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Archive for February, 2012

958038-whitney-houstonMany know of Whitney Houston — a marvelous singer who came of age in my college and early work years.  She had it all: beauty, a fantastic voice, a winning personality, and seemingly a good head on her shoulders.  She had a string of #1 hits, did movies with Kevin Costner and Denzel Washington, sang the National Anthem as the 1991 war with Iraq (Desert Storm) began which actually went #1 I believe.

And yet, at 48 years of age, Whitney Houston died after having spiraled down for years in drug and alcohol abuse.  Her funeral was today.  Remembering the Whitney Houston as she was coming into her own and the Whitney Houston she became is very sad — and it reminds me of the poem, “The Dash” a portion of which is below:
I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone from the beginning to the end.
He noted that first came the date of her birth and spoke of the following date with tears,
But he said that what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.
For the dash represents all the time that she spend alive on earth
And now only those who loved her know what the little line is worth.
For it matters not how much we own, the cars, the house, the cash
What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.
So when your eulogy is being read with your life’s actions to rehash
Would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent your dash?
I’ve been working my way through the Bible this year in concert with our church (goal is for congregation to read through in a year, but real goal is to learn to abide in Christ as a habit).
The reading today (Deuteronomy 7 – Deuteronomy 10) is all about how we spend our “dash” well.  Below is my journal resulting from this reading:
What if they said this about you at your funeral:
“She did not trust God or obey Him.  In spite of His delivering her from bondage and saving her, she grumbled and was ungrateful.  In fact, she was rebellious against the Lord for as long as I knew her.”
How grievous and heartbreaking that would be!  To be loved by God, shown grace and mercy beyond belief, led and blessed throughout, but to have shown no faithfulness in return.
And yet this is Moses description of the Israelites in the reading today (see especially Deuteronomy 9:7b and 9:23-24).
How terrible!  And terrifying – because I see so much of me in the Israelites.  “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it.  Prone to leave the God I love….”
How to avoid such an obituary?  The answer to that question is also in today’s reading.
1) Make no compromise with the world.  In today’s “religious conversations,” we often hear we are to “be in the world, but not of it.”  And that is true.  But often, I wonder if we twist that a bit to justify practicing some of the same behaviors of the world in the name of “being missional.”  After all, Jesus hung out with sinners, didn’t He?  Yes, but He didn’t sin.  In fact, He called them on their sin, challenging them to repent, turn, and come to Him  — and to “go, and sin no more.”  (NOTE: He did this in love and not in an “us against them” mentality we sometimes see in Christianity today).
When we compromise with the world, the world often turns us away from following God completely.  Oh, we will follow to some degree (that’s what makes this subtle sometimes), but we also take the parts of the world we like and can rationalize.  God says, “Make no treaty with them … for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods….”  (Deut 7:2b and 4a).

2) Remember the Lord.  Several times in chapter 8, Moses urges the Israelites to “Remember how the Lord God …” (8:2); to “be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God” (8:11); “Remember the Lord your God” (8:18).
We become especially vulnerable to forgetting God when we experience success and “satisfaction.”  We start to “believe our own press” and fail to continue to abide in Him (unfortunately, our natural tendency is to place self on the throne – “what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do” – Romans 7:15).

God warned about this: “Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” (Deuteronomy 8:11-14)

3) Accept and learn from the Lord’s discipline.  In chapter 8 we learn much about why God did what He did with Israel in the wilderness wanderings.  “…to humble you and test you in order to know what was in your heart” (8:2); “to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you.” (8:16b).
As a loving father disciplines his son in order that the boy might grow into a responsible man of character, so God disciplines us for the same reason – that we might learn there is more to life than material possessions and pleasure – that we are made for relationship with and calling from God.
Deuteronomy 8:5, 3b, 16b – Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you…..to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes form the mouth of the Lord [and] so that in the end it might go well with you.
4) Revere and love the Lord.  In doing this, we lead our heart in the right direction with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit and His word.  We begin to treasure God as our inheritance, become more like Christ, and can carry out the good works He prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
Deuteronomy 10:12 – And now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul…

Devotional/Application

It is so easy to compromise with the world – or in trying to be holy (set apart for God and His calling) that I become “holier than thou” or insulate myself completely.
It’s only by abiding in Him, by learning to love Him, by learning He is my true inheritance can I hope to have a legacy in which people recognize and come to know God and that it would be said of me that I acted justly, loved mercy, and walked humbly with God (Micah 6:8).

Prayer Response

Father,
I stand in awe of You and everything You’ve done for me
You speak Your words into my life and where You are is where I wanna be
 
I stand before You, Lord, humbled by the love You give away
A widow’s mite, my will and pride is all I have to offer anyway
Help me hold onto You and Your love God.  Help me let go of myself and become more like Jesus, moving ever closer to Your heart.
In Jesus name,  Amen.

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