A few years ago, I had a cool, red BMW. It was just a fun car to drive and a great mid-life crisis vehicle. One day we found out that Jennifer and Josh were expecting and I was going to be a grandfather. I went to my friend Tony Bates, (Bates Ford. We’ll trade for anything that don’t eat.) and traded my cool, red BMW for a purple, Mazda minivan. Everybody was nice and tried to convince me that it was a unique shade of blue, but I knew, and they knew, it was purple. Ugly. Clunky. Not cool. Purple. But it was a minivan, perfect for hauling grandkids and for family trips.
Taking the family on a trip takes careful planning and thinking ahead. For Jon-Mical we need a book to read. For Jakson we need a wheelbarrow full of toys, videos, snacks, and duct tape (last resort) to keep him quiet. Jennifer needs a box of Red Hots. Josh needs a charger for his phone. Doris needs a Pepsi. And I need a pillow. (Jacob and Allison are too hip to hop in the purple minivan.) Travelling is not an easy thing.
One year, long before this family and this minivan, my brother-in-law, David, and I decided to drive my red minivan (okay, I admit it. I have had minivans since God created them.) from Springfield, Ohio to Estes Park, Colorado. Chonda and Doris were doing a concert there, so we packed up the four kids, a weeks worth of camping gear, all the snacks we could find, and planned to camp our way across the country. We were going to drop Chonda and Doris at the airport in Dayton, and then meet them in Colorado after our adventure. We pulled up to the airport, 15 miles into our 1500 mile trip, Zach threw up a trash can full into my lap and Josh’s new baseball cap. Doris sweetly stepped out of the van, said, “Have a nice trip,” closed the door to the minivan, and never looked back. Travelling with the whole family ain’t easy!
In Deuteronomy 9 Moses is doing the last-minute preparation for the big trip. The Children of Israel have been wandering in the desert for 40 years. They are ready to make the final trek into the Holy Land. Moses has bought the last of the Pepsis and Red Hots and now, he gets them ready to go. He says in verse 1, “Listen, O Israel. Today you are about to cross the Jordan River to take over the land belonging to nations much greater and more powerful than you.” “Listen guys,” he says, “This is going to be a long hard trip.” “There will be giants and warriors and throw-up filled baseball caps, but have a nice trip. See you on the other side.”
We are 9 days into 2018. You’ve got a trip ahead of you. I believe God has some things in the road ahead for many of us that will knock our socks off. (Or our baseball caps.) There will be blessings and favor and successes in this new year that will take our breath away. God has it in mind for you to finish that degree, get that promotion, start that ministry, heal that relationship, lose that weight, find that peace that you’ve been looking for. Those are not just idle words. I really, believe that God is speaking to many of us and saying, “This is the year I take you into the land that you have been looking for.” Claim that. Declare it. Hold on to it. And hold on to your hats. God is getting ready to take you on a trip.
Pastor Eddie, my pastor, has proclaimed 2018 as the Year of Blessing for our church and for us. I believe that. I choose to claim that and look for what God is going to do. I am just making up my mind to put my faith in Him and His love for me, and expect Him to bless me in ways that I cannot imagine at the beginning of this trip. I encourage you to do the same. Plan for the trip. Get your blessing bucket out. Focus on the good stuff that God is doing and get in on it. We are starting out on a wonderful journey in this new year and I can’t wait to see where it takes us, and you. Have a nice trip.
While we are preparing there are three things in this History Lesson that will make the trip better. Here they are:
- Set your mind on where you are going. Moses says, “We are crossing the Jordan River to take possession of the land.” This is a great time for you to get a good clear picture of that thing that you need God to do for you and set your mind on it. There is power in “setting your mind.” In Colossian 3:2, Paul writes, “Since you have been raised with Christ, set your mind on things above.” Listen, if I focus on the things I want God to accomplish in my life I may or may not see them come to pass. But I promise you, if I don’t set my mind on those things, they will never happen. Someone said, “Shoot at the moon and you might hit a star. Aim at nothing and you get it every time.” Today, right now, early in this year, get a good, clear picture of that Promised Land that you have been longing for, and head there.
- The second thing that prepares us for the trip, be honest about what you are facing. This is not just pie in the sky, name it and claim it rhetoric. This trip is about setting you mind on what God has for you and making a commitment to stay with the trip. I am no prophet, but I can predict two things for you with absolute certainty; God has a wonderful destination and answered prayers ahead of you this year, AND, there are going to be some bumps in the road. Moses says, “The people in that Land live in cities that have walls that reach to the sky. They are strong and tall, descendants of the famous Anakite giants.” Be honest about the things you will face on this trip. Maybe you will need to pray more. Maybe you should join a Life Group to help you along the way. Maybe you need to offer forgiveness, make amends, turn the other cheek, go the extra miles. If you are going to hold on to the end of this journey, then start out by being honest about the things you will face.
- And last, remember where you have been. Surprisingly, Moses spends the rest of chapter 9 rehearsing with the Children of Israel what was probably their biggest failure. “Remember and never forget how angry you made the Lord your God out in the wilderness.” (verse 7) He reminds them of their disobedience and the golden calf incident. Wow! That’s a good way to motivate them for the battle ahead. “Hey, God has a great thing for you. Get ready to take it. Oh, and by the way, you have made a miserable mess of things so far.”
Remembering our mess ups is not a bad thing. It reminds us to put our faith and trust in God and not in us. Listen, every trip I have tried to take on my own has gotten me nowhere, but when I get in the back of the van and let God do the driving…woohoo, good outcomes! Looking back on the times we have blown it helps us to look ahead to His plans and His power in our lives. I am far better prepared for the blessings He has for me in 2018 when I reflect back on the times I walked without Him in 2017 and where that ended up.
We have an amazing trip ahead of us. For many of us this is going to be our best year ever. It is paramount that I prepare for the journey by setting my mind on where He is taking me, being honest about the difficulties I may face, and remembering that when I travel alone it never works out. So, get up. Pack up your Red Hots and your phone chargers. Prepare to take the Land this year. It is going to be awesome. And oh, by the way, if you need a good vehicle, I have a lovely purple, Mazda minivan for sell…