And The Walls Came Tumbling Down

Tissot_The_Taking_of_JerichoReDiscovered Word 11

(Joshua 6; 1 Corinthians 1-2)

Walking in circles never accomplishes much. It will make you dizzy, but it won’t make you successful.

That’s the conventional wisdom, and it sounds like good advice. “God helps those who help themselves,” we say, and all too often we actually believe it. Victory belongs to the strong, and if you aren’t bold enough to take what you want, then you don’t really deserve it.

In worldly terms it’s sound advice. The problem is that God doesn’t operate that way. Read the Scripture and you’ll see it: Over and over again He helps the weak, the helpless, and the small. God’s power is best observed when He overturns the conventional wisdom. “The foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” 

Standing at the base of Jericho’s walls, the people of Israel looked tiny. Jericho was a fortress. More than twenty feet tall, situated on a hill, populated with giants. You don’t conquer a city like that by walking circles and blowing trumpets. You don’t knock walls down by shouting.

And that’s exactly the point God intended to prove. The “battle” of Jericho was nothing more or less than a chance for God to demonstrate who was in control. Right when they entered the Land, His people needed to understand that the Promised Land would only be conquered through His power. It would not be taken by human force. The world’s way of battle never suits God’s plans.

When the walls fell down, they understood — at least in that moment — that God’s plans can only be accomplished by God’s strength. 

It’s a message that would echo through the pages of Scripture and resonate across history. It’s a message that would be expressed most eloquently in the Incarnation of Jesus Himself. Weakness would be transformed into strength, and defeat would be changed into victory. The shame of the cross would give way to the glory of the resurrection. It would happen through God’s power and not at all through our own. The God of heaven would reach to the sinners of earth to once again help the helpless, with a plan that would forever destroy conventional wisdom.

At Jericho God helped those who could not help themselves. In Jesus, He did it again. He helped you and me. He gave life to the lifeless, hope to the hopeless, and strength to the weak. 

And all the walls came tumbling down.

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When Saints and Heroes Gathered

Worship Gatheringsat among saints and heroes. Few of them looked extraordinary, and none of them were famous.

If you knew them, though, you’d see what I saw.

I saw a man whose family has been riddled with tragedy lately, who has seen more than one family member taken by death. He smiled at me, gave me a hug, and offered words of encouragement. He told me it was a great day because he was on his feet, alive, able to worship. He reminded me that life is God’s gift and that death is bound to lose eventually.

I saw a young woman, a college student, who quietly placed her money in the offering plate. She closed her eyes and sang about God’s love, and I think she meant it. She reminded me that small gifts aren’t always small, because God’s economy is different from ours.

I saw parents with tired eyes who tried to keep their babies quiet, and I wanted to tell them how glad I was that they showed up at all. There’s something supernatural about getting there within fifteen minutes of the right time, about waking up early on the weekend and getting everybody dressed. They reminded me that Jesus loves each little one and beckons all of them to come inside.

I saw an older man who loves his wife dearly and can’t understand why she’s so sick. As he guided her to her seat, his eyes were filled with both love and pain. He was kind and tender and grateful to serve her for one more day. He reminded me of my own promise, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, and he strengthened my resolve to keep it.

I saw men and women with their eyes on the floor, struggling with guilt because the weight of sin is heavy. They came looking for mercy, for forgiveness, for hope to keep fighting, and I pray they found Good News that morning. They reminded me that nobody is beyond the grace of Jesus, not even me.

Together we reached for God, imperfect, sinful, but together. We clung to the truth that each of us is a member of Christ’s body, and we need each other as surely as we’re needed.

Some days it’s easy to see our flaws and sins, to wonder if we’re doing anything right. It’s easy to criticize and to withdraw from one another.

It’s easy listen and sing without noticing that we sit among saints and heroes. Saints in progress, and heroes with feet of clay, but saints and heroes all the same. My church is a special place, but yours might be too. Look around you. Linger after the service or show up early. Pay attention what God has done and what God is doing.

His Spirit is present and active in His church, slowly shaping us into who we ought to be. We worship among saints and heroes, ordinary holy people, set apart for God’s own possession. We proclaim Him as we sing, as we preach, as we suffer, and as we serve.

We are nothing special. But then again, maybe we are.

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Spiritual Amnesia is a Killer

remember

ReDiscovered Word 10

(Numbers 14-15)

How easily we forget what God has done. How easily we forget His power. 

While the children of Israel were camped on the border of the Promised Land, the twelve spies described the land’s beauty and fruitfulness. Then they described its inhabitants, enormous giants living in unconquerable cities.

“Compared to them, we’re grasshoppers. This is a fight we can’t win,” they insisted.

Joshua and Caleb disagreed. God had promised them the land, and God would give them the land. But those two optimists were outnumbered. In a frenzy of fear and unbelief, the people nearly stoned them to death.

They wanted to head back to Egypt. In Egypt they were safe. They had enough food in Egypt. Of course, they were also slaves in Egypt, but why dwell on small details?

“Let’s head back! Maybe Pharaoh will take us in! Why are we even out here in this God-forsaken place?” the people cried. “Why did God bring us here to die?”

Of course, God didn’t bring them there to die. He brought them there to give them the land. He brought them there because He loved them.

How easily they forgot that God defeated the Egyptians over and over and over and over again. How easily they forgot the moment of liberation, when they walked across the Red Sea on dry land, just before the strongest army in the ancient world drowned in their wake.

It was a case of spiritual amnesia. Their fear of the Canaanites drove away their trust in God. It’s not that they couldn’t remember what God had done for them in the past. It’s that they chose to forget.

We aren’t immune to their disease, by the way. “Do not worry about your life,” Jesus said. “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Yet we so easily forget that God raised Jesus from the dead. We so easily forget that no enemy is too strong for Him. We worry and worry and we choose to forget God’s power.

We fear other people, we fear financial loss, we fear for our health, and we fear for our families. We wallow in our fear and spin it around in our minds until it takes over and paralyzes us.

The worry gives us a sense of control and safety. We believe, in a twisted way, that worrying will somehow fix our problems. It never has before, and all it does is enslave us. But why focus on small details?

Spiritual amnesia is a killer.

So each morning, choose to remember God’s love and power. Write it on your mirror. Recite it when you wake. Tell it to your friends. Record it and play it back from your phone.

God loves you, and He is strong. His promises never fail. Never forget it, and never give in to the fear that enslaves you and keeps you from doing what He’s called you to do.

Choose to remember the truth. God is love, and God is strong, and the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you. Death will lose, fear will one day disappear, and His promises will come true.

Do not be enslaved by fear. Choose to remember the truth.

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When Nobody Knows Your Name

leftoutReDiscovered Word

(Psalm 139)

Sometimes it seems nobody knows your name.

We all want to be known. We want to be loved and included.

Sometimes, though, the popular kids make no room at their table. Sometimes, that new friend doesn’t text back. Sometimes, we’re excluded from the party, but we still see the pictures of it on Facebook.

The pain of exclusion drives people to do strange things, even crazy things. Some of us clamor for attention. We try to hog the spotlight by being funny or shocking or talented or good-looking.

Some of us try to attach ourselves to important people, to celebrities or leaders. Some of us simply withdraw from the world, returning rejection for rejection.

We’re made to be known, and it hurts badly to be forgotten. And we don’t always know what to do with the hurt.

Remember this: When nobody else knows you, there is One who does. The One who made you knows your name and never forgets.

God fashioned you in secret, long before you were aware. He gave you life and breath and a heart that desires to know and to be known.

And He knows how you feel in those dark moments when you feel left out and you wonder if you’re even worth knowing. When the cool kids shove you away from the popular table, He pulls up a chair at yours. When your texts are ignored, His Spirit calls out that He loves you. Do you hear Him? Are you listening?

You are never unknown. You are never forgotten. The One who made you knows your name. He knows every thought, every desire, every hurt, and He loves you anyway.

He’s not waiting for you to impress Him. He’s not hoping you’ll be cooler tomorrow than you are today. He doesn’t judge your value by how many famous contacts are in your phone or how polished you are at parties.

He loves you because He loves you. And He already knows you perfectly. He’s telling you right now that you’re His child. He will always include you and always remember you and always care for you.

Do you hear Him? Are you listening?

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