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Archive for January, 2011

The pastor ended the sermon focused on how God prepared Joshua for his new leadership position. In Exodus 33:11, God’s word says this,  “The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.” So, even years before God was planning on promoting Joshua, he was preparing him, alone, in his presence. And when it was Joshua’s time to take the reins, God reminded him of what he considers success – “Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:7-8)

I came to the conclusion yesterday that I don’t meditate on God or his word day and night. Sometimes neither day nor night for that matter! My mind just goes wherever it wants. I’ll try to focus on God and his stuff, but all the sudden, minutes or hours later, I’ll wake up and realize my mind has gone off the track. I am reminded of a passage that used to mean something to me – “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)”

My Bible reading has been non-existent for at least a week. I don’t even hunger or thirst for it. My mind is so preoccupied (is it because to face God’s word means to face the reality that I am not in his will with regards to my employment?). Whatever the reason, well there are no good reasons. Time with God. What if I lived as though that were the most important thing in my life?

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I love this sermon title from January 23rd. At the beginning of the sermon, the pastor asked a few questions to get us thinking – Why is what God says in his word not true in my life? Why am I stuck? He was preaching from Joshua 1 and, as a background to the text, reminded us of what happened during the Exodus.

The people forgot about their slavery, forgot the freedom God provided. They saw Pharaoh chasing them and they were terrified (They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”- Exodus 14:11-12)

They grumbled and wandered. Now they stood at the banks of the Jordan River, looking at the Promised Land, a land that should have been theirs 39 years earlier. They had been there before but had failed. The end of Plan B was in sight.

In our Plan B, we drift into the questions and feelings that usher us away from hope and God –  Why is this happening? Am I being punished? Why aren’t God’s promises fulfilled in my life? Does God hate me?

God asks us to take risks, just like he was leading Joshua to take the risk of leadership. God doesn’t want fear to paralyze us – The fear of failure, the fear of rejection, the fear of shame. Fear. Joshua was put at the head of a complaining, obstinate people. He was replacing The Man. Moses. Therefore, God spoke these promises and challenges to Joshua in chapter 1:1-9

After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “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—to the Israelites.  I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses.  Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west.  No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life.

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.

Be strong and very courageous.

Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.  Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.

Do not be afraid;

do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

At the end of the sermon, the pastor asked, “Would God want me to be a joke?” I had been thinking for some time prior to this sermon that I was the joke, not work. So, it was a penetrating question into a penetrating wound because I know my life is a joke. I do fear. I am past the point of discouragement. I have accepted that I am wandering in a desert and it is my fault.

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In 2nd Samuel 15, King David is fleeing from his son, Absalom. David instructs the priest to keep the ark of the covenant in Jerusalem. Then the king said to Zadok, “Take the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the LORD’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again. But if he says, ‘I am not pleased with you,’ then I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him.”

I chuckled during the sermon when the pastor said, “No matter how bad things are, you can always make them worse.” I can say I have sabotaged myself on more than one occasion! I wonder how tempted David was to take the ark for his own protection? He certainly could have rationalized his decision to bring it with the group so he and they would have a visual reminder of God’s presence and provision. But he put God’s city first. David was willing to accept even the possibility of painful discipline. He was READY to accept that possibility. I’m not there right now.

I’ve been angry alot. Sometimes on the inside, sometimes on the outside. I’ve told God I’m sick of my life. I’ve asked God to do something with me. But, ultimately, my decision have led me here. My laziness and excuses have led me here. I am frustrated, hurt, horrified, terrified. I don’t want anymore pain. I don’t want God’s discipline. I don’t want him to do whatever seems good to him. The painful criticisms and constant contradictions from others has overwhelmed me. I am fully defensive, to the point of not being willing to be corrected and taught by God.

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My teammate at work shared a reading from Our Daily Bread on Friday morning as we were taking a break. What struck me was the very last line — “We may not be able to control events, but we can control our attitude toward them.” I guess I must have snickered out load or choked on my food or something because he let out a big laugh. I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m not so sure I’ve done well controlling my attitude towards Plan B events! Below is the entire text of that days devotion. You can also read this devotion (and link to others as well) at – http://odb.org/2011/01/14/call-it-good/

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Can we really know whether to label life’s circumstances as good or bad?

For instance, your car breaks down right before you are to take a family road trip. But when you take the car to the shop, the mechanic says, “Good thing you didn’t take this out on the road. It could have caught fire.” Is that bad because of the inconvenience, or good because of God’s protection?

Or perhaps your child decides to pursue interests that aren’t all that interesting to you. You wanted her to play basketball and run track in high school. But she wanted to sing and play the oboe. You feel frustrated, but she excels and ends up with a music scholarship. Is that bad because your dreams weren’t fulfilled, or good because God directed her in ways you could not have predicted?

Sometimes it’s hard to see how God is working. His mysteries don’t always reveal their secrets to us, and our journey is often redirected by uncontrollable detours. Perhaps God is showing us a better route.

To make sure we benefit from what might seem bad, we must recognize and trust God’s “unfailing love” (Ps. 13:5 NIV). In the end, we’ll be able to say, “I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me” (v.6 NIV).

The circumstances in our lives
Seem random and unplanned;
But someday we will surely see
The order of God’s hand. —Sper

We may not be able to control events,
but we can control our attitude toward them.

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We began a new series this Sunday, titled, “Plan B.”  We were asked the questions: “What happens when Plan A takes its final breath?”; “What happens when Plan A is gone and is not coming back?” He used the words “shattered dreams,” and that is what stuck with me the most. He preached from the story of Joseph (OT). God had clearly given Joseph dreams as a youth but his immaturity (and his mouth) cost him and lost him some years. Of course, as God seems to always do, he redeemed those years for Joseph and used the hurt and wandering and wondering for his purposes. Joseph himself said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20). I don’t think like that. My life right now is a waste. My friend encourages me to think of it as a wilderness. I work where I work because I chose to work there. I choose everyday to be disobedient to God’s call. My Plan B is my own fault, not God’s design. In other words, Joseph and I aren’t anything alike!

I presume that God allows our Plan A’s to disintegrate so we can grow, especially in our intimacy with him. Of course, there are many characters in the Bible who are examples of Plan B lives —

Paul wrote about his visions – “Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2nd Corinthians 12:7-9)

James, the Lord’s half-brother said, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” (James 1:2-3)

God spoke in Jeremiah’s time to his people living in Plan B – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11). In the context of this passage, God flat-out told his people you are going to have to wait, even in this painful place. Do my will, and do it well, and do it exceedingly well, in a place you don’t want to be, even though it is going to be yeeeeeaaaarrrrrrrssssss before I rescue you and bring you back to your land.

Brennan Manning, in his book Abba’s Child, describes his journey with Jesus using the words “glorious failures and disastrous successes.” Let’s hope my failures from the last decade can one day be described as glorious – should God make a way for me to be used again in useful, fruitful service.

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The Sunday sermon was on the topic of “influence.” Funny – the pastor was going to begin a series called “Plan B.” I was not really ready for the message because I didn’t want to think about how I have willfully made decisions out of God’s will. But I had misread the calendar and we had a guest speaker. Turns out I wasn’t eager to receive this sermon either.

The first point of discussion was about resolutions. I don’t make them but that is not the point of this blog. His point was that God has plenty of daily resolutions for us in his word, but we end up making our own anyway (sometimes quickly failing) without really consulting our Lord. Even when we make genuine resolutions meant to honor God, we forget that God has plenty of daily resolutions (and encouragements when we fail!) already laid out for us that should give us plenty of focus through the year.

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)

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“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 27:12)

This was the first passage of Scripture that reached my eyes today. I’ve seen it before – it is on one of our filing cabinets. It is also on our computer as a picture. I don’t know if I would have used this passage as my first post if it weren’t for the fact that yesterday the Mrs. and I were discussing writing down goals. My question was – am I really going to change the things necessary to change things or am I just going to go back to work and keep coming home tired and so on? It is a reasonable question.

2010 was interesting. Perhaps the most important was how amazing Bible reading was. I read chronologically for the first time and it was awesome! Other than Bible reading and reading more pages in more books than in previous years I don’t think I accomplished anything. It is true that at work God lets me talk/listen to individuals about God stuff. But other than those things I am a cacophony of mediocrity. As my friend asked me yesterday – am I miserable enough to make a change?

I don’t want to end last year or start this year with a cliche’ but I am going to have to do it — God is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too kind to me!

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