Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Our Winning Advantage ...

"And David had success in all his undertakings, for the LORD was with him. And when Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in fearful awe of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, for he went out and came in before them." - 1 Samuel 18:14-16 
The "Seahawks" is a National Football Team located in Seattle. Seahawk fans are nationally known as the loudest in the league. They have such an influence at home games that they are referred to as the 12the man. I am personally bothered by this phenomenon, since it has made it very difficult for my football team to win in Seattle. This is a team that has a winning advantage, and fans love it, opponents fear it ... but the Coach is pleased.
David was a young warrior, with little experience, but incredibly successful. Why? Because he had a winning advantage. The LORD was with him and he "had more success than all the servants of Saul, so that his name was highly esteemed." (18:30) As a result, all Israel and Judah loved David, but Saul grew fearful of his success. At the end of the day, no matter who loved him or feared him, the most important fact was ... the LORD was pleased.
Do you have a 12th man my friend? Do you have a winning advantage in life? If you know the Lord and walk with him you most certainly do. Jesus said in John 15:5 ...  "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." And Paul said in Philippians 4:13 ... "I can do all things through him (Christ)  who strengthens me." Jesus is our winning advantage, and no matter what others think of us, all that matters is ... that HE is pleased.

Monday, April 29, 2019

A Matter of the Heart...

"But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” - 1 Samuel 16:7
And then there's the wisdom of the age ... "Dress for Success.", "You are what you wear", or "You are what you drive". Many a well equipped and qualified individual has been turned down by employers due to their appearance. Credibility is often lost within the first five seconds of walking into an interview. Why? "Because "Clothes Make the man." It's a timeless, Biblical truth ... "Man looks on the outward appearance."
Eliab must have appeared to be quite the man when he entered the room. Samuel was sure that he had found God's choice for king. Why? Because he was focused on the outer appearance. Apparently,  Samuel had forgotten all about Samson...strong on the outside but weak on the inside. After all the brothers had passed by, God's choice puzzled everyone. The LORD looked on the inside and found a man after His own heart.
Before we judge too quickly, take the time to listen to another's heart. The outer appearance may be striking, but is there a heart for God? Then again, how do you dress for success? Do you spend hours in the gym, choose the right clothes and drive the coolest car? Or, have you chosen to grow a deep inner life that mirrors the heart of God? Don't be so concerned about impressing others and fail to honor the Lord.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Trust His Heart ...

"For the LORD will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for himself." - 1 Samuel 12:22 
Our understanding of the Lord is often skewed by our own life experiences. There are some people who give up their children for adoption, some pass them off to relatives, and others just abandon them. Such cases confuse and harden the heart toward any future promise of love and care. When a birth mother and father have no concern for their own child it creates serious doubt toward our Heavenly Father's love.
The time period of the Judges was a harsh and troubling time for Israel. While the dark days came due to their own rebellion and idolatry, it was still a roller coaster experience. Now, as they rejected the Kingship of the LORD, future grace and blessing came into question. Would they be abandoned? Would they actually be destroyed by their many enemies? The above promise places their hope right on the LORD Himself. They were His people, loved for His name's sake and chosen for His purposes.
Take heart my friend. When you feel like you've failed the LORD far too often, and believe that He will cast you aside, STOP. Jesus said...  "You did not choose me, but I chose you" (John 15:16) and Paul wrote ... "In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will" (Ephesians 1:4-5) ... then Peter wrote ... "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9) You are chosen, loved and adopted for His purpose. It's all about Him...Trust His Heart.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Rebellion ...

"And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has also rejected you from being king.” -  1 Samuel 15:22-23
I grew up in the sixties. Those years made such phrases as "Question Authority" quite popular. From the same era we heard such lyrics as "Born to be Wild". And then there was the interesting quip, "If it feels good, do it". These thoughts, and many others, were expressed by a generation totally resistant to rules or obedience. While they thought they invented this philosophy, it was as old as the garden of eden... rebellion.
The Lord blessed Saul with great opportunities and privileges. Victories were beginning to develop and the people were trusting his leadership. Then, pride came into the picture and Saul started to do things his own way. He began to question authority and did what he felt was good. He started to lead on the wild side. But, the time came for accountability and it became quite clear that he had given way to the sin of eden... rebellion.
The words are more sobering than we would like..."For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry."  There is nothing new or exciting about rejecting the Word of the LORD. It may be enticing at first, but in the end it bites like the serpent it is. God delights in the obedient heart, not in our own ingenuity. Ultimately, there are only two choices ... His way or our way... Choose wisely. 

Friday, April 26, 2019

Hold the Rope ...

"Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way." - 1 Samuel 12:23 
When William Carey, who was best known as the “father of the modern missionary movement,” died in 1834 at 73, he had seen the Scriptures translated and printed into forty languages, the mission he founded train 30 missionaries, 40 native teachers, establish 45 stations and substations, and approximately 600 souls converted to Christ. But, before Carey left for India, he asked his close friend Andrew Fuller for support and prayer... “Well, I will go down, if you will hold the rope.”  
Samuel was saying farewell to the people he had led for man years. The people were moving into the future with pleas for prayer. They knew their sin had been great and they feared God's judgment. But, Samuel assured them that if they followed the Lord with their whole heart, they would do well. Last of all, he promised to pray for them. They would go forward, but he would hold the rope.
We send missionaries out to parts unknown every year. Our own church has a number of missionaries that we support. They are located in various places of service, faithfully and sacrificially giving of themselves to reach the unreached. They aren't fearful like the Israelites, but they do face great danger, physically and spiritually. Will they succeed in their calling? Will there be great fruit for their labor? Well, they have gone down, and now it's up to us to hold the rope

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Less or Best?

"And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.  According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. 
Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”  - 1 Samuel 8:7-9
Imagine that you're in the hospital with a serious condition. Your doctor prescribes a treatment that may be a little uncomfortable. So, you ask the orderly for his opinion, and you follow that advice rather than your doctor's. How do you think that will work out for you? Obviously, the one with greater knowledge and skill will provide better help. Why settle for less when you can have the best?
Israel had traveled for years with the LORD at the helm. They went through seasons of rebellion, but when they repented and cried out, deliverance came. God had never failed them, and always blessed them with abundant care. Now, they decided to ask for a king to reign over them, rather than the LORD. How would that work out for them? They were clearly warned, but made the choice ... to settle for less when they had the best!
Where do you turn first when you need direction, counsel, provision, or any number of needs met? Think about it ... what do you do first when you lose your job? Do you go to the want ads or unemployment? What do you do first when your old clunker won't run anymore? Do you call a local car dealer? These and many other situations come your way every day. But, where do you turn first? The Lord has the greatest knowledge and skill to meet your every need, if you will only ask.  So, why settle for less when you can have the best?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Yesterday, today and forever ...

"Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.” - 1 Samuel 7:12
Two Scrolls with Chinese characters graced the mantel of Hudson Taylor’s (1832–1905) home. The Chinese calligraphy depicted two names that reminded the founder of China Inland Mission of God’s faithful provision: Ebenezer and Jehovah-Jireh. Taylor wanted to be reminded that God's help had been there thus far, and was yet to be given... Yesterday, today, and forever.
After twenty long years, Israel had finally returned to the Lord in repentance. But, the enemy was waiting to attack, and the call went out for Samuel to pray for God's help. In response, the Lord threw the enemy into confusion, which led to their ultimate defeat. Samuel set up a stone of remembrance and called it Ebenezer, which means "Till now the LORD has helped us". Israel needed to always remember that the LORD would be their help...Yesterday, today and forever. 
How are you doing today my friend? Has the Lord been your help thus far? Do you believe that He will be there for you today and tomorrow? Take a moment to reflect on the following lyrics from the old hymn "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing"... "Here I raise my Ebenezer, Here there by Thy great help I've come, And I hope, by Thy good pleasure, Safely to arrive at home". Remember, Jehovah-Jireh will be YOUR provider... yesterday, today and forever.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019


"She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly." - 1 Samuel 1:10
 My son was a little over a year old. He was in the hospital with a major ear infection and the Doctor asked for a blood test. Jeremy was already in great pain and this was over the top. He cried uncontrollably. I sat there holding him in my arms crying as well. The tears of my hurting son brought his father's tears. 
Hannah may have prayed many times before, but on this day she wept bitterly. She was so distraught that Eli took her to be drunk. But, the Lord was clearly moved by her tears. In time she had a son, and over the years was blessed with five more children. I believe that the tears of a hurting daughter brought the tears of her heavenly Father. 
Tears matter to God. They are not the only means to move the heart of God, but when they come from a yielded broken heart, they matter. When Jesus approached at the tomb of Lazarus and saw Mary weeping, he wept. Tears matter to God. In the new heaven and new earth God will wipe every tear from our eyes. Bring your tears to your heavenly Father, because tears matter to him. 

Monday, April 22, 2019

A Love Story ...

"And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David." - Ruth 4:17 
The marriage of Marie and Pierre Curie produced discoveries in physics and chemistry that were the basis of modern X-ray technology. Their daughter, Irène Joliot-Curie, followed in her parents' footsteps and shared the 1935 Nobel Prize for Chemistry with her husband Frédéric for their discovery of artificial radioactive activity. Here was a love story that led to life change for many.
The story of Ruth and Boaz tells of God bringing great blessing to a couple in a most inspiring manner. But, the story doesn't end with a small family in a tiny town named Bethlehem. The little baby would grow up and father a boy named Jesse, who in turn would grow up and father a boy named David. David would become the King of Israel and so, a love story brought life change to an entire nation.
A great many generations later, a young couple who were distant relatives of Ruth and Boaz, were blessed with a baby, conceived from the Holy Spirit. His name was Jesus. Their love story brought life change to a vast multitude, up to today. God moved in mysterious ways in that little town of Bethlehem in the latter days of the Judges. And He's still doing wonders today. Have you been changed by His eternal love story my friend? ... “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Choose wisely ...

"In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." - Judges 21:25 
Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities begins with the words ... "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times". Life is full of such times. On one day we bid farewell to a loved one as they enter eternity and on that very same day we welcome a newborn into our family. On another day we receive notice that we've been laid off from our job, and that afternoon our doctor calls with the news that we're finally cancer free...best of times, worst of times. But, not by choice.
As we journeyed through Joshua and Judges we came to this poignant ending... "Everyone did what was right in his own eyes". All the promises of God were fulfilled with the settling of the land of milk and honey. The pasture land was rich, the harvest was plentiful, and the winepress was overflowing. The best of times. But, as the years passed, the LORD was forgotten and people lost their way in selfish, godless, and sinful pursuits. The days were filled murder, immorality, treachery and abject depravity. The worst of times. They chose foolishly.
Is it possible to experience the best of times all the time? First of all, when we "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" (Matthew 6:33), we can experience the best of times. Second, when our faith remains firm in the One who causes... "all things (to) work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28) we can experience the best of times. But... "The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away".(Psalm 1:4) Thus... the worst of times. It's a matter of choice. Choose wisely.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Actions lead to results ...

"Then all the people of Israel came out, from Dan to Beersheba, including the land of Gilead, and the congregation assembled as one man to the LORD at Mizpah. And the chiefs of all the people, of all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God, 400,000 men on foot that drew the sword. (Now the people of Benjamin heard that the people of Israel had gone up to Mizpah.) And the people of Israel said, “Tell us, how did this evil happen?” - Judges 20:1-3  
A child makes a small snowball at the top of a very high hill. He rolls it down the hill and when it reaches the bottom, now larger than life, it knocks a walker off his feet. How did this happen? A smoker drops her half finished cigarette into the dry grass and a nearby building burns to the ground. How did this happen? Actions lead to results.
The levite and concubine story is unbelievably horrific. The nation had reached an all time low in wickedness and perversion. The tribes were called together for justice to be served. The question was asked "How did this evil happen?" Really? We've been reading of years upon years of ongoing godless evil throughout the nation. As a leader would die, the people would return to more depraved living. Eventually, evil actions would have to lead to evil results.
The scriptures are clear on this point ..."Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life." (Galatians 6:7-8) So, don't be surprised when evil begets evil my friend. Plant a godly life and you will reap a blessed life. Actions lead to results.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Nothing left ...

"And he said, “You take my gods that I made and the priest, and go away, and what have I left? How then do you ask me, ‘What is the matter with you?’”  - Judges 18:24
"What have I left?"... One of life's most provoking questions at the moment of major loss. Someone loses their home to a fire, tornado, hurricane, flood or earthquake. They sift through the ashes or debris to find some small remembrance of their life. The  loss is absolute and complete. Especially when one's whole life and total value is bound up in earthly treasures... then there's nothing left.
For Micah, his whole world was wrapped up in the gods that he made and the priest that he hired. His faith was empty at best and quickly lost. No matter what he did, or how much he grieved, it was all lost. He built his life on the sand of a man-made religion that was bought and paid for, but suddenly gone. He finally realized that without the true LORD, there was nothing left.
No matter how well planned our religious life may be, it can be nothing more than a wind blown sand dune. Our religion can look good from the outside, sound good as we practice it, and appear better than others. But, a real faith can't be bought or man-made. The day will eventually come when the storms come and our self-made life will be ravaged. Don't be caught in wind and the waves without the true LORD, or you will suddenly wake up to the stark reality that there's nothing left.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

But he did not know ...

"And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him." - Judges 16:20 
Age gets the best of everyone. Once upon a time I could swim and body surf from dawn to dusk and stay up into the wee hours. I could play a round of golf and still wrestle both my boys when I returned home. I could return a softball from right field with very little effort for hours on end. But, after four surgeries and the passage of a good many years, I'm no longer forever young. There are days though, that I jump into a task believing that I can go at it as other times, forgetting that my youthfulness had left me.
Samson wasn't old; he was just worn down by sin. He had been a powerful presence for years. His strength and resolve were legendary. Yet, throughout all his exploits, his actions grew more sinful and his attitude toward sin grew more careless. He failed to see how close he was to losing his God given power. He played with sin like it was a toy to entertain. Then one day he woke up in real danger and thought: “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free. But he did not know that the LORD had left him.
Ageing is serious, but sinning is even more so. Age can't be avoided, but sin can be. We all know that age will slow us down, but we don't think that sin can really hinder us from an abundant life. Paul the apostle stated a simple, but profound truth in Romans 6:23  ... "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." Be wise and say no to sin and turn to Christ, before you wake up and find that life has left you for dead.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

God has a plan...

"And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” - Judges 13:3-5
As my two sons grew old enough to contemplate their future, they both asked me what they should choose for a career. My answer was always the same... pray about it and ask the Lord to make His will known. Unlike many parents who planned their children's future, my wife and I never suggested a career to either son. We believed that God had a plan.
The story of Samson begins with a revelation to his parents. Even before the child was conceived, the Lord made his purpose known. The days ahead would require strict discipline in the home and in years to come Manoah and his wife would experience great heartbreak. But, while God was at work in their lives, He was also responding to the spiritual decay of the nation. To everyone's surprise, God had a plan.
Be careful not to limit the calling of God to a select few. The Lord spoke in Jeremiah 1:5 ... “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Paul also noted in Galatians 1:15... "But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace," No birth is by chance. God always has a plan.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Do something...

"Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more. Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.” And the people of Israel said to the Lord, “We have sinned; do to us whatever seems good to you. Only please deliver us this day.” So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord, and he became impatient over the misery of Israel." - Judges 10:13-16
Are you a diabetic? Do you have someone in your life that has diabetes? My father-in-law was diagnosed with diabetes somewhere in his fifties. He lived a very full and productive life well into his eighties. He enjoyed reasonably good health due to putting harmful foods out of his life. Recognizing an illness is only a start, but then we need to do something about it.
Once again, Israel woke up to the fact that she was sin sick. She cried out in confession and full surrender to the Lord. But  this wasn't enough. Confession needed to be followed by a change of behavior. "So they put away the foreign gods from among them." It was only afterward that the Lord began to respond to her misery. Recognizing our sin is only a start, but sincere repentance always does something about it.
God's mercy and grace is never for sale or earned. But, when we find ourselves in trouble with sin sickness, our behavior needs to change. Consider the new believers in Ephesus... "Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily." (Acts 19:20) If you're sin sick today, are you ready to do something about it?

Monday, April 15, 2019

God never forgets...

"As soon as Gideon died, the people of Israel turned again and whored after the Baals and made Baal-berith their god. And the people of Israel did not remember the Lord their God, who had delivered them from the hand of all their enemies on every side, and they did not show steadfast love to the family of Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) in return for all the good that he had done to Israel." - Judges 8:33-35
Why are we so inspired when we read a story about some veteran, retired firefighter, or local hero who is honored many years after their sacrifice? Why is such a recognition so highlighted in the news? Why do we feel the need to build monuments for significant moments such as 9/11? The answer is more than simple... How soon we forget!
The days recorded in Judges were full of hardship and turmoil. Revivals led by the judges lasted just long enough for the water to get hot. God appointed deliverers, like Gideon, made sacrifices and inspired renewed faith in the Lord over and over again. People were blessed with restored freedoms and prosperity by such leaders. But, as they stepped off the scene... How soon they were forgotten.
Is it any different for you today my friend? How many times have you poured out time, energy and money for a ministry with no recognition given. Sure, you give out of a selfless heart, but wouldn't it be nice to be remembered? Paul has a word of counsel for this in Colossians 3:23-24 ... "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward."  Remember this... Men have short memories of our ministry labors, but God never forgets.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Test drives ...

"They were for the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the LORD, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses." - Judges 3:4
You go to the dealer to buy a new car. He offers you the opportunity to test drive the vehicle of your choice. You take him up on his offer and off you go on your test drive. What will you be looking for in your test drive? Are you interested in a smooth ride, great music, or a precise GPS? Maybe you will see how it takes the corners at 95 miles per hour and yet, stops on a dime. Whatever you're looking for, the test drive will prove the automobiles true quality.
The Lord decided at this moment in the life of Israel to send her for a test drive. She was surrounded by pagan peoples and temptations galore. Why didn't the He see to it that those ungodly nations were removed? They were the part and parcel of the test drive. Would God's people slip away into disobedience? How far would they go before they cried out in repentance? What would be their true quality?
Very often we too find the Lord sending us out for a test drive. No matter how we try to insulate ourselves from all forms of evil, they keep on coming. We are exposed to the influence of ungodliness and sinful temptations at every corner. We diligently pray that they be removed, but the Lord sends us back into the valley again and again. But, in the midst of the test drive we're reminded that ... "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13) You see, every test drive will prove your true quality ... how will you do?

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Size doesn't matter ...

"And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” And the LORD said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” - Judges 6:15-16
We were dog sitting this last week. We spent each morning watching two K9s wrestle with each other just for fun. One dog was a yellow lab weighing in at 60 lbs and the other dog was a Jack Russell mix weighing in at about 20 lbs. The interesting part of the show was watching the little guy take the big one down, over and over. Where courage and faith exists, size just doesn't matter.
The story of Gideon is just as interesting. His résumé didn't reflect much confidence in his family or his abilities. The contemporary circumstances were even more bleak. But, it had already been established that Gideon was a "mighty man of valor" in the Lord's eyes (vs.12). No matter what his past was, when the Lord placed His confidence in him and promised to be with him, size just didn't matter.
How about you my friend? Are you worn down by the daily pressures, failures, and overwhelming obstacles? Do you see yourself weak and beat in the face of the enemy? Have you ever spoken similar words as these ... "And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us?" Well, please remember... "... you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world." (1 John 4:4) Therefore, in the eyes of God you are a mighty person of valor and ... size just doesn't matter.


Friday, April 12, 2019

One generation away...

"And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel. And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals." - Joshua 2:10-11
"Oh, for the good old days!". Many people say that life was better, safer, easier and simpler. Others disagree and look back and remember troubles, hardships, inconveniences and injustice. No matter how you look at it, every age has it's good, bad and ugly moments. One thing is for certain, the next generation will be different from the last. But, will it be better or worse? 
For the people of Israel, the days of glory were slowly slipping away. They had seen the Lord perform amazing miracles and provide incredible victories. They were now living the dream. The land of milk and honey was finally theirs to enjoy. The old guard was gone and the young turks were now in charge. But, the sad truth had arrived... We're never more than one generation away from complete apostasy.
A word to the wise... No matter how good, bad or ugly the past has been, the future could be far worse. Our children and grandchildren hold that future in their hands. And, if we don't invest in the spiritual life and godly maturity of the next generation, we too will face the same dilemma... Because, we are never more than one generation away from complete apostasy.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

All the difference ...

“Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” - Joshua 24:14-15
Choices... A sports car or family car? Vacationing at the shore or in the mountains? An Apple or Android tablet? Buying a house or renting an apartment? Taking the parkway to work or the back roads? Life is full of choices every day, but is making the right choice all that important? The well known poet, Robert Frost, says yes ... "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference."
The land was settled and everyday life was now in play. Time would pass and temptations would flourish. Joshua would soon slip off the scene and a new generation would take the lead. In a very short time, everyone in Israel would do that which was right in their own eyes. His last words of farewell were poignant. He knew the tendency of the people and expected that they would choose one or another false god... but he and his house would serve the LORD. And that would make all the difference.
We too can fall prey to making poor choices and experience hard times. Our world is also full of temptations and our hearts can pull us aside from godly living very quickly. The only way to stay on the right road is to be intentional and plan ahead. We need to choose the one less traveled... Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (Matthew 7:13-14)  And that will make all the difference.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Not quite...

"Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass." - Joshua 21:45
Contracts, guarantees, and vows are made every day for a variety of reasons. The builder you hired promised to be finished by a certain date... Not quite. The watch you bought was advertised waterproof... Not quite. The marriage partner promised to be faithful until death... Not quite. Therefore, the cynic declares that promises are made to be broken. Not quite.
One warm day in the middle of the desert, the LORD appeared from a burning bush to an old Shepherd named Moses. He began to make promise after promise. Some promises had already been made generations before. Then, as the days, months, and years unfolded, each and every promise was fulfilled. Wasn't there at least one or two promises broken? Not quite.
From the very first day we met our Savior, promises were made to us. He promised grace to save, grace to keep, grace to help and grace to serve. He promised his protection, his provision and his presence. He promised his Spirit, his strength and his security. Paul put it this way in 2 Corinthians 1:20... "For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory."  Wasn't there at least one or two promises broken? Not quite.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Until the Storm passes...

"And he shall remain in that city until he has stood before the congregation for judgment, until the death of him who is high priest at the time. Then the manslayer may return to his own town and his own home, to the town from which he fled.’” - Joshua 20:6
My wife and I grew up on Eastern Long Island. Over the years we experienced a few hurricanes that passed right over the island. Our home church was a safe haven for families who lived too close to the shore for comfort. When the warnings and evacuations were announced, people came. But, they needed to stay until the storm passed.
Such was the case with the cities of refuge. They were conveniently located for the whole population. Life threatening danger lurked after an accidental death and these cities provided protection. While they were places of safe haven for those in need, it was necessary to "remain in the city" until the storm passed.
Life surrounds us with different types of danger. When we wake up to the reality of danger, we are quick to seek refuge in the Lord. He graciously provides guidance and provision each step of the way. But, how often do we slip out the back door of His direction and hedge of protection to test the waters? Remember... It's necessary to to remain in the center of His protective will, until the storm of life passes.

Monday, April 8, 2019

You Can Do It ...

"Then Joshua said to the house of Joseph, to Ephraim and Manasseh, “You are a numerous people and have great power. You shall not have one allotment only, but the hill country shall be yours, for though it is a forest, you shall clear it and possess it to its farthest borders. For you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.” - Joshua 17:17-18  
One of the most inspiring moments in Olympic history took place in the 1996 USA gymnastics competition. Kerri Strug fell during her first vault attempt, tearing two ligaments in her ankle. She had one more attempt, and she landed an almost perfect landing on both feet to win the Gold. All the while her coach, Bela Karolyi, was yelling "YOU CAN DO IT!" Encouragement can make all the difference.
When the house of Joseph saw the hill country and Canaanites, they were greatly dismayed. "Chariots of Iron", they said! The hills were a thick forest and the plains were filled with powerful enemies. How could they hope to clear the land and conquer the Chariots of Iron? Then Joshua gave them words to embolden them... “You are a numerous people and have great power."  In other words, Joshua told them "YOU CAN DO IT"... and they did. Encouragement can make all the difference.
You are standing at a fork in the road every day my friend. The challenges are different, but the question is always the same...can you do it? There are words of great assurance for you in the Philippians 4:13 ... "I can do all things through him who strengthens me."  It basically says ... "YOU CAN DO IT". Take heart, because His Words of Encouragement make all the difference.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Nothing is Impossible ... with God

"So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city." - Joshua 6:20
During one of the last years of my pastoral ministry, our church faced a huge financial demand. Over a period of twelve months, without warning, we had to pay out $111,000 in addition to our already "stretched to the limit" budget. We prayed long and hard, through prayer meetings, prayer vigils and concerts of prayer. Yet, we started to wonder if we would need to sell the church building and our parsonage. But, when the year ended, all our bills were paid and our budget was also completely up to date... Nothing is impossible with God.
The Lord performed an absolutely amazing miracle on the day the walls of Jericho came down. There wasn't a hand laid on the walls, no battering rams, no stones, no human force of any kind. The people were called upon to just take a daily walk, play some music and shout to the Lord. The citizens of Jericho must have been ridiculing the Israelites every step of the way. But, when the final moment arrived, Israel came to understand for years to come, that ... Nothing is impossible with God.
The Lord didn't perform the Jericho miracle again, because once was enough to send the message home. We don't need for God to do amazing, earth shattering miracles every time we pray. But, when He does we should sit up and take notice. The Lord breaks into our lives and moves mountains for many reasons. Sometimes, it's not just about the momentary need, but to strengthen our faith for the days ahead. We occasionally need to be reminded, that ... Nothing is impossible with God.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Can Do ...

"But the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the people of Judah could not drive out, so the Jebusites dwell with the people of Judah at Jerusalem to this day." - Joshua 15:63 
"And David and all Israel went to Jerusalem, that is, Jebus, where the Jebusites were, the inhabitants of the land. The inhabitants of Jebus said to David, “You will not come in here.” Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David." - 1 Chronicles 11:4-5 
When my wife and I were informed that I had prostate cancer we were given three choices. I could select radiation treatment, surgical removal of the prostate or let it ride until the cancer took me. We chose to have the prostate surgically removed. Why, you ask? We believed that removing the cancer from my body completely would provide the most promising future.
In a different realm, the people of Judah cleared the land of all those who posed a moral and physical threat to their future in the land. They followed the Lord's direction all the way except with the Jebusites. Why it was that they "could not" remove them, remains unknown. But, Joshua was told by the One who caused the Sun to stand still and fought for Israel ... "Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses...No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you." (Joshua 1:3, 5)
The rest of the story took place around four hundred years later when... "Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David." (2 Samuel 5:7) Remember when we "could not", and then God showed up and it "could". We serve a "can do" God and when He promises His presence and power, choosing to be a David will give us the most promising future.

Friday, April 5, 2019

Purpose and Pleasure ...

"And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the LORD spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. So now give me this hill country of which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the LORD said.” - Joshua 14:10-12
A Retirement Study by Merrill Lynch, written in 2016, contained a section entitled "The Coming Leisure Boom". It reported the following: "Last year, retired boomers spent more than any other group on leisure travel. As the age wave progresses, the retirement leisure economy will diversify and multiply to an estimated cumulative total of $4.6 trillion." This says a lot about contemporary purpose and pleasure. Is pleasure our purpose, or purpose our pleasure?
Caleb had reached an age to step down and let the young bucks take the lead. He had paid to price of faithfulness and he deserved a break. But, this man of God considered no such thing. He saw a challenge, an opportunity to lead his tribe into a new land and serve his Lord with zeal. Caleb faced his latter years with purpose and pleasure. His purpose to serve God with all his strength was his pleasure.
As you move on in life, what's your goal my friend? Do you have a plan for retirement? What does that plan include? Golf, fishing, boating, traveling? Will you be part of those who will spend $4.6 trillion on leisure? To what end will you use your time, talent and treasure? Is pleasure your purpose, or is your purpose to serve God with all your strength... your pleasure? 

Thursday, April 4, 2019

How Big is Your God?

"At that time Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, “Sun, stand still at Gibeon, and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.” And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, until the nation took vengeance on their enemies. Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD heeded the voice of a man, for the LORD fought for Israel." - Joshua 10:12-14
"Sunrise, Sunset" ... "The Sun will come out tomorrow" ...  and so goes popular songs and our daily expectations. There was a time when the eclipse of the Sun or Moon was astounding and even frightening. But, we live in an age when we yawn through astronomical wonders and expect nothing to occur out of the norm. Our imaginations are seduced by a Superman, but our expectations are skeptical of the Supernatural.
The story is a simple as it can be ... Joshua spoke to Lord in prayer, the Lord responded to his request and the Sun stood still for about a whole day. Without apology the event is recorded to testify of an almighty God who controls His creation for His purposes. By this time the imaginations of Joshua and Israel were swept away by the power of a Super God. Afterward, they would begin each day with great expectations for the Supernatural.
Don't be crippled by the small minds that seek to explain this passage away my friend. I simply ask you... How big is your God? We are told in Colossians 1:17 that Jesus Christ "... is before all things, and in him all things hold together."  and in Hebrews 1:3 "He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power..." So, pray and live each day with your imagination swept away by a Super God and with great expectations for the Supernatural.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Ask first ...

"So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the LORD." - Joshua 9:14 
Some years ago we were at a holiday dinner with a number of friends. Various condiments were on the table, including Wasabi. One of the guests had never heard of Wasabi and didn't ask about it. They simply took a heaping spoonful and ate it all in one bite along with their meal. Needless to say, the outcome was both surprising and troubling.
As the story before us unfolded, we saw a similar occasion when the Lord wasn't asked and a huge mistake was made. A decision was made on deceitful information without any further inquiry of the One who knows all things. The outcome was both surprising and troubling.
While too much Wasabi can burn going down and wreck an otherwise enjoyable meal, other decisions can wreck your life. Why race ahead into a long term commitment when you don't know the whole story? Who better to ask than the Lord? We may not always like His answer, but He certainly knows what's right in every situation. When we fail to ask, the outcome can be quite surprising and troubling.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

His Agenda...

"When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” And the commander of the Lord's army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so." - Joshua 5:13-15
Life is all about sides. You have to pick a team, political party, or business model. You are expected to have an answer to "Are you for or against?" It really doesn't matter why you choose, it just matters that you do choose. Arguments are well prepared to confront those who are "against", and praise is ready for those who are "for". So, by knowing where you stand, they know how to respond to your agenda.
The moment before us is somewhat the same as modern day. Joshua needed to know whether this man was for or against Israel. In Joshua's mind, it was just that simple. But, with the Lord it's never just "for or against",  it's  all about "... the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will"  (Ephesians 1:11) This is His agenda.
As you face the week ahead, with forks in the road and decisions to make, how will you choose? Do you look for someone who's on your side for good counsel. Or, are you open to another view or option? When you take things to the Lord, are you under the persuasion that He is on your side? If you really want His blessing, you'll take off your sandals and bow to His agenda.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Things go better ...

"This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. " - Joshua 1:8
Between 1965 to 1969 thirty nine popular singers or music groups were employed to perform "Things Go Better With Coke". The commercial was sung by the Bee Gees, Moody Blues, Box Tops, Supremes, Jan & Dean, Neil Diamond, Leslie Gore and Roy Orbison, to name just a few. During those years it became pretty clear that life goes much better with one thing... A Bottle of Coke.
As the Israelites were about to enter the promised land, Joshua was appointed to take the lead. WIth his knowledge, experience, and resources one would think that he had all that was needed. But the Lord saw the situation in a much different light. He knew that if Joshua was to prosper and succeed on the battlefield and in leadership, things would go much better with one thing...The Book of the Law.
TImes have changed, but the challenges of life remain very much the same. We can accumulate all the knowledge, experience, and resources that we desire for the task ahead, but we will always need something more. That something will change our hearts and fill our minds with the wisdom of the ages. No matter what your career or calling may be, life will always go much better with one thing ... The Word of God.