Possessing God’s Promises

Possessing God's Promises

Loving Strangers As Family


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philoxenos – love towards strangers 

As I mentioned last week, God has been teaching me about the principle of hospitality. 

Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 1 Peter 4:9

Practiquen la hospitalidad entre ustedes sin quejarse. 1 Pedro 4:9

I prefer the Spanish translation that begins with “practice.” The principles God gives as instructions in the Word are things we need to practice. To work at. To grow in.

What does Peter mean when he say “hospitality”?

This philoxenos – love towards strangers – is an act of profound love that creates an intimate connection between people. 

Hospitality is an act that loves people as if they were already family. 

True hospitality has the power to transform strangers into family. 

What was hospitality like in that culture?

In those times, hospitality was not an unheard of practice. It was a fundamental principle in that culture. 

Many people would be consider strangers for various reasons. They were widows, orphans, poor, or for other reasons without the protection of their families. 

The custom was to offer hospitality to those who needed protection. Hospitality was more than simply a meal. Often times, it was the provision of a room to stay for a few nights or the provision of basic necessities. To share this kind of hospitality with someone created an intimate relationship between people. 

So, if hospitality was so fundamental to how they functioned in that culture, what kind of hospitality is being encouraged when Peter writes: Practice hospitality to one another without grumbling? 

Peter was speaking to the motivations of their hospitality.

For the Greeks, hospitality was rooted in a self-serving motivation: I scratch your back, you scratch mine. If I serve you now, I will come and collect from you. 

For the Jews, hospitality was rooted in a self-righteous motivation: We will serve others, but only if the “others” are Jewish.

How does Jesus model hospitality? 

To understand Peter’s encouragement to practice hospitality, we can look to Peter’s best friend, Jesus. As someone who walked very closely with Jesus, Peter understood how Jesus’s model of hospitality is rooted in completely different motivations. 

Jesus’s model of hospitality is two-fold: 1. Jesus as the invited and 2. Jesus as the host

Jesus’s ministry took him to different cities and towns. Jesus had no home of his own, but instead sought out invitations from others. He humbled himself to receive love from strangers. 

In one instance, he’s ministering in a town and sees a tax collector watching him from in a tree. This man, Zacchaeus, was not only someone who was a stranger, but also he was someone who the rest of society viewed as strange. Tax collectors were the worst of the worst in that culture. They were viewed as people who take and steal from others. And yet, Jesus tells him, I’m coming to your house. Jesus receives love from a stranger. He receives hospitality. Someone who everyone in the society hated has now become family to Jesus. 

Jesus also humbled himself to give love to strangers. He did this when he feeds 5000 strangers with the bread and fish. He did this when he serves the disciples bread and wine at the Last Supper – people who knew him and didn’t fully know him yet. He did this for us when he served his body for us on the cross when we were strangers to him.

Jesus models hospitality through his humility to receive as the invited and to give as the host. 

How do we practice hospitality in our times? 

Practicing Jesus’s model of hospitality – loving strangers as family with humility to receive and to give can revolutionize our relationships with one another. 

Instead of arguing with those who are strangers to us, with those who are strange to us, and with those who are not yet family, let’s love others with a love that transforms strangers into family. 

Look at others as though they are family in Christ already.

Receive from others with humility. 

Give to others with humility.

Practice hospitality. 

In the tension together, 

sg

Questions to ponder: 

  • Who can you show hospitality to before the end of the year? How? 
Finding Your Voice, Possessing God's Promises

I Dare You To Move


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I had an unexpectedly busy Thanksgiving vacation. I went home to Florida for 10 days of rest, reflection, and celebration of the many blessings of 2018. But God had different plans. I went from preaching one sermon to preaching three sermons in 10 days. 

A few weeks before I went home, the senior pastor at my mom’s church, Centro Cristiano Hispano (CCH), asked me to preach on Thanksgiving morning for the sunrise service. 

Since the beginning of October, God stirred a word in my spirit about hospitality, so I decided to lean into the stirring and preach on the theme of hospitality. As I prepared the message, about a week before I left Boston, I felt an overwhelming impression, that I needed to preach this sermon in Spanish. 

Two important facts you need to know about me: 

  1. I’ve been preaching since I was 20 (I’m 32 now) and EVERY sermon I’ve ever preached has been in English. (When I was 20, my first English sermon was actually at CCH)
  2. Two years ago, I wrote a single-sentence entry in my journal: “Before you open your church, you will preach your first sermon in Spanish.”

Preaching in English is in the sweet spot of my spiritual giftings, but preaching in Spanish has not been something I’ve been atrevida (daring in Spanish) enough to attempt.

But I couldn’t ignore this overwhelming impression.

The night before Thanksgiving came. I was finalizing the message by translating my English notes into Spanish, deleting all the English from my notes, and practicing saying the words outloud in Spanish. 

When I spoke to the Pastor, who normally interprets for me, he asked me if I needed him, and I said no I’m doing it in Spanish today. He asked again. “No, I need to do this on my own.” 

And just like that, 35 minutes later, I preached my first Spanish sermon on Thanksgiving from the same altar I preached my first sermon ever 12 years ago. 

Did I make mistakes? Absolutely. 

Did I make up words? Most likely. 

Did the message on hospitality get communicated? Absolutely. 

Then, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I was asked to preach the same sermon again that afternoon at another church. Then, after I preached that Sunday afternoon, I was asked to preach a sermon to youth group at CCH on the following Wednesday. 

Three sermons in ten days.

I expected to preach one sermon. But God did what God does and multiplied the opportunities for me to serve Him. 

I’m confident that part of the multiplication happened, because of my willingness to respond to the overwhelming impression to do something I had never done before. To preach in Spanish. To be obedient to the Spirit of God and jump into the deep end with no one there to interpret for me, except the Spirit. To make a move. 

I didn’t question the overwhelming impression. I didn’t ask God for confirmation. I didn’t ask for anyone’s opinion. I moved. 

I want to share about the theme of hospitality with you all, because I believe there’s a prophetic instruction that God is giving us for the times we are living. 

But before we can respond to that instruction, I wanted to share with you this story of responding to God’s instructions. I wanted to encourage you to start making moves. 

God has given a living Word, called the Bible, filled with instructions on living an extraordinary and abundant life. God has given us the Spirit to lead us with instructions on living life to the fullness of our potential. We’ve got some great starting places for God’s instructions. 

But, so often, we hesitate to move. We make moving this hyper-spiritual thing, where we need an angel to appear in our living room telling us to move. We need someone to speak prophetically over us. We look at the story of Gideon and think we need to throw out a fleece again and again before we’ll ever make a move. 

While we wait to make moves, we miss opportunities to experience God moving. 

What if we lived a life of true faith that meant we didn’t try to coerce God through superstitious actions? 

What if we dared to move freely without fearing whether the move is the right move? 

I dare you to move. 

Here’s some encouragement from one of my favorite songs by Switchfoot: “Dare You to Move”

In the tension together, 

sg

Questions to ponder: 

  • What’s one thing that God has already instructed you to do that you haven’t done? 
  • What’s one step you can take to do that thing before the end of the year? 
In the Tension, Possessing God's Promises

Possessing God’s Promises // Part 5


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Is the land rich or poor? 

Are there trees in it or not? 

Moses asks them about the fruit of the land. This is no longer an assessment of the soil. Now, we look to the possibilities of the land. 

Moses gave the explorers six questions and one instruction: 

“Bring some of the fruit of the land.” 

Then, we are told a detail that they were going to explore the land during the season of the first ripe grapes. Grapes, a biblical symbol of favor, fruitfulness, and fellowship with God, were ripe for the Israelites to experience and enjoy. The opportune time to possess God’s promise was at hand for the Israelites. Moses’s one clear instruction demonstrates the time was now for the Israelites to eat and see the fruitful possibilities of God’s promise. 

Ten of the explorers saw the fruit of the land. They knew what the land could produce. Yet, from the beginning we see them limit the possibilities of the land. 

The fruit of the land in their hands spoiled.

How often does the fruit God puts in our hands spoil?

How often do we destroy the potential God has entrusted to us? 

They had the fruit in their hands. They ate the grapes. They knew the possibilities of the land. But they could not imagine the possibilities of God’s promises. 

Our inability to imagine the possibilities God has for us can spoil the potential He has already placed in our hands. 

Caleb and Joshua had a different experience. They could imagine the possibilities of God’s promises. 

We learn that as the explorers were in the land, the came to the Valley of Eshcol. The Valley of Eschol is located in Mamre and associated with the Hebron region. A land where Abraham lived “among the oak trees” So, we know the land was rich and had trees – many trees. 

What the explorers do next in this valley of many rich, fruiful trees is so significant, but ten of them didn’t fully realize the significance. They didn’t realize the potential they held in their hands.

The explorers cut down a single cluster of grapes. A single cluster of grapes so large and abundant, they had to carry it on a pole between two of them. 

Scholars say that it’s possible the two explorers carrying the grapes on the pole were Caleb and Joshua. I’d love to believe that this is true and this was what made all the difference for Caleb and Joshua’s experience in the Promised Land. I’d love to say that they could imagine the possibilities of God’s promise, because they carried the potential with them. 

Unfortunately, we weren’t there and we don’t know who the two men were who carried the single cluster of grapes. But what we do know is that a single cluster of grapes was carried out of the Promised Land. A single cluster so abundant marking the beginning of the potential of God’s promise.

Caleb could imagine the possibilities. 

Can you imagine the possibilities of God’s promises? 

Can you carry the beginnings of God’s promises in your hands and imagine that there is more? 

The season of the first ripe grapes is here! 

Our exploration of the land ought to be an imagination of the possibilities. 

As we cultivate consistency in our faith to possess God’s promises, we have an opportunity to name our giants, assess our soil, dwell under the shadow, and imagine the possibilities. 

In the tension together, 

sg

P.S. To explore the story of Caleb more in depth, stay tuned for my new book: Color Me Yellow // Finding Your Voice in the Tension between God’s Promises and their Fulfillment 

Questions to ponder: 

  • How will you hold the fruit that God has placed in your hands?
  • How will you imagine the possibilities of a new season?
In the Tension, Possessing God's Promises

Possessing God’s Promises // Part 4


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To dispossess the giants that dwell on God’s promises, we need to reach the giants. 

Are the cities they dwell in open fields or walled in? 

Ten of the explorers report that the cities are fortified and very large. They weren’t wrong! 

The cities throughout the land had tall stone walls built around them designed to protect from enemy attacks. Stones were dug deep into the ground, so that they could not be knocked down. Excavations of the region reveal that the stone walls could be up to 9 feet thick! These fortified cities were the marks of highly resourced communities with infrastructures they were determined to protect. 

How could the Israelites possibly penetrate the fortified walls to possess God’s promises? 

Caleb offers a different response: “Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us.” 

From Caleb’s response, we see that the question Moses was asking was not about penetration, but protection. Caleb knew they may not penetrate through the walls, but they were under God’s protection. 

In the original Hebrew, Caleb’s response is a figure of speech. In English, we read it as “protection”, but the analogy is: “The shadow from the cloud isn’t over them; it’s over us.” In this arid region of the world, the shadows of the clouds covered people from getting scorched by the sun. The shadows from the cloud were protection.

The shadow from the cloud is over us. 

The Israelites dwelled in tents. The giants in the cities dwelled behind walls. 

Overcoming the giants would be a challenge. But God overshadowed the Israelites. 

We may look at the giants in our lives and say: “we can’t penetrate the walls protecting them.”

Giants can’t build the protection God gives us. 

Walls trap us. 

Shadows free us. 

Walls limit us. 

Shadows make us limitless. 

Fast forward to the birth of Jesus. Mary asked the Angel how she could possibly be pregnant. The angel responds:

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…For nothing will be impossible with God” // Luke 1:35; 37

The word “overshadow” spoken to Mary is a similar word spoken to the Israelites. When we realize God overshadows us, the possibilities are limitless. We move in the freedom of possibilities – the possibilities to possess new opportunities and to birth new visions. These possibilities do not come shut up behind walls. 

Psalm 91:1 says it this way: He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

Many scholars attribute this Psalm to Moses looking towards possessing God’s promise. 

We don’t need to be concerned about giants that dwell behind walls. 

We dwell in freedom. 

We dwell under the shadow of God. 

Walk towards God’s promises. 

Walk under the freedom of God’s shadow. 

This story continues as the twelve explores respond to each of the 4 categories of questions. Join in on the journey of learning to possess God’s promises!

In the tension together, 

sg

P.S. To explore the story of Caleb more in depth, stay tuned for my new book: Color Me Yellow // Finding Your Voice in the Tension between God’s Promises and their Fulfillment 

Questions to Ponder:

  1. How can the freedom of God’s shadow allow you to walk towards God’s promises this week? 
  2. What possibilities can you seize this week? 
Possessing God's Promises

Possessing God’s Promises // Part 3


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Is the land they dwell in good or bad?

The next category Moses asks the explorers about is the land.

Is the soil a fruitful kind that can give life or a useless kind that cannot?

Ten of the explorers come back showing Moses fruits from the land, “the land flows with milk and honey” BUT then saying, “the land devours its inhabitants.”

From their perspective, even though they held the fruitfulness of the soil in their hands, the land could not create, but only consume those on it.

How could they show the fruits and simultaneously allege the land could not be fruitful?

It wasn’t that the land was not fruitful. The ten explorers allowed the giants they saw on the land to tarnish the fruitfulness of the land. They allowed what was on the land to destroy its potential.

How often do we allow current obstacles to destroy future opportunities?

Naming our giants is a crucial key to possessing God’s promises, but it goes deeper than simply naming what we need to dispossess in order to possess God’s promises. We must also assess our soul. We must reflect on whether the land our giants dwell in is good or bad?

What are our lands and how do we see them?

Our lands are everything from our relationships, to our communities, to our workplaces and to our schools. But perhaps the most important land is our inner world – our mind, body, and soul.

Our giants – the fear giant, the doubt giant – are superficial obstacles connected to deeper origins. Naming our giants is the first step to understanding their origin – to understanding the roots. The things that seem like obstacles to us are often connected to a root wound.

It’s in the roots where we can assess the soil. It’s when go to the origins of the obstacles, that we can determine whether the soil is good or bad. It’s when we acknowledge the wounds that produced the giants that we discover the fruitfulness or fruitlessness of the soil.

Until we assess the soil, we cannot possess the promise.

If the soil is not fruitful, the promise cannot flourish.

What wounds do we find in our soil?

Rejection from family or friends. Oppression from systemic racism. Trauma from the loss of a relative, job, or future plans. Abuse from someone that was supposed to protect you. Pain from falsely spoken accusations. The list goes on. These root wounds become the origins that produce giants.

The rejection wound may turn into the fear giant. Because we were rejected by those closest to us, we fear we will never be accepted by those who don’t yet know us.

But the land can still be good land, when we examine our wounds and allow God to do the deep work of healing.

Healing comes from…

  • a willingness to acknowledge our wounds,
  • a confession of our wounds, and
  • a determination towards the work of monitoring our wounds

God longs to heal us, so that our soil can be good soil. Good soil requires maintenance. We must assess our soil and monitor our wounds. 

“In this life, all healing is temporary” // Erwin Raphael McManus

Through assessing our soil, we can respond like Caleb did.

The land is exceedingly good and the Lord will bring us into and give us the land. // Numbers 14:7

The land is not only good. The land is doubly good. The land is better than we could have ever imagined.

This story continues as the twelve explorers respond to each of the 4 categories of questions. Join in on the journey of learning to possess God’s promises!

In the tension together,

sg

P.S. To explore the story of Caleb more in depth, stay tuned for my new book: Color Me Yellow // Finding Your Voice in the Tension between God’s Promises and their Fulfillment

Questions to Ponder:

  1. What are your lands and how do you see them?
  2. What are the wounds in your soil?
  3. What wounds can you pray into this week, confessing to God that you need Him to do the deep work of healing?
In the Tension, Possessing God's Promises

Possessing God’s Promises // Part 2


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Last week, we began unpacking this big question:

How do we possess God’s promises?

When Caleb says let’s go into the land, he means let’s possess the land.

Possess in Hebrew: yaresh (yaw-rash) meaning to dispossess what possesses something

The word “possess” implies that something must be dispossessed in order to possess.

To possess the promises of God, we must dispossess the obstacles to the promises.

Moses’s first category of questions about the people in the Promised Land is a helpful starting place: 

  1. Are the people who dwell in the land strong or weak?
  2. Are the people who dwell in the land few or many?

Ten of the explorers say: “The people in the land are strong. The descendants of Anak (the giants) are there. The Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, and Canaanites are there.”

Who were these giants?

Promised Land

What are the obstacles these giants represent?

    • Amalekites: Made them feel doubt
    • Hittites: Made them feel fear
    • Jebusites: Made them feel oppressed
    • Amorites: Made them feel rejected
    • Canaanites: Made them feel small

Caleb saw who these giants were and understood the obstacles they represented, but he responds to the giants in a different way.

Do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. // Numbers 14:9

Caleb’s use of figurative language reveals that despite the obstacles the giants represent, they could consume them. He never minimizes the reality of the existence and representation of the giants, but he doesn’t allow what they are to determine who God is.

I’ve experienced the tension of believing fully in God’s promises one moment and then the next moment confronting a situation that discourages me. What I’ve discovered is that when I’m discouraged, it’s because that situation is uncovering a giant. The fear giant. The rejection giant. And that uncovering leads to discomfort.

Honestly, it would seem easier to ignore the giants. To not wrestle with them. To pretend they are not there. To hide from them.

Ignoring the giants doesn’t dispossess them. The more energy I’ve invested ignoring the giants, the worse the discomfort is when another situation uncovers the giant again.

Having faith in God was never meant to be about ignoring our giants. Faith doesn’t mean we live in a world where nothing hurts, where nothing scares us, where nothing challenges us.

Faith gives us a lens to see how God wants to work in us and is working in us. Even working through our giants.

Naming the giants puts them into the right perspective. The right perspective allows us to consume the giants.

Caleb had the right perspective about the giants. He knew the giants and He knew God. He knew that the giants were meant to be consumed and not to consume them.

Don’t ignore your giants.

Name your giants.

“How do you eat a whale? One bite at a time.” – Japanese Proverb

We can possess God’s promises by naming our giants and consuming them one bite at a time.

This story continues as the twelve explores respond to the next category: the land. Join in on the journey of learning to possess God’s promises!

In the tension together,

sg

P.S. To explore the story of Caleb more in depth, stay tuned for my new book: Color Me Yellow // Finding Your Voice in the Tension between God’s Promises and their Fulfillment

Questions to Ponder:

  1. What are your giants?
  2. What are the obstacles they represent?
  3. What would it look like to consume them one bite at a time?
Possessing God's Promises

Possessing God’s Promises // Part 1


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God says: “I’m your refuge and strength. You will fly, run, and walk as you wait for me. You are more than a conqueror.”

You wonder: “Okay, God these things sound nice, but how do I receive Your promises?”

Possessing God’s promises invites our proactivity.

Big Question: How do we possess God’s promises?

Short answer: We cultivate consistency in our faith, so that our beliefs align with our behaviors.

That answer, brings us to another question: How do we cultivate consistency in our faith, so that our beliefs align with our behaviors?

To explore this question, let’s look to Moses’s questions to the 12 explorers he sent into the Promised Land and how they responded to what they explored.

  1. Are the people who dwell in the land strong or weak?
  2. Are the people who dwell in the land few or many?
  3. Is the land that the people dwell in good or bad?
  4. Are the cities they dwell in camps or strongholds?
  5. Is the land rich or poor?
  6. Are there trees in it or not?

These 6 questions can be divided into 4 categories:

  1. The people
  2. The land
  3. The cities
  4. The soil

Ten of the explorers say: “We came to the land to which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However…”

They start off with faith. And then, they interrupt their faith with a “however” or a “nevertheless.” When they say, “however/nevertheless” they limit the possibilities of God’s promise, because of the inconsistency of their faith.

Two of them have a very different response, namely Caleb. Caleb silences the limitations and inconsistencies of their faith, saying: “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.” In other words, let’s possess the promise of God.

Caleb led with his faith. He didn’t allow his beliefs to be limited by the facts of what he saw or his feelings about what he saw.

This is the beginning of possessing God’s promises.

This is the beginning of cultivating consistency in our faith.

Do not allow facts or feelings to limit your faith.

Allow your faith to lead you.

This story continues as the 12 explorers respond to each of the 4 categories of questions. Their responses give us 4 proactive ways to possess God’s promises as we cultivate consistency in our faith.

Join the journey of learning to possess God’s promises!

In the tension together,

sg

P.S. To explore the story of Caleb more in-depth, stay tuned for my new book: Color Me Yellow // Finding Your Voice in the Tension between God’s Promises and their Fulfillment

Questions to Ponder:

  • What’s an area of your life where you’ve allowed facts or feelings to limit your faith?
  • What would it look like to allow your faith to lead you in that area?

Promises to Remember and Possess:

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” // Psalm 46:1

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” // Isaiah 40:31

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” // Romans 8:37-39