Friday, March 26, 2010

The Path to the Promised Land

So, in my journey from the bondage where I've come from to the full inheritance and security of trusting God and God alone, the Lord listed out these steps for me to follow from Deuteronomy 3 & 4.

Remember the Truth! "You saw how the LORD our God helped us destroy King Sihon and King Og [the enemies opposing us]. So don't be afraid! Wherever you go, the LORD will fight on your side and help you destroy your enemies." (Deuteronomy 3:21-22)

Help one another be strong and brave! "Joshua will lead Israel across the Jordan to take the land, so help him be strong and brave..." (Deuteronomy 3:28) Take a look around you. Who is taking this journey with you? We all need encouragers along the way. Help them be strong and brave. Remind them of the strength of our Almighty God.

Listen to the LORD and obey Him! "Listen to these laws and teachings! If you obey them, you will live [truly live!] and you will go in and take the land that the LORD is giving you." (Deuteronomy 4:1)

Remember that the LORD is giving you the land! It's His to give. Take it!

Pray - He answers! "We have a God who is close to us and answers our prayers." Friend, I don't know about you but as the weight of that Truth just settled over me, tears involuntarily flowed from my eyes! He - the God who created the universe with His words - is close to us! He's closer than our next breath and He answers our prayers. Is that not reason to pray? We're told that we have not because we ask not. (see James 4:2) Do you need direction? Ask Him. Do you need courage? Tell Him. "Oh, what peace we often forfeit. Oh, what needless pain we bear. All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer." ("What a Friend We Have in Jesus", Joseph M. Scriven)

Keep reminding yourself what God has done for you and testify to others - especially your children... "You must be very careful not to forget the things you have seen God do for you. Keep reminding yourselves, and tell your children and grandchildren as well." Take the Lord at His word and do this - literally! Write them down. Psalm 78 talks about the importance of writing down the praiseworthy deeds of our God. It's important for us AND it holds great blessing for the generations that follow after us "so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God." (Psalm 78:6-7a) Not only can we dwell in the Promised Land for ourselves but we can leave a legacy for those that aren't even born yet! How gracious is our God!

Teach your children to obey God... "teach their children to obey me too." (vs. 10b) One thing that the Lord has really been teaching me lately is that I learn His lessons better as I teach them to others. The more that I talk about them and study them, the more that they take root in me. "Memorize His laws..." that really should be a point all of it's own on this pathway to the land of promise! "... and tell them to your children over and over again. Talk about them all the time, whether you're at home or walking along the road or going to bed at night, or getting up in the morning. Write down copies and them to your wrists and foreheads to help you obey them." (Deuteronomy 6:6-8) Again, take Him at His word. I have a couple of pieces of jewelry with scripture on them. I wear them on those days that I know that I need Truth within eyesight. My daughter knows what they say and why I pull them out. She knows because the Lord has prompted me to teach her. I pray that these things are priceless to her when she inherits them.

NO IDOLS! "be careful not to commit the sin of worshiping idols." (vs. 15) Friend, I wish that this were an easy command. We are deceived if we see idols as merely wooden or stone replicas of some ancient god. Whatever we choose to worship - other than God alone - is an idol. I've served a number of them. Self... materialism... problems... others... food... if we are bowing down to anyone or anything else but God we are in error and God's blessing is not on us. Can money buy you happiness? Can another individual meet your every need? These things can not be god. They cannot save you. Seek first the Lord and His righteousness and He'll look after these things (see Matthew 6:33)

Oh, LORD. You know that I am but dust and yet I am precious in Your sight. I desire to dwell - permanently - in Your land of promise for me. You have redeemed me out of bondage into freedom and joy. May I receive the full inheritance that You hold for me. I'm resting on the promise that Your grace is sufficient for me. Your power is made perfect in my weakness. What You are commanding me this day is not too difficult for me or beyond my reach. Lead on, O God! I choose to worship You and You alone. In the precious and all-powerful Name of Jesus - let it be done!

More About Naysayers...

I am absolutely in awe of how faithful the Lord is to speak to the very heart of our circumstances! In this journey that He is leading me on to walk by faith and not according to feelings, I find myself wandering in the wilderness somewhere inbetween being freed from absolute bondage to other people's opinion of me and the promised land where the opinions of others holds zero sway over me. The Lord has revealed that I was victim to a stronghold of insecurity and also some of the roots of that stronghold that was planted long ago.

As I have been trying to apply the lesson on naysayers that He gave me a few weeks ago, He has allowed me significant opportunity to practice! During a quiet time this week, the Lord brought me to Deuteronomy 1 and the following scriptures revealed a precious reminder of how the Lord expects me to respond to those who are critical of me as I seek to follow through on what I sense the Lord has laid upon my heart to do.

Once again, we revisit the Israelite spies that surveyed Canaan...

Moses told Israel, "We have reached the hill country. It belongs to the Amorites now, but the LORD our God is giving it to us... He has told us to go in and take this land, so don't hesitate and be afraid." Then all of you came to me and said, "Before we go into this land, let's send some men to explore it. When they come back, they can tell us about the towns we will find and what roads we should take to get there." (vs. 20-22)

The very act of sending in the 12 spies was a step of doubt! God had said "go" and "don't hesitate" and yet the Israelites wanted to hear their fellow man's opinion first. How often do I fall prey to that exact mentality! There are some very specific things that I know the Lord has called me to do and yet in the midst of my insecurities, I hesitate and seek out man's opinion to help alleviate the fear rather than simply trust what the Lord has said.

Praise the Lord that we have a very gracious Heavenly Father! Even though the Israelites were already going against His direction, He still provided a confirmation of His Word through Caleb and Joshua but notice that they were in the minority. Perhaps you find yourself exactly there - remember that even a minority + God's say so = fear not and get going in obedience! Yet, what did they do?

They hid out from the challenge! They "refused to obey the LORD" their God and "stayed in their tents." (vs. 26)

They "grumbled" and gave voice to their fear! (vs. 26, 28) Are you seeing the reminder of our previous lesson from Numbers 14?

They questioned God! "The LORD must hate us - He brought us out of Egypt, just so He could hand us over to the Amorites and get rid of us." Is anyone other than me feeling a healthy dose of conviction?

They listened to the naysaysers and the circumstances became exaggerated! "the men who explored the land told us that the cities are large with walls that reach to the sky." (vs. 28)

They convinced themselves that the obedience was impossible! "We have nowhere to go." (vs. 28) Friends, when are we - when am I - going to quit listening to the lies and start standing AND ADVANCING on the Truth of God?

The Truth is: "Don't worry! The LORD our God will lead the way. He will fight on our side, just as He did when we saw Him do all those things to the Egyptians. And you know that the LORD has taken care of us the whole time we've been in the desert, just as you might carry one of your children." Praise God! What awesome words of assurance! What has He been telling you to trust Him and do? He knows it looks difficult to us. He knows we may even "feel" it's impossible! That doesn't matter. Be strong and courageous! TAKE courage! Quit hesitating and listening to the naysayers and get going! I am preaching this to myself at the top of my lungs. I am weary of wilderness wandering in this area and I am choosing - here and now - to follow His direction right through the flood waters of the Jordan River and plant them on some promised land!

Don't think that I'm saying it's going to be a cake walk. We see from scripture that there are going to be enemies all over our promised land but let's trust the LORD when He says that "the LORD our God is giving it [the land] to us." (vs. 20) We're bound to lose some skirmishes along the way but I can assure you the victory has already been won. The thing is, we'll wander forever if we don't take the Lord at His word and get going along the path where He's leading. With His help, we will "conquer it and live there." (vs. 39b)

What do you say? Are you coming with me?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What's Your Response to the Naysayers?

Isn't it just like our Lord that this morning's Bible reading spoke directly to the need of my heart?! Look at what the Lord spoke in Numbers 14...

After the Israelites heard the report from the twelve men who had explored Canaan, the people cried all night and complained to Moses and Aaron, "We wish we had died in Egypt or somewhere out here in the desert! Is the LORD leading us into Canaan, just to have us killed and our women and children captured? We'd be better off in Egypt." Then they said to one another, "Let's choose our own leader and go back."

Moses and Aaron bowed down to pray in front of the crowd. Joshua and Caleb tore their clothes in sorrow and said: "We saw the land ourselves, and it's very good. If we obey the LORD, he will surely give us that land rich with milk and honey. So don't rebel. We have no reason to be afraid of the people who live there. The LORD is on our side, and they won't stand a chance against us!"

The crowd threatened to stone Moses and Aaron to death. But just then, the LORD appeared in a cloud at the sacred tent.

The LORD said to Moses, "I have done great things for these people, and they still reject me by refusing to believe in my power..."

What a word to us when naysayers threaten our commitment or belief in the promises of God! Look at the tide we can quickly get caught up in...
  1. They got swept up in emotion rather than standing on the Truth... "the people cried all night."
  2. They gave a voice to the emotion rather than the Truth... "and complained to Moses and Aaron."
  3. They imagined themselves elsewhere... "we wish we had died in Egypt."
  4. They questioned the LORD... "Is the LORD leading us into Canaan, just to have us killed...?"
  5. They came to their own conclusion... "We'd be better off in Egypt."
  6. They decided to make their own choice... "Let's choose our own leader and go back."
  7. They found themselves in REBELLION! Sylvia Gunter defines rebellion as "reserving for ourselves the right to choose."
Oh, how different their history would look if they had just believed the Truth that Joshua and Caleb presented... "We saw the land ourselves, and it's very good. If we obey the LORD, he will surely give us that land rich with milk and honey. So don't rebel. We have no reason to be afraid of the people who live there. The LORD is on our side, and they won't stand a chance against us!" The consequence of this destructive tide was that a whole generation, except Joshua and Caleb, failed to enter the land of Promise. They wandered aimlessly when freedom and "home" was just on the horizon.
No matter how threatening the pressure is, remember that at just the right moment the LORD appeared! Just like for me this morning, the LORD appears and reaches down His righteous right arm and saves us!
"The LORD said to Moses, 'I have done great things for these people, and they still reject me by refusing to believe in my power." We have the opportunity to follow the example of the psalmist Asaph in Psalm 77, when despite the emotions that raged in verses 1-10, he makes this choice in verse 11, "Our LORD, I will remember the things you have done, your miracles of long ago. I will think about each one of your mighty deeds. Everything you do is right and no other god compares with you."
Where has the LORD asked you to go that is looking too difficult today? What has He said to you to be strong and courageous about? "Now what He is commanding you this day is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach." (Deuteronomy 30:11) Believe Him! His arm is not too short "for nothing is impossible with God." (Luke 1:37) In fact, Jesus said, "everything is possible for him who believes." (Mark 9:23) Make your choice! Grab hold of His extended arm, hold fast and believe!