Monday, June 29, 2015

Achsah's Request

Good morning,

In Joshua 15:13-19 we have a little-known love story.

13 He gave Caleb son of Jephunneh the following portion among the descendants of Judah based on the Lord’s instruction to Joshua: Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron; Arba was the father of Anak). 14 Caleb drove out from there the three sons of Anak: Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai, descendants of Anak.15 From there he marched against the inhabitants of Debir whose name used to be Kiriath-sepher, 16 and Caleb said, “I will give my daughter Achsah as a wife to the one who strikes down and captures Kiriath-sepher.” 17 So Othnielson of Caleb’s brother, Kenaz, captured it, and Caleb gave his daughter Achsah to him as a wife. 18 When she arrived, she persuaded Othniel to ask her father for a field. As she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, “What do you want?” 19 She replied, “Give me a blessing. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me the springs of water also.” So he gave her the upper and lower springs.

Caleb had 3 sons and 1 daughter (1 Chronicles 4:15), whose name was Achsah, which means "adorned" or "bursting the veil".  Remember that Caleb was, at this time, in his later years, at least 85 and perhaps 86 when this story took place.  He deeply desired to capture a prized city in his allotted territory, a city renowned for its learning.  Some have compared Kiriath-sepher to Athens, in Greece, or Alexandria, in Egypt, both ancient cities which contained extensive libraries and universities.

Caleb, so highly respected in not only his tribe of Judah, but also in all of Israel, could have found many champions to conquer this city.  However, Caleb chose to combine the taking of this city with taking care of his only daughter.  In those days, daughters were in no way generally as highly esteemed as were sons.  Achsah must have been someone special.  The young man who took up Caleb's challenge was Othniel, who is also mentioned later in Scripture as being a fine judge/ruler of Israel (Judges 3:8-11). Caleb apparently knew that Othniel favored Achsah and saw an opportunity to make a fine "match".

Othniel and Achsah were first cousins, unless some adoption had occurred in Othniel's case; the Bible does not record any such thing.  In our day, we look somewhat askance upon the marrying of cousins. However, in the Old Testament, no such restrictions were in place.  There were other O.T. marriage restrictions; a whole blog post could be devoted to those.

At any rate, Othniel and Achsah were acquainted and probably had a mutual yearning for each other to begin with.  Othniel was eager, also, to capture such a great city as Kiriath-sepher.  So, he rode forth and conquered it.  Accordingly, Othniel was awarded Achsah as his bride.  For her part, Achsah was given a portion of land by her father.  Although rare, this was not unprecedented.  Achsah was a wise young woman.  She realized that dry land without a water source was not something of great value. Therefore, she asked for additional property: the area with abundant water, which would water her newly acquired land.  Water rights were highly desirable - - - a precious gift.

Some have portrayed Achsah as a "discontented bride", which I don't see as the case.  Instead, she seems to me to be a loving daughter, and a beloved daughter, whose father is happy to grant the request she asked of him.  She went to The Source.  She knew whom to ask!  When asked, Caleb did not merely give her the upper springs or the lower springs, as he could have done.  In fact, had he been perturbed by her request or thought it covetous, he certainly could have responded that way --- or not given her any water rights at all!  But, that is not what happened.  Caleb gave Achsah and Othniel more than that for which she asked.  He gave them an abundant blessing - - - both the upper and the lower springs.

As a benevolent father, Caleb represents God, our benevolent Father.  We, His beloved children, should never be shy to ask God for His blessings, as long as what we ask is in accordance with His will and for His glory.  Psalm 67 was read in every worship service in the Church of England.  It was deemed by those who wrote the Church of England liturgy to be THAT important.  The last verse of the psalm reveals the motivation behind the request for God's blessing:

7 May God bless us! Then all the ends of the earth will give him the honor he deserves.
Psalm 67:7

We see here that we should ask for God's blessing so that God will be praised and honored through OUR blessings received!  We, receiving God's blessings, are a testimony to the whole earth! Hebrews 4:16 speaks of "boldly approaching God's throne of grace".  He wants to meet our needs!

What do you need to boldly ask Him for today?

Father, You know that I woke up this morning thanking You and then asking You for specific blessings.  I thank You for hearing my requests and for answering my prayers.  You know that not all of my petitions have been granted, although I've asked in accordance with Your will and for Your glory.  I submit to Your wisdom and omniscience, Father.  You know best.  I also realize that You do things and grant requests in Your own perfect timing.  Thank you so much for even allowing me to ask.  You pour out blessing upon blessing....more than I even realize.  Blessed be Your name!  In Jesus' matchless name I pray, amen.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

True Love

Good morning,

I honestly do not remember when the Roe v. Wade SCOTUS decision came down.  At the time, I was only 15 and was much more concerned with frivolous things.  In my protected little small-town world, I had not even heard the word "abortion", that I can recall.  Yet, that landmark decision, based not on constitutional right but upon a judicial preference, has bathed this country in blood - - - - almost 56 million pre-born babies killed in our country, to date.

I will ever remember yesterday's SCOTUS decision, to establish another unconstitutional "right", the "right to marriage".  My mother, aunt, uncle and I watched the POTUS deliver his remarks in the aftermath of the decision's announcement.  One of those "Where were you when...." moments.

One of the more troubling things the POTUS said was "Love is love."  In other words, it doesn't matter whom you "love", as long as you "love" them.  This is the new standard in America.  And, under this standard, it won't matter if you want to have 2,3 or 17 partners, it will be accepted; you will be able to get "married" in a civil ceremony (and probably in some churches as well).  It won't matter if you want to marry your German Shepherd.  That will be looked upon benevolently too.  You think that I am being facetious; but, it is coming.  Other "odd couples" will be knocking on the door of the SCOTUS, screaming for legitimacy.

The Founders of this once-great country, whether Christian or Deist, recognized that if this people became unmoored from the moral standards articulated in the Bible, liberty, true liberty, would not stand.  That is happening before our eyes.  What some celebrate as freedom today is merely licentiousness.

Here is the bottom line:  people are doing what is right in their own eyes, and are calling it love, calling it freedom. This was the original sin of Satan, Adam and Eve.  "Did God really say that?"  (Genesis 3:1)  Today, Satan's deception continues. The Bible and its teachings have been scorned, reviled, and rejected.  Sadly, this departure will lead only to increased individual and national ruin.  The Bible is clear.  God does not lie.

God is love, the type of love that is holy, grounded in His own holiness.  True love contains that element of holiness, a reverence which the Bible calls "the fear of God".  Without holiness, all you have is a fake, false type of love.  Self-love is not true love at all.  It is a Satanic counterfeit.

As followers of Jesus Christ, what should be our response to this change in our "mission field"?  Our response should be one of God's true love.  We recognize that we are all fallen creatures, in need of the perfect love of our Savior.  So, in humility we are called to love our neighbors while simultaneously standing for the truth as revealed in Scripture.  This should be our attitude toward any activity or attitude which the Bible calls sin, which God Himself calls sin.  Truth and true love are not mutually exclusive.

Engaging our culture that is hostile to the gospel, let's not fall into the temptation to spread hate by speaking hateful, mean-spirited words.  As He dealt with sinners, our Savior spoke lovingly as He rebuked their sins.  It is God's love and His amazing grace which draws each of us, all of us, to repentance, to turn from our wicked ways, our own besetting sins, whatever they may be.

So, let's stand boldly, yet humbly, Church.  Let's open our arms to receive those ship-wrecked souls who will inevitably come to us, searching for true love.  Let's remember that we bear treasure, and let's share it with a lost and dying world.  We know that the gospel of our living Savior, Jesus Christ, is powerful enough to convert any sinner, to break the most powerful of spiritual bondages, including the bondage of self-love.

We seek to imitate our Lord and Savior.  May His pure love control us.  (2 Cor. 5:14).

Dear Father, may our own personal sins grieve us as deeply as our national sins.  Please bring to the Church, the Body of Christ, repentance and revival.  Equip us, Lord, to carry Your liberating gospel of deliverance to a lost, dying world that is held captive by our enemy, the Evil One.  We praise you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, for how You have given us salvation, through the blood of Jesus Christ, our Lord.  We serve a risen Savior, our living God.  It is in His precious name we pray, amen.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Inheritance III

Good morning,

This (late) morning's post comes from Kentucky, where I have the precious privilege of visiting with my sainted aunt and uncle.  They are the most sweet, godly loved ones!  Both are in their mid-80s, and have battled various health issues.  They have walked with the Lord for many decades and are always such an encouragement to me!  My mother, sister and I drove up here yesterday morning.  Currently, I am sitting on their screened porch, enjoying her beautiful gardens and this delightful weather!

As soon as I wrote the above paragraph, my aunt came out to sit with me and talk about ... inheritance!  LOL!  Isn't that funny?  And, no, I didn't bring it up either, you nay-sayers!  :)

When we visit here, we always share stories.  Stories, history --- a valuable part of our family inheritance!

In Joshua 14, Caleb came to Joshua and reminded him of history:  "Do you remember that first exploratory trip we made into The Land?"  Remember, folks, Joshua and Caleb were the only two of Moses' "spies" who spoke favorably (with faith in God) of the Israelites' chances for success against the giants of Canaan.

A delegation from the tribe of Judah, led by Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite, came to Joshua at Gilgal. Caleb said to Joshua, “Remember what the Lord said to Moses, the man of God, about you and me when we were at Kadesh-barnea. I was forty years old when Moses, the servant of the Lord, sent me from Kadesh-barnea to explore the land of Canaan. I returned and gave an honest report,but my brothers who went with me frightened the people from entering the Promised Land. For my part, I wholeheartedly followed the Lord my God. So that day Moses solemnly promised me, ‘The land of Canaan on which you were just walking will be your grant of land and that of your descendants forever, because you wholeheartedly followed the Lord my God.’
10 “Now, as you can see, the Lord has kept me alive and well as he promised for all these forty-five years since Moses made this promise—even while Israel wandered in the wilderness. Today I am eighty-five years old. 11 I am as strong now as I was when Moses sent me on that journey, and I can still travel and fight as well as I could then. 12 So give me the hill country that the Lord promised me. You will remember that as scouts we found the descendants of Anak living there in great, walled towns. But if the Lord is with me, I will drive them out of the land, just as the Lord said.”
Caleb already possessed great faith in God.  That was his greatest inheritance.  But, he also never forgot the land grant God had made to him 45 years earlier.  He was coming to Joshua, to ask him to make good on God's promise.  God never forgets and always keeps His promises.
It is interesting to me that Caleb did not request any of the Land already conquered.  The portion God had promised him had not yet been subdued.  Not only that - - - it was inhabited by giants!  Here Caleb was, at age 85, still slaying giants.  Amen!  May we be the same - - - if not physically, then at least spiritually!  It was not so much that he was "fearless" in reliance on his own strength.  His faith was what carried him forward and assured him of success - - - his faith in his God!
You see, as I've mentioned in previous blog posts, we have our inheritance from God now, through the rest of our earthly lives as Believers, as part of the Body of Christ, and we will have it through all eternity.  This treasure is meant to carry us to sustain us to death....and beyond.  We should never be deceived into believing that we are "too old" or "done".  God has something for us to do....some giant for us to slay...until our last day here.  Our faith in Jesus Christ, our eternal inheritance, is unfailing because our God is unfailing.  Hallelujah!
Dear Father, great is Your faithfulness!  Morning by morning, new mercies I see.  You provide everything that we need in order to claim our inheritance in You and to serve You until the very end in this life.  Then, we will fully realize our great inheritance, as have Caleb and Joshua and countless others who put their faith in You, as we worship and serve You forever.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Inheritance II

Good morning,

Are you adopted?  I hope so!  I'm not talking about in the natural realm, but the spiritual.  God makes it plain that, whether Jew or Gentile, anyone who is a member of God's spiritual family has been adopted as a son or daughter.  As mentioned yesterday, this begins with experiencing a completely transformative "new birth" through Jesus Christ.  We hear the word of truth and then believe it (Ephesians 1:13).  At that time, our inheritance is conferred.

Yes!  We already possess it, although the full culmination of it will not be realized until we step into the glory of the next life.  Two verses earlier, Paul emphasizes that (Eph. 1:11) this heavenly heritage is God's purpose and will for us, in THIS earthly life!  Right now, God calls us "joint-heirs with Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:17).  Doesn't that amaze you?  It certainly does me!  Simply astounding!

What are the other characteristics of our inheritance?
Back to 1 Peter 1.  In verse 23 we read that our inheritance is "imperishable".  That means it won't spoil.  It has no expiration date and won't "go bad".  It can't ever be corrupted.  It is ETERNAL!

The rings I mentioned in yesterday's post?  They will fade away.  We read stories of people gaining great earthly will last only for their time on earth, if that long.

King David possessed great wealth.  He was a mighty ruler of his day whom some might say "had it all".  But, he realized the meaning of true wealth, and it was the inheritance that was his through faith in God.

Lord, You are my allotted portion
and my cup of blessing;
You hold my future.
The boundary lines have fallen for me
in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

In this life, we may not be granted extensive land holdings, as were the Israelites in the Promised Land.  The land gifts they were given were very good!  We, as Believers, though, have been granted something much greater:  an allotted portion in the Family of God!  What a blessing on which to reflect today!

Dear Lord, I cannot understand why You would choose to elevate us mere created humans to the status you give us through Your Son.  It is...inconceivable!  Yet, it is also very comforting, especially when we are battle-weary.  It may not seem at times that we are "joint-heirs" with Jesus Christ - - - that in addition to being our Savior, He is our Brother and our Bridegroom.  We often feel defeated.  It is at those times that we must run into Your loving arms and keep our hearts fixed on our inheritance, which we will fully inherit in Heaven with You.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Inheritance I

Good morning,

Have you ever inherited anything "of value"?  What makes those items "valuable" to you, anyway? Is it their monetary worth?  Is it their sentimental value?

I have inherited two rings over the years, one from each of my grandmothers.  One is a white-gold setting; the other is a yellow gold setting.  I wear one when I wear silver jewelry, and the other when I wear gold-tone jewelry.  Neither is particularly valuable, in the monetary sense.  But, both hold a great deal of sentimental value.  They are a treasured inheritance for that reason.

In Joshua 13, we find that Joshua has, like many people do, progressed to a very advanced age.  God tells him that he had better get on with the business of parceling out The Land, because he may not have much time left on this earth.  The remainder of chapter 13 details the assignment of the Promised Land to the east of the Jordan, although the Israelites already knew who was going to get that portion as it had been decreed even before they began to conquer the larger part of The Land, west of the Jordan.  Chapters 14 and following deal with assigning the area west of the Jordan to the coast of the Mediterranean.  This is the long-awaited "inheritance" of the Israelites, and though some may disagree, it is a forever allotment.

When I was an elementary school principal I would always eagerly await each Spring news of my "allotments" for the following year.  This was a communique from the human resources department concerning how many teachers and support staff I would be allowed in my building.  It governed the student:adult ratio, and determined in large part how instruction would be carried out in my building the following school year. Some years I was elated, and other years I was horrified by the news.

In the case of the Israelites, we are not told much about how the decisions were made to allot the land west of the Jordan to the 10.5 tribes.  We are merely told "who got what".  We also are not told much as to how each tribe reacted to their allotments, their hard-won inheritances.  There are some stories in the next few chapters, but I won't get into those today.

There are some interesting stories about "inheritance" in the Bible, and indeed, a whole book could be written to examine those.  The Prodigal Son, is one.  Jacob and Esau, another.

But, this morning, let's examine a few verses which tell us Believers of our inheritance as "joint-heirs" with our Savior, Jesus Christ.  In fact, I'll probably spend a few days on this topic.  Yes, I digress!  I'm a bit weary of writing about "war", and want to focus on "pay-off" for a bit.  I imagine you are weary readying about war as well!  :)

Let's first consider the promise of 1 Peter 1:3-4 - - -

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.

Here we read that our inheritance - - - 

  • is ours through God's great mercy.
We cannot earn it.  We don't deserve it.  It is a pure gift from God the Father.  I know that I don't thank Him for it often enough.
  • begins with "new birth"
We cannot have an inheritance from God unless, like Jesus explained to Nicodemus in John 3, we are born of the Holy Spirit.  This new birth, being "born again", gives us a "living hope" of eternal life.  Living hope is an assurance, as opposed to "dead hope", which is uncertain.  Our eternal life with Jesus Christ is a "sure thing".
  • is made possible only through Jesus Christ's resurrection from the dead
In 1 Corinthians 15:17, Paul emphasizes this same truth, when he says "If Christ is not risen, then your faith is futile; you are yet in your sins."  The reason that Satan-inspired skeptics want to discredit the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is because without His resurrection, our faith is no different from the false religions of the world.

Tomorrow, we'll continue to examine our inheritance as believers.

Father, thank you for tenderly caring for us, Your children, and giving us the assurance of who-we-are, in You.  Those promises sustain us through "good times" and "bad", because we can be confident in You.  Your promises are true.  They are everlasting!  In Jesus' name, amen.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Conquering the Anakim

Good morning,

This morning I was reading Joshua 11 and 12.

Joshua was an amazing general, a mighty warrior and leader of warriors.  He was greatly used by God.  I don't think it is any accident that his name, Joshua, is so closely related to "Yeshua", from which we get in the Greek language the name "Jesus".  In fact, many Bible scholars view Joshua as a "type" of Jesus Christ, someone whose characteristics closely resemble the Lord.

What God the Father was able to accomplish through the obedience of this man goes beyond the adjective "amazing".

We find in chapter 11 that the last battles to be fought for the Promised Land involved defeating a second coalition of kings, who met with a similar fate to the coalition of 5 Western Amorite kings of chapter 9.  This second group, of chapter 11, is comprised of several small kingdoms, led by the king of Hazor.  Most of these kingdoms were in the northern part of the Promised Land, but some were also from the far regions of the four points of the compass.  The scriptures say that there were so many of them they were like the grains of the sand on the seashore (11:4).  This was the Israelites' largest foe, to date.

God had prepared His warriors in smaller battles, occasions where they had proved obedient and He had proved faithful.  He had trained them for these last, huge battles. They were as ready as it was possible for men to be, and God once again fought for them.

The last foes mentioned in the conquest of the Promised Land were a sub-group of the enemy alliances mentioned here.  They are called in 11:21-22, the Anakim, a giant people from the northern hill country.  This was a people that many Bible theologians believe to have been carriers of Nephilim blood, the same Nephilim mentioned in Genesis 6:4 - - - those supernaturally strong people created as tools of Satan in his attempt to corrupt the Messianic bloodline.  We also find these people mentioned in Numbers 13:33 - - - 

"And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them."

These were the giants spotted by the 12 spies originally sent by Moses to "scope out" the Promised Land.  Think about how far the Israelites had come from those days when they cowered in fear of their adversaries in the desert.  What a mighty work God had done in their lives over the course of 60 or so years!  Their last foe in the Promised Land: the giant race that demoralized them several decades earlier.

21 At that time Joshua proceeded to exterminate the Anakim from the hill country—Hebron, Debir, Anab—all the hill country of Judah and of Israel. Joshua completely destroyed them with their cities. 22 No Anakim were left in the land of the Israelites, except for some remaining in Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod. 

The giants were completely exterminated from the Promised Land, although some fled to adjacent areas of Gaza, Gath and Ashdod - - - areas which laid outside the borders of "God's country".  And so ended a series of victories which took place over several years (11:18).  These conquests were not made in a short period of time; they were a series of conquest after conquest after conquest.  Then, finally though, the Israelites' time of war was over. The Land and the People began to have rest from their fierce battles.  Joshua 12 is more or less a summary chapter.  My goodness!  A total of 33 kings conquered over that period of years - - 2 to the east of the Jordan River, and 31 to the west, all the way to the sea.

Is our God still able?  Is He still powerful to do wonderful and marvelous works through us, such as these mighty exploits we read about in the Old Testament?  Is He still the miracle-working God we see in the Person of our Savior, Jesus Christ, in the New Testament?  Of course He is!  We face battles every, single day.  And, some of them involve "giants".

I know that I "harp" on this theme, but it is just so crucial to the resplendent, Christian walk!  If you, Believer, do not see yourself as a warrior for God, then you are being defeated.  If you fail to recognize the spiritual battles that you encounter, then you are doomed to lose them and to cede ground to the other side.  Part of the problem we face is that we don't usually SEE the results of our victories and/or defeats right some cases, never!

Our pastor was preaching a couple of Sundays ago about David and Goliath.  One of his points was : "a huge door will swing on a small hinge".  Have you ever heard of Mordecai Ham?  I hadn't either. He was an evangelist of moderate fame in the very early 20th century.  I assure you you've heard of one of the young men converted under his preaching in 1934 at a revival meeting in Charlotte, NC. That man's name is Billy Graham, the greatest evangelist of the 20th century.

What battles are you fighting right now?  Oh, please, don't give up!  Don't be discouraged!  Your battle is uniquely yours, and it is NOT insignificant!  Every warrior and each battle matters.  Our God is still able.  His grace is still abundant and listen ... the longer we walk with Him, the more we need it.  Without His grace, which picks us up when we fall, spiritual victory, the resplendent walk, is out of reach.  We are not fighting out of our own strength, but in His!

"For it is God who works in you, to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose."
Philippians 2:13

Our obedience and yielding, which are born out of our reciprocal love for Him, are the keys to spiritual victory.  "We love Him, because He first loved us", (1 John 4:19) and continues to pour out His amazing grace on us, day after day after day.  Was yesterday a less-than-victorious day?  Get up today and put the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) back on, Brother or Sister!  God's desire is to continue to shape you into the very image of His Son, Jesus, for His glory.  Let Him.

Well, Lord, writing this post has made me tired!  That's just honest, Lord.  I hear about all that battling in Joshua 11 and 12 and just go, "WHEW!"  You may not be calling every one of us to be a "Joshua" or a "Caleb".  But, none of us is insignificant or unimportant in the great, cosmic battle that surrounds us.  Oh, give us supernatural, spiritual and physical strength, to put on the armor of God and then "bend the knee" in submission to You and Your will for our lives.  Cover us with your infinite grace, mercy and love, Lord!  Enable us to feel it in our hearts, as well as knowing it with our minds.  We dedicate and entrust this day and its outcomes to You, Father.  In Jesus' name, amen.


Monday, June 22, 2015

Biblical Sci-Fi?

Good morning,

We studied yesterday about how the Gibeonites, in their terror, deceived the Israelites into swearing a treaty with them by the name of Jehovah.  This was an unbreakable covenant, which God allowed to happen through the Israelites' error in judgment.  When the five Amorite kings neighboring Gibeon learned of their treachery, they moved to punish the Gibeonites by annihilating them.  "How dare they align themselves with those Israelites?!"  The Amorites viewed the Gibeonites as traitors.

In accordance with the newly-inked treaty, Joshua and the Israelites traveled a day's journey to Gibeon, to fight for them.  What happened in the course of that battle was astounding!

Today's text is Joshua 10:8-14 (HCSB).

The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, for I have handed them over to you. Not one of them will be able to stand against you.”
So Joshua caught them by surprise, after marching all night from Gilgal. 10 The Lord threw them into confusion before Israel. He defeated them in a great slaughter at Gibeon, chased them through the ascent of Beth-horon, and struck them down as far as Azekah and Makkedah. 11 As they fled before Israel, the Lord threw large hailstones on them from the sky along the descent of Beth-horon all the way to Azekah, and they died. More of them died from the hail than the Israelites killed with the sword.
12 On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to the Israelites, Joshua spoke to the Lord in the presence of Israel:
“Sun, stand still over Gibeon,
and moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
And the sun stood still

and the moon stopped
until the nation took vengeance on its enemies.
Isn’t this written in the Book of Jashar?
So the sun stopped
in the middle of the sky
and delayed its setting
almost a full day.
14 There has been no day like it before or since, when the Lord listened to the voice of a man, because the Lord fought for Israel. 

Joshua 10 reads almost like science fiction, doesn't it?
Here you have an army that, though not shabby, is totally inadequate against its opponents (5 Amorite-Canaanite kingdoms).  We have to remember that the Amorites were largely (pun intended) Nephilim - - physically gigantic, and supernaturally strong!  This is why in verse 1 the Lord God told Joshua not to be afraid of them.  The Israelites overcome the larger, stronger army because of God's supernatural intervention.  In His fighting for Israel He (vs. 10) throws the opposing army into tremendous confusion, (vs. 11) rains down giant hailstones upon them and then, for the first/only time in human history, (vs. 12-14) causes time to stand still for almost a full day.  Wouldn't you have liked to have seen that battle?  Wow.

God. Stopped. Time.  For nearly a full day!  This allowed the Israelites to "finish off" their adversaries.  Keep in mind that those Israelites had already marched for 10-12 hours, from Gilgal. THEN, it appears they attacked at dawn and fought for that full day.  And THEN, God stopped time so that the fighting/chasing, etc. continued for nearly another full day.  That must have been some exhausted Israelites after all that.  Whew!  Supernatural strength God must have given them!   Lord!  I am AMAZED by You!

We are so bound in our thinking, regarding time.  But, God is not.  Time is merely an artificial construct He has imposed on this world of ours, to organize and regulate our lives.  In eternity, however, it is not relevant.  To Him, one of our days is no different than 1000 years!  (2 Peter 3:8) God is in complete control of Time, as He so amply demonstrated in Joshua 10.

When we face a serious obstacle, we need to remember that the overall battle is already won.  God has, through the finished work of Jesus Christ, already triumphed over Satan.  Satan's end is described in Revelation 20.  It.Is.Written.  Done Deal.  What is in question is whether or not we will grab hold of the victory Jesus, our Savior, has already won for us - - - or not.  Victory is ours.  Time has nothing to do with it.  Is our faith strong enough to grab hold of that victory?
Is it strong enough when "the odds" seem insurmountable?  Is it strong enough when victory looks impossible?  He stand ready to place spiritual victory into your hands.  Will you open your heart and hands to Him?

He has told us that He will "move mountains" on our behalf (Matthew 17:20) - - spiritual and physical "mountains", if we but ask Him to do so in accordance with His will.  Do we believe Him? Or, do we brush it off as "biblical sci-fi"?  I am so convicted by this, because I tend to do the latter. And, in so doing, what I'm saying is that "my God is not big enough".  Yes, that is what you and I are saying through our unbelief.  We might as well face it, confess it and repent of it.

Dear Father, please forgive me for my unbelief, which reflects a major underestimation of who You are!  You ARE "the God of the Impossible".  Nothing is too hard for You!  How wide, how deep, how great was Your love for the Israelites!  How wide, how deep, how great is Your love for me!  Please strengthen my faith regarding those spiritual "giants" that I face today, and help me to boldly step out in faith, to chase them out of my "land", to pray hailstones down upon them.  Give me the victory that You have already promised in Your Word.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Gibeonite Deception

Good morning,

When I titled this post, I thought of one of my favorite authors, Joel C. Rosenberg.  The title sounds like something he'd use for one of his apocalyptic, fictional works.  If you've not read any of his novels, I highly recommend them.

So, who were the Gibeonites?  Frankly, I was unfamiliar with them.  If you had asked me who they were, I would not have been able to tell you before studying Joshua 9 and 10 this morning.  Here's the story, as recorded in Joshua 9.  The Gibeonites were from the city of Gibeon, which was about 6 miles northwest of Jerusalem.  The saw what had happened to the mighty city of Ai, their neighbor, and (like Rahab), saw the "handwriting on the wall", so to speak.  They concocted this plan to deceive Joshua and the Israelites.

As part of their deception, they put on old clothes, worn-out sandals, and took with them dry, crusty, moldy bread, making it look like they had traveled a great distance, from a "far country".  Then, when they reached Joshua, they lied about where they were from.  They had heard that God had commanded the Israelites to completely exterminate all the peoples of the Promised Land, the land of Canaan.  They had also heard that God had said to offer peace and to take as slaves peoples from outside the Land, but dwelling near it (Deuteronomy 20: 11, 12, 15).  The Gibeonites misrepresented themselves as being of the latter group.  So, they presented themselves to the Israelites as their servants in order to save their hides.

Look at Joshua 9:14-15 (HCSB)

14 Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions, but did not seek the Lord’s counsel. 15 So Joshua established peace with them and made a treaty to let them live, and the leaders of the community swore an oath to them.

The leaders of the Israelites "examined the evidence", but they did not go to the LORD for His wisdom or approval.  Big mistake.  They took the word of the Gibeonites at face value and swore an oath to them, by the Lord God Jehovah: an unbreakable covenant of protection.
Three days later, the Israelites realized their error.

22-23 But Joshua called the Gibeonites together and said, “Why did you lie to us, telling us, ‘We live far, far away from you,’ when you’re our next-door neighbors? For that you are cursed. From now on it’s menial labor for you—woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God.”
24-25 They answered Joshua, “We got the message loud and clear that God, your God, commanded through his servant Moses: to give you the whole country and destroy everyone living in it. We were terrified because of you; that’s why we did this. That’s it. We’re at your mercy. Whatever you decide is right for us, do it.”
26-27 And that’s what they did. Joshua delivered them from the power of the People of Israel so they didn’t kill them. But he made them woodcutters and water carriers for the congregation and for the Altar of God at the place God chooses. They still are.  
(The Message)

Woodcutters and Watercarriers in the house of God!  What a strange, but merciful, fate!  Why did God, working through the serious error of Joshua and the Israelite leaders, choose to spare this kingdom?  Perhaps it was because they realized His power and His purpose.  Or, perhaps they were just desperate to save their own skins.  We do know from verse 25 that they were terrified.  Who would not be?  They are to be commended in that, while in their terror, they chose to run toward the Lord God Jehovah as opposed to stiffening their necks to fight against Him.  They threw themselves on the mercy of God.  They were the ONLY Canaanite people group to do this.  And, God received them.  I wonder what would have happened had other Canaanite kingdoms had that same response?What an amazing and merciful God we serve!

An equally important lesson for us from Joshua 9, in our current day, is to not depend on our own wisdom or power in making decisions.  Instead, we are to trust the Lord with all our decisions, not depending on our own understanding of a situation.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

Too often, we want to rush right into something, trusting in our own power, our own discernment...and often we end up with a result we don't like.  So easy to do, and so hard to fix!

Dear Lord, as we grow older in our faith, may each of us who call you Lord and Savior, depend more and more on you, instead of less and less.  Teach us to consider our ways and to look to You for wisdom and discernment, because You are the Source of these and, indeed, of all good things.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Friday, June 19, 2015

This is Pitiful

Good morning,

It's barely 8:00 and already I've had quite a morning.  If you are looking for inspiration from today's blog post, you will be sadly disappointed.  I was sitting here, reading in Joshua, preparing to share with you when I heard the tea I was making across the kitchen begin to boil.  For the uninitiated: you are not supposed to let the tea bags boil.  So, I jumped up from the kitchen table (my blogging spot) and in my haste to reach the stove, tripped over the computer cord at full speed.  KerBAM!  Full frontal splat onto the kitchen floor.

So, one-handed - - icing the other arm - - - I'm reflecting on Psalm 91:11-16.  I'm no "spring chicken". There will be very ugly bruises; but at my age, no breaks from a fall of that severity is a miracle.  I'm thankful.

11For He will give His angels charge concerning you,
         To guard you in all your ways.

12They will bear you up in their hands,
         That you do not strike your foot against a stone.

13You will tread upon the lion and cobra,
         The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.

14“Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;
         I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.

15“He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;
         I will be with him in trouble;
         I will rescue him and honor him.

16“With a long life I will satisfy him
         And let him see My salvation.”

Y'all, let's thank God for His blessings to each of us today!

Lord, thank you for your mercies, which are new every morning.  I don't know why You spared me further injury, but I'm so glad You did.  Use me today for Your honor and glory! In Jesus' name, amen.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

It Could Have Been We

Good morning,

Getting up and turning on the national news while fixing the coffee is my morning routine before sitting down with the java, to study the Scriptures and to blog.  This morning, the news was profoundly disturbing.  Last night, a gunman entered a Charleston, SC, church as the congregants were having Bible study and prayer meeting.  He sat among the people for a few minutes and then stood up and opened fire.  Murdered were 3 men (including the pastor leading the study) and 6 women.

My initial, visceral response to this news was anger, quickly followed by a prayer that this devil will be found and prosecuted.  The Lord God promises that He is in charge of vengeance and justice and that He will bring it to pass in His own time and in His own way.

I will get revenge and pay them back at the time their foot slips; for the day of their disaster is near, and the impending judgment is rushing upon them!" 
Deuteronomy 32:35 (NET)

The apostle Paul re-emphasizes this Old Testament truth in his letter to the Romans (12:19).
It is not wrong to pray for justice.  No doubt the blood of these believers cries to the Lord from the ground, as did Abel's blood when he was murdered by the first human murderer, his brother, Cain.

How else should we pray?

  • First and foremost, we should pray for the families of the victims, that the Lord would comfort them in their extreme loss and grief.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:18 (NIV)

  • We should thank God that we have, for the most part, the privilege still in this country to gather for worship without fear of either government reprisal or attack by a madman.  I know that many of you believers are thinking, "It could have been we."  Almost every Wednesday night of the calendar year, our church holds church activities - - - Wednesday night Bible study, choir practice, small group prayer meeting, children's activities, etc.

  • As this country continues to descend deeper and deeper into apostasy, hurtling farther and farther from Almighty God, evil will continue to increase.  The Church will not be immune, as we have seen from last night's bloodbath.  The time is over when Christians could sit back comfortably in their sanctimony and ignore a world going to Hell.  As Erick Erickson says, "You will be made to care." That time is now here, if it was not already.

In Ephesians 5:13-15, Paul exhorts the early Christians to wake up!

But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.  For this reason it says, "Awake, Sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."  Therefore, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise...

  • You can be spiritually "dead" and still be physically living, you know.  And, many of us in Christendom today act like we are dead, although in actuality, we are "asleep in the light", as Keith Green used to say. So, we need to pray for wakefulness and watchfulness.

   Your enemy, the Devil, is like a roaring lion, roaming around, seeking someone(s) to devour.  

(1 Peter 5:8)

  • We need to pray for revival, and for it to begin first in the Church of Jesus Christ.  I've blogged about this before and am not going to "plow that row over".  

  • We need to pray for wisdom and discernment, in order to be "wise as serpents, yet harmless as doves": the exhortation from Jesus in Matthew 10:16.

Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them.  For the ways of the LORD are right, and the righteous will walk in them.  But, transgressors will stumble in them.
Hosea 14:9
  • Let's also pray that this demon-possessed man (and he most surely is) will hear the gospel and turn his life over to Jesus.  Oh, yes!  Our Lord can save even "the worst of sinners".  He is in the business of setting the captive free!  Do you think that those He liberated from demonic possession in the New Testament were any worse or better?  No, and He is still in the business of liberation and salvation. There is NONE beyond His reach.  Hallelujah!  Remember, dear one, if ANY of us received what we "deserve", we would all be on the fastest train to Hell.  There is not one single one of us able to achieve our own righteousness, no, not one.  This is why Paul called himself "the chief of sinners".

Heavenly Father, I know that those slain last night who knew Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are now in Your presence, where they will worship and serve and rule and reign forever.  I magnify and worship you, Lord, for your mercy and grace!  These people are modern-day martyrs, no different from those Middle Eastern Christians who have recently been martyred because they worship their Lord Jesus Christ.  Please, Father, comfort the brokenhearted loved ones and friends of these slain. Please exact justice from the one responsible, human and demon.  But, I also pray that this man will come to know you as Lord and Savior, before it is eternally too late.  We, the brothers and sisters in faith of this AME congregation in Savannah, are heartbroken over this tragedy.  From this horrible event, may we, the Church, fall on our collective faces before You and beg for protection, for revival, for empowerment to boldly preach Your gospel to every creature, no matter the cost!  Please give us wisdom and discernment, humility and grace.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Warriors' Little Sins

Good morning,

If you are familiar with the story of Achan, you will see why no parents ever name their son Achan. It is an appalling story, no two ways about it.

The main text is Joshua 7.  In verse 1, we see the problem defined:  a family has been disobedient to the Lord's explicit command, which was to not take for themselves any item from Jericho.  All items from that place had been marked for destruction by the Lord or to go into the Lord's treasury.  This command was given in Joshua 6:18-19:

But keep yourselves from the things set apart, or you will be set apart for destruction. If you[c] take any of those things, you will set apart the camp of Israel for destruction and bring disaster on it. 19 For all the silver and gold, and the articles of bronze and iron, are dedicated to the Lord and must go into theLord’s treasury.”

In Joshua 7:2-5 we see that, what should have been a relatively minor skirmish against the people of Ai, became a rout in which 36 Israeli warriors were killed.  The Lord God made it plain to a grieving, horrified Joshua why this had occurred.  It was because someone in the Israeli nation had disobeyed God.

Achan's root sin was that he did not believe God, did not take Him at His word.  Achan was sure that there was no such thing as "the power of one".  He believed that his sin was a "little sin"  - - minor, undetectable, unimportant.  He was dead wrong; because of his sin and that of his family members, who no doubt were his accomplices, 36 innocent warriors died.

Achan failed to understand that his sin would affect the entire nation of Israel, as the Lord God had forewarned.  It is the same with the Church today.  When one of us sins, that sin, no matter how small, negatively affects the entire Body of Christ.  And, I used that last name intentionally.  When your toe hurts, your whole body hurts.  When your head hurts, the whole body is affected.  When one of us sins, we have NO IDEA of the far-reaching repercussions.  Brothers and sisters, we need to get serious about our sin.

See....we tend to get serious about other people's sins.  In fact, we are famous for pointing the condemning finger toward others, particularly those sins that are not "politically correct".  But, all sin is sin.  All should be confessed and repented from.  Believers in America need a huge dose of humility and repentance.  Especially me.

Do you tend to make the same mistakes Achan did?  I do.  In the heat of temptation, I delude myself that my "little transgressions" don't matter.  "Just this once"... Thank God He does not usually hold us to the same standard He held Achan, with such far-reaching consequences.

Or, does He?  The truth is: we really have no idea!  We truly do not even know the far-reaching consequences of our "little sins".  If we did, we would no doubt be crushed with the guilt of them, even as Achan's family was crushed by the stoning that was the execution (pardon the pun!) of God's judgment upon them.

There's a verse that describes "little sins" and their consequences:

Catch for us the foxes,
    the little foxes
that ruin the vineyards,
    our vineyards that are in bloom.

Song of Solomon 2:15

There are always consequences for our sins.  Always.  We may not always see them immediately or know them ever; but, they are there.  Every tiny bit of ground we cede in the spiritual war must be retaken by ourselves or by another Christian warrior.  God is every bit as serious about our sins today as He was in the day of Achan.  He.Still.Hates.Sin.

He hates our sin so much, yet loves us so much that He sent His only, most-beloved Son to free us from sin's curse!  And, Believers, He longs for us to walk in close fellowship, to walk clean, with Him on a daily basis.

This is not a pretty blog post, is it?  The picture of our guilt before God as unrepentant sinners is not pretty.  This morning, I am heartbroken over my own sin, and (sorry!) where I go in the Word and what I receive is what I share with you.

But, let's be encouraged as we go out and face this day, Warriors!

If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9

Thank God!  We may or may not see the consequences of our sin.  Or, we may be devastated by them.  But, this one thing is sure - - - there IS forgiveness and restoration.  Hallelujah!  We do not have to remain in our sins.

So, are you a Believer?  Have you asked Jesus to possess you, to be Your forever Savior?  If not, do that today!  Believe on Him and His finished work for you.  Confess your sins.  Repent - - - turn away from your sinful patterns of living and begin to model your life after His.  Submit to Jesus Christ on a regular basis.  His Holy Spirit, Who comes to live in you at the moment of your salvation, will show you the way.

Christian brothers and sisters.  Let's be vigilant about our warfare!  We cannot fight effectively with broken armor.  Unconfessed sin will cause us to be crippled in battle.  Let's confess and "get clean" today, so that we can be used by the Lord in a greater way tomorrow.

Oh Lord Jesus, catch for us the little foxes, the little foxes that spoil our vines!  Show us clearly, like an x-ray, those ways in which we are hurting ourselves, hurting Your heart and hurting the coming of Your kingdom in this lost, dying world.  In Jesus' name, amen.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Memorial Stones

Good morning,

Now, I know what you are thinking....headstones, right?  The kind you see in a cemetery.  Well, no, not really.  Today's text is Joshua 4, but particularly 19-24.

The people came up from the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month,[h] and camped at Gilgal on the eastern limits of Jericho. 20 Then Joshua set up in Gilgal the 12 stones they had taken from the Jordan, 21 and he said to the Israelites, “In the future, when your children ask their fathers, ‘What is the meaning of these stones?’ 22 you should tell your children, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, just as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over. 24 This is so that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord’s hand is mighty, and so that you may always fear the Lord your God.”

Not too long ago a friend of mine thought she had lost a piece of jewelry.  It was not worth much in terms of dollars, but it had a great deal of sentimental value.  She had had it a long time and someone special had given it to her.  She was relieved to find it, several days later.

Last night at college Bible study, we shared stories about how each of us had, at one time or another, received grace unexpectedly.  We had messed up, and instead of the hammer coming down, we received grace.  One of us said that that experience is what prompted her to get a tattoo.

Both the jewelry and the tattoo are examples of "memorial stones".  Here in Joshua 4, that is what the Lord God commanded the Hebrew people do: set up large stones as a memorial, to remind future generations of the goodness of God.

The Lord is good to all; and His mercies are over all His works.  
Psalm 145:9

Do you have any "memorial stones"?  I do.
It is important to remind ourselves of God's goodness, His mercy to us because, even in what we term "bad days", He is with us.  And, ultimately, if we have put our eternal lives into His hands, He will continue to be good and merciful to us.  The ultimate goodness, after all, IS eternal life with Him. Nothing can rob us of that blessing.

Lord God, thank you for your everlasting commitment and all-encompassing goodness to us, Your children!  Help us to never forget Your mercies!  In Jesus' name, amen.