The Word

Today’s reading is Matthew 7:28-29 and Psalm 91.

I’m a big sports fan, but I don’t listen to sports talk radio. Why? I just don’t really see the point. All they do is just talk about their opinions on something that just happened in the past…a game just played and what a player or coach should have done or what a player or coach said after. They also talk about who they think will win an upcoming game or which player is better than the other. But, the bottom line is this…none of it matters. They don’t play the game, and they don’t have the authority to make any decisions to effect outcomes.

Matthew 7:28-29 reads…

“And when Jesus finished these saying, the crowds were astonished by his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority and not as the scribes.”

It’s almost like the people knew at this point after the Sermon on the Mount the scribes were like the sports talk radio people who could just talk and Jesus was a player or coach who could actually do something about it.

John 1:1-5 reads…

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John 1:14 reads…

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen the glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father full of grace and truth.”

The people knew and sensed Jesus was different. They weren’t just hearing someone talk about God..they were hearing God. He had authority. They were hearing the great “I am.”

I find it very interesting John 1 refers to Jesus at “the Word.” I’m not going to claim I fully know the reason, but I think it’s because everything contained in the book we call the Word is ultimately about Him. From Genesis to Revelation, it all points to Him. And more than anything…the book we call the Word now is our living authority until He returns.

I’ve been to church my whole life and figure I’ve probably heard around 1,500 sermons in my nearly 35 years of life and not to take away from any pastors who I’ve heard preach, but you know when my relationship with God really started to grow? It was when I began to be in the Word daily (preachers and pastors did absolutely help influence adoption of this spiritual discipline). The Word guides us. The Word is our one source of truth (and grace). The Word has authority. The Word causes us to have a relationship with the Word, Jesus.

When I get lackadaisical about being in the Word and miss days, I feel empty. I feel anxious. I feel stressed. I need my GPS. I need my one source of truth and authority. I need Jesus. Then, I have confidence. Then, I have peace.

Psalm 119:105 reads..
“Thy Word is a lamp unto my feed, and a light unto my path.”

Isaiah 26:3 says..

“You keep us in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.”

Let us pray…

Dear God..,,please help us to come to the Word daily as our one, true source of authority. Please help us turn to the Word to grow in our relationship and oneness with you. And thank you for sending the Word in flesh for us to see and for giving us the written Word as our guidance system until the Word returns.

 

**Additional thoughts- I love the accessibility we have 24/7 to the Bible through apps. However, in my humble opinion, I believe there is enhanced impact in opening the physical Bible and reading it in addition to the app or the few verses that might be referenced, and even included, right in the text of your daily devotional. When you open the actual Good Book, as opposed to an app or just reading the verses listed in the devotional or blog like this, there is something that says/feels…this is different than just another blog, app, article, or website I go to on my phone or tablet. This book is the one and only source of truth in my life. This book is the Word.

“Well done, my good and faithful servant!”

Today’s reading is Matthew 6:19-21 and Psalm 79.

Matthew 6:19-21 could not be more fitting for today. I’m always amazed at God’s timing which makes me know there are no coincidences.

Last Tuesday April 24th, this Earth lost an amazing lady in Mary Ellen Bandy. Mary Ellen was my grandmother, but to me, and many others, she was Memaw.

Today would have marked her 94th birthday.

Memaw did not have monetary wealth when she passed away. Instead, her treasure was her wonderful heart she gave to the Lord and to others as Matthew 6:21 says. She laid herself up for treasures in Heaven by giving her life to the Lord and serving others in same the way the Lord served us.  Rev. Mark Doane said, “Mary Ellen did not talk about her faith very much, but she lived it!” As the famous song says, “…they’ll know we are Christians by our love..” Others seeing our love by our actions is more important than anything we say. People will be drawn to Christ when they see our genuine, peaceful, and caring heart we have through a relationship with Him. They will want what we have.

Memaw left an amazing legacy for us to follow, and I’m confident when she entered Heaven the Lord greeted her with a big hug and said, “Well done. my good and faithful servant!”

Happy birthday in Heaven, Memaw!

Here as an excerpt from her eulogy last week…

Memaw was just so memorable..she wasn’t just our Memaw..everyone knew her as Memaw. I have received messages from many over the last few days who may have only met her once… but they remembered her and specific things like maybe having a beer with her or talking about the Cubs or Illini. Her dad gave her the nickname “Pee-wee” because she was small, and my great Aunt Sister, Uncle Roy and their side of the family continued to call her that which was neat… but there was nothing tiny about her personality and how she lived her life! People just didn’t forget her.

Like Chad said..she NEVER missed a game..not a one..and you could always hear her yelling “Easy does it..now..Easy does it!” to whoever was on the free throw line! She was the first person I called when the Cubs won the World Series, and I’m so happy she lived to see it. She always had the Cubs game on when I called her. One of my most special memories is watching the Cubs with her and Papaw and singing Take Me Out to the Ballgame. I learned to golf by her taking me a couple times a week to Oak Leaf starting at probably 7 and can still hear her little sayings on the course. My Mom is a great cook..and I’m told I have Memaw to thank for that as well because she apparently couldn’t boil water before she was married. Thank you, Memaw! I was, and still am for that matter, skinny enough growing up. I can only imagine how bad it would have been if Mom couldn’t cook!

Memaw truly left an amazing legacy and example for all of her family to follow and continue. I believe we are called to glorify God through our life and Memaw absolutely did this.

Many of the Psalms speak of singing praises to God with Psalm 98:4 specifically saying…

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!”

Let’s just say Memaw was not known for her singing voice, but she didn’t care! She wasn’t singing to please you..she was singing for her Lord and Savior and to Him…. her voice was awesome though…because it was praising and glorifying Him. There is a great lesson for all of us in that. She had confidence in who God made her and lived for an Audience of One..caring only what He thought.

The book of Acts talks about how the first Church cared for the needy and widows. They served each other in the same way Christ served us. Memaw lived her life in the same way much like the first church did. She would make meals for events like today, and she made costumes for the church play up until just a few years ago. She volunteered with the Red Cross after Papaw passed serving in LA after an Earthquake and the Great Flood of the Mississippi in ‘93. She would do anything for you and give you the shirt off her back. Uncle Tim tells the story of one of his classmates, Ruthie, who was always dirty and unkept. When Uncle Tim came home from middle-school one day and told Memaw he didn’t think she had a dress for the dance..which is pretty neat, Uncle Tim…Memaw promptly went to her house and asked her parents if she could take her shopping. Not only did she buy her a dress and shoes, but she even brought her over to their house before the dance to clean her up and do her hair and dress her. Talk about going above in beyond! My Dad also told the story about how there was a man named “Little Butch” in the small town they lived in, Hindsboro, IL, who likely had mental disabilities and didn’t have any family..let alone any money. What do you think Memaw did…she always made sure “Little Butch” had a gift and food for Christmas. I wonder who the “Little Butch” is in my life I should be helping? I know I see my Dad continuing her legacy and helping widows and others in need, and Dad…she was and is very proud of you.

My Dad’s letter to her on her 90th birthday highlighted 6 lessons she taught him which I wanted to share…

  1. The greatest legacy any of us can leave to our children…raising him and Uncle Tim to believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Memaw always said..”if you can find time for all the other activities in the week..you can find time for church!”
  2. Treat all people with respect..we are not better than anyone else regardless of race or ethnicity.
  3. Always stand up for what is true and honest..even when it’s difficult.
  4. Help the downtrodden and the poor as I previously shared.
  5. Stand up for yourself and never let people walk on you. The confidence I previously spoke of.
  6. Give to the needs of your family, friends, and your church before yourself.

One of my favorite sayings which Memaw lived out is, “Being humble means thinking of yourself less, not thinking less of yourself!”

 This was how Memaw lived and taught us to live. What an amazing legacy of servant leadership and loving God she left to us! I will do my best to carry on that legacy and example for Deklin, Reese, and Hudson.

Memaw….I will end by saying to you the same last words you said to me on Sunday..”Love you more than you’ll ever know.”

To Him Be The Glory

Today’s reading is Matthew 6:1-4 and Psalm 67.

The title of these verses in Matthew is “Giving to the Needy” in my Bible. The Bible tells us in many occasions we are called to help those in need.

“Give justice to the week and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the week and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”  

Psalm 82:3-4

“if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday soon.”

Isaiah 58:10

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Matthew 25:40

However, I feel like the title should really read, “Whose Glory Are You Really Seeking?” Pastor J.K. Jones always says something to the effect that, “There is a God shaped hole in all of hearts.” When God fills that hole and we develop a relationship with Jesus, our hardened heart softens, and we become more like Him. Why did Jesus do what He did during His life on Earth and ultimately suffer the ultimate pain and affliction of the cross when He didn’t have to? He did it to show the love our Father in Heaven has for us..to be the reflection of His light in the world and to glorify Him. These verses in Mathew 6:1-4 clearly tell us to do the same. Every single one of us was put on this Earth to glorify Him. Many of us have read The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman which are touch, service, gifts, quality time, and words of affirmation. I believe words of affirmation are near the top for most of us. Who doesn’t like it when someone tells them “good job?” In fact, much research has shown many men in prison will admit they still yearn today to hear words they unfortunately never heard their dad say, “I love you , and I’m proud of you.” I’ll be transparent in that I like it when someone says to me “Good post today..” when writing for Bible Journal. This is my human, self-serving, and sin filled natural emotional reaction.  I then stop, think, and respond by borrowing the words of I heard author Jon Gordon say at the Christian Fellowship Breakfast for Northwestern Mutual a few years back, “God is the author. I just hold the pen.” This puts me in check, and reminds me I’m striving to live a life where truly everything I do is for His Glory..to be the reflection of the Father’s light like Jesus.

When we fully comprehend the love Jesus showed on the cross and the love the Father showed by sending Him to do so when He didn’t have to, and we develop a relationship with Him…our hearts will soften and we will give to the needy and do everything in our life for His glory rather than ours. This will in turn, draw others to Him through seeing His love in us. The God shaped hole in their heart will be filled, and they will in turn, do the same for others who will see the same. Then, we will be living out The Great Commission Jesus gave us in his last words in Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

To Him be the Glory…

Legacy

Legacy. What do you think of when you hear the word legacy? Do you care about yours or not? Well, I believe you should because we all leave a legacy and your leadership example determines your legacy. We are all leaders, definitely as parents and spouses and often professionally, but even those that aren’t married, don’t have kids, or don’t have a defined professional leadership role are still leaders. Other friends and co-workers are always watching and following you whether you intend them to do so or not so that makes you a leader. John Maxwell says leadership is influence. Your leadership example determines the impact you have on others which ultimately determines your legacy.

Our small group is currently reading The Resolution for Men and The Resolution for Women. This is my 3rd time through the men’s version, and I would highly recommend every man read it. It is like an instruction manual for being man, husband, and father by translating and breaking down what God instructs us to do in the Bible. It tells men how He created and empowers us to fulfil His leadership vision. Having children, when I think of legacy, I think of the legacy I want to leave for them first and foremost.

The book challenges us to think about how we define success for our children. It is human nature for us to define the success of our children by whether they achieve big things academically, athletically, and even socially with friends or being on homecoming court or in school leadership roles for example. However, this book challenges us that success for our children is only defined by them loving God and knowing Him as their Lord and Savior. Period. End of story. Thus, the legacy we leave in this way through our leadership by example is all that matters.

David tells us in his last words in 2 Samuel 23:3-5..

“The God of Israel has spoken,

the Rock of Israel has said to me:

When one rules justly over men,

ruling in the fear of God,

he dawns on them like the

morning light,

like sun shining forth on a

cloudless morning,

like rain that makes grass to

sprout from the earth.”

How do we lead our children in this way by our example so they know and love Jesus as their Lord and Savior?

  1. First, we must be in the Word daily. This keeps us centered and focused on God so we can know and understand Him and His will better making better decisions daily. This must be visible to them so they know you are in the Word. We should also look to be in the Word together as a family. Try a weekly family devotional on a certain day each week.
  2. They must see you in prayer. They must know you go to God throughout your day in prayer to draw closer to Him as a source of wisdom. Talk about how you go to Him for your challenges and to praise him, and pray together as a family.
  3. They must see you praising and worshipping God in adoration. This can most commonly be done in song as we read about in many Psalms, throughout the Bible, and just yesterday with David in 2 Samuel 22. If your kids go to their own church service, consider bringing them into church with you occasionally so they can see you praising and worshipping Him. Recently, we had a night of worship music only at our church where we brought our kids, and it was awesome singing along with them praising God. It doesn’t have to be planned though. Singing along to Christian music in the car or while cooking out or eating dinner at home spontaneously can be just as impactful for them to see God is more than worthy of your praise all the time..any time.
  4. Speaking about God and his creations of beauty all around us in the world and about how God worked in your life today and asking them how God worked in theirs today is tremendously impactful. Simply put..talk about God. Daily. Not just on Sundays on the drive home from church.

Lastly, if you want to lead someone, most notably your kids as we are speaking of, you must have their heart. If you have their heart and they know you care about and love them, they will follow you. The Resolution for Men discusses if you don’t have your child’s heart, you must do WHATEVER it takes to get it back..even if it takes the rest of your life. 2 Samuel 23 tells about David’s mighty men and all the things they did in battle. While it might be neat to be known for personal or professional successes in life, we should strive for our kids to say when we are no longer on this Earth our legacy was this…”My Mom/Dad loved Jesus with all their heart, and I’m forever grateful they helped me do the same.” Our children must make their own decision to follow Jesus, but nothing is more important than the eternal legacy we strive to instill in and leave them.

Carpe Momentum.

Go Does Great Things, Go Do Great Things

As I sat down to write this in my Word document where I keep all my Bible Journal writings, I saw the heading from my last writing 2 weeks ago which was “Leadership Lessons from David.” If you read today’s readings of 2 Samuel 11 and Psalm 43 before reading this, you will know right away this will not be a Volume 2! In fact, it could easily be title “David Shows Us What Not To Do.” Here we read that David breaks at least 2 and really 3 of the Ten Commandments. He lusts over a woman who is not his wife committing adultery after first coveting her when she’s married to Uriah and essentially commits murder by ordering Joab to send him into the front lines of battle and pull back support so he would be killed. Wow..this is some heavy stuff which could easily be on Dateline or an afternoon soap opera.

As I read this I’m very humbled. I will admit I am quick to condemn those who commit sins which I consider to be more serious than my
“little ones”…especially those who may be a celebrity, athlete, or have different political views than myself. But, I’m quick to forgive myself or others who I know personally by making excuses for myself or them. Our Pastor, Mike Baker, often reminds us all sins are the same in God’s eyes because breaking any one of the Ten Commandments permanently separates us from God without a Savior, and not only have we all broken at least one by commission or omission, but we all have broken all ten! In Acts 13:22, God calls David “a man after my own heart.” It’s hard to believe one who God refers to in this manner could do what David did.

This convicts me of 2 truths….

  • We all need a Savior in Jesus Christ. No one is perfect. We all of sinned..even someone as great as David who lived for God in so many ways, who God did many great things through, and who wrote over 70 Psalms. If someone as great as David is capable of something this terrible, what might I be capable of if I’m not extremely careful and stay in the Word and in prayer close to Him. Although we are called to repent and turn from sin, and not excusing sin in any way, how much comfort can we have in knowing that God, when we ask, will forgive any past sin we have done (see Mark 3:28-30 which says blaspheming the Holy Spirit or essentially not believing and accepting Jesus is the only one that cannot)?! Even something as bad as what David did can be and is forgiven through the grace of Jesus Christ death on the cross. All we have to do is repent and believe in Him. Praise God!
  • God can do great things with those who have committed some of the worst sins imaginable. Saul, later named Paul, persecuted and killed many Christians. Yet after his conversion, he wrote 13 books of the New Testament and is responsible (with the help of the Holy Spirit) for much of the spreading of Christianity and the early church! As we read in Joshua, Rahab, who was a prostitute, helped the Israelites win at Jericho and became part of the bloodline of Jesus. David is still called “a man after God’s heart” after what we read here today and had a son Solomon who built the temple and is known as the wisest person to ever live outside of Jesus. David also is part of the direct lineage of our Savior, Jesus. We could go on and on…

How much hope should we have in these truths that God will forgive us from our most horrific past sins and can also do amazing things with us during our remaining lifetime despite our past shortcomings when we believe in and give our life to Jesus! If you are facing the challenge of believing something you have done can turn out to be ok and God can forgive it and do great things with your remaining life, please take note of these truths of redemption in the Bible. I can’t think of anything we should carry into our day today to be more grateful for than this!

God does great things, let’s go do great things!!

 

Leadership Lessons From David

Today’s reading is 1 Samuel 30 and Psalm 31.

One of the things I love about writing for Bible Journal is it really makes me take a step back and ask myself what God is teaching us through Scriptures where I may have easily glanced over it during a quick read. Today, I was blown away by 2 great leadership examples through David in 1 Samuel 30.

First, we see in 1 Samuel 30:6 David “strengthened himself in the Lord His God.” How did David do this? He came to Lord in prayer, asking for wisdom as to what to do, and then he took action by following the Lord’s direction pursuing Amalekites. Let’s not glance over how terrible it looked for David. His town had been burned and his family was gone leaving him not knowing if they were dead or alive. David faced trouble with Saul, but I often think of the people always loving David due to his victory over Goliath amongst others, but apparently it was still a “what have you done for me lately world” back then because we also read in verse 6 the people talked of stoning him. Psalm 31 gives us a prayer by David which is likely very similar to what David prayed during this time. We know in Matthew 11:28 Jesus tells us, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, I will give you rest.” God doesn’t care if you haven’t turned to Him in the past and if it took things getting really bad before you turned to Him for the first time or again in some cases. He just wants your heart..now.  He wants you to believe fully that He will pull you through it trusting in Him. What challenge are you facing today you don’t think you can handle or rebound from? “Strengthen yourself in the Lord” by praying for wisdom and guidance…then trust in Him and act upon His direction.  This is what David did and his family was safely returned through he and his people’s victory over the Amalekites.

The second lesson we learn from David is when things are going great and the Lord gives us victory, we give the glory to God. For it is Him who does these things through us. How easy is it to be prideful in thinking…”look at what I did”….when things are going well. We are all guilty of this. Psalm 31:23 tells us that is not a good thing to do. Those who went into battle did not want to give their winnings to those who stayed back, but David says in 1 Samuel 30, “You shall not do so, my brothers, with what the Lord has given us and given into our hand the hand that came against us.” David immediately recognizes in the presence of others this victory came from God and gives him the credit.  I love the quote, “Being humble does not mean thinking less of yourself, it means thinking of yourself less.”  Why should we think less of our self and that we are not capable or that God doesn’t have big things planned for us? Psalm 139:13 tells us we were created by the Almighty God and he “knit” us together. Thinking less of our self essentially means thinking less of God then since He created us, doesn’t it? But, in being humble, we DO think of ourselves less, and we give to those around us just as David models in 1 Samuel 30:24. We must think to ourselves, “For it was not me who did this, but God through me.”  David realized not everyone is meant to be a mighty warrior and go into battle.  He shared with those for whom God had a different role.

Both leadership lessons of strengthening ourselves in the Lord by trusting in Him through prayer, believing He can pull us out of any situation no matter how impossible it looks because our confidence is in Him, not our self, and then giving the glory to God are summed up by Paul again in Ephesians 3:20-21.

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Let us move forward today in confidence and give him the glory!

A Special Friendship

Today’s reading is 1 Samuel 18 and Psalm 19.

“…the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul…”

1 Samuel 18:1

Today we read about the wonderful friendship that Jonathan and David developed, despite Jonathan’s dad, Saul, disliking and being jealous of David. Jonathan being selfless, humble, and giving stripped himself of his own robe, armor, bow, sword, and belt and gave it to David. It says after this David was successful.

This past year, my Dad lost his Jonathan. His best friend, Doug McCumber, left this Earth to be with his Lord and Savior in Heaven unexpectedly. When my Dad and Mom moved to Tuscola, Illinois for a teaching job in the 1970s, knowing Doug, but not extremely well, Doug helped them get a house before they even arrived in town without them even seeing it! As a banker, he helped them get on their feet financially as well. From there, he continued to help my Dad get plugged into a community where he knew no one. They played tennis and basketball together with Doug taking him with his tickets to Illini basketball and football games which they both were passionate about. The only thing they never agreed on was Cubs and Cardinals. Even though my parents moved a few short years later from Tuscola, and this was way before cell phones, text messages, and emails, the 2 remained extremely close with Doug becoming my Godfather when I was born a few years later. Later in life, they enjoyed their morning walk and talks on Ft. Myers Beach each year with some of their most deep and memorable ones being this last summer which neither of them knew would be their last ones. Doug wasn’t just the average friend to my father. Like Jonathan giving up his most prized battle possessions, Doug never let you pay for a meal, and if you were lucky enough to steal the check from the waiter, he was genuinely mad. He didn’t want you to bring food to the tailgate. He’d supply that, along with the tickets to the game, too! That was just Doug. He was a true best friend, and I know my Dad will forever be grateful for all Doug did for him.

One of the greatest gifts God gives us is relationships. Of course, our relationship with Jesus is the top priority, but He also gives us relationships with others in this world to help us. In Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, King Solomon says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone. Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

We need our friend to help us in times we are struggling. We need our friend to let us know when we may have a blind spot we are not aware of. They can help us when we are struggling with our marriage, with finances, career issues, our children, and numerous other things….even when we don’t know we need it or just don’t want to hear it.

What battle are you fighting alone right now? Don’t. Go to your Jonathan. They will give you their robe, armor, sword, bow, and belt to help you. God put them in your life for a reason.

On the flip side, who do you know that’s struggling? Who can you be Jonathan for? It’s not easy. We’re busy and have our own lives, and it could make things uncomfortable with your relationship depending on their reaction. But, God put you in their life for a reason. Maybe this is it. Maybe you can help them. I’d say it’s worth the risk.

If you’re reading this a little bit sad because you are not sure if you have a Jonathan and David relationship in your life, I bet you do. You just don’t know it yet. Maybe you need to give to someone like Jonathan did. If Jonathan would not have been so giving, when he didn’t need to, it’s likely this friendship would have never become what it was with David. If Doug wouldn’t have bent over backwards to help my Dad, asking nothing in return, their special friendship likely would have never developed.

Don’t fight battles alone. Go talk with your Jonathan, or go be a Jonathan!

His Plans Cannot Be Thwarted

Today’s reading is 1 Samuel 6 and Psalm 7.

We read yesterday about how God caused tumors to come upon the Philistines because they had taken the ark. They now realize they have done a terrible thing and want to know what to do. The priests tell them to make a sacrifice and put the ark on a cart with two cows. If the cows go to Bethshemesh, then they know what they have done was bad and the Lord has caused these tumors to come upon them. If the cows go somewhere else, it was a coincidence. Where do you think the cows went? Right to Bethsemesh. In fact, they went to the field of Joshua there.

Have you ever done something so bad you don’t think God can possibly forgive you or turn it into good? Has someone else ever done something so bad to you that you don’t think God can forgive them and you doubt how God can turn it into good? I’ve seen Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark enough times to know that taking the ark of the covenant is probably a bad idea. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the Philistines repented like we should do when we sin, but they did look for direction on what to do and God gave instruction through the priests and led the cows to go to Bethshemesh so they knew it was not a coincidence. The ark is now on its way back to where God wants it, despite their actions. After Israel was defeated in battle and the ark was taken, if you were one of the Israelites would you have ever thought the Philistines would want to give it back on their own accord and that two cows with no one leading them but God would bring it back? I highly doubt it.

How often do we doubt God’s plans and His grace for us in our sin, as well as His plans and grace for other in their sin? His grace is greater than we can ever imagine and His plans cannot be thwarted in the midst of our personal sins and the missteps of others. God will work everything for the good. Romans 10:8 says, “but God shows His love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” How blessed are we that when we sin and make mistakes, all we have to do is turn to Him and trust Him! He will make it right. In fact, He already did nearly 2000 years ago on the cross.

Not of This World…

Have you ever done something to honor God’s direction and His Word, yet others didn’t see it that way?

Today’s reading is Joshua 22 and Proverbs 22. We read here Joshua gives the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh their land and sends them off. Before doing so, in Joshua 22:5, He instructs them to follow God’s greatest commandment to love Him with all their heart, soul, and mind. Upon receiving their land, they built an altar as a replica of the altar the Israelites. The Israelites hear of this and prepare for war against them because they believe they did this to worship another God, believing there should only be one altar which they had, to honor the one true God. Thankfully, they sent Phinehas and ten chiefs, one from each tribe, to check it out before attacking. They learn that the reason for building the altar was to replicate the original altar of the Israelites because the Jordan River separated them from easily getting back and they wanted to not only continue to honor God as Joshua had instructed, but also to make sure their children continued to know God and love Him with all their heart, soul, and mind (Joshua 22:26-28). Not only were they concerned about their continued commitment to love God, but they were also following what Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way you should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” After learning of the real truth of the altar, they are very pleased and obviously do not attack them (Joshua 22:32-34).

Unfortunately, we may not always be so lucky when we honor God and His Word. We may or may not be attacked physically, but others may scorn us with words, gossip, and it may come between our relationship with them and others. This makes it very difficult to honor God and always follow His way because as sinful humans, we care what others think about us. However, if we follow God and His will, others will often realize this later, as the Israelites did, but if not, we must be at peace with this. We must remember that we are living for an audience of One. We are told many times in the Bible that to follow God is to not be of this world and the world will hate us (John 17:14-16, John 15:18). Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” In Mark 8:36, Jesus says, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?”

Let us pray as we start our day today…Lord, please help us to love you with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind. Let us be not of this world, as hard as it will be, but let us follow you and your will for our lives, not caring what anyone thinks but you. We know we are not perfect and know we will mess up. We will likely even misjudge others who we think are not following God’s will but are. We thank you for your saving grace through your Son Jesus. We love you. Amen.

He Will Fight For You

Today’s reading is Joshua 10 and Proverbs 10.

I will admit, growing up, like many I thought the Bible was boring. This must have been because I hadn’t read enough of it. In reading through Joshua in preparation for today’s post, I could not put it down. Joshua is filled with stories of redemption like Rahab, battle after battle, deception, and amazing miracle after miracle by God to assist the Israelites. I’m just wondering when Hollywood will do a movie on Joshua! Let’s just hope they stick to the Word and get it right.

One of the things that always struck me about the Old Testament is how many people were killed in battle against the Israelites because they were God’s chosen people and the other nations were not. How could God let all these people be killed? Our pastor, Mike Baker, said something to the effect that all these other nations and peoples could have been saved if they would have just surrendered to God by surrendering to Israel. We see this in Joshua 9, as the Gibeonites surrendered to the Israelites in fear and their lives were spared. However, we see throughout the book of Joshua, more times than we can count on one hand, every other nation who did not surrender to God and Israel were destroyed. Time and time again the leaders of these nations and the people stated they heard of the many miracles God had done for Israel, knew God had chosen Israel and they were fearful, but instead of surrendering to Israel and God, they fought back and were destroyed.

How many times do we try to fight our own battles in our everyday lives, instead of surrendering to God and trusting He will fight for us and has a perfect plan? This is very tough for me. I’m in a career where there is a direct correlation between effort and reward and there is even a science showing what activity leads to what results. However, I have to keep learning and trusting in my professional and personal life that yes, I have to put in effort and use the talents and abilities God has given me, but I have to trust and truly believe that He is in control and will fight for me.

In Joshua 10:14 and Joshua 10:42, we read that the Lord fought for Israel. Moses spoke similar words all the way back in Exodus 14:13-14. “And Moses said to the people, ‘Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation the Lord, which He will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you and you only have to be silent.’” We read in Joshua 5:4 the generations who God brought out of Egypt passed away, yet God was still fighting for Israel to complete his plan and keep his covenant. Here in Joshua 10, we read how God made the sun stand still, and it remained daytime so the Israelites could win. He also rained down stones to kill the enemies of the Israelites. Really?! We’ve already read so far in Joshua alone He stopped the waters of the Jordan from flowing and made the mighty walls of Jericho fall with only a yell, just to name a few. Do you think the Israelites were fearful as they wandered in the desert for 40 years, and as they went into battle? Yes. Do you think with their human minds they could have thought of the miracles God would do to help them? No. Are we any different in our everyday lives? No. But, God fought for them, and He’s fighting for you when you’ve given your life to Him through Jesus, surrender to Him in prayer, and when you ask Him to do miracles in your life where you will use them for His kingdom and give the glory to Him. We are now all God’s chosen people like Israel through Jesus. Romans 8:34 says, “Who is to conderm? Christ Jesus is the one who died- more than that, who was raised, – who is at the right hand of God who is indeed interceding for us.“ He will fight for you, even while you sleep, in ways you couldn’t even imagine. Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still, and know that I am God..”

Reading Proverbs has reminded me we must pray for God’s wisdom, and then we will live righteous lives due to His direction (Proverbs 10:24, 10:30). We must also ask God for wisdom to remember past miracles in our life to remind us He can and He will do it again in ways we can’t imagine. He knows we are prone to forgetting and need reminded. How cool is It in Joshua 4 that He instructed them to bring 12 stones from the Jordan so they could remember God helped them by stoppping the rivers of the Jordan flowing and so they remember to tell their children even. In the Israelites journey, we see they are similar to us and are prone to forgetting God’s miracles, questioning Him and His presence, and falling back into sin. However, we don’t see as much of this in the first ten chapters Joshua. Could their continuing trust in God during this stretch be due to them having stones as a reminder? They didn’t know what exact miracle God would do to help them. They could have never imagined how, but they knew He would.

Reflect. What past miracles has God done in ways you could not have imagined? Remember them. Pray for Him to give you wisdom and do miracles again in your life and you will give Him to glory. Let Go. He will fight for you.

Check out “Do It again” by Elevation Worship. I pray it can impact you, as it has for me, going into 2018 and beyond.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOBIPb-6PTc