revjoaquinwillisweb.gifWe all have a story to tell, a personal “His-story” of how God has moved in our lives.  God often uses elements of our past to interact with, or to shape our world.  

When we celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, we celebrate personal and community history.  We are, in fact, honoring the memorial stones placed on the banks of our own River Jordan, reminding us of our walk with God.  Joshua  (4:7 and 22) tells us that these stones “Were a memorial to the people of Israel reminding them how they crossed the Jordan River on dry ground.”

In every life, God creates moments worthy of recognition.  They may be joyful or painful, forming what psychologists call the “Significant Emotional Events (SEE)” from which memories are made.  Can you recall an event having impact upon your “His-Story” with God, guiding your faith as He walked by your side?  There are many events that mark our life’s passage:  a birth, a death, an illness and recovery, a promotion or job loss, a financial windfall or reversal.  

In her book, Believing God, Beth Moore holds that “Memory is important to learning, without it, learning would be impossible. If your brain recorded nothing from the past, you would be unable to learn anything new.”   We all are blessed with memories created by God as memorial stones for our physical and spiritual descendants.

These stones remind us, in bleak times, of God’s unwavering faithfulness.  

In Joshua, the flow of the river was divided, so that people could cross into the Promised Land on dry earth, per God’s promise. Before our birth, God put into position our parents and grandparents, fulfilling the personal ‘His-Story’ we will have with Him.

A word of caution:  We should remember, but never worship, history.  God calls us to be vigilant, to know the difference between celebrating and worshipping in the manner of idolatry.  We must monitor the use of tradition and the placement of memorial stones. God told Joshua (4:3 and 9) and the Israelites to “place the stones carefully in the spot where the Priest stood at the edge of the River.” He did not say, “Take the stones with you on the rest of your journey.”

The account of the bronze snake in the wilderness is illustrative.  In Numbers (21:4-9), the Israelites voiced complaints against God and Moses, and God allowed snakes to bite the complainers.  After the afflicted repented, a bronze snake was created for them to look upon and be healed.  The snake reflected God’s presence and power,
His mercy and forgiveness.  When the bronze snake became an object of worship, instead of a reminder of God’s glory, God forced Hezekiah (II Kings 18:4) to destroy the snake.  We must guard against worshipping objects through our desire for and use of them. 

A powerful motivation for believing in God as a part of our lives derives from remembering His past commitment to us.  We must pause to see Him at work around us.  Today, God is calling us to leave our stones at the river, and to go toward our Promised Land, where His Promise to us will be fulfilled.  There, in the end, with God’s help, we too will have, “A Story to Tell.”

The Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis is pastor of the Church of the Open Door at 6001 NW 8th Ave., Miami.  To contact the church, call 305-759-0373 or email the pastor at