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November 11, 2017

I am writing this on Remembrance Day; a day when we remember those who have fallen in battle. It is a solemn time when we remember the sacrifices of others to protect us. As I walked Milo this morning God, spoke to me about the importance of remembering. His point to me was that, as a family, we needed to remember what was important. Memory plays a vital role in our wilderness journey, but there is a twist to it. You see memory can serve the purposes of either ‘self’ or spirit. It is important to understand just what we are to remember during our wilderness journey and afterwards.

Today we remember the soldiers that died in battle; but would we have remembered them without a formal Remembrance Day ceremony? Even with this day of remembrance, just how many will remember their sacrifices on the battlefield? Do many even care? I am afraid that as we sink deeper and deeper into a ‘self’ focused world, more and more people will simply skip over remembering what others have done for them. It seems that the act of redemptive remembering is just too hard for many today.

Thankfully, there is a God who watches over us and sees all time in truth. There is no escaping His eye and no avoiding His penetrating truth. One of the most powerful tools He has given us is our power to remember. The problem that we have is that our memory has to be in line with His truth and not our ‘self’ nature. We need to remember as He does, and not as we wish to remember; otherwise we will go astray. To help us with these memories God has, in the past, instructed our forefathers to build memorials specifically to help them remember that which our ‘self’ nature is so willing to forget.

Remembering is a key part of who we are for it connects our past to our present and helps us understand where we have been. In the Bible we have instances where God instituted memorials that were to act as a witness for future generations. “And Joshua said to them, Pass over before the ark of the Lord your God in the midst of the Jordan, and take up every man of you a stone on his shoulder, as is the number of the tribes of the Israelites, That this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, What do these stones mean to you? Then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it passed over the Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial forever.” Joshua 4:5-7. When Joshua and the Israelites left the wilderness, God wanted them to remember what He, and they, had done, and so He had them build a memorial. Others, who had not experienced the event, would then be encouraged to ask what the memorial meant. This memorial was built to help them, and us, understand just what happened from God’s perspective.

‘Self’, however, is so focused on the present that the past is often a burden to it. This is why the old statement, ‘those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it’ is as true today as when it was first uttered. ‘Self’ is very selective about what it allows the soul to remember. Acts of selfishness and hurting others are often glossed over, minimized or forgotten. Accomplishments are often blown out of proportion. Grievances from past wounds are exacerbated. Pride and fear live together as ‘self’ cherry picks and gives to our mind, heart and will only those memories that serve its deviant purposes. When it is convenient to ‘self’, memories are simply forgotten in order to avoid responsibility. We have seen this example during the recent past presidential election and the Hollywood revelations. The simple act of remembering when ‘self’ is in control is fraught with danger. This danger can only be eliminated by the death of ‘self’; and the only way we know how God can effectively deal with the ‘self’ in us, is through the season of the wilderness.

As we walked the barren wilderness, there is no way I can convey properly the many, many months, weeks, days and hours of complete boredom as we simply sat in the place God had put us. Yes, there were very bad days of hardship and suffering; but that was not the norm. The norm of the wilderness appears to be many days where nothing happens. It is in this place of quietness and isolation that the ‘self’ nature is continually exposed. ‘Self’ cannot stand being still, and it flails wildly trying to escape death. In these moments God would beckon us to remember. There were times when He would point us to Scripture to show us where He had provided for the Israelites and the early Christians. More frequently, however, God would remind us of the miracles of provision He had done for our family in the wilderness when we needed it most. Of course, we first had to take a leap of faith that He would provide; but after, we had numerous experiences with His provision. It became less about blind faith and more about knowledge and trust. Now faith is so ingrained in us we can act no other way.

We have found that the simple act of remembering is a battle in the wilderness; and who wins will determine if we make it through to the other side. ‘Self’ will continually tell us that there is nothing miraculous in the wilderness; that all we have gone through is just mean and cruel. It will darken all memory, expunging it of all good to throw us into despair, discouragement, and despondency. Fueled by darkness, all that satan and our ‘self’ nature wants us to see is how bad our trials and sufferings are. With hopelessness, fear and anger it strips Jesus from our memory so that we only see the bad. Spirit, on the other hand, will tell us to look at God and see how He has orchestrated time, events and people to bring about His will to provide for us. The Holy Spirit will lift us up past the negative voices of ‘self’, satan and others, so we can see our past in the radiant light of how Jesus is leading and providing for us. There is no despair in Jesus’ voice; only hope and a promise that God will never leave us nor forsake us. These two different perspectives between ‘self’ and spirit actively affect our ability to remember. Who wins these continual battles in the wilderness over our memories affects us deeply.

Keep in mind we are not objective observers of our past experiences, but instead are subjective participants. We will always have the interloper inside of us called the ‘self’ nature, which at every possible opportunity will try and hijack our memories for evil. ‘Self’ has all the support of the demons and satan to bring up only that which will discourage and even diminish us in every possible way. There is no situation we will find ourselves in that satan and ‘self’ will not twist to try and kill our faith. The Holy Spirit of God, however, will always remind us of what He has accomplished for us, and what we have experienced of His provision. In every circumstance, every event, no matter how small, God actively provides for us in the wilderness. He wants us to focus on and remember His great love and sacrifice for us; even as we lay down our lives as a sacrifice for Him. Always be aware that what we choose to remember is as important as the exercise that we remember.

We must remember God’s goodness to us in the wilderness. It is essential for our faith to grow. Today’s preachers, teachers, prophets and leaders all seem to suffer from the delusion that faith is some sort of passive intellectual exercise; bereft of actual physical experience. Nothing could be further from the truth. Faith is meant to be lived and experienced daily. Anything less is definitely not biblical faith. Faith, by its very nature, requires action and our active participation in its development and growth. What is one active ingredient of faith God is looking for? – Memory. The active portion of faith is to remember the events that God has done in our past, to encourage us to keep going in the future. When we remember God's acts in our life, we are honoring Him and giving glory to Him; but we are also building up our living faith to take the next step of obedience whatever that step may be. This is the active faith that will protect us in the days ahead when we cannot see what is coming. Our ‘self’ nature will attempt to convince us that the hardships and sufferings of the past will continue; but we must counter that with active faith and memories of God’s loving provision.

Active faith is built on the memorials of God’s miraculous provision. It is now time we remember, not through the lens of ‘self’, but through the eyes of the spirit. Just as God provided for our family a Spritz Up drink or hot dogs and cake when we were very thirsty and hungry, so He will provide for you. I can even remember that one night in November 2011 when I had to hike through muddy fields with ice cold sleet coming down and howling wind just to get some tarps to keep my family warm. Do I remember the pain and cold? No, instead I remember singing the sweet song, Jesus Loves Me, as Jesus walked beside me and the angels sang along with me in complete harmony. That, my friends, is how we are to remember.