if we make sure we do this entire commandment in the Presence of GOD, our God, just as he commanded us to do.”

Deuteronomy 6

What Am I Looking For?

I don’t know how to decide what I want out of life. I get so set on what I think I want and then I go to pray. Yet, when I sit in the presence of God, my words take flight. How can I presume to tell a God who cares for me with infinite love and grace, how to care for me. I am blank. Who am I to know what is best, what goodness even looks like. When it comes my way, do I ever recognize it? When He teaches me to realize that everything He sends is for my good, I must leave my assumptions of black and white behind. I do not know how God’s mind works and what He shall choose to send my way next. I only know that I can trust that He who sends it is good and by it He shall make me complete.

I want to report to you, friends, that my imprisonment here has had the opposite of its intended effect. Instead of being squelched, the Message has actually prospered. All the soldiers here, and everyone else too, found out that I’m in jail because of this Messiah. That piqued their curiosity and now they’ve learned all about him. Not only that, but most of the followers of Jesus here have become far more sure of themselves in the faith than ever, speaking out fearlessly about God, about the Messiah.

It’s true that some preach Christ because with me out of the way, they think they’ll step right into the spotlight. But the others do it with the best heart in the world. One group is motivated by pure love, knowing that I am here defending the Message, wanting to help. The others, now that I’m out of the picture, are merely greedy, hoping to get something out of it for themselves. Their motives are bad. They see me as their competition, and so the worse it goes for me, the better — they think — for them.

So how am I to respond? I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens their mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on!

And I’m going to keep that celebration going because I know how it’s going to turn out. Through your faithful prayers and the generous response of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, everything he wants to do in and through me will be done. I can hardly wait to continue on my course. I don’t expect to be embarrassed in the least. On the contrary, everything that is happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn’t shut me up; they gave me a pulpit! Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose.

As long as I am alive in this body, there is good work for me to do. If I had to choose right now, I hardly know which I’d choose. Hard choice! The desire to break camp here and be with Christ is powerful. Some days I can think of nothing better. But most days, because of what you are going through, I am sure it’s best for me to stick it out here. So I plan to be around awhile, companion to you as your growth and joy in this life of trusting God continues. You can start looking forward to a great reunion when I come visit you again. We’ll be praising Christ, enjoying each other.

Meanwhile, live in such a way that you are a credit to the Message of Jesus. Let nothing in your conduct hang on whether I come or not. Your conduct must be the same whether I show up to these things for myself or hear of it from a distance. Stand united, singular in vision, contending for people’s trust in the Message, the good news, not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition. Your courage and unity will show them what they’re up against: defeat for them, victory for you — and both because of God. There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And the suffering is as much a gift as the trusting. You’re involved in the same kind of struggle you saw me go through, on which you are now getting an updated report in this letter.

Philippians 1:12-30