Posts Tagged ‘following your calling’

Joshua 18:1-10
The Allotments of the Remaining Land

The professor for my next semester in my doctoral program for my Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) degree released the syllabus for the upcoming semester. As is with this program, there is a lot of (and I mean a lot) of reading. There are two required texts which I guess would be considered the textbooks for this class since we all have to read these two books. In addition to that you have to read at least one book from each of five different categories from which we have to select. With the books, I have selected for the semester and the required texts, I will be reading a total of 2,104 pages. Because I am not necessarily the fastest reader in the world. I cannot wait until August 7th or 14th when North Greenville University’s fall semester officially begins. I must begin now, tomorrow, in fact.

Being the geeky accounting type that I am, I, of course, have a spreadsheet for all of this study. I sat down Thursday night and developed my study calendar (giving myself weekends of and such). I figured out that for my reading I will have 45 study nights beginning this Sunday and ending on Thursday night, September 7th. Then from September 10th through September 21st, I have ten nights to write and complete an essay, a book critique/review, and a research paper. All of these papers have to be turned in electronically by 11:59pm on Tuesday, September 25th. Then, the week of October 2nd-6th, we have what the university calls a “weeklong intensive” where we are on-site, on-campus from 8am-5pm that entire week. During that week, we give presentations on our work during the first half of the semester and listen and participate in group discussion about what we have learned so far. Then, after the weeklong intensive, we must complete the second half of the semester which will have its own reading and its own assignments.

Man, sitting on this side of the work where all the work for this, my second semester in the program out there in front of me, it seems like a burden that is too great to bear. It just seems like too much. The easy thing to do would be to take the path of least resistance and not do it at all. The things that you hear in the back of your mind are “Why are you doing this?” or “This is just added expense to your life, why do it?” or “What’s going to come from this? You are simply going to be the best educated church member (not preacher) there is!” or “This is just too much work and we are not going to have anything to show for it?” or “You are just delaying the inevitable realization that you will not being going into full-time ministry anywhere, anyplace!”

These are the struggles that go on in your mind when you are acting on faith. Satan will create doubt. Satan will try to make you bitter about what you are doing. Satan will make you question yourself. And, then, there is just this sheer volume of work to be done. For sure, I love being a student. I love learning. I love the climb the mountain and grab the flag accomplishment orientation of school work where there are goals established and goals achieved. I love that stuff (standing on the mountaintop after a multi-faceted task has been completed). However, at the same time, I still have my job at Fujikura America, Inc. that is as demanding as any finance job out there. It requires lots of my time even if I did not do anything else. Then add to that I am heavily involved in the leadership of our church from a financial management perspective as well as from a teaching perspective. Then, add to that I am a husband to my wife who needs my attention too. Then, I am a parent and a grandfather. Add to that I have to workout to try to get rid of this big ol’ bellay! Where’s the time. Time has to be made and carved out. Why? Wouldn’t just be easier NOT to pursue this degree that may have no visible effects once you have completed it? Why do it?

It is these doubts about what I am doing in the doctoral program at NGU and about how much easier it would be for me all around just to not do it that came to mind this morning as I read through this passage about the tribes not wanting to go and execute the plan to take their land. I could identify with their doubts and struggle of not wanting to tackle a great big old problem. Let’s read the passage together, shall we:

18 The whole assembly of the Israelites gathered at Shiloh and set up the tent of meeting there. The country was brought under their control, 2 but there were still seven Israelite tribes who had not yet received their inheritance.

3 So Joshua said to the Israelites: “How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you? 4 Appoint three men from each tribe. I will send them out to make a survey of the land and to write a description of it, according to the inheritance of each. Then they will return to me. 5 You are to divide the land into seven parts. Judah is to remain in its territory on the south and the tribes of Joseph in their territory on the north. 6 After you have written descriptions of the seven parts of the land, bring them here to me and I will cast lots for you in the presence of the Lord our God. 7 The Levites, however, do not get a portion among you, because the priestly service of the Lord is their inheritance. And Gad, Reuben and the half-tribe of Manasseh have already received their inheritance on the east side of the Jordan. Moses the servant of the Lord gave it to them.”

8 As the men started on their way to map out the land, Joshua instructed them, “Go and make a survey of the land and write a description of it. Then return to me, and I will cast lots for you here at Shiloh in the presence of the Lord.” 9 So the men left and went through the land. They wrote its description on a scroll, town by town, in seven parts, and returned to Joshua in the camp at Shiloh. 10 Joshua then cast lots for them in Shiloh in the presence of the Lord, and there he distributed the land to the Israelites according to their tribal divisions.

Here, in this passage, we see that seven tribes had not yet been assigned their land. They gathered at Shiloh where Joshua cast lots to determine which areas would be given to them. Using the sacred lottery, God would make the choice, not Joshua or any other human leader. By this time the Canaanites were effectively so weakened that they were no longer a threat. Instead of fulfilling God’s command to destroy the remaining Canaanites, however, these seven tribes would often take the path of least resistance. As nomadic people, they may have been reluctant to settle down, preferring to depend economically on the people they were supposed to eliminate. Others may have grown weary of the constant state of warfare that the Israelites had been in for the past 6 or 7 years. Trading with Canaanites was seen as easier and more profitable than the destroying the suppliers and having to fend for themselves.

As well in this passage, we see Joshua asking why some tribes were putting off the job of possessing their land. Often, we delay doing jobs that seem large, difficult, boring or disagreeable. To continue putting off the taking of the land showed lack of discipline and disobedience to God.

That the thing that rings true here for me is that sometimes God calls us to do things that are difficult and seemingly insurmountable. He rarely calls us to do things that do not require a stretch. He calls us always outside our comfort zone. We could take the path of least resistance and continue to live in our comfort zone where it’s easy and known. Like the tribes here would rather trade with the enemy rather than go through the tough task of waging war to cleanse the land of the evil people, we sometimes shy away from what God has called us to do. God calls us to do what He has designed for us to do. He calls us to do what is hard for us so that we will realize a dependence on Him and express that through living in faith that God will provide us the strength, the stamina, the courage, etc. that we will need to accomplish our calling.

That’s about all that I can say to Satan or anyone else, even myself, that may question why I am pursuing my D.Min. degree – Because God has put it on my heart to do it. Whether it makes sense or not to others, whether it makes sense to me or not, He has called me to do this and I am going to do it. I can’t see what God has for me on the other side of this. That’s where faith and trust comes in. I know that whatever hardships I will encounter over the remaining 2 ½ years of D.Min. program, God will use it somehow and in some way that I cannot even see right now. When I get to the other side of this program, God will have something there that will have made all the pain and heartache of the studies worth it and make all that study useful in some way for the kingdom. I must trust that. I must then act on what He has called me to do. Anything less would be disobedience. I don’t get a choice in obedience to God. It is simply something that I must do in order to have a deeper and more dependent relationship with my Father in heaven.

 

Amen and Amen.

Joshua 16:1-17:18 (Part 1 of 2)
The Land Given to Ephraim and West Mannasseh

There is a line from that wonderful movie that I adore about Southern women, the most wonderfully complex creatures on the planet, that seems to ring true for all of us. Shelby tells her mom, “I would rather 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special!” Her mom was arguing vehemently against her having a child (Shelby was a diabetic) because it could kill her during pregnancy, childbirth, or simply cut short her life even though she might be able to deliver the child. Shelby was telling her mom that the risks were worth getting the reward of having a child. So many times in life, we will shy away from some big prize because the work to get there may be risky or too hard.

Some of us may want to be doctors when we are kids but then we find out that there is a whole lot of school that you have to go through to get there. We rationalize away that we cannot afford it. We rationalize away that it would be too difficult to not only go to college but to medical school, do an internship while in school, and then do a residency after medical school and all that before you can begin earning a living as a doctor. It is a long, hard rode that few choose and even fewer succeed at. However, the rewards for those who make it through the grueling process. You are typically set financially if you are just even an average doctor. However, the primary reward is to be able to help people in times of sickness about which they can do nothing for themselves. Some of the most joyful people that I encountered growing up were the doctors who dotted the churches that my dad served. These were people who truly cared about helping people while balancing that against making a living for themselves so that they could do good for their families and their churches.

Some of us dream of being missionaries or ministers as second careers. Some of us want to fight against injustice in the world in the name of Jesus Christ. Some of us want to go to Hong Kong, Southeast Asia, India, Eastern Europe, or anywhere to fight against sex trafficking and modern slavery. Many of us envision ourselves as going to the Middle East to predominantly Muslim countries to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. Many of us envision ourselves as missionaries in third world countries such as Haiti or in any of the countries of the continent of Africa. Many of us envision ourselves as pastors because we love God and His Word and we study it daily and incessantly. We may say that we want to serve the Lord full time and whine about why it is not happening. But when it comes down to it, are we willing to make the sacrifices to do what we are called to do.

Are you willing to give up your current life to follow God’s calling on your life. Or are you postponing away your life with excuses? Are you impassioned about ending sex trafficking to the point of wearing a Red X t-shirt and show how hip you are to current causes? However, are you willing to risk it all, leave the cushy lifestyle here in the United States and go to India and live in abject poverty to help prevent 12 year old girls from being sucked into or sold into sex slavery or once there help them get out? Is it that passionate for you? Or would you rather feign support for the cause and maybe even throw money at it but tolerate its existence by saying there is nothing that I personally can do.

Are you willing to give your all to plant a church or seek out a ministry position and see yourself preaching and teaching as God has called you to do? Has God called you and given you a passion for being a missionary to a third world country or to a nation dominated by another religion than Christianity? Are you willing to make the sacrifices to make that happen when it comes down to crunch time? You may use excuses such as financial situations, such as an unsupportive spouse, such as having kids locked into a materialistic culture that would revolt against you if did this.

God does not give us a calling for the simple. God does not give us a calling for the easy. A calling is a calling because it is hard. It is difficult. It will require sacrifice. God’s callings on our lives will be the toughest thing we will ever do.

That idea of shying away from what God calls us to do is what came to mind when I read these two chapters and again I read about not following God’s explicit instructions to drive out the pagan cultures of Canaan. Each tribe failed in this directive in one way or another. It reminds me of us, those who talk a big game but are not willing to do the hard work. Let’s look at these two chapters now:

16 The allotment for Joseph began at the Jordan, east of the springs of Jericho, and went up from there through the desert into the hill country of Bethel. 2 It went on from Bethel (that is, Luz),[a] crossed over to the territory of the Arkites in Ataroth, 3 descended westward to the territory of the Japhletites as far as the region of Lower Beth Horon and on to Gezer, ending at the Mediterranean Sea.

4 So Manasseh and Ephraim, the descendants of Joseph, received their inheritance.

5 This was the territory of Ephraim, according to its clans:

The boundary of their inheritance went from Ataroth Addar in the east to Upper Beth Horon 6 and continued to the Mediterranean Sea. From Mikmethath on the north it curved eastward to Taanath Shiloh, passing by it to Janoah on the east. 7 Then it went down from Janoah to Ataroth and Naarah, touched Jericho and came out at the Jordan. 8 From Tappuah the border went west to the Kanah Ravine and ended at the Mediterranean Sea. This was the inheritance of the tribe of the Ephraimites, according to its clans. 9 It also included all the towns and their villages that were set aside for the Ephraimites within the inheritance of the Manassites.

10 They did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer; to this day the Canaanites live among the people of Ephraim but are required to do forced labor.

17 This was the allotment for the tribe of Manasseh as Joseph’s firstborn, that is, for Makir, Manasseh’s firstborn. Makir was the ancestor of the Gileadites, who had received Gilead and Bashan because the Makirites were great soldiers. 2 So this allotment was for the rest of the people of Manasseh—the clans of Abiezer, Helek, Asriel, Shechem, Hepher and Shemida. These are the other male descendants of Manasseh son of Joseph by their clans.

3 Now Zelophehad son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Makir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons but only daughters, whose names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah. 4 They went to Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun, and the leaders and said, “The Lord commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our relatives.” So Joshua gave them an inheritance along with the brothers of their father, according to the Lord’s command. 5 Manasseh’s share consisted of ten tracts of land besides Gilead and Bashan east of the Jordan, 6 because the daughters of the tribe of Manasseh received an inheritance among the sons. The land of Gilead belonged to the rest of the descendants of Manasseh.

7 The territory of Manasseh extended from Asher to Mikmethath east of Shechem. The boundary ran southward from there to include the people living at En Tappuah. 8 (Manasseh had the land of Tappuah, but Tappuah itself, on the boundary of Manasseh, belonged to the Ephraimites.) 9 Then the boundary continued south to the Kanah Ravine. There were towns belonging to Ephraim lying among the towns of Manasseh, but the boundary of Manasseh was the northern side of the ravine and ended at the Mediterranean Sea. 10 On the south the land belonged to Ephraim, on the north to Manasseh. The territory of Manasseh reached the Mediterranean Sea and bordered Asher on the north and Issachar on the east.

11 Within Issachar and Asher, Manasseh also had Beth Shan, Ibleam and the people of Dor, Endor, Taanach and Megiddo, together with their surrounding settlements (the third in the list is Naphoth[b]).

12 Yet the Manassites were not able to occupy these towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region. 13 However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor but did not drive them out completely.

14 The people of Joseph said to Joshua, “Why have you given us only one allotment and one portion for an inheritance? We are a numerous people, and the Lord has blessed us abundantly.”

15 “If you are so numerous,” Joshua answered, “and if the hill country of Ephraim is too small for you, go up into the forest and clear land for yourselves there in the land of the Perizzites and Rephaites.”

16 The people of Joseph replied, “The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the plain have chariots fitted with iron, both those in Beth Shan and its settlements and those in the Valley of Jezreel.”

17 But Joshua said to the tribes of Joseph—to Ephraim and Manasseh—“You are numerous and very powerful. You will have not only one allotment 18 but the forested hill country as well. Clear it, and its farthest limits will be yours; though the Canaanites have chariots fitted with iron and though they are strong, you can drive them out.”

Throughout Joshua, you will see the phrase, “they did not drive out” the people of the land. The fact that they did not do so was against God’s explicit commands in Joshua 13:1-6. The failure to completely remove the pagan people and their idol worshiping religions from the land would cause many problems for the nation of Israel, though it does not seem that way here at the beginning. The book of Judges records many of these struggles. Another thing that you will notice in these two chapters is that there is a contrasting attitude toward settling the promised land by these two tribes compared to Caleb. Caleb took what God gave him and moved ahead to fulfill God’s plan for him. He was confident that God would help him drive out the wicked inhabitants and the he would soon fully occupy his land. In contrast, the two tribes of Joseph were given rich land and lots of it, but they were afraid to drive out the inhabitants and take full possession of the land. Instead, they asked for more land so that they would not have to fight to win full control of their allotted land.

Why is it that we will tolerate things that we know are evil because it is too hard to do the work to drive it out. Why do we talk about sex trafficking but tolerate its continued existence. Why the hell are we not mad as hell enough to en masse go do something about it. Why do we tolerate this evil? It took William Wilberforce a lifetime to get the British Empire to outlaw slavery in the empire. It took convincing an entire empire that slavery was wrong and could not be tolerated. It will take the same en masse conviction of entire nations, particularly ours as the most powerful nation in the world to end this modern slavery known as sex trafficking. Doing nothing is tolerating its existence and allowing its evil to exist and continue.

Are you willing to follow your calling into the ministry or to the missionary field? Are you willing to chuck it all and depend on God to provide for you and your family. Are you willing to trust that God will convince your spouse that it is the right thing to do. Are you willing to trust God to change the hearts of your spoiled American children entrenched in the gadgetry of our culture. Are you willing to trust Him yourself to guide you into the unknown most craziest, most unbelievable, thing you have ever done? What if God removes every roadblock in your life that you throw up to him as to why you can’t following His calling? One by one He removes them. What now? It is you and God, are you willing to do the hard work that may not even get mentioned in your church newsletter? Are you willing to dive into the deep end of the pool when all your excuses are gone? Are you willing to follow God’s call on your life – for real, not just talk, not just dreams, but for real?

We may die in the effort to bring the gospel to third world countries. We may die in delivering the gospel to Muslim and Hindu and Buddhist nations. We may go broke and die penniless in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. We may die in trying to save someone from the injustice of human slavery. We may feel as though we made no impact at all save a few girls that we helped smuggle out of slavery. We may serve for years without any visible evidence other than God called us to do it.

But at the end of the day, in following God’s call on our lives, wouldn’t you rather have had 30 minutes of wonderful rather than a lifetime of nothing special. It was Thoreau who said, “Most men live lives of quiet desperation!” Thoreau was saying the same thing as Shelby. We can regret our ways to the grave. All the things we should have done. The calling on our lives that we should have followed.

What is God calling you to do? What is that 30 minutes of wonderful that God has called you to do? Or are you going to make excuses such that it becomes a lifetime where you lived a nothing special life? God is calling each of us to real ministry whether its in our neighborhood, our town, our state, our region, our nation, our world? He is calling you to something? What is it? Are you willing to take the risks necessary to follow God?

30 minutes of wonderful or a life of nothing special, a life of quiet desperation? How much do you trust God? He is calling you to something wonderful….what’s it gonna be? 30 minutes of wonderful or a life of nothing special, filled with regret, that you did not follow God’s calling on your life…

Amen and Amen.

Romans 15:14-22 — In this passage, Paul basically tells the church at Rome that he cannot come visit them because they are doing so well that he has more important things to do. He didn’t mean this as a slam but rather a compliment. Paul had more urgent matters to tend to — to preach the gospel where the name of Christ has never been heard. It has been heard in Rome and they were flourishing. Paul was needed elsewhere.

He is saying here that hey you’re doing OK so I don’t need to visit you just now. Paul needed to go where the challenge was greater and there was a greater need. He felt that the church at Rome was in good hands. He needed to be where there was nothing. He needed to build up churches where the gospel was unknown. By implication for us, it can be said that we need to know when our work is done and its time to leave. We need to know when God is leading us to something new, something urgent, and not be afraid to leave our cocoon.

This message kind of reminds you of when you know its time to leave your current job and seek a new one. There comes a time in most jobs where you feel like you have done all you can at this time and its time to move on. It’s time for a new challenge. For example, when Steve Spurrier was at University of Florida from 1990-2001, he had the world by the tail, he won 8 division titles, 5 conference titles, and 1 national championship. However, he left it all and took on a new challenge in the NFL and that eventually led him to the University of South Carolina. The new challenges were greater than the need to maintain excellence with the Florida Gators. He has done so much more meaningful work at USC than he could’ve ever done in maintaining the program at UF. We all have opportunities in life where it is necessary to leave a good situation where everything is known and everything is neat and tidy. Sometimes it is necessary to break out into the unknown and find the new challenge. Sometimes it is time to step into what God has been preparing us for.

For some that looks like a friend of mine. She has been a ER nurse for 14 years and is very good at it. She has no reason to leave. She could stay in the job and her employer would be happy as clams with that. She is good at what she does. However, she has been called by God to teach her skill to others and to minister to others through home health care. Paul could have visited Rome but He was called to do what God prepared him to do. This friend has been prepared for the next phase in God’s plan. She can do more for Christ by teaching a new crop of nurses how being a Christ follower makes her job a ministry and also to minister to others in home visits one on one in a way she could not in the ER. The ER was not wasted though. The intense nursing required in the ER has taught her much and it will be used in this new phase of God’s plan for her life.

For me and Elena, this idea looks like this. We love LifeSong Church with all our heart. If we had our way, we would never leave. We love this church and the way it touches the community and the world around us. We love serving there in the ways we serve. I help with the financial accounting and budget processes at the church (because of my secular work background). Elena and I work together as leaders in our church’s community outreach ministries. Elena carries most of the workload there and she loves it. We are leaders of our life group and being part of the Christ following growth that is happening there. All of our friends are at LifeSong. 90% of our friends are members of this church. We could stay there forever if we had our own way. It is known. It is safe. It is good. There would be no shame in staying there.

But, as you know, I feel called to be a pastor. It is been a thought always in my mind that we are called to be God’s servant in reclaiming a dying church, to re-awaken what has fallen asleep. We could stay here at LifeSong and be very happy and participate in doing many good things for the kingdom. Sometimes though God calls us to finish the preparation time and step into that which He has been preparing us for. We can’t miss the opportunity when it is time. Paul could not go to Rome because he had urgent work to do spreading the gospel in places where it had never been heard. He COULDN’T miss that opportunity that God laid on His heart. He knew Rome would be fine until a later visit. We must seize our God-ordained opportunities when they arise. We must seize the opportunities to serve the Lord in the way He has ordained for us. When we are called to do what God has called us to do, Elena and I must recognize the Spirit’s leading and go where He leads us. We must fight the urge to stay in the known, the comfortable, and trust that God will sustain in what is unknown, uncomfortable, but yet where God intends us. Our time in Livermore Alive Community Church in California was training for being at LifeSong back home in South Carolina. LifeSong is our training for what’s next in God’s plan for our lives. We must trust in Him to sustain us for what’s next and not be afraid to step into it. We must go wherever God calls us and wherever He needs us to serve. We can’t be afraid to leave what is established and working and is a well oiled machine to do the work of the Lord that needs doing.

Just like Paul, he could have gone to Rome and had a great visit there for several months or years but Rome was already flourishing. God called him not to the flourishing but to those who did not know Jesus. Sometimes, we as Christ followers are not called to serve what is already working well but to serve where we are really needed, where the trail has not been blazed, where souls need re-awakening, where dying churches need to meet Jesus again. We all have our safe places in life, but the real rewards come from when we take on new challenges. We can stay in the safe place and be fine, but sometimes God calls us to do the challenging, the difficult, and we may fail by human standards but the success comes in the obedience to God.

Father, I know that these lyrics belong to Hillsong, but I offer them as my prayer today. Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters wherever You would call me. Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander and my faith will be made stronger. Help me to trust that You will sustain us in whatever you lead us to do. Help me to never be afraid to leave my boat where everything is known and safe and step out into the waters of the unknown and keep my eyes on You following wherever you may lead us. We are willing. We have been preparing. We love you, Lord. Amen.