The entire Bible is about men and women like us. They struggled with feelings of fear and inadequacy. Yet when they yielded ALL to GOD,….something happened. HE showed up. This is what I recently experienced in Brazil.
My 18 year old son Avi is scheduled to begin his service in the Israeli Defense Force this coming summer. In order to capture some special time together I invited him to come with me on a recent ministry trip to Brazil. It was a rare opportunity, to be together in such a beautiful and dramatic country, so we built in some days for fun and adventure. We made reservations to do white water rafting. We knew there would be some challenge and a little danger, but we did not fully know what to expect. We had never been there.
Consequently, we were totally dependent on the guides. We trusted them and obeyed them. They taught and trained us and gave us the equipment we needed. As a result, we experienced excitement, satisfaction, safety and arrived at our goal—beyond any previous experience.
Part 1: “You have not passed this way before…”
“You have not passed this way before (so) sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you. (Joshua 3:4,5)”
With these words Joshua exhorted the Israelites to get ready to enter the Promised Land, to cross the Jordan River. This describes our brief adventure on the river, but even more it describes our lives. I believe the elements of our white water adventure readily apply to our need to launch out into untested waters. This is the nature of faith.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not yet seen. (Hebrews 11:1)”
With our professional guide, “Tarzan” (nicknamed for his massive muscles), we began in calm waters to train for our rafting adventure. We then launched out into moving waters, continuing to learn, follow commands, and work together. “Tarzan” was the commander; the uncontested leader of our little vessel. When he was satisfied with our progress we entered some rapids, not the heaviest, but enough to test out what we had learned. This part was challenging and a little dangerous but more satisfying than the “lightweight” stuff. Finally, there were serious rocks and rapid water. But by that time we were ready.
As I write these steps, I’m sensing that, along with me, many of you are experiencing an intensifying of the waters. You’ve passed through some challenges before, but it’s never been quite like this. There’s a serious build up. Your trust level in God is greater than in the past, but the need to trust Him is greater than ever. You’ve seen some good fruit before now, but you see a potential that far outweighs the earlier harvests.
As in life, God entrusts us with a little and checks how we do. He gives us leaders, guides, trainers who know the way and who prepare us, watch out for us. We are in the boat with others, some are younger, some older, but we work together to get to the goal. The guide checks; “Todo bien?” Are you OK?
At one point in the white water journey I was certain that I had reached the limit of my capacity and dug in my heels. It came when the guide pulled us over to the shore and directed us up the hill to a high platform. A cable stretched about 150 meters from this platform across the rocky river rapids. I was not enthused. Avi was. Tarzan outfitted us with secure harnesses. He then showed us how we were to be clipped onto the cable with safety hooks and “ride” across the river in mid air. It was my moment of crisis. Until now I was OK with rapids and rocks in a raft, but my unprotected body flying high above a rocky river? No thank you.
I panicked. It seemed like insanity to cross the river like that. Even after watching my fearless son sailing off, I couldn’t handle stepping off the platform into thin air. It was something I had NEVER done before. Then our guide stepped in. He reached out to talk me through it and brought me to an easier launch point. I was ready to quit, but he dealt calmly with my emotions. His patient confidence and compassion was just what I needed. This is the reason God provides teachers, guides, shepherds, leaders. Yeshua is our ultimate Shepherd, but we need human coaches too.
Shaking from fear, I followed his instructions, closed my eyes and eased myself off into the unknown. Once in the air, gliding on the cable, I was able to relax (a little) and enjoy the thrill of the ride. Wow! It was truly amazing to float over that scene of rushing water. There were “high fives” when I reached the goal. The “wonders” that happened that day on the Rio Jacare were nothing in comparison to what God has prepared for us.
Part 2: Then Joshua circumcised their sons
After 10 days traveling, conferences and outdoor adventure I was exhausted (but happy). My stomach was cramping from diarrhea, and I still could not speak Portuguese. I arrived at the first meeting of my final weekend in Brazil empty. What I didn’t know was that I was about to enter the most powerful portion of ministry in the entire schedule. I learned ONCE AGAIN that when I am weak, then I am strong.
After crossing the Jordan Joshua received instructions from the Lord to circumcise the sons of Israel. Think about it. This is not the best way to prepare for all out hand to hand combat when you’re camped just outside the enemy’s gates. Every warrior is going to be out of commission for several days. God brought them to a point of overt weakness before granting supernatural victory.
Maringa is a city located in the green rolling countryside of Brazil about 500 miles west of Sao Paulo. It is not tourist spot. I cannot remember seeing a single other non-Brazilian there. But the massive, cheerful cinder block church where the Israel Conference was held was completely decorated in the blue and white of Israel’s flag. Desperate during the opening service, I realized that I must yield my all afresh to my Master. I grabbed one of the harmonicas I always carry and lost myself in praising the King. It was then that He showed up. This became a pattern in meeting after meeting. By the final day, a heart bond had taken place with the people. When I finished speaking the pastor stepped up with tears in his eyes, declaring “I know the Lord is calling us to make a covenant with you for the salvation of Israel. We want to embrace you in a full partnership.” Their leaders prayed for me, I prayed for them. The atmosphere was one of celebration, laughter, tears, solemnity and amazement all at once. The most dramatic spiritual release of the journey was born of weakness.
Part 3: “The people shouted and the wall fell”
God’s way is to call us beyond our limits, beyond our previous experience, beyond our perceived abilities. If we are not willing to go, our lives will remain mediocre and predictable, with little impact. When the Israelites marched around Jericho and blew shofars on the seventh day, they had never done such a thing before. Yet their unconditional availability and the plan of God combined to change history. When they lost themselves in the purposes of God, they “went in.”
History has a way of presenting ordinary men and women with opportunities for courageous living.i We find ourselves at an intersection of monumental proportions. The Jewish nation was reborn 58 years ago. The prophets tell us not only of the physical Return, but that national Repentance and Revival will follow. In order for this revival to happen two groups must work together, interceding day and night. They are the wild branches (Gentile disciples of Yeshua) and the re-ingrafted natural branches (Messianic Jews).
Like Joshua’s men, we must raise a shout together. It is the shout of intercession, with the shofar of proclamation. It is the joint shout of natural and wild olive branches. We are being brought together for this special hour in history, to see all Israel revived through discovering her Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus) from Nazareth. It is time to lift the shofar to our lips. Though we have never been this way before, the Lord is about to do wonders among us.