God’s Word Amidst Hard Changes (Part 2 of 3)

 

1 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: 2 “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.

Last week Tana Tuttle began to share with us practical truths from Joshua 1:1-9. We made our way through the first verse and a half with these highlights:

  • Sometimes for us, like for the Israelites, God doesn’t speak because He has already spoken.
  • God will always acknowledge the truth that needs to be faced.
  • God never plans to leave us in the past; there is always a “now” word coming from God.

I love how Tana highlights the relevance of God’s Word is to each of us. I can’t wait to read more!

                                                            –Sandy MacMillan

In Part 2 of 3, we begin mid verse 2, with “Now then…

tana photo

Tana and her daughter Kara

The next word in our text is “you”. You. A very personal word. You want to know why? Because you are important to God. What you are going through is important to Him.   God is very much into individuals. You are never an impersonal being to God. You are never overlooked, or pushed aside. You, your life—fearfully and wonderfully made, knit together in your mother’s womb (see Psalm 139)—is of utmost importance.

Yes, “you” in the text was referring to Joshua, but don’t miss that “you” also means you! You are just as important to God as Moses was, or Joshua.

Really? Really. Does that mean that you will have the same call as Moses or Joshua? No, but it does mean that the call you have is just as important. I’ll tell you why in just a bit, but for now:

Remember that God’s present (now) word is always addressed first to you, personally.

After the word, you, the very next words extends the “you” to “and all the people”. God is saying: “You are important (see above). You and your family, you and your friends, you and your church, you and your generation. You are included in what I am doing in their lives and they are included in what I am doing in your life.”

God is working out a plan, a purpose that we cannot see right now, but we are important in what is happening on this earth. What happens in your life affects others, and what happens in others’ lives affects your life.

God is going somewhere with whatever you’re going through!

That’s why you are important, and so are others around you. You are just as important as Moses or Joshua and God has planned accordingly.

We know Moses and Joshua cooperated with God. Will you? Will I? That’s the question before us. If we do not know and understand our importance to God and His plan, we will whittle away our lives and we, as well as others, will suffer.

What is God calling you to do?   It is just as necessary to what God is doing as Moses and Joshua’s calls were for their generation.

God’s present (now) word will be addressed to you, personally, and expand to include the people around you.

Next word?

“Prepare.” Or as the NIV says, “Get ready.”

On the surface, when Moses died, it looked like God had abandoned the Israelites, that He had taken something from them, something important, something vital.

The enemy of our souls will tell us, “Look what God took from you; if He really loved you He would not have let this happen. If He were a good God, He would not let you suffer. This is unfair. God obviously doesn’t care about you.”

Have you heard this in your ear like I have? You know by now that these are the enemy’s lies. God is not a taker, He is a giver, or as I like to say, “God is an exchanger.”

God may take something away, but He always gives something in exchange. You will never be left with a minus (see 1 Cor. 4:7 and Romans 8:32).

God was going to exchange 40 years of wilderness wandering for the land of milk and honey. The incredible thing is, those 40 wandering years included many good provisions and promises from God. But there was more to come.

You and I know the story. These people, of course, did not yet know that the land of milk and honey was right up ahead or have confidence that they’d ever reach it. They needed a time of preparation, an in-between time.

You and I must have a time of preparation also. The things that are in your life, that you would never choose, are a preparation time for what is up ahead. It is an in-between time, in between n-o-w and n-e-w.

God is sovereign over everything in your life, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Now, prepare. God is up to something you cannot see that will turn out good. This is for you—and for others.

Now is the time to be expectant, to put your hope in God, to let Him walk you through the preparation time to the next place in your journey.

In your present circumstance, your new normal, God desires that you prepare for where He is taking you, for He is up to something good in the midst of your life.

(From Sandy:

We’re out of space for this week! So, like the Israelites, we can use the time to “prepare” for where God is taking us, while we wait to hear more from Tana next time!)

Fighting Fair with God

madwomanShe was mad. Mad at her husband. Mad at her boss. Mad at the world. And mad at God. She ranted about how badly life had treated her. And how she couldn’t understand why God didn’t fix things for her.

My heart reached out to her. She had really been through a lot. Some of her struggles were truly not her fault. But other problems were, at least in part, the result of her own bad choices.

To blame God for not rescuing her from her own poor choices—well, that just wasn’t fighting fair.

But—in fairness—while my friend’s rantings made her error more obvious, one look at the mirror told me that she wasn’t the only one who sometimes blames God for problems she walks into all by herself!

Scripture gives plenty of examples of people struggling with God, pleading with God, pouring out their troubles and asking for rescue. And I absolutely believe God would have us fight things through with Him rather than walk away from Him.

But, as I look at the Scriptures, I see certain principles of fair fighting, certain truths that can turn our rantings at God to a growing trust in God.

  1. Remember who God is.

I think of Job, who truly didn’t deserve his hard times, but was still chastened for questioning God. God’s reply to his complaint:

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me if you understand.” (Job 38:4) and

“Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?” Job 40:2a

When we pridefully challenge God, we dishonor Him by forgetting that God is Creator and that we are created. We fail to acknowledge how little we understand about His purposes for the world and for us.

David also had plenty of troubles. And he very openly poured out his anguish and complaints to God, saying things like:

“My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long?” (Psalm 6:3)

“Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1)

“My God, my god, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?” (Psalm 22:1)

But even as David questioned God’s presence and provision, he never forgot who God is. Look at these verses from the same three psalms:

In Psalm 6, David calls on God to save him, “because of [his] unfailing love” (v 4 ) affirming that because “the Lord accepts my prayer,” “all my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed.” (v 9 and 10).

In Psalm 10, David says that “the Lord is King for ever and ever,” the God who hears “the desire of the afflicted.” (v 16 and 17).

In Psalm 22, immediately after asking God why He has seemingly ignored David, David says “Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them (vss 3-4).

Taking time to remember who God is gives us an important perspective check. God is good. God loves us. But God is sovereign and does not answer to us.

  1. Remember who we are.

 When my friend and I blame God for our circumstances, so often we forget

  • Our own limited perspective
  • Our personal responsibility

After hearing God’s answer to his railings, Job replied, “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer—twice, but I will say no more.” (Job 40:4-5)

When we remember who God is as Creator and who we are as the created, we realize the arrogance of our arguments, and come before him humbly.

And, as Paul reminds us in Romans 3, that humble place is not only because we are created. It is because we are fallen:

“As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.” (Romans 3:10-11)

When I bring my complaints before God recognizing my sin, I am less likely to blame God for things that are my own fault. Instead, I am humbled to ask God to forgive me, to transform me, and to help me. And I am reminded that it is God’s grace that works to redeem my messes for my good and His glory. 

  1. Remember that God has the best plan.

When I rant at God, it’s often because I know what I want. I think I know best, and I’m not getting it!

Yet when I think about requests God has said “no” to in the past, it’s very often with a sense of gratitude. Because looking back, I catch glimpses of the work God was doing that I couldn’t see at the time—character building, preparing me for even greater blessing.

I believe God is pleased when we bring Him our hurts and even our frustrations with His apparent lack of help. And sometimes we have to wrestle with God about intense feelings of hurt and disappointment. Like barren Hannah, we can pray “out of great anguish and grief” (1 Samuel 1:16) But as we fight fair, remembering who God is, and who we are in relation to him, we can also leave the fight with faces like Hannah’s that are “no longer downcast” (v 18) because of a restored trust in our good, loving God. 

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici, at FreeDigitalPhoto.net.

 

The Dead End View

bikeshadowIt was a sunny vacation morning. I hopped on my bike, looking forward to a worry-free time exploring beachside streets. But as often happens, my worries hopped on board.

I began to think about the series of blog posts I had planned to write this summer. The ones (about what it means to be blessed) that still aren’t written.

I started the series in the spring, but all my efforts to add more installments ended in frustration. I hit dead end after dead end.deadend1

I couldn’t move forward with my plan, so I didn’t move forward at all. I felt like a failure.

I wondered and worried, what does a writer do when she can’t work past a dead end?

deadend2And as I rode and wondered, I realized I was riding past dead end sign after dead end sign.

So I began exploring these dead end streets.

Some simply ended.roadfade

Others faded into footpaths and unexplored territory.

And still others ended with a breathtaking view.view1

Then it hit me.

Sometimes in life, our plans don’t work out. Whether in writing or relationships, careers or creative projects, we come to dead ends.

We may need to turn around.

We may decide to hack our way through overgrown paths.

Or sometimes, we need to let go of unfinished plans, park our bikes, and enjoy the view.

Ironically, as I took in the amazing dead end view, I felt truly blessed.

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21