A different form

Perhaps, the most remarkable thing that happened during Jesus’ three-year ministry was his transfiguration. Only three of Jesus’ disciples were allowed to witness this amazing event. Following his disclosure to his disciples that he would suffer many things and be killed and on the third day be raised from the dead (Matthew 16:21), Matthew tells us Jesus took Peter, James and John “and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart” (Matthew 17:1). The private place he took these men to may have been somewhere Jesus went to on a regular basis. After Jesus had fed the five thousand and sent his disciples away in a ship, Matthew tells us, “And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was alone there” (Matthew 14:23). It could be that on this particular occasion Jesus didn’t want to leave Peter, James and John alone. They were most likely disheartened by the reminder that Jesus would soon be killed and needed this beneficial experience of seeing the end result of Jesus’ death and resurrection to get them over their discouragement.

Matthew’s description of his transfiguration indicated that Jesus became like a shining star, “his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light” (Matthew 17:2). Since Matthew wasn’t present at the time, it is likely his description of the transfiguration was based on his interpretation of what he heard Jesus looked like. Luke said of Jesus’ transfiguration that “the fashion of his countenance was altered” (Luke 9:29), meaning literally, Jesus became a different person. A deeper understanding of the words used by Matthew and Luke to describe what happened to Jesus show that the change that took place was an inward and real change of Jesus’ character and likely had nothing to do with his physical appearance. The root word morphe (mor-fay’) has to do with the nature or essence of a person, “not in the abstract, but as actually subsisting in the individual, and retained as long as the individual itself exists (3444). From this standpoint, it appears that when Jesus was transfigured, he took on or was given a different identity.

An interesting aspect of Jesus’ transfiguration is recorded in Matthew 17:5 where it says, “a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” As if there might have been some confusion as to who he was at this point, his Father made it clear that Jesus was still the same person he was when he was baptized (Matthew 3:17), the Son of God. In other words, Jesus didn’t or wouldn’t become God at some point in time. Jesus was and always would be God’s son. From this standpoint, you could say that when Jesus was transfigured, he took on or was given a different nature, not identity, meaning he changed from who he was in the form of a man into who he was in the form of God. An example of this is water turning into steam or ice. It still has the same chemical makeup, but looks completely different. Another way of looking at it would be a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. They are one and the same creature, but look nothing like each other.

Repent

John the Baptist’s message was very simple and direct. The single most important point he made could be summed up in one sentence, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). The Greek word translated repent, metanoeo (met-an-eh´-o) means “to think differently or afterwards that is reconsider” (3340). At the core of John’s message was the idea of looking at the world differently, to see things from God’s perspective. The kingdom of heaven had to do with the rule of God and was considered to be both a present reality and a future hope for the Jewish people that lived during Jesus’ ministry on earth (Note on Matthew 3:2). The unique time period in which John preached was a key factor in the way he talked to people about repentance. According to John, time was of the essence; there was no time to waste when it came to getting right with God.

Some of John’s harshest messages were directed at the religious leaders that appeared to be righteous, but were only pretending to be interested in God’s kingdom. What the religious leaders really wanted was to control the Jews behavior. They made up rules that they expected everyone to lived by, but the rules were actually too difficult for the people to follow. Matthew 3:7-12 states about John:

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

John’s introduction of the spiritual concept of fruit was meant to make people aware of the fact that God wanted to see evidence of the change that had taken place in people’s hearts. Merely saying that someone had repented was not enough. As fruit is a tangible sign that a tree is reproducing or bringing forth a new source of life, so fruit in a Christian’s life showed that a real change of heart had taken place and a new way of living would follow.

It’s time

If you are a Christian, there may come a time when your life is changed radically. I say may because the kind of change I am talking about is not automatic. It is true that when you accept Jesus as your savior, you personally are changed radically, transformed on the inside in an instant, but your life may stay exactly the same as it was before you became a believer.

Many people have experienced traumatic events that have changed their lives radically, like hurricane Katrina and some people have experienced positive things like winning the lottery. One day you are poor and the next day you are rich. One day you have a beautiful home and the next day you are homeless. Although events that are outside our control can alter our lives completely, it is possible to experience radical change by simply exercising your will to do things differently.

One of the reasons our lives do not change is because we don’t know what we need to do differently. We are unaware of the mistakes we are making. Jesus prayed on the cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Sometimes, we willingly get ourselves into trouble. We do things of our own volition, knowing the results will not be good. When we consciously choose to do something over and over, it becomes a habit and eventually a lifestyle that we are unable to change. It takes an act of our will to break the cycle or a miracle from God to deliver us.

After I was raped, something happened inside of me. I can’t say I really thought about it or even made a conscious decision, but I know I decided to not trust men anymore. From that point forward, I didn’t develop any personal relationships with men. I dated, I even got married, but I never really cared about the men in my life. As far as I was concerned, men were untrustworthy and would only hurt me if I gave them the chance.

It has been 40 years since I was raped. That’s a long time to be set in my ways and I can say with assurance that I was completely unaware of what I was doing. If you would have asked me about it, I would have said, oh yah, I trust men. I have a lot of relationships with men, but that would have been a lie. I didn’t have my first personal relationship with a man until about a month ago.

In Psalm 102, it says about the LORD, “Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come” (Psalm 102:13). The words translated time and set time are different. The word translated time, ‘êth (ayth) means an appointed time or proper time. “It is used of the appropriate time or suitable time for a given activity in life” (6256). The word translated set time, mô‘êd (mo – ade´) means an appointed place of meeting” (4150). Mo‘ed refers to the festivals that were prescribed and signifies the set place where they were to occur.

Although the festivals were prescribed and expected to be observed by all the Israelites, they were not. There was an appointed time for them to take place and each person had the opportunity to celebrate the festivals if they wanted to. It was as if God was saying, I’ll be here, come if you want to celebrate with me. What kept most people away was the need for a sacrifice. I had to make a sacrifice in order to trust again. I had to sacrifice my pride, my fear, and my need to know what was going to happen next. I decided it was worth it and my life has been radically changed.

Another man

King Saul is the only person in the Old Testament of the Bible that was “turned into another man” (1 Samuel 10:6). The word translated turned, hâphak (haw – fak´) means to change, transform. Prior to Jesus’ death, people were not able to change. Whatever kind of person you were when you were born was the kind of person you would be until you died.

Saul was a Benjamite. He came from the tribe that was wiped out because of their immorality. The six hundred men that hid in the mountains were the only ones that survived. Saul’s father Anhiah is described as “a mighty man of power,” (1 Samuel 9:1) he was very violent and known for his oppression of others. Today we would say that Saul came from an abusive home and his father would likely have been described as an alcoholic. The Benjamites were probably bitter and resentful about what happened to their tribe and became rebels using extreme violence in order to survive.

It did not make sense to Saul when Samuel said “And on whom is all the desire of Israel? Is it not on thee, and on all thy father’s house?” (1 Samuel 9:20). Saul’s reputation did not match up with what Samuel was saying about him and he was most likely thinking Samuel was talking to the wrong man.

In order to convince Saul to go into a city that had been taken over by the Philistines, Samuel said “And let it be, when these signs are come unto thee, that thou do as occasion serve thee; for God is with thee” (1 Samuel 10:7). The primary name of Christ, the Messiah, is Emmanuel which means “God with us” (1694). One of the meanings of the word haphak is converted. It appears that Saul had a conversion experience and was transformed as Christians are today. This would have been a miraculous event prior to the death of Jesus, which probably explains why it only happened one time.

Behold, I do a new thing

The natural response to death is grief, but in some cases, the result of death is repentance. The word repent or nâcham (naw – kham´) in Hebrew can mean comfort as well as comforter. “Comfort is derived from ‘com’ (with) and ‘fort’ (strength). Hence, when one repents, he exerts strength to change, to re-grasp the situation, and exert effort for the situation to take a different course of purpose and action” (5162).

There are several instances in the Bible where it says that God repented. In Exodus 32:14 it says “And the LORD repented of the evil which he thought to do unto his people.” Repentance is necessary for change to occur. There has to be an intentional effort to change and therefore, motivation is a key ingredient in the process. Death is an effective motivator because it stirs up our emotions and causes us to see that things don’t always work out as we expect them to.

The primary message that preceded Jesus’ ministry was delivered by John the Baptist who said, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). Many people repented and were baptized by John in the Jordan river, but the real change, the transformation of the world didn’t begin until after Jesus’ death. The death of Jesus brought deep grief to his disciples and most of his followers went into hiding for fear that they might be killed too, until Jesus’ resurrection. When Mary and the others went to the tomb and saw that it was empty, they were comforted, they gained strength and were willing to come out in the open again.

The only instance recorded of God’s people repenting in the Old Testament of the Bible is in Judges 21:13 where it says “And the people repented them for Benjamin, because that the LORD had made a breach in the tribes of Israel.” When Jesus died, there was a breach in the family line of the Messiah. Jesus had no descendants and therefore, had no way to pass on his inheritance. The inheritance of the Israelites was intended to be perpetual, so to cut off a tribe or a family line was the equivalent to destroying the title deed to a property, there was no way to transfer or pass along ownership to anyone else.

In order to preserve the tribe of Benjamin, the Israelites took virgins and gave them to 600 men that had fled into the wilderness during a battle that wiped out every other person in the tribe of Benjamin. This act made it possible for the small band of survivors to start over and rebuild their cities. “And they said, There must be an inheritance for them that be escaped of Benjamin, that a tribe be not destroyed out of Israel” (Judges 21:17).

The key to repentance is that some visible action is taken for the purpose of turning from a less desirable course to a more positive course. Many people think of repentance as merely turning away from sin or being sorry for something that you have done. After Jesus’ death, his disciples no doubt felt a tremendous amount of grief and were probably very sorry that they had abandoned him in the Garden of Gethsemane, but there was no actual repentance until they came out of hiding and began to preach the gospel.

The disciples felt that Jesus had abandoned them, that they would never see him again. At the end of the last supper, Jesus said to his disciples, “Verily I say unto you, I will not drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:25). The disciples knew they would be reunited with Jesus in Heaven, but what they didn’t understand was that the kingdom of God would be established on Earth after Jesus’ resurrection.

Jesus did not have to appear to his disciples to show them evidence of his resurrection. The work of the Holy Spirit was to convict and convince Believers that Jesus was alive. Saul of Tarsus had an encounter with the LORD after he had risen into Heaven. The only reason Jesus could have had for spending 40 days on Earth after his resurrection was to comfort his disciples. Jesus repented by taking action to bring the disciples out of hiding and restore their confidence in him.

If Jesus had died, been resurrected, and gone straight to Heaven, I don’t think God’s kingdom would have been established as God wanted it to. The disciples and others may have made it to Heaven, but It was Jesus’ act of repentance that made it possible for the disciples to continue his work and transform the world. Jesus had to change the course of events for God’s kingdom to be established on Earth as it already was in Heaven.

Repentance does not lead to our salvation, it leads to the salvation of others. God’s kingdom is made up of people that have experienced transformational change in their lives. Many times people claim to be saved and yet there is no evidence of repentance, nothing is different in their lives. Even the disciples went back to their old lives, they were fishing when Jesus appeared to them after his resurrection.

It says in Romans 2:4 that it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance and in Romans 2:6 that God will render to every man according to his deeds. I believe the deeds spoken of here are deeds of repentance, the comfort we give to others that results in a change to the course of their lives.

In essence, repentance means to turn things around by doing the opposite of what is expected. Instead of taking a life, you save it, instead of keeping something for yourself, you give it away, instead of punishing someone that has hurt you, you reward him with kindness. Repentance is essential for salvation and must precede it because the turning of events is what makes it possible for there to be a different outcome.

Rather than turning in any direction, repentance focuses on the turning from a less desirable course to a more positive one. It is intended to correct or improve things not to make them worse. Sometimes repentance involves going against the tide in order to reach a destination that would not be arrived at unless an intentional effort was put forth to get there.

I think it is a mistake to assume that we are only responsible for correcting our own mistakes. Jesus died or the sins of others. I believe repentance is meant to correct the mistakes of others. I see Jesus’ death on the cross as an act of repentance to save the world from destruction. His resurrection and return to Earth to fellowship with his disciples was an act of repentance on the part of his Father who would otherwise have welcomed him home immediately after his death on the cross. God’s last act of repentance will be when he welcomes each of us into his kingdom that has sinned against him and his son Jesus.

In the parable of the vinedresser, Jesus tells the story of men who are given the responsibility of caring for another man’s vineyard. When the owner sends his servants to collect the fruit of his vineyard, the men beat the servants and refuse to give the owner the fruit that belongs to him. Finally, the owner sends his son thinking the men will respect him. “But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours” (Luke 20:14). At the end of the story, Jesus asks the question, “What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them?” (Luke 20:15).

Satan’s intent in putting Jesus to death was to take away his inheritance, but like the Israelites when the children of Benjamin were killed in battle, God made a way for Jesus’ inheritance to be restored to the rightful owners. The kingdom of God is among us. We who have been chosen and adopted into the family of Jesus Christ are joint heirs with him, the evidence of which is that we have the Holy Spirit living inside us.

Jesus told his disciples that his Father would give them another Comforter, “that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16). The Holy Spirit gives us divine strength and enables us to transform not only our lives, but the lives of others. Repentance is the method through which that change comes and the first step in the process is to give God what he already rightfully owns, our lives.

God’s change agent

The primary responsibility of a change agent is to upset the status quo. A lot of times, bad practices are no more than superstitions that have become embedded in the culture. It worked once and so it became a lucky charm or a secret ritual that everyone followed and eventually relied on to get a certain outcome. I think the most superstitious people I have seen are athletes, especially in professional sports.

I don’t know much about pagan worship, but I believe it is mostly superstitions and rituals that have become a way of life and can be compared to going to church every week and expecting to become a better person because you do it consistently. Idol worshippers are very religious people, they don’t really care what they have to do as long as their worship brings about the desired result.

Gideon’s first assignment as God’s change agent was to “Take they father’s young bullock, even the second bullock of seven years old, and throw down the altar of Baal that thy father hath and cut down the grove that is by it. And build an altar unto the LORD thy God upon the top of this rock, in the ordered place, and take the second bullock, and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the grove which thou shalt cut down” (Judges 6:25-26). This would definitely be perceived as an act of rebellion against his father and an offence to all the Baal worshippers in the area. Gideon knew his life would be in danger if he did what the LORD asked him to.

“Then Gideon took ten men of his servants, and did as the LORD had said unto him: and so it was, because he feared his father’s household, and the men of the city, that he could not do it by day, that he did it by night:” (Judges 6:27). Gideon was not a brave man or should I say a bold man. It took courage to do what the LORD asked him to, but he wasn’t ready to throw caution to the wind and publicly antagonize the enemies of God.

Gideon most likely feared his father’s household because they were numerous and strong. Gideon’s father may have been a leader in the town of Ophrah and because of his wealth was an example to others of how to get ahead in life. It’s possible that Joash was only faking his worship of Baal in order to gain an advantage with the Midianites. When the men of the city demanded that Joash turn his son over to them so that they could kill him, Joash responded, “if he be a god, let him plead for himself, because one hath cast down his altar” (Judges 6:31).

You can go your own way

Being strong can be a Catch 22 of sorts because it’s both a help and a hindrance when it comes to walking with the Lord. To be effective as Christians, we must learn to depend on the Lord, but we must also be able to stand on our own two feet and not cower when we are attacked by our enemy the devil.

The Lord knows our weaknesses and does not expect us to do everything right. In fact, he plans for us to make mistakes and will always be able to account for the choices we make when it comes to accomplishing his will in our lives.

So then, does it really matter if we choose to go to the left instead of the right when we come to a crossroad in our life? Yes, if you would like to avoid some of the pain and suffering you experience in your life. Some people like to travel the hard road and enjoy having challenges on a regular basis. Other people like to take things easy and become discouraged when things get too difficult. Although I hate to admit it, I seem to be one of those people that can’t stand the easy life. If I’m not facing a challenge, I think there is something wrong with me. Getting into trouble is not second nature to me, it’s the only way I know how to handle things. I guess you could say I’m just naturally rebellious and believe me, I know a lot about pain and suffering.

“And it came to pass, when Israel was strong that they put the Canaanites to tribute, and did not utterly drive them out” (Judges 1:28). The word strong here is probably referring to moral strength or courage, but because the Israelites were disobeying God by not driving out their enemies, you could say they were a little to strong, maybe even cocky or as my grandmother used to say, getting a little too big for their own britches. They thought they could handle being the task masters for a change and wanted to make slaves of the Canaanites the way they had been in Egypt. It was a bad decision, one they would regret eventually, but I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time and can relate to their desire to turn the tables and try to even the score.

The most prominent role God has in the universe is creator. It is of course a critical role because if he hadn’t been able to create things, then our world wouldn’t exist and there would be no life as we know it today. I think the role of creator overshadows most of God’s other roles, but by far the role that does not get the attention it deserves is fixer or re-creator. I believe God loves to fix things and that may be why he designed man with a sin nature.

In Joshua 5:9 there is recorded a significant milestone in the development of the nation of Israel that may not seem important unless you look at it from the perspective of fixing a problem. The problem was that after spending hundreds of years in Egypt and becoming slaves to Pharaoh, the Israelites had developed an attitude of reproach toward themselves, they knew that things weren’t right, but they felt helpless and unable to change because they has spent so much time living in a dysfunctional state.

It is natural to feel reproach when things are not right in our lives and because we are created in God’s image, we have a tendency to try and fix things when we feel reproach, but we do not have the same ability God does to make things right. It is like a five year old child that wants to make his own breakfast. When the toast gets burned, he tries to scrape the black stuff off, but it just doesn’t taste right after being burned. In Joshua 5:9 it says, “And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled the reproach of Egypt from off you.” The use of the words rolled away indicate there is some kind of process involved in removing their reproach, but it doesn’t make sense that God would literally roll away their reproach, so he must be speaking figuratively and is using terminology that will trigger their understanding of what has happened to them. What I believe the LORD was alluding to here was the Israelites reproach being like a large stone that needs to be rolled off the opening of a cistern so that fresh water can be accessed.

Cisterns were very common during the time when the Israelites were settling in Canaan. It was  standard practice to cover the cisterns with large stones that made it difficult to access the water because it was a valuable commodity and in high demand in areas where there was not much rainfall. As in the instance when Jacob rolled the stone from the well’s mouth so that Rachel could water her father’s flock, it was “a feat of unusual strength for one man, because the stone was large” (Note on Gen 29:10, KJV). When an angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to confront the Israelites, he reminds them that God had done his part by bringing them out of Egypt into the Promised Land, but they had not done their part, which was to drive out the inhabitants of Canaan, “but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have you done this?” (Judges 2:2).

After I became a Christian, God cleansed me of all my sins an through the blood of Jesus Christ made me perfectly righteous and pure in his sight. All the bad things that had happened in my life up to that point were wiped away from his memory and I had a clean slate in regards to my right standing with him. But, the things that had happened were not wiped from my memory. In fact, it seemed like all the bad things I had done and that had been done to me were more prominent in my memory and I was suddenly aware of what a wretched sinner I was. So, instead of starting a new life and believing that God wanted to bless me, I compromised and got pregnant when I was not married.

“They ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way” (Judges 2:19). The word translated stubborn in Judges 2:19 is derived from the word qâshâh (kaw – shaw´) which means to be dense, tough or severe. “This word marks the restlessness, impatience, petulance, and irritability with which Pharaoh’s course of action was characterized while he was resisting the urgent appeals of both Moses and his own people” (7185). After entering the Promised Land, the Israelites began to act like Pharaoh. As they had once been abused and forced into slave labor, they began to do the same thing to their enemies in Canaan.

I’m not sure why victims take on the characteristics of their abusers, but I think it may be a sort of coping mechanism that helps them to function during times of stress. Because I was raped at a young age, I never had a chance to experience normal sexual behavior. Whenever I was in a situation where I felt someone was attracted to me sexually, my defenses would be triggered and I would immediately take on the role of the aggressor so that I didn’t feel vulnerable and overcome by fear.

When I got married, I was not able to respond to my husband the way a woman normally would. Our sex life was completely dysfunctional and it was one of the reasons our marriage failed. I really feel that the reason I didn’t change in this area after I became a Christian is because I was stubborn. I was harboring resentment over being raped and thought my behavior was justified. Now that I have been divorced almost 13 years, I can see that I was only hurting myself by being stubborn and wish that I had been able to overcome my fear and recover from the abuse I experienced.

One of the key principles that is emphasized throughout the Bible is sowing and reaping. When we continue in our “own doings” for long periods of time, we will eventually receive a return for our labor and from my own experience I can say the result is not worth the effort.

God is able

There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.

When God created the heaven and the earth, he spoke into existence everything that he created “and God saw that it was good” (Gen 1:10). There is a lot that God sees today that is not good, but he is able to change things, to change lives and make them as they were intended to be.

The way that God works today is the same way he worked in Abraham’s time, through promises. God tells us what he is going to do ahead of time so that we can see that it is good in the same way that he did when he first created the heaven and the earth. If you’ve ever watched an artist at work, you have probably been amazed to see the canvas or lump of clay come to life. It is amazing how a blank sheet of paper can suddenly become an image that moves you to tears or laughter.

The word translated pass in Joshua 1:45, bôw (bo) is an action word, “this verb connotes movement in space from one place toward another” (935). What it is referring to in this verse is the movement of the Israelites from Egypt to Canaan. God brought them into the Promised Land, but it was the Israelites that had to do the walking, fighting, and occupying in order to live in the land.

It was a partnership, God did his part and the Israelites had to do theirs. I would refer to the arrangement as collaboration because God could not force the Israelites to go into the land and the Israelites would not have defeated their enemies without God’s help. They needed each other and to a certain extent, they had a shared destiny. God could have chosen another family, but he would still have had to choose someone to receive his blessing.

The question I have to ask myself sometimes is, do I really want God’s blessing? It is hard sometimes to be obedient and walk in God’s way. I get tired of going against the tide and don’t always agree with what God asks me to do, but I know if I want to live in the Promised Land, I have to be obedient and let God call the shots. He can do it without me, but I can’t do it without him.

My Inheritance

An inheritance in something you get whether you want it or not, deserve it or not, and in one sense, you could say that it is an entitlement, something you have coming to you. An inheritance is a possession, property that is owned by one person and transferred to another. When my dad died four years ago, he had several properties in Oklahoma that my brothers and sister and I inherited. All of us lived in Southern California at the time, so it was very difficult for us to take possession of the properties. My dad died suddenly and did not have time to put his affairs in order and there was no will to state how the land was to be distributed. As a result, the properties are still tied up and none of us has received any money from our inheritance.

In Joshua 16:4 it says, “so the children of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, took their inheritance.” This means that they actually went in and took possession of it, they began to occupy the land that belonged to them.

One of the cities the children of Joseph inherited was Beth-el, formerly known as the city of Luz. When Jacob was sick and close to death, he told Joseph about his encounter with God at Luz. “And Jacob said unto Joseph, God Almighty appeared to unto me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me” (Gen 48:3).

Jacob’s encounter with God takes place in a dream while he is traveling from Beer-sheba to Haran to escape his brother Esau after he has tricked him out of his inheritance, the blessing that was first given to Abraham, passed on to his father Jacob, and then belonged to him. It was the blessing of Abraham that entitled the children of Jacob to inherit the land of Israel. In his dream, God says to Jacob, “And behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all the places wither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land: for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” (Gen 28:15).

My dad lived in Oklahoma when he was a child. His family moved to California when he was around eight years old as a result of the loss of their farm due to a family crisis. My grandparents became sharecroppers, which meant they no longer owned the land, but were able to continue farming.

The situation of the Israelites in Egypt was similar to my dad’s family in that their basic needs were always met, but they could never seem to get far enough ahead to return to their homeland and start over. It wasn’t until my dad was nearly 70 that he decided to sell everything and return to the place that his ancestors had called home.

Something that we inherit that we may not realize is our family culture. Now you may be thinking that a culture cannot be inherited because it is not something you possess, but in a way culture is more tangible than you think. Culture can exist in a building, in clothes, and in the haircut a person chooses. Elvis Presley, a famous singer in the 50’s and 60’s had a hairstyle that was copied by thousands of young men that wanted to present a particular image of themselves. The Beatles wore a type of clothing that when copied by their followers, ushered in a whole new way of life for young people in the United States. It was known as the hippie age.

Gilead, the descendant of Manasseh, Joseph’s first born son, was known as a man of war, therefore, he inherited a portion of land that was suitable for a warrior. It was kind of like giving a set of tools to a carpenter. Gilead’s inheritance matched his identity, his way of life, and his destiny.

One of the reasons I believe my dad returned to Oklahoma and purchased land before he died was so that he could relink his children to their ancestry, the heritage that he tried to pass along to us. My dad was a Native American. His father came from the Chickasaw tribe. The Chickasaw fought against the U.S. government and refused to be registered when a law was passed that required all Indians to be registered so that they could be treated as U.S. citizens. My dad refused to pay taxes and went to great lengths to remain anonymous in  eyes of the U.S. government. The interesting thing about it was that my dad was a veteran and was very proud that he served in the military. It didn’t always make sense, but my dad used to say to us, you’re a Hough, and a Hough…whatever lesson he was trying to teach us was always put in the context of our family name, as if our whole identity was wrapped up in the family we came from.

Not every child wants to follow in his parent’s footsteps. The desire for independence and the ability to make choices for oneself is a natural human tendency. Even though the Promised Land had been conquered, it was not all being occupied by the Israelites. “And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, How long are you slack to go to possess the land, which the LORD God of your fathers hath given you?” (Joshua 18:3).

In my case, the reason why I haven’t moved to Oklahoma and began to occupy any of the properties that belong to me and my siblings is because I don’t want to be an Oklahoman. I have lived in Southern California almost all my life. I feel I belong here and my current lifestyle, which includes spending a lot of time at the beach, will not be able to be maintained if I move to Oklahoma. I definitely think it matters where you live and I like where I am living right now.

One of the problems we had shortly after my dad died was people occupying his properties that didn’t belong there. As soon as word got out that he had died, most of his tenants stopped paying rent. Some of his properties got trashed and abandoned  leaving them open to vandalism. Because none of us kids were willing to occupy my dad’s land, it was determined that it would have to be sold.

The wall fell down flat

I am not a super big fan of the show Seinfeld, but there is one episode that stands out as a brilliant idea someone must have had or maybe even a real life experience that was incorporated into the show. The character George Costanza, a notorious loser that is typically unemployed and unable to get a date, decides to do the opposite of what he usually does in order to turn his life around.

Doing the opposite of what we are used to may not sound that difficult, but anyone that has actually tried to understands that going against our nature, fighting against the impulses that usually govern our behavior is probably the most challenging thing a person can attempt to do. It’s not that the thing itself is hard to do, it’s that doing what comes naturally is so easy, because after all, I am who I am, right?

Well, if you want to be like George Costanza, a goofball that is constantly getting into trouble, that’s fine, but what if you don’t really like getting into trouble?

I would say my least favorite characteristic is I fall in love with every man that gazes into my eyes. You might be thinking, what’s wrong with that? You are a romantic, so what? I don’t mind being a romantic and actually enjoy being in love, but romantic love doesn’t last very long. I could fall in and out of love every week if I didn’t fight against the urge to be swept off my feet by Prince Charming.

To me, falling in love with every man I meet is like the wall surrounding Jericho, it’s keeping me from enjoying the milk and honey of the Promised Land. The wall must come down for me to truly experience the victory and perpetual rest that God has planned for me.

God’s instructions to Joshua made no sense at all from a military standpoint. There was no element of surprise, no show of strength, in fact the only thing they did that resembled a strategy was “the armed men went before the priests that blew with the trumpets” (Joshua 6:9).

I can only imagine how Joshua must have felt when the LORD told him the details of his plan:

And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout and the wall of the city shall fall down flat. (Joshua 6:5)

Probably about the same as I felt when the LORD told me I needed to break up with my 6’4″, gorgeous, quarterback boyfriend. My heart sank. You want me to tell him what? That I’m a Christian and God is the most important person in my life right now…he’s going to think I’ve lost my mind! When he called a few weeks later and told me he wanted me to meet his mother, that he wanted our relationship to be more serious, I was shocked. I didn’t think he would want to marry me because I was a Christian.