Monday, January 24, 2011

Joshua – V

Yahweh’s emphasis on His Word to Joshua in Joshua Chapter One reminds me of Aslan’s words to Jill in The Silver Chair:

But first remember, remember the signs. Say them to yourself when you wake in the morning and when you lie down at night, and when you wake in the middle of the night. And whatever strange things may happen to you, let nothing turn your mind from following the signs. And secondly, I give you a warning. Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia. Here on the mountain the air is clear and your mind is clear; as  you drop down into Narnia, the air will thicken. Take great care that it does not confuse your mind. And the signs which you have learned here will not look at all as you expect them to look, when you meet them there. That is why it is so important to know them by heart and pay no attention to appearances.

Yahweh says to Joshua, “…do not turn from it [the Law] to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go”

Prior to his death, Moses told the people of Israel, “Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today…for it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life.” Deuteronomy 32:46 – 47.

There is a sense in which the Word of God is our inheritance, for by it we partake of the Divine Nature, by it we respond to the call of our Father and Lord Jesus, by it we have communion with one another; for it is not a matter of ink and paper, but of the eternal resonating Word of God emanating from the Trinity and permeating the hearts of those who He calls to Himself.

Jesus told the religious leaders that the flesh, the natural, profits nothing, but that the words He spoke were spirit and life. The scribes and Pharisees read and memorized the ink and parchment, but they missed Him to whom all that they read and memorized testified. The writer of Hebrews (Chapter Four) and Peter (1 Peter Chapter One) portray the Word of God as living and vibrant and full of life, and should it not be so? Is not God alive? Is not God vibrant?

Just as Jill in The Silver Chair, Joshua would need to remind himself not to trust in appearances but to trust in the Word of God. The atmosphere in Canaan with its opposition, both within and without the people of Israel, would tend to dull the mind, dull the hearing, and dull the eye of Joshua; hence the command to, “….meditate on it day and night.”

Somewhere Francis Schaeffer wrote to the effect that one of the reasons he regularly read the Bible was to keep his mind clear, for it doesn’t take long for the atmosphere of the natural world to dull our minds.

What is the atmospheric condition of my mind today? Is there a pollution alert – or is is clear and radiant with the Word of the Sun?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Oswald Chambers – This Time Around

Vickie and I are reading My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. It’s been a while since we’ve done this daily devotional book together and I thought it might be nice for us to stroll down Chambers Street hand-in-hand one more time.

My first encounter with Chambers was when I was sixteen years old; George Will introduced me to Chambers, as he did to Andrew Murray, A.W. Tozer, and Watchman Nee. We’re using the updated edition; somewhere around here I have the original version – I wonder if I can find it?

The original version I have (or hope I still have) was given to me by Mildred Norbeck of Intercession City, FL around 1976. Sister Norbeck was a retired Wesleyan missionary; there were quite a few retired missionaries living in Intercession City and I “happened” to meet her during a visit to that little hamlet. She asked me, “Do you have a copy of Chambers?” Since I didn’t have a copy at the time she gave me one; it had an inscription from 1952 in it as I recall – I will have to try to find that book.

Of course when she asked me if I had a copy of “Chambers” I knew she meant My Utmost for His Highest, even though there are a good many books with Oswald Chambers as the author. The thing is, Chambers only actually wrote one book and it wasn’t My Utmost for His Highest, but since I can’t recall the title right now I won’t guess which book it was. All of the other books indicating Chambers as the author were compiled by his wife from notes she took in shorthand from his lectures and messages.

Chambers, this time around, is a bit different for both Vickie and me. On January 10th, commenting on Acts 26:17-18, Chambers begins with, “This is the greatest example of the true essence of the message of a disciple of Jesus Christ in all of the New Testament.”

As I read those words aloud to Vickie I cringed. “Greatest example…in all of the New Testament”? Early into our journey with Chambers I was already struck by his hyperbole, and this put an exclamation mark on it. In addition, in looking at my notes from prior readings I could see margins lined with question marks, indicating my disagreement with a statement or an approach. I pondered why this time around with Chambers was less than satisfying. (To be sure many other margins are lined with exclamation points – indicating agreement).

Then a day or two later it dawned on me, Chambers died when he was 43 years old of complications from an appendectomy; complications that might have been avoided had he seen a physician sooner. (I once remarked to a lady that Chambers didn’t take care of himself, a lesson for us all who might think there is merit in not caring for the vessel God gave us. She was highly offended that I suggested Chambers might have made a mistake in his life – “certainly it was God who decided to take Chambers when he was only 43”. Well, I guess you can look at that a number of ways). 

A young man is more prone to hyperbole than an older man (hopefully). Grandiose statements are more often the currency of the young rather than the old. I’m reading the passion and certainty of a young man, also of a man fairly locked into a certain way of thinking and approach to discipleship and perhaps without much cross-pollination in the Kingdom of God. This helps me approach Chambers this time around.

Now please don’t mistake the above for a criticism of Chambers, it isn’t; I still recommend him. In fact, I’ve a mind to go back to his works elsewhere on suffering and sonship and reread them – for they are insightful – and in fact I’d rank them higher than My Utmost, but then they are a different genre – they are sustained and penetrating.

Hyperbolic or not, the passion of discipleship that Chambers exhibits is sorely lacking in the Western church today, the desire to give “my utmost for His highest” has been turned into “what can God do today so I can have my best life now?”

Mr. Chambers, what would you say to us today?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Joshua – IV

Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory. Joshua 1:3 – 4.

The land of inheritance was in front of Joshua and the people of Israel; they had but to obediently walk on it. To walk on it in disobedience would result in defeat (see Joshua Chapter 7); to walk on it in obedience would make the inheritance theirs.

In traditional rest estate law, after a buyer has signed the settlement papers and paid his money to the seller, in order to consummate the sale he must actually “take possession” of the property. Until the buyer has actually walked into the home the transaction has not been consummated in traditional (common) law. Is this not the case with God’s people?

Our kind heavenly Father and Lord Jesus give us our inheritance through the Cross, but it is of little avail if we don’t walk on it, possess it, and appropriate it via experience in our heart and minds.

This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Joshua 1:8

The possession of our inheritance in Christ is related to the Word of God. Consider Peter’s words:

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 2 Peter 1:2 – 4.

God gives us His Word that we might know who He is and who we are in Him in order that we may become partakers of His very nature, that we might have relationship, fellowship, koinonia (John Chapter 17) with Him and with one another. If we don’t know His promises how can we walk on them? If we don’t know where the land of inheritance is located (which is now and always “in Christ”) how can we partake of Him?

Notice the relationship, in Joshua 1:8, between the mouth and meditation. What my heart and mind is focused on, my mouth will speak; when I speak what I meditate upon then what I meditate upon is encouraged to take root within my being. Meditation is not silent, it is also verbal; the mouth and heart correspond in meditation, else the seed sown in the heart will have little root and little fruit.

What does the land of our inheritance look like today?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Joshua – III

Moses was dead. Yahweh says to Joshua (1:2), Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan…

I suppose Joshua and Israel could have erected a monument to Moses and remained on the east bank of the Jordan. They wept and mourned for Moses thirty days (Deut. 34:8), but then it was time to arise and cross this Jordan. Grieving, weeping, and mourning can be good and right in their season, but then it is time to arise and cross our Jordans.

We marvel at Israel’s desire to return to Egypt during their Wilderness journey; we think, “How can they even think of returning to bondage?” But how many times have we traded the security of bondage for a relationship with the true and living God? And how many times have we yearned not for an Egypt in our past, but rather for a Moses? That is, how many times have we longingly looked to a glorious past experience or season of life, wanting to return to it – rather than arising and crossing the Jordan?

When the subject of sky diving arises some folk are apt to say, “Why would I jump out of a perfectly good plane?” or, “If God wanted me to fly He would have given me wings.” It was one thing to go through the Red Sea with an army of Egyptians threatening destruction; it’s another thing to cross a river with the avowed purpose of confronting an enemy army; they’re not bothering us so why should we bother them? I can see crossing a river to escape an enemy, but why cross a river to confront an enemy? The east bank of the Jordan looks like a fine place to live; and by the way, Moses is dead.

Are there times we make a likeness of Moses to take with us when we arise so that we really don’t have to leave him on the East Bank? Do we take what was once living but has lived its life, served its purpose, played its role, and put it on artificial life support so that we can continue to rely on it, rather than rely on Christ? Do we put our glorious past experiences in a frozen cyronic state in hopes of reviving them in the future? Does the past become our future goal? If the past had been Joshua’s future goal he would not have arose and crossed the Jordan.

Is there something in your life which is dead but which you are pretending is alive? Are you making the past your future? Do we hear the voice of our Lord Jesus saying, “Arise and cross this Jordan”? What Jordan would our heavenly Father have you cross today? The time of crossing rivers to escape is in the past; the time to cross rivers to conquer the enemy is today; the time to cross rivers to bring our brothers and sisters into their inheritance  is now.

“…forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13a-14.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Joshua – II

Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of Yahweh, that Yahweh spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, Moses my servant is dead… Joshua 1:1-2a

Joshua will soon lead the people of Israel into the land of their inheritance. He will walk through a river, defeat enemies, suffer defeat, experience more victory, and bear the responsibility of leading a people who do not always care to cooperate. But first he has an apprenticeship; a forty-year apprenticeship.

In the above text Moses is the servant of God but Joshua is the servant of Moses. Yes, Joshua will be a leader, he will be the leader, but first he must learn to be a servant. Joshua must not only learn to be a servant to a people in general, he must learn to be a servant to one man in particular; there is a difference.

If I say, “I love the world” but cannot love one individual I do not know what it means to love the world. If I say, “I am a servant of God and His people” but cannot serve one individual I do not know what it means to be a servant. It is in the particular that we know the general; it is in the individual that we learn to serve and love God and humanity.

This is why the Scriptures tell us that if we see our brother hungry and needing clothing but do not respond with action but only with words that we don’t know the love of God – in spite of of our words. My actions toward the individual are the measure of the validation of my words toward God, the church, and humanity.

Joshua first had to learn to be the servant of Moses before he could become the servant of God. A nation’s leader may say, “I am here to serve my country”, but if that leader does not know what it is to serve an individual, to actually lay aside his own wants and needs and desires for another person, for a distinct individual, then has that leader been to the school of servanthood? Ego and self-will are enemies of servant-leadership, they can only be dealt with in relationship with individuals; not in a relationship with a faceless and nameless mass of people.

It is my experience that most people misread the centurion of Matthew Chapter Eight, thinking that he recognized that Jesus was a man in authority. Not so. The centurion recognized that Jesus was under authority, and being under authority himself the centurion knew that Jesus therefore had authority to heal his servant with a word.

What individuals are we serving? Or are we deluding ourselves that we are the servants of God when there is no one who we serve?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Joshua – I

I began this morning with Psalm One; a good way to begin a year with its emphasis on the Law of Yahweh, the two ways, the two congregations. Psalm One got me thinking about Joshua Chapter One with its corresponding emphasis on the Law of Yahweh. My intention was to reflect on Psalm One, Joshua One, and related passages in one series but as I sit here walking across Joshua 1:1 – 9 I see that the quarterback needs call an “audible”; it will be Joshua Chapter One for Mind on Fire and Psalm One for Kaleidoscope.
Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of Yahweh, that Yahweh spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel.

Joshua was on the threshold of a new season of life; it was an unknown season; a season of mystery. He stood on the east bank of the Jordan River. On the west bank of the Jordan lay the heart of the land that Yahweh had promised to Israel. Embedded in that land, known as Canaan, were people not disposed to be dispossessed. Between the east bank of the Jordan and the west bank of the Jordan was the river with water overflowing its banks; there was no bridge, there was no man-made way to get from the east bank to the west bank.

Joshua had seen this land before, though not from this direction. Some forty years prior to standing on the East Bank Joshua had been one of twelve scouts sent into Canaan from the south to reconnoiter prior to Israel taking its inheritance. On that occasion ten of the twelve scouts convinced Israel that Canaan’s inhabitants were too dangerous to contend with. The people of Israel took counsel of their fears,disobeyed God and refused to enter the land. Yahweh’s response was to consign Israel to forty years of wandering in the Wilderness.

Now, on the East Bank, two men live who saw the land of Canaan from the south forty years ago; just two men, two of the twelve scouts; Joshua of the clan of Ephraim, Caleb of the clan of Judah. They knew the south entrance to Canaan by land, they didn’t know the east entrance to Canaan across water. Forty years earlier the people did not enter Canaan because of fear; what would happen this time?

What about you? As you look back over your life, whether you look back forty years, forty weeks, or forty days; have you seen the Land of Promise only to turn away from it due to fear, doubt, or other enemy? Have you seen or touched or tasted that which makes your heart beat faster, that which brings joy to your soul, that which speaks to you of destiny; only to turn from it thinking to never visit the South Entrance again?

It may be true that you’ll never again seen the South Entrance, but it could very well be true that you’ll see the East Entrance – and what then? The East Entrance is more formidable than the South Entrance; for while both entrances have adversaries, the South Entrance is by land and the East Entrance has the river barrier. What will you do? Will you turn away once again; or will you turn to the True and Living God and live, not as an accident looking for a place to happen, but as a son or daughter of the Living God with a destiny in Jesus Christ?

to be continued…