3/15/17 “The Lord Will Work for Us” (Daily Bible Reading: 1 Samuel 12-14)

“Then Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, ‘Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few’” (I Samuel 14:6).

These words were spoken by Jonathan, the son of King Saul of Israel. Israel had been oppressed by their enemies, the Philistines. So great was the oppression that Israel had no blacksmiths in the land to make them weapons. There were few swords and spears to be found in all of Israel (1 Samuel 13:19-22). Furthermore, the Philistines had created such fear among Israel that people were literally hiding in caves, rocks, and thickets (1 Samuel 13:6).

Even Jonathan’s own father, King Saul, had allowed the fear of the Philistines to lead him to violate God’s command to wait for Samuel to come and offer sacrifices to God (1 Samuel 10:8). Because he feared the people would be scattered from him for fear of the Philistines, Saul forsook God’s command and “felt compelled” to offer the sacrifices himself (1 Samuel 13:10-12). Because of this, Saul’s kingdom would be taken away from him (1 Samuel 13:13-14).

It is with this background in mind that Jonathan makes this great statement of faith in God as is seen in the opening verse above. It appeared everything was stacked against Israel being able to be delivered from the oppression of the Philistines. All around, in every direction things appeared hopeless. Israel did not have enough weapons. The morale of the army was so bad that people were hiding in caves. Their new leader, King Saul, was beginning to panic under pressure.

However, Jonathan chose not to look around him at the fearfulness of the people, the inadequacy of materials for the army, or the weaknesses of its leader. Instead, he looked up in faith to God and God’s ability to deliver. He believed God was not restrained in any way by all these circumstances in His ability to save Israel. God could save by many or by few!

Do you ever find yourself dwelling upon the apparent hopeless circumstances in which you may find yourself? So many times, we look around at the problems we face and become full of fear and anxiety. We panic and try to solve our problems all by ourselves which leads us to say and do things we regret. Like King Saul, we usually get ourselves into more problems when we focus upon our inadequate ability to deliver ourselves from our trying circumstances.

It is during these trying times, that we need to have the faith of Jonathan. God used Jonathan to accomplish a great victory for Israel. Jonathan defeated the Philistine garrison he faced (1 Samuel 14:7-14). This encouraged the Israelites to rise up out of their caves and join in the battle and defeat their enemies (1 Samuel 14:15-23). This great victory all began because of one man’s great faith in God!

Today, I will strive to place my faith fully in God. I rejoice that “nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few”. The Lord will work for us!

“I will lift up my eyes to the hills-- From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).

3/14/17 “Okay, Have It Your Way” (Daily Bible Reading: 1 Samuel 8-11)

“Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, ‘No, but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles’" (1 Samuel 8:19-20).

The prophet Samuel had faithfully judged Israel (1 Samuel 7:15-17). Later in life he made his sons judges over Israel, but they turned aside from God and were corrupt (1 Samuel 8:1-3). The elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel and said to him, “Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:4-5).

Although he was disappointed, Samuel prayed to the Lord about this (1 Samuel 8:6). God told him, “Heed to voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them” (1 Samuel 8:7). Even though God viewed this request as the people’s rejection of Him as their king, God allowed the people to have a king.

God told Samuel to “solemnly forewarn” Israel by showing them the “behavior of the king” who will reign over them. Samuel does this (1 Samuel 8:9-17). Samuel ends this warning by describing the consequences of Israel’s desire to have a king: “And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day” (I Samuel 8:18).

As the opening verse above indicates, Israel insisted on having a king so that they can “be like all the nations” (1 Samuel 8:19). Being like the other nations was more important to them than being in a right relationship with God. God used Samuel to anoint Saul king of Israel (1 Samuel 9:1-10:27).

Saul’s reign over Israel started off well with the defeat of the Ammonites who had encamped against Jabesh Gilead (1 Samuel 11:1-15), but things quickly began to unravel as Saul disobeyed God’s commands and God rejected him from being king over Israel. Future kings would lead the kingdom further and further away from God, into idolatry, into alliances with heathen nations, and eventually into captivity by the Assyrian and Babylonian empires.

God rules the nations. He works His will and accomplishes all His purposes. His power is immense! Yet, He doesn’t take away man’s power to make his own decisions, even when those decisions (i.e. like Israel’s in wanting a king) are incredibly foolish and self-destructive. Even though He doesn’t desire to see me hurt, God will not prevent me from being stupid when I insist on being so!

God never stopped loving his people because they chose to have a king. He disagreed with their choice and viewed it as a rejection of Him. He knew their decision would bring tragic consequences. Yet, He knew He still loved them. He would continue to show them love by sending prophets to them to attempt to get them to turn from the errors of their ways before eventually his longsuffering with them runs out and their sinful behavior leads to the judgment of captivity for them.

I rejoice that God loves me even when I insist on making dumb choices! This doesn’t remove the consequences I will face as a result of my choices, but it doesn’t remove God’s love for me either. I will strive to make the choices that are in accordance with God’s Will for me and not contrary to it.

“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

3/13/17 “Here I Raise My Ebenezer…” (Daily Bible Reading: 1 Samuel 4-7)

“Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its name Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us’” (1 Samuel 7:12).

How often do you reflect upon the various ways God has helped you in your life? If you are like me it is so tempting to get so wrapped up in the activities of daily living that you fail to take time to rejoice in how God has blessed you in helping you through your journey of life.

Samuel grew up and became a great prophet of God (1 Samuel 3:19-21). His mentor Eli, along with Eli’s sons, died following the capture of the ark of God by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:11, 18). After being plagued by God, the Philistines returned the ark of God to the Israelites (1 Samuel 6:11-21).

Samuel showed an excellent spiritual leadership by leading the people to put away their idols (1 Samuel 7:3-6). The Philistines had gathered together to fight Israel and Israel became very afraid. However, to Israel’s credit, they called upon their leader, Samuel, to cry out to “the Lord our God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines” (1 Samuel 7:8). Samuel did this and offered sacrificial offerings to God (1 Samuel 7:9). The Lord caused a great thunder to occur which confused the Philistines and God’s people defeated their enemies (1 Samuel 7:10-11).

Following this victory, Samuel set up his “Ebenezer” as the opening verse above indicates (1 Samuel 7:12). One of the hymns we sing in church is called “O, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”. The 2nd verse of that song begins: “Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by Thy great help I’ve come…”. I had sung this song for years not understanding the significance of these words. The only “Ebenezer” I knew before was Ebenezer Scrooge from Dickens’ Christmas Carol.

The word “Ebenezer” comes from a Hebrew word which simply means, “stone of help”. An Ebenezer, then, is simply a monumental stone set up to signify the great help that God granted the one raising the stone (Kyle Butt, “Here I raise my Ebenezer,” Apologetics Press). Samuel was setting up this stone as I way of expressing his gratitude for God’s help in directing Israel thus far and he took time to give God glory.

As I take time to ponder the words of Samuel following the raising up of his “Ebenezer”, when he says, “Thus far the Lord has helped us” (1 Samuel 7:12), I am filled with a sense of awe as I reflect how God has helped me thus far in my life. God has led me out of my sinful past and into the salvation found in His wonderful Son Jesus (Colossians 1:13). He has shown tremendous longsuffering with me as I struggled with my own weaknesses and failures in attempting to follow Him. The Lord has led me through valleys during challenging trials I have faced and He has led me to high mountaintops and allowed me to experience times of great joy. Today, I rejoice and glorify God and say, “Here I raise my Ebenezer, here by Thy great help I’ve come…”. God is the Fount of Every Blessing!

“One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; in the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock. And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord” (Psalm 27:4-6).

3/12/17 “Feeling ‘Bitterness of Soul’?” (Daily Bible Reading: 1 Samuel 1-3)

“Then she made a vow and said, ‘O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head’" (1 Samuel 1:11).

These above words were spoken by Hannah (1 Samuel 1:1-2). She lived during the period of the Judges when men were not following God’s laws but each was “doing what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). Her husband Elkanah had another wife named Peninnah who had children. Peninnah tormented Hannah because Hannah had no children (1 Samuel 1:6). Because of these circumstances, Hannah’s heart was grieved. She experienced “bitterness of soul” (1 Samuel 1:7-10).

Even during this dark period of Israel’s history, Elkanah still led his family to Shiloh (i.e. where the tabernacle of God was) to worship God (1 Samuel 1:3). It is while she is here that Hannah makes the vow mentioned in the opening verse above (1 Samuel 1:11). Eli the priest confirms that God will fulfill this vow Hannah makes (1 Samuel 1:12-18). She bears a son, Samuel (1 Samuel 1:19-20).

Hannah keeps Samuel at home until he is weaned. She then brings him to the tabernacle to fulfill her vow to dedicate him to God’s service (1 Samuel 1:21-28). After singing a song praising God for all He had done (1 Samuel 2:1-10), Hannah dedicates her son to God by leaving him in the care of Eli (1 Samuel 2:11, 18). Each year when she comes to the tabernacle to worship, she brings Samuel a new robe she has made (1 Samuel 2:19). God blesses her with 3 more sons and 2 daughters (1 Samuel 2:20-21). Samuel is called by God and becomes a great prophet in Israel (1 Samuel 3:1-21).

What a great woman of faith Hannah was! As she experienced “bitterness of soul” (1 Samuel 1:10), she did not allow this to make her become a “bitter woman”. Instead, she cast this pain upon the Lord because she knew God cared for her (1 Peter 5:7). She made an incredibly challenging vow to God that if God gave her a child, she would dedicate that child to God’s service all the days of his life (1 Samuel 1:11). More importantly, she kept this vow. She must have experienced some pain at having to watch Samuel grow up away from her. It must have been tempting for her to want to take him home with her each year she went up to the tabernacle to worship. But she didn’t. She showed her tender love for this child by making him a new robe each year. Samuel knew his mother loved him, but he also knew that his mother was fulfilling the vow she had made to God.

As I think about Hannah and us today, I can’t help but think how many of us have “relationship issues” that we face. Some of us are single and long for a spouse. Others are married and strongly desire to have children, but have been unable to have children thus far. There are still others of us are married with children and have struggles with our relationships within our families such as communication problems with our spouses or rebellion amongst our children.

This can lead us to feel “bitterness of soul” as did Hannah (1 Samuel 1:10). To her credit she gave this “bitterness” over to God and will eventually say, “My heart rejoices in the Lord; my horn is exalted in the Lord…” (1 Samuel 2:1). Are you struggling with feeling “bitterness of soul” because you desire a relationship with someone (e.g. having a spouse or a child) or you are having challenges within a relationship that already exists? Follow the example of Hannah and give this “bitterness” over to God. Today, I will rejoice that God is willing to bear my “bitterness of soul”!

“Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I WAIT all the day” (Psalm 25:4-5).

3/11/17 “A Virtuous Woman (And Man)” (Daily Bible Reading: Ruth 2-4)

“And he said, ‘Who are you?’ So she answered, ‘I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, for you are a close relative.’ Then he said, ‘Blessed are you of the Lord, my daughter! For you have shown more kindness at the end than at the beginning, in that you did not go after young men, whether poor or rich. And now, my daughter, do not fear. I will do for you all that you request, for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman’” (Ruth 3:9-11).

After returning with her mother-in-law Naomi to a foreign land she had never known, Ruth enters this land with no idea of how she is going to provide for herself. She and Naomi are widows. They did not have any kind of social program such as Social Security to take care of them. She begins to glean the leftover crops from a field owned by Boaz, one of Naomi’s dead husband’s relatives (Ruth 2:1-3). Boaz is an honorable man and goes out of his way to fulfill the way of the Old Testament law to provide for the poor and the stranger (Leviticus 19:9-10). Boaz instructs his servants to make sure they purposely let additional grain fall from their bundles so that Ruth may glean it (Ruth 2:4-23).

Naomi, Ruth’s mother in law, rejoices in this and seeks a way of providing future security for Ruth (Ruth 3:1). Naomi is well aware of a law of God that required that when a man died without children, his closest relative was to marry the widowed wife and raise up children for that man so that his land inheritance would not be lost and that his name would not be forgotten (Deuteronomy 25:5-6). Naomi tells Ruth to clean up herself, go to where Boaz was winnowing barley, and lay down at his feet after he falls to sleep. Noami instructs that when Boaz wakes up, Ruth is to ask him to carry out this Old Testament duty and care for her as the widowed wife of his close relative (Ruth 3:1-7).

As the opening verses above indicate, Boaz is willing to do this. However, there is a closer relative to Ruth’s dead husband than he. Boaz must first give him the opportunity to carry out this obligation (Deuteronomy 25:5-10; Ruth 3:8-18). However, the closer relative cannot carry it out (Ruth 4:1-12). Boaz marries Ruth, Noami rejoices, and they all, literally, live happily ever after (Ruth 4:13-22).

This is a beautiful story showing God’s providential care for those who commit themselves to Him. It is an account about the innocent love of a man and a woman. It is the interaction of 2 people, Boaz and Ruth, who conduct themselves in an honorable way which glorifies God. It is a romance which should encourage all the unmarried among God’s people that if they will commit themselves to following God, and if it is God’s Will for them, He will provide for them a mate.

How different is this story from what we see how people “fall in love” according to Hollywood. Hollywood has men and women playing games with each other, jumping into sexual relations on the first date, and never facing any challenges in their relationship once they are “together”. Unfortunately, many young people (i.e. even among those professing to be followers of Christ) buy into Hollywood’s version of “falling in love”.

I encourage young people to study this great story of the romance of Boaz and Ruth. It is a powerful example of “true love”, dedication, and purity. I appreciate the challenges young people face to keep pure and conduct themselves with honor in their relationships with the opposite sex. Today, I will rejoice in my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who seek to follow the example of Boaz and Ruth and conduct themselves with honor in their relationships with the opposite sex.

“Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).

3/10/17 “Commitment to the Broken-hearted” (Daily Bible Reading: Judges 20-Ruth 1)

But Ruth said: "Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me" (Ruth 1:16-17).

When your heart has been broken by someone or something that has happened in your life or you are battling with feelings of depression, how do you want people to respond to you? How do you react to others whose hearts have been broken or who struggle with being depressed?

The opening words above were spoken by Ruth, the great grandmother of King David (Matthew 1:5-6). What a great lady she was. I wonder about the influence she may have had on David and him becoming “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22).

Today, these words are often used in weddings as part of the vows grooms and bride make to each other. It is fitting because it shows the commitment that those who are truly in love should have for one another. It speaks of a beautiful dedication that one person has to love another unconditionally.

However, it is important to realize the context of these words. Earlier, Naomi and her husband had left Bethlehem in Judah and went to the land of Moab because of a great famine (Ruth 1:1). While there her 2 sons each marry women of Moab. One of these women was Ruth (Ruth 1:2-4). Ruth had recently lost her own husband who had died (Ruth 1:5). Her mother-in-law Naomi had lost not only her own husband, but also both of her sons. The circumstances of life had greatly burdened Noami and she was severely depressed. She felt like “the hand of the Lord has gone out against me” (Ruth 1:13). After she returns with Ruth to her homeland, Naomi tells her people, “Do not call me Noami (i.e. meaning “Pleasant”); call me Mara (i.e. meaning “Bitter”), for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me” (Ruth 1:20). To say the least, Naomi was very depressed about all that had happened to her. Her heart was broken.

When Ruth says the opening words above, she is not speaking to someone who is positive, encouraging, and fun to be around. She is speaking to someone who is downtrodden, bitter, and discouraged. I believe we can all understand Naomi’s feeling this way. This isn’t meant to condemn Naomi for feeling this way. I can certainly understand and empathize with her feelings. The point is: Ruth was choosing to love someone who wasn’t exactly the easiest person to love at that moment. Loving those who struggle with depression isn’t always easy, but it is what they need the most. They need to be loved for who they are. They need to know how much God loves them. Ruth is a great and powerful example of choosing to love someone who is fighting with severe depression.

Who do you know in your life who is battling with depression? Follow Ruth’s example and show this kind of love and commitment to them. Perhaps, you yourself are battling with depression or you are brokenhearted; May those around you show you this kind of love. Most of all, remember this is the kind of commitment God has for us in His love for us. Today, I will strive to love others with the kind of love and commitment Ruth showed Naomi and rejoice that nothing, even if I am struggling with being broken-hearted, can separate me from the love God has for me!

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39)

3/9/17 “Doing What Is Right in Our Own Eyes” (Daily Bible Reading: Judges 17-19)

“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).

In the book of Judges we see Israel moving further and further from God. At times, they repent and God provides a judge such as Gideon, Jephthah or Samson to deliver them. After being delivered each time, once again God’s people turn their back on Him and fall back into sin. By the time of the end of the book of Judges, there is no longer a desire on the part of the people of God to repent and turn back to God; instead, “…everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).

In fact, one can see just how far away from God they had departed. A man Micah sets up an idol and has a Levite to serve as his priest (Judges 17:1-13). Then some from the tribe of Dan come and steal this image and take the Levite and have him serve as their priest because they conclude it is better for the Levite to serve as priest for a whole tribe than for just one person (Judges 18:1-31).

Then another Levite takes for himself a concubine and on his return trip home he comes to the city of Gibeon located within the tribe of Benjamin. While there some “perverted men” surround the house where he is lodging and want to “know him carnally” (Judges 19:22). Instead, they take his concubine and abuse her to the point of death (Judges 19:25-28). The Levite then takes the dead body of his concubine, divides it into 12 parts and sends these parts to the tribes of Israel (Judges 19:29-30). This leads to civil war and most of the tribe of Benjamin is destroyed (Judges 20:1-48).

Because almost all of Benjamin is eliminated, the Israelites try to salvage the tribe by providing wives for the surviving Benjamites from one of the cities that did not go up to fight against them, Jabesh-Gilead (located within the tribe of Gad). All of the inhabitants of this city were destroyed except for the young women who had not “known a man intimately”(Judges 21:1-11). These women were given to the surviving Benjamites (Judges 21:12-15). Because there were not enough of these young virgins for all the surviving Benjamites, the remaining Benjamites were allowed to “catch a wife for himself” at one of the feasts of the Lord at Shiloh and take her back to Benjamin (Judges 21:16-23). Israel had degenerated to the point of allowing their daughters to be kidnapped.

The book of Judges ends with: “In those days there was no king in Israel, everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). This is a very fitting end that accurately describes Israel’s condition: Each was doing what he or she believed was right. They were not following God!

As I read this, it is easy to get depressed because this shows in very graphic terms what happens when people turn their back on God. Paul described what happened to the Gentiles who turned their backs on God: “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen (Romans 1:24-25). When people turn their backs on seeking after God, they begin to act in very cruel ways. There is no set of values they seek to follow. Each does what is right in their eyes!

However, instead of getting depressed about what happens to men when they depart from God, I can rejoice God has given me the opportunity to know him. He has given me His Word to enlighten me and show me how I should walk upon this earth. God is my king and I will follow Him!

“With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You!” (Psalm 119:10-11).

3/8/17 “Incredibly Strong and Weak” (Daily Bible Reading: Judges 14-16)

“Afterward it happened that he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, ‘Entice him, and find out where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to afflict him; and every one of us will give you eleven hundred pieces of silver’” (Judges 16:4-5).

Because of the evil they had done, God delivered Israel over to the Philistines who oppressed them for 40 years (Judges 13:1). God raised up Samson to deliver Israel from the Philistines (Judges 13:2-25). Samson is mentioned as being a great man of faith (Hebrews 11:32), but he is also a man who struggled with his own weaknesses, sexual temptations, which eventually led to his demise.

As the opening verses above indicate, Samson loved a Philistine woman named Delilah (Judges 16:4). Earlier, he had married a Philistine woman (Judges 14:1-4). After his wife was given to another man and eventually killed by the Philistines (Judges 15:1-6), Samson goes to the Philistine city of Gaza and has sexual relations with a harlot at the time he was judging Israel (Judges 15:20; 16:1). He then enters a relationship with Delilah who entices him to reveal the secret of his strength (Judges 16:15-18). She has his head shaven. Samson’s strength leaves him as the Lord departs from him. The Philistines capture him and put out his eyes (Judges 16:19-21).

As I look at this account, it is easy to see that although Samson was physically incredibly strong, spiritually he was incredibly weak when it came to his ability to withstand sexual temptations. Because he did not control these sexual desires, but rather let these desires control him, time and time again we see him committing sexual sins (cf. James 1:14-15).

As I consider myself and how this applies to me, I need to be mindful of areas in my life where I am spiritually weak and be aware of inappropriate desires I may struggle with that I need to keep under control. I need to realize how the devil uses these desires to lead me astray. All of us struggle with inappropriate desires that lead to sin. Samson struggled with sexual desires. Delilah struggled with love of money. She was willing to hand Samson, a man who loved her (Judges 16:4) over to the Philistines for 1100 pieces of silver (Judges 16:5). The inappropriate desires with which you struggle most are probably not exactly the same ones with which I struggle.

Even though he struggled with these desires and fell into sin, God was still able to use Samson to accomplish his purposes to deliver Israel from the Philistines (Judges 16:4). Even though Samson time and time again fell into sexual sin, he still displayed great faith in God (Hebrews 11:32) when at the end of his life he calls on God to give him strength one last time that he may push the pillars of the temple of the Philistines down causing its destruction, his death, and the death of 3000 Philistines (Judges 16:28-30). None of this excuses Samson’s sin. It just shows that God is able to use people who struggle with their weaknesses and display faith in Him to accomplish great things.

Today I will rejoice that God can use me even though I struggle with my own weaknesses. I will strive to guard against temptation, especially being mindful of my own inappropriate desires and how these lead to sin. I will seek the way of escape from temptation which God has provided!

“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:12-13).

3/7/17 “Fighting Among Ourselves” (Daily Bible Reading: Judges 11-13)

“Then the men of Ephraim gathered together, crossed over toward Zaphon, and said to Jephthah, ‘Why did you cross over to fight against the people of Ammon, and did not call us to go with you? We will burn your house down on you with fire!’” (Judges 12:1)

Because of their sin, Israel had been oppressed by the Ammonites for 18 years (Judges 10:7-9). When God could no longer endure the misery that was happening to His people Israel (Judges 10:16), following their repentance, God raised up another judge, Jephthah, to deliver Israel from the Ammonite oppression (Judges 10:10-11:28). Following a needless, hasty vow made by Jephthah, in which offers to sacrifice whatever comes out of his house to meet him when he returns in peace to his home from fighting, God gives Jephthah victory over the people of Ammon (Judges 11:29-33).

Upon returning home from battle, Jephthah’s daughter is the first to come out of his house. Even though God did not expect him to do this, all indications are Jephthah followed through with keeping this rashly made vow to God and sacrificed his daughter (Judges 11:34-40). This is further proof of how far the Israelite nation had fallen from God. Their leaders of the nation were less than ideal.

As the opening verse above indicates, instead of celebrating the victory God had given Israel over the Ammonites, one of the tribes of Israel, Ephraim, is upset because they were had not participated in this victory (Judges 12:1). They are so upset they threaten to burn Jephthah’s house down!

Jephthah mentions that he had called upon them, but they had not come to help. So he went to battle against the Ammonites without them (Judges 12:2-3). As a result Jephthah and his men fight against the men of Ephraim in a civil war in which 42,000 men of Ephraim are killed (Judges 12:4-6).

How utterly senseless all of this was! I wonder how often God’s people today find themselves fighting over senseless things. Unfortunately, I have been part of a church recovering from a church split. Over the years, I have also seen brethren leave the church because their feelings had been hurt or their pride wounded. I have also witnessed brethren leading rebellions within the church.

I appeal to my brethren that we need to remember who the enemy is. It is Satan and his allies. It is not our own brethren! We may disagree at times, but we are still brethren. With the exception of those who teach, we may even disagree on matters about which the Bible teaches. As fellow “disciples” or learners” we need to have patience with each other and give each other room to grow.

For example, the apostle Paul could work with a church in which the members had so many doctrinal misunderstandings such as the church at Corinth (e.g. doubts about the resurrection, misunderstanding about the use of spiritual gifts, etc.) and still call them brethren. This doesn’t mean we can’t challenge each other regarding “doctrinal issues” or rebuke false teachers. We should. Those who teach are held to a higher standard and must ensure they are teaching the truth (James 3:1). But, above all we must conduct ourselves in a spirit of love remembering they are our brethren!

Today, I rejoice in my brethren. They are fellow soldiers of the cross who are striving to serve Jesus and implement His Will in their lives. I will be considerate of them and give them room to grow as they, like me, mature in the knowledge of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:9-10).

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).

3/6/17 “O My Lord, How Can I Save Israel?” (Daily Bible Reading: Judges 6-10)

“Then the Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?’ So he said to Him, ‘O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house’ (Judges 6:14-15).

Once again because of Israel’s turning their backs on God, God allows Israel to be oppressed by their heathen neighbors, the Midianites (Judges 6:1-6). After sending a prophet to Israel informing them of their sin (Judges 6:7-10), the Angel of the Lord comes to Gideon and informs him that God is going to use him to deliver Israel from the heavy hand of the Midianites (Judges 6:11-14).

As the opening verses above indicate, Gideon reacts to this opportunity with great doubt. He looks at himself and sees by his own power he is completely unable to do such a task. He is from the weakest clan in his tribe of Manasseh and he is the least among those in his father’s house (Judges 6:15). How can he possibly save his people from the Midianites?

Like many of us, Gideon looked to himself for the power to accomplish this task. He did not look up to God. His faith in God at this point is very weak. God is going to work with Gideon to increase his faith. God does this by: (1) causing fire to come out of a rock that consumes a sacrifice Gideon had prepared on an altar (Judges 6:17-24), (2) challenging Gideon to prepare a 2nd sacrifice on an altar he will make after destroying his own father’s idolatrous altar (Judges 6:25-32), (3) causing a fleece of wool to be wet with the morning dew while the ground around it remained dry (Judges 6:36-38), the next day causing the fleece of wool to remain dry while the ground all around it was wet with the morning dew (Judges 6:39-40) and, then, having Gideon and his companion go down into the Midianite camp and overhear them saying the Israelites would defeat them in battle (Judges 7:8-15).

When I consider this, I am amazed at how God worked with Gideon to help grow his faith. Gideon’s faith would then be put to a great challenge as God would decrease the size of Gideon’s army down to only 300 men with which He would have Gideon lead to defeat a massive army of Midianites (Judges 7:1-7, 16-25). Gideon’s faith in God is mentioned in “Faith’s Hall of Fame” (Hebrews 11:32).

As I consider this, I think how God has worked with me over the years to patiently help my faith grow in Him. Even as a Christian, there have been multiple times when facing a challenge, like Gideon, I have looked inwardly to my own weaknesses instead of looking up to God and placing my faith in His power. God has patiently allowed me to continue in my study of His Word, so that my faith in His power may grow (Romans 10:17). God has allowed me to go through challenges so that by these my faith in Him can grow (Romans 5:1-4; James 1:2-4). My faith in Him certainly isn’t perfect. I have not “arrived”. However, I do rejoice that my faith is growing.

From the beginning God told Gideon, “Go in this might of yours…” (Judges 6:14). It appears Gideon interpreted this to mean, by Gideon’s own might. God was not talking about the “might” of Gideon, but the “might” of God. Through God’s power, the Midianites would be defeated: “And the Lord said to him, ‘Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat the Midianites as one man’" (Judges 6:16).

God is Almighty! Today, I rejoice in the “might” of God to work in my life in the challenges I face. I will also rejoice in God’s incredible patience with me in working with me to help my faith in Him to grow!

“Deal bountifully with Your servant, That I may live and keep Your word. Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law” (Psalm 119:17-18).

3/5/17 “Great Resolves Of Heart?” (Daily Bible Reading: Judges 3-5)

“And the princes of Issachar were with Deborah; As Issachar, so was Barak sent into the valley under his command; among the divisions of Reuben there were great resolves of heart. Why did you sit among the sheepfolds, to hear the pipings for the flocks? The divisions of Reuben have great searchings of heart” (Judges 5:15-16).

The book of Judges is a dark period for God’s people as they continually depart from Him and follow the gods of the people among whom they live (Judges 3:5-7). A cycle is seen throughout the book of Israel departing from the Lord to serve other gods, the Lord God delivering them into the hands of their enemies, Israel repenting and crying out to God for help, God raising up a judge to deliver them, and, then, Israel again departing from the Lord shortly after he delivers them.

The opening verses above are part of the “Song of Deborah” which Deborah and Barak sung on the day God had delivered them from Jabin king of Caanan and his army commander Sisera (Judges 4:6-5:1). Israel had been sold in the hand of Jabin because of their sin against the Lord and Jabin had harshly oppressed Israel (Judges 4:1-3). God had raised Deborah who used Barak and his army to deliver Israel and give them victory of their enemies (Judges 4:4-5).

This song praises such tribes of Israel as Issachar, Zebulun, and Naptali who came out to fought in this battle against Israel’s enemies (Judges 5:15, 18). But the song also has strong words of condemnation for such tribes as Dan, Asher, and Reuben who stayed at home and did not help their brethren in this battle (Judges 5:15-17). The Angel of the Lord was very upset at these tribes for their failure to support their brethren in time of need. Notice what He said: “Curse Meroz,… Curse its inhabitants bitterly, because they did not come to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty” (Judges 5:23).

Of the tribe of Reuben it is said, “there were great resolves of heart” and “great searchings of heart” (Judges 5:15-16). It appears those of the tribe of Reuben “thought” it might be a good idea for Israel to gather together to fight this battle, but their resolved ended with their “thoughts”. They did not put their “thoughts” into “action” and failed to go help in this conflict. Essentially they told their brethren, “Be warmed and filled” (James 2:15-16), but did not actually lift a finger to help them in this fight!

As Christians, we are part of the body of Christ, the church. Each of us has a role to play so that the body of Christ can function effectively in reaching a lost world for Christ and to encourage our brethren to continue in the faith (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). Each of us needs to do “our share” to make the body function effectively (Ephesians 4:16). Am I doing my share or am I like Reuben standing on the sidelines with “great resolves of heart”? Have I discovered my particular ministry or way I can serve in the local church to help build up the body of Christ or am I like Reuben, stuck in the mud having “great searchings of heart”?

I am very thankful for my brethren who strive to serve God, fight God’s battles alongside me, and encourage me. They are doing their share and are an encouragement to me to keep up the faith. If you have not discovered your ministry, speak to one of your church leaders and say to them, “I want to serve. Here am I. Where can I be of help?” I am sure they will eagerly help you discover your ministry for the Lord. Today, I will rejoice that God has blessed me with fellow soldiers of the cross!

“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’" (Isaiah 6:8).

3/4/17 “…As For Me and My House We Will Serve the Lord” (Daily Bible Reading: Joshua 24-Judges 2)

“And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15).

As a parent, do you struggle with trying to lead your family in the ways of the Lord? There are so many things which compete for both our and our children’s time and attention that it can make it very challenging to keep our family’s focus upon serving God. It takes great determination and commitment on the part of Christian parents to set the right example, set the right spiritual values in the home, keep straight the family’s priorities, and instill the self-discipline both within themselves and their children to keep the family moving along the path of faithfully following God.

Joshua pronounced the opening words above during his final address to the children of Israel. As he says farewell to these people with whom he had conquered the Promised Land through God’s power, he challenges them to decide whom they are going to serve. Are they going to go back to the gods of their ancestors which lived beyond the Euphrates River? Would they begin following after the gods of the people among whose land they now dwelt? Joshua urges them to COMMIT THEMSELVES FULLY to serving Jehovah God because that was exactly what he was doing.

It would be a tremendous challenge for those to whom Joshua was speaking to do this. With great eagerness we see the people’s response: “And the people said to Joshua, ‘The Lord our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey!’ " (Joshua 24:24). However, saying this was so much easier than actually doing this. This generation remained faithful to the Lord and did serve Him (Joshua 24:31; Judges 2:7). However, future generations did not commit themselves fully to serving God. A few verses later we read, “When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10). Because of their lack of commitment and focus, these Israelites had allowed the surrounding influences around them to cause them to waver in their walk with God.

As I read these words, I am reminded of the great challenge parents have raising their children. The apostle Paul challenged Christian fathers, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). This is such a great challenge for Christian parents today as there are so many “gods” of the land (e.g. entertainment, worldly values, etc.) in which we live that can lead our hearts and the hearts of our children astray.

I have great admiration for fellow Christian parents who have taken up Joshua challenge to lead their family in the ways of God. Although it is very challenging to keep one’s family faithfully following God, it can be done. It takes tremendous spiritual strength which God will give (Philippians 4:13). May God’s blessings be upon you as you say along with me, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” Today, I rejoice that God encourages me through such Christian parents as you!

“My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, So that you incline your ear to wisdom, And apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, And lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, And find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:1-5).

3/3/17 “Not a Word Failed…” (Daily Bible Reading: Joshua 21-23)

“So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. The Lord gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass” (Joshua 21:43-45).

Have you ever been disappointed when someone made a promise to you and failed to keep it? I imagine we all have felt that. There is an old German proverb which says, “Nothing weighs lighter than a promise”. Because of the disappointment of unfulfilled promises made to them, many place little faith when a person makes a promise to them.

However, God’s promises are not like man’s promises. God keeps His Promises. As the opening verses above indicate, Joshua had just finished dividing up the conquered Promised Land among the tribes of Israel. Please notice what it says near the end of the above quoted passage: “Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass” (Joshua 21:45). God had kept the promises He had made to Israel!

God fulfilled His promises even in the midst of what would appear to be impossible circumstances. God had promised Abraham that His descendants would inherit the land of Canaan (Gen 12:7). However, at the time Abraham was a 75 year old man with no children. Abraham might have thought, “How would God be able to keep this promise given to me a man as old as I am without any descendants?” Years later, before this land promise is fulfilled, Abraham’s descendants are slaves in Egypt. Again, an Israelite may have thought, “I guess God isn't going to keep the promises he made to our fathers?” But, as the opening verses indicates, God kept His promises. Not a word failed.

Furthermore, God kept His promise to give Israel the Promised Land even in the midst of multiple failures on Israel’s part. After leaving Egypt, Israel sins by worshipping the golden calf (Exodus 32). Throughout their journey towards the Promised Land, they are constantly complaining against God. Eventually, their unbelief causes them to reject the good report of Joshua and Caleb about the Promised Land and to follow the evil report of the other 12 spies (Numbers 13-14). As a result, their punishment is to wander in the wilderness for 40 years. Again, many of God’s people might have wondered, “Because of our failures, I guess God will not keep His promises.” However, God fulfilled his promises even in the midst of multiple failures on His people’s part.

When I consider all of these things, it awesome how God keeps the promises He makes to us. No wonder Peter said that God has “…given to us exceedingly great and precious promises…” (2 Peter 1:4). The Hebrew writer tells us, “Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:17-18). We have a strong consolation in the promises God has made to us because we know He will keep the promises He makes to us.

David Nicholas said, “God’s promises are like the stars; the darker the night the brighter they shine”. Today, I will rejoice that God keeps the promises He makes to me!

“Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:3-4)

3/2/17 “Claiming Our Inheritance” (Daily Bible Reading: Joshua 18-20)

“Then Joshua said to the children of Israel: ‘How long will you neglect to go and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers has given you?’” (Joshua 18:3)

Imagine if a wealthy loved one left you a large estate in his or her will? Would you dwell on doubting your right to claim this inheritance or would you pursue claiming your inheritance?

Through God’s power, Israel had finished conquering the land which God had given to them (Joshua 18:1). However, the remaining 7 tribes had not divided up the land and each claimed their individual tribal inheritances (Joshua 18:2). As the opening verse above indicates, Joshua expresses some frustration with the remaining tribes for their failure to go out and claim their inheritances so he instructs them to pick out 3 men from each tribe to go out and survey the land into 7 parts and then he will cast lots so each tribe can receive their inheritance (Joshua 18:5-6). The children of Israel do this and the remaining 7 tribes then receive their inheritances (Joshua 18:10-19:51).

As I think about this event, I wonder how often as Christians do we fail to “claim our inheritance”? For example, as Christians God has forgiven us of our sins as we repent of them (1 John 1:7-9). Do we claim that we have been forgiven of these sins or do we still carry around the guilt of these sins?

Moreover, for those of us who strive to faithfully follow God’s Will, Jesus tells us we have been saved and are assured to be given a crown of life (Mark 16:16; Revelation 2:10). Do we feel confident of our salvation or do we just “hope that God will save us”? There is a BIG DIFFERENCE in knowing we are saved and merely hoping we are saved! The apostle John wrote, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13).

I am not suggesting we be arrogant about our salvation. I am not suggesting we can just live our lives any way we wish and expect God to save us. On the other hand, there is no merit in not being assured of our salvation if we are striving to faithfully follow Jesus. It is not being humble for those who are doing their best to serve God to say, “I hope He will save me?” Instead of being humble, it is being doubtful. This gives place to the devil to gain in foothold in our lives (Ephesians 4:27).

Do you ever find yourself dwelling on your failures in serving God? I am not suggesting we should not repent of our sins. However, as Christians it is critical that we embrace God’s love, mercy, and grace which He has shown us through His Son Jesus Christ (John 3:16). A healthy walk with God means we are relying on in His POWER, not dwelling on our WEAKNESSES. We are all weak, but thank God He is strong. We need to reach up and take hold of His hand and trust in Him to lead us. The apostle Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Peter wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (I Peter 1:3-5). Today, I will I claim the inheritance God has given to me through Christ!

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

3/1/17 “Failing To Follow Through” (Daily Bible Reading: Joshua 15-17)

“But the children of Joseph said, ‘The mountain country is not enough for us; and all the Canaanites who dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron, both those who are of Beth Shean and its towns and those who are of the Valley of Jezreel’" (Joshua 17:16).

Do you struggle with procrastination? Many of us battle this as we put off for tomorrow what we should get done today. Are there consequences for procrastinating in doing what God expects of us? What can happen when we fail to follow God’s Will for our lives in a timely manner?

Following the conquering of the majority of the Promised Land, Joshua begins dividing up the inheritances among the tribes of Israel. It was up to each tribe, through God’s help, to finish driving out the remaining Canaanites from within their inherited territory. After receiving his inheritance, Caleb did exactly this. He drove out the remaining Anakim (i.e. giants) from within his inheritance (Joshua 15:13-17). Caleb is a great example of perseverance and of not procrastinating!

However, many of the tribes did not follow through with keeping God’s command to drive out the remaining Canaanites from within their inherited territory. For example, Ephraim failed to drive the Canaanites out of Gezer (Joshua 16:10). Judah failed to drive out the Jebusites which dwelt in Jerusalem (Joshua 15:63). Judah also failed to drive the Philistines out of the cities of Ekron, Ashdod, and Gaza which was within their inherited territory (Joshua 15:45-47). As a result, these peoples became a thorn in Israel’s side by tempting them with the worship of their idols. In fact, after a couple of generations, the Philistines would be one of the people’s that God would allow to oppress Israel because of Israel’s rebellion against God (Judges 13:1). Later, Goliath and the Philistines would pose a great threat to King Saul and Israel (1 Samuel 17:1-11).

All of this happened because of Israel’s procrastination or failure to follow through in keeping God’s command to drive the Canaanites out of the land they were inheriting. As the opening verse above indicates, God’s people, such as the children of Joseph, began doubting God’s power and feared the power of the Canaanites. Joshua encouraged them to trust in God’s power to drive out the remaining Canaanites: “And Joshua spoke to the house of Joseph--to Ephraim and Manasseh--saying, ‘You are a great people and have great power; you shall not have only one lot, but the mountain country shall be yours. Although it is wooded, you shall cut it down, and its farthest extent shall be yours; for you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots and are strong’ "  (Joshua 17:17-18), However, the children of Joseph failed to drive out them out (Joshua 17:11-12).

As Christians, we have need of perseverance to follow through in keeping God’s commands. Many times we start of well and then get distracted by the temptations the world offers or, like ancient Israel, begin doubting God’s power and fearing the power of others. Like God’s people of Joshua’s day, the failure to persevere results in our becoming entangled with the world and growing distant from God. Today, I will strive to follow the example of Caleb and other faithful servants of God who persevered in keeping God’s Word. I will not procrastinate when it comes to following God’s Will!

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with ENDURANCE the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him ENDURED the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

2/28/17 “…Give Me This Mountain…” (Daily Bible Reading: Joshua 10-14)

“Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said” (Joshua 14:12).

How do you feel about growing older? Many of us look forward to retiring one day from our jobs, but we do not look forward to the health challenges that old age will bring. How will growing older affect your service to the Lord? Will you continue to faithfully serve God in whatever capacity you can even in your old age?

The opening verse above was spoken by Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, after the children of Israel had finished conquering the majority of the Promised Land west of the Jordan River. Caleb and Joshua had faithfully spied out the promised land 45 years earlier and had given a good report even though the other 10 spies had given an evilreport of the Promised Land (Numbers 13:25-14:9). Caleb had faithfully endured the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness and the 5 years it took to conquer the Promised Land (Joshua 14:10). What sustained him during those 45 years was his faith in God’s promise made to him through God’s servant Moses: “Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children's forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God” (Numbers 14:9). Caleb was now ready to claim his inheritance.

Caleb says, “Give me this mountain…” (Joshua 14:12). In a sense the mountain represented his physical land inheritance. However, we often speak of “mountains” as obstacles that must be overcome. In this sense there were still some mountains for Caleb to overcome before he could enjoy his land inheritance. He had to overcome and conquer the giants (i.e. the Anakim) that still dwelt in the great and fortified cities located in this area (Joshua 14:12). At 85 years old Caleb embraced overcoming this obstacle and fully believed he could do so by the great power of God.

Caleb is one of my favorite Bible characters. I can’t wait to speak to him in heaven and hear him share with me his great adventures in serving God. He is a great example of a servant of God who continues to serve God eagerly and faithfully even in his old age. He had no intention of resting on his laurels and retiring from his service to the Lord. He told Joshua on this occasion: “As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in” (Joshua 14:11).

I have such great appreciation for my elderly brethren who continue to cling to God’s Promises and faithfully serve God even in older age whether as a preacher, elder, Bible class teacher or the host of other people who do everything from cooking meals for the sick, advising the younger generations, or helping to clean the church building. Sometimes, all they are able to do is simply attend services, but they encourage others by their faith (Hebrews 10:24-25). Still others are shut-in and are physically unable to make it out to services, but continue to serve as “prayer warriors” as they lift others up in their prayers.

Take time to encourage your elderly brethren like Caleb who continue to faithfully serve the Lord by clinging to His Promises and by embracing the mountains that lay before them. Today, I will rejoice that God has given me elderly brethren with silver-hair whose faith I may follow!

“The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, If it is found in the way of righteousness” (Proverbs 16:31).

2/27/17 “The Faith to Knock Down Walls” (Daily Bible Reading: Joshua 6-9)

“So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city” (Joshua 6:20).

How often do you come across challenges in your life that appear too difficult to overcome? Do you find yourself being overwhelmed by the obstacle you face or do you place your faith in God to help you surmount this obstacle in your path by trusting in His power and in His grace?

After the children of Israel cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land under the new leadership of Joshua, the first city they come to attack is the city of Jericho. The city appears well suited to be defended and to be difficult to destroy because of its huge city walls. The children of Israel do not attack this well seemly well-fortified city with catapults or cannons. Instead, they attack it by their faith in God. They follow exactly what God tells them to do by marching around the city once a day for 6 days (Joshua 6:1-14). Then on the 7th day they march around the city 7 times, the priests blow the trumpets and the people shout (Joshua 6:15-20). The walls fall flat!

Israel then took the city. It was a great triumph for Israel. It was not won by them having a mighty army with powerful weapons. It was won by their placing their faith in God’s power: “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days” (Hebrews 11:30).

As followers of Christ, we all face walls or barriers in our lives that challenge us in our pilgrimage on this earth. The wall we face may be a physical or health problem that challenges us. We may have a broken relationship with another person and we may feel there is a barrier that is separating us from that person. We may be struggling with committing a particular sin over and over again in our lives and feel like we are facing a wall we simply can’t break through to overcome it.

These walls need to be torn down. They are torn down by placing our faith in God and surrendering our will to His Will that He may be glorified. We may not understand how God can tear down this wall or barrier with which we are facing. The challenge is for us to completely place our faith in God and to glorify Him by our actions and let God worry about how He will destroy the wall we are facing.

An example of the need of faith in our lives is seen with Jesus and His disciples. During His ministry on earth, Jesus had given his disciples the ability to cast out demons (Matthew 10:1). However, on one occasion there was a particular difficult case of demon possession they could not solve. “Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ So Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.’" (Matthew 17:19-21).

I am not advocating that Christians can cast out demons today. However, what the above verses show us is that some “walls” require a lot more faith to tear down. There needs to be some time devoted to prayer and fasting in order to develop the faith to tear down these walls. Are there walls in your life that you need God’s help to tear down? Devote some time to prayer and fasting. Today, I will rejoice that God gives me the faith to tear down walls!

“Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You” (Jeremiah 32:17).

2/26/17 “A Pep Talk from God” (Daily Bible Reading: Joshua 1-5)

“No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them” (Joshua 1:5-6).

While trying to serve God, have you ever felt discouraged? Perhaps, you felt dispirited because of your awareness of your own weaknesses. Then again, maybe your feelings of discouragement were because you felt alone, without the support of other Christians. The apostle Paul understood that Christians often struggle with discouragement. Paul wrote, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9). At times, we are all tempted to “lose heart” and quit. All of us need someone to step up and encourage us in our desire to serve God.

The opening Scriptures above were spoken by God to Joshua following the death of Moses. One can only imagine the great challenges Joshua must have felt after taking over leadership from such a great, godly leader like Moses. He must have felt like he had enormous shoes to fill. Facing the challenging situation before him, God gave Joshua exactly what Joshua needed: encouragement.

As the above verse indicates, God promises that as He was with Moses so He would be with Joshua. He would not leave nor forsake Joshua. No one would be able to oppose Joshua. Joshua was not to worry about whether or not God would be with Him. He would. Over and over again God tells Joshua on what he was to focus. Joshua was to focus on “being strong and of good courage” (Joshua 1:6, 7, 9). Furthermore, Joshua’s brethren among the tribes of Israel also encouraged him: “So they answered Joshua, saying, ‘All that you command us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we heeded Moses in all things, so we will heed you. Only the Lord your God be with you, as He was with Moses. Whoever rebels against your command and does not heed your words, in all that you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and of good courage’ ” (Joshua 1:16-18). Like the Lord, they too encouraged Joshua to be “strong and of good courage”.

All of us who strive to serve God need encouragement. We need our brethren to encourage us to continue to be “strong and very courageous” to continue to serve the Lord (Hebrews 3:12-13). Most importantly we need encouragement from God Himself. We need a “pep talk from God”. God’s Word is where we find this. In the Bible we read of such encouraging passages as: “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:11-12).

In God’s Word we also see how God feels about those who love Him and seek to do His Will: "Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him, and show him My salvation” (Psalm 91:14-16). Isn’t it encouraging knowing God protects His people and God’s feelings towards those who love Him? God’s Word is filled with such encouragement. This is why studying God’s Word should be a part of every Christian’s daily life. We all need a daily “pep talk from God”. Today, I will rejoice for the encouragement God gives me through His Word!

“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust” (Psalm 91:1-2)

2/25/17 “The Man Whom God Buried” (Daily Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 32-34)

“So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Peor; but no one knows his grave to this day” (Deuteronomy 34:5-6).

How do you like going to funerals? Funerals bring a sobering reminder that death is something we will all face unless the Lord comes again during our lifetimes (Hebrews 9:27). Some struggle with going to funerals because they do not like thinking about death. Others view funerals as a time to pay their final respects for the loved one, who has passed from this life, and as a time to reflect about life and their relationship with God. How does God view the death of His faithful servants?

The book of Deuteronomy ends with the death of Moses, the great faithful servant of God. Prior to his death, God has Moses teach Israel a song regarding their future unfaithfulness to Him and His undying love for them as He will chastise them for their sin; but, then compassionately forgive them when they repent and turn back to Him (Deuteronomy 32:1-43). Moses encourages Israel to remain faithful to the Lord by following His Word (Deuteronomy 32:44-47). As God calls Moses to go up to Mount Nebo, where he will pass from this life (Deuteronomy 32:48-52), Moses takes one last moment to bless the various tribes within the congregation of Israel (Deuteronomy 33:1-29).

Moses, the great servant of God goes up to Mount Nebo, views the Promised Land, passes from this life, and was finally laid to rest (Deuteronomy 34:1-6). His earthly journey had ended. Though not entering the physical Promised Land himself, Moses was going to the Heavenly Promised Land which is far better. Regarding his epitaph the Bible simply says, “But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face” (Deuteronomy 34:10).

As the opening verse above indicates, the Lord buried Moses (Deuteronomy 34:5-6). I see here the tender love of God as God lovingly and gently buries this faithful servant of His. Remember how Jesus wept at the death of His friend Lazarus (John 11:35)? Through the eye of faith, I see God’s tears falling on the body of Moses as God begins throws the first ounces of dirt upon the dead body of His friend Moses as Moses’ lifeless body lies in the grave.

As Christians, it is important for us to appreciate God’s tender love for us. I am afraid sometimes we forget just how PRECIOUS we are to God. King David said, “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You” (Psalm 139:17-18). God’s tender love for us is seen in the fact that He has many “thoughts” about each of us.

Over the years at my local congregation of the Lord’s church we have said goodbye to many of our faithful brothers and sisters in Christ who have passed from this earthly life. Many of them had reached major milestones in their earthly journeys with regard their earthly accomplishments such as running a business or living long enough to see their great, great grandchildren. Some even made it beyond their 50th wedding anniversaries. However, what is more important is the spiritual milestone they reached upon passing from this earthly life in being saved as a faithful child of God. They have reached their spiritual Promised Land. When we shed tears at the funerals and gravesites of such faithful children of God, we need to remember that God also sheds tears and loves His children with such a tender love. Today, I will rejoice for God’s tender love for me in both my life and my death!

“Precious in the sight of the Lord Is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15).

2/24/17 “Why doesn’t God give me more?” (Daily Bible Reading: Deuteronomy 29-31)

“And I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn out on your feet. You have not eaten bread, nor have you drunk wine or similar drink, that you may know that I am the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 29:5-6).

Have you ever wished that you had more money in the bank or the means to purchase a newer car, a bigger house, or the latest smart phone? If God loves us and wants us to be “happy” why doesn’t He give us all the things we want? Actually, it is because God loves us and wants our lives to be filled with joy and peace that He doesn’t let us have all the things our hearts at times may desire.

As Moses spoke to the generation of the children of Israel that had wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, we learn from his speech why God did not give them an overabundance of things to eat and enjoy. During this time, with exception of eating quail on a couple of occasions, they had eaten only manna which God had provided from heaven (Exodus 16:4; Joshua 5:12). Their drink was only water. In contrast, when they had been slaves in Egypt, they had been provided a greater assortment of foods to eat and beverages to drink (Exodus 16:3; Numbers 11:4-6). Finding themselves in these circumstances, many in Israel came to loath the manna which God had provided for them to eat (Numbers 21:5).

This begs the question, “Why did God only give them manna to eat?” As the opening verse indicates, God had provided for the things which were necessary to sustain their physical lives. They were adequately clothed and fed. He didn’t give them an excessive abundance, but he didn’t make it where they had to barely scrape by either. All of this was done that they “may know that I am the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 29:6).

Christ spoke about the need for his followers to develop a child-like faith (Matthew 18:1-3). Children, who are raised by parents who love them and strive to provide for them, have a complete trust that their parents will provide for their daily food, clothing, and shelter. These children do not generally fret about where their next meal, set of clothing, or roof over their head is going to come from. They “know” that their parents love them and will care for them.

Many of us need to go back to developing a child-like faith in God. As we get older and start earning a living, many times it is very tempting to begin trusting in ourselves or our employer to provide for our daily needs. As difficult as it is, we should rejoice when circumstances happen in our lives that prevent us from having a super abundance of material goods. These financial setbacks, whether it is a lost job or an unexpected large bill we have to pay, help remind us that we need to trust in our Heavenly Father to provide for us. In turn, this helps us to develop that “child-like faith” in God and helps us to “know that the Lord is God”.

There is nothing wrong with being wealthy, but there are many temptations that can come to those who are wealthy (e.g. Matthew 19:23-24; 1 Timothy 6:10). If I am not wealthy I can rejoice that God has spared me of having to face these temptations. Today I will rejoice that God provides for my daily necessities and I will trust in Him that He is the Lord God!”

“Two things I request of You (Deprive me not before I die): Remove falsehood and lies far from me; Give me neither poverty nor riches-- Feed me with the food allotted to me; Lest I be full and deny You, And say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:7-9).