Numbers 13-16 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He will provide all we need to step into our destiny

I remember when my granddaughter learned the word humongous while watching Sesame Street and used it with great excitement whenever she saw something she considered really large.  I thought of her this week as I read the story of the twelve spies.  The spies returned to the Israelite camp with a humongous cluster of grapes so large that two men had to carry it; but, unfortunately, all they remembered were the humongous giants in the land.

@ Numbers 13
“We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces. But…” (27-28)  The children of Israel stood at the threshold of their destiny to occupy their promised land and allowed the little three letter word but to keep them from it.  “‘…the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak!…We can’t go up there against them! They are stronger than we are!’  So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites.” (28,31-32)

The names of all twelve men are listed in Chapter 13, but of those names, we only remember two of them.  The others are all very forgettable.  When we are positioned by God to step into His destiny for us, we can easily lose sight of it if we focus on the humongous obstacles that may be present instead of the humongous promise He has given to us.  Those grapes were huge and represented God’s promise of a land flowing with milk and honey, rich and abundant.

Joshua and Caleb were impressed by the grapes, not by the giants.  “They said to all the people of Israel, ‘The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! And if the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. Do not rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!’” (14:7-9)

When we are on the edge of something wonderful that God has planned for us, we want to have the faith of Joshua and Caleb, not the fear and doubt of…of…whatever their names are.  God will never promise something to us that is impossible to attain.  Of all the Israelites standing in the camp on that day, only Joshua and Caleb entered the Promised Land to receive God’s humongous blessing. 

Moving Forward: I don’t want to miss all that God has for me because of obstacles that I perceive to be bigger than they really are.  I want to be Joshua and Caleb who saw the huge blessing God had waiting for them. 

Tomorrow @ I Chronicles 20-24

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 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

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

Numbers 25-28 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He provides the best leadership to guide His sheep

Several years ago I started a new job, and I was the first person to hold the position.  There were no precedents to follow, no one to train me and a lot of what I did at the beginning was hit or miss.  Through the years I developed a job description and worked out most of the kinks and challenges.  In situations like this it’s easy to take ownership, view it as my baby and become protective of it.

The time had come for me to move on and train someone else to fill the position.  Now I had to trust that the leadership would choose someone who would not harm the job that I had developed and worked so hard to make perfect.  As I trained the new employee, it didn’t take long for me to realize that this was a highly qualified person who would use the equipment and resources to an even greater degree of efficiency than I had done.  And that made my heart sing!  The work would not suffer and would move forward.  Today in our reading, Moses found himself in somewhat the same circumstance, released from a position that he had been the first to hold.

@ Numbers 27
God met with Moses on the mountaintop to show him Canaan, the land he would not enter because of his sin at Meribah.  The 120 year old leader showed his true heart in his response to the Lord, “O Lord, you are the God who gives breath to all creatures. Please appoint a new man as leader for the community. Give them someone who will guide them wherever they go and will lead them into battle, so the community of the Lord will not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (16-17)

Even though Moses had not met Jesus yet, although one day he would do so on the Mount of Transfiguration, he had the compassion of Jesus who said, “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)  Jesus had just been called a devil because He delivered a man from the demons that possessed him, but both leaders looked past their own situations and were concerned about the needs of others.

A wise Moses wanted God to choose his successor.  Two men, Joshua and Caleb, had both proven to be led by the Lord and to be worthy of leadership roles, and no doubt there were others who thought themselves worthy of the position.  Sometimes we desire to choose our replacements on the job or in the church; and as parents, we would even like to choose the spouses who will become central in the lives of our grown children. But how much better to leave it to our superiors or the leadership of the Holy Spirit, removing ourselves from the possibility of error.

Of course, God had chosen the perfect replacement for Moses, “The Lord replied, ‘Take Joshua son of Nun, who has the Spirit in him, and lay your hands on him.  Present him to Eleazar the priest before the whole community, and publicly commission him to lead the people.’” (18-20)  Our public acceptance of those who follow us in any position provides continuity so the work will not suffer.  This requires a generous heart, without envy or selfishness, regardless of how much of ourselves we have given to it in the past.  This was the heart of Moses, “So Moses did as the Lord commanded.  He presented Joshua to Eleazar the priest and the whole community. Moses laid his hands on him and commissioned him to lead the people.” (22-23)

When we find ourselves in a situation similar to Moses, where we will pass on the baton to someone else to fulfill a role we have served, may we do so with a generous heart towards his or her success. In doing this, we will reveal a compassionate heart for those being served, trusting that nothing will suffer in the process.  That should make our hearts sing! 

Moving Forward:  I can serve Him with confidence today knowing that when He provides my next step, He also will provide my successor.  He’s very faithful that way. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Chronicles 6-10

Numbers 13-16 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He will provide all we need to step into our destiny

I remember when my granddaughter learned the word humongous on Sesame Street and used it with great excitement whenever she saw something she considered really large.  I thought of her this week as I read the story of the twelve spies.  The spies returned to the Israelite camp with a humongous cluster of grapes so large that two men had to carry it; but, unfortunately, all they remembered were the humongous giants in the land.

@ Numbers 13
“We entered the land you sent us to explore, and it is indeed a bountiful country—a land flowing with milk and honey. Here is the kind of fruit it produces. But…” (27-28)  The children of Israel stood at the threshold of their destiny to occupy their promised land and allowed the little three letter word but to keep them from it.  “‘…the people living there are powerful, and their towns are large and fortified. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak!…We can’t go up there against them! They are stronger than we are!’  So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites.” (28,31-32)

The names of all twelve men are listed in Chapter 13, but of those names, we only remember two of them.  The others are all very forgettable.  When we are positioned by God to step into His destiny for us, we can easily lose sight of it if we focus on the humongous obstacles that may be present instead of the humongous promise He has given to us.  Those grapes were huge and represented God’s promise of a land flowing with milk and honey, rich and abundant.

Joshua and Caleb were impressed by the grapes, not by the giants.  “They said to all the people of Israel, ‘The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! And if the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey. Do not rebel against the Lord, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land. They are only helpless prey to us! They have no protection, but the Lord is with us! Don’t be afraid of them!’” (14:7-9)

When we are on the edge of something wonderful that God has planned for us, we want to have the faith of Joshua and Caleb, not the fear and doubt of…of…whatever their names are.  God will never promise something to us that is impossible to attain.  Of all the Israelites standing in the camp on that day, only Joshua and Caleb entered the Promised Land to receive God’s humongous blessing. 

Moving Forward: I don’t want to miss all that God has for me because of obstacles that I perceive to be bigger than they really are.  I want to be Joshua and Caleb who saw the huge blessing God had waiting for them. 

Tomorrow @ I Chronicles 20-24