4-2 Promises in Your Heart

From Seams to Me—(Unedited) 

©2013 D. Dean Benton

 

 Four-2

PROMISES IN YOUR HEART

Joshua 1:5

From one point of view, the Israelites were invaders. They moved into territory that did not belong to them and practiced a scorched earth policy—burning, killing and destroying. God would have failed all the PC courses and tests. It was a different time—which I’m glad I did not live in.

We are applying the Joshua 1 passage to our territory—not that which belongs to others. What is your territory? At this season, what is causing your stomach to burn? Where is confusion or you don’t know what to do next? What is challenging? What woke you before dawn and nudged you out of bed to make plans?

One of my friends who woke up with acid in the throat said, “I should get over it and just move on.” If that person could they would have. When the territory that you’ve been given, fallen in love with or the dream is out of reach, you can’t just flush it and walk away. It would be easier if we could. God won’t kill us to put us out of our misery. And we can’t have the past back.

It is at such times that the promises that seemed bright and energizing now mock us and it feels like God won’t answer our calls.

Let me try to cut away side-bar stories that are extraneous to our precise purposes. God is dynamic; He is not static. He works with things as they are and never paints Himself into a corner. God never says, “I don’t know what to do, now.” Given that, let’s examine His promises.

God’s promises give legitimacy to our purposes. In Joshua 1:1-9, God’s specific promises are:

  1.  “I will give you every place where you set your foot…” (1:3).
  2. “No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life…” (1:5a).
  3. “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” (1:5b).
  4. “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (1:5c).

 We could spend a lot of time and energy asking which sentence or word specifically is directed to us? To you? To me only? To cousin Harold? Instead of fileting those words, I think we benefit most by asking two or three other questions.

  1. Does God still make promises?
  2. Does God keep His promises?
  3. What ageless principles woven into the universe are declared in those four verses?
  4. Are these promises consistent to the balanced teaching of the Bible?

 OWNERSHIP

“I will give you every place where you set your foot…” (Joshua 1:3).

 The Hebrews had “setting your foot” down. Nailed. They knew how to walk. Four decades of walking—putting one foot in front of the other. Without a destination, a walk is nothing more than wandering around. How many footsteps in forty years? Not one step earned them air miles or bonus points. This promise changed the result of what they had been doing. This promise made the walker an owner, not a renter or transient.

Pastor A. R. Bernard says, “Without a vision people will always revert to their past.” Bernard connects the words vision to imagination and image. Change the image of who you are and what you can do and you change your destiny. This promise took what they knew how to do and gave it legitimacy. The first promise invites the person to see himself differently and to reinvent himself. Every time I say that I automatically think of the South American peasants of whom C. Peter Wagner writes. They came to Christ, were filled with the Spirit and got in the habit of walking in the Spirit. The marginalized dump walkers came to see themselves as empowered. They experienced God’s power. The political powerless lower class caught glimpses of God’s vision for them and they began to walk in that empowered image. They became not only a political force, but political leaders. Without that vision, they would still be scouring the dumps for lunch.

I automatically think of the difference between Haiti and her next door neighbor the Dominican Republic.  

I don’t want to overstate this, but it is astounding. Yahweh says, “Take a walk with me. You have to forget everything you know about Wilderness walking—it no longer applies. That kind of walking doesn’t work in this new setting. What you see is available if you pursue it.”

We cannot wipe our brain clean—nor would we want to. We will benefit if we rehab our motivation.

The promise is provisional. The setting of one’s foot on the property is a catch phrase for more than touching the soil. The Canaanites were not going to abandon their property simply because a stranger walked past their picket fence.

Michael Hyatt, Chairman of the Board at Thomas Nelson Publishers says, “In order to be successful in today’s business environment, you need two things: a compelling product and a significant platform.” He dedicates his book, Platform, (Thomas Nelson 2012) “To all the authors, artists, and creative I’ve met through the years who have been turned away because they didn’t have a platform.”

The promise of Joshua 1:3 as applied to the 21st Century includes claiming the territory God is giving to you and walking the required paths. That became very clear to me when I sent a manuscript to a publisher. A manuscript must wend its way through several echelons of readers and then through the acquisition committee. My manuscript made it through the process far enough to demand that I fill out a questionnaire that included the question concerning how many people—fans, friends, subscribers, viewers, family—would be likely to buy in the first printing. The same thing happened when I talked to a friend who is a concert promoter. He asks potential artists who want to appear on his shows, “How much meat can you put in the seats?” A publisher and a promoter are in the business to sell tickets and product. It really is nothing personal. They are not philanthropists or patrons of the arts—they are business people answerable for the bottom line.

The promoter or producer or publisher will ask the author, artist, performer, speaker how many Facebook fans do you have? Twitter followers? Television viewers? Blog visitors? The “every place you place your foot” includes building that platform.

My granddaughter had a classmate last year who was a problem to her and caused constant upheaval in the classroom. Hannah got close enough to hear the girl’s story. Hannah told her mother, “No wonder she acts the way she does.”

This territory promise is important to the person who is stuck or immobilized. This promise draws the outline of a new self-image. It also demands that the person pursue what they are hearing.

I feel the agony because I know how difficult it is for the Wilderness Walker to believe God’s promise long enough to venture into this risky thing which must feel similar to walking across the Grand Canyon on a tight rope. Scary! You cannot overstate the importance of Joshua or a tribe to encourage and keep telling the good news—you can be healed! You are included in the inner circle of people whom God calls Friend. Call it a tribe or The Necessary Family, a healthy atmosphere filled with encouraging people is a basic requirement. That is what God intended His “Chosen People,” “The Church” to be and do.

Dr. Will Miller has a simple test. Who do you know well enough to walk into their house without knocking and go to the refrigerator without asking and help yourself to a beverage or a sandwich. Dr. Will insists we all need someone with whom we are connected at that level. I have underlined lots of words in his book Refrigerator Rights. Listen to these:

 “Every one of us will flourish or perish depending upon on whether we have two basic things: physical and emotional sustenance. We need both if we’re to have a chance at having a fulfilled life.” (p 132)

 We need emotional connections. Dr. Will says, “…connections characterized by disclosure, trust and caring.” (144) But for those of us who never feel safe with anyone or in any environment, those are tough words. When the ones we trusted betrayed us, something got torn out of us like a backhoe digging a trench in our souls.

 HEALING

 Yesterday the newspaper talked about a singing star whose mother came to Christ a couple of years ago. She is telling her story which begins “with the painful divorce of her parents when she was two,” and then sexual molestation which began when she was three. Any question in your mind how she could lose her way?

I was captivated listening to our son (the commercial photographer) talk about capturing the New York skyline during a fireworks show. It is a balance of natural light, man-made light and the equipment you use. He talked about the magnificence of our eyes to adjust and capture the broad view and the challenge to the photographer is to balance all things as the image travels through lens and the mechanical apparatus.

Traumatized people require healing to clean the debris from their eyes or they will never see the territory God has given to them. Even non-traumatized need to have the eyes of our hearts cleared so we can get a full view of why the specific territory is assigned to us.  

The person who experiences abandonment or has been abused may lose critical mental, emotional and spiritual elements. I’m not a psychologist. From the best studies and writings of therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists as well as spiritual counselors specializing in development, I suggest five mental, emotional and spiritual losses. Self-care is applied here. These are vulnerable places where promises should be packed—like sandbags in the retaining levee. 

 Security

 “A person who is insecure lacks confidence in their own value, and one or more of their capabilities, lacks trust in themselves or others, or has fears that a present positive state is temporary, and will let them down and cause them loss or distress by ‘going wrong’ in the future. Insecurity is not an objective evaluation of one’s ability but an emotional interpretation.” (source unknown)

 We met a man in a seminar who told us he had abandonment issues. No one physically walked out the door, but the environment was the opposite of secure. He arrived at home from school each day with an assumption rather than a fear. He thought his mother would be dead and his father would have killed her. He lost all security. His parents are still alive, but he lost them piece by piece over the years. He assumes if he ever trusts or loves again, they will disappear or abandon him.

I’ve tried to be kind to Achan without excusing him. (Joshua 6-7) Think about it. For his whole lifetime he has been a nomad with only those possessions he could carry or load onto a pack animal. He had never seen much wealth. God had promised that he would be his supply. Now he was tested. They were going to destroy the city. All of this stuff was going to be consumed by fire. What harm? But for very real reasons God had instructed them to leave the stuff alone.

For those of us for whom security is a high dollar commodity, the loss rips out assurance that someone will be there to be the ballast when you’ve lost balance or to walk with you through the gray or black days.

To protect yourself, what biblical promise do you need to grab and store in your heart? How do you deal with the root cause of potential insecurity? What could God say to you that would make a difference?

I’ve wandered around for a couple of hours hurting about friends and family who are in bad situations. I want to pray the prayer of faith and zap them into sunlight, but for the time being they are enshrouded by clouds. God, what words do you have for these people whom I love?

  1.  “I will give you every place where you set your foot…” (1:3).
  2. “No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life…” (1:5a).
  3. “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” (1:5b).
  4. “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (1:5c).

 Because the situation has changed does not mean God has or that His promises need to be reconsidered. Even in the new situation His word is, “I will be with you. I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

 Safety

Josh McDowell has spoken to millions of college students. One hundred-twenty-five of his books have been published. Fifty one million have sold. They are among the most influential in Christiandom. He is the son of an alcoholic father. He often saw his mother unconscious or bleeding from the beatings.

From ages 7-13, Josh was weekly raped by a hired man. At age 9, he gathered courage to tell his mother. She did not believe him. At thirteen, he grabbed his abuser by the throat and told him if he touched him again, he would kill him.

McDowell is in his fifties. He says that if he is in a room alone and a man enters the room, he always feels panic. He says the panic may last five seconds, but the feeling is what he felt when he was a boy. 

McDowell has taught and preached around the world on college campuses, churches and has been featured on most major Christian TV programs. He is a radio co-host with America’s leading Christian psychologists. He never allows people to “lay hands on him” and pray. The feeling of someone’s hand on his shoulder recalls the hands of the abuser.

If you were beaten as a child—unable to defend yourself—you may never feel safe and tend to stay where you know the people and surroundings are safe. For many of us, we also function with a “safe” person close by. That person is our anchor in the anxiety attack and the one will walk us to the car when we have a panic attack in a mall. More specifically, we feel that if our safe person is with us we will have no panic attack. 

Emotional deprivation is our culture’s great hindrance. For many of us it comes from keeping all the secrets, secret. The child of dysfunction is warned to “never tell.” A Miss America winner said she denied being sexually molested by her father and says she would have denied it had she been asked directly. That secret grew into physical, emotional and spiritual illnesses that tormented her. Not all of us were warned. Many just don’t want anyone to know. We didn’t have to be warned.

We had an on-going conversation with a young woman in Pennsylvania. After testing us, she decided she could trust us with her secrets. She told us. We spoke absolution in response to her confession and she took flight into a new trajectory. It was as if her cage door had been opened. From an emotional pauper to a princess may be only slightly poetic to describe her life these days.

First comes healing and deliverance and then comes the risk of trusting someone. Josh McDowell found that pathway by telling a mentor.

Scour God’s word to find a promise that fits your safety need and make it your own.

 Stability

 South Sudan became a nation this year. Sudan has been in war almost continually since the 1955—especially since 1980s. We know some of those Sudanes because of the 20,000 refugees known as the ‘Lost Boys of the Sudan”—who walked 1000 miles into places like Ethiopia to live in camps of as many as 400,000. Historians say these children are among the most traumatized children in history. The United   States teachers of these refugees with whom I have talked, speak fondly of Sudanese gentleness and their drive to learn.

I have stood next to teenage and young twenty-year-old “lost boys.” I knew they had killed. Even though they theoretically epitomize instability, I never personally felt threatened. So I asked them why. They spoke of British caretakers in the camps who taught them civility and lived up to their names—caregivers. They expressed care.

When I begin to talk about children of divorce or abandonment, abuse or grisly neglect, someone always reminds me of a specific person from that group who excelled. Risk takers, adventurers, adventure-capitalists, path markers are able to risk because they have a reference point of stability. I asked a Russian, who had talked to me of the pogroms and the destruction of the families, how any one survived. He said, “The Babushkas.” They are the grandmothers.

The adult whose history has included abandonment, abuse and/or neglect is best advised to select a life-coach who will companion you into stability.

What promise or instruction would reassure you and protect your inner person from following Achan into doing just opposite what you intend to do?

We have worked in a tiny Nebraska town three times. The Dismal River flows through it. During a concert, I bantered with the crowd about their town. An older lady said, “Reverend, I have lived my whole life on the Dismal.”

That sounds terrible! I wanted to tell her I would pray for her healing, but knew they would have missed my intended humor. I have lived part of my life on the dismal! Not a fun place to camp.

“God, I don’t know what you have in mind. It looks dismal to me, maybe even hopeless, but in my heart there is assurance of your presence. I sure don’t feel your presence and can’t imagine how even you can make anything good come out of this, but I have decided to trust you—in my heart I’ll lean into your promise. However this turns out—I’m going to trust my heart. In the meantime, will you help me. I’m hurting big time.”

 Shield

 “A major implication of the headship of the father/grandfather is the fact that he is the spiritual gatekeeper for the family. This means that whatever spiritual influences enter the family come as a result of the exercise of his authority to consciously or unconsciously to give or withhold permission.

“He is thus responsible to protect his family from enemy intrusion.”

Charles Kraft (p 197 (I Give You Authority)

If there is divorce or abandonment by father or mother, the remaining parent should vocalize the termination of the relationship to the spirit world and assume the mantle of spiritual head of the household.

Although I do not believe that we should baptize children for their sin, I am fond of the spiritual act of baptism or dedication that declares that the infant or child is now a part of the family—Body of Christ. I also think the question to the congregation concerning their willingness to participate in the nurture of the child establishes the shield around the child. But everyone’s job turns out to be no one’s job.

A single mom has particular responsibility to appoint a willing person to be the gatekeeper for her children. Carefully. That may be a Sunday school teacher, youth pastor, uncle or a trusted friend.

“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6). How’s that for a promise?

  Self

 The common result of a child of divorce is that the trajectory of his/her life is changed or obliterated. They become self-caretakers and feel alone. There is that haunting line from the biography of Darrell Strawberry—“he did not know what a ‘Darrell’ looked like.”

           Self-evaluation tends to become low ball—worth less than the cheapest bid.

 “Satan’s greatest psychological weapon is a gut-level feeling of inferiority, inadequacy, and low self-worth…Low self-esteem paralyzes our potential, destroys our dreams, ruins our relationships, and sabotages our Christian service”. (David A. Seamonds)

     

A young lady said, “You nailed me with your messages on children of divorce.” She is funny, educated and competent in her vocation. Her husband sees low self-esteem in his wife which he connects to the abandonment she experienced when her parents divorced.

One of Andy Andrews’ characters says about herself, “I am bad luck. Everything I touch leaks, breaks, leaves, or dies.” (p 58—Island of Saints) Where does a person find healing for that?

Find a “God said!”

 Sin

 The promise of God to Joshua is that no one will be able to stand up against him, but several days after the fall of Jericho, a tiny army in a small town named Ai stood up against and whipped the army of Israel. Joshua wonders if God has backed out on one of His promises. Israel’s leader falls on his face before God and asks and seeks why God didn’t “show up.” God’s response is interesting.

“Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant…” (vs 17).

Joshua is a stand-up, Truman kind of guy. The buck stopped with him. Yahweh’s attitude tells us something about His promises and that a person can take them to the bank.

“Joshua you can’t keep Israel from rolling in the mud. But you better do something about it.” God says that “Israel has sinned.” The whole tribe had not, only a man named Achan had, but his sin polluted the whole. We’ve talked about self-awareness and self-motivation. We had better talk about self-care.

It is in the soul that is untended and un-nurtured where the soil becomes receptive for sin long before it is acted upon. It is a bruise or hurt or misunderstanding or growing fear that God is not going to be there that the things of this world become very attractive as they did to Achan. It is in these areas where the promises are most often questioned and abandoned. In these areas are where the promises such as “I will give…No one will ever…As I was with…I will never leave or forsake you…” must be applied as healing or at least like bracing until the healing comes.

Moments ago, I checked Facebook. A friend is troubled. I attempted to reassure the lady that in God’s promises He speaks strength to the feeble. I asked Him to give me a word that would be appropriate for her and me. I glanced down to the next post on the News Feed and read these words:

  “No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the LORD.” Isaiah 54:17

“Standing on the Word!!!,” the writer said.

 Sounds like a plan!

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