Guidance


Joshua 6-10 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He provides the strategies we need for victory in our lives

Whether in football, business or war, there is a strategy that has been around since the beginning of time when facing the opposition:  Find the weakest point in the line of defense, the most vulnerable point, and make your attack.  In past wars, armies sent out reconnaissance teams, soldiers who were trained to find the weakest point in the enemy’s defense, but with today’s high tech armies, many other forms of surveillance such as predator drones are used first before the soldier is put into harm’s way.  In our reading today, however, surveillance had been done, the strategy was given and Joshua was ready to take Jericho. 

@ Joshua 6
“Now the gates of Jericho were tightly shut because the people were afraid of the Israelites. No one was allowed to go out or in. But the Lord said to Joshua, ‘I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors. You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days. Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the town seven times, with the priests blowing the horns. When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town.’” (1-5) Unique as it was, the strategy was given by God, and it couldn’t fail.

Jericho was one of the oldest and most fortified cities on the planet at that time.  Its walls at some points were 25 feet high, that’s two and a half stories tall, they were 20 feet thick, and were considered invincible.  Were those walls really the most vulnerable point in Jericho’s line of defense?  No, probably not.  Jericho’s weakest point in its defense was its pagan heart, and God was not on the side of its inhabitants.  So its walls, no matter how thick and high were vulnerable to God’s strategy in taking the city. Joshua was righteous enough to trust it, and those walls came down!

God knows our enemy’s weakest point. When Jesus was confronted by Satan, He soundly defeated him by quoting the scripture. (Matthew 4)  Even though he has been known to quote it himself, our enemy can’t stand against God’s Word when it comes from a blood-bought Christian.  And when we declare to others our testimony of what Jesus has done in our lives, we run right over him. (Revelation 12:11)  What a great strategy!

@ Joshua 7
On the other hand, in their next battle at Ai, the Israelites’ true enemy, Satan, discovered where they were the most vulnerable, the weakest point in their line of defense.  God had forbidden the Israelites to take certain items from the spoils of Jericho, but one man had his own agenda, “But Israel violated the instructions about the things set apart for the Lord.  A man named Achan had stolen some of these dedicated things, so the Lord was very angry with the Israelites.” (1)  Not good. Israel was soundly defeated at Ai.

When God revealed Achan’s sin, Joshua confronted him and Achan came clean, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. Among the plunder I saw a beautiful robe from Babylon, 200 silver coins, and a bar of gold weighing more than a pound. I wanted them so much that I took them.”(20-21)  Just as the enemy had captured Eve’s heart, he defeated Israel with what Achan saw with his eye and desired with his heart.

We can be sure that the enemy has been doing surveillance and knows our weakest points of entry; but we, too, have been given a strategy by God to defeat his attacks, “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you.” (James 4:7)  Had Achan run to God in this attack and resisted the enemy’s temptation, the battle at Ai would have had a different outcome. The James 4 strategy will work every time in our lives, and we can trust it! 

Moving Forward: I’m so thankful today for the strategies God has given to protect me from the enemy’s attack and beat him at his own game through the power of God’s Word.

Tomorrow @ Psalm 3-5

Job 1-2 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: Because He loves us so, He allows testing to strengthen us and help us grow closer to Him.

Florida is a beautiful place to live with its warm winter temperatures, lush colorful landscape and delicious fruits and vegetables.  If you can get past the alligators, snakes and sharks, the waters of Florida are delightful as well.  The dream of many individuals is to spend their waning years playing golf and relaxing in the sun, but the Year of the Hurricanes, 2004, changed a lot of dreams.  When three of the four hurricanes that year passed through my county, they left a path of devastation that took years to restore and the downed trees will take decades to replace.  It was a rough year and many people lost their dreams.

It was difficult to drive around our city after the storms and see the hundreds of lofty laurel oak trees uprooted and on their sides.  They couldn’t weather the storms because of their shallow roots, but the bright note in the landscape as we traveled around town was the collection of palm trees still standing tall, lacking only a few fronds.  One would think those skinny palms would be the first to go, but they survived because of their root system that grew deep enough to find a source of nutrition and because of their ability to bend and withstand winds up to 145 miles per hour.  Job was like the palm tree.  When the storms passed through his life, he was able to survive because he was rooted to the Source and because of his ability to bend…but it wasn’t easy. 

@ Job 1
“There once was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless—a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil…He was, in fact, the richest person in that entire area.” (1-3) Growing tall and stately, Job caught the attention of God and Satan in their discourse about humanity.  Satan accused Job of only respecting God because God was good to him, and he sought to remove God’s blessings and watch Job crumble.

And this is where the good news in Job begins!  This is where we read that Satan does not know the future or he would not have asked to test Job – God was secure in allowing this testing of Job because He knew the end result.  Secondly, Satan must get God’s permission to touch God’s children – God is not taken by surprise in the trials we face and provides comfort and help when we need it most.  Thirdly, Satan can’t read our minds or he would have known Job’s commitment to God – God knows every thought we think even before we think it!  And finally, although he has little imps to help him, we know that Satan is not omnipresent because he had to patrol the earth to watch what was going on – God is everywhere he chooses to be, all the time. Outside of accusation and temptation, the accuser is greatly limited in what he can do in our lives unless, of course, we open the door to him.

But the greatest message from the Book of Job is not about what happened to Job, although it was tragic to be sure, nor is it about why this happened to Job.  The great message of Job is about who, the Sovereign Almighty God, and about one man’s, one good man’s, journey of total surrender to Him.  We should not be afraid of Job’s journey and its message because they will only make us better. And there’s always Chapter 42 to look forward to. “But the godly will flourish like palm trees…” (Psalm 92:12) 

Moving Forward:  I’ll seek out and stay grounded to the Source today so that I can withstand the storms that may come my way.

Tomorrow @ Isaiah 1-6

Psalms 1-2 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His Word is a wellspring of counsel and guidance for us

It’s not a surprise to me that Psalms, this wonderful book of comfort, inspiration and guidance, would open with a Psalm directing us to the Source of all comfort, inspiration and guidance.  We’ve all heard the old joke about the individual seeking guidance through Bible roulette.  One opens the Bible to a random page, places a finger on a random verse that says, “Then Judas threw the silver coins down in the Temple and went out and hanged himself.”(Matthew 27:5)  Not receiving any viable direction from this verse, the seeker once again arbitrarily selects a verse which reads, “Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37)  Not good.  However, some of our sources for advice and direction can be just as misdirected.

@ Psalm 1
“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.” (1) This is one of the verses that my mom drilled into my heart early in life.  Even now, I can almost hear her saying, “Phyllis, do not ‘walk in the counsel of the ungodly.’”(KJV)  Of course, we would never intentionally seek out the counsel or advice of ungodly people, but our lifestyle seems to lend itself to it at times.  I remember working in a bank, sitting around during coffee break and hearing all sorts of counsel coming from my co-workers for me as a young college girl.  No, they didn’t openly mock God, but their lifestyles were in and of themselves contrary to God and His commandments.  The hair or nail salon where we sit for an hour or two or three is another source of free advice that flies around the salon along with all the fumes. Unless these scenarios are Christian environments, I’d rather take my chances with Bible roulette.

And then there is the mother of all free advice – the internet.  According to Google stats for 2017, there were over 3.5 billion Google searches per day – that’s a lot of Googling! These stats represent people searching for advice, guidance, comfort and just a myriad of answers.  The internet is great for advice on how to fix the washing machine, where to buy the cheapest copy paper and how to make Paula Deen’s Gooey Butter Cake, but do I really want to find direction for my life there?  Even with Christian websites like this blog, if they do not point us to the true Source of counsel, they are joining in with the mockers.

Speaking of the Source, “But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night.  They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season.  Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” (2-3)  If we want to prosper and be successful, let our counsel come from Him, His Word.  Meditate on it; get it deep within our hearts so that when advice is needed, we are able to reach down into our roots that are saturated with His Word and bring forth His counsel for our lives.  And then others, some godly others, may serve to encourage, inspire and perhaps provide some tools in sync with His counsel.  With the counsel of His Word, we will prosper in all we do, and who doesn’t want that!

Moving Forward:  As I meditate on His Word, I know He will direct me in the counsel that I will need for this very day because He is the Source and He’s got it covered. 

Tomorrow @ Job 1-2

Joshua 1-5 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is willing to save anyone who calls Him Lord

Whenever I’m visiting a city for the first time anywhere in the world, I make it a point to find a travel book on the city or visit the local Visitor’s Center for maps and local information.  But when I get down to the nitty-gritty about where to eat, shop and hang out, I talk to the locals.  Yes, the hotel concierge is helpful to a point, but when I want to find the best seafood or barbeque ribs in town, I have a little chat with some of the locals, especially those who look like they’ve eaten a rib or two.  Joshua’s two covert spies that entered Jericho must have had this same strategy; but, unlike them, I must admit I’ve never chatted with a harlot…to my knowledge. 

@ Joshua 2
“Scout out the land on the other side of the Jordan River, especially around Jericho.’ So the two men set out and came to the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there that night.” (1)  Help!  What were two nice Jewish boys doing in a place like that!  Well, I imagine it might be a good place to gather information from the locals.  We are uncertain of their reason for stopping at Rahab’s place and they may have been unsure themselves, but we do know that God was in it.  After all, if God can use a talking donkey, an ungodly Persian king and a stubborn Pharaoh to accomplish His will, He certainly can use a prostitute.

Rahab gave just the information the spies needed to know, “We are all afraid of you. Everyone in the land is living in terror. For we have heard how the Lord made a dry path for you through the Red Sea when you left Egypt. And we know what you did to Sihon and Og, the two Amorite kings east of the Jordan River, whose people you completely destroyed. No wonder our hearts have melted in fear! No one has the courage to fight after hearing such things. For the Lord your God is the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below.” (9-11)   Most agents of espionage only hope to have intelligence like this handed to them!

Rahab’s actions that night not only spared the lives of the two spies when the king’s men came searching for them, but also provided them with valuable information to report to Joshua. “Then the two spies came down from the hill country… and reported to Joshua all that had happened to them. ‘The Lord has given us the whole land,’ they said, ‘for all the people in the land are terrified of us.’” (23-24)  Victory was at hand!

Through her encounter with the spies, Rahab and her entire family were saved.  As a relative of Boaz, she is mentioned in Matthew in the lineage of Jesus, imagine that.  And because of her faith, Rahab is included with the Heroes of Faith in Hebrews 11.  When God chooses individuals to use for His purposes, we would be wise not to question the validity of their credentials.  God saw a hungry heart in Rahab who recognized Him as “the supreme God of the heavens above and the earth below,” and, sadly, many of the Israelites never made that leap of faith.  Rahab the prostitute was a hero.

There are individuals connected with us at work, in the neighborhood or even in our families who we feel are the least likely to ever find the Lord as their Savior, but because they are in our lives, we are probably wrong.  God sees their hearts and, like the spies, we are expected by God to follow His leading to their heart’s door with the message of Jesus.  Who knows how God will use them to bring victory in our own lives.

Moving Forward:  Because He knows each heart that is open to Him today, I’ll follow Him wherever He leads me, regardless. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 1-2

Acts 26-28 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: One holy night long ago He sent His presence to abide with us

Selling a home, especially in today’s market, can be tricky business.  Through the years, I’ve had several home sellers tell me that their home sold before they even had it on the market or shortly thereafter, and this miracle was God’s stamp of approval on their upcoming move or change.  I’m always at a momentary loss of words at this point. The two beautiful homes we owned in the past took months and months to sell even though well priced.  Does this mean we were moving outside of God’s will?

Knowing that we were in God’s will is what carried us along during those difficult months.  And this begs the question in our reading today – Was Paul out of God’s will when he insisted his case be tried in Rome?  The hardships he incurred on the way to Rome were extraordinary, but in spite of it all, he ultimately answered God’s call to preach to the Romans.  As we celebrate Christmas, another question comes to mind. Were the difficulties, then, that Mary and Joseph faced at the time of Jesus’ birth an indication that God was not with them?

@ Acts 27-28
Paul was under armed guard as they set sail for Rome, and the trip was treacherous to say the least.  A violent tempest tossed the ship for days, and Paul’s life was threatened as the soldiers attempted to kill the prisoners rather than risk their getting free in the storm. When they finally ended up shipwrecked on the island of Malta, miraculously not one life was lost.  If this wasn’t enough peril, Paul was bitten by a deadly viper, yet not even a mark remained.

“Now when we came to Rome, the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard; but Paul was permitted to dwell by himself with the soldier who guarded him… Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.” (28:16,30-31)  The sailing was not smooth, the house did not sell, but God was with Paul on his trip to Rome and his mission was accomplished.  Paul preached the gospel to the Romans. 

@ Luke 2
“Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloth, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (4-8)

Having just accepted the unbelievable truth of an Immaculate Conception, Joseph and pregnant Mary traveled the difficult road to Bethlehem to find there was no lodging available.  Then Mary went into labor and gave birth to the Messiah, the very Son of God…in a stable.  And, if that wasn’t trial enough, the king tried to kill their son.  With all these difficulties, some would say that this couple was out of the will of God and perhaps this Holy Spirit conception was a farce.  And they would, of course, be wrong.

Now, some 2,000 years later we honor this glorious birth as we sing, “Joy to the World,” “The First Noel” and “Angels We Have Heard on High.”  We join with the multitude of the heavenly host praising God and say:  “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (14)

As with Paul, Joseph and Mary and so many others who have gone before us, the path to our future may not be always smooth sailing, and we may find ourselves in difficult situations from time to time. However, there is one thing we can be certain of today in our celebration of Christ’s coming to this earth and it is that He is with us.  As we travel His path, He is with us.  Merry Christmas, fellow travelers! 

Moving Forward:  “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” He has come, and He is with me as I travel life’s path. 

Tomorrow @ Jude

Esther 1-5 (NLT Link) 

Discover His heart: He positions us to fulfill His purpose

Chess is a game of strategy using specific characters on a chess board with the ultimate goal of blocking the opponent’s king so he cannot move.  Many people find this to be entertaining.  In fact, I recently joined dozens of people to watch a game of chess in Salzburg played on one of the town squares with chess pieces 3 feet tall.  Every move not only involved cerebral energy, but physical energy as well.  I must admit that I don’t play chess.  I spend most of every day strategizing how to get accomplished all that needs to get done before bedtime, so why would I play a game of strategy for fun?

However, the different characters on the chess board do intrigue me.  Each piece has a specific function and direction of movement from the lowly pawn to the queen herself.  A pawn that is moved to the correct position has the ability to bring down the king – checkmate!  Imagine that!  When a pawn is positioned for purpose, anything can happen.  Today we read about a lowly Jewish girl, some would say a pawn in the scheme of things, who was positioned for purpose to save a nation. 

@ Esther 4
While most believed that Esther had become the Queen of Persia because of her great beauty, her uncle Mordecai understood that God had positioned her for the purpose of saving her people.  Through the influence of the evil Haman, the king had issued a decree that all the Jews be killed, but Mordecai encouraged Esther to consider that she had been positioned for purpose. “If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”(14)

Sometimes we find ourselves in a position that we find uncomfortable for various reasons.  That position may be boring and dull or it may be stressful and risky or it may be downright painful.  Regardless of the reason, we just don’t like it.  We complain a lot and feel like we’re bumping into a brick wall as we try to change things, but have we considered the possibility that we have been positioned for purpose?

We may not save a nation through the position we find ourselves, but just as important to God, we may help to save a soul – a neighbor, co-worker, a sales clerk.  God loves every soul on the planet enough to position us for the purpose of reaching each one.  Or perhaps in our position right now, He is changing us and making us ready for His purpose.  Positioned for purpose!  May the question of Mordecai reach down through the centuries to open our eyes to the possibility that we, too, are positioned for purpose, “Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” 

Moving Forward:  I submit to the endless possibilities that His purpose has positioned me for today. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 146-148

Revelation 7-11 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He reveals His secrets to us at just the right moment

When someone has a secret and is forbidden to share it, I, for one, would just as soon not know about it.  Ignorance is bliss.  I remember children on the playground chanting, “I know something you don’t know,” in order to torment those who plainly did not know the something.  I would prefer that these individuals keep to themselves the fact that they have hidden information, but I guess there is a certain headiness that comes from others knowing that we have inside information.

Gloating may not be the intention when someone confesses to having secret information, but rather it may be intended as a source of encouragement that plans are being made behind the scenes or things are under control even though we cannot see it.  John revealed unbelievable end-time events in our reading today to encourage believers, but there were some things he just couldn’t share. 

@ Revelation 10
“Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, surrounded by a cloud, with a rainbow over his head. His face shone like the sun, and his feet were like pillars of fire. And in his hand was a small scroll that had been opened. He stood with his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land.  And he gave a great shout like the roar of a lion. And when he shouted, the seven thunders answered.  When the seven thunders spoke, I was about to write. But I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Keep secret what the seven thunders said, and do not write it down.” (1-4)

It’s hard to imagine that John would have the ability to write anything while viewing an angel wearing a rainbow on his head with feet like pillars of fire and voice of seven thunders.  I’m not sure I would have the presence of mind to write what I was hearing and would probably have been on my face; however, John made every attempt to do so but was stopped.  Some have reasoned that the message of the seven thunders was too horrific to hear, and others believe that our minds would not be able to comprehend it.  Regardless of the reason, John knew something we don’t know.

There were other writers in the Bible who were not allowed to share what God had revealed to them.  “But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end, when many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase… Go now, Daniel, for what I have said is kept secret and sealed until the time of the end.” (Daniel 12:4,9)  God had revealed many secret dreams to Daniel that he was free to share, but this secret He would reveal at the end times when people would understand its meaning.  God reveals His secrets at the perfect time.

In our personal lives there are answers we do not have and secrets that God has not revealed to us, but of course, we want to know them now.  Moses did a great job in Deuteronomy 29:29 instructing the Israelites who were entering a new land as to God’s secrecy, “The Lord our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions.”  Our hearts and minds may not be in a position to know all that God has planned for us, but He will reveal His secrets at just the right moment.  In the meantime, our job is to be accountable to what He has revealed to us through His Word and what He has already spoken to our hearts.  All this should keep us busy for quite some time, and in due time He will reveal what He knows that we don’t know, and He will reveal it exactly when we need to know it.

Moving Forward:  I will be faithful today to what I do know, confident that He will reveal what I don’t know at just the right moment. 

Tomorrow @ Acts 23-25

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