From Seams to Me—(Unedited)
©2013 D. Dean Benton
FIRE IN YOUR BELLY
“I will give you…” 1:3a
“I will be with you…” Joshua 1:5b
“I will never leave…forsake you…” 1:5c
“…you will lead these people” 6:1
“…that you will be successful” 1:7d
The Impossible Dream has been our theme song for decades. Not because I really thought it was impossible, but because I believe every God-given dream is possible precisely because “With God all things are possible.” Questing is so woven into the fabric of our ministry and lives, one lady cross stitched the words “The Quest” on a framed piece of fabric which was mounted in most of our ministry vehicles.
The story of Don Quixote is not a light comedy. It is the story about a man who could see something that others laughed at. He called what others called a common kitchen wench, someone beautiful and changed her life. He had the ability to change sceneries and people.
Quixote asks, “Well, Sancho—how dost thou like adventuring?” Sancho answers, “Oh, marvelous, Your Grace. But it’s peculiar—to me this great highway to glory looks exactly like the road to El Toboso where you can buy chickens cheap.”
When the establishment (spell that Inquisition) demanded Quixote to “stop this crazy dreaming, and come to your senses or we will rid you of your lunacy,” the adventuring ceases. The inquisitors tried to keep the adventurers apart. They allow Sancho a few moments to visit Quixote. The Don asks his side kick, Sancho how life has been since they stopped adventuring. Sancho replies, “Oh, I haven’t fought a windmill in a fortnight and the humble joys get duller every day.”
A quixotic person is someone who is slightly ajar and out of touch with reality. Quixote’s name is equated with slight craziness. The establishment always feels obligated to bring their mirrors and show the visionaries how crazy they really are.
I am grateful for every person who taught me to dream big, take risks, live faith outrageously by Kingdom safety standards, and see what others did not. I think every Jesus Follower committed to Kingdom life is slightly quixotic because they run against the grain carefully crafted and guarded by those who love the status quo they think they control.
Soon after seeing the movie, Man of LaMancha, I read a book written by the screenwriter who explained the story. A paragraph has stalked me.
“…representatives of the established order…do not understand him. They force him to see himself, not as he is but as they see him; and the sight destroys the knight-errant and leaves only a broken old man.”
So! Don’t you come around me with mirrors! I am perfectly pleased to be part of the Quixote Clan. “Joshua, you are the one. Do it!”
Read again the words God speaks to “You—Joshua.” What moved Joshua to head of the line as God looked for Moses’ successor? What qualified him to lead God’s Chosen People? What about Joshua gained him favor with God? What lit a fire in his belly?
Marketer, business futurist Seth Godin says in a chaotic time the riskiest thing a person can do is play it safe. One of my earliest Kingdom insights came when a preacher challenged our Bible College chapel participants to “Throw your life away with careful aim.” Since that day, I have increasingly learned that I need some people around me who will craft my aim and protect my pitching arm. It is not craziness God calls us to, but Kingdom wisdom. In recent days Jim Elliot’s words have become huge and bold. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Those words spoken in the early 1950s became the rallying cry of a generation of evangelicals. In a time when people are clutching to guard what belongs to them, Elliott’s words may be the sanest of all.
What built a fire in Joshua’s gut? Exodus 33:7-11gives us some clues.
JOSHUA EXPERIENCED THE PEOPLE’S ANTICIPATION
The tent of meeting probably sat on a hill visible to everyone. It was a court room, it was a prayer room and a private holy rendezvous. When Moses said, “Joshua, let’s go out to the tent…” the nation ran to their front porches. “They are on the way to the tent…” rang through the camp and their lodges. Going up the hill to worship was an adventure—the pillar of smoke was synonymous with God’s manifest presence. Not just God’s omnipresence—He’s everywhere all the time—but at this specific time, God is uniquely here. The people stood at the entrances of their tents to watch Moses and Joshua walk to the tent of meeting and be greeted there by that manifest presence.
“Kids, come and see this….” Joshua walked past the tents and saw families anticipating what was going to happen. Like crowds gathering along the streets waiting for July 4 fireworks.
Those kids saw their parents honoring the men of God. Most of the Lone Ranger episodes ended with the question, “Who was that masked man?” Much of the Hebrew education was/is built around the experiences that led to children asking, “What is that about?”
“Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped each at the entrance of his tent” (vs 9).
The people watched and then they worshiped. They rushed to their front porch saying to each other, “Don’t want to miss this! Moses and Joshua are going out to the tent.”
What words did Joshua hear as they walked to the tent? I’m guessing he heard, “Go for it, Josh!” What did those folks ask him after they witnessed the smoke and fire and sensed that their young friend had been within inches of the Creator?
Seth Godin gives us the secret of leadership for the early 21st Century. It is not just for the people in corner offices. The insight is for anyone and everyone who has a dream or passion.
- Do what you believe in.
- Paint a picture of the future.
- Go there.
He adds another component by saying that the enemy of leadership and change is not “No,” but “Not yet.” But where do we determine what we “believe in?” What does the future look like? And from whom do we learn timing?
I’ve been seriously thinking about the Tent of Meeting for about twenty-five years. This paragraph from Exodus grabbed me and I thought I had discovered the combination to every vault in the Western Hemisphere. I made a fool of myself asking questions.
When Joshua came back to the camp, after his extended time in the Tent of Meeting, the people who had seen the evidence (cloud) of the manifest presence of God, do you think they would have asked questions like…
- What’s it like to stand that close to the cloud? Was it hot? Singe your eyebrows?
- Do you feel different today—after you’ve been in the tent?
- Sit down and tell me everything that happened?
- What is it like to know you have been in the very room where Yahweh is?
- Did God say something to you? What do you think he would say to me?
My suspicion is that the life forming aspect didn’t come from the questions’ substance, but that people were interested and that they listened when Joshua talked. Don’t you suspect that Joshua got invited to the neighbors’ tent for supper so he could tell his story?
Malcom Gladwell says, “…no one—not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses—ever makes it alone.” He and the psychologists Cloud and Townsend list what they need—since they (we) can’t make it alone: Intimate friends, coaches, mentors and groups.
This has become so real to me that I believe on the day when Jesus is handing out rewards, people will step out of the crowd, point their fingers at us and ask, “Where were you when I needed someone like you?”
Jen Hatmaker is an Austin, Texas pastor’s wife, author, blogger. She appeared on the Today show a couple of weeks ago. She and her family gather Sunday nights with their life group on the front porch to drink tea, share their lives, hang out and worship.
The teenager Joshua watched as the neighborhood had Front Porch Church. Years later he would remember the power of encouragement and instruction—the tribes. Perhaps he formulated his view of his place in the future as he talked with his buds, the community elders and just hung around the edges to listen to conversations.
JOSHUA HEARD GOD SPEAK TO MOSES
“The Lord would speak to Moses face to face as a man speaks with his friend” (vs. 10).
How does Joshua explain to his family what happened at the tent?
“Uh…Yahweh showed up and talked to Moses.”
“What did He say?”
“Take off your shoes, for you are standing on holy ground,”
“What did you do?”
“I took off my shoes—just before I fell on my face to worship.”
Robert Benson says,
“I have had maybe one or two …moments when I felt as though God was speaking to me in a very direct and clear way. It is something that I did not completely understand when it happened, and in some ways I understand even less now that I have read a lot books and know the fancy words and terms for it. What happened was that somewhere, deep inside of me, I heard a voice say something to me. Years later, I can still remember that voice and what the voice said to me. I have never recovered.” (The Body Broken, Waterbrook Press, 2003)
Joshua became who he was partially because he was with Moses and he also overheard what God was saying to Moses or Moses debriefed him. The next paragraph—Exodus 33:12ff—is another Moses experience that captures my imagination and heart. Moses says to the Lord, “If your presence does not go with us, please do not send us…” How would we know that conversation took place, or the content, or the panic and pleading in Moses’ voice as he considered life and leadership without God’s presence? My guess is that Moses told Joshua and Joshua told others until someone wrote it down and sent it to the publisher.
Mark says of Jesus, “He appointed twelve that they might be with him…” (3:14). Outcome-based discipleship asks what we are trying to produce and who will help the person being coached develop. Who we hang with will determine much. Those whose ministry we feel drawn to may be an indication of the work we are to do. We see in others what we are drawn to and identify with.
Deuteronomy 1:6-8 feel like the saddest verses in this whole trek to the Promised Land. “You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break camp and advance….” God tells Moses the borders of the land He is giving to the Hebrews.
“I’m on it!” Moses said. Or something like that. He sends out a dozen spies into the land to determine a strategy. There were twelve Navy Seals that snuck into the land and returned with photos, maps and descriptions. Joshua was one of the twelve. He and his friend Caleb said, “Let’s do it!” The other ten said, “We can’t do it.” While Joshua and Caleb are saying, “Did you see the size of the grapes? The majority report asked, “Did you see the size of the giants?” God had promised and sent them, but the people rejected the offer.
Do you doubt that Joshua walked next to Moses and asked, “What do we do now?” It must have been tough for Moses. He had put everything into these people and they rejected the One who led them out of their slavery. Listen to Moses’ words to the Hebrews:
“Because of you the Lord became angry with me also and said, ‘You shall not enter it, either. But your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will enter it. Encourage him, because he will lead Israel to inherit it” (Deuteronomy 1:37).
For thirty-eight years.
“…commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see…(Deuteronomy 3:28).
How many decades had Moses been encouraging and strengthening the aide turned spy turned comrade turned Commander-In-Chief Elect?
Where did the belly fire come from? The word “Impartation” fits here. Moses belly fire was transferred by modeling and then…
“Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him” (Deuteronomy 34:9).
The word “anointing” is used frequently in some churches and seldom if ever in others. Not only is the word used, it is revered and sought. When we talk about fire in the belly, we usually refer to someone who has been given a specific power, enablement and equipping to do something specific. That can mean an “anointing to work with teens,” or “an anointing to teach” or “an anointing to drive a van to pick up people for church.” Joshua had a unique anointing to lead God’s people and succeed Moses. Paul laid hands on Timothy and imparted an anointing for his ministry, and Moses “imparted” to Joshua the anointing. Elisha thought it was a big deal to gain the anointing of Elijah—in fact, he wanted a double portion. (2 Kings 2:9-11.)
There are times I put my hand on someone’s shoulder or head and—let me use some inside language—I call Spiritual equipping from God’s resource storehouse. I don’t want you to think He has a warehouse with “anointing” on a shelf in aisle 4, but the power we ask for has its residence in the Holy Spirit, not in an institution or a person. The source is in another world—God’s Kingdom. I want to transfer to that person my vision, fire and focus, but the person needs God’s equipping, not mine. Sometimes, I place my hand on a loved one’s shoulder and ask for the transfer from God. I don’t pray out loud or tell them what I’m doing. It is a physical affirmation of my confidence in them.
JOSHUA HUNG OUT AT THE TENT
“Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua did not leave the tent” (vs.11).
I have come to believe Joshua stayed at the tent because he loved the presence of God and desired to assimilate into his own life what he had seen or imagined was happening between Moses and God. I imagine Joshua sought God’s plan for him and worked on his own relationship with Yahweh.
The belly fire I’m thinking about is a belief that “I am called to do this. I may not be the only one who can do it, or the best one to do it, but God has called me and I’m committed to do it. I’ve got to do it!”
Robert Benson talks about Father Ed, a Roman Catholic Priest with whom he made a retreat at least once a year. Father Ed became one of Benson’s spiritual directors. They would go for a walk; Benson would give Father Ed a synopsis of his current journey and ask for “a word.” That is shorthand for what the priest was hearing about how Benson could adjust his spiritual habits and life journey to gain the most in the next season.
My wife handed me a note that says, “I love this line: ‘I’m not above minimizing your window.’” Nice turn of a phrase. Wouldn’t you like to have someone uniquely anointed by God to maximize your windows? That is what Joshua found at the tent.
Not all Tents of Meetings are made of canvas. I go to my “tent” which is my vehicle sitting next to the river. I have experienced the tent sitting around a kitchen table. I have “experienced the tent” sitting in a swing with my wife.
I long for those times when the manifest presence of God is near. Think through Joshua’s intent when he said, “No, Moses, you go on. I’m just going to hang out here for a little while.” Can you imagine the smile on Moses’ face as he walked down the hill toward his home? Don’t you guess that he prayed for his young friend?
“Lord, light a fire in that boy.”
And…where is your tent of meeting? And the fire in your belly is about what?
Go where the fire is! Carole and I were with a young mother who volunteers in her church’s youth ministry. Carole asked her a couple of questions and two hours later she was still talking—absolutely stoking the fire in us. Go where the fire is!