Monthly Archives: March, 2014

Judges 6-7: Specialty

You know what I’m impressed with as I’m reading Judges through this time? The variety. I know Judges focusses a lot on Israel’s failure, but it also draws attention to the variety of ways that God can and does use people, and he uses them in ways that suits their character and their talents.

That is very encouraging for us…or it should be. So very often people don’t step out in faith to do what God is calling them to do because they do not trust that God is calling them to something they are capable of.

Gideon exemplifies this for us. God calls and his first reasons is to almost chuckle and say: “How can I save Israel? My family is the weakest.”

Gideon does what most of us do and equates the ability to be successful in a God ordained venture with his physical setting or perceived ability. The truth, in fact, is that God often does not pay any attention what so ever to our perceived ability.

He know what he needs from us and calls us accordingly. The Judges show us that there is no formula for the kind of person God uses. He calls the powerful, the weak, the spiritually adept and the physically challenged (although I will proudly point out that Ehud proves that leftys are as blessed by God as everyone else).

As you read the rest of Judges ask yourself which one might well have been you.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?

  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?

  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?

  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?

  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

 

Tomorrow’s Reading: Judges 8-9

 

 

Judges 3-5: A new hope

Yep, that’s right, I just stole the title from Star Wars: Episode 4 (sorry George Lucas).  And for good reason.  Judges started off pretty bleakly yesterday. In fact, if the book were to end after chapter 2 it would probably be considered one of the worst tragedies of all time. But it doesn’t stop there, and we get our first look at the judges in chapters 3-5.

Israel screws up, but God remains faithful, and in his faithfulness he raises up men and women who believe Him, confront the enemy and win the victory.

While it is important for us to be aware of the warnings in the book of Judges about obedience, following God, and walking our own path, it is actually more important (in my humble opinion) to learn the following truth: BE AVAILABLE. God used Gideon, Deborah, Samson, Othniel, Ehud and all of the others because they were available when he called them. No matter what is going on in the world around us, no matter how out of control things may seem, God can (and does) still work through people who trust Him, give themselves to his service and do what he calls them to.

We, my friends, are the ones who need to be available in the same way those who became judges were available.

Happy reading.

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  •  What was new from this piece of scripture?  What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  •  How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  •  What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Judges 6-7

Judges 1-2: Success and failure

What a mixed bag sort of a way to start a book! Judah succeeds, Benjamin fails.  Joseph’s house succeeds, the rest of the tribes fail. Why?  Because already Israel is disobeying God, at least that’s what the Angel of the Lord says at the beginning of chapter 2.

Joshua is gone and the everyone does “what is right in their own eyes”. Have you ever heard the phrase: “Theo who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”?  The book of Judges is the illustration of that phrase.  Israel just can’t seem to get past this obedience thing! The book of Judges tells us the story of Israel’s inability to follow God with all their heart, soul and strength.  It is a story that is pretty bleak at times.

There are some phrases that show up multiple times in the book that are important to pay attention to.  They are:

“There was no king in Israel”
“did what was right in their own eyes”
“Israel did what was evil in the Lord’s sight”
“He (God) sold them/handed them to ______ (fill in foreign nation)””Israel cried out to the Lord. So the Lord raised up ___________ (fill in name of judge)”

These phrases are used to mark transitions throughout the book, but they also give you the basic outline of the pattern Israel falls into. They have no king (God was supposed to be their king), so they do whatever they want, whatever sounds good to them (that should sound familiar from our own world); what sounds good to them more often than not was not ok with God, so God gives them over to some foreign power for punishment.  Israel cries out to God in their distress and God calls a leader to rescue them.

Wash, rinse and repeat.

Happy reading.

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  •  What was new from this piece of scripture?  What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  •  How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  •  What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Judges 3-5

Joshua 22-24: Farewell

Princess Leah: “I love you.”
Han Solo: “I know.”

Spock: “I have been and always shall be, your friend.”

Rick Blaine: “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.”

Joey: “Shane! Shane, come back!”

E.T.: “Be right here.”

There have been many memorable goodbyes in cinematic history. The couple I’ve listed above are only a few of the ones I know best.

In terms of scriptural goodbyes, Joshua’s is also one of the most memorable. The line: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” is found on much Christian merchandising, from mugs to posters to wall hangings.  What we often miss is the seriousness of what Joshua is challenging Israel with. “Choose for yourselves today the one you will worship…” Much like Moses in Deuteronomy 30, when he says “Choose life!”, Joshua is pleading with Israel to stay the course, remain faithful to God and fulfill the plan that He has for them. But like Moses, Joshua reiterates that it is a choice Israel must make.

These verses are especially poignant to me as a pastor.  So very often as a leader you try to point people in the right direction, to help them grow in their faith, to teach them to follow God’s voice and will.  But inevitably people must make their own choices, and sometime the only thing you can do is plead with them to choose wisely.

Joshua exits the narrative of Israel’s history.  He was a courageous and faithful leader. He modeled for us how to listen and follow God, how to lead decisively once he understood God’s wishes, and how to be faithful in the midst of overwhelming odds.

Happy reading.

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  •  What was new from this piece of scripture?  What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  •  How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  •  What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Judges 1-2

Joshua 19-21: Ummm…

Sooooo…I’m not actually sure what to share with you today. I talked about inheritance yesterday, which is the bulk of what you’ve read today, even the section about the cities of refuge and the cities for the Levites.  I would venture to comment about the care of spiritual leaders, but I fear that it would seem self-seeking.  It is something you will see as you move forward, you will also see how the priesthood abuses that care eventually (which just proves that some things don’t change).

The only other comment I would make is about the last tw0 verses of chapter 21.

43 So the Lord gave Israel all the land He had sworn to give their fathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44 The Lord gave them rest on every side according to all He had sworn to their fathers. None of their enemies were able to stand against them, for the Lord handed over all their enemies to them. 45 None of the good promises the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed. Everything was fulfilled.

If you have some verses to run to when it seems like God has no idea what’s going on in your world…add this to your list.  “Everything was fulfilled.”  Man, can you imagine when that statement is true for us as Christians!  After Jesus has returned and we take up eternal residence in God’s Kingdom, that is what the final statement will be.

Happy reading.

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  •  What was new from this piece of scripture?  What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  •  How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  •  What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Joshua 22-24

Joshua 16-18: Inheritance

Have you ever received an inheritance?  A piece of property, a sum of money, a prized family heirloom (like your Grandpa’s 68 Mustang), it could be anything really.  The point of an inheritance is that you have not earned it, it has been gifted to you. You might possibly be under the impression that you had a “right” to that item, property, money, etc.; but when push comes to shove, the person has chosen to gift it to you.  You have not claim to it other than someone has had the inkling to give it away and give it away to you.

As you finish reading these last chapters of Joshua, consider that this land they are dividing is their inheritance.  God calls it that.  God has determined that Israel will hold this land, it is a gift from him to them.  I think part of the reason Israel is going to run into so many problems in the coming books of the Old Testament is because they forget that the land was a gift to them.  They had no right to it, other than God had promised it to them.  It was God’s land, and unlike in cases of earthly inheritance where the person doing the gifting is most often passed away, God is still very much in the picture here.  It is still God’s land, and he has given it to Israel to use as His people, His nation.  So when Israel dishonours that inheritance, God gets a bit testy with them.

We have an inheritance as well.  The New Testament calls us “joint heirs with Christ.”  It means that everything that Jesus has inherited as God’s son, we also inherit.  But it is not our by right, it is ours because it has been gifted to us by God.  We have not earned it, we have no claim to it, we don’t even have the right to hope for it OTHER than in the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  He has chosen to share with us.  So rejoice my friends.  You may not have a wealthy aunt who is going to leave you the family estate, but you have a father who is THE King, and he has promised you eternity in his Kingdom.

Happy reading.

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  •  What was new from this piece of scripture?  What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  •  How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  •  What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Joshua 19-21

Joshua 12-15: Bloodshed

sword-stuck-in-the-groundThere is a gentleman in our church who had one request of me when I announced that we were taking on this challenge to walk through the scriptures together over the next year. He asked that I explain why there was so much bloodshed in the Old Testament. As you might imagine, this is a question that is difficult to answer, and one that is even harder to be sure that your answer is correct. The Scriptures are clear that God orders the complete destruction of cities and even whole people groups.  When Israel takes Jericho, they leave nothing breathing.  Always the tension around this topic has to do with the picture of the loving God of the New Testament and the acts of violence in the Old Testament.

But God doesn’t change, and there are truths in the Bible that don’t change. God is always holy. God is always loving. God is also always just. Justice is a huge theme all through Scripture. In fact, one of the things that God desired for Israel to be was a haven for justice; that is why he commands them to be good to the fatherless and the widow, two groups who had no rights in the ancient world. While God’s justice is constantly looking out for the underdog, it is also the source of God’s standards. Love God, follow his commands and you will live. Forsake God, spurn his commands, and you will die. God’s desire is always the former, because when we love Him we are in relationship with him. Ezekiel 18:21,23 and 32 outline God’s heart in this for us:

21 “But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die.

23 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?

32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!

Since the beginning, God’s desire is for sinners (that’s you and me) to repent (that means to turn away from sin) and live. Although this is his desire, he can’t set these standards, these black and white scenarios in place, and then ignore it when people act disobediently. He must follow through because he is just.

The other thing to consider is the impact the nations of Canaan have on Israel. God knows full well that the immoral religious practices of the nations in Canaan would be enticing to Israel and so he desires for them to be driven away from his people.  Unfortunately, Israel fails in this and becomes ensnared.  One of the challenges we face as Christians is influence.  As Christians, we are supposed to be the “influencers” not the ones being influenced.  But in order to keep that relationship going the right direction, we have to be very careful about what we allow to have influence over us, including the situations we put ourselves in and the people we associate with.

Happy reading.

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  •  What was new from this piece of scripture?  What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  •  How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  •  What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Joshua 16-18

Joshua 1-11: Miracles

I could be wrong, but it is possible that the first 11 chapters of Joshua have more miracles per chapter than almost anywhere else in the Bible.  I’m pretty sure that statement wouldn’t stand up to a lot of scrutiny, but it is rather incredible just how much God steps in as Israel moves in and takes over Canaan.  In truth, this really shouldn’t surprise us; God had been promising Israel since he tried to lead them into the land for the first time that he would take care of the inhabitants of the land; that the land would be conquered by the hand of God, not by the swords of the Israelites.  Right from Jericho on, we see that promise playing out.  Confusions among the enemy armies, the sun standing still for a day (would love to see that by the way), fortified cities falling of their own accord, even the “mundane” battles where Israel defeats kings (sometimes more than one at a time) are miraculous. Israel did not have a huge army, yet they were able to take on forces much larger because God stood with them.

I have often found myself daydreaming about God showing himself in that kind of power in our day and age.  Not so much the wiping out whole cities part, but showing himself in power. Miracles showing up on a daily basis (of course you would be right to remind me that miracles do happen on a daily basis).  But I read an interesting quote by a Christian author and social commentator from the 1970’s named Charles Colson.  He points out, “It is absurd for Christians to constantly seek new demonstrations of God’s power, to expect a miraculous answer to every need…this only leads to faith in miracles instead of faith in God.”

What an incredible perspective!  Our hope is not in the miracle, but in God’s power, ability and wisdom to act as he sees fit in the situation.  As long as we rest in that truth and place our trust in God, then we don’t have to wait with bated breath for the clouds to part, the thunder to roll and a blinding light to enter the scene.  We can trust that God has everything under control and

Think for a moment about the last time you were super worried about something.  A job situation, a family in trouble (yours or others), a financial concern, a relationship turned sour…I could very much go on and on.  Why do you worry?  Because you don’t have faith.  Before you get angry with that statement, consider that Peter wrote: “Cast all of your cares on Him, for he cares for you.”  (1 Peter 5:7).  Psalm 55:22, Philippians 4:6, Matthew 6:25-26 all give us the same message.  We are to rest easy in God’s care, having faith that God will take appropriate action if needed, miraculous or otherwise.

Happy reading.

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  •  What was new from this piece of scripture?  What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  •  How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  •  What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Joshua 12-15

Deuteronomy 32-34; Psalm 91: Deathbed

athiest jo

Deathbed quotes:

  • “I owe much; I have nothing; the rest I leave to the poor.”    Francois Rabelais (1483-1553)
  • “Why are you weeping ? Did you imagine that I was immortal ?”  Louis XIV (1638-1715)
  • “Now, now my good man, this is no time for making enemies.”    — Voltaire (1694-1778), on his deathbed in response to a priest asking that he renounce Satan.
  • “Friends applaud, the comedy is over.”    — Ludwig van Beethoven (1770—1827), sarcastic remarks after a priest’s gave him the last rites.
  • “Oh my, it’s very beautiful over there.”    — Thomas Edison (1847—1931).

This might seem morbid, but have you ever wondered what you will say when you are drawing your last breaths? I’ve been at more than a few deathbeds and I gotta be honest, most people pass from this life in an unconscious or semi-conscious state.  There aren’t often very many last minute words. But in the moments leading up to that final transition time, people often have many things to say. Some very endearing, some very unexpected and some pretty mysterious, like Edison’s listed above.

As far as deathbed words go, Moses’ song and words of blessings to all of the tribes is extensive and contains a lot. Part praise of God, part word of warning to Israel, part prophesy. I will say, Moses’ last words say a lot about who he was, what God meant to him and what he thought of Israel.  I guess the words we speak prior to our deaths reveal a lot about all of us. Those words are probably spoken with more freedom and truth than any others in our lifetimes. Even the quotes I listed above reveal a lot about the speakers, their beliefs and their state before their deaths.

The thing that sticks out to me in these final chapters of Deuteronomy is how sad Moses must have felt.  Here he spent more than 40 years leading Israel, prepping them for the promised land, trying to get them to live for God and follow obediently, but the image God gives Moses before his death is summed up in 31:16 “These people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering.” It must have broke his heart when God revealed that to him.  Moses wanted nothing more than Israel to choose life (which we talked about yesterday), and here God is confirming to him that they will in fact choose the opposite. When you lead a group of people, you pray for the best for them, you see the best in them and hope beyond hope that they will follow God into every great thing he has for them.  To have those hopes dashed on his way out of leadership and life must have crushed Moses, at least a little bit. Moses’ greatest consolation was knowing that Israel was going to be lead forward by a godly, passionate and well equipped man in Joshua.

Let’s journey with him into Canaan.

Happy reading.

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  •  What was new from this piece of scripture?  What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  •  How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  •  What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Joshua 1-4

Deuteronomy 30-31: Choose life

Verse 19  from Deuteronomy chapter 30 is one of those verses that has stuck in my mind.  I haven’t purposefully memorized it (not that I remember anyway) but it is in my head. I can’t really explain why, but this verse strikes me as very significant. “I call heaven and earth as witnessed against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live…”  In fact this whole section of Deuteronomy 30 is incredible.

Choose life.  I’ve already mentioned a couple of times in these rantings that we have choice as people. Warren Wiersbe, in his commentary on Deuteronomy (“BE” Equipped; DavidcCook, 1999) writes: “Because we’re created in the image of God, we have minds to think with, hearts to feel with, and will to decide with, and God calls us to make right decisions. We’re not robots; we can hear God’s Word, learn God’s will and decided either to obey or disobey.” So choose.  In the case of us modern folk, that choice is not between the blessing and curse of the law but between “salvation by the grace of God or condemnation by the righteousness of God”(another Weirsbe quote which I think is a brilliant explanation).  Eternal life and eternal death.

Moses makes it sound so simple. God’s Word is not hidden from us, it has been revealed to us. It is not in heaven that we have to implore God for it; it is not across the sea that we have to send explorers to find it. God has placed it beyond our reach, but has in fact placed in our mouths and on our hearts. This truth is even more true for us as Christians through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We have intimate access to God, his Word and his Will. In fact, I would say that this is one of those Old Testament passages that transcends the Old Testament and would be perfectly suited in the New Testament. There is powerful truth in these words from Moses…and it is so simple. Love God, walk in his ways and live OR turn away from God, follow other gods and perish.

It would seem that the only sensible solution is to choose life.  And it’s not hard.

Happy reading.

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  •  What was new from this piece of scripture?  What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  •  How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  •  What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Deuteronomy 32-34, Psalm 91