Monday, November 15, 2010

The Sun can still stand still

Hello all.  Below is the scripture passage and the message I shared yesterday at Good Shepherd.  It was the second in a two week series inspired by Steven Furtick's book, 'Sun Stand Still'.  
Would love to hear your thoughts:

Numbers 13:16-33 (New International Version)
 16 These are the names of the men Moses sent to explore the land. (Moses gave Hoshea son of Nun the name Joshua.)
 17 When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. 18 See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. 19 What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? 20 How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.” (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)
 21 So they went up and explored the land from the Desert of Zin as far as Rehob, toward Lebo Hamath. 22 They went up through the Negev and came to Hebron, where Ahiman, Sheshai and Talmai, the descendants of Anak, lived. (Hebron had been built seven years before Zoan in Egypt.) 23 When they reached the Valley of Eshkol,[a] they cut off a branch bearing a single cluster of grapes. Two of them carried it on a pole between them, along with some pomegranates and figs. 24 That place was called the Valley of Eshkol because of the cluster of grapes the Israelites cut off there. 25 At the end of forty days they returned from exploring the land.
 26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”
 30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”
 31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.” 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”

This week we are continuing to look at what happens when we dare to really believe in the promises of God and ask for impossible things from the God of the universe.  Last week we looked at the story of Joshua leading the Israelites to a great victory over a much larger army in order to secure the promised land for the people of God
The night before the battle God came to Joshua in a dream and promised a total victory for the Israelites – saying that not one of the enemy would be able to withstand them.  So Joshua asked God to make the ‘Sun Stand Still’ in order to give the army time to complete the victory.  God did – and the sun stayed in the sky for about 36 hours. 
The impossible became possible through the power of God when Joshua believed in the promise of God and acted accordingly.  We looked at Joshua and the way that Joshua lived out a life-changing faith that allows God to do the impossible in and through you. 
While there is no formula to living out that kind of life, we identified three phases to beginning the process.  First we have to Seize God’s vision – if you want to see God do something impossible in your life your heart and mind to God’s vision for your life: Remembering the simple and remarkable truth that God’s vision for your life is bigger than yours. 
Activate our faith - Audacious faith doesn’t really begin until we make the decision to step out (or take a leap of faith) with a strength that is outside of yourself.  Seeking after God’s outsized vision for your life, will, in the normal course of things, cause you to pray ‘Sun stand still’ prayers filled with an audacious faith.
Make your move – When we respond to God’s supernatural answers by acting boldly in faith we will find ourselves right in the middle of a move of God, the impossible coming to pass or maybe even a miracle.  Audacious faith in God and ‘Sun Stand still’ prayers are not passive activities, but rather they are the combination of an active belief in God joined with participation in the purposes of God.
But before we continue looking at how we can live ‘Sun Stand still’ lives ourselves and as a congregation, I think we need to back track a little bit.  Our Old Testament lesson from this morning goes back into the story of the Israelites and into the beginning of Joshua’s story
In Numbers 13 we are introduced to Joshua as he and Caleb are some of the spies sent to scope out the promised land as the whole Jewish nation is waiting on the other side of the Jordan river.  What made Joshua different?  What about the way Joshua lived invited God to do the impossible in and through his life?  
I think we can hear and see the answer in the difference between his report of the Promised Land and the other reports.  It begins with and understanding and it leads to a different perspective or way of seeing things.  
I really believe the heart of Joshua’s story begins with acknowledging the truth that God’s plan will be accomplished no matter what.
God’s will is always done  -  and for God time is not the concern that it is for us – So the question is how long will we get to participate in God’s will and in so doing enjoy the blessings that flow naturally from living a life in step with the will and mission of God. 
The question is not ‘will God’s will be done’ but ‘will I open my life to receive the full measure of God’s blessing by being faithfully obedient to God’s will and participating in God’s mission and plan for the world?
When Joshua, Caleb and the other spies saw the promised land – a land flowing with ‘milk & honey’ which essentially meant that it was a land overflowing with the blessings of God. 
But they also saw a land inhabited by strong nations and even giants. 
The Israelites were literally on the edge of living into the promises that God had given them and they faced a choice
They could continue to believe in the promises, the goodness and the greatness of the God that brought them out of slavery in Egypt, that delivered them through the Red Sea and from Pharaoh’s army and sustained them in the desert or they could choose to believe that the outcome of their situation was limited to their abilities and resources.
As you probably know the Israelites choose to let fear and a lack of faith cloud their judgment and reliance on God.As a result they spend the next 40 years wondering in the desert, until Joshua – who never questioned God’s ability or faithfulness – eventually led them into the promised land he was willing to take 40 years earlier. 
But, eventually God’s will and God’s plan come to fruition and the people of Israel enter into the land of Canaan.  And the milk & honey still flow.  But it is also still a land where the there were strong nations and giants waiting to defend their territory
40 years had past but the opposition they faced in living into their promise was still there. 
So what changed? -  They way that opposition was seen – the perspective of fear and doubt (our perspective) was replaced by a perspective of faith and blessing (God’s perspective)
Many times we see or encounter opposition and assume that we must not be in the will of God. 
We tend to think the Promised Land is where the blessings are going to be and that being in God’s will is where life is supposed to be easy.  Therefore, battle, opposition, struggle, and enemies must be a sign that we aren’t in the right place.
But God’s will does not come with the promise of ease and comfort.  In fact the very sign of the Promised Land maybe the giants you encounter there. Conflict. Opposition.  In other words, being in God’s will doesn’t guarantee a tension-free job. Or a conflict-free marriage. Or a trouble-free life.  Or a church that never has to deal with difficulty or struggle.
In fact, the very presence of tension, conflict, and trouble could be a sign that you’re right where you need to be.  You might be thinking that you’re not in God’s will right now. You’re going through all this fighting and it shouldn’t be like this. It must mean you’re in the wrong place.
Not necessarily. It might mean that you’re in exactly the right place. – I’ve heard it said that Satan doesn’t put up a fight to keep you from going in the wrong direction. 
What if you changed your perspective and saw what you’re facing as a sign that you’re exactly where God wants you to be, because giants live in the Promised Land?  That doesn’t make it easier, but it does move it from impossible to possible, remember:
There was opposition for the Israelites. But there was also a reward.  There were giants. But there were also grapes.  If you are walking in God’s will and striving to live into God’s plan for your life and God’s mission for this world the opposition you’re facing is not an impossible obstacle to overcome, but rather a road sign confirming you are headed in the right direction.
The situation you are in, the situation we are in, the opposition we are facing may seem impossible – but that is a lie. The truth is that with God you can actually overcome any opposition and nothing is impossible. And the reward that you will get for sticking it out will far outshine any opposition that you’re facing.
In us and through us God works the impossible, but God demands from us that we are willing participants.  We have to be willing to have an audacious faith in God that believes in the impossible and springs into the action that comes from that belief
God didn’t hand over the enemies living in the promised land until the Israelites were willing to trust God enough to enter into it.  God made the Sun Stand still, but only after Joshua and his army marched all night long to meet their enemies in battle
God is waiting to do amazing and impossible things through each of us individually and as a congregation. 
Waiting for us to have an audacious faith that is active – that shows itself in a life lived differently. 
Waiting for us to walk in faith that the obstacles and opposition we face are nothing for God
Waiting for us to ask for the Sun to Stand Still in our lives – and then live and act like it is going to stay in the sky as long as we need it to for God’s will to be accomplished in us. 
God’s will will be done – but will we get to be a part of it?  Will we get to see the sun stand still in our lives, in our families, in our community and in and through our church? 
When we face giants of opposition in our lives and in our life together will we see the impossible that we can’t possibly accomplish or will we see an opportunity for God to work in amazing ways in and through us? 
In the bright light of a Sun that has stood still, what do you see? 

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