Posts Tagged ‘faithfulness’

Judges 3:1-6 (Part 2 of 3)
The Nations Left in Canaan

I cried out to the Lord to take control of my life in December 2001. I would like to say that life all of a sudden got easier but that would be a lie. Actually, life got harder. First, within in three months after my salvation, my oldest stepson was killed in a car accident. An already destructive marriage (we had been separated from February through October of that year due to my inability handle certain extramarital news and she said was a direct reaction to some financial blunders that I had made) was going to be tested. Sure, at first, it drew us closer because a death of a child will do that. However, as time wears on, the statistics are startling.

Around 80% of marriages where there is a death of a child end in divorce. Since we were a blended family (she had three boys and I had two girls), I bet the statistics are even higher. It was her blood child and my stepchild. No matter what people try to tell you about blending families, it is difficult in the best of times and horrid in the worst of times. It’s just different feelings that you have for your own kids vs. someone else’s kids that you acquire. You may love them deeply. You may do anything for them but the depth of feeling is simply not as deep. So while my stepson’s death was devastating to me for a while, it was, on the other hand permanently devastating to my second wife. She changed. Those jealousies that were latent in our marriage over my kids vs. her kids became outright vocal. When my oldest daughter was going through her senior year and all that and off to college, these jealousies of what her son could have been doing if he were alive vs. what my daughter had actually gotten to do causes enormous friction. As well, I think the pain over her son’s death may led her to want us to “cut the apron strings” when my daughter went off to college. Instead of being a mature Christian and standing up for my child to my second wife, I began to hide all the non-tuitional expenses of my child at college (gas money, event fees, membership fees, groceries every now and then, and host of other things not covered in tuition and housing). The death of her child and my lack of spiritual leadership of my household (as I had ceded leadership to her because of sexual access long ago) destroyed what was left of our marriage.

We split up in August 2004, two and a half years after the death of her child and almost two years nine months after I accepted Christ as my Savior. Next crisis was in May 2005 when I lost my job as an internal audit director of a regional consumer finance company. I immediately went to work for a consulting firm in Charlotte and finally found a permanent job in Charlotte as a result of that Charlotte consulting gig. It was then the first time I had been away from the Greenville area since I was 14 years old. It was a lonely existence living in Rock Hill just south of Charlotte. New town. New people. New experiences. It was really tough at first. There were attempts at relationships but none lasted until the fall of 2007. It was here that I met the most influential person in my life from that point forward, Elena (who I met in June 2007 and has been my main squeeze since October 2007 and my wife since March 2010). And, I can really pick the companies, ya know, the company I had been working for in Charlotte since January 2006 was bought by this British conglomerate who immediately decided to disband our corporate office where I worked in September 2007. Another crisis of employment. Another consulting gig through another Charlotte consulting firm. Ironically, sending me back to the Greenville-Spartanburg area. A somewhat long-distance ensued with Elena since I would stay down here in the GSP area during the week and drive back to Rock Hill on the weekend. Then, lo and behold…no not another job loss…the company I was consulting at sent me out to California to help straighten out the accounting department of their problem division in May 2008. A real long distance relationship ensued. Coast to coast. Plane trips. Loneliness. Wishing. Wanting. Way long way away from family. This continued all the way until October 2008 when this problem division offered me their comptroller’s position when the previous one finally quit. Then, we as a couple had a decision to make. Split up or Elena move out to California. We tried splitting up. It lasted 3 days. The worst three day stretch I can remember in a long time in my life to that point. So, finally in August 2009, Elena moved out to California. My life finally became settled and secure way out in California. But as these things go, life at this time was not settled. The powers that be at the parent company back here in South Carolina decided that since I had gotten things straightened out with the accounting department in California, it was time to consolidate the California division’s accounting department with the rest of the company’s main accounting office here in South Carolina. So, here we go again. Moving back to South Carolina.

We moved back to South Carolina this week seven years ago. In California, we married. In California Elena accepted Christ as Her Savior. In California, we learned so much from Luke and Felisha about what it really means to be a Christ follower. It was all preparation for what has happened to us since we moved back to South Carolina. When I look back at the seven years that we have been here, we have grown so much under the leadership of our church and through our maturation as Christ followers. However, the time between may salvation in December 2001 and Elena’s move to California in August 2009, those years are all filled with tests and trials and God shedding me of my internal and external gods and idols. It was a time of eight years of testing and of failure and of victory and failure again and of victory again. That is why the way my life has been settled and stable for the last 8 years is not lost on me. I am in the still waters and in a time of blessing. It is a time that I appreciate it. It is a time that is oh so much more valuable to me because of the previous 8 years prior to the current 8 years.

It is this thought of there still being obstacles to overcome even when we are God’s chosen people that came to mind this morning as I read through Judges 3:1-6, for the second of three times that we will visit it. Let’s read it now once more:

3 These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan 2 (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience): 3 the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath. 4 They were left to test the Israelites to see whether they would obey the Lord’s commands, which he had given their ancestors through Moses.

5 The Israelites lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 6 They took their daughters in marriage and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods.

In this passage, we see that it was the next generation’s job to finish the conquest of the land. There were many obstacles yet to be overcome in their new homeland. How they would handle these obstacles would be a test of their faith. Perhaps, God has left obstacles in your life – hostile people, difficult situations, baffling problems – to allow you to develop faith and obedience.

If anybody tells you that the skies will part and a halo will descend upon you when you accept Christ as Your Savior and you will never have any troubles ever again, let me tell you. It ain’t so. In a lot of ways our life gets harder. We are tested. We have a mark on our backs for Satan. God is also chisel away at us and removing all the worldliness about us through circumstances, events, people, and the action of the Holy Spirit in our souls. When I look back on those first eight years after salvation, it was probably the toughest, loneliest, and difficult stretch of my life. However, when I look back on the man that I was at the time of salvation, I am disgusted at his ugliness. And ten years from now, I will look back at the man that I am now and be disgusted at how spiritually immature that I am now by comparison to how I will be then. All of the circumstances that we encounter after salvation are not always good and they are there to hone us and craft us into the beings that God wants us to be. He gives us crises to mature us. We don’t care for it at the time but its part of the growing in Christ process. And, yes, He does give us seasons of peace and seasons of blessing when we are faithful in the hard times. I can attest to salvation bringing testing. I can attest to it being tough. I can attest to making it through it. I can attest to seasons of blessing.

If you are wondering why you accepted Christ as your Savior because your life has actually gotten worse. Let me remind you that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him. I am living proof of the process. Hang on. Hold on. Hold on to Jesus. He has a purpose for you in your post-salvation life.

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 14:13-25 (Part 4 of 4)

Moses Intercedes for the People

There was a song from back in the 60s, I think, that I did not discover until my teenage years in the late 70’s/early 80’s called My Condition by Supergrass. One of the lyrics from the song was “I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in.” It was one of those, “whoa, that’s so cool and profound, man!” kind of lyrics that blows your mind. But I think it is appropriate today’s blog. So stick with me and find out why…

 

Five years ago, about this time of year, I began following a call that the Lord placed on my heart. I started the pursuit of my Master of Arts in Christian Ministry degree. Although I had a master’s degrees in business since 2000, I had long felt that I had missed my true calling and that calling being to full-time ministry. I had battled against that calling for years and years for various reasons – bills, having young children, that who I was married to at the time would never go for a career change that would take us away from Greenville and reduce our income, having to spend three years with no income while in seminary, among other arguments to God.

 

Each roadblock though over the years was removed (including finding a wife who was willing to make all the sacrifices necessary for me to follow my calling) and I was left with no arguments against preparing for full-time ministry. So, I finally said yes to the Lord. I would go to seminary program at the Brashier Graduate School of North Greenville University (NGU) beginning in the fall of 2011. It was a tough row to hoe. Continuing to work full time at Fujikura America, Inc. as its comptroller as I had been for the previous three years plus taking my course load at NGU. It was daunting task. My regular job is a demanding one with the company’s philosophy of having as little staff as possible. Add to that studying every night and going to class two nights a week. There were many late nights. However, I loved it. I enjoyed the challenges of going deeper in my faith, defending my faith, and learning more and more about the theology of Christianity. I simply ate it up. I loved it. Through all that time, I was faithful, studious, and passionate about my school work. It was a great time for me spiritually because I knew I was in my Father’s will. I was doing what God wanted me to do and I knew it. There is no better place to be than being obedient to the Lord’s call on your life and learning to depend on Him to get you through it. It’s the sweet spot of your Christian walk. So many times, we get out of alignment with His will or have no clue what that is. However, when we find ourselves in alignment with the will of God, there is no greater contentment that you can find.

 

However, the test has come since then. When I graduated, I figured there would be churches knocking on my door or that I would immediately be offered a full-time position at my church. I was in God’s will, right? I had done what God had asked of me. Not only that, I loved it and was passionate about it to the point of being disappointed when it was over and I had my degree in hand. I was in that sweet spot. I thought the offers to transition into full-time ministry would be immediate and swift. However, that has not been the case. I am working part-time at my church as a director of finance/administration but no offers have come my way for full-time ministry. It was frustrating for some time for me in that regard. I had done what God had called me to do – prepare for full-time ministry but yet nothing, at least as I envisioned it, was happening. However, within the last few months, I have learned (through God opening my eyes to the story of Joseph in prison) that we have ministry wherever we serve. If we sit around and complain about what God had promised us and we don’t see immediate results, we may miss the impact that we are having for the kingdom right where we serve.

 

Just think if Joseph, wrongfully imprisoned for sexual assault, would have sat around and moped and been bitter because he was not serving the Lord where he thought he should serve, he would have missed the opportunity God had planned for him all along. If he had not been faithful and available while in prison, he would not have rose to the level of trustee. He would not have become the trusted servant of his jailors. Had he not been in that position, he would not have been able to interpret dreams. Had he not been in that position of trust and so highly valued by his jailors, he would have languished and died in prison. Had he not been in that position of trust, he would have never become the second most trusted person in all the land. Had it not been for the prison stretch, he would have never become the governor of Egypt during a most critical time in its history. We must be faithful, useable, teachable in the place that God has us right now or we might miss the door that opens that God truly wants us to walk through. Sometimes, it takes time for God to work out the details and we must be patient.

 

I think the same thing here about Caleb. He was faithful to the Lord. He fully believed that God would guide them through the travails of conquering the land that was before them. He believed it when no one else would other than Joshua.

 

As we read through Numbers 14:13-25 for the fourth and final time today, let us think about how our ways are not always God’s ways and how we should be steadfast and faithful to the Lord even when we don’t see immediate results as we think we should:

 

13 Moses said to the Lord, “Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them. 14 And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that you, Lord, are with these people and that you, Lord, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. 15 If you put all these people to death, leaving none alive, the nations who have heard this report about you will say, 16 ‘The Lord was not able to bring these people into the land he promised them on oath, so he slaughtered them in the wilderness.’

 

17 “Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared: 18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’ 19 In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.”

 

20 The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. 21 Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, 22 not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times— 23 not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. 24 But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it. 25 Since the Amalekites and the Canaanites are living in the valleys, turn back tomorrow and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea.”

 

Here in this passage, Numbers 14:13-25, we see Caleb’s continued faithfulness being discussed between Moses and the Lord. In v.24, we see the promise made to Caleb. God noticed his faithfulness to God’s plan and God made a promise of reward for it. It is mentioned here as almost an aside to the ongoing conversation about the punishment of Israel. But it is an important reference for the future. What this passage doesn’t tell you though is that the promise to Caleb would not be fulfilled for another 45 years. Just think about that. According the book of Joshua, Caleb here at the time of his secret mission into the Promised Land and his report back to Moses and the nation of Israel afterwards was 40 years old. His reward was not given to him until he was 85. However, the lack of immediate reward, as we move forward in Numbers and later in book of Joshua, it never stopped Caleb from being faithful to the Lord. He was continually faithful throughout his life. He had faith that the Lord had his best interest at heart regardless of whether or not he would ever see the Promised Land. His faithfulness to the Lord was not conditioned by his condition. His faithfulness to the Lord was conditioned by the fact that He loved the Lord, trusted Him with his very life, and felt that being obedient to the Lord no matter the situation was the best alternative because…well…God is God. He knows what’s best for us no matter if the situation does seem great or to our liking. He knows what’s best for us even when we can’t see the result. He knows what’s best for us even we cannot see the other side. He knows what’s best for us even though things seem insurmountable. He knows what’s best for us even things aren’t working out the way WE imagined. We must learn to trust the Lord and He will never bring us to harm. We must trust the Lord to open the doors that need to be opened at the time they need to be opened.

 

Is it not the same with you and me, especially me? I must trust the Lord to open the doors that need to be opened for me for the call to be a pastor that he has on my life. The door will open when He is ready to open it. In the meantime, I must be faithful in the things that He has in front of me. I must fully believe that this is part of the steps. I must fully believe that God has a purpose in this time period that I am in right now and that I must be faithful in it. God will make it clear what’s next when it’s time for what’s next. But God is saying enjoy the moment that you are because it is all part of the process. He is using my talents and I am offering them up and I am being faithful. Do what’s in front of you and I will reward that faithfulness one day – even if it is not til you are in heaven. It is the faithfulness that matters. Joseph and Caleb are examples of faithfulness. They did not care about what was happening next. They trusted that to the Lord. They did what was in front of them because they trusted that the Lord had them in the spot they were in for a specific reason and they were not going to miss out on it. Do what’s in front of you because the Lord is using that to make an impact in some way that maybe you cannot even see. Do what’s in front of you because the Lord has you here right now doing this for the glory of His kingdom. There is no wasted time in God’s economy. There is a very specific purpose for everything that we go through and we must trust that. It has been a hard road to get to that realization. We must not let our faithfulness to the Lord be condition by the conditions in which we find ourselves. We must not let our faithfulness be conditional on our condition.

 

Amen and Amen.