I guess you could say the focus of our time today is really a Part II of what I wrote last week https://marknealprince.com/2017/05/26/remember-so-you-dont-forget-part-i/. In fact, in that excerpt, I mentioned the exact words of our title taken from the mouth of Moses himself. I also mentioned that it is both simple and complex in the doing of what it suggests. One thing is for sure though; it is a recurrent theme throughout the book of Deuteronomy and the canon of scripture, and also something that we would do well to ponder long and hard over–as it is the stuff of life itself. And of course just as I say this, in chapter 30 of the book of Deuteronomy, Moses then says these words just to throw a little fly in the ointment where he writes,
 “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.  It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. (Deuteronomy 30:11-14 ESV)
And then again in verses 19 and 20 he tells us in essence what I have taken now two blogs to try and say and hold out for our serious contemplation,
 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,  loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:19.20 ESV)
Simple and Complex
So it is here that I think we can see both the simple and complex tied up in knots together. It is simple because of course as Christians, we know that we simply have to open up ourselves to the divine takeover of our lives and can rest in the fact that His righteousness and not ours is what gets us over the hump. God then, unlike our teachers, grades us on the curve. Whew! It is also at least at face value simple because the Lord himself has said through Moses that it is not far off in the heavens or as far as the eye can see over the ocean like we sometimes make it, but in fact it is near us, if we keep it diligently, in our hearts, and that we can actually do it. OK, done right? Well not so fast. Because the complex part is of course the very contemplation of the divine itself, and better yet, the part I have been yapping about incessantly: that keeping your soul diligently is backbreaking work!
So God says we can do it, and that it’s near us. And if we have been remembering all the things he said so we don’t forget, it should be like, “Open Sesame” right? And in all fairness, he tells us ways to do this with things such as the need to:
- Get rid of Idols in our life
- Keep God’s commandments
- Raise our children in the fear of the Lord
- Stand up for Justice
- Be openhanded and non-condescending to the poor and needy all around us
- Love God with all our heart, soul and mind
- Not live in fear
- Trust in God’s power to save and to heal
- Have a humble heart and attributing everything we have to God
- Not being deceived and ensnared by the myriad of false God’s all around us
- Consider all the things the Lord has done for us in the past when we are wrestling with problems in the present
So there it is. We just do that and we’re good to go–or maybe not. So now let’s focus the rest of our time on the “brass tacks” here. After all, I guess now you see it, the complex is well…really complex isn’t it? Oh, we know we need Jesus to help us do all this stuff, and we’ve got a couple of million sermons in our memory banks somewhere that tell us so with three main points on how to do it before Monday! But the fact is that in one sense, the more we make this task simplistic, the more we actually make it complex. And the more we make it utterly complex, not only do we exclude a lot of people, but also we neglect the simple in our own behalf to boot. And yet the truth is, that these things the Lord has laid out for us are indeed near us and not far off, and as the Lord has said, they are doable. In fact, the apostle Peter reminds us that,
 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,  by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:3,4 ESV)
It’s Doable, But…
So yea, we know that God is not lying here; it is doable, and there are a few saints in the history of the church to attest to that. But I think there is perhaps one thing we are missing which I hinted at last week but want to focus for a little bit more on today: Do you and I live and believe as if God himself is our life, and not the myriad of other things vying for God’s attention? Now I know in one sense that sounds a bit preachy, which is not my intention. What I want it to sound like is simply what it says, that God “is” actually our life! Just let that marinate for a second.
You see you and I, and understandably so, go about our lives thinking that it’s just the things we can see, feel and touch that are the bee’s knees in our lives. After all, we live in a materialistic, naturalistic universe that on the average day we believe is really all there is, to the negation of the spiritual realm that is actually even more real, but that we need a special compass to see with. Then for those of us who are barely taking a stab at this Christian thing, primarily because we’ve been told our whole life by Grandma that we should; we then pick up a Bible or a Christian book every now and again, or stumble in a place we call church on occasion, and this jolts us into some reality that this God sidebar is perhaps plausible. It is then very short-lived and easily forgotten; until perhaps we run into grandma again, or that weird Christian friend that walks around with that cheese-eating grin on their face all the time that says they are praying for you, and we think about it some more. We then shuck it off because we don’t want cheese like that on our face quite frankly because we know life is not that simple and “Easy, peaezy, Japanesy” (Shawshank), and the cycle continues every now and again, particularly as life hands lemons with no lemonade; or as old age is setting in with the reality of our finiteness to boot; or when someone we love dies; or when on any given day life just really sucks for whatever reason. Rinse and repeat.
Then there are the so called enlightened ones. They are those of us who claim we’re doing the deal man, hopefully without the cheese-eating grin I might add. Oh yeah, we are doing all the stuff God has told us to do, or at least trying really hard. We go to church most of the time, put the check in the plate, read the bible, pray, read all the Christians books, eat fried chicken on Sunday and check off the list. And yet, if we’re honest, like most of the aforementioned grandma Christians, we get an extra shot of lemons too, some people we love also dies, we start to age and no longer turn heads, and life starts to kind of suck on any given day, and guess what: we rinse and repeat too. And everyone is asking, and looking, and trying to find out if the real Christian will just please stand up so they can simply do what you do.
I went through the cycle myself. Some considered me a great preacher, a compassionate man, a “man of God” if you will, and someone that would perhaps do great things for God in the world of the church. But unlike the expectations that abounded in that anticipation from those who watched closely, they would soon be abated by a man that did not, and still has not in a large part found his sole answer in the four walls of a place we call church–nor among those who claim they have. Part of that reason was and is due to the institution itself, and part had to do with the man (me) himself. For I too, after striving and working so hard to keep my soul diligently; perhaps like you, realized that I too easily forget, am easily enamored by predictable fools gold, and continually allow other idols of the world and my own making to distract and ensnare me from the divine life that is promised. Perhaps the preacher man still has to do a little walking too.
And the longer I walk, I realize, that to keep one’s soul diligently, it requires paying close attention to one’s life; I mean really close attention. It also requires discipline of thought and action. It requires serious contemplation; reading the bible and great books; and prayer; and loving the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls and minds. And again the truth is, He asks for everything, because, well… He is everything. For from his dust you were formed, and from his dust you shall return. But after all, perhaps keeping one’s soul diligently means simply that the life that we think we currently have, are still striving for, or that we believe is constantly missing is not the crux of the answer to our problem after all–but rather that finding a way to make Him our life instead really is. And perhaps the conventional ways we thought would get us there are not getting us very close at all. Somehow, I think falling in love has to be the answer. After all, it always is.