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Thursday, November 20, 2014

We aren't responsible for the outcome

"You have never been here before..."  Seasons come and go in our lives - some quite pleasant, others bringing more than their share of heartache and trial.  Life cannot be manipulated to just have one or the other of these seasons - we "get" what comes our way, much like we "get" the weather destined to cross our home town at one point or another. We can "make snow" these days to keep ski resorts running at peak performance, but those who ski will tell you man-made snow is a little different than what actually originates from the skies above.  The only reason for the man-made snow is the lack of the "real deal".  So, did we change the season, or manipulate the outcome?  It was the outcome we changed, not the season!  Seasons have a way of changing us - not the other way around.  

The next morning Joshua and all the people of Israel got up early, left the camp at Acacia, and went to the Jordan, where they camped while waiting to cross it. Three days later the leaders went through the camp and told the people, “When you see the priests carrying the Covenant Box of the Lord your God, break camp and follow them. You have never been here before, so they will show you the way to go. (Joshua 3:1-4 GNT)

Israel had been in a season of "watching and waiting" simply because there was "frustration and fear" for quite a while in their camp.  Nearly 40 years passed between the time Joshua was sent into Canaan to spy out the land with 11 other spies.  They returned with "mixed" news - two reporting huge bounty and the ability to take the land; ten reporting huge enemies and no way of success.  It often amazes me how quickly the nay-sayers can change the heart of the crowd.  It doesn't take much to cause us to succumb to the fears of failure, does it?  When new seasons are just upon us, we often catch a glimpse of those seasons and in those moments, we form an opinion on what we will believe about the season.  We can choose to believe it will be harsh and way beyond what we want to endure - or we can embrace the possibility within it.  If the skiers just waited for "natural snow" to fall upon the hillside, they might be disappointed here in Arizona!  Their ski season would be very limited most years!  The season with the artificially produce white stuff may not give them the same "ski" as the other years when we have great amounts of snowfall, but it satisfies their longing to just "ski".

I know life doesn't offer us easy seasons or slightly harder ones (okay snow, or really "fine" snow).  In fact, life usually offers us a little bit of this and that - bringing us right up to the edge of some breakthrough, all the while painting two scenarios for us - one of us making it through to the other side unscathed and stronger, or another of being totally overcome by what is just ahead.  The Jordan River stood between Israel and the "other side".  It was rainy season - the river being at a "high bank" level at the point they are being asked to take the next step in their journey.  It shouldn't catch us off-guard when our next step will be the one which tests our willingness to trust something bigger than ourselves!  Israel was being asked to once again "cross over on dry ground" - something most of these people only heard about from their ancestors because they had spent so much time wandering around in the wilderness that many who actually saw what God did at their deliverance from Egypt's pursuing armies was only a "story" of epic proportions for them.

The moment of change in our "season" is at the point of our greatest test of faith.  For Israel, the "probability" of them crossing over Jordan on dry ground was not really what they could control.  The river was flowing, banks expanded, and there was no bridge!  We stand at the edge of change in our lives, beckoned toward obedience, and at those moments what do we do?  Don't we look for the bridge?  You and I look for the "easy way" to get from here to there - from this season to the next.  Why?  We "want" obedience, but we have a hard time actually "walking" in obedience.  We want to "cross over" from where we have been for way too long, but we know the first steps toward where we need to be are going to be the hardest for us to take.  Just imagine the things which must have been running through the twelve men selected to carry the Ark of the Covenant into the Jordan!  The moment they picked up the Ark, they were committed to see it through.  Truth is - the moment we set into action what God asks of us in our lives, there is no turning back - and all steps forward will be the greatest test of our faith!

Twelve men led the way - not by their power - but by their faith.  Thousands would move into obedient pursuit simply because of their obedience and trust.  This is probably why they were "hand-selected" as men of faith - those who would stay the course, so to speak.  This was the moment of truth for Israel - the moment of no turning back.  Most of the time, we get right up to the edge of "crossing over" into what God has next for us (the season which is just ahead), and we see the impossibility of the moment.  The swelling waters seem to catch our attention more than the promise of a new season just on the other side.  Maybe it is because we don't know the certainty of the new season - will it be good, hard, or somewhere in between?  Maybe it is because we cannot imagine the possibilities of God's interventions to get us from where we are to where we need to be.  Perhaps it is the belief the waters will somehow collapse in around us, taking us further and further away from where we need to be!  We have all kinds of doubts - but we only need the tiniest bit of faith!  We forget faith begins in the smallest of steps - not in the magnitude of the leaps!   

Seasons come and go - but those who trust in the midst of the most uncertain of seasons learn that God can be counted on.  We don't need to "produce" the outcome - we just need to take action in the season we are experiencing right now.  The outcome is his part - ours is to trust, obediently step out, and then allow him to do what we cannot.  Just sayin!