It all started from the view you see above. Each morning, for one week in the summer of 2015, I sat in an adirondack chair on this front porch. A small, quaint, vacation home in the Outer Banks of North Carolina provided our family some much needed alone time. With coffee in hand to start the day (who doesn't, really?), I spent some alone time with God. My wife sat just to the left of this picture, reading as well. Completely together in our silence as we listened to waves crash against the shore while we read...filling ourselves. With slowness. With peace. With quiet. With contemplation and understanding. With rest.
And through that rest, came...
I sat here on August 9, 2015...unaware of all that God would show me. And the simple reason I am writing this? I believe I am supposed to share my experience with you....now. Not waiting for it to be perfect, polished and published. I've written a book that way before. It takes a lot longer. Consider this writing a book in full transparency. No wire-framing. No outline. No editors. No proofs. From my journal to this blog. From my heart to your eyes. The comments section is open to share your thoughts as you read. I've never seen this done before, and I have no idea how it will go. An interactive book if you will. I'll share. I'll unpack the thought. We'll learn together.
Hey Brett...what's this about?
You can visit the topics we'll tackle on this page: PERSPECTIVE POINTS
Once you start reading through them, I hope you'll be as excited to learn from them, as I am to share them. They changed my perspective on A LOT this summer (hence the idea to name them PERSPECTIVE POINTS). They helped give me a focus I didn't have to tackle challenges I needed to. My hope is they'll do the same for you.
One logistical note...ignore the dates with each post. The only way to get it to read in order (top to bottom) is to work backwards from a series of dates. So I chose New Year's Eve of the year we were on vacation. An eve of new beginnings. Perhaps symbolic that this story will offer someone the encouragement they need to move forward on their own...
So here we go.
It started with a simple question. "What do you have for me, Lord?" And in that moment...softly on my heart...I heard "Joshua." That was it. Not some hugely profound answer. But a clear direction nonetheless.
Over the next several days I would read the entire book of Joshua from this very spot. I took notes. I wrote so fast at times, I was afraid I would miss something God was showing me. I commented out loud when something blew me away. I'd make my wife listen as I shared what I wrote. She smiled. She was patient with me, because I believe she knew God had something for me. And it's from those scribbled thoughts, that I will share with you what I believe has something for all of us. Some will relate in part. Perhaps, some in whole. There is something here for all of us.
I'll unpack each chapter of Joshua as I heard it when I read it. That, with my personality and at times warped sense of humor, is worth the price of admission to read this book blog (which is entirely free-so there's that. Ha!) I'd encourage you to read Joshua along with this blog. I'll remind you what chapter I was reading as I share. You can read it in whatever version you like. I was reading The Message Version. So when I quote a verse here and there, that is the version you are seeing...along with my take on it as I read it.
Last thing before we get started...
Why Ocean Road?
If this had a subtitle, it would be more of a teaser than a clarifier.
"You've never been on it because you can't create it...you can only move in the direction of it."
Hang onto that. It'll make sense in the coming days.
Prepare for an adventure packed with perspective...
A perspective that brings focus.
Let's get started...
(Joshua, Chapters 1 & 2)
The first two chapters of Joshua tell the backstory. They fill us in on a few details. To our finite thinking, some can seem inconsequential. I assure you none are. The rest will make you want to warn the people in the book of Joshua to turn tail and run. You can't. It already happened. So...instead...we sit back, read, and take in what must have been an enormously nerve-wracking time for the people of Israel.
I'll give you the cliff-notes version.
Moses used to be in charge. He's dead. Joshua is now. God tells Joshua to cross the Jordan River, but he doesn't divulge how. I imagine Joshua was thinking about boats. Spoiler alert. Boats were not involved. The mode of transportation was found in the promise God made to him. "I'm giving you every square inch of the land you set your foot on." Wait...feet and water? Notice it didn't say feet threw, as in swimming. It said "feet on". Huh? I don't get it. Keep reading. It'll all make sense soon enough.
God proceeded to give Joshua one of the best pre-game locker room speeches of all time. "Go get em'!" That's the short version. And Joshua didn't hesitate. No sooner was God done speaking to him, Joshua began to give orders to the leaders of the Israelite people. He gave them a three day heads up. Marching orders given. Moving on...
Joshua then turned his attention, specifically, to two and a half tribes. These were people that had already been given their plot of land. The good news for them was that it was on the side of the Jordan River they were currently standing on. The bad news? Joshua told them they had to come with, so that they could help their brothers get theirs. The kids and the women could stay home. But the dudes had to man-up and fight. After that they could come back home to their land to re-join their families.
We could learn a lot from these guys. Without hesitation they were all in. Even though they had already gotten theirs, they were ready to go with, to make sure their brothers were taken care of as well. They gave their word. They prayed. They went.
We live in an I got mine, I'm good world.
This is a reminder that I'll stand with, so that others are taken care of should be our posture of choice. At a heart level, so that it becomes how we live everyday.
That's the end of Joshua 1.
As we start Joshua 2, it starts to go a little Hollywood on us.
Joshua sent out two spies to check things out ahead of time. The first place they end up? The house of a harlot. Betcha' didn't see that one coming. Go forth! Fight for God! Oh, and stop at a prostitute's house. Huh? Wait...it gets better.
The King of Jericho found out. Yeah, that's not good. They were as good as dead. No way Rahab (the prostitute) was going to risk death by covering for two spies, right? Except that's exactly what she did. Why? What would make someone do that? It's almost like she knew something no one else did. (sarcasm).
She sent the King and his men on a wild goose chase. She told the King they'd been there and gone, and his men went on in pursuit of them. Towards the Jordan they ran...looking for the two spies. The city gates shut behind them. The spies had bought some time because of the boldness of a prostitute that could have been killed if she were caught in the lie.
Like I said...Hollywood level stuff here.
Rahab hid them in her roof. No, not on it...in it. Like, under the "stalks of flax that were spread out on her roof". Phew. I bet those spies were thankful for primitive building supplies. You couldn't pull that move off today!
Once the King's men had left, Rahab ran up to the roof. Here is the part that starts to explain why she risked death to hide them. "I know that God has given you the land." Well, hello there curveball! Sounds like just as Joshua heard from God...so did the prostitute. If that doesn't burst a lot of people's bubbles as to how God moves, I don't know what will. I love it. Mostly that it ruffles the feathers of uptight, pretentious people that believe God only speaks to them because they are real Christians. But that's a vent for another day. Suffice it to say, this is awesome. Epic, really.
The story of this night wraps up by Rahab asking for protection for her family when the spies, and their men, come take the land. The spies honor her for what she did for them. They made arrangements to protect Rahab and her family once the land was taken over. There were strict guidelines for how it would happen though.
They were told to stay in the house. If they left it for any reason while the take-over was happening, and something bad happened...it was their fault. If they stayed in the house, they'd be protected.
I wonder if sometimes when we wander off and try things our way in life, we walk right into outcomes that are less than desirable. I've been there. Where I sense the Lord's prompting to do/not do something...and proceed to do the opposite. And then when the result wasn't what I thought it would be? I act genuinely shocked. The reality is, if I had been paying attention, I could have avoided it.
Has something like that ever happened to you?
Pretty solid reminder for all of us to be obedient, even if it seems like we know better.
And as Joshua 2 ends...it finds the men repelling down a rope from Rahab's house on the outside wall of the city to get away. Per Rahab's instruction they had to hide in the hills for three days so the King's men would return to the city not having found them. That would be their sign the coast was clear to head for home.
When they arrived back at camp they confirmed what God had spoken. They found Joshua and said "Yes! God has given the whole country to us. Everybody there is in a state of panic because of us."
As we end this post together...ask yourself a fews questions.
How did "Everybody" (where Rahab lived) know what was about to happen?
Why were they panicking?
How did the men (Joshua's) know God had given the land to them?
And then let this sink in...
God spoke to a man of God on one side (Joshua), and confirmed his word through a prostitute on the other (Rahab).
How many churches/ministries do you know would be comfortable with that being their confirmation to move forward?
If it was God's plan, it was good enough for Joshua.
We could learn a lot from that. We don't need to polish up or make sense of God's plans...just walk em' out in obedience. And we need to can the idea that only some people can be used by God. Yes...some people actually believe that. It's a load of crap.
I'd bet the moment the city fell (stay tuned for that part), and Rahab's family was protected, was all she needed to know that God was real. He was her God. For her. Crazy about her. In love with and willing to bless her, way before she was cleaned up...simply because she was willing to step out in one crazy act of faith. She probably didn't refer to the moment as an act of faith either so much as I'm scared out of my mind...so whatever...I've got nothing to lose.
And that is absolutely perfect.
The Lord loves the heart of a desperate person who calls on His name, so that He can act on their behalf.
That means the Lord loves people we aren't like and can't understand. And that's a really good thing! Why? Because I imagine that is what I seem like to some people.
It doesn't matter what side of the coin we see ourselves on...He sees value in us all.
I hope that if you were to stop reading after this post, that you are encouraged. That you know you are loved by the God of the universe. That you are special. That you are unique. That He loves you. And even more than that...He is head over heels in love with you, because He created you. JUST. AS. YOU. ARE.
I also hope you'll keep reading, and stay with us on this journey.
Very cool moments ahead...
We'll pick up at the start of Joshua 3 in the next post.
It's where the phrase Ocean Road comes into play.
Believe me...you don't want to miss it!
(Joshua Chapter 3)
As we wrapped up Joshua 2 there was a sense of anticipation for what was coming next. We watched as the Lord protected two men scouting out a land they had been called to pursue. We sat near the edge of our emotional seats when they nearly lost their life at the hands of the King. And then eased back in comfort watching God do what only he could do. The outcome they all wanted came in a way none of them could have predicted.
Rahab the prostitute reminded us what faith looks like. Her life changed forever the moment she trusted in her creator. And now...the men who came to spy on the land returned home...as the next step of the journey begins.
We find Joshua "up early and on his way". He's already showing us that when God calls you to something, a sense of urgency jolts past every other feeling (uncertainty, anxiousness, fear, doubt, etc...) and causes us to act with boldness.
Joshua knew where he was called to go (The Waters Edge), because of what he was called to do. (Cross The Jordan River)
They camped for three days staring at the task ahead (Crossing the Jordan). What they must have been thinking! Seriously...here is where my head would have been at...I know we are supposed to cross that river, and I know God has already promised us victory...but I can't see how. We are here, and there is a massive river between us and our victory. A MASSIVE OBSTACLE.
I don't know about you, but I would have been scared out of my mind. I know...I know...God said the victory was already won. I didn't say I was being rational...just brutally honest. I wonder if they felt like they were staring at a dead end too.
Have you ever looked at a promise God made to you, and felt held back by the dead end you saw in front of you?
So here is what happens next...
The leaders in camp gather everyone and give specific instructions.
"When you see the Covenant-Chest of God, your God, carried by the Levitical priests, start moving. Follow it. Make sure you keep a proper distance between you and it, about half a mile - be sure now to keep your distance! - and you'll see clearly the route to take. You've never been on this road before."
THAT! In its entirety it has so much juice in it, you could drink the cup it would fill forever. And when I read it, it was emotional for me. I've been asking God to show me direction in a specific area I feel he is calling me. That passage of scripture in Joshua about froze me with equal parts excitement and overwhelming humility in His presence as I read it.
Just as the people of Israel has been given specific instructions...if we are being called by God to move on something, He will provide us with direction as well.
"...keep your distance!"
"...you'll see clearly the route to take."
"You've never been on this road before."
I think sometimes we try to outrun God on the way to the victory He wants to bring for us. We hear him say go, and somehow we infer that means go ahead of Him. In this moment...the instructions the Israelites get are a remarkable reminder to us, that when we follow God, the distance between where He is (moving on our behalf doing only what He can do) and where we are creates the clarity we've been longing for.
The route we are to take becomes clear when we follow God, not race past Him.
And then the reason this book is named Ocean Road.
"You've never been on this road before."
Joshua tells the people...
"Sanctify yourselves. Tomorrow God will work miracle-wonders among you."
The priests were called to "...step out before the people."
And as they went, God speaks life, love and hope into Joshua's heart. He builds his leader up so that the very next command Joshua gives to the priests doesn't overwhelm them, but rather infuse them with the power only God can impart.
"When you come to the edge of the Jordan's waters, stand there on the river bank."
"...take twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man from each tribe. When the soles of the feet of the priests carrying the Chest of God, Master of all the earth, touch the Jordan's water, the flow of water will be stopped - the water coming from upstream will pile up in a heap."
Do you see it? When you come to the very edge of your dead end...the very edge of what you cannot change...GOD WILL ACT. Sometimes we get to know how, other times we don't. The fact remains that if he's called us to it, he will bring us through it.
Are you at a "water's edge moment" in your life right now?
Two months after God showed this to me in August...I am.
As I sit here and write this to you, tears are full in my eyes, dropping slowly along my cheeks, as I stand at my water's edge, following a promise God spoke into my heart. So if you feel like no one understands your feelings, trust me...many, many people do.
When the priests feet touched the very edge of the overflowing banks of the Jordan River that day...when the people had to wonder if they were staring at their dead end...or their God-given future...
"...the flow of the water stopped. It piled up in a heap....The river went dry."
A road of safe passage had been created, where an obstacle used to stand.
And as I stared at the banks of the Atlantic ocean in the distance this past August, God reminded me that He was in control. My heart was full knowing that if that water needed to part so that I could get through, He would do it.
In the moment that feels like a dead-end, He will create our…Ocean Road.
And he will do the same for you if you’ll be obedient at your water’s edge.
"And the people crossed, facing Jericho."
"And there they stood; those priests carrying the Chest of the Covenant stood firmly on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground. Finally the whole nation was across the Jordan, and not one wet foot."
Obedient feet led to a dry street. The priests obedience to lead as God directed, through Joshua's voice, led all Israel to safety. The priests took the first steps in, stayed in the middle until everyone had crossed, and were the last ones to walk out.
IN FIRST...IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CHALLENGE...OUT LAST.
That's leadership. (*1)
You’ll see * and #’s throughout the rest of the book. It’s the PERSPECTIVE POINTS I promised, and they are listed at the end of each chapter so that you can go back and review where they came from in the story.
We're getting close to the end of chapter 3.
But I can't leave before I share this with you...
Notice that they weren't given boats to cross the Jordan River. Neither was Moses when the Red Sea parted. No...both times they were given a way through that was totally dependent on God to act. They weren't given boats to coast over the obstacle. They were sent right through the center of it...and the provision of HOW it came to pass could only be explained as a miracle.
Can you relate to that?
We look for a route over our problems, rather than the miracle through.
Perhaps...let's be honest...if we could get over it, we could take some credit for it. Hmmm...that would feel good because we'd look good. It would also give us a huge sense of security in ourselves that is undeserved, and ultimately dangerous...as we not only revel in what we've done for ourselves, but pass it on as "advice" to others that they can take care of themselves too. (*2 & *3)
We perpetuate our problems when we build on our own opinion rather than God’s vision. (*4)
Does that mean we sit on our butt and do nothing, because we don't want to accidently solve our problems? No...not at all. It simply means that our diligence needs a direction. And it will very likely not make much sense at times. (water's edge moment anyone?)
The priests didn't sit around...they responded obediently to the person God gave them in Joshua...EVEN THOUGH the marching orders had to have absolutely confounded them. (…and probably Joshua as well)
Seriously...it must have sounded something like this...
Hey, go grab that huge, heavy chest and start marching toward the water. You know...that thing over there (Jordan River) that looks more like a dead-end than the path to your new beginning.
The priests did what every great leader would...they stood in the middle. (*5)
Sometimes our water's edge moment will look like a creek, sometimes a river, and others times...the sheer impossibility will seem as big as trying to cross an ocean. When you feel like you are staring at a dead-end...remember...if it's the direction God has called you to move in, he will be faithful to move you through.
Your water's edge moment is a promise that you are about to walk on an Ocean Road.
Here are the PERSPECTIVE POINTS that I shared throughout Chapter 3 that we can reflect on as we get ready to head into Chapter 4 of Joshua.
And some questions to reflect on.
Chat about these with a friend, your family, a small group, and if you are of age...a bar. (Yes, I said bar. Jesus was particularly fond of meeting people where they were at.)
The last question is the perfect place to end our time together today. And honestly...one of my favorite ones.
Don't forget...the comments section is open to share thoughts and ask questions. It's located just below, or by clicking in the upper-right section of each chapter where it says...wait for it...COMMENTS. :)
See you tomorrow for Joshua Chapter 4.
We will tackle how to respond during the moment that we desperately need our greatest breakthrough.
Wait until you see what the Israelites did!!!
(Joshua Chapter 4)
When we left Chapter 3 there were likely many things buzzing around in your head. There were for me as well. Admittedly, it's a lot to take in. And it might even help to re-read the chapter a couple of times. Sometimes that helps me re-emphasize something I need to hear, and help bring clarity to questions as I process.
Something we talked about at the end of Chapter 3 sets the stage for Chapter 4.
Leaders stand in the middle.
One very powerful and incredibly impactful thing happened after the whole nation of Israel crossed through on their Ocean Road (or river road in their case). Notice the end of Chapter 3 said "those priests...stood firmly planted on dry ground in the middle...while all Israel crossed on dry ground."
The next statement leads us to believe that the priests had passed through as well.
"Finally the whole nation was across the Jordan, and not one wet foot."
Except there was something remarkable that happened before the priests left the middle. And that is where we pick up the beginning of Chapter 4.
God told Joshua to pick 12 men, each from a different tribe, to grab a stone. A marker of remembrance. He told them to take the stones from "...the middle...where the feet of the priests are standing firm."
They were to take them to the place they'd camp that night.
Think about that for a second. Every one was through. A giant PHEW, that was a close call! must have been the common sentiment. And then...Joshua sends 12 men back in to the middle, where the priests were still standing. How would you like to be one of them? Just when you think you are clear of the intensity of the moment, you are hand picked to go back to the middle of where the greatest danger was!
None of us can know for sure why God didn't have the priests just grab a few stone momentos on the way out. But I have a guess.
Each man was from a different tribe. Perhaps God knew that they would need a very personal reminder of the power of God, in the days, weeks, months...years ahead. That by sending them in, they would see the obedience on the face of the priests more clearly. At that point the rest of the nation would have passed. It was only 12 guys, and some priests. A very intimate moment where glances between these men and the priests would create a moment of remembrance. Perhaps these 12 would one day, in their own way, have to stand in the middle for their tribes...their families...their friends.
And that is why I bring this up.
Leaders stand in the middle.
There is a gap in my notes on Chapters 4 and 5. But as I write this book, the Lord is making it very clear to me why that was, and what fills that gap.
Sacrificial leadership grows fearless followers.(*6)
The sacrifice the priests made to go first, and stand in the middle, gave the 12 men the courage to go back in on Joshua's word. Where fear may have made them run through, right past the priests the first time...the example the priests set created an environment where they could walk back, in a confidence only God could provide.
Once they came out with the stones, God told Joshua that it was time for the priests to finish the job. And in that moment around 40,000 soldiers ready for battle...watching as the priests came through.
And once the very last foot hit the banks of the Jordan River?
"...the Jordan's waters resumed their flow...just as before."
The priests stood in the middle.
The 12 men went back in.
Both groups were obedient to the leadership moment they were given.
It's the same with us.
Sometimes we'll be called on to go first, stand in the middle, and leave last.
Sometimes we'll think we are clear, and we'll be sent back in to the struggle.
No matter when we are sent, this serves as a reminder that we are all called.
As a parent.
As a spouse.
As a business owner.
As an employee.
As a friend.
As a stranger.
As a child of the most high God.
It's not a matter of if, but when we will be called.
How and where is up to God.
The response of yes, and I'll go is up to us.
After the priests left the river, and the waters began to flow again, the people camped out at a place called Gilgal. They built a monument with the 12 stones.
"In the days to come, when your children ask their fathers, 'What are these stones doing here?' tell your children this: 'Israel crossed over the Jordan on dry ground.' "Yes, God, your God, dried up the Jordan's waters for you until you had crossed, just as God, your God, did at the Red Sea, which had dried up before us until we had crossed."
The impact of the moment and a monument. (*7)
"This was so that everybody on earth would recognize how strong God's rescuing hand is and so that you would hold God in solemn reverence always."
What an amazing example for the next generation.
What an amazing reminder for ours.
As a parent...I know that there will be moments when I am called to go first. I know there will be times when I will stand in the middle. And like every parent would, be the last one out, so that my kids would make it through.
I'd do Anything. Anytime. Anywhere...for my kids.
I know you'd do the same.
It's what we do as parents.
And there may be times when I look up and see someone else standing in the middle for my kids...and realize it's time I go back in so that I can take a reminder out so that my kids never forget who and what came before them...so that they are where they are.
Chapter 4 of Joshua is a celebration of sorts.
The Israelites deserved that moment based on their obedience to walk it out.
But if it's left there, we just took in on a cool story, and forget what it can teach us.
If you are standing on your water's edge and can't see a way through, perhaps getting the focus off of you will help. It's helped me. It's a reminder I need, too.
I imagine that is what gave the priests the confidence to go first.
As a man...I might chicken out because it's about me.
As a parent, I'm all in because it's about my kids.
If we choose our response based on our individual preference, we could very well miss the blessing found being a leader acting in obedience.(*8)
The list of leaders is long.
The list of excuses not to cross over when we are called shouldn't be.
Stand in the middle.
Go back in.
Go all in.
The next generation is watching how we respond, so that they know WHO to follow.
The next generation is watching how we respond, so that they know WHAT to do.
Because when we know WHO to follow, we'll know WHAT to do.
Just like the Israelites needing to keep a distance between them and the priests carrying the Chest of the Covenant...I think it helps us to step back and allow God to speak to our hearts in a way only He can.
Think of it this way as you head into the Perspective Points for Chapter 4, and the reflection questions...
Perspective is found at a distance.(*9)
The further we are from it (our challenge, our struggle, etc...) provides the opportunity to gain the clarity in how we see it.
Remember...we've never been on this road before.
One step at a time to our calling.
A safe distance behind God's leading.
We'll arrive right on time if we trust Him on every step of the journey.
6. Sacrificial leadership grows fearless followers.
7. The impact of the moment and a monument.
8. Preference steals the blessing found in obedience.
9. Perspective is found at a distance.
6. What sacrifice(s) have you made lately, or will you commit to make so that those who look to you as a leader have the confidence to follow you?
7. Is the impact of your sacrifice so that you will get credit for it, or are you clear about the moment being a monument to God's strength through us?
8. Are you reacting or responding? Here is the difference. Reacting to a situation will always choose preference because it succumbs to the pressure you feel. Responding is knowing that when push comes to shove you will choose obedience to what God is calling you to...yes, even when and if it's hard. What areas of your life will you commit to share with someone close to you...that will walk this journey with you...so that you don't forfeit the blessing we find in our obedience?
9. Are you stepping back from your situation to find God in it, or rushing past Him to get credit for it? Are you trusting in Him from a distance, or your own strength in stubborn persistence?
*And here's a bonus encouragement for you. You've got this! I believe in you! God has put in you right where you are so that you can show others...through your sacrificial leadership what it looks like to live your life as a monument of praise to the God who will bless your obedience. And the coolest part about being a leader is watching that blessing show itself strong in the people we lead. Our kids. Our employees. Our colleagues. Our congregation. Our teammates. Our players.
I'll leave you with one of my favorite verses...
Perhaps you were made "...for just such a time as this."
(From Esther 4:14)
See you soon with Chapter 5!
Don't forget the comments section is open to you if you need it to share a thought, or ask a question. We're all in this together!
(Joshua Chapter 5)
Roller coasters used to be fun for me. As I get older, they toss my stomach around like a wet towel in a dryer. Unfortunately once the roller coaster stops it takes several moments before I feel like I'm not going to decorate the landscaping with my lunch.
That's exactly how I feel about life as I get older. When I choose to rely on my emotions and opinion to get through life, nausea can set in pretty quickly. But when I refuse to get on that roller coaster of emotions things turn out much better.
Does that mean I'll never have a feeling of doubt, worry, or anxiety? No.
Does it mean I can choose to hand it over as fast as it shows up? Yes.
I think that is where the Israelites were at as we start Joshua Chapter 5.
Remember the spies from a couple of chapters ago? Remember Rahab the prostitute? Remember God commanding Joshua to speak up and tell the priests and the people to march towards what looked like a dead-end? Remember the 12 men being called to go back in the the Jordan River after they had already crossed over?
All of those moments were potential emotional roller-coaster moments.
And we have plenty of them in our own life.
Kids head off to college.
A job feels like it's in jeopardy.
A family member is diagnosed with cancer.
A marriage is falling apart.
Our team is hurting and it isn't getting any better.
Whatever the emotional roller coaster looks like, you don't have to get on it.
The Israelites were beginning to realize something.
When you walk in faith, you don't have to ride in fear. (*10)
"When all the Amorite kings...and the Canaanite kings...heard how God had stopped the Jordan River before the People of Israel until they had crossed over, their hearts sank; the courage drained out of them just thinking about the People of Israel." (Italics mine)
The kings were choosing the roller coaster. And they were coming to a stark realization that the Israelites had chosen the obedient walk of their God.
The results were speaking for themselves.
Walking can feel slower, but in faith, it's a multiplier.(*11)
When we least expect it, God can move in ways we can't comprehend. And while its natural to focus on the speed of our progress, we forget God operates in the supernatural ability to change the pace at any point. There is an amazing example of this coming in Joshua Chapter 6...where it seems like God literally orders up some Israelite busywork and a side of potential embarrassment to go with out.
So how do we respond?
Our diligence needs a direction.(*12)
We can work hard and get hardly anything done. How? By working so hard trying to prove we are right/can do this/have what it takes...that our diligence turns into ignorance. What do I mean by that? We end up convinced that we know better, and exhaust ourselves as we pour everything we have into trying to prove ourselves.
The alternative is choosing to trust the process of obedience, even when we don't feel like results are coming fast enough, or the way we thought they would.
Further in to Joshua Chapter 5 we are reminded that the generation of Israelites before the one we are reading about chose the roller coaster too. It ended up costing them 40 years of wandering, and not being able to walk into the land God had said was theirs.
Their children (the generation Joshua was leading) was seeing the wisdom found in obedience to God's vision for their lives. They were making decisions that would assure them they wouldn't repeat their parents mistakes.
Some time passes, and the Israelites are celebrating Passover near Jericho. Something interesting happens as soon as Passover ends. The people had been eating manna (bread) that God was literally sending from heaven...as in dropping it out of the sky...while they were on their journey. It was the sustenance for the obedience.
When we obey Him, He will sustain us. (*13)
"As soon as they started eating food grown in the land, there was no more manna for the People of Israel. That year they ate from the crops of Canaan."
They were eating the crops from the soil of their promised land.
When we reach where God has wanted to take us all along, we begin to realize the more we've been longing for was worth every ounce of trust we poured into our relationship with God to get there.
But just when you think arrival means kicking back, the Lord steps in and kicks it up a notch. See...we have a limited view of the end. Often times where we think the touchdown is, is really just a first down on a much longer drive.
Joshua looks up and see's a man with a sword drawn.
That'll wake ya up in hurry!
Joshua asks him a rather solid question.
"Whose side are you on - ours or our enemies?"
Pause. Can you imagine? You've just arrived at what you thought was your destination, and it appears the gig isn't over yet. Not only that, but you might be staring you demise right in the face.
Unexpected, and unprepared.
When we least expect it, we are stretched to the ends of our faith.
Has that ever happened to you before?
What you thought was the end...success to enjoy...turned into potential chaos?
Then this from the man with the sword...
"...I'm commander of God's army. I've just arrived."
Joshua knows in an instant this isn't about assessing a threat, it's about honoring his God. What happens next, particularly the order in which it happens is so important.
1. Joshua fell face first on the ground and worshipped God.
2. Joshua asked "What orders does my Master have for his servant?"
He didn't ask questions first.
He worshipped first.
Stop and think about that for a second.
He wasn't making requests, asking questions and trying to figure out what was about to happen. He was lost in love, reverence, and awe that God was coming to Him through this man. He was humbled. He was quiet. He shows us what contentment looks like.
I don't know about you...but when things get dicey...I often start with asking questions. I want to know what's up. I make requests. I have to know details. And in those moments I'm missing my greatest opportunity.
Being content in His presence.
"God's army commander ordered Joshua. 'Take your sandals off your feet. The place you are standing is holy."
"Joshua did it."
Sometimes I am in such a hurry wanting to know what's next, that I miss the point.
It's not about what's next, it's about WHO I am with. (*14)
As a dad I'm in a hurry, a lot.
I'd do better to simply take a step back and keep my distance so that I can see the value of their presence. Who is with me is always more valuable than what's next, where I'm off to, when it will come to pass, and every why answered on the way.
Our diligence needs a direction is the title of this chapter in Ocean Road.
Not just because it will help us navigate our journey. (that's part of it)
More importantly because it will help us honor WHO goes before us (God), and WHO we are going with (the people God has placed in our lives to honor).
Joshua was on it.
I think we're on it.
It's time to slow down and look around.
The direction our diligence needs is found face down on our knees.
We're on it.
The Israelites were on it.
Joshua Chapter 6 will tell us what we can learn from it.
Want a hint?
Perspective Point #11.
When a slow walk becomes a faith-driven multiplier epic shows up!
How's that for a teaser?
Here's your PERSPECTIVE POINTS for today.
10. When you walk in faith, you don't have to ride in fear.
11. Walking can feel slower, but in faith, it's a multiplier.
12. Our diligence needs a direction.
13. When we obey Him, He will sustain us.
14. It's not about what's next, it's about WHO I am with.
10. What emotional roller coaster do you need to stop riding? Do you have someone who is always begging you to go for the ride? Who can you start surrounding yourself with that will walk in faith with you instead?
11. What are you doing so that when the walk is slow, you are reminded to stay the course? What reminders (like the stones from the Jordan) can you use to keep you moving forward? Are you focusing on the answer coming (the WHAT) or THE answer you are with along the way (God)? Are you focusing on the pace of your progress, or the face of the only one who controls that (God's)?
12. Are you focused on trusting the process God has called you to, or your strength and ability to get it done on your own? Are you trying to prove you are right, or trusting Him to prove Himself strong? Are you doubting you have what it takes, or content that if He has called you to this, He will bring you through this?
13. Are you willing to walk in obedience and trust Him for your sustenance? And when HOW He has been sustaining you changes, how will you react? Will you trust Him when it seems success is being traded in for chaos? Will you fall to your knees in worship or stand and yell in defiance? Will you hold on to the manna so closely that you miss the crops He wants to give you in your promised land? AND...when you are facing a man with a sword moment, will you trust?
14. How are you showing those around you that matter most to you how much you appreciate them? How much you love them? That they matter more to you than any answer you are waiting on, project you are working on, or place in life you are trying to get to? How can you be more intentional about spending quality time with those closet to you. TLC. Tender Loving Care, right? Well...try this...Tangible Life Change. How can you create Tangible Life Change in the lives entrusted to you?
*The reflection questions feel more intense to me today. I think that's ok. Where we are going means we'll need to be able to ask ourselves the hard questions, if we want to experience the very best God has for us. Be encouraged as you process where you are at today. God loves you. He's crazy about you. That's pretty cool. And as you go...remember...when he sends you a man with a sword...it's a reminder that He's got your back. How cool is that. :)
(Joshua Chapter 6)
There are times when I'll walk up to my wife and tell her "I'm gonna take a walk". After 15 years of marriage, she'll smile as I leave because she knows it's not me being disciplined to work-out (although that's needed), it's me needing to go clear my head.
I'm not sure what it is, but when I walk I think more clearly. It has the same effect that being near water does. It calms me. And when I can combine the two, that puts me at my ultimate happy place. And when I come back from a walk I can usually process whatever I'm dealing with at the time much better.
But I can't imagine taking one walk, much less a weeks worth, and coming back empty on almost every single one. That would be hard. It might feel like it would have been better had I not taken the walks all-together.
Imagining how that might feel is one thing.
Where the Israelites were at the start of Joshua 6?
That was about to be their current reality.
As they looked around it was obvious that the City of Jericho was closed for business. "No one going in, no one coming out." In those days there weren't fancy signs welcoming you to the area that talked about how many little league titles they'd won on the side of the road. These cities were fortified. They had HUGE walls, massive gates, armed guards, etc...
And then this from God to Joshua...
"Look sharp now. I've already given Jericho to you".
There. No problem, right? The city no one can get in or out of. Yup, that one. God said it was their city. Wait, what? How? That seems a bit crazy. Except for the fact that the Israelites had just seen God make a road in the middle of a river.
But the next instruction still had to seem a bit odd. It wasn't storm the gates! In fact, it was the polar opposite. It wasn't immediate, loud, or brash.
It was go march around the city once a day. Do it with priests carrying trumpets out in front of the Chest of God, and armed guards behind you. Do it for 6 days. And then...on the 7th day have the priests starting blasting away on the trumpets, and march around the city 7 times. Not just once like before. Not a handful for good measure. 7. On the last lap go all Dizzie Gillispie on the horn with one loud note. When that happens choir practice is gonna come in handy... SHOUT! As loud as you can...SHOUT!
Because when you do...
"The city wall will collapse at once."
The Israelites must have thought...that seems a bit odd, kinda drawn out and exhausting. But at least we know that God is saying if we do it, that is what is gonna happen.
Except that the only one who knew all the instructions was Joshua. And the only thing he told the Israelites was to walk around the city, and stay quiet. They didn't know if that meant once. They might have assumed that. They were likely hoping above all hope it was that. But it must have been crazy not knowing.
Every single day, out they'd go. A long walk. Come home. Nothing to show for their efforts. Then back at it the next day. And the next. And the next. Do you think at some point some of them started to doubt that Joshua knew what he was doing, or if he was really hearing anything from God at all?
I think those feelings would have been fair game, and very real.
And on top of all of it?
Joshua tells them "Don't shout. In fact, don't even speak - not so much as a whisper until you hear me say, 'Shout!' - then shout away!"
Have you ever been on a long family trip, and someone (usually an exhausted parent or an annoyed older sibling) suggests playing "the quiet game"? You know...first one who talks loses. The person suggesting it hopes everyone buys in, so that peace and quiet prevail.
Yeah, that's pretty much what Joshua was telling the entire Israelite nation to do. Only...he wasn't asking. He wasn't suggesting. He was mandating.
Joshua was telling them to zip it, and walk it.
I want to show you something now that almost knocked me out of my chair on the porch when I made the connection for myself.
As the Israelites approached the Jordan River, Joshua told them to KEEP THEIR DISTANCE from the Chest of God. Now, as they walked around the City of Jericho he was telling them to KEEP THEIR MOUTH SHUT.
Keep your distance so that you can see the route to take. STAY BACK.
Keep your mouth shut so that you can hear your next move to make. STAY QUIET.
Are you starting to sense that following the Lord's lead is what brings the breakthrough?
And we sit back and watch the obedience of an entire nation, lead to a moment that only God could bring to pass. They marched quietly. The moved forward obediently. When nothing changed, they stayed the course. They got up on day 2 the same way they did on day 1. And they repeated it on days 3, 4, 5 and 6. And just when it seemed like nothing would ever change?
They did what we'd all be well served to do when we face a challenge.
Double the obedience in the face of the resistance. (*15)
They had walked around the City of Jericho 6 times in 6 days.
They walked around the City of Jericho 7 times on the last day.
They ignored their preference to quit.
And then it happened.
The 7th lap completed...the trumpet sounded...and they sounded off.
"When the people heard the blast of the trumpets, they gave a thunderclap shout. The wall fell at once. They people rushed straight into the city and took it."
"The wall fell at once."
And if the story stopped here we'd clap politely and put the book down. Something very important might get missed if we do. Something that if we are being honest, we all struggle with from time to time.
We stop walking because we don't see anything changing.
For the Israelites the 6 days of marching consistently , remaining quiet, with no visual progress of any kind must have been hard. It must have been exhausting. How many times they must have wanted to SCREAM...to try and hurry the process up a little...yet they didn't.
Have you ever faced a moment like that?
Have you ever wanted to stop walking during a time you know you need to keep moving?
As much as the wall fell "...at once.", it wasn't that moment that tells the whole story.
Included in the moment of triumph that unfolded quickly was the obedience to instructions that happened quietly.
They took the City of Jericho because they first took instruction.
Obedience to instruction creates clarity of direction.(*16)
When it seems like quitting makes more sense.
When it seems like maybe we've mis-read the situation.
When it seems like all hope is lost.
Remember the promise God made to make it happen.
Remember the promise we made to walk it out.
Breakthroughs are built on a foundation of consistency.(*17)
What happened to me next on this Ocean Road journey was a head-scratcher.
Where we were staying was next to a street that caught my attention based on it's name alone. I can't remember ever seeing a street with this name.
East Luke Street.
My wife and I have talked from time to time how cool it would be to own a home in the Outer Banks. It is such a place of rest for our family. That moment is a long ways off, unless the Lord...well...makes an Ocean Road for it to happen sooner.
As I was thinking about that...I noticed the number on a house for sale on East Luke Street. And when I did...something hit me.
205 East Luke Street.
The numbers quickly mushed together in my head.
I don't know why...they just did.
2 + 5 = 7
And as God as my witness I felt a prompting. Not some big, booming voice...just a gentle nudge in my heart to do something.
Go read Luke 7.
I kid you not...and this is what I found when I did.
There is a story about Jesus and his disciples approaching a village. As they did they bumped into a funeral procession for a young boy who had died. He was an only child. And on top of that, his mother was also a widow. She was now completely alone.
And then this...
"When Jesus saw her, his heart broke. He said to her 'Don't Cry'. Then he went over and touched the coffin. The pallbearers stopped. He said 'Young man, I tell you: Get up.' The dead son sat up and began talking. Jesus presented him to his mother."
Do you see it?
At a moment when the mother felt COMPLETELY ALONE, Jesus met her GREATEST NEED. A need she didn't even know she had, because she knew the reality of her boy's death. She might have been hoping for the pain to slowly dissipate over time. But it would never totally go away. How could it? Her son was dead.
One touch of the coffin.
One word to 'Get up".
I think someone may be sitting on the death of a dream that Jesus would tell you...
He'd tell all of us that just because it looks like all hope is lost, it doesn't eliminate his ability to step in and move on our behalf.
Are you tired of walking?
Once, twice...three, four times. Five, Six...Seven. Just keep moving.
Does your dream feel like it has died?
"They all realized they were in a place of holy mystery, that God was at work among them. They were quietly worshipful - and then noisily grateful, call out among themselves, 'God is back, looking to the needs of his people!"
And there is the connection to Joshua.
A place in our lives of "...holy mystery."
"God was at work among them."
'...Quietly worshipful...', like the walk around the City of Jericho.
'...Noisily grateful...', like when the city walls fell.
A nation dependent.
A mother desperate.
When God showed me that on the front porch of a small house next to a vast ocean...it was almost too much to take in. Showing me that I can remain quiet in the calling, knowing that at an appointed time I will have a moment to shout with a joy that bellows from a deep sense of knowing God had it all along.
I can't force the process.
I can't move the needle faster.
I can't create a substitute that'll work for now until it comes to pass.
Moments in my life, your life...all of our lives...that we are to remain obedient while we wait. Walk when were tired. Stay quiet when we want to shout. When we'll need to double our obedience in the face of resistance, so that we can see the clarity of direction in God's instruction. Knowing full well that if we'll stay the course the foundation of consistency we are laying down is the breeding ground of...
Our greatest breakthrough.
15. Double the obedience in the face of resistance.
16. Obedience to instruction creates clarity of direction.
17. Breakthroughs are built on a foundation of consistency.
15. What can you do, with what you have, where you are at to increase your obedience? What can you give more of? Your time? Your finances? Your service to others? Where do you feel stretched? What can you double as you face resistance?
16. What do you need to act on that you've been hesitant to? What freaks you out so you haven't done it, even though you know God is prompting you to act on it?
17. What area of your life do you need to be more consistent in? What breakthrough are you waiting on? Is it possible your breakthrough not coming has something to do with your unwillingness to stay quiet, stay consistent, and walk out an area of your life you've been hesitant to? Will you commit to taking the next steps so that not only you...but those around you get to experience the breakthrough from your consistency?
This Chapter is going to change the game for someone today.
Before we dive in, I wanted to give you an update on Rahab.
Actually, Rahab and her whole family.
Remember the promise the two men made to her because she protected them? Well...when the city walls of Jericho fell in Chapter 6, Rahab and her family made it out.
A promise honored.
And as Chapter 6 wound to a close, something happened that is important we mention here, because it set the stage for where we are going next.
Here's the short version of the ending of Joshua Chapter 6...
The Israelites were told not to take anything that didn't belong to them. One step further...all of the silver, gold, bronze and iron were to be placed in God's treasury. This instruction seemed easy enough to follow. Except, well...you probably guessed it...someone didn't.
Enter Achan and Joshua Chapter 7.
He "...took some of the cursed things."
What happens next is very interesting. You'd think God would call him out directly. You'd think that Achan's actions were one man going rogue, so he'd be dealt with accordingly. Except that, just like most times when we do something wrong, our actions impact other people as well.
It seemed Achan had gotten away with it.
Life was moving on for the Israelites.
They'd just experienced two miracles, and were ready for more.
Joshua sent two spies (sound familiar?) to scout out a land called Ai.
The spies returned with another familiar response. "Don't bother sending a lot of people...Don't wear out the whole army, there aren't that many people there."
Except that they got their tales whooped.
"The heart of the people sank, all spirit knocked out of them."
Joshua and the rest of the leaders reacted the same way. They bellowed out before God, asking why he even bothered to bring them across the Jordan. He complained that God should have just let them settle on the side of the Jordan (forgetting that it wasn't all peaches and cream over there.) He was convinced that because of what happened at Ai, everyone else in the area would hear, and defeat the Israelites as well.
And if that temper-tantrum wasn't bad enough, Joshua finished with this comment...
"...how then will you keep up your reputation."
Did Joshua really just tell God...that God's reputation was at stake?
That takes some serious Israelite stones!
I love what God says back to Joshua...
"Get up. Why are you groveling? Israel has sinned."
AKA...Shut up. Quit your whining. How about asking me why things turned so quickly against you instead of insulting my intelligence. Your man Achan put his hand in the proverbial forbidden cookie jar...hoping no one would notice.
God can't bless what we cover up.(*18)
And there it is. Achan's actions didn't just effect him. They impacted a nation.
Whether we like it or not, what we do/don't do can do the same thing.
Our opportunity to reach others.
It's all at stake every...single...day.
Here is a perspective that we'd all do well to adopt.
Our obedience is our sustenance.(*19)
But if we see what we should/shouldn't be doing as just a bunch of rules, we will fail to follow through. At some point we'll find & justify an excuse to act on preference.
That's exactly where Achan found himself.
God continued to Joshua...
"The People of Israel can no longer look their enemies in the eye - they themselves are plunder. I can't continue with you if you don't rid yourselves of the cursed things."
The next day Achan was confronted on what he did. He admitted to it. He explained exactly how he did it. He told Joshua where he hid it. And let's all be glad that we don't live in times where the result is what it was for Achan that day. Suffice it to say, we can relate to the fact that when we go off script with God's plan, we land in a bad place.
Achan's disobedience led to a nation's initial defeat.
Notice I said initial.
Because once the matter was over, and Israel was right before God, things changed.
In the beginning of Joshua 8, God very clearly tells Joshua that Ai will be theirs.
"Don't be timid and don't so much as hesitate. Take all your soldiers with you and go back to Ai. I have turned the king of Ai over to you - his people, his city and his land."
So what is it for you?
What area of your life do you need to come clean on before God?
There's good news.
You aren't going to get stoned for it.
The sacrifice Jesus made for you is enough to cover you.
This moment of Ocean Road serves as a marker (remember the stones earlier?).
This is a moment where we can move forward because we are willing to own the actions that we thought were far behind us. Like Achan, we thought God overlooked them. And in the end...it's what has been holding us back all along.
It's also what may be holding our relationships back. With our spouse. With our kids. With our family. With our neighbors. With our colleagues. And with those we are called to be a light to in the world around us every single day.
Achan was sick of having "just enough" so he thought he'd fill in the gaps.
The fact is Achan's disobedience created a gap. Between him and God. Between the nation of Israel and God. And when we try to fill in the gaps of what we have with what we think we need...we do the same thing.
So how can we stay on script when ad-libbing seems more attractive?
Honoring a vision that is connected to our calling.
A vision allows us to see and make decisions that are connected to our calling, rather than excuses that are connected to our cravings.
I'm reminded of a verse from Ephesians 4.
(v. 19) "Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality."
When we numb our sensitivity, we don't feel the danger of sensuality.
Put another way...
Sensitivities create callings, sensualities create cravings.(*20)
There is...if you will...a sexiness on the surface of the things that could destroy us. Until we step back, and look through the lens of who we are called to be. The things that could knock us off course will always have a more immediate appeal to them than the hard work of sticking to the script of our calling.
We all have a calling.
We all have cravings.
Winning the battle starts with gaining a perspective on it.
#GiveUp or #GiveIn.(*21)
We can #GiveUp a craving so that we can pursue our calling.
We can #GiveIn to the craving and forfeit the blessing that comes with our calling.
Forfeit is a pretty hard word.
It means we hand something over.
It means we walk away empty-handed and heavy-hearted.
But we don't have to.
Remember how the Israelites would receive manna from heaven on their journey? How when they needed sustenance, the Lord would bless them because of their obedience? And remember how once they crossed through the Jordan, that the manna ceased?
The manna ceased, because the blessing of their promise had come.
And walking in obedience...towards our calling...is the same thing.
We walk away.
We pursue it even if it's hard.
Manna isn't sexy. It's rather bland. But it's also the marker of remembrance that led the Israelites to the blessings found in the land promised to them. If they'd all given in, like Achan, to a craving...can you imagine the ending?
Times will get hard.
Temptation will come.
When it does, remember this...
The manna means more when you know WHO you are doing it for.
Everyone who needs to experience freedom they'll find in the calling you'll share.
What craving do you need to #GiveUp, so that you don't #GiveIn and miss out?
18. God can't bless what we cover up.
19. Our obedience is our sustenance.
20. Sensitivities create callings, sensualities create cravings.
21. #GiveUp or #GiveIn
18. What is your "cookie jar" that you've sensed you need to keep your hand out of? When you choose to cave to the craving who does it impact besides you? (We need to name them specifically so that we see the reality of the impact of our choices)
19. What do you need to "own", and come clean on so that you can move on? What gap have you been trying to fill, that has actually created a gap between you and God? Who are you going to ask to help you stay on script when you do?
20. What are you numbing your sensitivity with? What can you do/who can you talk to...to distance yourself from the cravings that tempt you? Have you taken the time to write down where you feel called so that you have a "stone of remembrance" to refer to when it gets hard?
21. What is your "manna" that God has given you for now, as you pursue His best for you? When you look back...where are the moments when God left you "manna" because of your obedience? And if it's hard to see those moments in the past...Will you commit to #GiveUp your craving now so that you don't #GiveIn and miss the blessing found in your calling moving forward?
(*Joshua Chapter 8)
We move forward today.
What held us back, does no longer.
The time has come to honor the gifts we've been given on a level we never knew we could, so that those we are called to do life with can experience a relationship they always wanted...but never knew how to ask for.
It's time for us to lead the way.
It's time for us to go back to our "Ai."
With our spouse.
With our kids.
With our family.
With our neighbors.
With our colleagues.
And with those we are called to be a light to in the world around us every single day.
And so that we don't get to a place in our minds and hearts where we start to feel like God is taking "fun" stuff away for us, or layering rules on top of us...we can refer to Joshua 8...just a few verses in.
"Do to Ai and its king what you did to Jericho and its king. Only this time you may plunder its stuff and cattle to your heart's content." (Italics mine)
I don't know about you, but I can get caught up feeling sorry for myself when I feel like God is prompting me to do something I'd rather not. Most times, if I'm being honest, it's because I don't understand why He'd ask what He is asking. I can't see the end-game, so I complain that the request is even part of the game. And it's in those moments that I can end up like Achan.
I grab onto something God wants me to leave alone like a stubborn toddler who insists they are entitled to something their parent says no to. I throw my temper-tantrum. Not always for others to see...but in the quietness of my frustrated heart, I throw it.
But today we're going to move forward.
We've come clean before God...ready to move forward.
We can go back to our "Ai"...where the initial ending didn't turn out the way we thought it would...so that we allow God to do what only He could...and can.
When Joshua and his soldiers went back to Ai...he gave orders that resonate with me...and I believe they will with you...as you approach your Ai.
"Look sharp now...Get as close as you can. Stay alert."
We get close once we get serious.(*22)
In fact, close proximity to victory comes once specific direction is followed.
Once the Israelites realized they couldn't partake of "the cursed things", they found themselves on the doorstep of their blessing.
Joshua laid out the plans to his soldiers as to how it would all happen. And then something fascinating takes place before the victory. Once everyone was in place scripture tells us this...
"Joshua spent the night with the people. Joshua spent the night in the valley."
We might have to wait on the way. Right before we take the thing God is handing to us...we might have to wait in a valley. A low point. Low points can have perceived connotations of frustration.
Like where we are isn't where we are supposed to be, or want to be.
This serves as a tremendous reminder to simply...wait.
Spend the night in the valley.
Look at the promise that God gave you from a distance, and don't worry about the current accommodations.
Before you know it...it will be yours.
If God has promised it, it's not a maybe...its your destiny.(*23)
The very next morning Joshua walked out what God commanded he do. And piece by piece...move by move...God's promise to give the Israelites the land of Ai, happened.
One last part of their story at Ai...
The moment of the battle that stood to be the greatest test of Joshua's faith for God to act on their behalf came with a command from God.
"Stretch out the javelin in your hand toward Ai - I'm giving it to you."
I suppose that isn't all that crazy of a request.
But what is remarkable to me is what Joshua does with it.
Throughout the conflict Joshua didn't lower the javelin until the battle was completely over. He stood in faith. He acted in obedience. He saw it through...all the way to the end. He was tired. His arm was sore. His body's strength waining. But...
Joshua stood, acted, and was rewarded for his obedience.
And so will you be.
Stay on script.
Stay the course.
I want to share a personal story from our vacation as we close out our time together in this Chapter of Ocean Road.
On Tuesday night of our vacation our family went to dinner. We had spent the day at the beach as a family, and decided we’d attempt to wash all the sand off and have a nice dinner out. It was fun...but what happened after dinner taught me something I will never forget.
I can't remember how it came up, but when we got back to the house, we decided we'd go for a walk on the beach. Still remotely dressed up from our dinner out, off we went. The sky was beginning to look a bit overcast, as the possibility of a storm was looming that day, and into the next. The night air was mild...and as the sun began to set the temperature dipped a bit. The wind was picking up a little as we came over the dunes to the beach...
And then we saw it.
There were two people in the water in front of us...doing what looked absolutely crazy...until we got closer.
They were standing waist-deep in the ocean. Every so often they would plunge into the water with their hands, causing themselves to be covered up to their neck by the cool evening temperatures of the water. They would run their hands quickly across the ocean floor and raise them up with a burst...awaiting what might be, in their hands.
They were searching for Conch shells.
Now that might not seem like a big deal to you...so let me explain.
In all the years that our family has been to the OBX, we've NEVER...I repeat NEVER seen a single conch shell. Not in the water. Not on the beach. Just the fake ones for sale in every shop on the boulevard...and those don't count.
And as we stood there watching, it happened.
One of the girls came up out of the water and yelled..."I've got one!"
And that was all it took.
Without a moment's hesitation I was in that Ocean up to my neck. I had completely forgotten that I had on a leather belt that was moments away from running all over my neatly ironed, navy blue and white, gingham-check shorts. I had my glasses on...special ones that had been a gift from my dear brother-in-law...forgetting that they would likely be gone forever the first time I plunged to the bottom searching for a conch shell.
My wife stood on the shoreline with the smile she often gives me when I've gone temporarily insane. She quietly reminded me of the aforementioned mental blips on my radar...and I ran from the water to hand her my belt, glasses, watch, and sweater. Yes...I had gone in the ocean in a sweater. I didn't care...I wanted a conch shell.
And here's the thing.
Not because I wanted it for me.
I wanted it for my daughter.
We've been walking the beach...watching the sunrise together...since she was a little girl. We've never once seen a conch shell. And I wasn't leaving there until I found one for her. It's what you do as a dad.
And as the night set in, the sun set...and most everyone had left (including my wife who took the boys back to the house so they wouldn't be cold)...there we stood.
My daughter and I.
Soaked in the chilly-evening...standing in the ocean.
Slamming into the water.
Reaching down into the ocean floor.
Sweeping our hands furiously...grasping...hoping.
And there is one very important element I have to add that makes this whole thing come together. The reason the conch shells were a possibility was because a large storm coming was a reality. (Isn't that symbolic. The greatest rewards come from the hardest times) With a storm over the ocean comes waves. HUGE WAVES. The waves move fast. They hit hard. And that means that every single rock, and broken shell on the ocean floor comes crashing in...TO YOU!
As we stood scouring the bottom of the Ocean for the possibility of finding a once-in-a -lifetime find...we were pelted consistently by the harshness of the ocean.
I literally came out of the water that night with shins that were beaten, bruised and nicked-up. Drops of blood the reminder of what we had to stand in...all for a maybe.
We had gone ALL-IN for a maybe.(*24)
Just like Joshua and his javelin.
Just like you and whatever challenge God is calling you to right now.
And it was worth every single second.
Not only did we find a conch shell...we brought in a haul of them!
But it took going into unchartered, and uncertain waters for it to happen.
On day one of our trip we picked up tons of broken shells, because that is all there was. We didn't want to leave empty-handed, and knew it was possible that the beach wouldn't have any more shells the rest of the week. So we collected them.
On day two we were amazed to find shells that were HUGE and completely intact. All of a sudden the previous day's finding didn't look so amazing.
And on day three...the conch shells.
Do you see the pattern?
It's not lost on me that...
The more rare the moment...the greater the challenge and commitment it would take to receive the reward.
And that's the point.
It was for Joshua.
It was for my daughter and I.
It is for you, too.
Picking up what we saw (shells on a beach) made us happy at first. But then...when we saw what was possible (the conch shells) we went ALL-IN for a maybe. We searched many times...over and over...and came up empty. Broken ocean pieces slamming into us. But that didn't deter us.
It was harder work, for fewer results.
But those results were worth more than what we had found before.
And because of how it had to be done?
They meant more.
Sometimes the journey will remind us that obedience trumps preference.
Just like it did for Achan, Joshua, and the Israelites.
Sometimes the journey is going to toss us back and forth in a storm.
Just like it did for my daughter and I.
No matter what the journey brings...
"Look sharp...and stay alert."
Your victory is coming.
22. We get close once we get serious.
23. If God has promised it, it's not a maybe...it's your destiny.
24. ALL-IN for a maybe.
22. Is there something you need to do so that you can arrive on the doorstep of your blessing? What do you need to do so that you get serious about your calling?
23. Are you more focused on the frustration of your current accommodations, or the promise found in God's promise?
24. What's holding you back from going ALL-IN for a maybe?
I'm praying for you today. I believe in you! Trust HIM.
Make today the day...that you move forward. You've got this!
(Joshua Chapter 9)
This was the end of Chapter 8...
"Sometimes the journey will remind us that obedience trumps preference.
Just like it did for Achan, Joshua, and the Israelites.
Sometimes the journey is going to toss us back and forth in a storm.
Just like it did for my daughter and I.
No matter what the journey brings...
"Look sharp...and stay alert."
Your victory is coming."
And then came the next morning...
We were back to our usual pattern to start our day. Up early. Up before the sun was up. Off to the beach to meet it's arrival over the horizon. And in as much as we take those walks to see what we can find on the beach, they mean more because of the time spent...and who it's with.
On this day, as we came up over the dune, we did the same thing we always do. We kicked off our sandals so that we could walk the beach barefoot. As we started down the beach, Ella had a little head start on me. I trailed a few feet behind, as I heard it.
She began to stand up from her previously held catcher's stance position as she saw something by her feet. In her hand as she stood was something I'd never seen in person before on our walks. It was something that, I kid you not, I had prayed Ella would find on our trip. I know that might sound silly...but as a parent, it's what you do. You pray for things for your kids because you love them. You long to see the smile on their face, and their heart leaping for joy. And today was one of those days.
She turned to me, opened her hand, and held it out.
There it was.
A sand dollar.
A tiny little sand dollar.
I couldn't believe it. Not because I thought they didn't exist. It's just...in all the walks we've ever taken on a beach, we'd never seen one. And couple that with the silent prayers I had been praying that week on our walks for one to appear. Well...it was a special moment. And as we took off to walk the beach after she found it, waiting for the sun to rise, something struck me.
Like a quiet whisper on my heart, the Lord spoke to me...
You have to walk where most won't walk, to find what most won't find.(*25)
And as I process what that means now, it means even more.
Walking where most won't walk means different things. For us?
That morning was incredibly special. I still have no clue how she found that sand dollar. It was the size of an eraser on the tip of a pencil. That sand dollar, amongst all the broken shells, HUGE shells, stones, sand, driftwood, and occasional piece of trash on the beach...and she see's it.
Instead of taking a moment for face value, sometimes it requires us to dig a little deeper. And that is where Joshua and the Israelites found themselves in the beginning of Joshua, Chapter 9.
They were coming out of two huge victories.
Jericho and Ai.
Like Ella and I.
Huge shells and conch shells.
When we are most successful is a time we are most susceptible.
To missing the point that is right in front of us. What we think looks like one thing, is very different, because we didn't look close enough.
Ella could have walked right past that sand dollar. But based on the amazing experience of finding the conch shells the way we had the night before...I think her radar of possibility was heightened. But she knew that in order for it to work, she had to look differently. She had to pay attention where she might have walked past before.
There were several kings that lived on the west side of the Jordan river. And once they heard about how God moved on behalf of Joshua and the Israelites, they were scared.
"They came together in a coalition to fight against Joshua and Israel under a single command."
And just like the odds were stacked against us finding that sand dollar, these kings were about to do something to stack the odds against Joshua and the Israelites.
Here is how it went down. People from all over dressed up. They took on the look of weary travelers. They dressed the part. Clothes, donkey sacks, and sandals looking worn, torn and beaten up. Like they'd been on the road a long time. They broke off food so it looked like all they had was crumbs and leftovers.
They only lived a short distance from where the Israelites were, but they looked as if they'd come from far away. When they reached Joshua they laid down an academy award winning performance. They convinced the Israelites that they were impressed with how God acted on their behalf, and how they wanted to be part of the Israelites world.
They asked the Israelites to make a covenant with them. To be their servants. To get in on the good stuff, they'd do anything.
The reality was these people were terrified. They knew God had promised the Israelites this entire land. It didn't take a genius to figure out that meant they were next. Just like Jericho. Just like Ai. They'd be taken over...and in their time, that meant that they'd likely not be alive for long.
So as they presented their "evidence", the Israelites did something on their own that cost them a greater reward that God wanted to give them.
"The men of Israel looked them over and accepted the evidence. But they didn't ask God about it."
A covenant was made.
The Israelites acted on their gut, rather than checking with their God.
The distraction of what looked good on the surface, led the Israelites to miss the point of why they were there. Ella could have walked right past the sand dollar had she done the same thing.
But she stopped. She slowed down. She bent down. She looked closer. And somewhere between me praying she'd find one, and her quiet patience to wait?
The moment we'd both wanted happened.
The moment the Israelites wanted could have to.
And in both cases, there's another lesson for us.
Part of the reason Ella found that sand dollar is found in the many walks, over many years, that she and I have taken on beaches. It's found not in what she saw or didn't see. It's found in what she heard. Instruction. Teaching. Guiding. From me. From her dad. On how not to go so fast, that you miss out on what is right in front of you. How to look closer, even when you think there is nothing there.
And the Israelites would have done well to see the value in listening as well. To God.
Mentors see obstacles we can't see.(*26)
Ella trusted me over time, and was able to respond because of our conversations.
The Israelites had forgotten to consult their mentor, and reacted to their circumstances.
What happened to the Israelites that day is something we can all relate to. We look a moment we aren't sure of square in the face, and react rather than respond.
I think it sounds like this...
What do you have for me? (a response to a conversation with God)
What can I do with this? (a reaction to the circumstances around us)
Ask God what he has for us, don't accept evidence AS-IS.(*27)
As a result, the Israelites made a covenant that cost them God's promise to them. Once they realized their mistake (only 3 days later), they went off to confront them. It was too little, too late. The deal was struck. They couldn't do a thing to change it. So they settled for the only thing they could do about it.
The Israelites made these people "...wood-cutters and water carriers."
A lesson learned.
The hard way.
A moment that was meant to be one thing, became another.
A check-mate demotion turned out to be a life-saving promotion for their enemy.
Well played kings from everywhere else. You suckered the Israelites to walking right past their sand dollar moment. Your distraction techniques kept the Israelites from slowing down, and kneeling down. For if they had, they'd have asked God what He had for them, rather than taking a false presentation as factual proof.
Don't take a false presentation as factual proof. (*28)
I think there are more SAND-DOLLAR MOMENTS in our life than we realize.
But we don't see them, because we live in FEAR of what it will take to experience them.
Have you ever heard this before?
False Evidence Appearing Real.
I think there is one more very important point thing we need to do moving forward...
Stop accepting FEAR as proof, and walk in FAITH.(*29)
Don't mail in your promise, because you are pre-occupied with your problems.
When we walk where most won't walk (in obedience), we will find what most won't find (our answer). Why? Because we've trusted God. Because we've trusted mentors God has placed in our lives. When we start having conversations with God we'll be able to respond to what He has for us. The alternative? Accepting evidence around us AS-IS, and reacting to our circumstances instead. That's mis-placed trust and more forfeited promises. Don't take a false presentation as factual proof. Lean on God to help you discern the difference between walking in FEAR and standing in FAITH. Because, at the end of the day, that's where we find the promises fulfilled that God has made over our lives all along.
25. You have to walk where most won't walk, to find what most won't find.
26. Mentors see obstacles we can't see.
27. Ask God what he has for us, don't accept evidence AS-IS.
28. Don't take a false presentation as factual proof.
29. Stop accepting FEAR as proof, and walk in FAITH.
25. Where do you need to go in your life so that you can experience what God has for you? Is it an actual place? A physical trip you need to take? A move? Is it simply going to a point that you place your trust in Christ for the first time ever? Do you need to walk into a relationship with him, rather than continuing to walk in frustration based on how you've lived your life...on your own...apart from him?
26. As you look around you, who can you go to as a mentor? In addition to the time you'll spend with God moving forward...who can you put around you...to keep you on course? Will you make the commitment to finding someone, so this goes from being just a good idea...to an implemented life-change?
27. What area(s) of your life do you need to ask God what He has for you? What area(s) of your life are you currently accepting evidence AS-IS instead?
28. What false presentations are you giving weight in your life? That you aren't good enough? That you don't have what it takes? That your past is too big to overcome? That your future is to scary to move into? (None of it is true by the way. You are enough just as you are. You have what it takes. Your past can inform your future. All of this is true as you place your trust in Christ to show it to you, as He shows Himself strong in and through you)
29. What one thing can you do today to stop accepting those fears as truth? What one thing can you do to simply...walk in FAITH?
*As you leave today, my prayer is that this will encourage you...
Philippians 4:6-7(NIV Version)
"(6)Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (7) And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
(Joshua Chapter 10)
Have you ever felt like the odds were stacked against you? That whatever it was you were attempting to do seemed more likely to fail than succeed? But at the same time...you knew that it was something you were supposed to do?
Let's look at a moment when Joshua was staring this feeling in the face, and how his response can be an encouragement to us, today.
No sooner than things seemed to be settling down a bit, Joshua received some news. 5 kings decided they were going to combine their forces and come after the people of Gibeon. (The Gibeonites were the people that had become the "woodcutters & water carriers" for the Israelites) As you might imagine, the people of Gibeon freaked out. They ran to Joshua and begged him for help. And in typical Joshua fashion, here was his response...
"Don't give them a second thought. I've put them under your thumb - not one of them will stand up to you."
Uhhh...easier to say chill, than feel it. At least that's what I imagine the Gibeonites reaction must have been. And then Joshua does something that might be easy to gloss over, but is a must that we pick up on.
"Joshua marched all night from Gilgal and took them by total surprise."
(Bold and italics mine)
Just because Joshua displayed confidence through his words, didn't mean he would stop walking in obedience with his feet.
There was work to be done, so that they could experience the promise they'd been given. And the reality is, the numbers weren't exactly in the Israelites favor. 5 kings, remember? All of their soldiers...ganging up on Gibeon and the Israelites.
Watch what happens once Joshua forges ahead despite the odds.
"God threw them into total confusion before Israel, a major victory at Gibeon...As they ran from the people of Israel...God pitched huge stones on them out of the sky and many died. More died from hailstones than the People of Israel killed with the sword."
Think about that for a moment.
Their victory had very little to do with their combat skills.
Their victory was the result of...you might say...a Hail Mary!
Let's bring this into what we are dealing with. Today's terms.
We have no problem lobbing up the Hail Mary prayer. BUT...we often, if we are truly being honest, proceed to sit and wait for the answer. I think we need to learn from the Israelites here. We need to "march all night". We need to go to the front lines, and trust that God will act on our behalf.
God didn't throw the hail stones until the Israelites showed up for work.
God isn't going to step in and act on our behalf either, until we show up for whatever it is He has called us to do.
Show up and ask for forgiveness.
Show up and spend time with our kids.
Show up and put in extra hours at work.
Show up and put in the work at the gym.
Show up and serve someone before we keep for ourselves.
Show up and...
When Joshua shows up he receives more than just hail stones, too. As he's continuing on, he realizes that the promise God made to him looks unlikely to happen. And the reason might seem simple. God's reaction is anything but.
Joshua and the Israelites were running out of daylight. (simple) So Joshua asks God to literally stop the sun and the moon. (not so simple) A simple man like Joshua challenges the God of the universe to do something never done before, and that has never been repeated, so that he could complete the task.
And God did it.
He stopped the sun.
He stopped the moon.
The day stood still.
The night stood still.
Joshua finished the work.
It was over.
How do hail stones and a hail mary prayer translate to our world, today?
When I was studying this part of the story, something jumped out to me. I think it's the reason we don't experience "hail stones" in our life.
We spend so much time fighting with one another, that we don't have the energy/focus left to hear from God about what he wants to fight for us on.
Let that really sink in.
Can you imagine if Joshua had spent time arguing with the Israelites about what God said/didn't say, instead of just acting? What if Joshua had stood there and told God that he was wrong? Or what if Joshua looked at his circumstances, and instead of trusting in what God had instructed, decided to deal with the situation how he saw fit?
In the simplest of terms, it's this...
We do 3 things...
We fight with one another.
We fight with God.
We fight off our circumstances.
Instead of this 1 thing...
Experience God fight FOR US.
The odds that are stacked against us today aren't insurmountable. But the way over them, through him, or around them will only be found in God dealing with them. The reason it feels like our efforts will fail is that, well...on our own, apart from God...they likely will. But neither stacked odds, or long odds...nor the feeling of being outmatched, is a reason to quit...when we are walking out the call of God on our lives.
Look around and ask yourself a few questions...
Am I allowing God to fight for me, as I walk obediently?
Am I spending my time doing HIS work, or fighting with others on how to do it?
Am I trusting that if God has called me to it, He will bring me through it?
Am I trusting the process He has promised, or the situation as I currently see it?
When we stop fighting with one another, with God, and against our circumstances...
we open our current reality to the only answer we need.
Like the Israelites.
Like the Gibeonites.
Experience God fight for you today.
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
Leave the hail stones up to God.
They are too heavy for us to lift anyway.
Stick with the hail mary prayers, and the obedient feet.
They are all we are called to lift.
Just one PERSPECTIVE POINT today.
It's enough to chew on for now.
FIGHTING WITH vs. FIGHTING FOR. (*30)
Are you fighting with one another?
Are you fighting against God?
Are you trying to fight off your circumstances?
Are you "marching all night" trusting God will show up and act on your behalf...where He has called you to go?
The end of Joshua 10 shares something very important. Remember the 5 kings that were trying to come after the Gibeonites in the beginning of the chapter? Here is the ending. Like any epic story that you start to sense the momentum shifting in. The ending we all want to happen...happens.
"Joshua took all these kings and their land in a single campaign because God, the God of Israel, fought for Israel."
When life gets hard...
Let God fight for you, too.
30. Are you fighting with one another? What area of your life do you need to set your verbal sword down, and stop swinging at each other with your words? Are you fighting with God? Where are you telling God all the reasons in your life why it won't, or can't work? When are you going to stop fighting against God's call on your life? Are you trying to fight off your circumstances by being clever in your own strength? When will you stop fighting in your own strength?
When are you going to let God fight for you?
(Joshua Chapter 11)
There are going to be moments in life when it seems like a break in the action has finally arrived...only to find out that more stuff is hitting the fan. That's about as honest as I can lay it out there. You sense an answer to prayer arriving, and on it's heels comes a twist you didn't see coming. Your joy collides with frustration. The long awaited breath of relief you are taking feels like someone put a shop vac on your lips and is taking it back with an even greater force.
That is where Joshua was standing in the beginning of chapter 11. Massive numbers of kings heard what was happening, and they pooled their resources. As in, "They came out in full force, all their troops massed together - a huge army, in number like sand on an ocean beach - to say nothing of all the horses and chariots...ready to fight against Israel."
Hence the aforementioned shop-vac reference.
At some point when enough stuff comes against you, it's like you are anticipating that if any good does come, it will be short-lived. That makes walking in faith pretty hard. I know...that's not the churchy pat answer you were thinking I'd say. It is, however, real. And so is life. But instead of tossing in the towel, Joshua stood in faith once again.
God's response to these new developments?
"Don't worry about them. This time tomorrow I'll hand them over to Israel."
And he did.
But not because Joshua had the chutzpa to take them on his own. In fact, it had everything to do with God acting on his behalf...again.
One of my favorite parts of this story is a verse in the middle of chapter 11.
"Just as God commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it. He didn't leave incomplete one thing that God had commanded Moses."
Not one thing incomplete.
Honestly...that's a tough pill to swallow.
Not. One. Thing.
Have you ever been at a point where you were frustrated, and wondered what you could have done different? Sometimes I think we keep looking for this massive shift that would have made the outcome different. And I think we are looking in the wrong places. We'd be well served to look at the smallest details we didn't think mattered.
If the details don't matter, neither does the outcome. (*31)
We see the big picture, but forget to walk out each step on the way. And we end up in a place where the big answer we are looking for was found in the small things we overlooked along the way.
The returned phone call.
The scheduling of an appointment.
The making time to be emotionally present with our kids.
The trusting God with our finances more, even when it makes less sense.
The honor we show someone we'd rather show the door.
That list could go on for a very long time. Frankly...it just scratches the surface. The few minutes we take to invest in someone will always be more important than what we could gain from keeping them for ourselves.
And before we go feeling sorry for ourselves, we'd do well to realize this too...
Cancel the Pity Party...it's not just about us. (*32)
It tells us that Joshua actually had to fight against the Kings that were after him for a long time. Remember, God said their enemies were toast. He'd wipe em' out. But he didn't say how long the whole thing would take.
And then this...
"It was God's idea that they would stubbornly fight the Israelites..."
Sometimes the answer we are looking for isn't about us. There is more at play. There are other people affected. And just because it doesn't make sense to us, doesn't mean God doesn't have a reason for the moment playing out the way it is.
It makes me think of a couple of verses in Isaiah 55 (verses 8 and 9)...
"I don't think the way you think. The way you work isn't the way I work. God's Decree. For as the sky soars high above the earth, so the way I work surpasses the way you work, and the way I think is beyond the way you think."
Are we content in the fact that sometimes...it's not about us?
It's not an easy question, but a necessary one.
And before you decide to bail on me because of the enormity of the ask I am making to you...to myself...to all of us, watch what happens next.
"Joshua took the whole region. He did everything that God had told Moses. Then he parceled it out as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribes. AND ISRAEL HAD REST FROM WAR." (Caps, Bold & Italics mine)
Rest comes after the resistance, if we are diligent in our obedience. (*33)
We talked at the beginning about how it's hard to catch your breath when you feel like the emotional shop-vac moment is just around the corner.
My encouragement for you, me...all of us, today?
We can't live life in fear of what could take the wind out of us, and miss the contentment that comes when we invite the presence of Jesus all around us.
Israel did experience rest in their heart.
And so will we.
After they did, and we will, do everything God commands us to.
If you sense God laying it on your heart, walk it out in your life. You don't need to be perfect, just present. You don't have to wait to start until you have the right words, you just need to be willing to start the conversation. You don't have to feel qualified, you just need to respond.
Letting Jesus fill in the gaps where we can't see how it matters.
That is the space we need to live in.
But the only way to set up camp there, is to walk in that direction.
The last thing that happens is a pretty cool reminder of the blessings that arrive through this life of obedience we are talking about.
Our surplus is someone else's sustenance. (*34)
The hot topic of taking care of others leads the news in lots of ways today. The answer we are looking for is closer than we think, and requires a whole lot less paper work and policy. When we'll walk where God is asking us to go, there will be more than enough to go around when it's needed most.
(31) If the details don't matter, neither does the outcome.
(32) Cancel the pity party...it's not just about us.
(33) Rest comes after the resistance, if we are diligent in our obedience.
(34) Our surplus is someone else's sustenance.
(31) What have you walked past in your hurry to get to the answer that likely matters more than you've given it credit for? What details have been overlooked that are the key to building a foundation the answer you are looking for can support?
(32) When is the last time you stopped...and considered the fact that what you are going through...maybe, just maybe has more of an impact on others than you realize?
(33) Are you more in love with the idea of rest than the implementation of walking out what you need to be? Are you willing to let Jesus fill in the gaps on the way, rather than have an emotionally bullet-proof plan (those don't exist btw...) in place before you start?
(34) Where is there an area of surplus in your life that should be the sustenance for someone else's? In your finances? In your time? In your encouragement? Some? All? More areas I haven't even mentioned?
It's your move...what are you waiting for?
(Joshua Chapter 12)
The 12th chapter of Joshua could put you to sleep.
Seriously, it's a list of the kings that Moses and Joshua defeated. Lots of names. Many of them hard to pronounce, and none of them I'd bet you've heard of before you read their names.
So, that begs the question, why bother?
This chapter of Ocean Road has tripped me up for a while. Actually, for about a year. I stopped writing after the last chapter somewhere near the end of 2015. And as I sit to write today, it is November 15, 2016.
After a lot of thought, I'm going to toss out one point that has landed on my heart recently. A thought that I need to hear, and is challenging me to act in faith in ways I haven't in a long time.
So here goes...
There is a literary battle between two words that we need to tackle.
It tells us that Moses defeated 2 kings, and gave the land they gained as an inheritance to three different tribes of people. (For you history buffs he gave the land to the people of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh's tribe).
It also tells us that Joshua defeated 31 kings, and that he gave the land they gained as a possession. (It says he gave it to the tribes of Israel, not naming specific ones. I'd venture to guess that everyone else that didn't get land from Moses, got hooked up here).
That's what made me curious.
The difference between how the land was handled.
And here is what I figured out.
When you inherit something, it's given to you after someone has died.
When you possess something, you own it right there and then, at that moment.
You wait for an inheritance, and you can receive it by saying yes.
You have a possession, but you have work to do to make it happen.
How does this matter in reference to the story in Joshua?
I recently came across some sermons from the late Charles Spurgeon. I have to admit, I don't usually study sermons from great orators and preachers from the 1800's. And at the risk of sounding vain, I felt really smart to be able to say I was doing it. Lame. I get it. But past my own pride, I began to run into thoughts from Spurgeon that helped me unpack the 12th chapter of Joshua.
I found a sermon by Spurgeon talking about, you guessed it, inheritance & possession.
He hinted that we are leaving something on the table.
In our waiting to receive an inheritance later,
we are forfeiting the opportunity to take possession of our calling today.
Soak that up.
Are we sitting on our butts, when we could be taking hold of something greater, today?
We can rest assured that we will receive the full inheritance of living in heaven with Christ after our death someday, if we receive him today. There is no doubt about that. And my words here are not, in any way shape or form, to lessen that blessing.
What is heavy on my heart, is the thought that there is more to do here, before we go there. What if our efforts here, could bless someone else, so they received the inheritance to a life with Christ in heaven one day, too? What if how we lived our life before our daisy pushing days came...relieved pain, gave encouragement, and helped heal people who were hurting mentally, emotionally, or physically?
And the only perspective point in this chapter came to me, not on the banks of North Carolina, but as I wrote back in my office in New York. Over a year later. I think I finally landed on it. Humbled by it. Convicted by it. Inspired by it. By this...
Our ignorance is holding others back from their deliverance. (*35)
"No part of scripture is of private interpretation - no bit of the promised country may be hedged in as the peculiar portion of a few. It all belongs to all the redeemed if they have but faith to make it their own."
from "Taking possession of our inheritance. Sermon #2086"
Yeah, I realize the lack of subtlety there.
I'm hit by it, too.
I'm reminded of my own selfishness.
I'm reflective on where I've missed opportunities.
And it's that reflection that needs to release us in a new direction.
Maybe that's what we can all take from a list of names in the book about an Old Testament guy like Joshua. Maybe it's a reminder that our life isn't about waiting for an inheritance, but rather walking in faith to take hold of something greater.
I'll leave us with one more quote from the Spurgeon in his sermon I mentioned above.
"Why should you hesitate? You blame the sinner when he delays. Surely the saint is to be blamed, too, when he also linger."
I mean, I don't know if you have that lump in the throat, kick in the pants, holy crap feeling after hearing that. I sure do.
That's what I mean about things getting specific.
When we understand the subtle clues in the difference between two words. When we embrace the opportunity to possess our calling, so others can receive their inheritance.
When we get specific, we can truly make an impact.
(35) Our ignorance is holding others back from their deliverance
35. Where have you been holding back? What have you settled in to comfortably, that you could and should be stepping away from to invite others to Christ? What simple step can you take today to better someone else's world? How can you show love, grace, mercy, compassion, etc...into the part of the world God has given you to impact? How can you take hold (possession of) what God is asking of you today, so that others will also be able to receive the inheritance of a life with Christ?
(Joshua Chapter 13)
As Chapter 13 starts it seems like maybe God is telling Joshua it's time for him to retire. "You've had a good, long life, but there is a lot of land still to be taken." At first glance, it's as if God is trying to let Joshua off easy, with a young executive waiting in the wings to take his place.
But shortly after the Lord describes the territory left to be taken, a promise is made that will keep Joshua on the scene. "I myself will drive them out before the People of Israel. All you have to do is allot this land to Israel as an inheritance, as I have instructed you."
The last four words...the ones I added bold and italics too?
That's the point that we often miss.
(*36) In our weakness, He is strong.
His instructions to trust his ability are wiser than anything we could think, say, or do.
We see old age. God sees the perfect opportunity to work through us. We see lack. God sees the perfect moment to provide. We see a lack of education. God sees it as the perfect time to put the words that need to be spoken on our hearts so they come off our lips.
Can you see the trend?
When God is the only one that can move the boundary, He is the only one who can receive the glory.
So the next time the task seems to large, remember where your strength comes from.
"I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains? No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.
He won’t let you stumble, your Guardian God won’t fall asleep. Not on your life! Israel’s Guardian will never doze or sleep.
God’s your Guardian, right at your side to protect you— Shielding you from sunstroke, sheltering you from moonstroke.
God guards you from every evil, he guards your very life. He guards you when you leave and when you return, he guards you now, he guards you always."
The moment we realize that what we see as a limitation God sees as an opportunity, our life starts to shift. We don't try to run from those moments, as much as we start to see the value in sitting in them and being still.
(36) In our weakness, He is strong.
36. What area(s) in our life does it seem like we have no strength left? Have we asked God to fight for us? Are we willing to see our limitation(s) as God's opportunity? Do we value resting in his presence? Do we trust that there is a bigger picture we may not be able to see today, that if we remain obedient and dependent on and to Him, it will all work out?
*Practice patience today. Sit. Allow the quiteness around you, to become a platform for God to do his greatest works through you. And when it's all said and done, point the praise back to the source.
(Joshua Chapter 14)
Have you ever felt forgotten?
I'm not talking about how someone stood you up once for a date, or picked you up really late to go somewhere. Yeah, those moments aren't fun. What I am referring to is like 45 years worth of forgotten?
What if someone told you they were going to do something for you, as long as you lived up to your end of the bargain? Sounds good so far, doesn't it? Now...what if days, weeks, and months went by and they didn't say anything else about it? Seems weird, right? What if those months turned into years? "Must be they had no intention of following through" would be about the last thought you gave it outside of holding a grudge on it. And I wouldn't blame you.
And then the guy that made the promise died?
Whelp...there goes any last trace of hope it would be honored.
And then, you and your friends decide one thing is worth a shot. You approach the predecessor of the guarantor, and tell them the promise that was made to you. Unbeknownst to you they actually knew the entire time the promise that was made 45 years ago to you.
And then this happened...
"Joshua blessed him. He gave Hebron to Caleb...as an inheritance...because he gave himself totally to God."
It's entirely possible that our timeline is very different than God's. And while I understand that isn't what we always want to hear, there is something more important in this chapter than land, and how God responds to time.
(*36)Keeping our word matters more than the keeping of time.
If we say we are going to do something, our feet had better be willing to walk those steps out. Keeping our word isn't based on the convenience of our current circumstances. It isn't based on what is more popular in a moment. And that's the hard part. Every time we run into an option that rears it's head as the author of temptation in our life, we have a choice to make.
Do we honor our word, or holler to be heard?
Do we stay the course, or allow the wind of opinion to blow us off course?
I would imagine that there were plenty of times that Caleb felt forgotten in the midst of that time. Seeing others gain land, and receive their inheritance. How many times must he have been wondering if the land they had been given was actually meant for him, and it was just lost in transaltion along the way?
Have you ever been there before...caught up in the middle of daydreaming about what you felt was unfair? Drowning in self-pity and despair? I have. I've watched other people get jobs that I was certain I should have. I've seen people promoted, while I lost a job, and wondered why the Lord had forgotten about me. I don't know if I could have articulated it like that when it happened, but looking back I can piece together the feelings a bit more clearly.
I tell ya what...
45 years would be a REALLY long time to live in jealousy, regret, self-pity or anything else that stole my joy. I find a TON of hope in Caleb's story. The fact that, according to Joshua, he stayed the course. Caleb didn't waiver. Now...hear me when I say this...not that he wouldn't have had doubts or frustrations. BUT...he didn't let it take root long enought to grow into a mature problem in his life. The kind that given enough time could offer shade to cry under, or strength to build a temporary home in. And in either case they would be situations where we had not only gone, but stayed off course.
Caleb's willingness to make the initial journey to spy out the land was honorable. His integrity to stay the course and remain committed to God as he waited? Ladies and gentleman...that is the stuff legends are made of.
That is the stuff I want to be made of.
I'd be willing to bet you do, too.
Keeping our word matters more than what the hands on the clock of time are doing. Afterall, the reward we are really after isn't here anywhere.
(*37) Sowing seeds of patience reaps contentment.
One last note...
If Caleb had given in to his frustrations and stopped following God's plan for his life, he could have missed out on what was always meant to be part of his legacy. And I'm not even talking about the land. That was just a tangible blessing. The larger blessing is the legacy of obedience he left to his family and friends.
If he had just rolled with what was easy, he wouldn't have rolled very far at all.
(*38) Preference stalls the engine that vision started.
He stuck to what he knew was true, and didn't trade it for what he couldn't see.
If you asked me, that is what legends are made of.
(*36) Keeping our word matters more than the keeping of time.
(*37) Sowing seeds of patience reaps contentment.
(*38) Preference stalls the engine that vision started.
36. What are you struggling to keep your word with today? Who can you confide in, so that the word you made stands, and you don't feel alone in the process? Who can you support that might be in the same situation that you are?
37. When is the last time you stopped and celebrated the markers along the way of your journey? You know...the ones where it was really hard, but you pushed through. Do you struggle allowing yourself those moments? To celebrate the wins on the way? If you do...stop. You deserve to rejoice in the process, not be burdened by it.
38. Have you ever experience a "45 year moment"? Obviosuly it doesn't have to be that exact number. BUT...have you waited a really long time for something to resolve itself? What did it feel like when it happened? How can you take that lesson and be a blessing to someone else today to encourage them on their "45 year moment" journey? And before you leave...do you know how much God loves you? Seriously...someone is sitting here saying to themselves "Brett, I am still waiting, and it may never come this side of heaven." Take a deep breath and remember our eternal rewards will always trump our temporal ones, and that keeping our word really does matter more than the keeping of time. Be encouraged, friend. You aren't alone. Not by a long shot. Hey, the Levites never received any land. Their inheritance looked very different, but it didn't make them any less significant.
(Joshua Chapter 15)
There is something about Chapter 15 of Joshua that can go completely unnoticed. I'll be honest...there have been many, many times that I have raced past, scanned over, or blatantly ignored (thinking it couldn't possibly have any value) any part of the Bible where a list appears. Do you know what I mean? Have you been there? You are reading along and you bump into a list of this dude begat that dude who begat another name you couldn't pronounce. All of your best intentions to read your Bible turned into either shutting it and doing something else, or falling asleep due to the sheer boredom of something that seemed pointless.
Is that too harsh? Sorry...for me, it's real. When I've seen lists of names and places in the Bible I haven't always found much I can learn from them. Until recently. I wish I could tell you why. I wish it happened a whole lot earlier in life, to be honest. But for whatever reason, it didn't. But...I'll take it. I'm seeing things I've never seen, in parts of scripture I've previously ignored.
Enter Joshua 15.
At first glance, you see a list of places. And most of that list I struggle to even pronouce the names with some semblence of accuracy.
And then I noticed something.
Lots of water.
In Joshua 3 we walked through (figuratively for us, literally for the Israelites) the Jordan. We watched water pile up, and the Ocean Road concept come into full focus.
Now, in Joshua 15 we think we are looking at a simple dividing of properties. Like, a really boring meeting with a surveyor, and the local whoevers that plot land.
...the tip of the Salt Sea...
...the Brook of Egypt,...
, ending at the Sea.
: the Salt Sea...
...the mouth of the Jordan.
...the shallows of the Sea...
...the mouth of the Jordan,...
...the waters of En Shemesh....
...to the spring,...
...the waters of Nephtoah,...
: the coastline of the Great Sea.
...the upper and lower pools.
...to the sea,...
,,,the Brook of Egypt.
The Great Sea...
Sixteen different references of water, all talking about one thing.
Side note: Remember that the number 8 in the Bible means "New Beginnings". I get a sense that the Lord setting 16 references to water as a boundary in place is a reminder to us that new beginnings can come from what we see as firm limitations....boundaries. And not just 8....16. DOUBLE. Toss it in the "for what it's worth" category if you want to.
That, in and of itself, was interesting to me. That they kept defning boundaries not just in terms of land, and landmarks. They were doing it most often with water.
And here is what I hear in that.
Water was the very boundary that seemed to have the Israelites trapped...done in...toast. It was the one boundary that they had no ability to move past, or get through. It wasn't just a boundary, in Joshua 3 it very much looked like a death sentence. It looked like the end. It looked like there was absolutely, positively, NO WAY to get past that boundary.
Have you ever felt like there was an obstacle like that in your life?
I'd dare say there has been something for all of us, that has felt immovable.
And as scary and unsettling as that can feel, here is what I am learning.
(*39)When we recognize our boundaries, we'll stay on course.
What if we stopped seeing boundaries as the things that hold us back?
I think before we begrudge the boundary, there are a couple of things we could learn from them, so that we can experience a joy in life as we leverage them.
1. Boundaries keep us focused on doing what we can do, with what we have, where we are. Limitations aren't stopping points. They allow us to perform at our best within the safety of the borders they provide. Any more ground to cover at certain moments in life could be the very thing that at least would distract us, and at worse de-rail us.
2. Boundaries that look immovable are breeding grounds for a miracle. If everything in life is left only to us to work out, at some point our tires will blow out. There is a limit to our abilities. At some point human strength hits a wall. And it's in those moments, that God has the ability to show up and show off. He reminds us that when we are weak, He is strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
What we see as our limitations...what we see as our end?
I'm more certain now than ever before, that if we live a life as patient as Caleb's, we have the potential of experiencing water-moving miracles.
When I was writing my notes on this book, and walking the beaches, I kept experiencing thoughts like "You've never been on this road before."
It's starting to really click now.
An Ocean Road is every moment in our life that we see a boundary, and the Lord see's it as the exact moment to step in and do what only He can do. To choose the beautiful expression of His love for us...to CHOOSE to work through us. To peel back waters. To make ways where we see no ways.
(*40) Boundaries are the birthplace of miracles.
It's a huge perspective shift, and I realize it isn't always easy to see it in the moment. BUT...when we do? Man, oh man...things change.
(*39)When we recognize our boundaries, we'll stay on course.
(*40) Boundaries are the birthplace of miracles.
39. When you look around at your life, what do you see as your boundaries? Have you been angry and frustrated that they exist, or thankful that God can move you beyond them in ways unimaginable to us? If you were to pick one boundary that you can commit to seeing as a blessing what would it be? Will you share it with a close friend that can hold you accountable to allow the Lord to do with it what he pleases?
40. What miracle are you waiting for? Say it out loud. Can you turn your back to the boundary and see...just like the Israelites saw their foes...hard times pressing in? What one thing can you do right now to be content in those moments? Is it easy? Let me answer that for us...no way, no how, no when. Is it a promise in scripture that if God has called us to something...much like he did with Joshua...that He can and will move on our behalf?
*BONUS: This is way easier to read in print, than put into practice. How do I know that? I'm in that moment right now. We've either been there before, are now, or will be again. Just know you aren't alone. It's an "us" thing. Find your confidants, and share your heart. It's very likely that when you do...not only will you feel blessed...but so will they when they realize they aren't alone either. We need one another. Don't go it alone. Find comfort in linking arms, standing with our backs to our specific waters edge. Then watch as God shows up, shows off, and reminds us where our strength comes from.
(Joshua, Chapter 16)
More boundaries by the sea.
In a nutshell, that is what Chapter 16 of Joshua talks about. We found out where the people connected to Joseph and Ephraim settled down.
But as I looked back on the rest of my notes from this day, something happened. Something pretty significant. At first glance, this chapter and day would have been pretty easy to skim over.
Have you ever been going through your day, week, month, year...and everything seemed pretty normal...only to have a bombshell of a notion dropped on you? I think we can all relate to that on some level. Sometimes that results in what feels like extra weight on us, and other times, a burden lifted off of us. We'd all rather that latter.
On August 13, 2015 a weight lifted. I'll do my best to share the thoughts that came to me, in hopes that as you read this, a weight lifts for you, too.
(*41) We want the inheritance that comes from the investment, without making the deposit.
There are times in life when we can't figure out why the needle on our relationships doesn't move. Why we don't feel more connected. Why all cylinders aren't clicking. It's because we aren't making the deposit emotionally. Drip by drip. Word by word. Comment by comment. If we want to experience joy relationally, we have to ask ourselves what we are bringing to the journey emotionally. Do we lift one another up, or tear down? Do we anticipate needs, or make excuses?
Let's take the idea of making an emotional deposit one step further.
There are actually two types of deposits.
The first is one we make into an account we can draw from. Our account. We agree with ourselves to do with less now, in order to have something to count on later. We can go back and draw from the encouragement of that commitment when we need it. But if that is the only kind of deposit we make, it ends up a pretty shallow existence.
Why is that?
Because emotional deposits, by their nature, are meant for others. We can die with a million dollars in our savings, and it will have done nothing to change the world around us. It works the same way with our hearts. All the intent, and none of the delivery, means we've been an emotional miser. We need to be able to release some of our emotional energy into the people around us, if we want our lives to make an impact.
So let's talk about the deposit that is made into the life of someone else.
The very act of making a deposit into an account that isn't ours, means we have less than we did when we started. That kind of deposit requires doing without, or less, now...so that we'll have something valuable later. The words we release from our lips, and the actions from our hands and feet leave a void in us, so that it fills the heart of someone we care about. But here's the thing...that usually comes back as an investment well made. It tends to multiply and boomerang back.
(*42) Stop pushing the boundaries, and start honoring the one who put them there.
The next thought that tugged on my heart that day was this:
Perhaps there is symbolism in the fact that God used water to define boundaries, because he alone held the power to move them. It defied logic that water could be heaped up, stopped up, and moved the way that God did.
Here's another way to see it: When logic is defied, God is glorified.
Put another way: When God is the only one who can move the boundary, He is the only one who can receive the Glory.
Those thoughts start to put a lot in perspective, don't they?
If you aren't sure whether you agree with that, I get it. We've all struggled with the thought that we wouldn't be the one to call all the shots. We struggle when we stare down relational, physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual obstacles in our lives. It was water for the people of Joshua's time. We have boats, planes, jet skis, water skis, helicopters, and hang gliders to get past the whole water obstacle. So water isn't the obstacle. But we have ours, don't we?
The point is simply this: There are going to be times in our lives when we have an obstacle in front of us, that we have 0% ability to move.
We can either fight the fact that we can't change the circumstances, or call on the only who can. And then we stand in a "no matter what" faith stance. What is that? A whole lot easier said than done, but necessary nonetheless. That NO MATTER WHAT, we will trust the plans that the Lord has for us. If he removes the obstacle, great. And if he leaves it there, great. NO MATTER WHAT, we trust in his vision and decision for our lives. Whether it makes sense right now, years later, or not until the other side of heaven.
I realize the magnitude of the ask I am making of you. Of me. Of all of us.
My father-in-law passed away when he was 43 years old.
Can someone tell me how that is fair? Can someone tell me why God didn't remove the cancer, like he stopped up the water for the Israelites? I still can't figure that one out.
Yet, we move forward. We trust. We live. We see at a heart-level our need to trust in the Lord for a peace that passes all understanding, because understanding can sometimes fail our human brains.
And all of it will be ok. Not any easier at times. But ok. Why? Because the older I get, the more I sense that there is something WAY bigger than my needs, my understanding, and limited way of seeing life that is happening.
It was at this point, that I felt prompted to read another passage of scripture. I was sitting in the wooden adirondack chair on the house deck, letting my mind wander, and being pretty simplistic about the morning. I didn't take but a few moments to read chapter 16, so that is how I spent the remainder of my time. And it popped into my head.
Read Isaiah 51.
Here are a few of the verses that jumped off the page to me, as I applied them to the previous thoughts I was having.
"Pay attention, my people. Listen to me, nations. Revelation flows from me. My decisions light up the world."
The answer(s) we are looking for aren't something we have to look harder for. We'd actually do better to slow down, and do what this says. Pay attention. Listen.
These are the other verses that stood out, as I read Isaiah 51:
"One solitary man when I called him, but once I blessed him, he multiplied."
"My setting things right will never be obsolete."
"And didn't you once dry up the sea, the powerful waters of the deep, And then made the bottom of the ocean a road for the redeemed to walk across."
DID YOU SEE THAT?
I bolded and italicized it so you wouldn't miss it.
This was one of those "AHAAA!" moments. Somehow, I stayed out of my own way just long enough, and this happened. I had decided to pay attention...to listen. I intentionally asked the Lord to show me something. And he began to reveal this teaching. It was one thing to be reading Joshua. But what blew me away was how I felt led to read Isaiah 51, and how it aligned so perfectly with what I had been reading in Joshua.
Seriously...you can't make this stuff up.
I was beginning to understand that something much larger was happening on that porch in North Carolina.
And then this, towards the end of Isaiah 51:
"For I am God, your very own God, who stirs up the sea and whips up the waves."
He can whip it up, and stop it completely.
He does the whipping up and the stopping. And somewhere in the middle I've gotten really good at the whining and complaining because of my lack of understanding. Can you relate to that?
That Thursday on a North Carolina porch was a pretty profound moment in my journey with Christ. I wish you could have been there, too. You'll have to trust me when I say it happened as I just wrote about.
The very next morning, 7:36am to be exact, a thought came to me:
(*43) Gain as much knowledge as you can, so that your opinion doesn't cloud your judgement.
A humbling reminder that my opinion doesn't matter in the presence of a God who is simply trying to whisper truth to me. If I'm willing to be still...pay attention...listen, things change.
Wait until you see where we are headed over the next few chapters.
For now, let's finish off with some more of our reflection questions.
(*41) We want the inheritance that comes from the investment, without making the deposit.
(*42) Stop pushing the boundaries, and start honoring the one who put them there.
(*43) Gain as much knowledge as you can, so that your opinion doesn't cloud your judgement.
41. What deposits have you made in the lives of those you have influence into? What words of encouragement can you deposit? What actions can you take? What sacrifice(s) might you need to make so that you can do this? Who have you confided in, so that this becomes an intentional part of your life's journey, rather than something that fades because it lacked the accountability it needed to make it happen?
42. What are the boundaries you've been begrudging that you need to work within, and start leveraging?
43. What are you doing to intentionally pursue knowledge? Are you making time to simply sit and listen? To slow down? To unplug? What time of day works best for you to do this? Identify it. Make the adjustment(s) you need to, so that you can commit to it, and experience real life change as a result of it.
(Joshua Chapter 17)
Ocean Road Book update...
It's been a while since the last chapter was written. With the break in the writing came the need to re-read, re-fresh, and prepare to share from the original notes I took while on our family's vacation back where this journey all started a couple of summer's ago.
The cool part is, as time has passed, I have even more perspective to share. It'll be a little of what I learned initially, and what has jumped out to me as I've studied the chapters again intentionally. I'm stoked to share it with you.
So let's jump back in...
If we aren't careful we can read so fast through the next few chapters that all we see is more names we can't pronounce. We get a steady dose of geography, directions, and where people were settling in to live. It can feel kind of like reading the phone book. Riveting, I know.
Something REALLY cool happens in the 17th, 18th, and 19th chapters of Joshua that is like finding hidden treasure. I'm going to share three words with you right now that tie the three chapters together.
One word per chapter. I'll explain more in a bit.
Joshua, Chapter 17: The Clearing.
"It's nothing but trees now, but you will clear the land and make it your own from one end to the other." (The Message version)
Here's the backstory:
What happens when the inheritance given to us doesn't seem like enough for us? Perhaps we aren't experiencing a lack of opportunity or provision in our lives at all. It might just be that in order to experience all the the Lord has set to give us depends on work we need to do.
The Tribe of Manasseh was receiving their inheritance in this chapter, but they became a little, shall we say, obstinate. They started to whine, mumble, and feel a little sorry for themselves. I imagine their version of what receiving an inheritance should look like would be more like a Super Bowl party and less like work.
Hence the word I mentioned previously: CLEARING.
Sometimes our "inheritance", doesn't come pre-packaged/easy. Whatever we think we deserve requires us to check our ego and dump a bucket of hard work water on the fire in our belly that is entitlement.
In this chapter, the crew from Manasseh decided they needed a little break. (v.13) They where tired. Reading between the lines it seems like they mustered up enough energy to do some work, just not the quality they were capable of. They stopped short. They settled. Instead of driving the Canaanites out, they let them work for them. It was easier that way, but it wasn't the best way.
Have you ever been there?
Close enough. Good enough. That'll do.
The whole pie is more valuable than a slice.
They were content with a partial promise, but God wanted to give them the whole thing.
And as the story continued, (v.14) the people took it one step further. Not only were they stopping short, they were attempting to complain that they got the short end of the stick. The people complained about the lack of land. And here's the point.
Don't ask for a hand-out, when you are given a hand-up.
Work for it.
(*44)We need to see the forest for the trees by seeing our situation differently...as opportunity.
There are times in our life where the next great thing in our lives is absolutely going to depend on our ability to see things from 30,000 feet. Our human instincts to complain about the obstacles we see in our immediate path need to take a back seat to the opportunity that is there once we get them out of our way. We don't always have a lack problem, we have a looking problem. We have more than we need, but we are going to have to bust our tails and work for it.
For the people of Joseph, it meant literally clearing a forest.
Much like the call that Haggai makes when he charges the people, and leaders of his day to finish building the Temple, instead of their own homes and comfy lives first.
This is what the Lord Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored," says the Lord.
Work. Legit, hard work.
And this is what Joshua did next...
In the middle of their temper-tantrum, Joshua lays down a challenge. He offers them more, but receiving it will depend on their response. (v.15)
He tells them to "go up into the forest and CLEAR LAND for yourselves."
See it again?
GO UP INTO.
Hit the road, Jack. Bust your tail. Get er' done. Roll your sleeves up. Dig in. Time to climb, get after it, and you'll see what's waiting for you on the other side of it.
Now, you'd think that would have done the trick, right? Joshua dropped a pretty solid half-time speech. Certainly the people put on their favorite runners and were off.
The people of Joshua replied, "The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the plain and have iron chariots, both those in Beth Shan and its settlements and this in the Valley of Jezreel."
Waaaahhhhh...this isn't fair! The hill country isn't enough. We're getting a raw deal.
The real issue?
The flat land had enemies in it, that they were scared they couldn't remove from it.
Joshua told them to clear more land and they'd have enough room. Sweet, problem solved. But instead of grabbing an axe and getting to work, they shifted to the next excuse they could find. And honestly...I think this was their issue all along.
Their enemies had heavy machinery, and they were scared out of their minds that they wouldn't be able to take them on. The trees were a convenient cover up for their real concern: The Canaanites.
Who are your Canaanites?
Come on...we all have them. It's figurative, not literal. But we all have them. Some obstacle that we never fess up to being afraid of, so we put up a false wall of excuses to anyone that will listen so we don't have to admit it.
The trees were their false wall, the Canaanites were what really terrified them.
The sooner we can remove the hay bails of excuses we stack, the better off we'll be, so we can take down the real issue in our heart that is holding us back.
How about a few practical examples:
It's not about the other people you are up against for the job, it's the very real fear of being seen as not qualified, or a failure when you don't get the interview, or the job...so you don't send in your resume.
It's not the busy work schedule you have, it's admitting you could be done sooner, but then you'd have to actually be a better spouse, parent, or friend. The long hours make you look like a hero, but being present in the lives of those closest to you scares the crap out of you.
It's not that eating healthier is more expensive, or that you can't afford a new wardrobe if you drop the weight, or that the medicine helping you isn't on your insurance...it's you having to admit you need someone to hold you accountable, and you are worried you'll bail from the process that you need to commit to so you are living the healthy lifestyle you need to so that you can stay on this earth.
I could go on and on. The fact is, there isn't one of us that doesn't complain about the forest for the trees. There isn't one of us that is fooling anyone about what the real issue(s) is/are. God sees it in us, just like he saw it in the people of Joseph. They were whining about lumber, when it was really about feeling inferior.
See the correlation in our lives?
So what do we do next?
CLEAR THE LAND.
We need to do what we can, with what we have, where we are.
We can't worry about what might happen a few steps down the road, we have to simply bring our best effort to what is right in front of us, and trust in the Lord that he knows what is best for us.
Look at what Joshua tells them in the next verse (v. 17)
But Joshua said to the house of Joseph-to Ephraim and Manasseh- "You are numerous and very powerful. You will have not 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."
Cue applause. Cue Hollywood orchestra. Cue whatever is banging around in your head and heart right now that will get you up out of your pity party, and on to clearing whatever obstacle, land, or otherwise is serving as a giant, negative, distraction in your life right now.
That's Joshua, Chapter 17. That's only one third of the meat on the bone that is:
CLEARING. CALLING. COVERING.
For now, let's hit pause and look at some reflection questions. But once that time is over, get ready to move from CLEARING...to Chapter 18...THE CALLING.
(*44)We need to see the forest for the trees by seeing our situation differently...as opportunity.
What "land" do you need to clear in your life right now?
What "work" do you need to do?
What "promise" have you been shown that hinges on your diligence to work for it?
What "limitation" are you complaining about, that was actually given to you to grow you as you overcame it?
What "though" challenge ("though the Canaanites have iron chariots, and though they are strong, you can drive them out.") do you need to push through to unlock all that God has for you?
How to PUSH THROUGH a challenge, and MOVE INTO your calling.
We will unpack THE CALLING in the next chapter, Joshua 18.
How do we see the promises of God fulfilled in our lives? We're sitting on the answer. Here it is...
Joshua, Chapter 18: The Calling
"How long are you going to sit around on your hands, putting off taking possession of the land that God, the God of your ancestors has given you?"
That section of Scripture in Joshua, Chapter 18 is powerful.
It hits me right in the heart. It humbles me. It reminds me. It implores me.
And most transparently, it calls to me.
I think about times where I have "sat on my hands" when I should have been standing to my feet. And then I look at the back half of that phrase...
"...the land that God...has given you."
Do you see it?
We complain, whine, and refuse to move. And to be honest, we don't even have an excuse that makes sense. We've been told that it will all work out in the end, but somehow we've managed to miss that point, and stall out.
If Chapter 17 was about A CLEARING, Chapter 18 is about OUR CALLING.
And one word comes into play that we must embrace in order to live in it.
Our calling isn't an uber service. It's not a fast food drive-through.
We want to be dropped off at our destination, and have something handed to us along the way. But how do we intend to pay for it, if we haven't worked for it?
Our calling is W-O-R-K.
Too often we want to see a completely clear picture before we take the first step.
In Joshua 18 we see the incredible detail involved for them to receive their promise.
They had to survey the land. And they weren't doing it in a brand new Chevy Tahoe. They were on foot. They walked to the point of exhaustion. They were very likely tired, sore, and in need of rest. Then...once they had the coordinates, they needed to put it to paper. They had to build a presentation for Joshua. And with their surveying behind them, and work in their hands, they made their way back to camp to wait on the word from Joshua.
It's going to take an intentional commitment to a process for our progress.
It's also going to take obedience in the face of convenience.
When a short-cut looks more attractive, we'll need to be extra attentive.
Every number. Every line. Every word.
How does that story translate into our world today?
Far too often we take an "I'll know it when I see it" approach to life.
What does that mean?
We wait for things to be dropped in our lap, when what we need to be doing is moving, mapping, and presenting. We need to be rolling up our sleeves and working for what comes next if we want to see the process reveal our blessing.
(*45) Sitting on our hands prevents us from taking possession of God's promises.
We sit around like pros. Sometimes we even call it prayer. Sorry if that's uncomfortable, but I think it's true. Now, there's nothing wrong with being still. Nothing wrong with quiet moments in prayer. It's when still and quiet become our permanent posture that we begin to get ourselves into trouble.
When we have been called to move, we need to learn the discipline of praying on the way. Prayer, fasting, and obedience move together. They are three strands that braid a source of strength directly from the Lord that we can hang onto.
How do we see the promises of God fulfilled in our lives?
We're sitting on the answer.
We need to grab the rope, and pull ourselves up off our hands.
It's time to get to work.
(*45) Sitting on our hands prevents us from taking possession of God's promises.
Who can you reach out to that will be an accountability partner in this with you?
What are you being called to do that convenience is distracting you from?
What short-cuts are getting your attention that have become a distraction?
A CLEARING: It's about preparation.
A CALLING: It's about work.
A COVERING: The Blessing.
That's coming in Chapter 19.
Joshua, Chapter 19: The Covering
There are two parts to chapter 19 that stood out to me.
The first is where it talks about how Simeon received their inheritance.
We've talked about the preparation and work that goes into the process. An inheritance doesn't just show up. It doesn't get dropped in our lap because of our interest in it. The reality is, everyone would love one. That said, there can be a notion that everything we've worked for is ours. Wait...isn't that the point? For the past two chapters I've repeatedly said that if we want something we have to work for it. So...now we have...and I'm hinting that everything we've worked for isn't necessarily just ours?
Look at this verse:
"The inheritance of Simeon came out of the share of Judah, because Judah's portion turned out to be more then they needed. That's how the people of Simeon came to get their lot from within Judah's portion."
Look at the italics.
We need to do the clearing as we pursue our calling.
Along the way we are to be a blessing.
There's the curveball.
We've seen the word blessing, and thought it was about what we would receive.
When we can see that receiving a blessing isn't a destination but rather a point of distribution, we have the ability to impact the lives of those around us in a big way.
Judah had plenty. They had worked for it, yes. But they had more than they needed.
Now here is where things get really interesting.
There is nothing to indicate that Simeon was being lazy. Because of that, I think we can reasonably deduce that they had been working hard as well. They had done their part. They had rolled up their sleeves, leaned into the work, and did what they could.
There are going to be times in life when people are down on their luck. They've done all they could, and seem to be fighting an uphill battle. Their needs are glaring, but no matter what they do, they just can't seem to get ahead.
I believe we are being taught here in Joshua 19 that if we have plenty, it's not only our opportunity...it's our responsibility...to step in and help. To give out of our abundance.
(*46) Our blessing is about being a COVERING, not just receiving one.
And there it is.
We've been covered by the hand of God, and blessed as a result.
Then who are we to hold with a clenched fist onto every bit of that blessing in the face of someone we could be helping?
I mentioned two parts that stood out to me. That was the first. Here is the second...
It's the very last verse of Joshua 19.
Verse 43 "They completed the dividing of the land".
Done. Over. All set.
The dividing of the land started way back in Chapter 13. That means 7 chapters in the book of Joshua are devoted to talking about doling out the inheritance of the land. 7 is the Biblical number that represents "completion". An incredibly detailed and intentional act to take the time necessary to get it all accurate...to get it absolutely right. It took them almost a third of the entire book of Joshua...but it's done.
What's the second thing I noticed?
In the final verses of Chapter 19 this is what it says...
"They completed the dividing of the land as inheritance and the setting of it's boundaries. The People of Israel then gave an inheritance among them to Joshua son of Nun. In obedience to God's word, they gave him the city he requested, Timnath Sarah in the hill country of Ephraim. He rebuilt the city and settled there."
The leader of all of this received his inheritance...LAST.
Back in Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 we talked about the posture and actions that leaders worth following will take. This chapter serves as yet another reminder of incredible leadership. The italics I shared above details it, along with three things that Joshua did to reaffirm his character and why I believe the people trusted him.
1. He requested: Joshua was their leader, but didn't make a demand about the land. He had a thought about where he wanted to end up, but was willing to let the whole thing play out and let the people following him make that decision later.
2. He rebuilt: Joshua's request wasn't for a plot of land that came ready and ripe. He knew there would be work to do. He didn't ask for the prime cut of meat, just nourishment. So many leaders miss that very important point.
3. He settled: He was content. Just like the example's through the book of Joshua, this man's character was the same from beginning to end. I have to believe this gave him the ability to tell the tribe of Manasseh to go clear the land given to them. He knew that the land he requested long ago would require the same. As a leader he wasn't asking them to do anything he wasn't willing to do himself.
Those three points are a leadership book in and of themselves.
(*47) Great leaders know their people...and their place in line.
In a nutshell, here is the book I'd write about that...
Leaders don't demand, they serve. Leaders display confidence in the decision-making of their people as they trust the process because of a clearly articulated vision. Leaders don't require special treatment. They are content to be part of the team. They want nourishment like the rest of us, but don't demand being treated better than us. Leaders won't ask their people to do something they haven't or wouldn't themselves. And the very last point is the simple point that great leaders wait. They are patient. They don't jump the line. They stand back and support their team. They'll turn the lights out at some point, because they'll have stayed the longest. They will leave last.
Chapter 19 is quickly becoming one of my favorite pieces of scripture.
Think about what we've learned.
We've been covered by the hand of God as a people.
We are blessed to be a blessing as a covering to other people.
We see what real leadership looks, speaks, and acts like.
That's a lot of meat.
Enough for all of us.
Enough to share from to bless others.
Enough to know that if we are leading a team well, we go last.
In case we haven't picked up on the memo...
When the Lord is behind it, provision won't be a problem.
About the book
Brett W. Gould
Author. Speaker. Teacher. Coach.