Month: April 2014

Face-planting into Grace

At training, all of us read through Acts in our daily time with Father to plunge ourselves deep into an understanding of what it looks like to spread the Truth to people who’ve never heard. That was a beautiful time of refreshing, redefining, and learning what our task truly is as we go overseas.

After we finished Acts, we read Luke. That got us excited all over again about the Son we are bringing to a people who have never heard of him. We fell in love again with his compassion, were challenged by his teachings, awed by his healings, and rallied by his refrain that the Kingdom had come to earth.

As I came home, settling in for what I knew to be at least a month’s wait for my visa, I debated what book to plunge deep into next. I could read another gospel, but I had just finished one. I could work on Paul’s letters, but they were often written to places where a group of believers was already established. I’m going to a city with no believers among my people group (that we know of), besides the other two women I’ll work with. I didn’t want a letter written to a group of new believers. I wanted something more… universal. Basic. Applicable to the mindset I’ll step into as I disembark my plane. I wanted something to prime my heart, soul, and mind to relate to a people who hadn’t quite made it to the New Testament in their belief. The Old Testament seemed a good place. And I was so intrigued by the Kingdom Jesus proclaimed to be here, that Joshua seemed a good choice.

That may sound a little strange, but in many cases, the physical realities of the Old Testament are the spiritual realities of the New. Paul says in Eph 6 that out struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual realities. The spiritual warfare in the New Testament and in our lives today finds a physical expression in the book of Joshua. The physical Kingdom of God’s people advances in Joshua in similar ways to how the spiritual Kingdom advances today. So I can learn a lot about how God moves, how the Enemy moves, how battles are won, and how battles are lost.

Here’s an example of what I mean: Achan’s sin prevents God from being glorified in the first battle against Ai (Jos 7), so the Israelites lose. People die, the entire nation loses morale, and God’s people are humiliated and defeated. In today’s spiritual battles, we understand that our sin keeps God from getting the praise, and sometimes it even keeps us from succeeding, even when whatever we’re trying to do is a good thing for the Kingdom. There are spiritual casualties due to our sin, and we often walk away from a spiritual battle humiliated and defeated if we haven’t first dealt with sin in our own lives.

It didn’t take long for me to start applying what I’ve been learning in Joshua. And I saw something in the book I’d never noticed before. Let me tell you the story.

About a week and a half ago, the majority of my friends from training headed out to their new countries. I knew it would be a rough day, so I was ready. I took so many requests to the Father to strengthen me and encourage me. I was genuinely excited for everyone leaving, but I felt kind of separated—with my head turned toward overseas, but not getting to go yet. My morning started out well. I got a call from my contact at the Embassy saying he’d received all my paperwork and would begin processing my visa. There was a slight problem though. My money order had been lost and they couldn’t begin without the processing fee. After I hung up from the call, I began praying for them to find it among the paperwork. I opened up my computer a few minutes later to find an email saying they’d found the money! But they needed the originals of my paperwork from Bulgaria, not just copies. I started writing a response email and praying, and as soon as I sent the email, I had received another, saying a courier had come in the door with the originals from Bulgaria! They would send everything off and I’d have my visa within the next 3-4 weeks! It was an incredible chain of events that could only have been put together by my heavenly Father. I stopped and sent up a prayer of thanks. I had an incredible gift—a token of my Father’s provision and faithfulness—to carry me throughout the day.

Just a few hours later, that afternoon late, I performed a quick self-check and realized I was utterly failing to cope well with everyone leaving. I’ll let you guess at my mental state. I was lost in Oklahoma City and pulled over in a parking lot to plug something into my gps. A couple of people had already honked at me because I was distracted and not driving well. A couple more people had honked at me for no other discernible reason than their panties were in a wad. I had very recently realized I hadn’t made myself eat anything since the half-bowl of cereal that morning. Somewhere in the middle I decided Burger King was a good idea (and I really do hate fast food). So as I was going over my life choices for the day, lost in a parking lot, with a half-eaten cheeseburger in my hand, lard coating my throat, and Les Miserables blaring dramatically over my car speakers, I was torn between crying and laughing at how ridiculously melodramatic I was being. I realized I had spiritually faceplanted. (You know… when you trip or fall. And you literally plant your face in the ground?)

After I got un-lost, got rid of the stale french fries in my passenger seat, called a couple people, and teared-up a bit, I pulled over in a different parking lot and had some Jesus time. The biggest emotion I felt then was shame. I was so frustrated that I had been reminded of Father’s faithfulness just that morning, and in the afternoon I had deliberately let myself have a pity party. I knew the day would be hard, and had asked Father in advance to help me through it. But when I needed him most, I ‘turned him off’ and quit listening. I was more content to fall apart and feel sorry for myself.

As I read my chapter in Joshua for that day, I found something I didn’t expect. In the pages of Joshua—a book about conquest, brutal battle, and instructions to follow the Law to the letter—I found grace. What a blessing that was. The Israelites themselves had gone through a very similar situation, except they had quail burgers and were lost in a desert, not a parking lot. God has parted the Red Sea for them, saved their lives, and made a covenant to be their God. They wandered around in the desert for a while and a disobedient generation passed. And when Joshua ushered the new generation into the promised land, God gave them a grace I had never recognized before. As they crossed the Jordan, God’s presence again went before them (in the Ark of the Covenant) and the water once again ‘split.’ It piled up upstream and would have looked much like the waters of the Red Sea, piled up on each side of the Israelites, who walked across on dry land.

Father didn’t owe them a reminder of who he was. They must have heard the story of the Red Sea more times than they could count. But he did remind them. He gave them a smaller, reprise miracle to remind them of his intentions and his power, and of his provision and faithfulness to the covenant. And even Joshua, the man who trained under Moses, needed extra reminding. It was grace that prompted the Lord to tell Joshua so many times to be strong and courageous; he knew Joshua would struggle.  And it was grace that led the Lord to again prove himself to the Israelites.

It was grace that caught me that day when I faceplanted. Through the stories in the Book we are reminded over and over and over again of Father’s faithfulness to provide and care for his children. And Father has reminded me many times of his faithfulness to me through stories from my own past. He doesn’t owe me that reminder, but he gives it anyway, just like that morning when he worked out my visa application.

As soon as the Israelites crossed the river, they set up a memorial to remind the generations to come of the Lord’s provision and faithfulness. That was a physical reality that remained in the promised land for years upon end. In our lives today, our memorials look a little different. They are our stories. They are those times when the Lord does something incredible in our lives. They are the times when we witness healing, miracles, conversion, faithfulness, or provision. And one of my new memorials is the story of when I faceplanted right into my Father’s grace. He picked me up and reminded me once again of his past faithfulness. My prayer for you, reader, is that you are collecting memorial stories for yourself. Call them to mind when you are challenged to forget or doubt your Father’s faithfulness, and let them remind you of who he is.