Amnesia and Conditional Obedience

“…just as we obeyed Moes in all things, so we will obey you.  Only may The Lord your God be with you, as he was with Moses!” ~ Joshua 1:17

When I read this I nearly choked.  Are the people of Israel standing before Joshua and telling him a) we obeyed Moses in all things or b) just as we obeyed Moses we will obey you or c) all of the above.  What an incredible short term memory they had both in their actions and the fact that Joshua knows exactly how they obeyed (*disobeyed) Moses in all things (*very few things).  Yet don’t we fall into the same condition of amnesia before God?  It seems there are two things we very quickly forget: God’s blessings and our failings.  We are also quick to remember two things: others failings and our conditions for obedience.  There is so much humor (and sadness) in this one verse it really is hard to know where to start one’s reflections.  The Lord said he would indeed be with Joshua just as he had been with Moses if Joshua would follow God closely.  In fact, in Josh 1:2 we read God commissing Joshua into headship ministry!  So the people already know that Joshua is the leader God has appointed for the mission ahead.  What is quite scarey is actually what follows in verse 18, “Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death.  Only be strong and courageous.”  Can you imagine!  Amnesia plus commitment to extreme consequences of disobedience foreshadow disaster in the future.

How often do we fall in line with Israel’s actions? How often do we either a) commit to “burning the ships” in obedience without considering our track record or we b) put conditions on what we will obey or what needs to happen in order for us to obey? God is not in the business of negotiating with His people. He calls us to obey Him when He gives us instructions. In fact, the word “disciple” means “apprentice or student.” The church today has taken that word as its own description but back in the New Testament time period the Rabbi’s weren’t the only ones who had students or “disciples.” All sorts of trades people had disciples who were learning how to work with their hands and copy the style of work their mentor produced. There was no negotiation – if you wanted to be their apprentice you did the work the way your teacher wanted you to do it and you did it like he did it – you followed in their footsteps. If we are called to be disciples of Jesus we show ourselves to be so through our obedience. No one can call themselves a follower of Jesus if they don’t in fact follow and obey what he has asked them or commanded them to do. And when we do the work of our Lord, we are to do HIS work the way HE would want it accomplished which not only reflects his character but also brings honor and glory to him. This also means we don’t worry about other people. The Israelites were concerned that Joshua wouldn’t be able to follow through when they really should have been more concerned about what they were committing to and how they were going to remain strong in faithfulness.

As we hear the call of Christ, let’s look to our own path to which we have been called and rely on God to light the way, give us the strength and pursue it with courage. Let’s not look to the left or the right worrying about whether or not others will be able to follow through on their commitment – that’s between them and the Lord. Instead, let’s be cheerleaders with each other and encourage one another to be faithful, to follow through and to commit whole heartedly to our Master – no negotiations – no conditions – just our affection driving us to Jesus time and time again. Amen.

The Battle Of Discipline & It’s Rewards

For the past 60 days I have been working hard on losing weight to become a healthier person and pastor. This has meant consuming large amounts of water daily, watching closely what I eat and saying NO to a lot of foods that I would have consumed in the past. It has meant making sure I try to exercise as often as I can and even prioritize the time. Most of this I have had success in…some of it not so much. Exercising consistently has at times been elusive and I really should go to bed early at night to get proper sleep. What I have noticed is that alongside the loss of weight and inches I have become more disciplined in other areas and developing a desire to be more so. My thought life has changed so that I reflect on different topics throughout the day. Where I used to dream about what I was going to eat now I think about what I should eat and how much water I need to drink — my body craves water now. I have purchased a journal to map the spiritual journey I and our church is on and never before have I had the discipline to journal. I purposely go for walks instead of watching more TV.

What has really become clear to me is how God has designed our bodies to be intricately entwined with all of its aspects. Lack of self-control in one area often leads to lack of self-control in other areas. Likewise, as we develop discipline it’s benefits spread to other areas. But it cannot be about determination alone. In fact, when confronted with all the “goodies” of the past my determination can falter but the Lord never does. Discipline is a request that needs to be brought before the Lord daily, hourly and sometimes moment by moment if it is ever going to take root and bear fruit. No wonder Jesus went off by himself early in the morning to spend time with his Father. He needed to remain connected with the one who gave him love and guidance in ministering to people throughout the rest of the day. To get up early must have been a discipline and after hard days of pouring yourself out for others I wonder if Jesus was ever tempted to give in and just sleep in. OR, what I believe is more likely, he understood the massive benefits meeting with the Father brought to his life and ministry. Nothing could replace what that personal discipline brought. What might you be needing to change in your life in order to bring some aspect back into order? Is there an area(s) that you know if only you could get under control you would experience God in a deeper way or more fruit in your life would be brought forth? God can help you….in fact, God want’s to help you because when you bear fruit you bring honor and glory to him while you grow closer to him in your reliance and affection.

Discipline – a hated word in our society today – can bear much fruit not only in the one area you wish would be different but in other areas you never even considered. Blessings on you as you look to God to give you strength and courage to move forward!