Aaron Summers

Posts Tagged ‘Joshua’

Why You Must Fact Check Personal Decisions

In Decisions on July 17, 2014 at 9:45 am

truefalse

President Obama recently stated that the GOP has blocked every serious idea about building up middle class America.  The Washington Post had this to say in response.  It seems that we, in America, are yet again at a standstill when it comes to getting anything accomplished in Congress.  The fact-checker of the Washington Post gave Obama 3 Pinocchios for that claim.  Much more can be found on their fact checker site.   What comes to mind for me, is that, while I don’t swallow in whole anything either side ever says about the other, it is interesting to note that someone is fact-checking the situation.

We do this at home too, right?  I have two children: a boy and a girl.  The rhetoric that ensues at times is comical, albeit very frustrating in the heat of the moment.  Usually there are lavish claims being shot back and forth much like Congress.  Each climbs onto their platform and tries to hijack the conversation.  Often we must fact-check the situation and try to understand exactly what happened, when, and to whom.

While we certainly understand the need for fact-checking in politics and parenting, we often forgo the attempt when it comes to personal decisions.  Whether it is because of lack of energy or inflated view of self-knowledge, we often make decisions, of a personal nature, off-the-cuff.  Why?  Why are we so enthralled in making sure the leadership of a country are absolute and that our family is too, but choose to live in a relative state personally?  In reality, our frustrated lives, battered pride, stress, and anxiety might all stem from a lack of personal fact-checking before making decisions.  As followers of Christ, why are we not engaging in a conversation with God before making certain decisions?

But when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to deception to save themselves. They sent ambassadors to Joshua, loading their donkeys with weathered saddlebags and old, patched wineskins.  So the Israelites examined their food, but they did not consult the Lord.  Then Joshua made a peace treaty with them and guaranteed their safety, and the leaders of the community ratified their agreement with a binding oath.    Joshua 9

We get into difficult situations often on our own.  Let us learn to engage the Lord in order to not live in regret.  Fact-check your decisions and you will soon shed the robes of regret that are so heavy.

Raising Kids Like a Boss, Part 2

In Life and Culture on November 13, 2013 at 7:00 am

Be-Transformed-Christian-PowerPoint

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world,
but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.
Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

— Romans 12:2

I remember the day of birth for each of my children.  I remember holding them in my arms, counting fingers and toes.  I brushed their hair and kissed their heads.  Blondie and Brownie, their names for web purposes, are now 12 and 9.  Much has changed over these past few years.  My wife and I are working hard to do what we discussed yesterday.  However, they are dropped off 5 days a week for 8 hours each day into a culture that is necessary, but difficult.  My kids will go to public school because I want them to be salt and light and I don’t think that happens if I teach them at home.  The trade-off is that they are discovering new things at a rate faster than I would prefer.  They are being washed over by our culture right there in the classroom, the cafeteria, and especially the playground.

How can I help them not be conformed to this world?
How can I help them be transformed so they can know God’s Will and have the ability to do it?

1.  Do NOT let them choose for themselves.  I was standing in line at a fast-food joint the other day watching as a 2-year-old tried to make up their mind about what they would eat.  They were being allowed to choose for themselves what they would eat.  Left to her own devices, Brownie would eat Mac and Cheese every meal.  That is not happening on my watch. I know of one family who attended church regularly.  The father was a leader in the church.  However, they allowed their son to choose for himself about spiritual things.  They did not want to push him.  Now, his life is forever different as an ex-con.  Our kids are not prepared to choose for themselves.  We choose for them and then help them understand why the choice was made.  In this way, you shape them into the ability to make proper choices when they come to a point when you are not around.

2.  Do NOT believe the culture can raise them properly.  A quick review of our culture notes a downward spiral with relation to the Biblical ethic.  Consumerism is on the rise which see a disposable nature in everything.  Now we have starter homes and starter marriages.  Sex used to be inside marriage, now it is a group game on a Friday night.  Life used to be sacred.  Now Euthanasia is on the rise in new ways.  30 years ago boys had no confusion.  Now we have same-sex marriages in 14 states.  With open sexual relationships and now “eye-licking“, we are finding STD’s in eye infections.  Our culture cannot raise our kids properly.  We cannot turn them out and expect them whole when they return.

3.  Do NOT believe we are safe.  Within the Christian community, there has been a thought that everything will be OK.  The problem is that until 30 years ago, most people followed a similar moral and ethic.  Now we have 330 million people in our country and that many ethics and moral codes.  When there are no absolutes, everyone is right.  Of course, no one is right either.  1 out of 5 people consider themselves has having no religious affiliation.  Of those under 29, this rises to 1 of 3.  Our world has changed and we cannot sit back and think otherwise.

Of course, we could just throw this all out and let their friends help them make choices, television shape their morality, and bury our heads in the sand.  We could.  However, this would be the result:

After Joshua sent the people away, each of the tribes left to take possession of the land allotted to them.  And the Israelites served the Lord  throughout the lifetime of Joshua and the leaders who outlived him—those who had seen all the great things the Lord  had done for Israel. Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord , died at the age of 110.  They buried him in the land he had been allocated, at Timnath-serah  in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash. After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord  or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel. The Israelites did evil in the Lord ’s sight and served the images of Baal.  They abandoned the L ord , the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They went after other gods, worshiping the gods of the people around them. And they angered the Lord .

— Judges 2

 

Life in the Rear View

In Chrisian Life, Decisions, Joshua, Journey on April 30, 2013 at 10:21 am

rear-view-mirror

Traveling to a funeral, we passed through Dallas during rush hour.  I had hoped to get through the city before it got too hectic but missed the window by a small margin.  It is amazing how early it starts now.  As we were passing through miles of construction it became a lot of start and stop.  I have never found myself nervous about driving in traffic, but I was very glad to get through to the other side!  The lanes had been narrowed from 4 to 1, the traffic was rising and everyone was in a hurry.  I am not a saint when it comes to texting in the car and I knew others were not either.  I felt like I had a bobble-head attached to my body because of looking ahead to know when to stop, to the sides to not hit any barrels, and in all the mirror to make sure others were going to stop in time.  There were a few times that I was not sure the car behind us was going to stop!  I could just see being shoved up the backside of the truck in front of us and then having the gravel/stone/dirt unload on top.  One of the times my head bobbled to the rear view mirror, I noticed two smiling faces looking back at me.  I realized my anxiety was based out of a protective sense toward those riding along.

We are told in life to never look back except to learn from history, both good and bad.  We are to look ahead, forge a path, and focus on the future.  There is a balance to all of this looking around.  We cannot simply live in the past and allow that to control our future.  Our destiny is more than responding to the past.  Certainly we can check our past decisions and create a plan to bolster our forward progress.  We cannot live life without looking in the rear view, however a steady gaze takes our eyes off the road ahead and accidents do happen.  If we only look ahead we might forget what lies behind, or just in the back seat!  We can get so enamored with our lives, our goals, our futures, our desires that we leave behind those who love us most.  Concentrating only through the windshield does not fully prepare you for reality.  What happens when your past catches up with you?  What happens if you are hit from behind or side-swiped?  Crashes happen because we are not fully paying attention to our surroundings.  Safe driving involves a balanced approach to looking ahead and in the mirrors as well as glancing at the gauges periodically in case of something critical happening now. Because of what I saw that day, I am reminded of how we are to livevu.  We are to live balanced as well.

We should look back.  We should take a look back to see from whence we came to give thanks and honor to our glorious God.  We look back to better understand how His plan is coming to fruition.  We look back to learn.

We need look around.  We should look in our other mirrors and dash gauges.  Taking a look at our surroundings helps us understand how to pray.  Awareness of our culture and context is invaluable in living a life worthy of the calling of Jesus Christ.  We cannot just mindlessly drive through life.  We are to take advantage of every situation, every conversation, every experience to fully glorify God.  We look around to listen.

We must look ahead.  Just like driving, if we never have our eyes on the road how can we ever expect to stay on the road.  I believe that we often find ourselves outdated and irrelevant when we never look ahead and map out a path.  If we only react tot he past and present without any idea of where we are trying to go we are doomed to repeat the history we are trying to avoid.  Reactionary thinking rarely takes into account the view through the windshield.  We look ahead to live.

There is no joy in reactionary living.  Like the walls around a prison, you find yourself locked inside with no hope.  Take a look back and learn.  Take a look around and listen.  Above all, look ahead so that what you have learned and heard can create a path of life and joy and peace in the hands of God.

Let’s go for a drive!

19 The people came up from the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and camped at Gilgal on the eastern limits of Jericho. 20 Then Joshua set up in Gilgal the 12 stones they had taken from the Jordan, 21 and he said to the Israelites, “In the future, when your children ask their fathers, ‘What is the meaning of these stones?’ 22 you should tell your children, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, just as the Lord your God did to the •Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over. 24 This is so that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord’s hand is mighty, and so that you may always •fear the Lord your God.”

Joshua 4:19-24

 

Pushing Up Daisies

In Faithfulness, Joshua on May 12, 2011 at 10:45 pm

With gas prices and the national debt stressing us, tornadoes and floods, a royal wedding, and #1 seed San Antonio getting kicked it would seem that the end of the world is near. While that may captivate our attention, let us focus on something else today. When you are pushing up daisies, what will others be saying about you? If were to die this week what would people say about you?

Studies show that what you believe at 15 does not change much over the years.  We behave according to what we believe. Therefore, apart from you letting Jesus get a real hold over your life, who you are at 15 is you will be at 40.  Who you are at 40 is who you become at 85.  Let’s take a look at an example from scripture.

6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who scouted out the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite community: “The land we passed through and explored is an extremely good land. 8 If the Lord is pleased with us, He will bring us into this land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and give it to us. 9 Only don’t rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land, for we will devour them. Their protection has been removed from them, and the Lord is with us. Don’t be afraid of them!”

Numbers 14

We find Caleb at the age of 40.  All of us realize that we don’t just wake up one day and be people of this type of character.  It takes years of refinement and integrity.  Caleb demonstrates 4 characteristics:

  • Faithful
  • Positive
  • Courageous
  • Battle-Ready

9 On that day Moses promised me: ‘The land where you have set foot will be an inheritance for you and your descendants forever, because you have remained loyal to the Lord my God.’
10 “As you see, the Lord has kept me alive [these] 45 years as He promised, since the Lord spoke this word to Moses while Israel was journeying in the wilderness. Here I am today, 85 years old. 11 I am still as strong today as I was the day Moses sent me out. My strength for battle and for daily tasks is now as it was then.

12 Now give me this hill country the Lord promised [me] on that day, because you heard then that the Anakim are there, as well as large fortified cities. Perhaps the Lord will be with me and I will drive them out as the Lord promised.”
13 Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as an inheritance. 14 Therefore, Hebron belongs to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite as an inheritance to this day, because he remained loyal to the Lord, the God of Israel.

15 Hebron’s name used to be Kiriath-arba; Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim. After this, the land had rest from war.

Joshua 14

At the age of 85, Caleb has experienced much in his life.  Leaving Egypt, Red Sea, Mt. Sinai, spying the land, wandering for 40 years, and inhabiting the land.  He has fled, followed, fought, and now wants to finalize a promise.  Now, he exhibits 4 characteristics:

  • Faithful
  • Positive
  • Courageous
  • Battle-Ready

Who he was at 40 is who he became at 85. Ask yourself these four questions.  Use this rating system:

1-not at all

2-not very often

3-about half the time

4-often, but not all the time

5-all the time

Am I faithful?

Psalm 18.25 “To the faithful he show himself faithful…”

  • Communication with God?
  • Bible reading/studying?
  • Church attendance?

Am I positive?

Psalm144:15 Happy are the people with such [blessings]. Happy are the people whose God is Yahweh. Psalm119:2 Happy are those who keep His decrees and seek Him with all their heart.

  • What kind of attitude do I have? Happy or grumpy?
  • For it or against it? Complainer or Connector?

Am I courageous?

Psalm 31:24 Be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord.

  • Am I afraid and hide it behind conservativism?
  • Am I full of fear rather than faith?
  • Do I find ways out of doing things more than just doing them?
  • Do I let anxiety overcome me?
  • Will I go where others will not?

Am I battle-ready?

Psalm 45:3-4 3Mighty warrior, strap your sword at your side. In your majesty and splendor-
4in your splendor ride triumphantly in the cause of truth, humility, and justice. May your right hand show your awe-inspiring acts.

  • Are you a pacifist and expect others to do all the hard work?
  • Are you an evader that runs to spiritual Canada when your draft card comes?
  • Do you enlist before ever needing to be drafted at all?

If you scored…

4-7 You might be a new Christian and it takes a little to get started.

8-11 You have made some good decisions and need to follow through.

12-15 You are finding it difficult to balance everything and need to choose God alone.

16-19 You experience great moments with God but have a nagging sin that you can’t shake.  You are being used of God. Be careful not to get distracted.

20 Email me today. I need your help in ministry. I will not burn you out, but you could bless so many.

Do you need some cheese with that whine?

In Uncategorized on April 10, 2011 at 9:57 pm

A few years ago we were given a gift of a pool.  It is a soft-side pool you take down annually.  We absolutely love it!  I start prepping the area in April each year.  The last couple of years I have told the kids that the rocks need to be removed from the sand before I can put the pool up.  Why do I start in April?  It takes a while for that process to actually happen!  Here’s how the process usually goes down:

  • Looks at the site: Whine.  That is too hard.  We will never get that done. Now we will never get to swim.
  • Picks up a handful of rocks:  Whine. This is too hard.  We will never get it done. Now we will never get to swim.
  • Week goes by. Bucket of rocks. Whine. This is too hard.  We will never get it done. Now we will never get to swim.
  • Another week goes by. Wheelbarrow full of rocks. Whine. This is too hard.  We will never get it done. Now we will never get to swim.

You get the picture.  My answer was consistent.  If you want to swim, then pick up the rocks.  There is a similar situation that occurs in Joshua.  The children of Israel have crossed over into the promised land.  They have whipped the southern kings, moved to the northern kings, and are now distributing the land.  Joshua receives a message from the tribe of Joseph saying they did not get enough land for the amount of people they have.  An initial thought is that God is the one who apportioned the land.  If there is an alleged discrepancy, are they really blaming God?  The reality is that they were lazy and greedy.  They wanted more land without the effort.  Where was this land to be acquired?  Looking at a distribution map, they essentially wanted a brother to receive less so they could have more.  The audacity! Joshua sees through this and replies:

15 “If you have so many people,” Joshua replied to them, “go to the forest and clear [an area] for yourselves there in the land of the Perizzites and the Rephaim, because Ephraim’s hill country is too small for you.”

Joshua tells them to go and clear the land they already have.  They were supposed to remove all the people as an agent of God’s discipline.  They were to clean out the area.  They didn’t want to do that because it took an effort.  Blessing rarely comes without some form of effort.

16 But the descendants of Joseph said, “The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who inhabit the valley area have iron chariots, both at Beth-shean with its towns and in the Jezreel Valley.”

Whine.  It’s too hard. We will never get that done. Now there will never be enough room!

17 So Joshua replied to Joseph’s family (that is, Ephraim and Manasseh), “You have many people and great strength. You will not have just one allotment, 18 because the hill country will be yours also. It is a forest; clear it and its outlying areas will be yours. You can also drive out the Canaanites, even though they have iron chariots and are strong.”

Same thing I told the kids…sort of!  We need to hear this sometimes as well.  We face tough times financially and our sense of entitlement takes a hit. We begin to whine about unfair treatment.  Our family relationships breakdown because we are never home and don’t communicate.  We feel God should have made it all better so we whine a little and cry out “Unfair! This is too hard.”  Our life expectations are not being met.  We feel depressed and taken advantage of by life.  We whine and cry to God that He should have done something.  He should provide for all the wants that we determine are needs.  We want the BMW, but are forced to drive something less.  We want the 4000 sq. ft. home but must settle for the rental unit with 1 bathroom.  We are unsatisfied with life and with God.  Like the tribe of Joseph, we complain about the apportionments.  Why is God so cheap?  Why is God so stingy?  He could give me so much more, so why is He not?  Typically we will design our prayers in a different fashion.

God, You have blessed me so much in life.  I feel that I could serve you so much more with a larger home.  I could host missionaries and have small group meet at the house.  You know the community I serve.  I can’t drive this rundown mini-van any longer and continue to serve these people.  Lord, I need that new BMW.  Lord, I love you.  Amen.

Show of hands…who has prayed that prayer?  We cloak our greed in spiritual terms.  This is what the tribe was doing and Joshua called them out.  You want more land?  Go clean out what you already have.  You will get more if you take responsibility for what you already have been given.  If I want the larger house, I should pray about God’s plan for my life.  Does it include a  larger home?  If so, what am I willing to do to acquire the house?  Will I cut spending to save money to afford the home?  Will I sell my firstborn to have what I feel I rightly deserve?

Why can’t we simply be grateful for what God has given?  Why can’t we live within our means?  Why not take responsibility for what we have before trying to trade in and trade up for something we can’t really afford or handle?  The sense of entitlement we have is astounding.  The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh (Joseph) thought about who their relative was and felt entitled.  They were not.  You are not.  I am not.

Take what you have been given and be happy.  Be content.  Be faithful.  God will upgrade your life when you are prepared and when He chooses is the right time.

4 Keys to Dinner Dialogues

In Faithfulness, Family, Joshua, Journey, Parenting, Trust on March 31, 2011 at 10:27 pm

What seems to be a lost family moment is the dinner dialogue.  When I grew up we ate dinner as a family several nights a week.  We did not have a food pattern, but we did have a discussion pattern.  Every day we talked about our day.  What was good?  What was bad?  What happened?  We all talked answered the questions.  Then we asked questions.

“Someone said something bad about me today, what do I do?”  Mom and Dad then begin to explain to me how I should respond to such situations.

“I got into a fight today….”  Mom and Dad would express disapproval and then how I should respond.

Every time we ate dinner together this was our pattern.  These were special times that I wish to continue with my own family.  In my family today we eat at home together several nights a week.  We talk about what we did during the day.  We ask the kids what they learned and what they like about the day.  Each day is unique.  Each is wonderful in its own way.  We take the teachable moments that come and use them to instill biblical principles into their young lives.  This dinner dialogue can be entertaining to intimidating depending on the topics and questions raised.  We are developing a trust between everyone that we can talk, express, and ask questions in a safe place.  These questions can be spiritual or social, sports or sewing, relational or religious.  All questions are fair and welcomed.  As they age and the issues become greater and more critical with each year, this trust will be cherished.

4 So Joshua summoned the 12 men he had selected from the Israelites, one man for each tribe, 5 and said to them, “Go across to the ark of the Lord your God in the middle of the Jordan. Each of you lift a stone onto his shoulder, one for each of the Israelite tribes, 6 so that this will be a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ 7 you should tell them, ‘The waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the Lord’s covenant. When it crossed the Jordan, the Jordan’s waters were cut off.’ Therefore these stones will always be a memorial for the Israelites.”

Joshua 4

Joshua is developing a proclamation made by Moses early in Deuteronomy.

4 “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. 7 Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6

Dinner dialogue is something that was being introduced 3300 years ago!  Moses told parents to take God’s Word and repeat it to the children.  They were to discuss when they sat down or walked around.  There is hardly a meal that goes by that something couldn’t be discussed and tied back to the Bible.  Joshua adds to this directive from Moses.  The people are to be prepared to answer the questions of family and national history as it relates to God.  For example, our children might ask how we met.  The simple answer is that we met a graduate school.  This is clean, crisp, to the point, and we can all move on with our lives.  However, to honor the spirit of these passages of scripture we add more to the story.  We talk about that God wanted each of us to go to that particular school.  God brought us together as friends and later we felt tha God wanted us to become married.  This takes a little longer and might raise more questions, but we integrate God into the very basic portions of our lives.

Here are a few tips about Dinner dialogues:

1.  Make room for meal times as a family where dialogue can happen. Running through the drive-thru on the way to an event, practice, or game is not the best time.  We should not confuse that as family time either.  Children need quiet, alone time with the family.  The distractions need to be able to fade out of the picture so that real moments can be established.

2.  Read the Bible from a research perspective. Every day, I read the Bible because God has a message for me.  As a person, husband, father, pastor, and friend there are several hats I wear daily.  There are issues raised and questions asked every day that are demanding an answer.  What better answer can I give than one that is Biblically based?  While I do not quote scripture at every turn and answer, it is important to have scripture in the backdrop of my mind as I dialogue with others and especially my children.

3.  Integrate. Children and grandchildren can ask some CRAZY questions.  Where did I come from?  What does God look like?  Where does the sun go at night?  What’s the name of the Man in the Moon?  Who is Jesus?  Why does Bobby speak in a weird language at his church?  How come Johnny is a different color than me? Whether the questions are biblical or not, we should be able to express ourselves in spiritual terms and behavior.  Scripture is the message from God for your life.  Read it so you can know how to live and dialogue properly concerning God in history both nationally and personally, even around the dinner table.

4.  Take advantage of teachable moments. Every time it happens jump on it!  Teachable moments do not always happen.  Yet, when they do we must take advantage of that moment.  When we are given the chance to express truth in a life moment we have a Biblical responsibility to do so.  When we sit down, stand up, lie down, or walk about we are to be instilling truth in those over whom we have influence.  It is not enough to simply passively wait for the next moment, praying and sweating that we have the right answer.  Look for those moments.  Make those moments happen.  Be in the Word and answer those questions while instilling life into the next generation through introducing them to God and His message for humanity.

Whether you have PB & J or grilled steak and baked potatoes, have a dinner dialogue as soon as you can.  The next generation is waiting and they are hungry!

Reputation Defender

In Church, Evangelism, Joshua, Journey, Missional, Missions on March 29, 2011 at 10:31 pm

Over the years I have attended many conferences, conventions, and seminars that often will have famous keynote speakers.  It always amazes me how long the introductions can be.  I was at a convention a few years ago and the introduction lasted 10 minutes.  I, and everyone around me, could not believe the monologue and deluge of facts concerning the speaker whom we all knew.  We had all watched the videos and read the books.  We would have drunk the kool-aid had there been any to drink!

His reputation preceded him.  We knew his beliefs.  We knew his ministry.  We knew him.

At the beginning of Joshua we find Moses dead and a new leader in place.  Joshua was going to lead the people across the Jordan and take the land.  As they began preparations for moving the camp across the river, Joshua sent two spies on a reconnaissance mission concerning Jericho.  As they came to Jericho and found it tightly shut up, they came into contact with a prostitute named Rahab.

“I know that the Lord has given you this land and that the terror of you has fallen on us, and everyone who lives in the land is panicking because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the waters of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings you completely destroyed across the Jordan. When we heard this, we lost heart, and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on earth below.

Joshua 2

Israel’s reputation preceded them.  She, a pagan, recognized that God was blessing the people and was going to give them the land.  They knew about the Red Sea 40 years earlier and the defeat of local kings more recently.  They lost all hope and fear gripped their hearts.  Israel was being exactly what God wanted them to be: a light.  God wanted them to serve as the way for the world to see God’s glory, grace, and mercy.  The power of God was on display with the Red Sea and defeat of the kings.  God is working through His people to reach fallen humanity.

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Acts 1

Until the very moment of conversion, we are completely separated from God.  We are on our own, helpless and hopeless.  At the precise moment of faith and repentance that engages the transaction of forgiveness and purchase of our lives, we become His.  We are His people.  We are His workmanship.  We are His prized possession.  From that moment we become like Israel.  God wishes to work through us to proclaim His majesty and glory, grace and mercy to the world around us.

Our reputation is to precede us.

When we walk into a room, the light of Jesus is to shine through.  When we engage in our hobbies, clubs, and teams they should taste the salt.  Our lives reflect the relationship we have with God both good and bad.  We are witnesses.  Jesus did not say what kind of witnesses because that is left to us.  A common thread among evangelicals is that to be a good witness we are to segregate and isolate from anything that is not church related or approved.  I have found a direct relationship between church involvement and weakened effect among the public.  Unfortunately, what we have been taught for decades is that we should get involved with church, sunday school, committees, and leadership.  As we climb this ladder of religious success we cannot maintain outside relationships.  The very relationships that need to be leveraged for the good of the Kingdom.  So we find ourselves in a bit of a conundrum.  If I increase involvement with the church I decrease my potential impact.  If I remain loose on church involvement I get judged by the ones who supposedly house the grace and mercy of God to be shared.

Our reputation must precede us.  It is time for the church to begin partnering with our people to increase impact.  The people of Jericho had already given up and recognized God was going to win the battle. In an age of skepticism, tolerance, and relativism, the gap has widened.  If we continue to shore up our boundaries we lose traction.  If we continue to hole up in services, programs, and meetings we lose impact.  We must be in public letting our reputation precede us.  Does this mean to quit church?  No.  It means that the responsibility is on the church to equip the saints to do the work.  What is this work?  The very same work that began in Genesis 4 – the redemption of fallen humanity.  Beating people up with scripture will not win many converts.  In fact it will be as effective as attracting flies with vinegar.  Let us live in community out in the culture.  May we be integrated into the Body of Christ through faith, but also involved in our villages, towns, and cities.

What reputation is preceding you?

Leaving the Cave of Adullam: Handling Transition

In Anger, deuteronomy, Faithfulness, Grief, Leadership, Trust on March 29, 2011 at 7:17 am

Every organization deals with transition, some even handle it well!  For the past 30 years I have been well acquainted with the transition process organizations go through, whether it be food service, security, or church.  Because the common denominator is people, the response is similar despite the organization.  When leadership changes a few truths come into play that will follow many, if not all, of the Kubler-Ross model of grief.

Panic – while this may not be widespread, there is a fear and anxiety that establishes itself in the group.  There is no sense of direction.  There is a feeling of dread, especially on the part of those who enjoyed the established leadership.  In these moments people do crazy things.  Some will quit or leave.  Others will rise up and demand power.  Many will sit in shock and awe and not have the ability to function for a period of time.  When we found out the security company was being sold, widespread panic filled the office.  No one was guaranteed a job.  Everyone would be interviewed by the new company to see if there was a position available.

Anger – there will be those in the organization who get angry at the situation, but will take it out on others.  The sense of loss a group feels can collectively turn to rage.  The night I resigned a church a few years ago was a life-defining moment because it was not my sole decision.  This was a mutual agreement between two parties for the good of the whole.  During the evening, there were several unsolicited responses in defense of me and in offense to others.  This anger was a result of the initial panic and outrage of what was unfolding before them.  Given their history, Israel probably had issue with Moses not being the one to lead them into the promised land.

7 Moses was 120 years old when he died; his eyes were not weak, and his vitality had not left [him].

Deuteronomy 34

According to this scripture, there was nothing wrong with Moses.  How often do we feel this emotion?  A leader exits and there seems to be no reason.  The people mourned for 30 days, which was a traditional amount of time.  Certainly there were those who feigned the mourning while others genuinely did so.

Guilt – there will be those who will consider what they did to cause this transition.  What could they have done differently?  How could they have retained the leadership.  Unfortunately, there is often nothing that could have happened.  This guilt, while admirable in leading toward responsibility, can be destabilizing if allowed to run too far.  On different occasions, Moses told the people that God was angry at him because of them.  Now that Moses was gone, how many ask the question, “What could we done differently?”

25 Please let me cross over and see the beautiful land on the other side of the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.
26 “But the Lord was angry with me on account of you and would not listen to me. The Lord said to me, ‘That’s enough! Do not speak to Me again about this matter.

Deuteronomy 3

21 “The Lord was angry with me on your account. He swore that I would not cross the Jordan and enter the good land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance. 22 I won’t be crossing the Jordan because I am going to die in this land. But you are about to cross over and take possession of this good land.

Deuteronomy 4

Acceptance – after a period of time the organization realizes stagnation is imminent unless a new leader is chosen.  Those who sit on the board of directors or church leadership refocus and begin a search for the next leader.  God had already chosen Joshua.  Moses had relayed this truth to the people already.

9 Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites obeyed him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Deuteronomy 34

How does an organization move forward?  Once acceptance has been reached, even if just barely, what happens next?  I think there are a few things that we all should review.

1.  Express how you feel in community.  Moses was mourned for 30 days.  The leader of the people and voice for God over 40 years was gone.  Their emotion was deep, heartfelt, and necessary.  Every organization needs to allow for emotive communication.  David, while hiding in the Cave of Adullam during a transition of leadership wrote these words.

1 Be gracious to me, God, be gracious to me,
for I take refuge in You.
I will seek refuge in the shadow of Your wings
until danger passes.
2 I call to God Most High,
to God who fulfills [His purpose] for me.
3 He reaches down from heaven and saves me,
challenging the one who tramples me. Selah
God sends His faithful love and truth.
4 I am surrounded by lions;
I lie down with those who devour men.
Their teeth are spears and arrows;
their tongues are sharp swords.
5 God, be exalted above the heavens;
let Your glory be over the whole earth.

Psalm 57

2. Establish your point of reference. David was very emotional!  What artist isn’t?  Throughout the Psalms, David would share his pain, grief, anger, need for vengeance, and more.  He often concluded his songs reminding himself that God is sovereign and worthy to be praised, worshiped, and followed regardless of the current circumstances.

7 My heart is confident, God, my heart is confident.
I will sing; I will sing praises.
8 Wake up, my soul!
Wake up, harp and lyre!
I will wake up the dawn.
9 I will praise You, Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to You among the nations.
10 For Your faithful love is as high as the heavens;
Your faithfulness reaches the clouds.
11 God, be exalted above the heavens;
let Your glory be over the whole earth.

Psalm 57

3.  Engage the process of discovery of new leadership. While Joshua was already chosen like the eldest son of a sitting Monarch, the people needed a process by which they engaged this new leader.  They did not have search teams and interviews, but they needed to be a part of the process.  Joshua was commissioned for the task in Deuteronomy 31.  As a follow-up to this procedure, Joshua had the people reaffirm their commitment.

16 They answered Joshua, “Everything you have commanded us we will do, and everywhere you send us we will go. 17 We will obey you, just as we obeyed Moses in everything. And may the Lord your God be with you, as He was with Moses. 18 Anyone who rebels against your order and does not obey your words in all that you command him, will be put to death. Above all, be strong and courageous!”

Joshua 1

The next time your organization experiences a transition be sure to handle it with care.  Just make sure you handle it!

Heart and Soul

In deuteronomy, Faithfulness, holiness, love, tithe, Trust on March 25, 2011 at 6:23 am

Do you remember this song?  I cannot tell you how many times I played this on the piano, both solo and as duet, over the years.  For a few years it seemed that it was played by everyone even close to a piano!  In case you have forgotten, here is a video of the song from the movie “BIG” starring Tom Hanks:

What does Heart and soul really mean?  I ran across this statement as Moses is wrapping up with the people with the covenant summary.  He has just spent what we will call 16 chapters expressing the covenant stipulations.  These boundaries for the blessing are for their own good and the development and maintenance of their relationship with God.  Here are some of the things listed in these chapters:

  • Worship – anything smacking of ANYTHING else is to be totally destroyed
  • Tithing – 10% is to be given to honor the Lord and the Levite
  • Holiness – both the inside and outside of a person is to be clean and pure as would be presentable to the Lord
  • Attendance – daily, weekly, monthly, and annual sacrifices and festivals were to be attended without excuse
  • Justice – treat each with respect both personally and judicially

While not an exhaustive list, this does cover a large amount of what is delivered.  For the details you can read start reading it here.  As we approach the end of this section, Moses gives a summary of both parties:  God and the people.

16 “The Lord your God is commanding you this day to follow these statutes and ordinances. You must be careful to follow them with all your heart and all your soul. 17 Today you have affirmed that the Lord is your God and that you will walk in His ways, keep His statutes, commands, and ordinances, and obey Him. 18 And today the Lord has affirmed that you are His special people as He promised you, that you are to keep all His commands,

19 that He will elevate you to praise, fame, and glory above all the nations He has made, and that you will be a holy people to the Lord your God as He promised.”

Deuteronomy 26

Moses states that the people must follow them with all their heart and soul.  What does this mean?  On the surface, we could easily say that we should follow the prescriptions of the law with every part of ourselves.  Heart and soul would have dealt with the emotional and spiritual aspects.  Emotionally, we are to follow these laws.  It has always been the design of God that we be in a relationship with Him.  If we simply read these cold and lifeless, then we are not engaging them emotionally.  We are to love God and love His message.  How many of us just skip through these books to get to the “good stuff” of Joshua and Jericho?  To do so would be to skip the whole foundation of scripture.  To emotionally involve myself with scripture I would read, ponder, examine, and listen (more on this next time).

Moses does not end with the emotional aspect but adds that the people should follow with their soul also.  Now, soul leads to a spiritual aspect.  How do we follow with our soul?  How do we follow spiritually?  Faith is key to our understanding.  So much of what we read is foreign to us, though it was not for the original hearer.  They would have understood what was being said to them.  However, just 40 years prior their parents had not acted on faith concerning the Word of God.  We are to obey His commands even when we do not understand or see a positive outcome.  This group of Israelites are being reminded to act on faith more than fact.  As we read the scripture today, there is relevance for us today.  We must act of faith.  When we do not understand it or even agree with it in light of our culture today, will we still follow God?  Will we follow with our soul?

I haven’t played that song in years.  How long has it been since we have loved God heart and soul?

Heart and soul, I fell in love with you
Heart and soul, the way a fool would do,
madly
Because you held me tight
And stole a kiss in the night

Heart and soul, I begged to be adored
Lost control, and tumbled overboard,
gladly
That magic night we kissed
There in the moon mist

Oh! but your lips were thrilling, much too thrilling
Never before were mine so strangely willing

But now I see, what one embrace can do
Look at me, it’s got me loving you
madly
That little kiss you stole
Held all my heart and soul

Passing the Baton

In Church, Control, Leadership on March 21, 2011 at 7:04 am

I have not been a big track and field watcher over the years.  When my kids take part in the elementary school field day I watch, take video and do Dad stuff.  Every four years I watch the races during the Olympics.  Otherwise, I don’t watch it much.  What amazes me is that while the participants get faster and stronger, it is all unravelled in a few clicks of the stopwatch if the hand-off of the baton is not done smoothly.  A lead can dissipate.  A team’s morale us dashed.  A medal contender never makes it to the podium.  All because the hand-off the baton was not done smoothly.  While hours of practice have been dedicated to that portion of the event, the stress and nerves can get to a person and a team.  The urgency to pass the baton in the heat of a race can cause enormous issue when it comes to passing the baton.

At the beginning of Deuteronomy, we find in Moses’ first speech a very interesting moment in his life.  He was being told to pass the baton.

38 Joshua son of Nun, who attends you, will enter it. Encourage him, for he will enable Israel to inherit it.

Deuteronomy 1

You have to go back to Numbers 20 to find out why this was happening.  In that chapter we find Moses and Aaron guilty of not obeying in detail the words of God.  He had said to speak to the rock.  Moses struck the rock.  Because of this event, they were not going to enter the promised land.  Moses had been God’s man for the past 40 years as he led the people out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and through the desert.  He had led, taught, and loved them.  He interceded on their behalf.  He counseled them in how to obey and follow God.  He begged them to be faithful and trust God.  However, he was not going to enter the land promised for 500 years.  When asked to provide someone to lead them, God responded that Joshua would lead the people after Moses died.  In this particular verse, Moses is telling  the people the story.  He was to encourage Joshua and prepare him for the position.

Passing the baton in leadership can be a difficult task.  In his book “Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars”, Patrick Lencioni writes that we far too often build barriers between teams and groups of people.  I have found this to be true in the church as well as corporate world.

While managing several food service locations, It was quite evident that the morning crew and evening crew did not mix very well.  As a manager I worked on both sides of this great chasm.  The morning crew tended to be older and more settled.  The evening crew tended to be younger and less stable.  The morning crew went home to lead families while the evening crew left to go party.  Yet, while the differences were giant, they both still worked in the same location attempting to fulfill the same vision.

While in the home-monitored security business there were three distinct silos: management, monitoring, and service.  Over my time, I worked in 2 of the 3 areas.  The barriers were high and fortified.  Each one was desperately trying to protect their interests and areas without a lot of regard for the other.  Each looked upon their job in isolation to the other two and often blamed others for the amount of work they were having to do!

For the past 15 years, I have served the local church as pastor.  Unfortunately, I find the same thing happening.  Whether it is age groups or ministries the silos rise and barriers thicken.  Generations tend to stick to their own.  There is a wide difference in belief, spending habits, conviction, commitment, and duty.  There is also a wide difference in wisdom and experience. The main difference I find is that those in power tend to stay in power.  There is a leadership vacuum in business and in church.  We have a generation of middle managers and servants who do not expect leadership because no one is passing the baton.

How can we expect perpetuity if we do not train up the next generation?  If there is no leadership development, there will be no qualified leaders in the future.  There will be people who can fill holes, but will there be leaders?  Moses was instructed to encourage and train Joshua for the position.  Moses was aging and would die.  Someone would need to lead the people into the promised land.  Moses recognized the need and asked God to provide.  Then Moses obeyed and trained up Joshua.  Here are a few tips:

  • You cannot run the whole race by yourself. In a relay race there are typically 4 runners.  The lead runner sprints out to a lead and passes it to the next person.  In this example, if the baton is not passed the team is disqualified.  For our amusement, let’s say that the runner did not want to pass the baton but continue running.  The other team just acquired a fresh runner.  It is possible that you could make it around the second lap, but what about the third?  Another fresh runner just started and you cannot keep up.  If one generation does not encourage and enable the next our organizations will suffer.
  • If you hold the baton too tightly the pass will be fumbled. We must keep a loose grip on positional leadership.  Pride and ego tend to tighten our grip.  There comes a time when we must step aside and serve rather than lead.  Just the right amount of pressure keeps it in our hands while passing the baton to the runner coming from behind.  There is a critical moment where both runners are running and the baton is being passed from one to the other.  In that moment, we see the symbology.  In our organizations we must be careful to exercise apprenticeship.  Just as Joshua apprenticed with Moses, how many times do we see this  in our organization?  What we see all too often is the tragic vacating of a position and the scramble to fill it.  If there had been an apprentice, then the transition would be smoother.
  • Every person has a best position. Running relays takes a bit of strategy.  Usually the order is 2nd fastest, 3rd fastest, slowest, fastest.  This allows for a strong position in the anchor leg.  Not everyone can be the fastest runner.  The coach makes the decision concerning who runs in what position.  Why Joshua?  Obviously there was something in him that God saw as important at this stage in Israel’s journey.  Why not Caleb?  They both were adamant about entering the promised land the first time.  It was for Joshua, not Caleb.  When recruiting leaders be sure you know what it needed at the time and near future before pouring resources into someone who will not fit the position or organizational need at the moment.

Ask God to show you the one to whom you will pass the baton.  Engage them in relationship.  Encourage them in apprenticeship.  Enable them by handing them the baton and serving them.

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