Sunday, July 15, 2012

Nothing Happens “Just Because”

On January 22, 2004, I had the privilege of leading a Bible study for an EWU Campus Crusade for Christ group. As I studied, God spoke to me through the book of Joshua. I began to see parallels to my own life and walk with God. I outlined the major points, and made a “wall of Jericho” where I began to place my experiences on the bricks. I ended up with a great visual of God’s continued Presence in my life. (I’d love to send you a blank copy) I often look at it when I need encouragement. I haven’t reached “The Promised Land” yet, but have come to many smaller versions (my own personal “promised lands” of peace and rest), and continue to conquer the enemies that threaten to overwhelm me on my journey.

Conversion:  “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites. From each ancestral tribe send one of its leaders’….(Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua)” Numbers 13:1-2, 16b. All children of God have a “conversion experience,” when we accept the free gift of forgiveness leading to salvation, and step out of our old selves, being born into new life. I shared in “Sixteen Words Eighteen Years Ago”* that mine was at Cocolalla Lake Bible Camp. For Joshua, I decided to use the day Moses chose him as leader of his tribe and sent him to explore the Promised Land. He was also given a new name, Joshua, which means “God saves”.

Commission and Command:  “‘Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them….As I was with Moses so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them’” Joshua 1:2, 5b-6.

As we learn to recognize His voice, we begin to hear a “commission and command” from God. For Joshua, it was to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. For me, it is to teach, in elementary Special Education. This may not have been the conclusion I reached when I first studied this, but looking back from right now I know it’s true. That brings me a great deal of encouragement since that’s the job I now have, and the job I’m working toward as I finish up my Master of Education in Special Education, and get certified to teach K-12 Special Ed.

Contacts:  “‘Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you’” Joshua 2:12.

God created us to be in relationships with others. They may take on many forms, and have varying levels of impact, but each is important and unique. Our walk with God is no exception. He will bring people into our lives at different times for different reasons; some will become a permanent fixture, others will only stay for a moment. We don’t always get to see at the time the impact they will have on us, or the role they will play in our faith journey. Rahab was a stranger to the spies Joshua sent into Jericho, but she had heard of the mighty power of God and decided to risk her life to help them. As a result of her kindness, her life was spared, and she became part of the great story of God’s salvation of man (she became Ruth’s second mother-in-law). In my own life there have been many amazing people come and go, too many for me to mention here, but I remember each one and count them as a blessing.

Crossing the Jordan:  “Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away….And the priests came up out of the river…No sooner had they set their feet on dry ground than the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and ran at flood stage as before” Joshua 3:15-16a, 4:18. I encourage you to read the whole story of the river crossing in Joshua 3-4; I only shared a few  verses to illustrate my point. For the Israelites, this crossing was a literal one, the only way for them to reach the land God was giving them; however, it was also a step of faith in God’s promise. They couldn’t just cross it and settle down, living happily ever after. Once there, they were faced with adversity from the people living there, fighting battles from all sides. I believe the “crossing” for us is when we reach a place of spiritual maturity when God asks us to consecrate ourselves, allow the Holy Spirit to fill us and lead our actions, so we can enter into spiritual warfare and claim the promises God has for our lives.

Construction of memorials:  “‘Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight’” Joshua 4:2-3.

Now we’ve come to the “altar stones” I’ve mentioned in a few previous posts. God commanded Joshua to have one man from each tribe pick up a stone (probably more like a large rock) from the middle of the dry riverbed. On the side of the Jordan where they would conquer the land, he built a memorial to serve as a reminder of God’s deliverance and guidance. When I read this, I decided to start collecting “stones” of my own, small tokens of the times I obeyed God and was blessed. For now, I keep them in a shoebox, and I can pull them out when I need to remember.

Conditioned for Conquest:  “All the people that came out [of Egypt] had been circumcised, but all the people born in the wilderness during the journey from Egypt had not” Joshua 5:5. Circumcision is how God designed the Israelites to show their commitment to Him, a covenant in the flesh, beginning with Abraham. When they crossed the Jordan, He had the men and boys circumcised to renew that covenant before going into battle. Today we find our own unique ways to renew our commitment; being a literal person, I tend to find something tangible, like a promise ring.

Campaigns of Conquest:  “‘[A]s commander of the army of the LORD I have now come….Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy’” Joshua 5:14-15.

These were originally divided into three sections:  the center of the land attacked (focusing on the battle at Jericho), the campaign in the south, and the campaign in the north. In the book of Joshua these were literally battles fought by the Israelites to conquer the Promised Land. In my own life, I see a more figurative conquest:  the heart, the body, and the mind. It began with my heart; I had to believe that God loves me before anything else could happen. Then my body, which is an ongoing battle, one I wrote about in “My Wellness Journey,”** and will continue to write about now and then. Once that was underway He began working on my mind, helping me to change my thoughts (thinking errors) and learn to dwell on Him more consistently.

That’s it. After the campaign in the north, the tribes divided up the land and settled down. I’m still conquering my own Promised Land. What about you?

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