Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Judges 7 - 300 Men to War

The art of intimidation.... With Gideon at the head of merely 300 men, who lap like dogs, the LORD is able to send the Midianites running.  God doesn't need a huge army to send them packing.  The army is about thirty-two thousand, but God will only use three hundred of them.  The rest are sent home. He pares the army down to a few and then....  the rest is history...

It's not just about the art of intimidation though.  It's really about the fact that God is with Gideon and the Israelites and God wants them to know, to realize, that He is their deliverer.  He wants the men to be of good courage.  He wants men who will trust Him in that He will be with them, that He will give them victory.  God will give the Midianites over to them.  It is God who will deliver them and He wants them to know this.  He doesn't want them taking credit for themselves, because then they will start trusting in theirselves and in the end they will fail.  It is God who does these things for us.  Without Him, we can do nothing.

Fear is a great obstacle to success.  It will subdue our faith.  Ego can be just as devasting to our lives.  It will subdue our trust in God.  Their is only one God.  Listen to Him!  Trust Him!  Follow Him!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Judges 6 - Remember God and Rest; Forget and Run (for the mountains)

The land had rest for forty years and then the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.  Again...  Seems like they will never learn.  Will we?  Will we quit following after other gods so that we might have rest in the land? 

So, they've forgotten the LORD again and they are in trouble again.  They end up living in caves and strongholds in the mountains as the Midianites and Amalekites as well as others from the east come against them, destroying their harvests.  And of course, God who loves His children of  Israel sends to them another prophet to remind them to remember and reverence the God who delivered the God who delivered them from Egypt.

But, it seems they paid no heed to the prophet.  (Surprise anyone?)  The LORD calls to Gideon to be their deliverer.  Gideon is the least of the least.  According to Gideon, his clan is the weakest in Manasseh and he is the least in his family.  The first act of this weak man commissioned by God to deliver the Israelites is to destroy the altar of Baal and the Asherah pole.  The Israelites are a little upset about their god being torn down. They are angry enough to want to kill Gideon, but they get over it.  And... as the Midianites and Amalekites gather to come across them, Gideon blows his trumpter and gathers an army to come up against the destroyers. 

As Gideon calls up the army, it is important, I think, to note that the first and foremost destroyer has already been broken down.  That happened when the altar of Baal and the Asherah pole were destroyed.  There is no minimizing how dangerous false gods can be to our welfare and the abundant life that God would have us live.  As we turn away from the one who gives us life, we turn to those things that steal the abundant life God has given us.  There is no life in false gods!  If their were Gideon would not have been able to tear down the altar of Baal. 

It does not matter how lowly we think we are, God calls whom He will call to be His prophet.  He calls whom He will call to remind the people of who it is who saves them.  He calls whom He will call to lead His children to freedom. 

Forty years of rest as they remember the LORD and then seven in the hands of Midian, hiding out in fear, as they worship a false god. In whose hand will you place your trust?  Your life?  As for me and my house we will worship the LORD.  (Joshua 24:15)  

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Judges 5 - Song of Deborah and Barak

Deborah and Barak triumphantly sing the story of victory over King Jabin.  What glorious words as they describe how victory was accomplished by God through Deborah, Barak, the army that was with them, and Jael.  They tell the story, giving God the glory:  "LORD, when you went out from Seir... the earth trembled, and the heavens poured, the clouds indeed poured water.  The mountains quaked before the Lord, the One of Sinai, before the LORD, the God of Israel."

How often do we tell of God's might deeds worked for us and in us and through us?  We share the story of God with us and for us with as much enthusiasm as Deborah and Barak did after this victory.  The LORD saved the people who had turned away from them.  They had turned their backs on them.  They called on Him for help.  Once again, he saved them and they rejoiced!  The story is told!

Tell the story of your salvation today...  I will keep challenging you to do this, so may as well start.  We don't need training on how to do this.  We need practice.   We just need to start telling the story of how God impacts our lives on our daily basis.  We need to share with others the importance of having Jesus in our lives.  We need to let others know how Jesus saved us. 

The chapter ends with a prayer:  "So perish all your enemies, O LORD!  But may your friends be like the sun as it rises in its might."  May your light so shine as the rising of the sun... 

And the land had rest forty years.  Amen!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Judges 4 - Women As Leaders And Conquerers Of Men

Oops... So busy getting income tax stuff organized for the last 6 hours, I totally forgot about Bible Study!!

We are studying Judge Deborah today.  Remember:  that judges in Judges were more leaders and prophets (prophetesses) than judges.  They helped deliver the people after they lapsed into disobeying God.  In this case it was Deborah - yes - a woman.  Yes, one of those of the gender that some today say that God does not give leadership to.  Barak, a commander of Israel's army would not go to war against the general Sisera without this woman by his side.  And in the end, the enemy, General Sisera was put down, not by the hand of Barak, but by another woman, Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite. 

God has called women throughout history to lead His people.  He calls whom He calls. 

Back to taxes.... Pay to Caesar what is Caesar's...

Friday, January 27, 2012

Judges 3 - Deliverance

Joshua is gone.  Their leader is gone and the Israelites do what is evil in the sight of the LORD.  How quickly we forget what it is that the LORD desires of us. Seems to me that this is a prime example why we need to attend worship regularly - regularly like every Sunday.  We need to hear the word, the will of God, given to us in the scriptures, lest we forget what He calls us to, lest we forget the good things He desires for us and turn our backs on Him.

The Israelites turn their backs on God.  They suffer.  They call to Him for help.  He raises up a deliverer for them.  They are delivered.  They are saved.  They turn their backs on God.  They call to Him for help.  The cyle repeats itself.  Even to this day, it repeats itself.  We turn our backs on God 'till we can no longer stand the heat we've gotten ourselves in, then we call to Him for help. 

In these latter days, God has sent one deliverer - one for all time.  God has sent His only begotten Son to deliver from our own sinful ways, to deliver us from our propensity to turn our backs on Him.  He is with us always.  We should not wait until we are wallowing in the consequences of our negative attitudes and behaviors.  We should not wait until we are dying to call upon the LORD for help.  We need His help every minute of every day to walk in the good way that He has prepared for us. 

Joshua is gone.  Those judges (leaders and deliverers) of Israel are gone.  Jesus is not!  He is with you even now.  Follow Him as he leads you through the valley of the shadow of death. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Judges 2 - The People Bow To False Gods

Now we find out why the LORD told Joshua they didn't have to drive out all the people who inhabited Israel before them.  The LORD had left them there to test the people of Israel - to see if they would remain faithful toHim or turn to false gods.  The Israelites failed miserably.  When Joshua died, they turned away from the LORD to seek other gods. 

Remind you of anything here on earth today?  How about some churches of today?  When there is a strong leader, the people seem revived.  There is an upsurge in attendance.  There is an upsurge in activity within the congregation and community.  Unfortunately, I am not so sure that all of this (some of it is - but - not all) is faithfulness to God.  We, as Christians, have to be very cautious that we are not cultivating a personality cult within our congregations - a group of people with allegiance to the human leader or group of leaders (false gods) rather than the LORD God.  This leader does not have to be the Pastor, either.  It could be any strong member or clique in the congregation or even an entire denomination who directs (manipulates) the activities in the fore or background. 

If by some chance this leader leaves or is removed from power, the congregation has no one to follow, for in fact they have been following a false god and not the God who saved them and gives them the promised kingdom.  They have nothing and often they will leave and the church begins to die.  Only one of two things can revive this congregation:  1.  the Holy Spirit  2.  another false god steps in.   Be aware that this false god is not necessarily a false teacher.  Joshua was not a false teacher.  He was called by God.  The judges were called by God.  The leader may not even realize that the people are flocking to hear him because of his/her personality rather than their love of God.  In fact, they usually are pretty excited to see so many flock to hear the Word of God - to bow down and worship the one true God.  Hopefully, even in this, God will open the people's hearts and they will hear and believe and follow.

Anyone or anything can be a false god.  False gods don't always set themselves up to be that - people set them up to be false gods - people in search of something greater than themselves.  Money, for example, can be a powerful false god, dragging us down to some of the deepest depths that we can imagine.  However, money does not have the power to make of itself a god.  People do that - people who have strayed from serving the LORD God, who created and who sustains them. 

Will this generation follow the LORD or another god that will destroy them?  What about the next generations?  Whom will they serve?  Back to Joshua.... "....as for me and my household we will serve the LORD."  Joshua 24:15

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Judges 1 - Not Judges

Another book under our belts as we begin "Judges" today...

We begin with the reminder that when Israel took possession of the land, not all of the old inhabitants were overthrown or driven out.  I believe we will begin to see this as a problem.  There will also be disobedience as the children of God begin to turn their backs on the LORD God who brought them out of Egypt.  They will worship false gods.  They will suffer the consequences. 

Another thing to watch for as we traverse "Judges" is that the judges are not actually judges as we consider judges, but leaders among the people - leaders who were to deliver Israel once again!  As I watched the State of the Union Address by President Obama last night, I observed the crowd of politicians.  So many dressed in black for this austere occasion.  I had to switch the channel every once in a while as a real scary thought kept coming to my mind:  these are the people who are suppose to lead this country, to deliver us from ourselves!  Scary thought - that we should depend on politicians and judges to deliver us.  Black, as a symbol of death, is probably a most appropriate color to wear at one of these gatherings where self-motivated leaders gather.  I believe it is time now to turn to the LORD for our salvation before we cross a line from which there is no return.  There will be negative consequences.  As someone mentioned on the news yesterday regarding the cussing on television: we have passed through a gate and cannot go back (not exact quote).  Then again, there is no place that that we cannot enter that the LORD cannot bring us back from. Repent, and receive the Kingdom of God. 

Humankind cannot be saved by the world.  The only true salvation is found in Jesus the Christ, the only genuine servant leader...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Joshua 24 - Choose Ye This Day

The journey is over.  The Israelites have been promised the land for generations.  They have been led through some hard times.  They have been blessed by the LORD.  Joshua's days are almost over.  He reminds the people of all that the LORD has done for them and tells them: 

     "Now therefore revere the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness;   put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the Rive and in Egypt, and    serve the LORD.  Now if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, shoose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."  (Josh 24:14-15)

Who indeed will you serve?  Which gods?  Will you revere the LORD in sincerity and in faithfulness?   As Joshua encouraged the Israelites to recall their history with the LORD God, I encourage you to do the same.  Who brought you out of bondage?  Did any of your false gods really help you?  You cannot serve two gods.  Choose ye this day, whom you will you serve.  And, whichever one you choose know that they will each desire faithfulness from you.  Will you choose the One who first chose you, who is faithful, and has always been faithful to you?  Will you choose the one who loves you so much that He was willing to die for you?  Or will you choose a lesser god, a god that does not love you, will only take from you, a god that will take your very joy and leave you alone and helpless?  Choose ye this day...  And, do not be deceived there is only one God that loves you.  Put away all those false gods, for you cannot serve them all and live.

God's promise to you is a for an abundant life in His Kingdom - in His very presence.  Do not choose to receive a lesser gift than this.  Do not turn your back on the LORD who gives you life.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Joshua 23 - Worship the God Who Blesses You

It is almost time for Joshua's journey on this earth to be completely over.  His own eyes have seen how the LORD God has delivered the people and has given to them to good land that He had promised.  But, not it is time for his life to be over and he warns the people not to be straying and following after other Gods.  Joshua warns them not to be unfaithful to the one who has been so good to them.

A good warning to all of us.  There are days I want to just to say:  "Would you cut it out, already!  There is one God.  Quit following after false gods - gods that are leading you astray - gods that will take the land from you - gods that will take everything you have and keep you from prospering, keep you from knowing peace.  Please, cut it out for your sake - for all of our sakes - for the sake of the land.  Cut it out!  There is only one God.  Worship Him.  Seek first His Kingdom and then you will know peace - then you will know joy.  Repent already, turn around, for the kingdom of God is at hand!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Joshua 22 - Witness that the LORD is God

It is a witness that the LORD is God.  This altar built by the tribes east of the Jordan is meant as a witness, as a testimony to others, to future generations, that they worship the one true God. 

What is our testimony?  How do we testify to our relationship with the one true God?  Will your children or grandchildren and their children hear the stories?  Is your witness such that they will know that you are a Christian and be able share what a Christian believes and is with others.  Will your witness today, help your children witness tomorrow - to love of God, through Jesus Christ - to the Kingdom of God? 

Let us go forth, as living witnesses of Jesus Christ, making disciples of all peoples...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Joshua 21 - Good Promises Fulfilled

Wow!  I never realized how many towns there actually were in the land promised by God.  After all these years, all these generations, the Israelites have finally taken possession of the promised land.  "Not one of the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass."  (Joshua 21:45 NRSV)

I return to Paul's letter to the Romans where he reminds them that God's good purpose for His children will prevail.  "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."  (Rom 8:28) 

There are times when we might wonder if anything good will ever come to us - times when we wonder if we will ever see the light of day.  As we journey through the wilderness, things can get pretty tough.  But, for those who believe in Him, we have been promised eternal life in His Kingdom, in His presence, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.  There is no promise that this world can offer that is better than that.  God's promises do not fail.  It has come to pass in the gift of salvation given through Jesus Christ, our Lord. 

The Israelites have traveled through the wilderness for many years.  Their journey was tough; but, God was with them.  Rest assured, that no matter what obstacles stand in our path, that we too will see the promised land.  With our own eyes, we will see it.
"For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.  Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known."  (1 Cor:13:12)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Joshua 20 - Walled Refuge

"The slayer shall flee to one of these cities and shall stand at the entrance of the gate of the city, and explain the case to the elders of that city..."  (vs 4 NRSV) 

Standing and explaining your case at the entrance of the gate the elders conjures up pictures in my mind of a bunch of old men, sitting in a semi-circle at the gate, leaning back on two legs of their chairs, looking down through their bi-focals, at a dirty, dusty, bedraggled man who, exhausted, has come to beg for a place to hide out, so that the slayer cannot kill him.  That's the picture that comes to my mind.  I probably get it from having watched too many cowboy and gunfighter movies in the years that I thought I had time to watch television!

In reality, the gates of the city, were not just super-sized wooden picket fences.  The walls were probably more like some of the forts in the Southeastern U.S. that I've visited.  The walls and the towers within the walls and gates are thick enough to have rooms inside of them - thick enough to have a courtroom at the gate where the elders can hear the case of the one who killed a friend or neighbor by accident.  

Now these cities of refuge seem to be a really great idea.  Justice seems to be the prevailing purpose for them.  However, I am not sure that I would want to raise a family living in one of these cities, where your neighbor could well be living next door only because he doesn't dare leave the city because the avenger of blood will get him. 

In the U.S. we have this thing called presumption of innocence, or "innocent until proven guilty."  Well, that is the presumption...  But, if someone is arrested for murdering someone, they are not usually set free without a very high bail and sometimes they are not even allowed bail until after they have been found "not guilty."  We may say that we presume that they are innocent all we want, what we do with them after their initial hearings, lets the world know what we actually think.  Imprisoned doesn't exactly give the impression of innocence.  On the other hand, maybe we might think of our jails as cities of refuge.  They keep the suspect safe from the avengers of blood - not always - but usually.

May the LORD be your refuge and strength that you may never need walls to protect you from the avenger.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Joshua 18 - 19; Receive the Promised Land

Sorry - but - I'm taking two chapters this morning...  I think I can understand how Joshua felt when he said "How long will you be slack about going in and taking possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your ancestors, has given you?"  All this land distribution is getting a bit tedious so we're going to move through it a little quicker today. 

God has given the Isrealites this awesome gift - a land - a home to call their own; yet, they are slow in receiving that gift.

God has given us an awesome gift through His Son, Jesus Christ.  We have been promised life in the Kingdom.  So why are we so slow to receive it?  Do you have people on your prayer list that you have been praying for years for - praying that they will have a greater understanding, a greater relationship with God our Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit?  Maybe you have prayed for them, mentored them, taught them, shared with them.... done everything you can think of to help them understand God's love for them... but, nothing...  They have yet to receive the Kingdom. 

And what exactly is the Kingdom?  It is living in relationship with God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, not just in the world to come, but in the here and now.  Through the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, the Kingdom has broken into this world.  It is at hand.  Yet, so many of us think of it only as something to be received in the future, not as a way of life today.  Receive the promised land... God has given it to you through His Son, Jesus the Christ.

Receive the gift of the Kingdom of God.  It belongs to all God's children.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Joshua 17 - Land Is Not Enough

Well, it appears the eldest son is favored just a bit...  Checking out the maps again this morning and Manasseh's overall allotment of land appears to be by far the largest of the tribes.  Even so, I note that they have not been able to clear the land of the Canaanites, either.

The tribe of Joseph is not happy that Manasseh gets more land than they do.  They complain to Joshua.  Joshua tells them to go to the forest and clear the land for the people.  And even though the Canaanites may come against them, they should also clear the land of them as well.  Joshua tells them to drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.

All this land being alotted; it is the inheritance of the children of Israel.  It is a gift from God.  As I was thinking this morning about how even though the land is a gift, the people had to go in and possess it and they had to work the land for it to be fruitful for them.  God gave it to them, but they didn't get to lay in bed 'till noon and do nothing the rest of the day.  They actually had to go and take possession - they had to do something. 

As you probably guessed; actually, what I was thinking was about the modern day family.  I was imagining a father who owned thousands of acres of land and having sons, decided to split it up, so that they could use this land to support themselves and their families.  I was just kind of imagining the number of sons that would be like Joseph complaining about their alotment.  Maybe it's too swampy or too many trees.  Maybe the land is flat and grassy.  I was wondering if 12 sons received an inheritance of land today, how many would know how or have the ambition to make it fruitful.  How many would live in poverty because they didn't know how or wouldn't put the gift they'd received to good use?  Was wondering how many of them would be sitting in the bar complaining about the inheritance that they received instead of putting the land to work for them?  In the coming generations, would we hear of all 12 sons, or would only one (or none) survive and be fruitful enough to be known and remembered by the people?

Seems there is always a problem with the gifts we receive.  No one ever really gives us just the right gifts that we need to succeed... :)  Some of these gifts require an awful lot of work to make them work. 

May God help us to learn to appreciate each and every gift that has been alotted to us and to use them to His glory... 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Joshua 16 - Ephraim's Failure God's Plan?

Just like the people of Judah, the Ephraimites were not able to drive out the people who were there be for them before they settled there.  Instead the Canaanites lived among them as their servants or slaves.  I am wondering how many of the other tribes were not able to take the cities completely?  We'll just have to keep reading... to find out...

The commentaries I have read point toward not driving out the previous owners of the land but  living with the people who previously lived there as a failure or an inability of Judah and Ephraim to run them out of the land.  But, as I noted, in a previous chapter, that God had told Joshua, who was tired, to just alot the land to the people already.  God was going to drive the people out Himself.  But, He didn't, at least not at that time.  But, then who can figure out God's timing?   

Was it a failure of the children of Israel to go in and conquer or is this all a part of God's master plan for Israel?  Who can tell... 

Who can tell?  All those things that seem like we've "missed the boat," failed; did we really fail or was it just another necessary step to get us in a direction that God wanted us to go in the first place?  Again, I remind you:  All things for the good....  But, sometimes those "all things" don't feel so good at the time...  Sometimes those good things just might feel like you've failed.  

When I look back at my own life, I regret very little.  There were some really rough times.  I do regret the harm that my bad choices may have caused others.  But, every stupid mistake I made taught me something, helped me to be who (whose) I am.  I do not regret what I learned by all my stupid mistakes.  I cannot help but thank God, for it was He who led me through that wilderness and continues to do so, as I have not quit making stupid mistakes - but live with them daily.   I have not been able to conquer my sinful nature.  With the help of God, I have been able to change a lot, but not enough to save myself from myself.  Thanks be to God, that he sent His Son to die for us overcoming the power sin had over us.  Sin doesn't get the last word - death.  Jesus gets the last word - life.   Because of him, people of every nation, shall live peaceably in the promised land, the kingdom of God, forever.

Rambling again...  Lots to do again today so mind is going in many directions... God's Peace be with you this and every day...

Monday, January 16, 2012

Joshua 15 - God Has a Plan

The distribution of land has begun.  Judah has its land - lots of it - with really strange boundaries (at least I find them confusing).  Checking out a few historical Biblical maps (they were not all the same), I couldn't quite figure out how these maps match the land as it was described in this chapter.

The land includes Jerusalem.  There is only one problem, although it's not really a problem, yet.  The Jebusites have not been driven out of Jerusalem.  The people of Judah and the Jebusites live togther in the city - peaceably it seems - at least for the time being.  We will see as we continue to read, how it actually ends up. 

And... why?  Why would God allow the Jebusites to stay in the land?  In chapter 14, he had told Joshua to go ahead and alot the land to the people, even though some of the cities hadn't been taken.  What exactly is God's plan, that He would allow this to happen?  He does have a plan, I am sure and it is a plan for the good.  Just like trying to figure out the boundaries, I just don't know what it is for sure.

We don't know exactly what God's plan is for any of us.  We can only trust that He has one and it is good.  There are times when I am up late or really early, praying for hours for someone who is in crisis.  It is times like those that I have to believe that even in times of crisis', God can and will work it all out for the good.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  (Rom 8:28 NIV)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Joshua 14 - Whose Inheritance

A couple of inheritances described in this chapter - the Levites and Caleb.

First of all, the inheritance of the Levites is none...  The priests get nothing.  They are - their needs are provided for under the law.  They will not starve.  They will always be taken care of.  But, as far as a huge property settlement; there is none.  They are to be focused on caring for the tabernacle, for serving the LORD - not on personal property, but, on the LORD's property.  When I read this section this morning, it reminded me of something that well may irritate more than one clergy.  That is the need to provide for themselves.  The desire and need to serve the LORD according to their own personal needs.  I am in part talking about pensions.  Is your pension fund in any way affecting your decision to follow the will of God for you and the people around you?  I am also talking about salaries...  Think about it...  Would God let His servant starve?  Did he not provide for the Levites?  Then why is it that there are so many clergy types (including those in local congregations as well as on TV) running around more concerned about their salary, more concerned about money, than doing the will of God?  Why is accepting a call sometimes really determined by the salary or the job opportunities for a spouse?   Just saying...  Think about it...  Whom do you serve?

Caleb is the first to receive an inheritance as the property is being doled out west of the Jordan.  He receives the land that he had first set foot on forty some years before.  At that time, he was willing to go and conquer the Anakim and take the land as the LORD commanded, but others in the party were not.  For their unfaithfulness, the Israelites got to wander around in the wilderness for 40 years.  For his faithfulness, Caleb received this land. 

Indeed, whom do we serve?  Who is it that we listen to?  God or man?  The LORD is our portion and strength.  He provides all things for those who trust Him.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Joshua 13 - That's The Way It Is

When my oldest granddaughter was about 4 years, she went through a phase where she closed all her prayers with "that's the way it is" rather than with "Amen."     

The way it is for Joshua, the reality, is that Joshua is getting a bit advanced in age and there is still a lot of land that needs to be taken for the Israelites...  But, because of his advanced age,  he doesn't seem to have it in him to lead any more war parties.  Joshua is old.  That's the way it is!  And, if I were Joshua, I'd be thanking God that I'm finally getting a reprieve from all the war.

That's right! The LORD pretty much tells Joshua not to worry about conquering any more land, that the LORD, Himself, will drive the rest of the inhabitants out for them.  It is time now for Joshua to divide the land - to move forward with their plans and to act as though the land is completely theirs.  After all, it is...  If God promises it... It is done...  That's the way it is...

There are times that I feel like I might drown in the surrounding waters of negativity.  It is sometimes very difficult to keep affirming the promises of God, to keep on standing on the Word, when everyone around you keeps up with the "woe is me" stuff.  It can be tough, but it is not impossible.  With God all things are possible.  Immerse yourself in the Word.  Read His written word; listen to and walk with the Living Word; and stand on His promises found in the written word and given to us through the Living Word.  Believe Him and "That's the way it is..."

Friday, January 13, 2012

Joshua 12 One, One, One, One....

It's too early in the morning for me to confronted by strange literary devices or I should probably call them numerical devices.  I don't know... I have never seen such a way of counting in literature:  one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one = thirty-one.  It's just weird!  What was wrong with using one, two, three, four... and, actually counting those kings for us?  The translation I am using has the "one's" all lined up in a column after the names of the kings.  My eyesight is not so good and my mind works a bit slower at 5 a.m. so it took me a couple of minutes to figure out what all those "one's" were doing all lined up like that that.  There must have been a point to the way the number of kings conquered by Joshua is presented to us.  But, I don't get it! 

Yesterday, our Bible Study Group was working on Matthew 1.  There were 14 generations from Abraham to David, 14 from David to the deporation to Babylon, and 14 generations from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah.  But, they did not number or count each ancestor, you have to do that on your own if you want to check that they are right (I haven't really figured that one out, either.  Go ahead and try putting the number one by each name in Matthew 1 - see how many ones you end up with)
Today... we are basically reminded of the two kings who are conquered on the east of the Jordan by Moses for the 1-1/2 tribes and of the list of 31 kings on the west of the Jordan by Joshua who are conquered for the other 10-1/2 tribes.
The best think I can say about this chapter is that I think that at least for the time being, it signals an end to the killing and conquering.  Tomorrow we begin checking out the property descriptions of the various tribes.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Joshua 11 - Rest

More kings gathering together for an offensive attack against the Israelites.  These kings apparently did not learn from the experience of others that attacking Israel was probably not a good idea.  They too, find that their only defense is not a good offense, but in the end it is to turn tail and run.  Unfortunately, it is too late.  They too, will be and are utterly defeated.

"As the LORD had commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD had commanded Moses." (11:15 NRSV)  Joshua listened and did the LORD's will; the Israelites took the land that the LORD had promised the descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; "and the land had rest from war." (11:22)

The land had rest...  That would be a good thing... rest... rest from conflicts and wars...  Not only conflicts globally, but in communities, families...  Neighbor going after neighbor with nit picking offensive little attacks. It would be very good, I think if the land, the whole world could have a rest. 

But there is only one place that comes from.  Just as the Israelites were God's chosen and found rest in the promised land, so are we children of God who find rest in the promised kingdom that has come near. 

Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."  (Matt 11:28)


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Joshua 10 - The Sun Stands Still & Kings Defeated

When I was much younger, I was a referee for children's soccer.  I also played on a woman's soccer league.  My husband coached, I assisted and of course I was a soccer mom.   I taught this strategy:  The best defense is a great offense.  Our team did quite well using this strategy.  It also seems to work quite well for Joshua as he leads the Israelites to conquer the land.  It doesn't work so well for the five kings.  They are defeated royally when they attempt to come against the Gibeonites who have a treaty with the Israelites.  The Israelites come to their aid.  This offensive attack by the five kings actually helps Israel in their mission.

The Israelites are indeed on a mission - to take the land that God has given them and it seems as long as they stand on their integrity - they will will indeed take it.  And... they take it in a big way.  Kings fall before them, cities fall, even the sun and the moon stand still at Joshua's command.  Now that (however that happened) had to be a frightening experience.  Imagine coming against the LORD's army led by Joshua, actually at this point they had turned and were running from the Israelites, and huges hailstones come crashing down from the heavens killing the retreating army.  The sun and the moon stand still!  Would not the hail big enough to kill men and the sun and moon standing still for a day be enough to bring fear and trembling to humankind?  Then add to that the pursuit of the army that is being directed by God, Himself! 

Yep!  I would be running too.  Moral of the story... Don't be attacking God's people.  No matter how good you think your offense is going to be, God has a plan for his children to enter the Kingdom he has promised.  Better to be on the Lord's side.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Joshua 9 - Joshua Forget Something?

Thus, the LORD says...  I love it when I read the LORD says in the Bible...  God is talking directly to someone.  He is guiding someone to do His will.  God is directly interacting with someone.  Do you see any of that in this chapter?  No, it is glaringly absent!

Joshua enters into a treaty without even consulting God!  He forgot or neglected to ask God about these people who claimed to come from a far country.  He got tricked into not obeying the previous command of the LORD to go in and take the land and destroy the people.  The Gibeonites lied to Joshua, yet Joshua did not lie to them.  He had made a covenant with them, guaranteeing that they, the Israelites, would let the Gibeonites live and he does.  The Gibeonites, in spite of their deception, live because of the integrity of Joshua and the other leaders.

How much easier our lives would be if only we would remember to ask the LORD for direction in our own lives.  I learned a long time ago that there was something that I needed to do if I wanted to live through a relatively peaceful day or week - come intentionally into the presence of the LORD every morning; study His word; pray - both speaking and listening to Him.  If I do not spend time with the LORD every morning, my days are usually pretty fruitless.  The same goes for Sunday Worship...  Years and years ago I found, that if I did not attend a Worship Service on Sunday, so that I might be refreshed and prepared to go out into the world, my going out into the world the rest of the week could be pretty messed up.  You see, I am a sinner, and without the help of God, without those means of grace received chiefly through Word and Sacrament, I can be and am someone who can get pretty ugly be the end of the week.  I realized long ago, that if I am not in worship on Sunday morning, by Friday morning no one is going to want to be around me! 

How about you?  Wondering how your life could go a bit smoother?  How about spending time with the LORD?  Consult Him...  Read, hear, and study His word...  Pray often... Both speaking and LISTENING.  The LORD will guide you, but you have to remember to ask... and then listen...

It really amazes me that Joshua doesn't think to inquire of God when it comes to the Gibeonites.  Did he simply forget?  May God help us to remember that He is there to guide us in the way that we should go, in the things which we should do.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Do Not Fear Or Be Dismayed

Joshua 8

Do not fear or be dismayed.  The LORD is with Joshua and the army of Israel.  They have been sent to take the land which God has given them.  He provides them with a full-proof strategy.  They take the land that He has promised with the help of God.   

I was at the installation of Pr. Peter Suomela at Bethany Lutheran, Covington, MI yesterday.  What a marvelous celebration!  The sanctuary which normally has about 25 to 30 worshippers on a Sunday was filled to overflowing, there were people even in the balcony.  And... we all rejoiced as we heard the good news proclaimed by Rev. Mark Vander Tuig.  What a joy to be with that little (growing) congregation as they celebrated the calling of a pastor to serve them.

A little over a year ago, Bethany began talking about making some changes in their denominational affiliation.  They wanted to break away from the cycle of always worrying about if they would have the finances to keep going.  They wanted the days of fearing that their little church would close down and their congregation dying to be over.  They longed to be free to grow and to proclaim the kingdom of God to all people as Jesus commands them.  They knew that in order to really grab hold of all the opportunities to serve God and His people so that the Body of Christ where they are at would grow and be edified they would have to make some serious changes.  All that considering what to do was a very anxious time for them.  But, determined to trust God they worked through the process and made the move to Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC).  And God has and is blessing their ministry.  For the first time in five years they have a pastor to serve them.  They've had interim pastors, but none whose primary call was to serve them.  In fact it might be the first time they have ever had a pastor who did not have more than one congregation to serve and I'm pretty sure this congregation is around 100 years old.  They dared to trust the LORD to lead them to do His will.  Today, rather than fearing what will become of them, the members of Bethany Lutheran is celebrating the opportunities before them to serve God and proclaim the good news of His Kingdom.  What a change!  What a relief!   I am sure they will still have some anxious days.  They are human as we are human and we all from time to time to forget to trust the LORD's will for us.  But, when those times come, they will remember their journey through the wilderness and their trust in the LORD renewed.

There are other congregations who today are considering making similar changes.  The future is unknown and it can be an anxious time.  But, there is no need to fear.  As we strive to seek to do God's will; as we take hold of the promise and follow where He will lead us; God is with us.  We follow where He will lead us; we make changes in order to more fully receive the promise; all with the help of God. 

Do not fear or be dismayed.  The LORD is with you.  The LORD blesses you and will help you as you strive to do His will bringing the good news of the Kingdom in Jesus Christ to all people. 

For those congregations who are small and think they are in danger of dying or closing:  God has a plan for you.  It is a good plan.  Do not fear.  Listen and follow... For His glory...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Consequences of Breaking Faith

Joshua 7

Have you ever noticed how in a family or a church or any type of community for that matter; when everything seems to be going great and the people are enjoying immense blessings, someone decides they have to break faith and do something really stupid and it throws everyone into chaos?  Everyone gets to suffer the consequences of one persons bad choices.  I see it happen all the time.  People forget that no matter what it is that they do, no matter how little or big, their actions will affect others for the good or the bad.

The whole of Israel, in today's chapter, suffers the consequences of the sins of the one man, Achan.  When he is caught, the cost of his sins against God and his people is his life. 

We do not live in a vacuum as some might suppose.  I have heard more times than I can even remember, "I'm not hurting anyone but myself."  That is wrong.  Whenever we choose to break faith with God or anyone else who loves us, to do what seems to be pleasing and most beneficial for ourselves, we hurt everyone around us.  Whenever we choose to live life in a self-serving manner our children learn from us and consequently their lives to will exhibt the chaos, the loneliness, the broken relationships that comes from a broken faith and relationship with God.

It is like throwing a pebble into the water, the effect is that the ripples just keep spreading outward.  Just as everyone around us suffers from our breaking the faith with God and pursuing false gods, so everyone benefits from the goodness of the one who did not/does not break faith with Him, Jesus Christ our LORD. 

May God help us to put aside the false gods that we think will benefit us and to pursue those things that will benefit the whole community, the whole Body of Christ.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Art of Intimidation

Joshua 6

Now that is the art of intimidation at its finest!  Can you imagine? The people of Jericho have witnessed the waters of the river Jordan being stopped as the whole nation of Israel crosses on dry land.  They sat within their walled cities doing nothing while the men of Israel were circumcised and waited to be healed within their camp.  And now...  they watch from inside their walled city as the priests carry the ark of the covenant, the ark of their Lord; the warriors of Israel march quietly, without a word; as the ram's horns are blown continuously around their home for seven days.  What were the people of Jericho thinking while all this was going on?  The people of Jericho watch all of these strange happenings and they wait.  They wait for the Israelites to attack for these many days.  They wait for their end is near.

Can you imagine the fear that this multitude of nomadic warriors has caused within the hearts and minds of the people of Jericho.    What man could cause the water of the river to stop flowing?  What man could strategize like this?  No man, only God.  God is with these people.  And then... on the seventh day as they circled the city for the seventh time that day, the ram's horns sounded one long blast and all the warriors shouted and Jericho comes tumbling down.  Jericho is taken and destroyed forever.  What kind of fight did they even engage?  Or had the art of intimidation rendered them powerless even before the wall came down?

Let not your heart be troubled, do not fear, for the LORD is with you.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The New Generations

Joshua 5

It is very difficult for me to focus on this chapter this morning as I am still thinking about the just simply inspiring evening I had with LeaderShape, the program from Michigan Tech for those who aspire to become leaders.  These young people, this new generation, are just awesome.  It gives one hope.  I spoke with so many faithful young Christians at the event, it just amazed me.  I would never had guessed that there were so many active in Christian organizations at Michigan Tech.  But, they are there and they are the leaders of the coming generations.   Thanks be to God!

Joshua is preparing the next generation to enter into the land promised to the generation before them, their fathers and mothers.  The LORD commands Joshua to have all males from this new generation circumcised.  And then... they waited to be healed and to be strong enough to be able to take hold of the promise that was given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  The task of being prepared and waiting is not so easy.  The world is out there to be conquered, the new generation chomps at the bit, ready to go, maybe a bit fearful of the whole idea, but anxious and ready to take hold of all that God has prepared for them.  The LORD has prepared the children of Israel and now he prepares our young people to go out and take hold of the promises.  But, as they prepare, they wait anxiously for that day.

May God be with the new generation so that our world will have hope both for a peaceful life in the here and now as well as in the Kingdom promised...

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Remembering the Water and Dry Land

Joshua 4

I guess I'm going to have to be more careful about what I write about each morning.  Even though I'm not remembering what comes in the next chapter, I do remember it.  I guess in reading the Bible through over and over again some of it actually sticks.  This morning is not the first morning that I've read a chapter and realize that it talks about what I wrote about the day before.  I'm referring to the 23rd verse:  "For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you crossed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we crossed over..." (NRSV)

We remember by repeatedly observing traditions.  We gather together to hear and to study the word.  Some today seem to think that this gathering together to read, hear, and study or meditate on the word of God at Worship or in Bible Studies (even if they're on the internet) is archaic - it doesn't have any purpose except to perform the basic requirements of the law - like show up at Christmas and/or Easter so that we can maintain our church membership.  If that is what you think, send me your name, so I can add it to my prayer list.

We also remember by observing symbols that remind us of what the LORD has done for us.  Those 12 stones set up in Gilgal were symbols used to remind the people what the LORD had done for them.  They were used to remind them that the LORD had led them out of Egypt, dried up the waters of the Red Sea so that they could pass, led them through the wilderness for forty years, and then (once again) dried up the waters of the river Jordan so that the Israelites could enter and take possession of the promised land.  Most of us have symbols in our sanctuaries (as well as in our homes) that also help us to remember what our LORD has done for us.  The first and foremost is the cross in most Christian churches.  It reminds us of the sacrifice that God made so that we might also pass through the waters safely, through the wilderness and into the promised land.  The baptismal font reminds us not only of the journey of the Israelites as they passed through the waters of the Red Sea and Jordan unharmed so that they might receive a new life in the promised land; it is a reminder to us that we too have passed through the waters, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and receive the Kingdom of God, as His chosen people, His adopted children.  The church is full of symbols that remind us of what God has done for us.  The water in the font itself reminds us that we have been washed - cleansed - in the waters of baptism.  It is sad that so few take remembering what God has done and is doing so lightly that we see them so rarely.  If you are one of those, send me your name, that I might add you to my prayer list :) 

God's Peace - Pr. Judy

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Crossings on Dry Land

Joshua 3

When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt; when the waters of the Red Sea were pushed back so that they could cross over, they were fleeing from the army of Pharoah, lest they should all be taken back into slavery or die.

And now...  Moses' successor, Joshua, is about to lead the whole company through another the water again.  As they leave their wilderness journey they must cross the river Jordan, not into Egypt, not into slavery, but into the promised land.  This time, as Israel crosses over on dry land there are no armies in pursuit of them, they are now the army that will cause people to fear for their lives and their land. 

In the first crossing from Egypt it was the leader's (shepherd's) staff that held back the waters.  But, now it is the Ark of the Covenant that holds back the waters of the Jordan so that the Israelites can cross into the land that the LORD had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 

Word about the first crossing on dry land had spread far and wide.  Rahab (from yesterday's reading) knew about how God had helped the Israelites escape the Egyptian Army by parting the Red Sea. She knew and so did most everyone else in Jericho and they were afraid.  If they already knew the story of the crossing of the Red Sea and were afraid; and then witness this crossing of the river Jordan, can you imagine the fear that this second crossing of the waters by the multitudes of Israelites all in ritual procession, would cause in the hearts and minds of the people that Israel was about to conquer? 

We too have passed through the waters - the waters of baptism.  There is no need to shrink back in fear from things of this world for God has promised you a kingdom, a place in that promised land.  It is time to take possession of the inheritance that God has promised you.  Do not be afraid. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Rahab's Integrity?

Joshua 2

Later this week, I will be attending as a guest leader at a forum called LeaderShape, sponsored by Michigan Tech...  There will be at least one politician and I believe business persons/leaders from Dow Corning and IBM, as well myself.  I will be the religious representative as well as a co-owner of a small private business in the health care service field.  We will be discussing qualities of good leaders.  I am thinking that the subject of integrity will come up.  And this morning I am wondering about Rahab's... 

What exactlly is integrity?  One of the things I have taught youth is that it is doing the right thing even when no one is looking.  So that brings us to the next question:  What is the right thing?  Is the right thing what is best for you?  For your family or friends?  For the majority?  For the minority?  Or is the right thing that which is done according to the will of God?  And... not according to any bias of our own unless our bias is to do the will of God.

In the case of Rahab, she is a traitor to her people.  Is she that, because of personal fear?  Fear for her family?  Fear for her future?  Or does she protect those who are called by God (Joshua's two men and consequently all the Israelites) because she feels that this is the right thing to do according to the will of God?

When I've considered integrity, I've often thought that it has to do with being willing to die for what one believes.  Another saying goes something like:  "If it's worth living for, then it's worth dieing for."  "Take up your cross and follow..."  means one is willing to die to follow in the footsteps of Jesus - to do the will of God.  The willingness to do that for what one believes (whether I believe what they believe is right or wrong) is to me, integrity. 

Rahab was indeed risking her life by being a traitor to her people.  They could have found her out and killed her.  But, if she didn't betray her people, it was pretty much assured that she would die when the army led by Joshua destroyed Jericho.  How long had she debated where she would place her loyalties, with whom, and why?  Motivation means a lot in the final analysis of integrity.  But, in the end no one but God and Rahab know for sure if she acted with integrity or cowardice and fear. 

As a leader in both the religious field and in small business (also service related), I am wondering how many employees are actually motivated to serve with integrity.  How many are willing to serve with integrity, to do what they are suppose to be doing, even when no one is looking?  And how has your integrity (or maybe lack of) influenced your children and future generations?  Will it be a positive or negative future we have to look forward to?  In regards to this countries economy, actually it whole future, as another familiar saying infers:  If you're not part of the solution, then you're probably part of the problem.  

God's Peace - I am off to the office... Pr. J

Monday, January 2, 2012


Joshua 1

I am out of the woods (not really - just changed wildernesses) and back on my home keyboard - so hopefully - the typos will be down.  Seems as technology advances - it can be more difficult for some of us to figure out these new fangled devices.  I'm not a picture type of person.  Cannot for the life of me, figure out half of the icons.  What was wrong with MSDOS Prompt?  Can't even get a full keyboard on some of the machines because you're only suppose to use 2 fingers (or thumbs) to type :)  Yeah, right....

Things change all the time....  And for the Israelites there is a major change going on.  Moses is gone and Joshua, who has been chosen by God, is going to lead the people into the land that God has given them.  He gives it to them.  Yet, they still have to go in and possess it.  Sort of like those gifts you received for Christmas (but much better).  Someone gave you those gifts, but if you don't unwrap them and actually use them they're not worth much to you.  If you put the gifts on a shelf and never use them, what good are they?  Just like that new Eee pad my husband gave me; I'm not real excited about learning how to use it proficiently.  I like my old computer just fine.  But, when I'm not at my old computer and I'm out on the road someplace; if I want mobile access, I will have to take it out of the box and actually use it.  Things change all the time.  There is going to be a new day tomorrow.  There will be new gifts.  There will be new challenges.  But, some things never change.  The Word of the Lord never changes.  The word in Joshua, chapter 1, reminds us to be strong and of good courage as we follow in the way of the Lord and receive the promised land. 

God's word does not change...  May you receive His promises even as He has chosen to give them to you.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

May You Live A Life As Vigorous As Moses

Deuteronomy 34

120 years old and his sight was unimpaired! And his vigor was unabated! (NRSV)

I'm not quite 1/2 that old and cannot say the same. I have to wait for awhile after I wake up in the mornings to even read the Bible. Everything is blurry for at least the first 30 minutes to an hour. Moses indeed was blessed. Yes, there were a couple of instances that he did not honor the LORD as he should have, but if we could only attempt to be so faithful. Moses led the people out of bondage to the promised land as the LORD directed him. If we could but listen and obey half as well. With the blessings Moses endured much for the LORD and his people. It all causes me to think about stewardship of Good's gifts. Moses received the gift of good sight and vigor because he needed these gifts to lead the people to the promised land. Now it is time for Joshua to use his gifts to possess the land which God has given the.m