Honoring God’s Leadership

One of the hardest things about being a Christian is learning to honor God’s leadership. I think that at the heart of most people there is a need to be in control. The most obvious place where we exert control is within ourselves. We like to be in control of our schedules, our habits, our desires, and our direction. This need to be in control shapes a mindset of independence that makes us believe we can accomplish what we want if we just work hard enough. The idea leads us to believe that trying hard or working hard will yield the results that we desire.

Look at our culture and you will find this to be true. Hard work leads to a better job, a bigger pay check, more security, or a happier family. If I invest the time, I can reap the benefits. And there is truth in this. Hard work is supposed to “pay off” in the end. The danger lies in thinking that if we take matters into our own hands, we accomplish the things we desire.

In a spiritual sense, this thought process can lead us to a place of rebellion. A place where we think that salvation, obedience, or surrender is about taking matters into our own hands and pushing forward through any obstacle. It allows us to set our own focus or create our own results. This in turn shapes us to believe that we set the course for our lives and that we can determine our own direction. It leads to a place where our own desires, or the way we think about what needs to happen, even in terms of what needs to happen for God, the church, and Christianity as a whole, is shaped by me. I become the focus of what is right and wrong. I set the stage for how to proceed through life. I determine the goals and the timing. And that is the wrong focus.

Honoring God’s leadership is about setting aside the self in order to focus on what God is doing. It means making hard choices that favor what God calls us to be rather than what we see we can accomplish on our own.

In 1 Samuel 24 we see David on the run from Saul. Saul has dedicated himself to the task of killing David. Saul’s dedication has made life hard for David. No longer does he live in the palace, his home has become a series of caves and camps as he flees the wrath of the king. No longer does David eat at the king’s table. He is forced to forage for food and water, seeking what he can find to feed himself and those who travel with him. David no longer has the stability he once enjoyed. He has become nomadic, always on the move, always watching over his shoulder, always knowing that Saul is looking for an opportunity to kill him. Yet, while David has a lot of uncertainty in his life, he lives with the full assurance that God is in control. David knows that he will be king someday. Samuel has poured the anointing oil on David and proclaimed God’s will for his life. (1 Samuel 16) So David waits for God’s movement. He watches for God’s hand. He surrenders the comforts of life and the stability of the palace in order to honor God’s leadership.

One day, Saul is alone in a cave. David sneaks up and cuts off a corner of the robe Saul is wearing. Saul does not notice. David could have used the knife to end Saul’s life. What stopped him? Knowing that Saul was also the anointed king of Israel. David honored the leadership of God. He knew the promises God had made, now he would wait for God’s movement to fulfill the promise. David would set aside his own plans, desires, and opportunities in order to allow God to lead. When David confronted Saul and showed him the piece of robe, David still sought to surrender his will into the hands of a king. He wanted to follow where God was leading, not forge his own path.

How hard is that? How many times do I push ahead with no thought about what God might want in a particular situation? How many times do I give a casual prayer, hoping God will bless my movement, rather than taking the time to search the will of God to see what God is doing? How many times do I make my own opportunities, rather than waiting for God to open the right doors?

Embedding the Bible is about learning to honor the leadership of God. At its heart, the word honor has to do with value. Do I value the leadership of God? Do I value His view over my own? Do I value the fact that He is watching over me? These are questions we must ask ourselves. As we continue to read, we continue to stand amazed at what is doing and can do. We see His faithfulness, His love, and His action in the lives of men and women. This exposure helps us to value what God is doing and who God is as we walk with Him.

As you embed the Bible this week, look for was to honor the leadership of God in your own life.

Date Daily Reading
September 25 1 Samuel 24
September 26 1 Samuel 25
September 27 1 Samuel 26
September 28 1 Samuel 27
September 29 1 Samuel 28
September 30 1 Samuel 29
October 1 1 Samuel 30
October 2 1 Samuel 31

 

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Ordinary to Extraordinary

It is the ultimate big versus little story. In fact, when we see any kind of conflict or competition where there is a vastly outnumbered, out financed, out sized match between two people or entities, we call it a “David and Goliath” match.

This week as we embed the Bible, we come to one of the best known and most loved stories in the Bible. The story of a boy who faces a giant. Books have been written about this match-up. Sermons have been preached. Movies have taken the subject and come up with scenarios based on the biblical history, a high school football team, a college basketball team, a single mom and an insurance company, and a host of other scenarios. They all look the same. Insurmountable odds face the hero. Circumstances that are out of control or out of our control rage in someone’s life. The outcome seems sure and it is hopeless to fight. But somehow, the small chance sparks our interests and grabs hold of our hearts. We begin to hope, to cheer, to root, and to plan with the hero of the story. We begin to look for ways to overcome the obstacles or change the circumstances. We begin to look for a power that can conquer the giants.

In some ways 1 Samuel 17 is a snapshot of the life lived with God. David has spent his life bringing his heart into alignment with the heart of God. David has learned obedience to his father Jesse, and obedience to his Father in heaven. Davis has given himself fully to the task of caring for sheep, and in the process, God has taught him to care for His people. David has faced the lion and the bear, and God has brought victory and confidence into the heart of David. Now David stands before a giant. A giant that has the entire army of Israel hiding in fear. Armed with five smooth stones and a sling, the only weapon that counts in David’s arsenal is his trust in a God who is faithful. David has learned to stand on God’s side, to hear God’s voice, and to follow God’s leading.

You and I face giants every day. We live in a world that shouts defiance towards God and His will. We dwell among a people of unclean lips and unclean hearts. We see physical and material objects supplanting the treasure of God in our neighborhoods, communities, and friends. We hear the call of lust that wants us to surrender to a love of power and influence. We are tempted to make everything in our lives about ourselves. But we know that God is calling us to something different. How do we learn to surrender to God when the giants come screaming at our door? We learn to surrender in the everyday moments we live.

David’s faith does not simply appear one day as he sees Goliath. It is practiced in the “ordinary” moments that he lives. You and I live in ordinary moments. These moments are times when we must give ourselves to seeing and knowing God. Mowing the lawn needs to be an acknowledgment of the blessings God rains down on His people. Playing with our family needs to point our hearts to learning the important lessons of tenderness, gentleness, accountability, and love. Our jobs are a chance to quietly and consistently learn the lessons of integrity, faithfulness, and obedience. Each moment needs to contain a spark of the holy. We need to have open eyes to see where God is moving and open ears to hear God’s call to relationship.

The giants are coming. Are we ready to face them? Have we given ourselves to the moments of learning and trusting that comes with walking in the presence of God? Embedding the Bible is about learning to see God in the moments. The moments that we face the giants, and the moments that we face the laundry. They are connected. Tied together in our hearts. When we learn to give our hearts to God in the ordinary, He can use us in the extraordinary!

Date Daily Reading
September 18 1 Samuel 17
September 19 1 Samuel 18
September 20 1 Samuel 19
September 21 1 Samuel 20
September 22 1 Samuel 21
September 23 1 Samuel 22
September 24 1 Samuel 23
September 25 1 Samuel 24

 

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Popularity Problems

We live in an age when popular is king. Everyone wants to be popular. We describe music and musicians as popular when we talk about pop music. They are people who produce music that the general population likes and wants to hear more of on the radio. Presidential elections concern themselves with the popular vote. Does the candidate look the right way, say the right things, come across as caring or personal? Does the platform that a candidate run on speak to my needs or desires? Teens reach an age when being popular in school is important. So they dress, act, and participate in things that will make others like them. In the hit musical Wicked, there is even a song about being popular. It talks about the way one fixes their hair, or the choice of shoes and clothing. Participating in certain sports, talking the right way, and spending time with a certain group of people. From an early age, and in a variety of ways, our culture begins to teach us that being popular is important. We see it at work, at school, and even at church.

The word popular is defined as, “regarded with favor, approval, or affection by people in general.” For the Christian, this definition ought to cause us to cringe. Why? Because popularity is based on what other people think. Popularity makes the desire of man or culture the standard for living. Popular relies on phrases like, “everyone is doing it” or “I just want to fit in” to support conduct, morality, or ethical standards. Popularity makes culture our authority and for the disciple of Jesus, this is unacceptable.

In this week’s reading, we see the pitfalls of seeking popularity. Remember that Israel has asked Samuel for a king. Samuel has talked to God and God has appointed a king in Israel. Saul is the first king of Israel.

If you grew up hearing about Saul, your first impressions are not good ones. We often think of Saul as the madman who chased David, got lost in jealousy, and lost his kingdom. But look closely and you will see that Saul started off well. He was a decisive leader who saved Israel from the Ammonites. He fought against the Philistines. He honored the ark of God and listened to Samuel. Saul was a great first king. He was chosen by God and popular among the people. He was tall, good looking, a gifted military leader, and concerned with the people of Israel. So what happened?

Saul sought popularity. In 1 Samuel 15, the prophet Samuel goes to King Saul and tells him that the Lord has decided to move against the Amalekites. The Amalekites were the enemy of Israel and had oppressed God’s people when they came out of Egypt and were headed to the promised land. God told Saul, through Samuel, to go against the Amalekites and devote everything to destruction. Saul obeyed the command to fight and the Amalekites were defeated. But Saul did not devote everything to destruction. Saul allowed the people to keep the best sheep and oxen as spoils of war. When confronted by Samuel, Saul was honest and told him in 1 Samuel 15:24 that he did not fully obey God because he was afraid of the people. Saul wanted to be liked rather than be obedient. The result was catastrophic for Saul. Because of his actions, God decided to remove the kingdom from Saul and give it to another.

As Christians today we are called to be followers of God, not followers of the culture. We live by one standard, the standard of Jesus. We follow one voice, the voice of God. What the world thinks, or what the world wants, is not our focus or our guide. While it is a struggle to turn away from the world, to turn away from popularity, it is important to spiritual health. We cannot live with an ever shifting change in morality. We must build lives on the anchor of God’s character.

What ways do you seek popularity? How does the world call us to a different standard than God calls us to follow? Where do you most need the strength of God to stand up to the world? These are important questions to ask as we read this week. Embedding the Bible means we embed a standard for living. A standard that flows from the presence, promise, and power of God.

My prayer for you this week is that you can stand with God in every moment. That the voices of the world become dim in your ears and in your heart. My prayer is that you can look like Jesus as you live out His nature and character in every moment.

Date Daily Reading
September 11 1 Samuel 11
September 12 1 Samuel 12
September 13 1 Samuel 13
September 14 1 Samuel 14:1-22
September 15 1 Samuel 14:23-52
September 16 1 Samuel 15
September 17 1 Samuel 16
September 18 1 Samuel 17

 

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Who Will Lead?

I will admit it…I like to be in charge. I think we all do to a certain extent. We like to be in charge of our own decisions. We like to be in charge of where we go and what we do. We like to be masters of our own ship and king of our own castle. But the truth is that we all live under the authority of something or someone else.

We all live under the authority of need. We need food and water and shelter to survive and thrive in this mortal life. So we work and save and plan. We live under the authority of the government. We live under the authority of parents and even friends. We surrender to all kinds of authority in our lives. Sometimes that authority chafes and sometimes it is easy. But we all live under authority. The important thing is to choose what kind of authority we will live under.

In our reading this week we see an interesting period in the history of Israel. It is a time of transition when the people of God are making decisions about how they want to be lead, what kind of authority they will live under.

It all started out as a simple family living in Canaan. Jacob and his twelve sons and his daughter lived in peace in the land that God had promised to Abraham. Authority was firmly established. Jacob was the father and so he made the decisions. But his authority was marred by a love for a special son and the rebellion of his brothers. So things changed.

Joseph matured in Egypt. First as a slave then as a prisoner then as a ruler of man. He helped feed a nation and so met up again with his family. He brought them to live in Egypt where they settled in a good land and prospered. Then things changed.

There rose a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph. He only knew that the Israelites would make good slaves. So he put them to work and oppressed them. Until God sent Moses to lead His people out of slavery. Ten plagues changed everything.

The people left Egypt and went to Sinai. Here God formed a family into a nation. He gave them a Law and an identity. They were the people of God’s own choosing. A people belonging to the Lord. Through rebellion, wandering, and the conquest of Canaan, the people grew. Each step of the way was guided by the authority of God. But eventually that changed.

In 1 Samuel the people have decided to reject the leadership of God. They go to Samuel and ask for a king. Samuel goes to God, angry at the request of the people, but God is ready to allow the people free will. God gives them the freedom to choose their leadership. They choose to follow the ways of the world. The results will be disastrous.

Being in charge comes with a grave responsibility. Being in charge means we make decisions that affect the entire course of our future. God wants what is best for us, so He offers us His leadership. He calls for our surrender. It is hard at times, but well worth it. You see, God has a view of the future that we can never have. God knows the hearts of men like we can never know. God calls us to standards that are higher than we can imagine and then empowers us with strength beyond ourselves. But it begins with surrendering to God’s authority.

The most important decision that I can make is to live under the authority of God. This means giving up control. This means that I am not in charge. But that is OK. God offers something better. He offers Himself. So ask yourself the question, “Who will lead?”

Date Daily Reading
September 4 1 Samuel 4
September 5 1 Samuel 5
September 6 1 Samuel 6:1-7:2
September 7 1 Samuel 7:3-17
September 8 1 Samuel 8
September 9 1 Samuel 9
September 10 1 Samuel 10
September 11 1 Samuel 11

 

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I Want to Be Like Ruth

We sing a song at VBS with our kids. It goes…

“I want to be like Daniel, I want to be like Ruth!
I want to be like Daniel, I want to be like Ruth!
For Ruth she was so good and kind,
And Daniel was a mighty man….
I want to be like Daniel, I want to be like Ruth!”

It’s a simple song that the kids sing in parts, but more than that, it is a song that teaches them, and us, to honor the characteristics of Bible people.

I like Bible people. I will admit that I have a tendency to put them on a pedestal or make them more “holy” than they might have been. But there is a danger in that. You see, the people in the Bible were not meant to simply be examples of how to get it right. It is their ability to struggle through life, the same kind of life and struggles that we all deal with, that teach us how to best walk with God. The Bible does not present these people as perfect. The Bible shows us how they struggle and how they fail, as well as how they succeed. It is in that struggle that I often find myself.

The story of Ruth has a lot of layers. There is the story of Naomi, a woman who followed her husband out of the Promised Land and away from God. She suffered grief and loss in her journey away from God, but there was also blessing. A blessing that gave her Ruth and led her back home.

There is also the story of Boaz. This is a story of how a man can live out the character of Jesus. Boaz is the “kinsman-redeemer” in the story. The one who brings Ruth into the people of God and makes her a part of the family of God’s people.

There is the story of lineage and the backstory of a king who followed God with his whole heart. A lineage that would lead to a Savior for mankind and hope for eternity with God.

There is also the story of Ruth. A foreigner who makes a decision to become a part of God’s people. Ruth starts out the story in Moab, a place that has long been hostile to God’s people. She gave herself first to marriage with Naomi’s son. That son died and Ruth was now faced with a choice. Continue to walk in to a relationship with God, or turn back and live in the world she had grown up in. Ruth decides to follow Naomi and live with the people of God. The choice was not easy, but it was beautiful. And Ruth new exactly what it meant.

Ruth 1:16-17 says,” But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where 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. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

The words are not random, the commitment is not shallow. Ruth is walking away from her people and the world that she knows. She is willing to go wherever God may lead her and dwell in a land of God’s choosing. Ruth will invest in the lives of God’s family and she will remain faithful until death.

Ruth teaches us what it means to surrender. To give all to follow God. That little song we sing for children is more real to me now than it has ever been. “I want to be like Ruth!”

Date Daily Reading
August 28 Ruth 1
August 29 Ruth 2
August 30 Ruth 3
August 31 Ruth 4
September 1 1 Samuel 1
September 2 1 Samuel 2
September 3 1 Samuel 3
September 4 1 Samuel 4

 

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Strong in the Lord

There’s a group of boys playing in my front yard. I stand in the garage and get to listen as they interact. They range from 8 to 10 years old and are intent on playing a “Home Run” game with a whiffle bat and balls. The object is to hit the balls over the cars in the driveway. Every time one makes it, there is a chorus of cheers and clapping, encouragement to hit another, and the recognition that the boy who hits is really strong. It is that recognition of strength that makes me laugh. Everybody wants to be strong. Strength can be a real asset in home run hitting, or football, or soccer, or any other sport or game that 9 year olds play.

But if I stop and think it through, that’s true of adults too. Everyone likes to be strong. We talk about strength in a variety of areas. Strength of almost any kind is desirable in our culture. It is an attractive quality in men and women. It brings confidence and a sense of self-assurance. Physical strength emotional strength, financial strength, you name it and we desire it. We desire to be viewed as strong. We hate to be viewed as weak.

This week, as we finish up the Book of Judges, we look at a man who was known for his strength, Samson. His name is a byword for strength. When I was young, I had a Bible with pictures and Samson was the guy with the biggest muscles. He looks like a professional wrestler or body builder. Long flowing locks of hair that blow in the wind. He doesn’t own many shirts, but he has whole shelves full of oil. The women swoon as he walks by and the men are jealous. He looks like he has it all together and the stories they tell about his strength are amazing. He has killed a lion with his bare hands. He has torn the gates off of a city wall. He breaks cords and rope by flexing his muscles. He has killed Philistines by the thousands.

But where does his strength come from? As a child I thought it was all about his hair. The longer the hair, the stronger Samson became. But as an adult, I know better. Samson’s strength came from God. It was the spirit of God coming on Samson in power that enabled Samson to commit the deeds he carried out. He started off as a child living under a vow. The vow was meant to dedicate Samson to the service of the Lord. But Samson lived out his vow half-heartedly at best. He enjoyed the blessing, but was never very good at surrender or obedience. He drank when he should have resisted. He touched what the Lord forbade. He lied, he schemed, and he gloried in his own pride. He seemed to think that God would simply continue to give Samson his strength, but eventually, God let Samson live out his own choices.

Judges 16:20 is one of the saddest statements in the Bible. It is the moment when Delilah has cut Samson’s hair, the moment when Samson has told her his strength flows from his hair. It is in that moment that God allows Samson to live in his own strength. And Samson’s strength is not able to carry him through. The Bible says that Samson did not know that the Spirit of God had left him. He was unaware of his spiritual walk with God. He had lived so long for self, just assuming that God would do what Samson wanted, that he never realized that God was the source of his power. That is until he stood alone, blind, a prisoner of the Philistines. It is in that moment when Samson calls out to God. Not a very good prayer and really centered on Samson’s own agenda, but he prayed, and God answered.

Samson’s story can be sad. But it is a great way to learn what embedding the Bible is all about. You see, you and I cannot be strong on our own. Oh, I know we can attain all the kinds of strength that the world offers, but this isn’t the kind of strength that is important. The strength you and I long for is the strength that comes from walking with God. The strength that comes from surrender and obedience. The strength to walk away from sin and self. The strength to live in the world but not of the world. You and I want to be strong in the Lord. Embedding the Bible helps us to see the promise of God and know the strength that God provides. Embedding the Bible strengthens our walk with God so that God’s strength can empower our lives.

So take the lesson. Live out the promises you have made to God and watch God live out His promises in you. Live in the strength that God provides. Be strong in the Lord.

Date Daily Reading
August 21 Judges 15
August 22 Judges 16
August 23 Judges 17
August 24 Judges 18
August 25 Judges 19
August 26 Judges 20
August 27 Judges 21
August 28 Ruth 1

 

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Quiet Faith

The Book of Judges lists 12 people who served as rulers in Israel after the conquest of Canaan; Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, and Samson. Some would mention Abimelech in a list of judges, but I will leave him off the list since his role is questionable. Of the twelve judges listed, seven are mentioned in 3 or fewer verses each. That is more than half of the judges. These seven people are easy to look over. We know a name. Sometimes how many sons and how many donkeys they had. We know that Shamgar killed 600 men with an ox goad (a pointy stick). But beyond that, there is not much information about these people.

When I was about 17, I had a chance to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. At the time I don’t think I had a good idea of what the wall stood for. It had only been open for about 5 years at the time. It was more or less just a list of names of the men who had given their lives in the service of their country during Vietnam. To tell the truth, it was stark and bare. No explanation given. No ranks listed. No recognition of which branch of service or what particular group the men and women fought with. Just a list of names. The sheer number was overwhelming and at the time I thought that was the point. To give a long list of people who had given their lives so that I could experience freedom. And I think that is important. But years later, thinking about that wall, I have more and more respect for what it stands for.

The rank of each person is unimportant. The number of people is staggering, but not what is most important. The branch of service might be nice, but it is, in the end, unimportant. Each name stands for someone who served, and died, or who was missing in action. They each served a principle. They each followed a standard. They gave all to insure the forward movement of freedom. Their names are enough to remember them. Their names give us enough information. They were people, like you and me, who showed us how to stand up for freedom and liberty.

That is what those seven judges in the Book of judges mean for me. Their story is not about great feats of strength or cunning, like Samson’s story. Their story is not about learning trust and reliance the way that we see Gideon learning. Their story is not about listening to the voice of God like Deborah taught Barak. No. Their story is the quiet but powerful story of everyday faith. These seven lived a life devoted to God and that was what was most important. That was what God decided to share with us in the Bible. It is the legacy that they leave behind. The legacy that says, “there people followed God, no matter the cost.”

Quiet, devoted faith makes a difference. Learning to trust and to follow, to lead and to serve, are all important. That kind of faith is formed in the everyday decisions of life. Faith is shaped in the “normal” part of how we live. The decisions we make about movies, television, and reading. The discussions we have with friends and family in the familiar surroundings of home. The prayers we utter during laundry or morning coffee. The habits of service we practice in the everyday moments of life. These are not big, flashy moments of growth. They are slow, deliberate growth that shapes our hearts.

Embedding the Bible is not about some bolt of lightning from heaven. Oh, God can do that when He wants, and sometimes there are big flashes of insight. But growth also comes through the steady study of God’s word. The decision to be faithful in every moment of the day. The deliberate embedding in our hearts that we do as we read our Bibles. Embedding is about steady, deliberate growth. Growth that quietly but persistently impacts those around us and builds a legacy of faith that follows us.

Date Daily Reading
August 14 Judges 8
August 15 Judges 9
August 16 Judges 10:1-11:3
August 17 Judges 11:4-40
August 18 Judges 12
August 19 Judges 13
August 20 Judges 14
August 21 Judges 15

 

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Unintended Consequences

With the words of Joshua ringing in their ears, the Israelites now settle the land of Canaan. As the Book of Judges opens, we see a people who cling to God. The men of Judah and Simeon trust the promises of God and prepare for battle with the Canaanite inhabitants. Victory follows battle and the trustworthiness of God is once again displayed. Trust in God has led His people to experience the promises that He has made.

But read down to Judges 1:21 and a different picture begins to emerge. The tribe of Benjamin does not follow the command of God. Rather than driving the inhabitants out of the land, the Benjamites decide to allow the Jeusites to live dwell among them. It is a concession to the commands of God. It seems merciful in the moment, a peace that leads to coexistence, but it is, in reality, a moment of disobedience that will lead to hurt, pain, and a growing chasm between God and His people.

This pattern of compromise with the world will repeat itself over and over even more blatantly in the rest of Judges 1. The tribes of Manasseh, Ephraim, Zebulon, Asher, Naphtali, and Dan seemingly do nothing to finish the conquest of Canaan. They lay down their arms and dwell among the inhabitants of the land. They ignore the all of Joshua and the promises of God.

In the moment, this may seem like a reasonable solution. The people of God long to stop the fighting and lay down their arms. They decide that living among the people of the world is OK. But the long term effects of this decision will have grave, unintended consequences. And that is the lesson and the warning of the chapter.

The phrase “unintended consequences” was first used in a popular sense by John Locke in the mid to late 17th century and further defined by Robert Melton in the 20th century. I tis used to explain how a decision can have one of three possible effects on a given situation. The social sciences (sociology, psychology, political science, economics, etc.) use the phrase extensively and acknowledge that any decision made can affect a group dynamic in unexpected ways. There can be unexpected benefits, unexpected drawbacks, or perverse results. It is the idea that, while we think we are making a good decision, a reasonable action can bring about consequences that we did not think through.

In Judges 1 we have a great example of a people who make a decision that will bring perverse results. A perverse result is a decision that is intended to lead one place, but ends up in the opposite place. Israel seems to decide to live in peace. The decision will lead them to conflict. By deciding not to follow through with the conquest of Canaan, the people of Israel invite idolatry and sin into their lives. This decision to make peace brings them into conflict with God. This decision to live in the land on their own, personal terms, will eventually lead to captivity and the removal of Israel from the Promised Land.

You and I make decisions every day. Like Israel, we have a clear call from God about how to live and how to interact with the world around us. But like the Israelites, we often just want to live in peace. So we make decisions based on our own desires or our own wishes. Beware! The law of unintended consequences may be lurking in your future!

Judges 1 teaches us that God knows what we need. Although it is often hard to see how God is unfolding the future, we know that God is in control. Every decision we make must fall in line with His will and His word. We must live by the promises of God. This means we will live in conflict with the world’s desire, or with our own wishes at times. But that is what embedding the Bible is all about. Learning to conform our wishes to the desire of God. Being transformed so that our hearts beat in time with the heart of God. Heed the warning. God knows best. He desires good for us. He gives us a path to walk. He calls for our surrender. Otherwise, there just might be unintended consequences.

Date Daily Reading
August 7 Judges 1
August 8 Judges 2:1-3:6
August 9 Judges 3:7-31
August 10 Judges 4
August 11 Judges 5
August 12 Judges 6
August 13 Judges 7
August 14 Judges 8

 

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Cling to God

We’ve done a lot of babysitting in our time and we love it! The funniest part of the experience are those last few minutes as a set of parents is dropping off the child or children and preparing to head out the door. There are always a ton of last minute instructions. Bedtime routine reminders, feeding tips and tricks, and the mention of the favorite stuffed animal or blanket that the child just can’t do without. It is a moment when the parents want to know that the child still has something to cling to for comfort and support as the parent walks out the door. It may be for just a short time, but both baby and parent need the assurance.

In Joshua 23 and 24, Joshua is giving his final address to the people of Israel. This leader has walked with God’s people through a trying time in history. He has led the people in the conquest of Canaan. He has fought alongside them. Prayed for them. Guided their steps and given them battle plans. He loves the people of God. Now he is preparing to exit the stage. But before he goes, he has to give them some last minute instructions. Some reminders about who they are and where they are headed. Like a good parent, Joshua wants to reassure his people that they are in good hands.

In Joshua 23:8, Joshua tells the people to cling to God. I love that picture. The idea of “clinging” is to grab hold of and never let go. It is the picture of the child with the favorite blanket or stuffed animal. They cling for comfort and assurance. Joshua is reminding the people that though things are changing, though they are settling into the promise of God as they settle the land, God is present and active. He continues to be the God who moves and blesses His people. Clinging to God is an active picture of dependence and surrender.

How do you and I live in the presence of God today? Just like the people of Israel did in the time of Joshua.

See the blessings of God around you. The Israelites were reminded that the land allotments were a gift from God. They were to look at the places where they lived and know that God was the gifter. You and I need to do the same. Look around you and see how God has blessed you. Home, family, friends, all of these are a blessing from God. God’s hand continues to move in your life.

Listen to the voice of God. Joshua reminds the people to obey the commands that God had given Moses. The commands that had shaped their lives and guided their steps. You and I need to be aware of the voice of God. We need to be committed to reading and studying our Bibles. We need to be in fellowship with God’s people, the church. We need Godly mentors who remind us of God’s will and God’s words.

Live lives of distinction. Joshua warns against intermarriage and close associations with foreign nations. While it is a little hard for us to always understand, we need to see that we are called to be distinct in the world. We have a responsibility to call people out of the world and the culture, not to become so enamored or so enthralled with the culture that we lose our God given flavor. God wants us to live lives distinguished by grace, mercy, service, truth, and commitment.

Joshua’s words to Israel are powerful words for us today. They are worth embedding on our hearts. God is present. He still calls for His people to cling to Him. That means letting go of the world.

Date Daily Reading
July 31 Joshua 15
August 1 Joshua 16-17
August 2 Joshua 18-19
August 3 Joshua 20
August 4 Joshua 21
August 5 Joshua 22
August 6 Joshua 23-24
August 7 Judges 1

 

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The Presence of God

The very name of Jericho brings to mind thick, strong walls. These are walls that tower over the people of Israel and make them look small in comparison. The walls of this city scream “strength.” They cry out “security!” They are built to protect. They serve to intimidate. But as Joshua leads the army of Israel against these walls, there is another presence that is proclaimed. The presence of God.

Too often on our journey we come face-to-face with walls. Walls that block our vision. Walls that dominate the landscape of our hearts. Walls that make us feel small and powerless. As Joshua faces the walls of Jericho, he learns that the presence of God can make the walls come tumbling down. We need to hear the lessons. Strength is not found in walls or man’s ability to deal with them. Strength is found in the presence of God.

God makes a promise to Joshua. “I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.” God says that the battle is already won. The victory is already here. The people just need to open their eyes and see it. In a place where the world’s power seems dominant, God calls the people to announce His presence.

Close your eyes and capture the picture. A long column of armed men gather in front of Jericho. In the midst of the column are priests carrying a gold box atop their shoulders. Beautiful golden cherubim grace the lid of the box. God has promised His people that His presence will dwell between their outstretched wings. The ark of God’s presence is to go with the armies of Israel as they march around the city. As the priests walk before the ark, they are to blow the trumpets. Trumpets announce the presence of God.

As we look at Israel’s history, we see that trumpets announce three very specific things. They announce the crowning of kings. They announce times of worship. They announce the call to battle. At the gates of Jericho, the blowing of the rams’ horns means the same things.

A King is present. Through the trumpets blare, the Israelites announce that even though they do not have a physical and earthly king, God leads them. He is the King of Heaven and He is the King of their hearts. The throne of heaven and the throne of their lives is filled with the presence of God. Every act of obedience honors Him as worthy. Every step they take declares His majesty. Every blast of the trumpet proclaims that all authority and dominion belong to the Lord.

Bow your hearts in worship. As the sound of the trumpets echoes against the walls of stone, it calls the people to worship. Their hearts are not to be hard and stone-like in the presence of the Lord. Recognizing His presence in this moment should unleash a flood of awe, humility, adoration, and praise. The call of the trumpets is a call to give themselves fully to God.

Prepare for victory. Trumpets are a call to battle. God’s people have always faced enemies. There have always been battles to fight and evil to subdue. Joshua follows where God leads. He knows that God is with him. In this one truth, there is victory. The outcome of the battle does not depend on our own strength or cunning. The call of the trumpets is a call to keep our eyes on our General. Triumph and victory are found in Him alone.

The symbol of God’s presence leads the people into battle. As the army walks around Jericho, they see the ark. They know God is leading them. Their eyes can see the gold shining in the sun. Like fire in the night, God’s presence calls the army to follow. Each step the army takes has already been walked by God.

As the walls of Jericho crash to earth, Joshua sees the fulfillment of God’s promise. The battle is won and the victory is secure. Not because of Joshua’s strength or the Israelites’ bravery. The victory rests in the presence of God.

What do you need to do today to more fully open your eyes to the presence of God? Embedding the Bible helps us lift our eyes from ourselves and the walls that we face to see God’s presence in our lives.

This article comes from “Tell Me the Story: Heroes of Faith.” I hope it helps you experience the presence of God as your read your Bible this week.

Date Daily Reading
July 24 Joshua 6
July 25 Joshua 7
July 26 Joshua 8
July 27 Joshua 9
July 28 Joshua 10
July 29 Joshua 11-12
July 30 Joshua 13-14
July 31 Joshua 15

 

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