Tag Archives: Promised Land

Faithful Obedience

A few weeks ago, my girlfriend came to my house at 9pm. Her visit was unusual as folks call me before they come by and it is rare that I entertain anyone so late. Nonetheless, she arrived, hurried and on a mission. With a sense of urgency and directness in her tone and mannerisms, she asked me if I could certify a student in CPR the next day. As I began to explain that I didn’t have a class scheduled for the next day, she cut me off and said, “I need you to do this!” In an act of sheer and gut level obedience, I said “yes ma’am”, as I had never experienced such insistence and exigency from her. I explained that I did not have a classroom available and did not know how I could find one in such short notice. She smiled, said she had a place in mind, and reminded me that God works all things out for His greater good. She then dialed a number on her cell phone and said, “Hey! She can do it. Tell him to show up at the church at 11:30 in the morning.” She asked me for a cup of tea to go, told me to find a trustee at her church when I arrive, and said there is bound to be an unoccupied room available. She then scurried on her way. I thought to myself, “Lord, what has the cat just drug into her life and what am I about to get myself into? How can this possibly work when the church holds its largest service of the week at 11:00 and it lasts for two hours?” The Spirit reminded me that the power of obedience to Him has the ability to turn the impossible into the easy.

I was restless and anxious when I laid down. I fell asleep while reading this scripture, “To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have been given a faith as precious as ours: 2 May grace and peace be yours in full measure through your knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 3 God’s divine power has given us everything we need to live a truly religious life through our knowledge of the one who called us to share in his own glory and goodness. 4 In this way he has given us the very great and precious gifts he promised, so that by means of these gifts you may escape from the destructive lust that is in the world, and may come to share the divine nature. 5 For this very reason do your best to add goodness to your faith; to your goodness add knowledge; 6 to your knowledge add self-control; to your self-control add endurance; to your endurance add godliness; 7 to your godliness add Christian affection; and to your Christian affection add love. These are the qualities you need, and if you have them in abundance, they will make you active and effective in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1-8 GNT)

The next morning, after attending service at my own church, I drove 25 miles to my girlfriend’s church. When I arrived, I found a trustee who took me to the basement of the building and led me from room to room, looking for an empty space. He eventually told me that the best he could do was to allow me to use the child care class room for two year olds. He then cautioned me that the lyrical dancers from the special church service would also have to use the room to change clothes after their worship dance.  He unlocked the classroom door, wished me good luck, and returned to his post. As I entered the room, I said, “seriously! Let me see if I understand this. I have a strange adult male student in a classroom with Lilliputian furniture that we have to share as a dressing room with female dancers.” About that time, the heft of the music from the gospel organs began to fill the space. The Spirit said, “settle down. Your calling today is only about obedience and has nothing to do with questioning the Caller.” I nodded in acceptance, set my equipment up as best I could, and then went back to the lobby to wait for the student.

I called his name to two people I imagined might be him. They each told me I had the wrong person. Then a thin guy with a tight pullover and over-sized jeans walked in. He was holding his belt loops on one side to prevent his pants from sagging. I called his name and he answered, “yes ma’am.” After exchanging greetings, we returned to the basement and began our training, adjusting the volume on the computer aids as the church music  softened and then thundered between dances numbers. There was a rhythmic cadence to the interruptions to our lessons as dancers entered every 10 minutes or so to change their outfits.

We completed the video, lecture, and question/answer part of the training.  As I needed to set up the space for the practical exercises that would simulate recognizing and reacting to a breathing emergency, I asked him to stand in the hallway near the wall. When I looked up, I realized that he was facing the wall with his fingers interlaced behind his head and his feet spread far apart, as if I had placed him in a pre-arrest position. I thought, “Oh goodness! I am dealing with a convicted felon; a vulnerable soul whose expectation is that those who are in a perceived position of power will take advantage of him.” In that moment, he seemed willing to take whatever abuse I might dole out simply to walk away with an authentic certification card whose twin-looking faux could have been bought off of the street in a matter of minutes. I immediately began to pray, asking the Spirit to help me stay focused on why He brought me to this place and asked that my work be honoring and pleasing to Him. The lyrics to MercyMe’s You Are I Am came to mind –

I’ve been the one to shake with fear and wonder if You’re even here. I’ve been the one to doubt Your love. I’ve told myself You’re not enough. I’ve been the one to try and say I’ll overcome by my own strength. I’ve been the one to fall apart and start to question who You are.

 We worked through the practical exercises and he did well. I had already made up my mind that I was not going to give him a written exam because he was not well schooled or articulate. Doing so would have been a test of his reading comprehension, an exercise he would have likely failed. Nonetheless, I gave him 15 minutes and told him to use the time to study his manual in preparation for the exam. When time was up, I told him to put his manual away. I told him I wanted to ask him a few questions before the exam began. I asked him to tell me something new he learned in the class. He sighed! I said, ” just tell me one thing new, not everything in the manual.” He sighed again and then began to sob uncontrollably. I sarcastically said under my breathe, “Uh, what act of obedience am I supposed to follow now?” The Spirit said sternly, “chill and be still!”

After a few minutes, he recomposed himself and said, “I am a 40-year old grown man and I am sitting up here crying. It’s because you are a complete stranger; yet you cared for me. You are genuinely interested in my learning and you allowed me to earn something of great personal value to me. I have never had that experience before. You see, there are people I have known all my life who don’t mean any good for me. Here you are, a random stranger, and you care.” The Spirit then whispered, “Look, listen, and feel applies to more than just CPR, huh? In God’s great plan, humble obedience leads to the promised land. In all you do, remember whose you are and stay focused on what you were called to do.” Jeremiah 29:11-14 immediately came mind, 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14 I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” (NLT)

The Bold and Beautiful

If the path be beautiful, let us not ask where it leads. – Anatole France

Over the holiday weekend, I attended a woman’s conference.  Something I learned is that the original Webster’s dictionary defined beautiful as the quality present when one’s purpose is understood.  For the past six weeks I have been on a quest to better understand how to unpack the following purpose-focused principle: “A person’s greatest place of pain is their greatest place of power and their area of weakness is their area of gifting.”  The biblical information in several of the sessions helped to shed carnival-style floodlight illumination into the dark spaces that contain my treasures along the path to discovering my purpose.  Because of this journey, I am beginning to wear the label beautiful.

My biggest takeaways from the conference were that amazing, powerful, and moving things happen when 1400 women gather in His name; be bold; and be the love for those around you.  Experiencing the exchanges of love between this large group of strangers brought me here:

Love has no natural enemy; we allow fear of rejection to become Love’s kryptonite. Love withheld is self-hate.  Love shared is multiplied. Love repressed is deceitful.  Love expressed is pure joy. Love’s touch is a hug.  Love’s tenderness is a kiss. Love rejected is depression.  Love explored is an adventure.  Love structured is a cell block.  Love is free and so it flows. Love with obedience is bold.  Love without action is defeat.  Love laden with doubt is fear.  Love like Christ is pure trust and acceptance. “For the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers.  The truth – that Love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire.  Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.” – Viktor E. Frankl

The experience of the conference was as challenging as it was stimulating and liberating.  After musing on the messages, combing through the cascades of thoughts, and sorting through the signs and signals provided by my guides and teachers, I came to the realization that: the wonders of my future are connected to the experiences of my past; bridging the chasms between the two requires a reset of my defaults for habits and reactions that no longer serve me well; fear is the only thing that can prevent me from getting there; being beautiful is only one step of boldness away; and love is the center of it all.  Said another way, the treasures of my purpose will be revealed if I use prayerfulness, gratitude and love to release fear of the future and shame from the past.

People have struggled with this forever.  The Israelites are prime examples.  We all know they spent many years in the desert on a journey from bondage in Egypt to the Promised Land.  But fear turned a two year journey into a forty year trip.  Instead of parents with newborns (who escaped slavery in Egypt) arriving in Canaan with their toddlers, they arrived with their great-grand children.  Fear (False Evidence Appearing Real) caused them first to wonder about the truth God revealed and then to wander away from the riches He had in store for them.

In Numbers 13 (VOICE), the scripture tells us: “There is dissension in the camp.  Some of the leaders have been sharing their doubts with the people, and folks are nervous.  The thrill of this wilderness camping experience has worn off, and some are thinking that working for the Egyptians wasn’t so bad.  So barely two years out of Egypt, the Israelites are standing at the door of their promised land.  Moses needs to motivate the people, and he selects 12 key men from each of the tribes to explore the land of abundance God has provided.  The nation stands to enter into a time of great reward, but first their leaders must bring back a report that will inspire their confidence.”  Specifically: “The Lord said to Moses ‘Choose one of the leaders from each of the twelve tribes and send them as spies to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites.’” Later it says: “27 We checked out the land, just as you’d instructed us to do, and here’s what we discovered: It is rich, very rich. One could say that it flows with milk and honey; and look, here is some of its fruit.  The land is highly desirable, 28but the people who already live there are really strong.  Their cities are enormous and fortified.  What’s more, we saw the Anakites there.  29 In the Negev, there are Amalekites; and in the high hill country are Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites.  As for the seacoast, Canaanites live there and along the Jordan River too. 30 But Caleb calmed the congregation, and he spoke to Moses.  Caleb: We should go straight in, right away, and take it over.  We are surely able!  Other Scouts: 31No way.  We can’t do it.  The people who are already there are too strong for us.  32So the report of these other scouts was quite disheartening; it made the people question God’s promise.”

Fear created doubt which made the Israelites weak.  It caused them to endure the pain associated with remaining in the desert.  Consequently, their treasures, the Promised Land, were not available to them for another 38 years.  They eventually saw the truth on the banks of the Jordan River three generations later; the same truth that gave Caleb courage decades earlier back in Number 13.  Fast forward a few decades and Joshua 1:1-3 says, 1 After the death of the Lord’s servant Moses, the Lord spoke to Moses’ helper, Joshua son of Nun.2 He said, My servant Moses is dead. Get ready now, you and all the people of Israel, and cross the Jordan River into the land that I am giving them.  3 As I told Moses, I have given you and all my people the entire land that you will be marching over.” (GNT)  Only then did the Israelites wade through the darkness of the desert to arrive into the light of the Promised Land.

The story made me question this: What treasures have eluded me because of doubt or fear?  What areas of my life am I holding back because of insecurity?  How many years have I been held captive by the anxiety of past pain?  How many times am I going to pass up God’s promises because of worry or apprehension – when He has led me to the doorstep of greater things, if only I wrap my heart and mind around the confidence and assurances that come with being a child swaddled in the cradle of His love?

My thoughts on the matter have reminded me of these truths:

  1. The power of prayer will help us to heal the pains of our past.
  2. A spirit of fear is our greatest weakness.
  3. Embrace our struggles because they built our strength.
  4. Boldness is an act of obedience which leads to being beautiful.
  5. Love is our greatest gift.

In Beautiful Things, Gungor tells us: “All this pain, I wonder if I’ll ever find my way?  I wonder if my life could really change at all?  All this earth; could all that is lost ever be found?  Could a garden come up from this ground at all?  All around hope is springing up from this old ground.  Out of chaos life is being found in You.  You make beautiful things…”

Hey beautiful!  Go, be bold.  Step out there.  Pursue your purpose.  Lose the shackles of doubt and fear.  Be free.  His promises are at your feet.  Leave your pain and weaknesses in the desert.  They were your experiences but they do not define you.  Use your power and strength to take what has been set aside for you.  Your gifts await you.  But you must show courage to get them the first time around.  His love will get you there if you simply see it for the truth that it is.

The Taking of Jericho

When God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, he was obedient and answered the call dutifully.  Both God and Moses knew he would not make it to the promised land.  Deuteronomy 34: 1-4 tells us, Moses climbed from the Plains of Moab to Mount Nebo…facing Jericho.  God showed him all the land from Gilead…to the Mediterranean Sea…Then and there God said to him, [“This is the land I promised to your ancestors, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with the words ‘I will give it to your descendants.  I’ve let you see it with your own eyes. There it is. But you’re not going to go in.”]”  (MSG)  God seeks obedience and the pursuit of excellence, not perfection.  The role Moses played was a small (relative to time) but an important piece in His masterful mosaic created to bring His people back to Him.

The plan to get the Israelites to Canaan included raising up a young leader named Joshua.  He was Moses’ understudy but was mentored by several people around him.  Upon Moses’ death, Joshua took the helm, even though he did not believe he was ready for the assignment.  In a leap of faith and a great act of obedience, Joshua did what he was told.

God gave Joshua an order to lead His people and a promise to protect him along the way.  Joshua knew God was faithful and delivered on His promises because he witnessed the miracles worked by Moses through God’s hands.  Joshua knew that whatever he might be lacking to complete his mission, God would provide in abundance.  Joshua 1:1-9 says, “Moses my servant is dead. Get going.  Cross this Jordan River, you and all the people.  Cross to the country I’m giving to the People of Israel.  I’m giving you every square inch of the land you set your foot on—just as I promised Moses.  From the wilderness…to the Great River, the Euphrates River…to the Great Sea.  It’s all yours. All your life, no one will be able to hold out against you.  In the same way I was with Moses, I’ll be with you.  I won’t give up on you; I won’t leave you.  Strength!  Courage!  You are going to lead this people to inherit the land that I promised to give their ancestors.  Give it everything you have, heart and soul.  Make sure you carry out The Revelation that Moses commanded you, every bit of it.  Don’t get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you’re going.  And don’t for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind.  Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it.  Then you’ll get where you’re going; then you’ll succeed.  Haven’t I commanded you?  Strength!  Courage!  Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged.  God, your God, is with you every step you take.”  (MSG)

As Joshua set out to honor the God who called him and in memory of the man who trained him, he surrounded himself by the willing and the faithful.  One of his first acts was to rally the tribal leaders.  He prepared them mentally by reminding them that their mantra was strength and courage.  He then let them know they were going to battle and gave them instructions to cross the Jordan River in formation.  He had them to leap-frog their way towards Jericho, taking possession of every parcel of land they touched.  As loyal soldiers, they executed the mission.

Joshua then sent two spies on a reconnaissance mission to gather combat intelligence.  While out, they encountered a prostitute named Rahab who intuitively knew the spies were not ordinary men.  The spies remained focused on mission while Rahab exposed her compassionate heart and open mind.  Because of this, their actions were each pleasing to God and beneficial to His people.  They paid her in conversation for her service of protection.  They spoke and trusted while she listened and believed.  A crimson cloth was the symbol of their covenant; an emblem of the spies’ safety and Rahab’s salvation.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us, “Celebrate always, pray constantly, and give thanks to God no matter what circumstances you find yourself in.  (This is God’s will for all of you in Jesus the Anointed).” (Voice)

Joshua 3:1-5, in relevant part, tells us, “Joshua was up early and on his way…Then Joshua addressed the people: ‘Sanctify yourselves. Tomorrow God will work miracle-wonders among you.’ ”  He passed along instructions from God to the men of each tribe.  They dutifully followed the guidance and carried the Ark of the Covenant across the Jordan River near Jericho.  The entire nation was able to bear witness to God drying up a swath in the river wide enough for all of them to cross without one person getting even a toe wet.  After celebrating the Passover with a meal, Joshua sat aside in stillness.  Then God provided someone else to help him and to remind him that God is with him.  “13 And then this, while Joshua was there near Jericho:  He looked up and saw right in front of him a man standing, holding his drawn sword.  Joshua stepped up to him and said, ‘Whose side are you on—ours or our enemies’?”  14 He said, ‘Neither. I’m commander of God’s army.  I’ve just arrived.’  Joshua fell, face to the ground, and worshiped.  He asked, ‘What orders does my Master have for his servant?’  15 God’s army commander ordered Joshua, ‘Take your sandals off your feet.  The place you are standing is holy.’  Joshua did it.” (Joshua 5:13-15 – MSG)

Afterwards, with continued obedience, the faithful followed the instructions given.  As promised, God delivered Jericho to the Israelites.  It was a mighty battle fought with strength and courage by people who dreamed of freedom (from slavery, the desert, emptiness…).  Casting Crowns tells us in Courageous, “We were made to be courageous.  We were made to lead the way.  We could be the generation that finally breaks the chains.”    

My thoughts about this story have led me to question the following:

Do I follow the guidance from my leadership?  Do I serve where I am needed?  Am I willing to do the unconventional to provide a way for others?  Am I willing to obediently, dutifully and faithfully pursue His plan with excellence and honor?  Am I able to see the miracles that are worked out in front of me?  Am I thankful and prayerful in all circumstances?

Moreover, what role am I playing in His plan in this moment on this day?  [A person in a stretch assignment who, through obedience, led a nation to the Promised Land; An informant whose pursuit of excellence during reconnaissance provided safety and protection for God’s people; An empty soul who gained faith and then believed at the 11th hour; an honorable messenger masquerading as someone else.]  Have I ever been placed in a position that I believed exceeded my capacity?  Have I ever been two-faced?  Am I willing to give away what I have to get what I don’t need?  Have I ever been mistaken for someone or as something I am not?  I challenge you to answer these questions for yourself.  To the extent that any answer in the first set of questions is no or any in the second set is yes, remember this:

  1. Advancing His kingdom in our own neck of the woods is as important to God as the taking of Jericho.
  2. Now, as then, the people he calls upon are ordinary people who are able to do extraordinary things because they commit themselves to His plan.
  3. Our actions are the insignia of our covenant with Him.
  4. We come from all walks of life and have various talents.
  5. None of us is perfect.  Each has character flaws and developmental deficiencies.
  6. The things we have in common are dedication and dreams.

As the retelling of Psalm 126 says in Men Who Dream, “Captives came back into Zion; from their freedom came a scheme.  While the city, it lay in ruins; we believe they had a dream…When our souls were like the desert and we stumbled on the stream; and found revival in the water, we became like men who dream.  And yes our mouths were filled with laughter; and our songs rushed like the stream.  Where He washed our sorrows under; we became like men who dream.  It shall be said among the nations, [There’s a God who shares our dream.]  The Spirit moves our generation; Shed your tears, fill the stream – men who dream.  We are shedding tears that flood the thirsty waters – Men who dream!  We are planting seeds of Men who dream.  God has done great things among us.  Every eye now shines a gleam.  A spark of light reveals the wonder.  We became like men who dream…So let us go into the nations, plunging souls into that stream and singing songs that stir the angels.  We became the men who dream.”

What is your calling? What is your dream?  This is Jericho.  Let’s take it!