How Do You Feel?

Type A personalities are not physically damaging. The Type A person who is also hostile is at risk of early death. One of the most lethal characteristics is cynicism. It is not primarily the thinking that heightens the risk, it is the feeling that accompanies the toxic thinking.

Brene Brown defines shame as a cluster of thoughts and feelings of not being worthy of love or belonging. Name the trauma or assault. Over time, feelings are the fuel that keeps the fire raging. Feelings of worthlessness or diminishment caused by any wound flood us and then the thinking comes to support the legitimacy of those feelings.

Thinking and feeling are interactive, but different activities.

A business meeting we had scheduled didn’t materialize last weekend. How three people could not find each other in a coffee shop is hard to figure out. If my math is correct, that is number 87 in a list of things that didn’t turn out within a hemisphere of what we planned, worked toward, expected or assumed would happen—if mere normal were attained.

As we drove the two hours home from the aborted million-dollar meeting—for which I will undoubtedly be billed! (Just wanted to demonstrate cynicism.), I tried to name what I was thinking. My thinking and verbalization focused on the possibility that I am a world-class screw up. I was also talking and thinking about the competence and/or credibility of the person we were to meet. I was also thinking about the spiritual activity, if any, in this non-meeting.

We’ve been very serious about doing God’s will as we understood it. We’ve been searching for guidance for nearly a decade. So we are left with the confusion. Is God in this? Perhaps, I think to myself and then heatedly explain to Carole, this is God throwing a huge wall up because…because…I listed several possibilities most of which make no sense even to a twisted imagination. Perhaps, it is His will and our enemy disrupted things. Maybe our enemies are calling forth opposition from the dark world.

We used more words trying to think through what this odd event was all about than most people use for all purposes over a ten-day span. We concluded nothing.

I sure became aware what the experience made me feel about myself. “Feel” is the appropriate word. It was a feeling.

Carole stumbled over a table the other day. She thought she had broken her leg, six toes and maybe an Achilles’ tendon. She can pull up her jeans and show you the ugly bruises and tell you, “It hurts right there!” Where do “feelings” dwell?

Abandonment, assault, failures, mistakes, screw-ups, lack or specific inabilities make us feel badly about ourselves. After the bleeding stops and the bruises go away and we’ve filed the embarrassment, dread, mortification, we are left with how we feel. I don’t think that feeling will evaporate by itself or can we will it away. I think only God’s healing can remove its debilitating power. That especially is true the longer the history. The “feeling” becomes one element in the structure of a stronghold. It becomes part of our personhood. It has magnetism—it pulls toward itself proof that it is right. The feelings have the power to become self-fulfilling prophecies.

So, we pray for healing. This is a soul issue. The elements of the soul are: what we think, what we do, what we FEEL. God heals and we actively cooperate. I suggest these activities:

PRACTICE GOOD MENTAL HYGIENE

FLOSS. (I am writing this at the College of Dentistry.) A supervisor gave me a package of wood flossers. Since then, I have found gentle plastic ones. Now, I can drive for miles while flossing. The practice of considering what thought has gotten stuck between your synapsis will dislodge toxic feelings that lead to truth decay.

The law that guides interpretation of feelings is: experience them, feelings are feelings. Do not deny them, but know that emotions—feelings—can lie to you. They are yours—you decided to feel them. That doesn’t mean they are all legitimate.

When we talk about healing of memories, we are talking about healing of emotions—the feelings that have controlled or crippled us.

When we talk about emotions, we list such things as anger, joy, peace. When we talk about feelings we may determine them to be feelings of inadequacy, feelings of inferiority, feelings of incompetence, feelings of shame, feelings of hopelessness.

Leanne Payne is one of my most respected thinkers about healing and walking with Jesus. I randomly read from her book, Restoring The Christian Soul this morning. She always takes me to deeper places and makes me mentally floss.

This is a maxim. Until we have “grieved out” what abandonment, abuse, assault, bad choices or deficits have created in us—been healed and that vacuum filled with God’s holy working, we will have feelings that block us, keep us stuck or barricade our destiny.

Ms. Payne prints a letter from a woman in law school who had attended one of Payne’s conferences and then wrote to her. When the woman (given the name Linda) was born, she was cared for and loved on by her mother. On her third day, the child was diagnosed with staph infection and was quarantined and separated from her mother. She experienced abandonment. She feels unfilled. Her feelings of touch deprivation and failure to come to an adequate sense of being have pushed her into feelings, choices, behaviors that have not satisfied the driving needs. She concludes the letter with a P.S.:

“I confess that I don’t want ‘healing’ so much as I want to be filled up. I can’t explain this; it just seems that ‘healing’ means the feelings will be taken away, but I will still be left empty. Is that the way it’s supposed to be?”

Her feelings are coping mechanism as are her habits of repression and denial. Take away those things before she is ready or before there is something to put in their place and she will crumble—probably come apart emotionally or mentally.

So I’m driving and “flossing.” What am I thinking and what am I feeling? Most of our questions are legitimate. We need to process what caused the problem or misunderstanding. But what has caused me to feel and exactly what am I feeling? Could it be that I am feeling something that is connected to another time and place and situation? Is this just a trigger that automatically made me to re-experience something?

I think of those who are blocked, sabotaged and turned back from challenges they are capable of accomplishing–turned back by the feelings of inadequacy, feelings of not being good enough, feelings of expected disappointment (it always turns out that way), the feeling that accompanies fear of rejection and others. These feelings are expressed by anxiety, depression, fear, refusal to try and hiding out, among other things.

Because feelings trump thinking almost every time, emotional health includes defining what we feel and why we feel them. It is possible I’ve made more of the Saturday event than I should. There probably was no malice intended and there is a simple explanation. But the event uncovered some feelings that I better not oversimplify.

Begin with defining what you are feeling about yourself (called self-esteem), what you are feeling about others and your concern about what they feel about you. What are you feeling about God? Not what you think, but what you feel.

There is a storage place for feelings. Jesus said, “Out of your innermost being (belly) shall flow rivers of living water.” Or toxic feelings. Deeds of the flesh are often the attempt to smother those hurting feelings.

Not all negative feelings are toxic. I was feeling disappointed. I felt bewildered. I felt confused. So far, nothing neurotic. It will be helpful to set a time limit. I will feel sorry for myself or feel…until mid-afternoon, gives us time to process the questions and honor our feelings without indulging them.

Since this is a soul issue, we ask God to heal the toxic feeling(s) and deal with the root event that caused us to react with the feeling. We then build a healthy plan to respond to feelings. I say healthy because repression, refusing to think about them or denial does not fix anything.

Seams to me that this is critical to being ready when they hand us the ball.

 The rest of this is in Seams To Me—Section 8: Truth in Your Emotions

Questions?

©2014 D. Dean Benton

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Wisdom begins with a need, followed by trust

“Abram believed the Lord” (Genesis 15:6).

Let me tell you one of my biggest mistakes. A friend from Louisiana emailed me ten years ago urging me to do podcasts. My books had been helpful to him. He suggested I just put them on podcasts. “Networks are begging for material.” I talked to all my other friends and strangers and no one knew what a podcast was. So I didn’t. Dumb!

When my son got a new smart phone, he gave me his old one and set it so I could use it for podcasts. Then I got a docking station. I’m still trying figure out how to mow the lawn while listening—keep in the ear buds where they belong.

I listen to at least one podcast a day. This morning I was listening to Andy Stanley’s podcast. He preached on elementary faith and talked about Abraham. “Abram believed the Lord.” Once every year or two it hits me how enormous that was. Using Stanley’s words, God had to start somewhere so he picked Abram and told him His plans. This was God’s promise:

“I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great…”

Abram responded, “Here’s my problem. Nation? I don’t even have a son. Nation? Counting my closest servants and a cousin or two there are about twelve of us.” A couple of adventures later, God shows up again—“The Lord came to Abram in a vision…” (15:1) and repeats the promise.

“Abram, let’s go outside. The Lord escorts the nomad out to the canopy of space and says, “Count those stars.” An hour later, Abram says, “I keep losing count.” Yahweh says, “Got the count in mind? So shall your offspring be.” No further evidence is offered. No more words from God. “Abram believed the Lord.” Jack the font size up 40 points to capture this. Abram believed the Lord! Based on nothing but the promise—what God said.

Above all else God wants to be believed and trusted. To His friends, God says all He wants from us is: “Believe me. Trust me. Obey me.” I suspect it was easier for Abram when God said, “Believe me, trust me, obey me—let’s make a kid,” (He was all over that!) but more difficult when God said, “Offer Isaac.” But “Abram believed the Lord.” With nothing more to go on than God’s voice in his head.

The conversation in 15:4ff fleshes out some of the questions but not until after Abram believed God. “And God credited to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:2 argues that nothing Abram could do could place him in a righteous relationship with God, but believing God’s word did.

In Romans 4:16-25 tells us what was going on in the Patriarch’s head and how his outrageous faith delivered a son.

 “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him. Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had the power to do what He had promised.”

 Hard to get my head around that. It seems to me if God says, “Hey, Dude, let’s go walk outside. Got something for you to count—you won’t need your flashlight,” we may want to turn off the TV and walk, look, listen.

 What is God saying to you?

Another outrageous! God is always looking for someone who will believe Him. Someone to whom He can reveal solutions and strategies.

And…Dean believed God. Well, except when Bruce suggested podcasts. That was a God-invitation. I just could not think about being strengthened by the very thing (faith) that seemed so impossible.

Abram was a rich person. In all the world, what did he want most? A son. That is where God spoke and offered. What do you want most? Does a Lamborghini count?

Seek wisdom—not just to archive like a flash drive—but to serve your world, solve, enrich, stimulate, encourage, provide supplies where others hunger. Start there! What do others need that stirs your imagination? That might be the intersection where you begin the journey of seeking wisdom to find the very solution and strategy that will birth a nation, tribe.

©2013 D. Dean Benton

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Seven Decisions–One

I heard it again this morning and as always it stuns me as if I have never it before: “We only have one chance…we had better get it right.” The preacher said it more graphically and I think I heard the tolling of some bell.

A phrase that dominated my late teens and early twenties:

 One life and it will soon be past

Only what is done for Christ will last.

 Our discussion of The Traveler’s Gift—Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success, is about doing life intentionally and without waste. Getting it right. But you better get at it—you have only one life.

The first decision that will determine success—no matter what is being measured—is to take responsibility for where we are. I editorially must say that the decision does not require we blame ourselves for what abusers, jerks, bullies or others did to us. I’m concerned that those who do not think and talk that through will assume it means, “Since I am…”, or “I’m short,” or “I made so many stupid decisions, I’m where I am….

I was changing clothes after a concert-seminar in a South Carolina church bathroom stall. The guy in the adjoining stall saw my clothes hanging over the divider and said, “You must really like to travel.” I told him I didn’t particularly enjoy the traveling, but it was a requirement for me to do what I really enjoy doing—singing, preaching, teaching. He responded with, “Well, God has you where He wants you….” I thought to myself, “Here, in the toilet?”

I am more comfortable saying that since I am where I am, it is my responsibility to move forward. Andy Andrews gives us these statements:

 “I will not let my history control my destiny.”

“My mind will live in the solutions of the future.”

“When called upon to make a decision, I will make it.” Then, no second guessing.

“My life will not be an apology. It will be a statement.”

“Never again will I blame parents, spouse, boss or other employees for my current situation.”

“My decisions have always been governed by my thinking. Therefore…I begin the process of changing by changing the way I think.”

“Adversity is preparation for greatness. I will accept this preparation.”

“I accept responsibility for my past. I control my thoughts. I control my emotions. I am responsible for my success.”

         The Traveler’s Gift, Andy Andrews, (Thomas Nelson, 2002) Pages 32-33.

 Lack of empathy, negative self-talk, depression, anxiety are also products of our thinking. Listen to this psychological proverb: “As surely as sunrise follows the night; sow self-pity and you will reap depression.” Behavior is determined by thinking. If we want to change our behavior we do so by first changing our thinking.

The writers of the book INFLUENCER (McGraw-Hill 2008) say, “People choose their behaviors based on what they think will happen to them as a result.” Therefore, “if you want to change behavior, any behavior, you have to change maps of cause and effect.” (It’s important to note that people’s interpretations of events trump the facts of any situation.)

These authors say “when it comes to altering behavior, you need to help others answer only two questions:

  1. Is it worth it?
  2. Can I do it?

 If you are helping someone change their behavior or attempting to influence someone to change bad behavior several things determine your influence. If the person trusts your motivation and your knowledge they will listen. Verbal persuasion, as your only tool, in most cases is not fruitful. That is true especially when you want someone to stop doing something that is personally pleasurable or satisfying to them. You seldom, if ever, can talk someone out of doing what brings them relief or pleasure, no matter how eloquent your words.

People must come to personal conviction that changing their conduct is worth it and they can do it.

The Influencer people suggest we give verbal persuasion a rest and make experience the primary objective. (“Personal experience is the mother of all cognitive map changers.”) Help them experience the world differently. Convincing them that it is worth it may start to take root by sharing your own experience—vicarious experience—and/or building an atmosphere where they can experience what it is they desire—what they hope their addictions will produce.  

When Mylon Lefevre went to Church on the Way, he experienced the peace and presence of God in the dimension that had eluded him his entire life. That is the work of the Holy Spirit which we cannot photocopy. I’ve been thinking through what I know about Pastor Hayford and Church on the Way. Fundamentally, they believe God works in the way Mylon experienced Him. They also honor God, give Him opportunity to work and they prepare themselves to be His conduit through prayer, praise and preaching the Word. Mylon had performed and worshipped in many churches and walked away empty while other people in the building were experiencing God in the very dimension he craved. So, part of our preparation is to pray for receptive hearts and minds. “God, prepare this specific person. What do I need to spiritually bind that will give the space and freedom for my friend to make a conscious decision?” (There is more to be said about that.)

If we want people to change their thinking, tell them the whole story. “…when you leave out the solution, people typically block out the message.” (Influencer, page 67)

Subtle Seldom Succeeds.

 Changing your behavior is worth it. You must decide that. Let me introduce you to people who have changed and let them tell you how they did it.

  1. Can you do it? Not without effort. You are the only one who can do what needs to happen in your thoughts and emotions and perseverance. One of my former friends (we’re not as close as we used to be) has been in the newspaper crime list at least once a week for a month. He has been practicing his way of life for nearly 40 years. I went to court with him once. Every cop, lawyer, judge and janitor greeted him by name. Can he do it?
  2. Here is the “solution.” Here are some strategies. You can’t do it alone. It is a tough fact: it is up to you. You do not have a second life riding around in the trunk of your Jeep.

 “You are what you are today because of the quality of your thoughts, the perspectives you have about life, and your beliefs about yourself and others. Do you truly desire a significant change in your life? Change your thinking.” (Andy Andrews)

 D. Dean Benton

        Your response?

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WORDS IN YOUR MOUTH

From SEAMS TO ME
(c)2013 D. Dean Benton

7–SEVEN–

WORDS IN YOUR MOUTH

Joshua 1:7-8

“Be careful to obey to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”

The words prosperous and successful are enchanting, seductive and capture attention. As I write these words, our son is in the Rocky Mountains taking pictures and interacting with some interesting characters. Two phrases from his Facebook posts stirred my imagination: “…while Two Feathers and I were panning for gold.” He didn’t say if they found the Mother Lode or even one gold nugget. He did say that he was striking camp and “going further in….”

Studying Joshua one has been panning for gold and a trek further into the mysteries of God’s plan, promises and invitation. A friend has just moved to Montana. As his family looks out their front door, they see beautiful mountains. He said he went climbing and the oxygen was thin or he was out of shape. I came away from this study slightly breathless for the climb “further in” has been invigorating and challenging.

Our study has been partially focused on teaching the young how to succeed in life—how to bring to their lives the essential competencies of Emotional Quotient. So, imagine one of your young friends—the one you are coaching or mentoring—and invite him or her to go further in. If you want to be prosperous and successful, this is route to the gold—pan here!

The instruction before us in this session is “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth.” What is the “Book of the Law”?

My assumption was that it referred to the Pentateuch. That is the entire writing of Moses which we have in the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. In my New International Version Bible, that is about 350 pages. It is doubtful that the hundreds of thousands of people walking with Moses had copies of the NIV or even Hebrew scrolls. How many of them knew how to read? So even if they had access to the Pentateuch would it have made any difference? My opinion is that the reference to the “Book of the Law” is about a smaller slice. I’m guessing the book of Deuteronomy. (32:44-47 & 31:23-26).

Deuteronomy is given to the Hebrews for a specific purpose:

“(Moses) you stay here with me so that I may give you all the commands, decrees and laws you are to teach them to follow in the land I am giving them to possess” (5:31). The Message Bible translates those words, “…so they’ll know how to live in the land that I’m giving them as their own.”

Deuteronomy pulls back the curtain to reveal God’s heart. It is a covenant revelation of God’s intention and devotion to these people and to Moses. He whispers to Moses the principles, practices and priorities that are to guide behavior, worship and business. Remember every word, never let it out of our mind, practice every detail—your success depends on all that.

Maybe the whole book of Deuteronomy is too large. Is this referring to a distilled statement or a principle? The Ten Commandments are reposted in chapter five. Is that what is not to “depart from their lips?” Chapter six contains the most precious words to the Hebrew faith. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the LORD is one.” (6:4)

When Jesus was asked the most important command, he quoted Deuteronomy 6:5. In Matthew 22:37-40, He said all of the law and prophets hang on these:

“Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” Jesus adds, “And love your neighbor as yourself.”

Important stuff! I conclude that Deuteronomy was the “Mother Lode.” It was foundation for what should never depart. This is to be the framework of our worldview, our mindset, the default assumptions upon which we think and act and our reference point. With that rock in place, we will be predisposed to observe and “be careful to do everything written in it.”

What makes up the grid, screen, filter through which we see the land to which we are being called? I suggest some things from Deuteronomy.

DON’T TRIFLE WITH GOD’S PROMISES OR COMMANDMENTS

A friend introduced us to Matthew West’s song entitled “Hello, My Name Is.” (Sparrow 2013). The video graphic is a sticky backed name tag. We arrived home to find one of those name badges on our porch with the word “Treasured” written on the label. There was no signature, but the labels and the song have become her signature. There was a scripture reference:

“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession” (Dt 7:6).

The Gospel—Jesus’ message—can be imagined as a video of God walking into your room, slapping a name badge on your chest that says, “My Name is Treasured.” Don’t let that ever leave your self-image or your lips.

Read through Deuteronomy and listen to God speak of His treasuring. When Israel turns to idols made of wood or stone, God’s resulting anger is not petulance, it is an expression of hurt—rejection. Can you visualize God walking through the thin air of a high mountain to find a person—you—caught in addiction, underachievement or one activity this side of goal fulfillment? God peals the backing off the glue and slaps the badge on the person’s chest. “Hello, my name is Treasured.” If we can learn to hear and see all things through that scenario, life will take on a different direction.

Someone has said that Ownership of the promised land was promised by God. Occupation was the responsibility of His People. “Don’t be afraid…God Himself will fight for you” (3:22).

Joshua’s selection and commissioning is retold several times in Deuteronomy before we read it in Joshua one. Deuteronomy 3:21-28 is one of those places. That paragraph also tells about Moses pleading with God to allow him to enter Canaan. God responds, “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter” (vs 26).

That is tough! God will not wink at sin, the Bible says. Obedience is a must and the one thing God most wants from us is trust.

GOD’S TOUGH COMPASSION AND LOVE

Deuteronomy begins with rich grace and about chapter fifteen falls off the cliff into some grisly stuff. This loving God commands the Israelites to wipe out entire cities. How ugly this is can be seen in the words, “We killed all the people—men, women, children, but we kept the cattle as plunder.” (3:6-7) I can’t explain or even allow myself to think about why a cow is a keeper and kids are not. We are missing part of the story—the part that makes sense of this slaughter.

God’s treatment of Moses doesn’t compute for me. “The Lord was angry with me because of you…” (4:21). Numbers 20:1-13 tells the incident that placed Moses in conflict with God. Again, it feels like we haven’t been told the whole story. The Israelites are whining to Moses and accusing him and God. They had no water to drink which can make a person cranky. Whining and grumbling against Moses and God, however, had become a lifestyle. The Waters of Meribah is known as the locale where the arguing with God stepped over the line. Yahweh told Moses to speak to a rock and out would flow adequate water for people and cattle. Moses went to the rock and smacked it twice with his walking stick. Can you understand the frustration? Water gushed out. The people and their livestock drank. “But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them” (20:12).

I have felt that God was excessive in His punishment. The punishment does not seem to me to match the crime. I want to plead Moses’ case and get him into Canaan. Honoring God as holy is apparently a big deal. It is that holiness that sets Yahweh apart from all other gods.

Don’t trifle with God’s instructions or trivialize His love, compassion, promises or blessings.

As I am writing, my thinking goes strangely to the parking lot behind the Bible College which I attended. I can remember playing catch with the building as a backstop. I vividly remember leaving the college building to sing at a church across town on a New Year’s Eve. The parking lot was icy and I slipped, fell flat on my back, hit my head. I recall lying there in the icy water wondering if I had just killed myself. I didn’t, so I went to sing in a wet black suit, now wondering if I smelled like a wet dog.

I don’t recall ever doing anything in that parking lot that would dishonor God that would keep me from fully entering God’s promises for me. Since the scene is so heavy, I wonder if I agreed with a lie about God’s love, compassion, promise or personal blessing. Since the image came unsolicited and is heavy, I do what seems to me to be the appropriate thing.

“Lord, if I offended you by thought or action while in that parking lot that removed me from your favor, I ask your forgiveness and ask You to speak specifically so I can confess specifically.”

What we speak either opens God’s storehouse or padlocks all the doors to His resources. Words matter—for “Out of the heart the mouth speaks.”

PROSPERITY AND SUCCESS

Success for Joshua meant defeating the enemies and inhabiting the cities. That was his assignment.

Do you ever wonder if Joshua got a day off? Was he ever off the clock? Where did he go to “get away”? Did he have a hobby? Did he like to fish? I don’t recall ever hearing about a wife or children. Did he have a life beyond his assignment? It is easy to see biblical characters as one-dimensional—get the job done—kind of people.

“Give it everything you have, heart and soul…” God tells Joshua. Moses got into serious trouble with God when he burned out. “Had it with these people!” Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, warned Moses that he was burning out and headed for catastrophe and gave him very good counsel how to change his work habits. Learning to delegate was a big deal for Moses as it is for all visionaries and organization founders. Giving up power and encouraging initiative is threatening to builders.

I don’t remember hearing any such conversations involving Joshua. Who spoke into his life after Moses died? Did Joshua have a life group—guys who got together at a pub or in someone’s vacation tent? All of this comes from a larger “wonder.” I wonder if the success and prosperity that God promises connect to his personal life, as well? But then, did he have a personal life? Was Joshua God’s treasure even on days when he was unproductive or wasn’t working eighteen hours a day conquering some city?

Brene Brown says the one thing that separates people who experience deep love and belonging and those who struggle with it is a belief in their worthiness. Dr. Brown says to really experience love and belonging a person has to believe they are worthy of belonging and to be loved. Do I deserve to belong? Do I deserve to be loved? Your answers?

That is huge! I have looked over my list of friends who are struggling. I can hear them saying they don’t feel worthy of belonging or succeeding.

Seth Godin is one of America’s most provocative writers about marketing. He warns marketers that people don’t believe what marketers tell them. People will often believe what their friends tell them about products. People always believe what they tell themselves.

Let me remind you that your worthiness was established at the Cross. The New Covenant established there carved “worthy” onto your permanent record. Being “In Christ” applies His worth to you. It is no longer about you, it is about Him and your position in Him.

I cannot convince you that Abba Father will stop you on the street and slap the name badge on you that says “Hello. My Name is Treasured.” If you were abandoned by your parents, or you felt they tossed you out of the nest; if you have experienced rejection through divorce or being dumped by someone you wanted to live the rest of life with; if you have lived your whole life being the last one chosen for the team, no one will be able to convince you of your “worthiness.” You are going to win that argument because you alone know how you’ve been explaining your unworthiness to yourself. And in your deepest soul, the evidence you are using is incontrovertible. You will think and act and feel in such ways to prove your case. If Seth Godin is right, and he is, you are the only one you will listen to about your worthiness.

It is not just about being invited to join your favorite card club. It is about success and prosperity. Worthiness is not arrogant entitlement. It is the acceptance of your worth as a gift from God. It is a given—since God has given me worth, I will do what needs to be done to build a productive life. The Holy Spirit will not over ride your voice. He will be persistent and make a case. What are your voices saying? Are you arguing with God?

As Moses lists the things His people cannot do, repeatedly the final and heaviest rationale for certain behavior is: “Among all the people on the face of the earth, God chose you to be his treasure.” A treasure acts in certain ways.

How do we get a feel for our worthiness? Dr. Brown says it comes when we own our story. I add we begin to access our worthiness when we let go of the lies we have agreed with.

If abandonment, betrayal, abuse, and/or wrong choices define a segment of your story, then chances are you will feel unworthy to succeed or prosper in healthy ways. Self-management is one of the EQ essential competencies. Since no one can convince you but you, you are responsible to manage this with a decision to listen to God’s case for your worthiness. And words are the key to success and prosperity.

WORDS

“Do not let this Book of Law depart out of your mouth…” (vs. 7).

Action

“Careful to do everything written in it” (1:8b).

Psychologist Al Andrews asked Jon Acuff, “What do your voices tell you?” I have friends who really do hear voices speaking to them. One of my friends, who is a delight to me, has a weather lady living in her head who blames her for bad forecasts and bad weather. Meds keep my friend from being crazy. Andrews was talking about self-talk—the voices we pack around rent-free as they make comments on every aspect of our lives. Weight, sex appeal, brilliance, lack of good sense and the amount of worthiness we possess.

Not everyone agrees with Dr. Andrews’ statement, “No one has a positive internal voice.” I don’t know about “No one” having a positive internal voice. I can tell you that not many have a native positive voice.

I have rehearsed the recent events in my family’s life. I have rehearsed the words we have said to each other and the words we’ve been saying to ourselves and the action those words have led to. Paralysis!

Those voices have names: doubt and fear.

Jon Acuff says those “voices are invisible bullies and they hate when you make them visibile.” He says they also hate community. “Never waste time trying to battle those voices alone.” Don’t go it alone.

You don’t need people to solve your issue; you need someone who will faithfully listen. Someone to “be present” for you. You will benefit from having a person or life group who will beat back the darkness by shining light on the voices of doubt and fear.

Be very careful about the words you use for they will lead some kind of action.

Activate

 

At this moment, it seems to me the most important questions that determine success, prosperity, happiness and self-fulfillment are:

  1. What are your voices saying to you?
  2. Do you consider yourself worthy?

We have the command—“…meditate on (this Book of the Law) day and night” (1:8b). The mind can mediate on one thing at a time. What you decide to ruminate will set loose life-determining behavior and spiritual entities. To meditate means to repeatedly mumble it to yourself. The grid, screen, default thought pattern, worldview will inevitably feed thoughts to you and filter what is allowed. So the translations tell us to “Read it, repeat it to yourself, speak it to yourself and to others.”

Some words I have heard today from people I’ve talked with:

  • I’m stuck
  • I don’t laugh anymore
  • I have isolated myself
  • I just got dumped

We are where we are because of the words we’ve been using or erroneous, self-destructive, self-limiting words that “never depart from our lips.” Again, the choice of words determine our success and prosperity. Choose well! Ask someone if you are hearing and speaking correctly.

“Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your house and on your gates…” (Deuteronomy 11:18-20).

A person living in that atmosphere would be confronted with God’s word at every turn. Everywhere. On every wall, between the mayonnaise and the turkey in the sandwich, underneath the bed and hanging in the air. Being stuck then is situational, not a permanent diagnosis or sentence.

Makes me long for that atmosphere, place, environment, culture, group. The researcher is right. “We are hard-wired for belonging and love and if we are not connected we break.”

Aptitude

Everyone I’ve read in recent days, every podcast I’ve listened to has instructed me to use action words. One of my mentors says we must find an adequate language to express our beliefs and dreams. One social scientist says we open the door to joy with the practiced act of vocalizing gratitude. “Never let these words depart from your mouth—meditate on this day and night.”

Self-management and self-regulation empower us to use words intentionally and deliberately in response and reaction.

  • How to say it
  • A place to say it
  • Someone to say it to
  • A purpose in saying it

You may want to spend some time with this Book of the Law and select what part of it has departed from your speech habits. What words in Deuteronomy melt in your mouth like Key Lime Pie? A “word” from God to you.

Hello! I see your name is TREASURED.

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6–Steel in Your Spine

From Seams to Me—(Unedited) 

©2013 D. Dean Benton

 

 

 

 

Six

STEEL IN YOUR SPINE

“Be strong and very courageous” (Joshua 1:7),

 

There is a heroine in this story whose name is Rahab. She is one gutsy woman and exemplifies what Steel in the Spine looks like. My 1994 book, Rahab’s Place, is one of my favorite because of the courage and intrigue.

 

“Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies… ‘Go, look over the land,’ he said, ‘especially Jericho.’ So they went and entered the house of a prostitute name Rahab and stayed there” (Joshua 2:1).

 

Rahab may have been slandered. Wherever her name appears, she is identified as a harlot or a prostitute. Beside each of those names is an asterisk. The footnote says, “May be translated ‘Innkeeper’ or ‘hostess.’

Excuse me! There is quite a difference between being the madam of the house and being a madam of a house. Probably, Rahab was an enterprising entrepreneur. She operated Jericho’s Best Mid-Eastern Hotel—a bed and breakfast which also housed two other businesses none of which included naked bodies.

Whatever her past, Rahab was an established member of the Jericho business community. The Chamber of Commerce probably ate lunch there. The Bible doesn’t spell out the details of her past, but we know what she did with her life and how she changed world history. She didn’t have a grand dream. She was trying to make ends meet, make her life count, care for her parents, clothe her kids and make it as a single woman in a man’s world.

She responded to a challenge that came knocking at her door. Divine intervention traipsed through her house all the way to the open tomb and into your life. She was one of the grandmothers in Jesus’ lineage.

My mother was a single-parent. She operated a small café that provided adequate income to buy us shoes, a house, and some vacations. It also provided me a job and a learning place. I washed dishes, cooked some really bad meals, but mostly I waited tables.

I learned a lot while pouring coffee and serving hamburgers and home-made pie. Early on, I learned secrets. One, you never say to a customer, “Is that all?” or “Will that be all?” The business question was always, “What else may I get for you?” I learned that you never put the ten-dollar bill in the cash register until the customer has the change in his hand. That way there is never a question whether it was a ten or twenty dollar bill.

Mom turned a run-down café into a profitable business. One of the first things she bought was a top-quality mirror. It was mounted behind the counter stretching about fifteen feet from one end of the counter to the other. Customers would sit at the counter to watch themselves and look at everyone behind them in the booths.

Pour the coffee, ask about the family and listen. Patrons will say things to a barkeeper or waitress/waiter they will not say at other times. If you keep your mouth shut while serving the pie, you can pick up a lot of information without trying to eavesdrop. Customers mesmerized by their own reflection in the mirror will talk about marriage, family, business deals and hatreds. They will tell you what they feel about political events and figures and what they expect is going to happen in the Stock Market, gas prices and to their company.

Rahab made the beds, cleaned the rooms, poured the coffee and listened to customer’s gossip. She tucked the tips in her pocket and the information into the place where such news is stored for later use.

She listened to the travelers, business owners and political leaders as they talked of the tribes across the river. Occasionally, one of the king’s military power brokers would get a little drunk and talk a little loud. Jericho was concerned about the Israelites who had marched miraculously out of Egypt a generation before with plans of taking over the entire land border-to-border, river-to-sea. Something happened that Jericho residents didn’t understand. The Hebrew tribes, after escaping from Egypt, stopped short of their goals and for forty years had just wandered around in the wilderness across the Jordan River from Jericho posing no threat to anyone.

Traveling merchants spoke often of the strange images of smoke, fire and pillars of clouds. Shoemakers had tried to break into that market, but for reasons they never understood, the Hebrews never needed shoes, nor did they import food.

Rahab took longer than usual to wipe crumbs off the counter as she heard that Moses had died. Joshua was now the recognized leader. Rahab remembered her parents talking of a man named Joshua who had entered their country many years before. She scrunched her eyebrows to remember the other names on that mission. Caleb. That was one of the men with Joshua. There were others, but she could not remember having ever heard their names. Whatever they reported of their reconnaissance had created a power struggle within the various clans. She never believed that Joshua and Caleb were scared off. Instead of invading and conquering, the Israelites just backed away, moving only when their cattle needed new territory; they were without direction.

Now, the police were saying that the Hebrews had a new plan to invade the land. Jericho would be the first city confronted. No military man thought their city vulnerable. Not with these walls. Still, guerilla warfare would be bad for business.

Rahab’s family had lived in this city so long their neighbors viewed them as naturalized citizens. When she visited her parents or brothers’ homes, she mentioned what she had heard. Her parents reminded her that they too had Hebrew blood in their veins and retold the stories of the Exodus, Passover and Yahweh.

She was not surprised when two travelers happened to mention that Joshua said hello. She knew these men were not there to buy linen, but to check out the most vulnerable spots in the double walls. These men were Israeli spies and Rahab was in on the deal whether she wanted to be or not. A traveler with no family in Jericho would have been sent to Rahab’s Place; however, the authorities would know her Hebrew connection and that would make her immediately suspect.

She knew why the local CIA agents were at her door. She had to hide the spies to protect her family and herself. Regardless of her politics, she knew the danger. Women business owners were tolerated, but cut no slack. She had survived by her ability to out talk a client who had demanded more than she intended to give. She also knew how to defend herself with the hidden knife. Now, she concocted a story about the strangers who had spent one night and some money before leaving earlier in the day. She gave the police directions to what she thought was their next destination. She couldn’t be sure, she claimed, but that was their best bet. They bought the story. She watched them as they ran in the direction she had given.

Rahab slowly closed the door, quietly pushed the dead bolt into place and sagged against the door. She stood with her forehead against the bolted door. Then she turned around with her back to the door and slid to the floor. Shaking legs no longer held her. She put her head between her knees to keep from passing out.

It came down to this. The dreams of childhood. The seduction and betrayal. The alleged prostitution. She was in love with the guy who sold her. She knew she had been lucky—not many street women got the breaks she did. She never knew for sure who paid her way out of the life. Her parents? Brothers? A silent business partner? She would never outrun her name—it would always include an explanation note, but she could rebuild her reputation. She would become bigger than the harlot tag. Rahab’s Place came to mean more than what it had meant. All of Jericho knew what Rahab had been and what she was now.

As her heart returned to normal rhythm, she forced herself to breathe deeply and to think. It was a matter of time; she knew that. She had kept her wits about her in tough times before. What was she to do this time? The two up on the roof were not the first to register as “John Smith.” But she had never felt her life so intertwined with any of her guests. As she thought of the two spies, a third person confronted her. We do not know the details, but by the time she got up from the floor and walked up the stairs she knew what she was to do.

 

SHE HAD SEEN THE FUTURE

 

“I know the Lord has given you this land” (Joshua 2:9).

 

Os Guinness is an evangelical historian, a sociologist, Visiting Fellow at Brookings Institute and award-winning author. He is also one of my favorite thinkers. He said there were three characteristics that defined America at the end of the twentieth century. In my opinion, these characteristics carry into the first part of this century.

 

  • Hollowness.

He explains that as the erosion of the sense of self and truth. He sees decline in rational thinking and in the basic assumption that all human life has value.

 

  • Homelessness

This results from the gradual eating away of the certainties of meaning and belonging. He is not talking about street people, he is talking about ennui—a feeling of not being at home anywhere in the universe. Let’s say it differently. In the second decade of the twenty-first century, there is an epidemic of isolation in America. We are exchanging an open front porch for a safe room where we connect with the outside world via digital screens.

   A school teacher friend said her students did not feel that they belong anywhere. They are detached, she said, from hearth, home, and history.

   Guinness uses phrases like, “Second-rate education,” “A third-rate diet of entertainment,” and a fourth-rate awareness of discipline and constraint.” Ask any teacher if these descriptions hold up. Guinness adds that today’s family “Is not raised to last, let alone produce independent and responsible adults and citizens.”

   Hopelessness seems the natural next characteristic as I listen to teachers and read the observers. I am not hopeless. In my dark moments, however, I am convinced that without the full use of the principles we talk about in this book, the outlook is bleak. But we are being offered a route to hope.

 

  • Herolessness

 

Is this what Rahab saw with her country on the verge of collapse? I don’t recall ever saying as I walked to my car, “I’m going to be a hero today.” Neither did Rahab. She responded with a visible behavioral quality to the challenges that confronted her.

God is redundant as He talks to Joshua: “Be strong and courageous,” He says in verse six. In verse seven He says, “Be strong and very courageous.” Then in verse nine He repeats, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged.”

Her courageous response to the challenges?

 

SHE HAD FAITH

 

The Faith Hall of Fame inducted Rahab with these words: “By faith…Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were unbelievers” (Hebrews 11:31). Her faith was not just a noun, it was a verb. Biblical faith is always a verb. Faith was expressed in the context of her life, not in a special dispensation apart from the “dailies.” Action is a faith response.

Notice that she said, “We have heard…” (Joshua 2:10). Someone in Jericho was a faithful witness. They talked about the acts of God that changed Pharoah’s mind about who Yahweh was—changed at least temporarily. That witness told Rahab about the Exodus from Egyptian captivity.

People come to faith in Christ in reaction or response to a dilemma. Some of us are confronted by our past or uncertainty about the future. Some of us are blocked by limitations or questions and see in Christ fulfillment or answers. Others of us hear the Good News—it is new information about who Christ is and what He has done for us, and we respond with love and commitment.

“The Lord your God is God of heaven above and on the earth below,” (Joshua 2:11) is Rahab’s confession. That declaration came as she processed what she knew of God and His acts, and His love for her. Having His promise to forgive her of sin was also a big reason.

The Innkeeper with a Past now had a future. She experienced forgiveness and motivation for tomorrow based upon what faith she could express. There was an encounter with this God. Her limited prospects collided with God’s infinite resources. Like all of us, she placed her trust in Him.

 

SHE HAD CONCERN FOR HER FAMILY

 

“Swear to me…that you will show kindness to my family” (Joshua 2:12).

 

Rahab had entered into a treasonous covenant. She had given aid and comfort to the enemy. I doubt that she saw what she did as an act of great courage. She was simply being pragmatic. Based upon her knowledge of God she took a step of faith.

Her family was dead meat without her intervention. Their lives and future depended on her faith and actions. But then, if she was wrong they were all dead.

We once sang at a writer’s conference where Madeleine L’Engle was the keynote speaker. She was so gracious to Deb and Doug. She was married to Broadway and TV actor Hugh Franklin probably best known for his portrayal of Dr. Tyler on ABC’s “All My Children.” Ms. L’ Engle’s book, Two-Part Intervention, (Harper & Row, 1988) tells of their marriage and his dying. She quotes Yeats:

 

But love has pitched her mansion

In the place of excrement;

For nothing can be sole or whole

That has not been rent.

 

Then she observes, “The place of excrement. That is where we are this summer.” Then she asks, “How do we walk through excrement and keep clean in our hearts?” How do we become whole by being rent? Later she says, “There are no shortcuts through the place of excrement.”

Only if you loved do those words make sense. Only if you’ve asked God for guidance, healing or intervention and found yourself sloshing through silence do you fully grasp the horror. When the support beams are dismantled by overload and you fear you have no reserve to manage the attack, nor systems to compute what is happening. You may begin to numbly grasp God’s activity in the quiet.

Innkeeper found herself in dark intrigue that would change her family’s destiny. Her future was in her hands in this challenging moment. When she responded with faith-action, God took her where she never dreamed of going.

She was a person with steel in her spine. Where did that come from? Is it genetic? Learned? Transferable? The command was to be strong and courageous. Not to feel strong or courageous, but to do courageous. Do you see yourself as strong? Courageous? When have you been confronted with the threat? Has a knock come to your door? 

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FIRE IN YOUR BELLY

From Seams to Me—(Unedited) 

©2013 D. Dean Benton

Five

 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!

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Initiate

From Seth Godin:

“The easiest thing is to react.    The second easiest thing is to respond.    But the hardest thing is to  initiate.    “Initiating is really and truly difficult, and that’s what leaders do. They see something others are ignoring and they jump on it.

“This isn’t about having a great idea (it almost never is). The great ideas are out there, for free on your neighborhood blog. Nope, this is about taking initiative and making things happen”

“Everyone will think it’s stupid!” “Everyone will think it’s impossible Guess what? Everyone works in the balloon factory and everyone is wrong

“The status quo is persistent and resistant. It exists because everyone wants it to. Everyone believes that what they’ve got is probably better than the risk and fear that come with change.”  (from  Tribes, Seth Godin, Portfolio, 2008)

Initiating is above all else: scary. Fear is the ultimate barrier. The inner voices feed the fear. Believing that you can’t or shouldn’t do it (whatever it is) keeps you immobile and thinking you have to ask permission. Godin says we live in leverage times which revolve around tribes.  A tribe is a group with a shared interest and a way to communicate.

We will initiate.

Dean    

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