Courageously, Humbly Compliant

Joshua 5

Joshua 5 14 (1)

Friday, October 13

There are a lot of great tidbits in today’s reading of Joshua 5.  Go ahead and read it and see what you find.

I love the part about the foreign kings’ hearts melting as they lost courage to fight against the Israelites and their powerful God.   (vs 1).

I love the part about the men following through to show they were committed to a new start in following God with their whole mind, body and strength – being set apart as God’s unique and chosen people (vs 2-9).

I love the part about the Israelites eating food grown in Canaan for the first time – and the manna from the sky – which God had provided for 40 years – stopping on the very next day  (vs 10-12).

But my favorite part is when Joshua is approaching Jericho and meets an armed man – but he can’t tell if he is friend or foe.  So he courageously approaches him and asks.  The man, with drawn sword replies, “Neither, but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” (vs 14).   I am impressed with Joshua – not only brave and courageous, but humble as well.  Joshua, and all of the Israelites likely, considered Joshua to be the commander of the army of the Lord – until meeting this man/being with drawn sword.  But rather than arrogantly questioning this – he falls at his feet and instead asks what message the Lord has for Joshua.  I pray that I would be as courageous as Joshua – along with as humbly compliant.  Not standing up to God, or his commander, not proudly speaking of my battle plan or claiming titles – but at his feet – asking for directions – and then courageously stepping out to do them.

-Marcia Railton

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The Key to COURAGE!

Joshua 1

Joshua 1-8

Monday, October 9

40 years of wandering have passed since yesterday’s devotion and the Israelites stand at the doorway to the Promised Land once more.  But, this time their leader Moses is dead and Joshua and Caleb – the two who courageously trusted God to lead them into the land of giants – are the only ones of their generation to have survived the wandering.  A new generation is at the door – this time with Joshua as their leader.  Is there any hope that this new generation, which did not personally see how God provided miracle after miracle in saving His people out of Egypt, will have the courage to do what their fathers did not?

Just before his death, Moses – at 120 years of wisdom – had rallied together the younger generation for some final words.  He knew the power of fear and discouragement and he remembered all too well the events of 40 years ago.  To the gathered Israelites he said, “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6).  Then he called forward Joshua and spoke to him: “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land…The Lord himself goes with you…Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:7-8).

What more could be done to inspire them to action with a courageous heart and not crumble again in fear?  God knew they would need a strong connection to Him, reminders of His faithfulness as well as His requirements.  So He directed Moses to write it all down and make sure it was shared with the people – and thus the first five books of the Bible were created – with direction to listen to it, learn it, and teach it to the children – so that they would fear the Lord their God – rather than fearing the circumstances around them.  What a gift!  What a treasure!

And so, in Joshua 1 God himself speaks to Joshua – giving him his orders and how to lead His people.  In one short paragraph (Joshua 1:6-9), God tells Joshua three times, “Be strong and courageous!”  This is important!!  Fear and discouragement must not be allowed to reign in Joshua’s heart.  And what is sandwiched in between that repeated refrain – the answer of HOW to build up Joshua’s courage and give him daily doses of Godly direction.  “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful.”  (1:8).

There it is: the answer to living a courageous life of action following God’s direction (as well as being successful) —  daily – meditating – on – His – Words.   Are you ready to exchange fear and discouragement for a good dose of strength and courage?  Get in His Word!  How many times can you read Joshua chapter 1 today?  What new directions, warnings, details will you find each time?  God’s Word is loaded with what we need.  It is our connection to the God of the Universe.  Use it boldly and courageously!

Go With God Today – Marcia Railton

 

Don’t Lose Heart

Revelation 13-16

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Thursday,  July 20

Revelation 13-16 gives a continuation of God’s judgments and wrath which are poured out upon the earth.  We are introduced here to two beasts.  For those who are familiar with the Old Testament book of Daniel with it’s four beasts, this material will be familiar.  These beasts are ferocious looking images that represent some of the great oppressive empires of the ancient world.  The land which we today know as the nation of Israel has always been a strategically important piece of geography.  It is a point of convergence for three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa.  It has been hotly contested for thousands of years.  All of the major world empires up to that time took turns occupying the land.  It was occupied by the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Medes, the Persians, the Greeks and the Romans.  I’m sure that if you were a peasant trying to eek out your life living in a small village in Israel, you would look at these various invading armies as  monstrous beasts.  Suddenly, you were forced to follow a new set of laws and customs, and learn to speak new languages in order to understand your captors.  You would have to get used to new kinds of money in order to be able to negotiate your way in the new culture.  I imagine it would have been scary and overwhelming.
John foresees a time when these beastly powerful world empires who control all of life, will be brought to an end, to be replaced by God’s Kingdom.  Even though, for a while, it seems that they are all powerful and all controlling, this will not last forever.  Patience is required to live as a believer in this current world system, but one day, our patience will be rewarded.  Don’t lose heart.  While the mark of the beast would seem to protect you from temporary suffering by the powers of this word system, it is the mark of God, which we are given when we follow Jesus Christ, that will protect us from God’s wrath.  Which mark would you rather have?

-Jeff Fletcher

 

(Photo Credit: http://www.trackingbibleprophecy.org/revelation13A.php)

How Daniel Sustained His Devotion (And How You Can Too)

Daniel 7-9

The same word has beep popping up each day in our last few devotions: devotion.  The reason for this is simple. Daniel was a man devoted to God. Each story we’ve read this week has clearly demonstrated this. 

In yesterday’s devotion I said that our devotion to God must remain constant despite the ever-changing world in which we live—just as Daniel’s did. Today I want to tell you how Daniel was able to sustain his devotion and how you can, too.

The word pray (and its derivatives) is found twelve times in the first nine chapters of Daniel. He prayed three times everyday. He was arrested and thrown into a lion’s den because he continued praying even though it was declared illegal. One of the most powerful prayers in all of scripture is recorded in Daniel Chapter 9—Daniel is its author. It is obvious that prayer was central in the life of this godly man. This is what enabled him to stay devoted to his God in midst of constant trials and changes. And a prayerful life is the key for us to maintain a devoted life today.

There are several reasons why prayer helps sustain devotion. The first reason is that it keeps us connected to God. The more you talk to someone (especially if you like them), the better the connection. On the other hand, if you don’t communicate, there will be little to no connection. This is case with God as well. Prayer—heartfelt prayer—creates connection, which leads to greater devotion.

A second reason is that prayer helps us understand the will of God. Prayer allows us (as much as possible) to get our minds aligned with God’s. The more we pray, the better we understand what God wants. His will is good, pleasing, and perfect. So when we understand God’s will (in all its goodness) it generates more devotion in us. In other words, we get a greater sense of how great God truly is and He becomes more alluring to us.

The last reason I’ll mention for why prayer helps us stay devoted is that it keeps us focused on what really matters. Our minds are truly amazing things, but they tend to get overcrowded—especially in the Information Age. We all carry smart phones, have personal computers, and own TVs. We are constantly taking in information—sometimes good and sometimes bad. I believe there has never been a harder time for individuals to stay focused than today. It is difficult to remain devoted when there are so many distractions. This is where prayer can help. When we put away our computers and smart phones and take time to talk to God, it clears the fog in our minds that prevents us from focusing on the one to whom we should be devoted.

Being devoted is not an easy thing. That is what makes Daniel so impressive. Only because of his prayer life was he able sustain such devotion to God. If we want to resemble Daniel in his devotion, we must strive to have a life filled with prayer. So go ahead, say a prayer.

– Joel Fletcher

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Thrown to the Lions

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Daniel 5-6                                            

In Chapter 6 of Daniel something very devious and disturbing occurs. After being selected as one of three administrators over Babylon by its new king, Daniel found himself in the crosshairs of the other overseers of the kingdom. They were jealous of the favor Daniel was finding in the eyes of Darius and that the king wanted to set Daniel over the whole kingdom.  This jealousy led to a conspiracy to get rid of Daniel. But how could they entrap such an upright guy? 

The satraps and administrators devised a plan to use Daniel’s devotion to God against him. They convinced the king to enact a law that would prohibit prayer of any kind to any person or god, other than Darius for thirty days. The punishment would be certain death, in the form of being thrown into a pit with hungry lions.

Daniel, in response to the ridiculous edict, went home and did the same thing he did everyday: prayed. He prayed three times everyday, not to Darius, but to the God of the universe, Yahweh.  In the middle of his prayers, a group of satraps and administrators went to Daniel’s house and caught him in the unlawful act. They turned him in. Despite trying everything he could, the king had no choice but to order to have Daniel thrown into the Lion’s den. 

The next morning Darius rushed to the den to see if Daniel was still alive. Not only was he alive, he didn’t have a scratch on him. God had spared him. He sent an angel to shut the mouths of the lions. The king was overjoyed and had Daniel pulled out. And, in a clear case of poetic justice, the men who tried to entrap Daniel are thrown to the lions to meet the same fate they had planned for Daniel.

The big point I want to draw from this particular story, and in this book as a whole, is Daniel’s consistency despite the changes in the world around him. Daniel lived his whole life in a place that was not his home, lived under the reign of several different kings, and he had people who were jealous of him and wanted him dead. Despite these things that were out of his control, Daniel was steadfast in his devotion to God and unwavering in his commitment to living right. 

The world we live in is constantly changing. Every four to eight years, we have a new president. What is popular today will be forgotten tomorrow (silly bands anyone?). What was socially acceptable a decade ago, is now taboo. What was once taboo is now celebrated. Society is in flux. Our devotion to God must not be. We may never live in a time when it is illegal to pray, but we do live in one where it is unpopular and becoming more so ever year. Our foundation must not be the shifting sands of the culture, but the Rock that never changes. It may get you thrown to the lions, but you’ll be in the favor of the one who made those lions. 

– Joel Fletcher

Even If You Don’t

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Daniel 2-3 

There’s a new song from Mercy Me that’s been playing on the radio lately called Even If. 

The chorus goes:

I know You’re able and I know You can

Save through the fire with Your mighty hand

But even if You don’t

My hope is You alone

In Chapter two of Daniel king Nebuchadnezzar makes a tall statue of gold and calls for everyone to fall down and worship when the assigned music plays. If anyone refuses they are to be thrown into a furnace to meet a very unpleasant death.  For Daniel’s friends from Judah, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, this is unacceptable. They are Jews, and worshiping anyone or anything except Yahweh is contrary to their devotion to God. But if they refuse, they will surely suffer a horrible death.

They have a tough decision to make. 

Or do they.

When the music played, the three of them didn’t bow. Their devotion to God was so strong that the threat of death didn’t faze them. In fact, when confronted about their not worshiping the false idol, this is the response they give: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18) Their faith in God is admirable. And it infuriated the king. He ordered that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than normal.

If the story ended with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah perishing in the flames of the furnace, their faith and devotion would still be a great example for us. They were willing to die rather than bow to something other than Yahweh. They knew He could save them, but even if He didn’t they said they would not serve false gods or worship a golden idol. But God did save them. He rescued them from the fiery furnace and this amazed Nebuchadnezzar. He praised God and promoted the three of them in Babylon.

You and I may never be faced with a situation where choosing to follow God’s way could result in our deaths, but our devotion to God may lead to others mocking us, having to make sacrifices, or, God forbid, putting us in an uncomfortable situation. God doesn’t promise to rescue us from these things. Our trust in God shouldn’t be affected by whether things go the way we want them to or not. Even if they don’t, our hope should be in the God who CAN rescue us. He is a good God, a great God, and the only God who can save us from the flames.

– Joel Fletcher

The Resolution that Stuck

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Daniel 1-2 

The book of Daniel is probably my favorite of the books we call the Prophets. It is filled with exciting stories (like the fiery furnace and lion’s den), captivating prophecies, and one of the best biblical examples of a godly man.

In the first two chapters of Daniel we begin to learn a lot about his character. The first story in Daniel begins in 1:8, which says “Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine.” Daniel was a part of a group chosen by king Nebuchadnezzar to be groomed to serve in his palace. Daniel, along with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, were chosen from the tribe of Judah. The group was assigned to eat food that apparently was against the food laws outlined in law given to Moses. Instead of doing the easy and safe thing, Daniel made a resolution not to defile himself with the decadent, tasty food. After some reluctance, the official in charge of Daniel agreed to let him and his friends eat his own diet. 

At the beginning of every year, people make resolutions to start doing something good (like work out more or read Bible more) or give up something bad for them (like fried foods or too much TV). What seemly happens every year though, is that after a few weeks or, if you’ve done well, a few months, you give up on your resolution and start back on what you were doing before. Keeping resolutions is hard, but Daniel kept his. Not only that, but he and his friends looked better after ten days of vegetables and water than the other guys on the diet of choice foods and wine.

Daniel’s resolution stuck and for this he was rewarded. God gave he and his three friends knowledge and understanding and Daniel the ability to interpret visions and dreams. They found favor with the king and entered his service. This led to the second story in this great book, the interpretation of the king’s dream.

What will be a constant theme through the first half of this book is Daniel’s devotion to God. This is what led him to resolve himself not to eat the defiled food and, even when faced with opposition, to keep that resolution. This devotion will keep him praying even when it’s illegal.

Daniel was devoted to God above all us. We should be, too. It won’t be easy. We may face opposition. We may be thrown to the lions. But in end, it will be well worth the struggles. As the great songwriter Bob Dylan said, “you gotta serve somebody.” Why not let it be the God who will set up a kingdom that will never end? (Daniel 2:44) Resolve yourself to be devoted to the God who won’t let you down.

– Joel Fletcher