name='verify-v1'/> Big God - little d: April 2010

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Joshua Words

"But Joshua said to the house of Joseph - to Ephraim and Manasseh - 'You are numerous and very powerful. You will have not only one allotment but the forested hill country as well. Clear it, and its farthest limits will be yours; though the Canaanites have iron chariots and though they are strong, you can drive them out.'" Joshua 17:17-18

Allotments of the promised land are being divvied up and parceled out to each of the tribes of Israel. The people of Joseph receive their allotment and decide they need more land. They go to their leader Joshua and lodge a complaint. Joshua tells them they are welcome to go into the nearby forest and clear more land for themselves. Instead of saying "thanks" the people of Joseph add a complaint about the Canaanites living close by with iron chariots. (Joshua 17:14-18)

I love Joshua's response in verses 17-18. He acknowledges the size of Joseph's group...but adds that they are powerful. He acknowledges their concern about space...then gives them a parcel of forested hill country as a bonus. He acknowledges their fear about the Canaanites, a strong people with iron chariots...and then restates the piece of information which trumps all of their concerns, "You can drive them out." (v. 18)

Joshua doesn't deny the facts nor does he give in to their whining or fear. Instead, he reiterates their concerns and then refocuses them on the truth; they are numerous and very powerful and can drive out the Canaanites.

It is a brilliant leadership moment. It brings to mind those parenting moments when I have been faced with a whining, fearful child who has lost their focus. When my eyes are fixed on God, I have a better chance of responding as Joshua did. I am able to listen. I am able to offer solutions. I am able to remind my child of their capacity to overcome trials. I am able to speak with hope and confidence even though they may not believe me in that moment. I am able...because I am drawing from God's truth not my own.

This story is also a perfect illustration of what happens in my life when I act like one of the people of Joseph. When I become fearful and whiny, I am consumed with what I see and unable to draw on what I know. In those moments, I am grateful when the Lord uses someone, like Joshua, to acknowledge my fears and remind me of the strength and power that is mine in Jesus Christ.

Lord, help me to look to you when I am fearful and whiny. Give me the ears to hear and the courage to believe the words of those who deliver Joshua messages to me. And, may I be ready to respond to the nudges of the Spirit in order to speak Joshua words over someone else. I love you. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Forgoing the Plunder

"Then the LORD said to Joshua, 'Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land. You shall do to Ai and its kin as you did to Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the city.'" Joshua 8:1-2

"But Israel did not carry off for themselves the livestock and plunder of this city, as the LORD had instructed Joshua." Joshua 8:27

I have been spending some time in Joshua 8, this morning. I am left with a question:

Why did the Israelites forgo the plunder that was rightfully theirs to take?

Scripture doesn't come right out and say this but I believe it is because of events that took place just prior to the capture of the city of Ai.

In Joshua 7, the Israelites, with the LORD's help, have already captured and destroyed the city of Jericho. Afterwards, they set out to defeat the city of Ai and are stunned to find themselves outmatched. It is obvious to everyone that God did not go with them into battle. The Israelites' courage turns to fear.

Joshua throws himself facedown before the ark of God only to be told to "Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned..." (v. 10) It turns out one of the Israelite men, Achan, had kept some of the Jericho plunder for himself (v. 11). He polluted the entire camp by hiding silver, gold and a beautiful robe in his tent; items that had been specifically marked as sacred to the LORD (v. 18-19).

The punishment for this offense was that the man, his family, his cattle, donkeys, sheep, his tent and all his possessions were taken outside the camp to the valley. The Israelites stoned them, burned what was left and piled rocks over the remains. (v.24-26) Only then did God's anger subside.

I believe the brutal image of Achan and his family's death was with the Israelites when they went into battle against the people of Ai for the second time. Victory on the heels of such a horrific event would make it hard to celebrate. The LORD had given them permission to take the plunder but He hadn't commanded it. The Israelites had a choice. I suspect the Israelites declined because it held no appeal for them in the face of Achan's recent demise.

This brings to mind my own experiences of victory while simultaneously witnessing a friend in Christ being disciplined by the Lord. It is difficult to watch someone you know and love go through this sobering process. It can be quite an emotional experience.

Thankfully, the days of stoning are over. We are called, instead, to love as Jesus loved. We are called to forgive. We are called to practice grace and mercy. We are to cooperate with God's plan and not get in His way as He corrects the one we love.

Sometimes, this requires tempering our own celebration. Forgoing the plunder becomes a means of honoring God.

Monday, April 12, 2010

When the Manna Stops Falling

"On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan." Joshua 5:10-12

I find myself drawing parallels between the Israelites and myself. Specifically, I can relate to the changes that took place once the Israelites journeyed across the Jordan and the changes I've experienced since Easter.

After 40 years, the Israelites eat their first meal from the land God promised them. They day after they partake of the food from the land, God's gift of manna stops. Not because God was being stingy or cruel but because God had made other provisions for them. They no longer had need for the manna and so it stopped falling from heaven.

During these past two years, I have waited on the Lord for things to write about. While the Lord did not deliver something every day, He was always faithful to deliver exactly what I needed, when I needed it. For that, I am truly grateful.

However, during the 40 days days leading up to Easter (Lent), I received something to write (manna), each and every day. God provided me with writing inspiration from my relationship with Him. It was a nourishing feast that alternately filled me with wonder, awe, and further expectation.

Now that Easter has come and gone, I hear the Lord telling me it is time to eat from the land. He has brought me to a place that is flowing with milk and honey...His Word, life experiences, lessons learned. I know, now, that I can sit at His feet on any given day and words will come. Some days, the words will come easily just as the Israelites first harvested the land of offerings they did not plant. Other days, the words will only come after great toil. Either way, the time for manna has come to an end.

I find myself one step closer to writing the book that is to come.
I pray that I might be faithful to the task He has entrusted to me.

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Kingdom Seed

"Then Jesus asked, 'What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches.'" Luke 13:18-19

Jesus compares the kingdom of God with a lowly mustard seed. A seed so small that it would barely make a speck in the palm of my hand. If I were to set it on the ground and walk away from it, I would have great difficulty finding it later.

By itself, a mustard seed has no impact on the space around it. It is only after the seed has been planted, watered, and receives sunlight that it grows into something substantial enough to change the landscape and offer shelter to others.

I believe this is how the kingdom of God is displayed in those who follow Christ. A seed that starts out small and often goes unnoticed by all but the Father, eventually develops roots deep enough to support upward growth. The kingdom of God becomes evident as the branches of faith and service testify to Him. Ultimately, we provide a sheltering place for others who are also seeking His kingdom and growing roots of their own.

God's work in me is not limited by the size of the seed. What hinders God's work is my cooperation. Will I join Him in the garden? Will I submit to the planting, and the watering, and the waiting required for growth? Do I trust Him to make me a living, breathing testiment to the kingdom of God, here on earth? Will I surrender my will in order to become a Kingdom Seed for Him?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Rewards of Knocking

"For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." Luke 11:10

It is Easter Sunday. Lent is over. Christ has risen!

I open my Bible and discover that today's reading includes the words of Jesus from Luke 11:10. My heart is warmed as I acknowledge that this is the same teaching from Matthew 7:7 that started my Lenten journey. He has tied Ash Wednesday and all the days leading up to Easter Sunday together with this life-altering invitation to ask, seek, and knock.

I am not the same person who began this journey back in February. Each and every day, I knocked on the door, and Jesus opened it to me. My heart is too full to try and speak of it, just yet. For today, I will savor the beauty of knowing him more fully and let my words be few.

Thank you, Jesus.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

A Lesson in Rejoicing

"The seventy-two returned with joy and said, 'Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.'

He replied, 'I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.'" Luke 10:17-20

This passage has stirred up a memory within me. It must have been four or five years ago. I spent the day up at church. As a member of the Pastor Parish Relations Committee, my task was to meet with a handful of staff members, one-on-one, let them know how much they were appreciated and invite them to share any concerns or joys they had related to their job.

Through the presence of the Holy Spirit, each meeting took on an intimacy that encouraged personal sharing. Hurting hearts were opened, fears revealed, and hopes and dreams brought to light.

I listened with complete focus, and asked questions, when necessary. At the end of each session, I asked if I could pray for the one sitting across from me. They all said, "Yes." Holding their hands in mine, I gave thanks to God for them and lifted up their concerns and challenges to the Throne.

Each time, I prayed, the Holy Spirit added His own words. In amazement, I listened as my voice spoke of things which I did not know...a childhood where the blessing was withheld, the bitter roots of unforgiveness, the depth of love and devotion to an elderly spouse, the pain and guilt of a parent over a wayward child, a new path for one who would soon be leaving.

I prayed in agreement with the Spirit. I marveled at the electric energy that pulsed through the center of the palms of my hands. Something supernatural and amazing was taking place. Not only was I a witness to the power and authority of Jesus Christ but I was the one serving as the channel for that power and authority. It was a heady experience! Afterwards, it was impossible to contain my joy when I relayed the experience to a few close friends.

Jesus' words to the disciples were a teaching, a warning and a redirection. His words apply to me as well. We are to serve Christ and utilize the power and authority we have been given through him but what occurs during that service and the results of our service are not to be our focus.

God, Christ, the Spirit...they are to have our full attention. We are to rejoice in our salvation...and take care not to make idols of the power we have been given or the results they bring.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Plowing a Straight Line

"Jesus replied, 'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'" Luke 9:62

Plowing a straight line. It takes more than strength and know-how. It requires concentration. A farmer's eyes must not only focus on where the blade meets the earth but, also be mindful of what lies ahead. To look back, as you are moving forward, is to lose your line...waste your efforts...use up precious time...perhaps, even, necessitate starting over.

Jesus warns us that if we are going to serve the kingdom of God then we must keep our eyes on the field. We are not fit for our work assignment if we are looking backwards. We must keep our eyes on him. He will show us where the plow is to go. He will make sure the hard dirt of the field is turned over in straight lines, ready for seed.

Jesus' eyes were always on Jerusalem (Luke 9:51). His life was a straight plow line leading up to the cross and the resurrection. He did not take his eyes off of the Father. He did not look back.

The question to be pondered this morning: Where have I been focusing, lately?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Afraid to Ask

"While everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, 'Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.' But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it." Luke 9:43b-45

Sometimes we would rather not understand. We don't ask the hard questions because we aren't ready to face the hard answers that are sure to follow. We choose fear and ignorance over heartbreaking enlightenment. I've been there a time or two.

What I'm wondering, right now, is how the Godhead feels about this? How does my failure to ask for understanding when I am clueless and afraid make Almighty God, Jesus the Christ, and the Holy Spirit feel?

Jesus, if it is important enough for you to tell me about it, then it is important enough for me to understand. Please give me the courage to ask you for clarity on those things about this faith journey that frighten me and cause me confusion. Help me not to be afraid and to trust matter the answer or where it leads me. I love you. In your name, Amen.