We loved visiting New York City’s the Cloisters Museum.  Located in Upper Manhattan’s Fort Tryon Park, it offers panoramic vistas across the Hudson River to the Palisades of New Jersey, near where I served two churches.  The Cloisters specializes in medieval architecture and art.

Something unforgettable happens there in a smallish room, which contains dozens of audio speakers for surround sound.  We stand in a circle listening to the most gorgeous Gothic chants.  Ethereal tones like we’ve never heard before.   Such blissful, euphonic and celestial music makes it hard to tear ourselves away.

This triggers a thought, something found in the Old Testament.  Job 26: 14–‘Behold, these are but the outskirts of his ways, and how small a whisper do we hear of him!’  Experiencing God happens only by winks and whispers.  The fullness comes later.

The Apostle Paul understands.  He recounts something like an out-of-body experience that takes him to the outskirts of heaven.  To paradise, he says.  What does he see?  Something breathtaking.  Indescribable.  But actually that’s not how he puts it–‘and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter’ (2 Cor. 12:4).  ‘…he heard things…’  It’s not what he sees with his eyes that he can’t talk about, but what he hears.  Again, Job says we only hear whispers of God’s glory.

As wonderful as that Cloisters surround sound was, I can only imagine (unlike John Lennon) how stunning the notes of heaven will be.  No whispers anymore.  Lots of harmony with parts perfectly blended.  Overtones galore.

Such a choir.  The best is that we’ll be season-ticket holders, while also being permanent resident singers of God’s praises forever!

For music of praise, we thank you, Lord Jesus.  Amen.

CODES, PUZZLES AND MYSTERIES? Deuteronomy 30: 11-14

We live in a time when knowledge of God’s Word disappears quicker than steam off a frosty roof on a sunny winter morn.  I wonder if illiterate peasants of millennia past knew more of the Scriptures than the average Joe or Jen today?  Society seems on its high horse about being in the dark and out to lunch, as if knowing and believing the Bible makes you a bigoted hypocrite.

Some imagine the Bible jam packed with riddles and puzzles.  Codes to be deciphered.  Mysteries to be solved.  If it’s that hard, why try?  But is God’s Word so perplexing?  Hear the Bible itself–‘For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off…But the word is very near you.  It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it’ (Deut. 30:11,14).

We walk around gasping for breath if we haven’t exercised our spiritual lungs, making the personal commitment to sacrifice time away from certain modern distractions to focus on what God has to say.  To open our ears to His voice.  To focus our eyes on what’s been written for us from Him, with our hearts receptive to what He wants.

Today is the best day to decide to dig deeper into your Bible.  Don’t be unnerved.  Keep reading.  Hear His voice.  Follow what He says.  Don’t work yourself into a lather if the madding crowd heads off in the wrong direction, smack dab into a dead-end street to you-know-where.

Keep your eyes on Jesus.  How many of His own followed Him to the cross and the tomb?  Not many.  Just a few.  Be one who stays close by Him.  You’ll never be lonely with Jesus right beside you.  After all, He’s given you His Word.

Thank you, Lord, for being with us.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

SAFE AND SECURE? Deuteronomy 28-30

Nestled within these chapters of Deuteronomy, there’s painted a rather disheartening picture of God’s people turning out to be a bunch of playacting hypocrites, making promises they have no intention of keeping, with faith in their Lord God as rare as penny candy today.  Just them?

Too often I’ve toyed with my commitment to Jesus, which turned out to be less than skin-deep.  Maybe others didn’t notice, but I’m sure some did.  Regardless, I’ve gotten an eyeful of myself.  Certainly the Lord has.  That ‘shivers me timbers’.  Makes me weak in the knees.  And ashamed.

“…and who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart'” (Deut. 29:19).  Big mouths boasting promises which won’t be kept.  Feeling safe only going through the motions.  In church on Sunday, co-habiting with the devil the rest of the week.  Sinning today, glibly repenting tomorrow.  Safe and secure from all alarms?  You think?

Due to no lack of futile effort on my part, I’ve got to admit that sin offers no shelter at all.  None.  First off, my conscience kicks in and kicks me in the pants.  Then, somehow, the truth gets out.  Sin’s thrills turn out to be full of hot air.  Fluff.  Flighty.  Leaving me spiritually flummoxed.    

Some answers?  Don’t have to go far.  Deuteronomy 30:19-20–‘…I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse.  Therefore choose life…loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice, and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days…’

There it is!   Moment by moment choices of loving, obeying and holding fast to Him.  Not that complicated, but rare among God’s people.  In my heart as well.

So when sin causes you to fall off your horse, hold Jesus’ outstretched hand, letting Him pull you right back up.  Love Him and thank Him.  Too much wasted time looking back when He has so much more ahead for us.  Giddy-up!

Lord Jesus, help us to live in love, obedience and dependence upon you.  Amen.

IS THAT A HINT? Deuteronomy 28

Don’t you love hearing about the many promised blessings God has for you?  I do.  Only the best for God’s people, including a hefty dollop of hard, cold cash thrown in for good measure.  God’s blessed cornucopia gushes my way.  Sounds good?  Think again. 

I’m sure you’re more levelheaded than I am.  You know the other side of the coin.  But first check out Deuteronomy 28.  Starts out with blessings… for obedience.  Wow–14 verses describing God’s bounteous blessings.  Deuteronomy 28: 6–‘Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.’  Great!  Guess I can close my Bible now on that rather upbeat note.  Right?  Wrong!

Possibly too good to be true?  You think so?  What God requires of His own is simple obedience as in following those 10 commandments, coincidentally the number of fingers on both hands.  Doing things His way.  Not veering off course into dead end streets with no U-turns allowed.  Don’t take the lead.  Follow… Him.

Glancing down at the rest of Deuteronomy 28, you’ll note that there are 53 verses of curses… for disobedience.  For selfishness.  Greed.  Lying.  You name the sin and it costs a tidy sum.  We won’t enjoy paying that piper.  Way overpriced.  

God warns us.  53 curses to 14 blessings.  A hint?  You think so?  Be careful how you live your life for Jesus.  How tolerant we’ve become with sin.  Especially my own.  Disobeying God is like an unnoticed sizzling hot stove.  Watch out!  Or wet paint.  Look before you touch!

I know that God wants me to obey Him from the bottom of my heart.  Not only when nothing else works, or I can’t weasel out of something on my own.  But a genuine, twenty-four carat follower of Jesus. 

Join me?  Remember, I’m about two-carat, if that.  So I know that this won’t be easy.  But will be worth it all, since it pleases Jesus.  That in itself should be enough.  Still with me?

Lord, give us strength to be your disciple.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

NEVER AGAIN? Deuteronomy 17

I’ve discovered a gem in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, in the midst of laws, rules and regulations.   A fragment of a verse which gives me pause.

Chapter 17 focuses on negative and positive instructions for a king, if ancient Israel chooses to have one.  Marvelous words that also apply to all believers.  Look at Deuteronomy 17:16 for that gemstone–‘…You shall never return that way again.’

The warning’s issued against anything material or spiritual that will lead Israel to turn back to Egypt.  Back to slavery. Back to worshipping gods other than the one true God, Yahweh.  Backwards.  ‘Never return that way again.’

A thought crosses my mind– true repentance means that we don’t return to sinful ways on a regular habit.  Instead of toying with what God forbids, turn away.  Don’t say you’ll do it, do it.  Not like Lot’s wife, who’s supposed to be on a salt-free diet, yet gazes over her shoulder, yearning to go back sin’s way, then becoming a block of Kosher salt.

I know when I mean business with the Lord that things change in my life.  Yes, I’ve had times of grasping greed, holding tightfistedly to money and things.  Not just then, but now.  When I look in the mirror of my Bible, I know that I must change.

But do I really want to?  Completely?  100%?  Don’t I wish!  I’m far from perfect.  Often a perfect mess!  Yet Jesus knows that I long to be His true-blue, dyed-in-the-wool follower.  At least most of the time.  See my dilemma?  Yet He forgives me, giving strength to get off my duff, stop wallowing in guilt and pity, shifting my transmission, so to speak, out of reverse into forward drive.

Now it’s your turn to face whatever needs changing.  Being honest and upfront, probably best keeping it between you and your Lord, knowing the trouble sin causes.  Hoping and praying never to return that way again.

At least until the next time.  And when we do, as we will, get up and go.  Holding Jesus’ hand.  Looking up into His face, resolving not to double back, flip-flopping, and bottoming out once again.  Jesus will help you get right back up!  Ready?

Lord Jesus, I want to be more like you.  Amen.