Sunday, March 15, 2009

He put you through hard times

There is a lot in today's passage that jumps out at me.

These are hard times for many people. They have been for us.

As I am coming back into the real estate listing and selling business, I am noticing in practice what I have been reading about and seeing on the news. That is - there is an avalanche of foreclosures and "short sales", where the people selling owe more than the house is worth. Every single one of those properties has a story. Mostly it is a story of anguish.

Americans are the most optimistic people on the planet. And among North Americans, the Christians have a firmly held belief that as you follow God, life will just get better and better. Financially, my generation is the most prosperous in the history of the world.

A time of financial contraction, such as we are now in, is a great time for reflection. And a good time to reevaluate life and our assumptions. Listen to what Moses says today:

"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 neither you nor your parents knew anything about, so you would learn 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 you in the same ways a father disciplines his child.
6 -9 So it's paramount that you keep the commandments of God, your God, walk down the roads he shows you and reverently respect him."

You remember that the people were just about the enter the promised land. God knew they would prosper in the years ahead. Here is His prophecy, and also His warning.

11 -16 "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 going up and up—make sure you don't become so full of yourself and your things that you forget God, your God, the God who delivered you from Egyptian slavery; the God who led you through that 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."

Doesn't that sound a lot like our experience in North America? As I visit the church around the world, I discover that the North American church is consumed by money and materialism. Christianity, in many cases, is a veneer over rampant consumerism. Yet listen to God...

17 -18 "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."

Then a summary. As powerful today, Sunday March 15, 2009 as the day it was spoken:

12 -13 "So now Israel, what do you think God expects from you? Just this: Live in his presence in holy reverence, follow the road he sets out for you, love him, serve God, your God, with everything you have in you, obey the commandments and regulations of God that I'm commanding you today—live a good life."

And when He says, "live a good life", it is a life with the moral quality of goodness. Not the selfish, materialistic, easy life we think of.

Live in His presence.

Live a good life.

1 comment:

Roy Peters said...

Good story Phil. It's a pity more people do not live by the Christian teachings. Sad to say, in Europe, church attendances are falling with each generation, and fewer people feel bound by any sort of religion other than self. Very sad.