Best Intentions


Best intentions really aren’t enough. Addicts often have the best intentions but can’t break the vise of their vice. Children frequently have the best intentions, only to forget a few minutes later what it is their parents have told them to do. I don’t doubt that Presidents and senators and representatives, governors, assemblymen, all have the best intentions to rule well and keep their campaign promises. Sadly, we know how that works out more times than not.

Clearly, intending to do well isn’t the same as doing well.

The people of Israel were a perfect example of this basic fact. They declared their intentions as they prepared to follow Joshua into the Promised Land:

They answered Joshua, saying, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. (Joshua 1:16)

How quickly “all you have commanded” turned into Achan taking a bit of gold, some silver, and a fancy piece of cloth—things Joshua, at God’s direction, had said Israel was not to take.

In the end, best intentions are only as good as the act of following through. It’s not enough to intend to serve others if we turn around and serve ourselves instead. It’s not sufficient to intend to obey God if we go our own way when we don’t like what He says. It’s not OK to intend to keep our promises if we break them when it’s more expedient to do so.

Are intentions worthless? No. They reveal our hearts at a moment in time. But our hearts are fickle, weak, wicked, and deceptive. The person who says, “Mine isn’t” proves how deceived he is by his heart.

The point is, intentions need to be propped up by commitment which turns into action. God didn’t just intend to send a Redeemer, He actually committed Himself to that role, and then took on the form of Man and went to the cross to implement what He intended.

If we are to go beyond intentions—intending to obey God, to live righteously, to love our neighbors as ourselves—we will know we mean it when we commit, when we start, and when we stay with it.

The people of Israel intended to possess the Promised Land. They couldn’t stand on the bank of the Jordan and simply intend to conquer Jericho. The priests needed to step into the water, and the people needed to walk to the other side with a wall of water billowing up beside them. They needed to march around the city for days, and they needed to charge ahead once the walls were down.

Best intentions? They aren’t worthless. But they aren’t really even a start. They are hopes, plans, and for the Christian, the perfect thing to take to God in prayer.

This post is a revised reprint of one that appeared here originally in October 2012.

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Published in: on February 19, 2019 at 5:07 pm  Comments (2)  
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Stumbling Around In The Dark


Some time ago I cut open my toe, which bled a lot, all because I was stumbling around in the dark. Granted, I was trying to get to a light to turn it on, but that doesn’t fit the metaphor I want to use. 😉

I thought about stumbling around in the dark when I read the story of Israel setting out to conquer the Promised Land. After Moses charged Joshua to lead the people, he died.

So there the people were, on the wrong side of the Jordan, and lo and behold, as God had those past forty years, He came to their rescue. First He gave them specific direction, and then He worked a miracle so they could cross the river on dry land. More than that, He told them how to go about defeating Jericho, and a week later He brought down the walls of that fortified city.

All this time God had appeared among them as a cloud in the day and a pillar of fire at night. His visible Presence either filled the tabernacle—the tent where they were to offer sacrifices and where the High Priest was to meet with God—or moved away, which meant they were to break camp and follow.

I haven’t found anywhere in Scripture that says when God no longer led them in this way. I wonder if He would have continued to do so until they finished conquering the land (a process that took at least five years). But apparently the people decided they no longer needed Him to tell them were to go.

You see, after the successful campaign against Jericho, Joshua sent spies to the little town of Ai, decided they could take it with a mere 3000 men, and sent the small force off. God, however, was not with them. Those Israelites were routed. Then and only then did Joshua and the elders of the tribes fall on their faces before God. Graciously He told them what the problem was: disobedience.

He even helped them determine who the disobedient person was and then passed judgment on him. Once again God was prepared to lead His people. This time he gave Joshua a battle plan. He was to put men in ambush, then draw the opposition away from the city.

God’s strategy worked perfectly and Ai fell.

So why didn’t Israel continue to let God lead them?

After Ai fell to Israel, a neighboring city decided they didn’t want to die and they didn’t want to leave their homes and they didn’t want to forsake their gods, so they came up with a plan to fool Israel into making a treaty with them. They claimed to be from a far away place and had come to ally themselves with Israel because they’d heard what God had done for His people.

Israel bought it.

All this time since leaving Egypt, they’d lived in the light, guided by God’s pillar of cloud or fire, and now they couldn’t even seem to ask Him if making a treaty with these people was a good idea.

They abandoned the light in favor of stumbling in the dark.

Before we think too harshly of them, perhaps we should first think about our own prayer life and see exactly what we are asking God for. Already I can hear a handful of people saying, Oh, but God doesn’t work in that way any more.

Really? You mean having the Holy Spirit living in my life is less advantageous than having God’s presence fill the tabernacle? I don’t think so. Rather, I think, just as the people of Israel did before Ai and before making that treaty, we ignore the light and stumble along in the dark. Scripture calls this quenching the Holy Spirit.

I can’t help but wonder how many Ai’s we would successfully conquer or how many treaties we would avoid if we walked in the light instead of stumbling in the dark.

This post is an edited version of one that first appeared here in October 2012.

Published in: on October 25, 2016 at 5:43 pm  Comments Off on Stumbling Around In The Dark  
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Best Intentions


Best intentions really aren’t enough. Addicts often have the best intentions but can’t break the vise of their vice. Children frequently have the best intentions only to forget a few minutes later what it is their parents told them to do. I don’t doubt that Presidents and senators and representatives, governors, assemblymen, all have the best intentions to rule well and keep their campaign promises. Sadly, we know how that works out more times than not.

Clearly, intending to do well isn’t the same as doing well.

The people of Israel were a perfect example of this basic fact. They declared their intentions as they prepared to follow Joshua into the Promised Land:

They answered Joshua, saying, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. (Joshua 1:16)

How quickly “all you have commanded” turned into Achan taking a bit of gold, some silver, and a fancy mantle–things Joshua, at God’s direction, had said Israel was not to take.

In the end, best intentions are only as good as the act of following through. It’s not enough to intend to serve others if we turn around and serve ourselves instead. It’s not sufficient to intend to obey God if we go our own way when we don’t like what He says. It’s not OK to intend to keep our promises if we break them when it’s more expedient to do so.

Are intentions worthless? No. They reveal our hearts at a moment in time. But our hearts are fickle, weak, wicked, and deceptive. The person who says, “Mine isn’t” proves how deceived he is by his heart.

The point is, intentions need to be propped up by commitment which turns into action. God didn’t just intend to send a Redeemer, He actually committed Himself to that role, and then took on the form of Man and went to the cross to implement what He intended.

If we are to go beyond intentions–intending to obey God, to live righteously, to love our neighbors as ourselves–we will know we mean it when we commit and start.

The people of Israel intended to possess the Promised Land. They couldn’t stand on the bank of the Jordan and simply intend to conquer Jericho. The priests needed to step into the water and the people needed to walk to the other side with a wall of water billowing up beside them. They needed to march around the city for days, and they needed to charge ahead once the walls were down.

Best intentions? They aren’t worthless. But they aren’t really even a start. They are hopes, plans, and for the Christian, the perfect thing to take to God in prayer.

Published in: on October 5, 2012 at 6:29 pm  Comments Off on Best Intentions  
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The Defeated Foe


We’ve all seen it in the movies — the hero engages in an epic battle against the archenemy and after a superhuman effort, knocks him on his back. As he turns to check on his partner/his love interest/the latest victim, the villain pulls out a gun and fires off a shot at our hero. Sometimes, depending on the story, the hero escapes, but sometimes he’s wounded and in a few instances, mortally so.

The point is, defeated foes can still be dangerous.

In the spiritual realm, Christians have a defeated foe. Colossians 2:15 makes this clear: “When [God] disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them having triumphed over them through Him.”

Paul is referring to the work of Christ at the cross and God’s raising Him from the dead three days later (Col. 2:12b — “you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.”)

And yet Scripture also gives us instructions to stand against Satan, to resist him, flee from him, be alert to him, know his schemes. Why, if he is defeated? Because he is still armed and dangerous.

Hitler’s Germany was a defeated enemy soon after the Americans landed on the shores of France, yet they fought on for nearly a year. None of the allies was about to lay down their weapons or ditch their helmet or return home just because they knew Hitler was doomed. The victory was sure, but the battles still needed to be fought.

The same was true for the people of Israel when they entered the promised land. God told them the victory was sure:

Know therefore today that it is the Lord your God who is crossing over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and He will subdue them before you, so that you may drive them out and destroy them completely, just as the Lord has spoken to you” (Deut. 9:3).

Yes, God crossed over before them. Yes, God destroyed their enemies, and yet the people still needed to drive them out and destroy them. A defeated enemy needed to be defeated.

More specifically, God miraculously brought down the walls of Jericho, leaving the enemy no chance to defeat the people of Israel. They were done as soon as the stone crumbled to dust. Except Joshua still needed to take his army into battle. They still needed to defeat the defeated enemy.

Satan is our defeated enemy. We have no need to fear him. In fact, Scripture clearly states, “Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4b). But that doesn’t mean he isn’t still prowling about seeking someone to devour or that he isn’t still our adversary (1 Peter 5:8).

Because he’s planning to fight to the end, we need to take God’s direction to us seriously when it comes to handling Satan. God has defeated him and now it’s our turn.

Published in: on November 1, 2011 at 5:58 pm  Comments (6)  
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