Judges 17-21 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is the Constant in our lives

For those who know me, it’s not a secret that I’m a coffee drinker – espresso, lattes, cappuccinos – so much so that I have my own espresso machine with all the little devices that go along with it that promise a good cup of coffee.  When I froth the milk, I use an instant-read thermometer because I like my milk at 170°; and just an additional note of information, the lower the milk fat content, the better the froth.  I don’t like giving the impression that I’m overly particular about my coffee…but I am.  Recently I noticed that my drinks were not as hot as I like them to be although the thermometer read the right temperature.  I knew it was time to calibrate my thermometer.

Using a small tool, I adjusted the thermometer to read 32° when inserted in a cup of ice and water because one of the constants in my life is the fact that water freezes at 32°.  Two plus two will always be four, 12 inches make up a foot, water at sea level boils at 212° – these are constants I can count on no matter what I’m facing in life.

Even though I would like to make $2 plus $2 equal $1,000, it just isn’t going to happen because we can’t change the constants to fit our desires or to match our lifestyles. We can run as far away from our constants as we possibly can, but whether we have lost sight of them or not, they are still constant, unchanging, and resolute.  These truths, however, did not keep Israel from trying to change God, the most irrefutable Constant in their lives.

@ Judges 17
“One day [Micah] said to his mother, ‘I heard you place a curse on the person who stole 1,100 pieces of silver from you. Well, I have the money. I was the one who took it.’ ‘The Lord bless you for admitting it,’ his mother replied. He returned the money to her, and she said, ‘I now dedicate these silver coins to the Lord. In honor of my son, I will have an image carved and an idol cast.’” (2-3)  I’m not sure what part of Exodus 20:4 –You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind – this mother did not understand, but she chose to disregard the irrefutable Sovereignty of God and make a more user-friendly version for herself.  Eventually, Israel was destroyed because it chose to follow this example by worshiping idols as well.  The constant of God’s Word is unchangeable. 

@ Judges 19-21
The dismal story of the Levite and his concubine is heart-wrenching, to say the least, and the list of characters in this story that lost sight of their constant is long.  From the selfish Levite to the perverted Benjamites and to the Israelite army, all were living for themselves and making judgments based on tribal loyalties rather than the constants of God’s Word.  Even after God gave the army victory over the Benjamite warriors, they sought their own means to provide wives for the few remaining men of Benjamin. Obviously, the Israelites needed some recalibrating to the Constant in their lives, but unfortunately, they had lost sight of Him.

The last verse of the Book of Judges sums up the reason for all the sin, rash vows, civil war and bloodshed, “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” (21:25)  The Israelites chose to reject the unchangeable King of all kings and all the constants He provided – constant love, constant guidance, constant provision and so much more – because they did not want to obey the constants of His commandments.   They chose poorly. 

Moving Forward:  I’m thankful today for all the constants of the Lord, including His commandments – “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”  His Word keeps me calibrated to my Constant!

Tomorrow @ Psalms 24-26

Judges 7-11 (NLT) 

Discover His Heart: He gives supernatural help when needed, tools included!

There is a cat of the tuxedo variety, silky black and white, in my neighborhood that frequents my backyard looking for his next meal. No, I don’t feed him, but I have a feeling that some of the birds and critters in my yard have kept him well fed.  The other day I watched him spy a lone bird snatching up seeds on the ground below the feeder. The cat got down on his back haunches, lowered his chin to the ground and slid along the grass like a stealth bomber under the radar.

As I observed, I stood ready to cause a distraction for the bird, but I’m ashamed to admit that I waited to see what would happen in this covert situation.  Well, my interception was not needed – black cat on green grass, crunching blades of grass approaching – that bird was outta there!  Whether in the animal kingdom or in human confrontation, there’s an art to warfare, and its strategies encompass many techniques.  However, few are as unique as those chosen by God and used by Gideon to defeat the Midianites in the valley near the hill of Moreh. 

@ Judges 7
“With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home.’  So Gideon collected the provisions and rams’ horns of the other warriors and sent them home. But he kept the 300 men with him.” (7-8)  I’ve tried to put myself in Gideon’s place during this discourse with God and wondered if my response would put me in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith like his response did.  To go from 32,000 troops down to 300 against the Midianite hordes – not good odds!  And the only items they were given to fight this fierce battle were horns, clay jars and torches!

This entire war strategy just doesn’t make sense in the natural, but then Gideon was now operating in the supernatural.  Through hindsight, we understand that this small army was able to quietly move into a strategic position surrounding its enemy.  The Israelites used what was in their hands; and as their horns, broken jars and shouts echoed through the valley of the Midian camp and their blazing torches encircled the enemy, Midian panic ensued.  Without lifting a sword, the enemy was defeated, and with an army of only 300 men, no one questioned who really brought the victory that day.  Just like the old song says, Little is much when God is in it.

We are facing battles on many different fronts today, and our enemy will use any strategy he can to stop our progress and bring defeat, including our own thoughts, temptations, habits and fears. Israel was victorious because the troops filled with fear were sent away, and we should send to flight our fears and any other tool the enemy could use.

Today’s troubled economy has left many with very little to work with, but just like Gideon and his 300, with faith and unencumbered by fear, we can use what is in our hands, whatever gifts and tools He has given us, to keep moving forward.  When the 300 advanced at God’s command, God performed the supernatural, and He will do the same for you and me! 

Moving forward:  Today I will use the things that God has put in my hand, perhaps rediscover old things and discover new things.  Like Gideon, I will not be stymied by the circumstances that surround me, but trust God to perform the supernatural on my behalf.  No one will question who brought the victory – little is much when God is in it!

Tomorrow @ Psalms 18-20

Joshua 21-24 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He blesses those who will serve Him today and every day

I’m sorry to bring this up, but it’s been 31 days since we made our New Year’s Resolutions, our big plans to make big changes for the New Year.  How’s it going? Sometimes our intentions are great, but our resolve, not so much. Joshua has thrown down the gauntlet for us today – we have been challenged!  Today, whom will we serve?

“So the Lord gave to Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there.  And the Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had solemnly promised their ancestors. None of their enemies could stand against them, for the Lord helped them conquer all their enemies. Not a single one of all the good promises the Lord had given to the family of Israel was left unfulfilled; everything he had spoken came true.” (21:43-45)  The Lord knows how to keep a commitment. 

@ Joshua 24
Joshua, now 110 years old, called all the leadership of the tribes of Israel to Shechem to present one last challenge to God’s people.  After a brief history of the faithfulness of God, Joshua presented his challenge, “So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve…But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” (14-15)  There, he said it!  The line has been drawn, the die has been cast, the gauntlet has been thrown.

In this scripture, the term serve means to admire or follow someone worshipfully.  Just like the Israelites who affirmed that they would serve the Lord Jehovah, our intentions every day are to serve the Lord.  I heard a television pastor ask his congregation one Sunday morning as he got up to speak, “Did you serve the Lord this week?”  The large congregation responded “yes” with enthusiasm.  The pastor quickly asked, “Well, what did you do?”  Dead silence filled the sanctuary.

“Choose today whom you will serve.”  We can’t rest on yesterday’s resolve to serve the Lord because today is a new day with new challenges.  The idols we are tempted to serve may be different than those of Joshua’s day, but they consume our thoughts and time just the same leaving little room for worshiping the Lord and reading His Word.  They come in many shapes and sizes:  our jobs, our children – yes, even our children – pleasures, sleep, community involvement, etc.  Of course, these are not bad things, they just aren’t God.

If the words to the old Bob Dylan song are correct, and I think they are, then “you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed. You’re gonna have to serve somebody.”  Joshua has challenged us to choose today and reaffirm each and every day in the daily routines of life the one who will receive our admiration and worship.  Choose today whom you will serve.

Moving Forward:  I accept Joshua’s challenge – as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord! 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 12-14

Joshua 16-20 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He expects us to possess the land He’s given to us

Generally speaking, individuals approach a difficult task in one of three ways:  A) Tackle the project head on, get it done and move on to easier tasks.  B)  Walk the dog, munch on snacks, shuffle papers, check email, ponder the existence of dust and finally, when it’s truly unavoidable, get it done.  C)  Do all of point B, add a few other unnecessary tasks and finally…save it for another day.  After all, why should we do today what we can put off until tomorrow?

As a student, I was a Type A – did the homework first, before television, before the phone and before dinner, leaving the evening free to do anything I wanted to do.  Having just taken down my Christmas decorations two days ago, I think I have digressed. Procrastination plagues all of us from time to time.  The more difficult or undesirable the task, the easier it is to save it for another day, and attempting to motivate a procrastinator to get the job done is like pulling teeth. Joshua had seven tribes of procrastinators to deal with.  Ugh.

@ Joshua 18
The walls of Jericho had fallen and the Israelites filled the land of Canaan.  Many of the tribes had already conquered and possessed their assigned territories, and the Canaanites had lost a great deal of control and were weakened through the advancement of these tribes.  But a large portion of the land was still in the hands of the Canaanites because seven tribes appeared to be Type C individuals.  Joshua gave them a little pep talk, “How long are you going to wait before taking possession of the remaining land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given to you?” (3)  In some circles, this would be called a guilt trip.

The Bible doesn’t record their answer as to why they had waited to take possession of their land.  After 40-plus years in the making to get to this point, they did not take the final step to conquer and possess the land.  Perhaps they didn’t have an answer that would justify their behavior other than why do today what we can put off until tomorrow.

Many factors could have caused their procrastination.  The seven tribes may have been just a little too comfortable in their present situation and the motivation wasn’t there to move forward.  Possibly fear of an unknown territory and the dangers they would face from the enemy paralyzed them to no action.  After a difficult journey, perhaps the challenge of rebuilding, repairing and replanting in this new land seemed overwhelming or maybe they were too lazy to do the work.  It’s even possible they were waiting for the perfect moment in time, perfect weather, everyone healthy and strong, Jupiter aligned with Mars. However, Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 11:4, “Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest,” and this probably applies to soldiers as well.  Well, we don’t know the reason, but we know they were not getting the job done.

If we are moving forward at all in this life, God has put before us a task to gain new ground or claim a promise He has given.  It may be gaining spiritual ground, new heights in the Spirit; it may be a mission, new souls for the kingdom; or it may be a personal achievement, more fit in body and soul.  When we neglect the task to possess the land, we put ourselves in a vulnerable position, as James wrote, “Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.”(4:17)  Not good.

Whatever our task, whatever our assignment, whatever our promise, we can be stirred to action by Joshua’s probing question, “How long are you going to wait before taking possession of the remaining land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given to you?” 

Moving Forward:  I’m not waiting for better weather or the right mood, I’m moving forward today towards all He has promised. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 9-11

Joshua 11-15 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He has a strategy for our lives that will bring victory

Strategic planning, surveillance and big guns are all important components of a successful army at war. Although Germany had developed the most powerful tanks during World War II, those tanks did nothing to keep the German soldiers alive in the frozen Russian countryside – their strategy had failed them.  All resources are necessary to win a war, but even with the most sophisticated equipment and strategy, success will not be realized unless the boots on the ground obey orders.  Because of this, training for military service is not for the faint of heart, and only those men and women who have learned to submit to their authorities are allowed to serve.  Joshua was one of these faithful soldiers who understood the chain of command, and because of it, God appointed him General. 

@ Joshua 11
Moses, Israel’s great leader, was gone, but he left a strategy and assignment for his assistant, Joshua.  Now in command, Joshua could have easily thought that he had a better plan, a more strategic way of conquering the Promised Land; but no, not this trained military man.  Joshua followed the chain of command, “As the Lord had commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua.  And Joshua did as he was told, carefully obeying all the commands that the Lord had given to Moses.” (15)

The Israelites soldiers won battle after battle because they, too, followed the orders that were given them.  After seven long years at war, victory had come, “So Joshua took control of the entire land, just as the Lord had instructed Moses.  He gave it to the people of Israel as their special possession, dividing the land among the tribes. So the land finally had rest from war.” (23)  We can be assured of victory as well when we obey the commands from our General and all those He has placed in His chain of command over us.  We may think we have a better strategy to take new ground, but we will never be more effective than when we, like Joshua, follow God’s plan and do as we are told.

I hate to mention this after such glowing reports of success, but a few of Joshua’s soldiers had a little trouble following his example of carefully obeying all the commands they were given by completely destroying the enemy, “But the tribe of Judah could not drive out the Jebusites, who lived in the city of Jerusalem, so the Jebusites live there among the people of Judah to this day.” (15:63)

Over the years, the Jebusites grew in number to where they controlled Jerusalem, this beautiful city promised to Abraham.  King David finally captured it 400 years later, but even after that, King Solomon had to deal with them and made them servants in the land.  Now, some 3000 years later, many non-Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem lay claim to this war-torn city because they maintain that they are from the line of Jebusites, even the late Yasser Arafat claimed to be a Jebusite.  Whether this claim is based on truth or not, it would not even be considered if the Jebusites had been completely destroyed by the soldiers.

There is no need to belabor the importance of obeying all the commands of the Lord because we understand the ramifications.  In the battles we face against the enemy in our own lives, we should be careful not to allow any part of his wickedness to dwell in our camp to affect our future and that of our children.  Joshua did as he was told. 

Moving Forward:  I want to be Joshua today, carefully following the Lord’s strategy and commands for my life, insuring victory!

Tomorrow @ Psalm 6-8

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

Genesis 4-7 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He is merciful

I have in my possession an afghan that I started to crochet in the mid-1980’s, my very first crochet project.  Now over 25 years later, it’s still not finished.  It hurts my pride to admit that I have several similar projects in boxes and drawers, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I prefer craft projects that take five hours or less to complete.  It’s not that I need instant gratification, but if a project takes much longer than that, it’s easy for me to lose interest and move on to something new.  We all have our flaws. With this mindset, I read the account in our scripture today of a man who stayed on task in a project that took more years to complete than most of us have been on the planet.  Hat’s off to Noah – good job!

Speaking of Noah’s project, we’ve read the amazing accounts in the Bible of God parting the Red Sea for the Israelites, causing the great fish to swallow Jonah and cough him out on shore and raising people from the dead.  But, a 500-year-old guy building a ship that was one and a half football fields long and four stories high, no matter how many years it took him, is really astounding.

Noah was quite a guy and is still popular today.  Movies have been made recounting his story, yet I imagine it was considered to be pure fiction by most involved in the making of them.  Those who read the Bible know Noah’s story is mentioned several times in His Word to show the incredible mercy God has extended to His people.

@ Genesis 6
“Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God…Now God saw that the earth had become corrupt and was filled with violence…So God said to Noah, ‘I have decided to destroy all living creatures, for they have filled the earth with violence…Build a large boat from cypress wood and waterproof it with tar, inside and out…Look! I am about to cover the earth with a flood that will destroy every living thing that breathes. Everything on earth will die. But I will confirm my covenant with you.’” (9-18)

At the outset, God’s message to Noah did not appear to be incredibly merciful.  To destroy every living thing that breathes, other than Noah, his family and selected animals, is not considered an act of mercy by most.  While trying to justify their unbelief in God, those who consider God to be judgmental and cruel often note the story of Noah and God’s judgment on the earth, asking “How could a loving God…”  He could because He is merciful.

Rather than allowing mankind to perpetuate its gross sin to future generations and be forever lost, God put an end to it, saving a man who was in close fellowship with Him and saving his family.  As we will soon read, God then called a people, His chosen people, to tell the world about Him, but sadly their message was weak and tainted. God ultimately sent His Son to die for us.  Since our beginning in the Garden, God has always given mankind the right to choose to love Him in an intimate relationship. Jesus was the only One worthy to bring us back into the Garden.  God is merciful.

“So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.” (22)  Noah obviously endured backbreaking labor – 500 years old, huge ship, decades-long project – while preaching about the impending doom for those who did not follow God. (2 Peter 2:5)  I imagine the ridicule as he built the ship was crushing.  After all, no one had ever seen a raindrop much less a flood, but Noah did not get discouraged and give up nor did he lose interest and put the project aside.  “Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him,” and God was merciful to Noah. 

Moving Forward:  I want to be tenacious like Noah in any project the Lord assigns to me.  I want to be faithful like Noah in my witnessing and in my ministry, whether it is singing in the choir or feeding the hungry.  No matter what the project, I’d love to read, “So Phyllis did everything exactly as God had commanded her.”  Be still my heart. 

Tomorrow @ Joshua 6-10